White Horses


This week I am practicing the philosophy and art of hygge, or gezellig if you want an even harder word to pronounce, because its definitely Autumn now and the average temperature in this house during the day (even with the stove on) is 16-18℃. I’m creating the illusion of warmth and coziness by building a nest in my little room and wrapping up in a friendly old, orange wool blanket.It’s silly that my fingers are so cold and it’s not even winter yet but I can warm them up by slipping my hands under the laptop, which is on my knee like a hot water bottle.

I’ve been driven a little bit mad by technology lately and the fact that I now have a computer that is so out of date the browser won’t even load Wikipedia (I’m keeping my fingers crossed WordPress stays as it is) and an iPhone with a splodgy camera lens and a battery life shorter than a goldfish’s memory (since it updated to ios10 it lasts about an hour). These are actually tools of my trade so I really need to think about investing in replacements but built in obsolescence infuriates me; constant software upgrades and “improvements” never seem to be worth it and always seem like a plot to force sales but maybe I’m the problem; reaching a point where I’m resistant to change and all fuzzy in the head from lack of brain stimulation. The thought of setting up a new computer makes me feel exhausted so I struggle on with Hot-water-bottle-Mac and Goldfish Phone and may as well be using a Box Brownie and a ZX81…besides I can’t afford it just now.


After I finished writing the last blog post I was so wide awake that I ended up watching old TV programmes on You Tube (which I never do) until 3am, before reading in bed until 4. The thing I watched was “The Moon Stallion” which was a BBC childrens’ TV series from 1978. I was on my own in the house that night, curled up by the fire watching something from my childhood- ultimate gezellig. I was struck by how much it had affected me at the time – when I was 11 and living in Wiltshire not far from the places in the story. It was slightly spooky. I think I was terribly serious and geeky about it when I was 11 which must have been either funny or annoying for my family, so watching it now I cringed a little in memory of my younger self and I wondered how a child of 11 would feel about it today; apart from a slightly cheesy fight scene it had aged quite well and will always be important to me, perhaps because it was part of  a year that marked the almost imperceptible “beginning of the end” of childhood. I remember being taken to see the White Horse at Uffington and Wayland’s Smithy and frightening myself by trying to climb the steep grassy banks… it’s an amazing place where it’s easy to believe in magic. I’ve been back several times over the years and even took my children there, one hot summer day, to spin around 3 times in the horse’s eye (don’t tell English Heritage).


You can see a little etching I did from around about that time in this post from 2012. I can see the etching from where I sit and the house does look so much like “home”.

Meanwhile in another century a woman on the cusp of 50 draws galloping white horses and lonely bears surrounded by papery flowers and wonders where the time went. You can see a little etching I did from around about that time in this post from 2012. I can see the etching from where I sit and the


I’ve been slowly adding more pictures to my Artfinder shop as well as listing some new Winter Snow Bears cards on Etsy which are selling really well so THANK YOU to everyone who has ordered so far. It really is true that “Just a Card” can make a big difference – not just financially but by boosting confidence too, making it so much easier when people ask “what do you do”. I’ve been baking too, making this stupidly delicious Ginger Crunch slice from the recipe given to me by Lucia’s in Grasmere. More addictive than crack but hopefully better for you, despite the butter and sugar, it makes me feel happy when I eat it because it reminds me that some people are kind and generous and friendly in a world that isn’t always so ( also a lot of these people seem to live in the Lake District). However I will soon be too enormous to fit in my wetsuit so I may have to learn self control.


