Creating Change; A Retrospective & Becoming International

So it’s been a long time since I’ve written to you.  It’s been in the back of my mind to check in and let you know how things are going but honestly, this last year has been so break neck that I’ve been consumed with just keeping the machine going in the right direction!

A quick synopsis for anyone that needs it! At the end of 2017 I resolved to move fully into interior design. I had been doing projects for a number of years but more as a sideline. I didn’t account at the time for how quickly this would happen for me and by January I found myself spending most of my days working on a variety of projects that came knocking on my door. In the first half of 2018 the pendulum swung fully in the direction of interiors and my retro furniture business had to take a back seat(I had set this up in 2015).  Of course, due to my compulsive addiction to furniture buying I wasn’t able to give it up completely! I just didn’t have the time to market my pieces like I used to. I also had to give up doing vintage furniture fairs because I found I was working weekends also on the interior design.

My first year in interior design hasn’t perhaps been the usual experience in that I had geared myself up for people wanting advice and guidance on how to do their rooms up and what I actually got was people asking me if I’d be able to do their entire house.  Literally ‘here are the keys, send me mood boards and then get on with it’. So from the word go I was nose deep in working with all the trades, project managing whole house conversions and renovations and having creative control over the ‘look’. All of this I had done before on my own projects but nothing prepares you for the level of anxiety that doing it for someone else invokes(see all my blogs that focus on mindfulness!). 

By July I had completed 3 whole house renovations and a number of lighter touch projects.  The sands shifted again in the second half of the year when I was asked to come on board with a larger scale commercial project. I had worked commercially in the past but this one was unusual in that the company brought me on board at the same time as the build commenced. Normally I would have expected to have several months of preparation time for something like that. Talk about thinking on your feet! 

That commercial project over ran and took all of my time up until leaving for my holiday in New York in early November. I had a chance over there to reflect on what the year had thrown at me and came to the realisation that I’d love the opportunity to diversify with the work I do, allow it to take me across borders and dare I say make use of the 4 languages I speak.. I resolved to become an international interior designer. I mean, why not?

Of course you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs so I knew that there would have to be a few changes and some decisions had to be taken in order to open this new avenue up for me. The trouble with doing the job that I do, is that there is no blue print for it. There are no manuals that tell you how to succeed in your career. If you are a teacher, then there are thousands of books you can buy that will help you create the correct flight path for your career with handy hints and tips along the way. For interior designers that also run vintage furniture companies? Not so much!

So I decided to take the bull by the horns and do what I always do in these situations- just make it the fuck up and roll with it. Step one was to ease the pressure with the retro furniture side of the business. I knew I couldn’t commit any longer to the amount of time it took to run the company successfully online but I also knew I couldn’t bear to give it up so I compromised, got a showroom and now open it once a week to the local community (12-3 Saturdays , M16 0BP. Come say hi!-shameless plug). 

Step two was to put everything in place to be able to work continentally. My fiancee, who is also my business partner and I talked at length about where we wanted our careers to go and where we wanted to spend our time from now on, and with one eye on the political situation in the UK at the moment decided that actually now is the time for audacious moves. Tickets booked we set off to find a location abroad that would work as a base for us when we weren’t in Britain.

After 5 months of negotiation and MANY emails we are finally a week away for receiving the keys for our foreign investment. I’m so excited for the future and what it might bring. I feel I’ve created the opportunity now for my interior design to hopefully continue flourishing in the UK and also over the coming years on the continent and worldwide. I’ll maintain a base in Manchester, allowing me to carry on with all my projects and clients over here whilst raising my profile abroad and having a bloody good time whilst doing it!

I hope that you, and many more will come with me on this new journey and that in the fullness of time maybe some of you might even like to come over there and stay with us. There is plenty room for everyone and in the next week over on my instagram I’ll be sharing images and info about what it is we have bought exactly.

Kitchen Update Project

Hi all! It’s been quite a while since I’ve done an interior design related blog and so apologies to those of you that expected more of them from me at the time. The past year has been so busy for me that the little head space I found I had left at the end of my day was taken up with trying to practice mindfulness. This is why my updates have really focussed on that.

At any rate, here I am and I’m about to give my kitchen a bit of a going over, so I thought what better time to get back in contact with you and let you in on what I’m planning! How the fuck are you all? I’m good.

So last week I visited New York. As you do over there, you spend a lot of time in subways staring at walls. Unlike the rest of the world, when I do this, my mind wanders in all kinds of directions and I find myself making patterns out of what I see. One particular morning I saw a dark (damp stained I suspect!) wall with a flash of purple running across it (God knows what that was), broken up by a crisp white tile. Being me I suddenly realised and understood I must return to my kitchen posthaste and recreate this mess in my own home. Don’t ask.

