Thursday, 23 April 2009

Day of Days

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

There are only two hours left of today, and this date (23rd April) is so special in the annals of English history that I want to celebrate.  In 1415, the English were at war with France; a decisive moment was the Battle of Agincourt, not perhaps remembered by the populace at large, until you recall the historic drama of William Skakespeare (Henry V). On the eve of the battle, Henry (in the words of WS) rallies his troops with the immortal battle cry, "God for Harry, England and St George!" 

Emotive language - and so significant today - day of days: for April 23rd is not only St George's Day (patron saint of England - with no disrespect to the Welsh, Scots or Irish) but also the birthday of William Shakespeare, that most gifted of wordsmiths, and that of his death also (born and died on April 23rd; 1564-1616). I recall the time as a teenager when I would memorise whole chunks of Shakespeare plays; and on one magical occasion sat late one night in the moonlight on the steps outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre by the River Avon contemplating words, words, words. (My parents and brother and sister with me, a whirlwind, drama-besotted 15-year-old,  were driving from Leeds to Cornwall, then a seven hour drive - no motorways - on a camping holiday).

So to celebrate England, so many years later, I recall on this days of days all my love of this beloved land - without an accompanying illustration. I ask all my dear followers to comment on what they regard as being quintissentially 'English'. Once I thought I knew and could easily select words or images. But as a country, as a nation, we have lost our way and have to delve deep and off the beaten track for what once was ' this precious stone, set in a silver sea' - also Shakespeare (Richard II).

Early this morning on the radio I listened to two Shakesperean protagonists discuss some recently discovered portrait of WS which is evidently currently on display at this year's Stratford Literary Festival. Professor Stanley Wells and Sir Roy Strong were a breath of fresh air in the present climate of political doom and gloom; for what does it matter if we know exactly what WS looked like? We have his plays and his sonnets, and they will surely survive no matter what.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Notes from Here and There

(taken on our day out - part work, part play)

In my Easter posting, I referred to the fabric book I am creating to celebrate the forty years we have lived in our Cotswold Farmhouse. I have now explained how the idea of the book came about - a moment of pure serendipity - in my Journaling blog. It has spurred me forward, trying to create just a little 'art' everyday, whether it be visual or in words; the two all meld together eventually.

Today was no exception. It was the start of our 'Show' season, during which we travel to events and places that subsequently become integrated into the magazine features I am commissioned to write; Raymond comes with me to catalogue the events photographically (though usually the blog pictures are my snapshots). Our Malvern year began with the first of four shows: this today a one-day event ('CountryTastic'), intended for families with young children, and billed as 'Introducing food, farming and the countryside'. Despite the persistent rain, I was so pleased we went; it was a lovely, modest little show with children clamouring to experience all that was on offer, from making bread and spinning yarn to decorating eggs or searching for bugs and snails in a sandpit full of oak leaves. I met familiar faces from past Malvern shows, and made new contacts - fascinating people doing all they can to keep a knowledge of the British countryside alive whilst encouraging healthy eating. Sad that if you did not bring a picnic, all that was on offer was a very expensive burger bar with chips at an exorbitant price!

(focus on children, and happy learning)

(they really did find bugs and snails in these oak leaves)

As ever, my story begins before we leave home, when I prepare a journal in which I will record my thoughts and experiences. Travelling there holds as much magic as arriving; a cushion between home chores and the anticipation of what we will find in the little world that is 'The Showground'. And so yesterday, I made a mini 6"x6" book from paper bags and acrylic paints, complete with integral pockets. My challenge will be to finish it whilst simultaneously working on various forthcoming articles; something I find tricky for I am working in two or more genres at once. Within three weeks, we will be back for the four days of the 'Malvern Spring Flower Show'; our showground year continues in earnest.

(my new paper journal, to which I will add notes from all the four Malvern shows we will be attending this year)

It may seem strange that when I have a journaling blog, I still post snippets about my artwork in this blog. But journaling and journals are a part of my life and so the two blogs will invariably interlink, and may even appear to duplicate each other. For that I can only apologise, and hope that nevertheless my 'journeyings' will be of interest, no matter on which blog they appear.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Easter Greetings

Just thought I would send greetings to all my dear followers and hope you are having a peaceful time doing something special whether you are alone or with family and or friends. Be happy, wherever you are. We have had a houseful for two days (two of our three children and their respective partners, and children - six beloved grandchildren ranging in age from 4 to 15). The photo shows us enjoying a family lunch yesterday, which coincided with Dominic's 8th birthday (the birthday boy is at the head of the table), so a very muddy football match on the village green was enjoyed prior to eating.

Today has been damp and remarkably quiet in the village, but chilly. So no gardening but a book by the fire for Raymond, whilst I experimented with fabric and glue, tissue-paper, muslin, scrim and jute, to create blank pages that will become an illustrated 'Memory Book' of this old house, which we acquired forty years ago this June. I will post details of it from time to time as I work my way through old photos, old notes and all manner of odd bits and pieces that I want to incorporate. It will be a sort of  'thankyou' to Raymond for all that we have achieved here between us,  (with the constant help of our three children when they still lived at home). 'Cotswold Farmhouse Memories' will be my summer-and-autumn creative project whenever I have a spare moment. I actually found time to prep some fabric before breakfast yesterday whilst the family were still asleep. Little by little, the pages will grow.

