Thursday, 30 June 2016

Craftidermy (or Craftydermy, depending on your preference)

I discovered a new word this week: Craftidermy. Or Craftydermy. Personally, I find the spelling with the 'i' more aesthetically pleasing but I'm happy being a bi-speller. It's a self explanatory term. Essentially, you swap blood guts and gore for craft materials and end up with an animal at the end of it. What I'm specifically interested in is the old trophy-head-on-the-wall look.

Do a search on the internet in general or Pinterest in particular and you can find mini ones, insect ones, Star Wars one, more Star Wars ones, peacock ones and even ones showcasing hippos with bowler hats and spectacles.The list goes on and on! There are some wonderfully creative, imaginative people out there, and judging by Etsy, Craftsy and other similar websites there's a budding audience for such things.

This array of faux taxidermy can be made with fabric, paper mache (see pictures at top of this post), felt, wool, wood, embellished skulls, buttons, sequins, plastic (see flamingo above) - whatever you have lying about. There are no rules here.

Does anything scream CLASS quite so well as a paper mache fox head
I think not!

In my dream Tiny House, there's at least one example of craftidermy, made by my fair hands. It's a project I'd like to have a go at this year but I'm not ready to commit to a specific design or animal just yet. So many choices. So many ideas to pin on Pinterest! A search for tutorials on Google and YouTube needs to be made. There's also a book by Vanessa Mooncie with patterns for crocheting your own animal head trophies that would be worth a look, with creatures ranging from mice to lions. I haven't done any paper mache since I was a child at school so that would be enjoyable to have a go at again. Or maybe I'd like to use my English Paper Piecing skills.

Fancy getting into the festive spirit? Why not make your own faux Rudolph head!

One thing I can guarantee is that the faux taxidermy head in my dream tiny house would be brightly coloured, possibly beaded, feathered or otherwise embellished too!

Think animal arses are criminally overlooked in the world of interior decorating? 
Craftidermy has the answer!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Yarnbombing, urban knitting, kniffiti - whatever, I love it!

Yarn bombing, yarnbombing, yarn storming, guerrilla knitting, kniffiti, urban knitting or graffiti knitting is a type of graffiti or street art that employs colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fibre rather than paint or chalk.

On my way to work Monday morning, I was delighted to find an explosion of yarn bombing along one of the streets I pass. Heading off into the distance, knitters had gone urban knitting crazy decorating trees, lamp-posts, bollards and a pig. A kaleidoscope of colour brightened a grey day.

This kind of thing pleases me. In the face of all the current doom and gloom around the results of the referendum, here is an example of people acting in playful unity. Some of these kniffiti (that word is so enjoyable to say) must have taken hours and hours to plan and make, and are full of detail.

I urged the people in my office to take a walk at lunchtime and have a good look.

Cardinal Wolsey looks a lot less dour with his red cape, hat and proffered cupcake embellishments.

Even Piggy Stardust was given a token scarf. Piggy S is part of Suffolk's Pigs Gone Wild and he is one of a number of large and small porcine sculptures who will be gracing the county over the next couple of months. I've already seen Elvis Porksley and Ed Sheer-Ham, and intend to visit Boarba Fett in the library in the next couple of days :)

These pigs will be auctioned off to raise funds for St Elizabeth Hospice in September. 

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Favourite Fictional Heroines (Part 1)

I'd originally planned to do just one post on my fictional heroines but no sooner did I think this post was done than I'd think of another heroine I just had to mention! So, I will spread this out over a couple of posts. 

My first five are:

(in particular Book 2, In the Hand of the Goddess, which is my favourite in the series)

I first encountered the character of Alanna around 27 years ago. I did start this paragraph by saying 'nearly three decades ago' but that length of time felt a wee bit too scary so I narrowed it down! I was not yet a teen and my favourite genres at that time were fantasy, science fiction, animal based tales like the Farthing Wood series etc. Money was tight at home so by and large any books that came my way came from the library and that was where I discovered In the Hand of the Goddess which I read, re-read and re-read again. Alannah was a normal looking character (barring the unusual eyes), stocky and capable at a time when a lot of books only showed the slim and in-need-of-rescue type female as being the one who got the guy. She had her doubts and her crises but always overcame them, staying true to her beliefs. 

