Ever since my Dad taught me to knit and my mother allowed me to water the flowers in the back garden, I have been aware that I like to make and do, and watch things grow.
Dad is an intensely practical man, with a great talent for making something out of nothing very much, and I treasure the things I have that he made, from the jewellery box with the hidden lock, to the ‘ottoman,’ a toy box he made for us when we were children, which now houses some of my craft supplies. I have such happy memories of standing in his shed, watching my hero making storm porches, bookshelves, window frames and my mother’s first fitted kitchen. I loved the smell of the wood shavings and putty, catching insects to feed to his pet spider, Fred, and listening to him tunelessly whistling “England Swings” and “Little Green Apples.” Maybe Dad was also the one who started me listening to country music too: I’d never thought of that before today.
When he had to retire, Dad took to gardening with great enthusiasm. He built a large raised vegetable bed in his garden on the South Downs. My friend Wendy and I helped with the preparatory work. Once we had stripped the rough turf off the surface, and revealed the chalk only an inch or two below, it became clear that a raised bed was the way to go. I dread to think how many tons of topsoil and compost it took to fill his patch, but for years, until he became too disabled to manage it, it produced a huge variety of soft fruit and vegetables, all protected by a wonderful Heath Robinson structure, draped with netting, and with chicken wire doors to allow access.
Meanwhile, Mother was working full time, and enjoying making a very pretty flower garden nearer to the house. Now she is also retired and suffering with arthritis, but she still manages the garden in their new home. My roof terrace in Spain has cuttings from her white lavender, which are slowly turning into neat bushes that produce masses of fragrant white spikes each summer.
Both my parents always encouraged my creative efforts. Dad made me a lovely padded footstool in which I kept my wools, knitting needles, crochet hooks and patterns, and Mum started me off on embroidery, giving me a printed table runner and the six-stranded cottons to embroider over the blue lines and turn it into a riot of curls and swirls, flowers, leaves, stalks and tendrils. They were both incredibly patient with the mess I used to make, carefully taking all my wools and fabrics out and spreading them all over the floor as I gloated over the colours and textures, sorting and resorting them before packing them back into my stool.
Since my childhood I have dabbled in pottery, spinning, lace-making, bricklaying, gardening, painting and decorating, weaving, dressmaking, quilting, cake decorating, cooking and preserving, as well as continuing with the knitting and crochet, both of which Dad taught me. I love my little roof terrace garden with its flowers, herbs and vegetables, and enjoy seeing the colours and shapes up there changing as the seasons come and go.
In time, I shall probably post about various dabblings in all kinds of creative areas. Of course, there are those who would say that writing is creative, and that separating it out from more manual areas of endeavour is daft, but I have never been known to shrink from daftness, and don’t intend to start now!