Fun with hazardous chemicals

Recently I have decided to improve the quality of my jewellery by using semi-precious gemstones in preference to glass, and higher quality metals for my findings.   You can see some pictures of my first experiments with semi-precious gemstones over on my facebook page – I was really happy with how they look with my leaf pendants.  For findings, I’ve decided in future to stick to sterling silver and solid copper for my pendants.

However this left me with a slight problem – I like to use black thread for my tree pendants, and these look better with dark grey or black findings than silver.  Also, copper is just a wee bit too bright and shiny to go with my leaf pendants; previously I had used an alloy with more of an antique, darker look.  So, imagine my delight then when I discovered that you could put a patina onto metals to change their colour!  Not being very scientifically minded I had no idea this was possible until a friend mentioned it to me, whereupon I got rather overexcited …….  so I could continue to use high quality metals, but still get the colour effects that I wanted – win win! 🙂

My husband looked a tad concerned when I told him I had ordered some oxidising solution – me and hazardous chemicals could be a slightly worrying combination!  None the less, my solution arrived (duly covered with lots of skull and crossbones and dire warnings to use in a well ventilated space) and today I had my first attempt at patinating.  I’m still alive, although the house is a bit stinky!  Here’s a photo diary of the process for anyone who is interested …. be warned, the solution is sulphur based so be prepared to inhale the smell of rotten eggs while you’re doing this.  I picked today for my first attempt as I’m recovering from a horrible cold and can’t smell much 🙂

Step 1: Get some bits to practice on.  My husband kindly provided me with some old electrical cable which I stripped down to give me a few bits of copper wire.  I would use these to experiment with to get the finish I wanted.

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Step 2: Get set up.  Here’s my table and stool set up in our back porch (that counts as a well ventilated area, right?).  Then we have the bottle of oxidising solution with its scary CORROSIVE!!!!! label, and some bicarbonate of soda.  What I’ll need to do is put the metal into the oxidising solution, and then take it out and put it into a mix of water and bicarbonate of soda to neutralise it and stop the oxidisation.  The third photo shows the other essentials: plastic tweezers, latex gloves, and a polishing cloth to give my findings a polish once they’re done.  Also, not pictured: safety goggles in case of splashback.  I think we’re ready to get started!

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Step 3:  Get together the bits you want to patinate.  Here’s my dummy run snippets of copper and silver wire, and the findings that I want to patinate.

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Step 4:  Trial run with a bit of wire.  Here you can see a bit of silver wire in my left hand, then the same wire after a few seconds in the patinating solution.  A wee bath into the bicarbonate of soda solution, a quick polish, and there it is, a lovely steely black – its like magic!

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Step 5: Time to have a go for realsies!  Here’s one of my sterling silver lobster clasps before and after.

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Step 6: Have a go with your copper wire and realise you need to really, really dilute the oxidising solution.  I dunked the copper in for literally a second and it came out completely black!  Oops.

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Step 7: Dilute your oxidising solution until your copper starts to go a nice antiquey bronze colour as desired.  Also, find dead midge in your bicarbonate of soda solution.  The perils of working outside in Scotland!

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Step 7: Now it’s about right, patinate the copper findings.  Here’s a couple of jump rings before and after.  It’s a subtle change, but I’m a perfectionist and the more natural, antique, muted shades of the “after” version are what I want for my leaf pendants.  I’ll use the shinier version for other pendants where the colour fits better 🙂

 

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Step 8: Take patinated findings out of the bicarb solution and give them a good rinse, then leave to dry.

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Step 9: Give them all a bit of a polish with the polishing cloth

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Step 10: Voila! Now I can go make some pendants, yay!

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A mindful dog walk

Last night we had one of our online meet ups over at The Forge, my creative business mentoring group.  It’s such a lovely group, we all go through lots of the same issues and it’s great to have that support.  Anyway, one of the themes that came up last night was that of OVERWHELM!  If you’re self employed in any capacity, but especially in a creative one, I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about.  It’s that feeling that you have a never-ending do list; every time you cross one thing off two more get added; you end up losing yourself in your work and not looking after yourself properly, and you have that constant  gnawing anxiety that you’re never getting quite enough done ……

So, we chatted about this, and agreed that we really needed to combat this by be nicer to ourselves – self care being the priority!  This is something I keep coming back to; in fact when I did my 2014 planner, I made my word for the year “self care” (yes I know, that’s two words, but what the hell).  I started off pretty well with daily yoga and meditation, but as ever, life got in the way and after a hectic month I realised that overwhelm had struck: I hadn’t been near my yoga mat for 3 weeks, was too busy to meditate, wasn’t getting out for runs or walks, and was eating all sorts of rubbish rather than take the time to cook healthy meals.

