Sunday, 30 November 2014

on the of christmas my true love said to me

There are twelve months in a year, after eleven relatively quiet ones we enter the dark month of December. And December always turns into a Very Busy month. Without wanting to, one feels overcome by an overwhelming sense of – let’s be completely truthful here - panic……Christmas Panic. I'm not kidding, let me list a few of the things we have to deal with that spring immediately to mind: Christmas shopping, Christmas presents, Christmas pudding, Christmas hangover(s), Christmas hors d'oeuvres, Christmas leftovers, Christmas outfit(s)(can I get away with wearing the same outfit several times, given that I move in different circles so the likelihood of the same people being at the same venue is infinitesimally small, hence one person noticing I’m indeed wearing same outfit twice is highly unlikely, then again, who actually cares?)*, Christmas guests, Christmas dinners, Christmas parties, Christmas office-do, Christmas decorations, Christmas to-tree-or-not-to-tree, honestly it’s not as if I haven’t been here before, as if I don’t know Christmas is coming and yet each and every year I feel trampled upon by it all; it’s almost as if the season of bewildered merriment and jolly red-nosed stress is ‘suddenly’ upon us.** Shorter days do not help either!

I suggested they could start by tidying and cleaning the kitchen whilst I'm in the office the next couple of days, so far no one has volunteered

This year is no different. To add to my general bafflement, the gang has gathered and declared they too want to celebrate Christmas ‘all together’ in a manner befitting Christmas, hallelujah! This doesn’t necessarily mean I am invited. Which is of course fine and dandy and I wouldn’t have minded or been particularly upset, however, they have asked me for advice – read ‘organise the festivities, and, worst case scenario, maybe even prepare food’ – in short ‘do my bit’, which is why I am becoming more and more tense, f******short tempered and find myself unable to focus on one thing. It involves loads of planning, never very high on my skill-list, starting with what is every being going to eat? There are seed eaters, carnivores, omnivores, vegetarians, worm- and insect devotees (which is rather difficult for the moths, beetles and butterflies to come to terms with, if you're not careful you might end up on a dinner plate) pollen-nibblers, honey-suckers and so forth. (who’s taking notes? Anyone?  Nobody! I am, of course)

Where are they all going to sit? Some don’t sit but prefer to remain perched on a branch, or are hanging on a puppet frame, others are so small they’ld be best served sitting on the table rather than at it. Then there is the question of cutlery and a suitable dinner service: are there enough plates and what sizes do we have, how many knives, forks, sticks, spoons, glasses, cups & saucers……who will be seated next to whom? Drinks anybody, don't mind if you do, no silly not now, I mean for Christmas, oh. Are dinner invitations forthcoming, if yes, who’ll be making them, if no, okay, however will we be sending Christmas cards? And again, who will make those? And who will deliver them, the list seems endless (and for what? I mumble, but nobody’s listening)

argh..............I will keep you posted.........

What I am looking forward to is making a long-Christmas-theme-table-cloth for them, hey ho
This will also give me a valid excuse to retreat from time to time, with a sewing basket at my side, a threaded needle in one hand and a dainty cloth in the other, whilst sitting on the settee in front of the wood burner, luxuriating in my solitude!

* the fact that these kinds of thoughts cross my mind is an indication of the level of despair I’ve reached, hihi=nervous giggle

** do men experience this kind of stress about these kinds of things, no you don’t have to answer, as the evidence ‘round here would suggest: NO, they do not and what’s more, never will do. Good for them.

