askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 I'm not quite sure what I want to write about.  There's a lot of background stress in my life right now and it's hard to know what thread to pull on. 

I wrote in my other journal about recognising the need for rest and relaxation and how I am trying to do that.

I've walked for between 20 minutes and 3 hours every single day for the last 10 days. It's been nice.  I've felt really...satisfied by that kind of activity. Just pushing on and on. There's an 18 mile walk in 2 weeks around the city boundary which, for a £5 registration fee (goes to charity of your choice amongst 20 or so) is stewarded and guided. I think I may go for it.

Below the cut are some of my camera-phone (unedited, because I don't know how to edit) snaps from this week's 2.5 hour walk through the city and along the seafront.  I do love this city. (click to embiggen)

5 below the cut )
I struggle to stay 'in the moment'. I look at these photos and lament that I may have to leave, move away from Brighton to find work. I see in them the fact that I couldn't make my face turn into a convincing smile when I tried to do selfies because my MH is still really poor and my mood is in the toilet.  I see simultaneously the beauty of the beach, the light that is specific to this time of year. I remember my sense of achievement in my walking yet again. I remember the fresh smell, the sun warming my skin, the exercise warming my body, the noise of the gulls.

But I also remember the [imagined?] stares and sideways looks of strangers. What did they think? Did they see a woman, alone, looking odd in her face, not right somehow, taking photos - what is she some sort of vain fool? A tourist? A madwoman? And then my own sense of isolation, walking alone - partly chosen, partly the only option. Other people with friends and children and partners and lovers. Laughing, and arguing, and exploring. And me, a lone figure. Not wanting to communicate, but being terrified of being alone.

It's a constant mess of feelings when I am low. Impossible to hang on to a good feeling, or return unequivocally to one emotion at a time. I keep looking at the photos, trying to see them again. Sometimes that is actually quite successful - photos can help.
askygoneonfire: 'Love' painted on to four fingers of a hand (love hand)
So I was given 5 questions by [ profile] meepettemu. I am supposed to say that if you comment and ask, I'll give you 5. And I will.

1: do you have specific plans for after your PhD, and if so, what are they?
This is the question that keeps me up at night. The simple answer is, I don't. The more involved answer is I want to stay in academia but to do that I need to pull my finger out and publish something and be prepared for a few years of continued precarious employment and be open to moving anywhere in the country to chase down any positions. The thought of starting all over again somewhere else in the country seems exhausting. But so does applying for jobs just in Brighton. I think there is a cruelty to the treadmill of academia where, at your lowest ebb, you need to muster the most energy to secure yourself employment and career. Whatever happens, it will surely be narrated here.

2: Is there a significance behind your raven tattoo? If so, what?
It's a carrion crow, not a raven. And yes, there is a significance. It's more of a narrative, really;

I love crows, I think they are wonderful, engaging animals and I enjoy every interaction I have with them. They are also, to me, quite strongly tied to Brighton, I have only ever lived closely with crows here in Brighton as they dominate the university's campus and I often sit and watch them at lunch, on breaks, and during my office hours (one memorable day, I saw a crow disembowel a dead rabbit, it was hilariously gruesome). They are also, of course, members of the corvid family. An exceptionally clever genus (corvus) they include the new caledonian crow which makes and uses tools, and the raven which can solve puzzles quicker than a 5 year old human. Good old, common, familiar carrion crows have also been shown to mourn their dead.

There is considerable mythology surrounding the crow, some of it I believe is clearly linked to observable behaviour (such as their feasting on carrion, mourning their dead, and intelligence and rational approach to problems) and the rest is the usual imaginative leaps of man. In particular, I like the mythology which says they are messengers for the dead/from the dead/of the dead, and that they are said to be able to see forward in time.

When my friend died, I felt something huge had shifted in the world. It came at a time I was trying to decide the direction of my life. The night I learnt she'd died I vowed to move back to Brighton, take control of my life and direct it in the way which my gut told me to go, and not be guided by financial fears or ideas of what I 'should' be doing. I did all of those things before the year was out.

I knew I needed a tattoo to mark this shift in my life, as a tribute and reminder of Lux, and an emblem of my new outlook and determination. I had also been considering a cover up of a tattoo I had got when I was 19 and trying to remind myself of my own strength and ability to stay alive. So, bearing in mind all of the above, I chose a crow - conveniently being an ideal colour for a cover up tattoo.

My crow is facing forwards - as we must always do - but looking backwards - remembering what has gone, seeing the lessons and people that came before. And he knows death, but he does not fear it, he simply knows it is a part of life and an essential part at that.

