Bloomsbury Blooms

I have always been inspired by the softly colourful Art and gardens of the Bloomsbury group.

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You might trace my love of decoration and multi dimensional creative interests to the way these Artists lived and worked.
See the source imageDuncan Grant (1885-1978)Still-Life with Dahlias in a Glass

For further reading click on this link.

What was the Bloomsbury group? | National Trust

Many paintings combined a Post-Impressionist approach to light and expressive brushwork, a sense of emotional weight influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite Artists and a painterly palette reminiscent of early Renaissance art. Like their gardens, painted furniture, walls and canvases mismatched harmoniously with soft chalky hues of dusty colours.

Our gardens over the last year have become so precious, if we are lucky to own a tiny bit of earth to plant in, even a window box , to see new life emerging has given us hope and a sense of not having to control all outcomes with clinical new life skills . Pops of colour and brilliant shades of green prove that the world is still turning and nature still knows what its doing.

Gardens can now once again become our sanctuaries where we share our lockdown accomplishments or simply sit with friends, blinking, slightly disbelieving that it is allowed. Did all that really happen this year?

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To pay homage to creating art in gardens everywhere, I bring you a few of our friends patches of paradise, and some of the artwork they do. After 18 months of online sharing first daily and then weekly, our little art group managed a foray into our own Bloomsbury set . It was heaven. Allan’s beautiful garden was the perfect setting and the sun played ball too. !

Here you can immerse yourself in the Bloomsbury site . Click the button. If travelling is not an option you can at least purchase some rather nice tea-towels online..

And if that isn’t an option either, then gather your attic essentials and an attitude of languid creative calm…

Who needs an art movement.. You got this already..

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A rare drawing time outside with no wind!

Wherever you are, I hope you are cramming in some much needed sunshine and visual joy exploring hedgerows, fields and your own backyards. And take a moment to wonder at all it’s haphazard, wild, colour clashing glory.

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Whilst wearing your best kimono of course !

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A little late but happy Summer Solstice

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It’s already raining today, all the more reason to enjoy natures paint box while we can. Cheers! xxx

With Love Liz at the beach hut x

Getting rid of the old.



Emerging like dusty blinking cave people…

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I don’t know about you but I am in a strange place with my stuff. Haven’t we had to get far more bored with our things recently!?! In our case, the house has been chewed and nibbled to extremes and needs a tv makeover, thanks to the wonder who is Bear.

Having lived in houses large and small, cosy and grand, but always creative, organised and usually pretty clean, no matter how much stuff there actually was; it was always pretty much in its place; so to see mass destruction has been hard! But, in the ebb and flow of life, there is a natural way of stuff.

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It comes to us, like a tide, washes up on our shores, people give us things, we own them, take them in, pluck them from the swirling seas, treasure and cherish them or we watch as the shoreline recedes and the stuff goes away again. Back to others, back to charity, turned into something else. It is just stuff.

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When we look around us at all that we own do we see our achievements and fruition of our hoards? A stack of accomplishments through our possessions? What is it that makes us happy about our things? I recently came across a picture of a soulless home for sale, no plants, trees, pictures, cushions, colours. A black hole of life. I felt my painting hand physically twitch. But for someone, it will be the perfect home, or at least the dream of one as a new life, before the ephemera of family life bathe it in a unique personality.

How much choice do we feel happiest with? Spoiler- This isn’t a post about owning one black dress and a futon. I personally LOVE textures, colours, life affirming words in stories, things I can offer tea to people in, plates I can bring out for high tea, special dresses I might yet wear, vintage French coffee pots. The point is that there is a balance in the perfect amount, for the right amount of comfort , before it turns to clutter and chaos.

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Spring and early summer are traditional times to let go, clear out, rethink and clean our homes , as all around you there is evidence of new life blossoming, and the warmth to let the light back in .

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New light through the window bounce off dust motes hidden until those first summer breezes gently stir their glitter.

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We are like this too, slightly bleery eyed and not quite primed for our close up. Add in, months of staying close to home; a home that has seen nobody but us, and it is no wonder there is overwhelm and a slight feeling of panic.

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Firstly know this though, that most people are so happy to be let out, they couldn’t give a monkeys about the state of your fridge. And their fridge is more than likely the exact same. Since contact is safer out of doors, you still have time to make the changes, if indeed there needs to be any.

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Start with your animals. The very first thing a house has on entry is its smell. Cooking and animal smells start to go unnoticed in our own homes. But to another nose might be a different olfactory experience. Keep inside animals clean and carpets hoovered. Try and get windows open, light incense, candles or boil leftover citrus fruit to make the house smell good. Or use a diffuser with essential oils.

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Look at your plants and check they are breathing still! Dead head old leaves and spritz them in the bath with a showerhead to give the dust a rinse off.
Although not a big chemical fan, I like a bit of spray bleach for the worst of the grime. But baking soda and vinegar is a cheap and easy alternative to expensive cleaning products. It is amazing on the glass of cooker doors. Just rinse them well.

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What can you do well?
What do you need help with?
What are you good at, and can manage without pain and what can you pay someone else to do in a fraction of the time? Consider help occasionally to free up time and impact on your sore bits.


Clothes

It is so very hard with clothes, especially now. Re-entering the outside world, you are possibly a different shape and size, especially if you’re a teen And growing like a weed suddenly nothing you own is right. All the things we had before seem old or aren’t as comfortable
As someone who loves clothes but struggles to get in them at times, due to poor joints and sensitive inflamed nobbly bits: here is my go to list of how to like your clothes.

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Only throw away what you genuinely don’t like or need.
If you bought something because it sang showtunes to you in the shop, it was meant for you. Are you still waiting for the perfect moment to wear it? Are you worried what people will say? Unless it will scare small children, put it on. Enjoy it. There are dresses I can’t wear because at the moment they get caught in my sticks. I wish I’d worn them more to Tescos . ( but I am keeping them. Nothing in life is static. Your health changes, I might find surgery that works , or I’ll wear them for parties.
Instinct is everything. Touch fabric first in shops. Buy only natural if possible. Most man-made mixes look fine before they are washed and shrivel up the first time they hit a spin cycle.

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Your skin breathes better in cotton, linen and wool plus you’ll be dressing like a French woman.
Speaking of which, always imagine that you are in your own shop in the morning. Pick out things as if you really like them. You did put them there after all. If you don’t love them any more, give them to charity.
It has taken me nearly 50 years to find a pair of jeans I like.. But they are out there. Get ones with a good stretch, that you can put on with literally any other garment without worrying if your bum looks big. If you find the perfect pair, maybe get a back up just in case.

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Sorting out your clothes can be a nightmare which leaves many screaming for a lunchtime gin. In this section however, one most really rely on instinct. Do you actually still believe that if you lost 4 stone you’d wear your 80s pencil skirt? Do you really like the feel of synthetic fabric even if it hangs well in the shop? . Do you avoid it in the wardrobe because it’s a mare to wash.? I have a lot of clothes, I’m not going to ever stop liking clothes. Having sticks has scuppered the wearing of swishy skirts and living in a cold climate, many summer layers have been relegated to the attic, but the ones I keep, fit me and can be worn; should the inspiration take me… !! 😎

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They resonate or still buzz with a particular pleasure and specific ownership to me. If the ceiling started to cave in under their weight I might think again. But clothes are worth hanging onto if you can genuinely rejig and repurpose their existence in later life. You never know, they might become heirlooms. Or at least fancy dress

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Books

Oh dear. I should probably just stop there. Books are my downfall. Fresh, crisp bookstore scented pages nobody can open until I’ve cracked that blissful first ‘New’ moment: the one savoured from the second the book was stealthily shimmied from the bottom of the toppling pile on display.

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To the drawn on charity shop kids books, well thumbed and loved, and lovely vintage books of beauty with paper thin pages and gold edged illustrations. All books have their own identity. Books calm us, take us places teach us, absorb us , remind us of other worlds and stories, histories and ideas. Keep whatever order you like, but look after your books.

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I have amassed a pretty comprehensive library on most subjects, and while I still have the space for books I’ll choose books over a virtual library anytime. One whose treasures arent fleeting and not subject to cloud space and weather conditions. Bad weather is the perfect reason for a real book. Feet up, clock ticking, firelight cackling and cats purring. I love a book on just about anything I am doing, or writing about, or subjects that are fascinating, old books. Pristine gorgeous smelling new books that nobody can touch until I’ve opened them, old vintage books with past lives in school trunks and dusty libraries, imagine all the lives that have crossed in the keeping of the book. And who doesn’t love an art gallery shop with it’s glossy books you have to buy and rarely look at again, but proudly display on your coffee table . I am rather partial to a good magazine too. They plop through the door with regularity and I then spend ages not having time to read them ! However, eventually they get added to the daily ritual or cut up and used, recycled for drawing ideas and cuttings. Or the privileged few get to be kept on shelves as resources.

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Stationery

This is the nemesis of almost every adult female I know. Harking back to the eighties where it began with Hollie Hobbie pencil cases and strawberry scented rubbers, the joy of Saturday pocket money spends. And it never goes away, that thrill of new adnin supplies. . That love of a crisp new empty notebook, journals if what has been, or the promise of new projects and ideas, journeys yet to be taken, lists if things to buy, make, do and new stuff to aspire to, all stuck and pasted onto fresh clean pages helping us feel renewed and full of hope.

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Toiletries

I love packaging. Its very superficial of me. But its just so much nicer when your stuff looks nice. However, not everything in a sparkly bottle is good for your skin or your wellbeing. Your products should be kind. I seem to be amassing a rather good blue bottle collection, and love that they can be recycled afterwards all around the house!

The tower of guilt.

Like most people I used to pile up books to read, clothes to still get wear from, chores to finish etc We go about our daily business and every once in a whole these silent niggles dig into our peripheral vision. They get louder. Finish me, read me, sew me, clean me, sort me, and before you know it you have a household orchestra of errant errands playing on a loop in your ear like an ear worm at a rave.

