I’m back! And these are some things I’ve done, and learnt from, in the meantime.

One of my housemates volunteers with a community theatre group. They needed help painting some of the set so I gave up a morning to help. I’d genuinely forgotten how calming I find it when I am absorbed my something creative for a few hours. I drew and painted this board of cogs, and felt so much happier because of it.

I went to Henley Regatta and got to wear a hat (I didn’t actually wear it with that checked shirt). I fitted in much more than I thought I would, which will teach me for being such a reverse snob.

At Cowley Road Carnival we chose mask making in the family craft area rather than daytime drinking in front of the stages. Had much more fun.

I moved rooms in my house. I now have a sofa! And room to spread out all the blankets I crochet.

My bike wheels were stolen. Bastards. But now that it’s my main method of transport, I was toying with the idea of using the money I made my selling my car to invest in a good bike. I guess that decision has now been made for me.

Moments of magic

A new weekly feature, in which I look back at the best moments of the week. It’s easy to let time slip by without consciously enjoying or remembering each moment, as exemplified by my inability to remember anything distinctive that happened on Wednesday.

Monday

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I came across these little beauties.

Tuesday

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I rediscovered the joys of wearing cowboy boots and virtually skip to the pub. It’s the first time this year we’ve been able to sit outside, and I celebrate by ordering cider (my summer drink).

Thursday

An evening of yummy Indian food, and a ride around the ring road on the back of a motorbike.

Friday

I have a long phone conversation with a friend and then my Mum, even though it makes me late for where I am going it makes me feel much happier to have connected.

Saturday

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I listen to great music and play with beads all day long.

Sunday

I rejoice at having gone to bed early the night before: no hangover and a really great run. I ran much further than I usually do and most importantly I actually enjoyed it.

 

Everything is beautiful

This year I made a resolution to use up my existing stash of wool before buying any more. I wasn’t holding out much hope of making anything spectacular. I was left with a lot of what I considered to be really dull colours, many of which had been passed down from my Grandma, remaining unused since they had been bought in the seventies. Beiges, browns, pale greens and yellow – I thought the only thing to do would be to pair them with brighter colours left over from my granny square blanket and hope for the best.

So I am surprised at how much I like the resulting blankets. Which goes to show that anything can be beautiful when presented in the right way.

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Some things to do in London

1. Drink chai latte in a trendy cafe in Shoreditch. Worry that enjoying this makes you a hipster. Get told that dating a boy with a sleeve of video game tattoos means you’re already there.

2. Think you can walk across the city in the same way you can if you want to get to the other side of Oxford. Walk for an hour, get no closer to where you want to go. Get on a tube anyway.

View from the flat, and some of the vehicles that stopped me sleeping.

View from the flat, and some of the vehicles that stopped me sleeping.

3. Be kept awake all night by the sound of traffic. Seriously, do people never stop going places round here? It’s 3am: stop driving.

This mirrors my own thoughts about food.

This mirrors my own thoughts about food.

4. Visit the Vikings: life and legend at the British Museum. Lose concentration and start thinking about lunch. Discover that people have been doing this forever. (This point sells the exhibition short. It’s actually really good: you should go. If you want a better write up, read the thoughts of the person I saw it with).

Harriet takes a break from taking photographs to be in one.

Harriet takes a break from taking photographs to be in one.

5. Be tourists by walking for hours taking pictures of the outside of everything, but not paying to go inside. Only go into the National Gallery to use the toilet.

Apparently this means wife cake (hurrah for Cantonese speaking boyfriends).

Apparently this means wife cake (hurrah for Cantonese speaking boyfriends).

6. Go to Chinatown and eat the funniest sounding pastry you can find.

7. Get on the bus back to Oxford because there is no place like home.

Fun with beads

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It was great to have good enough weather this summer to spend most of it outside: gardening, running, cycling, at music festivals and in pub gardens. But now it’s getting darker and colder it’s been great to spend cosy evenings indoors with a mug of tea and my latest craft project. Last night I pushed some blue and silver beads around, trying different combinations until I became inspired enough to thread some on a piece of nylon and tie them to some hooks to make earrings.

