Creativity and crafting

Reflecting on my recent blogs made me realise that I haven’t written about the crafting, quilting and creative communities for a while. When I arrived, I was lucky enough to be introduced to a few key women. Natalie was pivotal in my entry into the crafting world. I didn’t know then, because she is a very quiet, shows humility but is an immensely creative woman, that she ran the annual craft exhibition for years. She knew all of the key players and was able to point me to them.

I should at this point explain that the island telephone directory is tiny and Natalie could find everyone she needed in a few minutes. It became my  bible and probably the book thats brought me most joy, and some amazing new friends.

People used to think of  Crafting  to be the realm of middle aged women or as Kaffe Fassett suggests isolated younger women. He was a bit ruder actually and suggested it was fat women who crafted. In my case thats true but it still hurt. I now know that crafting attracts a vast array of women and men of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicity. Its both trendy and nerdy and its fashionable, faddy and can be boring. I love the new skills I learnt whilst in the Falkland Islands. Thanks to the following people:

Wendy for teaching me new quilt patters and for showing me how to create pictures from fabric. Her joy, enthusiasm, energy and sheer determination to get things done or finished was truly inspirational. She is a good friend who is generous with her time and skill.

Sue for teaching me how to finish some of my knitting projects. She is the most significant knitter I ever met. She can knit almost anything and can knock up a hat in a couple of hours. I tried new things under her guidance and supervision. I learnt to weave – I’m not good but I enjoyed it and will do it again in London. I learnt about dying wool and about the different types of wool. She is awesome and a good friend.

Bonnie for teaching me how to wet felt. I love this complex yet simple skill which creates some amazing products. The blue bag with pink flowers sits happily on a door hook in my sewing room and eventually I will get round to hanging my first piece. I wish I’d done more with Bonnie, but will definitely be taking it up again in London. Bonnie was amazing and I enjoyed learning about the Falkland Islands and seeing them through her eyes.

Andi for teaching me how to allow my creative artist to peak out. To be clear, I am not an artist and never will be. I have been thrown out of beginners drawing classes for being too much of a challenge so when Andi gave me permission to do anything I wanted it seemed right to start with the simplest thing possible. Paint my lips and kiss a placemat. That done I eventually progressed to jugs, teapots and an array of smaller items. I loved having fun with paints and will treasure the items I painted should they ever make it back from the Falkland Islands.

Rosemary, last but definitely not least who taught me how to embellish and to knit her special pattern. I love the various items I made things like wall hangings and small notions which could be used in jewellery. I learnt how to enjoy creating using scraps of material or wool. She shared her workshop, knowledge and time and her stories. She gave me the impetus to create a new character for a book and we shared a scary stormy night on her beautiful islands. I have great memories and I think of her as a friend even though we only spent a short while together. I hope she will like the character I create and will enjoy the book she has helped to inspire.

Nikki for sharing her vast sewing knowledge and for letting me share the ritual of making the Mayball sash. Nikki has little time to craft as she runs a key business on the islands but she still found time to show me her amazing heritage quilt. She showed me how to use a few buttons and wire to make a gift that I would certainly value. She shared her knowledge of cooking and of the islands and she will hopefully visit me in the UK sometime soon. She also introduced me to other amazing women including Zhanna who felts awesome pictures.

Heather shared knowledge, experience, and passion for all things crafty. She learns, she teaches, she stores, she shares. She is the type of person who can do anything she turns her hand to. She introduced me to so many people and she worked with me on some projects. I loved my time with her and feel sure we will catch up again soon.

Myra must be mentioned because of her watercolours but as I said I cant draw and I definitely cant paint so all I could do was admire and enjoy her work. Its a real privilege to meet and spend time with Myra, hopefully I’ll do it again soon.

There are so many people in the islands who do the most fabulous crafting. Julie with her jewellery, photography, soaps and and and. Silvia and Steve and their awesome jewellery collection, not to mention Steve’s sculptures. Jo who makes beautiful purses, broaches and bags. I particularly like her notions which are left around the islands on special days. Its amazing to come across a heart someone has made for you to find and keep.

Crafting is not cheap and you sometimes need a fair bit of kit so I must mention Tansey who provides wondrous stock for everyone to peruse and purchase. Sew What was my regular Saturday hangout.

When I travelled to the islands I had no idea I would be able to learn so much. Its a real privilege to have time, space and the money to do crafting.

Finally, I am most indebted to my husband for having the courage to take us away from our routine to explore and take a risk on venturing 8000 miles away from our ‘normal’ lives.

Bleaker Pebble

No, this isn’t the title of my novel. Before leaving the Falklands I thought I should visit a couple of the islands and chose Bleaker and Pebble. They’re very different islands and I find that I love them both.  I wrote this months ago and forgot to publish. Now publishing as a record of my time there. Can visualise the islands as I read. Will post photos later.

