Tag Archives: Lake District

Introspection and Indiscretions

Mid September and I’m trying to be still, to take stock of the year so far and also recognise how far have I come from that sunny September day (3 years today) when my life was turned upside down by a chance remark – and how far I have yet to go towards accepting my new reality. A recent spur of the moment decision to visit family and friends at “home” in Yorkshire left me with a terrible feeling of not belonging anywhere (yet) – old friends were away and too much had changed. I walked around Town like a deer in the hunting season, all full of adreneline, in case I should see Enemies (at one point retreating to my car for a few tears and the coffee I’d hastily tipped into a flask to escape the loneliness of a window seat for one). It’s pretty hard for people to understand because on the face of it life here in the Lakes is pretty bloody idyllic and I can’t argue with the fact that the enforced change has opened doors to exciting places and brought unimagined new joys … but thats not the point, it wasn’t my free choice to leave at that time. The prodded, still raw, emotions made me overflow with empathy for displaced people everywhere and wish more than anything that I could be of use somehow.In Costa, where the only newspapers were the Daily Mail and the Sun I felt like an outsider, even me with my privileged, white, middle class cappuccino, wondering how much worse it would feel to be a refugee or asylum seeker. Homesick for a place that no longer exists. I try to raise money for charities like Shelterbox but it doesn’t seem enough; one bleeding heart idealist giving the odd tenner, however it is an amazing thing they do, so if my brief wallow in the past informs one person about their work then that’s good isn’t it? ( theres also a very neglected post on my Facebook Page which has some things for sale to raise money for them)

And so the colour palette changes again – hot pink, steel grey, purple blacks, russet and velvet brown-  and I wish and wish I was a painter – or at least was able to express what I feel and see in some satisfying way. The Rosebay Willow Herb has climbed to the top of its stems and the last few magenta flowers are held above downy clouds of seed feathers, bright memories of a summer that seemed to be over before it had started. The joyful discovery of this summer was swimming without a wetsuit ( the wetsuit gives me floaty legs and I end up in a skydiving position with a crick in my neck – I’m really not a good swimmer!) and I can hardly believe that this picture, taken just a few weeks ago was probably the last one before next spring. There’s been so much rain that all the water temperatures have dropped and since I do it so infrequently there’s no chance to get acclimatised to the cold like some of the real swimmers are. Still, I might give it a go and I’m hoping one day to get  some tips from local swimming guru  Susanna Cruikshank who has just set up a new business as a swim guide and might help me progress from being a head up dipper to someone who can swim more than 25 metres without getting hiccoughs. (EDIT we went and swam in Ullswater last night as I was half way through writing this and I got in again for a moment or two after the wetsuit bit – it was chilly but bliss).

Continuing to assess the year;  as far as work goes I’ve been up and down and round in circles and back up again. Sometimes things have worked really well and I feel quite surprised at myself; the digitally doodled Jackdaw I drew the other night for example or this hare print which is now a lamp, heading to Shetland, Bonhoga Gallery  next week. Other times I feel so cross with the whole thing I just wish I could get a regular job as a gardener or bake cakes for a living- everybody likes cake and gardens never stop growing but people don’t always NEED a card or a piece of art, its undoubtably a luxury. I was really excited by the response to the “Just A Card Blog” interview I did earlier in the month, it had been a bit of an ambition to get some nice exposure and help promote their campaign message. On Twitter at least, I felt briefly famous and successful … it’s only when I tell you that barely 3 people looked at my website because of it and there were no extra sales that you start to realise that our social media bubbles are like a hall of mirrors, reflecting distorted versions of your own thoughts back at you … the brutal reality is we need to reach customers not just other creatives.

Its also vital that people realise why work is priced as it is – I’m probably being terribly indiscreet and unbusinesslike ( what’s new) but 0n Saturday at a wonderful open studio in the Eden Valley I got into discussion with a visitor who praised my work but said it was “too expensive” in her opinion. I’ve said it so many times, and I know I’m preaching to the converted because you’re here reading this, so you probably understand, but listen – a piece of art or anything you see in any shop probably has at least a 50% mark up (shops and galleries have bills to pay too) that means that if you half the price of a print which retails at  £70 you’re left with £35 from which to take the cost of materials (the paper alone can be about £6 a sheet), time, framing or mounting and all the other expenses ( including the years of learning the technique, making preliminary sketches, thinking and planning). Nobody’s getting rich quick like that.Having said that we recently walked in on a customer in an outdoor equipment shop rudely accusing the staff of  “just wanting to make money like all the other shops in this town” which was pretty crazy when you think about it, so maybe its not jus a problem in the creative industries.

