Youtube videos, making house moving easy

Youtube hasn’t yet learned that my favourite video at the moment is this one on how to assemble a Jattene box from IKEA. It has truly brought light to my life in the past few days in a way that nothing else has managed. The video is in German, but if you are ever severely under pressure, and urgently needing to assemble one of these boxes, he’s the only man.

I own twelve of these boxes and have a deep desire to have them full of stuff for Declan, the man with the van, to take away in two days’ time.  I’ll be glad when it is all done. I’ll be hugely relieved when it is all done.

Meanwhile, the car continues to challenge. It is an inanimate object, but the last month or so have pretty much been along the lines of “how most can I spite this owner of mine and make her life as full of hassle as possible.”

Don’t trust cars. They know when you are planning to break up with them.

The shredder is picking and choosing when it cares to work.

Impressively, I have a pile of dictionaries – which I love – in my living room, stacked and waiting for boxes. The pile is about a metre high and it includes several English dictionaries, a couple of thesaurii, a French dictionary, 2 German dictionaries, the dual Finnish English Finnish set, Slang and Untranslatables. I’m carting things downstairs at the moment because the shredder is being finicky and I’m getting through not very much shredding before it dances a fandango and demands a rest.

The car is sick. Expensively difficult to find the problem but can’t drive it sick. I’m very disappointed in it. I’ve had it 10 years and now it has neurological problems. I really only needed a week out of it and it could hardly have chosen a worst week to oh, spew a mad lot of steam out from under the bonnet. It’s scary, you know, when you are stuck in traffic watching your car behave like a kettle on which you forgot to put the top.

Next to the pile of dictionaries is what I think is my compete data viz and data presentation collection. At least, the hard copy version of it. The art stuff. TBH, I was surprised by how little of that. I know the How To Draw Dragons book is in Charleville, and, the four “How to Give Up Drawing Dragons Immediately because Elian Black Mor is so much better than me at Drawing Dragons” are there too. Surprisingly. I have not yet accumulated/unwisely spent as much money on How To Be A Better artist books as I did on “Look, I suck at being a photographer, Michael Freeman will make it better”.

I have beautiful photography books though, two classics in particular; a collection of Robert Doisneau and an Ansel Adams portfolio. Bearing in mind I spent most of my time photographing kitesurfers it might be surprising to know that they were my two favourite photographers.

At this point. the shredder has just visted another heart attack on me by springing into life. Most kind of it. Now I have to go and shred more of this pile of papers. It’s like it’s been snowing in the dining room. The hoover is just going to LOVE me.

Moving house is fun.

L-Day minus 8

What I remember most clearly about the last “big” international house move was just how stressful the run up was. I was 26 years old and man I lacked imagination.

Various things have conspired to make this one easier. Stuff is going into storage in Ireland (temporarily, I keep saying, as I look at my book collection that I am emotionally bound up in). I don’t have to do everything all at once.

Various other things have conspired to make it harder. The car is currently in the garage which isn’t exactly helpful.

This morning before breakfast I contacted a bunch of utility providers, spent ages on hold to one of them, found out they were going to charge me 40E for the privilege of no longer paying them for the service they provide, was told by another that there was a month’s notice (well I’m prepaid up to the end of that month so). I’m still waiting for another one to answer and two others are being remarkably helpful.

I foresee this week as being particularly stressful. But somehow because I am actually doing the stuff myself, I feel like I am making headway. What I do know is that when I am finally in my hotel next week, I will feel like I am on holiday. I can’t wait

 

Movement motivation

In the way that you do, at 5.30 in the morning, I found myself looking at running pins on Pinterest this morning. I’m reasonably sure that I did not find what I was looking for but that’s life on the internet. What I did find were a lot of motivational quotes. They varied in quality. The one that sort of stood out this morning was this one:

No matter how slow you’re going, you’re still lapping people on the couch.

