Thursday, 17 October 2013

I have a new blog

And that is where I will be from now on! I have engaged with self-hosted wordpress and I cannot really understand what I am doing so bear with me for a bit while it all looks a bit empty and I add helpful things to the sidebar. Also there is a bit about follow me on twitter, but I have never actually tweeted anything so I would not rush to do that and I will let you know if I ever start. I only signed up for it so I could look at My Cat Is Sad.

Anyway thank you so much everyone who's been a reader of this blog - it's been so much fun, and now I'm writing the new chapter. So you're very welcome over at my new blog if you'd like to come on over:

www.cloudandrainbow.com

(You know I can't do titles!...)

Onwards!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

So this is where I'm going to go wrong

I'm going to have done the 40 things in a month. I'm organising things like a fiend. And what then?! Emptiness and confusion?

{God. I'm going to have to put some energy into my job if I'm not careful...}

Monday, 14 October 2013

I know it's been done. But. 40 before 40!!!

I'm back.
We did not eat them. You have to know what you are doing
I've been to Derbyshire where I've been roaming about looking at woods like a good pagan.
I also made that quilt and that cushion and painted that table. Go me
I've been knitting like a fiend as well, but I keep giving things away and forgetting to take photos, so photos will have to wait, although, I do have this one of my new crocheted throw I shared a while ago on Facebook (so sorry for duplication, anyone who's on my FB). I've woven in the ends now. I'm on fire!

I wander past this every day clutching my glass of water
And I've been wandering about taking pictures of Sexy Urban Art. The second one is actually on the wall of the stairway in my office. Never (says she, violins swelling) in all my time in the voluntary sector have I ever worked in a building that is not mad and has normal facilities, except for one time when I was at e-space in Littleport and we had things like carpet and sofas, it was utterly disorientating. And I was utterly miserable. So that just shows you.
He is my big fat lad. Oh bloody hell Alfie, go home!
Dan my brother has found this lost cat sign for you and I have taken a photo. I think the cat was called Alfie. Don't look at this picture if you are having a bad day as honestly Dan and I were just emotionally stricken to the core in the middle of a rainy street in Derbyshire in our waxed jackets and woolly hats. Partner says the cat has probably just gone next door and no-one needs to worry. But we need an update! Like with Mabel!
From my new office which I am going to manage. O but how can I do both?! It is the classic double bind which leads to psychological confusion
Now I share with you the hideously naff thing I have done. Over the last year or so {clears throat}, one of the things I did was to try to scare myself and do things I would not normally have done with a view to expanding my horizons. I recommend this approach to you very highly: I had a great time. I mean, I'm not saying I set the world on fire, but I did things like the pole competition, oil painting, fan dancing, bleaching my hair, trying physical theatre etc etc. It was interesting because I always felt like I ought to be an introverted, studious kind of person, but actually when I really sat down and thought about things I was interested in doing none of them were studious or academic at all. I mean, I'm certainly not saying this is good, but, you know, self-knowledge is a wonderful thing and if it turns out that what I'm actually interested in is anything that creates a huge mess or where you flap about and have everyone looking at you then there's no point me pretending that I want to sit in a library translating Sanskrit. Anyway, to the hideously naff thing. I am 39 on my next birthday (soon) and then I will be 40 and that is a milestone. So I am creating a list of 40 things to do before I am 40.

I know it is overdone. I know it is counterproductive. I know it is naff. But I am inspired by a woman I read about in the Derbyshire Times. We were particularly charmed by her intention to massage Bernie Clifton. I would like to state at this point that I have actually met Bernie Clifton, and there is a photo extant of us together which my mother would probably email me if I asked her nicely. But I am not putting him on my list (although he is perfectly nice. Don't feel rejected, Bernie, I'm happy to massage you if you're ever in Cambridge, although I'd probably rather just buy you a coffee). So I shall finalise my list and then I will consider if I want to share it. I will consider.

Anyway, sorry to be away so long! Grit your collective teeth for the random thoughts to come...

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Another good thing

This is a daft one.

So, the other day I did my first 10K. I didn't do a race, I measured it with my GPS watch thing. Dan (brother) was doing a 4.8 mile fell run in Derbyshire and, because Dan is my Running Inspiration, when he does a race I sometimes do the same distance here out of solidarity. (Because I am codependent). Anyway 4.8 miles is as far as I have ever managed hitherto, but, when I had run that far (7.7K) I decided I would just carry on and do my first 10K and so I did, and that is pretty much all I have achieved this weekend. Anyway, I was very proud, but, when I did my run this morning I was just knackered as you can imagine, and gave up after about 25 minutes and staggered home.

On the street behind our house lives the Worst Black Cat in Cambridge. I have blogged about this animal before and how it waylays people and weaves around people's feet, putting its nose in their shopping, and how you cannot walk past it without stopping for petting and homage, however busy you are. Anyway, Partner had remarked to me recently that he had not seen Bad Black Cat for a while and we hoped it was ok. But, today, as I staggered home, next door to Bad Black Cat's house was a notice on a lamppost - missing cat! Bad Black Cat had disappeared! I learned that Bad Black Cat is a she, is called Mabel, is 5.4kg, will not wear a collar but has been chipped, and has a line of white hairs underneath which is only visible when she rolls over. And has been missing since July. So I was really sad, because who knows what had happened to Bad Mabel, and I remained sad until I got to the second notice on a tree this time, where I saw what I had missed the first time: someone had updated all the notices with FOUND NOW!!!! across the picture of Mabel!

Which seemed very sweet. Because, not only is Mabel reinstalled in her nice house where she won't wear a collar and no doubt is into everything, but, instead of just taking the posters down, whoever had put them up had wanted to update people so they didn't worry about Mabel. So they had gone to every poster - there was one on each tree, and let me tell you, there are a lot of trees on that street - and they had altered them all carefully with a biro. Who says people have no sense of community obligation? I wish everyone updated posters, because I often wonder about Lost Cats (Partner has never forgotten one called Genghis, who had a single very visible fang. What happened to Genghis? Did he meet an untimely end or is he now living in the Master's Lodge at Trinity? You never know).

