Home again


Recreational resources which are not dependent on broad band connectivity.

It’s Wednesday now so I have been home since Saturday evening and tomorrow it will be a week since I had the op.  Best news is that bowels are working again, which makes me very happy.  Have all the meds arranged in a routine, though I’ve come off the anti-coagulants for a bit since there was a bit of leakage around the wound site.  This is all a bit earthy isn’t it?  Apologies but I think writing this is mostly for me to help process what’s going on.  Humour me?

I’ve not been up and dressed much. I do get up every day to eat, and watch telly in the evenings for a bit- I sorted out the edge pieces of one of the jigsaw puzzles yesterday (big achievement).  But at the moment sitting for any length of time isn’t comfortable.  I really prefer being in bed, with the radio, Some Luck by Jane Smiley to read, the laptop for music, radio playback and writing, Pete bringing me food, drinks, the Guardian and cards and flowers as they arrive in the post. The bedroom is full of flowers and the whole top floor of the house is fragrant.  I am very tired and happily napping when I please.  Managing the exercises, including lying down ones recommended by my cousin’s wife Rita, who had her hip done 2 days before me.  It’s great chatting to people about their experience, the more recent the better- we all forget stuff like this, especially the nasty things.  Rita actually went out with ‘the girls’ last night- only for a little while but I’m well impressed.

I talked to my Mum on the phone yesterday.  I see her about every other day at the moment and am missing her, feeling that ancient thing about wanting your Mum when you are in trouble or distress. She finds communication so difficult these days that I wasn’t sure about asking the nursing home staff to put me on to her, but we managed.  After one of the inevitable silences I said, “Well, I’ll go now”, and she said “No, don’t go yet”.  It’s really amazing how important and touching such a small fragment of conversation can be.  I’m going to see her today.

I went out for a shower at an elderly friend’s house on Monday, since we don’t have a walk-in one at home.  It. Was. Fantastic.  I washed my hair and everything.

There’s a difficult balancing act to negotiate between being active vs overdoing it.  Mostly this is to do with communicating with or seeing friends (or not), doing things vs resting, and staying away from the screen vs reading etc. I need to keep reminding myself that it was a major operation and that the recovery takes time. It’s not about bravery so much as accepting vulnerability and weakness, which seems rather the opposite of bravery.  This world drives us all so hard, it’s a good lesson.




Coming round

Pic is of my drugs!


After the op I was wheeled into a small post-op ward and there was lots going on, most of which I can’t remember.  Recall that I had an oxygen mask on throughout the op and for some time after?

Still blissed out from the sedative mix, I couldn’t feel or move below the waist, for a few more hours.  As the feeling slowly returned I felt something in my legs, tingling, pressure? My calves felt as if they were inflating and deflating- strange.  Eventually I looked down and sure enough the blankets were shifting up and down.  What weird effect of spinal anaesthesia was this?  So I called someone and they lifted the blanket to show me that the inflation/deflation was not my legs but some pressure cuffs which stayed with me for the next couple of days (preventing DVTs).  We laughed!  I got used the feeling and quite liked it, especially when I was half awake and it made me think one of our cats was snuggling up to me.  Comforting.

I was straight on to some heavy-duty opiates to help with the post-op pain.  They made me feel sick so they gave me little magic minty papery squares to melt on my tongue.  Started to realise that, as well as the operation, I’ll be on lots of drugs for a while.  Constipation here I come.

Can’t remember much about the day of the op.  My blood pressure was really low, heart rate was high, and I didn’t wee until the early hours of the next day.  It was, quite literally, a shock to my system. Several cups of tea really helped- good tea as well, greatly appreciated.

The staff were all really good again but I did start to feel that the service is a bit pared down the bone (pun intended).  Although the time the doctors spent with me was quality time, it was not enough really- to make a human connection and open up space for questions and conversation.  Now I won’t see a surgeon for three months, and so far I have seen three different people- one for the initial consultation in July, the Prof on the morning of the op, and another one after the op (who did the surgery, under supervision from the Prof, for which I gave my permission).  All the surgeons are extremely experienced and skilled, so that’s fine, but the human connection was a bit lacking.

There was a lot of pressure on beds so I didn’t get moved onto the rehab ward for a couple of days, with a detour one night into a rather unsuitable pre-op room where I was isolated from the ward staff.  That night and morning I had to use my mobile phone to call the ward telephone when I needed assistance, and I didn’t get any breakfast.  One member of staff was clearly put out that I was in one of ‘her’ beds and was insensitive to say the least, I had to remind them what to do and felt really cut off.  There were lots of apologies but still.

