Wednesday 25 February 2015

Memory keeping: My Daleks are *still* there.

Hello, ahoy, welcome.

Yes, this is another post - and another scrapbook page - about the night we went to see Mark Gatiss in conversation.
And if, after I mentioned it in December's Month in Numbers and then again with last week's scrapbook page you 've begun to feel like you just can't escape it ... then you'll have an idea how I felt the week the Daleks took to following me around ....
I've told the story here before but here's a re-cap via the tweets/ Facebook updates I wrote as the strange events unfolded on campus ...
So far so strange. No?

There I was, all week, telling people I kept seeing Daleks at work - when there was absolutely no good reason for me to be seeing Daleks at work. While the word "assistant" is indeed in my job title it is not, nor ever has been, preceded by the words "The Doctor's".

I was just grateful that, each time I'd seen the body parts of a Dalek in the most unlikeliest of places, I had been with someone who saw them too! He could corroborate my story ... and I could rest assured that it wasn't all in my head!
[For the record, yes, I did try to take a photo as proof. But both times it was dark outside, or we were in a hurry, and - the time I did approach the building to grab the shot of them through the window ... I got close enough to activate the automatic doors which suddenly opened out towards me ... which  pretty much convinced that [a] they'd come to life and [b] the next thing I would hear would be 'Ex-ter-min-ate'.]

So, at the end of a strange week of  wondering 'Why Daleks? Why now? Why here?', I went out on the Friday night, to relax, to escape from it all, to see Mark Gatiss ...

...and so did they:
I spotted them in the foyer as we approached the building where the event was being held [which is not the same place where I work ... but several miles away] and the penny dropped: while I may revere him for co-creating Sherlock Mark Gatiss is also one of the writers on Dr.Who. And the organisers had clearly run with the theme.
However the ones in these photos aren't actually the ones who'd been following me through the week - in fact these ones were even more sinister as they moved and spoke to us as we entered the building!
I mean ... what are the chances that you'd bump into 2 Daleks on a Friday night that weren't the same 2 Daleks you'd met earlier in the week? Really? Could it be that they had nothing to do with the first two. That this was just a random coincidence???
Well no.
The other two, the ones that were fast becoming regular acquaintances of mine, were actually waiting for me inside the auditorium we went into to see the man himself. Clearly there was no escape! 
[Did you spot me photo-bombing this shot?]

BTW: I was so pleased with myself when I found this appropriately robotic illustration and the timey-wimey themed caption for this page. If you ever want me to delve into my collection to try to source something appropriately themed to match one of your projects just get in touch and we can chat about a custom pack of pages. There's no minimum limit on the amount you can request; unlike the Daleks ... I'm flexible [and can run upstairs].  [p.s there are currently 3 Game of Thrones themed packs currently available for anyone who fancies some Seven-Kingdom-style scrapbooking/journaling!]

SPOILER ALERT:: For anyone still wondering if I'd turned into The Master ... there's actually a more mundane explanation as to why the Daleks had been at my workplace. We learned that the woman who organised the event worked for the same university as me ... which is when I recognised her as the person who, just after we'd seen them for the second time, had come out of an office declaring 'Ah. My Daleks are still there' to no one in particular as we looked on bemused.

'My Daleks are still there'. 'My Daleks are still there' ...

Now there's a phrase that sums up that entire week for me!

Thanks for stopping by today.


Friday 20 February 2015

Memory keeping: 'What does one wear when they're going to visit Mycroft?'

Hello hello.

You know the proverbial bus stop situation, where you wait ages for one and then three come along right after one another? Well that's exactly the state of my 12x12" scrapbooking right now.

Throughout much of 2014 I couldn't motivate myself to scrap many large layouts at all [in fact ... I think I made the grand sum of 5 all year] but then ...

... then December came along and brought with it something so eminently scrapworthy ... that I've ended up making 3 pages about it! Here's one of them ...
It's fair to say that 3 pages on the same subject would be a lot for me to make even if the event had lasted 3 weeks ... so, when you consider that it lasted more like 3 hours, you might get the idea that it was something I reeeeaaaallllly wanted to document!!

I bet you already know what the event was don't you?
Yes ... I might have mentioned the fact that I went to see Mark Gatiss 'in conversation' once or twice already. Ummm, yeah ... well ... if you think you're tired of it now ... I've got two more scrapbook pages left to share ... so, I'd just get used to it if I were you ....

For the record, when I went to visit Mycroft I wore a black jumper, striped skirt and silver boots ... which I accessorised with giddy eyes and a 'I can't believe how good tonight is' smile ...
My sister felt the same.
It's always good to share an experience like this with someone equally as likely to lose control and squeal in public as you are isn't it?