Now I’m not good at admitting to my failures, so it was really good for me to be able to talk about this in a lovely supportive group last night.  It’s only a failure if you don’t get back up and keep trying, amirite?  So it’s time to make self-care my top priority again.

With this in mind I dragged myself out this morning for a short run/jog, and then took the pooches for a stroll. (You’d think I could combine the two, but my poor wee doggies are too old now for anything more than a leisurely stroll).  At the back of my mind was that niggling anxiety again, that little voice telling me “hurry up, you need to get back and get stuff done, make it a quick walk, hurry hurry hurry”.  I chose NOT to listen to this voice.  And I chose NOT to spend my dog walk running through my do lists in my head and thinking about work and planning all the things I’d do when I got home.  I wanted to savour being outside, in nature, and I wanted to take time out to be chilled, to stroll, pootle, amble, meander, and generally GO SLOW.  After all when you’re walking down a path this beautiful, you really shouldn’t rush.

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I read an article somewhere – I forget where – about mindfulness, which suggested that to be more fully present in a moment, you should run through each of your five senses and really *notice* what you are sensing.  So this is what I did on my walk.  I focussed on what I could see: trees, path, sky, my dogs.  Then I stopped walking, closed my eyes, and focussed on what I could hear: birds singing, the wind blowing through the trees, the jangle of my dogs tags on their collars.  Then I thought about what I could smell: fresh air and dew.  And finally, what I could feel: the dogs leads in my hands, the wind on my face, the stones on the path under my feet.

As we turned around to come back I wanted to see if I could go further with being mindful, so went back to noticing what I could see.  I decided to look for colours.  As I was walking through a forest I was pretty sure that all I’d seen on the way out was green and brown.  But its amazing what you notice when you really start looking!   On the way back I saw every colour of the rainbow.   I noticed all the hundreds of different shades of green, from the dark green of heather leaves to the bright, almost luminous, green of new shoots on the pine trees.  I noticed bright yellow buttercups and the blue of the last bluebells.  I saw the purple of heather flowers just starting to come through, and the pink of rhododendrons.  I noticed that the bark of the trees was not just brown but all sorts of shades of reds, russets, beige, orange and many more.  I noticed dew drops on a blade of grass, glistening and sparking.

Plus the dogs enjoyed their walk much more as they got to stop and sniff interesting things whenever they wanted.  Look how happy my Eddie looks ❤

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How much beauty do we walk past every day and not even notice?  The thing is, it didn’t even really take much time out of my day: I had to walk the dogs anyway, and doing it at this leisurely pace probably added about 10 minutes on to the time it took.  An extra 10 minutes out of my day; well worth it for the benefits I got of returning home feeling calm, grounded, uplifted and refreshed.   So, I highly recommend trying this practice! It definitely helps you to ground yourself in the moment and to be mindful of what you’re doing.  Try it, and tell me in the comments how you get on, or blog about it and send me the link!

Everyday Enchantment – Day 3

I’m getting in early this morning with my blogalong – my dad & stepmum are up visiting this week, so I’m off out shortly to visit Sweetheart Abbey with them – I love being a tourist when family & friends visit!

Day 3, following on from earth & air, is all about FIRE!  You can find the video here if you want to join me with today’s exercises.

Exercise 1 today was to connect to the heat of your body.  Ooh! I liked this!  As I said yesterday, I do the breathing thing quite a lot, but this for me was a new way to ground, centre and connect.  It feels like a good “time out” exercise when you are feeling a bit fragile or down – giving yourself some warmth, a gentle touch and some self love!  I can already see myself linking the three exercises we’ve covered so far – the pebble, the 3 deep breaths and this – for a little 2-minute ritual when I need a wee break or a boost.

Exercise 2 was to use candles or fire to connect with the energy of fire.  This is something I do very often!  I may have mentioned previously that I adore our logburner 🙂  We use it to heat our water and to run radiators that heat our whole house.   It makes me very happy that we heat our house in a carbon-neutral way.  It also makes me feel much more connected to the earth and to nature than when I lived in a house with gas central heating.  We burn wood from our local forest that my husband collects, chainsaws and splits himself (yes, it’s all legal, honest) – we use scavenged wood left behind by the commercial timber merchants here, which would otherwise be left to rot.  The picture below shows our lovely logburner, one of our many many wood stores (our garden is basically a timber yard now!) and a nice pile of logs next to our trailer.

