• Twenty More Bluebell Woods

    A good friend asked me a question the other day. How much is a million, he said. That’s easy I thought. Six zeros with a one in front of them, right? I don’t often know the answers to random questions so I was feeling quite chuffed. And then he asked how much was a billion. And do you know what, without Google we didn’t know.

    But what I DO know is how little understanding I have of big numbers. Like how many pebbles there are on Brighton beach or how many light years it would take to reach a distant planet. These numbers seem to hit my brain like a thick pea souper. I can get my head around hundreds but anything in the thousands and above starts to get a bit sticky.

    So I surprised myself when I chose my new read at City Books recently because it was its title that made me pluck it from the shelf. Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman. I really like his writing style but I don’t usually go for ‘self help’ type books. Just this one has cast quite a spell on me.

    It’s a Time Management book that encourages the reader to do less. Apparently if I live into my 80s I have less than a thousand weeks left. If I’m lucky, that’s just twenty more seasons at my favourite bluebell woods.

    One of the benefits I’ve noticed about my own aging is that there are fewer demands on my time. And I’m reading that even in a long life we have time to do only the tiniest fraction of the things we’d planned.

    It’s such a comfort as I’d always imagined I had to try my hardest to do everything I could think of! Reading this book really takes the pressure off. And I’m realising that most of my favourite pastimes aren’t the super exciting ones. I’m not a thrill seeker. I like walking in the woods, doing a bit of painting, appreciating the little things.

    As I sit here on a mossy log in the heart of Stanmer Woods it occurs to me that this may be the Perfect Spring day. A tad too warm for me and Betty but the smiles on the faces of passers by more than makes up for that. In fact it feels as if everything is smiling.

    Today I’m marvelling at the abundance of early Spring flowers and the rapidity with which they form dense dotty carpets under leafless trees - as if their lives depended on it. Which I suppose they do.

    The Winter Aconites with their little faces like stars in the Heavens. The Lesser Celandines with their watercress leaves and shining golden petals. They look so delicious I’m imagining they could taste lovely in a salad (maybe like pineapple flavoured cucumbers?). And those Sweet Violets pushing their tiny purple heads above the mossy banks. So romantic and delicately showy: it always feels like such a privilege to notice them. And how many sycamore seedlings there are! They’re really trying their best to take over the whole planet!

    So, refreshed from my retreat in the woods, I’m deciding to do something a little more sociable. I’m having an Archive Sale! The only one of its kind and there will be plenty to rummage through. Lots of one-offs. Plenty of bargains. Original paintings, sculpture and ceramics. An unmissable event if you like my work: Lots of things under £5 and lots of exclusive original work. I will be there all the time and probably won’t open my studio again in the future.

    So today I’ll start sorting the treasures from my storeroom into boxes and suitcases, putting up the trestle tables, clearing space on the shelves. It’s going to be a BIG job but I am very much looking forward to welcoming you on April 13th and 14th. I hope there’ll be something for everyone: bargains, vintage treasures, original work, live sketching and YES there will be Tunnocks!

    Big Love,

    Sam Toft