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Highgate Wood :: Journal 23rd Feb – 28th Feb

Ciara Tana Lawn™ Cotton – Liberty Fabrics

23th Feb – It’s still nice to be at home sometimes

I’ve not written for a few days out of not feeling like it, out of having a bad few days. I’m on my week off work now. This was such a good idea. The relaxation is very much in full swing, the weather is much improved, mild, a lovely blue sky tempered with some high mottled white clouds. The sun is out. Yesterday the government announced a roadmap to recovery, it seems steady and slow and that they’re now listening to the scientists which is a reassuring change. The day everyone’s immediately focussed on is 21st June. That’s when  all measures will be taken away all together, apparently. If every stage between here and there goes to plan. It feels like, as with the vaccine, sometimes things do go right instead of wrong, despite government incompetence and stupidity. It may well be that by June the world will be much changed. I hope so. That we will all slide slowly out into a world again and decide it’s still nice to be at home sometimes, out of choice, not a fear-ridden necessity. 

Wiltshire Tana Lawn™ Cotton – Liberty Fabrics

24th Feb – post-lockdown world 

Vivid dreams, dreams about being in a busy bookshop and not being afraid of strangers, not keeping away from strangers. Friends were there and books were being sold frantically. I’m groggy now and all I have to do this morning is sit around in it and recover. This week off was such a good idea. This feels like the beginning of the post-lockdown world. That narrative is seeded in the air now. It’s in the thrust of the headlines on the news sites and causally people seem to be allowing themselves to talk about it. All of this in time with the bright spring sky. Whether it is true or if this is a sad false dawn, of course, we do not know. 

Queue for the Zoo Tana Lawn™ Cotton – Liberty Fabrics

27th Feb – Highgate Wood

Who will we all be in the future? Ourselves again? I hope I’ll be calmer and less stressed on the tube, less worked up on the streets, less annoyed. I’ll have to work on that for sure. I do think that we’ve all been reminded how fragile we all are, how lucky we were to have what we had. Who will we be? We’ll be the people who all went through this in a million different ways. People are obsessing over this 21st June date. I worry it might be too soon to think about it, like starting your Christmas celebrations in early November, by 3rd December you realise how long the months really are. 

*

Yesterday we walked in Highgate wood with our starbucks, sat on a bench at the edge of the clearing in the wood, the green where they play cricket and everyone let’s their dogs off for a run. We were watching the drama of the dogs and owners, the children and owners. One very young child was using it’s pram to stand up with and then it rolled backwards very comically into the mud with no sense of self preservation at all. The two parents were stood with their backs to the infant talking and I pointed out to my husb with a laugh that the baby had hit the deck. The mother heard and fussed the father into rescuing it, giving us an evil glare as if we’d pushed the blighter down ourselves. I wouldn’t dare get so close to a stranger’s child, the germs! You have to wonder sometimes if parents even want their kids half the time. The same child, this is a crawling, not even walking baby, was later confronted by a quite large stranger’s dog which lolloped around by it, testing how close it could get, sniffing at it, pawing at it to see whether the little thing (once again in the mud on the ground) would play. Again the parents seemed broadly indifferent. This time at least noticing their mud-bound child but unmoved by the situation. This stranger’s dog could have had a particular taste for delicious baby arm, they had no idea. They do say that the tragedy of the current world is that the people who are clever are too clever to have kids, as such the human race will get dumber generation on generation. I joke, of course. It was beautiful to watch the open field space, a big green space walkers let their dogs off and there’s enough space for them to run and play with other dogs, without them going off and getting lost. The green is ringed by woodland the whole way around. We’ve sat here a few times over the past year, it’s always been lovely. This was possibly the most normal I’ve felt in a long while, something almost exactly as it would have been before. It really helped to see people and take a temperature of how people were behaving. To see people being normal, sensible, but also seemingly not too afraid. We’ve always kept ourselves months behind the current advice, always overcautious to avoid worry. It was reassuring to see what more normal people were doing, not just shut-ins with nervous conditions and complementary anxiety disorders. The weather was clear, the sky a lovely blue. We were sweating into our long coats by the time we found a good bench. It stands out as a gorgeous diversion, a little something different for us both, on a lovely bright optimistic Friday. I long and hope for more of that to come. 

28th Feb – Split ends

I never learned what split ends were (and I still don’t want to know) as such I feel like my hair is a beautiful mop without imperfection. If I knew, I’d realise I had them and maybe I’d feel differently. 

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Not one wild notion :: Journal 6th Feb – 17th Feb

Tresco Tana Lawn™ Cotton [purple] – Liberty Fabrics

9th Feb – the closest possible distance

The snow continues this morning. I’ve never seen snow so intent on snowing for so long without bothering to settle. It’s not keen to commit to being here on the ground with us. I don’t blame it. I’m tired today. I feel like a loose boiled courgette, all stringy bits falling into itself into mush. I stare out the window and the white/black stripe pattern of snow in between the tiles carries over in my brain to the white page. We’re so closely here right now. Even as the snow comes, we feel our world shrink even more to the closest possible distance. Maybe we’ll look back to now knowing it was on its way to being over. I hope so. 

10th Feb – A Brightness 

The snow’s back, or still going. A brightness is here in the sky but there’s still high cloud and the same dusting as yesterday. I feel like I have more space and time today, from waking up earlier. The morning feels solid and clear. We sneak up and up to the anniversary of all this, the idea that we’d been confined to our homes for most of a full year is insane. Is it tempting fate to hope this is the largest and worst global disaster I’ll have to deal with in my lifetime? I long for a quietness, for news about things that don’t matter. 

Wild Flowers Tana Lawn™ Cotton – Liberty Fabrics

11th Feb – Alpine meadows 

Snow again overnight. But even by midday the sun is stronger and melting it away. I feel like spring is turning towards us day by day. The day feels brighter now, the light is allowed in. I long to be on a plane flying above some beautiful mountains, looking down at the snow, the rock faces, the villages high up on alpine meadows. I long to experience that space, that distance, that speed. 

