Tuesday, 30 December 2014


Dearest Emily,

It was fun talking to you on Christmas eve. I shall need to tell you something about my 'conversation' with Father Christmas (who arrived just out of face-time frame) one day- but that can wait.
It was also charming to see Annabel's delight- again on face-time over her favourite gift- a music-box that played 'La Vie en Rose'- GiGi's favourite piece and sentiment.

Oh, the magical joys for children at Christmas.

Grumpa and I, as I mentioned in my last post- were set to enjoy a well-earned rest- post house and shop move.

Which we did. Our little cattle shed cottage, a completely different environment to Christmasses-past. No little children, no big children (no Monopoly- that Uncle Eddie insists we play every year.)

Even Uncle Joe was away, as you know, because he came to you for his birthday two days ago- and Daddy, Uncle Ed and him painted the town of Tonbridge Wells their own particular shade of vermillion.

And you know what Em, that's just how it should be. We had just what we needed. A rest-ful, cosy and peaceful Christmas, peppered with shop days, Lifeboat for Grumpa, and lunch over with Kyra of Cowes.

Ahh, and I got to finish my December painting. Whilst I was about its painting- I kept thinking about 'Ygdrasil' which was a doodle that a character called Henrietta made constantly throughout Agatha Christie's 'The Hollow'.

Though I haven't read it since I was about thirteen, something about the imaginary wriggly tree seemed aposite.

So, I nick-named it Ygdrasil. It is our Beech tree here in our garden Em- a magnificent old beast of a tree. I'm very fond of it.

As I neared finishing my painting- I looked up Ygdrasil- thinking it only a Christie phenomenon- and here's my findings- (Wiki)

The cosmos in Pagan Norse mythology consist of Nine Worlds that flank a central cosmological tree,Yggdrasil;
Pronounced [ˈyɡːˌdrasilː]) it is an immense tree that is central in Norse cosmology. Yggdrasil is attested in thePoetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In both sources, Yggdrasil is an immense ash tree that is central and considered very holy. The gods go to Yggdrasil daily to assemble. The branches of Yggdrasil extend far into the heavens, and the tree is supported by three roots that extend far away into other locations; one to the wellUrðarbrunnr in the heavens, one to the spring Hvergelmir, and another to the well Mímisbrunnr. Creatures live within Yggdrasil, including the wyrm (dragon) Níðhöggr, an unnamed eagle, and the stags Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór.

Conflicting scholarly theories have been proposed about the etymology of the name Yggdrasill, the possibility that the tree is of another species than ash, the relation to tree lore and to Eurasian shamanic lore, the possible relation to the trees Mímameiðr and LæraðrHoddmímis holt, the sacred tree at Uppsala, and the fate of Yggdrasil during the events of Ragnarök.

Around Yggdrasil, units of time and elements of the cosmology are personified as deities or beings. Various forms of a creation myth are recounted, where the world is created from the flesh of the primordial being Ymir, and the first two humans are Ask and Embla. These worlds are foretold to be reborn after the events ofRagnarök, when an immense battle occurs between the gods and their enemies, and the world is enveloped in flames, only to be reborn anew. There the surviving gods will meet, and the land will be fertile and green, and two humans will repopulate the world.

Hah! More reason to research if ever I needed some.

Here is my picture- I hope you like it.

And so we shall see you here in January Emily- looking forwards to it very much. I hope you have had a marvellous Christmas- see you next year,

your ever-loving Grand-mother, GiGi xxx

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

A Fezziwig Christmas

Dearest Emily,

As Christmas Day approaches, I expect your excitement knows no bounds and Mummy and Daddy rush around with all the preparations for your first Christmas at home together. Uncle Joe is off to his Daddy's and Grumpa and GiGi are quite frankly looking forwards to a much quieter Christmas than historically- here in our new little old house.

Following years of Family Christmasses, this year after moving house and opening a shop- it figured as a welcome break for Grumpa and I. Fast approaching, we made vague plans for Christmas lunch over at Cowes (a first to have Christmas Dinner away) and carried on with the businesses at hand.

Then, on Saturday night we set off for two parties (two-Em, and we rarely go out!)

A busy day at the shop- a quick turnaround and out- all the way down the lane to a neighbours house! It's the first time we have met many of them. In this quiet dark peaceful little valley, at this time of year- without any street lighting we are more likely to come face to face with a fox- rather than a human. So, in we go, and are warmly welcomed by a sea of cheerful faces, mince pies and mulled wine accompanying. Almost immediately, I was introduced to three charming children, aged between seven and eleven, who announced that they had just got off the ferry and were about to sing carols- and would we join in please. A few numbers later, I turned round to see the whole room engaged in 'The twelve days of Christmas' acting out seven swans a-swimming, six geese-a-laying etc. It would have been impossible to feel anything other than welcomed and involved in this yearly tradition (Some things never change Em- as I read about the residents here-abouts in a book dated 1897- 'the people revel in freedom and unconventionality here'.) Off we went, having sung and chatted and felt very cheery to the second venue on our little junkette. A Pagan Yule this time. Once again- the welcome, this time accompanied by home-made Meade, and soup,  and decorated pine-cone gifts was the same. 

