The last of my yearly review posts, this one is all the things that have happened this year.
2016 was hard… in so many ways, for so many people. So I’m focusing mainly (though not exclusively) on the good here, because those are the things I’d like to remember.
Friendship was a major theme of the year for me – making new ones, consolidating new-ish ones, refreshing old ones, and letting go of some entirely. Also, right at the end of the year, making friends with a kindred spirit in the cat food aisle of Tesco. Yes, really. #officiallyacrazycatlady. My friends have put up with a lot this year, and have endlessly soothed and comforted me during the bad times, and also shared in and multiplied the good ones. I am unbelievably blessed!
Kittens have had an interesting year – Luna got hit by a car at least once and lost all her claws on one foot (they’re just now starting to grow back). She came home three more times with mashed claws, and we had two more emergency vet visits, at which point I bought a curfew cat flap, which they are not that excited about, but which is soothing my frazzled nerves during the winter days when it is full dark before I come home. They’ve had a whole string of things wrong with them, including an operation Luna needed on her mouth earlier in the year, and I am now on first name terms with the entire staff of Colne Valley practice. Who have been amazing throughout. They are, however, as glorious as ever, and while I’ve had some WTF moments, I am very glad they are in my life and that they’ve survived the building of the house, the garden and then the studio!
The build is finished! I’m writing this from my garden studio, and I got all my keys back from various trades on 22 December. Which felt momentous, after sixteen months of disruption. It has been exciting and stressful in equal parts, though now the dust is (literally) starting to settle, I am enormously grateful to have created my perfect home almost from scratch. Now I just have to pay for it…! The studio feels particularly momentous, as I need to kickstart all my business activities again, and having a dedicated home for that is quite magical – it’s true that you don’t know you’ll miss something until it’s gone! It’s also very restful to have my living room back and not have trailing cables all over the place…
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.
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
Well, on the surface this year’s been a doozy. And not in the good sense!
But instead of focusing on all the bad stuff, I thought I’d try and see what lovely things have taken place this year, against the background of the world going completely mad and me losing a little of my (already dubious) sanity.
First things first – there’s always a list in that sidebar over there, and here’s what I had for 2016:
cook a curry from scratch ~ ride a horse, a unicorn or both ~ spend time by the sea ~ swim in a mermaid tail ~ have my colours done ~ go skinny dipping ~ visit ruins ~ wild swimming ~ build a garden studio ~ silversmithing workshop ~ photography training ~ launch mermaid school ~ start a herb garden ~ track business progress ~ experiment with film cameras ~ GEA meets
Not too bad, actually – I swam lots in a mermaid tail and launched mermaid school to the world, so got quite a few other people to be a mermaid too! This included a couple of random people at the pool I regularly swim at, dear friends Emily and Louise, Megan at Bodyposipanda and her lovely friend Joely, Lizzie, a selection of my amazing family who jumped straight on board, and of course my gorgeous clients.
I also managed to spend time by the sea at Selsey with Lou, which was incredibly good for the soul, much needed, and also involved mermaid tails and wild swimming – though swimming in the sea in a tail is MUCH harder than I expected! Hugs to Jo for the amazing pictures she took of us under very difficult conditions 🙂
Likewise I spent a blissful afternoon on Clacton beach with fellow mermaid Emily, talented photographer Grace and her fab other half, and bopo beauties Megan and Joely. We had an absolute blast and I hope to do lots more around the #bodypositivemermaids idea next year!
I had my colours done with the gorgeous Janine in January – I am a bold Winter, and I have found it transformational to know what colours and shades are most me. Highly recommended! Here’s a gallery of Sophie being draped, she and I did it together and it was fab!
My herb garden is up and running (well, currently snoozing for winter) was very effective and even survived the garden build! The only things it’s missing are parsley and thyme. Photos next year!
I had a day of VIP training with Kerrie Mitchell back in March, a catch up call with her just the other day, and this year I’ve become friends with the fabulous Sarah who has been photographically kicking my backside beautifully 🙂
And I’m typing this from my garden studio, which is three quarters of my converted garage, cosy as anything and honestly the culmination of so many hopes and dreams, I can’t even. Also it was finished on 22 December – cutting it fine for 2016 much?!
So a pretty good show for that little list, I think!
I’m still working on what I want to do in 2017 – but keep an eye on the sidebar, it’ll be up soon enough!
As Christmas Eve eve draws to a close, I am once again completely bemused by how fast the year has gone (I’m sure there is a conspiracy) and how much good stuff there has been in what feels, overall, like a very bad year indeed.
I celebrated the winter solstice with friends on Wednesday, with cooking (which turned out amazingly) and glitter jar making, which was a lovely way to start winter and end my build.
I got my keys back from my builder the day after the solstice, and oh, this studio space – it already feels like the most peaceful, productive space I’ve ever had. I am full of gratitude and excitement… and my home feels like home again, which is wonderful.
