a warning

This weekend we discovered an invasion of these in the attic bedroom... eating away at the carpet and the clothes and laying zillions of tiny little eggs in every hidden place.

I had spotted one or two flying away when I picked up bedding or things from the floor recently, but it didn't dawn on me what they were other than a bit of a nuisance.

Well. Yesterday was spent vacuuming every last inch of carpet, removing and washing every piece of clothing or fabric from the room and chucking some of it out of the window as it was too far gone and too eggy to take downstairs through the house. This was followed by the reluctant spraying of expensive foul smelling stuff and this was almost immediately followed by the glum realisation that a new carpet would have to be bought.

People! Check your wardrobes! Check the furthest corners of your carpets! Do not ignore one single solitary silver-winged fluttering! Take action now, I implore you. Otherwise, clothes moths will take over your life. Mark my words.

On a pleasanter but still domestic topic (this post is entirely housewifey and old-wivey today) this week is going to be all about TEAS. Next weekend my best friend is opening her garden for charity and we have - perhaps foolishly - offered to organise and serve tea and cakes to the ravening hoards. So, there are a hundred and one cakes to be made, the tea urn to be retrieved from the cellar and dusted down, tea cups to be counted, signs to make and tablecloths to be found and washed. Lots of fun to counteract the horrid mothy business.

Now for some weather news. I hope you are all sharing some of the hot sunny weather we are enjoying at the moment. The weather forecasters are telling us there is more to come this summer, and in an exclusive revelation, I can confirm that they are right! When I was little I learnt this country rhyme:

Oak before Ash, in for a splash
Ash before Oak, in for a soak.

Well in the course of my travels and excursions over the last month I am able to report that the Oak has definitely beaten the Ash this year. Most of the oak trees are already in full leaf and displaying their catkins, while the Ash trees are still struggling to free their spiky fingers from the buds. So, no soaking this year hopefully, but lots more of this lovely sun. Let's see if the trees are right.

this week's things

Three golden fishes cut from an article about a fantasy jelly maker who makes jellies for film sets...

The rose I planted three years ago, blooming for the first time. Her name is Madame Alfred Carriere.

The garden looking lush, green, magical and wild.

A new little planting of dark purple violas and silver helichrysum to cheer up the back of the house.

A long walk in the hills over sheepy moorland and down into hidden wooded valleys full of birdsong and silence, breathing in bluebells, feeling the warm sun, finding a ruined farmhouse with an upended tub of table salt, rusted milk churns, a mangle, old jam jars, a table, the brass fender still there all tarnished and black. Hearing chiffchaffs and seeing redstarts, but no cuckoos as I had hoped.

A hare with beautiful long ears leaping across the road in front of the car*.

A surprise amaryllis bloom discovered craning its neck towards the light in the cellar and brought upstairs to be beautiful.

Still the creative block. Nothing to show.

*This is the work of the sublimely talented Anna Ravenscroft whose work I have long desired to own. Copyright is hers. You can buy her work here.

small things

A little snuggly cosy for a favourite handthrown beaker of mine that gets too hot when the tea is new. Six rows of double crochet in a tweedy Rowan yarn. Lovely.

Just one of the few small things I've been doing this rather spare and barren week. I had hoped to have more to show you from my list of creative plans, but the emptiness I wrote of last week is still in residence for the time being. However, I'm attempting to accept this period of quietly observing and taking in, during which I have to trust that there will once again be a time of pouring out and expressing. It's not easy to announce that once again I've not got much to show for myself, but deep down I would prefer to be honest, and art is about life, and life goes in phases and gets filled with other things.

What's really good is that a kind of miraculous interconnectedness often happens at times like these. You will read about something interesting somewhere and then, lo and behold, someone is talking about it the very next day, or you find mention of it in a blog or newspaper article.

This has happened to me a lot this week, for instance on the subject of bees, the fascinating art of bee-keeping, and more especially, the terrible, partially unexplained dying-off of more than a third of the beautiful, hard-working, pollinating, honey-making bees in this country and around the world. This programme is still available for a few more days to watch on BBC iPlayer if you'd like to find out more.

I have also been reading and re-reading Roger Deakin's marvellous book Wildwood, in particular the wonderfully descriptive and evocative chapters about the fertile, fruitful area around Kazakhstan, where there are wild fruit forests and all the walnuts and domestic apples in the world are believed to originate. The book is 'about the element wood, as it exists in nature, in our souls, in our culture and in our lives'. Roger Deakin is so intelligent, widely read and knowledgeable, but wears all this very lightly, making it a joy to read. He often quotes from another favourite book of mine, Thomas Hardy's The Woodlanders, and in doing so connected with my own thoughts:

"Copse-work ... an occupation which the secondary intelligence of the hands and arms could carry on without the sovereign attention of the head, allowed the minds... to wander considerably from the objects before them..."

