Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Alone on my desert Island

Nary a comment on the last post, it must be my taste in music.  I shall be all alone on my desert island, listening to Martha and the Muffins and thinking ironic thoughts...

I made any number of mixtapes when I was a teenager (taping off the top 40... followed by taping off John Peel, I got 'cooler').  Now we have itunes and youtube... I don't use the former but do use the latter.

So here is another favourite

Still on the theme of Desert Island Discs I got to thinking about the book and luxury; luxury is easy.  I would need an unlimited supply of paper and coloured pencils/paint.  But book?  This is even worse than trying to find 8 pieces of music.
I can't decide between Middlemarch; The Woodlanders or Inkheart; 100 years of solitude, The Gruffalo's Child or anything by Terry Pratchett. 

What about you?

Monday, 30 May 2011

How do you get your life's soundtrack down to 8 discs?

Some songs are teenage incarnate!

I have just had huge fun trawling through my musical history for the BBC desert island discs live (great task avoidance...)  It did bring home to me just how important the sound track of our lives is and how eclectic music taste is. 

Some songs are intertwined in my childhood.

And some are just one of many that I could have chosen from a master singer song writer.

What would you choose?

Saturday, 28 May 2011

poetry and presents

Standing alone and aloof,

ribbon ears streaming back in the breeze.
A twitch, a nostril flares,
head up with brown eyes alert.
Up, side, forward, side-graceful
leaps and bounds.
Angled against the oncoming threat.

I am not one of lifes natural poets; however I needed a poem to show the children at school the use of description to create an image, so I wrote my own.  Like many people I have a love for hares; I find them graceful, fascinating and beautiful.  We are very lucky here in Nottinghamshire as it is an ideal place to see them, large flat fields, hedges for cover. 

And this was the present: my husband knows I have a thing about tall ships and bucaneers. This little man arrived in the post this morning.
I have another pirate project in the offing as well....

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Noodling, doodling and not doing work

First the Doodling!  Some crimson; 
 Some pale;

Some frisky and brown.

Then the noodling: just look to my blog list to see all the distractions I can find.

Finally to the work avoidance!  I have spent so much time noodling and doodling that I am very behind on the school reports I should have written. 

I am going to put my nose to the proverbial grindstone; when I have completed the task in hand my reward will be .....Who knows?

Sunday, 22 May 2011

not looking up, not looking down but looking all around!

I often moan about living in Nottingham, it is frequently dirty and sometimes unloved; it is too far from the sea and it has a terrible reputation.  And yet it is a city full of the most amazing suprises, a vibrant theatre and music culture and a superb set of art galleries.  It is also the master of the hidden (and some not so hidden) green spaces. Sometimes you get to find the most amazing things in the oddest of places

We have Wollaton Park, the Elizabethan hunting lodge, built in the 1550's by Sir Francis Willoughby;  today the house is a natural history museum with a large deer park and industrial museum in the grounds.  It is a lovely place and if you are quiet you get to see some very special sights.

Less well known are the other wildlife and country parks in the City and surrounding areas.  After a picnic at Wollaton we explored a new one (for us):  Broxtowe Country Park

The park is encircled by several housing estates, the main road from Bilborough to the motorway and sundry suburban buildings.  It is huge, a range of shrubs, meadow like grassland, deciduous trees and a small wash-brook. 
Whilst the boys collected sticks, hid in long grass, ran in and out of woodland and rolled in the mud; we walked, wandered and marvelled at this wild area.

There were shades of pink, blue and green.  There were flashes of yellow and the sounds of laughter.

 And when that all got too much there was this...

I hope you enjoyed this quick look around some of Nottinghams hidden gems.  I have more for you in the future, if you are ever this way and like to walk in peace, solitude and enchanted places I will happily share some of ours with you.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Sometimes you just have to know where to look.

Baby peregrine falcons on the Newton Building  Aren't they wonderful?

It's been a wonderful morning for birds.  Although we live on the edge of a big city there are still wonders if you know where to look.  Upwards is a good start, or here if you are not in Nottingham.
Our University is home to a family of peregrines, this morning we stood in the street and watched the parents bringing food to the ledge.  Some people thought we were mad and couldn't work out what we were looking at; another family also stood entranced, they knew how to look too!

Sometimes down is a good place as well.  I have been soundly told off by the great tits in the garden.
When I looked at my feet I saw their first fledgling in the wood pile. 
I did not get a photo of my fledgling sad to say, I was too busy carrying the cat inside; I want the birds to have a fighting chance.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Hairballs and Hayfever and unfinished birds


It is at this time of year that I usually look at my best, red eyes, snotty nose, constantly jerking head waiting for that sneeze. But this year I haven't been too bad...unlike the cat, who must have a 40 a day habit from the amount of coughing and wheezing and hacking going on. 

