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Ae Fond Kiss

Had we never loved sae kindly
Had we never loved sae blindly
Never met, nor never parted
We had ne'er been broken-hearted

An almost love story from the 60s

On Burns Night, once the haggis had been addressed and eaten, Cannyrob, B and I, glasses of whisky at our elbow, sang our way through our favourite songs. This one, Ae Fond Kiss, always takes me back to being 16 and at the final school dance for the 6th year leavers. I had emerged that year from my cocoon of late development and slight weirdness. I hadn’t been part of the sporty or intellectual groups, but that year I came into my own as a writer and artist. I worked on the school magazine with a boy who shared my sense of humour. We made each other laugh and became close friends. At the dance I was wearing a dress made from fabric I had screen-printed in the art room and I was in great demand. He was the one who claimed me for the last dance. Afterwards we kissed at a party then arranged to meet again the next night. We had four blissful hours together then he walked me home. I thought it was the start of something serious. But he didn’t get in touch. I never understood why. He broke my heart.

Years later I reluctantly went to a school reunion. I had been married and divorced, happy to be single. He was there and sought me out. He wanted to explain. He belonged to a strict religious sect which had meant he couldn’t have a relationship with me. He had loved me, had never forgotten me, although he had married within his church and had two sons. He had become a consultant. He was also an alcoholic. A few months later he tracked me down through my old workplace and wrote telling me he was dying and asking to meet once more. I was curious, but no longer smitten, and agreed to meet at the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.

He arrived in a taxi, a cannula in his hand, having discharged himself from hospital. We walked through the trees and sat in the cafe for while. He looked ill, the whites of his eyes yellow, and we sat and talked about our lives and what might have been. Then his taxi came, we hugged and said goodbye. I saw his death notice in the paper three months later.

Tarot Reading for February

This card always throws me a bit, but its meaning is much more than is immediately apparent. Death is always with us. One of my closest friends lost a very good friend this month, not long after diagnosis. A creative, vibrant woman with so much of her life still to live. Vivienne Westwood has gone, another shining star. But this card is also about change and transition. We have plenty of that going on in the UK and worldwide. Maybe some of it will be for the better.

Graffiti Vivienne Westwood

I have just been told my arthritis is getting worse and is unlikely to improve. I have to accept my limitations but can still drive, swim, do Pilates and all my creative stuff. The green shoots are there beneath Death’s scythe.

Reading, Listening, Watching.

I’ve been reading more this month. Natalie Haynes Children of Jocasta is another classical treat. Two more of Tana French’s Dublin Murder stories – The Secret Place, Broken Harbour – are complex weavings of victims, suspects and detectives, all with their individual stories. Linked by place and time, each stands alone but there is a common thread of loss and compassion. We have to get back to Dublin this year! Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan and That Night by Gillian McAllister are quick reads, enjoyable but well-crafted stories.The long third book of Philippa Gregory’s Dark Tides trilogy, Dawnlands, covers a strange transitional period in history, from James II to William of Orange. Encompassing slavery in Barbados and corruption in Parliament, it continues to follow the fortunes of one family.

Audiobooks by Conn Iggulden, read by Robert Glenister, Emperor the Gates of Rome and Emperor the Death of Kings have held me in thrall. Mary Barton, Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel of life in 19th C Manchester, beautifully read by Juliet Stevenson, has striking parallels with today’s social ills and rich/poor divide. Podcasts by Ashley Storrie are clever and funny (BBC Sounds).

On our new television, the concluding episodes of His Dark Materials were spellbinding, the end of The Handmaid’s Tale surprisingly convincing, as was the start of Marie Antoinette. SAS Rogue Heroes was just amazing – funny and tragic, The English beautifully filmed, poignant and clever, Happy Valley compelling and brilliantly cast. I’m still hooked on Servant and season 2 of Viking Valhalla. Cannyrob is waxing lyrical about Kirk Douglas in The Vikings and singing the theme tune, so I have ordered us a second hand DVD. The Last of Us is a good old-fashioned apocalyptic romp with killer fungus rather than zombies taking over the world.

Domestic News

Cannyrob is still painting the finer details of the new window and the sitting room. I need to get a roofer to come and have yet another go at fixing the leaks in our guest room on the top floor. The gas fires have still not been serviced. I need to phone the man who said he would come before Christmas.

