April 1: A day of too much driving and consequently not enough getting done.
April 2: A distinct sensation of needing to stop and take stock. I wouldn’t characterise myself as a hoarder, more an accumulator, and that applies as much to papers and academic books as to art materials, pieces of fabric, notebooks, and so on. I tell myself it’s all part of the creative process but then the pile threatens to topple and crush me (not entirely metaphorically) and I remember that the glut of materials is actually a hindrance rather than an aid to progress. I’m writing this at the start of May and I still haven’t actually tackled the issue, mind…
I also found myself questioning the process of maintaining this stitch journal, as there’s been quite a lot of playing catch-up in recent weeks, and what began as an aside now risks becoming an obligation.
April 3: My birthday, and what better way to spend it than by doing battle with the fiendish fiddliness that is letterpress printmaking, at Leeds Print Workshop? Type goes upside down and back to front – remembering that is half the battle.
April 4: I saw the psychotherapist Philippa Perry talking about her new book ‘The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad You Did)’ last night – lots of useful thoughts about parents, children, and, in my case, stepparenting – and other relationships. The key messages for me were that we’re all works in progress and connection is key!
April 5: There’s only one real cycling fan in our house, and it isn’t me, but sometimes needs must, and so I had a very pleasant 20km trundle round my local bit of Yorkshire Dales countryside with my good friend Sue.
April 6: It only took me 25 years, but we finally went to see The Wedding Present, touring their Bizarro album for its 30th anniversary. A home-town gig, in Leeds – it fair blew me away. The sight of a herd of fifty year old men moshing was quite something to behold.
April 7: A rather long train journey to Norwich for a Qualitative Research Methods symposium at the University of East Anglia the following day. A trip to Norwich is always a pleasure, partly because it is indeed, to quote its own slogan, ‘a fine city’, and partly for the trip down memory lane from undergraduate days at the art school.
April 8: This one’s about a comment from another symposium participant about the important role of serendipity in creative ideas and creative work. Not everything can be planned out in advance.
April 9: Today marked 365 entries in the stitch journal, so I thought a small cake seemed appropriate by way of celebration. I’m not particularly great at being consistent with any of the activities to which I turn my attention, but I’ve felt very pleased to have stuck with this one thus far. As I said above, it began as something of an aside, a way of reflecting through creating a material object, but it seems that over time it has revealed new uses.
April 10: Three days in Aarhus, Denmark, for a cultural participation symposium at the University of Aarhus. This one’s from an observation someone made at the symposium.
April 11: From the hotel room window, looking over city rooftops.
April 12: Godsbanen is a cultural production space in the centre of Aarhus, repurposed from nineteenth century goods warehouses for rail and sea freight. The facilities include performance spaces for theatre, music and art, and production facilities including open access making spaces. As part of my WRoCAH scholarship, I must do a REP – a Researcher Employability Project – of one month, working in an organisation and on a project that can be linked to but which is not directly related to my research. It looks like I’m going to be spending a month in Aarhus!
April 13: A solitary square depicting an ironing symbol, because between a week of being away with university things, and a week away on holiday, a large pile of laundry seems to accumulate. I don’t mind ironing in small doses – it’s an essential part of dressmaking, and for other clothes, it’s an easy way to feel like you’ve got a whole pile of lovely fresh new clothes, without actually having to go out and purchase the new clothes. Magic.
April 14: Another day, another aeroplane. This time jetting off to La Palma, one of the smaller Canary Islands. This is my fifth flight of the year. I’m not a fan of flying anyway, and I recognise that jumping on and off planes for our convenience isn’t a responsible way to live.
April 15: Red crabs on volcanic rock, Los Cancajos bay.
April 16: Above the clouds at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, home to some of the world’s most powerful telescopes.
April 17: Shimmering fish in Los Cancajos bay. So much to see, even with a simple pair of goggles.
April 18: I paid a visit to the hotel masseur, and when I emerged an hour later, I swear my shoulders were three inches lower.
April 19: A couple of pine cones from a walk through the forest, up to the rim of the Taburiente caldera.
April 20: This one’s a rather experimental approach to the endless banana trees that constitute La Palma’s main crop. The island is a volcano, with heavily vegetated landscape higher up and farmed terraces clinging to lower slopes. Banana plants as far as the eye can see.
April 21: A day on the beach, swimming in a lively sea, dodging baby portuguese men o’war and hot-footing across scorching black sands.
April 22: A day of writing accompanied by the sound of my husband doing what seemed like a lorryload of washing. I feel very fortunate that at least one of us is domestically efficient (clue: it’s not me).
April 23: In which thinking leads to writing leads to thinking leads to writing…
April 24: And so the writing goes on piling up.
April 25: One of my fellow postgraduate researchers was telling me about how she’s been developing her chess skills, and that she believes that improving her chess game has helped her to improve her PhD game, most notably through developing the strategic skills to be able to look five moves ahead.
April 26: Learning a new way to breathe. The saga of me learning to swim front crawl is a long and tedious one, but today I had a lesson with a lovely local woman – a channel swimmer, no less. She suggested that I breathe out through my nose instead of my mouth, and this small adjustment has made everything feel different – calmer, more relaxed, less exhausting. Perhaps this is the way forward.
April 27: Growing up in northern England (and now living closer to the Pennines than I did as a youngster), I feel it’s perfectly reasonable to consider rubbish weather as the day’s only significant characteristic.
April 28: This one links to the April 2nd post – my husband was observing that I’m getting messier, which I absolutely can’t deny. This stitch journal is part of the mess, as I seem to find myself shedding bits of felt and embroidery thread wherever I go. I’ve never been super tidy, and I don’t believe it’s something that works for everyone – I know that some tidy people get very cross with messy people, but the truth is that the frustration works both ways.
April 29: The dandelions are turning to clocks and starting to blow away, as spring turns towards summer.
April 30: A second wave of pottery classes for my fieldwork. Here, learning how to roll out coils of clay to add to a pinch pot to increase its height.