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Shetland Winter walk

On the doorstep, the air of the first pre-dawn breaking light is heavy with the scent of peat smoke.  It has faintly snowed as if salt has been laid down. Eleven geese fly in a staggered distorted V line, calling as they fly overhead in the dark blue sky.  The fine white snow covers the earth.  I’m heading towards the beach, it is 7:30am and the sky is a deep mid blue, the sun has not risen but the horizon is a faint burning pink line.  It is neither dark nor light.  Everywhere is silent apart from the trickle of the brook beside me babbling, occasional geese flying above and the ducks at the top house waking.  Few houses have a light on. It is Winter hibernation time – even Alfie went back to bed after he’d eaten at 6.

A large boat sits in the bay. It’s quite unusual to be here.   I’ve looked at it through my tiny eye glass. It is piled with containers and its lights are on day and night. I have since found out that it has stopped for repairs on route from Estonia to Iceland. It’s a different world.

When I breath in sharply, icy air surrounds my nostrils – there is no scent in the air – yet. 

Sheep rise stiffly and move away from my approach.  I try to not disturb them from their icy beds.

Towards the beach, my footprints leave not trace in the frozen snow.

I think, as I walk, that it is as if I have never lived in any other place, yet I have only been here about 20 weeks.   The sand is frozen in the shapes of yesterday’s footprints.  I came for seaweed but it lies frozen in the sand so I leave it. The beach lies below the Winter sunrise horizon line – it is entirely in shade and entirely frozen.  To my right, the cemetery is outlined in the early morning light.  I can see where Susan lies next to her parents above a thousand years of history. The grave stones stand as a crowd of people against the light.  

 At the edge of the cliff, I stare at the large boat in the bay. I can hear its distant engines chugging. The natural sea laps below me.   As I turn, I catch a glimpse of my tiny house on the hillside facing South East.  It has stood there for 200 years.  The white houses are all white, they do not glow pink as a reflection from the sunrise.  I feel calm, at one, at peace, yet there is a hint of uncertainty edging my fragile calmness – similar in shape to the pink edged clouds in front of me.  The light lightens.  It feels surreal to be standing on a bank above a crescent beach, listening to the ebb and flow of the winter tide. 

Rabbit holes pit the ground around the cemetery walls.  The rabbits know what lies below that ancient mound.  In this light, I see that all the beach is faintly covered in salty snow.

Sea, tide, ebb, flow, beach, wet sand, footprints, shells, tide mark, tiny shells, frozen seaweed, snow covered sands, frozen footprints.

The clouds are edged in frills of pink facing the rising of the sun god.

On my return, the sunrise has crept into the porch, indicating a return of the sun to a  more easterly position.  When I open the door, I see the sunlight flooding across the bare chimney wall in a shard of light.  The crystals throwing rainbows onto the ceiling, the shadow of the bar in the window frame flanks the wall in a perfect shape.   

I actually gasp at the magnificent light in my simple home, a home of few things, and know for sure that I would not wish to be in any other place in the world at this moment. The house provides me with safety in my unsure world.

Online knitting workshops

Colour Blending workshops.

For some time now, I have been thinking of doing online Colour Blending Workshops with Fair Isle knitting.   Colour seems to be my thing in knitting.   I’ll never be as good a knitter as the Shetland ladies but I do have a sense of freedom with colour ideas and I think that is because I come from down south and have never been taught traditional ways.  I see in colour from the place I live, the sky, the sea, the reflection in the windows, the beaches, the soil. I incorporate these colours into my designs which are always inspired by Shetland.

I was approached by one of my lovely Patreon supporters to see if I would be able to zoom a meeting with her and her friends on colour blending.   One of the good things that has come out of COVID is that we are all now becoming more familiar with online meetings.  I often video meet with friends from Sheffield and Fair Isle on WhatsApp or FB messenger. My son also messages, my daughter is more in hiding from me – sometimes I can corner her.  The connection gives real time conversations and a chance to catch up – especially when you live alone – you feel less alone.  Verity and I make tea at the same time – Mati and I sometimes knit, my son usually looks online whilst talking with me. I love this – a natural conversation whilst sometimes doing other things.   I’m mostly eating.

