Enough for now…

Sometimes in a process I need to know when to stop.

So this is an update on my trunk restoration, and I think I have done enough for now. The quilt panels are complete and I have glued them to the trunk lid. The fitting is not precise, but it is good enough.

I have painted the body of the trunk in a dull brown. I was trying to emulate the colour of old leather, but in a matt finish. After two coats it was still slightly streaky and I was intending to do a third. But as it dried it took on an almost wood grain effect so I decided to leave it like that.

At some point I need to make some handles to fit the metal fixings on each side, but that can wait. With the addition of two glass worktop protectors which fit exactly (well almost) I think it now serves its purpose – a repository for all my notebooks and sketches, and a reasonable coffee table!

Process moving again…

Nearly three years ago I started a process to restore an old trunk which had been in our attic for years.
Battered and dirty it was not good for much, so I set about painting it and re-lining it. I also managed to recreate a drop in drawer for the inside and finished the interior.

And then everything stopped, and it has been sitting in my conservatory, half painted ever since. This week I had tea with a friend who I hadn’t seen for months. She asked me how my trunk was going. Trunk? I realised it had been forgotten…

But I had been accumulating materials for possible solutions to the outside refurbishment. So spurred on by my friend’s enquiry I started work again. I had been collecting fabrics with a theme of writing and creativity for a while. After some long consideration I decided that collaged and quilted panels using some of my fabric stash would work best to cover the lid, as the trunk will hopefully be a repository for some of my written and textile creations. Selecting appropriate words was quite challenging, given the bitty nature of the fabric. And making the panels the right size and shape was tricky, but I am now creating the last piece.
Some days of torrential rain, followed by an unseasonable head cold has meant I have been largely confined to the house for a few days. I was feeling irritable and frustrated at myself as well as the weather. But frustration was eased by the activity – my head and sinuses may still be blocked, but I feel the process of trunk restoration is moving again…
Still a way to go, I’m determined it won’t be another three years before it’s finished!

Generalising July

Listening to “meet the author” on the Today programme radio four this morning, I was amused at the comment. “you can’t just write about real life, it would be too boring”. It’s true of course, the novels we read are shaped and edited, time is speeded and slowed, the focus is narrowed and widened, but repetitive routines of life are missed out to focus on action and plot.

Today in my real life the rain has fallen nearly all day, and the tomatoes I picked in the rain were muddy and wet. Not much action there.

An online course on reading novels I have been dipping into was suggesting how sometimes these routines and rhythms of life can still be described even in the best plot time line. A moment when the essence of a season, or regular event, can be captured. The description is not of a particular summer, but all summers, not just one family breakfast time, but all…

Generalising and condensing recurring moments into one description can provide the underlying rhythm of story.

So rather than try and invent some action I looked back on my July posts and photos since I started writing this online journal, to find the general themes

July skies, grey, heavy rain,

widening to cloudless blue,

July roads, stone walled in Yorkshire dales,

high mountain views in British Columbia.

July books for holiday reading,

pen meets paper healing through writing,

July fruits, red, ripe for jamming,

stirring creativity, stitching textiles.






Seeing red

The last few weeks in the garden have been literally fruit full. We had a lovely crop of dark red morello cherries, not really dessert eating cherries but I made them into a rich flavoured sweet sauce. I wish it had set a bit more, but it tastes great on ice cream, or even on toast.


Then it was on to the plums, juicy and sweet, and good to eat straight from the tree. I dried a lot, and froze plenty too, so they will last us for weeks to come.

img_1625Today it was redcurrants, no “pick one eat one” rewards here, they are sour and seedy. But they look so beautiful hanging like red jewels in strings from the branches. And they have a translucence and a glow in the redness.


And then I have had another full dose of red on the eyes from another source. At last my Kaffe Fassett quilt is finished. Started in April at a workshop with the great man himself, it has been quite a task. Square by square it has gone together, then layered and quilted. Now I am just completing the binding.IMG_1626Certainly a feast of red!

