Why are we all here?

The world of blogging is a funny old place. You write stuff and people, somehow or other, come across it. They read it, and then what? Some people hit the ‘Like’ button, some people leave a comment, some people wander off to another part of the internet never to return and some people sign up to follow you. Some people become regular commenters/likers.

Here at The Snail of Happiness I do my best to respond to all of the comments. I don’t always manage it and occasionally I return to a previous post and notice some comments without responses, in which case I generally respond there and then, however old the post. I think that because I engage with you, my readers, you feel welcome and maybe that encourages you to return. I know this is the case for blogs that I follow – getting a response to my comments makes me feel valued and part of the community associated with that particular blog. In fact this sort of interaction does lead to genuine friendships away from the blog, via Skype, letters, emails or even meetings in person. However, those sorts of things only happen with the minority of readers and I’m intrigued about everyone else.

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don’t be shy…

I’ve been blogging quite a lot recently and simultaneously getting quite a lot more followers. I’m really not sure whether the two are linked – and whether, if they are, the increase in traffic is to do with the number of posts or the subject matter.

 

So, I’m wondering whether you’d be willing to tell me why you are here? Why do you visit this blog? And how did you arrive in the first place? Please don’t be shy… I’d love to know, no matter whether you are a regular contributor, have just arrived or have been lurking in the background in silence for ages. You don’t have to have a WordPress blog to be able to comment… just write something and click on the button…

Go on… you’ve been reading my words, I’d love to read some of yours! And then maybe I’ll tell you why I’m here…

Small calm things

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I came across this quote a while ago and saved it, thinking that I might use it in a post sometime. And, today, whilst looking at some old drafts I came across it, and thought that the time had come to share it.

After a number of recent ‘big mean things’ happening across the world, this feels like a very good time for ‘small calm things’. A few days ago I finished the cotton blanket I have been making for 60 Million Trebles (who have got two thirds of the way to their goal, reaching 40 million trebles last week), I’ve now returned to the wool and squares sent to me by Wild Daffodil earlier this year… it’s very fine yarn, so this blanket could take a while, but I am regarding every blanket that gets sent out as representing a hug to someone in need.

I’m also thinking that over the next month I will try to focus on some random (and not so random) crafts/acts of kindness. I have one gift completed to send off to a friend who is not at all well at the moment (no picture, as I want it to be a surprise), I have a partially made blanket that I want to send to a bereaved friend (again no picture to maintain the surprise), and I’ve made a start on some letter- and postcard-writing that’s long overdue.

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so many letters!

 

I like random acts of kindness directed at strangers who I will never meet, but it’s also uplifting to do something for someone I know, allowing me to witness the positive effect of my action.

The Art of Manchester

Originally, my reason for going to Manchester this past weekend was to take part in Chorlton Arts Festival. Our Kindness Tree event, which sort of morphed into a Hearts for Manchester event was part of the festival, but our biggest contribution was the display in the window of The Make It Shop. Many, many thanks to those of you who contributed – the window looked fabulous, although trying to photograph it effectively proved beyond my limited skills with a camera; all I could manage was a flavour of it:

Danielle, however, managed a much better shot:

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Craft+Activism=Craftivism (c) Danielle Lowy

Many thanks to those who contributed – I hope you can spot your creations (they are all in there), which will now be going off to new homes.

Although the emphasis was heavily on the performing arts this year, the Chorlton Arts Festival did include several other visual art exhibitions and we managed to visit two.

First, opening its gate for the tenth and final year, Bob Nancollis’ Smallest Sculpture Park in the World:

And second, Creative Recycling, where they make art from all sorts of materials, including the glass off-cuts from their picture-framing:

Do you notice, that as well as the art, they also have a little free library out the front of the shop?

So, life goes on in the city of Manchester, if with a heavy heart. I do hope that everyone out and about over the weekend had their lives brightened a little by the creativity that was on display, whether tattoos, beauty from recycled materials, craftivism, sculpture, our decorated community garden, or the lovely bees sent by Helen of Crawcraft’s Beasties, long before we realised how significant they were going to be.

A bee for Manchester

 

A tattoo too

When great tragedy happens, there is often an outpouring of compassion. This has certainly been the case in Manchester over the past week, with many anonymous acts of kindness and generosity. But, in addition, many people want to make a statement, to give a signal that they are part of the wounded community, indeed simply to be part of that community.

And thus, when Samantha Barber, a Manchester tattoo artist, had the idea of offering bee tattoos in support of the bombing victims (the worker bee is the symbol of Manchester), the idea took off (pun intended).  Many tattoo parlours decided to take part, donating all the proceeds to the fund supporting the victims. It seemed likely that there would be many takers, but who would have thought that up to 900 people would queue up at a single parlour in the hope of handing over £50 each for their bee? That, however, is exactly what happened at Sacred Art in Chorlton. They drafted in the help of their friends and they opened up at 10am on Sunday morning – by which time, some people had been waiting for nearly six hours.

