Scotland and other news…


Scotland is very much in the news at the moment with the vote less than 24 hours away! But I shall have Scotland in mind throughout 2015 thanks to Jo Woolf at The Hazel Tree, who has produced a fabulous calendar featuring her wonderful photographs of Scottish scenery – and best of all for me – Scottish castles…

If like me you’re in love with Scottish countryside and history and you’re not already following Jo’s blog and website, do go over there right now and have a look around. I thought I knew Scotland pretty well, but since I’ve been reading Jo’s posts, I’ve acquired a long list of places I must visit the next time I go north for a holiday.

I’m not sure how many calendars Jo has available, but there’s a link here to take you to her Etsy shop if you fancy a little piece of Scotland on your wall next year.

(I’m sure you know me well enough by now, but just to reassure you, this is a personal recommendation and not sponsored in any way – I am just a big fan!).

And in other news…

Well, I’ve finally done it – I have decided to dip my toe tentatively into the real world with my stitchy stuff. At the weekend, I’m hoping to have a small number of my stitched tapestries on display at the Ivinghoe Community Hub, (really close to Ivinghoe Beacon for those in the know) as part of the Artists’ Network Bedfordshire September Art Trail.

Having played around with various ideas, I’ve finally come up with a simple, but I hope effective way of presenting the tapestries, so the last few days have seen me busily putting them together, stabbing myself in the finger far too many times with a very sharp needle and having much more fun than is strictly allowed with a roll of bubble-wrap.

If anyone is in the Beds/Bucks/Herts borderland this weekend and fancies tea, cake and original local art – Ivinghoe is your place to be (the tea room in the same building is absolutely first-rate – it really is extremely good, and you know I’m fussy about these things!).

Wish me luck!

The year in books : January…

Story of my life really, being rather late to join in, but there you are, never likely to be labelled an early-adopter me.

When I saw what Laura at The Circle of Pine Trees had in mind – to read and comment about a book read each month – and when I saw the fabulous bloggers signing up to take part, a little voice in my head just kept nagging me to go along for the ride. So eleventh hour it may be, but as they say, better late than never…

January’s favourite read?

A History of Scotland, by Neil Oliver.

Okay, before I go any further, I’m going to have to warn you that history books are likely to be quite a feature here. History sort of flows through my veins. Don’t panic, I won’t attempt to summarise the plot, I’ll just try to illustrate what it is about this book that makes me slope off to bed early, and read into the wee small hours (or at least until the eye-lids clamp shut).

In fact, rather than say too much, perhaps I should show you some of the things that are Scotland for me and which fuel my love of the country…

Ancient monastic sites, ruined castles, ruined cathedrals, wild landscapes, perfect beaches, mountain tops, churning rivers, and whisky…

The truth is, for me there is nowhere more majestic or enthralling than the Scottish Highlands and Islands. The landscape is so overwhelmingly powerful, it puts us mere humans firmly in our place. My parents started taking me to Sutherland every summer when I was five, I’ve rarely missed a year since. In that time, I’ve come to feel the tragedy, the violence and the pathos of the country through so many aspects of the landscape and ruins.

But although I have a good working knowledge of the chronology of English history, Scottish history felt more like a jigsaw puzzle with a blurred picture on the lid and half the pieces missing. Hence deciding to read Neil Oliver’s book.

We sometimes laugh at Neil’s very earnest TV presentations, but it’s not meant unkindly, in fact we’re all big fans, hard not to be when someone is so passionate about their subject. But I thoroughly enjoy his writing style. It’s a very capable historian who can deliver facts and context in an exciting manner, without falling into dramatics. It’s not like reading a Rebus novel, but it had me totally engaged.

Scotland has spent a large part of its history tearing itself apart in one way or another. Seems as if the same story is still being played out. For this interested bystander, it feels like watching history in the making.


And so for February?

History might feature, but I suspect keeping to the Scottish theme, it’ll be Secrets of the Shadow Bible, by Ian Rankin.

Happy reading.










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Springing Into Autumn

The new term has put a spring in my step. I have never really understood why people talk about fresh starts in January – for me, Autumn is the time when I feel energised, enthusiastic and ready to start again.

So the children are finally back at school and I’ve just about re-established contact with the bottom of the laundry pile, and at last I feel able to have some ‘me’ time. It’s been ages since I wrote here, but that’s because we spent most of August camping in Scotland (well I know that might not suit everyone, but we had the best time imaginable).

It’s my intention to scatter the odd post about the holiday on my other blog Mostly Motley from time to time, so if tales of wet walks up mountains, soft golden sandy beaches and castles galore are your thing, do pop over there occasionally and have a look.

But this blog is my creative space, so it’s time for a quick update.

Well full of good intentions, I actually took a small bag and some tapestry supplies away with me, thinking that I would sit and watch the sunsets, whilst putting in a few stitches. But in truth, I never actually took out the contents during the whole holiday. The fact is that we were either too wet or too tired to sit outside very much, and on the occasions when we did, I found that simply gazing at the views was enough. Oh and I suppose that having to move around quite a lot to avoid being midge fodder was an additional disincentive.

I did however, take a lot of photographs of the sort that my husband calls ‘arty’, but are in fact simply pictures without him or our daughters in them.

Kirkaig Falls, near Lochinver.

I also spent a great deal of time just looking. The scenery on the West Coast of Scotland is unsurpassed in my opinion. Ever since I was a small child, going there on holiday with my parents, the combination of mountains, lochs and the sea has had me in thrall. We drove to the Corran Ferry through some of the most atrocious rain we’ve ever experienced, but as we got to Glen Coe, the rain disappeared and the weather changed. We got out of the car to stretch our legs before the ferry arrived and tears came to my eyes, it’s just unspeakably beautiful and I felt that I was being welcomed back.

After three weeks of Highland scenery, I feel well and truly re-energised. My inspiration levels are topped up and at least for a while I’m calm again.

For two years now, I’ve been mangling my brain, trying to fit my square career experience into the round hole that is the real me, and I think that I might now have tipped the balance properly and decided not to beat myself up any more, (well I expect the occasional relapse), but no more attempts to come up with the perfect solution. For now, I’m going to be nice to myself and see where it takes me.

My Autumn resolution is to draw and paint every day. I can’t do that when the family are at home, so I’ll make time during the day. At night, I’ll always be able to sew – that remains my best therapy.

It’s been thirty-three years since I gave myself permission to draw and paint just for pleasure – I wonder what’s lurking inside.

Anyway, enough of this introspection.

Here is a pastel sketch of Hadrian’s Wall from a picture I took while we were there. I did it yesterday. Well, it’s a start!

Hadrian's Wall (pastel)