Monday, 31 October 2016

October 2016

I cannot believe that a whole month has passed since THE MOST INTENSE HOUSE OUTING EVER™ 

It was so intense I devoted TWO PAGES to it, which is unprecedented in the world of Emma's visual diary. 

So, regular readers may know that I am on a very slow mission to visit all the UK’s remaining pleasure piers. As we’re moving up North in January, I’ve decided to try and cross off a few southern ones before we go. With this in mind, I calculated an optimum route to take in two piers in one day — Southend-on-sea (the UK’s longest pleasure pier) and Gravesend on Sea (the UK’s oldest cast iron pier).
I invited my beloved housemates Alex and Justin along for the ride, and they added some personal desires to the trip — for Justin, a shipwreck museum in a shipping container, for Alex, TWO BOATS! Lots of other stuff happened too…

Feel free to skip over the next bit if you’re not into massively over elaborate days out taken by lovers of public transport…

We got a train at around 8 in the morning up to London, then hopped on the Jubilee line up to Stratford. When we got to Stratford, all trains north were cancelled, so we raced back down to Westham and hopped on a train running a different route to Southend, getting there not long after midday. It was pretty grey and rainy, but we walked down from the station through Southend to the pier (en-route I got called a ‘ginger c**t’ by some LADS, which took me right back to the slightly-grim-seaside-towns of my youth)

Still raining, we set off onto the 1.34 mile walk along Southend pier. That’s a long way to walk along a pier, and to be honest, Southend pier is one of the narrower, more uninspiring piers I’ve ever walked along (aside from its sheer impressive length), not to mention the one with the most unsettlingly wide gaps between slightly rotten-seeming planks. 

Sadly, there’s normally a train running along it, which would definitely have added to the experience, but it was down for maintenance, so we had to walk all the way there AND back. Luckily, when we got to the end, we were greeted by the exciting news that steamship Waverly was coming to pick up a big crowd of people for an outing to London. We went up to the top of the lifeboat house at the end of the pier and watched it come in, and it was all very exciting, in a nerdy kind of way.

Suddenly we realised we were HUNGRY and walked all the way back along the pier in the rain feeling HUNGRY. Did I mention it's a long way? After some hassle, we found a great eating place called the Railway Inn which served an all-vegan menu of all kinds of treats, including lasagne, fish and chips, and burgers. Excellent lunch for damp, hangry pier walkers. 

After lunch, I was keen to get a move on to Gravesend,  but Justin was adamant we had to go and visit the shipwreck shipping container, so, (sun now out), we set off in search of it, and got a ride on a bonus funicular with lovely lady funicular operator, which made the whole thing worthwhile for me (and Justin was very excited about the museum).

We then got a train to Tilbury Town, followed by a convenient bus to a very deserted, industrial Tilbury harbour, where we waited around half an hour for a ferry to Gravesend. It was quite a beautiful spot, with lots of dramatic sky and rainbows.

Eventually the boat came, and we had an enjoyable 10 minute jaunt across the Thames to Gravesend...

...Where we saw lots of treats, including the 'Mug and Meeple' boardgame cafe, a beautiful red 'light ship', Pocahontas's grave, a statue of some mythical figure which I can't even remember but which Justin and Alex insisted we pose with for photos, but disappointingly, THE PIER WAS CLOSED. I got close enough for it to count on my expedition though, although to be honest we liked Gravesend so much we might go back one day.

We then got VERY RAINED ON, and caught a super super super fast high speed train back into Stratford International. We felt very tired, but we powered on and got the DLR (front seat, YESSSS) to Royal Victoria, from where, yes, you guessed it — we got the DANGLEWAY! (aka the cable car thingy)

It was very exciting, and because it was by this point, night time, the cable car took 15 minutes rather than the usual 5, so we got pretty sweet views of nighttime skyline London (highly recommended) accompanied by a saccharine curated soundtrack of Sigur Ros, Elbow, and um... Katy Perry? We shared our compartment with two other couples who ended up being great fun, in an amusingly awkward, 7 strangers crammed into a slightly terrifying dangling box kind of way.

