Epithalamium by Rebecca Johnstone

At the weekend I attended the most gorgeous wedding of two people I’ve known for a long time.

Epithalamium, Rebecca Johnstone

It was in a castle in a quiet, rural setting. Rowallan Castle.

There were fairy lights and candles and delicate foliage and a crackling fire. Portraits and birds lined the walls and a Highland Cow head guarded the door - a nice alternative to a stag?

Epithalamium, Rebecca Johnstone
Epithalamium, Rebecca Johnstone
Epithalamium, Rebecca Johnstone
Epithalamium, Rebecca Johnstone

The bride read her vows with emotion and feeling. When she welled up, so did I. I couldn’t help it.

It feels like such an intimate and vulnerable moment to witness two people declare their love in front of family and friends. Pressure almost: not to make a mistake, not to stumble over lines. Love is quiet and secret, and apart from a wedding, doesn’t usually require or demand an audience - quite the opposite.

My own wedding was very small, like a dozen other people, which makes 13 - lucky for some?

Whenever I attend a wedding now, I recall how I felt on my special day and fall in love all over again.

I think it should be mandatory for couples to attend a wedding at least every few years. I’m sure it would lower the divorce rates exponentially. How can you not fall in love (again) at a wedding?

Even a heart in the lichen outside!

Even a heart in the lichen outside!

We had one of the amazing suites at the castle, which seemed bigger than some houses. I particularly loved the ‘study’ which the husband took over for the assemblage of his outfit - the traditional kilt and associated paraphernalia. (Wedding outfits are so easy for men!)

Epithalamium, Rebecca Johnstone

There was something else very special about the day - one of the readings which really struck a chord with me. It was called EPITHALAMIUM and at first I assumed that to be the title of the poem. (And it seemed like such a tongue-twisting title I was relieved not to be reading it!)

Often it’s hard to take in the words of a poem when it is read out to you. I find that as a visual person, I prefer to read things myself to really understand it, as though it unfolds from the page as my eyes rest on the words.

A few words and phrases were unique enough to stand out straight away: songbird, berry blossoms, luminous constellations, moonshine, universe of stars. - but I knew I wanted to read this poem again. Coincidentally, my husband and I were seated next to the friend who had delivered the reading, and she let me read her copy again.

this is your new garden, a whole wide

world of it, so green and songbird fresh,

all yours to map and fill with luminous

constellations of fruit and berry blossoms

this is your new garden, tend it as if

all the young shoots that promise

a succulent harvest of root and ear

will be young and tender for all time

this is your garden, there will always be

much hoeing and raking, the clearing

of weeds and sowing of seeds will ask

patience, attention, forgiving laughter

this is the garden you want to live in, it's not

all sunshine - there's moonshine too, all earth

needs storms, but when dark clouds peel back,

see your garden bloom into a universe of stars

It was written by Aonghas MacNeacail and is included in ‘Handfast, Scottish Poems for Weddings and Affirmations’, published by the Scottish Poetry Library in association with Polygon (2004).

Each of our tables was named after a tree or plant (we were ‘Willow’), and I realised just how perfect this poem is for my friends who are both interested in nature and gardening. The lines are simple yet so evocative, especially the part about ‘all earth needs storms’ (I think marriage can be likened to a multitude of weather systems as well as a garden!).

When I had memorised the word ‘Epithalamium’, I tried looking it up and discovered that rather than the title of this particular poem, it is a literary form describing a lyric poem written for a bride on the way to her marital chamber. I can’t believe I had never heard of this before now, but am so happy I discovered it in the midst of such a wonderful occasion (where better?).

Thank you to Chloe and Paul for this gem of knowledge.

Whenever I hear or see mention of epithalamia in the future, I will be forever transported back to their special day, Saturday 18th May 2019.

Epithalamium, Rebecca Johnstone

Single Malt Mum by Rebecca Johnstone

I’m calling myself the SINGLE MALT MUM after buying my first bottle of whisky - ever.

Controversial yes, but bear with me.

I don’t drink a lot of alcohol and therefore don’t feel the need to choose January as a month of abstinence (save from maybe cheese. I’ve agreed to do that and already failed due to the cheesy sauce hiding inside a fish pie.)

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve consumed alcohol in the last 2 years, what with being pregnant, breastfeeding, and being A Responsible Adult In Charge Of A Baby.

It hasn’t been hard to maintain at all. I haven’t minded and rarely think about alcohol because it doesn’t really agree with me.

Wine gets me drunk too quickly, Champagne and Prosecco go straight to my head.

There was an incident a few years back involving Jager-bombs at a family wedding - never again. And I don’t drink the usual mixers such as cola or lemonade due to the sugar/carbonation. Which leaves me pretty much with water. Or beer.

Beer has been my greatest love affair in the last decade or so. Craft beers. Local beers. Dark beers. Blonde biers. Raspberry bier. Even non-alcoholic beers.

Until earlier this year when I shared a dram of Glenlivet (18 year old) with my Dad. My Dad lives on the Scottish Malt Whisky trail in the highlands. I’ve partially grown up there myself. It felt like time. And I enjoyed it.

A nice warm glow without feeling drunk. Sipping pure liquid gold rather than volumes of sugary nonsense. It’s respectable and adult and enjoyable and sophisticated. No nonsense. Good for the circulation. Not bad for the digestion.

I happily repeated the process over New Year, safe in the knowledge that I was suitably relaxed yet never drunk or unable to react in an emergency (in the company of other responsible adults and hopeful of there not being an emergency, obviously).

So while doing the first Big Shop of the year after arriving home to a fridge devoid of anything edible save for cream, dried herbs and lemons, I casually cruised the spirit aisle in my local Morrisons.

Initially I felt like a bit a of fraud, a fool, a pretender. Like I shouldn’t be there because the goods on offer were not for me and I didn’t know what I was doing. But I lingered, searching for a good offer and a nice design on the box. I went for an Ardmore.

Creamy vanilla spice gives way to more overt smoky charcoal notes, especially with the addition of water. Smoke doesn’t dominate and is balanced by the sweet honey and spice flavours.

Sold. The last 2 weekends I’ve had one or two or three, with just a pinch of water.

I’ve gone to bed feeling mellow and warm, with tingly toes. Not drunk or dehydrated. And no hangovers. Perfect.

Hopefully this doesn’t make me A Bad Mother, because I’ve heard the toddler years are the worst…

New Year, not so new mum... by Rebecca Johnstone

My baby is already 13 months old, and I realise in that time I feel lucky to have published 13 blog posts. In fact, I don’t think I have published 13 blog posts.

