keeping my world big enough

I’ve been stuck indoors on my own too much lately, often in the shed until the early hours, lampworking. Until recently, my husband had been at home full time, studying, so even if the company available came in the form of a slightly irritable and distracted man, it was better than being by myself, a little loving contact every now and then through the day makes a difference – plus which, he liked to take a break and cook for us, an alien form of relaxation in my book, so it suited me fine. The study paid off and he qualified as a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, and managed to get his BSc as well, fantastic. Almost two years of stress about lack of money and concern for our home began to recede, the flat was taken off the market (thank goodness for the recession, no-one was up for buying it, despite desirable sea views) and he started working, still quite amazed that he had moved through the difficult time and we hadn’t had to sell up. We had survived taking the risk of his leaving long term full time employment to do what he had to do.
I’m aware that some people find the retirement of their partner difficult, suddenly adjusting to another person in ‘their’ space, but I do not have that concern at all, I enjoy my husband’s presence, but I’m also glad when he goes out and I get that ‘place to myself’ feeling. I wonder when he ever has that, as I rarely go out and if so, he wants to come with me (why is that?) but actually, as we have only one car, sometimes I just want to get in it and drive off on my own, because that’s what I like. My husband doesn’t appreciate my driving, he’s super anxious when I drive, this reveals far more about him than it does about my driving. I am not a perfect driver, I am glad to know this. Sometimes I join the ranks of those who know how to make a car go (they are the annoying ones who should’ve stayed home) other times I easily join the ranks of what I call ‘Drivers’.
There is a point to this.

My husband has started working, and teaching, and needs the car. I am obsessed with making glass beads, and stay in a lot, in a chill damp shed, in my ‘shed’ clothes – warm, but unflattering. I have forgotten which of my ‘tidy’ or more attractive clothes go with which, I just don’t go anywhere very often. Luckily, my passion is right here at home but the problem with that is that sometimes, the world shrinks. Well, my world shrank (shrunk?) lately, and I found myself feeling quite upset and powerless about a situation in which I had foolishly involved myself.
I needed a few groceries this afternoon, so I set out for Sainsbury’s, a very short walk away. The last few days have been quite wet and blustery, so I was pleasantly surprised by the still quality of the air, a soft light taking the edge off the icy greyness of the sea and sky, a little sun breaking through the clouds and pointing, finger like, in the direction of an impressive container ship passing Arran. Fantastic, a beautiful reminder of how big the world really is. I realised that I had no aches or pains, I felt really good. I turned the corner and saw a man stop to look back at his dog, it had decided to sit down in the middle of the road and not budge. It really made me smile, the gruff man talking to the tatty white dog, it was nice to see their partnership in action. Eventually the dog got up and moved towards the man, at first limping like a broken old dog but suddenly trotting along busily behind, as if the limp had been an act. The man had broad shoulders and walked hunched, clouds of cigarette smoke in his wake. They had understood each other, the man and the dog.
I got to Sainsbury’s and saw a mother and her two little girls get a trolley from under the shelter. The eldest might have been nine. Both girls wore short black leatherette jackets, skin tight black leggings, very revealing especially from behind, and high heeled black boots with stud decoration. As the girls clacked along importantly, unaware that they paraded the length of the fruit and veg aisle in surreal emulation of adult females out on the pull, I could see the price labels flashing white on the soles of their boots with every step.
I was reminded of my mother telling me to always remove the labels from new shoes, because prostitutes used to advertise their price by discreetly revealing it written on the soles of their footwear. I don’t know how she knew that, but that’s what she said. As I pondered the scruples of the mother of these girls, and tried not to let my expression reveal my inner thoughts, the eldest girl turned around and looked right at me, it was a little spooky. Our gaze held just a moment long enough and I said, ‘when you get home, take the labels off from under your boots’. She said, ‘ok’ then ran off to catch up with mum. What I would have liked to have said was, ‘please please don’t wear provocative clothes, just don’t, it’s just not appropriate, and while you should be safe always and forever no matter what you wear, the reality is that someone is making you vulnerable by allowing you to dress in that way and you are worth much more than that’, but I didn’t.
I heard the expression ‘Prosti-tots’ for the first time two days ago, it fills my heart with sadness.

