Sunday, 28 October 2012


moments of madness
I have a streaming cold, should be working, can hardly see the laptop screen but am being cosseted by my dear husband. So why not play? And I did, and the results can be seen here, at Dilemmas & Delights. Do please visit.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Dark thoughts ....

Oozing black thoughts
I feel somewhat embarrassed to be posting what follows, for I wrote it in rough as I awoke at 6.00am this morning - on the campsite in Birmingham at the Motorhome and Caravan Show at the NEC (National Exhibition Centre) - intending to post it when arriving home. At which point, the usual rural broadband issues; and when much later I was able to re-connect, I discovered so many kind and thoughtful greetings on Facebook that I felt it would be churlish to continue with this entry. The mail arrived also, and with it family cards and greetings, too. And a text on my idiotic smartphone. 

And yet, I believe we all have dark personal thoughts from time to time; and so here is my diary entry - the Facebook greetings were all the more special when what follows had been in my mind: "Today, potentially so special, has been a long time coming. It began on 18.10.1937 - and yet many times over recent years I thought it might never be. Predicted ill-health intervened ... unexpectedly ... but that is not the cause of prompting me to post an image of juicy dripping black toadstools. For today I am 75 and am just plain sad and feeling such frustration.

For I have relinquished a job I really cherished (even though it took over my life for the last 18 months and made me ill). I loved my 'Discover Touring' editing work and will never see the like again. But other loyalties and obligations tear at my restless mind. And so, instead of birthday flowers, decaying fungi invade my soul and break my heart. I slide into a nothingness."

My dark 'Othello' rose
I guess this early morning entry resulted from tiredness and a feeling of uselessness. It is not as if I do not have plenty to fill my workaholic days, but to step back voluntarily is not in my nature. So all the sweet good wishes lifted my spirit; (thank you so much to those who posted on my Facebook timeline). Oh, and the NEC blog post of yesterday from the Press Office is here, if you click on this link

And now to move on to other things: garden projects, house reclamation and much more ongoing de-cluttering (I can hardly bear to part with all my beloved books). Writing, art and more art, creativity, textiles, word-whispers, illustrated journals and other flights of fancy.

And an attempt to be a housewife again, even if only intermittently! 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Change of Direction

Me !!
There have been many occasions in my life when I have felt the necessity for a change of direction, but never so much as now. I have whinged and whined all summer about what has been troubling me, sometimes in veiled word-whispers; oftentimes just pure frustration. Last week I made a decision, and yesterday I acted upon it and wrote my letter of withdrawal from a project which over the last 18 months has taken over and consumed my whole life. You would think I would feel elated, a sense of freedom. But I don't; just sadness, and a weariness of spirit. No doubt clarity will emerge, but it will take time; mental recuperation, and more of those wretched structured plans which are self-imposed and have bedevilled me all of my life. Can you change track as you approach 75? Of course, but my fear is that this might be the thin end of the wedge. P.S. The image above is taken from one of my art-journal pages, and you can see it in its entirety and read the accompanying post on my Journaling blog.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

I could scream ...

Last week ...
... but not out loud. Such a terrible two days - my dear Raymond is not well again, yet will NOT call or go to the doctor. Tells me not to interfere when I say I will fix an appointment for him (he hates telephones!) - and berates me for everything under the sun. I am sure he is afraid, ill, and cannot cope, or he would never say the hurtful things that he has. He is far too gentle, and too much a gentleman, for such an outpouring. I'm beyond crying, or feeling aggrieved. I do what I can but fall below expectations (though I do not know what they are). He struggled so hard with the roof (actually two of them). I plod on at my computer (need to, so as to pay the bills), am up early for household chores, prepare his favourite supper. He makes prints of his gorgeous A3 photographic collages of our recent visit to Ireland, and between each slow sheet, falls asleep on the bed. The 'office' is next door to our bedroom.

