Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Making Memories

Making memories is a bit of a buzzword at the moment. We’re not going shopping kids, we're playing board games and making memories. We are not just going for a walk, we are making memories.

You know what though, it works. Laughing together over silly things, it matters. When I think about my childhood I think of lots of walks on the moors, climbing trees in the field, meeting friends on my bike, going to see relatives, creating slug and snail obstacle courses in the garden ( yes really! ), doing jigsaws in front of the fire, that time I stood on a rusty nail and had to hop all the way home, climbing inside the paper recycling bins - the smell! 

None of those things were expensive, although they may have been quite specific to a rural childhood. 
When I ask others about their memories of people, it’s very rare that material goods are mentioned. This may start to change due to the rise in consoles. I’m not a gamer, but everyone else in my family is and my friends who are ten years younger all seem to play. 

I asked others for their favourite childhood memories and one stood out. It was about being 'bed gnomes' where my friend and her sister used to pile onto their parents bed at the end of the day and tell them all about their day. They called it being 'bed gnomes' and still do this as adults when they are all at home together. I absolutely love the phrase and have a probably-completely-wrong mental picture of her and her sister perched on the bed like a little gnome. I'm seeing pointy bed sheets to give the impression of hats too, but then I do have a massively overactive imagination! 

We have a similar tradition in our house; we all pile onto our bed and eat cake and open presents at breakfast time whenever it is one of our family birthdays. The birthday boy (usually - as I'm massively outnumbered) picks the kind of cake in advance and that is how we start the day. 

Place names can be so evocative too. I recently made some signposts where the places were special names to the pair of them; 'The Crossroads', 'The Lane', 'Daisy Farm' and it was wonderful to imagine what those places looked like as I cut and sanded the wood, assembled and stamped, glued and clamped. 

Where are your happy places? I have different ones for different friends; some I remember through songs we always danced to, some through the trips we have taken together to the cities in Europe, some through the pubs and clubs of our youth. 

With my family and childhood it's more about days out for me; long walks along 'Ilkley Moor', afternoons spent fishing and paddling at 'Jeremy's field' with my cousins, climbing the 'Big Tree' on summer days, pushing my toy doll around 'The Rec', actually swimming in the river at 'Edisford' and walking along the river to the 'Swing Bridge'. 

My husband would be a whole other set of names; 'Paris' as we have a fabulous tradition of always spending the 29th February in Paris, 'Skipton Castle' where we got married, 'Marrakech' where we went on honeymoon, 'Plitvice Lakes' where we spent a memorable holiday, 'Ilkley Moor' where our favourite family photograph was taken, and probably 'Rolls Royce' which is where the majority of our nights out occur! 

I think this is why my signposts are my best seller. They are a gift which reminds people of special places and occasions. 

Recently many of the signposts I have made have been gifts for men; Dad's, Friend's, Uncle's, Granddads... I think I'll be busy with these in the run up to Father's Day, which falls on Sunday 17th June here in the UK. I need up to two weeks to make these (depending on how busy I am) and will take orders for Father's Day until early June. 

They have had names of places in the Lake District for keen cyclists and walkers, names of places people have spent happy times together on holidays, names of rivers for fishermen, beaches and hills. One was even football grounds. Restaurants, boats, favourite real ales, golf courses, train stations, my signposts can say whatever you like, to convey whatever memory you would like to share. 

They are also available as a free standing signpost; just in case you're not a fan of bookends or books on display. 

We all like to be remembered and 'the thought that counts' is certainly true! I know when I receive a gift which is thoughtful it means so much more than the cost. Although, quick plug, my bookends are very reasonably priced and can be found here in my Etsy shop. 

I don't want to end on a plug, it just feels wrong to my British brain! I'm not sure I'll ever get the hang of the sales part of my business. I love the making, and I really enjoy writing a blog, taking pictures and most of the other tasks. I've got to tidy my studio and I don't even mind that, but when it comes to sales I'm still a bit clueless! 

