Monday, 9 July 2012

Friday, 29 June 2012

Moving on...

Phew - it's been a busy couple of months. If you're wondering why I haven't posted here much, it's because I've been writing for three other blogs

Blurt - this was the last article, but there's a new one to follow shortly

So You Wanna Be A Grown-up - This is the first one I wrote - but again a new one to follow shortly


Leeds Inspired - not published yet, but here's the main website

This has been a concious decision after advice from various people about my blog. I've been very open with my health, but now I feel I should refresh my blogging for my business. This will probably (I say probably because I'm know to change my mind frequently) be my last post on here, but as soon as I start another blog, I'll let you know.

Thanks for listening, LBC people.

Monday, 7 May 2012


In reading my diaries from three years ago, something really stands out which helped me to get where I am today. So I'm going to share the secret of my success*

I read a book by Keri Smith, called Living Out Loud. I borrowed it from the library at Batley School of Art when I visited my friend Claudia, before I even studied there. It seemed really exciting at the time being able to borrow a book about art. I copied down loads of things out of it, instead of just buying it, and it occurs to me I still don't own a copy. I'm remedying that immediately after writing this.

In March 2009, I was deciding what to do with my life. My sick pay had run out, I couldn't get job seekers allowance, and the job centre recommended going self-employed. My diary is full of histrionic entries about my lack of care, interspersed with me talking about tidying my house. It's during one of these entries that I wrote this:

This morning I got up at 6am, and started moving things around in the study and dining room again. Whilst doing so, I had a BRILLIANT IDEA and built a tent out of blankets, put loads of pillows in it, and sat under it. I think I read somewhere that it's good for being creative. It kept falling down, so in the end I was just sitting on pillows with a blanket over my head like a parrot. 

Me in my shop, where I enjoy playing daily

That, dear friends, was something I read in the Keri Smith book. Whenever I talk to people now about this book, why I'm OK with not having children, or how I started being creative for a living, this story always trots its way out of my mouth. This is because my life became better when I started behaving more like a child.

You see, I love being around children, and I always have. I was a babysitter from the age of 12, not just evenings, but the whole of school holidays too. My work experience trials at school were both in schools because I wanted to be a teacher. After I left school, I carried on volunteering with children in schools through Volunteer Reading Help, and worked as an Applied Behavioural therapist with autistic children.

Everyone told me I'd make a great mother, but as I got older, and we realised having children was looking more unlikely, it upset me. Luckily, my friends started having them instead - I'm one of those people who looks forward to seeing friends' children as well as the friends. I have a toy box (shaped like a treasure chest) which gets dragged out, two shelves of children's books, and I'm usually to be found sitting on the floor playing games with them while their parents try and talk to me.

I definitely treat children like small adults. I've never been into 'goo goo-ing' at babies, and I use the same vocabulary as I do with everyone else – I just explain what the longer words mean if the child asks. Usually they don't, they get the meaning of the sentence as a whole (like people for whom English isn't their first language I guess). I'm not saying this is the right way to talk to children, by any means, I'm just showing how I see adults and children, which should make better sense of this post.

What I'm trying to explain is that to me acting like a child isn't about regressing my behaviour, being naughty, eating sweets and so on. It's the way I view my world and the things within it. There's not a massive delineation in my head between talking to a child and talking to an adult – I swear less obviously, but otherwise I talk the same gobbledegook. I agree with the ideas they come up with, laugh at the same jokes, and get annoyed at the same things.

The way children look at the world is so creative. When we wrote stories at school, we'd always draw a picture, we stopped for playtime two or three times a day – and we were, on the whole, happy. Can you remember laughing more than when you were pre-teen? I see my friends filling their children's school holidays with art projects, play dates, and visits to museums and galleries.

Keri Smith's book advocates all these things for adults too, and reading it gave me 'permission' to do these things and not feel guilty. Once I realised I didn't have to have children of my own to 'play', my mood lifted considerably. I went on play dates with myself, packing a rucksack with pencils, paper and a bottle of squash. As mentioned above, I built a den in my spare bedroom, and sat under it reading.

It's not just about making time for yourself, an oft quoted women's magazine obsession – I don't want to put on a face mask or have a relaxing bath, although I don't begrudge anyone who does enjoy that. Children fill their free time doing things they want to do, and it's only when they aren't allowed to that they get upset – it's a good lesson for adulthood, because we can't always get what we want, can we?

When I did my art course, I'd just been doing it so long, it didn't seem stupid any more. Drawing was just what I did, as I kept having to explain to people who wanted to know how I'd managed to do so much homework. I had to explain that making a pen holder out of old toilet rolls was not a compulsory part of the course, but I was making it anyway, and it fitted the brief.

Some people on my course never got this. However, the ones who did really well were the ones for whom being creative was either just part of their life, or it became a part of their life once they found the right medium. Two examples spring to mind.

  1. Kim was someone who had always drawn all the time at home. She came on our course, and after gaining confidence in her drawing, she opened a tattoo studio at the age of 20. This has been a fantastic success, and now she's fully booked all the time, and she's still only 21.
  2. AM had been a florist, and thought she wasn't very good at art, although she felt creative. She struggled while we were painting or drawing, but kept on 'playing' Then, once we started doing photography, she blossomed. She ended up doing the rest of the course in half the time, and is now an award winning photographer.

So today I urge you to do something fun. Doodle something on your telephone message pad, and if you think you can't draw (and everyone can, it's just some are better than others) then get yourself a colouring book. Drag out that knitting you never finished, and use the wool to make a pom-pom with a cardboard circle like at school. If you have children, borrow some of their toys, set up their doll's house in a way that pleases you or redress their Barbie doll.

Like everything, it'll take practice. You'll feel like an idiot at first, but once you learn to let go, it's liberating, and you might find a hidden talent.

For more information, go to Keri Smith's website at

If you're in the Leeds area, there's something exciting going on you might be interested in as well - Playful Leeds

* success as quantified by being happy in my work, not monetary

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Our bedroom wall

For anyone unaware of my marital situation, I'm very happily married to Ian aka Ibbs. He's quadriplegic, which means he can't move anything below his neck, and has been since before I met him.

I moved in with him in 1999, and his gift to me was knocking a hole through between our bedrooms, and putting in a folding door for when either of us wanted privacy. Whenever we went on holiday, my favourite thing was sharing a bed, just for the closeness.

We finally decided to knock down the whole wall last year, and got our acts together to get a builder booked and a holiday booked so we didn't have to mess around with putting him into bed in a mess.

What's surprised me is the reaction to my joy. I've had people saying its 'too much information' and that they don't want to know about my sex life. You may note that not once in this post have I said anything about sex.

You see, people with double beds who've shared it for years take it for granted. Last night was the first time I've slept next to Ian in our own house, ever. We've shared a bed on holiday, but even me saying this is too much for some people.

Think about it. After 10 years of marriage, do you have sex every night? Or do you just enjoy having a cuddle and then going to sleep? For the last 13 years, I've kissed Ian goodnight, and gone to my own bed in the next room. Last night I fell asleep in his arms.

It got me thinking about how people generally see Ian and I. A friend told me the other week that her boyfriend isn't in the mood for sex, and I suggested it wasn't anything to do with her being unattractive, which I guarantee it isn't, and she told me that even though sex isn't important to me, it is to other couples.

