They get on each other’s nerves. She gets into his personal space (deliberately or otherwise) and he shrieks, “AHHHH!” and pushes her away. I imagine that if he could speak, he’d have some choice words for her. When he gets tired, his tendency to bite rears its ugly head and he goes for her ankles, because she likes sitting on the couch with her feet up. I can tell you from experience that his eight-and-a-half teeth can leave some indelible marks. She asks, “Ares, can I have that?” and grabs a toy out of his hands without waiting for his answer. He’s like chopped liver. He sees that her head’s right next to him and takes that as an invitation to grab her glasses, because obviously something protrouding from your face is just screaming to be yanked off. And so it goes.
This morning, before I’d even peeled my heavy eyelids open, they were already at it. He wanted the book about London that she was reading. She sternly snapped no, and then started howling at him as he turned his attention to opening drawers instead. There’s only so much ignoring and trying to sleep you can do, when there’s all this drama and potential hand-to-hand combat happening right beside you. I had no choice but to get out of bed, much to my displeasure. And they just went on and on and on like this for the next two hours, until Lucas and I were threatening to douse Raspberry with an unhealthy dose of Rescue Remedy and we were beyond ready to put them on the curb with a “for sale” sign (except no one really does things like that here with their inanimate objects).
They’re not usually this bad. Like all things, the sibling rivalry has ebbs and flows. The first few times it happened, I was just plain confused. There’s a six year gap between them. How… why in the world are they fighting?! If there was just two or three years between them, it’d be completely understandable, even expected, that they were butting heads. But seriously, six years! “You don’t even have the same interests,” I thought to myself (except that now, they actually do), thinking that the root of siblings fighting lay in both kids wanting the same things. But of course, I’m just completely naive and it’s more complex than that. They drive each other batty, just because.
They have occasional sweet moments when they play together. Like when we were at the garden at British Library and they looked at ants together. Or yesterday during Ares’ bath, when Ares was [mostly] pretending to drink the surprisingly particle-ridden bathwater and she would gleefully yelp, “Don’t drink the water!” and he’d laugh uncontrollably. Often, Ares will grab a chapter or adult book and plant himself right next to Raspberry as she reads on the couch, personal space be damned (he’s okay with shrinking the size of his personal space when he’s the one controlling it). It’s cute when they get along and when Raspberry’s not vocalizing her wishes to get rid of Ares (the suggestion last week was to “put Ares in a baby-only zone and someone else can take care of him” and then it escalated into suggesting murder — true story).
Please let me wake up tomorrow morning with pleasant kids, or at least tolerable ones. Let’s hope they got all that squabbling and bickering out of their system today (seriously, after going at it all morning, they’d better be done with it). If it continues, I think I’m just going to make myself some hot chocolate and put some headphones on and direct my attention to the black hole that is the Internet. It’s better than having my head explode.
Our final day in London started bright and early for Lucas and I, like pre-7am early, which, for me, is unheard of when we’re home, because I go to bed so late. But here in London, fatigued from the day and with no Internet to while my nocturnal hours away, I’d been going to bed before midnight. Ordinarily, if I were up at that ridiculous hour, I’d be a groggy, grunting lump shuffling listlessly across the floor. But this time around, possibly owing to the fact that we were in London (yay!), as well as the fact that I likely had sufficient sleep, I was uncharacteristically alert, perky almost. And I hadn’t even had breakfast yet.
I put on my blue flowered polyester dress, the last clean item of clothing I’d brought. Up to that point, I’d always worn it over leggings, because British weather only occasionally gets hot enough to go sans leg-coverings, and it hasn’t been that hot since I bought the dress last year. In this heatwave, it goes without saying that I was going to go bare-legged. However, I didn’t account for the fact that the dress was, um, a bit short. After I put it on, I kept tugging at it, hoping that it was at least covering vital parts of my anatomy. Lucas very helpfully suggested that I could put on my navy blue shorts under it and his brilliant idea saved me from much potential embarrassment, as well as having to take small, dainty steps for the rest of the day. After donning the shorts, he said I looked more confident. Ha!
The early start meant that we could get everything packed up before Ares and Raspberry were awake. It also meant that we could chat with our one flatmate — a law student from Nottingham named Catherine who was on a two week work placement — before she left for work. She worked long hours and would return late, so we only really saw her at night when we were making dinner or cleaning up. Raspberry enjoyed talking with her and promised to make her a picture before we left. She drew one of balloon people, inspired by a balloon in the shape of a number five, that we saw on our train to London.
