Colour play day

Last week I had a treat. A chance to meet a hero of mine, and a day to work under his artistic guidance. My sister booked us on a workshop with colour guru and textile artist Kaffe Fassett, whose work has inspired me for many years.

Arriving at the venue, Lady Sew and Sew in Henley, we were greeted by rows and rows of fabric, an overwhelming rainbow of colour. Kaffe and Brandon, his partner,  set us to work, but encouraged us to play, to experiment and see what happened when colours met each other. We were following Kaffe’s “Seed Packet” design from his book Bold Blooms, and it was exciting to see what grew in front of us.

After a day of cutting and placing, everyone’s designs were as individual as their creators. Kaffe commented and made suggestions, and signed books before we packed up our mess and left, exhausted but on a high!

All that has to be done now is to finish it! I have been making progress, but there’s a long way to go yet. Watch this space…

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Ruby days

This weekend marks our fortieth wedding anniversary and we have celebrated by  visiting some beautiful places. Yesterday we went to RHS Wisley, where we were treated to a feast of orchids in the glasshouse, and glorious magnolias in the woodland gardens. So much more besides, it will require another visit before too long.

Today we found Leith Hill Place, the childhood home of Ralph Vaughan Williams, with an unspoilt atmosphere, live piano music and the smell (and taste) of fresh baking. The views were never ending at this magical place.

By contrast the palatial Polesden Lacey was so ostentatious it felt almost over the top, but still had some amazing sights.

A special weekend to mark four happy decades! Thank you Steve xxxx

Mother’s Day tulips

I have now managed over twenty five years of Mother’s Days without my own mother. The years get more, and sometimes I feel the missing more too. Today I felt it, but the weather has been beautifully sunny and I spent a happy hour in the garden gathering a watercolour bouquet of tulips, which were opening to the warmth of the sun.

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As I was contemplating the bursting flowers and new leaves on the trees, I was reminded of the words of a Philip Larkin spring poem I read a few days ago. Sometimes we think that the new life of spring is all a new birth, and an escape from the progression of time. But no, this wonderful fresh life is still marked by the passing of the years;

The recent buds relax and spread, Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again, And we grow old? No, they die too.

Their yearly trick of looking new, Is written down in rings of grain.  (From “The Trees”) 

The message of this day to me as a mother is that the promise of fresh life and new beginnings is real, but the past is not forgotten. It is written in the wood, the grain of who I am. And being a mother is not a simple thing, a one off giving birth; there is a deeper, longer story being laid down. The passing of years, the aging process and the adding of “rings” to the grain, does not make the new beginnings any less wonderful.

And as a daughter, today I remember my mother. Her gift of life to me required effort on her part, and was the work of many years. It wrote lines in her life as well as mine. So here’s a bouquet of tulips to you, Mum! I have not seen you for so long, but the fresh flowers on this sunny Sunday remind me of your gift to me of being alive, and all the “rings” you wrote in my life.

Thank you.


Spring bling!

What better excuse than the spring equinox to post pictures of beautiful flowers. A walk around the garden reveals blossoms at every turn.

Shades of yellow daffodils and primroses, and hyacinths large and small.

Luscious pinks of camellias and hellebores, and the multi flowering stems of heathers and pieris.

What treasures!

“Forced” moments…

The weather forecaster describes it as unsettled. This morning heavy rain woke me at 5.30 a.m. pounding against the roof and windows. And then by the time I got up to make tea the sun was shining. Now it’s raining again… 

Yesterday I made brief foray round the garden while the sun was shining and uncovered some rhubarb. Protected by an old composting bin and “forced” to grow in the dark, the resulting colours are quite shocking! As the rain returned I was able to conjure up a bit of the Mediterranean by squeezing oranges to mix with the rhubarb. With the addition of a good deal of sugar, the resulting sweet pink jam/sauce tasted good on ice cream and yoghurt.

The art journaling course this week had an “on location” assignment – create a page with three elements  which captures the feeling of being in your own home. Not easy! Just following where ideas took me I produced a page. It took a bit of collaging to arrange, and size and scale weren’t straightforward, but a kind of linking narrative emerged. 
Life at home at this time of year can still feel a bit restricted and constrained, but it certainly has bright moments if I stop to notice them. 

Gold for the finding

Today dawned grey and misty. We donned old clothes and, with bags and forks, joined others from the Hardy Plant Society at a local stables. As the sun began to break through the clouds a crowd of us dug into a black mountain and worked to shovel sweet well rotted horse manure into bags. I have to confess my main role was holding the bags open, but it felt as though we were digging for treasure,  and indeed the contents of those bags is “worth its weight in gold” for our vegetable garden.

By the time we were home the sun was warming the summer house, and for the first time this year I sat outside to eat my lunch. Others too were enjoying warmth and food –  a carpet of crocuses, opening their faces to the sun, was hosting dozens of bees to a banquet of nectar.

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Needing an excuse to sit in the sun, I decided to do some sketches for an online Art Journaling course I am doing  with Jane Lafazio. Not much colour in the garden pots yet, but I had fun, made a Journal page and replenished my depleted store of Vitamin D at the same time.

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February 2nd – a clover seed

I read these words by American poet Wendell Berry this morning, before I realised the significance of the date. 

On the second day of February forty-nine years ago, he too was feeling the chill and bleakness of the world. And yet, and yet, in the midst of news of war, violence and death, he walked the unpromising land and sowed seeds for the spring. 

A lovely metaphor of hope for this grey, dismal winter morning. 

February 2, 1968
In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,

war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,

I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.

-Wendell Berry