Five and a half years ago, I wrote about leaving London for a new kind of life. More time, more space, no commuting… apologies if the link won’t work, my redirects are misbehaving and it’s much too sunny a day to sit and fix code!
And now here I am on the precipice of another new life – the one I have sought since I was old enough to know what adult life looked like, the one I have worked towards every day of the last eight or nine years.
I handed my notice in last week and from 1st August this year, I will be fully self employed.
I should probably be terrified. Instead I know with a deep certainty that this was the right time for this decision, that it is a million percent the right decision, and I am a strange mix of utterly calm and completely overexcited.
At work I have been described as “gleeful” as I’ve been imparting the news – of course there’s a sadness at leaving people behind, it’s always the people that make the job. Though hopefully I won’t lose too many of them with the change. And I am very good at what I do, and am proud of what I have achieved during my years at Essex.
But this… this freedom to pursue my own dreams, to live my own rhythm, to be answerable to nobody but myself… to fit my work around my enchantment & joy, so I am living my fullest & best life… it’s what I’ve craved since I knew how adulthood worked.
I have never understood the 9-5 life, and the way that the human race has created a rat race for themselves, wanting ever more money & power for no discernible reason. I’ve seen so many people sell their souls to their employers, and altogether too many people stretch to buy the home of their dreams, and then spend hardly any time in it, because they are stuck at work earning the money to pay for the home… which they never see. It is a conundrum I have tried and failed to get my head around.
And ultimately, this is what I have always wanted. A chance to give my all to my businesses and my life, instead of using the best of myself on a job and then only having the dregs of my energy for the things that are most important to me.
My time in “proper” jobs has taught me huge amounts about myself, who I am, how I work, what makes me happy, what makes me sad, what I will & won’t tolerate, and a million more small ways to know myself. In the last five years I’ve also discovered my love for the solo life, how to tackle my anxiety, what my natural waking & sleeping rhythm is (it’s nothing like what the general world expects which would explain a lot!), how to control most of my allergies, and I am learning how to live without Dad, though this is by far the hardest lesson.
I know it will involve some sacrifice, and I know it will involve harder work than I’ve ever put into a day job.
But as I stand on this precipice, I cannot wait for the end of July. and the leap into something I have loved from afar for so long. My quartet of businesses & my blog bring me joy on a deep level – I am already settling into giving them more of a boost, as they will no longer be side hustles, but the main part of my livelihood.
I am most looking forward to the freedom to design my days as I please, to wake & sleep as my body tells me, and not feeling so goddamn exhausted all the time. To be able to lose myself in creation and not have to put it aside before I am ready, because of a schedule created by someone else. And to changing other people’s lives & businesses, in small but significant ways, through my photography and my mermaid tails, and the connection of handwritten letters.
And on that note, I am off to sit in the garden with my beloved kitteny cats and enjoy the May sunshine!
For the first time in the 13 year history of this blog, I’m not doing a roundup post – I can’t face it. Nice things have happened this year, but the balance is eclipsed by the loss of Dad.
I have just come home from a week with Mum (Luna & Clover came too) and it was wonderful to spend time with her but we both found the hole he has left behind him was even bigger over Christmas. He was always so damn competitive enthusiastic about the Christmas lights that I’m going to have to seriously up my game in his honour next year. My neighbours are going to love me…
On the plus side, we did find some wonderful photo memories of me & Mum & Dad during the Christmas break, which I plan to make into an album so they’re not just lurking on a hard drive somewhere.
Anyway, that’s why this isn’t a round up post this year. And technically, all the businesses are taking a break till 2nd January.
But old habits die hard and I’ve never yet spent a new year’s eve without writing on my beloved blog, so instead, have the best 18 photos from my mermaid life & business (because most of you won’t have a steady stream of mermaid goodness in your feeds!):
Being a mermaid really wasn’t something I thought could make actually happen – yet now I get to make other people’s mermaid dreams come true as well as my own, and it fits beautifully alongside my photography, business photography and stationery ventures.