BTW: That adorable face [no, not mine, stop it, you'll make me blush] the face on the old book page, above, is a stamp from the 'Girls' AHA Arts stamp set by Ashley G. I bought mine from her Etsy shop but can't see it I stock right now. [I think it's available elsewhere though - it's my current favourite set too. So cute!]

Here's the final page again so you don't need to scroll [you know how I like to help you avoid RSI] ;-)

I'll be back with the remaining two pages featuring my splendidest of occasions soon.

Until then, have a great weekend, treat yourself to some Sherlock while you're at it why don't you ...

Julie x

Friday 13 February 2015

Memory keeping: What Would Grandma Do?

Hello hello.

Around this time last year I had an idea to mark what would have been my Grandma's birthday by wearing something to remind me of her.

So I picked out a cheerful but, most importantly, comfy flowery dress plus a cardigan with pockets. Because what use is one without pockets? Where do keep your tissues?
And this led me on to thinking about a few of the other things she would do:
And, after I had the photo opportunity and the memories fresh in my mind the scrapbook page practically made itself ...
The layers, the pink and florals, the old paper and silver accents will be familiar to you if you saw my post earlier this week about 'signature styles' and 'go to' combinations how, time and again, I return to certain colours, prints and styles in my crafting.
And my Grandma would certainly have approved of the strips of tinsel  I used ... because while she was ever practical [hence the cardigan pockets] she was partial to a spot of festive sparkle too. [Can't imagine where I got my magpie streak from ... ].
As for how I marked her birthday this year ... well, she was a prolific reader, so I spent the afternoon working on my first book review post for my new book-relate blog feature Portable Magic so I could publish it on her special day.
Although our tastes in literature differed [no Catherine Cookson on my reading list this year] she, like me, found ways to feed her reading habit without having to spend a lot of money by visiting libraries, jumble sales and charity shops. 
And the nice thing is, now that I visit charity shops regularly, to seek out treasures for craft projects, for my shop or for my own book shelves ... I don't only stop to remember her on her birthday. Her bargain hunting spirit keeps me company year round!
Thanks for stopping by today so that I could keep my memories by sharing them.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Card making: with old roses, embossed metal and gelli-plate printing.

Hi, hi, hi.

In my previous card-making post [the one about cascade cards] I made the distinction between the kinds of cards you make for special occasions or when you really want to try out a new technique ... and the kind of card you always make, the ones that are your 'go to' format. Because both have their place in your crafting repertoire don't they? It's the same with shoes ...

... some days are silver heels days ... but more often you can find me in my flat black boots with the furry lining. Because while I love love love my silver heels ... it's flat black boots with the furry lining that are best for walking across campus, or to and from the Post Office. But both serve a purpose.

So, in the interests of balance, I thought I'd share the kind of card that I would describe as my 'go to' format; the kind I can compile relatively quickly from beloved scraps and leftovers; the kind I curate by sifting through my supplies like a magpie seeking out the spangles ... the kind that's simpler to make than some ... but is still special in its own way. A card such as this one:
The main background is a page from a book about Shakespeare that I experimented on while attending a gelli-plate printing workshop with Kate Crane last year: 
You know I like to use old text pages anyway ... but having some bespoke patterns printed on top makes it even more interesting! Plus the colours I'd used on the print inspired the colour choices for the rest of the card.

And the rest is [no, Hamlet aficionados, the rest is not 'silence' ...] the rest is:
  • ... and a focal point cluster made from looped parcel string, flower stamens, a button and a painted, die-cut, embossed metal heart [leftover from a metal-embossing master-class I created for Issue 128 of Papercraft Inspirations magazine in 2014]:
All of which: the roses, the silver, the collage elements, the text print ... pretty much sum up many of my 'go to' features; and I don't just mean in card making.
  • Throw in 'black + white stripes' and you've also got many of the elements that feature on my ideas lists / mood-boards that I occasionally add to when I think about having my own web site!
  • Plus ... as I sit and type this I'm wearing an old-rose print blouse and a pink cardigan.
  • [At a push I'd say my fondness for layering even extends to my clothes although, you'll be happy to know I'm not walking around wearing collage scraps ... yet. I'm not an idiot! It's far too cold to do that in February ... check back with me in July ... ].
The idea that we have a certain style that we return to in all aspects of our creative expression [which covers our clothes choices too] is one we've chatted about here several times in the past ... but I'd still welcome your personal take on the subject. 

For instance ...
  • Look at yourself in the mirror right now ... does what you're wearing resemble the last creative project you finished? If so ... how?
  • OR ... do you recognise your own 'signature style'?
  • When you sit down to craft for pleasure, with a completely free reign ... what do you do? What keeps cropping up in your designs?
I await your responses!


Wednesday 4 February 2015

Portable Magic: the books I've been disappearing into #1. Repeating patterns, robbing graves and clueing for looks.

