Saturday, 31 July 2021

July 2021

Well, July began in a flurry of activity in preparation for my MA work in progress show (the MA doesn't finish until December and there will be a final show then, which I hope will be one I can invite you all to). Given the current COVID situation, this show took a hybrid online/IRL approach, but the IRL bit of the show was only open for a day, and only to other UAL students. Kind of a shame, and though you'd have hoped that the silver lining to that would be a reduced sense of pressure... I still felt A LOT OF PRESSURE. Here's a rough sketch from when we were planning out our space.

 Before my Friday evening Samaritans shifts I treat myself to a Wagamama for sustenance, and the Wagamama near the centre have launched a whole load of new vegan dishes (which I don't think are out more widely yet). I want to try them all but somehow every time I just end up ordering the 'No duck donburi' because it is perfection. I really hope they roll it out more widely!

Hard not to feel like I should have done more for the exhibition, but realistically I couldn't have done, given the other workload I've had alongside it. (This visual diary is me imagining all the formats I haven't actually explored, but as it notes, at least I have... some rocks?!)

Went through a phase earlier in the month where I was READING HARD in every moment of my free time, which was useful I guess. Since I was about 16 I've always said that Catch-22 is my favourite book ever, and nothing else subsequently had been good enough for me to make that claim, but then by pure fluke I read '253' by Geoff Ryman and 'Invisible Cities' by Italo Calvino in one week, both of which would be contenders for that title! So that was nice.

In advance of our exhibition we had to do a big presentation (you can see mine here if you're interested) and I was very stressed about it, but... it went well?!!?

I love that dog. She doesn't have to worry about any of this nonsense.

The title of the show was 'What is out of doors', and you can read about my exhibit here. The team who put the show on had a lot of fun with this weird handheld printer that they have at the college, printing long strings on text onto old receipt paper and draping them all over the place. I stole a little bit and stuck it here...

And then immediately after that flurry of activity was another, of sorts. My last day at Kings, after 10 and a half years. What a strange ending.

(Though for what it's worth within two weeks my old boss had written to me asking me to freelance, so you know, not really an ending, more like 'a continuation, where Emma gets paid better' :)

My MA fieldwork walks continue apace, as George and I walked from Horley to Three Bridges, via Gatwick airport. I know I shouldn't have favourites but... This one might have been my fav. So weird. So fun. You can read about it here, if you want.

Last Stars Wars! Nothing liking finishing on a low, eh!

In preparation for a freelance project I can't talk about yet, I spent a lot of money on digital watercolour brush sets for the ipad (they're very good and well worth it). They've bought me WAY more joy than watercolouring in real life ever has, very happy to be continuing my fun journey of digital drawing.

WENT TO IKEA!!!! This was a big deal for me, because it was my first day out/off in MONTHS. (not including my research walks, which I guess do count as days out/off, but are also very much work) Also I've never been to ikea before! (Well apparently I went as a child but I have no recollection). I've been trying to get hold of a particular cabinet for ages, but it kept selling out and would never let me order it online for delivery, so I persueded my partner to sign up for Zipcar so that we could go get it as soon as I got the restock ping. So the moment I got the email we dropped everything (luckily it was on a day when we both could!) and drove down to Croydon. But when they found out I'd never had the Ikea experience before they said we should absolutely do the whole tour and have (vegan) meatballs, so we did, and it was GREAT, but by the time we got down to the warehouse (less than 4 hours since I had the email), Kolbjörn was GONE!! Livid tbh.

But I did manage to get half of it, and maybe because I got in right after it sold out, I WAS able to order it online. All in all a lot of hassle I guess, but I did have a really nice time and kind of wanna go back again...

Next walk with Jade from Three Bridges to Balcombe was glorious, probably the most scenic/rural so far.

Had a course picnic in Hyde Park which was my first time seeing all my coursemates in one place. Kinda nice, kinda weird! I've forgotten how to be a person!

Finally got my fuckin' KOLBJÖRN!!!

