Kelly from The Lady Errant has been one of my favorite people to follow in the blogging world for quite a while now. We’ve recently worked together on a couple of things and I’m so excited to be helping her launch her new design shop with this awesome giveaway.
Celebrate the opening of The Lady Errant Design Shop!
I’m excited to announce that The Lady Errant Design Shop is now open! Coding, figuring out small business legalities, and taxes have been occupying my waking hours for the past 2.5 months, and now it’s all coming together.
A bunch of my blog friends have been kind enough to support me and help out with a few giveaways to celebrate the opening. We have several prizes for one lucky winner today – and stay tuned for the next giveaway in June!
Don’t forget to sign up for the mailing list to get a 20% off coupon code – the next newsletter goes out in mid-June!
1. 1 free customized theme for self-hosted WP sites from the shop (up to $80 value). Includes favicon, pin it button, custom fonts/colors/formatting, and 1 coding add-on (such as a custom page template).
2. A custom blog button designed by Lix Hewett ($25 value)
This is a post about kittens. See, when I first moved to London, I said goodbye to my cat. It was — well, I kind of forgot to actually say goodbye, so the tearfulness came later, but I can assure you tears were shed. Many tears. Tears by the bucketful. When Oxford came into my life, a lovely morning in September in 2011, he was an elusive little ball that fit into my hand, and it took me about five days of living with the creature to start having anxiety over it — specifically, over the possibility of having to give it up due to my sister’s allergies — and my love has only become slightly more sensible since.
When I saw Oxford upon arriving home after a year out, you would have thought I was being reunited with a long-lost sister on a talk show, or whatever it is people who put their hands over their mouths and struggle not to scream on daytime television do.
In between, I ended up living with about a half dozen different cats and two honorary chihuahuas, and met another half dozen. After a life where I saw a cat maybe once every three years, this was intense and unexpected. For a while I felt like I was just going from cat to cat instead of place to place, which is a rather less stressful way of framing the absolute joy murderer that is flathunting in London on a budget.
Putting aside the time I met a jewellery maker’s cat and the poor thing was spooked and gave me a serious bloody clawing — totally my fault: I wasn’t used to being careful around cats yet — it’s been quite an adventure. Cats actually sort of maybe like me, and either strut up to me in five minutes or just hide less long than they normally would from other humans. I’m rather generous with my bed and love having pets snoozing where I can feel their warmth and their weight, so that probably helps.
And so: here’s an abridged list of cats I’ve had the chance to pet, based around which ones I had nicest pictures of.
In case anyone’s wondering how hard it is to blog when you move four times in a week and one of those times is back to your parents’ in a different country, the answer is: really fucking hard, actually. It’s hard to work, too. I’m trying to ease into it but I don’t have a surefire setup; I’m sharing a room with my sister. The last time I worked it was the type of work that doesn’t feel like work — it was shooting a shop; it doesn’t feel like work while I’m shooting, only during admin and editing and the inevitable endless chasing of payment when I’m not paid upfront — and my two-session psychotherapist was like, “You’re working today?”
This was a valid question because “today” was: two weeks after being given notice on my flat, with no prospects or budget to find another; four days after having a fight with my landlady about my last three weeks’ rent and emergency-moving to a friend’s couch in Hertfordshire; one day after deciding to go back to Spain to live with my parents for a while and save up to go back to London; one day after booking a hostel and a plane ticket; one day before moving to another hotel; two days before my flight. And ten minutes after going on forever about needing a shower and not being able to get through the day without one — ten minutes before going into the clinic toilets and washing my hair in the sink with hand soap.
It’s been six days since I landed in Madrid — six days since I sobbed on a plane, then on a train while reading a book about cats, then on the platform after getting off that train, and then into my mom’s shoulder after stepping off the moving walkway. It’s taken me six days in Ciudad Real, six days following six days dragging my baggage, physical and metaphorical, around in London, to muster the strength to open this window and throw some words together.
I thought it would be worse.
