It’s almost the end of 2021, just 10 days out. And thus it’s time for the obligatory End-of-Year Review that I find myself doing at the end of the year. This will be the fourth one I’ll have done. They’re quite good for reflecting and celebrating the positive things that have happened. Truth be told though, 2021 has felt like a bit of an extension to 2020… even a bit more stressful in some ways because there’s been a lot more uncertainty.
The IdeasHub kicked off in January. I was really excited by it and couldn’t wait to get stuck into a lot of interesting conversations with lots of interesting people about mental health:power. It was a thing done virtually over a few days. I don’t remember the details now… but in all honesty. It was BAD. It got toxic as hell because of the FACILITATORS. Imagine that. The independent people contracted to facilitate and deliver this programme were the ones who turned this into a shit show. I can’t even be bothered to go into it all, but there was a lot, really toxic, underminding, gaslighty kinda stuff, again, from the facilitators. My understanding from the off was that we were meant to coproduce some sort of ‘thing’ related to the themes – but that didn’t happen. Not really anyway – they organised some talks for later on in the year (as in, the participants didn’t really seem to be able to contribute much), but it was nothing like I imagined. It was a complete and utter waste of fucking time. HOWEVER, I did make some good friends from it (we were the ones who were more vocally critical about the whole affair lol) and we’re still in touch now.
Some big thing happened in regards to someone close to me – it’s not my business to go into detail though… but it had a profound impact on me, work, family, everything.
I spent a lot of time and energy managing this difficult thing that happened. That was my whole month gone. It really affected my mental health in a big way too. The only other things that happened was that I got my first Covid jab and I had some solicitor-ordered rehabilitation assessments.
I was feeling really crap within myself, just exhausted from everything. I tried to invest the time I had, outside of continuing to deal with the fallout at home, in doing stuff that I found interesting or fulfilling. So I spent a lot of time gardening – preparing soil beds, sowing seeds, tidying up, and so on. I also did a fair few online workshops via Eventbrite this month, workshops which had some relation to the things I was finding myself more and more interested in art-wise. I learnt about natural pigments and sigils. I also discovered Quareia, which has been a great influence on me.
I had an interview for my MA too, which was motivating, and probably generated the interest in looking for Eventbrite workshops. I chose to do my MA this year to help me get back into the swing of art-ing after such a long time of not being able to (for various reasons), and knowing I only had so many months to get my ducks in a row before returning to education helped motivate me.
Literally nothing of note happened in April, except sowing my Sunzilla sunflowers and pottering around in the garden a bit more. The thing what happened from January was still continuing even now, although not as intensely, but it still continued to have a major impact.
I feel like I just existed in May as well, in all honesty. Gardening, mostly.
Things started getting a bit more interesting in June. I joined a short painting course (6 weeks?) with Feral Art School, which was alright but I don’t think I got out of it what I was hoping to get out of it; I think I wanted something a bit more in-depth/skilled, I don’t know. I did enjoy it though.
I was also commissioned by Ferens Art Gallery to do some virtual workshops to accompany their Monet in Mind exhibition they had on. I did some mindful drawing activities and some other bits and bobs. The first workshop sold out so quickly and was so popular and well received they commissioned me to do a second one!
The Critical Fish were successful with funding from Futures Ventures, and offered us a place (which I did) on this course called After Art. It was AMAZING! It was about art, activism, care, and I met a whole bunch of really wonderful people. Reflecting now, it was so influential on my art and the way I’m thinking about things. Also, if the IdeasHub was an example of how NOT to facilitate/participate with a thing, After Art was what I now consider to be exemplary facilitation with ample opportunity for collaborative working. There was an awkward fucked up bit on part of the facilitators, but they apologised and handled it well (in my opinion).
My sister came to visit! I love my sister so much, but only get to see her maybe once or twice a year, so this was super exciting. We had a day in Bridlington, enjoyed the outdoors, played games, chilled out, did a Come Dine With Me competition… just loads of sister stuff we don’t really ever have the opportunity to do. It was so much fun.
I was successful for a small Absolutely Cultured commission to do a thing on behalf of The Critical Fish for the Creative Hull event. That was alright. although it didn’t go particularly to plan (that’s okay, everything’s a learning curve isn’t it).
A thing I was REALLY looking forward to happened as well…. the ReUNION!! A majority of the UNION crowd went to Haybergill (following a load of COVID precautions, of course) to have a kind of retreat. Yet, after only a few hours, one of us tested positive for corona… which threw the whole weekend into chaos for all of us. I was sharing a table outside with the person for over an hour, so it was a high risk contact. It was so lovely seeing people, and I have very fond memories of food and campfires, but ended up being incredibly stressful. I was gutted because the plan was to go stay a few nights with my Mum after the ReUNION, but now of course I couldn’t risk getting infected and making her or my stepdad ill, let alone needing to self-isolate there. Came home, went straight into isolation for ten days. My PCR came back negative and I never ended up getting COVID, but still, it was a horrible, stressful time.
