Thursday, 24 December 2009

Waiting for tomorrow

Usually, on Christmas Eve, I am frantically rushing from one last minute activity to another, but this year have thought it more appropriate to calm down. Which doesn't mean I am ready for tomorrow; not a bit of it: vegetables and roast joint to prepare just for the two of us, mince pies still to make, presents to wrap. I am thinking how strange it feels without small children scrambling noisily around us. But then our beloved three are now aged 48, 46 and 38! so it's been a long time since that pleasurable anticipation of the bustle of Christmas Day has invaded the quiet of the evning before. Now that the grandchildren are growing up as well (nine of them, aged 16 down to 5), it is even difficult to get all three families together simultaneously in one place. Yes we shall see them all during the coming week; the young ones will play carols for us on a variety of instruments, and sing; and update us on all their news and achievements. We will eat and be merry, exchange simple gifts, and be glad that we have all survived another year.

our Christmas cake, which I only finished icing an hour ago - hope it sets in time for tea!

Greetings to all Bloggers - and a heartfelt thankyou to all who follow my two blogs, and who leave me such precious comments.  With love and best wishes from an elderly granny sitting by the fire knitting herself a warm hat, but still the same irrepressible  'wild child' she has always been.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

An alternative Christmas

With less than a week to go to Christmas Day, we gave up searching for a reasonably priced traditional tree and settled instead for what we already had. So out from the cold I brought a lollipop holly, a sweet-bay tree (lauris nobilis) and a Christmas box (sarcococca hookeriana humilis) - all evergreens that were flourishing in pots on my mini-terrace under the cider-apple tree. The Christmas box has sweetly scented but insignificant white flowers which are just about to open in the warmth of the lounge. Decorations have been kept simple, just some red and gold baubles. We have tucked this 'arrangement' into a corner by the sideboard. No fairy lights, but we have lit three candles on a high window cill; the roadside window lacks wooden shutters (we would never reach up to shut them) and so passers-by can see into the candlelight-room as dusk approaches. That is, if anyone walks past - it's extremely cold here in the high Cotswolds, with an easterly wind; down to -9C last night (15.8F). 

And now an enormous 'thankyou' to everyone who left me such kind messages after my unexpected hospital stay. I really did appreciate them, and apologise for not responding personally to each one. I am absolutely fine, such a silly scare; but it's odd how timing can so affect the aftermath. Even after a fortnight back home, I still haven't caught up with myself; it felt as if I had lost a week of work and have much to do before I can take a break over the festive fortnight that we try to keep free for family and friends; and for me personally,  catching up on all the blog posts I have missed - and for some creative journaling in paper and fabric.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Returning to normality

A day like no other. Backtrack to Monday 30th November 7.30am; it happened like this:

Sitting in ‘the office’ in my dressing gown, sipping tea and typing magazine copy, I experienced the most indescribable pain, as if my heart was a squashy tennis ball and a clawed hand was repeatedly squeezing it. I thought it would diminish and worked on through it – I had a deadline to meet. But it didn’t, so after two hours, I rang my doctor.

“Go straight to A&E (accident and emergency),” she said. Which I did – Raymond drove me in, quicker than waiting for an ambulance. I walked into Casualty and the moment I mentioned ‘doctor’ and ‘chest pain’ I was whisked into the initial assessment area, wired up, danced attendance upon, and generally treated with such kindness and courtesy that I felt near to tears. An ECG and blood samples were taken and a vicious curved needle put into my arm through which they could feed drugs if I needed them urgently.

Once it became apparent that I did not need resuscitation, I was moved to the MAU (Medical Assessment Unit). I was seen by three doctors and assigned my own nurse. I was continually updated as to what was going on – by now I felt complete fraud but they insisted that they wanted to get to the bottom of the pain as it could be the onset of angina (a final treadmill session would reveal this). Tests were ongoing and I was wired up to a monitor which meant I couldn’t get out of bed; tricky when I needed the toilet – my nurse unplugged me and I had to walk across the ward, leads trailing, and make sure they didn’t drop into the loo!

