Becoming a Londoner

When I first came to London, I knew nothing. I barely understood how to operate my Oyster card or get on a bus. Just like when I first started my job – I had no idea how to even turn on a Mac. How far I’ve come since then!

Proof that Emma can be crazy sometimes

Proof that I do sometimes do fun and crazy things

In January I made some resolutions to make the most of living in the capital, and do as many new and exciting things as possible. Start crossing activities off the bucket list, as it were. So, in the spirit of seizing the day, this week I’ve been to the theatre (I’m constantly saying that there are far too many shows and not enough time), won tickets to attend an art show, and finally been to Wimbledon, after saying for years that next year I’d definitely go. Well, guess what, after experiencing the massive queue, milling around the outside courts, getting sunburnt, and sitting on Court One for free, I’m definitely going to go again next year. This month I’m also going to my very first gig. Mumford & Sons no less. Cue great excitement. Remaining “bucket list” items include horseriding on the beach, climbing a mountain, and jumping out of a plane, amongst other crazy things…

So how is it going sans facebook? In some senses harder than I expected and in some senses easier. I don’t think I’ve missed out on anything of monumental importance yet. I was successfully invited to the pub and a spontaneous picnic lunch via other modes of communication. I enjoyed my night at the Noël Coward Theatre even without being able to “tag” my location online. Perhaps most interesting of all is that I’ve had several people expressing an interest in reducing their cyber footprints for a while. One friend in particular was disgusted at someone’s oversharing online intimate details of their wife’s waters breaking, while another was, like me, keen to find time to blog and write about the things they love, rather than spending hours crafting the perfect facebook status update.

I do, however, miss the sense of community. Is it nosy that I enjoy learning about what people are doing with their lives? Is it attention seeking that I want to share the fact that I nearly walked into John McEnroe at Wimbledon? Still searching for some compromise here. In the meantime I’m off to post a package to a friend in Vietnam and research skydiving opportunities. Carpe diem!

Facebook Fasting

Today I seemingly signed away all my hopes of a full and functioning social life. Don’t worry, facebook, as I told you when I clicked “deactivate my account”, it’s only a temporary measure.

I am taking a brief hiatus from the world of (some) social media, having been inspired to get back to basics. For a long time now, things have been missing from my life, things that used to be a huge part of who I was, and along the way have been waylaid and put aside in favour of other distractions. I have forgotten how to write for fun. How to snatch up a pen and a notebook and spend hours obsessing over a suitable line to rhyme with “the statue in Trafalgar Square” (in the spirit of honesty, a genuine recent attempt). How to curl up in a corner and get lost in a book for hours. How to really, really try to complete the Radio Times cryptic crossword.

Facebook has not been the only distraction, but it has been one of them. Perhaps as a symbol more than anything else I am temporarily giving it up in the hope that it will free me up for other, more creative, activities.

In the short time since clicking “yes I’m sure I want to deactivate”, I have already learnt things about myself. I have noticed how often my finger ticks towards the facebook app on my phone. I have noticed how many times of a morning I open a new tab in my browser and press “f”, waiting for facebook to automatically load up. I have noticed a distinct lack of “notifications” popping up in my inbox, but equally, I haven’t been devastated by their loss.

There is something at odds, or at the very least ironic, with my then choosing a public platform to announce this. But there is also something social about what I want to embark on as an alternative and I therefore need people to hold me accountable to it.

Me, writing, on the Eurostar on the way to Paris. Seven years ago.

Me, writing, on the Eurostar on the way to Paris. Seven years ago.

A while ago a good friend asked me what was inspiring me on a daily basis. At the time, my answer was a blank, bottomless pit of nothing. Well, I have boxes full of writing materials, cards, pens, paper. I want to be able to use them. I used to have overseas pen-pals. I want them again. I used to spend hours writing hideously emotional, self-involved poetry. (Perhaps the world could do without me taking that up again.) I want to rekindle old friendships, nurture the ones I have, and not feel like we’re competing to find our 401st “facebook friend”. I want to send greetings cards, handwritten letters, postcards. I want to pick up the phone and natter about nothing until the cows come home. Facebook is free, yes, and stamps and phone bills aren’t, but I think my life will be more enriched and real by taking the time to share things on a more personal basis. And I’ll try to use this blog to let you know how I get on.

 I am not making some sort of political anti-facebook statement or suggesting that we should all abandon our accounts forever. A more balanced person might be able to find time to juggle all of these things. However, I am engaging on this by way of an experiment. If you’d like to join in, maybe send me your address (privately!) and let’s spread some love the good old fashioned way…

Thanks to some very truthful friends and the blog
60postcards.com for encouraging me to resurrect my creativity and get inspired again.

“Eastward Ho!”

So I’m moving to the big smoke in two weeks time – East Dulwich in South East London to be precise – and instead of packing I’ve been making pretty things for my room. Call it an avoidance exercise if you like. Everything for my old room has had a blue/cream/green theme, whereas I appear to be introducing shades of pink. But I’m hoping that it’ll all come together and look homely, if not eclectic. At any rate, this might be the last of my blogging and crafting for a while as I’m bound to discover that, on leaving the family nest, I can’t afford to pay for internet connection or heating, so I’ll be too cold to knit and unable to access my blog! It’s important to have these life experiences, right?!  But I’ll see you anon, when I may have left behind my country ways and converted into a true Londoner…

‘Tis the season…

… for gifting!

