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!
It’s been a while… 2018 is turning out to be the weirdest year of my life so far, I think. Up, down, sideways – you name it, I’ve felt it. And it’s only April!
Though also nearly May, which has utterly confused me as in my head it’s still last June. And if last May you’d told me that in a year’s time, I’d be coming to our annual few days away after a whole weekend shooting in my own studio I think I’d have laughed in your face at the impossibility of it all.
Which just goes to show that sometimes impossible things are possible. If not necessarily before breakfast, because whose brain works that early in the morning?!
I am run off my feet with a combination of delightful and hideous stuff at the moment, and still battling indescribable sadness that Dad isn’t here. I miss him so very much – time has started to heal the outer face of my loss, but I am unsure the inner void will ever feel any better.
However, for the purposes of this update, I’ll focus only on the delightful, and until everything calms down and I can blog a bit more often, you can mainly find me on Instagram…
@duckingfabulous for personal, day to day stuff
@thesillykittens for Luna & Clover’s antics
If you want to keep an eye on my businessy world:
@mermaidinguk and @kerenzasapphire for mermaidy goodness
@catalystcarla for branding photography & multipod musings
@carlawphoto for occasional proper photography (I am doing quite a lot of that at the moment but am really bad at sharing it on insta, for some reason… I sense a 2019 resolution coming on already!)
@inkdropsbox for stationery indulgence (ditto on the posting front, but we’re launching a fab new campaign shortly and having a bit of an overhaul, so keep your eyes peeled!)
If you’re reading this, thank you for still being around <3 I miss my little space over here – and I will be back properly soon 🙂 (and you might get an email about GDPR soonish too. Bloody new laws.)
PS You can buy the photo on all manner of fabulous things – wall art, phone cases, possibly even a duvet cover – in my Redbubble shop 🙂
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.
With bittersweet, very mixed feelings, I’m approaching the end of Christmas Eve, the first one without Dad. We went to his pub for a drink on Friday afternoon, and they’d put both his plaques up in his indoor & outdoor spots – he’d be SO pleased by this, I can’t even tell you!
I’ve moved myself and my Silly Kittens into my Mum’s flat for a few days, which has had mixed responses from the cats – Clover is ruling the roost, Luna is happiest when cuddling me but really is also quite cross that she’s not allowed outside because we’re not at home.
They are however both doing their Important Cat Job of distracting us and making us laugh – they are an actual pair of furry idiots, I love them so much.
Having managed to have get some rest and a lie in over the last couple of days, I’m too sleepy to blog properly – but did want to post this, of the two fluffy con artists caught at quiet moments today.
Wherever you are and whatever you celebrate, wishing you a wonderful, peaceful few days.
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!
Watch us & subscribe on YouTube (I know, that’s a Vimeo link, means no adverts on the site!)
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:
Autumn has also brought:
- meeting my GORGEOUS new niece, Odette Carla (yes, Odette Carla <3) – if her mum & dad are ok with it, she’ll get a post all to herself!
- a 20 year friendiversary celebration with Louise
- going out for dessert for Maddy’s birthday
- tarot discussions & inspiration
- new friendships
- old friendships
- ridiculous kitten antics
- 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 hope your autumn brings you happiness <3
If you follow all of my businesses, you’ll notice I’ve been on a bit of an accidental shopping spree recently… oops!
Needing some more stationery (when do you not need more stationery?) for the studio and also to perk up the day job desk, I popped to town and found these beauties the other day:
The folder is immensely glittery and very happymaking, and stands out beautifully on the day job shelf 🙂 I like the reminder to dream big, too. And it is always time to be a unicorn… though I probably didn’t need any more notebooks…
Talking of notebooks, this A4 hardback beauty has PINK LINED PAGES. I’m not sure when I started liking pink more but this one’s definitely on the favourites list. And again, besides the unicorn imagery, I really like the words.
Unicorn stickies were a silly but necessary purchase – you always need sticky notes & index tabs and they might as well have unicorns on!
All from The Works so didn’t even set me back that much – under a tenner for all four!
What’s your happiest everyday stationery?
My first Fling festival was in 2011, and still stands out as one of the most magical experiences of my life.
My first performance there was with my troupe Paper Dolls Burlesque in 2013, running a tent, performing and getting people to dress up and do burlesque themed crafting.
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!
Here are a few of the photos – the rest will pop up over at Carla Watkins Photography and Burlesque Jems in the coming weeks.
going to the beach and watching the sea and getting a sense of perspective.
And sometimes, it looks like setting a reminder on your phone to actually bloody well eat proper food before the evening arrives!