Two very different parties, but the very same sentiment.

And dear Em, that is the story of my post. Christmas should be everything it is to you and Annabel- magical, exciting and exhausting for your parents! As you grow up things change and evolve. Grumpa and I now have a Christmas holiday together- glad of a few days well-earned rest. 

Christmas to me now means a warm and cheery celebration in the middle of Winter- when the days are short and the nights dark and long. A mid-point before the awakening of Spring, where we use up food in the store-cupboards, visit family and friends- old and new, make fancy gifts and trimmings to dress-up our daily landscapes.

Here is a passage from Dickins Christmas Carol- that sums it up for me this year-

Clear away! There was nothing they wouldn't have cleared away, or couldn't have cleared away with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done in a minute. Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public life forevermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ballroom as you would desire to see on a winter's night.
In came a fiddler with a music book, and went up to the lofty desk and made an orchestra of it and tuned like fifty stomach aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Misses Fezziwig, beaming and lovable. In came the six followers whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In came the housemaid with her cousin the baker. In came the cook with her brother's particular friend the milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from his master, trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress; in they all came, any-how and every-how. Away they all went, twenty couple at once; hands half round and back again the other way; down the middle and up again; round and round in various stages of affectionate grouping, old top couple always turning up in the wrong place; new top couple starting off again, as soon as they got there; all top couples at last, and not a bottom one to help them.

When this result was brought about the fiddler struck up "Sir Roger de Coverley." Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top couple, too, with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pairs of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance and had no notion of walking.

But if they had been thrice as many, oh, four times as many, old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs. Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that's not high praise, tell me higher and I'll use it. A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig's calves. They shone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn't have predicted at any given time what would become of them next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig had gone all through the dance, advance and retire; both hands to your partner, bow and courtesy, corkscrew, thread the needle, and back again to your place; Fezziwig cut so deftly that he appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again with a stagger.

When the clock struck eleven the domestic ball broke up. Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door, and shaking hands with every person individually, as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas!. 

Happy Christmas darling Emily and Annabel- your Grand=parents shall be Mr and Mrs Fezziwig this year!

Your ever-loving Grand-mother, GiGi xxx

Friday, 12 December 2014

Mrs Dipity

Dearest Emily,

When I began your 'Tales from the Bookroom' blog, it was fired by my experiences working in The Book shop in Yarmouth. I was constantly surprised, delighted and mystified by the serendipitous alchemy that books in a shop, and the people who desire them produced. Add into the mix some Classic FM, and a zen-like happiness and ever-winding trail of unexpected events seemed to unfurl.

So, dear Em, it has been for myself. The tangents that I've set myself off on- fired up by books and their life-style- have all culminated in my own Bookshop/cafe. Who knew!

It's such fun Em, books to sell, and meeting the interesting people who want them. Plus coffee and cake on tap.  However, an unexpected problem has occurred. Apparently- I am not Mrs Middleton.

There have been so many times that I have been told I don't look like her- and I shall simply have to aquiesce. So here she is Emily- introducing 'Mrs Middleton' (or- as I prefer to call her 'Mrs Dipity'.)

I shall remain, your ever-loving Grand-mother,

GiGi xxx

Friday, 21 November 2014

Hearing the grass grow, and the Squirrel's heartbeat

Dearest Em,

Looking around and thinking about the subject for my November paint challenge, I was as usual uncertain. It seemed very easy to find August- the hot summer and the rich tapestry hereabouts meant a very quick decision. September also came in a flash whilst on my bicyclette travelling homewards. October a little harder in thought- but again the opportunity presented itself en route to work.

October's piece became all about the beginnings of Autumn- as the climate has been pretty temperate, and the oranges and reds were just starting to overtake the lush greens of the landscape. As I have cycled along the same path since, it has made me notice all the more, the subtle daily changes as the season progresses.

November, at least to my mind- should be harder. Historically November and February have been my least favoured months of the year. They held for me a kind of not-very-much-ness, even here by the wild and windy coast- I have to admit. The poem for November that always came to my mind was 'No', by Thomas Hood.

Now, adding in a double-move challenge to our new little house and my new shop- leaving it to the first of November and what chance might show me- was causing a little dilemma. I've committed myself to twelve paintings, painted at the time I see them, and I don't want to fall at the fourth fence because the practicalities of life get in the way.

Lucky me then, as the opportunity to cycle to the Bookroom was afforded by the weather. As I turned left off of Blackbridge road and onto Afton Nature reserve, I wished I had worn wellies, not suede boots as I had to hop off and walk through the muddier bits of path. Then, there was a tree that had fallen almost across my tracks- so I hopped off again. Daddy did his 'Tough-Mudder' challenge recently Em, this is GiGi's equivalent.

Anyhow- as I squelched through the mud with my heavy-framed 1970's bike- all of a sudden a Squirrel ran across the path in front of me. I whipped out my camera as he shot up the fallen tree and I snapped away.

Here he is...

He even looks as though he is looking at me!