September 28th has been planned as #JustACard Day ; a chance to really spread the word about the importance of even apparently small sales to keeping independent shops thriving in our high streets and supporting artists and makers – if only by spreading more understanding of the issues around this kind of business. There are a few ways to get involved so do follow the link and see what it’s all about.

I almost lost my nerve a bit while thinking about what to write this time. There is a strong case for the whole “keeping up appearances/positivity attracts positivity/you’re in business so don’t be so open” school of thought but actually I’m bored with that kind of dishonesty; the extreme end of which is “fake news” and other evils of these unsettling Trumpian Times. Anyway, it is what it is and I’ll end by singing about the good things… the walks in the now familiar fells (who have shaken the moths out of their brown velvet coats and scented them with woodsmoke), the postman arriving with surprise, unsolicited book gifts, the re-discovery of yoga ( yeah, like the rest of the world we’re rolling around on the carpet most days trying to follow Adriene Mishler videos without falling over or getting attacked by the cat or distracted by the mousetrap going off) , the excitement of new exhibition plans with Cumbria Printmakers. It’s not Utopia but sometimes when you’re standing up as tall as you can on top of a hill and pretending to be a mountain it gets pretty close. x

Reading: ” A Pocketful of Crows” Joanne Harris (one of those happy moments when social media works as it should and the lovely @likewinterblue from Sam Read Booksellers, Grasmere sent me a surprise pre-publication proof after seeing that it was on my wish list. Some people are just friendly and kind and that makes up for the rest!)  I’m loving it and making it last longer by also reading “The Ladies of Grace Adieu” by Susanna Clarke.

Listening to: owls and there deepening breath ( ha ha! not really I’m just trying to get in the yoga mood)

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“Chiaroscuro” seemed like a good title.

IMG_1458These two pictures sum up last week as I prepared for my first big art fair, Art in the Pen, at Thirsk. I tried to work in the dark, gloomy cave of the house while the sun beckoned like a secret lover, through the lace bedspread, hung to keep out the bitey insects. Setting up outside I was driven back in by the glare or the wind or the fact that I looked like I’d been dip dyed upside down in a vat of pink from sunburn. The evenings of swimming were blissful though and I’m now slightly addicted to the well documented after effects of being in cold water; the silky cool feeling under the skin that contrasts with the warm surface and the release of endorphins that feels weirdly like the effects of …hmmm, less “official” methods (which I neither admit to, endorse or condone) but were once described thus by American chemist Alexander Shulgin … “I feel absolutely clean inside, and there is nothing but pure euphoria. The cleanliness, clarity, and marvellous feeling of solid inner strength continued… through the next day. I am overcome by the profundity of the experience.” Obviously swimming is a much more healthy way of feeling “pure euphoria” and less likely to land you in jail; it really has helped lift my blue moods when my natural inclination would normally be to curl up and nest.

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After an epic drive ( hot air blowers on full blast to stop the car overheating in the traffic jams) and still in recovery from a 3 day migraine ( brought on by dropping the settee on my foot during a mad hoovering session and not cured by standing for an hour, thigh deep in Scope Beck wearing just a t-shirt, hat and pants like a crazy old hobo) I made it to Thirsk and set up my pen (with lots of help from Rupert who’d been waiting there for hours).

