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Rain, Rain Go Away!

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Rain, Rain Go Away!

This post is about Fashion, Photography and Mental Health. If any or all of these topics make you a little squeamish I suggest you LOOK AWAY NOW.

Still here? Good.

I was hoping that the old adage ‘third time lucky’ would prove itself to be true when I found myself making plans for a Reddskin photoshoot last month. It had been a long time coming. I had saved up my hard-earned pennies. I had gathered my favourite, talented and (most important) fun loving models, Layia Johnson and Jordon Bolessa. I had nabbed the wonderfully warm MUA I had been busting a gut to work with since Forest Hill Fashion Week in 2014, Muna Hassan. And, finally, I was thrilled that my favourite photographer – for her work and her open spirit – Sara Atteby, was available and actually excited to work with me. Everything was in place. All we needed was some amenable weather. Cue praying to Gods and putting a LOT of positivity into The Universe.

Please note: No animals were sacrificed during the planning of this event.

Caught!

Caught!

Why ‘third time’? Weeellll…hmmm…ummm. Honestly?

Ok.

Attempt 1: March 2015.

Thwarted by being off sick from my actual (ex) job. The threat of Gross Misconduct did not appeal to me (‘working’ whilst off ill). Plus I had lost the will to sew therefore I didn’t have any new stock to photograph.

Whilst we’re on the subject. There aren’t powerful enough words to accurately describe what it feels like to lose the will to do something you have always loved. Something that has always given you life. Uplifted you. Completed you. But Depression (yep. Big ‘D’. That’s what we’re talking about here) does that. For me it was like watching the world continue without me through a pair of Vaseline-smeared sunglasses…under water. Something like that. Frankly, it was shit.

Attempt 2: June 2015.

In theory this would have a been a better time to steam ahead. I was feeling a LOT better**. We had fairly predictable fine-ish (this IS Britain after all) weather and my willing, talented team were almost assembled. I was conveniently overlooking the fact that I had recently left behind a 28 year teaching career and suffered a bereavement in the family. I was trying to execute a Will, had organised a funeral (My first one. Not recommended) and was trying to ‘manage’ my grief. (Seriously? Who does that? Lesson learned), amongst other things that I won’t go into here (who said ‘Phew’?). Plus I *still* hadn’t produced many more creations. But, I was worrying frantically, I had postponed the first planned photoshoot and I couldn’t let anyone down (I know, I KNOW!).

It would HAVE to go ahead, wouldn’t it?

Well actually it wouldn’t. The Universe was clearly listening HARD. One of my lovely models had a car accident (!) on the morning of the shoot and ended up in hospital, unhurt mostly, but in shock. She called to say she was late but on her way (Dedicated? Yes. Bonkers? Definitely!) and I told her to go home and rest. My understanding co-collaborators were gracious and everything went ‘on hold’.

Again.

Third and final attempt. September 2015.

I was ready. WE were ready. All systems go! Transport For London tried to hold us back with their all too usual weekend engineering works but we were having NONE OF IT! The skies held up and the sun even made an appearance. George, the wonderful owner of a local cafe Kente, fed and watered us when we had finished. The team were on top form, we got some great shots and, most importantly, we had FUN!

The results are dotted throughout this website. I hope you like them as much as we do!

IMG_20150913_144111797

**on ‘better’.

I considered filing this post under TMI (too much information) but I figured ‘Why not?’. I am acutely aware of the awkward shuffles and embarrassing silences that STILL surround the topic of Mental health. I’ve been on the receiving end and, to be honest, it just makes you feel worse.

I am a human being who happens to be a Fashion designer. I, like all of us, am a Work in Progress. Many things have occurred throughout these 12 months. They’ve brought me to now… as I write these words. Some factors I felt able to control and some simply happened. I am eternally thankful to some amazing friends and family who supported and continue to check in with me. Yes I feel (much) better. I am also fully aware that whatever this is isn’t over (is it ever?). How I approach my own mental health, and that of others, is VERY different now. I am kinder to myself and I am open to change.

So to anyone reading this who is having a tough time and feels that life is being an absolute bugger (understatement Klaxon), you’re going to have to trust me on this one, things can and do improve. You never stay still. All those old cliches and adages, especially the one that goes ‘This too shall pass’ (the jury’s out on who said this first) Well its true. Living proof right here y’all!

If you made it to the end of this post, thank you for staying.

