Popping my (Hogswatch) cherry

The last weekend in November is Hogswatch.

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(for the uninitiated: Hogswatch is Discworld’s equivalent to Christmas. Discworld is Terry Pratchett’s alternate universe. Wincanton (a real town in England) is twinned with Ankh-Morporkh (a fictional city in a fantasy universe) and every November, a bunch of, in Terry’s words, bloody loonies descend upon Wincanton to celebrate Hogswatch. Clear as mud?!)

Though some of my friends go regularly, I’d not made it last year as it was my parents’ 40th anniversary. This year I was nervous but exc;ited – and hadn’t put a whole lot of planning into my costumes. I knew I was performing twice, and one of those involved chip packets.

So after a 3.30am alarm, staggering out of the house (watched by some very confused cats) at 4.20am and a 3 and a half hour drive, I arrived in Wincanton. Threw myself at my Travelodge room and slept and slept and slept.

At 10am, I found myself at the Memorial hall with Annastasia, surrounded by fellow loonies in outfits and costumes  varying from mild to extreme, and I couldn’t stop grinning.

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We taught a burlesque workshop to seven brave ladies and one extremely brave gent. Our chosen music, to match the theme of Going Postal, was… no, not Return to Sender, or any of the usual suspects. We went for Postman Pat.

Then I could wander to my heart’s content (and also packed in meeting Anna’s parents, the Boggises (who have long been heavily involved with Discworld and Hogswatch), long chats with new friends and some shopping, as well as a sneaky nap after lunch.

Come 5pm, I was in the green room, taking fuzzy but excited pictures of myself:

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And then we got up on stage and danced. And oh, I had forgotten how much I enjoy performing. 2014 has been so busy and so manic (pfft, so much for my word of the year of “balance”) that I haven’t had much of a chance to dance at all, and it is still an unmatchable feeling to come off stage to appreciative applause (and sniggers, in this case).

Also got to sing the Twelve Days of Hogswatch (harder than you’d imagine, when you’re standing at the front holding up the words but you can’t actually read them yourself… it goes something like “On the FIRST day of Hogswatch, my true love sent to me, a mumble mumble blah blah blah. On the SECOND day of Christ-Hogswatch, my true love sent to me, TWO something mumble…” And that’s entirely sober!

Then the traditional sausage supper at the Bear, and on to the Pink Pussycat Club. Where we danced another number… dedicated to Rincewind the wizard, it involved a red pointy hat with stars on, three kimonos, doing some suggestive things with a potato masher and having a fight over some crisps. And the final reveal was…

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(photo credit: Paul Heyes via FB)

(if you don’t get it, don’t worry… it’s a long story. If you want to get it, read Interesting Times.)

Here’s another pic of us during Postman Pat…

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(photo credit: Tatyana Arbuzova via FB)

As cheesy as I know it sounds, the whole weekend felt like coming home. I didn’t feel like a newcomer (apart from when Nanny Ogg/Renta made me have a Hogswatch Virgin badge…), and as I’ve often found with my more niche hobbies (most notably model horsing – this felt a lot like that), there’s an instant sense of kinship. I even found some more stationery fiends (and friends) during our letter writing salon (an Ink Drops venture) on Sunday.

We were all letting our real selves out to play – our alter egos, but the ones we wish we could take back to everyday life with us. As so often recently, Lotta and I were perfectly in tune. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Having made so many new friends and felt so at home so quickly, coming back to the round world (not the Disc), and the prospect of the day job and doing housework were less than appealing.

I put this off by popping in on the way home to see my ex-headmaster and his family – which I know sounds weird, but my primary school was muchly special. Totally failed to get any photos of us all, but he did keep the sign when the school was demolished to make way for flats…

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And it was so lovely to catch up after more than a decade.

So I drove home to my silly kittens through the night, arrived at 10pm, fell into bed to dream of the Disc, and woke up still half there today. I spent this morning waving photos at anyone who would look, and am now settling down to the important work of planning next year’s costumes and skits.

Big thanks to Annastasia for giving me the chance to attend – it’s now an immovable fixture in my calendar.

Happy Hogswatch… I hope you’ve been naughty AND nice!

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PS for any non-Pratchett fans, normal service will resume shortly. If you’ve read him and don’t like it, fine. If you’ve never read him then for goodness’ sake go and borrow a book from your library and try one. You’ll never know if you don’t try…!

PPS You don’t actually have to be a fan to come to Hogswatch. I would love, love, love to see some of you there next year! Or at any of the various cons I hope to now attend in 2015 🙂

PPPS If you fancy creating your own alter ego, hop over and have a look at Unfurling Your Wings. It’ll launch a little later than planned due to some mad new VAT laws, but on the plus side, it’s now going to be a much more immersive experience, with goodies coming to you in the REAL ACTUAL POST.