So it seems like I can't win. If I don't talk about sex, people assume we don't have it. If I talk about sharing space with Ian it's too much information.

I guarantee we are exactly the same as every couple married for ten years. We have sex, not as often as we did when we first met. We bicker, we laugh, we get sick of each other, we kiss, we hold hands, we talk.

Sex isn't the most important thing in our lives. Just like I guarantee it isn't in any long term relationship. It always reminds me of a line in one of my favourite films 'Whats Up Doc?'

Eunice: I'm not looking for romance, Howard.
Howard: Oh?
Eunice: No, I'm looking for something more important than that, something stronger. As the years go by, romance fades and something else takes its place. Do you know what that is?
Howard: Senility?
Eunice: Trust!
Howard: That's what I meant.

So last night as Ian and I held each other, and giggled as we listened to a Ricky Gervais podcast, we both agreed that this was bliss.. Especially when the cat jumped up and settled down in between us.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

10 things which make me happy

I wrote this a few years ago, but it makes me happy re-reading it. At the time I was writing a lot for Ciao, and Mum had just died.

10. Finding a bargain

They do say the best things in life are free, but even better is something which is supposed to cost a lot more than you get it for.

For example, today I found a really nice dress in Mk One. It is miles too small yet, but it’ll be perfect for a spring wedding we’re going to next year. It was reduced from £30 to £10, which is tres bargalicious, but when I got it to the till, the assistant said it had been reduced further to £3. Who (apart from most men) could fail to be thrilled at this?

My favourite bargain ever – my orange Austin Allegro which cost £100 when I was 19, and lasted me for about 7 years

9. Cats curling up on my knee

There’s nothing like the feeling of a heavy, furry, warm object on your knee, making a sound like they’re drilling into your leg. It’s so therapeutic stroking them, and I can think of no better way of spending an afternoon than sitting on a big comfy chair, cat on knee, and a good book to read (more later).

My favourite cat ever – it seems unfair to choose between the two we have currently, but it has to be Holly I’m afraid, purely because she’s the fattest, stupidest, most adorable creature I’ve ever had as a pet.

8. Lying in a double bed with Ian

Because of Ian’s disability, at home we have to sleep in separate beds, which isn’t too bad as I snore and like to have the curtains open all night, but can feel a bit lonely. When we go away, we usually get a double room, and it makes going away an even bigger treat. I don’t mean anything rude, by the way, I just mean that feeling of falling asleep with your arm round someone, and waking up and watching SM:TV while you’re both still a bit sleepy. It’s something I bet everyone else takes for granted, but it’s really special to me.

My favourite double bed ever – the one in the Morrison in Dublin where we spent our honeymoon.

7. Being outside

Maybe it’s because I’m from the country, but I love to spend time outside. For the last year or two, I’ve not been so keen, but I’ve really got back into the swing of the great outdoors since I’ve been going for long walks everywhere.

When I was younger, I used to walk everywhere, often for hours at a time. The town where I grew up had no public transport, so it was mostly necessary, but a lot of the time, I walked to think. I spent a lot of time walking along the river, and sitting under bridges writing, and my absolute favourite thing was always walking in the rain. Spalding is very flat too, so I used to cycle a lot. Then I learnt to drive, and it all went a bit tits up – it made me lazy, and I stopped walking and cycling, and just used to drive for miles instead. I was still outside though.

My favourite outdoor place –a little bridge down the road from my childhood house. I used to go and sit with my legs dangling off it, and it was very overgrown so no one ever saw me. I’d listen to music, and read or write for hours, and as I got older I used to sometimes take a boy I knew down there in the hope he’d be overtaken with the romance of it all and ravish me (he never did, well, not there anyway, but that’s another story…)

6. Thinking about the future and remembering the past

As you might have already gathered, I’ve always been a dreamer. I’ve always imagined what the future might be like, drawing outfits I was going to wear when I was older, thinking about who I might marry, writing lists of children’s names. Now I’m in my late twenties, I can also reminisce about the past as well as think about the future, and I can sit and think about either for a long time (usually once I get to where I’m walking and need a sit down).

My favourite memory – I’d love to say it’s one about my Mum, but they don’t make me happy at the minute, so it can’t really go in this category. Instead, the memory which never fails to make me happy, was a night out I once had in Liverpool. A group of four friends and myself took it upon ourselves to dress up before we went out. There was no reason to or anything, we just thought it’d be a laugh (as you do when you’re students). We all had too much to drink, and I started trying to pimp the other four girls off to a bloke at a cash point. Later on, two of them crashed onto the stage of a student ‘Blind Date’ event, telling the girl not to pick number two cause he was ugly as f*ck. I can’t remember ever laughing so much in my life, and although it sounds sad now, it really was the best night out I ever had.

My favourite future dream – it’s a bit obvious, but if I start to think about overeating, I imagine myself wearing a vest top, with my tattoo showing, holding a baby, and it stops me every time.

5. People

I thought about putting my family, or friends, or Ian, into this list, but the reality is that despite sounding like a lonely Billy-no-mates, I actually love to be around people. I find it very hard to dislike people; like my Dad, you’d have to really do something awful for me to not bother with you.

People who always make me happy – obviously, Ian and my family make me happy, that goes without saying, so I’m going to choose Jessica and Grace, my Godchildren, Katie, my oldest friend, and Nicola, my closest friend. I don’t think any of those four have ever made me unhappy.

4. Photographs

This is a wide topic, on purpose, as I couldn’t narrow it into just taking photographs or just looking at them. I don’t mean arty photos either - I mean candid, people grinning, holding the camera at arms length, stiffly posed wedding shots, drunken holiday snaps… basically it follows on from my love of people. I’m actually someone who loves looking at other people’s photos when they bring round their wedding or holiday snaps.
Much to Ian’s chagrin, I have framed photos all over the house, and about 30 albums of actual photographs, as well as a huge box of un-framed and un-albumed photos. Now we have a digital camera, it’s scary how many photos we have on discs and the hard drive, and the fact they don’t cost anything any more means I take even more photos than I did before.

My favourite photograph – Ian's favourite one of me is a wedding one where I’m laughing with my gob very wide open while Ian is smiling at me. I don’t think I could ever choose a favourite ever photograph.

3. Music

There’s not much I can say about this choice, despite it being so enormous, except that if I ever feel unhappy, I can always count on music to cheer me up.

My favourite songs that make me happy –
“Honey Pie” – The Beatles
“Sabotage” – Beastie Boys
“Gin Soaked Boy” – Divine Comedy
“New Sensation” – INXS
“The Man on the Flying Trapeze” – Spike Jonze

hmmm, well, they're all pretty good, but i have to say I can't believe i missed off 'E=MC2' by Big Audio Dynamite, and why no Bowie?

2. Reading

Similarly to the last choice, I can’t say much about this. I just feel very safe whenever I start to read print, and will read almost anything.

My favourite books that make me happy –
The Georgia Nicholson diaries by Louise Rennison
Calvin and Hobbes books
“Gilbert’s Guide to Life” – TV tie in book by Gilbert the Alien
“Notes from a Big Country” – Bill Bryson
Anything involving music trivia

1. Writing

Writing has always been my lifesaver, since I was about 12 years old. It started when Allyson, my school friend, and I bought hard backed A5 notebooks, and started to use them as diaries. Mine sprawled into me writing everything I thought and felt, whilst hers was consigned to the dustbin.

