Diary

Taking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach Walk by daintydora

It's always good to 'Take Stock' of where you are (in life; with yourself), and the start of a new year feels particularly apt. This is the first year I haven't written lengthy lists of plans, ideas, dare I say it - resolutions. I'm OK with that. Instead I've spent the first days of 2017 just thinking, being, breathing.

Taking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach, Scotland

Turning things over in my mind and taking my time before rushing into anything too deep and meaningful; catching up on reading and creative work with minimal digital distraction. It felt good. Hibernation could be my 'thing'.

A walk along the beach at Cullen Bay in the North of Scotland was a beautiful, wild way to welcome in the year, the sea restless with energy and alive with mystery.

Taking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach, ScotlandTaking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach, Scotland

For this 'Taking Stock' I've picked 12 verbs from the usual list (one for each month), to reflect on. This is me, right now:

Making: Cullen Skink. I had to really, having so recently visited Cullen and tasting the award-winning version, circa 2015. Drinking: Red Berry Suki Tea. It's a deep rich red jewel in a cup. Reading: The Outrun, by Amy Liptrot. It's wild and beautiful and it makes me want to visit Orkney (again), and some of the tiny islands off it, especially Papay. Looking: forward to our family holiday in Florida, starting next week. The Everglades. The Keys. Hemingway's house. Watching: The OA - highly unusual and gripping. GIRLS, Nashville... Smelling: peppermint and eucalyptus oils in my bath. The perfect (indulgent) winter-morning ritual.

Loving: that people are loving THE WORD, my fledgling fortnightly newsletter. Thank you to everyone who's contacted me to let me know how much they're enjoying it, and who've shared, tweeted and encouraged me - your support means everything.

Noticing: sunsets like never before. They creep up early in winter and feel like the most beautiful of the year. Listening: to Angel Olsen. Over and over. Especially this and this and this and this. (Which brings me to my new favourite thing to say when I forget what I'm trying to say: "the thing with the thing with the thing. You know the thing?" No, no-one else does either... Thinking: about rainbows and phrases and new words and word associations. Rainbow-physics. Never-night. Svengali. Leitmotif. Gesamtkunstwerk. Opening: new books and journals that I received over Christmas. Italian leather with lush, cream pages from my husband; a coveted Mucha scrapbook from my Mum. Feeling: optimistic and curious about 2017 and all it promises.

Taking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach, Scotland

I asked friends and family about their 'resolutions', and was surprised when mostly they told me of things they're not going to do, something they 'need' to stop or cut out of their life.

I know that's often the way, but instead I'd like to focus on the all the amazing things I am going to do, plan to do, will do, and perhaps some happy surprises that 2017 will have in store. It just feels better to think like that, doesn't it?

Taking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach, Scotland

Taking Stock: August 2016 by daintydora

It's a new month and lots is happening and it feels like a good time to 'Take Stock' in my very un-styled, rather floury kitchen. Weighing, measuring, pouring, peeling, counting. Taking Stock, August 2016Here goes:

Making: loads of things lately: Icelandic Kimchi, Carrot & Apple Breakfast muffins from Deliciously Ella and two batches of Brydie's Lemon & Olive Oil cake, as per the recipe posted on her amazing blog City Hippy Farm Girl. I keep burning it though because a) the difference in altitude (is that a thing?), b) my oven is a unpredictable and keeps switching off half-way through. (Yes I know it's a poor work(wo)man who blames her tools.)

Carrot & Apple Breakfast Muffins in the makingDrinking: Matcha or good old Yorkshire tea with almond milk. Reading: Ruby Wax's 'Sane New World: Taming the Mind'. Lots of insight; some things I already knew, technical facts about the brain that I didn't, and a few strong opinions I don't agree with. She's full-on and honest though which I admire.

Looking: back over all the words I celebrated in my version of this year's 100-day project #100daysofmyfavouritewords

Deciding: to start a newsletter linked to this blog (panic). I'm calling it 'THE WORD'. (Sign-up here or in the side-bar.) Wishing: I was closer to family faraway. It's a matter of geography. Waiting: for nothing and no-one. Just doing it. (I should get me some Nike.) Coveting: a Pashley bike, despite 'forgetting' how to ride. I think it's a confidence thing. Playing: with pattern design. Is it Christmas already?! Wondering: where the year has gone #timepanic

Loving: the sunshine right now, and the clouds. So many beautiful cloud formations. Do you know how the clouds got their names?

Pondering: the edits I need to make to my novel. Considering: the art of procrastination:

Buying: Julie Hewitt lipstick online. How frivolous! I've never bought lipstick online before, 'sight unseen'. It seems like a lot to spend, with postage and all. But then it feels like the slow creep of (ssshhh) autumn ushering in with the onset of August. And it's the kind of thing 'Christine' might do if only she had enough time...(see below). And she'd qualify for free shipping.

Watching: The Girlfriend Experience on Netflix. Chilling, raunchy, psychological, dark and compelling. Take that as a recommendation if you will. Hoping: the lipstick suits me. Marvelling: at our 24/7, ever-connected, soon to be drone-infested world. I don't think it's all so good for us but I can't help but interact with it. Needing: to make a fabulous fancy fascinator/hairband ensemble for a family wedding. I haven't started yet but I've got all the materials I need.

Smelling: the last few spritzes of 'The One' by Dolce & Gabbana. I've loved that perfume and the sturdy, rectangular bottle it comes in. Solid and sophisticated. A proper grown-up affair. It was time for it to be finished though; time to switch up my scents.

Questioning: my decision to start a newsletter. Will I have time? Is it too much work? What if no-one subscribes? Wearing: spots and stripes and lots of coral and what might be considered 'sport-core' or just 'norm-core' but what I consider to be 'comfy-core' for homeworking. Following: Gretchen Rubin's quest for happiness through her podcast 'Happier'. Noticing: a host of tips about creativity and productivity in my digital feeds. I like it. It's helping.

