Gatherings

The frantic business of September, with all its overlapping exhibitions, drawing deadlines and Very Important Birthdays, is over and here I am on the first day of October, thinking about what to write while the new kitten fights sleep on my knee. Looking back I realise that I didn’t write anything during September and the excuse for this is the fact that, with Cumbria Printmakers and Craftsmen at the Priory, there seemed to be almost continuous exhibitions happening somewhere and although the initial deadline for finishing my Ugly Duckling illustration project was September 13th, I had to extend it a little following the loss of my sketchbook and the week long migraine that followed. Then about 3 weeks ago this happened …  

My son arrived one evening with a tiny wobbly monster who was barely able to get up the stairs .This cute, gift kitten has somehow been replaced by a large, spikey tiger with a ravenous appetite and dubious bathroom habits, in the blink of an eye. It’s a full time job. We call her Nutmeg but more often her name is unrepeatable in polite company. As write she is kneading my jumper with needle claws and purring like an engine; it’s good have company in the lonely barn again even if my legs look like I’ve been rolling in brambles and Rupert says I look like Action Man with the scratch on my face! 

Early in September as I was busy drawing ducks and swans and worrying about whether it was all looking ok and was “good enough”, the bookshop had organised an event with the writer and illustrator Jackie Morris. I’m sure Grasmere must have been full of lots of extra lovely people that day because I was working in the bookshop and sold more of my cards than usual and had some really nice conversations about mutually admired artists and makers. Anyway, the evening event was very interesting and inspiring because Jackie spoke about how she had been told many times at school and later at art college, that she wasn’t “good enough”, that art wasn’t a real job you could live from and so on, only to go on to be one of the most recognised and loved illustrators working today. She spoke about The Lost Words, working with Robert Macfarlane, and how the book has taken on a life of it’s own in schools, hospitals and care homes, inspiring memories in older people and a new discovery of nature in the young. For me the admission that she didn’t really know “how” to illustrate a book when she first started out, making it up as she went along, but also didn’t really know what else to be, was very cheering as I wrestled with self doubt and worried about ducks. Could my Ugly Duckling become a swan? 

Jackie Morris paints an otter in Grasmere whilst reciting a spell by Robert Macfarlane. 

I feel as though I gained a lot of much needed confidence from my first experience of working as a real illustrator, working to a brief and getting paid! I know I could have finished on time if only I hadn’t been robbed in Lanercost and as it turned out I was only a week late so I beat Crossrail, with justifiable delays! The Line and Verse exhibition in Grasmere was also really good for me with several sales and work is currently still on show at Upfront Arts Venue in Unthank, near Penrith. But for a moment I can indulge in a few lazy days, think about what I’ve learned and plan what comes next. 

The main event of September probably deserves a whole blog post of its own and I’m conscious that as usual I’m trying to play catch up and not doing justice to all the things I want to talk about. Last week I was in London with all my family to celebrate my father, William Tillyer’s 80th birthday …

Film for BBC Look North by Sharuna Sagar.

We had a wonderful time, wandering around the Chelsea Physic Garden, having supper at the Chelsea Arts Club, testing out £1330 chairs at the Conran Shop, fighting our way on to tubes to get to the exhibition opening at Bernard Jacobson Gallery and generally enjoying some rare family time. The birthday party at the gallery also marked the opening of the fabulous exhibition of The Golden Striker and Esk Paintings and felt particularly wonderful in contrast to the Radical Vision opening in January when, unknown to most people, he was in the middle of chemotherapy and really not well. I’m sure he will hate me sharing this but the huge, imposing and beautiful painting at the centre of this new exhibition has been largely completed whilst undergoing chemo and dealing with it’s after effects, visiting the studio daily and working alone without assistants (unlike many of his celebrated contemporaries).  I find this hugely inspiring and not a little daunting – how can I possibly live my life so single-mindedly and with such courage and determination?!

Flowers designed by The Mighty Quinn Flower Emporium in Bristol as a response to the Golden Striker painting. A gift from Sara to her Grandad. 

