Sunbeam and Suitcases: the story of a year (excerpts)

One sunny morning, opening a door that creaks a little, I am surprised by a discovery of things past.

In an attic room, at the top of a busy house, a collection of suitcases, picnic hampers, boxes and baskets…

There are twelve, one for each month of the year, joined in a circle created by the fall of a sunbeam.

To begin with there is


early Summer and late Spring

Birthday picnics in the garden
a little house and recollections of Birthday Picnics in the garden




full Summer

and a particular memory


Next is July

July honeymoons
Letters home telling of joys and griefs intertwined


Summer days


First babies and first seaside holidays

Plans for the future and present happiness
Plans for the future and present happiness



Cooler nights and days bringing changes

Geese flying South - a dramatic sight
Geese flying South – a dramatic sight


Then the rich colours of Autumn



Leaving home for the wider world
Leaving home for the wider world


Old November

Letters home, missing you all


Magical wintertime


Magical wintertime
Special trips to the theatre, sparkles and mystery



January looking both ways: the old and the new year
Looking both ways


A cold month

Bed time stories : it's cold outside
But bed time stories and cosiness indoors



March and thoughts of Spring
Thoughts of Spring and where we all began


Finally April

April and funny adventures to recall
Funny adventures recalled


Every now and again I return to this attic to admire the gentle sunbeam, to explore among the suitcases and hampers and boxes and baskets, to see what I can find. How about you? Do you have a similar store of things past? Memories that can be recalled by the turning of the year or by the discovery of a certain something set aside from other days? I’d love to hear about them if you do xx

This is a glimpse of my installation Sunbeam and Suitcases, part of The Dreaming of Home exhibition at The Customs House, South Shields, 2016

Photographs courtesy of Jamie McElderry

Fuller versions of these stories are to be found here in my Journal as I continue to develop this work of keepsakes and mementos; celebrating the beauty of the changing Seasons; thinking on the themes of present happiness and times past: about what we hold dear and what we let go.

Thank you for visiting, most welcome one and all.

Autumn story : Pearl’s butterflies

Other stories seem to be evoked by the weather. They arrive in a gust and shake themselves down. They require no introductions. They bustle over the threshold, sit by the fire warming their metaphorical hands and are at once in full flow, so that I am sitting quietly, listening amazedly, before I  do but know it.

This is once such tale.

Pearl’s Butterflies.

What a blustery, flustery day! A blue skies and red berries day.


1-3 Blue sky, red berries, what a day

The sea will be ready to roil down at the bottom of the hill. It will look cruel and icy with its masses of jaggy, foaming peaks.

Brave Pearl has ventured out. Even now she will be battling along the coastal path in search of ‘paticular provisions’. I saw her leaving the house with a large shopping basket and that was what she was saying to herself as she looked out at the day:

“Needs must when there are paticular provisions to be bought.”

Then she stepped outside, batting at her scarf and her curls as they were flung about her face. She is dauntless our Pearl.

I believe there will be butterfly cakes for tea.

1-12 Pearl's butterflies
The scent of almonds


1-4 a cup of Rosy Brewhaha
A cup of Rosy


1-16 and a playful Robin has been here
A playful Little One has been here

Always on a day such as this Pearl has a penchant to bake. She loves the warmth and the steam of the kitchen, with the windows misting, shutting out the wild weather as she beats up a storm of her own. Clouds of sugar rise into the air. Eggshells, cracked halves, rock like little boats on the table as she creams and beats and sifts, and folds and stirs. You see, Pearl’s butterflies are just perfect for a day like today. Light and airy, they might just lift up and drift away if we didn’t pounce on them and eat them up so quickly.

Ha ha blustery old hurricane, do what you may!” that’s what Pearl’s butterflies seem to say.

She adds a few droplets of almond essence to the butter icing. Our mother’s receipt:

“Just a little sharp to offset the sweet.”

Hm I can taste them now. Delightful with a cup of Rosy Brewhaha.

Come home safely Brave Pearl.

The glorious Rainbow Pearl
The glorious Rainbow Pearl


Thanks for visiting, most welcome one and all.

June Story


A story can happen all in a moment.
It can be quick and fresh and over before you know it.

But then a story can linger… and in the recollection and the re-telling,  perhaps to sweet young faces snuggling into their night time pillows, the story which seems so old now, becomes immediate again…
as if it happened just yesterday.


June Story is one such tale.


“Grandam was last to bed that night. The house of sleepers seemed to enfold her as she made her way upstairs. The hush was palpable: barely a sound except for the whisper created by the slumbers of the Robin, Pippin and Pearl or by the wind sighing in the trees outside.

A gentle hush
A gentle hush

She paused on the upper landing where the window gave a wide view of the street. All was still. All lay smooth and blanketed beneath the snow. Once standing in this way late one Summer evening, she had seen a dog running along the pavement. The dog had held its tail out behind it like a plume – a substantial brush. The mark, she had realised,  not of a dog but of a fox.

Wild and adventurous
A glorious bold adventurer

The fox ran to the old stone wall, standing opposite the house.

The old stone wall, mossy and decorated with sprays of wild flowers
The wall in Summer so mossy and decorated with sprays of wild flowers

It waited, watching, until sure enough a companion trotted into view, a tiny kitten.

With a balletic leap the fox gained the top of the wall and looked down encouragingly at the kitten who at once followed with a scrabble and a scrape.

Another world
Together in a world of their own

She had thought it a charming adoption at the time. Now she smiled and made her way to bed, imagining the paw prints the two creatures could have made in the immaculate snow of this night.”


