midnight ramblings

This is not very coherent, it started as a Facebook status and wouldn’t stop!

I can just about read again now, clearly, without losing the thread of an argument, which I credit the oxygen treatment with restoring, and so I have lots of half chewed thoughts about the past years of terrible Con/Dem government and now worse Tory gov and Labour party wrangles about what party they want to be, and what we actually need in Britain, in the world…and then I saw a link to an Independent story by Samuel Osborne about the Empire’s worst atrocities

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/worst-atrocities-british-empire-amritsar-boer-war-concentration-camp-mau-mau-a6821756.html?cmpid=facebook-post

and realised I had filled in that poll, obviously to anyone who follows me! as someone who thinks the Empire was a terrible mass failing in humanity, comparable to the Holocaust… but I am apparently in a minority, so here is what I say when I have to discuss empire:

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The boneheaded arrogance of the British Empire caused so much damage, India/Pakistan, Israel/Palestine, the transAtlantic slave trade, the theft of antiquities, the crushing of indigenous peoples… ‘manifest destiny’ is normally applied to the ‘American’ Dream, but really the Normans conquering England, then Wales, seemed to be the start of the pattern of greed no longer needing concrete reasons to continue being greedy.

As soon as one group has stolen more than its fair share, it fears losing those ill-gotten gains. The enemies made by all these illegal/ immoral acts must be denied the right to educate or organise… and then several hundred years later, here we are, in a mess where so much is owed, but the greediest of the greedy have stockpiled their hoard off anyone’s shores in non-existent tax havens, and the common people of the UK have barely any infrastructure left with the transport all private except for oh, the expensive roadbuilding and maintenance bill; the healthcare system being undermined and sold off to the highest bribe; the education system set up to provide poorly skilled, low esteemed people without information or the reasoning skills to apply them widely; media owned by the new overlords of consumerist society, pushing useless products at people conditioned to ignore their true needs but to self medicate with whatever suits the market… grrrrr…

How do we unmake all this? not by ignoring those most hurt and damaged by this machine of destruction, or  the choice of profit over nature [people and environment] but by remembering and choosing slowly and carefully who to vote for, what to buy, what to make, what to grow, who to support, who to understand as still hostaged to that machine and needing education and support to disentangle them… media and information sharing are easier than ever before, but reasoning skills and political literacy in the UK and US are lower than ever before… I really hope Corbyn wins the Labour leadership and the PLP who are no longer socialists storm off, so a real People’s party can emerge, a phoenix that burns off the corruption and business-as-usual approach of millionaire MPs. We need Corbyn and Mhairi Black’s fire and conviction and community… we need more too, all the activists who could have been MPs had the system not been stacked against them, imagine Benjamin Zephaniah not pissing on Parliament, but principalling it, being a Black Rod who would shut up the hawhaws and baying pigs… stop the complacency of landowners/ biggest thieves and turn the DWP fraud investigators on the tax evaders, stop fracking and mining and worst of all nuclear and raise more turbines…

Oh, so many more things… but start with remembering, Normans and Saxons made an enormous amount of the mess, Catholic dominion amassed wealth that could fund enormous projects to rejuvenation community in Europe where so many seek sanctuary, and that only understanding we have always been diverse, the people who walked over the Ice Age plain to what became an island were a mixture, and traded all over the world when the seas rose… there is a hidden history of dealing fairly with others before the Norman values took hold, and it can return and inform us, the mixed bag on an island falling off Europe, very vulnerable to climate change, but known for taking on huge challenges… only this time, how about restitution of fairness, commitment to nature before profit? An Empire in reverse, where we went and learned, shut our mouths and listened with both ears, asked humbly for clarification and advice when we did not understand, and changed not others, but ourselves and our dealings?

