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Peonies and Polaroids

Navigating parenthood to twins after a long battle with infertility and life. Taking it one day at a time, saying the things you're not supposed to say.

Last Build Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2018 09:15:10 +0000


time travel via the classic medium of blog posts

Tue, 27 Feb 2018 13:09:00 +0000

Phase One, the neurotic wedding/lifestyle blogging as a distraction from debilitating pain, fear and anxiety era. Leaving and Forgetting, Joshua Jensen-Nagle2008 Spiraling depression, anxiety, despair. Much hyperventilating and sobbing. A lot of shouting, impulsive creation of an unforeseeably tenacious blog. Some (fucking loads of) wedding planning. Quite a few meltdowns. Quite a lot of utterly pointless thinking about dresses and shoes and flowers and veils, EVEN AFTER I WAS MARRIED, potentially as distraction from the aforementioned anxiety and despair.  A business started, a slow crawl out of chronic illness towards gainful employment, aided by millions of hours spent on wedding blogs (IT'S BUSINESS RESEARCH, HONESTLY).  Rabbits. Eerily prescient dreams of a future that would take a decade to even begin to realise.  Global excitement for the future of American politics (remember that? HA!)Much time spent lusting after and posting about objects, things, stuff. So much time, so much stuff. Oh and a wedding. Which I remember writing a LOT about. I don't remember then deleting all of those posts but there you have it. 2009 A year of waiting. Of pointless medical appointments and of throwing ourselves into making a home and a life of just the two of us while getting through a frankly brutal medical regime of management of chronic pain and infertility. Fun! The confidence to try (and succeed) to sell my work.Obsessing over our fucking wedding, STILL, and an eventual coming to peace with the whole thing.    Gifts of magic through my letter box. A business blooming and flourishing, an invitation to New York City to photograph the wedding of maybe my single biggest internet crush. No biggie.A devastating loss. This post. Waiting. 2010OOOH BOY. That was a year.  It started with further distractions, cakes eaten, swaplets swapped (blogging magic happening all over). Then shit all got A BIT MUCH.Probably because I'd been injecting hormones into myself and had my eggs harvested (not at all a horrifying terminology) and then after a little marinating had them put back in while a nurse held my hand and sang Susan Boyle (remember her?) at me and then I had TWO BABIES in me. It was a lot.  Meanwhile the universe felt that a volcanic eruption might help things along. It didn't. But the trip to New York was rather nice, when we finally got there. The year progressed, I photographed a lot of weddings while pregnant. People stared.  I finally started writing about the pain of getting to pregnant. It felt good. The comments still make me cry. (parts 2 and 3 of my endometriosis story)The look of life changed. I had FEARS.  My dear friend wrote probably the three most useful posts that have ever appeared here. 1, 2, 3.  I gave birth twice in one morning. It was intense. Things didn't chill for quite a while. And that was that for the year everything changed.[...]

ten years

Sun, 25 Feb 2018 15:09:00 +0000

Gris foncé 8 (2015), Katrine de BlauwerTen years ago I started a blog, it was this one. (I think that was clear but if ten years on the internet has taught me anything then it is to s.p.e.l.l. s.h.i.t. o.u.t.)  This blog is ten years old, that is a decade people, a decade  (spelling it out.)  There are some of you how have been here with me since the beginning (THANK YOU, and also probably don't read that post, it's written in the third person and is about wedding planning and refers to myself and Nye as 'the girl and the boy', as if any one of those three wasn't bad enough) and others who have joined me along the way, people who have seen this space's progression from neurotic wedding planning through pained wedding reflection, a dalliance with 'lifestyle blogging' as a distraction from the crippling misery of infertility and IVF, twin pregnancy and early parenthood and then as close to nothing as a blog can get and still be considered alive, just.  That anyone has stuck with me and my haphazard ramblings for a decade is never not incredible to me.That one small act of lonely desperation, that one 'create blog' click in the early hours of a sleepless February morning changed my life. From the very first it brought me purpose and community and distraction, it gave a place to hide from my terrors and a space in which to build a vision of myself and my future that might have felt entirely unachievable but was more fun to stare into than the abyss of hopelessness I was teetering above. It didn't take long before the blessings it sent me became increasingly tangible - emails of appreciation and encouragement, words of understanding and solidarity, links to things that would make me laugh, gifts of books and prints and beautiful things through my letterbox, friendship, support for our fledgling wedding photography business, actual work in exchange for actual money, actual money in exchange for my actual photography, requests to travel to far off places,  friendship. It is not an exaggeration to say that this blog, that the people who read it changed my life, changed my world. Without it I'm sure I would have found my way out of the fear and lonliness of chronic illness eventually, I don't doubt that we would have made something of our wedding photography business, but I struggle to believe for a moment that it would have been something so profoundly empowering and rich and nourishing , a foundation upon which to build a life. I have spent bloody ages considering how to mark this anniversary here. Over the last couple of  years I have struggled to see beyond the dwindling of this space, the slow decline (I lie, it wasn't slow) in enthusiasm and energy that I had for it. It has been hard to feel anything other than disappointment in myself for my inability to maintain this blog as it once was. But as my thoughts recently hovered over the switch that would end the life support that I've imagined keeping the site alive it occurred to me that I didn't have to define this place by its past, by its 'heyday', that what it is now doesn't have to feel like a disappointment, that instead of wishing for an output I can never achieve I can embrace the pace, the quietude, the slow and gentle cataloging of a life being lived (as with blogging so it is with life).Because as I've read back over the blog in the last few days - reminiscing, cringing, welling up - it's the testimony to the last ten years of my life that I have found myself unexpectedly appreciative of. This space has borne witness to a decade's worth of dreams, despair, changes and growth, cataloged a third of my life (I really should back this shit up) and that feels kind of amazing. Over the next few days I'm going to do a little time traveling, a little reflecting, on what has been and gone, what has stayed and grown, through the classic medium of blog posts revisited. I apologise in advance. [...]

