Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Recycling large and small - and this and that

It hardly seems possible that a week has gone by since I was last here (though I have been assiduously following blogs each evening for relaxation after some very tiring days). Thankyou meanwhile for many kind comments; I had hoped to respond 'in person' and don't know where the time goes. What with writing a 2,200 word article that had been delayed due to the computer crash - still not fixed; attempting to clean the house, or parts of it; massive food replenishment shopping (Saturday) and another exhibition on Sunday - this time 'Focus on Imaging' (photography), there has not been a spare moment. Plus more writing Monday and Tuesday - finished article, and then back to the FoI yesterday (Wednesday), for neither Raymond or I had concluded our camera investigations.

The outcome as far as I was concerned was that I did NOT need the new camera I had promised myself. I decided that no amount of new gear would improve my photography; it's the person behind the camera that needs upgrading! Instead I invested in a sturdy tripod. Saved myself no end of money. In between, we've been assessing all the garden maintenance that needs doing, and talking about the next major house refurbishment, all of which entails jobs-within-jobs: to do job a: we first need to do job b: and that for us ALWAYS means throwing out items collected over the years that are no longer needed. (Who, for instance, wants or needs a printer's image-setter sitting in their kitchen? It's been there since 1999, because it did not reach its reserve when we retired ten years ago and auctioned our publishing and printing business, and R. is STILL convinced it has 'value'.) I guess I could recycle the copper wire inside, as I did with a burned out coil from another old piece of machinery. That shiny, malleable wire sits in a bucket in the laundry room awaiting use for binding hand-made books.

I love to recycle unwanted items (but not the d----d image-setter, the size of a very large and useless cupboard that cannot be opened!) My latest find has been ten tiny mother-of pearl buttons, all shimmery like the inside of the sea-shell from which they were cut or punched. Incongruously, they were stitched to a plain white stretch-cotton cardigan obtained at a charity/thrift shop. I buy these a sack-load at a time for Raymond (not for him to wear but for the fabric); I cut the garments apart so that he can use the pieces when he is polishing the beautiful furniture he makes in his 'spare' time. I always remove the buttons which are usually quite ordinary, but these are special and minute, and will be perfect on some small fabric book.

Serendipity really, as you can read in my other blog on journaling  - when I have written it as I seem to have gone down today with some sort of lurgi and feel terrible. Dear R. has offered to cook a fish-pie supper (I was going to make him pizza, putting the dough to rise on a wooden board he made me, by the wood-burning stove). Maybe with his offer I cam snuggle by same fire and write other blog-post.

Meanwhile - the 'large and small' of this posting's title: the wood-mountain which we negotiate - nails and all - to source our firewood, and the strip of tiny buttons that has been added to my stash.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Other people's lives

It's been quite an eventful few days but very positive; definitely not February-Blues time, more like February-Fast-Forward; a whole range of activities accomplished, my mind is swirling. 

Tuesday: Raymond and I covered TWO exhibitions in one day at the NEC (Birmingham National Exhibition Centre), a huge complex of 20 exhibition halls with numerous simultaneous shows; the logistics of organising these are mind-boggling. The first show (morning) was 'International Craft, Hobby & Stitches' - a show for the trade but one I attend every year. Craft is buzzing in the UK despite the recession. Apart from keeping up-to-date with new products and companies, this year I wanted to talk with magazine editors about possible articles. I have some useful leads; but I was also trying to interest editors in the workshops given by my dear friend, Kristin Steiner of South Carolina - see her website), in the UK and also in Italy.
Next we walked half-a-mile between halls to the 'National Boat Caravan & Outdoor Show' which encompasses five halls although we only touched on a few stands - mainly to talk to editors again regarding travel articles (travel being possibly no further than the next town!). That too proved useful - all the walking was tiring, and I was lugging a canvas bag full of my various portfolios. But we were home by six for a very welcome glass of wine by the fire!

Wednesday: recovering! And a call from our younger son on holiday in Geneva to say that the courier who was delivering a package fro him to us (software to recover my computer) 'could not find our house' ... I ask you! (Actually, it had already been deliverd.) Then follow-up thankyous from the exhibitions, and the start of a 2,200 word article on 'Wild Greens' that had been shelved due to the computer crash. All but 400 words written - completed today; and then we had a sudden - and very welcome - invitation to our daughter's home to sample a 'Morrocan Supper' which was delicious - she was trying out a recipe from a book I gave her for Christmas; followed by pancakes cooked by her husband. We had time to enjoy the company and chatter of their three children; we talked books and painting and all manner of things, including how little L. nearly came to serious grief when tobogganing down a very steep hill in the snow last week; it did not bear thinking of.