Anyway, I tried not to keep looking at the Little Freaks Show, and did my shopping, two cartons of semi-skimmed goat’s milk, one Freedom Foods chicken for jampot soup (I do feel uncomfortable about eating animals…but I still eat them) a little chorizo to make it taste of something different, one baguette (partially baked, as I discovered when I got home) and because a friend was coming over and we needed to be a bit naughty, a cream slice each. While on the subject of cream slices, yes, too many would be Very Bad, and yes, I have now descended into the miserable world of not being able to hide from my own fat (it’s right there every time I look in the mirror, indeed, every time I look down) but the chances of dying of a heart attack from eating on my feelings are far less than a heart attack caused by a cream slice evacuating it’s packaging with a back flip and landing on the floor, because the packaging is the most insane I have ever encountered. Those of you who indulge in Cream Slice Temptation will probably know what I mean. Clearly I need much much more experience with handling the packaging. Ahem.

On the way home, I noticed that a persistent and nasty pile of wet dog poo had been thoughtfully covered with sand. It had been there a couple of days, because I’d already noticed it’s strategic positioning for an unfortunate foot on Thursday. People round here aren’t that bothered about picking up dog poo. It’s not the dogs who are inconsiderate and dirty, but you know, that’s life. Just look where you’re going is the message, all you can do is change yourself in the end, and make sure you pick up your own dog’s leavings.

The light had changed subtly since I had gone into the shop, and was still soft but cooler, the container ship had disappeared from view, there was a huge ship further up the bay (I’m a bit envious of the people who have the view of the biggest vessels waiting in line slightly further round the coast) and I felt happy in the knowledge that I was walking home and would have a happy greeting from the dogs, even though I hadn’t been out long. I was about to start making a big warming winter soup and my friend was coming over. I thought how silly I had been to coop myself up and allow my world to become so small that I was making a mountain out of a molehill. I wondered how many people there are in the UK. Internet research this evening came up with a figure of approximately 61million…61million! In 1997 I went to live in Bangladesh for three years, with my husband and son. At that time there were an estimated 120 million people living there, a country half the size of England. Still, 61million is a fair amount of souls, and I had allowed my world to get small, I really must remember to get out more.

Huh, Pah! & Meh

I did not enjoy the craft fair at Troon Concert Hall on October 17th, so there won’t be a cheery little message saying it was fun and I loved being there, because I didn’t. I could take the old advice of ‘not saying anything if I don’t have anything ‘nice’ to say’, but what is ‘nice’? Sometimes being ‘nice’ is about lying, and I don’t feel like being ‘nice’ today, even if being so would only take the form of keeping quiet. When I have had a good day and am inspired to share that news here, then it is true and I mean what I say, the same goes for this entry.
So why am I in a Grump? It’s because the craft fair at Troon was on the same day as a boot fair in the hall next door, and the people looking for cheap stuff there came through the craft fair complaining that craft is ‘dear’. I got fed up, it happened too often to dismiss, I could feel the soapbox sliding into place under my feet. Basically, there’s ‘craft’…and then there’s some really amazing crafted work made by talented people who really care about what they do. I don’t even know what category handmade glass beads fall into, craft, art…whatever. What I do know, is that it costs money to set up as a lampworker, it takes time to get reasonably good at it, costs money to do every second that one is actually doing it, costs money to hire a table at a fair, costs money to get to the venue, and to then have smug people with a skew (ok, different) idea of worth and no appreciation at all of what things cost to produce (not to mention that a bit of my soul went into it) tell me my work is too expensive? Pah! I can handle the odd person with that kind of attitude, it’s to be expected, but that day was rife with it (just in case someone wants to tell me that I do this out of choice, no one is making me – uh huh, I know). However, I am not grumpy with the lady who said ‘they’re lovely, but I can’t afford to pay that for a bead’ she is let off this tirade, because she was honest.

