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Do I or don’t I?

November 18, 2017

On Thursday I went to London and walked from Waterloo Bridge to Southwark Bridge; it was a lovely day and a walk I have done often before and enjoy. I was on a mission and planned to stroll back later.

I did look round Intaglio; although it not somewhere you might wander; you do need to know what you are looking for.  It reminds me of the shop I used to go to with or for my dad to buy putty or linseed oil; things he needed as a boat builder 60 years ago. There  is no advertising or music and there is an absence of any electronic device; my bill was written in cursive script in duplicate; sadly he didn’t use a piece of carbon paper;  as a 7 year old girl that was like magic and I looked longingly at the little jewel of life. Until I learned that the wrapper of a Cadburys chocolate bar was a poor but clever trick of a child … when the rations were lifted.

I digress, I was shown a few multiple tools and tried some; but it was slightly overwhelming; although I had taken a block with some marks to compare with it still was a bit of a guessing game.  I chose one that felt right and strolled back to Waterloo via, Bankside Gallery, and a pie shop where I could get a gluten free veggie pie and mash. Belly full and happy with my purchase I went home.

Buying a multiple tool I understand is a big thing; not just costly but there is also conflicting  thoughts in the wood engraving world; mostly it seems are against them.  Chris Daunt says in an article in Multiples that he doesn’t like them and refers to another engraver who suggests we should be cautious; especially those of us who are inexperienced.

The marks made by a multiple tool it seems are uniform and don’t lend themselves to the ‘man made’ look.

Since trying mine and understanding the ‘thoughts,’ my wood engraving style is not regular; I wish it was, for me the tool is big almost clumsy it is 7×45 and doesn’t find its way into smaller spaces.  However, in an area where I need silvery tones or dare I say form, with practice it will work. Especially as I working away from removing too much black as suggested by my teacher.

So, it might seem that I might have to consider buying a smaller tool say 2or 3 x 45-60 to do detailed work.

But without sounding a bit melodramatic it is like Russian Roulette  a scary and expensive business … but is that the fun?


to London to try a multiple tool …

November 16, 2017

Each week I ‘take’ time to go to London or Oxford (I live between the two) I don’t go for anything in particular or important (that is for another time) Although it is best I have a vague idea of where I am going so I can plan the route. Although, I take a tube if required I prefer to walk and this is often miles.

Last week I went to Portobello Road for a metre of linen, next week I plan to go to Islington for some sewing thread. I have been to the Physic Garden, Regents Park, Little Venice often not buying anything more than a cup of tea and seeing no more than the sights; and all in the Off Peak between 9.30 and 4pm. This way, I can wander, and keep the costs to minimum and time balanced (trying to think kindly of myself as I fear I might be spending far too much time and money on myself)

Today, I am going to the South Bank and Southwark Bridge where I can visit Intaglio to buy a wood engraving tool and pop into Bankside Gallery and get home for tea.

It has taken several months to allow myself to look upon these days as just days and not a time to cruelly crush between worldly tasks.

Thanks to the graver or better a multiple tool.

Good bye brave fox …

November 15, 2017

Yesterday was difficult; not made easier when I woke to find a beautiful dead fox in the road outside my house.  While, my neighbours were unable to move their cars and get to work ,they decided the best thing to do was take pictures and discuss how it was killed.  They could see a bullet wound; how I don’t know.  Shooting, they thought, nothing to do with a car going like crazy up the road; I thought.

By this time, me still in my Pyjamas, rubber gloves, a laundry basket and plenty of wrapping material I lifted the body away, they gawped a moment before getting into their cars and driving off. Leaving me to wash away the blood with several buckets of water before the children came by on their way to school and for their imaginations to go mad too!

That afternoon, I received a book in the post, called The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane, I bought it for my grandson for Christmas and it inspired me to write a poem, I write in Haiku but Macfarlane in this book uses acrostic; so a very humble mish mash …

Fox fine timid fox

On my street at dawn you died

Xing, (Crossing) between cars


And I make wishes for his family and all beings who are abandoned so cruelly


I remember too …

November 12, 2017

Today we remember those who died in the Great War as it is Armistice Day. I don’t remember anyone from the First World War,  but do remember my parents who contributed much to the Second War; my mother ended her already brief education like lots of girls her age, to work,  in a factory making munitions.  My father had recently begun an ‘education’ in the Merchant Navy only to be seconded to the horrors of the convoys to and from South America.  They both survived and my dad died later in a British Legion Home.

For that alone I buy a red poppy but I don’t wear it with pride; I feel that the British Legion doesn’t support a non-violent solution to the end of all wars.

I also buy a white poppy and support the Peace Pledge Union; who advocate ways to create a just and peaceful world with many initiatives to change the vengeful culture in Britain and the rest of the world.

