Friday, 29 March 2013


Filling time has, for the first time in my life, become a real struggle. I set myself daily goals, but they are little and insignificant. They make my time feel episodic and bitty, when what I need is a narrative arc. That's what makes a story a story.

So I started to wonder how I could create a different, plan B narrative. One to fill the blank, Lyra-less years ahead. In the end I rejoined the Bodleian Library. 

The Bod has always struck me as a magical place.
When I first heard that there was a library which contained all the books (well, almost), stored in tunnels under the ground, I didn't really believe it. It sounded too much like something from a book itself.
I was delighted when I first gained admittance (if you are not an Oxford student you need special permission to join) and was made to swear an ancient oath, promising that I would not burn any of the books. Apparently, years ago, students set fire to volumes they deemed lesser in order to keep warm.  

Books have always been a sanctuary for me. When I was growing up in Devon, my parents had our attic converted into a much needed third bedroom for my sister. For a time the room of the attic was done, all wooden like being inside a box, the carpets yet to go in, but the stairs had not been installed. To get up there you had to climb a ladder which could be drawn up after you.
I used to go up there and sit half inside, half almost on the roof, my feet on the hot tiles, reading adventure story books - quests, dragons, spies, magic, happy endings. It was blissful. Safe and secure and just for me and my stories.

Academic reading isn't quite like that. But it still absorbs the mind. It stops the hurtful chatter that goes on there, the seething memories, the aches and pointless wishes, the hopes and the fears. If I can actually get PhD funding, I will be legitimately allowed to remain in this pursuit for three years, with money as well.
Hopefully I can research something that will be of some use. 

And it gives me pause, whenever I enter, to remember that Virginia Woolf - who seems so recent - was unable to use the library. Because she was a woman.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013


There is only one certainty.

Guess what I've been, probably unhealthily, dwelling on?

Since losing our baby, death has never seemed more real. I can almost feel it, just at the edge of things, all the time. The thought of it stops me in my tracks at least once a day.

This drawing was me thinking about my own death, visualising my own bones, but also almost putting the two in the ring. Which is stronger? Life or Death?

Death always wins in the end. But you have to be alive to be in the fight in the first place. Some rounds last a long time. Some don't.

Maybe thinking about life as a fight is not the most helpful analogy. But it certainly feels like an accurate one nowadays.

Friday, 22 March 2013

The Broken-Hearted Puppet

I have been making creepy models again.

This one is fimo and wire like last time, but I also used feathers as well as beads to decorate the wire frame. I tried to mimic the skeleton with the wire. I'm not sure why I gave her wings instead of arms, it just seemed right.
I'm a bit happier with the face of this time, although it's still pretty wonky. I need lots more sculpture practice! I made the face hollow, like a mask, and hung it above the ribcage with thread rather than attempting to attach it with more wire. It means that if I hold her up, she tilts her head from left to right, so she's more puppet-like than my last attempt.

I wasn't sure what I was making as I went along. But when I painted her face, she started to look rather sad. I'd made a sort of heart for her chest, which dangles behind the little wire sternum. I stopped at her ribcage, so she has no pelvis.

Right now she is hanging from a hook on the wall. She seems to be staring out at the room. Her wings look little and frail. I think she looks broken hearted. Maybe she is a spirit of broken hearts, a guardian of those who feel reshaped by sorrow.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The meaning in life and a bath in the woods

Andy (my husband) gave a talk recently and, as ever, I tagged along.
After the talk, we were put up by an old friend of his who holds a doctorate in mathematics (something which renders him, to me, somewhat of an otherworldly, magical creature), and who has written amazing books on mathematics and creation.
I hear they are amazing and that there is a chance I will even understand them (I am severely number dyslexic - dyscalculic), thanks to the clear explanation and writing, and great illustrations.
 Now that my MA is done with, they are second on my 'to read' list.

We stayed in here

We woke up to birdsong and stillness (rather than the shop below us opening, and the garage next to us screeching)

We stayed up drinking wine and talking about art, philosophy, ecology ...

The next morning we were led through the trees down a little path. It was chilly and fresh, and there were buzzards wheeling in the sky overhead. Then, through the naked branches, we saw blue smoke rising like mist...
And there was a bath for us! A tin bath over smoking embers. The embers were raked out before we got in (so as not to cook us). We were left alone to get undressed and jump in, amidst much giggling on my part. I lay in the hot water and looked up at those buzzards again. The woods were quiet except for the cracking of the embers. And for a time I felt hidden and safe and happy.
 It was very simple, and it was very strong.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Ask no questions of the moth

Back in 2012, I started (and never finished) a book making course in London.

I have finally finished one of the books I started (making was stalled by terrible morning sickness).
It is a zig-zag book. One cover is blue book cloth, the other is green. I filled it with picture of insects; beetles, butterflies, moths. Today I finally added some text using ink stamp letters, as well as using embossing powder to finish the covers and add decoration to the inside.

The text is from a translated poem by a Sufi mystic called Farid ud din Attar.
My partner was recently teaching about Muslim mysticism, which led me to read around Sufi poetry a little more than I had done before. Since being thrown into a more heightened state by grief, some of these poems make a little more emotional sense. I feel more connected to what the authors might have been experiencing as they wrote them.

This particular bit of text, taken from a longer poem, seems to be about a moment of intense spiritual insight. The poet is both lost and full of love and knowledge.
Plus, a moth is mentioned, and they are my very favourite creatures. 

It is another strange coincidence that I drew all these insects, these little fleeting lives, whilst I was pregnant. We call Lyra May a mayfly, in honour of those existences which are short yet beautiful.

 The full text quote in my first little book reads:

"...The whole thing happened quicker than a breath
 ask no questions of the moth.
In the candle flame of his face
I have forgotten all of the answers..."

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Print 2

An article I was invited to write for the publication of the Brighton-based 'Draw', who launched their manifesto last year.


One of my drawings in the new Catweazle magazine...