Bernard Jacobson, the gallery owner, has written a new book entitled “William Tillyer, The loneliness of the long distance runner”, it’s part memoir, part biography, part imagined odyssey.  I can’t tell you how weird it is to read, having been part of the story, at least for the last 51 years. Again, it deserves a whole blog post and a careful review, maybe from someone more qualified and less involved,  but here is a bit I really liked…

“Hockney recording nature is like Paul McCartney writing opera. Tillyer recording nature is like John Clare recording nature. . Hockney’s nature reflects back the colour supplements , Tillyer’s is a Modernist mirror of Nature itself.”

Well now, here at the bottom of the mountain it’s time to return to my own search for a bit of creative fulfilment and also time to put on another jumper as I’ve got cold sitting here writing this. I’m making these boxes for some events taking place in November and also thinking about some new work for exhibitions early next year. I need to update the website shop and go outside for some air and exercise too… but first coffee!  

new adventures await…

Reading:  Killing Commendatore – Haruki Murakami  

Witness Statement

Yesterday I was sitting in my usual place, a favourite old Lloyd Loom, feet on the table, drawing ducks, when my chair suddenly “boinged” loudly like a cartoon jack-in-the-box and I realised the springs had given way dramatically, and quite musically. It’s been a pretty dramatic week, as you’ll know if you follow me in any of the usual following places. Last Friday I’d just arrived for my shift at the Craftsmen at the Priory exhibition in Lanercost, and run around the corner for the keys, when some people decided to smash my car window and make off with my lunch (my first priority, which probably explains the collapsing chair). Actually they took more than my lunch but when something like that happens it takes a while for your brain to catch up;  so for a long while I just looked at the glass on the drivers seat and wondered why I’d left my coffee pot there.

One thing that happens when something goes badly wrong is that people are generally lovely and all the other artists in the exhibition were great,  Christina Hargraves quietly went off and bought me a replacement lunch, returning later to fashion a temporary window for the drive home. They were all really shocked because Lanercost really is a very beautiful and fairly sleepy little place, at least since all that fuss in 1538, and goodness knows why villains were targeting 16 year old VW Golfs at quarter to nine on a Friday morning. Interestingly there is a section on the Wikipedia page entitled “Visitors and Raiders” which I might have to add to…

It took me until the drive home to remember the full list of stolen things : a box of stock (handmade books, lanterns & mugs), my hare bag and lovely pencil case (with precious sentimental pens), sketchbook, keys, purse, pouch of migraine/stress cures (ha!) , my glasses and my bloody lunch. Weirdly they’d left my phone, the only “valuable” item that I’d stupidly left on view. The really annoying thing is that I SAW them ( the only other car in the car park) and yet my entire childhood spent reading Sherlock Holmes stories taught me nothing and I can’t even remember if their car was silver or white!

Anyway, it’s done now, I’m trying to look on the funny side (if I  struggle to sell my artwork how will they? Were they disappointed that the risotto was vegetarian? Why did they take the coffee but not the pot?) and the gestures of kindness and generosity from friends and strangers makes me grateful that my life is enriched by good people and that’s something those thieves must surely lack.

You wondered why I was drawing ducks when the chair gave way? Well thanks to a chance connection in Sam Read’s Bookshop, I’ve been asked to illustrate a little book that is being written as a part of a series designed to help teach children English, mainly in Africa. I’m really enjoying drawing and inventing characters. It’s actually nice working to someone else’s brief, although the stolen sketchbook had lots of my initial drawings in it, which is annoying but it could have been worse. Last week the writer Tom Cox had his bag stolen in a pub in Bristol; it contained his notebook with a year’s worth of notes for his new book. Lets hope all stolen things, especially Tom’s book,  are found and returned or at least end up with someone who appreciates that value isn’t always measured in pound notes. If you’re a robber and by chance you’re reading this, please can I  have my glasses back?

I want to write more now that I’ve finally got started –  but I’m hopeless at getting up in the morning, it’s late and I’m back at Lanercost for 10 am ( the exhibition has some outstanding work in it by the way) so I must go to bed soon (also I need to work on a spell which will see flocks of malevolent crows pursuing the thieves for all eternity…)  Meanwhile here’s an event you might like to come to if you’re near Grasmere in September…

Reading : Everything Under by Daisy Johnson and “Floating” by Joe Minihane

 

Remember that Golden Summer?

