makar [ˈmækər]
n (Literature / Poetry) Scot a creative artist, esp a poet
[a Scot variant of maker]

Monday, December 30, 2013

I love New Year, not for the parties or fireworks (those I could live without), but for the reflection and resolutions. When I unpacked the Christmas decorations at the beginning of December, I couldn't quite believe how ridiculously fast this year has passed. It felt like I had only just packed them away and yet it's been a very busy and challenging year. I think I've discovered a lot about myself and my limitations and what I need. I'm going to make some changes and I'm excited about 2014 and all the adventures we'll have.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

School's out for summer! Woohoo! And not a moment too soon. The kids are exhausted; I am exhausted. We have no major plans, which is just the way I like it. Going to chill out, enjoy the company of the kids, make some stuff, eat delicious food, play at the beach, read lots of books, and wallow in the the time and space we have when school's not dictating our daily routine.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A good friend of ours has been staying in town for the last couple of weeks. Our eldest - both girls- were born within a few weeks of each other and we then went on to have two little boys of similar ages. We have a matching set of rascals, except she is expecting number four, and I have told her that she's definitely on her own for this round! Of course it has crossed my mind, whether I could have another. The other day, I held the most beautiful two week old baby and he was just so tiny and perfect, I felt a twinge of desire to experience that wonder again. But I know that my baby-growing days are over and that I am ready to move onto other stages in my life and to new adventures. It isn't sad for me, just really, really exciting. And I feel kind of grown up because I'm not just following my emotions (as I usually do) but instead making a decision about what is right for me and our family. I know I need to be more than a stay-at-home mum and I really shouldn't feel guilty about it. I watched this TED talk recently about how education should be about teaching kids how to be healthy, happy and creative:

It made so much sense to me. Then I realised that I can't expect my children to be these things, if I'm not seeking to be them myself. And to be honest, for the last few months, I haven't been feeling very healthy, happy or creative. Something needs to change. I'm not sure what yet but I'm working on it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

I was thinking about Doris Lessing on Sunday morning, which was odd because I haven't read one of her books for a while. I remembered how a friend had lent me a copy of The Grass is Singing and she kept her books so utterly pristine that I had been too terrified to read it and had purchased my own copy, returning the untouched book after a couple of weeks. I remembered how much I had loved it and that I'd told my boyfriend to read it. He'd been a dozen pages from the end when his bag was stolen in the pub and the book too. I'm not sure whether he ever finished it (I could ask him as he's sitting next to me...). I remembered that my flatmate had discovered during her work experience placement at a publishers, that Doris Lessing lived just around the corner from us. We'd joked about popping over for tea and cake; she looked like a cuddly granny but one with the sharpest, most brilliant mind. I remembered that I'd seen her talk in Edinburgh and that she'd been so interesting and eloquent. She spoke about technology and how she could tell the difference between a novel that had been written on a computer and one that had been composed in long-hand. She claimed there was a sense of rhythm and flow that was lost when you could cut and paste and move text around so easily. I remembered being very excited to read The Golden Notebook and then just not getting into it, more because of the place I was at in my life than because of the writing. I should try again, I thought. I remembered that someone had told me about her novel The Fifth Child and how you should on no account read it when pregnant. So of course, I did just that. I wondered how old she must be now; I checked on Wikipedia that she was still alive.

And then a few hours later, I saw the news and thought how strange that I should think of Doris Lessing on this day, of all days.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


- to be at home with my kids, in the thick of it
(to be lost in my thoughts, writing, and in the thick of it)

- to focus on the good things in life; the little, amazing moments; the simple stuff
(to explore the big questions; the ugliness and the terrible things people do; the complicated stuff)

- to spend my time cooking really good wholefood to feed my family
(to write, write, write; to communicate something important)

- to play, mess about, make things with the kids
(to focus on intellectual and creative pursuits)

- to be comfortable and practical
(to be beautiful and stylish)

- to drink tea
(to drink wine)

- to be satisfied with my fabulous children and my (mostly) happy life
(to not feel frustrated and dissatisfied and in need of more)

- to reconcile these two sides of me
(to believe that this is possible)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A rare occurrence: a sleeping boy, a flat white, a favourite bookshop. It was too good an opportunity to miss. I didn't have anything to write on so I bought a notebook and borrowed a pen. Words just tumbled out onto the pages. It felt so good. At most, it was twenty minutes but the buzz has lasted all day. And I keep thinking of this Hemingway quote:

"Write hard and clear about what hurts."

That's the way I have to write now; the only way I'll get anything onto the page. After all, you've got to do what you love, even if you only get to do a little bit, here and there.

