Sunday, 30 June 2019

June 2019

Okay, so let's throw this out there right at the start...

I'm leaving Hebden Bridge. I made my choice.

I've tried for two and a half years to be happy here. And in truth, it's no fault of the place. An 'it's not you, it's me' breakup.

Maybe if I'd been here in a happy relationship. Maybe if I found valleys cosy rather than oppressive. Maybe if I could/wanted to drive. Maybe if I hadn't grown up in the countryside. Maybe if I'd never lived in the city. Many maybes, many ways it could have worked out, but it hasn't, and a chance has arisen to leave, so I'm taking it.

The only thing I will miss is the people.

But it's nice to stop pretending (not that I was doing a very good job) that things were okay. I did try, for Ava. I tried to see the positives. Not talk about how much I actually hate walking in the countryside, even though I do it 2 – 3 hours most days, because I love Charlie, and want him to be happy, and because it keeps me fit. But I'm SO BORED. I'm SO BORED of HILLS and FIELDS and RIVERS and TREES and MUD. (But, I do love wayfinding, and there's a certain pleasure still in the days when I decide to try something new. There are still so many footpaths untrodden, and I continue to explore, for the time I have left here)

But I was still figuring out whether leaving was the right choice or not, at the beginning of the month. And opportunity had arisen for something new, but... Is it too soon? Can I afford it? Is it the right choice? A lot of thinking, and a tired brain.

This is Dav though, and he's great. If I leave I won't get to see him as much, but all of our lives are changing, it's not just me.

Ava's birthday is on June 5th. It's weird now. (Also I am aware of the irony of doing a drawing saying 'I don't want to think about you at all' :)

There's another thing I hate: NETTLES

Oh, and also RAIN. Did I ever mention that? I think this was the day I made my choice.

Or maybe it was this one. I don't recall now...

Or maybe this one?!

I mean...

But the Egg Factory. The best creative community I've ever been lucky enough to have. This is the thing that will be painful to leave. Not just the wonderfully easy, open access to screenprinting, letterpress, and technical support across a whole range of other practices... But the people. The Egg Factory have been my best friends in Hebden Bridge, and are a truly wonderful and inspiring group of people who I've been lucky to have in my life.
Here's a little bit of screenprinting.
It's still raining.

And then I went to London. And soon, I will do for good*. (*For the forseeable future)

One of my oldest and best friends David (who I used to live with in Brighton) has had a room become available in his shared house in Battersea, at the end of August. It's beautiful, I can afford it, and Charlie can come. It is the dream, my lifelong dream, to live in London.

As a child growing up in North Wales, we used to visit family in the south of England, and we'd always have to pass through London on the train. My mum would always make sure we stopped off in the city and did something fun, and this was always my favourite part. I used to say to her 'One day I'll live in one of those shiny glass apartments on the bank of the Thames' (spoiler alert, this new house is NOT that).

I wanted to go there for university, but we couldn't afford it. I wanted to move there after university but I couldn't afford it. I continued to want to move there, but it was very exactly the opposite of what Ava wanted, and I probably still couldn't afford it.

I probably still can't afford it, but all the 50 – 60 hour weeks I've been working. All the late nights. It's all been for this, and will continue to be for this. It is all I have ever wanted, and, on some level, what I have always been working towards.

Perhaps I'll get there and hate it. Perhaps the dream of living there will be better than the reality. But I have the chance to try, at last, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world.

London is where magic happens. London is where I have adventures.
London is where my favourite musician rolls up and announces he's playing a secret show, and I can just hop on the tube, and go. I stand in the sunshine queuing for three hours, and the show might be one of the best I've ever been to. I am where everything I want is — work, food, music, friends... It is a no-brainer, and this magical night confirms it.

And then the next night, my old friend Reggie is in town. I go to his show and then afterwards we all go and hang out in the beautiful apartment of a couple of the people behind Punchdrunk (the wildly creative theatre company). We talk until the early hours and then I bail, because I'm tired, but everyone else is heading off to an all-night rave in Manor House. If I didn't have to travel the next day, I'd have gone too. Happenstance and chance meetings. Interesting people and all night parties. Art and music and creativity in abundance.

