Wednesday, 30 March 2011

For Mum

It would have been her 85th birthday yesterday. Here she is, a very new Mum, looking uncertain with a three week old me held close in her cradling arms.

Lucky lucky me

watercolour exhibition

Yesterday we travelled to London to the watercolour exhibition at the Tate. I always have a great feeling of freedom when I get on a train. My mobile phone is safely off in my pocket so no one can get to me and ask me to do "something", I have a good book in my bag to read on the way and there are the dual pleasures of people watching, and flying in the minds eye over the landscape that is constantly flowing past the window. On our way there a strange rather sad figure got on muttering to himself - "praise the Lord .. praise the Lord .. in Jesus' name .. in Jesus' name ....." Crossing himself and looking slightly frantic, with a vague grin/grimace and a tie liberally patterned with crosses, I wondered what demons were haunting him that he needed to take such constant and fervid precautions. Once settled he quietened down for the journey, offered a blessing to the refreshments trolley attendant - "you're a Christian aren't you? ... you are a Christian .. bless you ... bless you", then when leaving the train proffered his hand to someone else getting off, and marched off looking for ways to help other passengers with their day.

Once arrived, we stopped for coffee and cake at Victoria Station, then strode off down Vauxhall Bridge Road, dodging fat raindrops, to find the Tate in its usual place.

Our entry was free, thanks to a very thoughtful present at Christmas from Neil's daughter, a year's membership. So we immersed ourselves for a while in the beauty that humans have created out of our spirit and ingenuity over the centuries.

Of the pictures that were there, several gave me deep delight and one brought tears to my eyes. The early watercolours, maps and coloured "aerial" plans of past estates showed what was important to record in those long gone days; botanical illustrations were a marvel of detail and the exotic; there were displays about the evolution of watercolour technique and the changing nature of the tools used, some wonderful miniatures of the great and good of their day and great sheets of experiment and expression from the likes of Andy Goldsworthy and Anish Kapoor.

My eye was caught in particular by several images. There was a painting by Edmund Dulac, whose illustrations to so many books are full of mystery and magic. We had a Rubiyyat of Omar Khayyam illustrated by him many moons ago, but I think it has gone in the muddle of one of my several house moves over the years. This one was called The Entomologists Dream.

Blue Night Venice, by Arthur Melville with its deep evening light and soft focus embodies that sense of twilit exoticism that is so special to Venice with its Byzantine heritage. We have been there once, and I will never forget my growing excitement as we came upon St Mark's from a side street, like a shining fantasy gradually appearing at the end of the crowded narrow way.

Eric Taylor's Human Wreckage at Belsen Concentration Camp 1945, depicting the horror with that delicacy which is part of watercolour's range of expression, was an image to stand by and weep. It shows what painting can do, which photography strains to do. The brush, in its passage over the paper encourages a reflection and concentration on the subject that photography, with its immediacy and sense of reportage, misses. Your mind moves with the hand of the artist in a way that is both tactile and meditative, you feel him asking the paper to reveal the awful pathos of these tumbled bodies. After a while of looking, and absorbing I had to turn away. It captured the distortions and degradation of human life thrown away with such truth that each stroke of the brush seemed a tender touch on the poor huddled forms, once people full of life and love.

So, a day of colour, imagery and reflection, a good way to start a week off work. A reminder to me also of the pleasures of paintings and an inspiration to go and search for my own watercolours, brushes and paper, put somewhere "safe" after our move.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

sometimes you just have to do the paperwork!

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Saturday Weaving

And today is my last class, so here is what has happened so far.

This is the first attempt, now severed from the frame and waiting for me to do something creative with the fringe top and bottom. It's a bit skew wiff here and there, but I'm very happy with the middle section and in this picture all the visible warp threads where Ii ended up in the wrong shed are quite INvisible, which is a good thing.

Then, with this still on the frame, I warped up a bit of space at the side of this one to try out some techniques from Kirsten Glasbrook's very useful book. I think her work is inspirational, her use of colour and the subjects of her tapestries intrigue me and make me want to practice and practice until I can at least try and do something similar. Her book is a really useful guide to techniques, with plenty of clear pictures of "here's how to ..." and some lovely pictures of her own work at the end to draw you forward.

So far I have managed this, which is not a great deal. but what there is pleases me.

Today, our last class, I am going to try and get this finished and warp up for a larger piece to give me more space to experiment.

Meanwhile, my knitting and my other bits of stitching are taking a bit of a back seat.

As my school reports always said - should try harder!!!

