Sunday, 30 September 2018

September 2018

For the last few months it's felt like each month has rushed by (while simultaneously containing a LOT)... This month has in some ways felt like a lot too, but also somehow like it has been happening forever...

I mean, on the 1st, we moved house. That happened this month?!

Somehow we have made friends with three people (Matti, Hywel and Helen) who actively LIKE moving heavy things, disassembling and reassembling flatpack furniture, and general teamwork, and we literally could not have done the move without them. After a frantic August of trying (and mostly failing) to DIY/decorate the house in between huge stacks of freelance work and other life stuff, I had been panicking somewhat about our ability to make this happen, but happen it did.

Oh yeah, so I guess it's worth noting we were moving just three doors down the same street. Which clearly helps a huge amount.

On the second, we had a bit of help from our friend Sylvia in the morning and then it was up to us to get the remainder done. We moved a lot slower than the previous day but managed to get the bulk of everything into the new house over that one weekend. Now let's never move again.

There are WAY TOO MANY MUSHROOMS this month and I am entirely not cool with it. Mushrooms have always freaked me the hell out and because of the very particular climatic conditions this year, the valley is dripping with/smothered in/crawling with the things (delete as appropriate for maximum grossness). It wasn't even at its worst when I did this drawing, there are EVEN MORE now

In the last days of August when Justin was away and I was walking Charlie for hours each day while also doing all the house stuff, I developed a larg blister on the sole of my heel. Like, HUGE. Basically the size of my entire heel. I avoided popping it for the longest time because I was scared it was going to get infected, and one of my interim measures to enable me to carry on walking through the pain was to invest in a walking pole to help take some of the weight off. I did eventually pop it with a sterilised needle (which was SO satisfying, and it didn't get infected), but I'd got quite into walking with the walking pole. I feel like a cross between Willy Wonka and an angry middle aged man. Charlie likes it too. Now he understands he's not allowed to pick it up and carry it himself, I use it us a pointer to indicate particularly good sticks to him, which I think he appreciates.

I'm really good at travelling LOL
(Our water went brown the night before I was going which meant there was nothing to drink and I'd already drunk some of it in a cup of tea without noticing so was super paranoid I was going to get ill on the plane which is basically my worst nightmare)

Didn't get ill on the plane but I DO hate flying. I was only going to the Netherlands so would normally get the train, but I have (no surprises) used up all my days off with my main job this year, so needed to find some time efficiencies to make this trip work. Flying was one of them. It was unpleasant, but it got me there, and then I got to go on a double decker train, I LOVE U NETHERLANDS

My destination for this trip was s'Hertogenbosch, or Den Bosch, towards the south of the Netherlands, about half an hour from Utrecht. It is home to the Willem Twee synthesiser studio/lab — an incredible collection of old (50s/60s and more recent) synthesisers. The people behind it have been building the collection for some time now. Back when I was with Alfred in the Netherlands in March, after we parted ways he was headed here for a week long residency before the formal opening later in the year.

This week was that formal opening, and they invited him back to give a talk, run a workshop and put on a show (as well as a chance for him to have some more time working on his own stuff in the studio). I am a huge fan of the Netherlands, Alfred, electronic music, and beautiful machines — so (slightly cheekily) asked if I could join him for this week, promising that I would ABSOLUTELY NOT GET IN THE WAY (and then proceeded to spend much of the time sat far too close to him staring intently at wires and switches and dials and displays just ENRAPTURED with the whole place.)

You can see some pictures of the studio (amongst other things from my trip) here

At the weekend, the city (possibly even all cities in the Netherlands?) were having a kind of 'historic open buildings' day, where most interesting old buildings were opening their doors for the general public to come and explore. This included Willem Twee, and the constant stream of mildly intrigued people passing through gently touching buttons, twisting dials and taking selfies made for a less than conducive working environment (for me as well as him — I'd bought my laptop and was doing bits and bobs of work while awash in wonderful noises). So we decided to make the most of the open buildings and went to see some interesting ones ourselves, incuding very elaborate town hall and some kind of strange secret society dinner club who were very obsessed with swans. We also had some A+++ Dutch fries and satay sauce, damn they do chips well.

Also living in Den Bosch is Jameszoo, who makes very wonderful music. (I was lucky enough to see him live at North Sea Jazz a couple of years ago)
He and Alfred are good friends, and he was kind enough to invite us over to him and his girlfriend's apartment for some drinks, after which we headed to a squat party at THE SWANKIEST SQUAT I'VE EVER BEEN TO. It was actually the squat's 40th birthday celebration (which feels very impressive?), and it was based in an old schoolhouse building. Each person's room was an old classroom, so they were huge, and it seemed like most people had built mezzanine levels, making them even bigger. It was truly lovely, in fact I would very happily have lived there myself... Jameszoo and his girlfriend in fact used to, and one of the lovely guys at the synth lab was living there now, so we were made very welcome. There were about 15 people living there, and I couldn't shake the feeling that in a similar squat in the UK they'd have squeezed at least 40 into the same space. It also seemed like a very accepted and mostly welcome part of the community (well, it must be to have survived 40 years!)... I found the whole thing fascinating and felt so lucky to have been welcomed in and shown such kindness by our lovely Dutch hosts.

