Monday, 24 February 2014


Mum went to work for Goodyear in Norrkoping in Sweden in March 1947 and soon met and fell in love with a handsome divorcee 12 years her senior.  They were married in December and this is the only photo I have of their wedding. They are the couple in the middle of the table on the right hand side (Mum has a white hat on and Arthur my dad is losing his hair)
They moved into an apartment in the city and started their life together.  It was so wonderful for me 2 years ago to return to the country of my birth and to see these places that have lived in my memory for nearly 60 years, helped by my father's wonderful photos of course.
 Here's the new bride proudly showing off her new home, my brother still has those chairs you can see behind her.
18 months later and I arrived on the scene in May 1949, I just love that old fashioned pram!
My parents also had a country cottage near a lake a few miles from Norrkoping and we spent all our summers there.  It was near enough for Dad to commute to work and I well remember the rather primitive facilities.  The toilet was up the hill in the woods in a shed and all our water had to be pumped in the garden.  We took our baths in the lake and I can still see our little family trooping off down the lane with our towels and soap!
 The cottage is still there although beautifully extended and updated now by the present owner who was kind enough to give us a tour when we were there. You can see some of my sketches done at the time in my blog archives posted in February 2013.
My family lived in Sweden till I was 6 and it was time for me to start school.  By that time I had a brother and 2 sisters and Mum used to joke that it took her 6 years to learn the Swedish for family planning. My parents were very happy for 19 years but sadly Dad died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 59 leaving mum with 4 teenage children to bring up alone. She went back to work and did a wonderful job of holding us together through a difficult time.  This is one of my favourite pictures of her about the same age as I am now.  She was a wonderful artist specialising in china painting and continued as long as she could hold a brush despite being crippled with arthritis for many years. 
 I have enjoyed telling my mother's story and hope you too have enjoyed reading about a wonderful and courageous lady.

Friday, 21 February 2014


A lovely portrait of my grandfather and his family. Herbert (grandfather) is the second from the left and I can remember all the aunts as they lived close to each other in Hampshire.  My uncle Walter  who I met on one of his visits ended up living in South Africa and also shared my birthday but the other uncle Stanley went to Australia and was later killed fighting in WW1. Don't my greatgrandparents look jolly with her smile and his big bushy moustache!
After WW2 my mother felt the need to go and help the post-war reparations in Poland and early in 1946 she got herself a job in Warsaw.  These early photos show some of the devastating damage done to the city and there are many more in the album showing the great efforts made by the US and European community to get the country back on it's feet.
Mum's job was as secretary to General Drury in the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association Mission to Poland. They found ways to get people back to work on the land as well as helping to rebuild the city and infrastructure. There's more info on Wikipedia if you're interested in having a look. I was fascinated and spent an hour or 2 looking at what amazing things my Mum was involved in.
Of course it wasn't all work and it looks like she had plenty of playtime too!
 Mum shared an apartment with a couple of other girls and these pictures show them celebrating at Christmas.
Mum's best friend was called Lois, who was American and they kept in touch throughout their lives.  At some stage they went to Denmark and Sweden for a holiday together and visited Copenhagen and Stockholm where these photos were taken.
I think mum was very attracted by Sweden because when she finished working in Warsaw she took a new job in Norrkoping in Sweden working for Goodyear the tyre company.
I can't help wondering if the travel bug passes through the generations as Mum moved away from home and her brothers all ended up living on different continents: Walter in Australia, John in Canada, Michael in Africa and Peter in England.  My own daughter set off at 21 with a backpack to travel the world and then spent several years working in Hong Kong before coming back home to settle down.

