Chance

Nobody knows what the road ahead will bring.

From an early age my philosophy has always been to prepare the way ahead, just in case tomorrow sends you a curve ball. Which we all know is exactly what life does in the most spectacular, ridiculous, heart-breaking or just plain annoying ways. Following on from our last post may we present the Art of recycling- what-was-either- being- sold- or-moved and the power of intention to flip the map upside down, and reroute the bus down a more scenic route.

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Life gives us lemon groves sometimes.

Deconstructed rooms, zoo on a road trip, painted garden bits flaking under constant scrutiny and rain, upended blue paint tin tipped over mural by designer dog who himself, having timed his burgeoning adolescence with the upheaval of travel; very nearly became one of the must-go pile!!!!..

Its easy to give up when things look like they are all going wrong . Understandable that what doesn’t look like its easy to fix gets abandoned. Easier to give up and have an simpler life.

But where’s the fun in that?

This is Skye Blue House. Nothing gets us down for long.  The mural needed a repaint anyway, work was then started on the rest of the path with masonry paint and blue shed paint, very early in the morning, section by section to avoid giant paw prints across the living room carpet. A ton of Scottish cobbles created a beach effect where a patch of grass was previously dug up by Bear under the old trampoline circle. This became a border housing the pot bound plants gasping for breath over Summer months with the addition of some perennials . Leah’s old wardrobe became a bespoke garden tool store, far sturdier than similar ones in the garden centre.

Since the surgery a few months ago to remove a bone in my hand, I am delighted to be able to paint things again without wincing. Arthritis creeps back and in my case it is sneaky and persistent.  So making hay while the sun shines is vital, before winter creeps up again making outdoor work too painful. And to re-claim the home we thought we would be leaving, two rooms were given a face-lift to satisfy that New -House itch and to let this house know we do love it it still !

Houses, like us, love to be loved and seep their pride into your (much anticipated and welcome) winter guests .Home ; a perfect blend of comfort, colour, you and spontaneous tea and cake. Disclaimers will include here the many blobs of paint on carpets, hastily cleaned up, ruined glasses I accidentally use for paint water, muddy dog paws on new Indian bedspreads, non compliant teenagers, weather, the bank balance …….

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This was an especially driven project for many reasons. Not least a big birthday. Which was date to have things finished by, and free up other head space to focus on bigger Art projects, pursue health options and enjoy the season with at least a few ticks on the list.

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Autumn will come with its own surprises so for today there is a calm quiet comfort in home . Which you and I know is in us all along

Thankyou for the Facebook compliments and the requests for outsourcing the old decorating skills… I think other than in advisory capacity over dinner, its back to words and watercolours for a while. One of the reasons to have moved was longer seasons, in a warmer climate which you’ll know yourselves makes a huge difference to the mobility. …

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And well; if we can’t have sun all year round, we’ll keep warm with quality friendship and cake xx

Love and positivity, Liz at the Beach Hut xxxx

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Baby bird

How old were you when you found your wings ? When did you first feel in control of your choices? Or grounded enough to let go of your fear? Whose fear was it anyway ?

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Did you climb a mountain in a sweltering landscape and peek at your new perspective through the gap in the clouds?

Did you find God one day while eating your toast?

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 Did you reach Nirvana whilst touching the high notes with your choir or dancing with your tribe around a flaming bonfire?

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Or understand fully one sunrise your need for grounding in earth, as you smelled the air and witnessed your hard labour flourish?

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Or maybe a little of all of these?

Did you then forget your epiphany as soon as you landed back on planet earth with a plop when someone needed you or worse, wiped your seed of new hope away ? Did the technicolour get switched back off ?

Did a voice in your head tell you how unrealistic your positivity was?

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When the clear glistening ideas in your mind unfurl, new and shiny and exciting, like a glossy tropical flower You just know that someone will come and cut your petals off. Often someone who in theory should have your back.

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This is the vulnerable point where many fledgling dreams die. Trying to push against the system which surrounds anything different, whether at home or work is often too difficult. It is easier to drift back and become engulfed in the ‘way it has always been’

Most people know who they are. What brings them joy and a sense of pure satisfaction. But we are fed so many alternatives to this core knowledge, and are often hungry for a little more validation. Sometimes these vital gaps in our unconscious self worth came from feelings we have when we are little and can’t yet fly.

