Thursday, 27 April 2017

Metamorphoses (Or a Grandmother's Musings to her Grandaughter on becoming who you truly are...)

Dearest Emily,
Here's my favourite tree again, the beautiful Horse Chestnut which you've seen in its Autumn Glory- all 'Chimeney-red and Halloween orange' as Tom Waits might say. You've seen its leaves die slowly and fall off, and then it stand all bare as it sits out the winter, waiting for rebirth in Spring.

There's such a wealth of comfort in nature Em. For me over the last eight months by painting what is around me, the seasons and the cycle of death and rebirth have been grounding and healing in this period following the loss of dear Grumpa.
The other day, a customer came into the Rabbit Hole exclaiming how she needed to go down The Rabbit a Hole for a bit, and step outside of time. A Head Teacher- she'd had a stressful time getting ready for the end of the Easter Term.
'You are Alice actually-aren't you?" She said.
"Am I? " I responded.
"Yes, you are" she replied in such a tone that I thought I had better accept it.
Well, Em, maybe I am in a way. Not a Disney way of course (yes I know you've just been to Disney World- but that is about as far from your Grandmother's aesthetic as the Yellow Brick road is to the M25. )Not, in a wierd sort of grown-up playing dress-up as a seven year old girl in a blue dress and bunny ears either. 
Maybe though, I recognise something of myself in Dodgson (Carroll) 's tale- in the essence of it.
In my tale, as a question sort of person, who has gone down The Rabbit Hole and found a whole new World- one both curious and vexing in measures, and all at the same time-familiar...
Add onto this Em, that I was the seven year old child who did actually sit at the back of the wardrobe willing it to let me go through to Narnia. 
Yes Em, I think I recognise myself here.
Here, on the Isle of Wight, in the West-Wight, in Freshwater, along the 'Pretty-bit' opposite School Green I am in my own reality down my own Rabbit Hole and I don't see much reason for coming up for air.
A 13 O'clock shop- one customer called it- outside of time. Well it is my 'happy place' Em and I'm happy it chimes with others as that too.
Of course, my creative head won't let it lie, until I've completed my imagined aesthetic, my own inner 'White Rabbit' keeps egging me on checking his pocket-watch. But even that's not frustrating or stressful. The Island has tempered me to its' own time, and I've mellowed-and somehow things still get done in their own time.
There's little frustration in my life, not many rules, and I like that.
Beating to my own drum (as Grumpa always commented on)- is one I know, yet don't really fathom, but it's the right tempo for me and allows me to develop my interests organically within the community I treasure.
Nature, whimsy, friends and above all gratefulness for what is this beautiful part of the earth ever imparting inspiration.
Nuff said Em.
Yesterday, I experienced an example of going down the Rabbit Hole- albeit reversed.
Remember I told you about winning a grant from the wonderful Harper Collins Indie Development Fund? Well, yesterday was the reception- so I hopped onto the ferry at lunch-time, and trotted off onto the train, where I promptly fell asleep, and woke up in my old life in London.
All about bustle-mode I strode up past St Martin's in the Fields, and striding away spotted Cecil Court, diverting off to Stephen Poole books where I'd sold a beauty of a book that helped fund my garden premises, and introduced myself to the Proprietor face to face (we had previously just spoken by phone.) True Book-seller style, he gave me invaluable advice about some special stock I'm a pondering.
Then I zoomed into Soho and Ham Yard, noticing that with our knitwear label Weardowney, we had had a stand in a unit there some 13 years hence. 
Meeting up with my lovely Fashion-Son Henry Conway, not seen in three whole years, we did a speed-catch-up. Here we are together-

Then, speedy London-stylee, we zipped into the reception where a lovely CEO explained the initiative and invited collaboration and I felt as though I was with 'Old friends already'.
I could only stay 45 mins because of the last ferry being 9pm, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable change of pace and Rabbit Hole! Now we have the lovely Ben from Harper Collins coming down here in August on 'Work Experience' to add to our Summer Adventures!
Henry ordered me an Uber, and I hopped into a BMW, out and onto the train at 7, the ferry at 9, and back down my own Rabbit Hole into my Shed-Room at 10, feeling enthralled by life's journeys.

