Life is a merry go around not a ladder

13.44pm (at home sat on the sofa)

The sound of the radiator humming out its heat. My bottom sinks into the cushion of the leather soda. Cars and lorries and buses on the road. The constant slowing and moving off. The temporary traffic light, amber, red, amber, green. Stop. Start.

Syd is upstairs in bed, he is pale and unwell. He is tucked up warm watching a film. I collected him in the car from school.

Naoise wouldn’t wake this morning. I am glad that there are only two weeks left of the term. I literally had to prise him out of bed. I had to carry him on my shoulders, and even when I put him down on the pavement he was slow, slow, slow, his legs just waking to the vertical of the day.

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The day started badly. Arguments and stress over lack of funds. The trigger was Syd asking for some guitar strings. He seems to be going through guitar strings like water. I pay for them with what change I have in my bag and by dinner P has apologised for over reacting to Syd’ss request. I have talked to Syd about keeping back £10 of his fund for strings. There is understanding and things are back to relative harmony. P will be working late tonight. I will be holding the fort.

I hold. I hold the family. I hold it together. Mothers are glue. Mothers create a space to hold the lives of others, and they have to find the time to hold themselves.

The mindfulness exercises at the friendship group were good. I noticed the clock, my breath, the passage of time, I sent rage off in a cloud. I replayed the morning at home, mainly what had gone wrong. All I see is the crosses. I ranted about mental health and the lack of funding and I got annoyed at the ignorance of one of the members of staff at the sure start centre. I need to learn not to open my mouth. I need to train my brain not to think. Not to speak. Go hum hum hum. Shhhhhhh Shhhhhh just listen, don’t comment. Its not always helpful to speak. Better to just be present.

The ladder of capitalism. The list of to do’s. I do. I do. I do. What happens if you stop doing. If you really practice this mindfulness lark. If I concentrate on the keys of the computer. If I don’t think about the needs of m family. If I think of nothing. If I just watch and become the observer.

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I am on the merry go around. Occasionally I get off and I can see, then I jump back on and around I go again. Soon this project needs a full stop. The journey will continue, but the writing needs to slow down. I need to be still with a pencil and a line. I need to take the line for a journey. The writing makes me question too much. Analyse.

I feel annoyed with this project so its best that I do stop. I have managed it. I set myself a task and it is almost done. I like the idea of the project. It makes you to make. I want to make drawings. A drawing a day. the focus to be on the visual. Only the visual. I am not a writer. The drawing is a fluid medium. It can be pencil and paper. It can be sculpture or performance. It can be a shopping list. It can be a walk. It can be meditating. It can be anything but there must be a record, a document, a trace, some evidence. Then that is a drawing. Words and language can be drawing too, but I like the idea of setting myself the challenge of abandoning this form. This ramble. This reflective ramble. This ramble is not satisfying me and my curiosity for what I can see.

I need to be the WATCHER. Maybe WATCHERS are happier. WATCHERS are careful. WATCHERS are mindful of the passage of time. WATCHERS see what we are doing now. WATCHERS stand back and learn and are open minded. WATCHERS don’t judge. WATCHERS sooth the threats and lessen the drive. WATCHERS are compassionate. I WATCHED the mindfulness woman. I want her Zen. I want her knowingness. I want her calm. I sit her on my shoulder. I will bring her out when I need to. My watching woman.

What will I do with this project:

1/Try and crowd fund the publishing of four books; spring, summer, autumn, winter

2/ A participatory project

3/ More readings of m(other) stories. Think about how to develop the audience. What time frame? How

4/ An exhibition

5/ A celebration of the completion of the project.

6/M(other) Stories part two: a drawing a day?

7/ Evaluation

I was ever so grateful for all those that came to visit me at the open studio. I loved the children that drew in my space. I love to share my materials with children so that parents can be my audience. I think I make my artwork for adults. Is that ok, probably not as art needs to be for all. It needs to be for all if you want to tick all the requirements of a funding bid.

I was happy reading in the presence of friends but I need to think about reading to strangers. I do need to get myself out of the valley. Not myself my art. My art needs a wider audience. My art wants the city, the passer by, the random person.