It can never be fair because the Empire took so many hostages, uprooted and changed forever so many things, so how do make the new ‘we’ truly inclusive? How can power not corrupt? How can a benign dictator [thinking fictional Vetinari here, not Mao etc] be better than a run-for-profit democracy… how do we re-educate, re shape education so it engages people, lets them explore the full history of things the current system wants hidden… What would restitution look like? Jubilee [the forgiving of all ‘Third’ World debts, in understanding that the Empire stole more first] is a start, emptying the museums of all stolen goods and returning to culture of origin, where it survived, and otherwise deciding with closest kin where it should now be held…Banning slave trade, zero hour contracts, companies using the benefits system to fund their employees [Tesco etc]  changing child labour in the textile and fashion industry to free schooling plus 2 hours FAIRLY paid work which would keep the family afloat…Organic farming, fair farming, understanding of heritage farming where sheep manage a landscape etc etc… so many things…

What can the millions of individuals do to become a movement for change?

I’ve just re-started Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken, so more may follow this😉

midnight ramblings…

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Meet the artist…

I will be at Knit Nottingham on Thursday, 5 – 7pm, to discuss art, community politics and guerilla/ public knitting/ fibre street art and to encourage newbies to have a go at freeform crochet. If you want to bring in your work for us to ooh and aahh at, I love cheerleading  too😉 I even have the pompoms 😀

Here is a vlog from EleanorTV – she knows me as Dee, Vita and Singing Bird, so they all get a roll call😉 but it’s all me, with one pair of hands!

Never assume a hook, yarn and sparkles can’t change the world, we just have to keep on keeping on with the positive message that one person at a time, one conversation at a time, things can be turned around. The big problems are huge, but they all stem from the massed little problems, that people can be turned against others when they do not know them, when they fear them, when they have stopped talking to each other. This is so depressing, so oppressive to live under… but the flipside is that then, anything, any one thing can make a difference, the ripples go outward. When we can open minds with humour or appreciation or even astonishment, we sneak past the prejudice, and then things can change, we can start a conversation that isn’t shut down by fear. And gradually we can make a difference. There are so many people of goodwill, wanting change, but because the big changes are intricate and require huge momentum, feeling powerless. When we take on the little problems instead, we can build a tiny part of that momentum…

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Diversity is Our Strength

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I’m so  happy to announce that the fibre art installation Diversity is our Strength is now on show at the fabulous new Knit Nottingham at 9, Trinity Walk, Nottingham, until 12th August! Eleanor asked if she could have it for the month of Pride, which in Nottingham falls on the 30th, which made me sooo excited, as it feels like I haven’t shown any art since Peace Week 2014. The Trans-ally quilt flag has been strutting its stuff at some protests, and sadly at the vigil for those killed and wounded at the Latinx night at Pulse, Orlando. I’ve added some delicate ‘spinner’/ twizzels in red,orange, pink and purple with sequins to DIOS to commemorate those whose lives changed forever that night. I have PTSD and fibromyalgia brought on by PTSD, so my thoughts are very much with the survivors who will be needing support in a country that charges enormous amounts for therapy as well as physical medical aid.

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Tonight, I’ve been reading about the third death in 48 hours of a black man, killed in front of his partner and children, by US police officers acting without cause. Tomorrow is 3 weeks since the British referendum result was announced, where a crucial 3% more voted to leave the European Community [and thereby capsize the British Economy, unsettle thousands of longterm/permanent EU residents, lose Britain thousands of necessary workers, and bring armed borders back to Northern Ireland] than to remain… because many of them believed this would stop immigration by asylum seekers from wartorn Syria !!!

 

DSC_0030The level of racism, anti European xenophobia and financial lying that the Leave campaigners used has become the backbone of a campaign by lawyers, scientists, economists and generally people of wider understanding to make sure the exit isn’t carried through. As a disabled person, exit would be a disaster, as a person who considers herself European and a global citizen, I am so ashamed of the level of belief in flawed media and election lies, and now, the wave of racism, xenophobia and just plain nastiness of so many. Leave has promoted racism as ok, and now every day, ‘minor’ incidents of verbal abuse through to smashed windows and most worrying, arson, have been happening. DSC_0039

Diversity was made thinking about the different strands in our DNA, the many fine threads it takes to make a thick rope, the 108 ethnic minorities within the community of Nottingham, the need for unity within the LGBTIQA communities… I’m bi, and I remember being asked to leave a lesbian night in Newcastle because of that, even though I was there with my girlfriend; I never assume gay men will understand underclass politics because so many of the ones I have met have pink pound privilege and old boy network contacts that mean they feel insulated from prejudice; I was spat at by a lesbian for defending transwomens’ right to access Nottingham Women’s Centre. However, I try very hard not to hold grudges, and I will always work towards unity where I can, and it baffles me when people don’t see through the mischief-mongers, trying to divide us while they literally Queen it at the top [her Maj earns as much from her properties as the UK Parliament awards her, and more from so many other sources, why ARE we funding her?] or coast along in their £2million cruisers bought from BHS pension fund plundering… etc etc. The Murdoch Media Empire is very much to blame, the weak opposition allowing so much bad policy to slide through unchallenged, but even so… why are people so willing to believe anyone other than the top elite are to blame?

