We got up early. The tide was running fast and against us and we had to get away from the pontoon before 7am or we would spend the next four or more hours on the mud.

I did the breakfast and tidied the galley. Harry got the ropes ready and did a briefing. Steven, Annabel, Rosie and Tom all busied themselves doing nothing very much.  A few shouts, some ropes released and we motored out of the marina.

The wind was strong and we had two reefs in the main. By lunchtime, we were ready to tie up outside Yarmouth. It was a complicated manoeuvre and we lost the boat hook. Anabel and Harry couldn’t agree on how quickly to move the boat and Harry couldn’t reach the buoy. Lots of shouting, a near miss with the ferry and eventually we tied up.

Lunch was tuna, mayo and sweet corn sandwiches; the sailing staple. We spent an hour eating, chatting and watching the boats. The wind, which had been gusting, calmed down to a steady consistent strong breeze. Lunch finished, we put up the foresail and sailed off the buoy, it was a first for most of us. The boat glided through the water, reaching seven knots. The sea glistened under the cold sunshine.

When I had the helm, I willed the boat to go faster. Faster than when the others helmed. I wanted to hit the eight knot mark but it never got there. We had the main and foresails fully out. Sometimes the mainsail flapped when I got distracted but Harry gently guided me in the right direction.

Before today, I hadn’t really noticed him. He wasn’t as tall as Steven but was taller than me. His voice was at least three octaves lower than any man I’d ever met. He laughed a lot and he listened to me and everyone else on board.

We sailed all afternoon until it was getting dark when we finally settled on a berth in Lymington Harbour. That night, as we all huddled up for warmth, I wondered if Harry was feeling the same emotions as me. I wondered if he would make a move.

As I untangled myself from the group and headed for the showers, I wondered if tonight would be our night.

This is a fictional account of a day sailing with some friends.

The Joy of Contemporary Quilts

There is a small group of people who spend their life looking for new ways to work with fabric. They eschew commercial fabrics. They dye, paint, embellish and design their own fabrics. They like nothing better than an old, discoloured, polycotton sheet which can be transformed into a work of art.

These are the ‘Contemporary Quilters.’

In January, I started to learn about the contemporary quilters. They look for ways of recycling and reusing fabric. They can work with anything from an old tablecloth to scraps of thread or fabric used in the making of other items. I joined this group for an academic term to identify new ways of working which I had hoped would enable me to develop my own creative process. The term was cut short because of the lockdown, but since early October we have been meeting online for a couple of hours every week.

In January we started with paper transfer dyes. We painted designs onto A4 sheets of paper and this was then transferred onto fabric by placing paper and fabric into a heat press. I found that the transfers worked best on polycotton with slightly less success on full 100% cotton, which surprised me.

Once the fabric had colour, we applied Bondaweb and then cut it into different shapes. With Bondaweb, fabric can be reconfigured into any shape. My theme was, unsurprisingly, sewing. When I reviewed the outputs from the day, I found one colour that I really liked but couldn’t remember which colour or type of paint had been used. I was frustrated with my lack of a diligent process.

Later we continued with the paper transfers but I decided to be more methodical in my approach and created colour swatches of papers and fabrics. Now, at least I know which colour I used on a project and I have some chance of recognising and replicating it.

At home, I started to put the squares together and quilted them. I added some binding and whilst I didn’t like the actual piece, I have at least finished the project.

We moved onto resist dying and used soya wax to cover some parts of fabric. I decided to try to write sentences and my theme? You guessed, sewing! I researched sewing and quilting quotes and came up with the following:

My life is full of little pricks!

This is not a mistake it’s just a new quilting style.

Measure twice cut once, curse and do it again.

Only, I wrote ‘Measure once, cut twice’ and when I realised I had made a mistake  I finished the sentence with ‘fuck, redo!’