I had been thinking of Zoom workshops but knew I had to subscribe to carry out workshops of over 40 minutes – today, I subscribed. It feels a big leap.  It feels good.  I feel ready.

On Saturday 23rd Jan, I will be carrying out a workshop with the lovely ladies from Canada and on Sunday 24th, I’ll be zooming with UK ladies – so now there will be no stopping me. 

Here are some of the workshops that I am thinking of

  • Swatch Book Saturday
  • Shetland Saturday catch up – show me what you got.
  • Colour blending
  • Yoke sampling  (that’s not an egg yolk)  it’s for cardis.
  • Thumb knitting.

If you would like a 1:1 workshop – I’m set up.  If you would like to have a specific workshop with your knitting group or guild – let me know, I’m ready.

If you are an individual and would like to join one of my workshops with other lovely participants – then you’re welcome. Just contact me through this site or email me at the email at the end of this post 😊

The workshops will be interactive BYOY –(Bring your own yarn), informative, skills based and time for fun and questions.  In the workshops, we won’t be ‘knitting’ but looking at colour and how to blend.  I used to teach English in China and here in the UK, I have devised my first workshop session for Colour Blending – here is the core of it –

This is a design workshop where you will learn the skills and gain experience to enable you to blend colours and design your own samples of Shetland traditional tree and star yoke patterns. It’s a fun creative session to experiment with colour in Fair Isle knitting to take forward to create your own swatches for future projects.  You’ll be able to throw yourselves into the many colours of yarn on offer to us and you will look at your stash of yarn with a different eye.   We will look at a traditional Shetland tree and star pattern, used on Shetland cardigans and jumpers, and at examples of Fair Isle knitting including Yokes, flat knitting and knitting in the round.  I will show you real examples of Shetland and Fair Isle knitting and design pattern books and explain how I blend colours.

 This workshop will aim to work towards you making a hat using your colour ideas.   I will show you how to work on your own idea and choose a tree and star pattern and colours for colour blending so that you can make your own colour combinations that work really work well for you.

At this online workshop, you will learn: –

  • How to see colour / tone / contrast
  • How to blend colours in your knitting to create a harmonious pattern.
  • How to get excited about colour and not frightened
  • How I take inspiration from my Shetland surroundings to design using colour as a base starting point.
  • If you love colour and textiles, you will enjoy the opportunity for experimentation
  •  

I am looking to carryout February Online Colour Blending workshops on

6th, 7th, 13th or 14th Feb – 10am – 12noon for UK participants or  3pm Shetland time 10am Canadian time and anywhere in between.  If you have a group, we can figure out the time.

If you are interested, please contact me using the contact form or email me on traceydoxey@hotmail.com

My knitting designs are here.

Ravelry: Designs by Tracey Doxey

take a look – you’ll see lots of easy colour blending projects. Sea Urchin hat is almost one year old and a beautiful traditional Yoke pattern which is perfect for colour blending.

Blue Winter

10.01.2021 08:21am

Blue light

This weekend has been all about a northern Winter, blue light, snowfall, walking to the top of the hill, and scraping the ceiling.

Two of us have had an attempt at sanding paint off the ceiling now.  I bought a fairly expensive belt sander and duly plugged it in and hit the ceiling with it. Holding 3kg up above your head whilst wearing goggles and a face mask, standing on a chair, is testing to say the least.  It didn’t work.  So I started scraping the paint with a ‘magic scraper’ but it wasn’t magic at all, then Nitromorsing, then I paid a man to have a go at sanding and in one hour the entire room was filled with paint flakes and dust but there was nothing in the dust bag and some areas were sanded but more paint was still left on the ceiling and it was all looking very intact with 50 years of rippled paint beaming down at me. He said it couldn’t be done and to go over it with another ceiling. I thought about it.   I poked and wiped a little area clean on the glass in the window so that I could see out, heart slightly sinking at the magnitude of it all – then shut the door for two days. 

Saturday, I returned to the ceiling with fresh vigour, armed with new paint stripper and optimistic hope.  Somehow, I had forgotten the midweek sinking feeling.  Two hours later, there is little effect on the paint from the paint stripper and scraping so I pick up the sander again.  Whilst sanding above my head, I can feel my stomach muscles tightening to hold the weight of it all and to balance – maybe this hideous act of restoration can be exercise too.   Saturday tea time, I close the bedroom door and shower off the dust.