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You see, if I can see a stack of things I haven’t read, looked at, given time to all , and I see it all at once, it becomes insurmountable, whether it’s sewing, reading, art projects, letters to reply to.. . And then it feels I can’t approach it at all. These are all pleasurable things I do after the work, chores, and essentials have been completed, but often the perfect time for the fun things has gone, because we are too tired and numb by then. Too much overwhelm and anything becomes another job. ( if you have an autistic person under your roof times this by a thousand )


I have learnt, that with pleasurable things we must find ways to make them pleasurable.
We must sneak up on ourselves and engage in the art of pleasure, with excitement. Grab a book off a shelf and slip into the garden for half an hour. How much greater is the whole feeling when we can immerse in it. Don’t plan all your meals, wear three different colours every day, start a really mad collection of things to display that everyone else is throwing away. Enjoy the choice. But do these things from a point of calm and organised space first or your head won’t let you immerse in anything fully, one leg will always be in a pile of clutter
My books are on shelves with a specific one for new magazines and ones I haven’t read, like a shop. A piece of advice once given to me was to read ten pages of good literature to expand your mind, or to enhance your pleasure every day. My daily choices come from the library of bought books, magazines or books I am studying plucked and read in my bath office every morning . The only place where the rest can wait their turn and I get peace. .

The pleasure of an unexpected choice, a gift to myself , is lovely. And there is always another lined up. I no longer think of them as a list. Because I chose these things in the first place. And all that we choose, we have the power to un-choose or weave into our lives in a way that suits us .

Make art from your fragments
Bath office


This last year has seen me pack more and more of me away in boxes. Artwork, possessions, childhood memories and photos rifled through in lockdown, clothes for another climate, holidays we can only dream about and projects on hold for now. As the small person grows from a child to a young lady too, so do her choices in stuff. And teaching 12 year olds how to actually maintain the dream room whilst not living in a pile of crisp packets and old socks, we came up with the list…

A rare and blissful moment….
Look familiar?

How to declutter

Keep like with like. Most things are easier to organise if you keep them together. Cables, bed linen for specific rooms, spares of things like batteries and bulbs. Dedicate one place where you know they go. And make sure they go back there !

Be realistic about how many of each thing you can really use. Unless you have fifteen children or run a b and b you night not need 25 duvet sets.

Do one section at a time. For example pick just all the plastic stuff, or all the shoes or papers or music. Whilst starting this with the smallest and working up is often easiest, it’s not the quickest. To get stuck in, eat the frog ( do the hardest thing first). (Usually clothes). Next – bag up charity bags with one category at a time, phone them ahead to book a drop off if you need to. Don’t trust charity vans unless you know them. Twice I have had goods taken by thieves pretending to be a genuine charity. These muppets find out when the real ones are coming and drive around the neighbourhood first.

Only buy what you really really really like, or know someone else will love as a gift. Often bargains are marked down because they didn’t sell. For a reason.

People often offer things as unwanted gifts because they are decluttering. You don’t always have to say yes! Also don’t feel obliged to keep presents you aren’t fond of. Be grateful and find a loving home for it elsewhere, without causing upset to the person.

If you feel someone else is making you do something you’ll never 100% give your self. Own your space and your stuff and how you look after it.

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Your journey can be as light as you like. MOST weights are ‘to do lists’ , the piles to sort, the immovable and never ending -‘why cant I get there’ feeling. Removing the clutter from our peripheral vision gives us a clear horizon.

Decluttering is a lovely feeling. But so is re-establishing the bond with what you already have. Going through your possessions one set at a time, looking for small gaps, or throwing away multiples gives your home a chance to breathe and makes space for your next purchase. And it makes peace with the space you’re in right now.

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Make space for things

Until such times as a distraction from table legs is in place, alternative dining sets are pointless in our house

But like those years with our chocolate covered toddlers, we relish the short time our control is lost in favour of daft moments

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One must find newness in other riches too. A moment of blissful peace in my garden recently.

So while the sun shines, we will chip away at this lifelong task and plant seeds for our next fairy House.

But know there will always be a vintage tea set ready for your arrival..

With love and deep breaths on your next steps, wherever you are.

Liz and the zoo xxxx

Paw me

It was all a bit of a mad dash, with not much time to panic as it was a cancellation. But the surgery was very much needed as the drawing hand was really struggling with bad arthritis and pain. A massive thankyou to my friends and even to people I know only a little, for being so so kind, positive on facebook, offering lifts, chocolates, flowers, getting easy to cook groceries, gifts and the all important loo rolls! We have the loveliest people in our lives.

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Anything is possible with a little patience, trust and chocolate !!

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Back soon with words, all our love, Liz and the zoo xxx 🙂

Drawing on


Hello yellow light and hopeful thoughts wherever you are.

The first ray of morning light through my window… – earlymorningchic

In these ambiguous months of daring to hope, but not wanting to feel any more disappointment, we stand on the edge of a life we might step into.

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For some of you, your path might have turned a new direction entirely, leaving you a bit floaty. Reality hovers in a hazy cloud of internet balanced with the real life intense everyday dramas played out in our homes, and nobody knows what the next move will be.

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Thinking about most things only gets us so far.

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Trying to make sense of the changes and losses, and staying positive has been tough. Our sparks of hope might have been dashed too often to stay upbeat . The mundane has taken centre stage over bigger rewards and adventures, pools of simple pleasures between the TV shows and endless meals.

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We have found new ways to make the usual , unusual. Our minds have been busy balancing coping strategies, in essence, the left brain trying to make sense of what is a global unfathomable phenomenon with analysis and logic, whilst the right communicating it’s emotional response through creativity and self expression.

This tender balance of logic and free creative will, is an essential survival recipe , and a basis to nurture your creative process.

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The vastness of our choices, our decision making skills (or not) and freedom of expression shrank in almost every area in the last two years, going out, meeting people, communicating normally, feeding our souls with new wonders and different visual excitements , our vistas shrank. Our pools of reference and the connectivity which established where we were at that given moment was suddenly much smaller.
And what can happen if we are not careful, is we start to forget the things that mattered to us in the time before. Think about when lockdown first happened and you looked trough old photos, reminding yourself of old clothes and cars you loved, people you cared about and lost touch with. It is the same process with the things that you love to do, that enable your voice to sing.

Whole chunks of important fuel for the spirit which we aren’t able to taste for months and months. We forget what beauty and drama is out there as our lives begin to curtail us layer by layer.

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We forget how to express joy at this wonder, because the powerful surge of happiness that comes with that freedom feels like it has gone, or is not as urgent.
But this is when we need it most.

All your thoughts are magical possibilities. Catch them quickly…


Your mind is amazingly curious. Casting out a net of constant questions, and catching all kinds of fishy thoughts, from tiny quick darting silver ones you hardly have a chance to grasp, to thundering great chunky ones that sit in the net taking up space and not letting new ones in. When I was little I asked a lot of the usual questions children do, but was often told to top being silly. So I found listening ears in older relatives who loved to talk, in looking after other people’s children as I grew up, small curious beings who saw the magic in life still, I read and read and found myself down rabbit holes and in faraway trees and
I drew .

And a dialogue of sorts grew in the observing of everyday things around me, seen in a different light. People were fascinating to me. And when I realised that some of them not only talked back but had questions of their own, thanks Gilda. For my introduction into kitchen philosophy at a tender age over a cup of tea.

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Our thoughts like our ideas, our appetites, come in waves of intensity. I can often pack away a problem into a small case in my brain somewhere for days, only to give it a whole unadulterated day to itself later. Have a sketchbook or notebook handy Always!
Art is truly made in the cracks of the day. Padded out from a scribble on a paper napkin or a voice memo in the bath. Catch your inner ideas, they have to battle with a lot of boring rational thoughts. There will never be a perfect time to create.

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But putting together twenty scraps you’ve made over a month in ten minute bursts after the house is quiet in the morning, becomes something real and alive.

What I have come to appreciate is the value of intense creativity. In the central vortex of the act of completing a piece of work, I am lost and meditative. Words are gone and instinct takes over. I knew it was something I couldn’t do when I had a very young child, but you might be more disciplined than me!

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To get to this sweet spot, is a luxury I have learned to value drawing again throughout the pandemic. The child and Bear seem to have developed an understanding of my mental disappearance whilst still being in the room. After 12 and a half years of my ‘mum brain’ being on high alert, and 12 years of being a Stepmother to two small boys before that, it is a lovely escape. Even better because it is shared with others . And all of our life experiences so far feed into those simple drawings.


Sometimes you must put in every tiny scrap of detail in a piece of work

Sometimes the detail speaks for itself and is of itself without words

I know I need to be both of these Artists

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That without one type of creating, the other makes no sense either.
That all these years having to decide which artist I was: was a waste of good thinking time, or maybe it was the path to truly knowing my path.

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Going to an academy or school which pigeon holes you into a type of artist can be a wonderful thing. But it can also deter you from ever trying anything new
My favourite accomplishment of the few years since retiring from teaching art has been to actually finish a painting. As a teacher, every day I would begin a demonstration for each class, sometimes eight groups and new projects in a day. And I would promise myself that some day there would be actual paintings from all these starts. Sketchbooks held a vast ocean of possibilities that I would create someday in the cracks of my life somewhere. These cracks were stuffed with ideas and promises, and inspirations which kept me moving forward.

From stairs in my home

I painted walls for my children, my own daughter and my stepsons. I painted on flower pots and murals and birthday cards and designed things for people. I didn’t understand the frustrating pendulum which kept lurching me from intense drawing to free abstract work.

Murals and classroom walls (below)
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How could you be someone who thinks so much, has so many ideas and also this flowing mass of colour reacting to life through instinct.?
I was, I am still years later. Back in the teaching years it was squished into the clothes and resources and pupil work and in the details, but it was still there. Our true essence is always there.

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We are all many characters depending on which chapter we are in.

There is a wonderful freedom in not abiding by one set of rules for your work. A freedom to experiment with different media and applications.

All the work you do has your stamp on it, and the more you do, the more you you’ll see patterns and rhythms even if every piece if different.

Enjoy your seasons!


Never apologise for the many ways your mind needs to express itself. Or the contradictory ways that joy comes out. My big friend Jim makes fairy gardens. And knits hats. He looks like a biker. His artwork is unapologetic and fun, colourful and so clever. Although he has given me permission to use his pictures, he doesn’t really show his work. The joy that one or two people get from seeing it or getting a gift from Jim is enough for him.

Yvonne teaches English after a career in teaching history, knits, sews, bakes, plants and writes a blog all with the same humble but consistent enthusiasm. Until recently I had no idea she could do half this stuff. The hidden craft skills and beautiful objects she has created is inspiring. Again, mostly for family and only on here because of arm pulling.

Both of these friends are inspiring to anyone who thinks you have to have training, or only do one thing and excel at that and then it only matters if the world sees it on Instagram. Each object they have made is pure and of itself. I think the troubIe many people have is muddying one area of skill with another and trying to cram too much into one idea.

It took me a while to realise with my art that wasn’t working; was the paintings I was trying to put both sides of myself in at once . There was the patient ordered one, who interpreted an object , albeit in a Liz way, and there was the wild one, who was quick to mark make and needed less permission. Once the pressure to perform goes, the freedom to immerse fully in the artwork is wonderful.

