Rococo Nails

I swear, all my posts this week are just going to come under the broad category of ‘cheering myself up’. I’m still ill, I’m tired, I have a little bit of my voice back but not a lot, and I’ve graduated from Gossip Girl to America’s Next Top Model. I’m unbelievably bored. I was hoping to use today either to do some fun projects or to crack on with the mountain of work I have, and instead I’m just useless, utterly utterly useless.

What can you do when you barely have the energy to walk up the stairs? Well, I decided to paint my nails. I’ve had a bit of a bare nails moment going on for the last few weeks, because I wanted to give my nails a break from the endless parade of colours I’d been abusing them with since Fashion Week. I’d got really bored of uniform nails, and for one week I even had every nail a different colour. I liked the way it looked, but it wasn’t exactly ideal for when I needed to do a quick touch up of my nails on the train. But I fancied doing something a little different today.

Probably my favourite colour combination is blue and gold. If you haven’t picked up on my Marie Antoinette/Versailles obsession yet, I’ll just reiterate it for you once again. I think it’s such a beautiful combination, and I liked the idea of recreating this on my nails. It makes me think of pale Spring skies and shards of sunlight, or the way the Autumn sun shines through leaves, illuminating them. I purchased the Rococo gold leaf lacquer from Space NK in Tunbridge Wells a couple of years ago, and despite an initial phase of wearing it frequently, I’ve kind of left it alone. It’s got formaldehyde in, which smells quite a bit and makes me feel like Damien Hirst. But today I needed serious perking up, and so out it came. I hope you like the results. What’s your favourite nail varnish/colour combination?


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Teenage Cancer Trust: Time for T, 24th May

Hello everybody!

A while ago I wrote about the Teenage Cancer Trust, a phenomenal charity who both facilitate support and recovery for young people suffering from cancer, and also provide education within the school system. They were actually on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour this morning talking about what they do and the importance of education. As I’m being a Speedy Gonzalez in writing this post, the programme isn’t actually on iPlayer yet, but if you want to hear it you can go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer later today and search for ‘Woman’s Hour’. You can read the post I wrote about TCT so you can get some background on the charity:  – or you can also visit www.teenagecancertrust.org.

I promised to let you know about ways you could get involved, so here we go. The 24th of May is going to be ‘Time for T’ day. Essentially, we want people to get together and raise some money by doing an activity that begins with the letter ‘T’. So turn up to work in tuxedos and tiaras, play table tennis, host a tea party, do some sponsored shots of tequila…we’d really like people to have some fun and raise some money. It doesn’t matter how big or small the event you organise is, or if you literally bring in some cakes to work and sell them under the title of afternoon tea. Get creative or keep it simple. I’ll personally be avoiding the tequila (my friends know why, right guys? Ahem.) But I’ll most likely be doing something afternoon tea based, as that’s much more up my street.

We’d really like as many people as possible to get involved, and we can offer you all the support necessary. Go to www.teenagecancertrust.org/timefort to get more information or your free fundraising pack, or you can contact me via this blog, or via ameliasimmons@hotmail.co.uk. I can’t stress enough how amazing it would be to get a lot of you involved. You don’t need heaps of props or complicated ideas – you could bake a treacle tart and sell each slice for a small donation. So start thinking about what you’d like to do! We’ll help you out however you choose to do it.

I’ll be tweeting, Facebooking and probably blogging more about it as the event gets closer. I hope to hear some of your ideas soon!

Big thanks and lots of love,

Amelia x

My family and other dinosaurs

(Not a rude title. I genuinely saw some dinosaurs)

So my last blog post finished on Thursday night, because I’d broken through the 1000 word mark with a vengeance. On Friday I headed back up to London for some National Gallery and dinosaur fun, because it was the perfect remedy to a champagne and fashion filled week. I love the Natural History Museum very much, and I spotted two amazing things on Friday that I’d never seen before: 1. A dinosaur whose name translated as ‘chicken mimic’, and 2. A dinosaur called ‘Albertosaurus’. I’m not sure if I can describe quite how delighted I was about this. Watch out! Here’s the Tyrannosaurus Rex…and over there, you can see the Diplodocus, and ambling over the hill is….Albertosaurus.

