Tag Archives: Lake District

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

 

“Here’s to the ones that dream…”

winter view from Brantwood

Here I am, finally sitting down to write my first blog post of 2017 almost a month late and on the day when everyone will probably be too busy planning their Trump Armageddon survival strategy to bother reading about what I’ve been up too. Thinking back to how excited and optimistic I felt when Obama was elected I got nostalgic and read lots of old posts  which in turn reminded me what a really, really long time I’ve been doing this blogging thing and how it has been a constant throughout all the ups and downs of the past NINE years. I’ve made friends (and a few bizarre enemies), sold work, shared things I love,  tested ideas and got on my soap box plenty of times. So, I’m belatedly raising a glass (well a mug of coffee) to 2017 and all the creative adventures it might hold … but also hoping that somewhere there’s some hippy love magic, thats been lying dormant in the world since 1967, strong enough to overpower the hate and division that feels so evident at the moment (well there has to be something good about turning 50 this year! 50!)

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My excuses for not writing sooner are mostly to do with the Great MacBook Disaster which happened just before New Year’s Eve as I snuggled up with my daughter to watch Jonathan Creek. She’d been working all through Christmas (getting hilariously bad, uncalled for Trip Advisor reviews for not being smiley enough whilst serving rude people their food on Christmas Day) so this was our little treat…only the screen went all psychedelic before going blue and that was the end of “The Kneewarmer” as I fondly called it. All my important things were -and still are – trapped inside it so I felt incredibly stressed until I decided to bite the bull on the horns and take the bullet which meant parting with £1,000 just days after leaving my job and driving back from Workington clutching a small cardboard box, feeling slightly sick. Anyway, as it turns out it was sort of a good thing, a new start, like opening a fresh sketchbook or tidying the cutlery drawer. I feel more organised and much less precious about some of those important things. Nothing else works…the sewing machine foot pedal melted to my sock this afternoon, my Wacom pen tablet is incompatible with the new Mac, the cutlery drawer keeps getting jammed and my phone is becoming obsolete but for now everything is lovely in the computer world…even that weird New Apple smell that is a little bit like curry.

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I’m looking forward to being able to make some more interesting repeat designs for fabric prints now that I can in theory run a more up to date version of Photoshop. In theory because it costs real money and so far the free trial has made me realise I have a lot of learning to catch up on. I felt a bit angry with myself for not keeping up with all the changes and continuing to learn ( especially Illustrator which I’ve always wanted to use more but found quite annoying).

I didn’t really make any resolutions but I have decided to be a lot more committed to trying to make Etsy and online selling work for me; it has to.  I got some good tips from a friend of Sara’s who came to stay, and the initial results have been quite promising. Even after all these years I’m still not sure how to really crack that system and constantly slide into doubts about my work…if so many people like it why hasn’t it sold? I think the reality might be that I’m uncomfortable about money and placing a cash value on something that is essentially – me. I know I’m not the only one to feel this way about their creative work. (Except by the way there is a 20%discount code in my Etsy shop until the 31st … SNOWDROPS)

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While Sara and Sophie were here we went to see La La Land, each with our own traumas and trigger points, three Art School graduates, one a little more crinkley and weather beaten, two newly single, all holding it together quite well in the circumstances! The bit that got to me was the sentiment behind these lyrics :-  “Here’s to the ones that dream, foolish as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that ache, here’s to the mess we make”. Whatever you think of the film, the thing I took from it was that maybe the world needs the people who have a dream to follow and don’t fit into the boxes expected of them.

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Oh dear, if you’ve read this far then you’re wonderful because it’s been a bit self indulgent, sorry. I think the start of the year (and the approach of a milestone) does lead to introspection and re-assesment but out walking today I wanted to write about other things. The mist cleared in the afternoon and when the sewing machine melted I took myself up the valley, plodding like an aged donkey, to look at the black water  where we swam in in the summer, avoiding the bleaching bones of a long dead sheep. I dipped my hands in the water and tried to imagine jumping in today. Coming back down I was full of energy, bouncing along like a furry fell pony, enjoying the splash of boots through wet peat and loose stone paths running with water. Blencathra summit was floating like an island in the sky, separated from its truncated lower slopes by pastel clouds (or clods as my keyboard would prefer). Can you see it?

And then a smell you could bottle and I’d buy the whole batch …something like wet earth and dead bracken mixed with woodsmoke and moorland sedges, causing a sudden jolt of remembering, a physical reaction to the places in the past; bittersweet.

