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Breathing Space

I don’t know about you, but I find that the beginning of April to be the breathing time. That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Winter is sleepy and deep and quiet, while the Equinox is a bit turbulent – all that pulling into balance – its a cross between a menopausal woman and a bad hair day. well it is in my world. Which is a worry. 

But April, ah, that new unfolding time, the breathing time. you lovely month (yeah, I know, short memory, it snowed this time last year) – the month when I think “oh yes baby, the sunshine is here, the blossoms are around the corner, dust down your shorts, we are nearly there”. I take full responsibility if my premature enthusiasm tempts that pesky fate into sending us blizzards next week.

Enough talk of weather, enough I say. Let me talk stitching. Oh let me…..well, you see. It goes like this. When you are feeling completely overwhelmed with emails, and parcels of pink knitting, and your hormones, and housework, and illness and life – well, here’s what you do. You make sure you discover a new obsession, in this case English piecing, and spend literally hours peering through your spectacles like some crazy cat lady, at the tiniest stitches on little wee pieces of fabric. It’s a winner.

You can lose literally days of work, to this timeless art; meanwhile the little work pixies take pity on you, hop up onto your laptop and take over the management of your to-do list, like those cute little elves who made shoes at night. Only this lot are a highly trained crack team of admin specialists, and they have sorted your life out in a nano second. O.K, I’m getting a bit weird. It’s all that April fresh air.

Truly though, stitching is the very best. And my friend Cindy knows her way around fabric, let me tell you. She is responsible for me haring down this quilty road when I have so, so much else to do. You Queen of Badness. Those of you who are local, check out this fabric shop to end all others.

And seriously, going slowly, making tiny stitches in a way our grandmothers would’ve done, quietly, slowly by hand, is my way of breathing out, slowing down, getting out of my busy head. It’s got to be good.

Breathing space means that you slow down, and suddenly take a look at the moments you find yourself in. You may be surprised to find that your little boys turn very big, that celebrations with a houseful of teenagers and other family is actually quite enjoyable. (note to self: even the most incompetent adolescent can be taught to knit when the pressure is on – don’t let them fool you for one minute into thinking that those little pinkies can only work iPhones, oh no sireee)

Lucky girl that I am, I am about to journey to both of my oceans – first the ocean of the west, and then all the way across the land by train, to my ocean of the east. I am feeling very lucky that my work can travel with me, and my needles and thread, and camera. I am set. I have dear and lovely friends to see at both ends too, salty air to walk in, and pebbles to collect. I love you April, there is much to breathe in.

With apologies for the ridiculous number of photos this week, here are some outtakes, incase you are tempted to think this is all a bit Mary Poppins……





April 4, 2014   2 Comments

Faith is knowing….

Every moment of every day there are choices to be made. And thank goodness for my poor overloaded brain, that I make these choices quickly, instinctually and without too much rumination. I was always a bit freaked out by the film Sliding Doors, where there is one tiny moment – she misses a train – that changes the whole course of her life. If I choose a peppermint tea and the triple naughty chocolate brownie in my favourite cafe Black Books, am I doomed? Well, my thighs may be, but what about the rest of my life?

Holding on tight to these thoughts, I travelled to my ocean of the west before I made any more irreversible changes to my shifting sands in Stroud. There is nothing like a quiet shoreline and a new day rising golden, to help you feel better and make your 65 year old self say to your 45 year old self “listen honey, you’re gonna make it through. Relax, it all works out”.

So I may well be feeling like a bit of old frayed rope washed up on the beach, but the earth still smells good, reminding me that different things are always quietly being composted and remade. The world keeps turning. And, as my soon to be 16 year old said, in a sudden moment of wisdom “to make an omelette mum, you have to break the eggs. By the way, whats for tea, I’m starving?”

I’m feeling so crowded and over exposed, which makes me snort and laugh at myself as I share yet more personal thoughts on the book of Face and a blog that can be read by absolutely anyone. But I always love reading about the ins and outs of other people’s truthful stories, it helps me remember that we all pretty much work through the same issues, feel the same anxieties and fragility; we hurt each other in similar ways, love and hold each other and mend in the same ways too. It is just life, it is what happens.

Pathways can be fraught with things you didn’t expect though, coming out of a bag at ya….one minute the way is solid, next thing you know someone’s carelessness, or their own pain, can have you right down there, wondering who turned the lights off. Turn towards the sunshine, feel your way right outta there sister. All things pass.

