October has begun and I’m still looking after mum. I had a brief visit home in September for 3 days to meet my new grandson on the 16th – Monty Eric Meredith- my youngest son’s first child with his amazing partner Kayleigh. It was very emotional for me- way more than expected. I’ve been away from him for the rest of September so now I’m going home on the 7th October and will be over to cuddle him ASAP! I’ve been wading through thousands of photographs from mum’s attic and helping her select some for a photo box. Turned into an epic job and full of memories mostly good but also filled me with a deep sense of loss. I can’t talk to anyone about this loss but it keeps me awake at night and I feel a bit disconnected with the world because of it. A bit sad. No doubt someone could psychoanalyse that! Add to that my sense of dread that I might stuff up mum’s move and buying and selling of houses that makes me totally messed up and in need of a hug from someone. I have made a promise to myself to start sorting out my attic when I get home. I recognise I have too much stuff and I don’t want any more. I want less stuff. I’m going to pretend I’m moving into a small house and need to downsize. We’ll see. I want to feel happy again. I’m looking forward to having the whole family together in Saundersfoot in West Wales in mid October from aged 91 to 4 weeks old. It’ll be mayhem with 4 grandkids, but glorious too. And there’s a hot tub……
As I return from Germany I was told that mum had a fall last week and my family decided to keep quiet about so as not to ruin my time in Germany. This happened in her front room and she fractured her wrist and foot. The wrist is in plaster, the foot in a huge compression boot and she needs a crutch to walk. Bit of a shock. My brother and partner held the fort and looked after her til I got there. What a mess. I’m working to get the house sale through, talking to solicitors, tradesmen and estate agents Trying to get the money together and accessible is tricky too. And now mum can’t sugn anything, or put her hearing aids in or eye drops. She’s feeling vulnerable too. I’m staying with mum until she can manage. At least I can do some sorting out, packing , decluttering and charity chop/ tip runs. Going through all her stuff with her is quite emotional for both of us.
August was a month of searching. Much of the month was about searching for a bungalow for my mum to buy near my home. This has been going on for 3 years but now she really wants to move because she is 91 and feeling very vulnerable. She lives 170 miles away in the town that I was born in. My emotions are in turmoil. On the one hand I really want her close to me so I can look after her as she will become frailer . She’s fiercely independent as I am. She has lived in Preston since she was 18 when in1945 she and her brother caught the ferry from Northern Ireland to Lancashire to be with her mum and dad in Preston. Now I’m responsible for uprooting a 91 year old from a bungalow she adores, filled with memories of dad and close to her church and the graves of him and her parents. If I wasn’t living in Wales this would not have to happen. I have a fourth grandchild on the way due in September and feel the pull to them and staying in Wales yet I’ve always hankered after going back to live in Preston where I was born. When she moves it feels like my home disappears too, so a bit of me disappears. I feel like Preston is so much part of me and is my true home. Not Wales. Mum doesn’t really want to move to Brecon she’d really like to spend her last year’s in Preston. I feel like the whole thing is so wrong yet I want to be able to look after her every day. We haven’t got that long left together. Yet here I am looking at bungalows for her. Bringing her down to see them. She’s now quite sure she wants this. And I’m thinking why the hell did I have to fall in love with a fucking Welshman 1973?
At the end of August I took 4 students to Aurich in Nirthern Germany to an International Youth Meeting to work with youngsters from Germany, Finland and Romania. As well as some great experiences we painted a huge wall mural. I was so proud of them all. Also I met a dear friend Kalle who has had an awful two years and has survived some difficult times . He was always my German rock for so many years. So good to hug him close.
Been away from this blog for awhile so I’ll just do a quick catch up before I get more organised and keep to monthly posts.
January was nor exceptional. however I was delighted to have 2 paintings accepted for the Winterwall exhibition in a Cardiff Gallery called M.A.D.E. They were my 2 small White Landscapes I painted on Japanese paper and tissue paper. I love those paintings and don’t really want to sell either of them, but it was good to let other people see them. I took my two grandchildren to see the exhibition. No-one else in my family went to see it apart from hubby. Sad.
