She gilds the rubble of her life so it sparkles

Emily Rowan. BA Photography student and embroidery enthusiast

Blog and personal conundrums

Give the time some time

I am on a train, en-route to Edinburgh and then Glasgow. Scotland will be good for me, I need some time out of my London head space. There are too many questions in my head that are going to remain unanswered, and I need to keep my mind distracted. 

Other than continuously getting hung up on the wrong things, I am feeling okay. In terms of me getting back to me, I coped well over the first few days because I was creating and doing things that made me feel good. Although I was mostly by myself in the darkroom this week (my D-room buddy James is away), I kept myself busy at uni, getting on with making final prints for my exhibition next week and prepping for the looming May deadlines. My uni was shut on Friday because of Good Friday and I found myself with not a lot to do. I woke up on Tuesday morning with a bad cold so slept in, but didn’t have any plans until the evening so time on my hands and being alone in the house proved to be a lethal combination. I’d allowed my mood to plummet to the point where I wasn’t sure why I was sad anymore.

By the time I met my best bud Alyssa at 6pm I wasn’t in the mood for anything. She had been drinking since 3pm and her usual care-free, ray of sunshine personality was magnified, and just not what I needed at that moment in time. I’m sure I was miserable company the whole night.

I felt so down on the way home that I couldn’t stop a tear or two on the tube as I approached my station, and the same again last night on the way back from work. I’m finding myself so tired by the end of each day, not just physically but emotionally to. Yesterday at work was hard. I did a twelve hour shift which knackered me out anyway but seeing A was confusing. We’d had a difficult conversation on whatsapp the night before, and then he was different again when I saw him at work. We all have our ways of dealing, I know, I just need to wait it out and keep going until certain things don’t affect me as easily anymore. Give the time some time, as A would say.

This trip will be good for me. A couple of days somewhere else will be enough to freshen my perspective, lift my mood and give me strength, I am sure of it. I am very good at sitting by myself and getting stuck in my head and convincing myself this is what I need. It is not. I need to keep going and keep moving, and try to stop myself from getting stuck.

I am enjoying rare bliss tonight - a very peaceful and quiet evening with the house to myself. My parents seldom go out but tonight they have and won’t be back until late and my sister is at her boyfriend’s. It is so nice to be able to come in from a tiring weekend at work and just sit quietly on the sofa, curled up with a pillow watching some (not so) quality TV. I took an undisturbed nap on the sofa. I am now sitting at my dining room table while listening to The Best of Jesus and Mary Chain and after I finish writing this I’m going to settle back on the sofa with my pillow to watch a film before going to bed.

This is nice, how evenings are supposed to be. Relaxed and carefree. When my parents are here I always feel like I should be doing something and using my time wisely. Through no hinting or persuasion by them, I just feel smothered very quickly and find it hard to relax when they’re around and I guess if you can’t relax you may as well use your time productively. Tonight all I feel is I should be doing is enjoying this opportunity to be lady of the (small, semi-detached and on a busy, main road) manor while I can.

I am leaning more and more towards looking for somewhere to live by myself when I start uni in September. I assumed a place to myself would be way out of my price range but after looking online at some studios and small flats my ideal doesn’t seem completely out of the question. The place I end up with may be a little small but after twenty one years with rarely a moment to myself this is a compromise I’m definitely willing to consider. More than foods or alcohol or the sudden encompassing urge to listen to a specific band or song, time and space to myself is the vice I most often find myself craving.

I have started my new job in London, a transfer from one posh English supermarket to another and so far so good. The store is always busy, right next to Gloucester Road tube (so never a far walk) and the people are a different type but still friendly and welcoming. I was offered the role of Team Leader last year at my Bishops Stortford store until the current one decided she would stay but at my new Gloucester Road I will have to work my way up again. I’m very much used to knowing what’s going on and being the one in control and though I’m proud of how quickly I’ve adapted to a new routine and way of working, the hardest adjustment I’m having to make is not always being entirely sure of myself. Even though I’m doing the same job in the same company, inevitably each store does things slightly differently and for a while I’ll be second guessing and double checking until I find my place in their team. Which is expected and fine but has been tricky and frustrating for me at times over the three shifts I’ve completed there so far.