And now when Bad Black Cat wants to look in my shopping, I know her name, and I will be able to say firmly, No, Mabel, Not For You. And I am sure that will work very effectively...

Friday, 6 September 2013

A Nice Man

Last night Partner and I met his mother for dinner, who told me that this is a terrible world with a lot of terrible people in it and she cannot bear to be a part of it, because of all the terrible horrible people doing awful things all the time. She told me this more than once. I did not say to her, have any of these terrible awful people ever a/ screamed at you that you were a 'trollop' in the middle of a Wetherspoons pub b/ tried to have you thrown out of accident and emergency during a family member's last illness and then ostracised at the funeral c/ written you long mad letters detailing the members of your family you have personally killed through your innate badness and individual neglect? Because, they would indeed be quite mean things to do to someone, and I do not think either of us needs to look far to see someone who has done them and who they have done them to. Anyway I did not say that, I smiled in a slightly vacant way and I nodded noncommittally at the Badness Of The World.

Anyway today I took my watch to a jeweller to see if he would repair it. It is a gold rotary watch which mum bought me for my 18th, and the clips that hold on one side of the strap had worked loose and just needed squeezing back together. I did not want to do it myself because I thought I would probably break it and I have seen similar watches on ebay for £400, so clearly I could never replace this watch and indeed I am at the point where I cannot afford my own possessions. Anyway he did it for me straight away, looked at it carefully through his little glass, and did the other side as well, where I had not noticed that it was also loose. And then he refused to charge me! And blushed and looked embarrassed when I told him how kind that was. I mean, I know it wasn't a big job, but I certainly wasn't expecting him to do it for free, and I was grateful.

So I collect evidence of things in this world that are not terrible and awful, and that man can be Exhibit 1. As my own departed Nana Bessie used to say, it is good for you to count your blessings. I would not have put it past Nana Bessie, to be honest, to be calling people trollops in pubs, but I think she would certainly not have bothered with long mad accusatory letters hand-delivered in secret over a period of years. She would have put on her powder, lipstick, rhinestone earrings and Estee Lauder's Youth Dew, and she would have gone out to Bingo, at which she might well have won a mixed grill, or, on one memorable occasion, an imperfectly-plucked turkey which we had to finish off at home. And I think there's a lesson there for all of us.

(Never take home an unplucked turkey - the feathers get everywhere. Make someone else pluck it first!)

Monday, 2 September 2013

Retro prints

Came home from work, ate biscuits, watched The Real Housewives Of Beverley Hills, fell asleep, made a cushion
I ran 8k at the weekend and I think it has killed me
love a retro pattern, I do
sat in garden, did ironing, failed to add anything to in-progress oil painting
It's a skyline. Or, it will be
drank tea, ate more biscuits, emailed friend to see if he has completed on his flat yet because it has been an exciting saga. Now am off to make dinner (lentil curry).

I am tired and unproductive but tomorrow I will be livelier. (Until I have the root canal done. I am seeing the hygienist first which means I will have to have my mouth open for over an hour. I feel this is a situation in which you can probably provide your own joke, so I will leave you to do so).

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Possibly a bargain

I'm selling everything I own on ebay again because a/ I've got too much stuff and yarn breeds like Tribbles b/ I've got my eye on a pink cardigan from Boden. I've just listed a grab bag of leftovers of lace yarn which might be interesting to someone - if it goes for 99p that's only £4 (including postage) you've spent to make at least 3 shawls and possibly more! That's £1.33 a shawl! And it's still better than it sitting in my cupboard! So just in case anyone wants to make 3 shawls - and possibly more! for £1.33 a pop and doesn't mind not winding the yarn themselves (!!), this is the listing. (God isn't listing on ebay tiring! I am thinking of my empty cupboard. Thinking of my empty cupboard...)

Also, I have to have a root canal replaced on Tuesday (I know. Just don't). Last night I dreamt that I went to the appointment and the dentist tried to turn me into a vampire. Is this a prophetic dream and a warning? It is only recently that I drew the Death card in tarot. Perhaps I should be worried...

Window decorations

This is a window between where I work and the Norfolk Street Deli, which is where I go to get my sandwich at lunchtime.
How shall we make our house look attractive? I know...
In many ways I think it is admirable that the people who live in this house have made a little display for people to admire who walk past. In other ways I secretly feel that spider will escape its case (and escape the fact that it is dead), jump through the glass, and get me by the throat. I still walk past to get my falafel. But I will not pretend I am not secretly nervous...
Go me not buying wool!
Also, you remember in the last post I was not buying any more wool? Doing great there.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The joys of giving up

For reasons I don't entirely understand and despite my questionable past, they have promoted me at work. It is very exciting. I carefully highlight actions in green on the project plan when we have done them and I chair meetings and look at people beadily.

Also, I have bought a suit. In fact, I have a tip for you, and it is the following. For years I have worn carefully co-ordinated and accessorised outfits to work where I have taken into account this season's trends, my body shape etc. Well, what a waste of time that was. You can buy office wear on ebay for 99p + postage and then you just get up every morning and think, hmm, shall I wear my grey suit or my navy suit and you have more room to think about other things, like, shall I buy a pecan and maple plait on my way to work, why, certainly. So in one sense I have given up, but in another sense it is easier. And as in dressing, so in craft.

