Thursday, 29 November 2012

My heart on the page ...

For reasons that I will not go into now so late at night (or rather so early in the morning, it being 00.13hrs), I will nevertheless post this experimental sketch of 'my heart on the page'.

My heart is fragile tonight, figuratively; and this experimental sketch was created by dipping my fingers in red wine, and then drawing over the page with black in whilst still wet, and flooding a little watercolour over the scribbles. I had in mind the thought of lace, and lavender as I did this. A delight to me, but I have a dilemma to deal with come morning.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Caught in the (helpful) act !

Now I know why the new bread knife is blunt! "The best tool", I was told, "for cutting the insulation that is going between the joists in the refurbished kitchen". Such a job to remove the old insulation that was a sort of fibreboard that had gone rock solid, but partially collapsed when the roof leaked and it fell on the cooker. That was but a part; the rest is in progress, with Raymond making special tools to extract it - fair bit of welding involved. But we shall be so warm and cosy once it is all done, in this the oldest room in the house; and completely watertight when the weather warms so the new roof above can be laid. May seem a bit back to front, but its been such a wet summer.

So how could I reproach the dear man for such hard work? (I can always buy another knife!) Instead, I berated the Bank on his behalf for making a mistake with his account and then writing him (us) a most discourteous and inaccurate letter. No wonder he lay awake all night worrying - not good at age 80-plus.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Hurrah - except for the floods!

The Sor Brook flooding the water meadows by Broughton Castle, Banbury
It has been such a day, after 24 hours - and two inches - of rain, an orchard so squelchy you could drown in mud, and the start of an ART REVIVAL; transforming the roof space (attic under the third floor eaves) into a 'messy' slathering paint and paste studio. This has not been touched for so many years and the clutter has accumulated - anything we did not want to throw away went up the narrow ladder-stairs into it. Too low under the beams and rafters for anyone to stand upright except me .... re-organising is ongoing; thrilling.

And then a phone call from the doctor that my blood pressure which I have been monitoring for weeks is OK; acceptable. Hurrah! I can get on with my life. Also today came the page proofs of the first in my new series in 'Grow it!' magazine; a sort of scrapbook / compendium of inspiration in and out of the garden. I am thrilled with how it is looking; just what I have been visualising all these years. It comes out in a couple of weeks, the January 2013 issue. So all in all, a good day, though the Embroiderer's Guild 'silk bowl' workshop tomorrow has had to be cancelled as the roads are impassible in places. A shame, but more time for the art revival by a body refreshed (even though more rain is forecast). I hope no-one has suffered serious flooding - I'm thinking of you all, wherever you are.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Such a relief ...

I can't think that this post will be a delight to anyone but me!
I'm smiling! Finally after two months of treatment, my damaged front tooth is repaired with a splendid new crown - better than the original tooth! I shall be able to eat again without having to cut EVERYTHING up into miniscule pieces. Thankyou to my excellent dentist (Doctor C) who managed to save me from disaster - it was costly treatment, but the alternative did not bear thinking about. It would have involved hospital treatment and a difficult extraction - I would look even more of a hag with a toothless grin - or a very expensive implant which would have taken months, and which I could never have afforded.

Now all I am awaiting is a call from the medical surgery regarding my 'uplifted' blood pressure which I have been monitoring over the last month (very boring, and I kept forgetting). Hopefully it will be considered to be OK, and I can get on with the things I love doing, and enjoy the calm which is becoming a part of my life after the turmoil of the last 18 months. Serenity.

Saturday, 17 November 2012


Cluttered? This is actually organised and tidy, though it may not look so!
(click on the image if you want to view it at a larger size)
I have spent three days sorting my office, the better to reflect my current and ongoing commissions, and the fact I will go crazy if I cannot fit more creative art into my life. Still not finished (a couple of boxes of notes to be sorted, analysed and filed - mostly word-whispers and text for commissioned article series. The 'office' (once a child's bedroom) still retains the bed made for one of the children by my husband, but now with a work-surface over it. On this are all the trays that hold material for features - gardening, travel, and creative topics, plus boxes of books for reference and review. It hasn't been properly sorted for eighteen months; just been too busy! There are two other 'areas' in this little room (not shown) my desk by the window where I am now, and where I prefer to work (on my laptop) with the windowsill on my left holding art materials and journals going back to the year 2000, a bookcase also built by my husband with more reference books, and then the 'working area' near the door - a 3-sided space with storage chest, instructional books, two printers, scanner, my old laptop and computer on which is stored my library of text and images material.