I used to fill one of these books every year, usually with mindless rambling about what I was going to do when I was older, who I fancied, and how I was going to lose a stone and have a holiday romance. I started writing short stories when I was about 14, fuelled by a teacher at school who always gave me good marks, but used to ask me after class if my home-life was okay – my stories usually involved teenagers committing suicide or being raped, and parents fighting or killing each other.

Once I left home, I continued to write daily, and it really saved me when I was trying to decide how I felt about Ian, and how I felt about what I was doing to myself. I also started producing my own fanzines, which had my writing and poetry as well as reviews and interviews I’d done, and cartoons I’d drawn. There’s no wonder I didn’t do better in my degree when I remember how much time I spent writing and drawing unrelated stuff.

Then, when I moved in with Ian, I decided to leave my past behind, and burned all my hard backed notebooks in a ceremonial fire. I really regret this now, but there’s no point in crying over burnt pages. At least I kept all my fanzines, a lot of which have bits taken from my notebooks. After that my writing slowed down to the occasional stab at finishing my novel, but mainly writing lots of lists, which is a bit of an obsession of mine.

So, now I use writing online to help me deal with stuff that’s going on – some of it ends up on Ciao or Live Journal, and some doesn’t, but it all helps to keep me on an even keel – writing does more than makes me happy, it stops me from going barmy. 

The best thing I’ve ever written – I once actually published a novella, and even though it wasn’t very good, I’m pretty darn proud of that, especially as it got a few good reviews in other fanzines. It was called ‘Speeding Life’ and was a sort of sci-fi thing. Unfortunately, the story was slightly similar to The Lawnmower Man, even though I never read it or saw the film, and as such some people accused me of ripping it off. Oh well.

Most of this is still true. I can't believe I wasn't making stuff at this point, then again, writing was a creative outlet.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Adoption and babies

 A couple of pieces of writing I've done about children and adoption

August 2008 - the opening to a book I never wrote

"As soon as we walk through the door, I know something is wrong. Not wrong for them of course, but wrong for us. Two bottles, nine tall glasses, and expectant faces as we enter the room.

“Bloody hell, champagne? Are you pregnant again?”

A hesitation, too long, like the clocks have stopped. They’ve already got two children, there’s already a lump in my throat.

“Well, not us,” K breathes, looking meaningfully at T.

I turn my attention to M and T as well: our last childless, but also unmarried, friends. A final ray of hope, perhaps it’s engagement champagne. I look at T, and notice no ring on the finger of her left hand, as it rests protectively across her stomach in that familiar, gut-wrenching way.

She’s pregnant. I want to run out of the door, but we’re not at home, and I wouldn’t know where to go. I do the only other thing I can do. I fling myself at the couple, scrabbling to get past chairs and tables to bury my face into their shoulders, so my congratulations seem genuine.

The champagne is passed around: it’s easy to get plastered when someone has good news, a ready made excuse to celebrate, and the high strength alcohol at hand."

September 2008 - a reaction to a Sun article on adoption

"There's currently an adoption drive by Barnado's in the newspaper because they feel people are forgetting about adoption. Every time I read these articles it mades me sad, and angry, and I pine a little bit.

For anyone that doesn't know, I started trying to lose weight in 2004 because we decided we wanted a child. I was very overweight, because of my own fault, but exacerbated by Mum being ill and then dying in late 2003.

Looking into different options, we decided on adoption, mainly because having a child naturally would mean me being pregnant and not able to look after Ian (this was pre-funding days). I looked into it and knew my BMI needed to be 40. It was 60 at the time, but I was managing to lose weight easily.

Once my BMI got to 41, we decided to apply. We went to the meetings, we had the home visits, and we were told that because Ian is disabled, my BMI would need to be 38. I asked why this was, and it was because if anything happened to me, then only Ian would be bringing up the child. I didn't quite understand this, as single people are being allowed to adopt, and if a single parent died, they'd be in a worse position than we would if Ian died. However, I was willing to do whatever was needed.

Everything was set, I just had to wait until my BMI was 38 and then give them a call and let them know.

I don't work well under pressure. I like to do things at my own pace, and I always get it done in time, because I start early. It was taking me longer to lose those 3 BMI points than it did the 19 previously.

We received a telephone call telling us we had been taken off the list because it was taking too long for us to respond. We'd never been told there was a time limit. My BMI was at 40 at this point.

It broke my heart. We seemed so close, and now we were back at the start. I lost interest in losing weight, and in children altogether. When someone told me they were pregnant, anyone, I couldn't be happy for them. At this moment in time, I don't think we'll be having a child.

What upsets me so much is that no one who can just have a baby gets tested in this way. There are people having babies with a BMI above 40 all over the world. Luckily we don't smoke either, as this goes against you, but even so there are people smoking having babies all over the world.

Leaving aside high profile parents, we see patients in the surgery whose children's teeth are full of cavities because they allow them to drink sugary soft drinks straight from the bottle at the age of 3. I see people in the street chatting on their mobile phones and blowing smoke in their children's faces as they completely ignore them. I've volunteered in schools and sat reading with children whose parents don't bother reading to them at home.

What I'm trying to say is, parents make mistakes. Some parents are fat, some parents smoke, some parents become bankrupt. Even the best parent in the world can have a bad day amongst a thousand good ones.

The fact is, if you can become a parent without assistance, then it's fine. If you need help to become a parent, you're scrutinised in every area of your life, as they try and make you fit a mould at that particular point in your life. If I reached a BMI of 38 and adopted, then put the weight back on, would they take the child away? If I married someone I didn't love and adopted, and then remarried Ian and took the child with me, would that make a difference? Come to think of it, if we managed to adopt, and then I left Ian and married a smoker, would they take my child away?

When my BMI was 40, I was the fittest I've ever been, going to the gym 3 times a week, never drinking, never eating sugar, and feeling the best I've ever felt. If that isn't good enough, I don't think I'm ever going to be good enough by their standards. I think from now on I'll stop reading newspaper articles about how people aren't adopting any more, and carry on living my fat life in a good home with a secure income and loving parents who never were."

Sunday, 18 March 2012

'I just got a Netflix account, and there's nothing worth watching...' - THINK AGAIN!

Ian got himself a month's free trial on Netflix, and hasn't been impressed. However, I have been, after downloading the app for my iPad and watching stuff in bed and whilst waiting for stuff out and about.

You've probably seen your friends on facebook who have a Netflix account, as Netflix have an annoying habit of publishing anything you watch on your wall, unless you specifically tell it not to. Ian's main complaint is that there aren't many new films, and my major issue before browsing thoroughly was that everything seemed to be about marijuana.

It took me a while to work out that this is because it shows you what is popular on facebook to start with, but as Netflix gets to know you it starts suggesting stuff you'll actually want to watch. Plus, if you have a good look instead of just seeing the films sorted by popularity, it's worth the extra time.

They've recently added all the series of classic British comedies, such as Red Dwarf, Fawlty Towers, and A Bit Of Fry And Laurie, as well as Pulp Fiction, Fargo, The Sixth Sense and other films which are obviously brilliant, and you just want to watch again.

