Outspoken

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland 2017 by daintydora

Black and white. Dim light. Bean bags. Red text. Lumière…

The scene was set for SHORTS at The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Architecture and Design.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

‘SHORTS’ – a short films event – launched in 2016, organised by Graphic Design Festival Scotland and Pretend Lovers. With no restrictions on theme, genre or subject; simply that all films be under 15 minutes long, the open-call attracted entries from over 100 countries.

Waiting for the first of 15 ‘SHORTS’ to begin for the 2017 event last month - amidst a backdrop of curated International Poster Design submissions – also part of GDFS – felt like sitting at the centre of a cultural melting pot of creative talent as conversations in multiple languages mingled with the tempting aroma of popcorn. (Popcorn: essential to film-viewing.)

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

I found the experience a surreal and engaging snapshot of thinking from around the world, dealing with both hilarious and serious issues in clever and diverse ways. Not all the films were to my taste, but all of them had a strong message about life and what it means to be human: right here, right now.

The shortest of the SHORTS was only 1 minute 40 seconds (‘Life in Patterns’ by Vojtěch Domlátil), incorporating images of numbers, letters, diary pages, kitsch florals and the moon at a rate of 12 frames per second.

It felt naïve yet important, racing through pages full of text and scribbles and phases of the moon, then empty pages; white squares and black lines summing up a life and the patterns we create and adhere to (and often come to rebel against).

I felt an emotional connection to it as I watched, mesmerised; an urge to reach out and touch those pages addictive and powerful. All created in the mind of someone I’ll never meet yet it felt so intimate.

I wondered later if that film-maker was in the same room, watching us watch. It’s possible.

In ‘Salt and Sauce’ by Alia Ghafar, I felt the frustrations and disappointments inside Tammy, stuck working in a small-town family chip shop as friends and colleagues begin moving on to better things.

I felt her acute embarrassment as she tried to hide from a girl she knew who came in to buy a fish-supper, all talk of ‘the big city’ and Veganism and opportunity.

But Tammy has her camera and she has a story to tell. She’s a voyeur noticing the small details others overlook. She just needs that extra push to realise her own worth and her unique gift to the world.

This film reminded me of the important of fate (faith?), of how life/the world really does work in mysterious ways, and how you need both time and patience to assimilate your place and purpose. Poignant, cringe-worthy and optimistic at the same time.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Meanwhile, sometimes words are irrelevant and that’s how it was in ‘Maze’ by Eve McConnachie. It featured an enchanting and animalistic dance choreography shot in the empty - and at the time - still derelict Govanhill Baths in Glasgow.

I loved the interplay of the two dancers (male and female) as they ducked and dived against, between and around each other reinventing the space: the deep end, the changing rooms, cracked tiles and outdated signs and all the places in-between.

At one point just their silhouettes were moving in rhythm to the electro-inspired music, two pillars either side. Totally immersive to witness this piece, completely befitting the venue.

During the break (and also at the beginning due to a slight tech hitch), a limited-palette animation played on a loop in black, white and pinky-red.

Appropriately titled ‘Gastaloops’ by Nicola Gastaldi, it featured patterns morphing into sketchy everyday scenes – the idea being “to convey the atypical universe of the Londoner”.

The success of the event lay with each piece having such an individual take on life and each film-maker a unique perspective to portray in their 15 minutes (or less) of opportunity. It felt almost as revealing as reading a diary.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Other themes explored on the night include:

  • The selfie generation, technology and its pitfalls (‘5 Films about Technology’ by Peter Huang)
  • Unrequited love and the unfortunate distractions and interruptions associated with romantic partnerships (‘Life’s a Bitch’ by François Jaros and ‘The Kiss’ by Nia Syazwani)
  • Loneliness/loss (‘Closed Visit’ by Jade Evans and ‘Brian and Charles’ by Jim Archer)
  • The monotony and minutiae of day-to-day life, specifically against the backdrop of the nightly News (‘Life Cycles’ by Ross Hogg)
  • Schadenfreude and karma (‘Second to None’ by Vincent Gallagher)
  • Abuse, disability and being 'different' (‘Dawn of the Deaf’ by Rob Savage)
  • Conflict and war zones (‘Irregulars’ by Fabio Palmieri)

The last film – Irregulars – particularly struck me as it was a first-person narration of fleeing war and persecution, to find only abuse, hatred and exploitation at the other end, not the anticipated 'safe-haven'.

The film itself showed the inner mechanics of a mannequin factory as each piece moved along a conveyor to be cast, sprayed, coloured, assembled and boxed up for shipping.

Faceless faces and dismembered limbs. The same image cast from the same mould, yet individual too.

The analogy was highly poignant and affecting, the lottery of where you're born dictating the path of your life for better or worse.

The promo poster for the exhibition (also on the cover of an accompanying brochure) summed up what we all need to do. Film - and particularly SHORTS - being the perfect, immediate medium.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

As the evening came to a close there was a quick, informal vote to see which film was the favourite.

'Brian and Charles' took it, with its comical take on loneliness and friendship in a bleak, rural setting through a man's relationship with a robot he built himself. Interestingly, that was the longest of the SHORTS, whereas I can't stop thinking about the shortest: ‘Life in Patterns’.

Overall a stimulating evening of film proffering an insight into the collective global consciousness at this moment in time, right in my home city.

NB. This is a sponsored post. Thank you to CitizenM Glasgow for a stimulating, creative night. 

The No-List To-Do List by daintydora

Just don't write a to-do list at all.

Yep, that's right. Don't do it.

Don't write everything down that you need to do and overwhelm yourself before you even get started. Don't be a slave to your digital or paper guilt-inducing self. Just, let it go.

It's a novel concept I know, and to be clear, I'm not saying don't do the work.

But the no-list to-do list truth hit me right between the eyes the other night when I realised I still hadn't started a new notebook for to-do-listing (of the many fabulous notebooks in my hoard) because I'd been too busy doing the work. Interesting.

To-do list
To-do list

And it gets better.