At the Bookroom, I trawled the shelves for books about Red Squirrels. It is a widely known fact that they are still surviving on the Isle of Wight, though the Grey ones have overtaken the species in the rest of the British Isles. I've glimpsed him before- and another further along the Causeway, but never been able to capture one on camera.

Let's name him 'Squirrel Afton' Emily, and imagine him a descendent of Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin, his brother Twinkleberry, and his cousins, who rafted over to Owl Island to collect nuts.

I hope we see him again Emily, let's search on one of your visits.

For me, and my project, I've discovered a few things.

1. Leaving my subject 'to chance'- prevails again, sureing up a sense to trust what comes up before me.

2. I shall eschew 'No' by the good Mr Hood as my choice of words about November. Instead- these words from Mary Ann in 'Middlemarch' by George Eliot summarise better my journey;

"If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heartbeat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the best of us walk about well wadded with stupidity."

Well that has told me! I shall trust what December offers. Now, back on with the unpacking and decorating.

Your ever-loving Grand-mother, GiGi xxxx

Monday, 27 October 2014

On Swans, and a Curious Tale about a Hat.

Dearest Em,

I did you another picture, and that is what this post was going to be all about. Here it is:-

Every year, since we first came to visit in 2005 come Spring-time, there's a new brood of swans at the Causeway twixt Freshwater and Yarmouth.

I always marvel at the little new family- the proud graceful Mother and Father, and the fluffy dark bundles of babyness- that look like they've slept upside down under water, and then rough dried in a tumble drier.

They are anomalies these little Cygnets. All brand-new and fluffy and rough around the edges, the last thing you'd think is that they would glide effortlessly and gracefully like their parents. I'd expect a bit of wobbly 'trying', like learning to walk, maybe veering off hither and thither, plumage all a go-go, only to be brought back by graceful mama. But no, it seems they are born to glide majestically behind their parents.

As the season's progress we see their development into gleaming white grown-ups. In your picture Em, they are teenagers really. Almost ready to flee the nest, but still under mummy's wing.

It never fails to amaze me Emily, how nature replicates this scene with different generations, year after year. It is both comforting and delightful.

I read 'The Ugly Duckling' when I was little. I read it to Daddy, and Uncle Ed, and Joe too. We shall read it together next time you are here. When I was small, there was an actor called Danny Kaye, who made a record ( a big black disc thing with a hole in the middle and grooves that played sound when it was put onto a turn-table with a special needle to sew the sound together.) This record had 'The Ugly Duckling' on it, and I remember my favourite bit when the 'duckling' realises he's not in fact from the same pack.

"Me a Swan? Oh, go on!" I used to say this over and over, and drive my parents potty with it.

The record continued, with another Hans Christian Anderson tale- 'The Emporer's New Clothes,'
a story that fascinated me- and horrified my sensibilities at the same time. How embarrassing', to suddenly be seen in your undies. Oh my days, the shame!

I was reminded of the story as a grown-up in 1984, when I began working for John Galliano on his first ever fashion show out of college. As a young model of 23- I suddenly felt I had become ancient, and that the little crows feet appearing at the corner of my eyes, were veritable tram-lines and that I was coming to the end of my modelling shelf-life. I thought it time to look for a 'proper' job, so when Mr Galliano asked me if I'd knit 12 designs for a show- I thought I'd give it a go.

I had no idea of what was to come.

As soon as the music began and the lights came up- the theatre in front of me excited and amazed me.
'The Ludic Game' became fashion history. No-one had ever seen the like. The genius (I don't use the word lightly) of John's skill in design, pattern-cutting and his magician's air of theatricality in the show, transported our work into a lyrical, but crazy at the same time- other world.

I felt overwhelmed and ignited. I can't explain it exactly Emily, but I knew it was important.

And it was- an hour and a half later- John and I were rushed over to the selling tent- dressed in two outfits we'd grabbed off some poor models.

As we arrived, the flashbulbs went off. Two knackered workers (John looking cool- me looking like I was in fancy dress.) The stand was mobbed. There were no clothes- just line-drawings. The clothes were still on the models at the show.

Yet still, the buyers ordered- vast quantities of the clothes that weren't there.

I felt like the Emperor, without the clothes, but without the shame.

I shall end with a curious tale about a hat.

I may have mentioned in passing Emily, that we are moving next week. I've also just signed a lease on a new shop. In the incessant editing that has taken up much of the last six weeks, I've been selling lots of my old clothes at Twice as Nice in Newport. Old Weardowney, Establishment, Galliano- you name it- I'm editing it.

Goodness knows why though Emily, when I spied a hat that I'd designed in 2005, and had been mass-marketed by some chain or other- I decided to part with some of my winnings and buy it.

I plonked it on my head, and that evening went with Grumpa for our friday constitutional. Two hours at the Red Lion, dining Al-fresco whilst the weather still affords.

Happy in my hat- but Grumpa none the wiser, as said hat, just looked like one I've had kicking around for ever. Out from the pub, appears a dimply smiley, cheeky blonde girl dressed in jeans, converses and a t-shirt.

