Monday, 30 September 2019

September 2019

One of those months where I can't quite believe that the beginning of the month was the same month. Makes sense I guess though...

Pretty much ever since I knew I was going to move (back around June) I'd been longing to start packing, but there was no sense in living out of boxes for months purely because of over-enthusiasm for leaving. Given that I was moving on September 14th, my own self-imposed 'wait until' date for packing was September 1st. I started then and it felt good.

This isn't particularly well drawn, but some vague musings on... changing fashions in boob shape I guess? Seems like there's been a bit of a renaissance for natural (i.e. saggy/wide) boob shape rather than the entirety of the rest of my life when the focus has been on wonderbra style pertness, forwardness. My chest for one is thankful. Suddenly I can go out in a non-wired bra (and technology has developed such that there are comfortable non-wired bras) and not feel grotesque, even though it's FASHION that has changed, not my shape. Kinda weird kinda sad kinda cool.

Not having fun with my hair though. The undercut is growing out and I can't quite decide whether to cut it shorter again or work on getting long hair again. At the moment it's just sort of... pokey. (Though someone the other day told me that I had a lesbian haircut, which I took as a huge compliment. I mean who wants to be read as straight in 2019?!)

My gran passed away on the 6th. It's okay though! It's weird saying it but then immediately pushing back people's sympathies and well wishes, but... She was so old! 98! Nearly 99! And latterly very sick. It was definitely the right time, and I got to say my goodbyes a couple of months ago before she got much worse. Tried to draw her — I still struggle with portraiture, but I quite liked this. Mostly because of her incredible white hair, always immaculately curled.

One last jaunt to Manchester as a northerner. And it was great.

HERO DAV helped me with lots of tedious moving errands.

Had my last session with my therapist. (Have I ever said before that you can click to enlarge these? I assume you've all figured that out by now?)

Look I'm just gonna say, I was an angry goose fan before it was cool to love angry geese.

One of my (admittedly few) great sadnesses about leaving Hebden Bridge was saying goodbye to the incredible community at the Egg Factory. I still feel little twinges of sadness on Wednesday lunchtime, when, as Lizzie said 'We'll all still be sat around this red checked table cloth, don't you worry'.
These folks have been some of my closest friends and wonderful support through hard times, but perhaps most importantly incredible creative inspiration — individually and as a collective. I'm so going to miss being party to (and sometimes involved with) their plots and schemes to make good art and share it with the world.

Been a) sleeping terribly, and b) buying myself extravagant things while I still have money before I'm London-broke. Treated myself to a weighted blanket, and... I think it's good?! It's not REVELATORY like a lot of people say, but after a few nights I really enjoyed it. (I haven't slept under it at all since getting to London though because IT'S STILL REALLY HOT DOWN HERE HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Also I've actually been sleeping great again since I got to London, guess I just needed to live on an incredibly noisy, polluted road with a 24 hour bus route and lorries thundering past all night, eh? (No but really I am sleeping so well, my brain loves that thundering apparently)

Fevered last minute packing commences. I lose everything then re-find it. I buy myself a lampshade at the last minute for some inexplicable reason. I eat a good pizza. I listen to the radio and feel calm in the midst of it all.

And then... We go. It ended up being that me and Justin moved out on the same day, despite our different end destinations. Part coincidence, but part planning, because I don't think either of us could bear to be alone in that house.

It's a funny thing. Such a beautiful house. So big. So comfortable. I could have it exactly as I wanted it. No worries about grumpy landlords and random evictions. No worries about ever not being able to afford rent. The stunning view. The giant kitchen.

But I never felt at home. Whenever I was alone in that house I was equal parts scared and miserable. It creaked and moaned. It was full of dark corners and too many rooms. I should have listened to my instincts. I should never have bought it. I should have run then — recognised that I needed to leave, recognised that I was trying to force a home in somewhere that never could be.

I am so so so happy to be free.

