New Work Life Balance

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I'm not that small person who can be brushed aside easily. I'm a lot more than that; I can do / create things and give back.

Every good things require the struggles and like the sweats and the tears. BTS

 

Day 1 

New Work Life Balance: Monotise Now! 

Today, I noticed how it felt in my old work when treasured bank holidays (called labour days in other countries) came up during the year especially the Easter and May bank holidays as they made those months fly by. Now I want the months to march on at a normal pace.

I’m 8 months into my "year of living dangerously" as I’ve begun to call it. This is more commonly known as a gap year which I discovered, not too long ago, can be taken at any time in one’s life and can be taken numerous times (where finances allow, of course). 

I’ve spent those golden 8 months illustrating and only starting to write in the past few weeks. But I’ve yet to monotise any of my work but I'll have to do so quickly otherwise it’s back to the same old grind.

I remember the last time I contracted -- chiefly because I didn’t monetise my illustrations on a previous iteration of this. The contract was only 6 weeks but it felt a lot more in other words I didn’t enjoy it. As soon as it was over I was punching the air and saying to myself how it was great to take back control borrowing the leaver slogan used in the 2016 referendum on the EU (seems like a lifetime away now, and that will be the first and last Brexit reference). Never, ever again I said. It is now no longer tenable to work for any company with barnacle types especially now that offices have increasingly become social places and little work gets done there. Rather work is done outside the office like in coffee houses. There has been a blurring of the line between work life and home life. Additionally, as I worked in the software industry little of what I do gets to see the light of day. The shortism view that pervades industry and you could say almost every wake of life means that attention – in my case funding on projects  quickly gets shifted somewhere else and what was worked on soon gets mothballed. For that reason, what I used to do for the past 15 years or so, UX design / research, although lucrative, has now become for me an unsustainable way of working / living.

Working for myself means that I can get actual work done. And I’ve been disciplined – not a single day missed including Saturday / Sunday. Everyday I’d wake up before 6.30am (not quite up with the larks but aiming to get there) go through my usual rituals and then sit down and work on my own – it’s as simple as that. Well I say simple but working on my own means I’m alone with my thoughts: some of it meditative, some of it useful by shedding light / opening up new perspectives on certain events but other times painful.

BBC Radio 3, 4, 5 and the Asian Network have been my friends. And then evening political discourse such as Beyond 100 Days, Questiontime to name but a few.

I try to do 8 hours of work each day. I may want to do more in a day but I have to stop as this venture has to be a sustainable one as, hopefully, I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life… well so long as I can start monotising. Gosh! I didn't realise this was more than a 10-day journalling challenge. Let's see if I can start to monotise by day 10 - there's another challenge to contend with!

 

DAY 2

New Work Life Balance: Communication is the Key

Today I noticed, little to no conversations take place in my day to day life. A part of me says I can live like a hermit but making connections, especially business ones, is all too important to make this venture work. So not only illustrating and writing but also having meaningful business communications - the many hats needed to be worn when working on my own.

A week ago, I attended the latest Art Salon at JW3, London. The theme under review was The Conversation. Typically at the Salon, 3 artists discuss their work around said theme and in between the organiser would inject thinking from the scriptures.

People would sit around small tables and wait for the salon to begin. They tended to keep themselves to themselves. I attend principally because of those small injections of wisdom in between the 3 presentations. Now, on this occasion we sat in a large circle and had to introduce ourselves: name and occupation. My name is Lea and I’m an Illustrator I announced. That’s official, I’m an illustrator. The first time I’ve made such a proclamation in public. There was no impostor syndrome here: I am an illustrator. It was a good thing I was an illustrator as all the other attendees came from luvvie industries: theatre producers, actors, musicians, designers,  – no ux designers / researchers. Though there was a retired advanced level Maths teacher.

So, the wisdom from the scriptures: In the creation narrative God said something interesting but also puzzling: let us make humanity. Who is "us"? Who was God talking to? After the birth of humanity, the narrative continued. The wisdom ascribed within the scriptures evolved and developed and continues to do so in conversation amongst men of cloth, scholars and God. Truth doesn’t reside in one person. The saying goes that it’s friendship / fellowship or death. Being silent is as if a person is dead – a harsh way of putting it. Conversation is a creative, life affirming act. It’s how our culture developed and continues to do so.

Do you have to connect? You can have conversations alone, a process of going into one self to connect with God and with the world. What is death is silence; cutting off from oneself.

In this art salon we were encouraged to partner up to respond to the following question prompts (different partners for each of the questions):

Do you have collaborations – what’s it like working with them?

What do you like to have around you?

What art do you agree / disagree with?

What is the difference between friends and collaborations?

What do you do when you’re stuck?

What are you interested in working on right now? For this last question we had to introduce our partners to the larger group and what they were doing right now.

The interesting part was the way I introduced myself to each partner. I confessed that collaboration for was difficult me. In my old work collaborations were far from perfect. Interestingly, when I said that people wanted to work with me which goes to prove the theory that I have about people: people are like cats / little children the more you love them the more they hate you and vice versa. So there's me effectively pushing them away and them wanting to collaborate!

The Art Salon then asked us all for our input on a new format that they had in mind – they wanted to make it a place which facilitated lots of networking - a move away from the format of 2 years where 3 artist present their work. Many people seconded this recommendation but I wanted to say, "If it 'aint broke, don’t fix it", however, I  thought the better of it. Didn't I mention the shortism view that society has in my Day 1 entry? Case in point here. Needless to say I wasn't exactly enamoured by this new suggestion (have I really become such a ba-humbug already?)

So, a lot of food for thought. I do need to go out and make my voice heard. This journaling exercise is one way to bring myself out of my shell and trust a little more. Yes, a lot of it has to do with that fuzzy thing called trust.

 

DAY 3

New Work Life Balance: Kanban Plan!

Today I noticed, the mess around me. I’ll need to Kanban my way to an organised state of chaos.

Can you plan the next 10 years I wander? I believe you can - I didn't before but I think its doable especially if you're doing something you love. I haven’t done that yet - that would be the next phase after tidying up.

Sure, I've kept a daily list of to-dos (where I write out a list the night before and execute the next day) and it's been successful but imagine a well oiled 10 year plan tailored specifically to me, planned to littlest detail, challenging and stretching enough but not one that will tip me over the edge, and all I would need to do is execute for 10 years. And at the end of the 10 years, voila all these things I've produced. Might seem like a nightmarish scenario for some but for me a dream.

