Monday 30 November 2015

My Month in Numbers 2015: November

Hello. Tell me, how did November treat you?

I think here in the UK we're at the point where we can no longer kid ourselves that it's still 'mild for this time of year'. If you look down the street you might just be able to see the back of 'Mild's head as it sprints off into the distance ...
Because it's now officially 'Cold':
James and I huddling together for both a selfie and warmth along the promenade at Saltburn this month.
So let's dive in [not in to that flat, grey, and icy North Sea behind us ... that wouldn't be advisable!] but into how the last, increasingly chilly, 4 weeks totted-up. Here's my month ... in numbers ...

[As always ... you're welcome to join me, check out the full details here].

I had 3-4 inches lopped off my hair: 
It's pretty similar to how I had it in the summer which grew out but, perhaps counter-intuitively, it's is the ideal length for me to have at this time of year. One of the most annoying aspects of having long hair in winter is the way it constantly gets trapped inside coat collars and scarves and chopping it all off solves that problem in one sitting!

That said, I do like to keep it feeling long-ish or - as I told my stylist  - "I want it shorter, but I still want it to feel like I have hair". She called me a chicken. And from out of that debate ... came this:
You can tell I was happy with it. I took a selfie!

While this particular selfie wasn't taken with my phone ... it easily could've been because ...

I've now had a smartphone [and have therefore officially graduated to the 21st century] for 26 days! 
I've been saying for years, that I needed one and had been actively trying to choose one for months ... to no avail. In the end, like so much in life, fate stepped in and had my provider phone me on spec to see if they could offer me a better deal on my ancient, dying, phone. I ended up mentioning I was looking for a smart phone, he offered me one, I asked lots of newbie questions ... then said 'Yeah, I'll go for it'.

And so I'm now a signed-up-connected-on-the-go member of the 21st century ... which naturally means ... I'm now on Instagram

I've posted 13 photos to my 'withjuliekirk' Instagram account:
While of course, of course, you're more than welcome to follow me ... anyone who loves Instagram for it's perfectly styled interiors, or exotic locations, or fabulous outfits will come away utterly underwhelmed! 

So far I've shared photos of the Radio Times, a broken bottle of holy water, the area where students go to sleep in the library at work ... and a chorizo. 

Don't say you weren't warned!
Actually this next photo is something I would've Instagrammed if I hadn't been too busy shopping ...

Somebody was missing her 7 Dwarfs ...
So, there we are, me and 2 friends, browsing the always delightfully whimsical Gray Finch in Ripon [North Yorkshire, UK] when we looked down and spotted this:
Crikey Snow ... talk about making it hard for a guy. How's your Prince charming meant to wake you with a kiss when you've nodded off inside a shop display case?

If you're ever in the area do make sure to drop in, there's always something to grab the eye in there.

I bought this repro-vintage doll's head [left]making her 'Head No.5' of my head collection: 
Turns out that it's only after you say 'She'll go with my head collection' out loud, in a shop, that you realise you might need to explain to your friends just what you mean. Which reminds me ...

Janet ... that's my head collection!

And, before we leave Ripon ... despite this having nothing to do with numbers ... this notice, on a shop door, wins my prize for 'comforting sign of the month':

I managed to scatter 3 items of clothing to the four winds this month.
First there was a 2 day period where I literally could not hold on to my hat; first I left one behind in my Dad's car and, when he phoned to let me know me I confidently said he didn't need to bring it round for me as "I've got another one".

The very next day I left that 'other' one in the library at work and had to sprint back for it when I couldn't find it.

And then there was the time I dropped something smaller, something less seldom seen in public than any of my hats ... here's how I shared it on Facebook:

16 November 2015.
Earlier today, in a changing room: I take my jeans off, look down at the floor and see a pair of pants laying there. Think: 'Oh my goodness I've whipped my knickers off along with my jeans!'. Clutch bottom to check - am still wearing pants. I look at the pants ... they're mine ... the ones I wore yesterday. Which is when I realise they've evidently been inside my jeans all morning ... *picks up pants and stuffs them inside bag, is relieved no one saw any of that.* Thank god communal changing rooms are a thing of the past.