Books printed in the mid-1700s
And then ... thunderstorm, downpour, deluge - and he actually calls for my help. The temporary surface he had positioned over the hall (wherein sits his beloved piano) had, well, not exactly sprung a leak, but the down-pipe that channeled all the water from the house roof proper had fallen away from the guttering and all the water was pouring into the hall. All over the piano again (which despite my suggestion, he had failed to cover with plastic) but also all over the bookcase in which I keep my most special reference books. Water was cascading over them, all over the floor, into the kitchen. My instant (unspoken) reaction was whether his piano was more important than my books - some I have had for over 50 years, some for longer; very special, used regularly.

One of eight, and so special - to me at any rate
But more treasured is the little Victorian mahogany mini-bookcase given to me by my great-grandfather. Ugly, but in it were books that to me are priceless. Tiny books, the earliest printed in 1756; others around the early 1790s. Unfortunately, the case is falling apart and water was leaking into it. I hope Raymond did not see me snatch it and literally run with it into the kitchen, to take out each little volume and check for damage. Only one was a trifle damp where water had started to soak into the pages. Other books did not fare quite so well and are currently spread around the house drying out. Of far more concern of course is Raymond. How much is the sudden realisation that he is no longer the strong young man he once was, and how much an overwhelming sense that this house and garden is beyond us, is hard to tell. We have a wonderful doctor; at least he COULD check, if only he would. No point my writing 'word-whispers' in blank verse ... I cannot; and I cannot say that my heart is breaking, for it isn't. I just have to be practical, and delicately lead him forward; if that is possible.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Throwing out the past

Good to be home after so much travelling
I should have been working today - indeed I did all morning (and yesterday) but after arriving home from Ireland to discover the hall ceiling all over the floor, inside Raymond's beloved Bechstein grand piano, and spattering some of my books, I made the decision that I need to be more of a wife and less of a go-getter. That there is more to life than work and that it was time I at least tried to be more domesticated. (I may be starting 54 years to late!)

This was such a shock
The problem with this vast old house that once held us and three children, often their friends as well, parties, gatherings and celebrations, is that now being empty of people, there are just too many places where you can stash possessions, which accumulate without really noticing. My trouble is, I am reluctant to ever throw anything away, in case it comes in handy; surely I can recycle all those old shirts into journal pages ??? Old books and papers, music, cardboard, string, catalogues, magazines, children's toys, jam jars, etc etc etc. Cleaning the house invariably starts with tidying up, and moving 'stuff' from place to place, into another cupboard, the spare room/s, the roof, behind the sofa, under the dressing table. (Those of you who visit will know that we may live in disorganised chaos, but we do have a self-contained en-suite guest room that is (theoretically) kept ready for guests, who are always welcome.)

Raymond's beloved piano
So, after blogging yesterday and this morning on Irish Garden Inspiration, answering business emails, and invoicing - else we won't eat, and thinking where best to start this overhaul: I start along the corridor from the office (once the bedrooms of two of our children) and into the bathroom - originally a room of indeterminate use, but gorgeous in its size and converted in the early 70s, I am able to bathe whilst looking out of the low window to the hills beyond. Somewhere I have a sketch drawn whilst soaking in the bath. Why are the linen shelves so overflowing yet I can never actually find clean sheets for our bed, or matching pillow cases? My colour-co-ordinated towels are all of a jumble and there seem to be bags of mending that surely date back two or more years. 