Saturday, 29 November 2014


it's coming along very slowly; and I tell self that it's to do with having been very busy at the office and a work schedule that has been different, but then I get to thinking about these words 'very slowly''very busy', by whose standards any of these?  and in a flash I'm looking down at myself and I find I'm smiling and shaking my head for entertaining these thoughts; there is nothing 'very slowly' about it, nor has the office been 'more or less busy than usual', it's all in MY head, apparently I have unspoken expectations and when things don't happen 'fast' enough - even though I haven't defined the outcome or time frame - I feel prone to pass judgment! 

light bulb moment: this is how the mind tricks you into following a dead end path resulting perhaps in dissatisfaction, how you could experience a sense of disappointment for no reason whatsoever, no reason whatsoever.

so, the piece is coming along nicely, exactly as it should be going, period. I particularly like how the thread changes colours, from black to blue to green

Monday, 24 November 2014

travelling back in time

was at a winter fair in Arkel yesterday afternoon, although there's nothing wintry about the weather....the fair was situated around this mill dating back to the 16 hundreds; inside the huge wheel on the top floor was whirring as the sails were moving with the winds

my work schedule differs from 'normal' weeks, I now have a Monday off, luckily so for today is yet again sunny, soft and bright; a walk in the woods with Django who at this particular spot has detected the scent of something very interesting, if his frantic digging is anything to go by; I stand and wait patiently for a while, not difficult with my face towards the sun, all to no avail as he had nothing to show for it, okay we continue the walk.

I feel I live in such a small world, the big world out there seems such a long way away, unimportant, unreal, springing to life when I emerge and choose to join it; the studio itself is full of beings with their own stories, enough to keep me here for the rest of my life if that were possible

the stories of my past echo and the tree from the garden in Brigg, the hollow tree that is ingrained in my mind demands to be seen yet again, so here goes....I've drawn the first lines on this nine-patch, see what happens next

another small patchwork with the dog, more colours this time and some black squares! just to get me out of my comfort zone; also this hand-sewn patching is really good practice for me as I have no hand-quilting past

have to have a tent in there somewhere, as I did a lot of 'camping' in the garden in England; it was truly a garden of eden

add on:

a bit more travelling: to visit Anne Mette Hjortshoj Danish potter

'paying honest attention'

Friday, 21 November 2014


the other day my mother sent her three children - I have a younger brother and sister - an email; included were copies of two short stories she had written many, many years ago when we all lived together as a family in the U.K. in a small town called Brigg, Lincolnshire. None of us replied soon enough, as the email was followed by another in which she remarked a friend had been gracious enough to actually send a reply, commenting on the stories. I decided to dedicate a post to the stories after having reread them, as I think my readers here will enjoy them. I will send my mother an email with the post, of course. As both stories are about me, I happen to have copies of the original magazines in which they feature. I'll start with 'Mamai' published in Spring 1968 in the magazine as you can see below.   

