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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Life in the Snow Globe

March winds doth blow… This morning I was roused from my warm bed by a phone call from the oil company ” apparently you’re up to your knees in snow so we won’t be able to reach you for a few days” Ah well, it was only to be expected; the country is gripped by a sudden, belated burst of real, old fashioned winter and naturally, I have run out of heating oil and Marmite. Yesterday’s sparkling perfection has been replaced by a wild, knife sharp wind, stirring horizontal drifts which are interspersed with slow spirals of new settling snow. The flakes appear sometimes to rise back up again as if undecided. We are inside a snow-globe in the hands of a particularly rowdy child.

The first thing I did, once firmly wrapped in assorted layers and the stove had been fed, was to cook a pan of brown rice to feed the birds. They’re out there now, occasionally blown sideways and it’s quite funny to watch Mr Nutty the Nuthatch adapt his feeding style to eating from a pan on the ground-he would much rather be upside down and seems out of place on a flat surface. Blue, Coal and Great Tits as well as squabbling Robins and a Blackbird or two have also visited, but no sign of Mr Pecky the Woodpecker, I do hope he is safe somewhere.

If you have been reading this blog for a while you might know that normally I would be in my element, despite the lack of heating. Being snowed in has traditionally been my absolute favourite time for creativity, reflection and self indulgence; an excuse to re-read “The Long Winter” and  “Moominland Midwinter” whilst wrapped in blankets by the stove. This time I’m feeling a little out of sorts and thinking, be careful what you wish for. Loneliness  is a bit of a hot topic at the moment ( if you’ll excuse the irony) and whilst I won’t deny I love  my rural solitude and actively need periods of isolation to feed my imagination, it feels very different to the winters in Yorkshire. I suppose living on the edge of a community that one is part of  and knowing family and friends are close, is very different to living in a place where you realise that there is actually no one to call on if you need to, which is why today was encouraging. For the first time in 3 years our neighbour from the next farm drove over to ask if I was ok and if I needed anything! I think extreme weather brings out the best in people and it made me quite emotional. The past 3 years have brought so many new challenges but the main one has been dealing with feeling displaced and unsure of my own new identity and here is a thing… don’t assume someone will ask for help or company, it’s really hard to ask, especially if you’re shy, fiercely independent or have a historical reason to mistrust neighbours on quad bikes. That thing about checking in with people is really important though, we should all try to reach out moreI think.

Last weekend I was in Grasmere house and dog sitting for the bookshop people. It was the most perfect crispy clear, sunny winter weekend and I even spent time snoozing in a chair outside listening to an audio book. In the evenings I sat by the Aga and became hopelessly addicted to watching  “Anne with an E” on Netflix. Oh, it’s been a very long time since I first met Anne Shirley and something about the opening credits, the Tragically Hip soundtrack and the story of a girl just wanting to belong somewhere made me weep like a fool, and laugh and then weep again. There is something especially moving about revisiting childhood stories as an adult and if I had worked harder at school I’d be able to write you a learned essay on why Anne of Green Gables is more than just a cute kid’s book…for me it’s something to do with optimism and a sense of place, the importance of  landscape, acceptance of difference and feeling at home…  “Its strange to love a place like you would a person, but I do!”. Anyway I bought the book when I worked in Sam Read’s  and will spend the rest of World Book Day reading and channeling my inner Anne.

I’ll be drawing the winner of my Newsletter Subscribers Draw later, I can’t quite believe it’s March! April marks the 1oth anniversary of this blog as well as 10 years since I graduated from CCAD with my shiny First Class Honours degree and set out to make my fortune. Hmmm, fortunes are hard won and the road is definitely full of pot holes but in the mean time I’ll keep on feeding the birds, drawing bears and wondering about the further adventures of this character…

Hell’s teeth it’s cold…keep warm. x

Reading “Anne of Green Gables” L.M. Montgomery Listening to: “Ahead by a Century” Tragically Hip

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Unwritten Fairytales and Lost Horizons

I’m blaming my new glasses for the time it has taken me to settle down to write tonight- that and the mountain of pancakes I made (it’s Pancake Day here in the UK) even though I’m home alone (banana with maple syrup and whipped cream, mmmmm ). I got new varifocals last week and they make me feel like somebody else; somebody I don’t like the look of, who most probably took a large dose of Mescaline or whatever makes the carpet come to life in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; the floor now ripples in a disconcertingly trippy way! The new frames, which I’d hoped would make me look more à la mode, remind me of my first pair of NHS glasses when I was about 8; the world has a frame around it again and I’m reliving all my childhood hangups about being the kid with glasses.