We walked past around 1pm. Those in the queue were happy and chatty, being entertained with music and provided with food and drink by various businesses, as well as the residents of many of the houses in the streets along which the queue extended. The tattoo artists worked all day and into the night free of charge. They only stopped, at 11.15 pm because they ran out of supplies. Indeed, they said that, had this not have been the case, they would have worked until they had inked everyone in the queue.

I’ve seen various negative things written about the pointlessness of getting a Manchester bee tattoo, but being there on Sunday, and feeling the sense of belonging and the importance for all those people of simply showing their solidarity for the city in which they live brought home to me the value of this sort of act. It’s hard to describe the atmosphere, but this quote from the Sacred Art Facebook page gives a little flavour of it:

I want everyone to know that from the bottom of our humble hearts, everyone here at Sacred Art salutes you. Your mad enthusiasm, patience, empathy and unwavering support has been second to none. It’s truly testament to the heart of our city. Without it, this event simply wouldn’t have happened. By success, I don’t just mean the money we all raised (which was a staggering £18,204.70 ). The success of seeing our friends, families and neighbours all coming together to convey a message of only love. Irrespective of geography, gender, sexuality, religion or ethnicity, we all did this together, celebrating the soul of our city and cementing it with the Mancunian worker bee. It was heartwarming to see our community sharing their grief whilst celebrating their unity.

I hope that the city can continue to draw on this feeling of love and community in the coming weeks as it starts to heal from the terrible harm that has been done to it.

…and now, just for your entertainment, here’s where the title of this post comes from…

Random acts of kindness

It was several months ago that Danielle and I started organising our contribution to the Chorlton Arts Festival – a window display and our ‘Kindness Tree’ event. The latter is happening on Saturday: a day of crafting to create objects with kind messages to give away to strangers. We will have a tree to decorate in the shop, plus we have permission to adorn the railings by the library with the little gifts and messages.

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The Kindness Tree in our craftivism window display  (c) Sue Archer

Chorlton, in case you don’t know, is in Manchester. And now seems like a particularly good time to share some random acts of kindness in Manchester. If you are in the area, please do come and join us (details here), but if you are not in the area, I’d love to think you are with us in spirit. So, I have a request. Wherever you are in the world, on Saturday, please will you undertake at least one random act of kindness? It doesn’t need to be anything big – it could just be a smile at a stranger – but please will you do something? I know what a caring community we are all part of here in this little bit of the blogosphere, and I’d love to think of our ripples of kindness spreading across the world.

Thank you.

All the good in the world

This morning we woke to  another tragedy. In all the news stories, however, the statistics are the same – one bad person and hundreds of good people.

Remember that when you are feeling depressed – when there were people in need, despite the danger, dozens and dozens of strangers did not run away, they turned up to help.

I suggest that the appropriate response to any terror attack like the one in Manchester last night is to be kind to as many people as you can. So, go out and smile at a stranger today, or buy someone a coffee, or make a donation to charity, or tell someone you care… let’s make the world a brighter place.

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share some love

A Circle of Friends

I missed something from my post about the Sisterhood Sketchbook the other day. I mentioned my mandala inspiration, but I failed to explain the one circle in my creation that is made from a single yarn.

This circle, surrounded by the final words of the little bit of text I wrote, was chosen because of the name of the design. In fact, my piece is only the central part of an original design by Priscilla Hewitt called Circle of Friends Square. I’ve used the design before – indeed it appears twice in my Masterpiece* blanket:

For the Sketchbook it seemed appropriate to incorporate this design (unusual in that it requires you to turn it over and crochet in the reverse direction for several of the rounds). The wool that I selected looks, at first glance, like a rather dull pale brown, but look closer and you will see the diversity in there.

Just like people, there is so much more to this element of my Sketchbook contribution than first appears.

-oOo-

* I realise that many of my newer readers were not part of the story of the Masterpiece… I promise that I will write a post telling you all about it very soon.

Painting with yarn

You may recall that I am taking part in a collaborative art project known as The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook (it has its own blog here). The book arrived with me here in Wales back in March, but I have only just got round to completing my contribution… or actually, as it turned out, contributions.

I knew that I wanted to use mandalas and circles as my theme and I also knew that there was no way that I would be able to draw or sketch anything worthy of inclusion. So, I dug out the finest wool that I had and a 2.25mm crochet hook and set to work painting with yarn. I was rather pleased with my first creation:

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mandala #1

But when I checked, I’d made it too big, so that was rejected. On reflection, I decided that smaller circles might be better, plus that would allow me to incorporate some words. I mounted my crochet by stitching it onto stiff paper, then added some words. And this is what I ended up with…

Encircling the earth: the skill of our hands, the love in our hearts. Brought together by our creativity and kindness, although we are separated by hundreds of miles… …our shared passions bind us together. One sisterhood, representing one world, united in love.

