Showing posts with label dreams. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dreams. Show all posts

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Walking uphill; or, the beauty of a barn door

 I have great dreams of powering off to the gym every morning, and honing those muscles in preparation for the physically demanding tasks of basting a quilt top or casting on a legwarmer. But, alas and alack, they remain dreams - as the days get shorter, the nights longer and the mornings darker, it takes an even greater effort of will to heave myself from the warm and cosy nest that is my bed.

No quilt in sight

If I were left to myself I would spend the winter months huddled up indoors, never straying too far from the fire or sofa. But luckily I have the services of a personal trainer to keep me up to the mark.

An October morning

Several mornings this week I have tried to begin the day by sitting at my computer, thinking that I couldn't possibly go out in the cold and damp because I have so much to do, but no, there is no slacking - there is my trainer by my side, arms around me, whispering in my ear, come along do, you know it is time for our yomp, you know it will do us both good.

Personal trainer extraordinaire

She will brook no refusals, and shivering and resigned I find myself in the lane, wrapped up to the nines, wellied and ready.

The road less travelled

And she is right, you know.

Green and growing
It is the best thing in the world on a dreary grey morning to go out into the wide world to seek out the tiniest weakest gleam of watery sunshine peering from behind a cloud, to find the widest most open spaces you can, stand on the highest point you can reach in the landscape, get a little breathless, look far and near, and observe the seasons and the weather and the green growing things defying the turning of the year.

Poppies on the grattan

Nothing can match the bliss of walking out one mid-autumn morning and listening to the curlew crying and hearing the wind in the trees, the sound of far, far away traffic a distant hum, and the sound of boots slap, slap on the muddy lane the most insistent noise around.

More flowers in October

There is nothing better than this and I would wish myself nowhere else, with the soft ground underfoot and my faithful friend by my side.

Come on, keep up

There is some Welsh in her ancestry and I imagine her forebears as drovers' dogs, padding across the land, watching and listening, herding and keeping safe.


And I saw barn walls perfect for hanging quilts on, sitting waiting in the morning light, and now I am hoping that one fine day I will turn the corner and see there amongst the trees and the clouds a quilt hanging, blowing gently in the breeze, a vision just for me.

Monday, 5 December 2011

The weight of tradition

I am running a little behind this week (It's only Monday, you say. But this is what is left over from last week, I respond, a touch plaintively.) and so I am still on the second Sunday in Advent, pausing with Floss, and only a day late (it's the thought that counts).

Festive vignette
Whether my thoughts will count, I am not sure, but I can feel that giant Tree of Tradition looming between me and the weak winter sun, and the weight of obligation swinging above my head.

Tradition can be a bit of a millstone, but don't let it shackle you by the neck - cut loose and walk on (being careful to drop it behind you, rather than straight on to your toes). The only obligation you have to others is to smile and be pleasant, and say please and thank you nicely and sincerely - the rest is optional.

Weak at the thought
If the thought of cooking for the 23 people squeezed into your very small house fills you with horror and keeps you awake at night, then think up a new tradition which will enable you to be a beaming host/ess rather than a snarling one.

A season of silly hats
Perhaps someone with a bigger house and more plates is desperate to hold the party, but thinks they can't because everyone absolutely has to squeeze into Aunty Grumpy's bijou residence whether they like it or not? Perhaps you could do two manageably small parties, or alternate years? Or maybe dig a great big hole in the garden and go and hide in it (just remember to arrange the leaves carefully on top so that no one can see your retreat) . . .

A season of thrift and recycling

Then you can concentrate on the happy traditions, the ones that transport you back down the long line of Christmases past, only pausing at the ones that are smiling to greet you. So often these happy moments come down from the attic in battered cardboard boxes (smelling slightly of mouse).

A season of recycling memories
As you pull out the decorations, one by one, the memories come flooding forth, attached to those glitter-encrusted confections of polystyrene and cardboard that your children made in the days when their needs were simple and their vocabulary limited; the bird with the broken beak which is the sole relic of your childhood dreams; the box of carefully coordinated bells and bows marked 'Good taste 15 years ago', which now possess a disappointingly tawdry air.

Beware of the mistletoe
And then there are the words: Christmas is full of words - carols, and stories, and insincere thank you letters, and heated arguments over the right way to cook a turkey. And everything has been said and done and written so many times before, and so much better, that Christmas is a work of fiction from start to finish, an imaginary narrative of bonhomie and homecoming.

Dreaming of a white Christmas
I have my own special Christmas book full of poetry and prose, carols and songs, quotations and verses, and a warm glow of pictures of the past. It was a present to me twenty years ago and (unlike so many presents) I have continued to treasure it, and get it out again every December to wallow in the words of imaginary Christmases in story and history. There is no weight of tradition to burden one here - these Christmases are long gone, and so are those who people the pictures, smiling out of the pages, frozen in time and silently acquiescent in our dreams.

