Who ARE all those people?

I’ve been reading some threads from unhappy graduates on the Student Room forum this evening, and feeling all the feels. They are miserable in full time work and struggling to believe that this is what life looks like from 21 to retirement age.

It will be no surprise that I identify very strongly with this feeling, and have never been able to understand modern society’s obsession with full time work at particular hours, with absolutely zero regard for the preferences and differeng high/low energy times of different people.

I reached those threads via some idle Googling to find out who all these people are in town in the middle of a weekday morning…

It has long irked me that while I was told that full time work was absolutely the only career option open to me, any time I left work during the day – for dentists or doctors, an early lunch for a trip to town or a late one to do some banking, town was always heaving with people.

Granted, the skillset I had developed was mainly suited to 9-5 (pffft 8.30-6) office work, and of course not everyone works those hours. But I was led to believe that a vast majority did, and so that is what I did for the first 12 years of my career.

And I remember walking through residential (rather than tourist) London and wondering what all these people were doing, and how they had the freedom & means to wander at leisure while I was trapped in a building whose windows didn’t even open for real air.

Later, at the library and at the university, town was always full. It was hard to get a parking space if you popped out at lunch time to buy a birthday gift, yet I was still being told that most people worked Monday to Friday, full time.

I remember being so immensely frustrated at my lack of freedom that I cried each time I did leave work for something and got stuck in traffic coming back.

Who the hell were all these people and why the hell was I still stuck in a job?!

Now, 17 years after my first job and nearly 13 since I entered full time work, I am one of those people.

I work for myself, I don’t currently have any income streams which require regular attendance of someplace else, and I make my own decisions about what my days look like – Monday to Sunday.

And you know what? I am still baffled as to who all those other people are. Of course some are parents of young children, some are retired, some will be having a day off, or will be shift workers.

And the working world has changed so much since I started university, when the internet was in its infancy.

But looking around me at the sheer variety and number of people who are not, in fact, locked in an office or a shop on an average weekday morning, I can’t help thinking that an entire generation were sold a pup on the career choice front.

I have always been one of the lucky ones – born to supportive parents who didn’t bat an eyelid when I changed full time jobs 17 times in the space of 9 years, desperately trying to find one that would fit. Now, working for myself, it feels like I have found the right fit at last – freedom, not financial wealth/empire building, is my highest priority.

I still don’t understand why we have created this culture of rigid work hours when we are more technologically advanced than any other time in human history, and when we should be reducing, not increasing, the hours we are expected to work so we can earn money to live.

But I am saddened to feel recognition of a societal truth in the unhappy postings of new full-timers, fresh out of uni and absolutely stunned that this is the way they are expected to live their life for ever after.

Wealth does not bring happiness. But even if wealth is what you seek, the 9-5 is unlikely to create it – so I can see why some of these graduates have already given up hope.

My own experience is that you can cram in some fulfilling life around a job you hate and a lengthy, shitty commute.

But my experience is also that those shining drops of light in an otherwise stressed & miserable existence will eventually wink out unless you can change your life to better accommodate the things which light you up.

And if you work full time for someone else, or at all for yourself, then doing the things you love will involve not doing other things if you want to stay sane and relatively physically healthy.

I have often wondered if there is some kind of cosmic scale which says we can balance certain things but not everything.

My own priorities are spending time with people I love, my kitties, working on my businesses and pursuing my various and ever changing hobbies (currently doll photography, metal stamping and roller skating).

This means that housework, life admin and extensive cooking slip down the list, or off it altogether, in order for me to stay sane and actually get some sleep each night. Similarly if my lovely Mum didn’t keep my garden under control, it’d be a wilderness garden!

I also stay single and childfree very much by choice, as this is the way I live my best life, and the way I’ve found which lets me fit in those things which are truly important to me (and which always disappear when I’m in a romantic relationship – but that’s another post entirely).

But no part of the way I live now was presented as an option when I was choosing my life and career path.

And even for my non-self-employed friends with partners, and in some cases children, I know they struggle to fit in everything life demands around full time work.

I work harder for myself than I ever have in a job, 9-5 or otherwise, but because most of my self employment is made up of the things I happily did as hobbies when I was working full time for someone else, it doesn’t feel onerous.

I know self employment is neither desirable nor possible for everyone who doesn’t fit into the old 9-5 mould. But I hope that the working world catches up to the fact that such rigid office hours are already outdated, and realises that more flexible working hours really are the way forward.

