a little trial

I am just doing a little test to see if blogging from my phone is as easy as I am led to believe... One thing that appears impossible is the use of paragraphs, but I may be able to live with that... maybe. If this works, I will be able to give Alistair Cooke a run for his money after all...

PS The image is one I took on my phone at work of nineteenth century doodling... I liked the leaf and flower border...

fly away little bird

For various complicated reasons my planned family holiday to the US has been brought forward and I am going to be flying 'solo' to New York this Tuesday for a six-day visit.

This news has brought on a flurry of organising passports, visa waiver form-filling, obtaining currency, washing trousers, finishing off crocheted scarves, uploading music to my mp3 player and winding wool into smaller balls for the plane journey. All this accompanied by a low-level anxiety as to whether my 7mm crochet hook will be allowed to travel with me or be seen as a potential weapon and confiscated at security.

Which leaves not much time for blogging, sadly. I have at least two posts floating around my head waiting to be liberated, but they may have to wait until my return. However, I am hoping to get online during my stay, so watch this space...

Sorry that I haven't got the photo credits for the birdy mosaic but you can see them and others by going to my Flickr favourites page.


Doodling with bits and pieces on the windowsill while I'm on the phone...

Doodling in my sketchbook with ink, brush, paper and scalpel...


I am snuggled by a crackling fire drinking tea and listening to Beth Orton. Outside it is raw and cold. Flurries of huge wet snowflakes are being thrown around by what my grandmother used to call a lazy wind*.

At the moment life is about family and home. I have no energy to create. I am trying to be patient with myself and learn to accept this, and the fact that besides, I work in bursts anyway. Being kind to myself so that I have the strength to be kind to others.

*Being lazy, it doesn't bother to go round you, but blows right through you.

something fun to do

There is one of those blog meme thingies going around which looked like fun to me, so I had a go.

Here are the rules:

1. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.

2. Using only the first page, pick an image.

3. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into FD's Mosaic Maker.

The Questions:

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favourite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favourite colour?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your Flickr name.

It is interesting to see what pictures come up... Many having nothing to do with the search term... but fun to select the ones that speak something about you. The only one I had to 'cheat' with was the last one... I entered another username instead.

I would love to see yours! Leave a comment with a link if you decide to do it...

Photo credits for my mosaic:
1. Best wishes to Sue on her Birthday!, 2. Shakey's Pizza, 3. Dawn Mist on the Chiltern Line, 4. Meeting the pregnant princess of the forest, 5. Fernando Torres Liverpool FC, 6. coffee & the city, 7. midnight sun, 8. Castles on the Beach, 9. Strip-tease!!!, 10. bless from above, 11. I'll go sailing no more, 12. She Thinks Sixties

childhood memories

When I was a child I loved watching Blue Peter. I enjoyed everything about it: the presenters, the animals, the BBC garden, the Special Assignments to foreign countries, the dignified way we as children were addressed, and the sense of a little community that emerged over the years. I even wrote letters, sent pictures and received not just a blue and white Blue Peter Badge, but a silver one as well (showing off, sorry).

Of course I quickly grew out of it, as I'm afraid I was rather a serious child and didn't appreciate the wackiness that began to permeate children's tv, but Peter, John, Val, and later Lesley, became like friends to me in the early 1970s, especially as I spent a long time in hospital and stuck at home recovering from an orthopaedic operation.

The thing I loved most about Blue Peter was the 'making' slot that was featured on the programme: toys, games, things to eat, useful household items and decorations crafted from eggboxes, squeezy bottles, string, yoghurt pots and sticky backed plastic. These were demonstrated on live tv by the frequently ham-fisted presenters who muddled through the instructions getting glue, glitter and flour everywhere and then proudly announcing 'and here's one I made earlier', whilst producing a perfect, ready-made version from under the counter with a flourish.

Being a creative child, I looked forward to the making slot feverishly and was always hoarding toilet rolls and shiny foil paper 'just in case'. When I was little one of my favourite things to do on a rainy day was 'cutting out and sticking', when my mother would make a panful of flour and water paste for me and allow me to cut out the pretty ladies from last season's Grattan catalogue.

Last year Blue Peter, astonishingly, was fifty years old, and I was given a book of children's letters to the programme as a Christmas present. It was only whilst browsing through it that I discovered there was one amazing woman behind every single one of those Blue Peter makes: a 'housewife' from Portsmouth, Margaret Parnell, who had written in with an idea for crepe paper hats and so impressed the producers that she got the job of thinking up ideas for years and years worth of programmes. Yet there is almost no information about her! She is one of those invisible people whose name goes down almost as myth but remain silent in the background.

However, I did find one article about this lovely lady, an interview published last August in the Times, so at least one other person has obviously shared my curiosity for this great talent who shaped our childhood days. Do read it, it is most inspiring, and takes me back to a much gentler, happier, less acquisitive time that I often wish to return to in these crazy times. In some ways the work of this lady bridges the gap between the make-do-and-mend spirit of wartime and the craft revolution we are experiencing today, as so many of us feel the freedom to reconnect with crafts first encountered as young girls.

So, please join with me in raising your glasses (or cups of tea and coffee) to the marvellous Mrs Margaret Parnell!

Since this has been rather a long post I will wait till the weekend to tell you about another massive influence on my creativity as a child: the brilliant, beautiful, beloved book Something to Do by Septima. Don't miss it!

make do and bobble off...

In the spirit of making do and mending, I decided to buy one of those Bobble Off gadgets that promises to remove all the bobbles from your sweaters and cardigans so that they become like new.