Off the cable car, down to the BOAT! (Number 2), the London Thames clipper from the Dangleway to London Bridge (again, super lovely way to travel London at night), from where we finally got a train back to Brighton.

12 hours; train, tube, funicular, bus, boat, DLR, cablecar, clipper; two piers, SO tiring, so much fun. I may never accomplish so much in one day ever again.

It might have been nice to have a super chilled day on the day after our big outing, but instead we travelled over to Sussex University, to be guinea pigs for the excellent Wesley Goatley’s ‘Critical Data Aesthetics’ Max MSP workshop. An intense but fun day of learnings.

Have been attempting to be frugal recently, but ended up having a very extravagant day in which I finally invested in a not-falling-to-pieces pair of winter boots, and some new pillows. Mmmm, new shoes. Mmmmm, new pillows.

Oh but wait, apparently my feet can’t deal with new shoes ever. I still buy leather shoes which makes me a bad vegan, but my justification for this is typically that a) they last longer, b) they’re more biodegradable than plastic shoes when they eventually do die, and c) my feet are delicate, sensitive souls, and leather is more comfortable. But c) is not true, because apparently all shoes cause me foot agony for at least a couple of weeks after purchase. Sad face.

This is not the best illustration, but VERY EXCITING NEWS, my BFF Sarah has finally popped out a tiny little baby, and her name is Megan, and this is so wonderful.

The onset of the autumn sads? Well actually not yet it seems, thanks to ongoing warm weather and to be honest just being too ridiculously busy to have time to feel sad. (I know, that is not how sadness actually works). I might just have been sad on that day because my winter shoes were hurting my feet so much but I found some old Starburst in my pocket which cheered me up.

 Good storm sky.

Alex has got really into sleeping underneath an actual futon.


Holy Fuck were great.

Been trying to learn how to do fancy plaits. It ain't easy.

We’re so excited about Sainsbury’s new vegan cheeses. They’re pretty incredible tbh.

I’ve been working quite hard this month, spending a lot of time getting some zines ready for the ‘Rose-tinted spectacular’ zine fair that my friends Adam and Alice are putting on in November. I’ll have a half table selling nice things! You should come!

Now that George and Wes have moved up to London our ongoing Pandemic Legacy campaign has ground to a halt, so Alex has persuaded me that the best course of action is for the two of us to power ahead alone. Pretty intense Friday evening (but super fun), we just about saved the world.

Get you a graphic designer who can do both [points at self]

I think I finally 'get' tea now

Good autumn walk.

It's been a ridiculously busy October, maybe at times too busy... But I've actually really enjoyed working as much as I have been. I really feel like I'm hitting my stride in a few different areas of my creative practice, and even when I promise to give myself some down time I just find myself wanting to pick up a pen/mouse and carry on. 

A reminder, that if you're looking for help with any paid graphic design/illustration work, or you know someone who might be, please drop me a line. You will make me very happy (and help support us in our terrifying/exciting move up North!)

Tuesday, 11 October 2016


I recently had the pleasure of creating a set of illustrations for a series of blogs by climate change charity 10:10 about ways to make a small difference in your day-to-day life.

Or as they put it, become UNSTOPPABLE, which is a hyperbole I can definitely get behind.

On the homepage of their website right now, there's a big option to sign up for a series of emails which will basically send one of the ten tips to your inbox every morning for 10 days. What better way to start the day? :)

Or if you don't want to sign up for that, you can read their tips here. I've also put my illustrations below...

(Or, if your house is basically one big draught like mine, maybe even more would be a good idea)

(TIL while doing this illustration... LEDs don't look like this any more...)

(Thankfully my local MP right now is Caroline Lucas who is basically a superhero, but I am thoroughly looking forwards to writing many lengthy letters about this and countless other issues to the Tory MP where we're moving in Yorkshire. I hope he's ready for all the pent up Tory rage I've had no one to meaningfully write to about for the last 5 years.)

