About Me

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Mama, gardener, teacher, photographer, faffer with paint and colour

Thursday 6 December 2012

Copper and ice.

Orange canopy above, leaf fall below, eyes half closed in pale sunlight, autumn was on fire.

Our footsteps and paws pace out the trees along our walks.Beech, hazel, sycamore, oak, ash.....the colours change from lime green to yellow, red and copper. As they are walked back into the earth they all become brown, lose their shape and colour until they ARE the mud.

I need to remember to look at familiar views with fresh eyes, lift my head up and stare.This is where I am lucky to live. 
This colour will be short lived until the next rain or wind. 

Young pup Rosie runs ahead scampering in the leaves, old Jessie dog relies on her nose more these days, eyes and ears starting to play tricks on her.This path was recently covered in hardcore and looked awful, luckily a bed of beech leaves have now disguised it.

These beech trees are solid sentinels, they have such still  awesome power when you walk through them. They root you. I wanted to bring my parents here before the leaves came down.Too late! That night the wind and rain came and stayed around for a while

At home during one of the prolonged days of wind and rain another massive limb of our favourite beech tree came down.

It must have made an awesome crash.Somehow, for the second time, it politely left the fence below intact, jacknifing over it.

This is the extent of the fall, the beginnings of the cutting and clearing by Ashley.
One of my jobs has been to clear and stack the smaller bits of the wood, it is my favourite job I have ever done I think! 

I get toasty and warm doing it, it is good exercise and it is quiet and beautiful and I even have silent companions! ( Ashley too sometimes)

A sudden turn from autumn towards winter. Heavy frosts. Pink mornings. Blue skies.White ground.

Not long until Winter Solstice and Winter has arrived breathless and late!

Stay cosyxxx

Tuesday 23 October 2012

The normality of sexual harrasment.

I have been following the increasingly awful accusations of abuse within the BBC, and thinking a lot about the stories in the sidelines, not the focus on the horrifying criminal sexual abuse allegations but the stories of harrassment within the workplace that weren't spoken of until now. It would be easy to see the BBC as a separate culture particularly in the distant past.We would like to think of it as a different time, and place, removed from our everyday world.With regard to minor sexual harassment/assault this is clearly not the case.

 I consider my life to have been a normal one, devoid of trauma, a happy childhood and averagely messed up teenage years and yet if I count the times I have encountered sexual harassment of a fairly upsetting and confrontational nature it amounts to 8 seperate incidents.

Three times- men exposing themselves.
Teacher observing us getting dressed after swimming through hole in the wall (aged about 10).
Girl guide leader's husband exposing himself to me in public swimming pool.
Man masturbating, sitting opposite me in an open compartment of packed 5 'o' clock commuter train ( nobody mentioned it, so surreal)
Man stopping me in busy street to whisper about my body.
Parent of child in my care having an "accidental" grope.

My problem with this is, that in all these incidents I was so embarassed at the time and so shocked that  I did nothing, and later accepted it as normal, just something that happens to you as a girl/women. A friend was recently shocked that I didn't realise the "accidental" groping was harassment and was confused as what to do, she imagined I would be assertive and clear and so did I until it happened.While our society in the UK generally condemns paedophilia in the strongest terms, there is still a culture of acceptance of sexual harrasment ( not, shock horror just in the BBC). I never wanted  to tell anyone when I was younger and I knew from an early age that nothing much would be done about it even if I did report it. As an adult I have more assertiveness but I was surprised how fear of getting it wrong, fear of upset and conflict, reluctance to confront, still numbed my reactions.

In a group of women we once talked of all the incidents in our lives like the above. Every woman had multiple stories to tell. How can we help to create a culture where it isn't acceptable, normal to have your privacy assaulted ? We do teach our children more than stranger danger now, how to keep their bodies safe, who to talk to if their privacy is invaded.Sexual abuse is thankfully a topic that is discussed now but minor harassment is often ignored. If the culture is still one of apathy and indifference to minor incidents however, surely it is sending a conflicting message to children, particularly girls, that suggests when you grow up, unless it physically hurts, you just have to put up with it.

Tell me what you think.....

Monday 24 September 2012

Squeaky pigs,dodgy apps,Bunty and Durga.

