Oh I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside…

This morning I saw Southend-on-Sea mentioned in not one but two legitimate news stories. In the first, Southend made a list of the UK’s most polluted towns and cities. But there’s a coast right there with a strong wind to blow away all the fumes! It’s not even as crowded as most cities! I hear you say. Have you ever sat in a mile of idling traffic on the A127 at rush hour? I respond. If you open a window your snot will turn black. Also, have you noticed the number of housing developments in the borough? There’s about half a cubic foot of air per person in some of those flats. 

The second story was worse: Southend has the lowest rate of pay in the UK. I kind of feel like that might be down to the fact there are only really two main industries, hospitality and public services, and neither of those are famous for paying any more then they are legally forced to. I would have added retail to that sentence, but Southend high street has more closed shops than it does open ones… I saw a link to a spoof article the other day about Southend being closed for good in 2020 and my first thought wasn’t ‘oh, a spoof!’ it was ‘they’re planning on waiting until 2020?’ Walking down the high street for some shopping is like braving a weed-tinged apocalypse.

I can’t find statistics to back this up, but I recently heard a rumour that Southend has the highest number of start ups in the UK, so I suppose there’s that. Obviously as soon as these innovative new enterprises get funding they will move to Hackney or Salford and spend the rest of their days telling people that they’re from ‘just outside London’, by which time Southend’s public parks and cemeteries will have been bulldozed to build luxury flats for commuters who have no other choice but to move to somewhere with high pollution levels and no high street, because every London borough will be full of empty houses registered to owners in Panama.

Has anyone thought of building flats on the end of Southend Pier? It would lessen the need to cross the QEII bridge into Kent everyday… Or perhaps we could apply for a change in housing regulations, so families could live in the beach huts on the seafront. I mean, it’s not as though Millennials need living rooms. Just chuck us in a shed on stilts and we’ll work out the rest…

I’m not generally a fan of Morrissey, but I’m going to leave this here – it’s a reminder of the good old days, when you could take a car into the centre of town without applying for a bank loan:

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In which I rant gently about Radio 4 and complete my transformation into salty old woman

Evening. Or, morning. It’s 12:33am, which is probably supposed to be the time 22 year-olds roll into a club or something, but I’m in bed listening to Radio 4. My mum has her friends round, so intermittent cackling and cursing is floating up the stairs, my room is really effing warm and my neighbours have one of those automatic garden lights that’s so bright I can see my entire bedroom with almost perfect clarity when it’s on, which is ALL THE TIME.

I made the mistake of necking a few gin and tonics earlier, which was fun when I was downstairs before the friends turned up but after they sat down to dinner and the cackling started, I realised that a) gin kind of just makes being alone in your bedroom on a Friday night while your mother entertains more heinously depressing and b) I can’t drive anywhere to alleviate said depression. Also, Avicci is dead and I just heard one of his songs on Radio 4. Nothing about that sentence suggests the existence of a benevolent god with humanity’s best interests at heart.

Thinking about it now, I clipped the Ford Focus on someone’s wing mirror this afternoon and hurt my hands writing this week, so all things considered I absolutely should have gone out tonight. Possibly to Southend Airport and on a flight somewhere far away. I keep waiting for the cackling to subside, but I always forget that these things get louder as they go on, and there was about 12 litres of wine in the kitchen earlier so between that and the garden light from hell I will probably get to sleep sometime next autumn. Even the late-night Facebook lurk has lost its shine: one gin makes it funny but after four all you can really think is ‘why am I associated with these people and their pathological desire to check in to an event no one cares they went to also what the fuck is up with friends tagging other friends in memes but not responding to my message from several days ago?’

Then again, I’m telling you all that I’m sitting in bed at five minutes to one in the morning with a group of post-menopausal women for a soundtrack and the beginnings of a mild hangover, so. HAPPY WEEKEND!

