Sunday, 28 February 2016


Hello all, thank you for your lovely comments on my last post. I love to read your thoughts and do appreciate the time you take out of your busy lives to leave a comment. I means a lot.

I'm going to share with you my rediscovery of something which I used to enjoy very much - writing. Not just composing words into meaning, but the act of writing itself, literally the putting of pen to paper. When I was a teenager I enjoyed copying out poetry and made my own anthologies. This was pre-internet, of course, so I had to borrow books from the library to copy from. My school projects were painstakingly neat and tidy, and I took great pride in their presentation, as you can see. This made me smile - my 13 year-old self decided to do fancy medieval-style titles for my Chaucer project. I wrote very small in those days.

Aged 17 my writing had become even smaller, and had lost its slant.

After that I did a degree in English and had to take copious notes, as well as write very long essays by hand (unthinkable nowadays) and neatness had to give way to speed.

As I moved into the world of work in an office job, I was processing lots of paperwork. No time there for fancy scripts. There followed many years of at-home child-rearing in which hand-writing was confined to shopping lists and the odd letter. Now that I work in a school, oddly enough my writing has become even more scrawly as I constantly try to catch up with myself, and I've often looked at it and sighed. 
Now I know that in the scale of things having neat writing is not wildly important, but it was something that I used to really enjoy. Having read blogs like Emma's in which she talks about the pleasure of letter-writing, I felt inspired to dig out my old fountain-pen and have a go at neatening things up.

Out came my favourite notebooks, so often unused due to my feeling that what I put in them needs to look as good as their exteriors (is it just me or do you ever feel like that too?).

I used to write with purple ink cartridges, but couldn't find any in my local stationery shops so started to investigate on-line. There I discovered J Herbin natural inks, and I almost swooned with delight. All those delicious colours, and with wonderful names like Gris Nuage (Cloud Grey), Poussiere de Lune (Moon Dust) and Larmes de Cassis (Blackcurrant Tears). I succumbed to a tube of Violette Pensee (Pensive Violet), a gorgeous shade of purple. I also found a mixed bag of pink, purple and turquoise cartridges in a bigger stationer's nearby. I was ready to go.

I must say that the habit of writing in a rush is a hard one to break and years of hurrying compels me to write speedily, making many mistakes as I go. However, I have talked a good deal about mindfulness in previous posts, and determined to slow down and take pleasure in drawing the ink across the page, forming the curves and straight lines of the letters, exhaling as I go, and just going with the process. and trying not to mind if I make a mistake. I've been copying out odd verses of my favourite poems and extracts from novels.

 I like to add little twirls and doodles as I gain confidence,

Having got the bug, I also bought these two calligraphy pens from an art shop. 

One is black,

 and the other 'hyacinth'. I think purple ink is still my favourite.

 Handwriting is such a personal thing, like a fingerprint, individual to each of us. I'm not bothered about being prescriptive about the rules of handwriting. Rather I like to see how my letters form themselves, an antidote to speedily tapping away on a keyboard. I once looked at the original manuscripts of writers' work in the British Library and was intrigued by their differing styles. There are often lots of scrawly crossings out on the pages, showing their mental processes as they wrote. This book is full of photos of the letter-writers' original letters, and it's fascinating for that very reason.

In my everyday life, of course, it's not practical to write slowly and deliberately, but I'm hoping that some of my rediscovered handwriting skills will rub off.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


We've just had half term here at The House with the Blue Door and it's been a good one. I was really looking forward to a week off work and school for D and I, and P had a few days off too. Usually we head off on days out and such like, but this time, apart from a lovely trip to see my parents, we stayed mainly at home and got some jobs done around the house. We moved some furniture around, had a big clear out in a couple of rooms, redecorated a bit and did a few repairs which all felt like quite an achievement, as there doesn't seem to be much time for this sort of thing in term-time. I also spent some time making things which really re-charged my batteries. As you know, I've been trying to be more mindful over the last year or two. Instead of rushing to finish and be productive, I try not to mind too much when my creative projects take a long time to finish, and I take the time to enjoy the process of making something.

I'm pleased to say I finally finished my blue/grey scarf last week and have been wearing it out and about. You may remember I started making it back in October, and have knitted a few rows here and there when I could. I am very pleased with it and love its soft linen drapeyness. It's knitted in Rowan Creative Linen in 'Foggy', in 3 by 3 rib, and I started and ended it with 4 rows of moss stitch. I like to think back to the autumn when I began it. We had gone on holiday to North Yorkshire (I will show you that post soon) and I knitted it in real fog as we drove over the North York Moors. I like to think that I knitted a bit of Yorkshire into it as well as all the other places I've taken it over the winter. It contains the fallen leaves of autumn and the frosts of winter. I like that thought.

The weather was very cold and bright for most of the week, and made me feel very happy and energised. Around me the colour-palette of the seasons is changing again to the fresh colours of early spring. On my windowsill there have been little dark blue, inky irises.

There are also heavenly hellebores.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I love them very much with their shy, drooping heads which reveal the most exquisite flowers when you lift them up.

