Thursday, 28 November 2019


A beautiful flight above the clouds as the sun begins to go down. 

a day out at the Anthony Gormley show at the RA

We are entranced by this, my aunt totally absorbed in feelings, meanings

I had gone south to see my son perform one of his mentalist/comedy magic shows. Having cancer has severely curtailed his work and activities, but after over a year of operations, chemo, and general unwellness, he has started to feel some energy again and determines to get back to his loved work as a magician, performing, and to continue to do so despite pain and tiredness to do so as long as his body will let him.

We don't know how long he has, but he refuses to live that, although he feels it hanging over him all the time. 

On stage he becomes a true performer and a wonder with his audiences, he really comes out of himself, and says he feels at home there. Something we share, although I no longer perform and have not done so for many years, it is something that doesn't leave you.

And neither has his existence ever left my consciousness for the 45 years that I had no idea where he was or if he was still alive, having been adopted when he was a baby.

I came across something the other day which was an article about psychological effects on the birth mother of having one's baby adopted.  I was a bit blown away actually, you never think about that for yourself, you just think about it for your child - is he ok, did i do right by him, has he been told, how does he feel...

But you - you just get on with life as best you can. You avoid babies and children as much as you can without it looking odd, without doing anything you have to apologise for or explain about. You hide the knife in your guts when your sibling has your parents's 'first' grandchild, and say what a lovely photo, and hide the subsequent knives every time a sibling, cousin, friend become pregnant, have babies.
And when they grow up through their growing stages through birthdays and christmases, their graduations, loves, their own children, the knives are still there.
You live with it in silence.  Because it is impossible to expect others to understand, the guilt, the pain, the loss.

And then i read this article which seemed to explain it all, and it felt as if it was all allowed all along, and that there had been counselling for birth mothers in recent times when they gave their baby up! I'm glad, i'm glad for them because otherwise you just go numb, and can't function, don't even know you aren't functioning, smoking dope all day.
You can get out of the dope habit or at least i eventually did. Maybe i am lucky i don't seem to be an addictive person, but it must be hell if you are one.

And now my son and I have been in touch, he found me 5 years ago! 
And we found we had such a lot in common that we thought the nature nurture argument was sorted with nature winning!!

I am so bloody proud of him. He has done life a fairly hard way - but all his own way - putting himself through all kinds of experiences and survived whole and kind and caring and special. 
But he now has cancer and it is terminal.

And i am not sure how to be a mother. Or a grandmother to his two fab girls, 9 and 12 this year.  They have now been told, and i can't even imagine how they all cope. But there is a lovely partner to my son now - they got together before the diagnosis, moved in together, love each other madly, and then a year later the diagnosis. But the girls love her too and she is there, taking care and trying her best to cope. And I bless her for being there and thank heaven for their finding each other.

I want to write to my granddaughters but having decided that i now realise i have no idea what to say. I think perhaps i just have to begin. We have all met each other a few times, when I go south my son always makes sure they are there for a few of hours, and I feel I am just beginning to get to know them, but will I ever be able to be a proper gran, what will happen, how do i do this.

All unanswerable questions just now. The questions go round and round, the thoughts, the worries and sadness. Doing my best to keep positive. live day by day, be normal. Back in Scotland. 

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Old Photos, first UK Christmas

The first Christmas I had in the UK was in 1956. I know that because it was the year of the Suez crisis.  We had been living in Cairo at the time.  I was 6. I remember flying to the UK with mother because Granny had had a heart attack (or stroke).  Ma told me years later that when we landed we were greeted with 'thank goodness you got out', which surprised her as she had not realised how serious the situation was (apparently!) Who knows what our parents told us in order not to scare us!
Anyway, father and 2 other BOAC men had bundled into a jeep and driven north to Alexandria to get boats home, but had got caught and arrested there.

Meanwhile, ma and I were staying with an old pal of hers, Peg, who lived in an old house which had once been the hunting lodge of the Nightingale family. It was called Longdown, and was haunted by the Embly ghost, being very near to Embly Park school which I believe used to be the Nightingale family house.  Longdown was haunted too, I heard the ghost.  Peg reassured me it was a friendly one, just came up stairs at night and checked we were all ok.

