Can’t help feeling I should be…

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We had such a marvellous weekend exhibiting at the Discover Original Art Fair, – massive thanks to everyone who came –  I’ve not quite got my feet back in the real world.

I have so far managed to ignore the tsunami of ironing which is engulfing the downstairs shower room. The grocery shopping happened, and the Delinquent Dog has had a few decent walks, but I’m sure there’s something else I should be thinking about…

Oh yes, Christmas

Would  anyone mind if we put it back a few weeks…

Little treasures…

The other day, while I was looking for something completely different, I came across this little box which had belonged to my grandmother.

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Not very exciting is it. But then, what happens if you take off the lid and peep inside?

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Here are the sides…

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I’m sure many of you will know now exactly what it is…

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…opened out, it’s obvious – a needle-case.

Dozens of rusty (but still very sharp) needles. And what’s in the middle?

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Just more needles – still wrapped in their black tissue.

A gift to my grandmother from her brother, fighting in France during The Great War. (He survived).

Not all family heirlooms are valuable, some are priceless.

 

 

A sense of home…

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I was delighted to read Catherine’s latest post over at Knotted Cotton – part of the current blog hop that’s introducing creative sorts from around the world and giving us glimpses into their individual processes and idiosyncrasies. Catherine kindly mentioned Dreaming In Stitches (thank you Catherine). 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my own creative process, which I think includes most of the questions covered in the blog hop – the link to it is here if you’d like to read it again. But one question I didn’t cover then was  -‘Where I live, or have lived’.

This for me, is both the easiest and confusingly also the hardest question to answer.

The simple and straightforward response is that I currently live in the Home Counties, just inside Bedfordshire, but so close to Buckinghamshire that I cross into it every morning when I walk the Delinquent Dog.

I was born and raised in rural Worcestershire, went away to university in Yorkshire and lived there for near-as-damn-it ten years, before coming south to work in the 1990s.

I met the Other Half here. This is where we married, where our children were born and where they are now at school for a few more years at least. I have lived here longer than anywhere else, it is where the others call home. But is it where I call home?

And this is where it becomes complicated.

Because although our house, our family home, is undoubtedly home, my home, my nest, my sanctuary, – at the same time, I can’t put my hand on my heart and honestly say that this area feels like home.

Deep inside, with a yearning that is so powerful it makes me come over all emotional, I want to go west. My body may be in the Home Counties, but my mind and my heart are somewhere between Hereford and Harlech. It isn’t a recent thing, although as I get older, the desire gets stronger. I long for hills and mountains, for rivers and streams, for castles and hill forts, for history seeping out of the stones.

I ache to go west and I suspect it may be in my genes. My paternal grandfather retired to Pembrokeshire and my brother has now retired to Carmarthenshire – coincidence? My mother’s family were Jones’s, so perhaps the pull comes from both directions, who can say. All I know is that if I stand for a while in the garden, I swear I start to lean over towards the west.

I’m acutely aware that this could be a recipe for huge discontent, especially since without the Other Half making major changes in his working life, it’s not likely to happen soon. Even tentative ideas for retirement are still rather more in the realms of fantasy than reality. Dwelling too much in the land of what-ifs could blind me to the beauty of what-is and I’m determined that that won’t happen.

So I make the conscious effort to tune in to the patterns of nature, to go with the same rhythms of the year that I’d experience wherever we lived and to appreciate the elements from the flat-lands as much as I’d do if I was on top of a mountain. I don’t put my enjoyment on-hold until some future time.

It’s just that when the spirit of a place burrows into your soul, it’s very difficult to ignore. I live here and I live there too.

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Standing on top of Raglan Castle, looking west… pure heaven.

 

 

Sore Hands.

Feeling a bit sorry for myself today. We’ve been having the usual pre-Christmas changes to schedule – Christmas concerts, husband away with work, sick children – you probably know the score. These I’m coping with (sort of), but the thing that is getting me down today, is my sore hands.

I’ve had eczema since forever, and I think on the whole I’ve learned to live with it or at least manage it pretty well. But just occasionally, it gets out of control. it’s as if a balance tips and instead of being able to ‘get on with it’, it becomes too uncomfortable to manage.

These days, it’s really only my hands with which I have a problem. Years back, it was all over – including my face, which I can tell you, is incredibly hard to handle – but sometime in my mid-forties, the eczema on the face and body cleared away.

But hands are tricky things, especially when you have to wash them frequently – and for the last three weeks, the skin on my hands has been suffering. I do my best to keep them moisturised, but have you ever noticed how often you wash your hands during a day? I now have seven out of ten fingers/thumbs which hurt like hell and are in a bad way.

It will clear up eventually, I’ve been in this situation lots of times before, but right now, it’s a giant pain in the proverbial. There’s a lot I want to get done, but you’d be amazed how restricting it is when your hands are covered in greasy stuff so they don’t crack. I’ve even had to wipe a bit of the stuff off so I can type without transferring goo to the keyboard. The poor mouse is already slimy.

I can’t write the Christmas cards because I’ll get greasy marks on everything. I can’t make sausage rolls because the extra hand washing is devastating, but worst of all – I can’t sew – it just hurts and little wounds keep opening up and then bleeding – definitely not what you want on your wools and silks. I bled on one of the bell ropes at the weekend – very unsavoury indeed.

