Saturday, 22 August 2009

Seeing the wood through the trees

I've found a few sweet little wooden things recently. I can't keep them all, so I've been putting them in my etsy vintage shop, and I thought I'd share the photos with you.

I realised the other day that this blog is not really what I intended it to be. But in that respect, it reflects my life. Things never quite turn out as you think. I thought I would be filling this blog with my beautiful creations. But for various reasons, I've found it hard to just get on and make stuff. I'm easily distracted, I get depressed, I procrastinate, I worry.

I've been working on it, though. As well as moving furniture in order to find my mojo, I've been trying to clear up some of the dark, cobwebby corners of my mind. One book that I've found helpful is 'Authentic Happiness' by Martin Seligman. It's not really a self-help book, but a scientific examination of research into what makes people happy. The results are not as obvious as you might think. I read it a few years ago, and re-reading it recently helped me to start feeling more positive.

And in my typically contrary manner, I found that being completely miserable was also a huge help this week. People talk wisely about 'the grieving process', as though it's some linear. step-by-step path that can be tracked and measured. In my case, it's more like wandering through a particularly chaotic maze.

I was trying to keep positive, and finding it very difficult. I think it was like being told NOT to think of a pink elephant - suddenly that's all you can think of. By trying not to be sad, I was obsessed with it. So when I had some time to myself on Monday, I gave in to it. I wallowed in a ridiculous, indulgent bout of self-pity. I was like a sulky, stroppy teenager, with my whole universe revolving around my misery, thank you very much. I cried and felt sorry for myself, and gave in to all those black thoughts.

And then bizarrely and unexpectedly, it was all over, and I was feeling pretty much back to normal. (I'd say right as rain, but I could do with some sunshine.) I must have needed to get it out of my system.

So it's all progress of sorts, I suppose. Even managing to put a few more items in my etsy shop is something positive, after an unintended lull over the past couple of months. And my beautiful creations? Wait and see....

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Chuff Chuff

[Good grief, I hear you mutter, she's done another blog post. Three blogs in three days? I admire her enthusiasm, you admit charitably, but after all, you can have too much of a good thing, can't you? It's a valid viewpoint, I reply, and I can only apologise for my wildly erratic flow of posts. It appears to be feast or famine on this blog...]

A few months ago, Mr Kitsch announced that he'd never been on a steam train and thought he'd like to try it. Oh God, I thought, this is a sign of being really middle-aged. I was also gripped by a flashback to my childhood, when my train-spotting older brothers inflicted endless trips to steam railways on my scarred infant psyche.

'OK,' I said, smiling bravely, 'we'll go on one.' There are a couple of steam railways in South Devon, and I offered to go on one while we were away. We even went and looked at a steam engine. 'I think that's enough,' said Mr Kitsch. 'We don't need to go on one now.' I breathed a little easier, I can tell you.

On the way back from Devon, we stayed a night at Mr Kitsch's parents in Somerset. I must have had a moment of weakness, because the next morning we somehow found ourselves heading for the West Somerset Railway at Bishops Lydeard. We got to the station to find a train about to leave. Tickets were bought in a rush, and before I knew it, we were going to Minehead on a steam train.

Except it wasn't a steam train. As we started away from the station, we looked out of the window expectantly and discovered we were being pulled by a diesel. A 50 year old diesel, the ticket collector explained helpfully, trying to sell us on the history of the thing.

But. Not. A Steam Train. Oh, we laughed about it, but there was an edge of hysteria to it. When we calmed down, we decided to get off at Watchet and get the next train (a steam one, definitely) an hour later. In fact, it was a perfect solution - an hour to wander about and look at Watchet harbour in the sunshine, and a steam train for Mr Kitsch.

But even before we got on the steam train, a funny thing happened. I started to enjoy myself. Chugging leisurely through the English countryside on a beautiful summer's day was pure joy. Gorgeous scenes floated past; fields full of plump contented sheep or ripening corn, the stations with their floral displays and old tin advertising signs- even trolleys with old suitcases and trunks, and best of all, huge banks of wild flowers - rosebay willow herb, ox-eye daisies, cow parsley and teasels. If it sounds idyllic, it was.

The old carriages were nostalgic too. Like big kids, we stuck our heads out of the windows to get more of it all - the small of the grass, the sound of the train, and the soot in our hair. Wonderful!

I'm still not that interested in steam engines but sometimes, on a nice day you can really enjoy the journey.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Little People

Continuing on from my last post, I just want to pick out a couple of highlights from my Devon trip.