Longdown in the snow.

I loved this house, it was full of strange nooks and crannies to hide in, and dusty places to explore, it was also on the edge of a wood where I would spend time running about inventing stories and fantasies with Alex and Pru the Pointer, Peg's dog.

Alex was already staying with Peg when ma and I arrived. Standing at the doorway as we got out of the car were Peg and a boy wielding an enormous sword!  This was Alex, Peg's nephew on hols from school whose parents lived in Hong Kong. I was awestruck.  The sword was a family heirloom of Peg's, it eventually ended up in the attic out of harm's way.

I am unsure about what time of year all this took place in. At some point I will look up when Suez actually crisised. But by the time Christmas came my father was back, and staying with us, and I saw my very first snow.

Ma and me and another front view of Longdown.

Me and Alex on Anna, Peg's horse, at Longdown. Anna once chucked me head first into a bed of nettles!

Snowball time, i am looking a bit bemused.

Side view of Longdown, there was a large shed on the other side and a large veg garden in which I lost my tortoise.  This is me and Pru Peg's pointer, usually mucking about in the wood.

Me, Peg and Ma, winter walks.

All these photos were taken by my father, he never went anywhere without his camera, so he was obviously back from Egypt by now.  I used to go into my ma's room each morning when I woke up.  One morning there was a man in her bed, I crept round to her side and asked ma, she said it was my father. I didnt recognise him - he had a beard! I was quite annoyed that he hadn't brought me my dolls house back.  He had one suitcase, and all our belongings at the house in Cairo were never to be seen again - by us anyway.  I remember father being really angry about something to do with the government but in those days children were not told 'grown up' things.

I have so many memories of this time, this place. I may continue this later.

Monday, 7 January 2019

A Carol Service in Salisbury

A little post of it's own, this.
In Salisbury we noticed we would miss the Cathedral carol service taking place after our visit ended. A carol service for Busy People was advertised at another church nearby, and we decided we might go to it.  When the day came, we decided again that we might as well go along even if just to see what a carol service for busy people was like.

My niece was with us. We were a bit late, just in time to be led in to what looked like the last seats right beside the huge Christmas tree behind the wind quartet. The place was packed and it was very large. So we sang carols, my niece sobbed more than sang and my sister in law sang wiping away tears, they had both declared that they cried when they sang, and they did! I thought I might cry as well, having done so in previous church situations, but I didnt, i think being between two people who were was sufficient.

Then there was a sermon, in which the vicar spoke to us all as if we were all in a sitting room chatting. To illustrate a point he was making he produced a plastic kite with a superman picture on it, and ran up and down the aisle to make it fly! What a wonderfully warm, human, person he seemed to be.  We all felt warmed and loved somehow.

At the end of the service people came around with mountains of mince pies and gallons of mulled wine, an endless supply.  My niece was in floods of tears, i think the whole thing had been such a cathartic experience for her, a woman came to talk to her and offered to ask the vicar to chat to her, he came and took her off to a quieter spot and she came back smiling and feeling a bit overwhelmed.

We had thought of going to a carol service because we thought it might make us feel a bit more christmassy, it was just a thought.  It turned out to be a cathartic experience for all of us. My panic 'dreads' thing i had woken up with that morning had totally gone as well.

It is 2019, 7th January, such a dark time of the year and yet again i have been low with bad cold and cough - now on the mend.  The dark gets right into me and i become dark myself, struggling to find any reasons to do things while being determined not to sink into the black hole of inactivity. So at least the cleaning gets done. Which is something for me, being such a clart.
The garden is neglected, the soil in a bad way, plants gone dead and brown, it is windy and it is cold.
I like to keep the old dead things around the garden to help any wildlife, especially a passing hedgehog, get about without being pounced on.  Hope there is a hedgehog in the hedgehog house.
Mainly it is the soil i need to improve, the large tree makes things more difficult as does all the expense of buying compost etc. I will persevere, do it in stages, nearer spring time.
For now, i have rearranged some furniture having rid the room of xmas stuff, in order to give myself a small space meant for painting at. And here I am at it, totally unable to paint at all.