I need to complete the form to do voluntary work at the mental health organisation. I realise that I need to turn my rage into something proactive. I need to stop ranting and start doing. Is your to do list longer than mine. Do we need to have a to do list. Where does all this busy-ness come from. What happens if nothing happens. What happens if I do nothing? Life moves on.

Tomorrow its the Be-friender training course that I cannot really discuss. I can talk about me in it. Thats what I will do.

 

Glad

Lying in bed next to Naoise went home in a taxi. Not found time to write. Woke up with bad handover. Took paracetamol with cocodamol. Prepare for mother stories readings. Friends birthday meal. Nothing to say now. Wind. Glad to be in bed.

The paper tissue mountain and mum’s visit

 

1.02 pm (on the sofa in the front room )

amountainofatissue aroundthecorner

Its really tomorrow which makes this post obsolete. But artists break rules. Like beginning a sentence with but. Its late I have been out with patrick. I have drunk too much. When you drink ,you think that what you have to say is important. You talk about the Berlin Wall, Mahatma Ghandi, but you get all your facts wrong. You are talking shit. You are a woman. You are not occupying the space of mother. Mother is in looking after your children so you can go out. Temporal. You stepped pout of mother and became woman. What is a woman? Is a woman a social construct? So what is mother? We are not bound by gender.

Its hard to type. How did Jack Kerouac write under the influence of alcohol and was his mother looking after the kids ?

“I  realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless emptiness.”

― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Start “Be-frienders” Training

Began another heavy period. Began be-frienders training, but cannot talk about it as everything confidential. Gave others lift to the sure start centre in halifax. Felt like a community taxi service. Thats ok, its good to feel needed and useful.

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Must try not to engage my brain too much. Conversations about semantics perhaps not that helpful to anyone in the room. All a secret though…shhhhhhhhh must not say a thing. I can talk about myself though, that’s permissible. I am only breaching my own confidence then. Talking about boundaries. I went on a babbling mind trip about fences, and perimeters, and borders and boundaries and rules and regulations and ended in a rant about bombs being dropped on Syria. Need to be able to hold in my ideas. MY BRAIN IS EXPLODING with information and it has no-where to go. Oh how I miss my students.

Collapsed into bed, read Naoise the first chapter of The Silver Donkey.

Research

Unfinished installations, tiny budgets – and a feminist punk choir singing Virginia Woolf. The show-per-week project at the ICA stretched artists to their limits. Tom McCarthy, Melanie Manchot, Eva Rothschild and Deborah Coughlin reveal all, Thursday 3rd December, Homa Khaleeli, The Guardian

Sick and Sore Throat

8.29am (sat on the sofa in the front room)

I am not getting up today, I am exhausted and have a sore throat. I am not getting up today, Naoise is asleep and I am going to leave him to sleep as he was very sick last night.

He was sick over the mattress, the duvets, the blankets, my fleecy. His room still smells of sick. The smell will linger, The washing machine is still working its way through the disgusting soiled sheets.

So I leave Naoise to rest and to sleep. To sleep off his sick body.

Thankfully he wasn’t sick again in the night, I worried that my night shift would be long, but it wasn’t. He just asked that I cuddle him. Cuddling is easy, he is like a hot water bottle.

Best I have him home today. I do have to work, but he is sleeping. So whilst he sleeps I will chug through the preparation for the open studio, I can prepare the M(other) Stories extracts. I will select twelve posts, one from each month of  the project. A calendar. How to select? Not sure. Probably don’t need to think too hard, just need to do. There is always time to change my mind. There is plenty to choose from. Information overload is the biggest problem with this project. If only I had opted for one post a week, that would have been far easier. I don’t make things easy for myself, but then I think it is good to challenge, to question, to be critical.

In the proliferation of text and image being critical is hard………….editing is important. If you tidy things up its much easier to find what it is you are looking for. Preparation.

The news is full of ridiculous arguments for war. Bombing Syria will solve nothing. More blood will be spilt. How will bombing stop terrorism. I don’t understand the blind want for war.

The washing machine is reading its crescendo. Its the second time the duvets have been washed, they still stank of sick.