Newlands Valley

Time to feed the fire and brew more coffee. I’m adding a new bit to the end of these posts; as well as books and music, the website of a maker/ artist/ inspirational person who I admire for various reasons. That’s why we’re here isn’t it…the internet should be about sharing the love. Happy New Year x

Reading:- Winter re-reading of all the Moomin books  Listening to:- City of Stars from La La Land  Shop/Web/Link:– A good friend from college who is always helpful, funny, strong and brave especially at the moment. She’s also cracked the Etsyy thing so is pretty inspirational.  Nutmeg and Arlo

 

 

 

 

Swimming in Clouds/Flying in Water

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I’m curled up by the fire with my new favourite mug full of coffee and a stack of mince pies; its been dark since 2 o’clock and wildly windy but here I am, cozy in my nest, just the comfortable sound of the stove chimney moaning slightly and the rain bubbling in the gutters. I’ve been thinking a lot this week about our carefully curated, aesthetically pleasing virtual lives and how we project ourselves to the outside world…a world where people are struggling just to exist, never mind taking pictures of their latest baking triumph or immaculate room decor. Sometimes the world just seems to be so full of  craziness and greed and violence that writing a blog or drawing a bear or trying to sell the last pack of Christmas cards feels totally self-indulgent. Guilt and impotence in the face of world events can be quite paralysing, I want to DO something to help but I haven’t the skills…or the money to salve my conscience. So many of the artists, makers and creative people I’ve “met” online have similar concerns (and I know that a group of people here in Keswick are organising themselves to try and offer practical  help to Syrian refugees) that maybe we all just have to do what we can, try not to let compassion fatigue numb us and hope that small actions of peace and generosity can influence the bigger ones.

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Well, even in the darkest times there has to be a little light and sitting here on the eve of Winter Solstice I’m taking the time to think about the coming year and how to be more positive, wondering what I can actually contribute to this swirly blue planet and also what I would like to achieve for myself in the year I turn 50 (oh good grief how soon that happened!). It is an introspective time, the deepest dark of midwinter-  maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow with a clear idea of what I want to be when I grow up, perhaps I’ll get up early and toast the sunrise at Castlerigg with a flask of hot something…

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Apart from all the worrying about the world this week I’ve been out in the outdoors where I climbed up above the mist and fog to emerge on the top of the highest mountain on the planet (it is a strange thing that it always feels like the highest mountain even when it’s just a tall hill) I felt momentarily dizzy as the whole aspect changed suddenly and different parts of the landscape were revealed like a theatrical set. The mist rose and fell like a living thing and the surface of the cloud lake went from smooth opaque pool to stormy cauldron and back as the sun set. A cloud inversion like another reality where the mountains are islands and distance is impossible to judge. We would all have to live in tall houses above the storm line.

Back down in the thick fog and fading light we decided to have another go at swimming (last week we’d managed a quick dip in Loughrigg Tarn leaping about on the shore like nutters in gimp suits, doing the Floral Dance to warm up our screaming fingers and toes). This felt exciting and reckless but since we had no intention of swimming more than a few metres in the shallows of Rydal Water  it also felt safe… hidden by the fog. I can’t explain how magical it felt to plunge in to milky water that blended into the sky so perfectly there was no horizon; I imagine it would be terrifying if we’d gone too far from shore but the cold drove us back after about 10 seconds to dance a warm up jig before doing it all again. It was pitch dark by the time we trotted back through the wood, the mist so heavy that the water droplets hung in the beams of our head torches and our foggy breath bounced the light back in our eyes. Obviously I didn’t take any pictures but I saw this on Instagram, taken on the same day, and it seemed too beautiful not to share. Its a picture by Paul Scully of Jenny Rice (who is clearly a lot braver and more photogenic than me- in a bikini rather than wetsuit); they were recently featured on the BBC’s Open Country programme about the Lake District and Wordsworth.

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So dear readers, tomorrow the nights will slowly slowly start to get shorter and already I can see snowdrop shoots where the birds have scuffled the fallen leaves away under the feeder. Still I’m hoping for snow and some brighter days before the rush of Spring. Right, it’s time for me to remove my Polar Bear bobble hat and rinse off the henna mud that is plastered on my hair, my one misguided concession to hair styling, also I need to stop getting distracted and do some drawing  (If you follow me on Facebook you’ll know I’ve been posting a bear drawing for every day in December and I’m running out).

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Happy Winter Solstice wherever you are, thank you for reading x

Reading: “Waterlog” ~Roger Deakin and The Barefoot Diaries