The dreaded physio visits- to get you out of bed and supervise you through essential things so that you can go home (asap)- went well.  And the occupational therapist came by to do her bit.  Again they were all very skilled and nice but there wasn’t much time for human connection.  Everyone kept saying (apologetically) that they were really busy.  Perhaps that’s the downside of them being a ‘centre of excellence’ and having to meet various targets. I think I’d have preferred to wait a few weeks if it meant a more relaxed, personal service.  Hey ho, it’s probably not that simple.

I did well on the physio tasks, and finally got onto the rehab ward where everyone was much more attentive and nice.  Then came the most unpleasant part of all.  Which I won’t describe in any detail but was to do with my bowels and something getting STUCK!  It was sorted eventually but, oh dear, very painful.  Not the best time for a visitor, my dear friend Kath who is a nurse and works at the hospital.  Luckily she completely understood and we managed to laugh about it.

I was very keen to get home (in retrospect I could probably have done with another day in hospital) so Pete came to get me on Saturday night.  Again, it’s all a bit of a blur. Of which more in tomorrow’s blog post.

My bedroom is full of flowers and cards.  Very grateful for love and friendship when I feel so vulnerable.

Hipblog 2

Home sweet homeP1010847.JPG

I’ve been home for two nights now and still in that post-operative hazy state, not sure which way is up and trying to adjust to a whole new situation and a significant process of change.

For a week or so before I went in to hospital I was unusually weepy and emotional.  I had some dreams about the hospital, the first two were a take on ‘The Secret Garden’- wandering around Chapel Allerton Hospital and its grounds and finding beautiful laid-out gardens populated by kind and funny people- the usual dreamy quirks and weirdnesses.  The last one was a nightmare, with bodies marked up for various forms of unpleasantness (this is the gentlest description possible, no need for detail!)  I felt tired too, closing down pre-op, preparing for post-op, life (new bed, chair, aids, a freezer full of nice food).

The operation is a watershed.  The pain and impairment of the arthritic hip eclipsed by the acute effects of a major operation, a big ‘insult’ to my body.  My hip was dislocated and the top of my femur removed, replaced by a metal sphere attached to a pin hammered into my thigh bone.  The socket part of the joint was ground down and re-lined with a ceramic replacement.  Lots of muscle and other tissues were cut away then everything sewn back together.  Blood is lost, lots of drugs administered- for sedation, anaesthesia, pain relief, prevention of blood clots, and drugs to treat the side effects of other drugs- and I was attached to various drips and monitors.  This is all quite amazing and marvellous, and it has quite an impact!  The operation site all needs to heal and the joint start to work again.  I just watched a video of the procedure.  It feels useful to describe it back to myself, to own it as something that happened to me, to my bones and muscles and skin.  So much autonomy is lost in hospital, the vulnerability is very raw and real.  There’s a lot to process and to heal.

So how did it go, looking back nearly 4 days on?  My main concern that morning was a horrible caffeine withdrawal headache and several hours (7am-midday) longing for a cup of tea.  During that time I met the doctors, who were absolutely lovely, a big bloke, the surgeon, from India, and a petite woman, the anaesthetist, Arabic name, Dublin accent.  They talked it all through with me and I was marked up on the correct thigh, with an up arrow in case they thought it was my knee that needed doing.  I got into bed and drifted back and forth listening to music and the radio via my phone- hard to remember it now.  Then when they finally came for me, a wave of apprehension and backed-up fear.

Being wheeled into the ante-room for anaesthesia is when control is surrendered.  It seems to be the job of the anaesthetist and the technician job to make you feel comfortable, both physically and emotionally, which they did beautifully.  We talked about the vulnerability thing and the technician (another lovely big bloke) told a story about how he had been shaking like a leaf before an op at the hospital where he was working, carried out by people he knew and trusted.  So.. cannula in for an excellent cocktail of happy drugs, then the spinal block in my back.  It was chilly (because the bugs don’t like the cold apparently) so they wrapped my top half (the only half which could feel anything) up warm and I got the phone set up to listen to music.  A first listen to the Young ‘Uns new album purchased specially and saved up for the occasion and some of Emily Portman’s beautiful ‘Coracle’ album.  Inspiring and moving, a great distraction from the hammering and grinding going on down below.  Then it was done and I was off to the post-op ward.

Next instalment tomorrow- this takes up quite lot of energy!

Hipblog 1

I go to hospital tomorrow morning.  Op is about 11am and lasts around one to one and a half hours.  I’m having it done with a spinal block rather than general anaesthetic because I don’t want to have to deal with any more ‘poorliness’ than is absolutely necessary.

