Selling digital downloads

If you’re thinking of setting up your own site for pattern sales – or any other digital sales – there are a couple of things you need to be careful about. The biggest one (to my security-obsessed mind) is keeping your customer data safe. To do this you’ll either need to pay for a service, or commit to managing your site – and its security – yourself. There’s also EU VAT to think about.

This mostly talks about those hosting options and security problems, but there’s a smidge about VAT at the end. And I’m talking here about selling your patterns yourself – not about online marketplaces that do the selling for you.

Hosting & Security

If you’re selling patterns on your own site you’re responsible for making sure that you’re doing it securely. You have a couple of options when you go down this route.

Software as a Service

You can choose a software as a service (SaaS) setup – like Shopify, or Big Cartel. They’ll be responsible for the security.

You can get WordPress – or another blog – hosted as if it was a SaaS. This means that your service provider is responsible for security. – where this site is hosted – is probably the best known of the WordPress options.

With any of these, you still should do some research – search for ‘ security’ or ‘shopify security’ or whatever you’re interested in, and see what the internet has to say about it – but if you’re using a reliable service you should be reasonably safe from random hacking bots on the prowl for easy pickings.

(You should still take your security seriously – create good passwords, don’t reuse your passwords across different sites and services, use two-factor authentication whenever you can, make sure that your computer and phone are running up to date software….)

You should expect to pay at least £20 a month for a SaaS service that lets you sell digital downloads, and you won’t have a huge amount of freedom to make changes to templates, or install any plugin that you like. Those limitations are a part of what makes this option secure.

Self-hosted websites

You can also host your own site – and this is where I really worry about people running into trouble.

That site’s probably going to be WordPress, downloaded from and installed on a hosting service you’re paying for separately. (It doesn’t have to be WordPress, but the non-Wordpress options – like Joomla or Drupal, for example – have steeper learning curves and take more time and knowledge to maintain.)

WordPress is reasonably secure if you’re careful and you know what you’re doing. It has the potential to be incredibly insecure if you’re not, or you don’t. In 2018 90% of all hacked CMS sites used WordPress. This is partly because there are so many WordPress sites (60% of the CMS market share, 30% of sites on the internet) but it’s also because so many of those sites are insecure.

If you host your own site you’re responsible for making sure that your software is up to date. Automatic-ish updates are a thing, but they’re not reliable. Almost all core WordPress hacks are due to out of date software. WordPress updates are generally fairly seamless but sometimes things do go wrong, and you end up with a site that can’t find something important in the database, or a plugin that’s suddenly not working.

If you’re installing plugins – and you’ll need to in order to sell patterns – those plugins will also need to be kept up to date.

Most WordPress site hacks are through plugins, rather than through the core WordPress software; either because the plugin software wasn’t updated, because the software creator failed to keep it up to date or because it was an inherently insecure piece of software.

If you have a blog – like this one – and it’s hacked you can restore your blog back to the pre-hack state. (You have backups, right?) (Also – fix the problem that left you hackable!) You might feel a bit foolish. You might also have had your site blacklisted as a compromised site and you’ll need to fix that. There’s a bit of cleaning up to do. Here’s WordPress’s guide on what do if your WP site is hacked.

But if you’re selling patterns on your site, you’re also storing the personal information of your customers – name, email address and billing address at a minimum. If someone hacks your site they can get their hands on that information, and they can do damage with it. You have a legal responsibility – and a moral responsibility – to make sure that your customer data is stored securely. If you’re in the EU the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies. If you’re not in the EU it still applies if you’re holding data on EU residents. There are, of course, other data protection laws that apply in other countries.

Self-hosted sites can be a lot cheaper than buying a SaaS option – from a couple of pounds a month – but it is a lot riskier. I would advise almost everyone to avoid the self-hosted route. I avoid it myself, these days, and that’s not because I don’t know how to apply software and security updates. I am far too well acquainted with those tasks.

VAT and the EU

If you’re selling digital downloads there’s also the EU VAT nightmare to navigate. I am the biggest cheerleader ever for the EU, and even I think that this is a hideous and confusing mess which has had very little impact on the problems it set out to solve (tax avoidance by huge multinational companies) and puts a vastly disproportionate burden on very small businesses.

Here’s the UK government’s summary of EU digital services VAT rules. I don’t fully understand all of it myself, but I think it boils down to:

If you’re not based in the EU, you must charge VAT to your EU customers, register for VAT in an EU country, and pay that VAT.