 Just down there, just down where the black bit begins.
Just down there, just down where the black bit begins.

So later on that day and with the help of a vino or three, a realisation came to light. This year I have been really getting excited about Christmas. I can’t really ever remember feeling that way about the season so I’m embracing it. Thinking more about it though I started to dig into the whole idea behind Christmas decoration, how people put tinsel and trees up that last for a week or two (or three months if you’re really committed), we’ll decorate for events but not for seasons. Even though it costs less than £100 to redecorate a room on a budget and may take a day or two out of your life, we just don’t commit in that way to our interior.

I’m not saying that’s wrong or anything, at the end of the day we are busy people with lives to lead. All I really am saying here is, if you have the time and a bit of spare cash, and the inclination takes you, then why not pick up a cheeky can of new paint every six months or so and change your rooms up? I’m planning on having winter and summer colour schemes from now on I think. I may get carried away with work and so this may not be something that I can stick to in every room all the time but I’m certainly not sticking anymore to that idea that once a room is done, it’s done.

 My kitchen currently.
My kitchen currently.

So basically what I’m saying here is I’m taking the influence of the time of year and using that to direct the room that needs decorating at the moment, and that is the kitchen. I’m taking the ideas I got in that subway for dark, warm shades and crisp white and translating that into the black kitchen units I already have and oak worktop with white metro tiles and adding deep, deep, berry tones with flashes of brass and greenery. I’ve put together a cheeky mood board for you.

Because the room is part of an open plan scheme, i’ll be taking aspects of it and running them into the dining area next. I’ve picked a completely different shade for in there, which once again will either be fabulous or a total disaster. GO HARD OR GO HOME!

If you follow my instagram and check my stories over the next week or so you’ll see all the updates.

I like chatting with you, so let me know your ideas and responses to my blog.

H|A|L|T

HALT

 

People ask me, ‘when did I first know that I was a creative’. I answer, ‘I think the kids around me at school seemed to know before I did. I think my mother always knew, but we didn’t talk about it.’ I had my first creative experience when I was 12, so I was an early starter on that front and then it just went from strength to strength really. One minute you’re hanging a curtain, next you’re applying for summer jobs at interior design agencies in the big smoke. 

Being a creative person has it’s ups and it’s downs, quite literally. At times my brain feels like a packed semantic motorway full of professional racing drivers all on performance enhancing drugs. At times it all crashes down and the silence is profound.

 We didn’t have much money growing up, and by not much, I mean I remember getting my first job at 11. For me working wasn’t for pocket money but more a practical way of contributing to the weekly bills and improving our lives. Despite being on the breadline I remember going up to my bedroom regularly and thinking, ‘oh no, this will never do’, going to the garage and searching for old tins of paint or literally anything I could use to pep the look up of my space.  On one occasion all I had to hand was PVA glue and tinfoil. 3 hours later I had a very shiny cast iron fireplace with a fairy light insert. I used to visit the local charity auction and return home dragging three seater settees and all sorts. My poor mother was constantly bemused by what I expected to achieve with these tatty old bits of furniture. 

 

Throughout all of this though and as I carried on into adulthood my racing mind and hurricane like ability to swirl up a pile of ideas has remained the same. One of my pals thinks I’m like a Labrador – very useful with the right training. By that I assume she means as long as I keep my brain in check I can really get a project turned around nicely. Either that or we shouldn’t be friends.

 Labradors. Cute. When trained.
Labradors. Cute. When trained.

 

So this mind of mine has served me well over the years, but it has been a constant source of exhaustion. Sometimes I get home after a days blabbering and bartering with my unconscious and literally have no energy left for the person I should most prioritise. I can be so tired at night that even going up to bed feels an insurmountable journey. I long to live in a bungalow. 

 I blabber. A lot.
I blabber. A lot.

 

With all of this in mind ,anything that I can find that helps me on the daily to temper my frankly crazy mental state is always welcome. Because I am a Labrador, my attention span can be at worst non existent and at times negligible so I like short, sharp statements that keep me on track.  I recently heard of HALT and it really resonated. Hungry: being who I am I regularly forget to eat during the day (I totally make up for that in the evenings so don’t worry on that front). Angry: sometimes how I feel can stop me from being productive and actually that can quickly consume my days. Lonely: being self employed means a lot of time alone and this can rapidly have a knock on effect with how I feel without me even being aware. Tired: finally with the Grand Prix going through my head pretty much constantly that can really drain the batteries quite rapidly. 

 I love me an acronym. Not an anachronism which turns out to be something totally different. Who knew!?
I love me an acronym. Not an anachronism which turns out to be something totally different. Who knew!?

