82 - An open letter to A.L.F



Dearest A.L.F,

This year you would be eight (you are eight? I still struggle knowing what to do with that). I don't think about you every day any longer, but you are always in my heart and in everything I do.

I hope that I am doing you proud with Alfie's Studio - today I saw photos of work being featured in a book, I cried a little. When we used to visit you in the early days I would bring new plants and tell you about them, do you remember? The book is about flowers (sort of). I'm sorry we haven't visited for some time, I stopped needing to so much because I realised you were in my heart rather than at that place and it just made me too sad. It doesn't mean we don't care, it means we care too much.

The sight of daffodils doesn't seem to make me as sad as it used to (I took a picture the other day of some at your grandma's house and thought of you). I have yet to see the first lamb of the season so can't comment on them yet. I still don't like April Fools very much, April 1st is not and probably never will be my friend.

Your brother and sister know of you. I don't think they quite understand or can really comprehend, but they will, one day. They will know that you were courageous and funny, taught me how to love fiercely, how to protect them. You taught me resilience and strength, to never give up hope and to enjoy every little thing and moment, for it really is true that you don't know how many more you will have (the saddest and hardest lesson I've learnt so far).

I still can't quite stand it when they call me "mummy" instead of "mama" (they think it's funny to see me cross at them about it). I am and always will be your mummy and no one else's.

I'm not sure on religion but I often wonder if there is a heaven and you are there. If there is, what is it like? Do you have school? Are the schools taught by walruses in waistcoats and lions in bow ties? Have you met your great nana and great granddad? Great doesn't quite cover them, they were AWESOME and I miss them very much too. Is he Top Ten Angler in the Angling Times up there? Is she still cross about the varnishing of the dining table while she was in hospital? That would never have happened in her heaven...

Another year further from you, my sweet thing. Perhaps another year closer to finally getting to play on the beach with you or chase you through the woods?

I will love you, always.

Mummy x

81 - Social Media and Connectivity


Lately as I fall down the rabbit hole of Twitter and becoming active on Instagram after a bit of a winter lul I have pondered "social media" and what it all actually means to me.

I honestly get the feeling that it has turned quite anti-social and fosters disconnectedness in a lot of cases. I have a friend who in fact quit Facebook for the very reason that he found himself not staying in touch with friends, he'd seen their snippets of news online, why did he need to pick up a phone or write a letter? Consequently I actually hear from him a lot more these days...

It seems that we are increasingly being forced down corridors chosen for us, allowed to peep into the rooms deemed as interesting to us, a funfair curated based on past joys. But here's the thing, I'm human, and what I like, changes frequently. There is no robot or algorithm built that can truly know what I would think important because my mood changes, recent personal events impact, ambience and surroundings - the weather even. On dreary days I need plants and foreign places in my IG feed and so I search for new people to bring me those, other times I want to connect with some new like-minded creatives. How can all of this possibly be factored into an algorithm and more to the point, why would I want it to?

Part of the joys of sharing platforms (like Instagram) are not only in new discovery but the re-kindling of forgotten relationships too. Someone who might not have posted for a while, or posts something so out of the ordinary that it would no doubt never be picked up by an algorithm. I feel that the threatened change on Instagram takes away the unexpected beauty of it all and will dull the very best aspect of it - human interaction and randomness.

A quick google search on "Instagram" to check for news on the impending changes somehow brought up a link to a piece by Hossein Derakhshan on The Guardian website which seemed to sum all of it up wonderfully -

"Maybe this is all a natural evolution of a technology. But I can’t close my eyes to what’s happening: a loss of intellectual power and diversity. In the past, the web was powerful and serious enough to land me in jail. Today it feels like little more than entertainment. So much that even Iran doesn’t take some – Instagram, for instance – serious enough to block.

I miss when people took time to be exposed to opinions other than their own, and bothered to read more than a paragraph or 140 characters. I miss the days when I could write something on my own blog, publish on my own domain, without taking an equal time to promote it on numerous social networks; when nobody cared about likes and reshares, and best time to post."

