Monday 13 May 2019

On Being Ill

Being ill is strange, whole weeks pass by in a blur; it goes from Christmas to suddenly Spring and the seeds are all growing and time has passed and is passing by and I just sit here and read endless books and stitch and make nourishing meals and wait to be well again.

A month passes, then 3 and then 6. All that time! Time is such a luxury, one that is rarely afforded us in such large and uninterrupted slices and here I am with the greatest gift of all: big delicious slices of endless time. I can fill these chunks of time between visits to nurses, hospitals and doctors with whatever I want. It is absurd! If only I didn’t feel so exhausted, and ill!

It is hard to grapple with all this time and all this uncertainty. I, and I suppose why would I have, had never really contemplated what people do when they get ill. I had never pondered in my former well life what it might feel like to be scared and sad but also have hours upon hours of a day, a week, a month to fill.

I start slowly. In moments I am not in pain. I begin with decoupaging a wardrobe, this takes me 3 days and I feel exhausted by the end but happy because I’ve achieved something for the first time in months. I take up embroidery and slowly learn new stitches. I plant a medicinal herb garden filled with things to help me and others with common ailments. I imagine myself helping other people feel well when I can get through a day without having to have a nap. On days were I feel really appalling (there are quite a few of these) I do sudoku or gaze at trees in the garden and think about very little and try and not feel too guilty about things. I put a postcard by my bed that says ‘Don’t Try to Achieve Too Much’ and that makes me feel a bit better about being ill. It is very hard to not feel completely useless as an ill person. My grandfather phones and asks ‘Has Lally being doing anything at all?’

I drag the needle in and out of the canvas. In and out. Chain, stem, feather stitch and French knots I’ve mastered them all.  Somewhere in amongst the pain and tears I run a conference and it goes quite well. I barely remember writing the emails.  I feel a bit insane quite a lot of the time. When I think about normal life I sob, it feels so alien. People keep saying this will be a distant memory soon. A nurse tells me that ‘by hook or by crook we’ll get you mended’. It is hard to imagine how this will happen.

On days I’m feeling stronger I take walks to towns I used to be familiar with. My body walks through them as my mind swirls somewhere else. I have a panic attack in Marks & Spencer’s and then I have one in a garden centre. I am lost and I just want to sit down because I am tired.  Nowhere ever has seats and when they do people frown at you for using them because young people aren’t meant to be ill and in public.

I feel guilty for not helping my mum carry the shopping. My arms are limp and when I pick things up my chest feels like it might split.

I go to an acupuncturist. She assures me I will be an easy case and that I’ll be well very soon. I have to stop eating dairy, sugar, meat and raw food.

Some friends have a moving in party, an acquaintance asks ‘have you been doing anything at all whilst you’ve been ill?’ People have conversations around me, I try to look interested whilst also thinking I’d really like to sit down. I look over the buffet table and find there is nothing I can eat.

Next I make sauerkraut. I pack it into a crock and wait. A week later there is a thin layer of mould across the surface. I despair. Google tells me it’s saveable. I pile it into a new jar. It leaks across the counter top.

Somewhere at the beginning of all this pain my mum and I made kimchi. We spent a day preparing and researching and then we chopped and rubbed and packed cabbage into the crock. It smelt terrible and only got worse. We chucked one batch and packed the less offensive pot into jars and gifted it to friends.

People’s expectations of me seem to have lowered since I’ve been ill. They don’t seem to believe I am capable of being or doing very much at all. It’s confusing at times because inside I feel like I am being braver and therefore more functional than I’ve ever been before. It’s hard to convey that. Illness does not equate to functionality, ill people are not allowed to engage in life and if they do they should be quiet about being ill. People have begun to look on with pity. I don’t think you’re meant to be ill for more than a month, it’s hard for people to sustain sympathy.

I continue stitching.

I am so used to being ill that it is now my new normal. The primroses are abundant this year. A yellow velvet carpet spreads across the lawn and this year tiny violets too. I set to work crystallising them for the Easter Simnel cake. Another festive season in which to be ill! Another dinner table to cry at.

I plant 6 little winter squash seeds. I sing them a song to help them grow big and strong. I try to imagine that when they are fully grown I will be better and that I will roast one and laugh about the strange time ‘last year’.

‘This will never heal like this! You have a sinus’. The surgeon says I have to have another operation. It feels odd to feel happy at this news but when validation has felt so distant it is a relief. I can hear people’s surprise as I tell them. I had been written off as a delicate flower that had wilted.