HOWEVER, there are also some absolute CORKERS you might just be ignoring, because you don't know what it is, think it looks rubbish, or is just really old. Here's my pick of what's currently looking good on there, and what you should probably avoid.


King of Kong

Really fascinating documentary about two men locked in a btter conflict over who can get the highest score on Donkey Kong. Yes, it sounds rubbish, but it's gripping.

Man on Wire

Another documentary, this one about a man who walked on a tightrope between the Twin Towers in New York.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

George Clooney directs Sam Rockwell in 'apparently based on truth' biopic of the game show host who killed people under instruction from the CIA. It's got some beautifully filming in it, and Drew Barrymore being good.

There Will Be Blood

Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano hamming it up tremendously in this film about oil. That's all I can remember about it, but it was amazing, and I want to watch it again now it's on here.

The Princess Bride

Classic 1980s comedy which everyone, everywhere, should watch.

So I Married an Axe Murderer 

As above, but if you like Mike Myers and/or the 1990s.

Inside I'm Dancing

James McAvoy as a youngster, playing a quadriplegic man. I don't remember what happens, but he was brilliant, and I cried.

United States of Leland

Ryan Gosling is in it - do I need to say anything else?


One of the best films ever made - fact. That bloke who directed Iron Man, being very sweet, and ultimately swing dancing with Heather Graham.

The Castle

Surprisingly heart warming Australian film about a man trying to save the land his house is built on from being turned into an airport.

Planet Terror

Stupidly brilliant Robert Rodriguez directed Grindhouse film, where Rose *thingy* has a shotgun for a leg.

Mystery Men

Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria and William H Macy lead a gang of rubbish superheroes against Geoffrey Rush. Eddie Izzard and Greg Kinnear make appearrances. I like this film so much I've had 3 copies as I keep giving it to people to convince them to watch it.

Grosse Point Blank / High Fidelity

The only two good John Cusack films you'll ever find. Ian says Grosse.. is the most underrated film of all time, but I just like it because Dan Aykroyd is in it.

Belleville Rendezvous (The Triplets of Belleville) 

French animation about a cyclist who gets kidnapped, a fat dog, and a set of singing triplets. It's awesome, I wish I could remember more about it.

City of God

Same with this - Brazillian slum children get involved in gang related activities. It's beautifully filmed though.


Enjoyable action romp with Sean Bean and Christian Bale, where everyone lives without emotions. There's no better gun fight that the end of this IMHO.


Johnny Depp romantic comedy, which is actually pretty good, no doubt because Alfred Molina ends up covered in chocolate.


Nighty Nighty - season 1

Really weird comedy with Julia Davis and Kevin Eldon. It's very dark, but Angus Deayton is pretty good.

Derren Brown: Trick of the Mind - seasons 1 and 2

I was surprised when we told people we were seeing him live that some people didn't know who he was. This is where he started, and there's still astonishing feats on this show, including Simon Pegg getting excited about a BMX.

Dexter - seasons 1 and 2

If you haven't seen this, then you really should. It's the best thing on television now, and possibly ever. Seriously.

Breaking Bad - season 1 and 2

Very enjoyable series abouta chemistry teacher who has cancer and starts cooking crystal meth. Again, very dark, but really funny.

The Office (US) - seasons 1-5

Some people haven't watched the US office because they think it's just the English one refilmed. It isn't. There are loads more characters, storylines, and episodes. It's funny, touching and very quotable.

Todd Margarett

An interesting little series about an American who has increasingly bad luck week after week. Also had the tall one from Inbetweeners in it.

Saxondale - season 1 and 2

Again, some people avoided this because they thought Steve Coogan had lost it after Tony Ferrino. This is a return to form, with Ruth Jones (again).

Things to avoid like the plague

Midnight Meat Train

Vinnie Jones kills people on a subway train. Really stupid for 90 minutes, last ten minutes absurd.

Scary Movie 2-4

First Scary Movie isn't bad - the sequels are atrocious.


The Quentin Tarantino grindhouse film, the lesser of the two.

Nude Nuns with Big Guns / Hobo with a Shotgun

Ian started watching both of these, and stopped after ten minutes, so I'm assuming they're pants.

Lost in Translation / Broken Flowers

Two Bill Murray films where he slouches around looking miserable, and nothing happens.


Follow-up to Swingers. It's awful

Nighty Night season 2

Ruth Jones more prominent, but it's not her fault this series isn't a patch on the first.

Things I'd like to point out

15 films with a gay character in them does not constitute a Gay/Lesbian section on your website. Especially when it includes The Hours and yet doesn't include Queer as Folk.

NB This is absolutely NOT an advertising feature, as I'm not being paid to write it. This is purely because I keep telling everyone about the free trial with Netflix, and how it's better than you might think it is. I'm also writing it purely on memory, as I think it's a more honest opinion, so these reviews might be sparse on actual facts.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Three years ago today...

I'm writing this, as it's probably the most important day in my life. It's three years since things finally started going right.

Three years ago yesterday was also the day I thought would be my last. I'd had enough, and wrote this after seeing my CPN

"Obviously the NHS thinks I've had the same professional for long enough now. Kimberley is leaving next week, so I met her replacement today. I was told she was the replacement after ten minutes of wondering who she was, and then they left five minutes later. She asked if I was OK with this - what would have happened if I'd said no? As it was, I'm actually relieved. Apart from the paranoia that she doesn't like me and that's why she doesn't want to work with me any more, I'm actually happy about it.

Are CPNs trained to never say 'well done'? Or for that matter, actually do anything? Bearing in mind she's been my CPN for 4 weeks now, these are the answers I got to the things I told her (as well as I can remember)

1. I've been thinking about my long term future for the first time in months, and I think I might want to be an art therapist - "ok"

2. If I want to be an art therapist, I might need help with funding, is that possible? - "I'm not sure, it's something you'll need to look into"

3. remember last time you were here 2 weeks ago we talked about me having art therapy? well, I'd still like to have art therapy - "oh yes, I haven't looked into that yet"

4. The GP and I are still wondering why I can't have CBT any more - "I haven't had any luck getting through to them yet"

5. My meds have been doubled, and I've been given prolonged release instead of the normal sort. the psychiatrist mentioned this. Can I still take them? - "you need to ask the pharmacist"

6. My GP and I discussed self help books seeing as I'm waiting so long for the next CBT appointment, so I've bought one but I haven't done anything with it yet cause I've been so tired - "ok"

She also let slip that the new referral for CBT HASN'T BEEN SENT YET - I know this, and am not being paranoid because she said that there were other options for the referral as well as CBT (so obviously it isn't sent yet) and mentioned another sort of therapy called DBT. I asked what this was, and she told me I should Google it.

I told her what I'd been doing for the last 2 weeks, and what I have planned for the next month, and she turned to the new CPN and said 'And this is the girl who says she has nothing to do!' in a comical fashion. NO - YOU HAVE ME CONFUSED - I AM THE GIRL WHO HAS TO LEARN HOW TO PACE HERSELF AS SHE CAN'T RELAX AND CAN ALWAYS FIND SOMETHING TO DO.

What a pointless waste of everyone's time. At least I'm not crying. it's got to be a good sign surely?"

