Tag Archives: the year in review

A look askance, 2014

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It is that time of year for reflections on the past twelve months. Everyone is doing it: the telly is drowning in restrospectives, and Facebook has foisted an unwanted review on us. Happily, with the latter it’s easy to ignore and fail to “share”, and with the former it is simple just to turn off the television set.

How was 2014 at Snaptophobic Towers? Busy sums it up. The model building thing just keeps on coming. I am actually feeling overwhelmed and beginning to think I can’t actually do all the work I’ve taken on at the moment! I still can’t actually believe just how busy I have become in the past two years. I really ought to have done it sooner! The past year has also seen me begin to support a manufacturer with a demonstration stand. I hope this will continue in the next year, time and funds permitting.

Of course, being occupied full time has meant photography has taken a seat a long way back down the bus. I managed one serious photographic trip this year, missing out on some seriously fine weather during the summer. The interest is still there, and I need to buck my ideas up next year. I have been considering some form of project for 2015, perhaps even a 365, but I have a few days to think about that yet. Don’t hold your breath!

Trials and tribulations with cars culminated in the disposal of my little red Fiat, and the acquisition of a black Škoda. I still miss the Fiat. Driving it was often a hoot, though long distances could become tiresome. Still, with a larger, more comfy car, we are tending to travel a little further. If circumstances had allowed, I suspect I would have kept the Seicento and repaired him for sunny days and local trips.

We are giving some thought to supporting local theatre groups. Best Beloved used to be heavily involved in amateur dramatics when he was younger, and the interest is still there. I don’t want to be involved with productions, but I wouldn’t mind seeing plays and musicals. We are going to keep an eye on what the local companies are getting up to.

The end of the year has seen health issues. I caught a cold at the end of November, which knocked me sideways for a couple of days. Having shared it with Best Beloved, as one does, we were just getting over it when a visit to a modelling show gave us another dose. The two got together and had a right old party. Here I sit, a month on, only just recovered. I do so hate being ill.

About a decade ago, I declared the world insane. I am firmly convinced I went to sleep one night in September 2001 and woke up in some bizarre parallel universe. As far as 2014 has been concerned, it’s been about as bat-shit crazy as it’s possible to be. I won’t go into details, but it does seem there are some particularly ugly chickens beginning to come home to roost. Where it will end is anyone’s guess. For my part, there are so many things I want to get angry about. The rise of foodbanks in a wealthy country, the NHS being sold off to the highest bidder, the blatant lies and untruths uttered from the mouths of politicians of all stripes, the rise of the right wing as if the 1930s never happened… I could go on, but I won’t. I have decided to try and pick my fights in 2015. I can’t get annoyed by everything all the time, after all. The biggest fight, perhaps, is to kick the Conservatives out of office before they destroy the NHS completely.

If I have one wish for 2015 it would be that all the religious fanatics, political loons and all that go along with them suddenly realised that we are all living on this tiny blue dot spinning in an eternal void and we ought to try and play nicely together before it’s too late.

Finally, let me wish you all the best for the new year. Here’s to 2015, and may your god bless all who sail in her!

2013, a year in review

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If you’re a regular follower of this blog, or if you know me from social media or forums, you’ll know the past four or five years have not been particularly wonderful here at Snaptophobic Towers.

Just to recap quickly, I’ve been more or less self-employed since 2001. I’ve had spells in and out of proper full-time and part-time work over that period, but it became increasingly obvious my chosen career path had pretty much come to a dead end in the last few years.

I was really stuck for ideas on how to revive my interest in the design world, and how to beef up my income. I mean, it’s bad enough that being self-employed means you never quite know when your next pay cheque will be, that you continually fret about which bill needs to be paid over another, but not even managing to get any decent work at all just added insult to injury—or should that be penury? There were also personal health issues, poorly Best Beloved, poorly pets, and generally being just stuck in the bottom of the deepest, darkest rut you can imagine, and it really began to wear a body down.