Bleaker is beautiful and well cared for. All fences are robust and sheep, cattle and penguins are mostly segregated into their own space. The fresh water ponds are abundant with teals and other beautiful birds. I see five penguin species on one day, thanks to a couple of Kings who travelled there a bit before me. I love the sea cabbage which grows on sandy fields creating a grey green bed of twisted leaves with occassional yellow buttercup like flowers. The island is owned by a family who live there much of the time. They run the farm and the lodge with an amazing team.

Part of my reason to visit Bleaker was to read the book Bleaker House in situ. The book, positively reviewed in UK papers, caused a stir here. When I  mention the book people  either roll their eyes, tut or just raise an eyebrow. I allow two days and one evening and hope it is enough time to get through it. I don’t get very far.  Nell Stevens is the author and should know that docu/fiction is a great responsibility. The book is disliked on the islands and now I understand and I agree with the emotional reaction to it. In my view, Nell Stevens gets the balance between fiction and documentary very badly wrong and I will be posting a review of the book when I have time to finish it.

So why don’t I get to the end of the book? Well,  I have good intentions to read the book but at dinner I realise that I am sharing the lodge with just one other visitor. A woman wearing a beautiful bright pink top and jeans. She is petite,  has short dark hair and a great smile and is an amazing talker. She suggests we share some wine. I learn about her travels in South America,that this is her first time on the islands and that she is travelling on her own. We have a fun evening chatting and enjoying the hospitality of the lodge. We become great pals and promise to meet in Stanley and then London. We meet on the Friday in Stanley for dinner and I will see her again in London at the Tate. Now back in London we have been in touch but not yet met up and hope to do so when I get back from BC.

On Pebble   the lodge and the farm are run by two different stakeholders and the island is owned by a third party. The island is up for sale and the future is uncertain but I hope that someone from the islands will be able to buy the land and that the various thoughts and ideas I heard will one day happen. Its a big island and has amazing scenery.

Pebble has great wildlife. It also has an interesting settlement with some old buildings and a jetty. The lodge is beautiful, well run and welcoming,  Its the sort of place you can expect to have the craic and we experienced the humour and warmth of R and the team. Pebble is significant because of its role in the ’82 conflict we saw lots of memorials and crash sites. I also saw an array of  penguins and birds including the beautiful Black Browed Albatross. We saw dolphins, sea lions and three sea lion kills of penguins. Well, actually, I am off having a pee when these happen but I see the aftermath. We also visit the famous Pebble beach. A Falkland island pebble is translucent and a semi-precious stone. J shows us a rich array of pebbles he’s picked up on earlier visits. I try to find some but no luck.  The rule is, you can look but you can’t take so others can see them. I hope the future will be good for this amazing island and I feel so lucky to visit just before it closed for Autumn.



Autumn arriving?

I’ve been sewing most of the day and at 19.30 I turned a light on to cut fabric. Thats the first time in several months that I’ve needed the lamp. Everyone tells me this has been a great summer and unusually warm and sunny. I am now very glad that I invested in two deck chairs at the beginning of summer. At the time, I wondered if I would be jinxing the summer but I have been out most days even if only for a few minutes. The sun has been a godsend to me on days when I feel alone. Reading in strong sunlight, feeling the heat on my skin and being able to go outside without needing two or three layers has been a joy. Soon I will leave the islands and head north to the Spring. I hear its cold in London but I see that many friends are posting photos of strong sunlit days. I look forward to catching up with people, sorting my garden and welcoming the summer again but at a different latitude.


Adult colouring

Yesterday someone told me that they would like to ‘colour me in’. I think they were referring to the mono top I was wearing, but, its an intriguing concept. If you were to colour someone in, how would you do it and what would you do? What colours would you use for them, soft autumnal watercolour or harsher peak summer acrylic?

Think about it for a moment, who would you like to colour in and what would you do?

Back to adult colouring, which by the way, isn’t on my f**k list.

A few years ago someone bought the Enchanted Garden adult colouring book for Christmas. The pencils were good quality and I loved adding stationary to my stash but the book sat there looking unloved and unused for about a year.

Then one day, in a conversation with a much loved friend I tore the book in half. My friend was surprised, but something in that conversation gave me the permission I felt I needed to tear it. Later  we retrieved the two halves as she felt the act of colouring didn’t depend on the picture being complete. She finally admitted that she loved to colour.

So here we have the nub, its a marmite activity.

Living in such a remote location I thought there might be little to do here and that I could get on with things I had procrastinated about before. Some people complain that living here is boring and there’s nothing to do. I wonder if they would benefit from a copy of the Secret Garden or the Enchanted Forest? For me, there’s always lots to do: watching  penguins waddle; searching the shoreline for signs of dolphins feeding in the kelp; learning some new skill such as weaving or just hanging out with amazing people.