It was like trying to please both children with one present, but what was needed was to give each of my creative sides time to explore their path and let go as individuals. The critical voice I heard telling me to choose, from my training at Art College, my familial conditioning, those that sought to understand the work; (and in doing so, silently slightly pigeon hole it) , had to have the volume muted.

And I can tell you, the freedom to do that, although it has taken nearly fifty years is wonderful. I always loved to draw, details, to absorb what I saw and explore the essence of an object in itself. But I also could create artwork which was in itself the rhythms and textures and colours of the thing too.

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We don’t need permission to express multi dimensional joy . Sometimes having a shake up in life is an opportunity to question how and why we go through the day in the way we do.
I’m not going to lie, this last stretch of lockdown, in less than sunny Scotland has been by far the hardest for me. In previous months, the enormity of what stretched ahead was made easier almost by the challenge of it, and what and who needed looking after. Ever the land girls. We just buckled up our cords and braces and got on with it. Not really giving too much thought to the fuzzy future, until the daily chores were done and everyone was schooled, fed, cleaned. Medicated or entertained!
We’ve all been doing that in our funny little bubbles..

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It has been like sleepwalking, living through these months with a fraction of the ingredients we had, and only a few of the loved ones we care about.
But because we have stoicism, hope, resilience, imagination, strength we know we can get to the other side. I have just watched the film birdbox. Sandra Bullock out on violent open river with two four year olds, escaping the end of the world, rowing for their lives, all three blindfolded . Trusting only instinct to get to the place of sanctuary where they will be free.

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Those of us still waiting for injections, still waiting for permissions, for medical procedures to start, for the goal posts to remain still, rather than keep moving, are on a treadmill. The ground feels unreliable. Dare we trust it?

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We just want to get off the roundabout and for the world to stop spinning random poker questions about our healthcare.
I had a bad day. I don’t often get a bad day truth be told. So it was allowed. It was all Facebook’s fault. They chucked up a video post of my Stepfather who died last year. Of a happy pre-Covid Easter where we all fed lambs and chick’s and sat in the sun in their garden. I felt a surge of loss but in a strange way, a renewed gratitude too.

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Very soon, life will resume something different but new. We aren’t the same people we were going in. Some of the ones we had in our world are sadly no longer here. Some people might be less able. Some are suddenly much older, some have left our lives for other reasons, some of us might want to stay where we are, or enjoy it in a way we hadn’t realised. We might not want to do things the same way. Or at least we might want to be more mindful, more selective.

What is clear is that there is no excuse not to be happy in our pursuits.

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I knew I couldn’t do things the same after that day.
Or if I did, I had to know why
Sometimes we have to question who has made the rules we live by, why we do things. Where they come from.
I felt I’d entered the upside down.

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So I decide to give myself

Permission to STOP

NAP

THINK

PERUSE THE AREA
Permission to bathe ridiculously

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Permission to say to oneself …. Really? Do I really want to eat, read, wear, go to that?

To check my thoughts as I did things, and ask if I really wanted to for me?.
To make art at the living room table for 6 hours and watch films at the same time
To reverse all the meals in the day

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To do things in a different order
To stop thinking about everyone else just for five minutes.
What happened? Nothing.
Apart from a feeling like I had the best pair of comfortable big earth shoes on.

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People that know you best might ask if you are ok, but probably nobody will notice.

Most to do lists are only in our heads.

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Moving through the days with an awareness of why made me realise
that I actually do prefer most of the things the way I was already doing them, but now I feel much less like life is on autopilot.

We made it that way because we like it and it works.


In order to get out of your own head for a bit and see if you still fit your seat. Imagine you are in a car, instead of being in the drivers seat, you are now a passenger.

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You are free to watch the road, look ahead, see what’s coming, read the road signs and enjoy the view. You don’t need to be behind the wheel to be on a journey.
Whatever you believe in, and it’s a personal box of magical ingredients for every soul on earth, you’re not alone. There are people on the road with you. Give them a wave as you amble along.

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Being upside down is often the first step to being firmly rooted. Rip up the rules

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Make art that makes your soul sing, making nobody but you happy. And get back in the driving seat of your creativity.

This blog post has taken a while to write as my hand is now cripplingly painful. The bones are fusing and I have to stop regularly. However, finally the fairies have woven their magic and surgery is extremely imminent. I am getting bones removed next week from the drawing and writing hand to make it , hopefully, less painful. So. All this, means I not only have faith in all of you, but in the universe too and in me, getting back to some new creating in a little while, in whatever way we all can!!

Wish me luck my lovely friends!

All our love, Liz and the zoo xxx

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What dogs teach us

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There is someone for everyone


Some people believe, that every person or animal that crosses our path does so for a reason. Sometimes it is very brief moment, a look, an interaction, an understanding, or sometimes we stay longer with one another.

Although we can probably agree that the pull of animal company of some kind is often felt, everyone has a definite tolerance level and relationship with certain animals and or species of that animal. ( and yes, occasionally, there is the a heart which not even the fluffiest puppy can crack)

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So why do we choose a particular pet? What are we seeing that makes them stand out, hum, reverberate, send out little ‘you need me‘ signals to our brains? I have often wondered why the animals we have are so uniquely ‘ours, who does the connecting?!.’

There seems to be something inherently positive about being in the close proximity of other thriving living things, as we can often see from animal assisted therapies. Their key focus is to improve human psychological wellbeing.

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The Medical News today describes the Benefits of animal assisted therapy as;

  • reducing boredom
  • increasing movement and activity through walks and play
  • providing companionship and decreasing loneliness
  • increasing social interactions
  • improving mood and general well-being
  • By doing the following
  • providing comfort and reducing levels of pain
  • improving movement or motor skills
  • developing social or behavioral skills
  • increasing motivation toward activities such as exercise or interacting with others

Having worked in mental health over the last few years, including teaching in care homes; I have seen the joy first hand of how animals can pull a patient back for a few precious moments, in the way music often can, and give such pure, immediate pleasure. I have taken dogs and guinea pigs into classes with me, seen Shetland ponies in dementia wards or birds of prey help to calm adults with long term anxiety issues. .

When the world gets too much, to know there is a paw, a furry little face or a pair of sympathetic eyes to absorb your woes, is often a much needed gift.
Eventually everyone becomes your friend, whether you have any choice in the matter or not!
Reading to your dog and chicken is important!!


During the last year, for many people I know, including us, animals have featured in their wellbeing. From caring for pets, as a reason to get outside and shop for food, to get exercise, for children to do the same, an excuse to meet with a friend for a dog walk or run (as essential exercise,) watching wildlife in the garden and enjoying the small but incredible pleasures of hatching eggs in nest boxes, hedgehogs in homes, foxes wandering freely, and seeing on the television animals reclaiming areas once lost to man. We hear some horror stories too, of dog snatchers and fly tippers blackening natural habitats for natures creatures. And we care. Our children’s generation can know every inch of every creature if they choose to from the plethora of information and documentaries available.

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Forbes 2020

Facebook is full of animals. And our houses are. Unlike our actual families though, we get to choose which ones live with us. Our very good friend David lost his beloved Dog Glen last year , and will be the first to admit that the gap left by his best pal broke his heart. But the universe had a plan. Despite doubts that there would ever be another dog as perfect, Glen sent Kiera. A rescue, patiently waiting in the wings at a rescue centre. After a few lockdown hoops to hurdle, David’s perseverance paid off. Kiera recognised him the moment they met. She hung on his every word and gazed at him with pure love. I have never seen a dog that knew its owner so immediately and why they were destined to bring a smile to each others lives.

So why and how do animals trust us?

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Many dogs are happy-go-lucky, love everyone and are happy to greet people they meet with a happy wagging tail.  But there are also a lot of dogs who appear to like some people, but not others.

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Whenever I am sad, my dogs or cats never fail to sit by my side, put their heads into my lap and bring comfort. Conversely, when one of them has done something naughty, a dog has the uncanny ability to slink away as soon as you look at them, cats, not so much.This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_20201212_163710.jpg




Do you ever feel like there’s a dog sixth sense that allows your dog to read your moods and react accordingly?
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If you have ever wondered about this phenomenon, or if you like you are losing it for thinking that your fur friend has supernatural dog senses, you are not alone. Pet parents across the globe have the same question: Can dogs pick up on our subconscious cues, and essentially, read our moods?Dogs, who have been evolving alongside humans for thousands of years, have clearly demonstrated an ability to recognize and respond to human emotions, and scientists now know that they use ordinary and extraordinary dog senses to do this. A 2009 study found that dogs gaze much longer at happy versus sad human faces, indicating that they may be sensitive to human emotions.
Dogs preferentially look to our eyes to read our emotions, and the hormone oxytocin is also involved in this connection. Secreted by the mammalian brain, oxytocin is nicknamed “the love hormone,” and it affects social behaviors and cognition, among other things.Another study, published in 2016, found that dogs process human emotions from gazing not just at the eye region, but also the midface and mouth regions. Dogs are a highly social species, and they are evolved to evaluate social threats rapidly, including threats the come from humans.
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Does your dog like everyone he meets, or does he gravitate towards some people and not others?  We certainly notice how similar our dog feels about people in comparison to how we do. He can sense fear, ambivalence, or joy, and if presented with an air of calm authority, slips into the role of obedience he feels comfortable in. When people give mixed messages, he doesn’t understand the rules.

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Animals like humans learn to co-exist by trusting the boundaries and one another

Because the rules are clear and body language is calm around all the animals , at the same time, it has helped integrate them into the household together. Bear and Max ( a male cat) could easily have been at each other’s throats, and started out as natural rivals. But sitting with them both at the same time, giving them equal attention, soothing movements and an escape route, slowly got them used to one another. and now they are all pretty good at sharing our attention. I just have to watch that Bear doesn’t lovingly leap on my lap to cuddle the guinea pigs. He still thinks he is a puppy.

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I watched as my daughter, already (and this pains me ) she is taller than me.. lolloped down the road with our Bear recently….Far from being an aberration, (which having a large dog one is often made to feel that he is;) he looked, the perfect size for her growing gait. She needed a big dog. I watch them playing together. She needed him. At first their bond was tenuous. She wasn’t sure. He wasn’t the same as what she knew. But now she won’t get up unless he’s had his morning cuddle.

Have you ever met a dog that looks and behaves a lot like their person? The saying “like attracts like” applies to dogs and people, too. Dogs often choose a favourite person who matches their own energy level and personality.

