slow and steady

Since I last wrote, I have been making paths and planting things...

...making lots and lots of these in different colours see if I can finish this

...walking five minutes from my house to the meadow and the bluebells

...listening to lots of music, going to see bands, having a lovely time here and here

...breathing in and out, enlarging the place of my tent and dwelling in green places...

whatsoever things are lovely... think on these things

Exactly five years ago I began the practice, at bedtime, of writing a list of five things that have made me happy that day. It has been so good for me to do this, to look for the small beauties of life as well as remember the big, wonderful things. I now have over 1700 searchable entries recording snippets from my life over the last five years, which feels like a priceless asset.

Here are my top twenty nouns, verbs and adjectives. Naturally, tea is right up there. Chicken was a surprise. 

Imogen [my grandaughter], tea, bed, garden, sunshine, lunch, sleep, fire, bath, home, Toby, Isaac [my sons], walk, chocolate, friends, chicken, coffee, breakfast, cake, wine.

Watching, reading, eating, making, playing, feeling, sitting, thinking, looking, laughing, listening, talking, painting, walking, singing, writing, enjoying, working, finishing, finding. 

Lovely, new, little, beautiful, nice, warm, good, hot, happy, early, quiet, sunny, still, bright, kind, busy, soft, late, fresh, positive. 

out with the old

Over the next few days I shall be 'completing' 2014 with the help of these insightful questions which I originally found three years ago via Megan. I have done them every year since then and have found them incredibly useful in processing what has passed, and as a springboard into the new year. For me it's a much more meaningful exercise than party-poppers and fireworks and all the false midnight jollity. This year there is much to be thankful for and much to look forward to, but there has also been gut-wrenching disappointment and sadness, and the possibilities of the new year seem much thinner and more well-concealed than in past times.

One of my primary goals is to make more art, and try to work through whatever it is that has so far prevented me from full creative expression. I am both excited and fearful about this.

See you next year!

half-yearly report

Exactly six months since I last wrote, and a lot has passed. A lot of hard slog, a lot of lessons learned, both practical and emotional. Most of the work I have been doing has been with drills and hammers and bags of rubble, as I press on with making a home and garden from the bare plastered walls and rectangle of brown earth I moved into at the beginning of the year. And there has been much progress, and many tears, and laughing and happiness too. So, most of my 'creative' work has looked like this...

...but some of it has been more like the picture at the top, as I gradually find time and energy to dig out paintbrushes and concentrate for a few minutes on less practical expressions of creativity. Although most of my artwork is still getting done at the kitchen table with a five-year-old...

...or should I say a five-and-a-half-year-old. Because that's how I know it's exactly six months since I last wrote anything...


Today my funny, clever, loving and beautiful granddaughter is five. If I'm honest, this is really what I've been doing all this time. This is what's been absorbing me, keeping me awake at night, frightening me, limiting me, making me laugh, making me cry.

My son and his then-girlfriend were very young when she was born. Her mother had very little support from her family and so we had to rally. Suddenly a little person drove the pace. I say 'we', but it was mostly me, driven by love and compassion. My son has grown and blossomed into a strong and loving father and I am intensely proud of him and his brother, a devoted uncle. There have been many difficult times. My son now cares for my granddaughter full time and she is happy and thriving. That is the main thing. Along the way I lost a husband and a home and any energy for anything but survival. I am not being melodramatic or asking for pity, in fact I am choosing to hold things back rather than reveal too much. But she is five. Five! We have come so far. And we have survived.

nothing to show

I don't think I have ever started a post without a photo before, but I honestly have nothing to show and no nice pictures on my phone, so if I am to start any kind of a post at all in 2014, it's going to have to be words-only.

This year is not panning out like I hoped - at least not yet anyway. I have moved into my house but am nowhere near settled. The builders turned out to be awful in every way and left me with thousands of pounds worth of work that needed finishing, replacing or repairing. I am currently dealing with a collapsed and broken drain under the brand new concrete floor. The central heating is so badly fitted that the noise it makes is almost unbearable. The roof blew off in the storms. Nothing seems to work properly. There are a myriad unpleasant smells. I have acres and acres of painting to do before I can put up pictures or curtains, and the 'garden' is a joke.

All this has been so overwhelming and demoralising and unsettling and lonely and difficult. Those of you who know me well know that it has almost broken me, but, look! I'm still here. I haven't lifted a crochet hook or dug any soil or opened a book other than to look at pictures or cooked a half-decent meal and I certainly haven't looked at my paints or unpacked my sketchbooks or made anything other than a mess. But, maybe I will one day. And then I'll have something to show.


At midnight on 31st December last year, I lit a sky candle and sent it up into the darkness, full of symbolism and hope for the future. 2012 had been a terrible year for me and I wanted to say goodbye to all the sadness and illness and tears and regret. I felt optimistic and ready for change, ready to embrace new things and new challenges. I loved seeing that sky candle filling with light and heat and pulling away from me into the night sky. I watched it rise up with a happy cheer, a silent wish and a secret prayer.

The sky candle immediately got stuck in the branches of a tree, and stayed up there for weeks, tattered and forlorn. I saw it every morning from my kitchen window, and felt haunted by its failure to fly and what this might symbolise for my year ahead. Everybody laughed and told me not to be silly and everything would be fine and it was just a sky candle stuck in a tree, nothing more. Finally the rain and wind loosened it and one morning it was gone, so I forgot about it.

And then a few days ago, I remembered it. And I saw that actually it had spoken the truth, for I have been stuck in one way or another for the whole year, and indeed still am. Our house took forever to sell: months and months of fruitless cleaning and tidying and showing people round, never feeling able to spread out or make a mess for fear of the next viewing, my life on hold. Then eventually in September moving out and putting all my things into storage and taking a few essentials and, aged nearly fifty, with a little granddaughter, becoming a lodger. I expected to rent a room for a few weeks while my house was extended and refurbished... but I'm still here. The builders have taken forever and driven me nearly crazy in the process, and a catalogue of expensive disasters has unfolded. The end is not in sight. I am still living out of a suitcase and surviving on ready meals.

But yet, I am hopeful... at least a little bit. I know that one day soon I will be able to move in, and a new chapter of my life will begin... a lot later than I expected, and it does feel like I have wasted a whole year waiting for it. But I am painting my shelves so that I can unpack my books, and that feels good.

I'm not lighting any sky candles this New Year's Eve. I'll be babysitting for my granddaughter, and I'll probably go to bed well before midnight. I don't want to look into the future or even hope or dream. I'll wake up the next morning and it will all unfold just as it would have done anyway.