We live in a world where we are more connected than ever and yet at times, it feels like there is less connection.
Good friends can feel like they are miles away, when in reality they are just around the corner and strangely, many of us find closeness in those on the other side of the world. The on-line brings us into each other’s lives, thoughts and feelings in a more open way; yet sometimes it feels we share less with those next to us.
I often feel adrift: taking steps, losing my footing, tentatively stepping back in again… because like most people, I want – long – to feel connected, to share and be involved and yet, for me there is simply no comparison to a real hug, a real like and of course, real love.
We took our box of wooden handcrafted wares out into our community yesterday and it was heart-warming stuff. To see friends old and new, to feel the embracing arms of real flesh and to hear lovely real likes as we talked about our work, shared stories of our travels and told customers where their gifts started life, because it is important to us that they can hold that piece and feel the energy of where it came from.
One lady bought a simple pendant of olive in celebration of her daughter’s name. I told here where the wood had come from (Portugal) and they asked, ‘but how do you remember?’ and I thought… because I know the story behind it, I know the olive grove, the memory of sitting and sanding, of hearing the breeze through the pine trees on the hill and the sounds of birds and next-door’s donkey.
I remember the warmth on my skin as I worked.
(My reply was a little more succinct!)
When you make something with your hands, there is a real connection to the creation and yesterday reminded us of how much we love that, for without real people to share real stories with, sometimes it can all be lost in a sea of beautifully staged photos and mere glimpses into worlds we can never really know.
Perhaps, for me, this is the limitation of the on-line world, where celebrations, commiserations and jubilations are commented on in short sentences, or even shorter reactions, when what I long for is conversation.
Yesterday my conversations introduced me to Sew & Grow where I peered into dye baths and touched beautiful products, but mostly felt the enthusiasm of the creator that simply does not come through in a photo.
I was also inspired by Vintage Knit & Sew and her passion to re-use what we already have in circulation – we must! – and consequently we now feel a deeper sense for the need to source second-hand chains for our jewellery.
And not forgetting the wonderful Urb Farm who hosted this Autumn event in a space that has quite clearly been built with love and community.
Connection, for me, is something you can touch, see and feel. It’s all around us if only we step out and submerse ourselves in it, make time for those friends around the corner, take our wares out to be seen by real eyes. This world here on the screen is wonderful and wide and opens doors to opportunities and friendships we might never have had, but the smaller world, the world we all have outside our door, well that is just – if not more – as important, and it feels good to find yourself at the heart of it.
We plan to do more fairs in the coming months... I'll share them here, but if you're not local you can of course find Little Loquat on Etsy and Facebook.
“I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought, or thoughtfulness.”
~ Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust (A Hisotry of Walking)
Lately I’ve been walking as a way to find some space, to help me pull words together for the book I’m working on. I stroll briskly, usually from the field where my caravan sits, through the woods and fields in a loop or sometimes to the next village, and back again.
Last night it was almost dusk as I set out but I could still see the hedgerows beginning their giving over to the autumn palette, the hawthorn and rose-hip berries ruby red and ripe. There were even some huge blackberries still hanging on. It’s been such a hot summer and everything seems to have come and gone in a rush.
As I walked I remembered how much and how far my legs carried me when I worked as a travel guide writer. The roads and pathways from country to city that I would pound armed only with my pad and pen. I thought about how strong I was then and long to be strong again. Lately I have felt weakened by the inevitable pressures that life throws at us and those carefree memories of myself sometimes feel so far away: untouchable.
I looked at the little wooded dells of green and imagined just curling up in them for the night. I thought about Patrick Leigh Fermor walking to Constantinople – across Europe in winter – and wondered if I will ever get to do a walk that long. One day I would like to.
I see rubbish in the bushes and ponder for how many years it will pollute this landscape – oh what us humans have done.
The fields are mostly bare now; harvesting is over. No more the sounds of combines and tractors working late into the summer evenings and I feel a deep loss for the long hot days we have had this year in England, for the eating outside for seemingly unending evenings and I recognise that old familiar melancholy for autumn deep in my heart. But the breeze is still warm; so warm, so I close my eyes to it and bask in its serenity.
