A post for Orphans, Obsessives, Perfectionists and Addicts, with Wood Carvings…

I’m going to intersperse this post with random photo’s of my work, to allieviate the very personal writing… all will be revealed…..later!

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The setting of the Solstice sun.

The post I’d mused over for days, and then ‘lost’, was a serious one…prompted by all the heartbreaking stories that are emerging in Ireland, of how dreadfully women and children were treated in the Catholic Mother and Baby homes, Orphanages and the Magdalene Laundries, in the not too distant past here.
These had brought up emotions from my own story, and although my story is not nearly so bad, I wrote about how early loss and separation can have a lifelong impact . Life can only be lived going forwards, but maybe understanding the patterns can only come with advancing age and 20/20 hindsight….and can bring a deeper level of sadness….

It’s NOT as if I sit around consciously thinking about the past!…but it comes unbidden into my head in flashes of memory….in dreams….me alone as a child, me alone as a single parent, alone in Mexico, Honduras, Portugal, Kirkcudbright, Jura, London, Norfolk and Liverpool, me alone in a community of 25 adults!….the memories flash in…of always feeling alone….always an Outsider.

Quote from e.e.cummings.

Quote from e.e.cummings poem.

 The difficult thing to consider in hindsight is how far my internalised ‘Outsider’, ‘Not Good Enough’  feelings may have unconsciously contributed to the paths I trod. I’ve lived in groups, worked in groups, even started up some groups myself, but never felt totally accepted. I have no blueprint for HOW to belong…
Meanwhile, I seem to have antennae for other damaged souls…I know the deep value in empathy, and the discomfort of other’s sympathies.

I have a great capacity to ‘lose’ myself in work. Or rather, I did have. Maybe if I can write through the feelings I’ve blocked and smothered for decades, maybe then I can return to creative work?

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Close-up of Janus head, in bog oak.

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The Janus Head at Drumbeg stone circle. The Janus head has two faces…one looks forward and the other looks back.

Isn’t it wonderful when words are “given” to you just when you need them? I call it Chance Triumphant. A few days back I saw a wonderful piece of writing ,

‘Lies you were told about Grief’, by Alison Nappi, which quoted one of my favourite writers:

“What if we never ‘get over’ certain deaths, or our childhoods? What if the idea that we should have by now, or will, is a great palace lie? What if we’re not supposed to? What if it takes a life time…?”

~ Anne Lamott
(The whole, brilliant article is here:  http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=b8e53c620300ae88791163048&id=2a470a789b  ).


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And a quote from Maya Angelou:
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

I know from what I’ve read from other adoptees, that it’s quite common to feel an exaggerated need to be known…to be understood….and to have never felt that you belong anywhere. But also to have a “secret” side….that you have to keep buried…deep. That can be a road to obsessions and addictions……more later! Is that why I’ve kept so much shtuff? To say “I WAS here, I DID do things with my life…”, trying to prove that I have some worth here? An insecure self-esteem….which is not to say that I don’t have an over inflated ego about some of my work! The lack of confidence and fear of rejection got me striving for perfection…a damnable thing to live with!

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A 7ft tall oak carving, a memorial for folk lost at sea, in Kirkcudbright, Scotland. This piece is dear to me, as both my sons work on the sea.


A digression…I wrote that I’d explain the inclusion of photo’s …it’s the fragile self-esteem versus the inflated ego! I’ve never been good at “selling myself” or my work….I’m happiest making work for the love of it,  for people not for money, which I’m quite useless at. Perfectionism can be a curse…stemming from wanting to be above and beyond criticism…endlessly needing approval…and however good a piece of work may turn out, I’m forever driven to ‘prove’ myself over and over again.
Or I was.    I’m tired now.
So, Yes, these photo’s are me wanting to paint a complete picture… wanting to be accepted. Or rather, me wanting to paint the “Good” picture first, before writing of darker things, exposing the soft and muddy underbelly!

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There’s a great book, by Nancy Newton Verrier, called The Primal Wound. In it she talks about how even a newborn baby, without words and concepts, can still FEEL loss, abandonment, bereavement…that the bonding process is when a baby puts touch, warmth, smell and sustenance to the voice it has heard in the womb. This leads to a seamless continuity, and a secure foundation for the ego to develop. If the baby or small child is separated from the mother the feelings can be internalised…with no words or concepts to process them….and so they are laid deep down in the psyche. Every time one feels insecure, or slighted,  abandoned or shamed,  it takes you straight back to that deep well of “It must be my fault.”

