New Year’s Resolutions – the Library

Happy New 2015 and sorry I’ve been away so long. Blame it on end of year exhaustion, blame it on our new roof and windows, a cold over Christmas or a busy start to the year at work. Whatever caused it now it’s a new year.

I don’t really do New Year resolutions. I am always resolving to write blog posts more often, so there is nothing ‘new ’ about that. However, owing to finally having a new roof and windows, and the cost of the said roof and windows, and the desire to now make the inside of the house look as beautiful as the outside, we are trying to spend less money this year and make what we have left go further.

Packing up the first room to be decorated reminds me how many books we have in our house. There are shelves of them in every room apart from the bathroom, as well as shelves on both landings. (Both of us work for publishers, which doesn’t help.) But this year I have resolved to buy less books and CDs and DVDs and so I decided to rejoin the library.

As soon as I could read I went weekly with my Father to the Churchtown Library – now knocked down to make way for flats – and read my way through piles of books. When I moved to the area I now live in I went regularly to the Hanley Road Library – until it was knocked down to make way for flats. Islington did have other libraries, but they were much further away and gradually my membership lapsed.

I have always thought the fact that, as long as you can prove your address, you are allowed to walk away from a library with armfuls of books, CDs, DVDs etc. ABSOLUTELY FREE OF CHARGE!! is a sign of a civilised society and a wonderful thing… In fact it’s even better than buying them. You can try out a book just because you saw it sitting on the shelf next to that author you really like or it caught your eye as you walked past. If you hate it you can give it back and move on…and if you love it you can search the shelves and the library catalogue for more.

A little while ago I discovered when out walking that there is a branch of Haringey Libraries about ten minutes from my house. It is small but perfectly formed, and so for the sake of my purse and in support of our beleaguered public library system, I am once more the proud owner of a library card.   And guess what – while I was away libraries have got even better. I can now download eBooks and audiobooks to my iPad as well as all the other things it can provide…

Now I am keeping my fingers crossed that nobody decides to knock it down and build flats….!

Useful and Beautiful

I have long been in agreement with the famous William Morris quote:

‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ William Morris lecture ‘The Beauty of Life’, 1880

I love the fact that he doesn’t necessarily expect things to be both. He allows for ‘unnecessary’ beauty and personal taste and doesn’t say that everyone else should think something is beautiful – only that you should…

I recently saw this on the National Portrait Gallery website (where they are currently having a Morris Exhibition.)

‘Nothing which is made by man will be ugly, but will have its due form, and its due ornament, and will tell the tale of its making and the tale of its use’.  William Morris article ‘Art’, 1891

I assume, given that it is Morris writing, that he is referring to handmade objects. ( Although I question his assertion of man’s inability to make anything ugly, but once again I suppose he is allowing for personal taste).  I like the idea that an object shows the tale of its making and use.

As I have written here before I believe that making something slowly and by hand provides a wonderful contrast to the speed and machine led nature of modern life. It is the reason that I can be found escaping from the computer and stitching quietly and slowly during many of my lunch breaks.

I am currently re reading poet and novelist May Sarton’s ‘Journal of a Solitude’ first published in 1973 and came across this:

‘It is troubling how many people expect applause, recognition, when they have not even begun to learn an art or craft. Instant success is the order of the day; ‘I want it now!’ I wonder if this is not part of our corruption by machines. Machines do things very quickly and outside the natural rhythm of life….So the few things that we still do, such as cooking, knitting, gardening, anything at all that cannot be hurried, have a very particular value.’

Goodness knows what she would have thought of today’s world, but the quote seems even more pertinent now….

A Barn Covered in Fleece

While we were on holiday last week we noticed yellow signs around for the C Art Open Studios happening in September so we paid a visit to an installation near Ashness Bridge to look at the work of a couple of young artists – one who had covered a stone barn in fleece and one who had filled it with animal skulls and feathers… well what’s not to like about that!!

Barn Covered in Sheep Fleece

Barn Covered in Sheep Fleece with wool balls – Annabel Lewis

We hummed and aahed about buying one of Natalie Williamson’s skull sculptures but in the end I settled for a pendant made from old copper jewellery and mouse skulls!

There were also a number of woolly balls scattered around the area and we clambered around the hills looking at them…This is me sitting on Ashness Bridge with one of them…DSCF8168

No wonder I look so happy with such a beautiful view to look at…and in the sunshine too!


The Open Studios are on until 28th September 2014.

Yarn Bombing – in Southport

My sister told me at the weekend that the crafty people of my home town of Southport, Merseyside have been Yarn Bombing one of the pedestrianised streets with knitted and crocheted flowers.  They have apparently submitted their efforts to Britain in Bloom! 

It seems that craft is booming in the North West – not how it was when I was growing up when arts and crafts seemed to consist of the local watercolour society and a few courses at the local college…

Here is the coverage in the local newspaper, The Southport Visiter – check out the fantastic gallery of photos.

Foraging Damsons

I have been anxiously watching the damson tree on the local disused railway line, now turned into a public walkway. I walk past the tree most mornings and it is dripping with fruit this year, but when we tried last weekend they were still clinging firmly to the tree.

However halfway through the week I noticed a few damsons had dropped, so the Scotsman and I set out on Friday afternoon with our ladder and self made ‘damson hook’ for hooking down high branches and bagged ourselves the best part of two kilos (we did leave quite a few on the tree for other people).


Now there are two bottles of damson gin macerating in our kitchen, and juice dripping from a j cloth bag hung over a pan for damson jelly. Mrs P from the launderette downstairs gave us a bag of apples from her daughter’s garden as we were on our way back from picking so I added a bit of apple too.

Now I just need to do the design for the back of my book cover. It’s all go!


My studio – aka the second bedroom – got a bit of a tidy this weekend as we are having builders in to quote for a new roof. ( It currently has a horrible leak which doesn’t encourage me to go in there and work! )  As part of the process it will also be getting a skylight which should do wonders for the level of light.  In the meantime here is a look at the ordered chaos!20140724-062256-22976082.jpg


I love the quote on the bag from the Van Gogh museum  ” I hope to do it better in time. I myself am very far from satisfied with this but, well, getting better must come through doing it and through trying.”

I am a little in love with Vincent Van Gogh – especially since I played his landlady/lover in the play Vincent in Brixton a few years ago. (There is no actual evidence that Ursula Loyer was his lover except in Nicholas Wright’s imagination, but it’s a wonderful play about the nature of creativity.)

Vincent in Brixton

Vincent in Brixton