It’s not good. It’s taken only six days for me to be moved to shouting and tears. It’s only taken this long because I was too tired to shift close to work for the previous five. I’m sharing my sister’s room while my grandma’s in mine until fall, and even though my mom has been reading my blog for the past eleven months, she still doesn’t seem to grasp why I need quiet time to work.
I thought I’d go to coffee shops and just stay out. I still want to try, but I haven’t found a single place with wifi that also looks like it’d let me relax. My social anxiety keeps kicking in, and I haven’t made it to an ATM yet, which I need to do because no place in this town accepts cards at all, not even with a minimum spend, and I categorically refuse to ask my parents for pocket money.
I’m not feeling great today. It’s been one good day, one bad day — the good days being, much like in London, the ones where I allow myself to take lorazepam. Today is a bad day, but it’s also been the low point of my workload stress. It’s always a trade-off. I’m not worrying about rent, but I can’t further my work until I figure out a work setup that doesn’t rely on other people understanding that I can’t concentrate or get work done unless certain basic needs are met, and actually seeing value in providing me with those basic needs. I’m not worrying about money, but I’m having nightmares and waking up with the same knot in my stomach I did in London most days. I’ve got a roof and food and running water, but my family still cause me pain.
I’ve gone on walks with my sister, went for ice cream last night. Yesterday was pretty decent. I never got to go anywhere in London because I was so broke, so I think: I can survive this town sucking balls, but then I walk around it and all my resentment comes back. Then I’m fine again.
This first week has been better than I expected, considering how I felt last week. I’ve cried a lot less. But I’m scared it will quickly get much worse, and I’m not ready — I don’t have the means — to run off just yet.
I don’t know what’s happening next.
It’s a whole other post altogether; when I left London I planned to come back straight away. I grieved it. I got off the train and I was bawling. Then I woke up on Sunday and it wasn’t so bad. I was glad to see my cat, I was glad to be fed, I was glad to have my mom around. My sister isn’t awful most of the time, as opposed to being awful most of the time when I left. My father appears to have been trying specially hard not to be an asshole, though his approach to the fight I had with my sister today (really, it’s not even the fight; it’s the outrageous fucking cluelessness as to where I’m coming from and what matters to me) doesn’t fill me with hope.
I think about traveling. I think about putting together enough money to last me through four months in London — or elsewhere in England, or around the UK — until my grandma leaves and then taking the full year she’s out to stay here and save up to move again. I think about visiting friends in Europe, if they’ll put up with me.
I think about travel blogging, and how to navigate not knowing if I’m coming back to London or when or for how long. I’d still like to settle there, but not while my business isn’t making a steady monthly income. I think about what to do about my location, my branding, my services. I have so much content to roll out from the past year — there are so many pictures, places, little things I want to share. There are hotel reviews and portrait sessions and things I never got round to when I was constantly seeking work to keep a roof over my head. London is quite charmless when you’re fighting to stay afloat in it. It was only when I was leaving that I felt that thrill of love for the city again. It had been a while. It had been two seasons.
I don’t know how to be Spanish, and I’ve never wanted to. I’m a UK blogger, and I can be a UK-based travel blogger who spends most of her time in Europe, but Spain has never been a part of who I am. It’s just that my home base, my last resort, my family is here. Home is this flat, home is my mom and my cat and my sister, and the immediate surroundings are familiar, but I was landing in Madrid and it just — it was never home for me, this country. I was on the Madrid metro thinking, “Could I live here? (two-second pause) Fuck no,” and wondering if people from around the UK felt that way about London.
My main bank account is a UK one, and I left a lot of my stuff with a friend, and I have to go back eventually. I’m just not sure what that’s going to look like in the short term. And meanwhile, Spain is where I am, and I’m trying to stay positive. I’m trying to do one thing a day, to be efficient without pushing myself into a breakdown, to be productive within the limitations of my mental health instead of continually drag myself forward only to end up where I started, carrying my depression on my back like a corpse in a rubbish bag. That’s what the past year looks like in retrospect. I was in London, but the day-to-day could have been anywhere. My little ray of sunshine was the routine of having a coffee shop where I liked everything and was comfortable and could get out of my own head every day.
