Friday, 1 July 2016

My Month in Numbers 2016: June


June. What a wash out.

While there were definitely some good things happening ... there was plenty of rain, grey clouds, and ... everything else too.

If you're like me (and, granted, you won't all be) I won't deliberately try to cheer you up today. Some of us don't want to be cheered up right? Things are difficult and real right now and the last thing I want is to pretend nothing has happened and just get back to posting about pets (come to think of it ... I never do that. Mainly because I don't have pets).

But I might just divert you for 5 minutes if that's OK? Normal despairing-of-the-world can resume later. How about, for now, you join me on a look back at June 2016  ... in numbers ...

How's this for a statistic? 
I spotted this ray of sunshine in York the other weekend. Something to take into consideration if you haven't already booked your 2017 holidays.

Maybe I'm drawn to eschatological signs like this because back in 2001 I called my English degree dissertation - on post-apocalyptic fiction - 'It's Not the End of the World'. Who knew that 15 years later the ability to analyse end times would come in useful again?

I'm 1 of the 48% who voted 'Remain':
I'm not going to talk about it all now. But neither am I going to 'be quiet now and just move on' as many Leavers seem to want us to do. Living in a democracy means that when I don't agree with what's happening I still get to talk about it.

While we're on the subject of the Greeks (they invented democracy right?) ...

We went to see Dan Cruickshank's talk on The History of Architecture in 100 Buildings:
Rubbish photo - better story
If you don't know Dan Cruickshank he's a historian who's worked a lot for the BBC and writes books, his latest of which was the subject of the talk he delivered at Middlesbrough Theatre this month. He discussed the meaning behind all kinds of buildings throughout history, starting with some very early examples from Syria and Greece, covering why they were made, how structural developments were made and what value civililisations have put on them.  

Then .. at the Q&A at the end, after other people had asked various questions, a boy in the front row asked him a very long and convoluted question about the Greeks and how they must have liked architecture because - and non one was quite expecting this particular reason - because in the Percy Jackson books/films the Gods of Olympus live in the Empire State Building so it must be significant to them. 

Cruickshank was very sweet and, recognising there was no simple answer to this, said 'I'm going to come and have a chat with you'  then let us all go home so we didn't have to sit through the kid's entire thesis and came and sat on the front of the stage near him so they could talk. Probably not the end he had planned for his serious talk .. but handled very nicely. It's things like that that leave an impression on people, isn't it, I'm sure many people - not just that boy - will remember his kindness. 

In other cultural news ...

We used our £10 National Art Pass card 3 times, visiting 3 museums/galleries in York, saving £10.50 so far ...

Back in April, I saw Laura Howard (@bugsandfishes on Twitter) tweet about a special offer where you could buy a 3 month National Art Pass card for just £10, which would allow you to get into all kinds of galleries and museums for free (the offer's ended now but there's a regular year-long price too). So James and I both bought one which meant getting into the 650 year old Merchant Adventurers' Hall for free ...
Where, amongst other treasures, I enjoyed this touching detail of how a wealthy woman left money in her will which she wanted spending on teaching '6 poor girls to read, knit and sew':
After that, seeing as how we had the card ... we hopped across town to The Yorkshire Museum (saving another £7.50):
Which is where James learned that he's slightly taller than the backside of a moa (a big extinct bird). 
And they say no knowledge is ever wasted ... 

Our 3rd saving came by visiting the York Art Gallery but, seeing as how I've already written a full review of the place already I won't go into that.  I will however share with you something else that happened in the Yorkshire Musuem ...

James's 1st brush with a bear this month: 
I know, it was a bowler hat last month and now it's a Topper ... I think he might be gradually working his way up to crown. 

And  I say it was his 1st brush with a bear because ... he had another ...

James's 2nd brush with a bear: 
This time it was at the Animal Inside Out exhibition  at the Life Science Centre in Newcastle where, alongside bears, there are 100+ other preserved animals on show. I took lots of photos ... but you're probably having your lunch right now aren't you ... so I won't share any more just yet.

Yet it is a fascinating show about anatomy and wonder ... if you can stomach it. And, to be fair, if I can, you probably can.

