Reasons to be grateful #9 – misty winter sunsets like these

I’m at home with my parents this weekend. We headed out for a walk in the woods rather later than I would have preferred today due to various reasons and for the first few moments of the walk I was kind of annoyed.

But if we had left earlier we would have missed this wonderful misty wintery sun setting over the Severn estuary in the Cotswolds.

So we were lucky to be late today.

Reasons to be greatful #8 – autumn sunshine

It’s been a bit quiet over here recently. I’ve been trying to manage some pretty rubbish fatigue, which I think may be linked to my on going efforts to try to balance out my hormones and manage my PCOS through changes to my diet and exercise. At the moment it feels a bit like trying to deal with infertility strips out many of life’s pleasures. At least the kind of pleasures that you put in your mouth. I’ve almost stopped boozing completely (and I was a very British drinker), coffee is on its way out and cakes and chocolate have to go too.

But there is an upside. Autumn is here, bringing with it some light, crisp days that make everything beautiful.

This is also the season of rich red colours. Turning leaves and ripening berries abound. And delicate mushrooms too.

Last weekend I was in the Cotswolds with my parents and my fiance. We were able to get out into the woods for the afternoon, to stumble through the leaves and catch a few hours of that delicate warm sunshine.

Some people I know find autumn and winter a depressing time. The light is fading. The leaves fall and begin to decay. Personally I love autumn and winter. Creatively, I find much more to be inspired by in autumn, than I do in the heavy hot days of summer. I feel it is a time of creative and natural renewal. The falling leaves create a thick and rich mulch in preparation for next year’s green shoots. I am greatful for the fresh cool air and crisp bright sunshine of autumn in the British country side.

I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

Narrow boat fantasies

One of the little ‘alternative life’ fantasies I have is of my partner and myself leaving our jobs as floating off on a narrow boat around the UK. I’ve actually never stayed on a narrow boat, but have become more and more fond of them as I come across them during our walks in London. I’ve been on holdiay for the last two weeks and we decided not to actually go anywhere, but to have a ‘staycation’. During one of our lazy days at home my partner and I came across a whole community of British narrow boat Youtubers. I have really been enjoying watching videos from this group of people who have actually made the move to live aboard narrow boats on the UK.

In particular I’ve been enjoying videos from Cruising the Cut (the embedded video at the top of this page) and from the Narrow boat experience (see below). Both channels are quirky and funny in a slightly eccentric way (which is exactly the kind of thing that appeals to my sense of humour). Cruising the Cut is hosted by a former news presenter who uses that form of delivery to report on narrow boat life. I particularly liked his news presenter account of cooking a Christmas Dinner in a narrow boat (link here). The Narrow boat experience is hosted by a married couple who have given up their jobs in Londong to become continual cruisers on the UK canals. Through the channel they take us with them on this adventure. I thouroughly reccomend both.

What is it that I blog about anyway?

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I’ve been thinking a bit about what it is I am doing (or trying to do) when I’m writing this blog recently. Looking back over previous posts there are bits and pieces about my art, other people’s art and being creative, and sometimes (but not as much as I initially thought there would be) on trying to sell it. There are bits about being in nature (mostly in the woods), or out and about in lovely bits of the UK, and on appreciating the wonderful things we may have that may often go unnoticed close to home. There are also some thoughts on mental health, wellbeing and some of the tiny steps that may be part of the journey to getting us there. I think for a while I have felt a bit like this is a messy blog with out a central theme, which, while it may suit my messy brain, may ultimately not be of that much interest to other people.

I’ve been looking around at some of the ‘alternative lifestyle’ movements for a while and with each one found that it wasn’t quite for me. I like some of the principles of minimalism, but am far too (proudly) messy to be minimalist. I can see that living a ‘laptop lifestyle’ while travelling and living on a shoestring may be exciting, but I like my home and my friends and family too much to feel like swanning off into the sunset would be my thing. I don’t rage against my day job, which is meaningful and I think involves important work, but I do want to do a bit less of it. I have always been a bit anti-consumerist, but at the same time have a deep appreciation of (and am very happy to pay for) the sensuality and materiality of objects and food that have been made with skill and love. I find some of the writing coming out of the self help movement useful, but find they often promote an approach that for me is uncomfortably self absorbed. I like being with people, but also like my alone time too much to consider some form of communal living to be the answer. So I kind of didn’t really fit with any of the alternative lifestyle tribes that would require quite radical changes to my current way of doing things.

