but we’re still making sun-hats for the important people in our lives…
but we’re still making sun-hats for the important people in our lives…
This afternoon I felt distinctly the possibility that sleep is a portal. When I awoke from an unscheduled nap, my body scrunched up across the front seats of a car, I had the sense that I was visiting from another part of my life. My eyes had opened to a car windscreen, and beyond it, silent, slow-moving clouds on a clear blue sky. Inside, the ticking clock on the dashboard told me clearly that the hour was quarter to five, but in my disorientated state, the day, the year, my location even, were at large, anybody’s guess. I lay there awkwardly for a while, looking upwards, with the strange sense of being submerged – my view was periscopic, my only horizon the perimeter of the windscreen. As I came to, I tuned out of the ticking clock and into the sounds which surrounded my tin submarine – distant voices, the jangle of chandlery, water slapping on boats…
It wasn’t that I didn’t know where I was, more that the strangeness of waking from a daytime nap had heightened my consciousness, given me the ability to experience my waking moments from another, undefined, perspective.
As I struggled to a seated position, my eyes met those of the man who must have woken me. He nodded a baffled and then apologetic acknowledgement at my emerging head. I smiled and mouthed ‘don’t worry’ through the window, only realising afterwards that he’d have easily heard my voice if I’d spoken. It was only I who felt mute, a visitor to the film of my life – this window was regular two-way glass.
I watched the man pull a black sock over the paddle of a long oar and manhandle it into the boot of his car. Then I shifted my depth of field. In the distance, a glorious panorama – grazing sun on green hills, their velvety skirts just trailing in an expanse of lake – closer by, children in canoes, sun dancing glittery on the water. As I pieced together my life, fixed my position, from the evidence around me, I found myself acknowledging it all with the displaced eyes of my youth, then those of my young twenties, or the woman I was two years ago… then with the knowing eyes and reminiscence of my older self.
Some things were new, others familiar but displaced, like my consciousness. Here was not one, but two child seats, my grandmother’s car, Aunt Bab’s knitting bag, an unfinished jumper and three new-looking books, a battered Sigg bottle, some house keys. I found myself making links, comparisons to other places, other times. My life rather prematurely flashed before my eyes before panning out to the future that might look back at this scene.
Struck by this sensation, this very odd, but definitely good feeling, I started to scribble some of it down on the used pages of a diary. It wasn’t long before I heard unmistakable voices approaching, and by the time I’d looked up there were childish grins waiting at the window. I opened the door and was mobbed with shrieks and cold cheeks. For a brief moment, all of my selves smiled back at me. Then they left just this one behind, the one that fell to sleep a little desperate and woke stunned by this beauty and so grateful for it all.
Rose has got her hat on!
It was becoming embarrassingly obvious that Rose has been rather hatless this last week or two. We were reduced last week to tying her skirt around her head with one of the flower garlands I’d made for home-ed group – it looked rather fetching but didn’t quite cut the mustard in functional terms… and it wasn’t for the want of finding nice sunhats (I very nearly purchased one of these). No, it was just the exciting notion and the faint hope that I might actually find the time to make one.
Well, there are those rather familiar days when the ‘to do’ list barely gets a glance… and then there’s the other rare kind of day where we whizz through the list, fit some extra chores in on top, make tasty food (not just baked potatoes…) and manage to squeeze in time for something a bit frivolous. Yippee – yesterday was one of those days…
It was most definitely a joint effort. Fabric chosen by Rose – a part-faded charity shop Ikea curtain that has found its way into a fair few projects (you can just see Rose’s matching apron in the ‘working lunch’ photo above). Mummy surprised herself with her geometry skills (hello again Pi) and Rose got handy with a compass. There was lots of cutting (not all of it entirely necessary…) and a fair bit of trying on. Only the last fiddly two seams joining brim to crown and lining were left to do when Dilys stirred.
I am still reeling with excitement at the whole experience (my first proper hat!). Thank goodness it worked.
It even looks pretty good inside out…
Do you ever experience that desperate brain escapism that accompanies a period of sustained and unrelenting ‘work’? The mind seems to kick into survival mode – any spare thinking moment is involuntarily occupied by a growing mental list of all those exciting and terribly pressing things you must do when the ‘work’ is over…
My husband, Tim, has been stationed in his marking throne almost continuously for nearly a month, pausing only to eat and help bath the girls and put them to bed when he could. The workload was huge and his stoicism has been characteristically remarkable. I am assured that it is now officially over. If nothing else, his antics this evening convinced me of this:
As I was setting-to with the dishes after the girls had been bathed and put to bed, he appeared at the kitchen door with a hose and a G-clamp, flashed me a cheeky look and disappeared upstairs…
I didn’t bat an eyelid.
