The Eelhound, Tea-cup Wolfhound and Collie Flower go for a walk.

sheepsbit Up, early and out, to the cliffs and the flowers and the beach, with the Eelhound, the teacup wolfhound and the collie flower.

scabious At Porth Melgan the sun shone through seaweed, the sea was rolled back. Sea level, dogs chasing on the sand.

weed dogpack Barnacle rocks were beautiful, muscle shells deep indigo blue.

barnacles2 barnacles And at the hut circles the eelhound and her sister hunted mice and grubs in the flowers.

circles headland eelwolf There were new fledged ravens, circling the head, talking all the time, wings spread wide with the joy of living.

babyr From sea level to sky, birds were layered, ravens the highest today, skylark and wheatear, and fulmar circling the cliffs, small bell voiced linnets and pippets.

squils bells home collieflowerHome now, to resort the presentation for Hay Festival, make it work better. And to paint and to draw. Maybe more walking later.

 

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Flower bed.

throughthe The way to the flowers is through woodland. A path filled with birdsong that slopes down to the sea.

theway The way to the flowers opens out into a valley where buzzards and magpies fly overhead. Then down to a cove, and today the water is clear as can be, inviting, calm.

clear pure

The way to the flowers can be reached by a few paths. Today I chose the steepest, straight up the sides of a green bank, and the best way to walk was barefoot, careful of snakes and of bees. The ancients knew how to build hill forts, and now the ramparts of this one are peaceful with flowers and bee-buzz and chough and raven song.

The fort was inhabited from 1st 4th century ad. It is said there are the remains of 8 roundhouses, though where I don’t know. And glass and iron and bronze working took place here. Only ghosts now. Few people come up here, or even realise that it is here. So peaceful.

fort flowerbed gorgeous heaven Flowers so dense the light from them fills the eye. And here a falcon or buzzard has mingled pigeon feathers with sea campion.

featherflowers Looking back to Porth y Rhaw I watched people walking by, following the coast path while I followed the ghost path.

porthy  thrift5 Barefoot was the only way to be, here. My feet, square like the feet of witches, felt the softness of ground here, pillowing each step. Warm in the sun we lay back, me and Ivy and Rosie and listened to the bee buzzing, insect whirring, soft air through bird wing and gentle sea sway song of the place. Peace, on a bed of flowers.

witchfeet And there was sorrel here too, with its sharp lemon tang.

sorrel bee3 inland anarm Plantain grew. It always reminds me of Durer, who knew the shape of a hare, and painted beautiful grasses.

plantain We moved on. I have work to catch up on after two weeks of headache, past tug beach where the hulls were submerged, looking back towards Ramsey Island.

tugb kidneyvetch Here there was gorse and yellow vetch and May blossom. Foxgloves are beginning to blossom. I know a place where they are thick in plenty.

may foxglove On the way back we found kingcups and water mint. And soon the iris will unfurl. Always something different.kingcups watermintBack home Hannah said that five kites had been circling the house. Hope they come back. We don’t see kites often.

And today there is a wonderful write up all about Queen of the Sky, in the Western Mail. The piece is beautifully written by Rachael Misstear. It was, I think, during a conversation with her that the book grew, from an idea, to a story, to a book.

On Monday evening Ffion and I will be at Oriel y Parc, talking about the falcon, salt water queen of the sky. Later on 31st we will be at Hay Festival, doing the same. Join us, for one or other event, or even both. westernmail ffionandf myhouse

 

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The week of the headache.

This week a headache has eaten my time…..

My daughter decided that I needed to change the way I eat ( as in, not having breakfast, sometimes getting to the end of the day having eaten nothing because there is no time, AND not drinking enough water.

