By the sea all worries wash away…

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We all go through times of hardship, it is the cost of being human, but sometimes we go through times when there are no hardships to speak of- yet we are just not happy.  Happiness, of course, is overrated- many believe contentment is far more prize-worthy.  Personally, I think peace is the dark-horse creeping up on the inside.  To me, peace is everything.

IMG_0310You can be in the middle of an emotional storm and if you can keep even a tiny sense of peace in that core of your being then you can weather it. When you don’t have peace everything is hard. I always think of the words of a W.B Yeats poem, “when peace comes dropping slow” .  I can really relate to that line, many times, I have felt that lack of peace and it can be excruciating, drip, drip, in small droplets, like the agony of a leaking tap, when what you need is a gushing wave of it to cover you!

I needed waves.

I had recently had my second baby, perhaps it was my hormones, but I just couldn’t settle my heart.  My head was o.k, I just knew my soul wasn’t right. There was one place I always went when I had that disturbance inside and it was the sea. I booked a long break at an old familiar seaside town from my childhood.  I didn’t particularly want to go there exactly, but, then I came across this little beauty…

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Oh how it spoke to my heart!  I knew this was somewhere i wanted to be for a while.  I couldn’t contain my excitement when I realised I could hire it and a caravan and it was only an hour up the road.  I know some would find this strange…it is hardly Barbados and it definitely is a holiday ‘of old’ these days…but a simple, caravan holiday, a spit-away from the sea with a perfect little hut straight out of a Cath Kidston brochure really rocked my boat!

Then I saw the sign at the back of thIMG_0199e hut, “by the sea all worries wash away” .  That sealed the deal.  I knew it was the tonic I needed.

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I couldn’t wait to soak it all up.  I didn’t care if it rained – alright I did a bit – but I just wanted to drink in that saltiness; take in the energy of that wild air and watch the crashing waves of the North Sea.

We made pancakes in the mornings, a tradition that has stayed with us whenever we have a lazy day of nothingness ahead of us.  We fed birds from our caravan door and they came up to my little one’s highchair to feed; she squealed with joy- and the peace dripped.  We went for long walks to get the baby to sleep and it dripped some more.  We built castles and moats and channels and pretended we were deserted on islands and it dripped and dripped.  We got a dingy and took it out to sea and laughed and screamed when we got splashed, then the baby fell asleep in the boat on my lap and we bobbed about near the shoreline.  It dripped and dripped and poured and poured and soon we were awash with peaceful, joyous moments and finally relaxed into our lives as a new family.

IMG_0306We didn’t want it to end.  So I went in search of a hut of our own.  I asked around and rang numbers and discovered they cost a lot.  Then we came across a wreck- at least to an untrained eye.  To me, a keen spotter of something that is going to make my heart soar, this was a haven by the sea.

I envisaged a retreat where I would spend hours of quality time with diaries of ideas and (in my imagination) a typewriter.

In reality, I had to spend hours cleaning theIMG_0262 thickest layer of grime I have ever seen and wire-wool a rusty old gas stove just to get a cuppa at the end of it- but what a cuppa!!!!

Look at that view!!!

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To me, she was a beauty… sure, her interiors were, erm, rustic but that was and IS her charm…  We intend on dressing her beautifully, it has been a long process, there were stairs to fix, stain to buy and rusty nails to deal with.  This year though, it is the interior that will take the limelight and I cannot wait!! Below is the first time I went in, after picking up the keys, and recently… after painting!!!!!!!

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There are many things in life to try us and none of us escape pain or a lack of peace, as I guess we won’t truly find this until we meet our maker, but, I have found if I concentrate on the things that make my heart do back-flips then I get a little closer to that peace.

Now can you see how this hut is begging for crochet??!!

More pics to follow, charting the journey of this neglected- but heavenly -hut!

xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx

Slave or Master?

The definition of the word, ‘slave’: to be the property of another. Those into a bit of Etymology will be interested to know that this version comes from Medieval Latin: ‘sclavus’ and only later evolved to also mean ‘one who has lost power of resistance to some habit or vice’. We find the latter littered all over the place, as a loose expression for feeling so powerless to something that we become slavish to it, for example, you may hear: i’m a slave to TV; a slave to my iPhone; a slave to my job.

The definition of ‘master’: ‘a man who has people working for him, especially as servants or slaves’ / ‘a person who holds a further degree’.

I would say I have been slavish to a few things throughout my life but can see I have been slavish many times to my romantic ideals. I read Austen at too young an age, I watched musical epics-often, and on my degree, I loved the renaissance poetry and sonnets – and this brings with it an idealistic view of the world that can enslave me a bit- making me resistant to its cruel counterpart… reality.