Since starting to write this morning I’ve had coffee and a conversation with two truly engaging women. They help people of all ages colour and they do it in service of tranquility.  Research on colouring isn’t conclusive. Many people report that when they colour they feel better, less stressed or depressed and more creative. I feel sure that its like any active meditation, it helps you to focus and that’s good for mental health.

So, should I struggle with the things that are on my to do list, I could always return to it. In the meantime, I will reflect on the idea of one person colouring in another 😉


Surf Bay

Six ducks waddle along the flat, wet part of the sand. They seem to giggle and chat to each other, no doubt bemoaning the winds which have returned to the islands. As they approach the water the waves crash around them. Out at sea a huddle of ducks surf the waves. Meanwhile, on the beach, a large, rocklike creature moves his flipper. He doesn’t open his eyes, he just rolls back into place on the sand, asleep, perhaps, or feigning it. The large gash across his face creates a permanent, deceptive smile. This is the most fearless and ferocious seal on the islands. A leopard seal can rip a child’s leg off.

Wandering down the beach is a small group, possibly cruise ship daytrippers. An older man strides forward and points his camera. He’s so close that it could reach him in a single lumbering bound. People don’t realise how fast they can move. Part of me wants to shout, to warn them, and the other steps back with almost curious detachment.

The wind is stronger now. The occasional gust lifts sand to rasp my face. I wrap a scarf around my face and turn, putting the wind at my back. At this end of the beach an Oyster catcher is dancing in hope of a mate. He is watched with disdain by a small group of seagulls, bickering occasionally amongst themselves. There are several different types of seagull wandering on the beach and occasionally fighting. One of them jumps onto a lump of seaweed which has hardened in the sun. He looks like he is addressing the flock. He certainly makes enough noise and flapping his large wings he seems to attract attention. Slowly a rival approaches him from the rear and then with a quick flick of his beak knocks the first bird off his perch. As I walk towards them, the birds spread their wings and lift from sand to sky. Seconds after I pass they will settle to carry on with their chattering, pecking and squaking.

I start to walk to the car and take one last look out to sea and notice a dark shape in the water. The dolphins are back! A warm glow spreads through me and I start to smile. I don’t know why, but I think of a Dolphin sighting as a positive omen. They live here all the time, but though I walk every day I often catch no sign of them. Today they are hunting for food in the kelp close to the shore. Perhaps yesterday’s storm has shifted something. I forget the cold as I watch them. A wave builds and, for just a moment, I see them as clearly as if I was looking into a fish tank. Several dolphins are swimming with the wave, straight towards me. It all happens too quickly for me to get the camera ready. No one will believe this without a photo. As soon as the surf crashes the image is gone.

First Guests

As I sit here waiting for friends to arrive from the UK I am grateful for the new friends I’ve found here.

I’ve tended to start working most mornings at about 6am which gives me time to get my UK calls done and work started whilst still in my pyjamas. By 7.30am I know I have to get ready, showered and dressed because C comes to clean. Only today, she’s ill. I was beside myself with fear and loathing. Fear that I would be judged for having an untidy house and loathing that I hadn’t made time to clean it yesterday after I’d had my major curry cook in. D to rescue, she organised and helped me to prioritise. She finds it strange that I have so much stuff with me as she has worked hard to be minimalist. All the more reason to thank her for her support today.

Sitting waiting for John to bring A and D home I wonder what will the next 10 days hold for us? I’m hoping they’ll meet some amazing people. The point of a land based trip is to get to know some of the culture and customs of the islands so we’ll have Smoko and my Chay’s will come round for dinner.

They will see lots and lots of wildlife, hear stories about the Falklands conflict with Argentina. Drink some Falklands Beerworks beer – I’m told the Rockhopper is particularly good. They’ll hopefully have some local Squid cooked in a variety of ways and they will go back knowing the Falkland Islands and the Islanders.

I think I hear the car doors and the struggle to carry bags up the stairs so I’m off to say hello.

Is writing ever easy?

P1070751Its been a while since I updated my blog. I’ve been writing, but nothing I could post. Recently I started working with a wonderful writing coach and so did a series of writing exercises. These aim to help me learn different aspects of creative writing. Currently it feels like a mountain higher than any I’ve ever tried to climb to get some of them started.

‘ Write as if you are an inanimate object’ my wonderful coach suggested. OOKaaay, thats easy – not, was my child like internal response.  It was the hardest of the exercises and I didn’t do it well but I did complete it.

