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Getting through

Hello February, you scoundrel of a month.

I remember my father trying to talk to me when I was a know it all teenager of about 15. He gently tried to explain that often life gets tough, and that sometimes beyond circumstances that you can control, it just is unexplainably hard, with pressure building and hopefulness fading. I thought then that most adults, particularly my parents were idiots. I couldn’t wait to be a grown up, and what really could be so very hard about it? Big bunch of whingers I remember thinking.

I’ve been a grown up for a few months now, and finally I am just getting it. I feel beyond sadness that he is no longer here for me to tell him he was right. But many of his words stay. Blue February days can be toughies. You know those days. Nothing is technically wrong. All the bills have just about been paid, the house insurance is up to date, you haven’t missed a meeting or dental appointment. You and your partner are speaking, and the children are sort of behaving. Yet its hard to make it through, and you astutely avoid all internet images of kittens lest you start weeping, and never stop. Oh dear. 

So never mind what puts us there, what gets us through? The thought that winter is passing? A long hot bath? Brand new girl boxers ordered off the internet late at night? I really have no idea. 

I do know that attempting to knit slinky jumpers on circular needles with under arm cast offs, when I can barely knit a straight scarf, is not the cleverest. I also know Netflix and 82% dark chocolate is a no-no after 10pm. 

I want my dad. I want him to finish the other part of the conversation that he started 35 years ago. What is supposed to happen next? Do I just carry on? (keeping calm obviously NOT being an option; I have my Mars in Leo for goddsake). 

My default setting is clearly a cross between Joyce Grenfell and Doris Day – bracing walks in the countryside are embarked on, and plenty of good, wholesome food (ignoring the bad influence of best friend eating family packs of chocolate bourbons, I shall not fall madam….).

I bury myself in work, and try to stick to the surprising and quirky. Like finding badgers painted on gateposts, stacks of old letters from the 1930’s in the community recycling, and a gorgeous ginger cake mix sent spontaneously in the post by a lovely woman I’ve never met. 

And if it weren’t for the fact that I’m often held to ransom by a jack russel terrorist then its possible that February could be quite dandy after all……

February 21, 2014   3 Comments

Samhain by the Ocean

Beautiful and quiet week, catching up on sleep, knitting, having lovely food cooked for me. The beginnings of mellow winter sunlight, crab apples, pumpkins, rosehip and birch. Feeling a sadness for this last visit this year to my ocean of the east, and a rightness in getting myself ready for the rich, dark dreaming time that Samhain ushers in. Wishing you all the most gentle of late autumn time, may all changes be for the good.

November 1, 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

Reasons

I have been thinking about Peace. With a capital P. I have been trying not to be worthy, or self righteous, or so very dull. But the truth is, it’s been 68 years since human beings dropped atomic bombs on other human beings, causing devastation in the most brutal way imaginable. It changed our world forever. We are still making these bombs. What more is there to say? 

I want to acknowledge this pain of what we did, what we still do. I also want to hear peace in my own words, peace in my thoughts, peace in my body, peace with my pathway, peace with my pace. I really do. 

So, where to begin. Ah ha, at a Peace Camp. And why ever not. Okey dokey, sixteen reasons then, to upsticks from my lovely Stroudie life, and hoof over to an Atomic Weapons Factory, like you do, with little more than a few balls of wool and some sticky backed plastic. (we all know this to be a very big lie)….

Reason One: Because ModPlods are so very clever at hanging up colourful peace banners. Left a bit, right a bit….ah, that’s perfect!

 

Reason Two: Because its very lovely sitting on green grass knitting pink pieces of scarf with people you like alot

Reason Three: To learn new skills like making Japanese Peace Cranes out of coloured paper and then stringing them together on the fence – colour is where it’s at when it comes to the Ministry of Defence

Reason Four: Trident – can’t think of a whole lot it’s got going on that is positive. But a Peace Camp? What can give you more pleasure than subversive stitching…



Reason Five: You get to chalk around your dear friend making Hiroshima and Nagasaki shadow pictures onto military owned tarmac with kids chunky crayons, – now if that doesn’t feel naughty, then what does?

Reason Six: You get your own little ‘Get Out of Jail nearly Free’ card – should you be abducted by aliens or even more exciting, arrested

Reason Seven: Because (still wowed by the chunky chalks) graffiti is sooooooo much fun

Reason Eight: Because you get to hang out with mad French activists disguised as Breton pixies, and they will most certainly teach you jokes in their own language, protest songs, and if you are really lucky, lewd French drinking songs. Yay to that then.

Reaason Nine: Because you can decide on the spur of the moment to see what would happen if you block the main gate with several meters of pink scarf that brilliant people have knitted you.

