Friday 31 May 2024

May 2024

I am writing much of this blog a little before the end of the month because I am going to be at EMF camp at the very end of May into June. Luckily I am NOT camping, so hopefully will be able to finish it off one evening back at the airbnb.

May has very much been a month of many nagging worries (Am I a bad friend? When will I get a permanent teaching contract? WILL I get a permanent teaching contract? Can I afford to do... anything, right now? Have I forgotten how to be a designer? Have I done all my tasks? And so on) but I am also trying to revel in no longer being QUITE as stressed at work, since I quit GFSC, and having just a little bit more time each day (which I have entirely filled with dog walking)

So yes, May has mostly been a month of enjoying walking to new places with Jessie. And she's (mostly) been good. One of my gripes about my role at GFSC was that it always seemed to intensively demand my time slap bang in the middle of the day. My preferred working pattern (I think I have come to learn this about myself?!) is about 3 hours in the morning (9 –12ish), then a generous 2 – 2.5 hour lunchbreak (for a LONG dog walk plus food), then another 3 or 4 hours in the afternoon, then (only if needed), another 1 or 2 hours in the evening after dinner. I get extremely gripy when anyone schedules a meeting with me between 12.00 and 14.00, which I am aware is wholly unreasonable, but I work so much better when I have a big outdoor break in the middle of the day. (When I had Chase who didn't want a big walk, I'd instead often go swimming during my 2 hour lunchbreak, which was also nice)

It simultaneously feels like forever ago that I had this cold, but also like just yesterday, because thanks to my fucked lungs I am STILL coughing a bit.

Still on the hunt for the perfect hairdresser. This one still was not the one, but she did give me a cute enough haircut I guess. Finally marking totally growing out my undercut that I've had since my early 20s (not even sure why I've grown it out really as I often think about just cutting it in again)

A terrible night's sleep thanks to cold, and Jessie, and my partner, and nature.

Finally, after I think like, a year, decided it was time to fight the final boss and stop playing Tears of the Kingdom. Feeling EXTREMELY bereft of that lovely world. I played Breath of the Wild during the pandemic, at a time when travelling was unthinkable, and it felt like a magical way of escaping into another place, and I feel extremely emotionally attached to the places in that game. I was so happy when they released Tears of the Kingdom which is set in exactly the same world, and took a similarly long time to let it go.

Now I'm playing No Man's Sky, which does scratch a certain open-world(s) itch, but doesn't have quite the same emotional resonance of BOTW and TOTK (yet?)

Boys at school used to do this and I thought they looked like massive idiots

More accurately, thinkin' about squirrel

After my personal laptop threatened to die a few weeks ago, I put in a request for a work laptop (which I sort of did not expect to be granted), then they suddenly just gave me one. Pros are: it's a really nice new laptop. Cons are: the systems they've installed prevent me from installing lots of other software that would actually make it a useful tool (mostly, Dropbox and Affinity publisher)

Cough cough cough, a horrible self portrait

Walked past this scene in Peckham, the moment a man upended an entire stack of trays of meat onto the street.

She's obsessed with chasing flies

No Eurovision this year lads, first one I've missed literally ever in my life?! Needs must though, eh. Anyway in absence of watching it, I imagined what some of this year's entries might have looked like...

Most of the time my commute from Croydon is fine, sometimes it is not (luckily I only have to do it 2 or 3 days a week)

She likes to roll in cut grass

Another reason I quit my tech studio role was that, even though I had made my own bed to lie in, I spent most of my time there doing HR, meetings, admin, and occasionally if I was lucky, running research (the best bit). I did some design, but often not really fun stuff. Quitting has opened up more time to freelance, and though I am still extremely down on income, I have managed to pull in a bunch of new freelance projects to fill my time, which is a relief. Spent a WHOLE DAY doing design for the first time in ages, (no meetings!!!) and it was great. 

Talking with colleagues about Aphantasia (a condition wherein one cannot 'picture' things in their mind), which I do not have, but... what does it even mean to see something in your mind?!

My Samaritans branch have struck up a deal with local Pret that we get to take all the leftover sandwiches at the end of the day that would otherwise go in the bin and omg u guys that's SO MUCH PRET

Went for a fancy din with my partner and friend Angharad. It was good in many ways (the starter and dessert especially) but I was left wanting more carbs...