Me and Charlie got the train down to London. It all went blissfully to plan. The quiet, smooth train from Manchester to London takes only two hours, and Charlie snoozed on the seat next to me most of the way. We were met at Euston by our lovely friend Jay, who walked us through central London, stopping in Green Park for ice creams and sitting in the sun. A tourist photo outside Buckingham Palace, for the memories. Then to Victoria, and on the four minute train to Battersea, and suddenly, this is my new life.

I've probably said this before, but I've wanted to live in London for basically my whole life. In my earliest years, my Grandparents ran a hotel in Holborn. Some of my first memories are of that echoey, glamourous building, parks nearby, riding on the tube with my mum. As I got older, despite growing up in North Wales, we regularly passed through London visiting relatives. I always knew it was where I wanted to be — I wanted to go to university there, but my Dad (probably sensibly) convinced me it was too expensive. I then spent all of the years following convincing MYSELF it was too expensive. Maybe it is too expensive. Maybe I've got too used to living in my luxury 5 bedroom house and paying £200 a month for the privlidge (!). But I haven't had to wrestle with that yet. I arrived on a weekend of glorious 20 degree+ sunshine, the sunshine I've been longing for during all these months of rain. Everything is beautiful. Everything is as it should be. I'm finally home.

We live just two minutes walk from Battersea Park. In case you didn't know, Battersea Park is THE BEST London park (some may disagree but I will accept no competitors). It is huge, incredibly varied, and full of people just... doing their happy thing. My first couple of days are a combination of unpacking all of my things and strolling around the park in glorious sunshine with Charlie, in a happy daze.

But I am a notoriously easily bored walker, so we quickly start exploring our new neighbourhood, venturing down to another nearby green space, Clapham Common. It's very different to Battersea Park, much more wide and open, but delightful nonetheless, and many of the streets between our home and the park are beautiful and quiet.

And the next day we try our third park, Wandsworth Common. I think I like it more than Clapham Common, and I feel slightly emotional to actually be in it, having stared out the windows of trains at it so many times. Although it is good, it is also awkwardly divided right down the middle by the train line, and if you get all the way up to one end only to discover you can't get back across, it's kind of annoying. That is my only criticism.

So far it's mostly just been me and Charlie (my housemate Alex — an old school friend — has been away for most of my first fortnight here, and my other housemate Beatrice is very quiet and shy and tends to keep herself to herself)... I left Charlie home alone for the first time to go and see an ART, and also some friends, at the opening of the LCC's 'Emergence' show, in which my friends George and Wes both had some pieces being exhibited.

It's a hard feeling to describe, but in these first days, everything feels very... vivid, intense somehow... But in the good way? I've always loved riding on the underground (I am a massive train nerd, yes). Both the modern shiny new trains, but also some of the rattlier older lines, like the grimy, sweltering hot Bakerloo line trains where the lights flicker on and off as the train rumbles south.

At Waterloo, a man died while repairing one of the moving walkways, just a couple of days before. We all file past in silence (not reverent silence, more like 'commuters on their way home' silence.) The walkway is still off and there's a single bunch of flowers resting on the side of it.

At the LCC, the work is predominantly focussed on considering and understanding different futures. Of course, much of this focusses on climate change, and rightly so. This is another thing that's feeling very heady, very vivid, very REAL at the moment. As I go through all this emotional and practical upheaval in my own life, in the background a hectic cacophany of politics and fear plays out. Brexit, Boris, of course — but also our ever growing (seemingly daily) recognition of how fucked we are environmentally, and whether there is anything we can do about it.

I think I mentioned in a previous month, but I frequently wrestle with the aching sense that these might be 'the last good days'. Perhaps everything seems so heady and vivid because we are heading towards a cliff edge. I hope that I can live out the rest of my life in relative comfort, but I have the terrible sense that my days may not end without radical and drastic changes in standard of living that are hard to even contemplate.

