writing and living

it has been months and months since I wrote anything on here…..

As a young teenager I used to write daily in journals, I think that genuinely helped me stay sane through some truly tough times….

Writing a blog for me was a way to remind myself of all the good things in life and that I can create good things myself…. writing also seemed to give me a third perspective and help me to keep in touch with myself… I suppose it doesn’t make much difference if it’s writing just a journal for myself or putting blog posts out there, but blogging can keep me writing, even when I don’t feel like it (whatever it might be about) and I made connections through writing a blog that would have never happened otherwise.

Once I’d got out of the habit of writing I just never seemed to make time to do it, unless I HAD TO get something out of my head to make sense of it… but I guess those are things that even I don’t want to read back let alone anybody else!

But I’ve realised that when I don’t write, there are parts of me that are filed away and remain silent and I become less of me, if that makes sense…. and then I feel unhappy.

So I signed up for a writing course…. not a ‘how to write’ course, but more something to help explore yourself, daily exercises to inspire and a community to bolster and share the journey.

I find it hard to make time for doing the exercises, but I try to remember that this is time invested in me…. after a tough 18 months of various stresses, challenges and losses, I decided that my theme for this year is “nurture”…. it feels like I truly need it! So taking time to write daily is one step to towards that.

I’m only on day 8 of 30 of the course and already I’m surprising myself (I might share some on here sometime maybe…) and I’ve been inspired to try and write on here again… so we’ll see how that goes….

Maybe it’s not just writing, but any form of creativity that helps to link our everyday, busy busy selves who are preoccupied with bills and washing and returning emails, with our internal selves, who need some time and attention (and a bit of nurture) too.


Five simple ways to show yourself some love….


With the day to day, life events, the energy we put into working and getting things done, it can be easy to forget to remind ourselves that we matter and that we’re doing ok… it’s nice to be appreciated by others and lovely when other people show us their love… but I for one often forget to show myself some love and appreciation…

So I thought I’d share a few simple things that I do to show myself some love… and actually by default start to love life and appreciate the world again too.


Go to the woods…

Or a hilltop, or the sea, by a river, or a wide open space… whatever works best for you and wherever you can get to; and drink it in… close your eyes and listen to the waves or the birds singing, gaze into the horizon or the wide, blue sky, surround yourself with green and fill your lungs with the smells of the flowers or the salty air…

Remind yourself that you are a beautiful part of a beautiful world…


Make something…

Anything! Bake a cake, write a poem, sew a simple cushion, take a photograph, make a collage… it doesn’t matter what it is or what turns out like… just do it, for you… And then stand back and say “I made that! I can do stuff!”

Good you aren’t you?!


Get your heart pounding…

Go for a walk, or a run, or a cycle, or dance… whatever you can do that gets your heart racing. Feel the gravel under your feet and the strength of your muscles as they support you… feel your lungs fill up and the sweat drip down your back… it doesn’t matter how fast you are or how far you can go, you’re in your body and enjoying what it can do and how good it can make you feel…

Your body is an amazing thing.


VIP treatment…

Imagine that someone really important, someone who you care about is coming round for the evening… What would you do? Have a clean and tidy up? Cook something special? Crack out the best china? Buy some fresh flowers? Light scented candles? Do it for you! Just you… not your partner or the kids or anyone else, just you…

 You’re really important, show yourself you matter.


Tuck yourself in…

Put fresh sheets on the bed, have a soak in the bath with your favourite tunes, slather yourself in lovely smelling lotion, put on your favourite pjs and get snuggled up in bed with a warm drink, a good book, or movie or a relaxation session or football match… whatever’s your thing.

Feel nurtured and safe.

Or if you really want to spoil yourself… book a day just for you and do them all :)

Breaking the mold….

When I started writing a blog I made a decision not to write about mental health… at least not directly. Mental health is a huge part of my life… as  teen I cared for a parent with mental health issues, I’ve studied it, I work in mental health, I’ve campaigned about it and I’ve struggled with my own mental health on and off for years.

