It's a thunderstorm kinda day. And that also means it's a power cut kinda day. The lightening tripped the power 3 times within 40 mins or so of waking, and in no time at all the garden looked like this:

 

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Our plot is at the lower end of the Yard, and so all the water comes rushing down to us and we flood almost straight away. This is after an hour's worth of rain -  I'm not sure we'll still see the raised paths if it carries on as expected! (this is why we have raised paths...)

The storm, well the thunder, has been making the bus shake as the sound waves hit. Even with the lightning further away now, we can still feel as well as hear the thunder. 

Thankfully my studio trailer is the same side of the plot as the bus and I should be able to make those few yards without getting too wet. Not sure the power will stay on long enough to put on a few lights and power up the monitors, though. 

My studio trailer, when I had the vintage caravan, used to be the other side of the plot. Can you imagine the fun I had trying to get to work on those rainy days? 

And yeah, the bathroom is outside too. In fact it's a further walk than my studio but thankfully it's this side of that giant puddle. 

(why yes, that's our daft cat outside in the storm. She loves the storms themselves - all the wind and thunder - but hates the rain. Thankfully she came to her senses and followed me back into the bus) 

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Understandably, my head's been a little distracted these past few days, and jumping from one thought to another, I found myself digging out my lace bobbins yesterday, and going through old photos.

me, circa 1997/8? making torchon lace

me, circa 1997/8? making torchon lace

On occasion I've mentioned that I've made lace, and it's always been my intention to sit down and talk about it, or more specifically, talk about the bobbins.

hand-painted commemorative bobbins from my collection

hand-painted commemorative bobbins from my collection

Getting them all out and looking through them yesterday was wonderful. I've counted them all, and I've 152 spangled (i.e. with their beads and ready to use) and a further 22 ish waiting for spangling. That might sound like a lot, but if you want to make any lace with any detail then it really isn't many at all.

Lace bobbins are rather special objects in and of themselves. Mine are all hand-made, and the art of wood turning real comes into itself with these fine, detailed tools. I have so many usual pieces (of course!) but I don't think I got them out yesterday to look at those, I got them out to look at the commemorative bobbins.

Commemorative bobbins are a big part of the bobbin collection. There's way too much history to them and I'll recommend the book 'The Romance of the Lace Pillow' by Thomas Wright for anyone wanting to look further into it. Bobbins would be hand carved or hand painted, or their spangles would have special beads to denote anniversaries or other occasions. They're not only beautiful pieces of craftsmanship, they're also personal tokens, imbeud with memories.

In my collection I've a number of bobbins I'd had hand-painted by Sallie Reason, an artist who sadly passed away a few years ago. I briefly met her once, at a Lace Makers fair at the NEC, but we communicated by letter a lot, as she painted my many requests. Her work was beautiful, and the detail at such fine scale was amazing. I've never known who to get in touch with since she passed away, and I've a mental list of all the memories I'd like painted should I ever find another artist.

my most precious hand-painted bobbins

my most precious hand-painted bobbins

The gloss finish made these very hard to photograph, but I hope you can see some of the details!

"thank you for being there", "forever in my thoughts"

"thank you for being there", "forever in my thoughts"

These were the bobbins I wanted to touch when I went looking through them all.

I had these two bobbins commissioned when I lost my cat Twiggy in 2001. She wasn't my first cat, but she was the cat that I've shared more of my life with than any other. She saw me through some of the very worst periods of my life, too.

Twiggy, 1995 ish

Twiggy, 1995 ish

After going through all my bobbins, I went through all my old photographs. Like any black cat, Twiggy was notoriously hard to photograph.

She came from a rescue centre in Hadleigh, Southend. As every other cat came to the front of their pen to meow for attention, she sat at the back of hers, watching. I didn't see her at first, my then boyfriend did, but I didn't need any persuading that I'd found my cat as soon as I saw her.

She was docile in nature, lap and cuddle friendly, and she went pretty much everywhere with me. She lived with me in at least 5 different homes, and was always by my side as I lived through studying, travelling, and survived emotional abuse, domestic violence and an attempted rape. She saw me go from leaving home to becoming a teacher. And just as I was coming out the other side of it all, I lost her to lymphatic cancer.