I hope my dad who, never did raise an arm to a man woman or child and remarkably patriotic will understand the need that a peaceful future for our children and the generations to come must be paramount.  I remember him …

It ain’t all bad …

November 11, 2017

I have been retired for seven months; while I not out of the woods there is a glimmer of light.  The isolation I felt at home at first came as a shock.  Even though I wanted to finish full time paid employment, I was looking forward to being a fulltime unpaid artist.  I had a well-equipped studio and press and ready to go. While I worked several hours most days I listened to my favourite radio station, made time to go regularly to London and Oxford, did more courses and met new and exciting people. I walked and cycled here there and everywhere.  I created more than enough new work for a successful exhibition last month and already negotiating the terms and conditions for 3 next year!

I was, I am living the dream … and grateful

So why the distress? This is much to do with my much-discussed psychological condition which at work it seems I was better at keeping under ‘control.’ Needs must; I suppose.

However, at out of work one assumes being ‘yourself’ is easier and it is, of course surrounded by the comforts of home and family.  Being oneself is OK.  Sadly, I had hidden ‘it,’ the performance in the workplace to be a good and loyal employee made me into a robot; conditioned by my boss and vital pay-packet.  Being alone with this thing 24/7 was not pleasant.

So, as I relaxed as I surely did, so, I discovered this 17-year-old girl. Ill-equipped for the outside world and going to work, vulnerable, afraid and worse; eager to please.

Here she was a scrawny girl, and a war-torn bully, no wonder the last seven months have been difficult.  The little Helen and the old woman had daily battles, the little one wept and doubles under the pressure, the beast became less entrenched in her methods of control; the timekeeping, good housekeeping, eye for detail and even good manners things that had served as ways to give her strength now went out the window (slowly but surely) making space for some playfulness and joy.

While I do understand that I am who I am, the old crone and the teenager we will remain I think in a healthy and happy relationship and when it becomes toxic and it will no doubt we will turn the radio up and dance a while.

Shopping … bike goes on the list!

September 21, 2017

While I cycled to and from work daily for 25 years, I had little need for other exercise unless I was preparing for an event and remained fit.  When I retired, I didn’t think much about daily exercise especially as I had stop long distance running, swimming and cycling sometime ago. I did welcome the opportunity not to get to work through all weathers.  I am able to do yoga each day at dawn but that is meant to slow the heart … not get it pumping.

However, as time went on and my daughter returned for a holiday I realised how much I miss the routine (as I have with other aspects of ‘going’ to work) and I was not feeling fit; mentally or physically.  I don’t think that exercise per se is the cure all; I am a fit lady;  my mental disorder is not cured by a daily stroll!

Nonetheless, I was missing something.

So while me and my girl were together we walked, ran and cycled (not all at once) most days. We hoped to do longer distances by time was not available.  

So, the seed was planted and I am planning to get back up to speed. No great shakes, ( I do have the ‘T’ shirts and nothing to prove); but I will try and incorporate cycling and walking trips with other activities.  Yesterday, I walked to the centre of Reading by the canal and Thames, to buy sewing cotton and attend the acupuncture clinic; on the the way back via the alleys and backstreets for lunch in my favourite pit stop and then to pick up some marigold petals and chamomile from the Herbalist. Job done in a mere 3 or 4 miles!

Today, I am taking the bike out of town eastwards in search of organic oranges; I know they don’t grow on trees here in Reading, but I may have tracked down a supplier and the journey will save the postage.  I am sure there will be some pleasant pit stops so I ‘don’t get famished’ before tea!

Dodgy Autoimmune system or not?

September 18, 2017

I studied what was called Domestic Science in 1966 at college for two years, when I decided not to be a shorthand typist and being an artist was not an option.  Later, I learned that too was not a good choice for me either; working conditions and unsocial hours where unattractive.  So I became an accounts clerk while the job was tedious at the time, the  pay was better and as time passed so the opportunities became more desirable.

However, cooking, food and nutrition always has been of interest and with a growing family it proved to be not  only a healthy interest but economically sound.  

Since, I have what my GP calls a dodgy autoimmune system; my diet is my life force and that ain’t melodrama!

There are foods I simply cannot eat and some I prefer not to.  Daily thought is paramount and thanks to a long suffering husband of 35 years this has never proved a problem at home and even out and about difficulties can be avoided.

It is no good pretending that I will get better and with age; I must improve my control and be less reliant on others.  I am unable to to tolerate dairy products and choose not to eat meat and fish. I don’t call myself a vegetarian or vegan as I am  an advocate of Doc Martens and use other animal products.

But that aside I am also a  Coeliac  unable to digest gluten; so already I am restricted. Or I was until I started baking for myself, and now I can begin planning meals for myself not reliant on expensive, poor quality so called ‘free from’ Yes! It was pleasing to see them come into supermarket; albeit squeezed to three shelves; but they are mostly horrible.  Eating out too is difficult; why is it so hard for restaurateurs  to do gluten and dairy free in the same dish?

Having said all that; I am not holding my breath; these funny looking walnut and apple clusters took and age and a lot of swearing …