Friday, 29 July 2011

stone twenty nine

Little boy, eyelids loaded down by a day of friendship and family; see-sawing 'tween sleep and tears.  Reassured by the brush of his parents lips stops the see-saw at sleep.

Woodland Trust panel
There are two days left to register your views.  Please click on the link and tell the government what you really think.  The more of us there are the more likely they are to listen.

Thank you to our MP, Chris Leslie, who took the time to write to us and let us know the panel was there.


The Swedes have a wonderful word, snasksjuk, it literally means candy sick.  It's that feeling you get when you really, really want sweet things; that only chocolate will make it go away.  I have a similar 'sickness'
, Boksjuk (Google translation: Book disease).

I have suffered from this condition from childhood, the constant sensation that I need more books. We have 7 large bookcases in our house, each of which shelves double rows of books.  As well as these there are piles  of books by the bed, in the dining room in the kitchen, on the floor by the window.  In fact there are books everywhere you look (unfortunately the whole household is boksjuk).  We assuage some of the symptoms by using the library...but the need to own the books is very strong.

I am going through a particularly bad bout of this sickness at the moment, and it doesn't matter how short of cash I am I can always find the money for more books.  I cannot go past a bookshop, new or second hand with out my feet turning and taking me through the door.  I can get lost for hours searching out new treasures that I have not read before.  I will read anything, I don't like to be caged by genre, my only request is that the characters make me care about them and the writing be of reasonable quality (I am not good with badly written prose).

I love bookshops, the small twisty, turny ones, with book rooms off  stair ways and other rooms.  I like the type of town that has bookshops in back alley ways, the sort that has tables of books outside, books piled up on the stairs and hand written labels for the shelves.  They are a precious and rare breed these days and we should use them and support them before they are lost.

One of my favourites is Scarthin books in Cromford, which is just this type of shop.  Lovely little rooms, full of wonders, big soft chairs, tables and the best book cafe in the world.  Keith's bookshop in Bakewell is less mazelike, but he stocks music (Jazz, world and Folk) he stocks interesting books from small obscure publishers as well as main stream best sellers.  The Bookcase in Lowdham is small, open but equally lovely; they also organise and run the Lowdham Book Festival every year.  There is Rhyme and Reason, in Sheffield, Maynard and Bradley in Leicester and many others.  I even like Waterstones, on the grounds that it is a physical bookshop, rather than an internet shop.

I love the smell of books, new and unopened ones, old and musty ones.  In the case of the former I love the idea that my eyes are the first to unlock the magic in the symbols within.  With the latter it is the idea of a book passing through many hands on it's journey to me.  Who held and loved it? What shelves did it sit on?  What games did it inspire or artwork did it engender?  I love quirky books, non fiction books, how to books, I love children's picture books, teenage fiction, good crime, classics, high literature, science fiction, humour.
Duck, Death and TulipThe Girl with Glass Feet
This often means I have a wish list beyond my means.
Ali Shaw, The girl with the glass feet
Arto Paasilinna: The year of the Hare
Wolf Elbruch: Duck, Death and the Tulip.
Gretel Parkers: Puddletown Tales (all of them)
James Mayhew: Boy
Marcus Sedgewick: All the ones I haven't read yet.
Jackie Morris: Tell me a Dragon
And any other as yet undiscovered treasures hidden on the shelf.

Do you have a similar sickness?  What is on your wish list?

Thursday, 28 July 2011

stone twenty eight

Sounds; on the edge of comprehension,
two voices intertwining downstairs; giggling, urgent,
the world speeding by at childhoods pace.
Slower, gentler, breaths like a wave kissing the shore.
Their father huffs, turns, eyes fluttering under tired lids.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

stone twenty seven

Maiden flights
Dressed in iridescent pink robes, wedding garments that take flight.  These giants in the midst are chivvied and pushed, higher and higher up pot and stem.  As fast as they emerge they are gone.