And in another November tale told on social media ... I tweeted the following [which does at least have one number in it!]

24.November 2015:
Picked up tape measure, unrolled it, + suddenly each hand had a tape measure in it! Thought I'd done a magic trick #‎idpickedup2tapemeasures‬

I read 4.5 books.[You can find links to them all here on my Pinterest board]

  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
  • The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Mosse 
  • Unreliable Memoirs by Clive James
  • How Much Land Does a Man Need by Leo Tolstoy
  • and, so far, half of  Eternity's Sunrise: A Way of Keeping a Diary by Marion Milner.
By the way ... I read read the Tolstoy as part of the Lucky Dip Book Club which I told you about back in October.  And - if you were interested - yes, it is still going ... and yes, they do still want people to join in remotely ... it;s just ... things are taking a little longer than they planned to get a blog or Facebook page set up. [It's tricky for us bloggers who  please ourselves and answer to no one to remember how other official organisations have processes and protocols to follow]. I'll share some of the work I've made - in creative response to the books so far - at some point, as well as a list of the books we've been randomly picking out of the hat ... but I'm afraid I can't do the official bit!

While we're talking about random surprises ...

November brought me 2 happy mail parcels: 
Sandie was very kind to share with me a selection of her papery treasure including these French ledger pages:
And Kimberley  totally spoiled me by sending me one of the Golden Girls greeting cards she'd bought .... just because I'd said I loved them when I saw them on her blog
I was a lucky girl in November. 'Thank you for being a friend' ladies!!

And, finally, while we're talking about friends ...

I went on my 13th 'crafting-in-the-country get-away with 8 friends. 
This was the view outside:
The view inside was mainly of paper and food and people struggling with the heat in the converted barn as its 12" thick walls do tend to hold in the heat!  Other weekend statistics include:

  • the 6 cars that were driven there, including 1 that - due to a mechanical problem - had to be hired at the last minute or else our crafting gear and, worse still, our food, would've had to stay behind at home! [We could have squeezed 5 people in one car ... but not with all our 'stuff'! along for the ride]
  • The 5 areas of the UK we all set off from to converge in the dales! 
  • The 3 of us who stopped off in Ripon on the way [where 1 of us bought a head ...]. 
  • The 5 bedrooms we shared.
  • And the zero phone reception or internet signal I could receive while I was there. My poor new phone was all dressed up with nowhere to go! 


Well, that was my November. How about yours? 

Feel free to share:
  • as much as a blog post 
  • OR as little as a tweet @notesonpaper
  • a photo on Instagram @withjuliekirk 
  • or a comment below if there's anything statistically story-like you want to share.
Same goes for December ... you're welcome to use any of those methods to get your numbery tales out there! [Use the hashtag #MonthinNumbers and let me know!]

So, like the last few hours of November, I'm going to quietly step to the side and allow December to twirl its way into our lives wrapped in twinkling lights, handing us a hot cuppa and a car window scraper as it enters whispering "Here, you're going to need this" and leaving a paper trail of lists in its wake. 

In the blur and flurry of the season make sure to grab some of its magic as it passes you by. 

Julie x

Monday 9 November 2015

Portable Magic: Charles Dickens: the blogger.

Many of us will know the fiction of Charles Dickens. Whether through reading a novel or two, watching a TV adaptation, or simply singing along to "Food Glorious Food" whenever you hear the word 'pease pudding', a Dickensian character or story line will have touched your imagination at some point in your life.

But what about his journalism, his non-fiction, his [OK so I'm stretching it a little bit] blog posts? How many of us have read any of that?