About quarter of an hour later there was a jubilant whoop from the vegetable beds:
…a splendid way to celebrate (the pressure was quite surprising – you could almost imagine a bottle of fizz in place of the hose…)
Phewee! That wind on the beach today nearly blew the whiskers off our chinnegans…
Hope yours are intact today.
Mrs. Sand Whipped, and the Misses Windswept and Weather Beaten xxx
I really must kick this Mary Poppins habit. There will come a time when my children won’t thank me for it. Upholstery fabric is a good weight for patches, mind (even if pale grey is perhaps not the best choice for knees…). These patches are an Elanbach print from a dismantled sample book I snapped up a couple of years ago. There’s not much left now – at least I’m forced to be sparing with the pattern…
I’ve been doing a run on patch trousers this year and they always seem to start with the patches, then the contrast thread… and then – ah yes – the fabric for the trousers. This is the second pair of pull-ups I’ve made for Dilys. The first pair (just seen below) was part of an upholstery fabric patch and pocket two-piece made from a combination of fabric: some jumbo cords I wore when Tim and I were courting, one of Tim’s old T-shirts, a charity shop ‘Seasalt’ organic sweatshirt and a vintage flowery cushion cover (I am incorrigible…).
There is method in all this makery though. My plan is to make trousers that Dilys can pull down herself when the need arises (although we’re not always operating on that basis…). This second pair is ‘new improved’ – I lined them for warmth and comfort – it just happened I had some lovely soft matching grey bamboo leftover from making the tummy part of some maternity trousers. I also added a bit of space around the bottom and lots of length so that there’s some milage in the trousers – those turn-ups won’t be needed for more than about a month at this rate.
…But I got rather carried away with that Elanbach print, and a bit desperate to reach completion in the early hours – it’s most definitely not the right weight for elasticated waistbands (far too stiff and nubbly for baby tummies) – I will have to revisit that part even if it looks nice…
…but since we’re talking aesthetics for a moment – I was chuffed to see my very hip friend Anna’s grey and yellow scarf here (bottom photo on her post) – I think perhaps for once I must be ‘on trend’…
The weather has been glorious. The hot air in our garden is laced with invisible buzzes and hums, the flighty flutter of butterflies – painted ladies, tortoiseshells, red admirals… and, as my older daughter announced earlier this week, ‘that’s an orange tip’. (She was matter of fact, I was struggling to contain my pride…)
But the butterflies I’ve been most aware of since the weather turned warm are the ones in my tummy. They appear with disconcerting regularity at about the same time each year – late May, as soon as the weather gets warmer. The root cause is evasive, the nervousness familiar but displaced, a shadow of a feeling from childhood. It relates to summer holiday listlessness – out of routine, out of touch with friends, out of the country… out of my comfort zone… but mostly, I know in my bones, it’s to do with exams – that heady cocktail of anticipation, tension, hot weather, enforced indoor revision, the promise of freedom, potential for success, or failure… in the eyes of others.
It’s about 15 years since I sat a Summer exam, but that feeling hasn’t faded. Instead, from year to year, it appropriates the uncertainties of the moment, claims them and augments them. This year is no different from any other… except that I sense I am not the only one with butterflies. Our eldest daughter seems uncertain, unsettled and in need of routine, familiarity. It is no surprise – there is change for the whole family in this hot May air: a planned house move, my husband’s new job – our children are sensible to these changes even if they do not understand them.
Most pertinently perhaps for our eldest daughter, this May we are making our first faltering steps into the world of home education. She is just old enough to be at school this term in Wales and her contemporaries are steadily disappearing from our daytime activities. It’s a wobbly time for us all, but we are lucky to have a strong community of home educators around us. While she is not exempt from the patterns of examination (my husband, like my father in years past, has been stationed on the sofa late into the night most of this month marking student theses), part of our decision to home educate relates to my May butterflies, to exams and the notion that one must be tested at preordained intervals for evidence of learning. That flighty ‘orange tip’ was testament to the fact that ‘evidence’ of learning plays out as our days go by, and that learning is a fact of life, a continuous gift of great worth, but not perhaps as remarkable or glorified as some ‘educators’ might have us believe. Of course, the landscape of learning is not level, and we are not all given the same prospects – the education system is designed to save some from slipping the net, and as such provides opportunities and limitations. But school or no school, my experience tells me that the testing of knowledge kills the joy of it, limits the potential for being truly knowing. Exams are about education, pieces of paper, government targets and other people’s opinions, nervousness and competition. Learning is innate, physical, tactile. It builds self-confidence and self-knowledge. Truly ‘knowing’ should not make us anxious.