Sunday, I wake to more fresh snow and decide to ignore the bedroom ceiling until I have walked to the top of the hill which overlooks both Levenwick on the East and St Ninian’s Isle on the West side of Shetland.  On passing Jimmy’s, I catch him feeding the birds and mention that I’m walking to the top of the hill and the abandoned mast – just in case I never return and I’m either in a blizzard or lost or slipped or dead – I’m on the hill, right?  I’ll call in on the way home to let him know I survived.  Living alone risk assessment –  it’s a good idea to tell someone where you are going when it’s remote and there’s bad weather.  In my bag I packed a little back up 1. a newly recharged domed torch that sticks to the fridge and can flash.  I figure this is a good idea in cases I need to flag down a helicopter.  2. a foil blanket in case I get caught out and need to hide under something. 3. a flask of tea.   No money and no chocolate.  

I’ve not left the village before the first blizzard of sharp harsh hailstones, bigger than pepper corns, lashes across the land from the West.   I take shelter against a wall in an old, roofless shearing shed.

Even I think it’s a stupid idea and I know Jimmy will be looking out of his window wondering where I am.  After ten minutes, there’s a seasonal change from harsh winter blizzard with hail to calmness and a speck of blue sky so I set off again.  The blue light is reflected on the new snowfall, which reflects back a whiteness.  Pink edged, dark grey filled clouds begin to surround me, there is a faint sound of wind but it is positively calm compared to 5 minutes ago. Out to sea, a snow storm rages.  I can see it pouring, sieve like in vertical strands connecting cloud to sea.  I’ve begun to watch the shape and colour of the cloud formation indicating the weather in that particular spot.

Only two sets of foot prints have been before me – one of human and the other of a large dog. The pink frills edging the clouds become peach then fiery gold – the sun, suspended in the moment, is hiding somewhere behind the snow clouds colouring the cloud edges burning them into a golden light. Whilst writing, the paper page turns pink from the reflection of the clouds many, many miles away.

I am the only living human on this great hill –  I know this for sure because there are no other footprints. Sheep follow alongside. Abandoned snow topped peat banks to my right marking what would have once been a busy place. To the north, the sky is one sheet of orange/ grey, as if fire smoke and to the South, dark rolling fog coming towards me.  It is magical to see the earth’s weather system for miles in both directions – doing different things. The southern weather becomes quite frightening to watch – as if a harsh storm is rolling uncontrollably covering everything in its path.  On the hill, I’m hoping for a view of St. Ninian’s Isle but the likelihood is becoming slim.  I now begin to look for possible shelter – not even a building but a wall.

The ice on the road is frozen like the waves of a sea. Frozen ripples with small snow drifts at either side. The light is blue – not the sky, but the light itself. The ice is too slippery so I walk in the snow alongside.

Slowly, slowly, not entirely walking but meandering, Bowie on a loop in my head, I reach my goal of the abandoned telegraph masts at the top of the hill with 360 degree view at exactly the same time new hail as sharp as nail points stab my face.  The wind howls and whistles around the masts. Briefly,  I look over the edge of the cliff to St, Ninian’s way down below – a perfect natural tombolo beach visible from above.

I turn, to face away from the instant hail storm then start the return journey.  It’s easier going back downhill. 

Bleak blue light

Coldness on my back from the chasing wind.   The sea, way below, ahead of me is now a deep Navy Blue.  The storm sky has coloured it.  At ground level, snow falls gently, sheltered by the hill and for now, the wind has subsided. 

Back to the sander and dust storm.

Shetland Mid- winter

23 December 20
02.01.21
03.01.21
05.01.21
08.01.21

Each day, my first point of contact with the world is through the sitting room window which frames the sea and the sky.  Some days, the window is full of a sea’s horizon, as if drawn using a spirit level.   Outside, the sky has always drawn my thoughts and gaze, but here, the day is written in clouds so visible in a long 180 degree joined up formation of whisps that colour my day.

On the bench, I look at the horizon thinking I am back in the Himalaya viewing the mountains – which at the time, I thought were clouds.  Here, each cloud edged in pink frills around its south side looks so much like a snow topped mountain range that I could do no other than think of being back in Nepal.