Image of book taken from Book Depository

I've always been aware that Dickens founded his own magazines ['Household Words' and 'All the Year Round'] where he first published some of his well known novels in serial form. But, until recently, I hadn't  read any of the non-fiction he wrote for those same publications.

And goodness me have I been missing out. 

I picked up a copy of 'Night Walks' his collected writings by Penguin Books in the library and it was its slimness that first appealed [when you don't have an office at work, and you carry your life around with you in your bag, 500 page shoulder-straining tomes lose their appeal.].

But its appealing features multiplied with every line I read; and I believe the time is right for our blogging generation to rediscover these gems.
  • In this collection of articles he wanders around observing ...  then comes home, writes about it, and publishes it in his magazine. 
  • And what are we doing in this blogging culture [hello!] if not that?
  • We're all trying our hand at writing and sharing first-person narratives of our experiences and this particular kind of writing by Dickens is exactly that. 
  • Dickens was a blogger!
  • And as he wrote many of these observation pieces under the heading 'The Uncommercial Traveller' ... that is without doubt what he should have named his blog! [He definitely would have bought up the dot com domain for that one!]
**Before we move on ... if you're anything like me you read book reviews like this and think "Well, that's all very interesting but, I'm still probably not going to go and buy the book she's talking about." ... hang on there ... because you don't have to ...

I've been seeking out a way can all enjoy Dickens's non-fiction without having to leave the comfort of our WiFi! And I found one! 

Let me introduce you to the amazing resource of The Dickens Journal Online

  • Here you can dip into scanned copies of the original journals [alongside easily readable text versions and even audio]. 
  • You can search to find just those articles written by Dickens, or search by category etc, 
  • And you can generally lose yourself in Victorian Britain while you're there.
I've had a look through to find the articles which are featured in the Penguin Night Walks collection that I read.

And while I couldn't find them all I did find the first essay in the book - the title article 'Night Walks' here - it starts half way down under the heading 'The Uncommercial Traveller'.
  • It tracks a walk an insomniac Dickens took through London and features wonderfullly evocative descriptions of the people he meets. His stopping off for coffee and toast came as a complete eye-opener to me ... I had no idea there were Starbucks equivalents over 150 years ago!  
Other articles from the book which I've managed to find in the online journals include: Wapping WokhouseBetting -Shops and Trading in Death.

Regarding Trading in Death - if you thought merchandising, selling memorabilia [hello Ebay], or raising prices during special events [like when the Olympics is in town] was a relatively new phenomena ... then you'll enjoy Dicken's disapproval of what canny entrepreneurs were getting up to around the funeral of the Duke of Wellington! eg:
  • "TO be SOLD, SIX AUTOGRAPH LETTERS from F.M. the Duke of WELLINGTON, with envelopes and seals, which have been most generously given to aid a lady in distressed circumstances",
  • "THE DUKE'S FUNERAL.—To be LET, a SHOP WINDOW, with seats erected for about 30, for 25 guineas. Also a Furnished First Floor, with two large windows. One of the best views in the whole range from Temple-bar to St. Paul's. Price 35 guineas. A few single seats one guinea each." [For more examples read the full article here.]
But my favourite essay from the collection was "Gone Astray" [find it here].

Here Dickens regales us with a tale of getting lost in London as a child [I believe there are doubts as to whether it's 100% true but really, who cares when it's as entertaining as this is?!]. And there's lots to enjoy here.
  • Him thinking that, that's it, he's lost for good: "and then I walked,with a feeling of dismal dignity upon me, into a court, and sat down on a step to consider how to get through life";
  •  the life he envisions for himself now he's on his own, at 8! "I would ask my way to the barracks, knock at the gate, and tell them that I understood they were in want of drummers, and there I was".
  • as well as the dog and the children he meets along the way [the Artful Dodger?]
...  but these are my favourite lines:
  • "When I came to Temple Bar it took me half an hour to stare at it, and I left it unfinished even then. 
Isn't that a glorious idea?

