Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Spring in West London

It doesn't look like spring in West Scotland. Climate differences have led to the lack of several key species north of the M6... 

- Pink Shirt, Suede Loafers & Beguiling Cologne Man
- Expensive Hair, Bugaboo & Sunglasses Indoors Woman
- Topknot, Leather Jacket & Too-Short-Trousers Man 
- Pavo Cristatus (Peacock, innit.) 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Conversations with myself.

Rain or Shine, by Cathy Cullis

Ugh, what am I doing with my life?

Right now? You're walking the dog.

No, not right now. Overall, with my life. What am I for? What's is the point of me? What do I doooooo?

Well you walk the dog, you take care of your family, this morning you did some laundry and hoovered the hall and sometimes you get paid to answer other people's emails...'

Uh huh. That's not really helping.

What do you want to do with your life?

Write. And take pictures.

And what did you spend this morning doing?

Writing. And taking pictures.


But there was no point to it, no one paid me to do it, it didn't make any money...

Oh. So money is the point. You want to get paid?

It would be nice, yeah.

Do you need to get paid?

I don't understand the question. 

I mean do you need to get paid? Do you need more money?

It would be nice.

Yes, but do you, right now, need money? Are there things missing in your life that you need that you can only have if you get paid for what you do? 

Um.... Well... No, not really.


But if I'm not getting paid then what's the point? 

Are you happy? Are you getting better at what you do?

Maybe that's the point?

Oh shut up. What do you know. 

I know that you want to write and take pictures. I know that you do write and take pictures. I know that you want to get paid but you don't financially need to get paid. Maybe you would like to get paid, maybe emotionally and mentally you need to get paid but right now, this week, you are not getting paid.Yet there is the potential, that in the future, once you have scrubbed your step, you might be in the position to get paid. Is that correct?

Okay good, glad we sorted that out. Now maybe we can get on with doing what we do and worry about getting paid later? When we need to?

You know we're very lucky that we don't need to worry about getting paid right now?

I do. I also know you added that bit so the Internet wouldn't hate us and think we're a whiny ungrateful bitch. 

I did. 

Thanks for looking out for us. 

You're welcome. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Let's go fly a kite.

The wind is as light as it gets in February, a mere 15mph - perfect kite flying weather. That yesterday two kites arrived in the post, completely unexpectedly, is serendipity at its finest.  
My aunt, their great aunt, clicked some buttons in Canada and had them sent to us and we are desperate to see them airborne. Or rather, they are desperate to see them airborne, I am desperate to go to bed as I have had a sort of a head and a sinus and a throat and a muscle thing for a few days and I feel like a bag of cold turd. But the bright blue sky, the glowing grass and the squeals of excitement from my winter-bored children draw me outside and into the red striped, metal framed, finger snapping deck chairs that used to live in my Grandparent's shed and make a once or twice yearly appearance on the lawn when I was a kid. Memories of skin sheared from knuckles turn to warnings that 'If you play with those chairs they will eat your fingers right off'. Sometimes I lie to my children to keep them safe.  
I lean into the taut canvas with a cup of coffee and watch as Nye shows them how to string the kites, where to stand, how to hold firm as he runs across the garden trying to catch the wind.  Huddled in my parka and hat and scarf and gloves and snow boots I shiver in the cut glass air of a February afternoon - watching my family play, listening to the dog go mental for the flying thing she is not allowed to attack and marvelling at the golden light that bathes my world.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Things and Thoughts

In Life

  • We have been in our new house for four weeks now and I love it. We are nowhere near unpacked because there's nowhere to unpack anything to and I'm haunted by the ever present knowledge that we have to pack up and move out again for two weeks in July (don't ask) but I am hoping we can find some semblance of order and homeliness before then and in the meantime the view from the front doorstep has earned itself its own hashtag
  • I have ground to a halt with almost all work-related things since we moved. No writing, no working on my etsy shop. Boxes of terribly expensive postcards sit looking at me accusingly and likely will until the easter holidays are finally, finally over.  Then I'm going to take on the world. Probably. Maybe. If this cold ever fucks off. On the upside I have got myself an actual job as a remote PA a couple of mornings a week. Turns out I'm better at answering other people's emails than my own. 
  • I am leaving the island in nine days and I am beyond excited. I am excited about four planes, two 7am trains, a multitude of TFL connections at the weekend (LOLZ), relying on the Brighton - London train running on time (double LOLZ) and juggling the baggage allowances of two different airlines on four different journeys, I'm excited about ALL of it. Most of all I'm excited about seeing my friends and photographing two lovely families and seeing how their little have grown and eating foreign food and being responsible for no lives but my own for five whole days. Bliss.
  • I am half way through Big Magic, which is pretty good. And Breaking Clean - which is mostly great, and A Clash of Kings - which is unfailingly terrible, but I can't stop. I'm aware that if I don't grow some self-control this is going to be a long term deal, what with there being 74 fucking books. It's far too big for the loaf of bread sized suitcase I have to fit a camera kit and five days worth of clothes into when I go away so maybe I can use all of that travel time to finish some real books. (Further reasons to get a kindle - I can take every GOT book with me everywhere I go. Hmmm...) 


