September Resolutions and a Little Smudge of Self Care

Afternoon! The dogs got me up at half five this morning so it feels wrong on a molecular level that one of those dogs is asleep on my bed this very moment while I try to prise my eyeballs open with tea and willpower.

I left school four years ago, and yet September always feels like the prime time for a Fresh Start and New Things. It probably helps that I’ve got leftover holiday happiness, although it’s also mingled with that disgruntled feeling of ‘why am I never as relaxed at home as I am on holiday?’, the preoccupation of which always makes me… less relaxed. But! September! A fresh start! Also I have been 23 since last Wednesday which means I have extra fresh start feelings. LET’S MAKE THIS YEAR A FINANCIAL AND SOCIAL SUCCESS, she hisses as she drowns under paperwork, teacups and pissy late payment emails.

There isn’t really a point to this blog, except to hopefully pass on some lovely September vibes, but I felt like I should write something because my domain just renewed. Got to get my £15 worth! I thought about sharing some Greece photos but I’m too bleary-eyed to think up funny captions and do I really want to contribute to the Internet’s collective ‘my life is better than yours look what a great time I’m having’ bullshit brigade? Um, no. But here is a picture of bougainvillea, because bougainvillea flowers are a colourful spec of papery innocence in this world.

Pink Bougainvillea in Sami, Kefalonia

Does anyone have any September resolutions? Eva over at What Eva Wears wrote about hers, and it reminded me of all the times I’ve written resolutions on here. I found a couple of posts… in this one from January 2016 I wanted to learn to take better photographs (they are definitely improving), read more varied news sources (to be honest, in the last few months I’ve just read less news. I’m happier for it), learn to use Facebook (done, except now Facebook is dying WHAT A SHAME) and ‘chill out about this blog’.  Well I kind of have in a way – there was a time when I would tell myself off for not posting twice a week, but these days you’re lucky if you get two posts per month. It’s taken 18 months (and I kind of did ‘move to Cambodia’ for a bit, ha) but I think I’m getting there.

Then I found this post from the end of 2017 in which I listed some resolutions for 2018. LET’S SEE WHERE WE ARE, THEN.

  • Resolution 1, the ‘vague gesture’, was to learn to do my hair a bit more. My hair is even longer and even more purple-tinged than it was in December, and I still only wash it twice a week, but I do put it up a bit more. Occasionally. Look, it looks nicer when I ignore it completely…
  • Resolution 2, the SMART goal, was to look after myself more in a measurable way. Hahaaaaa haaaa haaa. Ha. Ahem. Well, I did download a blue light blocker. I do exercise fairly frequently (not running though, Pilates is my limit). I do take extended breaks from Instagram, not that you’d know it. I could do more, but I also could have done less.
  • Resolution 3 was to make my work, work. This was only 8 months ago and everything I wrote is still true: if this financial year doesn’t go my way, I’ll probably go and get a salaried job or retrain in a sensible industry or something. But I’m creeping in the right direction: I’m working with the Prince’s Trust to improve Francesca’s Words, my Patreon is slooowly gathering momentum – and dragonnovel is cooking away! – and I have regular-ish work. I have more to be thankful for than to be unhappy about.

So my September resolutions are to continue with everything I said I wanted to do in 2018. It’s tempting to start something Completely New, but Francesca’s Words could be twice as big next January as it was last January if I play my cards right. If I play my cards sneakily, I might even have a book or a cool French plait as well.

I said there wasn’t a point to this post: I turned out to be completely wrong. Looking back at the last couple of years has made me realise how far I’ve come. I’m always harder on myself than anyone else ever could be – I never sit back to appreciate how much work I’ve put into something; I only ever berate myself for not working harder. But I’m doing okay. Pretty well. Better than I could otherwise have been doing. That’s not too ‘my life is better than yours’ bullshitty, is it? You would tell me if it was, right?

Graceless Nights With Lorde at Alexandra Palace

Afternoon. I feel like I should apologise for not posting on my story blog this week, but since approximately five people read it and at least four of them are direct relations, I think I’ll save the heartfelt messages for when there’s more like six of you. I really did mean to have a story up, but I only wrote it last week because I’ve been busy settling into my new job, and I’ve promised myself that I will get my writing critiqued properly before whacking it online, and I’m still waiting on feedback. BUT NO MATTER. I HAVE CONTENT TODAY.