"Oooh, I love your hat. Where did you get it?" I started to explain with a slightly confused Grumpa, who probably thought I was making it up- as to his mind it was my own old Weardowney label.

"Pleease let me try it on?!" I deliberated, and warned her that if I did, she may not run off with it- because I would chase her. "Pleease?!"

I acquiesced. She looked lovely in it. Her boyfriend said "How much did you pay for it?"

I said £12.00. He said he'd give me twenty.

I thought out-loud and said I was £25 short on the deposit for my new shop- and nabbed the twenty.

"Where's your shop?"said cheeky-girl, becoming in her new hat. I told her. "Give us a job?!". I might just do that, and we can share hat happiness.

A lovely lady waiting for a cab to take her home was chuckling. "Thank-you, I shall enjoy dining out on that story. Where's your shop?"

I told her.

"Oh yes" she said as her friends joined her.

"We heard all about that, this morning. Nice to meet you".

And that is how it is hereabouts dear Em. 

I wouldn't have it any other way.

See you and Annabel soon, big hugs and kisses,

Your ever-loving Grand-mother, GiGi xxxx

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Name of the Rose

Dearest Emily,

As part of 'edit the five bedroomed house to move into a two-bedroomed former cattle-shed', from a house that's become the storage for a collective of stuff (work-wise and three previous homes,) a yard sale seemed like a plan.

So, Sunday played host to laying out our tout in the garage, whilst various people carried it away, after crossing my palm with a bit of silver. I'm quite enjoying the redistribution process actually Em, as you know I'm a bit of a car-boot sale fan- and the advantage to a yard sale of your own stuff- is that you can't be tempted to buy anyone else's. Also- it was good to see some familiar faces I've not caught up with in a while. So, coffee on, much chatter and less to move. Job's a good 'un.

As you approach the garage here Em, there's a veritable jungle of shrubbery on the left. That, and a rather lovely window I've always been fond of. It must have been salvaged from elsewhere in the house when the garage was added in the 1930's. No-one (including ourselves) in the rental-recent past of the property, has had the inclination to do more than cut-back the overgrowth. I dislike Sycamore's intensely, and they are taking over here in particular. However, in amongst the Sycamore advance, a resolute rose has withstood. All summer, it has offered up just one magnificent bloom at a time. As soon as that one dies, up comes another to take its place.

It is a scented rose, and I like it a lot. I have determined to find out its species. It's likely to be a very old variety, considering the lack of planting, and how the beds are still laid in a Victorian fashion. Strange little Chinamen ornaments were found in the shrubbery too, along with enough stones to have once comprised a summer-house. So, you can see my logic Em, 'tis an owlde rose. I shall continue to study my books, and see if I can name it.

In the mean-time, I'm not the only one to have noticed its solitary beauty amongst the invaders. Two lovely friends remarked on it at the yard sale- and advised how to make a cutting from it. I shall, and will see if my fingers have become green. I'd like to plant it next to Uncle Joe's new cabin.

However, I may not be successful in this mission. I decided the rose most worthy of remembering- so I have painted it for you Emily. Here it is.

Artistic license has allowed the removal of the hated Sycamores, and the sand-stone to be less crumbled. La Vie en Rose Em!

Saw a lovely pic of Annabel on facebook- how she is growing!

See you at Norton Green soon, sleep well.

Your ever-loving Grand-mother, GiGi xxxx

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

A bit of Chick-Lit

Dearest Em,

As you know Grumpa and I tend not to agree on the idea of keeping chickens. As of yet, I have not managed to persuade him- and therefore delight in telling this story at any given opportunity.

I was standing in Sainsburys when the phone rang. It was Grumpa calling from Lifeboat practise to say he was on his way home.

"I bought a chicken f...." At this point I was interrupted by chastisement.

"Good grief- at least we should have discussed this."

"I just thought i...

Again the interruption "You always do this. It's always what you want, without any consideration for me."

I was rather bewildered at this point- as up to the previous Sunday a roast chicken, with all the trimmings had been going down a treat.

As I opened and closed my mouth and headed for the veg section, Grumpa lived up to his nick-name and I held the phone away from my ear. Eventually the white noise subsided enough for me to cut in.

"Do you fancy broccoli with it?"

There was a stunned silence. Not to my ears normal, as broccoli is nectar of the Gods to Grumpa.

"Carrots then, perhaps?"

The phone went dead. I was confused.

When he called again- a mixture of sheepishness and post-helpless giggles, he told me that the crew had been watching this outburst, and he was trying to live it down- without success.

I wonder if it would have been the opposite conversation had I been actually buying a real live chicken for a desired hen-house. Once I'd stopped laughing, and thinking "God did that" I paid for my purchases and considered visiting a neighbouring farm.

As yet, I haven't carried out this plan.

In the mean-time, back at Norton Green, the little Red Hen's run wild and free across the road and back again. Here's one of them.

Good-night for now Em,

See you in Norton Green soon- I shall introduce you to the chickens!

