An early Bath…

Hello again.

Spring is in the air – can you feel it? I’m so ready for the turn of the wheel this time. 

A day out in Bath

A couple of weeks ago, I headed off for a day trip to Bath – my first visit there in over two years.

It was wonderful and really did perk me up no end. I was delighted to find that the stall in the covered market ‘Not Cartier’ was still there. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of sparkly bling which speaks directly to the magpie in me. It’s also the best place I know to find interesting broaches. I decided a while ago that I would wage a one-woman campaign to resurrect the wearing of broaches, and so you won’t be surprised to hear that I brought a couple home with me.

I was also incredibly lucky to find that my favourite posh hippy shop had a sale and so having tried on more clothes than I have for years, I also brought a new frock and a tunic top back with me. I live with this vision of becoming someone who usually wears dresses and woollens in a cool and chic way. But somehow when I get up each morning, I seem to reach for the jeans and fleece and stay in them until bedtime. Oh well, who knows, maybe this time…

Anyway, Bath was just what I needed. I didn’t take many photos because it was extremely cold and I didn’t hang about between shops/cafes etc, but I did take this photo of a nonchalant gull. There’s a bit of an issue with gulls in Bath and there are signs all over the place asking people not to feed them. This chap was sitting about four feet from just such a sign – you could see the contempt in his eyes.

Hidey-Hole stuff

Back in the Hidey-Hole and it’s been more collage fun.

I wish I could convey the pure happiness that I feel while I’m cutting and gluing. But it’s even better really, because this process of creating papers, painting backgrounds, sticking paper down, painting again, stitching again – repeat until finished – manages to let me incorporate so many of the techniques I’ve been experimenting with over recent months and gives me a way to bring everything together.

Collage also has the distinct advantage that it seems to have enforced periods of waiting – mostly for glue or paint to dry – which are absolutely perfect for feeding the washing machine or putting the vacuum round. I do enjoy being in the hidey-hole, but the fact that I can have all this fun whilst still keeping most of the other plates spinning seems especially fortunate.

And then there’s the needlepoint.

Yes, I’m still stitching. It is such a perfect form of meditation – for me at least. 

Last night I finished the most recent piece. I’ve tried to take a couple of photos but you know how tricky the light is here. I’d say that one photo slightly underplays the saturation of the colours, whilst the other goes a little far the other way.

A little underplaying the colours.
A little overplaying.

I’m not going to exhibit any of this textile work, but if anyone would like to have it, perhaps to make it into a cushion cover or to frame – or whatever you can think of, please send me a message. I’m open to offers. Bear in mind that it’s just a piece of hessian/burlap approximately 12” square, stitched in a variety of threads – silk, wool, linen. I’ve had my enjoyment in the making, so if it could have another life with someone else, that would be wonderful. 

And so there we are for now. I hope that you’re having fun in whatever way gives you happiness. Until next time,

Anny x

January

Hello and a happy New Year to you.

I always hesitate to ask how people’s Christmas was, and this year – or should that be last year’s – was probably even weirder than the one before for a lot of us, so shall we move swiftly on?

It’s a gradual slide into January and the routine around here. Fortunately we’ve had very little of the weather we normally associate with this time of year, but we have had rain – quite significant amounts – you can see that the water meadows next to the canal have been doing their thing…

I have a childish delight in seeing the ducks and geese floating in the fields when the meadows flood.

I don’t seem to have been out much. More because I enjoy a time of winter hibernation even under normal conditions and I didn’t see any reason why it should be different this year. I find a few weeks of snuggling up on the sofa with a duvet and a good old movie on TV – Death on The Nile, the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, any Jane Austen – with fairy lights twinkling in the sitting room and the kitchen and probably with a glass of whisky to keep out the cold, does a lot to help keep my spirits up.

We did venture out on one afternoon to Stowe gardens for some fresh air and exercise.

A rather bleak kind of day, but there’s always something impressive about the place – perhaps it’s how much interest has been shoe-horned into the space. What were those eighteenth century landscape gardeners on! Imagine anyone creating it today.

News from the Hidey-Hole…

Just to be clear, the Hidey-Hole is my nickname for the tiny room in the corner of the house which I can’t bring myself to call a studio. You’d understand if you saw it. It is still partly the downstairs shower room and I have to vacate when the daughters want to use it, but nevertheless I am extremely pleased to have my own dedicated creative space inside the house – warm and cosy, even if it’s a little on the cramped side.

Well, the news is that Father Christmas brought me a gell printing plate.

And I feel a bit like Mr Toad in The Wind In The Willows.

Suffice to say, I am having a lot of fun.

I’ve been creating a stash of printed papers, creating textures and mixing colours, which I’ve just begun to use as collage over a couple of the paintings I’d made that weren’t really going anywhere.