I know I keep saying it, but... the last month (or more?) have been so frenetic that, even though going on holiday so soon after moving house was not ideal, it was also PERFECT. Although I was still doing some work while there, I was also very much able to set my own schedule with that. Alfred was very jetlagged after flying in from LA, which didn't entirely ease up the whole trip, and I was just tired from moving house and the previous month's exertions, so I just let myself sleep whenever I wanted to sleep, either with him or while he was out working in the studio, and it was just the most blissful treat to not have to feel bad about that, like I should be doing something else. (I mean, I *did* feel like I should be doing other things, I never even made it over to Utrecht to explore as I'd intended to, but this was all okay)

Vegan food wasn't the easiest to source in Den Bosch, but after a couple of nights in a hotel we had our own apartment near the studio, which meant I could go to Albert Heijn (bit like Tesco) or Ekoplaza (bit like Waitrose but with more of a focus on vegan/organic/wholefood stuff) and stash loads of treats in our fridge.

And then just sitting in the lab, staring entranced at the beautiful displays, hypnotised by the sounds. I cannot overstate how incredibly into this I was. I could have stayed there forever.

A few months back I was lucky enough to meet Gert and Kees, who go by YaYaYa. Their album has been one of my favourites this year, and I met them through Alfred who released it on his label Magical Properties. They're super sweet guys, and headed over for the day to spend some more time in the lab (having been there with Alfred back in March too). Also in town was Wylie Cable. Wylie heads up Dome of Doom, one of my absolute favourite labels out of LA right now. I was lucky enough to briefly meet him when I was at Low End Theory in LA back in May. He was on a trip round Europe promoting his new release 'Buried at Sea' (ALSO one of my favourite albums this year), and Alfred invited him to come and see the synthesisers and meet Gert and Kees. Again, I very much did not want to be in the way but also these people are all GREAT, and it was such an honour and a priviledge to lurk for a while and hear the sounds they made in the lab. We also ate a load of fries and yoghurt, and I learnt lots about of interesting things about The Netherlands, the music industry, and much more besides...

I had one more day of happily wandering around Den Bosch while Alfred ran a workshop all day, and then the following day it was time to head back to the UK (with a brief stopover in Amsterdam), to my half-unboxed new house, feeling thoroughly refreshed (but possibly a bit too in love with the Netherlands and excited about synthesisers)

Bought back loads of vegan stroopwaffel as a gift for Alex and then ate most of them myself because I am a BAD PERSON

Barely home for a day, because of the bloody train strikes, what should have been a single day tabling at Leeds zine fair had to turn into a THREE DAY TRIP as there were no trains on the Saturday. Thanks so much to wonderful Joe and Amy for hosting me (and Gareth for pizza catchup)

Leeds zine fair was bangin’ though. This year it was in Leeds Kirkgate market, which is much more central and meant a busy day full of lovely people (including hellos from my old school friend Helen and new internet friend Daisy, which was a super lovely bonus). Footprint did a brilliant job running it and making their riso printed 'zine in a day' with contributions from stallholders and guests (mine here, the backdrop of which forms this visual diary!). I was pretty knackered but had some lovely dinner with Joe and then went back to their place and just listened to jazz and stroked a cat and felt thoroughly contented.

So I can't remember if I mentioned, but I stopped running. Because I bloody hated it. I persisted for like, a year and a half, but it just never got fun, and in all the stress of August I was like 'WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MYSELF I COULD JUST STOP'... So I did. And it's been bliss. But I have grown quite attached to my running-assisted-slightly-hot-bod, so probably still need to do some kind of exercsise. So uh, adult ballet? (Aparently we have to call it that to make it clear that I'm not in a class with four year olds). It's actually less of a physical workout and more of a stretching/balance/core workout, but, real talk, I probably need that just as much, and as I have absolutely zero desire to do pilates or yoga, this is more fun. Plus I really miss hip hop dance from Brighton and this is NOT THAT but until Hebden Bridge has a hip hop dance class this will have to do.

(This is why I need that whole 'exercise' thing. Drew this while watching GBBO with Justin)

It may have been to procrastinate a stressful phonecall, but I hugely appreciate any and all attempts/successes at DIY that Justin and Alex make, because I HATE IT

I've definitely had a fair amount less work on this month which, while not sustainable in the long run, has meant that rare and unusual thing of... leisure... time? I mean also kind of no because I've filled every moment of leisure time with personal projects (like making another podcast YAY) or house stuff, but still, there has been a little more time for just... cuddling the dog. Watching cheese melt under the grill rather than feeling obligated to spend that melting time frantically putting on some laundry, or hoovering, or cleaning surfaces. Etc.

We will NEVER TRULY KNOW what is going on in his little doggo brain. (And I may never truly be able to draw him well)

Learned how to make chapattis, this is DANGEROUS KNOWLEDGE I can just make bread happen in like 10 minutes without going to the shop?!?! (Really unhealthy bread. Mmmmm.)

Rachel came over for dinner and I made a yummy thing. Yay!

Spent way too much money at Ikea, uh oh

My hair is getting very long now. Trying to get more experimental with fancy braids. Alex described this one as 'evil aunt from a Disney movie' and I'm into it

The Quakers are LOVELY and despite having been going to their church for like a year and a half, I have been utterly terrible at being social and staying behind afterwards and making friends. Some of them persist with me though, in a way that is utterly sweet and wonderful (especially Catherine, who is so very kind about my 'art' — I still lol a little inside whenever anyone calls me an artist but I GUESS IT'S TRUE?)

Anyway, September is finally done and I have NO PLANS for October, let's see whether this is good or whether I just get sad really quickly. (I'm already craving another adventure, what have I become?!)