families, a year

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 16:54:00 +0000

It has been a small but beautiful year for me, family photography wise. Six sessions, six families, twelve perfect hours capturing their moments, honoring their relationships and bearing witness to their stories. These kids, these parents, boy. Their fierceness and sweetness, their independence and their love, their determination and their tenderness, it gives me life. Thank you to all of you who invited me into your lives last year and hello! to those of you considering it in the year ahead, I would love to hear from you and to spend a little time together capturing your family lives in all of their perfectly imperfect glory. 'The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain, and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.' — Erma Bombeck'The whole foot is a document of motion, inscribed by repeated action. Babies - from those first fetal footfalls, the kneading of sole against womb-wall, turning themselves like astronauts in black space - have already creased their soles by the time they emerge into the world.' ― Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot 'I guess he'll have to figure out someday that he is supposed to have this dark side, that it is part of what it means to be human, to have the darkness just as much as the light- that in fact the dark parts make the light visible; without them, the light would disappear. But I guess he has to figure other stuff out first, like how to keep his neck from flopping all over the place and how to sit up.' ― Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year [...]

2017, a year with designers and makers

Thu, 04 Jan 2018 12:14:00 +0000

In the last year I was lucky enough to work with some incredible designers, makers and architects both here in Scotland and in London. Although most of my creative energies in 2017 were focused on my return to art school (still processing that btw) and drawing and painting, this work was some of the most fulfilling and inspiring of my year. I truly love editorial photography work with designers and makers and approach it in much the same way as I approach photographing people - slowly, tentatively, looking for the heart and the story behind what makes my subject what it is and the fleeting moments of light and shadow that tell a little of that story.  It's not an approach that works for all commercial clients (if you're looking for glossy brochure images I can point you in the direction of people much more adept at that than I am!) but when I find the artists and visionaries who love light and dark, story and soul, barely there details and a sense of catching something that was almost lost as much as I do, magic happens. And although I seem to be continuing on at art school, searching for the connection to fine art that I misplaced somewhere a decade or so ago, I hope that the universe makes me some time and sends me some more of those incredible designers, makers, artists and dreamers that I have loved working with this year.  Here are a handful of my favourite images from some of these collaborations. (Many are part of a long term project that I hope will continue into this year and that I will be able to share with you when it's completed!) You can see more of my editorial and commercial work hereKnitwear by Verisimilitude architecture, curation and design by State of Craft  [...]

wax paper packages tied up with... stickers.

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 12:21:00 +0000

Now that I have reached a hiatus in my studying I am really pleased to announce that I am reopening my etsy shop. It is fully stocked with sets of note cards featuring both French and Hebridean photographs, the two different landscapes that have whispered to and soothed my soul in the last few years. I spend a lot of time doubting that I know what it is I'm supposed to do with my life but making things - actual things that people can hold and feel and treasure - is the touchstone that I always come back to. The world is messy and overwhelming and worrying and bringing together something, anything, into a small physical form that makes sense and brings calm and shares an idea or a thought or a feeling that can be held in someone's hands... that brings me unspeakable, if fleeting, peace. Note cards probably won't change the world (I mean they might, I feel like there's potential for a note card-based revolution. Ideas on a... note card) but they can probably change the course of someone's day. Frame them, gift them, write some words of love onto that deliciously lush card and pop them in a parcel to a friend who needs to know that you care. Also, they're just really pretty. You probably can't get yourself physically to a Hebridean island or to the south of France terribly easily but I hope that these sets will bring a little of those places to you. Details - each set contains five different photographs, taken be me, and printed onto the heaviest, most delicious matt card I've ever seen. They're packaged in wax paper envelopes and sealed with a kiss a nice shiny sticker. They are for sale in my etsy shop and will be dispatched on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, in keeping with island postal services. [...]

Paths and unsettled souls.

Thu, 02 Nov 2017 18:17:00 +0000

Perhaps there are betters times and places to walk off an unsettled soul than the wilds in November, but I don't know them.I don't know of a better place to trip and stumble and swear and cry and shout profanities into the echoing expanses of moor and sea and sky.I don't know of a better place to crouch in the heather, seeing the universe, not in a grain of sand but in a clump of moorland, colours and layers and depths and intricacies, worlds of which you know nothing because you're just too damn big.I don't know of a better place to follow paths you and no other human made, paths that lead through and to nowhere or maybe to the exact place you need to be.I don't know of a better place to stare into water and see nothing but the above mirrored back to you, or the first few inches of below, swimming and rippling and distorting.I do not know of a better place to come home to. Maybe they exist, but I do not know of them. This is the place I know.[...]

