2014 in review…

JAN: A truly fresh start. I quit my job in Further Education after almost 10 years of stress, depression and break downs. Time to focus on myself and my family and what we want out of life. After a few years of our art and design business ticking over, it was time to make it work for us and make a living doing what I do best and love doing. It was time to think of others, as my wife’s mental health collapsed, for want of a better word, and I became her carer, as she had a complete mental breakdown and was bed-ridden for the first three months of the year…

I signed on for benefit for the first time in 20 years too, whilst I worked on getting our business off the ground and making sure we had some money coming in.  I also made my first attempt at running, taking our German Shepherd, Fizz to the park and running laps.

FEB: I restarted my Level 3 Counselling course, ironically at the college that used to employ me. I’d started studying counselling the year before, as it was a way to work on my assertiveness. Something clicked whilst doing that short, ten week course, and I realised I could work as a counsellor alongside my art and design work. The theory side of person-centred counselling clicked in straight away, and I was able to start learning the practical side through role play. Level 3 allowed us to study concepts and theory in greater depth, develop our practical skills in role play and trio sessions, and work towards Level 4 and qualifying as a counsellor.

The course also enabled me to address a lot of deep-rooted psychological issues that have held me back for years. The sense of friendship, support and understanding the group have given me is invaluable, and I’ve been proud to be a part of it and to see how we’ve all grown through the year.

MAR: Induction day for our business.  I went on a course to develop my business skills and to start writing a business plan to get funding for our art and design business. It was an interesting day, as I was surprised by the attitude of some folks on the course, given that we were all coming from unemployment into self-employment… People were talking about properties they owned that were generating income from renting them, widescreen TVs, latest iPhones, flash cars, all that kind of thing…  Is there a bigger problem with people on income being dishonest, or am I missing a trick?  We have struggled really badly with debt and affording to live this year, as we have been honest about our situation, and worked really hard on making our business a success.  My wife has been earning small amounts of money through on-line surveys, as she is still not well enough to work, and there are small amounts coming in through the business, but life is tough.

We are fortunate that we have a home, food and heat, but we also have debt that needs resolving. We could lose our house. This is not a whine or call for sympathy, just a statement of fact. Things will improve, as the business is working and will work even better in the New Year. Working for ourselves is the best decision we have ever made, and will work out in time.

APR: Laid a laminate floor, decorated our lounge and did lots of dog walking. Lovely sunny times…

MAY: Our business, Morgan Gleave Art and Design, officially commenced trading, and I came off benefit! We launched a brand new website, made fliers, went networking, attended events and courses, got in our village paper, and probably did lots more that I’ve forgotten!

My wife seemed to be getting much better from her breakdown in January, but was still unable to work, due to anxiety, stress and depression.  Small tasks at home were her limit, and she needed company in the evenings, which meant lots of time watching stuff on iPlayer, drawing and playing Scrabble.

A really busy, eventful month.

JUN: Started ‘Offline Experiment’ blog, as a reaction to too much time and attention given to social media. The intention was to talk about stuff I was doing ‘offline’, in the real world, actually physically interacting with other people and nature. Lots of dog walking and getting back on my road bike, determined to get fitter and be outside more.

Nature has always meant a lot to me. I love walking and riding in woodland, it’s a very special place for me, and where I feel at peace.

JUL: Our dog, Fizz, turned six.  We made her a birthday ‘cake’ out of dog food with candles on it and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. She liked the cake, not sure about the singing…

It was also my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday, for which we threw her a surprise party in Romford… She really didn’t have a clue, even after a year of planning! She called me on the morning of the party as I was returning from the hall to drop off party food! I said I wasn’t up to much, even though I was on a main road in Romford with heavy traffic… To cap it all, she managed to hospitalise herself with de-hydration, so my stay in Essex was a little longer than expected!

AUG: Trip to London for a ‘zine workshop at the BFI Southbank, which was brilliant fun and really enjoyable. It was a little odd being the oldest person in the group (even older than the workshop leader!), as the title of the workshop was ‘Teenage Kicks’, centred around films and TV we watched when we were teenagers. We all contributed a page of artwork to a zine which was produced at the BFI whilst we watched a very unusual film ‘Welcome to the Dollhouse’ (1995) that was really cool. A great day, even with a late drive back up to Leicestershire.

This trip also gave me an opportunity to see my lovely friends in Hampshire, who I stayed with the night before. I also caught my first ever fish, a 10lb 8oz Carp! This was also the point that I decided to get a mini-comic of my own, with my character, Patches McGinley, Feline Occult Investigator.  I did everything at home, including printing, which I’m really proud of.  I’ve been writing and drawing comics for as long as I can remember, but never self-published. I never felt my work was ‘worthy’. Stuff that! I’m now writing a MASSIVE comic about the history of hip hop, and published my second mini-comic at the end of November.