I love this description of the hands and arms having an intelligence of their own which is valuable and profitable: a sort of memory, perhaps, of repetitive work and the feel of the materials in the hand, the sound of the tools, the sense of satisfaction as a little pile of work begins to grow. For me, this is exactly how I feel about crochet: picking up the yarn, turning it in my fingers, hearing the slight crunchiness of the wool as I hook it and pull it, the simple choice of the next colour, the manageable size of the square yet the knowledge that I am creating a part of something much bigger. All of this frees up my mind to wander away from anxiety and worry for a time, perhaps even allows some healing, certainly nurtures and settles me. It's not 'art', that's for sure, but it is what I need quite often at the moment. Simple creative choices within a given framework, nothing too demanding.

This is what I'm working on at the moment (still!).

Several other people have been writing and thinking about these quiet times when creativity goes to ground, and Mal's post has been especially encouraging. Once again it's helped to get out and about, too, and yesterday, despite the shockingly wet and stormy 'summer' weather, we went for a magical drive around beautiful north-east Wales, over wild moorland, past tumbling streams, romantic ruined castles and abbeys, and through fresh dappled woods full of aromatic wild garlic:

the sound of summer

Every year I wait impatiently for the arrival of the swifts. Always around May 9th, suddenly the air is filled with their screaming, their scimitar shapes arcing through the sky after their long journey north from Africa. I always think of that line from Paul Simon's Hearts and Bones: 'the arc of a love affair'... how do they find their way home? Is it like a love affair? Something deep inside them urging them on, a deep certainty that they will know when they've arrived?

At last, then, they are here. I waited outside long after the light began to fade yesterday, hoping to see their familiar shapes against the silhouettes of the trees, but there was nothing except the bat flitting back and forth and the hooting of owls. Early this morning, though, I just knew it. I fumbled to open the back door. I searched against the bright sunlight. Sure enough, there they were, two of them, quite low in the still of the morning, looking for insects. Twelve hours late, but still. They have a long way to come.

They come to breed, hardly stopping their flight to build a loose nest and raise a brood of chicks, high up somewhere under eaves or abandoned towers, and they will be gone by the first week of August, (this Observer's Book of Birds is about seventy five years out of date), but for three wonderful months, they are the magical sight and sound of high summer.


This week I've had so many ideas for blog posts which never made it out of my head. All my thoughts seem to be floating off like untethered balloons at the moment, and I can't seem to round them all up and tie them down again. I keep starting things and finding that they take far longer than I thought, nothing seems to work out as I intended, and getting disheartened and losing interest.

The new blog header, for instance. I thought it would be a matter of minutes to take a new snap, process it, add some type, and away we'd go. Ha. Everything but everything took ages and felt like reinventing the wheel, and all the while I got more and more fed up with the old one and more desperate to change it. So we're making do with a plainer version for a while.

To be honest, I feel squirmy even sharing all this. I didn't want this blog to dwell on the tedious humdrum of my life. After all, I'm meant to be 'making, thinking, drawing, painting, sewing, reading'. Well, I am doing a lot of reading, but otherwise my creativity seems to have wandered off. All I feel like doing is ordinary, domestic things like crochet and gardening.

A lot of this is due, of course, to the massive emotional expenditure of becoming a grandmother to my teenage son's little baby: a wonderful, colourful, incredible experience but charged with a lot of anxiety and responsibility I don't always feel up to. (A huge, huge thank you to all of you, by the way, for your sweet and lovely words of support and congratulations this week. It's meant a lot.) Other things are in play, too, as always. But the result is, I don't have a lot of originality to share with you just now.

So, I thought I'd tell you about some of the things that have been keeping me going and engaging my interest over the last few days. I've been inspired to get back into a pattern of good, healthy eating and cooking, something I've been very lazy about recently, and Lucy's blog Nourish Me has been a major source of inspiration and ideas. Even the name is soothing and nurturing, and helps me to believe in the power of the senses to heal and energise. I've been listening to music again (especially these two favourites), getting out in the fresh air in the beautiful Peak District National Park, and adding some colour to my life by painting my toenails turquoise.

Although I don't watch a lot of tv, the other night I stumbled across a programme so absorbing I almost turned inside out with interest: the BBC documentary Six Degrees of Separation, which looked at the science of network theory and some of the amazing discoveries and connections which have recently been made in this field.

I've also been thinking a lot about some of the ideas shared by Mal in her brilliant blog Turning*Turning, and in particular this post and its comments, about Julia Cameron's concept of 'shadow artists'. Really, really thought-provoking. She's also written insightfully about creative block, and along the same lines, Pikaland's 'Good to Know' project and Etsy talks have filled me with ideas to help get creativity flowing again. Perhaps I need to read some of it again...

Above all, I've been enjoying the green flourishing of spring in the garden. The leaves are almost full on the trees, and flowers are appearing everywhere in beautiful whites, greens, blues and mauves. This is my 'everyday' view, the one I see when I sit for a few minutes on our wooden bench outside the back door, drinking a cup of tea, just soaking up the silence and the trees, looking, listening and thinking.

I am a grandmother!

A new little baby has been born...

She is called Imogen Summer Anne Little.

She was born yesterday to my youngest son and his girlfriend at 9.30 pm weighing 9lb and measuring 55cm.

She is beautiful and she is the reason I crocheted this blanket.