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We have lived here for two and a half years now, but I still take joy from the sight of the flames in the burner, and I hope I always will!  Sometimes I make a morning ritual of it – I light the fire, then get my first coffee of the day and sit with it, sipping my coffee while watching the flames.  I find I can watch them for ages without getting bored – there’s so many different colours, different types of wood burn in different ways (I know a lot more about types of hardwood and softwood than I used to!) plus you get to feel the wonderful warmth and listen to the lovely crackling noise, I just love it 🙂

Exercise 3 was to draw a fire doodle.  As we’re moving into spring & summer we don’t actually have our burner on every day at the moment – so I’ve not done this yet! But I will get my sketchbook out and give it a go next time we light the fire.

Another lovely set of simple and quick exercises to add some magic to your day – thank you Jani! If you like the sound of this head over to see the full Everyday Enchantment course, which kicks off on June 1st.

Everyday Enchantment – Day 2

Just a quickie today – I’ve been out enjoying the glorious sunshine and we are going round to friends later this evening, so I have a wee 15-minute window for today’s exercises!

I think this is one of the beautiful things about Jani‘s e-courses – she gives you bite sized chunks that you can easily fit into your day!

Watch day 2 video here if you want to join in!

Here’s my take on today’s 3 exercises …..

1) Taking 3 deep breaths.  Oh, yes, Jani, this is a fantastic exercise.  Since the new year I’ve being trying to put aside time to meditate every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes, and I’ve mostly been succeeding in sticking to it.  So I’m a big fan of deep breathing and focusing on your breath.  I like Jani’s idea of using it more often throughout the day though – it definitely centres me and brings me back to myself.  So simple, so quick, but can really make a difference to your day – which is the whole idea of Everyday Enchantment, I guess!

2) Take a wind bath.  Oh, how I love the phrase “wind bath”, it will be added to my vocabulary! It’s funny that Jani suggests this because a few weeks ago I was out walking with my husband on a windy day and I just had the urge to take my hair out of its pony tail and let it blow all around my face.  WOW it felt amazing.  I spent years and years worried about my appearance, not wanting the car windows open cos it would mess up my hair …. these days I am too busy enjoying life to be bothered! Bring on the messy hair I say, life is too short!  Letting the wind whip around you and blow your hair around is highly recommended and I will be doing it often!

3) Breath in 3 things and out 3 things.  I very much liked this exercise.  Again, it really helped to ground and centre me and made me feel great.  Here were my three things:

I breathe in joy, I breathe out fear.
I breathe in love, I breathe out dislike.
I breathe in calm, I breathe out anxiety.

Lovely stuff, looking forward to day 3!

Everyday Enchantment – Day 1

Those of you who follow me on facebook, or know me in the real world will know that I’m a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge fan of Jani Franck‘s e-courses.  It all started back in January 2013 when I did her free course “unearth your creative nature”.  I followed this up with “Blooming Creative” and now I’m thrilled to be part of her small mentoring group “The Forge”.  It’s really no exaggeration to say that doing these courses has changed my life – they have helped me get more in touch with my creativity, given me confidence in myself as an artist, helped me launch Red Squirrel Crafts, and just generally made my life more …. well, enchanted is a good word actually!

So I was very excited to see the launch of her new course, Everyday Enchantment and plan to join in with this one too.  Jani has a very down to earth tutoring style which resonates well with me – and I’m a big believer in the idea of everyday enchantment – finding the beauty and the joy in small things, everyday.  So I think I will really get a lot out of this course.

Anyway, prior to the actual course launching on 1 June, Jani is doing a free mini course this week and I have decided to “blogalong” with her and others about it.  Did I mention this mini-course is free? …. so I highly recommend giving it a try – Day 1 is here.

So, after that lengthy introduction, allow me to cut to the actual blogalong part!  Here’s my take on Jani’s first three exercises (watch the video if you don’t know what I’m on about!).

