Sunday, 22 April 2018

April 2018 (Early, and short)

So I'm doing this a little earlier than usual this month... Tomorrow I get on a train to London, and then the day after that I board a flight for what might even be the biggest adventure of my life — three weeks visiting the USA. Boston, New York and LA. I have been dreaming of doing this for a very long time, and the stars of finance, friendships, relationships, work and general courage have finally aligned to enable me to make it happen. (Hopefully — I still find it hard to believe this is even possible and am fairly terrified something is going to go wrong)

So anyway, here's April so far, and I will do a SPECIAL EDITION blog about my time in the US when I get back (very much hoping I will manage to do it justice with my drawings)

I gave up chocolate and crisps for lent this year, but unlike previous years where it was broadly a positive thing and I broke my addictions, this year I basically just ate loads of biscuits and crackers in place of crisps and chocolate, and when I returned to them, I returned to them with full force (in previous years I've also found that after 6 weeks without chocolate I actually don't want it that much, but this year that was decidedly not the case). I've been eating quite badly for the last couple of months and I'm not sure why. Perhaps from busyness, and I've decided it's something I'll address properly on my return from the US... Along with, potentially, my qualms about my all round goodness as a person. Friends, I apologise if I have seemed distant, or over-busy, or distracted. I have been all of those things, but I want to be better, and am working towards that.

And then it did another snow. It was the worst snow of the winter in some respects in that a) I am SO OVER SNOW now so there was no joy in the scenery despite it being very heavy, and b) within a few hours it turned to heavy rain, leaving everything in the deepest, slimiest, slippiest slush, and it was just MISERABLE and GROSS and for goodness sake surely we're done now.

Feeling feelings. Drifting through eternal winter. All that stuff.

Alex has been nagging me for ages to invite some of my friends round for dinner. I used to do this a lot more in Brighton, and it was super casual and chill and nice, but somehow since moving to Hebden Bridge I've retreated a little, socially, and the whole thing has become oddly intimidating. Anyway, lovely Amy and Rachel and Beth came round and we had some tasty food and played some games and it was GREAT, I don't know what I was even worried about.

Went to Northern Vegan Festival in Manchester and ate so many tiny samples I felt kinda sick. Yay!

Then Shigeto at the Brudenell in Leeds — he was absolutely incredible. Went kind of on a whim because I wanted to get in the city for a bit, and so glad I did. This is a fairly terrible painting, in my ongoing poor efforts to capture something of the live music I love so much.

Since drawing this I had the worst danglepoop experience ever, in which Charlie forlornly came over with a little bit of poop hanging from his butt for me to pull out — I gave it a tug with a poo bag over my hand, as I usually would, and was like 'oh mate, this one's tenacious', just as I realised he'd eaten an elastic band and it pinged out of his butt spraying little bits of poo over my exposed hand and lower arm. Wahey pet ownership!

Went to see Wiki at Night and Day cafe in Manchester. He was great but it was a bit lads lads lads rowdy and I'd just eaten a massive Thai curry with lovely Kim and Sylvia so it was maybe not exactly what I needed, but I still had fun.

Okay so the HOT NEWS this month amongst me and all my other friends with medium/large boobs is that M&S have DONE THE IMPOSSIBLE and created a non-wired bralette that is a) supportive, b) comfortable, c) flattering, and d) cheap. Like even one of these things was pretty unlikely, but all four?! I've bought two, and eagerly await more colours so I can buy like 10 more. It's not QUITE as supportive as a normal bra, but it's plenty for most days, and so nice to take it off at the end of the day and not be covered in red marks from underwires (even a well fitting bra leaves marks, and badly fitting ones can even cut into the skin and leave blisters, and apparently my boobs change shape often enough that a well-fitting bra one week can be a terribly fitting one the next week)

Anyway, if you want to buy one, here! (I know it seems hard to believe — I only tried one after a friend recommended it to me, and I've since recommended it to other people who have come back to me like 'What is this witchcraft?!' so I strongly recommend you go try one if this sounds like a thing you would like but had previously thought impossible!)

Gardeners World is like the most soothing television in existence and yes I have a weird crush on Monty Don, don't @ me

The gates to the Halifax Piece Hall are pretty wow

I'm coming across as quite anti-social this month, aren't I? I don't know.

I somehow manage to combine being a ridiculous mingly socialite with a strong and perhaps somewhat disgusting drive for social climbing/hanging out with the cool kids with being a fairly intense introvert who hugely resents any unwanted intrusion on my own time. Hi!