These are disgusting!
Yet the climactic moment comes when I pull down endless pillows from the top shelf (needing a step ladder to reach them); they are old and lumpy, some inherited from my parents house when R. and I married 54 years ago! How can I have accumulated such horrid stuff; worn out eiderdowns and subsequent duvets from when we first bought this place in 1969. Plaster has fallen on them from cracks in the walls that have appeared over the last few years when traffic shakes the walls; this 16th century house was not built to withstand the hourly village bus (empty) waiting with its engine running. Note to self to buy translucent laundry bags in which to pack what I decide to keep so that a) they do not need re-washing even though they are stored clean, and b) so I can see what I have; labels are insufficient. That's but a tiny task but discarding ten grotty pillows has been a start; threadbare sheets from the 80s become rags or dust sheets. I feel guilty that I have so neglected all this - and there are still ten more rooms to tackle, plus the roof-space, and a very large shed. I am not proud of my inability to be a proper housewife, and honestly would rather be writing, or creating something; hence this blog post. Maybe a word whisper will emerge from within the ticking-covered pillows from which prickly feathers emerge. We shall see. 

Thursday, 26 July 2012


Nothing ever works out quite as planned. My post of Monday regarding my Traveller's Tales blog fell somewhat by the wayside, as WiFi failed, or was non-existent. But you might like the images I took today as our time in Ireland comes to an end. Which doesn't mean I have been idle - if only you could turn the pages of my hand-written diary which I has been ongoing since we left home over a week ago. Click here for an interim update, and the intriguing image I photographed today - by now the original will have been swept away.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Travelling in Ireland

I have just remembered that I had said a way back that whenever I posted the 'pages cartouche' in a blog, it would refer you to a story that you might like elsewhere. We have been 'on the road' for almost a week now, first in Cheshire at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show, and now in Ireland where we are touring in our motorhome for a feature that will appear eventually in 'Discover Touring' magazine. As we are covering far more than can be accommodated in the few pages I will have at my disposal, I am keeping a blogging diary on my Traveller's Tales blog. Click here to read it (I'm adding to it as often as I have WiFi access, you'll need to scroll pack a post or two for the beginning of the trip), and click here if you would like to read about our Tatton Park experience (on another of the blogs I write). I've found time to sketch as well, even though we have a punishing schedule, and miles to drive every day. To say we are exhausted is an understatement! (Links to my blogs are all in the sidebar of this one if you wan't to revisit.) And thank you, anyway, if you do.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Sequence of Events

It's been a day of mixed emotions, and of jumping from from task to task and wondering how so much of my life seems to have been encapsulated into one very peculiar day.

1. Up early for monthly accounting and online banking before the internet crashes (imminent thunderstorms?) But no ..

2. 11.00am: Husband prepares to leave for complicated dental surgery and I cannot accompany him because his appointment was altered and now coincides with Caravan Studio Open Day.

3. I hug him goodbye; wave as he drives off up the hill.

4. I open the 'studio'; visitors arrive (and five in a 2-berth caravan and all my exhibits take some shoe-horning and negotiating of discussion points).

5. 13.30hrs: I suddenly realise he has been gone over 2 hours! I excuse myself from visitors immersed in my travel journals and ring the surgery. ANSWERPHONE. My brain flips; has the anaesthetic reacted with his Diabetes drugs? What if ...? Might he not reach his imminent 80th birthday? I return to talk about journals and sketching and the mundane (but thrilling) joy of creating art .... but too many scenarios are rolling around my head; and Raymond has the car and how can I reach him if needed? STOP IT, ANN! Our dentist is brilliant; they would ring me if there was a problem.

6. Time disappears. I am overwhelmed by the distances my visitors have travelled, by their kind comments, their requests. 

7. 14.00hrs: A wan-looking husband walks down the drive. There is blood on his neck, his shirt, and on his beautiful pale-grey linen jacket (how stupid can you be to wear such dress for a dental extraction?) I refrain from commenting; was it so awful? He opens a can of soup. "Will you excuse me?" I ask of him. I chat with my mind half on him and half on my stream of oh-so-welcome visitors. Raymond arrives in the caravan with a plate of sandwiches. "She hasn't eaten," he says. I feel like crying.

The afternoon passes - thirteen lovely people with whom to talk altered books and journals, images and writing, ephemera and childhood; theatre and teaching. I am in my element: paper and fabric, thread and stitch, paint and images .... R. is asleep with the TV on; the rug I left in readiness for him still on the chair.

