Saturday, 30 March 2013

Baking and blogging

Baking and blogging... I'll get to my dissertation soon enough. Some might say I'm finding baking a rather effective distraction :)

Intriguing families

Once more Saturday has arrived. It's a 4-day Easter weekend and it began yesterday evening with a trip back to Harrogate to see my family. Families are strange things. Most of us are systemic beings - one part of a whole, whether that's family or friends or community or work. Very few of us stand entirely alone, although I do admit, it can feel that way sometimes. 

There's such a very fine line - between being an autonomous being; knowing we always have freedom of choice and that we are powerful enough to create change even if we have doubts or uncertainties. Knowing that we are entirely rightful to own our ambitions and goals and they are absolutely attainable and within our reach because we have the power and strength to make it that way. So, yes, we are fiercely independent beings in one sense. Once we own our life and our bodies and the decisions we make, it is entirely possible to make things happen. Perhaps this is my 23-year old mind a little detached from the responsibilities that I'll no doubt have when I'm older. But why not think this way when it makes so much sense right now? It feels very much like I'm standing alone, so rather than dwell, I'll choose to do good with it.

So, being one part of a bigger picture - how does one live a self-governed life, spinning around freewheeling and neglect the fact that we live in a world full of other human beings, and as a human being ourselves, we thrive from contact and connection and relationships. I guess this is where balance comes in - independent lives merging together to form networks that we hope to manage in a way that works wonderfully well together. Supportive and mutually understanding, somehow we hope that these connections empower us even more. This is why families are so intriguing; they have the power to lift us up completely, or to break us down to square one again. 

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Journey this week

The last week of March 2013 is most definitely proving to be a week of productivity, which for me, undoubtedly equates to a week of absolute positivity. Surely only good can come from working, being pro-active, and opening doors. My journey yesterday took me to Doncaster with two of my very good friends for an exciting meeting about project work. And this small task of writing a dissertation is well and truly being attacked.

As I keep discussing - the focus of my mind right now is very much on the future. It is increasingly difficult to be immersed in the here and now when the future is prominently always present in my mind. My tutor asked how things were, apart from the dissertation, and I said 'there is just so much to get in place and to sort out - an entire to-do list that's much more extensive than I'm probably even aware of myself'. The future is a big empty void of the great unknown right now. It's an exciting void, but one that must be a more certain void in the near future. I am trying to secure a suitable and flexible job which will give me the financial security I need alongside modelling, post grad study, and the counsellor/psychotherapist trainee work I'll be undertaking. However, saying this, I am well aware of the aspects of life to prioritise. Alongside this, a new house in a few months time and a car, hopefully next month, are high on the agenda too. I suppose contemplating jobs, houses, and cars are very much associated with responsibility and stepping up in this world. I do turn 24 next month - I cannot live as a 23 year old forever.

The theme of this week: To leave no door unopened.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Sunday stories

It is just gone 6.30pm and it's starting to get darker outside now and I've just put the heating on because it's still absolutely freezing despite approaching the end of March. Yes, March - actually, I'm not shocked by the weather, I am shocked that it's almost April. Why, why, why must time pass us by so quickly? Anyway, this is another thought that continues always and forever in my mind. But surely the darkness and the almost zero degree temperature make it absolutely acceptable for me to be wearing my pyjamas and using a hot water bottle? Today I woke up and started cracking on with transcribing my dissertation interviews, which I finished, printed out at Uni, went for a walk, went to the supermarket to stock up my kitchen with food, came back home and then experienced something that was most likely rather entertaining to watch for anyone who happened to be looking out of their window on my street! I put my recycling boxes out at the front of the house ready for collection tomorrow, doing my part as a good citizen, and in doing so, the wind was so strong that it blew the front door shut. Resulting in me standing on the street with my teddy bear and love heart socks on, locked out of my own home. This would have been OK but my housemate is currently in Turkey for two weeks... Yes, I had a good few moments of panic - stood on my street, staring at my house, at my feet, and at the door wondering who to call but then quickly realizing that my phone was in my bedroom. Luckily I had been cleaning and had the living room window open just a touch, so I swallowed my pride and approached my lovely next door neighbour to ask if he would kindly assist me in climbing into my house through the gap in my window... We bonded and laughed over my misfortune. Let this be a lesson to be more wary of the powers of the wind, and an acknowledgment of luck and gratitude that I had actually left my window open.