February. Attended the Regional Samaritans Conference in Tenby – even though weather rubbish I love walking on that beach. I had a larger area in the Glasbury Art Exhibition this year – I showed all my sketchbooks – 3 years worth. Also I exhibited three White Landscapes and 2 feather ink drawings. Looked great. Was very proud. Also spent one hour every day from Fri-Wed drawing in the exhibition and inviting members of the public to join me. Very interesting and it felt really worthwhile. Hubby and one son saw the exhibition. Had some lovely positive encouraging comments given to me about my concertina sketchbooks which were spread out to show the drawings. I began life drawing sessions in Llanigon Village Hall to get ready for my life drawing trip to Berlin in May.
March. The biggest event was the arrival of my third grandchild – Isaac Llewelyn at 5.45a.m. on 3rd March in Cardiff. Pretty special you thing. He has a cleft lip which they are planning to operate on when he is 3 or 4 months old. He’s lovely. I organised a crazy day on the 20th March – Samaritans on the Railway at Llandrindod Wells. We met every train from 5.30a.m. until 9pm meeting passengers and staff to raise awareness of volunteering for Samaritans. Hard work but good fun.
April. I had the scary prospect of dog sitting my son’s two dogs for 4 days whilst they went to my brother in Edinburgh for a break. It swing from delightful to horrendous in equal measures – I won’t elaborate here!!!!! During that break my son proposed to his partner and she said yes of course. That was in the Science Museum in Edinburgh on the balcony. Romance is alive thank goodness.
May. I went on a life drawing holiday to Berlin meeting the other 5 people on Stansted airport! A bit scary as I knew no-one just booked it on the internet. I loved every day. It was great and challenging and inspiring. Decided to keep going to the Life Drawing classes for the rest of the year in Llanigon. I’m improving and feeling more confident as it is so difficult to be consistent.
June. Moderating for 2 weeks in Exeter and Liverpool. Fitted in a night with mum too. Hotels were brilliant. Did a little shopping in both cities which was fun.
July – main event was my first visit to Silverstone to watch the British Grand Prix and spend 5 nights camping on the GP Festival site. Scorching hot but had a great time. Slept in my brothers awning tent attached to his camper van and another friend camped in a separate tent. Strange to walk at dawn to the toilet block for a wee and having conversations with the 24 hour security guard. Enjoyed the comedy tent and Whispering Bob Harris’s music evenings of new talent. Loved it. Mum came back to Brecon to bungalow hunt for her move to Brecon. She’s 91 this month and we had a little BBQ party for her. I am finding it stressful finding a good bungalow for her. I just want to find a little gem for her as it is a huge move for her. Isaac went in for his operation and it was a huge success. Quite amazing. A relief for everyone. I was heavily involved in the Crucial Crew event in 9 high schools working with other organisations giving talks to 12 year olds about emotional health and coping strategies. Tiring but worthwhile.
So how am I feeling? Lonely and unloved. It doesn’t matter how busy we are when you are feeling unvalued by those you love you feel like running away. Let’s see what August brings.
Took my grandchildren and husband to see my two paintings in the Cardiff gallery – MADE in Roath. Another special moment for me.
Continued to hunt for a bungalow for my mum to buy so she can move closer to me. It’s such a big step for her at 90. Also it’s difficult for me too. So many worries about this.
Christmas arrived at speed. Christmas Day at my son’s house was new this year – manic with 2 very excited grandchildren. Boxing Day with my other son and his two great dogs was just as good. I think I actually enjoyed Christmas!!!!!!!!
Now I need to think about the last four years. What did I plan to do when I retired?
1. Clear out all the mountains of STUFF I brought home from my Art room and office after 100 terms at the same school.
2. Swim or walk somewhere every day.
3. Play for a minimum of one day per week with my granddaughter – no rules.
4. Find out about volunteering to help somebody.
5. Join in with a kindness every day.
6. Have lots of long lunches with other retirees/escapees.
7. Sleep in. Get up later than normal alarm setting – later than 7 am.
8. Think and do art.
9. Plan visits abroad
10. Phone mum every day.
11. Don’t die yet.
12. Laugh with someone more often.
Well what a list…….
I have made a start on number 1. Plenty to do.
Completed and continuing number 2-5.
Number 6 – occasionally – need to do that more.
Number 7 – Alarm set to 7.10a.m. by hubby but I don’t get up then, listen to the radio, read, get up slowly.
Number 8-11 completed and continuing.
Number 12 – still to do.
I don’t think I’ll add anymore goals that’s certainly sufficient for the moment!
A holiday month.
Flew to Rome for the first time – extremely hot, gorgeous penthouse apartment, some great restaurants but sites SO busy. Enjoyed the catacombs and Coliseum. Modern Art Museum MAXXI was superb.
