Glasgow Zine Fest, a new laptop (which is somehow relevant) & a financial pep-talk

Ok so I have to admit - I started writing this last week and didn’t finish it and then went away and got distracted and when I came back to finish it today it didn’t seem like my thought-stream anymore so I deleted all of it and I’m going to write something new. A lesson learned in leaving things for ‘a few days’. And for being persistent and just getting something done.

Lots has been happening since I last posted: I visited Glasgow Zine Fest and Glasgow Open House Arts Festival, I watched my flatmate perform in the insane Beltane fire festival on Calton Hill, we had a mini exhibition at Fieldwork with the Napier Collective, lots of white wine has been consumed, I left my phone on a bus and got it back the very next day (thank you world), I put pictures from sunny Palma up online, I bought a laptop AND reduced my overdraft from £2000 to £500 for the first time since starting university. Obviously these things will be of varying relevance or interest to anybody reading so feel free to skip bits that you don’t feel are interesting in any way.

Firstly - Glasgow! Turn away now if you don’t care at all about small publications people make with their own thoughts and hands and materials. I’ve been to GZF every year for the past three years and it never fails to clear my wallet and enthuse my ambition. This year I was very lucky to assist Sarah Amy Fishlock’s Zine Workshop at CCA and even have a few photographs in the newest edition of Goose Flesh, which was released the same weekend. I have been a fan of Goose Flesh since I first picked up issue 2 (just managed to grab the last copy of issue 1 too!)  and so seeing my own images in its pages alongside some very talented people was a massive privilege. It was also an inspiration to have a go at getting my act together - a reminder that I can be where I want to be, perhaps, one day, and that it might not be so far away after all. I have included a snap of a spread from the most recent issue and seeing as it seems to a bit of a trend on Instagram I felt I should include my cat… Thank you so much to Sarah for getting in touch, and for letting me hang out on Sunday. I even got to have a go with a digital label-maker - the mind boggles. Assisting in the workshop I was blown away by how quickly all the work-shoppers got stuck in and began producing some quality stuff! No ‘which colour paper should I use here’ and no ‘what method of binding best represents what I am trying to say’ it was just cracking on straight away with getting stuff done. Having attended four years of a creative degree I am only slightly uncomfortable in admitting that this was diligence and decisiveness of a kind I am not at all used to. Aren’t we supposed to second-guess every decision we make because things have to have more meaning than that? I guess not. I LOVE that this was the case. I am trying to apply that to my own practice and trust my gut a bit more because as someone who struggles to be certain about anything a tiny thing like texture of paper or hesitation to commit to a title can stop me actually finally finishing something at all. (Ahem - the last year of my life - ahem)

 So what did I buy when I got the chance to browse? It was just before lunch (pre-pizza me is not the most efficient me) plus the room was full to the brim with bodies so I didn’t manage to give every stall my undivided attention - but that being said I am over the moon with what I came away with. A couple of copies of Goose Flesh (my collection is complete!), a badge featuring a skipping  cartoon stomach/haggis/pink fleshy ball and the text ‘LOOK AFTER YOURSELF’ in nostalgic uppercase lettering, and a couple of treasures I hadn’t heard of before and shall detail below. If you’re not interested in zines or cats, continue skipping.

Two issues of the incredible GRUB zine (which you can buy here and here) - if you are at all interested in food or the intense nostalgia food can inspire or wondering thoughts or emotions or glimpses into other people’s lives (surely one of these things is appealing to you) then I whole-heartedly urge you to buy these, it’s food writing at its most earnest and refreshing. The rigid formula of INGREDIENTS, BUY THESE PRODUCTS, METHOD, PICTURE falls away and the very real connection we all have with what we eat instead makes its way to centre stage. I have thought for a long time that its funny the immense amount of time and money we pour into eating, regardless of whether we actually cook or not, and yet it is still the kind of subject that rarely emerges in emotional, contemplative and creative environments. So I seized the chance, took a risk and committed to TWO issues (risk worth it 100%). 

(Aside - have come to the brink of distraction as thinking about GRUB seems to have awoken a huge and unstoppable hunger - learning from past mistakes and powering through with the aid of STACKERS, Aldi’s take on Pringles)

