Promises Promises!

self-help-books

It is a hefty stack of books – just pulled from my shelves (most of my stuff is in storage so this is not the entire stack!)

These are all promises… and, because I like to be honest with you, these are broken promises. Most of these have gathered dust on the shelf – after an initial flick through they have been filed under ‘something to do one day…’ the problem, as you may already know is that ‘one day’ is never ‘today’.

This is the time of year when; urged by the media, we sit with that beautiful blank page diary and see opportunity. January offers a tantalizing chance to change which, in my case, reverts to a failure hangover mid January – which is the most depressing time of the year.

Maybe you don’t collect books, maybe you collect fabric, or wool or paper as a promise that one day you will actually use them. Yet, and I am confident that I am not alone on this, craft materials, books all sorts of promises and dreams pile up without ever being used.

Last year, a lovely man got in touch with me, he needed help as his wife, an avid and talented crafter, had passed away. I visited his home to see a huge collection of items that filled their home – and it really brought home to me that time is not infinite.

So.. over the next few days I hope to sit and make one more promise to myself.

I will give myself time – to sift about for what really matters to me and that begins with disconnecting from the ‘collective’ more commonly known as ‘media’

You see, I have noticed of late, that while Pinterest appears to be something creative – it is counterproductive for me.  All the time I spend pinning could be time I am actually doing something. And there are times when my creations that I was so proud of a moment ago, hold up very badly against the talented souls on Pinterest. The pins that appear in my feed are from people with extraordinary talent – where are the ordinary folk like me? Oh and while I am on the subject -I have also lost count of the times I have followed a link to a website where the original idea is lost among the advertising… (ok I will stop there before my rant gets any stronger)

While it is also great to fill my feed with spiritually uplifting groups – they are counteracting each other. I have created a vision board and imagined a new wonderful life, but I also realise that another way to happiness is mindfulness..and what is so wrong with my life right now anyway?

I love the concept of minimalism but it contradicts the creative in me – do you really need another drawing? or a painting? a new vintage style dress or a pot holder?

I like the concept of The Secret that we attract what we project… but have an issue with all illness or conflict in our lives is our own creation… how then does a baby create cancer?

So without a bit of a diet from these things it is hard to get out my head what is sparking my inner magpie and what is sparking my soul. Two very different things.

With the Christmas break falling so well this year, I have lots of time available.. so here goes. I am switching off the computer now… promise!

 

 

Advertisements

Remarkable Creatures – Tracey Chevalier Book review

47-img_3519

You might imagine Lyme Regis in Dorset on a November day would be rather bleak, but we were blessed with beautiful sunny weather when we visited last November. Lyme was enchanting, there were hardly any other tourists – the beach was empty and it was easy to enjoy a warming latte from one of the cafes on the prom.

13-img_3456

We ambled along the front turning up the high street to discover the most extraordinary Sanctuary Book Shop! It was full of oddities and curios including old black and white photographs and a battered sewing machine. Room after room, crammed in on every surface, books old and new jostled among teddybears and antiques. Classical music drifted around the shop, while we explored – in awe of the odd collections and tableau. If you ever get to Lyme do pop in! it is a cross between museum and book shop they even do Bed and Breakfast!

14-img_3457

On such a glorious day, I could not resist purchasing Tracey Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures as a way of taking a little bit of Lyme back home with me. Not just a reminder of a perfect day, but the extraordinary bookshop!

Set in Lyme itself, Remarkable Creatures tells the story of Mary Anning – who unearthed many fossils back in the early 19th century and her friendship with Elizabeth Philpot a middle aged spinster.

Had it not been for the fact that the book would be a reminder of a perfect day, I might not have picked this book – because it doesn’t sound all that inspiring, but I had enjoyed Tracey Chevalier’s the last runaway – and what a lovely book it turned out to be!

