Friday, 29 March 2013

Becoming a parody of oneself

Well now I know I'm old.
Do you know what there was, Aunty Kath? Susie Cooper. Cheap. (not the pic above)
Because I spent the afternoon wandering round an antique shop. It was huge! It was great! I shall go again. In fact I literally do not know what I was thinking not buying a huge west german lava vase for £28. When you look back at your life and regret things in the twilight of your years, I fear that may be one of the things I regret. In fact, if I ever drown, which is unlikely as I dare not go in a swimming pool in case my hair turns the water pink, I may be haunted by visions of postwar german pottery.
Slice of layer cake and I'm anybody's
And I had cake somewhere really nice. Why did no-one tell me there was a huge antiques warehouse in Ely with a lovely teashop right next door where you can actually get a seat on a bank holiday? Honestly, nobody ever tells me anything.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Oh good lord

Pinterest again! They make these quotes up! I'm going to start doing it!

'Kittens are lovely!!!' - Josef Stalin.

And this one, what is this? How to be a stalker? Tickle her even when she says stop? (I'm pretty sure there are websites for that) - honestly any time I read a quote about relationships on Pinterest I feel about 103.

Yes, but is this person who's crazy about me going to tickle me even if I say stop? Because otherwise it doesn't count. Gosh, I wonder who it is. I do hope it isn't the window cleaner because I find him terribly unpredictable.
Source: viaSarah on Pinterest

You see, this is not true. I'm not a hugger. All I ask for in moments of crisis is a sympathetically raised eyebrow and a strong cup of coffee. I was once at a job (not my current one) and I looked annoyed about something and the person I was working for kind of cocked his head on one side patronisingly, looked at me, and said, 'do you need a hug?' and I was forced to laugh sarcastically, back away, and say, 'no. I really don't'. It was so awkward. Our relationship never recovered. I blame Pinterest, encouraging this sort of thing.

I'm just going to stop looking at it, honestly. It's like a car crash. I'm only on it for the quilts. I hope nobody starts patchworking ridiculous made-up sayings onto quilts otherwise that'll ruin the entire thing for me. I shall go and ring Dan, because, as Oscar Wilde said, the best thing to do when you have had an overdose of saccharine on Pinterest is to talk to someone more cynical than yourself. Or was it Marilyn Monroe? I can't quite remember...

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Jolene! Deconstructed! Unplugged! And with a bonus cat!

Readers. A terrifying new development.

I thought you might like to hear what I sound like (I mean, why did I think that? I think because some of you are not from England and my accent might have the charm of novelty. Also because it would be like chatting), so, I have been looking into podcasting, and then I got distracted and I recorded a song. And because I have no shame I've made you a video and you can hear my deconstructed version of Jolene with my alternative lyrics, which I forget and get wrong in the second verse even though I wrote them and have got them printed out on a piece of A4 in front of me.

The only way I could get this to upload to Blogger was by making the mp3 into a video, so I had to google and fiddle about and engage with something called iMovie and honestly that's me done for one evening. Also, because I had to make a video, I had to put a picture on it, so I put this cat. I'd like you, while you're listening, to pretend this cat is called Jolene, because that would be appropriate, and will also distract you from my terrible guitar playing (it's meant to be minimalist! It's intentional. Honestly).

Look out for the bit where I really egregiously miss an H off a word. I don't know. You can take the woman out of Chesterfield...

(I know this is terrible, ok? It's just for fun! I'm sharing my new creative experiments! I shan't be backing pictures of Cambridge Cats with terrible guitar music as a career! Although, if any concept ought to go viral...)

Sunday, 17 March 2013

From the depths of Hell-O!