MAMAI!                                                    Lise van Dijk

‘Mamai!’ she is shouting, ‘mamai, mamai.’
She sometimes calls me by that funny name; it is not ‘mama’ and not ‘mami’, but both put together. It is her pet-name for me, when she is in a possessive mood and wants me to be her ‘mamai’ and nobody else’s .
‘I’m going to Grimsby tomorrow.’
This announcement does not surprise me. I know she is now going to tell me one of her favourite stories. The theme is always the same, but the variations are manifold. Mostly I am an intense and interested listener, and whenever she loses the thread of her story I help her along by asking leading questions. And she is easily distracted, for after all she is only four – by the sound of a helicopter, the sight of a bird on the roof of the garage, the fact that is has started raining again, and the wandering thought of when it will stop so that she can go out and play, by sudden needs for a piece of chocolate or something to drink, and similar small but significant stimuli to her sensitive organism.
‘I am going to visit my three sisters in Grimsby. There are two big ones and one small one. I’ll stay there for a long, long time, for ten days, I think. They live in a house all by themselves, they have no papa and no mama. They have only got one toilet and a small bath. Not a big one like in this house, but a small one like in Denmark.’
She has just been to visit her grandfather in Denmark. When she got there, she first enquired about the number of toilets; there were three of them, so she was quite satisfied, and then she went to inspect the bath, which turned out to be a small baby-bath made of blue plastic. No disappointment showed on her face, just surprise. She is trying to find out whether other people live like we, her own family of younger sister, baby-brother and parents. Do they have beds to sleep in, do they have tables and chairs, do they have a toilet and a bath, do they have a kitchen, and, one very important thing, do they have a television set? These are her most common questions. And when she is story-telling about her three imaginary sisters in Grimsby, she tries to make them as normal as can be – with some wishful thinking put in as well, like having a holiday from bossy and demanding parents on her fantasy visits.
‘My three sisters are called,’’ and then she hesitates for a few seconds, ‘Skida, Maguta and Boda.’
(these names are neither English, Dutch nor Danish but made up).
‘Skida and, eh….what did I say?’
‘I think you said Maguta.’
‘Oh yes, Skida and Maguta are the big ones and Boda is the small one. No, Boda and Skida are the big ones and, eh…..’
I help her again: ‘Maguta.’
‘Yes, Maguta is the small one.’
I feel that if we are to get along with her story we’d better leave the difficult names. If she gets stuck too often she will withdraw from any further story-telling by informing me that she is tired or that she has got tummy-ache, and I therefore ask her how she is going to get to Grimsby.
‘I’ll go by boat, and I’ll sleep in the top bed and I shan’t fall out, because I am big now, you know. My little sister, she can’t sleep in the top one, she is only a baby, so she would fall out.’
The disturbing noise of a helicopter makes her change her mind.
‘No, I won’t go by boat to Grimsby, I’ll go by aeroplane. Then I’ll fly high up in the sky. High, high in the sky. Mamai, heaven is in the sky, and God and Jesus are living there, Rosemarie told me so.’
Rosemarie is the young girl who is looking after our children. She is a keen Jehovah’s Witness.
‘God and Jesus are not mad with me. When I shall be dead, I’ll go up in the sky to heaven. We’ll all go there, you also Mamai’- and I dare not protest by telling her that I shall probably not belong to her heavenly company.
‘But you won’t go yet, will you? ‘she continues, ‘because then you will be dead and then you can’t walk and eat and if you are not here I shall be so shy.’
I thinks she means lonely, but never mind, as long as she cares. In order to get her back on the track I ask her how her three sisters can get food if they have no mama and papa to look after them.
 ‘The two big ones, they buy food in the shops.’
She does not seem to be concerned where the money comes from, so I ask her that.
 ‘I give them money, I always give them money, lots of money when I go there. We sleep in beds, but when it is too warm, we don’t sleep in the house, but outside. We can’t sleep inside when it is much too warm.’
This surely is wishful thinking. I know she likes to eat outside, but had no notion of this new indication.
‘They have not got a television, my three sisters, because the two big ones they won’t put it on, and it is too dangerous for the little one to put it on, you see and therefore they have no television. There are no spiders in my three sisters’ house. We are a bit afraid of spiders, not the baby ones but the big ones. Spiders have green blood you know. I am not afraid of dogs anymore, not very much afraid, perhaps a little afraid of big dogs. When I have been a long time to visit my sisters I’ll come back to this house and then I’ll go to oma and opa’- grandmother and grandfather – ‘in Holland. I think they will be pleased to see me, and I’ll never come back. Will you be mad at me if I never come back, mamai?’
‘I will not be mad, I’ll be very sad.’
‘Will you be mad with me if I jump out of the window?’
‘Oh no, but I’ll be very, very sad.’
‘But will you be mad, mad?’
‘No, sad, sad.’
‘Is it not naughty to jump out of the window?’
I give up and do not answer her. She changes the subject.
 ‘I think my baby is crying, I must go to her, she is ill. I have got many babies, ten babies and they are all very, very ill. I am not their doctor but their nurse. I’ll go and look after them now and give them some medicine – only pretending medicine. ‘She pauses, then, ‘Can I wash them with real water? ‘
‘No, not now.’
‘Oh, then I’ll wash them with pretending water and give them pretending medicine. Mamai, they are not really ill, I am only pretending. Bye, bye.’
And off she goes to look after her pretending babies.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