1) Using a stone or pebble for grounding.  I’m using this pebble for this exercise:

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It’s not an actual stone pebble, it’s a wood pebble.  I think it works really well for me for this exercise, though.  It has been made from local wood and hand pyrographed by my lovely friend Iona.  Plus, I absolutely love the quote: it means a lot to me because back when I was an accountant I actually used to have to sit in board-meeting-type-things where people used corporate jargon like “think outside the box” and “unique selling point” and “integrated solutions” …. bleurgh!  Whereas now, I spend a lot of time outdoors and absolutely zero time in such mind-numbing, soul-destroying meetings – this makes me happy 🙂  So, when I saw this wee wood pebble I felt an instant connection to it.  Now it sits on my desk, where I work as I make my jewellery, and reminds me to put my crochet hook down and get outside very frequently!

2) Go barefoot.  Yep, I already do this a lot.  I hate wearing shoes.  Whenever possible I walk in my nike frees and even for hill walking I wear fairly minimalist shoes – I much prefer getting wet feet over wearing heavy, clunky boots.  I’ve been looking into “barefoot” shoes for hill walking, would love to hear recommendations if anyone has them …. I’d wear my frees, but they just don’t have enough grip on the soles for walking through muddy, wet areas.   I must confess, the climate in Scotland does not encourage me to ACTUALLY BE BAREFOOT outside too often …. but I hereby resolve to try it when I’m out and about.

3) Twenty words that link to earth or grounding … ok here are mine, in a pure stream of consciousness!

earth, ground, warm, real, mud, connected, roots, tree, leaf, soil, natural, simple, happy, trees, green, nurture, growth, life, circle, seeds.

Well that was a good start …. looking forward to day 2 tomorrow!

Why mandalas are awesome

If you follow my Facebook page, you may have noticed that recently, I have developed something of an obsession with mandalas.  So, I thought it was time to explore this in a bit more detail with a (long overdue!) blog post.

First of all, here are the basics.  The mandala is a spiritual symbol, mostly associated with Buddhism, which is said to represent a microcosm of the universe.  The basic form is the circle – representing unity, eternity, with no beginning or end.  The word mandala itself is derived from the root manda, which means essence, to which the suffix la, meaning container, has been added.  So, it could be said to contain the essence, or capture the essence, of the universe.

Although the mandala is always circular, it also often includes squares, diamonds and various other geometric patterns within the circle.  A quick image search will show you lots of examples of mandalas.

I started trying to capture this in crochet form because, well, that’s what I do! I was helped on my quest when I discovered a technique called overlay crochet which allows me to use different colours to create intricate geometrical patterns – ideal for creating a mandala!

Here are three of the designs I have come up with so far …. I hope to come up with many more as I explore different patterns and colours – the possibilities are limitless!

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So I was pondering this morning – why the love for mandalas?  Sure, part of it is obvious on the surface level: I love geometric patterns, symmetry and bright vibrant colours, and this enables me to combine them beautifully!  But digging deeper, I think there is more to it.  I am currently reading “Women Who Run With The Wolves” (which, by the way, is awesome and if you haven’t read it, you totally should).  This morning I was reading it with my coffee, and it was all about life and death and cycles.  I realised that our Western culture is so far removed from nature these days, in so many ways, and one of them is that we are brought up to think in a very linear way.  Let me try to explain that better.  Our culture seems to think of everything as if it were a train journey in a straight line: you set off, you travel, you arrive at your destination.  You start a career, you work your way up the ladder, you reach the top.  You meet someone, you fall in love, you get married and live happily ever after.  Beginning, middle, end.   And once you reach your destination, your end, the pinnacle of your career, your happy marriage, then you want to stay there.  So you resist change.  Once you’ve reached your destination, why would you continue to travel?  “Much of our overcivilised culture has a difficult time tolerating the tranformative”, * as Clarissa Pinkola Estés puts it, much better than me.

But nature, and indeed life, is not like that. It’s not linear.  It doesn’t reach a destination and then stay still.  Everything works in cycles, in circles, not in straight lines.  The seasons turn.  The moon waxes and wanes.  The oceans ebb and flow.  We wake, sleep, and wake again.  Even the most fundamental thing we do, breathing, is a constant cycle!

And I’m starting to realise that I’m much happier when I live my life this way, in tune with nature and its cycles.  I used to fear change – due to the whole “happy ending” concept, I thought that when I was happy, that was my “end”, I had reached my destination – and so I tried to cling onto that state so hard, being terrified that something would change and I’d no longer be happy!  I hated the thought that life might change and move me out of this comfort zone I was settled in.  This mindset has lead over the years to me being a constant worrier, overly self-critical and insecure, and often stressing myself out over things which never happened.