"it took me half an hour to stare at it,and I left it unfinished even then."

That there are things that you never finish looking at, that you never tire of admiring, that you just can't take-in in one go?

I know just what he means - although not with Temple Bar - how about you? 
And finally ... another favourite line from Gone Astray and a comfort to all of us who've ever felt a little out of step with the crowd ... it didn't seem to do Dickens any harm ...

"People said I was an odd child. Perhaps I was. 
I'm an odd man perhaps."

For more book-related posts visit/follow the Portable Magic Pinterest board [or click to search for the 'Portable Magic' keywords here in my bog.]

  • If you do dip into Dickens's 'blog posts' via the Dickens Journal Online do drop by to let me know you enjoyed them! Especially if you find ones I haven't read [send me the journal /page numbers].
  • And if you feel like sharing whatever it was that has made you stop, stare, and still not feel like you'd finished looking at it ... I think that would make a fascinating list to read through. 
I'll 'see' you in the comments ... 


Tuesday 3 November 2015

Dressing myself ... in autumnal vintage [and bargains]

If family folklore is to be believed I've been dressing myself since I was tiny; from around 18 months, or so the story goes. And I reckon that, even before then, I was laying there planning outfits in my head, just waiting for the day my thumbs could tackle buttons and zips unaided and my nappy wouldn't spoil the line of my trousers ...

I'm telling you this to explain why I have the urge to share some outfits here occasionally. I've done it several times in the past but not for a long long time and I miss it.

So I'm planning from time to time to share some of the vintage/second-hand items I pick up on my travels [it's not just old paper I sniff out in charity shops] with the emphasis on how it's easy to introduce 'vintage' pieces into a regular wardrobe; proving that you don't have to look like you joined a historical re-enactment society to enjoy wearing retro clothes!
[I've just realised I should never have used the words 'sniff' and 'charity shops' in the same sentence. I can only apologise.]

And so ... here's an outfit I wore to have breakfast in town [in the Olde Young Teahouse] on the last Saturday in October.

[Note: If I look a bit awkward ... it's because I felt it! The photos were taken on our driveway and I was paranoid that the neighbours would see.] But anyway, the outfit...

The vintage piece:
  • I picked up this autumnal coloured knitted tunic from the Oxfam stall at The Festival of Thrift, Darlington, this September.
  • There's no tag in it so I can't gauge the age accurately, but it feels like something from the 80s to me. [Certainly the static it creates is reminiscent of the clothes I wore growing up whose sparks could light up a dark room.]
  • When I first spotted it, I didn't know exactly what I'd match it with once I got it home ... but at just £2.00 it was worth taking a chance and leaving it open to experimentation!

The outfit I built around it: 
  • I like the slightly preppy look of having shirt collars poking out from under a jumper/cardigan so I started off with a white shirt.
  • I also like a bold/shiny focal point when I'm wearing a collar so I picked out a necklace I thought went well with the geometric shapes in the knitted design.
  • Everything else fell into place after that ...
  •  My latest favourite Gap skinny jeans [I only ever buy Gap jeans]: approx £20.00 from their outlet store. [I can't remember the exact price, but it won't have been a lot.  I only ever buy them from outlet stores.] 
  • Faux leather/pleather/plastic-yet-pretty-convincing jacket: £19.99 from TKMaxx.
  • Leibeskind leather boots £20.00 TKMaxx clearance shelf. [For the record, everything was paid for by me. No blogger promo freebies here!].
And that's it: a nice mix of comfy, warm and practical ... with the vintage element adding a little bit more of a story and the clearance/outlet prices taking less from my bank account!

"Does it look weird?" I asked James after I'd finished putting this outfit together.
"You've always dressed weird." He replied, comfortingly??