In my thirties I saw a great therapist, who asked me “Weren’t you angry with your parents for dying?”. I was incredulous, how could I be angry with them? She said “Charlie, you were two and a bit years old when your mother died, and a year later your father died too….you must have been a very angry young child”. Well, anger was an emotion that was utterly frowned upon in my new adopted family. (But of course, it came out in more covert ways.) And to make it even stranger to try and fit in, I had to learn to speak the Queen’s English, not the broad Mancunian that had surrounded me up until then. With anger so frowned upon, I saw my anger as shameful…if not positively dangerous…had my anger as a Terrible Two year old, driven my family away? Could my anger make the sky fall in? And when anger gets suppressed, it can manifest in depression, low self esteem, shame…..and, very rarely, a feisty, rebellious two year old, shouting “Feck the lot of youse!”  But I can’t even shout.

  I believe another reaction at such a young age, to parents dying, is that you might feel anger at losing the first, but losing the second and three elder sisters you might well think “It must be MY fault”. Internalising Anger, internalising Shame.
To quote Oscar Wilde: ”To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

   I have a distant half memory of a witticism from Noel Coward; someone was commenting at the (possibly drunken) grief of a man who’d lost his father, Noel’s reply was along the lines of “It must be so hard to be an orphan….at 70 years old!”
   I learnt early on to be embarrassed, if not horrified by sympathy…and can remember saying at Primary School “Yes, I’m adopted, but I’m fine!”. Wanting to run with the pack, wanting to be the same, but unconsciously feeling “less than.” Always an outsider. And driven by a need to be accepted, to be beyond criticism…striving for perfection, a damnable road to travel.


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A line from The Crock Of Gold, by James Stevens.

I’m not sure if folk who had happy and secure early years could imagine the rootlessness….the insecurity of adoptees? The feelings of inferiority, of shame, of never being good enough.
There again, I’ll never forget a situation where I was on my way back from a Demo against Nuclear submarines in Holy Loch. We were five women, one girl and my dog, and we got stranded in a Ford Estate, in a snowstorm for about seven hours. There was a marked difference between the reactions of the three mothers in the car and the two single women…one of whom really got on my nerves. (There’s a whole story about that night, but I’ll not tell it here, now!) So when we finally got back I went to a friends house, and was sounding off about the woman who’d riled me….the friend I was telling launched into equally disparaging comments about her, to which I guiltily thought I should redress the balance, and said “Well, she DID have a fucked up childhood”, to which my friend said “Charlie! We ALL had fucked up childhoods!”. Some truth in that alright!

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This blog is more than enough for folk to trawl through, and so I’ll end this post with a photo of a piece I carved some years back….I was talking with a friend this morning about Chance Triumphant……this piece was one of the first I exhibited in the RHA in Dublin. If my memory serves me correctly, it was bought by a couple who had had a stillborn child….
Offered here in memory of all the Lost babies…the stillbirths, the ones torn so harshly from their poor young mothers,  the ones who died from institutional neglect and were buried with no sign that they had ever been here….and for those who can Never Forget.






Impatience, Frustration, an Inability to Scream, and Drawing Thoughts.

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This was when I wanted to scream….but I’ve never been able to scream, or really lose my temper…..this relates to the content of the blog I had FINALLY started writing…. dammit!

Well, that lot was scribbled on empty pages from boring days in last year’s tiny diary ……. I couldn’t face wrestling with computers anymore.  I did discover what had happened…my mistake…I had TWO Edit Post pages open….and ‘Save Draft’ had been on the wrong Draft page…Shucks!
I can’t rewrite that blog yet….I’d be trying to summon up the words and phrases I wrote two days ago, and tripping over meself again….so I’m going into distraction/diversion mode……
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I’ve written before about the mountains of sketchbooks and notebooks and papers and photos, letters and cuttings and diaries….this blog is a last ditch attempt to find patterns, to sift and cull these mountains….although the temptation to have a giant bonfire always lurks in the back of my head!

( Jeez…what with paper and with wood, I’ve used a helluva lot of trees in my life! But I’ve planted many, too.)
My Lost Blog was prompted by the horrendous stories coming out in Ireland  about the mother and Baby homes, and orphanages…and was ‘Open Heart Surgery’ about being orphaned and what a lack of roots lays down in the psyche; hard to write in the first place, but I will rewrite it eventually…meanwhile a diversion into Calligraphy!

