Week 10 of 2015. In which I embarked on an epic road trip through my soul home of Texas (hopping over into Louisiana the following week), and fulfilled one of my longest-held dreams – to see Alan Jackson live in concert. I haven’t finished editing the 3000 photos I took over the fortnight, so here are a few tasters:
(fuzzy because we were only allowed mobiles, not proper cameras)
The gig was the main reason for our visit, and oh, how utterly glorious it was. I cried most of the way through it with sheer emotion at being there after more than 20 years of waiting to see him on stage. AND he played all my favourites from the early days.
I also found time to…
Have the traditional breakfast-with-beer at the airport:
Drive my fellow passengers mad by taking photos of the pretty clouds on the plane:
Wake up on Wednesday morning to four inches of snow. In Texas.
Fall in love with Jon Pardi, who was supporting Alan Jackson (and he’s currently single. Reckon he’d fall for that accent all American men seem to inexplicably find super cute?! Though is it just me whose speech becomes half pure Southern belle and half female Hugh Grant the moment I set foot over the border into the States?)
Eat ridiculous amounts of the best fried chicken, mash and creamed corn in the world at Babe’s in Roanoake, TX:
Try a DQ Blizzard on our drive to Fredericksburg:
Make a pilgrimage to my Dad’s spiritual home in Luckenbach, Texas and added a charm to my talisman necklace while
playing at practising for being a cowgirl:
Have a makeover before the gig, which was lovely and pampering:
to be continued…
What do you get if you cross 38 balls of wool, 14 women, 12 weeks and 1 serious piece of research in a TED talk?
An art piece made of pompoms, featuring Campus Cat.
Over a year ago, I met the lovely Sarah by chance when she bought something from a classified ad I’d placed and we got talking about her crochet flower brooch. We decided, as you do, that what we really should do instead of going for coffee was start a craft club at the day job. And Crafty Coffee was born.
When the university we work at then launched an art competition to celebrate 50 years and our campus spirit, we had a mad idea that became reality – and I went to see it in the gallery last week. It was rather a lovely experience, actually – it’s been a while since I’ve seen my work in a public place, and I believe this is the first time something I’ve collaborated on has been exhibited in an art gallery.
So without further ado, let me present… Pomophily. (Because the design was based on Professor Maria Fasli’s TEDx talk on Homophily. But we made ours from pom poms.)
(not as sad as it used to be, as the Hex is now in use as a gallery. But a quirky and often unnoticed part of the uni, anyway)
Discovering, a couple of years ago, that I was a Scanner, was a turning point in my life.
If you’ve never come across the word in this context before, alternative names include Renaissance woman/man/soul, polymath, da Vinci personality, multipassionate, multipotentialite, and some that are less complimentary – dilettante, flake, Jack-of-all-trades, fantasist.
Barbara Sher, who coined the term Scanner, goes into it in much more depth in her books, but the gist is that it’s someone who has many interests, usually moves jobs often, can’t seem to settle on one thing to do and who has ideas all the time, and frequently leaves projects seemingly unfinished.
I’m not normally one for labels, but I’d struggled for years with my many, many interests, and my attention span waxing and waning depending on what I was doing, but also on when I was doing it and what other things were currently on my radar. I had more hobbies than the rest of my group of friends put together, and found it utterly impossible to stay in a job for more than 18 months or so without being bored to tears. By the time I was 24 I had a CV which spanned as many pages as my Dad’s did – he was 66 at the time.
Even the line dancing I adored, I stopped once I’d reached a certain level. I qualified for, competed in and placed in the World Championships in Nashville in 2000, and it has taken me fifteen years to rekindle my love affair with line dancing. I got what I wanted out of it, and then I quit. (Though I’ve worn cowboy (girl?) boots ever since I was nine.)
Modern Western society expects us all to be specialists, and to choose one thing to do for the rest of our lives. Even at 16 I raised eyebrows by choosing English, French, German and Physics for my A levels. So many people told me that I should have taken another Humanities subject. I’d have taken something arty (photography or textiles or something like that), but I was told at school, repeatedly from childhood, that I was academic and not creative. So I did what I could at the time, while dreading the thought of refining my choices even further.
My tendency to stop completely and move on, once whatever I was doing ceased to be interesting or fun, has been frowned upon over the years too – because in our society, whether at work or at play, quitting is seen as giving up, as being unreliable and therefore as a bad thing. I couldn’t understand why people would continue with all sorts of things, most of which were either supposed to be fun or which took up a considerable chunk of precious life – work, relationships, hobbies, projects – long after they stopped enjoying them.
Discovering blogs (or weblogs, as they were known in the misty recesses of 2005) was a revelation – here at last was somewhere where I could write about and share the day to day stories of being me, of everything I did – and instead of simply recording it in a diary, I found likeminded people! Other people’s writing, blog comments, forums for incredibly niche hobbies like collecting model horses – for the first time, no one judged me for having a series of bursts of enthusiasm for something, then taking a break and returning to it later.