3: When you were a teenager, what were your career aspirations?
I never had a strong sense of where I wanted to go or who I wanted to be. The only career I ever really wanted was to be either a vet or a zoologist. Those dreams were quickly quashed by a) going to a shit comprehensive that ignored talent and neglected to aid underachievement and b) spending ages 15-19 being fucking miserable and very nearly getting no A Levels. I was not good enough at Maths or Science by the time I was in Sixth Form - largely because I was depressed, stoned, and in a dreadful school - for that to be a realistic dream so I let it go.

I'm not sure how I feel about it.

4: How old were you when you first realised you might not be straight?
The thing with being bi/queer/pan/whatever is not being straight doesn't come into focus as early as it seems to for your out-and-out gay folk. You can rattle along quite happily fancying men and assuming your feelings for women are comparable to the idol worship of your straight female friends. The clues were always in the men I fancied - they were never handsome or rugged or butch. They were all beautiful, delicate, thoughtful, queer, and vaguely off beat. I was never going to be the 'right' kind of heterosexual.

I think I was about 13 or 14 by the time I actually started having sexual feelings for women - which is around the time I started having sexual feelings for men, now I come to reflect on it. And I was 15 or 16 when I started coming out. As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, David Bowie was part of how I came to be sure. And so was Nicky Wire. 

I think I was about 19 or 20 before I heard the term pansexual and finally found a word to describe my specific desires, and adoration of the Bowies and Wires of this world. Queer entered my lexicon when I did my Masters at 22 and added another dimension to my self expression. 

5: Where in the UK would you choose to live if it could be anywhere?
Brighton. Where I am right now. Where I can't afford to stay and am unlikely to be in a year's time. And that is already breaking my heart.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
It's getting to the point in my PhD now where I'm just circling - revising and editing everything. The only 'fresh' content I have left to write is the introduction and conclusion and, by definition, there is not much new I'll be putting into that, just summing up and contextualising.  It's getting harder and harder to write my thesis because of this.  The creative, blank page stage is in some ways very intimidating, but it's also quite freeing - there's no wrong place to start, just start throwing stuff at the page, deal with what sticks later.  Now is about focus, detail, concentration.  Honing my argument, tightening up holes, reading 20 books to generate 5 solid references to support one framing sentence.  It's peddling faster than ever to move slower and slower.

This is, in some ways, good. I'm firmly moving into the final stage of writing and the end is in sight.  Within 6 months I could have a full draft with a reasonable expectation I'll only have minor corrections to make before having a manuscript suitable for submission.  In other ways, it's never been harder than right now.

I'm exhausted; intellectually, emotionally, mentally.  And physically I'm in bad shape; my shoulder injury (displaced/separated ACJ) is at its worst, constant pain with the only variation being how much pain I am in each day.  I have an MRI on Thursday and a consultation with a surgeon in October.  I have done *everything* I could to fix this without surgery - 2 years of physio (over 3 years) where I did every exercise at home between sessions I was directed too, I've had 3 steroid injections into the joint, 3 x-rays and 2 ultra sounds.  And still I am in pain.  Still.

There is, in some respects, light at the end of the tunnel - it's reasonable to hope surgery will resolve the problem but, if it doesn't, nothing will.  That's terrifying.  Also terrifying is the prospect of more pain - that's guaranteed immediately after the operation for a minimum of 2 weeks followed by pain as I get muscles back up to strength.  And, perhaps most gut-wrenchingly, is the uncertainty of finances during re-cooperation after the operation.  

I don't get sick pay from my job teaching at the university because I'm on a zero hours contract and it's looking like I'm going to be having operation at end of year or early next year and thus unable to commit to taking on teaching during the spring term so I could potentially lose out on 4 months of money.  

I have carefully, excruciatingly carefully, saved up during the last 5 years and have precisely enough money to live on, pay rent, etc, for the next 12 months.  Every week and month I am out of action for as I recover from operation is time I am basically wasting money - as I won't be able to work on publications or thesis revisions, or teach, or apply for jobs.  The big fat gaping hole that faces me as I draw closer to the end of my PhD is made exponentially worse when I consider facing financial insecurity again.

I am fortunate in that my parent will not allow me to go hungry or homeless.  But they also don't have the resources to pay my rent; their help whilst appreciated and fortunate, would take the form of me moving in with them. Again. 200 miles from Brighton.  At the age of 32.

Everything is very uncertain. Everything is gradually getting harder and harder, more and more intense, and with every step forward I am more and more committed to this path which has absolutely nothing at the end of it unless I can generate opportunity, financial security, a career etc.  And god damn it, my shoulder hurts so much.  Chronic pain is fucking horrible.