Who wouldn’t want their workforce to be happier, less frustrated, less stressed and more productive?

On that note, as it is late and this was originally going to be just a couple of lines and a link… Off to bed I go!!

Fourteen!

Today my blog turned 14 – fourteen whole years since I first tentatively wrote some words and sent them into cyberspace.

Words and pictures are how I process the world – I am a photographer and I am a writer, but creating and using them together is how I navigate life.

Multipod life is a glorious thing but does mean almost nothing lasts forever – and I am proud and pleased and happy (and weirdly not at all surprised) that I have kept one thing up for so long. My whole adult life 🙂

Today involved working and friends and hot chocolate and kittens – and my first booking for 2019!

Here’s a kitten the size of my camera…

Stock take day!

Day three on the trot. I really should have started on 1 November, shouldn’t I?!

Today has proudly been a no-spend day, and also a whole day in my unicorn onesie – I put it on as soon as I was showered and haven’t yet taken it off. The two things may or may not be related.

As I type I am full of chicken stir fry and ibuprofen for my sore back, as today was my scheduled stock count day for Ink Drops – mine & Annastasia’s beloved little stationery subscription company.

I adore curating, photographing and posting boxes of stationery to other paper addicts, and generally our boxes of stock are a lovely addition to my office – who doesn’t love working surrounded by stationery?

But stock count days, while fun, are harder work – as I now work between home and Studio 19, finding every piece of stock is always entertaining, and then rounding them all up into logical boxes & shelves is even more pesty. And then I have to count the buggers!

Having said that, every year I stumble across something I’ve forgotten we had, or that Anna ordered and I have only seen briefly, so I am now full of ideas for more boxes – keep an eye on the shop!

I am nearly there – three more boxes and our packaging to go, but Luna was a super-helpful kitty:

Both kitties are dealing surprisingly well with the fireworks, even though we can usually see & hear the university ones from here – I wonder if tomorrow night will be louder?

Right, off to finish my stock take spreadsheet for the night. There are definitely some less glam sides to self employed life but oh, how I love it <3

Calligraphing

That’s definitely a word!

Today Mum and I went to Mistley to learn calligraphy – my birthday present to Mum that we only got round to booking last month!

No photo because wordpress is sulking, but here’s my Insta pics:

It was great fun but also much more mentally taxing than either of us expected – and very much like dancing, in that you have to focus so you don’t balls it up!

And when you are focused like that, everything else floats away.

We also had incredible pizza in Lucca’s of Manningtree afterwards.

AND I remembered to blog!

All in all, a fabulous day!

An attempt to recapture my blogging mojo

Hey! I’m still here 🙂

The last few months have been mad – wonderful, and I love the freedom & flexibility of my new self employed life, but also weird, and sad – I am still battling grief & the reality of Dad being gone, and there has been some other background weird shit too.

And as a result I haven’t been blogging much at all!

Having talked to some friends recently who are doing various blogging things – Annastasia blogging daily, Virginia doing NaNoWriMo but in blog posts – I thought maybe over here I can reclaim some of my writing for pleasure 🙂

I love blogging for my businesses, but it’s much less stream-of-consciousness-friendly than here – this has always been the equivalent of my living room on the internet. Messy, but welcoming!

So here is today’s thought/link/thing – Tim Minchin’s Canvas Bags:

2016 in review: Daydreams to Do

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…

Tea Party by Carla Watkins Photography | carlawatkinsphotography.com

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!

©Photography by Grace Hill www.photographybygrace.co.uk

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!

Pin Mill walk | Carla Watkins Photography | carlawatkinsphotography.com

Pin Mill walk | Carla Watkins Photography | carlawatkinsphotography.com

27. Wild swimming – her’es me, just about to go into the sea, in Selsey!

Mermaid Kerenza Sapphire at 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.

36. Meet an online friend in person – Met up with lots of mermaid friends this year!

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

NaNo…PhoMo?!

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.

Stolen Moments | Singlehood series | Carla Watkins Photography | carlawatkinsphotography.com

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.

I might even get round to finishing the rework of the Carla Watkins Photography site and blogging them on there!

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?!

#inspirenovember Instagram challenge!

This time of year can be a bit dreary – while I love the gorgeous colours of Autumn, I am much less of a fan of the endless rain, colder days and dark evenings. I’d make a good cactus – love the light, hate the rain! 