After Luna’s fourth incident, a couple of weeks ago, of arriving home with split, mashed claws (this time accompanied by a fat lip and heavy, terrified breathing for longer than is healthy, so yet another emergency vet visit), I gave in and bought a curfew cat flap. It’s made by Sureflap, who made the microchip flap I already had, and still does selective entry using microchips so that only my two furry idiots can come in. It also has a function where it locks itself at a certain time in the day, which I have set for half past three in the afternoon, so the cats still get eight hours a day of outdoor access but are safely in by the time it gets dark, and away from the school run and people rushing home from work. And away from the asshole tabby cat who seems to come out at night, and who I am fairly sure is part of the reason Luna keeps coming home hurt – the first incident was almost definitely a car accident, but there is no way she has been hit four times in four months when we live in a cul de sac!
Programming the cats in was hilarious – they recommend installing it and getting your cats to walk through, but with my luck this year I decided it’d be infinitely better to catch each cat, put the flap into learn mode and put it over their head before I installed it into the door. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried this, but I wish I’d filmed it – by the time I’d managed to get both cats programmed in, I was helpless with laughter, we’d got through an obscene amount of treats, and they sulked for the rest of the evening!
The proper year review post will come, once I’ve done my planning for 2017. This year I got an accountant (the lovely Kylie) who has successfully managed to get me to submit my accounts, and has done my tax return, so for the first time in years I am clear to spend NYE planning and relaxing, rather than doing my sodding business accounts in a panic. This is a Very Good Thing.
But today, I really just wanted to say Happy Christmas / Yule / insert whatever you celebrate here, mark the end of my day job year, and give heartfelt thanks for the studio where I am sitting and typing this to you.
I’m looking forward to Christmas and have mostly managed my shopping this year – though am behind with cards and have struggled to fit in all my responsibilities with all the things I love and want to do. For lots of reasons, I would like this to be the last year that I work full time at a day job – one of my big 2017 goals is to drop some hours so there is more balance in my life. And more consistent blog posts as I enter my thirteenth (!) year of blogging – if you are reading this and you’ve stuck around during this rather random year, I am delighted – thank you!
So after that wonderfully rambly post with no real point (I love having this blog back as a non businessy one), here are some more pics of the glitter jars. The turquoise represents the sea, the pink & gold is sunrise/sunset and the deep blue is the night sky.
Merry Christmas, happy New Year and I’ll see you in 2017!!
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.
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?!
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.
Today marks the equinox – twelve hours of light and twelve hours of dark.
When I bought my house last year, and redesigned the garden to become a patchwork of patios and decking, with one big flowerbed and lots and lots of pots, I initially wondered whether I’d done the right thing. I thought I might find it annoying to have to water my garden and care for it (it felt initially like another thing for my endless to do list).
Actually, in a whirlwind of stressful events over the last few months, I’ve found it incredibly and unexpectedly soothing to wander round my garden each evening with a glass of wine and the hosepipe, as my Dad used to do when I was small. To talk to my pots and my plants, to trim them and dead head them and harvest my accidental chilis.
I’ve once again been able to watch the seasons change, and as autumn starts her approach, I am happy to draw my snuggly pink shawl around my shoulders, stockpile my herbs, and plan soups and stews and casseroles for the colder weather that will come.
In the meantime, this Indian summer is filled with walks with friends, conker gathering to see off the spiders humanely (I love my cats but they are rubbish at that particular job), and a fresh perspective on what I really want to be doing with my life.
I’m not quite there yet (does anyone ever get 100% there?), but I’m streamlining and shifting so that my various online homes, businesses and blogs alike, better represent me and what I do and all I stand for.
I’m also nearing the end of my current bullet journal and excitedly awaiting the next (it’s hot pink!) while planning a Get Bulleting subscription for Ink Drops. Perhaps it’s true that the back-to-school feeling never really goes away… and it’s the best excuse I know for new stationery!
I’m dreaming of the water.
Dreaming of the feeling of wild water on my skin, a feeling you can’t replicate in a pool, even an outdoor one.
Just me, a little boat, and a cool, gentle river to paddle up.
Though obviously, I’d wear a lifejacket…
This week’s discovery, quickly fuelling a long-hidden obsession, is kayaks. Specifically, inflatable kayaks and canoes.
I have loved the water since I was tiny, and now I run a mermaid school among other things – so it’s not like this is a surprise.
But I’ve squashed my desire to get out on the water near where I live for two big reasons:
The main one is my beloved Poppy car. She’s perfect and she’s glorious and she makes me unspeakably happy, but she is also undeniably a two-seater convertible and can’t tow. A kayak would melt (never mind whack passing cars unceremoniously) on the boot rack, and she can’t have a roof rack because soft top.
So all these years, I have made do with the occasional paddle when I visit Wells with my uni girls, or if I happen to be somewhere with an activity lake.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a whitewater rapid kind of a girl – I want to potter upstream to the pub, moor up, sit and have lunch in the sun, with a book or with friends, and then I want to get back in my boat and pootle downstream back to my hometown.