After months of working on the crochet blanket, it was nice to just play around without an end product in mind. This is my favourite method of being creative: setting out on a journey and just seeing where I end up. Actually, that’s my preferred approach to anything: travel, shopping, cooking and life. I like to try things out, to explore, to not worry if things turn out badly but learn from it when they do.

Yesterday I learnt that tying bits of nylon together was not an adequate way of finishing earrings when one of them came undone while I was queuing for the cinema. The beads all disappeared down the neck of my sweater and I spend the film picking bits out of my bra. I’ll re-do them with wire once I’ve been to the shop and replenished my supplies.

The summer in granny squares

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Back in April I decided to start a new crochet project. I didn’t know what I was doing, only that I was bored of cowls (and presumably so was everyone I keep making them for). I bought some obnoxiously bright wool and started making granny squares.

As anyone who has spent any time with me since then will tell you, I became a bit addicted. I have not been able to put it down. I’ve been crocheting at work, at friends houses, at other peoples houses, in the pub, on the train… you get the idea. I’ve basically spent the last five months with yarn around my fingers and cramp in both hands.

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But what I’ve learnt is that it’s amazingly therapeutic. As I got used to being a single person again, what started as as a something to do in the evenings that wasn’t sex or having an argument with someone about how to cook a risotto (what kind of deviant wants to put all the stock in at once?) soon became my way of unwinding after a stressful day and quieting all the thoughts buzzing through my brain.

This bloody blanket has defined my summer. When I look at it I remember what I was doing, what I was thinking about, who I was with or what rubbish TV I was watching when I was making each square. It’s taking so long to finish (almost there now…) a lot of things have happened.

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While I was crocheting:

I get over that breakup.

I revel in my independence and resolve to be single for a long time.

Andy Murray won Wimbledon. I even put the crochet down for long enough to watch it properly.

My Mum convinces me to do some gardening. I discover I quite like it.

I move to a new city.

I have my nose pierced. I get blood on the yarn.

I stop hiding under a duvet and make some new friends.

I realise that I’m never going to be a good cook, but that I’m fairly capable of feeding myself.

I turn 25. Despite insisting I don’t want a fuss, friends turn up with tea, chocolate, wine and body shop cosmetics (they know me well). I also treat myself to some new yarn.

I have a fringe cut. Mainly to hide to spots that have erupted as a result of my newly blossoming social life.

I meet somebody who makes me question my resolution to be single. Progress on the blanket slows as I have some text messages to reply to.

A friend asks me to be her bridesmaid. I put the blanket down for long enough to try a dress on.

I discover I like black pudding.

I realise I’m perfectly capable of finishing a bottle of wine by myself (while crocheting, and wailing along to Adele). I resolve to not have wine in the house again.

Family visit from Texas. I try and explain the difference between crochet and knitting to my male thirteen year old cousin by comparing them to baseball and hockey. “That’s just stupid,” he says.

I visit York and go drinking with old friends. I reacquaint myself with Evil Eye cocktails and cheesy chips on the way home.

I move house again.

I meet some people in Oxford who I don’t work with.

It starts to get dark earlier and I suspect summer might be over.

Which brings me to now, when I’m sat on the floor under a pile of crochet, still unable to put the wool down. 

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The week in photos

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The blanket I’ve been working on is looking more like a blanket now I’ve started to crochet the individual squares together. I spent a blissful Sunday morning listening to music and crocheting. As I found it so therapeutic, I’ve resolved to put aside time every week for just me, some good music and my latest creative project.

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I’ve also had time this week to hang out with my sister. It always amazes me how you can barely see someone for months on end and yet within five minutes of reuniting you’re laughing and chatting like no time has passed at all.

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Since I committed myself to run a half marathon in the Spring and felt under pressure to spend any free time running, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy a long walk.  Last week I felt really exhausted and just didn’t feel like a run. But instead of collapsing on the sofa and feeling like a failure, I dragged myself out of the house to explore a local meadow and take some photographs. After fifteen minutes of gentle exercise in the sunshine I felt so much better. I was reminded my body needs a variety of movement and I shouldn’t get fixated on having to go for an hour long run or nothing at all.