I shall nervously await the verdict on the Instagram changes. In the meantime, grab yourself a cup of tea and read the whole post. If you are an Instagram user and hate the proposed changes go sign the petition against them and let your feelings be known...

I'd be interested in your thoughts, leave a comment on the recent proposed Instagram changes, social media, the death of the web, miscellaneous musings...

@alfiesstudio / @carenbarry / @haarkon_ / @theroundwindow / @letterloves / @jenlittlebirdie
I have a deep love of the tropical feeling that you get in a "typical" glass house: botany from strange and distant shores, so many new and strange plants to look at, all those textures and hues that are so very different to those of typical British flora. Conversely - albeit generally on a smaller scale - they are also the very epitome of the Great British garden: tomato growing, over wintering plants that need bringing in and protecting from frost, prize marrows for village shows and all that.

A while back I started (what has become) a hash tag project over on Instagram #ihavethisthingwithglasshouses. It began as a way of recording the plant related places we had been (and serve to brighten up the cold or dreary days) and has evolved to become a guide to the very best in botanical glass houses near and far.

Join in for more glass house goodness on Instagram - I'll try to feature a round-up every now and then and guest-post reviews as part of my new "outdoors-in" series - know somewhere amazing you'd like to see featured? Tag me in to a picture on Instagram (@alfiesstudio) or get in touch here...

79 - Ficus Elastica



It's probably safe to say I'm somewhat obsessive of all things botanical - one look at my product range will tell you that, I'm sure. That having said, it is only recently that I've started to feel brave enough and confident enough to expand beyond the peace lily who just won't die (and has gone from a 10cm window sill pot to something I think we need floor reinforcements for) and fairly forgiving succulents, to something a little more maintenance intensive and requiring, y'know... actual plant knowledge (as well as the time to act on it - which I'm prioritising as one of the perks of working from a home studio).

First up on the list - Ficus Elastica. I drew one of these beauties years ago, it was one of the first botanical cards I ever released and I've been longing for a real one ever since. I finally scratched the itch and bought one. He arrived on Saturday and I am so in love with him now he's here in all his leafy goodness. The architectural qualities of the leaves are just awesome and the colours so intense that I feel like I could lose myself in them like a child in the woods (without bread-crumbs for guidance). He's obviously only a recent acquisition - I'll let you know in due course how easy he is to care for or any particular findings.

Look out for my piece on my "Greener House Dreams" over at The Good Life Experience Megaphone Series (coming this weekend I believe) to hear more about my aspirations to bring the outside in and what kick started my plant buying spree.

This is the first post in a new "outside-in" series where you'll be able to read all about my outside-in adventures, botanical reviews, latest plant obsessions and a new monthly round-up of #ihavethisthingwithglasshouses findings. More on the latter next time, so stay tuned...

Top image by Holly Booth. Detail of Ficus Elastica my own images.

78 - Wild Things


We spend some of our best days together on the beach, wild, free spirits.

Wild things at play. Wandering wild things. Watchers of wild things. Wowed by wild things of wonder.

Date: The final day of a busy half term (22nd February 2016)
Place: Robin Hood's Bay, North Yorkshire
Soundtrack song: (feel) In Winter - Siren - Tori Amos probably different in shorts in summer (actual) The Killers - All These Things That I've Done (some spectacular car drumming and sing along from the littles).
Comments: A beautiful and awe inspiring drive through the North Yorkshire Moors to get there and that ever brilliant moment of spotting the sea shimmering in the distance.

Just enough facilities to cover a drink, ice cream and replacement bucket and spade but not overly commercial. Public toilets open - even in winter months.

We played like wild things on the beach for a short time before it was taken by the tide, played chase with the waves on the slip way, wandered the winding roads in search of dry socks after being caught by the tide, watched a swirling mass of angry sea flatten out to slumber and travelled a little way down the coast to Scarborough and ate the obligatory fish and chips in the car looking on to the wondrous full moon.
Nearby: Boggle Hole, Ravenscar, Whitby, Scarborough.

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