But without being able to transport my gear, that’s not been a reality.
The second reason is fear. I’m a strong swimmer, if not as fit as I’d like to be, and I adore the water – I’m not frightened of falling in. But I have learned to fear being on or in the water alone. Partly through being taught that water is dangerous, and partly because of the tragedies that can and do happen in and on the water, especially wild water rather than pools.
This fear-reasoning has led me to believe that I can’t own a boat while I’m joyfully single (or any kind of single), because I can’t go out in it on my own, and my friends are either too busy or don’t want to come boating with me.
Which is an unfair assessment of the situation, as a tentative reaching out over the last few days has yielded lots of people who were really quite enthusiastic about occasionally coming out on a gentle paddle, and as long as I take proper safety precautions, I absolutely can go out boating on my own.
I’m beginning to realise that though water can, definitely, be dangerous, my respect for it has become fear of what could happen, without any grounds in reality. And do I want to keep myself absolutely safe, or do I want to throw myself headlong into life and enjoy every experience that lights me up, as often as possible?
Enter my lovely plumber Dan. He came to do my annual gas service a week or so ago, and while catching up and showing him the garden (he was the one who did all the work on the inside of my house, and hadn’t seen the garden transformation), he happened to mention paddleboarding and his new inflatable kayak.
My ears pricked up… inflatable means foldable which very possible means fittable-into-Poppy!
And just like that, all my squashed desire to go out boating more regularly surfaced. Not to mention the wild mermaiding possibilities if you can get to places in a boat first!
Some research has thrown up that most are for two people but can be configured for one; that there is a canoe & kayak club in Wivenhoe, which I’ll be investigating, and that there is a new public pontoon on the river.
And also that there are a few local watersports shops! Two near my parents and one on the way to the beach. Perfect.
I also threw the idea out among some friends and discovered a friend who already has one, and paddles nearby – so readymade companions for day trips! (Pub trips…)
I’m planning a visit to see the boats I like in person in the next couple of weeks, and then I’ll start a fund for one of my own. Next summer is looking pretty glorious from where I’m sitting!
With love and unicorns,
Girl, Missing isn’t my usual read. Especially with YA or teen fiction, I mostly go for the extravagant fantasy, or at least a dash of magic and the supernatural, rather than books set in the real world.
But the blurb intrigued me and I’ve been feeling a bit lost lately, plus I quite fancied a real book for the beach so my Kindle didn’t get all sandy, so I took it with me on holiday and dived in.
And much to my surprise, I was hooked!
It’s fast paced and clever, and I found myself really caring about Lauren and Jam, and the situations they find themselves in.
It unfolds with some twists, and there were a few moments where I said “oh!” out loud, because I was so surprised.
Around halfway through, when some darker things started to happen to the central characters (it’s so hard not to give things away in reviews!), I succumbed to one of my own quirks and read the last few pages, so that I could get through the darker bits without them stressing me too much.
This is something that happens with most books, especially the dystopian YA titles I used to read loads of, and I attribute it to being HSP and having a ridiculously overactive imagination. I don’t see it as a bad thing, but for some reason it drives other people mad…!
So once I’d assured myself of the ending, I could go back and enjoy it.
I finished it in one sitting, partly because I was on holiday and I could, but mostly because I couldn’t put it down – I desperately wanted to know where they were going next and what would happen, and how they would get out of the next crisis.
Also very much loved the extra chapter at the end, which was part of the first draft – as someone who writes more naturally than she talks, but rarely attempts fiction, it’s wonderful to have little snippets into other writers’ processes and lives.
Overall an unexpectedly enjoyable read – recommended!
What’s on your holiday reading list?
*A review copy of Girl, Missing was provided to me free of charge. All opinions are my own honest & unbiased thoughts.
It’ll come as no surprise that I adore Harry Potter – books, magic and friendship are three of my favourite things after all, and I grew up with Harry and his friends – Philosopher’s Stone came out the year I started secondary school, Order of the Phoenix in the middle of sixth form, and Deathly Hallows as I returned to university for my final year.
The downside of being just a few years below Harry at Hogwarts is that for the most part, I’ve been too young to go to the midnight release parties for most of the books – and either working or without local likeminded friends when I was old enough.
But trekking to London for a release party, and trying to find my way back at 1am, didn’t appeal either – so I was muchly excited when I discovered that Colchester Waterstones was having a celebratory party for pre-orders, with books collected at midnight!
This time, Maddy, Sarah and Sophie were also enthusiastic enough to dress up, go for dinner first (there’s a fab Brazilian BBQ restaurant just opened in Colchester, we tried it and it was amazing), sit in the pub in our robes & hats playing HP Trivial Pursuit, and then head off to the party to play silly games and collect our books.
And I might’ve bought a few other bits and pieces too, because a lock in in a bookshop is far preferable to a lock in in a pub, for me!