I Spy Autumn Fruits…

I like September in the lane. Even people like me who may be a bit challenged in the ‘identifying wildflowers’ department are suddenly offered a helping hand by Mother Nature who obligingly sends forth a mass of brightly coloured berries to make the task easier – something similar to when you’re struggling with a crossword puzzle and someone comes along and fills in every other letter…

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This September there seems to be a huge abundance of fruits in our lane. So far I’ve spotted rowan berries, hips, haws, elderberries, blackberries, lords & ladies, acorns, honeysuckle berries and sloes (by the way, if you’re tired of sloe gin, here are a few alternatives I quite liked the look of…)

I don’t think we’ll be seeing any crabapples this year, the poor tree hardly produced a handful of blossom and there’s no sign of any fruit that I can spot. And I’m not anticipating a major conker crop this year since almost all the horse-chestnut trees in the park were felled last winter.

But what there is seems very plentiful indeed. Good news for foragers. (That’s not me though, apart from the odd blackberry or two. It’s less to do with willingness, more a result of always having the Delinquent Dog in tow. There’s only so much you can reach with only one hand free, and whilst I often say I look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards, I don’t really want to put it to the test).

Are you a serious forager? What’s your favourite and what do you like to do with it?

I started a new Meditation Piece at the weekend.  (If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen a glimpse of it – there’s a link on the side) – It seems to have an autumnal feel – not deliberate, but perhaps a product of my subconscious…

Happy stitching.

 

Blogging?

 

How is your blogging going? I only ask because mine is decidedly creaky and I know quite a few of my ‘go-to’ bloggers have either stopped or are taking a sabbatical.

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A few weeks ago I decided that as we weren’t planning to go away this summer, I’d get back into what used to pass as a habit – well you can see for yourself how successful that turned out to be…

I’ve been giving the whole blogging thing a lot of thought, particularly in view of the impact of Twitter, Instagram and the like. Personally I’ll admit to loving Instagram. I use it almost as a cross between a nature diary and a journal of my work-in-progress with the odd historical jaunt here and there. It’s so easy to use, I generally post pictures from my morning walks while I’m eating my breakfast. And I rather enjoy a quick scroll through my feed to catch up with what’s happening amongst my IG friends. It feels like a very friendly and supportive community.

I’m also a Twitter fan, although I tend to use it as much as a tailor-made news feed as a way to keep in touch with a variety of lovely friends I’ve made there.

So where does that leave blogging? It seems to me that in many ways, Twitter and Instagram have taken over the role of the ‘what I’ve been up to’ post. It’s much easier to Tweet or post a quick photo of the relatively mundane, than to sit down and blog about it days later.

But we bloggers are a thoughtful bunch, and not everything that needs to be expressed comes instantly in 140 characters. I know that many of us write as much for ourselves as for readers, and we feel compelled to do that for a whole raft of reasons.

Having thought about it now over several months, it seems to me that there is still a very real role for blogging as a means for us to find and use our voices, whether it’s exploring aspects of our inner landscape, debating with ourselves as much as with others, or raising issues important to us and hoping to reach a wider audience.

Social media is a great way of showing the ‘now’, but it’s not so good at explaining feelings, and that depth of exploration is much better suited to blogging.

I miss the voices of those now quiet bloggers whose insights, questions and experiences gave me pause for thought and sometimes even caused me to act.

Maybe we don’t need to recount at length the tiny minutiae of our daily grind – or maybe we do – but I believe we do need to tell our stories, talk about the things that are important to us and let our voices be heard.

I intend to try harder to get back into the habit and I hope if you’ve been resting, you might join me too.

 

 

 

 

 

A Flying Visit To Orkney…

It sometimes feels strange to live on an island where there remains considerable evidence of our distant ancestors in the landscape and in the monuments they built, but to know so very little about them. Developments in archaeology in recent decades have certainly lead to far more exploration of neolithic sites, but for me at least there is a huge gulf between what we now ‘know’ and what there is we’d really like to know.

So while the archaeologists carry on their painstaking work to uncover and discover facts, we’re left to fill the gap with our imaginations.

