Category Archives: United Kingdom

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.

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.

 

Shine on you crazy diamond

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My shots for the weekly photo challenge , which is Shine.  I encountered this sweet little chapel on the outskirts of Glen Affric in the highlands of Scotland. Crazy venue for a church, but if I was to worship anything anywhere, it would be the setting for it.  Sorry, I don’t worship. I do wonder and awe.

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Moments in time

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There we were – back in the Highlands of Scotland, the weather playing its part and cooperating with us, and it’s a trip worth sharing.

I stress fairly easily – my children will vouch for that – so I have had to find coping strategies over the years to help be from having a meltdown.  This is one of my best – to focus on something very ordinary, get right in and personal, look at it carefully, consider its history, its place in  the world. Photograph it. Suddenly you’ve opened up a whole door of perception – the perspective has changed, and the world has tilted just a little in your favour.

Sometimes its elusive – I can’t find the right key to unlock that stratagem, but it’s still a great player in my box of tricks. I suppose the modern parlance would be to call this ‘mindfulness’. I don’t mind that. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, call it whatever, I will keep it close.

I have made these images less than the resolution needed for printing so they don’t get copied and used by some nefarious villain willing to steal them,  but if you are really wanting to have them decorate your walls , then shimmy on down to Society 6 , link here Society6 page and you can navigate to various formats from there.

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You want Fun?! I’ll give you fun

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Weekly Photo Challenge/Fun

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/fun/

 

As usual I have got my calendar all wrong , after having pursued this fun challenge, I have determined I have missed it by approximately a month. NO matter , it is always the process that counts and I have enjoyed finding images in my files that sort of say ‘Fun’.  I am such a serious girl, that had I not had the privilege of bringing up boys , there is a considerable possibility I may have missed out on the concept of fun. Really. It isn’t something that hits my neurons in the same way as many others.  I am who I am and that is that. But these moments testify- they had fun with a very un fun mum!  I have to state that I am only responsible in a generative way for two  of these handsome lads – three were generated by my husband before he and I became one. As it were. And the little girl is the niece of my nephews fiance, and the camels don’t belong to me . They belong in a zoo. tilly125_2507114_1490100_0046108_0887-copy108_0878

 

 

 

 

Autumn then.

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I do love a shadowed footpath – Purleigh

Autumn then. Nothing quite like the march of time to remind us of our transient nature. I love the seasons here in England – the definition of different states of nature as the year progresses. And they do progress – have you noticed that? Whatever we do, however clever we think we are, time has the last word. Every time. I think about death alot. I always have, since being 6 or 7 years old. It doesn’t make me anxious. Losing someone I love to it makes me feel anxious. I don’t want that to happen. But it will. That’s what being alive has taught me. It doesn’t last forever. Be kind to those who love you the most because its easy to be careless with them. More than anyone else. Prioritise. Give attention where you want it to go. Remember there is never enough time. It’s not morbid, it is liberating. Cast off the shackles of ‘should’ and decide where you put your love. Today. Do it today. Do it now

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Biscuit comes to say hello, Purleigh dog walk.

 

I am Taliesin. I sing perfect metre

I am Taliesin. I sing perfect metre,
Which will last to the end of the world.
My patron is Elphin…

I know why there is an echo in a hollow;
Why silver gleams; why breath is black; why liver is bloody;
Why a cow has horns; why a woman is affectionate;
Why milk is white; why holly is green;
Why a kid is bearded; why the cow-parsnip is hollow;
Why brine is salt; why ale is bitter;
Why the linnet is green and berries red;
Why a cuckoo complains; why it sings;
I know where the cuckoos of summer are in winter.
I know what beasts there are at the bottom of the sea;
How many spears in battle; how may drops in a shower;
Why a river drowned Pharaoh’s people;
Why fishes have scales.
Why a white swan has black feet…

I have been a blue salmon,
I have been a dog, a stag, a roebuck on the mountain,
A stock, a spade, an axe in the hand,
A stallion, a bull, a buck,
I was reaped and placed in an oven;
I fell to the ground when I was being roasted
And a hen swallowed me.
For nine nights was I in her crop.
I have been dead, I have been alive.
I am Taliesin.

 

 

From tales of the Mabinogion, Celtic oral tradition, by  Anonymous

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All illustrations my own, please do not use without permission.

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