The 10-year planning thing was a question that came up in one of my sister’s interviews a couple or so years ago. It was intended to discover whether the interviewee was a strategic thinker who was not only focused on the here and now. But 10 years? My sister didn’t know how to respond. Afterwards, she felt indignant about the question. When she told me the story, I thought it was quite an unfair question to ask. The question is usually whether a person has planned for 5 years. I asked her why she didn’t answer the question as if was 5 years? I think the 10 years threw her immediately – I’m sure it would have thrown anyone.

Plans are a self-fulling prophecy. If I remember rightly, and I’m having to cast my mind back more than 15 years, the percentage is in the high 90’s of achieving your goals if you plan (and plan well).

Any tidying up one's surroundings is part and parcel of being able to make a strong plan.

A couple of years ago, I undertook a tidying up exercise using the Marie Kondo method, having read her book. She advises tidying up by category. This is where a list of categories is made of all a person’s possessions: clothes, shoes, books and so on and tackling each category where ever they may be rather than tidying up a specific room.

I tried this method. I’m not sure if it worked entirely for me.

There’s another approach. This is from Eric Ries’ Lean Startup. In the book Eric discusses whether it is quicker to: (a) Write out the addresses on 100 envelopes, then stuff all 100 envelopes, then tape all 100 envelopes, then put a stamp on all 100 envelopes or (b) Take the 1st envelope, then stuff the 1st envelope, then tape down the 1st envelope and then finally stamp it before moving onto the 2nd envelope. Which is the faster / efficient method. Intuition would say the first method is quicker / efficient because if you write out the addresses on the envelopes one after the other, the training helps you to get better at the task… actually, no, it’s the second method! 

So going back to rooms, tackling each room 1 by 1 regardless of category would be advocated by the envelopes example and actually this is how, I believe, people approach a spring clean.

And then there’s the question of the data heap on my computer not to mention the data on other storage devices. This is a whole different ballgame.

At the moment I'm tidying up  using the slowly but surely method I devised rather than dedicating x days to the task. But it's unplanned - planning has to be high on the agenda.

And O! There's all the stuff on my smartphone - that too needs a good seeing to.

I have a white board on my wall, lots of sharpies and stickies...

 

Day 4

New Work Life Balance: Ages that end in ‘9’ 

Today I noticed, how I’ve come a long way from the moment I decided I should quit the rat race (have not quite fully quit the rat race - it has too much of a pull on me). That time also happened to coincide with my age ending in ‘9’. As I enter a new decade, I’d like it to be a positive one with a single (can be a few) but significant adjustment one that will take me through the rest of time. The last age that ended in ‘9’ actually it was ‘8’ but it was good preparation for the age that ended ‘9 was my vow to get my health back i.e. quit smoking. I found it unusually easy to quit this time round. I tried twice before and got myself into a right tizz but this time no hiccups. Another thing that helped was that I was on holiday – taking myself out of my usual environment and going to Egypt was the game changer. I was struck that I never saw a woman smoking – it was only the men. It's unfeminine habit and this realisation helped spur me on. When I returned to London I did another thing that helped; I substituted nicotine with caffeine. There were many times that I thought I’d be back on the wagon – stressful times at work for instance but as the milestones (1 week, 2 weeks, a month, a quarter, ½ year…) rolled by the easier it got. It’s now been 12 years. Sometimes forget that I'd ever been smoker. Its only when I pass people who are smoking then I’m reminded of my once terrible habit. And I won't go on - nothing worse than a reformed smoker as the saying goes but just to say how the fumes enter my car, even when my windows are fully wound up, when passing a person on the street who has lit up. A stark reminder what I was doing to my insides. Like I said I'm not going to go on.

So this time round my new present to myself when I was at the age that frightful age that ended in ‘9’ was to gift myself the skill of drawing.

And 1 year on and I’m delighted with the results.

Imagine what I could achieve in 12 years.

It’s made me be unafraid of old age.

 

Day 5

New Work Life Balance: I Don’t Suit Offices.

Today I noticed that working in offices is incompatible with my world view. It’s something I’ve known for a long time, several years in fact, but why has it taken me long to do something about it?

Yesterday, I responded to a job advert – back to what I used to do before, it would be working for a well-known high street brand. I thought work there in order to fund my art (which at the moment still hasn’t taken off from a side hustle) and then who know.

The agent was impressed with my experience / background. She said she would be having a meeting with the company and will let me learn more about the role. This morning she gave me an update. The team is 70 people strong (too big) having merged with another team and they want someone who is not only a cultural fit but one who can unite warring factions – some within the team have strongly held opinions about things. There was no mention of my technical skills, research tools etc. It’s made me realise more than ever that I’m not suited to working in an organisation.

There was another thing that I noticed yesterday on my way to a workshop in Stratford –the number of homeless in the area. I have never seen so many poor souls huddled together. The huddle were all male. The women would be on their own with what seemed like their life’s possession all in one big mound. And I’m worried because we may be on our way to a recession. Monetising is has now become an urgent matter and I will need to act fast.

 

Day 6

New Work Life Balance: Gouache

Today I noticed that I will need to get a move on with my work.

I hesitated before using the gouache that I bought from Amazon a few weeks back. Can this be a new medium to take my art forward. The answer is a resounding yes but I need to carry out more experiments. But I’m pleased with what I’ve been able to achieve with the medium.  And my process goes something like this.

Pencil drawing

Gauche paining

Water colour pencils

Take a photo and then adjust on my iPhone for dramatic effect.

When I use the medium like watercolour I don’t get the results I’m looking for. When I add less water then I get more pleasing results. But I have to carry out more paining to get the level of viscosity I’m looking for.

The most important part of today’s experimental work is the fact that I’m starting to put more tools in my toolbox.

But I will have to learn to move more seamlessly between illustration and writing. I’m still having to make a mental switch. But I’m getting there.

Tomorrow will be the 1st of June, I’ve got high hopes for the new month.