I’m not really sure where I am going with any of this, its just one more pathway in my head, one more meandering thought to carry me through March, towards spring and warmth, blossoms, more travelling, more pink scarf.

If I am very lucky my oceans of the West and East will be blue and sparkling when I reach them, my hometown midpoint in Stroud will remain lovely and friend-filled, and my wayward hormones will be kind to me.

“When you come to the edge of all of the light you’ve known, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown; faith is knowing one of two things will happen. You’ll have something solid to stand on, or you’ll be taught how to fly.” Patrick Overter

March 16, 2014   5 Comments

Time, loss and change

Oh hello! Did you think I had been eaten by gnomes? or my pets? or that Scotty had finally beamed me up and beyond to the blue yonder? Disturbing thought.

No, here I am, all is well, sort of. But this New Year time through January and February has been more intense than I ever remember it being. I’ve had to resort to tidying the odd cuboard to calm my nerves on occasion. This is what I found in the latest poke around a dark drawer – last year’s intention list – ha, ha, let’s see how I did….

Hmmmmm, not bad on balance, but slightly disconcerting that I marked myself on my own list…at least it wasn’t in red pen.

The hardest part about January was losing someone I loved.

I have always considered myself to have come from a world of women, to have been surrounded by women – mothers, godmothers, girlfriends and daughters. They nurture me, hold me, inspire me, they are my life.

And yet I have been blessed to have had the most wonderful men in my life too – father, uncle, godfather, partners and sons, who, now I look closely, have been interesting, thoughtful, and funny and who have also gently shaped who I have become.

To have lost one of these men suddenly seven years ago was heartbreaking. To be losing another, in slow motion, even more so. But to have been given this time with them, in the first place is surely the best treasure that I have been gifted.

Saying goodbye to someone has made me take a long, hard look at this thing we call time. It is so hard to measure, and yet that is what I am trying to do. Suddenly, it is more precious almost than the breath in my body, and I really don’t know how much of it I have, for my own life, or for any of the other precious people in my world, and there are many. How can it be that life is so very long, and hard sometimes, and then it is over, in the smallest moment, with that final breath?

In the middle of the saddest time of this last 6 weeks, I was able to get away for a few days. I sat in a roundhouse with my sisters, and passed on my blessing for strong endings and brave new beginnings. It went into a cauldron tended by a beautiful woman land guardian, along with the spells, prayers and wishes of nineteen other women. It was stirred in, mixed together with ocean totems and we have each taken a jar of it home. Mine is sitting here expectantly, waiting. In a way, I guess that is what I am doing. Sitting, waiting, for what, I do not know. But there is a space growing, so we will see.

In the meantime, there is plenty of work and organising to be done with Wool Against Weapons – 25 weeks left! And I am counting all the small blessings that are keeping me going in this winter time of change……

the best rice pudding in the world – you clever girl, for nailing the ultimate recipe and sharing it with me -

……a funny beast to share it with, he makes me smile (when I am not wanting to kill him for his bad deeds)

….sharing the best and maddest time with gorgeous women, preparing food together and laughing A LOT…

….the gentle smell of Suzi’s beeswax melting slowly in my kitchen, to make balm and honey…

…..finally seeing two years worth of ocean treasure collected up and ready to make into totems by my ocean sister…

….and because Imbolc’s light has quietly crept in to this winter grey, the making of Brigids crosses and the wonderfulness and pale green of spring bulbs – the sweetest blessing. May we all slowly unfurl ourselves, mend and stretch in to this new time….

February 10, 2014   5 Comments

Skin Weaving

oh hello….November’s busyness claimed me, sorry I haven’t been around for a while. I was waiting to see what it would send my way, and I wasn’t disappointed. It has been really quite magical. Draw closer to the fire, I will tell you…..

If there is to be a midwoman initiation, then it may as well start at the beginning of a vast and untamed ocean, laid out before her. She will sit on a hard granite rock high up, with the cold blue singing to her at dawn and wonder about her life and the pathways that bought her to this place. She will honour this past, but will quietly know that the time to step out has come. An ancient mother, with eyes as sharp as a buzzard will sit by her, and she will know that her teacher is fierce and not to be trifled with. Her name is Twisted Braid.

Together they will journey inland, away from the blue, to the wild moor. It is the moor, after all, that holds their stories, the old magic, the secret pathways. It is the place of beginning, for this soon to be Salmon woman.

