Sunday, 30 April 2017

April 2017

Time, what even is it?

April has been a rush, of all kinds of things.

Such a rush that I'm not entirely happy with the quality of lots of my drawings this month. Well, the same's true every month, but I feel particularly like I've been making sloppy, basic mistakes...

I'm also becoming increasingly discontented with my inability (or possible lack of patience) with capturing people's likenesses. So much I rely on haircut/dress style, but there's a real failure on my part to actually engage with the way people's faces look (even though believe it or not, I do use reference photos almost all the time so check what people actually look like before I draw them, but you wouldn't know it from my final efforts...)

Anyway, this month has been particularly poor in this respect I think, because I've seen a lot of people and been low on time, but it's something I want to make a conscious effort to improve going forward. So apologies to anyone in this month's diary (or past months) who's like 'Emma thinks I look like THAT?!'

Not to mention I'm falling into a predictable pattern of typographic styles. I'm wary of getting into stylistic habits, because ultimately as much as creating a document of my life, this visual diary was always meant to be about technically challenging myself, and even though that's not possible every day, I should be trying more.

Manchester vegan festival on the 1st feels like a world away. I got some good treats, but look, pet gripe about these things — just because I'm vegan does not mean I buy into alternative (/fake) medicine, tie dyed clothing, and yoga. These things have no place at a vegan festival. I want MOAR WEIRD CASHEW CHEESES, less naff jewellery please, thanks.

The nature of my life now is that I walk a LOT, and up a lot of hills — typically upwards of 5 miles a day. (I want to get one of those fitbits which tells me how many floors/floor equivalents I've climbed, because believe me, it is so many.)
Some days it's a slog. But some days I feel strong and energised and I stride up those hills with power, and I feel joy and wonder at having a body that propels me around with such efficiency. Those are the good days.

A nice day of lots of things. I've been really enjoying spending time at The Egg Factory (although this month less than I would have liked, for various reasons!)
Was delighted that someone else there had heard my name mentioned in relation to some intereating freelance work I've been doing with Stir to Action. A minor moment of fame in the co-operative/alternative finance community!
Touched some paper, chatted screenprinting, enjoyed having lots of people in the house for Alex's work stuff, and NEW CAT FRIEND!

Alex suggested I do a visual diary from Charlie's perspective, as this was a particularly intense day for him. He went for a swim (quite brave), he went to the vet for the first time (with me, anyway — just for a general checkup to make sure we're taking good care of him, and you know what, he is SO WELL that she didn't even charge me for looking at him)... I got him a worming tablet and disguised it in a bundle of kale and peanut butter (he really likes kale, and the vet recommended peanut butter for hiding tablets). I think he fully knew the tablet was in there, but he humoured me and ate it anyway because he's a sweetheart.
One area in which he will NOT humour me however, is the cat. He is SO SCARED of cats, and I'd initially thought we might be able to let the cat come and hang out in the house, but it causes such clear distress to Charlie and Alex won't let me let the cat in any more. (I was of the opinion that he'll just have to get used to it, but that's probably a bit selfish of me, it's not like the cat has any right to come into the house, much though it thinks it does)

Harriet came to visit, YAY! We took an unseasonably warm walk down to Lumb Mill where Alex and Harriet had a bit of a paddle.

You may sense a theme forming. We have had SO many people to visit this month, and I ended up styling all their pages the same this month, not least because when people are visiting I have less time/head space to do drawings, so it's a bit of a cheat really, but does create a pleasing consistency. During the day with Harriet still here, we headed for a long walk through Hardcastle Crags in glorious sunshine, and later that evening Matt joined us for a brief overnight stop in.

The thing about Matt is, he lives a pretty aspirational lifestyle. (He's the kind of person who makes himself overnight oats, whittles spoons for fun, and washes up immediately after cooking, swoon, right?!)
He's also a long distance fell runner, and incredibly kindly took Charlie for his morning walk the next day (I do all of Charlie's morning walks, so any opprtunity to NOT have to get up at 8am or earlier is a wonderful treat). Me and Charlie's typical morning walk is a gentle 45 minute stroll up to Heptonstall. Matt took him on a 10 MILE RUN up to the moors.