Reason Ten: Because you get to conspire with super-smart people about how on earth you are going to pull off the mother of all insane 7 mile plans

Reason Eleven: Because you get to remember how precious and small and soft your new born baby was in your arms all those years ago, and wonder how frightened and desperate you would feel in those first moments if your world was devastated by a nuclear bomb

Reason Twelve: Because you will stand in the middle of Greenham Common and marvel at the power of nature to reclaim what was once an American base for Cruise Missiles. You will feel the presence of thousands of women around you, feel their courage in the face of so much conflict. It always seems impossible until it is done…..

Reason Thirteen: You will sit and wonder who is more wary and scared of who – us looking in on uniforms, guard dogs, machinery, war. Or them looking out at us with our rainbow colours, banners, chalk, singing, fasting.

Reason 14: Because insane, crazy out there things will just happen – like being chased by herds of wild ponies, galloping and snorting as you run for your life. Or singlehandedly holding a surprise skype conference with 80 French people and singing them the only french song you can remember from Primary school, to fill in the time.

Reason Fifteen: Because you will be in awe of the determination and ability of activists who can fast for 4 days, only drinking water, and still cheerfully go on huge long hikes between the bases.

And finally, Reason Sixteen: Because. Just because. There are some amazing people out there. Believe it. And even though they are a little crazy, and scarily unplanned and spontaneous, they are courageous and clever and we are a safer world because of them.

August 10, 2013   1 Comment

More Mad Crazy

Oooh hello, it’s been a while. You know what it is like around these Stroudie parts – a week can be a long time, with lots of different, unplanned things popping up all over the place.

This week has been about the magic that happens when women get together.

We gathered for our annual opening of our Red Hearth House by the light of the new moon, and danced, drummed, sang and howled with the most witchy of whiskers. 

This is such a special place that we have created, in Kesty and Martin’s beautiful woodland, and it fed my soul once more to be there, with many different wonderful women and all the stories that they bring to weave in with my own.

Oh you mad, crazy week…I didn’t see you coming. But in I leapt, as I knew I would, with my fast beating heart yearning for adventure and change. There have been camp outs, dawn choruses, badgers, burial chambers, axes, art, get togethers, cake, bitey things, and lots and lots of laughing and chit chatting.

It is also the month that Fiona and John Owen throw open their chapel studio doors to let us all have a peek inside at their wonderful, most magical of creations.

If you live anywhere near Gloucestershire, their exhibition is on until 30th June and is breathtaking. You will love it.

And so my week has rolled on, with a daughter learning to skateboard, puzzling over strange pub quiz questions, rainstorms to be caught in, and art students arriving at our house in a lovely impromptu gathering.

And today, Sunday, it ends as it so often begins, with wool, cake and friends – with Prema’s PicKnit in the Park – and as much as I need to collapse on my sofa and rest, I skip along with my pink peace scarf, dodging raindrops, and slide into yet more mad crazy…..

June 16, 2013   No Comments

A dog, a frog and plenty of wool…..

Yes siree, this is panning out to be a strange time….where did those strong roots that I was telling you about disappear to? Never mind being grounded, I seem to have been rushing around all over the shop, and not really achieving very much at all. But I have been having fun, I think, in the meantime, and I have been to Wales and back…yahoodie to that then.

Oh, how badly lost do I always get when I venture out alone to Wales? It is pitiful. I always end up sitting on the verge of some remote lane, weeping, while sheep look at me suspiciously. I don’t blame them. Its a sad sight. I am way too impractical to take a map, so usually just rely on my girl guide instincts to get me outta there. They are long days, those Welsh days. But listen, my instincts were sharpened this time – I was on the way to Wonderwool on the other side of them there Black Mountains…and I tell you, my friends, I can sniff out exciting yarn from 100 miles away

Yeah, thought that might make you sit up….nice huh? And you know? There was miles of the stuff….never seen so much wool crammed into one cow shed. These Wonderwool people were not messing around. Mind you, neither was I…I rocked up with a whole load of pink peace scarf and a plan to brainwash nicely persuade woolly punters to join me in my plan of gureilla wool fare – which I did, with the help of a few friends. 

There was plenty of time too for a stroll around to drool at gorgeous yarn and people doing weavy, woolly things (I clearly have all the technical jargon up my sleeve, such a pro) – take a look:

I feel I should be able to tell you exactly what they are doing in those pictures, particularly the woman with the baby…but you know, I didn’t really like to ask, so walked around looking knowledgeable and stroking my chin a lot…oh, I’m so rock n’ roll (not).

Hey, talking of rock n’ roll though, I did meet a very wonderful folky girl and her guitar, singing songs of protest, paganism and knitting – yay to Talis Kimberley, check her out!

