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…

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


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


And Balnakiel Beach



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.


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.



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





A churchy day out in York…

Warning: this post contains gratuitous references to bell-ringing. Anyone with allergies to bells should stop reading now.

York is one of my favourite cities in the UK, and I was delighted to be able to spend the day there last Saturday.

Now of course there’s more than enough to keep you happy and occupied in York for days on end, but we were there for a bell-ringing event, so inevitably the day was dominated by visiting churches.

York Minster is one of the granddaddies of gothic architecture and an absolute ‘must-see’ at least once in a life-time, but we started our visit to York with a very special tour of the two towers of York Minster that house the incredible Minster bells. For bell-ringers, the best bit was the fact that a peal was being rung during our visit, so we could see, hear (and feel) the sound of the bells in action.

The NW tower houses Great Peter, a huge bell, one of the biggest in the UK (10 tons), which sounds the hours, and the quarter bells.

If you want some idea of how Great Peter sounds try this YouTube clip here (but imagine it so loud your teeth rattle).

The SW tower holds the ringing bells. As they were being rung, I didn’t take pictures, (I was too scared I’d drop the camera into a swinging bell). We went up onto the roof of the SW tower to get one of the most amazing views of the city. The weather was so good we could see for miles. (Actually the sky was that amazing deep blue, but I’ve had to adjust the pictures to show the details). I just adore the gargoyles on the pinnacles.

Click on the pictures for a better view.

After enjoying our very noisy tour, we strolled along to St Olave’s Church in Marygate.

This was a wonderfully gentle antidote to the size and magnificence of the MInster. Of all the churches we visited on Saturday, this was my favourite. You know that feeling in some churches of serenity, calm, peacefulness – well that’s St Olave’s.

The font cover soars into the air – click the picture to see it better.

By contrast, St Wilfrid’s church, built close to the Minster is all about sturdy Victorian values. As an example of its type, it is pretty amazing, but my own response was to feel over-powered.

Some of the family went in search of other bells, but I went in search of refreshment (lager shandy – not my normal lunchtime habit, but it was soooo hot!).

Later we headed off to St Lawrence’s Church, just outside the city walls. The girls were competing in a striking competition there, so mother mode took over and I didn’t take photos – in fact I sought shade and a place to sit where I wouldn’t be in the way. St Lawrence’s is another Victorian church, built on the ground of an earlier church. All that now remains of the original church is the tower – a slightly forlorn relict. But the most poignant element for me was this derelict tomb – so sad and with a rambling white rose growing wild across it.


After the excitement of the competition, we took a very slow walk back to St Helen Stonegate, which was acting as the hub for all the ringing events. They had a little mini-ring set up and the girls enjoyed having a go – it’s quite different to the normal ringing we do. The lovely people at St Helen’s laid on lashings of tea and cake – they understand their audience very well indeed!

I’m afraid I gave up taking ‘proper pictures after that. We went on to St Michael Le Belfry (the church where Guy Fawkes was christened), where the competition results were given. Suffice to say it was extremely exciting and quite out of the blue, our team won. I’m not going to embarrass any of them with ‘proud mother type’ pictures – but it was fantastic and I am incredibly proud of all the young ringers who took part.

During the afternoon, I’d re-visited some old-haunts in the city. I was disappointed to find that Taylors of Stonegate had been renamed Betty’s – I know it’s all the same firm, but Taylors had a certain something special. I nodded at the Judges Lodgings – which used to be my favourite place to stay in York, I’ve spent some happy times there. And of course, no visit would be complete without saying hello to this little chap…


Apologies for a rather indulgent post – it was a beautiful day I will always remember.

Now, get out into the garden and soak up some rays!

The Chef lives…

In the 1970s, my mum became the proud owner of a Kenwood Chef. She was an enthusiastic cake maker (and eater for that matter, although unlike me she had hollow legs, but that’s another story…). She must have used it practically every week for the next thirty plus years. When she died and we cleared her house, the Kenwood was still sitting in the corner of the kitchen, unaware that it had helped make its last cake.

It’s been boxed up in our garage ever since.

Until that is, a couple of weeks ago.

Because some niggling little voice has been calling to me from the garage – ‘Why not use the Kenwood – it even has a bread-hook you know…’ and I really fancied making bread…

So in it came. I gave it a good clean, out came the strong bread flour and yeast, in it went, on went the switch, it purred round and round – I smiled. It suddenly went berserk – I switched it off – and then back on again – it whizzed around maniacally, and a nasty electrical smell came out – and then it emitted one very loud and abrupt BANG! I cried.

