project stowaway

Ain't nothing like the real thing...

I have been thinking lately about how easy it can be to give up things that once felt so important. In early 2012 I fulfilled a long term dream and became a homeowner. I almost gave up looking early on as the places I had seen in my price range were so awful. Then, my ‘one last viewing and then I’ll put this on hold for six months’ place really did give me the feeling that people tell you about. It felt like a little country escape up on the second floor of a Victorian London conversion, with a window (soon to house a beautiful window seat) overlooking lush green trees. In the months that followed I had great fun decorating, sourcing furniture and customising the place until it looked just like the home I had imagined. As those who spent much time with me the following Summer will testify, there was one item that merited more thought and brought me more pleasure than any other. The painting was the first original piece of artwork I have ever purchased. I fell in love with it on a website after seeing an exhibition by the artist in Dartmouth. It’s a beautiful image called ‘Spinnakers’ by Stephen Brown, a hazy acrylic portraying boats sailing on the River Dart as sunlight sparkles on the water underneath them. The piece had added appeal for me because I was preparing to swim along the river at the end of the Summer. Having decided against spending all of my remaining savings on the original, I took a detour from a trip to Stratford to visit the Red Rag Gallery in Stow-on-the-Wold, to see whether a limited edition print would have the same impact on me. It did, I loved it. Unfortunately the artist had misspelt the title on the one print housed there, but the gallery kindly arranged for another, this time with Spinnakers spelt with two ‘n’s, to be sent to my Mother’s home in Devon. I had it framed down here and at last it was hung in pride of place in late Summer. The reason I have been thinking about this painting is because despite it having been my favourite item in the London flat, sitting above my desk and often distracting me from my work, I didn’t think twice about leaving it hanging there for my tenants to enjoy when I moved out. The same applied to the numerous framed photographs of beaches and oceans from past travels. I told myself there wasn’t space to hang them in my temporary Devon home, and listened to a friend who warned that the frames or glass might be broken in the move. I now realise though that the reason it was so easy to leave them was that I simply didn’t need them any more. For the past week I have travelled ten minutes from my current home to the beach each day, and have sat and looked out at scenes even more beautiful than the one in the painting. Every day a different image to enjoy, photograph and attempt to capture with my own hand if I am feeling adventurous. I no longer need to bring the sea into my soul with art and memories, because I have the real thing to look at, listen to and be calmed and inspired by whenever I like. For this I feel incredibly lucky, and the fact that I haven’t got a picture of London anywhere around me isn’t lost either.

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You can’t always get what you want…

At the start of this Summer, I quit my job and announced my intention to put my energy into my own creative enterprise, Project Stowaway. I had a great deal of inspiration, support and goodwill but no guaranteed income and a London mortgage to pay. Many of my nearest and dearest thought I had gone mad. A rather scary diagnosis soon afterwards showed that I had a little. Four months later, after a difficult climb out of an incredibly dark hole, things look very different. If, instead of being conscious all this time, I had been asleep and dreaming a la Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I would have awoken to find myself ‘home again’ and back in Devon, where I haven’t spent more than a few weeks at a time since I left exactly half my life ago. The lady with the red shoes was right, there really is no place like it. In life there are sometimes decisions that you know deep in your heart you want to and really should make, but that your head and ego stop you from acting on. In my case the Universe seems to have colluded with my subconscious to make some of these decisions for me. The process was scary, but the relief I now feel is palpable.

It seems that I have been concealing a stowaway for some time; my need and desire to be true to myself, to change the direction of the sails and then to sit in a place where there is no wind, just being still for a while. My most pressing project right now is my own health and wellbeing. Instead of trying to build an empire I will be using this site to indulge myself, sharing thoughts and stories and some of the things that make me happy, here beside the sea.

logo-watercolour

This was to be the front cover to my first children’s book. Right now it’s more suited to the current chapter of my life, and we’ll see what happens next…