Mar. 1st, 2015 06:29 pm
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 Had a fairly dreadful couple of weeks.  I'm still not sure if I was going through a downswing/having depression or had a particularly nasty virus or, most likely, both but today I woke up feeling OK.

Spent most of week of 16th Feb laying on sofa feeling knackered and, on Wednesday, dashing to uni campus for an emergency GP appointment because I couldn't catch my breathe.  Mystified GP concluded it was either weird virus causing breathlessness, or some peculiar presentation of asthma, either way I was prescribed an inhaler and used it frequently for about 4 days before symptoms tailed off.  The nurse who triaged me asked if it could be anxiety and I said I didn't feel anxious and she was happy with that but I really don't know if it was anxiety or not.  It wouldn't be the first time I've had all the symptoms of anxiety without consciously feeling stressed.

That weekend was my best friend, Becky's, hen do.  She's not into the pink wings hoopla, and we travelled up to her home town of Oxford to take over the pub she and her friends used to drink in as teenagers and get squiffy.  I was apprehensive about the entire thing but it turned out to be a lovely weekend and I felt I got to know my fellow bridesmaids which is nice ahead of her wedding in May.  It's a bit of an odd group as with the exception of 3 wives and girlfriends, I am the only outsider to join their friendship group since they were at school.  I went to a wedding of another couple from this group several years ago and was the only person at the wedding who wasn't either a family member of the bride and groom, or had gone to high school with them.  It's quite a compliment, and they are a lovely group, but it can feel a little strange setting foot in a group I've only been connected with for 12 years, when they have known each other for closer to 20 years.

Last week I continued to be utterly, utterly exhausted.  My parents visited on Tues and Weds and due to my teaching schedule at uni I only actually spent one day with them even though they were here for 2 nights.  It was nice and I didn't get aggro as I so often do around them.  

Thursday and Friday I was desperately sad, and slept for hours and hours across those two days and nights.  On Friday morning I realised that my building sadness over the last two weeks was due to a subconscious awareness that it should have been Lu's 30th birthday.  Instead, of course, her sister, mother, and friends, all experienced - to different degrees - that gnawing sense of pointless loss for the day.

It shouldn't have been this way.

And then I learnt that Leonard Nimoy had died and I went through the peculiar distanced grief which comes with the death of a celebrity you've had such a deep, life-long connection with.  Star Trek has shaped my imaginative world since I was god knows how old and watching Star Trek TOS on my brother's knee.  Spock is what Star Trek TOS is all about.  And Nimoy was Spock.  He put so much of himself into that character and raised the entire show above the realm of cheap sci fi into the force for good and hope and dreams I know it as today.  I adored his appearances in the Star Trek reboot-movies and I can't quite accommodate the idea he, and his special aura, are gone from our screens save for re-runs.

Saturday was hard too.  I was still exhausted, still feeling the paranoia and anxiety I associate with a particularly brutal downswing.  Forced myself out of the house to Asda which was very nearly the end of me.  Home again for the evening, sadness, introspection.

And then, this morning, I woke up before my alarm and didn't feel exhausted.  The fog has lifted and my brain can think.  I've been accepted to a conference in Ireland in June which may well make a lovely holiday (if I can get funding from the department to go!) and I cleaned the flat and tidied the detritus of a fortnight of inaction. And then I made dinner, wrote some emails...I came alive again.

And I remember why I get up in the morning and why I speak to other human beings and why life keeps on turning.

It's been an awful couple of weeks.  I want to weep for my past self, because I feel bruised from the sadness which has been following me around.  It hurts.  And it scares me every time it comes back, and every time it won't leave.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 Too often, this blog is a litany of failure and despair rather than a balanced reflection on all the parts of my life.  With that in mind I've made a conscious effort to come here and record two really positive things that have happened to me in the past couple of weeks.

On the 4th of June I had my annual review.  This involved submitting 10,000 words to my department which was in turn passed on to two members of faculty who had similar research interests to me.  The 10,000 words I submitted represented two of the three draft chapters I have written this year.  The annual review was a time to discuss my work and hear any comments or recommendations the two person panel had to make.  

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  The panel said they enjoyed reading it, they used words like "important" and "cutting edge" in describing my research, they said my research data was "rich" (something my supervisors have been saying a lot, repeatedly, but it's amazing to hear it from someone a bit removed) and said my writing was accessible and ethical (re: the way I reported participant comments and discussed their responses)  I reflected a lot last year, and read a great deal, on ethical, feminist, and queer -practise in doing participant based research and it's really exciting that my commitment to privileging the voices and experiences of participants comes through strongly in my writing.  I skipped out of that office feeling 10 feet tall and massively inspired to get on drafting my fourth chapter.