So I’ll have a new hip in place by tomorrow lunchtime.  Apparently they make you  stand up and get walking straight away so that’ll be interesting.  People say the pain from the arthritic hip goes immediately, replaced by the post-operative pain, which gets better!!  That’ll do me.

The op is happening at Chapel Allerton Hospital, which is a centre of excellence and a great place.  The pic below shows the bespoke kit they gave me at ‘Hip School’.


So, I’ve got things in place for the 6-week healing period, when there is a risk of dislocation, which are covered by the Hip Precautions- no bending hip and thigh more than 90 degrees and no twisting of the new joint- so special chairs and toilet seat, loose clothes that are easy to get on and off etc, etc…

I’m hoping to be home by the weekend and determined to use this as an opportunity to look after myself and get well.  The past few months have been hard- only being able to walk shorter and shorter distances, low energy because of pain and a general discouragement from being active.  A bit depressing, especially since the past year has been very busy and emotionally challenging (family life mostly- its highs and lows).

I want also to spend less time on screen.  I think my insomnia, physical inactivity, and the unsettling state of the world this last year or so has meant that I’ve got a bit addicted to what my friend Carla calls the ‘sacred oblong’, the bloody phone that’s always there! This is definitely not a good thing.  It’s as if it’s become my personal shock trooper for peddling the Spectacle, that display of meaningless, commodified chatter that serves to distract us from our own thoughts, from being agents of our own destiny, and being part of real, unmediated community.  Damn those algorithms!

So I will be rationing time spent looking at it.  One session a day to check important things, then I might even turn it off.  I want to open up my attention span for reading, listening, jigsaw-puzzle solving, meditating, just being.  Resting.

I’m feeling very emotional this past week, often tearful.  Maybe, because I am facing being vulnerable for a while, I am having to open my heart.  I am grateful for this.

I don’t think I’ll want visitors in hospital.  Pete will be the best person to deal with me being grumpy and demanding!  After that I’ll let people know if there’s anything I want from my dear friends.  Lots of offers already.  For which I am grateful and which make me want to cry again!!

One year on

This image is from my installation at the MA end of year show in Oct/Nov 2016, based on my Matri-line walk.  This Mini-guide describes the work I presented.


So I am now one year on from then.  Here’s a summary of the art I have made, exhibited, and sold since then:

  • Actually, some things happened just before the show, which do belong on this list- namely- Retracing the blood line map and matri-line stones, at Loitering with Intent at the People’s History Museum in Manchester, Jun-Oct 2016.  Pechakucha presentation at Walking Women Artists day event in Edinburgh, Aug 2016.
  • Membership of Leeds Print Workshop- sessions doing linoprint and cyanotype.
  • More photography with new digital camera-Pic of the Day project.
  • Participation in Landscape and Arts Network, Fourth Congress of Psychogeography and Creative Timebank, bookbinding workshops and book fairs.
  • Keeping in touch with MA colleagues and friends
  • Work included in show by Vis Comms students in support of Leeds Women’s Aid, April 2017
  • Personal projects- gifts for close friends
  • Two exhibitions of my ‘matriline’ work with a presentation to invited audiences, at Cafe Lento in Headingley, and friend’s house in Roundhay.
  • Hand-made book included in LCA exhibition by Curation Cluster, Jul-Sep 2017
  • Work selected for ‘Journey’ a show at Left Bank in Leeds, Jul 2017
  • Stalls selling my work on consecutive Saturdays in Aug/Sep.  Very rewarding and interesting.

Lots of life as well!

  • Supporting my daughter and her husband with monthly visits to Newcastle to look after their toddler daughter, then spending a couple of weeks around the birth of their baby son in September.  They got married in November 2016, which was also busy.
  • My Mum had to move into a nursing home that year- I visit her about 3 times/week.
  • Organise a monthly conversation event Cafe Feministique.
  • Have an arthritic hip which has been a worsening impairment- due to have hip replacement op in October, of which more in subsequent blogposts.
  • Friends, family, weddings, general elections, holidays, adventures….

Coming soon:

  • Work selected for Rebel Daughter, a women artists show commemorating the centenary of the first wave of women’s suffrage in 1918, at The Point in Doncaster, Jan-Apr 2018
  • Working towards a show of the Matri-line work in Killingworth Library in May 2018
  • Pitching my work to local venues for informal display/selling

these boots

Here is a flyer for an exhibition of artwork from my ‘Matri-line’ walk.  I will be doing a talk and hosting a conversation about it on May 18th at Cafe Lento.

these boots…

these boots 001 (2)

Café Lento, May 18th – Jun 7th

Opening event, artist’s talk and hosted conversation 7pm, May 18th

 these boots… is a show of work which visually records a solo walk by local artist, Lesley Wood.  In May last year Lesley spent two weeks journeying from Leeds to Newcastle.  This project was devised as an exercise in feminist psychogeography, retracing the journey her family took from Newcastle to Leeds when she was 12.  Her daughter, who grew up in Leeds, now lives in Newcastle with her family, including a baby granddaughter, a couple of miles away from the original family home.  Lesley’s mother still lives in Leeds.

