Saturday, 30 June 2012

evening pleasures

Our cheeky squirrel does his very best to deprive the birds of their peanuts - sometimes almost falling off the tree in his eagerness to guzzle those peanutty morsels.
He also makes free with their little seed table, swinging blithely as he scrumps an apple core. He is just one of our little group of garden wild folk who give us pleasure every day.

In the evenings, I quite often go down to the bottom of the garden - "down in the dell" and sit or stand, very very quietly, just listening to the varied sounds of the world getting ready for moonlight. As I watch and wait, this rose fills the air with it's beautiful scent. I wish I could describe it adequately, or translate it into pixels or bits and bytes to share it with you. It is part vanilla, park musk, not too sweet, slightly luxurious but delicate enough not to overpower. If you go up close and sniff, each individual flower has an almost not there aroma, but put all together, it fills the dell, coming and going depending on the breeze, sometimes tantalising, sometimes enveloping, always utterly delightful. The individual flowers are beautifully delicate, but the plant itself is an Amazon.

 It clambers about, scrambling across all in its path, reaching, oh twenty or more feet up into the ash, spruce and birch trees around it - so high in fact that when I tried to take a picture to give some sense of it's scale the individual flowers almost disappeared, but if you look very closely you'll see that it has scrambled half way up the trunk here as it reaches high, high to the blue blue sky to hold its cupped flowers to the evening light.

As I sit in the quiet evening air I listen for the badgers coming out from their den. The birds' evening calls gradually quieten, the sun sinks behind the trees in a glory of purple and gold, dusk creeps out from beneath the darkening leaves and suddenly, with a hushed rustling they are there. They scuffle and scruffle about in the undergrowth, grunting and chittering and huffing to each other, rolling and tumbling amongst the grasses and wild flowers, then scampering across from one garden to the other, taking no heed at all of our irrelevant human boundaries, which are but recent additions in the long history of their great Badger Citadel. They move so quickly and are often so deep in the undergrowth that I can only catch glimpses, but the thrill of hearing them playing together, following their movements by sound alone has a deep magic. As friend said only yesterday, to photograph that would somehow chase the magic away.

On lighter evenings though, I can capture the things that are giving me pleasure at the moment. The flowers of the leeks, just bursting from their papery cases
 the delicate veins of the rocket flowers against the red lettuce - how could Peter Rabbit resist?
 our native orchid still being guarded carefully in a pot, but placed so the seed can fall where it may grow
the dwarf beans with their delightfully alien looking flowers
 strawberry flowers, with ladylike little ruffs of delicate green
these glorious ferns in my dear one's fernery; this is the new growth, vibrant in the shade of the elder
runner bean flowers cupping the last of the sunlight
starry bells of blue, self seeded on the boundary, like bits of sky applique'd amongst the grass
and the delicious ice cream colours of this clematis, which has excelled itself once again this year.
It was nothing but a single dead looking stem, buried deep in the overgrown shrubs when we moved in, but I cut it back and trusted in Nature's persistent determination and she has rewarded me with great bounty.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


I've been driving about today, some training to deliver in Rye, then a meeting to attend in Lewes. I was thinking about roads because there is a sort of bypass planned locally - which doesn't seem to bypass much and consequently seems rather pointless. However, I'd had a conversation about it with a friend who was bewailing the march of concrete across the countryside and condemning roads full stop. I wonder if he's taken the time to really look when he's driving round our lovely county. I watch and watch as I drive from A to B, part of a mindful approach to life. Not in an irresponsible way, you understand, just feasting my eyes on little glimpses, in between paying "due care and attention". What did I see today?
Well, the backdrop was the Downs, which I have known all my life, rolling placidly along the south coast, gently turning their shoulders against the sky and appearing in my Grandmother's novel "...Glory Down crouched above us, a lion couchant ... wrapped in its own strength". Today they were particularly wonderful, the sky was low and low cloud - or perhaps rising fog, was spilling over their tops from the direction of the sea, just held at their peaks, but tumbling over where the folds in the hills allowed it to flow. Our Long Man was shrouded in mist and mystery. As I drove, as well as watching this marvel, I noticed in the verges and hedgerows; pink and white arching sprays of and clusters of dog rose, flat topped yarrow, native source of achillea which we so love in our gardens, spreading sheets of ox eye daisies, rosy mallow and shining  buttercups, tall stands of cow parsley, ragwort, corn poppy, a long spill of vipers bugloss, shining blue blue blue and telling a tale of seed scattered in the slipstream, and woven all in between, the rippling gold of grass waving as I passed by. All of these thrive at our roadsides because the land is of no use. We forget as we drive past our green fields that, lovely as they are, they are there because humans use them to grow - plants, animals, something to eat. They are a Man made landscape. In the verges, the interstices of modern travel, there is no space for growing and so nature can thrive, undisturbed apart from the occasional mowing to maintain safe visibility. With more recent policies on roadside planting, native trees and shrubs are installed, outgrow their protective plastic collars and reach up to the sky beside the rushing traffic. All year round I watch this wonderful parade of colour, delighting in it and remembering my much younger self, leafing wistfully through the Flower Fairies, believing that all these lovelies were things of a bygone age.
Yes, I rather like roads - they give nature a slender strip of unfettered space.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The edge edged

