Tree Time: November…

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Warning – this post contains the gratuitous use of asterisks – those of a nervous disposition should leave now.

So it’s now eleven months since I started taking a photograph of this particular oak every time I pass it while walking the Delinquent Dog - how time flies!

The photograph above was taken this morning – another grey day as you can see.

This is how the oak has been progressing over the last couple of weeks…

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Once again we can see the elegant branch structure that caught my eye all those weeks ago.

The weather has been very grey this month so far – even the days that started out sunny, seem to have turned grey before nightfall and we’ve had a lot of rain. In fact it’s been the wind and rain that finally brought the leaves off the oak, almost overnight.

Some of us find it hard-going when the light levels are low, so I’m hoping it won’t be long before we get sharp frosts and crisp blue skies. The cold I can deal with, but darkness really gets to me.

I’d planned to end this post with an uplifting little poem about November, but having dredged my way through Google, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is an unremittingly miserable month for poets too. I’m not going to put anything I found up here, just in case it drives anyone over the edge – really, you’d think poets through history have deliberately waited for November to indulge their most depressive fantasies.

Does anyone actually know a funny poem or saying about November – if you do, for heaven’s sake, tell me please! Never mind NaNoWriMo, let’s have ‘write something witty, ‘cos November’s so sh***y!’

Right, I’m off to hibernate…

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Moody…

So, what you’ve all been wondering, is what happens on a foggy morning if you leave your smart phone camera set on fluorescent from the night before.

Here’s the answer…

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It was weird weather, because by the time I got to the tree, the sun was out and the sky a deep blue, but not quite as strange as the camera made out. There are a few other settings I might try out by accident too.

In other news…

I’m frantically stitching away for our Discover exhibition at the end of the month.

I’m still spiralling…in blue.

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Details from a three panel triptych that’s almost finished.

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Happy stitching

So, how was it for you?

I wish it was possible to stop the clock when the children go back to school after holidays, so that I can get round and do all the jobs I can’t do while they’re at home, without it eating into my ‘productive’ time. If anyone manages it, please let me know the secret…

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Our early tentative plans to camp in the Brecons were consigned to the bin when the torrential overnight rain reminded us just how it feels to get into a damp sleeping bag. Instead the Other Half googled and came up with The Farmer’s Arms in Abergavenny – terrific find, the sort you don’t really want to let on about – and so off we went to meet up with my brother in Hay-On-Wye (best town in the world), and scour the shelves for books on Roman architecture.

Thanks to Booths and the Hay Cinema Bookshop, we now have every book ever published on the subject (I may be exaggerating, or possibly not…) which was a relief and also extremely good fun – a bit like doing a private treasure hunt.

Just before we left Hay for Abergavenny, I ditched the others and nipped in to Wool and Willow. I’d had a good feeling about it when we passed by in the morning, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve come home with a gorgeous stash of silks, dyed by Jenny Cook of Glasbury – I’ve used some already and they stitch brilliantly – so happy.

We drove home the next day taking in a selection of ruins – well this is me, I can’t pass up on the chance to visit a castle or two…

First there was White Castle…

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Then there was Tintern Abbey…

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And finally, Chepstow Castle…

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I’ve really missed out on heritage trips over the summer, so it felt very good indeed to be wandering over the ruins. More about these in a future post.

But for now, it’s back to the stitching.

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Tree Time: October…

Well, really, it hardly feels like a couple of days since I was writing about September – what’s happening!

Yesterday I took this photo of the oak…

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I had intended to write this post yesterday afternoon, but events got in the way. So, roll forward twenty-four hours and this is what it looked like this morning…

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What a difference a day makes (and the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo) – the branches were being seriously tossed about – I imagine there will be significantly fewer leaves on it by the end of today.

Until now, I’ve felt that autumn was drifting in rather slowly this year.

The bracken is fast turning brown and starting to wilt,

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this week I’ve started spotting a lot more toadstools,

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and the holly berries are looking succulent,

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but I suppose because it’s still quite warm, it hasn’t felt especially autumnal – not enough mists yet and only the one cursory frost.

Here’s the oak at the beginning of September for comparison.

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If you want to watch the almost daily progress of the oak over the next couple of months, do follow me on Instagram.

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Self-discipline…

When you’re really busy and need to focus all your energies into one project, the thing you don’t want is a major distraction…

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Oops.

When Jenny mentioned The Wake to me last week, I knew it was going to be right up my street. I should really have exerted some self-discipline and resisted it. But there you are, look what turned up in the post this morning.

I now have to be extremely strict with myself. Stitch – read – stitch, stitch, read…

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This and that…

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I just seem to have too many plates spinning this week. Nothing special or particularly exciting, but you know how some days you’re busy all day and go to bed wondering what you’ve done with the time.