Radio 4 always plays the national anthem at 1am and whenever I hear it I assume the Queen has died. I don’t know why I’m telling you this, except one day the Queen will actually have died and I’ll probably assume it’s just time to swap to the Word Service or some shit. For some reason I get really anxious when I think about the Queen dying. I think because literally every human being on earth has heard of the Queen and most of them have access to social media. God, Piers Morgan’s going to be even worse than normal. The Mail is going to actually spontaneously combust. One or more of my mother’s downstairs friends will probably imply that no one born after 1970 has any real understanding of the monarchy and The Donald will be forced to admit that he doesn’t know what the word ‘ascension’ means. Then again, with a bit of luck Her Majesty will outlive him. Or North Korea will change their minds about nuclear disarmament and the world will end before the Queen can.

If the above paragraph doesn’t convey just how much I should go to sleep, nothing will. I think I might make an eye mask out of some pyjamas and ear plugs out of… ear plugs. Night!

Saturday evening update: they left at 1:30am. I got to sleep at about 3am ish and woke up at seven. Today was tough but I recovered by buying a new pair of Doc Martens and some Birkenstocks, necking a milkshake and procuring a chequered blazer. Highly recommended.

How Not To Run An Etsy Shop (Or Your Life) | Part One of Many, Probably

Saturnalia/Roman mythology-inspired Christmas card, green and grey on white card. Landscape.

Embarrassing story time, people. Almost too embarrassing for the Internet, actually, but I don’t have anything else as remotely entertaining to talk about, so make a cup of tea and bask in my idiocy…

A bit of back story: I’ve been working on my Etsy every day for the last few weeks, including evenings and weekends, because I’ve had some headaches with bugs on the site and I’ve been ordering stock in for people and planning for an Etsy Made Local Christmas market in Chelmsford in a couple of weeks. Oh, and I’m planning for that Black Friday-Cyber Monday migraine-inducing online shopping behemoth. I also went down to Brighton last week to see my brother and I knew I had to place an order for a variety of Christmas cards (a totally new item for me, from a new supplier) before I went, so I ended up placing the order on the Saturday before I travelled down. I got the invoice while I was in Brighton and paid straight away – very entrepreneurial, ten points to Francesca for remembering her iPad and bank info – and voila they arrived today!

Today’s quality was already hanging in the balance because I was taking endless Christmas product photos, on not a lot of sleep, and had one of those to-do list that doesn’t end, like one of those snakes that eats its own tail. I had also had absolutely no contact from the supplier, except for a delivery time, since I placed the order – despite phoning them up and leaving a message like it’s 2003 – so there was an element of ‘did I pay this invoice or have I wired my money into thin air?’ Anyway. The cards arrived. The delivery man was nice.

Back story to the back story: I’ve had really bad luck with suppliers in the past. Items have arrived damaged or not at all, usually when I’ve needed them for an event. So before I opened the parcel I ran through the worst case scenario: that my designs had come out badly and the cards themselves were damaged.

I opened the parcel.

The cards were fine. Correct quality, correct quantity. Except the Saturnalia design was wrong. I’d ordered the design in landscape, not portrait. My sample was in landscape. I photographed and listed it as landscape. These cards were… definitely portrait.

Saturnalia/Roman mythology-inspired Christmas card, green and grey on white card. Landscape.
The sample
Saturnalia/Roman mythology-inspired Christmas card, green and grey on white card. Portrait design.
The reality

That phrase ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ should really be ‘the minor inconvenience that gave the sole trader a nervous breakdown’ because I was bitterly disappointed. There’s no time to return them before Etsy Made Local! People are waiting on these cards! Okay technically no one had pre-ordered them, but what if they had? Am I doomed to select awkward suppliers until I bankrupt myself? Luckily I am obstinate determined so I took new photos and updated my listings, had a hot chocolate and waited until I’d calmed down to compose an email to the supplier expressing my disappointment in their service. Before I wrote it I did a quick check to confirm I hadn’t sent the design in portrait by accident.

I could not find the landscape version of the design on my computer.

