I have a finished object. I bought the thread and pattern for this in Nice in 2010 and probably started it there. I lost it in a house move around 2011 and it was missing for over a year until the next house move. Since then, it has been on trains in several countries, aeroplanes. Several rows have been ripped out and redone several times. It has cost me at least 1 if not two crochet hooks. It was done on Bergere de France mercerised cotton which doesn't seem to be available in these colours amy more. I used 1.25mm hooks (very fine) to crochet it and now it is finished. I really cannot believe it. #crochet #haekeln #threadcrochet #doily
A post shared by Me (@wnbpaints) on Feb 10, 2019 at 8:01am PST
This is The Doily.
I bought the pattern and the thread when I was on holiday in Nice in the South of France in 2010. I bought a load of thread at the Bergere de France shop – they’ve discontinued the product since which is a real pity. The doily has been under production since about then as I probably started it while I was still in Nice (bored, hotel room alone in the evening). It went through about 5 house moves, and was lost across one (so I started another one, from a pattern also bought in Nice with more thread also bought in Nice). I finally finished it about a month ago.
I’ve always loved the colour – I call it ballet pink and I like those pastelly shades for some reason. I wasn’t sure I’d have enough thread in the end (but I did, and have some left and now don’t know what to do with it).
I’m really proud of it because it took a lot of work. It’s not the first doily I have finished (there are two others, one of which I’ve lost so I hope it turns up in the storage boxes still in Ireland. In a way, I find it hard to believe that almost 9 years have passed since I bought the thread and started it. Life seems to be flying. But most of all, I love that it represents a simple truth: if you work at something, you will get to the end, at some stage.
I bought a pencil sharpener today.
As my sister pointed out, I probably actually have a pencil sharpener already (just a few) so…uh?
This is an antique/vintage one. It is an FTE Modell 120 – no idea when it was built, but late 1960s is favourite. It is manufactured out of Bakelite. It reminds me of an old telephone. It looks nothing like a phone.
[oh god the new editor is killing me here]
I like the shape of it.
I have a lot of sharpeners. There are various reasons for this a) finding myself caught in flagrante delit of needing to sharpen a pencil, b) losing them and c) hoarding good ones in case I lose them. My definition of good tended to be “Faber Castell”.
This was fine except I have now a lot of pencils and they aren’t all the same size. There are a bunch of pencils which are slightly larger than standard. I could not keep track of which pencil sharpener fitted which pencils but often, it was very much “whichever one fits this pencil is not one of the 7 sharpeners I happen to have to hand”. As an additional problem, I could not sharpen charcoal pencils in any of my handheld pencils without killing both blades and pencils. So in desperation one day I bought the Staedler rotary sharpener. Sure, it was more expensive than the hand helds I had, even the brass ones with the killer sharp blades, but then, so were the charcoal pencils that I was going through like they were going out of fashion. The only other rotary sharpener I could find at the time was the Caran d’Ache Matterhorn, either standard or limited edition, and being Caran d’Ache and solid metal, they were way over the odds for testing.
The Staedtler worked nicely. It’s plastic which I wasn’t so lost on but there’s decent capacity for shavings, and it sharpened the charcoal pencils. A month later I bought a limited edition Matterhorn for no other reason than I liked it. I refuse to sharpen the charcoals in it which is why I have two mechanical sharpeners on my desk. This brings us to today’s purchase of an FTE. I use pencils at work and I wanted a rotary sharpener. I wanted it to be a bit more solid than plastic, but not as expensive as the Matterhorn (which is jewellery level pricy). The vintage fair seemed a possible source and the FTE rocked up at it. The seller knocked 5 euro of the price, and it was much less than the cost of a new Staedler, so I bought it. It works. I’ve sharpened a Blackwing in it. So the FTE is going to work.
FTE was a manufacturer I wasn’t familiar with, so I looked it up. It was a factory in the GDR – and apparently when the sharpeners were sold in the 1960s they cost 13.50DM which by the standards of the time was not cheap.
I see a lot of them on eBay.de and they aren’t uncommon as such – the ex-East block seemed to make a lot of mechanical sharpeners as I’ve seen Czech models on sale too, nearly all Bakelite. I like the shape of this and it put a reasonably decent point on the pencil so I’m happy enough about it.
god it is a rabbit hole though, these mechanical sharpening machines. The standard colour of the Matterhorn is grey. I want it. I also want the Red limited edition (no longer available) and the Black limited edition (no longer available). And there are a couple of really nice AW Faber ones of which I want one particular one. I have visions of a shelf of about 8 mechanical sharpeners… and a lot of people going “what is she like?”