I have moved to a remote place with nature as my ever-reliable friend.  It is the sky that raises my spirits and gaze. I am drawn to the horizon line day after day, where the sea touches the sky and where the clouds rest in a row. Just after 9am, after the sun has risen, we have been having two pure hours of crystalline light where this small point on the earth shines in magnificent, unquestionable glory. 

A string of chandelier crystals, on a wire line, edges the top of the window.  The prisms and nuggets throw rainbows up the northern walls of the sitting room.  Already, I know where the sun rises in this composition of interior thrown light.  The sun rise has slipped southwards.  It throws its light in to the porch and the covered Jasmin.  With the light, I figure out my possibilities. I am alone but not alone.  I have my thoughts and feelings and they run unencumbered – wild and free.

08.01.21
Himalaya? or Shetland Sea and sky

Shetland Winter Solstice

On 21st December 2020, I met a friend in a layby just south of Cunningsburgh, which is actually a remaining part of the old winding road that used to skirt the coast from Lerwick to Sumburgh. Now, there is one main road in Shetland – the A970 –  a perfectly smooth, well-kept, tarmacked road that rolls out for miles from the most southerly point of the island at Sumburgh to the most northerly point some 60 miles later at North Roe.   Some of the sections of the old road still remain – used as laybys or viewing points facing the sea. They jut out beside the main road and this is where we planned to meet at the southern end of Cunningsburgh to watch the sunrise for our 2020 Winter Solstice.  In Shetland, we have, at this time of year, just under 6 hours of daylight.

Two days in the week running up to 21st December had given us glorious sunrises from about 9:02am to 9:15am.  I knew this, because I had watched the golden round sun rise out of the sea in Levenwick.   On 21st, we were positioned ready, hoping for light.  The sun did rise at the same time as the previous day but it hid in the clouds. All we could do was drink hot tea, chat, eat cinnamon bagels and watch as the day just grew light.  It was a beautiful start to any day but it was, for me, completely special with good company and a good reason to meet. When we knew the sun was up, but that it wasn’t going to show, my friend went to her place of work in Lerwick and I went on to Cunningsburgh beach to look for sea glass.

At exactly 10:02am when the earth tilted 23.5 degrees away from our Sun and the Northern regions of Earth experience the shortest day of the year — our Shetland world became the Winter Solstice and at exactly 10am, the sun broke through the clouds to be the most magnificent, powerful star in the universe at that exact moment in time at exactly 60 degrees north. From the beach, I could not believe its brilliance. It was one of those moments when you just do a little squeal of excitement without knowing you were going to do so or that you could, in fact squeal.   Here is that moment of pure brilliance throwing light.

I have long wanted to use crochet in one of my small designs but didn’t know it on that beach until I went in to Lerwick, bought 3 colours from Jamieson’s that were of that Solstice moment. When I got home, I started to make little granny squares like the rising sun to join to make a pair of mitts.   I picked out the colours that most reminded me of the sunrise but the joy of this pattern is that it can be made using any 4 ply yarn that we tend to have in a box all jumbled together. About 5 years ago, I started making a blanket in tapestry yarns – it still grows and it is as heavy as a rug.

Taking inspiration from the landscape that now surrounds me has become one of my greatest joys whilst living here. Every day, I look for the sunrise and last night, 27th December, I stood out at midnight under a perfectly clear, calm night with an almost full moon surrounded by a huge perfect moon halo. The Cats came out with me, I messaged people about what I could see and tried to take photographs of the moon but they never come out from the phone camera.

Storms and sunrises and moons are a huge part of winter and I am settling.  

here are the Crochet and Knit Winter Solstice Mitts that I made – the Pattern is here https://www.ravelry.com/designers/tracey-doxey

https://www.ravelry.com/designers/tracey-doxey

Good Wishes for the New Year

It is just over a week now since I finished my latest knitted hat design which is entirely inspired by Susan Halcrow.  If you have been following this blog, you will know that Susan lived in this house from around 1880 to 1960.  The pattern that I designed is with her in mind and hopefully honours the woman that lived here.  When photographs were brought to me, I saw how strong this woman looked but also serene and calm.   I’ve put all of the photographs of her on my wall, by my desk so that if things get a bit tough, I can look at her and think, she lived here alone and didn’t have a car, internet, TV or phone or any of the comforts that I do and she lived to be 83 years old.  I’ve already shared the photograph of Susan in front of the magnificent peat stack, which she will have undoubtedly help cut and if not, definitely helped dry, carry and stack this magnificent pile. Since moving in to this house, one of my favourite things is to step out in the mornings and smell the heady scent of peat smoke still in the air from the previous night’s fires in the village.