SEP: Birthday month! I turned 45 this year, and have reached the point in life where age doesn’t matter. Age is an irrelevant cage put on us by society, which can mean some people never achieve their true potential as they are too scared. Rubbish. You can do what you want when you want. I love comics, cartoons, toys, BMX, and have quite a childlike outlook on life. You have to enjoy life and remember that every day is amazing.

During this month I also made ambient harmonica music, submitted my illo for ‘Teenage Kicks 2’, which was properly printed in full colour. I rediscovered my love of jazz and funk, started meditating again and found my mojo!

OCT: Business orientated, with LOTS of networking and events. Pitched on a lot of work, (some of which we got!) cycled A LOT, went for regular walks with Fizz, made harmonica hip hop, performed my ukulele songs live, did a comics workshop and started running!

There were lots of changes for the business, and lots of promotion too, which is working really well for us. I also went on a social media for business course which was excellent, and really rewarding. Oh, and our fourth grandchild was born!

NOV: Renewed efforts with ‘Offline Experiment’, as it seems the right place to talk about life. I started Trail Running, as road running is not good for my knees. Found my sport! November also saw me take on the ‘mini-comic challenge’, which was to draw at least 12 pages of comics by the end of the month. I easily managed this, and now have copies of my Carl Rogers mini-comic printed out and flying around the world!

It was a difficult month, as my wife had a very bad relapse of depression, and I had to take her to a ‘crisis team’ who specialise in psychiatric diagnosis and care. Different medication and counselling are working well now, and life is much easier.

There’s been lots of illo and design work coming in, and lots of travelling. London, Hampshire and Essex were visited before the end of the year. I went to the British Museum for the first time ever and travelled first class!

DEC: I drove so many miles in this last month, I thought I’d wear the car tyres out in record time! A full day of networking in London, including an hour of speed networking at the end… I was shattered, but proud. Essex and back twice, Hampshire, and all around Leicestershire, a nice mix of business and pleasure. And here we are at the end of the year… What a doozy!

Thanks for reading! See you in 2015!

PS: If you would to see or hear any of the projects I created this year, please get in touch!

hip hop harmonica
Hip Hop Harmonicas!
Patches mini-comic
Patches McGinley mini-comic
harmonica rig
Harmonica looping set-up
Carl Rogers’ mini-comic 
Our lovely German Shepherd!
Our lovely German Shepherd!
Banger Racing!
View from the top of the trail
View from the top of the trail

Almost the end of the year…

Hello offliners… Almost ready for Christmas? Done all your shopping? Got all of your food?

We’ve been visiting family, decorating the tree, making presents… and visiting the Doctor. (Not Doctor Who, sadly…)  I had a check-up with the GP yesterday about my knees, and the best route forwards, as I am really itching to get out into nature and RUN! I have running withdrawal syndrome… My GP has suggested similar actions to my friends and colleagues, mainly to do muscle and strength building exercises, stop if my knees hurt, take supplements and get some new shoes.

I’ve been walking our beloved German Shepherd, Fizz, every day and have generally been as active as joints allow.  It has given me more time to draw, write, play music and make animation, oh, and spend time with my lovely wife!

So, have a lovely festive season… eat, drink and be merry, then get out there on Boxing Day and run it all off!

New knees please!

I’ve not run at all this week, due to a lot of pain in my right knee. Even with a support bandage and a gentler pace, it still hurts – most of the time…

I’m not sure how much this has to do with it, but when I was 19, I slammed really badly on my skateboard. (What is it about ‘extreme’ sports and joint injuries?) I dropped about 10 feet straight down onto my knees and it bloody hurt. I’ve still skated and ridden bikes since, but it’s running that really caused me pain. Impact, I guess.

I chose to run on mud and grass as I knew it would be better for my joints, and I already had the shoes for it.  t’s frustrating as I managed to build up my pace and distance last week, and was really proud of myself. Plus, I’m running because I really enjoy it, which has caught me slightly by surprise. I’ve been recommended a slower pace (I’m not that fast anyway, being a newbie…) and new shoes (I wish… maybe Santa’s feeling kind?), as my current ones are about out…

Any tips and hints on recovery and strength building would be much appreciated, as I really don’t want to stop trail running now I’m hooked. And I want to race next year…

Busy weekend…

Evening offliners… It’s been a busy but lovely weekend this week, hope your’s has been good too.

Saturday morning was spent with my sister at North Evington Children’s Centre, taking part in one of their fab awareness days. There were smoothies being made, keep fit sessions, face painting, arts and crafts and loads more. My sister was hiding in the trees, making stars, mobiles and more from fallen branches, twigs, string, tinsel, and lots more… Me? I was making badges indoors in the warm!

