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This is your life, do what you love…..

Welcome to your life, do what you love….oh, ok, so what is it that I love? I love spring for a start – any chance of that rocking up soon in to my valley?? No, thought not.

Although the signs are there – daffodils spotted on my weekly walk around Hawkwood, and the first ruby stalks of rhubarb appearing on our CSA vegetable plot…..but come on, I am itching to peel off my thermals now – I’ve had them on since last October (can anyone even remember as far back as last October or is that just me??)

Well, being the good little community witch that I am, I thought I had better get myself outside for a wee bit of equinoxing this week…try to find a spot of balance emerging in this suddenly crazy world of mine…yeah right…

Hawkwood is so good for this – there is a funny sort of tree house cabin that is used as a meditation space right in the middle of the wooded valley….although I have been a bit too skittish recently for sitting still and contemplating peaceful thoughts – my pink hair is testimony to that, lets face it….but I love the idea of it….

There is also a very lovely natural spring bubbling out of the ground in their gardens – Herb and I always stop by here for a bit of witching and a bit of a drink

Back home then, and maybe it IS time for some meditative contemplation – so this is your life babe – how’s it working out for you??? Well, thanks for asking – you know those lovely white walls I worked so hard on last week? Yup, I remember. How about writing all over them? Splendid idea honey, lets do it….(talking to yourself, never a great sign)

Oh, how much fun can one bad girl and a Rotring have??? Answers on a postcard…

So, this is your life, do what you love and do it often…oh, so good to remember this, especially as this long, long winter draws hopefully to a close. You know what I love? I love all the photographs that I take – hundreds of them, sometimes up to a thousand a month, of people, places, knitting, my garden, oh you know well enough by now what my camera gets up to. Only right then, that I put some of my favourite pictures, and of course my favourite people, up on those lovely white and waiting walls.

Because life really is about the people you meet, and the magic you create with them. And whilst this winter may feel long, actually this life is very short. Not a moment to be wasted then.

I have to tell you that these words are not mine – they are from an advert for skin care products, believe it or not, that have been stuck to my fridge for a long time. But I like them, and they felt right enough to be penned up more permanently. And there is a lot more to come – that’s one big bit of wall I have travelling up the stairway. Just as well that I have piles and piles of photos ready and waiting, and so many more to take in this mad life of mine.

All in all I may just have inadvertently found some equinox balance this week. A need to escape out into the world, yes, but an anchor at home, remembering that right now my life is here, with its schedules and work and people.

But it is good. It is full. And springtime will come. That alone is enough to make a girl really quite perky.

March 22, 2013   2 Comments

Tradition….our way

O.K, I am nearly done now….my inner Christmas faery is ready to wilt, and it is high time I began to channel the spirit of the inevitable post festivity hill runner to work off those naughty nightly glasses of Grand Marnier. Sigh. Here is a little patchwork of our crazy days, and our family traditions – which we make up each year, to be honest, as the mood grabs us….

:: Sherry and shortbread as the decorations get dusted down
:: From the outside looking in
:: A small witchy corner that is all mine
:: Christmas Eve supper
:: Baked oyster mushrooms, peppers, breadcrumbs and camembert cheese
:: Neighbours Katherine & Adrian bringing mulled wine and folk songs
:: Solstice walk among the pine trees and wondrous blue skies
:: Christmas day – oiking everyone out of the house for fresh air
:: Hiding in quiet, out of the way pubs
:: Christmas lunch chaos – shoehorning my mother out of the kitchen
:: The making of Peppermint Bark – surely the very best bit of our days…
:: Christmas Day supper – one angelic child, one less so…
:: The opening of our 6th annual Film Festival – a three day marathon
:: 1950’s homemade felt decorations from my American Godmother
:: Competition for the best seat gets tight

Last one standing, turn out the lights….

December 28, 2012   2 Comments

Not Christmas shopping….

Hello lovelies….I thought I would be back here sooner, but no, these have been funny, busy, run up to Christmas kind of days.

Days in which I have tried to avoid big bouts of Christmas shopping in crowded places, really I have. Days in which I have tried to pretend I am part of the Von Trapp family and am making all of my presents….without breaking a sweat.