That night, I did cry. And cry. And cry some more. I got so upset, my friend Claudia invited me to her workplace for lunch the next day. Afterwards I wrote this

"I finally visited Claudia at work, and for some reason I hadn't really cottoned on where she worked. I knew it was a library of some kind, at a college of some kind

She works at the Batley School of Art and Design

I walked in, and it's where I belong. I've never felt so at home anywhere new in years

People smile at you and don't comment on your crap stripy socks
AND Claudia is there being friendly and asking if I've found anything good, and telling me about the kaiser Chiefs gig she went to last night
And there's a totally reasonable coffee shop
The surroundings and building are beautiful
and people sit in rooms PAINTING and listening to music
most importantly
and you can take them home with you if you have a magic card

I want to study there SO BADLY

Claudia rang the head of the foundation course, and it sounds like they'd be happy to have me if they like my portfolio

Sorry? What? What I have at the minute are about 30 box canvases, all in plastic sleeves with prices on them for a craft fair, and about 30 small canvas boards mounted and in plastic sleeves as well. I've emailed him asking what a portfolio is, which might not do my application any good, but which at least is honest.

He replied and told me not to worry, and just take whatever i could with me to the open day on 17th march :D i think i'll probably do it part time, which is 4 years, i'm not sure it's the same as that one year foundation thing, and me being mature will probably give me some leeway - he knows i know claudia as well, so you never know a bit of nepotism might help (Claudia told him how enthusiastic I am and how much she likes me paintings)"

Things can change so quickly - never give up, never lose hope.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Edwin Mellifera handwrapped ring - big green spirals - $5.00

Edwin's first wave of rings. This wave were all made before he discovered silver-plated wire, so all of them use colour coated copper wire, or simply silver coloured metal wire. As such, I cannot guarantee the longevity of them. They are costume jewellery, and as such are priced lower than those using silver-plated wire.

Size of ring - Y or 12

The model photos show Tottie Spon Sills ...

Click Here to Visit My Etsy Shop!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Edwin Mellifera handwrapped ring - 3 planets, wrapped in green - $8.00

Edwin's second wave of rings. This wave were all made after his discovery of silver-plated wire, as well as still using colour-coated copper wire. As such, I cannot guarantee their longevity. It is better than the first wave - however it should be remembered that they are costume jewellery, and are not meant to be worn all day, every day.

Size of ring - N or 6.5

The model photos show...

Click Here to Visit My Etsy Shop!

Friday, 24 February 2012

A break from talking about jewellery

Some of you may have me as a friend on Facebook - some of you may know me in real life. If you've been reading this blog for a while, I've talked about mental health before, so none of this will be new to 99% of people reading it. Anyway, this week, I've been criticised for showing my blog entries from three years ago on Facebook. So I'm just going to answer this criticism.

Three years ago, I was a mess. I was having trouble getting used to medication, I was having trouble with the GPs, psychiatrists and other health professionals I was seeing. I wrote a journal on Live Journal (LJ) every day to keep track of where I was and how I was feeling.

The other day, I was looking for the entry about how I was given the name 'Life's Big Canvas' by Bel, a friend of mine. I read the other entries around it, and it struck me how far I'd come in three years.

So why did I decide to share bits of my LJ stuff on Facebook?

1. To show people who didn't know me then what I was like
2. As a 'feel good' thing to show how far you can come
3. Because I'm proud of myself, I won't lie
4. To show that you can overcome mental health issues if you find what you need
5. Because this is part of who I am, and I'm not ashamed

I hope me sharing this doesn't alienate anyone. I'm not saying you have to have the same problems to like what I do, even if it is part of what I do. Without painting, I wouldn't have coped. Without painting, I wouldn't be self-employed and running a shop.

I don't want my business to be defined by mental health - but I don't want to deny it either. I have clinical depression, bipolar tendencies, cyclothymia or OCD, depending on which mental health professional you listen to. As my friend Alice says, I am also 'a face'.

*edit to add*

This comment on Facebook made all this worthwhile anyway

"Why would anyone criticise you for posting these entries! I think it is absolutely inspirational how far you have come, and you *should* be proud of yourself. Also you are giving a real hope to all who have mental health issues - which let's face it, is a lot of us."

Monday, 20 February 2012

Tagline problems

I recently tweeted Rowan for something to add to her FAQs which I have been enjoying. I just cannot think of a slogan/tagline for my shop!


I've always had trouble with narrowing things down. It's partly an inability to make decisions, and partly because my brain races* quite a lot. I couldn't even decide what to call my business when I started it. I had a discussion on Live Journal, and went with a suggestion from a friend.

"Message from Bel, January 2009

Ok so these might be lame but just some names I was thinking up off the top of my head.

“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.” Pablo Picasso
* The Painting Diaries
* Diary of a Painter

“Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it.” Danny Kaye
* Life's Big Canvas

* Paintings for the Soul
* Chloe's Canvas' "
 Message from Chloe
"I love those quotes!! Life's Big canvas is it. i love danny kaye


So Rowan did a very helpful FAQ - and it's had me thinking all week.

Over the weekend, I had a visit from Zoe of Urban Magpie. She admitted being a little confused at first by my business, and she isn't the first one. I've talked on here before about how I see "Life's Big Canvas" as my shop, but then I make jewellery for my own shop, so I obviously haven't defined my business properly enough. I described it to Zoe like this

"My jewellery shop is like, say, Asda, and the jewellery I make is like their own brand range. Like Basics or Taste the Difference or whatever. But then I wholesale some stuff and I do sale or return on others depending where they're from and how well know they are, and how much I like the stuff, and whether it will fit in. Some stuff I buy in and then change, or package better. So... yeah.."

This is clearly rubbish. This isn't a mission statement, it's garble. This is why I asked Rowan in the first place. Her slogan is

"Say No to Boho, Grab Something Colourful Kitschy Funky and Fun"

This says everything about her jewellery range, and she also has a clearly defined mission statement by inviting people to 'say no to boho'. It's short, sweet, to the point. I'm jealous of it.

I also like Kim of Finest Imaginary's slogan

"Defeating bland outfits and boring spaces with a single purchase!"
This works because although it's long, it's snappy, and it brings to mind comic books (When I first met Kim she was making her 'Grrr' and 'Aargh' necklaces)

I have had slogans before. The first was...

"Recycled art jewellery"

There's nothing about this which is either a slogan, or appealling.
Then I changed my Folksy and Etsy banners, and decided that this would be a good one...

"Life is like a big canvas, you are your life's canvas, your accessories are the paint"

However, now I see that this actually makes no sense, is far too long, and not catchy at all.
I had to make an advert very quickly recently for a print deadline, so I rushed off...

"Affordable individual jewellery and accessories and gifts from cult UK designers."

Still too long, and I've clearly stolen the bit about 'cult UK designers' (without meaning to) from Indie Cindy's old flyers. However, it is starting to narrow down what I'm trying to do with my shop.

Rowan herself has also noticed the problems I'm having with defining what I want to achieve.

" ♥ What's your mission?
Chloe sells her own designs and other independent designers' work in her shop.  But what is the mission? To sell limited edition designs from UK based designers? To give first-class customer service? To provide accessories to a very specific sub-culture customer? "

I've worked with Rowan before, and she's known me for about a year now. She's even confused about what I do, and she worked in my shop.


