Unfoldings and a Steaming Pot of Red Cabbage

Sometimes a slow unfolding is required

This be-horned one has lain on my table for over a year, somehow I lost her along the way

But over the past few weeks, I have heard a whispering, though somewhat indistinct at first.
Whispers of a tale unravelling….
I sensed she was a shy one and so I stole away, ears straining hard lest I miss her murmurings and inspired to try dyeing with red cabbage, I filled a pot.
After simmering and steeping in the vat, I poured some of the dye bath into a jar and left fabric overnight, to steep further.
A little dyer’s alchemy and the remaining vat turned a beautiful shade of teal (accompanied by a squeal of delight…)
The initial dip in the bicarbonate of soda and red cabbage vat yielded a subtle pale aqua
Then both vats decanted, I waited and prodded and waited….
The first three from the left were from the dye bath with bicarb added and two on the right were from the initial red cabbage only vat.
I love the subtlety and the variety of shades produced from the two dye baths.
 I offer her the bundle and wait…


“Now the king had a daughter, who was just as beautiful as her mother, and had the same golden hair. And when she was grown up, the king looked at her and saw that she was just like this late queen: then he said to his courtiers, ’May I not marry my daughter? She is the very image of my dead wife: unless I have her, I shall not find any bride upon the whole earth, and you say there must be a queen.’ When the courtiers heard this they were shocked, and said, ’Heaven forbid that a father should marry his daughter! Out of so great a sin no good can come.’ And his daughter was also shocked, but hoped the king would soon give up such thoughts; so she said to him, ’Before I marry anyone I must have three dresses: one must be of gold, like the sun; another must be of shining silver, like the moon; and a third must be dazzling as the stars: besides this, I want a mantle of a thousand different kinds of fur put together, to which every beast in the kingdom must give a part of his skin.’ And thus she though he would think of the matter no more. But the king made the most skilful workmen in his kingdom weave the three dresses: one golden, like the sun; another silvery, like the moon; and a third sparkling, like the stars: and his hunters were told to hunt out all the beasts in his kingdom, and to take the finest fur out of their skins: and thus a mantle of a thousand furs was made.
When all were ready, the king sent them to her; but she got up in the night when all were asleep, and took three of her trinkets, a golden ring, a golden necklace, and a golden brooch, and packed the three dresses–of the sun, the moon, and the stars–up in a nutshell, and wrapped herself up in the mantle made of all sorts of fur, and besmeared her face and hands with soot. Then she threw herself upon Heaven for help in her need, and went away, and journeyed on the whole night, till at last she came to a large wood.”   
Excerpt from Cat-Skin – Brothers Grimm

Soetkin Who Wished and Wished


At one time or another, we have all wished and sometimes those wishes have turned into dreams and there we have found ourselves lost in their midst for a day or three. Allowing oneself these wish-dreams can be a most exhilarating experience, but, perhaps somewhat reluctantly, we make our way back to our cups of tea or windy hilltops. Then, one fine and promising day, we endeavor to find the courage to take a first wobbly step onto a rickety-rackety path, not having the foggiest as to where it may lead.
There are others, who find the cutting of paths through thickets and the stumbling over boulders rather wearisome and so prefer to wish-dream over and over, from sunrise to sunset, barely walking on this Earth at all. One of these such wish-dreamers was known as Soetkin and so adept was she in taking flights of fancy, that the world around her faded and swirled around her ankles like a mist. There were times, of course, that it became as a curling cat tail, but, no more than that. Lunch would be forgotten and dinner and supper too. Which, was just as well or else unwashed pots and pans would have reached the roof! Spoils of her absent-minded visits to the grocer’s shop laid silvered chocolate wrappers at her feet that peeked through the mists like bright, twinkling stars on a cloudy night.

Soetkin’s constant companions were a shiny, silver needle and an old, metal biscuit tin full of reels of cotton, both bright and dark and everything in between. You see, when one dreams as frequently and fervently as this little one, one is hard pressed to remember them all. Sometimes, it’s neither here nor there as to whether you can recall a wish, the mundane ones that is. The wish that the chocolate cake hadn’t finished quite so quickly, or that a toe hadn’t been stubbed quite so hard. But, there were those more precious than gold dust that needed to be kept and reopened at times when the dreaming was at its thinnest. And here, amongst the gold dust, the threads and that sharp, shiny needle danced and wove remembrance into the old cloth that Soetkin wore around her shoulders. The tattered cloth that kept her warm when she forgot to stoke the fire, each tiny stitch a memory of a wish-dream fit to remember.