8. 17.30hrs: my last visitor departs. R. brings me tea! I feel guilty but euphoric. The WOW factor had emerged (a comment in my visitor's book) and this dear, sweet husband asked me how my day had gone.

9. 20.00hrs: I place supper on the table; one conducive to a husband who has obviously had a fraught experience. We chat. He asks for analgesic and pours me a glass of wine.

10. 20.30hrs. The fish-paoched in milk, mashed potatoes (home-grown) and parsley sauce are consumed; we are onto dessert: fresh peaches. "And how did it go?" I ask. "So-So," he replies. And the blood? He cut himself whilst shaving! I find the shirt soaking in the bathroom basin. As for the expensive linen jacket which he will need for Ireland next week ....

Friday, 29 June 2012

Remember this Cartouche?

Do you recall a while back I posted about lack of time and that when I wanted to write about similar subjects, but from a different viewpoint, on my various blogs, I would use this specially-created cartouche and add a link to one of my other blogs? Well right now, I'm preparing for my first-ever 'Open Studio' - starting tomorrow; and if you would like to read more about it, please click this link to my Journaling blog. Of course, if you follow my Journaling blog already, you will have seen the post, but if you don't - or you haven't - do take a look. I'm off to complete my preparations now; stitching instead of writing. 

This is not laziness on my part; just pressure of trying to do too much at once. Have a good weekend, and do visit me if you have the opportunity (tea, coffee, juice and biscuits for those who venture this way). 

And this 12-year-old sketch isn't in the studio, because like so much lying around this old house, I have mislaid it! Such stories this house could tell - but they will have to wait.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Blogging whilst working

Oh the things I had planned to do on this 'holiday'! Though of course it isn't - and never was - intended as a holiday, but a working 'press familiarisation visit' to Germany. It isn't even over yet, but we (Raymond and I) are skiving today to catch up on other work, to do some of the things we planned, and haven't had the time to do, in a schedule packed with guided tours and information-gathering outings. Each day has been an 8.30-ish start until we fall into bed at 23.00hrs, sometimes later as I filed copy into the small hours. So we have had to 'live with the moment', taking photos through the coach windscreen (though it would have been unfair on our fellow travellers if we had hogged the front seat overmuch). Our images have been more atmospheric than publishable; quick clicks of the shutter to capture shape and colour for later reference.

So this will be a short post. If you are interested in a little more, please visit my Journaling the Journal blog where I have posted some of my journal pages of sketches and notes. That activity has been a personal delight, for sketching has never been my forte, but doing so on this trip has eased my tired brain whilst we have been experiencing all the guided tours that have been so generously laid on for us. Indeed, the whole trip has been sponsored by so many organisations within the German tourist industry, with the support of companies involved in the caravan and motorhome world. (For readers who wonder what is the significance of the cartouche on the left, it is a symbol I created to indicate that more on a topic can be found on one of my other blogs by following the link / links.

Spent the whole day on the idyllic campsite (Lech Camping) where we have been for the last week. So restful when we are here; fantastic facilities and lovely people. Take a look at their website; when online, click on the UK version. Tomorrow, we are heading with the motorhome to the Rhine, very long drive for us.

P.S. I think something odd may have happened to the layout; more likely Blogger is playing up again; I'll have to fix it when we get home.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Day of Days

Please double-click if the text is too small to read as it stands. How glad I am to be alive and to have experienced this day. Even the TV buffoons could not spoil it, though there were gems from experienced commentators. If you watched it on the small screen, you will know what I mean; if you didn't, the afternoon was spectacular; and if you were there, you have helped make history.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Life changes ....


