Pearls & Oysters – 21

“A journey of a thousand blogs starts with the first one”

Since I started blogging I’ve become aware of so many sites that I could spend hours linking up to what other people are writing, and sometimes do. Well, not hours…but quite a while. I’ve listed my favourites here, in no particular order and would be grateful if you could share blogs you’ve come across that speak to you so we can share them.

Miracle Design

A Butterfly in My Hair

Scottish Island Mum

It’s fascinating how women who write blogs often cover the same themes. Almost like an echo…

For my own work, I’m focusing on a weaving with applique that I produced from a scene I noticed at Whiting Bay beach on a very hot summer day in the early 80’s.Daughter of a Daughter

It’s called “Daughter of a Daughter” and it represents three generations of woman in various states of beach attire. The older woman is wearing a flowery summer dress – some kind of synthetic. The mother in her late twenties, early thirties is dressed in a bikini, and the little girl of about 7 or 8 is naked. The atmosphere is of completely harmony with each other and an acceptance that things are changing, but they are at ease with their choice of dress.

To me this little scene said as much about the people round about as it did about the three members of the family. Everyone else was involved in their own mini-beach drama and enjoying the glorious sunshine as well as the rare opportunity to swim in the sea which is usually too cold.

In spite of change, there is still a certain amount of judgment about how we appear. Though thankfully the rules have changed in my generation from the days 30 or 40 years ago when you wouldn’t be caught dead without a hat or white gloves if you went out, even in 100 deg. Fahrenheit in Sacramento. Things had changed enough then that bathing huts and non-revealing one piece bathing suits were a thing of the past and we became experts at changing on the beach under a towel.

All of this is part of the history of how women have viewed their bodies, or not viewed their bodies as the case may be. We can allow our children to run free on the beach, though we still have to keep a watchful eye on how other people respond to them. We can lament the fact that young girls are prey for paedophiles and other adults who would exploit their sexuality before they have a chance to experience it fully.

We have to learn to honour our own bodies for what they are, stretch marks and all and to honour the need that the older generation still feels a requirement to “cover up”. Nowadays I would be the “Granny on the Beach” and while I might not be as uninhibited as I was when I was younger, like wearing a bikini when I was pregnant on the beach at Whiting Bay, I certainly won’t be the one all covered up.

Thankfully the white gloves are a thing of the past and I’m more likely to have sparkly nail polish to match my somewhat modest bathing suit. But I won’t be swimming in the sea!

To read more about my art and textile work see:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Scottish Island Mum – Day 40 – Come and meet the Lovely Lynn

Pearls & Oysters – 19

Oyster Shells from Loire Atlantique with Arran Beach Stones

“HEALTH AND SPRING EMERGING”

You may remember for my first ever blog (at the beginning of this month), I took as my theme the idea that Oysters respond to irritants like sand grains in their system and cover them with a yucky mucous which gradually builds up to form a pearl. This image is so appropriate in many situations.

I like to think that the irritants that I encounter in my day to day recuperation go towards pearls, rather than frustration or unhappiness. Today was proof that this process is underway. The weather was stunning, the birds singing most of the day to celebrate Spring (or maybe to remind me that the sunflower seed tube was empty – AGAIN! Why can’t they eat the peanuts??)

I managed to walk out to the bird feeder and back without any help and stopped to take some pictures of emerging daffodils poking their way through the scrub. I felt as if I’d made a whole string of pearls in the year since I moved here when the mental effort required to walk any distance was overwhelming.

A friend sent me this lovely poem on recovery and well-being by Elizabeth Jennings which absolutely captured my feelings today.

Well-Being

I savour it as it returns to me

This health, this flow along my bones and veins, this wholesome energy

which can create rich thoughts or drifts of song.

Any poison halts the inward flow

Illness takes away

the strength of love almost. Art seems to go

Relentlessly. There is more night than day.

Now I am glad and grateful and relearn the taste of happiness

My thoughts with almost tenderness, now turn to making poems

Creation’s hopefulness.

Daffs1

To learn more about my creative work see:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Scottish Island Mum – Day 40 – Come and Meet the Lovely Lynn

Pearls & Oysters 18

Recipe1Recipe 21

Comfort Food

Watching “Food and Drink” on BBC 2 tonight set me thinking about comfort food and what that meant to me. My Mum’s shortbread after school. Each piece round in shape with her thumbprint in the middle. Dad’s barbecued chicken, the best in the world, bringing back memories of hot weather and backyard parties. Best of all, Birthday Dumpling,  pudding tied up in muslin, steamed over boiling water for several hours, filling the house with rich anticipation.