All about that bass…

I love everything about this song and video. The beat, the lyrics, the catchiness, the colours, the set, everything. It’s probably a one hit wonder, and it’s already garnering “holy crap she’s exploiting body image to sell music” type comments – but I wanted to share it because I think it’s brilliant. Beejoli Shah articulates it well.

The only thing I don’t love is the fact that Meghan is referred to as “plus size” in every article I’ve so far read. Wtf?!

But there’s a lot to be said for a song that makes you smile repeatedly.

Choosing a talisman

After last week’s sneak peek of the talisman jewellery I’m currently making, I thought I’d share the locket that’s my own current favourite talisman, and how I came to choose it.

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From, and featuring an image by, one of my very favourite artists, Nicola Taylor, it shows her self portrait titled “Listen to the Colour of your Dreams”.

How to choose yours

A talisman should be a wearable reminder of something – a way to keep your dreams or wishes, hopes or beliefs, close to you. It should also be something that makes your heart sing – whether in colour, or style, or some kind of indefinable quality you can’t quite put your finger on.

Things to think about:

  • the colours that speak to your soul
  • words that have always meant something to you, whether in your mother tongue or another language
  • objects or animals (or both) you are drawn to
  • things people automatically associate you with
  • your dreams, aspirations and hopes – what could represent them?

(more…)

Shooting with film

One of my great loves in life is my Zenit E camera.

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A fully manual Russian camera from the 1950s, I picked it up for a song (almost literally – I think it and all its accompanying lenses and paraphernalia set me back the grand total of £10) at a car boot sale about six or seven years ago.

I haven’t taken it out for a spin for far too long, as film is expensive and I always seem to be shooting for quick results instead of experimenting these days. But I did find these few photos scanned in from the last roll of film I put through her. They have a quality I’ve never yet been able to replicate in Photoshop.

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Finding these has made me want to plan a trip to the seaside with my film and digital cameras side by side. The Zenit taught me more about light and camera settings than any course could, because you take time and you think more when you’re working with film. You can’t look at the results instantly and processing film is bloody expensive these days, so you find yourself instinctively taking more time over each shot. I love it – there’s nothing quite like it.

Do you shoot film?

 

 

The August Break 2014

Ooh, it’s nearly that time of year again!

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As last year and the year before, I’ll be joining in with Susannah Conway’s August Break. A month of photos on our blogs – and lots of wonderful new bloggers to read and connect with!

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As in previous years, I’ll probably dip in and out through the month – but I do love this particular photo challenge, it always creates a wonderful community and I meet likeminded souls every year. It’s also the best excuse I’ve had for ages to kick my new Flickr account into touch!

Will you join us?

Simon’s Cat in colour!

I had exciting news this week – Simon’s Cat, a cartoon I loved until I had kitties and now adore, is going to make a longer film, in colour!

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If you’re not familiar with this cheeky little cartoon cat, here’s one of their existing videos…


So you can see how gloriously accurately Simon and his team have captured the ups and downs of cat ownership.

But to make a longer, full colour film (all of which is drawn and animated by hand), they need our help. I love crowdfunding – I think it’s one of the best gifts the internet has given us as business owners. Here’s what the SC team have to say…

You can find out even more and claim your perk at the Simon’s Cat IndieGoGo campaign, open until 6 August.

Go on – and let me know what you claim. I’ve gone for a signed copy of the book 😀

(Disclaimer: this post is in no way affiliated with Simon’s Cat or IndieGoGo – I just want to spread the word and see the film made!)

Colouring in and desktop geekery

Ahem. So a couple of weeks ago I started an art journal. As predicted, I haven’t managed to use it every day (because some days are wordy days, and some days are illustrated days, and some days I’m just so tired there is no journalling at all).

But this week I have mostly been buying ADULT COLOURING IN BOOKS. Well. Actually, they’re children’s ones that I have commandeered, but that makes them no less valid for adults. Right?

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I am having so much fun… and it’s surprisingly therapeutic, especially since now I’m the grand old age of 28, there’s no pesky “art” teacher telling me I must colour inside the lines OR ELSE. (I never understood that – how are we supposed to stretch the bounds of our creativity if we have to keep inside pre-drawn areas even when we’re really small? But I digress.)

The “colouring for girls” did make me hesitate before buying it – but I really liked most of the images inside, so into my basket it went.

Other happy-making news this week:

Luna has learned to sit on my shoulder like a proper witch’s familiar. This is awesome…

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And I’ve finally organised myself into a proper, Photoshop and InDesign-friendly desk layout at home, thanks to a new screen and a cheap but pretty wireless keyboard. And I have a new barcode scanner – squeak!!

