Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sorry for the delay

There seems to be a bit of a hold-up; serious stuff is not yet getting through to the blog. Some blockage in the supply line. I'm so busy with the harvest just now.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Pass me the grey track suit.

I discovered things about adrenalin today. It can have a very bad effect on you, and recently I've had the feeling of being like my camera with its memory card accidentally left out. You think things are going in, but really you can't remember the last thing that was said to you (like someone's name) and you just keep on clicking and not retaining anything. You can even have such an overload of adrenalin that the body can't get rid of, that it can make you quite ill, and I was half-way to that state. So the excitement of my sewing getting a good reception has really got to me, but now I'm surfacing and I feel much better. Page 19 of the Church Times - wow! Hold it! I can't take any more. I had a kind of allergic reaction, which took the form of an urge to wear a dove-grey 1000-times-washed tracksuit for a few days, but I haven't got one.

It's the weekend, and I promised some sensible stuff on this blog, so I will tell you about an exhibition by my hero Grayson Perry coming up soon at the British Museum. A few years ago, he used the same format using the collection of Lincolnshire artefacts. It was then that I became a disciple of his so I was pleased the other night that someone said 'Your work reminds me of Grayson Perry's', and I said 'Dead right!' because I most certainly AM influenced by him, I think he's brilliant. Look at this and you will see how I have paid him homage:

At the award ceremony in Southwark cathedral
I thought that this pic by our Jon was a good one. I'm as upright as a pillar of the church. Gradually, the evening's pics of me become remeniscent of one of Dali's, with objects getting a bit bendy and slithering off shelves. Researching Dali + spoon, I discovered he had a little trick to access his subconscious using a spoon and a metal dish that you might like to try; it's a variation on my bohemian bath techniques, for which see
"Sitting in the warm sun after a full lunch and feeling somewhat somnolent, DalĂ­ would place a metal mixing bowl in his lap and hold a large spoon loosely in his hands which he folded over his chest. As he fell asleep and relaxed, the spoon would fall from his grasp into the bowl and wake him up. He would reset the arrangement continuously and thus float along-not quite asleep and not quite awake—while his imagination would churn out the images that we find so fascinating, evocative, and inexplicable when they appear in his work…” —from Provenance is Everything, Bernard Ewell". You never know when you might need to use this trick, so do hang onto it. More details can be found here: 
It seems a bit cruel, though, the waking bit, rather like after you've had a baby and some spoil-sport doctor tells you it is good for women to have a wee and stop halfway before carrying on. (Oh come on, this is an adult site and it's after 9 pm, why can't I mention wee?)

This black-looking hat is violently pink on its top side
And so by half-past midnight, with a few glasses of Spanish white wine on a not-very-full tum, I sat propped on a train bound for Ally Pally with a sozzled and smug smile on my face, triumphant that I was returning to base not needing to be 'helped'. Thinking how lucky I am to have a year ahead when I can turn down any invitation to do anything by the words, 'I'm afraid I have to be working on my exhibition'. A whole year when I can get away with just thinking up stuff and making it, and feeling virtuous about it. I've devised a whole system of self-education & improvement to support my way through it, you know, those kind of plans for an ordered existence you sometimes write down: "9 pm: Sit down with an improving book about art." Like a mega-blast of new-year resolutions, there are time-slots allocated for cleaning, and little notes posted here and there to encourage me. Only people who find this kind of thing difficult ever write such things down, I suspect. The really desperate ones even blog about it. I have even looked up this site:
But I have my trusty 1950s book of household hints, and I like this entry on Rubber Gloves: "To clean, wash in cold water and boil from 2 to 5 minutes (do not overboil or gloves will be weakened); wash both sides in warm soapsuds, rinse and dry. If gloves are to be worn to prevent infection, test for small holes. Before each wearing, place a small wad of cotton in each fingertip to prevent fingernails from cutting the rubber. Instead of discarding old ones, cut good sections into rubber bands any width desired. To protect your manicure while doing housework, buy a pair of rubber gloves smaller than the usual size required and cut off the fingertips. Slip the tips over the nails." Phew! By the time I've done all that, it will be time to start creating. But I end with an line from the Rachel Anne of the above: "I'm excited about making my home sparkle with peace, order and beauty!"