Anyway, though I have a few client shoots booked in this month, I don’t have much in the way of personal projects going on. While lamenting this to Louise, who has just come back from a Thailand honeymoon and is feeling the cold even more than I am, we cooked up the idea of a month-long Instagram challenge. 

And then thought why not open it to everyone? 

  
So here’s all the info – I’m mainly using my photography handle, @carlawatkinsphoto, and Louise is over at @louiserosecouture. 

See you over on Instagram! 

Catching up with the 52 project

For all that this year has been one of the most momentous in my life (I bought a HOUSE, people), and for all that I’ve rarely been without a camera of some sort since January 1, I seem to have let my 52 project slip.

This is not for a lack of taking photos and more for a lack of having actually taken them off my various devices, sorted, edited and uploaded them… oops.

I’ve moved the album over to my duckingfabulous Flickr account and added the rest of this year’s – up to the first week in September.

Choosing one photo for each week is impossible, so here’s the whole album, organised by week…


Created with flickr slideshow.

Can tidying up really be life changing?

I hate tidying up. Really, truly, hate it. But annoyingly I really like living in a space that isn’t full of clutter.

As I’ve tried to explain too many times to count, I don’t TRY to make things messy – chaos just follows me. I don’t deliberately leave things lying around, I’m just absorbed by an idea and don’t notice them lurking. I wasn’t born organised – and I am beginning to believe that the world can be divided into those who can stay tidy effortlessly and those who can’t stay tidy even if they make themselves miserable spending every spare moment trying to tidy up. (I suspect this effect is immeasurably worse if your partner/children/housemates/visitors are also messy by nature!)

My whole life has been lived in creative chaos – from my room as a child to my spaces at uni, from half the flat I shared with Julia to the whole house and garden I currently live in.

*I* know where everything is, it’s a filing system unique to me and I usually know exactly where to locate a specific item (under the bed, sideways a bit, behind that bag – there you go! Oh, you meant the other one? Basket on the windowsill, about a third of the way down, in a pink zipper bag. Sorted.) Until I tidy up, or worse, someone helps me tidy up, and then I have months of frustration because I can’t find anything.

I am naturally untidy and unashamedly lazy when it comes to housework – I will do the bare minimum to keep my house nice, and am easily overwhelmed by situations like my current one, when my house is filled with boxes and tools and goodness knows what else, in preparation for modernisation (plumbing and electrics. Necessary but oh-so-disruptive).

Much to the bemusement of the generation above mine, I have always unapologetically chosen fun things over housework for my entire life. Hoovering vs creating? No chance I’m going to pick hoovering (though the kittens’ faces when I do switch the Dyson on is unfailingly hilarious).

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t collect things that made me happy or curious, and I have always believed I’m happy surrounded by my precious possessions. I just happen to have a lot of possessions which mystify everyone else as to why they’re precious!

But as I pack up everything I own into boxes so I can more easily shunt them around the house during the electrical works (I lose either Luna or Clover behind or in boxes on a daily basis right now), I find myself wondering whether I actually, truly, need all this stuff.

Boxes

But how in hell do I even start to thin it down? (actually that’s a bit too melodramatic – I’m already two bin bags of clothes, three boxes of books and several bridesmaid’s dresses down… but the rest of it is overwhelming.)

Marie Kondo is the author of the bestselling book oddly entitled “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. I was initially hugely entertained by this – how could tidying up be fun, magic or remotely life changing? It’s just one of those endless, thankless, reoccurring chores. Right?

Well, wrong, apparently. David over at Raptitude reckons she’s got a good point and that her method is intrinsically different from most. She also acknowledges that very few of us were ever taught to tidy up – only told that it had to happen. (No blame intended to our parents – they weren’t taught by their parents either). She also comes highly recommended by my circle of friends who travel the world constantly and work as they go – some of whom had even more stuff than me before they took up that wandering lifestyle!

Marie teaches an all-at-once, drastic method of decluttering your living space and your life, using intuition rather than logic or emotion to choose what stays and what goes. I’ve not read the book yet but I’m aware of the underpinning concept of “does this spark joy?” – if so, it stays, if not, it goes.

And that, I think, is what’s finally got through and made me willing to give it a go. My intuition is strong and well developed; I have spent immense amounts of time on getting to know myself, what makes me tick, what makes me happy; and I know exactly what kind of life I want to live. Joy is something I wholeheartedly approve of and seek in my day to day life.