I also decided on an absolutely beautiful publication called Bodies in Space by Gillian Stewart, which considers our idea of self within the ‘global network’ of cyberspace. We exist now dually as ourselves and as our ‘virtual selves’. To quote: ‘The hive mind of cyberspace emphasises the crowd, by extension deemphasizing the individual. The bigger the crowd, the more negligible the individual. This mass mind grows at the expense of individuality.’ It is thoughtful and contemplative of our current environment without being pessimistic or dismissive of change. As a physical entity it is also beautifully hand-bound, using tender imagery to represent the internet: something so often visualised with lines of code and sharp digital hardness. And I found the points about individuality interesting - especially seeing as ‘punk’ notions of rebellion, self-determined ‘cool’, self-expression and ‘alternative’ culture are at the moment marketed by high street brands and social media so relentlessly that they themselves have become the ‘mainstream’ - it leaves you wondering whether or not individuality is possible to express in the traditional sense in such an immediately connected community. Whatever you do or buy or wear or listen to to feel like yourself, there is a forum or a tshirt or a username that’s already taken. This proximity of algorithmically linked interests can actually isolate - what’s meaningful to you is meaningful to everybody presented to you on the web. We are constantly being sold (and sold is a key word here) the idea of ‘loving yourself’ and ‘being an individual’ and ‘being a leader’ but the images attached to all of these advertisements are images of other people. So we buy these clothes and these accessories and they help us look like these people, that we don’t know, and all the time someone else is making money and we are still left feeling self-conscious and confused. Perhaps the real way to rebel against the mainstream right now is to not pay any attention whatsoever.

(Second aside - formatted a picture into my chunks of text and whilst doing so finished the entire tube of STACKERS so that’s just great oh wow)

So that was a couple of weeks ago now and a little has happened since then. I bought a new laptop (a 2-in-1 laptop/tablet hybrid) which was pretty much the biggest decision I have made this year bar maybe shaving my head. As I have expressed in previous posts, getting out of the debt incurred studying a creative degree is difficult before you even start to think about actually paying off any student loans. It is difficult because to make any progress you need to work A  LOT of hours and you also need to spend VERY LITTLE and put your immediate ambitions to one side - which makes the perpetuated idea of the ‘normal working week’ (work five days and then treat yourself/relax/pursue hobbies at the weekend) difficult for a number of reasons. Not only is that conventional workweek rare in low-wage work but to really save anything you can’t afford to treat yourself, or pursue hobbies that cost any kind of money, or really even relax because your entire schedule is orientated about making money and spending none, and your bank balance is continually below 0. I could go on. But let’s try some positivity.

Finally the last couple of years of hard work are starting to reveal themselves and not only am I getting more frequent time off and longer breaks between work, but I starting to emerge from the familiar world of the overdraft and make my way slowly into actually having a bit of money. Not a lot, but enough to address some workflow issues - such as actually having a working laptop! Which I am hoping is going to increase my productivity and connectivity and solve a lot of problems that I have learned to live with. But further than this, it also means that today for the first time since starting my degree I have reduced my overdraft from £2000 to £500. It evaporates completely in September so this is a step in the right direction, and fingers crossed without any financial pitfalls in the next six months I should be A-OK to exist on my own as of then. Which is all a bit crazy considering that a lifetime ago, when my parents were in their early twenties they could afford to buy a house on the salary of a fruit-and-veg shop assistant and a civil servant less than a year out of uni. But times change, and money disappears, and we work hard hoping for the best. Eventually we get results, be it a house and a garden and kids or a new laptop that fits in your backpack.

Part of me thinks it is inappropriate to talk about financial issues openly, but then I realise it is the same awkward part of me that doesn’t want to discuss all the important things like gender roles and anxiety and the sense of not having a clue what to do with myself most of the time. Is it to maintain some kind of illusion about how much I am earning, about how everything is fine all the time? An illusion is not helpful when it comes to paying the rent or explaining why I don’t have any advice for recent graduates despite getting a First Class degree and starting adulthood with the very best intentions because I still have no idea myself. I think honesty is helpful and hope that someone reads this and feels better about their own situation. What I would say to anybody that is working their ass off because that’s what they have been brought up to do but doesn’t really see why because all of their time goes to a wage that goes to someone they have maybe never met that owns the house they are living in - do not panic, you are not the only one, for every friend you have that has been given a house by the privilege of their parents and for every customer you serve that spends £10 on their lunchbreak every day without batting an eyelid there are ten or twenty or a hundred people like you who don’t know how this system works out in the end but who are clinging on and working hard and wondering all the way through, just like you, and I do believe that in the end of it all we will be O.K.

A really invigorating song came on whilst I was writing that and I found myself talking out loud and perhaps got a bit carried away without any sentence breaks but the sentiment stands.

We’ll figure it out. 

So perhaps that was a bit of a tangent, and I definitely have more to say and more that has happened, but I have been neglecting my personal work terribly the past week and I feel myself getting to the stage where I have in the past chosen to abandon a project because I face a discrepancy between what I imagined it would be and how it is. I need to work through it and not just stop. And I need to ask other people what they think because communication and interaction is what all of this image-making is supposed to be about, for me anyway. I also know that if I leave this as a draft to finish tomorrow it just won’t happen - I’ll re-read the above monologue and panic at the vulnerability of sharing anything from your brain online, and I’ll end up abandoning this too. So in the interests of getting something finished today I shall press publish and make some proper dinner. Don’t mention the STACKERS to anybody and it’s like they never were here. If you fancied looking at some photos from the beautiful Palma there is an edit available for your viewing pleasure here.

Have a fantastic week (I can’t believe it’s a Monday), and I’ll write something else soon.

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