(A vaguely relevant side note – I found it hilarious when people started extolling the virtues and wonder of internet dating, and meeting people online, a few years ago – because these were the same people that gave me repeated lectures on how stupid I was to go to London to meet new friends I’d met online through my hobbies… whether Wheel of Time fans, model horse collectors or photographers. My first internet meetup was with Chloe in London when I was 19, back in 2006 – and it was apparently far from normal to do that then. She’s now one of my dearest friends. Who knew something held in such suspicion would become so mainstream so fast?!)
Regardless of the type of project, idea or pastime, I followed (follow!) a pattern of sorts – I’d have an idea or something would pique my interest, I’d research it a bit and decide I wanted to learn about it or learn to do it. I’d do some more research, meet some people who already did it, buy some things related to it (craft materials, jewellery tools, small collectable resin horses, typewriters…) and then throw myself into it with an all-consuming passion. Until the next thing caught my attention.
An example – at the time I write, I have just found the new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series. I ADORED MLP when I was younger, and had avoided the new style ones in case I hated them. Then I saw an episode on YouTube and am now devouring the first and second series on DVD, while scouring shops and the internet for MLP memorabilia to keep on my desk, pin up in my studio, and hang from my handbag.
I’ve driven both my (now ex) partners and my parents, and probably my friends too, up the wall for decades with my wild enthusiasm for a new project which dwindles into inertia just as they’re starting to come round to the idea of me having chosen My Thing, at last.
So after the best part of a decade of doing this and blogging, and trying to justify my inability to choose or find that One Thing to do with my career and free time that was supposed to keep me interested for the rest of my life, I found one of Barbara Sher’s books in the library.
And I read it, and I cried… because there at last was proof that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t a flake and that I wasn’t broken. I just had a different kind of brain – and there were other people out there like me.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I’ve actively sought out other people who get it, though the majority of people I know still don’t. Which is ok – we’re just wired differently! Lots of the solopreneurs I now count among my dearest friends (the internet is a properly magical thing!) are also scanners, and we’re learning how to make our personalities work with our businesses rather than forcing ourselves into a box.
When I find a new thing, the time I spend engaged with it varies – from a few days to a few years, and I am never without several things on the go. (if I’d had a £1 for every time someone asked me how I fit so much in and follow so many hobbies, I could probably retire tomorrow). And I have a noticeable cycle, though the timing isn’t consistent – generally, if it’s something I discover and like enough to chuck myself into it, I make friends within it and then continue to return to it after intervals, throughout my life.
Examples of these include collecting, painting and showing model horses; my car Poppy and the club I belong to through her; roller skating (started at age 6 and I go through phases of being addicted to it every few years); horse riding; jewellery making; papercraft and scrapbooking; customising shoes and clothes; reworking the interior of my home; sewing; camper vans; cross stitching, baking, wanting to write a book… the list is endless (almost literally).
The only things which are consistent are writing and photography. Which brings me to the heart of this post.
When it became apparent at an absurdly early age that I was going to write, and read, far more than I was going to do anything else consistently (the photography came later), it’s been suggested repeatedly that I should be an author and write books, or a journalist and write articles, or a travel writer, or [insert traditional writing-related-job here].
And they’re all good ideas on the surface. But the trouble is, I don’t want to write whole books (well, I do, but I know myself well enough now to know that completing more than one is highly unlikely – the kick I’ll get when I finish Unfurling is highly likely to be enough for me to move onto something else instead of writing a second book).
I don’t want to dive so deeply into one subject that I don’t have time or energy left over to explore all the other amazing things out there – which, if I pursued a traditional writing career, I would have to do. Even journalists, who write short to medium articles instead of whole books, usually specialise in a broad topic – business, or travel, or cookery, or lifestyle.
And while thinking about my blog, and where it’s headed over the next few years, and how I got into blogging in the first place, it occurred to me that it really is the perfect place for my scanner personality to develop, grow and flourish.
It takes the two things I do naturally and consistently, and applies them to the ever-changing series of things that I do equally naturally, but much less consistently. I can write one-sentence posts, or 2,000 word epics like this one – and I get to choose, rather than an editor.
Since I very first started blogging back in 2006, and in a more structured way since the inception of Ducking Fabulous in 2010, I have used my very own space on the internet to record, write, think out loud and muse about life, learning and all the things that catch my fancy.
To explore and investigate my passing enthusiasms, catch ideas I’d like to follow up in the future, and record my journey through learning and practising and discovering. It gives me a self-made library to refer to when I come back to something I’ve done before, and means I have tangible evidence of how I’ve improved, changed, or grown in a particular area.
Through my writing I’ve learned to give myself permission not to finish things, and to hop, if I want to, between interests. I allow myself to stop doing things if they’re not working – a complete antithesis to the previous generation’s work ethic, which tends to be along the power-through-and-keep-going-even-if-it’s-hard-and-it-should-be-worth-it-in-the-end lines.