However, being me, I wasn’t able to leave it there. You see, the very fine wool was not British, and I really wanted to contribute something made of local wool. So, using Cambrian Wool, bought from Red Apple Yarn, I made the sketchbook a pouch to protect it on the rest of its journey…

I even made a little pocket inside, so I could include a postcard giving information about the wool:

Now, all that remains is to pack it up and bid the sketchbook a fond farewell as it goes on its way to Yorkshire and The Crafty Creek… its last stop before it returns to Australia.

Gramophone records and fizz

Regular readers will know that one of my aims in 2017 is to go on seven visits to meet up with friends that I normally only interact with via social media. This has been going well so far, with trips to Manchester and Birmingham as well as a couple of more local visits achieved by the end of March. Our holiday to Cornwall, however, provided an opportunity to go and see a dear friend in Devon on our way back home.

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time to talk

I met Karen a few years ago through her blog and we quickly became friends, although we didn’t meet in person until last year when we managed to call in for afternoon tea with her as we were on our way down to Cornwall. This year, however, we wanted to spend a bit more time together, so I arranged for us to stay a night at a bed and breakfast in her village on our return journey and she offered to cook for us. What with one thing and another, Karen hasn’t been blogging for over a year now and although we have emailed and spoken on the phone, there was lots of catching up to do.

 

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May blobs and marshland

We arrived I time for lunch then had coffee in front of a roaring fire (there was a rather chilly wind blowing outside), before a lovely walk, which involved going to see the ‘May Blobs’ (marsh marigolds). We walked and we talked and we sat awhile on a bench looking at a glorious view, and we got to know a bit more about each other in a way that just doesn’t happen until you have some uninterrupted hours face-to-face. In cyberspace we all tend only to share limited information and so it’s lovely to have time to ask questions and share more personal stories and insights. Mr Snail and I went straight from our walk to check into the b&b, get cleaned up and give Karen some time to get organised, returning about an hour and a half later.

 

We had taken fizz to celebrate our get together, and Karen insisted that we gathered around what looked, initially, like a rather uninspiring cabinet for it to be served:

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it didn’t look promising

Upon opening it up, however, we were presented with a magical interior…

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woohoo!

But this wasn’t the end of the wonders. Next came the gramophone and records:

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time to get winding

and some pre-dinner entertainment (excuse my slight wobbles – I blame the fizz):

I didn’t record it, but my favourite record was of Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra playing The Mahogany Hall Stomp, which got us all dancing.

And then we ate and talked some more.

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delicious dinner

 

During the day we laughed and shed a few tears and we became closer friends.

The general consensus in traditional media seems to be that social media is driving isolation and presenting unrealistic images of our lives. This can be the case, but it can also provide a route to new friends and real shared experiences. In the past few years I have made some wonderful friends via this blog and Twitter and Facebook and I have met up with lots of them. My life is richer for all these interactions and my determination to meet up with people has really paid off. Indeed, having managed five meet-ups so far this year and having already arranged three more, I’m happy to say that I’m set to annihilate my target of seven!

Do you have any  experiences of meeting up with friends made through blogging?

Do your thing

Every so often I come across a story that particularly inspires me. This happened during our holiday when we visited the amazing creation of Rowena Cade. Maybe you have heard of her? I hadn’t, although I knew of the thing she made, namely The Minack Theatre. And when I say she made it, I am being literal – with her own hands and initially only the help of her gardener, Billy Rawlings, she built the most incredible theatre. But not just any old theatre – one created within the land, on the Minack Headland in Cornwall, overlooking the sea, nestled between the boulders.

In order to allow a local group to stage an outdoor production of The Tempest in 1932, Rowena and Billy created an amphitheatre on the headland. In the months prior to the performance, they moved granite boulders and shifted soil.  In August 1932 the play was staged, lit by car headlights and with the audience scrambling down the slopes to get to the grassy seating terraces. It was a great success and the start of an amazing project.

To begin with many of the building materials were scavenged. Sand from the beach was carried up the steep path by Rowena herself each evening, ready for making concrete the following day. There’s a story of her collecting some large beams that had been washed ashore – she and Billy carrying them up from the beach. When the customs men came to see if she knew of the timber’s whereabouts, they took one look at her apparently frail frame and assumed that she couldn’t possibly have taken the beams and she didn’t correct them!

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These are some of the steps from the beach!

WW2 interrupted development of the theatre, but when it was over, they were left with a concrete bunker, which served as the box office for many years! Rowena kept working on the theatre until she was in her mid-eighties. She died in 1983, but her vision and legacy live on.

I love the story – I love the fact that Rowena had a vision and had the tenacity to turn that vision into reality. I love that she didn’t simply achieve this by spending money, that she dedicated her time and her energy into creating this amazing place. I love that she worked alongside Billy and subsequent helpers. Admittedly, she did have the benefit of money to allow her the freedom to do this, but much of the labour was her own. What an inspirational woman.

I really hope that we can go and see a performance there in the future – this time we only went to look round.

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