March 19, 2013
November 15, 2012
For some reason, I'm doubting everything. And I mean everything. I don't want to name the root of this feeling because that would bring it into the realm of the real – I'd rather it remained a thought-form so that it could sink back down and become buried.
But wouldn't that be worse? It'll be there, ready for another time and place.
No. No names or specifics. Just, I'm uncertain. It's deeper than you assume. And I'm not panicking.
March 17, 2012
Knitting. I love it. My Mum used to sit all day and night, glued to the TV or the phone, weaving any number of blankets and baby garments without looking at what her hands were doing. She’d occasionally refer to the pattern she was following but otherwise, what she did was sorcery.
I tried and failed as a kid. Mum didn’t have the patience or time to teach me properly.
Two decades later I read Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas and become bewitched by that same sorcery. I owe a lot to this book for seducing me with the prospect of pulling off one of the most difficult garments to knit: socks.
I felt that if Meg, our heroine doomed to failure and an endless universe, could apply herself to something as complicated as knitting with four needles, in rounds, and thus creating socks you just can’t find anywhere in our consumerist society, I could bloody well do it too.
And I did.
But not before learning the basics.
I’m not going to spend my time here trying to explain how to knit but am instead going to provide you with resources to set you on your way to creative freedom. First of all though, I’d like to describe what knitting has come to mean to me, and describe what I’ve accomplished through learning this skill.
As I said, Scarlett Thomas gave me the spark. I went out, purchased some yarn that I liked the look of, a set of 5mm bamboo needles and used the Internet to learn the basics of casting on, making knit stitches and purl stitches.
I was clueless. The first thing I knitted was a case for my Kindle, complete with a large fold-over flap and pocket, and lovely wooden buttons. I knitted it way too big, dropped stitches, creating the odd hole in the final product, but when it was finished and stitched up, I couldn’t have been happier.
This sleeve has since become the place where my iPad lives when I pack it away.
My first project had released me from a saturated accessories market, taught me the basics of a valuable skill, helped me express my creativity, kept me occupied when I was feeling low, and had most importantly, opened up the path to knitworking: connecting with other knitters and those who appreciate the craft.
Since that first, imperfect Kindle case, I’ve knitted a multipurpose shawl, scarves, hand warmers, a bra (yes, a bra!), a jumper (which took a month to complete),and to my complete satisfaction, socks.
My first pair were well made but a disaster size-wize; they were meant to fit my size seven feet but ended up being more suitable for someone with size ten feet. I quickly learnt that needle size and yarn weight is very important: always check your yarn for what size needles you need and then use them.
What was so important about my first pair of socks is that I knitted them over my first Christmas alone. I was to scared to leave my home with my Dad to visit my family in the west of the UK, so I had the house to myself for a few days.
Great right? Almost.
I needed something to distract me from the fear of being isolated for three days, so knitting socks to carols on Classic FM became my saving grace. They’ve since become lovingly known as Troll Socks because of how huge they are.
Since then, I’ve gone on to knit several more pairs for friends but mostly for myself because they make me feel secure and they give me something to do when I’m down in the dumps or need my manic mind distracting for several hours.
Knitted for a friend
Knitted for me: Slouchy Socks of Awesome Mark II
So for me, to round up (you’ll eventually get this terrible joke if you’re not already a knitter), the art of knitting is a way to focus my mind, express myself, liberate my tastes, encourage my creativity, and make things for people I love.
Knitting need not be solitary; stitch and bitch groups are on the increase and they’re a mine of knowledge because the odds are, most of the people in the group will be Grandmasters of the Needles.
I’ve personally chosen not to attend such groups but if you’re feeling bold, go for it. You’ve everything to gain and knitting is such a useful skill to have under your belt.
If you’re not in to big social groups, you could buddy up with a friend and teach one another, spreading the yarn-love far and wide. And even when that’s too much, there are online communities.
Ravelry.com is an amazing site where you can find plenty of patterns and resources to help you on your way. You can take on projects, updating your progress for people to see, and join groups in their efforts to create innovative items that go beyond dodgy jumpers, though dodgy jumpers are back in fashion courtesy of Sarah Lund.