Just before I reach the village a large group of crows fly over, squawking and cawing, and I am reminded of camping out beneath a rookery in Norfolk. I turn to begin my walk back, pausing first beneath their swell, watching them move together, working out where they are to roost for the night. I envy their living in the moment, for the moment. I walk again and hear a rustling in the hedgerow, it sounds large so I kneel down, stinging myself. I wonder if it’s a small deer but I can’t see. An owl hoots behind me and a pair of pigeons fly out of a low tree, their unmistakable flapping bringing an eeriness to the darkening sky that makes me feel suddenly vulnerable.
Ahead I make out the treeline and love that I know the shape of my field. I hop over the gate and walk – alive and refreshed – back to my caravan and the light and laughter of my family preparing to turn in for the night.
September 2018 ~ From my Notebook
"The rumble of noise dissipates. Bright lights, the seduction of all you are told you want or need spinning around; finally trails away. For a moment – in that moment – I had become briefly blinded as to how life can be but now, now the window is rolled down and the night air is warm. I tip my face to the stars as our little rental car climbs and climbs and I realise that I am free again; that I can breathe again. I am aware that my lungs, recently so constricted with anxiousness, are instead open and infused with the scent of pine and eucalyptus. My ears, dulled by the din of expectation, are now alive with the sound of cicadas. We arrive in the dark, following our host down a long and dusty track flanked by shadowy hills and grapevines and there is something unbelievably sweet about not knowing exactly what is out there, trusting only in our non-seeing senses. Outside this simple home on a ranch in Catalonia we play cards and lounge on the swing chair until the early morning hours and those senses tell me to remember that this is how life can be and deep in my heart, I know that I have been away too long.”
Recently I've been sharing regular notes from my journal, poems, short stories and little passages from the book I am working on - as well as other writings - over on my Facebook Page: Alice Writes.
Do stop by and say hello - I would love to connect with you!
My latest article for Plants are Magic Magazine is now available to read right here...
Sometimes there are no photos; only words, because...
Can a photo really show you how the wind felt on my face ~ soft, airy and filled with fine grains of sand ~ as I sat against the grassy cliffs?
Can a photo tell you what I was thinking ~ freedom is to fly; to lose all sense of anything else around you and let this world we have constructed of noise, shopping trollies, bricks and wheels, fall away ~ as I tipped my head back to watch a white seagull soaring against a silent blue sky?
Can a photo really convey the look ~ sincere, compassionate, kind ~ as heartfelt words were shared, or how a hand felt ~ strong, safe, secure ~ within mine?
Can a photo let you hear laughter ~ infectious, raw, singing on the undulating breeze ~ of a true nature girl?
Can a beautiful photo of a beach, somewhere on the North Yorkshire Coastline, tell you how it truly made me feel ~ humbled, centred, calmed, thankful ~ to be there?
There is no photo, no trace,
for I left everything behind today
to simply lay
in the sand
and let my dreams take shape.
Restful, deep breaths, a temporary equilibrium that feels easy.
Water runs, pipes warm; everything is stable and stationary.
There is comfort in this state for it brings a silencing of wired thoughts and yet… there is the constant danger of boredom lurking on the horizon. It’s been too long that my water has not run, that heat has been created with my own hands, that my view has changed daily, for me to fall willingly and without fight into the arms of something so… predictable.
These months here in our house between the moorland and coastline of North Yorkshire have forced me to recognise that my hunger for the road is not simply for the sake of travel, but more importantly: the sake of connection. Connection to every small seemingly incidental action that we open ourselves up to when we wander; when we make life tiny, yet wide, because there is the realisation that we are forever living in the moment.
Living in a house the moment can be lost within the ease of it all and yes, that can be welcome: to know that when travel fatigue sets in I can put my key in a door behind which I will find my pictures and books, cushions and blankets, writing desk and typewriter and know that I can stop, burrow down, rest; is something I do not take lightly.