March, a shopping trip

Tue, 09 May 2017 06:01:00 +0000

March; a trip to mainland that looked like the islands, trees shrouded in mist, paper leaves clinging to bare branches, moss dripping in silent forests like streamers after the party. An ancient valley, standing stones and chambered cairns and circles carved in stones by busy hands 5000 years dead. Forts long gone, the footsteps of Kings, dusty light blanketing dormant fields. Hillsides mirrored in frozen water, colours siding into colours, the world doubled over upon itself, the sky beckoning below our feet. A perfect farm, a serendipitous stay, a dog to befriend and a phone call telling us yes, the boat would be ours. Dreams realised, a search ended, imagination sparked, a story begun. [...]


Tue, 31 Jan 2017 16:11:00 +0000

In January I - looked after a dogdecided I am not for two dogsgave the dog back missed the dog shot a roll of fimspent two days in the dark roomhad some quite vivid and unpleasant dreams about being back at art school fantasized about going back to art schoollost hopefound hopelost hope(repeated infinitely with a distinct plummet in the overall trajectory starting around the 21st) turned 32put my neck outgained a dress sizeHow was your month? [...]

Bluebird and the Bear - January

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 14:33:00 +0000

If you follow me on instagram (which I'm only just now, this week, coming to accept is where my blog has gone) you could be forgiven for thinking that I don't make New Year's resolutions, preferring to just bitch about how insanely annoying I find the entire New Year New You *sparkles emoji* industry. But you'd be wrong, I love a bit of early January reflection on the year past and vague, non-committal planning for the year ahead. 

One of my goals for 2017 is to find a way to make my work, well, work from Uist. What with Nye working extremely anti-social hours and me going back to studying and the girls having to be at school all the fucking time, there wasn't as much space for travelling to the mainland as I would have liked over the last but I'm half way through my course and Nye's circumstances have changed and so it looks like after a tumultuous 2015 and 2016, 2017 might be the year when we can start to make work work again. 

In the meantime I have been reflecting on all of the beautiful families that I did manage to photograph this past year and what a joyful reflection that has been. 2016's sessions were small but perfectly formed, with a handful of new families and a good number of second and third sessions with families who I have photographed for many years now. I've said it a hundred times but revisiting families to photograph them as they grow is probably one of the greatest pleasures I've ever had as a photographer. 

My first sessions of 2017 will be in Glasgow and Edinburgh at the end of this month - January 21st and 22nd and I would love to hear from you. You can find more information about pricing here and contact me at 

I am also planning some sessions February 11th and 12th, either in Glasgow or London - depending on demand so please do let me know if you are interested in those dates. 

2016 (ish)

Sat, 31 Dec 2016 17:06:00 +0000

I have spent this afternoon looking through the photographs on my hard drive, the ones I took with my 'real' camera this year, and picking out my favourite and best. Curating them, one might say, if one were an arsehole.When I say this year's photos, I mean the ones I took of my home and my family - not the work ones of which there have been maybe not as many as I would like but more than I might have expected from a year living on Craggy Island in the remote and beautiful Hebrides. I had naively planned to do a stock take and recap of my work work once I bashed out a quick' 2016 In Photos, The Personal Ones' but four hours later  I'm seeing in triplicate, my computer is starting to overheat and my fingers are as cold as a witch's tit. And apparently we have a party to get ready for.To be honest I can't really say that this is 2016 in photos as there is so much of this year that escaped capture on anything other than my phone (it's all there on instagram if you want to have at it  - the storms and employment fluctuations, the trips off the island, the birthdays and anniversaries and first days of school, then starting college and the immersion in my course that followed), rather this is bits of 2016 in photographs, the rare occasions when I took my real camera out.Let's call it a year of dry days, three changes of address, Lyra figures out she can swim and the progression of a top knot. That works for me. I know that on a global scale 2016 has been a bit of a shit but if anything maybe it can remind us to hold on to the beautiful moments ahead, because however fast our journey in that handcart may be the moments of mundane magic, of everyday miracles, of the golden light will be there too.I wish you all a wonderful New Year. Thank you for sharing this last one with me. x[...]

A Christmas Sale

Wed, 07 Dec 2016 07:41:00 +0000

The season is upon us. May your festive spirit be more intact than mine. I've been feeling distinctly absent of said spirit this year, it was starting to creep tentatively into my soul but then was thoroughly scared off by the upheaval and change and uncertainty (all those things I love so much) of sudden and unplanned unemployment which crashed noisily into our lives a fortnight ago. Fun times! Anyway, as the dust settled I discovered this huge pile of christmas cards left over from last year and sets of cards that I spent months working on at the beginning of the year and then sort of forgot about when we moved house in April and then thoroughly forgot about when we moved house again in July. In the interests of not wasting all of that effort (and making enough money to pay for christmas dinner), I have posted them all on etsy. There are the same snowy roadtrip Christmas cards (although I prefer to call them holiday cards, because they don't mention Christmas and so are totes non-denominational) I sold last year - five images from the scenic motorway between Glasgow and Inverness - and also four different sets of art cards printed with images from our time in the south of France. Each set is five images on a theme - food, flowers, market, and architecture - all très français. They are printed on beautiful heavy card stock and are perfect for displaying as a set, framing individually, sending as thank you cards or giving as a set to your favourite francophile, photophile or friend who just doesn't write to you enough (passive-aggressive gifting FTW). They are flat cards, blank on the back, except for a discreet labeling with my real and actual name (*shock face emoji*) and come with lusciously thick envelopes. They will be ready to post on Monday and should reach the USA, Canada and most of Europe in plenty of time for Christmas. Oh and there is also my Society6 print shop, my poor neglected print shop - with a variety of my older work from France, Scotland and New York available as canvases and prints, framed and unframed, on metal or the more traditional paper. Today there is 20% off canvases and metal prints, so it's a good day to get in there. Thank you in advance for your custom and endless support over the years. And sorry for ditching the blog. Did I ever mention that I went back to college? I went back to college. It's intense. I'm not done with P&P though, lest you were worried/noticed I was gone/are still a weirdo who reads blogs. Peonies and Polaroids - the Etsy ShopPeonies and Polaroids - the Society6 Shop[...]