Because really it's about priorities and what needs to get done TODAY, not just 'what needs to get done'. They say (you know, them, the productivity gurus et al), that in order to succeed you have to single-focus, and it's impossible to single-focus when you have a list of 100+ nagging things to do. Even allowing 3 things onto your list is a distraction, apparently.

And I get it. I've been there.

It feels cathartic to write it all down and get it out of your head, but then you realise someone needs to try to work through those tasks, and that poor unfortunate someone, is you.

Now we all kinda know the ONE BIG THING that needs to get done that day, today, tomorrow, don't we? It's not going to be easily forgotten without the aid of a list. If you're working on a project then you know that needs your attention. You could maybe write down a few areas that you want to focus on, but re-framing it in those terms makes it that much more palatable and less stressy. You're choosing to work on a few key areas (or one!) and that's a good place to kick off in the morning (or afternoon, or evening, or whenever you'll next be working on said project).

But the fact remains: the important, priority stuff automatically filters to the top of your mind because our brains seemingly can't let go of unfinished tasks. These tasks create continual feedback loops demanding our attention.

And that's what I've been experiencing. I haven't had a proper to-do list for around a month but each day I've been super-productive and worked through each task as it arises, prioritising the things with a looming deadline, the opportunities that I don't want to miss. Each day when I've shut down my computer put my computer to sleep, I've felt satisfied with what I've achieved, without the stress (or perversely, the satisfaction) of crossing out bullet points in a notebook.

And now that I've come to this shocking realisation?

I feel liberated - what if I never (have to) write another to-do list again?

I could allow myself to brainstorm ideas or plot out strategies or outlines. There's no ban on lists per se, but it's nice to think the tyranny of the to-do list could be a prison of the past.

It reminds me of this article by Tim Harford, partly inspired by Benjamin Franklin and his apparent life-long pursuit of a tidy desk (spoiler: he couldn't manage it).

The upshot is, a messy desk is ultimately more fruitful and organised than a tidy desk.

Messy desk theory
Messy desk theory

"There can be a kind of magic in mess"

And it makes sense.

A neat desk means business with no distractions, but all the things you diligently filed away get forgotten about - out of sight, out of mind - and not only do you forget their very existence, but when you start looking for that crucial piece of paper, research or must-have scribbled note, it's unlikely to be found.

Here's my favourite quote from Tim Harford's article, illustrating just how unhelpful so-called clever and niche classifications can be:

“Categorising documents of any kind is harder than it seems. The writer and philosopher Jorge Luis Borges once told of a fabled Chinese encyclopedia, the “Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge”, which organised animals into categories such as: a) belonging to the emperor, c) tame, d) sucking pigs, f) fabulous, h) included in the present classification, and m) having just broken the water pitcher.”

In contrast, on a messy desk, things have to be shuffled about and 'lost' pieces of paper or information (or wires and screws and circuit boards in my husband's case) are sifted and sorted on a regular basis because they are THERE, right there, kind of in the way.

The odd piece of paper falls to the floor and then you tread on it and it sticks to your bare foot and you suddenly realise: it's the very inspiration you needed, like the universe pointing you in the right direction.

It's a similar thing with the mind. The more unfinished tasks there are, the more little reminders flag up alerting you to this fact. A bit like an app, but infinitely more...apt.

Which leaves more time for actual writing and journaling and creative-making.

The upshot?

No list today: the no-list to-do list
No list today: the no-list to-do list

So long to-do list and hello productivity, my old friend.

Good Girls Revolt by daintydora

I've just finished watching the first series of Good Girls Revolt and I've fallen in love with it. Good Girls Revolt

Based on the book The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich - which also spawned a TV series - the show is based around the newsroom politics of fictional magazine 'News of the Week' in late 1969 New York.

It tells the story of the real case involving 46 women working at Newsweek magazine, Lynn Povich among them, after they announced they'd filed an EEOC complaint charging their employer with "systematic discrimination" against them in hiring and promotion.

It feels so vibrant and so relevant, now, today, despite being set against the backdrop of the Vietnam war, the civil right's movement in America and second-wave Feminism. It's relevant because of those things.

I love the real stories - the history of our time - that cut through each episode, anchoring it to reality and forming the canvas for the stars of the show: Patty, Jane, and Cindy. I love Patty's spirit and boho fashion sense the best, but Cindy's personal transformation is my favourite as her eyes are opened to the world: what is possible, what she wants - and what she doesn't want.

Good Girls Revolt

Nora Ephron makes an appearance early on, quitting the magazine after she's told her story can't run because "that's just not how we do things around here...girls don't write".

A stand-off ensues as she challenges her boss and everyone stops to stare.

"If copy's good, it's good...you just said my rewrite hit the bullseye. That was your word."

Meanwhile, the fashion is fantastic: vintage prints and patent bags, suede boots and prim brooches pinned straight onto shift dresses and knitted cardigans - no waiting around for a jacket. And I loved the soundtrack.

But just as I sat down to write this, I'm heartbroken to discover that Good Girls Revolt has been officially cancelled by Amazon.

It feels ironic considering the final words of the season from researcher Jane as she asks for the 'opportunity' to write and be recognised for her writing, under her own name.

It should be a basic courtesy for work well done, words well-written. It should not be so difficult to achieve. It should not require a lawsuit.

Jane argues that without the extremely hard work and insight of the female researchers, the quality and therefore the success of the magazine would not be possible. And she's right. They know she's right. And that's where the story ends: I need to see more.

(And for what it's worth, I thought Good Girls Revolt was way better than Mad Men. Yes. I'm saying it. And I'm owning my words.)

Watching Good Girls Revolt gave me ideas.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me want to write.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me want to write on my typewriter.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me want to write about the things I feel passionate about.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me think of New York.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me want to be in New York.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me want to dress up.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me want to go vintage clothes shopping.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me want to play records. (And last night I did play records. LoneLady in fact. 'Silvering' to be exact.)

Watching Good Girls Revolt was a reminder of important historical events.

Watching Good Girls Revolt was a reminder that we all need to stand up and speak out about the things we believe in.