And so to today, and the meaning of this post's title. We had run out of wood to fuel our lounge wood-burning stove, and boiler that heats the rest of the house and the water; we were on the point of chopping up the furniture! (Not really.)  We recycle - buying a trailer-load of scrap timber from the local recycling yard for next to nothing. This involves us negotiating a very, very, very muddy yard to a heap of salvage that would make the mother of all bonfires, but it is all building scrap from old houses that are being renovated, and not for the first time - renovation on renovation and all now scrapped; a nail-infested woodstack into which I clambered to lever down the best pieces for burning. Joists and beams and floorboards, doors and window frames, all piled into this precarious wood-mountain. And I thought, "how sad, houses are being pulled apart that were loved by the people who lived in them." I wondered what stories lay behind the wood we collected; most bits had a plethora of old, hand-made nails, hand-cut joints, beautiful latches and hinges that had escaped the crusher. And then I made a little 'find' that had Raymond asking me what I thought I was doing secreting 'something' into the car, when we were supposed to be collecting firewood. For that little story, and what I found, please visit my other blog - you will discover the significance! Back home, it took an hour to wash the mud off the car and trailer wheels, and most of the afternoon to unload and stack the firewood; recycling the recycled and saving trees. We will be warm again for another fortnight.

The pic above this over-long posting shows our trailer-load of wood; a photo of the wood-mountain is lurking somewhere in the recesses of my crashed computer.

Monday, 16 February 2009

The Greening of the Day

We can see grass again! The snow has gone, except where it lies still melting  under the hedgerows up on the high hills. The garden is coming alive, chrome-yellow of dogwood (Cornus mas) on the farm boundary, soon to be pale lemon starbursts; snowdrops, somewhat dishevelled; woodland lime-green hellebore and a deep smokey-blue variety in a tub by the back-door - they hang their heads shamefully and you have to gently turn their faces to see the stamens, when they should be saying, "look at me!" Polyanthus and primrose flourish demurely in terracotta pots; the first fat buds are already tinged with coral-pink on the japonica. All beguile me.

And oh, a breath of Spring-to-come - the first delicate species-crocus has erupted overnight through the grass under the damson tree: a tiny amethyst torch to light the 'plum patch'. The fragile petals will open in the sunshine, revealing stamens of such bright orange you would think they were on fire. They will flame 'ere long; and they do so in a few hours, a little clump of them seeking the sun, and closing again at dusk. They have multiplied over the years and appear in strange places. Every day now will bring new wonders.

(All this should have been posted in my 'garden blog' or 'Notes from a Cotswold Garden' but I did so want to share this 'day of greening' and it will be a while before they appear on my website as I first have to paste the text into my electronic diary, and then assemble them in a page layout, and then publish the complete page.)

Meanwhile, we have a busy week ahead of us, attending a trade craft show and one for the travel industry. Thankyou to everyone who has visited my blogs over the last few days; thankyou for your kind and wonderful comments - they are all so very much appreciated.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

The end (almost) of a good weekend

A milestone has been reached: kitchen part-tidied (a huge effort on my part), laundry done and draped in the bathroom to dry, more art journaling accomplished (see my other blog), software installed on my laptop so I am 'in business' again - and the snow has nearly all gone leaving something of a river (well, rivulet at least) running though the orchard. I was on the point of taking pics of the sorry state of the garden; old herbaceous stems and stalks weighted down by the heavy snow will not spring back again; I had only left them as cover and food for the wild birds, anyway. It was warm enough to work outside, but there was too much still calling me indoors.

As to the Valentine's Day tea; it was warm and cosy by the fire. The cake was .... mmm ... interesting - full of fruit but somewhat lacking. Then I realised  I had used PLAIN flour instead of the SELF-RAISING detailed in the recipe! How could I have done that when I have been making this cake for years and years? Quite easily it would seem. I put it down to computer-stress (!!); Raymond was very complimentary and said it was delicious, but I thought it was awful. (I can't think how I come by two identical photos in this post - I changed the layout but couldn't seem to cancel the one I didn't want. Makes a nice pattern!)