But I find myself periodically running to our caravan tucked away in the corner of a field in the South of England so that I might fill up water containers, feel the wind all night long and be connected to life and when there I find myself dreaming rose-droplet-framed dreams about the road: about campfires and weathered faces; conversations and music, and I know that this house-living-lark could never be every day.
And so, as a family, we adjust to the realisation that we are here, find joy in the vegetables growing at our allotment and tentatively allow our roots to venture a little below the surface, whilst also reminding ourselves that there will always be a need for us to go away… to walk barefoot, wash our clothes in a bowl, cook on one ring and wake up together overlooking the sea, because we are travellers, wanderers, gyspy souls and it is the call of the road that makes us know we are alive.
Wandering = Movement = Freedom.
It is a stretching of limbs, and of mind. It is never standing still for long and yet, standing still long enough to breathe. Mountain, coast, forest, meadow… walkways, waterways, roadways; the life of a wanderer is a perpetual anticipation of next steps and new adventures.
Perhaps the attraction is in the new? The erasement of that which you do not want to remember because you find yourself lost in the absolute freshness of possibility. It is a running away; a running to, and I have a hunger for that lightness of step – that release – that comes, both physically and mentally.
The wandering life is lived deliciously simply, out of a bag… once upon a time (for me) on foot, but as a family: in a van, cabin, boat, cottage, caravan… shared houses; shared spaces – so many places and people found, so many adventures that have grown within us like a patchwork quilt and so many experiences we are endlessly glad for and yet, like any life there are periods of unrest… the flailing about on an unknown path without destination, the night-time awakenings given over to creatively developing ways to sustain such a lifestyle and then there are the waves of uncertainty, wondering whether the wandering life still works for the whole family.
On a practical level, living from here to there brings challenges… there is water to be collected, waste to be disposed of, laundry to be done with cold red hands – either from hand-washing or dragging a bag to the laundrette in mid-winter. Food must be prepared and cooked in tiny spaces and higgledy piggledy places while crafts, projects and colouring are limited and put out or put away to accommodate. Beds are endlessly made up and down whilst stepping over dogs – and each other. Pans and kettles are boiled for washing up… and washes, for showers can be taken only when there is enough solar power. There is paperwork in foreign countries; translations, invitations, conversations… a combination of sometimes wonderful, sometimes tiring things, because tiny little incidentals can loom large when you’re out of your comfort zone… and there is the endless packing up and unpacking; forever losing and finding.
For ten years now as a family we have wandered. Sometimes standing still, but never for too long and for any hardship this life has presented, there have been more than enough joys to balance it out. For every irritation such as living without running water for weeks on end because the canal has frozen, there has been felt a sense of accomplishment for being independent and resourceful. For every night spent uncomfortable, tired and lost on the road, there have been ten heart-stoppingly beautiful stopovers that remind you why you do what you do. For every anxiety arising from living in a different country there has been a cultivation of pioneering spirit and a warmth from locals that restores your faith in humanity… for every mean person, there have been five beautiful souls and for every frustrated word (or ten!) flying around our tiny spaces and big dreams, there has been nurtured a deeper love, admiration and respect.
However, recent months have seen our path edging into a different space and it has taken a while for us to navigate this changing route, to acknowledge our collective desire to stop, root down, maybe even belong somewhere for a while, in our own country. We don’t know for how long we will need this, but we know that finding ourselves in a house – our own house – nestled in a village between the sea and moors of North Yorkshire, feels right. We know that for a while, having some comforts and space feels as exciting as running away. We know that the connections our daughter yearns for at this stage in her life are valid and that being close to our extended family is important and we imagine (hope) that having such endless and boundless beauty on our doorstep where we can seek out plentiful micro-adventures, will allow us to weave these wandering hearts into our new chapter of standing still.
“I wrap my arms around my body, holding tight, and acknowledge that once again nature has taught me for as I prepare to leave this small Spanish village following a month of contemplation, I know I am leaving with the answers needed and the olive-shaped word rootedness firmly imprinted on my heart.”
I have been busy working on an article for Plants are Magic Magazine about my love for olive trees: where our journey together began, how they make me feel and most importantly, what they teach me.