Tea, crochet, computer. Dan rang up then and Partner passed me the phone saying to him 'it's alright Dan, she's not busy. She's just sitting staring at things'. I'm crocheting! I'm drinking tea! I'm blogging! I'm looking for hat patterns for Dan for Christmas! Partner does not see these things
I have thought about the things I like knitting/ crocheting. I like crocheting mad blankets, I like knitting lace, and I like knitting colourwork. Other things - not so much, however much I may feel I ought to be the kind of person who creates jumpers so alluring they are essentially Woolly Sex. So this is what I am doing.
And do you know what? I'm never going to iron that duvet. It's enough that I wash it occasionally. Every two months, regular as clockwork whether it needs it or not. (I jest)
And I like boring squares patchwork where no-one engages with paper piecing and it is a nice mish mash of patterns. I like it, so I do it. I have given up on self-improvement and looking through Kaffe Fassett books to find complex patterns and then failing to complete them.
I love this candlestick. The fabric for the back of the cushion is from Ray Stitch in Islington. Last time I was in I sent a small ceramic dish of buttons flying and they were very nice about it.
And I like that candlestick even though it is too wide for a spell candle and cost more money than you would think. I like it, so I keep it. I am simplifying. It is nice. All I have to do now is never buy any more wool or fabric and use the wool and fabric I have got. How hard can that be? Wait...

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Mid routine

CIMG4161 by uselessbeauty2
CIMG4161, a photo by uselessbeauty2 on Flickr.

And this is me in the middle of my routine. You will be excited to learn that, although I didn't win, I did receive useful and detailed feedback from the judges. I am a confident performer with a lovely smile but next time I must point my toes consistently and engage with the spinny pole. Oh no not the spinny pole which gives me vertigo! I suppose needs must.

After the pole competition

I know this was a while ago but just to show you some photos via Flickr which I can no longer understand since they changed it. This is me afterwards in full makeup still with rhinestones. Why can't you wear rhinestones everyday for work? It is incomprehensible. (I suppose it depends on the kind of work you do...)

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Just while I'm on a roll

I'll show you my scarf/ wrap thing I finished recently, too:
If you ignore the manky drainpipe on the left and look at the red thing, that is the rose round my kitchen window
It's Echo Beach by Kieran Foley.

I thought it was a great, inventive pattern and the end result is very effective: but gosh was it boring to knit. In my ongoing quest to achieve Zen, which I have to say to you I am not sure is succeeding (especially after the time at yoga where they made me meditate for half an hour holding someone's hand and I thought I might punch someone), I am trying to be a process knitter and not a product one as I am trying to Be In The Moment. Finishing this thing was the wrong time, however, to decide to Be In The Moment, as it is made of Noro Sekku, which, as I have indicated before, is a yarn spun by the Devil and all his little Minions in the Fiery Pits of Hell. So I cannot pretend to you that this thing made me a process knitter. It did not. I may even have thought at one point, hmm, you can buy wraps on the market...

I consulted with Partner about whether I should bind off early or continue to suffer and he said, cast that thing off. So I did, so it is a bit short but fine, and I am sticking to Blue Faced Leicester laceweight for the moment and knitting something by Boo Knits which is a lot more fun. Indeed, it is so much fun that when I have finished it I am giving it to Christine at work and she is going to auction it in a way I do not entirely understand and the money will go to the Teenage Cancer Trust. And if it only makes 50p I shall obviously be furious and then I shall go and start threads on Ravelry called things like, My Knitting Has Been Undervalued!
Sekku. I swore at every stitch
Anyway. Echo Beach by Kieran Foley (2 dropped-stitch version) and I do love his patterns - a modern reinterpretation of lace - so I am sure I will be taking up the yoke again at some point.

(Completely ridiculous that we get the first hot day for 4 years and I spend it sitting inside crocheting and blogging and drinking tea. Anyway. At least I am able to do it in a vest!)

Trapped in a loop

A while ago I went mad and made a batch of acrylic granny squares which I have arranged and rearranged into various permutations and not known what to do with. At one point I started making the most astonishing wrap you have ever seen, before I decided that even I would not wear such a wrap, and decided the best thing to do was to hide the granny squares in a cupboard where they could do no harm. However, as I cannot ever let anything just lie, I have dug them out again and I am making a blanket.
Draped attractively on the beanbag
Hooray, you may think. A sensible, functional blanket which will get a lot of use, and the white slightly tones down all those garish colours so it is not even all that ugly. What an excellent idea and now a line can be drawn under the whole granny square débacle.

Unfortunately not. Readers, I hate joining granny squares so much that I just left the ugliest ones out and didn't put them in. So there are (the ugliest!!) granny squares left over. No matter! I thought. After I have finished the white blanket, what I can do, is, I can group them in fours and do some kind of a pink border and get a blanket from that.
I wish to state again that I did not choose that carpet
Do you see how you get sucked in? Because then I will have to buy more acrylic to finish off the new blanket, and then I will have ends of acrylic left over, and I will think, gosh, what I should do is crochet some granny squares. As well as training for a 10K and having a social life and occasionally saying a word to Partner and being in the UKAPP thing. Indeed, I no longer realistically envision a life which does not have granny squares in it.

But wait, you say. There is a solution! Just stop. Do not crochet any more after the hideous pink joining-in-fours item. Throw the acrylic away or donate it to the cat shelter as the bags of acrylic you have got in your cupboard, even though it is soft and you like it very much, are not worth more than £1.49 all told: is there not a 12 Step programme for people like you, where you can admit your powerlessness in the face of using up bits? Well, if you were to say this, of course you would be right. I can stop. I can pledge never to crochet a granny square again. But unfortunately, even after the second blanket, I will have one left. One.
Currently kept in check by Mr Gonk. But he has to sleep sometimes, you know
And I do not trust it not to breed like a tribble. What can I do? Take it to the bank and put it in a vault? Throw it in the Cam? Frame it? I must work on my boundaries and my self-control!

(++ last night I ran 5km. 5km!!! Past every pub and drunk person in Cambridge, wearing a tie-dye tshirt and listening to Dolly Parton. I don't think they'll be inviting me onto the cover of Runner's World quite yet).

