Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Fare thee well, 2013

And so the year ends and another begins.

What did 2013 mean for me?  I can't remember most of it; it's gone, and hopefully left me a better being.

What do I hope for from 2014?  That everyone out there finds the meaning of true love - the love that comes with inner peace; with that acceptance of self that, in my generation at least, was guilt-tripped out of us; and that stems from looking outwards.  That is my meaning of true love; without it, giving love to others is worthless - why would someone give a gift to someone else if they rejected its inherent value?

Success and failure are just two sides of action.  If I have failed, it means that I've tried; and I reject the idea that to try but not succeed, is failure.  It's not.  Doing nothing, saying nothing, passing by and not trying to give of oneself - that's the only true failure I can think of.

2013 was a mixed year.  It's had its lows and even lowers; but it has cemented so many relationships, brought my friends so many new family members, human and otherwise; and some of my friends have lost family or friends, human or otherwise.  The pain and the joy are likewise two sides of the same coin - they mean that love has been shared.    To think of someone, positively or negatively, is to bestow a gift on them - the time and effort to generate that thought.

And so another year is born.  Long live the New Year, its hopes and dreams, its fears and torments, its strengths and its weaknesses.  My hope just for me is that I have the wisdom to shape it for good, and to resist those forces inside and outside that would shape it in any other way.

May 2014 bless you with love, whoever you are and wherever you may be.

Monday, 16 December 2013

It's the end of a decade... Abba

Today is my last Monday as a forty-something.  I'm as excited as a child that on Thursday I face the next 10 years even more liberated and liberating.  But I've been reflecting on the year, and the decade, and thought it time to blog again.

When I turned 40 in 2003, Great Chief White Hair took me for a day out in London.  Young Master was then 4 1/2 and it was a school day, so he didn't come with us.  We flew on the London Eye, had a very posh dinner in the very posh restaurant in the OXO Tower, and went to see a theatre performance of The Hobbit which had a cast of about 5 people.  It was a magical day.

Shortly after that, my GP told me that after 40 my body would break down - how right he was!

2003 was also the year that I bought my first computer.  My father's daughter, I've always loved electronic gadgets, and I often think of him when I'm tapping away at the screen, remembering the hours he used to spend teaching himself to program his first computer.  He taught me how to use MS-DOS to get it to tell the time - but I never mastered anything more technical than that.  All I remember now is "if A = B, run like hell" or something.  Taking my own machine out of its many boxes, plugging it all in, and expecting it to explode as I put the wrong plug in the wrong socket - so exciting.  Of all the life-changing events that happened in this decade, getting a computer was probably one of the most subtle.  It should have had fanfares and drum-rolls or something.

I could do a year-by-year documentary, but I'm not going to.  Although the scales would probably still tip towards the good rather than the bad, it's been.... an interesting decade.  I'm still making the same mistakes, but I've learned far more about who I am, and about the amazing men I share my life with, than in any other period of my life. 

So what about 2013?  It's been another interesting year.  By interesting I mean that it's had good and bad but it's never been boring.  I am somewhat more debilitated now than I was at the start of the year, but then I have degenerative problems so that's to be expected.  But I've been blessed with the love and support and friendship of so many wonderful people. 

This year I lost a cousin who meant the world to me.  I couldn't go to his funeral, couldn't even express my sympathy for my cousins in words.  He had lost his teenage daughter in January, and the loss within his own family is unimaginable.  I remember Paul as one of my only childhood playmates, when my cousins used to visit with my grandmother; I remember the time she won the pools - but he'd lost the ticket.  I remember visiting Nanna Annie and Paul roaring up on his motorbike...

It's been a difficult year in many ways.  Some of it will carry forward to next year; some of it can be thankfully left behind without a backwards glance.  But it's also been a huge year.  A year of love, laughter, peace and fulfillment.  What more can I ask?  

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Mugged by a memory

Ever since I woke up this morning, I've been revisiting a memory from early childhood.  Why today, and why so vividly, I have no idea.

I was with my father in a market in London.  Right now I can feel his hand wrapped tightly around mine, warm and comforting, as we crossed a busy main road.  I was so little, and he seemed so big to me, his youngest daughter - dark, with almost jet-black hair.  We walked into the market and he became engrossed in a stall selling electrical gizmos.  I didn't wander, but was far enough away for a blond, tall man in a yellow sheepskin coat to approach me and hand me a leaflet, saying "give this to your dad".  He was friendly and smiled, and called me pretty so I took it. 