I’ve just come in from a late evening wander up the valley, raising moths with every footfall and, for the first time in months,  feeling the familiar squish of damp ground underfoot instead of  bone jarring, cracked earth. I went down to the beck and stood knee deep in the water for ages (a regular post migraine activity) gazing up at the mountain who was looking benign and majestic in the warm evening light. I squiggle toes in the slippery pebbles and clamber about on the bank where the rocks are warm still and the bracken prematurely tinted with Autumn; almost tempted to go back for a tent so that I can sleep next to the water. On the way home I stop to talk to my favourite tree thinking how precious it is to be able to do this, being alone in such a beautiful place momentarily lets me be the child I still am inside since there’s nothing about to show me I’m actually a small 51 year old woman acting like a lunatic talking to trees and wallowing about in the beck dressed in pants and a hoodie. Something about this summer’s heatwave has me reliving childhood memories of golden barefoot summers in the 70’s, just as it’s revealing ancient earthworks, drowned villages and lost gardens. This is the summer they will talk about for years to come.

As ever I started writing a blog post in May and have had to scrap the whole thing because so much has happened in the mean time. A proper summer  for the first time in 4 years and the generous loan of a Canadian canoe has meant we’ve felt extra lucky to be living in the Lake District – what we lack in financial security or a packed social life has to some degree, been balanced out by the priceless joy of a clandestine night on Wild Cat Island, a picnic supper on Ullswater ( even though we canoed double the distance because we forgot to pack the gas for the tiny miniature stove and had to go back!)  or an afternoon gliding about in the swimming “pots” of Borrowdale.

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Wallowing

A post shared by Kim Tillyer (@witchmountain) on

I’ve just returned from my weekend at Art in the Pen in Thirsk where we all nearly melted in the cattle market under the sweltering North Yorkshire sun! This year I didn’t do so well ( many people said sales were down on previous years)  but I think I enjoyed myself more. My pen neighbour Hannah Sawtell was particularly lovely and we had good chats about politics, future directions and the joys/trials of parenthood/cat caring/empty nests. I fell in  love with several of her prints but the one I had to have included a quote from a favourite REM song and someone looking slightly uncertain on the edge of  a moonlit pool …

We did a little artist swap which sadly is the only way I can own the art I love at the moment. I sometimes feel like such a hypocrite going on about #JustaCard all the time and then leaving the “pens” of people whose work I’ve admired for years without buying anything but it really would have been madness to spend the small profit I’d made because that will be needed to pay for the materials and costs of the next event. It really is hand to mouth sometimes and times are hard for many of the creative people I met. Rupert had helped me set up and take down my pen and commented afterwards that he really felt for those who hadn’t done so well “…they all work so hard, they’re all makers and they make the world a better place.” The overriding feeling was positive though, despite the heat, the farmyard aromas, the slow sales and all. The visitors were all enthusiastic and full of praise and the other artists full of camaraderie and humour; I love the concept of artists taking over the cattle market for a weekend and replacing the animal s**t with things of beauty, it makes me smile for so many reasons !

… As usual it’s taken me an age to write half of what I wanted say and its now tomorrow! I’ve just been into Keswick to post out some orders, including some of the cyanotype workshop kits I’ve put together, and got side tracked by a rarely open antiquarian bookshop. I came away with an armful of old Observer guides and intend to spend this evening identifying “Grasses and Sedges” on the fell side with a spot of bilberry picking if the birds haven’t eaten them all ( my car is always covered in purple bird poo at this time of year). The rest of the week will be busy with lovely bookshop days and a cyanotype workshop for Cumbria Printmakers in Shap where we have an exhibition until Sunday.

And so the summer speeds along and it’s been a good year for the roses.

