Wednesday, 28 November 2012

How I fell in love with a gold rhino

The internet is a funny ol' place isn't it? One day you're sat around with The Stitchettes, planning the Embroidering the Truth exhibition and the next, you're helping out Mr X Stitch at the Stitch & Craft show in the Olympia in London.

For those of you not in the know Mr X Stitch is the place you need to go to if you're looking for anything vaguely contemporary when it comes to stitching/embroidering. Every day there's a new post up featuring the latest person to be at the forefront of cool stitchiness and it's the place to go if you're looking for something a little bit different, a little bit inspirational and, if you happen to be looking on a Saturday, something that might make your head spin a little bit.

Mr X is also the man behind Push: Stitchery which is an almost painfully cool book showcasing those right at the edge of art - you know, pushing things on and moving things forward. I know there are many that would love it as a Christmas present.

And if you still don't know him, you may well have seen him without realising when he appeared on Kirstie's Handmade Britain, pitting his beautiful cross-stitched silhouette of Whitby Abbey up against her appliqued cushion in the Great Yorkshire Show. (He was robbed let me tell you.)

We had such a great time last year, that when Mr X Stitch said he needed some volunteers for the Knitting & Stitching show in Harrogate, myself and another Stitchette pootled across from Preston and Hull to hang out with the coolest stitchy person I know.

This time the exhibition was biggerer and betterer than ever before. This stall featured Art with a capital Ar and as Mr X becomes more well known on the scene, he has access to cooler pieces of work than ever before and some of the pieces in the exhibition are by artists featured in the Push: Stitchery book.

For instance. What better way to grab people's attention as they walk in than with this piece:

Yes. That would be cross stitch. On a car door.

It is the phenomenal work of Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene who not only has an unpronouncable name but has a ridiculous wealth of talent.

There were so many pictures taken of this door just in the 1 day that I was at the show - it must be popping up on blogs and social media sites all over the place and I hope I see more and more of her in the future.

But he didn't just stop at car doors. Why have just a car door when you could have an actual wooden door as well?

I was transfixed by this piece of total beauty from Manchester based artist Sarah Greaves - I spent a huge amount of time encouraging people to look behind the door as people were assuming that this was in some way stuck on the door and couldn't comprehend that this is 100% embroidery on wood - there are wee tiny little holes in there that she has made.

My head cannot get around it.

I should also mention at this point that I fell in love with a piece. And I really mean fell in love with. I couldn't leave him alone and stood jealously beside him any opportunity I got, sneering at those who pretended to like him when they couldn't conjure up a fraction of my feelings towards him.

Meet Humphrey.

Please note this is not his real name, merely the name I gave him. His show name is Gold Rhino and he is the work of Zoe Williams, a person, who I'm pretty sure if I ever met I would swoon away, overcome by the waves of talent that must emanate from her body.

Believe it or not, this is needle felting. No. I can't believe it either. I've seen people do a bit of needle felting and it looks fun - stabbing things very hard with a needle is the kind of craft I could get on board with - but never in all my days would I have thought that something as stunningly beautiful as this could be produced.

I swear I actually miss him now that I'm back home. Who needs a deer head?

These are just three of the artists with pieces on display at the show and I fear I have lost many of you already so I will stop gushing here. But if you were interested in some of the other pieces that were on display you can go here for a full list.

It was a day for enjoying people. For sitting or standing and chatting to people about a shared love - that of stitchiness. It was great to watch people being amazed by the car door or standing back to admire the various pieces and stopping to have a chat about how blown away they were by what they were seeing and all the idea they now had in their head floating about.

Places like the Knitting & Stitching show can tend towards the traditional shall we say and it felt good to be a very minor part of something new and a bit different.

So here's to Mr X Stitch and all those people who continue to be at the Stitchy edge of things, bringing a little bit of magic to common folk like me.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Always be prepared

The Person appears in from Morrisons....

Me: Whatcha been buying?

The Person: Well. I bought some food stuff and then I've been thinking that we really should have an emergency box of some kind for if there was a power cut or something. So I've bought a plastic box and a couple of torches and some batteries and I'm going to get some candles and put a first aid kit in there too.


Me: Are you, or are you not, preparing for a zombie apocalypse?

The Person: ......Erm.....

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Christmas excess

Overheard conversation in the kitchen at work.

"What are you getting your son for Christmas?"

"An X-box"

"Oh does he not have one?"

"No. He's got a Wii and a DS and he got a laptop last year. He wanted an iPad but I thought no, I mean he got £500 worth of Dell laptop, he doesn't need an iPad."

"Yeah. So where will the X-box go then, have you got a room for it to go in?"

"Oh no it'll go in his bedroom. I mean he is 9 now...."

*And then my head exploded*

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Things that have been happening round here.