I think I’ve come to realise that the blog is all about me efforts in trying to carve my own pragmatic (and messy) path to living a creative, purposeful, connected, meaningful life.  While I may not be a perfect fit with any of the currently available ‘alternative’ tribes, I do think that what I’ve been trying to think about is living a different kind of life to one that is normal and heavily promoted in western culture (striving, ambitious, busy, individualistic, resource and spending heavy). I think that in particular I’m beginning to see the kind of isolation that kind of life can lead to, and how frankly unhealthy that is. There has got to be a better way that may involve slightly softer lifestyle changes. I’ve been pretty inspired while reading the blog of Mrs Craft of Craft and other crazy plans, who seems to be doing all sorts of interesting creative and outdoorsy things and generally enjoying that. And I’ve been thinking about more collective ways of doing things. I think over the next year or so I’ll be posting a bit more about this as I work things out as I go along. We may even start our own pragmatically, proudly messy, creative tribe, together. Would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below.

Taking the rail replacement bus

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This morning I went swimming with my sister for the first proper training session in preparation for swimming in the Great North Swim in June. I have signed up to swim 5k (which is just over 3 miles), which is the furthest distance I will have swam. Eventually I want to work up to swimming a 10k, which is a marathon style length for swimmers. We swam a mile, and it was pretty tough going. I think it will take 2 swim sessions a week, and an additional session in the gym a week to build my stamina between now and then. So we have work to do. I will try to keep track here I think.

On my journey there this morning, one of my trains was replaced by a rail replacement bus. I normally travel on the train, and which is a relatively direct route. The bus takes a less direct route, and as a consequence I was able to see parts of London that I do not normally see. London is a huge city that has developed and evolved over time, slowly swallowing up towns and villages as it expand outwards. This process has left a patchwork of buildings of different styles, sizes and ages, with different parts of the outer edges of the city having distinct atmospheres and styles of their own. While it took me longer than i expected to get to the pool, I was great to spend some time looking at these bits of this city that I do not always feel at home in.

It got me thinking a bit about doing things differently, or what I may try to do differently last year. Over that last year and a half I have been working on just trying to finish things, which has been helpful in getting me to a place where I feel my creative work has purpose. I have also begun to really appreciate that doing things slowly, and building things over time, is actually the better way for me. I can be comfortable with this. However some of the work has felt, if not trivial, at least a bit light, or thin. In the last few months I have begun working on some pieces that are emotionally more close to home. I’ve been avoiding finishing bits of work like this in the past, as putting it out there is a bit anxiety provoking. When you already have anxiety, adding in more sources of anxiety is a bit of thing. So this year, I will be trying, gently, to push my self a bit more in that direction. Stay tuned to see how that goes…

Is there anything you’ll be having a go at doing differently this year?

Swimming in silver

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About a week ago my bf and I were on holiday. We decided not to go very far – we had just over a week off and didn’t want to lose too much of that time travelling. We went to Canterbury (UK) which is a couple of hours away by train from where we live. We stayed there a couple of nights, which I think was enough to begin really exploring the city, but I think we will go back for more.

While walking around the city, looking at the different forms of architecture there, I began to get some ideas for some new art, which given the number of projects on mental do to list, probably won’t see the light of day until sometime next year. I have always found that for me walking about, especially in places that are unfamiliar to me, is the time when my brain suddenly starts offering up new ideas about all sorts of things. I think there is something special about the mindful state that it is possible to get yourself into when striding about new places. There is something about the rhythm of walking combined with the strange details of a new place, that are so attractive to the eye, that can prompt my brain to make new connections that would not have come together from the comfort of my sofa. I think this is why a little trip away, and it doesn’t have to be a trip very far, can be refreshing for our creative selves.

In Britain I would say that we are particularly lucky in this respect. You do not have to go very far to find some strange, wonderful, slightly eccentric environment to immerse yourself in. I wanted to share the photo below as a case in point.IMG_20170901_165520622

This was taken by my bf, last Friday afternoon, as I stumbled out into the sea at Whitstable for a swim. We got so lucky that afternoon. The water was so still and smooth, and the light was just right, that the clouds reflected straight back up off the water. I swam out quite some way, and ended up swimming alone through the still, warm water. With the sky reflecting off my face, at times this swim felt quite unreal, like swimming in silver.