Romantics do get challenged of course, often. You get tested when you visit a hospital, a grave or see the news and definitely when you have a child. My romanticism about writing has had to be challenged too, until recently…

As I expressed in my last blog, I’ve been a little disappointed about, what I perceived to be, X-Factor style parading of wannabe authors. I mean… an agent? It does sound soulless doesn’t it?!

You see, as a wannabe writer (plus romanticist) it’s obvious I would enjoy the notion of my manuscript being serendipitously happened upon by a chain-smoking publisher, with a spare half-hour on his hands, or fished out of a waste-paper bin by a keen clerk and held aloft with a -“You must read this! Here is the Oscar Wilde of our generation!”

The realist in me knows this is unlikely.

It is not only unlikely, but with an industry full of agents and the rarely used (if at all) slush pile, it is more of an impossibility nowadays. I think that’s why I dislike the agents and ‘Masters in Creative Writing’ routes to a glittering writing career. They render my sensibilities above dead in the water.

It’s the equivalent of hoping to meet your life partner through a magical chain of events that seem against all odds or match.com.

I’m not knocking match.com or any other dating site, I think they are a great idea and if I hadn’t found my husband when I did I certainly would have uploaded a fake photo of myself, but the thing is, when you’re really hung up on the happy accidents, destined meetings and divine signs – you get a bit flat when reality bites.

Then, I had a moment.

I was chewing over this writing lark, still tentatively, when I found myself serendipitously hearing a radio programme about this very thing. My husband had used the car and tuned the radio to 5 Live, a station I have never listened to, mainly because my two year-old refuses all radio noise in the car, in a most dominant fashion. Indeed, the tiny finger waves at me and a small voice threatens in a most unnerving tone, “turn-it-off-mummy”. Thus, I have been driving in relative silence over the last two years. Then yesterday afternoon, I jumped in the car for the dreaded school-run and said husband’s radio station came on, I vaguely noticed and listened half-heartedly to the dulcet tones, expecting my small charge to pipe up and then…we queued in traffic and I grew interested, very interested.

They were interviewing Emma Healey, a new writer, who had her first novel, ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ published, not just published, but they had fought over her manuscript. She had caused a publishing war. The broadcasters asked her various questions about the storyline, all of which were fascinating, her topic matter being dementia, but then, quite amazingly to me, they discussed the benefits of having an agent and whether a Masters in Creative Writing was necessary to her story or not. Now it’s not lost on me that this isn’t that groundbreaking, as radio journalism goes, but don’t forget I have a little dictator in the back and I was expecting a rude interruption any moment and had not tuned in deliberately on this particular day. Then I noticed my little one was sound asleep and it felt very…meant for me.

I listened to the rest in the car park and hung on every word, it finished just as I was due to get out of the car. Emma Healey told how a publisher had filled rooms with forget-me-nots and tinned peaches to woo her (images from her novel); the agent she had acquired on her M.A had been a great guide and a definite asset; the Masters was ‘hugely’ enjoyable- she COULDN’T have written the novel without it. I was enthralled. It was a very romantic story but it was very real -it was a perfect combination.

The thoughts whirred, I could do a Masters in Creative Writing, ooh I would like an agent and maybe one day I would feel the way Emma Healey felt about her first novel, anything but disappointed.

You can be a romantic and still have a head for practicalities, but up to now I  just didn’t apply this to writing-perhaps I didn’t want to, ‘when the student is ready the teacher appears’ my mum often says.  I looked up the origin of this quote and it is also quoted as: ‘when the seeker is ready the master appears’.  I had been playing around with the idea of the words master and slave for this post.  I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

So, perhaps it is possible to be slavish to romantic ideals and yet have a pragmatic approach at the same time – maybe I have been missing it – maybe I could be both a slave to romance and a master of words and write my masterpiece at the end of it! 🙂

xxx

If you’re interested in hearing the podcast of the interview with Emma Healey I ‘tried’ to link it below:

‘Radio 5 live’: to hear the podcast of the interview with Emma Healey… type this in to your search bar and hopefully you should see it listed for the next 30 days…
http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/extraedition

xxx

Exposed.

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I’m sure you can all think of an area of your life that you prefer to keep as hallowed, sacred ground.  You don’t want others trampling about and nosing through it, offering advice and worse still- judgement.  I’m sure some of these areas are private, guarded and sacrosanct to you.

I’m quite open about most things but there’s one area that I guard quite closely.  I have a deep longing to be a professional writer- even saying that makes me cringe- I have said too much already… But, it has to be said-because this year I am determined to step out there and write, out there in the sunshine! Without wanimageting to sound grandiose, i’ve lurked in the shadows long enough.  I’ve peeped at others’ blogs; poured over another’s short stories and rampaged through someone else’s novel. I now feel -in the words of the great Cindy Lauper (if they were her words!?)- that it’s time to show my true colours.