It's hard to say that kind of thing without then worrying that every person I'm friends with will avoid me forever more, but it's worth stating that friendships and seeing people and being social are hugely important to me, and if you are in my life in that way, I probably love you at least a little and maybe a lot. Being social usually happens on my own terms, which means I'm delighted about it, and to be honest, even at times like the above, when it doesn't, and I'm filled with 'ugh not now plz' mood, it still usually works out for the best.

I saw a friend/aquiantance out while walking Charlie in the pouring rain on the moors, listening to angry techno and generally feeling miserable and revelling in solitude, and was like 'damn it, there's no way I can avoid this person without taking a massive and muddy detour'. So I said hi, and we ended up sharing the rest of the walk together and it was genuinely lovely to get to know each other better and share some life stuff we were both figuring out, and at the end of the whole thing I felt so much nicer than I would have done if I'd persisted alone. So let that be a lesson to me.

A friend left a synthesiser at our house for brief safekeeping, and I am VERY SAD not to have more time to play with it before I go. Had a brief bleep bloop and am sincerely hoping it'll still be here when I get back from time away!

SUN CAME OUT! (At last) And that means it's bug time, where every gloriously sunny walk is marred by inhaling about 5 bugs and dodging countless more, come on guys, sort it out, stop flailing around aimlessly and get out of my mouth.

Helpfully, got a migraine (only my second one ever), whilst trying to do ALL THE WORK before going away. (Perhaps bought on by staring very intently at a particularly gaudy spreadsheet). Anyway, had a lie down in a darkened room and Alex bought me some tea and a cold towel to put over my eyes and after a couple of hours snoozing it thankfully eased, but still, UNHELPFUL.

Finally did my packing having been (uncharacteristically) procrastinating it for the previous week. Normally I love figuring this kind of stuff out, but 20 nights spread across two wildly different climates has proven an intimidating challenge, and I hope I have made the correct choices. (I am stung a little after thinking I'd got good at this, and then massively under-packing for the Netherlands last month and ending up wearing all my layers at once while forlornly clinging onto my travel companion complaining about how cold I was)
Let's see how this goes...

And tomorrow, I get the train down to London before flying to Boston on Tuesday. Clearly, I have bought this on myself, so this is not a complaint, but there's no denying I have got the fear. I am an anxious traveller and I have managed to work through that in recent years, but this is the biggest test of my bravery yet. Wish me luck, wish me smooth travels, and I'll try and come out the other end with some lovely drawings and lots of anecdotes to bore you all with for the coming months (thank you and sorry)

Sunday, 1 April 2018

March 2018

So March has been pretty great, despite my hopes for it, like, ceasing to be WINTER basically failing to materialise.

When I left you last, we were in the midst of the most intense snow experience of my life — chest high drifts, complete white-outs, blizzards... It started off being kind of cool, but VERY QUICKLY got old. Our neighbour Caroline also has a border collie called Nancy. With her young son off school due to the snow, and with a border collie and little boy having very different levels of ability to trudge through deep snow (i.e. 'could keep going forever' vs 'tired within a few feet'), I helped out by bringing Nancy along on our walks. (In payback, it should be said, for the many times Caroline has helped me out, particularly when me and Alex were laid low with the tummy bads back in January). Nancy is great. She's a strong independant woman who knows what she wants, and I think Charlie actually quite likes her, despite being indifferent to or scared of almost every other dog.

There’s this Muscovy Duck (I have since learnt this is what it's called and it's not in fact a variety of goose as I wrote here) that lives along the canal towpath and is always hanging out in exactly the same spot. I wonder if it's very elderly, but I guess there's no way of knowing. We walked along there when the canal was all frozen over and the towpath still thick with snow, and I know it’s hard to read emotion in birds but I think it was pretty bloody miserable.

As the snow continued to not thaw, interesting patterns of dirt started to form in it, after the initial pristine couple of days.

(As an aside, like many people, I am reconsidering my relationship with Facebook in the wake of recent revelations. It's simultaneously something I should probably have done a long time ago, but also something which still is a huge struggle to cut off completely. As part of trying to break ties, I have gone back to the good old days of uploading pictures to Flickr instead of Facebook. I will miss the interactions and comments that Facebook inevitably encourages, but actually Flickr has a way nicer UI, upload pages, and is just generally better all round for viewing and enjoying photos. If you're interested in seeing a little of how ridiculous the snow was in Hebden Bridge, there's an album here)

I kind of enjoyed pushing myself to try new visual ways of representing the snow with paints and colours though. This based on this picture

After a week things gradually started to thaw. But so slowly. Walking still hard and exhausting, and Charlie needs no less exercise on snow days as he does on rain days or sun days or any other day.