My current quartet of businesses feels meant to be, and I really think Dad would approve. Plus I can run them with Kitten Assistants Luna & Clover, who really do light up my life. On that note, I’m off to feed the kitten assistants and read a good book.
I hope 2018 is everything you want it to be and I’ll see you on the other side.
I can’t get my head around the fact that it’s October. October!
With the falling of the leaves and the crispness of the mornings, it couldn’t really be any other month – but I was still surprised to see leaves on the ground when I walked into work the other day.
So what does the start of autumn look like in my world?
Mixing up my routine
I have been craving routine (I know, who knew that was something I’d ever want?) but mainly at home. At the day job, my routine is set in stone and needed a shakeup.
So taking inspiration from my first ever online course (a Free Range Humans one), I am parking in a different place, taking a different route and making sure I have lunch with different people every day.
I’ve also been taking the laptop out and about to work in some of the cafes, bars & student areas when I can, and have organised coworking sessions with colleagues for stuff we’re collaborating on.
So far, so good.
Burlesquing in public
It has been a LONG time since I’ve danced out – probably not since Hogswatch, actually… so I was chuffed to bits to have the chance to dance out with fabulous friends Lynsey, Annastasia and Jenna in September. Photos courtesy of Lynsey’s other half Mike!
(Edit a couple of days later – I knew I was tired – I did the Fling in July this year! But though it was gorgeous, that’s probably a good example of exactly how much my brain is fuzzing things at the moment…)
It was a greyhound show, and I did come home wanting greyhounds again. But I think Luna & Clover would eat them…
Mermaiding. All the mermaiding.
September was the month I finally got my pod! Sam organised a Clacton meetup, and four of the twelve mermaids there were me and my gorgeous models/friends/burlesquers – Jenna, Lynsey & Fran were mermaiding for the first time before modelling for me, and we all loved it so much that we want to do it again, regularly 😀
Here’s a shot of all of us:
And here’s the Colchester pod:
And here’s a really quick edit of some of the video footage of the girls’ first swim!
And then it was time for our mermaid shoot at the start of this month. We had the Loft studio for three hours, and it was basically playtime – mermaid tails, crowns, corsets and sparkly lingerie galore.
We spent the night before at Fran’s house, decorating shells & tiaras, and it was so utterly lovely I can’t even tell you 🙂
AND THEN THE SHOOT.
These girls. They are naturals in a tail and apparently also naturals as models too – some people totally freak out in a studio environment but they were PERFECT.
I’ve not finished the edit yet, but here is a teaser:
and a whole load more stuff I can’t remember because I’m tired.
I still miss Dad a ridiculous amount, I’m still prone to crying at the drop of a hat, and Mum & I still have an insane amount of admin to do.
But keeping busy isn’t a bad thing, and doing things that make me feel like me is a good thing, and a random side effect that I had not anticipated is that for several weeks now, my anxiety has been much, much lower. I’ve had some dips & attacks, but it has been SO nice to feel a bit more like myself and not be living with constant irrational fear all the time.
So there’s my autumn. I’ll try and post proper roundups of each thing on the relevant blogs:
Oh, and with all this multipod goodness going on, I started a podcast about being one, especially being one in business. But I can’t share it yet, only one episode and it recorded quite quietly. It’s coming, though!
I’ve been in a real funk for what feels like ages now, and while I know some of this is because tomorrow marks six months since we lost Dad, which is normal and natural, some of it is more inexplicable and just annoying.
I’ve struggled to create, to sleep, and especially to do the everyday things that have to be done – laundry, cooking, day job tasks, ongoing business tasks, blogging…
It’s always a warning sign for me when I can’t find my blogging mojo – for most of my adult life I’ve had a blog, so any time when I don’t want to post for an extended period usually means I should take a long hard look at what’s happening, and maybe talk it out somewhere. (Ironically, not necessarily online…)
Last week, I felt like this and just didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything, but managed to force myself out of the house, into the car, and across town to burlesque.