O! Another interesting thing that happened today. When I was rearranging my books I came across a thin sliver of a book full of short stories starting the prompt "Suddenly, I...". All the entries are from children. The book was released in relation to a large fund raising effort, called Comic Relief, that takes place several times during the year in the UK. So here's my take:

Suddenly I, found my entries were getting shorter and shorter as the days went by and I thought if there's a magic potion that I could sprinkle on my day entries to make them grow. So I searched far and high and suddenly found myself  atop an oak tree. A giant appeared against my pint sized self, he wasn't the happiest of bunnies. His eyeballs looked like they were going to pop out, and as he strained get every closer and closer they did pop out of their sockets and I let out a long blood curdling scream... and then back in the room counted my adventure story had added 6 extra lines to my day's entry.

I know what you're going to say: quality not quantity. 

 

Day 7

New Worklife balance: June The First

Today I noticed that it was summer. Now that may sound like a strange thing to say but when working in the rat race the weeks / months would merge into an unrecognisable train of weeks-months. How's that for lyrical language! This was especially stark when I worked in Plymouth for 10 months, 3 years back. I lived in a hotel and across the road was my place of work - The Land Registry. 

The hotel had exotic foliage that did not shed its leaves, so I didn't get the benefit of the lovely golden colours of autumn or the pinks of the cherry blossom trees that marked the end of winter. None of that.

That was my only gripe working in Plymouth o! but also the food and very little meetup activities in the evenings; I'd travel to Bristol to get my fix. But the quality of working life was very high. I worked for 1 of the 2 main employers in the area. A lot of the people I worked with had only worked for 1 employer - quite unheard of in London where the average length of service (sounds strange to call it service, worse to call it servitude) at any given place is 13 months. I'm a perfect example of that - I've worked for more than 25 employers.

But now, I'm taking in and appreciating nature / life more.

Like I said yesterday, June will be a big month when things will hopefully start to happen. The previous months have been preparation which admittedly has been allowed to go on a little longer than I would've liked. Everything I do now from hereon in will be to achieve my goals. Doing this 10-day challenge kind of is - it really falls more under the banner of prep work. Okay so there will be some activities that are kind of / sort of are / aren't geared towards / away from my goals. I have built enough technical skills to do that. Any technical debt will be addressed as and when. I have several workshops planned this month so learning will take place there although I have to say Skillshare is a great forum for learning so I shouldn't need to leave my home to attend them. Skillshare will be my new BFF in this new adventure although we may have fallen out already as I can't find one of my projects.

At the moment, I'm writing and illustrating a children's book. I'm at the planning stage where I'm plotting my story. Yesterday, I thought how about I use one of the planning tools I used to use for my work! I'd use the tool in my previous life working in the software industry where I'd articulate my goals and turn them into trackable tasks and then write stories for each of the tasks. So not quite jettisoning my previous life's WOWs (ways of working).

 

Day 8

New Worklife balance: Fail Fast and Fail Often.

Today, I noticed (well perhaps not noticed as I’ve known this for some time now - more of a confirmation than anything else) the importance of the fail fast... saying but also the overriding feeling of complete frustration and disappointment when things don’t work out – not relief, joy or let’s go out and celebrate because we know what we’re not good at. Too often I’ve experienced when working for companies that the fail fast... saying is banded around and celebrated, “Yeah, let’s go out and fail fast… We failed, yay to that… let’s celebrate failure by building a website that lists our many failures, include social media so we can endlessly discuss them.” Am i going on a bit?

But if you’ve failed in your own business then it’s a very expensive failure one that could put you out of business altogether (not good to do that too often).

Don’t get me wrong, failing fast / often are important but when you’re out there in the real world most people don't have that luxury. It's more about getting on with it and chalking up any mishaps to experience, an onward and upwards type of mentality.

For me, I’ve tried in the last 2 days to use gouache for my art. It started off well but went progressively downhill instead of steadily improving and then plateauing out. Perhaps I’m rushing my art. Perhaps it’s the paper for whilst it doesn't bloat with the addition of water it nevertheless doesn't fare well with layering of paint as the surface starts to come away. 

Maybe I should be using Procreate?

It’s only been 2 days.

My question is do I soldier on regardless? Do I say, "No, I’ve got to make this work?"

I think the answer is, yes, judging by the first painting. There was definitely hope there but also to keep Procreate in my back pocket.

However, I will not go out to fail fast rather I'd be trying my damnest.

But hang on didn't I say June will be a big month. Isn't failing fast quite a significant thing to have happened? (Rhetorical question).

O! and lettering - I need to think about that pronto - that hasn't quite worked out either.

 

Day 9

New Worklife balance: The New Hunger Games.

Today, in London, I noticed the buskers in the street with their great violining, sporting  and artistic talents on show. A little bit of classical for a few pennies… takes me back to when I was at primary school, I remember being desperate to play a musical instrument, something I always wanted to do with all my heart. And it was there within easy reach but because there were literally 1 too many people who volunteered for the lessons I was the one who drew the short straw and was asked to leave the room (I wasn’t the last person to enter the room). I replay that moment over and over. I should’ve challenged the decision but I had little articulation skills as I didn’t know a lot of English words having migrated to the UK at the age of 7 and was never placed in special English classes.

At that point my love / hate relationship with music began. When I got to secondary school, I had to do (yes they were compulsory) the most unlevel of all playing field subjects: music lessons. Those who had private tuition or the select few chosen by the school to play a musical instrument had their ears trained for the sounds. The ditsy music teacher would bang the ‘C’ key on the piano a few times and you were supposed to register that sound and hold it for the weeks ahead until exam time. I always scored low marks in my music exams which pulled my overall average down.

Education is supposed to be that magical time when you can learn a subject, become someone through art, music, sport… Lucky for me art was my thing; I was known for it. But life got in the way and so that once magical skill that one had is lost (but luckily not forever).

And then free fall into the present day sequel I’d be walking down the high street and see a person kicking a ball, a person carving up artwork and a violinist all with their caps close by ready to receive those pretty, shiny pennies…

I wish I knew where I was going with this post I guess maybe enjoy that time in education, it’s beautiful, when you’re good at something; you almost feel you have the world at your feet.