Isolation wasn’t too fun. I watched all the Matrix films, did some Eventbrite virtual workshops, did a load of reading, watched some Buffy the Vampire Slayer… yet I think I kinda enjoyed my time by the end of it though to be honest!
Not much happened in August. I went for a solicitor-ordered MRI scan, that was about it. Exciting, huh?
I went for a much needed trip to my Mum’s in September. She lives in the Lakes, so it was a bit of a journey on the train but it was so lovely, for a number of reasons. Just seeing her, spending time with her, having days out to random places, being in forests and alongside lakes. I honest to god feel so much more at ease amongst trees and waters these days – I always considered myself a city person (I guess growing up as a Londoner will do you that to you) but I’ve realised over the last 5 years or so that my happiness is more deeper when I’m in the countryside. Saying that, I love galleries and theatres and things to see and do, so think I’d want somewhere remote that’s on the outskirts of a city. Me and Mum had a day trip to Preston – I quite liked it there really. Somewhere country-esque on the outskirts of there would be nice. Not in one of those posho suburbian places, but some little cottage at the edge of a forest. Yeah, perfect.
Whilst I was away, my partner came across a puppy for sale. We’ve wanted Labrador, a Border Collie or a Borador (cross of the two) for AGES, looking on and off for years for the right one. It was important it was one of those breeds because they’re the best with cats, and a pup would need to be loving to our feline son and neighbouring kitterinos. Also the reason we opted for a puppy instead of a rescue (if we didn’t have a cat we would’ve 100% chosen a rescue instead. We were going to get one just after we moved house, but then lockdown happened and we didn’t want to have a dog that we couldn’t socialise properly… so we put it off.
Anyway, he found an accidential litter of Border Collies that were from a nearby family, vaxxed and chipped, and at a reasonable price (as in, not price gouged like breeders were doing during COVID). He went to go see the pups whilst I was away, and put a deposit down… so when I came back from Mums we could go fetch him together. AND SO WE GOT A PUPPY!
October was also an exciting time – I started my Masters! Doing MA Creative Practice at HSAD. It was really nerve wracking going, as part of the reason for resuming studies was to provide that support and scaffolding in regaining my practice and confidence, which the bike accident really put a dent in. Everyone I’ve met so far is lovely too.
I also joined Hull Friends of the Earth. I’ve sent emails and messages a few times before but turns out there was a problem with the FOE emails and they weren’t reaching me. I dunno. I’m part of it now anyway!
Once puppers jabs were done, I focused on getting as much socialisation in as possible. There’s a place kinda near me called The Dog Hub, and d’ya know what, it’s been a complete lifesaver. Pup has been going once a week since he’s been able to (it’s a bit of a long walk for a puppy, so don’t want to overdo it), and he loves it. At the core, there’s two big play pens where dogs can run around and play with each other off lead (he can’t yet til he’s six months) but they’ve also got a cafe. And that’s where pup has been doing most of his socialising (on lead). There’s also a second hand dog shop upstairs, which has been invaluable, as a growing pup goes through harnesses and collars every month or so – and chews the shit out of everything so things need replacing often. At the end of October, they also had a Howl-aween party. He got dressed up as a wizard and had a photoshoot and everything!
There was also a funeral this month, which was pretty shit obviously.
Aside from more doggie socialisation (including some off-lead puppy play sessions), I didn’t do that much this month. I got my booster-flu jab and started physiotherapy (finally, it’s only taken two years).
Although it’s been a good month for ‘ground-work’. Myfriend Sam Metz visited my studio and they invited me to work on a Scarborough Museums project that they’re working on, called A Space to Be… I don’t know what I can share about that as yet but I am really chuffed about it! We’re still working it out but that should happen next year.
Another exciting thing that began this month: The Critical Fish are doing a project in collaboration with Gallery87! It’s called Streams, and the idea is that Fish will co-host conversations rooted in the gallery’s exhibiting show. It’s a big deal for Fish – it’s our first rolling contract kind of thing with an established organisation in the city.
That Covid booster-flu jab I had… well, I went and got it done with the most minor of minor colds at the end of November (this was before any Omicron stuff happened), which was an absolute mistake. It developed into an even worse cold, and then a full on chest infection. A really bad one. I was on antibiotics for a week (after two/three weeks of it), but considering this is now the end of the month, I’m still recovering from it. I think the booster-flu jab knocked my immune system for six and enabled the cold to develop into a chest infection.
