Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Late winter sun in Buckinghamshire

Well I have good intentions about blogging more regularly in the New Year, and thought I'd better get a post up now before I totally forget how to go about it....

I'm feeling relaxed almost to the point of blankness.

Catching up on sleep and rest, catching up with lovely family, catching up on a weaving project which has been going on for too many years, catching up with latest new Doctor Who Christmas special (regeneration into a new doctor approaches fast, tis very exciting), catching up with my camera.

Thinking about catching up with tidying and housework (but only marginally), thinking about going to see Avatar, thinking about the fact that I'm almost entirely successfully not thinking about work, thinking about knitting.

And thinking about you. I might even catch up with your blogs too before long.
If my state of relaxation doesn't lapse into complete torpor.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Happy holidays to all you lovely bloggers!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

its a topic of conversation...

We do have snow in London - I was surprised news of this had reached the USA. I guess its not just we Brits who are so interested in our weather...

Charlton, South London

Our snow clearly can not compare, however, with the vast heapy quilts of whiteness which some of you on the East coast there across the Atlantic have been endowed with.

Unusually, for London, our snow - just a couple of inches or so - is just sitting there, sparkling and crunchy. Not melting or being drizzled on, or turning slushy. Its been gleaming in the sunshine for 2 or 3 days now like a crust of sugary icing and we have a week of freezing temperatures and bright sunshine forecast.

Greenwich Park & Canary Wharf

I hope to be out and about with my sadly neglected camera.

Inside the house, Logan is intrigued by the crackling fire. He loves radiators with all his little furry heart, and is surprisingly tolerant of tinsel.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


This post has a history.

It started out being a post about graffiti ...

... which got me thinking about walls and the way they are marked by their history...

and so the post evolved in a way which is linked with my own history.

My photography habit started to become serious with walls quite a few years ago.
Yes indeed, walls.

I took dozens of photos of walls for a design board on a textiles and design course I was doing. I was much laughed at by my family and attracted some comment from passers-by but fortunately LG was too young then to be as scandalously embarrassed by my behaviour as she would now be.
And anyway, she was firmly fastened into a push-chair at the time so could do little but watch, bemused, as I scrutinised and photographed interesting bits of wall.

Here are some of the photos, scanned:

Most of these are from the walls around Charlton House, which is Jacobean - C17th.
These walls have really been marked by their history.

As my interest in photography has progressed, I've found myself taking photos of all sorts of walls, the most interesting being those bearing signs of their histories.

Histories of previous attachments

Histories of habitation still inscribed, faded and peeling, merging with the repetition of the brickwork...

histories of more recent markings and erasure

and of course graffiti. And among my favourite graffiti are those scrawls on walls which hint at a history all their own

you have to remember Ray

This last picture was around the back of the Astoria, a favourite venue in London, now demolished - consigned to history.

a Theme Thursday post

Saturday, December 12, 2009

not so wordless weekend

Brighton, art installation by Niaomh Looney

I was going to post this photo as a wordless weekend post - I love this.
But then I saw Steve's post on desire over at Shadows and Light.

Which made me think. And add some words.

I do have great desire, my desire is great - but also, Steve's quote resonates, the ideal of "few desires" has a powerful pull, I'd like to aspire to that.

So am I oxymoronic?

Maybe theres a distinction between desire and desires? In the sense that my great desire is not for objects or even for specific pre-defined targets, but for experience - for living life to the full and for the wonder of the world, for love and friendship most especially and for beauty.

Though that does translate into particular desires.... the desire, especially to travel.

And its important for me to be able to state these desires, having recently (and thankfully) begun to grow out of a view of the world dominated too much by duty and an out-of-kilter work ethic.

And I guess thats another part of the distinction - balance; in my case balancing duty and desire and seeking out unattained desires but not "extensively" as Steve's quote says. Or at the very least, not at the expense of other people or other values. Including duty.

So does my desire translate into "seeking to gain a lot"? does it bring with it more afflictions?

Well, I guess that partly depends on openness. Everything is experience, and the wonder of the world, love friendship and beauty are everywhere if we are open to watch and listen and feel.

Extensively seeking out desires could certainly get in the way of that.

I'd like to travel worldwide.

I hope to visit the States again before too long.

I would LOVE to visit people I love in Australia, I have a nice little itinerary mapped out in my head and frequently contemplate strategies which could help it to happen ...

I have a good friend who knows India well and has offered to take me on a tour some time.