I will forever be a disappointment to Charlie from now on.
(This is not true, he's a sweetheart with a short memory)

But anyway, I'd been thinking a little about running anyway, on the basis that 1) it's free, 2) it's solitary, which are pretty important critera for me and sport. Aforementioned hills are such an effort, and it would be so amazing to just be able to go for a walk and not feel so incredibly unfit struggling up all the inclines (although I have already noticed some improvement in my fitness, it's not enough). Not to mention the fact that running would expand my range and open up new areas (at the moment, a 10 mile walk would take so long that I'd never really consider it).

So with that in mind, I googled 'couch to 10k' (turns out it's usually couch to 5k, but couch to 10k programs do exist, and I like a challenge)... And I started running. And it wasn't awful.

I'll be honest, I've been away for the later part of the month, so I've stopped, but I'm going to start again from 'week 1' tomorrow, because for the week that I was running, I felt a genuinely sense of joy and freedom that I'd not expected, fitness benefits aside. I may lose interest (very likely), but equally, maybe this is the start of something wonderful.

Matt is also the kind of person who brings super sweet, thoughtful gifts when he's a houseguest — this time, a bundle of freshly foraged wild garlic, as it's in season. Alex made it into pesto with walnuts, basil, olive oil and vegan parmesan, and it was so garlicy I thought my mouth might never feel okay again, but also AMAZING.

Jade came to visit! (And I gathered more wild garlic because I needed another hit of that incredible pesto and we'd eaten it all, but we've never been able to recreate the wonder of that initial batch...)

Got irrationally upset with Justin for eating 'my' avocado (despite it having no indicator of it being mine on it), but failed to confront him about it due to becoming irrationally distracted by him cutting it in an entirely counter intuitive way (and then intense self-questioning of whether I am in fact wrong).

Went for another run. It was fun but also raining, and currently I'm relying on my phone to buzz me when to walk and when to run, and trying to protect it from the rain was a hassle in a way that aggravated me more than it should have done.

I... can I even be bothered to explain the Pace Egg? Okay, this is a diversion.
So basically up at Heptonstall on Good Friday, there's this play... or something. And a group of people perform the play repeatedly over the course of the day in different locations around the village. And people go and watch. And alcohol is drunk between each performance so that by the end of the day both actors and audience are smashed, and then everyone rolls back down the hill to Hebden to continue the piss up. We're on the road down from Heptonstall, and even though the whole ritual is clearly hilarious and ridiculous and quite endearing, because I was hormonally grumpy I got irrationally pissed off with the constant stream of LADS LADS LADS coming down the hill looking in through my kitchen window at me while I washed up. Some of them even did knock door run, which is just SO PUERILE GUYS

Oh and everything is covered in dog hair forever and I'm mostly okay with that but sometimes I just despair.

Tried to challenge myself to draw people in a different way. These look nothing like me, Naomi and Sarah, but at least I tried. Naomi and Sarah (And Sarah's little girl Megan) came to visit and it was lovely. They're two of my oldest friends and I don't think we've all three been together in 2 or 3 years, so that made me happy.

Easter, and Deb came to visit!
I started off Easter thinking that this would be the first year of my life that I wouldn't have an easter egg, due to poor planning and being vegan. This made me a little sad, although it's clearly ridiculous. Alex made fun of me for being ridiculous, but then stayed up late the night before making me some chocolatey egg-shaped creations from blended bourbon biscuits, chocolate spread, cocoa, banana, and anything else chocolatey that could be found in the kitchen. They were pretty intense and amazing, and arguably the most lovely easter egg gift I've ever had. Not content with that though, I did, by chance, find a shop in town selling a vegan easter egg and some vegan mini eggs on easter morning, so I grabbed those too. Then Deb rolled up with a whole MYRIAD of easter treats from the USA, and I went from no easter treats to, perhaps, too many easter treats. (Never too many easter treats)

Maybe I don't do politics enough in my visual diaries, but you'd better believe I am thinking about it A LOT.