In other news, my Mother seems to have stepped up and adopted the role of my manager just for my modelling career and finances. I spent last summer in London working and my agency still haven't paid into my bank account from my agency account - this is really common for models. I'm very lucky with Boss because being in Manchester it's different to London and we have a good system and each month we are paid. This is very different story in London, particularly if you just stay a few months at a time and don't live there. But six months down the line and still not being paid a substantial fee is a little out of line, so my mother has recognized this and stepped in to contact the agency for me with a rather forwardly assertive email requesting some pro-active action and my payment. I have to say, this is a weight, just a small, small weight, but a weight nevertheless off my mind, just knowing that I'm not fighting this battle entirely on my own. It's only a small battle in the grand scheme of things, but it most certainly helps and it is a motherly gesture that means much more than it does written on paper.

A Sunday of working and shopping and working and working, of being locked out of my house and being very fortunate about having a route back in, even if through the window! This does entertain me! I am just taking a break from beginning to analyse my transcriptions to write this...

The day really has been quite relaxing. I'm enjoying having the house to myself. I'm listening to acoustic Ray LaMontagne and falling a little in love with his beautiful voice and music while watching it get dark outside and waiting for Ella to arrive. I'm sat surrounded with work and papers and empty coffee cups and beginnings of colour coded thematic analysis spider diagrams. But in all honesty, I am rather content like this for today.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

New work: Simplicity

More work that I stumbled across on the world wide web, for the Beaumont Organic lookbook.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Over the border

My studies rarely take me travelling. I do travel a lot though - but rarely further North, so that is why this morning's trip was a nice change.

When I was a child I rarely left my home of Manchester apart from a small summer trip away or a family visit  to Scotland or Kent, until we left the Grey City and moved over the border to Yorkshire. Then when I was a dancer of course I travelled here and there to different parts of the country as I grew up and it was wonderful. I had a gentle introduction to coach and train rides and service station food and spending nights in hotel rooms with friends.

Then I became a model and learnt what travelling really means. It means long hours and lots of waiting and late night calls requesting you to be somewhere the next morning. It means queues and tiredness and hunger and late nights, early mornings, sleepless nights. It means after these long days and sleepless nights we are required to look 'perfect' and be 'perfect' in our waking hours because anything less isn't an option. It's not what we're paid to do. It means language barriers and cultural mis-communications. It means being somehow lost in translation if not lost completely. It means you are most likely very, very lonely. Suit-case living is an art in itself. It requires you to not 'need' or 'want' much, but to be OK with constant change and no consistency or support. No stability, no reassurance, no one by your side. No control, no autonomy, not much really. Of course, I'm painting a very negative picture of life modelling and travelling. I suppose this is the side that not many models will share. When asked what we love about our job, we reply 'the travel is wonderful' - and it is. Goodness, it can be wonderful. But as with everything, we take the good with the bad and try to locate ourselves in a place where the two can be comfortably managed. And that, is also an art-form. It can be done with great skill, and it's done by so many. It's parallel to the process of developing thick skin. Thick skin and an immune-ness to this kind of loneliness.

At some point the thick skin must be broken back down. It's not much of a life if it's spent living immune to all feeling because our thick skin is so thick we no longer care.

I'm now welcoming some new travelling experiences, and when on the train this morning I was reflecting on what I actually value about being a model as well as all the other roles that I have. Because I know for sure that there must be something, otherwise why would I still do it? As much as travelling can be draining and isolating, it also opens up a world of new people and new faces and new relationships. It keeps life moving and keeps me inspired. This is the good side. And actually, this is what I did this morning. I'm enjoying my dissertation research so much right now because of the people I'm meeting and the stories I'm learning about and the interesting lives people lead. People have stories to share, and it's so intriguing to be able to share in them.