(Book 1 in the Fairyland series. I have the other books but have not as yet read them)
Catherynne M Valente

I encountered September in my mid-30s. The book is ostensibly a children's book but there is so much here that the adult can understand in a way that I don't think a child can. That's not me being sniffy and dismissive of children. It's just that some of the passages make some pretty big statements about life which a child with reduce life experience would probably pass by whereas someone with a couple of decades under their belt will stop and ponder how much truth there can be in one grain of a sentence. Slight digression there...

September is whisked away to Fairyland and very swiftly learns that many things have a price. This book is made up of shades of grey rather than black and white. Valente puts September in situations where she has to make difficult decisions, revealing what a strong girl September is and the resourceful young woman she will hopefully grow in to by the end of the series.

(there are two more books in this series but this one remains my favourite)
(this amazing author died in 2015. She was a pivotal author of my teens and it still saddens me to know the world has lost an imaginative talent like her)

I think I read this book first in my mid-teens, and it's one I have re-read several times over. Here we have another practical heroine able to look after herself. She has a gift when it comes to mechanical items and thinks quickly on her feet. There's no artifice or flounce or drama to her. Tanaquil is so practical and so honest with herself. She just gets on with things and understands the difference between right and wrong in her world.

If I ever do a list of favourite companion animals then the Peeve will be on it, her furry side-kick who has absorbed so much magic in her mother's castle that he is able to speak, much to the disapprobation of some. 

(another author who is no longer with us, and who I miss)

Book 4 of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the book where Arthur Dent finally gets...I want to say 'some action' but feel I ought to write 'a love interest'.

From her unconscious introduction into the series (where her brother Russell mentions she thinks she's a hedgehog) to Arthur's discovery about what makes her so very different from any other woman walking the Earth, Fenchurch is not your standard heroine. She is intelligent, entertaining, amusing, witty, honest - I have a feeling I might be mentioning honesty a lot with my heroines and I think what I mean mainly by that description is she is true to herself. I don't have much time for characters who agonise over their decisions and themselves and prefer my heroines to be women of action rather than those characters given to over-complicated thought processes. Fenchurch takes the weirdness of Arthur Dent and combines it with her own and the two make a great pair in my book.

She's one of the main reasons why I don't really like the fifth book in the series and don't like returning to it.


This one is more a dishonourable mention than a heroine as there isn't really much to admire about this character. I picked up a copy of this book in a charity shop in my 20s as it was slim and could fit easily in my bag for an upcoming train journey. I was appalled and entranced by the character of Gabriella from that first reading. She's vain, shallow, self-obsessed, unfaithful and superior - but set against the colourless and ordered existence of the narrator of this story she has a vitality, frivolous as it may be, that the rest of his world lacks. I have read this book at least three times now, and it's Gabriella I keep returning for. She is so unapologetic about who she is and the life she has lived.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Tiny Houses

From Pinterest
Ever heard of Tumbleweed Houses? Or Tiny House Magazine? If you have then you know about the Tiny House movement.

Basically, it's about people downsizing the space in which they live in. And when I say downsizing I mean downsizing. The statistics I've found are mainly American because that's where (I think) the movement really got going but the drop in size of housing for the tiny house ladies and gents is from the 2,500 square feet range down to the 400 square feet range and smaller. People are making the choice to live in such significantly reduced living quarters for diverse reasons - finance, environmentalism, simplicity, minimalism, greater freedom to move around when the mood takes them - the list goes on.

From Zillow

To some people, I imagine this is a horrible idea that they couldn't countenance. I love it. I don't think I will ever have a tiny house but it doesn't stop me from having a board on Pinterest to sigh over tiny house ideas and for daydreaming about having one. The majority of people I have read about who have the tiny house lifestyle do not have children at home. They are either consciously child-free or their sons and daughters have grown up and have lives of their own. I'm not saying that it would be impossible for a family to have the tiny house lifestyle but I think personal space can be pretty important for children and I don't know how much of that a tine house would afford them.

From Pinterest

Why do I find tiny houses so appealing?

Think of the reduction in housework! You could do it ALL - hoovering, dusting, bathroom cleaning, the lot - in a couple of hours! You try to tell me that wouldn't be a plus and I won't believe you. Unless you are the person in your household who doesn't do the housework. And then I will stick my tongue out at you.