A Stolen Afternoon

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 15:17:00 +0000

Sometimes life gives you a rainy afternoon in London when you least expect it. Thanks life. [...]

The end of winter.

Tue, 24 May 2016 11:19:00 +0000


Spring in West London

Tue, 10 May 2016 10:41:00 +0000

It doesn't look like spring in West Scotland. Climate differences have led to the lack of several key species north of the M6... - Pink Shirt, Suede Loafers & Beguiling Cologne Man- Expensive Hair, Bugaboo & Sunglasses Indoors Woman- Topknot, Leather Jacket & Too-Short-Trousers Man - Pavo Cristatus (Peacock, innit.) [...]

Conversations with myself.

Tue, 19 Apr 2016 13:26:00 +0000

Rain or Shine, by Cathy CullisUgh, what am I doing with my life?Right now? You're walking the dog.No, not right now. Overall, with my life. What am I for? What's is the point of me? What do I doooooo?Well you walk the dog, you take care of your family, this morning you did some laundry and hoovered the hall and sometimes you get paid to answer other people's emails...'Uh huh. That's not really helping.What do you want to do with your life?Write. And take pictures.And what did you spend this morning doing?Writing. And taking pictures.Interesting...But there was no point to it, no one paid me to do it, it didn't make any money...Oh. So money is the point. You want to get paid?It would be nice, yeah.Do you need to get paid?I don't understand the question. I mean do you need to get paid? Do you need more money?It would be nice.Yes, but do you, right now, need money? Are there things missing in your life that you need that you can only have if you get paid for what you do? Um.... Well... No, not really.Interesting. But if I'm not getting paid then what's the point? Are you happy? Are you getting better at what you do?Yes. Maybe that's the point?Oh shut up. What do you know. I know that you want to write and take pictures. I know that you do write and take pictures. I know that you want to get paid but you don't financially need to get paid. Maybe you would like to get paid, maybe emotionally and mentally you need to get paid but right now, this week, you are not getting paid.Yet there is the potential, that in the future, once you have scrubbed your step, you might be in the position to get paid. Is that correct?Yes. Okay good, glad we sorted that out. Now maybe we can get on with doing what we do and worry about getting paid later? When we need to?Maybe. You know we're very lucky that we don't need to worry about getting paid right now?I do. I also know you added that bit so the Internet wouldn't hate us and think we're a whiny ungrateful bitch. I did. Thanks for looking out for us. You're welcome. [...]

Let's go fly a kite.

Thu, 14 Apr 2016 17:40:00 +0000

The wind is as light as it gets in February, a mere 15mph - perfect kite flying weather. That yesterday two kites arrived in the post, completely unexpectedly, is serendipity at its finest.  My aunt, their great aunt, clicked some buttons in Canada and had them sent to us and we are desperate to see them airborne. Or rather, they are desperate to see them airborne, I am desperate to go to bed as I have had a sort of a head and a sinus and a throat and a muscle thing for a few days and I feel like a bag of cold turd. But the bright blue sky, the glowing grass and the squeals of excitement from my winter-bored children draw me outside and into the red striped, metal framed, finger snapping deck chairs that used to live in my Grandparent's shed and make a once or twice yearly appearance on the lawn when I was a kid. Memories of skin sheared from knuckles turn to warnings that 'If you play with those chairs they will eat your fingers right off'. Sometimes I lie to my children to keep them safe.  I lean into the taut canvas with a cup of coffee and watch as Nye shows them how to string the kites, where to stand, how to hold firm as he runs across the garden trying to catch the wind.  Huddled in my parka and hat and scarf and gloves and snow boots I shiver in the cut glass air of a February afternoon - watching my family play, listening to the dog go mental for the flying thing she is not allowed to attack and marvelling at the golden light that bathes my world.[...]

