Saturday, 27 March 2010

Seventy million shades

such a find - I had to share it

Whilst researching an article on 'Colour Theory in the Garden' early in 2006, I immersed myself in books and colour charts for weeks, so much so that it obviously 'coloured' my entire life that winter. The article was published, I moved on, as one does - I always have a body of work on the go - until last week when I unearthed some words I obviously felt moved to write at the time, scribbled on a piece of paper. Such a jumble, a stream of consciousness, written without a single alteration. Typing it up and reading it again four years later, I recalled how at the time my head seemed to explode with colour for weeks on end. Does it make sense? No! But it was a part of me, then, in an intense period of study when I learned that the human eye can recognise 70 million different colours. (Skip the next bit if you want to.)

The finding of that four-year-old poem coincided with the purchase this last Thursday of some silk sari ribbon (pictured above) from Crafty Notions at the 'Sewing for Pleasure' show at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham - an annual pilgramage for me where I stock up with all manner of enticing materials and supplies. I did not know what these beautiful ribbons of silk were called and neither did I know they could be purchased in the UK, so spotting them on a stall was an incredible piece of luck. I had squirreled away such few pieces as I had acquired, wrappings around gifts from my dear creative friend Kristin Steiner, now living in North Carolina. I snip tiny pieces of her gifted ribbons and incorporate them into fabric keepsakes. Now I have my own stash of colour magic.

Such irridescence, kingfisher wings, exotic butterflies, birds of paradise and peacock tails: all manner of loveliness waiting to adorn my journals or be trapped in stitch on fabric pages. The finding of my poem and a source of the ribbon happened within a day of each other; they seemed to complement each other, hence this post. Normally I would post about things creative on my other blog, but bright, shining colour at this time of year gives such a lift to the spirit, brings joy to minds dulled from weeks of endless pastel cold, that I wanted to share it with all my blog followers.

To whom of course I owe such a debt for sustaining me through a difficult winter. I must have my laptop fixed or rather set up in such a way that I can email out of an evening,and say 'thankyou' individually. Meanwhile, thankyou again. I may be absent from blogging for a few weeks; I have a rigourous schedule and time is running out for all the necessary preparation. Which does not mean I will not be thinking of you all. I will, and will catch up on my return.

P.S. This has turned into a blog of links! Links are useful - if you want to check them out, but somehow interrupt the flow of what the post about. In future I think I will put a link list at the end of a posting - what do you think?

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Spring at Last !

'Daffs in a Pot' - watercolour, March 2000

It is officially Spring, and never has a season been more welcome, after the prolonged harsh weather and an over-cold house with only a modicum of heating. The wind has turned to the south-west; a rain-washed morning. We have survived and have already begun the Spring-cleaning of the garden. Many of my beloved herbs succumbed to the low temperatures, but the soil is beautifully friable after weeks of frost. Growth is late, tree buds just showing that swelling of the sepals that is the forerunner of green leaves to come. Crocus shine in 'the plum patch', the blue stars of chionodoxa are just emerging and suddenly too my miniature daffodils poke their sunlit blooms through their winter leafmold blanket.

This will be a short post; it's heads down here at Ivy House, non-stop work and projects that can now be attempted: flinging open of doors and windows; a sorting of 'the office' and workspace; Raymond back in his workshop, and me scribbling, or rather keyboarding - and making time to sew.

The pic above was one I attempted at a watercolour class I attended ten years ago. The tutor was a lovely lady who always wanted us to 'paint large' - I found this really hard as I tend to create small, in miniature. We had to take in a pot of bulbs for one class, so I dug the little daffs out of the garden, stuck them in a pot, and they fell over in the car on my way to class, which didn't improve them, or my mood, and I never finished the painting. It was one of those days; I am sure we all have them when nothing seems to go according to plan.

But not all days are a downside: the poem that follows is part of a much longer one I wrote in 1970 - thirty years ago; to me it still so perfectly expresses my feelings of today, I decided to share it.

Finally, huge thankyou to all those who have been leaving me messages or sending me emails. I do so appreciate your kind comments. Always full of good intentions, I flag them for a reply, and there they sit in my in-box, languishing. I will try to do better.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Sunday Escape

It has been a day of surprises. Raymond wakes me with a hot mug of tea. "How are you feeling?" he asks and without thinking (still bleary eyed from sleep) I answer, "not brilliant."