Enjoying: my little garden and all that grows there; the flowers, the herbs, the strawberries (saved from the slugs!), lavender, verbena, the Asiatic lilies my Mum got me, the heather, the Japanese Acer, the holly and of course the weeds. You've got to admire them though, the weeds - they just keep on doing their thing.

Home-grown StrawberriesKnowing: a lot more since I started listening to the TED radio hour podcast. Thinking: about all the things I don't know about, and all the things I do. This quote sums it up best:

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know.” Einstein

Admiring: the creative adventurers who know so much more about things than me. I bow to knowledge! Sorting: out (attempting to sort out) notes on the backs of envelopes, multiple notepads, digital bookmarks etc, as my ideas, inspirations and to-dos conspire to scatter like wildflowers around my person, landing in abstract, semi-sorted piles that may or may not be properly sifted and mined in the foreseeable future. Bookmarking: technical help videos as I attempt to learn the basics of Adobe InDesign. Baby steps.

Disliking: how soap goes all gooey in the dish, ruining what starts off as beautifully formed 'scented art'. I love soap but this can't go on #firstworldissues

Opening: newsletters and literally absorbing information through my eyeballs. It's actually a process involving many different parts of the brain, creating a 'reality' that is unique to me... (see 'Reading' and you'll understand my thoughts on this.) Giggling: over Celia Walden's column in The Telegraph Magazine. Feeling: excited about the future and the plans I'm putting in place. Watch this space! Snacking: surreptitiously on squares of Divine's 70% Dark Chocolate - with Raspberries. Wishing: sugar wasn't quite such an enemy, but it is.

Listening: to Father John Misty (aka John Tillman). I'm loving his sound right now, especially this song. And this one. I loved the Fleet Foxes too. This was my absolute favourite. 'White Winter Hymnal'. So haunting, so sad. Just gorgeous.

How about you? Is it time to 'Take Stock' in your life?

Find out who started this trend. (Thanks Pip!)

End-note: isn't it interesting how all my images this time have turned out to be food-related?

Midweek Poetry: Broken Boughs by daintydora

I know it's nearly Christmas and everyone is doing happy, festive, fun things. But last week while in Krakow I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps built in the isolated suburbs of Southern Poland.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland

I already knew a lot about what happened there: from history lessons at school, from books and from films, but seeing the physical spaces that bore witness to the shocking crimes against humanity, and hearing the gruesome details of the tortures while standing in those same spaces, numbed me as I tried to process it in my mind.

There was a guide who pointed out key buildings and locations - she was Polish and her own Grandparents had been arrested and deported to Auschwitz.

I wondered how she could cope with going there every day (her job for almost 17 years), but then I realised I already knew the answer: everyone must know; we must never forget.

I didn't cry while I was there despite the deep sadness I felt. It is only with the luxury of time and distance (which the people who were killed there were so cruelly denied), that I can reflect back on my experience. It's haunted me ever since.

Trees at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland

The trees outside the camp were stark and barren and I wondered if they were old enough to have been there when the camp was occupied? Perhaps some of them.

Trees at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland

I love trees and the language of branches. They were beautiful despite their barren state and the location. I saw birds though I didn't hear their call.

 

Broken Boughs

A broken bough, twisted in pain
weeping cold tears
salty in the cracks
and it hurts, it stings.
Limbs stretched apart, to breaking point
split in two. An irreparable split.
Leaves, branches, twigs, thorns
falling down and
the net cast wide
but it won't catch us side by side -
not now there's a split in the bough
on a battleground of lies.
"Bend not break."
But how?
Then, us, now: a different sound
beating from a bitter drum.
Hope is gone
though it leaves a mark, a stain
that could never be washed away.
There is no sound.

I was still reading Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky while I was in Krakow, and although I knew she had died at Auschwitz (in August 1942), I hadn't realised that the book was never finished. It made the whole experience that much more poignant and sad because it was like a personal, intimate link with her having read her evocative words.

The image below is near the Market Square in the Old Town of Krakow; a tree-lined park/walkway on the way to the Wawel Royal Castle.

Tree-lined walkway, Krakow, Poland

The dark branches personify the trees giving them an energy that was lacking in the previous images.

The line of the path symbolises journeys and the journey of life, the transience of life.

There is no way to ever lighten the darkness that is the spectre of Auschwitz.

 

A festive stock-take: December 2015 by daintydora

With Christmas around the corner and a festive mood in the air, it feels like a great time to 'take stock' of what I'm doing, seeing, thinking and feeling right now. Christmas Robin

Here goes:

Making: a mess with magazine cuttings and to-do lists and wrapping paper. Cooking: Broccoli risotto (is that even a thing? It is now!) Drinking: a warming bottle of Sake. Yum! Reading: Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky. Wanting: Peace, love and happiness for all. I wonder if that will ever be possible? Looking: forward to my trip to Krakow in the morning. Playing: a game of catch up with myself, trying to get everything done, sorted, ticked off my list... Deciding: what to take and what to leave out of my suitcase - 10 kilos does not go far. Wishing: there was more time - for everything. Is it just a matter of priorities? Enjoying: a weekend spent at home. Waiting: for no man, ever. Liking: the sense of achievement at the end of a productive week. Wondering: what the robin I saw this afternoon was thinking as it plucked a worm from the ground? Loving: the idea of a cashmere dressing gown...but Pondering: how I would cope if I was homeless? All that wind and rain. Considering: where to hang the pictures I've finally managed to frame. Buying: festive knits. Watching: Elf - for the first time - I can't believe it's taken me so long! Hoping: the windy weather we've been experiencing stays away. Marvelling: at the strength of the human spirit. Cringing: as the wind batters our little slate roof - we've already had a leak this winter :( Needing: a massage. And a new memory card for my camera. Questioning: the premise of love. Smelling: the warming, festive scents of spicy orange and amber. Wearing: layers. Noticing: the bare branches outside. The seasons change so quickly. Knowing: I need to do a big declutter in the New Year. Thinking: about my plans for 2016. Admiring: the organised people who have Christmas all wrapped up. Sorting: socks. Getting: hungry. Coveting: a minimalist house/existence. Disliking: the carpet in the spare room - it has to go. Opening: my first Christmas card. Giggling: mmm, not really because I'm Feeling: a bit emotional...and Snacking: on ready salted crisps and brazil nuts...while Hearing: Elvis and Bing Crosby crooning out the Christmas tunes - they're all you need to feel that cosy, Christmas nostalgia!