Ramblings: Pivotal to all that I do are many things: my husband (since 1958), our three distant children and their respective spouses, and our nine beautiful 8-18 year-old grandchildren. And daily, our rambling home and rambling garden. Separate to all that is my commissioned work, and my personal writing (my word-whispers, poem-spills, diaries and illustrated journals; and increasingly important to me, my mixed-media 'art'. The latter is my release, my escape into myself - I feel a physical and mental itch if I cannot find even a few minutes every day to 'create'.

Self-seeded wildlings in the orchard: cow parsley and honesty colonise
the space around a fallen 120-year-old apple tree
And late at night, another escape: blogs, emails and Facebook. My dear far-flung online acquaintances are very special to me, as our my few 'on-the-ground' real friends. For I am not, and never have been, a social person. I find crowds and gatherings intimidating, and guess it is a selfishness in me; or an early upbringing that taught me self-reliance and  perseverance, regardless of surroundings.

with my beloved grandfather
(me, age about eight)
I rabbit on. We, Raymond and I, enter a new phase in our lives. I relish a complete day to work unhindered yet inevitably punctuate it with the caring and sharing of a relationship many years in the making. And if I am to come to the point ... I weave into this mix so many threads, past, present and future. My memory pulses and fades; childhood is in brilliant focus, yet I forget what I blogged about last week, or even yesterday. I have so much I still want to say, to share - a mountain of writing stashed away, scribbled over the years  on sheaves of paper and in numerous sundry notebooks: on divers topics - garden and landscape, travel and art, history and birdsong.  But time is running out as the brain cells fuse and the fog thickens and clears.

whenever you see this cartouche
there will be a link in the paragraph
alongside to more of my news
So pinning it all together - have I introduced this already? - is this 'cartouche'. Whenever you see it, it will link to one of my other blogs for a web of related news and information, a catalogue of events, books and up-to-the minute news. Please click the links - like any jigsaw, the pieces fit together; the whole picture is one of many parts. Please comment, share links, I'd love it if you felt you were a part of my wheel, of my mind-mapping journey. here's an example: click HERE to take you to news of the Olympic Torch route and the National Parks, a calendar of where the torch-bearers will be on any particular day.

It is late, I am writing in the garden. The daisies fold their petals towards the night, all is silent Save for the evening birdsong, and the setting sun is but a month off midsummer. As for us, we are off on continental travels ..... 

Friday, 11 May 2012

A little of what you fancy ....

Before the sun shone
As this is my personal blog – one where I let my hair down – I thought I would illustrate and comment on some of the aspects of the Malvern Spring Gardening Show that have particularly caught my fancy over the last couple of days. No links to external websites or anything like that in this post (except to relevant posts in my other blogs), for each aspect illustrated here will feature over the coming weeks and months in augmented form in my other ‘working’ blogs. So much in fact appealed, that I now have the enjoyable business of sorting written notes, a bagful of literature collected and images taken, whilst gathering together the threads that have inspired me. First of course is the backdrop of the unforgettable hills; uplifting to the spirit, and a place of beauty of which I never tire.

Year-4 scrapbook associated with 'best-in-show' school garden
Of my many passions in life, one has always been the importance of inspiring others. This began in childhood with theatrical activities – and writing, even then, and continued into a teaching career. So the work being done by The Three Counties Showground to encourage children to “explore, experience and enjoy” is dear to my heart. And, if you come to think about it, much of what goes into the ‘staging’ of any Show or Exhibition is in fact theatrical (wearing my marketing hat here!) – so it was a huge delight to see the gardens created by so many schools, to share with some of the pupils their enthusiasm. And what an excellent lesson they have inadvertently learned, to struggle with the rain and mud over the last month as they created, built and planted their gardens, and to have achieved such amazing results. To be totally honest, they had a simplicity and freshness lacking in some of the adult designers’ gardens!

