Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Simple pleasures

 I've been walking down to playschool this week with the youngest two.  The weather is too good to waste and I'm trying to get fit again - I think my excuse of babydom is well and truly over, isn't it!

I have really loved it.  Although the last bit of the journey is along quite a busy, narrow road, most of the walk is beautiful; up over the hill....

through the town and all it's little shops and down the hill again past the lovely old houses.


I usually dash down there and back again in an attempt to get as much done in one morning as I possibly can, but I guess I am realising this is a false economy.  I actually don't get back much later than if I had rushed down in the car, and the benefits of walking are many.  First of all the views - which I would not be able to appreciate in a car.

I also love the way I always see familiar faces, even if it's a quick wave as they zoom past in a car on their way to work.  It's lovely to have a few friendly greetings of a morning.
I also get to chat to the boys and their mood is so much improved by being outside for a while and just having a bit of time together.  It's especially nice to have the return journey back up the hill (much better with just one in the buggy!) and stop at the little sweetie shop.  Lucky little man got a chocolate bunny today - "Choc choc" - it's amazing how quickly they learn this word and that something wrapped in gold foil and shaped like a rabbit is actually chocolate.  How do they know?!  We have stopped at the play park too a couple of times, which even though it usually means a wet bottom (for him, not me!) is worth it for the glee that accompanies a short stay.

 When I get home, there's just a few things starting to bloom in the garden, which gives me so much pleasure.  We have virtually given up on vegetables this year, in favour of a flower border and I can't tell you how excited I am about the idea of being able to cut myself a little posy of flowers that I have grown.

 It's too hard to wait - so I bought myself a bunch of daffodils and picked the two Camellia blooms that greeted me on my return home.  It doesn't take much to brighten a table and make me feel better about the world!

 So, today I am thinking, how even though there is still the housework to do and the dinner will still need to be cooked - I am so blessed to have a few precious minutes to breath in the beauty of this life.

As I have mentioned before, a favourite poem as we were growing up was Leisure by William Henry Davies....and it certainly summed up my morning.  I hope you too get a few moments to stop and stare today.


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Lining the nest

 Hello lovelies!  I have a few minutes before the tiredness of 9pm properly kicks in (am I sounding old!?) so I thought I'd stop by and show you a few pics of the walk I did with my lovely Husband last week for his birthday.
I am married to my childhood sweetheart (aaah!) and we've been together since we were 13 and 14, so a good long while and we got together on a church youth walking holiday in the Lakes.  J has grown up playing in the woods and his top favourite pass time is walking on the South Downs.  It's more than that though.  I'd say, for him, it goes as far as a spiritual encounter when he walks up those ancient chalk paths.  It wouldn't be understating it to say that at this time of year, it feels like he comes out of hibernation after a long winter and has an irresistible craving for the hills!  So, a birthday walk seemed like the best present I could give him.

Having deposited the older ones to school and the younger ones to his mum, I whisked him away to the hills of South Harting.  Actually, he planned the walk, because I would be useless at this bit, but never mind.
After 10 years of struggling to be able to share these simple pleasures again, it felt like walking out into a new Universe.  Usually, J has gone on his own, which he does love, but left me at home nursing a baby, or a huge tummy.  It was so wonderful to go TOGETHER this time!

 There's something so enriching about stepping beyond the four walls you spend most of your time in - or even the town you are familiar with, and smelling different air, filling your vision with new scenery and challenging your feet to walk on uneven ground.  It was breathtakingly beautiful up there, and even though it was a fairly grey day, we could see for miles, the rolling hills of the Downs stretching fold upon fold in one direction, and the plane of South Harting village and its shining copper spire in the other.

It wasn't a long walk, just 6 miles, with a lunch stop at the sweetest little tucked into the valley pub called the Royal Oak.  I can highly recommend this place - a wonderful place to seek out, and I am told the garden in the summer is a real sun trap.  What a stunning place to revive yourself!

 It seems quite personal to say what I am about to say, but I'm going to anyway!  Sometimes when you are bringing children into the world, it seems that your borders close in. It's a cosy feeling most of the time - a lovely, protective, safe and homely place. You create a nest for your family- not just physically, but in the things you are prepared to give up to make their lives comfortable and rich.  Often, the things you lay down, are valuable and precious to you and for a while, they line the nest, like feathers. When we were young, we'd dream of taking our children on our wild adventures, packing them up and whisking them away to the places we'd dreamt of.  I think we still will.  What I am trying clumsily to say is that, as soon as you hold that tiny life, you realise it's not about your adventures anymore - it's all about theirsThey are your adventure now.

The walk we completed last Friday was so much more than a walk for me.  It was the beginning of a new season.  The adventure is taking a new path and the shattering hard work of small babies is done now.  We can get out and breath the fresh air...ask ourselves where the adventure will lead us all next.  What's over the brow of that hill?

 Some of you are still in that shattering hard work bit, or you're about to embark on it.  The things you are laying down now, the spontaneity, the dreams you don't think you're going to be able to pick up again...they'll still be there and gradually, bit by bit, you'll be able to pick them up again.  They will be richer and more beautiful.  They don't disappear.  They don't fade.  They will have lined the nest for a while. 

The littlest birds have the prettiest song.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Colour on a grey day

It's such a grey, wet, blustery day outside.  The sort of weather that gets inside your coat, even if you wrap it tight around you.  Having done several taxi runs with various children already this morning, I am now sitting in the warm with Reu beside me happily playing with cars and wishing I didn't have to do yet more taxi runs later today.  It would be so much nicer to cosy up on the sofa with a cup of tea and my colourful yarn....sigh...