Not a brilliant night, trying not to fall off the trolley-bed with an under sheet that kept ruckling and two cotton rugs that continually slipped off me; and it was unbearably hot. What I found amazing, as I was obviously not ill, was that I was able to listen and watch, keep an ongoing diary of my stay. The care and attention was without fault. I was actually looking forward to the treadmill, never having been on one before and I came through with flying colours: pacing slow, fast then faster, wearing nothing but pants and wires attached all over my chest, back and left breast, whilst the monitor results were being assessed by a sweet elderly gentleman technician and a dishy, tall young doctor. I was asked if I had any pain (none, except my right hip ached from the arthritis, but this lessened as the speed increased and I walked faster). I was asked if I wanted to stop; no, I was challenging myself. I did a half mile in five minutes. It was over and all was in perfect working order; indeed, I felt really fit. A final assessment by the consultant, and I was cleared to go home. The NHS at its best.

My husband was wonderful, too, collecting books, papers and laptop from home, seeing I had tasty food, sitting with me to counteract the boredom of enforced rest. Once back at home, there were lovely surprises waiting in the mail; about these I will blog in due course - visit 'Journaling the Journal' in the next couple of days. In two hours I go for a doctor's check-up. Scare over.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


I have been thinking today of all my blogger acquaintances in the USA, and all the blogs I follow. This is for you.

"Light a candle
Kindle a Flame
Eat and enjoy
a festive meal
With family
or friends
Peace and Love"

Thankyou for all the pleasure you bring me, and for sharing your lives. May your day tomorrow be joyful.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Blowing My Own Trumpet

a fabric angel with trumpet and banner, cut from printed muslin and applied to a scrap of furnishing fabric

Sometimes such serendipity occurs in my life that I have to stop and take a deep breath - just in case such a moment does not come my way again. What with the de-cluttering (to make room for more clutter! - to create space for personal uninterrupted art); making a fabric keepsake and actually completing it, on time; and the long dark evenings when I can plan the changes needed in the garden to meet my 2010 deadlines: there is hardly time to take stock let alone breathe.

Serendipity this time crept up on me unawares. Ten years after 'retiring' our joint publishing business - and deciding one month later to pursue a new, freelance, writing career, I am thrilled to have three articles appearing in different magazines in one month; all just published in December issues. As any writer will I am sure confirm, it's not easy, launching yourself as a writer: you have to be creative and simultaneously 'sell yourself', wear two hats. It was only as each magazine dropped into the letter box that I realised the significance: three in one month. 

I loved working on them all, and Ray took all the accompanying photos: 'Ludlow & The Shropshire Hills - a Taste of the Good Life' for 'Practical Caravan' magazine; a short review of the edible garden competition at Malvern in 'Kitchen Garden' and a four-page review in 'Grow it!' of all the aspects of productive vegetable growing which so caught my fancy at the same RHS Malvern Autumn Show (a celebration of nature's harvest). 

the first page of my four-page review on the the RHS Malvern Autumm Show which has just been published in the December issue of  'Grow it!' magazine. Click on the image to see it at a larger size.

Housework, Gardening, Travel, Writing and Art-Making often collide, with each clamouring for attention, not to mention family, and my dear husband without whom my life would stumble. I so often watch Raymond painstakingly making immaculate dovetails in the exquisite furniture he makes in his own spare time, and trust that somehow I likewise can harmonise my own activities. Then there just might be more moments of serendipity. "The trumpet shall sound!" - again - but right now I have the excitement of combining art and writing: a ten-month project making a hand-made garden journal and subsequently writing an article to encourage readers to create their own. Follow its story in my other blog, Journaling the Journal; it begins in my post of Saturday 21st November.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Throwing away the past

It was Friday 13th - I had decided to take a day off work which was just as well for it turned out to be a hellish day. Why? Why should the 13th falling on a Friday be considered unlucky? From whence has such a superstition arisen? (I 'Googled' it later; enough details to form a whole post on its own). It has never caused me a problem before, though I usually mentally cross my fingers, just in case!

