Tuesday, 17 January 2017


I did a little applique work over the weekend, sewing on MasterM's pips. It was not as easy as you might think because the embroidery is done on very thick black fabric so there was a minor finger injury and some unladylike language before I resorted to a thimble and tacking respectively.

It was odd to realise that I could not remember the last time I had threaded a needle and yet I used to sew for pleasure. Dressmaking, patchwork, embroidery and tapestry were once essential for my creative self-expression and now they are abandoned at the high water mark of another part of my life. My lovely friend Caroline, a keen needlewoman, would be shocked if she knew and encourage me to join a class or start a new project and perhaps I will but, right now, sewing on pips is enough.

Monday, 16 January 2017

burnt offering

MissM is taking her role as mentor very seriously. I have just received a message enquiring what my next recipe is in the 2017 Recipe Challenge. I had to admit that last night New Recipe #2 had started out as Pork Chops with Rosemary and Pears and ended up as carbon fibre.

MissM asks what went wrong. I explained that I should have cut the carrots into chunks so that they cooked at the same rate as the other ingredients, the recipe stated a high oven temperature which must have been a typo and finally it was a mistake to fall asleep in the bath while it was cooking. I promise to do better next time.

Friday, 13 January 2017

MasterM : Officer

Just before Christmas we attended the Sovereign's Parade at Sandhurst. It was the culmination of a year of training when MasterM and his fellow Officer Cadets paraded before the Duchess of Cornwall, representative of the Queen. 

We sat in the stand and felt so many emotions:

Surprise that MasterM had ended up applying to join the Army. Relief that he had made it through a tough year where he was challenged physically and mentally. Joy that we could be there with his sister and grandparents to watch and applaud. Gratitude that Master has ended up in a place which uses his gifts and experience. Astonishment at the gold braid, flags, trumpets and pageantry.

Meanwhile...what was MasterM feeling?

Anxiety that we would accidentally step on his polished boots.

Thursday, 12 January 2017


MissM says "How are you getting on with your resolution?" I look around, hoping that she is talking to someone else but there is no-one else in the car. I prevaricate and ask "Which resolution?" as though there is a long list. MissM is implacable "The one where you promised to make a new recipe every week" I laugh weakly "It's only a few days since the New Year..."

MissM helps me to understand how disappointed she is that I have failed already and asks me to message her with details of the first new recipe. "You will enjoy the challenge once you start" she promises.

I fry sausages and make lentil ragout. It is filling but brown,  I message MissM as requested - she keeps me honest, that one. Only 51 recipes to go. It's going to be a long slog. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

stretch and breathe

There is a day in January when it is all over. All the preparation and shopping and wrapping and cooking and eating and clearing up. You cannot predict when it will be but it was today. Not yesterday, first day back at work. Or the day before, MasterM and MissM go their separate ways. Or the day before that, the dismantling of the decorations. But today there was space to stretch out, breathe slowly and think of Spring. The empty days of January are ahead, uncluttered and tantalising. I think I shall go to the garden centre tomorrow and spend my Christmas money.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017


I can't pretend that I needed new mugs but this is what happens when you discover a very talented local potter who will accept commissions. I can confirm that MrM has agreed, more than once, that the mugs are perfect in size, shape, colour and general heat retention qualities although this might be because I was so thrilled I kept saying "Look how they fit into your palm! Don't you just love the colour? Aren't they wonderful! Shall we have another cup of tea?"

Sunday, 8 January 2017

time for tea

What is this???

It's a teapot mat from Mozambique.
MasterM saved the caps
from all the beers he drank on holiday
and then he covered them with fabric
and sewed them together.
Isn't he clever!

MasterM looks appalled.
Sewing little bits of fabric together?
Utter madness!
Do real people do that?

Friday, 6 January 2017


A Great Oak Tree

John Constable
1801, Black chalk with gray wash, 21x 17 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

We all have the potential to discover our vocation, a role in life which brings together our gifts and experience and makes us feel fulfilled. This might be in the public sphere in our paid or unpaid work or it might be a private vocation for home-making or caring. Whatever it is there is a sense of having arrived, perhaps unexpectedly, at the right place.

I thought my vocation was to be a priest in the Church of England and over the past two years I have been exploring that understanding in a formal process called Discernment. This was not a recent conviction which arrived as a bolt from the blue but one that had been at the back of my mind for many years, even as far back as university. Unfortunately my student days pre-date the change which allowed the ordination of women and when that decision was made in 1992 I was looking after two pre-school children. By the time I was able to put myself forward for consideration the seed which had been sown so early in my life had grown into a great tree which blocked my path.

The outcome was not what I expected. It became clear to me that I was not the type of person that the Church of England was looking for: I was not under 35 and committed to introducing what is known as Fresh Expressions of Faith and I could not improve the diversity statistics. In June I decided to withdraw from the process.

It was the right decision but it felt as though the tree which had represented so much crashed down on top of me. I can not say whether it fell in an instant or had been weakened over a period of time but I scrambled from under the branches feeling very battered and it has taken me a long time to come to terms with the new landscape. I decided that I must not walk away from the wreckage and I have worked hard in the past six months to chop up the tree, examine the pieces and stack them away.

When a tree falls everything changes. New vistas open up and seeds germinate as light reaches the ground where the tree had been. These are positive things but there is the period of loss first, grief for the old familiar landscape and then trying to make sense of what happened. I do not know what direction my life will take now but let's hope that there is a seed putting out tiny leaves somewhere in the undergrowth.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

honouring the ordinary

MasterM (right) and friend, somewhere in Mozambique

I urge you to read this post on Absence in Women's Lifewriting because it is relevant to us all as bloggers. In the post Jennifer Sinor describes reading a journal that had been passed down in her family from her great great great aunt who lived in Dakota in the 1880s, a record of everyday life as a homesteader's wife. What fascinated me was not the content of the journal but Sinor's response as she searched through the minutiae of baking, sewing and visiting for the extraordinary only to discover that it had been omitted. Frustrated, she used her research skills to find out more information about her distant relative, looking for a narrative to her life, until she had a revelation that the real value of the journal is in the detail that she has skimmed through. Extraordinary events may determine the direction of our lives but it is by recording the details, that 'multitude of small delights', that we honour our days. 

I think all bloggers forget that each of us has different types of ordinary and that is what makes blogs so readable. You might feel anxious about writing about your reading or your gardening or your knitting but it is this sharing of our domestic lives that I value as a reader of blogs. So I challenge you: write on, honour your ordinary days!

My ordinary life today includes collecting MasterM from the airport and I must dash now because he is enroute from a remote area of Mozambique via Maputo, Johannesburg, Abu Dhabi and Rome. His last messsage from Rome airport was a cri de coeur "See you soon. Bring Chocolate!!" Same old MasterM. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

pot pourri

Woman making potpourri
Herbert James Draper (1897)

It was a fallow year last year. The Garden and I came to an understanding that we both needed a rest. Perhaps some time apart. And so I got on with my job and looking after my family and going on assorted holidays with MrM while the Garden relaxed from the effects of constant supervision and became an eco-warrior, offering shelter to little creatures and nourishing victimised plant species. At the end of the period of separation I realised we needed professional help to rebuild our relationship so I employed the lovely Tracey who is a gardener of the Boot Camp variety. Now the Garden and I are looking stripped back, fighting fit and ready to start 2017. Fallow is so last year.

I can't promise regular and informative bulletins from the potting shed but if a sporadic scattering of the pot pourri of family life as seen from the comfort of my sofa appeals I think I can manage that.