So this journey explored the resonant, wild and beautiful spaces in between four generations of women, gathering and recording along the way and generating the artwork presented in the show.

Themes of home, belonging and people’s connection to place were also important on this journey, especially at a time when our responsibility for respecting and caring for our beautiful home planet is being so sorely tested.

The event is part of the Headingley Festival of Ideas, this year on the theme Journey

Space for the opening evening is limited so please book your place here these boots tickets

See you there.

I walk the (matri)-line, some images

Here are a few images from my 140-mile solo walk connecting my home with that of my daughter and grand-daughter, calling by at my Mum’s on the way.  These are just a very small number posted here to send to the organiser of an event about Walking Women artists, in Edinburgh in August.  Lots more to come.

Making doing



It took me a week or so to reacclimatise and then I was so busy that it’s taken me another week to get to the blog again.  So I’ll summarise all the activities and have included a couple of images of the work I made last week- first two days were very discouraging then I had a productive day developing images onto Khadi paper circles (above) and stones (below) using liquid light.  I was very grateful for a day when it all worked!  Called in at the new Fred Aldous shop and bought heavier tracing paper and 21cm Khadi paper squares.  Need to revisit the work done on the disappointing days and do it better- made some very good learning mistakes!!

Have agreed to write up the making of the stones for submission to Harman after they put out a call to student bloggers working with alternative photographic methods.



My main aim at the moment in terms of the work is for the Corridor Show which I have now scheduled and am planning for the end of Feb/beginning of March. Need to do more thinking about a title etc- will need help from my tutor and lots more thinking and talking.  Most of the content will be photographic images and photograms developed using liquid light or cyanotype onto a range of substrates.  Also hope to make some layered pieces using map fabric and sewn on text.  There isn’t much wall space so I’m hoping to use the windows in the doors and walls, which are many, square and can be backlit for presenting work on translucent paper.  Also want to use one of the Macs for running an A/V presentation of more liquid light prints (of trees) with a soundtrack of wind in trees.  And put some of the stones on little shelves.  Have been working on scaled up cyanotype prints for the wall space and using the pic of my shadow on the tree as the main image for the show- to make little cards, and use for a ‘business card’.

Alongside the show I have been discussing holding a conversation event about how you present experience of place artistically- using quote from W.G. Sebald:

“Strange things happen when you aimlessly wander through the world, when you go somewhere and then just want to see what happens next.  Then things happen that no-one is going to believe later.  And, what comes next is very important, it is necessary to somehow capture and document these things”

From Searching for Sebald: Photography after W. G. Sebald edited by Lise Patt

So the question is how?  I have a (growing) list of people to invite who work in this area and hope that I can host a stimulating conversation where we learn from each other (and I clarify my ideas about the walking project).  Provisionally scheduled for March 1st.

I have set up the fund-raising page for the walk  on localgiving and some donations (for Leeds Animation Workshop) have come in already.  The main purpose is to make sure I do what I need to do to be able to do the work (look after myself!) and it’s going well so far.

Also did lots of work on Cafe Feministique- the follow up to Equality…End of!  We had 2 useful meetings and I have booked the venue, made and started to circulate a flyer, and set up an Eventbrite link.  Quite proud of it all.  The hosting team (affectionately, The Ladies) are all up for it so it feels really positive.

The new bookbinding course run by Louise Atkinson for East Street Arts is excellent and just what I’ve been looking for- ten weeks of learning skills and making, in a great community setting with a lovely diverse group of women, including Sarah and Dita from College.

Speaking of Sebald (above) I finally got to watch Grant Gee’s movie Patience: After Sebald, a brilliant addition to the Sebaldian genre.  So many of the writers and artists I have come to appreciate were included:  Marina Warner, Iain Sinclair, Lise Patt.  It was a beautiful evocation of Sebald’s Rings of Saturn perambulation and respectful homage to Sebald.

I was delighted to chat with Cat from College about the Corridor Show and about displaying my stones in one of her Curator’s Choice glass cases, and I am included in the forthcoming exhibition catalogue, which is quite thrilling.

Also thrilled to get a message that I have been included in the Alnmouth Arts Festival 2016- now need to ensure I have plenty of work to show.  Hope my work gets accepted for Loitering with Intent in Manchester, and I’ll be submitting work for the Chapel Allerton Festival too.  So… together with the MA End of Year Show, that’s this year pretty well booked out, and it feels good.