Next stop: Krakow.

What are you doing right now? Do you like to 'Take Stock' to remember a point in time, or take each day as it comes?

I'm feeling a bit guilty that I haven't written in my Shining Year Goddess Journal as often as I should have. 'Taking Stock' will need to do!

 

Midweek Moon-Love in honour of the Full Moon by daintydora

A full moon is a magical time and in September I wrote a poem as an Ode to the Super (Blood) Moon. Moon, Scotland, Supermoon

Since then I've been saving images on Pinterest of the beautiful luna phenomenon that we share wherever we are in the world.

Follow Rebecca Johnstone (Dainty Dora)'s board The Moon on Pinterest.

I love that the moon - like the sun - can be a guiding light for many, and features in so many creative messages and imagery such as art, illustrations, stories, poems and songs.

Full MoonSuper Blood Moon, September 2015Moon, Scotland, Supermoon

I've used it myself in a very simple collage and I follow its progress through the month via a Moon Phase app. Yesterday I downloaded a beautiful font called simply: Moon.

The next full moon will be on Christmas Day, 25th December, and of course, who can forget the scene in It's a Wonderful Life when 'George lassos the moon'?

Or the breathy rendition of 'Moon River' by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's:

So beautiful. So dreamy.

Do you love the moon? Do you find things going crazy 'when the moon is fat'? (Beware the Judderman my dear...)

I hope today's (tonight's) full moon shines bright on you, wherever you are.

 

All Saints' Day: An Italian Prayer from Bergamo by daintydora

I have to say it: Halloween isn't really my thing. I find it a little scary and manic and horror films really freak me out. I don't like anything to do with ghosts, the supernatural, the devil, slasher movies or violent crime. It's all a bit too much for me with my already over-active imagination. And I'm scared of the dark.

So it seems like a much nicer thing to celebrate today - All Saints' Day, with a nod to tomorrow and All Souls' Day (also the day my Great Grandmother died).

It's exactly 10 weeks since I visited Bergamo near the Italian Lakes, and in particular Piazza Duomo, home to both the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and the Cattedrale di Bergamo.

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo, ItalyInside the Cattedrale di Bergamo, Italy

As my Mother and I entered the sacred space of the Cathedral, Sunday Mass had just finished and the procession were filing out to the street. The sound of the bells made me stop in my tracks. It was so beautiful and felt very special to witness such a scene.

Sunday Mass, Cattedrale di Bergamo

I'm not Catholic, nor particularly religious, but the interior opulence and the sense of being in a place dedicated to worship; holy and good and steeped in history, was a very emotional experience. My Mother is Catholic and we both lit a candle and said a prayer.

Then I saw this prayer card and picked it up:

All Saints Day - An Italian Prayer

Preghiera a Sant'Alessandro (Prayer to Saint Alexander)*
Martyr Alexander witness of the word that is Jesus up to entrust to it your whole life, pray for us, because faith in the Lord Jesus, crucified and risen, tempers our heart, sustains our existence, orients our life choices, decisive or daily.
Pray for us, because the love that the Lord Jesus lived in fullness in the gift of himself to the Father on the cross, becomes the form of our life, the style of our relations.
Pray for those who suffer in body and spirit, for young people, for families, for those who are on the edge of society for many different reasons.
Make generous the hearts of young people in response to priestly vocation and special consecration.
Let your gaze contemplate the proclamation of mercy that saves. Amen.
Cattedrale di Bergamo, ItalyPiazza Duomo, Bergamo, Italy

So happy All Saints' Day.

I find churches and cathedrals so fascinating, and I don't think you need to be religious to appreciate their glory. Or maybe I'm wrong? I always thought I was a closet Catholic...

I did also wonder about the moral issue of taking photographs in a place so sacred, but everyone was doing so. Although that doesn't make it 'right', it was obviously 'allowed' and therefore I am grateful I got to preserve these images of my experience.

*NB. I don't speak Italian so it's more than likely this translation isn't an exact rendition of the Italian words.

An(other) occasion to ponder the question of love... by daintydora

Today in particular I feel my thoughts turn to the question of love. This is what I wrote about it last year. And here's love in a perfect pattern repeat. And here's a love poem: 'Verdant Love Thieves'.

LOVE in reverse

In all honesty, I don't think I'm ever not thinking about love - in one of its many forms.

Recently I attended a workshop on Karma, and it inspired me to consider all that the heart is capable of, all the different kinds of love, and how Love/Heart become transferable words:

Kind Love, Flexible Love, Passionate Love, Hidden Love, Invisible Love, Unrequited Love, Past Love, Future Love, Possible Love, Free Love, Manifest Love, Distant Love, Familial Love, Romantic Love, Complex Love, Loving Love, Unconditional Love, Cruel Love, Conscious Love, Unconscious Love, Karmic Love, Tantric Love, Precious Love, Material Love, Jealous Love, Cupboard Love..."

And how many other kinds of love are there?

So many. So many words that could describe the concept of love. As many as you could think of. A dictionary full. And a Thesaurus. And endless fictional and self-help books that describe this elusive puzzle, so crucial to joy in life.

But still. What is it? Just a concept or a feeling?

I think it's different to each of us, as unique as we are. And each different type of love, every version of love means something different in itself and to each person. And that's OK. Because it is so personal, so intimate. No-one can tell you to be in love, to fall in love, to stay in love, diagnose love, prescribe love. It comes from inside, deep inside, inside your heart and your head.

Chemicals and visions and thoughts and electric pulses conspire to create a set of circumstances where you fall under that devastating spell and perhaps you'll be lucky enough to never emerge. Or perhaps we all need to experience the many nuances of love and the opposite of love, to really know it?