Then the next day I went for a good old fashioned roast with visiting US friend Willow, plus George and Arthur, and that had just the right amount of delicious carbs thankyouverymuch. I also then went to visit my very heavily pregnant friend Lucy and partner Josh. What was a gloriously rare London treat was that Lucy's house was just a half hour walk from where we had pub roast, so I just strolled on over there after — that NEVER HAPPENS. Definitely need to keep building up this South London gang so I never have to go North of the river :)

Decided to treat myself to leaving work early and getting a Borough Market lunch but Borough Market is closed on Mondays, WHO KNEW

She's good, but she's not always perfect, and when she's bad I find it hard to love her. This is why I should never parent an actual human child. I know I will get there given time though. (With loving this dog, not with having a human child lol, would never be me)

When I lived in Yorkshire we were idundated with slugs. In Battersea, even in the park, not so much, but maybe this bit of Croydon is the slug capital. Or maybe it's just rained a lot this year,

It's shedding season, and Jessie is a constant explosion of fur

I do miss having housemates sometimes (as I now live just with my partner), but one good way of simulating that is to have old housemates over to visit! Beth and her partner Angus came over and we played Oros, which was a tad over long and over complicated, but still a nice time. (Here is us as 4 different gods, or something?)

Jessie disgraced herself first thing this morning — she desperately needs to chase motorbikes, and got confused when someone behind a wall was running a motorbike engine very loudly, and she jumped up at a man walking past her because she thought he was the source of the noise (he was not pleased).

However after that utter failure (being scary to people is in my view one of the naughtiest things a dog can do) we took her on the train for the first time ever, and she did SO GOOD — she was clearly frightened and confused, but she dealt with it very well, had a nice walk round Crystal Palace Park (5 mins away by train), and did even better on the train home. Here's hoping I'll have a confident train girl before too long.

Made it to Quaker meeting for the first time in ages, and got to do the flowers! (Just picking a few favs from the garden there)

Had a really weird, horrible incident... As I was walking to the park with Jessie, I saw a pram in an alley, with what appeared to be a sleeping baby in it. Kind of weird, no one around, but hey, not my business — didn't I once read something about how Scandinavian people take their babies outside to sleep? Anyway, I ignored it, but the pram and baby were still there when I walked back past around 50 minutes later. It seemed sufficiently weird, that I figured I should probably at least take a look. It's probably an illusion and there's actually no baby, right? So I walked closer, and, there definitely was a baby. And as I got closer, I could see, its eyes were wide open, and it was completely motionless, just undeniably... dead. I had a visceral horror reaction and ran back into the street, my heart racing, my knees shaking, utterly uncertain what to do. I must be mistaken. It can't be what it seems. I should go back and touch it. But I can't, it's too horrible. A man from over the road must have seen my panicked face, and came out of his house — "Is it the baby?" YES it's the BABY, WHAT IS GOING ON

He told me he'd nearly called the authorities earlier as well, but he'd been brave enough to actually touch it, and establish that it was a hyperrealistic doll. I felt stupid, but this guy said he'd totally believed it to be a dead baby as well. Was it a prank? Neither of us could think of any explanation for this seemingly fully equipped, real, not toy baby pram having this extremely creepy baby doll in it, and being left there, like that. 

Shook me up more than I would have expected tbh.

The older I get, the more I love SPRING WATCH!

Jessie was naughty again, and I am stressed. She was very snappy with the ikea delivery man (who luckily was entirely unphased), and I am getting anxious about how occasionally confrontational she is with people — and mostly about how unpredictable it is, because a lot of the time she's just FINE. I am not scared of her, and feel no threat from her myself (unlike with Barley), but I am worried about this behaviour, and we need to get on top of it sharpish. I've been speaking to her adoption charity about recommended behaviourists, which sucks because I am so extraordinarily broke right now, but it's a stressful situation that absolutely needs resolving before she gets any worse. Inside that beautiful dog there is a VERY good girl (genuinely, I see a lot of Charlie like traits in her total devotion and desire to please, and submissiveness with me and Spen), but unfortunately her guarding tendancies have started to get the better of her.

Yesterday was the final teaching day of the year for my year 1 UXD students. It was lightly emotional, as this is the first cohort I've seen through an entire year, and they're a sufficiently small group (around 40 students) that I know all of them pretty well at this point. They all handed in their final project for the year and I am excited to mark them next week! I also had a nice time in the afternoon helping the third years get set up for their final exhibition, which is always a whirlwind. 

Then I left and got on a 3 hour train to LEDBURY, home of EMF camp...

Which commenced, today! And as always, it has been a ridiculously overstimulating day, and I am SO glad not to be camping (I got an Airbnb in Ledbury with my friend James). It was a joy to see James and my other friend V deliver excellent talks today. I played with lots of fun analogue and digital games. I saw lots of weird art installations. I graffitied a giant spider on the wall of the night club. I built my own body-heat powered tempeh incubator. I took a picture on one of the oldest digital cameras. I ate some delicious food. Overall a satisfying and exhausting day, and I am ready for MORE TOMORROW!