It's a wet, cold, splattery rain kind of day.

The first rain in ages, droplets sparkling everywhere.

The woodburner is bringing much needed autumnal warmth to the room.

The pup is pressing a toy squeaky pig in between my leg and the arm of the comfy chair in the hope that I might throw it for her. You get used to having phone conversations with a squeaky, grunting pig noise in the background.

Our daughter is esconsed in her bedroom with a friend, in sleeping bags, in the middle of the day watching a film.Her bedroom was really tidy as she earnt her pocket money by tidying it up this morning.The floor is now a distant memory, littered with cast off clothes, duvet cover, silver shoes and the odd sindy horse hazard. They both look like ghouls, ignoring Grannie's "Less is more" make up tip and going for "More or less". After much agonising I got her some make up without nasties in for her to play with (took me about a year but I got there in the end).The lipstick pained me more than anything but I got the red colour she wanted ( mantra -"it is for play, she is not a child prostitute"). Middle class, western, eco dilemmas all over the place.Anyway the lipstick was duly abandoned because it had peppermint oil in it which Daisy hates the taste of, so they have continued putting bright red face paint on their lips, and look, well......pretty dodgy.The rule is that she can play with it at home but she has to wipe it off when she goes outside, thanks Bex for that tip. Although initially pleased with having real make up to play with she is now annoyed at having to take it off and not be allowed out with it on. Ash forgot she had any on when he took her to drop a friend home the other day and freaked when he glanced down in town and saw her geisha face, she was proudly swinging her purse and saying, "I look like I am going out!" AGGGHHHH!

This morning I was woken up by a pressing need to accept or decline some new software rules, in order that she could play a game. Tricky to read 12 pages first thing. Whilst on her ipod half asleep I remembered to check out a new dress up game that I had meant to totally vet and hadn't...... cue LOUD WARNING BELLS.The games are usually like animated Bunty,
( if Bunty had got excluded obviously)
except you buy virtual clothes with real money for your model rather than cut them out and hold them on with paper tabs. 

I know I can't believe we had actually agreed to this in a weak parenting moment. We felt it was ok-ish to spend her pocket money on it as it actually means we have less real tat in our house and she plays these games elsewhere anyway, though usually they are free. Once you have chosen trashy clothing for your model she poses about a bit. So today I carry on checking the new game out. Pressing an ominous looking male icon I found out you can choose a man for your model to flirt with, 
I was thankful he wasn't a real man 
( on this app anyway),
but still could feel this wasn't going to end well. 
He flirts back or rejects you in a bizzare cartoon karate chop
"No, I reject you and your mini skirt" kind of way
 and then dearest readers you get the advice to end all advice.....

 "Wear hotter clothes or buy him a stronger drink!"

You can then choose which drink to give him.What champion lessons for our girls to absorb, you either wear less clothing or get him plastered so he likes you.These aren't teenagers playing these games either they are 8 year olds. Head in hands. I managed not to throw the ipod 
or myself
 out of the window and  we somehow explained in calm tones that she needed to delete it and why it was insane. Not bad for 7.30 am.Lessons learnt about checking games all the way through.The beginning of a new day. Parenting a girl so as to not alienate her from her friends,( if we didn't allow play make up make up or dress up games or music with dodgy lyrics), allow her the fun of pretending to be a grown up, and yet trying to keep some of her naturalness and innocence at least until she is a teenager when she will do all the things my mum told me not to do and I did anyway. Please give her a little longer of thinking kingfishers are cool and the river is awesome .We can try and balance it all we like with beauty coming from inside and kindness being the heart of it all but the outside world glitters and shimmers too and she is drawn to its offerings more than ours. It feels futile and pathetic, holding a shield out to stop a tidal wave and yet the most vital thing to do, to protect her in our world. 

Next to our bed, a painting of the Indian Goddess Durga depicts her eliminating the evils of the world, arms in battle. Where would Durga start? Not with Bunty surely......

Friday 31 August 2012

Inexorable is a weighty word.