A day of affirming reflection. It's the sharing of stories that takes away the loneliness. And it's the travel that provides movement and energy for living.

How to embrace life on a cold day

Art Couture bridal

I remember this shoot well... I think it was back in October/November but I only really keep coming across the images when friends show me in a magazine or via Facebook or Twitter so I thought it's about time I shared these beautiful bridal dresses on my blog. 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Lessons of a Wednesday

Lessons of today:

1. You can spent 9am-6pm in University and only get one job application in and three pages of a transcript analysed. I use the word 'analyse' with caution - I'm just dipping my toe in the water, I really am not entirely sure what I'm doing, but my tutors advice is one of trusting my instincts, so this is what I'm starting to do. I really only over-viewed a few things and began to note down key ideas. I know what I'm doing (ish), and actually, it fits really well with how I work but my research is not a 'black and white' type of study so naturally it requires a little self-certainty.

2. Salted 'Popchips' - a 'health' snack food, resembling a combination of baked crisps and snack a jacks are actually really delicious. I haven't really been eating this kind of food for a while, because after a certain number of years eating a lot of low fat flavoured baked crisp snacks or rice cake thins or such foods, I concluded that actually, they all taste pretty much the same. Salty, artificially sweet/flavoured, and crunchy but full of air and you're often even hungrier after eating them than you were before. However, I forget that actually, these foods in moderation are not too bad at all. They are rather handy snacks and variety is most definitely key right now.

3. Some people 'trust in the process', others allow the process to 'trust in them'. Both ways are exciting, and either way, there are so, so many wonderful things ahead for those that seek out good things. If we go through each day with open eyes and open minds, we are bound to find such things, or to let them find us.

4. I had eight cups of coffee today. And one tea. And I think I'll still sleep fairly well.

5. It is a heart-stopping moment when you receive an email with the outcome of an interview you so desperately wanted. And the person who happened to find me moments after me reading this email shall always be the first who shared the moment of happiness after I read my acceptance. I now have an offer for a place on the post graduate training in counselling and psychotherapy at my University. I can begin practicing as a trainee practitioner and my career can fully begin. My life for the next few years can begin to take shape now. It's such early days, but I am so pleased that not only do I have the choice of which Masters I accept, but I know with absolute certainty which one is right and where I belong for now. Things are changing...

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

It's only Tuesday

It is only Tuesday, and so far this week is proving to be a very positive one. I confirmed my final participant for my dissertation and organised a date later this week to meet. I have to travel North to meet this person, but travel is such an integral aspect of my life, it wouldn't feel right for me not to introduce travelling to my studies as well. Also, I am enjoying meeting my interviewees and learning about their stories. I am enjoying the fact that I am developing a piece of work that is entirely my own and I am especially thankful for the fact that I feel so well supported in doing so - Possibly another explanation as to why the prospect of leaving York St John in approximately two months, fills me with every emotion under the sun and leaves my heart very sad.

In other news, I have located two really wonderful sounding jobs and applied for them, and I have a good few modelling jobs over Easter to top up my bank account with. Also, after a particularly positive and motivating discussion while getting my hair cut today, I walked out of the salon not only with hair a good three inches lighter and healthier, but within minutes I received an email offering me a place on the MSc Psychology degree at Leeds Met. This is really great news - it's my 'Plan B'. So, should 'Plan A' fall to pieces, I am now safe in the knowledge that I have a firm fall-back option. The next week will reveal to me the outcome of my 'Plan A'. And as it's title suggests, 'Plan A' is my focus, and my focus is increasingly feeling like impatience and anxiety.

Trust in the process... The process often tells the most meaningful stories, but during the process, it is so important to surround ourselves with the good. The good people and the good things. The old concept of creating our own reality -  the power of a positive mind.
My impatience and anxiety can be channeled into something very productive and pro-active for now.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The other side: New work

I haven't shared any new shots for a while so thought I'd share these shots I came across from a recent shoot for Lancashire Life / Liverpool One. 

