Acronyms are wonderful things. They can make the clumsy and obvious sound efficient and businesslike; and they can make everyday suffering sound neat and manageable. I am taking an MHD (a Mental Health Day). It feels less shameful than explaining that I’ve burned out, had a meltdown, stopped functioning, or any of the other dramatic, messy-sounding metaphors for why I can not be a productive member of society today.

This has been looming for a while and I’ve just been ignoring it, because fuck being ill. It started with sleepless nights, waking up at random hours of the morning with cold dread tying my insides in a knot. I started scrolling through social media compulsively, absorbing all the negative emotions expressed in it until it felt like I was consuming poison with my eyeballs. After a self-imposed sanity break from that, my mind kept running on overdrive trying to solve the awful problem of my life. Every once in a while I would offer it a crochet pattern as a distraction, which gave me a little bit of respite. But by then the physical symptoms had already taken hold: slow speech and difficulty talking, with sentences that seem to take forever to lead nowhere; nausea and lack of appetite (Christmas fun!); prickly skin, oversensitivity to noise and light; and that weird feeling that I’m being carried along by a flock of evil butterflies living somewhere underneath my sternum…

I crashed to a halt on Christmas Eve and spent most of the day sitting on the floor crying (something I often joke I ought to add to my CV: ‘in my free time…’) and, well, it got worse. After a bit of a break over Christmas, I managed to drag myself to work yesterday, but my concentration was shot. I haunted the office like a nauseous ghost, trying to remember all the things I had to do, and how to do them, and failing, mostly.

I needed a day to sleep, and to register with a GP so that I could finally talk to someone about this, and to renew my travelcard which I would have done yesterday if I had any kind of grip on reality, and just to figure out how I really am and how best I can manage. The fact I feel wracked with guilt about taking a day out for this probably shows I really need it, but doesn’t make it any easier. I might indulge in a bit of sitting on the floor and crying, for tradition’s sake.

At the moment, there’s a lurking cloud of bad feelings waiting to attach themselves to any thoughts that might feed them. Every once in a while, my brain helpfully offers up a memory for the guilt to feed on, or a little bit of logic which demonstrates how the world would be a better place if I weren’t in it (luckily Black Dog is on hand with a counter-argument, because who would he be snuggling if I were gone?).

My random apology of the day is to Midge Ure, for drunkenly heckling him in Aberdeen. He introduced Vienna and I said ‘YESSSSSSSS!’ and then explained – a bit too loudly – ‘IT’S THE ONLY ONE I KNOW’. I know it was a bit too loud because he sighed and said ‘yeah, thanks for that’ before beginning. Sorry, Midge. I really like Fade To Grey as well.

Be excellent to each other, everybody.




a year of writing honestly

I hate writing.

There, I said it. For something I have done compulsively almost all my life, nothing causes me quite so much anguish. It’s only in the last few months I’ve started asking: why? Why do I do it? And why does it bother me so much?

Writing is another way of thinking. For me, it can often be the clearest way of thinking, a way of working towards ideas or insights I could never reach without it. The pile of scrappy notebooks filled with scribbled thoughts gets bigger every year, and I find it hard to shake off the idea that I should DO something with it all – be more organised, write more neatly, have better ideas… “This time,” I tell myself, stroking the uncreased cover of my new moleskine, “I’ll write something worthy of this lovely object.” And then I sit feeling miserable and paralysed, unable to think of anything worthy, depriving myself of the obvious route to feeling better.

Writing here is doubly difficult, because anyone can read it. I started this blog as a way of keeping track of ideas, inspirations and projects from different parts of my life, as my unruly interests kept spilling over the boundaries of more defined blogs ( and  But it’s hard not to be conscious of potential readers. I spend so much time hiding different aspects of myself. I’m a pagan druid, a folklore enthusiast, an archivist, a bit of a muso, a depressive, a budding stitcher, a Welsh speaker, an amateurish linguist, a rambler… Without knowing who might be out there reading, how should I know which bits of me to hide?

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. I’m thinking it too.

For 2017, I’ve set myself the challenge to be honest. The plan for this blog is to write about things which genuinely interest me, for their own sake, without worrying what people think (ha!). This is likely to include crochet, folklore, our new hometown, politics, songs, my newfound interest in SF and speculative fiction, poetry, random observations, Eurovision, the industrial revolution, and anything else for which I develop a sudden enthusiasm in the next 12 months. If you’re reading this, hello! And thank you. If you’re not reading this, good, it’s a strictly non-compulsory activity. But writing it is turning out to be a very useful thing.


Last weekend I found a cardboard ampersand, fell in love with it and carried it home. Blame it on the pre-wedding whirlwind. In the middle of all the things we were supposed to buy or borrow (table decorations, PA systems, flowers…) the ampersand was my ridiculous £2 cardboard reclamation of the fun of getting married.

We’re only three days away now. On some level, I have always pictured myself alone, and now that’s changing. I am going to live my life on one side of an ampersand. It feels terrifying and comforting all at once, like cresting the top of a rollercoaster and looking down… to see a whole different lifetime spread out below, one I’m only just beginning to imagine.

I think we’re going to make it.


WIP Wednesday: picking up the (paper) pieces

With full awareness that neither of my previous works-in-progress have really progressed (I’ll be making those granny squares until the end of yarn and time, and amigurumi isn’t for me) I decided to start another project anyway: English paper piecework.

This is the big one – or rather, the first timid step in the general direction of a big ambition: learning how to sew. Working in a place that makes and sells these wonderful fabrics, I wanted to start learning how to use them.

paper piecework_QB fabric

cotton galore

So I bought some books and some basic supplies, decided that patchwork appealed more than dressmaking, and yesterday – after months of not knowing where to start – I found an excellent online tutorial with printable templates, and took the plunge.

paper piecework_Toto

tacking the fabric around the paper piece to form a neat hexagon

The tiny dog was unimpressed by my concentration on something other than him…

paper piecework_patches

the project takes shape…








I got the feeling this is something I will really love – especially after seeing Flossie Teacakes’ kaleidoscopic paper piecing patterns – so last night I started a diary as well, to keep track of patchwork projects. Four hexagons cut and tacked so far, eight to go before I can start sewing them together to make my first project: a patchwork pincushion.

paper piecework_pincushion

the end result? (pattern from Patch! by Cath Kidston)

 End note: the hardest thing about sewing, for me, is negotiating the happy-little-homemaker stereotype. I struggled enough with my inner Angela Carter when I started baking bread. Buying my bread, my throws and my placemats instead of attempting (clumsily) to make them certainly frees up more time to devote to philosophy and politics and cultural pursuits – but I’ve had a good decade of staying out late in smoky bars discussing big ideas, and I feel ready to add something a bit more tactile and creative to my repertoire now.

the bride and the groom and their friends

All has been quiet on the blogging front recently, as assignment deadlines cast their long, forbidding shadows on my calendar. The last assignment was handed in as Friday night was turning in to Saturday morning, and 6 hours later we were on the road to Cambridge, for C & J’s wonderful wedding at the Union.

Continue reading