So, she wrote me a plan.

hannah1

hannah2

hannah3Lovely. I bought a nutri-bullet. Brilliant. Have eaten so much fruit. Hannah was worried that my hands are quite arthritic and were quite ‘puffy’. After two weeks I can now get all my rings back on my twisted fingers. But, for two weeks I had the headache from hell. Hurt so much I couldn’t keep still and no painkiller touched it. So, I took it for a walk, to the place where the flowers grow.

bee thrift carpet littlep edgelandsAnd we went to a place where the wind had sculpted a tree to look like the inside of my head.

windyAnd in between headaches I painted an otter and curlews, called Otter hunting, curlews rising, full moon falling, for Suffolk Wildlife Trust for their Christmas card ( so late with delivery I can only apologize.)

otterhunting whiskersAnd all the while I was nursing my headache I dipped in and out of The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane. It became such a harbour in which to rest my mind. A hymn to all things wild and the best excuse I have for sitting in hedges again, as I did when I was a kid, for hunting for wild places. Such beautiful language.

readingAnd somewhere in the book he talks about hare, identifies with the hare as he wanders the land, sleeping in scrapes. Somewhere in the book he states that the Egyptian for ‘To be’ as in ‘To exist’ is a hare over running water. And so I painted;

To be….

Tobeor not to be.

ornottobeAnd now my headache has gone, I hope for a while. Thanks Hannah and Tom and Robin for looking after me. Next week I hope to do more work.

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Where the air whispers through raven’s wings.

Waking again with headache. Can’t work. Can walk. To St Davids Head, with book and camera, in quiet sunshine and the cliffs are covered with waves of flowers.

Great daisy flowers, perhaps the ox-eye daisy?

whitegreen daisiesbig

Sea campion with it’s delicate bladder seed pods.

seacamp purples seacampion

Stitchwort, then bluebells and yellow cowslips.

stitchwort bluebells cowslips1

Above Porth Melgan a wind twined hawthorn I had never noticed before.

thorns

And tiny common daisies. They are everywhere, and so often overlooked, opening their small eyes to the sunshine.

daisies2 daisies vetch Squill, blushing the grass to a pale smalt blue.

stonesea sqill2

And here on the headland the ancients have carpeted their hut circles with flowers.

hutcircleflowers stones We sit for a while in the shadow of the wind and I read and a red bottomed bumble bee plunders the squill. It is so quiet that when a raven flies over the air whooshes in the raven’s wings. Swallows swoop low over our heads and a gull teases Ivy. Then I fall asleep in the warm sun and Ivy wanders off to pounce on small mice and hidden things.

redbum reading Home via thrift, more squill, foxgloves almost there.thrift squill foxgloves1 bluebells1 boat outHome. Head still hurts. Maybe if I try to paint it will stop, I will forget I have a headache. And if it doesn’t I will find again a quiet place to read. The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane. What  a beautiful book.

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The phone rings

The phone rings. I answer.

“Hi, is that Ms Stowe?”

“No.”

“Oh, sorry to bother you.”

“No, that’s ok, because I am her mum, do you want me to take a message? Who’s speaking please?”

“OK, the thing is, don’t panic, there’s nothing wrong, it’s the police in Llanelli.”

Heart sinks to boots, panic anyway, then remember Hannah has gone to yoga at TYF and that it would have been very fast legislation by Tory government to outlaw yoga.

“Are you ok?”

“Yes.”

“Well, the thing is, it’s a bit of a mystery see, but we have her wallet here.”

( Remembers conversation before yoga: “I can’t find my wallet can I take some money?” “Well where is it?” “If I knew that I wouldn’t have to ask for some money.”)

“Right.

Llanelli.”

Hannah hasn’t been further East than Solva for a couple of weeks. Hmmmm…….

“Ok. It’s like this. Gentleman has handed in her wallet. But he was Polish, we think. Hardly spoke a word of English. None of us could understand him. Think he might have found it in some recycling or something.”

“Is it empty?” I ask.

“Now, there’s the thing. No. Has money in it, bank cards, driving licence. That’s kind of how we traced you. Seems you reported something to the police 6 or 7 years ago so your address came up on the system.”

Thinks back. Lost dog. God bless you Bella.

So, with all the nonsense i hear in the media about mistrust of foreigners and immigrants can I just let one small piece of the world who read this story know that somewhere in Llanelli there is a young man, who might be Polish, and a policeman who are both wonderful, honest people. And a policeman who tracked down my daughter and phoned to say that her wallet was there.

Thank you.

As to how the wallet transported itself from the bed in my studio, the ‘last place she used it’ to llanelli, well, that will always remain one of life’s small mysteries. But I am very grateful for that honest act of kindness.