This present making malarky has been much boosted by a return of my insomnia. Well, that’s the official party line – the truth of my insomnia might also be ascribed to the love of a quiet house that is ALL MINE. Cat purring, hot waterbottle snuggling, tea drinking, music listening and crochet hook twiddling at 3am. Lush.

Whatever my motivations, whilst the fields outside have frosted up, I have where possible remained inside, by the fire, twiddling away with all sorts of frivolous crucial Christmassy projects.

O.K, I know you will want a full report. So let me see. I have made baby bunting for my Faery Goddaughter – this was before I attached little silver bells. Thanks to Lucy at Attic 24 for the sweet pattern.

I have made little stitchings, some textile machine embroidery tree decorations, and a dream journal notebook

I am also unforgivably smug that I even managed about six Christmas cards – go girl…(even if I am the only person cheering my sad self on….)

Despite our stove breaking down in the coldest week of the year, my little frost bitten fingers have been beavering away on a hot water bottle – the word ‘hot’ becoming an obsessional thought for our family over the last week or so.

Just so as I didn’t feel like a total slacker, I did manage to fit in about 15 minutes work in my dining room office, where I miraculously made a deadline for a piece of artwork. Rewarded, naturally, by a slice of my sister-in-law’s homemade Christmas cake…that she absolutely insisted I scoff before Christmas Day. And yes, that is my Facebook page you can see there on my work laptop (before one of my very clever friends points that out to the world, in the comments section below…smile.)

So this has been my little world, in the Stroud land of ‘Not Christmas Shopping’. Which to be fair, could also be subtitled ‘Not remotely doing any Housework’, ‘Not being Focused’ and certainly ‘Not engaging in anything more taxing than a ball of wool and a cup of witchy tea’. So be it. In any case, we are ready, we are there, bring it on. The teenagers are either hitting new sugar-induced highs of anticipation or reassuringly doing what teenagers do best – sleep in all sorts of odd places….

…and as for Santa’s little helper….(giddy on way too much sherry and shortbread)

Have a wonderful time everyone! Big hugs and love to you….

December 20, 2012   2 Comments

Letter to Dad

I am walking in Stroud, across the bare December fields, and it seems like a dream that you are not here in the world. Are you walking beside me anyway, and I just can’t see you? We have done this so many times, tromping through the mud in our wellie boots, you and I.

I miss you.

In fact I miss you in  a hundred ways, that are not yet real to me. Not while your clothes are still in your cupboard, your emails to me on my computer, your last photo I took, still on my camera. I wanted so much to be able to say goodbye. But if I could have done, what would I have said that could have come close to the hole that is now in my life, the imprint of you.

If I could knit a huge blanket of you around me, in the most wonderful colours, it would be of all the hilarious things you saw in people, that made me laugh. It would be of your kindness, your grumpiness and intolerance. It would be of your love for your family and friends, it would have boats and books and Hong Kong woven right through it.

I am sorry dad, that you didn’t have more time to travel to far flung places, to enjoy more pints, to walk more pathways. That you didn’t see Theo’s first rugby match or watch Holly grow taller than me. And also that you might not get this letter telling you that I am proud of you, that I have loved you through each and every one of my 39 years.

I will listen for you in the wind.

Love Jaine x

It is quiet in the hospital, just the noise of watchful machines whirring and beeping. I sit by your bedside and put my face on your warm, brown, familiar arm, and pretend to be a child again. Smell you, and feel you while I still can. I touch your face, and try to press enough memory of you onto my fingertips to last me for a lifetime. I look at how your eyelashes curl perfectly upwards. Your ring is still on your little finger. I curl your quiet hand into mine, folding a rose petal that I have picked this morning from your garden into your palm – a secret from another time.

I sing your favourite songs to you, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkle, and whisper messages into your ears – words that just might reach you in time, in that deep place where you are now.

It is said that when someone dies, we cry not just for them, but for all the deaths we live through, big and small. Sad waves of remembering washing wetly over us. This is a strange and terrible river that I have fallen into. I now realise that it has been flowing silently beside me for all of my life; as the certainty that people I love will die. What a shock to be in its icy waters suddenly. I surrender to its cold, let it carry me along, despairing that I will ever be dry, warm, happy, whole.