A new tradition in the making
But these stories also show that Christmas can be anything you want to make of it: happy or sad, remembered or forgotten, treasured or dreaded. The important thing is to write your own story, just how you want it, choose your own colours for the pictures, and remember that if it doesn't go quite how you wanted this time, it's like gardening - there's always next year waiting to give you a chance to do it differently.

A present from a friend far away

And if you want to bask in a warm glow of festive nostalgia, my special Christmas book, although out of print, is still available on Amazon here and here - starting price only a penny (which of course sets off a whole new train of nostalgia and reminiscence about geese and old men . . . .).

And here is one that I made earlier, accompanied by a steady gaze

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The trouble with orange, and shall we go vintage or romantic?

My little cottage is still in disarray with books stacked up everywhere, the Lady Decorators trotting up and down the stairs . . .
A very orange house with the Head Chef as busy as a bee
 . . . the smell of paint in the air, and ladders and paint pots waiting to trip me up everywhere, but the orange glow is slowly going.

Orange mess

I have come to the conclusion that I do not tolerate disorder very well, and have spent two afternoons hidden away, knitting frenetically, in an effort to keep myself in a state bordering sanity, and to fend off the guilt complex that I am not sitting in my office working.

But if I look at the before pictures in all their burnt orange gloom, then I can dream of Pointing and Old White, and remember that the alternative to the current higgledy-pigglediness is a house with a perma-tan.

Cupboards glowing orange

I have been sent some lovely books from Ryland Peters & Small and Cico Books to help me along with my dreams, and inspire me in my grand declutter and re-think of my little granny cottage which had been looking sadly down at heel.

Stairs with a suntan
And so I have been pondering on the differences between Vintage Chic and Romantic Style.

For some time now I have hankered after the cool whiteness and spare florals of Cabbages and Roses Vintage Chic by Christina Strutt, Cabbages and Roses being one of my favourite shops.

A sofa with rose printed linen and fine white curtains blowing in the breeze seem to be beckoning me to sit down and recline in a most stylish manner.

 Romantic Style by Selina Lake and Sara Norrman is divided into sections with different interpretations of what constitutes 'romantic style'

- as ever, I am pulled between the calm and pale, and the bright and flowery.

The coloured chairs in blue and green remind me of my jolly kitchen and the way that such brightness can counteract our grey and gloomy skies.

The most surprising book of all has been Essentially Irish: Homes with Classic Irish Style by Josephine Ryan - I had no picture in my mind of what constituted 'Classic Irish Style', but the book is a feast for the eyes and contains some beautiful interiors.

I went to an Irish wedding once, many years ago, and I still remember the Georgian house where we stayed, once an elegant mansion, but become a farmhouse of faded grandeur with peeling paint and wallpaper, like a faded beauty down on her luck.

Not my house - this is a stylish house
I am so pleased to see that the heaps of homeless books occupying the beds of the Ploughboy and the General find their echo in one of these beautifully photographed Irish houses.

This is the General's bed, now become a library
Perhaps I could just forget about tidying the books up and just leave them on style grounds.

So think of me, dear readers, as I dally with the F&B paint charts, and choose my colours on the grounds of the beauty of their names, wordsmith that I am.

Who couldn't want Arsenic in their kitchen, Borrowed Light in their bedroom, and Slipper Satin in the drawing room?

I am just about to write my own fairytale in Vintage, Romantic Style and fashion myself a house of dreams.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Rose-tinted; or, a disquisition by any other name

Wrap up warm
I just have to thank you all for your lovely comments on my previous posts - I am sure that you will all be most ecstatic to know that I have quite overcome any urge for a slot on Radio 4.

Boots tightly buckled

After all, it would probably only be three minutes long and as is their wont in the interests of Balance they would invite in someone guaranteed to disagree with every word I said, and I am sure that it would be all too flustering.

Thick woolly tights and extra skirt for warmth

And do I need such an outlet for venting my witterings on sundry subjects?

Don't forget a nice warm shawl
Why, no, I can stand on my soapbox in the orchard and expound my opinions to a captive audience, who are bound to nod sympathetically and agree with my every word, as if not they won't get their daily rations.

An adoring audience
Actually, I lie, it is not a soapbox, it is a beer bottle box, which would seem more fitting considering my heritage and connections (not that we are a family of soap-dodgers, you understand, there being only one soap-dodger in this little household and you know who you are).

Captive audience

Not that I know what a soapbox looks like, although I have always coveted one (along with a wrapover flowery pinny just like the one on Hen's blog here).

Distracted audience
And if the furred and feathered friends walk off, then all is not lost, as I have you, my dear readers, who say such nice things and fortify my resolve in so many ways (and raise my ratings with my offspring, as every lovely comment is another little point on the scorecard of people who agree with what their mother says, and also a demonstration of my long-expressed adage, 'If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all.')

How interesting. Yes, fascinating. I wish she would go on forever. Don't worry, she will.

