Tonight I fly to Bangkok for the start of 4 months travelling. I won’t be updating this blog during that time, but you can follow me on my travel blog at

I read that the second place I’m going to is famous for it’s handmade silver jewellery and paper goods.  Oh dear…


A friend recently emailed me photos of some paintings I did in my late teens and had given to her many years ago.  I went through a phase of painting with acrylics onto slate.  I liked the rustic romance of slate as a material, although the smoothness of the surface often left something to be desired.

Seascape - acrylic on slate

This seascape was a present for my friend’s mother.  Her daughters had commissioned an artist to paint a seascape for her birthday but the artist had produced a rather peculiar fantasy-style painting entirely in purple that she wasn’t very keen on.  I did this one as an alternative and as I understand it, she still has it on display.

Tiger - acrylic on slate

I was fond of painting animals at that time – mostly horses, big cats and wolves.

Horse at dusk - acrylic on slate

And here is a horse.  In a meadow at night.  Sure there was a good reason for that.

The final image is another horse, this time on canvas board, and I’m pretty sure this was done in oil paints.  I didn’t use oil paints very often as I didn’t have my own set (unlike acrylics) but my dad had a set I borrowed occasionally. The drying time was also a bit off-putting when you’re young!

Bay horse - oil paint on canvas board

As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of my time recently has been taken up organising a 4-month trip I’m taking this year.  The departure date is almost here and I’ve set up a new blog to record the trip. 

I hope to do some writing while I’m gone (mostly poetry or short stories) and what I see and experience will no doubt feed into my arts and crafts activities in the future.

I won’t be updating this blog during the trip, so I may see you over on the other blog, otherwise I’ll be back in May 2011!

It’s that time of year where one’s supposed to look back and think about what’s been achieved and make plans for the following year.

2010 was a game of 3 halves…thirds…whatever. In the first part of the year I was mainly busy with work – I had a big project with major deadlines in May and this left little time for crafty pursuits. After that I had a bit of a decompress and things then picked up in the last few months, mainly focussed on writing.

I didn’t make very much jewellery this year. I experimented more with making greeting cards and I painted a couple of horses.

I did make good progress with my novel though (both research and writing) and I now have a first draft of around 110,000 words. My priority next year is going to be to complete a decent second draft. I also want to work on some short stories and submit them to magazines. I’d like to do more 2D painting, but the writing is the first priority.

It’s been a rather busy couple of weeks.  I packed up all my stuff, which is now in various states of storage between London, Brighton and Plymouth.  Christmas is more or less done and dusted. I finished my job and am staying at my parents for 3 weeks before the big trip – 4 months travelling round South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand which starts in mid January.

I’ve got a few trip-related things to organise (visas, money, insurance, buying equipment, er…planning my route) but I’m hoping to get in a little writing and painting in this 3 weeks. I got some nice new art supplies for xmas: a table-top easel, brushes, a travel watercolour set etc…

I also bought myself the present of Scars Upon my Heart, an anthology of women’s poetry from the First World War.  Women’s poetry isn’t very well known from this period – certainly I’d only seen a couple of these poems before – but as the book states “This anthology of women war poets will come as a surprise to many, as it shows, for example that women were writing protest poetry before Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sasson, and that the view of ‘the women at home’, ignorant and idealistic, was quite false. Many of these poems come out of direct experiences of nursing the victims of trench warfare, or the pain of loves, brothers, sons, lost.”

It’s a very interesting, and moving, book and it’ll take me a while to fully digest. I wanted to share a verse from one. This poem by Elizabeth Daryush relates to the experience after the war, which is one of the central themes of my novel.

She said to one: ‘How light
Must be your freed heart now,
After the heavy fight!’
He said: ‘Well, I don’t know…
The war gave one a shake,
Somehow, knocked one awake…
Now, life’s so deadly slow.’

Some photos from Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park in London, taken and edited on my iPhone using PS Express and Format126.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m going travelling for 4 months at the start of next year, so I’ve been running around trying to sort everything out: finishing at my job; packing everything up to go into storage; buying supplies and planning etc..

This hasn’t left much time for craft-related activities.  I’ve been doing a bit of planning for the second draft of the novel and hope to do some more over Xmas. 

Here’s a card I made for a friend a few weeks ago.  ‘Snow Plan’ is initiated when it’s snowing and public transport turns into a nightmare.  This means it’s more sensible to stay at the pub for several hours after work before attempting to go home. Admitedly, the fact I had time to make a card does imply a certain amount of pre-planning…

I stamped the background with white and silver ink using some snowflake rubber stamps, then added a little glitter.  Then I made some matching badges so we can identify other Snow Planners.

Let it snow

I made this a couple of weeks ago as a birthday gift for a friend. A long time ago *cough* she had requested earrings in blue and I finally got round to making them. I chucked in a matching necklace – first time I’ve made a matching set.

They are made of ceramic disk beads alternated with handcut disks in various shades of blue and purple felt.  I bought a rainbow block of felt pieces about a year ago and have been occasionally pottering around with them ever since.  They are threaded onto a thick gauge silver wire. Apologies for the crappy phone pictures.

I now have 50,000 words of something. Add that to last year’s 50,000 and the 10,000 I wrote in the 11 months in between, and I now have a 110,000 words of something.

The second half didn’t entirely pan out like I had envisaged.  One of the narrators disappeared.  A main character totally changed job and a mystery that didn’t exist before suddenly became crucial.

I always knew the novel was a bit of a fruit bowl of everything I found interesting about the First World War and I would need to really tighten it up afterwards and this is certainly still the case.  The novel did it itself to an extent, focussing on Kirkwood and Esther to the detriment of other story lines, particularly in the second half. 

I suspect the majority of the story around the origins of the Imperial War Museum will have to be cut. I still find it really interesting, and I did a fair bit of original archive research for it, but I have to focus on the main story arcs which are 1) love story of Esther and Kirkwood and 2) the mystery around Brunt.

I’ve read a few bits of advice recently that recommend writing the second draft from scratch, i.e. having a copy of your first draft to hand but writing it into a new blank document, rather than editing what you already have. That sounds really sensible to me. Otherwise I get bogged down in cutting and pasting and trying to keep things that I might like (and might actually be decent writing) but that don’t really fit.

What I’m doing at the moment is sitting down and working out what my novel is REALLY about.  Then I will structure it out properly and start writing the second draft. I’m currently liking the ‘one pass manuscript revision’ approach by Holly Lisle.

Daily word counts