Saturday, 31 March 2012

Spring ~ slow trees

I had this week off as leave, with plans for stuff, however it was hijacked by tooth problems of long standing that refused to be ignored any more! However, as well as that there was this

and this

and these
sunset and star shine

and finally this

of which more can be seen here

These trees have, some of them, been with me since Jen was small, and so have been in her life almost always. Yesterday we went to find some better pots for them. Over the years they have been rather more neglected than was kind, I am hoping to remedy this now. They should be repotted every couple of years and given a good trim at the roots to make sure they develop a multi branched root system that can get plenty of food to the tree in it's restricted growth space. I managed four over Thursday and Friday, only nine to go! You can read more about them here, I see I promised to do better by them around this time last year as well! None were repotted last year, this year I'm hoping that all will get a nice new pot, a trim around the roots and. most importantly, some fresh soil and nutrients. I love the way the bark shows their age, along with the moss growing on the surface, which I carefully preserve each time I re-pot. They are like familiar old friends; some have been with me for perhaps twenty years. There have been a few which have fallen by the wayside over the years and a rowan which escaped into the front garden, where it probably put on plenty of roots last year in it's unrestricted soil. These trees have been kind enough to stay with me despite my neglect of them - if I can manage to feed, water and love them enough this year, I wonder how they will respond.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

sunset and seashore

yesterday evening Jen and I went for a walk down to the seaside and back
the sun was setting behind the trees as we walked down the hill
 twigs and branches tracing lace across the evening sky
when we got to the beach the tide was out and people were wandering along the margins,
 the shoreline softened into haze in the distance
earth bones reflected in the water
  rivulets of sea sculpted sand
and the great sun slowly slipped behind houses
 and sank
in a shimmer of light

Sunday, 18 March 2012

March Pleasures

Well, I seem to have done quite a lot since my last post, all of it pleasurable - lucky me!

Firstly, I have finished the canvaswork piece, better late than never, for my City and Guilds. I am pleased with the result, and hope it doesn't look too much like a mish mash of stitches for the sake of it, but has some sense of coherence.

You can see the original little cross stitch, sitting on its side above the finished needlepoint, reminding me of which colours to use. In the bigger piece I tried to expand those colours a bit, while using different threads to see how they worked on the canvas. I really enjoyed the way the space dyed threads created their own dynamic within the patterns of the stitching, in particular, the wash of pale blue stripes, overlaid with a grid of duck egg blue, in the central block. When you look at the real thing, it sets up an interesting optical effect, as first the grid and then the diagonals take precedence in the eye.

Then, on a warm Saturday, I spent the day with textile artist Claire Buckly being introduced to machine embroidery, something I have been wanting to try for ages, but hadn't the nerve to attempt. I had a lovely time and, with just one other student there, we really benefited from Claire's attention and advice. She also showed us what is possible by sharing the work she did for her MA, beautiful detailed embroideries done with great skill and delicacy.

Last week I was on leave, so on Monday my dear soul and I took the train to London to the very excellent exhibition at the British Library, Royal Manuscripts, the Genius of Illumination. It was enchanting and utterly absorbing; books of all sizes carefully displayed in cases, glittering with gold leaf, resplendent with colour and deep in meanings of all sorts. There were psalters to aid with prayer; rules, regulations and advice about the best way for a monarch to live; early medical books; maps; bibles; genealogies; books of hours and tales of King Arthur and Guinevere. The detail and inventiveness of these early scribes just took my breath away, reminding me of a comment about the Book of Kells: that it was the work of angels. Photography was obviously not allowed, but you can see some images here and look in even more detail in the British Library's excellent Turning the Pages section, which is a real feast of delights. I could have spent hours and hours there, but my body doesn't allow for such indulgences, so restricted myself to an hour and a half of absorbed gazing in an atmosphere that was, despite the large numbers of people there, one of hushed reverence.

Then, on Wednesday, I drove all the long way to York to collect my daughter home for her Easter break.

I always stay at the same hostelry, a lovely B&B called the Warrens, close to the City centre and also to Jen's various places of residence over the last four years. It feels like a home from home, and Richard and Jenny who run it are the nicest of folk. I went, of course, to the Quilt Museum where, each time I've stayed, there has been a new exhibition to inspire. This time was no exception with Decline and Revival the theme, and a lovely selection of quilts on display showing the changing fortunes of quilting and patchwork. Exhibits ranged from its early days of decorative functionality, through the fall from grace as people had less time to stitch and ready made bed covers to buy, up to the current day, with some lovely art quilts from modern textile artists. There was also a great little exhibition in the side gallery from the New Horizons Textile Group, which included workbooks and trial pieces that you could handle, to get a feel for how the final pieces were made.

