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Category — winter

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

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

The Twinkling Time

Ah ha! You thought I really had been sitting on my bad ass on the sofa after last months wee confessional, didn’t you? Oh you faithless friends. No, I have been uncharacteristically focused and disciplined, after the idea sprang into my head to make all my christmas presents (foolish girl). So I wondered if you fancied a little wander around my stitchy offerings – goodness knows you will appreciate them more than my children will……so walk this way…..

Right, so the staple of the presents are….drum roll….lavender bags!! Yay, no surprises there. But despite the quantities I’ve made, they have actually been quite fun and easy, and my Husquavarna machine and I have only fallen out a couple of times in the making. I call that a result…

Next up, cushions for the boys…when it came down to it, common sense and compassion prevailed, I just couldn’t give my 15 year old and 20 year old a lavender bag each. I have shown no such mercy to my mother and certain friends however. Too bad amigos.

My goddaughter has a little hand painted sketchbook in a bag for all her best 7 year old thoughts (and they be many and wondrous); and here is the long awaited University blanket for our 19 year old daughter – which had been wildly behind schedule – so thanks to my sweet friend Dareth for all her help in getting it finished!

There are other presents, but they must remain secret (as their recipients read my bloggy offerings) and I’d hate to upset the Solstice elfves. I was lucky enough to have my own hand made present too, from the legendary Bad Jo, who made me a bag filled with everything I need to make a gluten free Sour Dough loaf of bread – oh marmite toast, you shall be mine once more…..happiness

So with presents done, there was just enough time for a little bit of a frisky adventure to London with my favourite bad girl and other equally deviant compadres (I clearly mean well behaved and nicely mannered friends) – and all was sparkly, fun and a million miles from that slave driving sewing machine….marvellous

Now I am back home again, in the Solstice time, breathing a little slower now that I know the light is returning. All is quiet and gentle and good.

The stockings are filled, tangerines assembled (love a good tangerine, or mandarin, I’m not fussy) and the tree decorated. It is time to sit back and be cosy, watch the light wherever it may fall in the house.

Let the twinkling time begin…Solstice blessings to you all…thank you for journeying with me down these B roads I seem to be taking, it is such a pleasure to share them with you. It has been a year of oceans, pink wool, awesome friends and the ubiquitous cake of all naughtiness. Love, love.

December 22, 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 22, 2013   2 Comments

Blue sky days

It’s not the dark that I mind about wintertime, no, dark I love. It is the sometimes relentless grey that makes me a tad obsessive about tracking the sun, and those blue skies that come with it. Watching, waiting for it to arrive….willing it to burst into this waiting valley of mine….

This week we woke up to golden….that most precious of lights, filtering in through the curtains and dancing a little in our front gardens

And hot on the heels of the golden beginning – oh yes! Deeply blue – it’s all I really need to be happy. Sometimes I forget this, and meander down the road of other loves: books, music, chocolate, lost stripey bobble hats….but no! Deeply blue – it’s as simple as that.

I get all dizzy with excitement and run up the nearest hill to catch this possibly fleeting light

….whereas Miss Martha, the coolest of cats, stays close to home and tracks the sunshineyness as it seeps into the garden

I love the way winter light tickles around our house – it’s not the windows-flung open, big hot light that washes inisde during the summer (yes, I did say summer, hope springs eternal). But this light is pretty nonetheless, and it shyly whispers into rooms when you’re not watching

I look at my house with different eyes, as it pours into otherwise dark corners

Sometimes this is a good thing….clothes I wear and wear until they beg for mercy look a little more colourful and forgiving in the day’s goldenness

My windows however are less than merciful as the light makes them scream out ‘you see, look everyone, we haven’t been washed since 2007, shocking, this is how she treats us, the hussy’. Well, that’s enough of that nonsense. It’s bad enough that my ears suffer stropping teenagers, I’m not about to have backchat from windows as well. And anyway, I have a hot date on the deck….

