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J is for Jewel


















I need to explain this heading - no, we are not exploring the creative pursuit of jewellery-making but rather referring to my friend and colleague who helps me write this blog and is herself an enthusiast for all things creative. Definitely a jewel of a friend. I could heavily lean into the alphabetical nature of my blog posts (this being J) and say that I find her a great joy to work with as she is non-judgemental, jovial and I can rely on her judicious approach to all things creative. But enough of this! Let’s have an interview instead….


Mark: What areas of creativity are you drawn to?


The Bibster: Words, communication, cooking and gardening, knitting, painting, singing.


Mark: What inspired you to get involved in the above?


Words are a long-time love and run in the family - my dad, at the age of 88, still runs a poetry group for the U3a and I still have the battered old book in which I wrote out my favourite poems when a teenager. I had a brilliant English teacher at school and it’s still the medium I head to when trying to express something thoughtfully that feels just out of reach.


Mark: What about knitting? When did that start?


Knitting grabbed me in the pandemic! Furloughed, with more time on my hands, I remembered going to a retreat house with a cosy summerhouse. On the chair was a blanket knitted in cheerful squares of orange, yellow and white. Post Pandemic we now have several colourful blankets that visiting (adult!) children have been known to curl up under on winter’s evenings by the fire. I found the textures and colours and the steady click of the needles soothing when it felt like the world had gone crazy.


Mark: I know you more as a painter, in fact I own one of your paintings. How did that begin?


Painting is a love of my later years - more precisely my 50s. At school painting was disheartening. An object plonked in a room and a somewhat moody teacher only stopping by those with obvious talent. However, a textile artist friend once said to me ‘you know I think you could paint’. The power of words! After attending an art class I now go out fortnightly to paint outside with my dad. Even in December we could be found wrapped up like Michelin men painting a pond by an old mill. Painting has made me see the world more carefully and, when it works (which it doesn't always!) is a real joy.


Painting the natural world leads me onto gardening. I’m not a serious gardener but I am a sucker for the fun of seeing seeds turn into little plants which get bigger once planted outside and either become beautiful or get eaten - or sometimes both. Again the pandemic turned me into a vegetable grower, I never knew there were so many colours and varieties of courgette nor that you could make lovely chutney from them when they threatened to take over the kitchen. I have been helped along by the painterly garden of Monty Don and the short films he features of other amateur growers and their evident enthusiasm. As a minister’s wife our garden is only ‘borrowed’ - it belongs to the diocese.  I am looking forward to my husband’s retirement later this year when we can acquire a space we won’t be moving on from in 5 years. I can then stop ignoring slow growing plants when considering how to make a garden!


Mark: Tell me about your love of cooking.


Cooking has surprisingly become a source of pleasure that there was certainly no hint of when I was young. My mum hates cooking (‘all that work and it’s gone in 10 minutes’) but my sister has loved it from a child and was very much the ‘cook’ out of us three siblings. BUT, once I had children of my own, I discovered the enjoyment to be had baking and tasting and mixing different colours and flavours. I also have an easygoing husband who is happy to be experimented on and regularly contributes to the cooking. I suspect if I did it every day I might feel very differently.


Mark: After painting, the area I am most aware of where you are creative is your collaboration with me on this blog. 


Yes, communication in all its forms is important to me. I will sneakily include singing here. Joining a choir was great therapy after a divorce as it was convivial singing with others but you didn’t need to dig too deep in the conversations at rehearsals. A gentle and lovely pastime which was helped by an inspiring raconteur of a choir leader. I’m an alto so one of those who drones along at the bottom. Belonging to a choir introduced me to lots of new music and I am now a firm fan of Rutter. Regarding communication more generally, I have spent most of my working life (apart from the 80s when I was rushing about the City of London in the requisite shoulder pads) working either in special education or for charities. Being able to read emotion and body language becomes very important when there are difficulties with words. Learning that when a woman with moderate dementia refers to something as ‘soft and gentle’ she means she likes it rather than it being an accurate description requires an approach to language which isn’t pedantic. Similarly, working on this blog with you who are able to express yourself so well verbally but are hindered by dyslexia is a creative joy. You choose the topics and put in the groundwork and I make sure your voice is heard. Currently I work in a Cogs Club which aims to slow down dementia through stimulating and social activities. The powerlessness of those with dementia, who often lose their ability with language as the disease progresses, moves me greatly. To find creative ways of continuing to communicate so people know their value is something I find consistently fulfilling.


Mark: Thank you for telling me more about your creativity.


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