Your ever-loving Grand-mother, 

GiGi xxxx

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Keeping the Perspective

Dearest Emily,

Sitting in the Bookroom two weeks ago now, I was idling through a bit of Ruskin- as you do. I'd always found him so intense, but the fact he wrote 'The King of the Golden River' (arguably the very first English children's fairy story) has endeared him to me a bit more- and after all he did go mad- so it was before all that he probably did have some good things to say. So, I was persevering.
I read a paragraph on the Pre-Raphaelites- that's all it was- just a paragraph summing them up. He said that their truth was to paint what they saw, in situ and at the time. Ok, there must have been some very long sittings- and given the flattened perspective, well things must've subjectively looked all in focus at once, but all that aside.

I decided to adopt this with my colouring-in's (as Grumpa calls them) and paint one picture each month, from something I see that month.

Here's October;

It's my cycle ride to work down the Causeway Em, with Yarmouth in the distance on the left. I love this journey, which to my mind I call the rush hour, as it's so different to the journey's to and from work in London.

Though only nine days ago, I'm struck by how much Autumn has advanced. October the first was sunny and still (today blowing a hoolie and two recent electrical storms this week.) I love the onset of Autumn and how the colours change to tawny hues. How quickly those trees and bushes will now change from their lush greenery, and the browns and oranges will win as we head towards Winter.

It's always beautiful at this spot Emily (as long as its not flooded, and you can't get down it, and when the wind doesn't blow you off your bicycle.) So, I'm savouring each mild Autumn day and the opportunity to cycle down my rush hour way.

Soon, it'll be my trusty (most of the time) Moggie, and time to put the heating on in the shop.

As we pack up our house here at the Bay, to move to a lovely little Hamlet half way between Freshwater and Yarmouth (the other side of the river Yar here on the left) I'll have to look for another rush hour route next Spring when the bike comes out again.

I'm looking forwards to the changes ahead. I've loved the Bay, and discovering so much here. Norton Green has its own peculiar charm. We've nick-named it 'Hobbiton' tucked away off the not very beaten track. 

My next colouring in will probably be from thereabouts as we're set to be moved in by then.

Looking forwards to seeing you all for tea in our new (very old- used to be a cattle-shed) Thatched cottage.

Your ever-loving Grand-mother,

GiGi xxx

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

All in a Day's Work

Dearest Emily,

Lovely talking to you on Sunday, hope you helped Daddy with his packing for Singapore. I thought I'd tell you about my working day...

Well Em, you know how it can be with all the traffic making you late for work.

"Hallo Ducks" I said to some fellow commuters,

Cyclepath Selfie along the way,

Eventually I found a parking space.

Good to see some local titles in the window!

My desk is always full.

After all this stress and hassle Em- would you believe it- Customers come in! Sometimes Em, they speak in a language I can hardly understand- and I have to translate.
For instance- in comes a chap- long black hair tied in a ponytail and he says-

"Arlo. D'yee take bowks?
Mize dear ole ma doid three year ago now. Shewa nointy free, shewa.
Oiz only jurst gottit in me ta sell 'er bowks.
Oiz frum Debbun, oiz sayled in andz gotta free day winder.
Oi duzzent loike readin bowks.
Er add lowds a furst dishuns.
Z yer boss a fair man?"

At this point Em- he tells me there are robbers in Devon- zoiks!

"Oiz fourt yer bozzuz a fair man- coz uz drawin a woight rabbit"

Well you  can't say fairer than that Em- and then he said 

"Will eee recognoise me when oi call im?"

I suggested he would.

I ate my lunch, sold some more books, finished the White Rabbit, and wearily shut up shop at the ridiculous time of 4.35 pm- unpaid overtime Emily.

Back on the cyclepath-

Flippin' rush hour!

It's enough to make you see red sometimes...

Got home, walked the dogs. Then a man came round and bought all the old lego (well you did say you didn't want it Em.)

So, after a hard day at work, and a guilty conscience for selling the lego- I'm all for bed.

Now just ask Daddy if his day is as stressful.

Sleep tight,

Your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxxx

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

September Serendipity

Dearest Emily,

Cycling home from work two weeks ago now- I parked my trusty bike whilst opening and closing the Mill House gate. As I went to pick her up- I looked across the estuary, and entranced by the light= took a snap on my phone.

Deciding that this should be September's painting project- I set to work at it on my Bookshop days. When I finished it this afternoon Emily, I realised something. You know what I was telling you about at the weekend about moving house?  Well, the house we are moving to nestles in the little valley tinted orange in my picture!
When Grumpa saw it- he called it 'The Past, Present and Future'. Uncle Joe called it 'Serendipity'.

They're both right- so call it whichever you prefer. I do so love September Em, especially with the fabulous Indian Summer we seem now to have as a regular feature. Swinburne calls it 'Kind September' in the poem below. I think that sums it up rather well;

Hail, kind September, friend whose grace
Renews the bland year's bounteous face
Through many a land that laughs with love
With largess given of corn and wine
Of thee and all the heaven above,
More fruitful found than all save thine
Whose skies fulfil with strenuous cheer
The fervent fields that knew thee near.
Over and out Em, hope you are having fun!
Your ever-loving Grandmother,
GiGi xxx

Thursday, 11 September 2014

GiGi and the Cat- Heaven on Earth

"THIS IS 'Heaven on Earth'" said GiGi, to the black cat. 

