Tuesday, 23 July 2013

New Views

DSC_5079 lines by Lillput
DSC_5079 lines, a photo by Lillput on Flickr.
So, after several months of thinking, planning, looking, getting exasperated and nearly giving up...we finally did it.

S & I bought our house in Eastbourne. We'll both be here part of the time as we still have lives in Hitchin and Bristol, respecitively.

It'll complicate our lives a little in some senses and make them a little easier in others.

S comes from here but I've never lived anywhere but Bristol(ish) so it's quite the adventure for me.

I already have a number of friends here and lots of adopted family so I'm hardly going to be lonely when I'm here on my own...nevertheless, some days it all feels a tiny bit daunting.

Our house is on the western fringe of the town. A couple of miles on foot from the sea, but 600m or so from the South Downs which, depsite their distinctly uppiness, I'm learning to love.

I've got a number of work/community projects I'm trying to get underway but I'm going to need more than that to get to know this place.

I'm thinking the best way is to do what I like best - take photographs. I haven't decided on the rules for this new project yet but when I have, I think I'll start a new blog to house it.

After all, this blog was started and was mostly about a particular period in my life and this move to Eastbourne (albeit part time) marks the end of that time. The time started with immense sadness...but working through it all, with old friends and new ones has forged new happiness out of the sadness.

To plaigiarise...
This is not the end, nor the beginning of the end...but perhaps the end of the beginning.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Lessons Learned

DSC_5838 Scorpion Fly by Lillput
DSC_5838 Scorpion Fly, a photo by Lillput on Flickr.
It's been a while since I last wrote a post here.

I've been busy.

Still trying to get a Martello Tower in Eastbourne open to the public, doing some house-hunting and working on a project to see how the historical landscape of a fine house in Bristol is reflected in the current ecology of the land now.

This latter came to a head this weekend when we put on an event called a BioBlitz. Find out more about that here: www.kwag.org.uk.

For me it was a project/event management job and though they're all unique, it involved applying tried and tested techniques I've learned over many, many years.

However, projects and events are still learning opportunities and we should make the most of them with a bit of quiet reflection.

I learned that male spiders have club-shaped palps, whilst females have smooth ones.

I learned that the fly in the picture above is a scorpion fly and that there are only two species of them so they are fairly easy to fully identify (unlike many other types of flora and fauna).

I learned that goldfinches usually travel in big flocks and when you only see a pair in your garden, like as not, there will be other pairs nearby in your neighbours' gardens since they'll have all travelled to your neighbourhood in one of those large flocks.

And I finally understood the difference between shyness and introversion.
In a number of psychometric assessments and personality typing exercises in my old job extroversion/introversion were explained to me but I still had in mind that introversion=shyness.
Apparently this is not an uncommon mistake.

I've always said I was shy/introverted...but was aware that the manifestation of this trait had become less obvious and less inhibiting over the last couple of years.

This latest project has required me to work with quite a large number of people who haven't known me for many years (which was always an advantage in my old job). It's meant that I've had to go and meet strangers, work through the project tasks with them and, ultimately, meet and greet members of the public as part of the event itself.
Once upon a time, any one of these tasks could strike terror in my heart - giving me feelings of anxiety for hours or days beforehand. But not this time.

I've been perfectly happy to chat with the other people on the project team, with the naturalists and volunteers on the BioBlitz itself, with school children and other people attending the event.

And yet on Friday, after a full day of being surrounded by people I went home feeling totally overwhelmed.

Suddenly it hit me. It wasn't the shyness thing...it was the introvert in me who was over-stimulated by such an "peopled" environment.

Today (the second day of the event) I made a special effort to take myself off to a quiet corner from time to time - just for 10 minutes or so (little jobs like checking the loos for toilet roll, or taking out the rubbish), and then accompanying a very small group of people hunting for spiders.
And it worked.
I was still really tired by the event - and definitely needed a bit of space afterwards - but I didn't feel stressed at the end like I had on Friday.

And that's when I finally got the difference between introversion and shyness. I've got past my shyness: new people, new situations no longer scare me but the introversion will probably always mean that big groups of people overwhelm me if I'm around them too long. And that's fine. I just need to remember to absent myself from time to time to chill out.