In the days of sunshine

These hot sunny days are ideal for sitting reading a good book in a shady corner of the garden.

Ironically the title of the book I am reading does not reflect the kind of weather we’ve been having. “In the Days of Rain” by Rebecca Stott is a recently published memoir, based on the life of the author growing up within the cruel cult of the Exclusive Brethren, and the fear of approaching End Times and judgment. As her father lay dying he asked her to finish writing down his story of their family living within the confines of the EBs, and their escape from it. But it was not an easy task. Rebecca’s father ran out of time as he tried to negotiate the “thicket” of what happened in his past, and capture it in a way which made sense. And Rebecca too struggled with the material, her own memories, and her father’s writing stashed in a box under her bed for years. Her own children helped her begin to sort it all, and gradually find a way through the forest of the past events.

Her memoir is a beautifully written and crafted attempt to make sense of what cannot truly be understood. How can anyone undesrstand the mixed motives and complex beliefs of the well meaning and decent people who her parents had once loved, but who drove so many to despair and even death. Perhaps I can understand more than many of her readers, because I, like Rebecca, was born into a family of fourth generation members of the Exclusives. Her story is not my story,  but I enjoyed her interpretation of the things that happened, and it was a relief to read descriptions of behaviour and emotions so recognisable to me. Sometimes her memoir reads like a novel, sometimes it’s more like poetry.

Listening to the inspirational Hilary Mantel offering the first of her Reith Lectures, “The Day Is for the Living”, I was struck by her comments about history, and our attempts to capture the past, in fiction, drama, and other creative writing.  She said “It is the multiplication of the evidence of fallible and biased witnesses, combined with incomplete accounts of actions not fully understood by the people who performed them. It’s no more than the best we can do, and often it falls short of that”.

But even so Hilary Mantel’s best attempts to capture the past are reckoned as pretty good, and, in my opinion, so is Rebecca Stott’s. I am looking forward to Hilary’s next Reith lecture, and I am taking advantage of the hot sunny weather to reread “In the Days of Rain”.

C’est la vie?

I have eaten strawberries for lunch today, picked from our own garden, large red and delicious. Lovely, but… I have had to share them! With wood lice and slugs. It is disappointing to pick a large ripe fruit and discover it is hollow, eaten from the inside. Still, c’est la vie as they say, and some careful washing and cutting gave us plenty of sweet mouthfuls to enjoy. IMG_1443

I also mowed the lawn this morning, and it looks smooth and lush. But there is a cost… the destruction of a starry spread of pretty daisies and buttercups. Garden life is an inevitable mixture of growth and cutting down.


Life often seems to be this muddle of disappointment, compromise and worse.  We spent a lovely few days with friends this weekend in London. We watched the amazing spectacle of the Trooping of the Colour, wandered the parks, ate ice creams and saw the sights in the sunshine. We cruised on the Thames and enjoyed good food and each other’s company. But the darker side to London life was revealed with the news of the terrorist attack on London Bridge and the shadow of this and previous terrorist attacks was never far from our awareness, not least because of the presence of so many armed police.

C’est la vie is an expression which usually conveys a necessary acceptance of disappointments and times when life is not neat and tidy. Times when it is hard to reconcile the minor paradoxes and contradictions of life beyond our control, such as woodlice in strawberries.

But for me the contradictions and horror of terrorist attacks aren’t so easy to just accept and then carry on with life. It is a dilemma which can’t be shrugged off. Is such violence and destruction an inevitable part of life? Or is this a time to ask the question why?  Time to seek understanding and consider ways to initiate change without retaliation? Can there be a resistance to such hatred which does not return evil for evil?

I am still pondering … No easy answers.

May play

Today is the first morning I have eaten breakfast recently without the noise of high pitched chatter, running feet and giggles. We have been in grandparent role for the last few days, and our little grandson constantly reminds us of the art of playing and enjoying the moment.