Sitting room

I am so enjoying my Wash House.  Boxes and drawers are all sorted and I can find everything I need.  I have been sewing new trousers for my Indian puppets and making pockets in a quilted jacket from the East sale.  I need pockets!  Always.  I have a pattern and fabric for trousers for Son and a dress for me.  Still trying to lose weight.  Eating less but obviously not enough less.  The bargain bags of toffees bought in John Lewis were a bad idea. 

Coming Attractions

After months when nothing much was happening, we have lots coming up this month – drumming, a birthday celebration for A with Daughter, a night away in a spa hotel with another friend, Scottish Opera in Crail, WeeBoy to stay, Girl from the North Country (musical with Dylan Songs) in Aberdeen.

I have a new ringtone nicked from Happy Valley, called Sci uFolien which I am enjoying.

I have had the Monty Python theme tune for years, now only recognised by old people.

Light at 4 o’clock

Suddenly I notice the days getting longer, more birds singing. It’s still cold but that promise of spring is there. We have a family wedding to go to – my lovely nephew is marrying his sweetheart. I hope your days are brightening in every way. Keep in touch – feedback is always welcome! Love, Elinor

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A Blast of Januar’ Wind

My title comes from the song Rantin’Rovin,Robin. As Christmas approached I realised I was verging on over-activity…..towards the top end of normal.  I felt the chill that precedes a dip in my mood. All the Wash House and home improvements have been exciting, but obsession with completion is not really healthy.  I sometimes bask in the ‘wow you do so much’ feedback, but there is always a price to pay.    Stepping back, calming down, reading, getting enough sleep are some of the things I need to stay well.Posting on Facebook and Instagram becomes a competition with myself.  I enjoy the likes and the comments, my ego fed by Meta’s awarding of titles. ‘Rising Creator’!!  It means nothing in the real world. 

I have to manage this change in mood.  Feedback from friends and family is invaluable. Advice from psychiatrist, and using a mood tracker app help me get things back in perspective.

https://www.bipolaruk.org/blog/track-your-mood-app

After working frantically to finish painting the sitting room and get the carpet laid before the new sofa arrived, it has been utter bliss to sit on it and watch our new telly.  A day with the family became #Christmas DIY, involving putting up curtains and pole, decorating the tree and discovering just how very smart a new tv can be.  Although WeeBoy had a cough, he had fun rediscovering our familiar decorations and eating quantities of olives.  Son cut an imposing figure by the fire in his silver crown, a bit like Robert the Bruce.

New Years Past and Present

I especially remember 1979/80. Daughter got the new Abba album and we played it all the time.  We were part of a group of couples who always saw in the New Year together.  As we had the youngest children, our house was the obvious venue. Everyone brought food and there was lots to drink. At that time we were very much part of the community, knew everyone, left our doors unlocked.

Life is very different now. Cannyrob and I have seen in New Years in Prague and Bruges, but mostly at home on our own. Our street is generally quiet, with lights out soon after midnight. This suits us fine, although we did have a grand day out to Glasgow this week to see the lights. We went on the bus, stayed overnight and had dinner in a favourite restaurant. We had a top floor room with a view, the snag being the random nature of the lift which kept returning the same bemused group of elderly ladies to the 18th floor each time we pressed the call button.

Tarot Reading: The Moon

This stage on the Tarot journey is sometimes described as The Dark Night of the Soul. As well as embodying dangers, the Moon also provides compassionate care and an illuminated onward path. Let us hope that many of the challenges faced in 2022 can be left behind. Ahead lies uncertainty but we can use our intuitive insight to find a way forward.

by Sophie McKay Knight The Painted Tarot

Reading, Listening and Watching

Not much reading done this month although lots of audio books and music listened to while painting. Here is the pile of titles I am longing to dive into now! I have some Kindle books lined up too. Reviews next month.

On the bookshelf

Audiobooks have been ideal while while sanding and painting. Cannyrob told me about the Neil Gaiman Christmas Carol, live at the New York Public Library, using Dickens’ own prompt copy.

I’ve listened to music a lot too: a vintage Christmas album including Every Little Girl would like to be the Fairy on the Christmas Tree, a recent version of Mozart’s Requiem, Retrospective by Suzanne Vega, Madonna The Immaculate Collection.

Watching…..since the new telly was finally unboxed.

Ghosts US, Knives Out, The White Lotus, the Handmaid’s Tale, Aladdin, Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker, Coppelia, Made in Chelsea ( that baby episode!). Zulu.

