Sunday, 20 October 2013

That Lampeter feeling

Life is a funny old thing. The other day I was on the ubiquitous facebook and I stumbled upon a group on there of people celebrating being at my university in the 1980's. This group has 400 members and you might think this odd, but I probably know at least a third of them. Oops that's given my age away. It is - or was - a tiny university in the middle of rural west Wales and people generally did know everything about everyone as there was nothing else to do there. Looking through people's comments and more importantly the dodgy photos (both the grainy yellowed old ones of people whose faces suddenly seemed as fresh in my memory as people I see now, and then the modern reunion photos of generally fatter, balder, slicker people I could hardly recognise) brought back a whole world of memories and I was in a time warp, back in the Students' Union bar with my feet sticking to the floor, a sickly taste of too much beer in my mouth and the smell of fags so bad that the only way to not get bothered about it was to smoke as well yourself. I spent hours immersing myself in the past, well into the night. I even found a dreadful photo of myself on there, with 1980's spiky hair and a waistcoat my mum had knitted for me. And the more I looked, the more intense the memories became, fabulously happy ones of great friendships that seemed everlasting (none of which I've actually kept alive), laughter and hopefulness for the life ahead. A moral superiority rooted in being 19, invincible and having no idea of the real world, and all living together in halls in an isolated campus, aware of nothing except the much quoted fact that we were in the top 10% (or 1%, depending who you were talking to) of society. It was great. It was as if we had invented life itself. And then there were other memories: the more shaming ones, the ones that came from being young and vibrant and hormonal and all holed up together in halls in an isolated campus with barrels upon barrels of subsidised booze. Not comfortable memories. The memories of being too young to have any sense of responsibility for your own actions. It makes me realise how daft it is that we think we are adults when we hit 18. There was so much growing up to do for many years after that, for me at least. And so much hurting - both getting hurt and hurting others. I don't know when it was that it finally got ingrained into my psyche that you get out of life what you put into it, and that you must treat people as you would like to be treated yourself. But I'm very glad it's there now. I saw a sentence a couple of years ago that for me now sums it all up: "Be kinder than necessary: everyone is fighting some kind of battle".

Anyway this afternoon I got accepted as a member of this group and posted my first post on there, reintroducing myself. I've had a couple of good responses so far; it's a little nerve-wracking as it feels like some kind of judgement of what kind of an 18 - 22 year old I really was. Was I the self-centred vacuous one or the life and soul of the party? Or a bit of both?

It's now one week left until half-term holidays. I am not relishing the thought very much as my boy has, since turning 8, become argument itself, like PMT gone mad. It is apparently a documented phase that boys go through. And in the meantime I really must see if I can get some art done before the end of term...

Friday, 11 October 2013

A rainbow in my garden

Exhausted. Absolutely exhausted. It has been a really full-on week. After the fatigue brought on by the PTA event on Sunday (a thorough success and many more than the 65 promised punters), I thought I would recuperate by turning in on myself and focussing on a relaxing art project. I could see from the weather forecast that I had a good five days of non-rain and I had a box of 3000 or so mosaic tiles, so there it was. The first two days were great: time for self-contemplation at the kitchen table, making small 30cm sections of mosaic on sticky mesh that would link together once stuck on the wall. The last three days were hideous: I had forgotten that ultimately mosaic transforms from a pleasing exercise in colour and art into a testosterone-fuelled DIY project with filthy tile adhesive and grout. And of course a race against time with looming rainclouds. So as I was there outside smearing the tile adhesive about, totally alone, I could hear in my head every man I know sniggering at me: "Why is she doing it like that?" "A stockpot and a tablespoon?!" "Not enough adhesive!". And sure enough the voices in my head were right: not enough adhesive. The next day I had to go along the wall picking off the wobbly tiles (around half of them) and daubing more adhesive on each tile and sticking them back on, gently swearing and despairing. Cooking, children's homework and personal hygiene have fallen by the wayside as an obsession with weather forecasts and grouting techniques took over (I saw on one website a suggestion that putting the grout into a piping bag with a fine nozzle can be good for ensuring it gets properly into the gaps - but this time the voices told me that if anyone should see me icing my grout into the wall, I would be the laughing stock of the village for a long time and so I reluctantly put the piping bag away). And finally today - about three hours before the first drizzle - it was done. And that's when the exhaustion hit. But I do still have the energy every so often to drag my aching body (is there such an ailment as Mosaic Neck?) up the steps to the back garden to admire my handiwork...
 And from the other end...

