20 May 2015

Staff workshop

... With Mark at Stary Magdalene Church Hall, Sunday 31st May 2-5pm. All students welcome, cost £20. 

Hackney Class tonight

... As normal at Old School Rooms, Powerscoft Rd, 6-10pm. 

19 May 2015

From Wayne - Mindful Gardening

For gardeners : you might already know this ....  but I recently came across it in the Alzheimer’s shop  drawn by the Clifford Harper artwork on the  cover.

Thought it would  be a bit far out for me, especially with ‘mindful’ in the title. But it’s a full of  nice  crossover stuff presented with humour,in a finely made proper little hardback book
Just right for presents and this  season of burgeoning growth….also  it includes ‘The magic of compost, or the tao of poo'.

18 May 2015

All things dark and beautiful

Some things I have loved recently:
'Another Earth' another great sort-of SF indie film from USA from a few years ago.
John Gray's 'The Soul of the Marionette'. Excellent, read it in a day as I could not put it down. Now I want to research Giacomo Leopardi, who he quotes at length. I wish I could do so here, especially page 35, and perhaps I will when my hands stop aching (a mixture of low-atmospheric-pressure-induced arthritis and the after-effects of attempting bow-drill fire lighting: the T'ai Chi adage 'this truly is not easy' pretty much sums it up.) At the end of the book on page 161 Gray tantalisingly refers to what he calls 'the practice of mutual no-interference - a rare skill that is slowly learnt and quickly forgotten.'
He goes on to say:
'The purpose of this 'negative' freedom is not to promote the evolution of humans into rational beings, or enable them to govern themselves; it is to protect human beings from each other.'
Our dear classmate Marcel Theroux is thanked in the book for conversations that fed into its writing, and I know he recently went to see Gray. As to whether Gray is secretly a Taoist...
Intriguing paths led off the straight Roman Road cutting across the chalk.

Heartwork, Hackney news and Wilderness Awakening

Heartwork yesterday, thanks to all who came for a lovely session outdoors on the river.
Last week I was away studying bushcraft again and had an intense and fantastic 5 days in the Great Ridge Woods. Thanks to Carmen for looking after the class whilst I was away, and Mark could not get there due to a traffic accident. Hackney classes are back to normal this week, and we will have news in the next 2 days regarding our permanent venue for the future. I will post news as soon as I have it. Again, sorry for any disruption, it will shortly be settled.

Here are some pictures from my week away, have a look here at the course, I cannot recommend Joe's school highly enough. We learned so much, the atmosphere was friendly and convivial, we were constantly being stretched and taken out of our comfort zone... sound familiar?
The last day challenge.

Pheasant and pignut stew with lady's smock dumplings and camp bread cooked at my shelter.

Getting ready to rest after a very hard day of rain, shelter building and fire making.
Below are the shelter stages in reverse...

Oak bark thatch - waterproof, very Hansel and Gretel.


First stick goes up against the fallen tree.
Glorious sunshine until the last day made the Wiltshire woods glow.

Incredible coloured cut wood from the old pilings at Molesey weir, yesterday.

Karen's LP launch

Dearest People

With only just over 3 weeks to go 'til the launch of my album 'Bitter Sweet' at the awesomely magical Passing Clouds, it's wise to buy tickets now, as they are already disappearing, and my last launch show sold out ahead of time. Don't miss out !! I will be playing with a full band including a harp, violins, a banjo, clarinet and more... -it's going to be real special :).

The launch is on 11th June, 7.30pm Passing Clouds, 1 Richmond Road, London, E8 4AA. Here's the Facebook event.

Tickets are £9. You can buy tickets and pre-orer an album here.

I will be supported by the awesome Dan Korn, and Iago Banet.

I also have a gig on Friday 5th and Sunday 7th June- more details to follow.

Can't wait !

Karen x


12 May 2015

Aberdeenshire workshop dates reminder

This flier has the dates for all the Aberdeenshire workshops this year. Please note that sessions will now start an hour earlier than it says i.e. 1-4pm and 5:30-8:30pm.

In keeping with tradition, the June Saturday sessions will be at Anneke & Neil's place.

08 May 2015


There will be a session near Hampton Court station  2-5pm on Sunday 17th May, all GR and TCC students welcome. Ask at class for details.

Spare time?

Over the last month I have seen some fun films and read some excellent books. Here's a selection.

If you haven't read the Taoist classics Vol 1 trans. Thomas Cleary yet, you better get your coat.

John Gray's excellent 'Straw Dogs', 'The Silence of Animals' and 'The Soul of the Marionette' have been a total inspiration and a refuge from the claptrap that passes for much modern discourse on free will, society and 'progress'. Sane, and secretly Taoist...

Ivan Illich 'Tools for Conviviality'. Why was I not taught this at school? If my success is at the expense of everybody else's, then it's not convivial. Why is this simple idea still so radical? Everybody wants to get theirs and sod everyone else, perhaps? So much to consider here, and in his other works, much of it searchable on the web.

Dark Mountain 7 is proving very good. I should really stop reading it and get on with writing something for issue 8.

OK, some vastly differing SF films, good fun but not mind-altering: Good slick fun - Limitless with an under-used DeNiro, Coherence great acting and astoundingly good considering the $50K budget, Ink, unusual, not quite perfect, but Gilliam-esque and certainly worth 1.5 hours of your evening.

Enjoy. Your return recommendations are most welcome.