They travel with stitches, lots of them, woven into a book. A book telling tales of sisterhood and paw prints. Telling how they each arrive on quiet wolf paws and leave on soaring eagle wings. There is a box, a treasure chest, filled with the dreams of witch women, known only to a few, its magic so potent it would burn stars into the deepest night.

What will she find there, as she arrives at dusk down a small track? A small hobbity cottage, guarded by wolves and ash and pine. Kettles warming on a stove, food cooking in the kitchen, and sisters, wild sisters, there for the magic of skin weaving and the twisting path of initiation.

She will rise at dawn and quietly tiptoe past sleeping bear women into the sharpness of a cold morning, and the dreaming of a hare. There will be blessings fluttering, season on season of coloured rags and songs, hung on the wishing tree for the breeze to carry them far into the sky. There will be the ancient Roundhouse where later they will gather to bear witness to their stories, and to show the ancestors their scars. And there will be bones, singing and clacking, in the morning, while Salmon waits, patiently, to journey with her little warrior sister.

And what of the initiation? The midwoman will meet the pain and her trembling with a song of strong blood, indeed this is blood magic most sacred. As the needle weaves into her pale skin, she will watch her sisters drumming, and foot stomping, and singing by her side. She will be held by crone women, crow women, buzzard women, and many mothers…and it will feel strong, and good, and a call to roar. And roar she will…..

And all the while, Twisted Braid will sit quietly, unblinking, wordless and deeply witnessing. Midwoman will know in that moment, that she may well have Salmon etched into her skin, but it means nothing until she can earn it. To earn it she must follow the this new warrior path, with discipline and focus, and dance fearlessly back out again to that vast ocean, gathering sisters on the way, remembering that one day she will turn, and head for home and quiet moorland pools. The tattoo fidgets on the inside of her wrist, restless to be begin……

November 23, 2013   3 Comments

Today I feel…..

I have a postcard on my bedroom wall that says: “Today I feel a bit normal”

Now clearly, this is far removed from what I actually feel. But it struck me recently as a rather sensible and splendid goal to have in mind, each day, you know – like something to aim for.

And while I am waiting for this ‘normal’ to float down gracefully into my world, like little pieces of stardust, then it is good to have certain things around me, to keep me going.

Like a lit stove on a rainy Sunday – the first of the season

And the furriest of all onesies, with small soft grey ears (people are kinder to you when you have little fluffy ears – did you know that?)

And fresh flowers from the allotment

A reminder that in one way or another, we all have tough times at some point or another, they pass, but in the meantime, kindness goes a long way. And where there can’t be kindness, boundaries keep you safe.

And best of all, sweet friends to invite you to candlelit breakfasts

And other sweet friends who send you lovely pieces of writing like this and the words: “I have sea foam in my veins, for I understand the language of waves”, which will make you breathe out deeply and start again.

October 13, 2013   2 Comments

A Stitchy Tale

A short stitchy story. You know how it goes. September comes around, the kids go back to school, you twiddle your thumbs for a couple of days, wondering what to do next, because clearly you do not have enough going on in your life. Then, ah ha! You have that lightbulb moment, sitting in the last of the summer sunshine, when you think, ‘well, it’s nearly Christmas, I had better crack on with some present making’. All in the name of actually avoiding knuckling down to some real, live, paid work, so your family doesn’t starve. Hurrah. Present Making it is. 

Next thing you know, you have persuaded your ex-husband to cut down his entire crop of lavender, although the scary man-tool strimmer was waved a little too close to your head for your liking, but hey presto, you have a tonne and a half of lavender to process before the sun leaves for another 8 months.

So you sit there weeping a little, feeling like what-was-her name when Rumplestiltskin said she had to spin an entire attic of straw into gold. Too big a task for one wee, mad girl. Never mind hey, because that is what Facebook is for – to send out a call for help. Which you do, and before long your garden is filled with lots of fab, mad girlies who spend an entire morning destalking your lavender and gossiping. Your ears nearly fall off their talk is so scandalous.

Well, this isn’t very stitchy yet, sorry. O.K, so lavender is deliciously procured, and made into lavender bags for Christmas, thus saving you a small fortune, funds instantly diverted into a better cause, namely books, chocolate and fun days out.  ”And your 15 year old will be delighted with his lavender bag” a friend wryly points out. For shame. Don’t be telling me the truth now, lady.