But now, I’m changing my outlook.  I’m learning to accept change and cycle as the normal, natural way of things. Ups and downs, ebbs and flows, waking and sleeping, life and death, letting go of the old and welcoming the new – these things are natural, and to be expected in every aspect of life, including relationships.  “Love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths.  We let go of one phase, one aspect of love, and enter another.  Passion dies and is brought back.  Pain is chased away and surfaces another time.  To love means to embrace and at the same time to withstand many endings, and many many beginnings – all in the same relationship”. *

I’m learning that my “happy ending” is not static and unchanging.  It is, in fact, not an ending at all.  I’m slowly starting to embrace change and not be scared of it.

So, this, I think, is why I am so in love with the mandala symbol.  To me, it represents this cyclical nature of life and the universe.  Sure, there are straight lines and logical, geometric patterns, but they’re enclosed lovingly within the circle.  The circle is always there, even when things appear to be linear.  It has no beginning or end.  This is my sacred truth and this is why I love this symbol.

 

 

* Both quotes taken from “Women Who Run With The Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

 

The Chores

She is in the garden, in the middle of picking up dog poos.
An unromantic chore.
She pauses in her task and stands still.
She looks around at the trees, the sky, the mountains.
She drinks in the beauty of nature around her.
It is chilly, and she feels the wind cut through her.  Her fingers are cold.
She draws in a breath of clean, refreshing air.
She is content.

Once the garden is clear, she moves onto her second chore: collecting wood.

She goes to the log store with three empty baskets.
It is piled high, floor to ceiling, with logs her husband collected, chopped and split.
Hours of labour to provide warmth through the winter.
She pauses again in the moment.
She smells the sweet, clean scent of pine.
She feels the sharp edges and chill of the log in her hands.
She hears the birds singing outside and the wind in the trees.
She is content.

She fills three baskets of logs.  It is physical work.
She feels her breath grow quicker, her heart rate increase a little, her hands start to warm.
She takes joy in her task.
She takes joy in her body, this body that is strong enough, fit enough, healthy enough to do this work.
She carries three baskets inside, to heat the house through the day.
She is content.

Her final chore: her feathered friends are hungry.  Winter is here, and they need food.

She fills the bird feeders with seeds, nuts, grains.
She takes a moment to watch the birds line up on the fence as they wait for their breakfast.
She sees the beauty of their feathers, their bright eyes.
She takes joy in their vivid colours and quick movements.
She is content.

She is finished now with her chores.  She goes inside to the warmth of the house.

She washes her hands and savours the hot water that thaws her cold fingers.
Her husband has made coffee and started a fire.
She wraps her hands around a mug of coffee and stands by the window, watching the birds as they feed.
She is content.

Reasons I love Glentrool

So, if you’ve been hanging about this blog or my website, you’ll have noticed I have something of a love affair with where I live.  So I thought I would share a recent day out with you, so you can see why I love it here so much!

We’ve been really busy recently, between one thing and another: lots of craft fairs to make stock for and various other stuff going on.  So on Sunday, after two fun but hectic days at the gorgeous Lochinch craft fair, when I woke up and saw the sun peeking through the trees, I decided we were due a day off to get outside and enjoy ourselves.

So, we headed out to the Loch Trool Trail.  This is a lovely 6 mile-ish walk around, well, surprisingly enough, Loch Trool.

It was a stunning autumn day, frosty, blue skies overhead, the leaves glowing gold and red and brown in the trees.   Galloway at it’s best!  We headed out on the walk round the loch and even though I see these views all the time, today they took my breath away all over again.  The day was so still that the loch was like a mirror, reflecting all those stunning autumn colours.  I felt so blessed to live here, with all this beauty on my doorstep.

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The start of this trail is a mere three miles from our house.  How incredibly lucky am I?

So we had a lovely, leisurely walk round the trail enjoying the scenery, and the peace and quiet: we only saw two other people on the walk.  Another thing I love about Galloway: it’s kind of off the beaten track as far as tourists are concerned, so even on a fabulous sunny Sunday you see very few other people on your travels!