My social media sources flooded with IWD, with promotions, with hashtags, with exhortations to talk about the inspirational women in your career who helped you along the way.
I am not a fan of Women’s Day. Its existence reminds me that women are systematically discriminated against and expected to accept whatever small crumbs come our way. There is always some chorus of basses and tenors singing about the lack of a Men’s Day. (it is November 19th by the way; the fact that it appears not to be such a big deal speaks volumes about how much men care about it and campaign for it)
I wanted to think about the things that would make being a woman easier in today’s world. One of those things would be Not Being Embarrassed About Your Period. A sanitary towel or tampon falls out of your handbag? No big deal.
Being on your period? No big deal. You have an accident? No big deal – it happens to us all. For my lifetime, though periods were handled as something to be hidden, something to be embarrassed about. When I look back at some of the men in my life, they could handle discussing contraception; they could not handle me having sleeping problems because my period was due in 2 days.
Plus, as it happens today I accidentally flicked a sanitary towel out of my handbag while looking for a sketchbook. I’m now 46 so I don’t give a damn any more but I also know that for years, I would have been scarlet.
So that’s one thing.
I was also thinking about inspirations, and if I’m honest, one of the women who I wish was around when I was 18, 19, is Federica Mogherini. I think she’s great. But I don’t want to talk about her right now. I want to talk about someone completely different.
I grew up in Ireland and I was born in the early 1970s. I spend a lot of time on Irish social media and I can tell you, young people today really have no concept of what Ireland was like back then. Reeling in the Years does not even come place. I want to sing the praises of one, unknown, not famous woman who changed my life in a very significant way in June 1980. I don’t even know if she is still alive.
The rhythm of life in Ireland came with various rites of passage, of which the second major one after starting school at the age of 5, was, and remains for many people, the First Holy Communion. When I was a child, you got this in First Class.
So at the age of 7 and a half, one Saturday in May, I was clad in a short white frilly dress, wandered up the church, and got Communion for the first time. There was a sort of party in the school afterwards, at which my mother strictly ordered me not to even consider the idea of going near an orange, much less trying to peel it. Part of the deal with being in the Communion class was something altogether more secular. It was a school trip.
We didn’t have many of those in school in Ireland when I was a child, certainly not in most of the small local schools in towns where both major employers had challenges from time to time. But the Communion class got to go away for a whole day. By tradition, it was a trip to Dublin Zoo.
We lived 150 miles from Dublin Zoo, and the most logical way to get 80 or so 7 year olds to Dublin was to shepherd them onto a train into a reserved carriage, and have them picked up by bus in Heuston Station and then shipped out to the Phoenix Park to pay attention to the exotic animals we could not imagine. I had never been to Dublin and to be frank, I don’t think I had been on a bus before either.
Anyway, Ireland of the 1980 had a bunch of limitations which meant I think the sole option for bus hire would have been CIE’s Dublin city bus service. So a double decker arrived to take us to the zoo.
Most of the women I knew at that time were teachers, nuns or nurses. All of the teachers in my school were female. We knew the boys’ school for the Second Class and upwards (ie, older than us) had mostly male teachers but most of the men I knew at that time were mechanics, truck drivers, creamery managers or some such.
We had the Veritas encyclopaedias and in the page describing the kind of jobs people could do, women had just 2 of the 8 jobs described; teacher and nurse. Every other job was a man’s job. People talk about how important role models are in the tech sector today, in politics, and the idea of ensuring that language isn’t exclusionary. Images can be very exclusionary.
Anyway, back at Heuston Station, my all female cohort of teachers discovered something highly unusual about this bus. It was so extraordinary they made a point of pointing it to an army of 7 and 8 year olds who really only wanted to go to the zoo and see the penguins.
The bus driver was a woman. It was, to be frank, unique in any of our experience.
It is nearly 40 years since I made my Holy Communion, but I still think of that moment – almost a Kodak moment in my life; stamped on my memory – when I realised that if a woman wanted she could be a bus driver. That a bus driver did not have to be male.
We talk about the importance of role models. I don’t know who that woman was but frankly, she made a massive change to my view of the world when I was 7. And the impact of that change on my life has been immeasurable.
