Losing the thread

Teasels

Two weeks have drifted by since my post written in the very first hours of 2014, when our New Year guests had gone to bed and I was contemplating the peculiar beauty of a post-dinner-party table. The crumpled napkins, stray unused cutlery, empty glasses gleaming in the last light from sputtering candles, all seemed to hold a faint essence of the people who had been eating and talking there, like ghost or dream-guests come out to play round the festive table while their corporeal selves were peacefully asleep.

This point in the year is always a hiatus, a gap in the normal order of things. Visitors come and go: extended family, friends from other countries, small grandchildren. The house is full of food, the garden is cold and wet. Without our dogs we have been outside even less than usual at this time of year.

And it is outside that makes me write and think, outside where the fields are abstract paintings; where greens and browns are soaked in light and the black of winter hedgerows is deep enough to drown in; where the ploughed earth is rich, scented, edible and my connection to it visceral.

So no outdoors means no blog posts, or not so many at least.

Yesterday I went to Doncaster and took pictures of sunrise and railway tracks on the way, pictures intended for here but I’ve written a different kind of post.

Today’s picture is from a walk of two or three weeks ago and very like lots of photos I took early last year. Passing my blog anniversary and the festive break has left me musing about what this year’s blogging will bring. Will my pictures all be like ones from the same time last year?

I didn’t expect photographs to become such a big part of the blog when I began it in Manchester; but I have loved taking them and looking at them. The landscape always looks like a picture to me now. I wish I could paint it as well as photograph it.

In any case, time to get out more – if only, today, as far as the end of the garden to fetch swede and leeks for supper.

Outside

Shropshire Union

I write this sitting in the campervan in the dark, something over 100 miles due west of Heckington. We’re parked at a marina beside the Shropshire Union Canal: very English, very rural but different to the landscape we left this afternoon. This is border country; green hills and mists of Wales beckon, instead of cold marshes and bracing winds.

A nice surprise at the pub tonight was a gig by a young singer-songwriter called Heidi Browne (www.heidibrowne.co.uk). Her dad sang I Can’t Stand the Rain, but I love it against the van windows. It’s a tiny campsite and we’re in the car park, but walking to the toilet block in the rain and the dark, it is every campsite I’ve ever stayed on and my spirits lift.

I remember this feeling of freedom, expansion, contentment from every year that we used to camp in France when family were younger. Now I have it when I walk down the garden or to the garage, or to the field with the dog. Now I wonder how I didn’t know how much I craved outdoor space; or how, knowing it, I let myself live without it for so long.

When my two-year old granddaughter visits, the first thing she does on coming downstairs in the morning is run to the back door and try to open it. ‘Outside! Outside!’ she cries. I know just how she feels.

Audlem Wharf

Outside inside

Screen 1

This was the last weekend of the ALTered art events at St Andrews Church; and this picture is of Emily Tracy’s ‘Screen’ (see Modern art in a medieval world) on Saturday evening. As we arrived there were children running in and out of the doorway, looking up at the trees and searching for a mouse lurking somewhere in the picture.

This modern screen stood where there would once have been a wooden rood screen in the past, between the nave and the chancel, separating priest and laity. But this screen invites the visitor into the chancel to play and discover the animals and plants that decorate the medieval church.

I loved the trees ‘growing’ in the centre of the church. In the same way as those who made the exuberant carvings of human, animal and plant life hundreds of years ago, an artist has once more brought the outdoor, living world into this space of stone and light and quietness.