Welcome New Year!

Each year I try to not wallow grumpily in the dark of the winter that I dislike so much, and I usually do okay until the end of January, by then I’ve had enough and will desperately seek daylight whenever I can. Until then I’ll try to let my body rest in the underworld as it needs, instead of fighting against tiredness. I’ve had some practise in the last six days, not getting up before 6am but burrowing and extra hour or two, and then lazing some more, reading and some walks in the wind. My energy levels will return as the days lengthen.

I choose to focus on the year ahead rather than the one we are leaving with quickening steps. I feel positive that 2013 will be an exciting one, there will be challenges – and I’ll thrive on them, there will be change, but that is so much better than stagnation. It would be wonderful if my path is a travelling one, there are so many places I dream of seeing. Eastern Europe, possibly the more remote areas of south west France and northern Spain, who knows I may even take my first steps across the pond. If fate keeps me in England all year, I will keep looking mindfully at Britannia and all her children, wherever they arrived from. England, Devon and Exeter endlessly surprise me and my camera will be close at hand.

Through my window I can see the dead seed heads of the Clematis Tangutica, growing over the hedge from next door. It hardly seems possible that in a couple of months it will burst with green buds, and then follow with its lovely lemon peel flowers for months on end. It is a personal clock, one of my markers of time unfolding. I also look forward to having some daylight before the walk to work and after the walk home, but I won’t ask for it to happen too quickly, it will unfold as it should.

The most important thing I could wish for is of course good health and happiness for my family and friends, including you dear reader, here’s to sharing the ride!


A reluctant time traveller

I stumbled across a prompt, what period of history or event would you like to time travel to? It sent my mind butterflying through the centuries and around the world, to Egypt when the pyramids were being built and then feeling a touch guilty, back closer to home and Stonehenge. I didn’t linger in either place; gruelling physical labour in either climate would have meant an unpleasant life and an early death. The story of the stones arriving from Preseli 150 miles away is known to be a myth but someone still had to shift them upright. Naturally as I would be arriving via time machine they might revere me as a goddess, but more likely they’d torture and punish me as something demonic. So, an alternative? I live in a city founded by the Romans around AD50, the arrival, overthrowing of the Dumnonii tribe and establishment of a fort overlooking the river as part of their march westward would have been terrifying to the locals. Some of them still get a bit anxious when tourists arrive for a bank holiday to drink our most expensively rated and billed water for free. Would it be worth cranking up the time machine for? Only for the wine they brought with them!

Many years ago I devoured a series of books, ‘Earth’s Children’ by Jean Auel. The heroine, Ayla manages to tame a young horse, the first step towards domestication of an animal. Since then I have often wondered about that period when other creatures started to share our lives, to mutual benefit – maybe, and carried to the extreme with the training of cormorants to fish for us. That’s quite high on my list of who, why, how did someone first think that up questions. This all takes place 30,000 years ago when the oral tradition of storytelling was probably flourishing but I’d probably miss my shelves of books and the Kindle app on my Android.

Take a quick step forward. I’ll disembark from Viator, as I’ve named my time machine, to the industrial revolution, the nineteenth century and the wonder of the first railways. To be among the first people to travel on, to be propelled from place to place, by a beast of a machine belching steam with a smell that I can conjure in an instant. Suddenly machines were making farm workers life easier, productivity increased and many moved to cities and factory jobs. Would I want to be there? Child labour abounded, workers were exposed to dangers appalling to our health and safety conscious society, exposure to toxic chemicals, I don’t think so.

The end of World War 2 in 1945, elation, sorrow, grief and loss. Children without fathers, women without husbands and mothers without sons. A time to rebuild and move forward with hope. What was there for women? To make way for the return of the troops they were forced into a backwards move to hearth and home, to being the housewife scrubbing the step instead of making ammunition and aircraft. Making do with food rationing for another decade and for those able to work the inequality of being paid at a lower rate than men for the same job, a situation my daughter couldn’t imagine, but was still in place when at 15 I had my first Saturday job. The joy and relief of peacetime would quickly dissipate under the daily struggle.

History is littered with war, destruction, misery, brutality, with a sprinkling of beauty and creativity for the rich, usually the perpetrators. If I’m correct in believing that I’ve been round a few lifetimes already, than I’ve experienced enough of history and I don’t think I want to travel to any past life anytime soon. Can Viator please take me to the future? The future of beauty queens where there is world peace and no-one is poor, hungry, at war or living with oppression.

Raku Cats and Amethyst, the Archaeology of Me

Naturally I want to leave behind something wonderful that creates a perpetual image of an interesting woman of the third millennium AD. But what is there to me really, what makes me ‘me?’ I have watched documentaries about the spread of mankind around the planet, the long walk from Africa, and have often said that all people are African, but some are more African than others. Half of my genes are English and I stake a claim to those being of good Celtic stock. I feel a strong tie to this south western land of green hills, red sandstone and mellow climate, and feel that I’ve been here a long time. But I may have only arrived with the Norman Conquest, with the Vikings, or on a coach from Llandudno. My other half is from the West African Igbo tribe, but those borders were only laid down by the raiding Empires in the last few centuries. My late father, who I strongly resemble, was not the blackest of Africans and could well have descended from Arabians mixed up in Saharan territories. That would account for my love of desert.

So who do I think I am, to be able to leave something wonderful? I shall leave my genetic fingerprint and hope that it continues to walk, in a lucid gypsy manner, around the globe.

But of material things, what will remain after I perish and return to dust?

In the 70’s I had a passion for ceramics from the Troika pottery in Cornwall and have just four durable pieces. I treasure a small, white, china bell decorated with a butterfly and ‘I love you mum’ in red. I’d love someone to find it intact in a thousand years and try to imagine me! Sat beside the television is a near life sized Raku Siamese cat by Dillon Rudge, well known in these parts. The beauty of the Raku may be a weakness that would cause it to fracture, but perhaps a 25th century archaeology student would be given the challenge of painstakingly re-assembling it. There is a French silver frame, the picture would fade away and the glass would shatter, but the tactile design would last as would my few gold rings and silver bracelets.

I make beads from polymer clay; if it’s accurate that carrier bags will not decompose for hundreds of years, then the beads should not only survive, but turn up around the world, as a few foreign tourists have bought them. Few can say that they don’t use plastic; I for one, have thrown away countless empty bottles, from decades of buying products to ‘manage’ my difficult hair, not the legacy I wish to be best remembered for. What would a future scientist conclude from an analysis of the traces left in one of these containers?

The most permanent possession of mine that will remain, is one that I am but a transient caretaker of. It’s been around for millions of years, and unless deliberately sledge hammered, will be around for millions more. Amethyst is mentioned in Greek mythology, mine is a small geode, most likely from South America, but possibly from Africa, as things are.

(With thanks to my friend Kathy whose Facebook post inspired this piece)