There is a new tenant upstairs. A man apparently. He has quite heavy footsteps, but then most men do. The last tenant, a woman, was incredibly quiet. I hope the man isnt very noisy, hasnt been so far.

I was in Salsibury before Christmas for a few days, staying in a hotel with my sister in law, it was a real treat she gave me.  Hanging out with her was very relaxing and enjoyable.  We saw some of my brother and niece, and aunt, and i was quite sad not to be staying for Christmas.

A very strange thing on a tower on the bridge - and wreath of handcuffs!


At my favorite venue in Salisbury, Fisherton Mill art centre, studios, cafe and shop

Cathedral cloisters

Think this might be called the Quire, not sure

Cathedral Christmas globe

Side chapel, my brother and my son have a leaf hanging there now


The font, the large globe reflected therein

more perspective

A window in the hotel corridor !!

There it is. Nice memories. I did think about looking up rental prices in Salisbury when I got home. Then I remembered that things and places always seem better when on holiday, living somewhere will always be different.

This is my cousin Janet, but I dont remember what the programme was.

Here is my niece at Edinburgh airport trying to sort herself ready for security check

She's getting there

now she is ready to go

She flew up for a couple of days' visit.

it is time to go now, not sure where, i just need to move, change environment, get away from cabin fever. 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Another year, another Open Studios event.  This image seems to be the current favourite, I could have sold it so many times over, but it is not for sale - being part of the body of work I am working on in order to try and get an exhibition when there is enough.

I dont terribly enjoy these occasions, but the advantages are that pal’s come and visit and it is also interesting to hear different people’s comments.  The odd person, (not the person is odd), will like something I didnt think anyone would take to, which is also interesting.

Sometimes you can tell who is an artist themselves.  Some people just look in the door - they cant see me, I am behind it at my desk - and go away.  Some people come in and look round and go out again. Some people come in and say hello to my hello and really look at the work and comment.  Artists often dont let on they are an artist, until you wheedle it out of them!

You can get quite down when not many people come in, but you take it on the chin and find something to do, and then eventually people will come in, and you realise it is much nicer to have people coming in who are actually interested, than the ones who arent anyway. 

Like any art, you put your ‘soul’ on display.  I think I manage to put my ‘soul’ in a safe place to cope. I guess we all must do that in our own ways.  

The next thing is going to be on 30th when I look up on the SSA website to see if any of the works I submitted have been selected.  I dont have them on display this weekend, so they will be very new if they - or any of them - are.   Again ‘soul’ in box, so it doesn’t matter.

I realised that I ought to have some business cards yesterday when people asked me for one, so I made a few - yesterday’s batch didnt really work, I over worked them I think. so I made more last night at home, plain, but people are taking them!  Eek that is scary too.  I really am going to have to make more ‘Hebridean series’ works and find an exhibition when there is a good enough body of it.  Encouragingly (is that a word?) people seem to like the two ‘works in progress’ - unfinished Hebridean works I have on display as well.  

There has been one whispered (I heard!) comment on one of the ink pieces “I could do that!” - !!  I thought - yes of course you could, you could do any of this work if you wanted to.  Has art only got to be doing things that no one else can do?  There would be no art then. Or has it only got to be somehow ‘cleaver’? How boring is that. I also thought to myself - it looks like something a child could do - but do they understand how the materials I used work? Do they realise that it is slightly more complicated!!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

I'm going to try to paste in a post I wrote years ago on another blog I was doing for awhile. Not sure it will work  - here goes..


