Thursday 30 November 2023

November 2023

 November has been lonnnnnnng and LOTS, but things are finally starting to be a bit more stable.

Losing Chase wasn't as hard as I feared it might be — it was so obviously the right time for her to go (especially when I reflect back and watch videos of how unwell she was), that the knowledge of that takes some of the edge off the grief. But I still miss her every day, and receiving her ashes actually set me off a lot worse than I'd felt at any point thus far, and I had to take a half day off work to breathe and be sad.

Went to see my all time fav Flying Lotus at fun new venue Outernet. Many strobes.

Everyone always says buying a house is one of the hardest things you can go through, and I started out by saying 'NAAAH I CAN HANDLE IT' and ended up... well, not doing so great. You just sort of let everything slide, when you know everything's gonna change soon, somehow. Not having Chase didn't help with maintaining a healthy routine, not to mention the amount of cash I was forced to spend on the place meaning I felt like I had to prioritise work over things like, eating good, self care, exercise etc.

By this point, we had the keys, but were coming to terms with the WAY more work that needed doing to the property than we'd hoped. I didn't want a project flat! But I couldn't afford a non project flat!

Chase didn't like the fireworks. Stood and watched them from the house this year without her. This painting is of how the sky looks after the big display in Battersea Park.

Watching the new very good (very depressing) David Attenborough series

Gotta get those kids to LISTEN!

V came over to co-work and pep talk me

 Treated myself to some winter health-goth

I know it sounds like I did nothing but take days off this month but I've been VERY STRESSED okay guys?! Took a day off to go to Margate and sell some records to Keir at Ghost Papa (also to see the sea and have some vegan fish and chips)

One of the most important jobs in the new house was getting the bathroom totally renovated due to a slow leak/dry rot/non functional toilet/horrendous amounts of expanding foam... I've never had to commission builders for anything like this before, and strongly suspect I paid massively over the odds for a slow, average job. One of many stresses was the way they entirely filled the house with trash and tools and dust. Inevitable to some extent but EVERY ROOM of a two bed flat just to do the bathroom?! Tiles looking nice though.

Love 2 meet a good guy on the train

(I do actually love teaching)

We HAD to move on the 25th. The bathroom was stil a very long way from being done. Time to start packing?!?!

One of the other big stresses in the house was the asbestos tiling on the office floor. We'd been advised that the best way to deal with it was simply to lay a self levelling concrete floor straight over it. I was under the impression that it was possible to get a sufficiently good finish on this that we could just use it as it was (as I didn't have the budget to do anything else). The builders doing my bathroom quoted me £750 to do it, which checkatrade said was too high, so I got some other guy to come do it. His van looked like a Dr Bronners Bottle, but plastered with bible quotes, and he said he was 'Also a preacher' and prayed for me and my flooring before he laid it, loudly, in the street outside. (Which I found hilarious but also strangely reassuring). He then proceeded to lay the floor in the most slapdash manner imaginable, and told me it would be fine in 24 hours. Reader, it was not.

Now the students are buttering me up, what do they want (I'll take it)

Decided it was time to pack all my art supplies, so I planned to do all my visual diaries until settled in the new place on my iPad.

Three days later and the concrete floor was still not entirely set. It was possible to easily scrape it up with a fingernail, and it was mottled and discoloured. This was the point where I truly felt like melting down. The bathroom still felt VERY far from finished (no functional suite items yet, STILL tiling), and if this floor was indeed, truly fucked, we'd have to scrape it up. Except we CAN'T scrape it up, because there's asbestos under there. Aaargh!!!! Called out another contractor for a second opinion and he said it was FINE — we just needed to lay carpet over it. But I have no money!

This is when I discovered the wonder of CARPET TILES (all is well)

Meanwhile at the other end, packing more seriously commences, including the challenges of kitchen stuff. (I am pleased to report, nothing broken when arriving at the other end!)


On some level, felt determined not to let the move become entirely all consuming this month (hence the visit to Margate). Took the evening to pop into my co-teaching partner Kalina's book launch, LF5TL GLZ. I don't especially like cars but I did enjoy digitally painting this reproduction of a section of one of her lovely photos.

When we went to visit Dunrunnin the first time last month we fell in love with Barley. Luckily he was still waiting, so we dropped in one more time to see him in readiness for bringing him home once we'd moved in the next week. He likes a cuddle

Had an afternoon of many trains!

The day before the move, my partner and I went to the new house, where the bathroom was FINALLY done, and most of the trash and tools removed. (I'd been visiting every day that week to lightly cajole them). We then had to clean the entire house (covered in dust), and assemble our new ikea bed, which took HOURS, and left us totally exhausted.

And then, finally, MOVING DAY!

Everything happened so fast I didn't really have time to reflect on saying goodbye to my old home in Battersea, a shared house with 3 bedrooms. I moved in there in September 2019, escaping from an unhappy time in Yorkshire, and the place felt like a salvation. I then spent the entirety of the worst of the pandemic there, lost Charlie, and later Chase under that roof. I built a happy relationship with my current partner there. I saw 7 different housemates pass through during my time. I love that place. I had some of the worst of times in that place. It is a beautiful house on a horrible road. I was ready to leave but it was a real home to me, and I hope it will continue to be so for those who remain there after me. 