We are all Alice Em, if we want to be. You are now, by your age and your perfect curiosity.
That, with the mix of magic of everyday life, becomes your magic wand forever!

Ttfn, your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxx

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Spring-time Meditations

Dearest Emily,

I remember last year, harping on to you about the lovely Horse Chestnuts that line our view from both shops over on School Green.

I'm rather in love with one in particular, that sits resplendently opposite me whilst I drink my morning coffee. It has become my morning meditation, just gazing at it, sun and season offering different views, and shades of viewing.

Here's my tree again this week. She's resplendent in setting right now, just as she starts to bud, with the daffodils, crocii and snowdrops adorning her grassy carpet.

Today, this view is a lovely reminder of the season ahead where everything springs into life and colour and invades our consciousness!
Let me tell you a little tale...
Once upon a time,
There was a young man, who was interested in Science at school. so he studied hard and went to a Grammar school as they were in those days.
He couldn't afford to go to University, so instead he chose to do a Degree by 'correspondence course'.
Meanwhile, during his studies, he started working for a Chemical firm, and was so good at his job, that he rose up through the ranks quite quickly.
He was sent to Germany where he worked with several eminent Scientists.
One day, his Boss who was Jewish became alarmed about an impending War, and he resigned, giving the young man his job.
War broke out, and the man was tasked with finding out about the passages and types of chemicals that the Germans were moving and using. He became quite useful to the Government, and was given the title of an Honorary Lieutenant Colonel.
He now had to 'interrogate' the colleagues he had worked along-side in Germany- the depth of his knowledge being the ally here, and he was successful in returning valuable information to assist his Country.
When peace came, he was moved nearer London, and embarked upon setting up a Research Centre for his Company.
His Scientific Life, was in no way at odds with a more Spiritual one, and he and several members of his family were involved in the early days of the 'Interplanetary Society'. The British arm of this Society was originally set up to test Rocket fuel, and actively engage in the development of Interplanetary travel possibilities. This aspect became impossible in 1936 when it was brought to their attention that a law had been passed in 1875 preventing this kind of testing on British soil.
He was active in matters Theosophical, and wrote and lectured extensively.
Here is a picture of him,

He was your Great-Great Uncle, Emily, and following a chance memory awakened at a Yoga class a couple of weeks ago, I'm embarking upon a fascinating journey of putting together some biographical notes on him, primarily for you, and Bel and Flo.

There's something else that fascinates me here too, Emily.

Your Great-Great Uncle strove to underpin 'Seeing', Clairvoyance, and Meditation, with Science.

It appears he was way ahead of his time...

More to come! 

Hope you had a good half-term, how lovely to see that Florence can sit up on her own now- much more fun for her than watching you both hop about from a lying down position!