I like the "hot" end best; it goes beautifully with some autumnal leaves out there but there was no camera angle that could get them both in the same picture...

There was also another bit of creativity this week; I did have some energy to make some more lampshades, after last week's lovely bagful from my friend Ruth. And this time, instead of using the kit she'd given me, I followed her video and the results and the process was so much better. She needed me to confirm that the kits are rather shoddy and that her method is far superior. Seriously, if you are ever thinking of making your own lampshade, do steer clear of the cheap kits out there and go to and sign up for her video instructions. I know she's a friend but it was so much more satisfactory, a joy rather than a nailbiting car crash. And here is my latest creation:-

which in turn reminds me of my bed and the book I could be reading, all tucked up...

Friday, 4 October 2013

Ups and downs

I have been really enjoying reading Belgian Waffle's blog recently; she (unlike me) has taken to writing something witty every day, and always starts with her "downs" and ends with her "ups" of the day. I try very hard but can't ever be that witty, plus I haven't had the time or energy to write every day; nevertheless I might try the ups and downs thing today to see how it goes...


That dreadful PTA has been so painful this term. Why do I still get drawn into remaining the Chair? I am heading the food and drink section of a council-run bike treasure hunt that starts and ends at school on Sunday. Which in itself doesn't sound too bad. Except that we have absolutely no idea how many we will be catering for. Not a clue. The people from the council were originally bandying about figures in the thousands; a couple of months later we were told something between 300 and 600. We bargained on catering for 400. This morning I was given the number of people who have actually registered in advance and it was 65. This PTA lark is like having your teeth pulled. I seriously need to spend some more time in that school to remember why I want to do this.

I seem to be incapable of going to bed when I'm tired. I take a bit of yawning as a sign that I need to get the iPad out and do some internet searching for something longwinded and open-ended. Then I get into bed an hour and a half later and can't work out why I am so gloomy the next day.

Maybe linked to the above, I have a terrible desire to do nothing. I cannot get any enthusiasm together for anything. Other than futile internet time. Is it time for hibernation? Only the fear of very publicly failing at all the things I've put myself up for is keeping me going. And I've put myself up for quite a bit at the moment (the PTA cold sweat above, North Somerset Arts Committee (aargh I'm manning a stall for them at Made In North Somerset tomorrow for a while, no idea what I'm meant to be doing), various craft and art projects I've mouthed off to people about).


Building work and window fitting are both having their final fling. And the final part of the garden makeover is all down to me: I have ordered nearly 3000 mosaic tiles of every colour imaginable and will soon be making a piece of art 26cm wide and over 4 metres long to fit on top on a wall. I think I only need around 2700 tiles but some of the ones I've got in the post have been a bit dull. I am thinking rainbow. I might be rubbish at gardening but I can at least think of other ways of bringing some colour to my garden.

I have had a treat of a day today. My friend Ruth of Quincy Lampshades asked me to test out some lampshade-making kits and I was very keen to give it a go. So I spent many more hours than necessary deep into the night doing internet shopping for fabric and picked a lovely bag of goodies from her and today my good friend Laura and I set to work, well actually fitting in some work between coffees, cakes, lunch at the wonderful Bird in Hand and some good talk. And we ended up with some really good results (although I dread the thought of Ruth seeing the scruffy insides):-

I am rather pleased with my big cabbage lampshade (even though I broke the light fitting rushing to put it on), having always in the past been of the persuasion that lampshades need to be white and plain. I have the ingredients for two more smaller ones, and I have the inclination to spend a few more hours on the internet picking the perfect fabric so more might be on the way...

I ought to end with a really big up: there is a little girl whose appearance on the scene is bringing everyone I know in the village so much joy. Florence is just 12 months old but is causing quite a stir. We hadn't even met her and she didn't know it, but on Monday she had most of us at a baby shower with a tear in our eye and that amazing feeling in the hairs on the back of our necks. My dear friends Jenny and Pete are in the process of adopting her and it is quite the happiest loveliest story ever. Jenny was worried she might not warm to her at first but it seems to be proper love at first sight. It is both a happy ending to a story and an exciting new beginning. Welcome Florence!