As for books, I highly recommend buying The Ultimate Knitting Bible to get you started.
This book explains all of the basics with clear pictures and references and I’ve found it to be indispensable; I refer to it every time I need to learn a new skill or if I’ve forgotten methods I’ve not used in a while.
I’d also recommend taking full advantage of YouTube alongside this book, purely because seeing someone cast on i.e. create the first row of stitches from which all others will follow, can give you the guidance and confidence that the book might not be able to. For example, I used YouTube to help me wrap my brain around creating stitches i.e. increasing, because the pictures weren’t clear enough for me.
Now, where to get your kit from. Don’t be afraid of secondhand stores, gloomy looking stationey-come-post offices for needles and yarn; if you’re a beginner, you pick up some good deals without breaking the bank and if you decide knitting isn’t for you, you’ve not just spent a wad of cash on something you’re never going to use again.
But wait. That involves going out…
But wait again; the Internet! eBay is a fantastic place to find yarns and needles for good prices and you can often pick up bulk yarn supplies for a lot less than buying from a store.
I’ve spent many happy hours gawking at all the pretty yarns and seeing as I’ve gone pro in the sock department, I’ve invested in these fine Symfonie Needles, an investment that I am yet to regret in spite of their price.
So there you have it. Even if you think you’ll never get the hang of it, still give it a bash. Start with a basic item like a scarf and go on from there. An entire world of creative possibility is open to you, along with a warm and welcoming community , and you don’t have to go out to do it.
But the best thing about knitting is that it might just give you the courage to take the next step, visit a local craft shop, pick an attractive yarn, and strike up a conversation with a fellow knitter.
My life is richer for having knitted.
March 24, 2011
Sometimes I avoid things because I don’t want to face/do/experience/deal with them.
Other times I avoid things because I’m acute and aware of everything I have to do, confident in my movements.
It’s not really avoidance in this case; it’s arrogance.
Not the nasty type of arrogance though, but the innocent type that you allow yourself, that small space where you remove yourself and observe, with a sincere and smug smile, that for this moment in your life, you’re managing.
Today I’m touching everything.
A word that sticks: glacial. Reminds me of Fox’s Glacier Mints. Small, translucent blue cubes.
My world is a small, translucent blue cube that I can suck and roll about in my mouth for as long as I like, or turn it to shards in one bite. Look into it. What I see and what you see will be very different things.
February 3, 2011
- A train, specifically the Trans-Siberian Railway or the First Great Western service from London Paddington to Land’s End
- The top of Rutherford College, UKC
- The top of Darwin Tower, UKC
- In someone’s bag
- A cottage in the middle of a forest clearing, close to a river
- A lighthouse
- British Columbia, Vancouver
- The Peak District
January 13, 2011
Two within a week. Who’d have thought.
The truth is I’m feeling dismal and the novel is starting to absorb all of that truth; it’s starting to breathe.
Updates to the week:
I did something on the list. I gutted part of my room. I would have done it all but I exhausted myself and for anyone who knows what it’s like to live with chronic fatigue/pain, overdoing it is a risk. It was worth it however because I threw out multiple trinkets from a dead past, and I burnt years of notes, diaries and writings. I’ve never experienced something that silent and cathartic before. I’d say crying comes close but that isn’t exactly silent, especially when I sob
I’m pleased I did it because now the room looks and feels airy, neat and reflective; organic. I also got round to stealing that gorgeous wooden table that had been used as a platform to cut wood on. It’s stout and heavy, obviously hand-made, and it has a couple of nicks and hack-marks but they’re charming. The wood is a mix of faded brown and gull-grey. I fell in love as soon as I saw it hauled onto the deck, a freebie from a neighbour, though I forget who. It sits, warm and steady beside my bed, and the room is finally light (although I have other areas to clean out, mainly the wardrobe, but they’re not important right now).