Here's to a good week for all you dear bloggers.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

What is Love ?

So often, over the years, I have asked myself what love is. How it can be that it manifests itself in so much heartache, so much joy; such companionship, togetherness, caring, sharing, supporting - the list goes on, and underlies all my being, particularly when I am being really stupid or selfish.  And yet still I feel cherished by my dear husband, despite my madcap ways.

I think I discovered love's true meaning in early 2001 when I was in hospital; a flu-like virus caused unexpected liver and kidney failure. It was touch-and-go; pumped with drugs and with a body gradually wasting away, all I wanted to do was sleep for ever. One morning I was woken by a gentle kiss on my forehead; it was a kiss that drew me back from the abyss - Raymond bending over me, willing me awake, back to life. I did not even know he was there. I remember that moment whenever I am feeling particularly churlish. Love manifests itself in many ways; why else would this dear man spend four days this last week rectifying my crashed computer when he has plenty else to be doing?

The photograph above (taken in artificial light, so rather weak) is part of  a much larger stitched sampler I designed and made for him twelve years ago, for his 65th birthday. The quotation, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways"  is taken from a sonnet written in 1850 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Please double-click on the image to see it in greater detail.

All these pink-and-terracotta hearts seemed an appropriate image for St.Valentine's Day, the day when birds are traditionally supposed to mate. Some, like geese, mate for life and if one is shot and killed, the surviving partner will pine away. 

A 'poetry moment': the other day, whilst sorting papers, I came across this poem I wrote on Valentine's Day in 1980 - from the mention of all the flowers, it must have been a warm Spring! I will go into the garden now and see what I can see; maybe pick a posy for the breakfast table.

St Valentines Day - 1980

Spring has sprung
With sweet flowers
leaving cold winter
far behind.
Spring has sprung
with sweet violets
Snowdrops, wallflowers
Primulas and aconites
Little crocus and yellow iris
Spearing the frozen earth.
And on this day
Beloved of St Valentine
Birds sing
Flowers spring
Hearts are filled
to overflowing
With another year of love.
asm 14.2.80

And here's one I found that I had written ten years earlier, in 1970, almost thirty years ago. I cannot believe this but all is coming to light because of  'the computer crash' - I've been capturing old files. It's certainly more appropriate to the present weather! But, oh, I find it almost too poignant: back then, I was only 33 years old (71 now) and our two little boys were amongst the polar-bear children flying down the hill, younger than some of our grandchildren. What it is to remember through what one has written there and then. Yet it seems as if it were but yesterday.

St Valentine's Day - 1970

Wild white world!
The laughing sledges screaming
Down the long hill,
Polar bear children
Spread-eagled, hair flying
In the glimmering snow;
Wind blow cold
Sun sparkle the frost-held trees
Breathless, all waiting for the
imperceptible thaw.

And young wondering spring
Glad under the soft helpless blanket
of weight-deadening, leg-wearying
white whipped snow -
Young snowdrop sprung spring
Longs to leap out, to come flying
Through the sodden grasses
Into the burgeoning trees.
Flowers to spring dew spangled forth
Birds to burst with bright-eyed love
Singing into the warm sun
Sky to be dipped in the blood-quickening haze;
All living things outward opening
Into the daffodil morning
Into the wide, sweet green world.
asm 14.2.70

Coming down to earth, and a Valentine's Day gift for today: I have made Raymond one of my 'Cotswold Farmhouse Fruit Cakes' - his favourite - which we will eat by the fire later on, with tea in porcelain cups. Raymond will read; maybe I will take out my knitting. I certainly can no longer stomp up to the top of the steep sledging hill.

Here is my cake recipe (please use either grams or ounces, but don't mix the two measurements):

162 grams (6 oz) each of butter, soft brown sugar and self-raising flour,
225 grams (9 oz) luxury mixed dried fruit,
50 grams (2 oz) glace cherries cut in half,
40 grams (3 oz) chopped mixed peel,
3 medium-large eggs.