(We've already got tinfoil behind every radiator but possibly I might be better off wrapping myself in it during the upcoming winter months [is shivering already])

(Let me talk to you about climate change and how it's real and terrifying.)

(Let's stand on Brighton beach holding hands and looking out at the Rampion Wind farm with joy in our hearts.)

(Community energy projects are an amazing way to take back control and make a difference and I very much hope I'll have the means to get involved with one at some point before too long.)

(This might be my favourite illustration and one of the things on this list I can most enthusiastically endorse, because I love food.)

[Avoids eye contact with beloved bike sitting in the hallway out of action with a seemingly unfixable puncture that I've been too tight to take to the shop and get fixed]

(I like to think that doing these illustrations counts in some small way as helping others, but if you'd like me to cook you a seasonal vegetable meal and bring it over to your house to eat while we shove tinfoil behind all your radiators, please just shout because I am so down for that.)

It's been a joy to work with 10:10, and just as a reminder, I'm currently accepting other freelance commissions for illustration or graphic design work, so if you think there's anything in those areas I might be able to help you with, please do drop me a line!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

September 2016

It has been a super intense month, but good on the whole (in part thanks to the ongoing unseasonal sunshine, which I'm enjoying in much the way someone might enjoy a beautiful sunset while sat on the deck of a very slowly sinking ship. Global warming, hey?)

Even though we're not moving away from Brighton until January, obviously we're starting to get mentally and practically prepared for this as much as we can at this stage. This is involving quite a bitt of touristing around Brighton and the south while we're still close by, which has been strange but fun, and is an ongoing process.
I am also taking on as much freelance work as I can get hold of, with a view to building up both additional savings and hopefully a client base, in readiness for dropping to a part time salary in January.

Do you need some design or some drawings? Email me! I want to help and you will be very much helping me.

So basically this month has been a lot of work in my evenings and weekends, a lot of touristing, and also trying to spend as much time with friends as we can while we're still here. Expect more of the same in the coming months...

I do wonder if my visual diary has suffered as a result of all this busyness, but hopefully there's still some good stuff.

Kind of bad stuff to start though. I’ve been suffering from back pain recently in a way I never really have in my life before. I’ve had to stop going to dance classes (hopefully temporarily) because I found they were aggravating it, which makes me very sad. It’s been coming and going but the GP couldn’t offer much apart from a 4 month wait for physio (by which point we’ll have moved away).
So I’m living with it and it seems to be gradually easing (with occasional flare ups again) so hopefully I’ll be dancing again before too long.
When I drew this I'd also hurt my ankle and was feeling thoroughly miserable.

“Getting good” is an exaggeration. I can now do basic plaits. But there are many plaiting skills I want to learn. Someone please teach me how to do French plaits!

I’m trying to spend less money in preparation for potential financial hard times in the new year. I’m not very good at it. Writing down what you spend is an interesting and sometimes guilt inducing process… (this was a particularly extravagant day)

Not the best drawing but interesting! Brighton has what I formerly thought was one giant cemetery/crematorium... But it's actually two separate cemeteries, each with their own crematorium. One of them is really beautiful, like a hidden valley full of fascinating historic graves, and a beautiful church building. The other one is kind of drab. It's quite a long walk from my house to get to them, and they're kind of confusing to get into/out of, and this particular time I made a mistake and ended up in the wrong one, and had a very disappointing walk.

I've finally nailed quesadillas you guys.

George has moved up to London which is kind of sad, but she came to stay with us for a few days which was lovely. We hung out and watched the Great British Bake Off together.

I’ve been trying to get better at drawing people, and I’m grateful to George (and all other willing participants) for letting me try and capture their likeness.

