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A nod to the NHS and the Family Allowance.

June 1, 2020

I have been reading history books that relate to rural life in UK pre 1950 and conclude that up until when we had the National Health System, Family Allowance  and Social Security, life for poor people was no bed of roses.  It was pretty rubbish, not even hand to mouth, the incomings never met the out goings. I will never understand how my parents coped.  We didn’t pay rent it was a perk of the job.  However, they did have to build our houseboat home.  As a skilled craftsman my dad was paid £5 a week.  My mother got nine shillings (45p) Family Allowance a week for my little sister; all this could not possibly feed and clothe us.  I am sure my father was able to do work ‘on the side’ I know that he would make a bus journey to Southampton with a bag of metal for the scrap man.  Alongside my other chores looking out for and collecting metal bits and bobs was always appreciated. I am sure this went some way to make ends meet.

I am not sure which one of my characters represents this poverty; they are all poor. These last two don’t have names yet, but they are wearing silk trousers and lawn shirts with beautiful tiny mother of pearl buttons. They are experiments … but I think they are good to go as wide boys or scrap men.

Saturday’s very short story …

May 30, 2020

I have talked much about my shopping exploits as a child in previous posts.  So, today’s very short story is it in a nutshell.  Writing with a needle and thread does have the uncanny knack of making me succinct.

As you know I am teaching myself stop motion animation; now there’s a thing.  To make a 30 second film takes hours of work.  They are not ready for human consumption yet as the ‘work’ goes.  Now, I am working out the sound effects and I have a cunning plan but like Baldrick’s less cunning more foolhardy. So, I feel there will be tears before supper.  Stage sets too are a bit of a mess and I am trying to work out ways to project a backdrop.  However, this is a step too far along the technical road, yet.

Enough of me … have a good day.

Netta, is a slave.

May 26, 2020

As children we were not encouraged to swim in or play near the water.  Long story short it was a working river not a playground.  However, during the summer holidays we found ways to go under the radar.  Big boys would mud lark. When the tide was very low and the mud exposed in the creeks, they would chuck themselves from one side of the creek to the other trying not to fall in the mud to score a point. However, if you fell in then you would side down to the bottom and scramble to the top, to try again.    When the game was over so a free for all ensued.

As my sisters and I were largely unattended such larks were out off the question.  During the summer holidays my mum might take us with a picnic, down river to a stretch of shingle where we couldn’t build castles but find crabs and little fish and gather cockle shells. Using a rubber ring, we learnt to swim.

I wonder if children and young people over the centuries found time to play in the river. Slide on their bottoms in the creeks or tuck their skirts in their knicker elastic and puddle at the water’s edge while their mum nursed a baby on the bank.  Then have a picnic with jam sandwiches and orange squash as the sun goes down.

This is Netta …

a slave (it is recorded that a slave is buried in Botley) so safe to consider others did come with the Romans and other migrants.  I would like to think she did have opportunity to play with her mum or charges.


This one is called Hiprose …

May 18, 2020

One of the tricks the river girl used was to make herself invisible and proved to be invaluable as life (or the moods) went on.  Some days she would like to be noticed and others she didn’t.  The trouble was that she didn’t always know which way her mood (as her mother called it) would take her.  The mood was as unpredictable as the tide. The mood and the tide were one of the same she had to be ready for both.

In a ‘real’ fairy story, a fairy might make a spell with a rosehip to make herself invisible, for the girl they contained itchy powder no magic potion.  So, she would steel herself, to run like fury in the opposite direction or sidestep into a holloway and take another path.  Or smile and ask him or her to see her across the road.


Very short story Saturday …

May 16, 2020

‘ … down at the water’s edge Wassa stoops and with a stick of drift wood that she had gathered during the morning, she …’

While thinking about my short-animated films, I have to consider a narrative. The easy option would be background music, spoken word or sounds, none without cost and or expertise and I am without both at the moment.