Friday, 25 March 2011

spring flowers

It has been so warm and pleasant these last few days, and I don't work on Fridays for the most part so a welcome chance to spend some time in the garden. Things are really starting to look colourful, and where I have been carefully clearing more shoots and flowers are appearing. There were these oh so delicate windflowers - our native anemone nemorosa, which will be carpeting woodlands across the country over the next few weeks. We are lucky enough to have it here, tucked away amongst the weeds and overgrown bits - 
then, in the corner of the steps down from the "patio" at the back of the house I found this little primrose, nestled in a sheltered spot. This too is carpeting out hedgerows just now. I had to go over to Wadhurst yesterday and there were lovely splashes of these, along with ladies smock and more anemone sprawling in the verges at the side of the road.

The flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) are absolutely luscious as they catch the evening light. They were my late mother in law's favourite flowers, I used to rather look down on them, but their glowing pink at this time of year is just magic.

As we are digging and delving in this rather neglected magic space, we come across the remnants of an earlier plan - the vision as we understand it, of our occasional neighbours' parents who occupied our house for forty years. These have so far included this rustic path from shed to lawn, a great improvement on the muddy swamp that was the result of the whole path being covered in several inches of soil which had, I guess, been allowed to encroach until the path had quite disappeared.

Today I uncovered what was, we suspect, at one time a greenhouse, but now just a path of crazy slabs with weedy beds each side and to the rear. The fence at the back runs between us and our neighbour. From here Mad Dog Daisy, who closely resembles an animated rug, races fiercely, very sure that this territory simply MUST be hers. Sadly, when we appear there is a great kerfuffle, lots of bouncing about, fur madly flapping, followed by a hasty retreat, her bark being larger than her ability to actually stand ground and deliver. Our cats simply ignore her, sure that she is utterly beneath their notice!

Later in the afternoon, as I was sitting having a welcome cup of tea inside, this little chap appeared, busily fossicking around in the small yew just outside the back door. Happily, cats were indoors and so he could pick and peck to his hearts content. Once satisfied, he obviously had a brief whispered conversation with the work gnome before fluttering off to hide in amongst the trees where no feline can reach. 

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Full moon evening

Who could resist the lure of the biggest full moon for nineteen years?

So, after some gardening, a haircut, lunch in Hastings and my weaving class, off I went to Bexhill seafront to see what I could see. It was a beautiful evening and the moon, as promised, crept up over the softly sighing sea, 

a wonderful rosy disc silently lifting itself above haze on the horizon to hang in the shimmering blue of the sky, splendour unveiled at nightfall.

Friday, 18 March 2011

In this garden I am trying to take my cue from what is here already. I always seem to have had neglected gardens, perhaps Frances Hodgson Burnet  is responsible, I am drawn to the sense of opportunity they present. So, when I glance out of my back door towards the rhododendron near the path to the kitchen garden, I notice a bright shot of blue as the sun slants at a certain angle – pulmonaria, lungwort, one of my favourites though not visible in the picture above which was taken earlier this year. I happen to have some in a pot which came from Neil’s mother’s garden, so why not increase what evidently likes that spot and increase my pleasure also.

Nearby I will plant a rose given me in memory of Mum. It will sit here,

in a bed of which we can just see the outline, a semicircular depression in the soil. Then grandmothers will have a presence in the garden, whispering with the other souls out there. I’d like to put delphiniums here too, for my grandfather – who was a stern Victorian patriarch who loved his garden. Then take snowdrops from Cecil, hellebore from Sylvia and gradually a host of flowered faces will look at me over the seasons.

The garden as memory.

Today it has rained and rained – and with the daylight increasing you can almost watch the direct transfer of moisture from sky to soil to bud, flowing cell by cell by cell in that miraculous thing that is life and growth. 

Yesterday I had the pleasure of Pen and one of her wide variety of delightful daughters for tea and Trinity Wholefoods chocolate almond cake, which is always a treat. The cake and Pen and Alice, I mean! Time spent with her is always both fun and thoughtful. It was their first visit to our new house, there is always such pleasure in sharing a home with friends.

Also loving this over on Judy's blog - textile colour poetry!

Sunday, 13 March 2011


Still beautiful
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precious peace

In our garden just now, my dear one is chopping up bits of the great pile of prunings I made, to either shred or take to the tip. There is a very very light rain falling, the sort that prickles your forehead with gentle touches of chill. In a tree are two very fat pigeons quietly preening, the sky is soft grey and a blackbird is singing. It is a tranquil scene, a quiet English Sunday Afternoon, peaceful. I am so grateful that we are here in this happy spot we've found, and not on the other side of the world, fruitlessly hunting for loved ones or precious possessions forever swept away, in the aftermath of nature's massive, inexorable movements.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

a reminder

Joe comments of the beauty of silence over on his blog. Thought provoking and a good start to the day, but sometimes we can be too silent. I have not spoken of two new followers to my blog. A poor silence when they are so welcome, so, hello to you both, I hope you find good things here. Thank you for taking the time to read and for you interest.