"It really works!" screams the advertisement, and to reinforce this message a heavily made-up blonde on the packaging hugs her good-as-new cashmere snugly around herself.

It works, yes. But it works very, very, very, very slowly. Think about the sort of speed that caused the Dee Estuary to silt up, or Hadrian's Wall to start crumbling, and you'll be somewhere near.

Guess what I have been doing today?

"This website does not endorse Bobble Off".

new year, new wardrobe

a lengthy moan about how difficult it is to be me...

Paper, scissors and thread have temporarily taken a back seat and I am currently channelling my creative energy into a well overdue wardrobe makeover. As Dolly Parton once famously observed, 'it costs a lot to look this cheap', or in my case, it takes a painfully long time trawling shops, trying on, sorting everything out into outfits, researching hairstyles and spectacle styles, altering dresses into tops, cutting out and making, crocheting accessories, and trying to find matching shoes, to look even remotely stylish.

I am not one of life's fashionistas. I do like to look nice, but to my eternal disappointment I am have never been one of those people who can artfully throw on any old thing, add a slick of cerise lipstick and go out looking stunning.

Lucky Moominmamma. All she needs is a clean apron and a smart new handbag and she's happy. In case you didn't know, I love Moominmamma. Just look at the blissed-out look on her face as she trips through the strange white flowers with her little bowl of fruit, surrounded by her friends and family...

As with pretty much everything I do, updating my wardrobe is taking endless amounts of time, energy, creativity and patience. I am absolutely hopeless at tackling more than one large job at a time. I have to throw myself at things 100% with no distractions, immersing myself totally, at the risk of obsession. It was the same with renovating my house (a pile of Period Living magazines as tall as myself, 87 tester pots of Farrow and Ball paint, uncountable pairs of paint-ruined jeans, hands the texture of sandpaper and a sad, ragged band of starving family members with no clean clothes); creating my garden (digging in manure at 10.30 at night in zero visibility apart from the outdoor security light, ransacking every skip in the area for reclaimed floor joists to use as steps, poring over thousands of gardening books, spending the housekeeping on spring bulbs, fingernails like a troll and too knackered at bedtime to do anything but collapse); my wedding (doing absolutely everything myself almost to the point of sectioning under the Mental Health Act, including the making of 80 assorted mini-tartlets in batches of four because I only had four tins the right size); and raising my children (I had to purposely starve myself of visual art, avoiding art galleries and refusing to draw anything non-child-related for several years). If I try to do more than one thing at once, I simply cannot manage it.

For some, a wardrobe makeover might seem like fun, but did I mention that I hate shopping? Oh, I love the results, the unpacking of treasures, but I can't bear the dry heat, bright lights and loud music of high street shops, the sweaty wrestling in changing rooms, the frustration of things not being available in the right size... More than an hour of this and I start to get panic attacks. Added to which, being a size 16 with a stomach the size of a novelty balloon means that I often feel more like a Master of Disguises as I desperately try to pick out things that might cover up the dodgy bits. Oh, and I can't wear tight waistbands, my feet are a funny shape, labels and lambswool make me itch, and I'm always cold, which means I have to wear more layers than normal people.

But, you're a creative type, I hear you say, why don't you make things yourself? Well believe me, I try, but I am just not a natural 3-D person. I cannot get my head around darts and shaping. If I follow a pattern I miss a bit, or my threads get tangled up in the spool holder, or I cut from the wrong side of the fabric, or any one of an endless number of other possibilities. My 'alterations' often end up padding out the fabric scrap basket, and the air is usually blue.

Nevertheless, despite all these handicaps I am persevering, and have had a great deal of success in the January sales, acquiring all sorts of delicious bargains. I have a dark brown lacy crocheted scarf on the go, I have successfully shortened a pair of not-too-unflattering jeans, and I have a simple skirt pattern ready to cut out and sew. And, I have done some research into possible hairstyles...

Did I mention that my hair is fine, flyaway, prone to kinking and frizzing in damp weather, grows oddly from the crown and was given its last cut by a trainee monkey? No? Well, perhaps I'll spare you this time...

One of these days, I might get round to doing some more art... maybe.

january inspiration

Being generally slow on the uptake, I have only just discovered small magazine. It's a beautifully designed and produced 'online glossy' devoted to small people and all the creative artists who make things designed for children, inspired by children, intended for children to enjoy, play with, make and do, or, as they put it themselves, "small is a magazine of creative work on a small scale and for the small size". Every issue is packed full of wonderful inspiration.

Wordsworth and Coleridge used to ponder a lot about the essence of childhood and whether we could ever reproduce that wonder and magic with which a child sees the world. For them, at least part of the answer was to spend time with little children, which wasn't a problem as they had loads between them. Now my children are grown up men I often miss that wide-open-ness that children carry around with them, like a key to another magical world.

Maya of Maya*Made is the latest creative artist to be interviewed by Margaret at Resurrection Fern, who is starting the New Year by asking various artists and makers to describe how they find inspiration. One of the things Maya says is that she tries to look at the world as if it were brand new, through her childrens' eyes. I can't recommend Margaret's Inspiration Week series highly enough - each day someone new takes centre stage and talks about their work, their blog and/or Etsy shop. Do go and have a read as you'll definitely take something away from it.

Make sure, too, to have a look at Margaret's own beautiful and finely detailed work, inspired by the natural world and always exquisitely photographed. I have absolutely loved her winter pine cones in ice that she has shown this Christmas.