Lynn Povich was eventually appointed the first woman Senior Editor in Newsweek’s history - five years after the landmark sex discrimination suit was originally filed. But will there be a happy postscript for the show?

Since Amazon's decision to cancel it, the cast have tweeted in an attempt to save it, and there is a petition doing the rounds which I've already added my name to.

Suddenly it feels like more is at stake than just a TV show. It feels serious, political and about having a voice and being heard.

Good Girls Revolt

I'll end with an on-point quote from Vogue.com:

Here’s hoping all of this backlash results in a second life for Good Girls Revolt - not least because it would be such a twisted, ironic end to 2016 for a timely, feminist, women-led show to get snuffed out by, yep, one guy.

A magazine for The Gentlewoman by daintydora

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a preview event for local festival PaisleyMake. The idea was to highlight creativity and design in the area, with PaisleyMake one of many celebrations to come that will shape, enhance and inform Paisley's bid to become City of Culture UK in 2021. This is big. Really big.

I wrote about the design showcase in partnership with Scotland Re:Designed on my inspiration blog, but another key part of the day was a passionate talk by Penny Martin, Editor of The Gentlewoman magazine.

The Gentlewoman Magazine
The Gentlewoman Magazine

I must admit I hadn't heard of The Gentlewoman, despite magazines - particularly the more niche titles - being my abiding obsession (hello FLOW, Kinfolk, Oh Comely, Womankind, et al, and fabulous Nova when it returned briefly in the early noughties).

The Gentlewoman must now be added to that list as its premise promises something deeper and more rewarding than most other 'women's magazines' out there:

The Gentlewoman celebrates modern women of style and purpose. Featuring ambitious journalism and photography of the highest quality, it showcases inspirational women through its distinctive combination of glamour, personality and warmth.

The Gentlewoman Magazine
The Gentlewoman Magazine

Penny had me at 'Angela Lansbury was on the cover of Issue no. 6' and the idea of 'an arch, arcane approach; witty and slightly insincere, a Diana Vreeland-esque voice'. Yes.

There was talk of counterpoint, antidote, outsiders and 'being the cult'. Oh yes.

Of the 'interior furniture' of the magazine (which I imagined mapping to the interior furniture of my mind), 'the creative conversation' and a 'thoughtful pause' before relenting to the 'slavish consumer' mentality. Triple yes. Multiple yes's.

All this intrepid fabulousness; the reality over frippery (though there is some well-placed frippery, with tell of gorgeous photo-features on lazy breakfast-brunches, tight tights and an article on mushroom tea - which actually sounds quite sophisticated) will have me scouring my local newsagent and probably subscribing.

The Gentlewoman Magazine
The Gentlewoman Magazine

I loved hearing about how the magazine was brought to life, how people conflate the words and get the title wrong (understandably one of Penny's pet hates), and about how The Gentlewoman strives to differentiate itself from its ilk in every issue.

The strong, design-led covers above are from a totally different iteration of The Gentlewoman which went out of print in the 1930's.

They whisper of the mysteries of feminine things in an urgent, powerful (witchy) voice and were the perfect inspiration for the modern, intelligent biannual that champions black and white photography, long-form journalism and women of note.

I can well understand that 'editing a magazine is like curating an exhibition in a gallery', as Penny explained they print in double-black, don't use a grid, are fastidious about paper, and obsess over small design details that elevate the magazine into much more than 'just a magazine'. These are the kind of details I love.

It's consumable art for the modern world. The Gentlewoman has gone meta.

Their partner magazine is Fantastic Man, and of course we all know: behind every fantastic man is a gentlewoman. Or something like that.

The Gentlewoman Magazine
The Gentlewoman Magazine

The autumn/winter issue is out this week, and features Zadie Smith on the cover.

Mind the Gap: Perception, Taste & Reality by daintydora

Mind the GapIra Glass says it best:

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.

There's a gap between what you want to achieve and what your first attempt produces. The difference between the two is taste. You know what you want to achieve and you know when you haven't quite done it. Yet. The trick is to keep going.

It's the sixth month of the year and the edits on my debut novel have taken longer than I thought. In fact, there's plenty more I want to do. More notes, more facts to check, and a whole document of 'take-outs' that I want to sift (again) in case there's a nugget of gold I can squeeze back in.

It's the journey of writing a novel and it can be frustrating, agonising, exhausting, but it's also amazing when I look back and see how far I've come. This time last year I had less than 30,000 words. Now I'm working on the second round of edits.

The premise of the story is brave (that's what people are telling me), and it makes me proud to think I've tackled a difficult topic head-on in my naive enthusiasm to just 'write the damn book'.

My protagonist, Amanda, is at the forefront of my thoughts. She has a mental health condition; her reality shifting and expanding as she navigates the landscape of her mind. I feel like I'm becoming her (maybe I've always been her - 'write what you know', etc?)

'Mental Health' defined: "a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being".

A gap between what is considered normal and what is not.
A gap between what you feel and how you think you should feel.
A gap between what you feel and what society thinks you should feel.
A gap between inner thoughts and outer thoughts (but no gatekeeper).
A gap between you and a faction of gatekeepers keeping you away from yourself: in limbo; reality and fantasy melding in a cold soup of confusion.

But what if that gap is just a case of taste and perception too? What if we redefined (realigned?) our societal guidelines for what is normal and acceptable; what it means to fully experience all that is life?

Mind the Gap

It's a thought for now, for our time, a time when we need the most creative and lucid minds to tackle the greatest problems of our age (immigration, terrorism, climate change, guns, crime, melting ice caps, beautiful animals locked - and shot - in cages).

Maybe there's a gap where the real, progressive conversations should be?

Just throwing it out there.

To quote the World Health Organisation on Mental Health:
"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

I'll get back to my edits now.

Murderous, Murderess by daintydora

I'm a killer, a murderess. Things will never be the same again. It happened yesterday, no two days ago. Saturday. I woke at 5am, had set my alarm. It wasn't the usual thing for me to do at the weekend.

I got up, got dressed, slipped out of the house without turning on a light, without waking my husband.