Caught train to Venice – worried about this trip as never attempted this before, but really enjoyed first class across the countryside of Italy – super fast!
There aren’t enough good words to describe what I feel about the Venice Biennale – it is like Christmas for me – or a huge sweet shop. I just loved it – even the crap stuff. The work is always inspiring, challenging, creative, quite mad………
Managed to do some great drawings. Amazing apartment was on a canal with its own balcony/dock. We had a water taxi to the airport – fab fun.
Only one down side we had a horrible experience in one restaurant when we were followed and harassed in the street by a waiter demanding 2 euros that we hadn’t paid but we had – BUT we hadn’t left a tip as the service was appalling. Really upsetting – the worst of bullying behaviour I have ever experienced.
I will go back in 2019.
This is my moderating month – a conference in Cardiff followed by three weeks of travelling to schools and colleges in England this year to examine a sample of their A level Art & Design examinations and coursework. It is so lovely to see new moderators and an absolute delight to get hugged by returning old friends. Some of the oldies have given up so its sad not to see them. I only see these guys once a year but its like an adrenaline rush. This year I stayed in the hotel which was good as we were all together in one place and I could enjoy the after work socialising. We did enjoy ourselves. The work was manic and the paperwork crazy but I love it. I love seeing the work of young people – new inspiring ideas and I like meeting the art teachers too, seeing the way they do things and what their school is like. I don’t like all the computer work and report writing and sometimes I get lost finding the school – actually sometimes I can’t find the way in!!!!! I go to places I would never go to – this year I’m off to Poole in Dorset and Andover in Hampshire in the south of England. the second week starts in Birmingham and then to Coventry – the Midlands. the third week takes me to safer ground to Liverpool – nearer to my beloved Lancashire – I still miss it. It means I can fit in a stay with mum for a weekend too.
Last Thursday I got some sad news – Derek Stears has died. I first met Derek when I was 22 on the postgrad ATC course at Howard Gardens in Cardiff as he was on the team of tutors, with his long black hair and trendy leather jacket. We all sat waiting to be allocated our tutors, silently wishing we were in his group. We all trooped out on to the beach near Cardiff to build a pink wall across the beach with Adamstown primary kids – mad times!
Later our paths crossed again when I did my MEd at Cyncoed, Cardiff University – we had long conversations about creativity and also the changes I had to make to my thesis! A few years later he invited me to be part of the 2000 A level moderating team and I’m still doing it.
He taught me a lot and it was his respect for Art teachers and the work they do, often in difficult circumstances, often at the bottom of the pile within the hierarchy of a high school ( except when needed for inspections!!). He taught me to be realistic about what we could do and keep sane ourselves and always be inspired by those we taught. Enthusiasm and creativity was what I tried to give my students as he gave to me. His sense of humour was wicked and his eye for detail was often beyond me at times, but much appreciated.
I had a day of sadness and reflection then carried on as I had my amazing grandchildren to look after for the day. They were so special that day as cheered on Andy Murray on the TV as he got through to the semi finals of the French Open. George (aged 2) picked up the phrase “Come on Andy ” and said it in a deep voice in a broad Lancashire accent and it just creased me with laughter all afternoon.
This month I usually escape to Spain but neither mum nor Chris are fit and able to travel on an airplane so Keswick it is instead. Mum and I stayed in a lovely ground floor flat in the town and apart from very little parking spaces it was perfect. Weather was not as good as Spain but after 2 wet and dull days it was dry for the rest of the week. Daily walks were a must but on the flat as mum is nearly 90 yet really good for her age. We had a traditional trip on the launch around Derwentwater. I looked at Catcalls and had a flood of memories about dad – we walked up there many times as well as virtually every mountain in the North Lakes area – can’t think of one we didn’t wend our way to the top and back to our caravan in the council caravan park. What great six week summer holidays I was given by my parents. A lot to thank them for. I’m not going to say they were all sunny days as I have been completely drenched for days during some Augusts. We revisited the caravan park and walked to Friar’s Crag, talked a lot about dad and of our memories together. Mum had afternoon naps and I had short afternoon walks and a chance to sketch, often down by the boats and geese. I managed to find quite a few small art galleries – not all tacky landscapes, some amazing crafts – glass, pottery and photography.
In contrast I still can’t believe Donald Trump is President of the USA. How mad is the world? Add to that the ridiculous debacle of Brexit and the so called civilised “Western world” is looking decidedly wobbly.