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Life – Goodbye 2017, hello 2018

January 12, 2018
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It might be a bit of a cliche’, to write year overviews and all that but considering that I haven’t been looking after this corner here as well as I have in the past, I thought it would be worth doing it, even if only to remind myself of all the good things that happened in 2017. While a lot of people complain that it’s been a horrible year, I honestly think that I can’t complain too much – sure, there have been challenges but when isn’t life challenging?

This overview also comes a bit late (January is well underway) but I have been working without days off for a few weeks… after being ill. UGH! Better late than never, that’s what I would say.

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2017 has been a very eventful year… I managed to get a lot of things done and I’m happy with what I see when I look back. So, what have been these amazing things that I’ve accomplished last year? Here’s a list, that’s not exhaustive but comprises the main highlights.

  • left full-time employment – due to my health and after last year’s burnout, the thought of corporate life induces mild ptsd symptoms in me.
  • been the poorest as a result – but I’ve learned to live with less and spend my time and energy on more creative endeavours.
  • stopped taking anti-depressants – I’m poor but happier!
  • got into several group shows – been showing my work all over London and in New York.
  • got my first solo show – and it was fairly successful, as many friends came and it was a lot of fun
  • met amazing artists – that I can now consider friends.
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  • went streaking with a friend down Millenium Bridge on a warm Summer night – don’t ask, but it was a lot of fun
  • found love – after kissing a few frogs after my separation and divorce, I think I have finally found the most caring and supportive partner one can ever ask for
  • became a stepmum – said partner came with a readymade family and they’re super cool!
  • worked on very interesting projects – one of the good things about working as a freelancer is the opportunity to work on several different things, which has provided me with more knowledge and more skills
  • turned 40 – damn, I’m old
  • still cancer free – possibly the most important item on this list!

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(does my butt look big in this? Yes, yes it does.)

2018 promises to be an equally eventful year, and there are a few things that I’m looking forward to:

  • my solo show in Berlin – my efforts to go international are paying off and managed to organise a show that will happen next month
  • spending time with A – we have a lot of fun stuff planned for the coming year, including a holiday back home in Portugal with the children
  • blog some more – I miss blogging and I want to do at least one post per month, mostly to support my practice
  • spend less time on social media – it’s a great vehicle to connect with likeminded people and to promote my art but considering what has been happening in general plus the level of censorship artists face (I’ll have to write about the silly episode I was part of), going back to self publishing is the way to go
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  • no shopping – not having lots of money means less shopping and I’d like to do a year of no shopping, as I still have enough clothes and shoes that fit me to last me a few years
  • continue decluttering – I’ve posted about decluttering a lot in the past few years, I know. It seems that it just never ends but I’m seriously letting go of a lot of things, to make more space for art materials, etc.
  • continue creating and improving my art – an ongoing project for the rest of my life, I suppose!
  • continue cancer free – not a lot that I can do towards this goal except take my meds and keep an eye on how I feel but it’s nonetheless something to look forward to

I’m sure that a lot more could be said but I don’t want to bore my readers too much.

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Some of the clothes I’m wearing in this post have been courtesy of Simply Be – the jeans and the long black shirt. I’m actually loving my new jeans and I think they fit rather nicely on my butt – no one wants ill fitting jeans, right?

Many thanks to A for taking the outfit photos – in true blogger’s boyfriend fashion!

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Art – Some new work…

November 19, 2017
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I haven’t been posting much as I have been busy trying to sort out my life – paying bills and creating art and more opportunities to show, etc. I have left the life of having a full-time job for the time being as I couldn’t cope anymore and I am doing some work as a freelancer plus picking up odd jobs here and there. To be honest, I’ve never felt better… albeit a bit tired after days in which I end up walking 11 miles…

Recently I hit my busiest time as an artist, having work in four art shows at the same time, including one in Brooklyn New York. So happy! Hard work pays off and it’s certainly starting to pay. Looking at my art CV, I will have participated in 14 group shows and 2 solo shows by the end of the year. Many more will be happening next year, including a solo show in a Berlin gallery. Pretty cool!

One of the shows I have put up recently (and is still up until next month) has been “Call Me”, at Number 90 Bar in Hackney Wick, via The Number Gallery.

The pieces included in this show are calling cards I have found in phone boxes around London, to which I’ve given the Hello the Mushroom treatment. The idea behind it is to be a bit cheeky and poke fun at beauty standards and what is considered sexy in our culture.

Here are some of the pieces for your enjoyment:

 

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You can see (and buy) all of the pieces at The Number Gallery website.

