Moping, Tori Amos and Death (by )

Post is not about suicide honest!

I am sitting here moping around in a hello kitty onsie listening to Tori Amos and reading a graphic novel called Death written by Neil Gaiman. I have lots of stuff that needs doing but it is the weekend and I have already done a huge chunk of domestic stuff this morning.

I am trying to frame my thoughts, to prepare them for some comic book art later today. I haven't worked on the comic since Monday and I need to work on Cuddly Science as it now has a second booking. The issue is I am feeling very nervous about all of it - about my own capabilities and talents.

Alaric normally boys me up with this sort of thing but he has gone to London today and I am missing him and am also feeling strangely alarmed that I have been with him for over a third of my life. I wrote this and I think I may end up constructing him a poem out of it at some point - I posted the first bit on twitter and then when I put it on Facebook it grew - he liked it which was a relief 🙂

I don't like my men to be beefcake - oh no I like them to be nut roast.
I also like my coffee like I like my men - white, sweet and tall preferably with caramel but I'll put up with vanilla, decaf but not weak
Must also have dodgy dress style and be able to be cast as an elf in LoTR
Add in the brain power and the essential we must be FRIENDS and I think it's a good job I found Alaric Blagrave Snell-Pym
Next month is 10 yrs of marriage, I've been with him for over a 1/3rd of my life - this morning I felt this was an insane fact - now feeling lonely as he's gone to the big smoke and the girls are playing on their own and the cats have gone out

I am annoyed with myself and project jumping - true I get the projects finished but it takes longer than other people as I'll focus on one thing for six weeks and then jump to another project. They tend to be the same projects that I flit between but it means instead of getting a finished thing and then moving on, I get three things all finished at the same time.

This is not the best tactic for several reasons - firstly there is only so much of my stuff everyone is interested in and I need to give each one a far chance and not over load people and what I do is kind of the worst of both worlds. What I should do with my varied focus and projects is do a bit of each, each day or week to keep the skills honned or to just learn the skills do the project and then move on to the next thing. What I actually do is spend 6 weeks on something, the first week or so being me remembering what it is I was doing with the project/cleaning the rust of my skills.

And at the same time of course I can't actually focus on what I want to for those 6 weeks as there are workshops, performances, stuff I've promised to people, kids and animals and health problems.

Alaric doesn't see my way of working as a problem but I also get incredibly distracted once I am in the 'zone' with a project and start to resent time not spent on it. He says this is just how my brain works.

I am also being mentally hungry at the moment - I want new things and everything seems to just be combinations and reiterations of what's gone before (yes I know its the combinations that make things new, it's just the way I feel at the moment). This goes for books, films and music - I found Tori has produced a whole new lot of music since last I looked hence the morning marathon!

At the same time I feel incapable of learning at the moment - my mind just flits away or I forget what I was doing, like the first half of the instructions etc... this happens if I don't get to focus on a project, it's like my mind can't hold anything else - I obsess about a project but only for a limited amount of time. I think that is why things like NaNoWriMo appeals to me so much - they fit in with how I'm happiest working and so far I've gone back repeatedly to the same project but that means my life has to worked out on an annul basic and not weekly/monthly etc... and EVERYTHING is long term :/

I'm feeling elated and panicky about performances and fear that I'll stop coming up with ideas.

It's kind of bizar. Also I seem to have lost the ability to sing in front of anyone :/ Just thinking about it makes my throat clam up - my solution to this is that I am dam well going to start singing again - some way, some how. I fear it will affect the way I do my performances as well so I have been making myself practice the guitar and have attempted to learn the Let It Go song from Frozen - it seems to kind of be helping.


One blog post without a focus - I love Tori's music and I love Neil's work and this entire thread of thought was sparked by 'oh look I'm reading him and listening to her and they are at the British Library together today looking at comic books - ooo comic books wasn't I doing something with that... or was it a song I was supposed to be recording?'

Now I am off to spray the chickens as one of them is being naughty and pecking the others :/

The Punk Shaping Up (by )

I've been working on The Punk comics as well as being insanely poetic recently! Yesterday I worked on the emblems or symbols or crests that each of the main characters has. Punku emblem needed to represent eternity so it is a pheonix spirally - this shows the concept of renewed hope and immortality etc...

It can be simplified to a simple spiral as a short hand or signature. The rest of the emblems are along similar lines.

I am currently working on the outfits/costumes and considering what the exact style is going to be. Anyway her is the process from pencil sketch to coloured emblem. I haven't cleaned it up digitally yet and it is the first attempt.

Punku emblem pencil sketch

Punku emblem outline

Punku's Pheonix Emblem

The joys of compressed air (by )

I've always had a hankering for pneumatic tools. The idea is that compressed air is used as a power source for hand tool, rather than an electric motor. This has various advantages - the tool is lighter (motors are heavy), it's safer (electric motors, when stalled, produce a sharp increase in torque that can make the thing break your wrist if you're not lucky, and the motor can then burn out), and it's cheaper (air drive thingies are cheaper than motors) and simpler. This makes a wider range of tools practical and affordable, from drills and power screwdrivers to stranger things like pneumatic files and caulking guns. And compressed air has some unique uses, too - tyre inflaters, blowers for clearing dust away, and spraying liquids for painting or cleaning.