Syd is very happy as two of his primary school friends have moved just around the corner from our house. He now has company when he walks to school, and there is a constant too and throw of teenagers between the homes. I am so pleased for him.

Beep. beep, beep. Switch off the washing machine.

What will I do when I have completed this project? Will I miss the writing or will I feel freed from it. This project has been both blessing and monster. It has been cathartic but it has eaten up my drive to draw. I have over analysed life rather than just getting on with it. I have stared at this screen too much. I have valued pixels over paper. Pixels cost nothing. It is the physical world that I want return to. As much as this writing has been a saviour to my sanity it has taken me away from paint and pencils and the messy world of my studio.

I found the box of canvas. I can’t afford any supports for painting, but I think that I should stop thinking up excuses for not being able to paint. I need to draw and paint and print and stop analysing and being anxious. Maybe I still will write but perhaps I will set a more realistic goal, of writing once a week, or set no parameters at all, and just write when I have the inclination to do so. I need to remove the things that are stopping me from making. It is my mind that stops me, I need to move more with my body. I need to think less and just do.

Art is about doing. Art is about experimenting and trying it out and not knowing what might happen. Art is about having the confidence to play. Art is about responding to a visual world. Art is about challenging the status quo. Art is not about making objects. Art is not about making beauty. Art asks questions but does not necessarily answer them. Art engages all. Art is a universal language…..is it?

 

 

Muddle, Puddle

11.01am (at my desk in the studio)

Playing with the cheap black and white copies of my blog posts. Hanging them on a line of string with small clothes peg paper clips. It looks ok, it suggests the domestic. It will do. I have to make do. Ideally it would be colour copies, or poster sized extracts, but I haven’t the cash for that. This will do. Its a sketch. Better to just get on with it than wish for something that cannot be at this moment in time.

Naoise ran up the ramp after his friend. We were just to school on time. I had dressed him in his half sleep, given him extra time on the sofa, winced and looked the other way and tried not to show that I was really wound up by him teasing me with not brushing his teeth when I had asked.

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I woke up really early at five, but I had slept since around 9.45pm. I got up to send the mail out about the open studio weekend. I had meant to send it last night, instead I collapsed in bed with Naoise reading Moomin and the Comet.

I fell asleep listening to Naoise cry, he was hungry. He refused to eat the tiger bread with only butter, he wanted marmite as well. P refused to get him the marmite he requested. I couldn’t be raised from my sleep. I felt bad falling to sleep as he sobbed, but I did’nt have the energy to make things better. Thats what mothers are meant to do isn’t it, comfort, calm, wipe away tears. Last night I gave up. I am too easy to give up. It is just as well I only have two children. I did feel neglectful and guilty. I am not perfect, I am far from it. I am not even good enough. I am just me.

I hardly saw Syd last night, he did his homework, then went to the gym with his friend. I need to find a way to reconnect with him. The years will fly past. I need to find time for Syd. Maybe he is just doing what teenagers do, putting a space between me and him, pulling out. I let him go and I want to pull him back in.

Naoise demands my attention. He has it. He has it.

I took photographs of the playground, a mother stopped me and asked what it was I was doing. I am not sure that I explained it very well, but art cannot really be explained away.

Why?

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I am taking photographs of the tarmac of the playground as this is the space that my child occupies when I am not with him. I am writing about motherhood. I am ranting. Its a daily rant about family life. The tarmac is hard, unfamiliar, solid. The tarmac stops a fall, causes a bruise, a cut. The playground is barren apart from some graphical lines and shapes, defining football game, hop skotch, snakes and ladders.

I am constantly throwing the dice and landing on the snakes. I am slivering back down, rolling  the dice again, and again. Why is it that ladders hold the key to success?  Why does reaching into the heavens pertain to success? Don’t all parents feel as if they are never really achieving anything and just running around in ever decreasing circles?

Like the circles you see in puddles.

The ladder is important it enables the cleaner to climb up to the window pane, and wash the view clean. The ladder allows us to look out. The ladder allows us to reach the apple balanced at the top.  Yoko Ono’s ladder. The ladder. The circle.