It's all squirrelled away, and as I can no longer remember where I put down my pen, let alone my camera, or files to which I refer infrequently, I have resorted to labelling all the boxes and trays and making a reference plan. Such a relief (even though this is only a part of the house that needs de-clutter treatment) but my blood-presure is down for the first time in a week - I keep forgetting to check it. Must make tea for Raymond and find the lemon drizzle cake.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Dilemma becomes Delight (almost!)

Just three of my garden journals
It seems far longer than 15 days since I began this blog. Life was meant to become easier when I gave up one of the day jobs; and indeed it has in some respects - sorting the house, and the garden; but oh the dilemma of what to discard and what might still 'come in handy' - and that's just boxes, bags, drawers and trunks full of nigh on 75 years of the written word. The dilemma is not just what to keep, or the unbearable thought of throwing away years of published work, but the fact that I seem to be losing my mind. Cannot recall what I am doing from one minute to the next. It's the brain that needs de-cluttering!

And then 10 days ago I hit on a possible solution. I work simultaneously in far too many journals and sketchbooks on so many topics. I cannot keep track of what is in where, or even where they are around the house - so many rooms. But for some reason I had acquired a new mid-year diary (July 2012 to August 2013) because the cover was so distinctive I thought it could not be lost amongst the piles balanced on chairs. With a page to each day, I thought to jot down brief notes on what I wrote and in which journal. And also list emails that need action (I must get 100 a day), and photographic images taken for specific features. I check each day, and spend one day a week 'catching up' on what hasn't been done. The brain can concentrate again on being creative - and instead of scraps of paper in each room ready for instant thoughts, I now keep pads of post-it notes handy; write what comes into my head (usually words for features upon which I am working) and then post it on the diary page for that day. This may all seem so childish - I've spent the best part of 55 years devising teaching notes, magazine publishing schedules and marketing schemes but none of that has stood me in good stead for the onset of dementia, if that is what faces me now. But this is not a sob story; my solution is not quite 'delight' yet; true progress can be assessed in another fortnight, perhaps. (And before anyone suggests it, I have apps on my phone and programs on my computer/s, but prefer the physical aspects of writing - the pen on the page has always been special to me.)

Monday, 12 November 2012

Yesterday's Delight

Ready for planting
Two days in the garden in bright sunshine, and I reclaimed three of the four potager beds in the 'courtyard' - and area of garden surrounded by wildlife friendly shrubs - and even managed to replant them. It's all part of the restructuring of my life (!) in which I am spending more time on the garden and home and less on non-stop commissions. Last year, this little mini-garden was devoted to food - a wet summer and far too much time away travelling and it looked so sorry for itself. Now the beds are being converted, but I will show you just this one - the cutting patch to provide flowers for the house. This shows all my bulb acquisitions laid out ready to plant. There are tulips and miniature daffs, pink and mauve hycinths, unusual fritillaria and heavenly blue grape-hyacinths. Bulbs run into summer if you plant alliums, and I have some white-starred clusters and blue pmo-poms. Over them (not seen) is a grid of tiny wallflower plants, and once sorted, I will scatter seed of annual flowers such as calendula, cornflower and love-in-a-mist. The seedlings will grow through the bulbs and take over as the bulb foliage dies. A delight to plant and sow, and delight in the making as the shoots emerge and flower.