Blistering Sunrise

I clicked the button to unlock my car, dumped some things in the boot. The sunrise was astounding, outstanding, unbelievable.

It was my first clue and I paused to take a photograph: evidence that I might reflect on later but in that moment all I saw was the orange and the pink and the yellow that beckoned behind the church steeple in the midpoint of my vision. I stared into it for a second, two, three, then turned, got in my car and drove away.

The motorway was surprisingly busy for that time. Where was everyone going? Why were they up so early?

I flicked between radio stations, my finger tracing prints on the touchscreen. I hate touchscreens. And radio adverts. When I'm driving I just want to drive and get lost in music.

But the journey wasn't long, maybe 20 minutes. I'd hoped it would have been even less.

Time. Time. Time. Time. It just ticks away and I can't keep up with it.

The sun came up and the day was fully birthed. There was a lot of work to be done.

I did the work I set out to do, interacting with people along the way. Conversations, explanations, deviations, and money changing hands. Notes, coins. New money, old money, shiny money, dirty money. I filled my pockets with it and shivered undercover while the sun shone its rays out there, outside.

I was inside, undercover, but I could see the bright light of the heat outside. I knew what I'd done and what I hadn't done, what the consequences of each action/inaction would be, but it was too late by then. There was nothing I could do.

That's what they all say isn't it? I didn't mean to. It was an accident. It just happened. It wasn't my fault.

But it was my fault. I'm to blame. And now I'm wearing that guilt like a brand.

Killer. Killer. Killer.

Still I took no action, and with hindsight a quote returns to me:

"All that’s necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"

It's been variously attributed to Martin Luther King, Victor Frankl, Edmund Burke. It fits the bill for what happened.

When finally I stepped back into the light of day, the heat was raw on my head, my face. I felt it and I knew. If I had taken the appropriate action at this point then maybe it wouldn't have been too late. Maybe.

Now, now, now.

But I didn't. Of course I didn't.

I pondered, gazed, grazed, ignoring the burst of thought that hovered like a speech-bubble alert somewhere above my head.

The sun began to drop in the sky; heat dispersed by an undercurrent of cool late spring breeze. It was OK. It was going to be OK.

Then it was dark, totally dark, and late. When it's dark you can't acknowledge what cannot be seen, it makes it unreal. At the back of my mind I knew by then that the damage would be done.

It would be another few hours still until I saw it, the massacre.

Not just one death, but multiple. Crisp, crippled leaves turned in on themselves, deformed, shrivelled, boiled to death, burnt alive in their pots. Herbs and seedlings and cuttings I'd carefully planted, lovingly watered. But not on Saturday.

I'd forgotten to open a window, forgotten to open the door: no-one survives a day of 40-50 degree (Celsius) heat with no shade, no respite.

I'd watered them the night before, but it wasn't enough, would never have been enough for the full glare of that murderous fire.

I'm a killer, a murderess. Nothing (in the garden) will ever be the same again.

 

The one where I turn down my first publishing contract... by daintydora

You read that correctly. I said 'no'. And I like saying 'yes' to opportunities, to doors being opened, to the magic of the universe making way for me.

But after a lot of deliberation and advice (thank you to everyone who answered my cry for help), my gut instinct on this was a slow-boat to 'no'.

The main reason for turning down the offer (after the initial thrill of excitement had worn off), was because it was for digital publication only (in the first instance) and my dream (however vain) is to see my work in print.

How could I have a book launch without a book?

So I said no, and now I sit back and wonder...was it the right decision? Will I live to regret it? What happens if I never get a publishing deal?

Slow boat to a publishing contract...the day I said 'no'
Slow boat to a publishing contract...the day I said 'no'

The truth is I haven't approached any other publishers, so as far as options go, the Writers & Artists Yearbook listings for UK publishers/agents is my proverbial oyster. Writing is indeed a waiting game.

Waiting for the idea. Tick.Waiting for the right time to start. (You should never do that. Don't do that. Just start!) Tick.Waiting for the words to flow and for the character to start chattering in your head. Tick.Waiting it out, biding your time until the story is written. Tick.Waiting to edit. (Words need time to relax and distill.) Tick.Waiting for the right opportunity. Saying 'no' to the wrong deals. Tick.Waiting to be noticed (never going to happen - you have to be proactive). Tick.And when the deal is finally done?Probably waiting for the day the book is available in the shops.Then waiting for the reaction.Then doing it all again.

But I love writing and I'm prepared to wait. Writing is my calling and my passion.

The characters and their voices want to flow through my fingers, their thoughts becoming my words.

It's the ordering of them that poses a problem. And the editing. The research and the finessing. No I like the research - it's where the book takes flight as the strands of the story begin weaving together.

The wildly scribbled notes and the nuggets of pure gold when you know you're onto something, a tangent, a twisting narrative path that could really lead somewhere, anywhere...

The whole act of it is like an illness, an addiction to the cause.

I'm waiting in the wings, but I won't give up.

I WILL SEE MY DEBUT NOVEL IN PRINT!

The End. (For now.) Tick.

PLUGGED V UNPLUGGED: a conversation by daintydora

Sometimes it's hard for me to remember a time without social media, the internet, a mobile phone; that sense of being 'connected' all the time to...everything. To remember a time when I wasn't ruled like one of Pavlov's dogs by the relentless ping! and beep! of notifications and messages via multiple interactive platforms.

Plugged V Unplugged

Digital communication is great and it's not.

It makes life quicker and it makes life slower.

It makes me feel part of something and it makes me feel isolated.

It gives me a buzz and it zaps my energy.

I can't live without my phone; am constantly picking it up, checking my favourite social media sites (Pinterest, Instagram), and waking up to notifications stacked on top of each other in a never-ending list.

It feels like I can never reach the end.

My inbox is cluttered with newsletters that I want to read, but if I read them all I'd do nothing else. So instead they linger, colour-coded, filed, forgotten, starred in a hierarchy, gnawing at my consciousness.

I've unsubscribed from things.

I've turned off notifications from online groups.