Anyway, I was busy, yesterday, on International Women’s Day and like I say, I just want periods not to be a subject of embarrassment or shame. But when we talk about inspiration and role models, we need kids to see them, not just teenagers, or early career researchers or students.
I don’t own a television and mostly I don’t miss it. This is because I spend more time watching stuff online, on my phone, than anywhere else.
One of my treats are living sketching videos on Instagram and especially, Alex Hillkurtz’s channel. I did two workshops with him last year and basically he is great.
His live sketching evenings are lovely to watch, lovely to listen to and his output is always gorgeous. I’m envious although to be fair, he puts in a lot more time than I do.
There was a time I used to comment on political and day to day stuff but at some point, it got far too tedious, around the time the UK voted for Brexit and the US voted for Trump.
As long as I live, I will never understand why.
However, apparently there is an upside to Brexit. It will put up the cost of Lyons Tea in Ireland. Apparently a load of people in Ireland, many of them Dubs, believe Lyons Tea is Irish. Well it isn’t, any more.
If you want true Irish Tea, Barrys is where it is at. Never without it.
Some time last year, after a bunch of failures, some stress and a lot of stuff I’m not used to, I capitulated and bought a Filofax. It was a beautiful aquamarine Finsbury because I wanted a “good” one (ie, leather rather than faux leather) and also, because I wanted an aquamarine one. I liked the texture of the Finsbury and it had 30mm rings.
If you aren’t really into planners or Filofaxes, these are boring details. Anyway, I wanted to use it as some sort of a bridge between work and personal life and also because really for someone like me who has a degree in artificial intelligence and has worked in IT for nearly 20 years and who loves gadgets, but who has also been keeping a diary for more than 25 years and who writes most days, it really was the case that trying to keep several different digital tools in sync was a balls. I *think* everything eventually reaches the calendar on my iPad but that is the only place. So the idea was to be able to book flights for the correct weekend when I wanted to go to Ireland as opposed to having to write of a set of flights because I booked them the wrong weekend, for example. This worked like a dream until it was obvious that my personal life and work life together were way bigger than one Filofax so I gritted my teeth and acquired second Filofax. This too was a Finsbury, albeit some deep pink colour. Raspberry, apparently. I’ve checked the blog entry I did at the time. I applied that one to work and the aqua one to personal. It’s a measure of my contrariness that I wanted to keep the aqua one which I love most for my personal life but it’s the pink one I used most often because I use the tool most for work.
However, that’s irrelevant. The problem is that not long after I got it, it became obvious that one Filofax was not going to be enough for work. I struggled on for a month or two; resolved to buy another one but preferably not another Finsbury because beautiful and all as they are, they aren’t exactly inexpensive. I could have a new iPad for the money I have spent on organiser related stuff in the last 6 months.
But, frankly, a new iPad isn’t going to solve any of my problems really. If it did, I’d never have needed a Filofax in the first place
So I was lucky enough to find another leather Filofax, a Holborn, in a sale and it will join my pink Finsbury and together, I will rule supreme over my workload and related paperwork. While I was at it, I also bought an A5 clipbook which is one of Filofax’s various other related products. It has the benefit of being that aqua colour I like, and it’s possible the cover is leather. It should take A5 Filofax refills, but I am intrigued because the ones which came in the Clipbook are really really nice in many ways and may enable me to drop preprinted calendars next year. The plan for it at present is to come to work and enable me not to have to drag around 2 other Filofaxes.
But deep within me, there is Disappointment in myself. I spend a lot of time on instagram and youtube watching planner related videos and leaving aside the very huge problem with planner related stuff on both sites, one thing I never really got was why anyone would have more than one planner. It’s been easy for me to say this because for years, I never needed one. I was working on one project, I had a notebook with a to do list and I didn’t have to manage more than one project at a time and the stories of work I had to manage over more than a day or two tended to be simple enough to keep track of. Buying the second planner hurt. Buying the third one is just beyond the pale for me.
When I look at some of the planners on instagram – no, wait, nearly all of the planners – what strikes me more than anything is the sheer amount of time people spend administering their planning system. I need the system to be practically invisible. If I have to have an invisible system across 2 Filofaxes and a clipbook, grand; but I do not want it to take hours of my life administering the system itself. It needs to “just” work. Most of the social media planning gurus put significantly more work into the appearance of their planners than the content.
And they have loads of them. Libraries full of planners. As I now have three, I can’t actually comment any more.