The Natural History makes me very happy, and if you haven’t been in a while, I strongly suggest you do so IMMEDIATELY. Well, maybe not right now, but, you know. That said, if you can get to Oxford, their Natural History Museum is wildly superior because you can actually TOUCH STUFF. Yes. I know. It’s an illicit thrill. And the National Gallery is always fun, and I’m always wearing the noisiest shoes in the world. Again, I would urge you to make a visit. It’s so easy to overlook places like this, because you went when you were at school, or you think they’re too touristy, but honestly? It’ll make your life a bit better if you go. Also, you can tell me if I’m odd because I still find the animatronic T Rex in the NHM really rather scary.

So Friday was perfectly lovely, and Saturday I raced over to beautiful Italian restaurant La Luna in Godalming, for a family party. Specifically, my aunt and uncle’s 40th wedding anniversary. I’m quite conscious these days of writing stuff in my blog that only I will care about, and that I should just write it in my diary and be done with it, but I wanted to share this. My family are absolutely wonderful, and I am so so proud of all of them. We’ve got quite a big family, and quite a few different generations, making family parties absolutely brills.

As I said, I’m not going to bore you with infinitesimal details, although the food was absolutely tremendous, and if you’re in Godalming you should definitely give La Luna a try. But I will just say briefly what an absolutely megadude my Uncle Chris is. A 40th wedding anniversary is a Ruby thingamajig, and Uncle Chris had bought my beautiful Auntie Sandie a gold ring with three rubies in it. Here’s the bit which qualifies him for megadude status: as he knows the staff of the restaurant really well, he’d got them to pop the ring into my aunt’s chocolate mousse, where she was amazed to discover it. What?! Absolutely adorable, and such a romantic gesture.

He then made an amazing speech about how much he loved her, and how lucky he was – my Auntie Sandie is a completely phenomenal woman, so I don’t blame him – and then she in turn made a speech. I tried videoing them, but I was crying AND laughing so I’ve achieved a Blair Witch style shaky cam effect. When we were back at their house afterwards, Uncle Chris spoke some wise words to me about love and life, and also told me that he’d managed to secretly book the honeymoon suite they stayed in after their wedding, for this weekend.

They’re both such sweet, kind, thoughtful people, and it made me feel so proud and happy to be at the celebration. The loveliest thing of all is that, when talking to them, they each thought they were so lucky to be with the other! I just wanted to share the experience with you all because I found it really moving and inspiring to see how in love two people were after 40 years, despite life’s ups and downs. I feel like being a part of my amazing family has taught me some great values, as well as making me believe in love! I hear so many cynical people talking these days that I love things like this. It probably explains why I’m a bit of a romantic idealist, and that isn’t something I intend to change. I’m a lucky girl. If you’re still reading, why not give your family a call? See your parents? Hang out with your cousins? Family is the most important thing, and let’s not forget that.

Clear Out

Again, big apologies for not writing on here that much lately. I just haven’t really felt moved to write anything, and I didn’t want to post a load of filler that had no meaning. I’ve been feeling a little….adrift, and not sure of my path. Not in a hugely overdramatic way, but I’ve wound things down workwise, as I’m off on holiday this Friday and needed to clear stuff out of the way. I’m not very good at not being busy. When I don’t have a lot on, I suddenly become very bad at doing the few tasks I do have to perform. You know the thing – ‘Yeah…I could do this today, but…I could also do it tomorrow’. Mañana….

I tend to take on more and more work until I’m almost frantic, which I enjoy – and I’ll just keep going and going, then things will get a bit quieter and I’ll feel all weird, and faff about a lot. I’ll write the same things on my To Do list every day, with no real intention of actually doing them. What I’m trying these days is a different tactic. I’m trying just to set myself ONE goal at a time during the day, then work through it. Because of my self-employed status, I’m involved in a wide variety of different projects, which is lovely, but there are always wildly competing priorities. I’ll sit down to one task only to find my head flooding with a million other things I have to do that are equally as urgent.

So now, I’m trying to approach one thing at a time, work through it, feel happy that it’s completed, tick it off the To Do list (compulsory step, do not skip) and then move on to the next. Days like these, I feel like I did when I was studying for my GCSEs, and I spent hours making a beautifully colour-coded timetable, and a lot less time on actually working. I can be a huge procrastinator, but with so many projects on, this actually sometimes works to my advantage. Sure, I didn’t manage to set up my online Etsy shop today, but I did write three articles, clear out my shoe collection, get some photography done, and work on a music mix. The art is in making sure the tasks I do to procrastinate are actually of some worth.

