Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The first time I ever went to Tintern I noticed these abandoned cottages opposite the old mill. They used to be next to the mill pond (now a series of 'motel' style hotel rooms built into a revealing dip in the land) so I like to imagine it was the miller and his family who lived in them when the village was industrial. I don't know who owns them but the last few months of heavy rain have taken their toll and the roof of the outhouse has completely collapsed. I want them to be renovated and given new life, the damp from the sides of the valleys is disintegrating the stone and the ivy is creeping, creeping.

The sylvan Wye from a beautiful local walk we did a few weekends ago, to the 'Bread and Cheese' stones in Llandogo.

Some other things that have been happening:

- I scrubbed and sorted and conservatory, the gateway to our tiny garden. Taken a lot of stuff to charity shops, trying to reorganise and simplify.
- We have done a huge chunk of the work that needed to be done on the ground floor of the house. We passed the one year mark of living here back in February.
- Started back at work which has been really pleasing. I am shocked about how little money we have survived on over the winter considering I wasn't earning much. We have still managed to save, and Huw bartered, medieval style, for our decorating with a new website (not quite so medieval) for the builders.
- Planted courgette seeds, runner beans, sweet peas and tomatoes in whatever containers I could find. I might do a separate garden post because I like to look back on plants when they were small. I accidentally made compost in a bag of rotting garden waste I failed to get rid of so I've put it in the half of my raised bed that doesn't contain raspberries (which are coming back in full force already) in preparation for courgettes... should they survive!
- We saw a lamb being born at St Fagan's
- The lemon tree is flowering

Carpenter's workshop, if I could post a picture of the smell I would.

St Michael's Church, Tintern

The view from my conservatory on the day I went back to work

My mother's day present

Mostyn's first recognisable drawings!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Inspiration XIII

    Johann Hering - Kalligraphische Schriftvorlagen-Bamberg, 1626-1634
Alphonse Mucha. Design for ‘Heart’s International' (1922). Watercolor
 (That's me on the right there)

Eugene Samuel Grasset, La Belle Jardiniere 1896

Henrik Nordenberg - The Artist’s Studio [1891]

Hylas and the Nymphs, 1896 (detail) John William Waterhouse

Maxfield Parrish, Jason and the Talking Oak (1910)
William Shackleton, The Polar Star, 1920.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

settle down boy

I want a permanent part time job so badly, part time is easy, but permanent is something I haven't had for six years. I can't remember feeling secure in a job ever, and having bought this little house in this little town in this sunken spot on the borders, filled with rivers and forests and five minutes from the M4 - the need to settle down is so strong at the time in my life, when at other times I just did not care. Some motherly instinct is pulsing strong. I need to create balance however, which is the word I am trying to embody and failing.

Our house is in turmoil as we are redecorating downstairs and it really is affecting me - I want to tidy, organise, find places for things, hang pictures, buy a dresser to put my teapots, postcards and pottery, spend my evenings on things other than avoid drying walls and angsting about paint - the pink plaster won't be there for much longer - soon we can coat everything in Dulux Timeless and we get our radiator back tomorrow. Hooked up with cheap solid oak floorboards, we decided to get everything done at once, the wood smells so fresh and delicious, I can't wait to put my feet on it. We are so lucky to be able to do this but the transition period is rather testing.

Mostyn's room on the day we moved in:

Bizarre and chipped two tone paintwork
Mid Polyfillaring at Christmas
His bed arrived last week and I was primed to organise!
A rug I made for him out of some of his old babygro's
Bed made
Room finally organised - we just need to hang up his pictures (a Welsh alphabet from Cathryn Weatherhead and a Babar the Elephant hot air balloon poster) and we're done for now. This satisfied the settle-downer in me.
The other good things about life are that I have the chance of a job back, I really hope I can make it work for me, our house will be even more amazing in a few weeks (I will post pictures) and everyone is happy and healthy. And this summer after the solstice I am getting married in one country and celebrating in another, all within the same few hours.

Stuff I've been reading and looking at with my eyes:

This struck a chord as I contemplate past and future:As the child of divorced parents, I've had to learn to treat my own marriage with love, not fear [Guardian]

I don't know what this or who did it but it just came up to my on Facebook and I stared in amazement as this exact image has been in my head for a long time, I wanted to try drawing it but it's already been drawn:

I also accidentally fell in love with a £530 eco wedding dress from Minna (I most definitely cannot afford it):

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Very occasionally I find myself on Google maps re-living my childhood, street-viewing my way down the lanes past the houses I saw every day, peering over the digitalised hedges at fields I knew every inch of.

Lately my childhood has been coming back to me in wistful jumps, probably because my own child is growing up and I am always thinking of the things he might remember about where we live, what I say, where we go. I have absolutely no clear memories of being very young, my memories start at about 5 or 6 (I've always had a bad memory!) but I do store impressions and atmospheres extremely well.

I have so few pictures of my own childhood homes (two in the same village, we moved to a bigger house when I was about 13 but it was only just around the corner) - there is a huge box of them somewhere but it's still all in my head... almost all of my memories are from outdoors and involving me and my sister ranging outside in the rural village where I lived until I was 18 and left for university.

