Endings and Beginnings…

Lots of ends on my final weave pieces!

I’ve just reached the end of the first year of a Foundation Art degree in Textiles Practice at Bradford School of Art – long name for something wonderfully creative! It’s been a struggle at times, with a part time job and family demands to fit in alongside the course, but I’ve got through by the skin of my teeth. I now have a break until September, but I’m still going to be creating art – there’s a summer project for college (fairly low-key), I want to create art for ME, and I feel the need to write again.

Speaking of writing, I entered a competition at Kirklees College where I’m also a student (part of a group for parents) and won second prize – total surprise as I did it simply for the experience! Here’s my entry if you fancy a read – please do feed back in the comments, would love to hear what you think.

I Accept

River’s hands shook as she locked the car door, fingers suddenly unable to manipulate the key.  Fear sat heavy in her stomach like a pound of lead, making her feet drag as she slowly opened the gate to the long path that snaked towards the old house.

She looked at her watch at the exact moment that her phone buzzed and vibrated with a text message. The phone fell from her startled fingers.  Swearing at her own clumsiness, she picked up her phone and saw, “Where are you? We’re waiting! xx” followed by a string of smiles and heart emojis.

River sighed – almost a sob – and forced herself down the path to the door.  Her mind was in spectacular overdrive, screaming at her to run away, warning her there’d be no acceptance here, just like at home, telling her to disappear without trace likes many other times: rejection was to be hers, always.

But hope always keeps a fierce, tiny fire burning inside River – maybe THIS time it would be alright, perhaps THESE people would turn out to be her tribe, finally…

She stood at the door, ancient wood creaking as it warmed in the late spring sunshine, the smell of wild lavender, rosemary, and mint wafting towards her from the madly, deliciously fragrant border.

About to let her dæmons win, she had just turned to retreat towards the gate when the door was flung open and Elspeth hurtled towards her in sheer delight, squealing about River’s new haircut, and how her parents were DYING to meet her, darling…!

Allowing Elspeth to drag her inside, River was suddenly picked up like a child by a huge bear of a man with eyes identical to Elspeth’s – he hugged her tightly, with a hint of tears in his gorgeous green eyes, and pecked her cheek.

Barely had she drawn back in the breath he’d squashed out of her than Elspeth’s mum swept River into HER arms, clouds of flowery perfume accompanying each movement.

Wide-eyed with shock, River gawped at the couple – so different from her stiff, unyielding parents, clinically cold in their judgement of her, and of who she was.

Elspeth’s parents were excited to meet her – yes, the River who’d been cut off by her family for the supposed sin of changing her name and coming out at the grand old age of 30. River, who’d been rejected by those who should have accepted all her differences, now stood in the embrace of her fiancée and her delighted, accepting parents.  There was an older brother, who kept grinning and ruffling her hair like he was HER brother, and a younger sister who demanded to know where River had got her boots.  Last, but not least,  the most beautiful black cat with startling blue eyes – the double of her beloved Shadow she’d had to leave when her parents rejected her for the last time – wound itself around her ankles, purring loudly.

For the first time ever, she felt truly at home, accepted for herself, and part of a family.


The rules stated that the story had to be under 600 words, so I had to edit my original – prompted by an idea during one of Juliet’s writing club sessions. I’ve always loved writing, it’s given me a creative outlet for years when I felt I ‘couldn’t’ paint or draw, but I’ve gained confidence in myself through Juliet’s classes. If you’re curious about doing some writing, pop over to her website – here – for details.

Why not have a go at something creative, something you might not usually consider, stretch yourself a bit? You may be surprised at what happens, or maybe it sparks off something and takes you down an unexpected route, the ‘road less travelled’ and all that delicious uncertainty?! Let me know in the comments, or pop over to my Instagram account or Facebook page?

Can I have a word…?

Worth remembering!

Words have always fascinated me: what we say and how we say it, the phrases we use in birthday or sympathy cards, words spoken in anger or in love, the thousands of books I’ve probably read, our endless interactions on social media with all its pitfalls, from how we encourage our babies to speak to the almost incomprehensible jargon of technical or legal documents.  Words and language are so vital to being human that the deliberate withholding of them is often seen and used as punishment.

Some words are hard to write, but evoke wonderful memories!