This blog has been an expression of so many versions of me since circa 2007. Yes - that long! But when I became a mum I decided I didn’t want to be a mummy blogger. Not because I think there is anything wrong with being a mummy blogger - on the contrary. I love reading the ups and downs of other mums’ experiences. It’s just that I wanted to keep that part of myself private and just for me. For me and my diary and my baby and my husband.

I didn’t want to share any photographs of my babe in the bath or half dressed or asleep. I wanted - needed - to keep those precious moments just between the three of us. And I have, and I still do.


(There’s always a but).

While I don’t necessarily want to share all those private moments, the problem is that those moments have become every moment and all the things I have to say now are about being a mum.

Some of those things I do want to share; think it’s imperative to share - mainly with other mums, especially the mums-to-be who might right this second be peeing on their stick of fate as I type this (or more likely they’ll be waiting for morning because everyone knows that the best time, obviously) - you get the idea.

It is like I’ve joined a special club or clique and there’s definitely no going back.

The places I used to go and then write about, the endless afternoons of experimental poetry and the Spring-time 100-day projects - none of that exists anymore because my mind is a mum-shaped vacuum containing vital information such as where did I put the new tube of Bonjela I know I definitely bought (didn’t I?), what time is lunch expected on the highchair and where did I last see that blue and white stripy sock Jack tossed aside an hour ago because it’s too cold to go out without it?

My brain has cut the cord on the information it doesn’t need, instead lighting up like a runway as I try to remember the crucial minutiae of my mum-life through the fog. Like I never used to need to take a list with me to the supermarket. Now I need a list to remind me to go to the supermarket.

These aren’t complaints or cries for help.

They are simple facts.

I am a mum and my priority in life is no longer myself or my art or my hobbies (cue hysterical laughter - hobbies!), or my house being perfectly clean or even conversing with my husband (for which I’m sure he’s imminently delighted.)

I’m also running my design business to what constitutes more than full-time hours 90% of the time, but the festive break has given me the space to think about other things, such as my stagnant writing life (hello long-forgotten fiction manuscripts…) and how I need to make some changes to be the best mum I can be.

So I may as well document some of this journey here. It’s the not-so-new me this fine New Year.

Today has been a difficult day in the top three of difficult days.

My almost-toddler is not quite walking yet so some would say I’ve got it easy, but he’s not far off. He’s hungry for attention as well as food and it’s taking up all my energy to fulfill his needs. Scrap that, it’s Saturday ffs - it’s taken both of us all our energy today to fulfill his needs.

There have been 5 minor bumps to the head as floors have been crawled, furniture cruised and obstacles not very eloquently traversed. As I tried to soothe him and we settled down with a book, he squirmed away from me so fiercely, he cut his lip on the book.

It’s been the kind of day when you feel like a helpless failure as a parent, as every few minutes a hysterical cry has threatened to bring the ceiling down.

On a day like today it’s helpful to recognise and inwardly reward myself for any task completed, never mind a writing task, so this blog post is now written proof of my day, or my existence.

I also managed:

to have a shower AND clean my teeth

to make and serve homemade soup *smug face* (but not for long as I got quite a lot of it spat back in my face, and I don’t mean from my husband…)

a family walk with the pram (in an attempt to induce sleep)

And now I’ve written 880 words documenting my experience for posterity. Another achievement!

I would very much like to take this opportunity to apologise to any readers of this blog who are not in the slightest bit interested in my motherhood journey. I get it. I was the same pre-babe. But what can I do about that now? I’m a mother. This is my journey. This is just the start.

Next time: did I mention I’ve recently turned to whisky?

Sometimes on Sundays... by Rebecca Johnstone

Sundays aren’t always lazy days of lie-ins and reading the papers.

To be honest, I’ve never really read the papers anyway. The magazines inside them maybe yes, but not the papers. Too real. Too newsy, taking me away from the orb of my own experience and the daydreams I prefer.

Sometimes on Sundays you have to get up early or even want to get up early. You start the same as any other day: tea, big cup, no exceptions. Shower, breakfast. Things to do. Always something to do. Lunch and tidying up, clearing away. More tea.

Nothing lazy about the day at all.

And then out for some errands. A lot of traffic on the roads and so it seems that other people aren’t having relaxing days either. They’re out there - here - too. On the road. Commuting like it’s a work day but in less of a hurry.

An over-cautious blue Yaris. A vintage matte-black Porsche. Lots of powerful cars never reaching their potential because it’s Sunday.

Before that, an argument over who will go up into the loft and get that thing. You know the thing that you’d forgotten you had but now suddenly need and it disrupts the whole day. You need it. Now. Like right now. It’s just out of reach up there, laughing down on your head from a dark and spider-filled nook. Don’t even get me started on the tins of paint that are up there, saved, just in case, but that will never be used. By the time they are needed, they will be so far past their best you won’t even be able to lever the lids off. And if you do manage it, you’ll most certainly break a nail. Or a finger. Or wrench some brutal damage on the only good screwdriver you own. The Phillips, probably. (Sorry Mr Phillips.)

And by the time you’ve resolved everything and been out and back and done a few loads of washing and folded up the wash from a few days ago and made a meal: the day has meandered away leaving in its wake the scent of Sunday Night Dread.

Can that really be a thing when you don’t actually go in to a place of work? Surely not. But there is an incredible and complex psychology that makes Sunday nights feel somewhat grim; layered in a mysterious fog that only thickens as the hours tick on by. More tea. Make a to-do list. Make the week ahead seem fun and alive and relevant and not like the last. Of course it won’t be anyway: you’re older. Just slightly, but still. Tick, tick.

There is something good though - I found this amazing place where an abundance of wild blackberries are just begging to be picked. They’re protruding gently over and through a scratch of hedge on the way to the Post Office, and when I looked a bit closer, there were more than I thought, then a whole patch of bracken and bramble over a waist-height wall. I thought of climbing in but it felt rude; not right somehow.

Sundays are Blackberries by Rebecca Johnstone

But maybe I should go back. Tomorrow. Just brazen it out with a big Tupperware to stash the spoils of my autumn victory?

Yes. A plan.

Sundays proffer the perfect occasion to brood plans from tiny asides; plans that burgeon and grow.

Plans are good, and so are days when you only just manage to… drift. You’ve probably done more than you think.

Sundays are great. One of my favourite days when I think about it. Better than Monday’s that’s for sure, though Monday’s have a lot more going for them on the productivity front. And maybe more fruit. In Tupperware. But it all started with Sunday, in a way.

Sometimes Sundays are like blackberries. Dark and cosy and fruity and soft. Halt the clock while I revel in the sensation of it for just a little bit longer.