*I just looked up à la mode and it can also mean “topped with ice cream” …

February has been beautiful so far and a little bit of motivation has returned. The late winter snow seems to be an inspiration every year and I’ve been busy making new things, doing some drawings in my digital sketchbook and going on  small winter adventures. Last week we went up Carrock Fell and, after worrying my way up the steep bit, I lost myself in admiring the scattered diamonds, wind etched snow fields and iced bun rocks. We drank hot tea in a shelter cairn and I  galumphed along following Rupert’s footprints on the stumbly trek back down. There was a cloud full of snow behind us, the wind spun powder in to our faces and the snow was up to my knees in places; I couldn’t stop thinking of the film Lost Horizon. In the picture above, you can just see the sunbeam hitting a group of trees at Skiddaw House, one of the most remote hostels in the country, miles from any road- perfect spot for an artist’s retreat!

I’ve been making new lampshades and making the most of bright days to photograph them- which seems a little back to front. Each one took longer than ever to make as I got carried away with the embroidered details and deciding, after continuing with the exercises in my Dream Plan Do book, that what I enjoy most about my work is making something really special that can sometimes take days to complete. The shades and lamps have just as much work in them as a framed piece,  so that although pricing will always be difficult, I have made a promise to myself that I will stop undervaluing these pieces.

I’ve had a complete creative block lately and felt really quite low but in the last couple of days I’ve made time to mess about with my Wacom drawing tablet and found myself doing what I always used to do as a child which was drawing stories  just for fun and escapism. The little house, above, started off after driving past the white climbing hut at Stair. As I drew and played with the Kyle T. Webster brushes, the hut evolved into strange a fairytale that hasn’t quite been put in to words yet….

Today my lovely friend Susie , from Glaisdale where we both grew up, shared a picture of her mum who would have been 100 today. The picture was of a small girl with big boots and an enormous hair ribbon. Anyway I had some more fun doodling my imaginary version, perhaps she lives in the little white house? perhaps she’s just going to visit? Either way it’s nice to retreat into your imagination when it’s cold outside and your glasses are upsetting you.

Now, I have promised myself that I’ll print two more pieces of fabric tonight ready for stitching tomorrow so I’ll start to pipe down. The room smells of snowdrops and it’s time for a cup of something warm. There are other things to talk about… how it’s easy to get cocky and mess up all but one of your printed tiles by forgetting to rotate the writing, how the one mythical chilblains become a real thing when taking photographs in the snow and how it is possible, even when feeling a bit fed up , that some excellent fiddle playing might cause you to stop the car to dance a jig on the darkened fell side like the shadow of the girl  you used to be.

Reading: “Wildwood-a Journey Through Trees” Roger Deakin.   Listening to: The Gloaming  and ” The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock” Imogen Hermes Gowar (Audio book)

 

Intentional Dreaming – sugared almonds, paper houses & a year of colour.

