On friendship (and a stupid little imp who’s going down the well)

I was thinking about this thing I’ve noticed. There seems to be some INVISIBLE RULZ about when it’s OK to call somebody a ‘friend’.

Not in the facebook sense, obviously.

It seems reasonable to me, to call anyone I’ve taken a liking to, who I’ve seen a few times and had a friendly, personal type conversation with a friend.

Surely there’s no need to have time limits, or other conditions attached to the “status” of friendship. I mean it’s kind of not that big of a deal, really. It’s not like getting married or anything.

I like you, we’ve had a nice chat, you seem to like me – welcome to the friends of Jani Jellybean. Have a chocolate biscuit!

Here is one of my splendid friends, Ziggy, and she really likes chocolate biscuits. Vegan chocolate biscuits make her go like this:

but here is a rather better photo of her……so she doesn’t slap me….

I’ve noticed though, that it can get a bit loaded, that word ‘Friend’ (along with inviting somebody to your home, but that’s another blog post entirely!!!).

For example: you’ve been asked to a party, or dinner, or asked for advice, or had something personal shared, or even asked to be part of a special event for somebody, and instead of being honoured you feel a little confused, almost affronted.

‘We’re not even very close friends’ you think.

‘They must not really have many friends’ you think.


Like, seriously. What’s THAT all about?

There seems to be this nasty little imp on our shoulder, putting limits on when we can reach out in friendship to somebody, deciding when somebody is ‘close enough’ to be called a friend and included in our lives. There are conditions. You have to pass some tests. There’s something to PROVE, people!

Now, this imp blatantly comes from a place of yukky insecurity and not from our awesome real selves at all. It’s the little blighter that cuts us off from potential support and good times by convincing us that somebody can’t possibly like and admire us enough to ask us into their lives. There must be some mistake, right?

Somebody say asks me to dinner, or they send me a nice message, or whatever. The little imp is all about “Why are they asking ME? Don’t they HAVE any MATES?”

The imp clearly thinks that there must be something wrong with them if they’ve reached out in friendship to ME.

It works the other way, too. I’ve had a weird reaction when I call somebody my friend, or invite them round, or whatever. As if I’ve stepped over some invisible barrier and, sometimes, even caused offence! Whoops. I didn’t meet the requirement, whatever that was.

Mr Imp is also ready with a comeback when I think “Gosh, I like that person, I may ask them round for tea and biscuits”. He says “Don’t be an idiot. They’ll think you’re a right sad case, you don’t know them well enough”.

Or, the imp makes up all SORTS of stupid reasons why somebody is being chummy. They must be after something. He’s really quite an inventive little blighter!

Isn’t that a bit ghastly, really, when you think of it. Ghastly and darn silly.

The reality is that a connection can be formed between two people without too much preamble, without conditions having to be met. Friendships can be lifelong, or last just a few minutes. One of my best friendships EVER lasted exactly the length of the Great South Run and I can’t remember her name now, but we got each other round that course. We rocked that friendship. Big time.

These connections are what life’s all about, they allow us to grow, to understand ourselves and …. well… they’re fun. We’d be mega, mega stupid not to grab every chance at friendship that passes our way.

So I’ve made myself a little promise. A life-changing one. When I see that little imp pop it’s head up, I’m going to take it out back and throw it down the well. I’m going to accept that people actually like me, because I’m pretty darn awesome – m’kay?!

Whilst we’re at it – if I like you and call you friend, it’s not because I’m Billy-no-mates and can’t do any better, it’s because you rock. Capiche?

Chocolate biscuits all round!

Things to do in this life list!

I’ve just been rather inspired by Leonie Dawson‘s blog post ‘Things to do in this life‘ and thought I’d do one of my own!  I will have to pinch a few things from her list as they’re pretty darn awesome ideas.

This can be an ongoing post, which I can add to, check of and change.  Nice.  

TO DO, in no particular order:-

1) Have a proper picnic with a hamper, cucumber sandwiches, chocolate eclairs and Earl Grey Tea, wearing gloves and a hat and a long flowy dress.

2) Walk the South Downs Way

3) Turn my land art pics into awesome Pagan greeting cards!

4) Have a dangerous Tea Party.