Waiting, both for snow to thaw and spring to come, but also for much anticipated soon-to-come holiday. (Still life of Alex's room drawn while watching some trash on Netflix)

This is really badly drawn but made both Alex and Justin crease up laughing, so it works somehow I guess. (The boy really does love bananas)

Raging / plotting / running.
Just when I thought the snow had stopped IT STARTED SNOWING AGAIN, I mean come on. But some holiday plotting and some running despite cold are distractions.

I spent a lovely few hours at my friend Nic’s shop in Heptonstall, ‘The Workshop’. For her formal opening weekend (despite the shop actually having been open since Christmas) she invited various of the local artists whose work she stocks to come and hang out at the shop, show off their work and/or run mini workshops. I was there at the same time as lovely Emma and Marie-Claire from the Todmorden Food Assembly. I bought along two years worth of these visual diaries for people visiting to skim through, and did some drawings while I sat there. People were very sweet about them which made me happy.
Also pre-holiday admin day, because I am a terrible stressy traveller who needs everything to be JUST SO.

Holiday travel begins. Generally throughout my adult life I have tried to avoid flying for environmental reasons and because I just generally don’t like flying. (Although I am going to break that later this year in a big way). Conscious that a holiday in Amsterdam could easily be got to in a few short hours with a flight from Manchester airport, I nonetheless chose instead to get the train down to London, and then the following day get the Eurostar/Thalys on across Europe. It is a lot of extra time, and depressingly some extra money, but is overall a far nicer experience, and clearer conscience for me too. Strange in-between day though, of getting down to London but no further. Still very lovely to see George and Wes fleetingly stopping at their place en-route.

Then, onwards. I do love Eurostar. Fast and clean and suddenly you're on the other side of the channel where everything is different and exciting. (And there's a great vegan doner kebab shop in Brussels Midi, although this is apparently about the only good vegan thing in Brussels AS DISCUSSED LATER)

Got to Amsterdam and had a lovely stopover with friend Scott and his kids (and also friends) Rowan and Sabine. Fleeting but wonderful, they've been kind enough to host me and Alex for holidays before and I love the Netherlands so much it's always a joy to return.

Scott lives just outside Amsterdam, so on the following day I travelled into the centre to meet Alfred. On tour around Europe (as Daedelus, playing a new weird and wonderful modular DJ set) in support of Baths, he had a couple of days stopover in Amsterdam while Will and Morgan of Baths (and tour manager George) played an extra last minute addition show all the way over in Tblisi.

We had a lovely day of delicious food, vintage clothes shops and a fairly intense modular synthesiser shop staffed by a gruff Dutch man with very extensive knowledge of bleeps and bloops. (I now know a lot more about modular synthesisers than I did before and yet they are still almost entirely opaque and mysterious magic boxes to me)

As a bonus, I also got to catch up with me and Alex's other NL friend Lara, who works in a coffee shop at the central station. As she's potentially moving to New Zealand later this year, this fleeting moment may be the last time we see each other (for a very long time/ever?), which is a strange feeling, but I'm super excited for her new life plans.

The following day, further adventures, including a ridiculous errand to nearby Haarlem to buy a kilogram of a very specific tea for Alex, to source the best chips in the Netherlands, then back to central Amsterdam for a joyous afternoon of Rijksmuseum nerdery and loads more delicious food. (Including just so much vegan stroopwaffel which is entirely unobtainable in this country)

Will, Morgan and George joined us in Amsterdam the following day full of great stories from Tbilisi (And some very weird sweets), before their show at Bitterzoet that night. I am still very bad at drawing realistic likenesses, but I TRY. I have seen Alfred perform more times than I care to admit, but the new modular set he's playing is very cool, and I'm intrigued to see where he takes it next. I'd never seen Baths before, but his album 'Romaplasm' from this last hear has been huge for me, and it was such a joy to hear it performed so incredibly live. TBH you've probably missed your chance now, but if you can get to see Baths live, please do. Will and Morgan put on a formiddable show.

