Thinking and not thinking

Just sitting here listening to thunder rumble around somewhere not that far away – isn’t May a frustrating month for weather? No sooner have you turned off the central heating for the summer when temperatures plummet and the rain decides to give you a months worth in one afternoon. Oh well.

Anyway, I’m just sneaking another post in before the end of the month.

Last week found me heading north to the Midlands twice in three days. First I popped up to Warwickshire to meet my brother at Baddesley Clinton. I’ve been lots of times, but it had been over twenty years since my brother’s previous visit, so it was a pity I thought that the upstairs wasn’t open to visitors due to a lack of volunteers. As he’d driven for three and a half hours to get there I thought he might be more disappointed, but apparently not, and certainly the lovely peaceful atmosphere in the house and gardens was as rich as always and we enjoyed our stroll around.

On Wednesday of the same week, the OH had a pressing need to be in Stafford with his work, so we took the opportunity to stop off in Lichfield – famous for its three-spired cathedral – which neither of us had ever visited.

The Lichfield Angel – an Anglo-Saxon carving, probably from the original shrine to St Chad. I adore him!
The cathedral’s history depicted in stained glass – I rather liked this.

I stayed in Lichfield while he did what he had to do. An interesting town, I rather liked it, although I think you’d have to say that the cathedral is the main attraction. I’m glad I’ve been – another tick in the book.

The rest of the week has been mainly domestic, with various trips to the Hidey-Hole interspersed. 

In the Hidey-Hole

I’m still very much enjoying using collage in the pieces I’m making, although I can feel myself beginning to push some boundaries. One piece that had been collaged within an inch of its life just failed to come together and eventually, I got out the gesso and went at it. And the result? Oddly enough, the next morning I added a little crayon and splattered some ink, and voila! Suddenly it felt finished and actually quite satisfying. 

This is the piece that I practically painted over!

I know things are on the move artistically because I’ve been on a YouTube deep-dive again and this is nearly always a sign that I’m looking for something, even though I can’t quite tell you what it is I’m looking for. Do you know what I mean? I’m sure I can’t be the only one.

Anyway, as ever, I’m torn between that image in my head of the kind of art I like to see and the actual art that seems to materialise when I get down to work – and I’m not commenting on the skill or otherwise of the execution here, no, it’s more fundamental than that – it’s more to do with mental images of elegant, sophisticated colour palettes and expressive moody landscapes that I appreciate and would like to be able to create and the fact that when I put paint to paper nothing like that ever appears – instead I seem to have to bring out bold, scribbly, colourful abstracts.

Here you get an example of the kind of colourful scribble which flows so freely when I let myself go.

But I was reminded by another artist on YouTube that the only way to find your voice is to make art – thinking about it alone creates nothing, you have to make something. And it’s that something that leads you on. 

I’ve been reading a lot lately about thinking and not thinking. It feels really radical to attempt to think less, to at least let thinking happen without becoming wrapped up in the thoughts, but I’m getting better. Now, I can see that thinking about what you are going to create is fraught with possible dangers – for instance, the fear that you’ll criticise your work in your head before you even begin. When I don’t think, my work looks totally different from what my thinking mind admires, but at least what I create is genuinely mine. 

The current work in progress – nothing subtle here is there….x

There’s no conclusion here, it’s just a process, but I want to share the experience – letting go of expectations – letting go of the desire to work in one particular channel, and instead allowing what wants to come to happen. 

Ah well, that’s me for now. Tomorrow will be June – I do hope the weather picks up and we can get some proper warmth into our bones. Wishing all happy and well.

Until next time,

Anny x

Whistle Stop April & May

Well hello again.