5) Build a roof garden at The Art House.

6) Have a handfasting ceremony where me and Bik get hitched for a year and a day.

7) Train Missy da parrot to say ‘I used to be an egg’.

8) Sleep under the stars again.

9) Go back to St Catherine’s Hill.

10) Get my sister to do a tattoo on my back.

11) See Purple Emperor butterflies.

12) Walk the labyrinth on Glastonbury Tor.

13) Lead a guided meditation.

14) Write a Goddess chant/song/poem and share it widely.

15) Make a banner for Djembabes.

16) Walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

17) Go to the Goddess Conference in Glastonbury.

18) Submit work for the Earth Pathways diary.

19) Turn my creativity booster course into an e-course.

20) Enjoy every single day of my life!

That’ll do for now 🙂

On Space

Not the space that’s really, really big…. the other space.  The type of space you have all to yourself!

I’ve come to the conclusion that space to create in is more important than time, materials or even ideas to an artist.  Many of us have limited time to spend on art – and certainly no long stretches of time to devote to it, as perhaps we’d ideally like to.

The thing with having a creative space is, you can work for ten minutes and then leave it, knowing it will be undisturbed and you can come back next time you have ten minutes, or more.  No having to pack away materials, it’s all just ready for you when you need it.

Now, these days I am a lucky girl and I have a little yellow room all of my very own, complete with creative cushion nest in one corner – observe:-

My creative nest

…and a nice big desk on which to make pretty things.

Here I am, me in my yellow room making something pretty!
But it wasn’t always that way.  Sure, I’ve prioritised studio space when I could, but even so it’s not always possible. I’ve shared a very cold old warehouse/garage with two other artists (no loo, no running water, no heat in the winter, lots of spiders) and I’ve converted a garage at home into a painting space (more spiders).  At other times, I’ve simply not had the money to rent anywhere, or the space to commandeer somewhere at home.
In my little mousehole flat I had before this home, I came up with a cunning solution.  I went SMALL with my work, mainly journalling and mail art and the like, and used a writing desk.
It cost me just £5 at the local waste recycling centre!   Using this lovely piece of furniture meant everything was in one place and easy to stash away when I was done.  I also had a little bit of a Jane Austen feeling every time I sat down.  Mind you, Jane Austen had neither a room of her own (she shared with her sister), or even a writing desk.
This is me, touching the ACTUAL TABLE she wrote at, at Jane Austen’s house museum in Chawton.  Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!  Did I mention Jane Austen actually LIVED IN SOUTHAMPTON for a bit?!
I’ve also used cunning storage boxes, so that materials can be easily got at, and fold out tables.  I’ve sometimes just had a sketching kit in a handy bag with a sketch book and a few drawing things.
The most radical way I dealt with this was the move to land art.
This medium meant the outside world became my studio and natural things I found became my materials.  All I needed was a camera and somewhere to upload pictures to.  These days, I just use facebook, as I’m not really in the process of marketing my work (but there’s a nice big portfolio building should I ever choose to!).
Me in the studio!
Very few of us will have the opportunity to have the studio one sees in the movies (you know, the huge loft space with kitchen and a mattress on the floor in one corner).  In addition, it’s worth considering whether a studio away from home is best for you, as you always need to make a special trip to go and work there.  My experience of an out-of-home studio was that it was great when you needed to forget the outside world and focus, but I didn’t go there more than a few times a month.
Another big attraction is to chance to work with other artists and give feedback and encouragement to one another.  Here in Southampton we have three group studio spaces which let people do this.
But there is a way around this, too.  The concept of a ‘Jelly’ co-working event can be adapted to suit creative people.  We have one at The Art House, every Wednesday afternoon.  People come along with laptops, sketchbooks, notebooks etc and work together in the same space.
This would be relatively easy for ANY artist to arrange in their home town, even once a month.  Many pubs and cafes have quiet times when they’d welcome a regular group.  Or, you could even meet at a library – many libraries also have free meeting rooms for use.
Friendly local cafes are a big resource for any artist, giving you a space where you can work away from the distractions at home for the price of a few cups of coffee (don’t forget to order Fair Trade!).  It’s one of the reasons I was so passionate about founding our little arts cafe and it gives me a massive thrill to see art actually being created there.

