9 February 2016

Keeping it festive

I appreciate that we're firmly in February 2016 but a friend asked me to write about this so I am. Please accept my apologies for dipping back into Christmas now.

Christmas inspires mixed feelings. There are those who love Christmas so go all out for it. And there are those who wish it away. For me Christmas can be a weird time and I think a lot of that stems from growing up with separated parents. I was about 4 or 5 when they split and it's had a pretty lasting effect on my life.

When it comes to Christmas, I've had the good, the bad, and the ugly. So for 2015 I wanted to make it especially good. Possibly even great. So the first thing I wanted to do before December began was establish what exactly that would involve. This was around the time I also began getting back into Pinterest, that devil of a website.

Given that Andy and me have been together for 3 years now I felt it was about time that we started setting down the traditions that we would carry forward every year. Traditions that would stick or change as we grow old together. For me that meant creating our own advent calendar of festive activities.

I'd like to say at this point, god bless Andy Vine. He puts up with my obsessing over ideas and notions with little complaint. He doesn't always get involved but he doesn't tell me to stop going on about things either.

I fretted over the right advent calendar. I fretted over the activities. I fretted over when we'd do the activities. I fretted about everything I could possibly fret about. But it got done. I bought an advent calendar that we could insert our own activities and of course chocolates into. One night before December began, we sat down and wrote them all down, placing them into the correct dates, and sneaking some spare chocolates as we went. It was lovely.

Now we didn't have activities planned for every day because we had other things going on. And there were days where I didn't get chance to get a photo of what we were actually doing. I took a photo of each activity I'd written down though.

6 February 2016

28. get a dog

Of all the things on my ’30 before 30’ list, there are two which I thought were perhaps pushing it. Buying a car and getting a dog. Both of these are costly commitments. And as I would like to be on my way to being debt free by 2017 then these ideas could perhaps be a hindrance to that notion as well. 

In respect of buying a car, well I don’t even drive so I have no idea what I’m supposed to be looking for. I know what cars I like, and I do have very modest taste, but I don’t know anything else about cars. So I have to hugely rely on Andy to help with this idea, and probably my old man as he does know about cars.

However when it comes to dogs, dogs I do know. I was born and raised with dogs. We’ve had 4 dogs in our family in my life so far. One of which is still with us and living with my old man, a tubby brindle Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Kilo who is as daft as anything and resembles a barrel.

Although Andy hasn’t had quite the same experience as me, his family did get their first dog Molly when Andy began college and Andy did have a dog with his previous girlfriend as well. The lovely Molly, a Border Collie Alsatian cross, still lives with his parents and although she’s getting on, she still behaves like a giant puppy when it comes to playing.

Essentially what I’m saying is, we’re very firmly dog people. So when me and Andy starting dating and it started becoming serious, the idea of getting a dog together was always there. Talking about dogs has probably been a building block for our relationship. However our living arrangements haven’t suited bringing a dog into our lives. Until now.

At the end of last year the chats about getting a dog became more about planning and less about dreaming. My hours at work had changed and I had scope to change them again, we now live in a 2 bed house rather than a 2 room flat, we thought about our lifestyles and how a dog would fit into that. Ultimately we couldn’t really see any issues in terms of bringing a dog into our home and into our family.

It actually didn’t take long to find the puppy for us. She was waiting for us in the second litter we went to view. I think Andy fell in love first but I was mostly sold by the time we got home afterwards. So once I could call the local vets the following morning and arrange for first vaccination appointment, I was in. We confirmed right away and transferred our deposit. We were finally getting our own little puppy.

So without further ado, meet Maggie Rose.

Maggie is a Shih Tzu Poodle cross and at the time of writing this, she’s three months old. We got her on the 22nd December so she was that dream come true of a puppy for Christmas. Of course she’s ours for life really. When we first saw her she was 4 weeks old and we saw her again at 6 weeks before finally bringing her home at 8 weeks old. We saw her with her littermates, her mum, and her auntie. We are very much against puppy mill farming which is why it was important for us to ensure we weren’t endorsing this.

We would have loved to open our home to a rescue dog however Andy can be really sensitive to dogs due to his eczema. Rather than cause Andy to suffer or worse have to rehome a dog from a rescue centre, we decided to pick a breed which wouldn’t moult. Hopefully we’ll be able to welcome a rescue dog into our lives later down the line.