Cream butter and sugar, then beat in eggs one at a time, with a spoonful of flour as you add each egg, to stop the mixture curdling. Coat the fruit with a little of the flour and set aside. Then fold in the rest of the flour, and then the fruit. Tip into a double lined loaf tin and sprinkle the top with a little demerara sugar. Put onto the middle shelf of a warm oven (reg 3 /325 F) and bake for a half hour, then turn the oven down to reg 2 (300 F) and cover the top of the cake with a double layer of greaseproof paper. Bake for a further three-quarters of an hour, or until a skewer placed into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire-rack, end enjoy.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Sanity partly returns

It's good to be back in the fold, shattered but still compos mentis, more or less. I have tried to keep up with reading everyone's blogs in the evenings, but honestly did not have the energy to respond. I missed the camaraderie; it's as if I have been imprisoned! This morning I awoke refreshed - no nightmares disturbed my sleep; I am ready to brave the world again.

Describe the day: crisp, frosty, sunny; snow still lying on the ground, ice on the path and outside our door. Snowdrops in flower, poking through the snow-covering, white against white, so you hardly notice them.

I make my living from writing, not art, so visual creativity always takes a back-seat, but claws at my soul. I must DO it, not read about it and make notes. Daily writing is never a problem (my five-finger warm up exercises), but art ??? Writing alone does not console me, and I know daily art would. One quick solution – do the load of waiting washing which gives me the excuse to tidy a bit of workspace on my little art-table in the laundry room, whilst the machine is running. Doing homely things might move me forward anyway, from the gloom of the past four days – my computer crash. Raymond and I have spent eight hours a day working on this, apart from one when we drove for an hour and a half to our Apple Mac computer specialist to purchase a portable hard drive onto which I have downloaded all my files, from two hard drives. I can access the computer again, but in a very old operating system and re-upgrading is proving a problem. Until I do, some of my programs will not run, nor my peripherals, and I appear to have lost my email addresses and all recent emails. But what is this to other troubles in the world? A mere nothing; an aggravation. I try to be philosophical, and almost succeed.

A calming influence has been the wild birds. I could spend hours observing them, noting their movement and behaviour, their individual markings. Over lunch, I watched the antics of a fat woodpigeon trying to pluck ivy berries from the spray he lands on. The ivy twines around the trunk of a willow opposite our window, but in its adult form; after climbing to a certain height, it branches out umbrella-like (even the adult ivy leaf is differently shaped to its juvenile foliage). The further the pigeon leans down to reach the berries, the more the spray droops until eventually the pigeon tumbles, flaps its wings and descends to another branch. You can see that he or she has eaten all within reach, spray by spray, yet the bird is optimistic; or just exceptionally hungry.

Pics show a clump of snowdrops from our garden (taken last year), a sketch of a wood pigeon executed about three years ago by our eldest grandchild, Sophie (then aged about 11), and a sketch I did some long while back of ivy leaves: the one on the left was a trial in using water colour in layers (no preliminary drawing), whilst the one on the right was an ink-pen sketch, touched in with paint.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Not a good day!

Oh it has been a terrible day for me. After the euphoria of yesterday I settled down to serious writing when up sprang a RED ERROR MESSAGE on my office machine and then more error messages; I closed down and then tried to restart and a little whizzing thingy went round and round in circles - - and nothing happened. That was at 10.15 am and Raymond and I have been working on the problem for seven hours. We think the files are recoverable but can't access the back-up drive either. Coupled to which the card-reader through which I download photos from my Sony camera has also packed up and the batteries on my Nikon are limping. I am whacked and disconsolate, and the weather doesn't help: rain, rain, rain all day and slush and mud and dirty melting snow; the driveway is under water (nowhere for it to run). Snow slid off the barn roof and I had to negotiate  a veritable slippery mountain to fetch wood for the stove. I feel totally rung out and cannot think of anything creative at all.

Thank heavens for my laptop. So to cheer myself up, I am posting a photo I took the other evening, at sunset. It may be a while before I am back here posting again, so love to everyone whose blog I have been following, and love also to all who have kindly followed my own postings; I truly value all your comments, even if I have not responded to them. Take care of yourselves; I will miss you all.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Day of Days

I apologise for this post, but I just wanted to share this moment with others. You see, it is snowing again - and it snowed on this date (Feb 8th) fifty-one years ago, the day Raymond and I were married. And here we are all these years later, still together, still enjoying each other's love and company as much as we did then - and right now a dish of north atlantic cold-water prawns and a bottle of champagne! I do not recall it snowing on February 8th since the day we were married (1958), until now.

