6 Mar 2015

venus, mars, moon

Do you remember how I used to draw things sometimes? Yeah, I still do that when I have the time and energy, which isn't very often at the moment but it does happen, when the planets are in alignment. These are some sketchbook pages from recent times.
 I went to Rosslyn chapel the other week, which is a very interesting and beautiful place, and on one archway there's this Latin inscription in the stonework which I thought was pretty cool.

 I think drawing people in the foetal position is like a therapeutic thing for me, I doodle things like this quite a lot, especially when I'm a bit on edge. There's something about that long curved line from shoulder to knee that's really satisfying to draw.

So I didn't realise it at the time, but yesterday there was this planetary event whereby Mars, Venus and the Moon formed a kind of triangle, and just by chance I actually saw it as I was walking home. It was quite the sight - like the moon and stars you see illustrated in children's books, that kind of perfectly composed formation you'd never think would actually happen.

13 Jan 2015

wiggle wum

On one cold December morn
a worm sat in his nest of mould-io,
a tear fell from his little eye
because he was so cold-io

"O wiggle waggle wiggle wum,
I wish the warmer days would come,
the ice and snow: I wish they'd go
because I am so cold-io"

A little mole came passing by,
he said: "Step inside, I'll keep you warm,"
so he gobbled up that little worm
because he was so cold-io

I've been thinking recently about when I was very wee and my grandma used to sing me this weird song, apparently an original creation by my great-granddad. I say apparently because that's what I've always been told, but by all accounts he was a bit of a scoundrel so I wouldn't be surprised to find he'd passed off someone else's nursery rhyme as his own. For a while I would get very upset on the worm's behalf and so my grandma used to add another verse in which the worm emerges again in spring. Did the mole regurgitate him? Had the earth worm been living in the mole's small intestine for months like a tape worm? These are questions with which I was not at all concerned at the time as long as I didn't have to confront the fact that a fictional worm was dead. My mum says that she never got this consolatory extra verse when she was a kid. She just had to accept that the world is a cruel place.


Speaking of the cruel and nonsensical world in which we live, my lovely maidenhair fern is not very well at all. It's been looking peaky since early November when the lack of decent daylight hours started to take its toll. Alas, during the time I was away for Christmas it really took a turn for the dead, although after some severe pruning what's left of it looks like it might be sort of OK. Maybe if I can get it to somehow hold on until the weather gets warmer it'll stand a chance. Maybe.

For that matter, I hope I can hold on until the weather gets warmer. The next five months seem both very long and very short at the moment - long because five months is a long time to be anxious and stressed for, and short because I'm not sure five months is enough time for me to physically do everything I need to in order to, you know, graduate. I mean, it is, and I will, and I know that. I'm just doing a really good job of feeling sorry for myself.

In any case I don't have much free time these days for things like... fun, or having a life. (I don't really have time for taking poorly-focused pictures of myself looking sad with a houseplant either, but I got a remote for my camera for Christmas and I thought I should at least work out how to use it.) But it won't last forever and neither will winter, despite how it feels sometimes.

I will be warm again, I will emerge from the belly of the mole. I might be a partially digested worm when that happens, but whatever. At least I'll be an alive partially digested worm with a degree in modern European languages.

4 Jan 2015

end of the roll, end of the year

This past Christmas was spent with my mum, by the sea. It was all gentle wintery walks and scones and red wine, but somehow I missed the usual chaos and large family arguments that keep us all low-key pissed off for most of January. Still, it doesn't really have to be Christmas for that.

I spotted these weird Father Christmas hands when I was walking along the seafront the other day. From my side of the wall I could only imagine two possibilities: 1) that it was just a pair of disembodied rubber hands wearing fur-trimmed sleeves, or 2) a whole Santa propped up with his face against the wall and his arms in the air as though he were about to be executed. Either option seems a strange choice as far as yuletide decorations go.

Another year, another twelve months all full of days. 2014 was the year my hamster died, my sister got engaged, and I spent a lot of time on trains, as usual. There was some other stuff too: I lived in Spain for five months, moved back to Edinburgh, miraculously made it through the first semester of my last year with minimal catastrophe. I saw some things with my eyes; heard some things through my ears. There was weather. Yep, quite a year.

31 Dec 2014

Crathes Castle

Crathes Castle meets all the requirements for a satisfactory National Trust site: there's an old building of historical significance that's only open five hours a year, a bit of woodland, a bulb shop, and a café where the soup of the day is always carrot and coriander.

The benefit of going for a day trip to Crathes when it's so cold you can feel the skin peeling away from your face is that you can walk around the totally empty gardens and feel like Mary Lennox.

 This tree has a face. It's probably definitely a tree spirit that would tell me to ~listen with my heart~ if I waited around long enough.

odds, ends

 Penarth at dusk

 90s pre-Raphaelite looks in botanical gardens

 Tiny origami at the ECA art book fair

 Landscape from moving vehicle

3 Dec 2014


Yesterday was my 22nd birthday. It's hard to believe that on this day a year ago I was waking up in my room in Grenoble after what was, in hindsight, probably the weirdest night of the whole semester in France. We'd ended up in the notoriously exchange-student-populated London Pub, which until then we'd managed to avoid completely, where the barman gave us a free tarte tatin (with three candles stuck in it, to make things festive) and amongst other things I ended up trying to explain the appeal of Monty Python to a Frenchman with a bloody nose while everyone else butted in with an unhelpful impression of John Cleese in the Holy Grail. You know the one. The one you shouldn't do in front of a large group of intoxicated French people.

