Archive for the ‘Ramblings’ Category

Enough already!

Fresh, life-affirming, creative, quirky, fun (funny?), forward-looking, friendly.

The self-pity party is over. Rejoice!

Orchid

Tangled

Over the last month or so, I’ve been learning to crochet.

Correction, I’ve been failing to learn to crochet.  What I’ve in fact been doing is my usual trick of taking something fun and pleasurable and making it into a life-or-death pursuit of perfection, putting my whole sense of self and (limited) self-worth in the balance. I have injected it with my bastard melodrama and anxiety.

I’ve found it hard, to say the least. Verity has seen the tears as I fail to understand diagrams or endlessly re-read the paragraphs about how crochet is “easy”, “only 3 stitches”, “kids can do it!”. Kate has sat with me and tirelessly demonstrated the same basic methods, over and over.

Today however, with a fresh mind and a little perseverance, some pennies have finally dropped.

All the books are fine, my tuition so far has been fantastic and greatly appreciated. What I’ve been doing wrong I realise, is taking it far too seriously.

Yes, me, taking something too seriously! Imagine!

What I learnt:

  1. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Perfection is a pursuit, and part of the fun is knowing that  there’s room to improve next time.
  2. It doesn’t have to be right. Getting something right first-time means you haven’t learnt anything.
  3. It should be fun. If you’re not having fun and enjoying it – you’re doing it wrong.
  4. It should only occupy your mind a ‘healthy’ amount. Relaxing into it, not over-thinking every single action – that’s when it started to feel good, and become enjoyable.

And here’s what I’ve achieved so far. Please don’t mock – I am very very proud of my humble beginnings.

With a little more confidence and practice, I’m going to be in a position to start making the granny squares for my blanket. I’ll be blogging everyday about my progress and thoughts during Knitting and Crochet week between 28th March and 3rd April.

So there we go, crochet eh?

Ork Deff Dread

Deff Dreads epitomise three main ideals of Ork warfare: big, shooty and stompy. They thunder and clank towards the foe, limbs waving as heavy weapons spit death into the enemy ranks and powered shears snip excitedly in anticipation of the bloodletting to come.

~ From the GW Website

Gosh! Scary aren’t they?

This model has been really fun to paint. There’s so many little details on the model and different textures and materials for trying out various paint effects. I’ve had a go at (with varying degrees of success):

  • Weathering powders to make rust, dust and soot;
  • Oil spillages;
  • Glowing ‘plasma’ weapons;
  • Verdigris;
  • Chipped paint/battle damage.

Still got a lot to learn in terms of refining those techniques, but overall I’m very pleased.

Oh yes, pictures. Please excuse the carpet backgrounds, I couldn’t be bothered to crop them onto my normal background:

Chairman of the Hoard


There’s so much stuff in my life no room for me to grow
One day I’m going to break from my life due south down to Mexico
I’m going to burn down my house it’s the only way to let it go
~ James, Waterfall

Okay, so that’s a slightly extreme response, but seriously people, I think I need help. And soon.

Continuing a break from maudlin introspection, I’m asking for help; not because I’m a madster (as my dear friend E-J put it); but because I’m crazy in another way. I don’t expect you to be kind, in fact I think I need the brutal truth and your directness.

You see, I have a dirty and not-so-secret secret.

For the last 7 years I have been painting Games Workshop models. Yes, to anyone whose been round my house (or even erm… looked at this blog) it’s not a well-kept secret I grant you.

In those seven years, my skills with a paintbrush have increased greatly, and I’m genuinely proud (if slightly embarrassed) of the models I’ve produced. I’ve even given some as bespoke gifts to friends. Spread the shame I say! 🙂

However, I’ve come to realise that in those years I have become much more proficient in another aspect of this ‘hobby’ as the following photo will demonstrate:

stash

This is my secret. This is my shame.

This photo of boxes and sprues and containers of unassembled/part-finished models; covering an entire double bed; isn’t even the full extent of my stockpiling shame. I have more boxes scattered around the house. Oh, and the models I’m currently ‘working-on’.