I’ve been stitching and printing like mad for all the exhibitions I’m taking part in; much of the new work features stitched roses on cyanotype still lives and the elusive dream of a home with roses around the door . The next event will be Craftsmen at the Priory in the Dacre Hall at Lanercost. I visited last week and it’s a seriously beautiful part of Cumbria, right on Hadrian’s Wall. I do feel very honoured to be one of the core group’s invited guests especially as this is the 40th anniversary of the exhibition. It opens on August 8th with a preview evening including a 10% discount. Here’s your invitation…

Now I must go and learn some new plant names, write a newsletter and organise the things I’ve unpacked and piled in the middle of the floor after Art in the Pen. I want to write more often, I will try, it’s often the World that makes me silent- why add to the noise when there are important things to be said, by people better able to say them. Will you read if I keep writing? I hope so.

Recent Reading: Swallows and Amazons – A Ransome,  Sweet Caress – William Boyd , 16 Trees of the Somme- Lars Mytting, The Gloaming – Kirsty Logan Rotherweird – Andrew Caldecott (audio book) ,  21st Century Yokle – Tom Cox (audio book)

 

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Decade

Well here I am, a decade since my first faltering steps into the world of WordPress and being Witchmountain. What started out as a student blog, documenting the last weeks of my degree at CCAD has morphed into…something else; part confessional, part diary, part …I don’t quite know. So much has changed, everything has changed. Looking back at that first post I feel the sadness of loss; some of  the people commenting and offering encouragement back then are now no longer in my life ( the perils of having much younger friends who were bound to leave my path for their own sooner or later, I suppose)  Times change and even my old art college has recently reinvented itself  as The Northern School of Art (in my parent’s day it was Middlesbrough Art College). There is happiness too of course; keeping a fairly regular record of things that have happened over the past ten years I can see that my work has continued to develop and hopefully improve, there are stories hidden between the lines that I thought would break me but didn’t and there are joys which would never have happened without the sorrows. Fewer people read this blog now and the quick fix of social media has taken over but I still feel as though it was was of the best things to come out of my years at CCAD- I didn’t get the dream graduate job and I haven’t made a fortune out of my design work or become a superstar blogger but I’m still here making and creating. Writing has given me a place to work things out and attempt to order my thoughts, at times it has helped me make decisions and feel less alone – this blog has actually helped me make new friends and reconnect with old ones – so Thank You.

I’m sitting in the garden that isn’t mine, my head aches but the breeze and birdsong are soothing, the air smells of something sweet. Two rabbits just ran over my feet not realising I was here, a vole popped out from a plant pot and the owl family in the ugly Thuja trees are calling to each other in broad daylight. I half expect Mrs Tiggywinkle to trundle past with her washing but today there has been a big fell race so she’s probably keeping well out of the way ( actually in 3 years I haven’t seen one hedgehog here in Newlands Valley which is odd) On the steep fell side opposite me I can see a crowd of people on mountain bikes being extreme, as is the fashion in these parts.

This is only going to be a short post because, as I said, my head is aching but it seemed important to make sure I posted something today to make things neat! I’ve been thinking about what to write for ages to try and mark the occasion and of course I will probably not say any of it now because I’m rushing. I’ll just do basic  housekeeping instead of rambling on and remind you that at the end of the month there will be an extra special draw for newsletter subscribers and website customers – so be one of those if you want to win something lovely. There are loads of events and exhibitions coming up starting with Art in the Shed in Osmotherley on May 26th. Always bittersweet for me but I can’t wait to spend time with my very good friend Jane who puts this event on in her beautiful North Yorkshire garden to raise money for the Street Child Africa charity . I’ll have new work with me including these Ghost Flowers in various arrangements ( pictured as work in progress)  as well as some new card designs.

Now I’m going to close my eyes for a little while and dab some lavender on my forehead, hoping to recover enough for a little swim later this evening. Thank you for reading, especially if you’ve lasted the full ten years and traveled with me from North Yorkshire to this version of Witchmountain…. x

Reading :- The Dictionary of Animal Languages ” Heidi Sopinka and “Wildwood” Rodger Deakin

Sonder and the Little Companions.