I hope you are feeling gezellig where ever you are. Until next time x


“Water is another matter, has no direction but its own bright grace…”


Last weekend suddenly had nothing in it after plans changed at the last minute and for the first time in ages we had time to spend together, maybe even to go away. The outrageously unseasonal weather had been set fair for days and days and I’d met all my deadlines, delivering and collecting work at various galleries ( I made it to Lancaster despite Google maps directing me via Iceland); everything seemed perfect… yet I woke up on Saturday morning with the weight of the world on my shoulders. Sometimes it really feels as though these attacks of gloom and depression come from nowhere, that they’re somehow imagined or self inflicted, certainly not justified but there’s no doubt that the feeling of heaviness and inertia is real. It took a huge effort to get out of the house and into the van, I felt like a winkle being prised out of its shell and yet, as a pile of different books will tell you, nothing is better for a heavy heart than a good dose of the outdoors- if only you can get yourself out there. When I look at the picture above (of Coniston in October, not Lake Garda in August!) I get a tiny flashback to the utter bliss of being there and the way the water was so clear you almost wanted to breath it, autumn leaves and acorns bobbing about on the surface and the sun’s warmth on my face. Hydrotherapy.

“Everything on the earth bristled, the bramble
pricked and the green thread
nibbled away, the petal fell, falling
until the only flower was the falling itself.
Water is another matter,
has no direction but its own bright grace,
runs through all imaginable colors,
takes limpid lessons
from stone,
and in those functionings plays out
the unrealized ambitions of the foam. ” – Pablo Neruda


I have almost finished reading Amy Liptrot’s “The Outrun” which talks about overcoming addiction, partly by moving back to her childhood home on Orkney,  and her descriptions of swimming as well as the chapter about her online life really felt familiar. I was sad to be reaching the end of a good read but excited that this coincided with Bookshop Day and an excuse to visit one of my favourite bookshops Sam Read’s in Grasmere. We had an indulgent morning treating ourselves to new books, drinking coffee and eating delicious creamy gingerbread from Lucia’s and visiting Allan Bank to try and see squirrels. I’ve been to Allan Bank with various friends and family about 6 times this year and its always good to sit in the art room and do a quick sketch of the view through the window.


Its such a wonderful place to just sit and be. I really should make a habit of going regularly with a sketchbook because its sometimes much easier to be motivated when you’re out of your cozy rut and the light is coming from a different angle. Also there are squirrels.


By the end of the day we we had visited all my favourite places and clambered up some grippy,(mostly) friendly rocks to the top of a hill (whose name I’ve forgotten, sorry) with views for miles. I was a new person, trotting along in the fading light, back to the van to light the Kelly Kettle and eat cup-a-soup with peanut butter sandwiches before snuggling up to watch “Bake Off” while acorns ( I hope) thudded on the roof making us jump. I have heard that elsewhere in the world there was music and dancing, bright lights and fancy shoes but for once it just felt good to be tired for a reason and having a real holiday just 20 or 30 miles from home.


Finally, as this week see’s the opening of Arteria’s “Hygge” exhibition, I’m reading a book about the concept by Louisa Thompsen Brits which states that “Hygge is a feeling of belonging and warmth, a moment of comfort and contentment” and also  mentions the importance of “Shelter” … this is the idea I have tried to express in some of my work …or at least it is what I feel and yearn for in my own life. Part of the sadness that overwhelmed me on Saturday morning was the recent news from Haiti and around the world, of displaced people and divisive political rhetoric. I want to help but feel powerless. Back in 2010 I wrote this post about a fundraiser called “Hearts for Haiti” and I’m wondering about doing something similar… but for now here is a link to Shelterbox who I think offer really practical help, quickly, in disaster areas and places of conflict.


Reading: “The Book of Hygge” by Louisa Thompsen Brits and “The Sunlight Pilgrims” by Jenni Fagan

A Week of Rainbows

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” this quotation from “Anne of Green Gables seemed like the perfect opening line as I sit here musing about Autumn and October for the 9th year of writing this blog. The week began with the most perfect Autumn days, the kind that leave you with that chilly, fresh, energised feeling that I’ve only experienced before after emerging from a perfect swim in cold water… or a certain kind of bubbling, chemical induced excitement which I’ll pretend I’ve only read about. The air feels and smells different and it’s quieter here now that the summer is over; it’s a golden time before the winter begins. I’ve been taking stock, looking back at previous Octobers and thinking about the future.