The best/worst part was when a tiny girl wandered up to the glass case we were looking in - pointed to a preserved human leg - and asked in her toddler English "Wha tha?".

"You don't want to know " I replied under my breath.

Now before I move off the topic of his heroism (posing with dead bears and all ...) let me tell you about ...

James's hole in 1!
Never let the truth get in the way of a good story ... or so they say.  During a visit to a suppliers who happened to be hosting a sport-themed sales promo one of the reps tweeted a photo of James clutching a golf club and his prize for getting a hole-in-one: a bottle Prosecco. So far, so impressive, except ... rather than making a single clean shot James claims it actually took him about 18 attempts to get the ball in the bucket! Apparently they gave him the prize as it was the closest anyone had got all day! But hey ... free wine!

His main concern afterwards was not that they'd 'embroidered the truth' but that they might invite him on corporate golfing days! When it comes to sport ... he makes me look veritably Olympian.  

On the other hand, if library visiting was a sport I'd be on top form this month.

I read 2 library books - from 2 different libraries - and attended an author event at a 3rd:

  • The first book I read was Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant which I really enjoyed. Part mythical fairytale part musing on againg and memory.
  • Next was Chris Kraus's I Love Dick which is not quite what the title suggests ... but you can imagine how cautious I was about getting the book down 3 flights of stairs and through the self-service machine without bumping into anyone I knew!
  • And lastly I read a memoir of avghost-writing career Ghosting by Jennie Erdal which wasn't from a library, I found that gem in The Minster Gate Book Shop - a 5 floor secondhand  book shop in York. As usual you can find links to all the books I've read on my Pinterest board.
As for the author event, that took place in a library I'd never been to before, involving a journey on 2 buses and memorising the names of the roads/bus stops before mine so I knew where to get off! I'm tempted to write more about this journey in a post of its own, so I'll leave you with photos of the novels by the authors in question, who were very generous in discussing their process and careers.
In unconnected news ...

I re-embraced the 1990s by using those twisty spongy rollers (is there a proper name for them?) for the first time in 20 years! 
The results have been varied - today for example I've had to put it in a pony tail as it turned out soooooo big and fluffy. I'd forgotten the 90s was the decade before frizz products were invented ... and with styles like these we needed them!! 

The first attempt wasn't too bad ... I just pulled on my (fake) leather jacket and pretended I was 14 again:
To complete the look I should have dug out my ripped jeans and my Walkman.

Speaking of my 'look' ...

I paid just £11.48 for these 2 monochrome pieces in charity shops:
The dress was £4.49 while the skirt was £6.99.

I've been completely and utterly re-inspired to seek out charity shop outfits lately and these are just 2 of 6 items I bought during June which in total cost just £32.45! (More on those at some time or other I'm sure.)

On the first day that  I wore the skirt it paid for itself with a compliment ... as she was letting us through the entrance turnstile at the Life Centre in Newcastle one of their staff members leaned in and said "I really like your skirt". How nice was that?

Just the kind of morale boost you need before going to look at the preserved internal organs of a gorilla and the blood vessels in a shark's liver.

Oh and, before you ask if everything I bought this month had to be black and white ... then maybe this will answer your question:
After 16 years of valiant service we finally had to retire our old car and welcome a new set of wheels into our lives. 
The fact that the new car - both inside and out - also obligingly matches my recent outfits is purely coincidental ... 

... probably.

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So, that was my June. If you've got a post of your own to share then don't forget to leave me the link when you leave me a comment.

If you've been meaning to join in on social media then check out this photo by @ikibana_banana on Instagram as Miriam came up with her own clever way to share her May numbers via her IG feed!

And if you fancy joining in casually then simply share a story/photo with a numbery element to it,  use #monthinnumbers and '@' me @withjuliekirk and I'll hop over to see.

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Well then, it's just me and you now July. What've you got for me?

Not hiding a warm summer and a stable government/opposition up your sleeve by any chance are you?

Julie x

Monday, 27 June 2016

Timed creative non-fiction writing: My Heart


Hey there. 

Remember the other day, when I was trying to avoid all the referendum talk, and I blogged about a nice vintage skirt I'd found instead of writing about what I called "real, messy, life stuff"? 