Lily Duvall's tiny house interior, courtesy of Tiny House Living

The incentive to cease the tide of accumulation is a big one. The physical realities of the space available would mean that I might actually have the strength NOT to go in to charity shops and get more books and CDs and DVDs and clothes etc. I'm not a massive hoarder as it is but I still buy things on occasion that I don't really need. I own at least 100 DVDs, many of which I haven't watched in the last 3 years at least.

Lily Duvall's tiny house again

A tiny house would tie in with my desire to own less and for the possessions I own to mean more. With a tiny house, I might have space for maybe 10-20 DVDs and so I would be able to be ruthless and whittle things down. Same with CDs and books, and that doesn't even take in to account the face that I could go digital with a lot of physical possessions I own currently.

From Tiny House for Us - and yes that IS a hot tub!
I will never be able to  afford to own a 'standard' house. The cost of housing in the UK is prohibitive for the first-time buyer who has no backing from helpful parents/ relations/ friends. A tiny house? Now that I might be able to manage on my income.

A tiny house means tinier bills. Tinier needs. Less items that would need to be fixed/ replaced/ repaired. Tinier bills means the amount I need to earn would be less, meaning that I might be able to 'buy back' more of my life by dropping down to working 3 days a week, maybe even 2, oh heady luxury!

The Yellow Tiny House by the Bay, Tiny House Town

The movement is not as popular in the UK as in the US, I think because there are vast tracts of America where the weather is nicer around the year than in the UK. There is a Tiny House UK website if you're interested in learning a bit more.

My husband has zero interest in tiny houses. He hasn't gone quite so far as to use the description 'my idea of hell' but that's mainly because I've avoided having a proper conversation with him which would give him the excuse to say that! Everyone has to have a daydream venue they retreat to in their heads when real-life is being a pain in the behind and a distraction is required. My fictional tiny house is one of mine. 

This one is even modelled on a frikkin dragon!

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Random thoughts on List-making

Why do people become list-makers? I'm not talking here about your dilettante 'what do I need to buy in Tesco's' list-maker. I'm referring to your advanced list-maker with a minimum a 5 lists on the go at any one time, each located in a different area or on a different piece of paper, written in different coloured ink, relating to different areas of life and requirement.

I imagine having an adult list-maker in your family is a starting point. I can clearly remember my single-parent mum starting each day that she wasn't returning home from the night-shift sat up in bed with a cup of tea, a piece of paper and a pen, scribbling down all the things she needed to remember to do that day. Looking back, it was probably the calmest point of her day when she felt most in control. She used that quiet oasis to focus her thoughts before the rigors of a day replete with three daughters, shift work, cooking, cleaning, organising and keeping the household together kicked in.

A desire for control in an otherwise often chaotic and/or busy life - that's another motivation for the fledgling list-maker. You may feel like you have no power over your life but a list means you are able to focus yourself on your immediate environment and feel that at least you are able to influence the little things like how tidy your house is/ whether you have food in the cupboards.

A love of stationery, of notepads and pens and post-it notes, would be another step in the path to becoming a List-Maker. You have to put something in those lovely notebooks and you want the excuse to use your favourite pens. Once people realise you love stationery, post-it notes become a regular gift for birthdays and Christmas so you need to use those bad boys up too!

Mmm. Paperchase.

The need for a sense of achievement - I think that's a big one. How many of you have added an item to a list just so you can cross it off because you don't want to be cheated of that sense of Getting Something Done.There's a feeling of progression - that feeling might be false if you give it a really close look but it's still there. I don't recall making lists while I was at school and I think that was partly because the regimentation of the education system negated the need for me to come up with a separate list and also because I had that sense of progression with academia. While I was at school I did not have the responsibility of a house and bills so there were less calls on my time, less need for me to have a clear idea of all those things that needed doing.

A desire not to forget things. I know that I have a limited space of time between an idea popping in to my head and it evaporating to either act on it or note it down. My brain has done its part. It has pointed out the existence of a task. What I do with it is up to me and my brain will not be held accountable if I let it slip by unmarked. It's like having an alarm set on your phone which you then dismiss, do nothing with, and get angry with your phone when you're late even though it did everything it could. I will often think of things months in advance, and writing them down becomes a necessity because there's no way I can get it done when the thought first arises.