It really is a blessing to be able to write from the heart and with deep honesty for nourishing publications such as this and I wish I could share it sooner than I will be able to, if only because it explains what’s been going on in our world since being in, and returning from, Spain, more than a month ago.
Alas, it won’t be out for a while yet, but hopefully I'll manage to get a little letter together sometime in March or April :-)
A heaviness that, once you give yourself over to it, becomes lightness…
And from that surrender there becomes a kind of freedom in the soul, as if there is no stone left unturned, no sense left unfelt, because you have allowed yourself time to delve deep, reach in, extract, and be true to yourself with what you do with that which you find.
“It is possible to feel as light as a gentle breeze,” I am reminded of when I am here.
I wake in the morning, the room darkened by wooden shutters. Opening them light streams in. There may be the odd rumble of someone going by below, probably to their allotment on the outskirts of the village, but otherwise there is no sound but birdsong, and my it is bliss.
My deepest fear was that this place I had reminisced about in the nine years since I left, would be changed somehow; would have lost its magic. When we first arrived and saw once again the desert landscape stretched out for miles around us, we wondered what had made us stay for five+ months. The scenery here can appear dusty and devoid of life and yet there is rawness, a realness that draws you in; there is a hunger to learn from those roots that can live so long without water.
In the absence of anything else to do we begin to walk ~ endless walking ~ and slowly I feel my heart releasing, easing, my thoughts starting to lace together into something coherent. We delight in the mountains changing each day… sometimes dry and uninviting, sometimes the deepest greens rolling like velvet, beckoning us towards them, sometimes even snowy tops. On other days a pale mist surrounds us hiding everything behind a white tinge… the olive leaves look frosted, the mountain tops hazy, and I find that I have fallen in love all over again.
There is no rush to the people here, they pass their time slowly and methodically, carrying out daily tasks with a relaxedness that I am envious of. In nine years it remains the same; tending olive trees, stopping for lunch perched on a stone, cutting greenery for animals, sharing a laugh or two. I remember with fondness the several old faces that have disappeared, but many remain the same and they smile and welcome us back with open arms and shining eyes and marvel at how our daughter has grown and at our dog; still with us, healthy and glossy (and now joined by another!).
I survey this place and say to myself that I must, once again, learn… and hang on to my observations for as long as I can. Wander slowly. Be more methodical and connected. Continue to nurture contentedness in simplicity… I arrived with a distance towards life, but I know I will leave with a deeper sense of closeness.
Pondering how our time here before also came at the beginning of a new adventure, having not long sold up our house in a city and given up a steady job to take our baby on the road in search of more freedom as a family, I wonder if this tiny timeless village in rural Andalucia will continue to call us back at important junctures. I hope so, because my love runs deep for this pocket of solace in a crazy world, for a landscape that encourages me to dig deeper within myself: to question, contemplate and ultimately… help discover our next chapter.
We’re currently in Spain enjoying some wood-working out on the terrace in the warmth ready to fill up the Little Loquat Etsy Shop in 2018.
There will be wooden ring presentation boxes, quill pens and a range of earrings and pendants…
Watch this space!
We left the UK on our migration south in a plume of noise… I find there is an exhaustion in this world that eats away not just at the physical self, but at something deeper and by the time we rolled our campervan onto a train to take us under the sea, we were spent.
Thus, the journey south began in an agitated manner; senses were heightened, hearts were unsettled but, as is usual on our road trips, in time the charged air between us all began to quieten and as we journeyed onto increasingly-empty roads, the reasons for our exhaustion began to slowly work their way out in our minds and through our mouths allowing tensions to finally ease.
To us the world can feel too fast; it demands of us to look, like and listen 24/7 and yet… how many of us actually hear? In all the rush things are left unnoticed, compassion seems in short supply and the nurturing of important relationships is often a pastime squashed into well-managed time slots. Then there is the traffic noise that permeates every moment – even sleep – as cars rush from a to b and trucks relay back and forth with all the food, toys and stuff we apparently need to survive and before we know it, the constant stream of noise begins to buzz relentlessly around the body.