Which you all will hear about here, next month, I guess (or on my instagram, if you follow me there). Until then, happy June...

Tuesday 30 April 2024

April 2024

Regular readers might be glad to hear that Emma is slightly less strung out this month (well, unless you're a regular reader who gets a thrill out of Emma's suffering)

On April 1st, me and my partner went to a park in east London to meet JESSIE. Jessie is a German Shepherd from Cyprus, who was bought over by dog charity Underdog International (who I do some freelance design for).

She is around 6 years old, and was apparently an old man's pet her whole life until he had to go into end of life care (so not a street dog, as many of the dogs they bring from Cyprus are). I told Eve from Underdog my whole sorry story about Barley and how he frightened me so much I've been struggling to think about trusting another dog (but how I also feel totally bereft without a dog in my life). She thought that Jessie might be the dog for us. (As a soft, sweet idiot who appeared, from their time with her thus far, to not have any dominance, resource guarding, human or dog agression issues).

She totally wowed us with her chill vibes (happily trotting round a hectic london park off lead without batting an eyelid at kids, bikes, cars, squirrels, other dogs) and her friendly greeting (she was very soft and sweet and ready to be a friend). So we decided to take a chance, and say yes, to Jessie! (Who would come home once the requisite paperwork was completed)

I went to a fun evening event — design studio Common Knowledge, launching their new campaigning tool 'Mapped'. (Common Knowledge are in some ways quite similar to GFSC where I work, so I'm always curious so see what our 'rivals' are up to — in a friendly, uncompetetive way, obvs 😅)

Ran a version of my riso workshop with a group of sixth formers, as part of one of UAL's widening participation initiatives. Taught them how riso works, how to created layered artwork, and got them thinking about 'place', with the task of creating a design/illustration about their neighbourhood in London. They did SO GOOD!

Took an afternoon off to go to the great Fashion City exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands, with my friend Ellis. The exhibition explores the influence Jewish immigrants have had on fashion in London. Even though I dress in fairly drab/plain ways these days, the 7 year old Emma who dreams of being a debutante princess still likes to daydream about wearing all the beautiful gowns.

 Went back to deliver some closing content at the week long workshops with those sixth formers, and they all said such lovely things 🥹 (Also I made some muffins for my Samaritans shift and one of my fellow volunteers handed me to the piece of paper on the top left at the end of my shift, adorable)

Took myself to annual lovely games festival in Somerset House: Now Play This. Had an extremely nice time, as always. (Including an actually not unpleasant VR experience for the first time!? The headsets are still horrible to wear though)

 On reflection this really must sound like a month of 'Emma does anything but work' hahaha (I HAVE also been working, even if it may not seem that way). I went to my extremely good local arts venue's Holi festival celebrations, got my hand henna'd, watched some traditional dancing, and did some block printing (with children). Extremely wholesome fun and mostly exciting because, having moved to 'the suburbs', it's always reassuring when something cool is happening literally 5 minutes walk from your front door.

There are many lovely birds in my back garden, but my fav is always my pal robin redbreast

Still need to work on my 'self care' game tho

Jessie cannot arrive soon enough, gotta get my walking game back up to scratch.

Also, I guess the other news of note is that last month I handed in my notice at GFSC, after two and a half fun/challenging/inspiring/educational/difficult/exciting/frustrating years. I realised that despite only being two days a week of my time, it was occupying my brain 7 days a week, and I couldn't see the inordinately stressful studio culture changing any time soon (despite all our best attempts to combat it). I was also well aware, as a studio lead, that we didn't have any new work upcoming, and had no clear lines to getting any, so it felt almost like destiny that now was the time to step back. That said, despite not having much work on, there was still a lot to tidy up before departing, and on the days when I WAS working on it, it ended up being pretty all consuming, in a 'no time to leave the house' kind of way.

This is probably a terrible choice for me financially, as after the rewire I am flat broke (like, 'going to have to ask my parents for another loan because I've depleted all my savings' broke), so I am simultaneously hoping to secure a more permanent teaching contract at UAL, and touting for more freelance work to help pick up the slack. So, hi, if you're looking for some design...

However, after not leaving the flat for two days, I had a BIG day out — taking my UX students on a trip! I was very proud of this day, because it was also the first day trip I have ever organised as a tutor!

We first went to the National Archives, where our students got to look at some super cool old documents and think about the (extremely long) history of 'UX'. (And saw the 3D printed rat whose paper eating habits were the inspiration for the archives original creation)

Then in the afternoon we went to Kew Gardens, where we set the students a task to explore the 'experience' of the gardens, and how they might improve it. I THINK the students had fun, and I certainly did!

