Saturday, 1 August 2020

July 2020

How's your July been? Mine's been kind of a slow, quiet return to some bits of normality, while also still weighed down by the enormity of everything. I feel privileged to have had as much time and space and peace as I have done to work things out, yet somehow I'm still very tired.


Still slowly working my way through Meera Sodha's wonderful recipe book 'East', which I won in a raffle in January. Her tomato curry recipe is available here, and I highly recommend it while tomatoes are in season, especially if you find yourself with a glut of them.

Cooking successes and cooking failures (depends how you feel about garlic I guess), but at least I'm cooking.

For the last two or three months I've been training to volunteer with a particular charity. It's generally discouraged from talking about it in public (though I'll happily tell you if you ask me directly, and rest assured, I am not a cop :)

I do one 4.5 hour shift a fortnight (plus one night shift a month), and I have to travel up to Oxford Circus for it. This was my first time on trains since mid March, and I was DELIGHTED, though found it all very strange. It was impossible to distance as much as we should once on the tube trains, and mask uptake at this point was very low, but my concerns were balanced out by my intense enthusiasm for being underground again.

Thanks to the magic of the internet, you can play boardgames with people on the other side of the world. Nice to catch up with Alfred in some form, given that our long-distance is likely to remain long-distance for the foreseeable (and we both love boardgames)

Charlie's poorly leg and general lack of enthusiasm remains kind of un-diagnosed. The vet was convinced he has the beginnings of something muscular/joint related, and while she may be right, I think he has sore paws from too many hot pavements. Either way, shorter walks with as much grass as possible. No complaints from me about less walking, though I am getting a bit bored of same park over and over (and possibly so is he?!)

Still playing a lot of animal crossing, and having an extremely fun time (lmk if you'd like to come visit our island sometime)

Our house gets ridiculously hot in summer, and Beatrice's room in particular (which is in the attic) is actually unbearable for much of daytime in July/August. As she's working from home until at least September, she decided to take the opportunity to go stay with her sisters in France for at least a month. A sensible choice, but we do miss her company (when you're only seeing three people regularly, having that suddenly become two is a bit miserable!) Still, we gave her a good send-off, with katsu curry and mariokart (two of her favourite things)

Getting over-excited about plants, or as much as anything, getting over-excited about garden centres, as safe outdoor shopping experiences and new places to visit. (Genuinely though, delighted to have a little gang of plant pals to tend to now)

You keep telling yourself that, Emma.

Most of the time the boy wears his collar, but sometimes we take it off so he can be NAKED

I'm bored of it now, but I do like my neighbourhood.

So after just under four weeks back at work, re-furloughed.
Mixed feelings, because on the one hand, doing nothing and being paid for it is really great, but on the other hand, it had been really nice being involved in something again, and with other freelance at a all time low, it starts to all feel a bit weird and scary.

Having put on nearly a stone during lockdown, once again, my breasts are terrible. I have always loathed having them at all, and the only times in my life where they've been even vaguely okay have been when I've been at my absolute skinniest. The moment my weight passes about 9.5 stone, ALL the extra weight goes straight onto my boobs and belly (come on body, what about the BUTT?! I wouldn't mind that!), and they become perpetually uncomfortable. Wearing a bra? Red, itchy, welts at the end of each day from the pressure of it. Not wearing a bra? Aching, sore muscles at the top of them and rubbing/chafing underneath them. It is a lose-lose situation. Anyway, none of my bras from my skinny Yorkshire days fit any more, so I tried to go bra shopping in Oxford Circus M&S before my second voluntary shift of the month, which is a painful experience at the best of times, but even more so when (due to COVID) you can't try any of them on. Grump.

Doin' the birthday prep!

For my partner's 30th birthday! Their friend Sophie came over for a picnic in the park, which was (with the exception of one brief walk with Fran a couple of months ago), the first time I'd socialised with anyone outside of my house in months. It was REALLY NICE.

Seeing Sophie was so lovely, and I'd started seeing that other friends of mine were doing distanced/masked park meets, so I decided to see whether I could maybe get in on some of that action soon. Goodness knows I miss people, so much.

In other landmark moments, came across my first open Greggs in months.

After sending out my little 'come see me' holler, met my pal Nat and her partner Aidan in a lovely little park mid way between our houses, and it was a really really good thing.

I did some branding work last month for a therapist who seemed like a really good therapist, so we agreed on a skill-swap (therapy in exchange for design). I am mostly OKAY, but still have quite a lot of residual unpleasantness washing about in my head from the aftermath of my relationship with Ava, which I think is affecting me in all kinds of ways, so it feels like as good a time as any to try and work some of that stuff through. I sat in the park and lots of magpies came to join me.

Quite remarkable really, how incapable the British public are of doing something so simple as wearing a face-covering correctly.

Looming dread, coupled with ongoing fashion crisis = spending too much money on clothes (while I still can?!)

And there it is.

Nearly 10 years in this job, and I find myself just clinging on by my fingertips.