I purposely chose peat as part of the range of colours of the new design because Peat featured heavily in people’s lives then, and can still do today.  I burn peats on my fire (because they were kindly left by the previous owner) and I hope to get a peat bank and cut peats next April to dry and save for the Winter fires.  The best peat smell is from my neighbour’s fire smoke – somehow, their fire smells really good.

Susan Halcrow and her Peat Stack

I called the pattern, ‘Good Wishes for the New Year’.  This is the lovely message that Susan wrote at the bottom of her Christmas card one year.   The photograph was taken in a professional photography studio in Lerwick and was the only one she ever sat for.  She looks calm, serene and beautiful. 

Anyway, here is the hat – If you’d like to take a look at the pattern, it is here

Ravelry: Good Wishes for the New Year pattern by Tracey Doxey

If you would like to read further research – I write my research findings both on Susan, the family and this house, in a monthly newsletter on Patreon and the link for that research is below.

https://www.patreon.com/TraceyDoxey

Thanks for following and, if I don’t get chance to write again before Christmas, Good Wishes for the New Year, we could all kinda do with it.   Much love.  Tracey

A home Susan lived in and now I do.

Ravelry: Designs by Tracey Doxey

Shetland light.

Sun Rising pure light.   

Saturday, Sitting in this old house, with the doors open for this fine Shetland sunrise, listening to the sparrows and starlings mutter and chatter over the breakfast seeds on the wall, the red light pours sharply in to the house as a shard of light, hitting the back wall at an angle in the corner – a different place from even two weeks ago where light hit the middle of the sofa.  I am learning a cycle of annual shifting light. 

Light, so commonly taken for granted, is a big thing here.  Its appearance is being squashed into a smaller opening by the darkness of Winter speeding in to borrow light’s hours. The night darkness is squeezing out the daylight day by day but sunrise is putting up a spectacular morning fight.

For a brief half hour, I listen, wait and watch to see the magnificence of a new day writing its signature across my walls, through my windows and refracted through the old lead chandelier prism crystals that now become brokers in this arrangement between sunrise and light. The crystals throw rainbows of light across the walls and ceiling. The moment is enchanting.  Why not be enchanted? – if only briefly. 

I have always noted shifting light, where it hits the walls of my homes, how it affects me, how it shifts around the room at different times of year, how I wait for it to appear at certain times of year and how it slips away. I have rejoiced in it for years.  But here, here it is more powerful because being so northerly, the light is extra precious during winter. I have yet to learn of its daily power during living here through a summer where the light fights back to take over the hours of darkness.

This morning, all my world stopped to be in this November moment. Grateful at being able to see the pure light and to feel its powerful healing properties.

Pure Moon light.

A moon beam paints its light in the whole shape of the window across my bedroom floor. Unbeknown to me, light is also painted across the floor in the room downstairs.

Outside, the moon world is brought together by a party of present and missing elemental guests.  The sharp light is here because wind and rain are missing.  The moon is the main guest of honour.  A moon so bright and full that it creates a pool of light in the basin of the wide and deep sea.  The fold of the earth, visible through the window,  as horizon line between earth and sea, marks a line between moon light and night darkness as if drawn by a spirit level.

After the storm, after the Orcas, the moon paints the sea silver and my bedroom floor with a faint but clearly defined light in the shape of a window resting on the old wooden floor boards.

How can I turn away from this natural visual world that is lit by a full moon guest?  To sleep is to miss it. I cannot sleep, or read and although knitting beckons me, the moon light pulls my gaze and I see nothing but tones of grey, silver, slate, graphite,  black, white.  A boat sails on the horizon trailing its own white light.

To be alive at this moment, here, now, with all the elements in perfect harmony is priceless. Except for the personal cost of noticing, taking time, being aware, being in the moment – given freely.

I write in the pure darkness, not seeing the pen or the words. The white page is faintly highlighted by the painting moon light. 

