Category Archives: Fun

What are you like?!

I have an “About me” page somewhere around here, but nobody ever goes there. Yeah, this is about me, but I want to know about *you*. Who are you? What fires your passion? What kind of news article is bound to get your blood pounding, and which to make you smile and know that the world isn’t such a bad place after all? What do you do to relax, where do you go? Do you prefer to listen or see or both or neither?

I was waiting for the bus this morning, and an older lady tried to stand her trolley up, but it kept falling over. “There’s nowhere flat in this city!” she exclaimed (and she’s kind of right – Sheffield is built on seven hills). And because part of who I am is being remarkably restrained under provocation, I *didn’t* say No, not even Flat Street (a steepish hill in the city centre)! Although Flat Street is so named because it is an artificially flattened slope allowing passage from the medieval fishponds (now ‘Ponds Forge’) to the top of the cliff (a geological fold known as the Don Monocline) whence sat Sheffield Castle. I didn’t say any of that, I just nodded and smiled, and then got on the bus to go to my studio at Bank Street Arts. There are no banks on Bank Street (as far as I know); it’s so called because it follows the line of the bank of the aforementioned Sheffield Castle. It runs as far as Angel Street, which has no such historical beginnings, it’s just named after a pub that was destroyed by bombing in WWII. Did I just read all that? No, it’s straight from the recesses of my brain, after hearing it at one talk two Septembers ago at Festival of the Mind.

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C’est moi

That’s who I am. I am somebody to be either sought out or avoided at parties, depending on how much random origins trivia you’re feeling in the mood for. I still need step by step instructions to fill out my tax return, but I’d be great on your pub quiz team.

As regards my questions to you: I am outraged by injustice, especially as regards the rights of children. I am comforted by humans, doing human and kind things – I believe the good outweighs the bad by a large margin, but it doesn’t make exciting news, so we just don’t hear about it (this is actually true). Choral music relaxes me, and Taverner, Tavener, Tallis and Part (composers, not a law firm) in particular. Walking in woodland, near water relaxes me. And sunshine, and gardens, and birdsong.

So, who are you?

 

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Unconditional love

I’ve just read a blog post about snow, which drops in the (widely held, according to this) forecast that unless climate change can be halted, there will be no snow in Utah by the end of this century. The author says “My memories [of thick, winter snowclouds] make it incredibly painful to imagine a Utah without snow, but this is the reality confronting us.”

Across the globe the impacts of climate change are painfully uprooting people’s (possibly nostalgia-tinged) memories of what a place is like. Should be like, has always been like. We humans are very clever, and are more than capable of seeing the bigger picture, but somewhere deep inside, don’t we hold ‘what it was like when we were growing up’ as the yardstick to measure life by? Did you grow up with central heating, and shudder at the idea of life without it? Did you grow up with an outside toilet, and roll your eyes at people complaining their bathroom is too cold? When I look back at my childhood winters, they were filled (like, for weeks) with snow, sledging, days off school and failed attempts at igloo building – and this in Gloucestershire. So I remain perplexed when people in Yorkshire get wiggy about a couple of days of snow in January. But isn’t this normal? I ask. But ‘normal’ is what we grew up with. Nothing is ‘normal’ any more. Like it or not, believe the reasons or not, the climate is changing. Every year we see new weather records – hottest June, wettest December, highest monsoon, most ice lost, earliest melting.


So we are losing the things we love. This earth we live on is changing, and things are dying. People, species, hope. It’s easy to read the statistics and despair. And nothing I can say, no wishful thinking or positive affirmations, can change the facts. So maybe your childhood was filled with snow, and you have to face an adulthood without snow. Maybe the home where you grew up was filled with flocks of starlings, chattering and murmurating across the evening skies, and now there aren’t any. It hurts, it’s painful, I hear you; but I want to take your despair and kick its backside right out of the room. Let’s ask another question: maybe your partner is diagnosed with a degenerative disease, or maybe your parent succumbs to dementia. That person you love, you’ve know for so long, is changing, and there is nothing you can do. Do you despair? Or do you love them anyway? Do you love them as much when they cannot speak to you, as you did when they could? Will you love them when the chemo steals their hair? Will you love your home even when it loses its snow?

If we love this world, this earth, then we must love it unconditionally. If Utah loses its snow, it will not cease to be Utah, it will be a different Utah. And we can mourn the change, but we must continue to fight for its survival. I think this for me is the essence of climbing the Dark Mountain. Earth is still Earth, whatever state it is in. We must love it, and fight for it, and protect it, but we must never let change be perceived as failure, and an excuse to give up. Change is constant, and so must we be.  And yeah, I can see how this might be hard to hold in your head, the seeming dichotomy of ‘we must fight to prevent change’ and ‘we must accept change’, but come on. There are plenty of lessons out there from people who are doing this already; we’re clever. We can do this. We can love.