If there was one thing I liked about the apartment (besides the fact that the bed was a lot comfier than our own), it was meeting fellow travellers. I’d talked quite a bit with the Slovenian guy before he and his girlfriend left. We’d see each other in the kitchen, as he prepared a no-frills breakfast or did his dishes. He seemed quite nice, as he’d recount the places they visited, sightseeing the way we did, but probably in a cooler, edgier, we-don’t-have-kids-in-tow sort of way. Oh, and they hit up plenty of musicals too, which isn’t exactly our cup of tea. He offered us the sunscreen he bought just before he left, but we didn’t need it. I didn’t really get a chance to chat with the Korean girl who’s an art student from Seoul, although Lucas did. The day we first met her, she gave Raspberry a small package of chocolate biscuits, which she devoured while we were out at South Bank. Raspberry, who forms attachments quickly and easily, wished she could keep in touch with Catherine. We had to explain to her the concept of fleeting friendships, and how you can’t really form long-term friendships with everyone. I’m not sure if she quite understood though.
In my sleepy daze, I somewhat recall the sound of heavy rain sometime in the early hours of the morning. By the time I woke, it was dry and hot again and we were all set for our last full day in London. At 34°C, it was slated to be the hottest day of the heatwave (and I’m willing to guess, of the year too) and what better way than to spend part of it at Hyde Park?
Our first full day in London started early. Like, “Why are you up?! It’s not even 7am!” kinda early. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I’d forgotten to draw the curtains in the room, which got the morning sun. I learnt that lesson quickly. For two kids who didn’t get their requisite amount of sleep, they sure were perky. Lucas and I were probably much less so. But no matter, because we were in frigging London!!!!!!!!!!
Lucas and I finished the muesli we’d brought, mixed with the granola we’d gotten the day before. Raspberry decided she only wanted the granola because clusters are where it’s at. Ares thrived on strawberries, because he’s a fruit fiend. Breakfasts for him have been complicated lately, as he doesn’t seem interested in what we have to offer, especially when there’s berries available. He took a couple of bites of our cereal, but mostly wanted the berries. We didn’t know it yet, but feeding him on this trip would prove to be a bit of a challenge.
As a birthday present for all of us (well, namely Raspberry, Lucas and I), we took a trip to London this past Sunday for five days. Out of the four of us, I’m the only one who has been before, in 1984, 1994, and 2004. Yes, in keeping with the pattern, it would’ve been great if I could’ve made it last year but for some reason, we just didn’t (the fact that we had a cat with hyperthyroidism who had to be fed a couple of times a day had a lot to do with it). In any case, we went and had a a tremendous time.
However, the trip got off to a bad start, as one of the wheels of our brand new suitcase popped right off barely a hundred metres from home. Raspberry, Ares and I had gone ahead of Lucas and as we made it down the hill, Raspberry turned around and announced that Lucas was carrying rather than pulling the suitcase. Of course, that’s not what I wanted to hear and when he finally caught up with us, he confirmed the worst and had to lug the suitcase the rest of the way to Lime Street station. Once on the train, because the luggage space was full, the cursed suitcase occupied the fourth seat at our table, sealing Lucas into his window seat. There was a guy sitting in that fourth available seat when we first boarded the train, but he quickly moved when he noticed we had a lot of baggage (I’m talking about Raspberry and Ares here).
The train trip, which ordinarily takes just over two hours, was slated to take almost three hours on this cloudy Sunday morning. I’m not sure why, as it didn’t make more stops than it usually does, but at some points, it certainly didn’t travel as fast as the Virgin trains normally go. We saw a lot of countryside and kept wondering when we’d see the city limits. Arriving at London Euston twenty minutes later than we should have, we were all excited and antsy to get off and get our vacation started.
After some failed plans to meet up with Zsofi, we went ahead and went to Otterspool yesterday to enjoy the warm afternoon. We started off at the playground, where Ares was interested in the structures, but didn’t want to play on anything in particular (“Do you want to go on the slide?” [headshake] “Do you want to go on the swing?” [headshake]). He seemed to just wander around the way toddlers do, trying out everything a little bit before moving on to the next thing and later returning. Raspberry played a bit but was more interested in the immature pine branches she found. She thought they looked like little dolls and tried to sell them for one pence, but no one really paid any attention to her, so she got quickly disheartened. She wanted me to pay actual money for it, but I didn’t have any change on me and honestly, I didn’t really want them in the first place.