It's my/our wedding anniversary today, and so as I ponder the question of love, I give thanks for it - signed, sealed, delivered - 7 years ago today and every day since. And for all the other kinds of love that I experience around me and carry in my heart.

 

Midweek Poetry: White Cloud Dreams by daintydora

I had this dream the other night that I wrote down as soon as I woke up in a crazy, scribbled, early-morning-handwriting. The vision of it is still so strong in my mind as if it were a calling, some kind of prophetic message. A sense of something... higher, or a veiled message from my subconscious.

And the aerial view of it was so different to any dream I've ever had before.

White Cloud Dreams

A white cloud is hanging above the mountains - the Alps or the Pyrenees or the Himalayas - and the pin-pricks of the mountain peaks appear tiny: icing bobbles on a cake, snow, edible baubles; picturesque, white and frosty.
The cloud is high up above the world, spiritual and all around me, white and blue and green.
White mists, white snow, blue skies, a river below and green trees peeping up through the white, their green tips just visible.
And then crystal rain-drops sprinkle down slowly on the mountains, but not enough that it melts the snow.
I am the light, twitching, bright, sparkly. I am the cloud. I know just before I wake up that I am the cloud.

It all felt very poetic and silent and beautiful. And the image was very specific to the point I would recognise it if I saw it again (in a dream or reality).

But I'm not sure what it means?

 

An Ode to the Super (Blood) Moon by daintydora

I've tried to photograph the moon before, but she's elusive and mysterious and I don't understand the settings on my camera well enough. Moon, Scotland, Supermoon

Last night the moonlight shining into my room was so bright I had to get up and get my camera and try again.

It couldn't focus on the bright white of the moon at the same time as the street-light pollution, but I wanted the image to have some perspective.

Moon, Scotland, SupermoonMoon, Scotland, Supermoon Moon, Scotland, SupermoonMoon, Scotland, Supermoon

I quite like them, even the blurry ones. They echo the magic of the experience of the moon.

And although many people think it's nonsense, I often have a very heightened emotions and experiences - good and bad - at the time of the full moon.

I'm a woman so I'm ruled by the moon. I'm Pisces, the sign of the zodiac mostly associated with a 'sixth sense', and when it comes to life, and especially the moon, I thought this was particularly apt:

Pisces wants everything to be an epic romance movie and this makes them very open to wooing"

I'm feeling it already so I thought I'd write a poem to capture my #moonemotions:

An Ode to the Super Moon

I stare, fall, come undone, under the spell of your silent song...and then I remember: because I'll never forget I wear the moonlight inside my eyes."

Are you affected by the moon?

Read more about the Blood Moon Supermoon

Watch Nasa's Live Feed

And most importantly, watch out - these portents for the Super Blood Moon are scary!

The amplified nature of this moon may have you at your wits’ end, but there’s an essential depth to this lunation: Every one of us will be asked to feel deeply—the challenge is to remain rational and in control. Tidal patterns, animal behavior, and yes, total loonies will be stronger and seem much more bizarre with a perigee or “super” moon. Full moons have illuminating effects and can reveal information—especially about hidden aspects of ourselves and those closest to us.

 

Paris: It's a Moveable Feast by daintydora

I said I was going to read A Farewell to Arms, and I am, but first I was lured by the much slimmer volume of A Moveable Feast. (I'm not scared by big books - I got through The Goldfinch in a week...)

But who wouldn't be tempted by these first words on the back cover, so evocative of a carefree youth; a wistful existence, smoked in a thousand cigarettes, fresh from the lips of literary giants, and immortalised in film, music, art and iconography the world over?

Exactly.

Paris: A Moveable Feast

I've been to Paris three times, (once as a student, once with a lover, once with a husband...), though I've just realised: never in summer.

And I like to think that the implied resonance applies equally to 'young women'. Thanks Ernest.

Still, in my head I can imagine the French musicians and the artists with their easels around the Montmartre and the Sacré-Cœur.

I can see the pigeons and the crêpe vendors, almost taste the chocolatey squidge of Nutella in my mouth, as elegant Parisians stalk the streets, stopping in little cafés to drink coffee and wine and smoke and talk in their language of love.

Ahhhh. I'll leave you with that thought!

Bon samedi, mon amie.

 

Friday Diary: 12th May, Mass Observation & the diary of an Ordinary Woman by daintydora

This week I kept a day-diary on Tuesday 12th May for the Mass Observation's annual call-out to capture the everyday lives of people across the UK. Mass Observation Archive Poster

Why 12th May?

In 1937 Mass Observation called for people from all parts of the UK to record everything they did from when they woke up in the morning to when they went to sleep at night on 12th May. This was the day of George VI’s Coronation. The resulting diaries provide a wonderful glimpse into the everyday lives of people across Britain, and have become an invaluable resource for those researching countless aspects of the era. May 12th 2015 is likely to be quite an ordinary day, but for those researching, the ‘ordinary’ it can often provide extraordinary results.

I'm just getting ready to send my 12th May diary in to the archive, having written previously about my love of keeping a diary and my favourite female diarists.

What I love so much about Mass Observation is the idea of contributing to a public research project where my words will not only live on beyond my life, but also help to inform researchers of what life is like for 'an ordinary woman' in 2015. (Writing this makes me think of Anne Frank and her famous diary, though she did not have an ordinary life at all.)

I wrote a 12th May diary last year. It's interesting to read back over what I wrote then and remember that day so vividly.

It's also topical to republish this book review that I wrote about Margaret Forster's Diary of an Ordinary Woman. It is written in diary form with just the occasional authorial note, so immediately draws you into the visceral first-person narrative.

Starting off in 1913 when the protagonist - Millicent - begins her first diary at the age of 13, the strong character voice from the outset reveals Millicent to be selfish, stand-offish and pass-remarkable which causes friction in every relationship she has - with family, friends and lovers.

She comes across as reserved, prim, lacking in warmth and not hugely likeable, but with strong principles and a determination to achieve something important.