14th Feb – My memories of these streets

It was almost still light around half four this afternoon. When we went out for our walk at five it was newly dark and the clusters of families and couples were still scurrying about as always either exercising caution in keeping distance or none at all. I think we’ve learned that no matter what some people will always be inconsiderate, stupid, rude. I think about time again. Whether I’m losing my mind or if it’s just this situation we’re all in. I don’t think I realised how much I got from the exhausting busy detail of life, the rush and crowd, the streets, the architecture, history. It fed me, just walking from Leicester square towards Covent Garden and past towards work, watching the buildings, the quiet 9am streets with handfuls of tourists keenly fed on hotel breakfasts and thrown out for the day. I miss the automatic pull of the agreed walking route to work, agreed so as to be able to concentrate on buildings, atmosphere, the outfits of strangers, shop windows, the blue sky against the marble grey of the freemason hall, the wicker chairs stacked up outside caffe nero. My memories of these streets, walked in contrary directions, in other years, for other reasons. Now I walk across them towards work. Is that the same Nero’s I took my mum to when we saw Hairspray near here so long ago? I think so. 

15th Feb – Milestone

I finished my last official patch panel for the quilt last night. I still have more rows of patches to make to bridge the gaps here and there but in this totally arbitrary project I’ve reached another milestone. It feels great. Doing this has always been a dream of mine. I’ve always wanted to make a patchwork quilt like the one my nanny made for me. 

Rachel Tana Lawn™ Cotton [blue] – Liberty Fabrics

16th Feb – Not one wild notion 

I’ve put on Andrew Bird from 2003. Reminds me of the foggy years after undergrad when I was studying on my MA but also skint, unemployed and thrown out of the educational system with not one wild notion of how to get a job. These times were so long ago now I can be fed by the fond things without falling into a depression about my situation and worst of all, my choices. Everything I did and didn’t do lead me here and here we are. I finished Sandi Toksvig’s book last night. I’ve been reading it off and on for so long I can’t remember what I was reading before. It was a lovely slow read, facts and history about London alongside her life, it was really enjoyable. I don’t know why I don’t just read books I’ll enjoy. I need to be better at that. No one’s looking over my shoulder, no one’s vetting my reading for acceptability. I’m not gearing up for a PhD… which is what I thought I might be doing a year ago. I’m not saying I’ll never do it, but I don’t have that drive to do it right now and you really need that to pull yourself through it. I think I just wanted to be a Dr as well, I wanted to be able to show off easily and quickly how clever I am. I am reaching a funny place, post twitter, where I don’t have to tell everyone about everything. Sure I write this and maybe this will be online, but no one reads it. There’s no pressure compared with twitter. The morning is mild and rainy, a little dark so the lamp is still on despite the curtains being open. It’s a year today since I saw two of my friends for afternoon tea, one of the last social things I did before all of this. 

June’s Meadow Tana Lawn™ Cotton – Liberty Fabrics

17th Feb – Idle Goals 

I don’t think any of us know who we are any longer. We can live in isolation but we need other people, more people to feel real and whole. The morning is windy, the bare trees branches are skipping around and birds are swirling around the currents, trying to ford the winds, use them to their advantage, like sailors cutting a path through the weather. I ordered some books from Gays the Word online last night. I loved going into their shop for a pick me up when I worked in Bloomsbury. I’d often try to get into small talk with the lovely staff, just to have some facetime with some other LGBTQ+ folks. They were always kind and chatty, sometimes I’d be half-remembered, very generously. One of my writer’s dreams is to have a book of mine sold in there, to do some signed copies for them. Maybe in the future. It’s good to have idle goals like that. I don’t even know right now what that book would be. 

*

On our walk two lads pull up on their scooters and park up, get off and go indoors. They’re both so constricted, their voices strain to be monotone, clothing is regulation, haircuts the same. Straight boys have to work hard to fit in. I feel sorry for them. They don’t know how constricting the standards are, they just accept them. As they get older they’ll learn to loosen up, or they won’t. They’ll be happier if they loosen. Right now they can’t express any individuality, any passion. 

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the strange consequences of the present moment :: Journal 3rd Feb – 8th Feb 2021

Betsy Duchesse Silk Satin – Liberty Fabrics

3rd Feb – like a houseplant you overwater

I’m holding on to this relic of the former world, this notebook travelled more places in 2019 than I did in 2020. It’s known the crush of busy tube trains and windswept beaches. It’s hard to keep hope. It’s like a houseplant you overwater, eventually it’ll start to falter with too much. It needs to be dry before it needs water again.  I am groggy today and concerned, tired and feeling imprisoned. The escape, the exit, the the-world-will-come-back-eventually of it all. I’m tired of thinking about it.

Papercut Petals Silk Satin – Liberty Fabrics

5th Feb – I’ll see you in the next notebook 

There’s a note of double cautious optimism in the news this morning. A list on the BBC of positive changes. I’ve been watching the news, not on TV but more like monitoring what the general trends are. Editors know the bigger picture, you can get a sense of the most horrible reality by seeing what is pushed to the front of the queue. The Bank of England are reporting about predicting huge surges in spending in Spring into Summer. It seems the Bank of England knows better than we do. Last night of Drag Race UK the trailer for the next episode showed Rupaul telling the queens they had to stop production due to covid. Their faces were heartbreaking. It really affected me, I think actually it triggered me, seeing that moment again from March 2020 that we all lived through with horror. I’ve loved this season of Drag Race UK, but I knew it was filmed in the run up to lockdown and then 7 months later, I’ve wondered each week when the bright shiny world is going to be shattered by the reality of March 2020. I do think we’ll all live with trauma from all of this. I think we’ll all need to do work on coping, to help us move on. 

*

I’m glad I’ve come to the last pages of this book with this small small Friday optimism. Whether it bares out, we don’t know. Whether we will be living a more normal life by the end of this year… or a summer and then back into restrictions in the Winter, I don’t know. I know doing this, ordering my thoughts like this has helped me a lot. 

I’ll see you in the next notebook EGL 5/2/2021 

*

[new notebook same date]

I think I want my voice back. This is stupid because I haven’t lost it, I just have been using it in a different way. I’m coming to the end of my quilt project. That coupled with everything else has meant I’ve only written nonfiction, I mean, literal journals. Yesterday I had a small notion of a poetry pamphlet,  not even a poem yet though. I mean it comes because I read some poems. Ultimately you can’t write well or at all if you’re not consuming or even interested in the thing you want to create. You need to appreciate other people’s work otherwise you won’t grow, you also won’t support the world you want support from, You have to pay into the system because you want to not just because you want to withdraw from it. 