I saw Lorde at Alexandra Palace last week and I’m still buzzing. I hadn’t been to a live show in three or four years, and my usual brand of live music is, you know, not Lorde. I also went by myself, which is one of those things you read in self help books titled Coming to Terms With Your Own Company (Because You’ll Die Alone), but actually I just didn’t have anyone to go with. I also had work central London the next day, so I stayed up there and learnt how contactless cards work on the underground (spoiler alert: next time I’ll just get an Oyster card). Anyway, the show.

I’d never really seen a pop concert – is Lorde even pop? – so it was quite heartwarming to queue with a group who’d seen Twenty One Pilots perform live and were also wearing Doc Martens (it was kind of more heartwarming to name drop that I once saw MCR at Wembley, because I am a dick). I’d never even heard of the warm up act, Khalid, but a bunch of kids were well into it and as soon as I got home on Thursday I saw him on TV, so when he’s up for a Grammy you’d better believe I’ll be name dropping him, too. During the obligatory wait between doors and warm up and warm up and main act I got chatting to two girls who’d decorated their faces in glitter, which made me wish I’d thought ahead. The atmosphere was actually not that different to one at an MCR show – there was a good mix of people, with parents with their kids and groups of friends and couples, all waiting with baited breath for the lights to go down. It’s quite hard to explain what happened when the lights did go down so here, have a video.

I guess one upside to a pop show versus a rock show is that the act changes clothes along with their set?

Lorde Alexandra Palace London September 2017 Europe Dance Tour

Lorde Alexandra Palace London 2017

Yes, that’s a red sparkly jumpsuit with a pair of trainers.

It’s always hard to describe what it’s like seeing an act you really love play live. The last band I saw that had already fused to my rib cage was MCR when I was 15. My dad took us and we dressed up in our finest Killjoy glamour and it was probably as close to a religious experience as I got during my teens. At 22, with a very different life and in completely different circumstances, I got to have that experience again. There’s nothing like howling a song with a few thousand other people, knowing the person on the stage is having as much fun as you are. I have a cold this week – one of those where you think you’re okay to breathe through your nose and then you sneeze phlegm onto the nearest piece of clothing – and I can’t wait to be fully awake again so I can go and make things as cool as the music Lorde makes. I might also get myself a red sparkly jumpsuit, as clearly they bring good fortune…

Once More Unto the Soft Furnishings Department

Afternoon. Apologies for being a bit quiet – I was sick last week (actually physically sick for the first time in years god I hate vomiting) and the house looks worse than it did when moved in. When we moved, we plonked stuff down with the understanding that we would decorate later. Now we are decorating, our stuff has to go into rooms that still contain their normal stuff and to cut a long story short I am sleeping on a mattress in the dining room next to two snoring dogs.

The end is nigh, though, and I am getting excited about the fun bit: moving in. My new room is painted plain white so I can hang up all my prints and pretend I live in an art gallery, and I’m getting my own office space. Technically it’s a space in a built-in wardrobe where the boiler used to be and it is barely five feet in width, but it’s a space. I am considering painting the walls, partly so when I move the new owners can marvel at how pedantic the previous occupier was, and I have been frequenting Pinterest for the best ways to fit a desk into a cupboard. Surprisingly, little offices aren’t just for those lacking in space – I’ve seen some beautiful, Instagram-pornography-esque offices clearly installed by someone who wanted a beautiful, Instagram-pornography-esque office.

I’m considering plagiarising those ideas and adding some floating shelves, getting a clip-on lamp and possibly braving a trip to IKEA to turn their kitchenware equipment into an elaborate pen pot stand. I haven’t decided on a colour scheme – you’d better believe there will be a colour scheme – but I am considering investing in a set of wireless speakers and enough paper trays for my entire Francesca’s Words envelope collection.

There’s a bit to do before I get to actually buying any of these things (apparently carpets and net curtains are basic requirements) so while I am still in Pinterest mode, let me know: what are your home decoration tips? Have you ever done up a space as small as an ex-boiler cupboard? What do you think of rose gold and pink as a theme? Help me out here, I can’t afford to buy a pen pot from IKEA only to find it messes with my Instagram ambitions.

In Which I’m Drowning in Striped Paper Bags

In the interests of coming home to an organised life Etsy stockpile, I emptied out one of my storage containers so I could refill the drawers more neatly… except I can’t decide how best to store everything, and I’m having a crisis over whether or not I need to buy more supplies before I leave. My mum’s offered to ship orders while I’m away so I don’t need to deactivate any listings, but I counted out my business cards and envelopes and there isn’t enough to cover every potential order there might be.

