Seven weeks into 2015, and just a few hours from my 29th birthday.
I’m not one to get overly hung up on ages and dates, but I did get a bit of a shock at Christmas when I showed my cousin my 30 for 30 list, and blithely declared I had 25 months left to do it all in. She swiftly pointed out that a) maths clearly isn’t my strong point and b) I had 13 months left, not 25.
That list rapidly became ‘daydreams to do’, because my 29th year is already packed full of wonder – there are some things on that list I know I will do in my life, but I also know I won’t do this year – I don’t want to squish in all the experiences, I want to have time to anticipate and then savour each one.
So what have I learned, in my almost 29 years on the planet? Here’s a list, in no particular order:
Sometimes the things you’re most opposed to can lead to the most glorious moments of your life.
I definitely don’t want children (the cats are quite responsibility enough) – but I’m properly excited for more of my friends to have children, so I can be the cool auntie who brings inappropriate presents and has them over for weekends full of sugar and fun.
Living on my own has been one of the best decisions I ever made. And it isn’t lonely.
Occasionally, you’ll make decisions which will change your whole life and turn it upside down. But mostly, you’ll move towards your dreams step by (sometimes painfully small) step.
We overestimate what we can do in a day, but (massively) underestimate what we can do in a year.
Pets are actually small, furry family members, and just as precious as fellow human beings.
I can tassel twirl. And as part of the Paper Dolls burlesque troupe, I also do it on stage. The shy, gawky, nervous 15-year-old me is staring down the passage of time, awestruck and slightly embarrassed and bloody proud of how I’ve dealt with my body image issues in the last few years.
I’ve learned we shouldn’t pigeonhole ourselves too early in life – discovering at 19 that I was creative, after a lifetime of being told I was academic and not creative, was the single biggest revelation of my life to date.
If you don’t like your job, get the hell out. Don’t quit without a plan, but start looking – knowing their shit is no longer your problem when you hand in your notice to a place that’s wrong for you is an amazing feeling.
Your first broken heart hurts like hell.
You learn an absolutely ridiculous amount about yourself from relationships and their endings. Seriously, it was like a crash course in How Carla Works, both times – in very different ways.
Never, ever settle for being second best or someone’s backup choice. You are worth SO much more than that.
Try everything that catches your fancy, if it’s possible – I have a room full of craft materials, half of which I’ll probably never touch again, but all of it has brought me joy and new skills at some stage.
Serendipity and coincidence are sweet – and never get old.
Old friends and new friends are just as precious, but in different ways. Don’t abandon the old in favour of the new unless you have good reason to do so. And don’t assume that just because someone is very different to you, that you can’t be friends. Variety and different perspectives are always good!
Don’t feel guilty about things you can’t control or influence. Spend your energy doing what you can, but remember that everyone has their own free will.
Nothing is original, but no one can do what you do like you can. And never second-guess people’s reactions to what you do. Telling people about my alter ego coaching and course has been eye-opening – the reactions have been amazing from even the most unlikely people.
If you make a daft statement like “I love this house so much, I can’t ever imagine crying while I live here” when you move into a new house, you are highly likely to be proved wrong within the week.
Having good friends within walking distance is unbelievably sweet – especially after close to ten years of trekking up and down the M25 on a regular basis. (I’m still working on getting certain people to move up here….!)
It’s ok to stop doing things you don’t want to do – whether that’s a business, a job, a relationship, a house… it’s good to have a plan first, but you don’t have to do anything forever unless you want to.
Life is too short to worry about your weight or what other people think of you. Wear, and do, what makes you the happiest.
Oh – and if you want to dye your hair, go ahead and do it. I waited 9 years to dye mine blue/turquoise – and while I love that it represents me so perfectly right now, I do wish I hadn’t waited so long.
Here’s to the very last year of my twenties!
With love and unicorns,
My jewellery has always symbolised what’s important to me – a birthstone, my Aes Sedai ring (the books the ring is inspired by changed my life), friendship rings, and most recently one reminding me of my intentions to photograph more of life. I create my talisman jewellery so that other people can do the same – keep their beliefs or dreams or hopes close by, always.
For day to day wear, I have various charms representing parts of my life or intentions which I wear separately or together on a silver chain – inspired by my Mum, who wears her cross, her evil eye protection, a camel and some other significant charms all together on a gold chain. I love that her beliefs and superstitions sit so easily next to each other like that.
