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Category — Stroud

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

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

Stitching, walking, thinking

I will not die an unlived life
I will not not live in fear of falling or catching fire
I choose to inhabit my days
To allow my living to open me,
To make me less afraid, more accessible,
To loosen my heart
Until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
To live so that which came to me as seed
Goes to the next as blossom
And that which came to me as blossom
Goes on as fruit.

Dawna Markova

October 25, 2013   No 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

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

Eleven ‘I Loves’ (of Summer)

Blue skies and heat – oh yes! Summer, I love yoooooooooo….so here are eleven I loves, to celebrate

Walking over the fields that are known locally as “The Heavens”, chatting to all the other morning dog walkers

Getting out my favourite summer table cloths, chair throws and cushions

The handpainted roof at the Red Hearth – a real community effort

Sitting on our deck in the evening sunshine, drinking Pimms

More light coming in to the house, especially since Mark, my hero, made them sparkle (boy can that man clean when the fever comes upon him)

Gathering herbs from my garden – mugwort, lady’s mantle, lemon balm, feverfew, raspberry leaf – my first choice for period pain

Sitting one last time with dear sisters at our Red Hearth in the woods

A bush full of shiny sweet redcurrants in the front garden

Summer flowers in the house

Grass meadows being cut for hay in the fields

All the doors and windows open, light and warmth pouring in

Beautiful summer, for as long as we have you, I thank you (and blow you a ridiculous number of kisses)

P.S. Just a little extra pic, to expel any myths you might be harbouring of my life being one long pretty photoshoot – teenage bedroom, complete with black walls, bin bags, dirty washing, overflowing bins, and a hopeful hound hoping to scoop up any foodie leftovers from dark corners…this is the other reality…

July 11, 2013   1 Comment

The Only Map

There is only one map, in my opinion, that we women need. And this is the book “Women that Run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The truest, most deeply soulful piece of writing you will ever be lucky enough to hold in your hands. It took me many years to open mine, to read it, re-read it and finally get it. It showed me another way, a wolfish way, with whiskers and remembering, of courage and certainty, and most of all of wildness.

I am growing into my wildness, and it has not been easy. I never expected it to be. But La Loba, the bone woman, the wild woman has been with me, watching. And we are reminded in WTRWTW that She will come diving over whatever fences, walls or obstructions we face. She will come to us anywhere, in any condition. This is our medicine.

Oh, did I ever need her last Friday evening at the Red Hearth? With Clarissa’s wise words wrapped all around me, I decided to hold an evening of Wildness for Women, inviting some of the feistiest, most wonderfully strong women I could muster up – an open invitation for any woman to come and join us. I was blessed also to have the dearest drumming sister by my side and a circle of amazing wolfy goddesses who were up for a bit of howling in the woods.

I made an Ancestor Shrine with the most beautiful skull from my bone sister. Bone, that which can never be destroyed. To a steady heartbeat of the drum, we processed out to the shrine at dusk, to honour our ancestors in a ritual. By the light of the fiery skull, we know.

Here are some of Clarissa’s ideas, and I hold them dear and close to my heart, for they travel with me daily, and guide me like the beautiful and wise map that they are.

Wild nature is the health of all women. To be wild means to establish our territory. To find our pack. To be in our body with certainty, to find what we belong to.

What are these wolf qualities that we seek? Why they are insight, intuition, endurance, keen sensing, far vision, acute hearing.

Wild nature is about being aware, being bold, being unapologetic. We are entitled to fight tooth and nail to have it and to keep it.

We need to learn fierce qualities. The voice inside us that tells us we are any less than our wonderful wild selves? Well, we must meet this dangerous predator head on by not allowing divisive thoughts about ourselves, our creativity, our self worth. We must capture harmful thoughts before they can wreak havoc in our head and we must dismantle them.

And the bit I like the most? The idea that sometimes what we need to do is to take ourselves, our ideas, our creativity far more seriously than we have ever done before. Ever. Done. Before. Oh I will try Clarissa, I will.

So yes, let us set for ourselves something in our lives that we are willing to reach for, willing to take risks for. For me this is learning to speak without apology. I am willing to be anxious sometimes, and I will try to stand in the scary place of not knowing what will happen next.

Women will be standing right next to me, I know it. And I have my map. Wild woman is already living inside me, biding her time. And then one day, kerpow! She will leap out of me, and my world will change forever.

So must it be. To the power of three. It is done.

July 5, 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