I lured Alfred AKA Daedelus to Yorkshire with promise of boardgames and dog friend and scenic countryside, and he actually took a couple of days out from touring to come stay, which was an utterly wonderful treat. Never meet your heroes. They might actually be so nice you want to be friends, but they live on the other side of the world so it's probably not truly viable, but if you're lucky you can have fleeting moments and that's enough.

We travelled to London together the next day, which was a whirl of good things, culminating in staying up far too late with him and Mel on the wrong side of the city but it all worked out okay in the end.

I had a few days in London. London is great. Growing up I always dreamt of living there. Now, not so much. I don't think it's where life is taking me, and the rent makes me wince, but as a city it has a huge piece of my heart, and getting to spend a few days there (rather than just day/evening trips like when I lived in Brighton) is a rare treat.

Okay, so everyone knows that feeling of making a stupid faux pas. Stupid and tiny but your brain can't help but dwell on it, and days or even weeks are tainted by the constant background sense that you are, in fact, an idiot, with terrible judgement, and everything is awful.
I won't even go into it. But suffice to say I had a lovely day full of lovely things, lived as though under a cloud of shame. I was lucky to have wonderful people and sights around me to keep me company under my cloud.

I pulled myself out from under my cloud for ESCAPE ROOMS with Lyall, Luke, Lucy and Michael. I've never done an escape room before, let alone two in one day, and let me tell you, it was great fun, and I highly recommend it, even though there's no way I'd have made it out by myself, but luckily was on a team of geniuses. A wonderful way to spend my last day in London before heading back down to Brighton.

I hadn't originally planned to return to Brighton so soon, but when I mentioned to James my senior designer that I was spending a few days in London, he persueded me to do this week's work from the Brighton office rather than heading home to Hebden. It was a good thing to do. The company I work for are opening a new college in Brighton, and I finally got to go visit the building site, which was very exciting. (And helpful, as I'll jointly be working on the signage for it).
Being back in Brighton was an unexpectedly neutral experience. I was expecting a big upsurge of emotion... either joy at returning, or sadness at having left in the first place, but actually it just felt like the last 3 months had never happened, and I was just returning to work after a weekend away. Disconcerting, and strange, but not entirely bad, as I hadn't particularly been relishing dealing with intense emotions around home vs. not home.

I stayed with wonderfully generous Hannah and Tristan in Shoreham, and their three guinea pigs, Nina, Yen and Ezio. Hannah jokingly said on my first night there that one of the conditions of my residence was that I drew the pigs for one of my visual diaries, and I was only too happy to oblige, I don't think I've ever drawn a guinea pig before (not that these are exemplary examples as I took a slightly cheaty approach.)

(Also you might notice that the last few images are on slightly different paper and using very similar colours/materials, because I only take a certain amount of stuff with me when I travel... on the one hand this can give a set of drawings while I'm travelling a samey vibe, but I also quite like the way it ties together particular expeditions in a stylistic way.)

Anyway, the main thing I took away from my week down south was how incredibly fortunate I am to have so many wonderful people in my life. I saw SO many people during my week away (the above drawing doesn't even include any of my wonderful work colleagues!) and this month in general it's been amazing to have so many people make the effort to come up north to visit us, as well as seeing so many friendly faces during my travels back to London/Brighton. You're all amazing, thank you for your kindness. (And I will work on drawing you all so you look more like you actually look, I promise... Although considering I drew this on a very rattly train home, it was more challenging than average...)

Wonderful to be home, to the biggest, most lovely house I've ever been lucky enough to live in, and the best doggo chum in the world, but my GOODNESS the combination of those two things = mega dirt party. I'm basically trying to be constantly on top of things while I'm home, and the horror of how much grossness builds up in just a week away is quite something to behold. How does that dog generate so many hairs. Surely this hair growing ability should be harnessed for something useful to science.

Nat lives in Manchester and is one of my absolute faves, yet despite this the first time we saw each other since my move North was in London a few days earlier. Local meet now acheived though, and Charlie-bonding too. (Still can't draw that dog either...)

Onwards to May. I'll be lucky if it's got half the number of treats I had this month. Thank you all for being so wonderful to me.