 

 

 


You Are So Very Beautiful – a craftivist project

[Reblogged from Pickymiss.com]

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The photo above is one of the pieces of encouragement I’ve been leaving around the place for a few months now. Not all at once, just one at a time, when I can. If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen them. But now I find something similar you might want to be a part of: because that amazing Betsy Greer is at it again, stitching things to make the world a brighter place. And she wants YOU (points finger) to get involved. Stitching positive affirmations, no bigger than the palm of your hand, and putting them out there for people to find. Like these:

You-Are-So-Very-Beautiful-Craftivism-on-Uncustomary

The ‘You Are So Very Beautiful’ guerilla art drop is happening in Baltimore and London on 7th February, so if you’d like to stitch something for it, or get involved in some other way, get in touch. For details (including posting addresses) of how to send sunshine and happiness to Baltimore and/or London, look at Craftivism.com. Please make sure your stitchings will arrive by February 4th. These three are en route to the Maryland as I type 🙂

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I’ll leave you with Betsy’s words about why she started this:

“Because craftivism is as much about fighting the bad things of this world as it is about fighting the bad things we tell ourselves. We live in a world where the media constantly tries to tell us what is in, out, cool, passé. Every day we have to fight to remember that we are enough just as we are, we are beautiful just as we are. Some days, though, we forget. And those days can drag on into weeks and months. Leaving our souls sucked and dry, leave us husks of what we were as children, back when we knew we were amazing.

It’s time to remind both ourselves and others of just how wonderful we are just as we are. It’s time to let our acts of stitching go by leaving them in places for someone to find, someone who needs to hear those words just as you do, if not more. As craftivism is about healing ourselves as we make, and then healing the world with our products, let’s get to it.”


Feeding the myth. Well, the tellers of the myths, anyway.

Once upon a time, I cooked a big old Homity Pie (a homity is a special beast, easily caught, and tasting of garlic, potatoes and parsley – if you put it in a pie with some cheese, it’s truly delicious). And as that pie was cooling on the stove top, a storyteller came to see me. And she saw the pie, and she smelled the pie (but she did not taste the pie, for she was on a no-pie diet), and she said “Hot damn girl, that’s good! Will you do the catering for my next course?” Or words to that effect.

Long table laid for lunch, with salads and a big Homity Pie

Homity Pie and salads for lunch

So I did, and have done most years since. I love cooking, and feeding people, and I made sure these storytellers under my care were well looked after. Vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, gluten free, sugar free, kosher – bring me your diets and I will feed you.  Since learning (on the fly) to cater for other people, I have learned a lot – about cooking (mashed kidney beans will thicken a stew without the need for flour), about food (most food labelled ‘Gluten free’ still has maize starch in, and this includes stock cubes), about myself (I either need to strengthen my arms or remember to take an electric whisk next year). I realised what I’ve always suspected, but never felt confident enough to say: I am a fucking good cook.

Shortcrust pastry mushroom pie ready for serving

I will even cook things I detest – like mushrooms. I was told this mushroom pie was pretty fine

I take hospitality very seriously. My motto, if I really ever have one, is ‘to heal with food and love’. I don’t subscribe to how ’emotional eating’ is such an evil – the right food can heal most hearts. I make all my food with love, even a Tuesday night cheese-toasties dinner, and every meal is a gift to those it feeds. How do you show love with food? Presentation. Which would make you feel more special, a bowl of soup, or a bowl of soup with a swirl of cream and a pinch of fresh herbs on top? It takes seconds, but it shows you care.  Even if you can’t cook, just presenting your burnt offering nicely makes all the difference to the recipient.

Long wooden table in large old kitchen, laid with a pile of plates, bowls of fruit, leftover dessert and a chocolate cake

Late night snacks, come and get some. Yes, that includes a fresh chocolate cake. Because I like to spoil people.

Through popular demand, there will be a cookbook from all this. If you really want to know about that chocolate cake though, it’s already here 🙂


The Dark Mountaineers

I find I have been included in a most wondrous collective, and so felt it my duty to share it with you.  Take a peek at this collection of the fascinating. I hope you meet some new friends, or at least follow a new stranger down their winding path.


It is fun to have fun, but you have to know how

Things have been getting a little serious, so here’s something I made earlier. These trainers were abandoned in the park for about a week – they were moved onto a wall, and a bench, by somebody, presumably to aid their original owner in spotting and reclaiming them. No sneaker-thieves round here, no sir. But nobody did, so one morning I did this with them:

Rhododendron with two shoes poking out, so it looks like somebody is asleep (or worse) under the bush

They were gone the next day.


Ringing the changes

See what I did there? That was a pune, or play on words, because this post has nothing to do with campanology at all! Très drole. But it does have to do with change, and it does have to do with rings. My partner and I got unmarried last weekend.

Myself and my partner hugging, barefoot in a field, with bunting behind us

When my partner and I started admitting to and exploring our different sexualities a few months ago, so much of who we thought we had been fell away. Our lives changed, we changed.  I’ll spare you the details, but that change wasn’t, isn’t, always easy. I started a journal, and most of the pages are full of positive, excited things, but there are other pages smudged with tears that just have fuckfuckfuckIcan’tdothis written all over them. But I’ve sat with my feelings of hurt, of despair, of insecurity, and I’ve come out the other side a better, stronger person, and I know that I CAN do this. And that whatever “this” is, it’s totally worth the struggle. I had some good chats with my friend Allegra about this, who then wrote a great blog post about “The transformative nature of discomfort”. Well worth a gander.

Aside to this, I had been unhappy for a long while with my boring gold wedding band. I never wear gold, and I only wear pretty. It seemed to me to be less like jewellery and more like a badge, or a stripe of office – I’m married to someone, I’m taken, I’m a respectable traditionalist and allowed to have children. I’m not saying this is what I think when I see someone else wearing one – I love all you marrieds out there, I want to give you a squishy hug and bake you a cake full of rainbows and smiles; I’m just saying this is how I felt I had been labelled.

Anyway, I digress.
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