I treated myself to several pots of silk dye in colours I love. Using the fabric which now had the soya wax writing, I applied different colourways. The results were okay for a first attempt, but I need more practice writing with the various tools. I ended up with four panels I had no idea how to use. At that point, I didn’t have the courage to cut them up so I packed them away in a plastic bag while I procrastinated. A few months later, having moved the bag around my sewing room several times, I took the plunge and I cut them. I then added some commercial fabric to make a quilt top. I think it’s okay and I can’t wait to see it after it has been professionally long arm quilted.

On the course, we continued to use an array of techniques for dying, but I always came back to silk dyes and 100% cotton. I made a few squares which I used in a log cabin design adding fabric a friend had brought back from India. I really like the end result. It needs quilting but at least the patchwork is finished.

Like most sewers, I have lots of scraps; bags of them, even tiny squares get saved. Our tutor suggested weaving our scraps. She provided us with a home made frame – an iron hanger shaped into a square. I was able to use some fabrics from the collage stash and I love the results. I am now a bit addicted to weaving my scraps and have started a new project with commercial fabric scraps. I will be using all of these squares in a hanging.

I have often been told I have a mind like a butterfly; it’s not meant as a compliment! The hardest part of any sewing project is deciding on a theme and then sticking to it. So this term, I am enjoying learning about design and how to build up a piece using a theme. I am still exploring themes and fabric designers such as Lucienne Day 

The greatest thing about Contemporary Quilting is that if you make a mistake, it doesn’t matter. You can applique, paint or even paper over the offending error. Contemporary quilting embraces, at its core, sustainability and reusability.

For now, I am a sponge learning just as much as I can from amazing people. I wanted to share some of my work with you and have included some other projects in a gallery below.

Seven months

Boris on 23rd March 2020

So, on Friday it was seven months since Boris Johnson announced a national lockdown.

Seven months of fear, isolation and uncertainty.

Seven months of shopping for essentials, as if conducting a procurement exercise.

Seven months of trying to avoid people, as I walk along the tow path.

Seven months of reading books, as if it were my new work.

Seven months of worrying about friends and family.

Seven months of self dying and cutting my hair, which I am told looks okay!

Seven months of learning via zoom, teams, google classroom and Webex.

Seven months of limited work reaffirms how much I love working and engaging with others.

Seven months of making new friends, in virtual spaces, who I may never meet in person.

Seven months of learning to live in very close proximity with my lovely husband.

Seven months of spending time in my garden, my new vacation spot.

Seven months of obsessively watching the news, BBC, Sky where they repeat the same inward looking stories all day long.

Seven months of watching Aljazeera, to find out what is going on in other countries around the world.

Seven months of limited impulse buying on a Saturday morning.

Seven months of Amazon, Hermes and DPD deliveries, so many, I now know some of the driver’s family stories.

Seven months of fretting every time I cough, sneeze, feel bunged up.

Seven months of hoping for a vaccine, which may mean I can travel again.

Just to be clear we are the lucky ones!

So, today I am thinking of people across the country, across the world who are not so lucky. Thinking of people who are being pushed to the edge. Wondering what I could do to help make things a little better for at least one person.

The Funeral – a story

Exercise two The funeral a short story written with Jojo Thomas and friends. The subject is a funeral. I chose to do a piece of fiction loosely based on the preparations for my mothers funeral.

We gather around the fireplace and wait. We drink coffee and tea and watch the flames climbing, escaping. No one speaks, we are waiting for the priest.

I can’t quite remember him but I think he is a tiny little fella with grey hair and flaking skin. I never much liked him, but mum loved his visits. She used to say that he always had the gossip!

We hear a car make its way up the hill. By the time I get to the door, its parked and a tall slim man is walking towards the steps. It’s not Father Joe, so I don’t know how to greet him.

‘Good evening father. Is father Joe coming later?’

‘Father Joe had to go to Dublin. Lucky divil!’

‘Oh, and you are?’

‘Father Gordon. New to the parish. I met your mam a few times. Lovely lady. So sorry for your loss.’

Father Gordon is about six foot four with dark hair, chiselled cheek bones and the brightest blue eyes. Without the getup, he could pass for a rock star. He shakes my hand and I lead him into the lounge.