And so, I stand in the art school. Everyone's wearing their neon green 'Climate emergency' arm bands, But we're all laughing. Drinking the free wine. Dressed in our art show finery. Everything is so beautiful and so exciting and so REAL, and I just wonder how many more years I get to live like this. To wear a pretty dress and drink a fizzy pop and think about boys. To cuddle my dog and fall asleep in a comfortable bed, safe in the knowledge that another similar day awaits me.

Anyway that got kind of heavy didn't it.

The next day we went to another park. I can't remember what it was called, but I stood on a bridge in the sun for ages watching dark green weeds softly ripple in the crystal clear current underneath.

And then it hits. The elation fades (just a little), because... I'm alone now.
I still miss Ava. Or at least, I miss their presence. I miss their jokes. I miss their support. I miss knowing there would be someone to talk to when I got home. I don't miss the bad days, and I am frequently grateful that I no longer have to feel the bad feelings, but still. I will always love them, and probably, on some level, always miss them.

And I miss Justin. It's a new missing, though in truth I think in many ways we are very happy to be apart from each other. But you don't live with someone for 6+ years and move across the country together and not feel a little pain at parting.

I remind myself that it's early days, and also that I have LOADS of friends in London, the main thing that's holding me back is time, distance, and waiting until Charlie's a bit more settled before I leave him for extended periods of time.

So I know I'll be okay, but it's just some of the little things. Like having my own food cupboard again, just like halls. On the bright side, I'll never come home and discover someone has eaten all my pasta! On the downside, I'll never come home and discover that someone has cooked me dinner. So, it's a mixture.

With good timing, it's Sunday, and I go to my new local Quaker church (Wandsworth meeting). It's the oldest Quaker meeting house in London, dating back to the 1700's, and the building is a beautiful, calm, still space, inbued with all those hundreds of years of silence and waiting. Before and after meeting I am approached by at least 10 people to welcome me and chat. The Quakers are GREAT. It is a comfort and a solace to know that I can seek out this community wherever I might find myself. (In geography, in life.)

It's Granny's funeral, and it's a lovely, small celebration of her life. Nice to see some family too. Granny always made beautiful lace, and often worked against this rich blue background cloth. I always associate the colour so strongly with her.

I get rained on for the first time since moving, but honestly THAT'S A PRETTY GOOD RUN OF THINGS, I AM NOT COMPLAINING.

YAY DAV! (Dav often has meetings in London, so we got to have a lovely catchup and he got to have some much missed Charlie cuddles). Having spent much of the last year hanging out pretty much every weekend, and supporting each other while we figure out our next life steps, I really miss him, so I'm happy we'll hopefully still get to see each other semi-regularly.

Another visitor on Thursday. My 18 year old cousin Sarah is also FIGURING OUT HER LIFE in ways which feel both very vivid and recent to me, yet also incredibly distant past. Trying to be as wise (lol) and helpful as I can, while also still completely flailing at life myself. Took her to see my friend Kees' band play up at the Shacklewell Arms. It was a good time and nice to see some music and ride some trains and talk about life and hug a Dutchman.

But then, HEYYYY inevitable London germs onslaught. I have a cold. It is bad. But I haven't had a cold since winter 2017, so I had a good run I guess.

Not to be deterred from doing ALL THE THINGS though, I piled Charlie onto an overground train up to Hoxton (he did very well, my brave boy), and me and my old uni friend Michael had some nice park strolls and went to the divine Temple of Seitan for some fried not-chicken loveliness.
(I'm not lonely any more btw. I will be fine.)

After our overground success the previous day, we did a short UNDERGROUND test. I need to take Charlie up to Finsbury Park later this week, and I wanted to establish whether he'd be okay on the tube or whether I need to go the long way round on the overground via Highbury and Islington (a 16 min journey vs a 55 min journey). We did a short hop from Vauxhall to Victoria and he ACED it. He was mildly anxious and quite curious (lots of ear waggling), but definitely not actively scared.