The move itself?

Not sure why I persueded my partner to let us do it ourselves, next time (hopefully many years from now) I WILL hire movers. The van was too small and we had to do three trips (the new place is around 45 – 60 mins drive from the old place, despite being only 6 miles away, because London). Luckily we had help — Dav and Justin happened to be visiting from Yorkshire, our friend Vaishnavi joined us, and my partner's dad also helped out. We absolutely could not have done it without them, and it was a long, exhausting day. But we did it.

I spent all day Sunday furiously trying to find homes for things. We are lacking some major pieces of furniture — no sofa, but crucially for unpacking, very few shelves. We have ordered some, but until then, some boxes must remain, which deeply irks me...

Did as much unpacking as I could over the weekend because I had to get back to work on Monday! It was a nice day though, as my friend Deb was visiting from the US (launching her new book!), and came to give a guest lecture to my UX students. 

Despite the fact that all I wanted to do was stay home and faff about unpacking my house, I went to a gig I booked months ago, and it was great (I was also delighted to discover that it's actually faster and easier to get to East London from here than it was from my old place)

And then, suddenly, A GOOD BOY!!! The rescue shelter very kindly drove him over to us. He spent most of his first day pacing around and panting anxiously a lot. (He spent most of his second day testing the boundaries of what is and is not allowed in a human house, but my partner had to deal with that alone as I was out at work!) He is extremely velvety and soft. He loves to be touched and cuddled. He does not like to be cold.

We ran a cute decoration making session with our students, using the laser cutter — I made these festive cheese and sweet combos!

I still haven't started doing my diaries by hand again, a) because my office/desk is still chaos, but b) because I'm kind of enjoying it?! It also coincides with Moleskine putting up their notebook prices from £18 to £25 (!!!!!), and as a result, all of my usual stockists not selling them any more. Is it finally time for my visual diaries to go permanently digital?! I haven't quite decided yet...

I look forwards to sharing more house/Barley/visual diary medium updates next month. I also look forwards to hopefully having some of you over soon to help us lightly housewarm and meet the lovely Barley. If you are anywhere near Croydon/Crystal Palace soon, let me know!

Tuesday 31 October 2023

October 2023

I feel like I keep saying 'it's been a hard month', but I do genuinely think things are going to get easier soon. This month might have been the stress-climax?! Maybe?! (I bloody well hope so)

Sundays are meant to be day of rest time, but too often they end up being day of life admin time

My partner got sick AGAIN and gave it to me. Not COVID this time, but kind of way worse. A horrible snotty, coughy cold, that has flared up my (long covid?) throat/breathing condition and has left me with a hacking cough for the entirety of the month (and based on previous form, probably the entirety of the winter, though I have been to the doctor and been referred to a specialist, as I am dreading my third winter of hell cough)

Given start-of-term university is already a horrendous petri dish of lurgies, I persisted with work. Got to teach in a new part of the building with good views and non disgusting toilets.

My particular teaching role this year involves a lot more ORATING than last year (where I was co-teaching with someone much more experienced who did most of the talking), which is extremely incompatible with a sore throat. (Why didn't I take the time off sick? My stupid excuse: I am genuinely REALLY EXCITED to do this job)

Chase continued to struggle, generally. She went from 'mostly fine' in August to 'a very frail old lady' by the start of October. She was extremely wobbly and unstable, and I found it very difficult to deal with. We took her to the vet who suggested we try her on some steroids in addition to the nerve pain drugs she was already on.

Having not really left the house for a couple of weeks other than to teach, walked along the river for a bit, admired many swans.

I'm sure this is absolutely fine

Teaching my students about the ELEMENTS and PRINCIPLES of art and design, which is not a model I have previously learned, and I was quite cynical at first but it's actually been quite useful (and fun)

[Cough cough cough]

Our new housemate Jude moved in! Do not get invested in her as a character in Emma's life story: I am moving out soon :)

Went to my solicitor's office and signed a load of papers. Does this mean I've bought a house?! Not yet, but SOON (a very indeterminate amount of soon)

Unfortunately, while the steroids did improve Chase's general mood and energy levels (and made her ravenously hungry), she began suffering a terrible side effect of 'nystagmus' — where she would suffer small fit-like episodes where her eyes would start flickering furiously from side to side, and she would become completely unable to understand the world around her or stand up. They typically happened when she was exposed to unexpected light sources, which made our nightly trips out to the park for a shit extremely stressful, as every time we walked under a particularly bright streetlight, or a car with bright headlights passed, she'd keel over or walk into a lamp post. At this point I'd just have to pick her up and carry her for a bit (and she's not a small dog). 

We halved her steroid dose to try and counteract the fits. But it just led her back to being extremely frail and unsteady and unable to move around easily. I was very low by this point, emotionally, so my friend Vicky came over to watch Strictly with me and my housemate Beth to try and cheer me up. We got pizza!

