It’s always better on holiday…

On Friday, I grudgingly came back from Cornwall, smashing back into the real world. I’m not entirely sure how to write a post about this without it being the 2013 equivalent of showing you my holiday slide show (‘how did THAT get in there?!’) so I’ll do what I can to keep it lively.

I spent two weeks with the fam in St Ives in Cornwall, mainly just eating, reading, walking and cooking, and very occasionally thinking. It was my first holiday in a year, and I desperately needed to take a bit of time out from pressures at home, and come back with a fresh perspective. For me, that’s what a holiday should be for – in a way, a break from yourself and a break from your routines.

I was stagnating a bit before I went away. It was a stressful start to the year, and I went from knowing exactly what I wanted to do to being more or less completely lost in a matter of weeks. Circumstances around me changed and I found it hard to change with them. I’ve been freelance for nearly two years now, and I hit a wall. Projects wrapped up and I suddenly couldn’t bear the thought of having to come up with a slew of new ideas to get going on.

Nearly two years of pressured deadlines, answering emails at 11pm, constantly seeking new clients, projects not coming off…and more than anything, the ALL-ENERGY-ALL-THE-TIME aspect of freelancing. I was exhausted. I was fed up. I lost all motivation and found myself questioning what I wanted to do. I hated writing, didn’t want to do, couldn’t do it, most terrifyingly of all. I couldn’t pick up a pen, couldn’t open an empty Word doc. I’ve been craving photocopiers and office gossip and leaving work at 6 and drawing a line under it. No messy overspill. Defined days. Measured time.

Two weeks away gave me time to reflect on all of those ragged, half-formed thoughts. I was so cross and frustrated with myself. While I was away, I put down my phone(s), zipped up my laptop bag, and just tried to ‘be’ for the two weeks. I read a lot, went for long walks, cooked meals over a period of several hours with a glass of wine in hand. I’ve come back ready to address things properly instead of running away from them. This Monday, I’ve been excited again, keen to work hard, wanting to get things done. I feel a million miles away from the way I did before the holiday, and it’s a relief.

If you’ve been feeling a bit lost or a bit confused, try and take some time away if your circumstances permit it. Get away from social media and the relentless tide of everyday communications. Try and remember who you are and what you’re doing. Step back before you jump in again. What a sappy post – I’m sorry for the fortune cookie wisdom I appear to be spouting, so I’ll wrap up right here. If you’re anything like me and you tend to run away from things, then try running a little further then coming back more prepared.

And if you found that the most saccharine pile of old rubbish, then here are some pretty pictures and photos of food wot I ate to cheer you up. Coming up soon: more recipes, and watch a shirt magically transform into a skirt.


Project #004 Start being charitable

Project #003 sadly postponed due to weather (will be looking at completing it this weekend), I started to think about what else I wanted to do this year. Every year, I feel that nagging voice saying ‘you really should try and do something charitable’. Every year, I fully intend to, and fail. There is NO GOOD EXCUSE for this. Literally none. Most of last year, for example, I had a substantial wage coming in, and pretty much no outgoings. Plus spare time! And yet I did nothing for anyone else, except myself. My version of doing something for someone else was just buying them an outlandish present. Nice enough stuff, and I certainly enjoyed it, and will continue to do it, but not exactly Mother Theresa-ville, is it?

I’ve called this project ‘start being charitable’, as I don’t think ‘being charitable’ is something you can, or in fact should, be able to just pop on your ‘to do’ list, and tick off after a week. I just want to mark the beginning of this as an ongoing project. Basically, to start opening my eyes and pricking up my ears to actually doing something for someone else.

As I posted on an update, I’ve signed up for Race for Life. While people keep telling me it’s ‘only 5k’, they haven’t seen me running. This for me is a HUGE distance. I am not at all a fit person, so I want to do it properly and actually be able to do something apart from wheezing around in a tracksuit like Vicky Pollard (ooooh, how achingly topical I am….Vicky Pollard references? I need to wake up in 2011.) So, that’s a pretty big deal for me. I’ve already pimped this out, but my sponsoring site is:

Please sponsor me. I chose Race for Life for a reason, and that reason is that not only have I lost so many people to cancer, but I think you’d be very hard pressed to pluck anyone off the street who HADN’T been affected by it. I’ll keep you updated with my progress.