I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying the whole process. It feels like being back in primary school – although it was called Infant School in my day – and playing with all the art supplies. Being covered in glue and paint and goodness knows what.

I can’t remember ever doing anything like it since, so I’ve watched a zillion YouTube videos to pick up some techniques and ideas, which is just wonderful!

Anyway, who knows, maybe next time I’ll take some photos and you can see what I’ve been up to.

Right, time to cook the dinner.

Stay warm and happy.

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

Resurrection

Well hello again!

I doubt if there is anyone reading this who was subscribed to Mostly Motley seven years or more ago, but if you are, then all I can say is Wow! Thanks for your patience.

If you do remember me – or indeed if this is your first visit – you probably want to know what I’m intending for this blog going forward.

So, let me explain.

When I first started this blog, I chose the name, because I wanted people to know that it wouldn’t be a single topic blog – it wouldn’t be focussed on one subject, in fact, it would be a mixed bag – whatever took my fancy when I came to write a post.

The received wisdom then – and quite possibly now too – is that if you’re blogging, you should concentrate on specific niches and not be too random. I see the same thing with social media, which soaked up a huge number of bloggers from way back when.

Anyway. I’ve tried to do it both ways. I’ve tried to maintain several blogs, covering a raft of interests. But in the end, I’m just not that sort of person. I’m interested in lots of things and if I don’t include them in one place, I feel that I’m not really being authentically me.

So, if you’re reading this and wondering if it’s worth subscribing to receive new posts – well, the big passions in my life are.

  • exploring Britain’s old places, and
  • making art, sometimes in threads, but lately also in paint.

But I’m also out there with a camera most days, walking in the countryside and photographing the changing seasons. I also read a lot of books, listen to a range of music, walk up mountains, go charity shopping for bargains, go bell-ringing, cook meals, dig the garden, and about a zillion other things.

And I might write or post photos about any of these topics.

A mixed bag – mostly motley.

Of course, I’d really love it if you wanted to come along for the ride. I’d be even happier if you wanted to leave the occasional comment. But the choice is yours and I’m just going to carry on and be me.

That’s it…x

Events & emotions…

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I’ve been a bit quieter than normal around here. Nothing dramatic, just too many events and emotions getting in the way.

The weeks before Christmas are not my favourite. A show-reel of ‘the perfect Christmas’ plays on a loop in my head, with an accompanying voice-over insisting that this is the way it should be, and it is entirely up to me to make it so for my family, with goodness knows what consequences if I fail.

Completely daft, I know that – but I have to keep reminding myself, and I’m not always successful.

So forgive me if I’m even quieter for a while.

There are a couple of bloggers who I follow, who are living through the really difficult time of bereavement at the moment and to them I apologise for not leaving a comment with you, but send you my heartfelt thoughts and very best wishes. 

-)O(-

Turning brown…

We seem to be having an odd autumn around here. I watched our local avenue of horse-chestnuts change from green to dusty brown without stopping at all in any part of the yellow/gold spectrum. Red seems to have been missed out almost completely – except for the holly berries which are trying very hard to fill the void. There are a few trees attempting to play the game, but it’s a half-hearted effort.

Then last week, the acres of green bracken suddenly turned a washed out beige.

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Already though, this has begun to change, as the first light frost, followed by hours and hours of heavy rain, has started to turn the bracken black. And now it is all beginning to sag. Sometimes it feels like only yesterday that I was excitedly spotting the tightly curled emerging fronds, and now the vast growth, taller than me in lots of places, is all about to sink back to the ground.

Melancholy is supposed to be the emotion of the month, but I try hard not to go down that road – it can be too hard getting back. Instead I like to enjoy the changes.

I can already sense the woodland opening up as the leaves start to fall in greater amounts and the floor changes from a green mattress to a scrunchy brown and gold leafy carpet. Soon we’ll have a heavier frost and wake up to a spangled scene. And in the meantime, I relish the mornings when the sun streams through the canopy…

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Impossible to feel melancholy with all that going on.

 

 

-)O(-

 

 

Last week we…

Is it me, or do these school holidays seem to come around faster and faster?

Last week was a bit of a whirlwind. Number Two daughter was in Paris on a school trip until Friday, so Number One daughter and I went around and about. We managed a trip to London – culture and shopping again – we’re getting good at it. Then a visit to Stowe Landscape Gardens near Buckingham (I’ll post about that on Mists of Time as soon as I have a chance), and then we decided that we should carve a pumpkin, even though Number Two wasn’t going to be back in time to enjoy the trick or treaters.

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And then, on Saturday, the highlight of our week – perhaps the highlight of our year – we went to Stratford, to see David Tennant in Richard II.

