Everyone should have a favourite children’s book, here’s mine.

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These splendiferous illustrations are taken from a book called Heads, Bodies and Legs by Dennis Wirth-Miller and the appropriately named Richard Chopping, published by Puffin. I stumbled across it one day at the glorious Camilla’s bookshop in Eastbourne and had to own it. It’s not just one of my favourite books in the world, it’s one of my favourite things. If only I could draw like this.

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HOPE

We took a family holiday, just a week in Cornwall. It was fun, and the kids loved messing about on the beach but it didn’t really deliver everything I’d hoped it would. I hoped it would give me some time, some perspective, some time to talk things through, some time to breath the fresh sea air, to heal and become stronger but this thing is tougher than I’d ever imagined. Perhaps I underestimated what those pills were doing for me, because right now, at this moment, I feel wretched beyond belief and drained. So drained.

At these times it’s important to remember that every day the sun rises anew.  You’ve just got to keep on getting up in the morning, keep trying to make things better and one day, they will be. Or that’s what I keep telling myself. It’s not much, but it’s all I really need. Here’s hoping.

Lionheart issue four: shapes

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Lionheart is possibly my favourite magazine ever (and I’m a real mag-nut, so that’s saying something). It’s got pretty much everything I look for in a mag: clean lines, lovely thick matte paper, a good smell (years of working in book production have turned me into a passionate paper sniffer – don’t judge), beautiful design, incredible illustrations, a community feel, REAL ACTUAL WRITING YOU CAN ACTUALLY READ the list goes on and on.

Issue four is all about shapes, a theme I found really interesting but hard to interpret when I was trying to come up with ideas for my contribution. In the end Hels (the wonderful editor) asked me to interview the fashion designer Helen Bullock, and I’m so glad she did. I love interviewing artists about their work, especially when they share my obsession with colour and pattern. I knew instantly I was going to really, really like her – and I was right.

We met at Cafe Oto in Dalston, which is my favourite place to drink tea and do  interviews. I interviewed Simon Costin from the Museum of British Folklore there a while back and it went really smoothly, although, this time around, I could barely hear a word when I sat down to transcribe it afterwards. There’s a top tip for aspiring journalists – never sit too close to the coffee machine! You’ll regret it later. You can read my interview with Helen, whose work is so so inspiring, on pages 12-15 of the mag.

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Helen decorated the spreads herself, I love the result – makes me want to get my paints out.

There’s so much more to read though, and I mean actually read – there’s real content here, which makes a nice change. I particularly enjoyed Hels’ interview with Oana Befort. Her floral watercolours are so beautiful.

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Hannah Bullivant’s piece on Margate really made me long for a cheeky weekend visit and Daria Hlazatova’s illustration for the architecture article is just… Daria is the BOMB.

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So, what are you waiting for. Head on over to the website and buy the mag here. I promise you won’t regret it.

Breathe more deeply

Aren't they pretty. So many times I've thought about these colours and what they mean.

Aren’t they pretty? So many times I’ve thought about the significance of these colours and what they mean.

For a very long time (years now) I have been taking one shiny little green and yellow capsule before bed every night. A simple act designed to help me not-want-to-throw-stuff-at-other-stuff so much. Depression – though I am not sure I really want to call it that, because that word just doesn’t feel real to me for some reason – has bothered me from time to time ever since I was a kid, but back then it was just called ‘moodiness’.

On a good day I am a perfectly balanced and normal human being. I can laugh and dance and feel joy as keenly as the next person. I have lots of good days. But on a bad day I am disorientated, confused, lost, tearful, sad, irritable, angry.

A handful of times it’s been more or less impossible to function. I’ve stood rooted to a single spot in a busy supermarket completely paralyzed and unable to speak, because I didn’t understand what was going on in my head and felt scared to move in case I was forced to interact with another human being. That day I almost walked out into traffic. That was the worst day. Most bad days don’t get anywhere near that bad because I keep my family close and they give me all the love and support I need to stay on the pavement.