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Yes, my desk is always that messy and always contains Pepsi and cat treats. It works for me.

There has been cake and Pimms (spiked with vodka, as my mum gleefully informed me halfway through the afternoon), and my kittens’ first mouse, and beautiful skies and strange weather and wonderful conversations and new collaborations and an electric feeling in the air… excitement reigns in my enchanted realm!

I also launched my Magical Manifesto this week – I have more excitement up my sleeve on that front in the form of an email series, an online experience and a book. July is shaping up nicely after my horrible June. Which can only be a good thing.

Before I go and do some more colouring in (squee!), should you fancy brightening up your own desk, or sending some handwritten missives instead of emails and tweets, I refilled the Ink Drops Etsy shop today – pop over and have a nose 🙂

My first jewellery class

Yep, my first! Though I made and sold jewellery for a few years, I’d never actually taken a formal class – or even an informal class. I was totally self-taught from the internet, books and occasionally squeaking at lovely fellow makers who would show me how to get past anything I was having a wobble with.

So I was delighted when my friend Emma suggested we go to a beginners’ jewellery class at Deborah Beads in Fingringhoe, just up the road from me.

After coaxing the kittens in from outside a little earlier than normal, we set off up the winding countryside roads to where Debbie’s shop is. It was dark by the time we got there so I didn’t get any pics of the outside, but oh, indoors was like being let loose in a sweet shop!

LOOK AT ALL THE SHINY BEADS…

There were just four of us plus our teacher Diane, which made for a really friendly, relaxed evening where we could all ask questions and get individual help when we needed it.

I found that I knew some of the techniques but not others, and it was actually lovely to sit and create and know I didn’t have to get it listed in my Etsy shop the following day, as so often when I’ve been making jewellery before. (Not that I hated it – just it was good to be away from the pressure).

And much to our surprise, we came away with five different pieces of jewellery… two necklaces, two bracelets and a pair of earrings.

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I was so inspired that I proceeded to get my own long-neglected beading supplies (I’ve always been more of a stamper) out of the drawer they live in and sort them out while on Skype to Anna on Monday (that doesn’t count as multi-tasking – our Skypes are always so epic that both of us do useful stuff while we’re chatting), and then found myself inspired to create two more bracelets and a rather experimental necklace. Which I actually think turned out to be the best of the bunch!

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Certainly some of my favourite pieces I’ve ever made for myself.

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We’re looking forward to going back for the next level workshop – cluster jewellery. And I’m delighted I’ve rediscovered my jewellery mojo – and this time, I’m not feeling any urge to turn it into a business!

 

An unexpected baby unicorn

You might remember that a while back, I declared April 15 to be Give A Girl A Unicorn Day. (Complete with not-especially-well-designed Tackk page, and it’s evolved from “buy” into “give”. But you get the idea.) Having blurted about it quite a lot on various social media, I had a sneaking suspicion that my Facebook timeline might have a larger-than-average smattering of unicorns on April 15.

But what I definitely wasn’t expecting was this, in the post, by special delivery, when I was still in my dressing gown and really should already have been at work. (see? The Universe at work, right there). (Terrible grainy picture because I was so excited to open it, I forgot to take a decent one. Sorry.)

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Inside were lots of American cat toys for my two silly kittens, of which more in a separate post, and a BABY UNICORN for me.

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It was so completely unexpected that I laugh-cried my way through the box (I’ve not done that in years and years), and it turned out to be the best timing ever, as my Gran went into hospital on the evening of the 15th and the rest of this week has been rather more stressful than is ideal. (She’s recovering now, but it’s been a very odd week).

Both the thoughtfulness and the surprise of it absolutely made my week 🙂 I’m a lucky girl with awesome friends.

Special mention also to these wonderful unicorns which also popped up on my wall…

 

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So perhaps I’ll make it a proper day next year and see if I can send it viral?!

When serendipity strikes

Serendipity and excitement are the two main themes of my life at the moment.

There are so many lovely things going on, and so many possibilities and emotions and so much potential whizzing around in the air, that I am excited fit to burst, and finding it incredibly hard not to dance through the corridors of the day job with joy, on the very tips of my toes.

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New friends have come into my life in the most unexpected of ways in the past few months . One through answering an ad for some cosmetics I was selling, with whom I’m now starting a craft club. Several through being sociable at work. A few of us are starting dance classes, sparked by going to the university’s dance show. Some through my ever-dependable online networks of escape artists and free rangers and lifestyle engineers. 