So let's quickly end on birthdays; destabled has just turned One! One whole year. I'm so delighted and I have learned so much. It's still quite thrilling to think that 'stuff' that I've made is dotted around the UK in different people's homes. Sometimes people tell me I'm brave to start a business and just put myself out there, but I don't think I am. I'm just a person with a burning desire to make things and the grit and stamina to just keep doing that. Notoriously the first few years in business are tough, and I do agree with that, but each day you just have to keep going. Keep making, keep talking, keep having the ideas and hopefully one day soon I'll get chance to actually learn to be a better saleswoman. Wish me luck! Or better still - tell me how! 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

72 hours in Marrakech, Morocco, and 14 tips to get the most out of a short break there

Marrakech gets under your skin. There is a reason people rave about it. It's hot and dusty and busy and more-than-anywhere-else-I've-ever-been exhilarating!

Let's start with colour. Blue, actually.

This colour, this blue, got into my mind and wouldn't leave. It's not a colour we see much of in Northern England and that's possibly because it really comes to life in such bright sunlight. But, it's a happy colour, a hot colour, an exciting colour to me. This colour blue has me in a obsessive-grip. This trip to Marrakech has a lot to answer for too. In-a-good-way. This trip, 1 year ago today is what started me off on this journey to making handmade shelving.
This post isn't all about colours. I'd like to share some memories of my Marrakech trip, to inspire you to go or go-back or simply to day-dream or reminisce.

Marrakech was a place like no other I have visited. There was an energy there I had never experienced. It was enthralling, busy,hot, but not peaceful.
There were no cars in the centre, so people walked, rode scooters, pushed wheelbarrows or used Donkeys. It was like stepping back in time a bit.

Around every corner or through every doorway was something fantastic to see. No space was wasted.

The streets were narrow and often not very tall. I made my husband pose as a frame of reference. He had to duck many times.

Often coming out of streets you would walk into the unexpected, like a cart full of chickens.

Everything was seemingly done by hand. This guy was more than happy for me to take a picture as he carefully made these patterns by hand.
Very few machines were evident.

Those inspirational colours and patterns were everywhere. This is called 'zellige'.

The markets spilled out onto the streets in every direction. Plus some of the displays were amazing.

There was the occasional posh respite area. Here I am having a break in one with extremely comfy cushions, great views and a breeze, as most of the bars were on the roof.

The city is dominated by the Koutoubia mosque. It sounds the call to prayer over the whole city and is much taller than anything else.

Do you recognise this turquoise? It's very similar to my handmade shelving range of colours.

Oh that blue again. I love it!

One of the best bits was meeting all the master craftsman. This chap made these huge padlocks with, by the looks of it, just a metal file in a tiny shop.

This guy carved wood on the street with a few chisels and this fancy woodturning device he operated with his feet.
All the craftsmen were so happy to show you how they made things and to chat. It was an enjoyable shopping trip. And, it really worked on me, as I bought a lock from the smiley man above and a set of hand turned cedar kebab holders from the chap in the red trousers.

This was the site of one of the oldest universities in the world, the Medina Ben Youssef. The colours and zelige were amazing, and at last there was a peaceful place.
I didn't miss the lack of peace though. Living somewhere quite quiet and remote like I do, it was wonderful to get a sense of energy.

I bought some of that blue in pigment form. If only I really knew what to do with it!

More tradesmen, this one was very upset with me as I bought freshly squeezed orange juice from another stall, but he still wanted me to take his picture.

People just lived outside, they talked to their friends, they ate, they worked. That's the thing I dislike most about living in a cold place.
We don't have a proper street life.