Monday, October 28, 2013

On nights like this, when I've stayed up too late yet again and achieved nothing, and it feels as if all there is in my life are kids and routines and trying to keep it all going, I can hear this voice (maybe my mum, maybe a teacher) saying: "Kim, she always has to learn everything the hard way". And I know that it's true. But it doesn't help.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I was nervous about being the mother of a boy. When we found out that's what you were, I went straight to the library to pick up a copy of Steve Biddulph's Raising Boys. I was only 20 weeks into the pregnancy but I had a lot of ground to cover. See, I'm a super girly girl. I don't like competitive sports; know nothing about dinosaurs or cars or construction vehicles; and feel distinctly nervous when I see anyone wearing army camouflage. I'm definitely not perfect boy-mum material.

And lo and behold, you are very "boy". You love dinosaurs and diggers, facts and figures, speed and force. You can build things that I would struggle to put together. You are fearless about creepy crawlies and slimy slugs and snails. You love to climb.

The night after you were born, I couldn't sleep and I watched your little profile in the half-dark and wondered, who is this person? I know so much more now but I'm still so very intrigued by you.

You surprise me everyday with the interesting ways your mind works. You give the sweetest kisses and the most consuming hugs. I think that you are pretty damn smart and I wonder how I will ever keep up. You are four, little guy, and I am very happy to be your mama.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Still reeling from the experience of taking three small children to the other side of the world and back again. That was intense! I don't think I ever appreciated quite how far it is before. But it was worth it  because we went to an amazing wedding: my brother's and his lovely bride's! Such a happy day full of beautiful moments. I made them a very special cake. It was twice as big as I planned because it turns out that I really shouldn't attempt sums when I'm jet-lagged. Anyway, it was a rich chocolate orange cake, almost like a brownie in consistency, sandwiched together with clotted cream and orange marmalade. I decorated it with scraps of lace, blackberries picked by the children (and grandma) and sugared pansies from the garden. It was a definite hit! I just wish I'd managed to gobble up a little bit more. Mmmm...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Wandering alone in the rain, wearing my old winter coat, wondering how a country I spent 25 years living in can feel so familiar and so strange at the same time. Noticing things I've never paid much attention to before: how beautiful, old and elegant (some of) the houses are; how green and imposing the trees loom; how dark and rich the soil is. Accepting that I call somewhere else 'home' now. Missing the brightness and the bird song and the palette of the sky and trees. Pondering the weirdness of the decisions we make and the places we end up. Feeling just a little bit confused about it all.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I've been thinking about identity lately and how we can get stuck with a sense of ourselves that is no longer true. There are parts of us that stay the same and parts that change, but our notion of who we are can sometimes be fixed and possibly prevent us from moving on or trying new directions. Both my husband and I had a particular (and very different) vision of the kind of person we wanted to be and the sort of life we wanted to lead. Most of the time, I think we're at peace with the fact that things haven't turned out like that but sometimes, like everyone, we get frustrated and wonder, what if? There are aspects that we still cling to and of which we should perhaps let go. It's really hard to alter your perception of yourself and to accept that the traits you thought defined your identity might no longer be true or relevant. Becoming a parent has changed my understanding of everything, including myself. Being tested in ways I never imagined has revealed parts of my personality that I didn't know existed, while having to revisit my own childhood anxieties and social issues through my children has forced me to face emotions buried long ago. There are times when I feel a bit lost; it's difficult to find the clarity to work out who you are and what you want. A very good friend said to me the other day: "You are a writer. It's just that right now, you're doing this [meaning motherhood]". It feels pretty all-consuming  and I'm struggling to locate an identity beyond that of mama. But that's okay. I just need to remember that I am something else. And to hold on.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I've been working on a novel (the first one having been consigned to the bottom drawer) for a few years now. I never get to spend big chunks of time writing and sometimes weeks go by and I hardly even think about it. But I know there is something there because I keep returning to it and I cannot let it go. However it's hard to get back into a story when you have such considerable breaks between writing sessions, so I have the following quotations pinned to the noticeboard above my desk. They draw me back into the world I'm creating and remind me of the ideas on which I will build the novel. It's about home and what it means to find or create one. I'm the daughter of an architect and a designer and I have been obsessed with this theme for as long as I can remember. I don't know if these quotations will make it into the novel but they're helping me to write it.