If you are based in the EU, you must charge VAT on purchases by customers in other EU states.

These rules apply when you sell to customers within the EU, no matter where you’re located; you don’t have to be within the EU for these to apply to you.

A lot of the software that lets you sell digital downloads will also do the VAT bits – checking the rate in your customers’ location and giving you the calculations. You’ll still have to register and pay the VAT.

But – if you’re in the UK, it looks like there’s a threshold of £8800-ish for sales within the EU – if your digital sales are below that you may be able to avoid having to register. Here’s some info about that threshold. This may not survive brexit, though – so you might have to register as a non-EU seller at the start of next year

Oh, brexit! I don’t know what impact brexit will have on any of this, for those of us in the UK – but I predict a frantic scrabble and lots of confusion and misinformation and chaos, because that seems to be the government’s brexit strategy.6


Polling Day

Where to vote

Your polling station might not be in the same place it usually is (more so this time, with it being December and hastily organised).

Your polling card will tell you where you can vote, but if you can’t find that, here’s how to find out where to vote.

You can hopefully find your polling station on This is crowdsourced, and it’s not complete. If they don’t list your polling station they will link you to your local authority, and the information should be on their site. If you can’t find it there call them up – there will be someone there to direct you to the right place.

What to bring?

Just yourself!

(and maybe a dog for #dogsatpollingstations)

  • You don’t need your polling card.
  • You don’t need ID.
  • You just need to know your name and the address you’re registered to.

NOTE: This doesn’t apply to Northern Ireland, where you do need ID to vote.


If you have a work- or medical-related emergency that stops you getting to the polling station, you can apply for an emergency proxy vote up until 5pm on polling day.

You’ll need to find a proxy who can get to your polling station, and who is eligible to vote in the election. (They don’t need to be voting in the same constituency as you.)

You’ll probably also need a health care professional/ employer to support your application.

If you need an emergency proxy get in touch with your local electoral services ( will give you the link & contact details) ASAP.

Tactical Voting


But who do I vote for?

How do you decide who to give your vote to? How do find out your local candidates’ policies, and their party’s policies?

Party policies are easy enough. There are plenty of guides and quizzes out on the internet to help you decide.

I like Vote for Policies a lot. It summarises each party’s policy on various subjects, anonymises them and sticks them side by side for you to choose your favourites. And then gives you a breakdown at the end. (I got 100% green, fwiw. But I’d already read our manifesto – and the other manifestos – so I’m not sure I was clicking innocently.

If you prefer a question by question quiz, Who Should I Vote For is a good place to start.

I’m always a little bit wary of political quizzes, though; bias can creep into them. So don’t take the first one you come across and stick with the answer it gives you, and take a look at who’s behind any you take.

(Vote For Policies also make Policy Tracker  – which tracks the winner’s manifesto promises against what they actually do.)


I really wish I didn’t need to have this bit here. But! We’re seeing huge spending policies all over the place, and political parties are promising the moon on a stick to everyone. So – you need to look at how realistic those promises are, and how much you trust that party to actually implement them if they’re in power. So, a bit of critical thinking – and talking – wouldn’t go amiss.

You’re electing an MP – not a party

Unless you live in Uxbridge and South Ruislip you can’t actually vote for Boris Johnson, and unless you live in Islington North you can’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Sorry! So it’s really helpful to know where your local candidates stand on the issues that are most important to you – especially now, when there’s been so much disagreement within political parties.

How do you do this, though?

Local press (and radio and TV) will generally have a little bit of coverage of local candidates, but it can be quite brief and sound-bitey.

There will be hustings happening somewhere near you. (They may already have happened – I’ve been writing this slowly for weeks.) I think that hustings can be a really good way to get a deeper understanding of all your local candidates’ motivations. They may have been filmed and available online if you’ve missed them.

Email them! I have approximately a gazillion emails to reply to still,  but most of them are via campaign groups. When I get an email from an Actual Person I prioritise that, even when I know that the answers I’m giving aren’t what they want to hear. Email your candidates asking their views on the things that are most important to you. Be a little bit patient – some of us are trying to juggle work and cat-scritching and electioneering (and ideally getting a tiny bit of sleep). Who Can I Vote For (from the excellent Democracy Club) will give you contact details for all of your local candidates.

Go Vote!

So, dates for your #knittersagainstberexit diaries, and Facts About Voting…

Registering to vote

You need to be registered to vote by 26th November.