I’m under my special blanket, by the stove, wrapped in 117 woollen squares knitted by my Great Grandma for my parent’s wedding in 1962 (which turned out to be a famously cold winter so I’m sure it was welcomed). I’ve been watching the snow covered mountain tops, behind the house, turn all shades of rosy, sugared almond pink, against a sky of ice blue, as the sun set; wishing I’d timed my short walk up the valley better and knew more about camera settings. Never mind, I did that thing we should all do more of and just looked and said “ooooh” and was “present in the moment”. Now night has fallen, the cat is snoring and my fingers have just about thawed out enough to type…but I feel a bit stuck if I’m honest. The pressure to maintain an upbeat public persona and maintain a stiff upper lip in times of adversity can be stifling (and dishonest in my opinion). Nobody wants even more gloom in the gloomiest month of the year but, for the record, 2018 so far has been … difficult. I’m fully prepared to be optimistic , it would just be nice to have a little balance for a change, a “good news, bad news” situation instead of a general trend towards worry, jumping when the phone rings and eating way too much rice pudding as comfort food. Anyway, here is a seasonal antidote, something really fun and absorbing that I found yesterday on the Makelight website. Emily Quinton and her husband Stef have developed an app. called #YearOfColour which extracts the colours from your Instagram pictures and creates really interesting palettes of colour, grouped according to popularity, time of year and so on. I found it fascinating and surprising to see the results for Witchmountain (where did all that sandy beige come from?!) and it’s a really useful design tool.

I’ve been tempted to do one of Emily’s online photography courses so that next time I won’t miss catching the mountain glow.In the meantime I tried to take advantage of some beautiful winter sunlight today to take a few pictures of prints which have recently come back from an exhibition in Keswick and need to be listed on my website. I noticed an ancient, painted over nail on the porch of the cottage next door so I made a little outdoor gallery and wrestled with reflections. What a beautiful afternoon though; the kind of air that feels like a cool drink and signs of spring everywhere.

 The exhibition had been in Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake and it was encouraging  to receive a few website sales this month, from people who had seen work there.
The bumpy start to the year and my decision not to do British Craft Trade Fair has left me feeling as though I’m drifting a bit but that’s not always a bad thing… who knows what opportunities and inspirations will be found wherever  that current takes me.

I mentioned the Dream, Plan, Do journal in my last post and last week I made a start on the first sections of the book which aim “to help you focus on your vision, future and values.” So here’s a confession… I couldn’t do it. I felt intimidated by my apparent lack of focus and clear direction after nearly 10 years of being “Witchmountain” but most of all I was unable to contemplate the question ” How old will you be in 2030, how about your parents, children, partner?”. As I say, it’s been difficult lately (the stuff that makes us human – love, loss, ageing …you don’t need to know the details) and I still have’t got used to being 50 let alone been able to imagine being 62! To cut a long story short I closed the book, retreated into another good story (The Night Circus) and decided to peek warily at the Facebook group that runs along side the planner instead. And here is why it’s sometimes ok to admit when things are crappy and your life isn’t looking like a styled Instagram shot; because it turned out I wasn’t alone. Loads of other people were saying the same things or asking similar questions, dealing with all sorts of bad stuff and supporting each other. Encouragement and understanding and practical solutions abound in groups like that, and yes, you can end up spending too much time Dreaming and not enough time Doing if you’re not careful, but I picked the planner up again and didn’t feel quite so alone (so thanks Patricia and the Dream,Plan,Do team). I got a similar feeling to the one I got last summer, packing up after Art in the Pen, which was that I was slightly awestruck by the resilience and determination of so many creative people who are usually juggling all sorts of plates, some with jagged edges, and without those people the world really would be eternally January.

In other news I gave away a lovely original hare print last month as part of my Newsletter Subscribers Draw and this month there will be another (nice) surprise for somebody so do subscribe if you haven’t already (and tell all your friends). I’m also going to be doing lots of other random giveaways throughout the year as part of my celebration of 10 years of writing this blog.
The little paper houses in the picture above are a FREE pdf download on my website in the Cards section of the shop where, should you be in the market for one, you could also find some perfect cards for Valentines Day 😉

Enough sales talk, I’m off to stitch tiny cross stitches into paper whilst watching whodunnits on Netflix.One final thing about that planner…I haven’t reached the page yet but I’ve gathered that people have to choose a keyword for the year. I have come up with two (because I fancy being self indulgent) they are RESILIENCE and CONNECTION, I don’t think you can have the first without the second so this is the year I want to spend more time with the people I care about, keep in touch with old friends and building connections with new ones. If you’re reading this then that includes you. Thank you x

Reading: “The Mitford Murders” Jessica Fellowes. Listening To : “How to Stop Time” Matt Haig ( on Audible) and “Charlotte Anne” Julian Cope

 