Alright, spurred on by the success of the lavender mission, you will naturally feel that your stitching talent is boundless and that you really are rather foxy when it comes to needles and thread. Oh you foolish girl. Around the same time you will be mercilessly talked into making a rather wonderful pouch for a special carving, and being a textile goddess you will enthusiastically agree. Oh my god. Did Martha teach you nothing in your sewing classes 3 years ago? Did she really tell you that a tape measure is a complete waste of time, that pins are for wimps? I don’t think so, she would have you horsewhipped for the short cuts you figure you can take.

Even so, you forge on, and as well as the pouch, you attempt to make a quilted hot water bottle cover, all nice and witchy, and magical. Because you can. But maybe, you actually can’t, and by day 5 you are rifling through the bathroom cabinet for diazepam to take away some of your self inflicted pain. I promised you honesty my friends, one blog back – well here it is. This is me, praying, no begging my Husquarvana to have mercy on me. It is pitiful, no?

Well, I need to wrap up this sorry chapter….the pouch got made (I was thrilled to discover my hairy white jumper had moulted all over the black fabric) and the hot water bottle cover just about made it through too, after I had a strict chat with myself and dug out some pins, and even a tailors chalk. The tape measure never quite got used, but lessons were learned. Oh yes they were. Namely, I must remember that learning to sew is best done slow; that one lavender bag made does not make you Mama Soule, far from it. Lavender is more soothing than diazepam and better for you, and JAINE: GET ON WITH SOME PROPER WORK….with this is mind, I am heading off to my Cornish ocean, to build up my strength and take a little break. Back in a week……

September 19, 2013   3 Comments

People Patchwork

Hello lovelies. You’ve been very patient recently with all my protesty bits and pieces, and so very indulgent of my need to post a whole heap of nonsense about cake, wool, jaunts to the ocean, cocktails, blah blah blah. And here you still are. I think this Autumn I might need to do a couple of blogs about the scarier, messier, more dysfunctional corners of my world, lest you a) really do think I am Maria from the Sound of Music; b) want to put a fork through my eyeballs write me a very strong letter of complaint; c) make a pledge to never visit Stroud in case you run in to me. Fair enough amigos. I hear you. 

Until that time, I offer up, for your continued despair delight, a few small snaps of the batshit crazies that are always just a stone’s throw outside the shot. Some of these gorgeous people are the dearest of lovely friends and family, and some are just poor unfortunates who stumble unwittingly into my world and therefore plan of badness (aka my life). I celebrate them all, for the oddness and madness and joy they bring into my life.

Of course there are one or two snapshots missing. Like the one of my oldest friend Deb, who lives so far away. If she had been here this summer, you would be seeing a pic of us walking arm in arm on the beach, catching up on 20 years of delicious gossip. And the snapshot of my dad, who, if he had been alive, would be here with me making me howl at the funny stories he used to tell. Some pockets of our life are sometimes unbelievably sad.

But to balance out the gaps, there are always people, people, everywhere, anywhere, making me laugh, doing surprising and bloggable things. Thank you. Really, thank you.

I realise that there may be a couple of impending lawsuits, after the scandalous publishing of one of two of these pics. But September finds me reckless and restless…I remain unrepentantly wicked. This is Jaine Rose, September elf of the green valleys, signing off.

September 13, 2013   No Comments

Local is as Local Does

We live in a little corner of Stroud called Trinity. It is also known as the Museli belt, on account of the high proportion of hippies, artists, musicians, allotment diggers and dreamers that dwell here. It’s a fab little corner, on the north east side of the town, up a hill, bordering the edge of countryside known as the Heavens. And in what feels like the middle of Trinity, is party central – our Local. Otherwise called the Septic (although those shady days are long gone) or the Hat and Stick.

It’s run by the mad Mr. Rodda Thomas, and is right on the corner of our very sweet park on a hill, called the Daisy Bank, where the children play all summer long, and where we all congregate when the snow comes. This pub is the nerve centre of all that happens and is talked about here in our corner of Stroud; if its out there going on, then it is up for discussion at our Local.

How could you not love a pub with leopard skin walls and a faded photo of Elvis to greet you as you arrive? I love it’s huge wooden kitchen table, always with fresh flowers and a lit candelabra, where we gather to put the world to rights. I love its funny corner with the piano and horns on the wall. It has a blokey corner where big matches play out and are cried and yelled over. It has a corner where the knitters gather and clickety clack with busy needles.

