Posted in Doing

New Steeds

My old pal Alex the Clydesdale horse has gone off to be a police horse, which is quite exciting for him, if not for the police person appointed to try and keep him in a straight line. He was patrolling the hordes at Ibrox recently, I hear, I hope it works out for him.

I have found a whole new bunch of pony pals with which to play and I am loving it. My main boo is Alice, a grumpy but elegant dressage master who deigns to let me pretend that I know what I’m doing when it comes to half passes. She’s the beautiful one in the double bridle up there. Everything is going very well and I like all the people and the horses and it’s big and clean and ACE.

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She doesn’t even care that her ears are all sweaty. Same here, pal. Same here.

Posted in Doing

Let The Right One In

Let the Right One In
Photo from The Guardian

I didn’t know it was about vampires, or I might not have went. Vampires and supernatural type things are so very far from being my bag. Gore I can handle, but anything that involves ghosts, spooks and other intangibly creepy beings are just not for me. My brain can’t turn off and also can’t help but translate them into my own life and then I find myself, alone in my big scary house of an evening, unable to go to the bathroom for fear of upsetting some spirit on the way.

But I didn’t know it was about vampires, so I agreed to go to Dundee on Saturday and see Let The Right One In at the Rep Theatre. Maybe you’ve read the book or seen the movie. Obviously, I hadn’t. It’s a production put on by the National Theatre of Scotland and despite me knowing next to nothing about the acting world, I’d say they did a pretty good job of it.

Photo from National Theatre Scotland
Photo from National Theatre Scotland

The action largely takes part around a climbing frame, which is novel. The set was rather awesome, the trees were climbed and clambered up and played a big part in setting the scene, as well as being part of the action. It even snowed at the interval, which was pretty impressive.

The young actors were all pretty good (though vampire girl’s insistence on SHOUTING EVERYTHING like she wasn’t mic-ed up was a little annoying to begin with) and  Deacon Blue’s Lorraine Mackintosh played the alkie mother with great aplomb. I really enjoyed the whole performance but the finale was definitely the best bit – especially if, like me, you go in with no preconceptions at all. The one thing I hated was the interpretive dance breaks. It’s either theatre, or performance art, and if it’s the latter, I’m left cold. That’s just my personal preference though, don’t let it put you off, it’s mercifully brief, that part.

It’s running until Saturday 29th June – catch it if you can.

PS – Don’t forget it’s Day In The Life day, today!

Posted in Doing

Dogs In Coats

I’ve spent much of today trying to find a suitable coat for Max. The first part of the day was spent going to buy one. Inevitably, the second part of the day was spent taking it back because it didn’t fit.  I fear this will be an eternal struggle.

Still, even with a too-small coat on, he didn’t look as much of a tool as these poor pups. More here.

 

Posted in Doing

Saying Goodbye

Don’t worry, it’s not another post about my future funeral. But I did say goodbye to an old friend the other day.

I finally sold my first car, Jesus. I even left Jesus in there, he sat above the ignition in medallion form. I’m on my own in my new wheels. Without wishing to sound like an advertorial, listing it on Gumtree was not only quick to do, but also quick to draw results – I could have sold it 10 times over in the few hours it took to shift it. A portly fellow appeared last night in the rain, started it up, drove it a foot and said, I’ll take it. Before we knew it, he’d handed over a wad of used tenners and he was off. Sniff. Goodbye, little car. It was fun.

 

Posted in Doing

On Dying

 

 

Image courtesy of Williams Funerals.

When I was joking yesterday about running out of topics to blog about, I didn’t think I’d arrive so quickly at the very last topic you’d think of, death. But death has been on my mind lately, not in a morbid or depressed or even a sad way, but largely due to watching and strangely enjoying the documentary series on BBC2, Dead Good Job.

It’s been insightful, educational and even funny at times, not to mention thought-provoking. Until I watched it, I hadn’t given all that much thought of what I wanted to happen to me when I die. But I think I have a rough idea now. That willow coffin up there would be lovely and much more economical than the wooden ones. I am an efficiently practical person and as such I think my final arrangements should reflect that – so stick me in a basket and wheel me up to the church on a trolley, please (because although I’m a lapsed Catholic, I still have enough fear of God in me from school to want to be given a proper religious send-off). I don’t want anyone putting their back out lugging my bloated corpse around.