Before I go ... I always like to try to make my posts useful to you ... even if it's only to make you laugh [because that's useful!]. But right now I'm not sure I've worked out if this post is or not/

If you've been laughing at my awkwardness or the bulging beneath my tunic - [why didn't I tuck my shirt in? And why didn't my photographer point it out? Although, on second thoughts ... he knows better to tell me I'm looking lumpy...] then I'll take that!

If you found any other redeeming features in the post ... let me know in the comments. I'm probably going to do more posts like this ... so we both might as well get used to it.

Julie x

Sunday 1 November 2015

My Month in Numbers 2015: October

Hello hello.

How have we done this? How have we allowed October to sneak past us in the corridor to make an unhindered exit into the chilly air? And without its coat too.

Another month has wended its way by us and, from my window I see nothing but autumn: yellowing leaves, the hills receding into a grey mist and, delightfully, a small murmuration of starlings.
To save your eyes - no, there's no murmuration in this photo, it was taken at a different time! 
 And so ... it's time for another round up of my month ... in numbers.

If you're joining in, just leave a comment and your link and I'll be round to visit your October. 

Just make sure you've got the heating on and plenty of liquids [and, OK, go on then yes, I will have a heavily buttered scone, thank you] because I've not been well you know?

For a while my voice went down 1 octave ... and then it just went. 
Or at least "You've gone down an octave" is how James described it when I woke up with what I'm now grandly calling laryngitis.  

At the time, if you could hear me croaking anything at all, it would be a pathetic whimper about having "a really really sore throat, a cough that's stopping me sleeping and skin which feels like it could vomit from every pore". [Isn't that one of the worst symptoms of colds/viruses? That sandpapered nauseous skin feeling?].

Happily, 10 days and lots of painkillers and water later, I began to feel, and sound, just about my normal self-again; but not before being able to empathise with teenage boys who have no idea what sound will project forth from their voice box at any given time!

Vaguely related side note: While I was ill I watched the rather lovely film 'Beginners' for the 2nd time. 
If you haven't seen it once yet, remedy that soon. It's great and also 'quiet' as James described it [ie: there are no explosions in it.]

Apart from its lead female character also having laryngitis [a coincidence and not the reason I re-watched it!] it also confusingly features Ewan McGregor in a series of rather fetching striped tops

I say 'confusingly' because, he doesn't normally do it for me [don't ask me what 'it' is] but in this film, he does. So maybe it really was down the stripey tops?

Or the stubble? Or the little dog? Or the fact he's an artist? And he's bereaved?

Or all of the above. 

FYI: in the film, as well as a series of rather fetching striped tops he also wears a Sigmund Freud fancy dress costume but, honestly, I'm sure it wasn't that that was doing it for me. It wasn't! Stop trying to psychoanalyse me ... 

While we're on the subject of psychological drama ... and 'actors who do it for Julie' ...

I also watched the CumberHamlet for a 2nd time too.
I went to the NT Live broadcast to my local cinema like I know a few of you were planning to do too after I banged on about it here, there, on my 'With Julie Kirk' Facebook page and everywhere. 

I hardly dare ask? Did you enjoy it?

I'm not too worried though because at least two of the people I swayed into going loved it. One was sitting next to me - so I know how she felt ["It was so dramatic. Brilliant! I understood it!!"] while the other .... well ... I'll let Ify speak for himself as he wrote about his Hamlet experience in his blog post 'Modern Theatre: An Unexpected Rediscovery'. [If you do visit and comment, tell him I sent you!].

And if anything you read changes your mind and you decide you want to catch it you can still check out the NT live Hamlet listings as there are 'encore' performances still to come.

Then, the night after enjoying a new version of a 413 year old play for the 2nd time ...

I photographed neon quotations from 11th Century Manuscripts:
The installation was part of the Don't Be Afraid of the Dark event hosted in Centre Square Middlesbrough. And I shared lots more photos of the event in this post last week.

