Sunday, July 30, 2017

SHERINGHAM DIARY 4 ~ Storms and Vicissitudes

So, July has come and gone with a seamless flow of heatwaves interspersed with torrential storms. Its as though we are being given a fore taste of what may come in the winter months. My own mood has to an extent mirrored this change in the weather, between a moderately sunny contentment and the nagging clouds of unease.

The Laundry where I work ~ spacious eh!

The source of this 'unsettling' arises from my work, which I could describe as a repeated exercise in running extremely fast in order to staying exactly where you are. Now, if I were on a running machine in a gym, this might hold potential health benefits, but this job feels like it should come with a health warning?

Well, we are now in high holiday season and most of the guests stay only one or two nights. This means we clean and replenish the rooms as well as change wash, dry and iron bedding and towels for between 3 - 6 rooms daily. My work is supposed to be part-time, four hours, five days a week, three days housekeeping and two washing up in the kitchen. At the moment the housekeeping stretches to five, five and a half, and frequently six, and I struggle to keep on top of the workload and ensure I don't leave the next days housekeeper too huge an overflow - usually of towels. Towels! oh but lets not allow my gripe engine to go into over rev.

Housekeeping itself is straightforward work, however, the thoroughness with which I can execute it is restricted by the size and processing of this laundry workload. The only way to make this combination of Mrs Mop and Widow Twankey work is to throw time at it. So I'm having to draw boundaries around how much extra I do, otherwise this job will eat me up for breakfast, dinner and tea. I have also to take my physical limits into account, anything over five hours and my physical stamina declines, as my aches and pains start a rapid ascent into heightened awareness.

So, yes, the job is not good, I earn enough, but at some cost to energy and interest in doing anything else. Finding another job before the summer finishes is not looking a hopeful prospect, which can knock my confidence and positive approach if I let it.  The job market in North Norfolk appears largely comprised of minimum wage work, predominantly cleaning and care work. Poor jobs on poor money, is the reality of employment not just for me, but a growing percentage of pre-Brexit Britain. God knows what will happen after.

On a more optimistic note, just when we thought our selling via Etsy had completely dried up, this week we've had three sales, two from folk in Hampshire (we don't know if they are connected) and one from France. This surprised me as we've put almost no effort into it for over six months.  So The Cottonwood Workshop flag keeps flying even when there's not a following wind from us.  My struggles with work have arisen in what could be characterised as a bardo period in our future plans, and a consequent lack of creative direction. When work isn't creatively satisfying, I tend to cope better with that if I'm doing or working towards something else that is.

The ideal site for our cafe, as I said last month has now opened as a coffee shop, and it is a very odd set up. Painted outside in a Farrow & Ball Dark Grey, rather roughly I might add, as if the painter ran out of paint and the owners said, oh to hell with this lets open anyway. Inside its not quite plain and simple, more sparse and spartan with plain plywood faced counter, tables and similar cheap looking chairs. It has the air of a place not quite sure of its style, and certainly not there yet. We are beginning to suspect they might be on a short 6 month lease. Either that or they intend to finish off the paintwork in the autumn. They are the Grey Seal Coffee company who have been selling their own roasted coffee online, and appear to be opening new cafes on the North Norfolk coast at a rapid rate. They have one in Blackeney, Wells next the Sea, now Sheringham, and another is planned for Burnham Market. I hope we can do better.

Jnansalin has started his new job, and two weeks in is getting to grips with how things really are with the charity and the shops. As ever, the job and the reality are slightly different to how they seemed at interview. Some of the interview questions have started to reveal part of their backstory. There's a lot for him to do, and I mean a lot of things to do, so once he's settled in, much to be sorted out. But, he's more than capable of what needs doing, some very small changes he's made have already shown signs of turning things for the better.  He didn't pass his first driving test, but has his second next week . So currently he travels to work just outside Norwich by bus, which makes a long day that bit longer.

My projects for the house, are moving forward, slowly. I finished the repaint/waxing of a display cabinet we originally bought for a tenner. Quite a lot of sanding was required to remove the black gloss top coat, and several coats of paint then waxing. I'm quite pleased with the way its come out. Lately, I've been working on three frames for some Delft tiles we bought from an Amsterdam Flea Market a few years ago. These are now finished, I just have to decide where and how to hang them on our lounge wall, and that's all the jobs for the lounge done

I've already moved on to things for the bedroom, with making a frame to stretch a Belgian Tree of Life tapestry we bought in Bruge on our honeymoon. This is now in pride of place over our beds. Next up are two second hand side tables that need sanding and varnishing to match. I've hit my first obstacle in that it appears you can't remove any of the fixings, so my idea of taking them apart sanding down and reassembling them will have to be rethought.

I'm getting quite good at this sort of thing, now I've done so much of it. I've been wondering lately whether I should turn it into a business, to work to my strengths more, which isn't what I'm currently doing. Apparently, according to the internet, its what people of my age do, when faced with a poor or disinterested job market ~ pause for further reflection.

For a while now I've been testing out Carrot Cakes, trying to get an idea for what a really good carrot cake is. I consider it as research for our future cafe. In order to be a bit clearer in my analysis, to pin the necessary qualities down better, I've started writing a new blog called Perfect Carrot Cake where I review and score the carrot cakes I eat in North Norfolk. Give it a look.

