Sunday 8 September 2013

Hand Cut Titles and Thoughts on a Theme of Coconuts

I'm making a scrapbook page at the moment about coconuts (it's a long story) and therefore it needed a title involving the word coconuts.  With me so far?  If you're not, I really don't know how else to explain it.

I thought a hand-cut title might look quite nice, but didn't really fancy the rigmarole of making a template and sketching out bubble letters.  And I liked the idea of it being more handwriting style.  So I wrote the word 'coconuts' in my handwriting in pencil on a bit of rough paper.  Then I went over it in thick black pen, and once I was happy, I cut it out. I believe this process is quicker if you have a die-cutter, but I don't and I wanted the hand-cut look. I liked the effect of the background paper showing in a thin white border around the letters and I left the centres of the letters alone too.  That made the whole word a little more sturdy but you still get the clarity in the writing from the black pen, and I like the effect!  It also stands out more clearly against the layout.

Once I'd done my practice on scrap paper, I did the 'real' one on yellow paper for my layout.  However, I decided that while it's neater (I took more care with it) and it's on better quality paper, I actually prefer the smaller version on the scrappy bit of paper in the white.  It just worked on the page better.

Typical, isn't it?  Anyway, I just thought I'd share how I did it.  

And in case you're wondering, the coconut story goes like this...

In Cambodia, coconuts are literally growing on the trees.  Which is all fine and dandy when you want to sling a hammock between a couple of said trees.  They give the place a lovely exotic feel.  Slightly less fine when they crash out of the trees without warning, but still not problematic.

The problematic part is this: I really don't like coconut.  Y'know: because it's gross.

And there are two kinds of coconut in Cambodia: the cheap brown ones, and the expensive green ones.  When we stayed in the middle of rural Kampot, the locals were fantastic hosts.  They welcomed us with open arms and we nattered together in our own languages having conversations when no one understood the others and yet somehow we all got on.  I think they found us amusing.

One afternoon, they brought us a present.  Coconuts. And not just any coconuts; nope, it was the expensive green ones.  Now coconuts are reasonably large in size and so they had brought us one between two to share.  Except as I was the group leader, I was deemed important enough to merit my own whole coconut.

Did I mention hate coconuts?  But I smiled and we said our thank yous and in the evening, a machete was produced and they began to hack into the shells.  It looked like fun and so I suggested in a vague hand-waving sort of way that I quite fancied myself at this machete-ing lark and would they mind awfully if I had a crack at it, so to speak.  (I didn't really express myself in that awful roundabout way, but when you're telling a story in which the dialogue mainly happens with miming and vigorous actions, I reckon I can probably tell it how I like and it amuses me to image that I might talk like a Victorian lady traveller of independent means).

So they cheerfully showed me what to do and then stood around and laughed at me as I did an alarmingly accurate impression of the poor foreigner who has no relevant and transferable skills when it comes to Cambodian culture. Then of course my team all wanted a go, so there was plenty of entertainment all round. It's quite the spectator sport. The best bit is obviously when you do hit the cache of coconut water in the middle and it spurts all over you.  Charming.

Once we'd all reached the coconut water chamber (I'll be honest: I'm not familiar with technical coconut terminology) we applied a curly straw and drank.  We never went anyway without our curly straw as we were called upon to sample weird and wonderful drinks of all varieties at a moments notice and it's much easier to drink something that tastes horrible if you can mediate it with the fun of slurping through a series of orange plastic bendy loops.  And doesn't it look like we're enjoying it?

Believe it or not, this was actually taken on a separate occasion where we were obliged to consume coconut, but that is another story.  But the point illustrated is the same: eat what they give you and look like you're happy about it!

Honestly? It was the only point in the whole project where I thought I might have to politely run away and throw up.  And we ate some weird things.  At one point, I enquired if I had to drink it all? Which was met with a blunt yes.  So with a steel will I made my stomach behave and not only did I finish the wretched coconut water, I consumed all of mine alone before my team had managed to finish theirs, and they had two of them per coconut.  Feeling slightly bloated, I demonstrated that I was all finished and performed a series of thanks-for-the-lovely-coconuts-my-goodness-they're-delicious-aren't-they style mimes.  All done.

Except then we had to machete the coconut in half and scrape out the gungy stuff inside that looks like grey snot...and eat it.  Followed by a very bitter-tasting inner shell that you can snap away and munch on.  Fortunately, it was pretty dark by this time and I managed to sling a chunk of it over my shoulder into the undergrowth when no one was looking.

The whole experience was actually quite funny.  It was such a kind gesture from the locals to bring us the gift in the first place (a lovely bunch of coconuts indeed) and learning to hack into them was brilliant and the little grove echoed with shrieks of laughter.  But I did not think before I went that my downfall, the one thing that almost turned my stomach would be something as simple as a coconut.

Anyway, my plan is now two-fold.  Part one is to complete the page which will tell this story.  Part two is to avoid coconuts with a greater consistency in the future.  Wish me luck!

Kisses xxx

P.S. I've spent this weekend up in Yorkshire with my team, debriefing, evaluating and looking to our futures in Guiding.  We've also arranged a reunion which I'm delighted about and I'm going to share the delights of London with them in January.  It's been brilliant to catch up with them - I miss them so much as we became so close - and it was also fab to hear about the exploits of the teams who went to Guyana, Malawi and Armenia.  

P.P.S. The sad part is that today officially marks the end of my participation in GOLD (Guiding Overseas Linked with Development).  It's been a truly amazing 2 years, the first as a participant in Armenia and the second as a leader in Cambodia.  But here's the the future and finding more ways to travel and share how awesome it is to be a member of Girlguiding.


  1. It probably wasn't the best experience but it made a lovely story)

  2. So a coconut cake wouldn't be the best idea for another bloggers weekend then? Sounds like an amazing trip. and I understand about having to eat everything. My explanation of being a vegetarian in Croatia was interpreted as 'I don't eat vegetables' and I was presented with a plate of roast chicken and nothing else!

  3. Good story - I look forward to seeing the layout

  4. What a fantastic story! You tell it so brilliantly, and I'll admit that I was laughing about your intense hatred of coconuts! Good on you though for politely swallowing the coconut water and pretending you adored the coconut innards so as not to offend your hosts! The photo is great, and very convincing :D I really like the effect of the hand-cut title and can't wait to see the resulting layout. x

  5. So funny to read your story, even if you did not feel funny at all at that time. The handcut title looks great.

  6. You really do have a talent for story-telling! Love it!

  7. I agree with Ruth. You always tell a good story and I always end up giggling into my tea as I read it!

  8. coconuts are scary. No1 son is always telling me that more people die from coconuts hitting them than shark attacks!! Brilliant story and love the hand cut title x

  9. I love your story telling techniques they are brilliant and this story is so very funny.

  10. Thanks for sending me a card! I'm glad you had some delicious street food and not only coconuts there))