Or words to that effect. Anyway, it was nice and snappy and had an image, so I drew two people, one on a couch, and one running. I’m not very good at humans but we’ll leave that aside for the moment. The point is, while I was planning out the drawing, it occurred to me that this was a fierce judgmental way to go about things. And a lot of the motivational quotes were of a similar vein. If you go running, you will be better than other people. There were a few where they went with “the old you” being the other people you were better than but I’m not sure that’s any better.

I’m not getting anything near enough exercise at the moment. This I know to be true. But I do know from when I used to, that starting off is hard work, and then it gets enjoyable. I didn’t really see this anywhere in the motivational stuff for running.

And there’s lots of it. Run to beat yourself. Run to beat others. Run to be healthy. Run to reduce the risk of [some illness].

All good laudable things. But the most effective way to get yourself to do something is to enjoy it and very little around running involves the words “at some point it will get more enjoyable”. It must do but when the motivational quotes include “It won’t get easier; you’ll get stronger” well that’s really not motivating.

It’s the same with swimming. You see articles like “Why do we swim? It’s really hard. Why do we overcome this?”

Well personally, it’s because I enjoyed it. I actively like swimming and even though it’s rough going when you’re not fit and it’s been a couple of years, even the individual lengths are enjoyable despite not being fit enough to chain very many of them together. It’s that little spark that keeps you going.

I was browsing magazines in Easons a few weeks ago while waiting to get a train south, and picked up something that focused on trail running. I’m more interested in that than anything else. In it there was an article that pretty much hit the problem from how I could see it. No one talks about running because it’s fun. It’s not fun. If you haven’t run for years, it’s not fun. And if the big selling point is “you will a) get used to it and b) feel sanctimonious in some way”…

I can’t believe that this is all there is. If someone asked me, I’d say “look, swimming is hard to start off. No word of a lie. But, you know what, if you’re making it too hard for yourself, you’re not doing it right. What matters isn’t so much how far or how fast you swim, but how often you do. Just keep on going to the pool. Do one length, do 4, go up, go down. Just keep on going.” Three months later, I was doing 64 lengths.

Meanwhile, running motivations are “start thinking about the treat, like a massage, or a smoothie or a….whatever”. You need to be bribed to do this? Every single time?

And running gear. Art is a bit like this. “Oh you don’t need much. Just a pair of shoes and somewhere to run”. Sounds incredibly easy, doesn’t. Fantastic. Dead fecking easy.

And then there’s this kind of fabric top, shorter shorts, longer things, stuff to keep you warm, stuff to keep you cool. I read one piece on habit forming this morning that said “lay out your running gear the night before cos if you have to rummage for stuff, you will put it off.” Strictly speaking, this is true. I have two swimming bags so that there is always one ready to go and one drying if I am swimming daily. I need a new swimsuit but we’ll deal with that later. She then proceeded to list an amount of gear for running that was a bit kind of long to say the least.

It’s not very helpful in my opinion.

So, this long essay on motivation. What is it going to do for me? Well sometime ago I figured that I needed to start building time into my life to get more exercise. I’m going to be honest and say that while other people manage this, I struggle in Dublin. My efforts to find 2 hours a day to go swimming (time to get there, change, shower before and after and all that) have been seriously kiboshed by the fact that Dublin sucks as a city to try and move around in. Whether you’re driving or bussing, you’re losing a lot of time. I started walking early in the morning and while that has benefits in that there’s a marked lack of traffic and it’s reasonably quite and I did it on occasion even if it was raining, the truth is it was also concrete jungle.

But I want to trail run and to at least be able to run trails when I can find them, I need to be fitter than I am now. I need to walk more and I need to run more. And I have figured, having looked at what the running world has to offer me, that the best way to approach it is the same way as I approached swimming. Always do it. Never trash yourself for doing worse this time than you did the last time. You only ran 400m this time when you ran 600m the last time? Treat your body like it’s your partner, not your enemy. It’s a journey, not a war.