A ball of wool dropped from her lap, she caught it and resumed her train of thought and her knitting.

"Walking along the Causeway at sunset, Storm, the sky was all oranges and reds."

The cat sat on her lap, making progress impossible. 

"I was struck by the beauty of the magnificent sunset over the Mill-pond, and diamond-like sparkles dancing across the water. Maybe I had died, and gone to heaven!"

She closed her eyes in the afternoon sunshine. Following a busy day, before the Bored Meeting, a rest could do no harm.

"'Indian Summer'." GiGi and the cat dozed in the sunshine, a breeze ruffling the Tree overhead.

      *              *             *               *              *              *                *              *             *           

 Twilight fell, a bitter almond smell made GiGi glance at a cloud imagining it a woman, in a shawl, and billowing skirts. She blinked. The wind blew open a door, she couldn’t remember the inside, she must be confused. 

'Twasn't brillig, as the Slithey Toves,
All growled and gambled and were grave,
All whimsy were her Borogoves,
And the Home-Rath's dismayed'

She remembered The Meeting and floated along toward the hallway. Feeling dizzy, she decided a walk in garden, in the normal way, might help.

                                                                 * * * * * * * * * *

THE SMELL filled GiGi's nostrils again- she attributed it to musk from the many roses. She  couldn’t remember so many. Thoughts became slippery fishes as she tried to catch them.
"I’d see better" said GiGi, "From the Down- here's the path- No." she tried another "Well, then this goes there" So she went on, always returning to the house.
There was the Down, behind a flower bed, with a Lily gracefully putting daisies into pots on tables. A 'slippery-fish thought' regarding a cat escaped.
"You’ve seen her?" Lily asked as the roses became girls- dancing up the lane, skipping feet dancing round them.
“ The exercise took her!" Lily and rosebuds scattered across the Down.
Transparent clouds formed the fleeting figure of a woman. 

  "Beware the 'Wareofall" my Girl!
The mouth that snipes, the claws that snatch,
Beware the Monstrous Crow, and Shun,
The frumious Canallsnatch!"

A large tree stood in front as the sound of flapping wings filled the air. Something slithered from the Tower. A bird flew up, carrying something. At the trunk a creature was breathing heavily and sweating.
"It's the Monstrous Crow!" He looked over his shoulder, disappearing into a puddle. 
From the branches a toad stared and GiGi suddenly felt chilly. He belched.
A Vulture appeared. "That’s my Slithey Tove. Ethan Safertie Pseudolar is in muddy waters. I’m Harpy Lapette. Come into the Purgatree. See things differently! Join me for supper. Your eyes, are all I need. Got to keep my figure!"
Just then a tail, flicked behind the trunk.

Safertie shouted; "Don't talk with the Cautionary Tail! His words cost a thousand pounds." 

"Wasting time Ethan. I’ll keep my figure. Slithey!”

GiGi couldn't see any Monstrous Crow. 

'She took her Besum Broom in hand,
Long time the vexome for she sought-
So rested she, by the Purgatree,
And stood a while in thought'

SHE CAME to a field, and walked, wondering, what her thoughts were until she realised they were a Rabbit’s marching backwards and forwards, shaking a pocket watch. "Franklin D. Rarebit. We haven't got time. Know where you’re going? If you don't, any road will do.Use this!” He tapped his brow, skipping away.

A finger post stating ‘Tweedleton, The Wilderness’ was carried by a strange little man studying a book.

He held the book turning gilt pages. "Bought this! Had to get out of the Wilderness, I’ll read  you some!"

“Its getting dark-"

"You like poetry? It’s the bother again, bother!" he pulled at his beard, sorrowfully.

 "The Sun was Shining!"

"If it's long" GiGi cut in  "Would you-"

Tweedleton began,

"The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all its might,
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright.
This was odd because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily
Because she thought the sun
Had no business to be there
After the day was done-
'It's very rude of him' she said
'To come and spoil the fun"

The sea was wet as wet could be
Although the sand was dry.
You could not see a cloud because
No cloud was in the sky

The Plumber was a Lifeboat man

                                                            "Find your broomstick!”

Remembering the Rabbit- she didn't know where she was going- so nothing mattered. 'The Plumber was a Lifeboat man', came to mind as she saw the Bay. Screwing up her eyes, she saw two figures, in a green boat.  

The wind blew something over her. The lady appeared. " Are you, the lady from the House?" She caught the shawl as she spoke.

"Ye-es" said the woman "or the Queen. I’m Mrs Cameraman-it isn't my notion of the thing.”

"I'll do my best to address you"

"It’s neither here, nor there!" groaned the lady. “It’s my house, all out of temper. It will keep on, until someone does something." She flickered pale 

 " Let me help?" GiGi looked at the shawl. “your shawl?"

"Wear it, it's chilly". 

