Monday, 27 October 2014

Not just a cat.

I have two cats.
Tomorrow, the eldest will be 12.
Having adopted her from a cat charity eleven years ago, no-one knew her exact age but this was the birthday we gave her.

Semi feral, nervous and skittish, she has never forgotten her alley roots.
A three kilo diva - to me and Josh loving and faithful, to anyone else a hissing cobra.
And tomorrow she will be going under anaesthetic to remove numerous blunt yellow teeth.
I feel guilty and apprehensive.
Very apprehensive.
Her name is Suki.

I've never left her at the vets before.
Despite her petite stature, nervous disposition and blunt teeth she appears to have been labelled as vicious, with vets requiring rottweiler gloves.
She won't be cooperative tomorrow.
And I won't be able to concentrate on anything until she is safely through the operation.

Josh is 22.
They chose each other.
At the cat homing fair, they bonded in the pen.
While I looked around, Josh refused to budge from Suki's pen, with Suki at his side, hissing at any cat daring to unsurp her.

Suki has seen him through school, sixth form and university.
She's been here through the arguments, laughter, and traumas.
Through Gibraltar and empty nest syndrome.
Through battles at work, Australia and readjusting.
She's empathetic, intelligent and very special.

Although maybe with less teeth she won't be rehoming as many baby rats.
I won't miss the rats.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Sidetracked by a 1940s writing bureau. The lost art of letter writing.

Today was supposed to be a grocery day.
I returned with a 1940s writing bureau.
Much more appealing than teabags and carrots, and far too lovely to leave languishing in a charity shop.
It's being delivered on Friday.

So much history in such a small piece of furniture.
The well worn leather on the writing surface, the tiny compartments...the secret drawer.
As a child I was fascinated by my great grandmother's bureau.
So many magic drawers and random treasures...the pitted leather, the inkwell - the stashed mars bars!
And this little bureau brought these memories flooding back.

Gamsie, my great grandma.
Whatever happened to letter writing?
Do children still write thank you letters at Christmas, or has technology taken over, with those impersonal round-robin emails and e-cards.
I can't remember the last time I had a proper letter drop through my letterbox - or even a postcard.
Bills and junkmail aplenty, but not one, solitary letter.
However, I am just as guilty, having sent just two letters myself in the last few years, one to an older relative in Australia, the other to a not-so-old friend in Israel who has yet to embrace the internet.

I will be storing fabric in my bureau, alongside dusty old diaries, cards and virtual good intentions to rediscover the lost art of letter writing.
Although maybe not with a fountain pen - being a leftie I could effortlessly smudge the ink across the page and up my arm, but rollerballs...I can do rollerballs!

Love my old letters!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

London. My fix of urban sanity.

Urban sanity.
Sometimes, I need reminding that London is just four hours away.
Particularly when Autumn turns soggy, and Gower is shrouded under a grey mist.

Ahhh,  Paddington.
My gateway to London, a very special station.
Yesterday was spur of the moment, an impulse trip brought on by a desire to be back on Brick Lane and to rediscover the galleries round London Bridge.
It also brought me back to Norfolk Square, and a meeting with the lovely Mike, partner of Masato.
I love working studios - the mood boards, works-in-progress, sketches - the tactile fabrics and artistic chaos.
It's inspiring.  And very different to my last visit to Norfolk Square.

My last visit to Norfolk Square was back in 2003.
My son was 11 years old, and we'd spent the day at Wimbledon, after a night under canvas in the Wimbledon queue.
Having missed the last train back to Swansea we were traipsing round Paddington in search of a cheap hotel, and mistakenly ended up at The Continental, which appeared to be charging by the hour, although I didn't realise at the time.
The first room we were offered had a plastic sheet flapping in the breeze at a window with no glass, leading on to a shared balcony.
On closer inspection, the room sharing our easy access balcony appeared to contain an unconscious man, lying on a bed surrounded by bottles...
 Needless to say we didn't stay in that room, but we did spend an interesting night at the hotel, with a chair wedged against the door!

Norfolk Square has been cleaned up, but The Continental is still there.
It now has glass in its windows.

I can thoroughly recommend the Fashion and Textile museum at London Bridge.
The knitwear exhibition is inspiring, and reintroduced me to Body Map.
Body Map!  Now there's a blast from the past...I'd forgotten about Body Map.
Body Map were my obsession during that first year at Art School - loved the photography, the strong could I possibly have forgotten Body Map!

                                          I'm now going to research all things Body Map.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Dear diary...Tuesday 29th October 1991. Avoidance and denial.

Nearly 9pm and I couldn't concentrate on the film.
I have absolutely no idea what it was about, can't even remember the title.
I can't concentrate on anything at the moment; my mind's all over the place and  I'm not sure how long I can keep this up.
Watering the grass with alcohol, pretending to be drunk when I'm stone cold's an act and I'm not a good actress.

Mexico City is eerily quiet.
 So many people have left recently, and there's no sound anywhere.
Even the crickets are in hibernation, a reminder that I can't avoid things for much longer.
Max is out chasing her mission, Bo is watching the film and I could really do with talking to someone.
Someone other than Avi.

October 1991.  Bubble World

Oh my goodness, it was tough telling Avi.  He despises The Underground and all it stands for - funny really, as back in '86 he gave me his phone number on the back of an Amadeus flyer - he's my oldest friend in Israel, with the twinkliest eyes and biggest personality, but mention The Underground, or anyone in it, and he's off on one.
Which is why I found myself back in Jerusalem on Friday afternoon, wandering aimlessly up and down Ben Yehuda, to put off telling him.