Why I don’t want to win the Lottery – and 10 handy steps that meant I didn’t have to!

I remember saying this at one particularly yuk office job years ago, long before the now well known stories of lottery winners lives gone horribly wrong.  I would HATE to win the Lottery.

Working in a nine to five job that few of us felt any real connection with, my colleagues would often cite the lottery as their best hope for getting out of there – they would pay off mortgages, go on dream holidays and upgrade the car.  All their worries would be over.  Their dreams would suddenly be right within their reach.

My opting out of the weekly office ‘pool’ was met with suspicion and astonishment.  Especially when I explained that I’d actually totally freak out if I won a million.

So yes, on some level I realised that suddenly coming into a lot of cash may well bring it’s own problems, as is proven by the many statistics on people going bankrupt within a few years of a big win.  I’m not great with money and I’ve no reason to believe I’d be any better with £1million than I am with £1000.

I also had seen the odds.  Around 1 in 14,000,000 for the Jackpot and 1 in 56 for a tenner prize.  I saw a news report once, I don’t know how well researched it was, which said that, if you sellotaped a pound coin to a card with your name and address on it and flushed it down the loo, you would have more chance of getting it back that way than if you played the lottery.

Most of all, I’ve always had this sneaking suspicion that the lottery stands as an invisible barrier between people and their dreams.  The tantalising promise of a huge cash windfall means you can just buy a ticket every week and one day, maybe,one day you can start really living the way you want to.  

In the meantime, because you have the remote hope that those numbers give you, you don’t do very much else to create your life of awesomeness.

We made this!

We made this!

Now see here.  If I had waited to win the big prize to start The Art House, odds are pretty high (14,000,000 to one, in fact) that I’d still be waiting, still be in that office job and I’d be around many £££s poorer to boot.

In order to start The Art House I gave up where I was living and put the money I’d have spent on rent into our first quarter’s rent.  That was £460.

Less than I’d have spent on all those lottery tickets.


Here’s what lessened the odds, in 10 handy steps:-

Step (0) was – I TURNED OFF THE TV.

1) I stopped WAITING – for the big win, the perfect time, the right people, enough money, security, perfect health, perfect skills……

2) I told everyone what I was planning to do.  Literally, EVERYONE.  This recruited me a big ol’ team of helpers and supporters.

3) I started saying ‘yes’ a lot more – to opportunities, experiences, everything.

4) I spent less, buying secondhand, holidaying in a tent just up the road and generally enjoying life on the cheap.

5) I focussed on doing the things I loved as often as I could.

6) I put myself out there – went to classes, did some art markets, joined in. 

7) I got my act together and went travelling (even though I realise now I probably didn’t need that step – but more of that on another post).

8) I’d been waiting not to be in debt, thinking I had to keep working until the balance was zero – except it never got any closer to zero.  I decided to do the best I can to pay things off, but not to let my past hold me back any longer.

9) I took the difficult step of letting go of things that were holding me back – where I lived, where I worked and sadly my marriage (at the time it was awful, now we BOTH have the radically different lives we wanted and neither of us is miserable – win).

10) I embraced all the experience I’d gathered in all those boring jobs – it came in VERY HANDY and I started to suspect that those jobs had been a training ground for what I’m doing now, because the universe is clever like that.

There’s a bit in Thelma and Louise where Thelma says to Louise “something crossed over in me, I can’t go back, I just couldn’t”.  I remember the day I felt that way.  It was scary as hell, but I made a commitment never to go back to only half living my life.  It’s still pretty scary sometimes, not having that rug of a secure job under me,.  I’d got awfully comfortable on that rug! 

But something crossed over in me.  I couldn’t go back, I just couldn’t.

Living your dream life does take a fair amount of risk.  For at least the first bit, security may be on the line.  I don’t have the exact figures though, but I’m 100% certain that the odds on getting everything, EVERYTHING you dream of if you get busy right now are much, much better that 14 million to one.  

Much,  much, muchmuchmuch better.

So, play the lottery by all means – now that I’ve worked on a few lottery funded projects, far be it from me to discourage anyone from contributing.  

But don’t make that your plan to get that life you really want to be living.