I've got multiple folders and folders within folders.

I have rules.

But, but, the need to consume, to read, to absorb and then deal with each email in turn is so completely addictive I have to ration myself.

Just another 5 minutes...OK 15...

'If I get to the end of X task, I'll 'treat' myself to reading that long newsletter that I always enjoy...'

Really? Is that what life has become, a battle to get through the omnipresent intangible chatter of words and images on a screen?

I've read about people who have taken the final step: removed themselves from social media, do not own (have never owned?) email accounts, or even more rebelliously, have hit 'delete' on their entire inbox.

Wow. I want to be able to do that, I really do, but...I can't.

Because I might miss out on something important, something I really need to know. FOMO strikes again.

If you divide the volume of communications 'in' by the hours available in the day, the equation becomes impossible, the idea of 'catching up' ridiculous. So what to do?

Plugged V Unplugged - wires

A lot of the time I choose to remain oblivious to the news, to my Facebook feed, to the latest joke or link that I've been sent; not because I don't care, but because I can no longer deal with the amount of information that comes at me each day. I have to censor it and by that I mean censor myself.

I ration my exposure to the plugged-in-always-on-world like I'm an addict, and to do that I've found myself deploying my phone's 'Do Not Disturb' function during the day as well as at night.

It's not that I don't like keeping in touch, it's just...sometimes it's nice to take a step back and reclaim my time, make time to process my own thoughts for a while. But then I add to it too through my own links when I choose to share them, through the words I share on this blog, through the act of living and interacting where the lines between reality and online become blurred.

The fast pace of the (digital) world is eroding concentration spans too, making us all less patient, and I've noticed those things in myself.

If a page doesn't load in a second or two, I don't have time to wait, and if the internet goes down for any reason - it's unthinkable really because how can you live your life effectively in the western world without the internet these days? I know people do, but when it happens to me and those around me it's like the end of the world, creating stress and prompting rage. This is the price of being plugged into technology, yet it's also given us so much.

So far I've resisted buying a Kindle in favour of a real book, and recently I've been investing in my vinyl collection rather than stream or purchase music digitally.

There is nothing wrong with those methods, and I'm not slating them, but I like the sense of ownership, the tangible reality, the feel and smell of a book or record in my hands. And I like to take back control and 'unplug', sometimes for a whole weekend; I always feel the better for it.

For people who don't use the internet (like my Mum!), it's harder to get good deals for everyday things or even buy from or communicate with a company at all, and I think that's a bit sad. It's like forcing people to 'plug into' something that they don't want to.

So for me the plugged v unplugged debate is about finding my own balance, something I can be happy with and that suits my lifestyle.

Japanese teapot, The Magpie Diaries

That means some days completely plugged in, writing away on my laptop, researching online, instagramming teapots and sunsets, while other days are spent completely unplugged while I scrapbook or draw or read or bake or wander the streets of my city feeling inspired, seeing things IRL.

It's not exactly the dream of living the 'slow movement' that I aspire to, but it's something, it's my way, and I'm clinging to it.

(Interestingly, the novel I'm writing is set in a time not so long ago when the internet wasn't a 'thing' and most people didn't own a mobile phone. Crazy eh?)

Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to hit 'delete' on the whole plugged-in world.

Maybe I won't want to.

This post is part of a group project inspired by Erin who blogs at Design for Mankind and a link-up hosted by the incredible Pip Lincolne of Meet Me at Mikes.

Join the Plugged V Unplugged conversation.

What do you think? Which do you prefer? Can you remember what your life was like before you 'plugged in'?

 

An(other) occasion to ponder the question of love... by daintydora

Today in particular I feel my thoughts turn to the question of love. This is what I wrote about it last year. And here's love in a perfect pattern repeat. And here's a love poem: 'Verdant Love Thieves'.

LOVE in reverse

In all honesty, I don't think I'm ever not thinking about love - in one of its many forms.

Recently I attended a workshop on Karma, and it inspired me to consider all that the heart is capable of, all the different kinds of love, and how Love/Heart become transferable words:

Kind Love, Flexible Love, Passionate Love, Hidden Love, Invisible Love, Unrequited Love, Past Love, Future Love, Possible Love, Free Love, Manifest Love, Distant Love, Familial Love, Romantic Love, Complex Love, Loving Love, Unconditional Love, Cruel Love, Conscious Love, Unconscious Love, Karmic Love, Tantric Love, Precious Love, Material Love, Jealous Love, Cupboard Love..."

And how many other kinds of love are there?

So many. So many words that could describe the concept of love. As many as you could think of. A dictionary full. And a Thesaurus. And endless fictional and self-help books that describe this elusive puzzle, so crucial to joy in life.

But still. What is it? Just a concept or a feeling?

I think it's different to each of us, as unique as we are. And each different type of love, every version of love means something different in itself and to each person. And that's OK. Because it is so personal, so intimate. No-one can tell you to be in love, to fall in love, to stay in love, diagnose love, prescribe love. It comes from inside, deep inside, inside your heart and your head.

Chemicals and visions and thoughts and electric pulses conspire to create a set of circumstances where you fall under that devastating spell and perhaps you'll be lucky enough to never emerge. Or perhaps we all need to experience the many nuances of love and the opposite of love, to really know it?

It's my/our wedding anniversary today, and so as I ponder the question of love, I give thanks for it - signed, sealed, delivered - 7 years ago today and every day since. And for all the other kinds of love that I experience around me and carry in my heart.

 

Friday Diary: The conversational marriage-breaker by daintydora

It's always the little things that cause the biggest upset, don't you find?

The tiny, stupid, seemingly insignificant nothings that really shouldn't need to be anythings. But they end up being the big things. They re-occur and twist into something that feels substantial and significant, masquerading as petty squabbles but really they're the conversational marriage-breakers. You ask a simple question and get a circumnavigated-obfuscation in response.

Does this sound familiar?

Me: "Have you used my shampoo?" (This is a leading question, a challenge I suppose, because the shampoo in question has taken years to find - one that suits my hair, doesn't aggravate my scalp and just happens to cost 8 times the amount of a 'normal' shampoo, that we've had many a conversation about before and that once resulted in me not being able to wash my hair at all.)