There are about five criteria that I use to price a bead, I think my prices are fair…I also hope that they do not undercut the majority of lampworkers in the UK, that would be bad, not to mention unrealistic. After many years of low self-worth and low self-esteem, I have had to learn that I can have self-worth, and to get to know what my self-worth is, not to think ‘poor’, and to value what I do. What the bargain hunters at Troon wanted me to do, was work for far LESS than the minimum hourly wage in the UK. I will never pay the mortgage off doing this, but I will also not give my work away (mind you, I have a friend who thinks I do, and my husband often queries my pricing, truly, I cannot win).

So, to conclude, there is nothing wrong with people looking for a bargain, I’m not averse to one myself, however, there is something wrong with trying to market one’s work in a disadvantageous environment. It’s just silly. I won’t be present at one of those boot/craft fair clashes again, it brought out the Diva in me, she’s a bit high maintenance, I can’t afford the amount of chocolate required to push her back in. And I don’t mean financially.

a bit broken

Well, you’d think someone who has a blog would bother to update it fairly regularly, but clearly that doesn’t happen, not on this site anyway.
Silly really, as I enjoy it.
Four weeks ago, in anticipation of a visit from my mum, who lives in France and I hadn’t seen for over a year, I was tidying the flat. A good many bead makers suffer from houseworkitis, they just cannot do it anymore, (it’s So Dull compared to melting glass) but the reality of anyone actually witnessing the state of one’s home strikes and a last minute panic of resentful tidying and cleaning ensues.
At about 2.45am, my arms being too full of things I was taking upstairs, I decided not to pick the jacket up from the stairs that I had put there earlier to be taken up when I could, and 15 minutes later, when I came back down the stairs to get my phone, which I so rarely forget to have in my pocket, I slipped on said jacket and broke my ankle.
Ow Ow double OW – and Bugger, truth be told.
I clutched at my leg, waiting for the wave of pain which I knew was coming, realised that it wasn’t just a bad sprain, glanced at the foot which was definitely not where it normally was at the end of my leg, and tried not to faint. It was only a couple of steps to where my phone was, but with a shattered limb it might have been a mile. I will spare you the detailed description of bone knocking on bone as I hopped to fetch it for a very different purpose than I had originally intended. It was unfortunate that I was totally alone, my husband being in Amsterdam at the time. I called the ambulance service and told them my address in a robotic voice, assuring them I wasn’t drunk, just trying not to black out. I managed to wake my downstairs neighbours by persistent phone calling till Jane answered. Later she said pleadingly ‘Min, couldn’t you go to bed earlier?’ which still makes me laugh. Somehow I managed to get down a hallway and two flights of stairs to unlock the front door. It was not fun – two things learned the hard way – don’t leave stuff on the stairs and make sure a neighbour has keys to my house.
Excellent people that they are, Jane and Geoff took charge of dogs and cat, and house keys, and off I went to hospital, calling my son on the way, whom I can normally rely on to be awake at similar times to me, night owls that we are. I told him what was happening, ‘It’s OK Mum, as long as you don’t die’ he said, practical boy that he is. I decided not to bother my husband with the news while he was unable to do anything, but that I would tell him in the daylit part of the morning. Lying on the trolley on the way into hospital, I surprised myself by saying, ‘I wish I had my cat’. After a hard day’s work coming to terms with my slovenly house I had been looking forward to cuddles with kitty, who had been sitting on the bed miaowing at me as if to say, ‘and about time too!’ The dogs were in their night time places, all was on track for mum’s visit, trips planned, walks on the beach with the dogs, a bit of gardening…hah! Dashed.