As well as this she wants - demands - a room of her own (while growing up) - shades of Virginia Woolf - space of her own (as an adult), and time to think, reflect and process her thoughts.

And write her diary.

The short entries of the diary-format kept the pace up for me, and I liked the fact that Millicent wasn't some people-pleaser character that can do no wrong. She is often misconstrued and misunderstood. This only served to make her more real to me.

Part of the appeal of the book was to experience the events of the early twentieth century through Millicent's eyes. Autobiography almost; social commentary.

Before long, war breaks out and the entries evoke the fear, uncertainty, rationing, hardships and day-to-day considerations of London at that time - Millicent must always carry her gas-mask with her for example; she has to spend the night in an underground station during an air raid.

I had read a similar diary a few years ago which also recalled war-time London - Love & War in London - A Woman's Diary 1939 - 1942 by Olivia Cockett. It was both compelling and sad all at once; not knowing what was going to happen next, but understanding the constraints of living in the midst of war; experiencing that heightened sense of futility, fear, frustration and unfaltering hope for peace and freedom and an end to the uncertainty of the situation, all the while reminding myself that what was on the page actually took place.

Back to Millicent. It was just before the midpoint of the book that I flicked to the end. Not to find out what happens at the end, or to read the final page. I would never do that. I just sometimes like to know how many pages there are in the book. How many I have left. Sometimes I want there to be more because I'm enjoying the story, other times, not so much. Either way it's like a reading reward.

Anyway.

The page I found was the Author's Note. I didn't think it would be any kind of spoiler - usually this part goes along the lines of "...blah blah lives alone with ten cats and a budgie in Nottinghamshire and this is her third book.", or "...blah blah has travelled widely, lecturing in creative writing at blah blah university and now has 2 children with blah blah and they all live in a grand old house in London."

I didn't see any harm in reading the few lines that presented themselves. Teeny, tiny lines. A short paragraph. Huge mistake.

***Spoiler, Spoiler***

It turns out that the diaries were complete fiction, not real at all, fabricated; not the actual story of a woman growing up in war-torn London, just a figment of the author's imagination (and research).

A gamut of emotions followed: anger, upset, disappointment...disgust. It almost stopped me reading on. I had believed in Millicent being real. All that was ruined and the whole thing felt like a sham. An empty shallow sham of a book. I hadn't read the back cover, just picked up the book at a tombola, put it on a shelf, then picked it out at random and started reading. There's a lesson learnt.

And I don't know if it was finding out it wasn't real, or just the second part of the book wasn't as strong, but I didn't enjoy it as much from then on in, and particularly not the dénouement.

What I did love however was the reference to Mass Observation.

The Mass Observation Archive was originally founded in 1937 as a social and anthropological exercise in gauging and capturing the thoughts, opinions and day-to-day doings of the population through diary writing. 'Millicent' hears about it, and decides she will contribute her own musings and experiences.

This chimed with me as I too am a mass observer. Major confession. I've been sending diaries and replies to 'Directives' for around three years now. Each response is archived forever and is used for research purposes.

When Millicent was writing about how wonderful it would be to contribute to Mass Observation, I was thinking, I really need to get my latest response sent in. I felt a kinship and a synchronicity which drew me into the book even further, so it felt doubly disappointing to find this was just another clever deceit of the author.

Would it have been better to find out at the end? Would I have guessed by then?

Answers on a postcard.

NB. The book review part of this post was originally published in 2013.

 

One + Four = Life: seedlings, sewing, flowers & poetry by daintydora

I've not been blogging as much as I normally do, because I've been enjoying lots of offline time and time spent outside. And I thought I was too late to join in with Pip's One + Four = Life this week (ideally suited to a Sunday afternoon's reflection), but it turns out I'm not, so here goes:

Seeds growing in an old record player!

Seedlings:

Shown here are tomato plants and coriander shoots after just 3.5 weeks. Nature astounds me every time. I think the vintage record player box I am using for them must have a lovely mellow beat helping things along!

Last week I also planted: verbena for tea and another tray of spinach and some broad beans in window-sill pots.

Beautiful bunch of flowers

Flowers:

My husband bought me these beautiful flowers as a little midweek treat. I think I might try and draw/paint them. The colours are gorgeous together and really cheer me every time I see them. I love the natural foliage too. Green, green, green with peach and red and lilac and yellow. Spring days. And it was nine years on Friday since we got engaged.

Day 32 of 100 Haiku poem

Haiku poetry:

Today's haiku is still to be done, but my favourite from last week is this one from Day 32/100 that I wrote on a napkin and left in a bar.

The Great Discontent's 100 day project is really working for me and it feels great to say I'm already up to day 36 (today) and haven't missed one yet.

Work in progress: Orange Floral Hairband

Floral Hairband:

I started making another little floral hairband for myself, which I discuss on my creative blog, Dainty Dora's Inspiration Emporium. So much fun to be had with florals!

This week I also built a hammock, myself, and it felt great. I couldn't quite work out how the ropes were supposed to go, but I felt the 'happy' of building something with my hands, quietly, confidently, immersed in the simple process of it. (I also got that sense from building a make-shift raised bed in the garden from old bricks.)

And I made soup with leeks, carrots, sweet potato and parsnips and tons of garlic. And baked my favourite soda bread. I also disinfected the drains but no-one really wants to know about that so I'll stop right there.

It means so much to me to document my life, through the photographs I take on my phone and with my camera, and also through writing - personal journalling, blogging, calendars, notes, cards, postcards, scrapbooking. But it's also great to get out there and live it first.

Here's to another week of creative pursuits and growing and sewing and words channeling through me from everywhere into somewhere and something and One + Four = Life.