The sun reappeared last Thursday and after braving the madness of market day Keswick in the Easter holidays I came home and trudged up the valley to lie down on the footbridge for a think. Lying on my back, on the sun warmed wood and looking straight up at the sky, the fells seemed to lean over me in a dizzying way that confused my phone into auto rotating the photograph I took ( the one below). I was only slightly worried that the more serious, less horizontal walkers on the tops would assume I had collapsed; more concerned that vertigo would send me rolling off into the water. I basked in the sunshine feeling a little like I was looking down on the ravens who were flying aileron loops and barrel rolls, apparently just for the joy of it. Perhaps one of those walkers will will read this and be able to stop worrying; my last post was a lesson in never assuming total anonymity or invisibility just because I feel alone – one of those runners I described passing me as I wrote, turned out to be the lovely Hester Cox. We actually know each other a little and I love her work, but the unlikely setting/circumstances for a meeting had made us doubt our own eyesight! I like things like that, I like connections and co-incidences, random meetings and making links.

sonder

Anyway, I was happy to be outside with the sun in my face. After an endless winter I’d started to doubt my love of the fells and their ability to provide any kind of solace. I had a lot of thinking to do and it’s easier to think near water don’t you find? I was meant to be contemplating ten years of Witchmountain, ten years since getting my fabulous degree and this blog post was supposed to be all fanfares and party hats but, well of course this is real life. I ended up doing a trawl though 10 years of blog posts for entirely different reasons. Here she is, the Queen of the Mountains, the last of the Westwood Studio kittens (my parent’s farm), the end of a long line of familiars, the “bloody cat”, the muse for Rupert’s silly songs, she of the impossibly untouchable, temptingly fluffy tummy and lethal claws, the last of my Snilesworth companions… now only the imaginary bear is left.

The house is quiet today, I keep hearing the ghost of a bell but for the first time in my life I have no animal company. Hey ho Toast, happy hunting; I’m glad the sun shone on your last day.

Goodness! Are you still with me? I’m pretty conflicted about tragic pet posts -there is so much love, so very much, but I couldn’t help feeling how lucky she was to be able to leave peacefully, with dignity and without pain. As soon as we returned from the vets a bird landed on the windscreen and wouldn’t leave, Pied Wagtail, Polly-Wash-Dish, silly bird. Without voicing it at the time we both had the same thought, a transmigration of souls perhaps.


So…It’s April 2018! Two exciting things are going on at the moment, the first is this…

The Folklore exhibition opened in Bristol on Friday evening and it looked like a great night, very well attended. The images are all fascinating with such a diverse selection of artists and folk tales from around the world. It was something of an honour to be included in this curated show. It continues until April 18th and I think someone should turn it into book because I’d love to read more about the stories and why the artists chose them, their working practises and so on. Any publishers out there?

The second super exciting thing is that I got asked to provide images for two poetry pamphlets due for publication in May. Polly Atkin, from Grasmere, has been been so good to me since I first met her online around the time I moved the Lakes. Her poems have at times wrung deeply suppressed tears from me and on a more practical note she once leant me her swimming costume for an impromptu dip in Grasmere so I’m stupidly happy that one of my cyanotypes will be gracing the cover of her latest pamphlet. The two are published by New Walk Editions  and will be launched on 22 May at Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham.

More of that strange connectedness of life as my dad is just about to launch the project he has been working on with poet Alice Oswald. The exhibition of their watercolour and poetry collaboration opens in London on April 26th .

Now the day is slipping past and I forgot to eat lunch so I will save my ramblings about the past 10 years and the joys of trying to make this creative life pay its way until next time when there will also be news of a prize draw and other such sweeteners. Thank you so much for reading.

Here’s that cat again…an old embroidery sample from about 2009 that proves at least that my photography has improved slightly in the intervening years.

Reading: I just finished a proof copy of “The Psychology of Time Travel” by Kate Mascarenhas, out in August.  Watching and thinking about …

 

 

 

 

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Different Hills, Another Spring.