I’m going to go a step further… I am an English teacher.  Everyone loves to correct a teacher.  I mean can you think of anything more satisfying than knowing better than a teacher at school?  Well some people carry this on into adulthood.

“Spell supercalifradgilisticexpialidosious then” a grocer once ordered in a deep, mocking tone over my half-pound of cherries. Ha, in your face – just did ( alright I googled it)  Or, “bet you don’t teach grammar like they did when I was a kid”, a scoffing, middle-aged, man accused, over his pint of Hobgoblin at the pub I worked in to fund my social life- I mean-studies.

'How does one correct this?' 'Get yourself a girlfriend.'

So, you see, it isn’t easy to just pop a piece in the post to a publisher (especially without an agent-yawn) or post it on amazon for the kindle world to ignore.  I am truly setting myself up with this.  Indeed, every other category on this blog will feel like a breezy day in Brighton compared to logging on and uploading my own pieces of (sob) soul.

O.k I mock a little. I’m using humour to defend myself.  See its started, i’m defensive. Wait ’til the comments section starts pinging up on that stats page thingy and someone called Bill from: ‘blogginginmybath’, says, ‘that’s a bit shit love’.

Well Bill, (trying not to imagine him in the bath) , thank you for taking the time to comment but you see I can’t worry about you, or the grocer, or the punter at the pub, or the publishers or the (catching yawn) ruddy agents, because Bill…I have to write. If I don’t have a go at writing to an actual audience then how will I ever feel I lived this life to its fullest, richest and bravest potential – and Bill I don’t give one if that isn’t grammatically correct.  I hated David ‘sodding’ Crystal’s book anyway.

Now, one could argue that you do not need an audience to write, and this is true of course, but to share what you do is a natural progression of the creative.  It isn’t fame that most artists and writers seek- it is acceptance.  Though for some it is even simpler.

In the woimagerds of Sylvia Plath – “I write because there is a voice within me that will not be still.” You see, writing is cathartic.  It is an outlet for those dark thoughts and whimsical ideas we all nurse.

I already feel stronger.  One page of a blog and I am a little braver than when I started.  So, that, my friends is it.  From now on I am an open book, and that’s a metaphor Bill – way more interesting than grammar – so up your over-bathed bottom.

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Crocheting the night away!

Ok, so I know it isn’t the most rock’n’roll way to spend a Saturday night and the fact that many may see it as rather an old-fashioned pursuit but personally I can’t think of anything more relaxing than holed up in a cosy caravan/cottage/hut or house crocheting away, line-after- line of loveliness. Or square-after-comforting-square. I am a new crocheter and we are the most zealous. I could bore you with the details of my latest projects and I’m going to …

So, remember I said a dear friend introduced me to crochet- well I needed more guidance-when I was all alone and in danger of frustration from not being able to remember the things she taught me -so she recommended ‘crochet school’ – the name appealed to the teacher in me -a great place to visit on you tube for LOTS of videos on how to do everything from a slip-stitch to a whole afghan. It has been invaluable as a reference, go-to guide, on all the stitches and techniques.

Inspiration is a different thing. You can have ‘all the gear and no idea’ my sister says.  So, you need somewhere to go to get the motivation -and again -that heart-lift moment! I found bags of it (excuse the pun) at Attic 24.  Lucy takes you through her projects with such enthusiasm and verve you are left dying to try out her ideas and patterns.  Dying to try out a crochet pattern? Yes. Visit that Attic and I defy you not to buy an 8 pack of chunky, rainbow yarn!

Well I did buy a pack of chunky yarn and I am still finishing her beautiful ‘Jolly Chunky Bag’ .  You can see my efforts so far here.

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I am new to this and it was surprisingly easy. It is also a great project for learning the techniques, changing colour, in the round, edging and appliqués.  Very satisfying. You can see it isn’t finished yet- I will show you when I’m done! Meanwhile, I’d suggest looking at Lucy’s pattern on Attic 24 to see how it’s done properly!

Often it’s effective, for the sake of variety, to do more than one thing at time and so I am also experimenting with granny squares and a shell blanket, of which I shall update you in due course.  If you are contemplating a granny-square blanket then take a look at the join-as-you-go methods- these are useful if you are a bit impatient to get on with the good, heart-singing, bits you like best!

My first attempts at joining granny squares and indeed granny squares at all…

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Sorry for for the blurry (atmospheric?! ) photograph -the photos will improve! At the moment I’m just glad to be able to do this at all – I plan to have beautiful photographs as times goes on- something I love to see on others’ articles and blogs.

I’m off to do some serious hooking.

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2014 -hindsight is a wonderful thing!

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2014.

When one year passes I like to think about the headlines from the previous year, for me, 2014 was an unusually calm, creative time.