When I was a teenager I was in the choir at school, and we provided the soundtrack to one of the drama class's productions of Dracula. We wore black and had masks and sat there singing. I have forgotten many things in my life - indeed last week I actually forgot the name of the person who was sitting next to me which was embarrassing as I was having to put it in a spreadsheet - but, for some reason, one of the songs we sang burned itself so comprehensively on my memory that I have never, ever, ever been able to forget it. I shall share with you the chorus:
Ghost ship, why do you come here?
Ghost ship, why do we feel fear?
Ghost ship, what do you bring us,
From the depths of Hell-O!
Well it has taken a while but now I have a possible answer apart from the obvious about what was being brought from the depths of Hell-O! It was probably a job lot of crochet cushions just like this:
There was a theme. It's yellow in the middle
Honestly, I am not dissing this pattern, because I have seen a million tasteful attractive ones on Ravelry, also I love the original (although I have just realised looking at it again it is quite a lot like mine!). I do think with Attic24 that whether you share her taste in colour or not (and I think I probably do), she really does have an eye for combining things so that they look coherent. I am not sure I have managed to entirely achieve the same with this cushion. When I finished it and held it up, Partner and I were both rendered temporarily speechless with horror.
As if it wasn't bad enough, I managed to cut a big chunk out of it while I was weaving the ends in. But it's alright! I codged something up!
Me: I have created something appalling.
Partner: God! What is that?
Me: It's a cushion.
Partner (shaking head): You and your bright colours. I'm just glad I'm colourblind.
Me (doubtfully): I could give it to someone.
Both pause.
Me: Someone I don't like very much.
Partner: Ha! Yes! You could give it to X! [My friend, X, is moving back to England and will be living near us. Partner doesn't like him. This is not a secret and will not be a shock to X if he reads this so don't worry about his feelings. I mean, you can, but I promise it is ok]. You could take it round and say, here, X. I've brought some colour into your life.
Me (looking at Partner disapprovingly): X doesn't want this cushion. It might grow on me.
We both look at it doubtfully.
Me: It might.
Because we have a ruffle theme in this post, here is a vintage 60s dress I bought recently for about £10 or so - very pretty on, although really made for someone with thinner arms than me - my arms are not unusual though so did they just have very thin arms in the 60s, like thin waists?
Well, it might. It's sitting behind me now, looking at me, and I swear it's so bright it's actually glowing. I feel like Sylvia Plath with her tulips. I'm thinking about colour combinations and how one might achieve something tasteful within the confines of the colours available in Stylecraft Special DK. Perhaps taste is underrated, though? I do think, for me, it is colour combination that makes or mars a project. When I look at finished pictures of throws and quilts, there are some colour combinations that I just can't get behind and that make things look pedestrian and old-fashioned (in a bad way). Of course, the people who make things in the colour schemes I don't like would probably feel equally strongly about the colour schemes I do like, because colour is such a subjective thing, linked to memory and emotion and all those things, just like scent is.

But Partner and I are (briefly) united on our interpretation of the semiotics of this cushion. Slightly bright. Perhaps time for me to move on from my 'lots of nice bright colours together' default colourway, although I'm not entirely sure how...

Friday, 15 March 2013


I was reading a discussion earlier about yarnbombing.
I walk past this every single day. Suddenly - flowers! Whence?
I imagine you all know what yarnbombing is but in case you don't (because not everyone who reads my blog is a fibre person. Dan reads it, for example, also occasionally Aunty Kath has a crack at it) I shall explain. Yarnbombers are the anarchists, the Banksies, the Emma Goldmans of wool. They strike in the night. One day you have a perfectly sensible avenue of lamp posts where I lurk trying not to look as if I am photographing the men coming out of the public toilets, the next day the lamp posts are adorned with wool in various permutations of double crochet and/ or garter stitch. It is like yarny graffiti. Sometimes it is an official art installation, sometimes it is just a wild outpouring of yarn and colour love, sometimes it is a random act of kindness (when the yarnbombing is something that people can take away). It is for fun. It is Art.
See, I think that looks cheerful
We have a Yarnbomber in Cambridge (it isn't me because I'm not quick enough, also I would never have got up that post). I like a bit of random yarn, but then, I like graffiti, and yes, I would be perfectly happy if someone came and yarnbombed my house (and if they could trim the rosebush back a bit while they were at it that would be brilliant). I was a bit surprised at the negative reactions in the discussion, many of which one might summarise thus: 'what a waste of yarn! It could have been used to knit hats for the homeless!'

I won't go into the whole I've Worked For Charities For Ten Years, Woman And Girl (although, I have: and let me assure you that I have sat in many, many, many management meetings and in not a single one has anybody said, oh my goodness the Government has disastrously changed policy/ the Council has cut our grant, we are facing disastrous lack of funding and consequent failure of delivery, ruin, and the inability to help our clients: for God's sake! Can no-one find us a job lot of hats handknitted in chunky pink acrylic because then we will be saved! - but, surely creations in yarn can be Art just like anything else.