'The place where you get off'

Outside the station, she stands with her child on the side of the street, taking pictures of cars.
You think she's insane. Until, one day, you notice that she's taking pictures of the license plates of the cars her child gets into.
Because you look but you do not see.

And she walks out of the shop with bags full of cat food. You think she's some crazy cat lady until you find out she has no cats.
Because you eat but you do not taste.

It's been a while since their last album but he assures you, he's doing just fine these days. Then he asks you if he can spend the night on your couch, even though it stinks.
Because you sniff but you do not smell.

And they say 'Just OK' when you ask them how school was. Then you wonder what they're hiding until you find their diary and the last entry reads 'I wish you'd give me some privacy'
Because you listen but you do not hear.

And they've got a bruise over their eye and you run the tips of your fingers over it and ask them how it happened. You believe them, Until it happens again.
Because you touch but you do not feel.

And they walk past you everyday, one million stories, each waiting to be told. Waiting for you to ask.
Because you live, but very few love.

- I Wrote This For You.

Sweet treats

Home made sweet treats that I made yesterday. I clearly don't eat all these cakes myself so I'm unsure why recently I'm nurturing my love for baking. I have 12 cupcakes sat in my kitchen downstairs, my housemate is away for a couple of weeks, no one is here to eat them, and yet I am very tempted to bake more. Perhaps I will - I have actually asked my Mother to visit this afternoon. I have reached twenty three years old and this is the first time she's actually come over to my house for no real reason, just because I asked her to. So she can take some home and we can eat some together.

Anyway - I must be finding some therapeutic value in this baking hobby. It's nice and easy and I guess it's a good distraction from every-day madness. Comfy clothes, music playing, mixing my ingredients, decorating away, et voila - sweet treats are created. This fitted yesterday very nicely - dissertation research and reading, cups of coffee, bubble baths, baking goodies, and an evening with wonderful company and sweet cherry & disaronno cocktails.

I don't know how, but positivity has found me again. I'm glad - Now is the time I need it the most.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Focus on the good. Happy Saturday morning

It's the weekend. Saturday morning and I have been up since 6am. Why such an early rise and shine for such a casual lazy day? Goodness knows. It won't actually be a day of indulgent nothing-ness, I will keep chipping away at this big brick wall of my own creation entitled 'my dissertation', and then I shall go for a late afternoon tea with the beautiful lady Steff, followed by some cocktails this evening. I guess this is what a weekend is for - catching up on the work we failed to do during the week, but not neglecting the crucial balance we so desperately require in order to contently 'keep on keeping on' - as my Facebook status so eloquently phrased it last night.

To 'keep on keeping on' suggests an element of despondent hopelessness - this is not how I want life to be for the next couple of months, nor is it how life WILL be for the next couple of months. It's not really an accurate reflection of life right now either; but it seems to be the most well-fitting phrase. I finish University in two months time. This is of course exciting and it's very much at the foreground of my mind right now. I am ready for the next thing. But it is a terrifyingly real prospect, and a rather sad thought to have in mind, knowing that I have a huge place in my heart for my University and my course and the people I've grown to love. There is so much to still be done. So, so much. If I am to leave and not be offered a place on the post grad course here, it will be a little heartbreaking to leave knowing that the last couple of months were spent merely fighting to stay afloat and neglecting everything that is absolutely breath-taking, exciting, and intriguing about life right now. 

My desktop background on my laptop has the words: 'Focus on the good.' - and this, is precisely what I need to do before I drive myself absolutely crazy. The simple mindset of focusing on the good. There are so many good things ahead but I'll just be blind to them if I waste my energy worrying.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

This is my life

Tonight it is 9pm and I am already feeling ready to sleep. This is proving to be a long, long week of working and I also had my interview day yesterday for the post grad course I have my heart set on. I'm hesitant about saying I have my heart set on it, but I do. If I don't get it, I shall have no other choice but to accept and know that that's the right decision for now. It's so hard to tell, and it's ever so easy to feel very uncertain about it all when we are experts at adopting the role of our own worst critic at times like this. I am skeptical about writing too much until I know the outcome for myself.

