Sunday, 23 April 2017

Life Lately

Life seems so busy at the moment, between work and home and my busy staring-at-the-cat schedule, that I haven't always had the chance to blog as regularly as I'd like. Not that I think I, or any blogger, has a duty to keep to a schedule, but I do like to keep a record of what's going on in my life here. So, what have I been up to?

We've had some big celebrations in our house recently, with Thomas accepting an offer of a full-time, permanent lecturer role here in Leicester, and me an offer of a place on the Gender Studies MA at Leeds University. I'll be starting in September on a part-time basis, travelling up once a week for lectures and seminars. Meanwhile, the fact that Thomas has a job locally - and, more to the point, a permanent, well-paid job - takes the pressure off for the next few years. As he's only one year post-PhD, we feel very lucky (although his hard work and amazing talent have more to do with it than luck).

I'm really excited about starting the Masters - it's a course I've wanted to study for years and I spent the last few years of teaching saving like mad so I could afford the fees - but I'm apprehensive too. Nervous about the workload and the travel, the new people, the pressure I can tend to put on myself in academic situations (and my corresponding tendency to give up on anything I find too challenging).

Somewhat linked to this is that since the start of the year I've been challenging myself to do things that scare me and as a result my anxiety has been both debilitating and something I feel like I'm getting a handle on. Often in the same day. A lot of what I've been doing isn't big stuff - 'just' things like driving to a new place, or being the one who goes to the bar to order food - and I'm not always being successful, but I do feel like I'm making progress. I've also started being more open with friends about my mental health instead of pretending that everything's fine, which has been a massive relief.
Finally, travel-wise I feel like we're all over the place at the moment (in a good way).

I spent a really nice couple of days away this week, visiting Bath, Wells and Glastonbury with a friend. We pretty much ate and drank our way around Somerset: from afternoon tea to local cider to Glastonbury pasties, we tasted it all.

Now Thomas is in Wales, hiking and camping with a friend, before we head off to Barcelona next weekend, which will be a challenge to my travel anxiety but, I'm sure, a lovely trip. Then in May I have trips to London to see release my inner rock chick at a Deftones gig, to Bradford to see my mum, and to Nijmegen to hang out with Thomas's friends for a long weekend.

What's new with you?

Monday, 17 April 2017

Eat: Oscar & Rosie's Pizza

Oscar & Rosie's has long been one of my favourite dinner destinations in Nottingham, so I was excited to discover they were opening a location in Leicester. So excited, in fact, that Thomas and I visited within 24 hours of them opening their doors last Friday.

Why all the excitement over pizza? I hear you ask. Well, although Oscar & Rosie's isn't the first independent serving decent pizza to open in Leicester, it is the first to offer vegan cheese and a huge range of vegan meats. It makes such a huge difference to eating out together when neither Thomas nor I have to compromise; when he can have great vegan food and I, well, don't have to have vegan food! 

The Leicester venue is smaller than their Nottingham branch, but offers the same mid-century-cum-junk shop style of shared seating along long wooden tables, and the same extensive menu of pizzas and both soft drinks and beer from small producers (although, at the time of our visit, no cider yet - unfortunately for me). From a menu boasting options as diverse as the beetroot, goat's cheese, & pesto Frenchman, to the Hamster (ham hock, mushrooms and ricotta), it felt a bit lazy to go for the Margherita, but with top-notch ingredients it was anything but boring.

Like all the best indie businesses, there's a slightly ramshackle feel to Oscar & Rosie's which is entirely its appeal; there's no slick corporate marketing needed when the pizza's as good as this. If you're local to Leicester - or even if you're not - I can heartily recommend you paying them a visit at Market Place, just off Hotel Street.

Note: this is not a sponsored post and  - more's the pity - I didn't get free pizza for writing about Oscar & Rosie's. I just really love the place!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

A Bathroom Makeover


When I bought this house eight years ago, the bathroom was resplendent with peach & green floral tiles straight outta the 70s. Not having any spare cash at the time, I slapped some white tile paint over them, painted the walls grey, and hoped for the best. Over the years a combination of peeling tile paint, hair dye stains on the grout, and mouldy sealant had left the bathroom an absolute embarrassment; I dreaded people coming to stay and having to use it.

A makeover was well overdue.

My talented friend Abby, who also redid our kitchen, came to the rescue. With her handling the tiling and drilling, and me on interior design and painting duties, we turned this...
... into this (note - taking photographs of a dark room with a big window is extremely difficult).