At times I look at the UK news, which appears to be full of the small minded, the small hearted and the delusional in their political manoeuvrings over Brexit, and I feel so sad for Britain. If you were looking at the news from abroad now I cannot see how you could even imagine there could be little treasures hiding in the funny, eccentric, down to earth little corners of Britain. You could not know how kind and friendly and admittedly slightly strange many of us are. You probably would not even believe that you could visit a tiny little beach town, just a couple of hours by train from London, and swim in silver.

Like my stuff? You can buy things with my designs on here. If you wanted to. Just saying: Threadless Redbubble Society 6 

My growing love affair with eccentric British pursuits

I’ve been out swimming in the serpentine lido this morning with my sister. We have just started training for Swim Serpentine 2017 – I have signed myself up for a two mile swim. I can, and do on a regular basis, swim a mile and that’s alright. However in signing up for two I suspect I may have been feeling a bit overly optimistic. Never mind. The lido has been open for over 100 years, and takes a minimal approach to changing facilities. The water is a bit green and full of geese, so not particularly glamorous in a peculiarly British way. But this morning the water was cool and clear and delicious. Just what I needed.

I’ve recently become aware of lots of talk about minimalism, and have seen lots of art which is very simple, clean, and lovely looking. But it’s not my thing. I think my interests stray into something that is much more eclectic, eccentric, wild, not particularly controlled and well, British. As I was thinking about this I walking back through the London Royal Parks I stumbled across a few odd Victorian looking fountains.

Isn’t she gorgeous?

Check out this guy – I’m not quite sure what he is doing to that fish.

And finally check out these from right in front of Buckingham palace.

So grumpy!

Just chilling….

I think these compare pretty well with my favourite strange Victorian fountain seen a few weeks ago in Worthing. Again I have some queries about those fish…

As I was walking out and about today it made me think a bit about the different ways in which we can feed our creativity (and curiosity). Sometimes it involves sitting for hours, feeling the textures and curves and shapes of different materials, while other times it involves stumbling across odd, eccentric victorian curiosities like these fountains.

 

You can buy my stuff here. If you wanted to. Just saying: Threadless Redbubble Society 6 

That time I nearly got kicked in the face by superman

I’ve been at Brighton kite festival today and while there I saw this wonderful thing billowing in the wind.

I absolutely love how the tentacles billow and ripple and curl in the wind. While trying to film this there wasn’t quite enough wind and my face almost came in contact with a really large superman kite that wasn’t quite inflated enough.

I’ve begun working up some ideas for a B-movie style animation involving an octopus like creature comprised of lightnigh, stray electronics and the huge soup of discarded plastic currently drifting around our oceans. It’s a fun, not very well thought out idea at present. Seeing this lovely octopus dancing in the wind has given me some stylistic ideas to consider. 

It has made me think of where inspiration can come from. I think sometimes I have a tendency to want to stay in and work at things, but this is a timely reminder that inspiration can strike at unexpected times, and in unexpected places, if you allow your self to be open to it.

 Like any of the art work featured on this blog? You can now buy my stuff at Threadless, or at Redbubble.

Blooming Birmingham

I am on a train back from Birmingham, UK where I have been staying for the last few days, both for work and for a little time away with the bf. We’ve had a great time. We’ve eaten several yummy veggie meals and wandered quietly around the canals. 

Some people in London can be a bit sniffy about Birmingham, or anywhere that isn’t London for that matter, preferring to travel to exotic far flung places, or to Shoreditch. This is a shame, as this attitude can mean people miss out on seeing the many splendid intriguing little corners of the UK. In doing so we can miss out on a fuller understanding of this funny eccentric complicated little country of ours.

Birmingham it self is an interesting city. Vast areas of the city are being redeveloped giving it the sense of a city simultaneously undergoing deep decline and rapid renewal. In the middle of all of that there is also a strong sense of pride in the city’s industrial heritage. In particular the canal ways in the centre of Birmingham are still used and carefully tended.

I am particularly drawn to canals, and while walking around the Birmingham canals this weekend became aware of my own strange and growing enthusiasm for canal boats. We saw many beautifully maintained boats this weekend. I am particularly drawn the the materiality of the wood, the gloss and colour of the paint and the enforced slowness of this particular mode of travel. In busy times such as these it is often helpful to remember that it has not always been like this. It is helpful to remember there was a time when travelling between London and Birmingham on the calm still waters of the canals at 4 miles an hour was accepted as normal by many people, and not viewed as an odd holiday activity loved by British eccentrics.