The Kenwood after Techno-hero had his wicked way with the screwdriver.
The Kenwood after Techno-hero had his wicked way with the screwdriver.

But the advantage of being married to a techno-hero, is that he can take things apart and put them back together again.

He took out his screw-driver, did a considerable amount of muttering, googled  ‘Kenwood repairs’ and now, two weeks and a new resistor later, I have a functioning Kenwood. Hoorah!

According to Techno Hero, this is the blown resistor - umm, yes, he's probably right.
According to Techno Hero, this is the blown resistor – umm, yes, he’s probably right.

I just know my mum is cheering from her fluffy cloud and my dad is thinking what a good job I married someone just like him.

So today, in their honour, the first cake from the repaired Kenwood – is mum’s favourite – a Madeira. (And a loaf is just proving now).

Madeira Cake from Nan's cook book.
Madeira Cake from Nan’s cook book.

I’m very happy indeed.

Here's to the next thirty years service.
Here’s to the next thirty years service.

A dog’s life…

We’ve been up in the Peak District for a few days.

Traditionally, this is the annual holiday when we cycle – there being a fabulous amount of off-road cycle routes in the area.

But since we acquired the delinquent dog, things have had to be rethought.

We hoped that he’d condescend to travel in his own trailer…

IMAG1548Unfortunately, as you can see here, we’re just walking along. Anything approaching a ride and the poor boy was apoplectic.

But take the wheels off the trailer and he thought it made a very acceptable camping kennel…

IMAG1554So we did some walking, some riding in pairs and a lot of taking in the scenery.

IMAG1575 IMAG1572Well any way, we all had a good time, even the boy. Back to the final push before the long school holiday. Lots happening this coming half term so I’m going to have to plan our next holiday – I like to have something to look forward to!



Learning as I go along…

IMAG1247Blogging is a funny game. Some people seem to be naturals, they start off knowing exactly what they’re about and quickly join the happy melee of Blogland. Some dip their toes into the water of Blogland but soon decide it’s not for them.

And then there are others, the ones somehow hooked on the game, but not quite sure how they should play. I’m one of these.

So I’ve spent the last few months experimenting and trying to find out what works best for me.

When you try out new things, or new ways to look at things, you inevitably learn a lot, and not just about technical details, but also about yourself.

What I’ve discovered is, that I’ve changed quite a lot since I first stepped into Blogland.

The big interests in my life remain textile art, especially needlepoint, and history, particularly visiting historic places in the UK. But sometimes I want to talk about family life, sometimes about the spiritual journey, sometimes about art and often about the nature I encounter every day.

Finding a way to blog across these topics is what I’ve been learning about.

So today I’ve started to revamp Mostly Motley – please bear with me as I tweak it about a bit.

My aim is to use this as my blogging home, whilst keeping needlepoint and historic topics off in their own dedicated space. (If you do find either of these topics fascinating – I suppose there may be one or two of us?, the links are on the side-bar, or in the menu at the top of this site. I’d be delighted if you went to have a look around).

Here at Mostly Motley, I’m giving myself permission to write about the topics that have become closer to my heart over recent years.

I’ve been giving my creative streak an airing, so there might be some scratchy offerings to show you what I’ve been doing.

I’ve found myself in that mid-life stage where exploring spiritual matters starts to matter more, so I expect to witter about that from time to time.

And the last few months have proved to me just how important an appreciation of the natural world around us is to me. I increasingly find myself drawn to the beauty I see in nature around me, so I’d expect to have quite a lot of posts on that topic.

Finally, wherever I go on my creative travels or on my spiritual journey, I am always at heart a wife and mother, and I just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t talk about family life on the odd occasion.

So here is the latest incarnation of Mostly Motley. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.



Nature’s pick-me-up…

I’ve been a bit up and down over the weekend – I’m blaming the hormones.

But it was difficult to feel anything other than pure happiness, seeing the sunlight on the trees across the way, and the frost coated field in between.

The air was crisp, but the ground is still soggy – it will need to be colder for longer before the muddy paths freeze to crunchiness.

I love days like this.

Sublime and ridiculous…

In a moment of rashness, I suggested an impromptu trip to Oxford Street for number one daughter on Saturday afternoon.

Although we live less than an hour away by train, London isn’t somewhere we’ve been in the habit of visiting very much since the girls arrived – but now that they’re older and I don’t have to panic about holding little hands in big crowds, it’s becoming a viable option for a trip out, and of course teenage, fashion conscious girls are going to think of London as destination Heaven.

And so Saturday saw us pounding the Street, going into practically every fashion shop along the way. I’ve worked out that the best way to survive these type of outings, is to put my brain firmly into ‘hold’ mode and let all the bustle, noise, and smell, wash over me.