Yesterday, I met with the course convenor of the module I taught on in the Spring term.  We were looking at the student evaluation feedback for the course.  Student comments were all positive and several of them made comments explicitly about the quality of my teaching.  In particular, students commented positively on my decision to begin the term and first seminar by asking students to share their preferred pronouns, and cautioning them to be respectful and thoughtful in discussion given the potentially sensitive nature of the topics we would be covering in the module.  My enthusiasm for teaching in gender studies came through as well as several of them commented on that and one said I was one of her favourite tutors ever which was wonderful to hear!  

The module convenor echoed their praise and said she was impressed at my ability given it was my first term teaching.  She wrote that she "strongly recommended" I was given teaching again in the Autumn term along with many other glowing comments on my performance.  In our meeting we also discussed what changes we want to make to the module readings and structure and she took all my comments on board and indicated if she was convening again she would make all the changes I suggested.

I feel so proud of myself that my teaching was so successful and that students responded so positively.  I reflected a great deal on what kind of classroom and atmosphere I wanted to create, and what my own experiences of being taught gender studies as an undergraduate was, and used all those things to inform my practise.  And it paid off!

In all? A two fold win in the two main areas of my life as a PhD student and tutor.  Really gratifying to get that explicit recognition and have the two things I have put most of myself into over the last year result in other people getting excited and enthusiastic.  That's pretty wonderful.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)

I got off the bus tonight, and glanced to my right and there, over the regency houses of Brunswick Square, was the sunset.  I didn't think twice, I headed down to the sea.

As I got down to the promenade, the silhouettes of other Brightonians stood against the pink-orange sky.  People making their way home, walking their dogs, watching - as I was - the sunset.

For them as well as me, I wager the scale of the sky and the sunset began to elicit the experience of the sublime.

Nature is sublime in those of its appearances whose intuition carries with it the idea of their infinity - Kant

I strolled to the very edge of the promenade and looked down on the beach.  The waves were gently rolling in to shore.  A couple sat huddled together on the pebbles, transfixed by the celestial display to the West.

I stood and let it wash over me.  The pink to purple to orange to yellow to red of the sky.  The flecks of glowing red flecked through the seemingly whipped cloud which lay softly over the sea.  The colours caught, reflected, intensified, moved by the calm sea.

I began to tremble inside.  The power, the scale, the half light, the flow of other people to the promenade to watch the sun set - people who both seemed to be beside me and a hundred miles away.  

The feeling of the sublime is pleasure that arises only indirectly: it is produced by the feeling of a momentary inhibition of the vital forces followed immediately by an outpouring of them that is all the stronger. - Kant

My mind took it all in and I suppose Kant would say my imagination made it into something more.  My imagination combined it with every sunset I'd ever seen, every time I'd ever stood and just stared, passively, out to sea, every time I had been moved all compounded and I was moved.  There, in the sky - in me - was the Sublime.
askygoneonfire: if you lived here, you'd be home by now (November the 15th)
You sit, in a worn down but well loved, lived in living room, you shout from there to the kitchen down the corridor.  The soul you feel most drawn to and most forgiven by shouts back to you; you laugh till you cry.

Text messages buzz, the doorbell rings, the landline dings; "I think I'm standing outside?"

The temperature rises as bodies pack into the insufficient but perfectly workable space.  The thrum of laughter, and smiles - smiling has a sound - and conversation drifts from the floor upwards, filling the whole room with a pleasant din, like a fog which envelops but also multiplies as it spreads.

It is tactile, and comfortable, and it is home.  

It is home.  Far more than 'home' was ever home.

All those idiosyncrasies which were shameful and hidden are jokes - shouted across the room.  All those insecurities which were poured over cease to exist.  Home.  This is what home feels like.

It's a knowledge that happens in the core of the bones and spreads outwards.  And then, suddenly and gradually, there has never been any doubt about where here is.

You catch yourself: just once in a while, standing there, amongst the din, smiling and feeling, even for a few precious moments, perfect contentment.


It is 11 days until I get to go home.  It is too long, and my retreat will be too short.


Aug. 18th, 2010 11:07 pm
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Happiness is.... 5 friends, spilling off the sofa, sitting round, drinking wine, marvelling at the amount of food we jointly contributed which covers the whole of the living room floor.

Watching movies and eating until you can't move and there is, somehow, more food than you started with.