If you’re looking for girls curtains, they’re to be found somewhere else… (don’t ask)

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Life – My post-cancer frozen egg dilemma

July 17, 2017
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It’s been a while since I’ve written anything remotely personal on the blog but today I thought I needed a bit of a vent. Not about art or London or anything but about egg freezing and all my emotional turmoil around it.

It’s quite a current issue, with many articles popping up in the last week about why women are freezing their eggs. This morning as I read through another one of those, I was nodding along in agreement with the points the writer was making. Women my age (and younger) freeze their eggs not just because they’re insensitive bitches who want to put a career at the top of their priorities but also (and this number is growing) because it’s fucking hard to find a decent partner. Eva Wiseman put it very well in the aforementioned article and you can read it here.

I’m painting you the picture of where this is going, so bear with me. As I was reading said article, I felt dismayed, a bit emotional and to be honest, a little bit sorry for myself. I’ve been on my own for a while and to be honest I prefer it to having to deal with abusive and controlling partners like I have in the past, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the ideal situation. The older I get the more cynical I get so even though there is always a glimmer of hope, that flame goes dimmer and dimmer as time passes.

It was a shock to the system in many ways then to receive a phone call some 15 minutes later from the clinic where my own eggs are being stored asking me for payment. You see, I froze my eggs back in January 2016 following my cancer diagnosis and was given that option, as I was not going to be able to reproduce for some good 5 years, until the all clear was given for cancer and I am no longer on hormonal medication to control the resurgence of said cancer (whom I’ve baptised “Tim the Tumour” as some of you might recall). Back in December, these eggs were then transferred from Hammersmith Hospital to a private clinic, I don’t recall why nor do I recall any mention of payment in the letters requesting authorisation for the transfer.

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Like I said, reading this article this morning made me feel a little bit emotional – probably due to being hormonal, as women frequently do on that time of the month or even the fact that I’ve recently stopped taking my SSRIs, as I’m trying to experiment living without them as I’ve been a lot happier recently. I got even more emotional after I put the phone down from that phone call, as a torrent of thoughts went through my mind.

The reality is that if it wasn’t for the NHS offering to subsidise the egg freezing in the first place, I wouldn’t have gone through with it at the time, as reproductive medicine is ridiculously expensive and these clinics are obviously running a business. Now after having had my finances and career turned into a shambles for the good part of last year due to illness, I’m still suffering the side effects and consequences and my bank account hasn’t gotten any fatter since either. I am currently unable to work full time (not because I don’t want to but because my body doesn’t have enough energy for it) and have taken a massive pay cut. I love my current job, which is great but that’s not enough to pay any expensive reproductive medicine bill I might be getting through the post… I explained the situation to the lady who called me, who was very understanding and asked me to send her an email explaining the situation – they will have to investigate, she said, as they will have to at least look into what’s happened. Considering the state of bureaucracy and lack of communication between institutions in this country, I wouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t aware of my medical history or have filed my paperwork incorrectly. My recent dealings with the Department of Work and Pensions and the National Insurance people are nothing but a good example of the rampant incompetence in these governmental organisations but that is a story for another time.

I have yet to write that email, as my immediate response to that phone call was to break down crying. If I can’t afford to pay for them now, what was all that pain and suffering for? At the time I was given that option and I took it because I didn’t want to let cancer make a decision for me and those who know me well know how much I hate being forced into something I don’t want to do. Another reason why I froze my eggs was because I was in what I thought at the time a good and long term relationship with someone who had expressed an interest in the possibility of having kids. How wrong was I as I was unceremoniously dumped the day before the egg collection treatments were to start as it was too much to deal with. Well, sorry for having cancer and having to think about and make decisions about all these difficult things. *sarcasm*

Anyone who’s been through these treatments can tell you that they’re like going through one of Dante’s circles of hell and adding to that the emotional pain of a breakup, I’m surprised I didn’t go insane. Or maybe I did, I just don’t know anymore! Imagine being hormonal x100, as what you’re doing for the best part of a couple of weeks, is injecting yourself with massive amounts of hormones, so eggs can mature and be ready for collection. Add to this internal scans every few days that have had the effect of making you feel violated in your body and spirit. Not nice.

I thought I had come to terms with the idea that I’ll die alone and will be eaten by my cats but it looks like there’s still a lot to be said about it. Emotions are always like this, they creep up on you when you least expect it and cause chaos. I don’t have a particular attachment to the eggs themselves: when I signed all the paperwork, I ticked the boxes allowing the eggs to be donated or used for scientific purposes. I hope that at least that still remains an option, otherwise all of this would’ve been in vain.