Today I lie on the floor, not sure how I got to be here, and stare up at my sitting room from this different place of looking. Death can be so like birth – just in reverse, a struggle, a letting go. And for the people that are left – we enter a strange land with no map through no choice of our own.

Some days I break into many pieces, and I wonder how deep into our bones this relentless pain can travel? I feel like an iceberg floating in a cold, lonely sea. Bits of me keep breaking off, floating away – there’s another bit gone – I’m in a slow meltdown, that no one sees. A friend says ‘don’t forget to breathe’ and I realise that I have in a way. I yawn and stretch, and inhale deeply until I begin to feel a little better.

It’s been five years Dad, since I wrote you my letter. Your ashes have been scattered in all sorts of interesting places, and I think that is how you would have like it. This tree is a beautiful copper beech tree near to my house, we’ve walked past it many times together. Some of your ashes are buried near to its roots, and it is here that I come to talk to you. It’s maybe a bit silly, but each time I pass, I pick up a leaf and tuck it into my clothing, next to my skin. Hours later, when I’ve long forgotten what we chatted about that morning, it flutters out and on to the floor.

Each year, I remember those last days with you, the road trip we never got to take, the many things I didn’t get around to asking you. It gets easier and it gets harder. I miss you more. I am not sure you would even recognise me these days, and the children outgrew me many many moons ago! But it is all o.k, the pieces that matter are woven tightly in, and the bits I no longer need to hold will someday soon be let go of …to be carried to you on the wind.

November 23, 2012   9 Comments

In the basket…..

I’m back, I’m settled…and I have a quiet weekend ahead of me…oh joy! (if our teenagers don’t sabotage it). I wondered if you would like a rummage around my basket of woolly things ‘that will one day happen’??

Now bear in mind that in matters of yarn and stitchiness, I don’t do speed. Actually, speed is not on any of my agendas, now I think carefully about it…..this is the pace that follow Herb and I through our days of work-avoidance:

And I am unrepentant about that. O.K, so to kick off, there are two festival blankets in the making. These are for our wayward daughters who would happily skip off to festivals at the blink of an eye. They really came about because when they leave for college, I would love them to have something homemade to take with them. Of course they will end up draped over shoulders in muddy fields listening to the most brilliant rock bands in the world. That is what daughters do. And I say yay! to that. So the first one is for our eldest daughter Becky, and it is a straight single crochet striped blanket, made with gorgeous cotton Natura yarn

I only have a year to get that one done, and they are mighty small stitches, so the pressure is on. The second daughter blanket, for Holly, is a ripple pattern, which I found at Attic 24 (you gotta love her) – I have gone slightly off road with it, not like me at all (uuuummmm)

Then there is the Owl Bunting project (until recently the words O-W-L  B-U-N-T-I-N-G induced terror in our family, on account of the filthy mood it put me in trying to interpret the pattern. Don’t let that put you off – I was probably reading it upside down during a PMT week) – and it will look very cute when all 24 are made. As you can see, I am well into proceedings, with just ONE finished….

Next up is my hexagon blanket….this has been a while in the making….it will be totally for me!!! Hopefully just in time for my retirement party at 83 years old…..(sorry, can’t find the pattern, but google it)

Slipped in to that basket is the beginnings of the mother of all knitting plans…in all its pinkness (yes Lisa, PINK)..I know I keep teasing you with this one – hold on in there. All will be revealed very soooooon

And finally, there is a little beginning of a hot water bottle cover that I started in the wee hours on planet insomnia. It is so good working quietly when everyone is asleep, and a cat is snoring sweetly by my side. I am making it up as I go along…and again, will keep you updated on it’s progress. Which I suppose is dependant on how many hours I lie awake for….

That is surely enough to keep my restless hands busy….if anyone fancies joining me for a spot of tea, crochet and gossip, then I am your girl…..(oh, and bring a biscuit for Herbie)

November 16, 2012   4 Comments

The Quilt of Terror….

There’s nothing like a bit of leaf blowing and single figure temperatures to have me wistfully wandering back to the light, bright days of late summer….and so it is back to early September that I am journeying to today.

And more specifically to my daughter Holly’s 16th birthday, oh and my 44th! We share! Pretty cool, huh? Well, I had decided about 8 months before that to make her a quilt, something really special, that she would treasure (did you ever meet a 16 year old that fantasised about home-made family heirlooms? No, that would be a 44 year old) No worries.

