Posted on December 12, 2017
The garden is usually full of little pockets of water, from which the cat drinks. She won’t drink inside, preferring to sip from the tin bath by the outside tap, an upturned saucer buried in the flower bed, or the metal trough with curvy ceramic handles – the one I planted flowers in in the Summer. But more than anything, she loves the water in the bird bath.
This morning, waiting for the kettle to boil, I saw that the bird bath was frozen over. I shivered outside with no coat, to investigate. Amazing – a square of ice – solid right to the bottom. Red leaves from the maple tree and cedar needles and holly berries were suspended in its frozen ballet.
I made the tea, and then took the hot kettle outside. I poured hot water gently onto the surface of the ice. A little more. My breath in the freezing air. Crack.
I dipped my fingers in, and widened the icy pool – only just warm, despite the hot water.
It hasn’t nudged much above freezing all day. My favourite weather, by far. The cat is curled on a bed, not thirsty, and it seems the birds don’t much fancy a bath. But I like to think they said thank you into their fluffed up feathers as I went back in, steam still curling from the spout of the kettle.
(Is it snowing where you are? We had a little bit, which is pretty good for London. More, please, more and deeper).
Posted on December 10, 2017
Maybe it’ll be up on Wednesday…
If I survive!
Over and out.
PS: if you haven’t already read ‘All the light we cannot see’, by Anthony Doerr, run, not walk, to the nearest bookshop and buy it. It is incredible. I finished it yesterday, and my heart can’t even begin to start processing it.
Posted on December 7, 2017
I’m deep in preparations for my annual studio Christmas window.*
It’s the most bonkers thing I do all year, and every year, more and more people stop me on the street and ask when it’ll be ready. Next year I’m wearing dark glasses from about October.
Still, I’m genuinely touched that local people enjoy it, and though it is an insanely time consuming operation, the creative process brings no small satisfaction.* All good.
This week has been trying in some ways, though. An unfair misunderstanding of me on Monday, and a shaky panic on Tuesday. A falling asleep at my desk Wednesday, after two early work-out mornings. And persistent callers at the front door. A bout of hardcore adulting on Thursday.
I sometimes think that surviving adult life is simply about riding the constant swell. Knowing how to just rise and fall on the tide of it. You can’t avoid the detritus in the water – it’s an inevitable part of a broken world. Part of being grown up is simply bandaging up the cuts and scrapes and hurts and knocks, and letting the tide take you once again.
It’s simple, in a way, and incredibly hard, all at once. But generosity of heart and a desire to always move forwards kindly definitely helps.
Cutting out this window design leaves me with piles of offcuts, all over the floor, desk, easel, and every other surface and shelf. Black paper snippets – everywhere!
It’s deeply satisfying at the end, to see that from the wreckage, there is even some beauty in the cuts.
*In case you don’t know (how do you not know??!), the Christmas window is made from black paper and tissue paper. I carefully cut out the design from black paper, stick tissue paper on the reverse, assemble the whole thing on the window, wait until sunset, turn on the lights… Ta Da!
**Last year’s one is here. And very useful to me that blog post has been, too! I usually start by saying ‘How DO I make this thing again?’ 🙂 I even googled my own blog in the art shop last week, to find out what paper I usually use!
Posted on December 4, 2017
I don’t know
whether you are
boy or girl,
alive or dead,
part or whole,
flesh or bone –
I don’t know if
life is a struggle for you,
if I love you yet,
when you came,
or when I will meet you,
demanding little apple pip
turkey broth and dumplings
hot mash and gravy
fish soup and noodles.
I’m feeding you
like a farmer coming in from the pigs,
like a sailor casting off storm gear,
like a fisherman hauling up sea trout –
we will grow
you and I,
treasure of mine
(I wrote this poem years ago, on the first day I suspected I was pregnant with that child who’s away at University. An insatiable hunger for good food follows him wherever he goes, and that was the first clue. Am I missing him? Yes!)
(Does it get better? Please say it does. It’s an odd, constantly disconnected feeling, as though you’ve lost something, but you’re not sure what you’ve lost.)
(The photo above is of said child as infant, in Grandpa’s hat. I had baby number two some few weeks before this photo. Everything must have been going well, as I have no wrinkles, and my hair has not one thread of grey in it yet! Wah! Just look at it!!!).
(Or maybe that’s just the beauty of youth.)
(I *love* my grey hair though. I’m not ever dyeing it. Never. All those chemicals – urgh. So dangerous, so near your brain. Luckily, my imagination doesn’t need any chemicals to have a good time.)
🙂 🙂 🙂
Posted on November 30, 2017
On the way back from the park today, I walked past the school, and coming out of the gate, headed by two teachers, was the most adorable crocodile of tiny children. They must have been about 5 years old. They were all in blue coats, and they were bubbling over with energy. Their socks, that were no doubt neatly pulled up at 9am, were now in various stages of charming disarray.
Inexplicably, the two at the front of the line wore multicoloured clown hats. Strange! But then you never can tell with children.