Until the last episode, I hadn’t realised it was a thing, but there are now woodland burial sites all around the UK these days. No need to go into a cemetery when you could have your very own spot overlooking a snowy vista like this:

It sounds odd to say it, but I can totally see myself enjoying that in the afterlife – looking out at that from my comfy willow basket. I’d like to be near water, either by the seaside or a river – this place on Speyside would suit me fine. My other stipulation is that there must be at least one floral tribute that spells out BAWBAG in those large Oasis letters. Apart from that, you can do what you like. Might want to wear your wellies, mind you. It’s hopefully a very long way off before anyone would have to worry about this, but I feel quite at peace to think that I’ve written this down somewhere and should anything happen, people will know what to do with me. Now, um…have a nice day!

Posted in Doing

Past Life: Girl Guide

I was a girl guide when I was younger. I started off in the Brownies, old-skool with the brown tunic and the bobble hat and our meetings were in the TV room of my primary school. I don’t remember a great deal about Brownies, but I do remember moving on to the Guides when I was old enough, right about the time they brought in the new-look uniforms. Suddenly, it was all hoodies, baseball caps and CULOTTES.

The main thing I recall about Guides is the endless badge-competitiveness. Meetings were held in the dinner hall of the primary school round the corner from our house. I remember being a bit worried about that to start with because I’d only ever been in it once on voting day with my mum and it was a, whisper it, protestant school.  Evidently, it was fine. The other day, whilst looking for something else from my past life, I found my Guides sash, complete with badges.

 

I don’t think I was in the Guides for all that long, as I was too preoccupied with ponies, but I achieved an impressive haul in my time there, I think you’ll agree. They are:

 

Collector (I collected carrier bags from around the world when I was a child. I KNOW).

Crime Prevention

Entertainer

Speaker

 

Hostess

Cook

Horse Woman

Friend To Animals

 

Homemaker

Accident Prevention

The big thistle badge at the top is the patrol emblem. The line underneath that meant I was second in command of our patrol, which when you’re 12, is pretty big shakes. The brass trefoil badge you got for taking your Girl Guide pledge (love the Queen and God, do good, etc). I am not sure what the yellow trefoil badge was about – any readers know? I think it was some sort of challenge badge, but I am not sure what for.

 

Nostalgic. I don’t remember any of my friends being in Guides with me.  I do remember having to sing round a flagpole and beetle drives. Good times.

Posted in Doing

Link Love

Phew, that was an epic last post, eh? Here’s some links to stuff that I’ve enjoyed reading, to take your mind off it.

Kim’s posts on running an indie business are proving to not only be bang on the money, but popular with other people looking for guidance and support. Her Working For Yourself series talks sense in a really clear way and I am loving it. Her posts about being the victim of plagiarism and 10 quick fixes for your business are recent highlights.

Also on the subject of plagiarism, Elise from Argyle Whale’s post on Copycattery is a useful read.

Indie Quarter is always a good read – I have discovered countless new crafty talents from it’s pages – so I was chuffed to have my Tidy House Empty Mind sampler included in this piece on Bare Walls.

And thank you to my favourite colleagues  Stephen who included me in this blog round up last week.  Stephen’s writing a comic at the moment and as this is a subject I know little about, I find it quite interesting to see how it’s produced. He’s also a new father, so his blog is worth a read for an insight into tiny babydom from a young dad’s view too. Also in this post, he switched me on to another colleague Kirsty’s blog, FortyFour Sunsets, full of fashion frolics. I had no idea Kirsty was such a great writer, I’ve really enjoyed going through some of her posts and learning again about a subject I am not immersed in but have a peripheral view of.

This is old news, but I was in a book last year what Carrie wrote. Here’s a post about my project. I was super-chuffed to be asked and also with how it turned out. Look what great company I was in to. Awesome.

And Katy is working on a new zine project which I hope to contribute to – perhaps you will too? Check here for info.

A nicely concise round-up on the pros and cons of wholesale v sale or return by Rowan here.

Aaaaand that’s it. Also, if you’re a new reader, you could check out Super Cute Kawaii, where I write regularly under the guise of both a panda and a French pastry bun named Jean Claude.

Posted in Doing, Indie Business

Re-evaluation

Well, I wrote my Evaluation post in April last year – I really didn’t think it was that long ago! So how have I done?

So much has changed since then. The most obvious changes are that I have moved out of the city to the countryside outside a small town in the sticks. I have also passed my driving test and my attachment at work has been made permanent. We’ve also introduced a new member of our family – Max the Labrador joined us about 2 months ago.