Because it is still February, and technically winter, there is still fireside watching and sofa sitting that can be done, when friends drop in, in their lovely layered woollies.

I am even beyond caring whether it is cold or not. It is the magical soup of deeply blue sky that I want to fall in to, throw myself in to, give myself up to, completely, utterly, for ever. So there you have it. Full. Deep. Blue. Grateful. Me.

February 20, 2013   5 Comments

A few February days…..

Am I meandering through these days, tumbling through them, or just standing still and staring at my feet?

A little bit of all three probably. February does that to you sometimes. So to begin with, a Fairy Mouse (that I promised to show a while back) – because knitting small creatures is really the only thing to do when waiting for the light to return. She has a naughty sister that she visits sometimes and together they eat chocolate and scamper around attics causing mayhem and badness.

So back to my February days. There are early mornings making bread.

….and crazy afternoons with my favourite small boy….

There are hills waiting to be walked

…and a Sunday morning escape to our local art gallery to see Simon Packard’s fantastically bold and inspiring work.

Anything can fill a February day, and very often does, such is their disorganisation. February sometimes doesn’t know what it is. Is it deep, dark winter, or is tipping into Spring? It waits and watches, or tiptoes hesitantly, less it shakes more snow and blueness on to us.

If you are lucky, it will give you days of sisterhood, sweet balm to the soul, even if not all your precious sisters can be there.

And if that is so, you will walk those hills, and watch together for that returning light…

….and it will come….

There may well be sunsets the colour of peardrops and happy hearts to match

…with hands held quietly, and strong arms around us. These are a few of my February days.

February 9, 2013   4 Comments

The blue day

So, in among the sea of yellow days, if you are lucky, will come a special day, a blue day. These are precious, one-off days, days when schools shut, most things grind to a halt, and time takes on a different dimension.

This is how a blue day unfolds in this valley of mine. Early morning, around 6am, jump out of bed and have a quick check. Blizzard outside – yes, this is going to be a blue day….

Warmest woollies, artic leggings and hats, gloves and other blue day paraphernalia in place…and then gingerly step outside into our neighbourhood, transformed into a sea of fristy-frosty snowflakes, all swirling and dancing around my happy ears.

Try in vain to avoid the snowy ambush that comes my way – unsuccessfully as it turns out – Kev, Dom, Jilly, Theo, Seb & Ellaoona all mean blue-day business. Get hit several times and have to run off out of this particular war zone.

The fab thing about Stroud is that it is in the centre of five valleys – we are surrounded by beautifully steep hills, so tobogganing is the activity of the day when snow comes to town. Which is super naughty of me, as I am supposed to be on strict bed-rest after a recent illness. Hey, it’s a girl’s duty to break rules on blue days, I am sure of it. So I skip on up to our local park, the Daisy Bank, party central for the morning, and beg a ride on a sledge. Thrilling.

Herb made me do it. Honest.

There followed a quiet wander through our nature reserve, the Cemetery, which was like stepping into Narnia.I head towards the little yew grove right in the centre, and watched the wrens hopping from branch to branch. Magical.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there is some serious and strange nesting going on. Stove and sitting room fires both lit, cheese toasties on the go, and husband at my, MY sewing machine, offroading with a textiles project. That’s a blue day for you. Things happen.

So all that is left to do really is whip up a hot chocolate, get double pointed knitting needles out to embark on a fairy mouse, and get sneaky in the pursuit of the best place on the sofa.

Easier said than done, when it comes to the mighty hairy one. It’s a standoff. He gets the hottie, I get the duvet.

All is blue, all is well.

January 18, 2013   2 Comments

January work

The bareness of January is so good. Simple. Yellow. It is a yellow month for me.

A month that can be edged in to gently, lest nerves be frayed. A quiet month, a getting through month. A back to work month

Working from home can be a bit lonely and dispiriting sometimes, watching the clock for when I can light the fire or sneak over to Facebook. So, far better then to head down the hill to my other office, aka The Black Book Cafe.