We went on a twilight tour of the 116 year old venue The Empire:
Opened on 13th of March 1899 as a Music Hall theatre it's now a nightclub and yet, as the guide who showed us around stressed, the fact that it's been in use as an entertainment venue in some form or other, for its entire history, means that it hasn't been demolished or gutted and we can still enjoy it's Victorian splendour today:
And ... frankly ... I'd far rather enjoy it, like we did, on a guided tour at 9pm on a Friday night ... than from 11pm on a Friday night ... when they let the clubbers in!!

My 300 in 30 Days blog-commenting challenge came to an end:
I blogged about that here last week complete with lots of true-to-Month-in-Numbers-style vital statistics! But, if you want the short version:
  • Yes, I did keep it up for 30 days
  • No I didn't reach 300 comments - I fell 30 short.
  • But I did comment on, record in a spreadsheet, save to Pinterest AND add to a Google doc the grand total of 137 individual blogs! 
In other blogging stats:

I wrote 7 blog posts [well, 8 if you count this one!]
2 of my favourites of which were:
I read 4 books:
And started 2 more: Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic and Johanna Moran's novel The Wives of Henry Oades

I received 2 deliveries of happy mail [and the promise of 2 more to come!]
The first happy mail package winged its way from the US from a blogger whose has a view of hills which make my own look like a speed-bump on the horizon. Amongst the other lovely treats packaged inside that fabulous floral envelope there was also the latest edition to my collection of stripey pals [which now also includes Ewan McGregor of course.]
The second parcel came unexpectedly from a friend who wanted to share in her latest papery treasure haul.  Likewise the third and fourth were offers from thoughtful people who had blogged some lovely papery things, which I commented on [Of course I did. I was in a commenting frenzy!] and then without any prompting [or begging] from me they both got in touch offering to share their treasure with me. How nice is that?

The best thing about that scenario [beyond the promise of papery delight heading my way] is that the mission statement of my #300in30days challenge was for me to: 'maintain and broaden my blogging network'. And one of those bloggers is someone I have an existing online connection with ... while the other is someone I just recently met on my blogging travels. Seems like my mission succeed!

And now from 2 things I collect [paper and zebras] to another ...

I bought 1 pair of boots ['Just the one?' you say. I know. So restrained.]  And they were cowboy boots at that [the Kings of the boot kingdom]: 
Poor James was only meeting me in town after work so I could help him choose some new glasses but ... when he phoned to say he'd arrived I told him I was in TKMaxx trying boots on.

[For future reference: 'trying boots on in TKMaxx' is an activity you can catch me doing the majority of the time. If you ever need to find me in a hurry, and I'm not at home, it's always worth checking there first.]

"You'll be walking past it anyway, just come in and meet me." I said. So he did.

And, while I bought these by MTNG [oh my goodness... that metal bit on the heels swung it for me]:
... James - who only came in the shop to find me - ended up buying himself 2 pairs of boots. Which came as something of a shock to him:

"Come in and meet me she said! I'm just in here she said! And now look!" he said pointing to the 2 pairs of boots he was now carrying.

Who knew boot-buying could be contagious? Not James.

And finally ...

I bought 1 pair of cosy insoles and 2 hankies ...
... because, [after the Stark family], nothing quite says 'winter is coming' quite like the sudden urge for warm feet and a dry nose!


Thanks for sharing in my October with me:
  • Whether you sent me a parcel ... or posted a parcel for me while I was ill [thanks parents!]
  • Whether you shared one of my posts ... or simply read a post [knowing people read and enjoy is so rewarding].
  • Whether you left a comment here ... or didn't leave a comment here. We've been through that haven't we? And we're cool.
  • Whether you chatted to me via Facebook, tweeted via Twitter, or kept me company in person
  • Whether you tolerated me waking you up in the night coughing ... or you simply tolerated me visiting your corner of Blogdom ... you're a gem. Thanks. 

Don't let November push you around OK? OK. 


p.s: It's November! Which means the Christmas24 channel starts today!! Deck. The. Halls.