Friday, January 27, 2012

A haiku a day...

That magic feeling
when things start making sense - zing!
words flow easily.

Weight off my shoulder,
I'm free - for now - hello world,
What shall we do now?

Sunday (locked out)
Huddled in the hall,
Awaiting a magician,
to let us inside.

Dear universe, please
help me find a nice new home,
Location Bordeaux.

Celebration time,
bubbles for your brilliance,
my scientist love.

Like a tired ship
that's weathered a storm, I am
ready for harbour.

Slither of moon, a
caricature of itself,
in the sky tonight.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Badger of the week (5)

Inspired by the design of a lovely skirt made for me by a friend, and my love of woodland creatures, I got the old sewing machine out last weekend and stitched up this crazy beauty...

I didn't have a pattern, it's just a long panel of fabric folded in half. The waistband is done using a thick piece of elastic - I measured the length by holding it around my waist and finding where it was comfortable. Then the top of the fabric is folded over and stitched down, making a sort of tube which the elastic gets threaded through. Then the ends of the elastic get stitched together, then the sides of the skirt are stitched and the bottom hemmed. And that's it - an easy peasy sewing project that took less than an hour to complete!

So where's this week's badger? Here! sneaking out from behind some berries, near a giant ladybird!

There are actually 2 badgers altogether as well as squirrels, deer, foxes, rabbits, butterflies, birds, raccoons, and more. I also stitched on this little heart shaped patch that I've had sitting in my sewing box for years, waiting for the right project...

And here's what it looks like on (excuse the slightly awkward pose). It's really comfortable, and because of the elastic waist, can be worn in different ways, high up on the waist or low on the hips!

A happy badger sewing project :) What have you been making lately, badger themed or otherwise?!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Soundtrack to my life...

I haven't done one of these posts in a while. Here are some of the songs that have floated around in my consciousness for the last 6 months or so....

The Cranberries, Just my imagination
For some reason, I went through a phase last autumn of listening to nothing but the Cranberries. It's not like I was ever a fan of them before so it wasn't for nostalgic reasons. They just seemed to fit my mood as I caught the tube into London every morning and wandered through the park on the way to the library. I think it's because some of them are a bit angry, and that can help when you have to get the tube, haha! Also, when you're fed up to the teeth with writing a thesis and none of the books in the library seem to be helping. HAHAHA! (It's ok, like I said, it was just a phase, the need for anger has passed!) But yes, as the leaves fell I fell in love with the lovely catchy nineties sounds of songs like this one....

Nina Simone, Ne me quitte pas
This one first hit my ears in Paris. I remember the moment perfectly. I had just crossed over the Seine near Notre Dame where I had finally discovered the Shakespeare and Company bookshop. I was walking round the nooks and crannies of this curious shop when the song began playing in my ears and it was so sad and helpless, I had to go outside and listen properly. And then listen again and again wherever I wenr. Nina breaks my heart everytime I hear this song, but in the loveliest kind of way....

Coldplay, Lovers in Japan
Ahh Coldplay. Not the coolest band to admit listening to over and over again. But they do have some lovely old songs. I got their new album Mylo Xytolo after watching the amazing elephant video for their latest single Paradise and I've been listening to it when I go running as it's nice and upbeat (useful on a cold day when running seems less like fun and more like a silly idea). That gave me the urge to listen to their previous offering again, Viva La Vida (an album I associate with listening to in the car with my brother, singing along loudly and out of tune for many a drive). This song is one of my favourites, not least because it came on when I was running along the beach in Scotland on the last day of the year. It was cold, oh so cold, but the sun was shining so brightly, and the sea was glorious, and I felt so happy running along the shore on the completed deserted beach. It was the perfect way to end the year. I may even have skipped a little bit and jumped around and leaped in the air like a crazy person....

First aid kit, Dancing barefoot
So this songis a cover of a Patti smith song, and if you watch the video, you'll see that they bring Patti to tears with their delightfully empassioned version. This song is what made me discover my new favourite duo. Tiny swedish folk hippies with melodious harmonies are brilliant. I Love it. So excited for their new album, out this week or next I believe....