I dread to think how much money I have spent on these little plastic and metal soldiers over the years. I’d hazard a guess at £800. I suspect the true figure tops a grand.

Ouch.

So it is with a heavy heart that I am forced to admit I am far more skilled at buying, keeping and hoarding miniature models than I am at assembling and painting them. I have more than enough models now to last me the next decade (especially at the speed I paint).

And yet… and yet…

There’s still more models I would like to own. More fascinating little (and not so little) sculpts and characters I wish to add to my collection. And I know that I will buy yet more models this year. This month. This week even.

What does that say about me, and hoarders like me?

That I’m shallow and materialistic?

I hope not, although I know I can be. There’s always the new clothes or shoes I want. I’ve wanted a MacBook Pro for ooh, 4 years now and counting. But that’s aspirational, rather than being materialistic and demanding right?

I think the fact that I’m willing to pour so much of my time and energy into creative hobbies and crafts shows I’m not the vapid airhead I sometimes appear to be (although there are certain occasions – that Kate and Alan will attest to – where I am waaay to ditzy to be allowed out on my own!)

That I have a magpie mind?

Oh, yes. Of that I am certain. I know that my mind is never at rest, always looking for the next thing to absorb my attention, fill me with wonder and present a delightful distraction. I know that there will always be…

…ooh, new shoes… …pretty…

That I’m indecisive?

I think it could be argued that the collector or avid hobbyist is indecisive and unable to settle on a task until completion. That being said however, serious collecting of craft/hobby materials requires a great deal of discipline and an organised mind:

  • Keeping track of the items in your stash and being able to locate bit ‘x’ or part ‘y’;
  • The acquisition of beautiful storage boxes (us hoarders love this bit!). After all we need the boxes to enable us to pursue our hobby ‘properly’ – right?
  • The little white lies we tell (and have to keep track of).
    That new box or packet we come home with and shove to the back of the cupboard.
    “What? No, I’ve had that ages, look where you found it, I must have had it for a year or two.”
    “Oh no, not too much, I think it was about £8 *cough* and they had an offer on or something, and quick! what’s that behind you…”

That I have vision?

Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s painting little models, woodturning, or knitting – I think one thing that all people who enjoy craft-based hobbies have in common is quite simple:

  • We can see the promise of wonder in the materials we acquire.

Every box of sprues, every ball of yarn, every block of wood contains the potential to ‘be’ something beautiful. And not just one thing. In it’s raw unfinished form – there are myriad opportunities for us to give it love, to have some fun and to create something unique. Something that is more than the materials it’s made from.

Collecting the raw materials of a craft or hobby is as much a part of the hobby as the hobby itself. You cannot have one without the other.

Please remember that, when you come to judge us hoarders with our piles of accumulated ‘rubbish’. Contained within each box of ‘stuff’ is hope and opportunity. Our little dreams to make something delightful out of something small are held tight within each lovingly organised container.

Squeal! Lovely sorted boxes!

And so dear reader, I ask for your help.

  • Don’t help me throw away or sell off my piles of plastic men.
  • Don’t hide my credit card and prevent me visiting little plastic model shops.

No, instead, help me to keep painting and offering encouragement.

That is all I need. That is all us crafty creative people need.

We all like to hear it, just a few little words:

“That’s kinda cool”

“I really like that”

“You made it yourself? Wow.”

Who knows? Maybe if you’re good boys and girls, I’ll repay the encouraging words by ‘gifting’ you with a finely painted Ork! 😉

For now though, I leave you with a few pictures of models I have finished. The few that balance the many, so to speak:

Orks! I am such a geek...

Putting all the vegetables away

Hello dear reader, and welcome to the (re)turning of a well-turned leaf.

It struck me that I have recently come perilously close to taking this little corner of the Interwebz back to it’s dark, dank hole of misery and introspection.