1. I want to provide things for people to buy which are only usually available either online or at craft fairs. This is 90% jewellery, but I also have little dolls, baby grows, some sweets and purses.
2. I want to sell them at the same price they are sold online for, as I know how savvy people are about internet prices
3. I want to provide great service, and help people pick out the right gift for themselves or others
4. The stuff I make is limited edition, but some of the other designers make multiples of the same design. However, I try not to have more than one of the same item in store at the same time.
5. I suppose I want to appeal to a specific sub-culture - people who want to wear stuff no one else is wearing, whatever their age or personal style. I have a lot of customers who are part of the burlesque scene, as well as the Lolita girls, the local tattooist, the lady who flyers outside the hairdresser (who is older than me) and children (who are obviously younger)
6. My shop has been described as being like a sweet shop, particularly because it always smells of jelly beans (I have a Jelly Belly air freshener above the radiator) and I do actually sell sweets as well as jewellery.

Words already coming to mind are: child, candy, limited, appeal, service, people, sweets


So far I have come up with the following on my own. I'm writing down all of them, so no giggles please

"Body Candy For the Child Within"
"Providing you and your loved ones with first class service and gifts"
"Limited Edition Body Candy"
"Appeals to the child within"

The one I like the most was this one, however

"Limited Pieces for Limitless People"

So I tweeted it for reactions

"I Like it"
"Love it"
"It's great"
"Too businessy"
"Sounds upmarket"

I got some good advice

"it all depends on the market you are aiming for, you have a pretty good core following from what I see and as long as you don't isolate them it's never a bad thing to try and draw a new crowd"

I also had this suggested as an alternative from someone who thought it was 'businessy' and not 'cool' or 'quirky' enough

"(Indulge in) Life's Little Luxuries"

This has given me a lot to think about. Even more so than before.


Any feedback gratefully received!

*if you don't know what brain racing is, basically it's like having a four year old shouting ideas in your head every minute of the day

Monday, 13 February 2012

Twitter - post bootcamp!

I've now been using Twitter 'properly' for about 2 weeks. I started using it again just before my bootcamp organised by Sew You and Kitschen Sink, just so I knew why I found it difficult and could ask decent questions. I wanted to learn to use Twitter because I don't like letting things beat me, and I was having the following problems with Facebook.

My problems with Facebook

1. Constant changes of the way things work, including the latest introduction of 'Timeline' - this is awful, and was the last straw. I don't want people to look too closely at all my old stuff, I want them to judge me on what I'm doing right now, not four years ago.
2. Random privacy control rubbish - I keep being 'checked into' places I'm not at, just so that someone else's business shows up on my newsfeed
3. Trying to run a business profile, a personal profile, and a facebook page - I annoyed one person with marketing stuff, even though it was my business profile, and keep forgetting I have a personal profile
4. Facebook being full of children, and/or childish people - there's so much drama on FB, it makes me feel very paranoid.
5. Etiquette problems - I've annoyed people in the past by doing stuff which is against their personal facebook etiquette, and not doing somethings which seem totally opposite because it's what someone else expects. This is the fundamental issue with facebook - everyone uses it so differently, it makes me even more paranoid.
6. Constantly being asked to be involved in competitions which I know break the FB rules - eg 'like' this photo please!
7. Most evenings I'd end up in a ball of mess ater using FB because I'd done or NOT done something someone else expected me to do

Problems I had with Twitter

Every time I tried Twitter instead of FB, I'd end up in the same ball of mess. This time it was because I couldn't understand what was going on. I knew what RT meant, and why people used @ symbols. But what's with the # (hash tag)? Plus everything moves SO QUICKLY.

It occurred to me though that this swiftness might counteract the problems I have with FB - things move so quickly that people are surely only going to judge me on the last few things I say.

I also used to blog A LOT a few years ago, but time constraints have meant I haven't been expressing opinions about my home life. Twitter is often referred to as micro-blogging, and I wondered if this might help me get back to my roots of talking about ME as well as my business.


During Bootcamp, all these issues were dealt with. We talked about etiquette, what is expected of you on twitter. There really isn't very much which is frowned upon as far as I can tell - you follow people, you don't have to ask permission, if you unfollow, no one minds.

Obviously I'm not going to tell you everything which was discussed, I want you to go to one for yourself, but here are the first three changes I made

1. A new profile picture
2. A new bio
3. Installing a twitter app on my smart phone

A week later

So, I think Rowan and Abi must be witches of some kind. A week of using twitter regularly, using the advice they gave me, these are the changes

1. 100 more followers on Twitter
2. 28 more likers on my FB fanpage
3. I now use FB more like I used to, mainly as a way to chat and keep up with friends, and I remember to use my fan page if I want to talk business
4. Website traffic increase of 80% - that's an average of 14 people a week, up to 162 in one week
5. Not only have I had more traffic, I've had more sales. Up until last week, I'd only sold 2 things on my website - last week I sold 3 items.
6. I've also been featured in a blogpost here - - from one of the sales
7. Another sale is for another blogger, who I hope will review :)
8. I thanked the Leeds Guide for the feature  using a tweet, and they retweeted it to their 11,000 followers

So, I took a lot away from that workshop - very simple, small things which when they were said to me made total sense but which I hadn't even considered. It's not really magic - I hope it's fair to pass on these two pieces of advice.

1. Twitter is like real life - treat people and conversations on Twitter as you would in real life.
2. Decide who you are on Twitter and what you want from it - and stick to it

Friday, 10 February 2012

Valentine giveaway

I've decided to do a very quick giveaway - for the next 24 hours, any comment on this blog gets you an entry into a draw to win this necklace.

You can also tweet or share the link on facebook for another entry - that's three possible entries.


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Blog and Buy sale

I hadn't heard of Blog and Buy until last month, when two of my suppliers posted about their stalls. I followed the links and found a lovely little site, with online stalls. My two suppliers are people I trust (Finest Imaginary and Crown and Glory) and for £15 a month, it seemed great value.

So I paid up, and then was customarily flaky and forgot to send a couple of details - I got a nice, polite email from Blog and Buy requesting what I'd forgotten, and then they put together the whole stall for me, using the links, images and blurb provided. It's being hosted for the whole month by them, and they regularly tweet.

It's bringing traffic to my site, and I'm meeting lovely new creatives I hadn't met before. So I'm recommending it to anyone who's umming and aahing.

The whole February showcase is here - I'm Stall 17, and if you fancy tweeting about it, or liking it on facebook, there are tremendously handy buttons to do just that right on the page.

Apply for March here

Monday, 6 February 2012


Guest blogger Jane Wynn of Wildheart gives us her opinion on the Mary Portas review.

In December 2011, Mary Portas (dubbed by some “Minister for Shops”) published ‘The Portas
Review’, a 55 page report which is summarised in 28 key recommendations. A mixed bag of
suggestions, some which are basic common sense like making better use of empty units, and
some which may cause a few ruffled feathers in certain places, in particular regarding betting
shops and out of town shopping centres.