Thursday, 22 September 2011


Ooops! I came 1st! You can see them at the back there in the display in Southwark cathedral. In the foreground is one of Bertil Albrektson's collages. The Southwark website is to put pics of the exhibition on in due course. More anon, but I have to go to sleep now. My head often needs a bit of time in oblivion before I can move on to the next thing I have to do.

And look, here is a pic from Jon's rather good set...


And the headdress went down well at Fashion Week.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Viv goes to town

All packed up and ready to go... Ooooh dearrrr! I feel a bit sick and giddy. Never mind, I'll be fine once I've been to that fashion event and had a bit of champagne, and maybe Igor will have a goodie bag for me, or a rummage pile.... Here's ClothQ ready for off looking a bit like Cloth KKK, and just to revisit old times, I stayed up till after midnight making something really essential, which is the badge that proclaims 'Textile Exegete'. Stuck on my Katharine Hamnett jacket, no less. Not that I'm label conscious of course; I got that for 20 quid at 'Labels' in Barton. One of many bargains from there. But I don't want bus-loads of people coming up from London to snap things up. There was the Karen Millen beaded dress, also 20 quid....

But I'm not allowed to go to town until I've processed the whole of the apple harvest that you see here. Oooh dear! I'm feeling like one of those princesses locked up in a tower, you can't do this until you've done that impossible task!

Look, anyone, come and get some; they're all washed. I've got a loaf of bread in the bread maker for t'owd man, who is going to take me across the bridge to the train; hope there are no trolls today. Poor thing, I made a list of all the people I'd neglected in a recent blog entry, and, oh dear, I neglected to say that I'd neglected him! Was I in trouble! I tried to explain... I meant I neglected those people outside the house, I didn't mean that he... oh dear, stop digging.

Killer heels
So I'm going to try and see that exhibition of treasure thingies at the British Museum, caskets for relics and so on. I'm sure I'll get a lot of inspiration. Just going off to polish my killer heels..... You really ought not to laugh, cos when I wear my own choice of stuff, I get people in the street that I don't know taking my picture surreptitiously. You think they think, 'How can anyone go out like that?' I know, I know, it happened at the top of Bow Fell in the Lake District once... it's a fairy thing..... and she said 'Can I take your picture? Because no-one will ever believe me when I say what I've seen if I don't.' No, I'm not putting that one on the blog. Not here, not now anyway; maybe when I'm rich and famous. But t'owd man has to keep his job for now. So I'm off........ wish me luck! It'll be all serious stuff here when I get back.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

In the absence of smelling salts

Viv[en] [b]ruin
In the absence of smelling salts, a day was put aside for calming activities. (For Pete's sake, I've only won a prize with my sewing, but I feel as if I need sedation to help me over it). Washing a window (just one), rendering down a glut of plums, putting on washing (but could I or my accomplice fathom out where to put the powder in this new-fangled thing?) I'm preparing to travel to the metropolis darn sarf, and so it seemed that I needed to take special precautions, since on a former trip my upbringing that leads me to eat up all my greens and also everything a generous host puts in front of me did not play well in the case of the Belgian beers. How could I refuse the last one? I note that the name of it contains the letters of 'Viv' and 'ruin'. Despite having to be carted back to base in a taxi, I did at least manage to hang on to the bottle to remind me of  my under-the-table condition. Never again.

Just say yes
And so Tuesday 20th September will be a special day, receiving my prize of 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the Southwark cathedral Lancelot Andrewes art competition for my Sarah and Hagar exegetical tunics. Preparations include getting 'business cards' made (what business? 'Textile exegete' actually), and importantly, this bottle cover so that when I am offered a glass too many I can say "No! I have this healthful juice with me!" The pilgrim badge reminds me that when I was in Spain, the first glass of Navarran red cured me of the month-long aversion I developed as a result of the Bruin etc, so it is a two-edged sword.

Bottle Babel
Bruegel's 'Little Tower of Babel'
When it was just work-in-progress, it did remind me of something... It IS rather Babel-ish, n'est-ce pas? (A project for the future, obviously). And perhaps about as useful. It seems to me that spending a day making a bottle cover-cum-handbag isn't such a bad idea; most of human enterprise beyond keeping body and soul together (food, clothes, housing, hospitals) is no more or less daft than that.