M has a friend in Japan who has offered hospitality...

These are desires. Pretty substantial ones actually. And I would regret it if none of them are fulfilled. But I don't think it would be a regret strong enough to afflict me.

I accept that these trips might well never happen and if they don't, it will be at least partly because I am doing other things, experiencing life and wonder and love and friendship in other ways and places. So long as I'm not too wrapped up in duty to recognise it and to live it.

So, am I oxymoronic?
I'm really not sure. This is more thinking than I'd planned to do today.

See, Steve, how may words your post provoked?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Ah, I wish it were true - oh that we had snow.

Tis not so.

Its not a regular occurrence in my bit of England and it still causes quite a bit of excitement...
Traffic delays.
Days off school.
Falling on bums.
Wet gloves on radiators.

Slushy snail-greyish sludge is what we Londoners expect from time to time - its something else to moan about as we trudge, sleet in our faces, past the scarcely-moving traffic, to and from work in the mid-morning late-afternoon constant winter twilight.

Proper thick crunchy sparkling blanketing soft soft snow - now thats a different matter entirely. That particular translucent eerie quality of light which - filtering through the curtains - declares snowfall, that still evokes a childlike anticipation and delight in me and mine.

I guess rarity increases value.

It happened last February and I posted about it then so do go look if you want to here and here.

And for this winter - we'll just keep hoping....

Sunday, December 06, 2009

re-thinking busy-ness

I recently did a course on personal / life coaching.

I'm now working on myself.

Instead of telling myself "I'm too busy" I'm experimenting with saying "I have a full and interesting life. I'm involved in a lot of activities which are enjoyable or important or useful".

It takes a bit longer though which is not an advantage when one is too busy.

Instead of saying "I have too much to do" I try to say "I can prioritise and choose what to do next".

still longer tho.....
(but I did finally make the time to upgrade to new blogger!)

And instead of saying "I must do some housework this weekend" I am saying "I'll sit and read a book".

Which is shorter, so maybe I will succeed.

Here are some other good short phrases which I am practising:

  • that can wait
  • housework is overrated
  • ...and relax.
  • they don't pay me for this
  • I deserve it
  • life is too short
  • stop and breathe

Thursday, December 03, 2009


- what a perfect Theme Thursday topic for bloggers

but I'll try to keep this brief cos I could go on and on ....

I started blogging in February 2006, to my surprise, as a way to keep in touch with a best friend who'd moved out of London...

and blogging kept me well in touch with another good friend who'd moved out of England...

and, to my surprise, I developed new friendships with people here in south London
and the south of England
and with people in France
and Australia...

and these friends (as well as more local non-blogging friends) helped me to survive an awful few years when my life seemed to be falling apart

and the circle has grown and grown and I have friends around the world - I've met quite a few blog-friends face to face now but not as many as I'd like to. I've experienced great kindness and hospitality from blogging friends.

and finally a blog-friend inspired made4aid. We found each other when my mother and her brother were both dying of cancer and blogging was one source of comfort and strength and tears. Joyce continues to be an inspiration with her almost-daily bags - if you've not visited her bags4darfur blog please please take a look at her unique, wonderful bags raising money for relief work in Darfur. And buy!

And now I am making new friends again through made4aid - and some of them are giving some of their beautiful work to be sold for Darfur

Please take a look - lots of lovely hand-made things for sale. Yes, shameless promotion. No apologies.

I wish I could show my mother what we are trying to do with made4aid and I know she would love the way the web leads to friendship and leads to love and love leads to action for those in kinds of need beyond the experience or understanding of most of us...

Thanks so much to those of you who've supported made4aid (which is now just 6 months old) - and especially if you've bought, donated an item, linked on your blog or even done a blog post about m4a.

touch 4 love

Saturday, November 28, 2009

hidden London

Many of you said you liked the photo in my previous post of the Regents Canal in Islington, North London.

London's canals are quite special - you can take a few steps down from a busy London street, and find yourself in this world:

People work here

and live here

a lot of cyclists use the tow paths on their daily commute
whizzing past the water and the graffiti....

The Regents Canal in North East London was completed in 1820, to join up with the Grand Junction canal which goes through North West London and Paddington. Together they are the London section of the Grand Union canal - so its possible to travel from the midlands right through London and out to the West, entirely by narrow-boat.

One of the most famous bits of canal is Camden Lock which must be one of the busiest too, especially at the weekends when the Markets are open.