Perhaps some get used to it, make friends with that nervous energy… but it seems impossible for us.
Some might say we run away; well yes, we do, for what else are you to do when you find yourself full to the brim with no space to receive? In order to live, to breathe, to love, to create, we need space to receive. And so I long for the road, long for the layers that begin to peel themselves away as our wheels roll, allowing me to, bit-by-bit, re-emerge, and here now in this small timeless village in the mountains of Spain where we will rest for a short while, I feel a warming of senses, the sweet release of decompression, and the ability to once again, begin to receive.
I guess we all have our way of breaking away, finding that place where we feel able to balance ourselves and return to zero, be it through walking, meditation, exercise, the sanctuary of our own home or a weekend health retreat… for us it takes the road and the discovering of places where life runs at a slower pace, to remind us of who we are and bring permission to indulge in our dreams once again.
Perhaps our dream for 2018 is that the road will take us to a place where we can once again sink our hands into earth, root down; find a more permanent place to run to and not from.
I guess we’ll see…
Wishing you all a peaceful year filled with love, adventure and the running to and from, as necessary.
As a family we are about to close down for the festive season and are looking forward to a time of reflection and hibernation as our campervan wheels turn in the direction of Spain (East of Granada).
I imagine some time in the mountains will bring plentiful opportunity for creativity… writing projects are brewing and we're hoping to do lots of making for the Little Loquat shop.
Thanking you for your warmth and connection this year and Warmest Wishes to all friends and followers out there!
I love the silence of snow… lying in bed it closes around us; cocoons us. I can hear no planes in the sky, no cars on the road, no sound but that of nature, of snowflakes falling softly onto our caravan roof.
Reluctant to wake completely I stay motionless, lost in the stillness of it all, but the sound of horses hooves passing the window on the other side of the fence make me realise that it is daylight and animals need feeding. I close my eyes again, grasping a few more moments, lost in the sound of compacting snow beneath hoof.
When in the depths of nature, closed in, I realise I never want for anything like I do for this feeling. The noise of the world we have constructed around ourselves suddenly seems futile, pointless, and just as with the freshness of snow, I want to start again, choose what to grow from this beautiful blank landscape.
My daughter wakes and delights at the sight of real snow; “real snow!” she sings, and hurriedly we pile on layers before venturing outside. The alpacas sorrowful faces look up to us, their ears weighed down with moisture. We scrape thick snow from their troughs and break the ice in their water bucket. The horses are going crazy, galloping around, and we scurry about organising hay for them.
Pausing for a moment I look out to the landscape, relishing the magic of working methodically in snow and I am suddenly overwhelmed by the utter newness of things, of this clean and silent world, un-marked in every way and find myself wishing for snow to fall in my mind.
Sometimes I write an article for a magazine that really leaves me with a warm glow inside... Plants Are Magic is one such magazine.
Filled with inspiration for greater connection to the earth, you will find articles from artisans the world over so I was thrilled when Editor, Rebecca Desnos, asked me to write about the story behind my handcrafted family business Little Loquat.
My article 'Beauty in Nature' appeared in an issue focused on local and you can read it by clicking the image above.
Voices from the Grid is an anthology of short stories all set in Milton Keynes and all written by local writers. I'm thrilled and very proud to finally see my story 'Barefoot in the City' in print as part of this collection and to be part of a little bit of history from my hometown.
A wonderful memento of Milton Keynes life, if you would like a copy for yourself or to give as a gift they can be purchased for £5 from:
Community Learning MK
And if you telephone them, they will post a copy out to you :-)
The melancholy of autumn may be no bad thing
for with each fallen leaf, a new dream can begin
and with each fleeting glimpse of that low orangey sun,
is the belief that always, something amazing can be begun.
~ Alice Griffin
I always find the coming of autumn a melancholy time... the colder weather, the lowering sun, the feeling that a long winter is stretched ahead... every year I have to remind myself to take note of the beauty and also remind myself that autumn is about rebirth.
Writing this little poem I was gazing out at the leaves floating from the trees and although I'm no longer living on a narrowboat, autumn always reminds me of woodsmoke and quiet waters...