Autumn Thoughts: Part 1 by Rebecca Johnstone

Meteorological autumn has arrived with September: it's autumn now, fair and square. 

Swiss Alps, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

Autumn feels like a gentle bleach washing the streets clean of summer's grease and heat; replacing it with a comforting carpet of leaves. 

Each year I collect leaves and display them in baskets and on windowsills. I struggle to let them go once spring arrives, yet I know I have to because that's how things go. I find them crumbling in pockets and at the bottom of bags and laid out carefully in the foot-well of the passenger seat of my car, only to be crushed by an unsuspecting and unexpected passenger.

'Mind the leaves' should be my new refrain.

I just read this beautiful and poetic article about the secret life of fog, and although it can appear during any season - even in the desert as illustrated in the article - I particularly associate fog with the colder months, mostly autumn.

Early morning layers of it burn away in the sun, while dusky blankets of it swathe a dark November eve.

Winter is harsh and summer so brash and in-your-face, but autumn is the perfect season of fog for me. I also realise now how underrated it is and how clever it can be; transporting microbes far and wide and spurring relationships between them in unforeseen places.

Trees in the Fog, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

Continually I wonder: is there nothing in nature that isn't well thought out, intricate, delicate, careful, deliberate and eye-opening? For all that we know and discover daily, oh we still have so much to learn and nature is our best teacher.

For now I'm going to stick with my leaves and start my collection in earnest. I might meditate over the wonders of fog, too.

But what is the difference between mist and fog? I imagine they are easily confused, though I could be wrong...

Summer Observations: Part 2 by Rebecca Johnstone

Half-formed thoughts perspiring in the slumber of the afternoon and melted ice cream sticky between fingers and down wrists licking it off because it still tastes so good; even mixed with sun cream from earlier in the day and someone shouting, calling, up to no good or just kidding around and isn't that what summer's for before the reality of winter grabs you by the throat and abandons you in your darkest nightmare?
Summer Observations Part 2 Rebecca Johnstone.jpg
Chips greasy in the heat and scraped-off tomato ketchup left on the plate attracting flies and how many tomatoes are in a bottle of ketchup anyway and who cares and who polices that because they're always trying to cut things down and make them smaller with less sugar and salt and fat but not cheaper. One less triangle.
A man scratches his crotch and a mother pulls her little boy in the opposite direction; away, hoping to god that her son won't end up like that but knowing he will because testosterone and genetics and social conditioning and we're all animals at the end of the day. Nevermind. She isn't religious anyway but who else is there to pray to? No don't ask. Seriously. There are other deities and spirits. Don't start that conversation. Just carry on, hurry to the bus stop and check your destination on the solar-powered timetable (clever that) and pay the driver and take a seat. Not at the back, too rough at the back, she's not sat at the back since she was a teenager and definitely not with her son. He's too young for the back. Plenty of time for that but the front feels out of bounds too - not yet in need of those seats so she opts for the middle. The no man's land of the bus. Like her whole life in a way, but noisier. Why can't everyone shut up and get off their phones? God (him again) she's sounding old. She's sticking in the middle though she's not giving an inch.
The bus pulls away and so does the image of the man and his itching crotch framed in the doorway of a boarded up Woolworth's. An empty can rolls up the aisle leaving a stain of residue in its wake. Dirt. It'll attract the dirt, she thinks, though everything feels unfresh in the heat anyway. She can't wait for the clean slate of autumn in more ways than one.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh: the art inside the art by daintydora

"Architecture is the celebration of necessity and the celebration of opportunity and Mackintosh is that absolutely", Edward Cullinan, architect

Having lived in and around Glasgow for the last twenty years, the influence of Charles Rennie Mackintosh on the city and the associated 'Glasgow Style' has infiltrated my consciousness on many levels: from the iconic Glasgow School of Art building itself to the Willow Tea Rooms, House for an Art Lover (where I almost got married), and the many other hidden details and architectural masterpieces across the city, inspired and designed by his hand.

At the same time, it never occurred to me to take a tour at the one place he had so much influence then as now: the art school itself.

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Since the tragic fire in 2014, the building has been closed to the public and today stands swathed in scaffolding, yet even that has clear geometric structure and lines; I think Mackintosh would have approved (and viewing it in black and white certainly helps!).

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

I've now taken the 45 minute tour which encompasses the Mackintosh influence on Glasgow: how he started out, how he came to design the Glasgow School of Art, the influences behind the new purpose-built building, Mackintosh's foreshadowing of the Art Deco movement, and the private furniture collection - held in the new building across from the original art school - until the restoration work on the original building is completed in 2019.

In lieu of the real thing, a scale model is the focus of the first portion of the tour; the hidden details exposed, explored and brought to life by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide.

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

I learnt plenty that I didn't know about this iconic architect and designer, not least that he had a penchant for Japanese art and styles which he managed to include in clever ways in the design of the art school.

One very prominent example of this is in the perimeter fence posts running all along the front of the building, each depicting Samurai family crests/insects in the Art Nouveau style:

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

In fact, Japonisme as it later become known, informed much of Mackintosh's aesthetic:

This style was admired by Mackintosh because of its restraint and economy of means rather than ostentatious accumulation; its simple forms and natural materials rather than elaboration and artifice; the use of texture and light and shadow rather than pattern and ornament.

In the Japanese arts, furniture and design focused on the quality of the space, which was meant to evoke a calming and organic feeling to the interior."

So much thought went into his work, even down to details that remained concealed for over a century until the fire and subsequent renovations brought them to light (light of course being very much the operative word in much of Mackintosh's work).

Deliberate patterning in the brick lay hidden behind wooden panels from the outset, and the second floor of the library was found not to be supported by the structural beams running through the building as previously thought, but suspended from above.

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

True to the ethos of the building, it was decided these unique details are to be restored and replicated as far as possible. I find even this an interesting point of note, because I want to ask: 'What would Mackintosh do?'

I think the answer is - he would have moved on, re-imagining his style and moving ever-forward.

That's what creative people do.

I learnt that the building is very much influenced by the traditional, Scottish Baronial style, featuring arrowslit windows more commonly associated with castles and similarly, dovecotes on the east elevation. These details described as 'poetry' on the building hark to many of Mackintosh's influences at the time, which as well as Roman and Greek architectural styles, would have included Scottish castles, churches, and the buildings of the Industrial Revolution.

But he wasn't concerned with symmetry - quite the opposite - preferring asymmetry instead.

The front elevation (viewed from Renfrew Street) clearly shows an arrangement of six windows to the left of the main entrance, eight on the right. And with the eight-year gap between the start and finish of the building (while the necessary funds were sought to finish the project), he changed some of the details, developing his Art Deco aesthetic and foreshadowing the movement by over a decade.