I haven’t had a bad day in ages. The pills have worked. They’ve worked well, but sometimes I have felt a bit… numb. The lower register of emotions hasn’t been as apparent, but neither have the upper ones. I haven’t cried at a wedding, or a birth, or at Eastenders, or cried at all, it seems, for an eternity. Recently my lovely Gramps died and I knew I felt very sad, but it was a bit like straining to listen to someone speaking from inside a soundproof booth. You know someone is saying something, you can see their lips moving, you just can’t quite make out the words. It’s like that dream you have sometimes when you go to run or punch someone but your limbs won’t move and when they do finally stir it’s like you’re dragging them through quicksand. Solid air.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not coming out against Antidepressants – I believe they’re useful and necessary in a lot of cases, but there is a price to be paid for pharmaceutically-imposed tranquility and I was no longer sure I wanted to pay it.

So last week, at the advice of a doctor, I started phasing out the drugs. Quite suddenly things began to feel more raw, more alive again. I shifted gears. I’ve found myself saying things and posting things on social media that, in retrospect, sound like the ramblings of a frazzled and cranky old cat lady. It’s quite possible that this post is one of those things. This is NOT ideal because I rely on my ability to communicate for my living. But, and this is a big but, I figure I’d rather live as a flawed and slightly damaged human being than as a fabulous and shiny, wipe-clean robot. I need to find a way to embrace this weird and inconvenient element of my identity and learn to work with it rather than drug it into submission. Maybe it’s all about yoga and meditation, perhaps it’s about CBT and crochet (which, by the way, I’ve always found extremely helpful), perhaps I just need to breath more deeply. I’ll let you know how it goes. xx

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Cecily tried hard to hide her immense smugness behind a pair of enormous sunglasses, to no avail #sadface

 

Hello everyone. Long time no see. There’s more than one reason I haven’t been blogging (or making) much recently. The first, and most tangible, is that I managed to land myself a really amazing job editing a children’s magazine. I’m really, really enjoying it. It involves surrounding myself on a daily basis with all the things I value most – positivity, inspiration, ideas, history, talented writers and illustrators and books…lots and lots of books. I’m very lucky indeed.

The second reason is that I’ve started to feel a little bit disenchanted with blogging in general, and with lifestyle/crafty blogs specifically. Beautiful lifestyle blogs and sites like Pinterest encourage us all to measure our success as human beings against a bunch of pretty pictures instead of focusing on what’s important. The more time I spend pouring over other people’s photos of that trip they took to Copenhagen, or the £90 espadrilles they bought (or were gifted!), the more hollow and dissatisfied I find myself feeling. I’ve spent my writing career trying not to engage with that school of thought and I have no intention of contributing to a culture that makes people feel bad, and so I have decided that any blogging I do should be 100 per cent honest and real. I’ll still make things – a lot, and post them on here, and I love seeing the stuff you guys produce, but I am no longer competing against anyone to see who can be the most picturesque, because that’s not who I am.

The truth is that my house is a damn mess, my kids are constantly scruffy as hell (and not in a cute way), I no longer own a piece of furniture (vintage or otherwise) that hasn’t been scribbled, dripped, chewed or spewed on and when I wake up in the morning I look like Hatty Jacques crossed with Mark E Smith. That’s the truth. I’d rather it wasn’t but there it is. So this blog is probably going to evolve into something a bit different pretty soon. There will still be craft, though, oh yes, and the usual lolz, so do pop by and check it out. In the meantime have a look at this film which has really made me smile lately.

I Love, You Love, Johnny Loves June

Do you have plans this Saturday?

Would you like some?

What's not to love though, really?

What’s not to love though, really?

 

Then why not head down to Johnny Loves June’s Vintage and Handmade fair at The Shoreham Centre. It’s going to be awesome! Stallholders include my fabulous friends at Doris Loves, who will be dishing out temporary tattoos (in exchange for money) from their beautiful temporary tattoo station, and the lovely, adorable Sarah at Sitting Comfortably, the veritable Simon Pie-man of gorgeous homeware  (but much more attractive, obvs).  Throw live music, jive demonstrations, a pop up tea shop and… AND a vintage beauty parlour into the mix, and by jingo, you’ve got yourself a party! I am so excited, it’s almost obscene.