Nonetheless, a story is vital I can draw on my own experience not of course directly, remember these are fairy tales and I ain’t no nymph (bad grammar intended) with magic dust and all that. Trouble is they must be short, and I don’t do short.

Unless of course I am sewing then the words must be succinct or I would be sewing all night and need several bed sheets.

One of my jobs as a child was collecting drift wood to burn on the fire, It was a little adventure or it had to made it so.  It was an endless and thankless task in all weathers.  I never knew what I would find next.


Meet Wassa …

May 13, 2020

It has been an age since I shared with you.  I began my MA in September 2019 and since my feet have not touched the ground.  For the first 6 months I commuted 3 or 4 days a week to Farnham.  Thinking that was the way to get full benefit of the course.  Whether that was right or wrong I don’t know, but it was a good time; going to lectures, spending time in the library and studios and making acquaintances. Even the travelling has been bearable.

However, I was just beginning to think I would cut my time spent at university as it was become expensive and tiresome, when the decision was taken away from me.

So now nearly 2 months into lockdown I can look back and make some comparisons.  It was best that I did immerse myself in the university space and the long commute.  These weeks at home have been wonderful; I have created and learned so much.  I have written, read and drawn every day.  Gardened, eaten and rested well.

However, that was not possible without social distancing on all levels.  Social media was a demon, so I had to turn off the radio and tv, the news and other pseudo positive spin was a horrible distraction. It was not long before I unfriended so called friends who seemed to delight in sharing fake news or inappropriate good advice.

It is good speaking with my children, real friends about our fears and pleasures, peeping into gardens and allotments at a flick of a switch. dipping into iPlayer or Netflix or rescheduling wine or gin o’clock if we had not yet finished breakfast.

However, all this doesn’t get the MA done. So, I had to embrace the more serious matters of social media to get back to the library, studio and lecture hall virtually. So, everyday a bit more of Adobe, Zoom. Power Point, WeTransfer and various Online resources.

Therefore, without the travelling it has been business as usual and I will be able to hand in my essay and research manual in the form of a power point on time.

All that said, the course continues.  Having finished the exploratory and experimental module I begin the reflective part.  Now I focus on the practice I have enjoyed during these first few weeks; I have got to say it has been the creature making.  I have made dozens of them and they are characters in a story; that I don’t what to reveal at this point.  It is enough to say that the story will be told in the form of a Stop Motion Animation, of which I know absolutely nothing.  I am learning this crazy art form on the hoof. I have little of any value to expose at this embryonic stage but when I do you will the first to know.

Meanwhile, meet Wassa …

Tomorrow I will be an art student …. this girl’s dream come true.

September 22, 2019

On the day before I begin another stage of my journey; I have changed the name of my Blog.  My real name is Helen; but I have rarely used that in my working life.  Helen is a common name and there was often more than one Helen in any one department. So, I have adopted an alternative to make life easier.  When I started using social media, I used a pseudonym as a safety net; in case it went pear-shaped and I could duck out without egg on my face.  Ten years later I am still here and some of my friends preferring to use the name Nela.

I have chosen a name that a close friend calls me; and suits me as it is gender neutral since I have no hair I am often taken as a man.  So, Aitch is an an acronym that will serve me well for the next 2 years at the University of Creative Art.

My former identity has not changed.  I was considering taking my bike between home and railway stations.  However, there are lots of stairs and no lift at one station and unless anyone takes the trouble to see that I am a 70-year-old lady in disguise; I will not get help.  So, the jury is out regarding the bike; also, I won’t get there any quicker.  There are no cycle paths in Farnham and the one-way system takes me longer and is less than scenic. So, bike will perhaps be left at home.

I am hoping to find time to keep a journal of daily events thinking that each day will bring new and exciting experiences.

What if I …?

July 22, 2019

I have always wanted to go to art college; the idea way back in the memory has at last come to the fore.  My idea doesn’t come from any knowledge that I might have the ability.  So, these last few years I have tried to perhaps find the evidence or practice like fury.  One or both has worked and I am ready to go; but let me not fool myself.  It is not going to be easy or comfortable … and that was impossible to plan for.