The pieces of paper at the top of this page are my Mum’s handwritten recipe and a letter with hints and the advice “If at first you don’t succeed, try , try again.” The first time I made it myself I forgot to top up the water and ruined a very expensive soup pot. But I did try again.

Some of the notations on the papers are sugary thumbprints, others conversions from Imperial to Metric as I came to terms with the difference in measures.

Dumpling was comfort food twice over. First at the birthday party and then the next day with leftovers fried as part of a cooked breakfast. Yum!

Now my children and grandchildren have the recipe. Here’s a copy, to pass the comfort along and add it to your list.

Oh yes, and it tastes absolute fabulous with custard!

GRANDMA RUBY’S BIRTHDAY DUMPLING

2 cups of self-raising flour

1/4 lb margarine or butter

1 1/2 cup demerara sugar

4 teaspoons mixed spices ( cinnamon, ginger, pinch of nutmeg & cumin)

4 Tablespoons treacle

4 Tablespoons golden syrup

1 1/2 cups currants & raisins mixed

1 grated apple & 1 fine grated carrot

2 eggs

Mix this “goop” up well with water, adding just a little at a time, until you have a good thick mixture, not too thin.

Wet and wring out a 22 inch square of white lightweight cotton. Flour the cotton, fill it with the mixture, catch it all up leaving about 2 inches for the pudding to expand. Tie tightly with string. Pop into a large pot 1/4 full with boiling water. Put the lid on and keep simmering for 3 hours, topping up the boiling water if necessary.

To read more about my textile and art work:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Scottish Island Mum – Day 40 – Come and Meet the Lovely Lynn

Pearls & Oysters – 17

 SCOTTISH FLAG1SCOTTISH FLAG1SCOTTISH FLAG1

GO ST. ANDREW!

Today I am grateful that the late afternoon sun is golden outside my window and looking more like Spring than winter.  I’m  pleased that Scotland won the rugby. I had my fingernails painted blue last week – not deliberately but they do look a bit Scottish flag. Now after the last few minutes of that match, they look decidedly chewed and not at all as elegant as my nail technician Lynn strives to maintain.

I think we have the right to a wee bit of national pride from time to time, as long as it does not have a harmful or destructive outcome. As half my family live in Ireland I have a soft spot for that country too, but I’m still glad we won! Sometimes supporting the team can be as much fun as playing, especially when you’re in the position I find myself now of having to learn walk and play all over again.

My friend Fiona set me thinking yesterday about the shock of my sudden illness two years ago, and about the recuperation time required to get back to some kind of normal. I can see that the illness affected my whole system, because it was so sudden and so traumatic. I can also see the progress of response to the aftershock of such a body blow.

I came very close to dying and letting go completely. Friends and acquaintances didn’t recognise me in the hospital bed, because I looked so much “in shock.” Obviously some inner spirit showed me that it wasn’t time to go and that I had reasons to live and recover. If I think about all the things that have happened since that initial time two years ago, then it’s not surprising that I would still be in recovery mode, physical as well as spiritual.

It’s quite amazing the time it takes to find that “normality” and there is no such thing as a target date. It’s an on-going process and one that you have to surrender to completely, there is no other choice.

To quote the Tao “Accomplish More by Trying Less”. This is one of things my illness has taught me.

The other thing that brought about these musings yesterday was a note in the local paper pointing out that it was 10 years since Simon’s friend Lucy died of a brain tumour at the age of 16. I couldn’t read the small article without reliving the grief that I felt when that happened, let alone the suffering of her family and friends.

Her friends are going to do a “Muddy Run” – 13 km in her memory with donations going to research into the causes of brain haemorrhage and to the Arran Mountain Rescue  team in recognition of Lucy’s love for adventure and Arran. You can read about this and send a donation on the website http://www.justgiving.com/teams/teamstag.

Time has no meaning when we are faced with grief and trauma. It takes as long as it takes to process it all, including the physical aspects of the shock. In the meantime we can approach each day with gratitude and appreciate the things that we can experience, rather than dwell on anything we might have lost

Go St. Andrew!!

For more information about my art and textile work see:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Scottish Island Mum – Day 40 – Come and meet the Lovely Lynn

For more about blue nails (and other colours too):

Arran Tip to Toe

Pearls & Oysters 16

Kerstin & Eivor1

Some friends we have for a reason, Some we have for a season

Some friends we have for life.