That was invaluable and I miss it so much I don’t know how to live without it. I miss it the most. If I had that, I could relax the rest of the time; I could let things roll off my back. I’d still have nightmares, probably; I’d get that knot in my stomach from hearing yelling not directed at me; but it wouldn’t be quite this difficult.
Whatever I do, I need to keep working on my business, and to do that I need to find a setup that works for me, and some days I’m hopeful and some days I feel utterly doomed. I feel pretty fucking doomed tonight. This could have been a better story on a different day. But when do my circumstances ever not have room for improvement?
Amy first got in touch with me via Etsy looking for a custom about widget. Then she hired me to move her blog from Blogger to self-hosted WordPress, and design a media kit. The migration went off without a hitch, but of course the media kit is the show-off piece.
I worked with her photos and her old header, a beautiful illustrated piece, and came up with a colorful design full of pastels and softness and fun. I think it represents her blog beautifully.
Anyone else look at their wardrobe and feel it’s particularly dreary when spring rolls around? I’m always aware of how overwhelmingly gray my clothes are, but now that it’s sunny, I want color so much more, and lighter tones; I’ve always found black really stifling in hot weather, and somehow, even though I’ve wanted one for years, I still don’t have the white sundress of my dreams. I haven’t even found it, really, but add a skirt to the white t-shirt on this board and you’re very, very close.
One day, I will rectify that awful oversight, and here’s some inspiration for future me and, hopefully, for you, from Very.co.uk.
When I love a floral pattern, I really, really love it, but I’m awfully picky with them: if it looks like curtain, or the littlest bit frumpy, I can’t bring myself to like it. A while back — I mentioned this in my last outfit board; I don’t know why I keep thinking of it! — I had it in my mind to start a clothing line using fabric printed with my own photography, and it was really fun to see what made for a good floral print. Mine weren’t patterns, not seamless ones, but rather full-size, non-repeating photos — or repeating in a manual, edited way. Some seamless patterns are beautiful, but I generally look for the manually designed approach with florals.
Another thing I want in spring is lighter fabrics for bags, fabrics that won’t make you sweat if you rub against them too long. I’m a sucker for a good leather bag, but when it’s warm, they can be quite unpleasant. I lean towards backpacks in warmer weather for that same reason: they stay away from my arms when I walk.
My ridiculous approach to bags applies to shoes, too.
In the vein of lighter fabrics and lighter colors, I also tend to put away the darker jeans when it’s warm. I like very tight jeans, and that doesn’t change when it’s warmer, but I want the denim to be a little bit rough and keep the heat out.
Finally, I get why people wear sunglasses, but they are so far out of my universe. They’re one of those things I just forget to wear, like jewelry and underwear. (That last one is a joke. But no judgment if you nodded along to it.) I don’t usually wear hats, either, because I’m lazy, but I love them and I’ve wanted a floppy one since Spencer wore a burgundy one on Pretty Little Liars. Possibly earlier. The one in this collection is available in navy blue, and also on sale! And it will keep the sun out of your eyes, too, probably.
I wrapped up my spring refresh with a set of bedding, because nothing screams fresh air and summer like the thought of a room with a big bed all done up in white sheets. And these are on sale too! God I want them. I’d probably get them if I weren’t broke and like, shopping for a new place to live.
And there you go: those are my incredibly specific thoughts on clothing for warmer weather. Do you have any preferences that you always thought too inane to share? Tell me! I promise I won’t judge. (Though if you say you like to wear black when the sun is shining hot on you, I may make a face. But it will be a funny one.)
In 2008, I spent three weeks in Oxford. I was going to say it’s well-documented on this blog, but that’s a lie, actually; I’d love to pull some travel posts out of the 2,000+ pictures I have from that time, many of which I still like. I do however mention it a fair bunch.
What I don’t think I’ve ever talked about is the two weeks I spent wondering if I could maybe — possibly — if it might be viable for me to find a job, and stay.