 

HALT. Hungry. Angry. Lonely. Tired. There is such power in just referring to this throughout your day when you are going about your business. Being aware of how you feel is in itself empowering. Even if there is nothing that we can do about it in the immediate. Maybe you can’t have a cheeky wee nap right now, but for sure if you can acknowledge how you feel then you can make informed decisions about what your next step should be. Loneliness is not a preserve of the old.  I can feel lonely many times throughout the day. We live in a world of social media where most believe that companionship is offered through these channels. It is not. There is nothing like hearing the voice of another that cares for you. There is nothing that will replace actual, physical human interaction. Just even going to the corner shop to buy milk can make you feel better than 6 hours of desperately trying to find comfort in whatever is your app of choice. Find someone. Talk.

 

I go back to HALT several times throughout the day now and just check in with it. I tag thirsty in with hungry because I’m a right bitch to be around when I’m dehydrated.

 

Try it. HALT. It’s good for what ails ya!

Self Employment; Living The Dream?

Walking through Manchester City centre at 8.25 this morning I am confronted by my alternative path. Thousands of people pushing down the road in the opposite direction. Away from me. All different but all the same in one way. They’ve all got that same familiar look that betrays their thoughts, they all have a face of dis-ease. Hunched shoulders and purposeful, urgent marching they make their way towards their place. Dressed and distressed like professionals. Professional what in, I’m not sure. Perhaps professional widows. They’re all actors definitely. 

 Typical morning on Deansgate.
Typical morning on Deansgate.

 

Ill fitting shirts and blouses and treading carefully on tight shoes some shuffle forward and some lunge. Some even lurch not unlike zombies hearing the distant drone of human flesh nearby. Me, I’m wearing shorts, a white t shirt and my knock off Ray Bans. It could be my imagination but I can’t help but feel side glance every now and then from some of them. Anger and perhaps judgment at me not wearing the money making clobber that 95% of the rest of the city centre has on right now. I must look far too comfy to them. If we are music then they are jungle and I am Elevator.  As I meander to the dulcet tones of a generic backing track they are confronted by a cacophony of clanging beats and sharps sounds. 

 I firmly suspect it may be the dirt and rust that is holding my van together.
I firmly suspect it may be the dirt and rust that is holding my van together.

 

I dropped my van off for its MOT this morning. That’s why we’re walking in opposite directions and hear different music. It’s the reason I wear shorts and they don’t.  This is why I have the time, not just to passively see their faces but to actually observe what is in front of me. I am self employed. Writing it like this makes me sound like I have a ‘condition’. Perhaps I do. It’s certainly infectious. Since I have become self employed I have influenced a number of others who have also decided to follow my path. I’m not sure how much they still like me now to be honest.

 

When you’re self employed your boss can’t sack you, but the universe can. You have no one to answer to, except the constant nagging voice in your head that demands to know what you are doing to get more money, to improve and succeed. There are no shit employees you have to deal with and this is because you are alone. Days can go by and no one will talk to you. You can take any holidays you want whenever you want and these will be unpaid and each will start with the desperate realisation that with every passing second everything you have built diminishes. You are the master of your own destiny, as long as you don’t expect that destiny to involve getting a mortgage. You get the enviable task of informing people at parties and social gatherings that you run your own company, which invariably is met with admiration and trilling about how others wish they had the guts whilst your own guts seize with fear at the sheer uncertainty behind every move and decision you take.

 

The suit I chose not to wear now is still on me. At the end of the day however employed people take theirs off whereas my one is unremovable. I am ready at any time to work because I must be. In the words of those fierce New York queens – I don’t get ready, I stay ready. I start to ponder about how this is really just a constant state of emergency.  

 I have become really quite good at thinking on my feet and getting shit done regardless the situation.
I have become really quite good at thinking on my feet and getting shit done regardless the situation.

 

With this my phone rings. The van has failed it’s MOT and it will cost too much to repair it. It’s a write off.  My money maker has given up the ghost and I’ll have to work out how to finance another. This used to be the stage at which blind panic would take over me and consume the rest of my day. But for some reason over these past weeks and months I have become more aware. I’ve shifted more into the present and I know that somehow, some way, this will all work itself out. 

 All easier said than done, but so worthwhile striving to do.
All easier said than done, but so worthwhile striving to do.

I guess that is the thing, I don’t have the consistency of a guaranteed monthly wage but time teaches you that as long as you work hard, are willing to be reflective and make changes and never give up then good things happen. Unless you’re a cunt.