Doors open at 11am, check out their site for full details.

 

A Liebster Award… for me? I may cry.

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I know they’re really ten-a-penny, but I’m still over the moon that  Jennifer Maude at Jam Made  has so kindly nominated me for a Liebster Award. It ‘s soo cool to know that there are actually people on the other side of the globe who are interested in reading about my weird  bits and bobs, thank you! I really enjoyed answering the questions she sent me (the idea is that you answer your questions, nominate your favourite small blogs and pose them some questions of your own). It’s kind of interesting to be the askee instead of the asker for once. OK, here goes nothing:

1. Name a place you have visited or would love to visit that is a great inspiration to you.

Marrakech, I’ve never been ( I hate flying),  but I’m really inspired by Moroccan architecture. I have promised myself a trip.

2. Finish this sentence: I create because ……….

I can’t help it.

3. Tell us something interesting about where you live.

It’s underrated. Also, Lewis Carroll used to holiday here.

4. What are you reading right now?

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville West, it’s sedate but lovely. I have just finished Gillespie and I by Jane Harris. A small portion of my brain is still wrangling with that one.

5. Finish this sentence: I couldn’t live without………..

Ideas.

6. What do you like to do for laughs?

Go out to dinner with my friends, drink too much wine and end up night-swimming, or doing a (bad) handstand in a park.

7. Finish this sentence: I can’t wait until someone invents a ……………

Another me, who can do all the things I should be doing, but better and with a bit less attitude.

8. What do you love to cook?

Paella.

9. Most fun you’ve ever had?

Ooof good question.  I’d have to say Dj-ing and mud-wrestling (clothed) at a disco-bloodbath themed party in 2003. ‘was exactly as awesome as it sounds.

10. What do you look for in a friend?

Loyalty and LOLZ… and also punctuality and a love of The Bangles ‘Walk like an Egyptian’ and someone with the same foot size as me who will let me borrow their shoes if I accidentally lose mine.

11. Do you ever hand write letters and send them off in the ……..wait for it……..actual post?

Occasionally. I think people really appreciate getting hand written post, I know I do. One of my best friends sends me lovely letters and postcards on a fairly regular basis and it always, ALWAYS brightens my day. Recently I’ve been trying to up my game a bit. Why is it so hard to find the time for these things?

My Nominees: I think I was supposed to name eleven, but actually I don’t read that many blogs on a regular basis so I’ll just do my favourites. I’m not even completely sure whether or not these blogs qualify as ‘small’, in fact they probably don’t even – they’re just my favourites. If you lot can recommend any proper small blogs you think I’d like, please go ahead and comment and I’ll check them out!

Skulls and Ponies

Even Artichokes Have Hearts

Sarah Rooftops

Stephanie Pomfrett

 

Words for 2013 #2

Long-distance Clara

My second word for 2013 is INVEST.

I’m not really talking about money here (although that does come into it, a bit), really I am talking about time and energy. I tend not to have enough faith in my ideas and sometimes it keeps me from moving things forward. I’m done with that nonsense. 2013 is the year I will finally begin investing in myself and my work with everything I have, like a 110 per cent (I hate it when people say ‘110 per cent’ but hey ho). I will no longer listen to that annoying, whiny voice inside my head that says ‘ Freya, you LOSER, what are you doing? You know raspberry doesn’t go with scarlet/all computers are in the service of the devil/nobody wants a robot made out of Jammy Dodgers and Blu-Tack.’ No. I am not listening. I am forging ahead with The Dodgertron and YOU can’t stop me Gollum voice, now pass me that yarn/ glue gun/ biscuit/ laptop/ spanner.

I will also invest in fun. If my staying-in-a-hotel-by-myself-for-no-real-reason experience has taught me anything, it is that I don’t indulge my whims enough. From now on, if I really fancy buying myself the complete 30 Rock box set, painting my nails (or anything else for that matter) gold, or getting my hair done like an Andrews Sister, then I totally will. Too often I deprive myself of simple things that make me happy. Here are a small selection:

Stuff that makes me smile:

Crochet, obvs.