When I was a young newlywed I moved with my husband to Chicago from California to help pursue his career. I gave up my own studies and took a job at the headquarters of a worldwide organization compiling a brochure which would now be done by computer.I hated it, and in the end found something much more suitable after only a couple of months. During that couple of months, though, I met three people who were to become friends and still are even though we don’t meet very often. Each one played a role in my life at different times. One friend who was living in Chicago but came from Germany I lost touch with for 15 or 20 years. We caught up with each other through the knitter’s website Ravelry. We now keep in touch via Facebook and it seems the intervening years never happened.

The second person I met came from Sweden. She returned there to live in Stockholm and when we moved to Sweden 4 years later, we stayed with her and her parents “adopted” us and treated us like family. We still communicate and have visited each other several times over the years. I look forward to her next visit.

The third person I kept in touch with through Christmas cards and then emails. We were able to meet once in New Jersey where she lived when I was travelling on the Easter Seaboard giving talks and Guild workshops to spinners and weavers. She paid a visit to Arran a few years ago and although we’ve lost touch for now, I’m sure we’ll catch up again at some point in the future, fill in the intervening years and carry on the connection.

That two months of doing something I hated opened doors that I had no idea were there and have given me valuable gifts in these friendships.

When I later worked in Craft Development on European exchange projects, the nature of that work, the common interest, long hours in unfamiliar environments created friendship which were instant, deep and often only for a “season”. At the moment I don’t have contact with any of the people who I worked with during those years. I do have many fond memories of ridiculous situations which included getting lost in the middle of Kuresaare on the island of Saaremaa in Estonia. It wasn’t a very big town but a) we couldn’t understand the street signs b) No-one spoke English c) The bank, etc. was closed because it was Saturday d) It was afternoon and snowing steadily so we had no North Star for guidance. In other words for the space of half an hour, nothing functioned for us. In the end someone suggested that we use our mobile phone, contact the college and ask someone to steer us back like some wayward vehicle that had taken the wrong road.

Experiences like that form bonds that run quite deep out of the usual daily routine. If nothing else I still remember the laughter that accompanied these escapades and kept us sane (somewhat).We learn from friends who we are, how we react to situations in our lives and that it’s OK to cry or laugh hysterically when things go horribly wrong. So for a reason, a season or a lifetime, friendship is one of the finest gifts we receive. As is the ability to cherish those memories and enjoy them all over again.

Iceland 21

To find out more about my textile and art work see:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Scottish Island Mum – Day 40 – Come and Meet the Lovely Lynn

Pearls & Oysters – 15

“Bananas, DNA and the Ultimate Creative Moment”

DNA1

“DNA in action”

‘That’s it’, I hear you say, ‘she’s gone Bananas’………well, sort of, but I’ve been thinking about bananas since my usual after-school phone call with number 1 granddaughter in Ireland. Well, actually, we were discussing DNA and I was very happy to hear that these days they are dissecting bananas in school, rather than wriggling frogs, which never were my thing.

They were my thing until I realised that the ‘kissing-turning-into-a-Prince’ thing was a load of nonsense which brings me to the real point of the story – my granddaughter’s class were dissecting bananas (let’s not get into the murdering fruit and veg argument just for the time being…)

They were identifying and extracting DNA cells and learning about the complicated percentages to do with how much DNA we have in common with the rest of living things – and how amazing it is that we can identify individual humans by the small percentage that is unique to each person. This led on to a very technical discussion as to how my DNA was partially responsible for hers, give or take the odd parent or two.

Segueing nicely into a discussion about fingernails, toenails and the relative merits of blue or purple two-tone polish, the discussion ended with me feeling quite smug and satisfied to be related to such a smart cookie, who also appreciates the finer things in life. This led me to think about moments of mystery in our lives and how that DNA is carried forward in the most clever way.

I was reminded of the three times I have given birth and the one time when I had a miscarriage, all very different physical manifestations of that mysterious life force that is there for us when we stop trying so hard to experience it. As I held each child in my arms for the first time, I RECOGNISED them immediately as if we’d known each other forever and the baby I lost was as precious in this way as the ones who survived.

And now to have this recognition in a new generation as we continue the dialogue  and lets us share experience and compare preferences from books to make up and agree that I am very lucky. To quote self-same granddaughter I have a great view and  Bilslands in Brodick has the best hot chocolate in the world. What more can a body and soul ask for??