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I make beautiful pieces in a freeform process because I MISS beauty and integrity in everyday life dealings, I grieve that we are served so poorly by the MPs who mostly forget their constituents [honorable exceptions being the shining lights Jeremy Corbyn, Carolyn Lucas and Mhairi Black] and I work slowly because of my disabling conditions. I spend a lot of spoons on making art, quite a lot of money, [all those bargain queen tiara buys add up!] and call in favours when I am installing – thanks Sam!- and all because I want the results of that process to remind people better things are possible. Inequality is not inevitable, it is the result of choices all of us make, informed by our skills in deciphering what is around us. Some things are just plain wrong [racism, any xenophobia, any bigotry, any abuse of others] but what tools do we have to pit against them?

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I feel arguing shuts others down, I would rather catch their mind, as I catch their eyes in a riot of colour that turns out to have an internal order that accepts and honours DIFFERENCE. There are quotes on posters around the work, part of its site specific installation this time round [it’s been at Nottingham Pride in the Arboretum and in London for Loudest Whispers 14] and they make concrete that message of DIVERSITY IS OUR STRENGTH. We’ve never needed to hear that more, to take heart that we are not alone knowing that it is a truth we must live by, and that it carries great beauty with it, great comfort and harmony and a place to heal, a home truth that places us at the edge and the centre, all at the same time.

 

the blues that make me happy

 

One of the surprises of immersing myself in quilting/patchwork has been finding which fabrics call me: I was an abstract painter for 10 years, then had to take up installations again, this time made with fibres…but still very abstract. The fabrics l like for quilting include a lot of ornate Jacobean style fabrics, paisleys/ botehs, and lately, Delfts and Chinese Blue ware, and even Willowplate🙂

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The postie has been bringing me parcels of celestial blues and today I finally get to cut into some! Ebay has been very useful [ahem, as long as I stop now!] for bargains, feature fabrics and a couple of days ago the perfect backing material, a Prestigious Textiles Ginger Jars pattern in cobalt blue on white.

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It’s taken me a long time to settle on a pattern…partly because the fabrics are so beautiful – it’s much harder to cut into expensive and powerfully patterned materials. Laying some splashes and a wash helps ‘break’ a pure white canvas, but there’s no real equivalent for fabrics! Part of the problem was feeling I wanted to handsew, but cutting the hexagons at the same size I’ve used before wouldn’t display some of the picture fabrics well.

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Choosing an enlarged 9cm per side hexie for those, and then interspersing smaller hexies with the extended 1/2 hexie frame solves that, but oh my, that took a long time to figure out! There are so many possibilities for quilt patches, blocks and patterns, choosing can give you decision fatigue!

Due to fibrofog, I need to keep the pattern simple – I stitched some rosettes together last night and saw this morning one is upside down, grrr. I either unpick 5 seams or live with butterflies and trees upside down to each other.. avoiding that sort of mistake would be good😉

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Again, because the fabrics are so beautiful, the pattern can be very simple – these blues are singing!

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stumbling on is still progress

Working in small and steady efforts has never been my longsuit, I only really got the hang of it after a couple of years on my derelict allotment, when big blitzes failed to turn it round but exhausted me for weeks [mainly mentally/emotionally, coping as an organic/ permaculture agoraphobic with everyone stopping in to advise me to spray it with petrol and burn everything off… omg… there were car batteries and all sorts in there!]