List-makers don't make just one big list either. They can have dozens of lists on the go at any one time. Lists for what they need to get from the shops, what they need to do in terms of study or work, books they want to read, films they want to see, people they haven't seen in a while that they need to get in contact with, and so on and so forth. Those parents I know with the keenest organisational edge have the kind of calendars with columns for every member of the household, including the pets, and have to juggle a vast array of events, activities and tasks both in and out of the house.

My own dream when it comes to list-making is that I could go round the house from top to bottom and make a list of EVERYTHING I need to do. Not just housework-wise but life-wise. Incorporate the wheel of life template into this epic List and at the end of a day or a week have the defining set of to-dos after which, when I cross each and every one off, there will be no more to-dos left for me to do ever. The Impossible List. Unachievable but tantalising.

Example Wheel Of Life, taken from Act Now website

I sometimes wish I could give up list-making and for a while I fly crazy and free without lists and it feels so good. Until I realise I have forgotten something major and then back to my lists I go, contrite, eager to justify purchasing that new notepad that is only £2.50 now in the sale . . .

Other interweb pages of interest if you enjoyed or identified with this post.

  • BBC Article on the art of list-making
  • The Telegraph on addictions to to-do lists.
  • Are you an obsessive list-maker? How many of these are you guilty of?

Friday, 17 June 2016

Random thoughts about romance

Taken from Longmire Does Romance

I don't know what the male experience is around romance books. All I know is that as a female reader it was something I was steered towards. In my local library as soon as I got my adult card I was shepherded to the young adult section and there could be found emissaries of the Point Romance collection. These would help you take your first, tentative steps into the world of romance with boys who were handsome but perhaps built like action man in the underpant department because of the lack of action in the storyline beyond a few kisses. Forever by Judy Blume was a rite of passage at my secondary school but I don't think it comfortably sits in the area of romance as it portrayed sex in a real way - no shuddering rainbows and exploding wonder just a penis named Ralph and initial uncomfortable coitus. I can't recall a romance book I've read where any alpha male named his genitals. When I went on holiday in the UK as a teen, the kind of books available in small holiday shops that smelled of sand and old seawater there seemed to be only two types of book on sale - Manly War/ Western and Womanly Womance. In those primitive pre-kindle days when I was desperate to read anything I did buy a few womances. And worse, much, much worse - I even liked some of them!

Why worse? Well, romance is pretty much the most denigrated genre out there. Men are disparaging of it; some women are scathing about it. There's this idea of the archetypal romance reader as being a pathetic, lovelorn, low intelligence character completely out of touch with reality and pitiable as a result. 

Daisy. sister of Hyacinth in the TV show Keeping Up Appearances, usually pictured with a Mills & Boon in one hand while her slob of a husband Onslow mooched about somewhere in the background.

I wonder if this plays in to some patriarchal concept of old which dictated that women were of such flimsy intellects that they would absorb the content of what they were reading as fact rather than fiction. I worked in a library from my mid-teens to my early twenties and the majority of women who borrowed romance were late thirties to fifties, had at least one child and were no doubt fully aware of the fictional nature of what they were reading. One woman had problems with sleeping and said that romance was the only thing she could read in those interminable hours when she could't close her eyes. A lecturer at university referred to books like Mills & Boon as bubblegum for the brain.

I've heard of people drawing parallels between romance and junk food but I think junk food is too harsh a term. Let's compare it to chocolate instead. You would be unlikely to want to have your entire diet made up of chocolate but it's a treat and comforting and exactly what you need when enjoyed in moderation. I think romance fulfills that function for many. 

A fact about romance that I think a lot of its detractors don't take on board is how funny it can be. Laugh out loud funny in parts. Perhaps the author wasn't intending that but sometimes that's what happens. When a hero comes from uber-romance land and has every masculine cliche going wrapped up in his bulging (sometimes scantily clad) package, the occasional giggle is bound to come up. Amongst other things.