As an added bonus, I’m leaving Dublin and I expect the change of scenery; the novelty of nice European buildings will make it a more entertaining activity.

 

Two headphones…

Alexander Gansmeier wrote a piece about The Interpreter, that movie staring Nicole Kidman some years ago, from the point of view of assessing whether she accurately portrayed being an interpreter or not. He points to it from the front page of his site but I don’t appear to be able to point to the exact space where he does so I’m pointing at the document as well as the index page. Anyway that’s all by way of an aside. One thing which Alexander noted, and which resonated big time for me this morning was this:

While interpreting, Kidman covers both her ears, which – while not a dealbreaker – is rather strange as most practising interpreters will confirm.

It casts me back years because I remember learning how to do that when I trained as an interpreter years ago and still have the habit. If you see me sitting at a desk with headphones on, no matter what I am doing, if I am in a work environment, I am most likely to have a headphone covering one ear but not the other. This allowed me over years to shut out most of the extraneous noise in various open offices while still retaining enough information about the outside world to catch when someone wanted my attention.

I miss interpreting. I occasionally practise at home and I did CPD interpreting in April at Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh. I work in the tech sector and you’ll find software engineers talking about the zone. I never once, while developing code, got into a zone the like of which you can get into while interpreting. But things which I did will learning to interpret still resonate in my life.

It’s not the leaving…

I came back to Dublin in 1999 after five years away. I didn’t do the whole bar tending trick in exotic places; I just moved away and followed work around Europe, teaching in France for a year, then four years of administration and multilingual secretarial support. In 1999, I had a choice between job in Finland or coming back to Ireland. I gambled on Ireland, for family reasons. After 17 and a half years in Dublin, I am moving on again.

There are a bunch of reasons for this, some deeply personal, and some extremely practical. Someone asked me about 5 years ago if I were going through a midlife crisis when I was considering major league changes to my life and I said no; I was making the kind of decisions again that were second nature to me when I was 25 years old. I left a long term job in 2013 and linked to that decision, did a lot of thinking. I wasn’t really planning, in 1999, to be in Dublin even five years later.

The last 17 years were not wasted. I’ve been lucky enough to make a lot of friends, I’ve learned things, done things, achieved things. Two more university diplomas including a masters in computer science. Pictures of me in newspapers linked to the early days of blogging, pictures taken by me in newspapers linked to the early days of kitesurfing taking off in this country. Me on television for taking kitesurfing photographs. Learning (sort of) to surf, windsurf and kitesurf. Going to Portugal to photograph world champion kitesurfers. Going to Sheffield to watch world champion figure skaters. Going to Brazil, Australia, Western Sahara and Spain to kitesurf. In many respects, the last 15 plus years have been great for me, and there are lots of little stand out stories and quite a few bucket list items. It’s just I don’t and have never felt settled in Dublin and Dublin has not really facilitated me in feeling settled here. It’s hard to settle in a place where putting down roots is so incredibly expensive. This goes for rental and property purchase.

Sometimes you create the scope in your life for opportunities to arise and when I left work in 2013, I set in motion a series of events which now mean I am moving to Luxembourg. For a lot of people, that three year journey might seem awfully long; for me, quite a lot of stuff got concertinad into that period so it was very short in many other respects.

Moving house at this stage of my life, after 17 years in Dublin is daunting. I have accumulated such a lot of stuff, that I glance around and thinking, you know, I must be stark raving mad to be even considering this. But against that is a feeling deep down that sometimes, being loyal to yourself is accepting the challenges that you set yourself. Moving house is a small price to pay for not regretting never taking that opportunity. It doesn’t last forever. At least when I was moving house every 2-3 years I kept a check on my possessions and of course, there was a time when I didn’t have computery stuff to lug around. Being honest with myself, I would regret not making this choice within about 6 months and I owe it to myself to do it. Plus, 15 years ago, it would have been a no brainer of a decision.

