Popping my (Hogswatch) cherry

The last weekend in November is Hogswatch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(photo credit: Paul Heyes via FB)

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

Here’s another pic of us during Postman Pat…

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(photo credit: Tatyana Arbuzova via FB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the EU ruined my November – and is killing microbusiness

What a month November has been.

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Supermodel cat is obliging, yet frowny. #sillykittens

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Starting off with an attempt at National Novel Writing Month, I had a wonderful time rediscovering my love for writing fiction (and Luna and Clover got starring roles in a story about how they became witch’s cats). Alongside that I spent some time working on Unfurling, which is beginning to take real shape, and is making me very happy.

I got a Ralph unexpectedly at the end of October…

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Ralph's first crochet lesson #essexralph

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… and spent a weekend wedding dress shopping with my best friend (for her, not me!). Which was glorious though I’m not allowed to share photos yet!

Completely differently but equally excitingly, on Sunday I appeared on my first live call, an interview by Vaska the Curious Cat, for Free Range Humans‘ storytelling tent. I am told I inspired people… and this is massive, as that’s all I ever really wanted to do. Show people that they too can live life their way, whatever that means to them.

There was a housewarming with wonderful friends from uni, and a christening with my closest friends at home in Essex – and the newest member of our group, baby Jessica (whose special day it was).

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Witchy portrait fun

My first Halloween/Samhain with my two familiars, and I thought I’d have a bit of fun.

In preparation for trick or treaters, I had positioned my broom by the front door, bought most of my local shop’s supply of miniature chocolate bars and dug out my pointy hat.

Luna-kitten was looking rather obliging, so I also made a Halloween picture while I was at it…

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Loving my new lens!

Thought I’d share the best outtake too – I’ve never seen her look quite so horrified at my antics.

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Clover was very sensibly snoozing on the back of the sofa, just out of shot. She’s a great witch’s cat but she doesn’t like to flaunt it.

And as Saturday was the start of NaNoWriMo, I have accidentally now written almost 5000 words of a story/book about how Luna and Clover came to be witch’s cats… it’s so much fun letting my imagination out to play!

Colouring in and desktop geekery

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

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

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

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

Other happy-making news this week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discovering the perfect blue hair dye

It’s been a long journey of wanting, wishing and waiting, but in February this year, just after my 28th birthday, I finally booked an appointment to have my hair dyed blue.

Several hours of bleaching, foils, and inadvertently making both of my hairdressers look like they’d been busy murdering Smurfs, it was done. Eeek!

But because my hair doesn’t hold anything (colour, curls, shape), I found myself having to re-apply the dye twice in the first week. At £9.50 per tube for the (admittedly pretty) Fudge blue colour, this quickly became unworkable. So I did what I always do when I have a problem, and asked the internet for help.

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This pretty much summed up everyone’s advice from all over the internet – try Directions. It’s also, as far as I can tell, vegan, which means the lovely Annastasia at Not The Vegan Police will approve!

So I trooped into town, bought a pot each of Atlantic Blue, Midnight Blue and Lagoon Blue, and proceeded to re-dye my hair.

The results:

Atlantic Blue is by far my favourite, and caused more than one colleague to exclaim “Carla! Your hair! It’s SO BLUE today!” which I think can only be a good thing.

Lagoon Blue, while much lighter in colour, has actually lasted almost three weeks and has faded to a bright turquoise, which is absolutely acceptable and will probably be my summer colour of choice.

Midnight Blue I’ve not yet been brave enough to try, as I’m scared it’ll be too dark – but I’ll give it a go soon.

I’m yet to master decent lighting for photos, but here are a few:

I’m over the moon with my new hair – and it was summed up best by two of my friends. Josh told me it was “mermaid hair”, and Naomi’s is still my favourite comment – “it’s the hair you were always meant to have”. That’s definitely what it feels like!