Punches and ambitions

It’s a process that is as frustrating as it is satisfying, I find. I suspect it’s because I’m still very much in the learning stages but also a perfectionist, so it’s like a scalpel to my eyeballs when a stone isn’t perfectly set or a bezel setting tilts ever so slightly, even when you might not even see it unless you really look for it. Scratches that don’t show up until you’ve used the finest micro mesh cloth mean that you have to go right back to coarse sandpaper and start all over but it’s so lovely when you’re finally done and have a shiny, even and smooth piece that you’ve put so much work into. The only thing I don’t like is not having more time to dedicate to it, but with flexible “day job” employers I know that if/when I’ve built a little income stream there is scope to cut down hours and I’d love it if I could eventually split my time between metal and words – that’s Nirvana right now the way I see it.

2018 has started out fine. I say ‘fine’ rather than ‘amazing’ because nothing much has changed from 2017. Sure, I have to be obnoxious and admit life is pretty damn awesome for the most part and I can’t really think of anything I need to complain about, but it did get a little “samey” there for a while. I slipped into a comfortable existence where my whole life felt a bit like a SPA weekend. Nothing much to worry about, not much effort to be made and as for ambitions those became ‘mañana, mañana’. I mean, that was the very reason why I quite randomly embarked on a whole new thing and did a course in jewellery design to learn how to work with precious metals. My hope was that it’d get me fired up and back to Ambitious and Driven Anna, and so far it has worked. It’s never a good thing to scrutinise what you do for a living and discover that… ..meh. So hopefully it’ll keep on fuelling my creativity and eventually also steer me back to the writing that I completely abandoned. Really loving making rings with semi precious stones but pendants are fun too – next on my tool wish list are metal forming tools and so my next investment ahead of a dremel is a doming block with punches.

‘Fine’ also means life outside of work goes on much as before. B has a demanding job and travels even more than before. Perhaps not more often but due to his position many of his trips are now further afield and last a little longer. There are shorter ones of course, yesterday he returned from a couple of days in Prague and next week he’ll be in Milan – as always I hate not being with him and pine for him when he’s not home, but to be honest, after his month long trip to New Zealand last October anything shorter than a week seems like nothing. Monkey is at his new school and seems to have settled in really well. Unlike his mother, he’s an extrovert and full of beans (well, I’m full of beans, but tend to keep my beans to myself and tend to prefer my own company) so made friends quickly and never stressed over being the new kid. Thank God for that. He’s also starting to more and more resemble something out of Only Fools and Horses – always wheeling and dealing, always has several little money making schemes on the go, most lately involving buying cheap fake designer belts from Camden market that he then sells at a profit (declaring that they are fakes of course or I’d have to interfere) and yesterday he told me he is going to make some sort of Bitcoin investments, put £20 towards something in the hope it’ll yield a return. I have no idea what any of that means so suggested he speaks to B before parting with any money. He’s a funny little thing.

These days Monkey is with us all the time, which is a dream come true in lots of ways even though there is pain and difficult stuff at the very root of it – as much as I agree with Monkey and am on his side, it’s heartbreaking that he doesn’t want to stay with his dad. But I’ll leave all of that out of here, despite being relatively anonymous online I still feel it’s too private. B and I still have the freedom to do our random trips away given the older two boys can easily come and stay to make sure Monkey doesn’t burn the house down and I’ve booked a romantic weekend away for B’s birthday – CAN. NOT. WAIT. How I’ll be able to keep schtum for another three months I don’t know, plus B is the nosiest person on the planet so I now have all sorts of locks and security measures in place to make sure he doesn’t successfully snoop and find out. All I can say is that it’ll be magníficio!

So ‘fine’ simply means it’s all good and that life just continues to head in a really fantastic direction, albeit at a slightly slower pace than I’d like – if I had my way there would be a heated shed in the garden where I could set up a proper workshop but all in good time… ‘Fine’ means steady progress to freakin’ awesome!

My next step is to get going on some more necklaces that a local boutique has said they’d be happy to have and also cobble together a webshop. This is good, better than ‘fine’, given I always need to have something on the go. It’s when I don’t that it all turns into SPA weekend existence, and let’s face it, I’m not a SPA kinda gal.