Husband: "No!"

Me: "Oh, OK then."

Husband: "I mean, why would I? And what would make you think I'd used it?" [guilty, slightly panicky look]

Me: "Well, just that it's not where I usually leave it, it's upside down, nearly empty, and the lid isn't closed properly. Nothing much, really. Why?"

Husband: "Well I didn't know!"

Me: "Didn't know what?" [flat tone accompanied by razor-edged-rage-stare]

Husband: "What's the question again?" [slight guilty smirk breaking into laughter]

Me: [Silent, watching the answer reveal itself]

Husband: "Well it's not like I've used it everyday. I might have used it once or twice... What's the big deal?" [garbled, rapid speech that confirms all suspicions]

Me: [Silent rage-stare]

 

The simple answer to the simple question then was 'yes'.

Why can no-one just answer the ******* question?!

I know it's just shampoo (swap for any other seemingly minute irritation.) But is it? Is it?

Happy weekend and hair-washing to all smug-marrieds.

 

PS. If my husband is reading this - still love ya really [strained, high-pitched fake-laugh...] Grrr.

 

That Day, That Day, Again, Again the 13th April - 5 years ago by daintydora

This day 5 years ago - 13th April 2010 - my mum had a brain hemorrhage and spent a month in hospital. Amazingly, she lived. Every day is a gift and more than anything; that day, that day, brought it home to me how precious life is as moments slip between fingers into the cracks of memory.

On the first year anniversary of that day, 13th April, we spent the day out in the West End of Glasgow. Here's an extract of what I wrote then in a blog post called 'West End Day':

Had a fun day out in the West End yesterday with the madre. It was a year to the day since... and we wanted to make it special.
Was it a coincidence that browsing through a box of old postcards in a vintage shop I found a bundle of Marine Art Poster postcards and I knew before I saw it there was going to be one depicting the very ship that began my mother's journey from the place of her birth to the rest of her life?
The Cunard line ship that brought home my Mother and my Nana from South Africa in 1946 – the Samaria. The one I researched for hours online and described in my prose for 'the family saga' with a searing accuracy? I was stunned and elated to secure that postcard.
This discovery sparked a recounting of remembered events and experiences, all entirely pertinent to the plot at hand. Had I known that the Samaria had in fact been chopped up for match wood at the end of its useful life? No.
How many matches – 500,000? 500,000,000? A billion? How many stories did that ship have the pleasure (or the pain) of igniting in its lifetime? How many lives did it unwittingly touch?
And then: a gift for me.
An original copy of Tamara De Lempicka's 'Girl with Gloves’.
When I was studying Higher Art I was obsessed with chiaroscuro and the artists that painted or drew in that technique (still am.)
My mum said that day it was a gift of "a beautiful woman, from a beautiful woman, to a beautiful woman."

Girl with Gloves - Tamara de Lempicka

Art Deco elegance, that careful poise, the coy but somehow sad tipping of the wide-brimmed hat. The enduring sage of her dress that sometimes appears emerald, other times dampened chartreuse. She is herself a Pandora of possible - and impossible - interpretations and from now on she will be my muse. My lady luck with the joyous curls and sharp gloves concealing vixen-talons.

What a wonderful, wild-weathered whisper of a day. How I never thought we would have another 5 years together of chatter and laughing and bickering and dancing. But we did and we have. Here's to the next 5, 10, 15, 20, 25...

It was significant. Today is significant. Every day is significant.

PS. And today there was cake! A Victoria sponge with fresh cream and jam!

 

Friday Diary: My 2nd Liebster Award & 11 extra facts by daintydora

What a lovely, brilliant, exciting surprise it was to receive my second Liebster Award, this time from Pia who blogs at These Woven Words. (My first Liebster Award was from Michelle at That Summer Feeling. Another shout out to the wonderful, bright, pineapple & pink flamingo-loving Michelle!)

Liebster Award Pink

 

And now for the 11 questions I need to answer:

1. What's the last thing you made?

A decorated hairband to wear to a family wedding. It's electric blue and cream tulle with a vintage button and little pearls. Less is more!

Wedding Hairband in the planning Wedding Hairband in Electric Blue

2. What's one of your fondest memories?

Knitting with my Nana and going to buy wool together from her local wool shop. It was an expedition!

3. Favourite thing to drink?

Tea, in all its many flavours. I like Gunpowder green and Sweet Rhubarb and Earl Grey.

Japanese teapot, The Magpie Diaries

4. Best book you've read recently?

I raced through Office Girl by Joe Meno the other week, which inspired some radical art-guerrilla-thinking. I'm now reading The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing and savouring each page.

5. Is there a cause or charity you feel strongly about and why?

Refuge/Women's Aid - any charity that supports women who've experienced domestic violence/abuse because it's a topic close to my heart.

6. Favourite place to read?

In bed! Or in my cosy green leather chair in the sunshine.

7. What's your idea of an awesome holiday?

An exciting city break absorbing the sights, sounds, delights and discoveries of a different culture. Or a wonderfully relaxing spa break. I'm dying to visit New York, and have a long-held dream of spending the night in an Ice Hotel and seeing the Northern Lights (in Iceland or somewhere more exotic than Aviemore...) And I really want to visit the Norwegian Fjords.

8. Best snack?!

It sounds a bit too perfect and healthy, but I love snacking on a mix of brazil nuts and almond nuts and pumpkin seeds and raisins. I like to keep a packet of oatcakes in my bag for snack emergencies too, especially if I'm going on a journey or shopping trip. Smoothies and chocolate milkshakes I also count as 'snacks'. Oh, and toasted teacakes/fruit cakes are my guilty secret. Yep, lots of snacking here!

Snack place crumbs

9. What do you think your best attribute is?

I think my imagination and being able to see things from multiple perspectives. It takes me places and is at the heart of my creativity.