And then Jessie came home!!

When we collected her, her foster carer told us that a) she'd decided she LOVES squirrels (and so could no longer be trusted off lead, as she would not return), and b) that she was scared of... floors?

The latter turned out to be true, after she refused to enter our house past the hallway for around the first 48 hours (finally overcoming her concerns after a fly needed chasing)

"Still not sure about coming in the living room you guys. Also who are you and where am I?"

Still hacking away at the garden. Still wondering if I actually like destroying more than cultivating (which is good as destroying is mostly what needs doing right now)

I've been trying to simultaneously lean in to my harmless guilty pleasures (Merge Mansion, Richard Osman's House of Games, and Chinese Otome fantasy dating game 'Love and Deep Space'), and away from my gross, harmful guilty pleasures (Instagram discover page, hair pulling/skin picking, other mindless scrolling)

A friend asked me earlier today how things are going with Jessie. I said:

"It is very easy to love her when she is sleepy or gently cuddly. She is at an unfair disadvantage because Charlie was the best boy (or just like, I built an irrationally strong bond with him), and Chase was just extremely chill and good with comparatively little effort on our parts. I am still learning to love her — she is clearly a sweetheart and very ready to love back, but every time she's a little bit naughty I'm like 'Oh GOD I have a CHILD again I have to make her BETTER but I don't have the PATIENCE'."

Her main naughty habits are that when she is over excited, she (gently) grabs your hands with her mouth to try and get you to rub her (adorable, but annoying when you are trying to just relax). She's also decided that all the comings and goings of our 4 different sets of neighbours need to be greeted with an abrupt barking spree, plus the aforementioned squirrel chasing issue. Really, those are not huge issues, but Chase was so so very chill, and sweet, and I miss her every single day.

As I then said to my friend...

"It is very easy for me to forget that for the first 6 months (and beyond?!) that I had Charlie I was having daily anxiety about the intensity of his needs and wondering if I'd made a bad choice taking him" — so, we will get there. She's a good girl and she means well. I am still a little bit frightened of her randomly lashing out as well, despite their being absolutely no evidence she will do that — really hoping that will wear off soon. :(

Spent my whole day in horrible dry places that made me feel like a shrivelled prune

Spent the next day, much more nicely, in Brighton, for my pals RTS zines amazing zine popup event on the seafront! So lovely to see some old friends, eat some delicious lunch, and sell a modest number of zines.

I started walking Jessie with the long line, and things got a lot nicer for both of us.

Sometimes I look at my sweet, fragile, smart, stupid, frustrating, inspiring undergrads, and wonder what I'd think if I was somehow able to re-encounter myself as an undergrad (evasive, unwilling to take on board critique, wholly mediocre, but keen!)

Get u a partner who's always telling you you're cute, even when you look like shit 🙃

Some days, focus is like a winding river...

Went to see Colin Stetson (who is amazing) play the soundtrack to Hereditary (a horror movie I never have or will see) with the London Contemporary Orchestra (who are also amazing). It was super fun, and I continue to be pleasantly surprised how chill it is to get from my new home in Croydon to a surprising variety of different bits of central London (Farringdon! It's right there on Thameslink!)

Jessie, it's a valid question. I know he got cancelled. But I still love Masterchef.

Talking of being easy to get to central London, it is also DELICIOUSLY easy to get from Croydon to Brighton! Which I did for the second time this month to spend the day at UX Camp! Having sort of fallen into teaching UX by accident, I've learned that a) I have a real love for the subject, and b) I actually do know a lot more about it than I maybe thought. This was a brilliant day, I learned loads more, and I will absolutely be going again next year.

Jessie, much like Charlie, is at her best (i.e. chillest) when she's had around 2 – 3 hours of walking per day. My partner takes her out for 20 minute or so first thing, one of us (usually me) takes her for around 40 minutes at dinner time, and then she gets her BIG walk (anything from 75 – 120 mins) at lunchtime. One of the other reasons we chose to move to this neighbourhood is the proliferation of green spaces, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover some big, public green spaces a little further out from my house that weren't even marked as green on google maps. (Including a really lovely bit of woodland that was part of the great north wood)

Having been to a lot of events this month, I should also note that I do love it when the event gets cancelled

 Did a mega long walk with Jessie at lunchtime today, and enjoyed the sun and how gloriously green everything finally is. Spring, at last! (Time to mow my lawn again...)

Here's hoping for a fresh month of less work (but still lots of money please? Oh god please), fun stuff, self-care, dog bonding, and general gentleness.