You can register here.

If you need to change any of your details (address, nationality, etc) you can also do it at that link, by re-registering. If you’re not sure that you’re registered, you can check with your local authority and they’ll tell you.

Postal and proxy votes

The deadlines

In Wales, Scotland & England:

  • 26th November, 5pm: Postal vote deadline.
  • 4th December, 5pm: Proxy vote application deadline.

In Northern Ireland:

  • 21st November, 5pm: Proxy and postal vote deadline.

Postal votes

(this is the one where you get a ballot paper in the post and you X it up and send it back)

In everywhere except NI anyone can request a postal vote, and no reasons needed. In NI, you need to have a reason that you can’t make it to the polling station.

If you’re not in NI and you think that there’s a chance you won’t make it to the polling station on polling day, get yourself a postal vote. If you are torn between being practical and getting a postal vote, but also you really want to do a #catsatpollingstations selfie, remember that you can drop in your postal vote at the polling station if you don’t end up needing to vote by post. (You can’t transfer back to an old-skool vote, though, so you will need the ballot paper you get in the post.) If you’re worried about your vote going missing in the post you can drop it in at your local authority yourself.

Postal voting at the Electoral Commission site

Proxy votes

(this is the one where you let someone else – a trusted someone else! – cast your vote for you)

You need a reason for a proxy vote; being away, working or unable to make it to the polling station are all valid here. You need to nominate someone who can get to the polling station you’re voting at (so local & trusted?), and they also need to be registered to vote, and eligible to vote at this election.

Emergency proxy votes

You can apply for an emergency proxy vote up until 5pm on polling day, but only if you have either a work- or medical-based emergency that stops you getting to the polling station, and that emergency happened after the proxy voting deadline.

Proxy-by-post: If you have a proxy vote set up, your proxy can then apply to vote by post on your behalf. Meta!

Race to the polls: If you have a proxy set up you can still go and vote in person. But if your proxy also goes to vote on your behalf then the first one there gets to make that X.

All the Proxy! Electoral Commission Proxy Voting Page, with loads of forms.


If you’re a student and live at university during term time, and head home for the holidays you can register to vote in both locations – but you can only vote in one. But – you can choose where you vote, and you can use a postal vote if you’re in the wrong place. This means you can cast your vote where it will make more of a difference.

There’s a nifty tool on the Guardian site to help you work out where your vote will make most difference,

Most #knittersagainstbrexit probably aren’t students – but you probably know some! So let them know and point them at that link up there.

Who can vote?

Citizens of the UK and of the Republic of Ireland and citizens of Commonwealth countries with leave to remain can vote in this election. There’s a full list here on the Electoral Commission site. 

To vote, you also need to be 18 or over, not in prison as a convicted criminal, not convicted for any sort of electoral fraud in the last five years, and not a member of the House of Lords (any lords reading this?).

(Side note: the blanket ban on prisoners voting has been ruled incompatible with the ECHR.)

It used to be that some people with mental illnesses were disenfranchised. That changed in 2006 (hurrah!).  Here’s a blog post about it (from the last election, but hey, read it anyway, it talks sense, not much is different). I think there’s still a fair bit of misunderstanding about this, in particular.

Get! Everyone! Registered!

Be your own little voter registration drive. Check that all your family and friends and (non-feline) loved ones are registered. It’s really easy to register (if you know your NI number it’s a two-minute task).

I’ll add to this list as we go… If you know about any registration drives, or handy-info for the easily-disenfranchised let me know!

Votey-McVoteface Know any live-aboard types? This is a nifty site that lets those canal-wanderers find the best constituency to vote in. (I am moored up here on Old Boatiepaws and can’t really do this.)

No fixed abode & voting Crisis have a guide on how to get yourself registered to vote.






When to vote tactically to stop Brexit – and when to not.

UPDATE: With just over a week until polling day (where has the time gone??) I’ve done a little General Election Special Update to this. Scroll down for the original post – it’s still relevant. But there’s a lot more information (and opinion) floating around.

So, there are a LOT of tactical voting sites. There are also a lot of people talking about tactical voting. If you were going to get geeky about how they’re working Jon Worth’s gloriously detailed blog post here is a good read. (also i copied that list below from his site because I was too lazy to type it all in sorry)

These sites here are pro-EU:

(I can only find one Brexitty site  –  Unite 2 Leave (although the Telegraph seem to have a tactical voting tool hidden behind their paywall. But if you’re here you’re probably not so into that?)