I was saddened but not surprised to see that in the media interest following this publication
that Rochdale was featured. I was born and spent the first 18 years of my life there and have
been a regular visitor over the years so know the place quite well. I have memories of the old
covered market and can recall the building of the first new shopping centre that replaced it. The
old development was a lovely place, which included an arcade of small shop units, full of lively,
interesting independent traders. One I remember in particular, called ‘Duggies’, sold all kinds of
everything and was a family business which included his wife and the banter between these two
was often rich and hilarious. The building of the first shopping centre at the bottom of Yorkshire
St (the main shopping thoroughfare) started a ripple effect of new development along that street,
seeing many of smaller traders in the area crushed out of being and replaced with more retail
chains. People celebrated when the Body Shop opened up in Rochdale - this reaction only
eclipsed by the public outcry when McDonalds decided to close its town centre unit last year.

I used to live in the Midlands and got to know Birmingham’s shopping areas quite well.
Birmingham used to have a fantastic little shopping mecca, known as the Oasis, in the city centre
underneath one of the markets. Accessed by dimly lit stairways, the basement was full of small
retail units, jostling and often overflowing into each other, where rock fans, punks, Goths, et
al, could find everything they could ever need to satisfy their hunger for the alternative. All run
by small independent traders, many of them makers and designers, it wasn’t just the things to
buy that brought us in week after week, it was their knowledge and passion for their market and
products that made it a great place to shop. The place was refurbished many years ago, with the
higher rates meaning that many of the smaller traders couldn’t afford it anymore and they sadly

I think the Portas Review makes many good points when it comes to sole traders, small
businesses and markets, if managed with a view to the traders and their customer base. The right
kind of independent shops will bring the people back and go a long way to help revitalise our city
centres. In many cases, they’re supporting local people in their own business which will have a
big impact on the local economy. For some, it’s giving new designers and makers an opportunity
to launch themselves on the market and start building a customer base. My memories and
personal experience tell me that shopping with independent traders is a much more rewarding
experience for customers, often having that personal touch that is missing in the homogenised
atmosphere of some of big shops. There may be larger shopping centres available to us now but I
feel choices have become increasingly limited over the years, with the same formula and products
rolled out by retail chains over countless high streets across the UK. It’s all getting a bit too 1984-
ish for my liking and, unless we really do want a proletariat society, something needs to be done
before it’s too late.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

February plans - update

My daily blogging has gone from bad to non-existant. However, I'm now all over Twitter, because I learnt how to use it properly. It's meant that I'm not really using Facebook, so I'm waiting for the Facebook media bootcamp so I can use those two properly. HOWEVER, I have found Instagram, so even though Frooly has gone bankrupt, I still have the same amount of pointless online accounts.

When is someone going to do a bootcamp about blogging? I definitely need one.

Monday, 23 January 2012

February Plans

I know my daily blogging is going badly. Never mind. I also know I said I'd be more personal and try not to talk about the business so much. Never mind.

Ok, so February is looking good. I've already got my stock ready for Valentine's shoppers, so now I'm stepping up a gear, and these are the things I have planned to promote the business.

1. Advertising on a website which has viewers I think who will like my jewellery.

2. Having a stall at an online fair - this went badly last time, but I have a week to get my website up to scratch, and this online fair is much better read and promoted. You get what you pay for.

3. I've booked myself on a Social Media Bootcamp, and am overhauling my social media sites. Currently I have the following accounts
a. facebook
b. twitter
c. instagram
d. pinterest
e. google+
f. linked in
g. flickr
h. tumblr
i. blogspot - this thing here
j. Live journal
This is ridiculous, because I don't use any of them that effectively. I'm also a bit rubbish at getting them all working together properly. I often have things I say on one place showing up on another, without me realising. I had a particularly bad day where everything I posted on facebook went on twitter, and then everything on twitter went on facebook, and so we had a very strange loop effect going on.

4. I also use the following selling sites as well as my own website
a. ebay
b. folksy
c. etsy
d. misi
e. frooly
f. amazon
This is also useless, because the only place I sell anything is eBay, when I'm retiring jewellery. I can't decide whether to close the other accounts or not.

5. I also plan to finally get my catalogue printed for in the actual shop, so customers can have a flick through and learn about the artists.

What do you think? Good plans for February?

Thursday, 19 January 2012

I'm blogging twice today, mainly because I have a spare five minutes, and also because I feel I have something to blog about. Today after talking to people at work, I realised how far I've come. They didn't believe there was ever a time I didn't want to leave the house or talk to anyone. Believe me, there was. Without the shop, I'm not sure self-employment would have ever got off the ground, because I wouldn't have had any confidence in myself or any of my abilities.

To illustrate how much I've changed, here's a blogpost I wrote in October 2008. It made me cry reading it again, because I can't believe that's me.
















How I'm feeling today

On a plus note, I'm definitely having my hair cut like this again.


I can't help but notice my daily blogging has started rather badly. I did Monday, and then totally missed Tuesday and Wednesday. I put the blame for this firmly at the door of my wholesaler, who sent out my new stock really very quickly indeed, so I've been making stuff for two days.

Here are what I've done with the dolls I found in my studio. I owe a massive debt to Margeaux Lange, obviously, but I like to think I've switched it up by clustering beads onto them.

I don't like this one much. It's too derivative

I much prefer this one. I like the way the lashes are actually hairy.

The leftover arms, which I don't think I've blogged about. Took me hours to hack them all off, and burn a hole through the top of all of them and then wire it all together. It's like teeth. I could have just strung on, but I wanted the movement.

My favourite one, by a mile

Monday, 16 January 2012

New leaf and all that

I've decided to try and use this blog as more of an actual blog, rather than somewhere to randomly now and again post links to stuff. I've been enjoying my friend Katie's blog, as it's very like having her chatting to me, which I wish happened much more often than it does (being as we live an hour's drive apart, and I am useless on the telephone). I also love to write, and need more practice doing so.

I've also decided that I need to be more positive on my blog. I only seem to write about my business, or when I'm having a bad time. I never write about the nice things in my life, so my new leaf I'm turning is to write a blogpost every day. In reality this might mean a blogpost every week instead, but as my dentist says when I complain that flossing my teeth makes me vomit, let's aim for once a day and see what happens.

So, for my first blogpost, I'd like to talk about my wonderful husband. You may know some things about him already, either from Facebook, my article on quadriplegia, or from me telling you (endlessly) about how wonderful he is.

I met Ian in 1994, when I moved from Spalding to Lancaster to volunteer at the University. I looked after Wendy, and Ian was looked after by Tina and Paul. All the volunteers used to get together, and I became friendly with Tina. At the time, I knew about 4 people in Lancaster, who I met through the theatre group* - I still know them all through Facebook and 3 of them came to my wedding (as well as Wendy of course).

So I went round to Tina's flat, and met Paul, Ian and Pete (who had the fourth flat in the block). As soon as I saw Ian, I KNEW. People talk about love at first sight, and it sounds pansified to me - I wouldn't know how else to describe it though. I just knew we'd be together forever. It took a long time to do anything about it, because I was only 19, and it seemed an amazingly big thing to devote my life to someone with a disability. After 6 months of spending time with the 4 of them, I sent him a letter saying I liked him, and a bag of mini eggs, and he responded with a letter saying he liked me as well, and a Mr Men book.

