Cuts

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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.

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*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?’ ๐Ÿ™‚ I even googled my own blog in the art shop last week, to find out what paper I usually use!

Apple pip

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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,
but
hungry one
greedy guts
demanding little apple pip
I’m making
turkey brothย and dumplings
for you
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
big bellied
together,
you and I,
apple pip
sweetheart
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!)

(Sob)

(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.)

๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

A 5 ‘o’ clock walk

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:

Home.

 

 

 

More men

illustration of Kit Holdsworth

So. I’m doing that project for fun – Inktober. And all my pictures are of women from history.

The other day, someone over on my instagram feed jokingly commented that they’d like to see more men.

More men. Well, always a welcome thought, attracted to them as I am.

However, I’m not at all attracted to men who slow down behind me in their vans and shout things at me, making gestures and leering. And yes, I am wearing jeans and yes, I do work out, and yes, the sexiness that is a welcome benefit of being strong and fit does make me look pretty hot.* And your problem is?

It’s hard to ignore the talk about this at the moment, what with the guy Weinstein in America and what is undoubtedly the tip of a vast iceberg of misogynistic bad behaviour that has probably been going on since the dawn of time.

And indeed, my girlfriend and I were swopping tales the other day of what has happened to us over the years, and what continues to happen.

And no, I do not want to come over to your car for a chat. I am going to the Post Office. It’s unlikely that I will change my mind, get into your passenger seat and have sex with you. Back off.

How can this have been part of my life since I was 16? Some days, it is no less scary than in those first days, when I thought it was somehow my fault I was attracting this attention.

Now, let me get this straight. I *really* like men, and the men I know are largely kind, funny, talented, respectful – in fact, deeply encouraging of me and everything I am.** And the men I have chatted to online through my blog and social media have so far been the same (as far as I can tell, through words on a screen). Lovely, thoughtful, beautifully polite, a pleasure to work with and for, and simply share a smile with now and again.

I thank you, men. You are great, and you represent what is good in the world, and give me hope for future generations, even in the face of current politics and power and presidential posturing.

And OK, I’ll redress the balance. Let’s have more men, the sort I love so much. I’ll get to work. In fact, my new series of paintings definitely has several men in it. The beautiful romantic poet above is currently on my mind. Mr Kit Holdsworth. I’m going to paint his portrait, hand-write his book of love poems, and embroider his monogrammed handkerchief. There is a tragedy at his core, and yet a zest for life.

I’m a little bit in love with him, a man of my own imagining.

But he’d better not slow his carriage down and shout at me, or there’ll be trouble.

 

*I don’t know about you, but I’m going to consider myself pretty hot until the day I die. Self esteem is the way forward.
**And I like to think, somewhat scared of me lest I roast them on my blog ๐Ÿ™‚

 

National poetry day

Apparently, it’s today, and it has a theme. This year it’s Freedom.

Well, that’s appropriate, as young Felix is about to make a break for it. He moves into student accommodation in just a few days. What a lot of fun and shenanigans he is going to have! (I’m glad I won’t be there to watch, though).

He is fed up of his Mummy by now, but just wait, as soon as he misses my cooking he’ll be crying down the phone. Alternatively, he might just learn to cook properly for himself, which is what I’m hoping. The mark of a real man, in my view.

Anyway, to celebrate National Poetry Day (which should be every day actually), here’s a little poem I wrote for him when he was 2. It’s less of a poem and more of a recording of the anguished conversation we had walking home one day. He was always good at expressing himself!*

I want to stop walking
(for Felix)

I want to stop walking
I want to live
right here
on the street.
I’m too tired to move.
I’ll sleep here!
I can’t get home.
It’s impossible.
Don’t even think I could do it.
I want to stop walking!
I want to stop walking
right here
forever.

 

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Cuteness.

Good luck, Felix! I love you.
*For that, read tantrums ๐Ÿ™‚

Motherhood in blue

illustration of mother and child with baby

How a Mother’s heart
can ache
the partitioned chambers
beating in time
to the footsteps
leading away
from the front door.

It is eternal work.
Unapplauded hours
of toil
and mayhem
the undervalued craft
of forming
whole people.

Having taught play,
good sense,
mischief,
creativity,
and kindness,
it feels
there is little in return

save perhaps

for the flash of a brilliant smile at the end of the drive.

 

 

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PS: Thanks to my friend, Ahu, for loaning me one of her photos for the inspiration for this illustration.

PPS: That naughty cat of ours has been gravely ill – emergency operations late at night type ill. All very distressing. He’s OK, but he’s in the vet’s cat hospital, and must remain there for the next few days! (Thank goodness we took out pet insurance, though we grumbled sorely about the cost of it! Let’s hope it works).

So much going on in my heart today. I need a hug. And I think I may even have a nap this afternoon!

Feeding the fish

Ah! A poem from long ago days – I found it today in an battered old folder while I was looking for something else. I like those unexpected discoveries. I thought this photo of a recent (sold!) painting would go nicely.

Painting of a whale by trudi Murray

Detail from ‘Never ignore the song of a whale’ – Sold

Feeding the fish

at the tropical house
and they are
big as buses
ponderous and stupid
so many
awful vacuums
hoovering up
toothless
and slowly
what we throw in
from the pot.
I have no desire
to buy a second lot.
It stinks.
Plus, the look
that catfish
is giving me
makes me uneasy,
and there are
marmosets
next
and poisonous frogs
and tortoises,
which I sound out
like testing a a loaf.
They are perfectly done.
Later on
the keepers
drape
a snake
round your neck,
while I hold the baby
and wonder at you.
At nearly 3
you are
brave and exotic,
joining in,
daring and fearless.

You fall asleep in the car on the way home.

After lunch
and while you nap
your Daddy and I
make love
in the pantry.
It is dark
in there
and the black-eye beans
floating in brine
start to haunt me.
I giggle too much
to be useful.

All afternoon
we play
feeding the fish
with a cardboard box and some corks.
And we roll the baby
around the living room rug
our own giant millipede
all his legs
in the air
ticklish & tickling.

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