Red Wine and Chocolate Cake


I’m wondering if writing when you’re in a blue funk is as dangerous as food shopping when you’re hungry… this post could end up being the verbal equivalent of a Greggs pasty and a bag of crisps when you’d gone out for tofu and salad. Anyway, I’ve been moping around all day like a gloomy zombie because I counted off every hour from 4am to 8.30am last night, at which point I got up and fed the chickles, ate breakfast and promptly fell fast asleep until nearly lunchtime. My circadian rhythms are all to pot and  I lie awake getting a lump of worry in my throat that goes down to my heart and sits there on my chest, like a  succubus. A hot bath, a glass of red wine and some homemade chocolate cake seem to have cheered me up this evening though and this picture shows the wall in Borrowdale where we saw the red squirrel – so there are bright moments.

I haven’t drawn anything this week but I think I may finally have some new glasses that work, thank god.  As you can see, I struggled a bit last weekend after snapping my glasses and having to dig out a selection of ancient ones from the depths of the bathroom cupboard. It reminded me of when I was small and used to try on my mum’s glasses and run up and down the corridor for fun because the lens made it feel like you were running uphill!


I’m not sure if I don’t prefer the original pencil scribble, but anyway, it made me realise I need to keep practicing. Drawing is like any other exercise and its easy to get lazy and fat.


On Tuesday evening Jane Thorniley-Walker and I went to the “Sponsors Preview” of Art For Youth North at Queen Mary’s School. It was super posh; full of the great and the good (and the rich) and I am going to be honest and say I didn’t enjoy it at all. Entirely my fault, it’s not easy walking tall and making intelligent conversation whilst balancing a big bags of chips on each shoulder and a sack of worry on your back. Having said that, the work looked great, some beautiful landscapes by Peter Hicks, Ian and Rosie Scott Massie, Robin Puplett and the one I would have bought if I could … “Moorland Cottage” by Caroline Dunn. It was fantastic to see that Jane had sold a piece on the first night which made it worthwhile. (and of course the event raises huge amounts for Youth charities throughout the UK so I’m proud to have been part of that.)


I’ve still been thinking about next April’s BCTF although they have given me the option to hold my place until 2016, since I have no idea what will be happening or where I’ll be in the next few months ( it was either that or lose the money). I had some samples printed up hoping to be able to produce them at a wholesale price but now I’m not sure …does anyone have experience of this? The prices I’ve been quoted so far ( just over £10 for a plate and £4.50 for a mug + VAT and postage) mean that there is very little profit in it for me, let alone a potential stockist. I really need some professional advice….oh and a fairy godmother with a pot of magic beans.


Well now it is time to see if I can read myself to sleep and stay there until morning.I want to say another massive thank you for all the kind messages of support. I wish some of you lived around here, I’m sure I wouldn’t feel so alone, we could march on the Big House and demand my jar of jam back.

I also want to send huge amounts of love and good wishes to my very dear friend who is currently in hospital learning to make her legs behave after having a stroke type thing last weekend. Fit and young ( well, my age) and very brave for keeping on smiling and joking when lesser folk ( me) would have been reduced to a self pitying mess. Get Well Soon or there’ll be trouble!


The petition has now reached 888 signatures which is pretty amazing. Ive also had some really kind people from a nearby village offering support as they too have felt the spite of my neighbour. I even got a phone call and a sort of off the record apology from the man who runs Toby Horton’s Twitter account. However there has been not a word or gesture from the the man himself, or the estate.

PETITION ….please sign and share if you can. Thank you


Zen and the art of nest building


Another Thursday, another month and while everything seems “normal” on the surface, underneath is shifting and slipping and bubbling like a house built over a sink hole…or a Baked Alaska pudding…no Chicken Kiev! My attachment to “home” and the difficulty in uprooting me, even for a day out, has been a bit of a joke over the years; so it’s hard to express the almost physical effect the threat of eviction has had on me this past month. However, the garden won last week and I couldn’t leave it alone, for so long the meditation of working in the garden… totally absorbed to the point of almost forgetting real life has been the way I’ve coped with bad times. Ok, mostly I retreat under the blankets with Jack Daniels but once outside I soon become lost and “carried away” as Sara and Jake used to say. The temporary nature of everything I do now does not fit comfortably with my bear like urge to build my winter den and feel as safe as this world will allow…and so the coal shed is empty, the logs have not been delivered yet and is there any point in turning the compost?