Hope: there was a reason that it was put into the box by Prometheus; he knew that man cannot live without it. 
 It is a concept that I have been mulling over for the last few days.

Every generation has a sense of the ills of the world; history teaches us that we fear change, hanker after a past that often did not really exist (outside the imagining of nostalgia) and try to mould the world into our image of how it should be.  Mankind that is!  We are a clever species, manipulating tools to achieve our ends, altering nature to suit our needs; we create wonder and horror in equal measure.  Scientists offer us double edged marvels; investigating journalists bring  injustices to our notice, professional gossip mongers seek out scandal for guilty titillation.  Our current news channels seem filled with death, despair and bigotry. All the ills of the world did indeed leave the box.

 But...hope was also in the box, and although Pandora almost shut it out of the world, it managed to escape.
Hope   This winter was hard, long and harsh; I lost many plants from the garden, including my beloved Bay tree.  As the snows retreated and the warmer days gently soothed the ground so that the plants began to wake and grow.  Eventually there was a profusion of greens all around, except for the brown and freeze burned Bay.  

Finally I accepted defeat and cut the tree back to a small stump, intending to dig out the root.  Then May baked the earth to rock and I couldn't have broken the ground enough to get to it.  So I left the stump and forgot about it.  'Til recently!  I noticed a small green shoot where the bay had been, a week later the shoots had multiplied and sprouted up and out.  My Bay tree has grown up from the root and is again scenting both air and food.  It made me think of how hope springs from the most dormant of places.

The river god Peneus transformed his daughter, Daphne, into a bay tree; he did this to save her from Apollo, whose amorous, rapacious advances filled her with horror.  The bay offers the symbol of transformation and safety.   I am beginning to see the bay as symbolic of hope.  It is tenacious, not easily defeated and capable of renewal. 

It has been prized through out history and has been a symbol of triumph and achievement, it is worn by Caesar, Dante and doctors. It is used to reduce blood pressure, aid the processing of insulin in the body, it is anti-inflammatory and has been used to sooth gastric ulcers.  Once again the bay is a symbol of hope.

Hope, this simple concept, is what enables us to grow and change.  Today I am going to pick and preserve a sprig from the bay in the garden, to remind me that there is always hope and the chance of renewal in the world, no matter how "dead" things seem to be. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

stone twenty six

Leaf whispers, telling secrets to the breeze.
Bees gossip in and out of the majoram flowers.
The air warm, hinting at the sun behind it's grey gauze.

stone twenty five

Sadly stone twenty five was a small moment missed.  Having been frantically decorating for three days, taking advantage of Tim being away in Scotland (Tim is not good at decorating in the living spaces, he gets twitchy when furniture is moved).  I am sure that the still small moments happened around me, however I was either looking at a wall of changing colour, a dripping brush or a paint splattered dust sheet.  After the boys had gone to bed, the pots were washed and put away I flopped onto the sofa and promptly fell asleep, waking up long enough to drag a weary body to bed.

So small stones, whatever you may have been, I am sorry I missed you yesterday.  I will look more carefully for you today, in between painting the rest of the house.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

stone twenty four

Imprinted paw, long ago pressed into wet concrete,  which cat and to whom did it belong?

Written for the, newly noticed, print in the stippled concrete in our drive: 12 years I have walked up and down the driveway and never noticed the paw marks before

Saturday, 23 July 2011

stone twenty three

Stripping away the layered history. What secrets did each paper ear hear and painted eye behold?

Friday, 22 July 2011

stone twenty two

Hands smoothing, folding, patting down the soft fabric.  Piling and sorting the young from the old, the day from the night.  All the time the mind is painting and singing and laughing with familiar old favourites on the radio.

Food for thought

If you have not come across this before and are interested in education: food for thought.

I am lucky to be in a school that is redesigning our curriculum, as far as statutory requirements will let us.  He and Chris Quigley are providing the impetus.


