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On the up and up:

I am very tempted to make a joke about the title being about the London tier system for COVID–19 lockdown (we are now in Tier 5, out of 3, lol), but I won’t. Though I suppose I’ve already done so, albeit it being a not so funny one.

There isn’t really anything very new going on (that I want to talk about anyway!), so I’m not sure why I am writing a post. In any case, here it is, here I am.

After a brief bout of all-consuming despair leading up to the holidays — an affair that I’ve always found rather stressful anyway — I am feeling quite okay, actually. Despite the new strain. Despite the weird, incessant feeling that maybe I have COVID–19 and am unwittingly passing it along to someone who will die from it in the supermarket. Despite the fact that my flatmate is moving away in the next six weeks or so.

Maybe it’s all the reality T.V.¹ I’ve been watching.

The new year was quiet, too, which it usually is, for me. Last year, I spent it at home (as in my house here, not Manila), learning how to knit. The year before that, I actually went to party, dozens of bodies pressed against each other, trying to catch a view of the paltry amount of fireworks London allows, all of us looking out a stretch of windows, drinks in our hands and hearts full of hope or something close to it.

3 out of 4 jumpers I finished knitting last year.

The first new year I spent here, I found a spot by the river with other Filipinos and after midnight, ate the amazing food someone’s visiting family prepared for the rest of us who were temporarily displaced. Parties and bodies touching and late night trains — what a concept!

Isn’t it funny how you probably also sort of flinched when you watched really old holiday movies over Christmas? Where they have parties and share drinks and hug and kiss each other?

It’s not been that long, and yet it has.

I’m actually usually pretty good with warding off homesickness. A couple of weeks towards the end of last year, it wasn’t so easy. Funny how that works. I did an interview with CNN Philippines Life on spending time away from home, along with other Filipinos outside the country, and at the time I think I’d recovered from that wound of sadness and loneliness that had emerged next to my heart. Or, maybe “recover” isn’t the right word. I’d felt it less, I guess. Still, some people said I looked sad. My mom has since reassured me that she likes me, lol.

It’s the fifth day of January, and I’m looking for places to move to. There have been a lot of hiccups, to be honest, but not quite the horror show I was expecting when I’d first tried to look for a place to live after my contract at student halls — a horrific experience for a 29-year-old living with babies — was up. It’s still a bit shit, to be honest. I don’t know. Everything is so up in the air.

I guess I just wanted to say hi. Nothing Spaces dot com is turning 12 in May. That’s insane. I think I’ve outgrown sharing everything all at once but there’s an attachment to this exercise, still. Maybe I’ll get back into it, shamelessly writing about things I think (though hopefully not) and crap I do. Maybe that’s something I’ll say again right before I leave. Who fucking knows anymore? I sure don’t.

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¹ I breezed through so much Survivor and now I’ve set my sights on whatever seasons of Below Deck I can find online. It’s not great, but I’m having fun.

SAMO, SAMO

Do you ever just find new ways to procrastinate? I am, by nature, quite a restless person, so I always find things to do instead of the stuff I need to do. I used to think it might be a case of self-sabotage, but I think that it’s really more of a simple matter of being dumb with time and brain matter.

It’s the middle of August, almost exactly, and it’s strange to think how much of the things I didn’t have that I lost to this, frankly, fucking stupid time. I know that there are worse things, and that I’m lucky enough to a) have some form of income going (even though most of it has been peso-based and hard to live on in the U.K.), b) be helped out by my family, who I obviously love and miss and adore and, it seems, won’t see for a while. It’s just endlessly frustrating to somehow be even further back from where you started, even though you have been working double time. NUTS.

But still, small mercies.

The only thing left to do for me is to keep doing what I’m doing. It seems wildly unfair, and I keep wishing for a do-over. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I’m done here yet, even though my self-imposed deadline of moving back is loooooooming. I’m technically allowed to stay here for a while on my visa, but the question is if I can afford to be here. It feels like this year has stolen so much from me, and it sucks when I’m left to my own devices and am sort of forced to think about this shitty time. And yet, I know that some people have it way, way worse. And I completely commiserate. And it makes me feel worse for feeling bad in the first place.

A few months ago, I whined (lol) to my dad about feeling like all my plans have been scrapped, my life upended — just a complete directionless journey on a boat without a rudder. Because he is a much better person than I am, he just said, “Lahat naman.” I knew that, but I needed to be reminded over and over again how much other people, how much all of us have lost to this untameable thing.

Anyway.

I hope you are all keeping safe. I am trying my best, in all the ways I can, even though sometimes it doesn’t seem like it’s enough.

I think I’d like to start writing again. Maybe it’ll help me process these feelings more. I keep thinking about things I am missing out on, but I remember that the world is in the same boat, and it feels like we are all sinking.

Knitting things: Alone Together Sweater

Before this month comes to a close and it goes by without another blog post, let me talk about the second sweater I’ve ever made, after Danish designer Lærke Bagger’s free pattern, the Alone Together Sweater. This was released in chunks over Instagram Stories, and is the kind of freeform pattern that really leaves so much room for lots of creative wiggle room. (I am thinking of knitting a bigger, fluffier one, and have casted on the back piece.)