2013 began in much the same way, frankly. I was making half-hearted attempts to get my graphic design business going again. I tried to push some photographic services, as well as a scanning and digitising service, but nothing was gaining traction, not even a sniff of work.  I continued to try and find a “proper” job, but I wasn’t even getting rejection letters any more. I was pretty much at rock bottom, and about to head off to sign on for the dole. I was not looking forward to doing that. I’ve not “signed on” since 1981 and, frankly, it felt like giving in. While the small financial support would have been welcome, becoming dependent on the state after all these years may not have been ideal for my state of mind.

My only solace was building some model coaches for a friend, who suggested I should offer model-making services to a well-known (in model railway circles) kit manufacturer. I spoke to Laurie at Just Like The Real Thing. He said if anyone enquired, he’d pass them on. I thought little more of it. After all, life doesn’t instantly turn around, at least not from the bottom of my particular deep, dark rut.

But I was wrong. Suddenly, or so it seemed, I was in demand. Requests to quote for building JLTRT models came in. Somewhat amazingly, my quotes were being accepted. As I type, I’ve built a dozen railway coaches for clients, and got three more models on the shelf to build next year, and quotes in the pipeline for even more. I’d got a waiting list!

Colour me amazed. What a turnaround!

In 2013 I’ve managed to make a small business out of a hobby. I admit I may never make a fortune—I can only charge what the market will stand—but there is no price you can place on happiness. I—we—have become accustomed to living on modest means, and I see no reason to change that. Being happy and productive, with enough income to pay bills and have a little left over for the nice things in life, is good enough at the moment.

There is, of course, that nagging doubt at the back of my mind that I ought to plan for the future. I am aware that I may have yet to find a “proper” job in order to keep the bills under control. I will have to cross that bridge when I come to it. I am content at the moment to be able to pay my way in the world with money I’ve earned doing something I love.

What could be better?

At the year’s end

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This time of year seems to be one for reviewing the past twelve months, and looking into the twelve to come. I find myself sitting here on Christmas Day, feeling very much at a loose end for numerous reasons, so introspection comes easily to me. I’m not going to bother to look outside my own sphere, as there are plenty of outlets for that kind of depressing stuff as it is.

I do have family, but we rarely get together for Christmas these days. It’s not because we can’t, it’s more we don’t really need to added to the fact we’re scattered around the country. We see each other fairly regularly, and we chat on the phone, or by email, so we keep up with each other. Christmas is a time for family, but it’s also a time for children—since we don’t have any littluns in the immediate family, there’s no real joy in it: just a bunch of middle aged and elderly folk eating and drinking themselves into a stupor in front of some rubbish television programmes. Christmas 2012 is just me, Best Beloved, our moggies, and a friend who is popping in for lunch.

While, for me, 2012 didn’t turn out quite so badly as it might have, it could have been better. I’ve been job-hunting for ages, and I even managed to score a few interviews over the year—which was more positive. None of them ended with me scoring the job, though. At least I was getting interviews, but I was obviously too good for them. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. I think 2013 will see me applying for jobs that don’t require the skills I actually have. Such is life.

Between job-hunting I tried to keep my head above water without resorting to claiming benefits. The freelance world turned up one or two little jobs, which helped the bottom line, but it’s fair to say my heart really isn’t in it any more. It does rather look like I will throw in the towel in the new year, and sign on. I’ve not “signed on” since 1981. It feels like admitting defeat, which I suppose it is.

On the photographic side, I’ve had some fun. I got off my arse and organised a local photowalk group. Still in its infancy, I want to get things moving properly in the new year. I’m happy to say I’ve made some new friends through it, but I am finding the whole process a little daunting. I suppose I really want someone else to offer to help, so I had better ask them!

There still has not been any progress on the “model photography as a job” front. I had some images published earlier in the year, and I was commissioned by the ScaleSeven Group committee and newsletter editor to photograph a layout. It’s still a hard world to break into, for some reason, and it’s very annoying.