I share my home with a light, hidden under a bushel!  My husband Tim is a man with skill, talent and creative urges.  He is a fabulous photographer, his blurb book having been featured on a previous posting; he is a talented teacher (which often saps his energy and eats up his time) but he also has another talent.

We are lucky, here in Sherwood, to be surrounded by a fantastically artistic community of people, Guy Routledge being one of them.  Guy runs a pottery studio that he opens to people who want to learn; Tim has been going here for some years now and has been learning and honing his skills with clay and glaze.  This week he brought home his latest work.

He has been creating bowls and firing them using the Raku technique.  Our house smells of wood smoke, which reminds us all of Finland.

He also created a stack of three lovely bowls, with a duck-egg blue glaze, and a cream, crackle glazed bowl with the smoothest surface; it is like touching silk.

So, in the gentle sunshine of this morning, I sneaked outside with his work and took these photographs.  

Aren't they beautiful?

I am not good with clay and am in awe of his ability to shape and mould a material I cannot work well myself. I am so proud of him, he needs to stop hiding his light under that bushel.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

stone twenty one

Outside all is bustle and fuss, noise and nonsense.
Meanwhile, through a cracked open doorway,
lies rest,  the haven of my days.

What happened to stone twenty

I couldn't find it in me to post last night.  Yesterday was overloaded with emotions and manic carrying's it is on the same day every year in a Primary schools life.  We said goodbye to our year 6 and set them forth on their journey into secondary school.

This year the children were somewhat special for me as they were the year 4's in my very first class as an NQT. Your first class is always special and my 4H were exceptionally special.  They just gelled together as a class (mixed year grouping and a new teacher here, remember) and were the best behaved, fun, cheeky and serious when it needed.  Needless to say I cried over them, growing up and moving on. As a result I came home drained and not in the frame of mind for reflection (on quiet small moments) in a day full of big moments.

It did get me thinking about changes and how they are necessary.  Each change is a step forward on the journey through life, to be embraced and met with fortitude and optimism.  I hope that this is a lesson I have given to my own children as well as the children in my care each Monday to Friday. This in turn got me thinking of the transience of our lives,  we sometimes are tempted to try and stop change and preserve things in stasis.  This is not natural, preservation essentially makes things static, lifeless and entropic.  We all move through from a beginning to an end, changing and growing, expanding in some ways and diminishing in others.  It is a cycle that is important, necessary to us in body and spirit.

I thought about the beautiful rainbow that we saw this week.  How it formed and deepened in colour, arching through the rain sodden sky.  A perfect curve and merging together of colours.  You can't hold it or keep it.  It is a transient and magical phenomena to gladden the spirit.  We need to observe and treasure the rainbows in our lives, they come when the conditions are right, they are fleeting and cannot be held; they leave us with memories, ready to move forward towards the next rainbow.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

stone nineteen

The dusk sky, shaded in greys, sports a ribbon of birds.  Where it began, where it will end is not known. I watch in wonder, barefoot on the grass, the juice of a stolen plum on my tongue.

Tuesday wanderings through cyberspace, when not able to sleep

Sometimes I have difficulty sleeping, often waking up between 4.30 and 5.00am.  Rather than disturb Tim, I tend to go off and watch the news, paint a little or read.  My guiltiest pleasure though is to trawl through the internet for oddities and interesting nuggets.  This is one such nugget.

CGI can manage to create amazing things on film but it is missing something; there is a creativity in animation that is limited by its methods.  Old fashioned stop motion animation can create an enchantment all of its own.
However it is, and always will be, the story that counts.


Monday, 18 July 2011

stone eighteen

Eyes sore and tired, back aching, head spinning: despite all this there is a sense of satisfaction of a job well done.


I could have created a number of small and quiet moments from today. We had the privilege of witnessing the most perfect rainbow I have ever seen, this evening.  However this needs a post to itself as my husband has taken some superb photos, which I want to share.  This rainbow had the most extraordinary effect on both of us.  That in itself needs considering and absorbing, before I write about it.