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Cars and cupcakes

Well, yesterday I had a marvellous day. You know how you sign up to things with enthusiasm and then when you actually have to do it you think, hmm? I signed up for two adult learning workshops on Car Maintenance for Woman, and Cupcake Decorating (never let it be said I'm not well-rounded) and then I had a hell of a week last week and didn't really have the energy. But I dragged myself out and it was really worth it.
It's like a rose. Do you see?
This is my cupcake. I have been trying hitherto not to get into the whole cake decorating thing because I live just with Partner*, and unless you time your cake decorating so that you only do it when you've got cake-loving visitors you end up with a lot of cake for two of you. But sod it. I'm going to be looking in Tesco for some plastic icing bags and a great big nozzle. The one above is piped buttercream (centre to outside) with what I think was a 1M nozzle (a really big one), dusted with coloured sugar, and I think I might have sprayed it with (edible) silver spray paint. I am not sure I am going to venture much beyond this in terms of cupcake decoration but I thought that looked nice and I shall make it again.

It was a great workshop and I learned loads about different techniques, etc. I feel like just baking a load of buns and sitting with a tub of buttercream one afternoon experimenting. These are my adventures in fondant.
I would agree with what you are probably thinking here that the black and red one is an aesthetic fail
I have not used fondant before and I am not convinced about it. It feels like Plasticine, and also, whereas buttercream is always handmade and is delicious, with fondant it comes out of a packet and I am just not sure whether you are putting the look of it above the taste. And the taste is the point in a cake! Anyway I have not actually eaten one of these yet so I am again pronouncing on things of which I know nothing, and you can certainly get some nice effects so I shall experiment. I just wonder if I might be more of a buttercream/ royal icing girl. I think it's important to have a cake decorating philosophy. (Although I thought these looked rather nice so perhaps I can be persuaded).
Marbled fondant and orange flowers! Partner rejected these in favour of the Ones With Loads Of Buttercream
Car Maintenance for Women was an utter delight. My relationship with the small blue Punto is basically that if it sounds unhappy or won't start I pray to the Horned God and take it instantly to the man down the road who is trustworthy, while I have a vague feeling that I should be engaging with things like Checking Levels in a more adequate way than I am able. However now the lovely man down the road has retired and so I decided to seize things by the horns and do you know, it was so useful. We did how to do all the basic checks (windscreen wiper fluid, coolant, oil, tyre pressure and gauge, lights etc), how to change wiper blades, how to change headlight bulbs and all things like that. I can appreciate this doesn't sound a particularly thrilling way to spend a Saturday morning but the teacher was lovely and all the other course members were loads of fun. I had such a great time!

If you are thinking, why would it be Car Maintenance for Women, well, I wish it had been for men too because I would have sent Partner and stayed in bed as he has more of an interest than me and knows where we keep the manual. However, lots of the women on the course said how nice it was that it was just women, and certainly I did think some people were quite - not defensive at the beginning, but definitely scared they would not be able to pick it up. So I wonder if, if we had had men there, it would have been a different dynamic and less accessible for people. (Although, they would have been men with absolutely no knowledge of cars! I can assure you Partner would not intimidate anyone with his superior knowledge of the internal combustion engine). I certainly felt I could ask my stupid questions with impunity. I could see the teacher thinking, oh good Lord when I said 'and where does oil go to?' (it burns away. I should know this) but he was non-patronising and I learned so much.

So today Partner, who was in a frenzy of excitement yesterday when I returned because he was waiting for a cupcake, is going to receive a lesson on how to check the brake fluid etc. Thus I disseminate things I learn, including the fact that we have a spare wheel and that the foglights are not where I thought they were (this would have been useful last winter). And I shall buy a magazine on cake decorating and try with all the power that is in me not to acquire another hobby. I MUST NOT!

* Although I do have a friend with four children. NO I MUST NOT FORCE MY CUPCAKES ON OTHERS

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Transfixed by terror. But with tutu

Apologies to anyone who has already seen my costume on Facebook but I just wanted to show you quickly where we are so far with my outfit for UK Amateur Pole Performer.
Ignore the yoga mat. I love the corset but if I lose one single pound I shall slide straight out of it so I shall be mainlining digestives between now and the end of July. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it
I've ordered a big feathery mask from Ebay (what could go wrong there??!!) and now I'm working on my routine. If you've ever choreographed anything, well, to start with you're a better person than me, but, it's difficult, isn't it?

It is striking me (again, too late) that competing in UK Amateur Pole Performer might be a bit scary. Indeed: I am shit scared. That's the technical term. But at least I have a marvellous tutu. Could I get away with gold body glitter, do you think? (I imagine I won't be allowed anything that will rub off on the pole).

Last weekend I did a couple of pole dance workshops in Shoreditch. Last week, I took people into dark corners and corridors and insisted on showing them the resulting bruises, because there was one on my hip that swelled up just like an egg and it was very exciting. One of the workshops was in slightly ratty-looking dance studio behind a sex magazine (I know I sound like Alan Partridge), where you have to climb up a fire escape and it all looks a bit unpromising. As I climbed the fire escape, with my pole shoes, half litre bottle of Evian and my liquid chalk in a little bag dangling from my wrist, I did have a moment of thinking, what am I doing? I am 38. I have a veg box. I ought to be at home ringing the gardener (I know) about what we're going to do with the back bit near the shed, not wandering about up Shoreditch fire escapes considering whether I ought to buy a size down on my stripper heels.

But then it came to me. I am a Seeker. I look for new experiences. I look for new things to learn. And sometimes things grab me and sometimes they don't and sometimes the things that grab me are not necessarily the ones I might have chosen in the cold light of day. I think it's probably a good thing to be a Seeker and I'm not just going about looking for trouble. What do you think? (I have got to ring the gardener tomorrow, though).