What a busy couple of months it’s been around here (hence I’m afraid to say the lack of recent posts). I’ve just sat and listed the main events and it runs something like this…

  • Visit to Croft Castle 
  • Visit to Builth Wells
  • Visit to Bath
  • Visit to Glastonbury
  • Visit to Wells
  • Visit to Hampton Court Palace

Now, in my ideal world – you know the one – I’d sit and write something interesting about each of these places – goodness knows there’s plenty to talk about. But the sad reality is that I am a flaky blogger, and I know that even with the best intentions, I’ll probably not get around to it. So, instead, lovely readers, I’m just going to toss them all into this post in a kind of emptying the fridge recipe and hope that will be alright.

Croft Castle
The view from the walled garden over the back of the castle – definitely not symmetrical
Difficult to photograph because of the low light, but this is my favourite room at Croft Castle.

First, there was Croft Castle, Herefordshire. Anyone who’s read my posts for a few years will probably be yawning now and saying oh no, not that one again. But as I shall just have to keep saying, this is my pretty much all-time favourite house (there’s just one other potential candidate for that title – a discussion for another day perhaps).

Croft Castle has everything that I think makes a perfect historic house. It’s old – although its exact date is something of a mystery. It’s called a castle, but it feels more like a country house. It has links to lots of historic events and people – from Owain Glyndwr to Prince Arthur and it’s only a short walk from the castle to Croft Ambrey, a magnificent Iron Age hill fort that deserves a post all to itself. Oh, and a walled garden where they grow vines!

It happens to be situated almost halfway between my brother’s home in Wales and ours, so makes a great place to meet up every few weeks – fine by me.

The fabulous news from our most recent visit is that both the cupola on the church and the glasshouse are both now being repaired. Hooray!

WonderWool Wales – Builth Wells

Next was Builth Wells – or more precisely WonderWool Wales, held at the Royal Welsh Showground. A fantastic day out indulging in all things wooly. I came home with a variety of new threads to add to the stash, including some terrific acid greens which I seem to have become addicted to using. A brilliantly organised event, not least because they clearly recognised that the audience would be 95% female and therefore reassigned most of the toilets for women for the event. What a treat not to have to queue for hours.

Speeding along, our next trip was to Bath, Glastonbury and Wells.

Bath, Glastonbury & Wells
Looking out from the George & Pilgrim
The Chalice Well – simply wonderfully calm and peaceful

What shall I say? Well, Bath was wonderful, nicely bustling, and still a delightful town to walk around, just gawping at the general feel of the place, whilst also spotting the film locations for our favourite version of Persuasion, (the one with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root). Number One daughter and I finished our afternoon in Bath with the time-honoured game of crazy golf. It’s a family tradition, we have history and it wouldn’t really be a trip to Bath without it. Glad to see that there’s been lots of work on the course and the gardens were looking simply gorgeous. Oh and I won…only just.

We then traveled on to Glastonbury. A first visit for N1D who quickly fell for its unique charms. I think it’s safe to say we ‘did’ Glastonbury. We walked up the Tor, we visited the Abbey, the Chalice Well Gardens, and the George & Pilgrim – and we shopped. Two days in the town is enough to give yourself a basic introduction, but I guess you could happily spend an age getting to know its various facets. Anyway, we loved it. For me, the Chalice Well Gardens was the highlight. A place of perfect peace.

Vicar’s Close, Wells.

On our way home, we stopped off in Wells (or Sandford if Hot Fuzz means anything to you). A fairly quick visit, but we still managed to enjoy a stroll through the cathedral, watching the clock do its thing as it has for over 600 years, and marveling at the hourglass crossing tower. If you go to Wells, don’t miss a short walk up to Vicar’s Close. A remarkable lane of medieval cottages, another little gem. N1D and I ate a Cornetto in the Crown at wells pub – we are Hot Fuzz fans, before making for home.

Hampton Court Palace

Finally, my daughters and I met up last week to visit Hampton Court Palace. N2D had been on a school trip a few years ago, but neither N1D nor I had ever been, so off we went. Admission isn’t cheap so we were determined to make the most of our day there. 

What shall I say about it? To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve seen it on TV so many times, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel, but my main reaction was a series of breath-taking ‘wows’.

