Category Archives: journeying

Time travelling in Somerset

We have just returned from a couple of pleasant days in Somerset. We drove across the Mendip hills where there were piles of snow still lying under hedgerows and edging the roads. But the sun was shining and the sky was blue and there was a hint of spring in the air.

We explored the beautiful ancient city of Wells, with its moated Bishops Palace and fresh water wells, and an amazingly preserved medieval street of houses. And that’s not mentioning the cathedral with its quirky carvings, ribbed vaulting and almost modern looking scissor arched nave.


The following day we wandered around the gothic style house and sprawling estate at Tyntesfield. So much to see inside and out, the kitchen garden glasshouses holding almost as many treasures as the inside rooms!


Our journey into the past continued as we drove on to Weston-Super -Mare, a Victorian seaside resort much influenced by the coming of the Great Western Railway. We were searching for another, small and humbler, house which had belonged to my great grandfather Henry Bartlett. In 1911 he was living on The Boulevard, Weston-Super-Mare, a wide tree lined street of Victorian built houses. By an amazing coincidence of timing we met the lady who lives there now, and she asked us inside and we were able to stand inside his drawing room and look out of the window, This was the house where my grandfather Sydney Bartlett grew up with his little brother Ernest.


We drove a few streets further on and found the large town cemetery where I thought my great grandmother Lilian Mary Bartlett, Henry’s wife, might be buried. I had a photo of her grave taken in 1923 when she died of meningitis aged 52. By another amazing coincidence we met a cemetery worker who was able to help us locate the grave, now nearly 100 years old. To my surprise I found that not only was Henry Bartlett buried there in 1947, but another wife, Edith, who died in the 1960’s, well after I was born and yet I never knew anything about her! I do love family history surprises.


The modern photo includes me with the cemetery worker who has tended these graves for over thirty years and was so helpful.


Stuck – comment 23

I was feeling really stuck today and didn’t know what to draw or write about.

I felt bogged down, not inspired at all. So I looked up the meaning of stuck and found its ambiguity. There is a swamped, drowning sense, a feeling of being overwhelmed. An abandoned, beached, a high and dry sense. There is a sense of being imprisoned, powerless, glued and unable to escape. And then there is the secure sense of steadfastness, faithfulness and loyalty, the friend who has stuck with you.

So where am I today? Perhaps it’s all of them…

So I drew my glue, which I use a lot when I’m being creative, and thought of all the meanings of stuck.

Take your time – comment 13

Aaagh! This was so difficult to draw! My silvery wrist watch, with all the flexible segments in the strap, reflecting light all over the place. Why on earth did I try it?

Well it is so much a part of my every day life, I look at it a lot. I arrange my day according to its golden hands and where it says I am, and where I’ve got to get to. And the round faces of watches and clocks are not the only way I measure time, numbers are displayed digitally on my bedside alarm, and as a countdown on my computer. Counting the seconds, minutes, hours.

I didn’t get this painting right, and I feel reluctant to post it. But perhaps it is a reminder that for all our attempts to measure time we won’t always keep to time or be on time. And perhaps there is no need to hurry any way.

So let’s just take our time.

Keep moving – comment 5

Well it took some effort, but yesterday I managed to unearth my trainers from the cupboard and went off to my first exercise class of 2018. We were all sluggish and slow after our Christmas break, but we made a start, and I for one felt much better for it.

Keep moving everyone!

Keep singing – comment 2

I heard this feisty little bird singing before the dawn this morning. Often associated with Christmas and snow, he is also most certainly a gardener’s friend during the muddy grey days of winter.

Keep singing in the dark little robin.

Small stones or “comments”

I have been pondering whether to continue my tradition of posting “small stones” throughout January. The first year I did this was January 2012 when I joined others in the ” River of small stones“. Since then the habit of slowing and observing has served me well, especially when I am stressed.

But feeling I must continue with a tradition is sometimes counterproductive because then it becomes a chore and duty – an energy sapper, rather than something which reinvigorates me. This morning on the Mindful Balance blog I was encouraged to read these words by Mary Oliver…

…the world, moist and bountiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. “Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?”

So this year I will try and post comments, a response to my everyday world, either as a drawing or painting like last year, or in a few words. And it may not be every day!

Here is the first, viewed from our kitchen window this morning, and it certainly was moist!

Beech tree revisited

A feature of Facebook I quite like is the “on this day” memory prompt. Today I was reminded of what I posted to this journal five years ago… I have revisited that word sketch, and my subsequent post, before today. When studying metaphors and imagery in poetry on my MA course I looked through the window at that same tree, and thought about life, and the seasons of the soul.

Today the tree is still here, and so am I. Both older. Since then I know more of my ancestral grounds, and more of the sadness of loss and letting go. But I also hold on to the hope and promise of that life which is ongoing, and which cannot be quenched. It will stir again in spring.

Here is the three part poem I eventually wrote from my first word sketch five years ago. The voice of the poem shifts from being in the tree, then addressing the tree, and finally describing the tree from a longer time perspective. I find this is a process which often helps me cope with the changes and seasons of life. I hope you enjoy it.

Beech Tree Revisited

I stand tall, frame strong, robust

black arms, branching into finger twigs,

dressed respectably in leaves

of supple bronze, green sap holds firm.

Days disrobe me. Clothes fade

to shabby rags, brown stains of death.

Threadbare cloak pulls from my back.

I am stripped,



Here are your reaching fingers,

clutching brittle dying debris.

Here are your silvered arms,

rain sluiced, wind tossed.

Skeletal shoulders

bear the winter of your soul.

Here is your straight scarred trunk.

Here is the moss wrapped body.

Here an inner downward thrust,

to roots deep underground

where something unknown

wants to live.


Chattering excitement spills

from nestlings, sheltered

in wooden box pinned to her heart,

Circling crows above her head,

like v-shaped birds drawn

on the sky by children’s hands.

She stretches fingers to the blue,

touches shimmering rain clouds

with swelling tips of pink

which burst to lime,

and hurrying, lace gloves

pulled on, she waves

in welcome to the spring. Then turns,

still rooted in ancestral ground,

to dance along new paths, where

from beneath the litter of past years,

spouting bluebells fountain

into pools around her feet.

Cilla Sparks