In my book A Journey of Creative Healing I tell how I believe that committing to a creative project every day, come rain or shine, helped heal me from multiple sclerosis.
When that intuitive message came to do something creative everyday it made total sense as I had learned the joy and satisfaction of being creative from an early age. My mother was the ultimate creative, and an eminently kind gentle soul – I was her shadow, I loved her beyond the widest ocean, higher than the sky and all of the tea in China!
My grandfather was a self-made man, he was an importer of coffee and dried fruits and conservative to the bone, which meant he did not believe in women working. Instead, Mummy learned to sew a fine seam, make all of her clothes and hats. She loved hats and wore them well, so much so they became her signature dressing, ‘choose the hat first darling and the decision on the rest of the outfit falls into line.’
When eventually my Grandfather gave permission for my parents to marry after seven years of ‘courting,’ in setting up her first home she rebelled against the heavily Victorian style of the house of her childhood and embraced the 1930’s cutting-edge-fashion of art deco. She was an avid collector of Clarice Cliff, the legendary ceramic artist’s pottery. In the Blitz, we lost our home and everything in it. Later when we lived with our grandfather, his house was hit by a V1 doodle bug and again all we had were clothes we stood in.
‘Make Do & Mend’ was a government catchphrase during that time and my mother was very good at. She found a semi-detached house to rent and once again created a stylish home. There were no quarterly household item collections, there were no flea markets and furniture was scarcer than hen’s teeth with everything rationed. But she begged borrowed and made make-do-&-mend into an art form. Today’s home-stylists would have adored her as she was the Queen of renovation. She bought the old, tired and worn back to life; recovering threadbare chairs and settees, French polishing scratched and dull furniture to a glowing patina and painting the house inside and out.
She especially loved the spill of lighting from table lamps, overhead lighting was never used, and graced all of her many lamps with her hand-made pleated chiffon lampshades. She was equally at home in the garden and our small colourful blooming patches, both front and back, were the envy of neighbours.
She was a good cook, and when her father died and left her a small inheritance she set up a small café. Immediately her morning and afternoon tea concept was a winner, people loved her sense of style, pink bone china for tea and for coffee, the first of its kind shatter free glass cups and saucers. Soon the market demanded luncheons and she started her day before sparrow twitter preparing, baking and cooking and achieving a regular sixty covers a day for lunch and a steady morning and afternoon trade.
She smoked, a pack of cigarettes a day, but elegantly like a glamorous heroine out of a forties film and died too young. She was a casualty of the English class system, she identified herself as ‘upper middle class’ and fought to hang onto to this label throughout her life. Sadly if she had been asked to define herself her first priority would be ‘I am middle class, but upper middle class,’ instead of saying what a magnificent all-round nurturing Goddess that she was.