Right, so that was the wool bit done and dusted. Back home (I made it back eventually, via a ridiculous detour nearly to Hereford and back) and time for a bit of gardening. I have an exciting snail plan to reveal to you soon. This is my world in the summer months. THE SNAIL ISSUE. Do you think I don’t have it in me to bore the pants off you for the second year in a row about snails…oh think again sweet friends. There’s plenty more where that came from. So, a wee tidy up in the front garden, planting of beans, salad, flowers, squash, tomatoes. 

And look at this little cutie-pie found near our pond…I was seriously tempted to have a little go at kissing him….you know, just to see…..

The other thing thats been going on in my valley is a call to hands to get our Red Hearth ready for its opening in June. I will tell you all about that soon. For now though, witchy women and moon daughters gathered to sing and paint signs to mark the way up the woodland path. We were tempted there by lots of cake (a given).

I was lucky enough to meet Jackie Singer there too, a musician and author of Birthrights, a book of ritual and celebration. Lots of good things to check out. 

Oh dear, have I been nattering on for too, too long? It’s the Beltane energy you know, a time when everything speeds up and there’s just so much whizzing around. Time to trot myself back up to that art studio and get on with some work……

….content in the knowledge that there is beautiful wool in the world, beautiful people, and that the plan of pinky badness is coming along just fine jimboy…with the help of my new and rather goreous P.A….meet Rose….my latest recruit. Go on. Ask her what she’s knitting.

May 4, 2013   2 Comments

Stop Fooling with Nuclear Weapons

How rock and roll do you want me to be?

I am a bit of a Libran at heart, and so my thinking world is often very grey in that I can see all sides, value lots of different ways of seeing issues. On Monday, I travelled to the Stop Fooling with Nuclear Weapons Protest at Aldermaston, and had one giant dose of black and white dished up to me. I don’t really know where to begin.

O.K, so to set the scene…there were lots of different gates and a very big wire fence surrounding the bomb factory – and many, many fab rainbow people gathered around each of the different gates. Knowing I couldn’t get to visit all of them, I concentrated on two – the Women’s gate and the Faith Gate. First job – hang up a length of our pink peace scarf – oh, for longer legs…

There were some very moving things tied up there, including these beautiful origami peace cranes that had been painstakingly arranged despite fingers being so numb they were nearly dropping off.

…and fabulously colourful stitched banners…I am determined to make my own banner of loveliness – anyone up for helping me?

Hey, check out these little crocheted birds that had cheekily yarn bombed their way into one quiet corner….

O.K.That’s enough of the stitchy angle, lets get down to business. I have to tell you that I met some AMAZING people that day – people of hope, people of faith, people of determination, smiley people, articulate smart people and just plain awesomely wild people!!

This is me talking knitting to one of the oldest women in the U.K. Her name is Hetty, and at 107 she was totally up for protesting nuclear insanity. Go Hetty! Next to us is the M.P Jeremy Corbyn – he had some totally inspiring things to say too.

Dr Rebecca Johnson was there (one of the awesome people I mentioned earlier) – now she has some feistiness that I wouldn’t mind a little of. Here she is reminding us that what we do locally feeds into political debate globally. Oh yes, people, we can and do make one hell of a difference.

Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary was there and up for modelling a bit of our pink scarf – yay! And there was also possibly the most formidable women I am ever likely or lucky enough to meet. Here she is with Kate – Pat Arrowsmith. She is a peace campaigner of some standing, has had prime ministers quaking at her sustained heckling, is a voracious gay rights advocate and having served 11 prison sentences was force fed when on hunger strike in Gateshead prison as a younger woman. That is some C.V.

There were some gorgeous Somali women who I had fun dancing with when the time for making noise and banging pots and pans came. And oh! I was ablaze with cheekiness about asking people to be photographed with that scarf of pinkiness – I knobbled Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, and several others – some needed to be incognito – they were obviously on more secret missions…sssssh….

Oh yes, this was a day of anti-nuclear frolicking to be sure – and with 19,000 nuclear weapons in the world, someone had to do it. There was a smackeral of glamour too – here I am trying to advise Katharine Hamnett on the ins and outs of a knit and pearl (yes, so she is Queen of the World when it comes to all things textiley, but hey! I was unstoppable by then….)

I need to tell you how exciting it was unrolling those first pieces of pink peace scarf that we have all knitted. Wool Against Weapons is on the map, and on Monday was in people’s hands, draped around shoulders, hung on the fence, and most of all being talked about.

So, I stepped into that whole rush of black and white thinking, and it was good. There is no middle land in this debate – Trident has to go. We cannot afford the £100bn in renewing it, and our dear planet certainly cannot afford the consequences of something so morally reprehensible and vile being fired. There, was that rock and roll enough for you..