10. What are you listening to this week?

The sound of silence - hoping for silence anyway; to write and make progress on my projects, but instead the weather has had other ideas and the wind and rain have been pretty noisy, as have my neighbours playing LOUD music in the daytime. Apart from that I love listening to the radio.

11. Is there something or someone that makes you laugh every time?

My Mum.We bicker & banter but there is always something to laugh about; something hysterical, some misconstrued sentence or silly saying. And she has some very sharp observations.

And now here's 11 extra facts about me:

1. I'm a Piscean; emotional, watery, a dreamer swimming in multiple directions.

2. I love writing and I'm writing a book. Books. More than one book. It's exciting!

3. I've just rediscovered my love of drawing.

4. In another era, I think I would have made a great hippy. Peace, man.

5. I adore OWLS but they went a bit mainstream there for a while.

6. I'm terrified of spiders, even teeny ones.

7. I'm a recovering hoarder trying to transform into a minimalist.

8. I'm 5'11'' and rarely wear heels.

9. I'm clinging on to my 'vintage' ways and do not have/want a Kindle or E-book reader.

10. I have a first class honours degree in Textiles & Fashion Design.

11. My favourite colour is GREEN.

GREEN things

And now here's 11 blogs I nominate for a Liebster Award:

1. Rare Pear Studio

2. Squiggle and Swirl

3. Sew Crafty Goodness

4. A Quirky Bird

5. The Creatory Blog

6. Lila Wolff

7. A Zesty Life

8. She Who Rambles

9. Beautiful Life Industries

10. Girl Fifteen

11. Not So Nanna

 

Hooray to you guys but there's so many more blogs that I love and want to shout out, like my magpie-sister Helenor and my writer friend Vikki (so that's 13 for Friday 13th!)
And I want to give a special shout out to Pip Lincolne! #RADgirl

Now for the 11 questions: I just answered Pia's set and I think they're fabulous, so let's stick with them!

Meanwhile, Birdandfox set out such clear helpful tips for what to do next if you've been nominated, that I've (also) replicated them below:

What YOU need to do when you post in response: - Acknowledge the blog that nominated you. - Include the Liebster Award image on your post. - Respond to the 11 questions I wrote for you. - Include 11 facts about yourself. - Nominate 11 other blogs you think are deserving of the award. - Include 11 questions for them to answer. - Get in contact with those bloggers to let them know you have nominated them.

Wow, that was a big post with a lot of information.

I do love writing a #diary!

 

Friday Diary: A week of being 34 by daintydora

After the excitement of last week; birthday week, a Thursday birthday and a weekend spent in spaaaa bliss, everything else feels a bit...flat. Sometimes it's hard to re-motivate after a crescendo of activity and planning and chatter and fun. But life is about finding joy in the everyday, in the little things. Being mindful. Seeking out happiness.

Three days and nights of enforced relaxation is a bit strange though with everyone (me) glued to technology and social media and keeping up with keeping up. But I enjoyed the time away from my computer, from home, from housework and from 'normal life' because it creates the space to decompress and just be.

Airth Castle Spa Hotel

Husband and I stayed in a lovely four-poster room at Airth Castle Spa Hotel in Stirlingshire, Scotland, and battened down the hatches against the cold and rain and wind and snow. There were also many moments of beautiful sunshine, as seen above.

We had robes and slippers and we made full use of them in the spa. I swam and sat in the Jacuzzi pool and closed my eyes in the sauna to fully immerse in the beautiful, aromatic scent of wood and heat. And then I took a cold shower because it got so hot!

Airth Castle Spa Hotel View

Drinking in the afternoon and cocktails before dinner and candle-lit dinners were the order of the day.

Breakfasts consisted of watermelon and continental cheeses and croissants and pots of tea. One snoozy afternoon I succumbed to two enormous hot chocolates bubbling over with marshmallows. After dinner on the first night I enjoyed the divine art of a Calypso coffee.

I had two spa treatments in the Elemis spa followed by green tea with lemon and then reading by the pool.

I saw my collage chosen to be featured on the Brown Paper Mag site alongside a colourful array of other entries, all in response to the theme of 'New Landscapes'.

New Landscapes Collage

I read magazines in the daytime that I hadn't had time for before. It felt super-indulgent. On Sunday, after all that relaxation, I got into bed with my clothes on for a nap and it felt amazing.

Crisp white hotel sheets and the decadence of a daytime nap.

I slept for hours - all part of the detoxing and unwinding process.

And then (this would never happen at home), we put the TV on and the afternoon film was about to start -  James Bond 'View to a Kill' - so we lay and watched it, wrapped up in a time-warp away from the world of 'things to do'.  I enjoyed watching Grace Jones whip about as one of the villains with her strong outfits and chiseled angles. And then I was tired again. We skipped dinner and I fell asleep between 7 and 8pm. What? This is unheard of. I must have needed it.

Fairy Lights at Airth Castle Airth Castle Spa Hotel by night

I'd set my alarm clock for early the next morning so we could have a swim and a last blast in the sauna and the steam room before breakfast and check-out. We had the spa area to ourselves and the water temperature in the pool was perfect. I savoured another solo trip to the sauna and thought of Helsinki.

By 9am the snow was swirling down and it made the fact we were in a castle even more romantic and exciting. A castle in Scotland in the snow!

We were home in no time, but it was exhausting being out of the spa environment. I call this a 'spa hangover'. A 'spa-over'.

I gave into it and continued reading, not stopping until I'd finished my book (Jo Nesbo page-turning Scandi-noir). It felt like I'd tricked time somehow because I would never normally do anything so decadent on a Monday afternoon (though it did feel like a Sunday.)

On Tuesday I got back to normal and posted up my latest photography experiments. But then I was so sad to hear from family in Cape Town about the fires sweeping through the southern peninsula. Some of the images looked so surreal they could almost be described as beautiful if it weren't for the damage they spoke of. I think the worst is over but the devastation is still to be quantified.

Reading the names of the places involved took me right back to the stories that my Nana used to tell me of growing up there; of Muizenberg and Kalk Bay and Hout Bay. I must write that story.