Things and Thoughts

Tue, 12 Apr 2016 13:21:00 +0000

In LifeWe have been in our new house for four weeks now and I love it. We are nowhere near unpacked because there's nowhere to unpack anything to and I'm haunted by the ever present knowledge that we have to pack up and move out again for two weeks in July (don't ask) but I am hoping we can find some semblance of order and homeliness before then and in the meantime the view from the front doorstep has earned itself its own hashtag. I have ground to a halt with almost all work-related things since we moved. No writing, no working on my etsy shop. Boxes of terribly expensive postcards sit looking at me accusingly and likely will until the easter holidays are finally, finally over.  Then I'm going to take on the world. Probably. Maybe. If this cold ever fucks off. On the upside I have got myself an actual job as a remote PA a couple of mornings a week. Turns out I'm better at answering other people's emails than my own. I am leaving the island in nine days and I am beyond excited. I am excited about four planes, two 7am trains, a multitude of TFL connections at the weekend (LOLZ), relying on the Brighton - London train running on time (double LOLZ) and juggling the baggage allowances of two different airlines on four different journeys, I'm excited about ALL of it. Most of all I'm excited about seeing my friends and photographing two lovely families and seeing how their little have grown and eating foreign food and being responsible for no lives but my own for five whole days. Bliss.I am half way through Big Magic, which is pretty good. And Breaking Clean - which is mostly great, and A Clash of Kings - which is unfailingly terrible, but I can't stop. I'm aware that if I don't grow some self-control this is going to be a long term deal, what with there being 74 fucking books. It's far too big for the loaf of bread sized suitcase I have to fit a camera kit and five days worth of clothes into when I go away so maybe I can use all of that travel time to finish some real books. (Further reasons to get a kindle - I can take every GOT book with me everywhere I go. Hmmm...) OnlineI loved this piece by Ruth Whippman - she of the quote in my side bar, she of the 'despair and faeces' comment. Stop fetishing parenting, she says, you're sucking all the joy out of it. She writes about the increasing pressure among parents (mothers) to subscribe to a philosophy, to have a mission statement in raising your kids other than 'get everyone to the end of the day in one(ish) piece,' She writes about the extremes of attachment parenting vs routine parenting and sums them up pretty wonderfully;'The philosophies themselves may be opposing, but what they share is a kind of absolutism, a high stakes alarmist tone, in which the consequences of not sticking to the script can be lifelong and dire.   In reality, whichever method you choose, your kids are overwhelmingly likely to turn out just fine. There is little evidence to suggest that any one loving parenting style has any particular advantage over any other, but still both of these basic parenting worldviews are firmly rooted in a kind of underlying terror.    For the routine-lovers it’s the fear that without a firm hand, a child will become coddled and dependent, lacking in resilience and unable to function in the real world. At the more cuddly end of the spectrum, it’s the heart-chilling anxiety that children are so psychologically fragile that without near constant attention they will suffer long-term emotional damage.' Ruth Whippman, The Guardian. I have added her book to my ever growing list. Not becaus[...]

Five, Ella.

Thu, 07 Apr 2016 11:53:00 +0000

A grin of tiny pearly teeth and a glint of pure, wild mischief flash from behind her overgrown golden fringe and she leaps straight at me. From the ground she is in my arms in the time it takes me to open my mouth, my 'what are you doing?'never getting it's chance to taste air. Her legs snap around my waist like magnets and with her arms waving in the air like a hippy at Glastonbury she is in my arms, my spider monkey - as light and as easy as her namesake. If her sister did that to me (and she's tried) she would knock me to the ground, give me a black eye and put my back out for a week. Ella is only a kilo lighter, has only ever been at most, a kilo lighter and yet she carries herself with such ease, flying just above the surface of the waves, that she feels little heavier now than she ever has. In my lap she settles in, curled like a cat and no more obtrusive. Sometimes an arm or leg goes awry and I get punched in the face but it's not clumsiness, more a case of limbs too long to control, jumps a little too ambitious to pull off, momentary forgetfulness that she can not in fact fly and I am not in fact an immovable object.'You're not a snuggler like your sister' people tell her, but they've got it wrong, she is, she just takes her time to suss out who to trust, her need for an audience is minimal to non-existent in comparison to her twin's.When I lie on my side to watch telly, with my knees bent up towards my hips – the only way I can fit onto our little two person sofa – she climbs into the triangular gap between my legs and the back cushions, resting her head on my bum and tucking her knees up to her chest. We fit together perfectly, one large and one little piece of a jigsaw, a jigsaw that builds the picture that is our family. The dog tries to climb in too, she doesn't fit but somehow Ella squeezes her in, wrapping her arms around her neck and loving her fiercely. Running off ahead on a still and perfectly crisp winter morning, the sun backlights her and with all of her height she looks both tiny, too small to be allowed out of my reach, and like that's it, she's off, see you later. Today she needs space, tomorrow perhaps she won't let you out of her sight. My independent, curious, ephemeral wanderer. Not that she isn't also batshit crazy at times, point a camera at her and her eyes will cross, her tongue will stick out at a wonky angle and an inhuman noise will emanate from her contorted face - it's not cool, whatever she might think. When the music comes on she dances like a wild thing, spinning moves from a break-dancing video we watched once, eighteen months ago. Her memory is a steel trap - when we need reminded where we were when that thing happened, when need the dog's lead un-lost or the way out of the woods pointed we ask Ella, she knows where shit is. Of course sometimes she gets confused, she is only five, although it's easy to forget - she was born older, with a look in her eye and a quiet fire burning steadily in her soul. I can't help but wonder what age she will reach when the world feels more comfortable to her, what age it is that her heart was born. Will she have to wait until she's thirty like I did, for her life to catch up with her soul? We can only wait and see and that - watching this spider monkey grow into and then beyond her world - is a prospect that thrills me.[...]


