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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

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

November rolls in….

Does November know what it is this year? I know its bonfires and sparkly skies. All a bit glitzy after the darkness and gentle Samhain quiet of my Norfolk ocean. It’s a wee bit of a mash up in my head…a mixture of things that don’t seem to go together, but there they all are anyway – rolling around in my life. It’s somewhere in between autumn and winter – squeezing the last drops of sunshine out of summer, and pulling on the woollens at the same time. Eating the last tomatoes and basil, whilst chopping up the squashes for winter soups. It’s feeling radical at a feminist conference, then a week later lying on the floor praying for Scotty to beam me up. Hey ho. November, you can be a bit tricksy. We will see what you bring.

[Always heartening to know that your pets will double check you for deadness before they eat you...]

Yeah, so where did we get to? Oh yes, I left you a while back after I had decided that clippers were a fantastic idea. Even better then, after a vicious bout of pmt, to go the whole hog and do a Sinead. Hurrah. Listen up, all you mothers of teenagers, I have been banned by my children from the school A’level information evening. At the time of writing this, I am luxuriating, LUXURIATING, on the sofa with a glass of wine, while unfortunate partner is slugging it out in a sweaty gym hall filled with spotty youths and leaflets. I may be a cliche, but no-shit-sherlock, I’m a happy one.

November also brings the candlelight, and the beginning of the official ‘cosy time’ when my bad ass gets glued to the sofa. This can last, if I time it right, from November through to April, sooooo good.

It’s a wonder I actually get any work done at all. Although you would be proud of me – I have at long last had some of my original artwork mounted, and got together some of my stitchy things, and put them in an online shop here. And even more cunning of me, I have gotten that very clever girl, sister of badness, cake, and ocean dwelling, to carve some stunningly gorgeous crochet hooks and other lovely things, to put in the shop too. Yay. Do take a look and check out what we’ve been up to.

And from stitching to sisterhood – the Feminism in London Conference 2013 was a blast – a massive thank you to the organisers, speakers and workshop facilitators. I am still on a total high from meeting some fab women, hearing some great speeches, and well – just looking around a packed auditorium of women (and some men and kids too) – seeing strength, resilience, intelligence – and thinking wow! We rock sisters….

Photo credit: FIL 2013 http://www.flickr.com/groups/2339365@N25/

Photo credit: FIL 2013 http://www.flickr.com/groups/2339365@N25/

There are people putting the world back together again…piece by piece….hope by shining hope.

Photo credit: FIL 2013 http://www.flickr.com/groups/2339365@N25/

Happy November to you all out there….may the leaves you swish through be extra crunchy, may the stars twinkle magically above you….may the dark time gently come to rest in your sacred spaces.

November 7, 2013   1 Comment

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

Womadness

Oh Womad, you  mad festival of wonderfulness – how much do I love you? Truly. You have blue skies, and flags, and colour and the BEST music in the world – how do you it time after time?

You veer me off my track of virtue with stone baked pizza at midnight, lovely hemp and nettle wool to buy, and thinking I can jump on my daughter’s shoulders at a late night Sheelanagig concert and get away without breaking anything. You bad, naughty Womad.

Even when you rain for a wee bit you are amazing. Arrested Development in a storm – well, it only made it better. Mud – yeah bring it on you crazy beast. We were up for a party.

Now on the face of it, I’ll admit, taking seven teenagers wasn’t the smartest. You know from my previous breakdowns that they can so mess with your head.

Oh, but let me tell you the truth of it my friends with small children – here is how it goes. You ease up on the curfews (they might not see you as being overly generous in this department) – and by the end of day one they are nocturnal. (O.K, so they are feral too, but hey, WHATEVER).

This means in theory that really you don’t see them before lunchtime, when they flop around for a few hours whining for chocolate spread and more money. Then they skidaddle into the night again. Bye…….

Well, that is the theory. They also cover themselves in Bob the Builder stickers (attention seeking behaviour, best ignored). They try to bully their sweet father into wearing a Pink Panther onesy  in 93 degree heat (honestly dad, it’s what you need, trust us).

They grow purple plastic monster feet and play the ukelele relentlessly. They wear your Doc Martens for an impromptu morning yoga session. Did I say morning? My mistake. But its all good…I think.

Oh sure its a long weekend of serious partying, but it is also totally chilled out and gorgeous – folk music on stages hidden in trees, little shaded places with cushions and blankets to sit on, middle of the night chai cafes and twinkly gardens. So sweet.

And the colour, did I already mention the colour. Gush. It was one long blogging moment, my happy heart.

I can feel myself tipping over the edge and getting completely over excited in telling you about my weekend. So I had probably better stop there. It was fantastic, it was fab, and if the measure of a good festie is feet – then oh people – this was it.

August 2, 2013   No Comments

Calm before the Storm

Oh now, let me see….two grown-ups (really?) and seven teenagers, five tents, a festival. Woohoo, it’s nearly time to party…..