idling away a morning because it is saturday and have to remember that i dont really have to do much.  i listened to bits of Saturday Live this morning, and i missed the name of one of the inheritance tracks but wish i hadnt because it was really unusual, and lovely.  the lesbian woman talking said that she and her partner had adopted a child and now she had grown up, and how they had gone through such a lot – first to adopt her, and then while she was growing up having been through such crap times already in her young life, coping with the effect of that.  i was quite teary and moved by it.  looking at the SL website on bbc, i discovered back in december there had been a thing about a woman who was a foundling.  and there are messages etc about adoption, and one woman wrote about how her child had been adopted in the 70s when it was still taboo to be single mum and how her child was not unwanted at all, and its a mistake to think that adopted kids are ‘unwanted’.  i am so glad someone said this.  i had a child adopted in 1969 and i have never forgotten him, never got over losing him, its always with me the whole thing – where is he, is he still alive, is he happy, would he hate me, would he understand, i would love to see him and i am scared of seeing him because he might not understand and he might be disappointed.
my little brothers are also adopted by my parents when i was 7 ish.  their mothers adored them, were heartbroken at being made to give them up.  my mother was heartbroken at their heartbreak.  but it made her more determined to try to give the boys a good life.  i adored my little brothers to bits. i still adore them to bits. if they ever wanted to find their real mothers i would help if they wanted.
also i wanted to say, i like Saturday Live, but i am still getting over the loss of John Peel, i cant help it, i still miss him and i didnt even know him, he was just someone who was ‘about’ and then when he did his saturday slot that was just brilliant, he was brilliant in only the way he could be.  i mean he was a one off, and special and we were very lucky to have him. but i wish he was still here.
Time still marches on, dates fly by, and what have I achieved since the last post?
You know those little niggly things, they just don't seem to go away, you think you'll just get those two done and then you can concentrate - and then there is another, and another ... Some things I could get away with not bothering too much about, other things just invade, brought about by other people and out with your - my - control.

Now and then I get to the studio, I get back into my studio work way of thinking, and do some stuff thinking I will come back tomorrow and get on with this ... Tomorrow comes and again there is something putting me in a dilemma - studio or not.
I think, I have realised, that unlike my previous flat this flat is a bit consuming because it has a garden, because it has birds, because there are cats to look after, because it is so far away from the studio and all this combines to make a totally different 'hat' on my head.

It took me rather a long time to realise this, but there it is.  I am a bit divided.  I obviously don't multi task well!
begun accidentally and worked into

these are not necessarily finished pieces, but some pieces i begin and put aside, and carry on with randomly in between doing other things. Experiments i could say, but when is work not an experiment?

So, those things that are out of our control - like the upstairs loo secretly leaking into the ceiling of my clothes cupboard and ending up like this

The summer is nice here when it is sunny and warm, or even just warm.  Gardening and attempting to grow climbing things around the windows, 

Repairing my cupboard ceiling was due today, about a week after it happened. I was informed yesterday it will now be postponed for another week.  The house is just strewn with clothing, in bags and boxes and hanging on book shelves; bedding, towels, and other things stored in that cupboard, its like camping.

The scaffolders arrived yesterday to erect the scaffolding outside to make repairs to the drain pipe and roof, while houses upstairs are being repaired from dry rot.  I spend most of yesterday trying to protect my plants from scaffolding poles and big boots.

All pots removed and scaffolding up. Not for long though I am told!

Pots gathered around the other end of small patch of garden, seem to be doing fine.

and the climbers gathered around the tree so they have something to lean on! The builders apparently arrive on Monday, so that will be the next thing - worrying they might chuck stuff down any old how all over the place.. oh well, i guess it isn't the end of the world.  Just, when you have worked so hard on something, tried to help something to live and not die ... it isn't easy letting go.

Listening to R4s biography of David Bowie every morning, notice how it takes me back to my own life's goings on as the years and transformations and albums go by, and thinking of him wondering how he did it all ... poignant, powerful.

Today i will head to the studio, no more waiting...

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

We are about to arrive in York.
I'm going home after a week away in Norfolk at my sister-in-law's house, where nephews and their partners and one baby also gathered.
It was a year since my brother died.

We visited his grave, an unlikely graveyard in a woodland, where a hazel tree planted last winter marks his spot, beside a wild hedge.  His grave is overgrown with long grass and wild flowers, as it should be in a growing woodland.  Still, we pulled out some of the longer grasses which seemed to be overcrowding wild flowers. It looked totally different from the last time I was there, when we planted his tree.  The tree is now coming just over the top of the tree holder thing, so growing well.  Look forward to seeing it get bigger. I can't help wondering how much of him, DNA or whatever leftover will be in the tree.

Now we have just left Newcastle and I took a photo but this isn't letting me upload photos.
Never mind, I wouldn't find it interesting now!