Only recently, I’ve had the opportunity to play a musical instrument! There is not doubt in the slightest if I was to take up the challenge it wouldn't' be to become an accomplished professional musician more for it's own sake. The opportunity came from my mum. My mum recently revealed, which was unbeknown to me all these years, that she took up music lessons when she was 20. However, she only did 3 lessons as university then work beckoned. She’s now in her 70s and wants to take up music again and she’s asked if I want to play an instrument. At first I flatly refused as I’m now well into my arts and crafts. But now I'm giving it a second thought. It would be the piano not the violin. There's a piano in a local shopping mall free for anyone to stroke it's ivories. It's close to a Starbucks. So it would be quite disconcerting to all the Starbuckers to hear me play all the right notes in all the wrong order (famous joke). I often say to myself that I'd download some music that I like and then practice on a virtual keyboard (again downloaded)  by memorising the keys in the right order and then once learnt I'd play on the piano at the shopping mall.

So in years to come you may see me playing on Oxford Street.  I make light of it but actually there’s a young teenage girl who gets out her keys outside Bond Street Station, week in week out. She plays and sings, collecting money to fund her lessons and of course gaining valuable experience of performing in public.

But with this piece am I also describing a worst case scenario; learning all these lofty subjects and then ending up in a high street near you with cap in hand?

 

Day 10

New Work Life Balance: Childhood Memories

Today I noticed that if I put my mind to it I can summon up a lot of childhood memories and hopefully I can list out some of the obscure ones too. What prompted all this? I was reading a short story and one of the main characters crawled / walked up walls – that is what I used to do when I was young. But I forgot about it. I’d crawl up to the ceiling, up door frames. window frames (preferably if they were painted in matt coating). It was amazing fun. I was a skinny little thing when I was young which helped.

So here goes - the first 7 years of my life in Kuwait before migrating to the UK:

I used to live in a camp, in Kuwait, that was once an army camp inhabited by UK soldiers. The camp had good amenities. When the UK soldiers left the camp they were replaced by professionals (doctors, lawyers, engineers…) they came from far and wide. The camp no longer exists but it does have it’s own Wikipedia page.

I used to crawl up walls, door and window frames.

I used to graffiti all over the interior walls using crayons. When I ran out of space I graffiti outside.

I used to unpick Lego bricks apart with my molars.

The metallic Mechano used to hurt me with its pointy corners so I stuck to Lego.

My favourite drama on TV was the Rockford Files. I didn’t understand a word of it but I got the fact is was drama from the West and I loved it.

I used to drink a lot of Fanta and Vimto. I’m not sure if I ever drank water.

i used to take a yellow bus to school.

When I started school I cried for days on end. The teacher left me to it. When I stopped crying the teacher commended me in front of the entire class and gave me a boiled sweet. I cried – I must’ve realised that I was being patronised.

I topped my class in my final year before migrating to the UK. I was given a framed drawing of a cute kid playing a guitar and a certificate. I still have them except the frame.

In the school play, I played a sheep.

I used to cut out a lot of models from catalogues and would do some silent play acting. 

I remember my stories had a lot of up and downs.

I remember the very healthy lunches at school: egg sandwiches, milkshake... no stodgy food that formed my school diet in the UK such as chips, lasagne, spaghetti, mash potato...

We used to keep a few farm animals. One morning a duck was found dead face down in a bucket full of water. That was my first experience of death and it shocked me.

When I used to go to the food market, chickens would hang upside down, be slaughtered and plucked before my eyes - that didn't feel like death to me.

I remember when I finished one art work the teacher took out a fixative and sprayed it for what seemed like forever. It left a yellow film – I was livid. I thought the teacher got carried away with the fumes of the fixative.

When we were lining up to get our injections one of the girls said that she knew someone where the needle went through their arm and came out the other end. I have been squeamish of needles ever since, not the pain but the puncturing of skin.

I remember lots and lots of salamanders – I never got used to them. One sand storm day a salamander got his tail chopped off. In agony it went round and round in circles. I remember keeping one eye on the salamander and one eye on the sand storm which was terrifyingly amazing / scary. The salamander survived – I remember being relieved even though they made me scream.

I had a male doll called Todd. I didn't have a Barbie or a Cindy doll.

I never used sun screen but I used a lot of thick, white Nivea cream.

I used to do a lot of embroidery. The cross stitch was my favourite. It was only recently I learnt that there is more than way of doing a cross stitch – each with their own look.

I also used to love drawing. One of my cousins said that I shouldn't be wasteful and that I should fill out the white paper with drawings. I thought he was a bossy boots.

My sister's teacher was so strict that any letter that had a vertical had to be done with a ruler. So imagine every time you came across the letters 't' 'l' 'p' etc. you needed to have your ruler at the ready. My sister's writing was so beautiful she would often be gifted a box of oil crayons for her hard work.

I once got my small finger trapped in a door. There was lots of blood and tears.

I remember running in the Lido and being told off. I was so ashamed.

I wasn't afraid of heights as I loved diving.

When my brother was born I loved him so much. 

In the evenings the local lido would project films onto a whitewashed wall. This attracted many people and the evenings became colourful and vibrant. One evening, in the middle of a film, I ran away without telling anyone. I'm not sure if was because the film was boring, I just thought why not. I ran home but when non-one opened the door, I panicked. I ran back to the Lido wailing along the way. All the people came out alarmed to hear the tears and cries of a small child. I was so ashamed. My aunt gave me a telling off for drawing attention to myself. I don't know which was the most embarrassing: a crowd all looking at me in alarm, or my aunt reprimanding me in public. I carried the shame with me for many days.

Before I left for my new life in the UK my cousin's friend gifted me amazing artworks that he drew / painted. There were about 20 sheets of art. I thought I packed my leaving present in my suitcase - it was going to be my surprise when I unpacked them in the UK, a chance to study them in detail but I believe they were jettisoned by my mum to lighten the load of my suitcase.

I wish I could remember more.