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I have been thinking a lot about artists pay this week. If I don’t engage with any opportunities that are not paid will this mean that I will be paid ? If I don’t engage with unpaid opportunities will this mean that there will be no opportunities ? What is an opportunity ? Unpick it ? Unpick the unpaid. There are too many unpaid opportunities. An unpaid opportunity perhaps is no opportunity at all?

Artists cannot live off thin air. I cannot afford to print, frame or post out any of my work. I am stuck in this limbo land until I actually get a job. I need a job to support my family and my practice because there are not enough paid opportunities to go around. I need to get back into that job hunt project again. I thought that it would be worth applying for a tiny slice of what is left of public arts funding, especially seeing as I am sitting here in the studio, writing, making thinking, doing, I might as well try and get paid. I need to het paid.

I need to be able to pay my bills. P is picking up the tab. I am not sure where I would be without his support. Impoverished I guess. I also wouldn’t be sitting here unless my mum had helped me, my friend who paid for an art commission and my other friend who paid for me to do a days work with her.

P had a dream that a volcano had exploded in the lake district, we managed to escape the lava flow by heading for higher ground.

I missed writing this yesterday. I feel guilty when I don’t write M(other) Stories. I feel that a day has been lost to the wind and the rain and the muddle. Mothers feel guilty about whether they are doing the right thing. I never know if I am doing the right thing.

This project needs to come to some kind of conclusion. Its not a film, its not a novel, it hasn’t got an exciting narrative. Its very mundane and slow and small things happen. I sort out the recycling from the cellar. P tells me he has been a fillyjonk, and has cleaned all the hooks and the rack above the stove. He cleaned it and sorted and tidied it. The lids of the saucepans sit in order. The oven dishes are stacked in a line.

Life is messy. Housework can order some of the clutter of the mind. Its satisfying. Simple. Maintenance.

My mind needs maintaining. I photograph puddles as they are mirrors. They hold clouds, faces, school gates, a fenced perimeter, a ball being thrown.

Puddles hold memories. Puddles are temporary. This project attempts to record things that shift and change constantly. This project holds on. I hold its hand. It wants to be fed. I feed it words and thoughts and time. There is no time to clean up the words and the thoughts afterwards. Perhaps its just verbal dihorea. Its not worked on,  carved out language. I am not a writer, I am an artist. Words are not my thing. This is a stab in the dark. Its clumsy and messy and its just what it is.

I am not a mirror image of any of my children. I am me and they are them. I give them kisses goodbye, I demand that my teenager hugs me strong before leaving the house. A mother is a woman and a woman is boundless. I am strong. I am strong. I am resilient. I will not become invisible. I will fight back with art. I will fight to get it seen. I will fight all those cynics and critiques and people that expect me to do it for free, or of the love of it.  Art needs to be valued. Art cannot be made out of nothing. Art cannot be made out of love. Art is critical and thinking. Art is not just an object to be bought and sold.

Parenting needs to be valued. Care needs to be valued. Cleaning is boring but we all have to do it. Emotional work is tiring but like domestic chores it can be undertaken by any man and any woman.

So what is this project about. Its a long rant. Its thinking. Its trying to write what is in my head, to empty the thoughts out, there is too  much in my head. Its bubbling to the surface, it has to be let out. Drained.

Its a flood. I am a river.

Its the irritation that I feel when my sons wee on the toilet seat and I sit in their puddles of urine. Its the frustration that I feel when I cannot get it all the work done. There is no balancing of career and art. There is this. There is this and this is art. It cannot be pinned down, it cannot always be explained away.

A student contacts me, she is writing a dissertation about the myth that a woman cannot be both; a mother and a successful artist.  This is a subject that totally is at the heart of what I do and make and research, but more recently I have been thinking of what is it that gets in the way of making art? Being a parent does not stop you from making, it can make things difficult, challenging. Being a parent means that time is structured by the needs and wants and demands of raising children.

The real thing that gets in the way of art production is money. Art has to generate an income. It has to at least provide a living wage, If you cant get paid for work. If it is not valued by others. There is nothing. There is art and air. There is life. There is this.