In fact, the days of expressing that adage seem to be fading fast, as the bickering has simmered down, and rarely now am I called upon to intervene in some sibling dispute, muttering under my breath blessed are the peacemakers . . . (I can never remember the second bit, in spite of the fact that I had to memorize the Beatitudes at school, but thanks to your encouragement I think I will now add, blessed are the knitters and needlewomen, the cooks and the bottlewashers for where would the world be without them . . .).

Did you say something?
The quiet has fallen again, although the house did erupt quite unexpectedly into noise, and grubby sinks, and wet bathmats, and voracious appetites, as my big boys arrived home again with laundry and empty stomachs, only to depart back to the groves of academe almost as suddenly as they had come.

And as they say, it Never Rains but it Pours - only a couple of days ago I was looking at my shiny sinks, and my tightly-laced shoes, and thinking that this is all very well but it won't keep me in cashmere cardigans, hand-dyed yarn and fat quarter bundles, then suddenly half-term hits me like a wave, with wall-to-wall B&B guests (the last two said that it was the best B&B they have ever stayed in, oh joy), sheets flapping on the washing line, sheets piled up in the ironing basket, sheets in the washing machine, and 100,000 words flying in over the wires (not a rush job, just a couple of weeks, you're not going away for half term are you?) . . .

Best coat
There was nothing for it but to put on my best coat and boots and my rose-tinted spectacles and gaze at far horizons, for the world to appear in a whole new light.  And the best thing about those glasses is that the rosy glow is not the least metaphorical - I suddenly noticed, as I was driving the Princess about, that as we motored down the hill with the Kentish countryside spread before us the sky was the most wonderful Technicolor blue, and I said to the Princess, look at those most exceedingly wonderful autumnal colours, look at the leaves on the trees all marching across hill and vale in the brightest and richest coppers and golds that I have ever seen in all my born days, it must be the weather this year . . . and I took off my glasses to see more clearly, and the colours went out like a light and we were back to English watercolours in shades of grey and russet.

Bathed in a rosy glow
So back on with the shades, they make the world a happy place - they came free with a Tatler magazine (or perhaps the magazine was free with the sunglasses) and I bought them on a whim in the spring for the promise that they would make me look rich and glamorous and famous and thin, and a whole host of other enthusiastic adjectives so many that I can't remember but I know that they must be true for they were printed on the paper that came with the magazine.

I will stride forth into the future, secure in the encouragement that you give me, and loving the rosy glow.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Comfort and joy

I find that there is so much joy to be derived from making things for babies - as I sit on my sofa in my sewing and knitting corner I can be transported into a world of reverie, not only imagining into existence something cosy for the little newcomer but also re-imagining the past of my own big babies who have so recently deserted me.

An appley quilt

Sitting stitching, I find continuity in a world of change, and in the room where once I sat with my arms and hands full of baby and toddler and yearned for some time and space to think, I now sit in the quiet and stitch some comfort to enwrap another little soul marching into the future.

Today I finished this baby quilt and together with the satisfaction of completion, another thing ticked off the list, there was also something more. I had had a few uncertainties during the quilt's creation; I wasn't quite sure if it was going to work; I very nearly started unpicking, and even considered making something quite different entirely.

But as I looked at the quilt I suddenly realized that yes, this had worked: I had made a present that was full of joy as well as warmth. What I had in my head had come out in the stitches.

'It's a good job that the baby turned out to be a girl', said Princess Bunchy, 'it wouldn't have been quite right for a boy.'

Serendipity, perhaps, but I did try to make the mix of red and blue, and the mix of motifs ungendered. I wanted a quilt with plenty to look at, a quilt full of the potential for story with animals and plants and matryoshkas stumping through the magic woods.

Matryoshkas stumping through the woods

The squares are 5in finished size (5.5in cut) to accommodate a complete motif from the red and blue fabrics with the matryoshkas and dala horses in lacy squares - these were fussy cut, which was more time consuming, but the only way to deal with this sort of fabric, I think. (The fabrics all came from Fabric Rehab, but so long ago that I can't remember their names - apart from the apples I think they are Japanese ones.)

I did lay out all the squares before joining them because I have come to the conclusion that I am congenitally incapable of random piecing. Such is my love of order and almost symmetry that I can't leave such things to chance.

As with my last baby quilt, I did the binding by turning the backing to the front, and hand quilted in the ditch along the seam lines.

I have come to the conclusion that I really enjoy sitting and hand sewing like this - once again it is something that can be done sitting on the sofa in the evening whilst chatting, and I do like my sofa time. Machining for me is a daylight task, and if I started talking too much I would probably stitch myself to the quilt as an extra bonus.

The sofa is calling me, calling me . . .

Now I can wrap up my little bundle of comfort for the new little bundle of joy with a happy heart at the thought of sending my stitches out into the world - it has been a good weekend.

And next week I am going to tell tales of the most wonderful muffins and the vagaries of natural pest control - I am sure that you are beside yourself with excitement.


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