It didn't go well - all the planning and rehearsals in my head, when it came down to it I burst into tears, it all came tumbling out and Avi disappeared into the night, thankfully not in the direction of The Underground.

The next day, his mother fed me meatballs.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The watery yellow of October and a prayer in a pinstripe pocket.

I love Autumn.
The colours, the crunch of leaves underfoot - the crisp chill in the air.
However, today was more soggy than crunch, shrouded in grey drizzle against the soundtrack of thunder.
A woolly tights and hot chocolate kind of day.

Stormy skies.  The view from my door.
Without exception my favourite fabrics are winter ones.

Wools and tweed and tactile blends.
On a charity shop trawl today I nearly bought a vintage pinstripe jacket to repurpose as a doorstop.
A beautiful jacket, but on rummaging through the pockets I found a prayer written on the back of a meter reading. Feeling slightly guilty at buying the jacket to rip up, I left it to find a better home.
As a not particularly religious person I'm not sure what it was about the prayer that stopped me - I'm usually quite ruthless when it comes to charity shop finds - but it was particularly touching.
I found myself wondering abut the man in the jacket.

So, minus the jacket but with pinstripe on my mind, my cushion-in-waiting is a snoozy woollen fox on a grey pinstripe.
Tactile and monochrome.



Sunday, 5 October 2014

Box envy. 5 things I've learned about packaging.


I have a love/hate relationship with packaging.
When it's all neatly packaged and ready to go I love it.
The process to get it to this point - not so much.
From the excitement of sending off that first order to wrestling with a sack of bulky objects in the rain, this is a list of things I've learned along the way.
 Before quoting a price for postage, weigh the item in the packaging it will be sent in.
And never under estimate the price of packaging materials.
The first item I sent was a doorstop.
I was so excited to get the order that I went completely overboard with packaging - tissue, ribbon, a beautiful floral box...all this before I even got to the outer wrapping!
Needless to say, it cost far more to post than I had bargained for.

My nemesis is cellotape.
I go completely overboard with the stuff...and when the package is cellotaped to within an inch of its life I   still find a place to add more!
What on earth do I think is going to happen to it?
Am I expecting it to be transported on a river?  Get left in the rain?  Have dubious liquids spilt on it?
There really is no need to use so much cellotape.
Reinforce the sides of the packaging, possibly a few more strips around it, then step away.
Overuse of cellotape is a habit I'm trying to break.

 Box envy.
 My items tend to be bulky, an awkward shape, or both.
 It is much easier to have a neat looking package if you are sending something small.
For many of my items, using a box would send the postage rocketing, so I use lightweight plastic wrapping, brown paper and lots of bubblewrap. Secure yes. Beautiful - maybe not.
And I am very envious of the neat little boxes I see in front of me in the Post Office queue.

 I firmly believe that the inner wrapping should be beautiful, but when it comes to the outer wrapping don't be afraid to recycle packaging materials.
 Not only is it better for the environment, it will also keep postage costs down - for you and the customer.
I am lucky to have access to a supply of strong plastic sheeting from my dad's factory unit, which is not only waterproof but lightweight aswell.
Many shops will be glad to off load their plastic sheeting as it would usually be sent for recycling.

 Midnight wrapping.
 When wrapping multiple orders, resist the temptation to do this after midnight.
 After a 2am wrapping spree the night before, with only jelly babies to keep me awake, I was on my way to the couriers when I happened to glance in my parcel sack, only to see two parcels with the same address!
An easy mistake to make when you're tired, but not so easy to rectify when the parcels are on their  way...
   And while I'm on the subject of pretty packaging - how beautiful is the packaging on this fabric delivery from Japan!


Thursday, 2 October 2014

Musing on 17. 1984, and the rocky road of adolescence.

Sitting on a bus today, musing on the ridiculous ''no travel on a Sunday'' curfew imposed by the resident bus company, I found myself wondering why I never learned to drive at seventeen.

To many people seventeen means driving lessons, a secondhand car and a new found sense of freedom.
My sister learned to drive, my brother learned to drive.

To me seventeen was, quite simply, The Year That Was.
Frankie goes to Hollywood, Top of the Pops 1984.

July, 1984.
I turned 17 on the 8th of July.
Frankie goes to Hollywood was ensconced at number 1 with Two Tribes, and my outfit of choice was a banana yellow jumpsuit.
With Boy George ribbons, too much makeup and very large earrings.

I was coming to the end of my first year at Art School and Cornwall was looming large.
That teenage milestone that is The First Holiday Without Parents.
In theory it was going to be a sedate cycling holiday.
The fact that I neither owned a bike nor rode one wasn't going to stop me.
In reality, the borrowed bike sat gathering dust and our Cornish cottage became Party Central.
Those eight days passed by in a flash.

And kickstarted a year of rebellion.

 July 1984 to July 1985 was a whirlpool of emotions.
Of angst and traumas and dodgy decisions.
Of unsuitable boyfriends, dubious friends and the ridiculous Cadillacs.
Of the unceremonious boot from the family home (albeit temporary) and subsequent dropping out of Art School.
Of various hotel jobs in Devon - in one particularly memorable pub I drew the line at ironing Y-fronts and was asked to leave!
And finally, coming full circle, returning to Sussex and finding an anchor at the airport.
The airport gave me stability.
And it sowed the seeds of kibbutz.

I will always be grateful to the man whose name I cannot remember, whose parting gift to me was that iconic backpackers bible of the 1980s, THE KIBBUTZ VOLUNTEER - how to become a kibbutz volunteer.

I wore that book out.
Which is probably why I never learned to drive.