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Re-emergence

Here I sit on the 3rd day of the year, a nuthatch is attacking the bird feeder,  and apart from the kettle bubbling on the stove, the house is momentarily empty and quiet. I’m trying to gather some thoughts to cobble together this blog post but after nearly a month with no phone or internet, combined with the blurring together of days over Christmas, I feel as though I’ve emerged like Rip Van Winkle, blinking and out of time. Yesterday the phone was finally fixed (a giant battle with EE for compensation begins) and I am so joyful at being able to speak to my family in a warm room instead of shivering half way down the lane. I  missed Christmas as far as my work goes … no access to the website or ability to promote myself through social media has probably resulted in fewer sales,  but the radio silence has made me even more acutely aware that it is the connections we make with other people that really matter in life. Isolation can be a terrible thing and cannot be compared to chosen solitude. Anyway, all communications are working again now, I didn’t have to start training pigeons and the new year stretches ahead like a clean sheet of paper. I’m sharpening metaphorical pencils and preparing to make the first marks.

We had some sparkling days in December, when the path to the reservoir was studded with emeralds and rocks in the Scope Beck were encased and smoothed by shells of ice. Lakes reflected skies like water colours and kept reminding me of  my dad’s paintings, as I wandered about being over emotional and nostalgic – a side effect os the season.

I had that “end of term” feeling in December as the last of the year’s orders went out. It’s a good feeling, to have cleared my desk, done the tax return and temporarily downed tools but also tends towards panic as the pressure to build on this year’s successes grows. I made the decision not to do British Craft Trade Fair this year which means I’m going to have to work really hard to be visible (the internet outage couldn’t have come at a worse time!) and hopefully keep the galleries I’ve worked with in 2017 interested as well as finding some new opportunities. Art in the Pen was so good for me that this year I’m hoping to do a few more similar events as well as getting my act together with the plan to run small workshops here. I like the idea of hosting small groups, running informal “kitchen table” style workshops and finally being able to use my “Brownie Guide Hostess Badge” skills (endless cups of tea and cake) .

Really I should have spent the month of no internet working on a new collection of designs and pouring over my  “Dream, Plan,Do” journal ( setting “juicy goals ” ugh, no! ) but instead I retreated in to a book and it was the best thing I could have done. I’d wanted to join in a Twitter read along thing dreamed up by Robert Macfarlane and Julia Bird, the idea was to read  “The Dark is Rising“, a children’s classic by Susan Cooper, mirroring in real time the days described in the story, starting on Winter Solstice eve. I managed to find a hideous 1990’s copy in Oxfam which included all five books in the sequence ( The Dark is Rising is the second but they all could stand alone) and set about retreating from real life for a while. It was a shame I couldn’t join in with the #TheDarkIsReading discussions online but I feel as though it was perfectly timed ; descriptions of winter landscapes, dark lanes, ominous crows and battles with “the Dark” came easily to mind as I spent many hours standing alone in the pitch dark and bitter cold trying to make phone calls!  There is something comforting about reading books associated with childhood and I raced through all five volumes, able to briefly forget my worries. It reminds me of the winters of 2009/2010 when the heavy snow meant enforced seclusion and retreat (on that occasion in to  Tove Jansson’s Moominland Midwinter) ; I think we all need this escape/hibernation from time to time and it has left me more able to face the January chill and the uncertainties of another year so thanks for the prompt Robert and Julia.

 

Goodness, the fire is a disgrace; despite frantic wood collection and much sawing by Rupert and his brother over the past few days (the woodpile got wet when the basement flooded last night during Storm Eleanor). My fingers have gone numb. It’s time for me to think about supper and finding something dry to burn… or another jumper…

Happy 2018 to you and thank you as always, for reading . This blog will have it’s tenth birthday in April so there will be things to win and tiny celebrations. For now I will leave you with this “Best9” image that seems to sum up 2017 in all its beautiful shades of blue, green and grey.

Reading; “The Night Circus”  by Erin Morgenstern  Listening to: “How to Stop Time ” by Matt Haig ( audio book) and trying to forget the hours of Christmas tunes played in a loop by EE customer services.