I found the pattern in the comments section of a knitting group on Facebook that I joined, and it might be the best thing that happened to my knitting life, basically. Yes, all six months of it.

It didn’t take me very long to knit this up, though I am very bad at measuring things accurately, and also very bad at being patient. It ended up way more cropped than I generally like my sweaters to be. Lærke’s pattern is basically easy, breezy, and I think it echoes the attitude that you should sort of adopt while working on it. Originally conceived (or shared) as a way to use up your scrap yarn, the resulting pattern is a charming, knotty thing, full of misplaced and inspired colour combinations, and lots and lots of texture. It is so satisfying to knit up.

I’m making another one but it’s going to be fuzzy and quite plain. The best thing about the pattern is that it’s so simple structurally, and generally gives you free reign to mess up or make things up as you go along, with such a tiny margin for error. You’re basically in charge of how you want your jumper to look, and it’s up to you how long to make it, how big or small you want the cuffs and hem, what the neckline should be. Sleeves or no sleeves? That’s for you to decide!

Mine, for example, is extremely cropped, with a longer than usual hem, and! Something like a funnel neck. It’s really absurd-looking, but so much fun to wear.

It might be stupid of me to even be writing this; or just silly that I am only realising all of this now when it’s so obvious, but I think there’s always that one thing you work on — whatever the field or craft or industry — that becomes sort of your “Eureka!” moment and it was this sweater for me. It’s made me think of how to approach simple patterns I maybe would like to make.

Maybe.

But yes, such a great knitting adventure. One that I’d like to go on again. So many possibilities. My favourite time-waster for a while was going on Instagram and just looking at all the brilliant configurations everyone has come up with using the same pattern. #alonetogethersweater, if you’re curious.

Anyway, here’s something I did for Metro Manila Pride. It’s a short, possibly not super informative video (lol), but hopefully an explanation of what I love about knitting:

I’m meant to answer a couple of knitting questions on my Instagram. I’ll post something here, when those videos go up. Hopefully in the next couple of days. I really don’t know where my brain is at most of the time. I’m just this big ball of FEELING, and the FEELING is indiscernible, but always fucking there. It’s not ideal, but it’s not the worst, so I’ll 🤐

Hope everyone is okay, or as near-okay as they can be. It basically fucking sucks lately, but I hope you have small pockets of joy every once in a while.

Three Things No. 8

Today, we’re going to be doing this by some sort of theme, which is: stuff I have enjoyed or moved by that was made possible by women of colour. Amazing theme as any, I say. It’s still going to be a bit of a jumble of things… which is okay, I think. I contain multitudes, etc. etc.

By the way, I started writing this on the 5th of May. What even is time anymore?

01 Never Have I Ever

So, I have loved Mindy Kaling since always. Ever since she put Michael Scott in his place on that second episode of the first season of The Office, “Diversity Day.” I know not a lot of people will ~relate~ to her humour or find it ditzy and dumb, but underneath the veneer of actual ditzishness lies the intelligence of a truly funny woman. (I think so, anyway.)

I kind of fell off the wagon when it came to The Mindy Project, even though I did follow it through to the end. What was enthusiastic support became a lackluster endurance test made possible by attachments formed and reasonable investment. I thought I was over the Mindy brand of comedy, but I realised, through Never Have I Ever, that that wasn’t true. I probably just needed someone else’s story told through her voice.

For many people of colour, there is definitely that pressure to be someone that people look up to, to be someone who “represents” an entire fucking race in a more or less favourable light. That is, on some level, true for me, at least. I love that Devi, the main protagonist of Never Have I Ever is fucking ridiculous and often incredibly annoying the way that teenagers have some room to be. There are underlying issues of grief and insecurity and a rejection of a culture and heritage that is both intertwined forever with who you are and yet something that feels out of reach and endlessly foreign. Plus, it’s funny as fuck. I love that the main characters are varied and diverse: a truth of our reality that isn’t often played out effectively on screen without it becoming an issue that makes it seem like a move to have diversity, just for diversity’s sake. Here, it feels natural, real, honest.

I mainlined all of the episodes during my winding-down time, right before bed, when I knit and avoid thinking about my own life. This was a great distraction and I cannot wait for the next season, because that cliffhanger? Mindy.

02 Know My Name by Chanel Miller

I’ve had this on audio book ever since it came out, but I just haven’t had the heart to listen to it, knowing what ended up happening to Chanel Miller’s sexual assault case. If you’re unfamiliar with her name — and it is unsurprising, as it was only revealed with the publication of her memoir — then you might remember her rapist’s: ex-Stanford swimmer, Brock Turner.

I initially wondered how a book could possibly come out of such a short-lived ordeal. It wasn’t a history of sexual abuse. She wasn’t raped by someone she had already known or even met. But the book revealed the truth that sexual assault has many lingering aftereffects that echo through a person’s life. Such was the case with Chanel.