I’m sitting outside wrapped in assorted layers because today is the first day of British Summer Time, the sun has been shining bravely, the birds are singing love songs and it’s (slightly) warmer outside than in. With my slippered feet on the table and coffee mug balanced carefully on the bench beside me I can look over towards Maiden Moor and Catbells where groups of stick figures are silhouetted on the summits; a pair fell runners just puffed past and as usual I feel slightly guilty for being still and apparently idol. With all this Spring going on it’s hard to believe that just a week ago I was in Narnia, well Bristol. I travelled down by train and experienced the weird, dreamlike dislocation of hurtling through blizzards, the train tilting and banking like a fighter plane, through the occasionally looming Howgills, and eventually arriving in a city blanketed in white. City snow is not something I’ve experienced, not since a childhood winter in Providence, and it felt very surreal to be wandering deserted streets at 2am, following fox tracks and skittering about pretending to be a horse (this last means my phone is now smashed and held together with sellotape).
The rare treasure of three days with BOTH my children was made even more special by the peculiar, cocooning weather. The highlight (apart from snack suppers by the fire, snuggled up watching Paddington films) was a hair-raising drive to Glastonbury on the eve of the Vernal Equinox, where we had hoped to fly Jake’s drone for some exciting aerial photography. It was unbelievably cold though and so windy that flying was impossible so we just walked and talked and looked across the Vale of Avalon and wondered what it would be like to actually live there. A town so full of  crystal shops, vegan cafes and people wearing rainbow jumpers that it’s almost a parody of itself. It’s easy to be cynical and laugh at all the serious New Age types but I suddenly felt very much aware of a road not taken, or at least veered off in my 30s, and wondered if it wouldn’t be a more forgiving place to face life, particularly older age as a “crone”, than the Lakes with all it’s obsessive running, cycling and extreme swimming. I’m still a hippy at heart and there is something comforting about knowing places like that exist,  that not not everyone over 50 has to wear beige Goretex, run 10k before breakfast and stop playing horses. As Louise Chatfield  commented, on Twitter, it seems at least like a place that is non judgemental or about putting people in boxes. I can’t wait to return.

2am in Ashton, Bristol.

Back in the North I discovered (on #WorldWaterDay of course)  the the water had gone wrong again- this time either overflowing like Aira Force on to the doorstep or gone completely and I’m not going to deny that I feel at rock bottom, sorely tempted by some of the more outlandish forms of self-help therapies spotted in the Glastonbury Oracle. Unicorn interactions perhaps or a spot of Puppet Therapy; failing that a new umbrella so that the door step is easier to navigate! I love you Lake District but my patience is being tried.

Again I am pondering Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs particularly in relation to creativity – there are many exceptions of course and some would argue that strife feeds creativity but I do find it hard to justify drawing bears when I probably ought to be finding a more reliable way to help earn enough to meet the first level of the pyramid! Luckily I came home to a few welcome orders for wooden bears which ticks some issues in the “Esteem” box. I want to make more of these wooden pieces, perhaps a hare or a leaping fox… but so far this one has worked by far the best. I got some lovely new silk cords yesterday so he now comes with either a dark red or blue cord (or silver snake chain).

When I was in Bristol we had a look in Hamilton House where the Folklore exhibition organised by Gordy Wright opens next month. It’s a great place with loads of events, exhibitions and studios – what a dream it would have been to have something similar here in the old Cumberland Pencil Factory. Anyway, I’ve been working on a couple of illustrations and hopefully one will be getting printed and included in the exhibition… which one though ?

I’ve drawn myself a little hut by a lake and maybe if there is still magic in the universe and all that positive visualisation thing works it will one day be possible to find the illusive “Home” a place to belong, to build a garden again.

Meanwhile here is some proof of Spring, slowly unfurling .
( this time last year the pink blossom was already in full bloom and the white almost over)

Reading: A Line Made by Walking –  Sara Baume. Listening to : The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert  and Spiro who make the perfect music for swooping along Lake District roads pretending you’re in a film to.