For those of you who love gardening, why not follow my 'Gardener's Companion' blog which I am engaged to write weekly for seed and plant company Dobies of Devon. Or if you prefer to see articles in print, follow my new monthly series on the 'Productive Garden' which are my 2013 commissions from 'Grow it!' magazine. The January issue comes out in December, and I'm really excited about sharing my various mini-gardens and a whole lot else. I've recently written (2012 features) about turning fruit (wild and garden-grown) into drinkable beverages, reviewed the Malvern Autumn Show, and offered advice on creating garden journals and keeping records (available some time this month) - including making a simple 'seed-keeper'. Check the publisher's website here.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The pity of war .....

"Lest we forget" (Rudyard Kipling)
I could not find the many photos I have taken over the years of poppies blowing wild in the fields of France, on those dreadful battlefields; or in gardens, or even those I have grown here for making photo-transfer flower-image cushions. So I have resorted to these artificial flowers, which I collect to stitch into fabric journals. These may never be stripped apart for they remind me of today, 11th November, when I anticipated our Church bells would ring for a service of remembrance - for all those who give their lives to deliver us from evil, no matter where or when the conflict. 

But they didn't. I remember nevertheless: living in London and going to school during the second world war. My father-in-law fought on the Somme at Beaumont Hamel and was badly injured in 1916; my uncle fought on the Normandy beaches. They never talked about these times. It has been through poetry, and diaries,  that I have discovered the horror of war: the futility, and the pity of it ....

Friday, 9 November 2012

Friday evening reflections

What I love doing and am again  moving towards
I've been somewhat busy this week so my aim of a daily post just did not materialise. And even today, I do not have a photo of what I have been up to, but it is related to the image above (which some readers will have seen elsewhere.) A year ago, I participated in the village craft show in the Church, and created what I called my 'castle turret' - it was certainly cold enough. I displayed my journals and mixed-media art in the de Mohun side chapel; our local medieval knight; so I gave the tiny area a feel of the past by carting down a trailer load of our old oak furniture. I blogged about it here.

But the significance of this event was that it persuaded me to participate in Warwickshire Open Studios in June and July this year - our caravan became my studio. I won't comment on the kind comments other than they have persuaded me to take another leap forward, now that I am stepping back from some of my commercial work. Today, I made that leap: a lovely time at the NEC (National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham) at Hobbycrafts an Art Materials Live. Nothing new in that, in that I go every year. But today was different; first I took a friend with me and second - a eureka moment. Rather than forget what I bought by stashing all away in a cupboard, I will make one integrated piece out of some of the bits and pieces. That will be a challenge. The results will appear on my Journaling blog, though I may well post the 'components' here when I unpack and take a pic in the daylight. That's the dilemma with my various blogs: on which one do I post when all my topics inter-relate?

Monday, 5 November 2012

Keeping village traditions alive

Outside The Norman Knight
Taken this morning outside out village pub - the sun was shining and there was a substantial gathering of horse, people and hounds, plus followers. One of whom found it necessary to accost my husband and ask him what he was doing taking photos, when he has documented life in the village since 1969 - flower shows, children sports, my 'brownie' pack (young version of girl guides), art exhibitions, farming, Millenium festivities, forging and hanging of new church bells, even our daughter's wedding in the Church. This, today, was a  meeting of The Warwickshire Hunt. Plenty of villagers enjoy refreshments and socialising, which regrettably I rarely do, though I emerge from the laptop from time to time.

The hounds are gathering (this outside our kitchen window)
(both images taken by me, and no-one asked me what I was doing!)

I have a busy week but will still try to post everyday and look forward to your joining me in these posts.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Food glorious food!

I haven't forgotten how to cook!
It's a whole week since I began this new blog, and it leads me from thought to thought; curious what takes my fancy each day, and what I choose to blog about. I have posted daily - though yesterday's entry never reached the screen, for I was preparing for a family party, and had not done such a thing for a year at least, ever since my dear husband became ill and subsequently discovered that we had to limit not only what he ate, but the ingredients used to prepare meals. But yesterday was a little different, because he had treated me to a very special leg of lamb - and so huge, we could never have consumed it all ourselves. And so on the spur of the moment I invited our child who just a few miles away with her husband and three children, all of whom enjoy sharing what we offer. All day was spent a) trying to remember how to cook and bake! and b) doing so, and preparing the table, and 'project bags' for the grandchildren who have outgrown childish games.