It’s huge – that’s the first thing to say. It seems to go on and on. The next thing that felt odd and also rather lovely, is that so much of it is familiar, but in the flesh, just so much more impressive. I thought I’d love the Tudor parts, and I did. But I was surprised by how much the William and Mary and the Georgian sections impressed too. The Georgian rooms, despite being large, felt remarkably calming. I loved the atmosphere in there. 

The gardens were just as impressive as the buildings – although we were fortunate to be there on a very warm and sunny day which made strolling around a pleasure.

Also impressive was the way information was given. The audio tours were well-judged, giving you details without boring and allowing you a decent amount of time to take everything in. The written information was equally well supplied and informative. And how refreshing to be treated as adults and given interesting content. Our only slight disappointment was not getting to spot Lucy Worsley. We all love her.

So, there you have it. A whistle-stop tour of April and May events. Phew.

There has been needlepoint in the evenings and occasional trips to the hidey-hole for cutting and gluing, but perhaps that will wait for another day.

And finally….

 Just one more thing. If you use Instagram you may want to find me there on my new account A_Mingled_Yarn.  I had a kind of mental falling out with Instagram some months ago and I decided to stop using it at all, but the truth is that I like taking photographs when I’m out and about and occasionally the art that I’m making – and posting to Instagram works as a kind of simple visual diary. I fancied a fresh start though, hence the new account. I haven’t yet really adopted a regular posting practice there, but I thought I’d mention it here anyway. If you are interested, please take a quick look.

So that’s it for today.

Until next time…

Anny x

Garden aspirations

Hello again.

It’s that time of year when all sorts of things that have been lying dormant in the garden suddenly start to reappear.

Of course, the main things that reappear in my garden are the bindweed, ground elder, creeping buttercup and green alkanet, but hay-ho, some things are sent to try us.

On the plus side, although I am a very average and intermittently enthusiastic gardener, we do have some extremely talented squirrel gardeners who over the years have managed to plant – in lovely and appropriate locations – an ornamental cherry tree, several horse chestnut trees, a hazel, a most attractive hellebore and a handful of hyacinths.

I like to imagine that it’s their way of thanking me for providing them with so much free food via the birdfeeders – or perhaps they just enjoy the challenge.

Last year, we did manage to make quite a good show with a selection of plants chosen with much care entirely on the basis of having strong slug repellent properties (did I mention that we have slugs here – hoards of them?).

I’ve been poking about in the border, but I’m not sure how many have survived the winter – to be honest, I actually can’t remember where and what I planted. So, it will be exciting to see what comes up.

We have had a couple of early trips to the garden centre to indulge in our fantasies of herbaceous borders and cottage gardens. It’s wonderfully inspiring, but I’m conscious that there’s quite a gulf between my expectations and the reality in our small north-facing plot.

I suspect that my gardening aspirations are deeply coloured by the numerous visits over the years to proper gardens, especially the ones attached to stately homes. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I imagine myself another Miss Jekyll, commanding drifts of white flowers to magically appear and last all through the summer. Ah well.

Since discovering the joys of collage, I’ve been trying out a variety of ideas for pictures. Am I alone in finding that the art techniques and indeed subjects covered, that are most appealing to me as a viewer are rarely those that I seem able to actually create?

For instance, I love to see work in subtle, earthy tones. Moody, ethereal landscapes are often what I enjoy by other artists. But when I try to do something similar, it just doesn’t work. Or perhaps I should say it hasn’t worked yet, who knows what might happen at some time or other.

But for now, when I make art in whatever medium, it seems that I have to use colour. Almost all my stitched art features strong colour, bold yellows, purples, reds and greens. It seems so far at least to be the same with collage – bright colour rules.

I wonder to myself about this. Somewhere inside, I seem to feel that neutral shades, earth tones and textures are – how can I express – more sophisticated?

If pressed, I’d say this is a throw-back to school days when we were told that serious artists use neutral palettes, bright colour is what children play with.