I've finally finished my little experiment that grew into something. The photograph doesn't quite work because I couldn't get the balance right for the colours, the centre being a bit light, but it gives you the idea. I'm really happy with the way the organza catches the light, it's colours shimmering and blending depending on how the light falls across it. Backing it with a light wadding has allowed a little bit of extra contour where I stitched over the organza to hold it down. Much to my relief the soluble fabric pulled away as the stitching gave perforations, rather like old fashioned stamps - you remember, the ones we used to lick! I've edged it with a combination of silk and velvet, the silk is fabric from a charity shop shirt and some remnant fabric bought along the way. The velvet was bought from the roll as it were and I used it in the previous hanging I made for Jen, mentioned here. It was a fiddle to work with against the silk as it slipped and slid about but I'm happy with the result. The little heart, at one o'clock, has a single sequin sewn in the centre to remind her that it's always there.

My daughter says she really loves it, which is, of course, the point!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

A little light scavenging

A I was washing this morning, I glanced out of the upstairs window while reaching for the towel, just in time to see a small face peering through the gap in a neighbour's garden. I watched with delight as the face was joined by a body, young, slender, dainty. The visitor trotted out into full view, then disappeared behind their summerhouse. Taking the opportunity to grab the camera from downstairs, I hopped back up and watched and watched but nothing, until ......
Oho! I thought, they're still about then. My little visitor poked and sniffed about, darting to and fro on the path until he was just below the feeding post for the birds, where tasty morsels were to be had. I dashed to my bedroom for a better view, opening the window so soo carefully
He glanced up briefly, tongue between his lips, peered at the window, thought a bit, snuffed a bit and then decided to look away, all nonchalance
Perhaps he was sparing my blushes - I had, after all, been getting washed .....

Then, having satisfied himself that he'd had all he could glean from the bird's leavings, he trotted off, startling one of the cats mightily as they met at the turn of the path!

Later in the day there was some excitement as a Nuthatch flew into the patio door and had to be rescued from Rum, who thought he'd like to help it recover. I took it up in my hands very gently, and felt its little claws wrap themselves around my finger. I carried it carefully down to the Dell, where I held my had aloft for it to fly to freedom -  it was so stunned it simply nestled there for a good few minutes, beak slightly open, recovering, not even trembling, until suddenly, with a cheep chirrup and a whirr of wings it flew into the trees.

This evening a wonderful liquid song was ringing out over the garden, and we realised that a thrush was perched high in the spruce, filling the evening air with his joi de vivre.
 until this rather rude chap flew in to take his place with an insolent squawk!

Monday, 11 June 2012

the edge almost found

I've been a while working on this, it started as a tryout to see what was possible while machine embroidering in a hoop; how close could I get to the edge by turning the hoop different ways? Then I had fun trying out different threads above and below, working out where edges were beneath the needle and how close I could get to them. Then my darling daughter hit her finals at Uni. I knew she was struggling. She is both dyslexic and dyspraxic and has worked really hard to get to this point. I phoned regularly to see how she was getting on, hearing her struggle against her sense of defeat, realising that, the more stressed she got, the harder it all became. After the second exam I could hear that it was all getting too much, despite  support from the Uni, and suggested she went to talk to one of her tutors. They saw her very genuine anguish and have suggested a way through that means she didn't have to take the rest of her final exams. I think it's called an aggregate degree. She came home last week and is now very relieved to be home, but worried that she has "failed". In my eyes she will never have failed, no matter what her final result, because I know how hard she's worked, I know how fuddled and muddled her brain gets when it all becomes a bit too much and I know the yearning and bright spirit she took to University, so full of hope. 