Let’s just accept that I’m an awful, anxiety-riddled neurotic with low self-esteem and an almost comical desperation to be liked (if it wasn’t so hideously needy). Let’s just take it as read that I’m working on it, and move on.

Shall we? (proffering his arm like a young, camply glam Mr Darcy)

~#~

When I sit and think about it honestly, I realise I have loads 0f things I’m actually really good at. There. I said it. There’s no going back from that now.

I can turn my hand to many, many different things and make a reasonably good stab at it.

So, while I don’t get crochet (yet), I can still take comfort from the things I can do. Pardon? Yes crochet is hard. Yes, grannies do it, but they’ve had years to learn and they are bona-fide Witches!*

Still asking about crochet? Okay, I’ll try and explain how it is for me right now.

Let me put it this way, imagine tying your shoe-laces. Yep, not a great leap of the imagination, I grant you.

Now, imagine tying your shoe-laces without being allowed to touch your shoes. Oh, a little harder you say?

Now, imagine tying the laces on shoes you can’t touch… with a tent peg. Scared? You should be.

Finally, suppose I tell you that the shoes you’re tying the laces for don’t exist, because you haven’t woven them yet.

See? Witchcraft! 😉 Kate knows I’m just kidding here as I’m really looking forward to learning! And making a whole Crocheted blanket, gulp!

~#~

Moving onwards and upwards then, for the next few posts, I’m going to talk about something that I really am good at: Cooking. Or more precisely, the enjoyment of cooking, playing with flavours and making my own small mark on the culinary world.

Travel with me dear reader, over the next few posts, and I’ll show you my tasty world…

~#~

*Except my grannies, who are/were both lovely.

Illumination (or letting the light in)

“Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

~ Anthem, Leonard Cohen

Perfection, the pursuit of being perfect – the desire to do everything ‘right’ – I’ll be honest, it’s exhausting!

I wrote something similar in an earlier entry back in November (On Forgiveness), and I find myself looking to remember it now.

I need to remind myself of this purely because if I don’t, I so easily (and quickly!) allow myself to believe that I am a continual failure. That I continually let down, anger and disappoint those around me.

I think that the truth is different. I think I only really let down and disappoint those who care about me, by allowing myself to spiral and create a whole (imaginary!) negative world-view.

I think it’s then a sadness from others that I have allowed myself to spoil my own experiences and memories. That I preemptively take away my own ability to find fun and joy in my day-to-day life.

What I need to continue to work on is believing that just being ‘me’ with all my imperfections is okay.  I need to keep hold of a few core facts. And I need to remember that these are facts:

  • I am liked for just being ‘me’.
  • I have value and worth to others because of who I ‘am’, not just the things I can ‘do’.
  • Those who care about me are not going to wake up tomorrow and decide they hate me after all.
    – this is a hard one to get my head round!
  • Those who care about me are not thinking about me that much!
    – I am not the topic of constant negative thought I all too frequently imagine!
  • I am not perfect, I will get things wrong and make mistakes.
    – this doesn’t make me a bad person or negate the good things about me.

The good news in all this is that, apparently, people who worry tend to be the smartest, most creative people. It takes a lot of imagination to dream up all these worries!

So, hey! If nothing else, I have that on my side!

On… being wrong

When do you admit you are wrong and attempt to make amends?

  • As soon as you have done the wrong thing?
  • As soon as you are told you have done the wrong thing?
  • After you’ve had time to reflect and think about what you have done?
  • Never?

I was never born ready, but I often suspect I was born wrong.

Making mistakes  and getting things wrong comes so easily, fluidly almost. It’s a constant within me, as much as walking or breathing.

Over the course of the last few days, I’ve been thinking about the way that getting things wrong hurts, and yet is so easily repeatable. The hurt stems from not only failing myself, that I haven’t learnt from my previous mistakes, but also the sense of failing others – that I have let down those who I respect and am close to.

Why do I continue to do the things that make myself and others unhappy?

Being wrong is painful, it means acknowledging that I have failed. It all too often means acknowledging that my mistake has hurt someone I care about, that I have let them down too.