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Another Baronial feature is the inclusion of the Glasgow crest in two finials at the top of the building. Telling of the 'miracles of St Mungo' - the bird, the tree, the fish and the bell - these tie the building to Glasgow as a city just as a family crest would do with a castle.

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Meanwhile, another (literally) striking gift of his to the art school upon its completion in 1909 was this 'Master and Slave' clock:

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

The idea was that the 'Master' clock was downstairs in the office and would be the only clock that 'knew' the exact time, while each subsequent 'slave' clock would be connected to it throughout the building, ensuring that they all ran in sync telling the same time. Glasgow School of Art was also one of the first buildings in the city to have electricity.

Ironically however, it was pointed out on the tour that currently, while in situ in the temporary space, the clocks are out of sync. I wondered if the 'ghost of Mackintosh' would find this to be an amusing anomaly!

Other treasures in the private furniture collection include a number of chairs, and I particularly liked this original Curved Lattice-back chair (1904), designed for the Willow Tea Rooms.

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Used by the supervisor who processed the orders (apparently by method of coloured marbles!), the curved back and chequered design form a stylised 'willow tree' motif.

Another snippet I hadn't realised is that 'Sauchiehall' translates as 'alley of willows', which is how the once-luxury Sauchiehall Street that runs behind the art school, got its name.

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Meanwhile, this striking yellow and purple piece, described as a 'Settle for the Dug-Out' (1917), was used in the staircase vestibule 'dug-out' - a dark space with no natural light - also in the Willow Tea Rooms. Again it features simple, bold geometric shapes, though the colour would have also been considered 'bold' for the time.

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Of course the symbol of the rose is omnipresent too, including in the window details. Angled metal 'elbows' protrude from the upper casements featuring black balls of differing sizes and details, which when you peer along them become blossoming, abstract roses.

Mackintosh believed the rose to be the ultimate metaphor for art and growth, so it's fitting it should feature so prominently.

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Tour

Although the tour lasted only 45 minutes, I felt like I learnt a lot and can't wait to go back and revisit the new (old) building once it is restored to glory in 2019.

"...the only art school in the world where the building is worthy of the subject...this is a work of art in which to make works of art" Sir Christopher Frayling, educator and writer

Excellent praise indeed for a man who at 28, and not yet qualified as an architect but working as an apprentice, won the competition to design this now-iconic building. An inspiring and motivational message to 'jump before you're ready' if ever there was one.

Find out about/book the GSA Mackintosh tour.

And Happy 150th Birthday Charles!

NB. This is a sponsored post, however all views are my own. Thank you to CitizenM for tickets.

Summer Observations: Part 1 by Rebecca Johnstone

City streets, hot smoke, fag ends in litter bins billowing around Big Issue vendors and chewing gum trodden hard into tarmac, the mint all chewed out. Mojitos sweating on unshaded tables laid in the middle of the street and a beautiful Japanese man wearing a scarf even though it's hot because it's not hot enough for him. Laughter in glasses, lipstick attracting flies and shop doors open; beckoning, but it's not enough to compete with the street. Alleys crowded with smokers the conversation sparkier than inside air-conned bars with bags on the table getting quietly raided by stray hands and curious dogs' noses. Exposed faces, vulnerable, low down in derelict doorways soiled sleeping bags homeless people no change to spare but there's a soup kitchen over there offering sandwiches scrutinised earlier in the day, unwanted by the popular paying public with coins to spare.

My Time: A Haiku Poem by Rebecca Johnstone

I'm delighted that my Haiku poem 'The Creative Cycle' was included in the recent Scottish Poetry Library and Voluntary Arts Scotland anthology 'My Time'.

My Time Poetry Anthology, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

The call-out last year for people to respond with poetry to the theme of 'creativity' and how they spend their time really spoke to me as a creative person and writer. Last year was very busy for me and I didn't have a lot of 'spare' time, but I always try to do something creative each day. 

I would have liked to have sent off a longer piece, but a Haiku felt like the perfect balance of time and words:

Patterns mark my time

a kaleidoscope retreat

sketch, paint, stitch: repeat

I said with my response this piece was inspired by drawing and painting motifs to use when designing patterns, which is true, but I also like the idea of patterns as rhythms denoting and delineating my days, my hours, my life.

With a young baby to care for this is even more true for me at the moment, with the opportunity for dedicated creative time compressed and dictated by baby's naps and my own inclination. Time for us all is so precious.

I still draw and sketch, and watercolours are an accessible and easy way to get creative in fleeting moments. Words too create patterns and even the form of a Haiku poem is an unspoken rhythm.

It reminds me of my 100-days of Haiku 100-day project.

When I look back at those poems now, they are like a mini journal entry each day into my life right then. I love nothing more than documenting the things that are important to me, to capture them and remember them, but it's the tiny details of life that are important too.

When I was talking to a fellow writer recently about trying to 'capture' and remember these early days with my beautiful baby boy, she said something that really stuck with me:

You don't need to worry about remembering the important things, because if something is important, it will stay with you anyway

I love that. And it's so true!

I think I'm going to write more Haiku now...

Monarch of the Glen by daintydora

I haven't been around these parts much of late, but recently I got to see the original 'Monarch of the Glen' oil painting at Paisley Museum and I thought I'd share him here.

Monarch of the Glen, Paisley Museum
Monarch of the Glen, Paisley Museum

Painted by Sir Edward Henry Landseer circa 1851, our monarch is vital and arresting; not one of those disappointingly tiny real-life paintings like the Mona Lisa.

I mean yes she's impressive too of course, but it's nice to be able to take a step back and really see the image clearly, drink it in like it deserves and then step in closer to see the brush work and the cracks in the oil paint that mark the passage of time.

You can almost hear the rasp of his breath; smell the musky scent of his perspiration.

Sunlight catches the tips of his nostrils, the sheen of his flank and the tips of his antlers. He's a fine beast, proud of his reign over 'his' glen.

Elusive and alert, you'd never catch him in the same place twice.

Mountains and hills and bracken and woodland are his domain, come spring or snow. He's the boss of them all and nothing else matters but the next meal and evading predators.

Made famous through his connection with Dewar's whisky (and then the TV series 'Monarch of the Glen'), this royal heir to the Scottish Highlands is a symbol of strength and virility. I love the purple hue of the mountain backdrop too - Scotch mist at its best, hinting at crisp spring mornings or autumn afternoons with scenic views rippling into the distance.

Art inspired by local school groups was on display around the gallery, featuring their own interpretations of the stag. I particularly loved the poetry inspired by the painting, also by local school children.