One thing I have done, is to finish the latest stitched tapestry. Well, when I say finish, I mean I’ve stitched it, but there is still all the stretching and coaxing into shape to do and then the mounting onto canvas – but that will have to wait for a few days. Here it is in its raw state…

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At last we seem to be having proper autumnal weather and the colours are well and truly turning now.

We’ve just had our first frost.

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Only mild, and most of it had steamed away by the time the Delinquent Dog and I got out, but still a change.

Then we had rain – heavy showers, but not nearly enough to make a difference to the garden.

And then the sun came out and we had marvellous rays through the trees. I took this picture on my phone (well actually I always do, not having a camera), but it still looks a little odd – ephemeral things sun-rays.

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Right, back to the plates.

Have a lovely week/weekend!

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The Year In Books: October…

In which I come over all contemplative…

IMAG7609I seem to have given up on fiction for a while. Looking over the most recent reads, it’s all been factual.

I thoroughly enjoyed Marc Morris’s The Norman Conquest and was going to go straight on to read his book about castles – rather succinctly titled Castle – except that somewhere in between, I bought a copy of Katherine Swift’s book about her time creating the garden at Morville in Shropshire – The Morville Hours – and found myself immersed in a wonderful way that wouldn’t allow me to put it down until it was finished.

I had intended to read it when it was first published – am I right, was it serialised on radio at the time? But I never got around to it. I used to drive through Morville regularly at one time, before Katherine took over the garden, so I was intrigued to know more.

But this is far more than a gardening book. Oh yes, there is a lot to interest a gardener, but Katherine cleverly arranged her chapters in the form of a medieval Book of Hours, and so, following the turning year, in rhythm with the turning offices of the monastic day, she gives us glimpses of her own life, the history of Morville and people over the ages connected with the area. I was spellbound. I read a review of the book which described its tone as melancholy. I agree, but it felt totally appropriate and I felt sad when I came to the end.

I cheered myself up by going back to Castle. If castles are your thing, this is going to please you, but perhaps not the best reference for your thesis on medieval architecture. My only problem with it though had nothing to do with the content, but with the paper it was printed on. The hardback copy I have uses thick shiny paper – very pretty, but dreadfully difficult to read in bed with the bedside lamp – I had to keep moving the pages around to avoid the reflections (I know, never satisfied some people…). I hadn’t seen the TV series which went with the book, but having finally managed to get Channel 4OD to work, I might seek it out.

It hasn’t been the best summer for history trips for me this year, so reading all these history books has gone some way to sooth a need, but reading The Morville Hours, had renewed an interest in these medieval books – the Books of Hours – each one a magnificent work of art, combined with a story of the men and mostly women who owned them and used them daily. I love that rich mixture, the sense of connection both with the medieval artists who slowly, religiously, wrote and decorated the pages and with the women in whose hands these very pages were held. I suspect that it’s a similar sensation I get from looking at ancient needlework.

So when I was out yesterday on an entirely different mission, and I saw John Harthan’s Books of Hours, I couldn’t resist. It is a book for a history junkie to drool over. There are many colour pictures from Books of Hours throughout the middle-ages, accompanied by a description of the work and details of the owners.

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This is just a tiny detail from The Hours of Isabella Stuart, Duchess of Brittany (c. 1417-18). So much crammed into that space – but what I adore, are the little black lines, deliberate, but also free, can’t you just feel your own hand making those marks. There’s much, much more inside – I will have to restrict my time looking at each example or nothing else will get done around here.

And then, all my Christmas’s coming together, I also found the Sue Clifford and Angela King book, England In Particular in the Oxfam bookshop in Berkhamsted. (Thanks Sue for the recommendation – it’s even better than I’d hoped).

This is another book that could easily keep you engrossed for hours. It’s an A-Z of England and its special ways. I like the blurb that says “…offers a way of looking that makes the mundane magical. It will change the way you see the world”. 

So I’m starting October with two gems. Do you believe in serendipity? I certainly think I was extremely lucky to find these – maybe magical? Who knows, it’s something to contemplate…

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Changing the subject completely – I’m currently gorging myself on Cox’s apples. My mum craved them when she was expecting me, which is my excuse for eating pounds of them at this time of year. Is it me or are they especially good this autumn?

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Show and Tell…

As promised, here are a few pictures I took at the Artists’ Network Bedfordshire’s exhibition last weekend. This was the first time I’ve ever shown any of my stitched tapestries to anyone ‘outside‘.

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You’ll no doubt remember my problems with getting anything from the ‘stitched‘ state, to the ‘showable‘ state over the years. The brilliant thing about having the opportunity to show at this exhibition, was being gently forced to face up to the issue and find a solution.

Thanks to Kathy (Of Gardens, Grandmothers and Gleanings), blogging about the The Eye of The Needle exhibition at the Ashmolean, I went over to Oxford and saw how the Feller Collection had mounted some of their fragments of needlework, using calico stretched over a canvas frame, with the needlework stitched to the calico. Ta Dah! At last, a way to do it that seemed sympathetic with my pieces and achievable without too much difficulty.
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Here’s my table with Firmament, Hedonism and Brian.