I’ve been wanting to take up yoga for a while but have lacked the confidence, money and stamina to join a group at the gyms in the area (to my disgust earlier this year, I discovered my local leisure centre had axed yoga from its timetable). To my delight, the Chronic Fatigue Clinic gave me a leaflet about a small group held twenty minutes from where I live which was not only accessible and cheaper than a gym but was also run by a teacher who is trained in teaching yoga for people living with M.E. / Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia.
I took a risk and went along. An hour later I’d done very soothing, flowing postures and a bit of chanting, and I felt so relaxed that my smile came naturally, without incentive for once. No persuasions, no materialism, no promises or bribes. This one came from just being calm and happy. I don’t have to say I’ll be going again next week, do I?
I’ll be going next week.
I used to second-guess myself because of uncertainty and a lack of confidence, but recently I’ve been doing it because I’ve been thinking of different possibilities. Something clicked in the past eighteen hours (give or take) that’s made me readjust my perspective on the things I thought to be real. This wouldn’t be such a huge thing if it hadn’t happened last week or the week before that (it’s been happening for a while actually, I’ve merely been ignoring it), and I’d think little of it if last night’s eye-opener hadn’t got personal and exposed the soft, delicate bits inside to its starkness.
To be a little less cryptic, I’m wondering if pursuing a PhD has more to do with my desire for a systematic life and a shot a job (I’d be obliged to teach if I got department funding – they’d have to give me work) than my desire to have another notch on my Epic Belt of Education +5. I gave up worshipping the value of education when I realised my BSc accounted for little more than oh say, nothing, and that the paper my now defunct name is printed on is worth, wait for it, nothing.
So why the PhD? I wanted to get close to people. I know, I know; I’m full of contradictions. It’s hard to know you’re any good when other people aren’t there to remind you; this is also an absurd contradiction because I never believe them, barely care, and am more content to satisfy myself with my flat, salty focaccia bread than anyone else who’s more interested in making it perfect to create cultural, monetary and mostly unseen profits (because ‘profit’ is a concept, not a tangible thing; can you imagine having your profit in clementines? I’d be blissed-out on account of my clementine addiction).
I’ll encounter my dreams soon. PhD or not.
I leapt off the cliff and plummeted straight down onto the rocks with a thud and felt ecstatic when I opened my eyes and saw that I was sitting on the shore, cradled by a deserted cove and the sea. I thought I’d died before I’d hit the bottom but it appears I simply woke up to the idea of making this novel my novel and not a book of suggestions made by others. I’m still trying to figure out my message but like any good story, it takes time.
Things are making more sense and I understand now, that I can create the worlds/lives/people I want and send them off into the atmosphere where they’ll exist on without me. It’s like having kids I think: you spend a lot of time and money on them and even before that there’s the sex and the growth and then the birth. Never thought I’d use a metaphor like that in my lifetime. I’m becoming more domesticated and I blame the novel. But the novel is opening me up and holding a mirror, saying you’re writing me and you’ve always written what you want; I’m your dreams, so write me and free me and then you’ll have me.
The dissatisfaction I was experiencing a few days ago hasn’t gone but its real cause has finally shown up now that I’ve lifted the novel off its head. Have you noticed how everything is spectacle? Aristotle says that spectacle is a shitty way to develop a plot. I’m not saying life is a script in any inherent way but that we’re making it like that. And we’re doing a rubbish job of it. This is a brief observation on my part, but everything looks like it’s being slotted into categories:
- Insurance (car, home, life)
- War (flu epidemics, hay-fever, self)
- Appearance (fashion, beauty)
- Cars (that we don’t need)
- Money (quick loans, banks, credit rating)
- Price crunches and sales
And everything is spectacle; if it doesn’t dazzle and shine, or isn’t near-naked, it’s worthless. I wonder what the world would look like if it washed its face, put some clothes on and sat down for an honest conversation.
I’m shocked that I’ve written this much, but then I did promise. I’ll need to look over the list from Jan 2nd again and refresh my memory. I’m sure scrap-booking was in there and this is probably what I’ll do next, seeing as I’ve found a bunch of leaves I pressed last autumn, along with a wealth of postcards I’ve collected over the years.