I have just finished reading this book and it is one of those books that once you start reading you've entered a parallel universe, you're in your own world and at the same time you're in the book and the characters are part of your own life and you find yourself having conversations with them, especially when you're on your own walking in the woods with the dog. If by now you think I'm daft and haven't a clue what I'm on about, all I can say is, you have never enjoyed a good read. My advice would be: read this book!
I noticed Julie recommended it a while back in her post making tracks and as I trust her judgment completely I ordered the book at my local book shop as well the sequel 'The love song of Miss Queenie Hennessy'. Now that I have finished Harold's pilgrimage I have Miss Queenie's reply to look forward to!

 This book touched a nerve, many nerves in fact. I realise I'm not as old as the main characters Harold and Maureen (pensioners) but there are many threads we seem to have in common; for instance not always saying what you want to, but instead saying awful, hurtful things to spite your loved ones. How sometimes what you want to say is too big for words, so you stay silent and the other person has no idea how much you want to share, but just cannot manage. Being able to listen to other people without judging, which is a quality you're either born with (in my case, nope) or you have to acquire over the years (I should hope so!); hearing without second-guessing, just being open to the other person's story and not wanting to interject with your own worrisome tales.....seeing the other person at a certain moment in time and not projecting your own hang-ups, really looking. Loving the person you are married to, wanting to grow old together, despite everything that didn't go according to plan, whatever that was. Learn to forgive yourself, forgiving others will then be a piece of cake. Accepting who and what you are and life is a gift for you to unwrap each and every day, and some days are just so much more boring than others and that family holidays are a compromise, as is spending time all by yourself..... that unexpected gatherings can turn out to be just what you needed and curling up on the sofa with a cup of earl grey and a good book with the dog at your feet turns out to be the best afternoon in ages. In short, living usually isn't about the ideas we might have, it's about the connections we make, with others and with ourselves and of the many ways there are of making such a connection.....
Of course I also loved the fact that there was a dog somewhere along the trail.....

I haven't managed to get quite as much stitching done as I would have liked having been otherwise occupied, however I do have something to show: these two pieces I've been basting with endless rows of running stitch; I like to makes squares with the stitches running horizontally and vertically, which is particularly visible on the back and to me very much echoes the landscape we happen to live in.  

p.s. next time I phone my parents, I hope I remember to mention how good it is to hear their voice 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

proud to be his mum

Today 18 years ago at 4.19am our eldest son Declan was born

How quickly time has passed, one moment I hold him in my arms, the next I look up
To him for he is taller now than  I will ever be

I’ve taken out his photo album and look at the earliest images we have of him; he was such a small, fragile thing and yet so determined to be reckoned with

I hardly look at these early images as they always inflict pain and it’s sometimes easier to turn away from that and as he’s still at home with us I don’t need the reminder, but every now and then I do
The moment he came into our lives we were parents, a fact of life that will only end with our deaths, in life there is death.

I baked an apple crumble last night for us to eat on the morning of his birthday; the apples are from a tree we planted in his first year
A gift from two friends, one is no longer with us as he drowned in a sailing accident, leaving behind a wife and two then young daughters
Each year as I pick the apples I am reminded of our son’s birth year as well as our friend’s untimely death
I find it almost unbearable to hold the two thoughts in my mind at the same time; in life there is death

But today is a day for celebrating the fact that our small boy has grown and is now almost a man, I say almost for I am his mother, I know he sees himself in a different light
What happens between the two extremes is the stumbling fumbling make-do business we call a life and most of all what matters on the journey from here to there is love
all of it and every kind of


Sunday, 9 November 2014

looking forward with a backward glance

 following the black dog along memory trails of yesteryear
 the bare branches beckon to the cold, dark season: come come your time is now

the overwhelming joy at finding your lover within arm's reach; new lovers discovering each other's bodies

no I have not forgotten our Tungsten, he died yesterday a year ago; time flies whether or not you're having fun, I wish I'd made more sketches of him - I didn't because I thought I couldn't draw, now I think that the latter doesn't matter, the drawing itself helps you to observe better and that matters not the result