Bourne’s Nutcracker

So Here It Is – 2023

Where did last year go? Why does life go past so quickly as we get older? For most of us there were cancelled plans, bouts of Covid and other viruses. We’ve had climate events, rising prices, uncertainty where there should be calm….For all of us I wish good health, warmth, special times with family and friends, comfort and joy. Keep in touch in whatever way suits you. With love to you all, Elinor

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Time for New Mistletoe

Someone told me recently how sorry she felt for me. 
It must be awful being your age.
My life is probably better than it's ever been. I can choose how to spend my time. I have good relationships with family and friends. I am content.



Making Memories

Photos shared with pemission

I just celebrated my 75th birthday with a weekend in a lovely hotel with my family: Son, both Daughters, Son -in-Law, Cannyrob and WeeBoy.   We had a cake with candles, board games, singing Leonard Cohen and an African chant, then a quiz hosted by Son-in-Law after an excellent dinner.  I could only answer questions on books! I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a birthday so much.  After the stresses of this year, just being together was sheer joy.

Photos shared with permission

Tarot –  A Reading for Christmas

Leonora Carrington’s Tarot

The Magician is my favourite card, the character with whom I most identify. Right now I’m back in my workplace, with the tools of my trade to hand again.  He is a seasoned traveller, a dedicated artist. In a wider context, he symbolises our hopeful attitude to life.  We trust our intuition as well as our skills and find opportunity in spite of uncertainty.

The Wash House Project

Living with old stone walls, an uneven stone floor and beams at head height was fine for years.  I was very happy in our old wash house; felting, sewing, drawing and painting.  But earlier this year the damp was just too much and we planned a proper renovation.  Damp-proofing, insulation, new wiring and flooring.  After three months it’s almost done.  IKEA units are ready. Now all we need is our joiner’s help to cut the worktop to size and fix cube shelving to the wall.

I am gradually re-introducing my stuff although there is still work to be done.  Getting my familiar things in place – the mannequin, my easel and drawing board, the clock with its loud tick, some paintings on display, the jumble sale mirror, puppets and masks. On Sunday I sat at my table and drew (see featured image and below).

Sitting Room Make -Over

Another major project began with the idea of a new TV, expanded into a new sofa and curtains, then became the full scale redecoration of our upstairs living room.  Twenty years ago we painted over the woodchip paper and that was it.  Steam stripping has revealed old plaster with a few cracks but not beyond Cannyrob’s repair skills. After extensive research and test pots we decided to use two Farrow and Ball colours Stiffkey Blue and Borrowed Light. 

Making Myself Up

I haven’t posted anything about make-up for ages, although there is rarely a day when I don’t spend time painting my face. I still love my MAC eye palettes bought in lockdown, but I do like NYX, a budget range stocked by Boots.  I spent some points on a new eye-palette in matte neutrals including a good brick-red.

I love today’s emphasis on brows and am so glad I didn’t pluck mine away to nothing in the 70s. I really like a semi-permanent brow gel by Boots Collection called Incredibrow which hides the white hairs and keeps my untidy brows in place. I became addicted to red lips a few years ago, but for a change have found a good coral shade, again by NYX.

I also just bought my third bottle of Stories 2 perfume.  Discovered during lockdown, it never fails to lift my mood.  With rose, ginger, cardamom, patchouli, amber and musk, it’s one that people often comment favourably on.  Unlike a scent I bought years ago which my children agreed smelt like cat pee!

Reading, Listening, Viewing

This month’s books are another Dublin murder story The Likeness by Tana French, Natalie Haynes Trojan War book, A Thousand Ships. Also Still Life by Sarah Winman and Dawnlands by Philippa Gregory, third in  the Dark Tides trilogy.  All worth reading!

On Audible  I’ve enjoyed How to Disappear by Gillian  McAllister, read by Nicola Walker, an intriguing account of a family in witness protection.  The Queen of Bedlam by Robert McCammon, a satisfyingly thrilling historical crime novel, kept me enthralled for days.  Fergal Keane, BBC war correspondent, has just published The Madness,  his experience of PTSD.  I have always loved listening to his voice on the radio.

With the World Cup dominating our screens and the television banished to the guest room, I haven’t seen anything much lately, although I  do like SAS Rogue Heroes, The White Lotus, The English and the new, savage, Handmaid’s Tale.  Still cringing at Made in Chelsea every week.  Not at all engaged by the latest series of The Crown.