Side-steps and topaz

I did write a review of 2017 but it was at 3am on New Year’s Day and perhaps not at my full faculties so I removed it. I suppose it was a weird and wonderful year. Married my best friend and discovered a new passion, the former not just the highlight of the year but of my life alongside the Arrival of the Chimp, the latter a much needed vitamin injection that, just like I’d hoped, has triggered my creativity again. Stones still fall out but each piece is a little better than the last and I suppose the beauty of learning as you go along is that you discover all the little ways of correcting mistakes and the more you make, the more creative all those ways are. I love it. Not ready to out-do Tiffany’s just yet, but really chuffed with where it’s all going.

Perhaps this new passion and my love for making things with my hands, as well as wordsmithing, is not particularly surprising given I come from a family that on both sides is jam packed with artists, sculptors, poets, authors, painters and every variety of creative folk you could imagine – our cupboards are full of table cloths sown and embroidered by my grandmothers, knitted jumpers, hats, gloves and socks, crocheted bed spreads… Not to mention my parents’ houses that have countless wooden furniture made by generations gone. Well, my stepdad – a brilliant carpenter – is still around, but it seems handicraft and workmanship is increasingly a thing of the past and therefore it feels even more precious to me. My brother D also seems to, like me, have it in his blood, and his latest passion is making hunting knives complete with the leather sheaths that are anything but plain. He is quite simply nothing short of amazing. But yes, it’s very much in our DNA.

So I’m making use of the late afternoons from when I get home around 3.30pm to around 6pm. On the one hand the process drives me insane – you cannot rush it – yet at the same time the process is what I love the most. You cannot side-step annealing the metal when you have worked it too much and it’s too hard to manipulate without softening it again. You cannot take a short cut through letting soldered pieces soak in the acid. Sure, you could do all this like most do – mass production and from moulds, everything automated down to stone setting – but that’s not what I want. Every single piece is handmade from scratch and therefore, even if I am making five silver rings all the same size and same thickness wire and all with the same type of stone, no two pieces are identical. And I love that. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I’m sure, but it’s definitely mine.

Tonight I’m finishing off two rings and will – if there is enough time – saw, file and anneal the silver for another four pendants, I have a couple of ideas I’m keen to try out. Soldering the delicate bezel cups to the pendant itself is a painstaking process as the cups will melt quite literally a fraction of a second after the solder does, but I am loving the results and the two rose quartz pendants I made yesterday morning I think look really nice. I think against tanned skin (as opposed to someone as pasty pale as I am right now in the middle of winter) they will look amazing. The pendant with the orange topaz however, I think will look its best against skin even paler than mine.

Still have some vouchers for the precious metal and stone supplier that B got me for Christmas but will use up the stash I already have, which should be enough for another ten rings (if I waste NOTHING!) and probably also another ten pendants.

Deer droppings and fangs

Oh la la – I seriously underestimated how long it would take to recover. Three weeks later I’m still a bit uncomfortable. Can’t call it pain anymore, but there is a definite sort of burning sting going on where I was cut open 21 days ago. I figured, with my customary optimism, that it would just be A Bit Sore and because I’ve always recovered quickly from a general anaesthetic the only unknowns to my mind was whether I’d be OK to drive to work or catch the bus the next day.

OK, so it turns out the little devil thing was a little more devilish than expected so things got slightly more complicated, but even so. Zonked out on some glorious pills that really did do a good job of taking the edge off the pain, after having soon realised I wouldn’t be doing anything other than lying in bed or on the sofa for an indeterminable stretch of time, I decided to have a look for myself to see how come this turned out so much worse than I’d thought. It was just meant to be a little incision, no? One or maybe TWO stitches max?

Never do this, people. Promise me you won’t. To save you from yourselves I am deliberately keeping the devil thing’s name to myself or you’ll go Google the damn thing (you won’t be able to stop yourselves just like I couldn’t when first told what the issue was) and that, I can assure you, is not a good idea. The images can not be unseen. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

So there I am, all mellow from the happy pills and decide hey, let’s be adult about this and see what we’re dealing with here and I bravely angle the little mirror my friend S gave me for my birthday, and oh yeah I’m using the part that magnifies stuff. Just one look, that’s all it took… (Don’t you just love the Hollies?) The next second I’m in floods of tears and yelling for B to have a look.

Never do this, people. Promise me, alright? Why in God’s name I thought it would be a good idea for my poor husband to also witness the carnage I’m going to have to blame on the pills. Come on, people make all sorts of poor decisions when they’re high and clearly I’m no exception. So to set the scene: doped-up Anna now no longer mellow but instead wailing, and 6’2 macho kiwi hubby white as a sheet mumbling that it’s probably normal and will heal.