The first was a visit to see 'Field for the British Isles' by Antony Gormley, which is currently installed at Torre Abbey in Torquay. (We weren't allowed to take photos, so the picture above is from the Torre Abbey website.) It was created in 1993 and has been taken round the UK and installed in various locations. It is made up of 40 000 little terracotta figures, which completely cover the floor of the large barn in the abbey grounds. All the eyes of all the figures are turned to the viewer, which gives them a touching humanity.

Torre Abbey was well worth a visit - the gardens had wonderful, raucously-coloured borders of dahlias, and inside there was lots art - contemporary and period. This mobile was created by children in response to the 'Field'.

Another place I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend was the Doll Museum in Paignton. It's the sort of museum I would love to have; a small, eccentric, ramshackle collection of all kinds of dolls and toys, stuffed into a large shop premises down a side street. The delightful lady who owns it has been collecting dolls since she was a little girl in the 1930s, and gave us a wonderful guided tour all to ourselves, as we were the only visitors at the time.

Sadly, she didn't allow photography in the museum, but gave me permission to take a photo of the window display.

Our final encounter with miniature humanity was a visit to the model village at Babbacombe. Both Mr Kitsch and I remembered it from childhood holidays. I can't say it lived up to my childhood memories, (I think I was confusing it with a different one) but it's certainly lively. It even includes a nudist beach and a cottage on fire!

Monday, 10 August 2009


I've just had a few days in Devon. And the sun shone!
Well, not every day, but enough to make it feel like a holiday!
We went to the seaside

We went on the pier.

We had fun on the amusements

We ate lots of nice things

We went round the gardens

We sat on the beach

We walked round the harbour

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Sunday Afternoon with an Old Friend

On Sunday, Mr Kitsch and I went on a smallish expedition all around the edge of The Downs. The Downs are a large open area of land in Bristol. It's like a park, but it's not walled in: there are no flowerbeds or park architecture, just grass and trees; there are roads through it, but parts of it are quiet and hardly disturbed.

On winter Saturdays, 30 football pitches are set up, where amateur league teams play to the death. And even then, there's still plenty of space for walkers, runners, kids, kites, bikes, balls, barbecues, picnics, pitches, twitchers, crows, dogs, doggers, joggers, jackdaws, outdoors, lovers, mothers, ice-creams, frisbees and sometimes funfairs, fun-runs, fireworks and circus tents. But all that makes it sounds crowded and it never is. You can always find somewhere away from the crowd. And the sky is always huge.
It's my favourite place in Bristol. Even on a mundane walk to the shops, the open space and greenery will lift my spirits every time. I keep saying I should walk there every day, but stupidly, I don't. But I am trying to walk more, and I've thought for ages it would be interesting to walk right round the very edge of The Downs. Not just the roads and paths that go round near the edge, but the grass at the very edge, next to garden walls, or the cliffs of the Avon Gorge.
So we did it on Sunday. My estimate from the map is that the whole route was something over 3 miles. Not too strenuous, and we made it pretty leisurely, with lots of stops to admire interesting plants or ripening berries. Halfway through we made a small detour to have a cup of tea in the cafe by the water tower. However, we were very strict, and had to retrace our steps, so not one inch of the perimeter was missed!

All the houses round The Downs are beautiful, covetable properties. It's not just the position, but the houses themselves, which are full of character and charm. The sort of house you stroll past, and dream "One day...". the sort of place that makes you yearn to win the lottery or discover a gold mine (real or metaphorical - I don't mind!). My dream house would have a tower, and I love quirky Victorian mansions with turrets and battlements. Oh yes, there's a lot of dreaming to be done as you walk round The Downs.
It was a sunny afternoon and it seemed as though everyone we saw had an ice cream. Two climbers who had scaled the cliffs and arrived at the top festooned with ropes and clanking with hardware, walked past us scoffing choc ices. There are always ice cream vans on the downs. When my brother was a teenager, many years ago, he got a job selling ice creams in a van. The van the firm gave him was so old, it broke down on the first day. Undeterred, they towed him and the ancient van up to The Downs each day and just left him there. In the evening they would come and tow him back to the yard again. I think he did that for a whole summer.

Despite temptation, we nobly resisted the lure of a 99 from the 'Kool Ices' van. Instead, we feasted on the view (see what I did there?). When we looked down into the Avon Gorge at the river, we were just in time to see a flotilla of small ships leaving this weekend's Harbour Festival. The view into the gorge is always impressive, and it was a great end to a lovely afternoon.
Walking round The Downs is like talking to an old friend. Sometimes you cover old ground and enjoy the same old subjects, but sometimes, when you have time, you can discover something new or unexpected.