I mean, you might think they shouldn't be draped anarchically over public items (I don't think that - like I say, I like graffiti, and yarn takes quite a bit less scrubbing off) - but, why is any form of expression a waste of time and yarn? I think it's Art, even if it's not always my taste, and I think Art is Important. It makes me want to go and knit a big woolly cosy for Reality Checkpoint or something but in reality that would take me until about 2016 so I shall go and eat something until the feeling passes.
The things you have to do. I think I must be developing superpowers
And quickly to say, thank you to Lucy who suggested I deal with my problem of static in our office by carrying about a big metal paperclip and using it to earth myself with. I have sourced a paperclip, which I clutch in my hot hand at all times and tap on the radiator before I need to touch something potentially problematic, like the biscuit tin
Look at that nylon carpet. Charging me up
And I am wearing my pole dancing shoes as my colleague googled and said she strongly suspected the rubber soles on my Ugg boots
I want you to know that for at least 5 minutes when I was 29 I regularly wore shoes a/ with heels b/ without a warm fleecy lining AND WITH TIGHTS!
And things are much better. I mean, everybody laughs at me, but, let them laugh, I can get in the biscuit tin again and last week someone had bought a job lot of custard creams. Custard creams! I mean can you imagine if I hadn't been able to get at the custard creams! So thank you Lucy as otherwise things could have been disastrous.

Am I being naïve about yarn bombing? I hate to be naïve...

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Moving on

So. At this point last year, I was kind of expecting, at this point this year, to be on a train bound for the far north of Scotland wearing dark sunglasses and avoiding standing next to the cover of the Daily Mail so I wasn't recognised, hoping no blocks had been put on my credit card before I could put a deposit down on some windswept hut looking out to sea and start a new life far away from human society and the voluntary sector in particular. I'm not saying this was an entirely justified fear, but it wasn't that paranoid given stuff that had happened, and, most importantly, it's definitely where I thought I'd be, on a subconscious and an emotional level, and that's what I'd been thinking for a good, ooh, four years? And now I'm not. I'm not on Orkney/ similar. I'm sitting here with a cup of Yorkshire tea with unsweetened soymilk, listening to Partner clattering about grilling poppadums, and thinking about things.
4-up on 13-03-2013 at 19.54 (compiled)
I was trying so hard to look corporate. How did my hair end up fuchsia?
You see, I'm going to do a post that says, gosh, I'm lacking inspiration and I'm not much wanting to knit at the moment, what shall I do. But actually, now, I'm wondering if perhaps it's just a bit of a reaction to having been under a bit of stress for a few years - perhaps I just need a break? I don't know about you, but when I'm not feeling so creative, I beat myself up a bit. I set myself targets. I try to force myself to finish things I wasn't that interested in knitting to start with, like the massive drop-stitch laceweight scarf in Noro Sekku. True Fact: no-one's temporary knitting slump is ever cured by knitting Noro Sekku, which I believe to be a yarn spun by the Devil in Hell and wound into skeins by All His Little Minions. I'm not saying it isn't attractive when it's knitted up, because, it is, but, knitting it, oh my goodness, it's not for someone who's slightly out of love with the process, it really isn't. So I'm thinking that perhaps Mad Finishing Things mode isn't going to work. I've started a crochet cushion, which I'll show you when it's finished, and I'm interested that Eskimimi from Eskimimi Makes also had a similar reaction to a bit of a slump. Crochet! Crochet all the circles! (Although, Eskimimi had spun her yarn as well: mine's Stylecraft Special DK).
I just made marbled banana bread! Recipe here. Dead easy. Not sure I'll get it out of the tin though
Anyway. If you have a similar Guilt/ Try To Finish Things/ Fail/ More Guilt reaction to a bit of a craft slump and beat yourself up, like I do, do you ever ask yourself, what would your friends say? Because, they wouldn't say, you have failed to put in the proper hours on Noro Sekku, what a failure you are, like we say to ourselves. Mine would probably say, for Christ's sake, Susie, stop being so manic, you can buy a cushion/ scarf in John Lewis, shall we open some wine/ have a biscuit. However, if I were my own best friend in the best self-help book tradition, I would say, Susie, time for a crafting break. Do not give up on crafting, for, we know of old that, when you do that, you turn your creativity to unhelpful ends and start organising people or decorating the entire house and then regretting it: instead, go for the easy win. Craft small, enjoyable things. Try new ideas! Do not worry if you are not expanding your skill set, as I am not aware that anyone at any point was planning to make you submit a thesis on Radical Uses Of The Yarnover. Try to have fun. All is well, or, it is at least better than it would have been if you were sitting on your own on Orkney looking at a seagull and wondering where to buy tofu.
Like a rhinestone cowboy, riding out on a horse in a star-spangled ro-de-o
So I am thinking. I am crocheting away on my cushion. I am having a look round the classes on Craftsy, and I was particularly fascinated by one where you learn about buttercream (it's free! go and learn!). I have bought some epoxy clay and crystals, and I am going to see what I can unearth that I may wish to make pendants with. I am going to dig out my book on embroidery and see if I want to have a crack at a pillowcase. I am trying new things. And soon my knitting muse will come back and I will welcome her with open arms, like an old friend. But, in the meantime, I will meet new friends.