What else happened? There was a doggo Christmas party, which of course my boy went to (dressed as a snowman) and thoroughly enjoyed, and my partners birthday, and it was nice to have the day with his family. I also saw a lot of my own family this month, which has been incredible. Having a “complex” family situation, and living 200 miles away, means I haven’t really seen people over the Christmas period in a way that I would’ve done when younger. But this year, my little sister (who’s now 18) came and stayed for a week AND I LOVE HER BEING HERE WITH US. We baked, watched films, played board games, did some shopping, had loadsa fun. She’s such a shining light that she just lifts the energy of wherever she goes. I love her so much. Then for the last two days of her visit, our Dad came to stay. Was nice to see him too, which was the first time since my Auntie Lil (his… guardian?) passed away autumn last year.
Then just a few days later my Mum and Step-Dad came for Christmas Day! It was novel cooking for them (although I don’t think my bland-food-loving mum liked it… “too herby” she says lol) and I loved having them here. It’s been the first time we’ve been able to host on Christmas, as we’ve never had space to have people around, let alone room for a dining table. Christmas itself was nice, I was spoilt. I got some lovely buy-it-for-life things I wanted (woolen picnic blanket, butter dish, bread bag),a Herbalism course, some games, a glamping trip, a beautiful pocket tarot deck, a new phone (I didn’t realise how well-past it’s functional use by date my last one was) and some other thoughtful bits and bobs. There’s always guilt that goes with ‘stuff’ – I think about the environmental cost and impact of ‘things’ more than most people I think – but I’m still very thankful. I’m set up now for a good while as nothing else I need or want.
And what about 2022?
What have I got planned? What am I hoping will happen? Well, same as what I said last year, really, a lot of what actually happens is pretty COVID-dependent…
- When puppers six months (early Jan) he can go into the big play pens at The Dog Hub! I’m possibly more excited about that than a normal person would be (wait… am I a ‘dog mom’?)
- Looking forward to working my way through this Herbalism course I got for Christmas. Already started it.
- I can’t wait to get my Literature Review just done and handed in. And then have the accompanying presentation just out of the way. I can focus on the practical side of things more and not carry such a weight around with me!
- The Fish x 87 collaboration is a great project, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that progresses.
- The same with the Scarborough commission. I’ve met Sam and their boss already (over Zoom) and I can safely say it’s a great project involving really great people.
- I’m looking to start a Philosophy/Big Ideas group at HSAD, for students to connect and chat context. Would like to do it under the Fish banner as a way for people to discuss and contextualise their work, and as an outlet to discuss the big meaningful questions (I love it)
- I recently joined as a member to the Scottish Centre of Geopoetics. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into their programme and community.
- Looking forward to doing a bit more with Hull Friends of the Earth too. I’m offering my website skills to help fix their website tomorrow, and then from there… who knows. I want to do the practical stuff – pressuring the council isn’t my bag (at least not at this moment in time) – but I want to help out with the practical side of things where I can.
- I’ve reached out to Hull Trees as well, as I’d like to support that in some way too. Hopefully something moves ahead with that this year!
- I made a friend (I think) with a member of staff at Uni, who’s deeply involved with One Hull of a Forest. She’s really keen to get me involved creatively and practically, which is dead exciting. Looking forward to see what happens with that
- I’ve got a two week residency with The Art House in Leeds come July. Not sure exactly what I’ll be doing yet when I’m there, as I’m sure my practice will massively develop over the next six and a half months, but I’m determined to squeeze as much out of the opportunity as I can.
- I want to pick the saxophone up again. I put it down for a year, as I got out the swing following Christmas and then the familial drama, but I really want to pick it back up. It was really enjoyable, and I wasn’t that bad at it (or so I believe anyway lmao)
- Also have the intention to generally get myself healthier too. I lost some weight over the year just gone, but put it back on again when things got stressy lol. Typical. I’m gonna make the effort again, but this time focus on a more holistic, balanced kind of health. I want to get into a routine of going to bed earlier, so I can wake up about 7, write for 45 minutes, stretch/do Yoga, have breakfast and a go on a 20 minute dog walk (and in the summer, water the plants) before I start each day. A good start each morning will motivate me to eat better, move more and feel happier. That’s my theory anyway. I think it’s a much better, balanced way of doing things moving forwards. Let’s see how long that lasts. I’ve always been a late sleeper and riser but perhaps that’s symptomatic of an unbalanced life.
Here’s to the New Year. May it be healthier and happier than the last for us all!