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A Baby seagull made its home on top of our caravan this Summer. Nesting in our rooftop chimney, a fluffy little chick was waited on by a village of seagull parents; decorating its roof with hard to clean graffiti. Baby seagulls are very demanding. Screeching their needs very vocally for not only their parents but all adult birds within a two mile radius. Relentlessly they deliver takeaway delights to their offspring with their gruesome picnics, and swoop low and hard on any unexpecting human passers by.

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While we travelled this Summer, she stayed still and grew fat, filling out her fluffy edges with spotty brown feathers. And on our return, she was almost as big as her mum, and still, she cried and cried for food. Once fed, the crying started again with the rapidly less patient mum nudging her baby to move .

These seagull parents were getting fed up now.

Over the next few days, the crying continued. But nobody came. She knew she could fly. They knew she could fly. She realised food was going to be slightly harder to come by. So she cried harder. Her feathers were turning a lighter shade of grey. She walked to the edge and back again, and sat down. Her cries became more plaintive and although beady eyes watched from nearby rooftops, nobody came to deliver dinner. Until. there was nothing more for it. It was time….

After several short trips to nearby treetops and a couple of shed roofs soon all that remained on the caravan roof was the Jackson Pollock masterpiece.

There is a time, when nobody comes. Sometimes we wait a lifetime for that reassurance and feed, and believe we cannot function without it. We have a core belief that we can’t. … (fill in the blank) That a teacher, a parent, a partner, or any person we give permission to have (or had ) power over us, and once that is delivered ; we will then be whole.

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All living creatures have a right to love and nourishment but we know this is seldom true for everyone.

If we are fortunate, we are fed the morsels we need to build our strength, courage and resistance, to build healthy bones, lives, relationships and feel loved.

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It takes courage to say, thank you for feeding me, but I can take it from here. That I have enough belief in my self to choose whom to take advice from . It takes courage from those who love you to also let you go, make mistakes and come back, bruised but more wise. And when there is no Big seagull watching you must hear your own voice.

You’ll hear other squawks and caws, creating more choices, more distractions.  Jostling for attention and swaying your resolutions and ideas with promises. A person who fears change will fear yours. “Stay safely in your comfort zone that matches ours, think these thought because they match the system we created.”

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And on a superficial level we get thrown life changing ‘temptations’ “Be the best version of yourself with our new products. Buy a whole new set of clothes, get a better job, a shiny new car, and always a new sofa… THEN you will be the perfect person you always knew you could be! Hurry while stocks last. On sale now. a new improved you. No mess, no clutter, just competition ready human.”

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When it still doesn’t feel better, when we are still hungry for something else; that’s the gift of looking deeper into our own needs.

This Summer has given us a new perspective. One which we hadn’t planned, but clearly it was in the plan all along.

As an art teacher I have spent my life collecting resources for others to use, from shells to old objects, books, materials, plants, metal things, glass things, fabric things, beautiful shiny objects and tiny things that fit into the palm of your hand. A classroom was packed with labelled boxes and lovely stuff to draw from.

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When I left my teaching post through ill health, my huge supply of resources was lugged from house to house, into storage facilities and a basement, back to the shed and back to another art room. It was whittled down and down but at each stage of the life of the stuff, people were using it and creating beautiful artwork. It has been my nemesis for as long as I can remember. Collecting things for people to use makes so many people happy; it was never a question of not keeping things

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People donate art materials to you which is amazing and for classes an Aladin’s cave of colourful ephemera grows. Easily the bags and boxes also grow in quantity, and without adequate permanent storage- one becomes a permanent bag lady. This state relies on meticulous organisation, warm weather for easier mobility, an army of volunteers to help lift from the car and bend to the floor for any stray tissue paper and stray clutter, not to mention the energy needed to create in the first place.  The reality of wheeling bags of art materials in a force ten gale while a rainbow of pens skittles off down the road is highly likely.