Your ever-loving Grandmother,

GiGi xxx

Sunday, 19 February 2017

A Journey to the Past and the Future

Dearest Emily,
It's been a significant week, one way and another, as I was just explaining to Daddy, what with finding a letter from General Garibaldi dated a month after he was here on the Isle of Wight in 1864, and surviving a glass shower door shattering over me this morning ( I'm ok, just a bit shredded and sore) and as Uncle Joe says- getting used to having 'dodged a bullet'. All that aside, there's a story that I want to tell you- that is to be continued...
On Monday, I started Yoga class again, having left it alone for over ten years. During the class, the Teacher asks what kind of yoga I've studied before. "Hatha" I say straight away, then knit my brows in perplexity. Because Em, I didn't study Hatha, it was Iyengar, but as the teacher is explaining this class, and I'm wrestling with my mouth and my memory- I didn't feel it appropriate to correct myself.
Later we did a fab relaxation and during this, he guided us to the inner flame that was the true self.
This true self that had made up her yoga history glided, chilled and centred, to work.
A delivery of old books arrived for me to sort and buy what I could sell. I sort through them, and a 1960's Teach yourself-Yoga, caught my eye, and rang some memory bells...
Of course! That's it- my Great Uncle Wallace (who had one leg) taught Hatha Yoga- he'd written a book on it I seemed to remember. The story also went that he had lived with Mum's cousin Kathleen, but kept going off travelling and once surprised everyone by coming back married to a Hungarian lady.
Anyhow, I thought I'd look up his little book.
That's where it all becomes rather flabbergastingly interesting Em.
Great Uncle Wallace didn't just write a book on Yoga. He wrote several, and he classified all the types of yoga into types that are still classified and quoted as such by him, today.
That's not all! Your Great-Great Uncle was a bit of a dude and I'm going to gather together some biographical notes on him for you girls at the very least.
He was important in the Theosophical Society, lecturing and producing papers on matters Theosophical that I shall expound upon later.
Suffice to say today- that V (for Victor) Wallace Slater (1900-1987), as explained by my mum this week was 'brainy' but couldn't afford University, unlike  his Wife Doris (that- unusual enough in the 1920's) but he had managed to get a job at Laporte Chemicals- and risen to be a Director there.
Em, he discovered Hydrogen Peroxide! ( my hair couldn't be this shade without him!)
He trained as an Osteopath, was a strict Vegetarian, and after reading some of his findings on 'Occult Science' (don't let the definition put you off Em, it's historical) it seems that your anscestor was working on stuff that's just about now becoming scientifically recognised- significantly the ability to meditate deeply and use guided imagination to possibly change the body's D.N.A.
Your Great Uncle and Aunt Doris were way ahead of their time, and after several emails to the Theosophical Society who kindly sent me his Obituary and a bibliography of his writings- I have a quest, and at the very least a Wiki stub to produce forthwith!
A lot of what I have read, chimes with my own instinctual choices in life.
It's nice to learn a bit about the puzzle!
I shall fill you in along the way!
In the meantime, I've done you another picture.
It is of Sarah's (she of cake baking fame here at the Rabbit Hole) Uncle's garden as peered at through the trees.
Golden Cottage, sits at the foot of Golden Hill, and evokes a time gone by, when it was the main house that had the Orchard, that now is filled with houses all the way down to the High Street.
Dall Square still bears the family name, and after the recent death of her Uncle, it's about to go up for sale.
A beautiful house in a beautiful setting, who knows what it's future might be.
For now, I just wanted to paint a glimpse through The trees as a child might see a Secret Garden- golden, as its name describes.

Anyhow Em, that's enough for now,
Will write more about your Great-Great Uncle, in the mean-time I'm off to yoga again, with some cuts and bruises from the shower-door episode and a secret, that I didn't study Hatha, but someone close to us, did, quite a bit and more besides,
Your ever-loving Grand-Mother,

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Run of the Mill Memories

Dearest Emily,
Seeing as Grumpa's encouragement of me to carry on painting, has translated into an upcoming exhibition at the Earl Mountbatten Hospice this August, I've been catching up for lost time after a year's hiatus on my hobby. I've also been giving myself a bit of a talking to, in order to send feelings of being a bit of an imposter artist into the distance, and instead apply myself with some thought to a pastime that I thoroughly enjoy.
In attempting to do this- something a bit wacky happened whilst I was engaged in painting the last offering, which I can't properly explain- other than that it is similar in feeling to when the creative process began whilst I was designing fashion collections in the past.
The creative process just seems to take over, and it felt as though the painting was just 'being done' and that I didn't really have much to do with that- other than to carry it out.
I know, it does sound wacky, but that's the way it is.
And in this process, I'm somehow able to remove some of my own blocks to the process, and even sometimes feel happy at what is emerging.
Anyhow- it's probably I should imagine, how it is for you and your 'junk-modelling'- you'll have to let me know next time we speak.
So, on to the next one we go, and as I've decided to censor some early pieces from this exhibition, I'm going to have to play serious catch-up, in order to get enough of a body of work together for my brief- which I've called- 'My Freshwater'. It's a personal perspective on views of the local landscape painted throughout the year, throughout the different lenses of the seasons, so often blessed with the clarity of our beautiful West-Wight light.
Except not this week, and not for a recent painting of the Fog over School Green at Christmas, and the milky January sunshine over the spectacular Freshwater Bay last month.
This week it's bleak weather, so, now what? I thought as I considered that I could start another one...
This was turning over in my mind as I set off to Yarmouth nearby where we used to live, and as I drew up to park, I was looking out over the marshland where I used to walk Marley when we first moved here five years ago.
The bike shop was closed, so I set off for a walk retracing old steps, memories seeming to spring up from the earth I was trampling beneath my feet. Here, we came when we first swapped Metropolitan life- following Grumpa's first diagnosis, for a rural, and by the sea existence, building a new simpler life together.
I turned a corner, and came across the view across the Mill pond, where we used to 'walk' our imaginary dog Hendrix together (a Springer, actually Em- who was only replaced by a real dog, following Grumpa and I having an actual argument about who left the imaginary dog behind- yes Em, I know it wasn't the dog who was 'barking, was it!)
I sat down revelling in the memories of that time, full of promise, full of simple enjoyment of our new life.
As I looked up and out over the familiar view, I noticed anew its beauty.
There was no beautiful light from the sun, shrouded in cloud and fine drizzle, and I remembered a day out with you Em, when you were just eight months old.
It was Easter and the day of the Yarmouth Duck Race. It was a similar day weather-wise, and we all stood, wrapped up in scarves and gloves, as the mass of little yellow ducks were ready for their race.
But with no wind- not much was happening.
The announcer over the tannoy, tried hard to commentate about the wait, making cheesy jokes, and comments whilst the tannoy screeched annoying feedback, and we all felt slightly grumpy after a while.
Mummy turned away from the ducks and wandered across the common, we followed.
We stood and looked over the Mill creek- the same view in front of me now.
Mummy said how much she loved it, and how it reminded her of Kent- and in particular, it evoked in her a Dickensian kind of Kent.
I liked that, so my inspiration had arrived.