We ventured off route a little to find the legendary Abercrombie & Fitch store in Burlington Gardens. We’d heard about it, and it lived up to our expectations – and more. I defy anyone with an ounce of common sense not to walk round that ‘shop’ and laugh, although perhaps not in the way the owners would have it. Personally I find the option to spend ridiculous amounts of money on average type clothes I wouldn’t be seen dead in, incredibly easy to resist, but I accept I am not their target market.

But I was hugely entertained by their bravado in presenting clothes in Pantone like groups, whilst keeping the lighting levels so low, you can hardly see your own feet. If you really do want to buy something there, I urge you to take your own torch. Having a barely prepubescent boy showing off his hairless chest, in the entrance way, was certainly something you don’t see at M&S (perhaps this is one idea they could copy).

Ridiculous, but in the sweetest way.

— )O( —

After all the excitement of shopping in London, yesterday I needed to smooth my feathers.

We woke to a frost, but the sun was beginning to break through by the time I got the dog up to the woods.

The cobwebs in the holly were glistening, shafts of sunlight were pushing through the trees, tiny drips of melting frost tickled my neck. This was truly stunning – sublime indeed.

Keeping my eyes open…

I’m all over the place today – stressing about half a dozen daft things that really don’t deserve the attention. This is one of those days when you know the theory, but putting it into practise is harder to manage.

Still, I couldn’t help being struck by a few of the  amazing things I’ve seen in the last twenty-four hours in the life of Mrs Average.

Last night, from the school car park, I took this picture of the sunset.

There were other mums standing about gazing up at that sky – even the children were mesmerised.

This morning, during the walk in the woods, I spotted these…

Each little ball with a neat hole in the top. Had something worked its way in or out?

They were right beside these…


So delicate, they look like Fern Britton, flouncing her chiffon on Strictly Come Dancing.

And my favourite beech tree had a halo this morning. You’ll have to believe me, because it’s hard to get some of this with my phone camera, but there was a definite yellow circlet around the top branches as the sun broke through the trees – it was a moment of glory on an average sort of day – wonderful.

Daily devotions…

The wonderful thing about having a dog, is that whatever the weather, you are duty bound to take it out for some exercise. Although it was a family decision to have a dog, and we all had our individual reasons for wanting one, my rationale, was that I wanted a proper excuse to go out every day.

I had tried to get out regularly, but I just couldn’t manage to be sufficiently disciplined. I knew it was something I wanted to do – perhaps needed to do – but there was a gulf between knowing and doing.

But now we have the hound and I have my excuse.

It’s marvellous.

I’ve been trying to work out what it is about outdoors that is so compelling and the beauty of a daily walk, is that you have the perfect opportunity to spend time thinking.

What I’ve realised, is that I missed the regular exposure to the weather and the changing seasons. When I was growing up, I walked outdoors pretty much every day – walking to and from school, walking our dog, going for walks with friends – there wasn’t much else to do where I grew up. Without really being conscious of it, I was seeing the changes in the weather and seeing the same environment pass from winter to spring to summer and to autumn – the eternal cycle.

It wasn’t until jobs and family life detached me from this pattern, that I understood how important it felt to be part of it.

We’ve had the dog since early summer, so I’ve now had nearly half a year to get back into the circle of the seasons. Already I feel so much more grounded.  Now, we’ve moved from early autumn, where the colours are all lush golds and greens, to the later period – bronzes and browns, no longer lush, now brittle and decaying, but no less beautiful for that.

Each day, I become aware of more going on around me. I feel as if the clouds are thinning in my mind and I’m finding my way back to a better place.

I’m also realising how very little I know about the nature around me. What for instance is this? (please do let me know).

So unexpected to find pink flowers blooming in early October.

It feels wonderful to be closer to nature again – here’s to daily devotions and the onset of winter.

Middle distance morning…

I wondered if our family has been hit by some mysterious virus overnight, when this morning at breakfast, there was a pretty universal bout of middle-distance staring. You know how it is when despite all the usual Monday morning chaos of sandwich making, school uniform ironing and finding your cheque-book, your entire family sit at the table and stare silently off into the distance.

I’m used to having one of them doing it, but today I felt as if I’d woken up in a John Wyndham novel.

I did a lot of chivvying – that’s what mothers are supposed to do, isn’t it? And eventually they all made it out of the door. What they’re doing now I wouldn’t like to guess, but hopefully it won’t be my problem for a few more hours.