View of Goat Fell from Kayak in Brodick Bay

View from Outside Bilsland’s, Brodick Bay

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To read more about my art and textile work see:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Scottish Island Mum – Day 40 – Come and Meet the Lovely Lynn

Pearls & Oysters 14

AWMHospital

“Light and Healing – from Hospital to Holy Isle”

Traveling the other day from Brodick to Lamlash for a routine visit to hospital the view from the top of the hill was spectacular. Holy Isle was covered in mist lit by sunshine and the sea was like a millpond. Everything looked so still.

Our small hospital sits on the hill, overlooking Holy Isle and it is times like this when you can clearly feel that Holy Isle has been a place of healing for many hundreds of years. It was a stopping off place for Irish monks travelling north to bring Christianity to Scotland and the home of St. Molio who lived in a cave which still exists today. In more recent years the island was bought from private owners by the Tibetan Buddhists. There is now a place of retreat there, new buildings and space especially for meditation.

The proximity of the hospital to this holy place was coincidental. I’ve had experience of both. In the days before the Buddhists came to the island it was a favourite place for us to row to from Whiting Bay where we lived. We climbed to the top of the mountain on several occasions, learned about St. Molio’s cave and the other monks who lived there. On one occasion I picked some wild heather from what had been the monks’ garden and dyed the most amazing yellow wool from the plants. I still have some of that yarn 35 years later.

“Almost at the Top of Holy Isle”

Holy Isle 2 21

My son Chris was born in the hospital in Lamlash, truly an Arran baby. Now when my health is not as good as it should be the hospital is there for routine treatments, in a much more “neighbourhood” atmosphere than the big hospitals on the mainland.

Things have changed, the capacity of the hospital for routine surgery, etc., has been cut back and it is now necessary to travel to the mainland for more than a few basic services.

The basic atmosphere of a healing place is still intact — the closeness of Holy Isle and the beauty and power it inspires are still there and I have my memories of both.

Especially the “neighbourhood” feeling, like the time Chris broke his arm at age 13 and was in hospital for a week. In the bed opposite was one of his teachers who was in for some “intimate” surgery, only to spend what was meant to be a period of quiet and recuperation surrounded by his pupils at every visiting hour, who had come to visit Chris. No such thing as anonymity on this island.

Holy Isle 1

To find out more about my art and textile work:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Scottish Island Mum Day 40 – Come and Meet the Lovely Lynn

Pearls & Oysters – 13

 

George Clarke Pods

SMALL IS FEASIBLE

The recent series on Channel 4, George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces  struck a chord with me on so many levels. The largest one resounding when he revealed that he planned to refurbish a 1970’s caravan as a holiday home in the Lake District. The caravan he chose was a clone of the one that we hauled on to our site in Whiting Bay  as “temporary” accommodation in 1981. “Temporary” became 10 years as we twisted our way through impossible planning restrictions brought into force after we moved on to the site. We finally had to sell the site as the impossible planning changes became insurmountable, but for a few years we had the best of all worlds on a small scale.

For a couple of years before we bought the “George Clarke” lookalike,  we lived in a smaller caravan with two kids with all the trimmings, a portaloo in a wooden hut with a fabulous view, space for the dog to sleep under the caravan, and unlimited space for the kids to explore round about.  We made two weekly “luxury” outings – one to the sauna in the chalet park hair salon nearby and one with a car battery in the bicycle basket to the garage so that we could charge it up and watch a week’s worth of  black and white TV by battery power. No need for a car!

The caravans were cosy, had a fabulous view of Torlosh in Whiting Bay and the only time I didn’t like them was in high winds when although they were anchored down I was always afraid they wouldn’t make it through the storms.  They  always did.

The plan in those days was to live and make do on the  site while we built our planned Scandinavian kit house which looked remarkably like these pods. “Living more Simply” wasn’t idyllic, but it was never a chore. I remember occasions where we ate fresh caught mackerel which we’d caught ourselves, stored in a freezer  operated with calor gas, with homegrown potatoes and gooseberry sauce. Local cow and goats’ milk, cheese and homemade yoghurt were readily available and one of our favourite “foods for free” was salad made from wild garlic, wild sorrel and dandelion leaves with a yoghurt and herb dressing.  We never had to worry about power cuts because the Tilly lamp and hanging paraffin lamps were perfectly adequate. We got as far as building the studio and then the planning problems became unbearable and the caravans were falling apart,  so we decided to give up and move to a “ready made” house.

I look back with fondness to that “encampment” of small spaces which was our home. I’m glad I had the experience and though I wish George well with his beautifully refurbished model, there is a big part of me now that says “NO MORE CARAVANS…..”