It was a fantastic, if unlikely, event. As if by magic the slightly grubby and smelly animal pens were transformed by an amazing group of artists and makers who not only produce fabulous work but also design the display solutions (not easy making a sheep pen that was awash with slurry hours earlier, look like a gallery), and work like mad to make it all look great. I didn’t have much chance to look at everyone’s stands as I was on my own but it was so good to meet Hester Cox in person at last (my heart is set on one of her prints one day) and I spent a virtual fortune on some the work I saw on other people’s stands. My friend Sarah Ames wins my “resilience and tenacity” award for doing the whole thing on her own and driving all the way back home to Cockermouth every night! Sarah Robely wins “set design and catering “award because her stand was pristine and her lovely mum Shona, was there with home baked treats to feed to the 5,000. Bridget Wilkinson wins my “wow you’re an inspiration” award because she was so helpful, is a good friend and is making it work! I’ve also got to thank the lovely Penny Hunt  because she suggested I applied and her gorgeous work will be at the “Inspired by” gallery in Danby next week for her solo show, as well as Skipton Art in the Pen next month.

Ok, it’s no fun reading lists of links or thank you’s so I’ll stop now but if I missed you out it forgive me; everyone I met was truly inspirational and that’s before I think about all the friends who came and said hello. I’m still processing it all- months of isolation followed by a manic weekend of catch ups and emotion can be a bit overwhelming and I’m trying not to worry too much about all the ridiculous things I may have said or the faces I didn’t instantly recognise when they appeared out of context!

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I walked alone across familiar fields that belonged to another lifetime and stood watching a small drama as the sun set and a pair of  buzzards, disturbed by something not visible, called to each other and dipped and swooped with chattering, acrobatic swallows- rioting before bedtime.

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And so, after catching up with as many people as I could and wishing with all my heart I could spend more time with them, I took a massive detour home to avoid a traffic jam which would have meant needing to steam my face again with the car heaters. A two hour journey took four but I saw some great landscapes as trundled back through Kirby Stephen, Kendal and the South Lakes. I actually found myself saying “hello” out loud when Blencathra finally popped in to view and for a treat we went to the pub for chips before an icy, dusk swim in the river to wash away the sin of fried food. A tent was pitched right beside the swimming hole, as I’d guessed it might be, so we lowered ourselves in to the dark water upstream, trying to gasp quietly at the shock and swam quickly and breathlessly past the campers, trying not to alarm them. It felt quite exciting and the mossy rocks were like carpeted steps under the water- I wouldn’t like to be in water any faster though, it’s deceptively hard to swim against even a gentle current and I do quite enough of that on dry land.

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Now I’m going to tidy up the boxes still to be unpacked and see what I have left to take to Skipton on the 12th -13th of August and prepare for a workshop at Greystoke next week. Thanks again to everyone who made it a fun weekend. I have loads more to say but I’m having think first and anyway, it’s time for coffee and baking a cake I think 😉

 

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The Magpie Told Me…

Last week I decided to believe in magic again; after being reminded about the strange story of the sketchbook that foretold my future . It all seems so unlikely –  a Dorian Gray kind of spell – except instead of getting eternal youth (sadly) the picture seemed to have been an oracle leading me on a journey far removed from my own chosen direction and wishes at the time.

So now I’m looking for small everyday magic and finding it as I walk ; from the friendly face I spotted in the tree this evening, to the hare gently loping along the path in front of me, before slipping into the long grass and invisibility. I’ve been inspired by some of the people I’ve “met” on Instagram such as Milla, “The Woman who Married a Bear“, to rekindle an interest in plants and herbs; mixing a potion that works wonders on tired fellwandery feet and, who knows, maybe if I fill a sketchbook with my hopes and dreams they might come true someday (better practise drawing pretty houses with vegetable gardens and swimming ponds…and some kind of representation of world peace of course.) Meanwhile I continue to dawdle on my walks, saying the names out loud – Tormentil, Bog Asphodel, Silverweed and Usnea; and tonight, purple-ing my fingers with surprise bilberries up by the reservoir; where I wasn’t brave enough to swim alone. It was the first time I’d walked alone for a while (feeling fat and sluggish after being left in charge of my poor self control and one of Rupert’s coffee cakes while he camps out on soaking wet islands, inspiring groups of NCS students) and I thought, or resolved perhaps, to do it more often. To lose myself in thought and daydreams…

As well as all that wandering about with my head in the clouds or my nose in a bilberry bush, I’m getting organised for Art in the Pen Thirsk, which is in just two weeks time. I hope I can fit everything in the car and even more, I hope it all sells so I can buy the materials needed for Art in the Pen Skipton the following month, as well as some more exhibitions I’m sending work to. It’s been a bit of a flurry of activity the last few weeks with some very happy days in Sam Read Booksellers preventing me from becoming a total hermit and work delivered to three lovely galleries for summer exhibitions ( The Witham, Byard Art and Obsidian Art)

