I’m currently in Hastings, looking forward to doing a full feature set at Poetics at The Electric Palace. It’s the first indoor gig since the start of the pandemic, and I’ll be doing a career-spanning set, with work from 2010-2020!
Last night we had a ‘Women in Film’ screening of different poems, with my poem ‘Grandad’, produced by Muddy Feet Poetry. It was something I’d never done before, and it was incredible to be able to hold that space, as the Q&A section gave added meaning and context to the work, which meant it was much more impactful than simply watching the videos at home.
This week I started facilitating a new fortnightly writing group for those over 60, at Holborn House, which is an incredible community centre, which has lots of different activities for people to get involved with. I was even gifted a memoir from one member, and reading it just highlights the importance of personal histories, and how vital it is to keep our stories alive for other generations to learn about.
So, this week I have got my lovely ukulele a new sturdy case for when I have to go to my in-person lessons in Brockley at the end of next month. I’ve also taken it with me away in Hastings, where I am currently writing this, so I can make sure to practise whilst I’m away, even if it’s just for half an hour today. Like Yayoi Kusama, I love polka dots, and this case even matches the dress I’m currently wearing!
My gran lives in Hastings, and it was over five years ago that she got me the ukulele… and over those years stopped asking me if I would join in a group here. I may be nowhere near able to do that, but at least I’ve finally started learning. At the ripe age of 32, it’s never too late to pick something up, and learn something new!
So, things are ticking along. I still have more admin to do to fix most of the podcast interviews, but I have realised a couple of things about my learning, in terms of the ukulele, but also in general. I like working my way through the Fender platform, but I don’t like the repetition that is required to really master something. Anything that uses the second to forth strings is difficult for my fingers to reach, and put down the necessary pressure to produce a good sound.
I’m still trying the basics, with very small parts of songs used to reinforce the learning. I also wrote a few lines of song that I could even try experimenting with… maybe once I know a bit more! Baby steps! This week, it’ll be more of the same, but trying harder to fight against the afternoon slump where I get distracted, and instead focus, and maybe take more time to sit properly and set up the camera properly.
So, I got back on the bike and have commuted using it every day I’ve gone out (except Tuesday when it was pissing it down with rain and I got an eye infection so bad I had to cancel work… misdiagnosed as conjunctivitis, but actually an eye ulcer, so I’ll have matching eye scars…) I have realised a few things about me and cycling:
I enjoy going for a bike ride far more than using it as a way to commute.
I’m so wary of roads now, I refuse to go on those with traffic, instead annoying pedestrians and (and annoying myself with how bumpy pavements are), so it takes me at least double the time Google says.
It is only marginally quicker than walking, and I don’t even get to listen to music and podcasts.
I feel so anxious before and during, that after my hands ache from holding the handlebar so tight.
I feel much more visible and self-conscious than when walking, when I feel more like I’m in my own world.
Still, I’m proud of myself for trying, and I will try to use it the days I feel I can, which will likely be Monday and Wednesday. Thursday could work, but will also involve some train travel, and I’m not sure how the cycle from Sutton the the centre I work in will feel.
I’m working seven days in a row this week due to holding stalls last Sunday (pictured), where I sold just one book, and two badges… and tomorrow I’ll be at Camberwell Green’s Farmer’s Market, which is fantastic as they invite one artist a week to have a free table! The other ones were SoLo Craft Fair and I paid £60 a pop, plus the very specific and expensive insurance. Help! I spent the time writing my journal, studying Spanish and Turkish (the latter subject really hurt my head), and then spent the last hour doing this doodle. Time well spent, I suppose…
Last weekend, I bought an SE23 badge for me and two of my SE23 friends, as Forest Hill had open studios as part of Sydenham’s art festival. It was between pub one and two on a pub crawl I did with some friends, where we found a pub with amazing bao buns, and another with karaoke, which usually takes place on Thursdays. It’s my longest day, but maybe a sing-song is just what I’ll need some days. We’ll be back.
Lastly, for anyone in Hastings, I’ll be at The Electric Palace on both Friday 24th and Saturday 25th at 8pm, with the Friday being a film screening, showing my poem ‘Grandad’, amongst others, followed by a Q&A. The Saturday will be a poetry set, and it’ll be the first indoor performance in well over a year since I was doing my ‘Circles’ tour, that was halted just a few months in.