"Well, that's a shame," he says, "because I thought you would like to go out for the day."


"I'll take you out to lunch."

Another pause.

Now these spur-of-the-moment happenings do not occur that often. We are always busy with work or one project or another, it's too costly, and R. hates going out at the weekend. Something must be on his mind. I ponder as to what my response should be: I don't want to hurt his feelings; I don't feel well; I had hoped to spend the day continuing my fabric keepsake (as already detailed in my journaling blog). It doesn't take long to ascertain why my dear husband is feeling edgy. A car has been parked on the pavement right outside the house all night. R. feels besieged. This is happening more and more frequently; the feeling of being ambushed in our own home by thoughtless people.

My mind reached back to a time many years ago when I came home from shopping on a Saturday afternoon. It was mid-summer and very hot; I was looking forward to weeding the garden and cooking R. a steak barbecue with home-grown salad. No chance: "Get your things together, and the tent, we're going away."

"Why?" I asked, bewildered.

"Because those d--n moto-X motorbikes have been churning up and down the hillside all afternoon and are driving me mad." - or words to that effect. Oh!

"Where to?" I ask.

"As far away as possible. Cornwall."

"CORNWALL !!!" (We live right in the middle of England.)

I throw together bedding and a little food, overnight things and find the tent. We do not drive down, but fly to Lands End, to a small grass airfield overlooking the sea. We camp next to the aircraft, eat a poor meal and I do my best not to complain. I miss the steak supper, but had a wonderful long walk the next morning down a valley alongside a bubbling stream to a secret cove where I collected pebbles and sat on the rocky beach and wrote quiet thoughts. Writing always calms me.

So, today, I knew that it would be sensible to humour R, even though I would rather have stayed in bed! "No rush," he said, "we'll make a gentle day of it; you choose the route, bring your camera." He wanted to check his new lens anyway (another motive for going out ?? - it is, after all, the big annual camera exhibition tomorrow in Birmingham!) - I am putting thoughts into his mind which is such a silly thing to do; by now I just knew he wanted a break and thought it would do me good, too. I grab my 'journal spilling' notebook and my neocolor crayons. Dear R. even said he didn't mind if I scribbled all the way. I didn't. I was too busy map-reading him cross-country down single-track country lanes to keep away from main roads which he detests; but we paused frequently at suitable stopping points. R took photos, I journal-spilled (see my other blog later in the week when I have scanned what I did).

And so the lovely day unfolded.

Lunch at the 'Corner Cupboard' in Winchcombe was sublime and we walked that off on the highest part of the Cotswolds, about 1,000ft amsl; just long enough to keep from freezing - it is still so bitterly cold;

on Cleeve Common, and I am so cold, I disappear amongst the gorse bushes and gather golden gorse flowers to stay out of the south-easterly wind - they usually smell of coconut and I thought I would add them to my pot-pourri dish once I have dried them

I've had enough and stroll back to the car parked way below; everywhere still looks so wintery and it's cold, cold, cold

Much later, Ray takes this photo for me of a solitary rookery in an oak tree - I spotted it on the way out this morning, but the sun was in the wrong direction then for a photograph, so R. took it for me on the way back. I finish my rookery poem.

We make our way home via a circuitous route to sit by the fire and recount our Sunday escape. A gentle day indeed and so close to home - no rushing to the farthest point west this time to 'get away'.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Unearthing the Past

I am not sure whether this will be a long or short post - it depends on how I manage to weave together what I want to impart, and whether I become carried away in the attempt.

Let me begin with the photograph pictured above: it was taken 72 years ago, early in 1938, and depicts me in my mother's arms, my maternal grandparents on the left, my father and mother and me in the middle, and on the right my great grandmother and my beloved great grandfather, Thomas Henry Guppy (1861 to 1948) and librarian of the John Rylands Library in Manchester from 1899 until his death. It was he who instilled in me a love of books and words and somehow throughout the second world war when new books were unobtainable, he always found me something special for my birthday. Books I treasured and still have.