I've got too used to the quality of the light here Em, thanks to Mummy's observation, and my memory of it, I can see the beauty of a view on an otherwise dull looking day!
So, when I next see you we shall discuss the joys of Junk modelling- and don't forget you still have to reverse the spell you cast on me at Florence's Christening. Don't tell anyone, but I'm still the Secret Fire Breathing Dragon!
Lot's of love from your ever-loving Grandmother,
GiGi xxx

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Keeping Things at Bay

Dearest Em,

It was lovely to see you last weekend. Florence's Christening was fun, and it was lovely to see everybody.
Thank-you for using your magic wand to turn me into a mouse, and then back to my normal self, and then into a secret fire breathing dragon- which you promised to turn me back out of, right after the Christening.
Unfortunately, you forgot to turn me back- so, I'm condemned to knowing I have a secret fire-breathing power, that I can't tell anyone about- until I see you next time.
Not to worry, I'm sure there are worse things to have to keep secret.
However, my fire-breathing thing, seems to have consumed itself over the last week, into utterly un-politically correct anti-the idiot president of the United States venom.
Goodness me, it's outrageous Em, I'm unstoppable, breathing fire about an elected politician, a long-long way away from here, in lands I have no further aspirations to re-visit. I've even banned his name from being spoken in our shops!
I don't expect my incredulity at the incredulous politician can last forever, it'd be quite exhausting over four years.
But, each day, when I wake up and listen to Radio 4, it seems I can only count seconds before I hear his name, once again enter my home, over the airwaves with yet another ridiculous news story that he is embroiling. Today, we went back to American Women facing back-street abortions akin to the 1960's, oh, and how he irritated yet another swathe of commonsensical society with the excuse he is creating jobs to please the masses.
And, with an edict out of the White House, he decided to re-write the amount of people attending his inauguration, and the amount of people attending Women's protest marches against equality- by offering Alternative Facts.
King Canute, did the same thing historically, in believing he could turn back the tide...

Fortunately, Em, he couldn't.
You asked me on Sunday, what I was painting. It's Freshwater Bay, as visited last friday, with some milky January sunshine, at about two-thirty in the afternoon, where a calm scene in the distance, still showed spray from waves kicking up onto the pavement from the tide.
My secret dragon, until at least you turn me back into your mild-mannered Grandmother, must be consoled once more by nature.
Nature, managed to create such a misogynistic, narcissistic, psycho who now holds power of office in a country that dominates the 'free world'. He can't even string an articulate sentence together, and I doubt he chose his own bookshelves.
Nature, didn't vote him into power, and nature allows us to stop (being secret fire-breathing dragons) and have faith in our individual selves, our powers of discrimination, and look at the Bigger Picture.
This secret dragon, smells a phoney, loves the integrity of the women roused to march against any 'Trumpish' attitude in their community, and takes succour from Nature, who renews a veritable cycle of truth year upon year, season upon season, and takes no prisoners.
This, secret fire-breathing dragon, until you turn her back, next time she visits, takes comfort in humanity.
There's always a plus, and this billionaire psycho who thinks he represents the masses, has galvanised some into reactive thought and action.
The Idiot is a symptom of a dis-ease of course.
And we are all a part of that.
But, some good stuff is happening, Em, and King Canute proved, you can't hold back the tide.
Interesting times ahead for the World you and the girls will inherit.
P.S-Please turn me back into your Grand-Mother soon,
Your Ever-Loving Grand-Mother,