Anyway, this particular Friday, just gone, was certainly different. For a start I announced that I would spend three days 'throwing out the past', starting with the contents of the chest of drawers that holds  my clothes. Drawers stuffed so full I can never find the shirt I want or the trousers (pants). This is because I will not throw things away, will not discard.

At this point, R. decides that throwing out is a GOOD IDEA and opts for the boiler room, which houses two central-heating boilers: one enormous - you can just squeeze past it -  in which we recycle wood obtained for next to nothing from the junk yard, the other an oil-fired back-up. The room is so small there is hardly room to move but nevertheless it is also full of junk. Well not actually junk, but all manner of useful forgotten properties.

a load of wood like this can be obtained for a fiver

Row no. 1 - R. is throwing 'my' stuff into the skip! How dare he decide what I want or don't want. It's raining and I berate him; 'my stiff' is getting wet! So he dumps everything else onto the hall floor all covered in boiler ash, where we are sure to fall over it. Another sorting job, as if one was not enough. Most of it IS junk; I retrieve what isn't - a heater, empty egg boxes in which to sell my surplus hens' eggs, a log basket in which I could / will store onions, one walking boot (where is the other?); the rest is binned or put out for recycling (wellies that leak, bin them;  a mountain of old newspapers).

I go back upstairs to sort clothes. 'Sorting' in our household usually means looking at things, then re-arranging and stashing away somewhere else. Why is it so hard to discard the past? I steel myself this time. I will no longer keep thread-bare T-shirts just because thy are comfortable, or trousers size 10 that haven't fitted for years, or shoes that pinch my arthritic toes. I finish with a pile on the floor for the recycling / charity shop, and a pile on the bed which I divide into 'best' (hardly ever worn), 'everyday' and 'garden/building' - the largest pile and distinctly scruffy.

Now I have to sort the hanging rail on the upper landing - dresses, coats and jackets I will never wear again but so hard to say goodbye to; it feels as if I am throwing my life away.

The jacket doesn't fit now, but I made it and can't decide what to do with it  - though I do still use snippets of left-over fabric; can't bear to part with fabric either!

Row no 2 - I can't recall what that was about. I made scones for R's tea; he sat reading whilst I journaled (I have begun a new fabric book and ideas are bursting forth). Peace returned, for who could argue over cream tea by the fireside? By the end of the weekend, the recycling bin was full, clothes are now neatly folded and put away, and the car waits with a load of stuff to take to the charity shop. I have dusted and washed and cleaned and am BORED STIFF. (Oh, and the next Friday 13th will be in August 2010 and May 2011, then on three occasions in 2012). 

Though I say it myself, the scones, cream and home-made strawberry jam were good. Books in the background were positioned to hide more 'to-be-sorted' clutter. It's never-ending - result of living in one place for so long (40 years) and hoarding.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Where have all the poppies gone?

I will be poppy-less on Armistice Day. The poppy lady did not call this year, selling the bright red remembrance of wars long past, and ones still claiming lives. Nor when I went into town this morning were the usual flower sellers there; no tin into which to place a donation, a personal 'thankyou'. Something is very wrong here.

I trawled my photo files for poppies to post; the first I found, amethyst-tinged and silky, paled into insignificance - and yet it is an 'Opium Poppy' far from the fields of Afghanistan where trauma must run rife amongst the brave soldiers.

And then I found this photo taken last year in France - fields of poppies though not in Flanders Fields. They seemed curiously orange, and so I looked at more shots in the 'Poppy' folder and found one of my Shirley poppies blowing in the garden a few years back. So red, the brightest of them.