My poem, This Gentle Earth, is featured on the lovely Vegan Life Magazine website.
The thoughts behind my words were about how we can all start making a change in the world simply by finding compassion for each living being... I hope you enjoy it.
“Only when we have become non-violent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves,”
~ Cesar Chavez
It's always lovely to receive a positive review for something I have created, especially when it's from a well-respected source.
My Character Education Discussion Cards, illustrated by Heidi Rivolta, were recently reviewed in the SNIP (Special Needs Information Press) newsletter and I'm so appreciative of their kind words and endorsement. Any resource that I can produce that goes to helping children and young people progress and develop healthily and happily, I feel proud of being a part of.
Special Needs Information Press (SNIP) is a twelve page monthly newsletter produced by two SEN teachers. It aims to support staff in schools to identify and address the diverse needs of pupils, in order to promote their learning and school success.
SNIP has been published since 1991 and is photocopiable to enable the sharing of information throughout subscribing settings. It aims to provide up-to-date information on strategies, processes, resources, research, legislation and guidelines, to support staff to become confident and effective teachers of children with additional needs.
After years of dreaming of Scottish landscapes, our van finally made it to the Highlands! and for us, the Cairngorms was the highlight.
The scenery as you enter this national park is simply breathtaking. The weather so changeable that there are a million colours and textures on the heather-covered hills.
I feel a freedom here – away. Such an expanse of space; of mountains. A place to think and contemplate, for sure.
Peace. Quiet. Beauty… like balm to the soul.
We have collected a fair bit of driftwood for future Little Loquat makings too …
I recently submitted a short story ‘Barefoot in the City’ to the MK50 Short Story Competition. Celebrating 50 years of Milton Keynes (my hometown) there were lots of things going on - my daughter even won a drawing competition for her ‘concrete cow’ design!!
Well, my story didn’t win… but I was so pleased to hear this morning that it has been selected as one of 50 to be featured in a published anthology: Voices from the Grid.
I am constantly surprised that wherever I go I meet people who know of Milton Keynes, but it’s not always for the right reasons… ‘so busy’, ‘no soul‘, ‘all roundabouts and shopping’ and yet for me, this city where I grew up, is so much more than that. There is a thriving arts scene and many wonderful projects and businesses that have a true passion for creating a better world and of course, there are way more green spaces than most people realise...
For me being close to nature is at my core and I was lucky enough to have spent my childhood climbing trees, enjoying picnics and swimming in rivers… yes, in a city! As an adult I have lived on narrowboats and enjoyed Milton Keynes from a completely different angle and my short story reflects this love of the green spaces, taking readers to those that I hold dear through the memories of a fictional character.
Copies will be available to buy at the MK Literary Festival and after that from Community Learning MK, Rivers Centre, Trent Road, West Bletchley, MK3 7BB
Or you can read it right here...
I was thrilled to have one of my poems 'It Started with an Ant' featured in the August 2017 VIVA! Podcast. You can listen right here. My poem is 16 minutes in, but of course I'd rather you listen to the whole show ;-)
As a vegan family we are passionate about spreading the message of kindness to all animals but sometimes it’s hard to know how best to do this. After some thought I realised that my voice is through my writing and so, I decided to write a short collection of poems that reflect my own journey from meat eater, to vegetarian, to vegan. Each of the five poems reflect the questions I have pondered myself on my own journey and I hope they will resonate with anyone pondering their own eating habits with regards to animals.
You can read them here.
VIVA! or Vegetarians' International Voice for Animals, is a British animal rights group, which focuses on promoting veganism. They do amazing and very important work that highlights the truth behind what really goes on in the animal farming industry.
“The most powerful action you can take to end animal suffering, protect the environment and improve your health is to go vegan. Support us and help Viva! campaign for a better world.” ~ Juliet Gellatley, VIVA! Founder.
Here is where I explore and muse about life... share news of writing projects & wanderings and weave the words that crowd my mind, into little stories. Occasionally I also share some of the nature-inspired jewellery & gifts I make and sell at craft fairs or on the road.