It may interest you to know that Chanel has been thriving after the whole ordeal, and while she certainly does not owe anyone any updates on her life or anything, it does make me happy to see some aspect of her on her Instagram (and in the numerous interviews she has given since releasing her book). Much of what she struggled with afterwards was the upending of her identity and her life, which is the case for many survivors of sexual assault. It’s terrifying and sad to have your trauma define who you are, and so to see this story turn out much better than many, in the end, where her life and her person are no longer defined by a violence that what was done to her by a complete stranger, is amazing.

We don’t deserve this gift from a person whom we can only reasonably expect to try and survive what has happened to her, and yet here we are. And what a generous, profound gift it is.

03 Qing Fibre

Look, we all know that I love yarn. But I didn’t know I could love yarn this much. I feel insane. I think I maybe am.

This jumper-in-the-making (in the header) is actually also from a pattern by Qing called the Mochi sweater. Look at this lush yarn. It’s called Melted Baby Suri and the colourways are Mussel (blue bits) and Salt Marsh (the body). How good is that?

I’ve since tried other bases, like the merino singles and super soft sock. Layla of Qing said she started the small yarn company whilst looking for funner colourways. And good for meeee. Because I love all the yarn I’ve received thus far. The colours, even the one with a more subtle shift in shade and hue, are still so beautiful. It’s even made me appreciate a little splash of neon in my knitting here and there.

Anyway, that’s it for me today. I anticipate to be back soon. I wasn’t really looking to write this, but figured I should get it out of the way for now. In case you care: life has been okay. There are pockets of frustration, in that the life I have expected to live this year is so different from what is happening, but such is the case for most of us. And I’m lucky and blessed, healthy and whole, and that is, I have to remember, more than enough.

Something someone needs to keep telling me

Around this time last year, I was still working in retail. It was still cold, and I could get away with some layers, which apparently is the only way I know how to dress.

I got angry with a customer (though, of course, only on the inside) because she took one look at me, decided I was too dim to understand what she was looking for, and spoke to me slowly, to make sure I grasped every single syllable present in the word “vest.” It makes me angry thinking about how many people presume to be smarter than people who don’t look like them, when they already have the advantage of knowing more than one language.

Around this time last year, I also went to a gallery in West London for an interview for a residency. I didn’t get it, got the sinking feeling in the middle of it that it wasn’t going super well, but getting that interview made me feel like I maybe could. These days — and I understand it’s perhaps due to the precarity of everything, though maybe because I’m just not cut out for stuffI feel lucky to even be called back for an interview. Sometimes, even a rejection email (especially when they’re well-written and nice) is better than the alternative: nothing at all.

I don’t know if I’ve officially shared where I used to work on here. I was a sales advisor at COS, at the Regent Street branch, which turned out to be the global flagship. I didn’t know this at the time, but I quickly found out soon after. Foot traffic every day was insane. The product pushed on the daily, even more so.

Because Regent Street is basically flocked by tourists who have money to burn and, presumably, no COS stores where they lived, it wasn’t a surprise to see hundreds of British pounds worth of clothes leave with just the one customer. I became a master at folding, working the stockroom, managing the cash register, sizing and spacing, and smiling at customers even though I couldn’t feel anything except how numb I felt. Retail is hard, laborious work. It’s doubly hard when you’re expected to be nice to everybody. It’s borderline unreasonable when you don’t even get the London Living Wage.

It triggered my anxiety disorder a lot. Whenever I was stationed at “A” which is the front of the room, I’d stand by the wide post towards the back of the section, mime the action of tidying up, just so I could have a few seconds to myself. I’ve willed myself not to cry in the middle of a shift. I’d explained my situation to several managers. Some were sympathetic and understood. Others gave less of a shit, and although at the time, it drove me to quit unceremoniously (both to take care of my mental health and to focus on my final dissertation), I do understand why they reacted the way they did. In the end, a job is a job is a job. Because everything is driven by sales and performance, you cut away what’s not working out. I get it, I know this. But, still, I left because I was told one thing by a “nice” manager and made to feel like shit by another one, for the same thing. I’m sorry about being vague, but it’s not a very interesting story.

Because I could only work two full shifts (16 hours/week) on my visa, I didn’t really bond as much with my co-workers. I’m still in touch with a few of them, and I genuinely would have liked to have hung out with some of them. But the way I left feels like there is no room for me to do so. It is what it is. It’s weird to see how much has changed since then.

I’m unemployed (self-employed?) right now, but trying. It’s hard to keep trying in the middle of a pandemic. But I can’t do nothing. The idea of nobody wanting you or seeing your value takes a little bit out of you every day, every rejection. It’s hard to explain to people why I feel like I need to be here, to prove something here, where I am nobody, when I have been working on and being fairly successful with my work and practice back home. It makes no logical sense, but I know that some people understand. Saying things like “I need to do this for me” is so lame and flimsy, but at this point, I feel like it’s the only true thing I know.

I do know that I want to keep making things. And that I hope these things make people happy or think about something meaningful in their lives or make them want to make things, too. It’s so discouraging to feel like the world I have to move in is a game, and I don’t know how to play it. Or that how I’ve been playing it is wrong and won’t lead to a win. I’m not too tired yet to try, though, and maybe that counts for something.