That's the most useful lesson I've learned in a while.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

...and the sun sets

L1002987 Sundown by Lillput
L1002987 Sundown, a photo by Lillput on Flickr.
This week I passed another milestone. I locked my house and left it for the last time.
All things being equal, the completion of the sale will happen tomorrow when I'm out doing other things.

It turns out that the almost painfully slow transition of moving out of the house and into my new flat did me some favours. When the time came to lock the door, I'd said my goodbyes and although I had a little quiet moment in the room where my life was turned on its head, I wasn't sad or sorry to leave.
It was the right time to go.

Thankfully, the neighbours - well, now they're "ex-neighbours" - were on hand to feed me and we giggled over some old tales and they reminded me how, with help, I picked myself up and dusted myself down and that this day has been a while coming.

I'm reminded again what a big part of my life internet-based social networking played in getting me to take an interest again...and whilst I'm not as active in those networks as I used to be - it's not lack of inclination so much as time because I filled the void with new interests, a new business and new projects.

Last week a bunch of us went to the pub. No longer a monthly FlickrMeet with a flimsy veneer of camera-talk - since that stopped for most of us following some on-line unpleasantness - we were a bunch of pals...real people having a beer and a giggle. Once again I felt quite blessed to have this splendid group of friends around.

Tomorrow I'll be lunching with some old work friends, and then I'll be jumping on a train to Hertfordshire to spend the weekend with someone who I'd never had met were it not for all the social networking I got myself involved in. Once I'm there, there will likely be little tweeting, or checking of facebook...since we'll be planning what's next.

I hate that my life was turned upside down nearly six years ago. I hate that someone I loved decided that the world was no longer somewhere he could cope with being.

But there's a paradox.

I couldn't be any happier with how my life is just now.

Thank you everyone who helped me get from there...to here.


Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Tomorrow is a Myth

IMG_1044 by Lillput
IMG_1044, a photo by Lillput on Flickr.
Two weeks ago something dreadful happened.

My great pal, and business partner, TD died very suddenly at home one day.

It's taken me these two weeks to properly process this very simple fact - that Tim is simply no longer here.

I've known him for a little over five years but what a five years those have been.

I met him about six months after the departure of Idiot Boy. I was in a pretty bad way but my preservation instinct told me to get up and out and meet new people.

Tim was the first person I met in a one to one situation, over ginger beer and spag bol one lunchtime nearby where we both worked.

Lunchtime coffee and photography became a regular feature for all the time we worked in nearby offices.

We were never more than friends - but certainly never less. We went onto found our company together following a conversation about his wish, given infinite wealth, to have a practice of his own.

Although we were never financially successful, I refuse to only judge the value of our work by that alone. We helped influence thinking on temporary regeneration and the importance of it to communities. We gave people ideas about how people who are excluded from society can be included and encouraged to contribute. Tim was behind most of the ideas.

I'm a very different person to the woman I was when I first met Tim - and Tim was a very different man. Both of us grew in confidence in dealing with other people in a business - and in a personal sense. Both of us learned loads about how local authorities, funding bodies and other
organizations work.

If he'd been less fun, less unintimidating when we first met, then chances are I would have written off meeting people via internet means (in our case Flickr) as unworkable and too scary.

As a direct result of that meeting I gained the confidence to explore meeting other people - and I met S.

Not only that but Tim's influences led me to expland my horizons to include Velvet Underground, The Fall, Michael Clarke, Pina Bausch, event photography, my Nikon D300, the deeper aspects of architecture and construction, musing on the height of Patrick Moore's waistband, Chicken with ginger, the whereabouts of Socotra, and the list goes on.

The picture on this post is a case in point: his eye for detail made me write down the details of this particular sort of fencepost that surrounded the Wish Tower in Eastbourne. He thought it could be interesting to find out a little more about them at some point.
So I was on holiday in Cornwall with S when I saw this rusty version, somewhat randomly, in a nature reserve. I took the picture to send to Tim thinking he'd find it mildy interesting that we'd found another instance of the fencepost.