‘Will you have tea father?’

‘Sure tea is grand, but a drop of whisky is better.’

‘Oh, yes, of course. Sorry, I didn’t think…’

‘What that priests drink, in Ireland?’ His bright blue eyes look into mine for a moment too long.

‘Oh, sorry, yes, stupid of me I will get that in a moment. Let me introduce you to my sister Hanna, my brother Alfie and my husband Jacob.’

I point to each of them. They stand in turn, as if being presented to the Queen, at one point I thought Hanna was actually going to curtsy.

Everyone is quiet as the father drinks his whisky. We are waiting for instructions for the funeral on Friday.  The priest looks at each of us in turn and I instantly start to feel a little like Red Riding Hood in the sights of the Big Bad Wolf!

He addresses all of us. ‘So, where do you all come from?

‘London’ It’s a chorus as we answer together.

‘Ah a great place. Spent a few years there when I was a novitiate.’

It seems he is determined to chat, I nod and try to conjure a smile.

I start to flick through the papers I prepared for his visit. I look over at my husband hoping he will register my feeble smile and see it as a call to arms to take over the conversation. As if reading my mind, Jacob leans in and asks Father Gordon about his time in London, where he lived, what he liked to do, where he went after London. I watch Jacob conduct the conversation drawing in Hanna and Alfie at key points. He is like a skilful conductor, slowly but precisely drawing in each instrument of a very small orchestra.

My neck aches from all the time spent leaning over my laptop researching poems and hymns, I should know what her favourites are, but I don’t. It took me back to the last time I attended mass.

I stopped going to mass when I was about 14, it was after a long conversation with dad when he told me I had a choice about whether or not I attended.  So, the very next Sunday I declared my intention to stay at home. Mum was not pleased and made me look after Hanna, I complained and mums retort was that it was better than the punishment I could expect in Hell for missing mass!

I move my head to one side and then the next, slowly, so I don’t draw attention. I don’t want to discuss my faith or lack of it. Jacob is still managing the conversation so I can tune in and out as I choose.

Father Gordon is explaining that he was a military chaplain in Bosnia. His smile has faltered and my husband lets the conversation die, much as the fire is dying in the crate.

We are silent while Father Gordon reads the notes I prepared for the service. He then advises us on the hymns and readings, we are attentive and almost compliant. He is talking about Holy Communion, do we want it. I want to shout at him that I really don’t give a fuck about Holy Communion but, instead, I say that its up to him to decide, I wont be taking it.  Hanna can’t resist poking the priest.

‘What about Jacob father, he isn’t one of us you know, is he allowed to take it?’

He thinks for a minute and then answers her, ‘only if he doesn’t swallow! ‘I nearly cover him in the tea that spurts out of my mouth. Hanna looks shocked and excuses herself.

Father Gordon now has Jacob in his sights. ‘Sure I have no problem with other religions, you can take it if you like, it wont hurt you and it may even do you some good.’

Jacob is smiling. I can see he likes the priest; anyone who can get one over on Hanna is in his good books. Jacob replies to the priest, ‘I will give it a miss, but thanks for the offer.’

Father Gordon leans in and his head almost touches Jacobs when he says. ‘You know you’re not going to heaven, don’t ya?’ He sits upright again waiting to see how Jacob will respond. I am tempted to rescue, someone, anyone, but stay silent. Quick as a flash Jacob responds. ‘Maybe not; But then, maybe your not getting in either father.’  Alfie’s sharp intake of breathe expresses my thoughts exactly. I don’t want Father Gordon to take against us, he has vast swathes of power in the pulpit. Seconds later Jacob and Father Gordon both burst out laughing and shake hands. Now, I can breathe again.

As he gets ready to leave, Father Gordon points to the three cars parked outside the house. ‘Those cars out there, are they yours?’