Lindy Pop Lasenby Cotton – Liberty Fabrics

6th Feb – outrageous and campy and funny and tragic

We watched Hedwig and the Angry Inch tonight. I bought the Critereon Blu Ray of it, I’ve loved the film for so long and the DVD was originally a birthday present from my friend Vickie, so I wanted to show up and give some money to it. I knew every frame of the the film, every line, but also it was like seeing myself from 12 years ago all again. I loved it. I was a bit worried about how it treats Hedwig as a transwoman, but I think for the time it was groundbreaking to tell that woman’s story, even if it was outrageous and campy and funny and tragic. I really loved the film, the way it was made, the characterisation of Hedwig and Tommy, their emotional creative affair, how creativity in collaboration can be like a relationship in itself. How you slowly become each other and sometimes you keep growing and growing apart. I loved it. The music was beautiful, emotional. John Cameron Mitchell’s voice is just a deep well of emotion. Some people’s voices just hit you, straight in your heart and that’s what happens when I hear him sing. The emotion, the hope, the complexity of it, it’s all there.  

Ava May Lasenby Cotton – Liberty Fabrics

7th Feb – shocking, cacophonous 

It’s been freezing cold all day. And we have had small sugar crystalised snow that’s just been sprinkling it’s way down all day, not really settling too much. You talk about the world, this place. Even if we’ve been lucky enough to remain healthy during this time, we’ve had to deal with illness, stress, forgetfulness, lack of sleep, anxiety, regret. As we slowly give up our small patches of the world and our range and scope widens again, we’ll be in shock at the reality of time and space, the absolute diversity of experience, architecture, the sounds on busy streets. It will be shocking, cacophonous. Bright wild extreme. 


Wild Bloom Lasenby Cotton – Liberty Fabrics

8th Febthe strange consequences of the present moment

We had more snow overnight. I woke up around 5am and could see a glow of light from the top of the curtains, early light given more power from bouncing around all these cold white surfaces. It’s by no means a snow that stops anything from happening. Last night I had the full story of what it was like getting the vaccine, my parents found it really easy, they didn’t even have to queue and all the people working there were kind. A nurse apologised for not being able to offer them a cuppa, the managers decided if they did offer cuppas everyone would just hang around all day drinking tea instead of getting work done. I’m so relieved it was so easy. Knowing that they have that protection is such a relief. 

*

The morning goes on quietly and snow falls. The little sprinkles are bigger now, I think. None of us can see the future. None of us can guess the strange consequences of the present moment. Out there a pigeon shuffles on a tree branch. The snow continues to fall in flakes that bounce around in the air, floating back from the window for a second before continuing to fall. Even the little burst of optimism from a few days ago feels fragile. It’s hard not to feel like this will last forever. I am keen to usher in change, to welcome in something else, not just something else, something better. But the world holds us too close and there’s not space to move, right now at least. How quickly things changed for the worse. I hope things can turn for the better just as fast. Things rarely get better as quickly as they go catastrophically wrong. 

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quiet instead of panic is a blessing :: Journal 30th Jan – 2nd Feb

Geo Jewel Tana Lawn™ Cotton – Liberty Fabric

30th Jan soft boy

This month feels like it should have ended two days ago, at least. Today it has rained a lot and we spent lots of time clearing and faffing around. I baked a wheatsheaf loaf from my Paul Hollywood Bread Book. Husb said it looked a bit like an octopus. Sure it wasn’t a perfect representation of a sheaf of wheat, but I was happy with it. I enjoyed the plaiting part of it. When I was a kid my mum taught me how to plait hair. She gave me three strands of wool and set them up on a hook on a shelf by my bed for me to practice. I don’t know how it came about or why, but that’s what happened. I was probably a strange child and grownups probably worried about me: desperately soft, emotional, uninterested in most normal boy interests. Looking back primary school for me was just a series of embarrassments, crying, being told off for crying, more crying, being told I’m too soft, crying again. One time I do remember succeeding. We had to write stories and I wrote one about a tortoise who was looking for his home, he was wandering around the garden looking at rabbit holes and birds nests thinking why don’t I have a home like that? In the end he realises his home is on his back and he’d forgotten he was lucky to always have a home. The story caused a real sensation in the classroom, teachers and the other kids told me how clever I was, how brilliant the story was. A girl who sat next to me even stole my idea but tried to make it about a bird looking for its home, misunderstanding the tortoise element of the premise somewhat. Thinking about it now, I’ve recalled that memory a lot over the years, probably the first time I had positive reinforcement for writing. It seems like such a simple story that it must have already existed somewhere else. I know I didn’t plagiarise it at the time though, but maybe it was something I’d heard before and wrote it thinking it was new. I don’t know, maybe not, maybe I’m just a genius?! I used to write with fountain pens then unlike all of the other kids. I don’t know why, another thing that I did to set myself apart. When I’d finish my ink I’d go up to the teacher and ask politely for more and he’d take a little plastic ink cartridge out of his desk for me. I get a sense now that maybe I should have had my own ink cartridges instead of scrounging off the teacher all the time. I was probably doted on a bit, allowed to take liberties. A known soft boy in the school. Another time from primary school, a poet came. She made us do writing exercises and I loved it. I remember writing something like: “the tropical breeze in the Florida Keys” and she was very impressed and asked if I’d been there, of course I hadn’t but I wrote that because I loved the BBC show Holiday and always wanted to go to far off places, especially Florida, for Disney World. 

Children of Liberty Tana Lawn™ Cotton – Liberty Fabric

31st Jantoday we walked in the rain

We sit in a precarious place and we cannot believe we are moving forward positively. The daily numbers seem to be going down slowly as the weeks have gone on. On our Friday shop there was a sense from others that people weren’t too bothered about keeping a distance. We’re the weird ones for keeping a distance and looking at people with daggers when they get too close. It’s going to take a lot of work and time for us to be okay in crowds again, in public in general. I know we need to think about that, but also bringing that up is a sign we feel it’s going to be over and I just can’t let myself believe it.