There will, fairly inevitably, be a time when our children have to operate within the world of tests and examinations but three and a half, I would argue, is too soon. So we are taking our learning journey one step at a time and watching where it takes us. At the moment our path is one ‘less trodden’, and if we had a few butterflies about it this morning as we set out to meet some new home eders, they’d flown off somewhere else by lunchtime.
- It certainly helps to have companions along the way.
‘Home Education’ is a rather blanket term and not exactly representative of the way we approach learning. Labels aren’t always helpful and everyone’s journey is entirely unique, but at the moment ours is most in line with the concept of ’unschooling’ and/or ‘freelearning’… from what I understand, at least…
“Daddy, what is Maureen?”
“You mean Maureen the midwife?”
“No, Maureen in the swimming pool?”
“I don’t remember a Maureen from the swimming pool.”
“No, Maaaawreeeen, that gets the germs away…”
We had a protracted discussion yesterday about the merits and demerits of chlorine. I’m still not sure how we got from chlorine to Maureen – but couldn’t we all start slipping a little toddler rhyming slang into our everyday speech?
Rose has been eyeing my machine up for a while now, so it only took us a little nudge in the form of yesterday’s post from Soulemama. Amanda Blake Soule is of the ‘start ‘em early’ school of thought – There she was, pictured merrily sewing away with a three year old on her lap and her six year old in the foreground working away with a hot iron. That is exactly why I dig this woman.
We basically went straight ahead and copied: A bag. (With an uncertain nap time sewing window and a new apprentice, I wasn’t going to tackle anything tricky.) We did it as togetherly as ergonomics and attention span allowed – choice of fabric, cutting out, pinning, snipping thread, guiding fabric through the machine… not to mention design – it’s reversible… and can you spot the pocket?
The lure of Angelina Ballerina won out towards the finish line, and I can see it’ll be a while until I can be completely hands off, but the prospect thrills me, in both senses – I will need to audit my fabric stash in anticipation…
We inherited my Gran‘s car last week. It came complete with boiled sweets, a faded but apparently unthumbed 1998 road atlas and a letter knife in the glove locker. Yet the most remarkable evidence of its one careful lady owner is that this J reg is in impeccable nick. This goes too for most of the carefully chosen contents of the car, and among the tyre pressure guages and oil cartons in a cardboard box in the boot I found a pang of warm grief inside a typed manilla envelope – The contents were a carefully folded collection of directions, clearly compiled over many years – lists of places I’d never heard of, quaintly formal typed letters of invitation from friends, detailed ‘navigators instructions’ to my childhood home in my father’s hand…
The respect my Gran had for the details of life never fails to impress me. I feel a little ashamed of the state of our previous steed. Out of respect I’ve vowed never to let banana skins and crumbly remains grace these pristine new floor mats. But more than this, I’ve been reflecting on my attitude towards cars and journeys in general. I’m not exactly a shiny car person – but there’s no way we’d actually do without one even if we do talk about it. Perhaps I’ve been neglecting our car as a sort of punishment to it for its existence? Perhaps I’ve been denying our dependence upon it, treating it as an ‘AtoB-mobile’, setting it in the shadow of destination. Perhaps I ought to think of it instead as an ‘Automobile’, embrace the skill, the art, the joy of motoring, the journey…
I think of the way my Gran drove her car: As little as possible, slowly, carefully. As always, an unwitting eco-warrior.
I think of architects Alison and Peter Smithson, who in their illustrated diary, ‘AS in DS‘, managed to celebrate the union of streamlined mechanical technology and picturesque landscape through the windscreen of their Citroen DS. I’m sure they washed their car once in a while.
I think of the child who beautifully referred to her shoes as ‘journey carriers’ in a new book I dipped into last week.
I think too of the way I rush about, trying to get somewhere while ignoring the place I’m in.
I look at the way my daughter celebrates journey, respects it, revels in it:
Gran would approve.