A baby boy, making me a great aunt, my too soon dead brother a grandpa - or 'graps' - he would be called.  4 months old the other day and very gorgeous, of course we are all biased, he is a restless soul who only really calms down either when he manages to fall asleep or when he is carried outside - carried being the important thing - he doesn't tolerate his carrier sitting down!  Amazing how he just immediately calms when outside, we decided he will definately grown up to work in something that is out of doors.  Of course he reminds us all of his 'graps' who isn't here to meet him, although I did tell him if he saw a man there grinning at him while in the garden that would be his graps.  He actually learned to grab and hold something this week, amazing really, so fast!  It is something else to watch a baby work something like that out.  He concentrates very hard on whatever he is looking at.  So while I carried him in the garden and wandered around stopping at various points of colour or leaf, I saw how he concentrated so hard on it all, and eventually he began to reach out to a leaf, or flower, one day actually worked out how to grab a hold of it.  He (we) picked a bit of rosemary, but that didn't stay in the fist for long, then there was a crumpled flower we (he) managed to pick for granny.
He was the centre of everything, a centre through which I constantly saw my brother, as I expect did the others as well, although I didn't actually ask.

The next time we see each other will be for one of his uncle's wedding! It's all go.

The weather was lovely and warm, often sunny and didn't rain much and I was able at last to wear some summer clclothes most of them with baby sick on the left shoulder or down one side - easily washed and dried though!

I think this was probably the first time I've spent time with a baby and had such enjoyment of carrying it since I last did so with my son.  I couldn't quite manage to have much to do with friend's babies or children since he was adopted, I held back somewhat while trying not to seem unfriendly.  My son having found me seems to have opened up that part of me as I have found myself appreciating a child I come across here and there, and surprised myself at how easily I took to my great grandson.
Phew.. What a funny life!

Thursday, 30 June 2016

What a grey day, grey week - or is it more.. Can't remember now when those weeks of hot sunshine were.
I suddenly thought of Scoraig this morning, I thought of going to live there. I've never visited.  Once long ago D and I thought of it, but didn't get around to it.
Of course I can't just up and go and live there really, it's a measure of my need for an escape, for a time of big skies, of putting those cobwebs in order, standing back for some perspective.
Last night on my way home at about 9.45 I was blinded by the golden sun low on the horizon, it was too early for sunset but I could see it would be a wonderful one in Newhaven, and again I thought of the almost flat in Starbank Road, and then of the hassle of buses late at night getting home from there if I was to go for a sunset from where I live now.
I also realised that not being able to see sunsets or sunrises where I live means that over time I can almost forget about them, being reminded is not always a good idea.
Of course the thing I am not mentioning is the recent referendum, putting us out of the EU. I have been reading, writing, thinking so much about it that I don't think I will do so here.
I am at the top of John Lewis in the cafe with a great view over the Forth to the hills, big sky here.
I'm not in the best of moods just now so I am not going to write much, but I feel a strong urge to make changes in my life.  They probably won't be very big changes in the end.  I can't go and live in Scoraig, what would I offer them and how would I pay etc... It's just an expression of where I'm at just now I think.

My brother died a year ago on 5th July and I am away to Norfolk soon to stay with my sister in law.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Duvet day and stardust

A duvet day today. Yesterday developed a very sore throat and determined to hit a pending cold on the head i stuffed myself with paracetamol and sore throat pastilles and sent myself off to bed early, where I stayed today.  Actually not ill, but I've slept a lot and noticed a total lack of concern or worry about anything that I reckon it's been a day not wasted.  Hurray.  I can have a duvet day and not climb the walls - I just dont do duvet days.

Photos posted at random, not strictly true - just wanted to put up a photo or two, scrolling through photos I came across these two doodlings from the studio and thought why not, see them in a different context.  Nothing special.