Lucas finally fixed the wonky wheel of Raspberry’s scooter, so she brought it out for the first time in more than a year. She’d initially wanted to scoot down the promenade, but decided she wanted to go into the woods instead, as we did the promenade the last time we were at Otterspool. On our way to the woods, we discovered that they’d built a skatepark. How perfect was it that Raspberry had her scooter? And she’s always wanted to try out a skatepark. Needless to say, we didn’t make it to the woods.
Raspberry scooted among a couple of other little kids and a handful of adult skateboarders, delighting in the fact that she was going faster than she does on the sidewalk. She fell numerous times, sometimes picking herself up and carrying on, but mostly crying. I explained to her how it takes lots of practise and falling in order to become more proficient at scooting. An older skateboarder with yellow teeth commented how he was surprised she didn’t have pads on. I said that this was the first time she’s doing this in ages, and that we’d get some if she does it more. Her knees took the brunt of the falls and she cleaned them with wet tissue, rubbed some grass on it, and was good to go. Ares seemed to enjoy watching the action, while stuffing himself full of rice cakes. He kept wanting to walk on the skating surface, but he did wander off to chase a seagull at one point (no luck).
Near the end, Raspberry collided with a skateboarder, who landed on top of her. I didn’t see what actually happened, beyond them lying in a heap. She landed on her left elbow and was convinced that it was fractured (in recent weeks, she’s been learning all about the different kinds of fractures, as she’s really been wanting to climb trees and is convinced that she’ll fall and break something). Her elbow was touch-sensitive and she couldn’t bend it. She said it hurt so much that she couldn’t even cry (this is a kid who cries and says it hurts if you poke her). It wasn’t red or swollen, and it didn’t look much different from her other arm, so I was pretty sure it wasn’t broken. I tried to distract her by asking about all the different fractures and which one it might be, and said we’d see how it was when we got home and decide if we needed to go see the doctor. Despite being mostly certain her arm wasn’t fractured, I still had visions of her needing to be x-rayed and put in a cast, because my mind works in weird ways. As we walked, her left arm hung limply while she used her other hand to walk her scooter, but she wasn’t upset, like I thought she might be. While we were exiting Liverpool Central, she saw a table giving away free strawberries and drinks and as she reached out to take a cup, I noticed at that her hurt arm was bent. She said thereafter that it didn’t hurt as much anymore. Hooray to no fractures! As a reminder of her afternoon, she has scratched and bruised shins and a patchy, red scrape on her elbow that she’s rather proud of. I think she would’ve actually been excited to have broken a bone, but I’m guessing she’s glad to not have done so. I know I am.
A little over a week ago, Raspberry and I had a table at the Inprint Festival and it was our fifth print fair. The last print fair we did was in July 2014, so it’s been quite a while. Since then, Raspberry has repeatedly asked if we could do another, to which I always replied that she had to make new work. For her, the new work came in many spluttering spurts and there was practically nothing new for me, so the thought of doing another print fair was something on the back burner. Not to mention, having a baby around complicates things too.
Anyhow, with Ares at sixteen months now, I thought we could take another shot at doing a print fair. I knew about it for a good two months, but as is always the case, the bulk of the work I did for it came in the two weeks leading up to the actual day. Ha, talk about procrastination! The day itself was tremendously successful. I’d had my doubts, given the location of our table at the venue, but I’m glad my concerns were unfounded. We were consistently busy through the afternoon, and at one point we actually had people lining up to pay. That’s practically unheard of!
For the first time, Raspberry was doing custom, on-the-spot drawings for £1 and they proved to be quite popular. She initially offered cat drawings, but they evolved into customized drawings, including one of a peacock with a blackish body because it’d forgotten to wear an apron and had spilled paint on itself. She had some people specifically seek her out and she sold out of a couple of her prints, including some she’s had since the very first print fair we did back in March 2013. To say she had a successful day would be an understatement.
