Monday, September 28, 2009

Fellowship at Surrey

I start my Royal Literary Fund fellowship at the University of Surrey tomorrow. I'll be helping students write essays. It's a brilliant scheme, funded by the RLF to support writers and promote good writing within universities through one to one mentoring.

For the first time in years I'll have an office. I'll be able to work on my own writing, too, because I'm being paid regularly for a full academic year. What with this and the project for Chesworth, the autumn is glowing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A cataplasm of webs



Research and poetry.....I remember the thrill of discovering how a spider creates a web across a stream. Of how she can spin a web across my lawn, from the apple tree to the elder.

Many things are still coming together. Walking on the racecourse with Julie and her dog, picking blackberries and elderberries. Raspberries from the allotment - still ripening, even more jam. Making elderberry cordial with ginger and cloves - it seems elderberries are a super fruit, even more so than blueberries.

Reviving my old obsession with Culpeper in discovering an amazing book at Yale Medical Library with brilliant illustrations. This remedy seems particularly seasonal.

A CATAPLASM OF WEBS
Take Venice Turpentine 2 ounces; Juice of Plantain 1 ounce and half; Figs 3; the yellow pareing of Orange Rind 2 drams; Bole 1 dram and half; Soot half an once; Pigeons Dung 1 ounce and halfl large Spider Webs 6; black Soap 4 ounces; Vinegar enough to beat it up with. To drive an Ague, tie this about the Wrists, so as to make it bear hard upon the Pulses, two hours before the Fit.

Thomas Fuller, Pharmacopoeia Extemporanea, 1710

Monday, September 21, 2009

Recipes and old cures - exhibition Chesworth Arts Farm November and December 09



The mistletoe trees in the Vendee are magnificent straggling giants and I've been remembering them as I prepare for an exhibition with Jane Fordham in the winter. We're working on cards and pamphlets loosely based on recipes and old cures - excited by some bizarre discoveries in old manuscripts - and we're bringing an older collaboration closer to reality in the form of a book. Add to all that a seasonal theme, plus cake and tea and it'll make for three great weekends in November and December at a wonderful studio she shares in Horsham, Chesworth Arts Farm.

I'm glad of the project to focus me on writing again. I also start my fellowship at the University of Surrey on Tuesday, thanks to the Royal Literary Fund, so I'll be employed two days a week until next May. Most of September I've been out collecting blackberries or elderberries and making them into jam or chutney. It feels like I've been clearing my mind of whatever silted it up this year but now I need some routine. Paid work's been almost non-existent and at times I've wondered about the increasing divide between my reality and that of people in full-time jobs....

What I've had to cut out is takeaways, impulse shopping, nights out, cafe trips, travel, books and pampering. It's possible to pare spending down to basics and the allotment's helped massively this year - I've only just started to buy lettuce and am still eating veg, although the squash and beans aren't as abundant as I'd hoped. Three massive patches of tomatoes were wrecked by blight, heartbreaking. The raspberries have compensated, though, still producing fruit after weeks of picking, so there are jars of the most delicious jam at the back of the cupboard in the dark which will lighten up February or March.

Sunday, September 06, 2009



In this cave is a beached submarine with empty portholes looking into the rock, its chamber owned by the tides.