The English

Dealing with Digital

A popular post earlier this year was about the importance of music in my life.  Having had a Sony Walkman cassette player then a Philips Go Gear, I now have my music stored on my smartphone.  I don’t like streaming services, preferring to buy my music. I purchased quite a few albums and tracks from Amazon but when they changed their policy last year, I was unable to download these to my phone, only listen via the Amazon app. I spent time trying to find a solution. I had paid for this music! This week I’ve done it.  All my music is now in Black Player, an excellent app and I have finally deleted the ad-laden Amazon Music.  If you want to know how I did it, send me a direct message and I will try to explain…

Black Player App

 

This drawing is my Christmas card to you, pastel and metallic ink on tinted paper. I bought this Mistletoe in bronze metal to replace our dusty plastic bunch from the 90s.   Things are hard just now.  There are so many uncertainties;  but unexpected kindnesses, and meetings with friends have helped me feel grounded.  

I was really touched by one who said: Your joie de vivre is wonderful.

Coming through difficult times and emerging more or less intact feels good. I am valuing small pleasures: a bright red cyclamen flowering among nigella seed heads, hot chocolate and a croissant in bed.  Wishing you love and joy this Christmas.  Keep in touch in whatever way suits you. 

Oratorio de Noel
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End of an Era

The Queen died on September 8th. I was five years old at the Coronation in 1953.  I wore my party dress and my school blazer and spent the day with the family at my grandparents’ house.  They had a television set with a tiny grey and white screen in a big shiny wooden cupboard with doors.  It was a sunny day and I kept running in and out of the garden asking if the Queen was on yet.  I remember pushing my miniature golden coach around on the carpet. I vividly recall my mother waking me around 11pm that night to walk to the park to see a firework display culminating in a giant ER  surmounted by a crown. It was very special. We rarely did anything alone together and it was thrilling to be out in the dark.  I wore my pixie hood. At school we were given tins of toffees with the Queen’s picture on them.  I ate the toffees but kept the tin for decades.

Coronation toffee tin

On the day of the funeral, I treated it as a holiday but felt that I should watch some of it and perhaps listen to some of the music. I was underwhelmed by the military uniforms and the processing but rather enjoyed the spectacle of the service in Westminster Abbey. The later service at Windsor seemed more personal and I sang along with the hymn The Day Thou Gavest Lord is Ended because my mother loved it and we sang it at her funeral..

The Day Thou Gavest, Lord is Ended

The whole day was strangely quiet with virtually no traffic in our normally busy street. It was like an old-fashioned Sunday with shops closed and everyone in their houses. Having a new Prime Minister is another slightly unreal situation as well as the feeling that, not only have we lost our Queen, but there is a void where our government should be.

Tarot Reading: The Empress

Expecting a more doom-laden Tarot card like Death or The Falling Tower, my instant reaction to unconsciously choosing this card was to think of the Queen. She was the Empress, the Great Mother. Her rule was more about the power of love than the love of power.  This image also fits my celebration of two women writers, Empresses in the literary world.

Hilary Mantel’s death was a real shock.  This was my comment on the Guardian website:

I’m devastated. Loved all her work. Can’t believe there will be no more books.  Goodbye to a wonderful writer.


I wonder if she has discovered the afterlife she half-believed in.  The other is Maggie O’Farrell, still very much with us, although like Mantel, she has written about her own  ill-health.  I remember at school studying Robert Browning’s poem  My Last Duchess.  I always wanted to know the story behind it.  O’Farrell has used it as the starting point for her new novel The Marriage Portrait. Told from the point of view of the young bride, the duchess, the story draws you into a world of intrigue and power.  The young woman escapes into her own miniature paintings, while her portrait is painted as the image her husband requires.  I devoured it in two days, but didn’t want it to end. A wonderful book.

However, I have a couple of very special books which I have had since I was about five. Read and reread, handled many times over, they had reached a point where pages were falling out and temporary repairs with Sellotape no longer worked I found Riley, Dunn and Wilson Ltd in Falkirk who have been book restorers for many years. I met with Colin McArthur, General Manager, a craftsman and enthusiast who showed me examples of their work and discussed how the books might be mended.