Monday morning music

The link below is for a recent collaboration, available on the BBC Late Junction Podcast.  It is 25 minutes of the most lovely interpretations of some old English folk songs: including the Dark Eyed Sailor, one of my favourite songs. It will be on the bbc for the next month

 C Joynes & Stephanie Hladowski

In the meantime here is a taster.

This is C Joynes.

and this is Stephanie Hladowski.

Together they make magic.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


There is something about a blank sheet of paper that is truly magical.  I really enjoy the sense of anticipation it engenders.  What will emerge?

Often there is an idea in my head, elusive: like a memory that is just around the corner.  It is a bit like a smell I can't quite place or a tune that is vaguely familiar.  Sometimes the paper sits and stares at me and the brushes remain idle and dry in their pot.  Occasionally the idea spills out through the pencil and paint.  What ever it is the final picture is rarely the image that started in my head, whether for good or bad.

So here I am, with a blank piece of paper, anticipating.

...And the look in his eye
Seemed to say to the sky,
"Now, how to amuse them to-day?

AA Milne, Sneezles

stone seventeen

a lap full of warm giggles starts off my day perfectly.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Nottingham's hidden gems

I am not often a fan of local government, our own in particular.  There is often an inherent arrogance, or well meaning condescension, that rankles.  However I do acknowledge there is a need for local services and amenities to be coordinated.  But once local services are out of the way there are often projects that steamroller ahead regardless of local feelings.

That aside, our local council has recently been responsible for an initiative that I applaud wholeheartedly.  Take a look at these.

There is a range of meadows planted in each spare patch of our local parks; in addition there are apple trees, brambles a butterfly meadow as well as many, many trees of different varieties.  This use of the space has encouraged a growth in the variety of local insects, and therefore the local bird population.  We have now seen an increase in common butterflies, grasshoppers and beetles.  This year we have almost forty swifts in the area, taking advantage of the abundance of food.  We have goldfinches, greenfinches, chiff chaffs and an increase in thrushes, blackbirds and sparrows.
The park is home to a nesting pair of sparrow hawks and a pair of tawny owls.  We also have a new (healthier) family of foxes.  It is a haven on the doorstep for our urban dwelling;  we have walked in the dark and hooted with the owls, strolled in the sunshine and seen the woodpecker and the squirrels.  The park is used by everyone locally: dog walkers parents and children, joggers, local footballers, golfers and walkers.

So thank you to the council for this well spent money, Sherwood is a better place because of it.

stone sixteen

Two windows:  one receiving a tattoo of scattered drops constantly changing.
One is in my minds eye; full of flowers and sunshine.

Friday, 15 July 2011

A whole river of polished stones (day 15)

This morning my class got involved in creating their stones for the river.  Some of them were personal and shall remain private; some of them were writings they were happy to share.

Here are some of them:

So slimy so small.
Scared of all the staring eyes.
Water it needed.
by Bilal age 11

Yesterday I nearly got stung by a elagent fluff of fur glissning in the sun.
by Jamani-george Age 10

I was walking gently downstairs,I went to go feed my goldfish when I saw they were just floating
on top of the water,not moving,eyes open;just floating
by Raheema Din Age 10

Afternoon Nap!
Weights on my shoulders, eyes that can hardly open. The blur of my vision, my comfy cloud calling out to me. Finally it happened, I was in a dreamy trance.
By Eden Simeon Robert aged 11

Rasberry Guards.
A bush growing tasty fruit,
has a dark side,
a side with fouricious guards,
hard to tackle,
the hold sharp knives
By Jessica Dorothea Devonport Age 9

