Wednesday, 29 April 2020

If I'm the answer then it's a very bad question

Like so many up and down the land, those with sewing machines, I have been stitching scrubs for the NHS.

Initially I was given ten metres of black polycotton, which turned out to be double-width. After a bit of head-scratching about how to physically handle the volume of fabric and cut it in the most frugal manner on a very small table, I was able to cut out six sets.

Despite my other skills on the sewing machine, I'm not a dressmaker. For example, this is the sort of thing I've done before.

So if I'm the answer to the crisis gripping the nation and our health service, then it must be a very very bad question. We are not in a good place, folks.


When we first viewed our little house more than 21 years ago, we were early for our appointment so took a walk to the top of the cul-de-sac. We discovered that despite being only a 5 minute walk from the town centre and the railway station, from the top of the street there was an unbroken view all the way across fields and woodland to the hills of the South Downs. Sold.

There is a bypass around town, but it is hidden from view at the bottom of the hill beyond the farmland. We can often hear it but not see it.

Eight years ago, we discovered that all the farmland up to the bypass had been sold to developers, and the plan was for 1000 new homes to be built. 1000 homes that will eventually block the view completely. Our nearest patch of ancient woodland will be marooned like an island in the middle. There were the usual protests, environmental audits and so on, but it was a done deal. I wrote about it at the time, and stitched my own version of the plan.

They've started building the houses on the furthest edge, out of view for now, but people have even started moving in. The past year or so they've been digging the fields for drainage pipes and water pipes, but now the building has started the fields closest to us are empty once more. This is the first year the fields are completely uncultivated, and with no sheep or cows.

And then the lockdown started, and suddenly it seems that because people have been told they can only have an hour of exercise a day, they've all decided to take it in the same place, whether or not they were doing so before. It's become harder than ever before to maintain our distance from people, whereas before the lockdown we hardly met a soul, only our usual fellow dog-walkers.

One day, some people walking in front of us blatantly walked straight through a gap in the hedge into the abandoned field beyond. And so we followed them. And we haven't stopped since. We've discovered a whole new network of paths and loops, leading back into the woodland we usually walk in, by way of a "broken" fence (another walker must have accidentally cut through it with some wire cutters they just happened to have in their pocket, and accidentally moved the fence while they were at it).

It's so peaceful and fragrant in the woods.

So we've changed our longest dog walk time from the afternoon to early morning, and it's been utterly delightful. It's been a bit Pride and Prejudice, the sun rising over the dew-soaked fields, the skylark twittering away overhead. Even the bypass is mostly silent. Wonderful.

I'm particularly captivated by the little paths that wind their way through the trees and bluebells.

Over the years, the direction of the paths changes slightly. Sometimes it's to avoid a muddy patch in the winter (impossible eventually, when the woods become a quagmire) or sometimes to avoid a fallen tree. They evolve.

I love the archways and doorways between trees.

And I don't know whether it's because the air is so much cleaner and clearer than usual, but walking in the fields now, seeing little paths made by deer and rabbits, has reminded me vividly of being a child again, when time had no meaning and all I had to do was play.

I could spend all day in here.

I think I'm becoming a bit obsessed about paths and pathways. It might be my new thing.

Monday, 13 April 2020

Will you be in my gang?

At nearly 50 years old I never thought I'd be saying that. As a child I was a watcher from the sidelines, only getting involved when I felt safe. I had absolutely no ambition to be a leader myself!

Even now, I find it hard to talk about myself and my work, especially when there are so many talented people out there doing wonderful things. Being online and showing our work takes courage, as every time we potentially risk personal ridicule and rejection. This is a very primal fear, and as a species we generally avoid putting ourselves in such a situation.

I started my Facebook group Threadnoodlers as a chance for my "audience" (even that word makes me feel uncomfortable and exposed!) to have their chance to share, and inspire and be inspired by others - mostly to take the spotlight off me! I am absolutely not unique with what I can do with a sewing machine and a bit of fabric: we all have talents and skills and interests, they will not be the same, but they are equally valid and important.

I am no more talented because I have a Facebook page or a blog or Instagram; I just decided to do it one day a few years ago. I post sporadically, procrastinate nearly all the time, and have regular moments of feeling entirely inadequate. It's hard to let go of the fear about whether what I do is useful or interesting to anyone - but my job is just to do it, and give other people the opportunity to decide for themselves.

Similarly, creating a Facebook group is just something I decided to do one day, to allow other people to get involved and to share. It's not a place for me to be clever and for people to follow along, hanging on my every word; it's a place for everybody to get involved equally and share what they have to offer to others. We're all in this together, and we're all stuck at home so now seemed like the perfect time!

So please join us - pop along to my Facebook page, give me a like there, and join the group. There are three questions to answer when you sign up (they're not hard!) and please indicate that you agree to the rules (they are very obvious rules about playing nicely).

See you there - in my gang!

My own little gang: our family on our first "theme night" to liven up our evenings while we're in lockdown. No, I can't really explain this one...