***************

Simon’s notes on growing up on Arran can be found in  Notes for the Road

You can also read more about my art and textile work on:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Scottish Island Mum Blog – Day 40 – Come and Meet the Lovely Lynn

Pearls and Oysters – 12

“The Much Maligned Chocolate Teapot”

This image of  the “Useless Chocolate Teapot” has crept into our language recently to describe something which is definitely not fit for purpose. Yet even here there are uses we can imagine, for example if it’s solid, then there’s no issue – it has a purpose to be eaten and enjoyed. If it’s hollow we can put sweets in it and give it as a present to a friend who likes tea.

It could easily be home to a sweet-toothed dormouse or hold some dried flowers as a decoration.

Traditionally we have  teapots in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours such as brown ceramic ones to conjour up thoughts of  tea and crumpets, or tea and toast. The ultimate comfort foods.

We have fine china teapots which indicate elegance and a table full of afternoon cucumber sandwiches (without the crusts) and wedges of Victoria sponge cake.

The silver tea set represents family tradition and a posh table setting. In our family the silver tea set was given to my mother by the members of her sewing bee when we emigrated to California. When she died it was returned to me in Scotland as a family heirloom. I’ve only used it once when I invited my friends to join me in a  tea party to honour my mother’s life and memory. I can no more think of clearing it out even though I never use it.

The only time a chocolate teapot doesn’t work is if we try to fill it with hot water and enfuse some tea.

The designer William Morris  said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” This covers teapots nicely, and raises the question of why we keep things that we don’t need and how we get the courage to clear them out. You don’t have to look for for advice articles, programmes and book chapters to guide you through that too small wardrobe, or the soft toys you’ve had since whenever. When I moved to a smaller house last year, I sorted through boxes of stuff, and took at least ten car loads of “things” to the local charity shop, sold furniture I didn’t have room for and, oh yes, that too small wardrobe.!

Now again I’m thinking of having a clearout. Getting rid of these things I’ve saved for at least five years that I might have used at Christmas, packaging for birthday presents – a whole shelf’s worth. Cookbooks I haven’t referred to in years….the list goes on.

It’s not surprising that I’ve collected so much “stuff'” over the years, but it was never intended to set up a barrier to leading a simpler life, not based on belongings, but rather based on finding peaceful moments to think about things don’t matter.

But not the silver tea set. I’ll keep that until I can give it to one of my grandchildren and they can make the decision whether it represents family history or clutter.

TEA SET1

To find out more about my art and textile work see:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Scottish Island Mum Day 40 – Come and Meet the Lovely Lynn

Pearls and Oysters – 11

“IN THE BALANCE – OF MOUNTAINS,  SNOWDROPS AND DAFFODILS”

At this time of year the island is in the balance between Winter and Spring.

WINTER MOUNTAINS1

The mountains are still formidable – etched in black and white with snow, but down here in the garden the snowdrops are poking through the ground,  their gorgeous white flowers tinged with green and full of promise. The daffodils are also pushing their way through the grass in preparation for their Spring show still buffeted by winter winds. It’s not quite as dark in the morning as it was a month ago and the afternoon light is stretching slowly towards the Spring Solstice when it will begin to gallop towards the bright nights of summer.

We carry the balance inside us as our bodies come out of the season of curling up inwardly to cope with the cold and dark and begin to welcome the light and warmth we know will come again with optimism and a faith in the future . At the same time we cope with the uncertainty which has been our weather over the past couple of years with drought and deluge and we understand that we are occasionally vulnerable to forces of nature like the asteroid which hit Siberia yesterday as people were going on about their daily tasks.

We have some options to respond to these uncertainties. We can live in fear of the unknown, dreading what might happen, or we can decide that no matter what happens round about us we will do our best to show what we are capable of, regardless – a bit like those daffodils. We can feel lonely and alone, wishing for something or someone as a distraction. Or we can spend some peaceful time contemplating the changes and the beauty that they bring, learning to understand that by being still we learn to think as Julian of Norwich when she wrote:  “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”

So enjoy the coming of Spring and the changes in Nature round about us.  Celebrate it with bunches of daffodils, add a cup of fresh blueberries to your pancake batter before you cook them, and open up your Spirit to whatever is in store for you!

DAFFS & GRAPE HYACINTS1

To find out more about my art and textile work see:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Scottish Island Mum Day 40 -Come and Meet the Lovely Lynn

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