Having now become well and truly hooked on this pre-historic enigma, you can appreciate why I leapt at the chance to make a flying visit to Orkney – an island group off the North East tip of Scotland, rich in marvellous and mysterious neolithic sites.

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Scape Flow

It would have been difficult to imagine a more lovely day for our visit. A near cloudless blue sky reflected in the sea and the lochs, creating a sublime combination of emerald greens and sapphire blues beneath us as we flew over Scapa Flow.

This was my first visit to the Orkney and I wasn’t prepared for just how beautiful it is. It absolutely took my breath away. But we had just a few hours to explore, so we began by overflying the area we planned to visit on land – Skara Brae, Maeshowe and the Ring of Brodgar.

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Skara brae (bottom right, circles contained within a path)

Skara Brae had to be the highlight of the visit and it was the first site we headed for once we landed.

There’s been a lot of television coverage of Skara Brae in recent years, but nothing quite prepared me for seeing it in person. Built around 3000BC, it was a subterranean village, hidden under sand for centuries, but revealed in the 19th century after a storm removed some of the layers covering sand.

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As you walk around the village, looking down from the path above, your mind goes into overdrive, trying to mentally construct the village as it once was, seeing it with your mind’s eye, peopling it with men and women who looked just like us but about whom there is so much we don’t have a clue about.

Perhaps the most iconic view of Skara Brae is this one…

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Who is there of a certain age who isn’t thinking ‘The Flintstones’ when they see this?

But this is absolutely real! How did the residents use that stone dresser? I couldn’t stop wondering about it. What would you do with it if it was the centre-piece of your house?

Then look around – either side are the stone remains of the bed-spaces and in the middle, a hearth. In the walls are niches – what was kept inside them?

It would, I am sure, be entirely possible to spend weeks just looking at Skara Brae and trying to understand it, let alone uncover more (and yes, the archaeologists are fairly certain that much more of the site remains uncovered). But with only a few hours to spare, we moved on.

Our next stop was to visit the Ring of Brodgar.

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Here is a stone circle from around 3000BC, comprising stones from across Orkney – 36 remain of the original 60, laid out in a circle and surrounded by a henge. Strange mounds also feature in the local landscape adding so much to the mystery that already surrounds this amazing place.

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Where Skara Brae leads you to attempt to answer the questions, here I felt I was in quite a different place. For all the theories and there are many, nobody yet or perhaps ever will know why these circles were constructed. That it took a great deal of effort is evident, so why did people not so different from you and me undertake that task? What would make you do it?

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I admit that standing there, inside that circle, I wasn’t exactly trying to think about the logistics of building it, I was simply enchanted by being in the circle – standing there and turning 360 degrees, looking out at the landscape around the Ring, looking up at the sky contained by the Ring, touching the individual stones as I walked past each one.

That there was a meaning I’m sure, but what it was? Perhaps we all decide for ourselves…

Inevitably I suppose we began to run out of time to explore the rest of the sites in this sequence – the Stones of Stenness (just a mile from the Ring of Brodgar) and Maeshowe.

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Maeshowe from the air

 In the end we found ourselves dashing back to Kirkwall with only a very few minutes to flit inside St Magnus’s Cathedral – so little time that I didn’t manage to take any decent pictures.

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One of the intriguingly carved tomb stones in Kirkwall Cathedral

But long enough to confirm that I must return to Orkney, this time with the freedom to explore much more of this mysterious and enchanting group of islands.

Summer in the lane…

And so, finally the sun decided to amble over in our direction and grant us a few weeks of what we could probably agree to call proper summer – by which I mean being able to wear sandals and occasionally bring out the embarrassing sun hat.

Things are a bit different here for us this year. Unlike recent summers when we’ve disappeared up to the Highlands with a couple of tents and an optimistic attitude to rainfall, this year we’re staying put – or more accurately – not straying very far.

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Not getting to walk along the beach at Balnakeil near Durness, is something I’ll miss, but instead I’ll have the opportunity to watch as the summer progresses in the lane. Already I can sense a change in the pace of growth. The pumping energy of spring has given way now to a mild sense of exhaustion, the fresh bright greens of May are now darker, dustier. The delicate cow parsley has turned brown and shrunk back, replaced by the stronger stalks of hogweed and banks of purple thistles. The nettles standing sentry are gradually being pulled down by the wreaths of wilting cleavers.