Mon, 28 Mar 2016 17:46:00 +0000

Amy JuddYes, I'm already bored of and feeling trapped by the doing, reading, listening format - I really don't do well with blog series, as you can tell by the half a dozen that have fizzled out over the years and I can tell by the many many more that have never made it out of my head. So, instead, Things.Things this week;Life - we moved house. Almost a year to the day from leaving France. We now live 200ft down the road from the house my mum built (not by hand, because apparently that needs clarified for some people. My mum is pretty handy but she's not building a house handy) when I was 15. She sold it five or so years later and every time I walk past I'm all 'who the fuck are you and what are you doing in my house? By the way your daffodils look great.' at the people sitting in the kitchen window. Silently and inwardly, because I'm not a total lunatic.- I'm maybe in the midst of applying to go back to college. Maybe. Shhh, let's say nothing more of it for now.- I went to work last week, to take photos of a 3D printing workshop. I'm going to write more about it when the photos are done but hell, was it good to spend a day taking pictures again. I miss that.- I'm considering spending £60 on a hairbrush (BIRTHDAY MONEY, I'm not spunking half of our weekly food budget on fripperies, much as the urge takes me sometimes). I don't know if this is a sign that I'm losing my mind or that I'm creeping ever closer to living my best life.Writing- Last week I came extremely close to throwing out everything I've written over the last three months. I haven't been working on it much because of the aforementioned moving and when I came back to it it looked terrible, awful, horrible. But a very wise friend said to me - when I was screaming into my fist and questioning what the point was -'THE POINT. The point is to practise, The point is to get to a point where your writing aligns with your standards for good writing. The point is to write enough that you can revise it down to something you don't hate. The point is to show up and think the thoughts and do the work. That is the point.  The point is not to be magically good. The point is to scrub your step until it shines.  You CAN write. But the point isn't whether you can write. The POINT is to DO IT. You weren't good at marriage at first or pooping in the pot at first or being a grown up at first or drawing at first either, I bet. It took time. It takes time.  Scrub your step, gal.  Scrub it good.' I love that friend.  And the apps that allow friends who live far apart and in different time zones and in areas without mobile phone reception to exchange words sharp and fast and in real time. And internets that allow them to meet in the first place.Books I bought a whole load of books this week. I don't have any money, but. None of them were the poetry books I mentioned last week which I feel a bit ashamed of. The books in question were;For me- Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Because I realised that I listened to one of the podcasts and completely loved it and felt invigorated and inspired by it and then forgot to listen to the rest. I'm not saying that I don't do the exact same thing with books but I'm more likely (I think, I hope) to stick with something that I can hold and read and see and feel. Also, the cover is gorgeous.- Help, Thanks, Wow and Stitches, by Anne Lamott. Because I'm feeling a bit lost, and few books have ever un-lost me like hers.- Breaking Clean, by Judy Blunt. I can't remember where I read about this but the passage that was quoted in it[...]

poetry and staying alive

Mon, 21 Mar 2016 17:08:00 +0000

'If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.' Emily DickinsonHappy World Poetry Day people. I love poetry, I have done since I was seventeen and walked into a bookshop, drifted past shelves and over tables and was arrested by a beautiful face staring out at me from the cover of an anthology that promised a lot. Staying Alive – real poems for unreal times quickly became my bible, my gospel, my helpmate. I poured over its pages, reading and re-reading and marking and remembering. I copied poems into my sketchbooks alongside my first moody attempts at black and white photography, I stayed up late into the night reading 'just one more' for hours and hours, I carried it with me in backpacks and suitcases and pinned handwritten copies of my favourites to the wall next to my bed, alongside photos of home and the people I loved. I cried heavy salty tears into poems that spoke of death and depression and miscarriage and war and I held my breath through dizzying pages dedicated to love and sex and birth and joy. I found reassuring glimpses of feelings I recognised and tasted the smallest but most intense morsels of ones I hadn't even come close to experiencing. I learned that love and death could be the most mundane things and that a bulb pushing through the winter earth or a toad sitting on a river bank could be almost transcendent. I learned about being, and staying, alive. Before I bought this book I knew no more about poetry than anyone who had just completed high school English, I was not and still am not knowledgeable about it and find myself embarrassed and mute around friends who know Poetry. I do not know Poetry and I likely never will but I know this book and I know a handful of poems from it and I know that my life is all the richer for it.When I was eighteen I bought Staying Alive for a friend who was studying English at university. He went on to study poetry and many years later went on again to have his first collection Moontide published by Bloodaxe, that same publisher who brought me my bible. Inside Moontide is a poem dedicated to my girls, to Ella and Ammie, and when I read it I found myself crying tears into a poem for the first time in many many years. I think they call that 'full circle'.Moontide went on to win a shit tonne of prestigious prizes and you should buy it immediately, because it's excellent. You should also read this interview in Poetry Spotlight where he talks about poetry its relevance and fatherhood  and his new collection which is coming out at the end of the year.I don't read a lot of poetry any more. In the last few years I've read Niall's book and the Emma PressAnthology of Motherhood, which I recently bought for myself and a friend - partly because poetry and motherhood are dear to my heart, partly because it's a bloody beautiful book - and that's it. It's fairly pitiful. But I'm tired and my kids ate my brain and I don't have a lot of time for reading anything any more. I have deeply loved listening to Dominique Christina's poetry, particularly her Period Poem, which should be required listening for every single person who has ever had a period or been born as the result of someone else's period (everyone, in case you didn't get that.)I still carry Staying Alive and its sequel Being Alive everywhere with me, they were the first things I carried into our new home and placed on[...]

