the spaces in between

One of the things I've enjoyed about some of the granny square projects I've made over the last couple of years is the simple, almost hidden patterns that the little corner spaces make as they gently criss-cross the blanket. For a long time now I've wanted to devise a block pattern that would replicate this design but without the distraction of using several different colours.

Today I found myself with a little time and spent a happy few hours playing with some spare yarn, seeing what I could do. It took me a while to work out how to do 'join-as-you-go' without chain spaces, but I did it, and I'm really pleased with the result. If you screw up your eyes and squint you can see the diagonal pattern created by the corner holes beginning to emerge. My plan is to make a lovely soft, big blanket in a cotton mix yarn, but I can't decide whether to do it in a soft duck-egg blue or plain and simple white... a lovely decision to make.

peace and freedom

Today I took the whole day off work as a holiday and cleaned the house from top to bottom. It is so soothing to the soul to have everything gleaming and fresh. It has done me no end of good and I feel like I can breathe again.

As you can see from the photo, nobody escaped my attentions... I think they quite enjoyed it actually... they had a nice long soak and then lots of fun swinging from their ears outside in the sunshine.

Earlier in the week I went to Liverpool to see two exhibitions. Picasso: Peace and Freedom at the Tate, and The Rise of Women Artists at the Walker Art Gallery.

I'm always a little bit surprised to discover that whenever I go to an art exhibition, whether it's big or small, whether the subject matter draws me initially or not, I almost always find some wonderful thing that opens up a string of possibilities in my head and has me fumbling for my little notebook. I just love this. It is so exciting and I suddenly become full of energy and wonder that life is so incredibly interesting. I think this is partly because any exhibition of an artist's work inevitably contains a kind of stored-up energy, a bit like a seed or bulb: these are works that have been conceived and gestated and brought to birth over a long period of time, the results of hours and hours of drawing and thinking and inspiration and experimenting, and then suddenly you see them, all together, and this energy kind of bursts out and grabs you.

It's good to recognise what you need and to be able to do it, whether it's a clean and tidy space or a shot of creative energy.


We came across this lovely shed while garden visiting in Cheshire the other weekend. It seems an appropriate image for today's post, as recently I have been doing nothing more taxing than pottering around, tending to domestic duties and keeping a very low profile. The sort of thing men are supposed to need a shed for, but I can do it perfectly well by mooching around, drinking tea in the garden and hiding underneath a pile of crochet.

There is no doubt that a certain sort of mildly creative activity is useful during these times, a bit like the basket-woven tray edging they used to make in the old people's home I once helped in. A little gentle occupation is wonderful for freeing the mind and processing thoughts, and sometimes it's just what's needed. Crochet definitely works for me, and I have also been getting a lot of pleasure from experimenting with things to make for craft fairs this autumn/winter.

One of the things I've been thinking about is how difficult it seems to be these days to concentrate on what I call worthwhile things. By this I mean: drawing, that is, proper observational drawing... reading a book all the way through rather than just snippets from a magazine or the internet... critical, intellectual thinking that really examines and challenges... planning and executing outings and visits that will stimulate and energise me. All these things used to be part of my daily life. All of them have faded and fizzled out to a point where I look in horror at myself and wonder what on earth has happened...

Does this happen to you? What do you do about it? Do you think that the internet has shrunk our ability to concentrate for long periods? Can you mentally escape the dreariness that domestic chores can bring? I sense that some kind of discipline is needed, but I'm not sure how.


With Norfolk in the news today I realised it was about time I got round to posting some of my photos from our trip there last month.

Wouldn't you just love a woodpile like this?

Norfolk is a big, big county and nearly all of it is absolutely lovely, but the north west coast - sometimes called the Saltmarsh Coast - is the loveliest part of all. One of the reasons for this is that it's miles and miles from anywhere, and it always takes us a good half-day to get there - very bad news for the impatient holidaymaker.

Blakeney village is full of quirky things like this funny old door knocker

Once you're there, though, you might never want to leave, and this is always what happens to me. I spend a good part of the holiday feverishly plotting how we could move there and live forever in such a peaceful, beautiful place... until I work out that a) there's no work, b) living somewhere is never the same as being on holiday and c) all my family would be hundreds of miles away. This very same thought process occurs every single time we go. Doh! You would think I'd learn.

Ancient painted wood screens in the beautiful, lonely church at Salle which sits all by itself in the middle of fields and is almost big enough to be a cathedral

Anyway, it's always lovely and we always have a wonderful, reviving time. There are six main things to do in Norfolk: 1) Walk slowly looking at things 2) Cycle slowly looking at things 3) Watch birds 4) Eat delicious local food 5) Mooch about 6) Absolutely nothing. As we like to pack in as many activities as possible, we generally make the effort to fit in almost all of these every day and thus get the maximum benefit from our visit. We are no slouches.

One of the places we enjoyed eating and drinking was Wiveton Farm Cafe which is in an utterly beautiful setting on the edge of the marshes and surrounded by gently rolling woodland. You can watch marsh harriers hunting and eat freshly picked strawberries from Emma Bridgewater pottery. It was only about ten minutes walk from where we stayed.

On our last day, we pushed the boat out and went to visit the very lovely and delightful Voewood House, a gorgeous Arts and Crafts house near Holt which is owned by the bookseller Simon Finch and has been decorated by his friend Annabel Grey.

It's made entirely from local stone, brick and concrete - one of the first houses to be built from concrete in this country.

Annabel Grey did these lovely mosaics in one of the bathrooms.

As well as being beautifully restored architecturally, it is a brilliantly quirky interior packed full of original artwork, unusual artefacts and little displays of books and ornaments.

The garden is beautiful as well.


I think I have mentioned before that the neighbourhood where we live is rather good for a spot of hunter gathering. Many of the large Victorian houses are either empty, being done up, semi-derelict or rented to students who aren't bothered who is scavenging in their gardens. This makes it sound a bit of a dive, but it isn't, and in fact I really rather like both the romantic, slightly forgotten vibe and the freedom to roam about helping myself to firewood, blackberries, catkin twigs, Christmas greenery, and, today, a whole wheelbarrow full of fircones. I spotted these beauties on my way home today and after tea we set off to collect as many as we could carry home... we'll dry them out and store them to use for kindling this autumn... the pine oil makes them great for starting fires quickly and aromatically, not to mention how pretty they'll look by the hearth.