The following day we all had some last moments in Amsterdam for fancy yoghurt, more nice coffee shops and general canal admiring. Their next show was in Brussels, and given my predilection for Eurostar, I was having to pass through Brussels to get home anyway. Alfred, Will, Morgan and George were squeezed into a car full of keyboards and synthesisers with no space for me, but this is GOOD because I am so ridiculously travel sick and like the worst passenger, so I very happily got a train over to Brussels to meet them there.

They were held up a little in traffic, and I suffered a little from train delays, so none of us got there until quite late afternoon...

Alfred warned me that vegan options at the venue were likely to be limited, and I was like 'Oh, I'll find something as I walk from the hotel to the venue', but there was NOTHING not even a single solitary chip shop, just fuckloads of pancakes and pastries. Having only managed to find a weird fruit and nut breadstick and pretzel for lunch when passing through Rotterdam, with phone battery running low, and increasingly cold weather closing in, it's fair to say, my (already kind of limited, tbh) affection towards Brussels diminished with every step.

The venue was the incredible Botanique, a stunning glasshouse situated in the middle of some beautiful botanic gardens. Alfred suggested I explore the gardens rather than watch them soundcheck but they were just full of creepy Belgian dudes and it was starting to rain, so that option seemed unappealing.

Luckily, once in, it turned out there was a (seemingly, hopefully) vegan pasta dish which I wolfed down, as well as some cheeky stolen snacks from Baths rider. Honestly, in all my years of being vegan now, this is was the most vulnerable I've felt in terms of genuinely perhaps not getting any food at all. (Others have since corroborated that Brussels kind of sucks in this respect, although with a bit more forward planning, time and research, I could probably have found something reasonable).

But anyway, grumbles and moans aside, Botanique is a spectacular venue, and the 'Orangerie' room they played included some of my favourite venue features: tiered standing area, sprung dancefloor, and A++ lighting/lighting technician. The sound was much better than the previous night too and I had a joyous time seeing them both again.

After the show, Will from Baths was playing a DJ set at midnight at a bar in central Brussels. Both me and Alfred were tired BUT I was actually uncharacteristially in the mood for a weird party and a weird party was exactly what I got. Ask me about it sometime.

The day after the show in Brussels was time to part ways, with Will, Morgan and George heading on to Paris, Alfred to Den Bosch back in the Netherlands for a
week’s residency with the most incredible machines, and me back to London…

In perhaps somewhat ridiculous scheduling given how tired I was from a few days of travel and music and heady partying the night before, I couldn't turn down the opportunity to take on my friend Naomi's spare ticket to see much acclaimed musical Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre. I hate musicals but I love hip hop and historic costumery, and the latter two won out here. It's an incredible thing and I feel very priviledged to have witnessed, you should absolutely go if you get the chance (And this coming from someone who hates musicals. If you love musicals this might be like the best thing ever). 

I stayed at my friend David's place in London, then the next day got the train back to Manchester. Still, not quite home, stayed at incredibly hospitable Kim and Sylvia's, enabling me to catch one of my most anticipated shows this year, Milo and Open Mike Eagle at the Deaf Institute. It was all I had hoped for and more, and the best possible end to my ridiculous week of adventures.

(SO MUCH LOVE to Wes, George, Scott, Rowan, Sabine, Lara, Alfred, Will, Morgan, George, David, Naomi, Kim, Sylvia and everyone else I met/saw over the course of the week who welcomed me, showed me kindness, took care of me, fed me, shared with me and just generally helped me have a wonderful time. I couldn't have asked for more happiness, honestly.)

(There's an album of pictures from this trip here, if you want to see a better representation than my crude drawings convey)

But oh my goodness I got the train back from Manchester on Monday morning after the gig at about 7am to commence work at 9, and arrived back in Hebden Bridge to STILL SNOWING and just… This valley. IT TESTS ME SOMETIMES

And you know, back to the mundane day-to-day reality of most of my visual diaries — this isn’t very well drawn but here are some very specific chores that I very specifically loathe.

I’ve been growing out my fringe since about last July and it is SO CLOSE. SO CLOSE. But not quite. (Also there’s a Charlie hair stuck to this one which I couldn’t be bothered photoshopping out, because my life now is just Charlie hairs on everything I own and everything I love and everything I eat and I feel like I should share this with you. Particularly bad at the moment as he’s shedding his winter coat and it is incompressible to me how my sweet boy can shed such an impossibly vast amount of hair at such speed)

So I turned 30 on the 26th. I’ve basically been treating the entire month as one big celebration, but maybe quietly. (Or maybe not, some might say). Anyway, this felt like the beginning of ACTUAL birthday doings — Wes, George, Nat and Lauren, up from London for a thing, took me out for a bangin’ vegan junk food lunch at V Revs where we ordered ALL THE THINGS. Also bought some treats, saw some art, and when I got home, David had arrived!