Although, there's an odd kind of melancholy to this sort of evening, when it is just 7 days until you leave Brighton for....a good while.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Gagh. Typical hangover-blues/Pride comedown today.

I've got so cocking much to do before I move out in 18 days and it all feels completely overwhelming. Most annoying I think is that my flatmate owns A LOT of stuff, in her packing up to move out (on the 23rd whilst I move on the 26th) she is filling the living room with packed boxes. Filling our living room with packed boxes without packing up anything that is already in the living room. This means there is a) no living space and b) nowhere for me to pack into. My room is of moderate size but my furniture takes up almost all of the room. I simply cannot imagine where I will put my boxes as I pack, much less how I am going to start doing the deep clean of the flat necessary to get our deposit back.

I also want to throw some sort of house-cooling party (if when you move in you have a house-warming then moving out must mean having a...) but right now I am so exhausted with social interaction I can't even begin to imagine doing that or even if I want to. Largely because Bex is going on holiday for a little over a week and returning a couple of days before I move so she won't be able to come to any shindig. And a party without your BFF is no party at all. Anyway, enough of that...

I was looking for Pride Parade photos on usual Brighton websites today and instead came across a review of ArtFor Pride with some photos which is here.

Here are a couple of my photos from the parade yesterday, the first is my immediate friends and acquaintances who I shared a champagne breakfast with before going down to the seafront where the parade began and the second is a group photo of everyone who was walking for THT yesterday.

I commented on someone else's journal the other day that I would comment on how I felt about the Pride is a protest movement/argument after I had been in the parade.

This year the 'Pride is a Protest' movement actually took part in the parade.  The perplexing thing for me was that their argument was that Pride has become too commercial and it should be more about protesting pertinent issues than celebrating the liberation we enjoy in Britain/Brighton; the logical way to demonstrate this point, as far as I'm concerned, is to actually pick whatever issue you think is most pressing and protest about it.  What they instead did was take part in the parade, protesting that everyone else in the parade should be protesting, and for some reason they carried coffins.  In effect they were shouting "we should have the right to protest about things that are important" in a setting where they had been permitted - nay encouraged - to say whatever they wanted.

ETA: This is their facebook event (I was immediately put off by the spelling mistakes but let's overlook that) and it half explains the significance of the coffins before gibbering about something else - I really feel their motivations are jumbled here.  Also - "Now there is also an exclusion of the Black Minority Ethnic community representation at Pride, the exclusion of Transgender, of intersex, of old people, of disabled people!" - doesn't really make any sense or offer any supporting evidence.  THT certainly had a range of ages, ethnicities and given that not all disabilities are physical/visible, most likely featured a couple of disabled people. I remain unclear on what they were saying and/or hoping to achieve.

I know one of the people who took part in this 'protest' and she did a similar thing in Manchester.  I talked to her about why she had decided to do this and expressed my feeling that every day is a fight for LGBT rights and full liberation and that Pride is instead about visibility, celebration and yes, raising issues in the parade you feel are appropriate.  She admitted that she'd never seen it that way/thought about it.  How can you protest against something you haven't fully considered/explored?

There were problems with the Parade as far as I am concerned.  There were, for example, 3 Ford's with a 'Ford Pride Brighton 2010' graphic on them ahead of us.  That's it.  No 'Ford workers LGBT Association', just 3 Fords, which were Proud.  I wonder if they sponsored the event in some way (apparently Pride costs £250,000 to put on each year although the revenue it generates is obviously far in excess of that) although even if that is true I don't see why they needed to be in the parade rather than just have the company name appear on the publicity.  There were various corporate type showings - like the Argus (local newspaper) having a jeep and 4 or so employees in rainbow outfits ahead of us - what exactly were they expressing? How is that furthering LGBT visibility or promoting awareness of an issue pertaining to LGBT lives?

On the whole though, it was a hugely positive experience for me and I really saw the parade in a new light by passing every single one of the spectators and experiencing that atmosphere and seeing the range of people who had turned out to watch and unite in a warm, accepting and celebratory mood.  Yes there are faults, and yes there are aspects which were disappointing because they seem to detract from the whole ethos behind the event but the positives far outweighed the negatives and I had a wonderful time.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
God I love Brighton.  Today was Pride.  And it was epic.