When they were delivered I was excited to open my parcel. I remember sitting behind the sofa in my grandparents’ house looking at the strange Pre-Raphaelite pictures in Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales. Once I could read, I started on the first story, The Rose Elf , in which the head of a murdered man is buried in a flower pot. I went on to read about a girl who has her feet cut off in The Red Shoes and The Little Match Girl who dies from the cold. When I wanted to take the book home my mother said that it was too scary for me but I took it anyway. It was the stuff of nightmares.

I remember my Grandpa taking me to the big bookshop in Paisley to choose any book I wanted as my fifth birthday present. I chose a big hardback book of Nursery Rhymes with a shiny paper cover and colour illustrations on every page. I loved looking at Little Miss Muffet as I played her in the school concert. As well as learning every rhyme by heart, it became the book in which I kept my ‘scraps’ coloured paper pictures – collected, hoarded and exchanged in the playground.

When I was ten my father bought me a subscription to the Elizabethan magazine as more suitable than the comics I liked to read. It embodied the moral values of the Brownie promise but also had some good stories and illustrations by artists like Gerald Scarfe. The idea of being a Young Elizabethan was actually quite appealing.

Problems with my right hand have made drawing and painting difficult but I’m trying different techniques.  Collage is possible.  This one started with a very wobbly left hand drawing.  And I’m managing to knit in short bursts.  Son’s rainbow stripe jumper may take a while.

Returning to Pilates after months away,  my body immediately responded to familiar movements. Teacher J’s description of Pilates as gruelling calm was exactly right.  I’ve been to the indoor pool twice, just floating and watching Wee Boy demonstrate his crawl and mushroom float.

Self-portrait on a spaghetti squash. It’s been a strange and stressful month. Apologies to friends I still haven’t been able to catch up with. Still helping Son get settled in. A, our brilliant joiner is here making my Wash House studio damp proof and putting in a new stair window. Usual book reviews, film and television next time. Keep in touch in all the usual ways. Let me know how things are for you in these challenging times. Stay well, keep warm, take care. Love, Elinor xx

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Some Like it Hot



Climate change dominates the news. High temperatures continue.  People keep getting Covid. Footage of fires, war, famine and refugees fills our screens.  At home, political upheaval, price increases and strikes make life uncertain.

Our London trip was the holiday we needed. Not too hot but pleasantly warm. My planned visits to two libraries, especially the Wellcome Collection, allowed me much needed quiet hours surrounded by books and documents. It also has a great coffee shop.

Wellcome ceiling

I loved this sculpture on display on the first floor, a life size ballgown made from contraceptives.

Cannyrob went to the Imperial War Museum and Tate Britain. We both enjoyed the Africa exhibition at the V&A along with a nice lunch. Tina, the Musical was a great night out at the Aldwych theatre.

Time in Ealing allowed me to re-visit the street where my grandmother’s family lived, last visited by me and my Sister when I was 15 and she was 12. I had met with my other Sister just before our trip.  She has done lots of detailed research, going back to the 18th century.  I had some family papers and photos. Pooling our resources means she can finish writing up the family story.  I used a photograph of the house (built in 1894) to imagine how it might have looked based on similar houses still standing. It was demolished some years ago. See featured image at top of blog and sketch of details below.


Enjoying being home but disappointed not to be able to visit Son as his ward was in lockdown due to Covid although we could phone and message him.  Now we can visit again, which is so good. Daughter and WeeBoy spent time in the grounds with him on Saturday.  Redecorating his flat is  a family effort, bringing us together. My contribution is limited by a shoulder injury which has become quite painful. I am having an ultrasound scan today. My contribution to the project has been cleaning, using my left hand and doing load after load of washing. 

I’ve been enjoying sitting in the garden reading, listening to and watching the constant bird activity.  At least three broods of sparrows have been raised in our blue tit house. The adults have a bit of a squeeze getting in and out but they don’t seem to mind! Thanks to L our wonderful neighbour, who, in spite of being ill with Covid, watered our plants in the greenhouse and courtyard while we were away. They survived the drought and are an absolute joy especially the sweet peas.

I almost put this month’s Tarot card back.  It wasn’t what I wanted.  But that is not the point.  The time has come to face the Devil once more. The thing with Tarot is to find meaning in the card.  The Devil looks aggressive, but the sword is in his left hand, suggesting a haphazard use of power.  Rather like some of our political leaders.  The Devil’s wings remind us of the bat – a night flyer, often feared. He represents  the beast within us, causing destruction, war and climate change. But Satan’s role is ambiguous.  The apple brought knowledge of good and evil. The strange couple in the picture are neither wholly human nor entirely free.  They must assume responsibility for their actions.

