Learning Lessons

Sometimes belly dancers look like they might work in a library.

I learned that last week.

And tried not to let my jaw drop.

And structural engineers like dainty little ballet dancers.

I learned that too. (And felt mildly foolish for my solicitous encouraging of her project – “Oh well done!” – which, on hindsight, must have sounded maternal and patronizing).

Life’s a melting pot of unexpectedness and myriad colour.

Like the kiln – as big as a bed and blue – which rested solidly in the corner of the studio where we worked. Cold cutting glass emerged mellow and warm. Sharp corners smoothed to invitingly voluptuous-glossy roundness. Bold colours fused softly-hued: blues and silvers and greens. Blood reds and rose pinks. Hot oranges and balmy yellows.


I was anxious before I went.

Can I do this? I fretted: learn something new? Is it even the right thing to be learning? For me? Now? At this stage in my life? What if I hate it? Prove incompetent in the face of creativity? Is it self-indulgent? A waste of time and money?

When you’re a metaphorical million miles away from the reality, ideas frequently seem blindingly brilliant. Up, close and personal and when your vision’s cleared and you’re on a train bound for Crewe and that reality is hastening towards you at the speed of light (or at least an intercity East Midlands train), your confidence evaporates.

In the end, though, the apprehension was unfounded.

Because I did learn. Not just that belly dancers can look like librarians and structural engineers like ballerinas. I learnt how to cut silver, mould clay, fuse glass, string beads, set a tiny olive coloured stone into the metal heart I had created so that when I polished it and watched with satisfaction and a spreading child’s smile as the mirror-shine evolved, the tiny gem winked encouragingly.

But I learned something else too. Something much more important.

I discovered that, despite the nerves and the intervening years between my last classroom experience and this one, despite a careworn self-assurance and the worried grappling to clutch at lifesaving (and certainly sanity preserving) straws, despite an innate shyness exacerbated by Outpost living, some bolder part of me was given the opportunity to unfold.

I surprised myself. I laughed a lot and loudly, asked endless questions, made dozens of mistakes and enjoyed every one. And some latent self confidence bubbled to the fore. Because I could do it: I could learn to do something new.

Which just goes to show: you really can pluck a quite different recipe and garner the necessary and make new jam.

There is something deeply, deeply satisfying in knowing that.








Time is going too quickly.

Spring is racing towards summer. Carelessly, heedlessly.

Mum says there is more blossom than she remembers this time last year; that much of it is premature.

That shouldn’t be out until at least June! She exclaims, gesturing a tumbling violet.

The dandelion (dent de lion, lion’s teeth, I learned that last week too) clocks have quickened. Yellow flowers giving way to feathery heads so that Hat already knows she’ll be married in the afternoon: at three.


The rape has tossed bright picnic rugs across green fields.


This time last year Mum was steeped in black gloom. No amount of blue sky and sunshine and quick-breathed Spring gusts could blow densely gathered greyly-sagging cobwebs away.

This year is different. This year she is well.


I don’t know if that’s because the sky is bluer and the sun brighter.

Or whether they are bluer, brighter because she is well.

It does not matter.

All that matters is that Depression is not darkening her quick-approaching summer horizons.


20 Responses to “Learning Lessons”

  1. daisyfae Says:

    getting past the “i’m too old” speed bump is invigorating! i was dragged to a pysanky egg (ukranian egg art) workshop – very nearly against my will. found myself deliriously lost in the colors, designs and process for 3 hours… and am quite proud of my first (and possibly only) egg…

  2. Sorcha Says:

    Have just discovered your blog and am really enjoying it, especially as I am on semi-bed rest for early contractions. Learning new skills is definitely vital to keeping your sanity and self-confidence. Last time I was on bed rest I learnt to quilt, I haven’t done it since but this time round I’m planning on designing my own. As a friend of mine said when I thought it might be a disaster – why should it? it can always be fixed and at least you’ll have tried. Enjoy your new skill.