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In the field, the grasses which in June swayed like waves have been cut and bailed, and already a new growth of nettles, thistles and grass is greening the pale stubble. We haven’t yet reached the point when the countryside turns golden, although I don’t think it’s far away – soon the colours will change and the tired greens will be replaced by the rich reds and ambers of late summer.

High summer has never really brought out the best in me, which is perhaps why I normally prefer to travel north for a cooler sort of summer, but I admit there’s something that feels right about observing at close hand the slow changes as the seasons roll round. I’m enjoying it in a strange sort of way, but at some stage I’m going to have to head for the coast and dip my toes in the sea…

I do hope you’re having a good summer – it’s great fun watching Instagram friends post pictures from their travels around the world – vicarious holiday pleasures!

 

 

 

 

Catching up…

Phew, what a few weeks it’s been. I’m happy to report that we’ve come through the  delight of both daughters simultaneously sitting ‘A’Levels and GCSEs, relatively unscathed. The emergency escape to a tent in the garden wasn’t required and now we have the prospect of a few tranquil weeks before the results arrive…

As you can imagine, I managed to do a lot of stitching (always my go-to method of stress reduction) while the exams were happening. Ever since I visited the Indian textiles exhibition at the V & A, I’d wanted to try out some new ideas and textures, and having also recently read Claire Wellesley-Smith’s ‘Slow Stitch’, I decided to free myself from the tyranny of the ‘one hole, one stitch’ edict to try something different.

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I have to say this has been a revelation in many ways. It certainly takes a meditative stitch practice to a new place as far as I’m concerned. My only problem now is trying to decide when it’s finished.

In other news… I’m just back from a short trip to the Scottish Highlands and Islands courtesy of my extraordinarily generous flying friend. This time I achieved a huge ambition and visited some of the neolithic sites on Orkney.

Having been a rampant medievalist for most of my life, I’m something of a late-comer to things pre Anglo-Saxon, but I suppose having watched so many Time Teams over the years, it’s gradually crept under the skin. Also, I’ve read so much now about our Celtic past and much of that references theories about the people who preceded them, and so it is that before you know where you are, you’ve reached that wonderful hinterland where history melts into legend and legend into myth.

And I find that I am entirely entranced by this mythic realm.

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Detail from the Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

This is where, I’m afraid to say, the history junkie in me ceases all scientific, factual thought and instead wholeheartedly embraces the possibilities of myth. Because, really, faced with something like the Ring of Brodgar, how much can you actually say for certain. But stop thinking and instead stand there and simply feel and I defy anyone not to be affected emotionally. To know that humans, so much like us, went to the effort to create these structures, but to understand so little about why they did so, is both baffling and mesmerising. The gulf between our time and their’s opens and all we have is our minds and tantalising traces of archaeology to bridge that gap.

I did rather max out on the photos on Orkney, so once I’ve sorted through, I’ll write a separate post about it.

So, relaxed and refreshed, it’s back to the needle now. I have some fairly nebulous ideas running around my head, which I need to get down to planning out. The textures of our wild places are, I’m pretty sure, bound to wheedle their way in.

What are you working on at the moment? Does history, myth or landscape influence how you work? Do tell.

 

 

 

 

 

If Women Rose Rooted…

Along with many of you, I’m something of a bookaholic – occasionally I write here about the latest stash waiting to be devoured (indeed as luck would have it, the previous post was just such a one). You might well have noticed however, that I don’t very often return to review the books I’ve read.

But last week I read ‘If Women Rose Rooted’ by Sharon Blackie and it was one of those rare times when I felt as if by some means of synchronicity, the right book reached me at exactly the right moment. Reading it was such an immersive experience, I’m going to try to talk just a little about the feelings and questions reading it has raised in me.

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So, if you haven’t read it yourself, this is the weaving together by Sharon Blackie of her story – her history, with the powerful threads of Celtic myth, and a cry for the active re-establishment of the balance between masculine and feminine values and energies for the health of the planet. It is a journey in its fullest sense.

