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A visit to Norwich

February 27, 2017

We travelled across the country on February 13th for a meeting of the Cafe Writers in Norwich. On this occasion the Competition judge, Andrew McMillan, read from his multi-award-winning first collection Physical, there were open-mic slots and some of the prize-winners read their poems. The winning poems and Andrew’s report can be seen here. The audience exceeded fifty and the atmosphere was friendly. The evening was compered with great good humour by Martin Figura.

Next morning we had a few hours to explore the city before travelling on to visit cousins in Suffolk. I’d love to go back to Norwich sometime and see more. Here are some photos of the fabulous Royal Arcade, opened in 1899.


The Cathedral, of course! Construction started in 1096.

And the Guildhall, constructed 1407-1413 from cream-coloured stone and knapped flints.

St Andrew’s Hall dates back to the 14th century and, with Blackfriars Hall, is one of the most complete friary complexes in England.

I was fascinated by the paving under my feet – I kept getting ideas for quilts!


Supporting refugees in Mendip

February 26, 2017

There will be a meeting in Shepton Mallet next Tuesday evening, 28 February, to form a volunteer group for Wells, Shepton and outlying villages to help with the re-homing of Syrian refugees in this area. Groups have already been established in the Frome area and Street/Glastonbury. If you’re interested, please contact me for details.




On the tenth anniversary

February 16, 2017


I look forward to reading at this event. Full details below.4-march

ABCD: Backwards

February 11, 2017

There was snow this morning! Not much, actually, not enough to stop eleven of us meeting at the Dove to share books or books-in-progress, mostly on the topic Backwards. Coincidentally, several of them touched on the subject of left-handedness.

Karen’s first thought was the Goons’ I’m walking backwards for Christmas, and she went with that, making a spiral book with footprints and a Christmas tree


Jane brought a model of a structure (a modified Flag Book) for a sculptural book of the tenth-century anonymous Irish poem The Lament of the Old Woman of Beare. The long flowing flags represent ebb and flow – ‘Ebb-tide has come to me as to the sea …’
Jane has a sculptural book in the current exhibition at Glastonbury Abbey, on until 21 May.


Judith found inspiration at Bukurama for a triple Coptic-stitched book to house her extraordinary photos of trees in a Mexico City park whose name translates as Human Rights. The photos give the viewer the sensation of falling backwards. Human rights seem to be moving backwards too.
Judith brought a spare copy of a wonderful graphic novel in verse, In the Land of Punctuation, from Tara Books. She wondered if anyone would like to buy it. By anyone she meant me. I’m thrilled with it!

Carol has been researching snails whose coils go backwards. The result is a beautiful little book with handmade paper pages and lino-print illustrations.

Janine went backwards to last month’s topic, and produced a highly tactile hand-embroidered textile book of silk and velvet comfort.


Clare’s graphic short story A Bigger Splash recounts a childhood argument which ended when she fell backwards into a paddling-pool. The illustrations are a combination of drawing and hand-cut rubber stamps.

I am making a book of mirror-poems, poems that repeat their lines in reverse order. Some of them are about my mother, who was left-handed. I had the idea of making a book of rooms to house the ‘mirrors’, and made models of three structures before deciding on one to use. Here is that model, and one of the ‘rooms’ for the unfinished book.

Caroline brought two versions of  a spiral book, Backward Somersault.
She will be hosting an evening of Greek poetry for the East Coker Poets  on Tuesday 28 February at 7.30 in the Helyar Arms in East Coker near Yeovil.

Bron showed us Doing/Undoing, a book with prints from a plate in different states of completion, from less to more finished and back again.
As a small part of an exciting new project, she is planning a book with backwards writing and a mirror. A left-hander, she found that her mirror-writing is better than her forwards handwriting – a great asset for a print-maker.


In the 1980s Pauline was a teacher at the Dyslexia Institute. This was before the condition was widely recognised. Her book has a spine on both sides and a mirror in a pocket on the front cover, which is fastened by a pencil in a loop. The book uses a variety of different papers and is illustrated with lino-prints, letterpress and meticulous cut-outs. It makes a powerful statement in few words.

Judy made a sculptural book of the rivers of Dorset, tracing them backwards from sea to source. The labels give the names of the rivers and their tributaries, each of which is represented by a single thread.

I don’t usually photograph food, but our pot-luck lunch, Karen’s pop-up wooden dish and the plates made by Bron, looked too beautiful not to record.