*

Today we walked in the rain. It was not heavy and the quiet streets made it so pleasant. The quiet streets and being under an umbrella. Walking down with the streetlamps behind us I noticed the shape of my umbrella in shadow, a squashed hexagon just like the shape of my patchwork pieces. Maybe I’ve sewn too many and now I’m seeing them everywhere. 

Sunshine Meadow Tana Lawn™ Cotton – Liberty Fabric

1st Febquiet instead of panic is a blessing

I’m groggy from a night of intense dreams, not scary just real. I was swimming across a lake towards a castle tower, very Zelda. Then I was negotiating an Indonesian airport. Then having a second wedding when the first one was the day before. 

*

We sit precariously in February, hoping if we don’t move or breath, things won’t get worse. I think we’re in a place where things will get better very gradually. Things often get worse very quickly, but rarely get better at the same speed. The idea of Christmas 2021 being more normal is more acceptable now, but we could not have understood or accepted that in April 2020. The weather is a steady blank white cloud sky mistiness out there. Moss on the house roofs soak up the atmosphere. A morning with nothing but quietness. No grand ambition or sense of import. Quiet instead of panic is a blessing. 

*

I don’t know if the foxes are more brazen then before or whether they were always about and we weren’t. We’d never walk these back streets on a week night after work like this, so really, we’re the intruders. The lone foxes lollop about the streets, jump up onto garden walls and watch us without fear as we walk past. They know we’re not after them. The careful hope of the world coming back to us, even gradually, is too exciting to really think about seriously. I just hope in the end things end up better, a few days working from home every week instead of going back to five days in the office. The future is coming, not matter how slow, it’s coming. 

*

My parents had their letters about booking their vaccines today. It’s made me giddy with anticipation, knowing they’ll have that protection will be such huge relief. 

Jitter Bug Tana Lawn™ Cotton – Liberty Fabric

2nd Feboff-cuts from other rain

I got a box of fabric in the post from Hobbycraft, including the wadding for the quilt. I can’t believe I’m skirting around the edges of completing this project, might be another two or three weeks, depending on how much time I can commit to it. I’d decided to try to do it in Jan 2020, but obviously it was lockdown that gave me the time and space to really take it seriously. I have spent so many hours sewing and it’s been such a pleasure. So many hours with youtube in the background as I’m sewing away, just always on this one project.  

*

Today we have a small sharp pin prick sort of rain, I can see it on the window and if I look carefully outside against the chimney of the house across from us, I can see the strobing, rushing raindrops, tiny discarded flecks, off-cuts from other rain. 

*

Both my parents had their first vaccines today. Honestly it’s such a relief. I cannot believe it. I’m so grateful to everyone who work so hard to do this, to make it happen as soon as this. It’s overwhelming. I know things will still take time, but this is at least the first positive news I’ve had in a long time. 

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Vivacious Gusto :: Journal 26th Jan – 29th Jan

Matilda May Cupro Twill – Liberty Fabrics

26th Jan – not every wave is a tidal wave

The roof snow is still melting and the pavements still have their tired cake icing layer. I woke both of us up at around half six this morning by unconsciously kicking my hotwater bottle out of bed, it made a heavy wet rubbery slouchy sort of noise, like a barrel of fish slopping in the back of a van during a sharp left turn. I’m listening to The Mountain Goats again. This album has fully taken me over as some albums do a few times a year. The lead singer used to be a poet and you can tell from the evocative wordy strange lyrics. That appeals to me, of course. They have a song called Tidal Wave that goes, very hopefully ‘not every wave is a tidal wave’ the album came out in mid 2020 and it’s hard not to hear that song as a hope against the horrors of the waves of disease we’ve been experiencing. Things are bad but they won’t always get worse. 

*

I’ve caught up with myself a lot recently, in the way I think posh rich people do when they’re on a yoga retreat for five weeks. I feel like I’ve been able to identify some things I’ve held onto that I don’t need any longer. The thing that always rings true is that if you want to do something you’re probably already doing it, or finding a way to do it. Like tattoos or dyeing my hair, I talk about wanting to do it, but if I really truly wanted to, I would have done it by now. You can only get in your own way for an amount of time, eventually you break through and find a way, if you really do want to do it. I’ve known I’ve loved fabric for years, but it’s only truly since the past two years I’ve found an outlet for that passion in my quilt. You follow your passions because it feels natural. Most people aren’t up at 11:20pm each night writing in their journal, but here I am doing that. I could easily be doing anything else but I love doing this, and I gain a lot from it. An order to my thoughts. An expression of my thoughts is very helpful to me. 

Pineapple Paisley Tana Lawn™ Cotton – Liberty Fabrics

27th Jan – vivacious gusto

I’ve started my final panel of my patchwork quilt. I’ve intentionally not sewn all the pieces together quite yet. I’m anxious about finishing it, really. Using it and not using it, whether it will start to fall apart. Whether it’ll be too cold or too hot. I think about it, how many hours and hours I’ve spent on it through all of this awfulness. The fear and wish for forgetting, change is all there in the stitches. I just hope it comes out well and I’m happy with it. I’m sure I will be. Part of me knows I’ll do another one, I kind of have to. I’ve honed the skill over this year from doing it most days: I need to keep making and learning. 

*

I’m telling myself I don’t have to do everything, or even anything. I just need to follow my wishes and the joy. I will be happier if I do this. I am happier as I try to do this. I think about airports, foreign train announcements, continental breakfasts, I think about Euro and Kronor. Reviewing your photographs from the day. The distant rush of the sea. Boats on the river. These things will return or we will return to them. We are now at a moment of great compression, and soon, however gently, the spring will allow itself to expand again and we will once again know the world and live in the world with vivacious gusto. We will, for a few years maybe, take it too far from the relief of being safe to do so. The spring will spring. There will be an end.  