A whole lot of nothing and everything really.

- I have awesome friends and they came to see me in Preston for a night out on the town. I'm not normally one for doing the girly stuff and spending ages getting ready just to go out and get pissed and sweaty but having 3 other people around made it kind of fun. There was much waving about of curling tongs, straighteners and crimpers* and the smell of nail polish in the air whilst we got ready. Spare a thought for The Person who had 4 girls squished into his tiny flat, relegating him to the sofa for the night.

- *Yeah. You read right. Crimpers. I've had them for a looooooong time (obviously) and have never used them but just lately I've been getting the urge and this Saturday was the night to crack them out. I started with a plan to just do a few sections here and there, you know, staying classy. But in the end I did my whole freaking hair. Best. Decision. I. Ever. Made. Big hair is the way forward people I'm telling you.

- I also tried out some nail stickers. These have most likely been out for a long time but I tend to be very slow on the uptake with these things. Models Own had a 50% online sale a while ago and I chucked some in the basket as an afterthought. They're actually pretty good - once I'd figured out what the hell I was supposed to be doing. Get your own here if you fancy it. Unfortunately I haven't got a good photo of them on so a bad one will have to suffice instead.

- I am feeling awesome about having handed my notice in to work. That was a good day let me tell you. I would like to say that I've now stuck two fingers up at them and am slacking off but unfortunately I have a pretty decent work ethic and given that our productivity is measured this means that I've still been working like a dog.

- And no. I'm not getting on better with my colleagues. Although at least some of them are now talking to me which is a bonus.

- Having your productivity measured can be a blessing and a curse. But when it's good it means that you feel great - the other day I got 131% - I am beating time people!

- I just did some overtime at work - working an 8am-8pm shift. Someone asked me if I get time and a half for overtime. After I'd picked myself up laughing from the floor I explained that no I do not. This company doesn't pay you sick pay, of course it doesn't pay you extra for working more hours.

- I have mostly been spending my time watching the Spice Kittens. A friend passed me the link and it's been on my laptop ever since. For those not in the know - this is a livestream of 4 kittens in a pen who live in Seattle. I kind of feel like I don't need to say anymore...

- ...but I will. I especially love them because there are some Fred and Lily lookalikes in the pen. It leaves me confused - on the one hand I am excited because I get to watch kittens all the time and pretend they're mine. On the other hand I then remember that I don't have cats. Sad face.

- I'm getting excited about the Knitting and Stitching show in Harrogate. I am going to be there on Saturday helping out Mr X Stitch who has a stall there. For those not in the know, Mr X Stitch is the man bringing you the latest stuff from the world of contemporary cross stitch and needlecraft - pretty pictures of flowers this ain't - awesomeness it is. Come and say hello if you're there on Saturday!

- The Person has been signed off sick at the moment because of a bout of RSI in his shoulder as a result of using his computer too much. He now understands what it was like for me all the time that I was unemployed and why I would be so excited when he came home from work and paw at him like a spider monkey. Being off work is dullsville.

- I'm trying to ignore the fact that Christmas is soon and I haven't bought any presents. Nor do I have any money. Or any time to actually make anything. If I think hard enough about it I can just pretend it's not happening.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Changes afoot

So for those of you who are not on Twitter and might have missed my news...

I have a job!

It all happened kind of suddenly and was a little bit out of the blue and I haven't really had time to process it all myself because it is going to mean some big changes for me but I will try and tell you as much as I can as well as anticipating some of the questions people might have about me.

I am basically going to be starting a new job as a PA to the Group Directors of the company my sister works for. This position doesn't currently exist in the company and when my sister happened to be talking to the big honcho about my current employment situation he asked if she thought I would be interested in the position.

So on Friday I went down to see my sister where she lives in the Midlands and go and have a bit of a chat with said big honcho. It was a strange situation because it was a job interview and yet not a job interview at the time - I went in and talked about what I've done and what I thought I could offer and he talked about the role a bit, and 10 minutes later  I was back at my sister's desk and being told I had a job.


It's a strange feeling because I haven't had all that build up of applying for the job and waiting to hear about an interview and attending an interview and then wondering if you'll get the job. It just doesn't feel quite right at the moment and even though I've signed the contract, it still feels a little unreal.

And now I will attempt to answer questions...

Wait a minute. I thought you wanted to do research, how have you ended up as a PA?

I do/did want to do research. However my experience over the last 6 months, couple with talking to a couple of people has made me realise that it's just really unlikely/never going to happen. I'm stuck in a catch-22 where universities won't hire me because of my lack of academic experience, yet are unwilling to give me a job that will allow me to get that experience. Plus, universities are notorious for hiring from within which means I wasn't standing a chance from the get go.

And although I won't be doing research, I will be using all of my very best anal organised skills to do my job.