But for me it was no passive read. Perhaps because Sharon’s experiences mirror many of my own; the acceptance of a career based on masculine values, the increasing difficulty of riding the gulf between those values and my gut/heart intuition, the sharp sting of a crisis and realisation that change was essential.

It would have been a sympathetic read based on that thread alone, but the reason I felt Sharon had written this book for me in particular was the weaving together of the Celtic themes and the importance she places on being rooted in the right place. Both themes which are currently incredibly powerful for me.

Like so many of us, I was brought up to know a lot of Classical mythology whilst practically nothing of our native stories. I suspect I thought there wasn’t much to know – how wrong! For a few years now, I’ve been trying to educate myself in this wonderfully rich heritage and it seems that the more I discover, the more there is to find. And these stories are rewarding, they are complex, multi-layered, enigmatic – the food for endless meditation and contemplation.

The desire to find my way to these stories came on gradually, but looking back, I can see that it was (and remains) fuelled by an urge which once was buried, then released – the call of the land where I belong. And here is the greatest pain, because unlike Sharon, I still have to make that journey. The need to be rooted in a place that is not where I currently am is strong and I am determined that it will happen, but for now, my own needs have to be balanced with the needs of others – so be it. I am using the time to develop other threads which will come with me when the moment is right.

Balance of course is the major issue being addressed in Sharon’s book – how can we as women actively work towards a true balance? I must admit, whilst every atom of my body wants to find that reassertion of the feminine values – as Sharon puts it ‘a determination to nurture rather than destroy’ – I also feel overwhelmed by the size of the task. I have begun to ask myself some of the questions Sharon poses for us in her book, but I don’t yet have the answers. I know this is a quest for us all, there is no magic bullet, but what will my role be? I can’t say.

What I know, is that reading Sharon’s book has had a profound effect on how I view my own situation. I feel as if having had a load of random jigsaw pieces in my possession, I’ve now been given the picture of how they fit together. It’s a gift.

And so if any of this resonates with you too, find your way to reading ‘If Women Rose Rooted’ – savour it, who knows what it might say to you.

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More guilty pleasures…

or ‘How what you read in your teens can scar you for life…’

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Last week, with the girls still at home for Easter, we found ourselves in need of some new books – as you do…

Naturally the first choice on these occasions is Hay-on-Wye, but as it’s over four hours away by car, it isn’t really an option for a quick mid-week fix. Instead we opted for Berkhamsted, (of Ed Reardon fame), where I have a soft spot for the Oxfam bookshop.

I really do think it’s the sort of shop where they should have lock-ins, like pubs once did. I’m pretty confident I could spend several hours (quite possibly days) working my way through the shelves there without ever getting bored.

I came away with an old Folio Society version of ‘Richard III The Great Debate’. It contains Sir Thomas More’s History of King Richard III, and Horace Walpole’s Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard III.

I blame Rosemary Hawley Jarman for my Richard fetish. I read We Speak No Treason when it first came out in the 1970s, at that impressionable age, and have been in love with him ever since. Loads of history books, TV programmes and a car park exhumation later and I still enjoy reading anything about Richard and that era.

I’m looking forward to reading what More actually wrote. As a chief propagandist against Richard I’m naturally inclined against him – even studying Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons in the Sixth Form didn’t make him any more forgivable and Anton Lesser’s portrayal in Wolf Hall fits better with my view of More. But the great benefit of being a history junkie not a proper historian, is that you can happily indulge your own prejudices to your heart’s content.

I know next to nothing about Horace Walpole, so that section will be educational on several levels.

The useful thing about Berkhamsted, is that if there’s a book you want but can’t find in Oxfam, they’ve thoughtfully built a Waterstones just down the road.

I didn’t want anything else and was just browsing while the Daughter looked for a specific title when two more books leapt into my hands – as they do…

Mary Beard’s SPQR A History of Ancient Rome and Ruth Scurr’s John Aubrey My Own Life.

My knowledge of Ancient Rome is best described as patchy, being the result of a few lessons about the Greeks and Romans which I had when I was about eight years old and from watching (avidly) and then reading (almost as avidly) I, Claudius when it was on TV in the 1970s. It feels like having a few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle without the picture to guide you and lots of bits missing. Hopefully Mary Beard will help me put it all together and fill in the gaps.