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So what did I learn over the weekend?

IMAG7479I discovered how good it feels to be part of a group of like minded people. Making art in many forms is a largely solitary existence, so getting together with other people was a wonderfully uplifting experience. It’s wonderful to find kindred spirits out there! And as you can see, they’re a talented and versatile lot around here.

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I also learned that people are very interested in how we make our pieces. I hadn’t anticipated how chatty visitors would be, and it was quite an eye-opener to realise that complete strangers might actually want to know more about the process and the inspiration behind our work. I also discovered how much I enjoy talking about my stitching (I do hope I didn’t bore for England, but once I got going, I found I loved explaining all about it).

So my first foray into the real world was a very happy experience, and now I know that I can do it, I’m sure I’ll be doing it again.

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Tree Time: September

In which we know it’s autumn…

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Nothing quite like a blue sky for lifting the spirits...

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Nine months of watching the changes to the oak tree on the lane. Above is a picture from each month of 2014, starting in January and ending with the picture I took this morning, showing how the tree – and the hedge – has changed over the weeks and months.

In August, although I felt that something was beginning to be different in the air, you still couldn’t really say that we’d moved into autumn, but now, despite afternoon temperatures on many days reaching summer levels, you certainly know at 8am in the mornings, that the earth has turned into the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…

The oak is changing colour now. There were hints of change last month, but they were difficult to pinpoint, the quality of light makes such a difference to what you can see each day. Now I can see the beginnings of a golding, as if someone has lightly sprayed antique gold paint across the leaves. But it’s still subtle, green continues to dominate.

But change is more obvious in the lane.

The lush growth of midsummer is dying down now. Bracken is tinged with brown as the first fronds die back. The cleavers that I thought would strangle the nettles have all but disappeared. And everywhere, the huge abundance of fruits is evident. The hedges are red with haws and hips, and sloes and blackberries hang heavy along the way.

Gradually I’m beginning to be able to see through the hedge again to the fields beyond, which until now have been hidden behind a curtain of tall, thick green foliage.

This month I’ve surprised a couple of pheasants and been mocked by dozens of squirrels – they obviously think that teasing the Delinquent Dog is a jolly good game. And is it me, or can I hear more birdsong now – it certainly seems so.

I haven’t quite had to resort to gloves and a scarf yet, but it didn’t feel far away today – I might get them out ready.

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I post my daily photographs of the tree and other snaps from walking the Delinquent Dog on Instagram – either follow me there, or see the mini-versions on the right-hand sidebar of the blog for regular updates.

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Scotland and other news…

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Scotland is very much in the news at the moment with the vote less than 24 hours away! But I shall have Scotland in mind throughout 2015 thanks to Jo Woolf at The Hazel Tree, who has produced a fabulous calendar featuring her wonderful photographs of Scottish scenery – and best of all for me – Scottish castles…

If like me you’re in love with Scottish countryside and history and you’re not already following Jo’s blog and website, do go over there right now and have a look around. I thought I knew Scotland pretty well, but since I’ve been reading Jo’s posts, I’ve acquired a long list of places I must visit the next time I go north for a holiday.

I’m not sure how many calendars Jo has available, but there’s a link here to take you to her Etsy shop if you fancy a little piece of Scotland on your wall next year.

(I’m sure you know me well enough by now, but just to reassure you, this is a personal recommendation and not sponsored in any way – I am just a big fan!).

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And in other news…

Well, I’ve finally done it – I have decided to dip my toe tentatively into the real world with my stitchy stuff. At the weekend, I’m hoping to have a small number of my stitched tapestries on display at the Ivinghoe Community Hub, (really close to Ivinghoe Beacon for those in the know) as part of the Artists’ Network Bedfordshire September Art Trail.

Having played around with various ideas, I’ve finally come up with a simple, but I hope effective way of presenting the tapestries, so the last few days have seen me busily putting them together, stabbing myself in the finger far too many times with a very sharp needle and having much more fun than is strictly allowed with a roll of bubble-wrap.

If anyone is in the Beds/Bucks/Herts borderland this weekend and fancies tea, cake and original local art – Ivinghoe is your place to be (the tea room in the same building is absolutely first-rate – it really is extremely good, and you know I’m fussy about these things!).

Wish me luck!

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Little treasures…

The other day, while I was looking for something completely different, I came across this little box which had belonged to my grandmother.

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Not very exciting is it. But then, what happens if you take off the lid and peep inside?

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Here are the sides…

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I’m sure many of you will know now exactly what it is…

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…opened out, it’s obvious – a needle-case.

Dozens of rusty (but still very sharp) needles. And what’s in the middle?

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Just more needles – still wrapped in their black tissue.

A gift to my grandmother from her brother, fighting in France during The Great War. (He survived).

Not all family heirlooms are valuable, some are priceless.

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