March was filled with resin. The end of February marked the end of 12 months I spent training, studying and working. I had 3 weeks off before my next job started in a different city. I could finally rest; sleep without setting an alarm, spend some time home, watch Gilmore Girls and Rupaul’s Drag Race, see friends. I felt slow and warm and nice. But something happens when I feel okay. I notice myself gradually organising my whole self and life around the aim of keeping everything as it is. Preserving. It’s like resin is emanating from me – the sticky stuff plants secrete. I am reading ‘plants secrete resin for its protective benefits,’ which sounds about right. When things are good I realise I inadvertently slip into a mode of functioning where I try to preserve everything as it is, so that it doesn’t move, decay, or change. I clean things, order them, protect them and feel resistance to actually use my belongings. Not wearing the nice clothes, as they might get ruined; I’ll keep them safely stored in drawers. Not using the new pretty notebook, for a fear of tarnishing it with messy writing. Not painting my nails because the paint will chip off. Resin starts to fill my mind and it slowly flows outward through my actions and behaviour, encapsulating physical objects in my environment. Resin keeps things fresh and beautiful. They cannot move therefore they cannot change therefore they cannot decay. On the flip side though, they cannot breathe therefore they suffocate therefore they cannot live. Stiffen, harden and break. An image (a warning?) of covering sofas with plastic and never actually sitting on the material floats in front of my eyes, although thankfully I’ve never gone that far yet.
A by-product of this state is that it makes movement and change seem quite frightening. I was quite content and quite stuck in my resinous state, when I was reminded that the cure is often found in fear itself. The moving day came and it made me remember that ‘unpredictable’ doesn’t necessarily equal ‘horrible’ or ‘disastrous’ – some things can be unpredictably amazing. Have you ever experienced a truly exciting, joyful move? And I don’t mean like a ‘tolerable’ one. During the 10 years of living in London I moved 8 (EIGHT) times. All of these moves were what they were; carrying things out of a house, exchanging polite chitchat with the person that drives the van, carrying things into a new place. But this time, I got to experience the 4 hour van drive from the south of London to Sheffield with none other than Dasa Raimanova and her beautiful dog. Dasa is an infinitely interesting, funny, kind and basically all-around awesome person. She makes documentary films that revolve around socio-political topics, often featuring strong women; I really recommend having a look at POLYLAND. I have never experienced the conversation in a moving van to map out territories like art, surviving as an artist, documentary filmmaking, mental health, how politics is woven into all areas of our lives, dogs, relationships and activism. And so I was catapulted from my resinous existence into unknown moving amazingness.
Once in Sheffield, I spent 4 entire days cleaning the new house. And unpacking. And organising. My entire daily routine was gone. I thought I better put my energy into all that needed to be done instead of into the struggle with not being able to do all my daily rituals that usually help me feel secure. At some point I decided to take photographs of the process in all its unstable imperfection to remind myself of the beauty and possibility of those days when everything was moving.
And also to remember that they weren’t as scary as I anticipated.
When I went to bed the first night, I was considering that I don’t want to think of moving into this house as an invasion. The house has to accept my presence just as much as I have to accept its. I was listening to the strange new sounds of this new environment imagining it’s doing its best to get used to me.
What is Sheffield like? Here’s what I found so far:
HILLS. I thought I knew hills; I had to think again. It became very clear VERY quickly that my single speed bike will not cope in the slightest, so I got a bike with some gears. I thought that using gears will make cycling easy. Well fuck me running, the hills are brutal. Even with gears. Sweat is me, but I love it. Speaking of bikes, you can find these yellow ones all around the city in random locations. They belong to a dockless bike scheme and you can use them for a small fee using an app, and then leave them wherever.
The best local shop is called Ozmen and it has so many different kinds of fruit and veg that I couldn’t name half of them. Plus 3 different kinds of tofu, various meats, fish, millions of Asian and Middle Eastern ingredients and spices, and all of it at a cheap price.
Trees are everywhere; I love the in-your-face nature of nature here. I feel nicely exposed to the elements; sun, fog and rain alternate in quick succession and are a constant reminder of the Peak District bordering the edges of the city. What I find really incredible is how you can walk around what looks like an industrial area with massive buildings and warehouses all around, and suddenly you notice a lovely small cafe or a bar. These nice little independent establishments seem to occupy lots of random repurposed spaces. The people I meet are more than willing to have a chat and everyone thanks the bus driver when they’re getting off the bus. It could be the honeymoon period, it could be the fresh air, but I have to say; Sheffield, I’m in love.