For now though we’re enjoying all the ups and downs of bringing up a puppy. She’s very food motivated, very playful, quite rowdy, and incredibly smart when she wants to be. I don’t think we could possibly be more in love with her than we already are.

Currently Maggie is curled up in her bed following a rather soggy walk early this morning. We plan on taking her on as many of our adventures as we can. She's our little best mate after all. Those following me on various social media outlets will already know that anything I post these days is Maggie related. It'll probably be much the same on my blog going forward. But who can resist that face?

2 February 2016

14. develop all my films - rolls 2 & 3

Following on from my previous post about developing my films, these are rolls 2 & 3 from my initial selection. Can I just point out, in terms of storing the camera films I've shot on I literally keep them all together in a box. Nothing is labelled. It's a mixed up box of random camera films that I've shot on at some point with one of my various cameras. Admittedly a terrible system.

So when I was pulling out films to develop, the chances of pulling out two films from the same period and indeed same event is actually pretty slim. Yet somehow I did it. Of the initial 3 films I selected, all 3 of them were shot in 2013. Even weirder, 2 of them are from the same event. Spooky right?

Beginning of August 2013 Andy took me to Y Not festival. Compared to Glastonbury, Y Not is a pretty tiny festival. But pretty perfectly formed. It was an incredibly wet weekend. In fact heavy thunderstorms stopped several performances. Most notably for us Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip where Pip crowd surfed out of the tent and eventually wound up on Andy's head trying not to knock his glasses off. We kept getting evacuated back to our tents because thunderstorms and festival electricals do not mix. It was both terrifying and amazing. I remember it as being a really fun albeit soggy weekend. We should probably go again sometime.

I had forgotten how much I like photographing Andy using my film cameras. He's a very handsome man and he looks especially good on film. I'm sure there's something to be said for the best photographs being those where the photographer has a great love for the subject.

30 January 2016

14. develop all my films - roll 1

For those that know me, you may recall my interest in film photography and my collection of cameras. Photography has been in and out of my life since I was a kid. My stepdad likes to take credit for this, claiming he would hand me the family camera as a child and bought me my first 35mm camera as well as my first digital. I guess he's allowed that credit but the love I developed for film photography a few years ago is entirely my own.

I briefly studied photography at college back in 2010 but dropped out in my 2nd year. I get pretty sad that I didn't feel I could continue. But the course wasn't what I wanted. And my depression made it hard for me to stick it out. Funnily enough I bought my first proper 35mm film camera, an Olympus OM10 shortly before dropping out. And for two years I carried a film camera everywhere.

So here's my confession. As much as I still love film photography, as much as I still love the feel of a camera in my hands, the sound of the shutter clicking, and the eventual return of a developed film, I've become incredibly lazy with my photography.

Writing on this blog and messing with film photography have both taken a back seat to my job. Which is pathetic right? It's not even like my job is particularly engaging or interesting. I work in a contact centre. I used to love my job. Now I'm pretty indifferent.

I realised a few months back that I didn't have a good work/life balance. And that realisation led me to something of a mental breakdown. It drove me to reassess some things. That breakdown and my 29th birthday created the '30 before 30' list.

So on my list went the notion of getting all the undeveloped films that have been hanging around for these past couple of years developed. If you're not doing it yourself, getting films developed can be costly depending on where you go. So I took some time to find somewhere reasonable who would develop and put my images on a CD.

I found Photo Express, packaged up 3 films with an order form, posted it on Monday and got them back on Thursday. It was really exciting to look through the little contact sheet of my images and see photos from so long ago. The majority of them are from 2013!

So this is roll 1, from May 2013 when me and Andy went to Crosby Beach for the day. We wanted to see Anthony Gormley's 'Another Place'. It was a nice day.

This is just a selection of course. I'm not tech savvy enough to find a way to put masses of photos on a post without making it the world's biggest post. Maybe that can be something for me to look into as this goes on.

So for now I hope you enjoy the first of my developed rolls. Rolls 2 and 3 happened to have been from the same event so there'll be a bigger post about those later. And I've got 3 more films packaged up ready to send off. Wonder what else I've photographed in the past?