They don’t always agree, these sites. But if you’re trying to work out if you should it’s worth looking at the Get Voting site, in particular, because there are nifty little charts for every constituency, showing how their polling thinks the constituency will go, and how it would go with 30% of remain supporters voting tactically. 30% is a lot! If that little graph doesn’t have a Remain party within a few cat’s whiskers of winning then your tactical vote probably won’t count for anything. It’s also worth having a look at the recent YouGov MRP polling to see how marginal your constituency is.

Anyway, if you’ve decided it’s worth you using your vote tactically, the site has a comparison of all five of those sites a, and it’s here. So, check your constituency in there, and see if they all agree (they usually do). If they don’t, you have a bit more thinking to do – sorry! In that case I’d be having a think about which of the recommended parties most align with my viewpoint.

And while you’re doing all this figuring out about how and whether to vote tactically, or bemoaning the fact that your constituency looks like an unassailably safe seat – remember, we can change this! Proportional representation would put a stop to this sad and undemocratic mess.  Make Votes Matter and the Electoral Reform Society campaign for PR.

(And on that note, I think it’s important to NOT vote tactically if it’s not going to make a difference. Tactical voting tends to drive more votes to the two big parties, and the case for PR is much clearer when they’re not getting almost all of the votes.)


It makes me a bit sad to even write this; I don’t like tactical voting. It skews things in favour of the two party system, and perpetuates that system. I want us all to be able to vote for the person we believe will do the best job and to feel that our vote is worthwhile.

But for now we’re stuck with the two-party system, and in this election that we’re almost certainly going to have shortly it may make sense for you to vote tactically to maximise your vote’s stopping-Brexit-potential. But it’s also worth figuring out if your tactical vote can make a difference before you commit to it.

Figure out where you stand

Who do you want to vote for?

What party is most aligned with your values – not just on Brexit, but economically, environmentally, socially? Who do you feel happiest about putting your little tick besides? If you were going to trot about for the rest of polling day proudly sporting a big sticker with ‘I VOTED X’ on it, who would that X be?

And who do you NOT want to vote for?

Which party, or parties, would it pain you to scrawl that X next to? Are they in the NEVER NEVER camp, or could you bear to vote for them if you needed to.

Figure out your tactical voting limits

Here are mine! I’m a Green voter (and party member), and I really want to put my X in that box. I could maybe consider voting for Labour or the Liberal Democrats in the right circumstances. I could never vote for the Conservative party/ UKIP/ Brexit. I would have to do some very hard thinking if, say, one of the ex-Tory rebels was standing, and it was marginal between them and a hard-Brexit candidate.

Having trouble deciding?

If you’re not sure who to vote for there are online tools to help you decide. (Disclaimer: I am a cynical old knitter and would never trust just one or two sites, so if I were using tools like this I’d take the average of several quizzes – and I’d be checking the agenda of the organisations behind them.)

Figure out where your constituency stands

There’s no point voting tactically if your vote can’t make a difference to the outcome, and sadly there are millions of votes in this category. So the next step is to work out whether your constituency is marginal enough to make a difference. If it’s not, you can vote with your heart.

This is a trickier question than it used to be, because politics is in such a state of flux. But there are some key bits of information you can arm yourself with.

Take a look at your constituency on Electoral Calculus.

Electoral Calculus crunches numbers from polling to predict how each constituency will vote. It’s not perfect – especially not in these strange times – but it’s worth a look.

Check how your constituency voted in the last few elections

Wikipedia is good for this. Here’s the constituency I live in. You can see that my (Tory, pro-Brexit) MP has been increasing his vote share in the last few elections. The Brexit party might steal some of those votes, but I don’t think that tactical voting will make a difference here.

Check how your constituency voted in the recent EU parliament elections and in That Referendum – and how much it might be changing.

This potential election will, I think, be fought 90% on Brexit, so it’s worth having a think about how that will change traditional voting patterns.

Referendum results with breakdown by local authority (BBC)

EU parliament election results by local authority (BBC)

Note: these are counted by local council boundaries rather than constituency. Sometimes these are the same, or very similar, but often they don’t cover the same area.

Also note: People are far more likely to vote for the party they really support or to use their vote as a protest in EU elections, because they’re seen as less important or because proportional representation means that your smaller-party vote actually counts (hurrah!). The massive swing from Conservative/ Labour to Brexit/ Lib Dems/ Green that we see here will almost certainly not be replicated in a Westminster election.