I seriously lost count of now many badges I made… I must have made well over 100, and had to turn folks away, as I ran out of parts to make any more!  At one point, I was just cranking out badges non-stop for an hour. It was crazy! It was really good fun though, as most of the badges were being created by kids between 2 and 11, and seeing their faces after their art was turned into a badge they could wear was a lovely reward for all the work! The time just flew by!

That afternoon was our granddaughter’s 3rd birthday get together, a wonderful afternoon spent with family, with lots of cake, party food and balloons. We were stuffed and tired out by home time! I spent a nice evening with a few cold beers and drawing hip hop legends of the 90s… nice!

Today (Sunday) was a proud day, as our eldest grandson was having his latest film shown, along with his fellow performing arts friends’ films too.  Our grandson has been going to a performing arts class on Saturdays for 4 years now, and appeared on a West End (London) stage last Summer. He’s a natural performer, with serious charisma and talent. Sure, we’re biased, but he seems so comfortable on stage and screen… We really hope he does something with his talent when he gets older (he’s almost 11…), as he’s so gifted. The range of talent and ideas we saw from the ‘kids’ at the screening was fantastic. We’ve been to all of his screenings and performances, and seeing how the groups have grown and matured over the years is incredible. The icing on the cake was seeing everyone walk down the read carpet in their finery… so cool.

So… with all this activity, has there been time for running you ask?  Yup. I’ve been quite concerned about running over the last few days, as I tweaked my knee pretty badly on Wednesday’s circuits. I’ve been able to get my distance and pace up this week, which I’m really proud of, even managing a sprint finish to my laps on Friday. But my knee’s been quite painful since Wednesday.

I slammed really badly on my knees when I was a 19 year old skater, I went one way, the board went the other… My knees have never been the same since. Pushing through for extra distance and speed has clearly hurt my knee joints, even with running on soft mud and grass. When I put in laps on Friday, the pain eased with each circuit, as the joints were warming up, and I felt lots better.  It’s been quite stiff and achy since.

I wrapped my knee with a sports support bandage before today’s run, and it felt much better. (There’s a dull ache now, but not too bad.) I also took our German Shepherd, Fizz along for the run too, which is always fun. (She’s snoozing in her basket now!) We took my route up through the canal fields and up the wooded hills, which was quite magical in the fading sunlight. Not quite dark enough for torches, but enough to keep you on your toes. I got a good run, as did Fizz, and the bandage seems to have done the trick. I’m concerned, as I’m really enjoying running now.  I mean, I couldn’t wait to get home today to get out into the open air and run, even worrying about how my knee feels. It’d be a shame if I had to stop now I’m hitting my stride…

Joss StarBadge making kit Badge making aftermath 2 Joss Mobile Woodland materials

Muddy bangers

Nice weekend with a change of scenery… Down in Hampshire with very old, dear friends and their lovely kids.  There’s been plenty of activity, even some running!

I have an annual pilgrimage down to Hampshire for the Unlimited National Banger UK Open at Ringwood, which for the uninitiated, means taking beaten up old wrecks of cars around an oval circuit as fast as possible and crashing into the other cars on purpose. We’ve been going since 2001… It’s a grand tradition, and I love spending the weekend with some of favourite people on the planet.

Friday afternoon saw me and my mate Rolf out at the lakes, trying to catch Carp and stay warm!  Sadly, the carp weren’t in the mood for biting, but we could definitely see they were out there. It’s always good to spend time with Rolf, as he’s one of my oldest friends and a lovely bloke.  Even with it peeing down at one point, it was a nice afternoon, just being out by the water, chatting and watching the wildlife. Next time carp, we’ll get you…

Saturday was Bangers, apart from the fact that Georgie (Rolf’s wife) broke a tooth the previous evening, and had to go to the emergency dentist before joining us at the track… she was only six hours late in arriving at the track!  Still, we had a great day, even with two poorly four year olds, spending the afternoon checking out the cars, drinking coffee and pigging out on greasy burgers and cakes… I have run them off, honest!  This year’s meet was more racing than banging, even the Demolition Derby, where you’re supposed to annihilate the others was, shall we say, lacking in contact…  But it’s always a great day, complete mayhem, bad food, smoke, crashes and mud.

I got a really good run in this morning in Farnborough park (which was full of dogs!), which given the lack of laps on Friday, was much needed.  There is a good mix of mud, roots, leaves and fallen branches, making longer circuits great fun. Considering I hadn’t run since Wednesday (laps), I made good time of two circuits around the park.  It’s a nice mix, as it runs uphill into light woodland, then back down through leaves and bushes.  Very glad to have got my longer run in after a fun weekend with good friends.  Now, where’s my roast dinner…

farnborough trees