If you’re a long term reader, you’ll know that I’ve always danced, and that burlesque has been a passion for nearly six years now. My lovely friend Lizzie now co-owns Love You Burlesque, and alongside shooting them for a year (over at my business & branding photography biz), I dance with them too.
Lizzie and Gennie often talk about how their classes give ladies an hour to themselves every week, and I never really understood how important this was… I live on my own, so I spend a lot of time happily by myself! But that evening, I managed to leave behind all my sadness, anxiety, stress and general meh-ness for a whole hour, and lose myself in frills and feathers and sass.
This week has been hard, because it’s approaching a significant anniversary that I don’t want to think about. But tomorrow is going to roll around all the same, and walking aimlessly from room to room, wondering what I came in for, is not going to help.
I skipped burlesque yesterday as I just wasn’t feeling myself, and today although I had a lovely lunch with friends and a surprisingly good day at the day job, I got home and felt… meh.
So I got out my bike, shooing away the spiders that were lurking. Dusted her down, pumped up her tyres and went for a short ride to quite literally blow the cobwebs (on her) away. It’s the first time I’ve ridden this year and it was a great reminder of connection.
Riding a bike (or a horse) means you’re out in the open air, you can feel the wind rush past your face as you move, and you are closer to the road than you ever are in a car.
You can see the leaves and the birds, the conkers (when the hell did it get to be conker season already?!) and the marks on other people’s cars. You are going quicker than you would on foot, but slow enough to notice pretty shutters, colourful front doors and various things for sale from the front of people’s houses (I love village life).
I only went to the shop and back, and yet I have come home feeling freer, calmer, and much less angsty about everything. Luna and Clover got to be outside till just now, instead of me panicking and hauling them in early (they get very silly around dusk, I think it’s a cat thing), and I have written this post, blitzed my bullet journal and answered some customer enquiries instead of just wandering around aimlessly.
It appears that next time I feel rough, things beginning with “b” are helpful… bikes… burlesque… bullet journals…
What do you do when you have an attack of the meh?!
It’s moved to Hylands now (same site as V festival), grown hugely and developed into a proper festival you can camp at, not just a one day extravaganza.
This year I performed with the Burlesque Jems, and was also their photographer for the day, capturing their performances and a few sneaky portraits too.
I made a last-minute mermaid bra so I could mermaid-burlesque (merlesque?!) and it was just a wonderful day – the most myself I’ve felt since before Dad went into hospital. It was amazing to merge two of my alter egos (Lotta Fiero and Kerenza Sapphire), brilliant to be back on stage, scary but eventually great to be out and about with my camera, and wonderfully indulgent to leave my worries and sadness behind and throw myself into festival life for a few hours.
Also, what better example of a multipod in action than photographing and performing all on the same day?
I had forgotten how much of a workout dancing and photography are though – my Sunday has been exceptionally gentle!
Just checking in – I really miss blogging like I used to, as more of a journal of my life. Over the 12 and a half years I’ve been writing about my life on the internet, I’ve seen blogging change and evolve and shapeshift so many times.
I haven’t quite worked out where it is, as a medium, today – some people say it’s dead, some people say it’s stripped back to its bare bones, some sit in the middle.
But for me, and I’m sure I’ve talked about this here before, my blog is my online living room. It’s decorated how I like it, it’s filled with the things and conversations I want to have, and people can visit and leave as they like. No scheduling, no shoulds, no worrying.
It’s probably not a strategy to build an enormous following, but that was never the goal for this particular blog. And I have plenty of business spaces to do the strategic-yet-authentic thing (though if I’m honest, even my businesses don’t have much of a schedule for blogging & social. I prefer to be present and write when I have something to say).
So, things that have been going on in my (still grief-fuddled) world recently:
This amazing box to brighten up my day job desk
Friendiversary dinners & plans – from a year to 20 years, eeek!