This weeks major weekend event in Sheringham was the Harley Davidson Ride Through, where hundreds of Harley Davidsons and their owners rumble into town, park for a few hours then rumble out of town. I've never seen so many badges, chains and leather in one place, plus an assortment of shaven heads, pigtails and bear beards, both male and female. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

FEATURE 134 - Arcade Fire - Creature Comfort

Of late, Arcade Fire's albums have shown signs of them wanting to move away from the grand and triumphal signatures of their first two albums. The Suburbs, was more carefully themed and though had its moments, somehow failed to touch me, there was something about it that was emotionally removed. I rarely listen to it, and even then not all the way through. So when it came to Reflektor I gave it a miss, the videos released not convincing me to give them another go. The new album, Everything Now, looks like they have to some extent recovered their sense of direction, at least rebooted their mojo. This track Creature Comfort, being a great pumping moment of joy, even though the subject matter is about personal pain.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

FEATURE 133 - Sparks ~ What The Hell Is It This Time

Back with a new album and tour in the Autumn, Sparks are releasing singles to give you a flavour for what's to come. As with all Ron Mael songs, the basic premise of this one is simple, that god is getting fed up with the number of requests he's getting to intervene. All done with the usual level of wit and musical invention we come to expect from this seemingly eternal duo.

SHERINGHAM DIARY 3 - Changing Work

Well, we've been here for three months now, and you might have thought we would have sorted everything out by now.  Living in Upper Sheringham is lovely, our house is lovely, we are doing lovely. However, our relationship towards the world of work  is still in some state of flux.

Jnanasalin has found himself a new job, which he will be starting in about 2 weeks time. He's being employed as the Retail Manager for a charity, which currently has three outlets selling good quality second hand items.The interior decor is well thought out and designed, so they don't look like your usual charity shop. Jnanasalin has been brought in to look after these, and to expand the chain across Norfolk, and develop a support network.

He's both excited and a little nervous about this change in work, but knows he has a huge amount of expertise he can offer them. He is also a couple of weeks away from his driving test, which he is well on track with. But heightened anxiety can always be summoned up, as you'd expect with two such major life events happening within days of each other.

Myself, well I decided to leave Byfords in Holt and get a housekeeping job closer to home. Which I achieved quite quickly, I now work for The Two Lifeboats Pub in Sheringham, 20 hrs a week.

However, it turns out that the 4 hrs a day 5 days a week, certainly at this time of year, is the exception rather than the norm. The housekeeping also includes the laundering/drying and ironing of the bed linen. So things can be pretty full on, and doing all that in 4 hrs on most days is impossible. So last week in the middle of the heatwave, I did more like 32 hrs. What can be a just about physically manageable 4 hrs can become a bit of a strain when its 5-6 hrs. In short, this is not what I want to be doing in the long term. It defeats the whole point of my working part-time if I have insufficient energy left to do much creative/craft work before or after a work shift.

It has made me realise that I really need to get myself out of the world of cleaning work. What was a good thing that kept the wolf from the door in Cambridge, is turning out to be not quite the same thing here. My body finds the intense level of physical work entailed in these B & B's I've been working for really draining, as it starts to creep beyond the stamina and physical capacity of my ageing body. Finding housekeeping work has been relatively easy, though I think finding something less physically strenuous, let alone something I want to do, isn't going to turn up just as readily. Anyway, watch this space.

Inside Crofters restaurant

This June, on the 26th, it was my sixtieth birthday. A significant milestone, and one that was marked well on the day.  Later in the week we had a meal out at our favourite restaurant Crofters in Sheringham. Like many places in Sheringham, entering it is like taking a step back in time. The interior of Crofters is decked in dark carved wood, blue checked curtains and has the ambiance of an Austrian Ski Chalet. The menu is good, with an exceptionally varied Vegetarian/Vegan part of their menu.  On top of these delights is the ever resplendent and supremely helpful Fay, who has worked in Crofters for quite some time. She has a unique dress sense and choice in jewellery, complete with boldly matching statement necklaces/earrings/rings and arms full of bangles. Each time we go in its a different colour combination, she goes where even much younger women would fear to tread and always achieves success.

A new exhibition has opened at The Mo, Sheringham's Museum. Its an exhibition of Gansey, which are fisherman's jumpers originally knitted by their wives so if their husbands were drowned at sea they would recognise them by their distinctive jumpers. Gansey are knit in fine wool yarn in very tight patterns and are worn on top of everything because they are hard wearing items of clothing. Jnansalin has bought me a book for my 60th on the history of them, which also includes some patterns. They were originally knitted in a circular fashion with no joins or seams. I'm thinking to adapt some gansey patterns to make cushions,stool covers etc.

The shop premises I mentioned last month that we thought would make an ideal future cafe. Guess what, its opening as .... a cafe. We are beginning to think that perhaps Sheringham may be reaching, or have already reached 'peak cafe' with well over 12 , and now this new one. We've heard on the grapevine ie. via the Mulberry Tea Rooms local gossip, that one of the cafes that opened barely a year ago is struggling to get sufficient business. So we are thinking we may have to consider basing our cafe further afield, maybe in another place, or an out of town craft complex, or if we do open in Sheringham, perhaps look to take over and transform an existing cafe. Who knows at this point in time which we will do, it may come down to rising to meet an opportunity rather than carrying out a fully worked out strategy.

This first weekend in July was The Lobster Potties Morris Dancing Festival, a weekend of crazy morris dancing. This is something I always enjoy, having been part of a Morris side many years ago. This years festival felt a bit quieter and low key than in previous years, with less folk around town. Perhaps the unpredictable weather of the week before deterred some people from coming. I got to see a few sides, but Jnansalin's sister , husband and two kids came down so we only partly saw the morris dancing, between playing the machines in the amusement arcades, eating chips, eating ice creams and looking out to sea. That said we did get to see The Witchmen from Kettering, who are like a huge boost to your testosterone.