When I handed it over as instructed, Dad did something that, on reflection, was just amazing.  He glanced at it, asked me gently who had given it to me; I pointed at the man who hadn't walked far away.  Dad strode up to him (bearing in mind this guy was considerably taller than Dad's 5'6) and engaged him in chat before yelling in his face that he was a coward to use children to spread his poison.  "If you've got anything to say, you say it to me, not my little girl".  The leaflet went in the bin, I asked but wasn't told what it said, and I got a stern lecture about talking to strangers - even nice, smiley, friendly strangers.  I can still remember the look of frozen surprise on the man's face as my fair, terribly English father grabbed the hand of the little, dark girl he'd encountered earlier.

It was many years later that we were in another (or the same?) market, and another (or the same?) man in a yellow sheepskin coat was handing out flyers.  This time, he sneaked one into my hand.  This time, I read it and stuck it in the next bin without having any understanding of what the National Front stood for.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Community spirit

I laugh when people say "there's no such thing as community any more" or that the interweb has somehow stopped people from talking to each other.  I talk far far more with my fingers than I have ever done with my mouth, and trust me that's saying something.  My Facebook communities, comprised of family, friends, colleagues, and people who share my interests, each barely distinguishable from the others like some fat and many-circled Venn Diagram, raised a huge amount of money last year for McMillan's Nurses.  This year they're sending me old mobile phones for my great-nephew. 

In real life it's the same.  I lost count yesterday of the number of complete strangers who smiled at me, stopped for me on my scooter, or that I exchanged words of thanks with for pausing to let me go past, or vice versa.  Tell me that's not community.

I've been interviewed for several jobs recently, but not been employed for any of them.  Disheartening, but not the end of the world.  Thing is, I have a brain and skills, I should be able to employ myself.  No start-up fund in the bank though, and it's notoriously hard to kick-start a craft business.  The demand is there, but overheads are a costly thing to have when Ebay charges are so low.

So I've listened to what people have said to me for ever - do something you love.  My first love would be working with children, but that's simply not practical any more.  Plus I'm sure my hairy feet would scare them and my laugh give them nightmares.  So I started to think about crafting.

Since working for Anni, I've had several pieces of my work pictured on the front page of magazines and online.  It's a fantastic feeling - I am not the brain behind a pattern, but the hands that make it real.  It was this realisation that gave me the self-confidence to apply for those jobs in the first place.  So I've been hatching  a plan and the first steps are in motion - a community group that uses crafting for therapy.

My own skills are fairly limited - I can only just crochet, for example; but I can knit and make cards, use a loom, and I can teach.  And I know firsthand the healing power of creativity.  I've taken the first steps - and am waiting for a few people to get back to me.  Venues, funding, advertising - all just a few phone calls away.  Yes those phone calls have hurt me physically, but hey, I can spend the rest of the day knitting.  I'm happy.

Sunday, 21 April 2013


About time I blogged again after the last mammoth effort.  And this time it's about something wholly positive.

I have a job.

It kind of happened by accident.  An online friend from way back had gone on to become a leading knitwear designer, and one day I read her blog.  She posted about sample knitters, how it works and what they do, and I was hooked.  Well "needled" just isn't appropriate here.  I contacted her, and within days was knitting my first sample garment, a pretty shawlette in blue that has since been published. 

So what is sample knitting?  Well, all the garments you see draped over Knitting Pattern Man don't get there by accident.  They are created by designers who either knit the garment themselves, or assign it to one or more sample knitters to produce.  The designer checks it over, and often completes any finishing work themselves (eg blocking, sewing in ends etc), and then sends it off to whichever publication has commissioned it.  Or they may include it in their own website, or on Ravelry, a huge needlework community. 

So this is what I now do.  As well as knitting the sample, an integral part of the work is "technical editing" - making sure the pattern contains no errors, and correcting any that are found.  It's a very rewarding job; perhaps not in terms of money (the hourly rate is very low) but I get to play with yarns that I probably wouldn't choose for myself, or in many cases, are beyond my purse; I can experiment with new colours; I am learning *all* the time, be it techniques, or tips; and I don't have the hassle of finding a home for the completed garment when it's finished - it sails off into the sunset and the next time I see it will hopefully be when it is adorned on a model whose job is to make my handiwork look its very best.

Best of all, I get to call knitting "my day job".

My first designer deals mostly in fine lace yarn.  I have just signed up for another designer who works in the double-knit to chunky range, and in cables.  So lots of variety, lots of keeping busy, the odd pay cheque, and loads and loads of knitting.

Happy me!