 

First of August 2019

Day 1 2.0: Pins and needles

All day I’ve had pins and needles in my right leg. I woke up okay. I sat down to transcribe my notes from yesterday’s Waterstones’s event (Feminist Bookclub). That took about an hour and half with no break. Once I finished and I stood up I felt the pins and needles. I thought I’d shrug them off but several hours later and the pain is still there. I’ve tried massaging the affected area and rocking my head from side to side (looked that one up on Google). The latter remedy does sort of work but its very temporary. I had pins and needles about a week ago, same intensity, persisting for several hours. This could be a problem if I start having this on a more regular basis. Could it due to my diabetes? I’ll need to raise this with the Diabetes nurse later this month. I’m not looking forward to that appointment. I don’t think people look forward to their hospital / GP appointments so I’m in good company there but what I’m saying is that I approach my appointments with the Diabetes nurse with a huge amount of trepidation mainly because I don’t find the appointments useful. Last time I asked how I would go about measuring the amount of insulin to inject myself. You’d think after 9 years I’d know that by now but I haven’t been told when you’re blood sugar level is x then you inject y. All I’ve been told is to inject x in the morning and x in the evening. And that’s about the size of it. Then why would I need to measure my blood sugar level. I told the nurse this but she just gave me the same poor advice. My sugar levels have hit rock bottom on several occasions and several times during my sleep which is very dangerous. So not good advice to tell a patient to inject more insulin when you don’t need it.

On a lighter note – I’ve set up my Tumblr and Instagram accounts and started to make postings. I have to say the registration process and making a posting is not very intuitive. The focus on these social media sites is on following other people rather than the promotion of one’s own blog. This makes sense for Twitter but with image based social media then people would be more eager to post their own artwork / photos.

I bought a book yesterday from Waterstone’s. Once I tapped to make payment with my debit card I asked the shop assistant for a small bag i.e. it was too late for the assistant to charge me for the bag – that wasn’t the intention, I just forgot to ask in good time. He hesitated slightly, I thought I’d interject and state that I’d be prepared to pay, then he produced a paper bag. He said he’ll give me the bag for free. He told me that the paper bag had a bigger footprint than a plastic bag. I felt guilty – I told him I’d treat it like a bag for life but the next day the bag is in the skip (I had my finger’s crossed behind my back). Yes, I feel guilty. Thinking of which, it was at the Feminist book club that one of the authors stated that the recurring theme on her book on the 19 women who wrote essays  was the subject of guilt.

 

Day 2 2.0: Pins and needles again

I still have pins and needles in my leg. And now they’ve even affected my right arm and hand (my writing hand),

I’m not sure what’s happening but I ought to go to the hospital. But last time I went to the hospital for my mum – she had heart palpitations – we stayed there an agonising 9 hours. The government target, if I remember rightly, is a maximum stay of 5 hours so our experience was way over that. In fact shortly after our stay at the hospital the government announced they were scrapping target times because they weren’t being reached so we weren't outliers it seems. 

Yesterday, I couldn’t sleep because our neighbours – as is the usual case – sit in their garden, drinking beer and talking loudly all through the night. How selfish. It was 10.30 pm and I thought they might go home in an hour's time and I’ll then get my peace and quiet. But by 1.00 am I thought they weren’t going to stop so I moved my mattress so the other side of the house, and I had my peace at last but with pins and needles in my leg and arm. I tend to fear Thursday through to Saturday night - especially during the summer months - as this the time my neighbours let off steam and start disturbing the neighbourhood in the process. Sometimes, it can feel like a complete carnival with music, lots of men dancing if you can call it that, making a lot of noise.

At one time, last year, it got so bad I phoned the police around 3.00. Because moving my mattress to the other side of the house made no difference – I had no other option but to call in the authorities. They said they’ll someone round within the hour, i waited and waited and then I drifted off and forgot about it all. The next day, I woke, went through my usual routine and suddenly late into the morning I remembered. The police, I called the police last night or was that a dream. Anyway, did they go next door. So I phoned the police and asked them about my case. They said they filed the matter – it had nothing to do with them it was more an environmental issue and that I should contact them. I found it incredible that they should file the matter without telling me. They asked whether I wanted to raise a grievance. I said no but to listen to what I had to say. They didn’t know what to say / know how to respond to my complaint. So there you have it you phone the authorities, who are not singing from the same hymn sheet and all they do is file the matter away. As for contacting some environment agency well that’s not going to work. They’d monitor the situation but do nothing short term to fix the problem, The problem would linger for months, years if it was left in their hands.

 

Still it can be worse. My sister lives next door to a restaurant. Every day she hears the unloading of crates of glass bottles and they don't do it gently. Poor sister.

 

Day 3 2.0: Pins and needles still persisting

The pins and needles in my leg are still there. Because of my hobbling I accidentally bumped into a door yesterday and now I’m sporting a red bruise on the side of my forehead. Enough already I hear you say.

No really despite the title I’m not going to go on about my leg but just to say the pins and needles is also affecting my other leg.

I want to talk about knitting! I was knitting some ‘creature discomforts’ yesterday and this morning from a workshop I attended on experimental knitting. The knits would be used for backgrounds for my artworks. Do I love knitting? I absolutely love it – it’s so rhythmic. It’s a craft that was handed to me when I was very young by my aunty. I wish I had pursued it through my teenage years and into my adult hood. I re-discovered it in my 40s and knitted 100s of beanie hats for children (part of a charity meetup I was part of), lots of scarfs, tonnes of mitts, my next project will be to learn how to knit socks, not easy but not out of reach either. But the experimental stuff is fun, fun, fun.

Crafts like knitting, crochet is not something you want to shout out to the world. Although, it’s becoming more in vogue it’s still seen as a non-acceptable hobby / interest as I’ve experienced. In an office environment if a person asks you what you got up in the weekend (as is the usual question on a Monday) you have to come up with adventurous, high energy, high jinx pursuits so bungee jumping is okay, practicing for a 10K run is okay, you also have to demonstrate that you are social so going out meeting up with friends is okay, watching Netflix with a friends okay (actually you can watch it on your own and it would still be okay) but reading a book is not okay same with knitting and crochet. So don’t be putting that on your resume!

But I adore the craft although my focus is on drawing. For me knitting and crocheting comes naturally to me. There’s a bit of logic and maths involved with I fully get (e.g. larger needles with thin floss make for looser stitches – that type of logic).

I remember not too long ago I’d come from work and then loom knit hats one after the other. I’d reach midnight and having to force myself to stop because I had work the next day -  it’s that addictive.

If only the education system recognised people’s interests more: knitting, crochet and as is the case with my sister astronomy.  If only a person could focus on the things they love and good at from a young age. But you know as they say it takes 10K hours of focused practice to reach mastery – that’s 3 years of full time 9 – 5 or 6 years if doing the craft part time.