My plan with this blog was to focus on the positive and have something in my life that didn’t have anything to do with mental health issues…

Starting a blog was an amazing thing for me and changed the way I looked at things, how I connect with the world and myself and what I do; it made me happier and sort of more present… but should I always write about happy and positive things? That’s not really a true picture and puts pressure on to muster up positivity if I want to keep writing on here…

Basically I just didn’t want to moan on here or get into debating the ins and outs of mental health issues… but in reality everything is related to our mental health and vice versa; and I suppose the subtext of everything I have written about before is about keeping happy and enjoying life, making things, learning new things, appreciating things and sharing.

I had thought for quite a while that I’d nailed this business of being well, but depression is pretty sneaky and before I know it, it has crept up on me again and all the familiar feelings are back. Depression is rubbish… it’s like living in a thick fog; it makes everything hard work, all I want to do is sleep and myself hide away until things make more sense to me.

Writing stuff helps me, helps things make more sense…..  and maybe not hiding away the difficult stuff will also help… so I thought I’d break the mold and share this too, instead of hiding it away….. but I won’t moan on here I promise!

What’s your clothmonkey?

In the 1950’s a scientist called Harlow did a series of experiments with orphaned baby monkeys. His aim was to find out about the drives and needs of the infant monkey as he thought these findings could perhaps also be understood for human infants.


He discovered that when given the choice between two doll monkey mothers, one made of wire that provided food and one made of cloth that didn’t, the baby monkey would spend 22 hrs a day a with the clothmonkey and when scared or in need of comfort the baby monkeys found security in the softness and warmth of the clothmonkey.

You can see more about this interesting, bonkers and at times really quite upsetting work here.

I feel that part of every single one of us is still inside a little baby and that our adult selves can find or create what we need to comfort us and help us feel safe and happy….  

I started writing a blog after losing my much loved Daddy b…. I was sad and felt very vulnerable…. I could never have been prepared for the feelings that being without parents leaves, even as a big, grown up.

So I had decided to try to focus on what I have, what good things I can draw on and create and try to remember what brings me comfort.

That’s why the blog was called ‘Clothmonkey’…..

Recently I’ve not been so good at making time for these things…. But I did a sort of a ‘speed blog’ with the #100happydays project, taking a picture everyday of something that made me happy.

You can find my pics on my Instagram, if you like cats and flowers! :)


On some days it was genuinely really hard to think of what to snap! But in general it made me feel pretty grateful for everyday lovely things and it was interesting to see what my daily clothmonkeys are…. Flowers, plants and nature seemed to feature quite a lot.

So what are your clothmonkeys? I feel that with daily stresses and life events I often forget and need to make regular time to remember.

Pattern and process; making and meditation.

My very earliest memory is fleeting and hazy like a dream…. I was stood by a front door and my big brother was turning to walk away down the hall…. but the most vivid part of the memory is as clear as day, the pattern on his little sleeveless jumper…. it was navy blue with pinkish purple vertical rectangles that kind of over lapped and blended in together (a bit like the upholstery on old-school bus seats)…. I must have been two or three and thirty odd years on I can picture it like it was here in front of me.

Over the years I can remember lots of patterns that have stuck firmly in my mind…. clothes I had as a child, my turquoise, insanely intricate childhood bedroom carpet, my therapist’s carpet,…. in fact a heck of a lot of carpets! and remembering these patterns takes me briefly into emotions that I experienced at the time…. and it seems the more complex or difficult the emotions, the more vivid and detailed the memory of the pattern.

I’ve often wondered if that’s what draws people to retro and vintage objects… that they evoke emotions experienced in times past…. sometimes comforting, sometimes painful, but all part of our personal process.


Buddhist mandalas are used as a way of meditating and focusing the mind…. either in creating them or looking at them…. and I wonder if we use other patterns in the same way without ever realising it….. the lines and colours, the shapes and repetition give our senses something to focus on and some grounding that allows our emotions to wander contained.

Who’d have thought that a bit of Hornsea pottery on your kitchen table would help you manage your feelings whilst being told off for not eating your greens!? But I think it probably did…..

Recently I bought a job lot of old Swedish tapestries…. I know the old lady that I bought them from had a huge collection, but I don’t know if she made them all herself or for how long she had them….. her daughter was selling them for her as she was moving into a care home…. and when I look at them I wonder what the daughter’s relationship to them was…. were they like familiar old friends that had been there as she had grown up…..

and when I think about all the work that went into each one (I bought five,,, but there were many more) I wonder what processes each tapestry saw through with their maker…. what feelings were given a space a wander while each stitch came together and what comfort was drawn from the repetition of the stitch, of the pattern and in the final sigh when the piece was finished.

