I have been wondering whether to write about this.

As a general rule it’s not a good idea to write about my health in an art blog. But when it has a particular impact on my art practice I think I can do it without too much squirming. I’ll not go into any gory details, so it’s safe to read if you’re squeamish!

I think it speaks as much to my post(?)-pandemic, post-menopausal self as to my particular state of health, so here goes.

I have osteoarthritis, particularly in my knees, and last week I had a steroid injection. It’s the second time I have had it. The first time (four years ago) didn’t last very long – about six weeks – so I have debated long and hard about whether I should bother. But the eventual knee replacement surgery is probably a few years off just yet, so I thought I’d go for it. I had got to the stage where I was thinking even two weeks respite from the pain was worth the effort.

Pain shrinks your world. In the last 10 years I’ve gone from flying to the USA and Sweden on my own, to planning a trip into Birmingham as if it was a military exercise. Train or car? Where’s the nearest car park? How far will I have to walk? Is it uphill? Are there any stairs? Is there a lift/escalator?

The biggest issue is confidence. This has been affected by the menopause, and also the pandemic. The fear of many things outside the home has become commonplace. Thank god for the internet eh?

This week I was invited, with some of my fellow RBSA artists, to Birmingham Conservatoire, to draw at a rehearsal in the jazz club. What a great opportunity. I said yes, of course… knowing that it would be after my injection. Thinking that the injection would change everything. As the day approached I was getting more and more apprehensive and asking myself all the above questions. I did not feel up to it. I kept coming out in a sweat thinking about it. Thing is… if I don’t do it, I’m consigned to an ever-shrinking art world. I felt I had to MAKE myself do it. My husband offered to come with me, but that’s no answer is it?

As I write this, I am still wondering whether I will post it. I sound like a miserable old bat with no strength or determination! This blog is supposed to be about how the art bit goes…

Anyway… I went. It felt like such a huge effort of will to drive ten miles to park next door to the building where the club was. But I went. I went with my walking stick folded up in my bag, but didn’t take it out, and I did it on half the amount of painkillers I’d been taking in the YEARS in between the injections. I approached a group of people I didn’t know, in a place that was crowded with students. I spent two hours doing some mediocre drawings, absorbed in the processes before us. Being allowed in to other people’s rehearsal space is a real privilege and I am so glad I went. The mediocre drawings aren’t really the issue. The issue is the confidence gained from actually doing it.

Today, back in the studio, without my walking stick and still on less painkillers, I am caring for these brittle and fragile twigs, completely aware of the irony that as I wrap them and hang them on the wall, they are also reminding me of my own fragile joints, temporarily shored up.

I am aware that the post-menopausal artist is not a fashionable thing. The voice of the 60 year old isn’t loud. It is not confident. Especially after two years of enforced isolation.

I must keep the confidence, and build on it. I must keep making myself go out and do things like this. Because the alternative is very depressing. I have a voice and things to say. The only way to get heard is to get out there and say it. So however long this dose of steroids lasts, I will be forcing myself out into the world, because once it wears off, I’ll wish I had done everything.


I have these muslin squares, saved for 37 years. They were bought from Mothercare in Birmingham (alongside all the other trappings of a new baby) when the birth of my first son was imminent. So much fabric, clothing, other household and child related textiles have passed through my hands and been passed on to be used by others, but not these. They have an unbelievable softness. Daniel used to scrunch them up in his hand and rub them against his cheek. I can remember having one over my shoulder and draped across my breast me as he slept against me. 

I thought I would just keep hold of them, they didn’t take up much space. I couldn’t see what I would ever use them for. Until today.

I’ve used up pretty much every suitable piece of fabric in my studio for this twig wrapping. This ritualistic twisting and tightening and stitching in. I comfort the “child” as I wrap. I hold them close and look after them, protect them. 

So, before I go looking elsewhere, in charity shops etc for other fabric, I have one more delve into my supplies. 

And there they are.


Not quite white.

I hold them to my face to smell them. 

I can smell all of the smells, in one great rush.

Their time has come it seems.

I tear a few strips off the edge of one, just to try it out… and I know. 

I don’t know how many twigs I have wrapped so far, but I think these might be the last. Enough.


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