The week was especially special because I had a pretty magical day out with my son. Normally whenever Jake visits me here in the Lakes it’s raining but this time it was warm and fizzy with light and colour. We drove over to Ullswater and Aira Force which I’d never seen before; it was beautiful – beams of sunlight through amber ale coloured pools, diamond droplets caught on moss and shifting rainbows hovering above the falls. There were also lots of acorns which I find it hard to resist childishly stuffing my pockets with when I’m out walking, but Jake told me I had to leave them for the squirrels (who were sensibly hiding from the tourists).


Ae well as wandering about constantly marvelling at the wonder of this place I’ve found myself living in I’ve been busy preparing work for a couple of really lovely galleries and their winter exhibitions. A set of cyanotypes with embroidered details- including this owl- went of to Emporium Gallery in Lichfield last week and tomorrow I’m off to the big city of Lancaster to deliver work to Arteria for their Hygge exhibition. As my  three month stint as guest artist at Cherrydidi in Keswick comes to an end I’m hoping to fill the gaps by really concentrating on my online shops which now include Artfinder for framed and mounted originals.


Now, the cat is beaming messages at me about something ( probably biscuits) and Rupert has suggested I meet him from his cycle ride at Crummock Water with the wetsuits so I’ll reluctantly leave you for now (and next time I’ll let you know whether swimming in a northern lake after sunset in October was a good idea… it doesn’t feel tempting from my cozy velvet cushioned nest just now). x


Listening to : Actually I couldn’t listen in case I got cross but I sent an e-mail which was read out on this radio programme about evictions. I also listened ( and danced about) live to the Carl Cox session from the closing event at Space which felt odd , alone in my house but connected by the magic of internet!

Honesty, Owls and the value of things.


I’m back in my box room nest with a mug of freshly brewed coffee, while the autumn wind shakes the Sycamore tree outside the window. I’ve been in that edgy, change of seasons mood lately; not sleeping well, writing whole novels in my head in the small hours, only to forget that perfect opening sentence and the motivation to capture it,  as soon as I’m properly awake. An owl has been calling in the branch right outside the bedroom and I imagine that it could look in through the arrow slit windows and see me, sleepless and lost in a world of memories, half baked plans and good intentions. I hear it screeching “terrrr-wit” and wait for the answering whispery “hoooo” that sounds as if it could be coming from right next to me, perched on the headboard like in Mr Magnolia by Quentin Blake.

mug by Witchmountain

The fells seemed to turn burnt umber overnight, the air is spicy with autumn scents and my favourite time of year in the Lake District has begun. The only thing I’m missing is the long days that meant there was time to swim after work; as it is we are wondering how long we will be brave enough to brave the cold water (or more importantly the cold wind on the shore as you try to struggle out of your wetsuit in a polite but speedy manner, stumbling about, bent double,often hobbled at the ankles by skin tight neoprene.) It’s ok once you’re in though and I’ve become a big fan of swimming in the rain when the water becomes spiky and textured like sparkling Artex and the raindrops momentarily stay on the surface like little pearls.  I want to be able to paint it, or film it or capture it somehow so I can show you.


Back in the “studio”  I’ve been busy getting things ready for a couple of exhibitions. Unsold work has been returned safely and sold work has been invoiced, allowing me to realise that I have made the basic error of royally ripping myself off by paying too much for framing and not charging enough to allow for gallery commission – which in some cases is over 50%. One piece which sold for £175 actually earned me £6 after all expenses!  I am not a businesswoman obsessed with making a fortune but I’m learning the hard way and after discussing this over and over again with other artists and makers the conclusion is always the same… just because we can’t afford the art/craft we love, it doesn’t mean we should devalue our own. A good friend of mine makes beautiful mosaic birds…she cuts the wooden bird silhouette, uses hand picked and cut fragments (often rare glass with precious metals), grouts, seals and adds hanging hooks. Each bird is beautiful, unique and  takes at least a day and a half to make… what is a fair price? We are so used to things being “affordable” by which we usually mean mass produced by low paid workers in other countries, that even in the gift shop where I work I regularly hear people muttering that something is too expensive when it is really a very fairly priced item, mass produced in England! We seem to have lost sight of “value” in anything other than monetary terms. I’m not sure what the answer is.

