InCoWriMo 2019

Today is the sixth day of the International Correspondence Writing Month 2019 and I am pleased with my progress to date.

Whilst the aim is to write a letter – or, indeed, any hand-written missive which can be a note, postcard, post-it, so long as it’s written by hand – every day through February, many people taking part will inevitably be fans of pens and papers and so the letters can be quite decorative, or include little gifts. I like to write in my letters about which pen and ink I am using because I love to read this information in the letters I receive. I have some decorative notepaper, quite a bit of it from Kikki K, so I don’t decorate the letters themselves, but I do like to add some fripperies on the envelopes.

Speaking of envelopes, I am addressing the letters this year with my lovely little typewriter. One year I hand-wrote the addresses with fountain pen and ink and then overlaid them with sellotape to provide a waterproof layer; the other year I hand-wrote the envelopes with ballpoint pen. Of the three, the typewriter is the nicest – it still seems like a hand-crafted solution, whilst being neat, legible, and waterproof.

For letters that I am sending abroad, I have a pack of postcards from Norwich Castle Museum. These feature images from the Norwich School of painters, mostly local scenes or still-lives. Many of these hang in the Castle Museum itself as it houses a good art gallery as well as the historical and natural displays.

The little bone-handle pen-knife in my picture above is an item I use for opening letters. To the best of my knowledge, it belonged to my grandparents when they lived in their lovely house in York, and passed along via my mum to me. It is a delicate item, very much for the genteel lady. My dad always carried a pen-knife which my sister now owns. It was mainly used for peeling apples, sharpening pencils, and for tamping down the tobacco in his pipe. I find it sad that the pen-knife is now seen as a weapon rather than a utility item, and is therefore (understandably) frowned-upon.

In other news, yesterday was my birthday and it was very book-orientated. 2019 is definitely going to be a year where I read a lot. I have already determined that I am going to get back into the habit of just browsing in bookshops. It seems to me that I stopped reading a lot at around the time when I stopped browsing in bookshops a lot; I am not sure which one led to the other. However, it does seem to me that when I take the time to simply wander around and look at books, I see all manner of items which catch my eye and I am certain that this can only be of help to me in my desire to read more. My favourite bookshop to browse in was a small independent book store in Norwich called Gliddons which was around until the 1980s. I remember buying my first copies of books by John Fowles, Elizabeth Jane Howard, and F Scott Fitzgerald there, as well as many a sci-fi book from the bookshelves in the basement. Second to that, the big Borders store which opened in Chapelfield in 2005 and sadly departed in 2009, was a favourite. This was a huge book shop for Norwich and I can remember buying many a ‘business’ book there, as well as the first paperbacks I owned of Haruki Murakami novels. The best shops for browsing the books in Norwich now are The Book Hut (independent), Jarrolds (independent, part of local department store) and Waterstones (chain).

Right, I am heading off to clean out a fountain pen then tomorrow I can refill it with a new colour ink, ready for some more letters.


Are you taking part in InCoWriMo this year? Have you done it in previous years? Would you do it in future years? What do you think?


 

Project status update

28-01-19 old gold

Now I see the photo and compare it with the one I took last week, I can see that there has been a little progress on the knitting front, but all of that progress was achieved yesterday. Prior to that I had hit a bit of a dead-end. Having started two garment projects, and then set them aside to knit socks, I felt gung-ho at the start of the week about returning to my works in progress, working on them turn and turn about, and getting both of the finished in the coming few weeks. I didn’t knit a stitch on either of them. If there was a Eurovision Knitting Contest (which surely couldn’t be any less entertaining than the Eurovision Song Contest), I would score a well-deserved “Nul points”.

On Saturday, when I could have been knitting, I was sitting in a cafe eating Carrot Cake (contributing to my less than stellar week on the diet front too!) and reading some notes I took a while back on an article entitled Stop Shuffling and Start Creating, over on Charley Gilkey’s blog, Creative Flourishing. What I had taken from it were that your ongoing projects can only be in a limited number of ‘states’:-

Active – you are actively pursuing it at the present moment; if it’s not complete yet, it is down to you to do it.

On Hold – you are waiting on something else – a person or a resource – in order to complete this; or it is simply stalled.

Completed – self-explanatory.

Dead – You need to be able to determine the difference between projects On Hold which you will one day complete and the ones that you are never going to complete. The dead ones you need to ditch.

When you move your focus from one project to another, the projects swap between being Active and On Hold, and each time you do this you lose momentum and it takes a while to regain it. In the strictest sense, the movement isn’t just a big “I’m going to stop working on this for a few weeks,” decision – it happens every time you pause or stop one thing and pick up something different.

So, how does this relate to my knitting? Well, as I said last week, I wasn’t entirely sure which way I wanted to go with the Gaudi project and I kept dithering over it all week. Instead of working on Old Gold until I had decided about Gaudi, I just put off working on either project. One of my sisters made a very useful observation, that it would be better to continue with Gaudi as a cardigan rather than adapting it into a jumper, because that would be more versatile, and I agreed with that, but I still had to ponder a while longer before I could sort out my feelings.