Many years had passed since the dreaming began, though Soetkin could not quite recall how many. In fact, these days she could barely recall anything at all. She did recollect hair that was once as soft as spun silk and as gold as the falling sun, but the growing winter had covered the gold in frost and left twigs in place of the silk. No matter, for Soetkin’s dreams were as bright as ever, even if she had to stitch more often. In time, as her fingers grew to aching and the needle danced more hesitantly, Soetkin wondered how many more wish-dreams she would have left.


One soft autumn afternoon, as the light faded from the sky and woodsmoke curled out from the chimney, Soetkin dreamt once more of walks as yet untaken, of forests rich and dark. Through the verdant gloom of fern and mossy branches, a shadow as silent as the darkest of nights emerged and at first Soetkin was mystified. ” Was it really that time already?” She pondered. 

Softly and quietly The Governessa slipped her cold, bony fingers into Soetkin’s papery hand and led her down to the roots of the Old Willow Tree.



The Story of Nan Who Told Some Very Tall Tales

Nan was a delighter in tall tales, in fact, the taller the better. She would stand atop a large rock and proclaim her fantastical adventures to star and tree, crow and worm and into any ear she could borrow for an hour or three.

She spoke of old ladies who lived in vinegar bottles, a mouse that could eat a giant in one mouthful and of a red haired girl carried off by an eagle. Of course, there were many more where they came from and if you gave the merest wiff of a hint. Even by accident and completely unintentionally that you would like a story, well, she’d be off again. Eyes rolling, arms waving and lips moving ten to the dozen!

There were those, however, who did not take kindly to Nan’s colourful stories. They called her a trickster and an untruth teller. To which, Nan would put her fingers in her ears and poke out her tongue. Not before she’d ask them which was their favourite mind.

One night, by the silvery light of the moon, Nan told a spectacular tale of a monkey who flew up into the sky and sped past star and planet to who knows where. She told of a far off land where bears wore a moon on their chest and a magical crane wove exquisite cloth, from strands of it’s own silken feathers.

Nan was just about to begin her next tale when it happened. Rough hands grabbed her tiny arms, lashed her to a chair at the end of a very long plank and plunged her, chair and all into the cold, dark waters beneath her feet. When they winched it back up, Nan was nowhere to be seen. The loudest voices said that tiny Nan had slipped from her bonds and perished at the bottom of the lake. Those who whispered had other stories to tell…

 It is said that a water dragon heard tell of a mysterious tale teller in a far, distant land. Now this particular dragon, loved nothing more than a gripping yarn and so he travelled day and night, valley, moon, sea and mountain to find her. When at last he arrived, she told him her very best tale of all, so overjoyed was the dragon, that he scooped her up and flew high up into the sky and down into the lake at breakneck speed. In his excitement, laughing as only a dragon can, shooting fireworks from his nostrils, he rolled like a happy pup one too many times and Nan slipped out of his grasp.

Down and down under the water she went, where, it is told, that she met a girl named Mildred who was covered in pondweed and had splendid furry feet. They talked of swimming with the otters in the river over the hill and Nan decided to stay a while. At least, that is, until the Governessa invited her for tea under the roots of the old willow tree…

Jasper Who Bothered No One

There was once a boy unknown to most, for he lived his life quietly and bothered no one. This boy was called Jasper, who gave him the name he can’t quite remember but he was fond of it all the same. Jasper spent many a day lost in thought enjoying the pleasures of his wandering mind.
There are many places beloved of the quiet and ponderous, armchairs by a glowing hearth, cool grassy banks along a babbling brook and even the hollows of old tree trunks. For Jasper, there was nothing quite so thrilling as the ancient magic of large, dark caves. One never knew what one may find, crossing the threshold of bright day into the ever growing gloom ahead.
There was a cave that Jasper had once, a long time ago, heard mention of, a place of deep magic, where tiny blue dots of light glow upon the ceiling like so many stars. The stories were no exaggeration, for when Jasper walked into the dark cavern he gasped at the galaxy of phosphorescence above his head, he seemed to marvel forever and a day until he had his fill of this natural wonder, though who could ever really have their fill of such a sight.
From the corner of his eyes, Jasper noticed an unearthly green glow emanating from what seemed to be the very back of the cave. He followed it deeper and deeper still, until all at once it disappeared entirely and our quiet boy was left alone, enveloped in pitch blackness. Turning around and around he strained his eyes but could no longer detect a glow from anywhere at all, after many an hour of feeling about and searching for tunnels, Jasper tired and hungry, sat down and took out the chocolate that rested at the bottom of his coat pocket. “Ah, well” thought Jasper “Someone will come looking for me soon.” But, as Jasper spent his life bothering no one, no one bothered Jasper…

Fear not dear reader, for someone did indeed find Jasper, it was the Ghastly Governessa and she spirited him off to join the rest of her brood under the Old Willow tree, though between you and I, I suspect that Jasper would have rather remained in the cave to dream.

