Sunday, 16 April 2017

I've been mulching

Which makes me sound like a ruminant in a field. Actually, it's just spreading stuff on the ground to feed the soil and suppress the weeds. Should be done in Spring and Autumn. 

I garden in little bits, it suits my state of health to do, say half and hour, then stop and rest, then go back and do a little more. I've had this on the go for the past two weeks I think; I dig a little bit, pull out as much weed as possible, on hands and knees, working bare hand if necessary, round those delicate things you find when you are close to the ground, self seeded thises and thats, which need careful fingers about them to ensure that encroaching grass doesn't grab them too, as you pull it out.

The mulch is a mixture or garden centre bought stuff, dark rich brown and very most; then some leaf mould collected a couple of years ago, stored in a plastic bag to rot down until ready; add some ground up prunings that have been sitting in a black bin for a couple of years; stir in some birdsong and fresh air and there you are, a lovely soft brown blanket to snuggle around the plants and keep the moisture in.

In this area I haven't even finished the weeding, 

but I've cleared round Mum's tree and the azaleas and given each a good spread of the brown stuff. I'll tackle the weeds again tomorrow


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Some garden for Els

Els does the most wonderful stitching, and felting, and drawing and knitting aaaaaaand gardening. This post caught my eye, as I had just come in from taking photos in our garden, hundreds of miles away ...

here they are Els



the old dears

moist and mossy

full of light

and shadow

Monday, 10 April 2017

free flight

buzzard and seagull vying for space as Spring surges

a little breath of wind

a flutter in the undergrowth

light held so delicately

I have had increasing tooth problems in the past couple of weeks and months - two abscesses, two extractions, much lowness of spirit, some forbearance;

I'm on the mend

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Weaving progress and goodbye

I'm very much enjoying my weaving. I keep having to unweave and reweave as I go wrong. But I'm happy with where this is going, and am learning a lot. 

Because I'm doing the 1YearofStitches2017 project it is an easy transition moving from one thing to the next: because you are in the same room; because you see it awaiting your touch; because you have awoken the inner whatever; because colour and texture are there calling to you. 

Part of that daily practice opening doors.

We had the funeral service for Cecil this week, a gentle saying goodbye for a very few of us. Pen lead the service, as she did for Mum. She is exactly who you want to help say goodbye to someone you've loved; her kind heart shines out, she is reverent, firm, gentle in her words, gently humorous too, all expressed through the foundation of being that is her faith.

When I stitched that afternoon, I nestled in some last seeds, dispersing in the spring breeze amongst the ripe buds of new beginnings, life always arising in the release of old life passing. Part of letting go of a beautiful person, adding a little memorial - not to remember her by, she is engraved on my heart, but to say

"this person meant something"

Robin Moon

This little chap was singing his spring heart out as I walked down to the seaside last night

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Practice too

One of the pleasures of Christine's classes is the lunch time discussion. Last time we talked about the benefits of using sketchbooks and also a daily practice like 1 year of stitches. In both you take yourself out of, analytical, active rational brain mode, which tends to predominate in our day to day lives, and relax into doing and being mode. We talked about the way this sort of practice can release creativity. One of our class members was very dubious so it's got me thinking about it as I stitch or weave. What is happening here?

I would liken it, in part, to the hours spent practicing scales, arpeggios, five finger excercises and then my pieces, when I learnt the piano. I think in part you are developing muscle memory; allowing your body to do just this thing, whatever it is, without thinking about the why. You are being with your needle and thread, piano keys, the shading in this bit of the sketch, these colours of weft and the rhythm of the weave. You are getting into the zone.

But the other thing that is happening is that the act of doing allows the subconscious to make associations: it resembles when you're trying to remember something, and the minute you stop trying it pops into your head, or a day later, or the following week. The trying can act as a block, but in doing, you are opening yourself to the possibility of something, without worrying about what.

With my tapestry weaving, still very much in its infancy, I am just watching what happens as I work. My fingers are learning the shape of the weft on the loom, my eyes are absorbed in colour and form, I have a sort of plan, but mostly I am learning how to do that thing; how to make shapes, to change colours, to put colours together.

