Birdsong fills the air outside my window. It is passionate and comes right from little feathery hearts, and it is a glorious sound. When you’re up at that hour you really feel like you’re on top of your life. I decide it’s my cue to get up. What a wonderfully productive day I’ll have!
I wake a couple of hours later feeling as if I have let myself down. The birdsong has faded to a gentle serenade. I get up and go and start the usual complicated bread production. Dad is 85. His sourdough starter is going to arrive any day now, so I give him a lengthy phone tutorial as to what he needs to do when it arrives. I think he has the idea. He tells me he’s walking around the garden too, like Mum. “How many laps have you done?” I ask him. “Forty,” he says. “And there are slopes, and bits that are uneven, so it’s good for my balance too. I reckon I’ve done three kilometres.” My dad. What a champion. Then he tells me that he has found a free digital library that he can download onto his huge telly and read off the screen. Fair play to him. He’s found a thriller with a beekeeper for a hero. Dad always had bees. He loves them. Big white suit and hat with a veil. I wish I had bees too, although I’m told it’s not all about sitting in a comfy garden chair surrounded by gentle buzzing. Meanwhile I sketch the jar of sourdough starter, which is bubblier by the time I’ve finished the sketch. A good sign, I am sure. I look down and sketch little Reuben the terrier, who is curled up in my art bag and not in the bread tray. He is the nicest thing in this sketch and distracts wonderfully from the sleeping-grub-looking thing that is an uncooked, underrisen bread dough.
I’ve told Liv (15) she can’t have free rein at fabric willy-nilly to make skirts without a pattern until I am confident she is able to sew. I figured she has to sew a face mask to get a few techniques under her belt first. She’s not keen but guess what, she doesn’t get my help on the sewing machine until she does it. She will learn techniques for zig-zagging raw edges, sewing difficult-to-access bits, good pressing technique, symmetrical hemming, top-stitching, pleating and measuring and cutting a rectangle 38cm X 19cm in size, which means even if she messes up it won’t matter too much. After just one face mask she should have a bit of confidence, instead of squealing and jumping out of her skin every time anything unexpected happens, like accidentally hitting the foot pedal with her slides (stupid sewing-room wear) and letting the foot drop, totally expectedly. Then she discovers I have denim scraps, and everything changes. I stitch a few scraps together, iron the seams flat and cut it to the right size…and off she runs back to the house. Liv is the Denim Queen. She is 5’9″ with very long dark blonde hair and a figure hewn on the rough seas of Galway Bay, trapezing over her 420 dinghy, and she channels a sort of 1970s sporty American teen, the type who own denim. Anyway. Off she pops, and I peek into her room a while later, only to find she has embroidered a bee on her scrap. I am lost in admiration. I knew she liked stitching and stuff but I didn’t know she could do this.
My bread is baked. Yes, it’s a daily highlight. It’s very nice but I am conscious it has a long way to go…those ones with a split crust on top…I’ll get there. But better than I have ever managed to date.
I make two more masks. Actually, there are lots more, but they don’t photograph as well as these two pretties. The white and blue one is made of fabric I designed myself: I had so many sketches of Paddy (18) at the barbers over the years that I decided to make barbershop fabric. It is waaaay cool. You can see Ali, Paddy’s Iraqi barber, on it. In the sketch he is pampering a customer, who is lying back in bliss. Ali is the best barber around. A trawl through my Instagram feed will introduce you to him in many, many barbering poses. The yellow one is a Japanese-inspired print that I love and I think is suitably ninja for a face mask. Making these masks is deeply satisfying. I have been asked by a neighbour to sell her one, even though I told her it would be a gift. She reckons she can sell a heap of them on my behalf. The truth is that for now I need to step away from the machine. My book (or, more correctly, my editor) is crying out for completion. But sewing is so much FUN!