Tuesday, 28 February 2023

February 2023

February began, as it always does, with Hourly Comic Day — you can see my hourlies (as well as previous years attempts) here.

February also began, as it has every day for the last 12 years, with the birthday of Chase the dog.

She's good.

A couple of years ago, while I was deep in MA stress, and ranting to anyone who would listen about my love of trains and public transit, an aquintance let me know that her husband was a tube driver, and he loved having guests join him in the cab. Sadly due to COVID restrictions at that time it wasn't possible, but now finally the wait was over and Rich got in contact with me to let me know I could come join him any time. Why wait?! Just a few days later I rocked up a Edgware Road, and with a surprisisng degree of casualness, sauntered into tthe cab of a Hammersmith and City train, and rode up and down the line with him for a couple of hours. It was truly everything I had dreamed of and more, and were it not for my IBS and tiny bladder I would genuinely be tempted to quit everything else and go drive trains. What a joy. I learned SO MUCH about how the tube runs and all the different lines and the challenges there are in maintaining the network.

The next day I hopped on (the passenger section of) a train down to Chichester, where I met my mum and friend Heidi to go see an exhibiton of South Downs related art at Pallant House art gallery. Afterwards, me and Heidi went for a hike up said downs, with creepy forests and beautiful views down to the coast. A lovely day out.

The new Battersea Power Station development is mostly a temple to capitalism but there is a really good Korean supermarket where I can buy exciting noodles, chilli crisp, and weird junk foods like these slightly hectic corn snacks. (That are not actually as spicy as they say they'll be, but are a very alarming shade of red)

BeReal is still my favourite social network. Pls join me there

Still searching for a hairdresser who understands my apparently quite difficult hair, after my fav guy in Brighton retired. This place did okay — it looked great straight out of the salon but I can't re-achieve that cute quiff curl now...

Spring is (maybe) springing! (It is still very cold)

Me and my partner went to Ikea! I love living (kinda) near Ikea!

Facing some new teaching challenges this term, and it's going quite well?!!? Had a very successful day running a self-written workshop and then got home to an email from a student insisting I'd graded them incorrectly on another module I recently marked. DID I?! IDK?! Marking is new and hard?! I think I'm right but what if all creativity is subjective and impossible to grade?! Aaargh?!

I am in an extremely wholesome whatsapp group called 'Riso working group' which is basically just people from mostly the UK asking questions about why their riso machine is or is not doing the thing. It's sweet and friendly and supportive and educational, and in the 'before times' they also hosted sporadic IRL meetups. This was the first one of these since pre-COVID, hosted by the lovely Pagemasters in Lewisham! I was a bit socially anxious about going but recognised a few other people there, and everyone was very sweet. 

 People are gross (that includes me I guess)

Lovely lunch out with a friend of a friend who is now a friend of ME!

I only have to do the bad Samaritans night shift (2.30 – 6.30) once every three months. It's always less bad than I expect it to be but I still hate being awake at night. On my way in, I always pick up lots of snacks to sustain me, but some nights I don't really feel like getting to them until the end of the shift (sometimes I munch all night though tbh). I was delighted to find WHSmiths selling the new(ish) vegan kitkats, one of my fav childhood chocolate bars, and one I probably hadn't had for well over a decade. I snapped it apart and ate it while blearily eyed walking home down Carnaby Street at 6am and had a vivid 'many years have passed' flashback to tiny Emma enjoying a kitkat in her lunchbox at school in North Wales. 

Then I later remembered they're made by Nestlé and so I guess I'll go back to not having kit kats again.

From culinary highs to culinary lows.

Someone in the park mistook my partner for my SON. Misgendering aside, I know I look my age, but REALLY?!

I made a visual diary mistake here — walked section 5 of the capital ring but forgot to draw it in the same style as all the others, damn it! Got distracted I guess because it didn't feel as novel as other sections (being the one closest to my house I'd walked a lot of it with Charlie already). Plus I was joined by my old college friend Vicky who I hadn't seen in several years, to offload our respective life trauma of the past few years. So probably spent more time gossiping than appreciating the features of the walk.

Talking of the new battersea power station development, took my mum and aunt up the fancy lift which runs up one of the chimneys. The views were great but it was VERY expensive and you barely get any time up there.

We sometimes walk an elderly neighbour's dog to help her out. His name is Tippu and he's a weird little guy.

Lent cometh!

Got a large tattoo on my thigh, but haven't really shown it off yet as it's not healing very well. I think I've had an allergic reaction to the red ink, as all the black areas are healing and peeling as they should, but the red area has scabbed over with thick scabs and is still really tender over a week on. Hoping it will heal tidily given a bit more time!

Had to give a very technical presentation to over 70 people about research process, which was stressful.

I mostly try not to think too hard about the air on the tube, but

To escape from the foul London air, I got the tube up to Hebden Bridge for a long weekend. Finally visited my friend James' very lovely new house.

And enjoyed some of my old favourite hiking routes (while trying not to think too hard about how much I miss Charlie)

Managed to catch up with a few of my HB favs over the weekend, which was really lovely.