However I do still have some hayfever, and very annoying it is too, so I am not finding much inclination to do very much.  I have half finished projects around the house, there is an owl in the upstairs study, naked from the neck down.  There is a crow on a log downstairs, he is now hiding behind the tv until I can get round to giving him some feathers.

But I have managed to finally complete and frame a painting.  This one has sat on the easel for at least 18 months,  so one of my quicker pieces then (no wonder I couldn't make my living this way).

The pictures are not ideal as the glass is reflective and they hang near a southeastern window.
I also framed up a small sketch, the legs are all wrong but I am fond of this one (it is not often that I like my work so this is a novel feeling).

When the sneezles stop and the cat stops hacking, hopefully motivation will return and I will finish off some of the WIP's cluttering up the house.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Pandora's box part two

I called the first part of this post Pandora's Box because (having been caught up with "evils" that make me cross) the box contained hope.  I consider there to always be hope available when minds are open, wisdom is shared and inspiration provided.  I find this in many of the blogs and websites I visit.

It has been the availability of teachers (like my friend Helen) who are willing to pass on their expertise that offers me the hope that I can improve and perfect the skills I might have.

In part one I mentioned that we spend our summers in Finland; we try to give the children at least one day trip into town and one of these was the Helsinki Zoo.  Now I am not a huge fan of traditional Zoos; however I can see and appreciate those institutions that work on projects that support animals in the wild, and that aim to educate the public.  Thankfully Helsinki would seem to be such a place.

They have a large enclosure that is home to two brown bears; the most magnificent beasts, which are native to Northern Finland and Russia.  These wonderful creatures are coming ever further south in search of food.  We have found evidence of one in the woods near Tim's family's place, which is down in the Southerly part of the country.

We marvelled at these majestic animals, took photographs to remind us of the privilege of seeing them close up.  Then once home I tried to create my first 3d animal in felt: 
Not easy; this needle felting.  I tried and tried but could not get the shape right, the hump, on the shoulders, would not form properly.  I was thoroughly disappointed with the end result.

Sometimes I am not easily put off though,  I got the needles out and had another go:

A bit more successful this time, still a bit fuzzy and soft, not every limb quite where I wanted it but a vast improvment.  Feeling more confident I got going on some others and slowly but surely I am improving.  My goal is to have the professional finish achieved by Gretel Parker or Natasha Fadeeva.  I am a long way off that yet.  Each piece is a little better than the last.


Friday, 13 May 2011

Pandora's box

I realised that the last Chest of Delights post was anything but delightful.  The life of a teacher is one long rollercoaster ride: full of exhilarating highs and swooping lows; all taken at breakneck speed.  SATs week is both.  I posted on a day where we all hit the lowpoint of the week, sadly too early. 

According to friends, I have many soapboxes and one day will probably fall off one of them.

So to make it up I thought I would look at the sheer joy of being educated into something I never dreamed I would be capable of.

The Textile Workshop had been open for some time, offering courses in everything from quilting to pattern design.  They also offered Felting, taught by a dear friend; I had a spare evening, a need for something to give me a creative outlet and the desire to mix with new people.  Over the course of the next 20 weeks I had the best learning experience. 

I had no idea I it was possible to produce such a range of fabrics, objects and finishes.  I was taught to wet felt, use resists, felt to form, and to needle felt (which I promptly fell in love with).
Firstly the exam piece

This was the submission for my exam and was inspired by a pair of very special mugs from Finland, designed by the wonderful Klaus Haapeniemi
This led to me wanting to make more things like this, so I made the small hare picture, the one at the top. 

With confidence building, I had a go at making hats and started to embellish them with needle felted flowers and other things

Then the came the summer holidays: as we are wont to do, we took off for Finland.   We spend our summers there, with my husbands family.  Whilst there we took several day trips into town (Helsinki) with our boys and their cousins,  one of which trips would provide the inspiration for me to try my hand at something new...

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

What is Educashun! Let's write about what you did today!

It's a funny old week: this one week each year...

Every 10-11 year old in the country (barring those at private school or those home educuated) gets to sit their SATs.  According to successive education secretaries this one week will show: how a school has performed, have the teachers raised standards and followed the proscribed curriculum; can the children sit a test in exam conditions!   Oh yes and what attainment that child has made.

One week... on the basis of that one week the great governmental statisticians calculate how far along the expected educational track the child has come, are they on target?  Then we can tell everyone how ....
(insert here favourite rhetoric of choice, didn't someone once say there are lies, damned lies and statistics.).

Where is the child in this?  And what is Educashun for?   Can you tell I am angry?

I love my job.  I have the privilege of influencing and guiding the next generation.  I see my job as the most important one I have ever had in my life, as what I do has an effect on another person for good or ill.  If I teach badly, if I am unfair, or mean, I put a child off the love of learning for a long time.  The memories of bad teachers stay with us for a lifetime.  When I succeed I light the fire and teach the skills (for each child) to be able to find out what the world is about.  I equip them with the tools they need to achieve. 