I decided the pre-Black Friday stress was getting to me. I definitely designed a landscape version of the card. I had the identical design as a postcard last year. The sample I ordered was landscape. I designed it landscape.

Didn’t I?

It turns out, dear reader, that I did make a landscape version for the card company. It’s tucked away in my Etsy folder, no where near my other mythology design files. I also made a portrait version, ages ago, when I first played around with folded card designs.

I sent the wrong file. I spent at least fifteen minutes of my life mentally writing a strongly-worded complaint to a company that, lack of communication notwithstanding, has done its job. I was so exhausted and fed up that I ran through the scenario of retiring stationery lines entirely, and wondered what would happen if I didn’t do anything for Black Friday at all. I contemplated taking a holiday that weekend to somewhere with no computers.

Oops.

I’ve recovered from the ignominy of it all enough to tell you guys, because clearly I have potential to run a side blog called How Not To Run An Etsy Shop (Or Your Life), and I’m going to have a bath and chill out with my dogs and assume that the entire world will keep turning regardless of the orientation of some atheist Christmas cards. Oh and I’m going to remind you all to go to the Mythology Mayhem and Grumpy Greetings sections of my shop, where you will find several listings for quality, 100%-recycled-cardstock Christmas cards at very reasonable prices. UK postage is free, by the way, and orders over £10 internationally will ship free until 30th November.

And yeah, I’ve left the original landscape photos on the listing thumbnails for now. I like the added use of stamps and it was too dark to play around with the portrait ones this afternoon. I updated the listing info and called the mishap a ‘printing error’. ‘Human error’ is more accurate, but I’m going to cut myself some slack and stop working Saturdays as soon as Christmas is over. Only 41 sleeps til Santa you guys!

Pour me a gin and tonic.

Are You There, Internet? It’s Me Again.

I came back from a walk this afternoon and did some admin, then thought ‘I would like to write a blog.’ I didn’t get much further than that (topic? Title? Relevance to target audience?) but I’ll take what I can get, so I made a hot chocolate and sat down to say hello. So far I’m really into the hot chocolate.

Right, so, hello. It’s been a while. Well it hasn’t really, but a lot has happened since I last wrote, and in my head I had to post. You see that monthly archives list in the sidebar? That lists every single month from November 2009, because I have posted here every single month since November 2009. In the back of my mind I’ve always been convinced that if I miss a month, I’ve failed. I don’t know why I’ve never mentioned this before now – I think probably because it’s slightly vain but also quite depressing. Look, kids, that girl ties her self worth to a blog archive that she can choose to remove from her website! Part of my mini break was to reclaim some headspace, and I think that writing honestly will help with that, so there you go. I nurse fragile self worth and high standards no one else cares about! Well, that felt… suitably awkward to write. Now I think about it, I’ve probably written a lot of blogs with dubious levels of honesty, but I think that might be something to explore in another post. For now, let me catch you up on everything that’s been going on since my last blog. Now I sit and think about it, I’ve been busy in a good way:

Operation Instagrammable Bedroom is going well! I have a desk now, and I’m in the midst of spray painting shelves. The actual bedroom part is a bit doubtful, because my lack of shelving until this point has allowed me to give into my messier inclinations and leave stuff on the floor. I added some art to the wall as soon as the desk was in, and I can’t wait to decorate it more:

Office Decration
Seen here: correspondence from friends (and Cuba), two fandoms worth of art, my old designs and a postcard from Chantal Claret.

I’ve been hard at work on Francesca’s Words and I’m going to tell you all about it. Another weird thing in my head was that I couldn’t blog too much about running my Etsy, because it would be self serving and sound as though I were begging for business. The back of my head is an idiot: this entire blog is self serving and so is my shop. My name is literally on the door. God. So, in the last few weeks I’ve made a couple of big changes. The first is that I now offer free UK postage on everything in the entire shop. There’s no messing about with coupons or links either. At the moment it’s just a trial, but so far people seem to be pretty into it. I’ve also been designing new products and re-designing old ones, and I recently swapped banks. I know how boring that sounds (okay, I know how adult and therefore unpalatable that sounds) but the fresh start has spurred me on to take another look at my business practices, my running costs and my goals. Other than ‘make enough money to take regular overseas trips’, I want Francesca’s Words to be a stopping place for anyone who’s fed up with shit stationery and patronising greetings and gifts. No one likes giving crap birthday cards, and no one should have to spend a fortune on a nice notebook. Enter, me. You’re welcome.