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There is a time for everything

And a place too.

Yesterday, after making a decision to start focusing on a bigger project of my own, my remaining boxes were returned from the community centre where I was teaching . Oh no, boxes of stuff again.!

After spending a Summer literally throwing out everything I own and starting a home renovation now we are remaking our own home with less clutter, I could have wept! But I asked for these things back. Why on earth did I do that? Things just keep coming back, growing in volume.. again! .

In amongst the detritus of making equipment, there were sketchbooks and memories, boxes of collected resources, things donated and found. Things which will give pleasure again. Working in the art field always comes with a running commentary of ‘funny’ labels. Junk, clutter, crap, stuff or worse. But look back. Look at how that plastic became a dragon sculpture. Look at how that ink was layered in rich textures over all that scrap and made this fantastic collage.  

Our things, the ‘stuff’ we collate and have an affinity with, create a thread with others. When someone else decides to throw away, comment about, or sabotage our things without our permission, it makes decisions about what we need, and for some precious objects leaves a physical loss. In all of the Art spaces I have run, we have kept a wide and varied selection of materials for every project one could think of. Even though the hoard was very organised, being forced to cull occasionally is healthy! The eye of a non interested observer however will only ever see this, (below) and make that the excuse for treating stuff-which-doesn’t-slot-into-a-neat-category badly.

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Until someone tells them its ART , and then they pay ££££££££

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Indestructible Object Man Ray

Then, a week later, it happened again. More things were going to be travelling to us. Do you think the universe was trying to tell us something? This was the first time ever that everything I owned would be in one place. After my first reaction of horror, dread and wondering if I could crawl under the covers with a sketchbook and Netflix, this stuff was being given its own second chance, to fit, or not fit, for where we are now. Just like we decided to give this home a chance, despite a few crows pecking at our corn. For the first time, there was nobody telling us it had to go somewhere else.

The value we place on objects is so unique to us, an extension of our selves through our space and our clothes, our belongings and our creativity. If we don’t care about these things, or let others mock, its personal . Allow a child to love a rock collection and a row of conkers. There will be a time when we are gone and none of these things we own matter. But we do, and we live on in the worth we allow others to enjoy in us.

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I had been buying things for years and giving them away. Then, weirdly, a delivery of almost the same thing would come from somewhere else, it would come back to me in a different way, for example as a gift or a donation. Without realising it, I had been viewing my things through the eyes of my critics, slightly judgingly and disposing of them often because I could hear the voice..

There were sketchbooks or materials we could use with other classes. And although most of it went into the recycling. I enjoyed the little pocket of time carved out to really appreciate and look at how it got here. And what we need now. And what we don’t. Placing value on each item , purely based on my own voice, I have to admit was a lovely feeling. When we realise why we carry a weight of doubt, and for how long, it is a profound gift to let it go.

Looking through boxes of old teaching resources I was blasted back to that time, those energies and passions. Not just the resources used to teach Art lessons and critical work, but the drive to focus on particular artists, Frida Kahlo, Pierre Bonnard, John Piper, The Pre Raphaelites. The design lessons of masks for a Midsummer Night’s Dream, of world festivals, of Alice in Wonderland and natural form. A whole bank of ideas, images, interests and inspirations.  I still love all those artists. Drawn to since childhood, many Artists still resonate, and I find synchronicities and parallels with how I like to work.

Pierre Bonnard: At home with Marthe, 1937-1943


 In gaining the ability to throw away , we must trust the ability to keep. This pertains to any area of our lives- clothing, activities, foods that make us unwell. Whatever pops into your mind as you read this. What will come again easily is what you need and what is precious.  I should have asked myself at five or ten to tell myself now what I would like. Most of it would still be true.

Sometimes a journey can be much more than you imagine. The 3000 miles we drove to find a potential new home ended up with an appreciation of where we are now. Waiting for my seagull family to land with dinner was a red herring.

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There was however, a whole aviary of supporters in the nest

Whatever you might be not doing because you are waiting for permission; just do it. People can and do wait a lifetime for a morsel that never comes, a crumb for their inner baby bird. Approval is overrated. Do no harm to others and strive to enlighten your self.