Whilst procrastinating, I met with a friend for a coffee and told her about my challenge. ‘Ooh, what a lovely idea’ she looked upward for a moment ‘I’d like to be a gate post’, I smiled and nodded and waited for her to continue. ‘I hope that bloody sheepdog doesn’t pee against me again today’ ‘why won’t the farmer come and tidy me up. I need a good clean and paint; the lichen is making me itch.’ ‘Perhaps a sheep will come along and rub itself against me – here sheep – here sheep – can’t those sheep hear me calling?’ ‘Kids are kicking a ball at me again, I hate it when they do that’ ‘OOh, I wonder who’s visiting in a brand new Land Rover, farmer won’t be happy, he hates it when someone has a better car than his’ and so on. As she talked I could see the carmudgeonly gatepost that liked to gossip. My bistro table was, however, not getting any action. I finally forced myself to write something and send it off.

Its interesting to learn how many different skills there are in writing. I thought I could just sit down at a computer and start my story but I have a long way to go before that’s a possibility. For now, I am back to my exercises and today its about music which hopefully will be a little easier. Writing an exercise with a suggested 10 minute time slot and permission to have fun, write everything that comes into your mind however silly, and don’t edit should be easy. It is fun most of the time and it does generate some creative ideas. It also takes you back to situations you’ve experienced. A word can trigger a thought, an exercise about shoes, and I was taken back to a time when I coveted a pair of Cinderella perspex sandals. As you can imagine, that was never going to end well for me!

A bigger barrier to writing is that its just so very easy to get distracted here. The islands are really beautiful, many of the people are amazing and there’s lots for me to do. I find it hard to believe that, for this year, I only have 7 weeks more FI adventure. It strikes me that a good outcome for those 7 weeks would be to complete the exercises and to start the novel properly with my character having her own voice. I’ve set out my goal to help me focus, feel free to check in with me to see how I am doing and to keep me honest.

I will also be doing other things and will blog about those another day.


Falkland Islands 3200: O2 London 20000

When I was last in the UK I was trying to explain how small is the Falkland Islands population (3200) to my God-daughter. ‘So its like a small town’ she said and I nodded ‘ yes, but a very small town and probably smaller than any you’ve visited’ I explained. Her eyes glazed over as she nodded sagely. I knew she wasn’t getting it, she couldn’t understand the scale, so I suggested ‘check out the O2 in London, what’s the capacity?’ She looked it up on her iPhone ‘20,000 people’. The 02 can accommodate nearly 8 times the population of the Falkland Islands. Wembley stadium with a capacity of 90,000 would envelope our population about 28 times. I think she got it!

What of these 3200 people?  So far, luckily, I’ve only met wonderful people.

W was my first friend on the island. A brilliant mind, a warm heart and a wonderful sense of community she gives help and support wherever she can. With a huge network she introduces people and can always find a connection with others. She’s a teacher by profession and even though she retired she’s still facilitating and enabling people to learn. She is the type of person with whom you can have a deep and challenging conversation and then be a bit silly. She is direct and honest and she reminds me of the head girl at my school who seemed to be good at everything but humble in her achievements. I wrote about W some time ago and now she will soon return to the islands and I am so looking forward to seeing her.

S is highly creative, determined, generous, warm, kind and again has a sharp mind. A strong woman who is devilishly proud of her family. She shares knowledge and facilitates learning. She is someone who intuitively knows when I might feel a bit low and she will call or text to suggest a meet or to have a brief chat. To know there is someone looking out for you, particularly when you spend long days alone, is a gift. I am loving learning so much that is new to me. Ive also been able to share my thoughts about my future ventures and had some wise counsel.

N has an amazingly sharp mind. I suspect she could do anything she turned her hand to. She cares deeply and is widely respected. Some people shine in a small place,  but might struggle elsewhere, not N she’d shine wherever she landed. I’ve learnt many things and we have the most hilarious conversations. A recent evening with friends ended in side splitting laughter. I’ve no doubt the produced endorphins definitely strengthened my immunity to the bug which is going around Stanley. Before I leave, I’m looking forward to finishing some projects with her.

Until I started to write this I didn’t notice the themes. They’re appearing though: sharp intelligence, kindness and friendship, creativity, teaching or facilitating learning and a ‘can do’ attitude. These are all women who get things done and done well. I feel so very lucky to have found such wonderful friends.

There are many other people I’ve met who are equally amazing.  It seems the lure of the islands attracts an array of talented people who like to connect and engage in the community. Its a privilege to know them and to spend time with them. As many of them are quite private I won’t write more.

As I finish this piece, I’m left wondering if the prospect of living in an isolated but immensely beautiful part of the world attracts a higher proportion of people with great interpersonal skills and an array of talents? I also wonder if living in a small community forces people to engage more and to be kinder than they might be otherwise?