I haven't really talked about Charlie that much even though he's felt like one of the strongest presences in my life since being in London. He is my sweet boy and he never leaves my side. He's remarkably chill about all the scary city things (big loud buses, millions of other dogs in the park, all the trains etc)... And he seems to be reasonably well settled and back a routine... But, whereas in Yorkshire he had me and Justin to bounce off around the house, here it's just me. He follows me everywhere, which I don't think is neccesarily a consequence of moving (he was always like that), but more a consequence of only having one human who he thinks of as 'his'. It's both adorable and annoying (I can only imagine the nightmare of having an actual child. At least Charlie can't talk and doesn't need constantly entertaining)... He's totally fine to be left home alone (he doesn't trash anything or howl or bark, all the evidence we have is that he just curls up in bed and goes to sleep), but when I AM home, he needs to be around me at all times unless I actively tell him not to be.

This wouldn't matter if it weren't for my constant worry that he's only nearby because he NEEDS something... So even though we've already lived together for nearly three years, we're still figuring each other out. It's lucky he's such an incredibly good, sweet boy.

We've been on three Borrow My Doggy 'dates', with Gabe, Becca and Alice. All of whom are lovely London folks who love dogs but can't have one of their own for various reasons, and would love the chance to occasionally hang out with Charlie. I am trying to build up a little network of folks like this, so that, for example, if I decide I want to take a day out to go see some art, or go to a gig, there will be people on hand who can take Charlie on his own adventures, and/or keep him company, give him his dinner and take him for wees when he needs. Fingers crossed that given time these friendships will develop. Becca is taking him out for an evening walk tomorrow while I go to the doctor, so hopefully he will charm her (but literally who has he ever NOT charmed)

I am still sick, but it's working its way out of me. This Friday I get to see Alfred for the first time since February. I got my nails done especially (I mean, I live above a nail salon now, it would be rude not to) and bought some expensive echinacea to try and speed up the healing. London budgeting can start next month I guess 😬

Saturday, 31 August 2019

August 2019

I've been feeling okay this month, for the most part. More than I have for a while. I feel like my visual diaries might have got quite insular because I've just been... thinking about that, quite a lot I guess, maybe at the expense of more interesting things... I don't know.

I started the month a little wistful though. Our wonderful friend Davey moved back to Montana at the very end of July... He'd been such a wonderful source of friendship and company and for most of this year, and suddenly just NOT having him there, felt like a big void.

But you know, it stopped raining, for a moment, and that was nice. (Drew myself first and was like 'yeah that's kind of cute' then drew Charlie and was like 'hahahahaha I fucked that up')

Amy and Joe came to visit from Leeds and it was lovely. We had momos and a catch-up, and I'm going to really miss them!

And the next day Matthew and Claire came to visit from Manchester which was ALSO lovely, but apparently the main thing I was focussed on come visual diary time was what a bloody nightmare getting those weird ikea screws out was, having spent over an hour with my friend Alice trying to disassemble my wardrove to give to her (we managed eventually) (but I am never buying an ikea flatpack again)

It's been a weird kind of summer. Maybe the worst summer I've ever had? Definitely the feelsiest summer I've ever had.

Not all bad feels though.

And while the sun's out, I get my arms and legs out, and I walk, and I feel contented. And I see pairs of magpies, foraging in the fields in the warmth.

And then it's raining again. And I see a single magpie eating roadkill.

It kept raining and I felt the desperate need to get out of the valley, so I got the train to Halifax and had some non-lard chips and curry in the rain while listening to a man play sad piano (and.... it was good?!)

It's still raining. I walk grumpily in it for a couple of hours and then I come home and work determinedly for the rest of the day, because this is all I can do to make myself feel optimistic.