In a way, though, it was completely predictable that this would happen. I had conversations with boys I cared for where they revealed they would never leave Ireland, and a small part of me hurt to know that if I hitched my stars to them, I, too, would spend the rest of my life in Ireland bar the odd holiday. It seemed awfully limiting. And I have always known that in a way, it didn’t matter where I lived, there would always be a yarning for somewhere else. A need for something I missed from before. Of course, Lidl and Aldi have dealt with quite a few of those somethings, and couscous is now really easy to get in Tesco. It was not so in 1999. But there will always be gaps, always things I can’t get everywhere.

One of the things I have most yarned for though, is a basic lifestyle thing. The ability to walk to work. The ability to depend on public transport. Rent to have some relationship with my salary.

There are people I will miss in Dublin, in just the same way as there are people I miss in Brussels. There will be new friends in Luxembourg. There will be time developing new habits, finding somewhere to live. There will be trains to other exciting places, new things to try. I intend to learn to skate properly this winter – another bucket list item. And life will turn and change as it always does.

 

 

Places you should consider visiting

Probably, if I were right and being right on and stuff, this would be illustrated with photographs (like I used to do) and drawings (oh wait, that we can manage) but…

Anyway, I was planning to go to Venice on my holidays to be all artistic and drink hot chocolate in this one café I hoped I’d be able to find having not seen it in ten years but I’m sure it’s near the university when events eventuated and I wound up not going to Venice on my holidays but going to a corner of Europe most people don’t usually holiday in, not from Ireland anyway. It’s best known for a few castles, and a lot of pan European administration. I started in Brussels and ended up in Frankfurt and went to Luxembourg on the way.

However, this allowed me to knock an item off my bucket list by visiting Trier and Heidelberg. Heidelberg has a Lamy flagship store which of course should be everyone’s number one reason for going there provided everyone has the taste to like their pens, but it also has one of the all time great castles in Europe. You should go.

Trier is, as far as I know, the northernmost Roman city on the European Mainland (I’m saying this because there’s almost certainly one further north in the UK somewhere, only that less of it remains that remains of Trier. It has quite a few Roman monuments still lying around, such as the Porta Nigra which:

 

I endeavoured to draw into my marker notebook. Later I shall try to put it in my travel notebook as well along with some words.

Trier is a lovely town. It is a university city and in addition to this, it also has a cathedral which is basically an epitome of what I feel cathedrals should look like. Worth visiting. ON the downside, I missed the Roman baths, and Considine’s Basilica although that was careless as I did pass right by it at some point, lost.

To get to Trier, you’ve a couple of options:

  1. fly into Brussels and get the train. This is likely to be your cheapest option courtesy of Ryanair.
  2. fly into Frankfurt Hahn and hire a care. This may be cheaper than (1) but I don’t know as I haven’t priced it.
  3. fly into Luxembourg and get the train. This has limited availability in that unlike Brussels, there are not six flights daily between Aer Lingus and RYanair, but one five or six times a week with Luxair.
  4. Fly into Frankfurt and get the train.

Once you’ve checked out Trier, it’s not that hard to get to Heidelberg. I recommend the castle in Heidelberg and the funicular (it’s only 12E and includes the top and the bottom and all stations in between and entry into the castle. I strongly recommend the castle in Heidelberg. I gather you can walk up (but get the funicular it’s easier).

I like holidays like this. You get to do stuff and no one is trying to ram cheap holiday cocktails down your throat.

Notebooks and sketchbooks (again)

I’m just back from my holidays during which time I visited three countries, two capital cities and an ancient Roman ruin.

I’ve realised that the internet, and the always on internet at that has changed how I pass my free time. So while I was away, I did not get much written in my journal which goes everywhere with me, and as for the painting, well despite the fact that I packed 24 water colours, the fact is I spent most of my time doing my marker journal instead.

At least I did that.

When I got home yesterday, I made a start on the travel journal and during the course of a conversation – online – with a friend, I realised that I did not actually know how many active sketchbooks I had at the moment. When I say “active” mean “not finished, and currently being used for some purpose or other”.

