This Sparks Joy! Spring 22 edition

Spring really is my favourite season; the gloriousness of the woods and fields and garden blossoming into life lifts my spirits in a way nothing else can manage. To that end you’ll find a selection of photos from my last visit to Sissinghurst Gardens at the bottom of this post but before I wow you with flowers here are the other things that have amused and delighted me in the past few months:

Craft wise, I have restarted my “pride poncho” in the hopes it will be done before the end of June and it’s looking good so far. I love crocheting the virus pattern, the four row repeat gives a good rhythm to the work and the mix of chain and double crochet makes it grow reasonably quickly.

I’ve also been having a lot of fun making dragon scale bags. These look complicated but really aren’t – it’s all double crochet except for the ribbon – and work up so quickly you can make several small ones in an afternoon. They don’t close tightly at the top so you can’t keep anything too small or delicate in them but for dice and runes and hair grips they’re ideal!

Music-wise I’ve been interspersing my ongoing The Amazing Devil obsession with Florence + the Machine’s Dance Fever, Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, The Lost Cavalry’s Storms, Mandy Prior’s Year, and the British Folk Essentials Apple Music playlist.

From all of these the one song I’ve been coming back to, over and over, is from Year. The Fabled Hare is Maddy Prior’s 11 minute meditation on and memorial to Isabel Gowdie, who was tried and executed as a Witch in . Taking lines from her recorded testimony it starts with the line “I shall go into the hare with sorrow and sich mickle care” and is haunting, sorrowful and wonderfully atmospheric. Every time I listen I find something else I hadn’t notice before and reminds me just how much magic music can contain.

Reading-wise, in April I discovered Irish writer Claire McGowan via her non-fiction book The Vanishing Triangle, an investigation into eight young women who disappeared without trace in Ireland during the 1990’s and whose cases remain unsolved to this day. Incredibly well researched, detailed but not dry, hard hitting where it needed to be and also sensitive to the subject matter, I struggled to tear myself away from it once I’d started. Needless to say the minute I finished it I went looking to see what else of hers was available and spent the rest of the month devouring all six books in her Paula Maguire series.

Set in a fictional town on the northern side of the Irish border around 10 years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed, the books follow Paula as she returns to her hometown to work as a forensic pathologist in a specially formed cross-border team missing persons team. Each book has its own plot line that is concluded within the pages but alongside that threads of Paula’s personal life (past, present and future) intertwine and create one of the most real main characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Paula is genuinely a strong female character in the best sense of the term, I cannot think of an character in any of the books who does not feel fully rounded, and I found the storylines deeply involving and incredibly well shaped. If you enjoy crime fiction then I cannot recommend them highly enough and urge you to begin with the first book in the series – The Lost – as soon as you can get your hands on a copy!

And finally, as promised, I give you many, many photos of Sissinghurst in full bloom. Enjoy:

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