Have I ever mentioned how great Dav* is? (*My bff/housemate Justin's partner)

He's a wonderful person who is both hilariously funny and incredibly kind and sweet and caring, and I'm going to miss seeing him every weekend SO much. This is a tiny silly tribute to him.

Dav made us a Jam Roly Poly and it was GREAT. I told Alfred about it on the phone later and that's how I learned that in America, roly polys are woodlice, and how he learnt that in the UK, roly polys are forward rolls (And a kind of pudding) (But in America pudding means something different as well). Isn't language weird.

Bloody hell, me and the boy had a BAD NIGHT.

So there have been a few rats seen on the street, and one neighbour even had one in her house. There was a massive one dead in the road the day before, so... I had rat anxiety on my mind.

I didn't go to bed until quite late, and only slept until about 2am, when... Charlie came to get me?! That basically never happens (I think he's come up once before in the night in the whole time I've had him), so I assumed he needed a wee, and took him out. He had a small wee and then was ready to come in again, so I was like 'huh, okay'... Sent him back to bed in the living room and he was weirdly reticent about going in... In my sleepy brain state, I was like FUCK there's a RAT in here somewhere, and was suddenly horrified. But I didn't know what to do, so I apologised to the dog and went back to bed, but lay awake for another hour worrying and listening. (This house makes SO many noises)

Just as I was about to drop off at around 3am, the boy came up AGAIN and I was like 'aaaaargh, what ISSSSSS ITTT' but went down with him and couldn't find anything scary, but was still convinced in my own mind it was a rat hiding somewhere. Lay awake for another couple of hours and could hear the boy pacing around anxiously downstairs. He came back up at 5am so I took him out again just in case, and it was only THEN that he had a horrible upset tummy poo, and then trotted back over quite happily and got back into his bed completely contentedly, and I was like 'WHY DIDN'T YOU DO YOUR POO WHEN I TOOK YOU OUT AT 2AM', and felt terrible for not realising what was wrong (and so proud of him for not pooping in the house even though he obviously needed to go so badly). So I finally went to sleep at about 5am and then got up for my alarm and 7am, and lo, it was AWFUL.

And ridiculously annoyingly that day was a day I'd been looking forwards to for ages, because I was going into Leeds to have vegan fish and chips and a sleepover at my friends Daisy and Ferg's place, and to see Battles at the Brudenell. And I was SO TIRED, but I did still manage to have fun. (I'm trying to see as many of my Manchester/Leeds friends as I can in this month or so before I go)

One of my favourite politicians out there, his politics are sound and he's super cool, EXTREMELY RARE. He was doing a little mini-tour of Calderdale now that he's our MEP. It was absolutely chucking it down with rain (lol, surprise), so his event in Hebden Bridge was rained off, but by chance I bumped into him while he was doing a mini-tour of the town hall. (Along with one other guy, who struggled to comprehend that he has the same last name and first name)

As well as seeing my friends before I go, I've also been trying to see all the places I'd wanted to get to... This weekend I finally got over to Southport (having been repeatedly prevented this summer by rain), as part of my ongoing mission to visit all of the UK's pleasure piers. Southport pier is a good 'un — the UK's second longest pier (although I thought that was a it of a con, as loads of it just runs over land), and the UK's oldest iron pier. It also had an incredible collection of functioning vintage slot machines at the end, and a cafe where you could buy a vegan magnum. Excellent work all round.
I took Charlie with me and he was a very brave train boy on the 1hr 45min journey on rattly Northern trains, and got to have a nice run on the beach,

Did I ever mention he's the sweetest?

Honestly, the rain here feels spiteful sometimes.

I walked Charlie to the vet for his annual vaccinations (in the rain, obvs). There was a fire at the much-loved (but latterly derelict) old Walkley Clogs mill last month, and it's now having to be demolished. As I was passing I saw this workman and took a picture, because something about his resting pose and the contrast of his high-vis against the background of crumbling mill seemed very appealing and evocative to me, so I tried to paint it later.