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Poetry

The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems has moved into its 11th edition. To celebrate I will be giving away a signed copy. But how to decide who to give it to? cp1First published in 2006, this was a labour of love. I spent months reading poetry, choosing, with the help of Tessa, the editor in chief at Barefoot (who at one point said, ‘it’s Classic Poetry, not Romantic Poetry!’) It took about a year to illustrate it. And somehow Ivy made it into the book, even though she wasn’t born then.

cp3 cp2

The book is dedicated to Ffion, of Queen of the Sky fame, because she loves poetry.

So, here’s how to win a copy. I need more beauty in my life, and I need to learn more, so, tell me, in comments to this posting, your favourite poem, your favourite poet. Say what it is that sings to your soul and if you can link to it on the web do, or to a book that the poem resides in.

I will wander through the comments, randomly sending out cards to some people and in about 3 weeks or so will pick a winner. You can then choose who and where I send the book to.

So, which poets make your soul sing, and why?

cp4

 

 

 

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A pilgrimage to the place where a story began.

Queen of the Sky, like any story, began with a stream of things converging. The idea for the piece as a ‘book’ began during a conversation with Rachael Misstear from The Western Mail.

I had emailed Rachael to talk with her about some paintings that were included in an exhibition at The Botanic Gardens of Wales. Now, as a reporter Rachael has to deal with some awful stories, truly terrible acts of violence, injustice, horror. This is what ‘news’ is, can be, and someone has to tell these stories, but to carry these all inside must be terrible. So, as I was talking about this story of a bird brought back to health and freedom by a friend she said, ‘this story is too good not to be shared. You should write a book about it.’

Afew days later on a journey to Birmingham with Matthew and Peter from Graffeg I discussed the idea and they both said yes. Let’s do it. This was november. How amazing that within those few short months we turned around the words and the images, with the help of Joana, the designer, and Nicola Davies who edited the text for me, making me really think about what I was saying, to a book that now waits to fly into the hands of readers.

Today Rachael came to visit, tired after the election. The sun shone. Voyages of Discovery had kept two places on the boat for us and we headed off to St Justinians to visit the site where the story really first began.

hannahwHannah was just coming in from a trip. There were some changes of crew, then we headed off on what was to be one of the warmest trips I have done around Ramsey Island.

lifeb bitches At the bitches the water was dancing. There were shags and cormorants drying their wings on the rocks. What amazed me was how the colour of the water changed with every single turn of the head.

bitches2 colour

greengold beautiful There were razorbills and guilemots, kittiwake and raven, chough and the terrible black backed gulls. There were seals in plenty, playing at the sea’s edge, at home in the water, rising and falling with the swell and the sway of the sea.

bills ffitalking At the front of the boat Hannah ( not my daughter Hannah, but another, seems all the crew will be called Hannah this year!) Ffi and Rachael talked of the peregrine, life on the water, more.ffiquiet On the island the land was flushed pink by the thrift. Black tar lichen darkened the cliffs. It thrives on salt water so you can see by the photographs how high the sea will reach when the weather is rough.risland edge sealshead

lightwater

Rachael loved everything about the trip. The wind, the salt on skin, the warm sun, beautiful island, birds, the learning, colours. At just the right time a peregrine came in to view.

r ditched cave

As we came out from the cave Ffion pointed across the sea to where Hiss had landed on that fateful day. She had flown across the bay, low over the water and then into it. Had Ffion not been looking, not driven over in time, not reached into the sea to lift her up onto the boat there would have been no story. Peregrine. Pilgrim bird.

This was our pilgrimage to where Queen of the Sky began.

overthere

 

When Rachael asked Ffi where she thought Hiss might be now Ffi smiled, a sad smile. “She could be anywhere.” Our hope is that she is somewhere, in the wild, wide, wonderful world, up to fierce mischief.

You can read more about the amazing fallen falcon here, in a slideshow from The Guardian online, and also in the book, available, signed from Solva Woollen Mill.

( Thanks Ffi and Hannah for a brilliant trip, and Voyages of Discovery for finding spaces for us at such short notice. Do take a look at their website. Such beautiful photos. Every trip I have been on with them has been different.)