It’s a fab old building, Art Deco, with lots of light flooding in through its windows, and it always makes me smile that the other half of the block is a turquoise launderette called Soap and Suds (warm in winter, perfect to sit and read a book in or gaze at the views of Stroud while your undies do their thing, round and round…)

Reasons to love my other office – the books of course (to buy or borrow), pastries, jazz playing quietly, lovely smiley cafe owner with coffee and tea on tap, wifi connection, great views, comfy sofas, chess boards and lots of people to play with, did I mention pastries??

There is a table by the window that practically has my name carved on to it, does that sound a little territorial? It’s a great spot to people watch get tonnes of work done, as I contemplate my next chess move/pastry/author to rummage for……

I love noticing the different waves of people that float in and out during the day – mums & toddlers, other workers, beat poets, friends gossiping over coffee, campaigners, artists & writers, the lunchtimers, and the teenage after-schoolers. There’s room for them all, and the good news for me is that I have lots of opportunities to indoctrinate people into my pink plan of badness. Hurrah.

Meanwhile, back at home, all is still lovely, still quiet, still yellow.

My favourite January tablecloths get shaken out and laid on the kitchen table, catkins and old buttons sit by companionably side by side, and there is a long out-breath after the mayhem of Christmas.

Outside, my witchazel silently unfolds it’s tiny yellow curls. This is January work.

January 10, 2013   1 Comment

Enchanted Forest

After a grieving heart and the unbounded confessional of my last blogpost, I was ready for some time off for good behaviour. And who better to behave with than my dear friend Bad Jo.
So with this in mind we headed off to Stroud’s Musuem in the Park for a little enchantment of a certain kind.

Here we found The Thirteenth Tree by Corrinne Hockley – a wonderfully visual fairy tale inspired by a train journey she took across the vast, snow silent Russian winter, from the majestic cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow and over the Ural Mountains to icy Irkutsk and primeval Lake Baikal.

Oh what gorgeousness…this rich tapestry of folklore and story telling was set around a birch tree forest that she had built right there in the gallery. A tale of the thirteenth fairy who was excluded from Sleeping Beauty’s story with disastrous results.

But this was no ordinary fairy of badness, for in this forest she was one of the helpful guardians or forces who remain in the shadows, preparing the way and singing over the bones as we reconnect with our own journeys. Sound familiar, all you witchy friends out there?

Far beyond time where few travellers go – the forgotten forest lies hushed in the snow
At its north edge in the fast fading light, a flickering village prepares for the night
Safe in her Dacha ‘tween mother and fire – Tanushka’s bright eyes were beginning to tire
From knitting fine socks and needlepoint gloves for the doll from her mother – a treasure she loves

This was exquisite enchantment with red threads enticing us through the trees. There were red dancing shoes, little Red Riding Hood, and stitchiness everywhere we turned, woven into the story with fable and magic.

And Babushka’s story of princess and witches was told to the rhythm of firelight and stitches
But thimble had fallen and hid from her eye – she pricks her forefinger – draws blood and a cry
Then later in bed with a small fever burning Tanushka’s moon shadow is fitfully turning
As three crimson drops and a tear are all seeping across her doll skirts, Tanushka lies sleeping

Did you notice the Princess and the Pea bed with lots and lots of mattresses? And the tiny key necklace and bones? There were a hundred sweet little details waiting quietly to be found. We didn’t know where to look first. Corinne’s work is simply beautiful and layered with ancient story threads and potent words.

Corinne’s story made me want to snip away all threads of responsibility that tie me to my life and pack up my crochet hooks, wool and notebooks immediately. Waving a cheery farewell to my little Stroud house, I would venture out into the world, by train, boat and gypsy wagon, bound for the quiet snowy whiteness of my own Russian winter, deep into Birch woods.

Well, some day maybe. It was the cafe that we bravely ventured to, as well you know me by now, dreams tucked secretly away in my pocket.

Snippety-snip

December 5, 2012   3 Comments