Saturday, 8 November 2014

witnessing a birth & love is in the air

 Malle mouse needed a friend; now that Sally and Kitty have gone to stay with Sally's relatives (post link here) and there's no telling when they're due back, she got to feeling lonely and left out at times; it was no longer a case of pre-winter blues, I was genuinely worried she would actually become depressed, in other words she was in desperate need of female company, a friend she could lean on. Then there's GhostBird, as we all know heart-broken and in a sorry state when he arrived, he has got his act together and is in excellent shape now and pardon my French, gagging for female company as well; although I'm sure he has something else in mind than drinking tea, dressing up and gossip!
So desperate times call for desperate measures: out with the needle and thread, cotton, scissors, stuffing, a sort-of-plan-in-my-head: I had to make a doll for the two of them - if all goes well we might see more - 'nough said, let's get cracking......

to begin with her body was going to be roughly the same size as Malle's however, she wasn't too happy with the way her private parts looked first time round and she asked me to remedy the dodgy stitching and elongate her torso and fix the hole in her shoulder while I was at it! She's rather bossy, but that's between you and me. This meant her legs (see top photo) became her arms and I had to cut out even longer strips for her loooooooong legs; she appears willowy and frail, however as stated previously, she's strong minded, full of determination and knows what she wants and how to get it! In my book sensible attributes for a woman these days.

last evening shortly after her birth, wearing an improvised kimono type thingy; Malle does look happy doesn't she (I do notice she's wearing a bathing-suit, she could do with a winter outfit as well....)
here she stands naked to the world, her name's Emily after the poet Emily Dickinson

here's her face: pretty, thoughtful eyes, very pale still 
found Emily and Malle on my studio desk this morning sleeping late; Emily asked me could I please make her a flowery dress before she presented herself to GhostBird? All she needed for now was a dress, the rest of her outfit would come later, hat included. She'd long spotted him and was suddenly overcome by modesty (which is quite something after having exposed your every part in this post of the night before 'that's different those were my birth pictures, Saskia') Malle and Emily had been talking about him till the wee hours and Malle is absolutely positive 'they are destined* for one another' and 'most definitely and profoundly soulmates^' 
Malle is rather romantic you see and tends to see the good in each and every one of us, being the pure and selfless soul that she is she likes to think we're all as pure as the driven snow, which we ain't btw.

* absolutely, see first paragraph
^ again, see top paragraph; I would like to add the physical aspect of wanting to meet one's 'soul mate': two bodies oozing hormones in need of relief have a tendency to bump into one another sooner or later

learnt a thing or two about sewing a dress: as I wanted the neck line and arm holes (??) to look neat I made the front and back with a lining and sewed the shoulder seams together once she'd put the dress on; still want to make a kimono and a hat for her, but at least she's decent. I had nothing to do whatsoever with the introductions here, GhostBird, Emily and Malle worked it all out for themselves as was to be expected....
Things are livening up once more in the studio as the days shorten and the evenings indoors with the warmth provided by the wood burner become more and more enticing, one by one, or in small groups the beings come indoors as soon as the sun has set, rejoicing at having found one another and happy to share a house with such good company, where story telling is considered a way of life. I feel privileged to be part of their lives and am happy to bear witness to whatever they wish to share with me 

from the Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson (Barnes&Noble, New York) Part Three: Love LII

He touched me, so I live to know
That such a day, permitted so,
I groped upon his breast.
It was a boundless place to me,
And silenced, as the awful sea
Puts minor streams to rest.

And now, I'm different from before,
As if I breathed superior air,
Or brushed a royal gown;
My feet, too, that had wandered so,
My gypsy face transfigured now
To tenderer renown.