Longmire again

There's a blog called Smart Bitches, Trashy Books - the tagline is 'all of the romance, none of the bullshit'. They review all manner of books that come under the incredibly broad umbrella of romance - paranormal, historical, modern, urban fantasy, BDSM and so on, Films and audiobooks are also reviewed. They've even done a recent one about the Outlander series inspired Cookbook

Smart Bitches, Fantastic Eyewear
The reviews tend to start with any relevant trigger warnings like violence or sexual assault or anything else which members of their audience might want to steer clear of. The website makes no apologies for the 'guilty' pleasure of romance books

I haven't read mainstream romance in ages but I do like me a good paranormal or urban fantasy book from time to time. The female leads don't tend to be doormats and the males tend to be werewolves, vampires, super-powered humans who take the alpha male thing to new extremes.

You earned it - another Longmire :)

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Random makes - fabric hanging planters

I don't have a huge garden. The piece out the front is a solid square but the back garden is a strip with a lump at the end, that lump made all the more inaccessible for gardening as it houses the bantam coop and run. Anyone who has experience of chickens will know that they reduce any area they have access to to dirt within weeks. Their area is currently showing some greenery but that's mainly because two of them have been broody for a couple of weeks now and the weeds are making hay while the chubby chooks stay rooted to the spot. When the girls have snapped out of their broodiness the ground will once again be viciously denuded.

It would be nice to have something attractive in that area too so I've had a go at making fabric planters that can carry plant pots and be hung from the mesh of the run. I originally planned for sweetpeas and nasturtiums for the trial run as they like tumbling but as a bit of research revealed that sweetpeas can be toxic to chickens I've stuck with nasturtiums. I'd like to prioritise those blooms that bees love so if it works this year then next year I will target those plants that are the choice of the distinguished pollinator.

This is what I've come up with for Trial 1 of the hanging planters.

I've used the same basic premise of creating the shape of the planters as I did when I drafted a pattern for home-made bin liners. One difference I made was to allow an extra half inch at the bottom. When I water these plants I'm aware that water is going to go straight through the fabric under the pot so my (perhaps cunning) plan has been to make round discs stuffed with cotton wool to help soak up some of the moisture and have it there for the roots to suck up. 

Fabric used was taken from a shirt I picked up in a charity shop for £1 a while ago because I liked the colour. The lace/ ribbon/ whatever it is I sewed to the fabric has been in my stash so long I don't even recall where it came from. I've only made two fabric planters as this is very much a trial. If it's a success I can make better looking ones next year. If I find out it's an idea that just won't work, at least I'll have given it a try.

While I was researching the idea of making fabric planters, these were some of the items that caught my eye on the interwebs:

Oh So Pretty made an inside hanging planter using recycled materials that looks pretty swish, and would be a good way to dress up a corner of the room. Dollar Store Crafts have this colourful idea for making a planter that would probably work better inside unless you were in a climate where it didn't rain too much.

Like the idea of a fabric planter for inside but want it to look far more chic than mine? Harri Wren has a how to here.

Interested in DIY planters but not interest in using fabric? Brit + Co have a fantastic post on DIY planters using all manner of items from old floppy discs, hollowed books, odd wellie boots, handbags to candelabra. 

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Ramblings on Writing

There's a group on Goodreads called The Guild of Writers Who Never Really Publish or Even Finish Most Anything They Work on, But That's OK Since They Just Love Writing

That's pretty much where I am at the moment with my writing. I've come full circle.

As a child I loved writing for the sake of writing. I loved exploring ideas and seeing where my inspiration would take me. My dream was to one day be a Writer and be able to spend my days living in my over-active imagination.

As a teenager,  when I had my first careers guidance at school and was asked what I wanted to do I said 'Be a Writer.'

The answer to that?

"Yes, but what do you want to do for a job?"

And that was it in terms of career guidance on writing. Other adults I spoke to followed the same lead. 

"Well, writing is something you can do in your spare time. You need to do something else to make a living."

I sometimes wonder if things would have turned out differently if one of those adults had taken me seriously, sat me down and gone through the realities of it. Explained that the average writer does not make a living from their writing but that I could get to the point where some of my income came from that. I would need to be realistic and work at least part time in a more mainstream job and money would be tight but if I were happy to live within those restrictions then, yes, writing was something I could do.