 

Friday Diary: Taking Stock for the May-Day Bank Holiday by daintydora

This week has passed quickly and I feel a bit...fretful? Mmm, not really. But not quite my optimal self. So it feels like a good time for reflection, planning, Taking Stock (the last time was just before my birthday in February). Vintage Typewriter

Here goes:

Making: rocky road. Yum! Drinking: Vanilla & Chamomile Tea. Reading: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki - it was a birthday present and I am sinking into it deliciously. Wanting: to sit in the sun reading all day... Looking: forward to an hour-long meditation class this weekend. Deciding: to be more decisive. Wishing: I'd booked a holiday. Enjoying: watching little seedlings grow in my garden. Waiting: for the weekend to begin. Coveting: Craft for the Soul by Pip Lincolne. Playing: with watercolours - so relaxing/inspiring. Wondering: where I'll be in 5 years? Loving: that I finished my knitted 'emotional' blanket, finally. Pondering: my next creative project. Considering: the meaning of life. Buying: compost. Not that exciting, but the thought of growing my own veggies really is. Watching: A new-to-me series called Once Upon a Time. Fairy tales for grown-ups. Hoping: for a sign. An auspicious sign. Serendipity. Synchronicity. Any/all of that. Marvelling: at my amazing vintage typewriter that is just so much fun to use! Needing: a new adventure. Questioning: the urge to blog. Maybe this should just be a personal diary? Smelling: my favourite 'power' scent: Clarins Eau Dynamisante. Wearing: summer dresses one day, winter jumpers the next (Spring in the UK) Following: lots of exciting arty and poetic peeps on Twitter. Noticing: the weather getting warmer, hotter, better (apart from surprise snow on Monday) Knowing: I don't need to buy any summer clothes. But I might. Thinking: up today's poem for #100daysofhaiku. Admiring: so many creative people in my life. Sorting: through the clutter. Still. Bookmarking: 'How to grow a lemon tree from seed in a pot indoors'. Disliking: the power that smartphones seem to wield. On me. On my husband. On everyone. Is it a cult?? Opening: my eyes to all the good and beauty in the world. Giggling: not as often as I'm used to. Feeling: a bit meh for a Friday. Snacking: see above re the rocky road. Wishing: sugar wasn't so bad for me/people/everyone. Hearing: lots of election chat. It's all starting to blend into one voice.

How about you? Is it time to 'Take Stock' in your life?

I learnt from the best - the lovely Pip Lincolne.

Have a cuppa. Write some stuff down. It's a great way to decompress in time for the (holiday) weekend.

 

Friday Diary: Day 19 #100daysofhaiku by daintydora

It's day 19 of #100daysofhaiku - the challenge I set myself as part of The Great Discontent's #the100daysproject. Each day is an opportunity to record the thoughts of the day in a beautifully pared down and edited form. I think Haiku poetry is my cup of tea.

 

A diary brings
the secrets of myself from
the darkness inside.

I loved keeping a diary as a young girl and a teenager, and now as an adult, I call it a journal and just write down my thoughts. I can't imagine not having access to pen and paper to do such a simple but wonderful thing, as a regular (if not daily) practice.

For now and for the next 81 days, I'll have my daily Haiku to remind me what I was thinking/doing/seeing/feeling.

And I've tried to experiment with how I share my progress for this project because, well I don't want to say 'it's just words'. But... It is just words, rather than something more arty and visually attractive.

Here's some of my favourite Haiku shares from Instagram:

 

That Day, That Day, Again, Again the 13th April - 5 years ago by daintydora

This day 5 years ago - 13th April 2010 - my mum had a brain hemorrhage and spent a month in hospital. Amazingly, she lived. Every day is a gift and more than anything; that day, that day, brought it home to me how precious life is as moments slip between fingers into the cracks of memory.

On the first year anniversary of that day, 13th April, we spent the day out in the West End of Glasgow. Here's an extract of what I wrote then in a blog post called 'West End Day':

Had a fun day out in the West End yesterday with the madre. It was a year to the day since... and we wanted to make it special.
Was it a coincidence that browsing through a box of old postcards in a vintage shop I found a bundle of Marine Art Poster postcards and I knew before I saw it there was going to be one depicting the very ship that began my mother's journey from the place of her birth to the rest of her life?
The Cunard line ship that brought home my Mother and my Nana from South Africa in 1946 – the Samaria. The one I researched for hours online and described in my prose for 'the family saga' with a searing accuracy? I was stunned and elated to secure that postcard.
This discovery sparked a recounting of remembered events and experiences, all entirely pertinent to the plot at hand. Had I known that the Samaria had in fact been chopped up for match wood at the end of its useful life? No.
How many matches – 500,000? 500,000,000? A billion? How many stories did that ship have the pleasure (or the pain) of igniting in its lifetime? How many lives did it unwittingly touch?
And then: a gift for me.
An original copy of Tamara De Lempicka's 'Girl with Gloves’.
When I was studying Higher Art I was obsessed with chiaroscuro and the artists that painted or drew in that technique (still am.)
My mum said that day it was a gift of "a beautiful woman, from a beautiful woman, to a beautiful woman."

Girl with Gloves - Tamara de Lempicka

Art Deco elegance, that careful poise, the coy but somehow sad tipping of the wide-brimmed hat. The enduring sage of her dress that sometimes appears emerald, other times dampened chartreuse. She is herself a Pandora of possible - and impossible - interpretations and from now on she will be my muse. My lady luck with the joyous curls and sharp gloves concealing vixen-talons.

What a wonderful, wild-weathered whisper of a day. How I never thought we would have another 5 years together of chatter and laughing and bickering and dancing. But we did and we have. Here's to the next 5, 10, 15, 20, 25...

It was significant. Today is significant. Every day is significant.

PS. And today there was cake! A Victoria sponge with fresh cream and jam!

 

Friday Diary: This week I... by daintydora

This week wasn't an exceptional, extraordinary week, but it started with SPRING. Spring in the garden and a spring clean. There was a lot of sunshine and that felt good.

#100daysofhaiku Day 5/100

And this is a Friday diary and so this week I...