My housemate Tabitha had a beautician booked to come over and give her a facial as a special treat, but then she got the self-isolation ping and had to reschedule, so to cheer her up (kinda) we all did facemasks and watched TV together. Facemasks are silly. 

Wrestling with the twin emotions of 'This weather is really scarily hot and the world is irrevocably damaged and changing' and 'I like it'

My partner however, does not like it. Sucks to have a July birthday I guess!

My birthday gift to them was a trip to RHS Wisley, a beautiful garden just outside the M25 (we used the Zipcar again before cancelling the subscription!) and I bought them a few plants of their choosing. Wisley was REALLY good, even better than Kew IMO, and I wish we'd had more time to spend there (couldn't leave the dog at home too long, and I had work to get back to). Here's the gorgeous big hot house there.

The weather was still sweltering (good), so I took Chase to see if she'd like a swim in the pond at the park and she ABSOLUTELY did and had one of the best times I've ever seen her have with all the other dogs there.

 Too hot, but I like it :)

Some days I really am not very good at this job.

I was supposed to be doing the next of my London to Brighton walks this weekend (Balcombe to Haywards Heath) but one of my guests' partners got COVID so we've had to reschedule. I took advantage of the unexpected free day to go see an exhibition I'd wanted to check out at the Barbican, and as luck would have it, their conservatory was open as well, which was amazing, as I'd never got to go in before. And on my way home I went to a drop in and got my second COVID jab, dosed up baby, yeah!!

The next day I felt AWFUL though, banging headache throughout the day, and aches and pains all over. I'd planned to stop numbering these visual diaries after my second vaccine, as I'd assumed that would be as valid a moment as any to declare COVID 'over'... But given the limited (though still very worthwhile) efficiancy of the vaccines, the growing spread of the delta variant, and the potential of further large scale outbreaks... I dunno. It's not over yet, is it. 483 days in.

A few months before Charlie died, we met an adorable puppy border collie in the park called Ozzy. His owner was a lovely lady who was obviously doing her best but also a little overwhelmed (who wouldn't be!) She loved Charlie and expressed her hope that one day Ozzy would grow up to be such a good boy. We saw each other a few more times before Charlie died, every time Ozzy getting bigger and more boisterous. And then after that, I never saw her again. I wasn't in the park as much, even after getting Chase, so I fell out of touch with all the regular dog walkers I'd nod at. 

But before I got Chase I signed up for Borrow My Doggy, because I was so desperately missing having dogs in my life, and I saw her and Ozzy on there. I sent her a message telling her what had happened and letting her know that if she ever wanted help with Ozzy I'd love to help out. She got back in touch and we agreed to meet but then kept putting it off because of various COVID situations.

Until finally! Today! We went and met, and Ozzy has grown into such a big and beautiful (and incredibly well behaved) 18 month old. He's a quintessential border collie (more so than Charlie ever was!) herding his humans and with eyes for absoutely no one apart from them. It was so lovely to see him again, and to talk to his owners, who were so kind about my Charlie grief, and expressed how much it had meant to them, as I was the first person they met when they were out with Ozzy as a puppy, and I was so kind and supportive. Awww. Hopefully we'll stay in touch and have more dog hangouts — Chase and Ozzy seemed to like each other, in a chill kind of way!

Just like... the song... [passes out]

Having a real flurry with freelance work at the moment, which is good, because obviously I've jsut made the leap to full time freelance, so it's quite heartening to have comfortably made ends meet in this my first month. However freelancing ebbs and flows, and especially as I get myself more estbalished it feels very hard to say no to anything, so I have had to let MA work slide since the exhibition to keep up with paid work. It's a tough juggling act that I hope I can get right until the end of the year, to both do my MA justice, and continue to make rent each month and build up a comfortable freelance client base! 

I like the weird fizzy pop.