What do you do when your muse temporarily disappears?

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Further thoughts on blogging, authenticity and The Twee Aesthetic

Well, thank you all for your really interesting comments on yesterday's blog post, which gave me lots to think about, and I'm thinking, thoughtfully (you see, that was cutesy wordplay! I'm as bad!).
OK, look, I made a start on the cushion although what I am going to do with that hole in the middle is anyone's guess
It's a difficult question. I think to be honest what Anonymous said sums up my problem with The Twee Aesthetic (TTAtm):
There is no death, no corruption, no inequality of the sexes, no poverty, so nothing at all to get worked up over. Just tea cosies and blankets. Don’t their halos ever want to slip ever so slightly so they can sound off about one of these? I am left thinking the worst of them – perhaps they vote Ukip?
Because, as I'm sure I've bored on about before, I think I just fundamentally don't like the idea of craft/ domesticity as (mainly) retreat, and I have to say this is partly because there can be an element of economic privilege in craft blogging which is not admitted (I'm not saying I'm necessarily any better here). I mean, obviously craft is a retreat sometimes, everything can be, but I think at its best it's a way of meditating, creating, transmuting difficulties, growing, challenging, engaging with the world, having ideas (yes, I am this boring and earnest to live with ;-) ).

Watching a craftsy class this morning and just keeping a thoughtful weather eye on ebay. Jane looks scared here of the Possibilities Of Dye. As well she might
Funnily enough, I was just thinking that this morning while I was watching this Craftsy class (you remember they were something like 75% off a few weeks ago? I may have bought a couple... would you like reviews when I have watched them? I could do reviews). The instructor, Jane Dunnewold, started talking in the introduction all about how she had gone through a bankruptcy and a difficult divorce and how creating things had helped her through it, and it was so matter-of-fact and self-aware, it was wonderful, and I thought about how perhaps authenticity really is something we should strive for (in life and in blogs!). Not blogging about every little problem, perhaps, but being open about the hard bits of life and our opinions, I don't know.

The Foggy Knitter very helpfully left a link to a discussion on Karie Bookish's blog - this is the post where the discussion starts. You will see she links to a podcast - I had a listen (although I only got halfway through) - my feelings were similar to Karie's, although I additionally thought, tssk, bloody hell. I do think (from my wildly informed position having listened to half of a podcast), there is a difference between wanting to show a positive face on your blog/ making an effort to look for the cheerful things in life, and Being Positive Because You Must Always Promote Your Brand!!!. Indeed I think the concept of the personal brand can take some deconstruction, too. I don't think it's a bad thing - indeed lots of us do it to one degree or another (in a way once you have a blog name you have a brand). But - yes. As the very nice man who showed me the gargoyle on the side of the Lensfield Road church said to me, I'm clearly just a hippy at heart.

Just think, though - all of us who blog (come on, Anonymous ;-) ) without having aspirationally perfect families, lives, or unremitting cheerfulness, we're actually doing excellent things. We're challenging the dominant aesthetic. We're developing authentic voices! We're doing good! (Sorry: it's always a small step away from Pollyanna with me).

Anyway. Thank you again for your thoughtful comments, and I shall ponder further...