Headed home yesterday — feeling the lenten hungriness (I always use this as a time to eschew snacking between meals, crisps and chocolate) — spent the entire 15 minutes running up to midday staring hungrily at my delicious pasta lunch on the train.

Home now and desperately hoping for warmer temperatures. As part of my lenten penance I have also (finally, after maybe 5 months?!) returned to my actual grown up desk (rather than just working from bed). I hate it.

I have some adventures lined up in March to look forwards to/be anxious about, so hopefully some interesting drawings to come next month...

Thursday, 2 February 2023

Hourly Comics Day 2023

It's hourly comics day once again!

You can see the last 9 years hourly comics here:

2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

Making this my TENTH year of hourly comicsing! It was a very busy day but I was determined to do a full 6-panel'r every hour 😅

Here they are!

Tuesday, 31 January 2023

January 2023

As is often the way, I write this blog late in the evening, feeling hazy after a long day of many itty bitty tasks... But annoyingly, much of my month has been a bit quieter than I'm accustomed to work-wise, so it's annoying that today has been a bit of an 'everything all at once' day

 I started off January dusting my house. Our flat directly overlooks a 24 hour bus route, outside the low emission zone of central London, which means everything in my room slowly becomes coated with a fine layer of soot, and living here is probably the equivalent of smoking a cigarette a day. Dusting is both refreshing and depressing.

A few months ago, Samaritans Central London branch flooded, and the building was so badly damaged that it hasn't yet re-opened again. In the interim, we have been offered a temporary home in the basement of a company called Arup, whose offices are situated near the big cool BT tower. I like getting to see it up close regularly.

Took down my christmas cards and made all the ones with cute animals on them into a bad collage

For the uninitiated, flu camp is medical trials. You can get paid several thousand pounds to be shut in a room for 2-3 weeks, infected with flu, and dosed up on experimental (but low risk) drugs. My partner signed up for it...

But flu camp fucked up!

My housemate Camille bought me back lots of exciting supermarket goodies from Belgium, including CRICKET CRACKERS!

I allowed myself a relatively leisurely ease back into working at the start of the year (well, I say allowed, also clients never send any work in the first week back, and term doesn't start again until later) — enjoyed wrapping up my break by completing my walk of the Wandle River. Got to see an actual real life Kingfisher!

Spent a happy few hours playing the game 'Unpacking', which was, frankly, ASTONISHINGLY emotionally resonant and left me thinking a lot about posessions, what we hold on to, what we let go, and how we share our space.


And then IMMEDIATELY got sick. (Realistically, got sick way too fast to have caught it from all the gross students though)


 Exploring some new and innovative cold symptoms here, lads

And then my eyes got really crusty and itchy and weird?! Basically this entire week was a write off, work and general functioning-wise

Finally managed to leave the house again, on exciting errand to buy anti-mould spray (realised during my start-of-the-year dusting session that some of the black dust was in fact black mould, and having lain in bed for a week with respiritory sickness just LOOKING at the black mould, I felt compelled to deal with it). Also went to Holland and Barratt and bought myself various vitamins and minerals.


Still distinctly snotty, embarked on a much procrastinated spell of jury duty. Unlike what most people think of jury duty (declaring people 'guilty!' etc, making lots of ace attorney style gestures), this was at coroners court. The role of coroners court is to determine cause of death, and it is not a court of blame. 99% of coroners court cases go without a jury, but a jury must be summoned for any cases where deaths occur due to accidents at work, or deaths in police custody. 

Days in coroners court were mercifully short (mercifully, because my time in coroners court happened to coincide with the exact time period in which I was supposed to be marking over 40 students work). We only had to be there from around 10 – 4, with an hour's lunch break every day. But a lot of the evidence was verrrrry long and boring, and it's actually been a really long time since I have had to sit still and focus on something boring all day. It turns out, I am REALLY BAD AT IT! I found that the only way I could keep my mind on task with hearing the evidence was to do a focussed doodle. Not so focussed that it became all consuming but not so formless that my mind would wander. Without the doodling, my mind would just totally wander away from what I was supposed to be listening to and start thinking about lunch, or dinner, or marking, or my dog, or passionate love affairs of my youth, or how much I hate the tories (which admittedly was topical in these cases). Kind of alarming to be so unable to focus, but doodling, and unfolding and refolding a paperclip over and over again got me through. (In this doodle I was attempting to fill each circle with a totally unique design.

Another thing that I spent a lot of time getting distracted by was my fellow jurors. Who ARE they? What do they DO? I made some guesses based on purely circumstantial evidence.

And then when we finally all got to hang out together I initiated a round of introductions and kicked off by telling everyone my name and job so that everyone else then also felt they had to tell us their jobs :) (I forgot two of them though, agh!) I guessed like, two and a half right?! Not bad!

Jury duty was two weeks, but our first case ended on the Thursday, which was good because it meant I had more energy for CURLING! After a brief foray into fake plastic curling in December, we had another go with the (sort of) real deal (scoring target and overall rink length a lot smaller). It turns out, real curling is REALLY HARD, and over our 45 minute session, only one of the 6 of us managed to actually even get a stone into the scoring area. Fun was had though, and I want to go again!