I’m on my fourth audiobook this month.  In Our Father by Marilyn French, (author of The Women’s Room) four sisters gather at the bedside of their dying father. A story of shocking events from the past unfolds. The House Party by Mary Grand is a murder story set on the Isle of Wight.   My absolute favourite has been Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness, a very special book about books, voices and grief.  I loved it!  Right now I’m back with Dickens – his last, unfinished book The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

I’m reading more, mostly on my Kindle: The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer writer of quirky thrillers,  Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee, fourth book in his Calcutta detective series, The Unheard by Nicci French in which a small child witnesses a murder.  Jane Casey’s new book The Killing Kind, is  a good read as always.  After enjoying Rizzio, I looked for a Denise Mina crime story. The Less Dead is a gritty novel about prostitution in Glasgow. Like my friend A, I find her crime novels a bit too gory. The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters, set during the Civil War, is enjoyable, and well researched. Dark Water by Elizabeth Lowry also has a historical setting with a mental health and vaguely supernatural theme which ties in with my interests.

So sad to hear of the death of Susie Steiner. at the age of 51 from brain cancer.  Novelist and Guardian journalist, her three Manon Bradshaw crime novels, mentioned in previous posts, are compassionate, funny and compelling. 

Some time ago I wrote a blog about teddy bears and my relationship with my very old Teddy. I loved the stories other people shared and realised how important these ‘transitional objects’ can be. I told the story of losing my Panda when I was 2 and having to do without a cuddly toy until my third birthday. Recently I happened to see a panda in a shop window. On impulse I went in and bought a mummy and baby panda. They are soft and cuddly in a way Teddy never was (well they didn’t have the materials in his day) and fill a gap for me I didn’t even know was there. They do seem to have bonded with Teddy as a family, although I do have less room in bed. I took baby panda to London and he shared many of my adventures, becoming a meme (is that the word?) in messages to the family.

We’ve had WeeBoy here. He and I had a great time, paddling in the tidal pool, playing the piano and generally having fun.  He is now strong enough to carry chairs and bags of logs out to the garden, which I couldn’t manage.  We had fish suppers round the fire bowl on Friday night.

The magic firestick

Wearing summer clothes has made my forearm tattoos more noticeable.  Lots of comments.  Mostly favourable.  Women of my generation tend to say nothing. I have to admit to enjoying looking at them myself!  That is kind of the point.

Lace tattoos by Morag Sangster
Silver bangles by Ellen Kirk Ali

For once, I was not only watching football last night,  but supporting England.  Great to see these talented women winning the Euro final.

I feel I have lost touch with some of my friends this summer. I haven’t been able to get to my usual Pilates classes or go swimming. Holidays and family stuff have left me with less time for visiting and phone calls.  I haven’t stopped thinking about you and hope to do lots of catching up once Son is settled back in his flat and I have had some treatment for my shoulder.

I hope you’re staying cool and avoiding Covid. Please keep in touch in whatever way suits you.  Elinor xx

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“Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory.” — Oscar Wilde

Music has got me through another difficult month. Driving with my Raybans on and the sunroof open, pretending not to be a pensioner. It used to be cassettes and a Walkman. Now my playlist starts when I switch on the ignition and my earbuds are always handy. For a while I had stopped listening to music, sticking to audiobooks. But music is taking me back to places I’m happy to revisit. Each of these tracks is playable but you might not want to listen to all or any of them. Featured image shows our home-grown freesias in the greenhouse. For me, an incredibly nostalgic scent. My mother loved them.

As a wee girl I loved to sing and dance. At nine I taught myself to play the ukelele and worked on my Tommy Steele impression. Shaking my unruly dirty blonde locks, I swivelled my skinny hips, (how I longed for a pair of jeans!) strummed a chord and belted out: ‘We..ell…I never felt more like singin: the blues…’. I even learned to whistle for the intro! Note: this is a link as I couldn’t post the audio file. Please scroll down to select the track.

As a teenager I remember seeing the Rolling Stones on TV and instantly switching allegiance from the Beatles. They are still brilliant performers.

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

The 70s and 80s were the decades of family life and shared music on car journeys. Abba was a favourite. This song always gets me on my feet till my knees give out.