OK, fine, I’m prone to drama and I’ll concede that this wasn’t exactly a major operation, but given it’s awkward place it was freakin’ awful. What I’d naively assumed would be perhaps a quarter of an inch was instead very much AN inch, swollen and also packed with some sort of stuffing that I was told would “fall out”. WTF – how does something FALL OUT of a wound? Now this part is actually quite amusing because that’s exactly what happened in two batches. Batch numero uno: me moving with the speed of a sloth trying to get in the shower and there is a little thud. Yep, right there on the floor is what looks like a little deer dropping, measuring perhaps just short of an inch in diameter. Both gross and a little fascinating. I gag, yet can’t stop myself from inspecting it. It’s squidgy yet firm, kind of like a rubber.

This is when I make the mistake with the mirror for a second time. And it looks the same. I realise there’s more to go. Batch numero dos happens a couple of days later when I’m on the sofa when I’m playing Trivial Pursuit with B and one of the boys. There’s a sudden burning sensation that is so sharp I’m quite literally writhing around. I leave the room and out of my body another lump of this stuffing, er, stuff squeezed out. It’s like the horror wound is giving birth to Evil. Numero dos is larger. If there’s any more in there I’d half expect it to have fangs, I swear. Just in case I haven’t already traumatised my beautiful hubby, I show the quite literally bloody mess to him both times. In a way I’m almost proud of my wound’s amazing birthing abilities and also of how I’m such a soldier suffering through this yuckiness.

But anyway. Three weeks on I’m starting to feel human again. Managed to – although not entirely without difficulty – get back to work after a week. Was told it might be up to two months to be as good as new again, but hey ho. I can deal with a slight stinging sensation. At least the horrid thing has stopped giving birth to deer droppings.

Rome and good’uns

Rome wasn’t built in one day“.

That was the quote my childhood friend K directed at me a summer long, long ago and rolled her eyes at me when we were clearing out the hayloft in the huge barn to the back of my dad’s house in order to create a space we could have sleep-outs in. I was of course ahead of proceedings once we’d shifted just a few bales of hay and some old furniture stored there, already visualising the cool hang-out we were turning it into despite us still being so far off finished. I just knew how awesome it would be and couldn’t hold back my excitement.

That’s me – it’s just my nature. I’m all full throttle and grand visions of the future when a plan is still pretty much a thought and still far from reality. I count my chickens before they hatch, always in the steadfast belief they all will. Of course!

And so now that I have got all the tools for making jewellery, I’m slightly taken aback by the fact that the ring I just created is a little… ..ahem…. ..wonky. The tube I’ll set the stone in isn’t soldered to the ring perfectly which means I’ll have to heat the whole thing up again to make it come off, then file away some more before I get it into its home again to solder it in place anew. Working with metal is a craft that requires not only precision (which does appeal due to a serious case of OCD and being a perfectionist) but also patience and that’s the one thing I do not have in abundance. Or at all. Perhaps that’s why this is so good for me though.

It is actually doing me a world of good I reckon, and on several levels. A full throttle nature does mean that I’m also heavy handed – it’s all fast and furious with me – I snap off the saw blades because I go too fast and push too hard, and I end up filing too deep because I’ve gone at it too frenetically without taking care to go soft and often check. A fraction of a millimetre means the result is all too often a piece that’s hard to rescue once you’ve gone too far.

I do try. I take care to file a little, have a look, carefully angle everything right so I don’t ruin the profile of the piece. I’m getting there. It’s starting to turn out quite great. I’m still sticking to silver until I’ve knocked out a few good’uns, but with a content little smile on my face I glance over at the selection of metal and stones noting the gold tube for setting the sapphires and emeralds soon. The difference in cost between silver and gold is staggering so even a tiny piece of gold tube to set only a little stone measuring 4mm in diameter would be a terrible waste if I didn’t get it right so – THAT BLOODY WORD AGAIN – patience!

Remember Rome, remember Rome!! I need to turn off the part of me that’s all IKEA furniture you cobble together to an acceptable standard in the blink of an eye and switch on some deeply buried part of me that understands that a piece of the finest workmanship is a SLOW process. At the very least, slow or otherwise (I guess experience and skill will decide that and thus far I don’t have heaps of either), one you just can’t rush beyond its limitations.

So there we are. Not sure yet if Santa will be delivering anything from this particular workshop this Christmas – I should be so lucky – but I’m certainly aiming for next year.