And whilst I was searching, it brought to mind a poem I wrote in anger last week, hearing of the death of six soldiers in a single day, out there near what I guess may be eastern opium poppy fields (correct me, please, if I am wrong). I was going to post that poem on the day I wrote it, but it coincided with an horrific and unnecessary killing in the USA; I thought it would be insensitive of me to post about my anger on such a day.

And so I offer it now; for tomorrow, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we remember, stand in silence for two whole minutes and give thanks for all who sacrifice their lives for a more stable and peaceful world.

(One should never write in anger, and these words show that emotion overtook skill. I apologise.)

I realised that all my poppy photos were actually taken to create a collage, transferred to fabric and stitched, with the shapes of the seedheads standing proud. Alas, these too are the double version of the 'Opium Poppy', grown in our garden not for drugs but to utilise in works of art, the seedheads dried for decoration. Every object seems to have multiple uses, and words a double meaning.

Monday, 2 November 2009

November, Blogging Friends and a Birthday Gift

"Only a single leaf left * on our tree on the Green * as the rain beats hard  against the window * and the wind howls. * Now the bare tree, * all its Autumn glory gone, * enters the deep sleep  of winter, * and we wish we could, too. * No chance!"

I normally associate November with cold, freezing fog - and it may well come to that - but as of this moment, I am in buoyant mood, looking forward to a raft of activities, and back over the last two weeks of pure holiday (the first for many years). Week one, on the idyllic Shropshire/Welsh border .....

along the upper reaches of the River Teme - Wales to the right of the bridge, and to the left, England (Shropshire)

..... and week two, messing around at home. with the added treat of meeting a blogging friend. I hope that dear Cocoa & Blankets, Mr B and sweet, Sweet P enjoyed meeting us as much as we loved greeting them in our chaotic home.

Raymond slices bread for my lovely blog friends

The previous few days I surprised myself by actually completing a stitched gift for the birthday of one of our grand-daughters. This is just one of the pages I made of a little keepsake; and for those who have become used to my 'Poetry Monday' postings, it incorporates one of the poems I wrote for darling eleven-year old K. The rest of this keepsake will appear later this week on my journaling blog.
Click on the photo above if you cannot read the text at this size

And now back to work, house and garden improvements and some small measure of personal 'creativity', which began by searching for some old fabric in the roof-space to edge the pages of my next fabric book.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Recuperation complete

view down the valley towards Knighton (Powys) - England on the left of picture, Wales on the right (my little camera does not do justice to the stunning view)

We have had such a wonderful few days away, on the Welsh/Shropshire border (in the Middle March), staying on the campsite of our dear acquaintance, Jocelyn, and her husband Jim - a sheep farmer whose land straddles England and Wales, on the upper reaches of the River Teme, and towards the skyline, along a part of  Offa's Dyke. No work, but art-journaling, and delicious food prepared in our cosy caravan; rain and more rain, but it did not matter. I crashed out, wrote and read, took photographs (poor!) and retreated into myself. The last poem I wrote before heading for home on Saturday (yesterday), is my Monday offering for poetry aficionados, ahead of time, because tomorrow morning I will be back at work and also stitching like crazy to finish a fabric keepsake for the birthday next Saturday of one of my grand-daughters. Our little holiday was perfect, but as always, it's good to be home.

the last picture I took on Friday evening, before settling down for a final quiet few hours in our caravan; as I walked upstream, a heron lazily rose from the water's edge and flapped towards trees just out of view to the left. I spotted my first water-ouzel, watched a trout hang motionless in the water, maintaining position with scarcely moving fins,  and had hoped for the electric-blue flash of a kingfisher. Another time, perhaps; we must return soon - it's been twelve years or more since we were last here.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Aviation Sunday / Poetry Monday

First, I must thank everyone who commented on my last post and apologise for not responding individually (and 'hello' to my latest dear follower, Dori). It's been a hectic week, as usual, but the week ended (or began, depending on where you put Sunday in your calendar) with a lovely gentle day: a fly-in Raymond and I had organised for members of the LFA - lawyers and their families or friends. Whilst I stood on the chilly airfield, waiting to greet them and later to say goodbye, my poem for Monday 'happened'. So as it describes the magic of the day far better than a straightforward description, I will offer it here. It was also my birthday; a lovely way to celebrate.