hand embroidery on paper

Well I do apologise for getting on my soap box as usual, I could tie myself in knots and, being over sensitive and ridiculously passionate I’m likely to slip on the soap and fall flat on my face.  Better to keep stitching and muddling through.

cyanotype and embroidery

Well, its almost time to go hunting in the kitchen for supper and in the hope that Rupert has decided to bake something fabulous to fatten us up for winter. The oven fused all the house electrics last week so we spent last night on the floor with our heads in the oven, fitting a new element and feeling pretty smug about being able to mend stuff. It took two people though, not like the instruction video on Youtube and I felt as though I was channeling Sylvia Plath at one point but honestly, how did people ever know how to do anything before the internet?

velvet owl cushion by Kim Tillyer

I’ve just found out about an exhibition inspired by Alan Garner’s “the Owl Service” book and had just listed this cushion called “She wants to be flowers” in my Etsy shop. It is definitely one of my very favourite books, written in the year I was born, so I’ll be making every effort to visit the exhibition as well as Blackden House. Thanks to Natalie for the information.

Until next time, a belated happy autumn equinox to you all where ever you may be. x

Buttermere sunset

Living with Trees



I’ve locked myself into my little room again with a mug of coffee and a Mars bar. Its hard to be in the house at the moment because it’s so dark and cool, shaded almost all day by the huge Sycamores that cut out anything but elusive patches of dappled sunlight and cover everything in sticky damp gloom; they are magnificent trees but I’m starting to look forward to leaf fall! The birds are singing very loudly and it feels as though Im in the tree with them. It seems as though it has been a wonderfully long summer – so many after work adventures that the days felt twice as long but still it’s hard to “waste” a day indoors when I can see the patches of blue sky through the leaves and I know it’s a perfect September day.

work in progress, ghost pony cyanotype

September brings with it memories of the last days of peace and security in my old life, of planting Autumn vegetables and planning for the next gardening year in my little cottage on the moors. I still wake in the middle of the night and wonder where I am; who I am even, not used to living under huge, noisy trees, just the big skies of the North York Moors. A couple of weeks ago I had another terrible shock when I found out that both the ponies we’d had to give away during the eviction were dead. Sadly the person who I’d trusted to give them a home, keeping them together, hadn’t felt the need to tell me that she was having problems so that when Basil apparently “died in his sleep” she had Impy destroyed, claiming he was aggressive and dangerous. I think I will never know what really happened, she wouldn’t give me more details and claimed she thought I wouldn’t care. I’m sure she had her reasons but to me it was another slap in the face from the past, un-necessary and un-feeling. Impy was a part of our lives since he was a foal… a cheeky little bugger but never mean. I hate injustice, he was wrongly convicted and  I find it so hard to accept (I’m fairly nervous about the Archers tonight too, I think  I might need therapy if Helen Archer is found guilty!) Anyway, rest in peace little ponies; I’m trying to draw them but a childhood of drawing nothing but ponies is letting me down just now… I can’t capture the essence of pony!

Snilesworth memories

I’ve also been trying to capture the essence of Lake District Cottage but receiving some mixed reactions. This design is now a book, card, mug and a vase, available in my Etsy shop and I’d love to know what you think.

Lake District Cottage

It was good to be able to re-open my shop at last; it had taken Etsy months to fix a glitch that repeatedly changed the spelling of Keswick to Koswick which may seem like a small issue but I have enough problems with spelling and punctuation without looking like I can’t spell the name of the place I live! I’m really hoping to make a go of Etsy this time as however much I love my wonderful stockists, especially those that buy upfront and help promote my work, the nature and volume of handmade work means it’s often vital for most artists to sell directly to the customer as well (especially if you happen to live half way up a mountain). Having worked in galleries and seen both sides I know that it is so important for artists and galleries to work together and have mutual respect… artists need real bricks and mortar shop fronts as well as virtual ones and galleries need to understand that artists aren’t all dizzy, insecure divas which is why I love the #JustACard campaign as it attempts to support all parties and spread the word about the importance of keeping these small, often rural, businesses thriving. I’m really proud of the cards I design and sell… one of the main reasons for this is that I have chosen to have them printed by another small, rural business so every sale I make is also in a small way supporting another creative business in the area. Emma and her family have been so supportive and are as committed as I am to trying to keep things as eco-friendly as possible; if you haven’t seen their website yet you are missing out, go right now and look…oh no, read to the end of the page first and then go (and look out for the card with me and my dad painting in the garden!)