This is one of the first rooms that I've done a complete makeover of; my usual approach is to change a bit at a time, as and when we can afford it. It was really fun to go into it with a clear vision - I wanted white metro tiles, dark blue walls, reclaimed wood, and the contrast of textures provided by industrial wire accessories and woven baskets together with lots of plants.
As much as I possibly could, I reused items we already had in the house. The vintage pharmacy labels came from an antique shop near my dad's in Lancashire years ago, while the plants and pots were all rehomed from elsewhere in the house. The chest of drawers - an IKEA cheapie - had lived in the bathroom for years and just needed a lick of paint, and the bathroom mirror is one I salvaged from a charity shop and repainted.

Abby found a section of old railway sleeper while walking her dog and wasted no time working her magic on it, cutting it to size to make two shelves before sanding and oiling them. The basket - a handy home for toilet rolls - came from Ikea and I painted it with a couple of coats of the same paint I used on the walls.

The only things bought new for the room - apart from tiles and paint - were a sparkling chrome shower curtain rail and riser rail, the industrial wire shelving for the alcove, and a beautiful print by Eloise Renouf.  To save money, we retained the wood-effect lino which, to my surprise, actually goes really well with the new look. Overall the total cost for the makeover came to about £600, however this includes the cost of a plasterer after half the wall fell off when the old tiles were removed. That hitch aside, we could have managed it for less than £300.
One of my favourite things in the room is this mobile, which my step-mum made from sea glass and driftwood. Can you see what shape each piece of sea glass is? I was so touched when she gave it to me.

Overall, both Thomas and I are completely thrilled with our new bathroom. Whereas before it was a room I avoided unless absolutely necessary, now I love to light some candles and lie in the bath to relax. The blue walls give the space a cosy, cave-like feeling at night, and during the day it's fascinating to see how light affects the shade - sometimes appearing grey-blue, at other times a brighter navy.

Details:
* Basket: IKEA * Print: Eloise Renouf from Mustard  * Window film: B&Q * 
* Shower curtain rail: Homebase * Shower riser rail: Homebase
* Metro tiles: Homebase *

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Why I Love Zines

In 1994, when I was 16, I made my first zine. My mum photocopied it for me at work, I put an ad in the back of Melody Maker, and before too long letters with 50p pieces sellotaped to them were arriving through the letter box. My life as a zinester had begun.

A zine, for those who don't know, is a homemade booklet or pamphlet. They can be fanzines (zines, as the name suggests, about something you're a fan of - usually music. My first zines were Britpop fanzines), perzines (personal zines), comics or instruction zines. What they all have in common is that they're a DIY form of creativity: more often than not hand-drawn, photocopied, and either sold for a low price or swapped.

After making both fanzines and perzines for four years I stopped when I was about 20, and it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I felt like I wanted to get back into zines. In the interim blogging had become for me what zines once had been - a way of communicating, of practising my writing, of meeting people with whom I had a lot in common but whom I otherwise wouldn't have met - but within the last two years I've felt increasingly less motivated to blog. Instead, I decided, I would make some new zines.
My first new zine was about abortion, telling the story (largely through cartoons that could kindly be called naive, otherwise known as crap) of a termination I had in my early 20s, and it took me two years to finish. Luckily, I picked up the pace after that and, since the beginning of 2017, have written and made two more zines: Barren, about being childfree by choice, and a perzine called, like this blog, Someone, Somewhere.
When Laura and I visited Sheffield Zine Fest last year, we promised ourselves and each other that this year we'd return to table. And so, at the end of February, we set up stall: Laura selling her My So-Called Life compzine and her comic about turning 30, and me with my little stash of zines and badges.

Zines don't replace blogging for me but they do complement it, giving me a creative outlet that's about more than just writing, and a space to share things I wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable sharing online. The zine world is as wonderfully welcoming and diverse as it was when I was 16, too, and I've met so many brilliant people through making, sharing and buying zines. As the blogging world becomes increasingly mainstream, and often focused on people trying to make money, I value the truly DIY ethos of zines and the sense of being involved in something so firmly outside of the mainstream.

I'm now working on two compzines and would love contributions: Mixtape is a 90s nostalgia zine that Laura and I are putting together, and Cherry is about virginity - the loss of it, the concept, the problematically heterocentric nature of the concept, whatever! Email me at jbistheinitial@gmail.com if you want to submit something for either zine.

You can buy my zines from a range of places: by emailing me for Paypal details (they all cost £1 plus 50p P&P), or alternatively Brick is carried by both Penfight Distro and Vampire Sushi Distro, with the latter also selling Barren and Someone, Somewhere).

I have also contributed to a number of compzines in the past year, all of which you can buy on Etsy: Laura's zine The Boiler RoomVersions Of Violence, a zine about heterosexism, and Yr Faves Are Problematic