Category Archives: Life

The Heart of Art

The two things I love the most in the world are the arts, and community arts.

The arts I love because they are the thing which makes us humans so unique. We create beautiful, thought-provoking, subversive things and then we share them with other people and that makes them happy, or widens their perspective, or teaches them something. And we do it out of sheer brainpower diverted into a huge range of creative pursuits.

I firmly believe art is one of the most significant things we contribute to the universe, and the fact that our government continues to devalue it, as does the world in general, is so painful to watch.

But that’s where my second favourite thing comes in, which is community arts. Because what is more pure than taking the arts, and making them for everyone. I worry that we will never reach a place where artists and their skill are truly valued (we still constantly offer people “exposure” or “experience” instead of “money” in the arts) but the beauty of community arts is that those of us who know the arts will never be our profession can still get involved. Singing, dancing, pottery or poetry, there are more and more community-led opportunities springing up than ever before.

Community arts, and community in general, is really important to me, because as our world declines into political chaos, there is less and less hope of the government ensuring that arts are any kind of priority (or welfare provision, or equality and inclusion, or really anything we care about and actually value, but whatever. Y’all wanna go spend our money on missiles, FINE. We’ll sort out our own stuff). So we have to do it ourselves. We have to create space and opportunities which allow everyone to get involved and access creativity which broadens their horizons.

There’s only one way it works though, and that’s if everyone gets on board. So, here’s the deal. If you have a concert, a show, a display or a workshop, let me know, and I will do my best to come. If you run a raffle or a fundraiser, I’ll buy tickets or buy in. And in return, you have to do the same with every opportunity you see.

Community arts is thriving, but it needs the community to be fully behind it if that is going to continue. We need an audience, we need participants, and we need supporters.

No room in frame (a #metoo story)

I’ve been listening to a great podcast called Invisibilia. It’s all about the things which inherently connect us, but we never really think about or see, and it’s totally fascinating (aside from being well researched and produced, which is always a plus).

The episode I listened to on my walk to work today was about individual frame of reference, and how important it is to how we see and process the world around us, and after a couple of other conversations today, it has really struck a chord. The first section focused on a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, and their realisations about their perceptions of the world vs the perceptions of those around them.

It got me thinking, because while I don’t have Asperger’s, I know I process the world differently from other people. I really struggle to find commonality with my peers, and regularly catch myself thinking of myself as outside of the conversation. These things don’t belong to me, I don’t understand these experiences, they are not for me to engage in, enjoy, bear witness to. It’s not active, or purposeful, it’s just part of my psyche.

And it’s not that I think my experiences are different necessarily, not in a way that is more valuable than someone else’s. It’s the opposite in fact – I feel like I have not had any experiences to the level whereby I can use them to help define myself.

My personal frame of reference is quite broad. I have experienced a range of different socio-economic environments, a range of political viewpoints, an international family and upbringing, and diverse lived experiences. But maybe because of that diversity, I feel like my experience is very shallow. Without meaning to be offensive to any readers, I’d say my life has been consistently mediocre and unremarkable.

So, what are you rambling on about then?

Part of what I realised today, is that due to my own perception of the mediocrity of my existence, and my tendency to other myself, I diminish many of my experiences simply because they are diminished within my own frame of reference.

Here’s my example. A number of times in my life, I have been sexually harassed. It’s never been extreme, I’ve never felt fundamentally unsafe, and I’ve never lost control of the situation. I’ve told my harassers what I thought of them, or ignored them, and I’ve moved on with my life. It has not massively bothered me.

I don’t know why it hasn’t bothered me. But there’s something about my personal frame of reference which means that I haven’t reacted to it, other than to say that it wasn’t a big deal, plenty of people have it much worse, I was probably perfectly safe.

And then today I listened to my podcast, and realised that just because I don’t think it’s a big deal, doesn’t mean that someone else will feel the same way. Which is not to say that if you have an experience you are in any way required to disclose that. But if it makes no difference to you, but might make a difference to someone else, then maybe it’s a thing worth considering.