D’Anjo Sky Cupro Twill – Liberty Fabrics

28th Jan – We have the smallest hopes we can muster

One thing I think about a lot is making the most of the place you’re in, making the most of what you’ve got. Take opportunities ahead of you. Don’t just wildly switch around on a whim. Most of the time, if you’re there the things will come to you, being there is the key. That’s what was great about Poetry School, it set me up and put me on the path to be published. I was there putting in the time. Showing up is a big deal. Showing up for what you want, what you’re proud of, showing up for yourself. I’m not there with poetry right now, that’s fine. I’m going to be there again, when I am, I’m sure it will be something brilliant (so modest!). In this time, I’m here for my journal, for my quilt and for getting through this time. The rain continues outside, a constant skipping shaky sort of rain, not driving or insistent. We have the smallest hopes we can muster. We have not named the hopes quite yet, the hopes are that maybe this was the last big peak, that the numbers will continue to fall. But neither of us bring it up in conversation, but I know we’re both thinking it, looking at the numbers every evening and hoping hoping hoping.  

Circus Stripe Silk Satin – Liberty Fabrics

29th Jan – this collective trauma 

Watched a few videos of The Mountain Goats last night. I’ve loved them for a while but recently their most recent album has spoken to me. I realised it was a while since I’d cried from pure joy as I was watching them perform and crying. Maybe this collective trauma will open us all up a bit, make people empathetic, more able to be honest with their feelings. It’s something we’ve all been through together, that will give us common ground in the future. I hope it means we’ll be kinder to each other. 

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It seems too grand a dream at present :: Journal 19th Jan – 25th Jan 2021

19th Jan – it seems too grand a dream at present

I daydream about success as I pop the berocca into my water and move into the bedroom, overhearing husb’s morning meeting as I go. I daydream about a splash of attention when I finish my quilt, comments and likes and who knows, interviews for blogs. I mean, not that I did it all for the attention, I really didn’t, but there’s a switch in me once I sense I could get some praise, some attention, some acknowledgement, I run towards it like a dog newly off its lead. The day feels brighter than yesterday, clearer in its cloud. Less complex. The news keeps on reporting these to be the worst weeks again, but the news had little paragraphs from different people who had had the vaccine and how it will change their lives. It was such a joy to read that, a small distant joy but it’s there. It’s so difficult living with the smallest hopes like this, not feeling allowed to be optimistic. Once you start hoping too much you’re suddenly reopening the world and that seems too grand a dream at present. But whether it’s this summer, next year, it will happen. This won’t be our lives forever. 

Story Island Tana Lawn™ Cotton – Liberty Fabrics

21st Jan – zukunft 

The morning is bright, clear and cold. This weather always reminds me of my first trip to Stockholm in March 2012. Bright blue sky cold wind sun offering every surface a film of weak sun. Locals in light jackets and t-shirts, me gladly shuddering my way through the streets in a huge coat and scarf. This may well be the day that activates seeds in the ground to grow. The bare tree branches gambol about in the arctic wind. For me it feels like Scandinavia, this weather, cold and hopeful, a biting cold that gets under your clothes to your skin, but you forgive it for the brightness of the sun and the clear blue sky. 

*

On my run I usually stop to walk near to this tree, not particularly big, I don’t know what type it is but it’s right by a lamp post. When I look up at the lamp post in my mid run exhaustion the lamp post light shines through the tree branches, the branches are lit in a curved halo, like they’re all huddling around the light and the tree canopy itself is a curved, perfect oval shape. That’s how it appears, but that’s just because of the source of the light, how the light hits the branches. It always looks cinematic, the bright yellow light on the thin dark branches. A way point I’ve come to rely on.

*

I’ve always liked the german word for future: zukunft. Zu is a preposition akin to “to” (but also “too”) the kunft bit feels like an old fashioned word corruption of kommen the verb “to come”. In my head the future is to come but said in a whimsical strange way, like some mysterious forecast. Kunft with its gnawled and strange word end this Germanic faff of consonants, makes it seem like it’s already here, that it’s become, but also that it’s a confusing mess. I want that for us all. For the future to hurry up and get to us, in all its messy confusion. I long to once again panic in Germany on the street or museums or shops because real Germans do not speak slowly and clearly without using idiom. I look forward to that future, in the coming yonder.   

Sunshine Meadow Tana Lawn™ Cotton – Liberty Fabrics

24th Jan – street silence 

The snow has covered everything for a while and brought out that street silence I love so much. We walked over to the field where we walked all summer, into the autumn until it was too muddy and dark. It was pleasantly snow blanketed, with snowmen from the locals all over, there must have been fifteen of them in all levels of expertise, littering the field like a sculpture park. By the time we got there around 4pm the light was fading and people were returning home, it’s best time to be out, watching other people in the distance disappear back to their homes, leaving us to the cold blank field and the snowmen.  

Passion Blooms Tana Lawn™ Cotton – Liberty Fabrics

25th Jan – tiny library 

I took some books to one of the tiny libraries this evening. There are two we’ve spotted on our walks around the neighbourhood. One on our regular running route. After yesterday’s snow, the pavements are still snowy and slippy in places. Barely anyone was out walking, truly an all time low. One man was out running, which I thought was a bit much. I was convinced we’d see him slip over and fall and we’d have to go over and help him and risk spreading / catching the virus. That’s what he’s doing, putting himself and strangers at risk by being so stupid. Take the day off from running! We’ve seen three different gritting lorries go by. It’s still that cold. The tiny library is a little pitch-roofed wooden box where people bring and borrow books. I’ve looked in many times, but never taken any. Last night I found some books I no longer need, even poetry books which I rarely used to get rid of. It feels like a nice light feeling to have loosened the grip of poetry. I’ve not given it up, I’ve not sworn off it, but I’m allowing myself a world of other shapes and forms. I’m not blinkering myself just to the poetry world. Now I’ve made space on my shelves they’re looser, the books aren’t packed in together uncomfortably. I feel like I’m freeing myself of a past. I don’t need to become someone I wanted to be earlier in my life. I’m me now, thank you. I don’t need to chase something other than what I want to spend my time doing right now. 