Hello hello and welcome to Portable Magic - a new book-related feature I'll be posting here from time to time.

For the last few years I've been making a deliberate effort to read more often and I've been using Pinterest boards to keep a record of the individual titles I've worked my way through. And now seemed like a good time to expand my pastime into something I could share with you here.

[In my Push-Up Bra blogging series I preached how - rather than reinventing the wheel -  you should exploit those activities you're already doing by mining them for blog content ... so consider this me taking my own advice!]

Before we open the covers to delve into the books a note on the name  ...

Originally I planned to call it something like 'The Escape Hatch' after a Stephen King quote where he explains why he always has a book with him: 'You just never know when you'll want an escape hatch'.

It's a wonderful image isn't it? I scribbled it down in my notebook the first time I read it, years ago, and still, from time to time, whether it's picking up a novel to pass the time on a bus journey or after a stressful day I'm reminded of the idea that in opening the pages, I'm leaving the 'real' world and heading to the harbour of the escape hatch!

Recently I went back to find that original quote, in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, and found something I liked just as much in the paragraph just before: "Books are a uniquely portable magic' ... and with that I had my title!

And so ... let's bring on the magic shall we?

Wherever possible in these posts I'll link you up to more information about the books I mention being mindful to choose sites that actually review the work or offer another perspective on it rather than simply link to where you can buy it. And, for the record, none of the links are sponsored and none of the books were sent to me to review.

They were however all free to me ... but you'll find out why if you read on ... and no, there's absolutely no truth to the rumour that I chose to read this particular selection of books at the same time because they coordinated ... that said, they do look rather nice together:
Let's begin at the bottom of the pile and work our way up ...

Both of these titles were recent gifts and each - in their own distinct way - have certainly brightened the dark post-Christmas days for me:

Sherlock Chronicles ¦¦ Steve Tribe
Remember when I went to see Mark Gatiss in conversation? [If you don't, you will ... I can't shut up  about it]. Well, during the event they raffled off a copy of this - a companion book to the series he co-created for charity.  And, after he - Mark Gatiss - called out the winning tombola numbers [because why wouldn't he?] he said the woman who won "What I'll do is, I'll take this back with me, get everyone to sign it, and post it back to you. OK?". 

Which is round about when I began to wish I'd had a proper look at the tombola table!!

So, yes, I missed out - big time - there but my parents came to the rescue getting me a copy for Christmas. [Unsigned, but hey ... I'll let them off ...]

So, what are the 'Sherlock: Chronicles'? Well they're the nearest thing I've had in my stocking to a book about someone I'm obsessed with since the 'Bros' annual from Christmas 1988.  But it was worth the wait!

Possibly only fascinating to super-fans [hello] this 320 page book is an in-depth, behind-the-scenes, treasure trove of everything you ever wanted to know about the BBC series. It takes you all the way from the first emails the writers sent one another excitedly discussing their new project - to the lists of awards it's won since. And it does all that by way of scripts for deleted scenes, mood boards, interviews and insights into every creative aspect of the production from set designs to the soundtrack, and from the special effects to those now-copied-everywhere on-screen graphics ... and so much more.

It's absolutely packed with detail so let me just point out two things that stuck in my mind:
  • The discussions, emails and details about the costume design almost made me squeal in delight. OK, I probably did squeal I'm that interested in costume design. I'm always fascinated by how it helps to create a character. And this book even covers where Sherlock's shoes come from [one pair were from TK Maxx! Like so many of my own! Who'd have thought?] and - no word of a lie - I've been interested in his shoes since episode one!! Don't judge me ...
  • The director talks through how the season 2 cliff -hanger [or should it be more 'pavement-hitter'] finale all came about, how the location was found and how they worked out how he could survive the fall. It's fun to see how a year of audience speculation all began by trying to find a building that you could jump off without killing a stuntman ...
You might have guessed I enjoyed this book.  So much.  Aaaaaaaand  ...

I reckon by now - after reading my geek-outs and gushings on the matter you've got a pretty clear idea of whether or not it's for you!

Further reading:Review from the Sherlockology site.

But if one of my life's passions isn't your thing .. how about another?

Pattern ¦¦ Orla Kiely
This was a birthday gift from someone who said to James 'I don't know if she'll like it, but I know she likes patterns'; and they weren't wrong. And I did like it.

I'm a print-a-holic which made this little gem - a colourful collection of Kiely's surface patterns alongside insights into her background, business and inspiration - an unexpected and delicious treat last month.

I must admit to not having 'read' much of it yet; gawping over the patterns has taken up more of my time, but it's such a nicely presented package I'll certainly be dipping into it for a long time to come.

I've always been aware of Kiely's designs but never a huge follower of them, and this isn't a new book, it's 5 years old, but I'm glad it found its way to me in the end. It's well worth a look if you spot it on a library shelf or sale rack sometime.