The Show Garden that most appealed to me
Though I loved Kasia Howard’s ‘Florilegium’, which I mentioned briefly yesterday in my new Traveller’s Tales blog (click on Random Jottings in the top bar). I plan to write more about Kasia and her design thoughts – both this and her showgarden at Malvern 2011 – were a revelation. It was the most difficult of all the gardens to photograph for it lay in the shadow of a large tree, so the image just does not do it justice; the sinuous metal scrolls made me think of unravelling a history of wild medicinal plants, and indeed the punched words, taken from folklore, could have been those of a herbalist, singing troubadour fashion. Theatre again.

From large to small scale: from creating in three dimensions to recording on the page. The RHS Botanical Art Exhibition was held in part of the newly developed Three Counties Centre, and was worthy of this new exhibition space. Such gifted artists, and such a range of styles. I particularly liked the delicate and perceptive work of Caroline Holley and her ‘Wayside Weeds in Winter’. No photograph could compare with the originals, and this was taken through glass with reflections of passing crowds outside the plate-glass windows.

My love of old buildings sparked a journaling idea when I saw these exquisite  pieces 
Next came my ‘reserved for creativity’ time, across the Showground and more delights in the Wye Hall and The Guild of Herefordshire Craftsmen. I had fallen in love with the ‘raku fired buildings’ created by Neil Spalding on previous occasions. Interpretations of historic buildings, their detail, colour and texture has given me the idea of creating textural images from some of my photos of old-buildings, using scrunched and coloured napkin tissue on pages from old books. More theatre! (Please scroll back through my Journaling blog for other ways in which I place my own interpretation on landscape.)

Paul Hervey-Brookes (right) with guests
Back to theatre proper and the ‘Plants & People’ Theatre – a totally new concept for the Show, and a “visually exciting and engaging centrepiece’ designed by Paul Hervey-Brookes in his trademark living landscape theme. Paul hosted a stimulating discussion on ‘Real Gardens’, posing questions to three gardeners with long experience of opening their gardens to the public. Answering prompts put to them, each contributor spoke of their philosophy of garden spaces, and what gardens are all about. Surprisingly, there was no mention of vegetables (almost as if something so utilitarian should be hidden from view!) There was no time to quiz the speakers on their views re ‘grow-your-own’ – so you will have to check my ‘Vegetable Heaven’ post that I wrote last night here.

Buying choice specimens appealed to the plant hunters
Time was running out; I had not covered a half of what I wanted to do today, and have yet to take out of the cupboard mixed-media materials for my own interpretation of Showground  pleasures and delights. The chill wind was ignored, the sun had shone all afternoon; crowds were departing trundling cherished plants and I - back to the motorhome (our mobile office and studio) to record all this, to work out tomorrow’s schedule, and enjoy a glass or two of wine. A little of what you fancy ….

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

On the move again ..

Bluebells on a bank near Malvern (snapped from the motorhome window)
The day so grey, a misty drizzle barely perceptible; hills in the far distance muted - a soft landscape. So on the top road out of the village, I list wild-flowers growing in the unkempt verge: pink campion, bluebells, cowslips, buttercups (the creeping kind, cow parsley sprung but still in bud; dandelions and daisies bedraggled, not bothering to open.

Over the county boundary into Gloucestershire; beyond and over the Fosse Way: Jack-in-the-Hedge (Garlic Mustard), a blush of crab apple, fluffy seed heads of spent coltsfoot. Bud-burst of beech, a delicate silken green. Up onto the high wolds, stony limestone clay; feathered larch as winding down the steep escarpment, the Severn plain is mapped ahead of us, the sky clearing. Across the Avon and Severn, towards the hills - Malvern and the Showground, the Spring Gardening Show, and so much beauty.

Looking towards the Malverns at Castlemoreton (also taken from the m'home)

Friday, 4 May 2012

Something I want to say ...

a shadow of my former self

Time is running out ... If you follow more than one of my blogs (thankyou, I appreciate your interest and kindness), you will see this week that all posts overlap - with virtually similar content. Best, I thought, to make simultaneous announcements. So why?