Feel free to comment on any or all of the above. Don’t be shy…I would love to hear your views.

Peace.

x

Paradise found.

*gasp*

Barbados. I can’t even say it without smiling. Birthplace of my parents. Home to many members of my family.

Miami beach….in Barbados.

I first visited back in 1983. I was in my final year at Leicester Poly and about to hit the grand old age of 21. My mum saved from her meagre payslip for what must have been a few years to buy me a plane ticket for my birthday . “It’s time you saw where your parents were born”, she announced. I wasn’t complaining. So, whilst she sat at her kitchen table typing up my final dissertation, I jetted excitedly into the unknown.

Relaxing at sunset

The love I have for this beautiful Caribbean island has never left me and I have returned many times.

Years later with a family of my own, it seemed only fitting that I should celebrate my 50th birthday in Barbados. So I, too, saved my pennies for years so that I would be able to treat myself and my divas to the holiday of a lifetime.

My divas

And what a holiday it was! Friends and family flew out to help me end what has turned out to be, six months of birthday celebrations. This may seem a tad excessive or even extravagant to some but believe me it was worth the expense because we have had a BALL!

Beautiful view from the Tiami catamaran.

I enjoyed seeing my Bajan family again and meeting new ones I didn’t know existed. It felt that everywhere we turned there was someone being introduced as a cousin…or maybe that’s just a Caribbean thing.

Young cousins at the beach

We had a brilliant day sunning it with friends on a Catamaran.

Turtle-tastic!

I discovered that I hate snorkelling…Hey I like breathing too much – go figure! I reconciled my fear of getting my hair wet (Diva? Moi?) and went swimming with the turtles. I even went to a specialist hairdresser to have my hair done for the first time in fourteen years – having been teased by friends who have never washed their own locs. Who knew?

Hajar of HapiLocs at work

I rekindled my love of all things rum and discovered a new love in Gin, creating a ‘new’ (to me) cocktail we named The Ridge Cooler after the villa we were lucky enough to stay in the final week.

The Ridge. Barbados.

I finally worked out that I no longer feel the need to chase the nightlife on the Island and was just as happy picking La Divas up from a night out knowing that they’d had a great time. I draw the line at clubbing along with my children – although I’m sure I could show them a thing or two on the dance floor.

Why are you rolling your eyes?

Sunset at Accra beach

I slept and I swam and I read. My birthday Kindle (thank you) became my best friend. The girls, friends, family and I talked and laughed until we cried. We made the mistake of playing dominoes with our young cousins. Nothing much beats the humiliation of being thrashed at dominoes by a 10 and a 13 year old..repeatedly..and then being laughed at…loudly.

I am so thankful for having the means to afford such a holiday and for having such wonderful friends and family to spend it with. I loved being with my  funny ladies who, let’s be real here, have driven me to the edge of sanity and back on more than one occasion.

The 3 Degrees. Barbados 2012

But most of all I’m just so glad that my mum instilled in me the importance of saving my pennies…and for giving me the best 21st birthday present EVER.

The view.

I have told my friends that my celebrations are over…for now. I know I milked it and I make no apologies. I have never needed much of an excuse to party!

What about you? Are you a celebration addict? How will you celebrate your next big birthday or anniversary? Or do you hate the mere thought of a party?

Whilst you’re thinking about it…here’s my recipe:

Ridge Cooler/Gin Cooler/Reddskin Gin

1 tsp brown sugar

2/3 capfuls Gin (I used Bombay Sapphire…pretty colour bottle!)

2 slices of cucumber, diced.

Half pink grapefruit – segments and juice.

Chuck all the above in a tall glass half filled with ice cubes. Top up with tonic water.

Drink and relax…preferably in the sun.

For an refreshing alcohol-free version… *blank stare*… omit the Gin.

Reddskin Gin!

Enjoy!

To rummage or not to rummage?

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I’ve always been a sucker for a bargain and it’s no secret that I LOVE clothes. So when Penelope – genius founder of Frockcycle – invited to me join her and Paulina Palian – fabulous fashion designer – on a visit to a recycling warehouse I jumped at the chance.

“Don’t forget the gloves…” read Penny’s last message.

Eh?

We arrived in the blistering heat (yay Summer!) to be greeted by a spectacular sight – hundreds of clothes items drying in the sunshine.