X-rays revealed that I had had a lucky escape and didn’t need to have my bones pinned, the nice men in the masks just manipulated things back into place, added about 50 kilos of plaster of Paris and Jane and Geoff picked me up from hospital and took me home. Husband called frequently, Very Upset. I said he should stay and complete his trip, which he did, although he wasn’t entirely happy about it. Next day my Mum arrived, suffice it to say we muddled through, she saw how unscrupulously I dust, wipe or vacuum (I had four white pets, it really doesn’t help when they throw their hair around indiscriminately) but we managed to make beads, which was good. I was surprised that the pain levels were such that I had to remind myself to take anti-inflammatory tablets, for the first week at least it really wasn’t that painful.

I didn’t know that when one has a plaster cast on, one is not supposed to wear nail polish (to keep an eye on circulation using the nail beds of relevant limb as indicator)…the cast became loose as swelling went down, I thought I’d re-do my nails, and in the attempt my ankle twisted in the cast. I heard and felt it go…result? I had to have it pinned back together a few days later, really very annoying, painful and set me back by three weeks. That was a week ago, and on Monday our oldest dog was so unwell that we had to have her put down. Yes, I did consider what might happen next, as duff stuff traditionally comes in three’s…well, here it is – we have to put the house on the market! In a world of financial crisis, not the best time…but I just keep thinking that it’s OK, my family are well, my pets are well, the old one doesn’t suffer anymore, and in the end the worst thing about moving (should we get an offer) would be the packing up, particularly with a broken leg. It would be miraculous if we have an offer before it has healed, so I’m not stressing out, such a waste of energy.

After the pinning operation I was given a bunch of pain killing tablets to take home, and knowing that I have a fairly low tolerance for drugs, I thought the recommended eight a day would be a bit much for me. As it transpired, two nearly finished me off, if not physically, mentally. Yesterday I decided that I’d rather have a bit of pain than feel so floppy and unable to play, play being a far better distraction from pain than anything else I know. I’m no fun when I can’t knit, sew, embroider, write, update my website, respond to emails, prepare for craft fairs, or make beads. Christmas is around the corner, I have pledged to give only handmade gifts, I need to increase my bead stock, and have a go at felting. I’ve had a lovely selection of brightly coloured Merino tops since I last attended the Alexandra Palace knitting and stitching show a couple of years ago. I treated myself to a book on felting processes yesterday, after a trip to hospital where I got my fourth cast put on (in colour order they have been white, white, green and white again). Note that there is no mention of housework…I love being in a clean and tidy environment, but not more than I love being creative. Cleaning does not make me happy, more than 45 minutes of that activity makes me cross, exasperated, irritable and resentful, unless it is properly shared with someone else of course, teamwork makes the difference. Poor hubby gets to do it all at the moment, he’s even learned how to use the washing machine (fortunately he adores cooking, a peculiar condition with which I have never identified) and the older I become, the more I cannot rise above the feeling that I am wasting my precious time by cleaning. I also have bouts of chronic fatigue syndrome, what energy I have needs to be properly channelled, and that means that creativity must be honoured first, after all the only thing that suffers when I am found out to be a slacker on the housework front, is my Pride…and is not ‘Pride’ one of the Seven Deadly Sins? And does not housework bring up feelings of Wrath? Can’t be good. However, I am not Slothful, now that would be a terrible sin indeed.

Perth Bead Fair

The bead fair at Perth Concert Hall this Sunday was such fun, I loved meeting people, and especially those who came with stories of beads bought from me and worn since the last bead fair at that venue. I need money as much as the next person, but the most fulfilment I acheive cannot be measured in financial terms, taking part in something I enjoy and feeling as if I belong and am valued means much more to me. Financially speaking, I will never be rich, I have had depression to such an extent that if someone had come to give me £10million I would have told them to go away and stop bothering me. I am just happy to be in a good mood and to have had an experience that did not leave me exhausted. Riches can be measured in many different ways.