After a cold early evening walk across the fields I have realised without a doubt that Autumn is here. Summer, like a breathless child has rushed headlong into Autumn. The leaves have begun their slow turning. The Sycamore, always the first to burst its buds in Spring has begun to yield its yellow and green leaves to the wind. Every year I struggle to adapt to this change, the year is as far away from my birth as can be and I resist the descent into Autumn. I love the colours to come but my whole being yells at the change from flowers to seed with an almighty, "No! I am not ready yet!"

Coming ready or not! xxx

Saturday 25 August 2012

Earth works, a fox cub, and a sunset to keep.

The air is dusty around here. For those of you who don't know, we are lucky to live in the grounds of a large manor house and as the owners are now here permanently, the changes have really begun. The bank beside the main house is being carved away for a swimming pool. The digger has scratched bear claw marks down the hillside, and 9 ton dumpers are carrying the earth away to lie anew in an adjacent field opposite our veg patch.It's all pretty dramatic and I do feel a large ouch when looking at the hillside, akin to your child peeling back their jeans to show you a big bloody scrape.This is the view from our window.

It began like this....

Then got a lot bigger....

And is still growing...

 Like Fantastic Mr Fox's hill the hillside is being reduced. I am not ranting, or even tutting, actually surreally detached, just watching and thinking about rabbits and fieldvoles and the animals that burrow and scurry around the hill. I think I am actually in denial in order to stay sane, with two 9 ton dumpers crossing in front of our window from 7am to 5, the noise is constant. When it stops, it is bliss.

After thinking of the tale of Boggis, Bunce and Bean all week I had my first close encounter with a fox. On our way home in a friend's car, we came across a fox cub lying in the road, on the white centre lines, facing us with its head up, watching and staring into the headlights. It was clearly too shocked to move and we imagined it had been hit by a car. It didn't move even when I stood next to it.When I clapped my hands, encouraging it to get the hell up before I got run over on the dark country road, it staggered awfully to the side of the road, with one or two broken legs. It also had a bloody gash on the inside of its groin.Thank you lovely D for helping to bundle it in your blanket, and into the back of your car! I was so thankful that you cared too and didn't want to leave it there.

Back home, I tried to work out where to put the fox if it had any chance of surviving the night. I imagined it would die but if it survived the night I could call a rescue centre in the morning. I decided on the bottom of our steep stairwell which is warm and secure with an already trashed carpet.Our puppy barked like mad upstairs as a fox smell is one of the dogs favourite things to follow. I faffed about getting water and a medicine syringe, felt a bit hopeless in the florence nightingale sector, telling a sleepy Ashley that I'd brought an injured fox home, reassuring the dogs that it was just a fox in the hall downstairs, nothing to bark about.The cub was looking pretty rough by now, I sat and gave it some water with a syringe. I remembered grandmothers' thirsty for one last drink whilst their lives were ebbing and reassured myself that at least it wouldn't die thirsty.Every time I thought it was fading it would sit up to raise my hopes before slumping back down.

I felt very connected to the life of this cub in a very short time, feeling honoured to be next to a wild animal, being able to look into its eyes and send all the comfort I could muster. I thought of Tenzin's Deer, a beautiful children's book ( but for adults too) about healing and acceptance. Only it seemed like this animal was going to die and there wasn't much other than pure love I could give it.
Not such a bad gift I know. I realised that it might be distressed by the light so finally said my goodbye and left the fox and it's destiny in the hall ( If you can't find your destiny it might be in the hall )
When I woke up I knew it had died straight away, something had gone, a different feeling in my body.

 Daisy showed some of the workmen the fox cub's body that I had put in the stable, first thing as they arrived for work, with an eager "Can I show you something?", not quite psychologically preparing them for a dead baby fox! They were amazed she wasn't scared of it. I am thankful that she gets to see life and death in this way.

I decide to take the cub across the river and lay it's body high up in the woods.The rather ironic recycle bag felt heavy and thankfully our pup Rosie took one sniff and ignored it as we walked to the river. I didnt fancy battling pup and fox across the stepping stones. For her too the fox was gone, nothing exciting.
At the top of the hill in the woods I found several ancient oak trees. There was a scraped out hollow under one which seemed like a fitting resting place ( probably another annoyed fox's lay up).
When I had laid the fox out, Rosie whimpered at it, sniffed it and ran back away frightened. Death is a leveller for all of us animals.

