Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I was talking to a man who had been a child in our village, and he was reminiscing about picking bunches of primroses on the railway banks, tying them onto a stick and bringing them home for their mothers. Now, I know everything in the past was not better, but it does make you think how wonderfully free children were and how much pleasure they got from simple things.

It also reminded me that primroses were considered to be in decline a few years ago, and you picked them at your peril, and theirs.

All over the country it seems that currently, happily, the primrose family is flourishing and populating entire banks, lanes, lawns - everywhere. So I didn't feel so guilty about sneaking a few from the bank by our house. When I first lived here, about twenty years ago, there were none there; now it is smothered in these mixtures of the primula family. And, naturally, that led me to get out the inks. These are Brusho crystals, which mix with water. I bought lots of cheap little plastic bottles, mixed all colours with water and labelled them. This was almost as much pleasure as using them.

I'm the one we drools over boxes of coloured pencils, or pastels, arranging them into the sensible order of colour gradation. Always have. As a child I adored the Derwent boxes and my aim was to own the biggest box of 72, was it? Now I have 24 Derwent watercolour crayons and they are a great joy to use, and, of course, arrange in the right order.

The small pleasures are the best ones.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


For me, the most nostalgic tree is the horse chestnut. Embedded in my memory is learning, at kindergarten school aptly called The Spinney, about the saddle and horseshoe marks, which probably appealed because I was pony mad.

The tree is a complete experience, from the optimism and promise of sticky buds, then these fresh, early umbrellas of leaves; the glory of candles of blossom; the curious game we would play stripping out the flesh of the leaves to make fish skeletons; glossy conkers and their prickly coated, softly lined shells; their early autumn browning and crisping of leaves and early spring, earlier each year when  sticky buds re-appear.

Just one of the many joys of mindful observation.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Two favourite things

What are they? A stoneware teapot given by a good friend, which is a joy to use - yes, it works, that is, pours without drips. It was bought in Somerset and is celadon green, probably fired with wood ash. It has a traditional, Japanese feel and look. It pleases me endlessly, being both useful and beautiful. (Since first posting this, I have now concluded it is by Paul Dennis - am asking him to confirm.)

The book is my Persephone notebook, which I use as a commonplace book and now that it is more than half full, there is enough written and drawn in there to make a true beside reader. I have a terrible weakness for good notebooks and am thrilled to have discovered an old Moleskin book, with the elastic gone, which is all graph paper with a super marbled endpaper.

Persephone books are perfect, to hold, feel and look at, not to mention great reads. This notebook has lovely plain cream paper and a Duncan Grant design endpaper. I make no apologies for having written before about this treasure. I hope one of my children will keep it and pass it on. I like to think it sums up my tastes and what amuses or touches me. Not least is the great satisfaction in writing with care, rather than bashing at a keyboard.

The endpaper - Duncan Grant design

Thursday, April 05, 2012

It's been a while

For the past month I seem to have had no inspiration to blog. Because I hate the idea of feeling obliged, I''ve just let the water flow gently on. Today I feel like writing.

This week I had my best day for ages. Life has got no easier, the stresses are greater if anything. So what was different? Firstly, a long online meditation with Jon Kabat-Zinn. Secondly, I was on a creative high. These are some of my efforts on that day.

What interests me is that they are so varied. All were done in a rush of enthusiasm and energy. I've noted what a physical painter I am, moving about all the time, quite impulsive and spontaneous. Some might call this slapdash, and I would agree but out of this approach accidents happen and things emerge. This seems to me to be a reasonable metaphor for life. Take risks, grab opportunities, make the best of difficult situations, and keep smiling even when that is the last thing you feel like doing.

Speaking of which, today I tried posting on Black Dog Tribe, Ruby Wax's excellent initiative. Now that was the opposite of a good experience - sorry, Ruby. Partly because I couldn't insert an image, which was the point of the post and partly because even a breath near the advert on the right launched into a ghastly eulogy for winged false eyelashes. I know that age is no barrier to making the best of yourself, but I am now so sick of them that I feel like finding them in shops and shrieking out loud. I suppose ads help keep the site going but it needs a lot of fine tuning before it offers the support that is intended.