Ink, acrylic mono print

Ink wash

The other night I watched Wonders of the Universe - Stardust.. I found myself hooked very quickly, partly the images of the universe which are always fascinating, but mostly the story of our beginnings as told by Brian Cox.  Many years ago when I worked in the hotel on Iona, my boss then - owner of the hotel - was a geologist by profession, and as I was studying art and exploring my interest in landscape and geology she gave me quite a lot of insight.  I will always remember one thing she said to me which was 'we are all stardust'.  A statement you would expect to hear an old hippy (like me, once) say. But which she went on to explain briefly how it is true.  Anyway, so Brian Cox in this programme massively expanded on this - really I would recommend this (on iplayer) to everyone, you dont have to be interested in stars or anything. It was an overwhelming experience actually, to watch, an experience rather than just watching a programme, leaving me with such a feeling of our connectedness with everything and everyone.
And another thing that struck me was the realisation that there must have been 'nothing' before the universe suddenly came into being, and how impossible I found it to imagine that, i cant imagine it.  Then I wondered at humans very deep seated need to find meaning, and then a god, a system, a belief, all of these unprovable things because somehow no one can imagine the 'nothing' .....

I dont mean this to sound like I am denigrating people's beliefs, just because something has not yet been proved does not make it impossible, I am fairly open minded - just as long as no one is hurt then each to their own, obviously.

The programme before this one had been about what is happening to our weather, which was also very interesting as there was a lot of information about the Jet Stream, and many people who know me will know my 'thing' about the jet stream which I have been going on about for ages!  So, hurray, some more information on it, why it keeps moving so much and even - get this - how/where it was relative to the UK throughout the 90s - I've always said the 90s were So Hot on Iona - well - the west coast anyway, and when i went back to work in 2000 the summer just was not the same - rain and mixed weather and it never really went back to those amazing summers of the 90s.  So i didn't imagine it!
It transpires there are a couple of theories about what is happening, one of them closely related to climate change.  As the Arctic ice melts, the air is not as cold and so the difference in temperature each side of the jet stream is less, and that causes it's speed to slow down and it dips down to anywhere between beneath UK to down into Europe, and so we get these long phases of rain and the weather seems stuck.
This is massively sketchy - you need to watch the programme to really get fuller information.
There are other factors to the weather we have been experiencing over the last few winters - of course and scientists and meteorologists are working on it all, and finding new information.

Anyway, so another interesting possible contribution is that it has been found that the stratosphere possibly contributes to the changing flow of the jet stream.  There are apparently waves in the stratosphere which occasionally break as they do in the sea, and this causes a warming - i think it is called sudden stratospheric ..... something.  anyway, usually the air there flows west to east, but these sudden wave braking cause the air to flow in the opposite direction, and warm up and the air begins to spiral down towards the troposphere where it comes in contact with the jet stream and more or less stops it - slows it down - so that cold air from Siberia is blows in to the UK ... Obviously this so far does not seem to be connected to climate change (although nothing can be certain?) but it is very random, there is no pattern to follow, nothing to give anyone a clue to predict anything.
And then, of course, there are many other factors which contribute to our climate, but it seems apparently that what can be certain is that we are going to need to work out how to live with more rain, and unpredictability.
Once again, to get the whole picture watch the programme, it is fascinating, and again makes me realise how interconnected we all are around the world..

Monday, 21 March 2016

8th March - a great nephew's birth, and Drumnadrochit

And so life goes on, after a brief holiday near Drumnadrochit with eight friends and two fab dogs in  an amazing house, lots of lovely food, company, walks and talks, my great nephew was born the day after I got back. So feeling a bit bereft of lovely company and country side my spirits lift with the news of his birth, my baby brother would have a grandson.
I have to mark this occasion with a blog post!
Little Louis Mark was born on 6th March at  8.27am.

the house we were staying in near Drumnadrochit

a few years' worth of Christmas trees!

A long walk by Loch Ness

Leon had got himself covered in mud, we encouraged him to roll about in the snow, meanwhile Millie looked on not quite sure whether to join in

A walk to Divach falls

the colours were wonderful, sadly not quite coming through on this photo

A walk to Dog Falls through Glen Affric

Millie and her huge sticks, you can't see the stick but she is struggling to get it over the bridge, as each end of the stick gets stuck at every upright pole!!

 Beautiful Glen Affric

love the colours

now back to the house, a view through a gap in the dry stone wall


A beautiful flight above the clouds as the sun begins to go down.  a day out at the Anthony Gormley show at the R...