When the council installed signs, making roads that had never had names in the past, Langtye Lane received its title and we were outraged but used it anyway. Sailor the farm cat, swimming in the pool in the sprawling grounds of our neighbour's enormous house, crawling through the undergrowth at the lake a few fields across from our house, and a few years later writing 'NO' in illicit cigarettes the boys from down the road had hidden in the dust under one of the evergreen hedges there. Jumping from hay bale to hay bale in the barn that was deemed dangerous, flipping through the next door church visitor's book and seeing my scrawling childish writing on different pages through the years. The grave stone of the twelve year old boy kicked to death by a horse in the 1800's.

Leaving tiny loaves of 'bread' for the fairies, making cat noises through the hedge at unsuspecting travellers, the broken mini that was overgrown with brambles before it was cleared to make extra garden for us, the ripe bulrushes I was unable to prevent myself from exploding, covering myself with soft feathery seeds that stuck to my fleece for weeks. Hula hoops and cartwheels, chasing the chickens to try and hold them, creeping as far as we dared up the side of the posh neighbour's garden, I remember every stile, the night time snow walks, the year my dad was the village Santa and I had to dress as an elf.

The time we peeked through the door of the old barn and saw a snooker table and naked lady calendars. Later the barn was converted into a house and we could no longer make dens in the ruins with shelves for abandoned toys and dragged up planks of wood for tables and chairs.

The summer we spent with the girls from down the road, sweatily pulling weeds from a patch of land for the farmer in return for lemon drizzle cake, jumping over horse jumps, seeing who could hold the electric fence for the longest, buying fizzy sweets from the village shop in time for the solar eclipse that we watched through the green blur of the farmer's blacksmith's mask.

Then as a teenager, walking to the pub and sitting on the climbing frames at night with my friends, the late night heart spilling talks, secrets, the angsty marches round the damp fields just to be alone with my hideous adolescent thoughts, that single afternoon I contemplated throwing myself into the (weedy and shallow) lake when my best friend went out with the boy I fancied.

Sunset from the end of the garden - 2006
And then a few years later, the strangled conversation with my father, tagged on the end of a call about something trivial, revealing that my parents were separating. The Google street-view images are from a few years ago and still show my mum's car in the drive and the 'chien bizarre' sign on the gate, but since then the house was sold, I don't remember the last time I saw it and I have no reason to go back.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Happy new year!

2013 can be summarised by these very few words: bought house and worked. On February 14th we parted with every penny of our savings and moved into our very first house - soon after, the job I had been in for the last few years came to its inevitable funding related conclusion and I found myself working in a medieval castle all summer instead, a place which comes high up in the ever growing list of strange places I have worked (which include a goat farm and a zoo).

But it wasn't all work: I did some gardening, did lots of visiting and went to a lovely wedding, went on our first family holiday to Cornwall, made some things with a sewing machine and a peg loom and did a few sporadic gigs with the band. The last two months I haven't worked at all and I have focused on doing fun things with my son that don't cost money, making things and having a lovely first Christmas in our new house.

Here are some Christmas holiday pictures, because we had a really lovely time. I cooked the turkey lunch and it was a big success, we saw family and went to some lovely places:

Our beautiful tree (can you see Niroot's amazing pop up Night Before Christmas Book?)
Christmas treats - Dundee cake (in the tin) and my best ever thing: Carluccio's Chocolate Grissini
One excited boy

 Huw's present to me - a stunning wooden fold out craft box!

 Christmas dinner with my mum, her partner and my sister!

 Peregrin spotting by the cliffs in Chepstow

 A boxing day gig in Llantwit Major with my Irish band

 We then went to visit my dad where we had one beautiful bright clear day and one awful rainy one.
 The fire was stoked, the wine was nice.
The view from Broadway Tower
 We visited Broadway Tower - battled through the red trouser wearing locals to have deliciously expensive panini's in the cafe and peer through the bushes at the herd of red deer.
Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds with my dad and his wife - the light was incredible!
But enough of the past - TO THE FUTURE (and the present)

2014 is the year of the house decoration.

We have already made a start - we have painted Mostyn's room after my mum's partner (who is handily a painter and decorator) prepared all the walls for us over Christmas. We are going neutral because this isn't our 'forever' house yet.

After (still need to paint the wardrobe and bookshelf white, put up pictures, order a white bed and paint the skirting boards and get a new carpet.. and sort out the damp on the top of the window...)

As for downstairs: you may recall the hideous half blue wallpapered walls from the first picture in this post - can you imagine what was underneath that ancient paper?


Getting this replastered/skimmed, and painted is our next step, followed by new skirting boards and eventually, a new floor (after 134 years when we have saved enough money). Until then we must live in this distressed, womb-like cave.....

I hope my readers (all two of you) have a prosperous 2014 - this year I want to try and put into practice in my life things I have been reading about this year, (mainly on Tumblr), particularly about feminism, equality, child rearing and role models for children.

I'm going to keep trying to do things I haven't done before, get a bit fitter (I say this every year), maybe start running and get married. Oh yeah: After seven years together, a mortgage and a two year old, we are finally getting married, particularly because Huw gave me this beautiful teeny diamond ring on the 1st Jan that he had secretly had made for me:

Blwyddyn newydd dda!