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Once I ran to you. Now I run from you.


Well, readers, the other weekend I did my first race. Yes: I am now a runner. I trot round the streets behind our house for 30 minutes very, very slowly three times a week (my colleague said ‘well, if you’re running in Arbury, at least you’ll learn to run fast’ but I do not listen because actually Arbury is not as bad as people think it is, and the streets behind our house are very nice. The street with our house on isn’t nice, but you can’t have everything.) When I say I run slowly, I am not exaggerating. Today I was overtaken by a woman in a pink anorak with bags of shopping, and often cats wander past me and look at me thoughtfully. Anyway, as I often have more enthusiasm and chutzpah than sense and experience (remind me to tell you about Dan’s and my projected trip to Warsaw!!!) I felt that running along a flat street for 30 mins slower than a woman carrying shopping bags was excellent preparation for fell running. Indeed: I felt that in being able to run for 30 minutes I had so far exceeded my own personal expectations that I might as well enter the Olympics or jump off the University Library and fly to John Lewis, as anything seemed possible.

It was not.

I am going to try to extract a moral from this, readers. I did the race (5 miles with a 600 foot hill) with my brother Dan and his friend J, and our first clue that all might not be well was when we got to the beginning. I was expecting children. I was expecting people dressed as chickens. I was expecting, ooh, I don’t know, a hot dog stand, at least 5 octogenarians, someone with a Labrador wearing a themed jerkin, but no. What we got was a gaggle of sinewy men in lycra and women in team vests stretching their thighs out and running backwards and forwards just for fun. The only person who looked remotely less fit than me was the St John’s Ambulance man. Everybody set off twice as fast as I was used to, and when I came to my first hill I made like a Dalek and kind of gave up. I considered taking a short cut and going to wait for Dan and J in the pub but then I thought, no! I am not a quitter!!! (This is where I always go wrong). So I pushed on and I came last. I mean, I didn’t come last by a tiny bit. I came last by a decent margin (apart from all the people who did not finish or indeed, did not even start).
 
A hill in Derbyshire. The thing to do is to make sure you don't run up it
So I said to Dan we would do the same race next year but this time I would train and would do something called Fartleks which apparently are nothing like they sound, much like Burpees aren’t and I don’t know why you can’t call exercises something sensible. So Dan said, we could do that. Or, alternatively, we could do this killer half marathon and it would be lots of fun. So now I am doing a really hard half marathon this time next year, I have suckered in my friend too, and Partner is practically considering getting power of attorney to stop me making independent decisions as it is certain that no good can come of any of this. So here is my dilemma. Obviously I should be ashamed that I came last. I should be humiliated. I should give up. But I kind of… am not ashamed. I kind of.. forget about the coming last part and think, I did a 5 mile fell run! Very slowly!! I finished it! I didn’t die! I am a runner! I am amazing! I am going to buy new trainers and a proper sports bra so I don’t have to strap myself down with layers of lycra! I am proud of myself! Even though I have absolutely nothing to be proud of. I even bought myself a reward for finishing my first race. Admire the practicality!
 
Czech crystal. I am so bad at buying practical things to wear that there are no words. I buy this and then I wear pants with holes in them and have one work cardigan. One!
One more thing (in terms of over-ambitious physical stuff). You may remember, I am competing in the UK Amateur Pole Performer heats this summer (only at beginner level. It will be ok). I am working on my routine, and I have got my song: Marilyn Manson’s cover of Tainted Love. This was my idea for a costume: tell me what you think. I thought I could do a kind of deconstructed punk-burlesque look. So I was thinking a corset like this which is very cheap:

some kind of either short tutu or frilly bloomers:

(I have to have very short bottoms so I have lots of leg flesh exposed to stick to the pole. You see, it’s glamorous), possibly additional feathers around the cleavage, some kind of feathered headband and a great deal of dramatic eye makeup, or, a venetian-type mask if I could see enough to dance:

All deconstructed a bit (bits of ratty lace added? Dyed? Not sure yet).

How does that sound? I’m slightly concerned about my capacity for dancing in a corset: I thought perhaps I could buy it in advance and try it in the comfort of my own home which will finish off the window cleaner if he appears with his Squeegee at the wrong moment but tant pis. And in any case if I collapse through asphyxiation or bang my head on the pole and knock myself out because I can't see in that bit where he goes ‘once I raaaaaan to you. Now I RUUUUUN FROM YOU!!!’ it couldn’t possibly be more embarrassing than the fell run. Except, there might be a YouTube video, though. Wait… O_O

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

New podcast by Stitched Together

Just wanted to link you quickly to a new podcast by Chrissie from Stitched Together - she's going to be putting them here and you can also search on iTunes (I don't know how to link to that, you just go to iTunes and searched for Stitched Together).

I'm listening to it now and it's really interesting and worth a listen - go Chrissie and the Stitched Together Podcast! I look forward to future episodes x