This unearthing of the past has happened by accident. All spare time in the last month has been spent unravelling this house, searching everywhere for our passports. Not only those but Raymond's driving licence, our birth certificates and our marriage certificate. Not for any specific reason other than renewal; I suddenly noticed they were not where I always keep them. Coupled to that, I had been re-configuring my workspace to accommodate a new sewing machine, which involved making the decision to part with many of my technical books. The workroom took all of January; then came the discovery of my having 'mislaid' the vital documentation. You may think it strange that I cannot locate what I know is carefully put away somewhere; but picture this scenario: a very old house in which we have lived for 40 years; rooms leading into rooms, an accumulation of furniture and properties, boxes and boxes and yet more boxes of books and fabrics, projects from two houses and our former factory sold in 1999, all crammed together and stashed away within the house's three storeys.

our house, taken in 1969 - the little boy on the left is our younger son; it is his 47th birthday today (3rd March)

Another month has gone by, turning out drawers, boxes - most of our remembered - and unremembered - past. And the more I searched, the more panicky I became, until my brain froze and I felt oh so very OLD, and so stupid. Meanwhile I had to focus on work, and somehow completed my immediate batch of five commissioned articles, transferring myself both in thought, or literally, from Goodwood (Chichester), to the Malvern Hills and the music of Edward Elgar, to Aberglasney (Wales), and through gardens in the mind, writing about space-saving climbing vegetables and the edible patchwork quilts that we call 'potagers'. This last completed on Monday. I breathed a huge sigh of relief - don't get me wrong - I love what I do; it was just somewhat compressed this last three weeks.

I tackled the passport office, meeting a stumbling block when required to provide details of the EXACT dates of birth of both our sets of parents. For heaven's sake, they would be over a hundred years old now, if they were still alive! The officials were relatively helpful but did not seem able to understand that a) we had not committed to memory those dates from the 1800s, and b) that we could not instantly if at all lay our hands on our paperwork.

I don't know why, perhaps because I have now stopped, but I feel exhausted; not a part of this world, as if my thought processes are ebbing away; I now cannot find ANYTHING. But I know that given just a little time, I will be up and running and raring to go on whatever is next thrown at me. Just give me space.

My post tonight might have ended here, had it not been for a phone call early this morning from my daughter, inviting me to join her and 11-year-old grand-daughter K. on a girly day out in Oxford (she had a day off school). Three girls together, chattering away on the drive to the park-and-ride, on the bus into the city and throughout the three hours we had together. It was sunny, crisp and cold and we walked with great purpose, talking all the while. Bookshop, art store, stationers, chocolate shop, tea purveyor ... and a students' bistro for lunch.

I did not have a camera with me, I wish I had, but we sat at scrubbed pine tables eating potato wedges (scooped out baked potatoes in their skins, sprinkled with cayenne pepper, topped with grilled cheese), presented to us on wooden trenchers, with fresh leaf salad and sour cream cheese, mexican tortilla chips and salsa / guacamole dips. Mugs of hot tea and fruit juice for K. And still we chattered. It has been years since I shared such a day; and apart from the delicious lunch, I treated myself to a sketch book and notebook. I had a specific purpose for what I bought. The sketch book comprised pages of recycled tobacco-coloured paper, perfect for a forthcoming visit to Ireland; I know from previous trials how well it showcases photos, hand-written text in black or sepia, and sketches in 'neocolor' over-painted with fluid matte medium.

the second little notebook which I bought today in Oxford

The other book (shown above) leaped at me off the stationer's shelf: I had not bought anything like this before; somehow it seems too striking, too much of a statement. I will fill it with my poems. For years, I wrote in very ordinary notebooks, at first those I should have used for my prep at school, then anything small enough to slip into my pocket. Of late, I have scribbled on scraps of paper; and thus I lost much of my word-journey, for like our passports, where are these scraps? Some have appeared on this blog, others could be anywhere, but now I have no excuse. Such a tactile notebook, cream surface of the cover and raised black lettering: scribbles and doodles; pen on paper. My brain has not died, just been overwhelmed these past weeks ... and now comes Spring: snowdrops, crocus and daffodils, hazel catkins and birdsong; a thrush in the apple tree, frost on the grass, paper and pen, and words.

some of my former notebooks filled with my poetry, from young girlhood onwards