I'd been saying for a couple of weeks I thought it might be Chase's time, but my partner (probably rightly) wanted to keep trying things to keep her going. But we both came to the conclusion that her suffering was unfair, and so we called the emergency vet to come and do a house call to put her to sleep.

I was really frightened and tearful — having had the experience of losing Charlie so suddenly in 2020, I was really scared about being with her while she died (but also knew I had to be). I felt somehow like it would profoundly destroy me emotionally, to watch her life slip away. 

But Charlie died very traumatically, and in pain, and we were not with him when it happened. THAT is what destroyed me. Chase left us so peacefully, it really did just feel like she was suddenly very tired. She always was a sleepy girl, and naps always were her favourite thing. 

It was the right thing to do and I'm glad we didn't wait any longer. She wasn't even frightened — she normally hates the vet, but because we called them to the house, she greeted them like a friend, and was pleased to cooperate and gently munch chicken goodies right through to the end.

My heart breaks, but I am glad at least that her worst suffering was only for a matter of weeks, not months or years.

I was obviously very sad the next day, but didn't really see what else there was to do other than go to work and teach like usual.

Me and my partner experienced her passing very differently. In the weeks leading up to her death I was a complete emotional mess, holding her and sobbing almost every night, constantly thinking and worrying about her. After she was gone, I felt sadness, but also peace.

Whereas while she was still with us, my partner (who relied on her even more than me) was very much able to put on a brave face and keep going, and it was only after she was gone that they suffered the worst of their grief. 

With Charlie we both seemed to be quite well aligned, but it's been different this time, obviously. And actually probably helpful, as it's meant that we've both been able to be stable for each other when we've been at our worst.

I haven't really felt any choice but to keep working through my sickness and grief this month. The work is there and I need the money. Teaching is demanding but rewarding. My role at my friend's tech studio is also hugely rewarding and fulfilling but also almost always stressful and a tad emotionally draining. My freelance clients inevitably end up coming in third place to this other work, but they're also my longest standing work, and despite fluctuations, arguably my most reliable, and I love them. I am not about to drop them! So it all has to squish in somewhere, and some weeks it's easier than others.

The house we are buying requires some urgent renovations, and doing these is scraping me right to the bottom of my bank account in a way that I find very stressful, so... gotta keep going. In truth I think the intensive schedule helped get me through my grief better than wallowing would.

We FINALLY got to visit the house we're in the process of buying for the first time since the original viewing. It was... worse than I remembered, but kind of in a way I'd mentally prepared myself for. There were also some nice details I'd forgotten about or not noticed before. 

Oh but I miss her every single day. My entire life was built around her, my lovely friend.

Me and my partner went to the London Museum of Fashion and Textiles to see their exhibition of political textiles 'The Fabric of Democracy' — it was really great and I highly recommend it!

With the house purchase seemingly progressing, we had a 'life comes at you fast' moment when we realised we needed to choose a new bathroom like... NOW. Because the current bathroom is basically borderline unusable (worse even than the Railway Street bathroom, Brighton friends...), we had to line up builders to resolve it before we can move in. And we can't afford to have too much wiggle room between getting the keys and moving in, because I can't afford to pay rent on our current place and mortgage for too long. 

I'd always thought if I got the chance to renovate a bathroom I'd spend MONTHS poring over every detail, but instead I just ran round a warehouse on an industrial estate in Croydon trying to decide what makes a good sink over the course of around 2 hours. (Also we went to Ikea and all the tills went down right as we were in the lunch queue so we got FREE MEAT(plant)BALLS)

I'm still sad/mad our old housemate Camille had to move out (yes FINE she had a totally justifiable reason but what could be better than living with Emma?!) — but very glad we still get to hang out sometimes for boardgames and macaroni cheese

Trying to capture the new lines appearing on my face for every additional day my solicitor doesn't respond to my emails

I keep saying how great it will be for me and my partner to move out of a shared bedroom in a shared house but in actual fact our current bedroom is HUGE, has a massive walk in wardrobe, and we use most of the living room too, so our new, modestly sized place will be a significant downgrade size wise. I am a serial de-clutterer at the best of times but thus commences the most drastic declutter I can imagine!

And then suddenly oh fuck I'm in a bank signing away the largest sum of money I ever have or probably will have (and discovering I have an incredibly unreliable signature)...

And all of a sudden, I own a modest two bed flat in Croydon. Wouldya look at that.

Felt very conflicted about the big protest because big protests give me anxiety (but also clearly this is very important, damn, I should go) — I didn't go to the big protest but I did go and stand NEAR the big protest for a little while

On Sunday we went to 'Dunrunnin', an ex-racing greyhound kennel, who we're soon hoping to adopt a dog from. We can't take one until we're in our new house! We can't wait!! We liked Barley the best so we're very much hoping he's still there when we're ready, a little under a month from now.

My anxiety levels briefly dipped when I got the keys to the house but have risen sky high again as I am dealing with BUILDERS, argh

It's a rare occurence but some days I just don't know what to draw. Luckily my partner is always there to help.

Onwards into an EXCITING, STRESSFUL, ACTION PACKED November in which we will be definitely moving house and probably getting a new dog friend. Eek!