"Every wall is a door."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The body is a house of many windows: there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come in and love us.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

“How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”
William Faulkner

“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”
Isaac Newton

“Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
Henry David Thoreau

“Design is not making beauty, beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love.”
Louis Kahn

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I've been fretting over whether my blog has turned into a total whinge fest! My life after all is pretty good and I really don''t have all that much to complain about. When I first started reading blogs, the ones that really inspired me were those that presented a positive outlook on motherhood and in particular staying-at-home with young children. All those beautiful blogs seemed like such a wonderful antidote to the pervading negativity in the press. It made me feel that what I was doing was a good thing and something that I could throw myself into. But I can't pretend it's all chai lattes, organic gardening and craft projects. My days are chaotic and monotonous and very frustrating. To present it as anything else would be a bit ridiculous. Neither do I have any agenda when writing this blog. I want a space to vent; to express whatever is on my mind; and finally just to write because I need to. Writing for my blog is very different from my fiction writing but it is all that I can manage most of the time.

I bumped into a friend in the street the other day. I hadn't seen her for ages, despite having children of a similar age and living only about 10 minutes apart. She is a single mum of two, who is studying full-time. After we'd chatted for a bit, she asked me what I was doing these days. I was so taken aback by the question that I laughed and said, "Nothing, I'm uh just looking after the kids". I hate that I replied in this way; that I didn't think to mention the other things I do because they don't seem important; and that I referred to taking care of the children as "nothing". I work really hard every day (and night) - much harder than I ever have in a paid job - and anything else I manage to do is a bonus and a minor miracle. I need to stop apologising for myself and the choices I have made. And also to maybe whinge a little bit less.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I'm wildly ambitious about what I hope to achieve each evening. Once the kids are in bed and the kitchen cleaned, I sit down (in bed - this house is freezing!) with a huge cup of tea, my laptop, my stack of books, a sketchbook, my knitting, a magazine or newspaper all spread out around me. Every night I fall asleep with a sense of disappointment because inevitably I have fallen short of my plans. I am torn between the need to make the most of this small stretch of uninterrupted time - the quiet and the focus that is only possible for me when the kids are asleep - and my physical exhaustion pulling me down. I stay up way too late but I need this time for my sanity. It's been a rough few weeks - four days of solo parenting that ended with my three year old breaking his arm after falling from the climbing frame, and then a sick, teething and very grumpy baby, who doesn't seem to be able to sleep for more than two hours at a stretch. It will get easier, it will get easier, it will... right?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Photographs from my five year old...

Friday, August 2, 2013

My daughter loves to draw. She reaches for pen and paper before she eats her breakfast; her notebook sleeps beside her bed. She fills every available moment with sketching and colouring and writing. It is fascinating to observe her imagination unfurling onto the page. I think about how much I like to draw; how I have always filled notebooks with words and doodles, and about how rarely I do so now. I wonder at what point we stop grabbing those little moments and making them into something special. There is so much talk about children and screen-time, and yet so many of us turn our attention towards a screen every spare second that we can, filling up our precious time with nonsense. While my daughter draws at the kitchen worktop, I do not reach for my phone but scrawl down on a crumpled sheet of paper these sentences:

"I keep wondering how much happier we'd all be if we spent those in-between times drawing or writing on scraps of paper, instead of staring into screens and searching for answers or meaning in the ephemera of other people's lives. Those scraps could be the beginning: winged seedpods of the imagination, swirling into the blue. How we could soar on the hope that some might grow big."

Perhaps I do have time to make art; to write or sketch. It's just that it's shattered time. I have to find the pieces; to use them wisely and imaginatively. To bring together those shards to create something cohesive.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

His choice of books at the library: Deadly Predators, Shark Attack and Military Helicopters. I tried to persuade him to maybe choose something else, but he was resolute. Nearby, there was a meeting of new mums, tiny babies curled into their arms, listening earnestly and nervously to advice about what to read to their child. I wanted to warn them that one day, despite all the hours spent reading beautifully illustrated picture books and finely crafted traditional tales, their little darling will gravitate towards the books with ugly photos of sharp teethed animals and machinery. But that would be cruel.

When we got home, I read the military helicopter book to him. He sat and listened, slightly perplexed. Later, at bedtime, he flicked through the book once again.

"I don't really like this helicopter book... it's all about killing...but I want to know about killing because then I can stop all the killing."