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Beauty and the Fog.

Dearest Emily,
Here we are in January, a hiatus in the cycle of Nature's seasons. A cavity, a breach. Of course we know and are acutely aware at this time of the year- to expect to get stuff like; drizzly rain, blustery days, milky sunshine, bitter cold- and sometimes all of these together.
But, for me, the true stagnation of the mood of these January days for me, is the sometimes imperceptible and perceptively protracted (though for nature necessary) plod towards Spring, when it all happens a-zingingly once more in the awakening of the beginning of the growth cycle of nature's year.
Or, sometimes we get fog...

And then, hereabouts, it's like someone put out the lights over the West-Wight.
A different vista, certainly, here on a 'Sunny Isle', clamped by Winter, and shorter days, which though growing steadily longer towards what we relish in its visceral abundance, throughout the glory days of the growing season, casts a shadow right now of deep repost.
Somehow, we mourn the last year's passing, and somewhat ridiculously we feel somewhere that the glory days shouldn't abate and would be better going on for ever.
But dear Em, they do!
They beckon us each New Year, coaxing us to look forwards. Small shoots of Daffodil and Crocus emerge, maybe to stop for a while throughout frost, but beckon they do, and if we too, stop and stand still for a while, there's much to feed our souls.
I remember some years ago now, when Grumpa and I were considering moving here to the Island, that 'a-Wintering' became a part of a trial for us to see how our dream fitted in real life.
We deliberately set out in the midst of Winter in London, to sample how it felt to be here, sans summer, sans the tourist season, with shops and restaurants often closed, and the worst of the elements presided.
What we found, was that we loved it, embraced it, and became enveloped in it. Grumpa and I shared accordance on this one- we came, we saw, we ventured out on the most weathery of days, he in black Russian hat (now worn by Uncle Joe) and we tramped regularly up and down stark hills in blustery weather across the West Wight.
I remember us both, noting a fond similarity to perceiving our landscape experience to one akin to that described in E.Annie Proux's 'The Shipping News', and the bleak quality of the now lonesome (without tourist) landscape to being one we both embraced and were delighted by.
I suppose it set the scene for deciding that the Island was for us a love that enveloped all the seasons, and assisted in making a decision to move here become real.
And so, a couple of weeks ago (finding that my current landscape views merely transgress between two shops, two doors away from each other and looking out over School Green) I found myself staring out over a vista, accompanied by the sound of a fog horn, that was momentarily transformed.
The seasonally bare Trees, became a part of a spectacular chromatic view opposite me.
Light shone from the distance of the football pitch beyond the Green, and threw my daily beauties- the Trees, into black and white tracery.
The fog transformed my scene into a 'Sleepy Hollow' one, and this transformation by fog, and the beauty of the scene, momentarily surprised me, and delighted me in the differing chromatic landscape  it offered me to view.
This reflection, Em, and painting it, allowed me to revel in the beauty and treasure of every single moment of the changing parts of the year.
Transformation, particularly whether it snow or fog, creates a jolt in every-day perception.
How beautiful.
So, now we are preparing to set forth to com and see you all for Florence's Christening! 
Uncle Joe is to be 'The God-Father'.
Looking forwards to it, and seeing you all again, mes petites,
Your ever-loving Grand-Mother,

Friday, 30 December 2016

Twilight Reviewed

Dearest Emily,
The twilight of the year, is a traditionally reflective time.
Christmas is over- the festivities meaning for me a mid-winter celebration- a feast, a party to inject joy. A time to bring people together to eat, drink and be merry in the depths of dark, stark days. A chance to cook up and clear the store cupboards of nuts, fruits and preserves-creating space for filling again throughout the coming year, as new life is sown for the birth of spring up ahead.
The shortest of days have passed, and each sunset creeps in a little later.