I hadn't mailed him the picture by the time I learned, three days later, that he had died. I find this particularly poignant.

Once again I find myself not sure quite what the future holds - but I'm determined that our work to date needs to be built upon because what we were trying to do - Tim's vision - needs to be done by someone.

I'll miss the comprehensive streams of expletives in emails when things weren't going well, I'll miss the random links to weird and interesting things on the internet but most of all I'll miss my occasional lunches with a tall, gruff, slightly scruffy-looking bloke who could make me laugh like a drain at inappropriate comments and could make really shitty days better with the occasional hug.

Thanks, matey.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Baying for Blood

L1002307 Grassy by Lillput
L1002307 Grassy, a photo by Lillput on Flickr.
I found myself shouting at the radio again last night - not at Woman's Hour for once - but at the BBC news on Radio Four.

It was on the matter of the shooting of two unarmed police officers in Greater Manchester.

So much emphasis seems to have been placed on the fact that they were female officers. Why?

One report was that someone has suggested it would be more appropriate if female officers were always accompanied by male colleagues - as if blokes are somehow more bullet proof than tender women.

Yes, most men have more raw strength than most women - but no matter what the gender of the officers involved, chances are they would be just as dead.

Other annoying prose described them as "heroic" - but from what I can see from the story they were lured to a fake burglary and then gunned down in cold blood. I'm sorry - but that in itself isn't heroic. It sounds like they were victims of a particularly callous crime.

I know quite a few serving and ex-police officers personally and have come across many, many others for sundry pleasant and unpleasant reasons and whilst I almost always disagree with their views politically, I can never help but admire people who do one of the most unpleasant jobs there is, and do it willingly.

All beat coppers know that they are doing a potentially dangerous job and my understanding is that most of them also would choose to be both unarmed and unarmoured. This is admirable - if anything it makes ALL coppers who put themselves out on the street heroic...and that's whether they get killed or not.

The fact that relatively few officers die in violent incidents on the job does make the times when they do seem all the more horrific and scary. But this doesn't mean they should be routinely armed.

How long ago was it that we were all castigating Police Officer Simon Harwood for hitting Ian Tomlinson?

How long ago was the clusterfuck that saw Jean Charles Demenezes dead of police-inflicted gunshot wounds?

How many people thought that the riot police who handled the riots in Stokes Croft were heavy-handed?

Isn't it closer to the truth that some police officers, like doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers are better and more suited to their jobs than others?

Of course that's also true of bankers, oil exploration executives...and of call centre operators and chuggers.

Problem is, when a chugger does their job badly, it mildly irritates one person...or possibly does a charity out of a small donation. Nobody dies.

Last night one of the dead police officer's father was reported as saying that police should be armed and allowed to "shoot on sight".

Now we have Norman Tebbit being wheeled out (sorry, there's an inappropriate pun there somewhere...) baying for the return of the death penalty for people who kill coppers.

I can forgive the father of the dead daughter for saying that - even though I think he's absolutely wrong - I'm not sure I can forgive the media for reporting it. After all, part of the reason for a democracy is that a single father in pain, after an unspeakable event is the worst person in the world to set policy. But a politician? In the wake of cover-up over cover-up of police wrong-doing? Seriously, get a grip your Lordship.

The very reason for not having capital punishment is the same as for not routinely arming our police. It reduces the chances of cock ups causing the death of innocent people.

So, to the people of 24 hour rolling news; politicians (including senior police officers) stop using hyperbole, stop overanalysing and for goodness sake report the facts not every comment by every person who happens to have a view.

Meanwhile - to the familes of those murdered officers: it doesn't matter whether they were daughters or sons, they died doing a job that most of us wouldn't - and they were heros for doing the job, not dying doing it.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Sun Setting

L1002320 Nearly a sunset by Lillput
L1002320 Nearly a sunset, a photo by Lillput on Flickr.
Well today marks another momentous (for me, anyway) occasion.

I put my house on the market.

I moved in here, with Idiot Boy, in November 1997 and I'll move out again around 15 years later to a slightly more complicated life but one that's right for now.