Primrose’s Most Perfect Picnic

It was a fine spring day much like any other. The birds busied themselves with nest building and a hundred tiny songs danced across clear skies, singing of twined grass and twig.Primrose smiled, as this was her very favourite kind of day, not a nasty cloud in sight to blemish her perfect blue. The spring flowers seemed to agree with her as they raised their golden faces upwards.
Sun warmed skin and the first sight of apple blossom naturally led to thoughts of picnics for Primrose, so out she pulled her dusty hamper. The lid creaked as she lifted it and a sleepy spider stretched it’s legs and clambered over the wicker sides. “Urgh” thought Primrose, for she was far too polite to say it out loud. It must be said that Primrose was none too fond of those that crawl or slither, nor those that hide in dusty corners, nor, did she like dust!
The basket was soon upturned and a feather duster was put to good use whisking away cobwebs and the like, until the basket was spick and span at last. For a finishing touch, the old, rather tatty gingham ribbon was replaced with a lovely, new, bright yellow one which was dotted with the tiniest daisies you could ever hope to see.

Primrose, rather pleased with herself, hummed a merry tune as she cut the crusts off her egg and cress sandwiches and filled her flask with pink lemonade.”Mustn’t forget the blanket and a thin slice of lemon cake.” She mused, because if there was one thing she disliked more than dust, it was getting dirt on her pretty frock.
And so, Primrose gently laid the neatly folded blanket on the top of her frugal Spring feast and tied the lid as tightly shut as she could manage, so that not even the tiniest ant could squeeze inside and off she set into the bright sunlit day.
Down the lanes she walked and up the hill behind the woods. From the very top of the hill she could see dazzling yellow fields stretching ahead of her, so excited was Primrose that she almost tripped over the corner of her picnic basket as she skipped down to meet them.

Just in case, in the very unlikely circumstance, of you, dear reader, not knowing about the joys of picnicking in fields of spun gold, I will explain to you exactly where Primrose laid her blanket. It may seem from the roadside that the fields in question are so tightly packed that there is no where to walk, much less picnic, but this assumption is wholly incorrect. For you see, the farmer must be able to cross his fields and check each flower to make sure that all is growing happily and so, hidden in those fields lie wide avenues made by the large knobbly wheels of the tractor, perfect for Spring picnics and honeyed wanders.

Primrose laid her blanket down and poured herself a cup of lemonade that tickled her tongue and made her giggle. Munching away on delicious sandwiches she gazed up at the canary coloured blooms way above her head, closing her eyes when a spring breeze rippled through the pale green stems and ruffled her hair. So thoroughly absorbed was Primrose in the flavour of the sticky-sweet lemon filling her cheeks that she barely noticed the low purr growing in the field behind her. The farmer was also distracted that day thinking of the fine pickles and chunk of cheese he would soon be feasting on and the little bump he felt wasn’t enough to draw him out of his hungry day dream.

The Governessa did marvel when she found sweet Primrose for not only did she smell of the most exquisite sweet lemon cream, but she looked as delicate as a pressed wildflower, flat in the dirt…

Flame Of Hair And Wild Of Spirit

This young one, flame of hair and wild of spirit enjoyed tremendously to scamper up the crags and chase the goats onto the highest precipice. Arms outstretched to the blowing winds she would laugh and twirl around. Perhaps, not the most sensible of pastimes but for Nuala caution was something to be fed to the wild wind. To stand high up on the crag with hair blowing one way and her dress the other was one of life’s joys. Nuala would call out and listen to her voice disappear and in wonderment of where it would land, she chased all the way back down to try to catch it at the bottom.
Mostly the goats tried their best to ignore her, though on better days they humoured her shenanigans as she ran at them and shooed them ever upwards. 

On a day much like any other, Nuala ran the goats up to the top of the crag, the goats took to grazing and Nuala to twirling. High up in the sky another was twirling, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say circling. A huge eagle had seen the goats and was carefully choosing lunch! The goats at once recognised the fast approaching shadow and in a panic of hooves and horns sped hastily over rock and tussock to save themselves from the winged devourer. Nuala spinning with eyes shut was blind to the kerfuffle, laughing and giggling as dizziness took her. Except dizziness, this time had a very firm grip and if she was not mistaken was taking her higher and higher! Nuala opened her eyes to see the ground fast disappearing from below her feet, oh the joy! She had never been up that high before and let out a little shriek. 

Confused by the sounds emanating from his talons the eagle looked down, imagine his surprise to see not one horned and bleating but a human child wriggling and shrieking. He dropped her right away!
I never did find out if she managed to catch her voice at the bottom but perhaps you could ask for me at the roots of the old Willow tree…