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I’ve been working away on the handsewing for the ‘spring rain’ duvet cover, the quilting for the volunteers quilt and some gifts… I’m delighted that Eleanor has been able to achieve her dream of expanding Knit Nottingham into more central premises that are over twice the size, and wanted to make her a present, so this is one of 2 big cushion covers [2’/ 65cm squares] that now adorn her shop sofa🙂 Her colour scheme is green/teal and white, and to my chagrin, there is now a sheepy knitting fabric in those colurs, but when I searched only reds and greys seemed available, sigh.

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I’ve also made her some organza totes for shoppers to use now they have to walk up and down, to tide her over till her own design comes through ;)  I feel really proud of/for her, I feel she has done something really amazing in this dismal financial climate to create such goodwill and build such success from a tiny shop a bus stop out of the centre to now be in a central arcade of homemade/ quality/ ooak shops… a link – cos after all, you might want to buy online from her rather than some faceless multiple🙂

http://www.knitnottingham.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/knitnottingham/?fref=ts

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Anyway, other progress includes FINISHING the quilt for WorldwideTribe/ other volunteers at the refugee camps in Europe and Syria. It’s a flimsy stitched to fleece, not the full wadding sandwich, but even that has been very hard on my back, so I’ve been working weekly for about half an hour at a time, with a lie-down in the middle… It’s now ready to go with the semi-industrial machine I am donating. I used the automatic stitches on my small machine to make leaf patterns instead of binding and used wavy lines to make a ripple effect. It’s very cosy and the spring colours bring some sunshine🙂

The duvet cover I have been working on most nights, sewing a few hexagons before turning my lights out. I started planning it in February and have been stitching hexies for weeks, but have now made the first two rows of machine patches, 15 cm squares. That gives me the ‘edges’ to sew the 6’/1.95 x 18″/45cm block to, and release the side templates of thin card. At that point I may wash it as Nonie has slept on it, washed herself with full generosity of sharing maximum black fluff, and clawed it when annoyed by my lack of attention! It also suffered when a pack of wet wipes spread dye from the brown fabric onto the alstroemerias… sigh… but finishing that big block has been really pleasing, although stitching the two machine rows in less than 20 minutes made me understand why some people could never imagine hand sewing a quilt!

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What next you cry? more hexies to handsew as I machine the duvetcover patches, that night time routine is really soothing – and productive, I now know. So, an impulse buy from Ebay plus a mishap from an online store are now turning into a new cushion cover… mishap? Those teacups are a LOT bigger that I thought😀

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saying thank you

CONTENT WARNING: PTSD, STATE VIOLENCE, FLASHBACKS ETC

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Like most of you, I have been following the news from Calais and Lesvos with great gratitude to those brave volunteers who are out there helping. They know what they are giving up in the moment, but I find myself worried at what they may be storing up… PTSD is horrible, and I’ve been suffering with it for over 30 years now. I saw activists being kicked down a spiral staircase to the cellars at a blockaded conference centre by the West German police and 2 other women joined me in smashing the double glazed window, showering glass all over the stairs. I’m a follower of NVDA, non-violent direct action and even careful about property, so it had actually been an accident, we were beating a rhythm on the window, saw the glass moving and stopped – which caused it to shatter…Later the [activist] guy on the stairs told me how scary it had been facing being kicked down and how after the glass showered down the police had to pick their own way…and stopped beating the guys up until they were in the cellar😦 A week later he was still seeing the stairs in flashes and nursing a broken thumb, nose, and 2 broken ribs. 10 years later I was still seeing and ‘feeling’ the policemen with guns pressing us in on each other in our human chain. I still can’t cope with loud shouting, crowds, and men with guns.. I have a lot of other reasons to have PTSD, but this is the closest to what I fear for the brave volunteers, doing good but acquiring unwanted memories which will haunt for years, helping people, but also pulling dead bodies from the water, burying babies..seeing French police teargas people already traumatized before they even set off on the escape to ‘safety’ as they’d hoped and deserved…

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Last week Worldwide Tribe  https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/theworldwidetribe mentioned on their Facebook page how useful sewing machines would be. Now I have a midarm /semi-industrial sewing machine that I got in a sale, got a donation towards from a friend making a professional commission and have used for a couple of quilts, see the Lakelight Quilt slideshow [button on top right] and then haven’t even been able to lift, never mind use it for 2 years… So I’ve contacted the Tribe and luckily they can collect it🙂 I’m so happy about this!