And then I held a desert lizard. I'm sure it's not very kind, but I'm a bit of a wuss with creatures so I wanted to add this picture as it is me being brave.
Looking back I can see how I was inspired by colour and craftsmen and energy to do something different with my spare time. I also started to take myself out of my comfort zone and push myself to do new things and take the road less travelled. I realised I'd been coasting along on an easy life for too long.
If you are planning a trip to Marrakech here are my top tips to get the most out of your time there. We were only there 72 hours and yet I felt like we made the most of almost all of them.
1. Take a Tour
Book a private guide if you can afford it, we had Khalid Amor (you can read a great review about him here ) and spent our very first day with him. This was a great plan as it enabled us to ease into the hustle and bustle without getting lost and the street traders did not hassle us much as we were with a guide. He also gave us some useful advice about where to eat and not, and where to get money changed and all those useful bits you need at the beginning of a short break.
2. Have a Spa
Go for a hammam, this is a traditional Moroccan activity where you spend time in a steam room, have mud masks, and then are scrubbed with a mitt until it's almost painful - but afterwards your skin feels amazing and the whole experience is very relaxing. I went to this one, The Heritage Spa, as it was one of the few spa's offering male and female packages. It wasn't cheap but was worth every penny.
3. Pictures
Take lots of photographs, everywhere looks incredible and don't forget to peer around corners. Keep your camera out and not in a bag as lot's of weird and wonderful things will occur.
4. Weather
Maybe go at a slightly cooler time than early September as it was 40 degrees plus every day. I like the heat, and particularly like to have lots of stops for cold drinks, but if you just want to keep on the move, a slightly cooler time may suit you better.
5. Shopping
Look around the souks a lot before you buy anything as it will help you to get an idea of how much choice there is. Many stalls sell blankets, or carpets, or bags but actually there is a lot of difference, not all sell the exact same things.
6. Bartering/ Haggling
Haggle hard and I mean really hard. Start at a minimum of a quarter what they say ( or a tenth if you are braver than me) and pull wincing faces a lot. Be prepared to walk away. One blanket seller chased me for 100 metres to say I could have the last deal I offered. I did feel like I had probably been ripped off a little, even so, but then thought about how much I would have to spend to buy an imported item and got over that feeling.
7. Drinking
Go to lots of rooftop bars - the views are great and it's a respite from the busyness of the streets. Plus they tend to be breezier and more likely to sell alcohol too.
8. Small Coins
Save your little coins for beggars, it's heartbreaking to see them and you know there is no welfare state as such. Although the country is Muslim and one of the key points of Islam is around giving to charity so maybe it's not as bad as I think. Anyhow giving them little bits of money made me feel better.
Don't just read trip advisor on the restuarants - trust your gut feelings. We found some wonderful gems just by going and trying small items and then ordering more if we liked what we were given. We did try a few Trip Advisor recommended places and to me they were a little pretentious, so I preferred to judge by looking.
10. Directions
As even the main streets in the city are around 6 feet wide and the side streets even smaller with tunnels and 90 degree turns as normal, you have to expect to get lost. My ingenious system was to take pictures of the way home so we could navigate back to our place of residence. We stayed a a lovely, affordable and central Dar (Pamella) and the location was so perfect. During the day we could pop back to drop shopping off as it was so close to everywhere.
11. Be wary
Don't let male guides show you the way anywhere - they want paying and won't easily take no for an answer or often don't like how much you want to pay them which can be stressful. Most of the time we just kept going until we saw something, but the one time we got really lost, we asked women for help in the end.
12. What to wear
I was concerned about what to wear in the heat as I didn't want to offend. Most tips suggested long sleeve shirts and light weight trousers (which is the kind of clothes I wear in Winter!) but it turned out that I didn't need to worry about dressing modestly - hot pants and crop tops are inappropriate but vests and shorts below the knee were absoloutely fine.  
13. Souvenirs
Don't feel a cliché for buying Morroccan lanterns or carpets or anything. I bought both because I loved them and after living with them in my house for almost a year I still love them more than ever. If anything I want to go back and buy more.
14. Be streetwise
Don't walk in the middle of the street - I nearly got hit in the head by a guy on a scoter with 5 mattresses stacked diagonally behind him. It was quite funny how much traffic there was and how you had to be so careful. For this reason I would not recommend taking small children or any aged children who aren't great at spatial awareness.
Oh writing this makes me want to be going back tomorrow! I loved Marrakech.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Some close ups of my colour wall of shelving

I posted about my living room and the way it has evolved over a couple of years last week. I then spoke to a friend who had read my post and she asked why I hadn't shown any close ups of my colour shelving.