28-img_3487

I had no idea about the lack of opportunities for middle class ladies, but Chevalier presented the plight of the three Philpot sisters very well – it seemed that women had only a very short time to find a husband and when they did not – they became the fringe of society. I love the way Chevalier weaves a rich story around real life characters. Mary Anning lived in Lyme- born into poverty, but able to survive by unearthing and selling her fossils – to men who took all the credit and the praise.

This is light hearted tale raises a deeper question in my mind, women’s contributions  to science and natural history, seems to be written out of history I wonder how many unsung women there are? What other female contributions are claimed by their male counterparts?  Many of Mary’s discoveries were simply attributed to the men who purchased them, rather than Mary herself. Chevalier also touches lightly on the challenges these creatures created in opposition to religious beliefs at the time. Darwin’s origin of the species is not mentioned, but Elizabeth ponders on how these discoveries fit with ‘God’s plan’.

While the Annings might be poor and the Philpotts rich in comparison, the balance of friendship is one of equality. Elizabeth’s life might not be restricted by poverty, but it is just as confined by circumstances as Mary’s is. Life for all women is not one of equality with men in all levels of society.

It is a light read – the tale is merely 350 pages, but one that I enjoyed and would recommend wholeheartedly, I liked the Philpott’s and would have liked to have spent more time with them in their cosy cottage in Lyme.

48-img_3526

Careful what you wish for… a lesson in minimalism

I have been interested in the concept of minimalism for some time now.  I have been enjoying reading a wide range of bloggers on the subject, made easier by using the iPad app. (it is wonderful, I can’t believe I hadn’t used it before!)

Quilt

When we moved last year, I was shocked at the huge quantity of craft materials I had accumulated over the years. It is surprising how much I had squirrelled away in nooks and crannies, but when I finally got a large studio space in which to set it all out, the room was soon full to overflowing. It did connect me with a lot of UFOS, one of which was this quilt above. I resolved not to buy any more fabric until some of these things were used or finished. It was quite satisfying, because this quilt took no more than a few hours to complete, it was the same for many other little projects.

We live in a very sought after area, it had taken us 18 months to find a property having had many struggles and blips in the process – but despite taking a lease for 2-3 years, we discovered that the landlord wanted to raise the rent by nearly £500 per month! without much notice… in fact the new agreement was overdue. We decided to look elsewhere and found the most delightful house and organised to pack up and move. I don’t know if any of you rent, but Agents give you days not weeks to move!

So, the moving day arrived, I headed to work as Scott was arranging the removal with a local company – imagine what a shock it was to discover that the new Landlord had taken a dislike to the fact we were self employed and had decided, at the 11th hour, not to let the property at all…..!

All our stuff went into storage… we checked into a nearby hotel and suddenly the concept of minimalism became a big reality. We ended up having to buy underwear and a few items of clothing in order to get through the next few days! We faced a choice, either move back into my flat or go house hunting again … at the time I was due to go to the hospital to investigate the lump in my breast so I decided that it was best to return to the flat and have a bit of stability for a while.

It  has been an interesting lesson – shockingly all our stuff required three storage units – and many of the boxes had not even been unpacked in a year! We decided to spend just one afternoon sorting through and bringing ‘essentials’ to the flat.

It was fascinating to see what I missed and what we deemed essential.

Initially furniture to sit on! We had one armchair and a rocking chair, (which was not very comfortable at all!) so it was an absolute pleasure to see the return of my sofa bed. It was bliss to see the washing machine and tumble dryer!

My clothes were a sight for sore eyes! Although only about a third of them came back to the flat with me – the flat is a quarter of the size of the house!

So over the last few months there has been a bit of a mantra.. oh that is in storage!

For example, I thought I would make a shepherd’s pie and was almost finished before I realised I hadn’t a pyrex dish to put it in. Or I decided to do baking one day, but it was impossible without scales! We have been rather lucky to find these things in charity shops, but it has been an interesting few months.

 

Mostly it is my sewing tools that I find I miss – my cutting grid, or my rotary cutter! We were going to friends for Christmas this year, so I decided to make my own crackers – including felt hats.. which all had to be hand stitched as I did not have my glue gun!