After missing walk 9, jumped on to walk 10 — Haywards Heath to Burgess Hill. This was a lovely one for the most part, accompanied by Jonathan, who I had invited along for his audio expertise, so we made lots of field recordings along the route, and had an incredible picnic to which Jonathan bought some absolutely wild vegan smoked 'salmon' carrots. However, I also fell over and quite badly sprained my ankle quite early on in the walk, but because I'm an idiot, insisted on continuing. I dunno, it didn't FEEL that bad for another couple of hours, but by the time I was on the train home it was pretty awful, and I was very upset because I had big plans the next day...

Big plans in the shape of my Kings leaving do! However I dug out my old Yorkshire walking stick and mostly managed to hobble around the bits of Brighton I needed to hobble around. It was a strange sort of feeling really, because it didn't feel like goodbye. It felt more like I was attending one of the many christmas dos, summer parties, or other Kings events I've gone to over the last 10 years. It was very easy to forget that it was the end. (Though as aforementioned, if they keep giving me freelance work, it kind of isn't?! So that's nice because I really like all these people.)

Ozzy and his owner Antonina came over for coffee, and I realised that Charlie had very nearly pulled off the most cunning trick of all and convinced me that border collies were easy dogs. Border collies are not easy dogs. Charlie was one of a kind. Ozzy really brings that 'big border collie energy' of crashing around and twitching and yelling and sniffing and eating and yelling some more and being over there, and then up there, and then where's he gone now, and you know what, I love him. (But am glad I have such a chill girl of my own, who put up with his bullshit with surprisingly good grace)

So July is done, and into August, with a slight limp and a bit too much to do, but here's hoping for some more sunshine soon to get me through.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

June 2021

I write this blog to you at the very end of a LONG DAY in the middle of a LONG WEEK at the end of a LONG MONTH. Everything is a lot right now, but mostly self inflicted (MA, lol, why), so I persist and try to reassure myself that in a couple of weeks things will (briefly) ease up, and at the end of the year I can probably sleep for a fortnight or something.

The weather was nice, and mum came to visit for the first time in a long time. That was good. She hadn't even met Chase the dog yet, and we've had her since January! (She bought Chase a squeaky toy which she ADORES)

As part of my MA, over the summer, we have to write a big old essay called the 'Critical context paper'. As someone who, upon scraping through my undergraduate degree ten years ago swore that I would NEVER write another essay, this isn't exactly a thrilling prospect. Luckily we are having a lot of workshops to try and make it as gentle a process as possible, including this one which was trying to get us to think about the structure of our essay as a visual framework. It still made my head hurt.

Still evolving my summer health-goth look.

Our wooly pal was starting to suffer somewhat in the intense early June heatwave (now depressingly over for some weeks), so we made the difficult decision to clip her. I was worried she'd look bad but she actually looks fine and is very soft. So it all worked out.

The second walk in my London to Brighton odyssey, which you can read about here. Clapham Junction to Streatham Common with Jay Owens. A glorious day across glorious South London Commons, and there was ice cream!

Went back to Brighton for the first time since... Maybe late 2019? The longest period of time I've been away since I moved there in 2007. It was emotional! I missed it so much. Also very strange to have what will probably be my last work day at the Kings Education office, where I have worked for the last 10 years (albeit remote with only sporadic visits for the last 4). FEELINGS!

Turns out this was very over optimistic, it's now cold miserable girl summer again. (I got my 'days' muddled at some point by the way, and have written the correct day number in the bottom right corner... I will stop the numbering when I've had my second vaccine I THINK, even though this whole thing doesn't really feel over yet?!)

Walk 3, from Streatham Common to East Croydon, should have been with Cara Courage but she was struck down by chicken pox, so went it alone, still had a nice time exploring some outer edges of London I'd never been to before. 

East Croydon's a weird kind of place (but apparently the best lunch en-route is to be found at Box Park, so as my walks proceed past this point I am stopping off here a lot!)

Gave blood for the first time since 2016 apparently?! I always get a bit anxious about fainting, so I didn't do it while we lived in Hebden Bridge as there was nowhere that didn't involve me having to get quite extensive pubic transport and walking home, and I always felt a bit too fragile to do that. FINALLY back on it, pleased to report that my blood is not only desirable O-, but also EXTRA PURE and suitable for neonatal babies, which is kinda cool. Also they give you a sticker now. Sweet.