Some days I feel like the most obnoxious person in the world. Sorry to anyone who’s ever found me as incredibly annoying as I imagine I can be…

I went to stay with one of my oldest friends, Sarah. She’s having a baby… It was due on September 27th, but she’s still waiting as I write this (or maybe it’s happening RIGHT NOW, aaaaagh!)
She was pretty giant although weirdly not as giant as I’d expected! I wanted to spend some time with her before the baby comes because everything changes after babies come along. Not better, not worse, just different. It’s strange to think how much things will change for her, but I can’t wait to meet her little one!

I was also DELIGHTED to meet for the first time Sarah’s dog Charlie, who is just an absolute hero and I have totally fallen for him. I think he liked me too! He’s a rescue dog and a little crazy, but with just the biggest heart and he just wants to do the right thing all the time.
We took some pretty strong selfies together.

Trying to grab occasional moments of calm (but I usually just end up doing laundry or cleaning the house…)

Justin came back from a short time away, and bought Lydia with him to stay, just for one night, but it was really lovely to see her briefly.

As aforementioned, George and Wes have moved up to London, into a very nice house shaped like a cube. Once they'd settled in it was time for housewarming! Me and Alex and Justin travelled up there for it, and it was a super lovely evening with loads of incredibly interesting people.

Sometimes my life kind of feels like a series of perfectly intersecting jigsaw piece shaped tasks

Our friend Matt was briefly in between houses, so he came to stay for a week. I imagine Matt as being probably one of the most dreamy housemates imaginable, on the basis that he’s immaculately clean, cooks bangin’ meals, does his washing up immediately after eating, and is LOVELY.

More quick people drawing practice, Matt and Justin.

Have you heard of the French Revolutionary Calendar? It’s pretty ridiculous. We bought one at the beginning of the year thinking it would be interesting, not realising it didn’t start until September. (You should get one too, it's beautiful, fascinating and lasts for nearly 5 years!) We decided to have a French themed dinner to celebrate its beginning, and Tom and Harriet came over to share it with us. French food is not super easy to veganise, but a team effort of French Onion Soup with Baguettes, French Bean Cassoulet, and potatoes dauphinoise was a right treat.

For this Saturday, Alex and Justin decided it would be fun to visit the highest and lowest points in Brighton in one day. I opted out of the ‘sewer tour’, and instead went to the art fair with my mum, and then we all went up the i360 together.
Honestly, I was a bit cynical about it, although we have enjoyed watching it being built… But I am totally sold, it was SO MUCH FUN!

Only trouble with freelancing is that sometimes you can feel like you've not got much art-brain left for personal projects. Here's hoping I can stay inspired.

This last week I’ve spent a couple of days in Bournemouth on a work trip. I’ve been to Bournemouth quite a few times, but never got round to walking about a mile and a half along the coast to Boscombe Pier.
If you read my blog often you probably already know that I’ve got a very slow-running lifelong mission to visit all the UK’s 50+ pleasure piers. Boscombe was an absolute treat — a beautifully elegant, minimal pier with gorgeous lights all along the edges.

This isn’t a particularly good visual diary (I had a very busy day overseeing a signage install and doing some training with colleagues in Bournemouth), but I just wanted to say how AMAZING Zizzi’s new vegan pizza is. Seriously impressive, and so brilliant that it’s available in every branch. I honestly think it might be one of the best pizzas I’ve had — not even since going vegan, I mean EVER!

Very busy few days. It was nice to sit down at home for a bit and watch the Great British Bake Off.

Alex also wants it noted on the record that the only reason they say this is that they’re getting WORSE at cooking through lack of practice, so I’m effectively sapping their culinary strength :D

Our friend Tom came to stay. Him and his partner Nicola are moving down from Sheffield to Worthing (counter to the way we’d like it, as we’re heading up North, but we should overlap for a couple of months!)
He came to pick up the keys for his flat from the letting agent, and it was great to hang out with him for a couple of evenings. Hannah and Alex F came over and we played ‘Operation Red Planet’ and ‘Dead Last’ and had a wonderful vegan Chinese takeaway banquet.

That's a lot of people and a lot of stuff, and my October has so far been no less hectic, but I am very content to have such full, exciting days all the time at the moment.