Credit is also due to the rise of blogging in popularity and as a career choice – I no longer have to explain what a blog is, and it’s the best excuse I’ve ever had for trying out new things – all in the name of fresh content for my lovely readers. Yet this blog, seemingly uniquely for a blog that supports a business, is still very much my little space on the internet. I’m forever reading articles which tell you what you must and mustn’t do in order for your blog to be businesslike, or relevant, or grow your readership… and I stand by my belief that a blog is the equivalent of your home online.
I want people to see me for who I am, and if they resonate with me and like my writing, then some part of my business will probably be a good fit for them. Whether it’s jewellery, tarot decks or courses depends very much on them and what they’re looking for.
I’m trying this year for the first time to schedule my posts and write them in advance, and while it works for some types of post, it’s failing miserably for others. Like these. I need to write them when the inspiration strikes, and then I want them out there so I can have the conversations they spark while the subject is still fresh in my mind.
So what about you? Are you also a scanner, or beginning to realise you could be one? Let me know in the comments (or email me if you’d prefer it not to be public) – I’d love to know.
With love and unicorns,
I hope yours was as perfect. And I wish you everything you dream of in 2015…
And what nicer way could there be to wake up?
Luna and Clover have been with me just over a year – I picked them up from Brenda’s amazing rescue at 4pm on 27 November last year.
And I can’t remember what life was like before, nor imagine life without, my wonderful, ridiculous silly kittens.
Here they were on the day they came home:
And here they are, merrily taking over my life in the most wonderful way possible:
Illustrated by the wonderful Eli Trier:
Claiming their cat palace (and all the space in my conservatory):
And immortalised in Christmas decorations by the immensely talented Chloe at Slightly Triangle:
Wonderful, silly kittens. You can find more of their antics on their blog, Silly Kittens.
They came from Alresford Cat, Kitten & Feral Rescue, which Brenda runs from her home and finds new forever homes for more than 300 abandoned cats and kittens a year. Should you wish to donate, please use the button below and I will ensure funds get to her when I next take cat food over 🙂
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.
After last week’s sneak peek of the talisman jewellery I’m currently making, I thought I’d share the locket that’s my own current favourite talisman, and how I came to choose it.
From, and featuring an image by, one of my very favourite artists, Nicola Taylor, it shows her self portrait titled “Listen to the Colour of your Dreams”.
How to choose yours
A talisman should be a wearable reminder of something – a way to keep your dreams or wishes, hopes or beliefs, close to you. It should also be something that makes your heart sing – whether in colour, or style, or some kind of indefinable quality you can’t quite put your finger on.
Things to think about:
- the colours that speak to your soul
- words that have always meant something to you, whether in your mother tongue or another language
- objects or animals (or both) you are drawn to
- things people automatically associate you with
- your dreams, aspirations and hopes – what could represent them?
Extra post this week, because AIRSTREAM TEAPOT!
Ahh, my favourite colour. There is blue all over my home and my life, and I’ll share some photos on instagram today (a day late, but no matter). But this one made me smile 🙂
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?
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…
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!!
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 🙂
A few weeks ago, I spotted a post by my friend Chloe on her artist page on Facebook, of two hanging decorations which had been painted as portraits of cats.
After some excited squeeeee-ing and some emails backwards and forwards, my very own commission was in the works. It arrived last Saturday – and look how gorgeous they are!!
Squee-inducing extras (I adore Chloe’s work, and one of her paintings has pride of place on my mantelpiece):
And finally, Clover investigating her miniature self. Luna wouldn’t sit still long enough and has sharper claws, so I didn’t let her anywhere near her mini alter ego!
Chloe is an artist specialising in mixed media illustration – her work makes me squee on a regular basis, and we are hoping to feature some of her prints in Ink Drops boxes later in the year.
You can find her at Slightly Triangle, and also on Etsy (so much gorgeousness there!) and if you want to commission your own pet portrait or custom work, you can get in touch with her via her website or her Etsy shop.
I haven’t decided quite where to hang them yet – they’re making themselves at home on my mantelpiece in the meantime 🙂
My lovely uni friends Cat and Mark got married at the end of May, on a beautiful early summer’s day in Syon Park.
Here’s what I wore… it was quirky, it was extremely me, and it made me really happy. And what better excuse to get dressed up than a wedding?!
Dress by the ever-amazing Contrariety Rose. You can buy your own version from her – it’ll shortly be listed on her Etsy shop.
Petticoats in navy and white by Hell Bunny from Tiger Milly.
Shoes (which were commented on all day long by guests of every age, and were just as amazing as I thought they’d be when I bought them) by Irregular Choice.
Hair colour by Directons, a combination of Midnight Blue and Atlantic Blue.
Jewellery, by me, sort of. I bought the black pearl neckace on holiday in Wells-next-the-Sea, and my bracelet was a birthday present last year from one of my best friends. The anklet came from Dubai and I have plans to customise it over the summer.
What’s your go-to outfit for wedding season?