These are all big changes, I think you’ll agree. The biggest is probably learning to drive and passing my test (second time around!). I didn’t really get a chance to write about what happened but after failing first time in the summer, I finally passed my driving test on the morning of September 9th. In the afternoon the same day, we went, on impulse, to view a house in the countryside with a huge garden and 4 bedrooms, never thinking in a million years it’s where we’d end up living.

The very next day we jetted off to Fuerteventura for a week’s holiday, our heads full of moving house. We did little else but talk about it the whole time we were away and ended up moving just a few weeks later. Everything happened in a bit of a whirlwind from September onwards and I’m only really now getting a chance to draw breath and take stock of where we are.

Driving has given me a freedom I really needed and wanted. I don’t have to worry about buses or trains being on time or my feet getting soaked trudging up and down the road to the Subway or about getting mugged roaming the streets at odd hours of the night and day to get to work and back. We’d never have moved to our fantasy house in the country scenario if I couldn’t drive, so it has really unlocked a lot of stuff for me which I wanted.

Of course, I do have to worry about insurance, MOTs, the spiraling cost of petrol, etc but at the moment, I can handle that. I don’t even mind the 40 mile round trip to work and have recently embarked upon motorway driving with more ease than I could have thought possible.

So, what about those objectives I set myself? Well, they have all kind of slid into one big objective of slowing down a bit and not putting so much pressure on myself. One of the main things was rebranding the business (I’m guessing you’ve seen it already, but if not, click here to have a swatch) which now has a much more serene, minimalist and calming feel. I never really expected it to, but I think that has totally transferred over to how I think about it. I feel a bit more swan-like – still paddling away under the surface, but with more composure up top.

In our new house, I have a little office alcove and everything now fits neatly into it. There’s less clutter hanging around which makes me feel less stressed as I know where to find things. I’ve got more space to take care over packaging things up and because I can drive to the post office (and park right outside – imagine!), I can swing by regularly on my way to work without having to lug 10kg sacks with me along the road. In short, I am far more organised.

I didn’t really stick to the plan of doing orders only on set days. With the above, I don’t feel I need to. I don’t think that approach would ever really work for me due to the nature of my shifts at work, but I am happy that I can pop into my office, do a few things and be able to walk back out of it and walk the dog or sit down and do something different.

I do have my merry band of stitchers who I am very grateful to be able to call upon when I need them. We managed to stockpile the perfect amount of stock for Christmas last year, so this is something I aim to keep up with this year. It was a quieter Christmas period than previous years too, which definitely helped my sanity. On reflecting on numbers, there were slightly fewer orders but the value of them was higher, so it was actually on a par with previous years, but really did not feel like it at the time. There seemed to be a definite downtrend in customer numbers for many of my indie craft pals – undoubtedly a sign of the times in the UK.

Taking time off hasn’t been so easy. I still feel guilty when I am not doing something productive and I guess that’s a hard habit to shake. I did take time off in December (of all times) – Max arrived and I was working at the day job from home for several weeks, so life took on a different pace of rising super-early, doing day job work, walking Max, packaging orders, a little more day job then relaxing in the evenings (relaxing being stroking velvety ears  by the fire). I definitely intend this year to spend more time with friends and family and have already got several trips planned for coming months to look forwards to. Lee feels I have more time to spend with him these days too and I’ve seen more of my friends lately than last year (some of them at least!), so I feel I am on the right track.

Which all sounds rosy but there is a however coming. Because I know I am about to get mega busy again. I have booked up to give the Pulse trade show a go in London this June, so there is lots of work to be done for that. I have wholesale orders to work on, as well as website orders and I’m working on redesigning my existing kits, new kits and the new range I mentioned last year. I mentioned that my attachment at work got made permanent which is great but it does mean I persist with the odd shifts and now my journey to work takes an hour each way, so there are less hours in the day! And with a dog to walk, a new house to furnish… see how quickly that positive spin on things can turn to panicky out-of-control oh-my-god-ness? Sticking to my new regime will take a lot of hard work and I could easily fall back into the rabbit hole of jittery 24/7 despair, but I will really, really try not to.

But the over-arching feeling of this has been that my evaluating has been a success. I feel like I have much more to say on the topic so I may revisit it and how it relates to the indie craft community at a later date. I’ve already alluded to the one-up-manship, depressing competitiveness before and there have been lots of good examples lately of really good blog posts exploring that, so I may come back to it one day.

But for now, I am happier than I have been previously and I am glad, judging by the comments and emails on my posts, to have helped some of you along the way.