Some dog breeds are more likely to bond with a single person, making it more likely that their favourite person will be their only person. Breeds that tend to bond strongly to one person include:

  • Basenji
  • Greyhound
  • Shiba Inu
  • Cairn Terrier

If you are interested in this subject, and for more information on suitable dog breeds

How Do Dogs Choose Their Favorite Person? | The Dog People by Rover.com

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Looking back on Bear’s early months, is like a film reel, much like bringing up a boisterous child, it flashes up in memory scenes of carpet scrubbing, doggie howling, great escape attempts, ( and victories) pining for company at night and the ever present danger of the gate being left open. At least with a child there was always soft play on rainy days.

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Time races on, and if we aren’t careful we lose the magic of the best times inside the worst fragments of clutter, the mess, the noise. the lack of sleep, no routine, lack of control of no kind of order ever again.
We yearn for a different life, another one we saw somewhere online, where other people’s kids and animals always behave. We forget to remember the choices we made. And why we and they are here.

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What if the animal with you is teaching you what you need right now. What if the lessons being taught by daily experiences are showing up to enrich the life we can sometimes take for grated , and create new directions we hadn’t planned. Because we forgot there was more than one path to go down?.

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Our old dog skye was the gentlest calmest dog on the planet. She needed no lead, she just stayed by my side. She was so soft that Guinea pigs could sit in her box with her and be left there. She left the chicken use her as a sun block. Her soul was so pure and kind. It reached out to everyone that ever met her and we made friends through her as soon as we moved here. She was easy to take on holiday and we could leave her for hours quite happily, with food and toys. Building a life and painting things, creating art around Skye was a joy. She was like calm air next to you.

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So; losing her was devastating. You’ll know yourself if you love your animals how much of a gap they leave.
And out of the blue quite unexpectedly came a message on Facebook. My friend has a puppy. ‘She’s very cute,’ I say. ‘There’s one left in the litter’ Emily says back.
Crap
It wasn’t the plan. We were going to get the same dog again. Exactly the same dog. But it was what was meant to be.


This little black thing was put in my arms and nestled in. My friend helped co-ordinate the surprise for Leah, and it was wonderful. He was so small and fluffy and had big paws and a little round tummy.

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And then the reality sunk in.
He was also mad
And was not calm air. He was a cyclone.

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He didn’t stop. At all. And was very smart, working out to escape out of things very quickly, he literally had me cleaning carpets all day whilst crying for attention. He shouted when I wasn’t in the room (lockdown baby) and he needed a lot more love, moulding and effort than Skye ever did.
In short this soul was sent to try us.

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It was like going back 12 years with a small needy little baby and no support network to swap mum stories with.

However, we persevered. Through a mix of wierd trickery that dogs are expert at, love that can’t be explained , determination to get some sense into him and a bit of structure back. Two out of three isn’t bad.
He has taught us to be in the moment
He has been a much better guard dog and actually is helpfully instinctive about people. Although he is very gentle, he can still shout.

He has brought challenges which needed to be overcome, and is very good at receiving and giving hugs, which we are all desperate for just now.

Dogs need fresh air regardless of the weather, and we need reasons sometimes to keep getting outside and breathing it, especially if, like me, the cold affects your body. The days are planned better with the sun grabbed like a precious jewel and savoured between days and months at home.


His presence has encouraged a mindful way of living and possessing things. We have had to have less clutter because he eats it.
There is less of a concern with the perfection of our space (not that I was ever Mrs Bucket), because two minutes hater Bear will have charged around like a race horse and messed it up. Just like a toddler he has no concept of what is his to use, as I recall various lipsticks Leah smeared on her cheeks and shoes of mine she plonked about in. It’s ok. This will not be this way for ever. Already he isn’t the same as he was two weeks ago. What you get is to be in the moment with a dog. This was his very first moment of a play date.

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Writing this morning there is a big dog lump on my knee, having his morning cuddle, being gentle with the other animals, going through to Leah’s room soon for his morning leap on her bed, I realise he was exactly the dog we needed. Bear fits us all.


Time is spent more wisely when you have less of it, when incorporating a new element into the routine, almost like having a new born again. I had to make art when he napped, clean the house when he was out for a walk with Leah , keep things simple both in structure and in terms of what was around us physically. It was a daily battle. But it also provided a pretty great distraction from all that was awful in the world. Or at least somewhere to put all that love we seem to have around here.

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Between a child that is naturally messy and a dog that eats everything on earth, it is a daily ritual to scan everything ALL the time and has been since he arrived. . Socks, books, coal, Lego, plastic or wood of any kind. All small objects below waist height were up for grabs. As he grew, so did his range of edible delights and the strain of hiding more things. Or throwing them away.
But in doing that, another thing happened. Selections were made about what mattered and what could go, or be safely given as a new toy, or be saved.

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Things become less precious when you keep having to throw away cushions that get eaten. And I love cushions. But there are years of your life that are scruffier than others, more dog eared, more selective.
He was in affect, the doggie version of Marie Kondo.

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And once he started it became a bit easier to keep clearing out and taking stock of what was precious and needed to be hidden for now!

There were months of stressful bits, but it wasn’t the whole story. Leah magically captured the real Bear so far here .

My hearts

It was never my intention to have lots of animals! Your heart seems to expand the more beasts and children you squish into your life. From the multitude of cats and dogs, to the guinea pigs, fish, and chickens who have lived with us, all of them have been loved , valued and treasured. However long an animal is with you, if we respect its temperament and fears, the rest follows. And hopefully the time we have together teaches us to slow down and see life through our pets eyes..

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I have lessened the time spent online recently, pouring energies into the immediacy of home, creating, animals, future ideas and health. But this quote I saw on face-book captures what animals teach us to do by proxy, and returning to life after the pandemic, I hope will teach us the same.

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Even if you don’t have an animal yourself, but enjoy the company of other people’s, there is much to learn from how animals learn from us and how it is possible for us all to co-exist peacefully, slowing down and using our instincts wisely. And maybe oiling our hearts in the process.

With love, fur and feathers, Liz and the zoo xxxx

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A splash of ink

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Have you been whispered about? Have you ever felt the cold prickles of recognition when you realise your name is being said, but not to you.
Have you ever had an opinion about anyone else?
Of course you have.

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Mostly our thoughts and comments of this and that dissipate like the haar on the edge of the sea, while the kettle boils and the next story is brewed.


Some stories however, stick.
And keep on sticking.

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Becoming a little legend, which has its roots in a social group or family, cements itself further in the pub or playground and in the judgement of the gathered groups of ”Aye beens” tutting and huffing like they’re auditioning for ”Are you being served… .”

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This goes on not just for a blether that day, but gathers snowball momentum over weeks, years, generations.

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A while ago I told you a story about an experience we were having.
It was told in a way that was honest but also showed the impact on us and the perpetrators for what they were.
It had remained hidden. For along time, I had heard things like, That’s terrible, but I don’t want to get involved. Almost as if it was contagious. Being Bullied isn’t catching. I said nothing, so nobody knew.

Sometimes you just got to say no.

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Shouting loudly and having a set of rules everyone has to abide by, might be what everyone is used to.

and all that anyone has ever heard.

But not everyone is made that way

When one of my guinea pigs gets a little bit scared, she doesn’t run away. She just shuts her eyes, puts her head down and snuggles in to my arm. I think she’s on to something..

Our move to our cottage was to be our sanctuary.
It was our braver than brave thing. Anything after that was just details.

Just like Bonnie, we keep our head down and assume those in our immediate life must quite like us or they would not be there. A good way to live. And ensures everyone gets a lot of cuddles and regular food.

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For every action, there are consequences which we must be responsible for also. Some are entirely real… whilst some…

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I believe things and people are meant to try us. And teach us.

All of our stories are different . If you ask every one of your friends how they see you it will be slightly different . Trying to hold a picture of who you are is impossible. All you can do is know you do no harm.

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We all show a variation to everyone, and not always intentionally. Our velvet selves stay wrapped in tissue for when we can truly enjoy wearing them again. But we are also patchwork, and denim and an old faded cotton shirt stitched over and over.

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And in the meantime, in this global pause for thought, while we all lounge in pyjamas and forget how to hold a real conversation, .. we are free to imagine and just be.

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You literally can start anywhere ….
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In our isolation because of my illness, I have found an honesty in a way of life .

The irony of the neighbourhood pedant believing they can cut you off; is that we actually end up truly connecting with those we like more than anyone. ever !! Our time and our people are precious. Our days are filled with the wonders of modern technology and archaic methods of keeping in touch with those in our tribe, all over the world.

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I have also found ;
A beautiful place to live in, which; If I could walk further; offers temptation every day.. to look for birds , and wild life and painting inspiration and clouds and just pure fabulousness.

The kindest friends you could ever know, our everyday companions on social media groups, accomplishing my daily Art tasks and keeping us and each other going during these last few months. A few really super immediate neighbours and two minutes down the road an amazing network of folk we could not have got through the pandemic without. Friends who have truly been a lifeline when I am ill , or an animal needs a walk or help.


In every place you go there are a few who think it belongs only to them. There is always a chance at first that unkind people, just like a mistreated animal might be a little coaxing. Getting to know why they are unhappy and defensive is the first step to getting anywhere. Becoming defensive yourself and mimicking them is simply what a lot of angry people want you to do. It proves them right, if gives them a hobby and makes you look as bad, if not worse than them. (Because you then get upset it fuels their game)
There is nothing more annoying than someone smiling, ignoring your taunts or being at ease in their world. And gives them nothing to battle you about.

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I received a message about the village asking if it was a nice place. Of course it is. And there are millions of reasons to move here, visit, get a holiday home or explore the area. I have been involved in many community groups and educational information resources in the few years we have been here.

It is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

At school I was not very sure if my art was any good. I had one art teacher who thought it was fabulous but also wanted to buy all my vintage brooches from me and get a lift for him and us maverick 6fh formers to various exhibitions in London, and another art teacher who hated all of us, had a mewling cat with no fur under her desk and who scribbled on all my drawings.
One day, recounting an extremely upsetting tirade from the second art teacher about colour theory, and moaning about her bitter teaching methods over my herbal tea in the 6th form common room, I looked up, at my friend’s face, sitting opposite. She had stopped replying, and was looking horrified. ”She’s behind me isn’t she?” I said
”Yep,”said Maria.

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That cut short my gossip career. My tiny, horrid teacher had a look I hadn’t seen when she’d shouted at me. It was more human. It was as if my words had made her think. I might have been justified but I didn’t feel good. She looked like she was actually thinking about my feelings, but also had some her own. And she left the room.
Words have power. She wasn’t nice to me, but I still felt bad !