I do not feel like I have a place in the #metoo movement, and writing this post hasn’t changed that. I still feel like my experiences are vastly diminished in comparison with those of many people. But we live in a world where we perpetuate negative activities by pretending they are a one-off, or that they are unimportant, simply because they don’t feature in our personal frame of reference. And our inability to stand in another person’s place and have empathy with them is allowing people like Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh and hundreds of others to get away with unspeakable things.

So you know what, #metoo.

Secret Boudoir, Ultimate Man Cave, Apocalypse Bunker

If you haven’t watched “Amazing Interiors” on Netflix then I thoroughly recommend it. It has been a long day, but now I get to relax and watch a mad American transform a field of bunkers into luxury survival palaces, while a little Italian man expounds his love of faux-baroque design in totally comical French.

It does remind me, however, that I really need to do something with my house. Not that I haven’t done *things* since I moved in, it’s just I haven’t really got round to many of the fun things. I’ve repaired the roof (or rather a fully qualified team of people repaired my roof), I’ve had wiring checked and amended, and I’ve had meters installed. But that’s not fun.

The next plan is to sort out the kitchen. It needs a couple of coats at least of magnolia or cream, to brighten it up and to cover the greasy hand-marks left by my predecessor’s kids. I’m looking forward to getting my Cinderella poster up on the wall, though the fact that it is 5 and a half years since the show is a bit of a sore point.

Next, I’ll move onto the office, which is currently a very fetching shade of yellow. I haven’t decided yet what to do with it, so all suggestions are welcomed – it just needs to continue to house all of my many things, so I’ll probably be avoiding busy wallpaper and things (though there is one wall which is a contender for Marvel wallpaper – depending on quite how young I’m feeling on the day).

In the meantime though, I’ll keep watching Amazing Interiors and making plans for the madness I can inject into my tiny piece of land – maybe by hiding exciting graffiti behind every door, or painting all of the ceilings gold. The possibilities are endless.

Craft Corner

This week I have been *tired*. I mean it. Today I was basically a zombie at work all day. I can’t tell you a single thing I did (but I can tell you that I definitely did lots of work – hi there any colleagues reading this).

I’ve been that kind of tired where your body just feels a bit too old for your skin. Everything aches, my eyes can’t focus properly, getting off the sofa every evening to go to bed has felt like a trial.

And then, I got home this evening and suddenly had all the energy.

So, I made a pinafore dress out of all the jeans I’ve recently ruined. I ruin jeans fairly often because I have Thighs For Days. I think if I were body-confident and also 10 years younger I’d potentially describe them as thicc. Instead, I’ll just go ahead and describe them as “fairly stocky”. For a tiny little lady, I have quite a lot of thigh, and my cheap high-street jeans just cannot cope.

The big issue with women’s clothing (as we know) is lack of pockets, so I decided I’d make a dress out of all the bits of the jeans which include pockets. I chopped out a number of panels before deciding that really the only pockets I wanted to keep were the back pockets (sensible patch pockets without additional faff, basically). I saved the waistbands to make the straps, because they are already the right shape, and the buttons make for handy fastenings.

Ultimately, it’s not exactly the height of fashion, but it has pockets pockets pockets, and it’s dead comfy.  And having had absolutely no energy all week, I’ll take whatever results I can get.

(Not a professional model, or photographer, just to clarify)

Starter Pack

Straight out of 2014 (because I absolutely do not conform to trends/am always quite late to everything because of who I am as a person) I decided it might be fun to create a ‘Sally’ starter pack.

I honestly don’t know why, but it’s Sunday and I’m not really that interested in the football, so you’re welcome.

So now you know how you can get my life in just a few simple steps (which I know is what you’ve all been waiting for, you’re [doubly] welcome)

Get Found

I love getting lost. Not “I-was-meant-to-arrive-half-an-hour-ago-and-I-still-can’t-get-off-this-ring-road” lost (a frequent type of lost I encounter), but the kind of lost where you’re wandering along and then look up and realise you’re somewhere new and interesting. The kind of place you only find accidentally, probably because you’re already lost in your own thoughts.