In 1999, we'd been going out for 4 years, even though we hadn't lived in the same town for 3 of them, and I don't even remember talking about moving in - I think we both just knew I'd be moving in after my degree. In the April, I went to visit him, and he gave me one of those massive Kinder** Easter eggs which were around then. I opened it to find a small box. Let's forget for one moment that I said 'What the hell's this?' and felt ripped off by Kinder, and just focus on the fact that it had a beautiful ring inside. Ian had got his brother to carefully open the egg, put in the ring, and repackage it so it looked like it hadn't been touched.

We've been married 10 years, and I can't imagine not being with him. We don't really argue, just bicker about small things, and have been told more than once we have our own language, which I take as a compliment. I come home and ask him if he's missed me, and every day he says, 'I always miss you when you're not here.' I've never gone to bed without kissing him goodnight (unless we've been apart, which has probably happened about four times since I moved to Leeds). I know when he's going to speak before he does, and he knows when I'm about to fall asleep, just by our breathing. He's the funniest person I've ever met, he says I'm the kindest.

Here's to you, Mr McGenn.

Photograph by Gary Crozier

* as a sidenote, I joined this group because in 1994, the only thing I'd really done creatively was acting at school
** I used to collect Kinder egg toys, and displayed them on a shelving unit my Dad made specially.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

How I do my accounts - a possibly helpful, possibly patronising, blogpost

I've been told this might be useful, so I'll have a go at writing it. It might not work in any way at all, because you can't see me waving my hands around and pointing at things on the screen.

Basically, keeping track of your business expenditure isn't only necessary for your self-assessment, it's also vital so you know if you're making a profit month on month. You don't need to get a fancy accounting programme, and if you're just starting out, you don't need an accountant yet.

I use a spreadsheet in Open Office, which is a free version of Office. Each page of the spreadsheet is a month, which I split into outgoings at the top, and incomings at the bottom. I always put outgoings as a 'minus' amount, and incomings as a 'plus' amount.

This screenshot, I hasten to add, does not involve real figures. It's just to give you a flavour of what sort of things get entered.

Then there are two columns for cash/cheque etc, and what I bought or sold. Then there are two more columns for 'cash' and 'bank account' – 'Cash' in this instance includes stuff I pay for with my own personal account as well as physical cash taken in the shop.

I use the functions to add everything up for me. There is a total for everything going out in both cash and bank columns, and a total for everything coming in in whatever form. 

I also add up all the cash transactions to get a running cash total, and all the bank account transactions so I know how much should be in the business account. This lets me see how much cash should be in the money tin, and in my bank account, which is extremely important.

The best thing about having it set up like this for a whole month is that I can have the same outgoings I know I have every month copied over to a new sheet at the start of every month, and the functions automatically let me know how much turnover I need to make. The functions also calculate every time I log in how much profit or loss I'm making, and allows me to plan how I'll make more turnover.

Each month I then have two figures – one IN and one OUT. I can work out from that how much profit or loss I've made. If it's better than last month, I'm happy. Self-assessment forms only ask for 2 figures – how much you've spent, and how much you've taken. So as long as you have those two figures at the end of the tax year, you'll be golden. Luckily because I use this method, I have the 12 figures at the end of March already, and can just add them up and put them into the self-assessment form.

Obviously, this all depends on keeping track of everything. Luckily as the spreadsheet is on the computer and most of my transactions are online, I just put the amount into the spreadsheet straight away. Anything done offline, like the cheque for postage or cash purchases, I try and remember to put it in the next time I'm online. I guess if you're not as OCD as I am, you could probably just save up your receipts, and enter them all in once a week, or even once a month, but then you miss out on seeing how your profit and loss is going for that month.

So - was that helpful? Or am I teaching people to suck eggs?

Monday, 2 January 2012

My jewellery box - part one: necklaces

I've been meaning to do this blogpost for a while, but finally, with a new year, I tidied my bedroom. In the process I found mangled jewellery in a terrible state that I wouldn't allow my shop to get into - so why do I allow my own jewellery box to get like this?! Tangled chains, some pendants without chains at all.

I had no idea that I had so much jewellery. I think this is due to the fact that I like to support every independent maker I can, so if I like a piece of handmade jewellery, I usually buy it without much thought, or better still swap something of mine for it.

I've photographed all my necklaces, as this is my absolute favourite item of jewellery, and have grouped them into rather random categories. I own, and make, more necklaces than anything, and usually this is all the jewellery I wear. I don't wear many rings, earrings etc, as I worry too much about looking like Pat Butcher.

These are all the pendants I have without chains - I've probably broken the chains, or merely removed them so they stop getting tangled. I was delighted to find these, as I thought I'd lost my goldfish heart and jammy dodger.

Made by
goldfish bowl - can't remember
russian doll - Plastic Bat
the rest are Peach Nia

This is the first piece of jewellery I made for myself. I've yet to wear it. I just liked how the lobster has what looks like a moustache

My necklace watches - when I photograph the rest of my jewellery you'll see I also have 2 wristwatches. I never wear any sort of watch.

Guitar watch - Claire's accessories
Cherry watch - somewhere online

A loosely related selection - items which are really old, I don't wear much, but I'll never get rid of.

Left to right:
Tokidoki ghost star
vintage wooden owl - dad gave me a stack of broken jewellery and I found these three shapes in it, and rebuilt the owl.
octopus - I've had this about 8 years now, and I never cease to be amazed at how popular this little octopus charm is. Regretsy have a whole thread about it.
Glass tile - I mentioned online I liked this, so Fiona bought it for me. The ribbon it's on is a bit rubbish, which is why I don't wear it much, cause I'm paranoid it'll break. Why don't I just replace it with chain? Because I only just thought of doing it...
Cupcake - Claudia got me this years ago - the chain is all tangled, but I really should untangle it and wear it again.

These are all made by indie designers
Left to right
gold jawbone - Sweet Delirium
Buttons - Paul Tipper
cupcake - Dinky Pretty Things
Paintbrush - zinc white - this is made from one of Ian's old paintbrushes
Lego skeleton - Tilly Mint
sprinkle heart - someone on Etsy about 10 years ago
charm necklace - made by Ron for my birthday about 8 years ago

These are together because they're all little necklaces - I said it was random
Left to right
scented gingerbread house - Plastic bat
little girl - gift from Rowan
dragonfly - gift from Fiona
Strumpet water bottle - from Shottle Bop

Name necklaces
left to right
'shitbag' - someone on TSUK a few years ago
red horror pesky - freebie from Punky Pin
purple pesky - Tatty Devine
Cupcake heart Pesky - Clutterfly
beaded pesky - can't remember, it's about 15 years old

Photographed together because people don't expect me to wear them - I don't usually wear hearts or flowers, but I love these wooden ones from Miss Selfridge and the black heart is one of the first things Ian's mum's bought for me.

These three are all together because they're more like decorations in my room.
Left to right
Stone is from Hornsea beach
Flowers are by Nanny May, and a gift from Katie. If I ever have longer hair again, I'm going to wear it as a hairband, because it's a slightly weird fit on my neck - or if I ever have less chins I'll wear it as a necklace again.

These are all my laser cut things.

Big owl, gin bottle and lollipop necklace - Tatty Devine
Fox and Luchador - Finest Imaginary
Pow - Kitschen Sink
cupcake - Medusa Bijoux

These are all things I've made for myself. 

On the left is a necklace Katie got for me, which I love so much I made a similar one with wooden and orange beads. I still wear the spotty one more often.

Coming soon - the rest of my jewellery...