A Handy topic


I have very mixed feelings about my hands. If I were to look at them objectively, they are certainly not beautiful. In fact, judging by the poetry, paintings and literature of the past, my hands are a good indication that I come from good solid peasant stock. Much as I’d like to believe I was from a long line of needle-working ladies, spending their days in a turret room embroidering or sipping tea, I just know my ancestor was down in the dairy milking the cows or planting potatoes.

A lady’s hands look like this:

HandPainting    HandPainting2.jpg

A peasant’s hands look like this:


To top it all off, I am a big lass, and you might think I could wear those gaudy rings but alas, I can NEVER get any in my size. If I had ever married, I’m sure I would have had a ring or two sized to fit and probably loved them. The thing is – I’m so used to using my hands for so much, that I can’t imagine how to do all the things I do with annoying metal bands around the fingers. I can’t even bear to have long fingernails and worry about breaking a painted nail. How can anyone type with any passion with nails like that?

And then, of course, there are the age spots. Mine seem to be coming in early. I have a strong memory of my beloved Mum’s hands – bent over with arthritis, spotted with many, many discolorations, but always busy and so constantly working on things she loved or things for people she loved. Playing her mandolin, cooking endless meals, sewing, knitting, reading, playing Scrabble. My own hands – sadly – are showing signs of going the same way. The joints are getting painful and swelling, the spots are getting darker, and this is on top of being large ‘capable’ hands anyway.


BUT – and here’s where I’m going with this. I LOVE all that my hands have enabled me to do. They’re not beautiful or decorated or photo worthy, but they have taken images in my head and made pictures with them: Books, diaries, blogs, oil and water paintings, illustrations, cartoons, memes. They are the primary way I express myself. They are how I have made my living, both as a graphic designer and now in my many and varied guises.

I rarely remember to use hand cream, I often forget my gloves, I try to hide them from photographs, but for all my meanness towards them, they have served me well.

So, this is a small but necessary tribute to the appendages at the ends of my arms, even now touch-typing the words of this blog. I hope they give a warm and firm handshake when I meet people, and I hope they continue to be a vehicle for all the ways I want to express myself.


God bless all the peasant women down my line, who pulled up potatoes, peeled vegetables, chopped wood, did laundry, mended clothes and endured chilblains. I would rather have my strong, capable, ugly hands than the weak slim white ones of a true lady.

On the strength of that, I might just go and give them a rest and a dab of cream.

Living life with passion

This post is a little reminder to myself – as much as anything – to ‘seize the day’. I remember various moments in my life when something was said or revealed that brought forth a resounding YES inside me; something that I might never have been able to put into so many words.


One of those moments was the movie ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ with Robin Williams. When he, as an English teacher, inspired his students to ‘seize the day’ and they grasped what he meant and everything changed, I was transfixed. Yes, lots of other things happened in that movie and a terrible sadness at the end, but it did not change the central truth he had espoused.


Now don’t get me wrong: I do NOT open my eyes upon waking and spring out of bed full of the joie de vivre. But I do wake up most days feeling positive and running possibilities through my head for what to do, dependent upon weather and inclination.

My list of possibilities runs like this:

Coffee and catch up with friends

Cycling on my electric bike with or without friends

Trying my hand at baking

Going for a walk somewhere, or just for exercise locally

Hanging out at the local library


Watching a movie either at the cinema or online

Picking up a manuscript I’ve started and writing some more of the story (for a novel)

Doing an Outlander meme just for fun and putting it up online

Planning a future trip somewhere

Meeting with my house church and singing and sharing

Doing a painting or illustration

Breakfast at Bach

There is another list I have, which is along the lines of things I need to do, but which I have no passion for – things like dusting (way down), taking my car for a warrant of fitness, housework, going through my clothes and dispensing with the unwanted ones. And here’s a small truth I have discovered over the years: If I get even one of the things on this latter list done now and then, my favourite things can be approached with more freedom and lightness of heart.

I feel sure I am talking to the converted here. Many people know what it is to have a passion about what they do, and the things they get excited about can be astounding to me. I work as an administrator for people doing PhDs in Computer and Mathematical Sciences. I have held a thick thesis in my hands full of gobbledegook and symbols, and look up at the earnest and shining face of the student who has devoted the last few years to compiling this tome, and recognise someone who is as passionate as I. . . for something I cannot begin to understand.

Or I meet someone for whom my second list of undesirable tasks is what gets their heart racing, and wonder how I could be so different. So it’s much LESS about WHAT you do, as about actually recognising what you love doing, and finding new and deeper ways of getting involved with whatever that is. And there will always be other people who share your specific interest.

I always loved painting – oils mainly – but over the last few years, my living space has so reduced that I can no longer find room to set up a canvas and leave it for days. What it forced me to do – once I got over my feeling of frustration – was to allow my creative energies to flow into words instead of pictures, and I discovered that I really did love to write. I paint the same pictures in my mind, but as a flowing story, and then describe it, and recently I actually finished a novel I started as an experiment. After some editing and changes, I sent it off and to my utter astonishment, had it accepted by a publisher.

Now, of course, I am hooked. My book comes out in October – no, I’m not revealing its name just yet – and I am still amazed and thrilled that my imagination conjured up a story that a publisher wanted.

Anyway, if you’d asked me ten years ago what I would be doing today, I couldn’t have guessed. It has so much to do with following trails and meeting people and traveling, and opening doors and dealing with sudden changes of circumstance. And amongst it all: maintaining a passion for living and trying out new things. Going on adventures you were too afraid to do on your own when you were younger. Looking after the people you are close to, and being kinder. Watching your negative attitudes and words and consciously turning from them. I have so many people who have inspired me in these latter statements, the list is longer than I could name. . . these are the people to watch.

Okay, ramble over.