But I’ve been stuck in a rut of late, and not getting nearly as much done as I’d like. It’s like my energy has diminished. I feel like a computer game character; I can practically hear that beeping as the life force drains down. What to do? How do I get myself out of it? It’s hard to explain what it even is. I wake up and approach the day with the best of intentions, sit down to do stuff, and I just…can’t do it. It’s not difficult, but I can’t seem to get on with it, no matter how many times I ‘have a word with myself’. It’s really very irritating.

There’s one fail-safe way that works to get me back into the right frame of mind. Maybe you do it to? Essentially, I need to have a huge clear out. Getting rid of stuff and tidying up my environment is the only way I’ve found that’s guaranteed to clear my head. Luckily, with a little more time on my hands for the week, I can get stuck in. So here are some photos of my room/shoe collection, during the clear out phase. Check back in the week for the finished result (hopefully!) My shoes were particularly shocking, because I only tend to wear about three or four pairs on rotation. I didn’t realise I had over 80. I know it could be worse, but for someone who claims that I’m not really interested in shoes…well, it was pretty appalling. The local charity shops will be more or less covered in my stuff. Let the clear out commence!

 

Things I Drew Today

Just what it says on the tin, really! Since the year started, I’ve been working certain parts of my body off on various projects. I haven’t really taken a weekend in ages, and despite my various bits of midweek indulgence, it’s been rather oppressive at times. Still, as a freelancer, I really shouldn’t be complaining about too much work! Anyway, I worked ultra hard to get things finished last week, as I’d booked in a weekend in Oxford with my lovely friend Lucy (might do a photo post later in the week). At precisely 1am on Friday night, I finished my work.

I’ve found that the freelance lifestyle has little lulls every now and then, while one is waiting on projects to be approved or sent back. This week is one of those blissful little lulls, so I decided to concentrate on some of my own projects, the things that I keep shoving aside for a time when I’m ‘less busy’. Today, I’ve been drawing for most of the time, I had a three course lunch, brushed up on some Bach on the piano, and generally had a rather lovely time. Here are some of my scribbles from today – I was playing around with Sharpies and watercolours to test different effects, hence why a couple of the drawings are dupes!

 

February 29th

I hadn’t given much thought to 29th February, I have to say. I’m certainly not going to be proposing to anyone, for one thing. Well…maybe to Cumberbatch, but very quietly, in my head. But that’s incidental. No – the 29th of February seems to be somewhat sidelined as a date in the calendar. Probably because, as a nation, we have a collectively short attention span, and celebrating something every four years doesn’t offer a great deal of income to card manufacturers, those arbiters of tradition.

I decided to consult the fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia. I wasn’t disappointed. After an awful lot of mathematical gymnastics used to explain how the day happened, I learnt that it was introduced as part of the Julian reform, that both Aileen Wuornos and Ja Rule were born on the day, and that it is also the feast day of ‘Oswald of Worcester’. Marv. From other websites which were not Wikipedia, I learnt that any ventures started on this day will apparently be successful, that – famously – women were allowed to propose on this day, and would get a free dress if they were turned down (win win!), and that Greek tradition dictates a couple will have bad luck if they marry in a Leap Year.

Phew. Well, that’s all marvellous, but what should it mean to me? I took enough of a beating over my love of Valentine’s Day – did I dare to speak up for a day that isn’t even remotely acknowledged as something special? Yeah, why not? As if I’ve ever needed any excuse for a party. So, what to do? How should I interpret the day? I heard an item on Radio Four about how people were planning on using the day to do completely different things to what they’d usually do. Apparently, the National Trust are also giving their staff the day off to volunteer for charities, which I think is extremely admirable.

I haven’t totally nailed down my plans yet, but I know I want to do something that’s different. So for a start, I am going to have an utterly technology free day. Nothing. I will be away from my laptop. No texts, no Facebooking, no Tweeting, no emails. This is a huge deal for me, and hopefully it might help me think about the obscene amount of time I spend looking at a screen. To go along with the National Trust idea, I’m going to sit down and start ploughing through some of the ideas I have for my charity work. I’m going to sketch. I’m going out for a walk.

Those are some loose plans at the moment, but I’d like to do something really different. If you have any ideas, or you’re planning on having an ‘opposite’ day to what you’d usually do, let me know!

“Just be yourself”

Oh, what a horrible and utterly useless piece of advice that is, isn’t it? How ghastly, when preparing for a job interview or a date, to hear those words, that hackneyed and mostly meaningless phrase: ‘just be yourself’.