Dancing Queen

Soul Asylum‘s Grave Dancers Union was our album of summer of 93 when Daughter and I went to California. She was supercool and impressed the American teenagers with her grunge look.

Runaway Train

In the mid to late 90’s I was on my own, coping with major life changes. Female vocalists got me through. especially Tina Turner. This was the song I played on repeat.

On Silent Wings

One of many Leonard Cohen songs I love, Cannyrob and I danced up the aisle to this at our wedding in 2013. We also have this Jack Vettriano print.

Dance Me to the End of Love

Daughter and WeeBoy went rollerblading recently, with some elegant moves and only a few tumbles. I remember associating this Dire Straits song with Daughter at 9 rollerskating everywhere.

Skateaway

Our current Netflix bingewatch is Peaky Blinders. It was something we hadn’t got hooked on before. It is gritty, visually stunning and strong on storyline and characters. Sad that Helen McCrory is gone.

Red Right Hand
Peaky Blinders

There are songs that always make me laugh like the Ying Tong Song (The Goons) and songs that always make me cry like Father and Son (Cat Stevens) I think I am using music to access my emotions. They have been shut down while I’ve coped with difficult stuff.

Tarot card of the month is, appropriately, the Sun.  (Sophie Mackay Knight’s Painted Tarot) This is what we  need right now: another transition card, taking us into the world of sunny childhood, a time of understanding and fulfillment.  Some actual sunshine would also be acceptable.

I am still listening to audiobooks. Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates is a fictionalised biography of Marilyn Monroe. Incredibly real and very moving. Portent by James Herbert, published in 1992, describes a climate catastrophe not unrelated to the present day. My non-fiction choice ( I also bought the print book) is New England Bound by Wendy Warren. Using contemporary documents, the author tells the story of the enslaved people of the 17th and 18th centuries and their Puritan masters. I was shocked and intrigued by the term Chilld of deth used to describe a runaway slave girl. This meant she had a death sentence imposed on her due to her parents being rebels, Native Americans who had fought the settlers and had already been executed.

I am reading again. My top choice is Rizzio by Denise Mina, recommended by my pal A (we often like the same books), a minute by minute account of a historic murder. Katherine Rundell’s adventure novel for children The Explorer is a great read for any age. Graves of Whitechapel by Clare Collins is a Victorian crime story with a twist. I just discovered Gillian White, a fomer journalist and television writer. Her dark exposure of reality TV in The Witch’s Cradle had me hooked, as did Refuge, an all too credible story of child crime.

Having managed to avoid Covid, I’ve had my first cold for three years, coinciding with family birthdays and visiting children. Missed seeing Son for his birthday, but managed to give WeeBoy his big yellow beanbag. I’d love one but would struggle to get out of it!

We are watching Love Island as a way of avoiding the awfulness of national and world events. Trains and Covid permitting, Cannyrob and I are escaping to London next week to visit some exhibitions and do some family research. I love that dusty summer city heat. Maybe because I live by the sea? Will collect postcards and sketches for next blog. Happy summer!

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Love you So Bad

Love you so Bad Ezra Furman

The Covid Carousel keeps turning, Recently Daughter and WeeBoy have had it, my nephew, my brother, close friends….Cannyrob seemed better after having it but has just spent ten days in hospital.

On the Saturday of Easter weekend he was suddenly in excruciating pain.  He was taken to hospital and diagnosed with a volvulus (twisted bowel).  The initial procedure didn’t work and they had to try again.  It was a very anxious time, with worries about recurrence and wondering why it had happened.  My friend in Seattle (I can phone her at 3am) said Hang on in there.  Yes indeed, like the Tarot Hanged Man.  Waiting.  Hoping. Trying not to think.  I did a two card reading on April 20th.  ( All cards from the Leonora Carrington deck.)

Judgement: termination of present ordeal – a new beginning.  The Star: a guiding force, calm aftermath of the storm

He eventually had emergency surgery to remove the damaged part of the bowel. He is now home to convalesce. After more than two years of being the one being cared for, I have had to step up into the role of carer.  At least I can drive now and get around the house.  I have cut the grass and done some weeding and planting.  I’ve fed fish, birds and next door’s hamster.  I’ve collected prescriptions and shopped for food.  I’ve put the bins out.

My family have been amazing.  Both Daughters, Son and WeeBoy have offered practical and emotional support.   Friends have rallied round and helped me handle the stress.