Well, just lately, I’ve realised albeit with a slow dawning, that there’s nothing wrong with bright colours, in fact using colour is a really good way to bring joy into art. I know it’s not for everyone, that’s the way of art, nothing will appeal to everyone and nor should it. But there is a place for bright, colourful artwork in the world and if it so happens that it’s the kind of art I seem to produce, then that’s fine.

And then I thought, well, maybe, as I enjoy looking at gardens probably more than actually making my own, why not try to paint/collage some pictures of gardens. I spent a happy hour or so trawling through old photos that I’ve taken at various stately homes and gardens. Here are just a small selection. They’re my starting point. I’ll see where they take me.

Ascott House
Cawdor Castle
Baddesley Clinton
Chastleton House
Packwood House

I’d like to thank all the people who work in the gardens at these places. I hope they know that the gardens are just as important as the historic houses for many visitors.

Until next time – all best wishes

Anny x

In and out in December…

the Grand Union canal.

It’s no secret that I tend to find the low-light days of winter something of a challenge, which is why I’m delighted to say that so far this year, I’m managing to stay pretty buoyant. Maybe it’s the generally mild weather we’ve been having or just a determined effort to stay relaxed. Whichever, all I can say is that we’re now really close to the solstice and so far, so good.

Part of my strategy for staying well is to get outdoors as much as I reasonably can. It used to be easier when the Delinquent Dog insisted on a decent daily walk, but the old chap isn’t up to all that these days and we have to content ourselves with short strolls near to the house. I miss getting out into the woods and countryside so much and try hard to get out when I can.

We’re lucky to live a short hop away from the Grand Union canal, which would have been the perfect place to walk the Delinquent Dog, had he not come hardwired with the urge to attack any other furry creature he might meet. Narrow canal paths do not lend themselves to quick avoidance detours – not without getting very wet at any rate.

I’ve taken to having a quick walk along the tow-path every few days without the boy (you can see how glorious the weather was from the picture at the top of this post on a recent stroll). And there have been occasional walks around the Park at Woburn – always a delight.

There have also been proper days out.

First, a trip to Worcester with both daughters. We were there a few days after Storm Arwen which had brought down one of the stone pinacles from the tower of the cathedral, which crashed through the roof below. If you look carefully you might be able to see where the tarpaulin is now covering the hole. The pincacle came from high up on the tower, so all-in-all I’d say it was lucky not to have been a worse outcome.

the damaged roof at Worcester Cathedral

We happened to be in Worcester on the final day of the Christmas Market, so it was fairly busy, but also rather lovely. Twinkly and smelling of mulled wine – quite put me in the festive spirit.

the Guildhall, Worcester at dusk.
excellent message I thought…x

Later that week, I met up with my brother in Worcestershire and we headed off to Hanbury Hall for tea and cakes and a wander around the house. This year they’ve decorated the house in the style of Christmasses of the 1970s and 1980s and oh my goodness! What a good job they’ve made. I haven’t laughed so much for an age.

We spent our afternoon remembering toys, films, tv, pop music and food from our youth. It was magical! Tacky, but totally magical.

It wasn’t just indoors that had been decorated. Every one of these little trees had a glitter ball on top – over 200 of them, how fabulous!

Meanwhile, back indoors, there has been more needlepoint. I’ve given up trying to think about what I’m doing and instead I’ve fully embraced the stitch to relax vibe that I used to have. For now, that feels absolutely the right thing to do. I’ve always thought that stitching was primarily a meditative practice and so it feels again for me.

this is the current piece – rocking orange…x

There’s something snuggly about sitting on the sofa in the evening, listening to the TV and quietly sewing. Well, it works for me.

It’s a funny old time of year and I hope you’re doing alright. Stitching keeps me relaxed and calm, but do whatever works for you. We’re all different.

Anny x

Making Hay while the sun shines.

Well hello again.