Back in the day before I started drawing, painting, using markers, I used to carry around my journal. That was it, Mostly it was an A5+ Clairefontaine or, since I settled in Ireland, as likely to be a Paperblanks journal. I also used to have a total of 4 good ballpoint pens and about the same number of fountain pens. They’ve all been engaging in serious orgies in the last few years so I think i have about 8 amazing ballpoint pens (used to be classified good), as many again good ballpoint pens (less expensive Caran D’Ache pens in other words), at least 14 Lamy fountain pens, two Caran D’Ache fountain pens, and a bunch of good Faber Castell ballpoints with matching mechanical pencils plus loads of other mechanical pencils, mainly Kuru Togos or Pentel Graphgears. I think there are a bunch of Caran D’Ache mech pencils of various flavours too. I’d like a Rotring or five but being honest, I can’t manage what I have at the moment. Usually I call this having a stationery problem. Today I’m inclined to think part of it is a living in Ireland problem. Anyway.

Back with the whole travel journal thing leading to musings about sketchbooks, I have the following in operation that I know of:

  • Stillman and Bern was supposed to be a general sketchbook but somehow isn’t. Should take watercolours and markers but doesn’t
  • Rhodiarama webnotebook, handbag, basically the “so I always have a sketchbook” sketchbook. I drawn into it with a fineliner (currently a Pigma Micron and we will talk about fineliners later)
  • Rhodiarama webnotebook, homeless, markernotepad and “mixed media” where mixed media includes “stamps I like”. Somehow travel stuff sneaks in here too because of the whole stamps things.
  • Moleskine WC Travel journal: this is supposedly my travel journal but I somehow tend to draw into it from photos on my phone after I get home.
  • Moleskine WC TravelMemory journal for those trips I did before I started drawing and painting
  • A3 cartridge: bought to do detailed architectural drawings and detailed pencil drawings. Currently there is a bit of a lighthouse in there.
  • A4 cartridge: bought to learn in
  • A4 Hahnemuhler sketchbook: houses last year’s Inktober, was an attempt to find a nice journal that handled watercolours. It’s not bad with water colours per se, it’s just not excellent either.
  • Square Hahnemuhler: visual diary for personal stuff. Not sure where it is
  • uhem
  • A5 cartridge: bought to learn in. Mainly pencil stuff
  • Provence journal: this is a Fabiano Venezia, bought to depict my imaginary life, the one I’d have if life was fair, in other words, as opposed to the one where Paris Hilton is fabulously wealthy and I have to work.
  • Craftpaper journal: this is the beige coloured paper journal
  • Moleskine black sketch pretend A5: this is the black paper journal.

That’s a useful census to have done; it’s almost certain I have forgotten.

One of the big, big problems with all this is that I now have sketchbooks everywhere because apart from the one which lives in my handbag, these things broadly have no permanent place. I don’t have adequate shelving or storage of any other class for these things, and not for the art stuff. The art stuff arrived very late into my life, at a time when I had developed certain habits and choices. It isn’t yet fitting in very well.

While I was on holiday, another set of notebooks arrived, a set I had backed on Kickstarter (I don’t usually do this but) and while it is exactly what I ordered, the truth is I backed it months ago and now, my life is still kind of not fitting it. I like the idea but I still need shelf space. The list above doesn’t include all the new pads I haven’t used yet, or the blocks which I use for “good” paintings, the ones which I haven’t found a way of displaying either.

I’ve spent some time looking online for how other people solve this problem and to be frank, it seems to me that they don’t. I see pictures of piles of sketchbooks, and piles of markers, and piles of paintboxes. I never had a reputation of being particularly tidy but I am organised (yes, that sounds contradictory) and while things might not have looked tidy, they were orderly in the way of “things had a place and that place was where they were kept”. As a result, despite apparently being untidy, I almost never, ever lost everything and I made a good fist of keeping things together that logically belonged together. I’m utterly failing to do this in rented accommodation in Dublin.