Art inspires poetry and poetry inspires art. I love how so many genres of creative expression are linked and flow into each other seamlessly.

'The Monarch of the Glen' is particularly inspiring with just a central focal point of the stag. Something I need to remind myself often: less is more but in this case, it isn't less at all.

The best bit? I got him all to myself.

Just me and the museum attendant keeping watch.

Oh, and my newborn baby boy. He was asleep in his car seat, but one day I'll tell him all about The Monarch of the Glen.

The Monarch of the Glen, Paisley Museum
The Monarch of the Glen, Paisley Museum

Catch him quick - on until 11th March 2018 at Paisley Museum before he continues his royal tour.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland 2017 by daintydora

Black and white. Dim light. Bean bags. Red text. Lumière…

The scene was set for SHORTS at The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Architecture and Design.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

‘SHORTS’ – a short films event – launched in 2016, organised by Graphic Design Festival Scotland and Pretend Lovers. With no restrictions on theme, genre or subject; simply that all films be under 15 minutes long, the open-call attracted entries from over 100 countries.

Waiting for the first of 15 ‘SHORTS’ to begin for the 2017 event last month - amidst a backdrop of curated International Poster Design submissions – also part of GDFS – felt like sitting at the centre of a cultural melting pot of creative talent as conversations in multiple languages mingled with the tempting aroma of popcorn. (Popcorn: essential to film-viewing.)

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

I found the experience a surreal and engaging snapshot of thinking from around the world, dealing with both hilarious and serious issues in clever and diverse ways. Not all the films were to my taste, but all of them had a strong message about life and what it means to be human: right here, right now.

The shortest of the SHORTS was only 1 minute 40 seconds (‘Life in Patterns’ by Vojtěch Domlátil), incorporating images of numbers, letters, diary pages, kitsch florals and the moon at a rate of 12 frames per second.

It felt naïve yet important, racing through pages full of text and scribbles and phases of the moon, then empty pages; white squares and black lines summing up a life and the patterns we create and adhere to (and often come to rebel against).

I felt an emotional connection to it as I watched, mesmerised; an urge to reach out and touch those pages addictive and powerful. All created in the mind of someone I’ll never meet yet it felt so intimate.

I wondered later if that film-maker was in the same room, watching us watch. It’s possible.

In ‘Salt and Sauce’ by Alia Ghafar, I felt the frustrations and disappointments inside Tammy, stuck working in a small-town family chip shop as friends and colleagues begin moving on to better things.

I felt her acute embarrassment as she tried to hide from a girl she knew who came in to buy a fish-supper, all talk of ‘the big city’ and Veganism and opportunity.

But Tammy has her camera and she has a story to tell. She’s a voyeur noticing the small details others overlook. She just needs that extra push to realise her own worth and her unique gift to the world.

This film reminded me of the important of fate (faith?), of how life/the world really does work in mysterious ways, and how you need both time and patience to assimilate your place and purpose. Poignant, cringe-worthy and optimistic at the same time.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Meanwhile, sometimes words are irrelevant and that’s how it was in ‘Maze’ by Eve McConnachie. It featured an enchanting and animalistic dance choreography shot in the empty - and at the time - still derelict Govanhill Baths in Glasgow.

I loved the interplay of the two dancers (male and female) as they ducked and dived against, between and around each other reinventing the space: the deep end, the changing rooms, cracked tiles and outdated signs and all the places in-between.

At one point just their silhouettes were moving in rhythm to the electro-inspired music, two pillars either side. Totally immersive to witness this piece, completely befitting the venue.

During the break (and also at the beginning due to a slight tech hitch), a limited-palette animation played on a loop in black, white and pinky-red.

Appropriately titled ‘Gastaloops’ by Nicola Gastaldi, it featured patterns morphing into sketchy everyday scenes – the idea being “to convey the atypical universe of the Londoner”.

The success of the event lay with each piece having such an individual take on life and each film-maker a unique perspective to portray in their 15 minutes (or less) of opportunity. It felt almost as revealing as reading a diary.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Other themes explored on the night include:

  • The selfie generation, technology and its pitfalls (‘5 Films about Technology’ by Peter Huang)
  • Unrequited love and the unfortunate distractions and interruptions associated with romantic partnerships (‘Life’s a Bitch’ by François Jaros and ‘The Kiss’ by Nia Syazwani)
  • Loneliness/loss (‘Closed Visit’ by Jade Evans and ‘Brian and Charles’ by Jim Archer)
  • The monotony and minutiae of day-to-day life, specifically against the backdrop of the nightly News (‘Life Cycles’ by Ross Hogg)
  • Schadenfreude and karma (‘Second to None’ by Vincent Gallagher)
  • Abuse, disability and being 'different' (‘Dawn of the Deaf’ by Rob Savage)
  • Conflict and war zones (‘Irregulars’ by Fabio Palmieri)

The last film – Irregulars – particularly struck me as it was a first-person narration of fleeing war and persecution, to find only abuse, hatred and exploitation at the other end, not the anticipated 'safe-haven'.

The film itself showed the inner mechanics of a mannequin factory as each piece moved along a conveyor to be cast, sprayed, coloured, assembled and boxed up for shipping.

Faceless faces and dismembered limbs. The same image cast from the same mould, yet individual too.

The analogy was highly poignant and affecting, the lottery of where you're born dictating the path of your life for better or worse.

The promo poster for the exhibition (also on the cover of an accompanying brochure) summed up what we all need to do. Film - and particularly SHORTS - being the perfect, immediate medium.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

As the evening came to a close there was a quick, informal vote to see which film was the favourite.

'Brian and Charles' took it, with its comical take on loneliness and friendship in a bleak, rural setting through a man's relationship with a robot he built himself. Interestingly, that was the longest of the SHORTS, whereas I can't stop thinking about the shortest: ‘Life in Patterns’.

Overall a stimulating evening of film proffering an insight into the collective global consciousness at this moment in time, right in my home city.

NB. This is a sponsored post. Thank you to CitizenM Glasgow for a stimulating, creative night. 

The Inklings by daintydora

Following the idea that 'autumn is the new spring' - or even the 'new' New Year - I've been re-reading old magazines recently and finding that I hadn't actually read them all the way through the first time.

I was a subscriber of Pretty Nostalgic magazine while it was in print (and even won their storytelling competition back in 2013).

Through revisiting their gorgeous, thick, square pages I've now discovered: The Inklings.

An informal discussion group who met weekly in the local pub, 'The Inklings' were students/alumni - and their friends - of the University of Oxford in the 1930's and 40's, right up to the early sixties.