Holy moly, he's three years old!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I am hardly ever alone. This seems to be the difference between two and three children. I nearly always have at least one with me. Today, I caught the bus on my own and experienced one of those eerie feelings of being in another time and (head) space. Sitting at the bus stop, with the cold blue sky above and the bright sunshine in my eyes, my daughter's portfolio leaning against my legs, I felt nervous and insecure, like a teenage version of myself. And then it occurred to me that one day in the not too distant future, I'll spend hours every day on my own; that I will have to grow accustomed to this state because it has become so strange to me. I've always sought out time on my own: it's when I can daydream and be the most inspired. It's not that I don't like being around other people - I love talking and dislike eating alone - but I need to retreat, from time to time, into the world of my imagination. I was annoyed that I forgot my book today and missed out on an opportunity to read, but it was so much better, just to have that space to think and feel.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I'm starting to notice a pattern to the school holidays in this household:
  • Spend first few days hanging out and doing very little.
  • Get sick - one child after the other and finally me.
  • Recover very slowly...
  • Stay close to home: see a few friends, do a little baking and crafting, watch quite a lot of iview.
  • Feel guilty because we have not done anything that we should do in the holidays (museums, galleries, fun action-packed days out...).
  • Realise that the kids are pretty happy just hanging out at home, doing very little.
  • Relax and enjoy having them all here and not having to be anywhere on time.
And then before you know it, the holidays are almost over and I'm starting to think about getting organised for school! Sigh. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

She wrote in the kitchen, perched on a stool, with the baby strapped to her back, trying not to move too much in case she woke him. Her mind was racing, perhaps from the coffee or maybe from the desperation. She looked at all the books on the shelf, dusty and muddled, and felt as if they had nothing to do with her. Did they belong to someone else from another lifetime? She wondered about the person who had read them and loved them. What happened to her? She had so many ideas - it sometimes seemed like her head would split open - but none of them made it onto the page.

How much longer could she let the 'big' kids watch television? They'd already had 15 minutes more than she said they could. The baby slept on. It was so nice to sit still and to feel the pen in her hand, to see the words skip across the page. She wondered about starting a PhD. Would that make her writing legitimate? Would it miraculously create more time? Solve the problem of small people and the way their needs spread into every minute of the day? No, of course not, but a woman could dream, couldn't she? The baby squirmed; the DVD came to an end. The pen stopped. 

This was two weeks ago, on a particularly low Friday afternoon. Once the kids stirred, one from sleep, the other two from the coma-like state of viewing, we went out into the garden. In the postbox was a package, containing a copy of Lost in Living. I watched it that night and it was everything a documentary should be: intelligent and subtle with an open minded approach. It lifted me out of the fug that I have been in for weeks. Not because it provides an answer to the problem of trying to find the time and space to make art when you're a mother. I don't know if there is an answer. Two weeks later, I'm still thinking about the film and the women in it, and I'm not sure yet how I feel about everything it touches upon. This much I have garnered:

  • You need time to make art, and motherhood (or indeed parenthood) doesn't leave you with very much of this at all. 
  • To immerse yourself in your art and ignore the children is obviously not a great idea. Neither is ignoring your art and losing yourself in motherhood. 
  • Becoming a mother will probably necessitate a change in the way you practice your art, and also a change in the way you perceive success. 
  • Motherhood changes everything, so of course, your art will change too.
  • The only real solution is the availability of good childcare, but most artists don't make any/much money, so how do you justify the expense? 

Recently, we went to visit my aunt, having not seen her for a long time. Quite out-of-the-blue, she asked me whether I was finding any time to write or do anything else creative. I laughed and replied, "not really". "Well, you must" she said, "It is so easy to lose yourself in motherhood, and to forget that you are a person, with an education and passions and dreams. Even if it's just a little bit here and there, you must find a way to keep your art going. One day, you will have the time to devote more to it, but you mustn't lose it."

She is a painter and mother of four - her words (paraphrased here) mean so much to me.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I took my daughter to see her first ballet on Saturday afternoon. It was wonderful observing her excitement - she danced all the way back to the station (via the ice cream shop) and then fell fast asleep on the journey home. Our seats were right at the front of the stalls and we could peek down into the orchestra pit to see all the musicians playing. I found myself wondering what it must be like to make your living from playing music. Would it sometimes feel like work?  Or would you mostly just thank your lucky stars that your passion was also your vocation? I've been thinking a lot lately about creative people and how they earn a living. I'm a little in awe of those who have the talent and determination (and luck?) to make an income from their art.

I've always thought of myself as a creative person and I've always wanted to earn a living through this creativity. It took me a long time to get a job after university (I did a lot of unpaid work experience and blew all my savings) and when I did finally land what I thought was a dream entry-level job in documentary production, it wasn't what I wanted. I was being channeled into a career as a production manager: someone who makes it possibly for other people to be creative. There was another recent graduate in the company, who was seemingly on the fast track to becoming one of those creatives. I couldn't understand why it wasn't me. I felt like I couldn't break out of the mold they had put me in. I wanted to make art; not sort out the logistics so that someone else could realise their vision. I decided that all I really wanted to do was write novels, and so I applied for a masters course in Creative Writing. When I was accepted, it felt amazing - like someone had validated my dream. I was a writer.