This was the first print fair where I had new work in eons. I’ve been attempting to move away from making maps so this was the first time I debuted some illustrations in the form of two prints and a zine (my very first one ever!). I was nervous about doing so, as I’ve never actually publicly shown any of my drawings before, not since I last drew more voraciously in junior high. But people seemed to like them, and that’s motivated me to keep working at it. This was also the first time I sold more than just one of my sets of photos and that was certainly encouraging. I even met a guy who works for the Open Eye Gallery, who said they’d like to showcase artists’ work in their shop and floated the idea of maybe having my images there. Not that I’ve heard from him, but that’d be amazing! I also met a girl who actually sends snail mail and she bought four of my envelopes. Snail mail enthusiasts are few and far between, so I was excited to have met her. As usual, I did have the maps for sale, but I tested out the idea of having people make me an offer for them instead of having a set price. It didn’t work out, but the maps only very occasionally sell at the print fairs, so I’m not torn out about it. While I didn’t have as successful a day as Raspberry did, I did quite well and have absolutely no complaints. Coming off the high of the day, I know I definitely want to keep on working on my illustrations and see where that takes me. That said, I’m excited to do another fair (not that there are plans as yet to do so, but I’m excited at the potential for it!).
(Oh, and on the way home, we saw a rabbit beside the hospital, which I think is quite a perfect way to end the day!)
We made an impromptu trip to New Brighton, where Raspberry and Ares played in the sand, dug through the treasure chest (and discovered dinosaurs, now named Limousine and Desk), climbed on rocks, and eschewed ice-cream. And near the end of it, Ares started actively seeking out sand to eat because he was exhausted and he seems to get a massive oral fixation when he’s tired. We also found a 1972 copy of Enid Blyton’s The Children of Cherry Tree Farm at Literally, originally presented to one Craig Dixon by Mereside Methodist Church in 1974 for his regular attendance. It all made for a pretty decent day.
Also known as the first day we’ve spent out this week.
Or the day we spent all afternoon at FACT sculpting with salt dough.
Or the afternoon we met some very cool people who were also making salt dough sculptures.
Or the time I said “fuck it” to our unimportant errands because hanging out with people we’d just met was way more fun.
Or the first time Raspberry had played with dough in probably a year or more.
Or the first time Ares played with dough and wasn’t as interested in its tactile properties as I’d expected.
Or the first time [surprise, surprise] Ares ate salt dough and as usual, refused to open his mouth for me to extricate it, and went back for more.
Or the time Ares ate coloured salt dough and promptly puked up milk, and more milk, and even more milk, and of course, it was the one time I didn’t bring his burp cloth.
Or the time Raspberry made a giant minion head out of salt dough, even though she’s only ever seen the minions in their banana song video.
Or the time Raspberry made a little pot for one of the very nice people she met, who gave her the duck she’d made.
Or the day Ares didn’t nap until 4:20pm, slept for barely 50 minutes, woke up as we were walking down the street, and immediately pointed out a big truck, because that’s obviously very important to him.
Or the day we hurried post-haste from FACT to Lime Street station to meet Lucas, zipping into shops to buy rice noodles and straw mushrooms along the way for our pad thai dinner.
Or the day we had a really nice, laid-back afternoon in a really nice space.
I started sewing maps onto paper about four years ago. I’m not sure what spurred it but I remember itching for something new and artistic to work on and from that yearning, my embroidered map series was born.
In the past year or so, I’ve felt the maps becoming more of a burden, not that I’ve consistently been making them. The fun has long gone and sewing them became a chore. It’s said that if you no longer love what you do, then it’s time to stop, isn’t it? I think I’ve long been ready to move on, to try my hand at something different like screenprinting or letterpress or illustration, all areas I’ve been eager to dip my feet in for a long time.
I’m slated to do a print fair at the end of the month and I’ve been attempting some new work, but I think I’m going to try to sell the maps beforehand and see where that takes me. I somehow feel like if I don’t have them, it’ll be psychologically easier to move on to the next project(s).
That said, if anyone’s interested in any of the maps, they can be seen here, and here’s a breakdown of the prices with free worldwide shipping:
European borders (8.5″ x 11″) – US$15
South American borders (8.5″ x 5.5″) – US$10
South American borders (5.5″ x 4.25″) – US$5
And for the UK mainland:
European borders (8.5″ x 11″) – £10
South American borders (8.5″ x 5.5″) – £6
South American borders (5.5″ x 4.25″) – £3
Anyone who’s interested can leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’ll be nice to see the maps going to good homes!