Trains of thought


I’m often travelling: the time and space on a journey is valuable for all sorts of reasons. Thoughts can wriggle about and expand in the no-man’s-land of neither here nor there. Like a bridge the span of transit can suspend the shackles of daily life. I have occasionally used the time and the non-personal space to make difficult phone-calls that might sully familiar places. And the conversations one may strike up – the extraordinary coincidences encountered with fellow travellers – can have a special colour and intensity.

dsc01238And another thing to do on a train is knit – I’ve had fun recently making this jacket for a newly arrived small person of my acquaintance.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of our designs and the journey of creativity. Early one morning as I drove south I had to grip the wheel hard as I became incensed listening to the Today programme: there was Tony Harrison, the distinguished writer and poet, describing his lifelong tussle with ‘making’, giving us all a brief and brilliant insight into the process of creativity; and there was some squeaky young interviewer having the patronising cheek to gainsay and refute his position of creative diffidence. Listen and learn, please.

CCI00004Incidentally he gave us his poem Baghdad Lullaby about Iraq which had burst from him as a furious reaction to a particular piece of political duplicity he’d heard on the radio – the power of well-used anger.

CCI00005_2Luckily soon afterwards my spirits were lifted by a full-band blast of the most jolly Zip-a Dee-Doo-Dah on Radio 3, played to wish America a Happy Birthday – it was the 4th of July – the music did its job, the hot clouds of my temper cooled and safely blew away.

Many times, describing the nature of a design, words with a musical connotation spring to mind – harmony, balance, composition etc…Not being a reader of music, to me a written musical score is the beautiful evidence of invention. As an instruction it has its job to do, information to impart in its own special language – the energy and character of composer and composition are held there waiting to be released into the air.

judith weir ©When Judith Serota retired after 20 years running the Spitalfields Music Festival her leaving present was a collection of musical variations written especially for her by eight of our great composers on the theme of Bist du bei mir – with the idea of her practising her piano playing! Not only is that a remarkably imaginative and generous gift, the number of scores has increased by three and they are now available to listen to and in a published version to buy.  A contribution from the sales will go to Dimbleby Cancer Care who looked after Judith so well at St Thomas’ Hospital. There is also a copy of the ‘Variations for Judith’ signed by all those distinguished composers which is the subject of a silent auction. There are many good reasons to make a bid, however modest, so please do.

melvyn tan

In June Melvyn Tan gave the entire collection their premier performance in the lovely Shoreditch Church – a most special evening.

Wymondham is a very pretty and resource-full Norfolk town, and the Abbey was the spectacular setting for an enjoyably ambitious concert this last weekend; it included the very tender playing of the young pianist Richard Uttley, watched over by the many carved wooden angels in the roof.CCI00015


CCI00004_2That recent journey to Norfolk was buffeted by rain and winds and then suddenly sunshine smoothed my progress. At times the roads were as rivers; the poppies, blown clean from the verges, were nestling in clusters within the wheat, the only way to be safe it seemed. Pat Albeck‘s new work – cut paper collages and assemblages – bloomed beautifully at East Ruston, an exhibition and a garden well worth wading to!


CCI00008The poor old pollinators – the insects have really had a hard time this year and so therefore have the orchards. July is the month for the Jersey Tiger Moths in South London – they’re particularly striking and like to settle on the warm wisteria walls – will we see any this year I wonder?


But of course the upside of all this rain rain rain sun is ….the wonderful rainbows, always magical, always cheering, always reminding us of colour in light.

CCI00001ps : booking is now open at the FTM for my 4th August workshop ‘The Pattern Within’ and check out my new (anon) bedlinen designs at M&S – Autumn Trees and Autumn Floral……


Thanks to Alan and Molly, and to Francis Pugh for the photograph of Judith Weir’s score

6 thoughts on “Trains of thought

  1. A thoughtful and considered narrative exploring not only manifestations but the source of place and time from which they came. Nevertheless, such manifestations could only come from someone gifted and I am going to search for the M & S products. Please keep doing and we now know such lovely design and illustrative work comes from someone not only highly creative but responsive to their immediate surroundings in all respects. I suggest you start a diary with visuals and words, with a view to publishing it, in due course, in all its glory. Dave

  2. What a spectacular posting, Sarah – musical and colorful by turn, the commercial (M&S) a sight for sore eyes (congratulations!), a nod to America, the most beautiful knitted jacket I’ve ever seen, an instantaneous shared reaction to the silly radio interviewer. All of it so well done – thank you. “Variations For Judith” is liltingly lovely. How can I get a copy of the CD sent to me here?
    With love,

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