Our next meeting will be on 11 March, the topic being Winged. I shall be in Poland, so I do hope someone else will take photos!

And finally … the February dove-droppings.

the rivers will be unravelled
no safety-net
a past participle is useful

walking backwards
forward and backwards
the ebb and the flow

a slim volume
left-handed snails
backwards into the paddling-pool

in a previous life
a willow xylophone
printed on acetate

we spend our lives
turning stuff round

in the backwoods
looking for words
the sound is the meaning

Planting willows

January 29, 2017

It’s been a weekend of planting willow-rods at The Lorax Patch, our son and daughter-in-law’s permaculture project. Over a thousand Salix viminalis were planted on Saturday in mostly good weather by a merry band of  volunteers. The tall stakes will carry deer-proof fencing, the tubes will protect the young trees from rabbits and squirrels, and the matting will suppress the grass until the trees are established.

A few hundred more were put in on Sunday in persistent rain by a hard core of four, reduced to two as the light faded at 3pm. We have notched up the first two picnics of the year!



Fire in the North

January 25, 2017

I realise not all of you are necessarily fans of all things Shetland – but here’s something special for those who are.


Using 10 cameras throughout Lerwick and the talents of 15 young local volunteers, this will be the first Up Helly Aa webcast to use Promote Shetland’s new studios at 4 Market Street in the town. For the first time ever, aerial footage from two drones could be part of the event – weather permitting – and cameras will be allowed into the civic reception for the Jarl Squad, which is being held at Mareel this year while the Town Hall is refurbished.

And why is the Town Hall closed for refurbishment? That’s another story … Exceptional Stained Glass receives Expert Care.

ABCD: Comfort

January 16, 2017

We met at the Dove on a bright cold morning in January to share our response, or lack of response, to the word “Comfort”. Nina brought three editions of “Hive”, a collective work by about 15 artists. Each participant produces one page, and one artist edits each edition. Nina left early and I didn’t get a chance to photograph them. Maybe next time!  Each edition looked quite different from the others.

Nina also brought a “teabag book” and a template for making the teabag page, courtesy of Pauline Pearce.

Pauline was a visitor and potential new member. We loved the way her books were constructed, and the sensitive lino-prints that they were made from. Here is just one.


Judy has acquired a collection of diaries from half a century ago. She has altered one of them, giving it a black plush cover and filling it with scraps of comfort.

My offering was called It’s freezing out there … let’s hibernate! The box/room and lid/roof are cut and folded from a sheet of heavy card. The two sleeping figures are modelled from salt dough (2 spoons of flour to one of salt, with just enough water to make it stick together: dry slowly in cool oven) and the bed is foam covered with fabric.

Jane brought what she called a five-minute book! Like mine, it depicts a warm bed as the source of comfort. The cover shows an image of an old-fashioned stone hot water bottle.


Karen focussed on comfort food. Her book Chocolate Comfort features a poem by her husband Ross, pictures of chocolates, and a painted wrapper.

Clare’s source of comfort is her patch of woodland. Her book is a triptych incorporating twigs-as-handles, twigs-as-feet and twigs-as-scenery.

Carol Wood, another visitor and potential new member, brought a scrap-book Hidden Greenham, and some beautiful books of lino-prints of birds and insects.

Judith is making a book about Iceland but is struggling with a new printer. She told us about her recent cultural visit to Vienna, where she visited Druk und Buch and Kunsthaus Wien. She’s still listening obsessively to Love Itself by Leonard Cohen.

Janine has been finding comfort in making hand-stitched pages and … listening to the songs of Leonard Cohen.


Caroline’s book has a cover made from an old cardigan and is filled with comforting images … places, blankets, chocolate cake …


Jane brought some shadow-puppets to give us a taste of a possible future workshop/performance. One was a traditional puppet from Kerala; others were made by Jane and by school-children she worked with. The puppets can be made from almost anything!

Judith showed us some miniature books given to her by an uncle who collects them. They are exquisite. Some are produced by Simon Lawrence at Fleece Press.

Next meeting will be on February 11th. The topic pulled out of the hat after lunch was BACKWARDS.

And here are January’s Dove-droppings.

comfortable memories
a hot-water bottle
mother’s recipes

a house in Vienna
a box of seeds
must be locked forever

love itself
how plants colonise
Greenham Common

birds that visit
a book of the wood
for comfort

make them out of anything
chocolate and paint
a nice old cardigan