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Suckerpunched by nostalgia

Partner and I were watching one of the obscure channels at about midnight the other night when an advert came on which entirely overwhelmed me with memories (look. You get to an age...). It was for David Nieper, which is a factory in Derbyshire where I worked in customer services for about a year after I finished my degree and was saving up to come to Cambridge.
I believe that is the first time David Nieper catalogues have ever been arranged near a pole. A first there for David Nieper
I imagine this is the same for everyone but, every job I have had, we have spent all the time laughing. I mean, I do do some work as well, but, I always end up in places where we laugh a lot, for some reason (and eat a lot as well). But, David Nieper was the best. It was great. I think there is a certain type of humour when you put a lot of northern women together in a factory and I still miss it. It was probably the most fun place I worked. I thought it was merely preserved in the aspic of my memory but no! They are still going! I had to order a catalogue! And they have literally not changed one bit in the fifteen years since I left. They are a small piece of perfection in a changing retail world.
Just imagine this woman in 30 years' time with a labrador. YOU SEE
All the models in the catalogue look as if they have stepped straight out of the wives' section of an Aspiring Tory Candidate Selection Panel. Some of them look a bit racier than others but still. When I worked there we supplied Mrs Thatcher with her full length lace slips, I believe she favoured the 1826. I am sorry to see that the 1826 appears to have been discontinued but you can still get the 1726 which is a perfectly acceptable substitute. We also provided Catherine Cookson with her nighties, indeed I like to think we contributed to making giant swathes of Middle England look less alluring in bed. We probably kept down the birth rate in the Home Counties.
Me on my last day. My desk is the one on the right nearest to the camera. I did a version of that squat in Hot Yoga this morning
I loved working in customer services. We had a large following of transvestites because we did larger sizes and were able to customise things, and our favourite, Mr Transvestite, once sent us a photograph of himself in a wedding dress in the back garden of a small pebbledashed house (much like mine in fact! House that is). All the women in the factory worked on piecework, which was kind of a good idea, but meant they churned out the things with just a few seams much more quickly than more complicated things, as the factory manager was a young man with no control. So, if you wanted a velour gown, you had no problems, whereas if you wanted french knickers - well, good luck to you. I used to find the velour gowns (useful for entertaining at home or on a cruise! Bracelet-length sleeves that won't tangle with your breakfast tray!) so amusing that when I left they made me a mini one and I still have it in a little gift box.
I always get great presents when I leave jobs. Sometimes I worry they're pleased to see me go...
They employed me solely because I was a size 12 (they already had an 8, 10, 14, 16, 18 and 20) and would be useful for trying on the sample sizes and impromptu shoulder-to-nipple measuring sessions. If you've never modelled sample underwear in front of a panel of women hyped up on cava and ready to heckle, then you've not lived. The graphic designer used to spend hours airbrushing nipples out of the catalogue on the specific orders of Mr Nieper, and all our customers had titles and were mad. It was marvellous. We spent all our time apologising for how slow the french knickers were being and eating pecan slices from the bakery down the road. I sat behind a nice woman who used to save up all her weightwatchers points so she could get slaughtered on lager at the weekend and who poked me periodically with a ruler, and who once got drunk and tearfully gave me the following, excellent advice: 'never have two men in love with you at the same time, Susie. It's not fun. It's awful'. (No danger yet, Mandy).
I aspire to be the kind of woman who would know what to do with a full slip
Sometimes things went wrong. There was the man who wanted to order, on his wife's account, french knickers (can you see where this is going??) to be sent to his recently widowed sister-in-law secretly, with a card which said, from an anonymous admirer, I mean, can you imagine. Well, the french knickers were delayed (plenty of velour gowns though), and somehow, in error, we sent the wife a letter (we are sorry the knickers you ordered to be sent to xx at xx address with the following gift card won't be available for another month) and that dirty rat was exposed. There was the woman who ordered a black patterned two-piece for her mother's birthday party: the fabric ran out: it was horribly delayed: she was very angry and said, cancel the order!!!. However, she called us back a few weeks later and said on reflection she would like to keep it on order because (I kid you not) although it had missed her mother's birthday, her mother was now looking a bit peaky and she thought it might do for the funeral. There was Miss Smith who burst into hysterical tears when the coffee silk peignoirs were discontinued before she could get one to match her pyjamas. There was the time I rang the bewildered woman in Australia to ask if she wanted a pink or a blue nightie, forgetting there was a time difference.

But on the whole it was a perfect family firm of the kind that cares about its employees and puts on a dinner dance every Christmas: the kind you don't think exists any more. But it does! So I hope they're all having as much fun in customer services as I used to do. I hope they're having pecan slices and sausage rolls for tea, mince pies at Christmas, and kebabs for the Saturday shift. I hope the Silly Name Competition is still running. I notice they've taken the french knickers out of the catalogue. It's probably for the best. And if I ever get a windfall, I might be tempted to buy a nightie. I always found the high necked long sleeve ones strangely alluring in an Amish kind of way ...

Friday, 26 April 2013

I am a Collector

My dad collects toby jugs. I don't know if you have toby jugs in non-UK countries (you lucky things) so if you don't this is what they are. A disembodied head with a handle. He has a toby jug in the shape of Mr Micawber which he places carefully on top of a corner cupboard, which looks even worse because then it looks as if Mr Micawber's body is in the cupboard and if you come upon it in the night it can be quite frightening. Anyway you can see that with this background I would not be keen, myself, to be starting collecting anything, especially given that our house is the size of the postage stamp and now has a pole in it, so does not need anything else. But, readers, I am weak. Sometimes even though you know something isn't good for you you cannot stop yourself, especially when you keep seeing it on ebay for under £5.
Sell me all your mud-coloured cups and send them to me in boxes! Hooray!
Yes. 60s and 70s ceramics. I just love them. I love the graphic patterns. I seem to have gone slightly down the brown route with these the beginning of my haul, but I promise you I shall be branching out into brighter colours. I am going to have a collection of teacups and mugs and put them on my shelf and then I can give people tea from quirky eclectic drinking vessels when they come round. Partner would call this 'twee and affected' so he will not be getting any tea from my eclectic vessels. Nor any biscuits.
Handpainted swirls. Do you get that in John Lewis? Probably
These teacups are Denby Arabesque. Denby Arabesque is my top favourite. I have an Arabesque jug too which sits behind the record player in a delightfully retro fashion. The vase at the back in the first picture is also Denby although I do not know what pattern or indeed if it has a name at all.
Luckily the sun shone just as I was taking the photograph otherwise we would all have been overwhelmed by the brownness of this post. But look! A bit of turquoise!
This teacup is Hornsea Pottery, Bronte, which was designed by John Clappison who was apparently some big name in questionable 70s ceramics. Doesn't this pattern just say the 70s to you, though? Don't you want to sit drinking coffee from it while digesting a nut roast, wearing a kaftan and discussing whether heterosexual sex is by definition oppressive to women? (actually, I have got a vintage kaftan, and you would be surprised how often I end up having discussions about sexual politics. Welcome to my home and life, stereotypical 70s pottery!)