Keep an eye on polling

Hope Not Hate and Best for Britain have some recent polling on how support for Brexit has changed over the last few years, at a constituency level. It’s a heartening message, but I’m very wary of trusting polls bearing good news (or bad) at the moment.

Uk Polling Report has details and an analysis of polling. If you’re a little bit geeky about things like this it’s a good read.

And figure out where your candidates stand

You can easily check your current MP’s stance on Brexit (and everything else) using the They Work For You site. (EU based votes are under Foreign Policy and Defence.)

It’s a little harder to check the stances of the other candidates, yet. Most parties will have selected their candidates, or have selection underway but you may have to wait until the election is called before you know. You can always get in touch with your local political parties to ask who’s standing for them, and what their stance is on Brexit – and on anything else that’s important to you.

Reach a decision?

In some areas it’s going to be really obvious that your vote isn’t going to make a difference to the outcome, and you can vote with your heart. In other areas it’s going to be obviously a close run thing and you might be better voting tactically.

You don’t need to decide until you’re actually in the polling booth (or filling out your postal vote form). Take your time. Talk to family and friends. Investigate all of the candidates. Remember that, at the heart of this, you’re voting for a person to represent you and your interests.

And do vote!

It might seem pointless to cast a vote in a constituency where the outcome is already practically guaranteed, but that vote does still make a difference. An increase in national vote share brings lots of benefits to smaller parties, especially, even if it doesn’t lead to more bums on the benches in parliament.

If you really can’t bring yourself to mark an X for anybody then think about spoiling your ballot rather than just not voting. Spoiled ballots are scrutinised by a little scrum of candidates and agents. If you choose this option you can be creative; my favourite spoiled ballot in the last general election was a fine sketch of a cat doing a poo!

And finally…. Proportional Representation NOW!

Isn’t all this depressing – the figuring out if your vote is going to make no difference to the outcome, or if you should hold your nose and vote against your instincts? It’s a side effect of first past the post, which perpetuates a two-party system, stifles alternative voices, and leads to widespread voter apathy and disillusionment and disengagement.  That disillusionment is partly to blame for this Brexit mess, and the rise of populism.

Make Votes Matter campaign for a more representative electoral system.


Disclaimer the first: I am not an expert at this, just a person who’s interested in politics and worried about the world. Don’t take this as some sort of perfect truth.

Disclaimer the second: Bear in mind that I am biased. I really am. I’d love for everyone to vote Green. But I also want everyone to vote, and for everyone’s vote to work for their values and hopes and aims. Democracy in the UK is in a bit of a crisis right now. I believe that thoughtful engagement with it might help.


How to stop Brexit: a crafty guide

Hello, #knittersagainstbrexit and #crochetersagainstbrexit and #sewistsagainstbrexit and all the other #folksagainstbrexit.

This is a rolling-update page to collate links and resources and actions for those of us who are looking at Boris Johnson’s No Deal Nightmare and saying, umm, NO?

Got something to add? Leave a comment or get in touch with me on Instagram (@ancaitinbeag) or via email (


UK Parliament site

(I talk a little bit about what petitions can achieve here on Instagram)

Marches and protests

Defend Democracy protests (via Another Europe is Possible) (Facebook link, find a protest near you)

Fuller list of protests

From someone on IG: ‘My MP is none other than Jacob Rees-Mogg but anyone who is local to Bristol/bath/Somerset can come down to the Crown in West Harptree BS40 6HA tonight at 7pm to protest outside Rees-Moggs house! All are welcome!’(note: this is happening Thursday 29th August)

Twitter accounts who’ll be boosting protest plans and news:

Write to your MP

Write to them is what I use when want to contact my MP.

If you’re writing, use your own words rather than a copy/paste. If you’re planning to contact your MP about prorogation, here are some things to consider;

Let your MP know that you are completely opposed to this undemocratic move. Tell them that you wholeheartedly support any attempt they make to stop it. And urge them to put party tribalism aside for the good of the country: this is more important. Ask them to put political differences aside.