We use words and language as weapons, to cut and hurt, but also as a warm blanket in which to wrap the lost and bereaved.  We simplify our talk for children and those who don’t speak our language, and we also take delight in speaking other languages to show that we can communicate outside our own, sometimes narrow, communities. Words have huge power – writers, thinkers, scientists, and artists have recognised that for millennia – but many of us don’t think about this too deeply.

Says it all…!

Our own self-talk shows how powerful words can be.  How many times have you ‘talked’ yourself into or out of something?  I wonder if you’ve ever convinced yourself that you’re an amazing human being, or that you’re totally worthless, just because of the words you’ve used?  I think language is one of the greatest evolutionary developments in humans, and we don’t often appreciate it.

Words make you think…

Humans have developed the most amazing, detailed, precise, descriptive, beautiful, but also bland and terrible words to communicate everything about their lives.  From the humble shopping list, that carefully chosen verse in a card, the resignation letter, scientific research, years’ worth of diary keeping, school or college assignments, love letters, to critical theatre reviews, breaking up with a girl/boyfriend via text message, a letter confirming a medical diagnosis, the best and worst of literature, or cruel and shameful words that can break families or communities – we spill out our hearts, tell our stories, and send basic information with a myriad of word combinations.  Words can change how we think, feel and believe, for better or worse; they can stop us in our tracks or they can offer support and guidance, they can even change or bring down societies.

‘Atlas of the Heart”, Brené Brown

Our choice of words can change how we feel about or approach our personal lives, too. It seems to be a thing at this time of year, when people are thinking about change, to choose a word (or words) to help guide or shape the months ahead.  Using some simple exercises, you can work through a series of words, narrowing your list down to a handful from which you can choose (usually) one word to guide you through the year.  Some people have more than one, have a separate word for different areas of their life, or change them through the year for various reasons.

Very apt for this time of year…

I’d been thinking for a while about how I hoped 2022 might begin and progress, and then, lo and behold, not one but TWO of the groups I’m privileged to be part of both had a session discussing this very thing!  I think the fact that both groups (Juliet and Clair’s WOW, and Deborah’s Impact) thought along the same lines tells me that 1) I’m so lucky to be involved with some amazing, like-minded people, and 2) during these dark, grey months of post-Christmas, we’re all looking ahead and hoping for or planning change – and happy for anything that helps this process!

Some people find this process of choosing a guiding word quick, easy work – they may have been thinking along the ‘right’ lines already, and just needed some focus to enable them to narrow down their choices.  Others may need time to work out where they are right now before they can begin to think about their future, even just a couple of months ahead, and so the mild discipline of following some simple exercise is invaluable.  Neither approach is wrong, there isn’t a wrong/right way with this stuff – it’s more about having some time to think about what matters to you, and how that word can lead you through times that might be challenging.  It’s also about being open to changing your word if it doesn’t serve you, or if your ideas, plans, or circumstances change – don’t rigidly stick to your first word if it’s making you miserable!

You could think around the words you’re considering – see their dictionary definitions, look at words with similar meanings, consider how they might apply to your hopes and dreams for the year, maybe even try them on for size in another language – looking at things, especially words, from a different viewpoint often makes all the difference (rather like people, in fact!).

Shift sideways slightly for the meaning that fits

There’s a saying about a picture painting a thousand words, but if we didn’t have those words how could we begin to describe what that picture is telling us, what we feel when we observe it?  How could we debate its merits with others, or how could we explain the image to someone from a different culture or who can’t see it (whether they’re blind or absent from our viewpoint)?  Then that image becomes something that only the viewer can appreciate, love, hate, or absorb information from.  We need those thousand words then to explain and understand our experiences.  

Does this picture paint a few of those ‘thousand words’?

After all these words, are you wondering whether I chose a word or two to guide me through 2022?!  Well, I’d had an inkling even before I did the exercises in each group, a couple of words have been whispering to me for some time, and finally I heard them.  I keep coming across the following quote:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” Mary Anne Radmacher

I’m usually a quiet person, I observe and rarely put my head above the parapet, and when I do speak out it’s because something matters deeply, so this quote sings to me.  The root of the word courage is Latin for heart – cor – and later the French word coeur, and courage originally meant to speak from your heart, although it’s more often synonymous with heroism or bravery nowadays.  I think that ‘courage’, with both meanings, is a word meant for me – speaking and behaving from my heart and becoming braver in what I say and do in 2022. 

Even my morning cuppa quote is rather suggestive of courage!