The next day, me, David and Justin did a big walk from Todmorden up to Gaddings Dam (The UK’s highest beach) and Stoodley Pike. Still over excited by our new house acquisition of a selfie stick, we all got a bit carried away with scenic selfies.

Before David headed back down to that London, we had delicious vegan full English breakfasts at 'The Humblest of Pleasures' (ugh that name tho) in Hebden. Then later that day Alex finally followed their dreams and created 'The Yorkshire Burrito', an unholy combination of vegan black pudding, yorkshire pudding and gravy all wrapped in a tortilla. I was NOT DOWN but despite my reservations they were bloody brilliant and I basically skipped dinner and ate three of these instead. Expect this horrendous/brilliant recipe in the next cook-zine, zine-fans...

And then THE DAY ARRIVES, but tbh it kind of sucked… I am trying to do WAY too much this year in terms of taking annual leave, which means I can’t afford to throw away any days off on minor frivolities like birthdays, I need to save them for major frivolities like pursuing unlikely international friendships, seeing music, and terrifying big holidays — more of that next month...

So I was working my usual 9.00 – 1.30 fixed hours (although did permit myself the afternoon off from freelance commitments), and then I’d wanted to take Alex on a birthday date into Manchester for more tasty food, but there was a train strike which basically rendered that impossible. Trains were (infrequently) running to Halifax, which is hardly the most inspiring of locations, but I decided that I still wanted to go SOMEWHERE so we went to Halifax where I got a tray of chips and curry (prob in my top 5 favourite meals and the chip shop in Hebden cook their chips in lard which is a perpetual source of low-key rage to me) and spent way too much money on treats in big Saisnburys. Trains were infrequent enough that Alex persuaded me to get a bus back instead, but this valley is BROKEN at the moment, with everyone who lives here and regularly drives despairing at the combination of roadworks and just sheer geography that means any car journey along the valley at the moment takes about 10 times longer than it should. With the result that the 15 minute train journey from Halifax to Hebden took about an hour and fifteen minutes on the bus which is, let’s be honest, not how you want to spend your 30th birthday.

To add insult to injury the Chinese takeaway is closed on Mondays which means I couldn’t even get fancy dinner. YOU ARE TESTING ME STILL, HEBDEN

(But I got loads of really lovely messages and tbh that was the most wonderful thing about the day, it meant a huge amount to hear from so many friends near and far, THANK YOU)

TBH clearing up prolific quantities of dog vomit isn’t how I’d have chosen to spend the first day of my thirties, but life comes at you fast. It's quite substantially less gross than child vomit and I take great consolation in that.

So there's this thing called the Pace Egg. It happens in Heptonstall (and other places, I'm told). It's a short, simple play about St. George involving sword fights aplenty, a not insignificant amount of racism (no blackface although that is a low bar), borderline unsettlingly specific audience participation, and a huge amount of alcohol consumption built into the plot. The play is performed five or six times over the course of the day in different locations around the village, with each performance becoming progressingly more shambolic/rowdy as the cast (and audience, some of whom spend the whole day watching all of the iterations) become drunker. It is a strange and bizarre local spectacle, at times hilarious, but not without its problematic elements... This place, man. This place.

Also, on the same day, THIRTY PARTY! The Egg Factory, Hebden Bridge's finest* (*also only) co-working space is one of my favourite places and filled with some of my favourite people, who very kindly offered to host me a party. Friends from far and near came out, not even all drawn here, and I suffered from that terible social anxiety of looking round the room lots and hoping everyone was having a good time... But did also manage to have a good time myself, and eat lots of delicious food and have lots of wonderful catch ups. Special shout outs to Elly and Jak, James, and Naomi, who all travelled a long way to join in.

The next day we cooked a big breakfast for everyone still around (me, Alex, Justin, Elly, Jak, James and Andy), and also had an unusually good Indian takeaway for dinner. But most importantly I MET A WOMAN WALKING A SKUNK, what the actual fuck. This place. (Maybe it's alright after all)

(It is still snowing though. It's April. It's still snowing. I weep)