Friday, 11 March 2011

gradually growing

This is where my little tapestry is now.

Next class tomorrow. I'm worrying that I shouldn't have done so much, will look like a show off, will have done it all wrong and all that silly nonsense, but the activity is so fulfilling I just kept going. To begin with I was just trying out stuff; how does this colour weave in with this? why have I got two warp threads above the weft and how do I fix it? what happens when things meet and merge? But gradually the  rhythm of weaving takes over; in out in out, then easy through on the way back; colours blend and I felt the need for something planetary at the heart of the piece. I have a stash of yarns that I must have bought a good ten years ago as they "might come in useful"! They have been moved with me several times and cost all of £1.75 for a goodly pile of different colours and different lengths, all off cuts from something or other, found in a craft shop and perfectly suited to someone who is trying out some thing new but would be worried about using anything "too good" for that trying out. The shades are soft and natural and gradually this warm sun-like shape emerged. I had in mind sunsets and Jupiter. My dear one, who grew up in Africa says it is a perfect African sun sinking on the horizon. So be it. I shall take that thought and try and weave more warmth and light into it, but also darks, as without the night we have no balance or rest.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The fruits of Labour!

Remember I said I'd made a pile of rubbish? Here's all that dead stuff waiting to be burnt or shredded or whatever we decide to do with it - this is the stuff that didn't go in the wheelie bin, now crammed to the brim. Here is where all the edible stuff will be grown one day, with a base for a greenhouse in the right hand corner for magic propagation mysteries. Just beyond is the badger's dell where, this morning, had you been watching you would have seen three middle aged ladies peering dolefully at Badger Citadel from whence a mournful deep underground barking was echoing! "Oscar", a very important name for a rather small and grubby (when he finally emerged) West Highland terrier from several doors down, had been expeditioning beyond both his territory and his ageing hearing. I was alerted to his presence when an increasingly desperate wailing, which had been going on for some time, finally penetrated my absorption in my new hobby - of which more later! Having established that Oscar was far from home and causing his owners some anguish, a rescue party was assembled and said Oscar, after some more piercing shouting and whistling, finally appeared, with a great heave and struggle, from the deep underground, thoroughly pleased with himself and no longer very white!

Since I had been drawn from indoor pursuits, I spent several happy hours in the garden. More winter detritus was cleared and more little sprouting things found. As the sun slowly moved down in the sky I lay on my sun warmed seat and soaked up those rays, really warm despite the occasional chilly breeze. Then did a slow walk round with my camera, taking note of the lovely things that are appearing everywhere.

It is such s pleasure to scrape back moss and thatch, leaves and scruff, to find little pockets of geranium, primrose and crocus,

while the soft shell pink of the bergenia just needs the evening light to bring out its beauty

This ground has been neglected for some years, yet still underground there were roots, bulbs, corms, networks of living matter silently waiting for spring.

The vivid green shoots above are nestled under this rhododendron whose moss covered bole gives me such pleasure I want to stoop down and stroke it each time I pass. there was one solitary snowdrop at its base earlier last month.

But before I went out, this is what was so deeply absorbing me

I allowed myself to try the weaving class and am fascinated. 

Friday, 4 March 2011

nature therapy

Today was a wonderfully sunny, clear day, so I took myself to the garden for some nature therapy.

With the sun higher in the sky at the season progresses the shadow of the house is gradually drawing back to give more light to the lawn. A great sundial lying across the land, perhaps I could learn to tell the time by it! In January the whole of the Yew in the centre was in shade, now it is fully sunlit

At the moment all is scruffy and unkempt, the detritus of last year still hanging around waiting to be cleared away so new growth has enough light and air to breathe. We keep going out there and looking in nooks and crannies to see what is emerging to the light.

It is a strange garden, no traditional beds or clear definitions, just grass, shrubs and trees, but we keep clearing and clearing and gradually things thrust up through the muddle.

Today I created a marvellous mess, which I then very gratefully packed into the green waste wheelie bin ready for it to be taken away by the local council. They compost the waste which we can then buy back at a reasonable price, I heartily approve. We’ve not yet managed to get compost bins going, it’s on the list!

This is the sun trap seat I sit on to take a break, it is just by the steps to the next level where one day there will be a rose covered arch, a greenhouse and raised vegetable beds. Today it was really warm despite there having been frost on the ground first thing 

– even when the sun was briefly hazed in cloud the warmth didn’t go away. 
Rum hard at work

Then I came back indoors for a late lunch and found this layabout basking in the sun!
it's such a hard life being a cat ....