The other thing that I’ve just done was of a different ilk (brilliant word.) If you’re worried about not having the time/energy/Bob Geldof hair/feet for doing any running, then you can take a different tack. Tack, ilk, any word that ends in ‘k’, really. When I was passing by a TK Maxx in Guildford t’other day, a big poster caught my eye. Vivienne Westwood (plus husband, standard), and Sienna Miller, all dressed up in typical 1600s meets 2060 style, wearing these absolutely ace t shirts for Comic Relief. Shakespeare with a red nose, a classic Westwood punk rocker, a Hogarth print (The Laughing Audience), a French Revolution lady holding up a mask with two carefully positioned red noses in a certain place, and best of all, the two great idols of my youth – Blackadder and Queenie from the second series of…well, Blackadder. Both with red noses.

Now, after my absolute joy that Blackadder was finally getting the sartorial recognition it has always deserved had subsided, I started looking at the details. Most t shirts were priced at £9.99, with ‘at least £5’ going to Comic Relief. Now, anyone who has previous bought something for a charitable cause will know that £5 is a pretty substantial portion being donated. Not only that, but they’re 100% Fairtrade certified cotton. Those priced at £14.99 have £7 going to Comic Relief. And designed by Vivienne Westwood!! When will you ever get a chance to buy a piece of Viv for under a tenner?!

The only problem you’ll have is choosing honestly. This is why the Hogarth, Blackadder and French Rev sexy lady are all winging their way to me as we speak, and I may go back for Billy Shakespeare, and Queenie. Go on, you absolutely WILL NOT regret buying one.

Hope to see you all around with a big beardy Edmund face emblazoned on your top….. xxx

Project #003/update

Oh, curse you, British weather. I didn’t manage to get out in the garden this weekend, so I’ve been working on prep for another couple of projects (as well as shoving a lot of things on Ebay and sorting out horrible old internet banking).

So, for what will be Project#012, the Royal Wedding Party, I have been creating hand-crafted invitations for my guests.

And, for what will be Project#19 (if I’ve calculated correctly), I will be entering my very first race for charity, ever. So, unlike every other year, where I just look at the flyers for it, and think ‘ooh, I really should get round to doing that’, I’ve decided to go for it properly. Which starts with actually signing up. Which I have just completed….

Sorry it’s been an unsatisfying week for actually completing projects, but I’ve got a few to do in the next week (week off), so will keep posting 🙂 xxx

Project #003: I like the flowers, I like the daffodils

….I like the mountains, I like the rolling hills – as anyone who has ever done a drama warm up will chorus merrily back at you!

I’m feeling absolutely full of delight at the prospect of Spring. Yes. The sky is blue, the sun is out, and I’m frantically counting off the days on my sunrise/sunset calender, till we get to a point where it’s actually light at 6.p.m. Today, I even dug out my much loved floral Bayliss & Knight sailor dress! (Last seen circa August 2010.) Yes, and yes again. I have a spring in my step (badoom tsssch).

We’ve started to fill our house with flowers, and whenever I take a bath the room is filled with that heavy, enveloping scent of beautiful white jasmine. The kitchen is permeated with the faint but insistent smell of hyacinths, and I’ve started to dance around the house, filled with new hope, new ideas, and an uncontainable joy that I only ever get when the Winter finally starts to loosen its icy grip.

I had been struggling to think of a third challenge. My mind will grope around aimlessly, trying desperately to think of something, anything good, and then, the second I sink into bed, exhausted after a day at work, PING. There it is. That’s what happened last night, just as I’d disappeared into my nightly ritual of lying in bed with BBC7’s Comedy Zone floating out of my pink DAB radio, sinking into a stupor. But there it was – plant flowers! Nooooo, my tired brain argued – sssh, go to sleep! I’ve had enough of you and your “brilliant ideas”. But the little energetic voice was insistent, and wearily but excitedly, I reached for the well thumbed notepad by my bed, and managed to jot down ‘flowers’.

Come the morning, I’d just about managed to decipher this mysterious message from Tired Brain to Happy/Excited/Annoying brain. I have four things in my armoury. Peony tubers, a packet of seeds for growing peas, a sachet for growing violas indoors, and one for mustard and cress. Maybe not enough to create a Capability Brown style garden (Culpability Brown, maybe, when it all goes hugely wrong), but it’ll do for now. Peonies are my obsession. I can’t help finding beauty in something so blowsy, so stagey, attention-grabbing, and so elusive that they only appear for the briefest window each year. If I was going to garden, I thought, then it had to start with peonies.