I’m only recently realising that it has taken me a long time to wind down…from a full-time teaching job in a London school; a big wedding; house-move; my first baby and then a toddler… and a second baby for good measure – it is not surprising really.

I learnt to crochet in 2014 thanks to a dear, very creative, friend and this has really helped me to relax. It is very meditative and I got much more from it than I expected. I am now quite a frequent visitor of sites and blogs about crochet and have made a bag to hold all the wool I keep buying-made out of wool -naturally!

We also bought a caravan, so that we could stay overnight near our (heart-lift) beach hut and because we are useless at booking holidays, this is a very good way forward for us, plus I got all the pleasure of decorating it with fun seaside interiors- that for the first time-I felt I could use authentically!

Last year,  I had a 1 year old turning 2 and 4 year old turning 5 -so two cakes were also in order – pictures above! I say made. I had to cheat a bit, as my children are born a week apart, to make the cakes and ice them to the ‘very’ specific requests of a Lego Star Wars and rabbit theme was a bit of an undertaking. As it was, I had to retreat for a whole weekend to complete all the little figures and Lego pieces!

So, I took the advice of a friend who had noticed I always baked them myself and bought Madeira sponge in various sizes and shapes this time- and I was free and happy to fiddle with fondant to my hearts’ content!

Fondant is a joy to play around with: the texture and colours- play-do -for grown-ups! The best bit, is the reaction I get from my little boy when he sees his birthday cake and, eyes-wide, asks, ‘can I really eat all of that? -the bits on top too?’ He asks the same question every year and I always smile and say yes and then it all feels so very worth it.

It can be frustrating working with fondant icing – when you have a clear idea of the end product but it won’t come together. This is usually because I lack the right tools (yes, I know a bad carpenter and all that!) but it is true with fondant! It is temperamental. If it’s too warm it gets sloppy and sticky, too cool and it won’t flex and splits. It needs gentle, barely-there touches and clever techniques. Saying that,  I’ve gotten by as an amateur up to now -but probably made everything so very much harder for myself!

I was bought a lovely set of tools for Christmas and so 2015’s cakes will be a breeze i’m sure! “A life-sized Elsa and a Turtle that speaks mandarin you say?” No problem, I have a fondant starter pack.

Hello!

IMG_1661 Well, I didn’t think i’d be doing this! The thought of sharing my life with the world via a medium like blogging was (and still is) a little alien to me.

I am an 80s child.  I grew up writing the old- fashioned way, diaries, and such like. Facebook was a glint in Mark Zuckerberg’s Dad’s eye.  I remember the Sega Mastersystem my sister brought home was like something from ‘Brave New World’ and the old Atari was never  dusted off again. Poor ‘Pong’.  Yet, here I am. I am writing due to a series of events that led me to the point where I knew I wanted to share and develop my ideas, passions and interests with others and benefit from the fuzziness of collaboration.  I am a team-player, but, like doing quite solitary things.  So, I love to read novels, write fiction, crochet, create beautiful things for my home, bake, garden and generally create.

I also want to discover more about what makes my heart sing- a phrase I picked up from an inspirational speaker last year.  The context being, if we are looking for the right path to take then a good place to start is with what makes the heart sing, in other words, the things that give us that lift, the fluttery, excited, noone get in my way “i’m doing this feeling”.  Since I have had my two children I am way more aware of how to tap into things to make my heart float, as time for myself has become a premium, I don’t want to spend it zombied out in front of the box watching repeats or on ahem…Facebook.  I want to make it count.  I want room to find my creative paths.

Some of these glorious past-times are incredibly fulfilling, rewarding and relaxing, but, would be infinitely better if they could be shared and enjoyed with others.  To me, the book-group concept is the perfect illustration of this.  To get the pleasure of cutting  off from the world with a great novel, taken off to another world in a calm, solitary blissfulness, yet, you can come back again and dissect it all with others who have been there too! That’s my ideal.

Indeed, i’ve decided 2015 is going to be ‘my year’.  I have made some resolutions…1. Start a blog (da, da) 2. Write more (I am working on a number of stories for children but paradoxically having children makes it near on impossible to find the time to write anything for them) 3. Join a ‘good’ book group (i’ll tell you about my book group disasters later!) 4. Finish my first crochet blanket (fair-play to 2014 it brought crochet into my world).  5.  Enjoy my time at our much desired, much coveted, picture-perfect, blue and white beach hut on the south-east coast.  (I haven’t enjoyed it fully up to now, of which i’ll be telling you more about later too).

So, with one resolution now in the bag and feeling a little bit smug… i’ll leave you with a quote that sums up the reason for my new season… Do what you love. Do what makes your heart sing and never do it for the money. Go to work and spread joy -Marianne Williamson – ‘Return to Love’.