Monday, 17 February 2014


Another of my winter projects has been to collect together all the photos I have of my mother. After she died 22 years ago my sisters, brother and I had the job of sorting and sharing out her possessions. Because I'm the eldest and had the most space I took the collection of loose photos as well as a few albums. My siblings also took some albums but the loose photos have long needed to be collated into a cohesive story for our descendants.
Mum was born in 1919 at Boscombe in the south of England to Herbert and Maie Gritten.
Herbert worked for the Eastern Telegraph company as a cable telegraphist.  His job took him and his family to a new posting every 2 years.  Each of Mum's 4 brothers was born in a different country: Africa, Egypt, Portugal.
They had many uncles and aunts, some of whom I can remember from our holiday visits to Granny Maie when she retired to Southbourne.  I have a group photo of Herbert's family which I'll put on the next post.
In 1932 Herbert decided he had had enough of working as a telegraphist and wanted to make a new start.  He had heard about a new 'English Colony' being set up in Argentina and he bought a stretch of jungle that he planned to clear and farm maize.  The family set off on their new adventure on the SS Alcantara, despite the misgivings of my grandmother.  Of course Mum's 4 brothers were thrilled at the prospect of living in the jungle and I have a fascinating account from my uncle John of their time there. Mum never spoke much about her time growing up as a teenager in a primitive wooden house with all her lessons being taught by a young woman who also acted as a housekeeper.
The dream didn't work out for the family and they returned to England after only 2 years.  They lived with one of the aunts until Herbert found a job and a home for them in Pinner.
Around this time in the 1930s my grandfather left my granny for a younger woman and started a new life and another large family.  The history is a bit sketchy as granny refused to talk about Herbert and never divorced him.  My mum knew of her half brothers and sisters and made some contact with them before she died.  My sister Juliet has more knowledge of the rest of that part of the story.
Mum was a very popular and beautiful young woman and I believe she was engaged at least 3 times before she met and married my father. During the war she worked for the land army clearing forests with a team of Polish internees. (Reminder to Juliet to send me the photos so I can add them to the album!)

Friday, 14 February 2014


I had a wonderful surprise this week when Starr White of Wonderland Woods showed me what she has made of my tiny red mushroom sketch.  Here is her beautiful embroidery which really captures the shape and colour of the original. Above is a sketch I did yesterday using one of her lovely forest photos as inspiration. It is on the end papers at the front of my latest sketchbook, newly bound with papyrus inside the covers.
Starr loves mushrooms and we've both been delighted with our exchanges of inspiration. To see more of her work have a look at her blog Wonderland Woods
Here is my sketch and the photo below of the original mushroom which is the size of a Yew berry.
I was very lucky to see it hiding in the grass before it got trodden on!

Monday, 10 February 2014


The last few weeks have been very busy for me. My daughter Justine announced the date of her annual garden party in aid of charity and this is the first year I have had the opportunity to be there.  
I booked my flights straight away and got started on making some things to sell.
I went through all my old paintings and cut some up to make original cards as well as doing a few new pictures which were all attached to purchased blanks or offcuts of the coloured card I use when I make birthday cards for the family.  Then I scoured my sketchbooks for suitable images to print off for more cards.  I ordered some cellophane bags and now they are all wrapped up with a personal label on the back I think they look very professional.
After that I set to and started on a batch of 10 handbound notebooks.  Last year with this idea in mind my brother-in-law had given me some quality computer paper from his stationery firm.  My bookbinding instructor had given me some offcuts of the stiff card used in the covers of books as well as some short lengths of ribbon she had.  I've been collecting pretty patchworking fabrics for a while so there was plenty to choose from for the covers.
It took me over 2 weeks working every afternoon to get these done to add to the dozen or so I made last year and delivered when I went for my autumn visit.  I made a showcard to display the prices as well as some ideas for the use of these pretty books using a cupcake giftwrap as a background which goes with the theme of the garden party.  Justine and her girls will make cakes and biscuits to sell as well as the jewellery and plants Justine produces. She also invites some of her crafty friends to come and sell their wares so we're hoping for a bumper day with plenty of visitors. The date of the party is Saturday April 26th so I hope any of you who know me and are not too far from Guildford will make the effort to come and support us!