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Noro striped scarf and hotch-potch beanbag

Just to show you quickly a couple of things I actually managed to finish (still having trouble finishing things. Partner says this is because I go out too much and should stay in every evening and listen to him chatting to me about the problems he has had with the buses. Because apparently sometimes you can be waiting for half an hour - and then three come along at once!).
Often we find Partner lurching towards that bookshelf, muttering, oh bloody hell I shall have to look in Lewis and Short
I styled this photo and put the fibre optic lamp on and everything, I do appreciate we're still a few steps away from Apartment Therapy. This is the Amy Butler Gum Drop Pillow pattern (larger version), modified only slightly to make it more patchwork-y (I cut the main pieces in half, adding a seam allowance to use two different fabrics).
You name one single thing that's more stylish than a fibre-optic lamp. I knew you couldn't
Actually it is since I filled this beanbag with the appropriate beanbag balls that I have been Statically Supercharged so let that be a warning to you (thank you Lucy for the paperclip info, I will actually try it next week. Things have been so bad I have been having to wear my pole dancing shoes to work in case it is the soles of my shoes that are the problem, so now I am wandering about with pole dancing shoes and pink hair in a job where we deal with major corporate donors, I am taking bets on whether they renew my contract at the end of the month).
I don't know why I can't get more excited about this. It's woolly! It's full of mad colours! It's got all my trigger points! I think I'm just fed up of anything that reminds me of winter
And this is just the Noro Stripy Scarf, pattern here - I am reasonably happy with it but I just find Noro a bit challenging. I think I shall have a bit of a break from Noro.

I don't know how to deal with my finishing-things problems. I think what I will do, is, I will go to Hobbycraft later and buy some cheap acrylic and crochet a cushion of such easiness and boringness that I can do it on autopilot while I am doing other things. Because, you can always use another cushion, can't you? (Or actually, I might have a go at this - it doesn't look impossible, does it?),

And one more thing - I wondered if you had seen this craft book/ magazine review on the Guardian website? I have the book reviewed in the middle, Granny Chic (got it in The Works! Bargain!) - I like it for inspiration, there are some nice ideas and pictures, and I've looked at the authors' blogs and I actually quite like them as well. However I am glad this woman has said this because now I feel less like an evil bitter old mare saying what I am going to say: there is a strand in craft writing which is cutesy, twee, and escapist, and I find it difficult in large quantities.
Dan drew this! Isn't it good? The spire is intentionally crooked because it is Chesterfield and the devil sat on it
I mean, we all have our cutesy and twee moments, don't we - I visited a ginger kitten last week and sat cooing at him for an hour going 'look at you! look at your big pointy ears!!' in a way that was possibly not wildly edifying to witness - and I'm not sure I'd like someone picking my verbal mannerisms apart generally, but honestly sometimes I read things and I feel like wearing black, curling my lip, smoking a gauloise and muttering, do you people not realise this world is also filled with Passion and Death and Complexity and Pain? In the spirit of that, I shall make the following confessions to you. 1/ at least 70% of the time when I look at something vintage I think yes, but will that actually work/ last, I would rather have a nice new functional one from Ikea, John Lewis or Argos, and 2/ I have never knowingly used the word 'yummy' about anything that isn't actually food. There. I understand now if I wake up tomorrow morning to only one follower.

Last thing - my family read this blog and like to keep tabs and make fun of the things I do - so for them I state the following information. I have bought a Groupon for horseriding lessons. Have at it, family.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Nice Stuff on Monday

It's a bit of a difficult day, Monday, isn't it? Let me tell you how difficult my day was. At work I have this problem which everybody finds hilarious: for some reason, I alone in the office am hugely charged with static electricity, and randomly get shocks from things and jump back yelping. Well, it was ok when it was only that I couldn't change the toner on the printer, but today I realised I was starting to get shocks from the biscuit tin. That's as bad as it gets, isn't it? So to cheer myself up I thought I would start doing Nice Stuff on Monday posts and show you a few things I've discovered or found inspiring in the week.

So for my first Nice Stuff on Monday, I wanted to show you a really lovely etsy shop I've found - Vladimir Stankovic Illustration.

The Pawns of the Woods - original artwork

I don't think etsy is perfect by any means, so I think it's nice to remind myself sometimes that there is still loads of fabulous handmade, cool, high-quality stuff on it which it's difficult to get anywhere else. I don't know how I found Vladimir's shop, but I'm glad I did - I love his work. It's got a fabulously dreamlike, fairytale kind of quality.

But with a dark side.