The experimental knitting workshop I attended, that was hosted by the wonderful Rosina Godwin, had some newbie knitters and some who haven’t knitted for many, many years. I was helping them getting to grips with the craft and it was amazing seeing people pick up this great craft. I also derived a lot of pleasure in helping them – all those I helped were delighted with my mini tuition. There is a local community centre. Perhaps I can people interested in knitting to pick up this craft.

 

Day 4 2.0: Quixotic Efforts

I focused this weekend on knitting but of course not forgetting writing and drawing.

I have to say knitting, especially of the experimental variety, is addictive and dare I say it feels more natural to drawing although drawing is a better communication tool. So I’m in 2 minds at the moment: do I focus of knitting or drawing. But I think I’m going through a phase. It would be great to juggle all these art / craft forms at once but for me I’m better at focusing on the one thing for a period of time. But there’s a danger of going rusty with that thing that's been pushed aside - that’s why I’m having to juggle everything at once.

The main thing is that I’m enjoying myself in a way that I’ve never experienced before. That’s because I feel I’m doing something meaningful and a potential to give back to others. I’ve put my name down for running meetup sessions for a cat charity where I’d be required to knit cat toys for funnily enough cats. I’ll be going this Saturday for the workshop. I’ll need to learn how to make the soft toys first  but worry not as that’ll all be part of the training.

At the beginning of the month I wrote the following mini-poem to a message group consisting of my mum and my nephew:

Pinch,

Punch,

First day of the month,

And no return !!!

Happy August everyone.

May all your dreams come true in the month of August.

 

Yes, I have big plans this month but I’ve fallen slightly off the wagon with my drawing. I like what I’ve produced on Procreate but I’m coming to the conclusion that my figure drawings are a bit stiff. There needs to be more spontaneity;  more cartoony and less like a picture for wall hanging. Anyway, I’ve come across a YouTube video that may help to unlock the impasse. The artist is using a brush I’ve never used before, it may be a case of switching to yet another brush to see if it’s more in line with me.

And o the pins and needles in my legs saga. It’s getting better. I’m 75% healed but it’s taken several days of hobbling – that’s never happened before. It’s amazing how hitting that magical age in April has suddenly rendered the world too you but more worryingly, too young for me to join. The workforce has gotten younger, commuters, using London Transport are younger, depictions in advertisements / media are younger. It seems to have happened all of a sudden or maybe I’ve been kidding myself for too long (which is a good thing by the way - I hope to return to that state of mind soon).

So how shall I end this posting. Hopefully with a flair. But whatever the ending. Should be done with great care. Like not putting a full stop. At the end of each line. Some say it’s rude and abrupt (not me though). Seriously that’s not fine? And what about exclamation marks? What do they say of the fellow? Well I can tell you it properly irks (again not me but ‘they’). Makes Marky Mark a mellow yellow!!!

 

Day 5 2.0: Got my mojo back!

Well my drawing is back on. I managed to draw 30 poses this morning. This is how it used to be. More importantly it wasn’t painful. I also managed to write and do knitting. I’m beginning to learn how to dip in an out of the different art forms.

So now I have to focus on storytelling. I’ll be working with pencils this time. I’ll see if I can quickly draw on Procreate. The pictures I’m coming out using Procreate take a long time to construct and end up looking stiff not cartoon-like.

I’m happy to get back into writing a piece everyday. A 500-word morning page (also known as free writing) is a good way to start the day. I’ve realised recently that there is such a thing as free drawing. And it seems what I’ve done for a long time is drawing. All well and good but it harder to make a list of drawings to fit a story – a made to measure approach to drawing. More discipline needed but more learning to be had.

I think changing my environment now and again is also important. Sometimes stuck alone in a room with only a BBC podcast to entertain can become tiresome. Walking round to a shopping mall, sipping on a coffee can be the tonic. Long live the high street. What would I do if I needed a respite and there were no more stores who are finding strong competition from the internet. Even supermarkets are under threat through cheaper items elsewhere.

So today I’ve gone back into poetry. The Sonnet is not an easy thing to construct but how fun to do! I love SkillShare – it has really become my life. I will one day come up with my own class.

But I still haven’t monetised and my money is running out! If I don’t get a handle on my situation then it will be back to the rat race. My last 10 postings I laid down the gauntlet saying that I will need to start monotising if I knew what was good for but look several months on and sadly nothing.

I really, really have to do something. I’ve applied for a job to get back to the rat race. But the world is moving on fast. I’m not hearing the responses I need to hear – I think they’ve cottoned on to the fact that they’re dealing with a middle aged person so they’re turning off and rudely not replying to my applications. And there’s the small matter of Brexit. We are heading towards uncertainty which will dissuade companies from hiring so they can assess any shocks. I hope a no-deal, crash out Brexit is not going to happen and is a big April Day fool’s joke although it’s not April Fools but Halloween. Still tricks are played on Halloween – whoever came up with that deadline has a macabre sense of humour.

I digress. I’ve now arrived to the end of this day’s posting. I’d like to end on a high note if I may. Ice-cream, pop, make love and make hay. Yay!

 

Day 6 2.0: Tips

I’ve been gathering  a few tips collected along my art journey over the past few months. I was thinking of creating a short SkillShare tutorial (no more than 15 minutes) with a class project of asking students to forward their top 5 tips and from that short list to select their top most tip from that.

My top 5 tips are as follows:

Take a photo of your artwork using your smartphone. On my iPhone my image would be stored in the images area. The app. offers simple editing features. One edit feature is to convert your photo into black and white. Converting to black and white will allow you to determine contrast within you image which the eye can’t readily pick up on a coloured image. If you want high contrasting picture then you’d need to up the ante with the darks by making them darker and the lights by making them lighter.

When drawing there should be a dialogue / conversation going on in your head: left a bit, down at a sharp diagonal, a slight curve… And the use of analogies: down a bit then what appears like an italic letter c…

When I used to leaf through art books that taught the basics of drawing using simple shaped like circle, triangle, square / rectangle – I never quite got it… there seemed to be a missing link between a construction made of those simple shapes to a rendered piece. And then I got it and those books never said it but I’ll take the opportunity to say it: its not a pure circle that you’re after (your composition may be calling for an egg shape), it’s not a square or rectangle that you may be after but your composition may be calling for a trapezium shape and if one of the sides calls for a curve then put in a curve, and it may not be a 60 degree angled triangle that you’re composition is calling for but an right angled one. So the circle, triangle, square / rectangle are more of the nuanced variety.