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a truly sarcastic level of social distancing :: Journal 11th Jan – 13th Jan 2021

11th Jan – eight years together 

Husb just came in to wish me happy eight years together. We’d both forgotten. This isn’t our wedding anniversary, that is a bigger deal for us these days. This is the date of our first date. It’s just lovely to think about us going on our first date eight years ago. I mean we were both different people then, the world was completely different. I had a Blackberry, I’d only been living in London for about 8 months. I cannot believe how long it has been. I cannot imagine what would have happened if we’d never met, but I’ve always held the belief that we would have met eventually, we were just lucky it happened when it did.

*

Time between March 2020 and now has not been the same. Days have passed and we’ve continued and marked events passing, but from inside. Christmas felt like it was happening just out of reach, like it was a meal being eaten at the next table in a restaurant, we had what we had and enjoyed it, but it still felt like somewhere else it was happening as normal and we missed out. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed a more normal Christmas anyway, travelling and staying over in spare rooms, sleeping badly and having to deal with a different family’s timetable.

*

People are talking about the vaccine now. It’s out there in anecdotes, queues in the streets of old people, appointments in the future. It feels like it’s happening now, right as we’re going through the worst of it. 

Memphis Trail Tana Lawn™ Cotton – Liberty Fabrics

12th Jan – a truly sarcastic level of social distancing

Just as I am starting to write my berocca fizzes up dramatically. INSPIRATION! Husb realised we were going through 3 quarters of a pack a week between us, we had to do a rush bulk order on Amazon. People were pressed and stressed in the berocca reviews “they’ve taken away the foil and now I cannot be sure these are the genuine item and not dangerous fakes! … They’ve changed the design due to phony ‘environmental concerns’” People seemed to love that pointless foil? I’ve replaced my daily Vit D tablet with a morning berocca. The Vit D really worked so well in the run up to Christmas, but I felt like a needed a change after months and months of it every morning.

*

Now I have an idea of what I can do with this writing, maybe, I have to be careful I don’t change it or try too hard with it. I think I’ve always been a huge try hard. When I was a kid my relatively lack of money kept me from being truly insufferable. Sure, I wanted to be a goth, but could I afford any of the clothing? No. Cheap black t-shirts and Claire’s accessories came to my rescue and I think I’m all the better for it. I always found it so funny that to be a legit goth who wanted to smash the system you had to drop hundreds of quid on clothing. I remember once after school my friends and I were walking into town singing and I joined in and one of them said to me, with anger and disgust on his face “why do you always have to try so hard?” I was mortified that any attention could be drawn to me, but also, as I was an arrogant teen (there’s definitely something in those hormones) I thought maybe he’s jealous that I can sing so well? Could I really sing that well? I really don’t think so, but I tried like with everything. I tried hard, for a little bit anyway. Singing was one of the few career prospects at the time for a wayward gay, but I can’t say I truly dreamt of being a singer.

*

I decided on these things in the shower, about this ‘project’ the main tenet is: the ink shall remain fundamental. Write everything by hand first, type it up and make it look nice online and maybe tell people I’ve updated my website. Don’t use it as a backdoor excuse to get back onto twitter, that ship has sailed. 

*

I aim for a truly sarcastic level of social distancing between me and strangers. I don’t want to take risks and I choose to pre-empt almost everyone I can now, arching into the road if it is safe to, especially when running, I loop around people with a bit of extra speed that keeps me going. I want to look back at this time with a smugness at the level of distance I’d keep. A ridiculous caution. I’m happy with that being the memory. Once we move onto the post-virus world and we have all stories about what we had to endure, we’ll laugh at the ridiculous measures we took. Right now we have no sense of when it’ll be possible to get out of this, we have never had that sense, all of last year was a mystery week to week. 

Paradise Bay Tana Lawn™ Cotton – Liberty Fabrics

13th Jan – little pixelated trails of rain

I’d say these weeks are usually grim and horrible and they are now,  but in a very different way. We’ve been so crushed and burned and shaken to dust by all this but we’re in surprisingly good moods. What else can we do but try and laugh about other things at least a little during the day. The sky is blank white cloud and the trees out there are still and standing like upended brooms. Long-stripped of their leaves, standing, waiting the weeks out. There’s a fog in the distance. I think we’re lucky with the view out back across the roofs and gardens, we’re high enough to see across and feel the space. It starts to rain. Little pixelated trails of rain appear on the window all coming from the same diagonal direction, little leftover threads of rain. The blessing is also the difficulty, being able to remain at home safely is also tough because we miss the world outside. That’s how we all feel and we miss the world until it can be the world we’ve known again. 

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Creative Folk: Joanna Harker Shaw

“When I get stuck with a character I’ll paint them”

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Joanna Harker Shaw is a novelist, photographer, and artist.  In this interview they talk about the stubbornness needed to complete a novel, charity shop finds, and combining visual arts and writing. Their twitter is: https://twitter.com/JoHarkerShaw and their website is: harkershaw.wordpress.com

 

What is your main creative practice? 

Mainly, it’s writing my novel, but I also take photographs and draw a lot. 

 

What drives you to do you do what you do?

There’s a simple inclination that has me always picking up a pen, stories that run round my head that I want to share – but actually finishing one novel is sheer stubbornness and determination. I have to rise early and work at it. At this point the drive is to have something to share. 

 

How do you edit or structure your creativity/projects? 

At the first rush of inspiration I drop whatever I’m doing and get that enthusiasm pinned down. Once I have the outline of whatever it is I then take some time just looking at it, trying to work out what it is, what the shape of it is, what the best way round it is. Then I break it up into tasks. Organise them with little (easily achievable) targets. Then go for it. 

 

Who influences your work or practice? 

I try to absorb a great amount of art and literature, free galleries, recommendations, an unknown book in a charity shop – sometimes I turn up gold (I’m into surrealist painters and novelists right now, starting with Dorothea Tanning and working out) and sometimes not, but even the things I don’t like help me to define my practice. On the daily, I’m encouraged and inspired by my wonderful colleagues at the university who keep me on whatever side of sane I’m on. 

 

What other art forms influence you? 

Combining visual art with verbal greatly aids my writing process. For one I make pinterest reference boards – for details like period clothing (my current novel is set in the 1820s), but also a general mood board for a character. When I get stuck with a character I’ll paint them; it’s a meditative act that allows me to just sit with the character, not asking direct questions, but coming to an emotional state through colour and shape. 