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If we know how it feels to be harmed by words, there has to be ways of protecting ourselves without sinking or losing our selves. We don’t have to become the teacher that persecuted us.

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Think of a little bottle of inky poison. Longing for you to write with it. But as soon as you do it gets on your fingers and stains them, and rubs off on your shirt, you answer the phone and then you doodle on the table with your pen, it is contagious… someone reads your doodle, and takes a photo of it . Your ink is everywhere, on their hands now too and even now on a photo on instagram.

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You don’t need that kind of inky nonsense ruining your life

Our colours are vibrant and unique

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(Be the washable kind)

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And walk away from repeating what other people say

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That isn’t the same as not getting involved. if someone needs genuine help, drop everything.

A place can be tainted by its stories, its newsreels, its few who seek to cause drama for the sake of drama. Unfairly creating an ink blot on a beautiful landscape. But a place is bigger than that. And given time, and new news stories, a place can recover from the stories built in its bricks and paths and pub bar stools.

Sometimes new flowers grow that you haven’t seen before

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and get a whole new heap of fans

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We found this picture of our house on instagram yesterday. Our house pre Covid often got photographed by smiling camera laden tourists hanging over the fence. Seeing a different view.

Everybody has a different way of looking at the world and in order to enjoy ours fully we have to break the cycle of judging others.

I decided to take a few things out from my previous post about the incident here. The story remains the same. But we can chose not to be led by it. The place we live, like everywhere has too many pockets of kindness too, too much rich heritage and beauty and too much potential to be dulled down by decades of frustration . Because keeping those attributes of a place alive, even by reporting it, continues its legacy and keeps new vibrant people away.. and guess who would love that?!

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Places grow, evolve and change. Or at least they should to stay healthy

So we must celebrate the new and wonderful as well as the old and cherished, just like any family..

And If all else fails, you can always just stay hidden in a cardboard tube.

Be kind but be and enjoy yourself

With love

Liz at the Beach Hut xxx

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Mountain


When I grow up I’m going to be an astronaut. And a policeman and have a zoo. Yes dear. Now. Eat your shepherd’s pie.

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When I grow up in going to be a ballerina with a health food shop that helps refugees and run for local councillor.

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Darling that’s amazing, you’ll need to learn lots of interesting things, keep focused and believe you can do it.
Because you can do anything. .
As long as you don’t take advice from anyone else.. ever!!!!

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Or at least keep a very open mind about what motivates us humans to fear the goals, dreams and aspirations of others.

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Achieving and believing in ourselves was a pool we only dabbled in the shallow waters of as children;

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The deep end. we were mostly conditioned to believe was for a vague group of other people . Braver, better, richer, cleverer, more well rounded humans who buy some trick of osmosis had known from birth that they were awesome. Many of the people I speak to in art or mental health group have a real fear of success in their work, or to see their ideas flourish. What if they fail. ? Where did that seed of doubt germinate?

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We all yearn for our mountain even if our mountain is a clean fridge and a feeling of contentment as our carrots grow.


Throughout this pandemic our relationships have changed, not only with each other but for many facing inwards for the first time since they could tie their own laces and run out of the school door, they are now having to see themselves a bit more up close and personal. (Including I might add the tedious rigmarole of self hair cuts and eyebrow plucking. )

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Impossible without your glasses on


Some of you might be closer to people than ever before, some might be struggling because of a lack of trust in technology. Sadly, I can guarantee that despite always writing and creating with my own mum in mind, she will always refuse to switch her computer on. She has one, but claims it doesn’t like her and no amount of help, instructions with diagrams or gentle guidance whilst on the other end of the phone line will convince her otherwise.
‘I know what you look like,’ she tells me, at precisely 9.15am every Friday on the phone. There is no changing her mindset. That is how it is and that is how it stays.
I suppose I actually could have a monobrow by now and certain people on the Christmas card list would be none the wiser!!

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Some conversations are never had in the way we would like or need. My mum makes me laugh now, but all of us are fundamentally the same, even if we say we don’t want or need approval or love from anyone else. From birth all children want is to be seen. Before it was crushed or squashed or side-lined by your family or ignored you were a little wriggly star. A perfect sponge and mirror to the world around you , mimicking nature and making it your own… ( I’m getting vague memories of sitting in a tree talking to fairies, and no it wasn’t last week…) You didn’t know any better than to show the world you existed in your own wonder and didn’t give a fig what anyone thought. Until you became conscious enough to name those feelings, until you understood you had a place , and kept ending up there.

To be seen isn’t the same as being praised. To be recognised in all your colours, all your YOUNESS in the eyes of your closest ones is your mirror. Their acceptance and appreciation of you as a package, and more than that, their pride in that package fuels you, and nurtures you. You are free to stop wondering if you are good enough. That is the gift of recognising others and why we must tell them

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If this becomes lacking, we have to learn to give ourselves or the people we love the gift of being seen. And definitely not become the perpetrators of what we hated to feel in our worst memories..

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It is an vital part of your health in every sense, but especially at the moment, to feel at ease with your essential self. To be the person you weren’t taught to be by watching your parents or siblings or the dynamics that crushed many in the classroom or office. It is far better to have a child that wont stop performing in the living room, than one too scared to tell you their fears.

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What was school like for you?


For many people, this insular period in time has been a good excuse to rummage in drawers and in attics, throwing up objects and photos from our pasts that have led us to where we are now. Positive Reflections on the huge and varied lives we have lived is a good thing. We don’t often get to stop and check in like this, taking a pause and a breath

Are you reminiscing and remembering the freedom of all that life could offer. Can you recall how you felt as a child?


Many of you have learned ways to compete with boredom or fill your time, or learn a new skill or study for a different type of job. For some tapping back into that hobby from 1989 has proved joyous and become a much needed focus for the long winter days.

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I put a post up on my face-book page asking people to tell me what they had been up to, or made, or created that they were proud of during these isolated 18 months. I didn’t really think much about the question, and expected a whole lot of replies as usual.
But, it was surprising how few of the creative and talented, amazing people who inspire me every day, didn’t offer anything about themselves in return. There were barely any.
One response that surprised me said they were told ‘Pride comes before a fall’ .

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I couldn’t find many pictures about this that were up to date, which was interesting. Most were biblical and basically agree that being haughty isn’t good.


I lay awake thinking about pride, and about the preconception
that being too happy with an accomplishment creates a vanity which in turn creates the likelihood of a well deserved topple.

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Perhaps This is better

And I realised that we might have an instilled sense of that rule from somewhere. About being too pleased with ourselves, in case we are seen to be showing off. And I remembered why I left home. I was painting art in my bedroom, at 18, with the neighbours children attached to me like limpets as I was babysitting. I was maybe singing. I would definitely have been friendly. A family friend of my Mum’s was round drinking tea. Afterwards I was summoned and told I was too happy and sparky, (the friend had commented, and it had made them feel ashamed of my ‘differences to everyone else’) To this day I remember the stone sinking in my chest, that feeling of horror, and appalling realisation that they cared more about a virtual strangers flyaway opinion than the creative, but really quite nice person their child was growing into.

It took me a long time to understand why, that it wasn’t really their fault. it was their own conditioning and fears of standing out that drove everything that wasn’t beige to have to be rubbed out. I just knew I had slowly begun to fade there too, so I had to go. Leaving home, travelling to New York to nanny, going off to Art school and being free was the start of adult life. Unless we challenge these misconceptions nothing changes for anyone, but it isn’t always possible to do that straight away. Facilitating positive mental health routes for others motivated me, and I always say there is no better teacher than helping others through personal experience.

Impossibly young at MOMA

Our own generation began to understand that it was alright to flourish a little bit… I still think we are carrying the weight of the ages, but we are doing a better job at not passing that on. If we look at the way our children’s generation are able to self publicise with their tick tocks and insta posts, that is. For so long we collectively carried the residue of our parents fears of standing out for being different, daring to try, daring to try, fail and try again.
If we live with a negative person, someone who is scared of seeing us succeed, in case their failures and lack of insight or imagination become apparent : we will be met with a lack of interest, or worse an uninvited actual critic. But if these people are important in our lives, their opinions matter. They are the rocks we build our sense of self on. Or not.
And so, without the right cheerleaders, we believe we are useless. We make half hearted creations. We prove ourselves and the world and them right. Pride does indeed come before a fall. But it isn’t your pride. It is the lost pride that should have been readily rained down at the breakfast table.

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Flourishing against any kind of negativity in our lives is like swimming against the tide. I spent the last three months of my degree in my lovely big shared Edinburgh flat, getting a ridiculous amount of artwork created. Gone were the voices and critics which I was sensitive to after my upbringing. I flourished. And I sold out my show. This was my West End Craft Fair Stall in Edinburgh with set up help from the Princes Trust.


Where there should be an unspoken supportive hum in your head because you know how much you are valued, and there is nothing but the roar of self doubt, this can paralyse us . OR

It can be our motivation
When we as humans find our gifts and skills, our joy and ideas we desperately want to share with the world, to not be able to share that is tragic.

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Where would we be without the passion to design, draw, write, make music, cook, open conversations about new adventures and new thinking, to paint, to decorate, to get fit, to raise money, grow beautiful gardens, photograph the bounty before us and share it with the world.
Almost none of these things, done by anyone I know, or by anyone I’m guessing you know either, is done solely for a prize or recognition. To Create is like breathing, like a desire, a passion for life, which has the most marvellous of outcomes of making other people happy too.
We cannot be held responsible for anyone else. We can offer our stuff to the world, we can do our best. It isn’t your burden to live another person’s life for them. Making the hugest deal of your life though will impact on those around you like ripples in the ocean. All we can do to live a best life is to be mindful of how we do that, what we put in the world and why we are doing it.

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A few of my friends have gone through huge journeys to find the confidence to do things like this. Perhaps it is the upside of not having support, that we learn to push ourselves that little bit more. To reach into a place where you find contentment that much easier to grasp.
It literally makes me grin so much when I find out that David our friend with the dog has also been a poet and showed me his published books. His hidden tender depths are astonishing. ( Get well soon by the way ) Dear Rob, my lovely friend, who had a stroke, and who I taught art to and whom I met his lovely wife Ruth through. She and I are now great friends, she creates the most stunning quilts you’ve ever seen, and not only that, most of the things she makes she gives away.

Claire patiently making her beautiful cross stitch for her lovely family. Claire and her husband and children helped me every single week at an art class I ran in Edinburgh for children, taking boxes to the car and cleaning tables. They are so so kind.