I'm tired in the morning, so we order pancakes, delivery. They arrive still hot. With ice cream that's still frozen. You can do that in London.
(Except maybe you can't because you'll be perpetually broke, but let's not talk about that)

I head back to Brighton to work and catch up with old friends.

I get my fringe cut back in and feel approximately 100% cuter and more positive about my face.

(Is this the saddest comic I've ever drawn?)
The move will be big for Charlie though. He'll need to be a brave boy for the initial change and upheaval, but I'm confident that he can be happy in London. Battersea park is HUGE and interesting, we'll be 5 minutes walk from the Thames (which can obviously be walked along), also loads of other big green spaces like Clapham Common and Wandsworth... Plus trains to get even further afield... He's not scared of cars or people, but he IS scared of sheep, cows, chickens, geese, and basically all other farm animals, and there will be a lot less of those in London. (He's also scared of other dogs, but he'll be getting those wherever he goes, unfortunately).

I'm also really hoping that I'll actually be able to get to a flyball/agility course to exercise that clever little brain of his, which isn't something I've had access to in Hebden, so hopefully he'll live a richer and equally contented life in our new home. He was one of my biggest considerations, and I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't genuinely believe he's going to be happy.

Me, Dav and Davey went for a day out to Blackpool (and Charlie too), and it was an absolute joy. Finally, some glorious sunshine! Great chips, lots of weird sculpture, organ music at the end of the pier and a quick paddle. Seaside bliss with two of my absolute favs.

Had a long conversation about how weird nipples are. Don't think about it too much.

On June 23rd it was the Egg Factory's 'Makers Museum' day, as part of Hebden Bridge Arts festival. A whole bunch of us spent the day at the Egg factory, making bespoke items for sale on the day, and people could come and watch us. (Included leatherworking, collage, knitting, visible mending, paper cutting, letterpress, flower arranging, screenprinting, bookbinding, illustraton, painting maybe more I'm forgetting?!) As we all happily worked away at our individual desks, Lizzie commented that it felt a bit like being back at art college, and that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I made a zine with a letterpressed cover, screenprinted end papers, and riso printer inner pages, and I letterpressed and bound them on the day. It's all about walking around Hebden Bridge. Which apparently I hate. But I have done a lot of, and I think about it a lot. It's a beautiful little thing, if I do say so myself. Ask me if you want a copy and I'll send you one.

In the evening we did a series of short talks about our practice, and a panel discussion about the state of craft in the UK, and it was genuinely fascinating and super fun to be a part of. What lovely folks.

(I am still working as hard as I can)

It's still just NOT SUMMER. It's mostly not cold any more which is good, but I feel like I've barely seen the sun in weeks and it's really starting to get me down. (Nothing new there then...) Hopefully July will be an improvement.

And then, TO EDINBURGH! Edinburgh is lovely, and so are my friends Jess and Ryan who I stayed with (and their wonderful dog pals Stompy, Mae and Noki, and Marceline the cat). Had a wonderful day of exploring, including delicious lunch at Harmonium with Jess. Edinburgh city centre is fascinating, I can never quite get my head around how it seems to be on so many different levels.

And yesterday, it was the Edinburgh Anarchist Feminist book fair! I tabled selling zines last year, but this year I was also running a workshop, called 'Journalling for Mental Health', which was all about how I have used my visual diarying as an emotional support mechanism (can you tell, reader? :) and how actually, I think that can be a really positive and helpful thing.

I think it went okaaaaay?! I hate the sound of my own voice and hope the whole thing struck the right tone (it's really hard to tell when you're speaker and not audience), but people told me afterwards they enjoyed it, so I am happy about that.

After a short talk I set them some exercises, and supplied various art materials. I sat at one of the tables to do my visual diary for the day, and had to use oil pastels, which I hate, and it's baaaaad, hahaha (ironic, in a workshop about visual diarying).