Anyway there we are. Do you know what I am stalking now on ebay? Meakin. And I also have my eye on a bit of Elizabethan Chelsea. We have not even done my Fat Lava interests but I will inflict that upon you another time.

Things I like: cats, poles, Denby. Does that make me a rounded character? I think it must do. (Almost...)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A story with a moral

I am failing at Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. I am sorry. However just popping up because today an event happened to me which can be made into a Story With A Moral which is worthy of Pinterest so I am sharing it.

I was walking home from work down the street near our house with a ridiculously large number of cats, the bad black cat, Siamese-But-Striped, the cat with the bushy tail who stares, other black cat, nervous tabby grey, lots of cats. (This is not about cats. I'm just remarking). Anyway because it was practically the first sunny day this year I was wearing something different. I was wearing my brown jacket (ebay), grey skirt (Secret Lentil), green cardigan (factory shop), Boden biker boots (ebay), and various printed Uniqlo items whereas previously I have been wearing my camel duffel, bright blue Ugg boots bought for me by mum, and with my Ipod in my ears, shivering and looking a bit miserable. I was walking along when a woman on a bike who I did not think I had seen before came round the corner towards me and I moved to the side. As she came up to me she beamed at me and said, 'but no bright blue boots today! And I love those boots! They are my favourites!' and then she beamed again. I smiled too and said thank you and we both went on our ways.

I do not need to spell out the moral of this but I will do anyway because I am pedantic and literal. I did not remember ever seeing that nice woman before and yet she had been watching me and admiring my boots! So the moral is, you do not know when you are brightening up someone's day. You just do not know. Even when you are wandering along looking like Paddington on Valium with Dolly Parton in your ears you may be cheering someone up. Is that a cheering thought? It is a cheering thought if it is a nice smiley woman on a bike. Not if it's a stalker.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Things I don't understand about the USA (linguistic)

I am down with the American language, I really am, or at least I try to be. I understand that pants are trousers, pantyhose are tights, fanny is something quite different, a jumper isn't a jumper but some kind of bizarre pinafore, all of these things. Moreover I know that you cannot let your cat out lest it is eaten by a coyote, there are not as many pavements as in the UK, and you can have your post collected by putting it in your own individual postbox and not going to the post office or a red postbox (I find that very odd),

I can crochet in American and I understand that a double crochet is a treble. I can even bake in American because I have little cups which I bought from Lakeland Plastics, even though I find it an incomprehensible system because the flour goes everywhere whereas if you use scales you can just pour everything in the same bowl and a cake appears eventually.
I am crocheting this in American. I am bilingual
However there is one thing I do not understand and I would like someone to explain it to me because whenever someone says it I think they are just wrong and I want to tell them, and, as we all know, that way misery lies.

When you are trying to convey that you do not care about something/ someone, in Britain you would say, I could not care less. This is because, you could not care less, because you already care absolutely nothing. That is the point. You cannot care less than nothing. You cannot care a negative amount (well perhaps you can but for the purposes of this argument we need to agree that you can't. Just agree with me. Thanks).

However, when I see US people say this online, possibly about the fact that Knitpicks does not ship to Scotland or something else, sometimes they say, I could care less. I have seen enough people say it to make me think it is an actual saying and not a mistake. But, if you could care less, that means you must care more than nothing! You must care a bit! You are saying, I care at least a bit and possibly a huge amount about this thing, as my language is utterly ambiguous even while I think I am conveying disapproval, disinterest, and possibly contempt!

How does this work? Am I wrong? Is there a level of meaning I have not been appreciating? Please tell me so that I do not ever get myself into pointless linguistic arguments and annoy people on the internet any more than I already do.

And one more video quickly (I have been looking for ideas for my routine).

I love this woman's work, I think she's fabulous. There are {clears throat, gathers blog readers in cross-legged posture around self} two different schools of pole dancing, I feel, one of which focuses more on the athletic side and one of which focuses on it as a sensual dance. I think she is more of the sensual dance type (although her pole tricks are just fantastic), which is interesting. I actually think that although it is arguable anyway that pole started in strip clubs (do you know, I wonder if I feel a thesis coming on), certainly strip clubs have been part of the evolution of it, and although there are (very sensibly) moves to get it away from that and give it a wider audience (because pole does not have to have anything at all to do with stripping, any more than, say, gymnastics or ballet do), I also think it's nice to acknowledge and transform (and not reject) the work of women who do it in a different context. I do.

I feel myself moving inexorably and possibly unhelpfully into post-feminist thinking here, so I shall go down and get a muesli bar, but, I also wanted to say, what I also love about this video is the music, by Lucinda Williams. I love it! I love it so much I downloaded the album (also on ITunes obvs) and listened to it on my way to Hot Yoga which was a particularly exciting class because it overran and two people fainted. I love her voice. (Dan - google UK tour dates, see where she is this summer, think on...)

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Alpacas and cats make it better

Dan has sent me a photo of some of his neighbours to cheer me up about the beanbag. Duly cheered. Thanks Dan x,
These alpacas are arranged perfectly. Have they been choreographed?

And I have been looking at pole dancing videos on YouTube (pole coming NEXT WEEK) and a hitherto unexpected potential problem has presented itself:


This will probably be my luck. I had better perfect my cat-dragging-away-from-pole technique, because it will surely be needed...