This year I took part in the Persephone Secret Santa, courtesy of Claire at http://www.paperback-reader.co.uk/

I love giving (and receiving!) gifts – especially books, and Persephone’s rare and beautiful classic novels are just the perfect gifting material. I fell in love with Persephone books recently (again courtesy of Claire) and up until last week the below three books were the only Persephones I owned (still – yes, you guessed it – courtesy of Claire). Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is still by far the best book I’ve read in years.

Now, thanks to co-organiser Verity of http://cardigangirlverity.blogspot.com/ I am the proud owner of Mariana by Monica Dickens and can’t wait to curl up in a corner, cosied-up beneath blankets and cardigans, and become lost in another world. Verity also sent me a gorgeous advent calendar (and mini jigsaw!) featuring book covers, and it has been the envy of all around me at work, hung beside my desk! Thank you, Verity!

And this may give away the “Secret” nature of the “Secret Santa” game entirely, but I must apologise (again) for the fact that my recipient is, in fact, not yet a recipient. Christmas is glorious, but also prone to be riddled with disasters – including locking oneself out of one’s house!

Merry Christmas to all (and Persephone book lovers in particular)

Before and After

This week at work we were jokingly discussing what we’d do for a living if we couldn’t do our current jobs (i.e. publishing). I would definitely open a craft shop. Of course, you need a lot of handy revenue to buy a shop, and I lack fundamental accountancy skills to manage such a venture, so it would probably fold within a week… Added to that, I’m probably not as good at crafting as I like to think. Every project I embark on takes twice as long (at least) as I think it will, as I get distracted and lose dedication and will-power to continue.

These last few months I definitely bit off more than I could chew with a reupholstery project. I bought a very manky looking, but structurally sound, dressing-table stool from a charity shop (see below) and proceeded to strip off the old fabric. In fact, reupholstering was the easy part. Sanding the legs down in order to paint in a french-chic ivory without possessing an electric sander was hard work. Certainly good for the old arm muscles though… In the end I became impatient and in my eagerness to paint broke out with a paintbrush. The end result is satisfactory though. The joke in our house is that I’m buying things for my “bottom drawer” for when I move out. This won’t fit in any drawer I own, but I can envision it in my own place, along with the antique chair from Lewes.

“Now… What would France with Us?”

I’m blogging today for many reasons: because it’s been a long time since I did so (as reminded by some good friends!), because I have finally finished some long-standing craft projects and because, bitterly, I’m trying to block out Wales’ defeat to France in the semi-final of the rugby world cup. C’est la vie, I suppose.

The late spell of Indian-summer heat saw me in the back garden painting furniture (a blog on a renovated “upcycled” charity shop stool yet to come) but, conversely, I was also stricken down by a pathetic mini version of man flu which confined me to the lounge and to my crochet hooks… The result? Mission: Crochet Blanket is now accomplished! It’s taken me a year, but I’m chuffed with the final result. As with many things in my life, it shows that perseverance definitely pays off in the end.

Today I am also, in true Kirsty Allsop style, recommending Lewes for its gorgeous labyrinthine antique centres, where I snapped up a beautiful mock-French bedroom chair. And my doorstop (made with material matching my draught excluder from an earlier post) is now completed and filled with Welsh sand, from Tenby’s North beach, no less. Finally, for some Keatsian autumnal fun, evidence of what we’ve been growing in our back garden this year…

As a postscript, I really would recommend crochet to anyone considering it. It’s addictive and fairly simple in its repetitiveness. Youtube has some good tutorials. In the meantime, they say that idle hands are the devil’s something, so I’m moving on to cushion covers and bunting. Should be done by Christmas…

“I Thought the King Had More Affected the Duke of Albany Than Cornwall.”

In a fit of post-royal-wedding-withdrawal-symptoms I got crafty in my pjs this morning. Being now as I am a busy working commuting type person I’ve missed leisurely crafty days, so it was satisfying to get the needle and thread out once more, although I did come over all dithery in a state of seam allowance/ slip stitching/ lack of matching thread and sewing machine related confusion. In the end I decided on a combination of a  Cath Kidston/ printed internet patterns/ make-it-up-as-you-go-along technique for my vintage floral peg bag. I’ve combined gorgeous material bought from a local village vintage shop with ribbon and button from a collection given me for my birthday (for other birthday delights, see the below “furry” tulips). The result may be more pretty than practical as I appear to have misplaced most of my pegs, so the sturdiness or otherwise of aforementioned slip stitching remains untested for now.

I also bring you evidence that my crochet blanket (begun in a blog many months back and wrongly foretelling that I’d be done by Christmas) is very nearly completed. I feel almost royally triumphant about this and can’t wait to stitch all the squares together. I have only 3 (THREE!) granny squares left to go, and then perhaps I’ll count them all to assess exactly how much of an Everestian task this has been!

PS: For the template that I loosely used, follow this link: http://www.housetohome.co.uk/articles/Make_a_floral_peg_bag_195226.html