So, having noticed that my weaving wasn't covering the warp threads, I loosened out my tension, creating "bubbles" to allow the yarn to flex at round the warp, shown here before beating down.

Then I realised that my weaving was putting on weight, a diet was needed. I had begun with three colours, one thread of each, to allow a level of refinement in the shading ....... however

So I cut down to two colours on the go at a time, with the odd insertion of a single pass, or half pass in a different colour, just to see what will happen.

And meanwhile the sort of design, shady in the back of my mind, continues to emerge

Likewise, with my stitching ......

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Bright lights big city

So I went on an adventure, to the big city with some girlfriends. We went to the Knitting and Stitching show, on its first day, when everyone is fresh and there are all sorts of temptatious things to buy. 

We met up on the train, met others we knew when we got there, parted, wandered around a lot, saw lots of wonderful pieces, Dorothy Caldwell, Debbie Lyddon with The 62 Group, so much to see, so much queuing involved, such lusciousness. Oh there were lovely things, crochet sumptuousness, soft sleek knitted dresses - not really suitable for someone soft but not sleek, simple timeless patterns that even the soft but not sleek can risk. We met up again for lunch, but felt shopping wasn't quite over so wandered off once more. There were stalls upon stalls of fabric, my overnight case weighed more when we left than it did when we arrived. 

Yes, overnight case, that's what you take when you stay overnight. A proper adventure (though without rhinoceros). So I had the chance to wander up to the Vauxhall Bridge and view the beauty of London at night, all reflected in the depths of the Thames

Proper fairyland stuff. 

I had myself a pleasant meal in a little cafe  near the hotel, where I chatted with an interesting woman, briefly, about offshore wind farms, I slept a good night's sleep and got up the following morning to go and see Paul Nash before he is no longer there to be seen.  There's a lovely review of the exhibition here.

I have loved Nash for many years, both for his dreamlike evocative landscapes and his war work, so utterly contrasting. It was a pleasure to see favourite paintings in the context of his life's work. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though it was a struggle to get round, and I was glad of those rooms with seats so I could rest my aching bones! My body's not used to all this activity. Note to self, get more exercise. 

The breadth of what was on show, and the arrangement in themed rooms, meant that you could follow his thoughts and interests, seeing how they transformed according to both his experiences and his artistic explorations. I took the catalogue with me so I could read at least some of it before going - sitting in bed the previous night, then read more on the train on the way home. I was interested to discover how local he had been to here at some significant times of his life. Nash and his wife Margaret stayed at Oxenbridge, just above the Rother valley, overlooking the river where Mum, Cecil, Nanya, all spent time when they stayed at Nirvana. His wife was a Christian Scientist, as were Connie and Ganna, the background to my childhood was Mary Baker Eddy, her books nestled on Ganna's shelves, her thoughts a quiet undercurrent to our lives. Also, Nanya painted around Iden, and Connie and Harry were a lesbian couple at a time when that was something rather hidden. Nash and his wife also stayed at Rye, where Radclyffe Hall lived for a while. In our family treasury we have a letter from her to Connie commenting on how lucky she was to have had a sympathetic mother who was determined that her daughter should have a wedding, even if it was not to a man.

I wonder if all those paths ever crossed.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Tapestry Update

Once a month the little group of us from Sussex Stitchers still get together to do our bit of weaving. You'll remember I started with this - which has a few nice bits, but is basically about learning various techniques. 

I enjoy the colours, and they have a relationship with the photo collage that I started with, but the forms are uneven and don't relate to the design.

"Life is for learning"

Here is where my current piece has got to - shown upside down, as that will be the orientataion when it comes off the loom.

loosly based on the Nazar symbol, but there will be more below. Shapes symbolic of house and home if I have the space.