So, I thought I'd bring a bit of cheery colour to the blog today to remind myself that spring is on the way!  Here you go....

Some lovely hyacinths that I am so glad I treated myself to a couple of weeks ago, because they are now blooming and filling the room with that amazing scent.

My growing stack of crocheted squares.  I confess I am slightly addicted to this now - I can whip up a square without having to consult the pattern now - which gives me such a sense of simple achievement every time I do it....simple things please simple minds, eh?!  There's something about the happy mix of colours that just happens of its own accord.

The daffodils my boys decorated for St David's day.  I know the actual bulbs didn't come to much (a bad batch apparently), but it makes me go a bit squidgy every time I look at the pots themselves and remember  B's determination to finish his despite his tiredeness after a long day.

He won the best decorated pot too.  Sometimes I find it difficult to keep up with the demands of school extra curricula activities and dressing up (the same week we also had World Book Day dressing up).  With five children, there seems to always be something that needs making or preparing for.  The day they had to decorate these pots was also Cubs and Beavers day, so I had prepared the dining table with everything they would need before they came home from school and we decorated in shifts between various sittings of dinner and runs to and from the Scout Hut.

I've also had the pleasure of introducing little Reu to the joys of glue this week.....

and paint....

Lots of fun!

I know that many of you reading this will either be in the same full swing of this kind of busy parenting, or will have "been there, done that".  All these things go into the great mixing pot of family, and although it can be busy and tiring at the time, these memories are a cushion for old age, so they say.  When I think of my busyness this week, I remember my good friend Esther who arrives home today after a week away from her family - and all the preparations that went into freezer meals, costumes, school run organisation and the like before she went. 

That's another thing that's both challenging me and making me smile this week.....she's been in Haiti with a charity called Children on the Edge, helping an amazing man called Patrice (pictured above) with his football project for young people. I am feeling so inspired by this brilliant project - so if you get time, pop on over to their website to read about what they've been doing.  If you are feeling under the weather (literally) today, the smiling faces of these children, who live with so little and endure so much will change your heart.  The picture below stopped me in my tracks.

There are seven of us in this three bedroom house. Seven people live in the room above too.  May I never forget how utterly blessed we are to have this splendid place to shelter us from the cold and wet. To get personal for a minute too - this Charity, which is by no means one of the biggest, but has a profound effect every where it reaches, challenges me.

Where is there a need that I can help fill?  I can't respond to eveything...but I can respond to something.  I can't do what my friend is doing, (because I don't have those skills), but I can use whatever I have been given to make a difference.  Hmmmm.....

Sunday, 4 March 2012

First Love

 I delivered my first painting commission for a long time this week and the thrill was just the same as it always has been.  I get quite emotional when I talk about making art for people, it's just something so intrinsic to who I am and a little taste of it this week has made me crave more!

 One of my earliest memories was being in reception class at school and drawing a robin in my book and ending up drawing little robin red breasts in everyone elses' books around the table at their request.  I loved the feeling of giving something away that I had made.  That grew and grew and was eventually the reason why I ended up giving 5 years of my life to studying Art.  I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to study something I feel so passionately about and it genuinely grieves me deep down inside to think that so many budding creative types will potentially miss out on the same opportunity, because they can't afford to risk educating themselves in a subject that is not deemed "useful" to society.  That's a whole other subject, which leads down avenues about the value of creativity and education for education's sake...and I will return to it another day!

 I wanted to try to explain how and why I create as I do.  I'm a people lover...all sorts of people, they just fascinate me.  There's nothing I love more than having a good chin wag with someone and finding out what makes them tick.  My works of art reflect that.  Usually, when I am commissioned to do a piece for someone - or more than one person, I start by asking them what inspires them.  Sometimes this can be a piece of writing, a poem, a place or even their name (there's a goldmine of inspiration in someones you know what yours means?).  I shut myself away for as long as I can and see where this starting point leads me.  I'm always surprised by where I end up!

My latest painting was for a good friend who wanted something based on the Hymn, "Be Thou my Vision". Research (and this usually means sitting with notebook and sketchbook in hand, surrounded by books and a cuppa) led me to find that the Hymn is based on an ancient monastic poem, set to an equally ancient tune.  The tune used to belong to the folk song "Slane", and is about Saint Patrick lighting a fire on the Hill of Slane in defiance of the Pagan King's decree that no fire should be lit that night.  According to some legend, the pagan King was so impressed with Patrick's boldness, he gave him his royal protection to spread the gospel from that day on.

 There's all sorts of symbolism in the painting, including an alter, or cairn made from discarded possessions, echoing the lines in the hymn, "Riches I heed not, nor Man's empty praise."

The frame is based on the Table of Showbread - part of the Jewish Temple furniture, on which the priests would lay bread to signify their sacrifice of the first fruits of their labour - again fitting in with the theme of the song.

 I hope the painting fulfils its desired role of serving as a reminder that material wealth and the favour of people is not, in the end important in this life.
This is what I love to do - to give someone something that is especially for them.  I feel like the process enriches me....and hopefully the recipient!

Anyway, the fire has been rekindled and I have to create some art soon - so if you want me to create in your direction, as it were, now is the time!

I'm off to do a bit of granny squaring now....still addicted to that too - but it's slightly less brain stretching!  Good night xx