Sunday, 18 January 2009

Withering on the bough?

We were working in the garden yesterday, so unexpectedly mild. I had my camera with me, hanging on a snagged branch in the orchard, 'just in case ....' and I spotted these mummified pears. They seemed symbolic, somehow. The tree budded, blossomed, set fruit, ripened - and withered on the bough. It set me thinking: is that what happens to so many of our creative dreams? Do they never reach complete fruition? Significant, I thought, because all the while I was clearing old undergrowth, I was reflecting on the questions that Rosie (a rambling rose) had set me. 

Thankyou, Rosie for challenging me to think back, to delve deep into my inner self. I don't know where this 'necklace of interview beads' began, but it seems such a marvellous way to learn more about the other bloggers and the people we admire. Here are Rosie's questions, and my responses.

1. Somerset appears in your name and your blog title - tell us more about that: it’s my middle name (I was born in Bath, Somerset, England, in 1937). I decided to use it as part of my blog title because it takes me back to my childhood and dreams I feel I have never fulfilled. I was VERY naughty and disobedient as a little girl, wanted to be ‘different’, never wanted to conform. I was a loner, yet fiercely competitive. I suppose I still am (both); though age, marriage to a dear husband for 50 years, children, grandchildren – and running a publishing business – has sobered me somewhat. I am still a wild loner at heart.

2. What makes your child's heart wild? Poetry – it always has, ever since my godmother gave me a fantastic anthology (‘A Child’s Garland, edited by Jane Carton) when I was six. It’s the sound of words that I so love. I subsequently had a marvellous and much beloved English teacher when I was ten, and for four years she nurtured my passion for poetry, words, literature, theatre and Shakespeare. I was so fortunate to have this encouragement in my formative years, for it has set the pattern of my life.

3. As a mature woman getting to grips with new technology and blogging - what has been the most rewarding and most frustrating experiences? The most rewarding experience has been to discover the wonderful camaderie out there; through cyberspace to encounter so many people, learn of their own hopes and joys. This sharing of creative dreams buried within the commonplace of everyday things is something I could never have envisaged. My frustration has been in making the technology work for me – to make the layouts look the way I want them and not to have to follow templates! I guess the failure’s my own stupidity, so having been posed this question and acknowledged to myself that there is SO MUCH to learn, I’ve ordered a book on HTML!

4. Where will your visual journalling take you next? Where would you like it to go? Now this has really set me thinking – and if you could read all the emails that fly back and forwards between me and my dear ‘guiding spirit’ in South Carolina, you would know why! So many little things spark an idea which flame into notes, scribbled sketches and experiments for the beginnings of a journal; but then something always intervenes, or I get cold feet and shove them in a box, and there they sit. I have countless notebooks filled with these ideas. As to where I would like my visual journaling to go this year – well, how perceptive of you Rosie to pose this question. For, recognising this failing on my part, I was already determined this year to complete some of these embryonic pieces. And that is why I have set up my other blog (‘Journaling the Journal’), as a challenge to myself, to share what I create and the notes that accompany the making. It would mortify me to have nothing to post!

5.Your father was conductor with the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra so you have had a musical childhood. How has this influenced your own journey as a writer, poet, gardener and journaller? Being contrary, I decided early on that I would have nothing to do with music, yet years later graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in London (speech and drama teaching degree); more significant was that I met my very dear husband there. Musical influences there were nevertheless: a love of sequence, cadence, rhythm and folk dance, and this still affects the words I write – the sound of them, and their look, like musical notation. Gardening influences came from my grandmother and mother and a love of journaling comes I guess from my great-grandfather who was curator of an academic library and encouraged my love of books, and from my grandfather, who did likewise. But the greatest influence was that of my father’s dedication to the responsibility of ‘putting on a show’ no matter how you were feeling; with my mother’s devoted support, a commitment to duty and perseverance. That I know has rubbed off on me – if they were alive now, I hope they would be proud of their ‘wild somerset child’, for whatever I may have achieved in life has been tempered by their example.

6. If you had no limitations tomorrow what would be your perfect blissful day? What would you eat, play at, dream, wear, where would you go and who with? Please add to this wild somerset child! Ah, well now; if this magical day ever arrived (tomorrow, you say?) I would: eat a salad - a slice of brie with mixed green leaves and snippets of herbs grown in our garden and scattered with toasted pine nuts. I would play at making a ‘book wrap journal cover’ as taught by Angie Hughes (see her blog in my list). Slathering paint over a surface prepared from curtain interlining mixed with diluted PVA (the result feels like suede), embellished with ripped and stitched cotton scrim, gessoed when dry, then coloured. I would dream that I had time to continue the book I am supposed to be writing (through dreaming about it will not achieve anything)! I would wear a beautiful Indian dress I bought on a whim in a thrift shop: dyed muslin in soft shades of currant-red and rust, printed with motifs in indigo and a delicate ochre; ethereal and theatrical, and not ‘me’ at all (I bought it to rip apart for the fabric). Where would I go and with whom – with my ‘guiding spirit’, Kristin Steiner of South Carolina; I would take her to a stimulating local bookshop-cum-café (Jaffe & Neale) where we would eat carrot-cake, drink coffee and would chat for hours about the musings of our respective hearts, perhaps buy a book or two (and maybe we will do that for real, Kristi, when you visit after tutoring at Oxford Summer School in August). This perfect blissful day will need to extend to a week if I am to become a true ‘wild somerset child’ again!! Maybe.