Choosing a yellow rose to plant in Dad’s memory
A series of commercial shoots coming up for the Burlesque Jems (and I’m going to be on TV dancing with them – eee!)
Packing for holiday and wondering how the hell I’m going to get my biggest fin, two weeks’ worth of clothes plus my camera, lenses & laptop into hand luggage only
Moving Crafty Coffee to a Wednesday, to fit in with my new part time hours
Planning for a creative day with friends
Julia and Willoughby came to stay for the long weekend and I had my first foray into toddler soft play – was hilarious! At sixteen months he is gorgeous and much more interactive than newborn babies… but I had forgotten how much energy kids have!!
Going back to burlesque classes – I had missed it SO MUCH
Jenny & Matt’s wedding (and unicorn shoes, and sneaking in brunch with Lou & Paul!) It was also… illuminating… to meet up with people I’d not seen for nearly a decade. I’m very entertained by how some of them still think of me, and also by the passage of time in the case of the boys – the teenage boys I was friends with and loved so much – they are all now hurtling for middle age, yet haven’t changed personality-wise at all.
And I’m sure all sorts of other stuff which has escaped my brain for now.
I can’t quite believe it’s June, but I’m trying to keep up my Happy Jar and gratitude journal practices, and making an effort to cook & eat well, as grief is quite exhausting enough without also trying to survive on junk food.
I’m still sadder than I knew was possible, but I am getting through each day, and spending as much time as I can with Mum and my family and my kittens and my friends – these things do make you realise the important things in life.
And finally, I’m hoping to spend a bit more quality time with my camera over the next couple of months, around all the admin we have to do, and also of course around work. I read somewhere that immersing yourself in things you love helps with anxiety, as you’re too absorbed in your creativity to worry unnecessarily about things. I think maybe this is a good experiment to try…
Some time ago, the wonderful Laura Sparling created a limited edition run of custom cat lampwork beads – you could choose all the options and they would look, more or less, like your cats.
LOOK AT THEM…. they even have the right colour eyes!!
Obviously I thought this was the best thing ever, and proceeded to buy lampwork portraits of Luna and Clover.
And then I bought a house and everything went to hell in a handcart for eighteen months while I rebuilt it.
This morning, I had a pet portrait shoot booked that sadly had to be rescheduled due to miserable weather, so instead I decided to have a mini artist date – and turn these cats into earrings! (There’s a sentence I never thought I’d type…)
It wasn’t a complicated make – extra ingredients were sterling silver ear wires and 3mm jump rings. I removed the lobster clasps from the cats and added the extra jump ring and the wire – the extra ring makes them hang the right way more easily.
And here are the finished earrings:
Plus of course the close up at the top.
It was lovely to make something for me – and even lovelier to now be able to take my idiot felines with me wherever I go!
Having recently rediscovered artist dates (I’m actually reading the Artist’s Way now, along with twofriends, and it is so far both wonderful and a bit uncomfortable), and with the studio now finished enough to work in, I’ve been collecting ideas of what I can do with precious alone time.
There’s lots on there from the general list of things I want to do in 2017, but the one that caught my eye this afternoon when I returned home from spending Sunday with my parents was UNICORN BARK.
Chocolate bark is quite an American thing, I think, but chocolate is chocolate whichever side of the ocean you’re on, and when you can make it swirly, sparkly and pastel coloured, I’m definitely in.
It’s also easy and quick, which given everything I should be doing other than making chocolate, is a good thing!
Good quality white chocolate (I used Menier, and made a mini 100g bar of bark for this first run)
Food colouring in the colours of your choice (I went for purple, pink and blue. Online opinion says you should have oil based candy colouring. I couldn’t find this in a hurry, so went for Dr Oetker gel colours which worked fine!)