I actually downloaded that social media blocking app. It really works, too. I’m on the wrong side of broke at the moment because I didn’t have my publishing internship for most of July, so I might have to stop paying for it for a bit, but I can already feel my bad habits edging away. I’m still doing Headspace with relative frequency too, and I’m trying to work my physiotherapy back into my daily routine. I’ve found it helps to pretend I’m in physio because I’m a medal-winning Olympian and not a Millennial who spent too long texting as a teenager. I spend an hour or so each evening writing and it’s going well, although I keep oversleeping the next day. Oh how one suffers for one’s art.

Oh, I also rang up my car insurance firm yesterday, mere hours after receiving an email detailing my ridiculous bill for the next ten months, and instead of ignoring it I put the bill onto a direct debit in my designated ‘car shit’ bank account. Look at me, finding solutions to problems!

I’m going to take a small break from my desk now – I have a stool instead of a chair for the moment and comfy it is not. I’m not sure when I’ll next blog, or what it will be about. I’d like to keep posting my Asia blogs, and I’d like to talk more about running Francesca’s Words alongside everything else I’ve got going on, and I’d like to reach 2012 levels of participation from my readers. Fun fact: Indifferent Ignorance peaked, audience wise, five years ago. Do you have any idea what it feels like knowing that your 16 year old self was better crowd draw than you are? Hint: it’s a bit like watching Usain Bolt lose a race to an athlete with questionable morals. You can’t do anything about the situation but seriously?

Look at me, getting all current events-y. This has been fun. See you soon.

Brownout & Beige Sofas (I’m taking a mini-break)

I’m thinking of taking a holiday. But you already had a giant holiday in Asia, you can’t just live on holiday! Not that sort of holiday (although Southend Airport has announced flights to Malta, so if you hear about me making any bad financial decisions, it will involve a payday loan and a budget flight to Valletta). Since I got home I’ve been on a job-searching-life-affirming-I-will-spend-my-days-doing-things-I-love-let’s-have-a-fresh-start mission, and so far it’s gone pretty well. I have two internships, new hair – well, new colour in my hair – fewer ugly clothes in my wardrobe and a new car. Taking a break from my Etsy really helped me get some perspective and it’s doing better than ever. There’s loads of freshness! New things! New me!

Except this afternoon I trudged back from town wearing a pair of tracksuit bottoms that really should not leave the house, and I felt exactly the same as I did when I was freelancing. I was still worrying about my bank balance, I was still working eleven hour days and sleeping through alarms. I had the precise feeling that made me go to Asia and look for a fresh start in the first place. The only way I can describe it is that it’s the emotional equivalent of a beige sofa. There is nothing wrong with a beige sofa. Plenty of people are very happy with beige sofas. I’m just never going to willingly own a beige sofa. It’s fucking beige.

Now my savings are gone and because I’m refusing to do anything that isn’t relevant to my career interests, the internships are all I’ve got for the moment; I’m earning a lot less than I was before I went travelling. I should mention that the eleven hour days are entirely my own fault – since I still have so much free time I’m putting together a business plan for my shop and swapping banks doing all the behind-the-scenes business shit that I might not have time for in a few months. So although everything is pointing in the right direction, I’m still pressed for cash and stressing out about it. I’ve even started stressing out about stressing out, which is a new low.