Ivy, I drew this 25 years ago!

Some May photos

To cheer myself up after the election dismay I have sorted out a few of last month's pictures. Here is a totally random mixture - all sorts, but it made me happy. I am off for a 5 day immersive wood craft course from Sunday morning which will certainly expand and test my skills, so wish me luck. Mark will be taking the Wednesday Hackney class and has lots of great stuff lined up for the session. Love and best wishes to all who maybe reading this.

Making baskets at the 'Whittlin' and Weavin' Course', last month.

Early stages.

An optical illusion, I promise no geese were harmed in the making of this basket.

The willow basket I made as soon as I got home, I stayed up til 1 am.

I have been looking through some old sketch books of mine from many years ago...

Me, with dreadlocks, on the cover of  the Bournemouth Evening Echo, at a peaceful Anti-Poll Tax march, when Thatcher was at the BIC for a party conference. The newspaper totally under-reported the marcher numbers and didn't mention the thousands of pensioners who bussed in from all over the country to play their part. That was the week I realised our press may well be free, but it is not always truthful or unbiased.

Class continued with the view of snow at Balvack, after a day of warm sunshine.

My first carved spoon. A highly addictive craft.
Bright sun streamed in as we worked in Aberdeenshire.

Logs at Kyle of Lochalsh trhough rainy train windows.

Spoon, almost finished.

Talisker Bay, Skye, where I went to talk with Iain McGilchrist.


Just got up and read the latest election results. So depressing (for me in England). And to think none of this might have happened if David Milliband rather than Ed had run the Opposition. It seems the priviliged in England don't care about those relying on food banks, want to send us into wasteful turmoil with the EU, don't mind if public services are destroyed (as it won't affect them) and are happy to endorse the reign of Capital over Community. I am gutted that we will have more tax breaks for the already loaded, more blame on those suffering poverty and no real look at the causes of that suffering. No more politics I promise. But waking up in Tory Surrey can do this to a woman. I will attempt to remember- The River Thames has no political party.

07 May 2015

Tonight - reminder

We're at Fetternear Hall tonight.

06 May 2015

Heartwork Sunday Session

...will be held at a location very near Hampton Court train station, 2-5pm Sunday 17th May. Get address details at class or by contacting myself or Mark. all GR and TCC students welcome. Cost £20 (concessions available). Tea provided.


Jonathan and I went for a day's training in knife-sharpening at Dave Budd's place in Devon. A master tool-maker, with many other skills, he runs excellent courses from his woodland base, and I highly recommend them. Below is a hand made crook knife I bought from him for making spoons. The plain Mora knife to the right is one of my workhorse tools, and now it's super sharp for carving wood.

Hackney Class

...tonight as normal at our new venue to the side of the Round Chapel entered up the stairs on Powerscroft Rd. 6-10pm.

05 May 2015

Change of venue this Thursday

Due to Monymusk Hall being used as a polling station, this week's Thursday session will be at Fetternear Hall.

Karen's LP launch

Dearest People,

I hope you're enjoying the beauties of Spring :).

On June 11th I will be launching my full length album 'Bitter Sweet' at Passing clouds, with a full band including a harp, violins, banjo, a great support act and other delights. It's going to be awesomeness itself, especially if you are there !

Meanwhile, please do come along to my next gig at the much loved Green Note Cafe, 106 Parkway, London NW1 7AN. It's wise to book tickets in advance.

Date: Sunday 10th May
Doors open: 7pm and music starts at 8.15.
Tickets: £8.

See here for more information.

Warm wishes,

Karen x


The Wake

One of my favourite works of fiction ever has just come out I paperback and will be brought to life in some way for one night only at the Edinburgh Festival this year, details below. I will be away doing deer-skin tanning and moccasin making in the woods of southern England, but would also love to be going to this. Go if you can, and tell me all about it! This email came form the author Paul Kingsnorth, who I met recently at an excellent event in Wimbledon.


The Wake is now in paperback

Plus news of a special event this summer

There were no printed words in 1066, and most people couldn't have read them anyway. But here we are nearly a thousand years on, and you have the chance to hold the paperback of The Wake in your hands. It's published today, and it's a thing of beauty. You can read more about it here.

To celebrate, I'm putting together a special event later this year at the Edinburgh Book Festival. It's not been announced publicly yet, so this is a sneak preview. On the afternoon of Saturday 22nd August, I'll be on stage with actor Mark Rylance, who will be reading from The Wake, and storyteller Martin Shaw, who will be telling an old Anglo-Saxon tale that may not have been told for a thousand years. It's a one-off, and it should be good. Keep an eye on the events page of my website for full details soon.

Nepal Earthquake

My old friend and second T'ai Chi teacher Kajedo was in Nepal for 2 months leading his (usually annual) trek and meditation retreat in the mountains. He has been doing for over 25 years. I am relieved to say got back to the UK safely 3 days before the quake. For those wishing to donate to aid the disaster relief, here is a good page listing many of the bona fide charities and agencies.

Spiky news

It's Hedgehog Awareness Week.

This week at Mark's classes

Sabre tonight and Sword on Thursday.

03 May 2015

No Inverurie class until 25th May

There will be no Inverurie class 4th to 18th May inclusive as the venue is being used by another group.  We're back at the normal place and time on Monday 25th.

No Turriff class this week

There will be no Turriff class on Monday 4th May due to the public holiday. We're back at the normal place and time on Monday 11th.