I couldn't answer.

Sometimes when you live with something it becomes obvious and you forget to explain. I think that's it. Anyway when I got up eventually dragged myself out of bed on Sunday, the sun was shining in my front room so I got the camera out and took a few snaps.

The bookcases are colour co-ordinated because; One: I love the way they look and will always love it regardless of it being a trend that has had it's day and Two: I have a visual memory so often remember what something looks like rather than it's name. That works right up until I get to season DVD's where there may be 8 box sets of House or The West Wing and each is a different colour (and I can't remember which colour is season one or six usually).

The colour comes from books and DVD's and CD's and I have added ornaments that are travel mementoes, or gifts, or charity shop finds, or just little things that make me smile. I think of the colour wall as an evolving collection really.

Here in my red section is a sculpture I bought in Prague about 10 years ago, a small and very cheap replica Eiffel tower picked up in Paris and a hand carved wooden camel which was gifted to me by a very talented woodcarver in Marrakech. 

Here is one of my boxes in use. As they were prototypes I knew I wouldn't sell these ones but I wanted to use them somewhere, and I like to see them often. The little Russian Doll was bought in Poland, when I was interrailing (I spent 5 weeks travelling around Europe on a train when I was 21 with a friend, a rucksack and no plans) and could only bring back very small keepsakes.

Here we have a mix of a blue glass hanging bauble from a teeny shop in Egypt, Madonna Sculpture from Ireland, Handmade glass work from 5 miles down the road and exuberant-wizard-oil-burner (obvs) from a vintage market I used to organise. The little purple box is a mini music box which plays the Phantom of the Opera.

Another box and an example of the House & West Wing dilemma mentioned above.

Tassels from Morrocco, cross from a church in Bury St Edmunds I think. By the way most of these items were fairly cheap, a few pounds here and there usually. The tassels were only £1. I don't think you need to always spend lots to have lovely things around you. I also think you don't need to plan it. If you just buy what you love, and only what you love, it will all work together somehow.

The Birdcage is a kit from a steam punk market which I put together myself, sat on top of a bespoke jigsaw which was a gift from a friend, another sculpture with wings (I do like wings!) this time from Egypt, and the candle was a gift

Homer here overseeing the dreams book and other completely un-linked books and a small angel from a charity shop. Did I mention I like things with wings.

Another box, with books and lamp inside. This is just a few of my colllection of well loved, well read, vintage Agatha Christie books. In front of the box, just seen, is a small replica of the Amphitheatre in Pula, Croatia, a collection of three miniature glass bottles and a box containing a Whitby Glass Lucky Duck.

Here is a Tord Boontje vase which I adore, a ceramic white bear (as my husband and I had our first date in a pub called The White Bear) and a skull from Alton Towers.

This is just a random scary ghost plastic item but it fits really well here, where some of the books are slightly smaller than the others. Is it a Scooby doo baddie?


Flower paperweight and you can just see another box underneath. I love the way this pink, Eton Mess by Fired Earth looks so different from day to night.

Here is a small elephant collection with pieces from Egypt and a car boot sale. I had a pretty decent amount of luggage in Egypt! I think as I love travel souvenirs so much, it's now worth paying for luggage so I can bring amazing things back.

Here are just a few CD's and a small picture. These last shelves are pretty awkward to get things to stay on so I changed it up by keeping them fairly empty.
All the shelves have been painted white unless they came like that originally, like the Billy bookcases. I originally wanted to have something built in but I like the higgledy-piggledy look and some of the bookcases are melamine from the 1970's so it would be a shame to get rid of it really.
I need room to grow too as I am always finding new books and I do keep the ones I intend to re-read, the books that are the most brilliant or moving or which help me to grow, which is a lot. Husband just keeps them all so the bookshelves will continue to expand over time.
As I have said before I am a maximalist and love to be surrounded by lovely things that bring back memories of great stories and my own personal adventures. Every time I look at these shelves I smile.