How’s it been? We’re still waiting for the November weather to turn cold. It’s confusing, when I look outside, the light tells me it’s winter, so I find my thick fleece, woolly hat and gloves. Then, suitably togged up, I set off to walk the boy and what do you know? Within minutes I’m melting in the heat. I’m not really complaining, it makes a change to get this far into November and not to be scraping the windscreen in the morning, I’m just finding it a bit weird.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, we went off to Hay on Wye to stock up on essentials – books, of course. It was our first visit in eighteen months and I was so happy to be back in my spiritual home.

It felt so good to be slowly scanning the shelves for that book you just had to have. In the end, having given it my best go, I came back with three books. One about the Domesday Book – something that I’ve been becoming more interested in over recent months – more of that perhaps another day. Another about the history of the countryside by Oliver Rackham – it was a punt, but I’m really enjoying it so far. And the third is a book about Celtic and ancient places in the United Kingdom  – which I bought mainly because of the absolutely wonderful black and white photographs by Anthony Gascoigne. 

Now, here’s a request. I’ve scoured Mr. Google for any information about Anthony Gascoigne and I can’t find anything, zilch, nada. Does anyone out there know who he is? I’d just love to see more of his work. I chose the book because I’ve visited most of the sites covered, and I know just how challenging it is to take good photos at those locations. I love standing stones, but they are mightily difficult to capture on film/digitally – they have a personality, and it’s really hard to capture that, and yet somehow, he does it. He creates mood. So, chaps, if anyone can tell me more, I’d be really grateful – he’s a pro!

We pushed the boat out on our trip and stayed overnight in Hereford, which meant that we had a day out in Leominster too. I love this town, it’s got just the right mix of old town charm, and a Wetherspoons. What more could you need? Well, actually it’s much better than that too. We went ringing at the Priory and then went back the next day so that the N1D could be shown the Romanesque carvings in the daylight. ( Our poor children, what have we done to them? They’re so psychologically scarred that they’ve both independently bought themselves membership of the National Trust and English Heritage – and they’re only in their early twenties!)

Leominster Priory is a total mishmash, but nonetheless fascinating for that. It shows you the story of English history in stone. I rather like it there.

All the pictures in this post were taken at Leominster Priory in November 2021. The carvings are over 800 years old. Doesn’t that make you tingle with excitement? Oh…x

In other news…

I’ve been slowly stitching in hessian again, but I haven’t taken any photos yet, so maybe that’s for another day too.

Best wishes, keep smiling.

Anny x

Merrily, Merrily, Merrily…

Oh Phil…

I have a bone to pick with Phil Rickman’s publishers. What do they think they’re doing publishing the latest Merrily Watkins novel at such a busy time of year? Now my poor family are going to have to fend for themselves and the tapestry is going to be neglected, while I immerse myself in the latest supernatural happenings at the vicarage in Ledwardine.

I suppose with an immense amount of will-power, I could have put The Magus of Hay on the shelf and waited for a quieter time, but come on – he’s not only given us the first Merrily book for two years, but he’s set it in Hay-on-Wye (my spiritual home). I mean really – how inconsiderate. I have no choice, I just have to read it…NOW!

IMAG3822Thanks Phil – please keep them coming…





Re-reading is challenging…

Well it’s a few weeks since I embarked on a self-imposed challenge not to buy any new books, but instead to read or re-read titles languishing on my shelves (or piled up by the bed, in the bathroom, on my desk – oh you know the score).

So how am I doing?

Umm. First the good news – I’ve managed to avoid buying any new books (for me that is, for some reason, at precisely the same time I start this challenge, my two daughters, brought up from birth in a seriously bookish house, but until now hardly avid readers, have decided that now is the time to be smitten by the reading bug. This is good news, so obviously I’m going to encourage it).

IMAG1644When I started, I was waiting to read A TIme To Keep Silence by Patrick Leigh Fermor.