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And then it struck me, ooh, a chance to get a quilt to the volunteers without diverting from refugee support… so this last weekend I have been working hard and got the quilt top pinned to a fleece back by a friend [thanks Onni!] so now I can take the quilting slowly – hopefully!

At 1.5m/5′ square I can manage it on my ordinary machine, 20 minutes at a time…DSC_0097

Thinking about what has comforted me most in my journey with PTSD, being outside in nature, by the sea or moving water for choice, gardening, colour and art, spring have all played their part, knowing that someone cares, and wants to help… So I got out the spring/ crocus coloured fabrics I won on eBay a couple of weeks ago, and set to🙂 My corners don’t meet cos my squares turned into oblongs somewhere along the way, but I doubt this will be a problem…being washable does, so a fleece backing and no wadding means it’s cosy without being too heavy for a machine.

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Comfort quilts are traditionally given to victims of crime, the bereaved.. but I think the same principle applies, a sense of how the world works, that it ought to be more fair than it is, is what gets broken when trauma is induced. When there isn’t enough acknowledgement of how one has been affected and feelings are pushed down to keep going… that’s when trauma becomes PTSD… so that someone cared enough to make a quilt for the volunteers may strike them as odd, it’s the refugees who need help…but maybe somewhere that seed of care and love has been sown, that their needs should be acknowledged too, that I am grateful for what they are giving, and hundreds more send love with it…

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new directions

I’ve been having a flare, brought on by filling in the ESA benefit form: telling unsympathetic people how impaired your abilities are now  for 20 pages is not good for morale. PIP forms are even harder and should be filled in with the help of a welfare advisor so you tick the right boxes, phrasing can make a big difference!

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Getting over the side effects of withdrawing from Venlafaxine was easier than I expected, probably because I managed to make a good care plan, but also a dollop of good luck😉

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One of the tactics I used was a new craft project: handsewn patchwork. New…although I have very fond memories of sewing at middle school where a group of us gathered to sew at lunchtime…I used to be able to sew with either hand and can still sew in either direction, though I tend to sew right to left. Perhaps from the Jewish tailors in my grandfather’s family! I like to think so, I’m certainly a lot neater stitching by hand than by machine where art takes over😉

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I discovered just how relaxing it is to scroll through pages of fabric remnants on eBay, and how much less relaxing it is running through my budget at the end of the month to see if I can pay PA after rent day! EEK! I definitely have a slight problem there… the trouble is none of it is undirected, no buyer’s remorse, I love everything I chose and have projects for it all, I just need to regain my trust that other equally beautiful fabric will be available later… an abundance issue… not helped by that demoralising ESA form, or by friends being very busy, therapist away on training, chiropractor away on a visit etc etc but meanwhile any stress was easiest met by looking at all the lovely fabrics. I had a breakthrough when a search needed me to go via Pinterest and I finally opened an account there. Now I understand why friends find it so therapeutic! I can save all the lovely images there, and NOT on the watch list!

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There is recent research showing looking at beauty in nature or art is very healing/creates a very positive mindset*, so I comforted myself that at least I was filling my mind with lovely ideas, and as long as I actually made/completed things, all would be well – trust the process!

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So finishing my first project has been great, and then having to choose between 3 new projects less so, but getting settled into the next one has been lovely.

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And then yesterday I started seeing lots of possibilities for integrating these very beautiful, very finished fabrics into mixed media collages. They could start with a quilted or patchwork base and then free form out with feathers, beads, my usual ‘more is more’ embellishment approach ;)  I’ve always found it very hard to integrate large patches of very finished cloth or paper into my collages, it seems like stealing or relying on other’s skills, appropriationist… but I am starting to see how the art of the quilter is to harness and enhance and balance those different forces, to make a cohesive whole out of those wild horses, pulling in all directions…One of the reasons I have bought so much I suspect is that my stash was of fabrics still too strong for me to tame😉 It will be much easier to start with florals, paisleys/botehs**  and abstract tie-dyes than very stylized/design heavy pieces covered with another artist’s stamp…

Meanwhile Nonie has no problems expressing dominance😉 I should take notes!

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