Suddenly, rain arrives at the party, accompanied by blowing wind and bringing cloud. Other natural elements join the party, breaking up moon’s isolated glow. Rain, wind and cloud cover moon – he leaves the moonlit party, taking with him light. 

Black ness returns accompanied by rain on the roof and wind down the chimney.

If you would like to receive a monthly newsletter on living in Shetland, I have started a Patreon site for unpublished stories – which will only be available to Patreon supporters. If you would like to receive monthly newsletters, stories, updates on research on this old house and Susan Halcrow, discounts on my knitting patterns and information on Shetland, please consider supporting me through Patreon at £3 per month or £6 per month. The link is here. https://www.patreon.com/TraceyDoxey

This story is the first one and it is free. After that, my Patreon supporters will receive exclusive stories and I will dedicate time to my writing on that page.

If you are interested in staying at Smola in Shetland, the link to Air B&B is here

https://airbnb.com/h/levenwick

A Shetland sunrise

6:25am. A calm, slightly damp, silent, start of a day, with a waft of wind around my bare legs.

The one star left, after the star-studded sky has evaporated, is high and to my right – it may be a planet, I need to learn. Last night, at 3am, the Plough, ploughing amongst a sky of stars, I, noticing its different position to that when I was in Sheffield.

sunrise reflected in the window


Here, 60 degrees north, the tilt of my view is different, sharper, present.  On opening the door, in dressing gown, slippers and down coat, I’m greeted by a peachy ribbon hugging the sea top and sky bottom, falling temporarily in its homemade fold in the Earth’s atmosphere.  Since moving here, it has been my greatest pleasure to be greeted by a line of colour dividing earth from sea – this is on lucky weather days.  Some days, there is no differentiation between either.  Almost seven weeks since I arrived and my first waking moment has never changed.  I look out to sea, to the horizon, in search of a sunrise. 

I have renamed the bench a Thinking Bench, rather than a Procrastination Bench.  I procrastinated in that quiet garden in Sheffield, here, I view the changing light, devouring its fleeting moments. 

This place is not an easy place to live but I am alive by its weather challenges and gift of light because it is becoming briefer at this point of the world.   Nothing is missed, nothing taken for granted, nothing is sure – the changing light is a gift. 

The door is open.  Shetland

If you are interested in visiting this part of the island – bookings are open from spring time for single traveling, exploring ladies who want to experience this part of the world in a safe, unique house by the sea. Air B&B offer 20% off for the first 3 bookers. https://airbnb.com/h/levenwick

A letter to a rainy day

Saturday, 24th October.

The weather has turned but I am still deeply happy here.  For the last week, it has seemed as if the house has been a small boat buffeted by the 50 mile an hour winds and the relentless rains, bobbing on a sea of all imaginable water – rain, sea, fog, mist – except for Thursday.  Thursday was bright and sparkling where we all came out brightly and sparkly blinking in the sun to do outdoor jobs. 

Last night the aurora appeared but I didn’t leave my bed until 3am when Alf started his routine nighly bip bip bipping noise wanting to go out and my night was disturbed again much like 32 years ago when my children were babies.  We now have a cat flap but he cannot, for some unfathomable reason, use it and Tig can only go one way – in.  So every night, I am woken and have to let them out.  Sometimes, I get up, get them out, return to bed and sleep wondering in the morning if I did get up, sometimes, I get up, wait and let them back in then feed them and we are all confused about 3am being part of a dark daytime, but mostly, I am awake for at least 2 hours either mulling over the many, many jobs to be done or thinking and feeling.  I write words that are so crystalline that these nocturnal hours may be my best for writing.  There doesn’t appear to be enough hours in the day, so my thoughtful times blead into the night.  

I have found some kind of rhythm. It is dictated, in the first place, by weather.  If it is fine, I start digging out the byre behind my house. I am hoping that it will be my greenhouse.   I’m slow.  I’m getting old but every spade of years of growth moved, every flag stone revealed, and every time I bump my head on the low door way, makes this little shell of an old stone building more into the fabric of my daily life and for the future.  I’m keeping the ferns in it and there appears to be grape vine but the rest is slowly being removed to make way for a roof next year and a sheltered place to grow veg and scented flowers.  Every stone placed by someone before me, every shovel of overgrowth removed by me puts my small mark inside the place.   There’s a barn too – called a shed.  It leaks and houses inherited junk, rusted metal things, old wood and peat.  I like it. I have a vision for it but that will wait.