At the time, I had a laptop, and I had my fandom corners and friends online, but I didn’t have a blog, or a shop, or anything resembling income. I didn’t have any work experience either, and I’d never in my life written a CV. I’m sure people used Skype at the time, but my mom and I talked by phone. Internationally. I’m pretty sure she ran up a three-digit bill.
Oxford wasn’t a perfect experience by any means; I had to attend an ESL course I didn’t feel I was getting anything out of, and I was put up with a host family that I got along with so poorly everyone was relieved when I was moved to a flatshare for my last week. That flatshare was in Jericho, which is a ten-minute walk to the very middle of Oxford — possibly the middle of Oxford itself; I’m not that familiar with what falls where geographically — and it was the biggest room I’ve ever been in, and maybe my favorite week of my life, perhaps second to the week my best friend was here in London last year, the first week I was here — and even then there were stressors because I had to flathunt and wasn’t exactly swimming in savings.
Oxford suited me in a way I’ve never felt any other place suit me before. I felt at peace there. I was on my own, but I didn’t feel it. I wanted to stay. I really did.
I just didn’t know how to, so I moved back to Spain.
Fast-forward six years, or wait: let’s have a little montage of those six years first. Started an English degree in my hometown in Spain; dropped out as I couldn’t afford the tuition. Proceeded to spend five years at home, going out of the house maybe once a month, once every few months, to the library or when I had to buy something, which was rare because my family was pretty damn poor and I had the internet to keep me company. I wrote a lot of fanfic and I wallowed and my anxiety got so bad I eventually asked my GP for antidepressants. Those helped. In August 2012, I started paroxetine and quit writing. I tried to sell bits and bobs on eBay. Then in December, I opened a photography print shop on Etsy.
My laptop was on its last breath, and I couldn’t blog, or design, or do any of the things I was now realizing might be a viable career — the only career in a job market where the only available positions ever were door-to-door salesmen; a job market where a street-long queue waited to give in their CVs for a retail job that popped up behind my building once. I ran a crowdfunding campaign, one of the most stressful experiences of my life, bar having to pay rent and flathunt. New laptop led to this blog (with help from my friends, and with help from a specific friend for the hosting of this site as well), and then, on my birthday, I opened a design shop. November 2013. I was 24 at that time.
I started thinking about taking the leap to London. My laptop allowed me a movable source of income, a growing source of income, and my best friend started planning a trip to London to see her friend Ashley, who was doing a semester abroad here. My home life had been a toxic environment for a long time, and even though I could have saved up further, I knew if I waited, not only would I not see my best friend for god knows how long (we first met face to face in London in 2008, for one morning) but I’d never have the courage to jump on a plane on my own and book a hotel on my own and start flathunting on my own.
So I booked a flight, and I booked train tickets to Madrid. I bought a suitcase and got another from a friend of my mom’s. And I came here thinking, well, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. I may only be here a week.
It’s been eleven months, and sometimes I’m so proud of myself for having made it this far. Sometimes, however, there are weeks like this week, where I need to flathunt and I’m still broke and my anxiety isn’t triggered by my toxic living environment but my financial stressors, constantly. I keep breaking down.
But I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to move back to Spain; I don’t want to leave England. Not for long, and not for home, not when summer’s approaching — braincell-killer summer in Spain; so much nicer and more productive in the UK for a photographer and model! — and it’s my parents’ turn to host my grandma, so I wouldn’t even have a room of my own there.
For the first months I was here, I skyped my mom daily. I fell into a bit of a depression hole in October and it went down to several times a week, once a week, sometimes longer periods without. My wifi fails and it frustrates me when I’m already doing badly with my mental health. But we still communicate — through twitter DMs, of all places. No huge phone bill is run, and I get to see my darling cat up on the screen, sometimes, though I miss him most of all because I can’t exactly communicate with him.
I’ve thought about going to Europe, finding cheaper places and traveling a little, for blog content, because it may well be cheaper than living in London for much longer, because maybe I’d eventually be close enough to Spain to visit my back and do it all over again.