Click on the poem to enlarge the text if it is too small to read as it stands. And now I am taking a break for a while - I need to recuperate for one reason and another and plan to spend my time journaling and making mixed media art. See you all again soon.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Poetry Monday

what is poetry?

I have been visiting blogs that were new to me in my spare moments this last week and one blog thread led to another and I found some fascinating posts that inspired and intrigued me. One such a week ago was The Weaver of Grass (I liked the name) and I discovered that it was 'Poetry Monday'; she had posted a poem and, without knowing the rules, I posted a comment which was an off-the-cuff poetic response; or so I hoped. 

So it was a complete surprise when Weaver emailed me to say she loved it. She suggested I contact TFE who runs 'The Poetry Bus' and he has invited to me to come aboard. The rules are that he posts a theme; you have a week to write and post and he circulates all the other 'passengers'. Well, the first assignment is either to watch a film (I don't have time), or to read a set poem by Sylvia Plath, and write one in response. That smacks to me too much like the analysis I did in VIth form in the 1950s and anyway the one I sent Weaver was based on Plath's "not waving but drowning". It led me to realise that I don't write in a calculated and unstructured way - all my 'verse', be it blank or rhymed, happens - of itself, without help from me, other than to write it down and tidy it up. I always was contrary and still bend the rules! 

But I so wanted to participate, so, whenever I can, I will write spontaneously on a Monday morning to challenge myself; and if I can't, will try to post one of my 'poetry happenings'. They tend to be littered within both my blogs anyway. They won't always be written that very morning, but one that did not labour to be born. My first offering, because it happens to be typed already rather than scribbled on a bit of paper, was the subject of a post on 11th September, but the poem itself was not included. It is now; click on it to enlarge the text:

the post that refers to this was dated September 11th and titled 'Friendship'

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Gardening & Food Show: Malvern-3

View from the Showground, looking towards the northern end of the Malvern Hills.

A week ago we were attending the Autumn Gardening & Food Show at the showground of the Three Counties Agricultural Society. Notes on our journey to Malvern are already in my Journaling blog; here I will share some of the Show highlights.

I come to these events with such anticipation, not sure whether I will be enthralled or disappointed. You never know what you will find or discover – but that’s what I love about reviewing: the atmosphere, the unexpected, the need to meld what I see into a cohesive whole whilst following the briefs of the magazine editors for whom I will be writing. This year was no exception; I was captivated from the moment we arrived (a day in advance for photography purposes).

Claire Potter's stunning design for the 'Good Life' stage and cookery theatre was a masterpiece, reflecting four stages of the 'grow-your-own' ethos: wild but edible plants at the perimeter of an allotment, brick-bordered conventional beds, container-grown produce and harvested veg in the kitchen. Truly, you could eat the stage set! And Claire won a 'best feature in show' award as well as appearing on stage in a cookery challenge.

What transpired will appear in two forthcoming articles in the December issues of ‘Grow it!’ and ‘Kitchen Garden’. What follows here are my personal observations that are not relevant to the features already on their way to the magazines concerned. For ease of working, we stay on site, alongside other exhibitors, in tent or caravan or motorhome. There is a camaraderie … late nights by candlelit barbecues in a field below the idyllic Malvern Hills. We do not participate: we work late and start early (on the pre-show evening Raymond already has over 100 photos manipulated and printed. We eat well in our motorhome on my pre-prepared beef stew, drink a 1986 Grand Cru Classe ‘Cos Labori’ from the Medoc (France), chat, plan my articles … and fall asleep still writing.

Our motorhome combines living space and a working studio, so we are able to work on site.