The worst winter in a decade meant we were all driving four wheel drive cars, Hanna has the Mitsubishi, Alfi a luxurious Range rover and we have an Audi.  They did look impressive all standing to attention.

Alfie answers. ‘Yes’

‘What will happen to your mam’s car when you leave?’  I forgot about the bright red Hilux parked around the back of the garage. How does Father Gordon even know it exists?

Alfie, who hasn’t spoken much this evening takes control. ‘Now father we haven’t decided yet. Sure we want to help people out an all, but you wouldn’t be edging for one would you?

Father Gordon is not one to be put off lightly, ‘If there’s one free, I wouldn’t say no!’

We all laugh, pretending that Father Gordon is having the gas with us, but we know the score. The church expects and most people deliver.

Back to School

Why is it that every September I get an urge to buy new stationary?

People who know me well, know I love a new notebook and that I have a bit of an obsession with fountain pens and colourful felt-tips! So far I have resisted the urge to splurge on stationary. A couple of weeks ago I tidied my stationery cupboard and neatly organised existing ‘virgin’ notebooks. I also cleaned some of my old fountain pens to get them working again, ready for the Autumn term.

September has always felt like its a new beginning, it brings endless possibilities and opportunities. When I was at school it meant a new classroom with a new teacher but mostly the same pupils. We shared stories of holidays and gasped at each others exploits. It sometimes meant new uniform. For most of my working life I embraced it as a time to renew skills and dust down some of the old ones ready for the onslaught of work.

This year is different because work is sparse and likely to stay so for the next few months. Having accepted the situation I now believe that this gives me time to think about new skills. Over the past few weeks I attended several online workshops. Although initially uncomfortable, I am now embracing zoom and google classroom. I love that I can sit in my own home and learn from wonderful tutors from across the world, chat with colleagues in breakout rooms, read materials and view videos at any time of the day or night. I am learning the content they are teaching, but even more importantly, I am learning what works and doesn’t work on these platforms. So, this year instead of a notebook, I treated myself to wifi headphones and stands for my iPhone and iPad.

Last week I had trees in my garden pruned and other plants cut back.  We do pruning to help send nutrients to the healthy parts of the tree. If we don’t cut it back, the tree will keep trying to send nutrients to bits that are dead or dying. Perhaps, in the past, by using a new notebook I no longer felt burdened with old notes or finished works. Maybe a fresh, new, and blank page gave me permission to explore.

I have decided that this September is a time to cut out less valuable activities and work, so that I can let new things in. Perhaps where any part of my working life is fading I need to cut it back so new shoots can emerge. I have enjoyed a great many years working with inspiring people doing engaging work and I believe that was only possible because, every few years, I gave myself permission to adapt and change my working world.

Like many people, I don’t know where 2020 will end for me, work-wise, but I do know that I intend to keep learning. I absolutely believe that learning is a creative process which leads to adventure, engagement, and sometimes it leads to great opportunity. Back to school is, for me, an important stepping stone.

I wonder how other people are experiencing this September and would love to hear from you. 



What gives me joy?

Its a simple enough question but, since the lockdown started, I have sometimes struggled with it. On a dark day when I feel lonely and sad my husband will touch my hand and say, ‘do the things that give you joy.’ Its a wonderful act of kindness and he is telling me to stop worrying about working, tidying, cleaning, cooking, finance, or looking after any other aspect of our life.

He works from home every day so, as we approach the weekend, the thought of not having to worry about work or anything else gives him joy. He is capable of reading a book whilst there are dishes on the side that need to find their way into the dishwasher.

Very sadly, on Tuesday, I learnt of the death of a man who has been a mentor and coach to me during my 26 years in business. I  liked him a lot and respected him. We didn’t talk often, but when we did it was normally deep, wide ranging and illuminating. I feel sad  that he continued to work right up to his death and whilst  enduring cancer treatment. I feel deeply saddened, that someone who helped me plan my retirement will never see his own. I felt sadness for his family, work colleagues and for the other people, like me, who benefited from his diligence, warmth, sometimes harsh critique but always support.