December 16, 2010
I don’t know if I’m a sceptic or not. Part of me is curious about supernatural things, another part thinks it’s balderdash and poppy-cock. Perhaps my unease is more to do with my disbelief in perception and the authority that goes with it. Seeing is believing, right?
Even advances in the science of the unseen world is all about seeing what’s out there from cosmic dust to nano-machines. We might not be able to see the minuscule components that make up atoms but we still have diagrams to illustrate their existence.
If you start seeing things that can’t be quantified by others under scientific conditions then they’re not there. Perhaps.
I could go on about language not ‘being’ there but I’ll save that for later…
What’s on my mind is something I read in Our Tragic Universe about placebo and nocebo effects; you might not have to believe in something for it to be a reality. The collective belief of X could be more than enough to bring something to life.
Example: I use Bach Flower Remedies, mostly Rescue Remedy. A friend recommended it to me to give me some reassurance when I felt on edge. There’s a lot of hoo-ha about homeopathy and alternative remedies which makes sense to me because I’ve been raised, like most, to believe in the solid fact of science. Alternatives, whatever they are, fall outside of this system.
I didn’t believe the remedy would work. I thought it was a load of crap so why did I start using it? Curiosity. I never expected anything from it but after a few weeks of regular use as per the instructions, I found myself being calmed by a few drops of grape brandy and traces of flowers.
I’m not concerned with what a shrink would say. What interests me is what was raised in Our Tragic Universe: the belief of others as a source of enormous power. Bach himself believed in the remedies, so do the practitioners and those who train in the methods and mix the remedies. My friend believed in them. Those people alone are enough to cancel out my personal disbelief without the millions of others who believe in it.
So Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, gods, an afterlife, magic – anything we can’t see but can believe in anyway, could exist, but not because they exist in any inherent way. They’d only exist because of us and would vanish when our belief fades.
I’m always wary of karma. I don’t fear it but I’m aware of it enough to know that something is occurring in a vast and inevitable plane of energy thrown out of the human body and mind. That aside, there’s nothing wrong with trying to do good, karma or no karma.
Perhaps I’m not a sceptic at all but instead am cynical because of the concrete mindset that permeates life. But then I’m secretly rebellious in that I use Rescue Remedy, observe my dreams for messages and glimpses of mundane future events, think about traces and vanishings and time slippage, and do my best to work with karma. I thanks trees and the earth I walk upon too, for being there.
It’s not a matter of belief for me but a matter of sensing that there’s more going on than, even with major technological advances, the eye will ever see.
November 23, 2010
I thought the multiverse was something external but apparently it’s within, next to or somewhere very close to the universe we think we live in now. I’ve not read enough on the subject to go into depth (though that will probably be remedied by January) but I’ve heard enough from Derrida that it’s not possible to entirely escape metaphysics, that we remain inside of it (whatever it is) whilst trying to figure it all out into a straight line.
I have visions of paper bags and many people trying to fight their way out of one. What are we so determined to prove? That there’s something bigger than us? Something outside of our crappy little system whether it be solar, universe or language, that will confirm us?
I’m personally more concerned about getting on with things in this universe but that’s not to say I wouldn’t jump ship if the opportunity arose, on account of my thirst to vanish from this awful reality once and for all. No not suicide you ninny; there are countless ways to escape ‘reality’ without having to resort to death. You’re engaging in one of the methods right now if you’re reading this.
Which makes me wonder if we’re being too tactile when we try to find alternate universes. Maybe we make them all the time and billions of the things are floating around waiting to be taken home and loved but we’re all too materialistic and desperate to be ‘real’ to notice.
What inhabits these places? Lost words I reckon. Things that we’ve forgotten (like how to be polite and smile) or maybe some grand secret that will finally reveal the meaning of our existence and then hurrah! We all find out and then what? We drift. We become aimless. A few of us might rebel against it and start screaming ‘No, no, no! There must be more! I don’t believe a word of it!’