I hope that I can give these tapestries the home they deserve and I wonder what processes they will see me through when my eyes rest on them hanging there.


happy new things

I don’t really celebrate New Year… not because I’m miserable… although there have been years when New Year’s Eve has been very miserable… but I came to a realisation that things can be new whenever you like.
New Year for me has just came to mean a new diary for work and a new calendar on the kitchen wall with a bigger number on them…. the rest is open to personal interpretation.
The result of this has been no great expectations, no regret and no more miserable New Year’s Eves… and a greater appreciation that every single moment is new, right now is new and that’s pretty exciting I think.

Then this year I came across this illustrated video and it got me thinking….
it’s been a while since I made any resolutions or set myself any goals… but this inspired me to make one.
One very general (therefore open to interpretation!) resolution… to take good care of myself….
and this is my first step towards that resolution….

a breakfast smoothie every day full of good things:
1 banana (good for mood)
Quarter cup of oat bran (lowers cholesterol
1 cup almond milk (good fats, omega 3)
1tbsp honey
1tsp ground cinnamon (honey and cinnamon together are believed to be good in easing arthritis, preventing cancer and all sorts of other good things)

And just having a decent, quick breakfast and a little morning routine has to be good right?

Despite my dislike of bananas and a general aversion to breakfast, this seems pretty good so far and I’m enjoying it…. I might try and think of a few variations to keep me interested….

Onwards and upwards! And a Happy New Year to you?

Sunday. sunday

as a child I always thought that Sundays were kind of boring…… looking back I now see them as a time when we could be who we really were as a family….. a day without the pressures of the week, a day where you get to do whatever it is that you really do…

childhood Sundays were chapel in the morning with mum, roast dinner cooked by mum and dad together and in the afternoon the dreaded piano lessons (or a good hour of crying and sulking as they often turned out in my case :) I never have quite mastered the frustration that comes with learning something tricky and new!) or pottering in the garden or an afternoon out at a little old school railway in the Dales……

The sound of The Antiques Roadshow theme tune always makes me feel a nostalgic safeness of those family Sundays…. but slightly tinged with anxiety as that meant you really HAD to get that homework finally done if you were ever going to do it at all!

Today that hasn’t changed, I’m always running about last thing on a Sunday trying to get washing done, work bag packed and that hoovering that I’ve put off for the whole weekend.

Sundays are a lovely window in the week to slow down and savour what is really important, to stop and smell the roses and enjoy who you are.

Happy Sunday…. enjoy!



Thinking more about the future of my little kitchen, I came across these beauties

and was reminded of my old friend D who has been making furniture and things out of reclaimed wood and fixtures for years…

…. gorgeous!

He has recently started taking commissions and has even made a beautiful little timber birthday card


I just love it!

Known as Fogcutter, you can find out more about him on his website
Maybe I can incorporate some of this beautiful reclaimed style into my little kitchen…


or imagine a whole kitchen…. Ooooh!

Kitchen drama

Last weekend I discovered a leak and the damage caused in my little kitchen…
soaked plasterboard, tiles falling off, cabinets and work top going mouldy…. the whole thing smells nasty now… not good at all….. waaaahhh! :(
But flipping the situation into something positive, this means that I have to, finally, do something about the little kitchen…. it’s ok, it does it’s job, but I’ve never really liked it…..
Something like this however!

Or this

would be lovely :)
Back in the real world, I’m trying to think of what to do with the little space…

I’m thinking soft green and cream and wood…

and characterful, not shiny, new, off-the-peg kitchens…..
I have got one of these old farmhouse tables….

It came from the farm cottage where Daddy B grew up, it was the old school version of a work top… a kitchen side table used for working on… I’ve been using it as a desk for years after stripping it.
I could use it as a replacement for the damaged unit… hmmm….
and I’m loving these shelves….

a nice place to display lots of lovely bits and pieces, without looking too ‘done up.’
What do you prefer? Shiny and sleek or a bit cobbled together?