Mainly because I didn’t get much choice about the furniture here tbh.

So if I were going to say anything, I probably have a sketchbook problem. One of my friends told me the other day he likes how I organise the drawings across different sketchbooks. I like that he likes that because in a very serious respect, that’s how I like organising stuff. It’s just that on the actual physical side of many sketchbooks I feel hunted, seriously hunted. The sketchbooks are generally scattered across four locations and I tend to have to go moving stuff around the place to ensure all the art stuff I need is in the same place as I want to go painting, drawing or whatevering.

 

Coloured pencils and black paper

Learning with the coloured pencils. #bubbles #planets #pablo #carandache

A photo posted by Me (@wnbpaints) on

I have quite a lot of art gear lying around the house (so much for the idea that it would take up less space in my life than camera gear did), and amongst it are coloured pencils by Caran d’Ache, from the Pablo series. For a long time, Pablo was their top of the range dry colour pencil (as opposed to their water colour ranges) until the eye wateringly expensive Luminance pencils came out. I have about 4 of those but they aren’t quite doing it for me yet. I like the Pablo pencils for stuff like the above.

Anyway, I had previously gotten some metallic Derwent pencils which weren’t really doing it for me so I passed them on to my small niece, but kept the black paper which came with them for “experiments” of which this was one of the first. I think it was inspired by something I saw somewhere or other on either instagram or pinterest and it was a huge experiment. I don’t think it turned out badly and I have a couple of friends who did double takes before realising it was drawing. I liked this drawing on black paper lark so I went and bought one of the Moleskine black sketchbooks, the 8×5 ones because I tend to prefer sketchbooks rather than loose leaf sketches. I am having serious issues trying to figure out what to do with them.

I’ve done a few things on the Moleskine paper now, mostly in coloured pencil, but some in gel pens and while I’m going to finish it out, it is unlikely that I will buy another. The pencils – while not shockingly expensive Luminances, are good soft pencils – but the white really struggles to stand out on the Moleskin black and the blue pencils just don’t feel right. I didn’t have this issue with the Derwent paper which I don’t hugely like because it’s on a gummed pad (and therefore is basically looseleaf) but it is easier to draw on.

The Moleskine sketchpads are not cheap. I have a handful of the watercolour ones which I would describe as being “mixed” in terms of how pleasant they are to paint on. It’s a pity they appear to be the default of their kind here. I think I have an A4 Fabriano black spiral bound pad floating around – I certainly picked up one and coveted it anyway – and if I am lucky, it will turn out to be better and I will switch in that direction.

A to Z of needlepoint

Most people who know me very well know that one of my hobbies, at certain times of the year is tapestry. I love the large canvases, the coloured thread and basically doing colouring in using a needle and thread instead of in a colouring book. The patterns on tapestry canvases suit me better.

While I was wandering around the city centre, I wound up in WH Smiths, downstairs in Arnotts and came across a book called the A to Z of Needlepoint. Needlepoint is that term which encompasses tapestry and a bunch of other similar habits like counted cross stitch.

I questioned seriously whether I wanted another book but in the 10 years plus I have been doing tapestry, it’s safe to say that I had never actually seen a stitch dictionary for needlepoint in general. Mostly, if you want to do this stuff in Ireland, your choice is counted cross stitch, tapestry or general embroidery. So I picked it up and looked through it.

It is an utterly inspiring book. It has 65 different stitches of which I use.knew about just one, the half cross stitch. But it opened up so many ideas for me. I could not leave it behind.

I have a bunch of stitch dictionaries and am slowly coming to the conclusion that social media is worse for me than needlework is and the tapestry gets picked up more and more often lately.

I have ideas for this book, ideas which I don’t know how I am going to implement yet but, I’ll figure it out. It is one of the few books I have ever picked up and thought “this belongs with me”.

waves and numbers and stuff