Well, 'real messy life stuff' has a way of living up to its name, and post-referendum - while skirts undoubtedly have their place (usually covering your dignity) - I'm not in the mood for them much today. 

So, instead, I thought I'd share something I wrote last Friday afternoon while I was struggling to convince every fibre in my hands not to respond to some of the opinions I saw on social media. I thought giving my hands and brain another challenge might distract me nicely for half an hour. I was wrong. 

This began as a 15 minute 'timed writing' exercise suggested by Chelsea Hodson in her 'Begin with the Body' online workshop [hosted on Skillshare]. Chelsea suggested beginning the piece by choosing a body part and then keeping your pen moving until the time was up ... funny what comes out when you just let your mind wander. I then spent more time editing it to get it to the point it's at here.  

[FYI: My first line is the opening line from the 'My Own Heart' by English Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, if you don't know it I urge you to indulge yourself as it, and indeed he, is one of my favourites. And it sprung to mind the second I'd decided to begin with my heart ... ].

My Heart

My own heart let me more have pity on, let me live to my sad self hereafter kind. (GM Hopkins).

My heart that bounces ... in danger of snapping its tethers, working its way higher, reaching, climbing, attempting to escape its place. Banging away from beneath where my chest – its skin tightly stretched over bones – is turned into a drum, two felt-padded sticks beating rhythmically from the underside.

My heart that ignites a pilot light of adrenalin inside me whenever a dog is too close for comfort ... but where exactly is ‘too close’? Right there? Yes. A few hundred metres away? Yes. Nowhere at all? That too, just thinking of them can set my blood hammering for its freedom.

My heart that sends footsteps into my ears ... regular, jogging, pavement-pounding footsteps that run along a clear pathway with nothing to slow them down. A dubstep, wob wob wobble bass throb of blood through veins. My heart noisily deciding where my head ought to focus.
Preserved animal hearts from the Animal Inside Out exhibition by Body Worlds.
My heart that aches ... distractedly, for injustices, for mistakes. I place my hand on it over the linen of the summer dress I wore to wander London last year. It feels hot, why should my heart be hot? I remember it’s June and things are meant to be hot. I also remember that I haven’t been able to concentrate all day, my blood clearly as restless as my thoughts.

I knew.

I knew from the second word out of the radio news presenter’s mouth, and all he’d said was “Good Morning”. But he'd sounded serious. ‘Major Event’-serious. He continued, confirming my fears: “Britain has voted to leave the EU”.

To leave.

My heart.


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Julie x

p.s: I welcome any reflections on topics such as online courses, timed-writing, creative-non-fiction, blogging about emotions and just general chatty comments with open arms. But I don't intend to use my comments section as a debating area regarding the referendum results. Anything offensive will be deleted.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Dressing Myself ... in vintage and clashing patterns


Hey you. 

Some days, when I think ahead to where I'd like to take my blogging and writing, I ponder over sharpening-up my content; focusing on real, messy, life stuff [such as sharing how strange it was when one of my tweets went viral last week in the aftermath of something awful]; chatting about hot topics and events. And then ... 

... on other days, like today, I just want to shut off and blog something frivolous; something non-taxing; something easy

After having voted in the EU Referendum before I'd even had my breakfast, I'm avoiding the real world for the rest of the day. I'm packing up craft kits, working on my book, and avoiding the TV until later tonight when I'll settle in to watch the last ever episode of The Good Wife

If you fancy joining me in forgetting the outside world for 5 minutes come here ... and let me show you the vintage skirt I found ... 

The vintage piece:
  • I found this beige and brown, slightly stretchy, tropical leaf print tapered midi-skirt in the 'vintage room' of a nearby charity shop.
If you're local then head to Age Concern in Guisborough if you're on a true 'vintage' hunt. Their back room is an absolute retro treasure trove where I've found many great buys. The latest being a dress, shirt and skirt just yesterday! I will have to show you the dress. It's ... I can hardly ... I'm in love. Actually ... I shouldn't have told you to go there should I? Leave something for my next trip ...
  • This particular shop often has a sale rail featuring its vintage items and this skirt [like several other items I've bagged] came from that rail. 
  • And it set me back the princely sum of ... £1.99.
Yes, I did type that correctly. No I didn't miss out a digit after the 1. It was one pound, ninety nine pence. And for that kind of price you can afford to take a chance on an item you might not otherwise have thought of wearing. 