I'm rather pleased with it so far, though looking at the bottom, lighter area, I can see that I need to rework it to cover the warp better. I either need to loosen the tension on my weft thread or use a slightly narrower weft. I'll see which works, and refer you to the quote above :-)

Thursday, 23 February 2017

A loss

Cecil getting ready for her 80th birthday party

Those of you who visit here will have met my Aunt Cecil. Sadly she passed away two weekends ago; sadly because I will miss her a great deal, but for her it was an easy departure, no long illness, just a very brief stay in hospital and a quick end. I was so grateful for that; she was happy to the last, I had visited her in her care home the day before, was with her in the hospital for most of that day and feel that it was an ending to be envied, since we all have to go one way or another. 

She was a geat inspiration to me in so many ways; her love of stitching and gardening; her enjoyment of her many small dogs, always two at a time, always known as "fourfoots"; her forthrightness and above all her graceful acceptance of the restrictions that age brought her. Her two most oft repeated sayings were "well, I just go with the flow" and "as my father said, 'make the best of what you've got while you've got it'". She lived up to both of those with a smile and a cheery waive of her hand, and those who cared for her so very well in her final years at the Normanhurst all said what a pleasure she was to have there, never complaining and always cheerful. I hope I can live up to that if I ever reach the ripe old age of 91

"91?? I don't believe it!!!"

She was a treasure

Cecil with her beloved dog Tatters, the first of many, on Hastings beach

Sunday, 8 January 2017

A fresh endeavour for this year

I'm not usually one for New Year's resolutions and ambitions, but this year I have taken up a little challenge; 1 Year of Stitches. As a separate project I thought it should have it's own little place in blogland so my efforts can be found here.

I'm hoping I can keep going during the year. I decided to give the excercise a little twist by stitching according to the phases of the moon. The point in the phase governs the colour I use to stitch, and the stitches are all being placed within a yin yang symbol, the balance of light and dark, see here for a more detailed exposition!!

Still time to join in all you stitchers out there, if you fancy an interesting and achievable challenge :-)

Friday, 6 January 2017

South Africa part two

So, after a bit of digression into other areas of life, a return to Africa and the urban part of our stay. 

We did a great deal of driving during the first part of the trip - it made me aware of how enormous the country must be, let alone the continent. As we drove, we passed through landscapes and human scapes for which I could not have prepared myself - there is astonishing poverty in Africa, as there is in many areas around the world, but seeing it go on for mile after mile after mile, either from the window of a plane, or close enough to touch as we drove along the unmade roads, is sobering. It made me aware of the great level of privilege we simply take for granted in this country - running water, affordable electricity, a house that is actually built when you move in, rather than work in progress for the next however many years it takes to scrape the money together for the cladding - enough bricks for the next room - a watertight roof. 

Once we got to Cape Town we were in the midst of a totally different Africa; vibrant, lively, full of light and energy. We stayed near the Victoria and Alfred (yes Alfred) Waterfront development, where daily music was just one of many treats.

We managed to do a lot in the few days we were there; touring the city on one of the open top buses to see the sights - this is the Bo Kaap area, a brief glimpse - I'd have seen more had we enough time

We also visited Robben Island, another intensely sobering experience, made more so by the fact that the gentleman who gave us a guided tour and told us his own story of being imprisoned there was the same age as me. It was both humbling and uplifting to hear him talk about letting the past go, not carrying all the baggage of the bad times forward into post apartheid South Africa

A trip down the Cape was also a must, the scenery was wonderful

and I loved these cairns of stones build by visitors to the beach

Then there was a helicopter ride over the bay - an enormous thrill, having never been in a helicopter. The views were glorious, the weather so good that one could see for miles. I was delighted that our pilot was a young woman, and delighted to be granted the front seat next to her, my comanions being happy to be together in the rear two seats

This gives you an idea of just how much building there is in the city; almost everywhere we went there were new shiny tower blocks going up or recently finished

and the see was so blue and clear that at one point I managed to spot a whale below us - not caught on camera, but I was, once again, very excited!

All too quickly it was time for us to leave. I came away with a slightly greater understanding of what Africa is like; a place of such beauty and contrasts that this brief but enjoyable journey was just a small glimpse, but a treasured one.