Being wrong means that in the moment I lack the knowledge, the insight to make the right choice with the situation presented to me. It means I’m faced with a situation that while it may not be new, may be different enough that applying the right knowledge eludes me.

It means that I am still learning. The mistakes I make as I learn are almost inescapable. Does it make it easier to live with?

No. It really doesn’t.

I can however, admit when I am wrong. I admit being wrong all the time. I apologise for my mistakes all the time (some might say I apologise too much).

I’ve always believed that letting others know when I am wrong is a good thing. I’ve always believed that admitting and being open about my mistakes and flaws allows me to be myself, and begin to like myself.

I’m not sure I’m doing it right though…

“When we admit we’re wrong, we create opportunities for people to accept and love us as we really are, and that’s when we can finally have loving relationships.”

I do wonder why then, even though I can be open about my flaws, I still find it so hard to believe that I am loved?

Liked even?

I’d like to throw this question out to you, if I may:

  • How do you deal with making mistakes and letting people down, and still believe that you have likeable qualities?

On… forgiveness

Scared to be alone
Frightened of the dark
Everything’s too much
For a boy out of touch with his feelings

I must be to blame
I must be at fault
I believe I’m never good enough
To shine a light that lingers

~James,  Pleased to Meet You

A very wise, caring soul once told me that in order to be happy (in order to stand a chance at happiness) I first need to be able to forgive myself. They still tell me that now.

Repeatedly.

To be truthful, I’ve never really understood what that means. Forgiving yourself? What a self-serving idea!

Forgiveness is something merited to you by others as part of atoning for your wrongs, isn’t it? Forgiveness is a giving act and utterly unselfish, it cannot be expected and cannot be demanded. It can only be given, freely and unconditionally.

“When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised the Lord doesn’t work that way, so I stole one and asked him to forgive me.”

~ Emo Phillips

At least that’s what I always thought. That’s why I always struggled with the idea of forgiving myself (where to start anyway – it’s such a long list!).

But I realise, if I am to stand a chance at being me again (the me I know I really am), I have to let go of some of this baggage I carry with me, I have to move on from things that haven’t worked. I can’t keep letting my past control my future.

How then does one go about forgiving themselves for their failings, their flaws, their transgressions?

1. Acknowledge your mistakes

I am very good at this. I have ‘acknowledgement of my mistakes’ down to a fine art. I’m all over this one!

Or am I?

Just because I assume fault and take on blame does not mean I’m acknowledging my mistakes. No, rather it means I’m taking on mistakes I have no legitimate ownership of. I martyr myself when I have no need to.

It also means that while I am so busy berating myself for assumed failings, I’m losing sight of the mistakes I’m actually making – such as behaving erratically, pushing people away and being hard work to be around when there is no reason to be so.

  • You will make mistakes.
  • You will get things wrong.
  • You will upset people.
  • You will fail.

Take it, and move on.

2. Accept your flaws

Like a tall building, I’ve got too many flaws…

The hardest thing about having the mind of a highly-emotional, self-doubting perfectionist trapped in the body of a slightly camp, balding thirty-something is getting used to the imperfection that I am forced to endure 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

It’s exhausting!

I am not perfect. In physicality, there are many better specimens out there. In intelligence, I’m bright but I struggle to understand many things:

  • central heating (is the thermostat the temperature I want or the temperature it needs to be to start working? why does the boiler have it’s own separate timer and temperature – arrrrghhhh!!);
  • how anyone invented the first ruler without, well, a ruler to check they had a straight edge;
  • why ‘toast’ is a food in it’s own right, but burning any other cooked food just gives you ‘burnt’;
  • and so on and so forth…

In my abilities, I possess many qualities, but I know that whatever I turn my hand to, there will always be someone who is slightly better than me, and others who will be exponentially better than me.

I am flawed. But then I guess, so are you. Which leads me neatly on to:

3. Know that you are ‘only’ human

I am flesh and blood. A brain. A heart. A soul.