Saying that, I think I only wore it once before putting this outfit together, so I wanted to rectify that. I thought that if I could find a fairly relaxed way to style it I might get more wear from it. And, seeing as how for the last 7 years my Twitter bio has stated: "I write. I cut up paper. I drink tea. I wear patterns. I try to be funny." ... I thought I'd live up to at least one element of that ...

The outfit I built around it:

  • So I leapt right into the patterns and combined the leaf print skirt with a denim shirt featuring an all-over small heart design. [The shirt is H&M from a few years ago and is so versatile.]
  • I accessorised with a chunky necklace [a gift], opaque stone tights [Primark] and woven leather lace ups [Office]. 
  • Hopefully the end result is interesting ... without feeling too much like I'm a historical re-enactor. I like to use vintage pieces without ditching to many modern aesthetics.
  • Then I stood in my back garden, hoping my neighbour wasn't watching through the fence, and posed awkwardly while James took photos.

If you want more awkward posing, here's a previous outfit built around a vintage piece; this time I'm wearing a jumper on my driveway. [Now if that's not a teaser I don't know what is.] 

So how was that for you? A diverting interlude from the real world? I hope so.

Shall we do it again sometime? It's a deal.

Feel free to share your charity shop tales, triumphs and tips in the comments or catch me on social media. 

[I still haven't made an Instagram button for my sidebar - but you can leap to me over there from here.]

Later.

Julie x

Friday, 3 June 2016

Almost ... a recipe for chorizo and bean casserole.


Yes I’m posting another recipe. It's as much a surprise to me as it is to you as I'm not known for my foodie-blogger credentials [I did once write about how some tinned spaghetti shapes tasted like cardboard, if that counts???].

The first recipe I wrote, and blogged, was for an Italian stir-in sauce and contained, to my mind, one of my most memorable lines [“you might want to lay off the penises”]. A line which I may or may not quote when touting for a literary agent ... But that was 7 months ago so no, I’m not transitioning into a domestic goddess blogger just yet. Or if I am, it’s a veeeeeeerrrrry slow transition.

If the penises haven’t already given it away mine are not the most serious recipes you’ll ever read [I come from a family, perhaps even a region [North East England] where, if anything’s worth taking seriously, it’s worth not taking too seriously. Even the serious stuff. Especially the serious stuff. So recipes don’t stand a chance. All of which information is intended to wash my hands clean: it’s not me, it’s my environment. Nurture makes me do it! 

And, speaking of family ...  I adapted this recipe from something sausage and bean-y my Mam used to make back when I still lived at home and I’ve been making this, my own version, for a long time now. So, all joking aside, this does make an edible, tried and well-tested meal. Seriously …

Almost … a recipe for chorizo and bean casserole.

Serves 2 – 4 depending on portion size. 
It also depends on whether – if there’s only two of you – you want to find two extra people to share it with. 

If that sounds too much like ‘socialising’ to you, just freeze the remainder instead. It both freezes and re-heats pretty well and avoids that unpalatable need to make small talk with two other people.

Ingredients:

One large chorizo.
  • This should be the really firm, solid, kind that often comes in a loop or in a 10-ish inch length*.
  • Not the squishy raw sausage kind.
  • *I have no idea of the official terms for any of these 'formats' of chorizo and experience tells me not to Google any of those keywords if you don’t mind …
A note on pronunciation: Be thankful you only have to read this recipe and that we’re not trying to chat about it in person because if we were we’d have to reveal to one another what we call this particular sausagey thing. Then embarrassment or the rolling of eyes would likely ensue while we debated whether it’s actually:
  • ‘choree-tho’ [how I pronounce it] 
  • ‘choree-zoh’ 
  • or ‘chor-it-so’.
And, look, I like you, and don’t want a sausage to come between us ... so it’s best left unspoken

Unless of course you need to ask for it in the supermarket in which case … you’re on your own. If all else fails just ask for ‘spicy Spanish sausage’. [But do not, under any circumstances, resort to mime unless you’d be happy with having ‘Lewd behaviour in Aldi’ as the reason for your arrest].