The house has not yet been changed inside by me.  I am letting it speak to me, expose its foibles, and express its joys.

Things are returning to this place, kindly returned to me by a man who cleared it after his Aunt moved out in the early 90’s.  His kindness at returning old jugs, glasses and plates that were once in this beautiful old house has been deeply moving. The pottery has once again seen the light of day and become pride of place.  My favourite returning jug is a mid 19th Century Victorian salt glaze cream jug with pewter lid, which Raymond remembers being in the kitchen.  It is returned to its old home after about 35 years of being away.  I also love an old Wedgwood plate and if anyone can shed light on this plate, I’d be grateful These tactile treasures have been touched and used by the last two women who lived in this house for nearly 100 years.  Just think of that – all the touches, all the pouring, all the meaningful reasons they were used.

old Wedgwood

This place and surroundings are always real, always natural. I am finding out more of the house and who lived here as well as change of land and outbuildings.  My boys have settled into island life – mostly taking to bed during storms (which appears to be quite a lot)  I’m glad they came with me – they make this place a home. 

Anyway, it’s raining, to put it mildly.  I’m going to put on 3 more layers of clothing and get out for a walk.

I also want to let you know that I have opened up my spare room on Air B&B for next year for single lady travelers, explores, lovers of knitting and crafts who would like to experience this island and lovely old house – the link is here.

Where ever I lay my hat….

Sea Urchin and Fire and Sea hats hanging behind my bedroom door.

If you would like to knit either of these hats, here’s the link https://www.ravelry.com/designers/tracey-doxey

Smola

I came to Smola in the 57th year of my life, wondering if it was foolish, due to age, aloneness, no income, no idea of future with two cats in a cat pram, arriving in a storm.

I still wonder those things, but will be patient with myself and life.

There are real highs and fairly low lows but I am in the right place, I know it.  This place in time belongs to me and how I live it. I should not worry, I should just continue and be the best person I can be for myself and towards others. 

I’ve said it before but I will remind myself that, Anais Nin said, ‘we do not see things as they are but as we are’ .

Yesterday, I called in at John’s who said speak to Jim, so I went to Jim’s and Martin was there too, they were off to a funeral and Jim was gracious with his time with me. He told me of Susanna (Susan, Cissie) who lived in the house that I now live in and that he was sent, as a child, to get the milk from her.  She had one cow and rowed the little milk bills up on a shelf in the porch, the same porch that I have.  He was a young boy – he told me of his house too, so much history in every place.  After,  I walked out of Jim’s old back gate, across the tufted grass,  down the bank and on to the beach, along the length of it then up the south bank to come up behind the cemetery. I stupidly and possibly unempathetically, didn’t think that the funeral would be at Levenwick, so when I saw the people all in black with face masks arriving, I left.  

But Martin, spoke with Raymond who came to see me today with the most wonderful handful of photos of photos of Susanna Halcrow (Susan, Cissie, or even Zizzie) and I saw, for the first time, a face to a name of a woman who lived in my old house for many years. She was born on the 6th February 1876 and Died 4th January 1960 – she was 83 and what a beautiful picture she was.  Raymond brought me 4 photos of Cissie and 4 of John, that had been left in the house before his Aunt Alice lived in it. Raymond remembers it well. I had seen John in a photo before –   John Halcrow, who one day walked out of that front door of the old porch facing the sea in Levenwick and never came back – he died in the battle of Jutland 31st May 1916.    I am beginning to gather the stories of the lives in this old house – some sad and this one of war and loss and a wonderful looking woman called Susan with a dog called Ralph.  So, if Tiggy will allow me,  I will also get a new puppy and call him Ralph too.  The woman looking back at me, who appears to have only worn dresses, gives me strength and look – the group are leaning against the wall that still surrounds this tiny house that used to be called Croft number 7 and Ralph sits upon it too.   Susan looks absolutely calm and I want her to know that I already love her old house which is now called Smola and hope to share it with other women who possess  a love of the wild and windy Levenwick and the old authentic place with a wall around it. And I think my next knitting pattern will be named Cissie.

With great thanks and appreciation to Raymond Irvine.