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Wildlife, Water and Work in Progress

 

A little over a fortnight since my last blog post and I’m sitting quietly by the stove trying to work out if it’s even possible to coherently share some of the ridiculous things that have happened lately and where to start. This is where being a proper writer would help… or if only I’d taken pictures as proof. Well you’ll just have to imagine if you can:-  the aftermath of the snowstorms, the heating oil arrived at last, the cupboards restocked with Marmite and bread flour and all is as it should be; except that as the snow melted and spring seemed to be arriving, the water went off. Much of the country had similar problems including Jackie Morris and the designer/shepherdess  Alison O’Neil who both endured similar lengths of time with no running water (and electricity in Alison’s case). For 8 days, while waiting for the plumber, we wrestled with the ancient pump (the water comes up from a spring near the beck and it had frozen) and the horrible tanks in the attic; lugging buckets up from the beck for toilet flushing and wrecking my plastic free intentions by buying gallons of bottled water. It was horrible, one trip to the beck was enough for me, I ached all over and the romance of rural life was hard to see. It shouldn’t have taken so long to fix but the house is old and crumbling and the whole experience was incredibly stressful, dredging up memories of the last days at Snilesworth and making me militant about the absolute priority that should be given to making sure people all over the world have proper access to clean drinking water and sanitation. We take water for granted, especially in the Lake District and hardly ever stop to think how amazingly lucky we are. Water Aid do great work in this area, as I’ve mentioned before,  so maybe I’ll ask my landlords to make a big donation!

As a side issue we discovered that there was a monster living in the attic. We’d heard him moving his furniture around in the night but whilst battling with water tanks and  float switches in the terrifying attic, Rupert found the “droppings” of something evidently much larger than a mouse. Thankfully not rats, my friends assured me, but more weirdly … weasels or stoats. Really?! I haven’t been able to eat from the stoat plate since all our chickens got murdered when we moved here and now it seem the culprits live upstairs!

This house is connected to the old cottage next door, so we had a bit of sorting out to do in there too ( burst pipes, Aga issues etc) once the water was back on and I decided to put some of our washing up in their dishwasher since we don’t have one. The cottage is dark and slightly haunted, having been empty for a while, but I’m never too worried, even when I realised that the front door was ajar when I went in to collect my pots in the evening- I probably didn’t close it properly. In the back kitchen, loading my tray I heard a very strange noise and realised I wasn’t alone. Shuffling , scratching, banging sounds that were obviously a brutal burglar nicking the collection of Beatrix Potter figurines, came from the front room and I prepared to meet my doom armed with some crockery. Creeping round the corner I came face to face with a tawny owl who was jumping up and down on the windowsill trying to get out. As I write I can hear the owls, they call constantly even in daylight and I love them but not upset ones in a confined space. As I edged forward to try and open the door the owl swooped silently into the other room and eyed me from the top of a wooden screen before hurling itself into the mirror over the mantlepiece, scattering trinkets and old photographs.We played this game for half an hour- I considered taking photos and wish I had now but I just wanted to set it free without getting it’s talons stuck in me. Eventually the poor thing was so fed up of flying at the window that I managed to catch it (wearing an enormous pair of gauntlets that were lying  around- it’s that kind of place) and set her down on the gatepost outside, part of me wanting desperately to keep her. Away she flew, without a sound or a backward glance leaving me to recover from the shock. How did she get in, walking through the half open door or falling out of the attic after the plumber left a hatch open? Summoned by too many owl drawings and not enough flowers?

I feels though I’ve waffled on enough now, you probably had to be there, but anyway, it sets a scene. I live in a very odd place and I think if it weren’t for my precious, occasional bookshop days, I would be going a little bit crazy by now. It’s important to have a bit of human interaction and lately that has felt more important than ever.

When not fetching water or wrangling owls I’ve been drawing swans, preparing to send an image or two down for an exhibition in Bristol next month and being inspired by a folk tale based in Grasmere called the Hunchback and the Swan by Taffy Thomas , a local storyteller. I’ve just found this wonderful animation by Dotty Kultys based on the story today  


Isn’t it great and the music too! Now I need to keep drawing because I have lots of ideas but they’re not popping out how I want them too yet. Here is my swan, the Lady of the Lake.

Until next time. x

Reading: “A Line Made by Walking” Sara Baum  Listening to : ” TheBedlam Stacks” by Natasha Pulley ( audio book)

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