on the mend

Many many thanks for all your good wishes - I am feeling quite a lot better and from time to time almost normal, although never for very long. One of the defining things about this flu is that you think you are greatly improved and then suddenly - wham - you are flat out in bed again sneezing wondering what on earth is going on.

Yesterday I managed a whole afternoon of feeling semi-alright, and forced myself to go into my workroom to cut out and make some linen hearts. I immediately found it both energising and settling, and so enjoyed the process of being creative again, which seemed to free up my thoughts a bit...

Roger Deakin talks about this rhythm in Notes from Walnut Tree Farm, which I have been consuming greedily this last week:

'Ruskin, leading his students off to dig a road outside Oxford to learn about hard work as the prerequsite of clear thinking... same goes for Morris - obsessed with working with the hands, with crafting and shaping things ... [Arthur] Miller had his workshop and furniture-making, and his barn-building and tree-planting.'

This has helped me to see the value of all making, how one thing feeds another, how thoughts develop and are processed as we do things with our hands.

it wasn't our fault...

How can beautiful, happy little piggies have anything to do with the atom bomb that has hit our household this week?

Our family has joined the thirty percent of Brits predicted to catch the dreaded swine flu... now that we have a baby in the house again it has brought it back to me how flu rips through a family like a tornado bringing maximum devastation... every room is full of half-empty glasses, blankets, tissues, discarded plates and cups, the curtains still drawn... the sound of coughing and sneezing everywhere... the boredom and backache of being in bed all day and all night... the abandoned piles of washing: the trip down to the cellar laundry room now too much for anyone to tackle... one snuffly little nose unable to sleep and wanting to play at 3.30am every night... tired mum and dad, grumpy grandparents... the triumph of managing a small task such as wiping the kitchen surfaces or stacking the dishwasher... lying awake at night worrying about more and more paperwork piling up (him)... a consignment of hearts and bags and decorations promised by the second week of November still unmade (me)... all my new threads still unwrapped and unused...

Slowly, slowly though, I think the tornado is losing its strength... hopefully it won't be long before we are back to good health again, meanwhile I am crocheting in bursts, reading loads (Monty Don, Crystal Renn, Roger Deakin, Rose Tremain), drinking lovely lemon-and-lime flavour This Water and watching the birds in the sunshine outside.

Hoping that you are still healthy and if not, 'solidarnosc'!

barely there

I am often drawn to places and things which are faded and worn away... perhaps by the sea, the wind, human touch, forgetfulness, or the passing of time.

I like the way time seems to move freely in and around the warp and weft of some places, or where it stands still altogether... places with a deep, rich history... voices drifting in and out of earshot.

The Wye Valley and Forest of Dean are full of such places: soft colours, faded paintwork, ancient whisperings.

We stayed close to the River Wye in a little cottage reached through a steep maze of roads and tracks, dipping down through ancient apple orchards and mixed woodland, down and down and down until it felt like we were almost underground, living like hobbits in the roots of the trees.

We walked back up the old, deeply sunken tracks to the village of Penallt where the old church showed us its treasures...

A carved wooded Madonna made from a single holly bole... very old and precious.

Ancient carvings in the great oak door...

Gravestones almost obscured by the slow beautiful growth of lichen so delicately and palely green that it could have come straight from the Farrow and Ball paint chart...

Angels guarding memories, voices, lives that were once solid and real...

On our return we passed a little chapel, derelict and empty... a 'SOLD' sign was hammered into the ground... we wondered about the people who were buying it and hoped they would respect its shabby wildness and whispering trees and not tidy it up too much...

On our long drive home we passed through the beautiful village of Newnham-on-Severn... the Romans forded the River Severn here and it was once an important medieval port. So much history here around every corner... this little offering was on an ancient track leading down to the old ferry... this was probably once the ferryman's cottage.

Just a taste of this lovely part of England... almost in Wales of course... Offa's Dyke passed close by our cottage. Everywhere are the signs of ancient activity, industry, transport and lives lived long ago. We enjoyed uncovering some of the stories and mysteries for a week, but now we are back it seems like another world... Maybe it is...

dark heart

Happily, I had a few hours to myself today to work on some new linen hearts. This dark brown one came later on in the afternoon, after I'd developed my old pattern and hopefully arrived at something a little more decorative and delicate:

It took me a while playing around with oddly shaped and brightly coloured prototypes to work out which job to do first, how to attach the ribbons and beads, which colour threads to use, and all those lovely playful, creative decisions. I'm pleased - these have turned out almost exactly as I saw them in my head and drew them in my sketchbook - always a happy outcome.

I did enjoy having a root through my button jars as well... always a soothing activity.

This is just a quick post as I'm off to collect my little granddaughter and then life always gets a bit hectic around teatime. In the next few days I'll show you some lovely pictures from our sunny holiday in the Wye Valley.

Don't forget there are still a few really cheap bargains going in the shop, so if you haven't ordered anything yet (and thank you to all who have) then why not pop along and see what's there.