In other news, it is Friday tomorrow. I can't believe it's the end of another week. I also can't believe it's mid-March and it's been snowing and at minus 7 degrees when I left the house this morning, but hey! Tomorrow shall be one of those days where it reaches evening and I think something along the lines of 'how on earth did my life become this madness...' I have a Clinical Psychology lecture on Schizophrenia, followed by an 'Experiential activity' run by the Counselling tutors, (I am unsure what this will entail!) and then I'll head to Manchester to the agency for a casting, which I'm not too excited for but Easter is a time when I need to be working as much as humanly possible) so this means castings must be attended.

But really - schizophrenia to a mysterious experiential group, to a model casting???
Yes. My life really is this.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

a happy Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day and I journeyed back to Harrogate where I spent the afternoon with my Mother and Brys. I gave my mum her card and gifts, and then we went to an old favourite cafe just outside Harrogate to drink tea and coffee and eat cake, well - flapjack for me. It was really delicious by the way - I should most definitely eat well made flapjack more often!
I am both lucky and extremely grateful for these two beautiful people.

Train travel #3

As my train passed through Knaresborough early evening tonight..

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Leeds #2

Documenting train travel seems to be something I do...
Somewhere mid-way between Leeds and York is where I am, for the second trip here this week. I'll have an afternoon of lunch and wonderful, wonderful company.

keeping the fire alive

I'm honestly stunned that it's Saturday already. Our Fridays come around so quickly and then it' the weekend and then it's the start of another week. The days are being filled and yet they seem to just disappear before our very eyes. I have to admit, this week has been exceptionally intense but very purposeful. I have not even been modelling or casting recently - part of me hates this and questions why this could be, but a huge part is relieved and just thinks, well where is the time? There is, of course the fact that the money I earn modelling is how I will fund my post grad course (IF I am offered a place) so, there is pressure to work even though there seems to be a severe lack of time to do so. 

I have met some really wonderful individuals this week and interviewed them for my dissertation, and began transcribing, which I'm not finding too challenging because the content of my data is something that really interests me so it captures my attention. I love to hear peoples stories and experiences, and that, is essentially what I have been exploring. The week began with my mother's birthday celebrations and the rest of the week is a blur of writing and writing and working and learning and reading and meetings and emails and rather a lot of alcoholic consumption, and people.. So, so many people. 

As I seem to keep saying and writing - life has such a powerful focus on the future right now, living in the future and trying not to be consumed by plans and 'what ifs',  yet still so centered and un-neglecting of what's happening right now. It is almost as if one depends on the other, and vice versa. But as we know, it is impossible to give all your energy to both. I guess 'balance' is a key word that stands out to me. Another key word is to 'trust', and the third, perhaps most prominent and significant word is  'acceptance'. I have worked as a model for long enough now to have acquired a certain degree of acceptance in that I do not always have control. And with life, comes an element of uncertainty, and paradoxically, this only becomes OK if we accept that these uncertainties actually keep the fire alive. Because nothing is guaranteed or set in stone, we are more inclined to work harder to achieve whatever it may be in life that matters to us, and it's actually quite an empowering process. I think it's a huge part of discovering who we are, and that's the exciting part.

Wednesday evening was an evening I found balance, and it was in the form of a bottle of disaronno, a bottle of prosecco, and my beautiful, wonderfully energized, inspiring, and all together quite amazing Irish friend Aisling. She was visiting York, so we spent the evening in her hotel room drinking and catching up. I could have stayed all night - we have a good friendship, even though we are both entirely different people and this was only the third time we have met in person, this evening was the perfect mid-week break.

