Press Pause

The other night I dreamed I had my backpack all ready for the most amazing adventure. It was the small rucksack that I love and which accompanied me on The West Highland Way and on Walk 2012. Seeing it neatly packed filled me with joyful anticipation. Then I realised I did not have my recording equipment in the bag. I started pulling everything out and rummaging, searching to see what could be taken out and where could I fit my microphones and recorders and headphones. I got so agitated that I woke up and my first thought was “when can I focus on my sounds again?”


Although I have loved every single second of my amazing book-producing adventure, and although I cherish and believe in WOVEMBER from the very bottom of my heart, working on these projects has used up all I had. I want to give a shout out here to comrade Louise Scollay whose amazing input has not only made WOVEMBER possible, but also in my opinion one of the best ones ever. Louise has not only curated and organised many brilliant posts for the WOOLTASTIC schedule but has brought joy through regular Skype chats and constant wool-themed exchanges. LOUISE IS TURBO!

I too am TURBO and for most of this year and through my own choice I have burnt the candle at both ends and worked through weekends. It is in my nature to work at this pace and I am not complaining, but I am recognising that I must now press pause for a bit. I’m taking a deep breath and drawing together the energy I need for the next adventure – a joyous return to the SONIK dimension of the KNITSONIK mission.

As WOVEMBER draws to a close and the piles of books in my house grow smaller and smaller I am turning inward, thinking about textures and places, listening more, growing still and gathering my audio mojo together. I can sense small sparks of energy returning and am looking towards resurrecting my podcast and completing work on the KNITSONIK Audible Textures Resource – the album that accompanies the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook. This is exciting.

But creativity doesn’t in my experience involve great shafts of light opening from the sky; for me it comes in the spaces that you leave in daily life. Therefore I am trying to tidy my house and to get a handle on my clothes. I am thinking about The Slow Wardrobe. I am making stews and soups and hunkering indoors in wool jumpers sorting rooms that got trashed while I was focusing completely on writing my book. I am making space in the figurative backpack of my life for SONIK joy to fit.

Winter always makes me reflective and nostalgic for the year that has almost passed. I keep thinking of the spring and early summer when I was researching the chapters on Inspiration for The KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook striding around Reading with camera and notebook. Those were amazing days of trying to put my finger on why things and places are inspiring. I loved those days of writing and research and how they put me in touch with Reading in new ways and helped to form deeper connections between the fabric of my life and the physical textures of my town.



The first case study in the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook explores knitting from my beloved Huntley & Palmers biscuit tin, and now while I am folding clothes, frying off onions, packing books into envelopes, I am thinking about how to best celebrate that wondrous biscuit tin in an audio context. The tin itself sounds wondrous when opened, closed, struck or bowed, but I keep feeling drawn back to the places where it was made in Reading – places I discovered in the course of researching the book.

It began with finding these photos of the Internal Distribution Road before it was opened in the 1970s and spotting this amazing red brick factory building behind the Red Cow pub.


If you can’t see what I mean, compare the photo above to the one of the same view in 2014;


Amazing comrades on the Reading Forum explained this was the remnants of the once enormous Huntley, Boorne & Stevens factory where all the biscuit tins for Huntley & Palmers were made. This was the site where my tin was made! How exciting!

I became a bit obsessed with unearthing traces of that factory and Mark and I spent a delightful day trying to match photos from the past with photos of the present, to understand where the Huntley, Boorne & Stevens factory once stood.


Between the awnings up from St. Giles on Southampton Street you can just about make out one of the entrances to the Huntley, Boorne & Stevens factory. If you’re not sure where I mean, check out this photo of the same view and you shall see that a new building now stands in its place.


I think this is a closeup of that very entrance, found on the beautiful Historypin website, wherein users can geotag and upload old photos, revealing how your familiar places looked in the past.


I went to the Berkshire Records Office to examine the original building plans for this factory so I could understand where it once stood. It was strange to look at the future plans for a building now quite far in the past.


Do you think it is fanciful to imagine that these wondrous old arches (now the side walls of a nightclub) are the last vestiges of the same Victorian arches detailed in the factory plans? And that factory buildings and land stood on what is now a car-parking area?


Through Historypin I found that the very route which I take to my weekly knitting group on London Street passes by the spot where there was once another imposing entrance to the Huntley, Boorne & Stevens factory complex. I am overcome with sentiment at this neglected building, all fallen into disrepair, the last vestige of a huge manufacturing business before it was torn down to make way for new, shiny offices.

I love the grime and the dirty grandeur and all the soul of these old buildings even as I acknowledge that the wages and working conditions for people now working in the new shiny offices are much better than they were for the tin workers of the past…



…the old factory buildings on London Street were opposite the original Huntley & Palmers biscuit shop which has been torn down and replaced with a modern replica of the original.



The main sounds dominating these places where my tin was created are now the tones of traffic. They are the sounds of roads growing and swallowing the little patch of land where a great factory once stood. But there are quiet spots. There are places to pause.

I am looking forward to doing just that in coming days; to standing where my tin was made and listening to the textures of the place. I will be straining my ears to see if any traces of the past remain sonically as they do visually. There are beautiful surfaces of old bricks that peek out here and there from between the new ones; bricks that have reflected the sounds of dray horses and furnaces and metal workers and shouting and bustling. If there is a way to hear all that those bricks have heard then I will find it! Otherwise I will work by listening to what is there now; by pausing to listen and to be present.


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