So, I realised last weekend that I had been playing holding the ukulele the wrong way round, and so when I switched over and went to retune it, I got confused and ended up snapping a string. I was so upset that I cried… which is very typical of me. My boyfriend was there, so he documented the moment.
This meant that the next day I paid £17 for it to be re-stringed at Duke of Uke, and had a chat with the lovely staff there. I found out that it was actually over 5 years ago that I was gifted the instrument, so it’s well overdue that I actually learnt it! Although I had hoped for a lazy Sunday, it was nice to be out in the sun with friends and my boyfriend, looking around the markets in Shoreditch and getting bubble waffles and beer.
Tomorrow I’m back at Between the Bridges for a special LGBT+ events, representing the bisexuals, with books including poetry about relationships with women (Circles) and men (the others). I hope I do better than last time with sales! I’ve also invested in some table clips and different display units. The weather over the weekend looks pretty average, but hopefully some sunny intervals will bring the footfall.
This week I have been thinking about what I can do to create more balance and be more fulfilled in what I do with my time. I feel like I could be close to burnout or become ill if I don’t do something different to protect my free time. After dinner, I’m going to have wind down time, meaning my language learning will be earlier in the day and alternate between Spanish and Turkish. I am also going to cut down on content writing, as it is the least fulfilling work I do, and this will allow me to actually work on the creative projects that are also work (i.e. based on funding, they are equal priority), and I even might find some time then to do the many creative things I want to do that aren’t linked to money! This will also mean I will have less time over weekends that I have to do, so I can do what I really want to do… chill out, read books and magazines, watch films, or just generally do whatever I want to re-energise!
In other news, recently I also got a bike for commutes to students, and I went out to build up my confidence. Typically and ironically, I think I did something to the gears that made the chain loose, and just after having built up the confidence to go on the road, in the pouring rain, thinking back to when I did the same whilst travelling in Laos, and as soon as I turned in towards the pavement, I skidding off the bike, and landed on my thigh and elbow. I tried to fix the chain, but I fell off again. No nobody stopped to see if I was okay, but some guy did shout out from a van, ‘What a hand?’ I saw them smirk as they drove off…
In more cheery news, this week has been very eventful in terms of social stuff too. I was in the live audience for Life & Rhymes, hosted by Benjamin Zephaniah, featuring Lemn Sissay, Salena Godden, AP Staunton, and two young poets I didn’t know about, Y.A. Poet and Simply Sayo, who were all great in their own unique ways. I also went to Crystal Palace International Film Festival on Thursday and one of my favourite films was ‘A Piece of Cake’, so I bought these silver balls as a reference when I went to see my boyfriend last night after watching ‘The Guilty Feminist Live’ at Southbank. Lastly, keep an eye out for events in Hastings, as I’ll be at the film screening on 24th and this Poetics event on 25th September.
I have officially started my exploration of music and spoken word, starting with my own journey learning to play the ukulele, thanks to Art Council funding as part of DYCP (Developing Your Creative Practice). I’ve decided to call this project ‘Carmina’s Cantata’. A Cantata is a medium-length narrative piece of music for voices with instrumental accompaniment (typically with solos, chorus, and orchestra). It is usually applied to classical music, but I thought I would borrow the term and turn it into this alliterative name. How poetic, I know…
This week, I began documenting me learning the basics of the ukulele using ‘Fender Play’ lessons, on Instagram. I might do some live feeds too, maybe as a kind of weekly progress, as it can’t be all that entertaining watching me practice for half an hour each day! Things are underway with arranging artists for a podcast I’m going to produce, interviewing artists who use music with their spoken word. In future, I’ll be having in-person lessons, and also will do a music production course. You can follow my exploration through this blog and my updates on social media.
I received my funding to explore music and poetry next week, so I should be starting my new blog series next week. I’ll also try to put some stuff on Instagram of me practicing the ukulele, which will be extremely bad, but hopefully I’ll be able to learn and show some progress!