Artists need to get paid. If you are paid then you can pay for childcare etc. So yes it is a myth. It is a myth that a woman cannot be both a mother and a successful artist. As too is the myth of the starving artist in the garret. I don’t want to continue that myth. I am being honest. I am letting down my golden hair. You can climb my hair. You can join me in this story. I can write you into it. Help me to dispel the myths.

What do you see in the puddles? Why am I looking in puddles? I am looking for something, I haven’t found it yet? There is no great conclusion. There is just looking, watching, observing, making, questioning, recording, writing, and thinking what is next? What is next?

Research

 Life, birth and motherhood: women at the end of their life reflect – video, Whitney McVeigh, Oskar Pimlott, Juliet Riddell and Dan Susman, The Guardian, Monday 30th November

Windy Sunday

16.58pm ( sitting at the table in the front room)

Naoise is watching How to train your dragon. P is chopping onions to make lentil dhal.

There are men on the train track, working by flood light, chopping trees and shifting soil with a digger. The train track men woke me around five this morning. I wondered why it was getting light so early. The moon was big but not that big. The light was from the work lights.

Its miserable weather. Wind gusting at 60 miles per hour. Rain rain rain rain. Floods of tears gushing down hillsides.

We never made it to Leeds to see the British Art Show, we got as far as Keighly and the council museum full of fossils and crystals and badly stuffed animals and freakish objects and ceramics resting on brown felt Notices saying do not run and turn off your mobile phone.

A heart wrapped in brown paper and punctured with nails found under floorboards.

A hen pecked husband society adult sized cradle resembling a coffin.

A two headed sheep.

A display of art work from the local art society, people and pet portraits, the Mona Lisa on a mobile phone, an idilic white cottage in a landscape, a ballet dancer drawn in pastel.

A Paul Nash painting with explantation and poem.

Portraits of upper class folk.

Above the taxidermy collection two paintings one of Adam, one of Eve completed in the 1970’s by a professional local artist of notoriety, he even painted the royals. The naked pair are hung far too high on the emerald green wall  to be properly admired. You would need a ladder to get a proper look. Perhaps a prudish curatorial decision or making a connection between the family of man and animals?  Yet the human is up high looking down, all powerful? Too powerful. There really should be no hierarchy.

Crystal, prehistoric bones, Egyptian mummy unnamed and x-rayed, a bird call, green and brown carpet. A security guard reading a book. A chandelier and a cornered off room in rope that you cannot enter. A family of four children running wild and playing hide and seek between the high glass cases.

A box of worn out pencil crayons in boxes, chair, round table but no paper to draw on. Long forgotten victorian museum, lacking in investment. Dusty beauty. Nostalgia.

P and Naoise slipped on the moss before we entered the museum. P cut his hand and his finger as he broke their falls. Naoise bumped his head and bruised his knee. He walked around the museum without his trousers on. P walked around the museum with toilet tissue stuck to bleeding flesh. There were no plasters in the first aid box, only large bandages and other useless stuff.

Traveling home over the high moor, I pulled over into a lay-by and we watched a kestral hunting, being blown around and battling the wind.

I have spent the day feeling sad and exhausted and dismal. I am just like the weather. I am sick of being like heavy weather. I am sick of eating chocolate to comfort the frustrations.

Syd is away at his dads. I am glad he is back tomorrow. I hate it when he is away.

Research

Chris Shaw: ‘Art college was full of rich kids so I used my camera to speak to normal people, Sean O’Hagan, The Guardian, Sunday 27th November, 2015

 

 

Sour milk

20.51 pm ( sat on the sofa with Syd singing beside me and Naoise is making christmas cards)

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This moment is close to being a moment of joy.  I don’t want to talk to this screen. I don’t want to tell you about eating sour milk poured on cereal. I don’t want to tell you about getting stressed out about looking after my elderly friend. I do want to tell you that I have completed the commission for my friend. I managed to digitise the first five images, and I think they look totally beautiful and blue and small not big.

Mum I want you and me to make a card together. 

Mother demands. This is meaningless when my children want my attention. Better to mother now than regret not acting on the moment. Art can wait.

Syd sings Heavy weather, heavy weather 

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The bird wing.