Diamonds and gum shields

Oh, London. London, London, London…. What happened? I can’t work out who changed here, you or me? Did you over these 22 years go from fun and easy-going to unbearable, or is it me who has gone from young and fancy free to a grumpy old bag? I suspect the latter, and here’s why:

Let’s face it, this town has always been crowded. I’m sure I had to battle my way through crowds and stand wedged into someone’s armpit on public transport when I first steered my longboat to these shores to set up camp in London. I loved heading in to the centre of town on a Saturday morning, grab a newspaper or book and park myself at a cafe and just watch the world go by. I loved strolling around and I genuinely have no memory of the crowds bothering me. I spent a good 15 years after finishing university getting on the tube in rush hour both morning and night to get to work and I just don’t remember ever hating it as much as I did last week when I, for the first time in three years, got on a train into town on a week day morning.

I started a course, you see, that requires me in Hatton Garden every Thursday for the next three months. It only really means a train to Waterloo, and let’s face it, Teddington is the first stop so I’m pretty much guaranteed a seat. From Waterloo, a 15-minute bus ride and even standing up you can’t really complain, can you? Still, after escaping the rat race for a more fulfilling and leisurely existence where my commute to work means either a beautiful walk along the river path to Richmond or a 20-minute car journey through beautiful west London, getting in to central London – and rush hour public transport at that – fills me with the deepest dread.

The platform territories appear to be staked out with such precision I half wonder if these commuters spent the previous evening running around their patches urinating wildly in order to mark their spot. People are literally standing in little huddles – not because they enjoy each others’ company but because this is where each set of doors will open when the train pulls in. I mean, this has me in a bad mood the moment I got on the train but it’s not the half of it. People push and shove (what is this, SWEDEN? I thought it was my countrymen who had no manners, yet all these stampeding lunatics appear to mainly be the supposedly polite Brits?!), there’s a mad race for the seats, and should an elderly person or pregnant lady step on people magically fall asleep or are glued to their phones.

And that was just the morning. When I left the workshop in the diamond district at just before 5pm, getting on the bus back to Waterloo wasn’t too bad. I even got a seat without ending up in a scrum. Waterloo station was something else altogether. This is when I quite literally wished I’d been Ritchie McCaw, and even the former All Blacks captain would have had a hard time getting through the blood thirsty crowds unscathed, I swear. Next time I might wear a gum shield. Hundreds, probably thousands of people with their eyes fixed on the departures board. The moment a destination is assigned a platform the madness begins as there’s an immediate crush of bodies heaving like a slow motion tsunami towards it. At one point I think my chin might have been on the floor and not only because I was nearly knocked over. I got back to Teddington – oh sweet, sweet abode – and poured a large drink as soon as I got home.

I’m not all that keen on driving through central London in rush hour traffic, but this seriously has me considering it.

But here’s what is staggering. I used to do this every day and I didn’t turn into an alcoholic, nor have I ever been arrested for (or been guilty of, I hasten to add) causing grievous bodily harm. As I mentioned, I don’t remember being all that bothered by the mad Hunger Games style rush hour. I do wonder if my love story with London is beginning to resign itself to My Younger Years – as sparkling and shimmery as it always was in all its loveliness, but just no longer ME. I find myself dreaming more and more often about moving elsewhere and the visual image is often a cottage somewhere near the sea with a little garden at the end of which I have a little shed come work shop and spend time making silver and gold jewellery. B’s job means a lot of travel so except for being in the office a couple of days a week he can work from home should he choose to so as long as we’re within reasonable distance of London – say, something like Brighton – we’re fine.

It’s only just over a year ago we abandoned Chiswick to move further out west, and with Monkey’s school moving away isn’t really an option as west London is where his friends, sports clubs and – thus far at least – roots are, but he is nearly 13 so give it another five years and it might be a different story… We shall see.

On the other hand, having said all of that, as much as central London seems to do my head in these days, I don’t know if I’d be without it. We went on a random little weekend trip to Brighton over the August bank holiday weekend and as much as I on the first day enjoyed being by the sea, loved the absence of the mad crowds and fancied the idea of so much nature close by, only 24 hours later I’d started to think I wouldn’t live anywhere but Teddington. I suppose Teddington is the best of both worlds. Central London – when I can stomach it – is within easy reach, but so is getting out of town.