I am the product of my parents, my upbringing. I am the end result; although still a work-in-progress; of every single experience (joyous and painful) that has got me to my 34 years.

If I were an omnipotent being, I would have achieved so much more. Equally, I would have caused damage on a much grander scale.

The modesty and smallness of being human, of being frail, of being time-bound and otherwise constrained should allow me to let go of the guilt that I carry around what I should have done by now, how I should have done things differently

4. Celebrate your gifts

Forgive (see what I did there?) the repetition. I wrote this back in July as a snapshot of what I viewed as being intrinsically ‘me’. I think it still holds true:

  • Quick-wit and sense of humour
  • Great cook
  • Generous host
  • Caring friend
  • Gifted artist
  • Fab personal stylist
  • Lover of fashion and glamour ;o)
  • Open mind
  • Contentment in the little things
  • Sensitive (too sensitive!!) soul

Listing positive qualities about yourself feels so arrogant, so vain. Listing failings and weaknesses feels so much more natural and obvious.

But what sort of a way to live is that? Pretty fucking miserable, let me tell you!

Celebrate your gifts, share them with your loved ones and allow your abilities and skills to be enjoyed by others.

5. Live in the moment

This is really important. I know it’s really important because everyone from my best friend Richard to the Dalai Lama tell me so, in their own ways.

It’s also the core tenet of what “forgiveness” really means, as I’ll let Oliver Burkeman explain:

Strip away the moralising, and all the most reputable psychologists seem to mean by “forgiveness” is to stop demanding that the past should be different from how it was. “Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past,” runs one well-phrased motto, usually attributed to the actor/writer Lily Tomlin. That’s not just eminently reasonable; it’s the only rational way to live. It implies no moral stance, one way or the other, towards the future: it doesn’t mean staying in an abusive relationship, or not prosecuting a murderer. It just means abandoning a particularly perverse form of misplaced optimism: the notion that things that have already happened might one day change for the better. They won’t. The laws of physics don’t work that way.

If I allow myself to stop fretting about the things I can’t change (because they’re in the past), and stop projecting worst-case scenarios on those things that I can only influence (because they haven’t happened yet), then the moment – the now, the right now is the only place that makes any sense to be.

6. Shine the light that lingers

I am not always to blame. I am not always at fault. I believe I’m good enough to shine a light that lingers.

There is room in the world for me. Putting my energies into making my corner of the world that bit brighter has to be worth the effort. To do otherwise would be to perpetuate the darkness.

this is the end, this is not the end

“How come I end up where I started?
How come I end up where I went wrong?
Won’t take my eyes off the ball again,
First you reel me out and then you cut the string.”
– 15 Step, Radiohead

My previous post ‘on…becoming whole‘ is the last entry I’m going to write for a while.

When I moved my website hosting onto WordPress, I had visions that adding artwork, designs and painted models would be easier. I wanted my blog to be a place of joy and creativity, to showcase my (considerable) talents and share my art and hobbies with the world.

Instead, I quickly started diarising my thoughts, anxieties and worries on this platform. For a while, I was able to delude myself that the process was somehow cathartic. That by getting the thoughts out of my head and written down, I would be able to let go of them and in so doing, lighten my outlook.

That clearly hasn’t worked. No, rather I have used this platform to perpetuate my own negative internal thoughts. I have created a place that oscillates wildly from art and attempts at humour, to mawkish and hard-to-follow outpourings of blackness.

So, a break then.

I’ve given the site a new theme, fresh and summery (hope you approve!) ready for when I move back in.

I want to go off for a bit, and do some fun things rather than feel beholden to this electronic joy-sucker.

I’m gonna go and do fun things with my endlessly forgiving wife Verity. My best, most fun friends – Kate and Alan, Emma, Rich and Roberta, Colin and Mel, Joe and Katie.

I’m gonna re-find my creative muses and stretch my artistic boundaries.

I’m gonna do the things I enjoy – cooking and entertaining for friends, going shopping, taking walks.

In short, I’m gonna be the real me. Me, on a good day.