As 2014 draws to a close, I’d like to add to my charms. A pentacle, for my spiritual side and for the witches in Discworld; a hare, for my connection with nature and also for Tiffany Aching (another Discworld reference) and the courage I hope I too have; and cats, to symbolise my two fluffy con artists who have so quickly become so central to my world.
But almost every online shop which sells charms goes on at length about pentacles being a Wiccan symbol, and the Wiccan rede or tradition. Which is fine, but also quite annoying, as I’m not Wiccan. I don’t particularly identify as a witch in the traditional sense, either – only that an amalgam of the pagan/hedge witch/nature/druid traditions is what most calls to me from all the religious and spiritual paths out there.
And then that got me thinking – I have always, always been fascinated with magic, witchcraft, spells, the fae, the Other. I am unusually intuitive and more than usually aware of how others are feeling and the potential or actual impact of words and actions – mine and those of others. I feel other people’s pain in a way that is draining – my heart quite literally hurts for a friend who’s suffering emotionally or physically. I’m instinctively aware of the moon’s phases and their effects on me (if not perfectly versed in all their names), and I have a collection of crystals and tarot cards which I use fairly regularly. (I sell them, too – I wouldn’t do that unless I believed in them.) All of that makes me Carla, not Wiccan, or any other particular religion.
But words – now words have incredible power. I love, and I firmly believe, in words working magic. As spells, manifesting, crystallising intention or just putting yourself out there – whatever you call it, you will have noticed at some point in your life the power of declaring what you truly believe, voicing your dreams, giving life to that which you most crave through words, whether spoken or written. (It’s said that millionaires write their goals down every day, and billionaires twice a day.) And symbols like the pentacle or the hare (or a typewriter, a flower, whatever works for you) are just as powerful – they create words and associations in your mind. Which is the first step to making your dreams real.
And though I’ve never particularly thought of myself as a witch, I do use words and symbols and rituals, every day, to create my magical life. A life which I’m told inspires others (a concept I find humbling and exhilarating in equal measure). A life which is an evolving creation in itself – a journey, not a destination. A life made out of words.
So am I a wordsmith, or a witch? Or a little bit of both?
Traditionally, witches have a terrible reputation. The definition usually involves evil spells and an ugly old crone. In my life, as with all women, I’ll be maiden, mother and crone – in age if not in actuality. Beauty is subjective – but while I don’t for a moment believe I’m ugly, neither am I about to claim the alternative title of enchantress – the dictionary definition of “captivatingly attractive” is not something that could be consistently said about any human being I’ve ever met, and especially not me first thing in the morning. Plus I don’t put spells on people.
Instead, I believe in magic like most people believe in the sun rising each day. I refuse to let being an adult dull my imagination and sense of wonder. I listen to people and I share stories and I create words and symbols and images – in the hope that these things will encourage other people to live out their own dreams.
I am not a Wiccan. I am not an enchantress.
But I am magic, I am creative and I love words. And so I suppose I might just be a witch… by my own definition.
With love and unicorns,
P.S. Want to find your own alter ego, witchy or otherwise? Hop over to Unfurling Your Wings and get your name on the list – the list for early access closes soon!
The last weekend in November is Hogswatch.
(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.
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:
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…
(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…
(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…
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!
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.
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…
Loving my new lens!
Thought I’d share the best outtake too – I’ve never seen her look quite so horrified at my antics.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Quick post today, but wanted to share the photos of our tent at the Fling Festival a couple of weeks ago – it was the most glorious debut for my burlesque troupe. And who knew, when we took that first class eighteen months ago, what it would lead to?
Here we all are with our fab stage kitten Lou:
And here are the rest of the images – squeak!
The Fling always defies description, but to be there as a performer, helping to create the experience for other festivalgoers – it was a privilege, and one of the best days of my life.
Check us out – our troupe is Paper Dolls Burlesque, and we learned (and continue to learn) the art of burlesque with Jem Ayres at Burlesque Jems.
Looking through my archives, it would appear one of my favourite things to take photos of is… my feet. In a non-kinky manner – just because they’re always with me and they show where I’ve been, I suppose. (I blame Susannah Conway…)
(and apologies if you get this twice – I have been fighting with technology this evening!)
Here are a few, from May and June this year.
Getting reacquainted with the dance studio (mirrored, eek!)
Often barefoot, like here at Beth Chatto gardens…
Loving my underskirt and mismatched nail polish at a fair –