So there's been a flurry of painting, cleaning, lawn mowing and a nearly epic amount of throwing (or rather, giving) away.

There have been more than usual of my periodic "tricky moments" as memories crowd in on me but, as S wisely reminds me "you always knew it would be hard". It is.

The house seemed to have been turning on me and my lack of attention to it of late - but it has rewarded my latest efforts by looking pretty good in the set of photographs I took for the estate agent. I'm finding it easy to see why we fell in love with the place all that time ago.

So am I sorry to be going?

Sort of...but the overriding feeling is that it's the right time to change and the new plan (flat in Bristol, shared house in Eastbourne) is absolutely the right thing to be doing for now.

Thanks to everyone who has been wishing me well with the plans.

Thanks to everyone who has helped with getting the house into a better state (especially PBH, MP, JP and CP for helping me tame the lawn over the last couple of months).

And, of course, S...who is quietly encouraging without intruding, always ready with a hug when it gets a bit shit and brings practical solutions to my problems.

You're all fab.


Monday, 11 June 2012


IMG_0885 New View by Lillput
IMG_0885 New View, a photo by Lillput on Flickr.
It felt like a bit of an impulse purchase - you know, like the packet of fruit pastilles you pick up in the supermarket when you went for milk and toilet rolls.

Truth is, this purchase has been brewing for a little while and I'd be fooling myself if I tried to claim otherwise.

I've been living in my house, largely on my own for over five years now and my continued occupation of a three storey, semi-detatched, mid-Victorian villa has been increasingly hard to justify to myself.

This home belongs to another life, another time.

Victorian houses need near constant coaxing and tweaking to keep them from turning on you and I simply can't keep up with it any more.

Added to my lack of inclination to maintain the house is that I'm spending less time here because I've other places I want to spent a significant part of my time.

A while ago, my friend CJ said I'd know if and when the time came to move on.

He was right - the time has come.

I've never lived anywhere but Bristol and I'd never particularly thought about whether that was a good or bad thing.
Of course, of late I've been getting acquainted with Hitchin and then Eastbourne and it had been dawning on me that living somewhere new and getting to know it, the way I know Bristol, would definitely be a Good Thing.

So - a plan was formed. Leaving Bristol altogether is simply not on at the moment so I'd need to keep a base here.
It's possible that ExtraVerte will have some work to do in Eastbourne; I really like the town and I'm making some good community contacts there and well as having some "borrowed" family there for good measure.

Finding somewhere in Bristol which was convenient for my lifestyle (extensive rail travel, no car, no desire for home improvements) may have been a tricky thing.

I saw "The Eye" on Temple Quay built and it's had a bit of a perilous story so far but the estate agent put a card through my door which took me to the website.
I booked an appointment to view it almost hoping that I'd hate it and then I could let the plan to move go off the boil for a bit.

But I liked it. A lot.

I refused to sign up immediately but booked viewing for other places in town...and hated them all.

By the time I could take S to have a look (to point out all the faults and flaws that I'd missed) all but one apartment on my preferred side of the building had been sold.

Then something odd happened - S said "I can see you living here.
We agreed that the location (notwithstanding the slightly irritating lack of nearby parking for the few times he brings a car to Bristol) was perfect.

Less than five minutes on foot to the station, 15 minutes from town and in a quiet area.

The show flat was on the first floor and my friend GBH thought that lower was better on the simple grounds of keeping the water nicely in view.

But the only flat left was on the 10th Floor.

So - last Wednesday I was taken to the 10th Floor (in fetching hi-viz jacket, mingling with the builders) to see how "my" flat would feel.

And the picture shows you.

I'm sold.

There are views to Totterdown and beyond to Dundry, you can see the cut and Wills' Tower. Even the roof of the office building opposite is pretty pleasant.

So I've signed on the dotted line; I've had estate agents appraise my house and I've started to price up storage space and house removals.

It's really happening.

Whilst the hideous detail of the amount of effort that's going to be involved is revealing itself to me, I'm more than a little bit excited.

So if I'm even less available for beers and photowalks for the next few months, please forgive me...I'm likely to be packing books, or cleaning things.

Here's to the next chapter...