The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone
The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone

Here I've doctored the pages from the magazine to create my own memory of the Inklings; from the plaque on the wall honouring famous members: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams, to a cut-out 'found' poem using words and phrases from the original article, by Peter Holthusen.

The Rabbit Room:

a wealth of stories

old Oxford eccentrics,

have drunk your health.

The Eagle and Child

artless emphasis

a framed hand-written


The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone
The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone

The Rabbit Room was a private room in the back of The Eagle and Child pub where the Inklings would meet. I love the connotation of it being akin to a secret, literary warren of discussion; the main purpose of the group being to read and critique their unfinished works in progress.

There were no rules, officers, agendas, or formal elections. And as was typical for university literary groups in their time and place, the Inklings were all male.

How many of our current 'literary salons', groups and meetings will be remembered in this way? How likely is it to get such a group of talent in the same place, in the same room, talking and sharing as friends, now? Is it all online and hidden away in private social media groups?

I'd like to think not...but I think that's just my nostalgic side hoping beyond hope...

The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone
The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone

The article also included a copy of a letter written by (Professor) J.R.R. Tolkien, discussing his reasons for writing 'The Lord of the Rings':

The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone
The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone

I wrote The Lord of the Rings because I wished to try my hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them.

J.R.R. Tolkien

I think he achieved his goal, and then some.

Seeing that glorious, almost calligraphic handwriting reminds me just how important handwriting my own journal and letters to friends, is to me.

Fonts and type and electronic messages are essential in the modern world, but how nice to return to the nostalgia of that bygone time; all those now-famous budding authors under one roof as they toiled over books known now the world over.

Discovering new treasure in something old is also a nice surprise.

Apparently the old copies of Pretty Nostalgic are becoming quite collectible now too, but I prefer to pass them on for others to enjoy - especially now I really have finished reading them.

'Inkling' also happens to be a great WORD - sign up to receive my fortnightly inspiration-mail for writers and word-lovers.

100 day project finale 2017 by daintydora

This day has finally arrived - the 100th day of 2017's 100 day project. Wow! Looking back now it seems like such a long time ago that I posted about my intentions for #100daysofthepunctuationproject, and despite the milestone posts along the way, 100 days is definitely quite a long time (almost a quarter of a year!)

So today, the big reveal on my final day. Did you guess what it would be?

Of course it had to be...The Full Stop.

The Full Stop: Day 100 of The Punctuation Project

I knew from almost the very beginning that I had to 'save' the full stop for the 100th day, but I wasn't sure how I would represent it. A mere ink or watercolour dot just wouldn't do it justice. It had to be something...more. More detailed, more creative. More time-intensive to properly mark the culmination of 100 days.

The more I used tactile materials like buttons, thread, wool and fur, I hit on the idea of an embroidery.

Embroidery takes a bit of time.

It's a considered yet contemplative creative project in itself, and for me it underlines the very ethos of the 100 day project, namely, that no matter how busy your life or your day, a few minutes of creativity is a worthwhile and calming time-out from modern living. That, and the cumulative progress of just a few stitches builds quickly into a finished and tangible 'thing'.

Despite all my creative experimentations, embroidery has never been something I've done much of (if at all), but I dug out an old hoop I'd inherited and enjoyed the momentum of working the needle in and out in the first summer colours that took my fancy: grass green or 'greenery', turquoise and pink.

My husband thought it looked more like a bulls-eye than a full stop, or just a decorative circle, and perhaps it is, perhaps it is all of those things, and more. Something different to each person that sees it.

For me, it is an apt 100 day finale; a celebration of the daily, creative habit I've maintained and managed to keep myself accountable to since 4th April.

And next year? We'll see!

View the entire project on Instagram. Thanks for following along :)

Around the world in 80 days (of Punctuation) by daintydora

Yes, not quite as Phileas Fogg did it in Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days, but it's day 80 of my 100-day project (#100daysofthepunctuationproject) and it feels like a worthwhile milestone to celebrate. The last few weeks I've strayed dangerously into 'symbols' territory, rather than actual punctuation marks, but I always knew there weren't really 100 punctuation marks to go round.

The point of the project is daily creativity and the formation of a regular creative habit, and on that front, I'm totally winning.

The Equals Symbol: Day 74 of The Punctuation Project
The Equals Symbol: Day 74 of The Punctuation Project

So far I've interpreted and featured familiar (and not so familiar) punctuation, letters, diacritics and symbols in a variety of mediums in:

English/American English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Czech, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Danish, Norwegian, Polish, Japanese, Arabic and Swedish. Possibly more - I've lost track.

And these have encompassed the realms of:

Spoken and written language, finance and currency, bookbinding and typesetting, mathematics, music, computer programming, science, law and electronics. Wow.

I've learnt a LOT about language as an interesting aside and hopefully I've retained some of my new-found knowledge for future use (or at least to appear super-clever in a Christmas quiz?).

The Tie: Day 56 of The Punctuation Project
The Tie: Day 56 of The Punctuation Project

Ever the multi-passionate creative, I love to capitalise on my tactile/textile interests, pattern design skills, love of colour and my graphic/hand-drawn style in ink and watercolour.

That's half the fun in a project like this to shake up the day and allow a cross-pollination of skills and ideas, but I must admit, this is my most bold attempt:

Basis Point: Day 73 of The Punctuation Project
Basis Point: Day 73 of The Punctuation Project

There's only (only!) 20 days to go, and I'm already working on the 100th day - what could it be?

Follow me and the project via Instagram to find out.

You might also be interested in joining THE WORD, my fortnightly newsletter for writers & word-lovers. Check it out here.

The No-List To-Do List by daintydora

Just don't write a to-do list at all.

Yep, that's right. Don't do it.

Don't write everything down that you need to do and overwhelm yourself before you even get started. Don't be a slave to your digital or paper guilt-inducing self. Just, let it go.

It's a novel concept I know, and to be clear, I'm not saying don't do the work.

But the no-list to-do list truth hit me right between the eyes the other night when I realised I still hadn't started a new notebook for to-do-listing (of the many fabulous notebooks in my hoard) because I'd been too busy doing the work. Interesting.

To-do list
To-do list

And it gets better.

Because really it's about priorities and what needs to get done TODAY, not just 'what needs to get done'. They say (you know, them, the productivity gurus et al), that in order to succeed you have to single-focus, and it's impossible to single-focus when you have a list of 100+ nagging things to do. Even allowing 3 things onto your list is a distraction, apparently.

And I get it. I've been there.

It feels cathartic to write it all down and get it out of your head, but then you realise someone needs to try to work through those tasks, and that poor unfortunate someone, is you.