As a left handed child, I suffered greatly at primary school, and beyond, for my appalling handwriting….endlessly made to rewrite essays and write out “lines”….but at least they didn’t force me to use my right hand, and it did lead me into an absorption with Type, and Calligraphy.
Now, Calligraphy is totally unnatural for a ‘sinister’ (left handed) person…you really need to pull the pen from left to right, to get smooth flourishes, but I’ve always been bloody minded about things I wanted to do, and now I’m pretty well ambidextrous… with a fine line in mirror writing for ‘secret’ notes!

Today’s choice of calligraphy….

A Rough for a quote from a Mary Oliver poem.

A Rough for a quote from a Mary Oliver poem.

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A Rough for The Goal of Life….

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The Goal, Rough 3…more pleasing than the final piece, which I over-worked.


And a  couple of photo’s of applied type, in an ongoing drawing….

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A working title for the blog that disappeared was given to me by a friend,  joking about my options…”Suicide, Homicide, or Genocide?”.  Well, none of the above, but I’ll get back to that!

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For now x






Jasmine, Scents, Cobwebs and President Obama.

I was at a garden centre yesterday with my dear friend Bridget, and we drooled over trellis’s draped with Jasmine….80 euro a pop! We sadly turned from them, the scent lingering around us, and we made more modest purchases.
I thought of the Jasmine outside my front door, that I had been aware of somewhat neglecting to trim and water, so this morning I decided to feed and water it…and was assailed by that glorious sweet scent! On looking up I saw a tangle of newly opened flowers that I hadn’t even noticed.

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Having burnt-out my back when building my house, I took an aversion to balancing up ladders, but having got up there I found the Jasmine was twined around the party lights I’d forgotten were there. Grubby, covered in cobwebs, a sorry state.
Diversion to switch them on…all but the last 2 ft lit up! Jeez, it must be nearly seven years since my last party…time to plan another one!


Twined around the party lights


party lights entwined
Unravelling the twining strands was a pernickity job, but so pleasing when you’re surrounded by that heady scent!

Tied up, ready to come down right side after...
Tied up over the  door that opens, ready to come down the side on the right…


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And on the other side, strung to grow horizontally.
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A shot of Multi Blue Clematis, for Bridget…Not a true portrayal of the colour, but I don’t like tweaking colours in Photoshop.


Sambucca and President.
Also for Bridget, Sambucca and  Clematis ‘The President’….the photo doesn’t show the electric, vibrant colours together.

The President Obama bit: ( a personal rant…)

Who is this inflamatory Obama we’re hearing, ….starting up another Cold War?

Is he needing new bases to send soldiers to, when they withdraw from Afghanistan?

Giving self-interested reasons (David Cameron’s if not his own), as to why Scotland should stay in Britain….like, the patronising reasons are REALLY going to persuade Scottish voters….(Take your tongue out of your cheek, Charl!).


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I promised cobwebs….this is my Website.

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Allium Christophii seed heads….one bulb will produce a new and larger head every year…..I don’t mind cobwebs, because spiders catch flys….but I really ought to  clean up the ones over the cooker!

And a last blast of my love affair with colour,  the light above my stairs, inside an old bird cage.

And so to bed

And so to bed.








The Daily Post, Unsafe Containers. Enthusiasm.

For me, the Unsafe Container is Enthusiasm…I loved it when I found out that the word Enthusiasm comes from the Greek: ‘to be possessed by a God or Goddess’, and that the word Idiot comes from Latin: ‘a private person’. I decided I could be an enthusiastic idiot with impugnity!
And although I have been told I’m a good listener, (when I’m interested! Anything to do with psychology, nuttin’ to do with sprockets!) I did have to post this on my FB page:

I don't mean to...

Spot the Swallow, (note to Self: Go to Specsavers!)

 Last week a swallow had got into my house….I’d had swallows nesting under my verandah roof for some years now, but they didn’t return for the last two years.


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Spot the swallow….impossible to photograph as you see it, aren’t human eyes brilliant in their ability to refocus instantly!

This ceiling is 22ft high, the open-plan room 27ft long, and this poor bird flew up and down, up and down, resting on beams before resuming his flight path.


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The swallow about to land on the beam, again.