There is no lack of work. In fact, I feel needed now more than ever, as we try and up student recruitment and prepare the colleges for reopening.

But there is a lack of money, and horrible decisions are being made across the company. It's a good place to work, which means there are many employees who have been there even longer than me. I know that the people who are making the decisions are doing their best. But that doesn't make redundancy any less heartbreaking or scary.

I say 'ish' though. Currently I work 2.5 days a week there (so that's two weeks a month). They have agreed to offer me one week of work a month on a freelance basis, which is better than nothing, but is half of what I currently am on, and with my other work (as mentioned), now at an all time low, it's hard not to feel a bit frightened.

I have some savings. And I still have bits and bobs of freelance work, plus this guaranteed week a month of work. But the way things are now is not sustainable long term.

I don't WANT another salaried job. I like freelancing, and every design job ad I read sounds like actual hell (plus there are probably like 1000 other people applying at the moment)... So if you've got any freelance design or illustration work going, or know anyone who does, please point them in my direction.

In the meantime, I sit tight, and ponder.

Saw another friend. It was good.

In an attempt to at least stave off any more boob weight gain, I've been doing half-hour workouts every morning (I've found Darebee really good)... I hate most exercise, but this is quite substantially better than most other things I've tried. It's free, it's less boring than running, and if you do it in the privacy of your own home, less self-consciousness inducing. It's become an important part of my daily routine, which I hope I can sustain.

I don't really feel like I should be allowed to complain about the heat, when my least favourite state is 'too cold' (also 'rain'), but yesterday hit 35 degrees, and that is TOO MUCH, even for me.

Somehow, it is now August 2020. And we persist.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

June 2020

I feel like I was a bit too smug and contented last month, so in case you're worried about more of the same I would like to reassure you that my June has been thoroughly, brutally medicore, and I've mostly just been thinking about... clothes?


I started my June with... a fashion crisis? In truth, this wasn't a brand new thing, and it was less of a crisis and more of a growing discontentment. I think that every 7 or 8 years of my adult (or even entire?!) life, I've fairly fundamentally rethought how I want to dress. My early twenties faded from college's 'new rave' into a heavy reliance on greys, blacks and browns, short skirts, baggy tops, and many layers. In my mid/late twenties I realised that the most flattering aesthetic for me was a 50's pin up silouhette (nipped in waist and flared hips, drawing attention away from still-much-loathed breasts), and I leaned into that with abandon, slowly building up a wardrobe full of 50s style dresses in bold colours, and matching the rest of my accessories and warm layers accordingly. On some level, I still love this, and it's certainly what my wardrobe is full of.

But over the last few months I've found myself chafing against it — literally and metaphorically. I've put on weight during lockdown ('Corona curves' as I heard someone affectionately refer to the phenomenon)... Not loads, but enough that I feel discontented and uncomfortable in many of my clothes.

It's caused me to rethink my desired silouhette, and alongside that, to consider whether the rest of my aesthetic still aligns with my aspirations. I'm in my 30's now. Do I still want to wear novelty prints? (Kind of yes but also kind of no?)

I'm worried that my desired changes are based purely on my current weight (which is transient and fluctuating), but change is fun, so I'm leaning into it, and trying to figure out some new things that might work for me.

Starting with... MOM JEANS (or indeed, trousers full stop, which have barely made an appearance for the last few years)

Everything just feels a bit much a lot of the time y'know

I doubt I'm alone in this, but my motivation levels have been extremely variable over the last months. Fortunately for my bank balance, I have had flurries of productive work (and have enjoyed doing it), but sometimes it's been hard to do much more than sit like this and go 'uggggghhhhh'

The only thing I will never stop being motivated by is TAKEAWAY THURSDAY (in which me, S and our housemates each take it in turns to choose a takeaway, and we play a small boardgame while we wait for it to arrive.) We have been doing it since the start of lockdown and it is a JOY

Rain still gets me down, y'know.

On June 7th, me and S went out TOGETHER for the first time since like, December?! (Somehow during February and March we mostly just hung out at each others houses before the pandemic, which feels like a wasted opportunity, retrospectively)

We masked up and walked half an hour to a stupidly fancy garden centre in Chelsea where we bought some overpriced succulents. But they are BEAUTIFUL succulents, and I'd never seen anything like some of them before! S is very green fingered, and although I am not, I have always wanted to be, so am tentatively dipping my toe back into houseplant ownership, with their support.

I don't think I mention this in any of my subsequent drawings, but as of mid June, I've been (possibly temporarily) unfurloughed from my main role, which means I'm working mornings again now like a regular adult. Gotta say, much though I missed my colleagues, the whole '80% of your salary for not doing anything' was a pretty sweet deal and I kind of miss it...

Been lucky enough to work on three different logo design projects this month, what fun!
Two of them flowed wonderfully and I felt like a competant and creative designer with nearly 10 years experience under my belt... and one of them was... a mess. So it goes.