I’ve been working with Amanda Aitken, in her new Girl’s Guide courses, and from just the first week I’ve had some lightbulb moments. I’m excited about these new ideas in a way I’ve not felt about business projects for a long time… possibly ever.

Two weeks and lots of experiments after I had my hair dyed blue, I’ve found the perfect electric blue colour for it (Directions Atlantic Blue, if you’re curious).

And new opportunities pop up at every corner – from tap dancing to faery festivals, there has been a spectacular explosion of things into my life, and I want to take advantage of every single one.

I’ve always been a firm believer that everything happens for a reason… but lately I’ve also become a firm believer in the universe providing what you are open to. Like begets like, and all that – so if you expect goodness, abundance, new friendships, likeminded people and opportunities you could never have dreamed of before… then all those things will happen in the fullness of time. Pure magic in action.

I’ve been working on creating a magical, colourful life for some time. It’s been happening, but oh so slowly. Then in the past few months, it’s accelerated. And because I’ve been so focused on the life I want, feeling it start to really take shape truly feels like coming home.

There’s a way to go before I’m living my dream fully (with added unicorns!)- but now my baby steps feel less faltering, and more twirling and joyful and natural. And so I am off to run down the corridors, to spin in the sunshine and dance in the moonlight.

Four ways to transform Monday into your favourite day

Ah, Monday. In the working world, it gets such a bad rap for being the start of the working week, that I thought I’d share some ways to make it better.

1. If you’re able to work flexi-time, go in later or finish earlier on Mondays. I changed my hours so I have Monday afternoons off and work longer days Tuesday to Friday and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

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Blogging from the garden on a Monday afternoon in June.

2. Arrange regular Monday treats with colleagues or other self-employed people. A few of us at my day job meet regularly on Mondays for anything from full blown afternoon tea to a quick cuppa between meetings, and knowing I’m going to see these lovely sparkly ladies makes my whole week better!

3. Make Monday evening a night for dates or catch ups – so you can either spend quality time with your significant other, or catch up with friends (in person is brilliant, over Skype is perfectly acceptable – Contrariety Rose’s Louise and I often have wine nights over Skype!). The day goes faster if you’re looking forward to something in the evening, and you can plan your outfit in those really boring meetings.

4. Trying to escape the day job? Make Monday your Great Escape Plan day – commit to spending an amount of time each Monday working on the broader plan or picture. If you’ve not started something on the side yet, use the time for planning, self-development or training, and taking concrete baby steps towards your vision. If you have already started, promise yourself you’ll use that time solely for planning your next moves, not for doing client work or admin.

Four quick ways to turn Monday from blah to woohoo!

What’s your favourite? Do you have any other tips for making the start of the week better?

Dates with myself (try it, it might just change your life)

Way back when I was still working in London, I wrote about my spontaneous booking of tickets to see the English National Ballet and Flawless at the Hammersmith Apollo.

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There wasn’t anyone immediately available who I particularly wanted to join me, so I took myself. It was a Friday night, and my colleagues thought I was crazy and a little tragic. I may even have thought that myself for about five minutes after I left the office.

And then I realised, it wasn’t tragic, it was wonderful. The feeling of independence of doing something typically associated with group or couple outings by myself was incredible. It’s also very freeing not to have any expectations around an event or place – you don’t have to comment on it, or work around anyone else’s plans or needs – you can simply be, and absorb, and enjoy (and eat cake).

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And so I’ve carried on having dates with myself when I feel the need to recharge my creative and emotional batteries.

I’ve been to gardens, museums, galleries, parks, coffee shops, restaurants, talks, all sorts. Often I’ll discover it for the first time with someone, and return on my own to appreciate it properly.

It doesn’t have to be a day out, either. Sometimes I’ll go and visit a particular shop I love, or I’ll spend an afternoon scrapbooking, delving into memories.

I might go horse riding, skating or simply sit with a slice of something sweet and watch the world go by.

It’s not always educational and it’s not always obviously connected with anything – but I always, always feel refreshed, motivated and more me when I return. Whether it’s a whole weekend or just half an hour, it helps.

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I found Julia Cameron’s “Artist Date” concept via Leonie Dawson this morning, which seems to describe my dates with myself fairly accurately, and as this post was already brewing I thought it was a good sign that I should get on and write it already.

So who’s with me? Julia suggests weekly – I don’t have a schedule, but find I’m drawn to doing things alone whenever I need to recharge, which could be at any interval from a couple of days to a few months.

Whether you’re single or partnered up, a parent or child-free, see if you can find time this week to try it. There are some great suggestions at The Artist’s Way but feel free to choose anything at all to do – something you are drawn to.

The only rule is that you do it solo.

And then let me know how you got on!

This post first appeared on Ducking Fabulous