I am not quite on my starting blocks, although long to-do lists have been made. No, I am in the calm place, in the empty house, quiet time, before it all kicks off later today, when the kids of madness start to gather here at Stroudie central

These have been my calm, peaceful moments: 

Picking berries from the garden and dreaming up lovely things to do with them, including a cocktail called a Redcurrant shrub – with spices, and dark rum from the River Cottage Preserves recipe book- which will be ready by Christmas. Oh, and a chocolate mint and blackcurrant ice cream, yum

Finishing our family’s birthday bunting – honestly, I know I am sounding like a weird sort of Mary Poppins, but it’s all about an excess of hormones and work avoidance – stick with it baby

Enjoying having a lovely, clean bathroom all to myself…before it is occupied by said teenagers and their fights over the shower, wet towells, and outrageous smells

Treacherously ignoring pink wool, and enjoying crocheting my ocean ripple blanket, dreaming of what will be

Witnessing the making of three vegan meals to take camping, now ensconced in the freezer for the weekend, oh clever partner of mine

Loving a gentle time in a field with sweet hippies, campfires and teepees – a world away from the party we are about to be catapulted into….

Felting a badger for Ed the Pirate (see previous blog – I did meet a real live pirate, and he became a town mayor dressed as a badger, honest)

A feeling of deep gratitude for help unravelling and untangling wool

Altering some fabulously sparkly disco pants, like you do, ready to wear at Aldermaston peace camp the week after next – glamour is always where its at, when it comes to protest

So, a seemingly random week, and like I said, the calm before the storm of partying, late nights, pitta bread and chocolate spread breakfasts (yes, teenagers really do this) – which will contribute to one of  the maddest of weekends for sure. Have fun peoples….see you next week for a  festival post mortem…..

July 25, 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

Quiet Weekend

About a year ago I wrote about the Hurricane that is children passing through our lives. Thundering through, leaving a trail of chaos, madness, glory and life in their wake. And I do vaguely remember lamenting how quickly it all goes, even if it doesn’t appear to at the time. Well this is me. And I am tired. Not with a big capital T, but with a small sighing t that makes me want to lie on the ground and say to the clouds ‘ok, I’m all yours, beam me up Scotty’ (yes, Scotty does live up there in the clouds, I have it on good authority)

We have been parenting now for nearly two decades, and I thank the Universe for sending me this man to share it all with. But I also get it when he sits atop a cliff and silently says ‘wake me up when this teenage thing is all over honey’. Maybe those were my words. No matter.

With one child at Uni, another one going in September, and two following quickly behind, we really are on the homeward run. This is a new terrain that we are finding ourselves in. Everything is shifting, and I like it. Do I? I might do. Or it might scare me. Or both. This is a tangle of feelings and decisions. Time for some time out and a think.

Have you noticed how I always run to the ocean? As landlocked as Stroud can be, we are near enough to zip off and quickly be in Cornwall, or Exmoor, or in the case of last weekend, the Gower, in Wales. And when these feelings come, its only the sea that will soothe me.

Imagine then, quietly opening the door to this gorgeous haven of tranquility. This is Jill and Steve’s Meadow Cottage, and should you need to run to it as we did, you can find it here. Not a farty hound or teenager in sight – look closely, no, I didn’t see moulding clothes or packed lunch boxes on the floor either. Yay. 

So what does a quiet, Beltane weekend need then? Apart from farmers market olives, something cold and preferably sparkly, and a whole heap of crocheting? Well, of course it needs funky cafes with delicious cake (and she’s off…), and gorgeous beaches with the micro-climate of a Sydney summer. Oh yes, the Gower has both.

But it also needs clear vision – a high place from which to stop, breathe, and look back at all that has been. Only then can we begin to wonder at what might be. I so often forget this amidst the madness and small details of everyday. Only then can you see that your babies are infact nearly grown up (and this is a shocker) – not mini versions of you, but their own real-people selves. So who does that make you, you start to question? You have been ‘muuuuuuum’ (yelled in an exasperated voice) for so long, you have quite forgotten.

I might well be knitting a 7 mile long pink peace scarf, but does this mother even have an identity without her babies?

Suddenly, being on this homeward run, children wise (and yes, many many friends have warned me that they don’t always behave obediently and leave at 18 for Uni, never to darken your door or raid your fridge again) – but being in this frame of mind, I am suddenly looking at my opening doors and wanting them now. To hell with three years, I have pink wellies and a nose ring. I’m ready. Even if my mother thinks I’m not quite old enough. Hmmmmm. A rock and a hard place spring to mind.

So while my heart is quietly breaking for all that I may lose, I nevertheless am willing to step on to a different pathway with trust and small steps. Time to throw away the map. And as I wrote on my white hallway recently, ‘getting lost will help you find yourself’

May 10, 2013   1 Comment

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