Such negativity! If you are still reading I promise the next bits are more uplifting…


Over the past week the Morning Glory in the Freecycle greenhouse has been glorying like mad , heavenly blue and as short lived as a May Fly… if only I was more Zen in my outlook I’m sure there’d be a lesson there! Good things have been happening though. The Saltbox Gallery where I work a couple of days a week took an order for some of my Natural Partners cards and so it was nice to put them on display and overhear the occasional comment about the lovely polar bear! The gallery also took some of my good friend Susie’s needle felted creatures which makes me happy as I love to feel that I’ve helped promote another struggling artist. If I was suddenly rich ….


There have been a couple of much needed trips to the Lake District, partly on a potential house hunting expedition and partly because being made to walk up hills like a reluctant pack pony (admittedly I don’t carry the pack!) seems to be as spirit lifting as gardening. Re-visiting Castle Crag I nearly pushed Rupert over when I spotted a little red squirrel person busily collecting things under the Scots Pines. There were deer too, and autumn colours and that wonderful smell of Autumn woodland and earth still warm from summer. Somehow the North York Moors feels hostile and barren in comparison ( or is it that just a reaction to my situation?) with the only wildlife apart from sheep being there only so it can be shot.


Now I am setting myself the task of drawing something everyday and e-mailing it to Sara who is now in her final year of Illustration at UWE in Bristol. She is meant to do the same so we’ll see if we can keep it up, unlike our various attempts at giving up crisps or taking regular exercise…. I’d like to be able to draw landscape, and clouds but it doesn’t work so I think I’ll leave the clouds to Daddy.


Last night I started a new book having finished Rogue Herries in an all night session. I enjoyed it…maybe the story more than the style and I can see a bit of myself in all the characters. Now it is time for a mug of tea and some more drawing… a rabbit and a pony were the requests on my Facebook page last night….



Reading:-Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami    Listening To:- 6music


The Natural Habitat…


Here is October again and the garden is full of bumble bees feasting on Michaelmas Daisies before they go where ever bumble bees go for Winter. The honey bees left the moor long ago and the swallows not far behind.The house still feels warm to the touch where the sandstone has soaked up the Indian Summer sunshine but this morning there was ice on the windscreen and tomorrow its all due to change. I do feel very cross that I have not felt able to enjoy what could be the last summer days I will ever spend here. Where will I be when the curlews return?


So there is not much to report since I last wrote. The land agent visited and confirmed that the Trustees want me out to make way for my unfriendly neighbour’s son. All my other neighbours are being wonderful; I have been drowning in the milk of human kindness as people offer support and express their concern. Good things have come out of this… mainly the realisation that there are so many people who care and that there is kindness and generosity out there in the world. The Trustees and the mean neighbours are outnumbered in the end, for what it’s worth.

Never the less, living with uncertainty and change and knowing things will never be the same is not good for anyone. Even people who want to move find it unsettling. I see the people who are going to take my home from me everyday and its like being the victim of a violent crime and having to pass the criminal in the street daily. I most resent the fact that all my energies are now consumed with looking for a home when I should be preparing for BCTF and not boring you stupid with petitions and stuff.

I wanted to tell you all about my lovely visit to the Masham Gallery last week and the beautiful work I saw there, about the jewel- like tomatoes I grew in the Freecycle greenhouse, about new work and books and music…but that will have to wait until next time. Just right now I’m looking back before I take a step forward in to the unknown.


Thank you so very very much for the wonderful response to the petition. I wish I could invite you all round for coffee and cake just so I could thank you in person. x


Wolf at the Door


What a beautiful day! (apologies for a rotten photograph)  I felt like flinging open the window and shouting “Anne of Green Gables” but the reality is my arms are numb and  fizzing with some sort of inbuilt amphetamine/stress hormone and I’m feeling guilty for spamming you all with my problems. Since Thursday the Trustees have pretty much ignored me, until today when I got a text saying the agent will be here this evening , presumably with eviction papers. Feel more like Anne Boleyn than Anne of Green Gables!

Sara has started a petition and I have to say, whatever happens here, I have been overwhelmed by the response and supportive comments.I am sure if they want me out they will get me out but there are bigger issues at stake here which is why I’m asking you to read, share and if you feel able, sign the petition.




In other news this cat will be heading off to the charity exhibition Art For Youth, North next month. It is a piece I did at college and hopefully someone might buy it and raise money for the charity. Artists pay to take part and also donate a percentage of the sale price. All the artists also donate a “mystery picture” worth £45 which is sold anonymously , the buyer only discovers who the piece is by afterwards.