Trying to apply your hearts desire against a soundtrack of criticism, whether ‘kindly’ unprompted advice or hostile, fear addled barbs; is like flying in a tornado.

We gave away all our food, drove 3000 miles, took five animals around the country, packed up our house and unpacked it again, closed off every avenue, and in coming home; found that all the people and paths that were meant to be for us, were still here, quietly giving us the thumbs up. Those who believe in you will do so no matter how you take flight.

Our Summer wasn’t what we expected but it truly was what we needed. We found strength and courage, and a bigger picture. . Despite the madness, I would do ( most of it ) over again. We could have chosen a whole new place but got to unwrap the gift of life here again. Much has been happening at Skye Blue house since we returned, with an almost constant paintbrush in hand. The next post will unveil all the hard work!

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Travelling helps root us back home and get perspective on the life and accomplishments we have achieved so far , with or without a team in the pits

So, replace that fear in your chest with a few helpful butterflies…Then Spread your wings and leap off the caravan roof.. You might not get where you thought you were going. … .but there is a big horizon waiting.

Tell your seagull self;

To live a life you’ve never lived; you must do what you’ve never done

Take one step towards the edge and the rest will follow

Tune in and keep your frequency high

Feel the breeze and soar

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See you soon, Love, Liz at the Beach Hut xx

Road trip

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Oh what we wouldn’t give

To have another life

One which has more sunshine

Where no neighbours give us strife.

Well here’s a little story

Given with a pinch of pride,

To tell you that you can indeed;

And land the other side.

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Not only as the self you were:

Bit all the missing parts,

The scattered bits you thought were left,

Like plasters on your heart.

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It started during Covid, when our patience , trust was tested

The art was made for future times, and painful bones were rested

Contact with the outside world was mostly done on zoom

While unkind eyes peered in through the curtains in the living room

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A goldfish bowl is what it felt, a sport for bored old men

While real life captured daily in the dreams of ink and pen

But sadness takes its toll you know,

Despite how brave you feel

Despite distractions, kindly words and never ending zeal

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All a human wants to do

is open their back door

To feel the sun on their bare feet

And let their spirit soar.

Pain is eased by warmer climes.

Where damp bones are less sore.

Where just for once a dress is aired

To float in at the shore.

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We packed the house with boxes

Planned a road trip for so long

Both of us excited, planning

Nothing could go wrong

We headed off to Dorset in a car packed to the top

And listened long to Audible and old c.d.s non stop

The B and B though lovely , was run strictly, and like school

Bear, in car at Breakfast , trying bravely to stay cool

Beaches were so pretty but a long way from the car

And a wander down to Lulworth Cove felt a step just too far

A hot and fluffy Scottish dog and 12 year old, to entertain each day

These trips should come with medals or a free spa by the way!

Next was a small chalet in a little place called Eype

Right next to lovely Bridport which was where we really liked.

We looked at lots of houses, thinking renting would be right

To see how life would unfurl and if this was where we liked.

We needed to be careful.

And that’s why we were quiet

The more they knew, the chance for damage

grew with every night.

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A plan was hatched to safely try another little boat

A few who knew could see how hard we’d tried to stay afloat.

All we needed was a plan,

of Epic size proportions

But, hey this is real life here, 

with all its mad distortions...

Returning back to where we live, my daughter would not go

Her summer was more summer if she could simply flow

So we returned, the bear and I, had just two weeks left to search

To look online for something new, in shadows of the church.

That time was peaceful, useful, long , she’d never been away .

And we both got to do the missing which we did, I’m glad to say .

Our house was cleared and cleaned and boxed and sorted every day,

But every turn produced a problem tripping up the way.

From nests of wasps which manged to escape their mortal trap

to blown up routers thanks to power cuts, needing several chaps.

Each new thing became a task though simply to sort out,

and spaces came with things that went, the things we dared chuck out.

If you think you are going, you clean out even more

your cupboards don’t have spices dating back to Eighty four.

So emails pinged and forms were filled

for landlords time again

Oh how we forget what its like to go through that in vain

To jump through hoops and hand out cash and prove our worth for lets

‘ No parking, fun, or children, and definitely no pets!’