I want a flawless heart too - A4 giclee print

Vladimir is living in Finland at the moment: my default position generally is to think everything from Finland is cool and marvellous. I would say, it seems like a magical place to me where it's always winter and trolls wander about the rugged landscape, but that would be patronising and also it actually sounds more like Cambridge. Anyway, lovely art, and a mixture of prints and originals in his shop - go have a look (shop on etsy/ website).

Little orphaned rat adopted by Mother Cat - giclee print

Off now to find shoes without a rubber sole. Honestly, a line has to be drawn somewhere and I'm drawing it at lack of access to a biscuit tin. Let's hope tomorrow's better!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

I'm stopping right this minute

16/ Failing to use apostrophes where apostrophes there should be. (15).

17/ Nitpicking.

18/ Posting perfectly well-meaning candy-pink quotes from Pinterest just to be bitchy.

19/ And doing it after midnight when I should be in bed. Bedtime!

Fan dancing

So, I just wanted to tell you quickly about my recent fan dancing experience. First a quick segue (I've just learned how to spell that word): I don't know if other people feel like this, and I imagine they do, but some things I do I feel I just shouldn't really be doing them because I'm not good enough. For example, today I did a really interesting drama workshop and, you know, I got through to the end having participated properly and not cried or anything, but half of me was waiting for there to be an official announcement over the tannoy at lunchtime: 'cough cough cough ahem. We do now have to ask Susie to leave, for the following reason: who does she think she is kidding'.
These are the heels I wore at my burlesque class. What's particularly alluring is when you leave the TK Maxx Clearance sticker inside
I also felt a bit like this initially with my fan dancing: I felt someone would come in after ten minutes with a piece of paper and give it to me apologetically, and on the piece of paper it would say, 'Susie, we all saw what kind of a dancer you were when you tried and failed to interpret a trombone when you were thirteen and danced off in a different direction to everybody else to Eye Of The Tiger. Also, we are not going to forget when you tried to join the wrong Zumba class at the local community college, and ended up in a room full of the over seventies, and yet were still unable to samba sufficiently quickly; even when the teacher told you to imagine you were "wiggling your pelvis at a man naked except for Speedos". In fact, Susie, you were temporarily thrown off your samba stride by this image and the words "beyond parody" formed in your mind, proving you have no Rhythm, or Soul. Please leave now. A partial refund will be offered, and, frankly, this is more than you should expect'.

I have got a friend who is engaging with me on my self-esteem issues, even though this is like attempting to fill in a black hole with asphalt. However, I am sure the above is fairly common and if, conversely, you put me in a room with, say, a really complicated set of management accounts, I would have them analysed and gutted and a fresh pot of coffee on within 20 minutes. So, some things I am confident at, other things I am not. Despite this, I hauled myself the other weekend off to Shoreditch, to do a fan dancing workshop run by these people, and, do you know, it was really excellent, despite me getting slightly lost and confused at one point which was unavoidable given that our A-Z is older than me.
This is where I nearly ended up. Note to self, remember to write down number as well as street name
The teacher was a burlesque performer, and she was great - elegant and controlled and fascinating to watch. I had already done a taster burlesque workshop with her and had been impressed. This is her website, and, because I am marvellous at stalking people on YouTube, this is pretty much the routine we did, and, I am glad to report that by the end I was doing a perfectly credible job of it, so that tells you right there she was a good teacher, although I did lose control of my fans a bit when I was wiggling them behind my bottom. We used fans from Frou Frou Feathers, and they were marvellous: if I could think of a way I could just have such fans at home in case I wanted to do a quick routine before News At Ten, I would do. I have already had a quick go with some spare mop heads we had ordered at work. The fans are a lot of money - I think the ones we used were £300 for a pair, and the ones Gwendoline had were £700, but they really were marvellously, marvellously fluffy. (I note for you here that fans are not vegetarian: the ostriches die. They die for other reasons and the fans are a byproduct but I note this for you in case it is a deal breaker, what a morally complicated world this is).
Edgy Shoreditch graffiti possibly involving a ferret, I know not
I understand that fan dancing was popularised by Sally Rand in the thirties and forties, and that she essentially went about performing her dance and being arrested, this is because we did not have comments on Guardian articles in those days and so transgressive women had to be made to suffer in a more straightforward way. I found fan dancing really beautiful and elegant (I mean, I did have leggings on, so the nudity bits were not being emphasised. My leggings are not attractive) - I think if you have a background in ballet that would help enormously. I do have a background in shouting 'wait, I might be able to do it this time' and throwing myself at a pole with huge bruises consequent, but, I would also say yoga helped, because you need a great deal of flexibility, and interestingly, the moves which looked the most elegant and alluring were also the moves which were the most awkward to hold (I'm going to leave you to find your own metaphor there). It was unusual for me, too, because I spend quite a lot of time in life trying quite hard not to look alluring or be in any way playful, or flirtatious (don't psychoanalyse me, if you had my work background I can promise you you'd be the same), and it is interesting to see how much more elegant some things look just with an arch of the back or a jut-out of the décolletage. It is thought-provoking. I go off and think.