The issue is more, I look at a lot of these planning videos, blogs, vlogs, instagram accounts and even though someone might have 30 different planner colours, and planners in different sizes for different occasions, it never seems to me that they have to coordinate a whole lot. My daily to do list can run to 60 items on occasion and yes it spills over. But it’s no use to me someone demonstrating their wonderful system for handling 8 items on a daily to do list (“Collect the kids”, “Clean the bathroom”, “publish my youtube video”) when I could do that in my head. I don’t need a planner for 8 items. No one needs a planner for 8 items.
So one of the things that really grates on me around the whole planner industry – and it is huge in a cottage industry kind of way – is that it doesn’t reflect reality for me. It clearly reflects it for a bunch of social media influencers but that isn’t my life. I work in IT service management, in a big organisation and currently my life is a mixture of urgent stuff, really urgent stuff, spectacular stuff I need right now, a bunch of projects I shouldn’t be involved in but am because stuff, and a bunch of projects I am planning strategically, a bunch of projects I got pulled into and then there will be, because there always are – a bunch of projects I never saw coming because in theory they are someone else’s wonderful opportunity to shine. I love my job but sometime in September I ran out of the capacity to remember everything I had to do over time.
It’s at this point I should produce a tastefully well styled picture of my pile of planners. But I’m not a social media guru and I’m not planning the release of my carefully timed posts, carefully planned in my monthly spread.
I’ve already whinged about the online planning world, so at this point, I want to talk a little bit about why I will use 2 planners to organise my work.
My work is broadly split between administration and delivery. I used to use a slightly personalised version of Ryan Carroll’s bullet journaling method which has been consistently simplified over and over such that I have three main symbols: Empty box: this is a to do item. Tick in the box means it’s down, X through it means it’s cancelled for some reason and arrow pointing right means I have decided today to postpone it to some other day. I keep two main to do lists: a) the immediate needs of today b) the stuff that I need to do at some point in the future or don’t have time to do today or is interesting strategically. I struggle to keep a lid on that list but at least I’m getting stuff noted which I previously wasn’t always managing to do.
If managing a couple of to do lists was all I wanted to do, then I wouldn’t need 2 planners. I also keep a work log or journal. It’s a basically a record of things that got done, particularly for other people, of information that comes my way, particularly organisationally, of changes of rumours, and some personal views on them. I don’t often refer to it but it is there for me basically to get stuff out of my head and not distracting me. I also keep an overview of each major project or piece of normal business. I have less control over that (who are these people who do not have customers to serve, I ask myself, in the IT world) and as a result, the categorisation and structuring of that can be a bit fluid. Some things might belong in two places. Fixing that only comes over time. Each overview has meeting notes and actions or progress.
I use colour to some extent – mainly because Filofax has a pile of useful coloured paper. So the to do lists are generally blue, meeting notes are generally yellow. Mindmapping exercises are generally kept together unless they absolutely belong with a specific project or work piece so I want to add some more effective weekly objective/goal planning. I could do that as part of the journal/worklog. I also know there are fixed periods that I cannot work directly on things because I’m stuck in meetings moving direction forward if not production. I miss personal planning schedules a lot around this so I want to try and get a better picture of why that balance is not working for me. I want to track output and follow up that output where possible.
When I started thinking of my workload in those terms, it seems obvious to me that the technical deliverables, despite the issues in categorising them sometimes could be stored together, and things like the agenda management, goal setting, journal, management related tasks can be kept together.
In 2018, I did a couple of nice things. I went to Venice (and got bitten by any mosquitoes), I went to Paris and London for Alex Hill Kurtz workshops. I got better at drawing and painting and I bought fewer pens. I was hoping for a zero pen year in 2018 but Lamy are not allowing that to happen so there are 4 pens on the shopping list. I don’t need them of course.
I discovered 7-Up Free Mojito. Great, great stuff.
I read a lot more than I have done on average in the 10 previous years, even allowing for no new Terry Pratchetts.
2018 was not, on average, a bad year, but it closed out with a death which cast one hell of a damper on everything at Christmas and so, it will probably always be coloured by that. Prior to that there was some other family events which might have preferably been avoided.
Work was enjoyable too. Without going into the details, I changed jobs and lifestyle a few times in the last 5 years and where I am now suits me. I pass through Dublin every once in a while and wonder how I did that for so long, and how anyone does it now. I’m not sure things won’t change again this year. But not back to Dublin, that’s fairly clear.