I was lucky enough to be in the Parade (more on that tomorrow, and pictures!) which was just amazing.  The atmosphere was incredible, the whole of the (2hour long) parade route was lined with people and in some places they were 15 or more deep.  The whole way round people were cheering and applauding and we took it on ourselves - the 50 or so of us walking for the Terrance Higgins Trust - to pick out people watching from windows and rooftops and wave to them to include them in the atmosphere and make them smile.  We did it with a countdown and a quick instruction (top left, 3 doors down.  3, 2, 1...GO!) and all of us would turn, throw our hands above our head to wave and 'whoop' as loud as is possible.  Moreover, as soon as we made any sort of noise it was echoed back to us by the crowds lining the streets in equal or greater volume.  

We were applauded, cheered, people reached out hands for us to high five, kids literally jumped up and down with joy.  And we were just as enthusiastic to greet those who had turned out - which is, it is accurate to say, almost all of the residents of Brighton and Hove.

This year there weren't even any right wing Christians - or if there were their numbers have dwindled so much they were undistinguishable from the crowd who cheered us.  They were always onto a losing bet trying that shit in Brighton.  This city starts it's inhabitants young on prejudice free living - we had a baby in a pushchair with our group and there were kids of all ages - right down to what must have been a newborn baby - lining the streets.

Tonight - after nipping home for a sleep and several cups of tea and dinner - I headed out again to met up with the usual gang - around 15 or more of us - to go to PopKraft Pride Special.  PopKraft is always a delight, with one of the more diverse crowds that gay nights pull in Brighton and cabaret, craft corners (I made a neon badge with sticky letters, other people made sock puppets and balloon animals) Music-wise it's cheese and indie and pop music but all contained in a tiny but beautiful club which was built around the same time as the rest of Brighton (in the 18th C.)  You can't beat the Hanbury Club, particularly as it's about a 5 minute stroll from my house.

There's something very homely about the stroll back to my place.  I never feel threatened or unsafe on these streets and if you leave, as we did, when the club kicks out at 2:30am, you get to walk in the company of other PopKraft go-ers.  Tonight a delightful Northern/Southern couple walked behind me, a bit squiffy but full of the spirit of Pride and a comfortable domesticity...

Are you hungry?
Yeah, a bit.
Do you fancy a bit of bolognese?
I know it's late, but I could make a bolognese.  It's better to go to bed with a full stomach of a good meal than an empty one.
Yeah, maybe.
Yeah, I'll make us a nice bolognese....maybe with cheese.

I've been grinning like a fool all day long, and I'm going to go to bed in the same way.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
The NaBloPoMo prompt isn't up for today yet and I want to blog now, so I've decided to just go for a simple one and post my most recent painting. I based it on a Matisse sketch and started off with a Hopper colour palette but of course things developed and it ended up looking more like a piece by Alexej von Jawlensky that I have on my wardrobe (click if you want to see what my wardrobe looks like, art-erific! I buy one postcard per gallery visit.). As a result - because it took such a journey from conception to completion - I don't really like it. However, this isn't a popular opinion, Bex, my flatmate and my Dad all like it - and my flatmate rarely likes my paintings. So I'm posting it in a speculative way. Unless my output explodes between now and the ArtFor Pride exhibition it will probably be for sale then, so one way or another, I'm going to have to get behind it.

Oh, and this afternoon I got squawked at by a seagull when I looked out of my bedroom window - nothing unusual in that, they nest on the flat roof over my attic conversion every spring/summer. However, later when I looked out the window I realised why I was squawked at so emphatically - one of their babies had fallen out of the nest;

I checked several times over the next few hours and he was still there all on his own but I just checked again and he's gone so the parents must have put him back in the nest, thank fuck. I teared up the other day when I saw a dead starling chick on the pavement. ETA; seriously though, he was SO CUTE. All fluffy and spotty and kept stretching out his disproportionately long legs and feet and fluffing himself up with a little flutter of his tiny wings, and then stalking about on the flat roof, he so completely had the attitude of a fully grown seagull.  I was a little bit in love with him and half imagining having to hand rear him if his parents didn't return.
askygoneonfire: 'Love' painted on to four fingers of a hand (love hand)
I have a tattoo on my wrist, I got it a year ago in February. It reads "seek beauty" and it is written in Thai. I translated it myself after my second trip to Thailand the preceeding November (and checked it with as many sources as possible). The Thai language has several words for beauty, and several for seek, the one's I chose make the meaning clear, it means seek in the broadest sense. The beauty I picked means it in the Romantic sense encompassing natural and sublime beauty, knowledge and just those moments of contemplation which are transformative. So that's the background to where I'm going here....