I know that realistically I don’t need to panic-buy supplies until a few weeks in December because by then hopefully a lot more orders will have sold and I’ll have a better idea of what’s going to be left in January…  but I don’t like waiting, and in the mean time I’m surrounded by approximately three reels of ribbon, thirty paper bags, a set of return address labels, old postcards I can’t shift, a gift box and some price tags to name but a few and I don’t know how to organise any of them.

And no I’m not going to take a photo because the level of untidiness has passed ‘interesting’ and landed on ‘chaotic’. Not Insta friendly.

Possibly I will go and browse Pinterest for Marie Kondo tips. Possibly I will fall asleep on my keyboard and wake up to find house elves have organised everything for me. Possibly it’s time for a YouTube playlist and some elbow grease.

While I’m off alphabetising labels, you can find my Etsy here (and if you’re in the UK, get free P&P on orders over £8 with SNOWFLAKE16). PLEASE ORDER SOON SO I CAN WORK OUT HOW MANY ENVELOPES TO PANIC-BUY THANK YOU. You’ll also get free worldwide postage from Friday through Monday on all individually-listed postcards, because I have lots of spare postcards of designs I don’t print any more and looking at them all lonely makes me anxious.

Seriously please take them.

YALC feat. my hair

Remind me to never ask you guys’ opinion ever again.

Moving swiftly on.

Question: who’s going to YALC this Sunday?

Answer: me.

I’ll be signing autographs at 2pm. Look for pink/blue/purple/still mostly brown hair if you want to say hi, because I’ll be the one wearing it. I’ll also be clutching my copy of The Raven King to present to Maggie Stiefvater. It’s dogeared already because I sometimes read it in the bath. If you say hi, do not mention the bath. Compliment my dungarees or whatever I’ll be wearing to deal with the weather (could be a ski jacket by this weekend, who knows).

I have to go back to my quarter-life crisis now, which today has been exacerbated by Horrific 2016-Worthy News StoriesTM and half an hour counting the float for my craft fair on Saturday which I didn’t even need to do because I did it after the last fair. I also booked my drivers’ theory test yesterday for very soon and I’m just starting to comprehend that a) it’s very soon and b) my knowledge of road signs and motorway etiquette is almost as bad as my knowledge of when it’s okay to go at a roundabout.

I suppose that when I pass both tests I’ll be able to drive away from the crises.

Behind the Scenes, Friday 13th Edition

So it was on this very day, sort of, that I released my Ghost Stories zines last year. If you haven’t read them – and you should – they’re full of short stories, advice columns, quirky advertisements and art all pertaining to death, the afterlife and magic. And I hadn’t even heard of Maggie Stiefvater then. Anyway, I don’t have a Volume IV to share with you all, but I have made even more ridiculous death/the afterlife/magic work since, so I thought I would take today to share a bit about how and why I ended up with so many macabre-ish, funny-ish arty-ish things in my portfolio.

Ghost Stories

A couple of years ago I wrote a (very) little story for The Story Shack about something that in retrospect sounds suspiciously like the church watch on St Mark’s Eve. It was sitting by itselfie on the internet and last January I noticed that 2015 contained three Friday 13ths. I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and it’s useful to have solid deadlines, so I thought I could do a project to practise my Photoshop, actually write and maybe have a laugh. My friend Ruby, who proofread, had less of a laugh. By 13th November I had three relatively well-formed zines, a more thorough understanding of the YouTube playlist format and a healthy respect for the black and white filters on Photoshop. I kind of love Ghost Stories – I mean, I also hate it because I read it back and think ‘ew’ – but it’s the first thing I made after I finished school for the hell (ha) of it, and it reminded me why the term ‘black humour’ warms my soul. Now go warm your soul.

Ghost Stories Volume I by Francesca Burke

 

Hell’s Belles

You know that feeling when you’ve recently quit a job, rediscovered supernatural YA novels and decided to dye your hair pink and commit to being a full time eccentric? Last autumn I tried to supplement my income with waitressing, which to cut a long story short was not the career for me. When I rejiggled my freelancing so I could afford-ish to go back to marketing full time, I realised how much I valued being my own boss, muttering swearwords, blasting Fall Out Boy and making ridiculous things because I could. There’s a stall in Southend high street selling home accessories that say things like ‘eat glitter for breakfast and shine all day’, ‘life’s a journey’, etc.; I always wanted to paint them black and ad lib… so I did.