Now we all kinda know the ONE BIG THING that needs to get done that day, today, tomorrow, don't we? It's not going to be easily forgotten without the aid of a list. If you're working on a project then you know that needs your attention. You could maybe write down a few areas that you want to focus on, but re-framing it in those terms makes it that much more palatable and less stressy. You're choosing to work on a few key areas (or one!) and that's a good place to kick off in the morning (or afternoon, or evening, or whenever you'll next be working on said project).

But the fact remains: the important, priority stuff automatically filters to the top of your mind because our brains seemingly can't let go of unfinished tasks. These tasks create continual feedback loops demanding our attention.

And that's what I've been experiencing. I haven't had a proper to-do list for around a month but each day I've been super-productive and worked through each task as it arises, prioritising the things with a looming deadline, the opportunities that I don't want to miss. Each day when I've shut down my computer put my computer to sleep, I've felt satisfied with what I've achieved, without the stress (or perversely, the satisfaction) of crossing out bullet points in a notebook.

And now that I've come to this shocking realisation?

I feel liberated - what if I never (have to) write another to-do list again?

I could allow myself to brainstorm ideas or plot out strategies or outlines. There's no ban on lists per se, but it's nice to think the tyranny of the to-do list could be a prison of the past.

It reminds me of this article by Tim Harford, partly inspired by Benjamin Franklin and his apparent life-long pursuit of a tidy desk (spoiler: he couldn't manage it).

The upshot is, a messy desk is ultimately more fruitful and organised than a tidy desk.

Messy desk theory
Messy desk theory

"There can be a kind of magic in mess"

And it makes sense.

A neat desk means business with no distractions, but all the things you diligently filed away get forgotten about - out of sight, out of mind - and not only do you forget their very existence, but when you start looking for that crucial piece of paper, research or must-have scribbled note, it's unlikely to be found.

Here's my favourite quote from Tim Harford's article, illustrating just how unhelpful so-called clever and niche classifications can be:

“Categorising documents of any kind is harder than it seems. The writer and philosopher Jorge Luis Borges once told of a fabled Chinese encyclopedia, the “Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge”, which organised animals into categories such as: a) belonging to the emperor, c) tame, d) sucking pigs, f) fabulous, h) included in the present classification, and m) having just broken the water pitcher.”

In contrast, on a messy desk, things have to be shuffled about and 'lost' pieces of paper or information (or wires and screws and circuit boards in my husband's case) are sifted and sorted on a regular basis because they are THERE, right there, kind of in the way.

The odd piece of paper falls to the floor and then you tread on it and it sticks to your bare foot and you suddenly realise: it's the very inspiration you needed, like the universe pointing you in the right direction.

It's a similar thing with the mind. The more unfinished tasks there are, the more little reminders flag up alerting you to this fact. A bit like an app, but infinitely more...apt.

Which leaves more time for actual writing and journaling and creative-making.

The upshot?

No list today: the no-list to-do list
No list today: the no-list to-do list

So long to-do list and hello productivity, my old friend.

50 days of The Punctuation Project by daintydora

Halfway! I'm halfway through my 100-day commitment to punctuation!

50 days can fly in, but the scramble to hunt out more and more elusive and exciting punctuation marks gets harder and harder.

I'm trying to be creative, inventive, interpretive, and use multiple mark-marking methods to share my punctuation finds, but I find myself relying on the quick and trusty methods of pencil, pen, watercolour and digital manipulation.

'The Manicule' was sketched using the ProCreate app on the iPad. It felt very new and exciting and a bit fancy to be using an iPad for the very first time (#latetotheipadparty)

Day 48/100: The Manicule. The manicule (☞) or 'the hand', hand director, pointing hand, pointing finger, pointer, digit, index, or indicator - was a favorite of Renaissance scholars, inked into the margin as a bookmark or aide-mémoire. Gradually, though, the manicule was appropriated by authors and advertisers, and today its pointing finger is more likely to be seen on A-boards than in book margins. It's pretty cool though I think; like a 'helping hand' almost, a handy companion in a lonely text? [Digital pen sketch in the Procreate app on the iPad] #100daysofthepunctuationproject #the100dayproject #100days #gm100dayproject #thepunctuationproject #punctuation #punctuationart #punctuationmarks #punctuationpoints #manicule #manicules #themanicule #thehand #pointinghand #pointingfinger #printersfinger #printers #typography #typesetting #digit #indicator #renaissance #digitalpen #procreate #procreatesketch #procreatesketching #ipadpro

A post shared by Rebecca Johnstone (@daintydora) on

Maintaining a daily creative habit by carving out a dedicated 5-15 minutes is often an achievement in itself because there's always so much going on. Life - and its assortment of ups and downs that have been particularly hilly of late. (Literally, life and death.)

Here's a few punctuation favourites from the first half of my #100daysofthepunctuationproject - only 50 more to go!

I've branched out a bit from the original palette of black, white and red, but there's still plenty of monochrome.

Yellow has become a bright and cheerful friend, as have green and blue.

Discovering the names of diacritic marks used in other languages has been an interesting education - I give you 'The Cedilla':

The Cedilla: Day 28 of The Punctuation Project
The Cedilla: Day 28 of The Punctuation Project

And I've particularly enjoyed creating a few 'punctuation patterns' using motifs from previous days:

Finally, The Hedera stole my heart:

The Hedera: Day 40 of The Punctuation Project
The Hedera: Day 40 of The Punctuation Project

Thank you to all those who are following along on Instagram and enjoying the daily 'Punctuation Project' discoveries by my side.

There are so many great 100-day projects out there and a celebration of creativity is in my mind, the perfect antidote to the day-to-day stresses of life. Onwards!

Battling Tsundoku by daintydora

Tsundoku: the condition of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one's home without reading them.

I've always loved books and reading, and over the last few decades (I feel old writing that), I've acquired books at a rate much faster than I've been able to read them.

I read as much as I can, but it's averaging out at anywhere between 25-35 books a year.

I'm disappointed in myself as I type that number as I would always have described myself as a 'prolific' reader; mad for books, a lover of being transported to far away places in other people's fabricated worlds. But it turns out I'm as busy as the next person and perhaps not prioritising reading as much as I should be?

Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books
Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books

Hot on the heels of reading 'Spark Joy' by Marie Kondo of magical-life-changing-tidying-up fame, I realised that many of the books I was hoarding on my shelves had appealed to me at the time of purchase, but when I looked at them now I didn't feel in the least inspired to read them.

I went through a major 'geisha' phase at one point in my early twenties, and had managed to collect numerous books on the topic and by Japanese authors, which eventually spilled over into a love of Chinese fiction and history. I read Wild Swans in tears, and Amy Tan with intrigue and had managed to acquire a battered copy of 'Mao'. Mmm.