  • I loved this piece by Ruth Whippman - she of the quote in my side bar, she of the 'despair and faeces' comment. Stop fetishing parenting, she says, you're sucking all the joy out of it. She writes about the increasing pressure among parents (mothers) to subscribe to a philosophy, to have a mission statement in raising your kids other than 'get everyone to the end of the day in one(ish) piece,' She writes about the extremes of attachment parenting vs routine parenting and sums them up pretty wonderfully;

'The philosophies themselves may be opposing, but what they share is a kind of absolutism, a high stakes alarmist tone, in which the consequences of not sticking to the script can be lifelong and dire.   
In reality, whichever method you choose, your kids are overwhelmingly likely to turn out just fine. There is little evidence to suggest that any one loving parenting style has any particular advantage over any other, but still both of these basic parenting worldviews are firmly rooted in a kind of underlying terror.   
 For the routine-lovers it’s the fear that without a firm hand, a child will become coddled and dependent, lacking in resilience and unable to function in the real world. At the more cuddly end of the spectrum, it’s the heart-chilling anxiety that children are so psychologically fragile that without near constant attention they will suffer long-term emotional damage.' Ruth Whippman, The Guardian. 

I have added her book to my ever growing list. Not because I'm in pursuit of 'happiness' (Oliver Burkeman's incredible book saw to that a few years ago) but because I find Whippman brilliant and wise and hilarious.

  • These photos of Paris' Museum of Natural History during the 25 years it lay abandoned and its renovations in the early 90s are fascinating. As are these behind the scene's pictures of the Smithsonian's Natural History collection. I particularly love how straight this army of little dead mice are holding their tails. 

  • I've had a hard time following British politics for a while, since about the point where Scotland looked at the open door it was offered and said No, freedom isn't really for us. Ta though.' My denial that this happened is strong. I am loving Sam Gore's facebook page I See You and in particular this post about David Cameron, which should by all rights be the front page of this Sunday's Observer.

''But it's not illegal', they'll cry, as if the boundaries of the law are the issue, rather than the toxic hypocrisy of the idea that we're all in this together. 'Anyone could do it if they wanted', they'll cry, despite the fact it's a logical impossibility for the millions of us on PAYE. 'It's no different to using an ISA', they'll insist, as if putting away the few pence extra you've deigned to bless those on the minimum wage with is in any way comparable to setting up a company in a tax haven in a foreign territory. A few pence for a house they'll never be able to afford in the face of a broken rental market is somehow comparable to squirrelling away the excess millions your terrible friends couldn't spend even if they ate nothing but gold bullion and Fabergé eggs for a year.'

Read the whole thing, it's spectacular. I especially love the description of Cameron as a greased ferret slipping free from the ... well, you read it. I can't type those words where I know my Gran will read them. 

  • The wisest words I've ever heard spoken about peanut butter. I still eat it because it's fast and easy protein, but yes, I slather it in jam and no, I don't enjoy it. 

'Look at it. It looks like the contents of a nappy. It looks this repulsive to tell you that it’s bad for you, which it is. It tastes exactly how it looks, too, which is somewhere along the spectrum between awful and so vibrantly foul its flavour makes your entire tract, from top to bottom, twitch like a petrified whippet. Some people try to disguise the odious taste of peanut butter with jam. But these people are Americans. And if a nation that sees spray-on cheese as an acceptable repast thinks peanut butter is only palatable when smeared in jam, it’s time to admit something’s very wrong.'

*photos courtesy of the MusĂ©um national d’Histoire naturelle via Messy Nessy Chic

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Five, Ella.

A grin of tiny pearly teeth and a glint of pure, wild mischief flash from behind her overgrown golden fringe and she leaps straight at me. From the ground she is in my arms in the time it takes me to open my mouth, my 'what are you doing?' never getting it's chance to taste air. Her legs snap around my waist like magnets and with her arms waving in the air like a hippy at Glastonbury she is in my arms, my spider monkey - as light and as easy as her namesake. 
If her sister did that to me (and she's tried) she would knock me to the ground, give me a black eye and put my back out for a week. Ella is only a kilo lighter, has only ever been at most, a kilo lighter and yet she carries herself with such ease, flying just above the surface of the waves, that she feels little heavier now than she ever has. In my lap she settles in, curled like a cat and no more obtrusive. Sometimes an arm or leg goes awry and I get punched in the face but it's not clumsiness, more a case of limbs too long to control, jumps a little too ambitious to pull off, momentary forgetfulness that she can not in fact fly and I am not in fact an immovable object.

'You're not a snuggler like your sister' people tell her, but they've got it wrong, she is, she just takes her time to suss out who to trust, her need for an audience is minimal to non-existent in comparison to her twin's.
When I lie on my side to watch telly, with my knees bent up towards my hips – the only way I can fit onto our little two person sofa – she climbs into the triangular gap between my legs and the back cushions, resting her head on my bum and tucking her knees up to her chest. We fit together perfectly, one large and one little piece of a jigsaw, a jigsaw that builds the picture that is our family. The dog tries to climb in too, she doesn't fit but somehow Ella squeezes her in, wrapping her arms around her neck and loving her fiercely. 

Running off ahead on a still and perfectly crisp winter morning, the sun backlights her and with all of her height she looks both tiny, too small to be allowed out of my reach, and like that's it, she's off, see you later. Today she needs space, tomorrow perhaps she won't let you out of her sight. My independent, curious, ephemeral wanderer. 
Not that she isn't also batshit crazy at times, point a camera at her and her eyes will cross, her tongue will stick out at a wonky angle and an inhuman noise will emanate from her contorted face - it's not cool, whatever she might think. When the music comes on she dances like a wild thing, spinning moves from a break-dancing video we watched once, eighteen months ago. Her memory is a steel trap - when we need reminded where we were when that thing happened, when need the dog's lead un-lost or the way out of the woods pointed we ask Ella, she knows where shit is. Of course sometimes she gets confused, she is only five, although it's easy to forget - she was born older, with a look in her eye and a quiet fire burning steadily in her soul. 
I can't help but wonder what age she will reach when the world feels more comfortable to her, what age it is that her heart was born. Will she have to wait until she's thirty like I did, for her life to catch up with her soul? We can only wait and see and that - watching this spider monkey grow into and then beyond her world - is a prospect that thrills me.