We Are All Ruled By Our Own Fears-Breaking The Cycle

We’re all ruled by our own fears. Perhaps arrogantly I have always thought that I was the exception to that statement. I navigated my way through some tricky moments when I was younger and came out the other side to go to university and gain loads of letters after my name for which the Student Loans company charged me handsomely. I’ve moved to other countries alone and set up a new life bungs of times, I’ve changed career without a second thought, and thrown myself into massive projects with huge financial implications should they go wrong and I’ve done it with all the gusto of Honey Booboo straight after a bottle of Special Juice.  Yes, my friends I truly have not given a fuck. Zero fucks here for fear.

 

I sound great don’t I?  No inhibitions. Free to be who I want to be-I am the tampon lady that roller skated with Dalmatians.  Remember her?  What the fuck was that all about?

 

Problem is of course, that I am not all of the things above. I have done all of the things above apart from insert a tampon and go dog skating, but there’s time yet for that. At the heart of the matter I will not be stopped, but the cost of forging ahead with what I do in life is high. 

 Sometimes I repeat this quote to myself. Less is more.
Sometimes I repeat this quote to myself. Less is more.

 

Rewind to 21 and I had many a post-it on my bedside table with affirmations on them incase, in fact no let’s just say when I woke up during the night panicking about whatever my panic du jour was. Key things I loved to panic about were;

  •  money
  • lack of money
  • guilt about not spending enough time with family
  • the future
  • the past
  • what career I should go into
  •  my health
  • my relationship

 With the exception of the last one of those, as I think about that list, I realise my fears are pretty much all the same that they were 15 years ago. Although I don’t have the affirmations by my bed anymore. I prefer to drink myself unconscious and hope for the best. I’ve really matured in that sense.

 

I am a multipotentialite, a polymath, or as Emma Gannon puts it, I follow the ‘multi hyphen method’. What this means in laymen terms is I have a variety of skills that I put to use in order to further my career. Or as Robyn says in her song ‘Cobrastyle’ I have ‘relentless determination in the quest to get paid’.

From the outside this looks like an online retro furniture store, pop up homeware shops, a blog, an interior design business and various collaborations across the board. On the inside, well just basically start reading this blog from the beginning.

So as I said, the cost is high. I always strive for better and more. But I heard the phrase by Pedro Almodóvar in the year 2000 “ it costs a lot to be authentic. And one can’t be stingy with these things because you are more authentic the more you resemble what you’ve dreamed of being.” Sometimes that cost is material and sometimes it is mental. More often than not the latter I find, but I don’t want to sit in the sidelines and watch time go by.

 

A childhood friend of mine. The person I first got drunk with, and whose wall I later decorated with my spew.  The same girl I sang my first karaoke song alongside, and who left me to sing the unreachable high note alone – I WILL NEVER FORGIVE THIS – is now contending with terminal cancer. She has shown magnanimous strength, courage I can’t even imagine and a sense of control that astounds me throughout. I can’t change her situation and I think every day about it, but I can change my outlook toward the life I have. It won’t change things at all for her but I hope that she sees the impact her strength has on others and that this in turn gives her some small comfort. 

None of us can change what has already happened but we can shape what we have of our futures. I want to find out exactly who I am, and it may take a lifetime to discover. I am more than likely going to have to add many more hyphens to my job title in the process and considerably more wrinkles to my face. Fear gets in the way every day, hundreds of times but you’ve got to feel the fear and make the choice to just do it anyways. It’s what Deanna does.

 

 

You can read about Deanna below, and donate from the same link.

https://uk.gofundme.com/deannawilson

Instagram. The Tragic Tale of Compare & Despair

A question I get asked time and time again is ‘how do I manage to remain so fabulous at all times yet still consistently produce outstanding design and also restore top end furniture – piece after piece after piece?’

 

Only kidding. Never been asked anything like it.

 

Instagram is a funny one isn’t it. I started with it back in the day when it was totally cool to filter the fuck out of anything you uploaded. The more crackling and vignette you could apply the better. If you could ram an over the top border on there then you were really playing your A game.  Of course back in these days I was a happy go lucky coffee drinker in hipster city centre bars, taking more than my fair share of arty shots of daisies in milk bottles etc etc. Every now and then my eyes would glance across my follower number and perhaps take in that it had gone up or down. I’m not even actually sure I did to be honest. I always noticed the amount of likes a picture would get, but I think that’s more down to a predisposed genetic reaction more than anything else.

 

 Curved edge?  Check! Vignette? Check! 
Curved edge?  Check! Vignette? Check! 