Having said that, I bought a second oxycon from Martin Tuffnell. I hadn’t planned to (truly honestly) but as he was wheeling them out to the van I found myself counting out the cash and handing it over…so, I’m extremely pleased and quite excited at what it will do for me. I like making big beads and boro beckons too…not only that, but it would be so fab to have the facilities for two people to torch at the same time one day…perhaps after I have a shed that does not have a puddle under the table when it has been raining. Either the people who built my shed (it’s a brick building) were so used to the rain that puddles weren’t an issue, or they had a cunning plan when they made sure the floor was 4″ lower than the ground outside. I still haven’t worked out what it might be though…


I recently had a little breakthrough with my understanding of stringer work, I’m a very long way from being as good with stringer as Dora Schubert, or Mindy from Moogin, but what little I can do has made a big difference to potential for new designs. I’ll be concentrating on getting better at that and making sure that I have a new and vibrant selection of beads in time for Christmas, plus lots of cat beads (and maybe dogs too) and ducks, which I find time consuming and a bit pesky to make, but people seem to want them very much so oh, OK, I’ll make some. Ducks would be much easier to make if they didn’t have necks, or eyes. Mess either of those essential body parts up and one has a sweet little duck body and a lump for a head.

I have been promised photos from beaders and jewellery designers who intend making items using my beads, I know it can take time while an idea forms and a piece is made, so when pictures turn up out of the blue it will be a nice surprise. Well, that’s my news…I’m conscious that the 1st year anniversary of breaking my ankle is coming up. One of my clearest memories of that alarming event was talking to the ambulance man about bead making as we were on the way to the hospital, I was so glad that despite the calamity I could still make beads. What if I’d broken my arm? Nightmare!


Perth Preparations

Today I’ve been planning and packing for the Scottish Bead Fair, Perth this coming Sunday 30th August. My bags are packed and waiting to be loaded early Saturday morning, and last minute ideas for beads are probably going to have to wait until next week…deadlines always seem to throw up new ideas in which there is little time to realise them. I will also be at Portobello Town Hall craft fair the day before, Saturday 29th, I always look forward to Edinburgh fairs, and just because it is a craft fair and not a bead fair doesn’t mean that my stock won’t be depleted by the end of the day, so of course I’m a bit concerned that my newest beads will be snapped up before I get them to Perth. I’ve been exploring a new theme which I think works well, but it seems to me take longer and longer to produce what I consider ‘enough’ work. Yes, I could hold some back for Sunday, but what if I miss out on a sale or hold back the ‘wrong’ beads? Business is business and expenses must be covered. I don’t like finances to be more important than the art (they never can be for me) but one must be realistic.

I am so looking forward to Sunday and hope to see many people attend the bead fair. I also want to be early enough to have a look around myself as I’ll be on my own at my table. How frustrating to be at a bead fair and unable to forage!

Broken, Mended

I suppose it might have occurred to those of you who visit my site, that I have very few beads up for sale here. My website mainly shows what I have sold, not what I have for sale, now that is the wrong way round isn’t it? I really want to change that, however, it does mean photographing beads, photo editing, measuring beads, pricing, uploading images, writing descriptions…bead makers know this can be a time consuming task.

I promised (quite a while back now) that I’d show what chains and cords etc I have at the craft fairs, but stock changed, ideas changed, and in a way I’m glad I didn’t commit to items that weren’t exactly right. I’m still hoping to finalise my choices, what I need is to go to a bead fair and do some research, having my own stand means I don’t get to see what’s on offer elsewhere. Hopefully I’ll get to the Perth Bead Fair early this year and do some shopping around. I’m also toying with the idea of making my own silk cords, but that’s quite a job, and really, I’d rather be making beads…there are so many lovely things to do, and only so much energy.

I was very proud of myself today, as I replaced two faulty parts in my kiln without help or anyone standing over my shoulder. I was very upset when it wouldn’t heat up a few days ago, I haven’t made beads for ages, it was disappointing to be thwarted just when free time presented itself. After many phone calls, Robin at Cherryheaven
figured out which parts needed changing, posted them immediately and I got to play at kiln engineer, but I wouldn’t have had a clue without his help.