And yet,  on monday this week, I watched 42 children walk out of a room looking shell shocked.  They had been given a reading paper that they did not comprehend and were asked questions, worded in such a way, I had to read them twice to be sure what the answer should be.
READING... one of the greatest pleasures in life had just been turned into an hour of purgatory for 42 kids.  And I can guarantee that our children were not the only ones feeling that way.

What is education?

I can guarantee that question has made you react strongly!  Either you hated school or loved it.. maybe you think our current system works, maybe you sit in horror at what we are doing to our children.  Whatever you think, you will have had a reaction.

Ranting to be continued...

Sunday, 8 May 2011


Life is full of dilemmas, sometimes fixable, sometimes not.  Before I set up this blog, I spent quite a long time trying to decide whether I should or not.  Would anyone really be interested in what I have to say; does anyone really want to look at the stuff I make; what is it I am trying to do? However, I am guilty of overthinking things  so I gave myself a shake and plunged in.

     So what of the dilemmas?  Firstly, how to let people know I am here!  How do bloggers interest people into looking at what they have to show?  It seems a bit rude to beg, or to e-mail people and suggest they come over and look. 

Nevertheless I still need to trumpet my arrival in cyberspace...so I contacted the lovely Gretel (she is one of the inspirations for showing my work; I aspire to her creativity and professionalism).  I also, somewhat jokingly put out a begging letter on facebook.  I only have a very small number of friends on there as I am not cyber-social at all.  So how do you get people to read you?

Once I had started pondering dilemmas I began to think what I really want this blog to to be about. 

I do want to showcase my felting;  I do this in isolation and find that the critical eye of others is lacking, because of this I make mistakes and get too close to the work to view it objectively.  The same holds true of my paintings.  I tend to keep them private as I am rarely happy with the end product; the pictures in my mind's eye do not tend to translate through my fingers and brush.  Am I the only person who doesn't actually like their own painting style?  Anyway,I do want to use the blog to find out what people think of my work, to garner suggestions for improvement and to act as a virtual studio space shared with others.
Work in progress.

Thoughts, being what they are, tend to lead into sidetracks; I got to thinking about another dilemma: that of living in the city.  I am a semi-rural girl at heart (semi-rural because I have spent most of my life in suburban England but always longed for the country).  I have a need for greenery, trees, wildlife and peace.  And yet I live on the edge of Nottingham, one of the more deprived and poor cities in the UK.  I am lucky enough to have a wonderful, if unkempt, garden, that is almost adjacent to a huge park.  We are visited by foxes, hedgehogs, tawny owls, sparrowhawks, goldfinches and more.  We attract insects and spiders, butterflies and beetles; the pipistrelle bat circles the house each dusk on his nightly round up of fat bodied, grey winged moths. 

I love the area I live in but still  a part of me would like to live further out, in a smaller community, away from the grime and the mess, the traffic and the sounds, the smells of diesel and landfill.  But then I think about the friends we have in just such a community; they are reliant on their cars, they have not got a local shop any more, so have to drive to the neares big town to shop.  They would have to walk miles for just the bare necessities.

Here, in my little bit of the world, I have green grocers, butchers (the old fashioned sort with proper wooden blocks, eggs with the feathers still stuck to them, sausages in strings); we have a superb delicattesen, who source local cheeses and stock wonderful olives.  I shop on foot, walking out with my bags over my shoulders.  Not only that I live close enough to the place where I work to be able to walk there in half an hour.

Not so for my children though, they go to a school where the catchment is so wide, most of their friends live a car journey away.  The roads are too fast and unsafe for them to be able to go out by themselves; they are not yet old enough to even go up to the park on their own.  None of the freedoms I took for granted as a child are there for them.

Anyway, back to the purpose of this blog.  I actually do not mind if only a few people find me, although the more the merrier if you want to know me better.  I want my blog to be like my sketchbook: eclectic, full of my thoughts, the things that interest me, what I am working on, the problem solving going on in my head.

 I plan to post things I have made, thoughts I have had, successes and failures, your thoughts are welcome and I look forward to sharing with those of a like mind. 

Saturday, 7 May 2011

A bit new to all this ...

Having finally decided to take the plunge into the web I am now feeling a bit like Alice in Wonderland.  Which is a rather weak link to show you all my latest work, Alice and the Flamingo.
She currently has a place in the Textile Workshop window (our fabulous local centre for needle based crafts here in Sherwood, Nottingham).

My main reason for blogging is to share the things that I make with anyone interested...assuming you might be...and to have someone to tell about the small things that delight me each day. 

I love children's stories and tend to use them as my starting point when felting, the owl and the pussycat were my exam piece for the advanced felting course last year.

Anyway this is me, I will try not to be too boring.