An Angel appeared." There’s Alice! She's here to make things better." said GiGi

"Better-eh?" the woman shrieked. The Angel sang "Beetter, beetterrr...." and disappeared.

                                 *     *      *      *     *     *      *     *      *     *      *

GiGi pulled the shawl tightly, and came to a shop- inside it her older self, and Grand-daughter Emily sat knitting.

And as in faffing thought, she stood,
The wareofall, with eyes aflame,
Came baffling through the tulgy-wood,
And murmured as it came!

One two! And through and through
The besum-broom went snicker-snack!

A bottle of Champagne rolled along, knocking GiGi over, shouting 'heeelp!' as a Magpie, pecked it upright.

GiGi stood up, and waited for an apology.

"It's very provoking" the bottle said, "to be stared at very!"

"I", began GiGi... "expected you to apologise!"

"People expect the wrong things!" 

GiGi didn't respond and strung the poem together;

Twasn't brillig, as the Slithey Toves,
All growled and gambled, and were grave.
All whimsy were her Borogoves,
And the Home-Rath's dismayed.

"Beware the 'Wareofall" my Girl!
The mouth that snipes, the claws that snatch,
Beware the Monstrous Crow, and Shun,
The frumious Canallsnatch!"

She took her Besum Broom in hand,
Long time the vexome foe she sought-
So rested she, by the Purgatree,
And stood awhile in thought

And as in faffing thought, she stood,
The wareofall, with eyes aflame,
Came baffling through the tulgy-wood,
And murmured as it came!

One two! And through and through
The besum-broom went snicker-snack!

The man spoke:- "State your Business!"

" I don’t think its any business of"...

"You don't think!" interrupted the man. "I am Don Churchillion. I think, so - should you!".

The bird spoke-

"I’m Litany Magpie. I; know my Business, Churchillion's, Tweedleton's, D Rarebit, Harpy. The Tove,  Safertee, Cautionary Tail, Lily, Rosebuds, Daisies, Mrs Cameraman's, Alice’s. I, know everybody’s Business."

GiGi interjected. "Then you know my Business?"

Don interrupted. “Let’s get back to your remark".

"I‘m afraid I don't remember" said GiGi.

“ Being afraid of remarks" said Don "Churchillion's DON’T DO. I’m descended from a Great Leader. Mayhap you'll never see another. I'm not proud, you may shake hands. I have Churchillian’s ears. If I need answers, we get them. Recently, we were in cabinet, the numbers didn't add up, a funny Business".

Litany interjected " I know your Business.”

 GiGi pleaded “what IS my Business?"

They shook heads. "If you had numbers and took some, what is left?"

"Nonsense" said GiGi trying again "My Business?"

"It’s to enable The Queen!" They left, Litany whispering “A dim one!”

GiGi was startled by shouting:- " Ahoy! GiGi, I presume?"

A White Knight, tumbled off of his horse, and re-mounted. "I’m here to help you".

Smiling, the series repeated, the horse stopping (frequently) and the Knight tumbling off either side. GiGi walked at a safe distance.

"You’ve not had much practice?"

" Unintention’s the problem!" said the Knight as explanation. "The important thing is to see you through the wood. Unintention’s always been like this- so I put a bell on his Bridle". The horse's name was Unintention, GiGi gleaned."Does the bell help?" 

"That’s clever- like a carrot and donkey- the sound makes him look and others hear him coming!"

Pleased with himself, GiGi bit her lip.

"I have clever ideas. You saw me looking thoughtful, I was inventing a song- I shall sing it"

 GiGi hesitated. "Is it long?" 

"Yes" said the Knight " and very beautiful. Everybody says- it brings tears to their eyes, or ..."

"Or what?" said GiGi.

"Or it doesn't. It’s called 'Ways and Means', or 'Portals of Fate' or, 'Passing through the Gate'."

Beating time with one hand, as if to music in his head, he began...

"I'll tell thee everything I know. There's little to relate.
All about Mrs Cameraman,
A-passing through a gate.

Where are you Mrs C, I said,
And why not in your crib?
Her answer trickled through my head,
Like water through a sieve.

There she was among the skies,
She couldn't reach the gate.
In the House they couldn't see,
They helped to seal her fate.

Tell her once, OR tell her twice,
They’re in the 'Purgatreeeee!' 
Take the broom, look up at the moon,
Sweep the house 'thrice cleeen!'

And now, if 'er I put,
My fingers into glue,
I weep for it reminds me so,
Of the Mrs C, I used to know,
Whose eyes, like cinders all-aglow,
Who rocks her body to and fro.
Who mutters mumblings sweet and low,
As if her mouth is full of dough,
It all now seems long ago.

He turned to the woods. "There, over that brook, and home, but you'll wait to see me off? “

"Yes," said GiGi: "thanks for the song."

"You didn't cry."

"It won't take long to see him off," GiGi thought, "there he goes!" She waved and bounded across the brook.

* * * * * * * * *

"Her besum broom went snicker-snack,
Through hall, parlour, and stair,
Sweeping from the floor to the chimney-stack!

A broom and goose wings hurtled down towards her. "Alice's" said a voice- “Put them on!"