Anyway, the EAFB was GREAT overall, sold lots of zines, had lots of lovely conversations, anarchists are not as scary as you think (and feminists are obviously great, although I feel like in 2019 if you're NOT a feminist that's pretty terrible).

Got very tired, had great pizza for dinner, flumped out with doggo pals. A+++ (apart from THE RAINNNN)

Got the train home today. Got my legs out because I'm determined it's summer and I really like my tattoo, but got really cold standing on Preston station waiting for my connection.

COME ON SUMMER. (I'm so excited)

Saturday, 1 June 2019

May 2019

I feel like I'm turning a corner, now, maybe. Many corners perhaps. I asked my therapist earlier in the month when I'll stop crying. She said I'm grieving, and it will take time. Grieving for lost love, grieving for loss of certainty, grieving for loss of a lot of things. I haven't stopped crying (I cried at my desk this morning listening to a Jeffrey Lewis song, for goodness take), but I am crying less often, and when I feel it coming — in the middle of dinner with kind and supportive friends maybe, or while talking to my mother, or figuring out where our lives go next with Justin... I feel that ache at the back of my throat, feel my voice breaking... but now I can stop, and say 'Emma, don't cry', and it goes away.

Because I know I'll be okay. (I've known all along maybe, but the very act of saying 'I know I'll be okay' was to acknowledge for how very long I've not been okay)

But hopefully at least, I have always tried to be kind. Even if I've fallen short of that sometimes.

There were TWO VOTES this month. Ridiculous. Soothing the ongoing agony of politics with sweetness of friends.

One of my very oldest friends, Naomi (BFFs since we were 7!) came to visit. We're old now. We're in our THIRTIES. Seven year old Emma can't even imagine that. I'd been a bit rubbish over the last few months and hadn't even told her that my long-term relationship had ended and that I was feeling in some kind of crisis state, because... well, because I was feeling in some kind of crisis state. And talking to people directly about it was hard. But it's okay, she's great, we ate spaghetti bolognese and compared the beginnings of our white hairs and face creases, but in a broadly positive way, more from a place of fascination than horror. My hair is starting to go white a little at the front and I think I like it.

Decided to try a new walk. Ended up trapped in a farmyard full of rusty machinery, two small angry horses, several trash fires and massive piles of steaming manure. Nope.

Another friend, Rachel, sent me an email out of the blue to say hi and ask how I was. I sent her a huge essay back about all of my life stuff, and she in turn responded with NINETEEN WHATSAPP VOICEMAIL MESSAGES TOTALLING FIFTY-SIX MINUTES basically telling me I'm great and being about as wise and reassuring as I could possibly imagine anyone being?! Rachel is one of those magical friends (we all have them, right?!) who I barely ever see or communicate with, but who occasionally appear exactly when you need them with exactly the words and/or practical help you need. (Case in point, last time I really communicated with her was when she randomly showed up a few days before I moved out of Brighton and was having a packing crisis. She gave me a hug and a loaf of bread and told me everything would be okay.)

After my bad new walk days previous, I had a good new walk, across the moors and down into a nature reserve I'd never visted before.

On the 7th Ava* moved out. Originally I'd hoped we could carry on living together. That we could still be friends and share some life for a while longer. But I was wrong, and I am so glad we're not in the same space any more. It had been harming both of us for so long, and I recognise this departure as the turning point in my general ability to feel okay. The day itself was hard though. Davey took me to stroke some baby lambs though, and that helped.

(*Alex is going by the name Ava in most situations now, so that's how I'll be referring to them from here on)

An awkward encounter.

And then... I clean. I have always cleaned and tidied as a soothing exercise. It was a rift between me and Ava. Our differing standards, our differing needs. I made them feel bad about the way they lived, and they made me feel bad about the way I wanted to live. It is liberating to clean and have things stay clean. Liberating to tidy and have things stay tidy. You know what's better than cleaning and tidying? NOT cleaning and tidying. The time that I spent just... keeping on top of things. Preventing detritus mounding up on the kitchen counter. Moving bags off the sofa. Clearing used crockery, knives, forks, mugs from around the house. And a million other tiny tasks, small on their own, but all of them together... so much time, so much effort, and so much resentment. The house just stays clean now when I clean it. It is a joy.