But sometimes I wonder... Should I be doing something else? Is loving books and stories enough? Maybe I'm not a writer; maybe I've been deluding myself. There must be a whole lot of failed novelists out there. When do you decide to quit? Now that my time is so precious, I'm questioning myself more and more. Once all three of my children are at school, I will probably need some kind of job. What will I do? I might never get to the point where writing earns me an income. But will there be time to work, be a mum and write? Will there be enough of me to go around? Is pursuing my writing an indulgence? Or futile? Do I have anything to say? Am I even any good? I just don't know.

Sometimes I wish that there was something else I wanted as much. I've spent many hours looking at courses and alternative careers. I wish I could find something that felt right. When a mum at school recently revealed that she is planning to study to be a nurse, I felt a pang of jealousy. It's not because I have any desire to be a nurse, but because she has found what she wants to do and is going to make her dream come true. She will be a nurse. It will be her job and someone will pay her to do it. I can write and I can say that I'm a writer, but there is no guarantee that anyone will pay me to do it. Does this mean it is merely a hobby? Can you really be a writer if no one wants to publish or read your words?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

During the year I was writing full-time and over the following year, when I wrote part-time (while working at the most beautiful library), I would often find myself so involved in the lives of my characters that I had trouble stepping back into reality. Sometimes at the end of a day sat in front of the laptop, or scribbling in notebooks, I'd struggle to be present when my partner came home from work, or when I went out with friends. For a while, I was caught between the two worlds; in a kind of no-man's land; neither fully present in one reality or the other. Slowly, I'd move away from the place I'd inhabited all day and settle back into the physical world. Now, I find myself struggling to make the journey in reverse. My busy day of seemingly endless tasks and the relentless demands and needs of little people is hard to shrug off. I wish I could switch into my creative mindset with more ease. There is so little time in the evening, and I feel as if I'm only just warming up, when it's time to turn-in for the night. And always there is the nagging awareness that I should probably be getting organised for tomorrow, sweeping the floor and tidying the toys, planning meals and activities, folding laundry...and not ignoring it all and dreaming up stories about people who don't exist outside of my head.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What would you do if money was no object?

I asked my husband this the other evening as we drank tea in the kitchen and he made bread (I've been teasing him a lot lately about how he should become a baker).
"The same thing I do." he said without hesitation.
"Really?" I asked.
"Yeah, definitely."
A little altruistic perhaps, but he genuinely does love his job.

What about me? Well, I would spend my days writing and drawing and making books. I can't imagine anything I'd rather do.

Then, this evening I read this:

His music is beautiful and I love what he has to say.

So, what would you do if money was no object?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

This weekend...

  • Some of us went to see an excellent puppet show called Splat!
  • Some of us (okay just me) went to a grown-up birthday party and ate the most delicious salted caramel icy pole. It was soooo good! The party was pretty cool too ; )
  • All of us made and ate pizza with friends, and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and balmy breeze. Such a perfect day.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Today we met up with a friend who we studied with at university. She has a PhD in Genetics, but she gave it all up to travel the world and teach hula hooping because it's what makes her happy. How awesome is that? Oh, and she has blue hair!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

One of the reasons (actually quite a big reason) that I haven't been posting very much on this blog, of late, is that I've started studying again. As I have only about an hour every evening before my brain goes, "enough, already - it's bedtime", this leaves little time for blogging. While I'm really enjoying studying,  it has most definitely made me aware that I'm not ready for anything more taxing than an online diploma in a subject I know a fair bit about from my previous life experience. The PhD will have to wait!

Anyway, I managed to grab one of those sneaky moments of peace on Sunday morning, when the husband and kids abandoned the breakfast table to visit the chickens, leaving me alone with my coffee and my thoughts. I wrote a couple of lists on a scrap of paper with a crayola:

Great Things I've Read Lately

The Gift by Carol Ann Duffy
The Shark Net by Robert Drewe
Runaway by Alice Munro
The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell
The Consolation of Joe Cinque by Helen Garner
Blueback by Tim Winton
Frankie Magazine (thanks to a lovely birthday pressie subscription)

Style Icons

Charlotte Gainsbourg
Frida Kahlo
Jean Seberg
Kate Moss
Joan Baez
Jane Birkin

It lasted all of 5 minutes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sometimes I feel like school gets in the way of life. I'll probably have changed my mind by week two of the holidays, but right now, I'm counting the days until the end of term.

Can you believe they print this on eggs?!

Monday, April 8, 2013

My baby is 1! Happy Birthday little fella. You are delightful.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Here are some photos from our very necessary mid-term escape:

Sigh. Wish we were still there.
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