I'd never felt so alone. But I knew she must have been ill for some time without my knowing, and had stayed with me as long as she could, until I was better able to cope on my own.

my favourite photo of Twiggy

my favourite photo of Twiggy

I cried myself to sleep the other night, thinking about her. I wanted to feel the warmth of fond memories but found myself heartbroken as my memories were not as clear as I'd hoped. This is what having a nervous breakdown or two does for you. My memory has never been all that great since the first major breakdown and the sadness at having lost the good memories as well as the bad is almost too much. So I went looking for the memories, and this is where I am now. They're not all with me yet, and I don't know how much I will be able to recover, but it'll be worth all the tears.

We're planning on decorating the stairwell wall in the bus with photos, printed and wall-papered on, and this special lady will be up there with all our other memories. And this couldn't make me happier. After spending time yesterday going through all of these photos, I woke feeling a little lighter today. The relief of not having lost her for good.

This hasn't been the easiest of blog posts to write, and I'm sorry if I've made you cry. Crying is a release, it's good. And as much as I try not to look back in life, sometimes we have to, to remember the good parts amongst the bad.

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I introduced Howler here on the blog when we adopted him as a stray, and it only seems fitting to say goodbye to him here too.

Howler passed away last night.

 
a very recent photo of Howler

a very recent photo of Howler

 

After a pretty nasty bite a few months ago, we learnt that Howler was both FeLV+ and FIV+, and this combination is always terminal. How long he had we didn't know, but given the environment on the Yard we decided it wasn't the best place for a cat with his needs, and aimed to re-home him once he'd recovered from the infection.

Except he didn't recover from the infection.

He's been on constant antibitiotics for the last 10 weeks or so. Each jab lasted 15 days and towards the end of the dose, he'd start to get scraggy looking again and abscesses would form for no reason, and the next antibiotic jab would clear things up. The vet suggested that the infection from the original bite had spread, and given his lack of immune system, his body couldn't fight it itself. The antibiotics were keeping him alive.

Not that long ago, just before xmas maybe, we really thought we were going to lose him. He was losing weight rapidly, was in terrible condition and so lethargic, yet he picked up with the next dose of antibiotics and we were hopeful that he'd recover enough to get a home he deserved, with no other cats around.

But it seems it was all too much, and he died very quickly after what appeared to be a seizure and one last howl. We're all a bit lost and tearful today; even the Princess seems affected.

He was the friendliest, kindest, most docile thing, and the stupidest too. Where the Princess would chase dogs away, he would try and make friends with them. He just wanted company and to be loved, and we made sure to give him that. He had a spot next to the woodstove and plenty of food nearby, and there was always space on a lap when he wanted it.

I was going to say that I don't cope with these things well, but that's the wrong thing to say. It's what I've learnt to say. But emotions aren't wrong.

There's something about my relationship with cats that tears me up inside, that cuts me so much deeper when I lose a feline friend than any other pain I've endured. My deepest darkest demon that does me the most harm is the one that comes to tell me I could have done more for them, that I didn't do enough. It torments me constantly but especially likes to be present at times like this, when I want to say goodbye with fond memories. Even after years of therapy, years of visits with psychologists and psychiatrists, I still cant actually put into words the fear and guilt that haunts me.

I've been criticised for my grief over the loss of a cat many times before; that it isn't normal, that I should move on; that it's only a cat after all. I learnt that my emotions were abnormal, and it took many years to understand that those were insensitive, almost cruel words muttered by others for reasons I'll never know, and they only served to bury the pain deeper. There's nothing wrong whatsoever about being sensitive. I'm mindful of this with Aran, and will allow him all the time he needs to come to terms with this loss, and will share in his tears and memories. Aran shares my ultra sensitivity, as does Tom, and together we're letting Aran know that grief is normal and is different for everyone, and that it doesn't need guilt as a companion.

 
Howler and the Princess

Howler and the Princess

 

Howler was a content cat. We did everything we could to make him comfortable and keep him well, and he knew he was in a good place. Every cat that ever comes into our care gets the same treatment, and they always will. Howler was special because he shared that love around. His legacy is that he taught a cat-chasing dog that cats rule, and that they can be a dog's friend.

 
Howler with Kai

Howler with Kai

 

I'm very raw today, and we need to bury our friend. I'll be switching off some corners of the internet for a short while.

Goodbye gentle soul. I'm grateful for the chance to get to know you, and to have given you that little bit longer. Much love x

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Today needs pictures of cats.

 
 

It's been 3 weeks since we took on responsibility of this fella, and his progress is keeping us smiling. He's discovered laps and the sofa and the bed. His coat has softened and recovered, and he's found himself all the places to hang out and dose on our plot.

 
 

Go for a walk, and he'll go with you. Tom's dog-sitting Kai for a few weeks, and Howler goes for a walk with them, all the way to wherever and all the way back.