A bout of warm weather, my squash seedlings are germinated in under a week. They grow two inches in three days. I shed a tear when I look at them. I feel so much joy knowing I  am responsible for their wellbeing. I will do everything in my power to keep when healthy because I cannot do that for myself despite my best efforts.

And here I am now. Still ill but with resolution in sight. It is amazing to me that 6 months have passed and that I have filled them. I’ve filled them with all the things an ill person can do. I have wept, and stitched, and read, and planted, and cooked, and slept. I have filled all these days and weeks and months. I have learnt new skills and made new recipes and 6 months from now I will be eating winter squash and being well.

Tuesday 30 January 2018

Ancient Scent: Ireland

There's been a long silence on here mostly because life has been v.busy leaving me little time to update this sorry excuse for a blog. I do hope to change that in the near future but for now a very brief post to share details of my next exhibition, coming this March to St Saviour's Hall in Plymouth - you can find more information about the exhibition here & the evening event here. The work has been a long time in the making so I'm very excited to share it all. Here's some sneaky snippets of the work that I'll be showing. It is all associated with the OTT - a possibly fictitious cult that maybe existed at some point in time and space

    As Above So Below, 
    Merry Maidens, 2018

Be Lonely Together, 
OTT moto patch

                         Camp OTT magazine cover


Monday 6 February 2017

Heartbreak Hotel

It's been a phenomenally long time since I wrote here last. Life has been busy. Also I can't lie the current political climate has put me in a bit of a flump, and left me feeling less inclined to blog. It seems strange writing posts about clothes when everything is in turmoil. However, I feel very strongly that everyone could probably use some good vibes right now and blogs can be a great way to skip reality for a few moments of the day! So I guess what I'm saying is I'm still here, trying to make you smile/think!

Last weekend, having felt very flumpish over Christmas, my ma and I held a giant January jumble sale to raise money for the Penryn and Falmouth Foodbank. Now more than ever it feels really really necessary to DO stuff, be it big or small, to help others. A proper old fashioned jumble sale is a dying breed so it felt good revive something and make some cash for a good cause too (we raised £344 in total - yahoo). Food banks do amazing work, and they get NO government funding (mainly because the Tory's will not accept that over half the population have or will use one in their lifetime) so they are entirely reliant on fundraising and donations. 

Our friends and family were incredibly generous with donations of clothes, money and food! I picked up a few great things including these leather biker trousers that my friend Holly donated. They are actual motorbike trousers but a size 10 so they fit like a dream. I feel like a second generation Elvis in them. I'm yet to find the right occasion to wear them at so for now dancing around my living room to Heartbreak Hotel is their destiny. 

Trying to capture Elvis' insipid expressions is pretty tricky but luckily my brother and I spent a lot of our youth prancing about to Mr Presley so I've got in a lot of practice in down the years.

Source: 1
Source: 2

It feel strange dressing as an All-American hero after the last two weeks. I don't really want to give the orange being any time on here but suffice to say what he is doing is terrible and I'm fighting as best I can here in England. I've only visited the States once but it was my favourite of anywhere I ever been. Inspiring on a level I can't even put into words. There is so much good in America, and it makes my heart break to see it being destroyed. I will keep protesting, and writing (WRITE to your MP and ask them to stop the state visit)!

 I recently joined a group called 'Let's Get Busy' which is aiming to give the left a new space to speak and act. So far I've been to one meeting, and it felt SO great to be amongst other like-minded bodies and talk how we might pro-actively start fighting back! Everyone needs to get out there and get busy, get helpful, get empowered! We've entered a new era now, it's no longer optional to speak up, you've got to get shouting before it's too late!

Outfit Details

Leather trousers - jumble sale
Denim jacket - nicked from my brother
T-shirt - painted by me (others can be found HERE)

Monday 19 September 2016

Ancient Scent

As summer draws to a close and Autumn has firmly set in I've looking back at all the things I've done and woweee has it been busy. August was especially packed. I had the Happy Tat sale which was a delight and then a mammoth car boot sale, and I'm now entering the new season feeling a whole lot lighter and brighter. 

 I've also been knee deep in preparations for Ancient Scent which is coming up at the beginning of October (7th-10th). We've had so many wonderful and fortuitous things happen around the project. The launch evening will take place on October 8th and will include a full programme of discussion, readings and performances. We're very lucky to have Richard Shillitoe and Marcus Williamson (both Ithell Colquhoun experts and enthusiasts) lending us some real deal Ithell Colquhoun's for the evening and holding a short discussion alongside member of Ancient Scent, Steve Patterson. 