Red kidney beans. 
  • A full tin of pre-cooked beans, drained.
  • Can be substituted for any kind of pre-cooked bean you prefer. 
  • If you don't like beans, no  probs, this'll have to just be a 'chorizo casserole'. Now's really not the time to tell me you don't like chorizo either.
*A note on bean storage: If you don’t happen to use a full tin, then make sure to empty the leftovers into a proper container with a sealed lid. Otherwise when you forget about them [which you will] you will discover they have an inbuilt fail-safe which prevents you from forgetting about them for very long: they will gradually taint your fridge with a smell so sour and corrupt that you’ll think there’s a yogurt in there with a particularly virile vendetta against you and your people. 

So, yeah, don't leave beans unattended. Lessons to live by kids. Lessons to live by. 

One tin of tomatoes.
  • Or make your own tomato sauce. See my recipe. 
  • I know you're going to use a tin. Fair play. Me too. 
Tomato puree.

One medium to large white onion finely sliced.


4* cloves of garlic, chopped. 
  • *Or more. Depending on whether or not you’re going to have your mouth near anyone the following day.
Paprika.

Cayenne pepper [optional]

Method:

[1] Remove the strange, post-sunburn type, papery skin from the sausage.
Again, I have no idea if this is what you’re meant to do before you cook it or if everyone [or indeed anyone] does this …or not. Mainly because I’m worse at reading recipes than I am writing them and have therefore never studied this topic.  But to me, it makes sense not to have it getting in the way.

Granted this task can be a little fiddly but usually, once you get a small edge lifted free, the rest will come away easily. A bit like with old dry wallpaper. Or pent up hostilities.

While doing this make sure to look around to check that there’s no one nearby with a camera. No one wants to log into Facebook of a morning only to find they’ve been tagged while in the process of unsheathing a European sausage.

[2] Slice the unsheathed chorizo long ways - then into centimetre chunks. [So the end result gives you lots of meaty semi circles*].

*Any death metal acts out there looking for a name are free to use that with my blessing.

Throw the meaty semi-circles [the ingredient, not the death metal band] into a large, hot, frying pan and cook for a couple of minutes. You do not need to add any oil to the pan as the sausage will release more than enough fat of its own.

The amount of oil that comes out of the sausage may initially startle you. I used to pour this away until I realised that life was too short* to miss out on all that savoury lusciousness, so now I keep it. 

[*Or at least, life probably will be too short if you continue to eat melted processed pork fat … but …y'know ... mmmmm].

[3] Once the fat has begun to ooze from the sausage lower the heat, throw in the sliced onions, and stir.

If you have a lid for the pan, put it on now. 

[I accept that this may involve rummaging around in the ignominious lid cupboard / draw of the kitchen. Apologies in advance for the inevitable landslide that will follow accompanied by the soundtrack of metallic clattering and banging that TV sitcoms from the 70s and 80s used to suggest a calamity off camera.]

[4] Once the onions have softened add in the chopped garlic and stir for a minute or two. [It'll burn if you add it at the same time as the onion.]

[5] Add approximately 2 teaspoons of paprika. 
[Although, realistically, the amount can also depend upon whether you’ve opened up the small or large opening in the lid of the jar … and whether or not you were aware that you’d meant to open the small side but actually opened the large and tipped out a heap of it accidentally.]

If you don’t mind spicing things up add in a quick shake of cayenne pepper. [In this case make certain you know which side of the lid you’re opening!]

Stir everything together and cook for a minute or so.

[6] Add in the tinned kidney beans and stir to combine them into the dish. 

[7] Tip in the tinned tomatoes and a squirt of tomato puree and bring to the boil. As the beans are already cooked they'll only need to re-heat in the sauce.

Try to resist stealing pieces of the irresistibly richly flavoured chorizo that’s now softened in its own juices. Then stir to distribute the remaining pieces of sausage evenly throughout the pan to hide any obvious gaps after you clearly failed to resist stealing some. [I don't blame you for an instant. And a jury would never hang you for it.]