I hate feeling lost, however, which I feel increasingly often. Sometimes it feels like the world is moving very quickly and I’m struggling to keep up, and I don’t have people there to egg me on in the same way, or help me work out which direction to go when I get confused and scared. Or rather, I have some people, and those people are great (cheers to those people) but they can’t always be there, and sometimes I lose them as well accidentally, and then it’s all just a whole bundle of lost.

So, like everything in my life (apparently), I’ve approached it from a linguistic point of view. Why am I worried about feeling lost, or being lost? Maybe I should just be focusing on getting found.

And before we continue, let’s clarify what we mean by get found. I am not looking for talent scouts. Photos of me are not posted somewhere on the internet (except here, and Facebook, and Instagram, and…shut up). I just mean getting that feeling of comfort you get when you’re in a place you know really well, or with people you know really well. Warm and fuzzy and home.

A great way to get found is to make everywhere feel like home, so I’ve been paying more attention when I walk. Which is more impressive when you remember quite how obsessive I am about my surroundings and seeing new and interesting things (for reference, my instagram)

I know that 10 years down the line (if blogging/the internet/the Earth still exists then) this is going to be one of those posts that I look back on and cringe, but right now, this is the thing I want to capture. Sometimes, life is scary, and it takes you in directions you weren’t expecting which almost always means you don’t end up where you’d planned. Don’t let it get to you. You don’t have to feel lost, you can find yourself (this is the cringe moment, you’re welcome) instead.

Careful the things you say

A couple of years ago, I think if you had asked people what I most commonly said, they’d have replied immediately “sorry” – I used to constantly apologise. For just existing most of the time. I’d apologise if something went wrong in my presence, even if I was completely uninvolved.

I apologised so much that in the end, my other half told me it didn’t mean anything to him any more. Despite the fact that (still) whenever I say sorry I mean it in a very heartfelt way, that was now totally lost on him, and no doubt on other people as well.

I still apologise a lot, but I think I’m a bit better at it now. And instead of apologising, whenever I can, I say thank you instead.

Now, I hear what you’re thinking. Thank you is not the same as sorry. But hear me out on this one.

  • Sorry that I got annoyed/angry/said the wrong thing -> Thank you for being so understanding
  • Sorry I did something wrong -> Thank you for helping me out in that tricky situation
  • Sorry I was late -> Thank you for waiting for me
  • Sorry I didn’t reply -> Thank you for following up/taking the time to find out how I am

It works. And mostly I think it works because people don’t like hearing the word sorry. It implies blame, and often it’s blame which they haven’t placed. Saying sorry can make people feel guilty that they’ve made you feel bad, but saying thank you just reassures them that you are aware of the imperfection of the situation, and you appreciate the part they have played in it.

It’s not a big change, really, and honestly I still apologise ALL THE TIME, but I do try now to really think about when I can show my gratitude for the effort that people put in for me.

You’re welcome, and thank you.

Things I learnt during show week

(Listicles are still a cool and popular format, right?)

  1. I am quite good at folding large numbers of costume bags
  2. In general life I am quite body-conscious and avoid showing skin if I can help it. But I will absolutely strip to my undies in the corridor of a theatre for a quick change and not bat an eye
  3. I still can’t dance.
  4. Dressing-room camaraderie is just lovely, and during a stressful week I could not have wished for nicer people to share a bench with
  5. There are levels of tired I haven’t reached yet, but dear lord I have been close this week
  6. Children are better actors than everyone, I’ll hear no more on the matter.
  7. Children are incredibly strong (or I am incredibly weak)
  8. Nothing beats a good pair of legwarmers.
  9. I am wife material, if your definition includes turning up in hotpants with cupcakes.
  10. Creative people can do amazing things with a few square foot of space and I am in awe of the crew.
  11. I want to do props for the rest of my life
  12. It is possible to do a choir concert and then 6 all-singing all-dancing musicals, but it is not advisable
  13. If you leave my parents alone for 24 hours they will completely re-landscape your garden
  14. I love theatre. I don’t understand how I forget this. It’s just brilliant. Get yourself down to a theatre and get involved (and if you’re a bit inept like me, find the friendly and inclusive people because it makes all the difference in the world).