  3. R. Sherman Says:

    Always good to stretch the brain and try something new and completely outside one’s normal comfort zone. We should all do more of that.


  4. Wife in Hong Kong Says:

    I suspect that if you make jewellery as beautiful as the words you string together you will soon have a name for yourself, and maybe a new business line….

  5. janelle Says:

    ah WONDERFUL post anthea..so creative, positive and productive and beautiful…well done you..and love the last part too….premature spring…who’d complain about that? lots love xxx janelle

  6. The Gossamer Woman Says:

    I just want you to know that I’ve been lurking lately and unable to find the proper words to comment to you posts, although I enjoy them very much. But I’m here, reading, just so you know…

  7. Grannymar Says:

    That course sounds fantastic, right up my street. I love working in three D.

    I am so pleased it worked out for you and you have personal mementos to take home with you.

  8. Jo Says:

    Not only is the writing marvelous, but the photos are beautiful too.

    P.S. I tagged you in my last post titled Mary Poppins

  9. Iota Says:

    I’m glad you had such a good time. Somehow, I couldn’t imagine you wouldn’t do well in that situation (in spite of your apprehensions).

    Lovely photos.

  10. Iota Says:

    I love the idea of the yellow rape being picnic blankets on the fields.

  11. Mapesbury Mum Says:

    School in adulthood is greater fun than I imagined – I too have done a couple of courses. The first one, I turned up too early, keen with all the equipment (pretending it was borrowed in case the whole exercise was a failure!) and loved it, the learning experience and also the whole branching out into new horizons…The second one was a taster and I’m going back for more today! This one is climbing so I don’t have to sit (or run with toddler in tow!) whilst my son does his climbing. Toddler is palmed off and my nails are cut, legs waxed (mustnt let the side down) and hours before the time I’m looking foward to it!
    I have a few other things up my sleeve..
    Loved your silver btw…

  12. upsidebackwards Says:

    Words, photos, silver creations – all beautiful. Thank you.

  13. Kit Says:

    It sounds wonderful and I love the images of glass fusing and colours mellowing.

  14. Elie Says:

    I have been trying to find you using your old email and optimistically, on FaceBook. Send me an email! This is wonderful to read and I’m dying to get back in touch. xo

  15. Expat Mum Says:

    I love learning to make new things, but I always end up keeping them instead of giving them away as I had planned.

  16. paradise lost in translation Says:

    What lovely photos. I’ve just come back from England. The spring is stunning. More so than normal, or have I just forgotten?? it’ s not just Outpost living but livign in another culture which is so different & where one even after yrs still gets things wrong, can really diminish one’s self confidence. I also find I seem less able to cope with too much because I am used, on a daily basis, to coping with frustrations & stresses of daily life (poor infrastructure , power cuts, bureaucracy etc), that if anything extra needs adding into the mix it induces mild panic.

  17. Mud Says:

    So impressed with your creativity. I’m afriad anything I try and make looks ends up looking like a dog’s dinner!

    Spring is luscious, fresh and inspiring at the moment – I hope you have time to see some bluebells too.

  18. Michelle in NZ Says:

    Your writing is always wonderful, and this is a “made by you” gem of words and images, and amazingthings you have done and made.

    Learning your Mum is so much better now is the icing on the top for me (I have and live with depression too).

    To me this whole time away seems to be not just icing on top for you, but the entire yummy cake of a break away. You are allowed to take pieces back with you too!

    With care and many wide smiles, Michelle/Mickle in NZ xxx

  19. upsidebackwards Says:

    Hi again. I have tagged you for a post on “Five Things I Love About Being a Mum” – I hope you don’t mind. I’d love to read what you have to say! http://upsidebackwards.wordpress.com/2009/05/04/five-things

  20. Helen MotheratLarge Says:

    What a beautiful posting. I’m so glad it all worked out, although, like Iota, I couldn’t really imagine it going any other way, after reading your blog. Thank you for sharing such lovely photos.

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