I hadn’t heard anything about Ruth Scurr’s book before I saw it on the shelf, but I have  been a fan of John Aubrey’s Brief Lives, since I read it as a history obsessed teenager.

At the time, I’d only encountered history text books and historic fiction, so to find Brief Lives was a revolution, here were snippets of information about famous and now largely forgotten people in a style unique to Aubrey.

So to find a biography of John Aubrey and one written in such a delicate homage to Aubrey’s style, weaving history and biography together, is a fabulous treat.

Looking at the books when we got home, it suddenly struck how they all linked so much to the teenage me. I suppose some things never change.

Happy reading…

 

 

 

 

 

Morning routine…

or ‘the unanticipated benefits of a photography habit’.

Hands up if you’ve never deliberately attempted to start a habit of some kind…

Me? I’ve tried loads, and I mean loads! But the fact is, I’m rubbish at it. I’m really good at reading the books that tell you why you should regularly do something, I understand the benefits they tell me I’ll see as a result of establishing these habits, I want to experience those benefits, I really do, but in the end, I just don’t seem to have what it takes to tick the habit box. A few days into trying anything habit-like and chances are I’ve already lost the plot.

But there is one thing I do which I think does qualify for habit status – not a habit I ever deliberately intended to make a habit, but which has happened anyway, and that is the habit of taking a photo (or several) of the countryside every day when I walk the dog.

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Long-service readers will know this began with photographing a particular oak tree in the lane. But although I decided to record the oak, I didn’t set off with any intention to make it a permanent thing, I didn’t anticipate any particular benefits of doing it, I simply wanted to see how that tree changed over the period of a year.

But you know, it’s now well over 3 years since I started taking those photos and I still do it every day – I think we can agree that counts as a habit.

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Now let’s be honest, this habit hasn’t done a thing for my ability to keep the house clean or tidy, it hasn’t turned me into a highly successful business person, or (sadly) prevented me from eating my own weight in cake at the slightest provocation.

But you know, there are a few benefits I think do stem from this habit.

These days I am much more in tune with the changing seasons. The whole cycle of life, the ever-changing weather moods and the ebb and flow of energy is something I feel better connected to, even anchored in, and much happier as a result.

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And this once fairly ignorant wildlife watcher has now become fascinated by the flora and fauna in one mundane English country lane. I now own and frequently consult books on wildflowers, trees, insects, mushrooms and birds – and now, just occasionally, I can actually call something by its proper name.

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Having never really been able to commit to a daily drawing practice, I do find that looking carefully at the natural world around me has improved my eye for texture, pattern and subtlety in colour, with the added benefit of having a record to go back to if I want to research something for an artwork. It may not be the creative habit of Twyla Tharp, but honestly, I think it works for me.

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But the best thing of all, is that when you’re having a dull miserable winter and your friends comment on how it seems to have been grey for so long, you can immediately jump in and bore them rigid with precise details of exactly how many days it’s been since we had any sunshine and then show them all the photos to prove it… I know, because I am that woman!

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So there you have it, an accidental habit worth having…

I post a picture from my walk most days over on my Instagram account, do come over and say hello if you’re on IG.

I don’t own a camera – all the pictures are taken with my smart phone, which is tucked -dawn to dusk – into the pocket of my jeans. I was thinking just the other day how lucky I am to live in the digital age, and giving thanks to the inventor of the camera app.

Do you have any accidental habits that make your life better? Do tell…

 

Slow Art In Action…

Growing a tree…

Once upon a time there was a woman who was fascinated by trees. She went out almost every day taking photos of them, and when she wasn’t snapping pictures, she’d be gazing at trees, and occasionally talking to them…

It just happens that the same woman is an obsessive stitcher (yes, it’s me – you guessed).

So she decided – not for the first time – to grow one in stitches.

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She didn’t know exactly what it was going to look like, but she had an idea – a touch of awen– which she sketched onto the canvas.

A riot of colours were swooshing around in her mind, and eventually she chose the ones she was going to use.

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It was autumn and lots of things were happening in her life, but gradually, stitch by tiny stitch, the tree began to appear.

2016-02-02 11.21.40She took the initial lines and gradually elaborated on them with the threads, letting her imagination decide where to take them.