I have tried and going to Contemporary art and craft exhibitions has helped; like the one we had recently in the centre of Reading called ‘Open for Art’.  It is an annual event and I exhibited last year in a very nice coffee shop with my embroidered coffee sacks ; this year I was committed elsewhere.

However, this gave me the opportunity to look around the exhibition more fully.  It was good to see the ways in which artists answered the question ‘what if I …’   and in my search, I delighted in those who did in my eyes.  One was a jeweller who made exquisite pieces from sweeties from the pick and mix, another used the sun to develop photographs and made art from found items in books from a second hand book shop there was much more.

My favouite above all was a jacket hung in a bespoke tailor in Reading.  I have been back day after day to look as close as I can, the owner of the shop asked to keep it in his window for an extended period.     The jacket was stitched and decorative items were added.  It is a work art telling the story of a particular jacket; bought for a particular occasion a wedding perhaps? Then, bought out time after time; numerous events; more weddings, funerals etc.  Every man must have one, the added pieces bring to life the forgotten memories, embroidered words spoken to or by the wearer of the jacket; at an interview or at the races.  So personal, intimate, a precious jewel; for me it answered the question what if the jacket could speak?

I am wondering what if I could write or draw with a needle and thread?   … and tell a story?

A new title?

July 21, 2019

I have decided to change the name of my blog.  Nothing has changed; that’s a joke! Life changes there is no escaping it; enough to say that I am still bald, getting on my bike and a ballsy bint.  However, I will be no longer retired; I am going to University to study for a Master’s Degree.  I had even thought of a ‘name’ After reading Aqua Viva by Clarice Lispector who aims to ‘capture the present’ in her confessional and unfiltered meditations on every form of life and time.  I thought what a great title that would be.

Then thinking even that doesn’t make sense capturing and recording the next two years … is as silly as saying ‘nothing has changed.   Capturing and recording no matter how sensible and ‘so worthwhile’ yes, it is necessary to validate my studies and justify the expense; at the end of the day it will be I hope the best years of my life and ‘capturing’ it will not make it last.  It will just bog me down.   Furthermore, not conducive to the study of contemporary arts and crafts. It seems my time will be better spent studying artists and craftspeople who have stepped out of the traditional and embraced the un-captured and unfettered. Sadly, I am in between a brick and a hard place … barely knowing much about old school and nothing about the ‘current’ so there is a reading list and exhibitions to see … the new name is on hold.   This book isn’t on the list but so relevant and helpful.

A spoonful of medicine …

April 25, 2019

This week (with a slight medication adjustment) I had a good week.  I am not sure that the meds made the good happen but it sure helped me see and feel it.

As I look forward to my holiday; I try not to get over excited; to find that the joy of going away is over too soon.  Instead, I have read and addressed a couple of new adventures.

Since reading Robin Tanner’s Double Harness I have read works about Dorothy Larcher and Phyllis Barron, Hilary Bourne, Ethel Mairet and Rita Beales; all good reads if you want to know about Arts and Crafts Movement 1900-1960s.

I have learned to how to warp and weave on an Inkle Loom. There is room for improvement but it is not likely to have any experimental possibilities.  However, I remain open for suggestions.

On the other hand, while relearning spinning, I do see some exciting opportunities with dying and weaving.  Meanwhile I have to practice; it is a very complex and sensitive craft. My wheel takes me to a special place but it cannot be rushed.  So, the Backstrap Loom will remain unlearned on the shelf.

I also helped my brother with a project he is undertaking. It meant getting out some old photographs that were taken by my mother in 1950s of a boat that my father had rebuilt.  Not a difficult task but the images were evocative and a little painful. Surprisingly, as I came across this photo the mood lifted. I wonder if she has enjoyed the journey so far with its up and downs.