I miss our large tea pot, the Christmas Decorations, my essential oils, the sellotape dispenser!

I did not realise either, just how much I miss my books, in the end I bought another copy of Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Romancing the Ordinary, because I could not bear to be without it.

It has been a sifting exercise, a reality check – and it has surprised me at times what I missed and what I didn’t.

What is clear to me, is how blessed I really am and how many things in life might not be essential – but they are small things that make life pleasurable.

What do you think you couldn’t live without?

 

Ghostly tales -Book recommendations for Christmas Reading


December’s bleak weather – drab grey clouds creating a state of perpetual twilight in the short daylight hours contrasts sharply with the twinkling lights of Christmas Decorations. No wonder we all huddle in the warmth and light of our homes, gather together by a crackling fire and read dark brooding tales. Winter weather gives rise to the the gothic novel, Frankenstein was written after a lengthy storm, maybe the tapping of rain against the windows gives us a deep contrast to our cosy nest, that just beyond the walls, something lurks.

It was a Victorian tradition to tell ghost stories on Christmas Eve – maybe created by Charles Dickens Christmas Carol although Shelly’s Modern Promethus better known as Frankinstein was written a good twenty years earlier after a particularly violent storm.    Whatever the tradition, there is nothing nicer than being curled up safe and warm reading brooding gothic tales – I thought I would offer some recommendations as alternatives to the flickering box on the wall.


The Winter Ghosts – by Kate Mosse

Kate is a local author to West Sussex, I was delighted to meet her a few years ago. She has written a number of books but this is an engaging a ghostly tale. Set in France between the wars our protagonist, Freddie is lost; not just on his way to Ax-les-Thermes to spend time with friends but suffering deep grief at his brother’s death.  He is caught up in a blizzard high on a mountain road – crashes his car and wanders towards the nearest village.  In the woods, he hears a woman’s voice calling.

This is a good read – the ghosts are not scary enough to give you sleepless nights. The tale is evocative – the atmosphere definitely one that makes this tale believable. Although you might need to wrap up warm – his wandering in the snow made me gather lots of blankets round me!


The Woman in Black – Susan Hill

This is my favourite gothic novel – one that set me on the road to reading more from this genre. The tale begins with the cosiness of a happy family gathered round the fire on Christmas Eve, where the protagonist, Arthur Kipps, is asked to tell a ghost story by his step children. This evokes terrifying memories for Arthur – of his time spent in the aptly named Eel Marsh House – the memories surface and disturb his peace.  Arthur is unable to rest until he has written his account down on paper.

Unlike the film, this story is darkly plausible – Arthur convinces us that until the visit to Eel Marsh House, he was a man of logic, one not easily given to melodrama and superstition. The Woman in Black is a tale of heartbreak and revenge – whenever she is seen death follows shortly behind, he fears catching sight of her and is always looking over his shoulder. The happiness of his family home, the joy of love and peace that surrounds the house is not able to drive out his fear, instead it casts a shadow on his life – will he escape her clutches or will she get her revenge?


Florence and Giles – John Harding

Set in New England – this tale of innocence, neglect and crumbling mansions has all the elements to create a gothic story. Florence and Giles roam free, while servants go about their business in the absence of the Master of the house and uncle to the children. Florence is forbidden to read, because her uncle was rejected by an educated woman. However Florence is not to be thwarted, she escapes to the library, hides herself away and teaches herself to read, devouring novel after novel in her Uncle’s vast library.

I have been a life long reader – my childhood was spent escaping into books, so I could relate to Florence and felt sympathy with her almost straight away. I loved the way Harding gave Florence a strange way of speaking – creating her own words and phases that were uniquely her own and quite endearing.

However, we are talking gothic novel – where suspense and horror lie. It gathers pace, in a similar way to the Turning of the Screw – layer upon layer  right up to the horrifying conclusion. It left me completely traumatised at the end – with a complete book hangover for several weeks. Read if you dare!