I opened all the windows and skylights that I could reach upstairs, and doors and windows downstairs,  but his (or her!) flight went on for some hours. Enlisting my neighbour for bright ideas,  I remarked on my worry it would be exhausted, to which he reminded me that this bird had flown here from Africa!
Which reminded me of a wonderful experience in 2010. I was in Marrakesh in February, and from the rooftops I had watched the swallows gathering together in readiness for their flight north.

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No swallows in this photo, but magical memories of hearing the call to prayer at sunset.

And then the joy, a couple of months later, seeing the swallows arrive in the North West of Ireland…so awesome to think of their journey.
Back to the story.
Eventually the bird found it’s way out of the house…relief all round.

Now we skip to a few hours later; sitting in the house in the evening, my neighbour noticed a wee cat poo on the floor. I had moved the litter tray outside, as I thought new rescue cat Rasta was now used to going outside….as opposed to the litter tray, or the large plant pots around the house.

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The offending wee pile.

I leapt to my feet, got Rasta by the scruff of the neck, and was about to put his nose in it, when I realised our mistake…..it wasn’t cat poo at all, but a filthy cobweb that the swallow had knocked from the beam! I was mortified, and made a huge fuss of Rasta, and as he’s a total love junkie, he settled into being loved as if nothing had happened, bless him!

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Rasta when he arrived, so named as they’d had to cut great dreadlocks off the wee mite!



My neighbour and I are now booked in for eye tests!


Fleeting Beauty, Photography, and Losing my Marbles..

This post had a rake more text…but it became increasingly like a Victorian slum…..words like grotty piles of broken bricks  in dark alleyways, leading nowhere. Detours into derelict buildings with glimpses through broken glass…barefoot ideas vanishing around tenement corners; so I’ve kept the Fleeting Beauty, and a bit about Photography,  the Losing my Marbles bit doesn’t bear a rewrite!

My all-time favourite cartoonist...Michael Leunig.

My all-time favourite cartoonist…Michael Leunig.


Some mornings I wake far too early, and the head nips pathologically….somedays I can silently ‘sing’ myself back to sleep, but on ‘bad head nip’ days I just have to get up and get on with summat…(funny how the “summat” is never yesterday’s washing up! ). So, some sorting of my favourite plant photographs.

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My favourite flower, the Himalayan Poppy.


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Tissue paper thin petals, short lived, but so beautiful!

Perhaps equally beautiful, the incredibly architectural Michauxia Tchihatcheffii…a biennial that I haven’t been able to find seeds of, for a year or two.

M.T. bud..DSCN0253Michauxia Tchihatcheffii, gorgeous!!
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From the swelling bud to the profusion of bursting open flowers, and then the seed pod, it’s an amazingly sculptured plant.

Then there’s the wonderful Stipa Barbata Silberfeder…(must mean silver feather, eh?!) As the seeds mature on their long awns (?), the awns get hairs and go all curly…the breeze makes pure calligraphy and choreography of them…there’s a wee stretch of stalk between the seed and the awl, which is corkscrew in form.  As the awn floats down, the spiralling movement “bores” the seed into the earth…magic design! I’ve grown a lot from seed, planted out this year as 2 year olds, so I’m excited to see how they’ll look en masse, in July or August.
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The hairy awns coiled round an Agapanthus.

 Whilst trawling through the hundreds of photographs I have in my computer, to find the Michauxia photo’s from 2012, I was thinking  about how digital photography has many advantages, and some drawbacks….
I feel nostalgic when I remember learning black and white photography in 1969; there were 24 or 36 pictures to a film roll, and film was precious so we didn’t snap away with abandon. We couldn’t check whether we had “caught” what we wanted to, so we learnt to really LOOK, to frame the image…did we want the background in focus or out? Should we take it from a higher or lower angle, or change the lens?….it was slow, and needed concentration.Then came the different mysterious realms of the Darkroom….First, in complete darkness, you loaded the film from it’s cartridge into the developing tank..then turned the light back on , nervous to see that it was loaded properly. We developed the negatives, hung them to dry, and, finally, you had the delights of the printing room….with it’s warm, red glow…a womb with a view? !
Decisions to be made: Exposure time, then Developer, watching the image magically appear, into the Stop, into the Fixer, Patience, Patience…… then Dry…..more Patience. And maybe, just sometimes, you had a photograph that you loved.
Now we shoot off loads of shots, make adjustments in Photoshop…..(although I’m quite purist about how much I tweak photos), and I have so many photos that many never get seen….
A last couple of photos,  the glorious Magnolias, Stellata and Soulangier.
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And a beautiful, white Eremurus…
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On to the Losing My Marbles bit!