As a result of thinking about project status ideas on Saturday, I came to the following conclusions:-

  • I want to knit Gaudi as a cardigan
  • I want to knit Old Gold as a jumper
  • I currently want to finish and wear a jumper

So, now Gaudi is On Hold. I am working on Old Gold. When I finish Old Gold, I will go back to Gaudi. It is that simple. And if it is that simple, why did I have to go such a complicated route to make my decision?

Well. my mum would have told me that the reason it took a while to decide was because the time wasn’t right. As soon as the time was right, the decision was made. This isn’t the same as a fatalistic attitude because in that you believe that events are pre-determined, whereas the timing thing seems to be more about needing all the pieces of the jigsaw to be in place in order to move forward.

Another area in which I am suddenly making decisions, is my wardrobe. I was going to dispose of my old winter coat because it’s a little ‘tired’ and because it hasn’t been worn for a couple of years due to not fitting (and because I bought a replacement). This morning it caught my eye and I realised I still really like it; it fits like a dream again; it just need a serious de-pilling and the buttons replacing. I already have two sets of buttons which would work. So there’s a little project for me to work on.

28-01-19 resurrect

I feel I am moving forward once again and that is a relief. How are you doing?


 

Fitting in

23-01-19 non-camo
Fabrics for those “not blending in” moments

When I finished writing last Friday about Edward Scissorhands, a fairly definitive movie when it comes to not fitting in, I got to thinking about the choices we make during our lives in order to fit in with certain people or groups, the camouflage we choose (or are encouraged) to adopt, and how that can result in us feeling less like ourselves than we should. However long and however hard we try to fit in, the truth is that the only person you can ever truly rely on is yourself, as these two lines in a song from the musical “Chess” (by Tim Rice/Beny Andersson/Bjorn Ulvaeus) convey:-

No-one in your life is with you constantly,
No-one is completely on your side.

Although as I get older I am less inclined to make compromises in order to fit in, I think it’s pretty fair to say that there have been vast stretches of my life when I have curbed my own natural interests in order to fit better with the friends or colleagues that I have had at that time. For me, this has always started out as a creative endeavour, like trying on a different character for a while to see what it feels like, but I always end up feeling that my ‘real’ character has been submerged. This doesn’t only happen in the real world. For my generation, getting older has coincided with the rise of digital friendship and a whole new way of being influenced and of feeling a need to fit in. Quite simply, we are exposed to many more options right now than we have ever had in the past and that just increases the pressure to comply.

It seems a shame, but there are more interesting things in this world than any of us can experience in one lifetime and we have to make a choice about what we are going to pursue and what we are going to leave on the sidelines. For me, this has included accepting that I’m not going to sew garments for myself, even though I am confident that I could bring my skills up to speed and there’s a whole host of clothes I’d love to sew. It took me some years to understand that this is just not the road I’m going to walk. I would rather spend my time knitting, and there is enough of that to occupy me for at least one lifetime. I am aware, though, that every exposure to people who are happily sewing away and producing great-looking outfits, results in that twang of “I could do that” aspiration. And don’t even get me started on all the paper planners in the world at the moment! We must teach ourselves to deal with such influences, or we must act to avoid them entirely.

The big problem is that we can spend a lot of time and money on things that aren’t quite right for us, even though we know that isn’t the best use of our resources. When we invest in a particular interest and don’t pursue it, those items become part of the clutter in our lives that needs to be purged and, although it isn’t healthy, it is so much easier to simply accommodate the clutter than to actually sort it out. I think the modern trend for simplification and minimalism is not only about reducing physical things, but also a push to reduce the choices we have and the influences that we allow to work on us.

Fortunately, some things are relatively easy to ignore, the things you know you could never master if you practiced for a thousand years. For me, those are painting/drawing and driving; a number of people have this same reaction with swimming or cycling and I am sure there are countless others. Knitting, perhaps? In this case the knowledge is a combination of lack of interest in the activity, lack of desire and/or incentive to achieve the outcome, and lack of talent. Yes, sometimes people just don’t have the talent to pursue a particular skill, but you know what? They have loads and loads of other talents that make up for it.

So, what do we lose when we try to fit in and thereby sideline things that are important to ourselves in favour of things that are important to someone else? To understand that, we need to think about how we feel when we are doing the things that are important to us, that do interest us, that we are talented at. We feel our spirits lighten, we walk with a spring in our step, we think of the future – making plans, dreaming dreams – and we finish things because they engage our interest and make us happy. When we set aside the things we enjoy, life becomes a drudge, our brains may be engaged, but our hearts are locked away in a box, we envy others and, often, we delude ourselves.

It is, unfortunately, not simple to learn what interests you, which endeavours are worthwhile and which are simply interesting, even what the authentic you below all the camouflage really consists of. It takes time; I am sorry to say it probably takes a whole lifetime and maybe even more than that. Although none of us wants to face it when we are young, in this instance there really is no substitute for experience.


Related to this subject, here’s a couple of tunes which I never thought I would mention in the same breath!

“I know him so well” Elaine Page and Barbara Dickson
“Mis-Shapes” Pulp (interested in Pulp? This blog is doing a song-by-song analysis!)