Hm. It’ll be interesting to see where life takes us…. And maybe I need to stop being a grumpy old cow and make a bit of an effort to re-discover why I fell so madly in love with this town all those years ago. Perhaps Sunday morning I’ll hop on a bus in to town, grab a paper and a coffee…

Closed minds and drawing boards

So after wanting to get inked on and off for over two decades, we finally went ahead. And thank God I didn’t until now. I know for sure I would soon have regretted having a tramp stamp (all the rage during my uni days) and I don’t think “Made in Sweden” would have looked so cool either… I suppose it was always a matter of doing it when there finally was a concept and a design I knew I’d love forever. And in this day and age when so many people have tattoos, I don’t think mine will send the staff in my nursery home 50 years from now reeling with shock.

It always had to mean something. Something meaningful. More so than a nod to my native land. And it had to look beautiful – to me, at least. A lot of people don’t like tattoos full stop, my very conservative father being one of those people who passionately hate tattoos and consider them to be something “a certain type of person” might have. Yes, he is somewhat ignorant, prejudiced and close minded, but that’s who he is and who am I to try to change him, I love him all the same and I know it doesn’t come from a place of malice, it’s just him, how he was brought up and he just happens to see the world in black and white with no room for nuances. So no, he will never like my tattoo and wouldn’t have no matter what. In fact, I am pretty certain he will be furious with me when he discovers it – he will try to hide it (his anger, that is) because he loves me, but I know he will be genuinely upset with me. Jeez, at 41 years of age I shouldn’t concern myself with what other people think – even if they happen to be my dad – but there we are. Always been Daddy’s Girl so therefore disappointing him is something I hate to do. But this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and sometimes you just have to accept some collateral damage.

So, Monkey’s birth date, the Maori word for ‘love’ and our wedding date is what runs down my back from the top of my neck, topped by a crown (because I should have one, damnit!) and tailed with a heart eternity symbol. And B got one too! His is the heart eternity symbol incorporating my name and our wedding date. Not regretting it one bit but when you’ve had 20+ years to think something over, you’re less likely to I guess.

At the tattoo parlour I very nearly freaked out and left though. The first design the lovely Sandro showed me wasn’t what I’d envisaged and I was NOT going to get something etched on to me forever that I wasn’t in love with. No chance in hell. The poor guy went back and forth five times, right back to the drawing board quite literally, before he finally showed me The One. This all took approaching two hours. Getting me inked took just over ten minutes. I’d worried they’d put the needle to my skin and I’d flinch, scream and have a meltdown, then run away with a permanent black dot. Because I know that the more I fuss, the more I get myself worked up and the result of that is that I’m less likely to be able to go through with something. So when there was an ominous buzzing sound and Sandro asking “so shall we start?” I gritted my teeth and told him “let’s go”.

I’m not going to lie, it was NOT nice. And given this motherfucker was going along my spine, hitting bone along the way, there were a few moments when I thought I was going to faint. It felt like a sharp scratch with the occasional deeper pinch. Those ten minutes were quite enough, ta very much, I was very relieved that it didn’t take any longer – I had expected it to take perhaps as much as an hour so thank heavens for that. B’s, which had a bit of colour, look longer, probably 45 minutes in all. Guess mine was quick because it was all thin, simple script. Not as painful as I thought but far from pleasant.

Not in a hurry to get another one, that I can tell you, but exceedingly happy with the one I just had done!

Breakfast and facts

Feckmee, never thought I’d ever EVER feel this way.

It’s almost a dream like state, the very fact (or is it fact?) that I saw B this morning, got to hug him, kiss him and tell him I love him, have breakfast with him and just be in his presence nevermind arms, wake up because he kissed me (or did he? Was he here at all?). It does seem surreal, having missed him for several days, that he (HE) was in fact (FACT!) here (HERE!) when I woke up, yet now he is gone again. GONE. He is gone.

I was never a flock animal. In fact, I’ve always been happier on my own – in my own company, at my own devices, in sweet, sweet solitude. Then HE came along and now suddenly I am at a loss whenever HE is not around. And that is a lot lately and over the weeks to come – him, HE, not being around.

I cannot sleep when I’m not in his arms. I cannot think straight when he isn’t there to share my thoughts. I cannot relax when he isn’t chilling with me. I can’t even fkn BE when he isn’t there right with me. It sucks serious hairy horse balls.

He – sorry, HE – gets back tomorrow night. I have him with me until next Friday, just over a week to soak him (HIM!) up. Before I have to, somehow, be and exist without him for nearly a month. I dread it so much. It’s freaking me out, it’s making me want to scream, it’s so wrong on every level. I cannot bear it.

But he – HE – and I are strong, so somehow I know we will.

He – HE – is everything.