Anyway, so, fan dancing was great and I really enjoyed it. I am dragging myself off to Shoreditch again next weekend to have a crack at 'floor work for pole', so we will see how that goes. Dance is odd, in a way - it's like finding a whole new physical vocabulary. I ponder on it. It's a shame they put me off young with Eye Of The Tiger as I'm sure I'd be better at all of this if I'd been doing dance since I was 18. Still, baby steps, people. Baby steps.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Because none of us have enough wool

Quickly in case you're interested - I'm destashing a few bits on ebay here - some nice lace weight (Posh, Natural Dye Studio). Because I'm sure we all need more wool lurking about stuffing up cupboards and making us feel like we don't knit quickly enough. I think I've put international postage but if I haven't it's just an oversight because I do post anywhere, in fact, the ladies in the Arbury Court post office like it particularly when I send to a really obscure address.

I wrote nice polite listings but I lost it a bit with the Noro book one. Woolly trousers!

(The trick with ebay is to not sell your stuff and congratulate yourself on having an empty cupboard and then just go and buy a whole bunch of other stuff so now I have to not do that).

Friday, 1 March 2013

Irritated and sharing

V quick post. I have been intending to share with you the enormous fun I had at my recent fan dancing class but thought I ought to do a Proper, Well-Thought Out post with research and opinions, hence have just googled 'burlesque and feminism', read a couple of old Guardian articles (and the comments...) and absolutely lost the will to live. Then, in a fit of horrified masochism, I have just googled 'pole dancing and feminism', and got this beauty from 2010:

Actually, you won't find female empowerment halfway up a pole: David Mitchell

I actually remember reading this at the time (because I am a fully paid-up, muesli-eating, fairtrade-wearing vegetarian middle-class Cambridge graduate Guardian reader): it made me put pole dancing on my list of things to do. I'm mean that way. And generally I love David Mitchell, but, hmm: whence the vitriol, David? Perhaps you should examine that one.

I give you this gem (read it: you'll see I'm not cherry-picking):
Pole dancing is grim and I don't see anything empowering about learning it. Even if you say that it's just dancing and good exercise, surely it would be more empowering to learn a dance that can be employed in contexts other than strip clubs?
Because David has never been upside down up a pole, but I have (albeit very briefly, in case Lydia ever reads this ;-) ), I am now going to list for you the reasons I have found pole dancing genuinely empowering (although that is not a word I like):

  1. Pole is pretty much the first exercise, apart from a bit of C25K, I did since I was 12. Now I do yoga, run, and am fairly fit, but only because of the initial motivation to get better at pole. When I am still fit enough to backpack round Goa when I am 70 I will have pole to thank.
  2. Pole dancing is hard. It is really, really bloody hard. The instant you do it, you respect anyone else who does: anyone.
  3. As I said above, pole dancing is hard (and let me emphasise that ;-) ) - every new move has felt like an achievement. Sometimes I look at people who annoy me in other contexts and think, yes, but, can you do an attitude spin?
  4. I learned so much about my body from pole - what I can do easily, what I can't do at all, what I need to work on. I suppose I could have learned that from something nice like tennis. Guess what, though. I never did.
  5. They may not all be like this, but, the classes I go to are great - supportive and friendly, and the teacher deserves a medal for putting up with me and my Inversion Issues. Not like the games teachers at school: see point 1.
  6. Without doing pole, which I thought I would never be able to do at all, I would not have had the courage to explore dancing, burlesque, or theatre: and that would have been a shame.