[8] Leave the mixture to cook over a low heat for as long as you can bear to. But if you’re desperate to eat it then and there [which you will be] then the dish is ready to eat at this point. 

However … not wishing to sound like an annoying TV chef with all the time in the world to do things like ‘marinating overnight’ etc but … truly, the longer you can bear to leave this, the richer and deeper the flavour will get. It really is an  ideal meal to make a day before you need it.

Whenever you chose to eat it ... 

[9] Serve with rice* or a flatbread.
*Brown or white rice, your choice depending how wholesome you’re feeling, and how far from the ‘facilities’ you're going to be the following day. What with kidney beans, brown rice and pork fat ... that's some well oiled roughage you'll have going on there. Just saying.

Buen apetito!

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That is quite the thought to end on isn't it? Apologies. But I guess it's a natural conclusion to a meal. Awkward and appetite-suppressing yes, but natural all the same. 

And, be honest now, you don't get that kind of follow-up advice from many food writers do you? I suppose I'm less of a celebrity chef and more a public service really ... 



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So what do reckon? 
  • Are you going to give the recipe a try some time? [You might as well pin it to one of your Pinterest boards now to save for later.]
  • How many of the ingredients have you already got in the cupboard? 
  • Which do you need to put on your shopping list [which you'll inevitably leave behind on the worktop, but it's the thought that counts eh?]
And if you do try it - let me know! 

Photographic evidence and comments are to be welcomed:

Those photos of you unsheathing the chorizo however are perhaps best left in your private family album, OK? OK.

Soon.

Julie 

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

My Month in Numbers 2016: May


Well hello there.

Somehow, while none of us were looking, while we were all distracted by Instagram, library books, Game of Thrones and shiny shoes [just me?] May managed to slip out from under the duvet, sneak into the bathroom and get changed into June.

And now look .... we're halfway through the year and I still haven't written that book or properly taken up running or redecorated my dining room yet, and you [don't think you're getting away with it] you haven't done that thing you said you were definitely going to do in 2016, have you? No.

But, hang on, hang on, before either of us start anything too hastily [you can injure yourself without a proper warm-up .... so they say ... how would I know?] how about we both just pause to reflect over what we have managed to fit into the last 31 days? Sound good? OK, I'll go first ...

My Month ... in Numbers 2016: May

In our house we celebrated a birthday and an anniversary this month and this sign relates to one of them; can you work out which?
How rude!  James may be acquiring grey in his facial hair [but which of us isn't?! For his, see below.] but ...

... no, that's not his age [I'll tell him you said that] the '92' actually refers to the year we met.
There's so much 90s fashion in the shops now that, if I'd thought of it earlier, I could have entirely authentically recreated what I was wearing when we met. But ... I don't think I've got the confidence [or stomach muscles] to carry off a sleeveless black catsuit these days ...

But where was I? Oh yes, the sign. While browsing Etsy for a birthday gift for him I came across a selection of vintage Russian house numbers and fortunately that included a 92.

Because, as everyone knows, 24 years is the 'Enameled-Soviet-metal' anniversary. You didn't know?

I won't give his age away, suffice it to say he's older than me. Not that you'd guess he was fully mature after you see what he wanted to add to his outfit on his special day:
He [jokingly ... I think ...] completed his ensemble with a bowler hat that someone gave him a few years ago which normally lives in the hall, kind of as a decoration [yes, I've just realised how hipster that sounds ... oh my]. Needless to say - because we weren't going to a restaurant in London during the 1950s - I talked him out of it.

One day I should call his bluff and say "Yeah, wear it. It'll look great and absolutely no-one at all will stare." But then ... he'd probably call my bluff in return and actually go out in it ...

1 birthday candle in a rum baba: 
While we were ordering lunch at our favourite place to eat we were asked if we had the day off [it was midweek]. James said that yes, he did, because it was his birthday. And clearly the waiting staff quietly filed that fact away and when our deserts arrived they'd lit a candle in his caramelised pineapple! And it wasn't even horrifying in a 'oh my, don't make a fuss in public, pleeeeesssase' kind of way. No, it was lovely.