This year, no Frenchmen, no tarte tatin; just sweet cocktails in a wee underground bar in my favourite city with some of my nicest friends. My birthday has always been a bit inconveniently timed, just at the beginning of exam season, but thinking about it this will be the last year I'll have to contend with revision and essay deadlines for attention on my birthday. There are some benefits to entering the real world at last, I suppose.

Being 22 feels... a bit different, actually. Maybe it's because a lot seemed to happen over the past year, as opposed to in previous years where things felt more or less the same. It changes from day to day, but on the whole I do feel like I tentatively have my shit together. I don't freak out when children talk to me like I'm a grown-up anymore. I own three whole sets of nice matching underwear and I really rarely lose socks in the wash. I think I'm a reasonably intelligent, talented person who could conceivably accomplish something eventually. The older I get, the more it feels like a good thing that I am me and not someone else, and I feel like I keep getting better at being me too. Which is good. Imagine if I was getting worse at being me, just kind of slowly disintegrating and losing my corporeality... OK I don't know what I'm talking about anymore. I'm a bit hungover.

28 Nov 2014

birthday season

The amount of effort I put into wrapping presents is inversely proportional to the quality of the gift itself.
These presents are not very exciting at all, but they look pretty and that's the main thing.
 Suddenly it's nearly December and I feel like I missed November happening. 
Where did it go? What did I do all month? I can't remember. Time is a construct etc. etc.

2 Nov 2014


 The thing about me is that I'm actually a horrible show-off, and this quality manifests itself at this time of year as the need to carve needlessly elaborate designs into a large vine vegetable. The year before last I carved a lion (there's a picture here) which turned out pretty well and garnered a satisfying number of compliments, but it was conceptually a pretty simplistic endeavour. So this year I decided I was going to work on an astral theme and carve Pegasus and canis minor which, if you know your stars (I don't but google knows lots), you will recognise as autumn constellations.

Every time I carve a pumpkin I get a bit too intent and end up belatedly discovering hand wounds that I inflicted on myself in my enthusiasm. Whittling is a very soothing activity though. When I was little we used to go on camping holidays to the Scilly Isles every summer and one year we made friends with a lady staying on the campsite who would whittle corks into little animals and leave them hanging around her tent with lengths of fishing line. On the morning she left, we woke up to find a cork fish hanging from our tent. We never ran into her again and the fish got lost somewhere, but I think about that quite a lot. It's kind of appealing to me, the idea of being a mysterious whittling artist who breezes in and out of people's lives, leaving a trail of little cork creatures behind her.

This has been my one whittling-themed anecdote.

 (My flatmate is a pumpkin lantern traditionalist)

23 Oct 2014

autumn fell

At this point I feel like I have to admit that I did briefly (briefly!) consider titling this post 'Edinbrr', but then I was so disgusted with myself I had to mentally relive every embarrassing moment of my life so far in excruciating detail as a kind of self-imposed punishment.

Much like how I have an extensive collection of photos of the mountain view from my bedroom window in Grenoble, so I will no doubt end this year with a flobbity-jillion pictures of the castle. Actually this has already happened. I have pictures of the castle in morning light, evening light, low light, bright light, lit up at night...

This might be my favourite so far though, taken through a wee peephole in the condensation early on a Thursday morning.
Autumn in Edinburgh means two main things for me: the first is that I find myself getting through lip balm at an alarming rate (it honestly feels like the wind is actually blowing it off your very mouth sometimes). The second is the sudden deluge of knitwear that sweeps through the city. You'd be forgiven for thinking you'd been dropped into a Scandinavian murder mystery. Campus becomes a sea of Aran-shrouded youths in tartan scarves instagramming foliage.

It's precious really, how everyone gets so excited about leaves changing colour. That includes me, by the way: I changed my route home so I can go through the Meadows, even though it adds five minutes and a big hill onto the walk. That's how serious I am about soaking up the autumnal atmosphere. Very serious.

Last Sunday there was a rainbow over Edinburgh.
All day long it kept fading away then coming back again.
It was a little like my focus and motivation in that way.

coastal grunge

My mum moved to the coast this past year and over the summer I spent quite a lot of time there. This was mostly so I could go for long picturesque walks and pretend to be the protagonist of a low-budget independent film that will see me Come Of Age. Clifftops and stone beaches like the ones near my mum's are perfect for this because of the unavoidably symbolic nature of water. My malcontent is as vast and unfathomable as the ocean, is what it seems to say.


St. Cyrus

The St. Cyrus nature reserve is the kind of place where you can imagine yourself falling into quicksand if you stray too far from the path. The beach there goes for miles and walking along it on the kind of bleak day we did you get the slightly disorienting feeling that you might be trapped in one of those dreams where you walk and walk but don't go anywhere. Which is at least slightly better than those dreams where you're trying to run but can't lift up your feet, although I suppose the quicksand would have that effect.

(I am aware that my preoccupation with quicksand might be a bit excessive given that I have never ever encountered it in my life. I've always blamed this on the devastating scene in which Atreyu's horse drowns in The Never-Ending Story, but looking this up just now it turns out it didn't even involve any quicksand. Artax drowns in the Swamp of Sadness. So now I think I might have been confusing it with the Fire Swamp lightning sand scene in The Princess Bride. But the important thing is that, thanks to this little stroll down memory lane, I now know that there's a youtube user out there diligently collecting film scenes that involve quicksand and uploading them to the internet. Long may they continue this vital work.)

In amongst the dunes there are all these little abandoned houses. With no obvious vehicular access to them, you wonder why they were ever built in the first place, and who would choose to live there.