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Rallying behind the banner of the tie-dye beanbag

Well, I have been avoiding writing this post for about two years (come on, get a cup of tea and a biscuit  and settle down, you know you want to with a build up like that). But, you know, I've finally been poked a poke too far so I'm doing it, although I actually should have done it a few years ago when it might have been useful. I'm so out of the loop on this one I might as well be telling you all that fake taxidermy and moustaches are fashionable.
Sew Hip. Passionate about fabric and not paying people. It strikes me now that that photo would have been better without the carpet. You see, this is the lack of design sense that leads to tie dye beanbags
(NB those of you who are long-term blog readers, mwah love you all every single one, this is nothing to do with the Difficult Experience of last year - it's completely unrelated. I have to wait to do that one until certain people are dead, although I promise you it will be worth it, so you might need to hang on a while. I just attract bizarre things).

Anyway, this is about Sew Hip and All Craft Media, and I am doing it now because I just want to add to the general clamour that indie designers should look after their work and be treated properly. People: learn from my mistakes. This is why I make them! So you can all be happier! Otherwise it'd be depressing! ;-).

I used to have designs published sometimes in Sew Hip. I had my first couple published before the difficulties became widely publicised, and I was really pleased to have them in a magazine: I imagine a lot of contributors, particularly the inexperienced ones like me, felt the same.
The Mondrian Skirt! I was so excited to have this published that I haven't quite burned every Sew Hip I ever owned on a pyre and danced round the flames
Getting payment for them, though, was a different story, and this is where I partly blame myself. I once worked for an organisation that went into administration: I can tell you it's not much fun. It was absolutely clear as glass to me the first time I rang up KALmedia (as they were at that point) to chase an invoice, of which I had had no acknowledgment despite repeated emails/ phone calls, that they were completely financially screwed. It was just obvious: all the signs were there. No payment, no communication, no apologies, an appearance of absolute incompetence. (And I should have known). I was so irritated but, see second paragraph above, I had limited energy for chasing, and also I didn't want to add to the problems of the people who actually worked for KALmedia and did not own it, as whenever I got actual employees they were so nice and pleasant and helpful, and I knew nothing at all to suggest that it was their fault (in fact I thought it probably wasn't. I imagine I was right). Anyway at that point, what I should have done was blog (in a non-prurient way) to warn others and walk away, cutting my losses (because I did have actual losses - I paid postage to send samples, which were never returned, I paid for materials to make the samples) - but, I wanted to be nice. I have been in that position, through no fault of my own. I felt sorry for the employees. I didn't want to add to their problems. So I kept my mouth shut and tried to be professional. It got me nowhere. I was just completely ignored.

At that point Sew Hip got a new editor who I had worked with in the past (she had edited Sewing World) and who I knew to be extremely professional. I told her about my difficulties with payment, I believe she intervened (I think she had this radical expectation that freelancers with purchase orders ought to be actually paid...), and payment from Kerrie duly appeared (with no note, remittance advice, apology, anything: however - payment!!!). I agreed to provide a few more projects. The new editor soon resigned, because of the issues, which at that point became widely publicised: after that, I will be honest, I am not sure I even bothered invoicing any more: I chalked it down to experience. I don't advise anyone ever to do that: it was stupid, and it was defeatist (always invoice the buggers! Make them pay!): but, the energy I knew, given my past experiences, it would take, at a time when I was being forced to put all my energy into something unrelated but all-consuming and soul-sucking, just wasn't expendable. I hadn't got it in me. I hadn't, and I knew at that point that I did not have a snowflake's chance in hell of actually getting any money. I felt, frankly, that I had been utterly scammed (not in any way by the editor, who was helpful and professional throughout and beyond, and who I don't actually think got paid either: by All Craft Media), and I just moved on. I knew they went into administration and I thought, what an idiot I have been because I could see what was happening and then I made more stuff. More stuff! Including the infamous Tie Dye Beanbag.
Some people have a breakdown and drink. I tie dyed and took up pole dancing. It was great but now there are some things I can't escape from. Actually do you know what I'm doing ATM that we may chat about in future posts? Pole choreography. I did my floor work in the lounge while the news was on last night and Partner was speechless. In a bad way
So now we come to A Poke Too Far. A kind person contacted me to let me know that not only had I been initially scammed, I had also been Zombie Scammed: Kerrie Allmann appears to have sold the rights to one of my designs (along with the designs of other people) - the Tie Dye Beanbag, which appears in one of the last issues of Sew Hip and which, let me be entirely honest, is perhaps not the achievement I want following me to my grave - to Igloo Books, where it now appears, without my permission having been given, in a book about sewing. I have been talking to Igloo Books, who are perfectly friendly and responsive and who, as far as I am aware, did not know that Kerrie had not been given permission by designers to sell the designs. I know absolutely nothing to suggest that Igloo have acted unethically - I don't think they knew. But, the fact remains that insult has been added to injury: my design is in a book without my consent: I wasn't asked: money was made from me by someone with whom I had not, shall we say, enjoyed my dealings. I am not sure that a tie-dye beanbag is the hill to die on: however, I am also not sure it isn't.

I am sad that what started off as a nice magazine ended as it did: I feel annoyed that I lost the fabric that went into the samples, only one of which was ever returned (by the new editor, to whom, thanks. It's a double pointed needle case: if anyone wants it, leave me a comment! It's quite nice. Neutralise its karma): I feel stupid that I didn't deal with it all more energetically: and now I will be haunted by a big floppy tie-dye beanbag forever. So I'm sharing my story (my name is Susie and I'm and All Craft Media victim. Hello, Susie), to say: People! whether you're a new designer, a hobby designer, a designer who lives solely on your freelance earnings, whatever you are and at what level, value your work. Don't ever be grateful that someone's publishing you: don't be shy about asking for agreed payment: don't be shy about negotiating terms. I was a sitting duck: don't you be one! (And be careful what you tie dye. It might follow you forever...)!

(I'm sitting here wearing ASOS tie dye leggings. I never learn).