Life of Heaven and Hell
The door to extra ordinary life has opened!
I have left the quiet zone and stepped into a whole new world!
I felt an unbearable pain every day of horrid, whispy whisperers
slowing down my life bit by bit.
However now heavenly sounds of advice touches my heart taking my soul
above extra terrestrial life.
My opposites are living the life of punishment.
Over there, souls of fire creep inside your heart squeezing out love and care
and leaves you with irrisistable pain of guilt and evil.... FOREVER!
By Tasnia Age 11

The Second side
My white and black dog Milo,
has blue shiny eyes,
at night his eyes turn red,
he always whines when he wants to play,
I wish I could communicate with him,
talk to him.
When I play with him, he jumps up and down,
wanting me to throw his stick for him to catch.
By Salma Age 10

Fluffy, white and big, bounces in my kitchen under the table,
nibbling carrots and cucumber happily.
By Patrycja Age 10

I felt the water fall,
thunder and lightining was in the air,
crash was what I heard.
By Umar Age 10

Moving houses
The patterned walls and comfy, soft bed fade away like a distant memory,
only to be replaced by exciting adventures yet to come.
By Divij aged 10

Tennis Ball,
Furry, woolly, yellow and white. I bounced it and I caught it, I felt good.
Oliverees aged 10

I saw butterfly on Miroslava's head.
Fluttering, orange and yellow.
land on soft brown and black hair.
By Miroslava's friends.

My Budgie
It's green and blue,
the fluffy feathers shimmer in the sun as it flies through the window frame.
Ismael aged 10

My Cousin.
My naughty little cousin came to my house yesterday. We ran around the playground nearly all day. When we came home we went to the restaurant we ate patty and drank.
Brittney aged 10.

I like fishes, I have tropical ones.
Halima aged 11.

Every child enjoyed the exercise, they didn't all want to post their writings, some were too personal.

I loved reading these, I hope you do too.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

stone fourteen

Disembodied voices from the back office, riffing off the conversations next door.
"Ears have walls you know?"  Laughter, smiles, the wheelie chair emerges from the gap; it's driver grinning.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

stone thirteen

Glistening red, hidden under blankets of green.  Beware there is a yellow and black sentinel on guard, armed with a poison sword.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

stone twelve

Scuffling, scrabbling, then frog legged and bush tailed she inched under the fence; trying to pretend she had never been there at all.

Monday, 11 July 2011

stone eleven

Spoke spin, wheel glint,
swooshing and swishing of rubber on tarmac.
creaking brake and shooshing shoes;
confidence briefly deserts as the foot meets the earth again.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

stone ten

Empty...a space waiting for replacement...the septic matter of anger and sorrow having leached away, after the lancing of the raw and friction-ful pustule of negativity.

Conforming to stereotypes in defiance of academics

Apologies for the "pseuds corner" title but I recently read an academics analysis of the world of blogging.  According to this erudite observer of human behaviour,  blogs are dominated by women who make crafted tat, their blogs are predominantly pink and they treat their cats as children.  This may or may not be true (and is not the reason for changing my background colour...honest).

I did have a bit of a chuckle when I realised that I was a conformer to this stereotype at a superficial level.
I don't consider what I do as tat, clutter maybe, but not tat; I also suspect that the net contribution to the domestic economy and enterprise of the UK of this "tat" is probably considerable.  Not to mention the number of subsidiary farming and cottage industries that are sustaining rural economies and allowing some people to work where they live.

On the subject of pink: I will bow to his observational skills, however I do know that there is a reason dull pink is often used as a background matt.  It is a neutral tone that is often used in art galleries and museums; the walls of these institutions are usually in a range of pale dove greys, through pinks to olive greens.  As a colour it doesn't detract from or conflict with the foreground focus.

As to cats as children!  I have two perfectly good children of my own and no need of treating my cat as a child; I neither dress him in clothes that are not cool or embarrass him in public.  I don't go out with him and sing to his friends or ask them inane and silly questions.  I don't insist that he go to bed at a suitable hour or complain that the TV he watches is rotting his brain.  He is an animal, he has his own personality and habits and chooses to live with us until evolution grants him opposable thumbs, then he will no longer need the walking tin opener and exit provider.