I was smiling at the sight, when I heard the teacher say to them: ‘Walk Nicely!’
Ooh. I flinched. Walk Nicely. Don’t Run. Along with: Sit Still, Keep Off The Grass, Colour Inside The Lines, and even worse, Use The Right Colour.*
All of it is code for – do not express yourself in this situation. I understand that it is very often necessary for life in any ordered society. And teachers need more order than anyone, perhaps.
But, wow, how we can also sometimes squash ourselves with it.
Like getting children to eat vegetables. It’s easier surely, to be a creative cook, to be kind, to respect their own characters and preferences. Offer what’s for tea, and let them eat it or not. I’ve never made mine eat, or even try, anything they don’t want to – ever. I won’t do it. I decided that even before my first baby was born, and have stuck to it.
But there’s no other food until breakfast, mind.** Them’s the rules. On this I am rock solid.
My general feeling is: just be kind about it. To you and to them. Don’t force their hand. And don’t – just don’t – introduce the horror of mushrooms into what could otherwise be a pleasant evening. Your glass of wine in front of the TV certainly won’t thank you.
And eventually, one day, when you go round to theirs for tea, they’ll serve you up a hipster wild mushroom risotto and you can all smile to yourselves.***
The point of all this? It feels easier to ‘behave’ if the parameters allow for some self expression, freedom, and respect, and if the people leading you are kind.
Which brings me back round to Walk Nicely. How are we, children included, to be expected to walk nicely in the world right now, when there is growing provocation to resist?
Why am I toiling away trying to do things with purpose and kind intention, when people in charge – who ought to be bigger, better, wiser than me – are not being so conscientious?
If leaders thought about it before retweeting hateful videos, then ordinary people like me wouldn’t be thinking about Not Walking Nicely Any Longer.
*The horror of ‘use the right colour’ runs deep.
**Each of my children tested this system – but only once. Thank goodness, it was awful, with each of them. I cried inside, each time, but didn’t waver. And made unlimited pancakes for breakfast, with syrup. 🙂
*** Felix is buying courgettes at University. The wonder of it!
Posted on November 28, 2017
I’ve been going round in circles all day, trying to learn the desktop publishing computer program, InDesign, so as to make the portfolio booklets I need for next year, comics, and *whisper it* actual books. And in the breaks, watching videos on how to make repeat patterns in Photoshop.
My brain is almost exploding.
So I went to the library to take some books back. It’s cold today. A man I haven’t seen for about 15 years, wearing flip flops and shorts, stopped me and urgently asked after my husband.* I was wearing a massive coat, jeans, boots, a beret, gloves that look like foxes, and a scarf wound round my neck so many times only my eyes peeped out the top. I stared at his flip flops.
I didn’t know what to say. Everything about the encounter bewildered, so I said something polite from the depths of my scarf, and something maybe not so polite inside my head.
I drifted round the library in a daze.
Looking at the cookery books, I thought I might find some inspiration for a theme for a repeat pattern, but all I came up with was ‘fruit with eyes on?’. Not bad actually.**
On the way home, thinking about my blog, I thought to show you this video of a digital drawing of Prince Harry I did yesterday. Isn’t it amazing to see it build? It’s possibly better than looking at fruit with eyes on, but you’ll have to be the judge of that in future weeks.
What strikes me really is how much I tend to take all this computer stuff for granted. My computing skills barely scratch the surface of what’s possible. Not even that! But it’s so exciting to think of what’s possible, given enough learning and practice. And so shocking that I don’t wonder enough at it all.
It’s pure magic and engineering combined, when you think about it.
*IS my husband OK? IS my husband still with me? I think so, last time I looked..!
**I will most likely become famous for fruit with eyes on, just watch.
Sorry, email folks. Hop on over to my blog to see the video.
Posted on November 26, 2017
5 ‘o’ clock in the early evening is a very good time for a walk, especially in Winter.
Put on your big coat, and a scarf, and a hat. Find your gloves. Pull on your boots.
Put in your headphones, lock the door behind you, and walk.
It doesn’t matter where you live. The aim is to enjoy the cold, and to see the bright moon, and the last glows of daylight disappearing behind the tree-line.
I love it. It’s a great time to be out.
If you’re lucky, people won’t have drawn the curtains yet, and you’ll be able to look into the warm, bright houses. The lit windows are like little jewels in the gathering darkness, and inside, all of human life is being played out in fleeting vignettes.
A woman laying the table for supper, placing one piece of cutlery at a time onto a white tablecloth. A cat, curled on a tattered armchair. A bird in a cage. The blue, flickering light from a TV, and a row of children in front of it. A man in a thick jumper coming into a front room, a mug of tea in each hand.
One house has Christmas decorations already up.
In another, a child in the top window is waving (goodbye? hello?) to an older woman, who is getting into a car on the street as you pass.
Rootle your hands deeper into your pockets – it’s cold today.
One more street? OK, and then I’ll circle back round to the start.
If you’re lucky, your own family won’t have drawn the curtains yet, and you can look in wonder into the cosy warmth as you go up the path, thinking: