Sunday, 7 January 2018

little moments

A funny thing happened when I was walking from home to the local shops on Friday morning.  As I turned a corner I saw a woman on the opposite side of the road walking towards me.  I didn’t know her, but she was a similar age to me and carrying a bunch of tulips.  As she saw me, she called out with pleasure and started to cross the road towards me, speaking as she did so.  I was struck by a moment of doubt as I wondered if she was someone I SHOULD recognise and I checked over my shoulder to see whether she was actually greeting someone behind me.  This made her realise that she had taken me for someone else and as she reached my side she apologised.  We both laughed and agreed it was a case of mistaken identity, patted each other’s arm reassuringly and carried on our way.  What could have been an awkward moment turned into a little jewel of connection in the middle of an ordinary day.
I’m trying to pay more attention to these little moments.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

the long haul

Steve and I have been married for 45 years. (No I can’t believe it either – surely we’re still in our carefree twenties).

I’ve been intrigued over the past few weeks to start noticing the artefacts (many of them wedding presents) that have made the journey with us.

It’s probably no surprise that stainless steel flatware would survive (and no doubt outlast us) just as my parents’ silverware survived them and came into our possession.  We love this Norwegian “Maya” cutlery and have six place settings, which we use mainly for special occasions.  There was a period when it came into everyday use, but the teaspoons vanished one by one, as teaspoons mysteriously do, and proved difficult (scarce and prohibitively expensive) to replace.
We were amused and gratified a few years ago when visiting an exhibition of twentieth century Scandinavian design in Glasgow to discover that our knives and forks were featured as design classics.

There are also quite a number of kitchen items, still in regular use, that date from 1972:

This well-used yellow canister contains porridge oats.

This bright yellow lemon squeezer shows no signs of age.

But this enamelled roasting dish has a more venerable appearance

And these sundry utensils have lost their paint, but are still perfectly serviceable.

Who knew that pyrex is so long-lasting?  These all came as part of a set (some have been broken).

We also have pyrex measuring jugs so well used that the measurement details have worn away.  They have been demoted to my studio for dyeing and felt making.

This glass decanter is sadly marred by limescale, but I love its fat bellied shape and the gorgeous heavy stopper.

We’re book hoarders, so many of our books predate our marriage, but there are three that were actually wedding presents or given to us at that time.

Perfect Cooking by the marvellous Marguerite Patten

Future Shock by Alvin Toffler
 And the Oxford Book of English Verse

Textiles are not renowned for their longevity, but this Irish linen double damask tablecloth (impossible to photograph) has made the journey.  It really only comes out for Christmas and family celebrations, but is special to me because it was a gift from my Irish uncle and is covered in symbols of Irish history – a double bonus of Irish heritage and mind-boggling textile skill.

My make-do-and-mend personality is demonstrated by the backing fabric of this quilt.  Once upon a time it was a yellow bed-sheet.  Back in the day Habitat had fantastic deep-dyed bedlinen and we had two duvet and sheet sets in  bright yellow and royal blue.  Over time they wore out and went out of fashion (not necessarily in that order), but I still had a yellow sheet available for the dye-bath when I wanted to finish this quilt about ten years ago.

Clearly many things that started out on the journey with us have worn out or been discarded en route.  We are looking a little careworn ourselves.  (I really can't do selfies and I hate having my photo taken, so this is true love).  But somehow or another we're both still here, still married, still friends, not thrown away.  If you know me well, you know that I'm not a great one for sentimental language or expressions of love, but I am grateful for our mutual perseverance and loyalty and the love that has fuelled them.  We're also really grateful for the things that have been added to us over the years - notably three lovely daughters, their husbands and six grandchildren, plus dozens of wonderful friends.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Crystal clear*

I had breakfast in the bath this morning, which is something I haven’t done very often since moving to our current home twelve years ago.  This is partly because we now have an adequate shower and partly because we no longer live in a house with bathroom and kitchen on the same level, which made the process of making breakfast while the bath was running a less risky affair.  Anyway, whatever; it triggered memories of that former house and former times and, as I lowered my head under the surface and my ears filled up with water it triggered another reminder.  I have been a hearing-aid user for fifteen years. 


This is probably not an anniversary I expect to celebrate, but it is worthy of some thought and reflection.  I was fifty when I acquired my first analogue hearing aid having requested a hearing check earlier that year.  Unusually (I think) I was one of those people who became aware of my hearing loss before other people started insisting.  My father gradually lost his hearing as he got older and I had strong memories of the period before he succumbed to testing while he insisted that we had all started mumbling.

A lot of people are familiar with the process of having spectacles prescribed and the process of the optician flipping lenses asking which one is better.  Sight correction is a careful and precise art – hearing correction is less so.  The process has been improved by digital hearing aids which can be adjusted to some extent to accommodate the type of hearing loss, but basically a hearing aid is a small loudspeaker positioned behind the ear with a plastic ear-mould inside the ear.  It can take a very long time to get used to a first hearing aid.  To start with the sensation of having a large foreign object in the ear is very pronounced.  It feels like having a bad head cold and can make you feel as if your nose is blocked as well as your ears.  Then the sounds it amplifies are unfiltered by the brain.  Going out from the hushed hearing aid clinic into a busy street feels like a sensory assault and flushing the loo sounds like a waterfall being unleashed from a dam.  In the first year of having my hearing aid I frequently felt so desperate that I took it out and felt it wasn’t helping.  It took a talking-to from one of the audiologists at the clinic to make me persevere with wearing the aid all the time and really start to get the benefit from it.

I now have two digital hearing aids which are programmed to my particular hearing loss, which also have special settings to cope with noisy environments and for listening via loop systems.  I am well used to wearing them from the time I get up until I settle down to sleep at night, but they are not without their problems and difficulties.  Batteries don’t last very long and frequently give up the ghost at inconvenient moments.  Plastic tubing pops out of place and is difficult to realign.  An enthusiastic hug from a friend can cause shrill feedback if my ear is covered.  I try not to think about the time I sleepily removed my hearing aids at night and carefully dropped them into my water glass – not realising until the morning that they had been immersed in water all night. 

The simple fact is that hearing aids don’t replace normal hearing.  Even with the amplification of my aids I need the television louder than other people.  Clarity is lost and I frequently mishear or fail to understand what people say.  I can’t join in desultory chat amongst a group of people making conversation across a room; I can’t “earwig” on conversations in buses and cafes; I have more or less given up trying to listen to my beloved Radio 4 and hardly ever click on video or music links on the computer because the effort of setting up the earphones and taking out the hearing aids to listen rarely seems worth the effort.  Certain voices are more difficult to catch than others.  Children’s voices, for example, are very light and not always clear, so I sometimes miss out on conversation with my grand-children.

 Other people’s attitudes to deafness are very interesting.  I’m not stone deaf, so on the whole I haven’t encountered rudeness or exasperation from people outside the family.  I’ve never been embarrassed by wearing hearing aids and always make people aware that I have hearing difficulty so that they don’t think I’m being rude or ignoring them if I don’t respond appropriately to something they say.   Family and friends are good at asking me where I would prefer to sit in cafes and restaurants and at relaying instructions to me in public places when I can’t hear the speaker.  In domestic situations with my nearest and dearest it’s not always the same story.  I know that it’s not easy communicating with someone who’s hard of hearing.  I had years of trying to make myself understood by my Dad, who could be pretty haphazard in his use of hearing aids and there were definitely times when I gave up and decided the effort of repeating myself just wasn’t worth it.  On the other hand as the deafened person one soon becomes aware of the tutting and rolled eyes of an impatient family member being asked to repeat themself, of the exaggerated raised voice and slow enunciation as if talking to an idiot. I have been known to become upset and angry.  So have they.

Apart from these irritations I think these days that I’m pretty well adjusted to using my aids.  I certainly couldn’t manage without them.   Somehow, though hearing loss isn’t “normalised” in my life.  It’s still a problem and an irritation, something I would prefer not to have to think about and deal with.
*Apparently a fifteenth anniversary is a crystal anniversary

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

slow stitch

I'm working on an enjoyable piece of stitching at the moment.

Just working organically, grabbing a scrap of fabric and butting it up against another...
and rhythmically stitching them together.
Even the backing is made a scraps of quilt wadding that I'm cobbling together as I go along.
I really don't know where this is going to end up, I'm just enjoying making it happen.


Thursday, 10 July 2014

a sideways look

I always enjoy the joke of the signs on these shutter garage doors at Spike Island studios.

From one direction it reads:

If you walk in the opposite direction, you are instructed:

But if you look at the doors face-on the message is not so clear:


Which just goes to show that facing things head-on may not always be the best strategy.  Some things only make sense with a sideways look.

Friday, 20 June 2014

a quilt for a little girl

J has just had her fourth birthday.  She is moving house this summer.  A joyful quilt for her bed seemed in order.

This is what I made.

She seems to like it.

Sunday, 9 March 2014


Uxorious is a strange and rather ugly word to describe a man who loves his wife.  Its root is the Latin word 'uxor' (wife).  Where it is used at all in modern English it may take a slightly pejorative tone, implying a slightly cringe-worthy devoted love.  Or it may be misused entirely.   In his book Levels of Life Julian Barnes says “I bridle at the misuse of the adjective ’uxorious’.  If we don’t look out, it will come to describe ‘a man who has many wives’, or even (that dubious phrase) ‘a lover of women’.  It doesn’t mean this.  It describes – and always will, whatever future dictionaries may permit – a man who loves his wife.”

My father was an uxorious man, devoted to my mother.  He delighted in buying her clothes and was quite dapper on his own account.  It therefore follows that when, in his later years, he gave me a sum of money for my birthday or Christmas present, I generally spent it on clothes.  Since his death I have missed the ritual of the birthday card with a cheque and the self indulgent shopping spree.  So I have a new birthday ritual, which is to go out on that shopping spree anyway with my own money to buy something that I think of as being from him. 

I am lucky to have an uxorious husband who takes pleasure in buying me clothes for my birthday too, so this year I have indulged in two lovely pieces of fair-trade clothing:

From my Pa, a block-printed tunic dress by Accacia from Chandni Chowk, which pleases the natural dye geek in me by having a swing ticket enumerating the dyes used (alizarin, indigo, madder, cassis, iron, pomegranate, turmeric)


And from Steve this rather lovely summery retro-styled number from People Tree.

It's not even my birthday yet, but the current sunny weather is making me look forward to venturing out in my new threads.  Thanks,  chaps!