With my professional work now crossing several genres, and a necessary change in our lifestyle due to various 'happenings', it seemed sensible to re-evaluate my blogs and the purpose for which each was created - a resume of why they were started and how they have adapted to subsequent factors - which I here share with you, my readers. Although each blog is an entity in itself, they all interlink; the sum of the whole is greater than the constituent parts. Click on any of the blog titles to take you there (apart of course from this one, because you're here, and reading it now!) And when - or if - you do click, ignore the latest post which is a replica of these first two paragraphs, and trace my blogging story back to its beginnings.

Wild Somerset Child: my first blog, in which initially I wrote about everything under the sun, until I came to a point where certain topics 'asked' to have space of their own. Which they now have. So this, my "wild child",  has very much become a blog of personal joys and tribulations; our daily toil, delights and occurrences. A blog which, like my dear husband, and my children and grandchildren, will always hold a special place in my heart.

Journaling the Journal grew out of the first blog: it is the creative side of me. A strange title, perhaps. It tells a story - many stories - of the journals I write and make, in paper and cloth, within notebooks, on maps, illustrated and embellished, but always focussed on word-whispers, with ever-recurring themes of natural history and my passion for place. 'JJ' also now provides mini-tutorials as more magazine articles are commissioned by various editors.

Grandma's Garden Notes: I have to admit that this was begun in haste to coincide with blogging live at a gardening show I was covering professionally. So its style had to be different; but somehow it never gelled and in my mind became mixed with imaginary gardens, a cloth book I was working on at the time and a strange dream I once had, which became a stitched sampler! GGN has been in abeyance for a while and I am somewhat ambivalent about its re-emergence, or even its continued existence.

Dobies of Devon Gardening Companion: actually, it was the commissioning of this professional blog that has superseded Grandma's Garden! It was a great honour to be asked to do this - weekly - to augment the monthly online e-newsletter I was already writing for them. The blog is a compendium of words, images and ideas to inspire gardeners 'young, old and in-between'; information and, in my usual style, part diary of our gardening endeavours. (No extra story here; just the blog; the background is immaterial.)

Traveller's Tales also grew out commissioned work, though I am writing it independently - and only created it this week!  As Travel Editor of 'Discover Touring' magazine I receive so much material that can never be used because DT is only published twice a year, and thus much fascinating news never reaches readers, for it arrives in the interim period. And I've designed  TT to "inform and beguile readers, with previews of activities and events, updates on places to visit and things to do; and all interspersed with our own touring tales - my travel writer's diary". Wherever I go, you will find me with notebook in hand, writing. (No extra story here; just the new blog.)

A Book-Lover's Journey is also close to my heart. Sub-titled 'an impassioned reader's  guide to books new and old', it relates another side of me: my love of words and books, and the influence upon my life of my grandfather and great-grandfather. Without their unequivocal love, I would not be writing these words now, over 70 years after first realising that books - and words - were precious things. Yet BLJ, too, is semi-professional; with posts incorporating reviews of the many books I receive int he course of other work. And it was always intended to include interviews with authors. But circumstances intervened, and at present, much to my distress, it is the poor relation.

And so you see how things now stand. My life revolves around my husband, family, home, garden, creative mixed-media art; and of course commissioned work, without which it would be difficult to survive ... and time is running out. Dear readers, I treasure your following, and your comments, and can only apologise if I am forgetful and do not respond as I aught. With my very best wishes (and still at heart a 'wild child'), Ann. xx

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Moving on ...

Digging numbs the mind
Since my last post, composed on the day before my 54th wedding anniversary, I have found it almost impossible to write about how our life together has changed. Snippets on Facebook, yes, but those occasional words did no more than touch the surface. For we have been catapulted unawares into a world of changes, BOTH of us coming to terms with how R's condition is affecting each of us individually. Both irritable with each other, never knowing what will spark a verbal conflagration, a moment of hurt. So I fall to pieces; cannot communicate; am lost and bewildered, though thank heavens I can still switch almost instantaneously into professional mode.