As usual I’ve left this writing until late and all the stories wanted to tell you will have to wait because none of us has the attention span we once did and I need to soak my midge bitten body in some cool water before bed and book time. Remind me to tell you about the evil grey squirrel who scampered below the lazy cat, snoozing on a bench and absolutely didn’t give a damn about the danger ( the squirrel warden has been notified) ; or how I let myself down in Loughrigg  by wallowing in the waterlilies when my prescription goggles steamed up.

Reading: Letters From Klara by Tove Jansson and “Waterlog” Roger Deakin Listening To: White Horses by Jakie Lee (this has been on the radio lately as the theme to Eddie Izzard’s autobiography and I remember loving the series when I was small- which makes me almost as old as these hills)

Water, Trees and Make Believe

Last week began with two day’s wonderfully frantic, bank holiday bookselling at Sam Read’s Grasmere and ended with a magical walk through ambrosial woodland; complete with red squirrel and iridescent purple beetles (and, less romantically, an evil sheep tick which wasn’t discovered until bath time!). In the middle of the week I took a spur of the moment trip to Bristol to visit my daughter. We decided that we needed a bit of ancient perspective on recent events so we drove to Avebury, always a favourite place since the children were small, to wander around the stones barefoot and invent our own ritual for peace, love and good luck, which involved making a charm out of bits of found wool and flowers to hang in the Clootie Tree. The tree was festooned with ribbons, shoelaces, pieces of string, bells, paper notes and one or two “natural” offerings like ours. There’s a long tradition of this kind of “wishing tree” in British folklore and it is also interesting that the practice is found in some form all over the world. I thought the tree looked beautiful and it felt very serene sitting underneath in the baking Wiltshire sun, while some of the charms jingled and flapped gently in the breeze. It’s a fine aesthetic line though…is it harmless decoration and votive offering or unsightly,non biodegradable litter? I guess it’s down to personal opinion but  I found an interesting point of view on this blog and feel happy that our magic charm won’t cause offence as it was entirely made from found natural objects and has probably blown away by now – I just hope it works and brings us a bit of good luck.

Wiltshire has been part of my life since we lived there for a year when I was about 11 (you can see the funny little etching I made when I lived there in this old post) It’s funny to think that it is now Sara’s “home” and my brother has lived there for over 20 years too.

The Wiltshire landscape is such a contrast to the Lake District, with enormous skies and smooth rolling hills dotted with isolated clumps of trees- sacred groves and mounds- and in my mind it is always summer and we areaways slightly too hot!. Sara and I swam in the river at Lacock again (shoals of tiny fish, fresh water mussels and damsel flies but also a lot of litter and still burning barbecues which breaks my heart) and also treated ourselves toa swim at Bristol Lido ( my birthday present ) which made me very happy. Another version of me- the one with the money and rosy stone villa in Clifton- could quite happily live in Bristol, and spend my days down the allotment growing vegetables, before an evening swim and tapas at the Lido. It’s fun to pretend.

Back in the mountains the rain has returned, which in a way is good because it means I have no distractions from work. I really have got to start thinking about how much work I will need for Art in the Pen next month and how I’m going to display it. Everything needs to fit in to my ancient VWGolf and be easy for me to construct on my own with a dodgy shoulder and those wobbly heirloom ladders I’ve mentioned before. I got myself a credit card reader specially and keep meaning to test it by charging Rupert for his supper but instead I get regular e-mails from iZettle along the lines of ” we notice you haven’t accepted any payments yet…can we help?”- well yes actually, I want to reply, you could buy some artwork thank you very much, just a card would do 😉 If all else fails I’m going to batch bake pizza and cakes to sell to passing walkers; I even have a sticker that says which major credit cards I accept, it’s like playing shops!