Last week was the SoLo Craft Fair at Between the Bridges. I only sold two books and got some emails, which I haven’t yet put on my mailing lists even from the last stall, so I need to get on that. I also need some better displays. It looks a bit better than before, but I had a look around and will try to buy some things to better display the books. It cost a lot to get a table, not to mention the insurance, and as I still have plenty of stock, it would be much appreciated if you’re reading this, if you’d like to buy a signed copy of any of my books from my Big Cartel.
This week I’ve also had a couple of meetings about a festival day I’m producing for International Women’s Day 2022! It’s been really positive, and the amazing people at Spread the Word are happy to be a partner on the project, and I have another meeting with the venue I want to use next week, so hopefully that will go well and we can fix a date.
I went to Crystal Palace Park’s South Facing festival (Sundown Sessions) after work on Thursday and it was really incredible to see the work being done with young people. I especially enjoyed ‘Spirit of the Estate Jam’, which worked with young people from local estates to showcase their rap, spoken word, and dancing. Coming up, I have another SoLo Craft fair, exclusively for LGBT+ creators and I’ll also be heading to Hastings at the end of this month, taking part in their poetry film showcase.
I’m a little delayed starting up my new music-themed blog series as I’m yet to receive the funding, so have been focussed on the preparation stages, and somehow feeling really busy and overwhelmed despite having hardly any students. I would love to feel on top of things before the school term properly starts, with tutoring easing back next week, and on a full timetable come the second week of September. With the weather looking like storms for ‘Latino Life’, which I would have loved to go to, it’s likely I’ll use tomorrow to do some catching up.
I’ve had some time off to see my gran, who took me to see Amelie and for tapas for my birthday (which was in May). I’ve attended a few meetings, and in the process of arranging more for various aspects of my work, including this week for my work in providing alternative education, and at The Norwich Radical, who I last wrote for here. This Sunday, I’ll also be taking part in the SoLo Craft Fair at ‘Between the Bridges’ at London Southbank, holding a stall with all my books etc.
I’ve just had to spend £80 for the year on PIL insurance. I don’t do stalls much, and they are costly to do (this one being £60 a pop!), and even then you’re lucky to sell anything or break even on the day costs, not taking into account your own labour. I really hope it goes well, and that we don’t get rained on! The market in Camberwell before was amazing, as even if it did rain, the table was fully covered.
I woke up feeling pretty tired today, and really craving a night in, despite only having really left the flat for food shopping and gym classes. I’m fighting negative body image feelings at the moment too, as despite sometimes having gone to the gym twice a day, I’ve put on weight rather than lost it, and whether it’s muscle or fat or both, I find it hard to see my body as it actually is, and I find it hard to accept that I will probably always have a “belly”, despite trying my best to have a healthy relationship with food and exercise. These feelings stemmed from I ended seeing someone who liked a post because I’d done a #pancakes on Instagram.
They had so many photos of delicious pancakes and claimed they eat them too, yet had unreal body proportions. I hate getting into a mindset like that, but we all have insecurities, and I honestly think that for most people, having a “belly” is normal, and I know my body well enough that I would have to deprive myself of a lot of food to look like that Instagram girl, and I bloody love food; cooking and eating brings me so much joy, and I know that if I ever had a stomach like that, I wouldn’t be in a healthy place physically or mentally. Anyway, I don’t know why I felt like sharing these feelings today, but to end on a cheery note, here’s a screenshot of my Soca class’ Boss Wine, if you can spot me doing one of the things I love the most!
A nice round number for this exciting news! I will be starting up a new blog series on here as I just found out that I have successfully gained funding through Arts Council England’s Developing Your Creating Practice scheme, which funds established artists to explore a new direction of art.
I found out the news whilst in Cornwall last Wednesday, when aside from my usual content writing, I only had ten students across the whole month, so it’s certainly kept me busy on my return! I had pictured myself in parks with books and beer a lot more this month, but it’s also nice to be able to pay the rent!
My funding is for me to explore music with spoken word poetry, which will involve me learning the ukulele, learning some basic music programming software, and interviewing some poets who have also worked with music. I’ll write more next time in the new blog series, which will be focussed on that.
I’ve been doing a lot of planning and reworking ideas so far, alongside content writing and my Stanza group. August seems to be slipping away, and with lots going on, I better get on with everything else on today’s agenda.