27 January 2016

4. revive my blog - sorta - again - if I try really hard

Well I've done a really good job of reviving my blog haven't I? I have to question whether blogging is really the thing for me since life just continually gets in the ruddy way. Weirdly I don't feel like I'm ever actually doing anything with my life. One thing I'm definitely not doing is working on my blog. But how else am I spending my time that means I'm not able to sit down and write posts for my blog?

Truthfully it's laziness. I spend my whole day at work staring at a computer. When I get home I just want to go into mindless zone. Totally switch off from having to engage with anything. It's fine to do such things but I think I need to keep it in moderation from now on.

So the initial idea of reviving my blog was part of my 30 before 30 list. All those ideas of things I wanted to achieve before I turn 30 this coming October. How am I doing? Well...

Since October, I've achieved precisely 4 of those things. Now admittedly one of those things is especially big and utterly life changing (I'll post about that later) but c'mon, I could be doing better. We all know it.

A few weeks I sat down and looked at that list and I thought to myself, how am I going to do this? How do I get back on track? So I gave myself loose deadlines for when I hoped to achieve certain things by. I identified things I could give a definite time for and singled these out. Things that require continual work...well you've got to start something in order to continue with it.

Now let me tell you what I have definitely planned. 3 things from my list that I am definitely going to achieve before I turn 30.

1. go to Edinburgh zoo and see the pandas
This is mere weeks away. We've booked a hotel, we've booked train tickets, we've booked a late Valentines' day meal. Ok so we still need to book our actual zoo tickets and panda tickets. But oh my we're finally going to Edinburgh and I'm really excited! Will it be terribly tacky of me to wear my tartan scarf at all times?

2. go to Harry Potter studio tour again
Like many others, I'm a big Harry Potter fan. Back in August 2014 (so long ago!) I took my nephew to the Harry Potter studio tour because I had been promising him for ages and he finally pulled me up on it. He was 8 at the time. It was amazing and magical of course. But I tell you what, doing something like that for the first time wasn't as amazing and as magical as it could have been if I'd gone with my peers. So I asked my mate if she wanted to go for her birthday. And I finally pinned her down on a date. So at the beginning of May, we're off to cry about Harry Potter together and drink a butterbeer.

27. go on a trip to Aberystwyth
This one might have seemed a little random when I included it on my list. But my other half's family (on his dad's side) are from Wales originally. So we talked a while back about going on a trip to Wales at some point. Since there's a cousin in Aberystwyth, we're going to see her and her family. We've booked a nice hotel on the coast for a few days over my boyfriend's birthday in June. We're mostly going to see family, enjoy some nice walks, and spend quite a bit of time in pubs. Sounds perfect to me.

How's that? 3 adventures planned before October. In the grand scheme of my 30 before 30 list, it might not seem much. I guess planning trips is pretty easy really. But I'm trying. Really I am!

I have a couple of other things I need to post about and hopefully I'll find some time over the coming weekend to work on those. But stick with me, I will pick this blogging lark back up again.

17 October 2015

7. read all the unread books on my shelves

I imagine that those of us who are avid readers all have a books to read pile. Either by your bed, on their own shelf on your bookcase or maybe even on your desk. I'm talking a physical pile of books, not a list of books you keep as something to read one day but an actual stack of books.

You tell yourself you won't buy any more until you've depleted that pile. But then you find yourself in a bookshop whilst wasting time on your lunch. Or you see someone raving about a book they've just read and it's cheap online. Maybe you're in a charity shop and see a book with a cover that jumps out at you. Since you're known for your love of books, family and friends buy you gift vouchers which you just have to spend. This stack of books becomes something that is constantly topped up but the bottom of which is never reached.

I have a stack of books that I have been meaning to read. Some of the books in this stack have been there for nearly 5 years. That's a really long time to have not read a book. I'm actually a bit ashamed to admit that. So another of my ideas for my 30 before 30 list was to read through this stack of books.

As you can see it is not a small pile. It is a pretty varied mix so I'm hoping that will keep me interested in working through it. I tend to dip in and out of reading but have been doing it more frequently since I purchased a Nook eReader. Whatever you do, do not ask me about the books I have to read on my Nook, I'm not including those. Otherwise I would be spending the next 11 months doing nothing but reading. Which sounds glorious but is wholly impractical.

Reading is one of life's finest pleasures so I'm looking forward to working on this. I won't promise not to buy any more books but I am going to prioritise reading these first. I'll keep you updated on how I get on.