 
 

Princess Fi is getting used to him being around, and Howler's getting used to giving her her space.

 
 

It doesn't seem to matter what kind of creature you are; if you sit still for more than a few minutes, he'll come and sit with you. Kai is finding this all rather strange (especially as the white one is all too ready to get her claws out) but she's rolling with it.

 
 

We had a hiccup last week when we had to take him back to the vets. Not only did he need a Herpes vaccine (which is the cause of his cloudy and runny eyes) but also because his inner eyelids were right up - the vet, an eye specialist, believes the issue is bugs that need evicting, and meds have been had. He'll always have cloudy eyes, but the vet is expecting improvements in a couple of weeks.

Bless him, he's taken it all in his stride.

We're still smarting after the result of last week's referendum, as you can imagine. We're letting the dust settle and talking through our options. We can't do anything just yet, but we know which direction we want to go in, and that feels like a start.

I'm back in the studio today and will be getting back into things, slowly. Thanks for your patience :)

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I'm in need of one, for about 9 or 10 days.

Although I've not been blogging so much lately, I've tried to keep active online as I work through all the patterns and articles and projects that I have on the go. But in the run up to the EU referendum, I just don't think I'm going to have the capacity to keep up appearances.

To live as we do, we use the Freedom of Movement, a right all members of the EU have. Aran was so well looked after when he fell critically and acutely ill thanks to our EU health insurance cards. If the UK leave the EU come the 23rd June, we'll be faced with some very difficult choices. Residency in Italy (or any other EU country for that matter) isn't an option for us because there is no address, no bricks and mortar and neither of us have jobs there - my business remains very much UK based. And prejudice in the UK against our sort is a whole other ball game. Having just fought for 3 whole years (and won) against hate just to keep our community and spaces, I don't think I have the energy left to do it again. I will of course, but I'd rather not have to.

And reading so much hate and propaganda online is doing me no good. I'm sure it's not doing anyone any good, but right now I have to look after me, us.

Naturally, I'm voting to remain. Not just for ourselves, but because I don't want to see the UK cut itself off with nothing standing in the way of a hard right government. I dread to think how people who aren't as lucky as us will survive; trusting a Tory government with the state has never been wise. I'm voting to remain for all my immigrant friends, who are *not* the enemy, who work so hard, contribute to their local communities and have been denied their say about their futures. The EU has many, many faults, but if we want to change it, we have to be part of it. We are stronger together.

In the last few years I've spoken less and less about our lifestyle and travels, and that's understandable given the legal battle we've faced as a community. It's also understandable given the rise of the far right across Europe, and knowing how badly travellers and outsiders have been and still are treated. We faced eviction before, the threat of losing our vehicles, our spaces and lifestyle and animals, and we could face losing them again. I cannot begin to explain how much our world will be turned upside down should the worst happen... we fall between the cracks enough as it is, and we'll just fall deeper down. Aran could lose his life, his friends, his freedom, the things he knows as home, and the thought of putting him through that breaks my heart. And I can't bear to see people I know and care for actively voting for this.

I'll try and stay active in my Ravelry group - that is such a peaceful, friendly space and I'm incredibly grateful for all the support on offer. And I'll aim to keep up with Instagram, as that too feels like a safe place. But for the sake of my sanity, please know that anything that posts to Twitter or Facebook will be automated, and I'll not be engaging for a while.

In the meantime, meet Howler. He's been living on the Yard for a while as a stray and being cared for by a friend. But he needs a home, and our friend can only manage feeding so many cats. And seeing as the Princess tolerates him, we offered him a home.

 
 

He's younger than we first thought, and is the most docile thing. He's another Jimmy type, a wanderer, a vagabond who needs a human and a decent regular meal, but will always need his freedom. He couldn't be more opposite to Princess Fi, who really needs to live in a house with permanent residents and no other cats within a 2 mile radius. Howler is the perfect site cat. We've had him fixed at the vets, and we need to take him back this week for a Herpes jab, as there's some damage to his eyes from previous infections. Otherwise though, he seems to be in good health and has very quickly gotten used to this new adventure.

The Princess still gets a bit sulky if he's indoors too much, especially at night. But they've only clashed twice and even that didn't amount to much - this morning during their 'encounter' there were no claws or a hint of a hiss, it was more like 3 seconds of fisty-cuffs. This is progress for the Princess, believe me!

And now I'm going to have a glass of wine or 3, let out the tears that really need to fall, and hope that tomorrow I can pick up with my work and enjoy being creative again.

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