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This post was originally inspired by my bin man. He casually told me once that he was also a singer and actor. Oh and whilst driving the truck takes these lovely photographs ! In lockdown he and his team have stayed upbeat, vans breaking down and everyone’s rubbish piling up sand dunes. It is a lovely thing to know how people celebrate the gaps between work and sleep and who the real people are. Well done Douglas and team. You guys are amazing, thankyou.

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I know Artists, some famous, some scribblers, writers (likewise,) nurses, teachers, holistic practitioners, mums, crafters, singers, and even nuns.
And they all have skills I didn’t know about.

Today I wore Channel no 5 to Marks and Spencer’s to buy food for Mother’s Day with the monkey. I haven’t worn it in a year. Before it turns to vinegar, it was a lovely feeling to smell and feel a bit like my old self.

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Doing things which evoke a particular sense of pleasure which resonates in only you cannot be explained or should be justified. The reason it is so hard to celebrate yourself is the mindset that at any given point we are doing things to please someone else, or gain approval. Saving things for best might mean you wake up one day, and your best is behind you.

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Because we need someone wiser? older? more experienced ? to tell us our choices are worthwhile beautiful, meaningful in the world. If we stand up and fail what happens then?

Actually not very much…

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I was asking my facebook question because I saw the quality in the things my friends do all the time, not because they are vain or pompous or climbing a ladder to success in a sharp suit smashing everyone in their way…
But because they are gentle, quiet understated and mostly never tell anyone else what they get up to. Many beautiful things go unnoticed and uncelebrated. And either way the creator has the same relationship with that exercise. It makes them happy. And they are in a place, for some, finally where they are allowed to be.

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Its the things that people don’t ask for recognition for that makes my heart sing.
My 106 year old nun doesn’t want it for her artwork. The care package sent by one of my group as their teacher, was not done for thanks, and took the giver completely out of their comfort zone to make it for me. That is a mountain and I am filled with gratitude.

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For me I only care about the genuine kernal of appreciation I now can say I have for myself, my journey and my daughter. Some things work out, some don’t, but to live a life which feels instinctive and has hope, is way better than living by the rules of another.
Any one of your creations, your meals, your walks, your photos of dogs, your haiku poems, your folded drawer of t shirts. You made something that wasn’t there before.
And that is a tiny bit marvellous
Perhaps tomorrow you can study to be an astronaut

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You all have unique skills and the creative strength to keep going. The hidden gems you planted a long time ago in a pocket somewhere, may well be fully grown sparkly trees by now. What has struck me recently, is how my intelligent, wonderful, creative students, friends, and those people I have continued to admire over the years have all maintained an aspect of learning, and have an open mind to other’s ideas. You are like collages of your years in the world. Evolving and growing in wisdom, shedding off out-grown ideas like skins and staying open minded, unafraid to travel forward

. It might sound cliche but I feel proud of all these amazing people educating, writing, creating, still learning skills, making the most of this time with their children and animals. Your resources are limited, but your wills are stronger than ever to finish what you started.

Every week amazing people do ordinary things which keep other people going, making sure we are all ok and for this I am grateful to be part of so many positive connections.

This is Jim. Jim is the star of our zoom every week with his technical green screen wizardry . He has taken huge steps , not least trusting and using a phone, let alone all this newfangled cleverness. We are in stitches and nobody looking in would guess your mammoth journey. Thankyou so much for keeping us all entertained. And to all my group, you inspire me and one another to remember we are all a puzzle piece in a bigger jigsaw. You just need to find the right box.

And this is Isabel Robb, working hard for a Brain Tumour charity by pushing herself with her ten thousand steps a day. This is Amazing. Isabel brings up her son with additional needs as well . She is a kind and selfless wee diamond. 🙂 Go Isabel xx

Both of these women I know, won’t mind me telling you that their journeys began in a far less happy and confident place: due to life’s unpredictable circumstances. It has been with their sheer spirit, courage and humility that they have worked a day, a step and a goal at a time to achieve these aims and recreate new lives for their families. All at Cedar are proud of the entire group of Women who have beaten their fears to get where they are. .

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And not trying to climb the mountain on day one

Sometimes, we are prevented from reaching our potential in life because those around us think they have our best interests at heart. Sometimes the reasons are much more complex. But if you start to unpick the response you might get; when you, for example, announce your wonderful new solo travel plans, or business idea, or new career as an opera singer.. it can be so overwhelmingly negative that you rip up the dream before it has even begun.

And that suits everyone just fine. It proves they were right. That they know you better than you know yourself…..

Except of course they don’t..

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Often people closest to you, will instil their fears of you doing something wild, crazy, free, liberating, enjoyable, wonderful, or just different…. which mimic your own self sabotage demon sitting on your shoulder already….and this will line up quite nicely with you NOT actually being able to do it in the first place, and at the first sign of defeat you give yourself permission to give up. PROVING ALL OF YOU RIGHT. And the cruellest irony is that this is usually nothing to do with your idea or plans or dabble into new territory. These emotional responses pushing you back down where you ‘belong’ are the fears of your friends, or family, often going back generations. Add in jealousy of not achieving that same kind of thing themselves, not getting to stand in your shoes, and it is a heady mix of sabotage blended to look like care. It is not cruel to be kind. It is probably just cruel.

Anyone truly in your camp will listen to all your ideas and be able to separate their feelings impartially. Give advice but still say go for it.

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In order to achieve anything at all in life, no matter how trivial or overwhelmingly impossible it might seem to anyone else First we need to know

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How to Climb a Mountain

1 We actually deserve to be happy and to do this thing we crave to do

2 Today is as good a day as any to start. Tomorrow is an excuse. Get a notebook and write down your idea.

3 Write down all the reasons for doing this thing and what you will feel

4 Write down all the reasons why not to do it , and what others will feel

5 Be grateful for what you have/ who you are already. This thing will add to your life. You are already you. That’s why you can do it.

6 Some days in the creation of a thing are like rainy weather. Shut the curtains, snooze and do it later.

7 Keep the big end result in your mind, but be flexible with this. A perfect alternative might pop up when you least expect it.

8 Make physical plans, maps, picture collages of your idea. Make lists . The more focused you are the better.

9 Do something every day towards your goal. I often multitask two blogs at once, or paint and listen to an audio for something I am studying. Squeeze things into the corners of your day. My hours are limited with fatigue, so my sympathies go out to you if you are  a reader with a chronic condition. However. You still exist. You can get to your goal. Just do it from the sofa, or your duvet.

10 Don’t procrastinate. You aren’t a child. Nobody will tell you off if you don’t start this venture off, You shouldn’t have to force yourself, although obviously we all have good and bad days. You are accountable only to you.

11 This will be perfect. But your version of perfect, nobody else’s perfect. Half  a mountain is better than no mountain at all.

12 Expect yourself to be happy, achieve this goal, be humble and share your experience.

13 If distractions are an issue of your own making, change the goal, as this might not be what you clearly desire. But if distractions are your children or animals- get a shed.

14 Be consistent every day. Timetable your tasks and very quickly you will see results that add up to something tangible. Read in the bath, listen to audio, get up  a bit earlier, work with the rhythms of those around you and yourself. I am writing this at half past five am. By teatime, my lupus addled brain is foggy and needs to draw instead.

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Where there’s a will there’s a way. And .. In the words of my daughter;

”there enough people already being average….

To aim your highest you might have to wobble a bit first…

and you are better to be a sheep dog than a sheep….’

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Perfectly said Leah. Didn’t need the rest of the blog!……xxxxx

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Good Luck with your next venture.. do let us know how you get on !

Love and Hugs, liz and the zoo xx

Sandcastle


This week has made me realise just how fast the Roller-coaster between feeling pure joy and the physical paralysis sadness can wreak in this wonderland we call lockdown.
It is amazing. One minute everything is so boringly normal you could scream stepping into your Monday pants, and then all of a sudden there you are staring into the eyes of yet another crazy person with too much time on their hands and not enough energy directed at their own underwear drawer.

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I might be the most tolerant person you’ll ever meet, so please don’t think I’ve had a bump on the head. But this Tiger mum who keeps her 7 cubs safe… ( only one human one) unknowingly woke up in the Jeremy Kyle show. The weather was warm with a promise of Spring sunshine. Along came a tornado.

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Whilst in my favourite pyjamas, secretly desperately chuffed with myself for changing my broadband and setting up my new tv package, I was basking in the happiness that can only be found in a remote control and Netflix and twiddling with business computery things in front of the fire, various animals snoozing next to me, child happily playing for once outside with her best friend . Bliss.

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The air is starting to ease it’s winter tensions, Spring smells had begun to tease us in the morning, just slightly too cool to actually drink tea outside, but almost.
And as I uploaded photos, this week , it felt lovely, both of us in the middle of creating new projects, some things nobody knows about yet, some things are revisited, some are ongoing and some are bearing fruit ; and like the garden and the clothing possibilities in the morning’s choices, we are starting to unfurl towards Spring..

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There was a hammering on the door and an angry woman’s face. In mine.

The people attempting to cause problems for others in the world aren’t really what this art and positivity site was supposed to be about. But that is unfortunately a mirror for life’s weird and wonderful journey; we do not get to chose everything in it. Sometimes the big kid stomps on your sandcastle. And it is whether you let the big kid stop you ever building another one again, that counts.

. When we moved to an idyllic little village we had visions of an idyllic little village, leaving the city outskirts for the sanctuary of a new start, we created a beautiful new home by the sea, with all the freedom a child could need . In the short few years we have lived here, both of us have now been subjected to behaviours by adults last seen in the playground .

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Model village

Whilst there have been reports filed, this is apparently quite a frequent occurrence to anyone not born in a small village. And the Police and other agencies have been overwhelmed with a stack of historical paperwork on these small town politics, chasing the blue skies into grey storm clouds…
Sounds a little bit to familiar to me.

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Making physical and verbal threats to other humans is clearly unacceptable.. Which was what the authorities also thought. Especially when unprovoked and repeated.

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There are many reasons, as we’ve discussed before, why people believe their feelings are more important or true than others. And therefore they feel they can dominate people because of this.


And the smaller and smaller a place you go, the worse this gets. Ironically, it is usually the most beautiful of places too. Having lived most of my adult life in Edinburgh where you could be any version of yourself at any time, nobody would notice. Walking home dressed in face paint from a performance, or covered in paint one day and dressed in a suit the next. The melting pot of human diversity in most places is what makes it healthy, interesting, fun and normal.