 

  • Wrote 2,000 words per day for three days = 6,000 words towards my novel. That felt great.
  • Finished reading Lena Dunham's book 'Not That Kind of Girl'. Wow.
  • Started reading Cyndi Lauper's Memoir. Wow.
  • Discovered the benefits of Aloe Vera gel. Wow.
  • Went to a gig & wore a vintage dress & wrote postcards while sitting in my car & drove home at midnight feeling alive & buzzy with ideas.
  • Found out that my eyes are so dry I may never be able to wear contact lenses again. How did this happen? What can I do?
  • Met a friend for lunch & chatter & cocktails & it was so sunny it felt like we could have been abroad. We should have been abroad!
  • Bought new sunglasses because it was so sunny.
  • Had my hair cut and discovered a new salon above a bridal shop. (My last haircut was in November.)
  • Bought a teapot as a gift. And some lemon shortbread. And nearly burst into tears when the sales assistant asked me if it was for anything special.
  • Noticed the blossom budding on my cherry tree.
  • Got out my summer clothes that were packed away last autumn.
  • Signed up for The 100 days project, choosing haiku to do as my 'creative act'.
  • Noticed the positive knock-on effect in my creative life of committing to 'show' up' for 100 days.
  • Signed up for an illustration class.
  • Had strange dreams of spiders and fairy nymphs carried in a satchel on a horse and cart in London...
  • Heard great news from two friends.
  • Heard not so good news from another friend.
  • Made bread.
  • Ate cake.
  • Felt happy.
  • Felt sad.
  • Thought about the future.
  • Thought about the past.
  • Got up early.
  • Slept in late.
  • Got inspired.
  • Got disheartened.
  • Got inspired again.
  • Started a new art journaling season of BRAVE.

What about you? What does your diary say for this week?

 

Inspirations of a journey in Spoken Word Poetry by daintydora

This week's poetry was inspired by a drive home on the motorway. It seemed to lend itself to sound, so here's my Spoken Word Poetry and associated musings delivered via SoundCloud.

I've never done anything like this before and I don't have any special equipment for recording sound. It's a bit daunting but exciting too.

I wanted to capture how I felt on this journey; the sun in my eyes, feeling tired, but seeing so much beauty around me, even from a three-lane motorway.

And I wasn't driving at the time. I was a grateful passenger as we left England and two aeroplanes drew a Saltire in the sky as we passed back into Scotland.

The roads were quiet. It was a Sunday afternoon. We passed Gretna and I imagined all the young couples of days gone by as they crossed the border to marry at the Old Blacksmith's and had their whole life ahead of them in sunshine and mists and a huge sky bubbling with clouds.

Beauty is always there, you just need to find it - straight ahead, to the side, or sometimes behind closed eyes.

Julian Trevelyan: A Travelling Suitcase of the (Creative) Mind by daintydora

I have been a mass-observer now for a few years, and had heard a lot about Julian Trevelyan's work as an artist, and specifically his suitcase of ephemera - tickets, receipts, newspaper and other similar paper-based enchantments. (And I adore paper-based enchantments.) In 2013 I took a day-trip to London to see the fantasticMass Observation: This is Your Photoexhibition at the Photographer's Gallery in London, and so I was able to view this coveted suitcase in person.

Julian Trevelyan's suitcase.jpg
Isn't the doily so perfectly preserved?

Julian Trevelyan was an artist and poet who documented street-scenes of northern English towns - specifically Bolton - through detailed collages crafted from the contents of his suitcase. I love this idea, and I love the fact that he was clearly an archiver of the times; a social artist and diarist through the medium of paper and glue as well as pen and paper.

With packing bags for a few trips away of late (including a spa break for my birthday), and trying to maintain my creative practices while away, I thought back to Julian Trevelyan's suitcase and how wonderful it must have been to travel about and just 'set up shop' to craft and create, wherever and whenever.

There is such a beautiful freedom in that for me, and although I try to recreate that carefree sense of creativity on the go in my own life, I always end up loaded down with sketchbooks and scrapbooks and maybe my laptop and knitting needles poking me in the eye.

Julian Trevelyan Collage.jpg

I also keep memory boxes and envelopes with tickets and receipts and postcards; collections in the physical realm that represent and trigger memories of days out, holidays, trips to the cinema, encapsulating an era, a time in my life, pockets of thought that can instantly be recalled just through the visual stimulus of the paper trail left behind.

They are like springboards to other creative practices such as art journaling and writing down my family story which is omnipresent in my mind.

But I can't help but compare the jam-packed, jumbled suitcase contents to memories all stacked together, filed in non-chronological order inside the creative mind. The mind of any creative person with projects and plans intertwined and multi-layered, multi-faceted, overlapping.

I wonder what Julian Trevelyan would have made of the modern technological world as a platform for artists, and for documenting life and art as we do now pretty much everyday in one way or another through social media, blogging, video, etc? I'd love to know.

Julian Trevelyan Collage Close Up.jpg
I cruised around and settled on the outskirts of town near to some cotton mills and reservoirs. At the time I was making collages; I carried a large suitcase full of newspapers, copies of Picture Post, seed catalogues, old bills and other scraps, together with a pair of scissors, a pot of gum, and a bottle of Indian ink. I was applying the collage techniques I had learnt from the Surrealists to the thing seen, and now tore up pictures of the Coronation crowds to make the cobblestones of Bolton. It was awkward, sometimes, in a wind, when my little pieces would fly about, and I was shy of being watched at it; but it was a legitimate way, I think, of inviting the god of Chance to lend a hand in painting my picture.Julian TrevelyanFrom his book, Indigo Days, 1957

Friday Diary: My 2nd Liebster Award & 11 extra facts by daintydora

What a lovely, brilliant, exciting surprise it was to receive my second Liebster Award, this time from Pia who blogs at These Woven Words. (My first Liebster Award was from Michelle at That Summer Feeling. Another shout out to the wonderful, bright, pineapple & pink flamingo-loving Michelle!)

Liebster Award Pink

 

And now for the 11 questions I need to answer:

1. What's the last thing you made?

A decorated hairband to wear to a family wedding. It's electric blue and cream tulle with a vintage button and little pearls. Less is more!

Wedding Hairband in the planning Wedding Hairband in Electric Blue

2. What's one of your fondest memories?

Knitting with my Nana and going to buy wool together from her local wool shop. It was an expedition!