It feels good though to be pushed out of my comfort zone, kicked out of my safe Bishops Stortford nest and being conditioned to fly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the small town girl, as a lot of girls in my town seem to be and adults who don’t know me assume I am, but I know Stortford like the back of my hand and have had the same job for five years. Apart from becoming a manager and renting a flat in Stortford, which is definitely not something I want to do, I have taken my life here as far as it can go and at 21 it’s about time I shook things up, starting following something real and left my parents house in the hope of never turning back.

I am finally returning to Scotland tomorrow and I will be staying until Thursday. My trip coincides with the Glasgow leg of the comeback Bloc Party gigs and one of the bands I’m currently most excited about, The Chapman Family, are also playing. Not counting T in the Park last July it has been fourteen months since I was last in Glasgow and the closer it gets the more excited I am to catch up with these old friends of mine in their glorious city and to having time away from my house and Bishops Stortford.

Seeing two quality live bands just comes as a bonus really.

Life Things

It’s always good to write lists. I make lists all the time. Lists of things I need to do get done in the week, shoppings lists, CDs I need to buy. A past, present and future gig list (this takes time, it’s complex stuff). I might be heavily influenced by my current (and quite probably new favourite) read, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, but a lot has happened in the last week, so here is a list of what has.

  • Rather excitingly, pretty soon I’m going to start interviewing bands and live reviewing for The Whiteboard Project. I get to meet all kinds of cool bands, carry out an interview with a difference by getting them to answer my questions through words and pictures on whiteboards, go to gigs for free and then ask fans for their thoughts and feelings afterwards. It’s a cool idea I think, and I’m really looking forward to getting involved.
  • As I’m moving to London for uni in September, I’ve also been trying to transfer my job to a store in the city. On Saturday I sent off applications to five stores and have already heard back and been invited for interviews at two of them. Gloucester Road, the one that seems particularly keen happens to be not only really close to where Made in Chelsea is filmed (of obvious importance, that one), but it’s in a prime location near my uni. I could potentially be starting a new job in London in two weeks time. I have an interview there next Wednesday, but by the sounds of things as long as me and the manager get on well I think I’ve pretty much got it. They only want to contract me eleven hours but really I’m looking for at least thirty for the next three months and then twenty or so after my course starts. To make the commute to London worth my while for the next three months I need enough hours to actually make some money, rather than spending it all on train fares, but I’m hoping we can talk about that next Wednesday.
  • I might be going to a festival in Spain, Bilbao BBK Live! Latitude is the same weekend and I already have a ticket for that (as do a few of my friends) so if this Spain trip goes ahead I’ll be really torn at which to choose. Latitude was my favourite festival last year and so far I’ve only been once. I’m really keen to go a second time to cement it officially as one of my favourites and the line-up is incredible for small indie and alternative bands. However, Bilbao is a festival in Spain, the line-up is insane (Radiohead, The Cure, Bloc Party, Maccabees, Mumford and Sons, Warpaint, Noah and the Whale and Glasvegas), the group of friends that are going are my Scottish lot who I don’t get to see nearly as much as I would like, plus we could do the festival and a few days in Paris and Bilbao for £300.

  • I won tickets to see The XX this Friday. Well a friend did, a friend I can’t even call a friend yet as we are yet to meet, and he very generously offered me and my gig buddy Josh his winning code to buy XX tickets in their ticket lottery as he can’t make the night he won tickets for, so Josh is bringing his girlfriend and I am bringing an excited Bethan. Comeback gigs are the best, it’s so satisfying being the first one in on the action, especially when it’s action like The XX. I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. I’ll be getting a sneak preview into the biggest band of this/next year (depending on the album release). I cannot wait.
  • I have a gazillion gigs planned for June, and then soon after festival season begins. 