I have a reasoned response to the article, and it is: fuck off, David Mitchell. I like you in other contexts, but: in terms of this article, even though it is three years old, you can fuck right off. Or, better, go and learn a few pole tricks (because actually, men do do it too), and then come back to me and tell me it's only for naive women who want men to ogle them. We'll talk when you've mastered Gemini.

Now I'm afraid you'll have to have my fan dancing post later this weekend without me engaging with feminism at all: I just don't have the energy. We'll just have to accept right from the start that I'm quite wrong for doing it at all (it wouldn't be the first time...)

When the universe smacks you on the head

I was once walking through town having just been reading Take A Break Fate And Fortune (I'm not proud that I read Take A Break Fate And Fortune, when I should probably be reading Sartre or something, no I am not) and I was thinking about guardian angels. For those of you who are not up with Contemporary Angel Culture, I shall provide a brief introduction.

{Clears throat}... According to Take A Break Fate And Fortune and various paperback books with pastel covers which you may occasionally see remaindered in The Works, we each have our own guardian angel who does the following: keeps an eye on us generally even when we make Bad Choices, as I am wont to do: intervenes if we do something particularly daft like falling in front of a bus by mistake: reminds us of his/ her presence by scattering in our path Angelic Reminders which are normally either feathers or coins.

Now, the first time I read this I started noticing coins everywhere and it was very odd, in fact I was like Gretel wandering about following a trail of 2ps all over the place. It may be that my guardian angel (thanks mate, it must have been quite a long road) is particularly enthusiastic; or, it may be that I worked close to someone with a hole in the pocket of their polyester mix Chinos. It may have been a lot of things. Anyway, as I was walking through town that day, I thought: perhaps the whole guardian angel thing would work better if they gave you a proper sign rather than scattering feathers about or a bit of small change - something a bit definite. And at the very point when I thought that, a conker fell off a nearby tree and hit me really hard, right on the top of the head, causing me to stagger. This is how life is: sometimes the universe smacks you on the head with an omen.
You'll be delighted to know I've still got that cardigan
I was thinking about this recently. A while ago I did this post about a Ring Of Bad Luck which somehow I had acquired. Because I am wishy-washy and new-agey and tend to think, entirely erroneously, that I have enough good karma to neutralise difficult things {goes off to consider aforementioned bad choices in light of new insight}, I started wearing this ring more, with the intention of charging it with positive energy. ( I appreciate the sentence you have just read is the point where I started sounding a bit odd to some of you. However, bear with me).

I dragged that big old black ring out and tried to wear it in happy situations but it always had a bit of a dark feeling to me. Anyway, you may remember that last year I was going through a bit of a difficult situation which became so thrillingly difficult that at one point I succumbed and read Fifty Shades Of Grey, that is how bad it was (I've since read the sequel! It's worse!). Well, on the first day of my difficult situation, for some reason instead of wearing something cheerful I decided to add my black ring to my carefully chosen outfit (tight black dress, red pixie boots, suit jacket, bleach hair, red lipstick, why be miserable and also look it?). However! As I was getting off the tube, I kind of got my hand stuck in the rapidly closing door between a couple of commuters. I dragged my hand out frantically thinking how things would really, really not be improved by me having a broken wrist - schluuuuuurp! - and, amazingly, I hadn't hurt myself, but - the stone on the ring had been sucked right out and was travelling away from me at speed northbound on the Northern Line. I took it as an omen. I took it as the Universe saying, do not worry, Susie, negativity will be schluuuurped right out of your life just like that black glass stone in the door of the tube at Holborn.

I threw the rest of the ring away - the stone was kind of the point, and besides, I felt it had served its purpose.
Spiky yet cheerful, just like me
Anyway, here's the funny thing: from that moment on, things, which had really, really not been looking good, and let me emphasise that to you in the strongest terms, started looking up a bit. And now I think I have to say that things are pretty much looking A-OK. I'm just slightly too superstitious to say, categorically, no more difficult situation, but, I did not think a year ago that I would be where I am now, and if my guardian angel reads my blog which I cannot imagine he wouldn't - indeed I imagine he's sitting up there on a cloud now, crocheting something, scrolling away and tutting whenever I make a spelling mistake - I'd like to thank him formally for all his hard work. These days I wear this sunstone necklace. It says on the internet sunstone is a cheerful kind of stone, and if it says it on the internet then it obviously must be true. I wonder where I'll be a year from now? Onwards and upwards...