The next morning (Sat 26th Sept), we arrive early in the Press Room and I am instantly asked if I will help judge the Commercial fruit Juice Competition – they need a journalist on the panel. Nonplussed but honoured – I’ve never done anything like this before – I agree and am soon being initiated into juice colour, ‘nose’ (aroma), taste, homogeneity and clarity. Three classes and around 40 entries, each to be assessed and tasted! Three hours later, nine winners have been selected, I am way behind with my planned schedule and feel as if I am literally floating in fruit juice.

I am bewildered at first by the technicalities of 'juice judging' but soon find myself deep into a long but enjoyable tasting session.

New to the show garden scene were Helen Williams and Caroline Lennon, who designed and created a very clever contemporary courtyard kitchen garden with raised planting trays, specifically for the less-able or wheelchair users.

Throughout the weekend I interview various lovely people whose work I admire and chat to others about their participation at the show. It is incredibly busy with a perpetual buzz of excitement, particularly within the 'edible garden' marquee.

Paul Hervey-Brookes captured the spirit of Autumn with his circular 'Equinox' garden with a wonderful colour palette of edible plants. Paul's allegorical designs are always a delight and he well deserved his 'best in show' award. (Lots of close-ups of this will go into my journal.)

Raymond takes ‘proper’ pics for my articles (over 500 during the weekend), whilst I snapshot those needed for my blog. I cannot resist old nostalgic artefacts and vegetables, fruit and berries for shape, colour and texture, thinking of the nature journaling that I will do come winter. I make a few personal purchases: yet more paper napkins (I am an obsessive collector of these), some lovely cream-coloured hessian potato sacks to cut up for journal pages, a basket lined with lace-edged linen to hold my sewing, crochet or knitting, and a realistic pear-shaped candle and wooden coaster to light our m’home supper.

I take lots of quirky shots like this for my personal 'pocket-page' journal, which will be assembled come winter.

By the end of each day we are exhausted, continually walking from one end of the showground to the other, to catch various timed activities, all connected with ‘the celebration of nature’s harvest’. It is late; the sky pales in the north-east silhouetting the dark shapes of the hills; a half-moon (just post-equinox) rises in the south-west. Parties are in full swing in the camping field: exhibitors sitting around braziers, woodsmoke, lamps on poles glowing in the quiet dark. Our candle is lit, food on the table, a glass or two of beer, fruit, chocolates.
We eat by candlelight looking towards the hills, now silhouetted against a gradually darkening sky.

Forever Malvern! It's been a useful weekend; we are tired but content. And we'll be back in the Spring of 2010.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A heartfelt 'thankyou'

I realised as soon as I had published my last post that it was my 50th since beginning my 'wild somerset child' blog - and this morning when switching on my computer I discovered that I now have 50 followers! I am so very grateful and want to say 'thank you' to everyone who looks at some of the silly things I post; your very presence has uplifted and sustained me. Your comments have encouraged and supported me, often when I was in low spirits; for in one way and another, it has been a difficult year.

Your own blogs have inspired me: stimulating and often thought-provoking. To have become a part of the blogging community has been such a privilege; to correspond with people whom I have never met from around the world has been sometimes literally a lifeline in an isolated life. (Though I am not lonely, but writing is a very solitary affair and one does crave company from time to time.) I have been a poor blogging friend - my 'drafts' email box is still full of people who have left me comments, awaiting a reply. I have promised to do things that are still outstanding. I apologise.