I only recently learnt that there’s such a thing as free drawing. I’ve heard of free writing / morning page – free drawing is very similar. There’s a another type of more focused drawing – I don’t know what to call it made to measure drawing, drawing with art direction, the type of drawing you’d get from a client with art direction. This for me is a more harder form of drawing because as I just mentioned it’s focussed. You’d need to dive into references or go out and seek your own references. Distinguishing between the 2 is important especially when responding to other people’s instructions unless one is privileged in being able to work purely on their own project without outside influence / interference (I say that almost negatively of course it can be positive).

I was always led to believe that sketchbooks are for quick scribbly sketches. But I feel if I approach it like that then I’m not taking it seriously too slap dash for me. A sketchbook can be for neat work. In fact you can keep many sketch books for different types of work – it doesn’t have to be just the one style.

 

Day 7 2.0: I’ve finally become a knit nerd!

I woke in the middle of the night / early in the morning wanting to learn more knitting techniques. Knitting scalloped edges picot edges – techniques I found easy to pick up… then I thought I need to learn cabling… there’s so much stuff on the internet it’s like one giant candy story but then I thought the better of it and decided to keep it simple stupid. You can do so much from the basics:

Knitting, purling

Increase, decrease

Picking up loops and creating flaps

Knitting in the round

Attaching / tying little bits of fabric to the floss along knitting

Thick edge cast on

German short rows to create twirls

Tendrils using a crochet hook

Attaching felt pieces using kantha stitching

Picots

Bead work

Scalloped edges

Simple cabling

Simple lace knitting, knit 2 together and yarn over

Create slits / holes and then picking up loops to fill them in

Provisional cast on

Life lines (leave them in – nice effect especially if using a contrasting yarn) 

I mentioned earlier how I was taught to knit from a very young age and then when I entered my teen years I left this wonderful craft only returning to it in my 40s. One of the reasons I stuck with it in my latter years is YouTube. It is so easy to learn techniques through watching and because camera technology is so good I can see the stitches clearly without the need to decipher grainy video images. I’m pretty sure if I read how to do scalloped edges by reading instruction I wouldn’t have got it first time. Scouring through Eventbrite one can come across many workshops on knitting and they are not cheap. I guess what people are buying is company or they haven’t discovered YouTube.

Now I joined the experimental knitting and embroidery group with the talented Rosina Godwin because the word ‘experimental’ in the course title intrigued me and more importantly it was free. And I have been amazed how my horizons have been widened by attending these 2 sessions. Especially with knitting. I have thus far with my knitting followed instructions. To be able to be given permission to be more free is quite liberating e.g. picking up loops. I’m trying to conjure up new things for myself. I sort of have… but still a process of discovery. My mindset when I reembarked on my kitting journey was to create something of use / value like hats, gloves, scarfs and learning to knit socks. My thinking has shifted a bit and I’d like to create installed pieces using knitting as a craft.

One ideas is around the theme of ‘body love’. When I started writing my own medicinal graphic novel it was all about my body falling apart. I thought actually why don’t I celebrate my body (there was a famous meme on YouTube going back many years entitled Dear Body so along those lines.

Another theme is knitting the weather but maybe focusing on the saying around the weather like raining cats and dogs, you know fun stuff like that.

 

Day 8 2.0: Taboo breaking

I’ve been knitting a lot for my ‘Body Love’ installation. It’s called ‘Volcanoes’ which I’m not sure as a title – perhaps too obvious. It’s about teenage acne / spots.

The project aims to normalise certain bodily functions so people don’t feel embarrassed to talk about them so they can slip from talking about the weather (an obsession with many people) to talking about bowel movements. Of course when you attend a functions and are meeting people for the first time you don’t go up t them and start talking about what you discharged before you met them. You choose the place and time carefully. Equally it shouldn’t be a taboo subject.

For me, using knitting is also the perfect medium. Knitted items tend to be soft, luxurious, cute, cuddly of course it does depend on the type of yarn used.

So creating these icky subjects using the soft touch of a knitted zit would allow people in. The pieces are abstract so when a person touches the piece little do they know they are touching aa zit and I I was clever enough the zit would explode before them!

I have to use imaginative ways of creating my art pieces. I can’t just create a long sausage brown knitting piece of represent poo. It has to be more imaginative than that. It can be something that hasn’t quite been processed coming out the other end as a hole e.g. a piece of popcorn in the poo.

About a year and a half ago I used to work in the Whitehall area, for the Department For International Trade at the old Scotland Yard building.

On my way home from work there would often be small demonstrations about all sorts some demos larger than others. I would sometimes have to sidestep the demos and sometimes I’d need to be on the wrong side of some boulders erected presumably as some anti terror measure, so that would annoy me a bit. I remember one demo that had a reasonable sized crowd highlighting the subject of period poverty with some young girls going as far as wearing white trousers with patches of blood like substance. For the first time I saluted those (predominantly) girl demonstrators. I thought what an important subject to highlight.

Another thing that I found liberating was an article in the New York Times about someone popping their zits and doing so for 2 hours or so until their skin was raw. This was given a name. For the first time I realised I wasn’t the only one who did this strange but terrible thing. I stopped 10 years ago thankfully after 20 years of pain. My skin would be red, dry and the makeup would cake if I tried to cover it up. But the point here is another example of taboo breaking.

I hope like those brave I too will highlight some important subjects and break the taboo around these topics which actually topics we should be comfortable talking about – like the weather.

 

Day 9 2.0: Dreams, hopes, aspirations

So my 10 days of this challenge is drawing to a close. Maybe time to look back reflect and be brutally honest with myself. I’m talented no doubt. But guess what there are many, many talents out there, YouTube can attest to that. But the difference between them and me is execution. A very inspirational ex-colleague of mine always mantra-ed so often is that, “Execution was everything!” meaning it’s the be all and end all. I remember shortly after he said I shared my ideas for ways forward with the team and guess what my idea was pilchard-ed by ‘Mary Bell’ and she elbowed me out of the as she stole my idea and ran with it. And those prophetic words kept ringing in my ears, “Execution is everything”. Now there’s nothing wrong with sharing ideas which is what I did but people tend to pinch them whereas if other people shared their ideas they’d be respected. Just something I noticed about me and my ideas.