On Wednesday I was ready for another adventure and ended up out for lunch and dinner and a welcome trip to the Kadampa meditation centre for midweek meditation. I always leave feeling so relaxed.

Breathe in glorious, positive bright white light, breathe out thoughts and worries in the form of black smoke.

So simple yet so powerful.

On Thursday I couldn't believe it had been a week since my birthday.

I worked on my book (#amwriting) and did some knitting and scrapbooking and thought about Spring coming, now, on its way. New life sprouting up in the garden. Daffodils and tulips and greenery getting greener. Nature quietly working away.

Green

Today, well today I'm feeling a bit like a jellyfish again. All discombobulated from strange, intricate dreams and perhaps too much sleep and time is sliding quietly sideways.

And in many respects my first week of being 34 has been just a normal week. Boring, almost. No love letter left for a stranger, no influx of birthday messages. But then that's the ebb and flow of life. And it's often the small things, the tiny, insignificant details of life that make it into something significant.

A vast experience of little moments that add up to much more than the sum of their parts. Thoughts and feelings and emotions that boil up together into an exotic brew like George's marvellous medicine for everyday with pockets of surprise and serendipity and magic.

What's going to happen next? Who knows, but I plan to enjoy every second.

Happy Friday!

 

Friday Diary: The things we save, unopened, unused by daintydora

I often think about the things I have that I haven't used yet, unseen and unopened. It's not that I have loads of abandoned things, but sometimes I'll find a little packet of something tucked away, like a pack of tights 'too special' to wear yet, or an unworn but coveted item of clothing that I don't want to 'spoil'. I don't think I do it consciously. It's more an understanding with myself: not yet, not yet, the time hasn't come yet.

This week I discovered four sets of earrings that my husband bought for me in 2012. I remember it was 2012 because he was working away for a few months. In London. And it was winter. And I missed him.

Unopened packets of earrings from the V&A

We saw each other every few weeks, but it's not the same. It feels different. I think you act different somehow. You get used to someone being there, or not. And when you're used to it just being you again, living alone, it takes a few days to readjust to someone else again. And then the visit is over.

One weekend I visited him in London, and of course I wanted to make the most of all the city has to offer (creative-inspiration overwhelm!)

We went to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Of course. It was the exhibition about British Design (1948-2012).

We arrived late having dawdled through the day and got lost on the Tube. The exhibition was going to close in less than an hour.

We wangled a student entry because it was so late in the day, despite not being students. We ran to the exhibition and began power-reading the signs that described the displays and absorbing all the innovation in double-quick time. We giggled. It was fun. We felt like students, young, younger, silly, carefree. I don't think we would have felt quite the same if we'd been going to an exhibition at home. Everything felt amplified and different, caught in a bubble, stretched and kaleidoscopic with colour.

Of course we had to visit the shop. I think it was open later than the exhibition? I bought a 'Betty' rain hat in vivid pink that I now feel a bit embarrassed to wear.

And then I saw the earrings. I loved them. They were so fun. My husband bought me these four designs. It was silly. They weren't so expensive. But he wanted to get me them to make me happy and because it felt like we were on holiday and they were in funky colours and shapes. We were at the V&A! In London!

And I really don't know why I didn't just take a pair out of its packet right there and wear them straight away. Wear them home. Out to dinner. On the flight home.

Earrings in their little packets, savored, fingered, unopened. Pretty cellophane that holds inside everything that I felt on that day, so far away from home and from my life, but my life was there right with me; me and my husband and all our memories ,together, living, happy.

Just seeing the packets of earrings this week transported me back there again, feeling the same things, the same emotions. Holding hands, skipping round exhibitions, feeling free, loose and free and like there was nothing else in the world. Just him and me where I picked these earrings in sweetie colours, plastic fantastic.

Unopened packet of earrings from the V&A

And I've still never worn them. They've taken on new meaning.

Isn't life (and love) strange?

DOWN! with the commercialisation of Christmas by daintydora

I love Christmas. I really do. I always have. But, but, all the Black Friday nonsense last week really got me thinking: has Christmas in the modern age been reduced to who can get the cheapest 42 inch TV? Really?

The commercialisation of Christmas destroys almost all of the magic that was so synonymous with the season when I was growing up.

What about joy and goodwill to all men (and women).

What about being thankful for all the things we've already got: life, health, a house, food, warmth. Many people don't have those things, and if you're one of them, a 42 inch TV would be worse than useless.

I heard a quote once, I can't remember where, but it went something like:

The difference between being rich and being wealthy is having what you need when you need it.

A rich man with millions in the bank might be stranded in the sea without a life belt or a boat. All the money in the world couldn't save him from drowning. Or sharks. But if he had a boat, even if that's all he had, he'd be wealthy.

I don't think I really told that right, but you get what I mean.

And I know everything boils back down to Maslow in the end, and the Hierarchy of Needs, but it is as relevant now as it ever was. The accumulation of material possessions and conspicuous consumption appears to be the route to self-actualisation for many people.

Walking round some of the high street stores last week, I couldn't help but feel a little bit sickened by the huge 'SALE' labels and posters advertising '40%' off. It seemed to devalue things that I might once have considered buying.

Department stores appear like labyrinths of shiny tiles, mirrors, glitz, scent and trickery.

I was looking for a particular item to buy as a gift, and when I asked where this item might be in the store, I was asked 'what brand' I was looking for. I wasn't looking for a particular brand. I just wanted a good, solid, well-made version of this particular item. The assistant stared back at me blankly, unable to direct me further.

I left with nothing.

Naomi Klein's book 'No Logo' sprung to mind.

When I heard that Christmas Day had become a 'huge' selling day in the Internet age, I was shocked. It would never cross my mind to start shopping online on Christmas Day.

I know I'd rather be wealthy in love, friends, thoughts, dreams, memories, experiences and the riches of gratitude, than have another TV that I don't want to watch.

And I've told my family I don't want presents this Christmas, except perhaps just one thoughtful and practical item. Not because I'm against gift-giving or anything like that, but because I already have everything that I need, and I'm grateful.

And I think that's something to celebrate.