It’s a short book, describing Leigh Fermor’s experience of monastic retreats. I was intrigued, because in the distant past, I went on a couple of silent retreats and still vividly remember the roller-coaster of emotions I felt while keeping the silence. As I’ve got older, I do feel myself valuing silence much more than I did in those days. I’m not sure I could honestly say I enjoyed the experience back then, but now, I’m pretty convinced that I’d welcome it, at least for a few days. It was fascinating for me to read about Leigh Fermor’s response to longer periods of silence and the rhythmic cycle of the monastic day. I read it, drawing parallels with my own experience and I wonder how it would come across if the reader hadn’t had any similar experience.

After that, I picked up Alison Weir’s Isabella, She-Wolf of France.


I have managed to re-read it – even though I knew how it ended! It was just as interesting as the first read through, and had me wondering how women lived in the Middle Ages, but I think perhaps my views on Isabella have hardened a little over time. I’m sure she faced some truly hideous situations, but I’m not sure she’d have been someone I liked much on a personal level.

And now I have to confess – I think I’m experiencing a few withdrawal symptoms. I have been very good at avoiding browsing on Amazon, but not having a new book to look forward to (even though I’ve plenty of unread books sitting here), is making me a bit anxious. And I can’t seem to feel the same anticipation and excitement about the books I have lined up. Why is that?

Anyway, I’m not about to cave in, so I’ve decided that next I need to read something I haven’t read before – maybe I need to balance a re-read against a first time – so, what will it be?

In a moment of nostalgia, last summer I downloaded to the Kindle the complete works of Anthony Trollope. (I should say I read The Prime Minister for ‘A’ Level and didn’t mind it – maybe because it wasn’t that long after the BBC had serialised The Pallisers). At that time, I remember my English teacher, Alan Holden of Bromsgrove (the same wonderful teacher the actor Mark Williams credited with being one of his heroes – see here), saying that he loved these novels and re-read them regularly. I wondered then what is was about Trollope’s novels that marked them as special to such a widely read teacher as being worthy of re-reading. I’m going to take him at his word, and give them a go. I wonder if he’d be amused to know how long his influence could still be felt.

So off I go to charge the Kindle. I’ll take them one at a time in sequence – it’ll be interesting to see how that goes.

It could be a long summer…


– )O( –

If anyone else is sticking with the challenge, I’d love to know how you’re getting on too.

Iain Banks: Away the Crow Road…

I was elbow deep in potato peelings when I heard the news last night, that the author Iain Banks had died at the grossly unfairly young age of 59. I’d missed the apparently well publicised announcement that he was suffering from terminal cancer, so it came as a huge shock.

Like many of his fans, I can date my attraction from the mid 1980s and his first novel The Wasp Factory. (I just checked and I have the second edition – 1985). I remember reading it while on holiday in the Highlands, in fact I can even tell you that I read a lot of it sitting in the dunes of Balnakeil Beach near Durness, engrossed.

Until then I hadn’t read much outside the classics I’d studied for A level, so his novel came as quite a surprise. You can see from the reviews, he  included in the beginning of the book, he wasn’t to everyone’s liking….

IMAG1637 IMAG1636 IMAG1638

But I was one of the very many who thought he was wonderful.


Over the years I’ve read my way through a number of his Iain Banks books – the Other Half likes his sci-fi titles better (Iain M. Banks).

If you’ve been here recently, you’ll know that inspired by Susan Hill, I am undertaking a challenge not to buy any new books for a year, but to read the ones I already have but haven’t read, or re-read titles that call out for another airing.


As you can probably see, all my Iain Banks books are well and truly read. In the normal course of things, I wouldn’t have put any of his titles on my list for this challenge, but after this sad news, I may well re-read The Crow Road, which I think is my favourite of all. (Occasionally if I can’t sleep at night, I try to remember the body count and sequence in The Crow Road).

My all-time favourite opening sentence!
My all-time favourite opening sentence!

One of his books that I didn’t buy, was his travels in search of Single Malts. This was out of pique – having spent a couple of years doing my own informal whisky tours and being peeved that he’d got a book out of it.