Doing, Reading, Listening

Sun, 13 Mar 2016 16:55:00 +0000

Doing; This week has been mostly hanging out with friends who came to visit from Glasgow, I'm loving how Uist is attracting friends, despite the epic ballache that is getting here. We did beaches and exploring and then I got sick and did a lot of sleeping while they walked my dog, cooked me dinner and entertained my children, it was pretty Grade A Friending on their part. Visitors who don't mind when you check out and go to bed and tell them to entertain themselves are the best kind of visitors.I wrote no words for my big project this week, it's getting embarrassing. I did write this thing about Ammie though which I really love. I haven't written much about my kids or parenting over the last couple of years and it felt a special kind of lovely to celebrate my infuriating, exhausting offspring in words and pictures. Instead of writing I have been working on my newest project which is to get my etsy shop off the ground again. It's getting there and I'm really excited about making and selling again. Reading {paper} I finished Game of Thrones. It was terrible. I can't wait to read the next one.  I started Christopher Brookmyre's One FineDay In The Middle Of The Night a couple of days ago. I love his writing – it's grim, profanity laden, hilarious Scottish crime and he's one of the few writers who can reliably make me laugh out loud. Even his lesser works have lines that make me snorlf; 'St Michael’s RC secondary sat on a promontory overlooking the town of Auchenlea. The choice of site was an indirect consequence of a past mistake in vocational guidance, leading someone who had a pathological hatred of children into town planning, rather than the more traditional field of teaching.' Christopher Brookmyre, Reading {internets}This piece in The Pool by Lauren Laverne on finding the meaning in your work even if your work doesn't happen to involve saving lives or creating Great Works Of Art. As someone who has recently realised that perhaps I don't want as noble a career as I once imagined, I found it extremely comforting;'People started to get in touch. I got to know my regular listeners and I began to understand that, sometimes, a bit of silliness can save your life. Some days, a five-minute distraction is the only thing that gets you through' Lauren Laverne, The PoolThis on the environmental and moral implications of the leather trade convinced me very quickly that I need to think harder and longer about the leather purchases I make. I have always thought of leather as a by-product of the meat industry and I continued to buy and wear it throughout the two decades that I was a militant vegetarian. I haven't bought any leather for 18 months (passively – I've been too broke for shoes and bags) and I think it's going to be a good long time before I do it again.'Nearly half of the global leather trade is carried out in developing countries – from Ethiopia to Cambodia and Vietnam – where, despite a backdrop of exploitation of animals and humans and the extraordinary level of pollution caused by unregulated tanneries and processors, the pressure is on to produce more.'And at the other end of the scale entertainment-wise; reddit readers sum up their first sexual encounters with a safe-for-work gif. Their choices are genius. Listening; the two most recent episodes of Death, Sex and Money – the one with the couple who have been together for 20 years and had three children whilst being raging heroin addicts. That one was gruelling with an ending that had me 'WTF?'-ing[...]

Five, Ammie.

Mon, 07 Mar 2016 12:08:00 +0000

She pins me down, a weight that still takes me by surprise. Five, how did she become five? How did they become five? They have ten years between them, nobody counts parenting in accumulative terms but they should - I have parented ten years of childhood and yet I'm no less clueless than when I started. Curled into a ball in my lap she radiates into me, she is my hot water bottle, my lap dog, my ballast. She is both boulder and kitten - skull crashing against my cheekbone, elbows jabbing hard into my tits, silken golden strands tickling my face and silvery down catching the light from the setting sun. Just as I find a way to balance her weight so that the nerve that's been trapped in my hip for weeks doesn't thrum at too high a frequency, she shifts. From curled like a sleeping puppy she stretches, legs sliding forth and draping one either side of mine, t-shirt riding up and exposing a belly as soft and warm as risen dough, head lolling like a bowling ball against my chest. It will be a maximum of three minutes before she rearranges herself again; wriggling, squirming, shifting, constant flux and motion, a lava lamp of a child.Which is as it has always been, she started kicking the shit out of me as soon as she was big enough to kick. Implanted higher she punched and kicked and rolled against my stomach, then my ribs and finally my lungs. Her sister - desperate for her own space - turned away from her at the first chance she got, nuzzled her head into my pelvis and stayed still and quiet, weathering the punches and biding her time. Once born we had to tie her up to get her to sleep (they call it swaddling but it is what it is), arms and legs bound to tiny body to stop them from thrashing the whole night long. It was with bitter reluctance that we stopped wrapping her, many months later than recommended. The desire to bind her tightly in fabric so that she would just stay still lurked in the guilty corners of my brain until . . . well sometimes it still creeps over me. She doesn't let me hold her much any more. She is five, she is busy and she needs to be sick before she crawls into my lap, sweating and sniffing and sighing and clutching that same ugly little rabbit she has been carrying around for years. Little Bunny has become more vocal of late; before we left London he was pretty quiet, living mainly in her bed, going unmentioned from morning until night, but since we started dragging our children hither and yon he has had quite a lot to say - for a stuffed animal. His birthdays come twice weekly, he learned French and then Gaelic but decided that he'd rather speak Nonsense. His tastes in food blossomed and shrunk, as contrary as well, a five year old. 'It wasn't me, it was Little Bun' has become the most common explanation for something becoming mysteriously broken or lost, or for when Quiet Time has become distinctly un-quiet. She has five year of life under her belt, she is learning to read and write and live in this world without her parents there at every step, and yet when her hair (recently hacked off at school in a fit of annoyance) is swept back from her face, her eyes closed and lashes resting on rounded cheeks, she is the same boulder-headed baby she was five years ago, exactly the same, and seeing how little she has changed since she was just brand new to this world my heart aches and grows and throbs. She is my baby, my girl, that tiny scrap who kicked and fought so hard, from conception right the damn way through. May that never change.&nb[...]