Reading for 22nd April, the day of Cannyrob’s surgery.  The Hermit shines a light of hope and comfort, reminds me to conserve my strength.  The Magician reminds me that I am a seasoned traveller with creative energy that will get me through.

Life will be challenging for now, but it has brought us closer as a family and made us appreciate the value of everyday pleasures. Sitting in the garden listening to the birds.

And now for something completely different…..

Daughter (here for the weekend):

Mum. Did you happen to see my special Youth to the People Spinach and Kale face wash (from Cult Beauty) in a reusable bottle in the upstairs shower room?

Me: Em…. I might have thought it was shower gel and used it.  I might have put the bottle in the bin…..

We found the empty bottle in the green plastics wheelie bin outside.  So I was forgiven.

I’ve stopped looking at clothes, apart from in charity shops and am knitting a jumper from wool stashed away ten years ago.  Unfortunately, when I located it in a cardboard box from the Wash House I found unmistakable traces of mouse occupation.  Salvaged balls went in the washing machine in a net bag.  Then they had to be rewound and the chewed strands discarded. My knitting has been a good pastime on hospital visits, initiating nice chats with staff.

Mouse salvaged knitting
Summery top £2.95 from Sense shop

Audiobooks have helped me through sleepless nights and long car journeys this month. Endurance, an abridged version of Shackleton’s incredible adventures in the ice is shocking and gripping. Although I knew the story, this account, based on diaries and letters, is vividly realised and made me appreciate my warm bed.

My next listen was Hard Times by Charles Dickens. Read by Martin Jarvis, this is a satire on the industrial revolution. Mr Gradgrind’s philosophy of ‘Facts. facts, facts!’ damages his own children and ultimately himself.

The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews is a story of post Civil War England, told by a young soldier who returns from the army to find his family beset by what appear to be supernatural powers. There are a number of novels with a similar theme, but this one is different, with its connection to political thinking and religious attitudes.

The Whistling by Rebecca Netley is an excellent ghost story set on a Scottish island. Utterly absorbing with a soft- voiced Scots narrator. I recommend it. Next was Last Woman Hanged, the terrible true story of Louisa Collins by Caroline Overingtonl, an Australian true crime story about a whole culture and way of life through this gripping account of four trials and a botched execution. I’ve gone straight on to another modern Gothic tale, Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster.

My reading this month has been intermittent. My concentration since Cannyrob got ill has not been good. I have probably spent more time than usual listening to audiobooks. I was disappointed by My Real Children by Jo Walton.  I liked Among Others but this dual tale of the same woman’s life didn’t appeal. Next was Roadway by Roger Zelazny. This writer was mentioned in Jo Walton’s book and as I used to read a lot of SF I thought I’d try it. I didn’t like it.

To Eat a Bear by Mikael Noemi, recommended by B at Waterstones.   This is an unusual book set in 19thC Sweden. A murder mystery played out against a backdrop of superstition and prejudice where literacy is empowering.  I loved this quote:       If you owned books, you would never be alone

The Secret Diaries of Anne Lister edited by Helena Whitbread is an entertaining read. I didn’t watch the television series so it’s new to me. Super-infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell is a beautifully crafted biography of this amazing poet.  Cannyrob and I read The Good Morrow, verse about, at our wedding. Companion Piece is Ali Smith’s new book.  She is a unique writer who continues to intrigue me

I am still hooked on Outlander, watching it when I have time on my own.  It is pure fantasy but highly enjoyable. The Split  on BBC is a series we’ve loved since the start, with great performances by Nicola Walker and Stephen Mangan.  I think Season 3 has to be the end though. Watched Coda, a wonderful award-winning film about a hearing girl in a deaf family.

I’ve been working in pastels, a medium I tried before but couldn’t master.  Forgetting all the ‘how to’ advice, I’ve been working on portraits.  Here are a few, shared with permission.

This has been a month of unexpected events, a topsy-turvy roller-coaster of emotions. A testing time for our family. My Daughters have surrounded me with love and strength, providing practical help and emotional support. Family and friends have kept in touch and offered help. Most of all, I have faced the prospect of losing my Lover, my soulmate, but he has come home to me.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere

John Donne The Good Morrow

Thanks for reading, supporting, being there. Love. Elinor

Decorated face for Easter Sunday (stickers not tattoos)