So, for the moment, I’m stuck here, feeling miserable. Yuck.

 

Advent-ures in Christmas Shopping…

Number one priority this Christmas – staying sane.

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So you can imagine how much I was looking forward to taking number one daughter to late night shopping in Milton Keynes on Friday. But, she was desperate to see a friend who couldn’t make it at any other time over the weekend and I gracefully agreed (actually I think I was quite nice about it).

Well, what do you think happened? First shock, the free parking places behind John Lewis have been replaced by ‘premium parking spaces’ at the festive rate of £1.20 per hour. No wonder the car park was relatively empty at 6.15pm. Then, as I went to feed the meter, muttering mild expletives, guess what I read on the machine? – Charges apply 7.00am to 6.00pm, Monday to Saturday – yippee!

Children duly met up and so it was off to browse the gift section in John Lewis (too far to go home and back). What a surprise; loads of excellent ideas for the hoards of nieces and nephews. I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy anything, but I made notes about everything I saw and the price, so I could double check with himself and daughters that my choices were suitable.

So, Friday evening went off well.

Saturday; managed to stay sane despite taking number two daughter to her school’s Christmas Fayre. (Oh how I hate those things). I managed to ‘do my bit’, then leave her there for a few minutes while I went into town and shopped.

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I thought that this year I would make my Christmas cards, but having scoured the high street for blank cards, I couldn’t find any for less than the price of charity cards from the British Heart Foundation charity shop. So I decided to save myself the effort and support a good cause instead and stocked up with a nice selection.

Went home and made some sausage rolls – essential Christmas food in our house.

Sunday: Get this – managed somehow to persuade husband to drop me off outside John Lewis, while I went in and bought all the items I’d ear-marked on Friday night. So glad we did – it was far busier, but think supermarket sweep and you’ll have a good impression of me grabbing all the pieces we’d decided to buy. I was in and out in less than half an hour with around ninety percent of the gifts for the hoards.

I love John Lewis.

Was so happy (not something I’d have thought I’d see myself saying about Christmas shopping), that I went home and cooked a proper Sunday Roast – and guess what else – the Yorkshire Puddings didn’t stick to the pan.

So, according to my Advent Calendar, there are 20 days to go – so far, so good.

Sanity Score: 8/10.

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Chin Up, It’s Advent.

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Am I the only one who goes into a Christmas meltdown?

I’ve been reading blogs for the last couple of weeks, full of delightful Christmas spirit, loaded with ideas for creating your own gifts, some truly gorgeous imagery, lovely thoughts about what Christmas is all about, bringing love and light into the cold (sorry, you southern hemisphere readers, bear with me) world, etc, etc – you know what I’m talking about.

So, I just wondered, is there anyone out there, whose reaction to the start of Advent, isn’t ‘yippee, it’s nearly Christmas!’, but more like ‘Oh hell, how on earth am I going to get through the next three or four weeks without a) excessive recourse to the gin bottle, b) attempting to murder someone, or c) doing a fairly credible impression of Alice’s White Rabbit.

I used to really love Christmas, and especially the run up to it, but looking back, I think that was probably made easier because I wasn’t the person putting all the important little pieces in place to make it happen. Now that I seem to have been dealt the entire production, I have to be honest and say that I’m overwhelmed.

The pressure to create the perfect family Christmas; styling the house so that it wouldn’t disgrace an over-the-top Dickensian extravaganza, shopping for, preparing and being ready to cook and serve around five days worth of non-standard, celebration feasting, sourcing, paying for and wrapping ‘the perfect gift’ for roughly twenty (at the last count) assorted nieces, nephews, babysitters, Godchildren, and violin teachers, before we get down to the task of finding ‘the perfect gift’ for my own two children, who, despite being sweeties and understanding a lot about ‘making ends meet’, still need a few odds and ends to open ‘on the day’ – is really getting to me – BIG TIME!

And yet, here I am, carrying on as normal (I wish).

Not for the first time, have I been tempted to forget the whole thing and refuse to do any preparations unless I get some help, but I know I can’t. I actually want to make it a special family time – it’s just that at the moment, I feel like the proverbial bunny, caught in the headlights and waiting to be mown down by the enormous weight of Christmas on the roll.

Anyway, this morning, I read a blog that mentioned doing a daily Advent post. And although the blogger I was reading, I think had in mind snippets of festive good cheer and progress reports, I was suddenly seized with the idea that I might attempt an Advent Blog series myself, with the intention of having a place to let off steam, write out my worries and hopefully thereby avoid repeating the unedifying spectacle (witnessed by a very few) of last year’s New Year’s Eve breakdown. (Think pressure cooker lid blowing off, with contents, probably involving carrots and a lot of tomatoes, liberally spraying themselves across every surface in a three mile radius).

Archbishop of York John Sentamu

(Incidentally, John Sentamu, my all-time favourite Anglican Archbishop, is doing a proper online Advent Calendar, click here if you’re interested).

And so, you have been warned. This space may not be the best place to hang out for a few weeks if you’re of a nervous disposition. I can’t promise that I’ll post every day, and I can’t be held responsible if I inadvertently take the shine off your own festive spirit.

But if I make it to January without having to call in industrial cleaners  to mop up the carnage, I’ll have done well enough for me.

Hey ho, only 23 more days to go.

 

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