A long day at work today, and still a day shy of my 'weekend' (which begins on Saturday night and ends on a Sunday night, oh a life in retail, how I loathe thee) and the beautiful sunshine outside the shopping centre I work in seemed to be begging me to stay out and enjoy it and not return to work after my lunch break, oh course I resisted it. I cycled home, as I always do, after my shift finished at 5pm and felt the cares of my week begin to lift. There were a lot of cyclists about this evening - Brighton is a very cycle-friendly city so there isn't anything unusual in that - but the inarguable Start of Summer seems to have infected the usual drudgery of the cycle commuters with new zest and joy in their journey. We weaved our way through the traffic, racing from junction to junction in half acknowledged races, flying down the hills and powering up the inclines. I love waiting at a traffic light junction in the little box ahead of the cars reserved for cyclists as more and more cyclists come flying round from either side of the cars stopped behind you and make a little gang, all of you racing off from the lights the moment they begin to change, vying for position up the next hill.

I decided an afternoon so beautiful should not be wasted and dropped off my bike and bag at home before grabbing my new (new to me, old to photography) SLR and heading down to the beach. A 3 minute walk later I was basking in sunshine bouncing of the pebbles and sea and fiddling around with the myriad of settings on the camera in an attempt to master the art of film photography in an hour. I decided to continue my stroll, ended up at the marina finishing my film on photos of boats (or, potentially, photos of nothing on account of cocking up the exposure/aperture setting/focusing...) The marina broadwalk is littered with cafes and restaurants, all of which have tables outside in the sun. After hesitating for all of 5 minutes I took a table, ordered a nice glass of white and lit a cigarette.

Sun on my face, wine in hand, the challenge and adventure of learning a new type of photography - represented in this little scene as the camera manual sitting on the table in front of me - a thoughtful drag on a cigarette, a message on my phone from a friend imploring me to join him on the beach this weekend, the quiet calm of the slowly swelling sea in the marina and the odd squawk of seagull or starling overhead.

On the way home I passed a pub where punters and music spilled out onto the street, the song crept over me and accompanied me home as I softly sang my favourite refrain over and over as I weaved my way through the streets and back to my flat; think I'm gonna be sad,
I think it's today yeah, the girl that's driving me mad, is going away, yeah...

Perfect. Beautiful.

I don't have much money left this week but this was an investment in me; £11 for bread and dips and a large glass of white isn't so excessive in that light. And these moments, these afternoons, they are so fleeting, so brief in hindsight that each minute of contentment must be savoured and treasured. Recorded and sought out again at the next possible opportunity.

And every time I find it, every time I manage those few moments of beauty I am reminded of all the things I promised myself when deciding on that tattoo and the day I called it my mantra.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I've literally just got in from an ArtFor meeting (although, obviously, I'm English, so I got in and made a cup of tea, and then I sat down and turned on my laptop) and man alive! I am so motivated to get some paintings done.

The last painting I did was this one which was like...a month ago? so I do really need to get back on the horse...or a back on a metaphorical device more appropriate to the creative process.

The meeting today was basically to say hi to the new artists who have joined us for ArtFor Pride. Becky put a call for artists in the local paper and sent a press release to Pride proper who, within 24 hours, made sure it was in all the LGBT publications in the South East. This resulted in us having more artists wanting to join ArtFor than we had space for in the forthcoming exhibition.  As it is we have 10 visual artists and 1 sculptor and everyone has paid £20 to cover the (significantly reduced because we're a charity) fee of hiring the gallery space and is guaranteed a 3 foot square exhibition space.

It was great to meet the new artists and talk about the exhibition as though we know what the hell we're doing.  For those of you picking up the story now, in February we had an ArtFor Haiti exhibition and got 200 people through the door paying £3 entrance fee but sold very little work. This time we have a bigger, more central venue, media partners, sponsorship and the phenomenal publicity machine that is Brighton Pride behind us; on paper it certainly looks like we know what we're doing!

Between Becky and me we know a lot of people; she has friends doing our website and graphics design for free. We know people who are in a band who are going to play an acoustic set at our press/preview evening on the Friday. And through various connections we have contacts at various publications in and around Brighton, charities who benefit from Pride money who can help us advertise and my most recent ex, a.k.a. The Girl who is working on getting us sponsorship from a brewery so our press preview can offer free booze! It is most certainly all coming together.  I just need to PAINT.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I have two songs absolutely wedged into my head. I think both of them say quite a lot, in one way or another. Indeed the second one I'm linking to is the one complete with the John Lewis advert that is currently running, because I think it's kind of beautiful. And I know that makes me woefully prone to the effect of advertising, but whatevs, I loves it. The first one is beautiful too, only more lyrically than visually;

We still lie together every night, while I sleep I dream that we're all right, if this is love I'd rather keep dreaming, you could never be an actress, I know the knife's underneath the mattress, if this is love I'd rather keep dreaming, dreaming like a fool
The Boy Who Trapped the Sun

Billy Joel/John Lewis

My Northern getaway is drawing to a close and I can say with confidence that I am in no way ready to return to the South. Life down there needs to change dramatically in the next few months or I simply don't know what I'm going to do.