On that final note I will leave you with a picture Chi Chi (Cheech for short) as I do feel I should conform to stereotypes.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

stone nine

Spied through curtains, a small pyjama'd figure stretching and trying to hang out wet clothes.  A moment tinged with sadness as childhood seems to be creeping away.

dedicated to my 9 year old.

Friday, 8 July 2011

stone eight

Hypnotic: drifting across the washed out blue, the first misty layer
Further up, further out, billowing cotton puffs like a Victorian theatre backdrop.
Tonight's performance over.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

stone seven

Blank, searching through the memory for that one still moment of noticing.  Blank, realising that the pace of the day was so fast and frenetic that these moments crept passed unnoticed, un-remarked, neglected.
I have realised that the small polished moment of the day is now...the first time today I have sat and found a stillness.  This moment is my noticed moment of the day, the ear and eye turned inwards and quiet.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

stone six

The rumble of wheels, on the dusty surface of the planet, sounded like thunder in the distance.  Resolutely the alien vehicle sped forwards towards the unidentified space ship in the distance.  Light from a far off star illuminated the scene as the action played out... in the blonde haired head of my son.  Lego on the window sill transformed into a full screen drama before his eyes.

Wordle Nurdle

I don't often play on the internet (ha, is writing a blog not playing?).  However, I had a wordle moment this morning.  Using the blog text from the stones in the river I made a word cloud of my own.

It made me very happy. I wonder if you can see why?

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

stone five

Six o'clock sunshine, warming ground, leaves, grass.  Curled up, nose to tail, the russet red vixen stirs; sharp ears detecting the click of a window frame.  The alien sound alerting her to intruders on her moments of safe repose.  She stares, not nervous yet, but aware.  Then with a dismissive shrug she tucks back her nose under her fur blanket, considering us no more than an irritation.

Monday, 4 July 2011

stone four

Not often seen but always there underneath, the love between two brothers.  Bickering, complaining, chasing, shouting and yet they cannot bear it if the other is away.  I hope the invisible threads that hold them together remain flexible but unbroken.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

My father's hands

Sometimes I find I notice the oddest things, often when doing something else.  As I was editing a photograph for Stone Three, a section of the photo caught my attention.

These are my father's hands, they tell the story of his life.  Through the slightly noduled knuckles and the risen veins; through the smoothness of the fingertips; the prints almost erased after years of handling chemicals without gloves.  They are the hands of a photographer, gardener, friend of small children and adult alike.  They are very precious hands; they held mine as a child and showed me the world, they picked me up when I fell over, wiping away tears; they have offered me love and support my whole life.

They are not only my father's hands, they are my grandfather's.  I have never noticed that before.  My grandad's hands were always brown from working outside, they were calloused from carrying coal bags, fruit boxes; from currying horses and handling tack.  And yet my dad has his father's hands, the same shape, the same fingers, the same gestures.

I wonder if I have my father's hands?

Stone three

Green crescent seeds hooked into black fur, dull grey goose-grass clinging to a tail.  These are the map of a nights adventuring; telling the story of where he has been.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

stone two

Counting! small things, hidden things. spots underfoot, arrows in the sky.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Stone one

The courage of a child. Witness the way she swallowed her nerves, forcing them down.  Hear the words that she  persuaded across a dry tongue and past unwilling lips.  See the strengthening of resolve and the growth of courage.  Gather the work and wonder at the maturity displayed. Witness the young woman stand and leave

A newly polished stone falls into the river...

Thank you to Martine at Silencing the bell for introducing me to this project.  I too am now adding my own pebbles to the river, to see if they can smooth and polish.  I love the idea of improving my writing through such a meditative practice.

Thank to Fiona and Kaspa for hosting, organising and marshalling all these burgeoning words.