Meanwhile, you can see the house as it was in 1969, and read a little bit about how we came to buy it, if you visit my website and click on 'Garden Notes' - and then scroll down to page two.  I am ashamed that the website is not as professional as I would wish, and also that it badly needs updating. There are just never enough hours in the day to do everything that needs doing here. I hope it will be enjoyed by anyone who reads it, nevertheless.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

All's well with the world (for me, anyway).....

April in middle England

A hawk hovers
     by the roadside verge –
Kestrel, sharp of beak and eye,
     rising to the wind, 
     and away.
Sunshine again, after a day of rain,
     under grey clouds
          now lifting;
A streak of light revealing
     a landscape fresh
          and rain-washed.
From this high hill, you can
     see for miles and miles,
     into the far distance;
As ever, so beguiling.

Back home, a low rainbow
     to the northeast;
More grey rain-clouds threaten
     – a proper English April –
     (another shower, another rainbow).
The driveway wallflowers shift
    and shimmer in the cool afternoon
          – my blood-red beauties –
Catch their silky fragrance;
     and remember Spring.

asm 9th April, 2009

My check-up with the doctor today revealed nothing physical, more a sort of longing for time to be myself, and a dichotomy between my whirligig creative present and a continual churning of ideas. Such a maelstrom of possibilities; I have to do some strict talking to myself about what is important and what is not. There is never enough time, and I have obligations. A beloved husband, and our house and garden, and all my writing. This much I know. Of course I do, and always have, but knowing does not relieve the ache in my heart. (So ..... when I should have been baking for tomorrow's lovely family gathering, what do I do but sit down and plan a new fabric book? !!!) 

But I will be all the fresher in the morning, knowing my thoughts are now on the page; and after an early start, gingerbread and flapjacks, vegetables and roast lamb, steamed sponge and fresh fruit, and evening salads, home-made pizza and jam tartlets will grace our family table. Six lively grandchildren - the boys will play football, in the rain; the girls and I will make tag-book journals; the parents (our children and their respective partners) will chat and drink wine, and Grandpa (Raymond) will snooze by the fire. It's such a shame that our elder son and his family cannot be with us (he is working over Easter, and we will all miss him).

Meanwhile, dear R. has transformed our yard (the pic only shows a small part of it); my greenhouse is full of  seedlings awaiting their life in the vegetable garden and my many 'square-foot' raised mini-plots. Before I go to bed, I will take the doctor's advice and 'do something for me' (selfish??) - I will transform some curtain interlining into what I term 'faux-suede' - the basis of my fabric book pages. Not my recipe (a kind of pva glue soup) but that of Angie Hughes, to whom I am indebted for the technique.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The colour blue ....

Paintbox of Spring

Wild cherry trees in woodland
     on the Shipston road
     bloom white as long-forgotten snow
Pristine, pure and virginal.
So many shades of muted colour
     in the bank of trees
     as I contemplate
     the mundane task of shopping
     driving to town and back
     ‘writing’ in my mind
Golden hedgerow willow
Lime-green of poplar
Misty pink of larch, emerging,
Crimson copper beech, and
Deep hooker’s green of pines
     spearing the skyline,
     row upon row of them.
Dark indigo shadows between
     still bare branches of oak and ash
     pale sea-foam of lichen on gnarled limbs.
A paintbox palette.
Blue? Back in my garden, beneath
     the plum trees, a blue so rich
I want to hold it in my hands
– grape hyacinths, of a sort –
I kneel to capture an image,
     low-level; a miniature beauty.
My watercolour Spring.

asm 8th April, 2009

I am almost back to normal - feel so much better; have had time (a little) to myself, and tomorrow go for a check-up with my dear doctor. Until then, and a longer post, I am going to indulge in a 'catching up' of all the blogs I have missed. Thankyou to everyone who sent me good wishes, and to new followers to whom I should have sent a welcoming email.

Easter Greetings to everyone - here is my basket of  'napkin collage' eggs about which I wrote in my journaling blog two months ago. The article on their creation has now appeared (in 'Organic Garden & Home' magazine), along with my article on 'Wild Greens'. The eggs now await a 'Good Friday Grandchildren Hunt' around the house and garden. What larks!

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Narcissus morning

Whilst Weeding .....

Out in the garden, bending low, I catch
the scent of narcissi.
Flowers in clusters, facing the sun;
Petals doubled, cream-in-swirls
with tinge of apricot, 
and softest orange.
Such sweetness, such immeasurable joy,
On this young April morning.
asm 05.04.2009

This is an interim post whilst I sort myself out for the coming week; and try to discover why I am not feeling at all well. Hope to be back soon.