As it is a thoroughly wet and dull day, I decided to take the dog out for a decent walk (he’s a lovely dog, but oh boy does he dislike other dogs – makes for interesting encounters) – the advantage of wet days, is that only the hardy and generally more sympathetic dog walkers seem to go out in this weather.

We tried a new spot somewhere in the outskirts of Milton Keynes. I’d been with a friend once before – probably twenty years ago, but I was pleased to find the car part quite easily, and it was quiet, just me and a couple with a nice, well-behaved collie.

Half way round our walk, I saw two enormous black birds – shags or cormorants? on this flat barge in the lake – sharing it with two swans. I wish I could have found a better spot to take a picture, but this was the best I could do –  inevitably it’s a middle-distance photo. In my defence, it’s hard to take pics on your phone whilst simultaneously holding a mad dog’s lead, a full doggy doo bag, a training clicker, a couple of pieces of sausage and a glove.

So this is it.








All I can say is, the black birds were huge and the swans didn’t seem to mind them being there at all.

A quick thought on diaries…

A spread from the 2012 Earth Pathways Diary

It’s about this time of year that the shops start to fill up with diaries and calendars.

When I left Corporateland and decided I didn’t need to tote a huge A4 diary with me everywhere I went, I started looking around for an alternative. After a few inevitable false starts, I found my way to the Earth Pathways Diary. If you haven’t seen one and you fancy something a bit different for 2013, I urge you to take a look – click here to go to their website.

Apart from being a very useful and well formatted diary, the Earth Pathways Diary contains a delightful mix of artworks and poetry on the themes of nature, Earth wisdom and living sustainably and lightly on our planet.

Take a look at some of the sample pages for the 2013 diary – here.

If you’re interested, you can order from the website.

I like the way this group has worked and continues to produce something beautiful and inspirational, without being subsumed into the mass market, so I’m just going to take this opportunity to wish them all a Very Happy New Year.



Three Part Woman…

It occurred to me recently, that in order to be happy, there are three things I need to be and do every day.

The three parts are


By which I mean doing the run of the mill jobs that keep the family engine running; feeding the family reasonably healthy food at appropriate times; keeping the house clean enough so that if the Vicar should spring a surprise visit, you wouldn’t have to hide behind the net curtains and pretend to be out; and of course ensuring that the shrill call ‘where’s my PE shirt?’ is answered more often with ‘in your drawer’, than ‘wherever you last left it’


For me this looks like a woman sitting (or lying) on the sofa, with a large piece of tapestry canvas in one hand and a chunky tapestry needle in the other. Now I accept that as I haven’t actually ever sold any of these pieces, it might be stretching the point to call it work. But it’s the one thing in my  life I have always felt most at home doing, and although I admit it has practically no usefulness to anyone else, it does seem to be the one gift or talent that I came here programmed to use. So I think of it as work – done with love, as an expression of something which is essentially me.


You might want to substitute meditating for contemplating – but it seems to me that there are numerous ways to get into the flow – and it’s that flow I seek to find. I’ve dabbled with the concept of meditation for years, like many people I intellectually understood the potential benefits, but hadn’t made it a practice. That has changed, and so although I’m only skiing down the baby slopes of contemplation, it is a vital part to my daily happiness.

Now being me, I’ve tried many ways to avoid doing the housekeeping part. Days spent meditating and/or sewing are delicious and should be the epitome of delight. But what I’ve found, is that in fact leaving the housekeeping tasks undone, reduces my overall happiness at the end of the day.

Why I should feel that this is my role and not one to share with the rest of the family, probably has a lot to do with my upbringing. I do get resentful when the house is trashed minutes after the girls get home, I could happily spit feathers when a meal lovingly cooked is eaten without a word of thanks, and quite frankly I will never understand why The Other Half thinks that putting dirty mugs on the work-surface on TOP of the dishwasher, constitutes putting it IN the dishwasher. But all that said, no alternative way of organising ourselves has lasted or indeed made me happy, so I’ve now come to believe that simply doing this role – not necessarily to the most exacting standards, but at least well enough for us all to function, is something valuable, not only to the others, but also – and perhaps crucially , valuable primarily to me.

Oddly enough, once I thought about this triple aspect to achieving happiness, it occurred that this is very similar to the balance lived in monastic institutions. Monks and nuns spend parts of their days doing mundane tasks, working at the things in which they are talented, and of course in contemplation.

This thought of the parallels between my daily life and that of religious orders, has I confess brought a few wry smiles to my face. A less nun-like woman than me, you couldn’t hope to meet. But ultimately, I suppose it is the human condition to seek happiness or serenity and there are undoubtedly many roads to take us there.