Actually, I think I do. Will review life in September with an option until November to make a decision. Leaving Brighton being the question at hand.

Strange, I thought I loved that city, but a few days away with the situation that is awaiting me on my return? Not so much. "Lately it feels like we're drifting apart". That's the way with love, I suppose.

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)

Now that the snow and ice has finally melted I can actually bring myself to look at the pictures I took. Really there's only one good one, and that's why I'm posting it. Colours are true to life, it was that weird morning light where things are a little pink. It was probably the only time during the snow-of-death I actually looked at the snow and thought it beautiful (as opposed to OH MY GOD WHY WON'T IT MELT, I WANT MY LIFE AND TRANSPORT BACK!)

In other news, life isn't too shabby right now and although I'm still not enjoying my job things are shaping up nicely in other areas. This includes the blossoming relationship I am forging with the rats. Nico is emerging as the brave explorer whilst Reux patiently waits for Nico to return to their hiding spot and tell him what exists beyond the confines of the cage. I took them both downstairs the other day where they had a proper introduction to my flatmate. Some of my friends have already asked to be top of the rat-sitting list when I go on holiday, in fact two friends are so keen to look after them they suggested I go on holiday next week.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (November the 16th)

Today; the glorious return.

Getting on the train I felt very much torn - there is no place for me there now, and yet a little part of my heart shudders whenever I leave. I know a big part of the reluctance to leave was motivated by knowing I have to go back to work, back to that shop which is sapping my soul and which leaves me feeling exposed the moment I let the customer service façade slip.

As the train sped south the sun hung low in the sky making it impossible to gaze out of the window without squinting uncomfortably. It's hard not to read too much into that - being physically unable to look to my destination and the place I have assured myself my future lies.

Stepping off the train in Brighton I was not greeted by my normal rush of warm feelings and several hours later I still feel subdued. Of late I have been feeling more and more like I am being swept along to a place I did not imagine going to much less choose to see. I wonder if it's possible to stop the force which is propelling me or if this is simply how the working world runs - unstoppable, uninteresting, uninspiring.

This is fast becoming rather melancholy in tone so, given I have fulfilled my NaBloPoMo commitment for tonight, I will conclude there; with no more answers than I began with, and no more calm to face the day tomorrow with than I had this morning.

askygoneonfire: Brighton pier being hit with massive wave (November the 13th)

Whilst the very worst storms in Brighton see me dig in at home and wedge my windows shut, I do enjoy a saunter out to see Brighton getting ripped to pieces by wind and rain. During the very worst gales Brighton has seen since I have lived down South it was too dangerous to even go near to the seafront as the wind and waves actually lifted pebbles from the beach and moved them over the fences onto the promenade. This was the occasion when many of the beach huts on Hove seafront were completely levelled.

This weekend weather forecasters are promising us gallons of rain and gale force wind. If I listen very carefully I can hear the wind whipping through the trees and the rain lashing against the windows, but I have to listen very carefully through the double glazed windows and the high hedges which protect half of my parents house from the elements. Back home in Brighton my attic bedroom is south facing and exposed to the elements. I have, more than once, been awoken in the middle of the night by gale force winds shaking the entire building and a sound that suggested the most inclement of the elements would be bursting through my ceiling in the immediate future.

There is something deliciously raw about the sound of wind and rain hurling itself destructively at buildings, which, in the face of unbounded nature seem terribly primitive and impermanent. Pulling the duvet over ones head and listening as the wind screams past the window is one of the basest pleasures in life. I often think that the knowledge that we are safe and warm inside, comfortable and dry, is the closest we can come to jouissance after infancy.

The sublime is a fearsome experience but one which not just transports but transforms.  My very worst mood can be complete eradicated (or perhaps I should say 'blown away') by a fearsome storm, to the point that I receive the news of extreme weather warnings with delighted anticipation.  It is in this vein that I lament my current location - some 200 miles from the south coast which has been promised floods and gales whilst the East Midlands braces itself for a bit of rain.

Winter, at least, is decidedly here, and there will be plenty more occasions on which I can shiver with awe as the house shudders beneath the weight of a storm.


askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
a sky gone on fire

August 2017

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