I also saw inside my oxycon for the first time when I changed a small but vital part in it. I’d much rather fiddle inside a kiln with only commonsense as my guide, than do anything with an oxycon except switch it on and off (and make beads of course). My husband took one look at it and said it looked like a bomb. I haven’t seen a real bomb, but I could see what he meant, although I’m sure he’s only seen Hollywood bombs in movies.


We’ve decided that we don’t have to sell the flat, but if someone comes up with a proper offer we’ll consider it. We haven’t done a lot to it since the depressing decision to sell came about, because it didn’t feel like ‘ours’ anymore, and it’s been in a limbo state ever since. Having reversed the decision because The Man has completed his courses and is beginning to earn again, we are now in the very wonderful position of having a choice in the matter of moving home, or not. Only thing is…it also means that we are now free to make positive changes in the property for our own benefit, not just for the purpose of selling, but here’s the crux – we don’t really like DIY (we’d pay to have work done if we could). Were it the only activity on the cards, it would be fine, but we’re both deeply involved with other things that are much more interesting/urgent. So, I’m trying to dig deep, put my preferences to one side and make some changes, but it’s funny how carting the huge flat packed cardboard boxes upstairs to stash in the attic space can suddenly seem a bit daunting on my own, especially when the Big Dog is under my feet and clearly concerned by my sudden activity (brought on by a welcome break in the hot weather and a short thunderstorm, which put an end to any thoughts of going to my shed to make beads) and here I am at my laptop writing this. It’s really really bad! How did that happen? I’ve been thinking for a while now, that if I have a blog, I ought to write something for it. Then I think, ‘yeah, but who really cares anyway?’, but I like writing and as I have a blog…well, I might as well write something. You see how this nonsense can go in circles, and it only really seems very important when I’m doing something uninspiring, like manual labour.

If all I cared about was housework, I’d do it, but I feel so cross and annoyed chasing dirt, it’s not worth the energy lost in the process when I could use it for something else. I’m beginning to see why my mum-in-law kept one room for ‘best’, just in case someone visited. I used to think that was a pretty stupid arrangement, especially as she kept house well and had nothing to be ashamed about. (I still think her ‘no butter/marg with the bread if there’s gravy’ rule is silly, but that’s another story. Actually, that pretty much is the story.) Anyway, I’m beginning to think I should have a room for ‘best’ for me to sit in, one that doesn’t have idly discarded stuff scattered about, like clothes, piles of paperwork and various items of technology with their wires draped nonchalantly about the place. Were I only as relaxed about mess and muck as the mess and muck seems to be. I want a clean home, I just don’t want to clean it. I’m so hung up on this subject, I really need to let go.
Yesterday I fantasised about my girly summerhouse/shed/caravan again, I almost welled up, I could just imagine pretty cushions, books and quiet, a retreat from anything to do with anyone or anything else. The Man has one, he smokes cigars in it and listens to the radio, it’s not pretty, but it’s his retreat. If I work hard I can have one too, it all depends on how much I want something. I really want it, and I’m having it.
I’m going to clear up the mess I just made, and ask for help with getting the boxes up the stairs later (I bought them in preparation for moving a while back) because it’s silly to try to do it by myself. I’m a bit weedy, despite my ‘Amazonian’ frame. I used to be able to do things and not worry about asking for help, it didn’t cross my mind, the process of aging is still surprising me. Since I broke my ankle last September, I have become a little more cautious, (and disgustingly unfit) so every time I’m going down the stairs a little fast I get a flutter of fear…I don’t want another fat ankle, I don’t have many slim places left.

Yes, the rain has stopped, so while the kiln heats up I’ll load the dishwasher, put a clothes wash on, empty the bin and change the cat litter, I’ve got a fair tomorrow, I need to make more cat beads (might try fuming or adding gold leaf…hmm) and I have to pack all the fair gear up. What was I thinking, re-arranging rooms and dragging heavy things around? Ridiculous.