I read that there’s a thing people get called ‘brownout’. Unlike burnout, which is a recognised condition, brownout is what they’re calling it when you’re technically fine – you’re putting in the hours, you care, you’re miles away from a breakdown – but you’re overwhelmed and disengaged. Even though you’re checking your email 8000 times a day and #poweringon, you’re not actually getting that much done. Apparently technology and a change in work patterns since the recession is to blame. Wonderful.

I think I’ve got a touch of brownout. In retrospect think I might have had reoccurring bouts of it over the years, but you can’t really beg time off work because you’re feeling a little lethargic. Also, I love to work. I could spend all day working on my Etsy listings or drafting blog posts or whatever. I’ve got an empire to build and a new car to pay for and I will see you tomorrow at 8am!

Back to the holiday. Regardless of whether or not I’ve just diagnosed myself with a problem that may or may not actually exist, I think I need to rethink my working practises. The empire won’t get built if I’m too busy thinking about how I don’t want my life to be a beige sofa. Even with all the free time, I’m not writing that much more than I was before I went away. I’m still struggling for blog ideas and wearing ghastly tracksuit bottoms. This was not part of the plan. So this weekend and next week I’m going to take a mini-holiday. I’m going to turn off my pointless alarms, see my family at my cousin’s 21st and decide how I want to proceed with the empire building. I think I might start with an out-of-hours notice on my email accounts and an app that blocks Twitter after 9pm.

Has anyone else experienced this? Do you have any tips? I’ve never kept hours before. What are normal hours? HELP. I’ll get back to you, um, within two-to-three working days?!

There’s a Metaphor About Burning Yourself Here Somewhere

I feel like Calamity Jane this week. Is Calamity Jane the one who’s really clumsy? I might be thinking of someone else. Calamity Jane’s the one in the musical? Anyway, the watchword is ‘calamity’. I burnt my wrist on a oven tray last Friday and it bubbled up into one of those blisters that you really want to touch, then I wore a pair of Doc Martens that I’ve only half worn in and shredded the backs of my ankles. We’ve been moving things in and out of different rooms because we’re getting new carpets, so everything I own is in the wrong place, and every time I tread on a cushion or a stray CD, I think I’ve trodden on a dog. I have also trodden on a dog.

So, Calamity Jane. I test-drove a new car the other day (well, an old car. And old new car) and I haven’t driven in weeks and everything felt different and god that’s reverse gear please don’t let me hit a curb or a person. I can’t remember if I’ve ever told the Saga of Me Learning to Drive – it’s going to take an entire blog and possibly a gin and tonic – but the long and short of it is, I recently decided that I required a vehicular fresh start. I probably also require CBT, but that’s for the Saga. In the way these things usually go, I went from ‘casually looking at cars that would suit me’ last week to ‘signing off on a car I think suits me’ yesterday. It took me approximately six weeks to decide to go to Asia, and three months to settle on which hair colour I wanted, so I feel slightly shell shocked. What if I didn’t ask all the questions I should have at the dealer? What if I didn’t need a new car and just needed CBT? Where do you get CBT? Why is this all happening before I have a guaranteed annual income?

Realistically I could be interning for the next six months, so that last question is more a philosophical one I ponder in the shower. I’m also really fortunate that I have time to look for a car and move things out of different rooms and nurse my bubbly blister – if I had to be out of the house by eight am every weekday, I wouldn’t even have been cooking something that required an oven tray. All I have to do to get the most out of my unemployment is not look at my bank balance. Or leave the house for any activity that might result in a change to my bank balance.

Tom and Jerry cartoon fishbowl
Seen here: a portrait of me after I’ve made a list of what I need to buy, checked my bank statement then decided not to leave the house after all. The fishbowl is a metephor, geddit. [from Twitter]
I really ought to get on with something on my to do list… options include writing a bunch of emails, organising everything that’s currently in a desk and will have to be in a box, sorting out car insurance and checking my social media plan for Etsy.

Oh, and ‘not engaging with idiots on Facebook who keep posting passive aggressive anti-Islam bullshit next to a bad graphic of a poppy’. I need to be out of the house by eight am every day if I’m ever going to be exhausted enough to completely ignore those fuckers.