Went with Rosie and Heidi to see the Canary Wharf light exhibits. A lot of them were just instagram fodder really, and it was absolutely packed most of the way round the route, but it was nice to see my friends and walk around a different bit of town at night.

I've put on a lot of weight since I moved to London and Charlie died, and while that in itself is not bad (and I care a LOT less since I lopped my tits off) I am also very unfit and very inflexible. So, for about the 10th time in my life, despite repeatedly establishing that I hate yoga, I am trying yoga. Just 5 or 10 mins a day. SURELY I will downward facing dog if I just persist

Back in court for a second week and a second case. The court was a bit disappointing in truth. The room looked more like a boring modern classroom than a court, and each juror was sat at an individual desk, rather than on benches like you always see in the movies. There were lots of weird little rituals and turns of phrase, like how the coroner and lawyers would all say 'I'm grateful' or 'Grateful' rather than 'thank you', and everyone calls the coroner 'sir' (even though the second one was younger than me, yes yes I know I sound like an old lady). And they'd say 'ah, yes, just one small question' and then keep us all there for AGES with boring minutiae (I guess boring minutiae are the whole point of evidence)

To keep myself sane and focussed I decided to create an imaginary new alphabet.

Or buid up a fictional city map layer by layer, from river to trains to roads to parks, to houses

The second case was over even more quickly, and to celebrate (not really, it had been planned anyway), me, my partner, and our housemate Camille, went out for dinner with Vaishnavi. We met Vaishnavi on Spareroom, and for various reasons (mostly with her best interests at heart!) did not offer her the other room in our house, BUT we really liked her, and want to be her friend, so we are trying to make an effort to welcome her to big scary London by being there for her when she needs some company and friendship.

Spen got enrolled for another flucamp! BUT they had the common cold in their system (presumably caught from me), and so were sent home. Damn it!

I've been marking students work pretty consistently over much of this month and it's probably the hardest bit of the teaching work that I've done so far. Marking the graphic design students was okay, I know what is good and bad. But marking the PPU (personal and professional development) students was a lot harder, as this was essay marking, and trying to assess them on whether they had REALLY taken on board all of our teaching about how to grow up to be confident and professional 'creative practitioners'. 

Bonus: none of my marking time is paid!! 🙃 I don't resent it too much because I do get paid very handsomely for the actual contact hours I have with students, but between my cold, jury duty (which is frankly abysmally compensated if you're a freelancer), and general slow-client-work january, I have made VERY LITTLE MONEY this month, lolsob

Once jury duty is over, you can talk about the cases. So here they are. Both cases were the same basic facts: a male prisoner who commited suicide by hanging within HMP Wandsworth. Both cases were clear cut. There was no question it was suicide. Whether they were failed by the system is another matter entirely, but not for us to determine. All of the evidence presented to us in court came from the NHS trusts who provided care at HMP wandsworth, and from the prison themselves. It was all absolutely intended to cover their backs and show them in the best possible light. It even nearly brainwashed me! Especially given that we are not allowed to do any of our own research or talk to anyone else about the case during it.

But we all know it's bullshit.

Those men, both in their own unique way, were failed by the prison — failed by this government. Their deaths were needless, and senseless. 

I regularly talk to prisoners in my work as a Samaritan (they are given phones to keep in their cells which only have the Samaritans number on them, so they often use them for purposes other than emotional support, sigh, but we do have a LOT of legitimate conversations with prisoners too). I have some inkling from this of how desperate their lives can be. (And if I was interested in pursuing this work further, the Samaritans do more direct outreach work into prisons that I could join). 

I am also friends with a retired woman at Quaker church who spends three days a week in HMP Wandsworth doing chaplaincy work (in practice, given that the Quakers aren't really evangelical, this is mostly bringing the men warm clothes, colouring pencils, jigsaws, reading glasses and the like, and if they end up having any positive conversations, that's a bonus). 

I had a long talk with her after Quaker church on Sunday, and she shone a fairly bright light on what it's ACTUALLY like in there, and blasted through all the flimsy claims I heard in court about how these men are adaquetely supported. (They are not). In both court, and through my Quaker friend, I learned some 'prison hacks' if you will. A lot of efforts in prison go towards preventing prisoners a) getting weapons, b) getting drugs, or c) getting a means of taking their own lives... But despite all of their best efforts, there will always be hard objects and ligaturable materials, sooooo

Anyway. I guess it's all pretty bleak. But I really valued my Quaker friend's insights (and those of another Quaker who joined the conversation) about HMP Wandsworth and incarceration more generally. A lot to think about, I guess.

"Let it all goooo" says the lithe californian yoga instructor in the video, so I do.

Got really muddled with my google calendar today, went to the wrong Samaritans shift, double booked myself for a meeting, and forgot to schedule in time for dinner. Lolsob. And tomorrow is hourly comic day! Waheyyyyy!

See you on the other side...