How fortunate it did not snow last year - our Golden Wedding Anniversary - when our three beloved children and nine equally beloved grandchildren organised a surprise celebration for us. So totally unexpected, and all the more so because our daughter and her husband had transformed their shell of a new house that they are building themselves into somewhere to hold such a memorable family gathering. I won't outline all that everyone did, but we were given a specially produced printed photo album that catalogued our life together; such recall of memories and incidents long-forgotten. We fed and drank divinely, every guest was given a hand-made little book of love poems created by our daughter, even the flowers replicated those in my bridal bouquet (blue hyacinths, golden freesias and white narcissi). We partied all weekend; everyone in the family had been involved and my journal of memories written throughout the following week covers pages and pages. It was all so special.

Journals: I have to share with you a very special gift that was made for us by one of our grand-daughters, and as it involves visual storytelling, I am posting it on my other blog for the journalers amongst you who will appreciate 'starting young'.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Freeze and Thaw and Freeze

It's been an in-limbo sort of day, the snow thawing fast but freezing in huge deep ruts on the road at night, then bright sunshine next morning. Despite the lack of vehicular traffic, there has been much village camaraderie over the last few days; you meet more people when you have to walk everywhere. Last night was a 'girly evening' in support of the local Home Carers; bring-and-share pizza for 25 of us in a friend's house (all the men stayed at home or went to the pub). I couldn't get out of the village to buy  a pizza so made one at the last minute: 'Pizza Calzone' which is more like a pie than a flat open pizza, and delicious. I hadn't made it before and had to ring my daughter for guidance, as it was she who gave me the recipe. We first discovered it together in a little village on the shores of Wolfgansee not far from Salzburg in Austria, in a cafe run by an Italian.  

Trudged back home in the moonlight after the pizza-party VERY late through 8"-deep snow-crust after much candlelit chat, pizza, salad  and wine, and slept like a log.

Awoke to a marvellous still morning, a snowy scene, and still no traffic. Flocks of fieldfares wheeling aimlessly in search of food, which will be all but impossible to find with everywhere snow-covered and all berries gone, save ivy, which only the wood-pigeons seem to eat. A late and lazy breakfast then another village 'do', in the church-cum-village-hall, to discuss the Parish Plan - how we as residents view our village; it's shortcomings, what is needed, what is disliked, what should we do, and so on. Very democratic, allowing those of us who took the trouble to attend to have our say. 

Back home after two hours to tidy up the mess I had created this last week making art in our living room (the warmest place in the house); but I had to first snap more snow pics (I won't trouble you with those) but did love the icicles: "When icicles hang by the wall ..." as Shakespeare wrote; it always used to make me shiver with cold when I read that, particularly the thought of the frozen milk, though in my youth it WAS delivered in a pail, even in the city.

"WHEN icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail."

.... and so on, sixteen lines in all. But it was fascinating to watch the icicles grow visibly as melting snow from the roof dripped down them; and alongside, mini-avalanches sliding off the barn roof. With -4C forecast for tonight, it will be interesting to watch the icicles' progress come morning. Will they touch the tiles in the valley between the dormers?

Friday, 6 February 2009

Early on - a white-out morning

7.30 am - the chestnut tree I am 'cataloguing' throughout the seasons

Snow is falling again, driving down from the north, falling onto an already snowy landscape. The branches of the chestnut tree outside our window act as a snow-catcher, snow falling on snow. It's a complete white-out, the distant woods and hills on the horizon totally obliterated, the trees on the far side of the village green (less than 125 yards) just appear, as if seen through gauze. It is so beautiful, so quiet, as the flakes dance downwards past our bedroom window; a white and soft grey world with only the sound of an aircraft passing high overhead to disturb the stillness. 

For anyone who is following my 'Notes from a Cotswold Garden' on my website, I have added two pages, one covers a bit of background to our old farmhouse, the next are diary notes from the last three days. Just click on the link above, and scroll down until you reach pages two and three. Please feel free to leave any comments on this blog, as I haven't yet sorted how to leave comments on my website! All in good time, when I have a moment. 

Thursday, 5 February 2009

I've been tagged !

Rosie (a Rambling Rose) tagged me, along with three other bloggers. The tag was to choose the 4th photo from the 4th picture file on my computer, post it and then choose 4 fellow bloggers to do the same...