Greaseproof/waxed paper (I used foil/parchment which I believe was from Aldi)
Hundreds and thousands, glitter, sparkly sugar bits (all optional – mine were bronze sugar pieces from Waitrose which I had lurking in my cupboard)
Line a shallow container with your waxed paper.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a pan of water on the hob. If you’re using the microwave, do it in 15 or 20 second bursts, or you’ll do what I did with the first bar, burn the bottom and end up with inedible crispy chunks in your chocolate. And wasted chocolate is practically a crime!
When smooth and stirrable, split between three or more bowls – one for each colour.
Working fairly quickly, mix your food colouring into each bowl. I used about five drops of the gel colour to get this strength, which I’d say is strong pastel – you can adjust as you fancy.
Dollop the coloured chocolate randomly into the waxed paper tray, swirl around a bit with a fork.
Sprinkle with your choice of toppings, then leave to cool (not in the fridge as this can do weird things to the chocolate’s finish).
Another year, another list to update – this time my epic Daydreams To Do list.
In 2016 I managed to cross off…
2. Create the fantasy fine art photos that have been in my head for decades – after some tentative faffing in 2015, and some loving kicking from lovely friends, I have made a bit of headway with this – mainly camera calibration, confidence and ideas. But I did create this little lovely in a stolen moment just before sunset one summer evening…
Work needed, but it made me so happy and was the first thing I’d made for ages for the pure joy of it!
3. Outdoor dinner party (ideally hosted but I’d attend one just as happily, as long as fairy lights are involved) I had a gardenwarming BBQ in August!
4. Swim in a mermaid tail Yep, more mermaid swimming happened this year, and I met & swam with other mers too!
16. Take a boat out on Coniston & Windermere, following in the Swallows & Amazons’ footsteps – not quite, but I did follow in the Swallows’ footsteps on a gorgeous day trip to Pin Mill earlier in the year, with Rhiannon and Janine. We saw Alma Cottage, had lunch at the Butt & Oyster, had a glorious walk and then finished with tea & dessert at the pub. Everything about the day was magical!
27. Wild swimming – her’es me, just about to go into the sea, in Selsey!
29. Vintage events – Twinwood festival with Lou this summer – it rained but it was still glorious!
31. Photography training & courses – I did Nicola Taylor’s Creative Photography Roadmap in February, and will be diving back into that in 2017, and I had a training day with Kerrie Mitchell in March.
39. Make a video for YouTube – not sure why this has been on my list so long, but here’s a mermaid one I made…
41. Finish my five year diary and buy another one for the first half of my thirties – I did finish my five year diary on my 30th, and I did buy another one, but I haven’t actually written in it all year!
45. Create a library in my house – my spare room is now a library with a TV screen and a sofa bed – reading perfection!
46. Complete an online class This year I completed Do What You Love <3 There are many half finished ones to go!
53. Go kayaking. To the pub?! I went kayaking almost by accident in October, with the girls, for Ally’s birthday. It was glorious! (I did try to go with Maddy in August but sadly that was the day Luna-kitty had an argument with a car, so spent the evening in the vet’s instead!)
As always, it’s lovely to see things on my list come to fruition, and I hadn’t actually realised I’d done so many this year! <3
Two years ago, I started NaNoWriMo, wrote assiduously each day for a week, and ended up with the beginnings of the book of my cats’ story. Heavily fictionalised.
Last November, I was running around like a total headless chicken trying to finish the house before winter hit, and if I remember rightly, I had garden chairs instead of a sofa, and 70s tiles instead of proper carpet.
This year… I am attempting to tell my story in photographs.
This year has been so hard, in so many ways, but the last few months, even with all their trials, have taught me (along with some very good friends who have given me loving but firm kicks up the backside) that a) I can in fact take beautiful photos and b) that longing to make something of that talent/passion/call it what you will isn’t going to go away – I’ve been trying to get rid of it for a decade, and it keeps coming back to assert its presence.