When do you start and where will you live?

My first day will be 2nd January 2013 and I will be moving in with my sister's family on New Year's Day. For the first time in my blogging life I'm going to be coy about where exactly I'll be living because it's pretty tiny. It is in Leicestershire though - will that do you?

The thought of moving in with my sister's family is a mildly terrifying prospect. The last time I lived with my sister was when I was a very small person, she left to go to uni when I was 5 and I've never lived with her since. Plus she will also be one of my bosses, as she is one of the Directors of the company. And obviously I'm also moving in with my brother-in-law, 2 teenage nephews, 2 Irish Setters and a cat* which is equally daunting.

I'm actually not really thinking about that aspect of my new life.

Woah woah woah. What about The Person?!

Aah yes. As you may have guessed from my answer to the last question The Person will not be moving with me at the beginning of the year. He will be staying in Preston for the time being until he can find a job in the vicinity and we can get our little selves back living together. The good thing about being in the Midlands is that, you know, you're in the Midlands which should mean a few more options work-wise. We will just all have to keep our fingers crossed until he finds a new job.

I know that some people might find me making the decision to take this job and move away from The Person I bit strange, but we're still young and this an opportunity I couldn't turn down, I wouldn't be able to get this kind of job anywhere else without proving I had experience.

He's happy for me too. It's not been easy for him having to watch me be so miserable in a job I truly hate and I think that given the choice between having a girlfriend who is miserable who lives with him and a girlfriend who's much happier but has to live away from him for a little bit, he's happy to go with Option b.

Plus it isn't like we haven't done the long distance thing before - and when I move we'll be pretty much the same distance apart as when I was in Hull and he was in Preston.

Ewww don't you feel a bit grubby that you got this job through nepotism?

Yes I do a little bit. It's not something that makes me feel particularly comfortable and it's not how I necessarily wanted to get a job. But at the end of the day, it's an opportunity and I think I'd be a little bit tapped in the head if I turned it down - I've heard that there's no point cutting your nose off to spite your face.

Also this is not a company that I will be able to stay in purely because my sister is a Director. I'm on a 6 month probationary period and if I'm not up to scratch then I won't be allowed to stay on. If anything I'm more determined to prove myself - plus it helps that I don't look anything like my sister and we don't share the same name so not everyone will necessarily know the deal.

What about your current work - why don't you sue the bastards for constructive dismissal?!

Things have been pretty unpleasant for me at work since I tackled my bullies head on. They have taken it seriously and the main protagonist was moved to a different team but there is still bad feeling there. (On her part I hasten to add.) This has also spread to the team - goodness knows what she's told them - so for pretty much all of last week no-one has been speaking to me. Not good.

I have contemplated and even spoken to some people about whether it would be worth taking them to a tribunal and there's probably a chance I would do well out of it but I'm not going to. At the end of the day, that job was never supposed to be permanent so I can't a get a bee in my bonnet about leaving. I've fought the battle I wanted to fight and it's enough for me that someone will now be watching Her and won't allow Her to do the same to others in the future.

Handing in my notice today was one of the best feelings ever. I've given them my 4 weeks notice so I'll be leaving on Friday 14th December. Yes this means I'll be short of cash for the next couple of months because I won't be paid again until the end of January but there is nothing on this planet that could persuade me to stay for longer. In fact technically I could have left on Tuesday 11st December, but my need to have things neat means that the prospect of leaving a job mid-week hurts my brain a little. So a Friday it will be.

Are you excited?!

It's probably fairer to say I'm absolutely shitting it. This job is a huge challenge and I'm really terrified about it - for a while now I've not been challenged in the jobs I've been doing and especially for the last 6 months being unemployed and then in a brainless job I'm pretty sure I've lost any skills I might have once had.

But yeah, I'm excited.

Did I do it? Did I answer all of the questions?!

*I know! I'll be living with a cat! How exciting. But wait. No it isn't, because Blinky is officially the meanest cat in the history of mean cats and hates everyone and won't let you near her. For god's sake!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

How I ended up being nearly 30 and bullied

At first I really thought I was imagining it. 

It was to be expected - as the new person you feel conspicuous and it's probably normal to not be sure whether people like you or how you're coming across.

So when I suspected that one person one my team had a bit of a problem with me I decided to put it to the back of my head. Sure it seemed to me that if I tried to join in a conversation she was having with someone else she would immediately stop talking. Sure it seemed that when she did talk to me directly it was to tell me that I was doing something wrong. Sure she didn't really seem to say hello or goodbye to me. But to be honest the job is so massively pressurised and demanding that I just didn't have much time to really think about it.

The point I realised it wasn't just in my head was when a team member came in one morning and announced he and his girlfriend were having a baby. He produced a scan picture which he handed to Her. We all chattered excitedly asking when it was due/what did they want/how long had they known etc etc. She looked at the scan and as I sat next to her I held out my hand to look at the blurry black and white picture. At which point She got up and walked around the back of me and handed it to our team leader.