We enjoyed vegetables without number - roast potatoes, broccoli, leeks, carrots, peas, baked parsnips and sweetcorn. The grandchildren helped serve and clear the table, and kept an eye on the guttering candles. Raymond prepared little starter dishes of mixed salad - two sorts, one with fishy ingredients, the other with with cold meats and cheese; K. made the gravy (she always does), D. lifted the lamb onto a serving platter, little L - not so little now - checked the cutlery. We conversed; so much to talk about; school and out-of-school activities; early morning swimming training in Oxford before the day begins; poor K. tearing off a nail in a regional swimming competition in the army pool in Aldershot because the starting block was faulty - she continued her somewhat bloody race before being taken to A&E, yet still managed a 'pb' (personal best) ... 

And then dessert: fresh fruit, followed by peach tartlets, apple pie made from our own Gascoyne Scarlet apples with raisins, apricots and peach conserve (served with forbidden cream), plus lemon drizzle cake; all of which I fortunately remembered how to make. Sparkling Cava and a rather good bottle of red Tempranillo (the children enjoyed Irish apple juice), then coffee, tea and more chatter by the fire - we never did get around to the pancakes, but the batter sits in the fridge and I will indulge myself tonight, not personally being on any diet! A shame that we awoke this morning to a deluge as rain is somehow again pouring through the hall roof, onto the piano ... R. is up on the roof now, creating a diversion against further ingress - these old, old stone houses.

A longer post this, as it covers two days. And THANKYOU to everyone who has joined my in this first week of 'dilemmas and delights, and has shared comments, both here and on Facebook. I truly appreciate and value your friendship. P.S. Many of the stories to which I refer can be found on my other blogs - please click on any link at the right if you would like to explore further events in my crazy life.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Roses are forever

A guilty treat?
I gave myself a bouquet of roses today; well, two actually as they were on special offer - two bunches for £5.00. Remarkably good value as they last for at least three weeks, and if you 'water-dry' them, the flowers become desiccated and can be cut from the stems when dry and piled into a bowl. If kept away from sunlight and moisture they will last indefinitely, though over time will inevitably gather dust. Here's how to 'water-dry': after purchase, cut the stems with scissors or a sharp knife, and strip away any leaves that would be below the level of water in your jug or vase. Arrange in luke-warm water to which you have added a sachet of cut-flower food. No need to top up, just keep away from sunlight and enjoy the bouquet whilst it is fresh, and subsequently the resulting potpourri. Shop-bought roses have no scent, though if you grow your own musky shrub roses, such as 'Othello', the delicate perfume will last for years.

Buying flowers falls into my dilemma category, for it is an expense that could be avoided; we have much that can be plucked from the garden and brought indoors, even roses still. I always hope that my dear husband will buy me flowers, but he never does. At least he does not complain when I add them to the supermarket trolley - and as he was with me and is apt to comment on some of my purchases, I don't feel too guilty! The bowl on the right of the photo shows at least three previous purchases: deep red, carmine and a glorious apricot. I restrain myself, not buying every week, but intermittently since August. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

What I love doing ...

Part of a map trail - words, images and fabric
One of the creative activities I love doing is to produce little travel journals with a difference, from old maps. I call them map trails, and, apart from maps, they incorporate sketches, photos, paper napkins, textiles, stitching, hand-written text and embellishments. The image above (click on it to see it at a larger size) was part of an eight-page 'nature journal' I was commissioned to make  for a gardening magazine, about two years ago, I think. I don't seem to have posted this particular map trail before on any of my blogs, though you can see the whole concertina (in an unfinished stage) as the header to one of my others ('Journaling the Journal'). Details of how I set about creating a map trail are given in an earlier post on that blog.I have many map trails of different sorts on the go simultaneously, and many waiting to be finished. It's a question of making time (impossible when travelling AND working) and back home, play is rarely top of the list! I hope the idea inspires you to make you own map trails or nature diary, or whatever.

And "Hello" to my latest followers: it's a pleasure to have you follow my 'Dilemmas & Delights' journey.