"Are you going to sing as well?" he asked the waitress, "I can if you want me to" she replied. He didn't. And I'm sure she was relieved! But way-to-go Robineau Cafe! As if we didn't already love you enough.

While we're on the subject of marking special occasions ... due to the wonders of Facebook's 'On this day ... ' feature I learned that ...

May 5th marked 7 years since Kirsty Neale and I launched 'The Copy and Paste Project' blog.

But we no longer run the blog [in ran for 2 years]  ... so why would it be worth mentioning its 7th anniversary?
  • Because that very same day -  by sheer serendipitous coincidence rather than design [we're just not that organised] - May 5th also happened to mark the exact halfway point of our latest incarnation of @theCopyandPasteProject 
  • On that day, in our #copyandpaste100collages exhibition over on Instagram we'd each shared 25 collages making a total of 50
  • And now we've shared all 50 each so - if you haven't caught up over there - there are 100 mini 4x4" collages for you to browse. Here's a thumbnail glimpse at almost one third of them:
It wont surprise anyone to learn that our first ever Copy and Paste Project challenge was based around a quotation from Hamlet. And ... the day before the halfway mark [again, not organised enough to realise it would have made a better story if I'd done it one day later ...], completely unplanned, I'd made a Hamlet collage for this project.

Of course I had. #onetrickpony

Friendship, scraps of paper, Shakespeare: eternal inspirations. And the man himself makes another appearance in my next set of numbers ...

My £6.00 charity shopping haul:
I scored a retro bed sheet and two pillowcases for £4.00, a 50p book about the Kenneth Branagh film version of Hamlet [my first experience of the great Dane back in the 90s ... possibly while wearing a sleeveless black catsuit, I don't remember now] and a £1.50 non-fiction exploration of handwriting by Philip Hensher - which is fascinating!

Alongside the Hensher book I also read:
  • Another non-fiction book: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematorium by Caitlin Doughty which is a really interesting - and funny - account of life on the other side of that curtain. It's a true eye-opener and Doughty [@thegooddeath on Twitter] really offers food for thought regarding the death 'industry'. [When have you ever thought seriously about embalming before? You will after you read this!] 
  • Girl Reading by Katie Ward. This is a novel in 7 different sections all touching on the same themes, all about women and representation, painting, photography etc ... with a twist in the final chapter. 
  • And Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg, which I found to be a useful, hands-on practical and inspiring writing guide. To paraphrase Victor Kiam: after borrowing and renewing it from the library I liked it so much I bought my own copy. 
If you'd like direct links to these, and all, the books I've read this year you can visit my dedicated Pinterest board. Not because I'm awesome at choosing books and think you should follow all my recommendations ... but because my local libraries, the campus library at work, and indeed charity shops, often throw up titles which I never would have heard of if I hadn't spotted them on their shelves ... so you might find something a little different that you fancy chasing up for yourself. 

I was twice asked what kind of writing I did. 
I mentioned this - and how I replied to those questions earlier in the month in my previous blog post [long story short: not very coherently], so here I'll just fill out a picture of where I was when I was asked ...

One occasion was during a really interesting [free!] business workshop I attended ... in 'real' life. Imagine!: 
As someone who's taken many an online course it made a change to go somewhere with living breathing people. So 'living and breathing' in fact that we were actually encouraged to use a hula-hoop during our break to see who could do the most turns. 

For me it was one of life's occasions where you ask yourself: 'What would Ron Swanson do?' and the answer was crystal clear: I declined. 

Meanwhile the second occasion was at a meeting that was kind of related to what I said in my introduction today - about writing a book this year - but I'm at the annoying stage where I have nothing concrete to share with you about any of it. But behind the scenes I'm in planning mode.