I had forgotten to remind myself that I had never actually made a proper quilt. Even better, I had decided in my very non-virgo way to leave it all to about 3 weeks before her actual birthday. Of course, we all know, denial is not a river in Egypt….

Don’t be fooled by this happy, confidant woman laying out the pieces. I had the ‘dummie guide to quilt making’ stuffed up my jumper, and a rising feeling of terror at those squares of pinkness. Worse still, quilt making best friend had selfishly hoofed off to Cornwall, leaving me QUITE ALONE……

But one thing led to another, and I found myself actually just doing it…zipping up those babies, stitching one row to another, keeping going, ironing, keeping going. I had pieces of dresses that Holly wore as a little girl, favourite pyjamas, things that I have worn over the years, and most specially pieces from her grandmother and great grandmother. Lots of stories, all joined up.

It got a little crazy quilting it with my Husquavarna machine…she’s a very accommodating old lady when she’s in the mood. Bought the softest batting and brushed cotton piece for the back – how very technical of me…. and this is what it finished up looking like:

The last bit of backstitching went in the night before…so right up to the wire, but hey…I did it!! And even more perfect, she loved it.

My sweet girl, with a ring in her nose, and an attitude to match, quietly listening to the stories of the fabric, and still agreeing to wear the birthday crown. My happy heart.

There was cake, lots. And sunshine, and wonderment that sixteen years had whooshed by in a naughty nano-second.

And it is true that she loved and appreciated all the work I had done on her surprise quilt. But do you know what totally rocked my baby-girls birthday world?

That would be the pair of kick-ass purple Doc Martens that I bought her….

November 1, 2012   3 Comments

A big old summery fib (sssshhh!)

Ho hum….well, I guess winter is rolling around again….kids are back at school….and as soon as we are settled at our work desks once more, an Indian summer sweeps in to mock us. What is this British obsession with weather? I am as bad as anyone for cloud watching, checking forecasts on the hour, tippy tapping at the barometer (o.k, that’s a lie, I don’t have one, but if I did….). So I hope you won’t mind if I tell one huge, big, Monday fib about my summer?????? Could I? Just this once?

Ah yes, you see, in MY summer the skies were big and blue, and we skipped around teepees like frisky little Unicorns. My garden sang happily with abundance and colour and the vegetables were so enormous and plentiful we had to hold a table top sale. The snails and slugs sloped off grumpily to pastures new muttering ‘well we just won’t bother with this particular Nirvana’.

The children gaily chorused, “please please do take us for long walks over the hills!” and so sighing heavily we did, and we frolicked over the greenness until the sun set.

Those lazy, balmy days….we just couldn’t get the sun cream on quick enough. There weren’t enough Margarhitas to quench our thirst on those long days of festivals, friends and freedom.

Oh, and the ice cream at every turn! Summer days filled with walks to the beach with our picnic bag, not a care or a cagoul in the world. We lazed around on warm golden sand, dipping our toes in the warmest of water in the North Sea, and no one snorted when I suggested an afternoon dip – YES PLEASE! – they all chimed in.

There was, naturally, hours and hours of free time to sit on the shingle and crochet. Oh yes. Mainly on account of the children deciding they do actually love making sandcastles harmoniously together, and infact Facebook, Twitter and other phone related activity is the work of Satan that they are better off casting aside.

Evening meals in the garden, listening to the chirruping of cicadas. A glad heart that we didn’t travel far from home. Why bother with Spain, when it’s all here on your doorstep, hey? You know, (and I am saying this in a whisper), it was so hot for so long in Stroud, that we had to cool the dog off every day with a hose pipe. Really. Unbearable. How we longed for the cooler days of Autumn to blow in…..

Friends, what can I tell you about my summer? It was gorgeous of course, with or without the blazing sun. I am truly grateful for those few times when we did throw off our anoraks at the prospect of a full 18 degrees. And no! Not once did we cower among the rain soaked dripping clothes on the washing line, for the umpteenth time, wondering why we didn’t move to Greece. That was NEVER us….