We got home around lunchtime, but our dogs had not yet been walked;  at 12 years of age they’re a bit old and arthritic for 6 miles hikes – a couple of miles a day does them these days.  So I headed out again with the pooches, this time on foot straight from our front door and up the path towards the White Cairn which leads from the back of our village.   I headed up to one of my favourite viewpoints, this one 5 minutes walk from our house, where you can see the tops of the Galloway Hills over the trees.
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Here’s a pic of my “wee dugs” waiting patiently while I take photos .  That’s Neo on the left and Eddie on the right.  Aren’t they adorable?  I love them to bits 🙂
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From the viewpoint we walked through the woodland, and as the sun glinted through the trees, it looked like the magical enchanted forest that it is!
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The rest of the short walk brought me and the pups round onto the road back to the village, where again there are gorgeous views of the mountains.  When we moved here and started to get to know the area, I was entranced by the exotic sounding names for the mountains – the Dungeons, the Rhinns of Kells, Rig of the Jarkness, to name a few –  and resolved to learn the names of the mountains by sight.  I’m getting there now, and easily recognise the ones we see frequently.

IMG_7589aIn this photo from left to right you can see four of the “Range of the Awful Hand” (is that a great name or what!): Shalloch, Tarfessock, Kirriereoch and Benyellary.  The peak closest, with a radio mast on top which you can just see in the picture, is Bennan.

IMG_7585aIn this photo from left to right: Mulldonoch – famous as the spot where Robert the Bruce and his followers rolled stones down to defeat the English in 1307 – , Lamachan, Craignaw (the one with forest in the foreground), and Larg.

 

Heh, get me with my local knowledge!  I guess it shows how much this place has captured my heart: I lived in Southampton for over 30 years and never really knew much about the city – other than the fact that the Titanic left from there!

So, there you go – a small sample of the wonders of Glentrool, all within a few miles of my house!  But shhhhhhhh, don’t tell too many people, we like it peaceful and quiet here 🙂

Waking up

My lovely friend Louise posted something on our Bubbling Well forum recently which I hope she won’t mind me quoting:

“Within the last year or so I feel like I am coming home to myself – shedding the layers that have built up over the years that have not served me.  Bringing me back to things that have always been inside but hidden.”

This resonated with me so strongly!  And got me thinking about my own feelings around this.  In the last few months, I’ve felt truly alive in a way I really haven’t felt since I was a student.  I LOVED being a student, and not just because of the copious amounts of beer and recreational drugs – honest.  Looking back, I think I loved it for three main reasons:

  1. I was exploring ideas and being creative (I did a music degree).
  2. I was able to be myself – I wore what I wanted, made my own routine, and had wonderful friends who accepted me as I was.
  3. I was hanging out every day with said wonderful friends, who I am still close to 20 years on.

And then when I graduated, I believed it when the world told me that I simply wasn’t allowed to have this much fun all my life.  I had to grow up, get a proper job, get a mortgage and be sensible.  I had to dress a certain way and spend my days doing boring work, cos that’s just the way the world is.  So I became an accountant and got a nice big house and car.  Until last year when we made our big change …..

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a bloody great time in my post-student life as well.  I met the love of my life and we have been happily married for nearly 15 years; I have the most wonderful girlfriends you could ask for, and I’ve been blessed with health and happiness.  But I still feel that I was kind of drifting through those years in a haze, as if I was half asleep.  A nice, happy half asleep, mostly – like when you’re snuggled up warm in your bed on a lazy weekend morning – but half asleep nonetheless.

And now …… since we moved to Glentrool, I am ticking all those boxes again of things that made me feel alive.  And yes, there may also be copious amounts of beer involved.  (But no recreational drugs – wouldn’t know where to get them these days!)

  1. I’m exploring ideas again and being creative every day – either in my crochet or my photography.  I’m even making music again – singing and playing with our wee band. I hadn’t realised how much I missed being creative until I started doing it again.
  2. I’m able to be myself.  I have no set routine to my days, and I can wear whatever I want, so I’ve binned my boring “accountant” clothes and started dressing like a student again.  Sparkly hair bands!  pink streaks in my hair!  I just purchased this rather fabulous rainbow hoodie (in purple if you’re interested).  I’m sure some people must think I’m going through some sort of mid life crisis, but I don’t even care, I’m having too much fun!  After years of being dull in blacks and greys I want to wear a rainbow.  Best of all, I have found a wonderful community of friends who accept me for who I am, weird clothes and all!
  3. I’m hanging out with close friends every day again.  One thing I hadn’t expected when we moved here was to find such a lovely circle of friends.  I think our village is a bit unique to be honest – it’s full of people like us who have moved here for similar reasons.  It’s incredibly lovely to have like-minded friends right on our doorstep, and I feel part of a close knit community in a way that, again, I haven’t done since student days: there is always a close friend nearby to chat to and drink tea with.  To the outside world we probably appear to be a village full of weirdo hippy types, but who cares – we are a happy bunch!