You don’t believe it now but you invested an entire system of belief into it before? You really believed, before you found out the truth, all of that other rubbish? You believed in money, love, honesty, truth and authority but now you refuse to believe in… you?
I’m working on a project designed to turn me into a ghost. Not a dead one, before you start with that clap-trap again, but a ghost of a former self (okay so a little bit of death is involved but nothing serious).
Derrida bangs on about ghosts be like a sort of reminder about our responsibilities to each other and I reckon that if I can pull this off then maybe I’ll remember the things that I owe myself like learning how to change and live despite the awkward predicament I’m in with the madness and all.
So how to become a ghost? I think you have to lose something first. Let’s see… my marbles? Check. My faith in our consumer-lead society? Check. My patience with those with their heads buried in the sand? Check. My lack of compassion for even the most awful people? Yup, getting there.
But being a ghost isn’t about sacrifice (which is handy because I don’t believe in sacrificing anything for anyone); being a ghost is about letting go – of everything.
Spectral impermanence. We’d love to think that ghosts hang around all the time just for us but if we take a closer look, it’s us that hang around for them. Becoming a ghost means getting on with things and not being compelled to stay in one place. Ghosts move.
They move like a plot. Plots change as you think about them, invent them and break them apart. They come out of nowhere and scare the snot out of you. Then they run off tee-hee-ing, glancing back before morphing into something you can barely recognise.
I lost a plot but four days ago it turned up and split right in front of me, wide open and said:
‘Take a look at me now.’
How could I resist?
September 27, 2010
The art of learning any lesson is to get down off your horse and suck ‘it’ up. Of course it isn’t as cruel as it sounds (although sometimes it’s a trial).
How many years have passed? I’m still learning. I’m still learning that I need to let go not only of past hurts but also things that haven’t even happened yet – the notorious Future Worries.
I’m still learning that with every episode of insanity (for want of more apt term, although I’m quite fond of reclaiming it seeing as people are so terrified of it now) an episode of reprieve will follow; the disconnection itself is not the problem, but the feelings of dread and sickness are.
I understand, now that I’ve let off a little emotional steam, that it’s been several weeks since my last bout of ‘not on this planet’ which lends reason to why I’ve struggled with it for the past five days. Regularity breeds familiarity, breeds ability to cope? I’d not like to suggest learned helplessness.
(But why does becoming familiar with difficulty mean learning helplessness? I’m not helpless, I’m off my rocker and quite happy about it! It still astounds me how even the most subtle and apparently caring language can disable anyone who acts or exists contrary to the status quo; enrich your minds and read Foucault.)
Having been so long since the last time, I’ve virtually forgotten the ecstatic euphoria, the hunger to read and learn, the fascination with the shapes and colours of the world around me; the pink rose that looked like a sodden wedding serviette, the fence that was missing new paint in a very haphazard place that took on the shape of a cat and the old telephone poles that intersected the brilliant skies with their thick wires and housed jars filled with ancient, glowing insects.
And then the sudden thrashing of the mind as it begins to become too aware of the immediacy of the world. Coming back to a dull, unnoticing reality when you have spent days in stunning places free from worry and despair is a grim shock.
I don’t blame myself for having such a difficult time.
To return is to make a mental note detailing how to land on your feet:
- Always have herbal tea at the ready
- Don’t fear cancellations
- Keep warm
- Eat foods which bring comfort
- Read a book which confirms your reality
- Sleep lightly through the day
- Avoid television at all costs
- Listen to music that feeds your soul
- Become aware of the world again through the radio (BBC Radio 4 is my choice)
- Don’t rush back to socializing
- Re-familiarise yourself with pets as they are much more understanding that humans
- Have a cry if you need to
- Speak truth
- Ask a true friend to confirm love
- Harbour no resentment for yourself, or any other being
These things happen and I have a choice to make now that my head is clearing: shall I fall into misery or shall I sit gently, allow myself to recover and come through this more prepared for the next wave?