I’m not a great fan of new year resolutions; I’m not a fan of the whole flagellation thing at all. I grew up in Holy Catholic Ireland so low level guilt of some description is a constant companion. I read an article this morning from a few people who seem to have frankly unrealistic lives in terms of their clean living habits.
But I am a fan of reevaluating the things I do versus the things I want to do and identify the gaps. It seems twitter and facebook are things I do, without actively wanting to, all that much. Comments on Ars Technica articles about Elon Musk as well for some reason. Against that I want to swim, run more often, and paint more and buy fewer art supplies, for example. Finish that doily. Write more. Read more. Do more. Buy less.
I started blogging on livejournal about 15 years ago, and then went to blogger, and then, got my own domain and set up a Drupal site on a host that has since gone bust, and then moved the whole lot to WordPress and another (still my current) hosting company.
I ran a few sites, covering photography, general stuff, art, more photography, ore general stuff. I got nominated for a couple of original of the species Irish Blog Awards. It was fun; I didn’t win and I never wrote a book but I got profiled on RTE at some point, and assorted photos turned up in newspapers and magazines. I’ve been thinking about how it used to be lately as Facebook and Twitter have been infuriating me in different ways.
I never really loved Facebook. Twitter, I sort of got, but Facebook was a bit meh. Its network however means it replaces functionality from personal correspondance that I’m not sure I’d get back. I’m looking at paring it back (but cannot find the time). Twitter is more problematic because the network changes as people come and go and so, while I’d probably benefit from dropping it, the truth remains I don’t get what I used to get. I used to get interesting information and reads and conversations. Now I get flagellation about whether I’m right on this, support that cause, aware of this other cause complaining about this action by one of about 140 different governments and am I outraged by this view by some plonker in central Missouri whom I have never heard of and could not care less about.
So in a way, I prefer blogging and then I wonder if part of the issue is I’m just getting older and not getting with the way social media has changed. As Damien and I are much the same age. I hope he’ll forgive me for wondering if he has hit a similar wall.
I built a new blog for the first time in a while last year (the piano practice one) and I am toying with an art one. I don’t take so many Photographs lately (I point a phone at it and if it works good if not, well I’ll not be seeing any more sports photos published, anyway). But I don’t expect the world to be the same as it used to be. Most of my online life is on a phone lately and that sucks to write anything long on. I don’t spend much time sitting at a computer lately, not outside work anyway – because I’ve found life essentially much better fun, and also, because I’m not talking 10000 photos a week I don’t have to spend time on Photoshop. But I could make time, like I think I do for the piano site.
It is just, some of the admin side of blogging wrecked my head. Almost all of my sites now have comments switched off. For every one valid comment I was getting here, I was getting about 10,000 spam comments. I don’t have time for this, even allowing the automation of a whole pile of it. It takes away a lot of the plus points of blogging.
Also, the whole label blogging is another thing. There are individuals out there who think that blogging is getting free stuff and reviewing it. It is not.
Anyway, the point is, I want to write more and here is as good a place as any. If I’m going to do that, though I probably need to rethink the social/comments side of things. The downside to all that is my hobbies are as follows: 1) painting/drawing 2) playing the piano 3) needlework and so, they’ll probably feature heavily. I don’t cook much so Experiments with a Cookbook is dead.
I have this shiny new editor experience and frankly, the jury is out; what can I say? I don’t know.
It’s 19 December. Less than a week to go before Christmas. 2 days to go before my Day of the Year. The Shortest Day of the Year. The turning of the year.
I find the dark evenings hard; although this year I barely noticed them; December is as though it never happened. It may be a factor of age; it may be a factor of this year’s workload. But normally, I am attached to the shortest day of the year; for me the start of the lengthening of days is more in line with making me feel happy, and more a starting point than Christmas or New Year
Last weekend I went to Basel to see the Christmas market there. I occasionally drop into Switzerland; I love the country although I find it terribly expensive. I loved the Christmas market in Basel, in particular the MarchenMarkt section where all sorts of craft stalls were teaching kids how to do things like wood turning, glass etching, soap making and the like. Brilliant idea. There were also a couple of guys demonstrating woodsculpture using chainsaws but not necessarily letting the kids try that.
I went to Basel in the hope of finding snow; but it did not materialise; had I stayed in Luxembourg, snow would have found me.