The downside, however, is that you need a source of compressed air. Thankfully, these have been getting more popular in the hobbyist market, and therefore cheaper, and got a bonus from work, and I've wanted one for years, and so, POW! I now own an air compressor!

It's only a small one. I spent just over a hundred pounds, which is more than I've spent on something purely for fun (it's a tool, but not one I need) in ages. I picked up a set of basic air tools with it - a tyre inflater, a blower, a paint sprayer, and a wash sprayer. Sarah's keen on using it to paint things, so once she's had a go with the spray gun, I'm planning on getting her a more artist-grade air brush with fine controls, and she's getting me a pneumatic ratchet (that can do and undo screws and bolts) as a first "proper" tool.

I'm very tempted by a pneumatic nail gun, because they can drive a nail into wood in a single "phut" compared to having to hammer one into place (and the ever-present risk of it going wonky halfway through), which is a huge labour saver - but I don't actually use nails all that often. Perhaps in the next round of workshop roof fixing...

I thought it was broken when I first unpacked it; the manual had a series of steps to follow when first setting it up, and when switching it on (check the crankcase oil level, set the valves to a safe position, etc) - I followed them all and turned the power on, and the motor started roaring away and the tank pressure rising. But the pressure wouldn't go above two bar, and when I turned the motor off, all the air hissed out again. It was getting late so I got ready to go to bed rather than playing more, but while flicking through the manual's troubleshooting section (it looked like a failure of the non-return valve or the safety valve, and I resolved to check both in the morning), I noticed that the instructions for AFTER you've used the compressor included opening a cylinder drain valve to let out any condensation... I felt underneath and, sure enough, the drain valve was wide open! Checking that's closed should be part of the starting process, but wasn't in the instructions...

In the meantime, I've been having fun with the kids making balls levitate in the air stream from the blower 🙂 We can float a ball-pond ball a good twenty to thirty centimetres above the blower nozzle, at an angle of up to forty-five degrees. and 1.5bar; when I have a face shield on and no children crowding around I might try cranking the output pressure up to the full 6-8bar the machine can produce and see if I can float balls at steeper angles, or heavier objects...

A Weekend of Epic (by )

This bank holiday has been amazing. Below is a picture of our haul and that is not all of it!

This weekends haul

For me it kind of began on Friday with a trip to UWE to see a friends talk on memristors (resistors with memory!) and then staying on for her leaving bash at a beer and cider festival - I had a Toffee Apple cider followed by a meal in a chinese place. Then we got up early Saturday and prepared stuff to go to the allotment but first there was Free Comic Book Day at Proud Lion in Cheltenham.

We arrived about 15 minutes before the shop opened which turned out to be a good thing as people were beginning to queue! We were ninth into the shop though and Jean knew instantly what she wanted - I was startled to see her pick up a hello kitty comic until she announced, 'it's not for me! It's for Mary.' She didn't take one of everything like she did last year which was interesting, she also got a hobbit poster and I got an XMEN badge.

I also got two pints and me and Al got a selection of comics like 2000 AD. I got to say hi to the people who are running the comic book convention I am launching the first Punk comic next year and I also bought Death by Neil Gaiman.

Mary's first comic

The girls couldn't wait to start reading and Jeany was moaning that I was taking too long in the shop! Mary I don't think gets the story form of comics - she just spent the whole time excitedly announcing there were lots of Hello Kitty's 🙂

Jean and MAry enjoying their stash from Proud Lion for Free Comic Book Day

We then nipped to the allotment and did two hours of weeding - discovering that the bit of the plot that we had planted the runner beans on was again cursed and they were all gone. We have decided that it is obviously a cursed bit of land and we will be putting a bench there in future. We also found that the stuff the farmer had sprayed for us to try and get the dandilions under control had killed the grass but not the dandilions!

killed the grass but not the dandilions

I deflowered all the dandilions in our plot and then dug up a small bin bag full of plants, roots and all. The flowers I have dried and the plants the rabbit and chickens have been working their way through.

We popped home to drop off allotment stuff and pick up my new camera (as seen in the first photo), this has been an amazing discovery and I am not yet sure how I am going to share it with you! It is a 3D camera and reduced to less than my standard camera was. I decided to invest in it as they were over £400 to begin with. I think there may have to be an exhibition or something maybe with my friend who showed me her one in the first place.

Then it was off to Bristol to catch the food fair/festival 🙂 We came away with waxed cheese and chocolate coated coffee beans. Queuing for food was a bit of a nightmare though!

Al, Olly and Mary at Food Festival Bristol

Mary decided she was Hermione out of Harry Potter and found herself a stick which she waved shouting the levitation spell - it seems to have worked!