I didn't want to bury the cub, but I wanted to surround it, encircle it, somehow comfort, protect it, not sure what so I used bark and bracken and a feather and an ever faithful campion flower, always around whenever you have a flower emergency. I did a bit of internal wailing (a terribly English habit of welling up and gulping and then being unable to cry). Bless you fox.

Anyway!  In true local news style here are some lighter moments of the summer.

The essential potato and spoon race, at every good wedding this summer.
( Where was your potato race Anita?!) I love the difference in the expressions of the competitors.

The coolest trike around, solar and pedal powered.This guy was playing summer reggae sounds at the eden project. His deck is in the boot. He looked like he was very happy in his job. Ashley just told me the man made it himself.
I would have taken photos at Nofit State Circus at the Eden Project but this year they didnt allow photographs what a shame as it is soooo much fun and I wanted to share it. Check out the you tube video if you want to see a revolving woman and the coolest pole dancer on the planet...click and click again nofitstatecircus. It was incredible, if you get the chance to see them ever, do it!

Night Night.x

Tuesday 26 June 2012

That was then..... ( May)

 I can't quite remember April, there was a bit of painted egg rolling, a birthday for me, but somehow the eggs rolled us into spring, tumbling faster than I could keep up with and I landed in a heap at the beginning of May.
It has been wet, very wet for the last few weeks. I managed to avoid most of it by being ill, twice or looking after our daughter who was also ill twice, so we spent a lot of time looking at the river rise and fall, rise and fall, from our hall and toilet window!
There is something so amazing about your first view in the morning being of a river, there is no getting away from the impermanence of life when it is so quickly changeable.Yesterday's drought replaced by a swirling frenzy, today's chaotic turbulence replaced only hours later by a calm spring valley river. It does not wait for any creature. All the river birds are busy the time we get up, dippers bobbing up and down on rocks as if curtsying. Herons beating their weighty wings in an effort to gain height, always looking like they aren't going to make it. Like birds from another age or place, they somehow look awkward, only just fitting in the valley. Effortless like bees they are not. Lately we have seen a squirrel sitting on a broken off branch on the larch tree, tail curled over his head like an umbrella, sheltering from the rain, gleefully we watched from the window.

We did get onto the moor on a wet and wild day, mostly to tire out the dogs as we had stuff to do, it wasn't a day to hang around, it was a brutal cold wind.The clouds and their shadows were racing across the pale grass strewn ground.Walking boots set a determined pace ahead.Frog boots jumped in black peat bog puddles behind..This was a rare patch of blue.

We battered our way against the wind, up through the bronze age stone rows, without ceremony or ritual just sheer determination and a lot of encouragement for the little one in so much down clothing her only complaint was that she was boiling.We changed direction to avoid the wind in our face and headed for the long stone. Always good for a lean and a think, oh and a pose.

Rosie the pup was having a wild time, racing full tilt chasing her doggy companions, ears blowing about and gait sometimes sideways in the wind.We looked up to see her running far away with her new collie friend, a brief moment of oops and a whistle and they were heading back. At times like that we are so glad she is a collie.

Some of you have seen this recently but it's too cute not to include.....
Rosie on Kestor.

The weather came in fast then and we ran helter skelter down from Kestor, as we have on many a day. Faces screwed up against the rain and howling wind, knowing it won't be long.Cosseted by down and waterproofs and a car ride home.The shelter of warmth and quiet, and excited blown about humans phewing their relief.

Later in May..

A yearning for Scotland finally eased by a surprise wedding and a weekend trip to Dumfries and Galloway.This is The House on the Shore where we stayed in Scotland.The beach just steps away.

We woke up to this view from our room. Ah bliss. Just what I wanted. Space, sea, sky.

Glacial boulders dropped 10,000 years ago dominate the beach. We took it in turns to shriek," Come and look at this!", amazing fossils blowing our minds.

I have a piece of coral here at home that looks exactly the same as this fossil. Except my coral was a gift from Bali.Where was this from and how long ago was the coral

The Solway Firth stretched between us and the Lake District. Scotland to England.
We spent time trying to unsuccessfully get a grip on time while Daisy also struggled with Scotland being another country.

Time, space.Hah what a trip.x