19.59pm ( sat at the table in the front room at home)

The wings black feathers clung on to the spindly bone. A crows wing perhaps. A boy child found the remnants and walked hunched over clasping one boney fleshy bit between two sticks whilst calling to his mother to look look look what I found. You really wouldn’t want to handle it with your hands. I wondered who had killed the crow, its usually the crow that is seen picking of the carcass of others.

Naoise climbed right to the top of the frame and clung to the top. He kept annoying his friend by kicking his head. I turned my back. I cannot watch as he balances precariously. I cannot stand it when he winds up his friends. There is only so much chastising I can do. It is better to ignore the bad and praise the good.

The clouds shifted across the hills in puffy balls and red stripes and blue patches and grey. It wasn’t raining. Its warmer.


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I dropped Naoise off, just in time before the last bell. He walked in, fluffy hood up. He walked in slowly, slowly, slowly.

I bent over the tarmac to record the days images. A dad jokingly asks if I am looking for money on the ground. Then he asks what it is I am doing. I briefly explain. Its strange that I have been performing the same ritual for almost a year, but it is only now that people are starting to question what I am up too. Maybe no one really notices.

I admire the cat painting his son has made. He corrects me, not a cat a fox. 

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At home I sort through the piles or recycling and fill the car with stuff for the dump. Its a very dull and boring job. I call at the bank on the way. I get to the studio by late morning and manage to complete the drawings for my commission. One set is good enough. There are always little mistakes, a drawing that could be done better. A line that could be more subtle. A form that isn’t quite balanced. I am not a computer. I am a hand and an eye and a line tracing marks to suggest fictional bodies on paper.

I speak to my studio colleague about my failed job search. We talk about rejection and how I should not take it personally. I know this. I know, but its hard to lift the spirits again and again. Making, drawing, thinking visually helps. I can do. Just do.


Pleased that Naoise was awarded star of the day. Its lovely that his good has been noticed. I took him and his friend to football. Naoise did’nt want to play and explored the exercise bike and the drinks and chocolate machines instead.

Dropped off the shopping for my elderly friend, made myself a cup of tea and kept him company a while. He seems a little better today.


The walls of the house are paper thin. I hear the neighbour making a fuss of her dog. Naoise is being difficult. He is just getting out of the shower. Its far to late. Far too late. Naoise starts asking for screen time. I am sick of him being like Mike TV. He needs extracting from the screen.

Naoise and P are arguing with each other. Its horrid to hear. All calm again. I always have to sneak some writing time in, its hard when the family are up. I will be required to read the Moomins soon. We need to get through the November book before its December.


Corner

11.51am (in the studio at my desk)

I am trying to write. The studio is busy with students so trying to drown out the noise of polite talk with some music. Benjamin Clementine again. I will tire of his music if I end up over playing it, but with most things in my life I get a fascination with something then move onto the next. I will get sick of it. I love it so much.

Not a good morning. I feel so insecure about everything, it causes me great anxiety. The children are the greatest thing that I have in my life but its all about holding on and letting go. They will grow up and leave home. They will grow up and leave home and the challenges for them to do well in the world will become greater. I do not want them to suffer. I want them to be independent and resilient and confident and happy.

Syd told me to fuck off when I asked that he practice the work that his guitar teacher set. I am hitting my head against a brick wall with him. I want him to do well, I want to be encouraging and supportive but it hurts when you are told to fuck off by your own son. I am sure it is very common for teenagers to tell their parents where to stick it, but its still a shock.

I will try a new strategy. Ask him what help he needs. He wants to teach himself guitar. He tells me that lots of musicians in bands that are successful never had guitar lessons. I try to explain that some lessons are good as well then he would be able to acquire the skills that he needs to work as a session musician if he needs too. I am trying to make life easier for him. He resents my help. He says he has no time to practice. He is in year ten so maybe the school work is starting to get on top of him. Who knows. Who knows what is really going on. Who knows what is for the best. Maybe he has the answers. It is him that needs to take responsibility. I cannot always be there to polish his shoes and pack his sandwiches.