As one of the brilliant banners said – “Resistance is to make yourself one safe republic of unconquered spirit” – well, I saw many of those such spirits there, and wow, did it blow me away.

Actually, what really nearly blew me away was being handed a pink megaphone in one mad moment, in front of the crowd at the Women’s gate – and fired up on a few too many virtual coffees jumping up and going for it….ooops! This is Jaine Rose (again), unzipped and crazy pink, signing off

April 3, 2013   No Comments

Week

:: Saturday ::

Stroud’s rag market…always so fab, rummaging around offcuts of hand dyed french linens, buttons, quilts, beads…such a good distraction on a difficult day

:: Sunday ::

An Equinox gathering on Kesty and Martin’s land – hot tea and some community theatre which made me laugh and cheered me up

:: Monday ::

Sewing together some pink pieces of scarf, and really loving the moving stories being sent to me along with them….there are some wonderful people out there

:: Tuesday ::

A Twitter tutorial – trying to get my middle aged brain around something really simple – slightly edgy when teenagers arent the most patient of teachers

:: Wednesday ::

A good old fashioned day at the seaside with Grandma and Grandpa – eating ice cream in a near blizzard – March – you’ve got to love springtime….

:: Thursday ::

A truly mad, crazy two hours with Pixie-Bee, the Hotpants and Saskia-pie – playing trains, stitching lavender bags, nappy changing, song singing, biscuit eating and other fun stuff

:: Friday ::

Back to big kids – a chocolate fudge birthday cake for my youngest teenager

:: Saturday ::

Stroud Farmers Market essential – olives from the Olive Ladies – seriously good, guaranteed happiness

My birthday boy – gotta love a 15 year old in a furry owl onesy

So this is my funny old week – week one of the school holidays – and still feeling like midwinter. Not an especially easy one, but there are pieces of loveliness and colour to be found if I look hard enough. And as always, my camera is around my neck, ready and waiting.

March 30, 2013   2 Comments

Alice in Freakyland

No sooner was I back from my beautiful dreamtime on Dartmoor, I was catapulted in the most alarming way into an adventure of a very exciting and strange kind. Curiouser and curiouser. 

Having survived giving umpteen presentations on nuclear war to hoards of teenage Year 9 and 10’s – oh yes, really…. – I packed a little bag and headed off for the campaign launch of Action AWE in Reading. Oh, this was going to be fun……

Action AWE is a grassroots campaign of non-violent actions determined to halt the production of the big, scary weapons of badness at Aldermaston and Burghfield. I got massively inspired by all the people I met there, including the two great speakers Rebecca Johnson and Kate Hudson who gave us a lively evening with their sparky ideas and messages of hope and empowerment. 

Not only that, but we got to wear great t-shirts too, eat biscuits and laugh a lot

Next up in the surreal, you’ve gotta be kidding stakes, was a meeting with Thames Valley Police, to talk through, among other things, the logistics of stringing a 7-mile long pink scarf from one bomb factory to another in the summer of 2014. Now, as everyday conversations go, that was out there. Oh, and do you knit, Inspector?? “Very funny, someone get this mad woman out of my police station…(handcuff her first)”

Ah well, after a packed lunch, on to the said Atomic weapons-making factory, to suss out the potential for some fabulous yarn bombs on their front gates. Grey metal is such an unimaginative colour, don’t you think? It is my absolute duty, I do believe, to jazz it up a little. My mind started clicking with ideas….

It’s a pretty scary, Alice-in-freakyland place really. Electric fences, Mod-plods with mad uniforms, signs saying no photos to be taken (whoops….) – all the ingredients for a splendid day out. Oh, and should there be some nasty nuclear disaster while you are walking around the perimeter fence? No worries, they have that covered too. Clever Burghfield

O.K, I may sound a little sarky here, but it is in-your-face real, and just plain frightening, when you think about what these weapons can do. Each warhead (and there is a potential of 192 in the U.K) can unleash a destructive power 8 times greater than Hiroshima. So now I am less skippy, as I drive the route that our pink scarf will take.

Of course, these guys really meant it when they said ‘no photos’ and I guess an insane pink-haired woman hanging out of a car window with her Sony SLS constitutes a good enough reason for a rather jolly ‘stop and search’ – too much fun. Do knitting needles and pink wool arouse suspicion? I do hope so….

Yup, this has been a million miles from my precious time at Dartmoor. But one more step along my path of pink revolution. I am fearless, I am bold, I am tenacious. I am pink. Kate Adie, eat your heart out….

March 7, 2013   1 Comment