Working part time on something else to support a dream is not something that the education system promotes as a post-school life-choice. Maybe things are different now but I don't recall there being any concept of work life balance. The assumption was that you would learn, get your qualification, leave school, get a full time job and work until you got to retirement age, with some possible time off somewhere in the middle if you were a woman and had a baby. That was the template.

I put writing to one side as was expected and got into full time work, finding that it was pretty soul-destroying. School for me had been about progression. Always something new to learn, always a reward for learning well, always that sense of moving and developing. Work was not like that at all and I was ill-prepared for the reality of eternal routine with no automatic advancement to the next level, few rewards for learning, minimal opportunities for progression.

In my mid twenties I realised that work was not going to satisfy me on any deep level so turned to writing in earnest. I started a writing group, began to submit pieces for competitions and magazines, and did my research on the writing industry. 

I enjoyed making contact with other writers and spending time writing. 

I found the competitions wearing after a little while and within a year had ground to a halt with this area, having won £25 and a pen and not much else. 

It was the research on the writing industry that really did for the dream though. The more I read about the publishing world, the less I wanted to be part of it. I had this naive idea of publishers as being the defenders of fiction, happy just to have good stories out there. Maybe decades ago they were like that, the fantasy and sci-fi publishers that produced the books I loved in my late teens anyway. Perhaps I'm fooling myself with that one. Anyway, the modern world of the earning writer sounded soulless and compromised to me. Love of writing, I had assumed, would take up at least 80% of the process but reading articles and attending 'how to get published' events made me realise that this figure was grossly incorrect.

I finally went part-time in my mid-thirties, dropping to a four day work week. I hoped to get more writing done, to 'focus my efforts' - i.e. get my head around what a writer needed to be in the modern world and change myself accordingly to fit that mold.

Except I don't want to fit that mold. It has taken years to accept that.

I want writing to be what it was when I was younger, that pure interaction of pleasure between my imagination and the page. I don't want to write with an imaginary audience of would-be agents, publishers, internet trolls and critics hovering over my shoulder. I want to set myself on the starting line, pick a random picture or quote or whatever and say GO! - not to start a race but to start a treasure hunt. See where my imagination takes me.

I sometimes wish that none of my family and friends knew I loved writing. I feel the people around me have the expectation that if I love writing then of course my main goal will be to get my work published some day and the truth of the matter is that I don't think it will be, not traditionally anyway.

I want writing to go back to being a fun place for me. Like the Goodreads group, I want to recapture that good old love of writing.

Friday, 10 June 2016

To Bucket List or not to Bucket List

bucket list
noun: bucket list; plural noun: bucket lists
a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.

Do a search on the interwebs for 'bucket list' and you get a lot of responses. Articles like ‘100+ creative bucket list ideas you should add yo your list’; ‘Bucket list – 10,000 things to do before you die!’ – and so on and so forth. There are sites where you can sign up, create your list and track your progress.

After I was diagnosed with the faulty BRCA1 gene, it felt like a very large finger had reached down from the heavens and said ‘it’s you’, like in the old Lottery adverts. Except in my case the finger wasn’t denoting a large financial sum but the fact I was almost certainly going to get cancer, and a test had pinpointed the likeliest areas of my body where it was going to crop up.

The Finger. Of destiny.

I found myself thinking about putting together a bucket list. Was it something I needed? Were there things I wanted to do? The genetics team from Addenbrookes were calm and supportive and stressed no immediate decisions on surgery were required but my breast consultant told me I was stupid for not having surgery RIGHT NOW as I could develop breast cancer at any time and once it was in my system that was it and even if it was successfully treated my life would then be about ticking down time until secondaries appeared and put the lid on things for good. Originally, as I assimilated the BRCA1 diagnosis, I didn't think I would have any surgery, and as such I began to think that if that decision meant I could be dead by 50 what did I want to do with my remaining decade and a half?

To start with, I was put off by all those websites that used the word 'should'. Should is a word I view with extreme distrust. It isn't a fun word. It's a duty word. The very fact that so many essays and lists have that word in there somewhere made me think that a Bucket List has become something trendy and required without necessarily having much in the way of actual meaning to the individual. For example, you find an article that lists 25 locations to visit before you die. This makes the assumption that everyone would benefit from these places but what if they are too hot or too cold or too high or too deep for the likes of some? Also many are likely to be out of the price range of a lot of people, adding I suppose to the trendiness.

