Walking in Mind

A Trail of Thoughts


52 Artist Dates 2016

Two of the most enjoyable – and certainly the most stimulating – weeks of 2015 were those I spent at Rosemerryn, a house-in-the-woods-cum-writing retreat near the village of Lamorna, way down in the west of Cornwall. I learnt much, and received an enormous amount of encouragement from the two tutors, Kath Morgan and Jane Moss, who have now set me a playful challenge for the new year: 52 Artist Dates. As they say on their blog, the Artist Date is Julia Cameron’s idea for a block of time that aspiring and established artists devote to stepping aside from their work to engage in simple, fun activities that nourish their creative spirits. Or as Julia Cameron herself puts it: “the Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” – think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing and Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” – and then allow yourself to try it.”

Mischief, imagination, whimsy, play. It sounds like fun to me, so I’m going to take up Kath and Jane’s challenge and see where it takes me. Over the coming weeks I’ll post a weekly update on how I’m doing, and if you’re taken by the idea as well, then I’d love to hear about your own Artist Dates.

As we’re already into the second week of 2016, I’ve crammed my first two Artist Dates of the year into one week, and I describe them below. A final word. Alongside whatever task or activity I end up doing, I have also set myself the challenge of learning one new word in Cornish each week, with the word being linked somehow to whatever it is I have done.

Artist Dates No. 1 and No. 2

– Go to the hardware store and buy something with whatever change you have on you at the time.

– Use the thing you have bought to work on an object at home.

I have vague memories from childhood of accompanying my father to the ironmonger’s in town. High, dark-wood counters, walls lined to the ceiling with shelves and nooks and boxes of things I didn’t know the names for, and an inescapable mustiness that, I now realise, foreshadowed the end of an era. They don’t make shops like that anymore, and I no longer use the word ‘ironmonger’s’ except when referring to the past. Nowadays, I buy my nails at the hardware store. God knows where I learnt to speak like that.

It’s somehow encouraging that with only €1.53 in your purse, you can still buy something useful, and have change to spare.


Two sheets of sandpaper, one coarse, one fine, came to 90 cents.


When I got home I cleaned out the fireplace and restacked the wood pile, and in the process found the ideal piece. Having broken several bones in my life, a femur fragment from a stout-legged wooden animal seemed like just the thing I would enjoy working on.


IMG_3536 IMG_3535

Cornish words:

askorn n. bone

tewes n. sand

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Stories That Need To Be Told, And Heard

In my final post of 2015 I reflected on my walk across France this summer, and on how different my experience and situation was from the plight of those who walk to save their lives. The focus of that post was a piece of music by Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, Lampedusa, and one of my final reflections was that it is in the telling of people’s stories that we weave a thread of hope from events worthy of lament.

The purpose of this new post is simply to share a link to a programme that was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 29 December 2015, but which I only heard when it was repeated yesterday. In The Boat Children, Hashi Mohamed, once a child migrant himself, travels through Italy gathering stories from some of the young people who have made it this far from Eritrea, from Somalia, from Afghanistan. He reminds us that these are children who have travelled alone, without their parents, for thousands of miles, and through their stories we learn of their ordinary dreams, of their hope for a better life, not just for themselves but for the families they have left behind.

One of the young men interviewed explains that his goal in life is to wipe out the poverty in his family, and as I listened to his story I thought of my Cornish ancestors who sailed for America in search of a better life, and of the many Catalans from Sant Pere de Ribes, the town where I now live, who did the same. These Cornish and Catalan emigrants were not fleeing war or persecution. They were, in today’s parlance, economic migrants, a class of person who is now regarded as less deserving of settler’s rights than is the refugee. We have forgotten, it seems, that a thread of economic migration runs throughout our own past, and that it contributed to the accumulation of the wealth we now enjoy.

The stories recounted in The Boat Children need not only to be told but also to be heard, so please share the link widely (the programme is available indefinitely via the iPlayer Radio app and the programme website).



With A Few Steps Into The Past, The Walking Year Begins

The path ended at the edge of an almond grove, and there at the far end we saw what remained of the hermitage. Passing among the trees we noticed that some of them already bore their first flowers, as white as the snow that this year has yet to fall.


The wizened tree that stood snug against the north-facing walls must surely have taken root long after the stone was raised.


Circling the ruins we found a way into what would have been the nave.


Once inside, we saw that the ribs of the carcass had been picked clean by time…


…but at the eastern end the curve of the apse was still distinct.


As we entered the recess where the altar would once have stood, we glimpsed a ghostly visage in a niche, a reminder that this was a place where people once dwelt.