I need to read that book How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk. I need to suggest to P that he reads the book too. I need a tool kit of strategies to implement. I need parenting tools. I need to invest time and love and energy in my parenting. I can never keep up with them. There is always a something to have to try and sort. All this emotional work. It takes time. Time and patience and I don’t always feel patient. I want to scream. I want to scream back FUCK YOU too. But I try and stop and pause and breath and think. I am not shouting at him, I am shouting at the mess I have got myself into. The corner.

We keep making the mistake of shedding our anxieties upon him. Why shatter the dream. We need to encourage him. We need to shower him with love and support. I hope, hope, hope, hope, hope, that he gets to do what he wants in life, but I worry and worry and worry.

We manage to resolve the situation before S heads off for school. There are more angry outbursts and tears. I can see now that both myself and P were insensitive. It is hard to stay calm and level headed when a teen pushes the boundaries. I find it hard to swallow especially when money is involved. Especially when money is too tight to mention.

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I am sad that I cannot be at the launch of the Project Procreate event in London. I was invited to speak on the panel. I would have loved to have been able too. Its so exciting to see another initiative supporting the practice of artists/parents rising to the fore, but it makes me sad that I am unable to participate, or support others practice. It is mainly down to lack of finances.

I am sick of feeling outside of the adult world and outside of  the art world. I must remember that there are so many people like myself. I am lucky to have a studio. I am fortunate to have the time to think, reflect, make, to be able to articulate my feelings. To think how an emotions can feed arts practice. I am lucky to be sitting here writing this, I just get frustrated that I cannot progress, develop, I guess the crux of the situation is that unless an opportunity is paid it does make things difficult, especially if there is a geographical distance to cover.

I need to think of creative solutions around my problems. I need to research Skype. Skype conferencing. Through Skype its possible to be present anywhere in the world. I need to think about how to bring the world to me and my art and how to get my art and me out into the world. To have communication with anyone, anywhere. To hang my work on galleries elsewhere. OUTSIDE. Artists who are parents who have little money who have little time who have little energy find it hard to be PHYSICALLY PRESENT. Artists who are parents tend to live a localised existence. I draw a circle between me and the studio and my home and the school. My circle used to be far wider. My circle used to include two cities and my home and my studio and the school. Local really is ok, but I need to be able to get out. Get out of the Calder Valley. The hills are suffocating me and my practice and my sense of self. Stumble trip, Stumble trip. 

What is a local artist?

What is a national artist?

What is an international artist?

Is there a hierarchy between the three? I think so. Local is seen as small. Small minded? Local is seen as nice and landscape and still life. Local is seen as what can be sold in local galleries. I do not fit local. I do not fit commercial. I do not fit local audience. I fit edgy and challenging and asking questions. I am contemporary.

Local is seen as having less importance than international. The wider the wings are spread the more the art is validated. Art exists between cultures and societies. Art is a universal language. Art needs to be seen to exist.

I think that it is sad that local is seen as less than international. Perhaps parents who are artists are only able to be local, so what if local is landscape, and nice, what do you do then? What if you are not able to afford the fee for the competition or the money to print out work. Do you give up or find a way around the problem. Make work that is digital that does not involve buying materials. Work with found materials.

I have been working drawing on pieces of household paint colour sample paper. Its a great free resource. I look at the small drawings and wish that they were big bold oil paintings on canvas. Perhaps I need to tack some canvas to the wall of the studio and just start. Start painting. I have paint, canvas but no stretchers. You can stretch after painting . I must find a way around all these boundaries and obstacles. I can still make. I can. I will.

I draw, I make, I paint, I photograph, I write, I am. 


My elderly friend rang. He is unwell. There is another list of shopping to get. Care work has to take priority. Care for those we love. I now am trying to work out how I can get to go for a wellbeing walk and get to the supermarket before collecting Naoise from school. This one simple task has thrown my day out. I can’t be dragging N around the supermarket. I hate taking small children to the shops. Children hate shops too, especially when parents have to say no no no no no no no.


N went to school ok. We were super late. Even the lolly pop man had gone home. Its ok though, the benefits of being unemployed are that if we are late it does not really matter too much. I was pleased that I did not get stressed with N when he was slow, slow, slow. I had had one conflict this morning and I really did not need any more. There are only so many battles a mother can fight with her sons. I wish this parenting was less of a battle and more of a slow mindful stroll to school.