Pink-streaked apples
When I get back, I will be well ready to return to basics, "Just Like The Camino". Things like wondering what kind of apples these are? Look carefully: I didn't cut my finger while preparing them, rather, these apples when ripe are streaked all the way through with pink. If you know what variety they may be, please let me know. We didn't plant the trees from which they came, so we have no idea what they are.

Other basics include the view over the handlebar. A blow in the open air looking across the Humber. Being interested in the concerns that seem like headline material in a small and sleepy little town where even the riots can't quite get going properly, though they do quite a good job now and again of smashing a few windows; but they can't seem to organise it into something that makes a proper splash. But I like the hoarding: not telling us that they are mending the potholes (as they are in fact), but reporting on the fact that the mending is being welcomed. [By some. Potholes? I love 'em.] "How gracious is that?"

So now I have to go and pack, and 'get my act together', which is meant rather literally, and will involve a flowery creation for my head, one that will travel of course, and I have a Vivienne Westwood tie which is rather Dennis-the-Menace to go with it rather than the rather sober one shown here. [Here I almost do for 'rather' what 'He said that that that that that man said....' does for 'that'] There is a little interlude in my day on Tuesday lunchtime when I get to a London Fashion Week event (bespoke flowery headdresses, £2000), a bit under wraps now, but my very talented friend Igor will be strutting some of his new stuff, meaning that not quite literally, as other people will be wearing it all. I can never quite bring myself to make art that is just squares on the wall, though I have a lot of them done by others; I like to think that what I do is really useful, and Igor obviously shares that feeling. He's getting really big in underwear now; his business is really taking off.

Seriously  purposeful
When I get back home, I'll be taking the bull by the horns and going all sensible and working to a routine and being serious and purposeful. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Under the crest of a wave

Lofty thoughts while waiting for a coffin to arrive, I had to get a notebook out as I considered the events of the last few heady days. Why, less than a fortnight ago we were in Studland Bay while a foaming sea raged around and threatened to engulf even the dunes where we pitched our camp. I took my camera out in its plastic bag so I could get a pic of the waves crashing about, including this one that towered above me, then took the camera to shore, and ran back into the sea to fully* engage with nature. The sand shelved steeply down where it was normally a flat plain (a bad sign), and doing a little CRASH towards a wave that did a BIG CRASH towards me, really embracing that wave, I found myself swept off my feet, sucked downwards, then upwards and backwards in a spiralling circular movement leading ultimately to the Isle of Wight, (ooooh! that sucking feeling will stay with me!) with the sense that the sea had picked me up and was going to do with me what it would. I was about to be recycled! I shouted to t'owd man 'DAVID! SAVE ME!' but then I managed to get my feet onto sand, or the wave relented and dumped me there temporarily, and I ran like hell, struggled towards him yelling 'GET OUT! It's a very dangerous sea!' Good man, he obeyed me, immediately went to shore, leaving me to continue having fun in the waves, relieved in the knowledge that he was safe.

So as I sat in a little village church today waiting for a funeral to start, I remembered this moment; I looked around and thought about the vast mass of humanity which seemed to me like a wave, of which I recognised myself to be a part all of a sudden. Now that 'My Life's Work has had some affirmation, it seems that everything has made me what I am - the people I have been influenced by, the people that love me, the things I may be naturally good at, and the things I can't do like remember or understand history or whether the sun goes round the moon or vice versa or anything philosophical, doing theology and not going to art college - and even my deafness that has dogged me since repeated attacks of mumps in childhood and of which I have been so ashamed and still makes me cry because I know I have missed out on a lot of life because of it, and will there be any so-far hidden gains from this? Somehow I didn't care any more, I felt content to be part of that big wave that is humanity, that all together we make up that big wave, full of bits of this and that, but all together, all in it together, and that I am the sum of what all these have made me, and that now at my great age I must make a big effort to take some kind of control in that moment my feet are on the sand, before I really AM recycled and indistinguishable from the great mass of salty decaying matter. For a moment or two that day in the sea and today, I felt, as well as believed, that being me was not my fault, and better still, that being me was good.
*Split infinitive? You're going to complain about that? Are you telling me I should have shouted 'GET OUT and promise me you will never, ever disgrace my memory by splitting an infinitive!'