About month ago my mum, Penny MacBeth, who is also a part of Ancient Scent, received a forwarded email through a curator and friend at Penlee House Gallery and Museum detailing that Peter Owen Press were soon to re-launch Ithell Colquhoun's two travelogues The Crying of the Wind and The Living Stones with a new foreword by Stewart Lee.  Penlee held the first retrospective of Colquhoun's work last January but weren't looking for any further Colquhoun events. After many emails, a trip to the Peter Owen offices and a few calls we arranged to also host the launch of the two books at our launch of the exhibition. It's incredibly exciting that the books will be re-launched, and we feel very honoured to have them present at our evening. The Living Stones is how I first discovered Colquhoun, through a dusty old copy from the library. It had me gripped from beginning to end, it is beautifully evocative depiction of Cornwall in the early-mid fifties and indeed it has much that we could learn from today in it. I think I've quoted this passage here before but it's still my absolute favourite, Ithell Colquhoun on fox hunting:

If I can explain my feeling on the subject of 'blood sports' without priggishness, I would say that the human race can never enjoy the freedom of the cosmos until it ceases to exploit the other races with which it must share it's life. In other words, you cannot count on benevolence in your surroundings unless you practice harmlessness yourself. (The Living Stones, 1957, p.119)

My own work for Ancient Scent has been progressing very well. I've spent lots of time in the studio immersed in my alter ego, Hector Nit's, World. This foamy, cavernous landscape will provide the backdrop for the animals I've made to stand against. 

I've been worrying a lot what I might wear for the evenings proceedings, I have grand plans for a watercoloured outfit. However, I did also just buy this magical Bella Freud suit from ebay and it might just be my favourite ensemble ever. It had its first outing to some old friends' wedding last weekend and it was a joy to wear. 

As well as making the rocky landscape I've been busy making t-shirts to sell. I'll probably put most of them up in my shop, Happy Tat, afterwards so I'll let you all know!

The final, and extremely delightful, piece of fortune that was handed to us was this beautiful photograph of Ithell taken by Alastair Thain in 1985. We received an email from the same curator at Penlee stating they'd found it just after a phone call we'd made about the exhibition to them... We'll now have it on show for the duration of the exhibition!

If you'd like to visit Ancient Scent, details are below. Anyone wishing to attend the launch party or interested in more information about the project/launch please email me.

Outfit Details

1990s pink velvet suit - Bella Freud via ebay
Cupie doll t-shirt - Meadham Kirchoff X Topshop 
Brogues - Nicole Farhi via charity shop
1950s pink velvet turban hat - vintage shop

Thursday 11 August 2016

Postcards from Europe: Cyprus

When I plucked Cyprus from the hat I struggled to think of anything I knew about the country... haloumi? beautiful stamped coins? That was about it. A little investigation led me to a number of intriguing details, including the use of kohl on their eyes to detract flies and the sun's glare. I also discovered their wonderful laces made in the town Lefkara and most excitingly of all their wonderful folk dress. Cypriot folk dress is quite different to any other European dress, it's very Turkish in its influence... even the Greek Cypriot dress has touches... but let's slide over that...

The element I liked most was the pantaloons that poke out from beneath the dresses
Greek Cypriot: source 1

Turkish Cypriot: source 2
and the waistcoats that the men wear. The waistcoat I'm wearing was a gift from my mum earlier this year, she picked it up in a local chazza. I'm pretty sure it's a genuine Cypriot one, it's very lovely thick green velvet with a wonderful braid around the the edging. I think it's early 19th century, quite a bargain for a tenner!

Source: 3
During the course of this post I have been reading an awful lot on the history of Cyprus and it's utterly fascinating, it's definitely somewhere I need to read lots more about to fully understand it's history. It's very long, and quite checkered.

I'll be taking a break from Eu postcards for a short while as I have two upcoming events that require a fair amount of attention. First up is my Happy Tat sale at the end of August, if you're in Cornwall please do pop by (email me for more details), and of course Ancient Scent in early October. Ancient Scent is shaping up to be a great thing indeed, I'm fresh back from an open air oil drum firing in Lamorna last weekend. A truly magical affair. We fired pinch pots, and other weird and wonderful objects in an old oil drum, it was very wild and wonderful.

I hope you are all well, and I promise to try and post in between making, travelling and what not over the next few weeks.

Outfit Details

Cypriot velvet waistcoat - charity shop
1970s Indian block print dress - car boot sale
Bloomers - vintage sale
Scarf - Zara
Earrings - birthday gift from a friend