Some new prints have emerged including the Fell Pony, which is actually my friend’s pony Rocky, and more owls with various bits of added stitching. My adventures cyanotype continue with no two days or two prints the same. I sometimes get disheartened when I struggle to achieve the same results in each print, as you might if it were Lino printing or etching for example, but I’m slowly forcing myself to accept that the beauty is in the variability and that is what has kept my interest in the process. As part of Cumbria Printmakers I’ll be taking part in an exhibition at The Witham, Barnard Castle, opening on the 22nd June. The exhibition will include lots of information about the techniques used by the group members and the unique way each person works. Cyanotype seems to be very much in vogue at the moment, with some wonderful examples and experimental techniques popping up as I browse Instagram; I really do have to keep reminding myself sternly that it is just a tool that each person will use differently and smack down that doubting voice that keeps telling me others do it “better”.

Now it’s time I went to retrieve the print I left soaking in the bath and try to light the fire because unlike this picture of Castle Crag with velvet fields and blue skies, today is so wet I couldn’t even get out of the door and Rupert has been canoeing with a group on the lake so might need to dry his socks…

Reading: Ernest Journal Issue 6    Listening To: a leaking gutter overflowing into a galvanised watering can ( any music suggestions welcome…)

Making a Scene

The cat and I have curled up in my little room under the orange, woollen blanket to keep warm and think about things. We’re not complaining about the damp and rain because for a while this month it seemed as though we were living in another country, one with endless cerulean blue skies, arid hillsides smelling of coconuty gorse flowers and heady bluebells; things even started to wilt in the shady part of the garden so the rain has been welcome ( for now). I’m not fond of daffodils, May is the month for more subtle and delicate flowers, so I was happy when the acid yellow was replaced by carpets of  bluebells (why didn’t Wordsworth write about them instead?) and now the Hawthorn and Cow Parsley frothing along the hedgerows. As ever my walks are slowed by the need to  sniff May Blossom and discover that it does NOT taste like “bread and cheese” or examine, on hands and knees, like a Hemulen, the  Dog Violets and Heartsease hiding amongst the grass. For the first time I realised that Wild Garlic flowers actually smell of sweet honey unlike their delicious leaves which I’ve been using to make pesto.

It’s been a slow month in some ways ( financial ways of course!) and rather than panic I tried to make myself take the advice from the last blog post and draw more. Draw anything, for no reason other than to be doing something constructive rather than procrastinating. Even though it is the hardest thing to begin an empty page and to mute the negative inner voice that is mumbling “stop it, go and find a real job, you’re not good enough, it’s all been done before…”. Isn’t it sad how we measure our “success” and  relative happiness in monetary terms so that even on a day when I’ve made loads of  ok artwork and baked a good loaf of bread and marvelled at the clouds and the light on the mountains,  I can still feel like the day was a disaster because I didn’t sell anything. Someone asked me this week what I would do if I was suddenly rich and I really couldn’t think of a thing I would want to change – except of course to be secure in my home rather than at the mercy of landlords – so why the discontent?

Anyway, the pages of doodles gave me lots play with in Photoshop and it really was playing, because I discovered I could build little worlds to endlessly rearrange ( using the layers ), like my beloved model farm or dollhouse from childhood, I could design my own indoor garden. Rupert likes to tease me about my love of creating “little scenes” on windowsills… a few found objects and a miniature bear in a doll’s chair perhaps, or glass bottles with tiny flowers. I made some virtual shelves to display my virtual pot plants and then got engrossed in the great excitement of making a moving GIF with Spirit Bear (who is usually a card or a wooden necklace) . I may get completely carried away with this idea now – about 25 years too late to become an animation legend!

The blue prints continue and a story seems to be emerging- although I think Coralie Bickford-Smith already cornered the market on foxes and stars… I haven’t read her beautiful book but I was aware of it so I wonder whether I was unconsciously remembering the link or whether  it was genuinely totally random that I found the star sequin on the floor just as I was setting up the print…

Well it’s nearly time for some more coffee and some more drawing before an evening in Grasmere for Polly Atkin’s poetry book launch. Last weekend we went to a Royal Geographical Society lecture about Indian Shadow Puppets so living in the Lakes is definitely making my social life more cultured, or maybe I’m just growing up…good grief!