Hmm. Strange.

Then there was the actual real-life note passing that happened. Yes I am being serious. She wrote a note about something and passed it to the other people on the team. Not to me though. I'm confident it wasn't anything about me - it was just something that I wasn't allowed to know about.

But I still didn't really work out what it was she was doing. I felt like I should know. Like there should be a name for it but I couldn't quite grasp at what that was.

And to be honest I was so busy trying to do my job that I didn't really care. I just thought She was a bitch  that should really know better, considering she was pushing 50.

Then there was Cakegate. She brought in cake and shared it out with everyone. No wait. Not quite everyone. Everyone but me. At first I was too stunned to really be upset about it - I could only laugh about it because it was so unbelievable to me that someone could do something like that.

And let me tell you, Cakegate didn't just happen once. It didn't even happen two or three times, it was at least once a week.

Then there was Phonegate.

There are various lines at work that you log in to - you log into your group-line so you can receive calls direct from your solicitors and then there's a main-line, which, as it suggests means you take calls from the main number and put them through accordingly. As a new starter you're not logged on to the phones in the beginning until you find your feet. A few weeks ago my team leader asked me to log into the group-line as a start off and that's what I've been doing.

So when I came back from my lunch on Wednesday and suddenly began getting calls from other solicitors I thought something a little weird was going on. It wasn't a big deal, funnily enough I'm capable of coping with some phone calls, what with me not being a complete idiot, but then I realised...

Whilst I was sat in that miserable little kitchen eating my miserable lunch and whiling away my miserable half hour lunchbreak, someone had got up, gone over to my phone and logged me into the main-line.

I felt grubby. The thought that unbeknownst to me there had been people bitching about me openly and then essentially victimizing me. And we're in an open plan office so it wouldn't have just been my "teammates" it would have been people on other teams that saw what happened. And then, when I walked back to my desk everyone would have been looking at me and I was completely unaware. It was a truly horrible feeling.

That night I was on the phone with my sister and told her about all the things that had been happening. Truth be told I was telling her because I knew that she would most likely tell me to stop being so silly and sensitive and just get on with it but she knocked the stuffing out of me when she said "That's workplace bullying. You should start keeping a log and you need to talk to someone."

Wait. What?

Holy shit it was bullying. That feeling of being deliberately excluded from a group. That feeling that people are out to get you. That sick feeling that you get every morning before you walk in. Those aren't just normal "I work in a crappy job" feelings, they are the feelings of a victim.

Nearly 30 and being bullied. I couldn't believe it.

And then I thought "Actually, fuck that. I am nearly 30 and I am most certainly not being bullied." 

That night I sat down and wrote an e-mail to my team leader expressing my disappointment about Phonegate and the general things that had being going on. I didn't mention the B-word, I thought I would let Her actions speak for themselves.

I wasn't really sure how seriously the e-mail would be taken. After all this is not a particularly employee focused company - they don't even pay you when you're sick for goodness' sake. But I was to be surprised, because the next day I went into a meeting with my team leader and she told me how mortified she was to get my e-mail because she had had no idea that the tampering with my phone had happened. Not only were they bullying me but they were showing our team leader massive levels of disrespect - after all it was up to her whether or not I went on the mainline. She told me she was going to find out who had done it and would be speaking to our line manager about the situation.

On Friday I was called into a meeting with my line manager who again reiterated how incredibly annoyed they were with Her and that they were so sorry that I'd been upset and been unhappy. My manager told me that She was going to be moved teams as a punishment for Her behaviour but asked if I would like to move teams. I did contemplate it because I thought it might be easier but then I thought "Why should I? I've done nothing wrong" so I declined the offer.

Then She was taken upstairs. I was actually shaking because I had no idea what was going to happen. I remained rigid in my chair. I knew she was back down but I don't face her so couldn't see her. Her snivelling told me she was there however and the snivelling continued for the 2 hours I had left at work. It was horrendous.

And of course now no-one else is speaking to me.

I went home feeling horrendous. This wasn't really a battle I wanted to fight in the first place and by confronting the bullying I had now placed myself in an even more awful situation. But I've decided to look at it long term. I can't believe this behaviour is for me and me only, I imagine she does it to every new starter and has done it to others in the past. And they might be wee 17/18 year olds in their first jobs who won't be as brave as me. Now at least they will be watching Her so She can't do it again.

My whole weekend has been awful. I can only imagine how awful the atmosphere is going to be when I walk in tomorrow and I really don't feel brave enough to face it at the moment. 

But I have no choice but to go in and face my fate whilst all the time questioning - what on earth have I done to deserve all of this?