I more often find myself in Islington towards the end of the day - waiting to meet a friend for a date at Sadlers Wells theatre and marvelling at the reflections and the late sunshine on the water.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Theme Thursday is usually a nicely low-maintenance post for me, I tend to trawl through my photo-archive and theres generally something there which I can argue is relevant.

But this one had me stumped for a while.

Until the magic hour occurred to me - the hour before dusk when the light is transforming, enchanting and golden - or sometimes silver - and the shadows are long.... Along with the hour after dawn - often the best times for photography.

So - here are some photos taken late in the day - late sunshine and shadows:

Havre des pas in Jersey, Channel Islands

le Hocq in Jersey, Channel Islands

in Ipswich, Suffolk

Royal Victoria Docks, East London

the Regents Canal, North-East London

Sunday, November 15, 2009


war memorial, Charlton South London

I've been thinking about my (maternal) grandfather - "little grandad", as opposed to the other one who was "big".

He was in the trenches in the first world war and that gives me a sense of connection to those awful events, months, years - because he was there and because he was also part of my life.

Somewhere in my family there is a great photo I remember of him, aged probably in his 40s, with a couple of mates in the sunshine, baggy trousers, vest and braces, cigarette... but I couldn't find it in my scrapbooks and stache of old photographs. The search has taken more time than I'd planned to spend (time, tears, smiles) so I now don't have the time I'd planned to spend scanning in pictures.... sorry.

His name was Harry, he was an east-ender - too young to fight in WW1 but he lied about his age in order to go to war and he and his brother and best friend Tom were there in the mud and blood and thunder, in the first gas attack at Ypres and other horrors and lucky to ever come safely home.

Little grandad couldn't fight in WW2 because the shattered ear drums he came home with in 1918 left him very deaf - so he stayed in London and served as a first-aid officer. I remember him patching up my childhood scrapes and scratches and wish it was still possible to buy kaolin poultice, I know the smell would transport me right back there to his gentle firm hands on my little legs.

He dug for victory during the war and one of my strongest childhood memories is his long, long, narrow immaculate garden in north east London - fruit, veg, greenhouse, the smell of tomato plants also transports me back to him. And chrysanthemums, dahlias, old fashioned pinks and aquilegia.

I so loved staying with nan and grandad, I remember a huge soft puffy heavy old eiderdown and the hard heavy towel-wrapped stone hot waterbottle. He was strict in a way which made me know I was safe and loved. He loved war films and westerns and his hearing aid whistled constantly.

Heres a photo after all, quickly photographed - one of my favourite family photos ever, July 1920.

My daughter was quite profoundly struck by the death, recently, of the last surviving participant in the 1914-18 war - she is troubled by the fact that there is no longer anyone with us who was actually there, who could tell us.

I very much wish she could have known little grandad. If I could spend time with and get to know better one of my grandparents, it would be him.

This morning I finished reading Avilion - a very long-awaited sequel to Robert Holdstock's (wonderful) Mythago Wood, which I was going to write about but there are quite enough of my words here already.

But one of the images in the book is that of a battlefield of tartan, and at the end of the book is this poem written by the author:

The Field of Tartan
(written for my grandfather. Who walked across this field on the Somme: July 1916).

I walked for my life, across a field of tartan

The Scots went first. They had it worst.
The First, the Twenty-First.
They sowed the seeds, the soft touch
Of fabric-woven earth, over which we walked.
They had been mown down to a man.

They made a field of tartan.

Before they went, they sang,
The songs were haunted.
We joked about their skirts; they took it in good part,
there was a sense of peace,
That touch of Spartan in each heart.

(He walks for his life, across a field of tartan)

No mud when the top was crossed,
When the iron wind blasted and counter-crossed,
Seeking the marrowbone, the head, the heart,

Taking us down into that field of tartan.

It was so strange, so savage.
Astonishing to find no earth, just fallen flesh
To briefly meet a dying gaze,
A last remembered highland day.
To walk over limbs clad in scarlet tartan.
And we slipped and slid upon the patterned cloth, but made the other line.
There was killing, then.
No charms, just arms, the sinking down, the frightened frown,
Flesh suddenly shaped into dirt, life dearth,
Blood silt,
Nothing to hearten us
Except our unwanted luck at walking over hand-weaved kilt.
Not sinking into earth.
Walking across a field of tartan.

Robert Holdstock, March 2008 (revised September 2008)
published in Avilion, London: Gollancz 2009, p.339-340