The blog I began almost a year ago to document my
life, and my love of books; it's destined to include reviews of
the many books that arrive from publishers, and also
interviews with authors. I must manufacture time!
It is tough, wearing two hats, being breadwinner and wife, but at least I had my parents' joint example of professionalism to fall back on. I'll write more about that sometime in my neglected blog, 'A Book-Lover's Journey', which I began last year to document the many influences on my life. Circumstances curtailed the entries; I did not realise why, at the time.

The 16th century farmhouse R. and I bought at auction in 1969, with our
two boys - then aged 6 and 8 (just posted about this
on the village facebook page.
I become maudlin in my old age. But R. and I have moved on since that dreadful day of diagnosis, and the months leading up to it. I find I can cope ... with our beloved children's support, and my late-night Facebook fix - just a few words here and there, a photo or two - I am gradually stitching myself back together, though the mental wounds are still ragged and raw. R. is again enjoying his workshop (the size of a small bungalow!), and his vegetable plot, his work on the house - ongoing even after 40-plus years, and spur-of-the-moment days out, or away in our motorhome, which I am learning to drive (I should have 'L' plates attached, according to R.)

Creating illustrated journals in my caravan studio (messy craft activities
take place indoors, up in the attic roof-space).
Creativity is my lifeline at the moment. I have taken the plunge and am participating (sheepishly) in 'Warwickshire Open Studio'. A huge leap forward for me, personally: textile books and word-whispers combined with manipulated photos of place and living things, and all to be displayed in my caravan studio, about which I posted in my journaling blog a short while ago - and on the official WOS website. Too much about me in this post. It's just good to be muddling along together.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Rose in winter

I walked out one February morning
to pluck a winter rose.
So perfect.
Yet the heart
was frozen
velvety petals
folded on crystal
solid as stone
on that day, in the pale
Saturday sun.

Crimson petals, fragile
as they thaw and fall
wither and blacken.
The memory remains
and breaks my heart.
I catch them in a porcelain dish
to keep forever
to remember this day.

Fifty four years ago - 8th February 1958 - it snowed on our wedding day. Bitter cold as I stood in my long white wedding dress, Raymond holding my hand so tight. We have survived so much together since then, he and I; and now comes change, and something I find difficult to write about. Something was wrong; I could not detect quite what it was; it crept up on us unawares. But now we know. After three months of increasing illness and symptoms I will not divulge, he at last went to the doctor, and two weeks ago was diagnosed with diabetes type two. It was such a shock, to see this dear and strong, clever man so vulnerable. In his 80th year, we could not expect that he could always continue all the building works and heavy tasks that have been his way of life.

Early October, caravanning at Malvern; happy days
We learn that diabetes type two is treatable with tablets, diet (eat less) and exercise. Today he was told to increase the daily dose of pills. And I discover that he has suspected what was wrong since the summer, or perhaps even earlier, and ignored it. Many odd moments suddenly fell into place. Casual comments about wanting to go on a 3-week trip to Europe "because it would be the last long tour he would do." And booking it. Casually looking for a motorhome that we could both drive to share the travelling. Falling asleep and having no energy; and so on. We are not the first couple to discover that one's whole life has been turned upside down, or that we need to make adjustments. We're picking up the pieces. What will be will be.

But as I was picking another 'Othello' rose in my wild front garden this winter's morning, to give to my beloved with early morning tea tomorrow, I noticed that again its heart was frozen. You could see the ice, like crystal, between the folded petals. Dark thoughts. This rose flowers all winter, hanging its heavy head. 

And that is how I feel right now: head hanging and heart frozen. I am captured in a time-warp from which I cannot escape. I would not want to do so, but the cause is exercising all of me. If you look closely at the first rose, and double-click the image, you will see the ice. There is one rose left to pick this year on the bush; it is frozen, too, and will never open for it is shrivelled and too immature.