I’m considering a second word, too, and I’m still working through this one.  It’s somewhere around joy, happiness, contentment, beauty, glorious, but I’m still absorbing what these words mean to me before I decide.  I also want (need?) it to work with ‘courage’, so I have a little work to do yet – I’ll let you know how I get on!

I’m curious about your guiding words for 2022 if you’ve chosen, could you share in the comments below? If you’re not choosing one/any, that’s perfectly fine, it’s not for everyone and we all have our own way with words!!

Sun, Sea, And Fear…

Beautiful Newquay!

After several months, maybe more, of various sorts of stress it was wonderful to spend last week in Newquay (Cornwall, UK, for international readers), and get outside in that marvellous coastal fresh air! I’ve wanted (needed?) some sea air for a LONG time, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

There’s something about being near the sea that’s very different from other outdoor environments: even in a coastal town with traffic the air is somehow cleaner, fresher; the light is clearer by the coast, no wonder so many creatives and artists feel drawn to places like Newquay in order to paint/draw/write/make; and being so close to the sea itself is truly awesome, in the proper use of the word. Renoir, Monet, Hokusai, Turner, and so many others depict raging seas, catastrophic storms, or heroic sea battles, whilst Turner and Monet, plus artists such as Beryl Cook, have also immortalised more ‘seaside’ images of our fantastic coastlines.

Many a poem has been written about the sea, from Samuel Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner‘, to John Masefield’s ‘Sea Fever‘ (one of my favourites!), and Ariel’s song from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest‘. As with artists, there’s something that pulls writers and poets again and again towards the coast, that digs deep into the heart of island people who have a love and healthy respect for the beauty and power to be found at the edge where land and water meet.

Almost tropical!

I have the sea in my blood, as do many Brits I suspect: my dad and his father were both Merchant Navy men through and through, spending all their working lives on the sea, and both grew up near the sea; and my other grandad spent time in the Royal Navy during WW2. Some of my best days out/holidays as a child were spent by the sea – although we went many places, the sea definitely had me even then. However, as a poor swimmer and a fearful child in general, the sea has also always held a tiny dread for me: what if I get taken by the current? what happens if the ship sinks? and all the other nightmares we tell ourselves as scared little children, when we can’t swim, or we’re far away from home.

Part of that fear is totally normal and healthy, of course. It makes us cautious of getting too far out of our depth when we’re paddling at the seaside or taking our first sea swim. We wouldn’t last long if we disregarded the lifeguards’ or RNLI advice on how to be safe on the beach or out at sea. But that fear also grows disproportionately, and stops us from enjoying ourselves in this best of environments, can result in us being terrified of exploring even safe areas of the coast, frightened to have a dip in the sea (although in our often-cold seas that’s sensible!), or taking a boat trip.

Last week, during our trip to beautiful Cornwall, I was very brave (for me) and did things I’m usually fearful of doing. We went to Go Ape one day (a tree-top climbing adventure setting) and I clambered about on rickety rope and wood paths between the trees, 20 feet in the air. I was terrified at some points, and came close to panic at going further along the worst stretches, but had to continue so that my 14 year old (who’s also rather nervous of similar activities!) wouldn’t see just how scared I was. It was an important lesson for me. Firstly, that logically I knew I was safe, being tethered by a harness and strong ropes, and secondly that I could manage long enough to show my son that we CAN do hard or scary things, at least for a short while!


Second Big Thing was going out early one morning, alone, to sit and paint in Newquay harbour. I’m getting better at calling myself an artist, but perfectionism still gets the better of me and insists that I’m not really, and that I have to do the work over and over, to practice before doing the ‘real’ piece. I’ve also had a lifelong fear of being alone, so just leaving the guest house and walking to the harbour, even in daylight, was a Big Deal! Well, I sat there in the cool air, drew a few basic lines in pencil, and then PAINTED STRAIGHT AWAY!! I know it’s a normal thing, but sitting there, drawing straight from life, no second chances, trying to capture the changing light and the way the sea was gently rolling in and out, drew me in and I forgot that I’d gone out alone, no one was holding my hand and telling me it was ok.

The view…

…and my version

My third Big Thing last week was actually going INTO the sea to swim around a bit with a lovely friend who moved down to Newquay several years ago. She’s a big advocate of stepping out of your comfort zone, of trying something different, and of sticking two fingers up at fear. On more than one occasion, she said to me, “What would you do if you weren’t scared?” Spot on, my friend! I’ve spent large parts of my life so far being too scared to try: in case it goes wrong; in case no one likes it (or me); what if I don’t like it, and all the rest.