 

What other creative pursuit would you like to try? 

I do wish I had skill at musical composition. A few times people have set some of my writing to music and it’s wonderful to hear, but it’s an art I just don’t understand. It’s magical to me. 

 

How do you feel when you’re creating something?

Quite tense, but also gleeful. It’s the upbeat before the main theme. A difficult place to live sometimes. 

 

What do you do when you’re not being creative? 

Teaching professionally. For relaxing… walking my dog in the woods or watching quizzes on TV. 

 

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blog Eddus Watches

Eddus Watches: AJ and the Queen

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“I want to be sat down a lot”

Rupaul’s Drag Race has been a huge success, it’s been on for over a decade with 11 main seasons, 4 all stars seasons, and most recently the excellent UK version for BBC Three.  Unsurprisingly Rupaul has been searching for another project to capitalise on this success, to strike while the hot glue gun is hot. And out of this we had a failed Ellen-Style Talk Show, which I found very stilted and underwhelming (I only suffered through one episode to be fair) and now AJ and the Queen, a Netflix series made in collaboration with Michael Patrick King, who is responsible for Sex and the City as well as cult favourite and Lisa Kudrow power vehicle The Comeback.

The rumours swirling around were that Rupaul was looking for a project where she could sit down a lot during filming. A project with a lot of driving then, would be ideal. I don’t blame her, being a drag queen is performing in uncomfortable shoes for hours on end, having already spent three hours in hair and make up. Another rumour, later confirmed by Rupaul on her podcast, was that they filmed the entire New York to Dallas road movie series within 20 miles of Los Angeles.

The show essentially wishes to reheat the road movie magic of Priscilla Queen of the Desert or even To Wong Foo and smear it across a multi-episode Netflix series, I think this is a good premise. The road movie convention is a useful form of narrative for a tv series. Each episode can easily be contained with its own unique plot, a stop along the way, whilst still advancing the overall season story. Time doesn’t need to be 100% consistent, as we can presume that we’re only being shown the highlights of the journey and it’s an easy way to show the audience a story with a resolution, each episode and each season, the characters are travelling towards something and we want to know if they ever get there. So far this is Screenwriting 101.

The bad idea came in the form of giving Ruby Red (Rupaul) a troubled and angry 10 year old stowaway child companion for the ride. I can see the creators also wanted to capture a bit more of the realism and gritty emotion of something like Transamerica, the fantastic trans road movie with a pre-prison and Oscar Nominated Felicity Huffman. Had AJ been a character in their early twenties, it would have raised eyebrows but would have been better. But other characters rarely question why Ruby has a ten year old child with her, and this dodgy arrangement only pokes through into the main plot a few times. It doesn’t always feel like the writers are all the way convinced that it’s okay so they just leave it.

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Catastrophically bad

The acting is at times catastrophically bad, whilst there are moments of tenderness and emotion from Rupaul (mostly when not speaking) a lot of Ru’s  lines are delivered by someone who hasn’t read the script and is being fed them through an earpiece. There are jokes in the dialogue that are as worn out as the RV’s tires, not helped by the painfully wooden and expected delivery. If you’ve ever watched Drag Race, you know all these jokes already. The actor playing AJ seems to have attended the Daniel Radcliffe School of Child Acting. It’s all temper tantrums, over-reacting, and juicing those bad lines like a sous chef desperate to make enough fresh orange juice for a large Brunch party.

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Tia Carrere, the only person acting on the whole show

Congratulations must be given to Tia Carrere for her schlocky and Michelle Visage inspired portrayal of Lady Danger, one of the main baddies. Lady Danger is a character who would be at home in a John Waters movie, and in a way, I wish they had committed to making the tone of the show a bit more outrageous, as she is. Carrere manages to make the character funny and watchable with enough shades of menace. Unlike others in the cast, she is acting and it is believable which is a stand out achievement in this context. You can see there’s a struggle at the centre of the show about what it is, it desperately wishes to be earnest, to tackle big issues and make you cry, but it also can’t help but enjoy itself with campy big performances.

AJ and the Queen strives for the glossy look of The L Word and it succeeds in certain moments, however this look and this style is woefully out of date in this decade.  Each episode starts with a glossy slow motion shot of something which is supposed to be grand and metaphorical, this is coupled with a voice-over from AJ explaining what you’re seeing. These moments  don’t seem to connect with the content of the episode at all and serve as filler. It’s an odd choice and feels like something that the creators came up with and have stuck to and no one else on production had the heart to tell them that it wasn’t working and was a little outdated.

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Always a joy to see more Chad Michaels

The cameos from Drag Race queens give us some of the most enjoyable moments in the show, although those without a literacy in the world of Drag Race will be bewildered by a lot of the references. I thought Chad Michael’s turn as another older queen who was swindled by the same man who romanced and stole Ruby’s/Rupaul’s savings was brilliant. You could sense the delight these queens take in acting with Rupaul, they don’t have to defer to her as they did when they were on her reality show, most characters are mean and bitchy and it’s fun to watch. At one point Kennedy Davenport shouts in Rupaul’s face: “YOU’RE BROKE GURL” with such hilarious glee, it’s like watching a sixth form variety show where the students are on stage mocking their teachers who are sat in the audience, in on the joke.

Ultimately AJ and the Queen is a slow-motion multi-vehicle freeway accident which I cannot and do not wish to shield my eyes from. Despite the awful things I have detailed above (I didn’t even get to the “Blind” acting by Michael-Leon Wooley) it is annoyingly compelling to watch. Having just heard a Season 2 is on the way, I hope they hire some new writers and maybe some new actors as well before we go on another road trip!

Watchable TRASH. I give it TWO Rupaul Party City Wigs out of FIVE

ru wigs

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Eddus Plays: Assassin’s Creed 2 (2009/2016)

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“I loved Ezio… who wouldn’t want to play as a beautiful, tortured Italian fuck-boy, who is mates (and maybe more?) with Leonardo Da Vinci?”

 

Having been a Nintendo boy for the past few decades there are whole franchises I’ve been interested in playing that I’ve not been able to until now. Last year, I caved and got myself a PS4 and I’m catching up on all these games, most of them at very reasonable prices!