Fast forward 8 years and we are not in Kansas anymore people. In my instance my profession changed and I began to run my own company and so I started coming at it all from the new angle of ‘more followers could mean a stronger business in the long term’.  I feel like the whole game has kind of changed for everyone now though hasn’t it. From the interiors obsessed stay at home mum to the dangerously skinny gym obsessed cowboy hat wearing socialites, it’s all about the followers and the likes.

 

There are courses you can go on to tell you how to get more likes, more follows, more interaction, more, more and more of everything. You can listen to podcast upon podcast analysing and dissecting every aspect of what makes ‘lovely squares’ and the difference between your main feed and your ‘stories’.  You can pay companies to managed your instagram. YOU CAN PAY COMPANIES TO MANAGE YOUR INSTAGRAM!?? Hashtags are key, always use 30, no more no less or the internet will break. Always tell everyone your life is utterly fabulous but (and here is the trick) link that with a slightly imperfect yet highly curated image. Or even better, brag about how bonkers your life is. The piece de resistance of course is just having a mental breakdown on your insta and then pulling up a pew with a brew awaiting the ‘you ok hun?’ and the ‘you’re amazing, just focus on being you’ messages. Oh yes and you can also sign up to newsletters by other instagramers that will send you weekly nuggets of wisdom on how to claw in as many followers as you can.

 

I got sucked into Instagram earlier this year. Sucked in I tells ya. The driven, competitive side of me kicked in and I decided that there has to be a basic formula to all of this. So I decided to do what I have always done in the past in order to achieve a goal. I read up, I looked around me at what others were doing and then I practiced my arse off at working to get the right blend to improve my presence on insta. Took about 3 weeks to reach burnout.

 

Then I read the phrase ‘compare and despair’ somewhere. The idea that we measure our own success against that of others based on minimal details.  This isn’t something I’ve ever suffered from but I realised I had contracted it in recent times. I was constantly looking at the work I had produced and measuring it against other, more engaging or ‘successful’ work. Fucking major alarm bells started clanging in my head. I had allowed myself to get sucked in to the vortex of instagram algorithm desperado hell. I was chasing likes and follows like they actually meant something. They do not. If instagram disappeared tomorrow, if we all woke up and the tile had gone from our phones not only would our lives simplify rapidly, but the only people that would be worse off for it financially are those at the top of the chain. 

 

We all know them. They’re normally self employed, and in their eyes they run the MOST popular and MOST successful businesses. They don’t have time for anything literally. Just so busy. No one can even fathom how they fit in the umpteen blogs they churn out a week reinforcing how fabulous they are alongside the seemingly never-ending instagram stories about their success. It seems a miracle they find time to take a shit let alone update us on how glamorous said shit was.

 

When I read on peoples feed about how utterly busy they are and how they simply do not know how they are managing to fit in all the quality work they are totally producing whilst still responding to the many people that are desperate to employ them or collaborate with them in one way or another what I think is; ‘why are you telling me this?’. Why do I need to know how great your life is? The rest of us are out there making the dream happen whilst these people seem to be more focussed on curating the dream.

 

 By all means I want to see nice images. I will always want to see them in whatever format they come in, but do I want to know how great things are for you as a stranger to me? No. Why? Because I alongside the rest of the planet, am only human and have to work at not comparing myself to you. For the most part I manage it, but for a little while I didn’t which led me to look around and see a lot, a big lot, of people who don’t manage it effectively either or maybe at all. There is a lot of frailty out there and a lot of low self esteem. More than likely to be the exact issues that many of the bragging instagramers suffer from themselves. 

 let's just all agree to be fucking fabulous and wait for others to recognise it. I think the phrase is 'may your character speak louder than your words'.
let’s just all agree to be fucking fabulous and wait for others to recognise it. I think the phrase is ‘may your character speak louder than your words’.

 

 

I’m no fool. I know that human nature is what it is and we are all different. It’s what makes us great. But my question is, if you are a person that suffers from looking around you and feeling like others are doing better then what good does it serve to start banging your own drum about how great things are for you? We end up in a cycle of compare and despair. One that can be broken at any time by any of us.

 

How about we all agree to carry on championing our best insta images but tone down the ‘I’m fabulous’ parades that go underneath your square? You’ll feel better because you won’t have to concoct a bunch of shite on the regular(and underneath it all we all know it’s shite), and the rest of us will too, because we’ll see you as human. Then we will feel more human and everyone will come down just a tiny notch. Just a smidge. Back down to calm and feeling ok about who you are. Back to normal. Back to reality. Namaste mother fuckers!

 

 

Happiness

 

I got to thinking the other day about happiness and how I don’t really connect with it in the way I used to. This isn’t to say I am not a ‘happy’ person. It’s just that the older you get it seems to be a more and more convoluted concept. 

 

I feel guilt for this at times because lets face it I have very, very little to complain about. I have love, health and a roof over my head.