 As always, I pick a few and float them in water so that I can appreciate their beauty. This is a seasonal ritual for me which never fails to make me smile.

I also got my crochet hook out last week and was inspired to make myself an apple cosy in which to take my lunch to work. My friend Jane always brings her apple smartly dressed (and cushioned) in a rather lovely teal blue one, so I decided it was time I made one too. The pattern is from 'Simple Crochet' by Sara Sinaguglia, and was published last year in my Landscape magazine.

The knitting needles have come out too, and I've started to knit a set of napkin rings from the book I showed you in my last post. They'll all be in pastel colours, and I'm going to decorate them with different crocheted flowers. It's a simple project, and I shall enjoy choosing the colour/flower combinations. Jane and I grabbed the opportunity to meet up again at the weekend for another of our creative afternoons.

While I crocheted and knitted, Jane needle-felted, and as we busied ourselves we chatted over coffee and cappucino swiss roll (such a treat) and fruit, and vowed to do this more often.

 The chance to spend a whole afternoon being creative is not to be sneezed at, and I always find that doing it with a friend is very inspiring as we come up with all sorts of ideas and plans.

The creativity didn't stop there. I got my sewing machine out last week and, after making tie-backs for my home-made kitchen curtains, I sewed a little curtain for some shelves in our bedroom where I keep my bits and bobs. It's a vintage Laura Ashley fabric called 'Polyanthus' and I ordered a few metres on the internet after spotting it a couple of years ago. Back in the 90s I'd made a patchwork with a tiny piece, and had always wished I'd bought some more, so was very happy to find it. Our room's looking much more tidy and organised now.

It was a good week off - just the right mix of relaxation and productivity, and I feel rested and ready for the week ahead now. I shall leave you with some signs of spring that I spotted out in the garden this week. There are buds on the clematis,

and the apple tree,

and burgeoning hazel catkins.

I can't wait for spring! 

See you soon x

Monday, 8 February 2016

February Already

Well here we are in February, and I must say the weather has been very unsettled indeed. Today it's absolutely wild outside - very blowy, wet and so, so cold. I just can't seem to get warm. On Saturday it blew a gale and bucketed down all day, creating little rivulets of water and giant puddles across roads and in fields. Some of our fence panels blew down and trees everywhere are being lashed and buffeted by the wind. This is the month when most of the daffodils flower in these parts, and they are so welcome. There have been a couple in bloom in our garden, but I have been enjoying them already in bunches from the shops on our dining room table. Aren't these pale ones pretty?

 January seemed to fly by so quickly that I now realise I didn't show you this year's calendar. I make one every year on-line from the photos that I take in the preceding year. Here's January's page.

And now February's.

 P and I went to buy vegetables at our local farm shop this weekend and, feeling very damp and windswept afterwards, we decided to visit their lovely cafe. I took a photo of the gorgeous cafe lighting which always lifts my spirits. Isn't it sparkly, and not at all what you'd expect in a farm shop?

I especially like the giant dandelion clocks.

We had a rather naughty (in my case) cake and coffee there. I haven't been to the gym for almost two weeks as I managed to catch a fluey bug/cold and ended up being ill over last weekend and a good deal of last week. I got through a lot of tissues and many cups of tea, and I'm still full of cold.

After several achey days in bed and on the sofa, blowing my nose and trying to sleep, I got back to work again, and was pleased to go on a school trip which is my favourite of all work trips - a poetry conference. It's the third time I've been and students get to see poets whose poems are on the GCSE syllabus reading and answering questions about their poems in the flesh. Listening to them read their work and talk about the process of writing was so inspiring, and I had a lovely day. The students enjoyed it too.
Creatively I didn't do a great deal last week. I picked up my knitting a few times, but didn't have enough oomph, although my scarf is nearing the end now. I did, however, finish crocheting this little basket from the last skein of hand-dyed and spun wool which I'd ordered at the same time as the wool I used in my last post.

I love the soft shades of mauve and green together.

In the house my bulbs are blooming beautifully. The pink hyacinths are so fragrant in the kitchen.

And the little pots of tete-a-tete daffodils have been a delight. This one produced a ten-petalled flower whilst all the others had six.

This gorgeous red tulip has flowered too. Its goblet-shaped bloom sits above graceful leaves, and shiny brown bulbs.

Before I leave you, I thought I'd let you know how my Big Bird Watch went last weekend. I wasn't feeling very well, so watched them for an hour from inside the house on a cold, sunny Saturday afternoon. Here is the grand total of birds who visited the feeders: 1 starling. Yes, one single starling. The next day I tried again. It was wet and windy and I had a slightly better success-rate: 4 starlings and a wood-pigeon. Later in the week I popped into the back garden for 5 minutes and saw: 1 robin, 2 blue tits, 1 blackbird, 2 collared doves and a sparrow - where were they when I needed them? Oh well, better luck next year.
I did manage to take some photos of a starling which I was happy with.

I do love their chattering nature and glossy, iridescent plumage.

Finally I'll share this book with you. I bought it last week and have the crochet version already. I'm definitely looking forward to starting one of its small projects as soon as my scarf is done.

Have a good week all x