handmade book

Well, there is still time for me to take a quick wander up the valley before getting back to work so I will leave you with this image of Rupert half way up a rock face. He is away this weekend which is why I’m eating chocolate and writing instead of attempting to be brave whilst tied to a tree on an ant infested rock (not as kinky as it sounds). Last week we walked up fells with only deer and sheep for company, swam in inky smooth, sunset tinted lakes and climbed giant rocks where fear could be momentarily calmed by the sight of a perfect, delicate, fairy toadstool clinging to a mossy ledge (and I am still recovering from the midge bites that turned me hot, red and angry even before the Labour Party rejected my application to join… but thats another story) and it feels as though we live in the most special place despite everything. I keep thinking about the title of a book by artist Sabrina Ward Harrison– “Brave on the Rocks- if you don’t go, you don’t see” and just keeping going because turning around and trying to go back is often much, much harder.

climbing on Castle Rock

READING: “The Outrun” by Amy Liptrot   LISTENING TO: “Meet the Humans” Steve Mason

“September’s coming soon, pining for the moon…”

Towaards Blencathra and Skiddaw

“Nourish yourself with grand and austere ideas of beauty that feed the soul… Seek solitude,”  Delacroix.                                                                                          I’ve been wondering what exactly is keeping me from writing more frequently….or making new work for that matter and I can only assume it must be that I now have company in my rural idyll. Solitude is important to many creative people and even though I still have loads of time to myself, only work part time in the day job and have my own small space to retreat to, the balance has shifted now that Rupert is also living and working here. I’m spending less time wandering lonely as a cloud and more time going on mini adventures together after work; more importantly for the writing of this blog, I’m not sitting up all night drinking shed loads of coffee alone with the radio (actually its never been the same since Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour got moved to daytime; I blame the BBC). I must find a new routine and the discipline to go with it because the reality of  living in a draughty barn is that it’s much nicer when there’s company.

rainbow over Crummock Water

Daily routine and self motivation when you’re self employed is a subject that fascinates me because to the outside world it can look like you’re doing nothing and achieving even less… the idea of “working from home” often being a euphemism for laziness or sitting around in your pyjamas. I enjoyed the series of essays in the Guardian called “My Writing Day” which gave an insight into how successful writers actually get stuff done. In contrast my writing “day” means I uploaded the pictures for this post last week, started writing it, got distracted, had to go to work, had house guests and now a week later I have spent most of today looking at the rain, sorting old clothes for the charity shop, half starting an order for a gallery and suddenly deciding to spring clean the bathroom while my computer sits forlorn and resentful next to a pile of neatly cut out prints and calico squares for covering notebooks ( I am dressed though). I assume I’m not alone in behaving like this but it’s hard to tell when you’re halfway up a mountain and only have social media to compare notes with.

Home in the Woods Kim Tillyer

The summer seems to be flying by and some of the exhibitions I’ve been showing work in are almost over before I’ve had a chance to tell you about them. Despite all that  I lost when I was forced to move I have to admit that this year has opened up so many opportunities for me. Until early September you can find these two pieces (and more) in the Byard Gallery, opposite Kings College in Cambridge!  (when I was small I once accompanied my dad on a day trip to Cambridge where he was showing work at the Hobson Gallery; I remember telling him I planned to go to Cambridge, meaning the University of course but this almost makes up for my turning out to be more of a drop out than a high flyer!). There are also prints and jewellery in the Leeds Craft and Design Centre, cards and notebooks in the Leaping Hare Gallery, Easingwold and of course Cherrydidi in Keswick who have a small selection of eveything.