I've not travelled as widely as some people but I have been out and about and while I have enjoyed travelling it has never 'completed' me - though the hot chocolate I had in Italy that came served in a bowl with a spoon definitely completed something! When I got to thinking about items I could put on my own personal bucket list it was a pretty rag-tag bunch of ideas I ended up with. I wanted to own chickens . . . I wanted to get to spend time with a litter of puppies . . . I wanted to get an underbust corset and see if it was the kind of thing I'd enjoy wearing as part of my standard wardrobe.

I now own three entertaining bantams, and when friends of mine found out their dog had been seduced by the King Charles up the road they offered me an hour in the puppy pen with the results which was AWESOME!!!!! The corset went on Ebay ages ago as it turns out eating is of greater importance to me than making a fashion statement. I'm glad I did all of those things but there were lots of other random items I put on my bucket list that, 6 months down the line, I realised I wasn't really fussed about or actively didn't want anymore.

A bucket list to me holds the potential for regret or frustration - regret if you miss an opportunity to do something, frustration if you have a list of utterly amazing things that you don't have the money/ time/ freedom/ health to do. Depending on your temperament, it could also reduce experiences to a tick box exercise - especially if you have lifted a number of your bucket list goals from lists provided by other people online or from books and magazine articles.

So the end result is that I don't have a bucket list. I have ideas of things I'd like to do but if I were to get knocked down by a bus tomorrow my expiring thought would more likely be about how I wasn't wearing matching underwear rather an experience I'd missed.

Though I feel I must undermine part of the post above by saying that if you have a bucket list on the go yourself, having hot chocolate in Italy really ought to be on it :)

Monday, 6 June 2016

Does Anyone have a Plan?

1 year plan. 3 year plan. 10 year plan. Do you have a plan that stretches much beyond the next week?

I've been thinking that sorting out some kind of plan for the upcoming years might not be such a bad idea. 40 is beckoning. I have no career to speak of but I am now at an age where I know that I do not want to be in business support (posh term for admin) for the rest of my working life. I am lucky in that the work I do does give me a sense of contributing to peoples lives but I am unlucky in that I work for the public sector and every couple of years there is another round of job cuts. In twelve months I could be unemployed so now seems like a better time to be considering what else I might like to do than April next year.

I'm a person who would rather have many strings to her bow than all her eggs in one basket. And lots of idioms to call on. If I were a real grown-up I would speak of cultivating different revenue streams. My ideal working life would be composed of more than one thing. I enjoy teaching people how to do things so I'm considering looking into the option of becoming a trainer. I'd also like to get more professional and focused about earning money from things I can make. Some office based work is probably always going to be on the cards as I can't see me ever being able to leave that entirely behind, and I love the connection and camaraderie that comes with working in a team. The ultimate dream of my deepest heart would be to make some pennies from my writing.

Your Life Plan, Erica Sosna, was recommended to me by my sister as a good place to start in pulling together a coherent plan but I have not been able to get on with it. It's very much a 'you are the hero of your life!' type book where making a plan is like mapping your own quest story. I love reading fiction but for some reason this comparison has been a turn off and when I realised I was skimming more of the book than I was reading I knew it was not the book for me.

What I have been finding far more helpful is Leverage Your Time, Balance Your Life by John Ingram Walker. I picked it up from the sale shelf at my local library a while ago thinking it was specifically about time management but it's a lot more than that. Don't be put off by the cover either - it looks like it's all about your corporate life but it isn't. The post-its have come into play with this book, lots of virulently coloured tongues poking out from the pages. This book doesn't talk about setting a 3 year plan or similar but I feel it's giving me a lot of the tools that will help me pull one together. I want a holistic plan, not just one that's bound to work, and this book covers a whole range of topics from positive living, fitness, fun and healing.

My short-term goals at the moment are to give serious time and thought to establishing  what my skills and strengths are within a work setting and how I could build on them. I've put my name down for a mentoring programme and know that if I need advice on possible next steps I work with some very supportive managers whose opinions I respect. A number of women in my immediate family have taken a step away from the office and now run their own creative businesses, and are inspiring to me because of this. I feel I've drifted along for the majority of my life - while I'm not looking for iron control now it would be good to feel I had some direction in mind.