So I have nothing to complain about at the moment really. My only slight worry is that if I’m offered a job at Gloucester Road I pretty much have to take it because I really needa job in London in September, but if I can’t get enough hours then I won’t be able to afford the gigs and festivals so I’ll pretty much have to slum it in a depression for the coming months as I watch my friends have all the fun in the fields and the mud. But I’m sure things won’t come to that. It’s all up for discussion next Wednesday. Wish me luck guys.

Oh yeah, and all things permitting, I think I’m gonna go ahead with the Coachella 2013 payment plan. Woohoo!

Last time I got off at Elephant & Castle tube it took me fifteen minutes to get out to the road on the other side cos of all the underground tunnels there

This time however, the way to the college is clearly sign posted so i’m half an hour early to my interview.

It’s the third and final one guys, the big one. The College of Communication was always my first choice but since my interview at UWL i’ve been thinking I might prefer it there instead.

It’s nice knowing I’ve already secured a place somewhere else I like as it takes the pressure off this one. Especially as I don’t have any photography workbooks to bring as i’ve never studied photography before, and I can’t remember last time I wrote an essay let alone a marked one, or where i’d find an old copy for that matter! I’m missing two of the three things they asked me to bring so maybe I haven’t made the BEST start.

With a bit of wit and charm though, who knows ;)

The canteen i’m sitting in is nice and the college seems like a cool place to be. I really like that it’s a uni that offers just art and media to.

Wish me luck!

The bloody bastards at UCAS track sent me an email this morning, ON MY 21ST BIRTHDAY

just as I’m awaiting a reply from West London, the uni I knew barely anything about before my interview last week but fell in love with while I was there. How cruel to send me such an email on my birthday! What if it was bad news…


I was channelling a live recording of one of my favourite songs, Lover of the Light by Mumford and Sons, for encouragement and happiness and memories of Reading Festival and I jumped around my living room when I found out.

BOO YA. Best present ever.

My Dad’s birthday is coming up and I’ve not picked out or even started looking for something to get him. I had an excellent plan but missed the fatal flaw that I won’t be able to pick it up until next Wednesday and his birthday is Sunday. 

He’s big on music my Dad, like me and he really loves a bit of noise and doom and gloom. As I handed over my Lana Del Rey CD to pay in Rough Trade on Monday and after asking when they’d next be getting in the current M83 album (I felt a little embarrassed if I’m honest, worried I was coming off like a band-wagon ‘hipster’ at the two artists I was expressing an interest in though knowing I shouldn’t be thinking like that. I try as much as I can these days not to judge and I know the staff in Rough Trade are all friendly and open-minded but it’s the knowledge of music they possess I think that I find intimidating - I want to be cool like you to!) I asked the guy probably five or so years younger than my Dad how good he was at making recommendations. He laughed a friendly laugh and replied “Well it depends what you want recommending!” I explained the situation, that my Dad’s so passionate about and hot on music that I’d really love to find him some bands he’d like but doesn’t know yet, but that it’s really difficult and I need some help.

I listed the bands he’s gotten really into in the last few years - A Place to Bury Strangers, Wooden Shjips, Moon Duo, Indian Jewellery and the guy replied “Oh yeah, I like Indian Jewellery. So it’s New Psych you’re after, come with me…from the sound of it he knows what he’s talking about, maybe something current would be easier to find…Hmm, The Heads released this in ‘96 but they went pretty under the radar. Or else these guys Gnod, this album is one of my favourites. There’s a few others, Sun Araw as well, but there’s not been a lot of psych released yet this year”.

