Monday, 31 August 2009

we went, we queued, we banksied....

J & I took the plunge yesterday morning and waited in line for almost five hours to see Banksy's exhibition at Bristol City Gallery. We arrived at 8.30am and followed the queue as it snaked up and away alongside the Victoriana of Bristol's Clifton back streets. It was a very British queue. There was little complaint and a little bit of banter. Five hours just flew by. I pointed out to Jacob that if ever there were major oil/food/utilities shortages, this was his training. His blank expression became a little blanker.

We made several errors in planning for our queue-athon:
- we didn't take folding chairs
- I only took one section of the newspaper
- Jacob took nothing with him
- our picnic consisted of two apples and one banana
- I took my ipod but not my headphones
- I neglected to take a flask

Five hours, once over, doesn't feel that long and I'm pleased we got there. I'm not the hugest fan of Banksy but he is Bristol through and through and I'm sure the gallery has never been part of such an extravaganza before. I have a fleeting sense of pity for the exhibition that follows. How will they ever live up to daily queues and such enthusiasm? He's spoilt it for everyone else.

The main exhibition was pretty interesting and I liked the installation with stencils and sketches. I like his jokes and his comments and the wittiness of some of the work. Some of it just seemed a little, well, jokey. I suspect I'm not quite in the relevant demographic.

There was a fantastic Britannia with a CCTV camera for a staff. I enjoyed that. I also enjoyed the craft some of the work involved, the cutting, the collage, the printing. It looks good. It will be interesting to see what happens to Banksy and his work now it's appeared in his/her(?) hometown gallery.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

singing for my supper?

I have bought an old Singer treadle machine from a man in Tisbury. I've always wanted one and was inspired to scour ebay having read about John-Paul Flintoff's book 'Through the eye of a needle' in last week's Sunday newspapers. The book (which is also on order) talks about his efforts to make his own clothes and the impending demise of oil supplies. It also talks about the importance of making, not buying, the sense of satisfaction - all those great things that might be lost if the skills aren't continued, passed on etc.

The apocalyptic oil bit allowed me to justify buying something that I've really wanted for ages. Even if I use it twice, my offspring might appreciate the fact one day that there is a bit of machinery they'll be able to use when we're all living in some kind of Mad-Max fashion in 2050.

In a purely craft/visual way I like the way Singer machines look with their symmetrical drawers and all that heavy metal. I also remember reading about Singer's total dominance of the domestic sewing machine market with these contraptions. Just think what machine sewing did for women. I read Malcolm Gladwell's 'Outliers' this summer and he describes how some Jewish immigrants to the US transformed their lives and their family fortunes by using domestic sewing machines to start huge clothing retailers and manufacturers in the early 2oth Century.

I'm not sure my ebay purchase will have such a dramatic impact but it will force me to tidy up my room (again) and if nothing else, the kids might have some fun on it too.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

a stationery sideline

On one of my blog-wanderings I came across the tip of a stationery-obsessed iceberg. Any readers of this blog are aware of my textile fascinations. My stationery and notebook fascinations started a long time ago. They have also been identified as genetic. E has a pencil case and notebook obsession that far surpasses my fledgling interest at her age.

My favourite stationery/pen/type blog so far has to be Notebook Stories which is rammed with links to reviews, notebook addicts and fantastic stationery. Fresh Ribbon is the other gem I stumbled across. This is great for everyone who has fond memories of typewriters and ribbons and sticky keys. I know, you can tell I'm fortysomething....

In any case, you'll have already seen photos of my ever-growing notebook selection at the top of this post. I really like Rhodia books from France with their squares and their staples. I haven't included my pile of ever-ready sketchbooks. They're on the shelves at the bottom of the cupboard.

I'm not the best book-stitcher so I stock up on rings to make easy, re-usable books. A cheat, I know, but there is an opportunity to add ribbon and bows. I like to combine covers and handmade papers. I have some paper shopping bags that are crying out to be ripped up and made into books. There is also a pile of vintage children's books on my desk that are unlikely to remain intact for much longer although I can't quite allow myself to ravage the Ladybird books I've snaffled from various boot sales during the last few years.