And just because I don't have a book to show yet, I have been writing [you already know about the writing day I attended last month] and if you want proof ... the other day on Instagram I posted this request:  

"I have 1/2 an hour to kill and can't decide what to write about. Suggestions please."
A plea to which my friend Helen responded with "Fear of putting yourself out there: why, what purpose?, how to overcome." and, without pausing to think if she meant 'in general' or specific to me, or her or whoever ... I just started my timed writing exercise, and allowed words to spill out:
I think I'll give crowd-sourcing my writing topics another try sometime - I tend respond well to serendipity and chance anyway, so this seems like a good way to orchestrate some! And I might have another read over what I came up with in this exercise and maybe blog it in full sometime too.

And I'll surely be doing more writing because look ... I bought a new notebook to write in.

I added a £1 notebook to my ever expanding collection:
I'd only gone in the £1 shop before work looking for deodorant [let's just say that something told me that I'd forgotten to apply it that day and I didn't want to spend the day with my arms by my sides!] but then there it was, in all it's £1/ 'Writing is thinking on paper' glory. And I couldn't help myself.

BTW: That noise you can hear is all my other new note books mumbling in unison: "To write in? To write in? She's just told them she's bought another new notebook to write in? But we've been here months, years and she's not so much as cracked our spines or scribbled on our back pages to test whether or not her pen's working. Sometimes I think she just likes keeping our pages virginal and full of potential."

And they might have a point.  Moving swiftly on ...

For about 30 hours it felt like I had something in my eye.
It began at work one day and gradually got worse and no amount of rubbing, blinking, poking around, would shift it. After work I tried to get an optician's appointment but had to wait until the following afternoon. After the optician carried out an eye-test [they said they couldn't look at my eye without going through the entire process!], she then put drops in and had a thorough look at my eyes through magnifying lenses and with all kinds of coloured lights. 

But rather than find anything on the eye itself it turned out it was my eyelid causing the trouble and the culprit of all that soreness and scratching turned out to be the story of my itchy, sensitive and sniffy life ... an allergic reaction. [I don't really have hay-fever ... so I'm thinking some pollen/another irritant must have fallen directly into my eye while I was outside ... who knows?] 

A few doses of allergy eye-drops and a warm-compress later I was almost back to normal and giving praises for pain-free eyes. There's nothing like a momentary discomfort, easily sorted, to remind you of the good health you take for granted. 

Oh and ... those eye-drops she used? They were kind of fluorescent. And it wasn't until I got back in my car and looked in my wing mirror that I realised I'd been walking around town and getting served in shops looking like this:
Anyone know if yellow eye-liner is in this season?

One of the shop assistants who served me and my yellow eyes worked in Clarks which is where I purchased ...

... my 4th pair of silver shoes:
Clark's silver shoes
Well, they're the 4th pair I currently own [brogues, ankle boots, ballet pumps, heels] I have had several [if not many] others in the past. And I can highly recommend them to anyone looking to strike up random conversations in the street ... as illustrated by the conversation I shared on Facebook the first time I wore them to work:

"First thing my student said to me as he got out of the taxi this morning: "Those are very silver shoes". Me: "Yes, they are". His taxi driver: "Have you sprayed them?". Me: "No." Taxi driver "But you haven't bought them like that." "Yes, I have" "Well you never see anything like that in the shops, do you?" "Well, they're the 4th pair of silver shoes I have, so, yes". "Well they look like they've been sprayed" "Well if they have it wasn't by me. Ask someone from Clarks because that's where I got them." "I will. Next time I have someone in the back from Clarks I'll ask them."

Best avoid wearing them on days when you're not feeling chatty ... 

And, finally, while we're on the subject of sparkly foiled silvery-ness ...

213 days before the big day itself I received my first Christmas crafting commission of the year: 
It's the same routine every summer; and every summer I have to wrangle myself into the festive spirit a little ahead of the calendar! But it's not so outlandish when you consider the magazine works 3 months ahead of schedule so the issue with my projects will go on sale in September - giving crafters 3 months to actually get those Christmas cards made.

Which is precisely what I should be doing ...

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If May treated you kindly then hurrah! that's lovely! Maybe you fancy sharing a number or two on your own blog/social media: leave me a link and/or tag it #monthinnumbers and give me a dig in the ribs to let me know.

And if May was less than polite to you then, hurrah it's over! Long gone. done and dusted.

June's a new start. And we've both go that thing to start haven't we?

Julie x