Mary casting a floating spell

Then we nipped to Costco and picked up some cling film and bits that we like to get in bulk and headed home to have a TV dinner of Lord of the Rings 🙂

On Sunday we got up and packed a cooler box, a wicker basket and the pic nic ruck sack and headed back out the door to the allotment. Where we spent all day from just after ten! The guy who likes to go there in the morning and the evening was well impressed 🙂 Of course I got sunburnt though Al and the kids didn't.

Mary's undergrowth nest

We both had to have lots of breaks and Jean and Mary helped a bit.

Mary helping Daddy at the allotment

Jean beheaded all the newly flowering dandilions and cut a bag of lemon balm for me - along with pretending to eat the spring onions and actually trying to eat the asparagus! She also watered everything.

Jean threatening to eat the spring onions we'd just dug up

I dug out and chopped down weeds - I filled four large buckets of the things - this is the bucket that carries all our wellys and smaller tools! I also cut a bag full of lemon balm down and produced a good but not full bag of dandelions for the the rabbit et al. Alaric spent his time digging over a new bit of ground then hoeing it and then raking it. Between me, Al and Jeany we then planted carrots and parsnips in one half of the newly prepared section.

Alaric and the hoe

The hoe is called Katy and she is dutch 😉

We had an epic picnic and also went over to Primrose Vale for an ice cream and coffee whilst the girls played on the toys - I'm a cheap skate so I had a flask of decaf coffee. I also had a herbal tea made from lemon balm with me that I sat on the tyre at the end of the allotment and drank whilst reading my book, waiting for my pelvis to be ok again to do more stuff.

Jean spent a huge chunk of her time reading two books and Mary made a den in the hedge row 🙂 Al used up his phone battery in his breaks - the pacing worked well and we got a load of stuff done!

I also found some epic shrooms to photo (bigger versions will be appearing on Orange Monster and Photo Salaric).

Shrooms! mushroom reaching for the sky Fungus Mushrooms Epic mushrooms grown on bark pile

Monday was our day off, so I processed some photos and planted out most of my tomotoe pants in pots in the garden. Al fixed the door in the girls room and Mary's little chair and did computer stuff. The girls played in the garden and board games, Jeany played Stratego with Al and then they watched films whilst I napped (me and Al were pretty achy!).

The I went off to take part in a lovely improv workshop run by Joy-Amy - you could tell I was involved as there were Romans, babs and bird eating spiders, there were also deranged hair dressers and moons being caught!

We finished the weekend off with a pear cider and some minecraft 🙂

May – the beginning of the Summer (by )

It's a new month, a new season and I have a new to-do list. It is time for reordering and sorting. I handed in my last piece of coursework on Tuesday for the PGCert and have plans to take the project I've designed to the next level.

It is called Cuddly Science and you be hearing a lot more about it 🙂

Apart from that I'll be running workshops at The Brewery in Cheltenham for a Poetry Fun day and performing along side the wonderful Joy-Amy, I will also be performing at a slam at the Swindon Poetry Festival and at In Verse. I have the first of the music festivals this month too 🙂

I will also be doing some workshop with the kids at Jean's drama group.

And just to be a tad insane I am taking a ten week course in Improv and Stand Up - as in I'm going off to learn some stage crafty stuff myself. I've been meaning to do something since I left Imperial to be honest but it is now more urgent as I need better performance skills than I have to deliver Cuddly Science to the quality I want. It is ok at the moment but needs to be more - plus I felt that the performance poetry stuff could do with these sorts of skills as well.

It is also a matter of confidence and the accumulation of new skills. I find the concept of stand up comedy pretty terrifying and yet it was what I was edging towards with the Science Show-Off stuff I did. Also I don't like being scared of stuff - once I was scared of heights - petrified of them, my solution was to become a climbing instructor.

Apart from all of that there is the comic book to still be working on and the continual give aways for The Monster Blogs 5 year anniversary 🙂 I also want to get going with a bit more of the Science Writing and communication stuff in general, I still need to do some training for being a STEM Ambassador (science, technology, engineering and maths), to go into schools and things.

As always I am a glutton for punishment and the being of May is Picture Book Writing Week - so I will be attempting to write 7 picture books in the next 7 days. I am going to be focusing on the accompanying texts for Cuddly Science 🙂

The rest of month I will in general be working on my kids books and illustrations - 30 hours min. The summer in general will also involve game design and an update of the blogs.

On the domestic front we are having issues with the insurance company and the dinning room roof still but in general we are starting to get there with the house. There are some infrastructure bits that still need sorting and the garden will hopefully be getting a bit of a make over with the girls swing installed. The allotment is going to be the main priority for a while though as we still need to dig over a lot of it and plant tons of stuff.

We've sorted the play room and are almost there with the girls room, still don't think we will get around to painting the walls this year though 🙁

But we should finally get the curtains up!

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