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We booked the tickets so long ago, we’d had a lot of time to get excited about it, but in the event, it was even better than any of us could have hoped. I have absolutely no problem in admitting that it was the attraction of our almost all-time favourite Dr Who (I’m of the Tom Baker generation), that made us go along to what you’d have to say is not perhaps the top of the Shakespeare picks, but oh my goodness, how brilliant it was.

Our party included two fifty-something ladies, a seventy-something lady, two middle-aged men and four teenage girls, and each one of us came away absolutely enthralled. In my opinion, nobody does Shakespeare like the RSC – so many people think that Shakespeare is difficult to understand, but go to the RSC productions and they make it entirely understandable – if our teenagers knew what was happening, anyone could – simply marvellous.

So if having someone like David Tennant in the cast is what it takes to bring in the next generation of Shakespeare lovers – that’s fine by me. (Oh and he was incredibly good – of course).

Back down to earth now…

 

 

-)O(-

 

Time…

tree section

I’m fascinated by the ways in which we visualise time, especially the passage of time. Although we’re used to seeing circular clock faces, with the hands turning round, ending up back were they begin, I suspect that many of us think of time passing as a linear progression – from now to then will be a straight line moving away from the start point.

If we think about history – do we consider that events happened in the distance – further away from us the longer ago they happened?

If  we think about our lives, do we consider them to be linear progressions – and if we’re over fifty, do we think in terms of more behind than in front?

For ages now, I’ve been wondering about other ways to visualise time. The one that appeals to me is the circular progression.  Here, instead of imagining life moving forward, I see it turning, through the four seasons, coming back to the start point, but now enfolding the experience of the events lived through those seasons – the good, bad and ugly. In this way, each new turn in the season sees us having within us all that which has already gone before – just as a tree adds a ring with each year that passes, some rich thick rings, some meaner, thin rings – but with the whole tree growing wider as time turns, containing within it, all that it has experienced.

I like to think of myself like that – embracing the cycle of the seasons and the cycle of life, growing all the time and benefiting from everything that happens as I go round. And from this perspective, as we get older, we have more within to sustain us, who knows, maybe getting a bit wiser each cycle?

Of course if you take the analogy too literally, you see yourself getting fatter too – oh well…

 

 

-)O(-

 

 

Dollops of culture…

I really like Julia Cameron’s advice in The Artist’s Way, to set yourself regular time out, to do things that rejuvenate your creative spirit. And of course like a great many of us, it’s my ‘time out’ that is too often sacrificed when family life takes over. But I think I can go straight to the top of the class this September, because what I need to make time for, are opportunities to grab a little culture, and so far this month, I am doing rather well…

Half way through September and I have…

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Been to the Poetry Book Fair and met the brilliant Fancesca Kay (Whatever you’re planning for your garden next season, I wholly recommend obtaining a packet of her Garden Seasons – poems for year round colour & interest)

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The daughters and I have strolled around the British Museum. Both daughters were overawed by the Ancient Egyptian artefacts, big and small.

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Number 2 daughter successfully navigated our way from the BM to the Victoria & Albert Museum – not bad for a thirteen year-old who can still number her trips to London on the fingers of two hands.

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We’ve also been to Bath. Trust us to decide to go at the same time as hoards of Jane Austen reenactment enthusiasts – it was vaguely surreal passing men and women in full Regency gear chatting on their mobile phones. Although watching them dancing in the Assembly Rooms was wonderful – practically stepping back two hundred years.

We also made our pilgrimage to Bath’s girlie paradise, Alexandra May – I’m not sure you can classify this as culture, but it certainly gives me enormous pleasure, and the girls will happily spend an hour working their way along the displays (NB: not suitable for the Other Half, well not mine anyway, he has to go off and do Man Things…)

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And once we’d soaked up plenty of Georgian architecture (and played the compulsory family game of crazy golf – I lost it on the last hole, grrrrrr!), we headed off to Lacock Abbey, once famous as the birthplace of photography, then probably more famous for being a Harry Potter film venue.

The village is being promoted for its many film credits, although for those of us of a certain age, it will always remain Longbourne, from the 1995 TV series of Pride & Prejudice (the Colin Firth, wet-shirt version).

So, lots to keep me going for a week or two. And when I’m not gadding about being a culture vulture, I’m tucked up at home with my eBay find – an Old English textbook – (that’s a textbook on OE, not and old English textbook – somehow I imagine I’m going to have to brush up my grammar).

Hope your September is shaping up nicely.

 

 

-)O(-

 

PS: Just so you know, if you’re seeing any adverts on my blog, it’s WordPress, not me putting them there. If I’m feeling flush one of these days, I’ll go ad-free, until then, please forgive.

Melancholy and excitement…

sloes

Strange sensations today.