On a separate matter, I'm having my end of holiday haircut tomorrow. I think I've finally found THE ONE, the hairdresser who is able to make me look a little better. I'm going for a colour tomorrow too. As its autumn, I fancy short and conker.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

stitched up

I have started a stitching sketchbook. It currently has three pages. These three pages need to be pressed and also need to be attached somehow so that my work resembles a book rather than three, fraying handkerchiefs.

I treated myself to cloth paper scissors and quilting arts yesterday. They are American magazines, published by the same company. In a stroke of textile luck, I can buy them in a newsagents in Wootton Bassett.

If I was still at college, my tutor would groan if he saw them. They are full of fabric and stitching and colour. There are embellishments galore and technique aplenty. Some of the work may not be my visual cup of tea but I am usually inspired to get out the calico and make some babysteps. They also do a voyeuristic 'studio' publication where makers and crafters talk about the space they work in. As a storage and cupboard fiend, I like to see how people have customised and arranged their space. I'm lucky enough to have a room to myself at home now but some of these lucky makers have whole garages and sheds. I think my ideal space would have more light and probably a sofa or a chaise longue. Apart from that I'm pretty happy with it. I'm less happy with the chaos I create in it.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

flip times flop

I cast my eyes over winter boots this afternoon. They were a far cry from the sunny flip flops I saw on holiday. The M&S selection was more S&M. There were studs, straps and shiny bits galore. I also had to buy some work clothes. Could there be a drearier two words strung together? I work in a school and I've realised that there is a uniform for staff as well as students.

We have a main thoroughfare in school where most of the students congregate to eat their lunch and shuffle about. I am quite sure that some of them have a fashion radar to rival Anna Wintour's. I do not want to be the woman they laugh at. I believe it better to be as inconspicuous and stylistically unchallenging as is humanly possible. I bought two pairs of trousers - wide leg (flattering for my wide bottom), a scary shirt for interviewing people in and a couple of jersey t-shirt type things. Apart from footwear that should see me through the first term or so.

I love this time of year as I can search for the perfect leather coat (last seen Autumn 1992) and the perfect pair of boots (although I do have a little bit of a calf issue). I love the August magazines because they're full of the next season's stuff. I love the fact that the nights start to draw in and air becomes brisker. I've been pleased to see some halloween crafts appearing on my favourite blogs.

Roll-on autumn. Summer's so last season....

Monday, 24 August 2009

all things green and beautiful

I've got myself a regular slot writing about all things crafty at Daisy Green magazine, an online publication devoted to being environmentally and ethically sound whilst at the same time maintaining general gorgeousness and fashion-conscious. Their editorial team has been described as the 'Sex and the City meets the Good Life'. As a huge fan of both, I'm thrilled to be involved.

You can go straight to my first article here. It's all about crafting during the credit crunch. All hobbies can be expensive but knitting, stitching and making have that inbuilt 'make do and mend' ethos about them. There are ways and means of making beautiful things from virtually nothing.

Am slowly working through my to-do list and watching the first cloud I've seen in a fortnight fill up with rain. It's good to be back!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

onwards and upwards

I've had a lovely summer. I took the plunge by taking a whole three weeks off work. We've had a UK trip, a Turkey trip and a France trip. When G was made redundant in January, we were looking forward to a couple of days at the Eden project. Our summer has excelled our expectations. The kids have managed to share space without bloodshed and we've even managed to enjoy the travelling part of our travels.

Back today and I've mowed the allotment, done three loads of washing and I'm just about to salvage some of the courgettes that have become marrows in the back garden. Tomorrow I'm back at work and next week everyone is back at school. There's no time now to park and sit and stare. The next few months are likely to be full of changes again and three of us have birthdays to look forward to. As well as our day to day stuff, there are some bigger things I want to make a start on, things that have been neglected a little.

I like to have a little sort out in September. I like to think of it as my January. It gives me a change to review things before my birthday. This year, according to 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' I shall be 'the meaning of life', that is 42. That's two years and nearly 300 posts of blogging to you and I.

Got to go. I have an appointment with some courgettes.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Turkey's not just for Christmas

We went to Turkey last week. It was gloriously, skin-burningly hot. The hotel was comfortable, the food was pretty good, we had a great British package holiday. Seven days of eating, sleeping, sunbathing with the occasional foray into shopping.