So I am either going to attempt 30 photos or 50 photos in November. One a day, or the 50,000 goal of NaNoWriMo, translated into each picture being worth a thousand words. I’m sure mine won’t be, and that there will be a lot of cats, but I’m excited to give it a go.
Of course, it’s the 2nd already and I have taken no photos – the day job is manic, and yesterday evening was taken over with kitty anxiety when madam Luna appeared with blunted, frayed claws again. The fact that she seems utterly fine in herself, if a bit cross with me for poking her paws every time I get near her, that it really was only the tips (whereas with her previous accident, she lost all the claws on one of her back feet entirely) and that miss Clover had similar damage to the claws on one of her back feet, tells me that perhaps it’s to do with the concrete in the garden and their insistence on jumping off the shed.
So no photographs yet (the one in this post is from my Singlehood series, started last year). But there are fireworks this week, and a trip to Pin Mill, and my studio build, and a friendship shoot from last week to edit, and lots of delightful things to look at through my lens. And of course the mischievous kitteny cats.
And I realised just after I got really excited about NaNoPhoMo… that it stands for National Novel Writing Month, and National Novel Photo Month doesn’t quite make sense… I’m going to use the tag anyway though, I suspect.
Are you NaNo-ing?? Or are you with me on the NaPho-ing?!
This weekend I disabled the auto-renew on four of my domain names. When they expire, they’ll no longer be mine – and this is a rather strange feeling.
Some are old, some are ones I’ve not used yet, some I had great plans for but things have changed.
Mostly, there just physically isn’t enough time for me to maintain fourteen websites. Disabling these and letting them go leaves me with ten domain names and seven actual sites – carlalouise.com / carlawatkins.com / carlawatkinsphotography.com / runawaydays.co.uk / unfurlingyourwings.com / sillykittens.co.uk are all sites that I use and maintain and develop, plus of course inkdrops.co.uk which sits separately.
duckingfabulous.com / mermaiding.co.uk / mermaiding.uk / paperdollsburlesque.co.uk are all redirects, but valuable to me nonetheless.
So what am I giving up and saying goodbye to?
The Website Beautician
The Website Beautician is officially retiring when the domain expires in early December – I’ve been doing minimal maintenance work for a good 18 months now, and avoiding taking on any more website work. I loved the clients I had and their glorious small businesses, but it was one of those times where following your passion isn’t the answer to everything.
It turns out that though I enjoy fiddling with my own sites, and will happily sit up till 2am tweaking CSS, that joy turns to terror and heavy responsibility when someone else’s site, livelihood and money are involved.
Girl Meets Van
Girl Meets Van has also sadly come to a halt, because I accidentally bought a house last summer, it’s needed a lot more work to it than I anticipated, and the last of my camper van savings are going on the studio build which is starting at the end of October – I’ll finally have an office/studio space again and I can’t wait!
(I’m typing this to you from the bureau in my living room, where both laptops balance precariously among filing, the mic and piles of post its. My wall planner is draped over the sofa. It is driving me INSANE.)
While I’m letting girlmeetsvan go somewhat reluctantly, I’m also acknowledging that actually, my life goals and what I want have changed since I started that fund and blog.
I'm Carla, a quirky thirtysomething with a penchant for unicorns and glitter. I believe in magic and make-believe, and the gorgeous rebellion of making your life absolutely your own. And I'm a proud multipod!
Proud to be both girly and geeky, when I’m not writing, photographing or daydreaming, you can find me dancing burlesque, riding my bicycle Bluebell, growing herbs and collecting typewriters.
Things I wanted to do in 2017. 2018 is a massive work in progress still! From my Daydreams To Do list and also from my general goals for the year.
~ experiment with film cameras
~ walk more
~ explore Colchester
~ beach time
~ kitty portraits
~ western riding
~ spa days
~ learn to make bath bombs
~ recreate Lush's Angel's Delight soap fragrance
~ slow reading club
~ craft gatherings
~ work in sterling silver
~ build a catio
~ handwritten letters
~ photobook of the house project