It occurred to me that actually, the stitching I had been doing had mirrored her plight. It evoked (to me anyway) the helpless disorder of her mind as she struggled with that "Finals pressure", but also reflected the brights and darks of her time away, the pattern of life that is never just one thing, but always variety, good and bad, positive and negative and the way she has been finding her own edges. So this one is for her.
Here I'm working out how to frame the stitching to bring it to a sense of rightness. What sort of border will bring those swirling colours, lines, thoughts, feelings, together?
I played with bits of organza arranging them around the edges several times, trying for a whirling out, all disordered, from the centre  - this is one of the "not quite right" times
Once I was happy with the organza I used soluble fabric over the top to hold all those little bits in one place, preparatory to stitching. Here it is lightly pinned down prior to tacking and then sewing on the machine. I've use a light batting behind to give the whole thing a bit of substance and contour.

And now you'll just have to wait. Mum never allowed me to start one project until I'd finished another, "otherwise you'll have lots of unfinished projects stuffed away" ... she didn't realise how this is all part of creativity; that maybe that UFO will take on a whole new life when you've learned from something else; that sometimes the vision needs time and a few twists and turns before it comes to fruition.

So, in that spirit, here's a finished object! My little ice cream sundae has joined the other offerings, all to be stitched onto a piece of Jubilee Themed "wearable art" for the regional challenge day in July. I shall be going and will take pictures!
Hope you like it!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

little groups of silent people

Wednesday Feb 6, 1952

This morning our king passed away. When I heard the news I couldn’t believe it, although he had been ill, he was so much better. Also the manner in which I heard it was hardly convincing. One of our workmen put his head through the window [of the office] and said to Mr Eldridge who was with me “the old king’s dead”. He didn’t look put out in the least. Oh how horrible everyone is becoming or is it just provincial? As mummy said, 50 years ago a man in his position would have taken his hat off and said “His Majesty has died”, or words to that effect. Muriel said quite openly that it didn’t affect her personally in the least. Janet and I felt the same, though [deeply saddened], and when I listened over the wireless & heard what was going on in London – little groups of silent people at Buckingham Palace standing outside in the drizzle and shopkeepers taking all coloured things out of the window etc, I knew that we were not in the minority. It has been so sudden and such a shock and there is poor little Princess Elizabeth rushing back from her tour of Australia – only 25 years old – and Queen of England. I suppose she has never had much freedom but she will have precious little left now or for the rest of her life. I think the Royal Family are wonderful - so courageous and brave and always smiling whatever their private feelings. I have only seen the Queen (now queen mother) in the flesh and I thought she was perfectly lovely and such a sweet and serene expression on her face and now poor dear she must go on alone and in the background. What a blessing that Princess Elizabeth had her marriage and found someone so nice and to her liking while her father was alive and could give her away etc, and also that her first baby was a boy and so made the succession to the throne right. When I think she is only my age, even if she has been trained for the job, I think she is  wonderful – so poised and so pretty too. I suppose we shall have all new stamps and money now. She is so small and yet she is now first in the land. I think she will make a lovely Queen even as her father was such a good and kind King. It seems almost unnatural to think that this time yesterday the King was alive and the Princess and the Duke were in Kenya enjoying themselves on their little holiday at the start of their long tour & everyone about their normal business and in 24 hours the princess now Queen is rushing  back to England & the whole country is in mourning.

An extract from Mum's journal. It seemed fitting today, when London, despite the pouring rain, is pouring it's heart out to Queen and occasion. I had hoped that her account of the coronation would be there as well; she saw it on a black and white TV in Battle Memorial Hall and it was the first time she went out properly with my Dad. Sadly. later in 1952 Mum's dearly loved dog Randy died aged only seven. She had longed for a puppy for years, and was given Randy as a birthday gift when she was 18. Here she is walking Randy, five years before the above entry.

Mum and her beloved Randy in the park 1947
There are no further entries after that in her journal