June Story  was part of my Sunbeam and Suitcases installation for the Dreaming of Home exhibition at The Customs House, South Shields, Spring 2016.

I created a circle of 12 suitcases, hampers or baskets, one for each month of the year. Each of the 12 contained a miniature world of stories and memories relating to that month. June Story is a Summer memory recollected in Winter after many years have passed and after much life experience has been gained.

A world apart
Embroidered luggage label for the month of June

I am continuing to work on this theme of the passing seasons, developing the textile worlds and their stories which are a blend of imagination, memory and anecdote, all threaded through with affection.

Thanks for visiting, most welcome one and all.

Cousin Frances

Cousin Frances is a story in herself.

Suffolk puffs
Suffolk puffs and vintage stamens

She is not often with us, but whenever she comes to call, we are delighted.

She is a dainty dresser, wearing blossoms in her hair.

She is fond of a lace collar, especially a scraplet of ecru tatting.

Her shoes are handstitched by her  own shoemaker who is a humble being and never comments on the rather large nature of Cousin Frances’ feet..

1-Cousin Frances 025
Soft felt shoes

Frances is also partial to upcycling. One of her favourite skirts is fashioned from a much-used tablecloth, embellished with a ruffle taken from a summer smock – but we don’t always mention these origins. On occasion Frances is prickly about such matters.

Herringbone stitch
Herringbone stitch

We don’t know why because she always looks so pretty and stylish.


Cousin Frances is an amusing raconteur. Her journeys to see us are often full of incident. Once she encountered an owl, dreaming next to a tree. Cousin Frances was sure that the owl was fast asleep but it spoke to her, nonetheless: called her ‘My Dear’ and gave very accurate directions to our home without ever once opening its eyes.

1-Cousin Frances 033
The dreamy owl

‘It needed to save it’s  full wide-eyed vigilance for the nightwatch’ – or so a little bird told Frances.

1-Cousin Frances 035
Little tweedy bird

Frances is a dainty eater but she is fond of fairy cakes and strawberries so we try to keep a little stock ready for her, just in case.

Velvet strawberries and a knitted pincushion cake


1-Cousin Frances 041
Patchwork tablecloth

A few of her favourite nibbles are often all that are required to prompt  another tale.

Frances does admire a proper table setting with everything in its place.

Paper roses and a vintage bobbin
Paper roses and a vintage bobbin

Thank you for visiting us Cousin Frances. Always welcome and always in our hearts.


Your special friends are very welcome too.

Frances Goodnight xxx

Sunny days


Flossie May at her ease.

Sometimes a story finds me.

A photograph surfaces after a long time lost.


Words I once heard return to mind.


And that afternoon I was making plans for a costume, for a small creature sitting on the table before me… looking out at the sunny street, quiet except for the sound of birdsong,  when my heart remembered other such happy times.


“Once upon a time there was a family of little grey donkeys. They lived by the sea in a slender house with many rooms. The father donkey was Mr. Hee-Haw. He was a very busy creature who trotted off to work each day. He always took a bag of rosy apples with him. He ate the apples at his desk to save time over his lunch so he could be home so much the sooner with his family.

Mr Hee-Haw
Mr Hee-Haw

The mother donkey was called Blossom. She was a gentle dreamy creature. Mr Hee-Haw had met her when he had been galloping about in a newly-mown field, kicking up his heels and hee-hawing at the sky. Blossom had been standing on the other side of the hedge, sniffing at the Broom flowers. It had been Love and Happy Ever After at first sight.


Now, Blossom and Mr Hee-Haw had two baby daughters, Rosie Red and Flossie May. Flossie was the tiniest donkey of all. Rosie Red was her big sister and, in everyone’s opinion, Rosie Red was the best big sister ever. The story that I am going to tell you now is an example of Rosie red’s best big sisterliness.


One day, after Blossom and the girls had seen Mr Hee-Haw off on the train, they decided that as it was such a perfectly picnicky day they would brisk about the housework and then go straight to the beach with a small basket of choice edibles.

“Poor Daddy Hee-Haw,” said Flossie. She looked up sadly at Blossom and Rosie Red as they placed ‘1,2,3’ apples in the basket.

“Oh dear,” said Blossom and her big dreamy eyes clouded over as though the sun had disappeared. Lost in thought, she stared out at the sky which was a heavenly blue.

Heavenly blue

“Oh dear,” thought Rosie Red. She missed her jolly Daddy too. He would love to be jaunting about on the sand with them, making castles and decorating them with the beautiful flags that clever Blossom had made. Now her Mummy and Little Sister were all droopy – their ears, their eyelashes and even Flossie May’s candyfloss bloomers!

What to do?

What to do?

Then Rosie Red had a clever thought. “Now dear Flossie May and dear, dear Blossom, don’t you remember what Daddy Hee-Haw always says? Every day when he packs his lunch?”

Everyone thought…hm… and then the sun came back again and the seagulls whirligigged in the sky and everything was right again…

“A picnic for me every day of the week!”

A comfortable perch
A comfortable perch

And so they set off at last, all smiles and jollity, Blossom carrying the basket, Rosie Red the pointy-ended sandcastle flags and Flossie May the string of fluttering flags that Blossom had made especially for her.

Flossie May and Rosie Red
Flossie May and Rosie Red

So it was a wonderful day after all, saved by the kindly quick thinking of Big Sister, Rosie Red.


Rosie Red, kindly, quick thinking



The End