For me, the beauty in these early sunsets is how they herald an earlier end to my day in the Winter months, sending me burrowing indoors at the Rabbit Hole, to bake tomorrows bread, paint, write and basically hibernate a bit just like Granny Elsie used to do, until the Spring starts springing...
It's easy to do that here on the West-Wight- to go with the flow of the seasons and natures directive.
It suits me very well Em, I like my now five year old routine of rising at 6.30, and going to bed reasonably early too. It makes me feel good, and it somehow makes everything seem easier to do.
Here under beautiful 'Wight-Light' present unless it's the most foggy of days, when the light is dimmed down over sunset and then switched off- it makes it simple to  switch-off too.
Unwinding each evening for a good two hours- writing, reflecting upon the day, and making lists (I won't look at, but help me empty my brain onto paper) seems akin to me to metaphorically put back all of the books I've taken off the shelves in my mind each day, and to put them back in some order.
And so, on New Year's Eve, there's a tradition to do a big reflect on a year's worth of events- big 'books' of the mind, heavy to put back on a shelf, and to decide quite which section to put it in.
Right now, many on the face of things seem simply dreadful- the illness and passing of Grumpa, whom I dearly miss.
To continue the death-thing, there was so much of it this year, luminaries dear, such as David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Alan Rickman, and too many more, along-side all those we did not know caught up in terrible wars, terrorist attacks, accidents and illnesses.
And, other tumultuous events exploded- a referendum to the populace to answer a simple question- yes, or no to being in the European Union- without any ideas of what that might entail, gave a government a 'poisoned chalice' to negotiate uncertainly for the foreseeable future.
Then, a neanderthal narcissistic bigot became head of a world super-power, who seemed to want to be best-buddies with another already heading up another big chunk of the land we call earth.
The stuff of an apocalyptic sic-fi novel Em? No- at the end of 2016, the world spins on some axis, but uncertainty is the only true power it seems.
But, dearest Em, to take the dystopian sic-fi paperback and throw it in the bin, and begin 2017 with a Gaiman-like fairy tale view-point:-
Uncertainty is an allie.
Uncertainty is a reality that holds all of the vital- life-affirming ingredients of the bread we bake each day of our earthly lives.
Hope, faith, optimism, honesty, reflection, morality, compassion, debate- all these emote and question borne up out of uncertainty.
These are all very 'alive' qualities. Each of us, touched by uncertainty, sadness, shock at world events, hold a key that unlocks the secret door to examine our own individual stand-point in the changing landscape around us.
And, I'm certainly hopeful,  that these experiences, if we allow our own uncomfortable truths to surface and be examined, can bring out the best in our questioning and beautiful selves.
We can, awaken and re-kindle compassion daily, explore our own moral- compasses, draw upon our own individual strengths and weaknesses, and see in sharper-focus our own personal humanity.
And, in doing so, we can become an army of souls, dead and alive who share just what really matters to those being humans, alive and vital on this earth today.
However the pivotal events of 2016 play out in the future history books, our own truth today, can be the current 'awakening' of our individual souls to be Master to our depths of reasoning and core-values.
The common-good can be a core of our own individual 'Fairy-Tale'.
Yet, whilst, and if, we do some personal navel-gazing, be certain dear Em, of one thing.
Nature just keeps-on, keeping on.
Night, follows day. Winter is followed by Spring, and there is new growth.
The new growth flourishes, later in the cycle of the year to fade and die-back.
Then, to be re-born.
'Twas ever-thus, Emily, what-so-ever we humans were being busy about!
That, at least, is our certainty.
Deep, and yet, deeper.
I, on the other hand apart from some bouts of navel-gazing, intend to resolve for myself a challenge of not buying any new clothes (or old clothes from the chazzers hereabouts) a fun foray into mending and making as needs or fancy-be.
I'm going to set about Camper-Vanning my little 'Mobile Bookshop' to Fetes, Fairs and Festy's.
Life, and Lipstick dearest Emily.
May the force be with you, and Bel and Flo,
Your ever-loving Grandmother,
GiGi Xxx