Kate Rusby, Not me
I've loved Kate Rusby's music for years. She is a proper folky folk singer, mixing old traditional songs with newer ones that she's written herself, and delivering them all in her gorgeous lilting tones. I only really listen to her in winter for some reason, probably because that's when I first got an album by her and some music just doesn't sound right in my ears in a different season (Nick Drake belongs to autumn for example). She is the perfect choice for a long train ride across the country. Sad, nostalgic, simple. This one is my new favourite because Life really does move so quickly at the moment....

All in all, a bit of a random collection, but I hope you enjoy. What have you been listening to lately? Share a gem with me if you will...

Monday, January 23, 2012

I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers...

As I'll be moving out of my flat in just over a month for new adventures in France, I've had to start sorting out all the junk and clutter in my flat. Not everything in it will be coming along in the move - my local charity shops are about to get donations a-plenty! Other things won't be coming, but they'll be going into storage at my parent's house. One of the things I don't really know what to do with is my collection of dried flowers (I don't think they'll really travel all that well). Here are some of my favourites....

This collection started by accident really. I got a giant bunch of sweet williams shortly after moving in and they sort of started drying themselves in the vase I put them in (and forgot to top up with water). Eventually, I rescued them, trimmed the stems a bit and decided to dry them properly, tying them into bunches with ribbon and hanging them upside down from the skirting board all around my front room. As I got new, different types of flowers, I experimented with drying them out. I love the way the colours fade and the petals acquire a new kind of delicateness...

So they've been hanging quite happily all around the room ever since and I suppose I'll get them down, dust them off and sort them into little bouquets to give away to people...

We always had Chinese lanterns in the house when I was growing up as my nan and grandpa grew them in their garden. I love these puffy orange plants. These ones have been hanging in my flat for a couple of years now ( I got them during my first autumn in London three and a bit years ago) so they've lost a bit of their vibrancy, but I love their faded hue and the layer of dust, reminding me that this has been a home for a while now....

Hehe, here I am with an old bunch in my hair, being Queen of the fairies...
(Photo: my good friend Dave, photographer extraordinaire)

My lovely friend Fi got me this bunch around Christmas time one year (hence so many festive red bits). I love the texture of the flowers and they dried so nicely, keeping their scarlet hue and prickly texture...

I love these crazy gnarled up thistles and prickles and dried up berries, all autumnal and crispy...

This one lost its stalk, and usually sits on a shelf in an eggcup...

I grew these lavender seeds myself! Thay don't look very pretty compared to other flowers, but they are brilliant for making your own lavender bags. Full of delicious soft calming lavender perfume....mmm!

Look how delicate and frazzled this rose is. And yet, at the tips of its petals it retains some hint of its former glorious shade. It's like an old lady, full of stories of times gone by...

And this last one - a single branch of silver penny seeds - is a little bit magic... You see, I found it on the pavement the last time I went to Bordeaux a few years ago. It was the last evening of our holiday, a balmy september evening and I found it on the cobbled streets as we walked back to our hotel, not really wanting to leave the lovely old city and return home just yet. So I brought it back with me, pressed flat in a notebook full of dreams and wishes for a Bordeaux life in a parallel world...

This one's coming back to it's hometown with me for sure :)

"The temple bell stops but I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers." ~Basho~

his haiku captures their faded beauty perfectly. They're quiet and old, dried out and tired, but I can still hear the sound coming out of the flowers...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

On my hook....

It's been a while since I hooked up any Granny squares and I had forgotten how enjoyable they are to make...

Round and round, my hook goes, along the side, round the corners, cluster by cluster. The colours change, making patterns as they go, contrasting, zinging with one another. These lovely square are so rythmic and straight-forward once you get going that they pratically grow themselves. Before you know it, theres a whole pile amassed (ends all tucked in as I got this time)....

Here's a wee sneak at my latest project (I won't be sharing any more pictures until the end as it's a secret - shhhhhhhhh!)

Ooh I do love to crochet. And I do love my camera!
What's on your hook at the moment?


Friday, January 20, 2012

A haiku a day...

Pomp, glamour, heartbreak,
yards of silk twirl, leap, contort,
dance spectacular.

One burst of colour
blooms pink amidst dry petals,
hydrangea graveyard.

Admiring the trees,
their sunset silhouettes like
lacy skeletons.

