Category Archives: daily living

Floral tribute to RHS

Yesterday I made a further visit to RHS Hyde Hall in Essex, and it will probably be the last visit for some time as my life in the South of England is coming ever closer to a removal back to the Midlands. The two centre life I have lived over the past 14 years nevertheless remains a constant as I will be spending a great deal of time in Scotland. Hurrah!!

I hadn’t taken my working camera, so had to fall back on the companion phone camera simply because I had to capture the blooms I found there , and thought it might be interesting to show the photos and then the subsequent design that sprang from them. Sort of a Work in Progress thing.

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So there you have it! If you want to see more of my work there are links on the home page of the blog. Lots of different styles , not just flowers!!!

 

I love how my life is still flowering in new directions – particularly as now we have the opportunity to spend more time in nature, and potter about in Scotland. Cannot wait to be back up there!!

The stuff of Life

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‘ It was about being true to the very stuff of life, it was about trying to capture, though you never could, the very feel of being alive. It was about finding a language. And it was about being true to the one fact, the one thing only followed from the other, that many things in life – oh so many more than we think – can never be explained at all. ‘ Graham Swift ‘ Mothering Sunday’

This , then , is what I have to bring today. The closing sentences of the book I have just laid down. It did not disappoint. Within its narrative Graham Swift refers to one of my storytelling heroes – Joseph Conrad – who himself has an interesting comment on storytelling, whose quest was ‘ by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel — it is, before all, to make you see. That — and no more, and it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there according to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm — all you demand — and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.’

And the overriding sense I am left with is how fiction gives us permission to be most fully ourselves. I cannot imagine being the me I am without having encountered the characters and the writers I have met throughout my days. Science is mastering many of the facts , we are illuminating the darkness, but only dimly. Science is the first to corroborate how much is still unknown. A particle acts differently dependant upon it being observed – does this strike you as prescient on the human condition? We are and simultaneously are not the person we imagine ourselves to be. The codes we observe do not rely merely on the context of our time and culture, but also on our perception of them and of the fluctuating circumstances. That is confusing, much easier to narrate to you a true account of behaviour which shows how I hold personal codes of truth and loyalty , of fidelity and duty to be central to the person I am and yet act in complete opposition to them, choosing to end one marriage to a wonderful man , and father of my two sons because I had walked blindly into a new relationship where I felt at home. Not even a choice. And reader – I married him.

I haven’t learnt enough just from the handful of people who are present in my life, or who have been there in the past – they are priceless, but they do not bring me the breadth and depth of experience which helps me to understand I can forgive myself for frailty, for impatience, for laziness, for ineptitude. Because I am not alone. Because growing up is not just trying to imitate some version of being human handed down by parents et al, it is about encountering the various selves you inhabit, and allowing yourself not to be intimidated or frightened by them. Listening to voices from elsewhere can somehow bring you closer to knowing how to be your own.

In ‘Mothering Sunday’ Graham Swift practices his alchemy – his narrative is from a woman and it has one of the most authorative voice of being woman I have encountered. He is masterly in how deftly he practices this – the small sentences slipped in that are the ‘tell’ of what it feels like to be 22, free, single, and enjoyably bruised by sexual encounter ( not in a violent, abusive way). On removing from the scene, she mounts her bicycle ‘ slightly sore where she met the saddle’ .

I imagine the novelist’s challenge to himself – inhabiting not only the woman’s pysche at 22, but also later on – in her nineties and remembering. I imagine him imagining the reader – me – enjoying his playfulness, his zest for finding the right word, the correct tone, the piercing stab of the dramatic.

The point I am making, albeit clumsily is this – we need stories to remind us not how to live, but that life is mystery. Inexplicable paradox is what exists around us and about us, and the navigation around this mortal coil is facilitated by the storytellers, the magicians, the soothsayers, the lyric writers, the graffiti artists, the dramatists, the teachers.

There is now such a thing as a bibliotherapy – the art of listening to someone’s personal dilemnas and furnishing them with appropriate bookwear. (bookware?) . Such a stance should please me, but I am contrary enough to find something unsettling in it. Something proscribed – but then why not – we go to doctors, why not book doctors? I have a healthy disposition to challenge anything that is ‘good for me’ , and have only just discovered the heady delight of sucking up oranges. Now I evangelise about oranges. And for me they are the only fruit. I still have a long way to go.

I leave the last words to a woman author of impeccable skills, Marilynne Robinson, author of ‘Housekeeping’, ‘Gilead’ and others you may want to discover.

“While you read this, I am imperishable, somehow more alive than I have ever been.”

Land of the free.

 

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We , that is my husband and I, are building up to the next adventure!  We have had a love affair with the highlands of Scotland for quite some time now.  So we have been brave and sunk our lifetime savings and some capital that will be our pension pot into a small place tucked away between a river and a mountain.