I began blogging quite by chance last November, but in earnest at the turn of the year. I had been commissioned to write an article on 'creating a gardening blog' last Autumn. At the time, I had a simple iWeb blog but felt it necessary, in terms of the blog feature, to recommend a service that PC users would be able to use. I was mystified by 'Blogger' at first, but have come to love it. Now, having familiarised myself with some of its intricacies, often with advice from fellow bloggers, I turned this month to re-vamping my website. That is still in its infancy - little by little it will reflect the things that I do, the activities that I love and that are so much a part of my working life.

music to soothe the soul: angel playing (in Tewkesbury Abbey)

Thought for the day: become a follower of a 'new' blogger and watch their blogging confidence grow, as they post and you comment. A circle of friendship around the globe. Such a marvellous way to become acquainted.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Everyday Jottings - this and that

autumn chestnut

Today began early, or rather I woke early, knowing I needed to make bread, as we have guests coming to stay. I notice the chestnut tree on the Green opposite our bedroom window, and was minded that tomorrow is the first day of Autumn - take a pic whilst I remember; this is the tree I photograph in all lights and all seasons. Maybe I should make an image transfer book of all these pics. By the time I retrieved my camera (i.e. I couldn't remember where I had put it down yesterday), the pinky glow in the dawn sky had gone. But the chestnut still had that bronzed look about it; leaves are already falling, a carpet on the ground.

It has been, and is going to be, one of those 'crossing place' weekends: tasks complete and others to begin, when nothing is to its usual routine. Good for me, or I become obsessed with whatever is currently on my mind (like websites and canvassing new work and clearing the garden). Friday was a working day off: the sun was shining so off to the airfield to take photos for a promotional leaflet we are doing for some acquaintances, and to organise a 'fly-in' for October. We need to find a lunch venue and so check the pub we have in mind. Lovely, must post about this when the time comes, but meanwhile, we sample their coffee and note menus (sound delicious) and I - on a working day - sit and make notes on the fabric/paper journal I have actually started (I'll post about that on my Journaling blog 'ere long). 

Back home, I put the finishing touches to a travel article on Ludlow and the Shropshire Hills. Relief that that is done and Raymond's accompanying pics are glorious.  Saturday was house preparation day. My way of tidying (which only happens when we expect guests!) is to take all the paper clutter that has amassed in the kitchen and file it in a cardboard box! I fetch a similar box to de-clutter my work table so I can paint pocket pages for next weekend's Malvern Autumn Show; it will have a large golden paper-napkin sunflower on the cover, and ripe fiery squashes inside. Raymond needs help in the garden where he is working on the footings for my new greenhouse (the one in which we will grow over-wintering salads, and next year the best tomatoes ever (I hope). I cart barrowloads of bricks, and then - it is such a lovely day - I chop up all the elderly elder that we grubbed out of the hedge to make space for the g'house, and burn what cannot be salvaged for the heating boiler.

The new hens escape, repeatedly, but they are laying beautiful and such tasty eggs. My mood of the last week lightens; I decide not to post the poem of gloom I wrote a couple of days ago. The only remaining flying example of a world war two Lancaster bomber flies low overhead, and later, ditto a Vulcan. Such beautiful aircraft - yet their purpose was destruction. I take photos of the nasturtium - a flaming climber through the rose and willow - and veg for my recipe pages on the website (I'm lagging behind with this; too much else to do). Must find out what to do with the borlotti beans; soup I think.

flaming nasturtiums in the 'square foot' garden hedge

climbing borlotti beans (the pods are actually more vermillion than this)

When I should be cleaning (!) I sneak up to the roof space and gather together snippets of fabric for little journal. It is to have a watery theme and I find the perfect blue, with lighter streaks inlaid; I've had this fabric for thirty years at least; it's been waiting for something. I'll strip out the wavy bits and patchwork them with coloured pieces (they can be the swimmers cleaving their way through the water, causing ripples). My watery 'swimming' poems will be superimposed over more of this blue fabric. All goes into a bag with silk threads so I can start handstitching  once the chores are done.

'watery' fabric - I'll strip out and piece together the ripples

And now Sunday and time to get up and start baking. (How useful to be able to 'lap tap' in bed on my laptop; gaining time somehow as we drink early morning tea.) Lunch and supper are organised, the guest room is ready with fresh towels in the shower-room and a new cream throw on the bed. And tomorrow we take our guest to Tewkesbury Abbey, where I will photograph angels for my 'heaven and earth' project. Crossing from summer to autumn .... and homely things.