 

I was going through what I meant with my partner the other day and the best way I could put it is through the terms of childhood.  Everything is so cut and shut when you’re a kid. When you’re at school, you’re not happy because you’re at school. That’s the law. The bell rings to go home, and your happiness light ignites. Dinner time arrives and maybe it’s something you don’t really want to eat but you know you have to or there will be hell to pay so you’re not happy. Standard. But then you’re happy again after tea when you can play. Unhappiness comes around again when it’s bedtime because you don’t want to go to bed yet. It all seemed very straight forward until exam time came and you became aware of this crazy little fuzzy monster called stress. That blew things out of the water didn’t it! Sleepless nights!?  They were a special occasion reserved only for night terrors as a small child.

 

From then on out the water just seems to become more and more cloudy, as adulthood begins to introduce to you the smörgåsbord of bonkers things that you need to deal with. Happiness starts to turn into an abstract concept until it fully evolves into a vapour that almost floats above you from time to time. In the past I have actually found myself at times thinking ‘this is when I should be happy, so this is me being happy’. What the fuck is that all about!?

 

They say life is what happens when you’re making plans and that phrase resonates so strongly with me nowadays. I’m so busy battering on with everything I think it would be a good idea do to that I had lost the ability to slow right down and actually feel feelings. Apart from the negative ones obviously. I’ve totally nailed them. Not bragging.

 

So recently I’ve been working at actually enjoying the good things when they happen. Sadly it does not come naturally to me anymore I have to confess. Fuck that though. I am going back to carefree childsville, stopping off at laugh until you cry and passing through the impossibly large smiles neighbourhood. Whatever adulthood has done to my happiness connectivity I am determined to reverse. There are some things that I can see now I need to adjust. Some parts of my life that are just basically not conducive to the feelings I want to have now so I’ll be tweaking away over the coming weeks and months but I’ll be damned if I’ve spent my life working so hard to get to this stage only to miss out on exactly what’s in front of me.

 

I do often wonder if I am alone in this. Do other people just connect with happiness in the same way they did as children? Is it just me? 

 

So if you see me walking down the street with a goofy smile plastered across my face, that’s just me going through therapy! Either that or I’ve finally lost it. Either is very possible at this stage.

 

Let me know what you think will you?

The Blog Is Dead. Long Live The Blog!

I started writing blogs back when I set the website up in 2015.  I didn’t really know what I was doing so I did what everyone does, looked around and tried to emulate what I saw. It was challenging but I saw that people were engaging with it to an end and so I pushed on and continued.

It was sparse and the themes were sporadic. For a wee while last year I seemed to get my groove on with it all managed to even set aside a day of the week to bash my blog out. This is really where it all went tits up. As business grew I started to feel like my blog was becoming a beast under my bed that constantly whispered in my ear tales of abuse and neglect. On every sixth day I would set out to write a blog but then emails would come in, and stock would sell or life in general would get in the way.

So instead of writing the blog in that glossy, loads of lovely pictures and quirky editorial, way I’d just not write it and instead feel guilt. Guilt that I was not juggling all the different tendrils of my business correctly. Guilt that I was not as bloggy as other bloggers. Guilt that my blog wasn’t as glossy and consistent as other bloggers.

Then I had a lightbulb moment.

I am me. I am no one else but myself. I can never be anyone else. I cannot achieve the dizzy heights of constant feed that many bloggers achieve because I work full time running several aspects of a business that are about to turn into 4 distinct companies. I don’t have any fucking time to take a shit let alone come up with dazzling fabulous witty blogs that tell you where to get the most darling plug sockets from.

So that is it, I am no longer going to attempt to be one of those bloggers. Sorry to anyone that perhaps thought that was the direction in which I was going. I got mixed up for a minute there but now I’m back to myself and I won’t get lost again.

So what does this mean now? Well it means my blogs are about to become a whole lot more frequent. But there is a caveat to that because they won’t be all about lights that are to die for unless I happen to find some and they won’t be about the most killerest garden ornament or paint colour unless these things literally fall into my lap. My blogs are now going to be about me. They will be about me, my travels, my food (of which there is a hell of a lot), my irks and quirks and anything that happens to fall out of the tips of my fingers at the precise moment of writing to you.

I feel liberated and understand if no one gives a shit about any of this from here on out. I’m still going to carry on though. I’ll do my best not to sound like a heinous twat. Although.

Winter Blues? Go Green With Indoor Gardens.

I think I most definitely suffer from anxiety and probably bouts of depression from time to time. As you grow older you become more sensitive to your body and how you feel mentally I think. Of course before you diagnose yourself with any of these illnesses you must first make sure that you have not in fact just surrounded yourself by arseholes. Arseholes will make you feel terrible so bear that in mind.