And yeah... My mood just lifted. Took advantage of that by spontaneously going to Manchester to watch Detective Pikachu (my first time at the cinema in... 3+ years?!) It was silly and fun and good.

Had a weirdly specific Sunday.

The whole 'clean house' thing is not all straightforward though. Because it's also 'empty house'. Me and Justin rattle around (though actually, just three weeks or so in, much less so, we have expanded to fill the space, like a gas)...

I was still reeling a little from the aftermath of Ava moving out, and sobbed at my therapist for a full hour around this theme, but then came home to my spotless kitchen and was like 'You know what, I'm fine.' (Maybe I don't need a therapist any more)

Went to sell zines at this gig that was raising money for mental health charities. I sold precisely zero zines, and the music was truly terrible, but I got to try the weird new Wagamama vegan egg, so... sure. Fine.

Had an extremely stressful day with too much work to juggle. Asked my neighbour Caroline to walk Charlie, and in exchange, briefly dog-sat her miserable charge, a giant lurcher named Basil, coming round from anaesthetic after some stitches in his leg, who spent the entire time forlornly howling at me. BIG MOOD, BASIL


Made an utterly amazing black forest gateau that Justin, Dav and Davey are STILL talking about. I am daydreaming about it right now

Went to see Open Mike Eagle (with All City Jimmy and Video Dave) and they were all wonderful

I'M NOT PREGNANT YOU GUYS. Having a pelvis ultrasound for other reasons, but it's strange, the associations of them are so strongly of the whole 'baby' thing — got weirdly sentimental about seeing the inside of my uterus empty. Kind of wanted to ask for a picture of my ovaries to carry around in my wallet and show friends.

Making... the... correct... choices?

Feral Vector is an amazing event run by people I am lucky to call friends, and it's always a weird and wonderful adventure. This year there was wrestling?!

Charlie is arguably official Feral Vector doggo, and definitely all-round most popular boy. Took him to the boardgames night for a mingle, here he is with some of his many fans.

On Friday the new Flying Lotus album came out. Flying Lotus is undoubtedly my favourite musician, and I could write wildly effusive essays about how much/why I love his work and how his music has changed my life, my outlook on sound, my understanding of art/creativity... But anyway. He hadn't put out an album since 2015, and I was wildly excited about this new release. But equally, you only get to listen to something for the first time once, and I am often mindful of this with music I'm particularly excited about. I'd been so busy the previous two days with Feral Vector stuff and I didn't want to just squeeze it in around that, and work commitments. I wanted to make sure I took some completely self indulgant time to enjoy it, so decided on... a bath?

I never take baths. They're too hot too hot too hot too hot then SUDDENLY too cold. I get bored. I get uncomfortable. My brain thinks too much.

But it had been so long since I had one, and for my birthday back in March a friend had given me some bath oil things which I STILL hadn't got round to using, so... The perfect opportunity. I'll lie in the bath and let myself completely focus on it.

Aaaaand... I lasted three tracks.

It was TOO HOT. And I was uncomfortable. And I was too busy thinking about how much I hate baths to enjoy the music. So I got out and lay naked on my bed for a while (which was nice) then I did this painting (which was nice) while I listened to the rest of the album, and it was divine, and soothing, and everything I had hoped it would be. (The painting is loosely based on the album artwork)

I have a dilemma. I'll tell you bout it next month.

Sometimes my visual diaries carry no meaning. Here are some mono prints I made while cleaning down the adana press.

Still waiting on that summer tho

Had a nice evening tonight with lovely friends. Now I'm lying on my bed writing this with Charlie curled up on my feet. It's nice and I feel nice and I want you to know. I've been working really hard but most of the time it feels good, and I'm so excited for what's next... Soon soon sooooon