So here I am, wide awake and having the most fun I’ve had for 20 years.  It really does feel I am waking up again after a long sleep.  I both laugh and cry more frequently, and I’m more in touch with my emotions.  I’m alive.

A tale of two photoshoots

Back when I lived in Southampton, as well as being an accountant, I was a part-time fitness instructor.   I taught 3-4 classes a week, as well as being a bit of a gym bunny the rest of the time too.

Before we moved up here, I took advantage of a groupon offer to have myself a studio photoshoot – I wanted a bunch of photos of me doing fitness-type things that I could use when I started my own classes up here.  At the time, I was a size 6-8, but I remember worrying over how I would look in the photos.  It’s kind of ironic really: back then I was the skinniest I’ve ever been, or am ever likely to be – I had, like, muscle definition and shit!   But constantly hanging out with super fit, lean fitness fanatics gave me a slightly insane idea of what was “normal”.  So despite being slim by any sensible standards, I was never really happy with my physique or how I looked.   I was constantly on a diet to lose a few more pounds and get leaner.  I don’t think I had any sort of actual eating disorder, but I certainly didn’t have a healthy relationship with food, exercise or my appearance.

So anyway, I did the photoshoot.  I didn’t particularly enjoy it: I felt self-conscious in front of the camera, and couldn’t really relax.  However there were a few shots I liked, this one being my favourite.

Fast forward two years and I am now over a stone heavier than I was then, and wearing size 12 clothes.   I did teach fitness classes for a while here, but they weren’t really busy enough to make me any sort of decent money, and took up too much of my time to justify the return.  I haven’t been inside a gym for 18 months.  I’m obviously nowhere near as fit as I used to be.  For a while, I couldn’t decide whether or not this bothered me.  I mean, I used to be ALL ABOUT the fitness.  And – let’s be brutally honest here – it was mostly about wanting to look good.  Did I want to go back to dieting, and fit back into my size 8 clothes?  Or should I resign myself to middle aged spread – after all, I’m 40 now!  But if I did, would it be the start of a slippery slope whereby I’d end up in size 20 clothes by the age of 50?!

Happily, eventually I decided  that there is more to life than being skinny.   Now, I try to take a more balanced approach.  I don’t always get it right, far from it!  But I’m getting there, I think.  I try to eat mostly healthy stuff, and enjoy chocolate, cake and wine when I want to without going mental.  I try to exercise for health and vitality.  This has been the big change in mindset for me.  No longer do I want to beast myself with a hardcore exercise session to burn as many calories as possible.  These days, I simply want to be fit and healthy enough to enjoy life.  I want Dave and I to still be able to climb Merrick when we’re in our 70s.  Even if it is at a slow pace.  So now I walk, I climb hills, I run, I stretch, I do the odd bit of yoga and I try to be generally active.  I look in the mirror and – wonder of wonders – I’m fairly happy with what I see.   How strange and mad that when I was thinner, I never liked what I saw and always thought I looked fat.  I guess I’m just so much happier in my life in general now, that I am finally learning to love my body as it is.  Yes, flabby, wobbly bits and all.

This week, Dave was asked to take some photos for a client, so I ended up having my first ever “job” as a model for a photoshoot.  Ha!!!!!!!!!! I found it amusing to think how the old – much skinnier! – me would have obsessed over this.  Wanting to inspect every photo in case a roll of fat was visible.  Worrying for hours about what to wear,  For this photoshoot, I slapped on a bit of make-up, shoved my hair in a pony tail, and then had lots of fun prancing around in the sunshine and not even caring if my bum looked big.  I jumped in m2013 happy bethuddy puddles and didn’t worry that I looked like a mentaller.  I felt relaxed, happy, and free of inhibitions.  I suppose in terms of conventional beauty the first photoshoot picture is more attractive – but I totally love the second one.  I’m wearing crappy leggings and an ancient brown cardigan, my hair is a state, but look how HAPPY I look! Look how much fun I’m having!  I’m playing in the sunshine, with the beautiful Galloway mountains behind me, and I’m right where I belong.  That’s so much better than being skinny.