Had a couple of very good checking-in sessions with the MA lot at College.  Very stimulating conversation, we need to try to keep meeting, the mutual support is very valuable.

Onward and upward!  Without quite knowing where.

Finding myself again: 2016


Listening to David Bowie, gone now but still providing a very good soundtrack for a new year.  Love it that he was so creative, so independent of mind, body  and soul, and the product of a South London suburban secondary modern school. How wonderful- and so beautiful, cool, brave and determined.  I refuse to believe that it is no longer possible for working-class people to feel important enough to express themselves, to really know that their experiences and thoughts are valid and interesting and true.  “We could be heroes”. We are and always have been.

I have promised myself to spend an hour/week on this blog, reflecting and recording my process, thoughts and ideas.  This being the last year of the MA.  The schedule and the work I aim to complete will mean that these months will very busy.  I also need to honour family responsibilities: both my step-daughter and my daughter will be getting married this year; I will be spending as much time as I can helping to look after my amazing grand-daughter; and I’m well into the second decade of supporting my mum through years of frailty. And there are lots of other people I love and care about.  These things are just as important as the creative work- they come from the same place and, in some ways, come together in the walk I plan as the structure for my practice this year.

I’ve spent the last week, since I got back from our New Year holiday, re-acclimatising. Have caught up with friends and colleagues from the course, reminding myself about everything.  We had a very inspiring and fulfilling first Friday last week, Sam telling us about her practice, and a lovely go-round with our year group sharing where we are at. Marvellous.  Catriona sent me the draft exhibitions catalogue, which is very exciting, and I’m in it!!  Very thankful for this and all the other opportunities.

Then I’m getting reacquianted with the work so far, my studio, the threads left hanging, the mess of ideas and projects.  Floundering about in it, not knowing where to start.  Just takes time for the fog to clear and the path to emerge. My main pre-occupation is the show that Sam offered me in the MA corridor, for which I have lots of ideas which need sorting, defining, planning, then I need to get on with making.  I think I’m not doing anything but that’s not actually true.  I’m looking and photographing and ideas are forming all the time.  This week  I am emerging blinking into the daylight, booking into the darkroom (!), IT suites, digital print studio, buying materials, and sorting images into thematic categories and curating them mentally for presentation, on the walls, windows, shelves and screens that I can use in the space.

Cultural outings over the last week: the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (Bill Viola show was wonderful, gave me the idea of using sound recording as part of my work- of voices, stories, wind in the trees, water flowing, birdsong);  saw Sunset Song and Testament of Youth (WW1 stories with a strong woman at their centre);  went to the British Art Show (twice)- liked the films by Rachel Maclean and Simon Fujiwara;  saw The Dark Horse, a film from New Zealand about chess, racism and oppression;  and went to a Jazz/Poetry Sunday afternoon at Inkwell.  Thinking that we could have the Cafe Feministique at Inkwell- will try and get the gang together this weekend to get going.  It will be relatively easy to do and would be good to move things on from the End of Equality event.  Also finished reading two good books- the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Rachel Joyce), about a walk, very relevant, and A God in Ruins, another war-themed story, WW2 this time (Kate Atkinson).  Both very readable and very moving.  Now I will start reading some of the books left over from dissertation time.

Also working on the idea of a discussion event linked to the Corridor Show, about how artists capture and record experience of place, especially in terms of walking practice- have compiled a guest list and the structure and key questions are forming in my head. Now I need to write an invite, schedule it, alongside the dates of the show, discuss it with Sam and get it out there.

I also need to write and post the notice about the walk/fitness challenge and link it to LocalGiving to support Leeds Animation Workshop.  This was agreed with Terry from LAW in the course of a very lovely conversation over lunch on Monday.  It’s quite complicated to invite ‘sponsorship’ for the walking at the same time as for the fitness goals- losing weight and healing my injured leg.  But they are intimately linked and augment the feminist elements of my adventure- enabling an older woman (me) to be active and aim to lose weight and exercise for reasons other than conformity to stereotypical norms of youth and beauty.  I don’t want to ‘keep young and beautiful’, I know that I am loved just as I am, but I also want to be able to walk, run, dance, play tennis and live long enough to play with my grandchild/ren on those Northumberland beaches. I have already lost a few pounds (through healthy eating, not deprivation and body-hatred) and had an injection in my leg to help free the joint up so I can exercise more readily.

This weekend I will have lots of time for thinking, tidying, planning (time for a new mindmap on the wall), and writing.  Then, next week, making.