Well, now I’m off to chat with the chickens.I want to know their views on the landed gentry, UKIP and the pros and cons of the feudal system. Can you keep chickens in council flats? Is there still such a thing as a council flat!?

A belated Happy Autumn Equinox from Witchmountain.

How We Live Now; Eviction and Homelessness in the North York Moors Upland Estates..


This post was originally intended as an upbeat antidote to some of the previous ones…there’s only so much a reader wants to hear about someone’s stolen bicycle or dead tortoise!… positivity breeds positivity and all that (although I have a feeling that two positives repel or cause huge explosions or something? I didn’t pay much attention in Physics lessons).  I wanted to tell you all about my exciting decision to take a stand at next year’s BCTF in Harrogate and share the journey from here to there … but then I met my neighbour in the supermarket.


Known locally as “Cyanide Sue”* I was nervous when she called me over for a friendly chat by the soap powder, in 14 years she had only ever ignored or sworn at me. But she genuinely seemed friendly and we parted with me offering any help they may need on the farm. However, at the till she dropped the bombshell ” I hear you’re moving” …

Now some of you have been reading Witchmountain for years and maybe some just discovered it but even if we only met here in this virtual space I think you will have seen that my love for this place has been self evident and deeply passionate. This house on the edge of the moor and more importantly the garden I’ve made and the view beyond; over the field to the big oak and across to Arden Moor,  has been my life support for 14 years. The idea that I would leave voluntarily is so unlikely that I laughed it off and assumed it was just a nasty parting shot from someone who had never made me feel welcome at Snilesworth.



Three ignored calls later and the land agent confirmed my fears. I am to be evicted with two months notice and my home given to the son of my suddenly “friendly ” neighbour. My world has fallen apart. I took a jar of homemade jam to the Lodge and spoke to the landowner, Toby Horton , begging the Trustees of the Estate not to make me homeless… like a character in a novel by Catherine Cookson, not much has changed around here in 300 years!

The fog and drizzle seemed appropriate and the situation almost comical… penniless artist pleads with landed gentry offering jam and appealing to a mutual love of this place, this land in all its seasons and hardships. “Unfortunate circumstance”, “beyond our control”, ” the agenda for managing upland estates and the North York Moors National Park… we only want farmers and gamekeepers, not outsiders”….  Perhaps I should hold my tongue for fear of making it worse but from where I sit, looking out through misted windows, it couldn’t be worse. What century do we live in?


Anyway, all that was two days ago and there has still been no official contact from the estate or its agents… not even a courtesy call to check I hadn’t died of  shock. They are well within their legal rights to evict a tenant with only two months notice, and no reason needs to be given apparently ( Under a Section 21 notice) , but morally it seems so wrong when I have always paid my rent and cherished this little piece of heaven; even promoting it and introducing them to Joe Cornish who has taken groups of photographers to the Lodge for weekend workshops.

Meanwhile, before the bombshell, I had been preoccupied with the idea of Home and was drawing imagined places, cottages surrounded by huge flowers or standing alone on a hill. The tower is a symbol from an image my dad made in the year I was born called “The Masterpiece in the Tower” I always found it haunting and strangely prophetic. This morning a protoype mug design arrived in the post and now seems a good point to stop and grind some beans to fill it with coffee…maybe with a dram of Highland Park to take the edge off the day!


So, thank you for reading and much love to you from Witchmountain, while I can still send it, I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.

If anyone is interested in writing on my behalf I think letters or e-mails could be directed to The Trustees of Snilesworth Estate, c/o John Hoddinott,15/17 High Street, Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, YO51 9AW


*Please note I did not coin this nick name, nor do I condone mean and unfriendly behaviour or name calling. I hope this post reflects a true and balanced account of the situation despite my emotional involvement.

*Since writing this my daughter has started a petition. If you would like to sign it we would be eternally grateful. Thank you.



Looking at the Big Skies


Already the wild and windy moors are starting to hint at Autumn and I’m tucked up in my kitchen with the stove on and “Mother Earth” by Underworld teasing me from the radio “6mix”… its Friday night why aren’t you dancing? Well actually that’s one of the perks of living alone in the middle of nowhere… no one can see me or complain about the volume.

I have lots of exciting news to tell you since the last few tragic tales of woe. Firstly we returned to the Lakes to try and erase the memory of that awful bike ride. I’ve been reading “Rogue Herries” by Hugh Walpole and wanted to see what Stye Head ( Styhead?) was like in real life. Well it was wonderful and despite threats of hurricanes it was a perfect day … the kind of skies that remind me of theatre lighting; much more atmospheric than perfect blue days don’t you think. Here is Wasdale in the spotlight before we turned away and headed up to Sprinkling Tarn and the way down via Grains Gill ( ? ) .