The Wedding Singer was incredible, and I am ever so sad to say goodbye to it. I’m excited to revel in my free time of course (barring the two board meetings and two subcommittees I have this week) but I’m so excited to be part of a new community of people and I’m excited for the next thing, whatever it is. Probably panto to be honest. Remember the time I dressed as a fish for a pantomime? A story for another day.

LIDOS, it has been swell.

…and if you need something to do over the summer, can I recommend the fabulous Left Bank Opera Festival?

Left Bank Opera Festival

Left Bank Opera festival – 22nd-26th Aug, Left Bank, with Northern Opera Group

Happy

Happiness means different things to different people.

For example, to some people (Pharrell Williams), happy means feeling like a room without a roof. Some people (Pharrell Williams) have an odd description of happiness.

I think my definition of happy is a pretty standard definition. I feel happy when I see other people smiling. I like knowing that the people around me are having a good time, and that they have the things they need and that they are enjoying life. Sometimes (read: literally constantly) I help people feel happy by providing them with copious amounts of baked goods. Less frequently I give people hugs. Sometimes I make jokes.

Normally my jokes are terrible and don’t make people happy.

I’ll do just about anything though, to put a smile on someone’s face. It’s utterly selfish. I truly believe that we all deserve to get that warm fuzzy feeling of genuine proper happy, which is a little bit lacking in the world at large these days.

Sometimes I get caught by surprise by happiness, because it turns up in unexpected forms. Today, for example, I was thanked for a bunch of things I barely realise I’ve even done. It was so unexpected that I caught myself actually grinning (which is terrifying and I think we can all agree should be avoided). I hope that someone else got their happy from knowing how happy they made me. God bless all the happiness vampires of the world.

Given that this has taken a turn, it’s probably time for me to set my keyboard aside and go back to the other things that make me happy (my bed, netflix, late-night coffee) but before I do, please don’t forget that the best way to make me happy right now is to come to all of the things – as a reminder, they are:

Leeds Vocal Movement

Leeds Vocal Movement summer concert, 16th June, Left Bank

The Wedding Singer - LIDOS

Wedding Singer – 19th-23rd June, Carriageworks Theatre, with LIDOS

Left Bank Opera Festival

Left Bank Opera festival – 22nd-26th Aug, Left Bank, with Northern Opera Group

Perspective

You know sometimes you have one of those weeks which just ages you. Like, it goes on for a 1,000 years and everyone else is just confused by why you’re tired CONSTANTLY but it’s because time is going differently for you.

Last week felt like one of the longest weeks of my life, and like everything which could go wrong, did. Murphy’s Law in full force, from all sides. I think I let myself get secretly ill (which I sometimes do) and that probably didn’t help.

And then a huge old thing happened to give me a massive smack in the face of perspective. Funny like that, life.

Sometimes it genuinely is about looking around you, and measuring your life by the things you have, not the things you don’t. By the choices you make and the chances you take, not the things you miss or the shoulda-woulda-coulda. I’m not trying to be poetic here, I just mean that we live in an age where we are constantly seeing everyone else’s half-full (or overflowing) glass, and finding ours lacking in comparison, and we should just stop. Take a deep breath. Look at all the wonderful things you have.

I used to have a rule that I never went to sleep angry, and recently I’ve probably broken that a few times. But I’m standing by it. Life is too short to get angry. I’m not saying the bad things don’t exist, but try to not let them throw a shadow on the good things, not all of the time.

They are all just things, in a big old world of things.