It has casino nights, legal advice nights, ‘Up the Workers’ food nights, and Sunday roasts. A notice says ‘Well behaved owners welcome if accompanied by their dogs…children also welcome if accompanied by well behaved parents” (that’s us out then)

Best of all, it is the place to hang when the Fringe (Stroud’s music festival) comes to town. Rodda puts up a big marquee in the garden, and the festivities begin with a dog show the week before (I am sure I have told you about my prize winning beast – a first in the scruffiest dog category – so proud – until he bit the judge and we had to make a hasty exit….sigh)

There is music, dancing, local ales and a Country Fair where we all get a little crazy over our misshapen vegetables and allotment offerings. Not to mention the baking….and the sloe gin category that is the source of more than a little conspiracy. Lights twinkle, the bass is cranked up, the vintage crockery is dusted down, and it is all very local, very lovely.

Festivites are still going strong in October with a mean ‘Pickle Off’ – not for the faint hearted, this is chutney gone haywire my friends. Then there is Halloween when sugar hyped kids bash a pinata to death, hanging from the pub ceiling; all watched over by the king of Horns Road, Rodda the Insane.

Yeah, it’s a good place to be, our little local, even though I may not get up there as often as I could, despite it being only a 3 minute walk away. But I do think it’s pretty cool, with its baskets of strawberries growing over the front door, a place that takes on local kids (one of our daughters included) and its sure sense of who it is – a place of community, where our lives play out…local is as local does.

September 7, 2013   No Comments

NFS….Normal for Stroud

I’m home, I’m teenaged out…and I am due some normal time (please? someone point me in the right direction?). It feels good to be back in Stroud, and immersed in our green valleys again. It feels good to be doing what I usually do at home – knitting, working in the garden on my laptop, herding cats… you know, the sort of thing that I’ve come to expect in this circus we call everyday.

Over in these parts we even have our own facebook page called ‘Normal for Stroud’ and the disturbing thing is, it looks completely reasonable to my eyes. Sigh. It was no surprise to see that a photo of our pink scarf pitched up on it this week, randomly. O.K, in this last week of August, here is a little roundup of goings-on in my ‘Normal for Stroud’ life…..

First up, no sooner had I landed home, we were carted off to Treefest, sweet little local festival, with a healthy dose of axe and chainsaw tomfoolery for obsessive woody people. And why not. Whatever floats your boat. What was floating mine, big time, were the churros with cinnamon sugar and hot chocolate sauce. Here is concrete evidence that you can distract these woody people in a nano second with the right sort of carrot….ha ha ha…..

…not so focused on your woodturning now, are you, my little sawdusty friends…..

Back at the ranch there was plenty of time to dust down the old jazz classic ’78′s (and torment the dog with the promise of a biscuit on a turntable); mix up a jug of ‘Mushion Moules’ (a ridiculous and less sober interpretation of the better known Moscow Mule), and to round off the evening’s entertainment (after the fun of teasing the dog had waned) a little game of “tie a doughnut on a string and torment our blindfolded guests” – my how we laughed…..

Other noteworthy distractions have been: meeting a wizard with some rather interesting potions and resins; getting a little ‘makey’ with some blackberry and currant liqueur, stitching a couple of hops and lavender sleeping pillows; and rolling out an 80 meter piece of peace scarf down our road as you do, for a little pinky try out.

Is this normal for Stroud? I don’t know, all I am beginning to realise is that it is normal for me. As regular as these green wooded hills that we walk, and as fab as the people that pitch up at a moment’s notice – whether it is to hold up meters of knitting or to protest another awful war in our struggling world. Happy normal weekends to y’all…

August 29, 2013   No Comments

By the Ocean (tinged with teenagers)

I have been so cunning this year about spending as much time as possible by the ocean…and here I am again…but karma is a sneaky beast and it is this trip that has had both a carrot and a stick. So yes, I have swam in my creek and loved my life. But I have also been frogmarched to the edge of my sanity with shoeless 15 year old boys and subjected to Thriftshop by Macklemore (google it my friends, and be warned, it’s not the sort of thrift shop you or I care to hang out in with our dreams of vintage…..) 

Hey ho, it is still time by the ocean…so let’s be positive. Gorgeous gorgeous. Hope your skies are blue too lovelies…..

August 18, 2013   No Comments