Posted in Doing

A Thing Of Beauty Is A Joy For Never

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Every once and a while, you find or buy something that you not only want but you need. You use it every day and love it and then eventually you kind of forget about it and put it in a cupboard and every so often, you’ll rediscover it and so the cycle of adoration begins again.

When I was living in Thailand 3 years ago, one day I stumbled upon a little corner of Chatuchak market in Bangkok I hadn’t been to before. It was a little alley filled with traditional crafts, but the real authentic stuff, not the mass-produced tourist stuff you find everywhere. I found a little tiny, narrow stand with the most amazing handbags made from vintage tribal materials and fell in love with this bag, above.

It’s a thing of beauty, no? The colours are right up my alley and the leather handles smelt divine. It was a big rectangle of fabric, lined, with little poppers added to the corners to make it into a neat envelope shape. It was truly beautiful and even my Thai friends were in awe of it.

Cutting a long, miserable story short, when I moved back to the UK, it got stolen along with a whole bunch of other things, from my possessions which I had to ship back cargo. And ever since, I have been trying to find a replacement. I have tried asking Thai friends, friends of friends who are visiting Bangkok, providing them with detailed maps and directions to the stall I bought it from, but frustratingly, I haven’t been able to get them to the right spot.

I’ve also spent numerous hours scouring the internet for something like it. I’ve come close to finding something a few times but nothing really hits the spot. I’ve tried contacting some sellers on Etsy who have similar but not quite bags and await their responses.

The desire to replace this handbag has gone past just being a desire. It’s a need. It reminds me of such amazing times – exciting, funny, scary, sad times, all at once – and I really, really, really want it back. Or one to replace it.

So, if you have a visit to Thailand planned soon, know someone who lives there or perhaps you’re sitting on a seller of these, please get in touch. Perhaps you are the horrible, horrible person who rifled through my belongings and took what they fancied – please, get in touch! I’m willing to take just the bag back, you can keep the hundreds of pounds worth of other stuff, just give me back my beautiful bag!

UPDATE: I may have found someone in Thailand to make a replacement for me! Watch this space.

Posted in Doing

Transatlantica

I do like Day In The Life. I like to read about the minutiae of people’s lives and compare them to my own.  I think this time, I would most like to be Alice. It’s always nice to see new people taking part and old faces who haven’t done it in a while picking it back up. It gives me great pleasure to see people running with an idea I concocted on a bored day at work.

In other news, I went to Rothesay last week. A post on that to follow. And yesterday, my sister in stitchery Julie Jackson’s interview with me was posted on Craft magazine’s website. This was very exciting. Julie is the brains and crafty brawn behind Subversive Cross Stitch. You might think we would be rivals, but actually we’ve become good pals over email and see ourselves as complementing each other nicely rather than competing. This is one of the nicest things about the craft community.

This week I have orders to get out, once work is out the way. And then it’s a long weekend at the subtitling coal face. But then it’s off to Manchester for  night with my brother, to see Sebadoh. They are one of my favourite bands. I am staying at the swanky Hilton thanks to a mega-cheap deal through lastminute.com. Hurrah!

Then I’m off to London for work, then back and off to Fuerteventura for a week of relaxing in the sunshine and then off to Dusseldorf to see the family Black, with Jo. And then it’s Renegade Craft Fair in London. Phew! I am surely racking up the air miles.

 

Posted in Doing

On Tins

I think I mentioned recently that I collect tins, mostly vintage, but some modern ones. I am not sure if anyone knows that, really. It was certainly news to Lee, who thought I just liked putting things in boxes!

Here’s a few of my recent acquisitions. The top one is French, I think and has an odd handle on the top. That, the Fortnum & Mason, Amaretti and vintage kitten in a bath one all came from my mum the other day in a box filled with Japanese snack foods for no discernable reason other than that she’s pretty good at sending surprise gifts.

The little red house I bought on eBay a while ago for photographic prop purposes. I think it had biscuits in it maybe, it has a sticker on the front which you can just about see that says Brugge on it.

The little round one is my favourite that I’ve found in a while.

It’s a pity it has a dent in it but I still love it. The colour is proving hard to capture – it’s more green than this, really. A kind of 40s green – vintage green as Jo and I refer to it. With the red, it’s my favourite colour combo. I got it from York last month, when I visited with my mum, from the market where there’s a stall selling all sorts of vintage epehmera – can’t wait to go back in a couple of weeks to see what they have this time!

I have loads more tins and boxes but always on the look-out for more!