First up: Assassin’s Creed 2 (2009), as part of the remastered Ezio Collection which was released in 2016.

I love open world games and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is my favourite game of all time. I love wandering about and discovering things, this freedom is what I’ve always wanted from video games. There’s a lot of appeal to the idea of open worlds in places I have visited and I’ve always wanted to play the Assassin’s Creed game which features Florence, so I fired up Assassin’s Creed 2 (2009).

I had NO context for what Assassin’s Creed games were like, apart from watching a few reviews and I was a little confused to be playing a character within the present in a hoodie and jeans for the first ten minutes before laying on a strange VR-bed and sent back into my own DNA memories of Renaissance Italy (as far as I could tell?) This seemed wildly improbable to me but, why not? I was up for it. It was quite a clever conceit for the game, and gave the designers the excuse to have things “glitch out” when changing from different memories, and explained the digital HUD and menus as part of the system.The overall style of the game is VERY 2000s, graphic design like a slightly fussy men’s grooming salon. The Assassin’s Creed emblem which is everywhere resembles an A, sure, but it does also seem very vaginal. Whether this becomes a plot point later on, a la The Da Vinci Code who knows?!

I immediately loved the voice acting. People who were not at ALL Italian just going for it with their accents. At one point, I assume as a joke, one character shouts: “IT’S-A ME, MARIO” to our protagonist, Ezio.

I loved Ezio. Who wouldn’t want to play as a beautiful, tortured Italian fuck-boy who is mates (and maybe more?) with Leonardo Da Vinci? The thrill of having Leonardo turn up was wonderful and I couldn’t stop myself from shipping them, what a gorgeous couple they’d make? Ezio, why not just give it all up and embrace the love that dare not speak its name?

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They clearly love each other

Meandering around Florence with its gaggles of prostitutes and thieves for hire was a real joy, as was climbing the famous Duomo and it’s bell tower and looking at the wide landscape around me. It was moments like this that make me love video games, having this sort of freedom and taking in an entire landscape, especially one that was so familiar to me. I spent some of my honeymoon in Florence and we had an Airbnb right by the Ponte Vecchio. We spent a lot of time walking the medieval streets and in the game I recognised, not just the main tourist attractions, but certain alleyways, piazza, and bridges too. It felt like a real, loving portrait of Florence and it was lovely to inhabit the environment with its bustling piazza and narrow streets. Character’s costumes especially in cut scenes looked authentic enough (I’m no expert) if  a little painted on to a flat but stretchy sort of surface (it’s an old game with a fresh coat of paint!) the plot within the flashback world of the game seemed plausible. The added historical details given at each new important building and with each important character were a great optional extra that helped cement the world and the huge amount of research which went into the game.

An early mission of climbing to the top of the Palazzo Vecchio to visit my imprisoned and soon to be executed father, was a highlight, though the dated and dodgy controls did make some of the precise climbs and jumps difficult to complete. This would be a common thing during my play-through sadly, where jumping controls of the game felt very dated, clunky, and imprecise when the game is asking you for precision. One mission later on when you go inside of the Duomo, which is still under construction and is totally empty was quite frustrating for it’s precise jumping and falling from a great height, mostly by accident, if things went wrong. The thrill of making it very high up inside this huge building was exciting though. These more platformy indoor sections were of variable quality and sometimes I’d just not know where I was supposed to be going. Combat was another issue that reminded me that this was an older game with a fresh new look, it felt mostly that I was hammering Square just to get it done and there was no real skill to fighting. The camera would also sometimes just fully obscure my view during fights, which sometimes didn’t even hamper my progress too much. The assassinations, sneaking up to nameless guards on rooftops and those during missions were often very satisfying, especially when using the small retractable wrist knife Ezio carries. I am not really into violent games generally, but there was a deep satisfaction from swooping down from a rooftop on top of a corrupt official to stab him in the neck. I hope writing this doesn’t put me on some special list.

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Italian sunshine, the Tuscan landscape and people firing arrows at you, a perfect holiday

Moving to locations outside of Florence, the game suddenly felt quite dated, a sort of half open world half pen area which was in between Florence and San Gimignano seemed strange and empty.  But there was something nice about riding a horse through the fields with cypress trees dotted about the place though. The missions in San Gimignano were enjoyable as well, climbing those towers and wire walking between them in the bright Italian afternoon sun when under fire from archers was pretty enjoyable, once I knew what I was supposed to be doing. One thing I found with most missions was there was not always a clear view of what I was supposed to do and I often found myself trying to read the landscape as a clue as to where the designers wanted me to go.

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Venice is a beautiful, colourful playground

When I got to Venice, I couldn’t believe it. The game was mirroring my honeymoon! We had spent a week in Florence and then travelled to Venice for a few days. Venice is an incredible place that feels unreal when you are there in real life due to it’s iconic canals, buildings, and gondolas, coming here in the game was such a treat. The game was suddenly much more colourful and exciting. I loved being able to swim in the canals, steal gondolas and climb up the Campanile in Saint Mark’s Square. Venice truly bests the already great experience of exploring Florence. It was amazing. The level of details in the architecture and cityscape was another level of impressive, especially for a game that came out in 2009. The detail was so enjoyable and brilliant, that I sort of felt like the game designers were close to just throwing out the whole Assassin’s Creed thing all together and to just make a game of wandering around historically accurate renaissance cityscapes. I’d play that!

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avoid the crowds by scaling buildings!

The game sings when you’re exploring a city, especially on the rooftops of Florence and Venice. I imagine maybe the streets are made too cluttered with NPC monks, prostitutes and noble men to force you up that ladder to skip from rooftop to rooftop instead. Sometimes when you’ve reached a combo of moves you glide through the air wonderfully and it’s brilliant, especially with the beautiful shining Duomo ahead of you, or the incredible Saint Mark’s Square. Overall that’s what I wanted from this game, which I still have not finished (this game is HUGE!), that freedom to sail across the terracotta tiled rooftops of Italy in the beautiful sunshine, occasionally murdering a guard who is asking too many questions.

 

My score is FOUR out of FIVE gay Leonardo Da Vincis 

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