Back home on my own imaginary mountain I had been making some new cyanotypes on some gorgeous off cuts of thick handmade water colour paper that my dad gave me. The paper is so lovely that these will have to be framed carefully to make sure none of the texture and rough edges are lost behind mounts. I really enjoyed making these and like the odd, slightly dreamlike, unfinished white cottage; although part of me wants to do something else to them…stitch maybe…hmmm. My favourite is the one with the willow dome.


And so, carried away with blue and the idea of home…


…Until the sunshine and heat of July gave way to wet, grey August and premature thoughts of log stacks and winter nesting … or should that be hibernation?


Anyway the main news is that I have done a slightly mad thing and got myself a stand at next April’s BCTF in Harrogate. I now have 7 months to panic and worry but at least I have something to aim for and I wish I’d done it years ago when I was less jaded and more optimistic! I have exactly no pennies to invest in product development but I’m going to take a risk, give it one more big chance before retraining as a plumber or drystone waller… I’m lucky to have some lovely friends who are full of good advice and experience so we’ll see what happens I guess.

IMG_1250People were very kind on Facebook and over 1,000 lovely people now follow my page which meant I gave away one of my needle felt bears. He jetted off to the USA last week leaving these two characters on the Etsy shop shelf.


Now I really should turn this music down and head off up the apples and pears, I’m sure I’ve forgotten to tell you something; must write more often x

Reading: “Rogue Herries” Hugh Walpole  Listening To:   “Confessions of a Dancer”  Doorly and “Lily” Kate Bush …come on, who got me a ticket? Hey?







Did  the army mobilise their forces last week to save me from despair?  No of course not, not really, they just flew round and round the house in circles while we surveyed the wreckage of an outbuilding and the empty tortoise house through a haze of disbelief and insultingly glorious sunshine. It’s hard not to wallow in self pity, it truly was an awful week but tragicomic in places which kind of made it worse! So first, a big thank you for all the kind words after Mr Tortoise went missing… and all the sympathy when he was found. I was so upset that Rupert decided to whisk me away to the Lakes to find solace in the mountains in the camper van…unfortunately the bikes came too.


I’m not an easy person when filled with sorrow and the unfairness of life.  Even the beauty of the hills and the stillness of the lakes made me cry and really nothing but time or whiskey was going to snap me out of it…least of all a bike ride. I’m not sure why we did it but we ended up setting off on a “gentle” mountain bike ride on the hottest Sunday for a million years. I won’t go in to details, but I basically went for a very long WALK with a lump of black and green metal that was too exhausting to ride uphill and too terrifying to ride downhill. Eyes blurry with hot tears of resentment I cursed that bike and every cyclist or smiling hiker that passed me by; eventually hurling it to the ground with foul obscenities, I sat in a stream and sulked like a toddler, the bruises already showing up purple and green like the hill sides.


Well, guess what… after getting home that evening we woke in the morning  to discover that all my dreams had come true, the bike was gone, stolen ( almost as if I has arranged it) along with Jake’s motorbike and all my garden power tools. The robbers had pulled the entire window frame and stone lintel out of the building and carefully removed rolls of barbed wire, plant pots and old speaker boxes ( an attempt to foil them after the last break in which the landlord hadn’t repaired)  to nick our stuff…we were too tired from “cycling” to be disturbed. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or just go back to bed in disgust. So, yes, the past two weeks have been pretty crappy, we’ve all missed precious days at work and spent a lot of time talking to policemen about security measures  and enduring the smirks of people who find it hard to keep a straight face when you tell them your tortoise ran away …but with the help of some flying bears, a few good friends and all the lovely people in the virtual world ( that means you) , I think we might be through the worst ( fingers crossed, touch wood). I’ve planted wild flowers on the little Tortoise’s grave and am contemplating a commemorative tattoo ( sorry Daddy!).


Meanwhile I’m hooked on needle felting , thanks to Susie, and since Jake is worried that I will fill the house with tiny bears I hereby announce a Giveaway!!!


To celebrate the almost reaching of 1,000 likes on Facebook and to thank you for reading this blog I will be giving away the little brown Celestial Bear as soon as the magic number is reached. To enter just leave a comment below ( you don’t have to be on Facebook but if you are, please do that like and share thing ) and I will announce the winner shortly.


The polar bears will be in my Etsy shop soon and until next we meet, take care and be nice to each other. x