My photos are on two computers and in a whole range of folders, but I went for the folders associated with my blogging activities. The 4th pic in the 4th picture file (which incidentally was also in the fourth sub-folder) I call 'secret valley'. It is only ten minutes walk from our home, you climb over a gate into a field and follow the stream down between two folds in the hills. This stream - eventually - leads to a river, which runs into another river, and another (the River Severn) and emerges into the Bristol Channel and the Atlantic Ocean.

Now to pass on the tag: I invite 

Suki (sukipoet), 

Toni (a Spattering), 

Cait (Cait O'Connor)  

Jude (Cariad in Crete). 

I look forward to seeing your 4th of the 4th - and thankyou Rosie for asking me to participate. This was fun.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

My calm returns

After my outburst yesterday of London's close-down (there was an obscure reason for my outpouring), this morning the sunlight on the tree outside our window inspired one of those 'poetry moments': February 2009 snow, rather than January 1997. Penned in an instant, then away to our local town to replenish food-stocks and make one of those naughty 'artist date' purchases, or rather, TWO - do I really need yet more napkins for journal projects? Of course I do (and the spray of chrome-yellow artificial forsythia will be perfect for the cover of a spring nature diary, started but not finished - I've been looking for some since this time last year). How I use these purchases will be listed eventually in my 'Journaling the Journal' blog.

It isn't the depth of snow here causing problems, but the iciness and reckless driving on narrow country lanes. But all was calm, and we stopped on the way back to take photos. No-one in sight, the trees in the very old woodland caked with snow in their lower branches, snowy fields to the far high horizon, and in a fold in the hills, our village, nestling almost unseen. Double-click on any image to view it at a larger size.

February Snow

Golden, the bare chestnut tree
outside our bedroom window
in the morning light
Snow slip-sliding
off the winter branches
Sky the palest azure
Roads quiet, house warm
words flow
Calm of mind returns
I am myself again.

asm 03.02.2009

Monday, 2 February 2009

The stupidity of men (and women); or some of them

I wasn’t going to post an entry today but was so incensed at the stupidity of this country that I felt I must. It’s snowing,  and our Capital City has come to a standstill because of a few inches of snow! Have we all become wimps? What a ridiculous impression we must create abroad; all buses cancelled in London, people advised not to make journeys, though London’s mayor, Boris Johnston (not at all the buffoon he sometime appears to be), commented that "heavy snow was not an excuse for a mass skive!" Well it’s certainly quietened traffic through this village (bliss) and we have only a light dusting.

It has made the birds particularly active – inclement weather brings unusual bird behaviour: a blackbird ‘drinking’ snow (actually eating it from the top of the bird bath), a robin in mid-hover at the seed-feeder, a thrush singing in the top of the snow-clad eucalyptus, and a bright golden-headed yellow-hammer accepting seed dropped by the table-feeders. I make a second mug of hot tea and go back to bed (it’s still early) and look across the village green to the woods beyond – snow-mist hanging over the hills, tiny snow crystals so small they would fall as drizzle if it was raining. I lean out of the bedroom window to take a photo of snow bejewelling a solitary self-seeded clump of teasels that should not have been allowed to stay in our front garden – but goldfinches love them so I let them be. Snow flies in the window. Maybe I will venture outside later, through the back-back-door tucked into a sheltered angle of our house. Our usual (kitchen) door faces east from whence the bitter wind blows, so we have hung over it a thick old brown velour curtain that once belonged to my grandmother. It shields us from the icy blast that insinuates itself under, round and through the door’s wood panelling. The kitchen still feels like an ice-box.

I am wondering why I should feel so lethargic today, having spent Sunday in Julia Cameron mode ‘refilling the well’: reading the first chapter (hour one) of the HTML book which thankfully made sense, also read a chapter from 'Drawing Birds' - such an inspiring book, and created page one of a ‘Garden Notes’ newsletter, now published on my website. I need to find old photos of the garden as it was in 1969, and earlier if I can. Today I work a little half-heartedly, sorting photos to accompany an article whose deadline was last week (!) progressing at half speed. I need to get back to some art, making the napkin-covered Easter eggs that will appear ‘on the page’ in late March. Tomorrow for that, once I've written picture captions to the 33 selected for the article.