Our mission was to find some fashion faux pas’s for a Frockcycle event on Saturday 28th July. This exciting day is for anyone who wants help and inspiration to transform an beast of a garment into beautiful creation.

Chris Carey Collections is a family run business in South East London whose mission is to recycle unwanted clothes responsibly. Clothes are sorted in to sections according to value or condition by knowledgeable staff. Once signed in (it’s worth calling first) you can take your pick then pay by kg or item, depending on the items, on departure.

HOW many clothes?

So, gloves on and sporting a fetching neon vest (no pictorial evidence…you MUST be joking!) The Frockcycle Three were ready to rummage!

Except for one thing… I had forgotten how truly rubbish I am at the rummaging part. Pun intended. You see I’m more of a ‘Clothes in neat colour-coded rows on rails’ kinda gal if I’m really honest. *Diva face*

So whilst the Dream Team Penny and Paulina filled their recyclable sacks with all sorts of fabulous finds, I leant more of a critical eye. I’m really good at that!

I DID find this over sized skirt though…

Fabulous colours in this ma-HOOSIVE skirt!

However I wear it as a vibrant top! I LOVE it!

Skirt as Top? Why Not!

Come along and have some fun at Frockcycle…or have a go yourself at home! Trust me – an afternoon trying your old clothes on backwards and upside down is the new shopping! (and with friends and wine – hey it’s a party!)

What about you? Do you dive in regardless and rummage?

Are you a Diver… or a Diva?

I’m sorry..? Do I know you?

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Inside the hotel. Wowsah!

If you had told my 19 year old self that, 30 years on, I would enjoy taking pictures of boring buildings I would have stared at you incredulously. And then if you had continued to say that I would actually enjoy walking around gawping up at said buildings and snapping photographs with not one human-being in front of them…I would probably have dismissed you as delusional…and backed away slowly yet determinedly.

Is this was age does to you? (stumbles as the walls shudder to a reverberating chorus ‘YES!!’)

Nevertheless I found myself in Seville for a few days last week with my darling dotty mother. I have visited Seville once before and I do remember loving the place. So much, in fact, that I vowed to take my mum there for a holiday. Umpteen years and a poor memory later, stumped for an idea for her birthday present, I suddenly remembered my vow. Eureka!

I booked a impressive hotel – Las Casa de la Juderia – in the heart of the historic quarter Santa Cruz. Impressive only as I chose it using the internet equivalent of pinning the tail on the donkey blindfolded. But my mother doesn’t need to know that, does she? After a horrible flight (RyanAir. Never.Ever.Again) we landed in the heat and vibrance of Seville.

When mother stole my camera...

Aaaaaaand b r e a t h e.

Mama wearing matching Hibiscus

The hotel was the perfect choice (sshhh!) for my nature loving mum as it is a maze of quaint old buildings and courtyards adorned with lush gardens. Mum insisted on pointing the various flowers and fruit out to me and telling me the names. Hibiscus, Jasmine, pomegranates and, erm…well lots of jasmine (I’m not a keen gardener – can you tell?) I was impressed by the orange and lemon trees that lined practically every street though. Different ones you understand – oranges and lemons do not grow on the same tree even in the magical land of Seville. Silly.

So we walked, talked, laughed and got totally lost on the streets of Seville on a daily basis. I took pictures of buildings and flowers and tiles (Seville does like a cool tile…for obvious reasons) and sometimes I even let my mum stand in front of them. Madness. Must have been the heat.

Blisstastic.

When I had told friends that I was taking my mum to Seville I got ‘In August? It’s very hot there!’. Well I can tell you we LOVED it! Admittedly 32 degrees centigrade can make one flag a bit, but what with the air conditioning and the shaded plazas and the meandering and the pretty scenery…and the cold beer and tapas breaks we were just fine thank you very much.

An infirmary and an Art gallery. Cool!

And did I mention the colours? Sunshine makes everything seem so much more alive! Time away from home, a chance to recharge in the sun and to sleep without my head racing. It’s amazing what a few nights in a different space can help you achieve.

I love to work with colours and patterns so it’s no surprise that I feel so inspired by the shortest of times in Seville. I’m glad that I took all those pictures of buildings and flowers. Maybe my 19 year old self wouldn’t think I’d lost it after all.

Colourful? I think so!

So what about you? Have you altered your viewpoint as time passed? What might your younger self think of you now?

JACK MONROE

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