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A Good Project

Sunday 26th November, 2023

I'm going through kind of a transitional phase, life-wise. It's become clear that I need to revamp and remaster several key areas of my personal life where things have gotten a little stagnant or are otherwise not really working.

It can be pretty challenging to face up to how much stuff needs to be changed and the degree to which certain things have wandered off track. But it's also kind of exciting! I'm secretly a bit jazzed about the opportunity to redefine my world and hopefully level a few things up.

As some of you know, I love a good project.

Lift and Twist

Sunday 29th October, 2023

I went for my first ever (!) gym session this week.

Readers who know me in person might raise a quizzical eyebrow at that, as I have been known to refer informally to locations such as bouldering centres, gymnastics halls, and martial arts dojos (all of which I most certainly have attended before) as "the gym".

Nevertheless, I'd never before set foot in what you might call a gym gym, the kind with weight racks and benches - where the men wear baggy vests and move like articulated lorries and the women seem to get on exercise bikes with their eyes shut and pedal until several years have elapsed.

I'm not exactly bothered about getting shredded or beefing up or whatever. I don't need to model anything in a catalogue. But I have felt the need for a new 'third place' to which I can head if I fancy a change from my home and work environments - a place I can visit to do something productive, apply myself, and generally lead a healthier and more active life.

When I got to the gym for my first visit, I felt a bit out of place among the machines (knowing neither the methods nor the etiquette for using them). But I was accompanied by a friend who had a modicum of gym experience, and - bolstered by their moral support - I was able to get started.

In the end I quite enjoyed my gym debut, and left feeling glad that I had least broken the ice. I had a lot still to learn, but I felt good about having had a go.

I was keen to maintain the momentum of my newfound healthy lifestyle in the days that followed. I hit the shops, bought some trainers, invested in a pile of new gym clothes, and then promptly came down with an illness that I initially took to be a cold but which turned out to be Covid-19 (cue several days of coughing my lungs out and feeling like somebody had stashed a golf ball in the bridge of my nose).

The soundtrack to this week has been a trombone going "womp, womp."

The Grim Raptor

Saturday 21st October, 2023

It's been quite a long time since I bothered to make a costume for Halloween.

That's not entirely true. If I'm being more precise, I should say I actually make one every year - just not for myself.

All Hallow's Eve isn't just a time of pumpkins and spoopy movies; it's also the season in which I must create a new costume for Ron Raptor. (I don't make the rules.)

If you haven't yet been introduced, this is Ron:

Photo of Ron Raptor
The man, the myth, the legend.

He has a pretty good life, all things considered. Over the years, he's accumulated his own clothes, shoes, driver's licence, Christmas presents, travel photos, and opinions about vegetables (blehhhh). And yes, he dresses up every Halloween.

It may sound as though dressing Ron for the season ought to be a good deal less work than costuming myself, but as these things often go, the outfits have been getting more and more elaborate over the years.

It used to be a case of sticking vampire fangs on his snout, draping a black napkin across his back as a makeshift cloak and calling it a day. Today I spent a good four or five hours sewing and crafting to get the job done (which is to say nothing of the time spent planning, scheming and acquiring raw materials beforehand).

This year, Ron is going as The Grim Raptor:

Ron Raptor dressed as the Grim Raptor

I made his voluminous black cowl by cutting up a cheapo Primark T-shirt into four main pieces (the body, the hood, and the two sleeves) and then hand-sewing everything together. I didn't create a pattern or anything - I just draped the fabric roughly where it needed to go, chopped away at it in situ, and more or less eyeballed it (I have a little bit of prior experience making clothes for Ron, having created him a raptor-sized dressing gown / bathrobe earlier in the year, so I had a reasonable intuition for how I wanted to approach this project). I used the pre-existing hems on the black T-shirt to form the edges of the hood and the sleeves, and thereby basically made it look like I am much better at sewing than I actually am.

The scythe is constructed from some silver card sourced from the local art supply shop, and a wooden stick I found by foraging around the trees near my house. Somewhat ridiculously, it was quite hard to find a suitable stick - I hadn't thought about the fact that the weather had been rainy for several days, and so it was a challenge to find a stick that wasn't soaked through and rotten. Eventually I found one about the right size and not too soggy, so I took it home, dried it out and sanded it to remove all of the unwanted pointy bits, and attached the scythe 'blade' to it using double-sided tape.

Ron's skull mask is simply a truncated white sock (also from Primark), with the facial features drawn on using a permanent marker. I added a plastic food bag underneath to protect Ron's snout from the ink (I was a little concerned it might soak through the fabric and stain him).

I'm really quite pleased with how the overall outfit came out, especially given how quickly I threw it together and the fact that less than a year ago I had no idea how to do any sort of sewing or fabric craft whatsoever.

I would like to get better about knowing how to construct 3D shapes in general, though. Perhaps absurdly, I really struggled to visualise how I should put together the scythe. I find it terribly difficult to get my head around even basic three dimensional objects and how they should be formed - I have no intuition for these things.

Still, though, it's all practice, isn't it?

Happy Halloween.