I notice that it is important to know what sadness is, because then, if I can feel that, I can also know joy.

About an hour ago, as we were having lunch something pinged on my phone and for absolutely no reason I started to cry, uncontrollably. It lasted for 10 minutes. My husband offered some sage advice and ended it by suggesting that I do whatever gives me joy. He suggested that it may be an idea to sit in the garden and read a book. I agree that is a good idea, it always gives me pleasure to read. So that’s the solution then!

As I contemplated a cup of tea, I got to thinking about ‘What gives me joy’ and the answer is simple. Its conversations with people, ideally, in person. The conversation doesn’t have to be lengthy but it has to be meaningful. It can be a discussion where we have to agree to disagree and it will still give me joy. It could be a conversation with someone in a work setting, someone who asks for my advice, that always gives me joy. I had a few of those over the past few months and every single conversation has given me joy.

So, thank you to everyone who called for a chat, sought advice, had a coaching session. You give me joy. x

A second seaside trip!

My first overseas holiday was a long rail journey to Austria where, with my school mates, I stayed in the beautiful town of Kitzbuhel. Fast forward to 1979 and I moved to Paris to study and work. I lived in the 16th Arrondissement, in a place called Port de St Cloud but I spent 1200px-Les_Deux_Magots,_25_September_2019every possible free moment walking the streets of central Paris, visiting museums and sitting watching people from the seats outside Deux Maggots which was near my school.

Since the Seventies, I have travelled overseas most years. Its always fun doing the alphabet of countries and I  can normally find somewhere visited for every letter, with the exception of L, Q, X and Y. Qatar is the only Q and who knows I may get there one day. Yemen is the only Y and I am unlikely to visit. ‘L’  has a few options and I may decide to visit at least one of them at some point in the future. No country or sovereign state begins with the letter X!

2012 was, for us, a significant exception to the overseas travel rule.  I refused to leave the UK, it was an act of defiance, of rebellion and it came at a time when I was still grieving for the loss of my mother. I refused to leave the UK until my husband agreed to an adventure. It was a withdrawal of willingness to go back to our usual haunts.

So, when foreign travel was off the agenda, I took a flat for a winter rental from 3rd January 2012, luckily for me the rental was extended to the middle of May. The flat overlooked a pebble beach and I could watch the sea coming in and going out.

It was the therapy I needed. It was the place where I started to write fiction. It was also the place where we planned our travel bucket list. We had different perspectives on when we should embark on our adventures: My husband assumed it would all happen when we retired; I felt strongly that we had to do it while we were still working and young enough to climb onto ribs and endure the hardships of some of the journeys we were considering.

Top of that list was Antarctica and in 2013 we undertook a most amazing journey which included a trip over to Easter Island. Fast forward and we have seen and done way more travel than we ever expected.

We had plans for last year including a trip to New Zealand but those plans were put on hold because of family illness. We also had lots of plans for this year, but they will not now happen. We wonder if we will ever travel by air again; we hope for a vaccine.

east headSo, for the second time this summer, we travelled to spend a week in a flat over-looking the sea. We fell asleep  to the sound of waves lapping or crashing onto pebbles.  We walked the beach from Bracklesham Bay to East Head or vice versa. We sunbathed on a tiny balcony. We had a Chinese takeaway!

We started to think about future adventures and we agreed that for the next couple of years these adventures may need to take place in the UK. Re-engaged with our love of sailing, we considered the possibility of sailing around the UK. We realised that even though we will not be flying anywhere, we have many options and the only thing that holds us back from experiencing more adventure will be our own hesitation.


Once again I am grateful to East Wittering, the beach, the sea, the holiday agents for organising accommodation, and the people working in the shops and restaurants for providing for our every need. It seems that East Wittering is, for me, an inspiring place. Its a place where my husband and I engage in important discussions and it is where we seem to take important decisions.

Now, we will work out exactly how to make our plans a reality!!