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Sometimes, when there were dark days, the repetitive, meditative process of stitching took her mind away from problems and sadness, and gave her peaceful, mindful moments. And all the time the tree continued to grow – watered just a few times with her tears.

2016-01-15 13.29.24But there was a lot of happiness too. She thoroughly revelled in cosying up on the sofa when it was cold outside, thick woolly socks on her feet, listening to the radio or TV while on she stitched.

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Time passed, Christmas came and a new year began.

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The tree took shape.

2016-02-02 11.23.16And all the unknown spaces, all the blank areas on the initial design, were filled with silk, wool and metallic threads.

Until at last, one day, there were no more spaces to fill…

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Busy month…

You really have to pity my Other Half. Less than 7 weeks after Christmas and he is hit with the triple whammy of St Valentine’s Day, Number One Daughter’s birthday and my birthday, all within the space of 6 days.

So one way or another it has been pretty busy around here, thank goodness for half term which conveniently contains all three events.

We’re not massively into celebrating St Valentine’s so that didn’t cause too much trouble, but the Daughter’s birthday was a very significant one – she can now legally have a pint of beer after bell-ringing (oh and I suppose vote, get married etc etc…)

There was cake.

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I had thought about making a sophisticated affair, but then I decided that although she might now legally be an adult,  she will always be my baby, so instead I went for the ‘add as much chocolate as possible’ option and risked death by fire with the full quota of candles.

We celebrated with what is becoming a traditional day trip to Bath.

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What a fantastic place Bath is, even on days when it rains continuously (like it did last Wednesday), it’s beautiful.

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Our family tradition, stretching back to when the new adult was not much more than a toddler, is to play a round of mini-golf while we’re in Bath. Interestingly, although by no means our coldest round, it was certainly our wettest.

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Have you ever watched a golf ball gently descend into a hole filled to over-brimming with water? And then to have to plunge your hand down into the extremely cold water to retrieve your ball? It’s different, that’s all I’m going to say…

Still, a tradition is a tradition – these things have to be done.

My own birthday was a much lower key event. Having enjoyed being 39 for some years now, I see no reason to change it. I suppose the time will come when I will have to consider being 42 or maybe even 44, but I’m in no hurry.

So Number Two Daughter and I set off for a day trip yesterday, to mark the end of half term with a little bit of culture.

We both love Packwood House in Warwickshire, so that was our first stop. It occurred to us that we’ve never been on a really warm, sunny day. Do you have places like that?

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Each elevation is so different at Packwood…
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Very fond of asymmetry me…

Our initial plan had been to go next to Baddesley Clinton, another favourite, but warned of ongoing work there, instead we thought about either Kenilworth Castle or Hanbury Hall. Neither of us could decide, so eventually we tossed a coin and Hanbury won.

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Restoring the symmetrical balance…
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For some reason, my favourite view of Hanbury…

I felt considerably older than my 39-again years as we were walking round Hanbury, as I kept telling Number Two how much it had improved since my first visits back in the 1970s. But it really has.

So, it’s back to the routine again this week. The Delinquent Dog and I walked along the lane this morning listening to the birds who are quite certain it’s now spring, even if the weather hasn’t totally decided.

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From other people’s blogs and IG feeds I’m sure our lane is not as far on as some others, but I don’t think it will be long before we have flowers and blossom.

Happy stitching x

 

 

 

 

January stitching…

Nearly the end of January and I hope everyone is now getting back into some sort of ‘normal’ routine. (Oh yes, I can hear the cackles from here…).

Around here, things have been going quite well. I’ve somehow managed to get back into a semblance of a domestic rhythm – which is not something the feminist in me would ever have expected to write – but still, there’s no escaping the fact that for me at least I function better and get more creative work done when the boring bits are under control.

But I eased myself in gently. A visit to the V & A at the beginning of the month to see the Fabric of India exhibition, was a great way to get the creative juices flowing. I’ve decided that 2016 will have more Artist Dates* – it’s too easy to get caught up on the hamster wheel of daily life and we need to step off and recharge from time to time.