  • If they’re from a remain-leaning party (Lib Dems, Greens, Plaid, SNP, the Change lot) thank them for the work they’re already doing to fight this bad Brexit.
  • If they’re a Labour MP, emphasise the party tribalism a bit more. Let them know that a caretaker government under someone other than Corbyn has your support and that we need to put the future of the country ahead of party politics. There’ll be time for that after we sort out this mess.
  • If your MP is a Tory and opposed to Brexit enough that you think they might, possibly, rebel against their own party in a confidence vote let them know that they have your full support for this. Acknowledge that they might find this a very hard thing to do and ask them to do that brave, hard thing.
  • If your MP is from the DUP, maybe point out to them that a no-deal Brexit is, paws down, the biggest threat to the union and the thing most likely to trigger a border poll and/ or a return to violence in NI. Ask them to reassess their support of the current Tory administration.
  • If your MP is Tory and likely to support Johnson, let them know that you do not agree with their stance. Ask them if this is ‘taking back control’.

If you’re not sure what your MP’s stance is, They Work For You can help you figure it out. Pop in your postcode to find your MP, and check their voting record – EU-related votes are listed under Foreign Policy & Defense.

If your fingers are still full of fire after that, @thegroucholiz has some excellent suggestions for more letterwriting:

Other people to write to

  • John Bercow, Speaker of the House
  • Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Opposition
  • Steven Barclay, Brexit Secretary
  • Keir Starmer, Shadow Brexit Secretary
  • Any former MPs you think are sensible, especially if they’re now in the Lords.
  • Leaders of all other opposition parties
  • MEPs, who won’t be able to do anything directly, but who you can ask to add their voice against suspending parliament.
  • For those in London, your member of the London Assembly
  • Anybody in the House of Lords you think is sensible, including the Archbishops (protection of the vulnerable, not bearing false witness etc)
  • Others (who are unlikely to listen, but….)
  • Boris Johnson, Prime Minister
  • Speaker of the House, Jacob Rees Mogg. Worth noting that he has gone on record today saying that the recess coincides with the suspension, therefore it’s not going to loose many days. The difference is that parliamentary work can still be done during a recess, it can’t during a suspension – so he’s being disingenuous. (Although, are you surprised?)
  • Sajid Javid (Chancellor), Matt Hancock (Secretary of State for Health) and Michael Gove (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster) all said during the leadership election that they would not support a suspension of parliament; now seems a good time to remind them of that.
  • If you write to them as MPs, they can only respond if they’re *your* MP. However, if you write to them as members of the cabinet, that’s not the case.  (Cabinet members from the government website) –


What’s it all about?

What is prorogation? (The Guardian)

Campaign Groups

These groups might be active locally to you, or organising marches & protests near you.

Also, if you’re a member of a trade union, get in touch with them to see what they’re doing.

Social Media

I’ve tagged some of my recent anti-Brexit instagram posts with #knittersagainstbrexit if you want to have a read.

From @thegroucholiz:

‘Report trolls on social media, who are pretending that suspending parliament is a good idea. Red flags are new accounts, people with only a few followers, a long string of numbers after their username, a generic or anonymous username (there seem to be a lot of Bagpusses about at the moment) and a non-human profile picture.’

To which I’d add; be ready to think critically about what you see on social media. We know how much social media manipulation influenced the referendum and I don’t for a . moment imagine that it stopped right after the vote.




(When I set this blog up I was NOT expecting it to be a political thing at all oops.)

Practical boatlife (part one)

Sophie from Unicorn Designs has some small people who are very interested in boat life. I thought that a few more of you might also be interested, so I’m answering their questions here!

WARNING, there’s a fair bit of poo-talk, but that’s very normal for liveaboard types. Get a bunch of boat ppl together and we talk about our toilets all night.

How does the toilet work – and where does all the poo go?

There are three different toilet options – and I have probably the least common. Anyway, they are;