Now, fast forward to now to the things I really care about: my cartooning, my graphic novelling, and crafts such as embroidery / knitting and execution is everything now. I have to have the courage to begin the real journey to making. I’ve been practicing and improved leaps and bounds but now is the push to victory.

I’ve been thinking about a 10 year plan. It’s a subject I’ve touched on before. I’m starting to take the idea seriously. Think what I hope to achieve at the end of the 10 years and work backwards from there. Of course, I’m taking it for granted that I will be in good health in 10 years. I’ll just have to assume that I will be.

Perhaps work on a 5 year detailed plan and a high level plan for the next 5 years. Yes, I think that would do it.

I’m already starting to tidy up but I’ll have to be more ruthless with the things that will just weight me down. There’s no need to hold onto things for sentimental reasons. There’s a lot of stuff: the problematic area is my stuff to do with all the seminar, talks, presentations, workshops I’ve attended. There’s a big pile of the stuff. I’m a stickler for taking copious amount of notes. But my goodness the only thing to do is to just leave the stuff in a neater pile and to put in a box and take my time to sift through it otherwise I might go mad. That’s the only things where I can give myself leeway. The other stuff will need to be appraised seriously.

So back to those effective lists I used to keep. This time team the lists up with logistics. I’ll need to start being adult about things. For starters there will need to be a cash flow coming in.

30 days – come on Leina all the big clear out can be done in 30 days. I’ve had those types of big major clear outs about 4 / 5  times in my life. One more big clear out – that’s all I need. And then after that a big behavioural change to ensure I never get to that stage ever again!

 

Day 10 2.0: The final ending...

My final 10th post! Having said that I may return to the 10 day challenge again as I’m finding it useful to commit to a daily 500 plus worded morning page.

What I’d like to talk about is 'process'.  I’m addicted to it. Learning new things and moving onto new things once that new now old thing has been reasonably wrangled to learn something new and so on. Today is a good case in point. I’ll soon be off to a volunteering event where I will be taking material and then turning them into reusable tote bags. Sounds fun eh? The aim of the scheme is to create 400 totes by the end of the summer.

But I’m in good company with the likes of Obby, Eventbrite and many others offering workshops to those wishing to turn their weekend into a memorable event. Although, the workshops are great, they are expensive, a lot of the skills can picked up using YouTube. Of course you are missing out on the social aspect but I primarily go to those events to make, do not necessarily to socialise.

Of course I’d like to master one or two things those being drawing and craft and be reasonably good at writing (prose, poetry).

The one thing I like to do when I go to those events is write copious amounts of notes. I’ve amassed so many notes I’d say 100s and 100s some neatly transcribed others in scribbles which may be indecipherable after so many years. I’d like to turn them into several how-to guides. These can be published online. So far I’m gathering my notes and filing them onto Google Drive. I’ve always been meaning to do that to ensure I don’t lose my stuff – and Google (cross fingers) is a safe platform onto which I store my stuff. But I have a lot of storage devices (about 3 / 4 computers to wade through). Like I said in a previous posting, I’ll have to be brutal. Or and this is a good one I can use artificial intelligence tools to go through my stuff and I’d get it to machine learn what is good / rubbish, duplicated, obsolete etc. I think Google offers such tools.

There’s a town in recent news that had the threat of flooding owingto a breach in its dam. Residents were instructed to evacuate (but some defied those instructions). They were only allowed back into their homes for 15 minutes to collect valuables. And I was thinking to myself if this happened to me I don’t know what I’d rescue because I’ve go so much stuff. However, if it was all online I can walk away from my home easily in full knowledge of the fact my life was online. If I planned my life so that vision I’ve just described came to be, wow o wow. I wish I could just wrinkle my nose like Tabitha and my rooms were voila all transformed. Failing that, I’ll have to do the painstaking going through everything, slowing but surely and at times hopes for the best.

 

Day 1 3.0: Too much process!

Yesterday I attended the volunteering ‘sewathon’ workshop whereby we were required to create tote bags to replace plastic bags for shoppers. The aim was to create 400 tote bags by the end of the summer. At the end of the workshop 5 were produced and 9 in total (bringing forward the amount created in a previous workshop). So you can see they are far off from their aim. The organiser had hoped to produce 50 by the end of the day but what was produced was close to what was previously produced.

But I think there can be a few simple changes that can be brought to bear to make the aim more reachable. And by the way I had a lot of fun in the workshop – the cause was worthwhile and I felt I made a real contribution however in order to benefit the wider society and for the project to achieve its aims think applying Taylorism scientific management will help. I have on occasions been critical of Taylorism but I truly think it can benefit the project. 

I went through several of the steps to create the bag. I found each of the steps surprisingly time consuming. For example to cut out the bag handles by laying down a template onto material and tracing round it and then cutting it up took a long time for a seemingly simple task. I counted the following steps:

  1. Cutting the bags from a template (front and back)
  2. Cutting the handles for the bags x 2
  3. Folding the tops of the fronts and back using a hot iron first by 1 cm then by 3cm
  4. Sewing the handles onto the bag front + back
  5. Matching front and back: ensuring that the cut is balanced on both sides – cutting any unnecessary / excess material
  6. Turn the bag inside out and then French seaming it to close down the edges (bar the top of the bag or course!)
  7. Then turning the bag the right way round and ironing down the edges
  8. Another French seem all the way round
  9. Turning the bag inside out again and finding the 2 envelope triangular shapes at the bottom, marking them using a template and then a final sew through the triangles to ensure that the bag was sturdy at the bottom.

As you can see the above process is far too time consuming. I talked with the workshop organisers and their idea was to create a good quality bag so that people could use the bags time and time again. But I think you can cut down on process without skimping on quality. At home I have 3  / 4 old totes that have stood the test of time. And for the first time I studied them and found their structures to simple ones. The simplest structure was a draw string. A friend of the workshop organisers had designed the bags for them. I don’t think she was party to any of the workshops. Had she been there then perhaps she would’ve seen problems with the intricate design.

A handful of people turned up to the workshop from the great numbers who initially put their name forward.