In our brief conversation his knowledge of music astounded me. Friends ask me for my opinions and recommendations and I think I answer pretty well but I love coming in to Rough Trade or other record stores and being presented with such a vast array of genres and even more so, people who know loads about them. Intimidated might not be the right word…more admiration and the hope at some point someone might ask me about an obscure genre such as ‘New Psych’ and I’d know exactly what to say. I told the guy I’d check my Dad’s iTunes and come back next week when I pick up the M83 CD.

I have a great list of things I ideally would really like to get done in my days off this week. All my spare time recently is being spent researching and planning, researching and planning. This isn’t a complaint - it’s always good to know you’ve got good things coming up - there just seems to be so much of it and at the moment I feel severely under prepared. 

- I’ve finally purchased my first DSLR after a long while trying to find the best deal. I haven’t got round to any lenses yet though so I won’t be taking any pictures on it for a bit longer. I’m still at times clueless to what they do so I’ve been reading all sorts about the fine but important differences between each one to find the one that suits me best. I’m close, just shopping around now for the best deal, again. 

- Mine and Josh’s trip to California is little over a month and a half away and I’ve barely begun researching where I might like go before and after Coachella and if it’s easy, quick and/or affordable to visit San Francisco for a few days and where to stay and what to do in LA. I’m still trying to decide whether to lodge in someone’s house over the festival or suck it up and camp. I hear it gets to 30 degrees by 6am. The one thing I don’t like about festivals (probably the only and it’s always worth it of course) is how hard I find it to sleep. In my eyes we should be treating our trip as more of a holiday than a festival - I can’t get over the fact that after a day of travel, jet lag and three or so days travelling around California prior to Coachella, camping in 30 degree heat in a desert sounds nothing short of a nightmare. 

- I need to research the unis I’ve applied to. I have an interview for a uni next week that I know barely anything about. I need to research areas to live and look at flats. I need to think about whether to quit the job I’m getting so bored and frustrated with and find another one or whether to stick with my current safety net and get a transfer. I need to tell my parents.

- I’m trying to gather a crowd/anyone to come with me to Great Escape in Brighton in May. If I could stay with my friend Jamie again I’d go by myself no problem but he’s got third year uni exams at the time of the festival so it’s looking like I’ll have to stay in a hostel by myself. I’d make friends I’m sure but I don’t much fancy it on my own if I’m honest.

- Me and a few friends discussed last year working at Camp Bestival again in exchange for a free ticket and making the time away into a week and staying in Lulworth for a few days before hand. It’s so pretty and serene there, I need to look at B&Bs and get some others to come with us.

- Dreaming and wishing about quitting Waitrose and doing paid bar work at the festivals for as many weekends as possible over the Summer. Considering if it’s too big a risk to quit my job with no guarantee of finding another one when I really need one if I’m going to live in London afterwards. Weighing the risk with the good old “I might not get a chance to do this again”. Plus neither me or Bethan can drive so getting to all these festivals early for work might be tricky.

- In a months time I’ll be in Paris and I’m yet to begin researching things to do and places to go. Thinking more and more I might just wing it. It’s a weekend away and Paris after all - I’m sure we’ll enjoy it whatever we do.

- It’s my 21st in two weeks and I haven’t really thought about that either.

At least I’ve not got an excuse to be bored for the nest six months. And you could never say I’m unprepared or don’t think things through.

I’m meeting some friends at 5 but I’ve come into town early with my laptop to work on my Flickr account and things. Something I do quite often as you may know but today I have opted for Cafe Nero rather than Costa. 

Well, should’ve gone to bloody Costa, shouldn’t I? Cos you’ll never guess who’s sitting opposite me at the other side of the shop. My old art teachers from school. Oh god. Last time I saw them was around this time last year and I told them I was going to Norwich School of Art to study Illustration. They were surprised but pleased after I’d left school early and only completed half of my A levels.