Katherine Heigl movies. Yeah, I love her. What of it?

Ditto Maggie Gyllenhaal – you know that film where she plays the rebellious vegan(?) cake baker opposite Will Ferrell and she’s all like ‘Hi TAX MAN…I don’t make cookies for douches y’know TAX MAN’ Love that.

Ditto Emma Thompson come to think of it. Have you seen the knitwear in Nanny McPhee? It’s amazing.

Tattoos and red lipstick – ooh tattoos of red lipstick? That’s one for a Pinterest board.

Vintage furniture (and by ‘vintage’ I mean ‘old’, and by ‘furniture’ I of course mean’ junk’). Gaz tends to like classic oak pieces from shops that have carpet. I prefer mustard-coloured-velvet-clad bedside tables, from shops that barely even have ceilings. Recently he’s been winning, but things gonna change yo.

Sunshine (see pic). I haven’t had a holiday abroad in I don’t know how long – about 5 years. I need some sun, and soon.

Buttons. I know I am not alone in this. Why are buttons so cheering? It’s something to do with childhood, I’m sure. There are not enough buttons in my life, or clip-on earrings. I love them too.

What little things make you happy? What are your (clean please) words for 2013? I’d love to know.

Biba in Brighton

On Saturday morning I went with my mum (and a nasty little hangover, but we won’t go into that) to Brighton to check out Biba and Beyond: Barbara Hulanicki at the Brighton Pavilion Museum and Art Gallery. I’ve been obsessed with clothing, particularly vintage clothing since like, forever, so I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance to go and see some of those gorgeous Biba pieces in the flesh. As it happened I managed to win a couple of tickets on Twitter (thanks Brighton Museum people) which was an added bonus. The first thing that struck me was the sheer beauty of the museum itself, and how many amazing objects they have in – what I assume – is their permanent collection. If you haven’t been, you surely must go for the furniture and crockery alone.

I could talk here at length about the enormous influence Barbara Hulanicki has had on the fashion industry, how she revolutionised the high street shopping experience as we know it, how she practically created Twiggy and fast-changing disposable fashion but we all know that what really matters is the clothes. Classic Biba shapes are iconic; romantic and incredibly elegant. Those maxi lengths, empire lines and bell sleeves must have made the wearer feel like they’d just swept out of a John William Waterhouse painting, only with a wide brimmed hat on, of the kind Bianca Jagger might wear to snort cocaine off of Brian Ferry’s naked butt cheeks.

Look at that symphony in  black on the far left.  Amaze.

Look at that symphony in black on the far left. Amaze.

Look at that black dress. The quality of line is just breathtaking. It reminds me a little of the outfit Nicole what’s-her-face wore to the NTAs but with a soupcon more… how shall I put this… class. If  I was an evil sorceress with nymphomaniac tendencies, who lived in a castle surrounded by vast frozen lakes and drove a chariot drawn by rabid wolves with glowing violet-coloured eyes, this would be my signature look. I would also be impossibly thin obvs  (it was clearly designed to fit an actual twig).

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The sleeves on that brown dress in the centre of the shot are amazing. Not in the least bit practical though. How would you do anything? You’d just have to waft about. You wouldn’t have a choice. You certainly would be able to eat soup, that’s for damn sure. Perhaps that is why they were all so skinny – the sheer length of their sleeves simply prohibited nourishment of any kind.

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I can’t leave without showing you a close-up of some of the swirly patterns in the exhibition. If you’re thinking ‘That’s weird, they wouldn’t look remotely out of place in a high street collection today’ you’d be right, they wouldn’t. That’s because people have been ripping off, allowing themselves to be inspired by Barbara Hulanicki’s Biba designs for decades. I just love the art deco inspired sun bursts that appear on practically everything Biba related. I bought a postcard. Yes, another one.

Biba and Beyond: Barbara Hulanicki is on at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery until 14 April 2013. Don’t delay going though because you know how these things are, you’ll put it off and put it off and then suddenly you’ll realise it’s too late and you’ve missed yet another great exhibition! GO NOW! Unless it’s night time, in which case GO TOMORROW, or possibly at the weekend, GO.