I’ve always wanted to go on a photography workshop, and the chance popped up today. Chris Marquardt, of the Tips From The Top Floor podcast, has organised two UK workshops for the late summer in 2013. I was keen to try and attend the one nearest me, in Farnborough, Hampshire. Sadly, the price is beyond my means. I am very unhappy about this, and it’s rather put the mockers on the rest of my day.

I have some more commissioned models to make, and I hope that I may be able to get a little more trade in that direction. It’s pitching things at the right prices, and getting my name out there. There are lots of others out there doing the same thing, so I need to find my niche. That is going to be hard.

So, 2012 was a bit hit and miss, and it rather looks like 2013 will start out the same. They say life is what you make it, so I guess I’d better really get myself organised and make something of my life, before it’s too late!

I don’t make resolutions, as such. As I tend to begin a new year with good intentions, only to be knocked down at almost every turn, there seems little point resolving to do something that ends up unattainable. I’d like to lose weight, I ought to get out on my bike more regularly, I should tidy the house and finish all those unfinished projects, but that’s as far as I will go with my good intentions. I know full well that most of those I have listed will probably never happen.

I’d better go and make myself sociable with our lunch guest, even though I am really not in the mood. A very merry Christmas and best wishes for the year to come from Snaptophobic Towers!

Here’s to the future now…

I recall hoping 2011 would improve on the utter disaster that was 2010. I have to admit to being disappointed. 2011 hasn’t really been much better. I wonder what 2012 might have in store for me.

Yes, it’s that time of the year when I sit down and review where I have been over the past 12 months, and where I want to go over the next.

Not having a regular income to speak of has rather curbed my wanderlust, so any photographic expeditions in 2011 have been closer to home. Apart from a couple of sallies beyond the confines of Kent—model railway exhibitions earlier in the year took me as far as Wigan and York, and a brief day trip to Shropshire a few weeks ago took in the RAF Museum at Cosford—I have had to be content with places that don’t cost a fortune to visit.

I made a couple of exploratory visits to places during the year. Dungeness and the Isle of Grain have been earmarked for further exploration. Faversham piqued my interest, and warrants a longer visit. Trips to flesh out my “Margins” photo project were relatively few, mainly incorporating the north shore of the River Medway, which has turned into one of my regular haunts. I suppose I have managed to get some good images during the year.

Gear-wise, selling off some other hobby items enabled me to upgrade my DSLR from the Canon EOS 400D to the 7D. I also added an ƒ/2.8 70–300mm lens, and a few accessories like a remote shutter release and memory cards. There’s not a lot more I want to add to my gear, although I have one more lens I would like to acquire in the ƒ/2.8 17–70mm-ish range, and more memory cards and so on. My MacBook Pro will celebrate its fifth birthday in summer 2012, and it is just beginning to show its age. Aperture 3 gives it cause to struggle, and sadly I cannot add any more RAM to the machine to help. I’m looking at options such as a new, faster, bigger internal hard drive in order to eke out a little more life from it.

Looking to 2012, what do I wish for? I am ignoring the real world here, just looking at my own life. There is only really one thing I want: a proper full-time job. I need a nice regular income again. Life out here in the freelance artworker world is totally dead. The lack of a job has meant I have had to let another fantastic opportunity sail by without my boarding it. Later in the summer 2012, I had hoped I would be going on a photographic safari to Svalbard. Circumstances in 2011 meant I simply couldn’t commit to buying the flight tickets. So much for adventure.

I would also like to push to try and get some freelance model railway photography gigs. I’ve already blogged about that, but in the new year I intend to keep pushing at that stuck door. I am fed up with letting life pass me by. 2012 ought to be the year when I make every effort to get life moving again. 

If I don’t blog before, I would like to wish you all a merry Christmas, and my best wishes for the new year.