After the recent heat, a gorgeous day yesterday (including accidentally transforming friends into mermaids in my garden) and an increasing habit of eating dinner at 10pm, today I woke up and just felt rough all over.
Lovely Annastasia came round so we could do the Ink Drops tax return (not fun, but felt good once it was achieved) and talk about stuff we want to do with our little company (fun and inspiring), but we were so busy chatting that I forgot about lunch.
Then Clover did a hat-trick of throwing up so I went into cat-related anxiety tailspin (admittedly nowhere near as bad as I have been in the past, but I was definitely fretting). On good advice I kept kittens in and went back to bed for a couple of hours – only to be woken up by furious catfighting outside my living room window. Gah!
Fortunately my two weren’t involved in that, and as they have managed to keep food down since, they are currently roaming the garden and having staring contests with pigeons and snoozing on the decking – it’s tough, being a pampered cat.
But it was only once I put dinner in the oven at almost 6pm that I realised I hadn’t eaten anything except some popcorn since breakfast, and breakfast was just a ciabatta roll because I wasn’t that hungry when I woke up.
No wonder I felt odd, and found routine things like cat puke overwhelming to deal with!
I am off to eat dinner now… and I think I shall put the laptop off and shut the studio until after I’m back from the vet tomorrow lunchtime. Could do with keeping the cats in, and it won’t hurt me to have a morning off like a normal person!
But this isn’t the first time recently I’ve forgotten to eat and then felt physically as well as mentally dreadful, so that is a lesson learned. During grief, but also in life generally, remember to eat proper food!
Luna and Clover, unbelievably, turn 4 today.
Or at least I think they do – had to pick an arbitrary date for when we thought they were born when I got them, and while the vet registration says 25th, I have always celebrated on 22nd.
They have been properly in the wars recently and it’s been an awful 12 months. Luna got hit by a car last August, and has come home more than 10 times with mashed, split & blunted claws since then. Vets maintain that is consistent with vehicle trauma, but in the last three days I have witnessed my two yowling & fleeing from the enormous & fearless tabby cat from down the road, and both times poor Luna’s claws have all been completely buggered straight afterwards. So I think I have my answer as to what is causing it. She also has a massive gash and two scabs on her head at the moment, so looks more like a thug than she is – she’s just been defending her territory, her home and her sister!
Clovie has had various bouts of puking and cystitis and hairballs, which is unpleasant for all concerned, and both of them have been having digestive issues since December. The poor little pair have been in and out of the vet so often that the receptionists now know me by my voice when I get on the phone.
I’ve struggled a lot with guilt and anxiety over them in the last year or so – possibly sounds ridiculous given what else I was coping with, but I also think that was part of the reason I fixated on them. I couldn’t make Dad better no matter what I did, but the cats’ health is both my responsibility and sort of within my control – I can at least take them to the vet and do my best to get them fixed when things do happen.
It’s been a bit better recently, though I am very fed up of having to plan every arrangement with the caveat that I may have to cancel when I get home if I need to take the cats to the vet – this cannot possibly be normal, but has become my normal because they seem to damage themselves so frequently!
But despite all that they are happy little cats, and at the moment are giving me purpose to get out of bed in the mornings, and excellent cuddles when it’s not 150 degrees outside.
Neither of them were feeling particularly photogenically cooperative today – it’s been ridiculously hot (record breakingly so) for the last few days and we are all hot, tired and floppy. But I got a couple of the portraits I like to do on their birthdays, and one each of their silly personalities too. So I’m happy.
And just now I shall head indoors to have dinner and give them theirs, and hopefully it’ll be cool enough to have a game of mouse-on-a-stick!
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
Mermaid filming, and some secret squirrel plans for Mermaiding UK’s blog
Celebrating my Gran’s 88th birthday (we missed Dad being a BBQ maestro but it was really lovely to spend a whole day just chilling out with family)
Happy lunching with friends at work
I was on BBC radio talking about being a mermaid!
Ink Drops packing, podcasts and plans
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…
On Thursday it will be three months since I lost my beloved Dad. I can’t believe it’s been such a long/short time without him – I know it’s still early days in terms of grieving and learning to live without him, but at the same time it feels like I’ve lived a thousand lifetimes since we lost him. Zombie-like ones, admittedly – I still have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going most of the time, and I am doing the day to day stuff on autopilot.
Mum and I have been doing the best we can to get up every day and deal with life without him, to try to get all the admin done (it is a never ending wave – as soon as we complete one thing, four more turn up and need doing), and to comfort each other as much as we can.