Doing, Reading, Listening

Fri, 04 Mar 2016 08:30:00 +0000

IT'S GODDAMN MARCH PEOPLE! Thank. The. Sweet. Baby. Jesus. I wrote that thing after Christmas about January and how great and restorative and blah blah blah it is and yeah, it was fine, but February, man February was a total downer. That it is the shortest month is literally all it has going for it and knocking back vitamin D tablets like they were tic tacs, counting down the days until friends visited at the end of the month and spending long (really long, interminable) evenings in the bath with the lights turned off was the only way through it.But it's over! Yay! A weight, a 28 29 day weight has lifted and I am feeling sparklings of what's that? Optimism? Woo! Doing: this week in Doing I have been writing but not as rigidly as I was. I have worked on my big thing and I've worked on a few shorter things and for the first time it has been enjoyable. I have also been doing a lot of thinking about my What Next? and if that is getting a job or going back to college or throwing myself into starting a new business. None of those things are imminently achievable but neither are they petrifying, like they were a month ago.Reading {paper}; still Game of Thrones, the first book. It's terrible, I can't stop. Also The Official DVSA Guide To Driving 2015 (the technique changes annually, who knew?). Reading {the internet}; Aside from the dresses I couldn't give two shits about the Oscars but I enjoyed this piece in  The Pool on Disney-esque dressing, whether would be be as interested in watching if the women involved didn't dress like celluloid princesses and if there a princess gene that makes some kids want to dress in mountains of pastel satin while others would rather go naked than wear a princess dress? From my small study group of two, I would say that she might be on to something there. Do I think Alicia Vikander and Cate Blanchett wanted to look like Disney characters? Do I think that two highly intelligent and accomplished women woke up and asked their stylists to make them into fairytale princesses for kicks? In terms of a brief, “just do whatever it takes for me to avoid the worst-dressed lists, so that I can block the sexist, racist farrago that is the Oscars out of my mind for another 364 days” is more likely. The Disney princess analogy, and our willingness to invoke it, says far more about us than it does about any individual actress. All they’re doing is playing the game. They know that if they dress up nicely, Hollywood will reward them for playing their part in a pageant which, let us not mince words, feels as dated as most things that originated in 1929. Laura Craik, The Pool.Also on the Oscars and fashion and women and feminism, these pieces in the Guardian and again, The Pool about Jenny Beavan, the genius costume designer behind Mad Max who deigned, deigned to turn up to the Oscars in jeans and a leather jacket, with unbrushed hair and NO MAKE UP (how very dare she) and the frankly horrifying reactions of the fuckwits, I mean men, who she walked past to get to the stage.Alejandro Iñárritu glowered as if a woman in a leather jacket was somehow more repulsive than DiCaprio chomping down a raw bison liver. One man, bless his heart, all but leapt into the arms of his companion as she sauntered past, in the same manner that a housewife in a 1950s cartoon would if a mo[...]

The Bandit Rabbit and the Homicidal Hipster.

Thu, 03 Mar 2016 14:37:00 +0000

Happy World Book Day. 

She became a much happier lumberjack once the tickly beard was removed and an untickly one painted on. Now I await their return from school and the indignant clamour of 'the other kids were dressed as superheroes, you said superheroes DIDN'T COUNT. *I* wanted to be a superhero too.' 

One day they'll appreciate my push for them to be creative, literary, individual, right? Right? 

on writing and the first draft.

Mon, 29 Feb 2016 11:16:00 +0000

but you can edit your first draft.There is very little flare to my shitty first draft. Aside from those first thousand words that I wrote two years ago and edited until they were gleaming it is just facts on a page, with all of the fluency and grace of a seven year old writing about their school holidays – 'I went swimming then I had a burger then my sister punched me in the leg on the way home so I broke her toy and we both got in trouble and it wasn't fair'. I didn't know that I had it in me to write so badly. The shitty first draft is an notion that stuck with me after reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird five years ago (and then four years ago and three years ago and one year ago - I love that book). Inspired by Earnest Hemingway's assertion that the first draft of everything is shit, its only purpose to get a writer past the terrifyng hurdle of the blank page to the point where they can revise it and tweak it and turn it into a good second draft and an even better third draft, she wrote a whole chapter extolling the virtues of the Shitty First Draft. It is an explosion of the myth that coherent words just flow from those with a gift for them, that a good writer can just write and that if what comes from your hands the first time around is less than readable then writing is not for you. She says I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God* likes her or can even stand her. Very few writers really know what they are doing until they've done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and then find themselves bounding along like huskies across the snow. We all often feel like we are pulling teeth, even those writers whose prose ends up being the most natural and fluid. The right words and sentences just do not come pouring out like ticker tape most of the time. Now, Muriel Spark is said to have felt that she was taking dictation from God every morning -- sitting there, one supposes, plugged into a Dictaphone, typing away, humming. But this is a very hostile and aggressive position. One might hope for bad things to rain down on a person like this. I find myself thinking of this a lotat the moment, as the words stack up and they are mostly terrible. Lamott also advises vehemently against editing as one goes, she says that you must get to the end and then edit. Doing this pains me. Seeing all of those crappy words sitting there disjointedly and clumsily and adding yet more crappy words to them makes me feel slightly sick, but she knows more than me and is very clever and I need someone to tell me what to do and seeing as she makes me laugh a lot it may as well be her. Not everyone agrees with her, this guy for instance, but I don't know who he is, he has never made me laugh and he doesn't care for the word 'shitty', so I see no reason to listen to him. I'm not sure I can do it right until the end. I am working in six sections and I suspect that once I have finished the first one I will go back and edit it, partly to see if I can make it readable before I flog myself over 60,000 more words, and p[...]