If I was good at arguing persuasively  I’d tell you how important it was to vote those mean old Tories out next month but instead I’ll just leave these two pictures here. PR gurus tell us not to mix politics with business and sometimes I worry in case someone is put off buying my work because I’m a bit of a Lefty (I guess this sticker would be earthy brown if I mixed in a hearty dose of Green policy too ) …but I reckon if Rob Ryan is prepared to nail his colours to the mast then it’s better to live fearlessly and keep believing in a better world. The picture below was taken after an evening swim in Rydal Water, where all the sad and cynical people, all the greedy, fighty, selfish people, should be dipped in the crystal water and made to breath in the bluebell air until they see that we only have one world and it’s beautiful and it’s time we stopped pissing about and looked after it- and each other. x

Reading:-  ” Work and Love” Tuula Karjalainen ( About Tove Jansson)  Listening to:- Skylarks and UPDATE! since the evening in Grasmere I’m listening to Jenn Grant who played a lovely live set amongst the Pre School toys and Brownie notices and almost me me cry. http://www.jenngrant.com

Blossom and Ice

The colour is just seeping back in to the day, as the morning snow gives way to more seasonal rain and I’ve settled by the stove to write. Slowly, outside the big window, the delicate prettiness of pink blossom and ice has returned to over saturated green and yellow ( is it a crime to live in the Lake District and not like daffodils? shhh, don’t tell ).  It’s been a day of little tasks, printing order forms and making price labels, sorting out boxes of exhibition “stuff”; the kind of things that make it seem as though I’ve been busy all day but haven’t achieved very much. It was exciting to wake up to snow this morning and the cat was beside herself with joy, skittering about like a kitten, staring wide eyed through the window and asking to go out ( and immediately back in again) at least 20 times. Cat has always loved snow but there seems to be much less of it these days and certainly less than some of the winters  in our old  home. I miss it and the strange excitement and magic it brings. But it’s unseasonal now, and mostly I suppose, unwelcome after all the celebrations of the first day of Spring. Yesterday was so cold I gave in and put the heating on early. I’d spent the morning sharing a chair and a hot water bottle with that cat- neither of us normally so affectionate- until the Archers came on the radio and the sound of hounds sent her clawing herself free to hide under the table.

Some really lovely things have been happening lately. I’m now recognised in Keswick Post Office, or at least the red bear stamp on most of my parcels is, which must mean that sales are getting a bit more regular. This week for the first time since leaving the Herdy shop I earned the same as I would have done had I stayed – a combined income from my own sales and the almost unbelievable treat of a day’s work at Sam Read’s Bookshop in Grasmere. I think you could begin to understand the strangeness of finding myself looking OUT of the bookshop from behind the desk, rather than IN through the postcardy door, if you looked back at previous posts or searched “Grasmere” in the side bar. The happy/sad of being here in the Lakes instead of “home”, the feeling of unreality and uprootedness that comes from building a new life where there are no familiar touchstones, the lack of confidence after various “work” events – sometimes something nice happens out of the blue and you find yourself looking over your shoulder to check for Fairy Godmothers. Anyway, it was a fun day and I’m very grateful to Will for thinking I might be able to help out… especially as we only really know each other through Twitter and there was that time I was in the shop and mentioned the possibility of assassinating him so I could steal his job (social anxiety can make you say the dumbest things).

Well, I’m sure all work can become mundane (and I’ve always resisted applying for jobs in places I really love in case familiarity breeds contempt) but it was so nice to have interesting conversations and learn new things and it seemed auspicious that as I drove over Dunmail Raise, before the signal gave out, someone was reading Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” on the radio.

Back on Witchmountain with less than two weeks until Harrogate I’m busily doing last minute preparations for the show as well as trying to learn how to use my new camera… an early birthday present to myself because I’m suppose to try and take proper product photographs. The wooden jewellery has been really popular and I can’t wait to get some more designs made. The special “design sample” price ends this weekend but I’m sure will still want them at the real RRP. which properly reflects the costs. How I wish I was a hardened business woman with no qualms about pricing, instead of a bit of a hippy idealist with a basic mistrust of Capitalism! Yesterday I listened to a radio programme that talked about spending and “peak stuff” and found that I agreed so much with the philosophy that we all have too much “stuff” and that we buy too much, waste too much. How can I reconcile this with trying to sell my own stuff?! I wanted to call the programme and say that maybe if people chose to buy more from smaller independent businesses, to choose for love rather than being on the “upgrade” treadmill – could that work? Perhaps I need to look for a good book on economics and philosophy…

The hungry stove is asking for another log, the radio’s brought unwelcome news from London and Rupert has just got back from a chilly day at work in the mines across the valley (as an outdoor educator not a miner) so it’s time for tea. Apparently the sun will reappear later this week and the brief brake on Spring will be released.