Friday, 11 September 2009


Oh the joy of working in the garden again, as I have all day, clearing space for a new greenhouse; of being outside once more after a long 'office week' indoors. The sun has been shining; it has been warm with a cloudless blue sky, birds overhead and the earthy smell of our bonfire woodsmoke in the air.

It was just such a day eight years ago, on 11th September 2001, when, as I was driving home mid-afternoon from shopping in town, half-listening to the car radio, I caught the news that "a light aircraft has flown into a New York skyscraper". Increasing disbelief as the tragedy of the Twin Towers unfolded and the enormity of the situation was revealed.

I was reminded of the horror only this last week when I watched on tv '9/11: 102 minutes that changed America'. A remarkable film, but to understand the thought processes of people who can commit such a diabolical crime is beyond belief. What happened to love? I still feel for everyone who was hurt by this atrocity, cannot truly contemplate their individual grief and pain. So I sit quiet in the garden for a while and write a poem, "On this day ...", which I will not share publicly for fear my words might upset anyone (though I will gladly send it personally to anyone who asks). Maybe it is insensitive of me to even remark upon 9/11, but I cannot get it out of my head. Far over the Atlantic, yet NY is only six hours away, and but a nano-second in the mind.

I reflect on the difference between destruction, peace, and consideration for others, and what it means to give pleasure. I bake a Friendship Cake for our tea and offer a sweet morsel, metaphorically, to all who care to share the true meaning of humanity.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Websites, Walks & Art Projects

screen shot of one of the pages in my new website

I have spent weeks worrying about the state of my website, and the last three days doing something about it - staring at the computer screen for hours on end. Like so many things, when you tackle a problem it eventually disappears. I was supposed to be adding recipes to augment an article on preserves that had appeared in the July issue of 'Grow it!' magazine, but for one reason and another, the two versions of the web software I use (iWeb) are not compatible. I could not add material to my existing site and the latest software would not open old files. So I decided to re-vamp the whole thing and begin again.

I still haven't added the recipes (yet!) and at one point screamed in frustration when I had deleted all the old web pages and the new ones would not load. But it's up and running now, though still evolving; there is much to do yet. Do please take a look - I hope you enjoy it; just click on this link: If you like what you see, do please leave a comment (good or bad!) on this blog, or email me (there is a link to my email address on my 'Welcome' page).

sloes on the blackthorn in the roadside hedgerow where I walked

Exercise was essential after all that brainwork (I'm technically incompetent), and a walk on the wild-side, out of the village, past the blackthorn hedge now dripping with sloes, and on down the road to view the new 'Chapel House Allotments', which only came into being earlier this year, established by a group of determined villagers.

They are amazing. Back in March, all that existed was a sloping grass field. Now it is productive, and quite beautiful.

notice inviting villagers to walk in the woodland

Bright Wood stretches up the hill to the left; on the right is little stream that feeds into the River Stour, then the Avon; it eventually reaches the Severn, the sea and the Atlantic Ocean

I walk on, still only five minutes from home, and discover that the small coppice planted not that long ago has grown into a wonderful hillside wood, into which the public are invited. This will be somewhere to which to escape whenever I feel fraught and in need of solitude; how glad I am that we live on this side of the village.

Back home, I turn to my art projects; or rather to the file of photocopies that outline my creative thoughts of the last few months. They need cataloguing! I ought to be 'doing' and resolve to sketch the hogweed seedhead I photographed on my walk, and to actually press the striking vermillion maple leaves that I collected from alongside the burbling stream that I crossed on my way home.

I can visualise this as a free-form embroidery, dark cream thread on a beige linen; or sketched on tissue, crinkled, and applied to one of my paperbag pocket-pages

when pressed flat, but still limp, these will be mounted in a fabric journal using bondaweb, or sandwiched between pale apricot gauze