We live frugally now – by temperament we are both loath to splash the cash – and having brought up the young men to be of independent spirit, in mind and purse, we can finally begin to realise a  long dreamt of retirement. Retirement being in opposition to the facts of the matter – at least for me. I am in training to keep up! My pace is slow but steady and my mindset is positive.  I am restricted from running marathons, or indeed walking further than a few miles without severe impact, but the dream will still live.  I enjoy just being in the midst of all that ‘livingness’ of nature, so we will be trying a little wild camping too. When the sun shines.

So the next couple of months is putting everything in place , then here we go!  I don’t need to travel extremely to find where I belong – just to be able to absorb the sights and sounds of nature is a magical experience for me, and from where I derive my inspiration and my  energy.

 

The illustration is a digitally altered reproduction of an old sea chart showing the coast – and if you like it enough, you can find it on decor and product at my Society6 site and my Redbubble site. If you explore my menu, there are links to take you there.

In my beginning is my end

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‘Dawn points, and another day
Prepares for heat and silence. Out at sea the dawn wind
Wrinkles and slides. I am here
Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.’

From T.S Eliot’s ‘East Coker’

 

History repeats its lessons

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Text written by 8th-century Chinese poet Du Fu, commenting on the political turbulence in his own experience.

Simplify your life and return to nature when you can – that is my ambition for the next part of our lives together – Scotland calls! The bigger picture is feeling increasingly absurd and we both feel most alive when in the midst of nature. I know we are not alone in this, and we are fortunate that we can reasonably easily frequent one of the most beautiful places I have experienced.

If you tap into my virtual reality you will see the influence that Scotland has on the work I continue to enjoy making. I don’t know, but I feel that can only continue.

If you want further inspiration to reconnect with the solace that nature can bring, why not visit ‘Walden’ by Thoreau – it is a read that stands the test of time.

 

No to ‘post-truth’, I’ll stick with the truth please.

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I am not clever enough to articulate what I feel to be true, but I know there are still boundaries which should not be crossed when in power. And Donald Trump is riding roughshod all over them.
Europe has seen the rise of that tyranny, and spilt alot of blood and tears over removing it. It was called World War II and is not forgotten.

It starts with lies. It starts with the people listening to the lies, knowing their lies , and still wanting to believe that the lies will perform a miracle in transforming poverty and austerity.
The power of tyranny never lies with the tyrant, but in all the people who go along with the lies, who want to believe in magic.

If this is not ringing bells,then please inform yourself via the historians, and the political commentators who are trying to get the message out there.

Great articles here bit.ly/2k6kMA4 and here http://wapo.st/2k6xuPz

And a long but worthwhile post by Timothy Snyder on how to defend freedoms we take for granted . bit.ly/2k6AKtZ

Fight the cynicism of the ‘post- truth’ verbiage, and defend the values that help us retain our humanity and compassion toward one another , whoever  and wherever we happen to be.

Inheritance tracks Part Two

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Baby awake . Walsall Art Museum

This is the second poem I want to share .Motherhood is such a large part of my persona that watching my sons develop into young men brings their absence from my daily round into sharp relief. Nevertheless it is an experience that has shaped me and tested me . As a young woman in my twenties there was virtually no consideration of the possibility of me having children – life was simply busy, and I had none of the maternal cravings that others seemed to feel.  I had never been around babies – I was the youngest – and had no extended family that included them.  I lived to work and to play , and did both probably harder than was good for my well being. So motherhood arrived in my early thirties – a biological imperative kicked in which I could neither explain nor ignore.  I was ignorant of all things to do with being pregnant and  further on ,of small human beings that had lots of demands. I was adrift in an alien landscape without a map.  I struggled. I loved this little stranger with a ferocity I had never experienced. He was a baby in pain during the first few weeks, and was not thriving. I was encompassed totally by my responsibility towards him, and increasingly tormented. It was not a happy time, and yet it was full of wonder and awe  and deep, deep love.

This poem by Sylvia Plath suggests the alienation that I felt at that time.

Love set you going like a fat gold watch. 

The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry

Took its place among the elements. 

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue. 

In a drafty museum, your nakedness 

Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls. 

I’m no more your mother 

Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow 

Effacement at the wind’s hand. 

All night your moth-breath 

Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen: 

A far sea moves in my ear. 

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral 

In my Victorian nightgown. 

Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square 

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try 

Your handful of notes; 

The clear vowels rise like balloons.

My first outing without my baby was instigated at the insistence of my husband and mother, and I was literally harangued into making an attempt to rejoin the world. I went to Walsall art musuem , where I was moved to my core by an Epstein bronze of a baby’s head. It inspired me to write my own poem. Its not a good poem, but it reminds me.

Bronze baby

Bronze baby, Epstein’s child.
Perfect depiction of infant
beauty, human fragility.
Lovingly carved, sculpted
polished, held. Immortalised
infant head of exquisite
timelessness.  How I want
to secrete you, cradle you.
placed so unprotected
in our midst.
You spoke to me that day,
slashed through silence,
touched a delicate, fragile
part of me, the voice I was
so unsure of. In the newness
of my motherhood,
you showed me what it means
to be a child.

I took your message away,
kept it safe, inviolate,
next to my heart. Today,
a decade late, I know
the voice I heard was not
the sound of my  newborn
but my own, untended
and unheard.