I used to hate hearing that. Be myself?! Be MYSELF? That’s TERRIBLE advice. How do I do that, exactly? Surely only the most idiotic and un-socially skilled amongst us only have one self. I’ve met very few people who have one ‘self’, and persist in maintaining that self through every walk of life. That’s one step away from being that person who goes ‘I’m just ME. I’m ME, alright? And if you don’t like it or you can’t handle it, then I DON’T CARE, because I’M ME’.

Ultimately, none of it made sense to me. I didn’t feel I had an essential self to fall back on. I was too locked in to various layers of social norms to trust in myself. I had manufactured myself too careful, as I’m sure we all do. Starting young, when you learn to behave differently in front of your friends than you to in front of teachers or parents, you begin to develop an extremely complex system of behaviour. Changes may be subtle: a slight lowering of the voice to imply seriousness (my friends at school knew and could imitate very well my ‘about to get told off by a teacher’ voice), or they may be extreme, a whole different way of dressing, or a different set of language.

But what is the self? Is there one, essential self? And these various guises are just that – a charade? Or does our ‘self’ exist in all the different incarnations we choose to perpetrate? I struggled with my ‘self’ largely because I am terribly easily influenced, and a magnificent imitator. I adapt very quickly to surroundings. My voice will change, I will speak on a variety of different topics, and I will dress differently. Every single person I know has a slightly different version of me presented to them. I’m sure this is the case for many of you.

This behaviour was particularly heightened in me because of my early experience with drama. I tended to blur into characters. I’d read a book or a play and – consciously or otherwise – mimic expressions, voice, looks. I didn’t necessarily do it to blend in, more to experiment with my identity. I believe that your teenage years should be built around trying out different identities. How can you ever be sure about something until you’ve given it a chance? My teens and university years were fantastic for entering this dressing room of identities.

I don’t mean to say that I swung wildly from one personality to another – I’m not deranged; but I did play around. I played at doing different things, being different things. It’s known as the self-schema: the projection of a different personality dependent on the situation you’re in. I played at being shallow, and rather enjoyed it. I was terribly, terribly serious during a lot of my teenage years, and it was nice to feel different. To feel free. And yet I struggled at times, because I’d…and bear with me on this one, but…I’d let my ‘self’ go. If you see what I mean. In the endless churning of being with different people, dating different boys, having different friends, I suddenly realised I didn’t actually have a clue who I was anymore.

I distinctly remember waking up one day and realising I had no idea what music I liked. One of my ex-chaps was hugely into clubby, dancey stuff, and I’d just listen to that. He used to ask me, persistently and slightly bemusedly: ‘but what do YOU like? What do YOU listen to?’ And I couldn’t answer. I didn’t even know. I’d learnt an awful lot at university, but I also managed to unlearn things as well. I believe it was all essential, though. I needed to let go. I needed to unpick everything I knew and rebuild it.

What I did was this. I developed a self. I began (again, mostly subconsciously) to cherry-pick the parts of my various selves that made the most sense to me. I made sure I read a lot, listened to a lot of music, and thought a lot too. I kept the blonde hair and more fun-loving side from my ‘vacuous years’, and combined it with the knowledge and intelligence from my teenage years. University was absolutely indispensible in the development of my ‘self’. These days, I am unbelievably comfortable with who I am. As I touched on my article about fashion, I’ve realised that interests don’t have to mutually exclusive.

It’s been a turning point. For the first time in my life, I know who I am, and I know what I want to be. I feel happy. I feel calm. I trust in myself. I am no longer covering up parts of my identity and projecting others. I’m no longer afraid to show my intellect, or in fact to justify myself for, say, thinking Barbie is ace. If it makes me happy, I do it, or read it, or listen to it, and I don’t really worry too much about what anyone thinks. That said, I will still NEVER be the person who says ‘I’m me, and if you don’t like it, screw you’, because I think that’s wildly impolite and bordering on sociopathic. No need to be unpleasant to people.

So the advice I have is this. Don’t just be yourself. Develop a self. Cultivate yourself. Have interests, and be interesting. Experiment. Don’t just languish away, never knowing whether you might secretly LOVE death metal, or roller-blading, or….knitting. Try EVERYTHING. Take every opportunity. Talk to people – so much of my own identity has been cemented by some amazing friends. Have a diverse group of friends and you can’t go wrong. Keep an open mind, keep learning things, and never just ‘settle’. The world is an unbelievably exciting place, don’t you want to get the most out of it that you can?