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In summer too when every shed is sold as summer space

For one months rent , a car you’d buy or ticket up to Space.

The days were ticking past and I had to get my girl ,

my guinea pigs were down there too and this lot are my world.

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Bear and I however had managed something too.

Our goodbye lunches sparkled in the eyes of all the friends we knew.

We felt a tug of love, a lamplight in the gloam

The silent yet warm constant presence making home a Home.

We drove back down to England to continue with the plan.

A room filled floor of boxes to join us in a van

When two hours in a wobble veered us off the A1 road

And holding Bear in one hand, the A.A. man did unload

The boot packed full of random stuff and two cats ,mewling madly

Our tyre was worn but also had a cut which leaked so badly.

We made our way back down at 50 all the way

And 12 hours later we arrived, but no words could we say.

The best parts are the absences in an adventure story

The chance to miss and find again, your own sweet Jackanory

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Sometimes life can play a trick and you must listen hard.

Sometimes you must journey long to stay just as you are.

Sometimes you must see yourself as others see you first.

Sometimes you must love yourself the way you most deserve.

We used our instincts all the way and listened to each time

An obstacle would light each step and that this was a sign.

Not to carry on this path;

But see it as devine.

On getting down to Sussex,

where the gathering troups were held

The planned next manoeuvre

was far from being gelled

In England there was one month left til schoolterm did begin.

But Scottish schools returned in days, and time was running thin.

As things came clear for reasons I shall leave for just today

It came to me that this was time for us to be away

In one day two new tyres, new togs and food was deftly sought,

and all those things that previously for Dorset had been bought,

We’re swiftly and with Kondo grace stuffed back into the car.

Along with several animals and all the Art so far.

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And realising with lightning speed that this had been the reason

That fate had stepped in just before this new emerging season

And travelling back to where we knew were friends with open hearts

Was where we made our home and what inspired the Beach Hut Art.

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We made the journey home which made us feel quite glad

To unpack every box and discover what we had

To know the choices laid out bare and stand still any way

And re affirm what we believe, no matter what they say.

You run, and search for you we think is missing in your lives

When what you have is what you’d pay a leg for in St Ives

Off we drove at 5 am, stuffed up to our cars brim

Excited to be going home at last and not so scared of him

Guineas cage on top of cats and Bear leaning on me

A more comical carload you’re unlikely to see.

The school had left a place for her despite our prior chat

And lovely feels are happening when home feels where its at.

The boxes are now emptied, the feet are on the ground.

The Summer shed off more than rubbish,

Insight has been found

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We can save the rest for other days, as this could take a week

But trust me when I tell you that if Inner calm you seek

Step outside your comfort zone and leap into the unknown

Miss your loved ones Til you both want nothing but your home

Drive away and back again to see where you are now

Scare yourself a little while your body will allow.

Mine’s already creaking with the haar in every joint

The Autumn school term makes adventure hard now, that’s the point

A healthy body to ease pain needs the right amount of heat

And healthy minds need peace to live with earth beneath your feet

So, back to the beginning with a view I’d pay to have

To know the value of your lot and make your head feel glad

The chance to see what you would miss is if you let bullies win

They pop up almost everywhere so turn to them and grin

Your feet are earthing you wherever your two legs can be

And your two legs can carry you from shore to shining sea

And if like me, you struggle with this easy of all things

Three thousand miles proves your car can be your wings

The Gods were working with and for us on this magic quest,

This summer ended not as planned but worked out for the best.

For us, I know the following, and never will forget,

We like our house and won’t be pushed into an airbrushed let

where animals and children aren’t welcome on the floor.

It might be noisy but there’s always welcome here behind our door.

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A little word of thankyou too for meals made on our quest.

And barefoot caravaning tending truly was the best.

My bin man and our lovely gardener we could not compare

And A. A men with pet skills, well you got us everywhere.

We’ll love and richly leave you for a little while this time

But soon be back with drawings, stories, notions love and silly rhymes .

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Leaving a light on,

All our Liz and the zoo xx

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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