Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Throwing out the past

Good to be home after so much travelling
I should have been working today - indeed I did all morning (and yesterday) but after arriving home from Ireland to discover the hall ceiling all over the floor, inside Raymond's beloved Bechstein grand piano, and spattering some of my books, I made the decision that I need to be more of a wife and less of a go-getter. That there is more to life than work and that it was time I at least tried to be more domesticated. (I may be starting 54 years to late!)

This was such a shock
The problem with this vast old house that once held us and three children, often their friends as well, parties, gatherings and celebrations, is that now being empty of people, there are just too many places where you can stash possessions, which accumulate without really noticing. My trouble is, I am reluctant to ever throw anything away, in case it comes in handy; surely I can recycle all those old shirts into journal pages ??? Old books and papers, music, cardboard, string, catalogues, magazines, children's toys, jam jars, etc etc etc. Cleaning the house invariably starts with tidying up, and moving 'stuff' from place to place, into another cupboard, the spare room/s, the roof, behind the sofa, under the dressing table. (Those of you who visit will know that we may live in disorganised chaos, but we do have a self-contained en-suite guest room that is (theoretically) kept ready for guests, who are always welcome.)

Raymond's beloved piano
So, after blogging yesterday and this morning on Irish Garden Inspiration, answering business emails, and invoicing - else we won't eat, and thinking where best to start this overhaul: I start along the corridor from the office (once the bedrooms of two of our children) and into the bathroom - originally a room of indeterminate use, but gorgeous in its size and converted in the early 70s, I am able to bathe whilst looking out of the low window to the hills beyond. Somewhere I have a sketch drawn whilst soaking in the bath. Why are the linen shelves so overflowing yet I can never actually find clean sheets for our bed, or matching pillow cases? My colour-co-ordinated towels are all of a jumble and there seem to be bags of mending that surely date back two or more years. 

These are disgusting!
Yet the climactic moment comes when I pull down endless pillows from the top shelf (needing a step ladder to reach them); they are old and lumpy, some inherited from my parents house when R. and I married 54 years ago! How can I have accumulated such horrid stuff; worn out eiderdowns and subsequent duvets from when we first bought this place in 1969. Plaster has fallen on them from cracks in the walls that have appeared over the last few years when traffic shakes the walls; this 16th century house was not built to withstand the hourly village bus (empty) waiting with its engine running. Note to self to buy translucent laundry bags in which to pack what I decide to keep so that a) they do not need re-washing even though they are stored clean, and b) so I can see what I have; labels are insufficient. That's but a tiny task but discarding ten grotty pillows has been a start; threadbare sheets from the 80s become rags or dust sheets. I feel guilty that I have so neglected all this - and there are still ten more rooms to tackle, plus the roof-space, and a very large shed. I am not proud of my inability to be a proper housewife, and honestly would rather be writing, or creating something; hence this blog post. Maybe a word whisper will emerge from within the ticking-covered pillows from which prickly feathers emerge. We shall see. 

Thursday, 26 July 2012


Nothing ever works out quite as planned. My post of Monday regarding my Traveller's Tales blog fell somewhat by the wayside, as WiFi failed, or was non-existent. But you might like the images I took today as our time in Ireland comes to an end. Which doesn't mean I have been idle - if only you could turn the pages of my hand-written diary which I has been ongoing since we left home over a week ago. Click here for an interim update, and the intriguing image I photographed today - by now the original will have been swept away.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Travelling in Ireland

I have just remembered that I had said a way back that whenever I posted the 'pages cartouche' in a blog, it would refer you to a story that you might like elsewhere. We have been 'on the road' for almost a week now, first in Cheshire at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show, and now in Ireland where we are touring in our motorhome for a feature that will appear eventually in 'Discover Touring' magazine. As we are covering far more than can be accommodated in the few pages I will have at my disposal, I am keeping a blogging diary on my Traveller's Tales blog. Click here to read it (I'm adding to it as often as I have WiFi access, you'll need to scroll pack a post or two for the beginning of the trip), and click here if you would like to read about our Tatton Park experience (on another of the blogs I write). I've found time to sketch as well, even though we have a punishing schedule, and miles to drive every day. To say we are exhausted is an understatement! (Links to my blogs are all in the sidebar of this one if you wan't to revisit.) And thank you, anyway, if you do.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Sequence of Events

It's been a day of mixed emotions, and of jumping from from task to task and wondering how so much of my life seems to have been encapsulated into one very peculiar day.

1. Up early for monthly accounting and online banking before the internet crashes (imminent thunderstorms?) But no ..

2. 11.00am: Husband prepares to leave for complicated dental surgery and I cannot accompany him because his appointment was altered and now coincides with Caravan Studio Open Day.

3. I hug him goodbye; wave as he drives off up the hill.

4. I open the 'studio'; visitors arrive (and five in a 2-berth caravan and all my exhibits take some shoe-horning and negotiating of discussion points).

5. 13.30hrs: I suddenly realise he has been gone over 2 hours! I excuse myself from visitors immersed in my travel journals and ring the surgery. ANSWERPHONE. My brain flips; has the anaesthetic reacted with his Diabetes drugs? What if ...? Might he not reach his imminent 80th birthday? I return to talk about journals and sketching and the mundane (but thrilling) joy of creating art .... but too many scenarios are rolling around my head; and Raymond has the car and how can I reach him if needed? STOP IT, ANN! Our dentist is brilliant; they would ring me if there was a problem.

6. Time disappears. I am overwhelmed by the distances my visitors have travelled, by their kind comments, their requests. 

7. 14.00hrs: A wan-looking husband walks down the drive. There is blood on his neck, his shirt, and on his beautiful pale-grey linen jacket (how stupid can you be to wear such dress for a dental extraction?) I refrain from commenting; was it so awful? He opens a can of soup. "Will you excuse me?" I ask of him. I chat with my mind half on him and half on my stream of oh-so-welcome visitors. Raymond arrives in the caravan with a plate of sandwiches. "She hasn't eaten," he says. I feel like crying.

The afternoon passes - thirteen lovely people with whom to talk altered books and journals, images and writing, ephemera and childhood; theatre and teaching. I am in my element: paper and fabric, thread and stitch, paint and images .... R. is asleep with the TV on; the rug I left in readiness for him still on the chair.

8. 17.30hrs: my last visitor departs. R. brings me tea! I feel guilty but euphoric. The WOW factor had emerged (a comment in my visitor's book) and this dear, sweet husband asked me how my day had gone.

9. 20.00hrs: I place supper on the table; one conducive to a husband who has obviously had a fraught experience. We chat. He asks for analgesic and pours me a glass of wine.

10. 20.30hrs. The fish-paoched in milk, mashed potatoes (home-grown) and parsley sauce are consumed; we are onto dessert: fresh peaches. "And how did it go?" I ask. "So-So," he replies. And the blood? He cut himself whilst shaving! I find the shirt soaking in the bathroom basin. As for the expensive linen jacket which he will need for Ireland next week ....