Things I learnt in Turkey:

- how to say please in Turkish (lutfen). Thank you is very complicated.
- how to do sudoku, having been baffled by it for years. All it took was five mornings of shady sunbathing and several sneaky peeks in the back for a little help along the way
- how to walk semi-elegantly on pebbles
- why there is a dearth of middle-aged crew-cut men in England during August, they are all in Turkey arguing with their kids and watching footie in karaoke bars
- Turkish breakfast consists of egg, watermelon, unidentified bread products, cucumber and olives
- eyebrows can be enhanced by threading (I am very pleased with my Turkish eyebrows), the slight pain distracted me from the agony of having a Turkish pedicure

Several mysteries remain unanswered:

- does every English girl over the age of 11 own a pair of hair straighteners?
- what is it with the Amy Winehouse hair and eyeliner?
- is the Blue Lagoon at Olu Deniz not as good as Frinton?
- what are holiday reps for?
- why is it hotter in the room at night than during the day?
- why do beach towels never really dry out?

Sunday, 9 August 2009

woman interrupted

We are not the only people in the world to have a glut of courgettes - green, or otherwise.

I would like a set of teacups just like these.
Don't run(ner) bean until you can walk....
The marvellous Mr Squid - at the ready

My first ever quiche - courgette, naturellement....

I wondered when I uploaded these images whether I might be able to make any sense of them at all. Obviously that was a little too much to ask for. Please ponder them in my absence for the next week or so.
I am experiencing one of my periodic information overloads. The more time I have to think, the more information and experience I can absorb. This makes for night after night of exhausting dreaming and an almost pathological desire to devour magazines, articles, newspapers, anything. I anticipated lots of lazy summer holiday mornings but have been thwarted in my efforts at inertia. I have got to that age where I say things like 'don't waste the best hours of the day' and 'I can sleep when I'm dead'.
I used to able to waste time quite happily. I could lay in my bed, on the sofa, read trash (or not), watch trash (or not) but something has shifted and I can't quite put my ever-moving fingers on it.
We are taking a family holiday this week and I know that I will take too many books and too many things to do. What I need to do is stare out to see and eat the occasional plate of food. What I am likely to do, is fill my time reading and writing and stitching and knitting. The more time I have to do nothing, the more I need to fill it with some kind of occupation. I feel like one of those Jane Austen heroines who always needs to be doing, completing, making, participating.
I used to have a talent for laziness. I could spend days, weeks, accomplishing precisely nothing of consequence apart from a slightly higher pinball score or sourcing the perfect chocolate brownie in a small, provincial British town. I look back on those times with a slice of envy and a wodge of pity. I wish I had my current enthusiasm with my more youthful energy and free time. I never quite seem to do things in the right order. As you can see from the pictures above.
It was the 114th year of our village show yesterday. The kids and I racked up three firsts, one second and two thirds in the industrial section. I was particularly proud of my second prize in a category in which my effort was the only entrant. I'm quite sure that I am unique in my ability to win second prize in what was, effectively, a one horse race!
There's always another year.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

plum job

Two plum trees, six bowls of ripening, purple-pink plums. These plums have caused me stress. They have required an answer, a doing, an action and I have not been able to provide them with anything like enough activity.
They have been divided into bags of approximately forty plums and are slowly being distributed amongst friends and neighbours. Why? I hear you ask. There's chutney, cobbler, crumble and duff. Can I find nothing to make or create with such abundant produce?
The short answer is no - I do not have the capacity to indulge in plum processing this week. I have enough to think of with ever-expanding courgettes and green beans crying 'pick me' as I watch the rain fall over them. Plums are just too much harvest for this woman to cope with.
The situation is not helped by the fact that I am the only individual in our household able to eat plums, or, indeed courgettes in any great quantity. We are not the best family to join the 'grow your own' campaign although I do have the greatest hopes tha Alan Titchmarsh will invent a fish finger seed or, a yoghurt plant, or perhaps a crunchy nut cornflake bush. Then, we'd be right there with everyone other family who've planted their patios with produce.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

confession session

Please find to your left my chronological age. I thought I'd better come clean as I can't be forty forever. I also thought I'd better write some words this week rather than uploading examples of my photographic obsessions.