3. Favourite thing to drink?

Tea, in all its many flavours. I like Gunpowder green and Sweet Rhubarb and Earl Grey.

Japanese teapot, The Magpie Diaries

4. Best book you've read recently?

I raced through Office Girl by Joe Meno the other week, which inspired some radical art-guerrilla-thinking. I'm now reading The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing and savouring each page.

5. Is there a cause or charity you feel strongly about and why?

Refuge/Women's Aid - any charity that supports women who've experienced domestic violence/abuse because it's a topic close to my heart.

6. Favourite place to read?

In bed! Or in my cosy green leather chair in the sunshine.

7. What's your idea of an awesome holiday?

An exciting city break absorbing the sights, sounds, delights and discoveries of a different culture. Or a wonderfully relaxing spa break. I'm dying to visit New York, and have a long-held dream of spending the night in an Ice Hotel and seeing the Northern Lights (in Iceland or somewhere more exotic than Aviemore...) And I really want to visit the Norwegian Fjords.

8. Best snack?!

It sounds a bit too perfect and healthy, but I love snacking on a mix of brazil nuts and almond nuts and pumpkin seeds and raisins. I like to keep a packet of oatcakes in my bag for snack emergencies too, especially if I'm going on a journey or shopping trip. Smoothies and chocolate milkshakes I also count as 'snacks'. Oh, and toasted teacakes/fruit cakes are my guilty secret. Yep, lots of snacking here!

Snack place crumbs

9. What do you think your best attribute is?

I think my imagination and being able to see things from multiple perspectives. It takes me places and is at the heart of my creativity.

10. What are you listening to this week?

The sound of silence - hoping for silence anyway; to write and make progress on my projects, but instead the weather has had other ideas and the wind and rain have been pretty noisy, as have my neighbours playing LOUD music in the daytime. Apart from that I love listening to the radio.

11. Is there something or someone that makes you laugh every time?

My Mum.We bicker & banter but there is always something to laugh about; something hysterical, some misconstrued sentence or silly saying. And she has some very sharp observations.

And now here's 11 extra facts about me:

1. I'm a Piscean; emotional, watery, a dreamer swimming in multiple directions.

2. I love writing and I'm writing a book. Books. More than one book. It's exciting!

3. I've just rediscovered my love of drawing.

4. In another era, I think I would have made a great hippy. Peace, man.

5. I adore OWLS but they went a bit mainstream there for a while.

6. I'm terrified of spiders, even teeny ones.

7. I'm a recovering hoarder trying to transform into a minimalist.

8. I'm 5'11'' and rarely wear heels.

9. I'm clinging on to my 'vintage' ways and do not have/want a Kindle or E-book reader.

10. I have a first class honours degree in Textiles & Fashion Design.

11. My favourite colour is GREEN.

GREEN things

And now here's 11 blogs I nominate for a Liebster Award:

1. Rare Pear Studio

2. Squiggle and Swirl

3. Sew Crafty Goodness

4. A Quirky Bird

5. The Creatory Blog

6. Lila Wolff

7. A Zesty Life

8. She Who Rambles

9. Beautiful Life Industries

10. Girl Fifteen

11. Not So Nanna

 

Hooray to you guys but there's so many more blogs that I love and want to shout out, like my magpie-sister Helenor and my writer friend Vikki (so that's 13 for Friday 13th!)
And I want to give a special shout out to Pip Lincolne! #RADgirl

Now for the 11 questions: I just answered Pia's set and I think they're fabulous, so let's stick with them!

Meanwhile, Birdandfox set out such clear helpful tips for what to do next if you've been nominated, that I've (also) replicated them below:

What YOU need to do when you post in response: - Acknowledge the blog that nominated you. - Include the Liebster Award image on your post. - Respond to the 11 questions I wrote for you. - Include 11 facts about yourself. - Nominate 11 other blogs you think are deserving of the award. - Include 11 questions for them to answer. - Get in contact with those bloggers to let them know you have nominated them.

Wow, that was a big post with a lot of information.

I do love writing a #diary!

 

The sensation of sunshine in my hair by daintydora

I love it when you have a day that starts of sunny and bright and things just go...right, well, unfolding perfectly, from the moment you open your eyes. It doesn't happen often but I find it's always the unplanned days that work out like this, or the days with only a very loose plan. Nothing fancy, no grand ideas, just spur of the moment thoughts anchored around a day out to a specific place or a meet up with a friend and a sense of putting the world to rights in your mind, in your world.

Sunshine halo

Some of my favourite feel-good things to do to (separate from life-enchancing creative pursuits), involve tidying up, decluttering, going for a walk.

The feelings of freedom and elation that these simple acts give opens out the day like a huge breath of air, like the breeze off the sea, like landing in a lush tropical island and getting a while new perspective on life.

(That's how mountains make me feel too.)

Yesterday was cold, brisk even, but with sunshiney pockets.

I felt alive with the sensation of sunshine in my hair and the wind blowing as a walked; refreshing and motivating. I wandered around some familiar places and the sun blocked my view in parts and it exploded out in front of me along the horizon like in a film where the camera shoots into the sun and it creates circles of light and colour in a haze of emotions and poignancy. It was kind of like that.

And I thought about other times in my life, both happy and sad, remembering how the same streets looked and felt to me 10 and 15 years ago. Places I don't live in anymore or find myself in very often. Places that have become hugely emotive in terms of conjuring memories of times gone by.

I think of it a bit as going back to your old school and walking the corridors after hours, empty corridors, feeling a sense of joy to no longer be confined to those stuffy classrooms of double maths and bad French and chemistry lessons gone wrong, but they're also tainted with a kind of sadness for a time that will never be again or come back because it's closed off, finished, gone except for in the recesses of your mind.

But I'm grateful that I'm in this time, my time, the only time I will ever know, and my life is where it is now. And I'm looking forward and ahead.

Hello to a brand new week of sunshine and the wonderful sensations that remind me I'm alive.