Grasping at Straws (okay, leaflets)

Today I spent four hours in a virtual queue waiting for tickets for The Cursed Child, only to spend my allotted twenty minutes of browsing time searching fruitlessly for the right number of tickets on the right number of days in the correct type of seats.

So ‘miffed’ doesn’t really cover it.

Frank Iero gif
from Tumblr

Anyway, the good news: I made some things to help you survive – and, dare I say it, thrive – during the upcoming general election.

Here’s something to encourage the youth in your family to vote:

Students' Guide to Voting General Election 2017

Here’s something to help you all decide how to vote:

Ho Do I Hate Least Political Party Comparison

My constituency hasn’t announced its candidates yet (something tells me the Conservatives will win) but I’m considering the Women’s Independence Party. Or signing up for that Mars mission. You can buy and print those designs here if you want (actual prints are coming this week, hopefully) so you can spread the democracy and all that. I suppose if someone decides to vote after seeing them, or if the shop makes some money on them, the current state of British politics won’t be entirely a waste of human intelligence…

I was going to come up with a title to this but I started listening to Wham! while I went through ideas and now I’m too into Wham! to come up with anything.

Guardians of the Galaxy is on at half eight, so I have a finite amount of time to start and finish this, unlike every post I’ve worked on this week, which has basically been me trying to remember how to write about something that doesn’t involve a bus journey or jet lag. I still feel a bit like I’m at home in a foreign land – I nearly came out of a junction on the right side of the road yesterday morning, and I had entirely forgotten that teenagers in Southend enjoy shouting abuse at their elders (me). Usefully, surviving three months in a foreign land has imparted a large dose of self confidence, so I no longer feel it would be inappropriate to shout back. I had missed giving the finger.

Tom and Jerry gif
from Twitter

My job search is going well, insofar as I haven’t had many rejections. I have not had any interview invitations yet, which is a fly in the ointment, but I had also forgotten how much I enjoy making Excel spreadsheets and striving for professional greatness. By that I mean I would like to land a paid internship, if possible, or a job that offers a salary large enough that I might be able to replace all the clothes I’m throwing out. I had a look in the shops the other day and it might be cheaper to fly to Bangkok with a large suitcase and hang out in the markets until I’ve replaced my wardrobe than it is to visit Topshop. Why are cold shoulder tops still a thing? What’s up with jeans that have been ripped during the manufacturing process? GO BACKPACKING AND RIP YOUR OWN DAMN JEANS.

Oops I’m doing it again. This has been happening all week. I think that subconsciously I’m worried that I’ll fall back into the Great 2015 Blogging Pit of Despair and Creative Frustration if I don’t keep talking about the only interesting thing that’s happened to me since I passed my eleven plus. To be honest, I’m worried that Asia might be the only interesting thing that’s going to happen to me, and that I’ll go back into the Great 2015 General Pit of Despair and Creative Frustration. I like how I felt when I came home. I like that I was relaxed and rested and enthusiastic about everything. Even throwing out clothes! In the 12 days since I’ve been back, my arms have ached from the cold so much that I thought I might need to go back to physio, I’ve forgotten to exercise and meditate virtually every day and I’ve shouted abuse at teenagers in the high street. They were little shits who needed to find hobbies, but still. I don’t want to fossilise into a grumpy, arthritic unemployed old lady. Or not until I’m at least thirty, anyway.

That’s why I’m going to dye my hair purple, go back to my old Pilates class and share my writing more. I’ve just finished working on a thing. It’s a pretty okay thing. I don’t know where I’ll put it yet, but I’ll put it out somewhere before I decide it’s not good enough. I’m going to finish up those blogs I started. I’m going to exercise enough that I won’t need to go to physio. I’m going to keep talking about Asia, probably. I’m never going back to the 2015 Pits of Despair.

I have to go because Guardians is on in a minute and that paragraph ending feels really dramatic. BYE.