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This Week.

raggedfThis week, far from Westminster, I felt rather like a ragged feather. So I painted one, hoping it would settle me in to work. Painting this dark and ragged creature that had once flown was a kind of meditation and it settled my spirits.

misterfThen I painted an image for the Kids need to Read calendar 2016.

And I spent some time over a couple of days with my lovely friend who has moved away, Deb. It was good to see her, have some time with her, and Gypsy Blue.

debsdI bought a tea set for some felted bears.  Beatrix Potter is wandering around in my mind at the moment. I love her work, so under rated because of her subject matter.

teaset teaatmillI had a book launch for Queen of the Sky and now people are getting in touch to say that they love the book, which feels so much of a relief. As Ffion, months ago, sent Hiss back into the wild, so this book is now released into its natural habitat, bookshops, readers.

mill1 mill2 mill3 mill4 signf birdf littleb Betsi showed Ffion how to sign her name.

talkingatmill hawkwalkingWe met a beautiful Harris Hawk.

I also met a Wolpertinger.

volpertingerIn Dulverton Davina made a wonderful display of Queen of the Sky. She also has signed copies. Hanging in the window is the peregrine Chris found, mentioned in the book. A failed hunt. She crashed into the ground, a claw-full of blackbird feathers clutched tight, the body of the blackbird, broken, a few feet away.

And I walked with Mr Stenham and The White Cat and we met horses.

whitecatwalking

I voted. I read, from The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane. And I drew a running hare.

harerunningNext week, far from Westminster there will be otters and curlews and other surprises.

(NB: signed copies of all of my books in print are available from Solva Woollen Mill, emporium of woolly delights.)

 

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Miles From Westminster

I will not be miserable. I will not feel downhearted. I will not feel oppressed by a system that disenfranchises me. I will create, write, paint. I will strive for beauty, fairness, justice. I will. I will.

I will begin with a hare.

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The Early Life of Mister Finch; or the importance of reading.

sketchbookIt began with a sketch.

Every year I produce a piece of work for an organisation in the USA, Kids Need to Read,  who work to get books into the hands of children who don’t have access to them, for numerous reasons, mainly poverty.

Last year I painted The Places Reading Takes Me.

elephantmonkey-1024x753 2015cal

All of the pieces I have produced are available as affordable prints from USA ( they will post anywhere, so don’t hold back) This blog post has links to each print.

In the UK surveys suggest that three out of every ten children own no books. I had very few at home when I was a child but I did have a library card. Reading books changes lives. You can learn facts, empathy, escape from the day to day troubles. You can learn ideas, different ways of thinking, how to express yourself and communicate ideas. Reading is important. Reading and freedom are so joined in my life as to be two halves of the same coin.

This is why I chose to give my time to the support of Kids Need to Read.

So, this is this years piece for them. The fox on my desk, sitting so still and so steady is by Nichola Theakston. (She does beautiful hare sculptures too and her hares were used as the prizes in the Lush Award against testing on animals.)

desk

The piece is inspired by a beautiful sculpture by Mister Finch, a textile artist in the UK. His work is beautiful, and can be found in a wonderful book, The Fairytale World of Mister Finch.

Before I started the piece, which had haunted my imagination for a while I sketched out the idea and sent a picture of the drawing to Mister Finch himself to request his blessing. You see, it is based on, but not copied from, his beautiful curled and sleeping fox sculpture. So, I felt that I could not go ahead with the work without first asking if he was happy for me to do this. ( I am not the only person who has been suffering from plagiarism of late. Many of my friends have and Mister Finch himself has his copyists. I know that people say we should be flattered, but there are times when it is hard to be so. And also it can be irritating. Often work is copied with no reference to the originator or influence, no link, no thanks and a claim that the work is ‘original’. )

Mister Finch not only gave me permission but generously said that he was flattered to be an inspiration ( I love his generosity. He so often shares wonderful work by others, introducing beauty into the lives of many.)

almost

The image shows a young Mister Finch. In his early life he was brought up by foxes and would often read to them by moth-light. It was during this time that he learned the shape of many things; the shape of a fox, the shape of a moth and the shape of the heart.

NB:All of my books in print are available for order from Solva Woollen Mill. Not only do they package them beautifully, but they will post from the small valley to anywhere in the world. And when you order you have a space to dedicate the book, or just have it signed.

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