I dug out the following poem written in 1997, almost the last time we had snow at this time of year. Snow in winter is so very different to that which falls when least expected (6th April in 2008, 12th June in around 1973). Spring snow is always blanketing and very quickly slushy; today’s light covering felt very different. Clearly I was in a state of depression when I wrote 'January Snow', twelve years ago; not so today, but a ‘poetry moment’ did not materialise. It might have done had I not turned on the news!

January Snow

High hills, drifted snow curling
   round-folded in the wintry hedgerows.
Sharp, solemn shapes of penetrating cold
Pervading our very being. Winter:
   fields, hills, heaven and earth,
Waiting ...........
   for our minds to wake, to re-emerge
   from dull depression, to those
   aching, lovely sights and sounds
Of the everlasting snow-lipped hills.

asm 15.1.97

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Never too old

After a houseful of weekend visitors,  I am having a quiet blogging day, assessing my thoughts: because it is the first of February and that seems a good time to think about all those new year resolutions I might have made but didn’t because I would instantly have felt guilty at breaking them on day one. By now, I'm well into the swing of a new year (beyond that limbo time when the clock seems to go crazy for two weeks ‘holiday’ and I actually stop or procrastinate over what I should be doing), and I can see my way forward, or think I can. Little did I expect that I would get drawn into the exciting world of online journaling, nor meet so many kindred spirits, nor come to feel that I am learning, step-by-step to be a part of all this. How to fit it all in? How to keep track of everyone who visits my blogs so as not to hurt feelings when I delay a response?

And so I have my ‘commonplace’ book at my side, in which I list tasks and ideas, a fortnight at a time. Gradually some things are ‘ticked’ which means they have been started, some are crossed out (completed) and others obviously do not reach the top of the list for they get transferred to the next two pages. And so on. If I am continually shunting stuff forward, I ask myself ‘why?’. Is it not important, or do I expect of myself more than I can physically accomplish?

My list for February is as follows (not including usual household chores): move forward with the next area of the garden reclamation – greenhouse and surrounding patch, and create an online garden newsletter (already begun); plan how I would like to alter our kitchen, if my dear Raymond will agree (!); de-clutter my workroom (shared with the laundry); undertake short- and long-term research needed for forthcoming writing commissions; continue my new visual journal begun on 1st January and not touched since Jan 6th; sort and arrange a tray full of ‘blog’ notes; collect into one place all my unfinished journal projects and list them, even do some work on them; prepare promotional literature for forthcoming trade shows to showcase my ‘capabilities’; continue the book I promised myself I would write ‘one day’ – my ‘deferred dream’; start to learn HTML.

HTML is the newest aspect needing attention. I am so infuriated with myself for not being able to manipulate my blog entries as I would like, so I have decided it is time to learn a bit about it. I have therefore just bought a self-help book (‘SAMS Teach Yourself HTML and CSS’ – in 24 hours !!!) and am heartened by the fact that it isn’t complete gobbledegook. It put me in mind of the numerous occasions throughout life when something that at first seemed incomprehensible or completely unachievable is in fact perfectly possible. And one is never too old to learn.

I recalled that magic moment when, aged 5, I sat on the stairs, book in hand, staring at the page; and suddenly all those black shapes MEANT SOMETHING: a-n-d equals 'and' .... I could read! Total bewilderment until everything eventually (hopefully) falls into place – learning to knit and crochet, to stitch a fine seam, to write, to walk on my hands right round the swimming pool (why?); to ride a bicycle, drive a car, fly an aeroplane (oh that euphoric moment when it didn’t fall out of the sky, and whilst not actually accomplishing a pirouette in the air came back to reality with a gentle, kiss-the-earth touchdown). And so we go on through life, sometimes a steep learning curve, often wondering (in my case) how I could possibly be so stupid, so cack-handed.

You will see, dear reader and fellow-blogger, if you continue to follow my blogs and website, as to whether I do actually manage to master HTML; my blog presentation will improve. Pics in this posting show one of my blog entries in HTML code (I did a screen-grab) and the tray of blog-possibility scribblings that have accumulated over the last month; I shall do a cut-and-paste with those; probably the easiest of all my February tasks.

Full circle: I apologise again to anyone whose kindly-left comments appear to be ignored, or whose blog I forget to react to; it is not intentional. If you were visiting here for real, you would be offered a seat by the fire, a cup of tea or coffee (or a glass of wine) and one of my home-made flapjacks. I am sure we would have much to chat about, much to share and enjoy.