Black dog pins me down,
It's me against the monster,
My strength drains away.

Tiny squirrel face
appears outside my window,

A whole other world,
runs riot in my mind: mad,
while this world sleeps on.

Where birds float, stars shine,
and the raindrops wait to fall:
Fantastical sky.


Monday, January 16, 2012

An ode to sleeping trees...

Here we are, in bleak mid-winter, and as is their wont, all the trees are resting. Long gone are their soft spring time blossoms, and their glorious green leaves which provided shady canopies on so many hot summer days. Gone too is their magnificent multicolour demise. Each and every leaf has long since floated down to the ground to meet its mulchy, decaying destiny. And so, perhaps, we forget about the trees for a season. All that remains are their tired old branches, bare and dull, not worthy of a glimpse, certainly not deserving of a good long stare...

Or are they? I've always liked watching the lacy silhouettes that winter trees make on the horizon of distant fields when I speed past on a train. And as their leafy disguise vanishes for the year, I like to spy out bird's nests and marvel at the twiggy constructions which have been patiently put together piece by piece by tiny beaks. And so, this weekend, on a sunset walk to the lake I started paying even more attention to the sparse, but not unspectacular branches and here is some of what I saw....

Trees of all shapes and sizes, their branches like calligraphy against the inky evening sky, scratching out paths, making marks, delicate skeletons blowing in the breeze...

Trees that looked as if they were adorned with tiny baubles to mark a winter festival all on their own...

And which contrasted completely with the feathery neighbours that reach out their delicate branches nearby...

I saw trees of all shapes and sizes, forming determined black lines on the watercolour wash of a sky which emerged behind them as the sun sunk below the horizon once again...

The willows gracefully wept their bare branches over the lake whilst the ducks swam on by regardless...

Whilst this crazy silhouette looks like contorted hand, reaching up its many spindly fingers into the air, like lightening in reverse, powerfully defying gravity...

There were tall skinny ones...

And trees scarred and mutated by human intervention, all stumpy and mishapen...

Each branch was a potential perch for birds to roost in and their spindly, but substantial nets spread out over the skyline like embers on a dying fire which glowed defiantly behind them in the last moments of this twilight display...

These two birds had the best view over the whole lake and beyond, their black silhouettes marking them out on top of their lookout...

So next time you're outside, why not admire the trees, because they really are rather wonderful, even whilst they're asleep.....

Friday, January 13, 2012

A haiku a day...

He tells a story,
She laughs, he smiles, shares one more,
the ice starts to melt.

My birthday begins
listening to Nina Simone singing,
Ne me quitte pas: bliss.

Confused by daylight
a fox runs across my path,
perhaps he overslept?

I am a storm cloud,
Beware the bad mood brewing,
Expect a downpour.

Blurry wine vision,
Ani sings my heart happy,
dancing in the aisles.

Everything's changing,
Don't panic, breathe, remember,
That all shall be well.

My muse today is
juicy, sweet, a lunchbox treat,
Crunchy carrot stick.

(Bit of a strange bunch this week, but that's my haikus for you)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Badger of the week (4)

Out of hibernation, and back to the badgers....

I got this sneaky looking guy a few years ago as a present. I liked him a bit too much to just put him on my keys with all the various other keyring trinkets that jingle and jangle to make sure my keys never get lost in my bag. So instead he hangs from a hook on the bookshelves next to my desk where I can see him looking a bit too cool for school, arms nonchantly crossed, mischief in his eyes. Once a year, he gets elevated to Christmas tree decoration status (I'm not one for matching baubles). Here he is hanging out with the fairies amongst the branches...

Recently, quite a few of my keyrings have fallen apart, so my keys are looking a bit sparse and sad. Seeing as I'm moving soon (and will get new keys once I find an appartment - eek!) I think it might be time for this guy to fulfill his keyring destiny as Monsieur le blaireau, gardien des clefs!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ce qui m'inspire en ce moment...mish mash of happy things!

Lately I am feeling very inspired! But rather than by one thing in particular, it's by a mish mash of happy things! So here they are....

1. My snazzy new camera, a beautiful Canon digital SLR. It's super fancy and I have a LOT to learn about photography but I'm really excited to learn. This is officially my new hobby. Already it has been so much fun to play around and I have been busy trying it out, taking pretty pictures of anything and everything!