Perhaps having less stuff will give me more time and space, both mental and physical, to continue creating & living the life I choose. Perhaps this book will help me get there. And given I have to handle every single thing I own over the next few weeks anyway, it would make sense to turn it into an experiment alongside the Raptitude one and see if it makes a blind bit of difference to my lifelong messiness.

And if it works, my Mum (one of the world’s loveliest but also tidiest people, to whom my clutter is befuddling in the extreme) can sit back and smile, thinking that it’s owning a house that’s done the trick. As long as she’s happy, I don’t mind!

So. Ramble over, what am I actually going to do?

  • Buy Marie Kondo’s book (on Kindle, of course)
  • Read the book
  • Apply Marie’s concepts to my belongings as I pack them
  • Live in unintended minimalism while the modernisation work is completed
  • Move all my stuff back into the correct rooms and out of boxes and hopefully never have a messy house again

Hmm. I’ll keep you posted…

With love and unicorns,

Carla xx

Edit: I read and started applying Marie’s methods last night. I’m another bag of clothes down and can see my bedroom floor for the first time since I started packing…

 

 

 

 

How to give old shoes a magical new lease of life

Three ways I’ve given old shoes a new lease of life…

1) The Rainbow Shoes

I don’t know if I’m ashamed or proud to admit that I have three pairs of identical Mary-Jane shoes from Schuh, in different colours. Red ones,  a present for my 19th birthday, to go with my Dorothy outfit. Black ones followed to go with an interview outfit, because they were SO DAMN COMFORTABLE but also looked good. And finally purple ones, a 21st present from my then-boyfriend.

I have now worn all three pairs so much that the straps have broken, the buttons have come off, they’ve all been reheeled at least three times and the leather is, well, completely buggered. No amount of polish is ever going to make them look good again.

So I took a leaf out of my own book (I’ve gone through phases of decorating shoes before) and decided to turn the black ones into rainbow shoes… using Decopatch papers.

rainbow-3

rainbow-4

rainbow-1

rainbow-2

I finished them off with a couple of coats of glitter Mod Podge (because sparkly rainbows on your feet!) and when they were dry, a coat of satin spray varnish to get rid of the stickiness.

 

2) The Lace Effect Heel Shoes

I used a similar ploy very effectively years ago, in the hideous London job, when I was informed my favourite shoes weren’t smart enough any more because the heels were worn and scratched. Never one to be deterred by rude people, I spent an evening up to my elbows in sandpaper, Mod Podge and tissue and this was the result:

lace-2

lace-1

These are now five years old (I did the heels three years ago), still worn regularly and have held up to all the abuse I regularly chuck at my high heeled shoes.

3) The Sparkly Shit Underneath Shoes

Yeah, that never took off as a brand name. But, back in 2012 when I still lived in the flat, I had a cheap pair of black-and-turquoise satin shoes that needed a bit of pep for a night out with friends. As you can’t really glitter glue or spray paint satin, I looked around my studio, spotted my bead stash… and the rest is history.

turquoisebeaded1

turquoisebeaded2_thumb

These have sadly long since bitten the dust, but I plan to use the same technique on another pair of heels that need some love soon.

So now I never have boring feet!

With love and unicorns,

signature

 

 
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52 Project: Weeks 7 – 9

Oops. I’ve been taking as many photos as ever, but somehow have completely failed to choose a photograph every week and put it on the blog. The first three and a half months of 2015 have flown past with indecent haste!

I can’t choose just one so the 52 Project will be more of a my year in pictures type project…

Week 7 (9-15 February): Creativity

Louise Rose Couture at Retro Photo Studio

Assisting Louise Rose Couture with a shoot at Retro Photo Studio – which was so much fun! I have a whole stash of shots from my behind the scenes documenting of the day, but I’ll share them in a separate post. This was a quick snap with my mobile.

collaging

Collaging and creating and giving myself permission to rip up old magazines. A lovely way of spending an afternoon.

Week 8 (16-22 February) Birthday joyfulness

Obviously I’m struggling to pick just one for each week. 16-22nd February involved birthday chilling, an amazing photo treasure hunt with a wonderfully eclectic selection of friends, and most importantly, my fluffy Clover-kitty was back to her usual silly self after a poison scare involving a stay at the vet.

birthday-chillaxing IMG_20150222_123059

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Week 9 (23 February – 1 March): Preparation

Getting ready to head off on holiday, I had a calming and colourful Lush bubble bath, got woken by the Nose-Biting Kitten Alarm (TM), finally cracked off-camera flash for product photography and found a stowaway while packing my suitcase.

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