NEW star wars! And the only one I'd seen before in my adult life. It is a fun time isn't it.

So I am absolutely not making enough money freelance for it to really have been a sensible decision to quit my job, but despite this fact, the combination of what freelance work I do have and current intensive MA demands are enough for me to feel perpetually slightly fried. I have not had a weekend off in months, though I am trying to at least keep most evenings work free or I would definitely burn out. Feels like a weird place to be both massively over-worked but also entirely unable to turn down anything new that does come in because I need the money. Ugh.

I've got a really big fun freelance comission at the moment which involves doing 5 very detailed drawings of a pond. It's very technically and creatively daunting, but also an absolute joy. Another very busy day but a day spent drawing and making an elaborate curry, which I think was a balm compared to everything else.

It got kinda hot back there but I am into it tbh. (Global warming horror aside). I mostly just worry about my lovely dog pal. But I spent a ludicrous amount getting the house aircon system fixed (yes, for some reason we have one? No the landlord won't maintain it?!) so hopefully suffering will be reduced when it gets really hot again.

We get to go into uni on Thursdays, and at around 3 in the afternoon after a long day of meetings and seminars and group work, I found myself alone in the riso room. I had a choice — get the train home and carry on work when I got back, or, take a cheeky hour and make something silly just for myself. It'd been a long time since I made a thing that wasn't either for money or for uni, so I riso printed this mini size (is one page even a zine?) about my favourite vegan travel snacks. If you'd like one just ask and I will send one out! It was a really fun thing to do, and I love riso printing.

Obviously the perfect thing to do when you have generalised financial anxiety is drop just over 2k of your savings on a new laptop. Sadly needs must, as my old one has been on its last legs for a while now. The new one is very nice and shiny but I have decided to only start using it once I've worked my notice period at Kings, to symbolise a new start! (Plus to avoid clogging up the new one with all the unwanted software detritus that employers demand, oh how I look forwards to never having to use microsoft teams ever again)

Walk 4 of 12, East Croydon to Purley with Alice Bell, who is basically a walking encyclopedia of cool environmental facts. Had a really fun time learning about trackside solar and talking about how to make public transit more appealing... Plus big American trains. Ah, what a daydream to have...

Sometimes I wonder if I'm not cut out to be a full time freelancer based on how much of a bloody worrier I am...

I'm not the only one having a career crisis apparently. A close friend ponders retraining in botany, and the phrase 'new and different aches' resurfaces as we think about the toll of different kinds of labour on our bodies.

Walk 5/12 with Alex Sillitoe, talking about the commuter experience, and walking by far the grimmest section of the route so far, Purley to Merstham. We cross the M25! 

That walk was my first time in 'the countryside' for a long time, and hey guess what, it still sucks. (To be fair, that particular part of the countryside isn't exactly the best the UK has to offer)

I have never experienced hayfever before and maybe I'm not even experiencing it now (no sneezing, watery eyes etc), but there is SOMETHING in the air that, approximately once every 48 hours, and often when I'm out in the park, gives me an absolutely debilitating coughing fit. This has been happening for weeks now. I have repeatedly tested (as best as my tiny nose and terrible gag reflex will allow), and like... I don't think I have covid. But there's something really horrible in the air...

I'm glad we've mostly stopped talking about Matt Hancock now.

Apparently the fans hated this movie. What if 'the fans' were wrong?!

Everyone else can quit trying, they finally achieved the pinnacle of condiment perfection.

Walk 6/6 (halfway to Brighton, in walks if not quite in miles!) with Sarah Cole — Merstham to Horley. This one was somehow waaaaayyyy longer than I was expecting, but glorious company and lots to discuss. Slightly more pleasant surroudings than the last one too, though I have no desire to live anywhere near here.

And with that, into July. We have to put on a 'work in progress' exhibition next week as part of my MA, and for now I am mostly flailing wildly as I try and prepare for that. Hopefully slightly more coherant tales next month....