But it is my sincere wish that he is now sitting in heaven at a bar stocked with all the best single malts and with the Black Bowmore on tap.

I appreciate his works may not be to everyone’s taste, but I was a fan and so to his family and fans world-wide, I for one extend my sincere condolences – a sad day indeed.



Reading Challenge Preparation…

I still haven’t decided whether I have enough will-power to go without buying books for a year (or indeed a few months)- see here But just in case, I thought I’d start picking out titles from the shelves – not too many though, a few at a time might be best.

I came up with three candidates for my already-owned reading list.


Two titles are books I bought on trips to the second-hand book shops in Hay-on-Wye.

Hay is one of my favourite places – what bibliophile wouldn’t appreciate a whole town filled with books. When I used to live within an hour or so’s drive away, I managed to exert some self-control on my book buying habit, but now that we live further away, trips to Hay have taken on special status. Now, whenever we go, I have to try to contain the urge to fill the boot of the car with everything I find (and believe me, you can get an awful lot of books into the back of a large estate car). It’s probably something in my mind that worries it might not get any more books, so had better make the most of it while it can.

Now do you see why I’m not sure about going for months without a new book…

Anyway, bulk buying does tend to mean that the odd book or two gets forgotten on the shelf before I get around to reading it.

This is what’s happened to Memoirs of A Highland Lady, by Elizabeth Grant, and Greater London, Its Growth and Development through Two Thousand Years, by Christopher Trent.

The third title I’m putting on my list is Alison Weir’s book about Isabella of FranceIsabella She-Wolf of France, Queen of England. This one I have definitely read although it was a few years ago now. I watched the repeat of Helen Castors programme about the early queens of England, and thought I’d like to reread this title.

I can pinpoint my initial interest in Isabella to a school trip to Berkeley Castle in the 1970s, and seeing the room where Edward II was reputedly murdered. I think one day I might work out an Isabella & Edward tour, there are still quite a few places they would have known where you can visit, including Berkley Castle, Gloucester Cathedral and Castle Rising.

Right well, things to do and books to read.

PS: (A Time To Keep Silence hasn’t come yet)


A bookish challenge…

I’ve probably mentioned it before, but I am a bookaholic. This habit means that I get up to things I probably shouldn’t, such as reading reviews for books I’ve never heard of, just because they are links at the end of the last book I finished on my Kindle.(Yes, I’m a book tart, I keep my Kindle by the side of my bed, on top of the pile of real books that I’ll probably have on-the-go at the same time).

And following links is a dangerous thing to do, because before you know it, you’ve discovered something else you just have to read (which I know is how the powers-that-be want us to react), and of course this can lead us off on all kinds of tangents.

But I love all that. Before the advent of the internet, I’d spend hours, quite literally hours in bookshops, browsing. Now, with the benefit of reviews and alternative suggestions and ‘people who also bought’, my horizons have widened, I’ve read about topics I didn’t even know existed before – and been happier for it.

I still spend hours in bookshops, as I said I’m a book reading tart, and I’ll grab my fix from any number of sources – charity shops are a guilty pleasure…

But I digress.

The thing is this, on my most recent link-fest, I managed somehow to discover Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time To Keep Silence and Susan Hill’s Howard’s End is on the Landing.

Spending time wandering around old ruined abbeys has undoubtedly given me a taste for understanding more about the monastic life, there is a sliver of me that yearns for silence and contemplation, so I decided I’d give Fermor’s book a go.

But at precisely the same time, I read the synopsis for Susan Hill’s book about the year she spent, not buying new books, but revisiting the ones on her shelves that she either hadn’t already read, or wanted to reread. And it was as if a giant violin string had gone twang in my head. Because I know that I have forty odd years worth of books living around me, a certain number of which I haven’t actually ever got around to reading and yet more that I keep telling myself I would like to go back and read again.

I wondered if I had the capacity to do the same thing – to spend a few months not buying anything new, but instead getting reacquainted with books I already own.