Lakeland Garden Kim Tillyer

A couple of weeks ago I ran my second cyanotype workshop at the Greystoke Cycle Cafe. I have to admit I was dreading it as the forecast was for horrible weather and the forecast was right, it was dark and wet. In the end though, and looking back, I really enjoyed it- and so did they I hope. We managed to make loads of really lovely prints even in low light and with only a very small exposure unit between eight people; braving the weather to rinse prints under a gazebo with a hosepipe. Sometimes it feels a bit mad to be telling people how you make your work but it’s been so satisfying to have students get in touch with images of things they’ve made since the course and know that they were inspired and excited by what they learnt. One of my students was an artist called Tracey Escolme who makes paper cuts, she is part of next month’s C-Art if you are in Cumbria during September. A few people have asked if I’m doing any more courses and I’m hoping Annie will ask me back next summer; I’m also thinking about maybe doing some small half days here (mostly as an excuse to make coffee and cake) so do get in touch if you’d like to be added to a possible list of participants.

witchmountain window

Have you noticed how I’ve been really good and not mentioned swimming? Well I have to just a little because I was pretty brave the other day and swam with Rupert to a little island on Derwent Water called Otterbield Island. Its not far and I won’t be qualifying for the Olympics but it was a small breakthrough in distance and conquering fear- the vertigo of swimming in bottomless dark water. I felt a bit tired and slightly panicky at one point and had to rest on my tow float (I got it for this reason because it allows me a moment to pause and have a word with myself as well as making sure the launch doesn’t run us down) but the water was mirror smooth and the evening was perfect, sunset and moonrise and “Nightswimming” by REM in my head. I also had a fun swim in the River Avon at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, with my daughter recently… very different to Lake swimming and one of the best days I’ve had for ages.; a miniature holiday that felt very special.

Wistful in the mountains!

Anyway, the day today is not conducive to swimming today and it’s almost time for tea so I’m going to do a spot of baking and build some extra layers of insulating blubber for my next outing! Here is a rare self portrait of me pondering solitude and creativity by the water a few weeks ago.

Reading:- “The Gap of Time” Jeanette Winterson  Listening To:- Nightswimming REM

“Just put your feet down child, the water is only waist high, I’ll let go of you gently, then you can swim to me.”

kitchen studio

I made myself a nest of velvet pillows, a strong coffee and promised I’d write while it rains the now customary July deluge outside. I think it’s probably been the longest gap in my blog posts since I began 8 years ago but at least this gap has been a relatively good one and not caused by rotten boyfriends or evil landowners.  Since April I have been in a strange place… simultaneously showered with positive comments and opportunities, whilst wracked with a deeper than ever lack of self belief and confidence. No sooner had I returned from British Trade Craft Fair with a book full of contacts and exhibition offers then I panicked and started looking for part time work, any work that was regular REAL work. I think it’s called Imposter Syndrome and it’s very common apparently, especially amongst us over sensitive “arty types”! Anyway, I ended up with a part time job at the Herdy Shop, some regular stockists for my work, some exhibitions and even occasional workshop teaching, so of course I’ve been rushed off my feet and become rich beyond my wildest dreams. That’s a lie, I’ve been pinned to my chair by inertia on the days I don’t work at the shop and bursting with frustrated creative energy on the days that I do; well I’ve always been a fickle creature. On balance though I have to say things have been moving slowly in the right direction since BCTF and really ever since moving to the Lakes. Things have been happening and nothing has stayed the same which is probably why I’m not always comfortable… I’ve been compared to a limpet, hard to shift from the security of my “home scar”.

cyanotype by Kim Tillyer

There is a little house on the side of Cat Bells which looks from a distance as though it is totally isolated and empty; in fact it’s quite hard to see, framed by trees and slate grey like the mountainside (not like this little white cottage of my imagination). I wonder who lives there… more than anything else I imagine myself living there as I do with lots of the idyllic places here in the Lake District. A home, a place to dig and plant and light a stove for bread and coffee. It makes me sad to see empty places and the culture of property as investment, I’m a romantic idealist with no understanding of economics which is probably why I will never own my own home and will always wish I did.


