A typical scene in the Parkin-Docker household. Watching Grand Designs in bed accompanied by the soundtrack of a snoring Staffy.
Last weekend Thom and I took Duchess for a walk around the madness that is Columbia Road on Sunday morning. I’ve never been there in the throes of Christmas before (even though we’ve lived in the neighbourhood for nearly four years). Sprigs of mistletoe,
holy holly wreaths, clementines, and huge stacks of fir trees. Suddenly I’m feeling Christmassy after all.
“I was so engrossed in the book that I read until I realised night had fallen around me. It occurred to me that it had been a long time since I’d allowed myself to do that. I thought about my life as a digital immigrant – I will never be from the place I inhabit, but my children are. What do I want to teach them about where I come from? I think it is yearned for and portrayed in the new music I love. That’s the reason I love it: it depicts and imitates the beauty of solitude. You might think I’m projecting; maybe I am. I do spend a lot of time daydreaming. I learned how when I was little.”
Lauren Laverne – Born before 1985? Then you’re a digital immigrant
It’s about high time I properly introduced you to the new fuzzy love of my life, Duchess. Those of you who know me well, will be aware that my one singular and consistent desire in life has been to get a dog. Even as a precocious 6-year-old, I was asking my parents for an entire farm, in the hopes that they’d downgrade and just get me a pup. No dice. A childhood of turtles, kittens, fish, bunnies, mice, budgies and axolotls followed (all very much adored). But there still was no dog.
When I was a little bit older I was lucky enough to date a guy who had a fantastic dog, Lucy, with guest appearances by Hugo the Brussels Griffon, and got to know a few other canines owned by friends (including my nephew #instahank, who is also a Griffon). Things just never really lined up for me…
Until this past Christmas, when Thom and I asked our lovely landlords if we could get a pet. Despite our rather archaic lease stating that we couldn’t keep guinea fowl in the backyard, a dog was fine by them. I don’t think I’ve ever been so giddy. There was a quite a bit of kitchen dancing.
When it came to getting a dog, there was only one option: adopting. Personally, I couldn’t bear the thought of buying a dog from a breeder when there are hundreds of dogs looking for homes. It’s the sort of thing that brings me to tears… Admittedly I am a massive softie.
So we headed to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home with our friend Rob to meet some of their residents. We were able to register (and have an interview) on the spot – joining the list so Battersea could match us to the right dog.
So began a two-month cycle of obsessively checking the new dogs page, calling the shelter to see if there were any matches, and buying rubber bones, and the cute paw-printed blankets clearly required. Finally, one Friday, I called and we had a match. I reserved her (which just means no one else could adopt her), and arranged to go the next day with Thom and our flatmate to meet her.
It was love at first sight. Duchess is around 7 or 8 years old, loves carrots, napping in the sun, and chewing her soft hedgehog. She dislikes the cold, being ignored, and all traditional dog activities like fetch.
She’s a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a breed which unfairly gets some bad press. Because Staffies are strong and muscular, they’re often favoured by young posturing men who put them on chains and encourage them to fight. Duchess? She’s just a wimp who loves nothing better than plopping on to the couch, or flirting with a sunbeam in the garden. The Kennel Club says they are “Extremely reliable, highly intelligent and affectionate, especially with children.” I can’t help but agree.
Life is so much better with a dog.
Time flies when you’re having fun… Today I unearthed these photos from last summer, when I had a massive moth tattoo etched on my thigh by Fredrik Reinel at The Circle, London. My favourite parts are the pointillism style cubes and the antenna daggers.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
– Mary Oliver
Adventures in brand land – agency Wolff Olins’ have hives on the roof of their Kings Cross studio here in London. I found this sweet, short video which explains how they came to be. (Pardon the pun.)
There’s an old wives tale that you should tell your bees about births, deaths, and marriages…
“The government is cutting music programmes in schools and slashing Arts grants as gleefully as a morbidly American kid in Baskin Robbins. So if only to stick it to the man, isn’t it worth fighting back in some small way? So write your damn book. Learn a Chopin prelude, get all Jackson Pollock with the kids, spend a few hours writing a Haiku. Do it because it counts even without the fanfare, the money, the fame and Heat photo-shoots that all our children now think they’re now entitled to because Harry Styles has done it.
Charles Bukowski, hero of angsty teenagers the world over, instructs us to “find what you love and let it kill you“. Suicide by creativity is something perhaps to aspire to in an age where more people know Katie Price better than the Emperor concerto.”
– James Rhodes, ‘Find what you love and let it kill you‘
Ready to press send on your latest email? Hold off for five minutes! There’s a few things you can do to make your next mailer more impactful, improving your open and click through rates.
1. Concise content means you can use a bigger font, it takes less time to read and can be consumed on the move; while sitting on the bus or in line for the check out. Think mobile first, and ask yourself; if you’ve cut something out, did you really need to say it in the first place?
2. Make your content single column – this is a lot easier to resize in mobile and have it display well (ditch those massive margins).
3. Design for touch and fat fingers – make your buttons big, e.g 44px², and spaced out so users don’t misstep or miss-tap. I like this email from Lomography, with its unmissable calls to action:
4. Subject lines viewed on iPhones cut off at 35 characters! When I found out this one I was gobsmacked. At 35 characters, well that’s only a quarter of a tweet. The rest of your words just… vanish. You don’t want your readers missing anything crucial, so make sure the key information you want to get across is up front (e.g. lead with ‘Win’). Even better, rewrite your message so it fits in that space.
5. Check your alt text and pre-headers are in place – remember not all images will display. Here’s one example from Frankie magazine that shows the value of double-checking:
Whether you’re a one man brand or talking to hundreds of thousands of people, hopefully these little tips and tricks will help you out, and power you to the end goal.