 

Keeping my mental health in tact, or as near as I can to that is always a struggle for me and this is probably why I am drawn towards gardening so much. Creating life and sustaining it really does make me feel better, inside and out. Whether it’s getting mucky in the garden creating new features (see my old blogs about making a green space out of *literally* a car park), or planting seeds on a windowsill and watching them go through germination and sprouting I just get a massive kick out of the whole process. Key issue though however – the massive black hole that is November through to April/May. My garden looks like a sludgy feral dump currently with twigs loitering in every corner and decomposing leaves recarpeting the ground. Vile. All the indoor plants are snoring as I type – they shan’t be considering making any effort whatsoever to grow for at least another three months. Like the divas that they are. Life just basically fucking sucks on the greenery front at the mo.

 

This is what has driven me to find my hit elsewhere. When nothing goes right, go left. That’s what I say. If the sun won’t come out then I will fool the bastard plants into thinking it was here all along. Cue introduction to my new experiments in playing plant God. The indoor garden systems! 

 

Firstly we have the Ikea Krydda or Växer system.  It comes in a 1 or 2 tier option. And you put it together kind of like a pick and mix. Pick and mix.  Sour, chewy sweetie goodness. God I want pick and mix. Anyways, you put it together yourself which I in fact am already not a fan of before I start. Lets face it, every single one of us have on more than one occasion gone to Ikea to buy some essentials (and about 75 quid of other surprise purchases along the way) only to get home and realise you didn’t buy ALL the component bits. This set has disaster written all over it on that front. I did actually go to Ikea to buy this set but gave up half way through loading my trolley as even the staff were unsure about everything I would need to purchase. Also – not the prettiest thing frankly. You also need to have a separate propagator for it so it’s quite labour intensive-not that I mind that but just so you know. From what I can fathom a set up for this will be around about the £100 mark. 

 

Leading on from this we have the Ikea Bittergurka. I don’t know what the Gurkas did to get this  piece named after them but I’m sure Joanna Lumley is not thrilled about it. I love this. I have purchased it and been using it for a few weeks now and it really works. It is dead simple to set up only involving one screw – which you can fit with a butter knife. Not that I did that of course. But I did. Fuck it. I leave it on 24/7 and it gives the kitchen a nice warm glow to it. I feel like this helps me with the crappy feelings I get when I look out the window to darkness every day.  You literally just sit your plants in it ( in my case shop bought coriander, rosemary and basil), and you top it up with water every so often and that’s it. My herbs are noticeably growing every day and I am hacking away delightedly at them at basically every meal time. I may also be inventing a few mealtimes as an excuse to get in there and forage. It wouldn’t be fair to measure it against the Krydda because the Bittergurka doesn’t propagate and isn’t a hydroponic system, but on ease of use and overall impact however I far prefer it. Also it looks fit, and was only £35 all in.

 

Moving on from this I realised that I didn’t have a means to propagate and I do really want to be able to bring seeds on all year long.  I had decided against donating the amount of worktop space that the Krydda would take up so went on the prowl for another option. This is when God, God herself came down from heaven and spoke unto me. She said Paul, Paul go unto the Red Cross shop in Chorlton and verily I did my children. On entering I did find awaiting my eager clutch a Miracle Grow Aerogarden in immaculate state.  The angels descended, but I had to ask them to shut the fuck up because I couldn’t hear the woman at the counter. Turns out she was asking if I had a loyalty card. Who knew the Red Cross did them!? Anyways, got it home and it was über easy to set it up. I had to order seed pods for it and fertiliser which cost a tenner for 6. Literally you plug it in, add water, two caps of fertiliser goodness and pop the pods in. Then you switch it on and leave it until it tells you to do something else such as give it more water or food. It’s not a pretty thing and the amount of light it gives out may have your neighbours questioning exactly what kind of hydroponics you’ve got going on in your house, but I’ve got it set up in the kitchen and I’m literally giddy with excitement about seeing the wee seeds start to show their little green arms. My plan will be to get my seeds going in the Aerogarden, which I may move to the utility room when the days get longer, and then transfer them to the Bittergurka. There are more palatable looking Aerogardens on the market now and they come in at around about the £120 mark and my one has space for up to 5 plants at a time.

 

There are some other contenders out there also such as the Seed Pantry Grow Pod at £65 which hosts two plants. I think the thing to think is, how much time can I donate to this and how pretty do I want my kit to be. I wanted the best of both worlds with an ability to grow a variety of things at the same time. I totally recommend getting one of the above though if you suffer from the winter blues, it will give you a bit of a lift and contribute towards tastier dinner times too!