I had a lovely time photographing numbers on a row of beach huts in Bembridge last week. Sometimes my family criticises me for my interest in photos of tarmac, doors, paving slabs and the occasional rusty nail. I explain to them, gently, that there is such a thing as freedom of speech and expression and that just because they are not interested in such things, it does not mean that their mother can not choose to find such objects fascinating. They usually walk off half way through my explanation. I hope you have not chosen to do the same thing.

I've just been to Sainsbury's as a couple of friends are coming round to watch 'Slumdog' later. I often pick up a magazine to read while in the queue (I know, it's almost as bad as 'testing' grapes). Today I had a quick peak at 'Grazia' and it got me thinking. There was an article about Madonna's stringy arms - again, I would refer to freedom of expression and another about Liz Jones who writes various columns and features. The 'Grazia' article questioned the wisdom of her confessional style and there were various quotes about how she has lost lots of friends and has had to move because she does what all writers are advised to do and writes what she knows about.

It made me think about blogging and how personal it should be. I've been known to have the occasional wobble on this blog about things that have happened and family circumstances but I'm not sure how healthy that is, either for me or the blog.

I have a little more time than usual at the moment to ponder why I blog, what do I think I'm doing, should I really be exposing my thoughts in this online show and tell? All that stuff.

I have to confess, though, no matter how much I persuade myself that the best thing about projectforty is that it makes me think, makes me write and makes me record things that would simply just fade away, there is a (probably not so) deep dark place in my brain that really wants it to be read by as many people as possible and have to watch my counter click around on an hourly basis and start complaining about how many comments I have to respond to.

Incidentally, here are some belated comment responses:
- I did play the ukulele in the Isle of Wight (badly)
- no smeg fridge or dualit toaster in the airstream
- I forgot to take corkscrew, chairs and insect repellant to the festival
- my Calcot nails were deep red/pink and kind of sparkly (they are still looking pretty good)


Tuesday, 4 August 2009

art irritating life

Fisherman before invention of fishing rod...

Man, before the invention of DIY

Woman, before the invention of knitting

Pirate, before invention of the hearing aid

Gnome before invention of extra-large gloves

I bet it's sunny on the IOW today. It is not sunny in Wiltshire. I keep seeing diagonal drizzle. Never a good start to the day. Have to get the kids up as I need to open up the community room for a craft session this morning.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

a little more island life...

I took the kids to Black Gang Chine on Wednesday. It requires a whole post on its own. You should see the gnomes! 'Cliffhanger' made me feel quite sick. It was quite a stubby ride, not enough length in the run-ups for my liking.

In the afternoon we took a quick trip to Newport. These embellished shoes were in Quay Arts which made me want to stay on the island just a little longer to find the artists and craftspeople listed in the upcoming Open Studios catalogue.

On Thursday, G had to leave the island so we stayed at the campsite. What's a girl to do but take more airstream shots. I like my reflection in this one. Be warned. There are more.

On Friday we took the hovercraft (more exciting than Cliffhanger) back to Portsmouth and met G at Mozzarella Joe's which was, surprisingly, a little more Miami than Southsea.

Here is some of our luggage. We also carried my camera, a rugby ball, a kite and a rucksack.

"Never knowingly underpacked."


PS: Thanks for the photo tip, LBD, apologies for download time. I'm still not convinced re layout and type. Am having identity crisis!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

island life

I have wanted to stay in an airstream trailer for years and have been a frequent visitor to Vintage Vacations' website just to get a little americanish-retro fix. The combination of G having to do some work over on the island and the summer holidays just starting made for a happy coincidence and a week of retro-camping.

Despite the weather as we boarded the 'Red Eagle'

I hadn't realised Ikea did boats, perhaps it's called 'leakum' or 'saildad' or something...

Our little piece of retro heaven, complete with babycham and fuzzyfelt. More to come.

What do you think of the new title heading? Am just about to head off to amazon to find a book to sort out my technical short-comings. Any suggestions?