Since S moved in, we have the windows open all the time (they consider it essential). I do not like this, because I get cold, but mostly because the road outside my window is LOUD. It's not quite a constant stream of traffic, but during the day you'll rarely get more than 30 seconds without something passing. I'm okay with some of the traffic, but motorbikes can burn in hell tbh

I decided that maybe part of my 'new look' (for want of a less cliched term) was MORE TROUSERS. Unfortunately: belly

Also, do I even want to wear skinny jeans any more? Almost all my trousers are skinny jeans and it all just feels a bit... normy? So, perhaps on a whim that I will regret, I GOT RID OF ALL THE SKINNY JEANS

Maybe the real problem is the ferocity of my passion for Flamin' Hot Wotsits

(No, but really vegan pals, this is it. The perfect snack has been crafted. I can't deal with these levels of perfection. Michelin Star. The highest heights have been reached.)

Not neccesarily part of the 'new look', but maybe still a part of my slow slide ever further into my thirties... Bought myself a wheely granny trolley and I LOVE IT. (Mostly because all the good supermarkets are like half an hour or an hour's walk away and I can't get public transport right now)



My friend Lucy (aka Marmor Paperie) is starting to run some zoom marbling classes. Me and some other pals were guinea pigs, but unfortunately I had the wrong kind of ink so it didn't really work. I still had fun though.

I like takeaway Thursdays at home but you know what I also liked? GOING OUT TO EAT AND GOING TO GIGS AND GOING TO ART MUSEUMS AND SEEING MY FRIENDS

Had a kind of non-specific achey bad feels day but luckily nothing felt particularly like COVID so I could just lean into being miserable without also feeling scared

I walked for like an hour up to Kensington because I wanted to go to the big Wholefoods as a treat, but when I got there, H&M was open, and      I     went      in

It was pretty quiet. Sanitised my hands on the door. Didn't really get close to anyone else. Fitting rooms were closed so I bought two pairs of trousers, one of which were way too small (bloody H&M) and the other of which were kind of comically unflattering but also extremely comfortable and S said I looked cute, so I kept them.

Felt kind of weird about it. Completely non-essential but I really enjoyed looking at some clothes and feeling a little normal, even though, I hasten to add, things are NOT normal and I really shouldn't be acting like they are. Ugh.

Over the last few months, but lockdown in particular, I've been trying to, for the first time ever, actually adopt some kind of skin care regime. I've been pretty lucky in that for most of my life I've done literally nothing to my skin, and in return it has blessed me with barely any spots, oil, dryness, or any of the other bad stuff. But latterly my face has started getting dryer and dryer, my hands have struggled with soreness for the last few winters, and my legs get dry too for some reason, (plus my feet are gross and calloused from years of walked too far and not really taking care of them) so I am actually making a concerted effort to care for myself. 

In order to make it sufficiently appealing that I persist, I have picked out products whose smells are either divine in their own right, or who evoke strong and specific memories for me. I'm really enjoying it so far.

Charlie's limp didn't get any better, and the vets feared he may have the beginnings of arthritis or hip dysplasia, so he had x-rays under general anaesthetic. Luckily, neither of those things, just some slight abnormality around one hip that appeared to be having an acute flare up, but which is hopefully treatable with anti-inflammatories.

For the boy, a strange day out of which he has little memory, but which he returned from in the evening thoroughly discombobulated and bemused. (He's on short walks only at the moment which is super weird given how used I am to being out with him all the time.)

Sorry to be boring, just thinking about this some more and trying to quantify this new aesthetic (from a place of being stuck at home unable to access shops and sort of having to imagine it and plan what I might buy when I can...)

It got really hot back there, hey.
I enjoyed wearing these ridiculous shorts which I've had for YEARS and never felt quite right previously but suddenly do. Also a top which shows my belly, which feels counterintuitive right now, but also looked super cute, so fine.

What a weird summer, eh.

30 degree plus weather can do one though, much though I am loathe to ever complain about the sun.

So I wanted to return the H&M jeans that didn't fit, and was loath to walk two hours again to do so. At the moment my housemate has her car here from her parents because she's been moved to work at a different hospital that's too far to travel by public transport.

We decided to take advantage of this fact aaaaannnnnd... go to stupid big Westfields shopping centre to huff in a load of other people's germs?!!?

I dunno. It was probably a bad thing to do.

We masked up. We kept distance. (It was incredibly busy so this was hard at times). We disinfected a million times. I got a whole bunch of exciting new clothes that actually do fit this time, and now I'm gonna hide at home again for as long as I can. (It was really really really really nice to go out and I feel really really really really bad about it)

Did have to go and do a grocery shop though. With my wheely trolley. On the way home, had a long phone chat with a good friend, which made me happy. Also feeling SUPER CUTE in some of my new non-skinny-jean trousers.

FROWNY FACE. But it's okay. Just gotta keep going.

(As an aside, quite pleased with how much this does actually look like grumpy Emma. Maybe like 7 years of doing a drawing every day is actually starting to pay off, huh)