…………they’ve gone. They might roll back….

As a Liverpudlian poet wrote way back,

“After a whole moon-walking night, succesful re-entry into earth’s orbit is each tomorrow’s ‘maybe’ “.



Don’t fence me in!

p>Today I saw this photo on Facebook, of the wonderful Cliffs of Moher, here in Ireland.


One person had written a comment underneath:
 “What are those crazy people doing there on the ledge? I thought there was a huge fence around the cliffs nowadays to deter jumpers.

Well, that got me going and we had a wee dialogue:

Me:  “Hope to god there isn’t a fence! H&S taken too far. I went to some amazing, huge caves in Mallorca, which had no warning signs splattered about, no safety measures except an unobtrusive 9″ high concrete edging…teaches people visual awareness…and if someone really wants to jump they’ll find a place….(the big joy of the Mallorcan caves is that they were warm!).”

Other person:   “Hey Charlie, I don’t think you can compare the caves of Drach Mallorca with the height of the cliffs of Moher (214 meters high). Sadly the cliffs of Moher have become a bit of a magnet for jumpers like the Golden Bridge San Francisco.
I’m for trying to deter people either falling off some of the highest cliffs in Europe or deliberately jumping. They can learn visual awareness elsewhere surely?”.

Well, that set me thinking about a few different aspects, and I felt a blog coming on!

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The Drach caves in Mallorca.

Firstly, why would the ‘Powers That Be’ fence in the cliffs?  I was once told that the Irish taught the Americans about litigation, it certainly flourishes here, and so that’s probably the P.T.B’s  number one reason. 

But how sad to lose that awesome wonder at the overwhelming power and majesty of nature at her wildest!!  Devoid of human attempts to label it, control it, to dominate it with human concerns. Not even Mount Everest is immune to the appalling desecration left by our species.
‘Other Person’ wrote of trying to deter people from falling off….this reminded me of living in a community, where one boy had a very over-anxious mother, and sure enough, he was the one child who fell off the huge rope swing over a gulley, and broke his arm. Yes, as parents, (or even just as Adults), we need to protect our children, and teach them how to be observant and safe, but a parent who is overanxious can imbue their child with anxiety and fear, which over-rides their own instincts. Just as we need to teach children to be aware of others, we also need to teach them visual/spatial awareness to keep them safe, but not fill them with tension that may contribute to them having accidents.
Then we come to suicide…anyone determined to do that will want the highest place possible, rather than the spectre of just paralysing oneself and ending up in a wheelchair. Yes, there can be cases where the intervention of a caring bystander can give the intended suicide pause to consider, and if the i9ntended act was a spur of the moment thing, that person’s life can be saved. They may be forever grateful that a stranger intervened, and may then see life anew. However, an attempt at suicide can come after prolonged despair, and one has to have experienced real despair to know that there may be no other way to end that  excruciating state. One cannot judge other people’s lives by our own.

I remember being in a group of women in Scotland, after a mutual friend had walked into the sea and drowned. One woman present wanted us all to promise that if we ever felt suicidal, we’d ring one of the other women first. She was obviously well intentioned, but to me, having known periods of deep despair, it’s not just needing a chat, or a cup of tea, or to be looked after for a weekend, or a week, or a month….it’s a deep, black hole inside that feels like it will never be alieviated, that no one else can ‘fix’.  And the idea of asking someone else to take on responsibility for one’s own life, would be a huge burden and an impossible imposition on them….We can all feel so helpless in the face of other people’s pain and suffering, our natural inclination is to try and fix it, but it may be beyond our realm to do so.
Having lost my own parents, suicide was never an option; there’s no way I could have ‘done’ that to my sons, but I would argue for the right of any person to have autonomy over their own life. Obviously, as with euthanasia, there are huge issues involved…that are hard to resolve with mere legalities.
There’s one culture, was it the Marsh Arabs? who live in floating homes. Their belief is that if a small child fell into the water, that was their fate, and if you rescued them you would be responsible for that person’s life forever. To us, that seems SUCH an alien concept….and yet the children were brought up with enough spatial awareness to not be falling in left right and centre.
I’m totally up for discussions on these thoughts….my opinions are not cast in stone and I’d welcome feedback!