  1. A blackwater holding tank, usually with a macerator which chews everything (liquids, solids, paper) up into a stinky sludge. If you have one of these on the marina where I live, when your tank’s getting full you call Andy, the marina manager and general all-round amazing person, and he potters along in a little boat with a big tank on it, and pumps out your stinky sludge into his tank, and then pumps the tank out down into the big waste drain.Good points – you don’t have to empty it all that often, and you don’t usually have to get up close to your stinky sludge.
    Bad points – when a blockage happens it’s RANK – and someone flushing something they shouldn’t means blockage. And the sludge is pretty stinky – you usually end up adding chemicals to the tank to stop it getting too bad.
  2. A cassette toilet, which is a little portapotty with a removable box at the bottom for collecting the wee and poo. There’s a little water reservoir which you flush from (but flushes use much, much less water than a regular toilet). When your toilet gets full you detatch the box at the bottom and pour it into the waste drain. I have one of these tucked away for emergencies – it’s what I used until I got my own toilet installed.Good points – lovely and simple! There’s not much that can go wrong.
    Bad points – you need to empty it every three or four days (although most boats will have a spare cassette for emergencies), and you need to use chemicals to stop it getting stinky.
  3. A compost toilet. (This is what I have! It is the best!) It’s designed so that when you sit on it wee is funnelled one way and into a little tank, and poo is collected in a big bucket, along with any paper you’re using. (Stand-up weeing types must aim carefully.) Most of the stinky stink is avoided because just poo, or just wee, is not nearly as stenchy as the two mixed together can be. My toilet also has a little fan (solar powered from a little panel on my roof) that helps keep the smell away. I have a 25litre tank (and a spare for emergencies) which I usually empty once a week. I put it in a wheelbarrow and cart it over to the big waste drain. The big buckets of poo need to be emptied every few months. I have a hot composter on the deck (it’s insulated, so the contents get really hot which kills off all the nasties) and I empty it in there. All the other compost goes in there too. And once a year I harvest the bottom third and use it to grow my flowers.
    Good points – the most environmentally friendly, as you don’t need chemicals to de-stink it, it uses no water, and you get lovely tasty compost for your plants.

    Bad points – you need to heft about a tank of wee every week, and a bucket of poo every few months. Guests need instructions on what to do, and it’s probably the version that squeamish people like least.


There is a fourth version, which is a sea-toilet that just flushes straight out into the water, but those aren’t generally allowed on rivers or canals or marinas. Our boat came with one, and I had to cut it out before we could install the compost one.


Boats have batteries – big ones, like car batteries – that power 12volt or 24volt electricity systems. (I have 24v, but smaller boats like narrowboats usually have 12v.) I also have a mains hookup, which uses the regular electricity you have in your house. That electricity right now keeps my batteries fully charged – but if I was heading off out on an adventure the engine would keep the batteries charged when it was running, and I might also have solar panels or a wind turbine.

On my boat, the overhead lights all use the 24v, and I can also charge little things like phones from it. Most of the other things use the mains electricity – although I don’t use a lot! I have a couple of silver-making things that need to be plugged in – my pendant motor and my barrel-polisher, for example – and I have a laptop, and an electric blanket for when it’s cold, and (several!) radios, but I don’t have a TV or playstation or anything like that. (Most of the boats near me do have TVs, though – sometimes they even have satellite dishes!)

Is it scary in a storm

It is a little bit, sometimes, especially when there’s just me and the cats on the boat! I’m in a marina, tucked up with other boats, but I still rock around quite a bit when the wind’s blowing hard, and it can be very noisy. And where I am – down the Thames from London – it can get very windy!

But one of the best things about living here is all the lovely boat-neighbours. Everyone pitches in to help out if there’s a problem, so if it gets too scary I know that I have lots of people around. And it can be really nice, when it’s stormy outside, to be tucked up below decks with a lovely big fire burning in the stove and the cats snoozing in front of it, and the radio burbling away, and a big mug of tea and my knitting.

Repealing the 8th – why we need it, and how to help

So this will be a bit personal, and a bit political. Those are very often the same thing here in Feminist CatBoat HQ.

In Ireland right now there’s a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment to the constitution. I’m not going to go on about it in any great length – Wikipedia can tell you all about it – but it essentially gives a foetus the same rights as the person carrying it – outlawing abortion almost completely.

I – and so many other Irish women – grew up in the shadow of the 8th amendment. I was a teenager when the X case happened. I was terrified to think that the state could exert that much control over me – to the point of actual nightmares. This was also a country where contraception was very difficult to obtain and where sex & relationship education was almost non-existent, so unplanned and unwanted pregnancies were common. I remember adverts for abortion clinics here in the UK being blacked out – actually censored – in magazines.

I got out. I got a university place in the UK, and I never moved back. The Ireland of twenty years ago didn’t feel like a country I could ever be happy in. When I go back now it feels like a far more open, liberal and accepting place. I cried actual tears (of joy) at the same-sex marriage referendum result a few years ago. I can almost see myself moving back someday.

But there’s still the 8th amendment.

The thing is, Ireland has abortion.

People travel over here every day to access abortion, and they take illegally procured (although usually safe) abortion pills. The pills can – although I don’t think there’s ever been a prosecution – lead to a 14 year prison sentence. They’re often seized on the way into the country, which is a huge source of worry. And someone experiencing problems or side-effects is less likely to seek medical help and ‘fess up to what they’ve taken.