2. This leads me to my second happy thing - birds! Armed with my new photography machine, I've been sneaking up on them like the paparazzi, capturing their fluttering wings when they least expect it! From bluetits on the feeder in my parent's garden... gulls flying around at sunset the coast of Scotland...

...and this pretty little sanderling skipping on the shoreline... this rather handsome tufted duck spotted right here in London...

I'm so happy to finally be able to capture these creatures up close and get a glimpse of all the little details that set them apart - like the green patch on this tufted ducks face which you can't see with the naked eye, or the way that that sanderlings feet skim the surface of the water, making tiny little ripples.

3. Third source of joy - birthday fun! Ah yes, I aged another year this last weekend and had a lovely time celebrating quietly and happily with my man, who suprised me not only with birthday cupcakes, but also some bubbly, some vin rouge, some olives and, best of all, a selection of cheeeeeeeeeeeese (stilton, cambozola and dolcelatte to be precise: stinky goodness)! So yummy! Is it weird to say that you feel 'inspired by' cheese? Well I care not, cheese makes me happy, and being happy inspires me...

4. The amazing skirt my lovely friend stitched up for me for Christmas. It's made of beautiful paisleyish fabric, it fits perfectly and it's handmade! All of my favourite things :) It's inspiring me to get my sewing machine out and get creating...

5. This song. As far as I'm concerned it is perfection :)

6. I spent my Christmas holidays completely immersed in Haruki Murakami's latest book, IQ84. I don't really want to write a big long review - just go and read it - but I will say that I absolutely love this man's writing and his crazy weird imagination. It was wonderful to get so hooked on a book again and I feel inspired to both read more on a regular basis and to get writing myself....

7. And the most exciting thing of all that is making me happy and inspiring me is... in a couple of months I'm moving to France! More precisely, "the most beautiful city of France", Bordeaux. That esteemed title comes from a plaque found in the city itself, (see below) so it's clearly not biased at all! haha! But yes, my lovely scientist man will be starting a new job there in March and seeing as I'm free to finish off my studies there (my PhD is, rather handily, in French literature), I'll be 'fleeing the country' with him. I'm so excited for more French adventures. There's just the small matter of finding somewhere to live first! And then the croissant eating can commence!

We've visited the city twice before. To say that I am excited about living there is an understatement!

It's Wineland!

What's been inspiring you lately?

Friday, January 06, 2012

A haiku a day...

Alone on the beach,
Just me and the sea, pounding
along the shoreline.

One face looks forward,
one behind, but i'm still blind,
to present dangers.

In a dark place here,
shed a tear for auld lang syne,
unhappy new year.

Twilight once again,
right on time, down by the bridge,
cautious deer emerge.

Outside a storm brews,
invisible angry winds,
hold us hostage here.

Sunrise streaks beside
Scottish shores, pink light dances,
fluorescent magic.

I pitter patter
all about our happy flat,
Home sweet home is here.


Happy little moments... watching the starlings murmur

Out of the window of my parents house in Devon, every evening in the magical betwixt hours when day sighs its last breath and night starts creeping in, a wonderful phenomena can be observed: the daily gathering of the starlings in the valley below. Did you know that a group of starlings is called a murmuration? It's one of those words that really captures the essence of the thing it describes. Every day, great swarms of them gather, and swoop around the valley in ever increasing numbers in a flurry of wings that swells and swirls, going this way and then that, like a secret rumour which is murmured, getting louder and louder until it cannot be ignored any longer. One evening, the sky turned a rather spectacular shade of lilacy pink and I took the chance to try out my new camera and capture some photos of those crazy wonderful birds.

Here they are when I first got snapping, bundled together, with dartmoor as their background...

Zooming in, the movements of their wings is captured in different states of flapping...

The sky got fuller and fuller of these birdy shapes, like scribbles on a page of purply parchment, each bird marking a secret message that only a madman can understand...

How do they all know to turn at the same moment? How do they all know where the next swooping movement will take them?

Here they are, turning the corner, face on, before they go round again, on their invisible carousel...

Perfect silhouttes, filling up the sky...

And right before I left them to it and got on with my evening inside...

Here's to a happy moment watching the starlings flock...