For his two month anniversary we went to Arger Fen, to see the bluebells – he and Mum had done this last year and loved it. It was peaceful and quiet, and lovely to walk together and be in nature and remember him, and also to feel that he was there with us too.
Someone asked me if I have good days and bad days – I’d say I have days, and bad days. There have been some lovely things in the wake of his death, people being so kind and opportunities to spend time with Mum, extended family and dear friends. There was even something as lovely, and as normal, and as life-affirming, as Jenny and Matt’s wedding.
But oh, how I miss him.
I have managed to negotiate a year of part time at work – which technically started yesterday, though they are still bashing out the details after having approved it temporarily for a month. This is a relief as I was able to spend the day with Mum, and get lots done (if not as much as we’d hoped). We were both exhausted by the end of the day, and I stayed a bit later than planned so we could have some dinner and relax a bit.
But when I arrived home, congratulating myself on my newfound calmness about the kittens despite being home late, I let them out for a few minutes, and when they came back in for dinner, Clover was leaving little bloody marks on the floor wherever she put her right paw down.
Because I am exhausted to my bones, because I am already tired and had used up all my decision making ability and sensibleness and adulting on the awful but necessary business of Dad’s estate administration in the day, because I am still so sad I cannot conceive of normal life, because the combination of sad and exhausted means I’m not well and I’m not sleeping properly and I struggle with everyday decisions right now, this relatively small incident completely undid me.
Poor Clover – I inspected her paw as best I could, thought there was a claw missing, but had seen her pee moments earlier, and all her other claws & paws were intact. So not trauma from vehicle impact. She proceeded to eat both biscuits and wet food, at which point I rang Mum and with her help made the snap decision to give Clover some of the Metacam I had left in my cupboard from a trip to the vet in May.
Figuring it wouldn’t hurt and might help, I caught her, dosed her and then let her get on with her evening while I got in the bath and cried and cried and cried.
I know that things will hit me at odd moments, and crying over my (probably perfectly ok) cat might seem odd when I’ve just lost Dad, though I love those two kitties of mine to absolute distraction – but I wasn’t just crying over Clover, it was everything – the loss of him, the realisation (again) that he isn’t coming back, the grief, the having to carry on with every day when I really just want to curl up and hide from the world, the responsibility for two little cats who I love more than almost anything else in the world, but who seem to damage themselves far more often than is reasonable…
When I had picked myself up and taken myself to bed, via a long phone call with Lou, a shorter one with Mum and some panicked texts to my fellow cat ladies for reassurance, I established Clover was absolutely not in need of the emergency vet, and went to sleep.
This morning I feel, not exactly better, but certainly better than I did last night. Clover, when I left this morning, was purring, eating, cuddling, seemed 100% fine and there was no sign of blood. And the “missing” claw is intact – damn all that fluff in the way! Am mystified as to what’s happened, but I am hopeful that when I get home tonight she will still be fine, and I can have another early night. In the meantime, I am trying to be as gentle with myself as I am with other people, while simultaneously not taking any shit from anyone.
What I have learned from this incident is that I must look after myself and I must prioritise sleep over more or less everything else. If I am well rested, the anxiety is better, the decision making is easier, everything is slightly better than it otherwise would be, and I’m less likely to get overwhelmed by everything.
I can’t go round the grief, or past it, or over or under it – I have to go through it and so does Mum. And all I can do while we go through it is remember to be kind to myself, and not feel guilty if I need more sleep than usual, or can’t socialise as much as I normally would, and so on.
On Thursday it will have been three months. If I can survive that, however broken from the impact of losing him, I can probably survive just about anything…
For the longest time, I thought “home” was a place. Where you live, the house or flat or other dwelling that you return to.
During the days before my beloved Dad passed away, in a tiny hospital room in the acute cardiac unit, I realised that I was wrong.
Home is not just a place, it’s the people you love.
So that little room was home in the truest sense, Dad and Mum and I all together, helping each other through that most final of partings. I’ve never been anywhere more filled with love.
And home is, of course, not just your parents, children or partner.
It’s where you feel you belong. Whether that’s with a group of friends, or in a particular place, or a mixture of the two…
I’m amazingly lucky to have lots of people who feel like home, and several places too (not least my actual house).
Last weekend, I was with my best friends from uni, in a cottage on a lake in the Cotswolds. We went boating on the lake, and I was home, both with them and on the water.
And I’m now much more aware of people, rather than just places, being home.
I also spotted lots of things Dad would love, which I’ve added to my Instagram hashtag… #thingsthatwouldmakedadsmile
Where is home for you? Who are the people who make you feel at home?