Things That Go Bump In The Night.

 The view from the kitchen in our old house in the sky.
The view from the kitchen in our old house in the sky.

So before we took on our money pit, we lived in a brand new, bought off plan duplex apartment in the city centre. The type of place I refer to as a ‘laminated shoebox’.  It was characterless (when I arrived but not by the time I had finished with it!) but it was full of right angles, dry floors and rooms that heated to expected temperatures.  Then we bought Heywood House, our current Edwardian semi on the edge of Chorlton, and by edge I mean no where near but gets nearer when drunk and talking to strangers.

On day one, hour one, the boiler wouldn’t start. Turns out the gas had been capped because the place had been derelict for so long. This took many engineers and a lot of money to work out. On day two the boiler spat the dummy and stopped doing the usual stuff boilers like doing.

This went from 1 engineer saying it would take 60 quid to two engineers charging 180 quid after a buttload of head scratching, looking around, trying to work out how much money we had and what would be a feasibly large bill to land us with that wouldn’t result in refusal to pay at all. Frankly at that point in time had they said I would have to sell my sole to the devil for working heating I would have signed on the line before the sentence was finished. I was genuinely starting to wonder what the hell I had let myself In for at this stage.

Cut to a month later, and the building work has started.  I go down to the basement one day, or what I laughingly referred to as my ‘work shop’, and it’s full of water, as in literally about a foot high.  It was at this point that I realised the previous owner for reasons that I don’t want to know had tiled the walls of said basement but only down to precisely where the water now triumphantly licked their edges. Known problem. Can’t believe it didn’t click when we were viewing it before purchase. Fast forward a few months and after many, many interesting and sometimes quite eventful conversations with First Utilities, they eventually agree that they are responsible for this all and fit a ‘no return valve’ on the drain. Problem solved and will to live lost ever so slightly more.

 It was with great, almost fevered delight that we realised all the fireplaces were still working.
It was with great, almost fevered delight that we realised all the fireplaces were still working.

The hours of dialogue involved in fixing all the stuff above must run into days by now I would have thought, although in all fairness they pale in comparison to the amount of time that we, our immediate and extended family, friends and sometimes vague acquaintances have discussed….the temperature in the house. Honest to God, I cannot tell you how prominently this issue features when you buy an old house. Ours is not a particularly large 4 bed but it does have 23 windows and three doors – one being a patio set. That is a lot of opportunity for heat to escape right there.

 Nestled just down in the right hand corner is Alexa. The teller of the temperature.
Nestled just down in the right hand corner is Alexa. The teller of the temperature.

 

 

 

 

 

To begin with we didn’t notice it so much because we were renovating and so basically confined to the miserable life you lead when in this position which basically entails living in your bed or scrambling over things to get to the shower. It was more after the noise finally calmed and the builders had left and winter arrived the following year that we began to, slowly at first, and then in ever decreasing circles start to obsess about how warm it was in the house. We bought a Hive thermostat system so we could remotely check how warm it was in the house. Sometimes from the other side of the world, when we weren’t even in the fucking house or likely to be for days or weeks. We began frantically stock piling wood and coal for the burner. You know, just in case the temperature dips. Eventually it was beginning to cause RSI having to check the thermostat constantly so we bought an Alexa who allowed us to  just ask her instead ‘Alexa, what temperature is it inside?’. More often than not at Heywood House this will lead to immediate scrambling for things to burn and/or accusations of carelessly long opening of front doors etc causing said ‘dip’. Most recently we spent hundreds of pounds hanging a set of curtains over the entrance to the living area. The entrance we paid thousands and thousands of pounds to create.  You know, just to keep the heat in. Ah the joys of breezy old houses.

 

Breezy old houses have another quirk of course. Noise.  Noises. Queer, sharp claps and creaks. Groans and bangs. Clicks and taps.  Mostly taking place in the dead of night. When your over active brain is already desperately looking for any reason at all to convince you that death in imminent and there is evidence to suggest it will come in the form of an ax murderer who has likely entered through one of the gaping holes between the windows and walls created by the water entering in the basement. Ah the noises. For the first few months I didn’t sleep alone in the house. Because beforehand we had lived on the 4th floor of a gated entry building with security guard present (when he could be fucked), I was suddenly very aware of our 20+ points of entry and total lack of boundary fence – see the blogs on the garden. It took a while. It took a while also to get used to the noises. In fact two years later this morning as I lay in bed at 6.30am thinking about what to write a blog on as my other half showered I realised how much of these noises I now no longer pay attention to as one by one they present themselves. I’m far too preoccupied with temperature to be honest.