I got up and moved round the corner. I’m not one to run away from things but I really don’t want to see them. I can imagine how the conversation would go: 
"Emily! It’s so great to see you! What are you up to now? How’s uni going?"
"No, I decided not to go in the end. I did loads of festivals last Summer though and I keep going to gigs and I’m getting quite into gig photography"
"Oh. Right. But are you painting at all? Still at Waitrose?"
"…Yes I am. Pays for all the gigs. I don’t do so much art anymore, no."
"Oh, right. Are you going to uni this year? We think that you should…"

And so on the conversation would go. They were just always very judgemental. Well, I say all. There was Miss Pissani, she had only been there a year when I left and it was her first teaching job. I generally liked her, and she had some cool ideas. Miss Tedman who is probably my favourite teacher I ever had. She got to know her students and offered constructive criticism, plus it also helped that she really liked me! One of the greatest things a teacher can offer a budding artist is confidence, and that’s what she did with me. She offered great input for my ideas but ultimately trusted me to work on my own because she knew I could do it. And I was able to talk to her about problems outside of school as well, something I rate very highly in a teacher.

And then there was Mrs Beales. I’m not sure anyone liked her. First off she was trained in History of Art and not Art and Design, the A level we were studying, and though Art History IS important we often felt we spent too much time on it our lesson time wasn’t put to best use. If she didn’t like an aspect of your work, she would tear the page from your sketchbook, making some people cry over the scrunched up page they’d spent hours working on. Bad enough, until later on she asks you about the loose page at the back. You tell her you didn’t like it so ripped it out and she says “Don’t EVER take work out of your book. It’s all about the process”. What the hell!?

So back then when I was having a god awful time she would tell me “Emily, you need to put this pain into your work. You’re upset and you’re angry, why can’t I see this in your work? The best art is born from pain.” Blah blah fuck off. Seriously not helpful.

Long story short, I don’t want to have to speak to her and suffer her dissaproving looks. I would happily have a great catch up with Miss Tedman, who is now probably Mrs because she was engaged when I left school three years ago. She was always good to talk to, about everything.

I always thought it would be cool to be an Art teacher. It’s one of the things I’d like to do in life at one point I think, maybe a bit later on. If I do ever get a degree that is. I had a love/hate relationship with school and I think a lot of the stuff you’re taught is a complete waste of time.

So here I am, putting the world to rights and thinking I know everything. But I’d like to be an Art teacher one day I think. Influence someone and guide them. To goad a talent out of someone and for them go on and excel in that area and be really successful. To know you’ve been a part of that is I think something to be really proud of.

Meanwhile, there’s a very cute baby I’ve been staring at for the past 10 minutes. Just realised though that behind the baby in the background is a guy and I think he thinks I was looking at him. Shit.

I have been at Bushstock Festival all day today

Had a great time! Saw some really excellent things. It’s these small festivals you know, your Bushstocks and your Great Escapes, that are going on all the time and people don’t even know about them. I wish I knew of more, I wouldn’t spend my time doing anything else!

From a norwegian beat-boxer in a church to standing one foot away from Fyfe Dangerfield doing the Guillemots performance, today I have seen some wonderful things. I was on my own, again, because my friend never showed but I had a great time nonetheless. It didn’t occur to me to bring my camera until I was already on the train which is a shame because I would’ve gotten some bloody good photos!

I’d really like to do a little account of all the bands I saw today so I might start on that now, if not tomorrow. Nothing too lengthy and I might queue them so as to not spam everyone’s dash’s. Needless to say, I love you Fyfe.

I am staying at my friend Rowena’s tonight as it didn’t end til gone half 11 so there was no way I was making the last train. She is at her end of year uni ball at the moment though, an evening I was invited to as I know all her friends now because of the nights I’ve spent here after gigs but unfortunately I do not have a “floor length ball gown” to hand so I am making good use of her laptop while she is gone.

I’ve got to be back in Stortford for work at half 9 in the morning, ugh. Rowena said she’d be back “between 3 and 5” and they always order pizza when they get home so I better get a few hours kip in now before the pizza arrives!