Running Elk

My head is so big these days! So big in fact that I couldn't go into church without brushing near a candle and setting fire to my hair! Oh dear! I'm so giddy that I can hardly blog just now. I plan to return to Normal Life sometime around mid-Oct, after which I will have done a lot of work on Lists, and will have tidied and organised the whole house, including washing the windows on both sides, up and down stairs! Normally I rely on getting new ones to deal with the fact that after a year or two they get to look a bit grubby.

But until normal life returns, I'm in this cloud-cuckoo land for a few more days yet. Today I went to a funeral of a very dear priest friend, sitting in the same pew as I sat a few weeks ago to celebrate his 25 years since priesting. Taking a trip to look at the plaque underneath a memorial window, I cocked my head sideways to look beyond the vase of flowers placed there, and felt part of my head become strangely warmed. Ash fell onto my nose. I had to hit my head to put out the flames I assumed to be there. My friend looked and thought a big black spider had landed on my head. Then I burst into loud weeping, and  moments later into loud laughter (actually, quite a few moments later). My husband had just perfumed the air with the best incense, and complained that I spoilt it. Flippin' 'eck! My 15 minutes of fame is about to descend on me, and I set head on fire! And this just after I had my 4-monthly not-cheap haircut. I now need to get to work on some textile piece to cover up the frizzy tuft that is where only last week I had luxurious salon-conditioned silky locks! And after I'd whispered to the MU president as we waited for the coffin to arrive,"I'm an artist now; I'm allowed messy hair". (I had arrived very hurricane-dried today).

Hubby, alias t'owd man, of course said a catch-phrase of long-standing: 'White man's head on fire'; hence the inclusion of this Glenn Baxter cartoon from years ago.

And our priest friend? Fr. Robert Jones, you will be laughing your socks off now, I know you will! An envelope was found on his kitchen table with an anagram of 'funeral' scribbled on the back. It was: 'Real fun'.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Sarah and Hagar: Cheers!

Oh wow! I've won a prize! Can't remember when I last did that. I think it was when one of our kids was a wee tot, and he and I worked together on some collage and won first prize at Mrs Vincent's Playgroup in Yeovil, which was brilliant. He still paints, with his lovely fiancee Soph. Keep at it, m'boy! I'm too gobsmacked to write anything sensible or the required self-effacing stuff, and can I even spell self-efacing correctly? I don't care whether is is prize 1, 2 or 3, I'm just delighted to have been selected. But I had a wistful moment or three when I looked round the house and thought - it's a mucky mess - my kids are neglected - my grandkids and mum are neglected - and I wondered whether this moment made it all worthwhile? I've done some work that, OK, has integrity, I've put most of myself into it, and instead I could have been the nurturing mum/gran/daughter that I wish I were and can't seem to manage to be when I'm working really hard on My Life's Work. It takes up so much of my time, my work is the equivalent of the Slow Food movement, it requires a lot of time spent at the poring-over-texts stage, and the next stage of how-shall-I-do-it? and then the doing, and the going back to the texts constantly, and I ask myself, is it worth it? But for now.....


Monday, 5 September 2011

Sarah and Hagar go to town

Well they got there - to Southwark I mean, the cathedral. They got sewn together on holiday, the final stitches. Will they get shortlisted? I'll be delighted if they do. If they don't, oh well. I took them to St. Aldhelm's Head chapel on the Dorset coast for a champagne reception last Thursday evening. Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael, two of my boys (Jez and Joolz), Joolz's fiance Soph, friend Phil. T'owd man took the pics, which is why he is nowhere to be seen. We poured Cava and I stood around. Lost my Santiago scallop shell pendant in the process and found it next morning on a solitary walk to the chapel. There it was, by the font. So here are the pics. I'm gutted. It's finished - maybe. This blog entry is a bit of a mess. Yesterday was our 35th wedding anniversary, and tonight we are having a bit of a dinner. Had to drink a glass of wine before I could make the apple pie, as the place was in meltdown, and I needed to not care. I fell over when I went to the oven to look at the pie, as my leg went funny as I'd pulled a muscle because I made a labyrinth which involved running crouched down a mile backwards with a cricket stump dragging in the sand. This made me think that Jacob would be a good subject. Who'd have an Abraham when you can have a Jacob? They say the pie was great.

Isaac and Ishmael

Viv & Joolz

Sophie laughed

Jez, Joolz, Viv, Phil, Sophie

Isaac and Ishmael playing by the sea

Hagar & Ishmael
Sarah & Isaac

Viv's back