September 10, 2012   7 Comments

The Children Hurricane

I will tell you what I know about children. Which may or may not amount to a lot. I know that one minute you are sitting in your twenties, perhaps happily on a rock, surveying all that is life around you. Unaware of the raging hurricane that is to come.

And then if you are like most unplanning people, you say to yourself one day, I will step into the world of children. It seems harmless, it might even be fun. What it should say of course is: WHOA! THE WORLD OF CHILDREN!!!!!!!!!!, preferably in a big, flashing, neon sign. Because your world is about to change FOREVER. FOR. EVER. On you sail.

Even when that little wee person arrives, all is still vaguely calm (unless my sad old memory has totally erased the reality of babies). And anyway, nothing is harder or more weird than childbirth, right?

But then one day, and you may be several babies in before you realise this with a sinking heart….they did not come with an instruction book. Or if they did it is written in the evil language of Ikea. Even worse, it is written in the Mary Poppins language of Miriam Stoppard. And it is about this time that the terror begins.

And as all parents know, children and animals can smell your fear. They play with your uncertainties and insecurities like a piece of play dough. Small children know exactly what embarrassing questions to ask you in public places with the insistency and robustness that would make a political journalist pale. They will poo in supermarket aisles, and throw the mother of all hissy fits when you visit charming houses of  delightful children. They will do this regularly without skipping a beat.

And really, all I know to do is beat them with a big stick take a deep breath and know that all things pass. Because of course, deep down you know that they love each other really.

About as much as the food you lovingly prepare for them each day.

Whether you have one, or two or four children, whether they be yours, or you pick them up along the journey, they are in your heart. And you had better be ready. Because it is the wildest, most relentless, craziest and fullest thing you will ever do. The hardest, the saddest, the maddest, and without a doubt, the most lovely.

Even through the thunderous years of teenagers, when you may want to kill them or set them to hard labour, you love them. Though they crack your heart wide open several times a week.

As Mama Soule commented recently, “the days are long, the years short”. And the stark and hard truth of this made me cry. Through my lowest ebbs with children I have truly believed that it would be that way forever. Then suddenly they are taller than you, and are asking you to sit on the naughty stair to think things through. You know it is nearly all over when you do actually take yourself off to the 4th step up to reflect on things calmly for a while.

So this is where I am at, this week. Thinking about a 19 year old, a 17 year old, a nearly 16 year old and a 14 year old. Wondering where that leaves me (given that my sanity upped and left years ago.) They are taking their first steps out into the world, and I would love to say that I am on the sidelines proudly cheering. And I sort of am. But I am also trying to patch up my aching heart, and hold on just a little tighter for a little longer. This is what I know about children. That the hurricane passes. Way. Too. Quickly.

July 18, 2012   8 Comments

:: Snapshot – Part II ::

Happy Thursday to you, and as promised, here is part II of a small snapshot of my world right now….

:: A cosy sofa with blankets and quilts where I can sit and watch the weather

:: Snap of my front garden, taken whilst sitting on my cosy sofa

:: Catching up with the crochet blanket plans of a lovely friend

:: Love loving the newest member of our family – Jack Collings in all his baby wonderfulness

:: Racing to finish the blanket made specially for Jack from his Auntie Witch

:: The band of Strangeness ripping it up at Jon’s birthday party

:: Sitting and laughing with friends in the rarest of 10 minutes when it wasn’t raining…..

Happy Thursday to you….blue skies and butterflies….(pleeeeeease!)

July 5, 2012   No Comments

Little catch up…

Now, where was I? Am getting all muddled up with winter being here once more, not to mention confusion in the thermal undies department. Well, March was a month of birthdays, all over the place. Just before the wintry winds blew in, Dareth, Debs, the Hotpants and I headed out for a special birthday picnic by a river in splendid sunshiny, champagney loveliness….

Just before that, I had been involved in a bit of a frisky week, backstage with our schools “We Will Rock You” production. Wow, those kids were  something again….

and I am now slightly embarrassed to recall that I too dressed up as a Bohemian for the last night party, complete with blue tipped hair. Oh dear.

My baby turned 14 years old (how?????) and skipped off on a school trip for a week

My big boy turned 19, he now has birthday cake AND a glass of wine….

Easter came and went amid cake, chocolate and chalking a girly masterpiece on the only white wall of our house. Of course.

May 2, 2012   No Comments