Glennon Doyle speaks about doing Hard Things, whatever that looks like for each of us. In a similar way to my friend’s comment, she encourages us to try a little bit more, to face that uncertainty, and to accept that, yes, it may well go wrong. So what? Didn’t kill you, did it?! Most importantly, did/do YOU like it, and do you now have the confidence to try again, to push a little further?

That’s what this week has taught me, or rather opened my eyes to – that the things I’ve always feared aren’t as bad in the doing as in the imagining of them. I know I’ll slide backwards – progress isn’t linear, after all, but I’m choosing to believe that I am moving forward much more than I’m moving in reverse. My week of sun, sea, and a tiny dose of fear has been just what I needed to re-awaken my creativity, and inspire me to write, make, draw, and paint.

To this end, I’ve appropriated part of our garage as my dedicated art/creative space. Hubby’s stuff and cluttered shelves have been sorted/tidied/swept as needed, I have a couple of re-purposed filing cabinets to store a lot of my art materials, and have moved in an old table to work on, and even got brave enough to put fairy lights on hubby’s motorbike to soften mechanical look of the garage! It’s a work in progress, and I’ll post some more, updated photos next time, but starting the work is the Big Thing. I felt a little fearful in taking up space – literally and metaphorically – as I’ve absorbed a decades-old message of women being small and quiet, but that little voice in my heart is speaking a bit louder, boosted by the lovely Juliet and the others at WOW (see Juliet’s site for more info if you fancy joining us!)

New art space taking shape…

…means glamourising the stuff I can’t move!

What is YOUR summer gifting you this year? I wish you the courage to face your little fears like I’m trying to do – and I think succeeding a bit, too! – and the excitement and realisation that it IS worth facing them, because on the other side are wonderful things!!

Let me know via the comments – I’d love to know what you all think!

You can join me over on Instagram, too! Find me at yorkshire_wellies.

Unfinished Symphony

Still more to do on this little painting…

This week, I’ve realised how many incomplete jobs I have waiting for me, far too many to count!! From not-put-away or not-sorted-for-the-charity-shop clothes, financial tasks, cleaning jobs, DIY things, the list feels endless. On top of all those are the things I want to do, all the creative and artistic stuff, which inevitably end up at the bottom of the pile, never to be seen/done for ages, or done in a rush if I’ve a deadline to meet! Where do I even start?! Do you have weeks like this, or (like me) does life feel like an endless list of unfinished chores? Fear not, even the most disorganised of us (even me!!) can get on top of all this chaos!

Sometimes I look at my home and life, and despair that they will ever be something like organised and tidy, so I sink even deeper into anxiety and depression, can’t tackle anything, and then things get even worse, very vicious circle. I know I’m at the bottom of it at the moment as I look around our downstairs rooms, which are open plan so I can see it all at once – every single surface is covered with clutter! However, even when I feel such despair, I can sometimes still force myself into starting the process of clearing up, even if I don’t believe it will get better. There have been times when I’m actually in tears whilst I’m working, feeling so ill and past it that I’m lucky to not have been shipped off to the ‘funny farm’!

Totally unedited photo of my sofa, full of all the books I’m reading, plus other clutter!!

So where do I start, will I ever get tidy, will I feel better, I hear you ask, whilst tutting at the photo above…? Or are you thinking wow, someone as bad as me…? Trust me, this is just the tip of the iceberg, definitely not sharing any further photos until the place is much better!! There IS hope, and things DO get better, even when you have mental ill-health issues, when it’s all been left so long you don’t even know where to start, or simply when you’re part of a busy household and it’s ‘normal’ mess and clutter. I know it’s been said before by better people than I, and it sounds very trite, but you need to think of it as eating the proverbial elephant – a little bit at a time.

Have a quick look at all that mess critically, even it’s hard to do, and decide which is the most important. Have you got clean pots and pans, and a clear space to cook and eat? No? Then that might be a good place to start, even if it’s just enough for one meal. You could do more after that meal and clear all your washing up. Maybe the next morning clear your entire table, even if it takes all of that morning (bites of the elephant, remember?!). Trust me, I’ve been there soooo many times, and I really want to be at the point where my home and life is relatively organised and tidy, and I need to do it for my mental state and so that my poor children have a cosy home where they can find their own belongings!