I don’t know how it feels to wake up and think anyone else’s business is mine, apart from those I love

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Despite having the same physical symptoms every day, keeping positive and creative keeps chronic conditions more bearable. Having layers of meaning and joy with the little little things we do, helps with all our states of mind. We eat so we don’t get inflammation, we breathe better, we maintain simple clarity for our family and health, we take pleasure in the ways of life that are colourful and joyful, especially when those things connect with other like minded people.

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So…..
When that subtle but vital cloak of protection is constantly snatched away by jealousy or ignorance it is not only another thing to maintain, but starts to become a very scratchy garment to wear instead. Thankfully we have an amazing network of friends and support out with the immediacy of certain goings on. But I am compelled to write about this because I know from your letters and responses that our experiences are not singular. If one of you feels something, somewhere we all do, or know someone who does. And hopefully it can help a little to discuss and compare .

Suddenly being scared, or anxious and confused because of something, someone out of your control, can physically overwhelm all your senses and your body’s defences.

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It is hard enough to deal with if you have the strength to go and kick box a giant padded dummy, but if your immunity is medically low, your body literally starts to attack itself. Go figure. It joins in.

The world is supposed to be a magical and kindly place. We should be able to trust all the creatures in the forest. There should be kindly folk at hand on our adventures and little birds singing on our shoulder.

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Just like in the story books


Thankfully, as I had both cctv, and my daughter was cavorting about with her best friend in a field making Tick Tick videos, both events were recorded. What I can’t get out of my head, is my daughter’s reaction after she had politely answered the screaming woman, and after the car sped off. That fear will haunt me, hopefully far longer than it will her.

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We all recognise this feeling.
Bullies from the snotty lunch money thieving playground ones to the ones we accidentally become involved with in innocence, trusting their stories of past heroics and future bounty, or the sudden and unexpected lashing out of a probably sad, angry human whose path your shadow fell onto.

Their fallout is the same, the negative, horrid, damaging, heavy, words, actions, threats, imminent behaviour strikes fear which goes way beyond the action of simply getting the stuff out of their heads into the world. These arrows land on the victim like physical blows and can change their entire outlook.

If we let them. And if our invisible armour isn’t adjusted.

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I couldn’t stop crying. My face hurt from it. But somewhere I knew it was temporary. I ran out of words a little bit and couldn’t move. My body was changed. The life force we need to choose our clothes, make a meal, be centered, that energy that usually flows was frozen. I had to say to a few people, for a few days, give me a minute. Those days were stolen .

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When we get attacked, we get invaded. Sometimes it is easy to brush off, sometimes though, especially if it has happened over and over, it can be one time too many. Here was a numbness and a seemingly irrational powerlessness.


There was too many associations with other situations which were similar. But I knew this. I could feel it like a cold hand pushing me back into a dark forest of feelings I just didn’t want to go into…… I witnessed myself experiencing this mad event through the eyes of my future self and knew letting this negativity win
wasn’t an option.

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Some days there are just too many ladders to climb


Observing my earthly body thus, it occurred to me that we must go through a series of bodily trials when we are shocked, appalled, worried and exhausted. Physically stunned, we lose our hunger for food, or the usual routines, but our senses are acutely aware of our loved ones in our peripheral vision.

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Your head gets crammed with cotton wool, your body wants to do is turn inside itself. Your eyes are leaking all by themselves and start to be filled with sand, which you keep trying to hide in front of your children. Gone is the tiny reserve of energy you stored up for that evening’s or day’s essential plans like cooking or bathing or folding laundry . Your already exhausted immune wrecked body is on hyperdrive looking for the enemy but attacking only you.
When you are ill and you are bullied, you are being slowly rubbed out from the inside and it takes a will of iron to stand in the eye of the storm, preserving precious energy.

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But of course you must. Every day, everywhere, situations are occurring where terrible things happen to good people day after day. This in the big scheme of things was horrible for us, but was dealt with and we are lucky to have the ability to make future choices. A pandemic, already challenging the world’s mental health, already forcing the isolated into isolation is why all differences should be celebrated not picked on. If we as humans are watched, it should be with loving eyes , because your self is so marvellous. This is no time for not being able to shine.

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After so much life on hold, we can’t hide our selves too.

We are equipped with ways to cope with sudden shock, if we hear our higher kinder self. As much as we want to please the concerned friends trying their best to help. What we all need sometimes is a different thing. Your true friends can and will want to learn to understand this, just as you do. All we can do is keep being open. Last night I received a lovely phone call from a 90 year old nun . I taught her and several of her friends in a care home. She and I haven’t spoken in three years but have sent letters. It was like we were on the phone yesterday. One of the residents, another Elizabeth Walker, who was dear to Leah and I , died yesterday. Monika gently talked about how she had sat with her and it had been very peaceful.

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Life is short, and sometimes tricky but there is always a light on. There are so many good people it is almost ridiculous. There are still so many reasons to brush yourself down and keep going. There are so many people in our lives even if we don’t see them for the longest time.

Forcing my legs into the cold, and leaving the Grinch in bed, the bear and I went to the beach today at 7.15. Am. He loved it. Nobody to scold him for running up to them and mimicking a small horse.


He galloped about, I watched the sky, bigger than all of us. We watched the swimmers, braver than all of us.
I managed just enough steps to feel a bit proud. Next time I’ll get to the water.
He waited nicely at the car and we listened to story tapes on the way to do the shopping in Aldi.
I shopped in peace, and was met like a long lost friend because we hadn’t done our shopping in person there for a month. ( having done it online when I hadn’t felt well). Next time they said the staff would take it in turns to drop off my shopping.

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We even managed to witness God on the A1, n a miraculous burst of light on the sea. And stopping on the layby wasn’t accompanied by ‘ God mum, you’re soooooo embarrassing’

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Life can and always does make progress and another day passes without going backwards.
The line between easy and hard is often paper thin, and a moment of someone else’s madness can be enough to create an effect like the blurry button on your camera phone.. In these times, most people are still kind, and in the widest world billions truly are incredible.
Sometimes it is the thought of the cold that is the hardest challenge . But as these guys are there every day, my guess it is must get warmer once you brave that first step…

Everyone loves a little healthy kingdom ruling once in a while though… just ask a dog. The difference is they cover you in big wet kisses afterwards.

Once out of the house, the village, The Grinch was happy to have peace, bear was happy to have space and it felt good having challenged myself to do these things alone.

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Today our chicken got out of her hutch. A small victory swiftly regretted after a brief flap around the trampoline when a giant pair of bear like jaws came hurtling down on her wing… Whether it was surprise at landing a catch or his practice at being so gentle with the guinea pigs every night; they just stopped and stared at one another in shock . Holding one in each hand like toddlers in a food fight, the Beast had to be gotten out of the way temporarily in order to coax Sugar back.

Safely back in the kitchen but trying to get out of the cat flap, bear watched as Sugar frolicked for a while with me in tow. Wondering how I would convince my lower body half to get all the way down to the ground to catch her, I rang Dr Doolittle on her mobile. Knowing full well that it was highly unlikely she would tear herself away from making her latest mini movie..

And then I stood still..

Slowed my heart rate and considered all eventualities briefly before leaving fate to step in

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And just like that, Sugar wandered into the cage, as if nothing had happened.

In our time there have been a series of challenges which have bordered on unbelievable. But they have only underlined the sanctity of home, of stillness and of loyalty to those people in your life who never judge, never comment, never complain; just allow you to be you.

These recent experiences may be the beginning of a new chapter for us. Who knows. As my friend Yvonne, who lives in Spain and who I miss dearly says’ Going beyond our shores is so much healthier for understanding other people.’ Certainly, staying in one place and growing more judgemental and bitter is not a life choice, regardless of the petrol it saves.

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All through this week I have been listening to the audio of the Wintering by Katherine May. My friend Nicola reminded me of the existence of Audible and recommended this book . It has been an absolute pleasure to be immersed in the beautiful visuals of May’s words , sensitively conjuring up how necessary and elemental our own seasons must be. Through chopping carrots and kale in the mornings to folding towels or finishing drawings, hearing her exploration of why and how we winter makes us see how there is a vital need to stop and refuel, especially when we find ourselves on empty , to gather in, restock, replenish, recharge, re new . It has come to be my new favourite book on so many levels.

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Wintering isn’t a four month period. wintering is stepping back and knowing that you must preserve your energy, skills, sense of self and purpose, gather your fuel, gather those you love, gather your breath. We are all in a kind of winter at the moment. losing some of the choices we normally use to gather momentum to propel to the next season. Without outside reminders in big ways, explosive adverts for chocolate eggs and holidays, get aways and rewards for surviving another cold spell, we must be our own advocate, our own reward, our own chicken soup. ( Sorry Sugar)

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There is a big big world out there, full of all of you inspirational people . Perhaps we land in a place for a while so that we can winter and create without distraction. And then really find our words.

Sometimes we must stand still and save precious energy whilst we figure out what the big dog will do next. Sometimes we get to gather in all the tools that only we know we need, and sometimes when the time is right, we can walk calmly back into our house that we chose, because we know we chose it, and it no longer feels like a prison. And we will all know that there will not be monsters or viruses or big black creatures at the door.

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Personally our view will always be beautiful. We will keep building our sandcastle and put the most beautiful shells we can find on it. And if it gets washed away, kicked over, well do it all again tomorrow; because that is half the fun.

Standing Strong as I know you are Too

with all our love,

Liz and the zoo

xxxx

Springing Forward, looking back

This month has probably been the hardest one for many . A combination of patience stretched to breaking point, limited services and life and the universe in a hug-less void spinning us in our strange little bubbles. Unless you are a guinea pig and then life has continued pretty much as before..

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How cold it has also been !. And alas, the joys of a lovely conversation over coffee in the warmth of a cosy café with a friend, or a winter’s sale to treat the soul, cheering the grey and bitter days with pockets of colour, seem like forbidden fruits to be savoured and dreamed about on repeat, lest we forget entirely the joy of the ordinary day..

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It was such a looooong month… Ironically after the last post being so upbeat and productive, mobility and health took a detour for a few weeks and I was grateful for the comforts of home and the nursing superpowers of my wonder child.

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Not only did the body decide to send an almighty great big flare up,  which ended up in an A and E emergency road trip , a week in bed , a covid test , two lots of very strong anti biotics , all the daily routine was in the hands of my young carer extraordinaire. ( who took great delight in this task being in charge of the kitchen cupboards and concocting numerous chocolate snacks for us.. (for lunch. )

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Like all of us, dealing with chronic conditions in a pandemic; we are doing it without the popping in of friends and the best medicine of company and laughter. Even the car gave up the ghost and needed a jump start to get moving. Thankyou to the Simmons family who were just amazing as tablet collectors, dog walkers, dog sitters and taxi drivers, and also to the monkey’s sleepover hosts, Steve and Jennifer. For a few weeks life ground to a halt a little bit. Although the basics just about got done in the Ark when the weather lashed against the windows and the studio was switched to the duvet. Thankyou too to Louisa for the book and chocolates in the post. Bear says ‘Could you just read the last two pages from your copy, as they were delicious.’