A youth appeared by the entrance, wearing jeans, top hat, and holding a walking cane.

"Your Business?" he enquired.

"Cleaning," said GiGi

The door was opened, by a cat, dressed as a Butler.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Clasping her broom, GiGi swept upstairs, opening windows as the wind picked up. She swept the rooms, dust, sparkling in the half-light. Everything felt energised as she descended the staircase. Storm led her into the Meeting.

Two figures approached the gate.

“Glad to be here." said Mrs Cameraman

" Mr Carroll, made me a Queen. In my book, we never say 'Off with their heads!’ Not my style. I never wanted to leave! I returned- but the House was dark- and I was 'exercised'.”

The tea-things, flew from the table, candlesticks shooting stars into the air... 

GiGi and the Cat approached the Bay. "This has been your mischief, hasn't it?"

Storm answered "You mentioned Heaven on Earth. Nonsense helped you make sense. Purgatree is for those who cannot see. After suffering, most understand. Some don't.
You need faith in Heaven on Earth, then you'll never need Purgatree. 

You changed the air around- it had attracted those in Purgatree.

Good-bye- I need to reel someone back in."

                                                 *       *        *          *       *         *        

The moon was slowly winning a silver victory 
and conquering realm after realm of Sand, Down and Sea.

Anne Thackeray at Freshwater Bay.

GiGi gazed at the sea as though awakening from a Looking Glass Dream, the moonlight turning into sunrise.

A boat sailed in from the horizon. Its’ name- 'P.GREENE' with Grumpa and Storm inside! 

Had Grumpa found his own way to Heaven on Earth?

Still wearing Alice's Wings, she exclaimed:-

 "Am I dreaming this, or is this dreaming-me?"

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

My Jabberwocky

Dearest Emily,

I've drawn you a Jabberwocky. I hope you like him.

First told at a party in Whitby to his cousins the Wilcoxes in 1855 at Whitburn, the Jabberwocky was based on a local legend 'The Tale of the Lambton Worm'. He made his way seventeen years later into 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' and then became the muse for 'The Snark'.

Do you think he is scary enough Em?

Your ever-loving Grand-mother, Gigi xxxx

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Lady in Red

Dearest Emily,

What a lovely afternoon we had with you and Annabel and Mummy. You did eat a great deal of cherry tomatoes though- quite amazing!

Do you remember when we went paddling at Freshwater Bay, a rather striking lady in a red bathing costume crossed our path.

I remember noticing her as she made her way past us to go for a swim.

As she got closer- I realised that she wasn't just a beautiful woman- she was an amazing woman probably in her seventies!

When I got home- after you'd all gone back to Cowes, I did my usual download of snaps.

There she was behind us heading out to sea. As graceful as she was coming towards us- so she was from behind.

So I've painted us three as a reminder.

If that's how age can add to you Em, there's much to look forwards too...

(Ok, for you that's a looong way off- but for me a twenty year beacon!)

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Roses grow on you

Dearest Emily,

Looking forwards to seeing you and Annabel tomorrow. I've been working the End Papers for Annabel's book this week- and it's all about the rose here...

'I am here at the gate, alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
and the musk of the roses blown' 

                                                                                     Tennyson- Maud

In Annabel's book, as you know- the flowers can talk- so I thought that just for fun, I'd do the end-papers with you as the red rose Em, and Annabel the white. That's as far as it goes in our little modern-day parody Em. But in the parody we based it on, Lewis Carroll used the 'York and Lancaster' roses first in Alice in Wonderland, and then again in Through the Looking Glass- in the Garden of Live Flowers.
Back then, these Rosa Gallicas were all the rage. Pre-dating the Hybrid Tea, Perpetual varieties were trained along briar hedges (like the sweet-briar that Julia Margaret Cameron had as a hedge along the Gate Lane side of her house, and which she was criticised for growing as people would pick them- to which she retorted that that was what she wanted.)
Many varieties of  the most attractive Gallicas had been first bred at Versailles, and the fashionable Victorians did love their flourishes of flowers. 

A bit closer to home, your family love them too. Cousin Gary was meant to provide GiGi and Grumpa's wedding with a bouquet of red and white roses from his garden, being an avid grower, like his dad- but 2007 was a very wet summer. Cousin Gary didn't tell me anything- he just provided a lovely bouquet (more of which later.)

Last month we went to his mum and dad's diamond wedding, as you know.  Auntie Ellen and Uncle Donnie (he a great lover of growing roses) were married with garlands and bouquets of York and Lancaster roses. Their bridesmaids wore green.
So, when their diamond celebrations were planned, Cousin Gary and family set out to honour the memory of the day- with the same references...

A fabulous day was had by all, in one of the most exquisitely charming manor houses I have ever seen, owned by Donnie's brother Phillip.

Oh, and my bouquet Em? Can you keep a secret??

Cousin Gary didn't let me down with the memorable flowers. He got up early, and picked them from Tennyson's garden at Farringford!

See you both tomorrow for Strawberries and cream, and Red Queen biscuits!

Your ever-loving Grandmother,

GiGi xxxx