Needlefelt sheep by Kim TillyerThe best investment I’ve made this year was made on a muggy day in May when I had been feeling really low and anxious about returning to Osmotherley for Art in the Shed. Rupert was driving us through Ambleside when on an impulse I demanded we stop and look in the outdoor swimming shop and maybe find out about wetsuits. Before I knew what was happening we were stripped off and being politely squeezed into black rubbery suits in the tiny warm shop and trying not to panic (I’ve been trapped in changing rooms before unable to extricate myself from a too tight top so I was wary). Rupert, being shy, left his shirt on which gave the bizarre impression that his wetsuit had a collar and was maybe a little more formal than mine. Anyway, Pete from “Swim the Lakes” was wonderful and patient while we giggled and struggled and we left the shop £300 lighter with two big pizza style boxes containing our shiny new wetsuits and that giddy feeling when you’ve done something a bit naughty.

It was over a week before we finally got to immerse the wetsuits for the first time (Art in the Shed turned out to be a great success and I was reminded -though I never really forget -how important my old friends are to me and that community of supportive women that I miss so much in my new life.) We were cautious, I’m the kind of person who swims at the edge of the pool and still worries that someone may release sharks through the air vents (blame James Bond and several bad swimming instructors in the the 1970s) The moored boats which looked so close suddenly seemed miles away. Swimming in the open air is so different … everything is moving around you, clouds, trees in the wind, ripples on the surface and it feels as though you’re not getting anywhere; only the mountains stand still. The wetsuits give you a strange buoyancy and it took me a while to realise that the best thing to do was relax, slow right down and just enjoy the sensuality of it, I’m doing it for pleasure not sport. Kelly Kettle tea and Digestive biscuits are part of the deal, taking part in triathlons is not.

swimming in Bassenthwaite

Since the first tentative dip I am slowly gaining a little confidence. I’m not particularly fit and I’d like to be before I risk swimming too far but it is the test of mental strength that interests me more. In Loughrigg Tarn the shady bank, warm, silty mud and waving tendrils of water plants initially worried me …what is below me? what if I can’t touch the bottom? What if a swan gets angry? Fear of the unknown, of the dark, of trusting in your own abilities. It’s a kind of vertigo and the only way I can deal with it is to concentrate on what I see above the water… I am surrounded by water lilies, yellow flag irises and reeds with clumps of slimy eggs like frog spawn (water snail? fish?). I am Ophelia in a Pre-Raphaelite painting,  I’m no longer a dumpy middle aged woman in unflattering Neoprene. The water is holding me up and I swim further than before. In Blea Tarn we swam in the rain, mesmerized by the patterns of concentric circles as the raindrops fell. It felt ancient as though something from the ice age could still be lurking and I could feel the stroke of soft weeds on my ankles.  Suddenly Rupert stood up, the water wasn’t as deep as I had thought, the comedy of it lost as he told me the rock we had been aiming for was actually a drowned calf! Still it was exhilarating and somehow all the better for the rain.

infinity pool, Lake District

And so, before you run away because you really didn’t want to read about swimming, here is the reservoir above the house (I’m not sure if you’re allowed to swim really but its our drinking water so…). Icy cold infinity pool and deeper than anything. I have walked past it when the surface was crystallizing to ice before my eyes and it was deep in the shadow of the fells but conquering my fear and swimming across its bottomless depths has been a real achievement for me. The picture below was taken by James from Cumbria House B&B in Keswick. He and Ruth joined us one afternoon for the comedy of “changing into wetsuits in public without revealing your bum”. I was again transformed into a small black pudding while Ruth actually does look like a Pre-Raphaelite painting and is the most lovely person. making me feel welcome when I first came here and knew nobody.

Swimming, picture by Ruth Burgess, Cumbria House B&B

Well, I’ve managed to spend all day pondering over this writing, no wonder I don’t do it very often, it’s time to cook and make more coffee. I promise I will write again soon with an update on exhibitions and stockists and arty things and I (probably) won’t mention water once…

Reading: “Dip” by Andrew Fusek Peters    Listening To:   “The Fog” Kate Bush