Thinking about the possibility that the eggs that I suffered so much for and precipitated the end of a relationship are just going to be flushed down the toilet is a bit too much to bear. By the way, it needs to be said that I am well aware that the relationship would probably have had the same outcome, just at a different time (it or he just wasn’t right?). I am even shocked that I feel this way. I’m not even sure about having children myself but once again having to make a decision precipitated not by my own timing but other external conditions is making me relive everything again. Having to consider this possibility is bringing all that pain back for me and I am having to take a step back to process all of it. I’m sure I’ll be fine in the end, but like Morrissey says, “these things take time.” In the meantime, I’m going to send that email and see what happens.

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Art – Interview with Inspiring City blog

July 4, 2017
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Recently I’ve been interviewed by Stuart from Inspiring City blog – where you can find the best artists and street art from London. So chuffed!
Head on to his blog to check out all the nice pics and the write up. Thank you Stuart for featuring me!

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Watch the interview and a doodle below!


Thank you for looking!

PS: All content on this post is copyright by Inspiring City, who has very nicely allowed me to chare it with you.

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A day out in Calais with Help 4 Refugee Children

June 27, 2017
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Recently a friend put me in touch with Help 4 Refugee Children and they gave me the opportunity to travel as a volunteer to Calais, to do art workshops with the children.

One might think that there are no more refugees in Calais – mostly because the Jungle has been destroyed and the media’s attention is now somewhere else… but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are still people living in appalling conditions – mainly in tents, in the woods, with no electricity or running water. The police come by regularly to take away the few sleeping bags and clothes they have and there have been reports of police brutality, even against children.

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Of course, what we managed to do in just one day out there in one of the camps is only a drop in the vast ocean, but I’d like to think that at least for a little while we made a bit of a difference in these people’s lives. Our governments have failed them and failed us, by creating the conditions in which people feel the need to run away from poverty and terrorism. If we can’t or are unwilling to pressure our governments to do something about it, at least the few of us that care can roll up our sleeves and do our bit. If we all did that, a huge difference could be made.

I joined the rest of the group in the early hours of Sunday morning and we got driving south, towards Dover where we can cross the Channel. The drive down was uneventful, we had a chat and got to know each other a bit more and got on the train – a new experience as I’ve only travelled via plane or Eurostar when leaving the UK islands.

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Rolling up our sleeves

Soon we arrived in Calais and headed to the supermarket, to buy water and food to distribute at the camp. After filling three carts to the brim with water, biscuits, fruit and dates, we worked on getting them separated into individual parcels in the supermarket’s parking lot. It was great teamwork and the sense of accomplishment after we finished getting all 250 parcels together was great. We then headed to the camp, where we distributed the food in the most respectful way possible. I was also happy to see that there were also other people providing some help – a generator for them to charge their phones, as well as a mobile barber and hot meals, were some of the help I saw being provided by other groups.

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This went well and as soon as the food was gone, we brought out the paint and canvases. Turns out the adults also wanted to join us and I spent more time with the adults painting and helping some of the children do some art. It was a lot of fun and it seemed like the people were happy to have a little respite from the hardship they’re currently enduring.

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Some of the men spoke English and were very nice, so it was possible to communicate, at least with some of them. Most of the people in the camp we visited are from Iraq and are Kurdish. I met an artist – who studied art for five years and showed me his ceramic sculptures on his phone. Another gentleman created a piece by cutting stencils and using them to create a heart motif, which he gifted to me once finished. It was a very sweet gesture and I will treasure this piece for the rest of my life. Proof that even when in distress, people can still be kind.

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When interest in painting was lost (and the wind got worse) we got out the skipping rope and had a laugh with the kids. One of the girls in the camp wanted to show us her family so she took us through the woods to go visit the camp where her sisters were staying. It’s heartbreaking but still, they had a smile for us.

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Coming back home

I returned home feeling happy to have been able to do at least a bit for people in distress but also with a heavy heart, knowing that there is still so much that could be done and it’s beyond my own powers and ability. On the drive back we were all tired and quiet for most of the time, so I had a bit of time to think about what I had just experienced. It made me feel emotional at one point, to think that we had to leave them all behind and just get in the car and go back home because we were lucky to win the nationality lottery. It is sad to think that one day this could be any of us if the world continues to go down its current route. According to Foreign Policy, the levels of human conflict are still at an all time low, but considering what we’ve been experiencing and seeing lately, who knows if it’s going to last?

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As a friend said to me, everyone should do this kind of volunteer work – it helps put the world and our priorities into perspective and most importantly, it makes a difference in other people’s lives. I am now hoping to be able to raise funds to go back again. Winter will come at one point and life will be even harder for them.

If you can’t come to the camps but would like to help the effort, please donate generously here.