My promise to myself was to try something new. And, really, the last time I planted anything was when I was in year 5 at school, and we were given our own tubs in the playground. I shared mine with my best friend at the time – a girl who, to this day, has absolutely faultless aesthetic taste – and we put little figures in that we’d collected (I’d imagine from Kinder eggs…) I don’t remember doing much actual planting, but I certainly do remember the following dialogue from a fellow classmate:
Know-it-all Year 5: Have you ever touched a worm?

Me: YUCK! No!
KIAY5: Yes you have. If you’ve been touching the soil in the tubs, you’ve touched a worm.

(Sound of my jaw dropping to the floor, then me running off to wash hands)
So, after than inauspicious start, I am ready to try again, weather permitting, this weekend. I’ll post results by next week, including a worm-report.
Thanks for reading. Wear your sunglasses tomorrow. Whatever the weather xxx

Project #002: Results

  I have to admit, the second project didn’t take me nearly as long as icing all those cakes. But it was just as important to me, because as I mentioned before, it was for my little cousin-once-removed. I’d sort of mentioned I’d make her one, and the old me would have really genuinely meant it at the point in time, and for a couple of days I would have REALLY HONESTLY thought ‘gosh, I must get round to doing that jacket at some point; and as the days went on, I’d think about it less and less, and then I’d feel all guilty when I DID think about it, and eventually it would fade to a very distant memory indeed.

Which is why earlier this week, I assembled my materials, and vowed to myself I’d sit down and get it done, wrap it up in silly amounts of hot pink tissue paper and pack it off. So, on Saturday afternoon, I sat down to a romcom on tv, spread the jacket in front of me, as well as a ton of rhinetones, an iron, and an old handkerchief (I just get so emotionally moved by these things. Just kidding, it’s to iron them on)

As I sat there, ironing on each rhinestone individually, I thought about how excited I’d be to tear into a pile of pink tissue paper, to discover something I’d really wanted but didn’t think I’d get. I’d have loved it! If I can make someone else happy because I took a couple of hours out of my week to do something for them, then I’ll be over the moon.

I really enjoyed this project, even though it wasn’t the most challenging. If everyone reading this blog decides to do just one tiny thing for someone else, just think how brilliant that would be. It’s a cliche but it really is true – the glowy feeling you’ll get from just doing something purely for someone else is repayment enough.


p.s. On a cheeky sidenote – if anyone wants anything embellished, to whatever design, I’ll be most happy to do it for you (for a small fee…unfortunately my financial circumstances prevent me from being THAT generous to everyone…)

Project #002: Starting with the man in the mirror

My second project sort of landed on my lap. Blissfully floating around on the smug glow of starting a new blogging project, I was feeling a lot of love for everybody, and very amenable to doing nice things for other people. Last weekend, we had the family over, and I got to spend some time with the delightful daughters of my cousin. Are they second cousins? I always start to work it out, then get distracted thinking of that particular bit in Mean Girls….”So, you have your cousins, and your first cousins….wait, that’s wrong, isn’t it?” “That is SO wrong”….

Anywho, putting distractions aside, one of the girls was particularly taken with a jacket I’d embellished myself; a shrunken black blazer with rhinestones on the lapel. She did a Michael Jackson dance in it. She was BRILLIANT. She LOVED this jacket. And I felt horrible for taking it back from her, like some sort of evil Dickens character.

Ping! Second project, I thought. I’ll just make her another one! Since a large portion of this blog is about me learning to not think/worry about myself for a few minutes, and actually do something kind and positive for other people, it seemed like an excellent thing to do. Plus, because I’m doing it for someone else, it means -ohmygod- I’ll actually have to do it all proper like. Instead of this cycle:

1. get really enthusiastic about making something
2. spend heaps of money to equip myself with ‘essentials’
3. start out, still enthusiastically
4. do it haphazardly in my best ‘cheerful five year old’ manner (remember that kid who stuck out their tongue because they were concentrating so hard? Yeah.)
5 do far too much, too sloppily, in the first day
6. get bored of it, leave for a few weeks
7. attempt to finish, without finesse

That’s what I’m trying to break out of. That’s been my life up until this point. NO MORE, I tells ya! I WILL do things properly, and finish them, and you should too!

Look out for upcoming posts…stay cheerful…do something different.

Good luck! xxx