Fired up by the trip to London I’ve managed to get back to stitching properly this month. Unusually for me, I started the month with two pieces in progress. The first is an experiment with a different style of stitching, inspired by a summer’s day on a Scottish beach.

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I remember sitting on the beach (at Sango Bay to be precise), looking out at the sea and sky and realising that there were distinct bands of colour running horizontally and suddenly thinking that it might make a good subject for a stitchy piece. I didn’t have the phone with me, so instead, I scribbled notes about the different colour bands in a little book I was carrying, and hoped it would be enough description to enable me to interpret it when I came home.

When things were a bit rough before Christmas, I started putting this idea together, and I think having a completely different, ‘see-how-it-goes’ approach made it easier to pick up when I felt able.

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detail from ‘Beach’

But although it’s definitely producing the look that I was after, I have to say that I don’t find I enjoy long periods of stitching this way. Dare I say it, it’s almost like weaving, in as much as I have to progress from line to line, working lineally. Which explains two things – first, why it remains only about half stitched, and second, why I am now totally concentrating on the other piece – yes, yet another tree…

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I am much more ‘at home’ creating tree pictures, especially if they contain lots of spirals.

While I’ve been curled up, stitching away at this latest specimen, I’ve been thinking more deeply about this addiction to trees. I thought that if I could go back and collect up all the drawings, pictures and doodles I’ve ever done, I’d hazard a guess that well over half would have featured trees. I have no idea where this all started, but I know I was already doing it when I went to secondary school.

My Instagram feed is full of tree pictures – my own and those of the many other people out there who also share this fascination. Last week I met another lady, also an embroiderer, who does exactly the same thing and takes a daily picture of a favourite tree – it’s a small world.

You don’t have to be obsessed with trees for long before you become engaged in exploring the mythology surrounding them. I had originally thought I might write about that in particular, for instance the Tree of Life, Yggdrasil, Druid oak groves, that sort of thing – but it’s such a huge topic, these are just Western mythologies, and trees feature in the mythos and cosmology of cultures all around the world – I wouldn’t know where to begin or end.

So if trees speak to you too, then I’m sure you’ll have your own thoughts on why you’re attracted to them and there’s a very good chance the enchantment goes right back into the mists of time. Something to ponder as the needle goes in and out…

And I shall carry on with this one and wish you all happy stitching!

* Artist Dates: Julia Cameron’s suggestion in The Artist’s Way that artists should have a weekly ‘Artist’s Date’ to charge their creative batteries.

 

 

 

Back again…

I really must begin by thanking you for bearing with me over the last few weeks. I know I’ve always maintained that blogging should be done as and when you feel you have something to say, not to some self-imposed schedule, but even so, I have been well and truly off-piste since November, so I do appreciate you sticking with me.

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The last couple of months of 2015 were pretty full-on for me. A mixture of dreadful lows and  gorgeous highs, set against the unrelenting onslaught of Christmas. I’ve learned now just how much energy this kind of ricocheting takes and discovered that I can now say ‘no’ fairly effectively (I recommend it!). I’ve also been humbled by the tremendous care and help my daughters have offered over this rocky time, they’re growing into extremely lovely young women and I’m proud of them.

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I want to apologise to all you wonderful bloggers who I’ve failed miserably to keep in touch with lately. My one and only resolution for the New Year is to get this back on track. Blogland is a wonderful community and I love being here with you.

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And so, 2016 – what’s happening?

I’m hoping to use 2016 as a year of exploration. The old loves, history, nature and landscape continue to fascinate me – more than that, they have me enthralled. I think I’ve always known that these threads were calling to me, this year I hope to weave them together in a way I hope will begin to express their importance to me.

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Last year was an enormous learning curve for me on the practicalities of being an artist. For this year I’m intending to protect more time for making art. I’m going to brush the rust off some of my old organisational skills to help me achieve a better balance – in fact I think I might adopt balance as my word of the year.

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When my dear friend died last year, far too young and with far too much still to give, it really brought home to me how precious life is and how important it is that we use our time for the really important things, and so that’s what I intend to do.

May you all have a wonderful, happy and productive 2016 – be you!

I continue to photograph the oak most days on my morning walk. The shots in this post are from the end of December and beginning of January – too much grey, not enough sunshine!

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