Shed Stories #5 ‘Our House’

So St David’s day, March hares and the 1st of March are upon us. Usually February has a day or two at least where we can see and feel the promise of warmth and spring but this year it has continued January’s theme of wet and grey! But, nonetheless, the primroses are lifting our hearts with their gentle kindness in the banks and the daffodils are already trumpeting golden tunes to the skies. However, the real flowering champion of this past week or so has to be the blackthorn, which is heavily laden with its frothing foam of blossom. Even in the dullest days it brightens the hedges but on the rare moments when the evening sun breaks through the gloom the blossom lights up like a beacon of unutterable beauty and hope.

Of course we have had Valentine’s Day slap bang in the middle of the month, which may be blessing or curse but for us it is a celebration of the day in 1997 when we became homeowners. This year I thought it would be interesting to share with you some photos of the house that we bought then and how it is now.

We had despaired of finding anything in the Herefordshire countryside that we could afford to buy on our extremely meager income but after we missed a tiny little cottage at auction which went way over our budget of £45,000 we trawled through the weekly house buyers bible of the Hereford Times. To our excitement we saw a semi detached brick cottage for sale, (long time past farm labourers’ cottage) and it was almost within budget. Mike went to see it on his own (I was working at a gallery in Ledbury) and having seen it he went to the nearest phone box and phoned the estate agents and offered them the asking price of £49,000. He then came to the gallery where my lovely boss and now long time friend, Clare, allowed me to go and see this house we had ‘bought’!

Four months later (and after the kitchen roof had fallen in) we finally had the keys to what would become our home for many, many years. Our children would be born in the living room and we would both run our creative lives from the garden (and nearby woods) and eventually by some miracle we would pay off the mortgage through this work of ours. So many people along the way helped us create this funny home and idyllic garden and workspaces, and so many people have enjoyed it with us. I admit I have sometimes moaned about the mouldy walls (still there) and the lack of space in the house to raise two children and run two businesses from but I am also eternally grateful for this squeezing togetherness of our lives and for having such a home.

Our house, before and after:

I can hardly write this without being moved to tears at the privilege of living and having lived in a lovely corner of the world, in a safe environment, doing things we love to do. It has not always been easy. It has been hard work and as any artist or craftsperson will know it is not always the dreamy existence it might seem from the outside. But somehow by doggedness and a combination of one step at a time and crazy outbursts of energy we are still here and have somehow created something special. So that is our Valentine’s celebration each year and is, in many ways, one of the most significant dates in our family calendar.

With regards to work this past month I have been happily working away on the illuminations for ‘Wild Folk’ and also trying to create a panel to enter in for the biannual ‘International Festival of Glass’ exhibition which takes place in August in Stourbridge in the West Midlands, UK .

Most excitingly, however, at the very beginning of February I whizzed down to St David’s Pembrokeshire to take a walk on St David’s Head with Jackie Morris (friend, colleague, co-collaborator and inspiration) to record a radio programme with Clare Balding and to talk about our friendship and joint project, ‘Wild Folk’.

Many BBC Radio 4 listeners will be familiar with the programme, ‘Ramblings’ where Clare takes a walk in the British countryside and talks to someone as they walk. Our programme will be broadcast on Thursday 14th March and presumably will be available on BBC Sounds for a long time to come after that!
Check out Ramblings on instagram.