In the meantime, I have decided to sort my photos into alphabetical country order so I am sharing my travel alphabet below. I am really interested to know where others have travelled, so, do message me.

My Travel Alphabet

A = Africa, Argentina, Antarctica, Austria, Antigua, Australia and Ascension Island

B= Belgium, Brazil, Bolivia, Belize, British Virgin Islands and Barbados

C= Chile, Capo Verde, Canada, Cuba and Cyprus

D= Denmark

E = Egypt

F= France and the most amazing Falkland Islands (how did I miss this off the first time I did the list!)

G= Germany, Greece, Grenada and Guatamala

H – Holland, Hong Kong

I – Ireland, India and Italy

J = Jersey and Japan

K = Kenya


M = Mexico, Mustique, Martinique,  Montserrat and Moldova

N = Nigeria and Norway

O – Oman

P = Peru, Paraguay and Poland

Q =

R = Romania (This is a bit of a stretch, Moldova was once part of Romania!)

S = Spain, St Lucia, St Martin, Senegal, St Kitts, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Sri Lanka and Switzerland.

T = Tanzania Tunisia Turkey Trinidad and Tobago

U = United States of America  United Arab Emirates and Uganda

V= Vancouver Island, Virgin Islands (US) Vatican City

W= Wales (this doesn’t come up in the Encyclopedia Britannica’s list of countries, but I am including it anyway!)

X =


Z = Zanzibar


“The ocean was one of the greatest things he had ever seen in his life—bigger and deeper than anything he had imagined. It changed its color and shape and expression according to time and place and weather”

Haruki Murakami

On 10th July 2020, I sought, and I found freedom by the sea!

In fact, I fount it living next a small flat, in a simple English coastal village.

My freedom is glorious, wondrous, magnificent and inspiring.

The daily news deterred me from booking a holiday, but the draw of the sea became all consuming. I thought that I might just go berserk if I stayed cooped up in my London home for much longer. A bit of googling and my husband found a property with availability.

“The sea always filled her with longing, though for what she was never sure.”
Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

As we are preparing to leave London, we ask each other countless questions such as: Is it too early to leave the confines of our home? Will there be crowds of people? Did the people who rented the flat last week have Covid? Will my cleaning remove any trace of the virus from the sink, door handles, bedside tables, crockery and cutlery? Have I forgotten anything that will mean I have to go to the shops and engage with people who may have the virus? Will we be able to park outside the flat to unload the car? Will people look strangely at me wearing my mask around the place?

The answer to the last question is, yes, people look strangely at me and my husband wearing our masks.  We only wear them in shops or when passing large groups. One man told his family not to cough as I walked past, they all fell about laughing, a bit like the robots in a very old Smash advert! Others whisper to each other and point at us. Its not like my part of London, where people are often seen wearing masks. It feels disagreeable and I feel conspicuous.

In the Cooperative store, a young woman who attends the till, gives me good advise about how to stop my sunglasses steaming when wearing a mask, Apparently you need to put soap on the edge of the mask, just where it touches the glasses. It does actually stop the steaming! She, at least, was grateful that I wore a mask when she was serving me.  That one conversation and her kindness at my obvious embarrassment, made all of the other sneers and whispers insignificant.

There is nothing exciting about this village; a pub that spills over into the road with people holding plastic pints.  A Tesco store which is in chaos, not sure how to handle social distancing,. An array of bric a brac, charity, and cake shops, but I have no interest in visiting any of them.

The place we are renting is not luxurious. The flat is basic, clean and minimalist. Its minimal in a way that means the owners did, just enough, to make it habitable for a week or so. But, and its a big but! This flat has a dual aspect Seaview!

“My soul is full of longing
for the secret of the sea,
and the heart of the great ocean
sends a thrilling pulse through me.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

So, I found freedom in being able to watch the ebb and the flow of the waves, the sunrise and the sunset, the tide coming in and then going out.

My freedom comes from experiencing the energy of the sea, inhaling the ozone, and falling asleep to the sound of the waves lapping or crashing against a pebbled beach.