Continuing in 'interview' mode - 'getting to know you': If you would like to be my interviewee, please follow the instructions below. The first two bloggers who ask yo be interviewed will be sent a list of pertinent questions by me. Let's keep this going.

Here are the instructions:

1. Leave me a comment saying, "interview me".
2. I will respond to the first two who ask by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else
in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five


  1. Oh Wild Somerset Child that was truly inspiring and wonderful to read - it made me feel that anything is possible if we want it enough! And just so others know I asked Ann a sixth optional question when she told me about her musical background - I'm glad i did!!Thank you Ann for sharing so much of yourself

  2. It was my pleasure, and truly helpful to tackle this challenge right now, when I am supposed to be drawing (figuratively) on my past history for a series of features that I am shortly to work upon. I guess it was Leeds that was the catalyst that set me soul-searching. Thankyou Rosie for asking such imaginative questions.

  3. Ann a wonderful interview. What an interesting and full life you have led and do lead. I am most interested too in your bookbinding as I do that too and journaling, I am now creating my first visual journal in a bk I bound. But I am very very slow at everything. So glad to meet you, wild child.

  4. I enjoyed this so much - very inspiring and the image of the pears, I love...

  5. Thankyou Suki for following BOTH my blogs - I see you list 'Capture the Castle' by Dodie Smith in your list of favourite books. I remember reading it at school, and subsequently seeing her play staged in London. Gad you liked my imprompu poem on your blog - it should have had a title 'bird strike'. Had this been real, a goose would had damaged the leading edge of the wing so it was rather a fanciful poem. We were once hit by a swallow flying at 8,000ft, but it was the incident of the plane in the Hudson flashing into my mind that was the spark for the words I road.

    Thankyou, Jeanne, glad you liked the pic - the colour came out quite well, a positive out of decay.

    Thankyou both for commenting on the interview.

  6. My deep admiration for your words, Wild Somerset Child!

  7. Ann, I am inspired and captivated by every word of your interview. Thank you Rosie for this illuminating glimpse into an artist's soul. Isn't it amazing as we look back. With the gift of objectivity, we see how life is one long, winding, but continuous path. Every step along the way adds such richness which can be drawn upon for art, for wisdom, for perspective. Your journey is a magnificent one, Ann. Can't wait to join you for carrot cake and the endless conversing of our hearts. k

  8. Ann duh where have I been I didn't realize you started more posts on this blog. ok I'm going to switch my blogroll of you to this blog. I kept going to your apple blog.

    Wow wonderful to read more about you. I love these kind of posts getting a glimpse about the people we meet here. Makes me feel like the world is a little bit closer.

    If you need help figuring out how to change the template let me know.

  9. Hi Ann I had typed a comment and poof it disappeared. I'm adding this blog to my blogroll and so glad you are posting more here now.

    I love reading more about you here it makes our world a bit smaller and close.

    Love your analogy of the pears. But as this year progresses let us not let our creativity not come to fruition. Let this be a year to encourage and inspire each other.

  10. Kristi - can't wait until the Summer (and don't forget it was you who inspired me to blog, that comment after the 2007 Oxford Summer School - see what you've done!
    Black and White - I will check out your blog tomorrow (it's late here in the UK).
    Toni - thankyou for changing to this blog; it's the creative one (even though the apple one is part garden creative). Thanks for offer of template-changing; guess I need help!

    THANKYOU to everyone who has posted a message today; sharing inspires me to continue, heightens my sense of excitement at how small the world really is. Ann.

  11. Your words are beautiful, though stroked, deep. I feel grateful to have linked over to this sharing. Your perfect day, it seems so within reach.

  12. Thankyou Mansuetude for finding my blog, and for your kind words. Ann

  13. Dear Ann,
    I've read through the comments twice and do not see an offer to be interviewed. Because I am pushing myself to be brave: "interview me" (please).
    Happy days,

  14. Dear Ann,
    Like Toni I left a comment and it also poofed away.
    So, I did read the comments for this posting and saw no volunteers to be interviewed. In my quest to be brave: "interview me", please.
    Happy days,

  15. sorry, just saw the approval notice.
    hasty joanie....

  16. Dear Joanie - I am excited and honoured that you should ask to be interviewed by me from the UK. Bear with me for a day or two, please, whilst I search through your blog for clues as to what to ask you - also a delay because I am hosting a family gathering over the weekend for my husband's brother and sister (now aged 80 plus) and i have a load of baking to do! Ann

    P.S. Guess any problems with you trying to comment on my blog are because I am so new to all this I keep messing up the postings.