It would be quite a surprise if I could do it. I think I can say with hand on heart, I’ve never been more than a couple of weeks without buying something new to read in the last forty years. So, I’m thinking about this as a bookish challenge for the rest of 2013. It would certainly amaze the other half, but I don’t know what I’d be like to live with – would it be like going cold-turkey? Should I do it?

I haven’t made up my mind yet. I’ve ordered A Time To Keep Silence, so that might be the last new purchase of 2013 – or it might not. 





In other news…

There’s a new post on Mists of Time about the small parish church of All Saints’, Clifton, Bedfordshire.



Oh, now come on…

I felt like Victor Meldrew this morning when I opened the curtains to lashing rain and a dark grey sky. Somebody has kidnapped the spring – I want it back – NOW!

Just when I thought it was safe to put a couple of my thicker winter jumpers back in the wardrobe, here I am again dressed up like a Michelin Man.

It felt particularly silly after reading the weekend supplements. (We have a neighbour who has an arrangement with a friendly newsagent to give him his surplus supplements, so we get the magazines, travel, gardening, money and TV review pieces, just not the news – a fabulous arrangement). 

Here’s a selection of the latest ‘must-haves’ from the weekend….


You’d have hypothermia if you went out in that kit around here today.

But it’s all a bit academic as far as I’m concerned. My capsule wardrobe (I think that’s what the fashion journalists call it) consists of jeans, T-shirts, fleeces & cardigans. In winter I wear them all, layered up, and in summer (whatever that is) I wear fewer jumpers. This probably also has something to do with choosing to camp in the Scottish Highlands most summers, where you’d be quite rash not to have the option of a jumper or two for the cooler days.

In fact I’m quite sure that I am almost the antithesis of the target weekend supplement reader. I don’t go to posh restaurants,our garden designs itself, our house is not valued at over £1million, I don’t watch much TV and although I like to cook, my grocery budget doesn’t run to fillet steak as a mid-week supper.

That said, I still love flicking through the papers. I feel a contented detachment – able to appreciate, without any need at all to emulate. I’m sure it wasn’t always the case, but perhaps that’s what growing-up is about, or perhaps it’s what refusing to grow-up is about.

I think this headline sums up what they are really all about,


Umm, well, I’m happy enough with what I’ve already got.




In other news…

Warning: Don’t read any further if you’re allergic to needlepoint or history.

I’ve made it to a mini-milestone with my current needlepoint project – click here to go to the post at Dreaming In Stitches.

And my notes on Whitby Abbey are now up at Mists of TIme.




Looking for an F word…

Here’s a question for you.

Which word do Shakespeare’s King Lear, The Sound of Music, Sir Walter Scott’s Kenilworth, a 1970s Prog Folk group from South Africa, the Jesuits, and the Neolithic long barrow, Wayland’s Smithy, all have in common?

The exposed stone burial chambers of Wayland's...
The exposed stone burial chambers of Wayland’s Smithy long barrow, Oxfordshire, U.K. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Can you guess?

Need a clue?

Think – mischievous gossip, or ‘fly-by-the-gibbet’

Got it?


I’m rather partial to odd, old or unusual words. I’ve heard flibbertigibbet mentioned several times and assumed it was a word that described flighty, probably female, silly behaviour – I’ve called my girls flibbertigibbets a couple of times, although obviously this gets me the pointy tongue look of contempt – but today I was flicking through Brewer’s Phrase and Fable (as you do), and happened to read its definition.

Well I never. It turns out that it was a name given to a fiend and used by Shakespeare in King Lear, it was also used to mean a mischievous gossip and was originally a term to describe meaningless chatter.

But so happily does flibbertigibbet trip off the tongue, it’s found its way into novels by Scott, the lyrics of ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria’, the name given to Wayland’s apprentice, and the name of a South African group of folk singers – I’m sure there are more… google it and see what you find.

So it is my F word of choice for today.

Now I have to go and pick up my two flibbertigibbets from school – have a good weekend!