Further reading: There are plenty of photos showing the beautiful pages of this book here in a review on the decor8 blog.


99.9% of the fiction I read is borrowed from the library [both the fiction titles here were] and over the years librarians have, through their selections which end up on the shelves - been broadening my reading choices well beyond my home country.

I've always been particularly drawn to fiction which has either been translated from another language or else which is set in another country, which is probably something I'll delve into in another Portable Magic post sometime, but, for now let's chat about the latest translated novel I've read ...

The Infatuations ¦¦ Javier Marias
Beyond GCSE level I'm certainly not fluent in Spanish but there's something so smooth, calm and stylish about this novel, translated from Spanish, that it seems to suggest it's a good representation of the original. And when not a huge amount of action or plot happens in a novel ... there's really only style and character left to revel in ... and fortunately there's plenty of that here.

The Infatuations is a book about a murder ... or is it?

Yes, someone dies; a man who our protagonist has been observing at the same table, in the same café, happily eating breakfast with his wife for a long time. But is it murder? If it is ... then who did it? And why? And if not murder then what was it?

I won't spoil it by answering any of those questions now, in fact the author himself isn't even that concerned with answering them. It's much more a look at what happens after someone dies, how the people remaining restructure their lives and rewrite the narratives of their lives as they move on. Because a lot of this novel is about the spinning of and the wanting to believe in a particular story arc when you don't have all the facts.

While trying to unpick what really happened to the dead man in this book I was reminded of how easily us readers are tricked by writers into wanting to know what's happened!

We expend so much energy trying to get at 'the truth' [eg. whether or not Hamlet is really mad or just playing a part] ... that we ultimately fail to notice that it really doesn't matter ... none of it happened anyway! It was all just a fictional web that a clever writer spun out for us ... and goodness ... don't we fall for it [and enjoy doing so] every time?!

Further reading:Review of The Infatuations at The Guardian

Dry Bones ¦¦ Richard Beard
I read Dry Bones immediately after the deep and meaningful ponderings on death and storytelling of The Infatuations and, after reading the blurb on the back cover, I think  - even though this is a book about grave-robbing - I was expecting some light relief!

That wasn't such a silly hope, the cover describes it as 'a blend of mind and word games, slapstick and farce' and perhaps I overlooked the bit about 'raw philosophic reflection on the fundamentals'.

And yes, there's certainly slapstick. The protagonist Jay, an English deacon of a church in Geneva, and the wealthy grave robber he gets involved with, both believe that the bones of the dead transmit their personalities to whoever holds, and indeed digests, a part of the relics! Cue plenty of scenes where, possessed by Charlie Chaplin our leading man suddenly trips, slides and waddles everywhere and overtaken by Carl Jung he psychoanalyses himself.

But there's a lot of other things buried in there too [do you see what I did there?]: thoughts on religion, modern life, love, personality, family, commitment, the house training or lack there of Liz Taylor's dogs and what happened to Jesus after the crucifixion ... amongst other things; and sometimes it all got a bit distracting for me.

I certainly enjoyed the book and could definitely picture a good character actor bringing life to all the many personalities Jay feels he's being influenced by ... maybe I'd enjoy a TV adaptation even more.

Further reading:More information on Richard Beard's own site. And this Random House review also features a free look inside the novel so you can read see if the prose grabs you. 

Listen out for...
  • A Good Read - the series where presenter Harriet Gilbert plus two well known guests each select a book for the others to read, returned for a new run on BBC Radio4 yesterday - Tuesday 3rd February. If you missed it it's now available on BBC iPlayer [along with 147 other episodes according to the site!] although I'm not 100% certain that's available worldwide? Anyone know?
  • Basically on A Good Read they read the books they've all chosen ... then chat about them. That's all there is to it. But through their discussions you can pick up ideas on books or novelists you might like and if you too are a Lit Crit fan ... then you'll just simply enjoy people talking about stories, characters, structure and style etc.
  • And if it's European literature you're into ... then Reading Europe again, on BBC Radio4 looks worth a listen, the website states: "Over the next 18 months Radio 4 takes you on a journey across Europe exploring the best in contemporary literature". And they're starting with France and an adaptation of the novel Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye in the Drama slot on this Sunday, 8th February.
Enough to be getting on with for now?

That's all for the first issue of Portable Magic, maybe there's something there that you'll enjoy disappearing into sometime. Do shout up if there is.

As this is a new feature I really would enjoy your feedback! Comments, thoughts, recommendations or questions are welcome here on my post, or on my Facebook page, or however you fancy getting in touch.


Oh and yes, in case you're not as much of a Sherlock fan as I,  I did mean 'clueing for looks'. ;-)