Even if you’re feeling terribly overwhelmed, and whether you’re doing it alone or with help, you can pace yourself whilst neither giving up nor working yourself into an absolute state; again, trust me when I say I’ve been in both of those places! If that table clearing finished you off tonight, then stop, but be firm, have a word with yourself, and complete it in the morning. Then clear the last bits, clean your table, and finish it off however you’d imagined it: clean tablecloth, jug of greenery or flowers, candles, set for the next meal, or whatever. You could take a photo as a reminder that you CAN do these things, even when you’re not feeling well; it could act as an incentive if you feel that you can’t do anything.

A ‘before’ photo of my table a few months ago, and this was after I’d started – dreadful!!
And after, polished and twinkly lights on!

I feel very exposed putting these photos in here, but I want to show you all that however bad things get, you can get yourself out of the mess, whether it’s literal as in the photos above, or other aspects of your life. They can take a long time to tackle and change, and a lot of effort, and there will be plenty of occasions that you really can’t do anything to help yourself, and you’ll be beating yourself up about every blooming thing you get ‘wrong’…and so on, and so on… Clearing my table above took most of one day, and there were loads of clothes on the chairs as well; I kept breaking off to do other things, and my heart sank every time I came back to table, feeling like it was endless, like the Aegean stables that Hercules could never get clean. However, I did get it tidy and clean, and it stayed that way for some time, before the clutter began to creep back. Now it’s worse than the first photo above, so I am dealing with it this weekend, so that we can sit and enjoy our food without all the clutter staring at us accusingly!! I have so many creative ideas bursting to get out of my head, and onto paper or other media, that I have to create space for myself to do them, so clearing the table is vital for my creative endeavours as well as for us as a family.

So, I’ve been brave and vulnerable enough to share my mess (house and head!) with you, in an attempt to show that you can overcome and finish things, and going public might help to keep me accountable to myself. How about you? Can you share your unfinished work with me? Have you got a story to tell, a triumph, or some hints and tips for the chronically unfinished and untidy?! I’d love to hear your stories – post a comment, message me here or on Instagram, or pop over to my shiny new Facebook page and talk to me.

Have a great weekend, and I hope that I might have inspired you to finish just one of your unfinished symphonies! xx

Fresh start – hello!

Hello there, how are you?!

Time for a revamp of my blog to reflect the recent, positive changes I’m experiencing. I might still draw on memories of my beautiful little mum for inspiration occasionally, but now is the time for moving forwards and exploring new avenues, hence the new name and image.

Would you care to come with me?

I’ve always denied I’m a creative person, having dreadful perfectionism and imposter syndrome that’s crippling, but thanks to various lovely people I’m slowly getting to grips with those monsters and others. My friend, Juliet, of The Curious Creative Club, has scolded me for months about my use of the word “should”, instead of “could”, and she’s quite right, of course. Sometimes it takes another’s perspective to really wake you up: even knowing how you’ve always done things, and suspect it might not be the healthiest way to think or live, that kick up the bum from a good friend, and constant exposure to kind, generous, creative people is what REALLY helps the scales to fall from your eyes. Last September I joined WOW Wednesday, a local accountability group created by Juliet and her friend Clair (of A Social Nature), and it was the best thing I’ve done in years, if not ever. It’s a really diverse bunch of people who come together every fortnight to share their goals, whether they feel they’re winning at their experience of life, and always with care for one another. We’ve been able to keep things going since lockdown via Zoom, which has been a Godsend; those fortnightly chats have morphed slightly, but there’s still that feeling of community, of belonging, which is the most important thing for me. Can’t wait until we can return to Miriam’s café for our meetings, for coffee and delicious food, that would be the icing on the cake so to speak!

This space we’ve had since March has been very curious, space I would never have had otherwise. There have been some quite low times, but mostly it’s been time to explore interests for which I don’t usually give myself permission. I’ve written quite a few things, even had some published on the Yorkshire Writers’ Lunch blog, quite tickled to think of myself as a Writer! I’m investigating other ways of expressing my creativity, some I enjoy and seem to be good at, others I’m too impatient with and find boring or frustrating. Maybe that’s the perfectionism rearing its head, not giving me time to explore more fully?

I’ve done some painting, which I had turned into greetings cards, and intend to try some new media and techniques soon – watch this space! I’ll be sharing my writing and poetry, art and more, do hope you’ll pop back soon!