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Minging

10.05am ( sat at my desk in the studio)

Its minging weather again. It rains and rains and rains. I prefer the frost and ice to the rain. I listened to Benjamin Clementine to lift my spirits. I have drunk far too much coffee. I woke at five managed to stay resting in bed till six. I am sick of waking early.

Far colder at night now, Naoise makes for a lovely hot water bottle. When I worry I draw his body closer and put my arm around him.

Last night I sat on the sofa with both boys. I called Syd down to have some family time. I think its normal for a teenage child to spend time alone in his room, but there has been too much alone recently. I missed him, I am trying to strike a balance between the demands of a six year old and a fourteen year old. The six year old demands a lot.

We watched David Attenborough’s Hunted documentary. We marvelled at blue whales and flying fish and a super pod of spinner dolphins.

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Naoise has sore lips, he applies some vaseline. I can see the red. His skin burnt by the cold. He will not put on his red school jumper or even a vest. I wish he would dress properly. He is very stubborn. I don’t know what to do. He already has a chesty cough. I can’t convince him that wrapping up warm is important. I ack the jumper in his book bag.

We got to school on time this morning. Its easiest when we both scooter. The leaves are slippy. We take extra care, but still speed along the pavement. We narrowly miss a car completely soaking us as it turns the corner of the road.

The lolly pop man comments on the size of my scooter. We are early. We are waiting. Naoise wonders why everyone waits in a que near the door. I tell him that its because the children are keen to get into school. I reassure him that its ok that we can take it slow. There is no rush. I kiss him goodbye. He walks lost in his coat and hood up with fluffy fake fur around the rim.

He wants to buy a school photograph. I will find the money from somewhere. I hate this time of year. Santa is meant to come, but we can barely pay our house bills. Santa will come from somewhere. We will magic him up. Will will magic money up. We always just manage to get by. I am not sure there is much magic left.

I keep thinking again and again of the care work that always seems available. I am resistant to taking on care work, I struggle to care for my own family let alone others too. I am all out of ideas. I will agree to the voluntary work but I don’t know where this will lead either.


The lollypop man questions why I am taking photographs of the playground floor. I say that I am recording thoughts about being a mother about my time with and without my children. About tarmac and skin. I tell him that I have been writing all year, that my project even mentions him. He talks to me about watching the children grow, seeing them move from primary to secondary school. The lolly pop man is much more than a man that crosses children safely from one side of the road to another. He is a watcher of life. He jolly us on. He always smiles and has something to say. He is a sort of yoda. All knowledgeable.


I spoke with the lovely woman from Sure Start. How can I resist some training. Its a reason to meet others. Its a reason to meet others from different backgrounds. There isn’t much diversity in Todmorden. There is always something to be learnt from others. If nothing else I am the taxi service to help two other mums. I am the one who can help. The befriending starts from day one. It will be a challenge to get to halifax by 9.30am. I can’t afford childcare there is nothing in the pot for an opportunity. There is only money for childcare if there is paid work. So the circle of childcare continues.


Skin. Pale. Translucent. White almost blue.

Tarmac. Hard. Black. Heavy.

Skin breathing. Covering. Skin growing.

Tarmac dependable, strong, stopping nature growing from the soil.

Skin ageing, marks, sores, cracks, pores.

Tarmac holding puddles of water, ice, snow.

Skin changing with the sun, freckles forming,

Tarmac reflecting back light and holding heat in,

Skin burning red,

Tarmac with lines drawn with hot chalk, straight, curvy, patterns, numbers,

Skin sweating, salt, water,

Tarmac providing a surface to play on,

Skin continually renewing,

Tarmac hard to fall on, causing bruises and cuts and breaks to bones,

Skin holding all of the human in,

Tarmac holding all of nature out,

Skin protecting,

Tarmac oily, sticky, stoney, clinging to soil,

Skin wrinkling,

Tarmac even,

Skin moles, scars, lines, a print of the self,

Tarmac rolled out and pressed firmly down,


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