I realised quite happily there were plenty of books I could 'let go' and that I wouldn't miss; clearing a path for the books I really did want to read and still haven't. Atonement. In Cold Blood. White Teeth (I know, I've had that since I was at university - what's wrong with me?!)

Over the last few days I've carried three huge bags full of books to my local charity shop.

Some of them I've bought from there so it feels good to take them back; others have been like family friends. It was time to let them go and I don't regret it. They deserve to be read and that's not going to happen on my over-burdened shelves.

Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books
Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books

Some books I had read once and thought I might read again, but when it came to it, I knew in my heart of hearts that it wasn't going to happen. And as Marie Kondo encourages: if you really miss something, need it or want it, then you can always buy it again...or get it from the library.

As a writer, I want to make sure I really am supporting my local library, so on the way back from the charity shop with my last donation, bags empty, I stopped in to see what was on offer and borrowed three new books. I read Kate Tempest's The Bricks that Built the Houses in a matter of days, and now I'm onto Jessie Burton's The Muse. It's good. (I loved The Miniaturist too.)

Now when I pass my bookshelves I can see the books I've neglected, the gold rising to the top.

Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books
Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books

Some books I'll always keep if they've been special gifts or are inscribed (to me or others), but you can't keep everything.

And in a few years, maybe I'll get round to reading some of them again. Or not.

I'm feeling lighter. At least 50+ books lighter.

My Tsundoku habit is finally under control, and this time next year perhaps my shelves could be almost empty, but I doubt it, and I don't think I'd like that either #booklove

The Punctuation Project: 10 days of 100 by daintydora

The Punctuation Project 2017, Day 5
The Punctuation Project 2017, Day 5

Since announcing my 100-day project last week I've designed and shared my interpretation of 10 punctuation marks in a graphic style via my Instagram account, and thought I'd share my progress here too.

I wasn't sure how I would represent each punctuation mark or even if I needed (or wanted) to have a cohesive 'look', but a certain bold minimalism seems to have emerged in a daring, limited palette of black, white and red.

I've used ink, pen, pencil, cut-out paper, card and letters, and computer-generated brush-strokes so far to depict:

Exclamation marks, the SarcMark, a 'cacophony of commas', the 'm' dash, a colon, square brackets, the Asterism (three asterisks in a pyramid formation), the apostrophe, double quotations and a question mark.

A dash of greenand yellowmight have crept in too. It's allowed.

The Punctuation Project 2017, Day 1
The Punctuation Project 2017, Day 1

There's still 90 days to go and I'm asking myself: what's next?

Follow the project and join in on Instagram.

The Punctuation Project: 100 days by daintydora

It's that time again. The start of April and of spring, when The 100-Day Project pops up to carry us through until summer. The 100-Day Project, 2017

I wasn't sure what to do this year, though I knew I wanted to do something.

2015 was my first year, and I chose Haiku poems. They were quite hard to complete at times.

2016 was words. Relatively easy, and the inspiration behind my newsletter THE WORD, continuing the theme of celebrating lexicology and language. (Read the latest mail-out and sign up.)

This year I thought I'd do something more arty, less wordy. Less writerly, but I just couldn't help myself...

I kept thinking about punctuation; the unsung hero of written text. I'm no Lynne Truss and I probably don't use punctuation correctly all the time, but I know how important it is. How it forms the skeleton of a story, along with paragraphs and sentences. And then we're back to words again.

"The Punctuation Project". It does have a nice ring to it doesn't it? The alliteration helps. I can never be accused of forsaking alliteration.

So my unique project is #100daysofthepunctuationproject which will also be how to follow along with my progress and find me on Instagram (the chosen medium of accountability).

We can't always see punctuation, but without it, we'd be shipwrecked in sentences and mired in unending narrative with no rhythm or sense. Punctuation is invisible in speech, but still essential. The pregnant pause. The stop for breath. The break after words in a list.

The Punctuation Project, #100daysofthepunctuationproject 2017

I'm going to start with the common punctuation marks classified in the English language and see what happens. In comparison to other years, I've simplified the work required each day. Perhaps some days it will just be a quick representation of the symbol, while other days will be more exciting:

Punctuation patterns, punctuation stories, or maybe even a punctuation library!

If I get stuck and need more symbols and punctuation marks to keep me going, I'll turn to the romance languages first, then travel on through the continents to see what inspiration I can find in other languages of the world.

The 100-Day Project, 2017

I'm going to use all creative media at my fingertips, both analogue and digital, and in doing so, see where punctuation can take me.

I'd love it if you'd join me with your own project or cheer me on from the sidelines. I'll post updates here of course. Have I just about used all punctuation marks in this post? Almost!

Punctuation has it's own philosophy, just as style does, although not as language does. Style is a good understanding of language, punctuation is a good understanding of style.

George Sand

Book Spine Poetry by daintydora

Next month is NaPoWriMo - National Poetry Writing Month - and I've been neglecting the poetic form for too long. I love all the experimental methods of finding new ways to connect words and make language interesting, so when I read about the art of 'Book Spine Poetry' recently on Brain Pickings, I knew I had to try it for myself.

Book Spine Poetry literally means to use the title on the spine of a book as a line of a poem. So simple yet so clever.

And it makes me feel a lot less guilty about my Tsundoku habit. I have plenty of fodder to work with.

Inspired by the art of Nina Katchadourian, and also the experiments of Maria Popova herself, author of Brain Pickings, I decided to have a go.

Here's what I came up with after a 5-minute bookshelf grab:

Book Spine Poetry, inspired by Nina Katchadourian

Primrose Hill

Summer of Love.

London Calling:

The Secret History

Book Spine Poetry, inspired by Nina Katchadourian

She Came to Stay -

The Black Dahlia

D.I.Y Magic

Book Spine Poetry, inspired by Nina Katchadourian

White Teeth

In Cold Blood:

The One That Got Away

So much fun!

I'll definitely experiment further with this technique using more of the books that are waiting patiently to be read on my burgeoning shelves (thanks Nina), and I'll finish with this quote:

I am always paying attention to the physical qualities of the books, and I try to work with their particular attributes as much as possible. The size of a book carries temperament and tonality, as does the way the text sits on the spine. A heavy volume with large text on the spine, for example, might be exuberant, urgent, pushy; a small typeface might communicate a voice that’s exacting, shy, insecure, or furtive.

Nina Katchadourian

You can sign up to receive free daily poetry prompts from The Poetry School throughout April. I'm thinking Book Spine Poetry might be a good way to go!