I don’t know if I have the strength, but I’m thinking about it. And after that, maybe I’d be making enough to live in Belsize Park again, or give up the London thing and go back to Oxford.
Either way, this entire thing couldn’t have happened six years ago, and if I didn’t have the Internet none of this would have worked. I’ll refer you to the contents of my bag on that train from Stansted to London, and the person who took that picture — someone I met online a full decade ago.
I wrote this post for the Second Time Lucky campaign with Ocean Finance. I’m hoping they can help me get back on my feet, and have a clearer head when I consider options like ‘move to Berlin for a month because it’s cheaper there and you’ve always wanted to go to Germany, self, don’t front, you’d swoon in the little towns and take all of the selfies.’
Also in partnership with Legal & General. My entire income comes from cameras, laptops, blogs — technology has basically changed my life for the better, and given me options where there would have been none otherwise.
You may remember when I posted about the Hot Hair event, I mentioned afterwards I’d gone and crashed a wedding inspiration showcase. Well, ‘crashing’ is exaggerating — I asked if I could go in, and I asked if I could shoot. I admit I only asked one of the vendors and just took it as blanket permission for the whole event, but I doubt anyone will mind.
Still, go there I did, and I went around the room with my camera at ISO two-billion because it was so dark at that point — and came out of it with some photos I’m quite proud of, including wedding dress photos and a couple of flat lays that scream Instagram. I’m posting them here as what I hope will be the first of regular wedding-related posts leading up to me somehow going for the wedding photography thing, hard. Wedding brands, call me!
Trigger warning for suicidal ideation, violent imagery, talk of depression and anxiety and disappointment in the NHS (and by extension the social security in Spain, which wasn’t any better).
Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist; I am not a qualified therapist, or a doctor, or anything of the sort. I talk about my lived experience and what I’ve glimpsed of others’ lived experience.
I didn’t intend to begin this post like this, but I will: there’s something really messed up about the fact that the only mental health symptom considered an emergency is attempted suicide.
Here’s how I wanted to begin this post: there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think, “I want to kill myself.” Sometimes it’s empty words; sometimes it’s cathartic, the only way to let off steam without screaming. Sometimes it’s just a chorus playing over and over in my head. Sometimes it’s calmness: sometimes I hit rock bottom, and I think about dying, and it’s comforting. My most violent imagery happens those times, when I’m not anxious, when I’m instead calm — unbearably sad, disappointed, resigned — and it helps to picture ways to die.
In general, suicidal ideation is pervasive. The scale goes from those empty words I mentioned above to desire and intent. You need to attempt suicide, or be very, very clear you’re going to, to receive any sort of emergency help. To check into a mental hospital. Feeling like you’re going to explode doesn’t matter unless you plan to end your life. It doesn’t matter if you just want to be dead. Resources cannot be allocated to run-of-the-mill breakdowns.
Suicidal ideation is a symptom of many mental disorders, and I know plenty of people who struggle with it. But I rarely see talk of it in this blogosphere that — wonderfully — speaks up about anxiety and depression so often, and I want to do my part for it.
On March 26, I had the chance to attend a Hot Hair event organized by Michelle from Thou Shalt Not Covet as a photographer slash guest. It was a small gathering of bloggers in the Billiards Room at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, and it was lovely. Zoe and I arrived at the same time and were welcomed with glasses of — I believe — rum and coke (I could be mistaken), and canapes made the rounds several times. There was also wine and bowls of nuts and that’s probably more snack talk than you wanted to hear.
Bloggers chatted, tried on hairpieces and wigs, learned about how to care for them and were able to see how extensions and hairpieces could easily alter their look in awesome ways. I myself tried on a wig for fun, because I’d always wanted to know how I’d look as a blonde, and the answer was bad. Terrible.
However, I saw the changes in many of my fellow bloggers’ looks and was very impressed. Xtine and Barbie looked lovely in ponytails, and I particularly loved the curly piece Laura walked out of the event wearing. These makeovers and more are documented in the pictures below.