I even made stickers. Hell’s Belles – which was also influenced heavily by the pastel goth tag, 9 years of listening to My Chemical Romance and the exact colour I wanted my hair – is one of my favourite lines on my Etsy. It’s weird, either offensive or funny depending on your sense of humour and made of everything I’ve been interested in over the last couple of years: magic, cynicism, cursing, cynical cursing and inspirational Instagram posts.

I have a suspicion I’ll make more of one or more of the above. Look out around Halloween.

In Which I Learn to Spell Chrysanthemum

It’s tipping it down, the lamps are on, Donnie was recently rescued, drenched, from the patio and if life were perfect, I would be settling into a morning of writing prose, possibly about a haunted house or murder mystery. There’s that sort of light in the house, you know.

Instead I am thinking of settling into half an hour of writing then getting a snack and settling into a few hours of Instagram scheduling, blog drafting (the client kind, not the yelling about Donald Trump kind) and wishing I had a different desk chair. Still, if life were perfect then I would have nothing to talk about here and then where would you all be? Miserably clicking through my smug updates about meeting publishers to arrange a release date for my haunted house murder mystery. Boring.

I loathe grey weather, unless I’m snug inside writing or in a field and can pretend I’m in an action thriller with rolling clouds and dramatic music, so I thought I would share some spring photos. I got these flowers in Aldi at Easter and they aren’t dead yet – which feels like an accomplishment even though all I’ve done is add water to the vase occasionally, and I’m not even the only one in the house doing it – and they’re bright enough to cheer up even a grotty Friday in Southend, so thank you budget supermarket. As I finished this paragraph the rain stopped and the sun peaked through the clouds, so the garden actually looks quite bright and pleasant. It won’t last.

In the time it’s taken to upload these photos, the rain’s started again. I can hear thunder. Right, what should I call my murder mystery?

A Tourist’s Guide to Being a Tourist: Gallery Different, Central London

If I was one of those people who values their worth by the artistic talent and/or success of their friends, I’d probably think quite a lot of myself. I do think quite a lot of myself. I’m not sure how I’ve done it, but most of my friends are into illustration, game design, writing or something similar (no interpretive dancers as of yet). A week or so ago I visited Gallery Different in Percy Street, which is in Fitzrovia. My friend Bernadette is part of an exhibition until 20th September of work by the Society of Women Artists, so we went for a private viewing (different from a public viewing in that they served wine and I got to meet some of the artists themselves).

This is one of Bernadette's paintings.
This is one of Bernadette’s paintings.

Sweet little dude, huh? This is her website, although if you really want to know what her paintings are like then you should pop round mine for a cup of tea since her work is in almost every room in the house excluding bathrooms (so far). In fact, if you want to commission her then drop me a line and I’ll have a word tomorrow morning when we walk the dogs. Incidentally, she did a portrait of Fred a few years ago and he looks very stately and not at all like he’s the sort of dog who nicks your slippers. I do, however, have video evidence of that.

Anyway, back to the art. Lots of women are currently showing their work at Gallery Different; my other favourite artist was probably Rosa Sepple, who knows how to depict a good night out. My nan, who came too, bought one of these pictures. I can’t remember which but I reckon anyone sneaking around her living room is going to get a fright when they turn on the lights and see a giant cartoon of poultry watching them.

Event and Place Gallery Different, Fitzrovia, London

Cost Apart from the train tickets and food we got afterwards, it was free. I’ve never been to a gallery that charges to go through the door, although the art itself isn’t exactly the price you’d pay for a canvas print in B&Q.

Food It was a private viewing so they served wine. I don’t think it’s something they do everyday.

Other people I wore nice shoes so I could pretend I was fancy and regretted it when my toes got squashed walking from the tube to the gallery. Judging by the people who were there, you can wear anything you like since it’s an art gallery and the more eccentric you look, the more people think you’re a Serious Artist. The gallery itself is in quite a nice part of the city so you might get a few art snobs wandering about, which are fun to watch although I can never be sure whether I want to engage them in conversation. 8/10 for people watching, 10/10 for things to look at. Possibly not the best place to visit if you’re uninterested in art.