Having spent a very enjoyable hour there, peering at stitches and fabrics, I went out to St Anthony's Garden, as is my habit when there, to absorb it's lovely tranquil atmosphere.

To my delight, having learnt all about hellebores recently, the garden was simply awash with them, waves of colour, spilling across the soil and giving much pleasure to a visiting peacock butterfly and whole families of ladybirds.

I sat for some time, coatless in the warm March sunshine, letting my inner space meld with the outer peace.

On the following day Jen and I popped in to have a brief look at St Clement's Church, just a short step away from Warrens. It is a rather lovely little Victorian church with a couple of stained glass windows, one of which includes this delightful dragon sending his fiery breath rather too close to the skirts of Margaret of Antioch!
A busy time indeed, and I still have Monday to play with, before it's back to work on Tuesday!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Pandora's Box

Pandora and her box
I am trying to be clever! I have had this lovely little print for years, picked up somewhere along the way, and have never been able to find out anything about it. So I thought, how about putting her in my blog, then doing an inage search for this picture, then drop the image in to Google's Image search to see what it finds!

Will let you know later if it works ....

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Hellebores at Great Dixter

Last weekend we went to Geat Dixter for a fascinating day with Diana Guy talking about hellebores. It was thoroughly enjoyable as well as instructive.  The education centre at Dixter is just lovely, and we were joined for the day by a few of the students who are living there while learning more about horticulture. We were greeted with coffee and some partcularly delicious brownies and lemon drizzle cake, lunch mid day was yummy soup, home baked rolls and cheese. 

The talk was fascinating, covering a great range of information about hellebores - one of my favourite flowers. The weather was delightful and after we'd had our fill of information, supported by lots of lovely slides and some real hellebore flowers guaranteed to get us addicted, we were allowed to wander the gardens to our hearts content. Well, maybe not entirely to our hearts content because that would result in permanent residence!

 One of the garden cats graciously allowed himself to be photographed amongst the flowers
 snowdrops were peeping through absolutely everywhere
 hellebores just waiting for us to turn their tender heads up so we could appreciate their freckles
 the topiary, like calm elder statesmen, watching from the long years of their growing
the house, always visible, redolent of history - a real presence, perhaps sheltering past spirits of the place, looking out in wonder at these strangely dressed people poking about
texture is everywhere drawing the eye and providing  interest even in the quiet months

the succession planting here ensures that there are flowers aplenty to gaze at
 and some delicious colour still lingering from last year's euphorbias
 a confident blackbird who is, I hope, wise to the cats
 and the spangled flowers on the meadow at the front of the house, evoking the millle fleurs tapestries of old
We are so lucky to live close to this wonderful place.

Today I'm off to learn about machine embroidery!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Sunny March Garden

It was a beautiful afternoon and I had time at home so I gave a proportion of it to the garden as it was so balmy.

The little crocus by the step to the kitchen garden (for which read work in progress) had just one brave flower last year, not four inches from getting kicked by unmindful passing feet. Now has two to cup the sunlight in their petals
 These two chat quietly in the sun, wondering if thier patch is going to be any tidier this year
 while the moon peers down through the tracery of the rose arch
 A few skeletal hydrangea flowers still cling to their stems
 though others have been rigorously pruned to, hopefully, improve their shape
 a plane passes overhead, flinging a scarf of wispy condensation across the moon
 The camellia flower flings the light back from its glowing petals
 and Mad Dog daisy is, as ever, cross!

I think, while gardening, about how to best prevent hurting myself, which is a genuine risk. I garden mindfully, watching what my body is doing, remembering to "put on" my core muscles while I rake, or bend, breaking tasks into smaller bits, so that I vary the activity and therefore the movements I make. I rest frequently and try to limit myself to an hour, though this often stretches to two! Best of all though, when there is time, I have a good warm bath when I come in, to relax the muscles and soothe anything that might, foolishly, think itself strained! That way I can get up the next day with plenty of aches, but no injuries. Preferable to a slipped disc or torn muscle!

Oh, and don't forget the cup of tea and chocolate biscuits!