Picture It

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It’s my son’s nineteenth birthday today. We sat on the sofa last night as he opened presents, one of which was a book of routes up Scottish mountains, and he said he’d recently stood in Glasgow bus station and felt the west coast wind rush at him, willing him to get on the waiting bus to Oban rather than home to Edinburgh, and then to walk, walk, walk….

I get it. I get it so much.

I think if you have the highlands in your heart but your feet are standing elsewhere there’s no time the signal pulling you back is stronger than in autumn. The light gets so full and so calm each morning is its own arresting wonder.

The flat my son moved into with his friend in summer has stunning high ceilings. Looking up in a new space made me reappreciate the walls in our lounge when I got home. Picture rails. Picture rails. I’d never really seen them as anything but dividing points on the wall, till then. I blame dado rails for that oversight. Dado rails seemed to be suddenly everywhere in the 80s and 90s, offering endless possibilities for combining wallpapers, paint colours, wood stains and accents. Bloody hell, when I think back on it, it was a fabulous time for B&Q and the evolution of excited domestic self-expression. How I longed for my mum to announce we too were going to get Austrian blinds and go for a pink, black and grey rag-rolled bathroom.

Anyway, back to picture rails which, thanks to hooks and gravity, come with the offer of never having to assault the walls beneath them with a hammer again.

Since we moved in here eight years ago I’ve hung so many things on walls then changed my mind, never quite getting it right, leaving scarred plaster and discontented sighs in my wake. I’ve lead a futile, ironic battle in failing to win the effortless vibe of creating little vignettes that tell our stories, as well as fitting with the flow of the house. So, working with the wisdom of Marie Kondo once more, I decided a few months ago to take every god-damn thing on a wall in the house off the wall, bringing them all together on the kitchen table to really decide what we had that sparked joy and what we had that needed to move on or change.

The answers were different for different people, of course, but we got there. We all love the prints below, the Danish one came from a charity shop in Banchory and the Picasso one was a birthday present from husband when I was thirty-one, I think. Till recently, they both had frames which had changed colour to a tense woody orange from pale pine over the years, so they got a lick of paint each and my forehead relaxed. I had no picture-hanging wire to match my new picture hooks, so I used ribbon instead, of which I have enough to wrap around the planet.

 

While all the pictures were off the walls and assembled in The Kondo Joy Assessment Zone, I took the opportunity to go on a healing mission and fill in every single hole I’d created on my crazed hanging spree with Polyfilla and then to go the full hog and touch up paint where I’d cocked that up too. It’s odd but that work shifted something big inside me. Fixing shit that’s been wrong for years feels good, as does looking after what’s in my care. It’s as simple as that, so that’s becoming a guiding focus in my thoughts too.

Giant Achillea blooms from the garden have been the outdoors/indoors stars this year. The water dried out in their vase and I didn’t notice till it was apparently too late but still, they’re perfect. A shot of mustard that brings everything else to life and sends me down a conduit of memories; lichens on Raasay rocks and Tyninghame beach tree trunks, the colour of the second walls I painted in my flat (complete with dado rail) when I was twenty-one, back in Aberdeen; the jacket I wore to my cousin’s wedding on Camusdarroch beach. A tiny velour babygro with popper buttons on the shoulders.

Nineteen years and seven hours since I kissed his forehead – warm, soft velvet – and met my son. Tea, toast and a baby swaddled in a blue cellular blanket in the lamplight of a pink delivery room. Then, a morning as clear and freshly-laundered as they come; after my first terrified post-birth venture to the toilet, I stood on tiptoes, birth day fingertips gripping layers upon layers of brittle paint on the windowsill and peered out at Banff to glimpse the beach. I felt like the world looked back and acknowledged the sweet, shrouded shift of new life beyond the pane and thick, granite walls that was ours to hold, protect and bring. 

I am hooked on yellow, hooked on my kids and their dad and the friends and places that have become home, the times together and apart that got woven into stories. Hooked on change. And October light.

 

52and40/33 Feel The Burn

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How is it October?  And 2017?  And, bloody hell, I’m 41.  Anxiety’s  a tide inside my flesh.  What if I don’t have time to do it all, whatever else ‘it’ might be?  Then, eight hours later, zen.

My five nights on Raasay were wonderful.  Even the fall into a wide burn as if it were a bathtub was brilliant.  I attempted a swing from a tree branch to cross the water and, well, the rest is history – especially the branch.  It was a moment time did slow though, so, beautiful in it’s own way…

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52and40/22 Uprising

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Our wee extension’s starting soon and early signs say the plants are keen on change this summer too.

We’ve imposed new garden structure by getting rid of the decrepit shed, clearing the Krugeresque brambles and waving cheerio to 9m of mixed hedge which only ever managed to look tortured, despite optimistic pruning.

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A winter project which leaked into spring was a new boundary fence.  With this came unexpected clarity about divvying up remaining space.  Digging awaits.

Clarity’s good in these mad Brexit times (as are friends with doors which make me smile).

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52and40/19 Painted Ladies

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A friend took me to The Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh recently.  As an art academic and fellow ardent avoider of bullshit, she’s a joy to exhibition with; nips off at speed, buzzing back intermittently with jewels of information about whatever’s caught my eye; non-plussed about my mistaking statues of all short-haired blokes holding scrolls for another Burns.

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As well as my pal, my favourites on the day were Jessica Harrison’s Painted Ladies; the movement in those skirts whisked me back to making an ornament of my Granny’s dance on a windowsill.

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How to Trim Your Beard

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I’m well chuffed to have another story in Scottish Product magazine this month.  This time it’s about beards and breaking up and it’s getting quite a response on Twitter and Facebook.

The story is set in Rhu Cafe in beautiful Arisaig, looking over to Eigg on the Scottish west coast.  It’s 50:50 truth and fiction, so great fun to write.

Can you relate?

52and39/47 Sky Takes The Soul

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We chased the light yesterday, finding it first in Helena Emman’s incredible work from Skye in The Line Gallery at Linlithgow, then leaving it at the Forth.

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We stood at Port Edgar, freezing, looking up and out at a world of massive Lego sets, listening to the ba-doom, ba-doom of traffic crossing the joints on the road through the sky above.  We said occasional hellos to life-jacketed people from yachts and the distance between Scandinavia and Scotland felt tiny small, in those moments.

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Then we drove home, chasing warmth this time. 52and39

 

 

52and39/38 Let It Linger

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Autumn’s my favourite. Colours, light and air are incredible and fashion wise I pull on a sweater and exist in a micro-climate within it, basically becoming a talking, typing, ball of wool with heavily mascara’d eyes til May.

Bliss.

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This year the garden’s giving the first proper feedback from getting more love.  I peer out windows or wander out – just to see if anything’s grown or changed.  It’s like meditation or gazing at your sleeping child – everything else fades away and only the tunnel visioned and detailed peaceful engagement is left.

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Linking up this week with the stunning How Does Your Garden Grow series at Mammasaurus

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