Keeping the fire ferociously alive but trusting that it won't burn down to ashes the minute we leave its side, is an important message to remember. Trusting that you have put enough time and energy into that fire that it will keep burning brightly even if you take some time out.  A work-life balance.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Returning home

Purely because it seems to be a common theme of mine, to take photographs of train window views, here is a photograph I took yesterday at about 5pm on the way to Harrogate. It's getting lighter in the evenings and we can appreciate lighter skies and beautiful colours. I am also incredibly lucky to live so close to some beautiful scenery. I have lived around here for 13 years and I still love it. It doesn't mean that much when you learn that I moved from an early childhood in a red bricked house in a dull area of the grey English city we call Manchester.
There's not much I've seen of the rest this world that I don't love. But I think it's always important to appreciate what we have. Some people spend so long planning and wishing to be away that they forget that actually, returning home, whatever/where ever 'home' may be, can be the most comforting thing of all. 

The symbolic meaning of a cake

Finally home from another long day. Library working, interviewing, and going to Leeds for a post grad open evening where I had a rather long chat with the leaders of Psychology and also a tutor on the counselling and psychotherapy practitioner training course. I haven't applied for this training at Leeds but have to admit I'm curious, since that's the one I've applied for in York and am desperately hoping to be offered a place. I was really pleasantly surprised after meeting and chatting with the Psychologists there though.

Today I also interviewed the first participant for my dissertation and I'm so relieved and pleased with how it went. I can't say much, but I am really happy and found myself losing my anxiety and actually enjoying being the interviewer and meeting my participant. Now I'm home I've set camp in bed to begin what I've been told is a long process of transcribing lots and lots of (hopefully wonderfully helpful) words. At least I am warm and have a huge mug of hot chocolate by my side.

It is also my Mother's birthday today. Happy birthday Mum! The family celebrated her birthday last night, when I travelled back to Harrogate armed with cake and much excitement to spent a nice evening with my family. It was really nice - My sisters and I cooked dinner for everyone and we just enjoyed company, laughing about silly, and sometimes inappropriate things, as only families can do.

As I was walking into York station to board the train to Harrogate, I didn't buy a coffee for the train because of lack of free hands. I then arrived at the ticket machine to realize this was also a struggle - I had no free hands to purchase my ticket because I was carrying a large bag and a huge cake in both hands. So what would usually be an ordinary task I don't think twice about, turned out to be a challenge. This cake was a three layer beauty - very heavy! But for me, the cake wasn't just a three layer birthday cake for my Mother, it was a rather symbolic representation of life right now. This thought of cakes and symbolism and life entertained my mind as I walked through the station and couldn't even open doors for myself. It would seem that my hands are so full that I physically cannot take on any more. I am carrying all that's important to me - it's heavy and makes my arms ache, but I'm carrying it all nonetheless. But unless I begin to take the layers off the cake, I highly doubt there's room for much more.

Here is the cake, by the way. Home made by Bryony and I. I think it was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Sunday, 3 March 2013


The first half hour of Saturday morning was spent genuinely thinking 'thank god it's Friday.'
Friday was too much of a hectic day to really consider what day of the week it might have been.
Saturday, as suggested above, was spent in a 'Friday frame of mind'
Sunday (today), well I'm not sure. Perhaps a Saturday kind of vibe today.

One thing is certain - I am absolutely out of touch with that intuitive part of the mind that is at least concrete in the knowledge of what day of the week it is. I am a little worried that I will do the wrong things on the wrong days this week because clearly my mind is not focused on the present moment. I am obsessively checking my diary because each time I think about something a sharp wave of sheer panic runs through my body and I have to double check just to be certain and know that things are not slipping out of control. This really just means that the majority of my thoughts are consumed with times and dates and jobs and 'things I must remember to do.'

Friday really was an intense day. 9-12 clinical psychology lecture, 1-3.30 careers mini counselling conference, 4-5 dissertation supervisor meeting. When written down here it doesn't seem much, but after an already intense week, my head was pounding by about 3pm and I had consumed about enough caffeine to last an entire week. I most definitely sought out balance by spending this weekend with two of my very best friends, Moor and Ella. And then a day with my sweet sister Brys has restored me with the energy and enthusiasm this week requires. Providing I keep track of the days...

However, it is a new month, a new week, and I get to see my family tomorrow evening to celebrate my Mother's birthday. This, I am certain, shall be a wonderful evening.