Reading:- “Basic Nest Architecture” Polly Atkin ( from Grasmere – poems that have kept me awake at night searching the internet for Moon pianos and memories of home) and “Swell, A Waterbiography” Jenny Landreth ( to be published on May 4th )

“Relax and Formulate a Plan”

This  beautiful, wiggly wall over Lingmoor Fell is an allegory of the way my week – and emotional state – has been fluctuating since we walked that way on Monday. At one point on I was surrounded by botched printed vases, newly created landfill to prick my conscience, a mountain of useless greyscale printouts after my printer forgot how to do colour, no lights downstairs after all the fuses went (I looked in the fusebox but it seemed to be very windy and cold in there which is odd) and the DPD delivery driver stuck up to his axels in the mud outside. It has felt at times like I’m living in a kind of Krypton Factor game show for dummies, where every task has involved a massive hassle and steep learning curve; still, it’s much more satisfying when something goes right at last if it has driven you to tears for hours beforehand. Walking in the brittle spring sunshine, arms pinkening and prickling with unaccustomed exposure to sunlight and tummy rumbling with too much coffee and not enough cake, we climbed to the summit of Lingmoor and learned some lessons from the survival bag we used as a picnic blanket. These lessons, and the continuing sunshine, probably helped prevent meltdown and/or murder later on- and besides, what reason do I have to complain? Imagine building that wall… it was immaculate, with each header stone at the same angle despite the terrain.

I love the idea that you would ever be able to “relax and formulate a plan” should you ever find yourself actually needing to get inside an orange plastic bag for survival. Further down it suggested something to do with dried leaves, I can’t remember exactly what. I think this winter there have been a few cases of people whose lives have been saved by these bags though so I shouldn’t joke.

So as Friday night turns into Saturday, I’m sitting by the stove, with the cat dangerously close to my feet, feeling a little bit of the same sense of achievement I get on reaching the top of a hill. I’ve rebuilt my evil website, after many tears and it even has a shop. It’s a big improvement on the previous one so even though it’s more expensive and drove me nuts, I’m actually really glad that Flavors.me closed down and forced me to do it. I’m playing shops and it seems so much more exciting than Etsy because it’s my very own. The first two sales made me feel like a tycoon and I could never take for granted the magic of being able to do that without leaving my nest, from home, in the middle of nowhere.

Most things seem to be slowly coming together in preparation for BCTF but it’s frightening how much money you can spend on services and materials without even leaving the house; and how you think you’ve worked out the costs of things but then remember you need to factor in the sellotape, Paypal fees, tissue paper or sticky labels. Its fair to say I have felt huge ups and downs of mood and confidence this week and have been trying to be more careful about dealing with the downs. Sometimes it really is important just to relax and formulate a plan, to go for a walk or take time to read a book and not feel guilty; because the upside of being self employed, to balance out having no money, is that I have that freedom at the moment and I’ve noticed I work best in the evenings anyway. I’m like that annoying hamster you probably once had that slept all day, got vicious if you tried to wake it up and then suddenly started rushing about on it’s treadmill at bedtime- making a sound like squeaking bedsprings (the rushing about is me, not the squeaking).

And sometimes it’s tempting to sew up the scraps and offcuts to make something new, because, at the risk of sounding like an infuriating meme, failure is often just a state of mind or a view from a certain angle, it just depends how you frame it. Well, it’s time I let you go, thank you for reading and also for all the survey responses. I need to look at the results properly and apply my amazing analytical skills, before finalising my master plan, so for now it’s back to relaxing and dreaming of more days like these. Dipping toes into achingly cold water till the blood fizzes like champagne, winter dimmed eyes blinking in the light and you can almost feel the vitamin D soaking through your skin.

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” John Muir