The travelling over to the UK – the more common option – is expensive, and lonely, and difficult; scraping the cash for flights and hotels and the procedure together, very often organising childcare, taking time from work, fibbing to friends and family about where you’re going, and why. And – as with the pill option – aftercare can be a problem.

Ireland already has abortion. We just make a hard choice really horrible and difficult.

The other big problem with the 8th is that it makes healthcare during pregnancy and birth really difficult. You don’t want to have a caesarean, or an induction? You can be over-ruled. You’re miscarrying? It can be fatal. You discover that your much-wanted baby can’t survive? Carry it to term anyway.

I’m getting angrier as I type this post up – can you tell?

What can you do? What can I do?

I can’t do enough. I can’t vote. I can’t canvass. All I can do is rant about it from a different country.

If you’re an Irish/UK citizen and living there – make sure you vote!

If you’re an Irish citizen or resident, you can donate to Together for Yes.

If you’re not an Irish citizen/ resident

You can shop! (I’m the worst seller-of-things. I really don’t want people buying stuff they don’t need. And here I’m telling you to buy stuff?)

Let me know if I should add something to this list?

And you can help Irish people get home to vote

I’ll keep this updated!




An Caitín Beag, and how to pronounce it

An Caitín Beag is Irish for The Little Small Cat, or The Wee Small Cat, or The Tiny Little Cat, or any other variation on diminutive felines that you fancy putting together.

It breaks down like this: An means The, Cait is cat, and the -ín at the end makes it a small cat. Beag also means small, or little.

And it pronounces like: On Cat-een BeUG.

The ín / een is interesting. It’s added to nouns as a diminutive – making them smaller, or younger (or female, thanks the patriarchy).

Young beasts often get an -een. So my caitín could be a kitten, and not a small cat. A cat óg (prounounced cat ogh, meaning young cat) would also be a kitten. Or – and this is one of best words ever – piscín also means kitten. That’s pronounced pish-keen, and it’s such a kittenish word! A duck is a lacha, and a duckling is a lachín, as another example. A little house (teach) is a teachín. A little road, or path, is a bóithrín (or boreen). The -een is very common in names, too. – especially girls’ names. Roisín means little rose, Realtín is little star.

The accent over i is known as a fada. It only appears on vowels, and it elongates them. (I was always appalling at remembering to add it. I still am, and I just use it on the one word nowdays.) But it can be essential for telling words apart. Ceád (prononced kayd) means a hundred, cead (pronounced key-ad) means permisson.

Small disclaimer: I haven’t used Irish for YEARS and I might have errors here! Also I’m terrible at trying to write out pronunciations. Happy to take correction, or to try to answer any questions, though!

How I make the little penannular pins

How I make the tiny penannular pins – with pictures! 🔨🔥🔨🔥🔨🔥🔨🔥🔨 I usually make these in batches of between five and ten, but they all emerge looking a little different. 1. Form a coil out of silver wire. 2. Slice through! I use tape to keep the coil from slithering around. I’m aiming for asymmetric pins here, so I’m cutting down at an angle. I 💛 my swish saw. 3. Cut some slightly flattened wire into pin lengths and form little tight loops at the top of each. Check they fit! They should move freely but not be loose. 4. Place them over tiny pieces of solder (called pallions), drench it all in flux, and solder! To solder silver, you heat the whole piece to the melting point of the solder, that silver melts the solder, and capillary action lures it into the join. These are heated to about 750c, and the metal glows red with heat. 5. These are textured pins, so I hammer and straighten the pins. (Untextured pins will get hammered with a rawhide hammer to harden them – the soldering has left the silver very soft. I’ve also checked all the joins and filed and polished off any stray solder. 6. I hammer very gently the top half of the circle, slide on the pin and flatten them a little in the rolling mill. 7. Big hammering! I bash the flattened ends to pleasing shapes. 8. Open the rings to file and sand the edges smooth and shiny. 9. I use a cup burr to round the ends of the pin. It’s attached to my pendant motor (like a dremel but fierce and amazing). This is the only time i use an electrical tool making these tiny pins.) 10. Into the pickle! This will take off the tarnish from my earlier soldering. If I need things pickled quickly I heat it in an old slow-cooker bain marie, but I’m going to leave the pickle cold and let it work its magic overnight.