The girls have gone back to school after the long holiday. For the first time in ages, we had a real sunny summer and what a difference it has made to us all. Number One Daughter who faces the heavy toil of Year 11 really doesn’t want to go back – and who can blame her – although her request at 7.30am this morning to be home-schooled fell on unreceptive ears. Number Two Daughter, who starts at the Upper school today, is full of excitement – I’m glad I’m not a teacher.

Not having the girls around, makes me feel a touch melancholy, but on the other hand, I am finally able to get back to what passes as my ‘normal’ routine – last night I excavated my desk so that today I could blog for the first time in weeks – a certain relief is beginning to flow in the veins.

The start of the new school year always gives me a buzz, which hasn’t anything to do with school, but everything to do with new beginnings, fresh starts and heightened enthusiasm. Especially strong this September I suspect because the summer has been so good and I’m definitely more refreshed and reinvigorated than I’ve been for quite some time.

And in the spirit of clean sheets – I think I should repent of my sort of failure – which is to admit to having failed on the no new book buying challenge. I gave it my best shot, I kept a wish-list instead of pressing Buy With One Click, I avoided the charity shops, I tried very hard- but during the summer I just couldn’t hold out any more. I now know, that being able to read something that sparks my curiosity is more important to me than I’d realised before. And of course reading blogs is a potent way to be pointed in the direction of writers who I’d never otherwise have encountered – and I love that.

So for anyone managing to sustain the challenge, I admire you enormously – but now I have confirmed the disappointing extent of my will-power.

Over the last few blogging-free weeks, I’ve been thinking about what I want to spend my energies on for the next few months. This has boiled down to:

Getting back into regular yoga practise (as I get older, maintaining flexibility becomes more and more important – my mother was a tremendous example of what could be done, and I’m determined to follow her example – and I’m lucky enough to have an excellent teacher who integrates the spiritual elements smoothly, which I appreciate even more than the physical exercise).

Getting to grips with the garden: No chance of turning into a Gertrude Jekyll, just the realisation that much needs to be done and finally, after only living in this house for fifteen years, beginning to get a feel for what I actually want in the garden.

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And finally – don’t laugh, I’m going to teach myself Old English. I’ve been intrigued by the evolution of the English language ever since I studied Chaucer for A Level, but over the summer, the programmes about the Anglo-Saxons, with Michael Wood, sparked a new interest in the early origins. Each programme showed texts written from the time of King Alfred and his immediate successors, and had extracts of the texts being voiced, with subtitles. It was so delicious to listen to, but also I found myself desperate to be able to read the texts. I’ve investigated text books, although not yet decided which one(s) to go for – they seem to vary from strictly academic, deeply grammatical, to the Old English equivalent of Teach Yourself in a Weekend. If any of you wonderful readers have any old books on OE sitting around unloved, or any advice on teachers, courses or text books – please get in touch!

Of course all this will take place against the background of daily life and endless tent stitch – life’s never boring…

Flights of fancy…

You know how it is, nothing happens for weeks on end, then suddenly everything is going mad and you’re racing to keep up.

It’s been like that here for the last few days – but in a fabulous way.

A friend of ours loves to fly, and last weekend he decided the weather was perfect for a trip around the Scottish Islands and Highlands. The Highlands are my favourite place – and so I leapt at the chance to go hopping around.

We went up the West coast, stopping first at Gigha – the airstrip is a field – you can just about see it in the picture…

Gigha
Gigha

Not exactly Heathrow...
Not exactly Heathrow…

The Gigha Hotel - gorgeous.
The Gigha Hotel – gorgeous.

Iona abbey
Iona abbey

Next day and a view of Iona and Staffa

Not the most dramatic view of Fingal's Cave
Not the most dramatic view of Fingal’s Cave

Then we were off to land at the airstrip at Barra – yes, it’s a beach.IMAG1993

The view of Barra airstrip from the air traffic control tower – that’s our plane on the sand

The islands going out towards Stornoway are unlike anything I’d seen before.DSCN3703 DSCN3715 IMAG2034

And then we stopped for fuel at Stornoway

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And then off around the coast of the mainland….

my favourite beach at Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
my favourite beach at Sandwood Bay, Sutherland

Then the lighthouse at Cape Wrath

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And Balnakiel Beach

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We spent the night near Forres and then off again from Inverness down the Great Glen – I kept looking, but no sign of Nessie…

DSCN4012 DSCN4027 IMAG2139 IMAG2166 IMAG2213Watching the mountains of Aran come out of the clouds.

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Before flying back through the Lake District and home.

Now I’m back it all feels rather like a dream and I have to keep pinching myself to remember that it really happened. An amazing experience I’m sure I’ll never forget.

Getting back into the swing of things at home again now and looking forward to the girls breaking up for summer. Hope you’re enjoying the weather and staying cool.

 

PS:

Theresa, do you happen to know what this is? He was flying about on the sand dunes at Barra – so pretty and strikingly vivid.

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