We finally had the summer's second sunny-couple-of-days in a row!

I went for a very long walk and got my belly out, and felt good again. Drew this using the beautiful yellow safflower ink Carolyn gifted me on my visit to Birmingham last month.


Went on another long (and new!) walk to make the most of the weather. I love these mirrors.

Extremely excited that Bake Off is back, and very much enjoyed watching the first episode with Justin and Dav.

Ava got in contact with me for the first time since June, which was a weird feeling. I'd got to the point where I really didn't want to hear from them (ever?), but they were asking if they could see Charlie, which made me happy. An ongoing source of deep sadness for me had been the fact that they hated the thought of having to interact with me more than they loved Charlie, because I know how much they loved Charlie. And it was a lot.

They asked if Charlie could have a sleepover with them, which was a lovely idea, and so he did. And it's ridiculous, because it was only one night, but I really missed him. He curls up with me most evenings while we watch TV and I really felt his absence.

Sat at home drawing and feeling wistful. A hazy warm evening, and the sound of samba drums echoing up the valley — every Wednesday evening since we've lived here, their distinctive sound can be heard. We always call it 'drums night', and laugh about how it sort of signified the passing of time for us — 'how is it drums night again?' etc... It's a very specific sound and a very specific shared experience with Ava and Justin. Those two who have been my closest friends/family for the last 5, 6, 7 years?

It's an ending, and it's a sadness. It's the right thing but it still makes my heart ache with loss, as I sit and listen to the drums in this beautiful house that I thought I'd always dreamt of, that somehow never felt like home.

The extreme amount of heavy rain coupled with warm temperatures means that slugs have been having a field day, and it is NOT COOL (I am very cool with Lizzo though, and this track is great)

Much though I'm happy to be leaving, there are several foody treats that I will genuinely miss. If you're ever visiting Hebden Bridge, my recommends:

Tibetan Kitchen — veggie momos. Divine tibetan chilli dumplings served with a beautifully flavourful chilli sauce. 6 in a box but sometimes the guy gives you 7 if he likes you.

Blue (Japanese) — Pumpkin katsu curry (their sushi is great too). For ages I didn't really eat there because they couldn't make their katsu vegan, but they finally figured out a way to batter the pumpkin without egg, and they've totally nailed it.

Pennine Provisions — 'Death by chocolate' Torte. Just a great little food shop, but they have some fresh stuff including cakes, and this chocolate torte is PERFECT. Subtly gingery spiced soft biscuit base, and rich, thick chocolatey torte later, sublime.

Origano — pizza. This place is NEW, and finally there's a place in Hebden doing pizzas with vegan cheese! I had one for the first time last night and that was what prompted this diary, because it was perfect.

JK's — Chinese. Oh JK, I WILL MISS U SO MUCH. (Legit the best Chinese place I've ever been)

So... As of today, we've had an offer on the house. It seemed like the housing market was very slow and there was no interest at all, but this week a lovely lady and her family have been to visit a few times, and they came today and they've made a wondeeful offer, and subject to all of the paperwork and surveys and so on and so forth... It's done. I'm so happy to pass the house to some lovely people who will hopefully be happy here.

I've had a contented day pottering around starting to pack in preparation for the move while my neighbour took Charlie out for a fun day of adventures. This evening though, he's been the GURGLIEST, EGGIEST FART BOY IN THE WORLD, which was already making me quite anxious, and then I noticed he was really drooly too (totally unusual), so now I'm really worried he ate something bad and has poisoned himself. (One of his only foibles is that he likes eating random stuff he finds out on his walks)... And given our experiences earlier in the month I'm also worried that he's going to do a bad poop, and/or wake me up in the middle of the night again.

So there's a gross cliffhanger to leave you on.

The other cliffhanger of course, is that I move to London in two weeks today. September is going to be a month of big adventure, and I can hardly wait!