Snow and Covid grounded the decking and pergola building plans to a halt too, leaving a skeleton of four posts like a sculpture amongst the granny chic of the garden. Unfortunately, with very little to do in a small village, an unidentifiable wooden object became the overpowering curiosity of those with too much time on their hands.

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In times of illness, we are weakened in more ways than just our symptoms. It frustrates us to be in need of help, to be pitied, or seen as weak. Often we make a point of doing more than we should to override these assumptions . Losing health can feel like losing power. And bullies know this. Degenerative illness is complicated and different all the time. Supportive friends know the good and bad days or weeks, and can see the danger signs, when you say you are ok, but you really aren’t.

When those around you are behaving in a less than supportive manner, or worse chipping away at your peripheral vision like wearing dirty glasses with squashed mosquitos stuck to the lenses , the easiest feeling is to give up. Or become bitter, and sad, lonely, angry, bite back like a dog with a flea constantly biting its ear..

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But that’s not an option to preserve your future sanity and energy.

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Especially if we keep ourselves open to possibilities and looking at more than our shoes..

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One of the benefits of this time has been the ability for many of us to ground ourselves with aspects of life which had become consigned to the attic . Forced indoors with our belongings, and face to face with bits of ourselves we hadn’t seen in a while, has perhaps been cathartic, or freeing, perhaps complicated, but I imagine some of you have had an interesting time looking at old photographs, diaries, listening to music from personal years gone by.

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No matter how unwell we become, our physical bodies may grow week, we may go through chapters where one aspect of our life challenges us, but it absolutely does not topple every other domino in the game.

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If negative self talk, from our past, familial conditioning, those that we see and hear on a daily basis seep a drip drip affect into our minds which is left to fester, it not only poisons our joy, it physically weakens us, and our immunity. If you have illness already, this stuff can really cripple you. Allowing your mental energy to slump too is like handing your life support machine over to the enemy. It is difficult to override voices whose aim is to halt your progress, and curtail your mission in life.

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Finding a way to come home to yourself in the toughest times in this world is fundamental to your sanity. As crucial as breathing. Today after repeating myself to a 12 yr old about the importance of maths and geography schoolwork three hundred times , and the obligatory ‘DONT go on your phone mantra… I hid in my shed and looked through more lovely things. It helped. It was just a few minutes but the blood pressure gauge literally crept back down before my eyes!

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Within the mental health art group I support, we talk a lot about the value of sharing, that life and its ups and downs can overwhelm and overpower us to the point of stasis. And why having someone you can really talk to is so important. Today I talked to two people about things that were troubling me. It is usually me that does the listening. A huge weight felt like it was lifted by the simple gift of being heard. And not judged. Imagine , if we could all do this early on for every child. Or more importantly that every child grew up feeling it was safe to really say what hurt. Studies show that childhood trauma affects not only the mental wellbeing of that person as an adult but it can chemically affect and change their immunity levels and the likelihood of a serious life threatening condition. The irony is, those who have the least support as children, given the right circumstances, can turn into damaged adults who hurt others.

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Getting what is in, out of ourselves is a crucial step at any point on our journey to health. Keeping your head healthy by blitzing stagnant bits, is sometimes a bit unpleasant, like cleaning out the fridge, but always makes you ultimately walk that bit lighter. And in these cooler months, before our wellbeing gets extra oomph of vitamin D from being outdoors, learning more about ourselves, by clearing , reading, discovering again, who we were, who we still are is quite a productive way to spend these groundhog days.

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Time to discover what you are hiding up there

When I was young I had no concept of myself through other people’s eyes. I was never very sure of where I fitted in. Ours was a family who didn’t do much of this talking business, like most in the 70’s and 80’s and for me, it was a fairly lonely place. Being so creative, I threw myself into the arts, not really understanding how good I was or what my options in life truly were. It makes sense when I see these pictures now, that I probably wasn’t armed with the defences needed against imminent danger . The monster looming on the horizon. But looking back could it have changed anything? Would I have listened? Probably not! My head was full of all the things it was meant to be…mostly glitter, music and too much Taboo and lemonade… And when I think back, I was happiest then. Because there was everything to play for, and I hadn’t yet known true pain.

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Looking back over a previous period of time is sometimes a reminder that we have still existed in another dimension But sometimes it lets us know that there are aspects of who we once were which are just as alive now as when they were stuffed in a box in the attic. For many years these pictures and many other parts of my early adult life were boxed away. Some, I was even told by my ex to burn in case I presented the wrong impression to my Stepsons. After the monkey and I escaped, as survival took over, life was condensed into a different kind of sense of self, as Mum, ex wife, the single woman who was a little too dangerous to invite to dinner parties alone, just in case she stole a husband. The one with an illness nobody understood. And a new set of labels got plonked on. As they do, to all of us, all the time, wherever we go in life. Please don’t read this as a sad story. We share these stories in groups too because they are a universal experience. They have opened doors to conversations and new paths. Ours became the making of us, and we developed skills through experience which placed us better to help others.

It was too hard to look at these pictures for a long time . For the fear that this girl was gone . I remembered being on a journey , being so excited about what life was about, starry eyed and with a heart fit to burst. But the crucial missing piece was self worth. The thing you take for granted that you tell your children without thinking about it. In my case, the dragon swept in , in disguise and I believed his version of what the future would like like. I think my nurturing instinct took over too and made it harder to walk away . I remember feeling parts of my spark fading.. but also trying to tell myself to be brave. There is always a way to survive.

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I became moulded into a version of myself. A scared one . Friends I had at this time started to fade away. I didn’t understand why, but now I know they had been warned off. One or two clung on though, and trusted I was in there still, and one day would find the way home. They could see the 18, 21, 30, year old girl as clearly as the 49 year old I am now, and nothing in my life experience could block her. What I missed most was creating. I did Art, but it was hidden in sketchbooks and journals. Heavily judged and criticised at home, most of my energy for making and inspiring was fed into my pupils in my classroom. When After 15 years, I met up with one of my best friends Mark ( having not been allowed Male friends during my marriage) he was shocked. How did you survive not drawing or painting? Art for you is like breathing? He was right. I had pushed it so far under the highly vacuumed carpet I couldn’t feel it’s absence any more.

What do you see?

Nobody knows when they will become unwell, what the future will hold, or when we will need to search deep within ourselves for extra strength. If we knew what was ahead of us we might never leave our beds. But it is the not knowing that gives us the ability to hope, and dream, and keep making escape plans. The future is still waiting for us. All plans begin with a spark of fear or excitement and then reality hits. Whether good or bad the fulfilling of a mission is frightening and overwhelming, especially on your own. But little by little, even through illness we can do anything we set our minds on. Those sketches in journals are still being used in paintings now, and in the inspiration given to groups every week. And I know now that I was never on my own.

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Even in these tough months, like a stick of rock, you have printed your strength at your core . Sharing with one another in any way you feel able until you can physically get back together will really help get through any tough patches.

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Yey! you got out of bed again!!!

We can plan one route in life and another opens up, or a path that was only supposed to be temporary becomes permanent because of a relationship, a job or money . We move through life because of love or fear. And they can be so closely intertwined that one becomes mistaken for another. I have certainly learned through experience that this is true, but am grateful for who and what has happened along the way too.

What is essential is to hold onto a dream that you deserve and will live a life of utter completeness . A sense of peace that goes beyond what is happening now, in this pandemic and deeper. The life that was what you told the stars at night when you were six.

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The way you live your life, move through the world in your own perpetual motion, swinging in the trees, singing in the car, planting things in wellie boots, painting your garden path, sharing your food with neighbours and friends, blasting out lovely music, surrounding yourself with animals, only wearing blue, only wearing rainbow, only going out on Tuesdays, never going out on Tuesdays… IT IS YOURS. It affects nobody. If the flow of individuals is stopped at every junction by parents, teachers, neighbourhood bullies or your partner ; the affect is deeper than just one more miserable human in the world. All the people you could usually bring joy to, they suffer too..

Our life is paint-box and happy and we love it. And all the human and furry friends that join us.

 It has been lovely to remember a few of the art projects, and positivity our days are normally filled with.

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Image result for eyemouth art trailImage result for eyemouth variety wizard of oz

Life will slowly come back in whatever form it can take. The outside decking space at Skye blue House will become somewhere to host one to one art classes for wheelchair users and socially distant coffee writers mornings.

The house has squeezed every use out of every room this year…. Restaurant, hospital ward, schoolroom, art room, multiplex cinema room, zoo park, even pet surgery for sad guinea pigs in need of cuddles.

One day our rooms will breathe again, a sigh of relief that they will regain their one and only use, but also perhaps be slightly sad that they will never be quite so loved, quite so needed as now..

This little house has seen a lot.

This was the house that we bought in 2015

Skye Blue House Now

Normally our days would be filled with the zooming off to arty business here there and everywhere.. I miss teaching and people and faces and our community !!

It has been difficult even in winter to remember what Summer looked like here! and what the garden looked like in full bloom! A reminder that a little patience will see the garden bloom once more….

When we are scared we freeze. We lose things that are so vital to our wellbeing that we don’t know we need them until they are gone. I have enjoyed finding the things that have always been there and never changed as well as letting go of what no longer fits.

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This is a scary time. But it isn’t going to be forever and the things we love in our worlds are still there, waiting. We are still here . Having an opportunity to shed what doesn’t mentally fit any more is a healthy process . The universe will love that, an opportunity to open a door long since closed or finally get you to finish that symphony you were writing at 16. When we look at our past we can revisit chapters still left unwritten, and discover a fabulous version of the new old self we haven’t yet met. Please do share your wonderful new old selves with us on here.

What I do know, is even if the posts are cut down, there is a fabulous forest of marvellous magic waiting to grow in their place. With a giant bear at the gate

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Such a scary Bear

One of these mornings we will open the back door a keep it wide open….And even better, pop our bubbles and welcome home our tribes once more.

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To all your chapters thus far and the ones yet to come , this has tested us all in ways some of which we could never have imagined, but so too you have found hidden strengths and superpowers, maybe even a few funny photos. I can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to,

I love you.

Liz And the zoo xx