February 2019 New Zealand Travelling on the North Island, volcanic pools at Rotorua and on to Wellington

Day

Travelling to Rotorua

Early start as picked up at 7am by Kiwi Tours in a minibus. Lovely driver who loved talking. Only 7 of us on the bus to Bombay Hills near Auckland. Quite a hairy road, winding amongst the trees and hills, many varieties of trees, very lush and green. Got to Bombay and was dropped at a service station to wait for Intercity bus. Quite strange as no bus stop. One other man was standing in the cold wind who was going to Rotorua to take part in a huge running race around the lakes.Bus was late so felt very vulnerable and cold. Bus was busy and not very hot so I still felt freezing and I had no coat. Driver was really grumpy. Met a French couple who were travelling to Rotorua as well – they were on a long trip before returning home to find jobs. A young mother and toddler got on and screamed for ages as she wasn’t allowed in the luggage area until she fell asleep. Bliss for all of us fellow travellers. A taxi was waiting for me in Rotorua to take me to the hotel. The entrance and public areas were lovely overlooking the lake. Mine room was a dismal room, dark and grotty bathroom but as it was one night and the bed was comfy I didn’t complain. Off I went to the Polynesian Spa for my appointment- soaking in volcanically heated pools of different temperatures- felt lovely, then my treatment. Wow that was something else. It was a French water massage- lying on a special bed with jets of water above me whilst the masseuse massaged coconut and lime oil all over me. Strangely calming and my skin felt great.

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February in New Zealand 2019 Travelling and printing workshop

Auckland Day 1-3

Wow I’m really half way round the world! Auckland is amazing as a capital city – vibrant, buzzing around the harbour area. I managed to check my bags into the apartment as it was early, decided to check out the free walking tour and ended up joining it. Glad I did as although I was tired this was so interesting- some history, some tips, lots of architectural beauties, Albert Park, the red light area of old and some politics. It made me feel orientated.  The apartment was lovely with a balcony in the business district. Coffee across the street was recommended by the gorgeous taxi driver and cake was delicious. Day 2 started with a visit to the Auckland Art Gallery- just loved it – mostly contemporary NZ art but also some historic Maori portraits. Also went to two smaller galleries before Laura and Audrey arrived. Spent the evening in the harbour and marina area and ate at the Swashbuckler Inn as recommended by Linda and Andre whom had been Laury’s host in the Northlands -our second cousins on mum’s side. Great seafood. Day 3 Sunday – we took the hop on off bus across the city and stopped at Parnell a quaint suburb with some character. Stumbled across a market for dogs- stalls selling everything for dogs and there were lots of happy little twee dogs there! Strange. Some lovely art galleries one full of stunning glass called the Black Door Gallery. Went searching for a food market but failed to find it. Wandered into a school for blind with fab staircase. It’s blistering hot about 29 degrees. Next was the War Memorial Museum just for the views across the city and a coffee stop then walked to the amazing Botanical Gardens. I really liked them and the fernery-some stunning tropical flowers. Had dinner by the wharf and a real ale in the Brew on the Quay pub before dropping into bed – not sleeping too good.

Day 4 Auckland to Whitianga

Early start to catch the ferry to Coromandel. Watched the huge liners and tiny looking ferries manoeuvring around each other. Fab journey across Auckland bay and past the islands. Actually enjoyed being on the water. There was a bus waiting up the hill from the old wooden jetty after a spectacular view of the coast as we came in. A lady I’d been talking to was invited up to the captains area and dragged me along too. Not sure why that happened, but it was great. Then we transferred to a minibus to go to Whitianga. The trip was sensational through very windy hilly roads with amazing forests full of indigenous trees and palms, so lush, quite overwhelming. I loved it. At Whitianga we drove past a gorgeous beach to the harbour and marina to the apartment. A walk round the town and along the beach was so lovely. The buildings are flat roofed and mostly single storey. Some streets have more quirky bungalows but the shops in the town are as in America in the mid West. I talked to a bone carver and he showed me his process from cow bone to jewellery- yes I bought a Maori symbol as a necklace. Fascinating. Had Hokies and chips from the chippy back at my lovely apartment. It’s huge and overlooks the local rugby pitch. Had a swim in the pool and relaxed with a glass of wine on the balcony.

Day 5 Whitianga and Hakui printing workshop

Up early for breakfast in Cafe Nina- eggs Benedict was delicious. Walked to ferry to get across the estuary. Swirling strong current. Drew in the sunshine whilst waiting for my lift. Wondered if it would all come together. It did. Kay arrived and off we went. Picked upbJan on the way. Drove 45 minutes south to Taurua then off into the bush to a little remote village hall. I met the other artists and the tutor Carole Shepheard. Most of them knew each other as they were part of a printing group that met fortnightly. I was given a quick crash course to get me up to speed. The theme was cells and I had done some lovely drawings of microscopic cells. We were using water based inks and soaked the paper in large water baths. It was a little frustrating as Carole was in great demand for printing help. I had some very quiet waits, but I did get my 2 background plates ready and I did a dry point etching on acrylic and printed it on lovely paper with red ink. Near the end I printed the first background and it was a disaster as the paper welded itself to the plate of cardboard and shellac. Kay dropped me by a beach so I could have a short walk to the ferry. I had gunard and chips and a glass of wine in the apartment.

Day 6 Whitianga and Hakui printing workshop

Another hot day and an early morning ferry trip to meet Kay on the other side at Ferry Landing. The ladies were very welcoming and I had to make a new background plate on acrylic using some interesting wheel etching tools and sandpaper. It turned out really good to my surprise and printed well in different colours. The other background cardboard plate also stuck to the paper and it felt disastrous. We worked out that there was something wrong with the shellac solution Carole had given me. I managed an offset overprinting of 2 plates which I was pleased with on larger paper although very gentle colour. I ended up being pleased with my work although really frustrated at times. Some of the others’ work was stunning. I was really tired as I had not slept well since arriving in NZ. I walked to the supermarket and bought some cheese and biscuits for tea after a walk on the beach.

Needed to pack up my little rucksack ready for an early start in the morning, I felt very contented at this apartment.

 

January 2019 Another new year to fear – Another adventure

Saw both sons on the first day of 2019, their partners and my grandsons at my mum’s house- that’s 4 generations together again.    A good memory. January has been a month of lists and jobs for mum. Satisfying as this makes mum happier and yet not achieving contentment. Also exhausting and all consuming which feeds my guilt. Another challenge for me.

Made a stab or three at the topic for this year’s Brecon’s Women’s Festival Exhibition. Don’t like the topic. But I really like my little picture especially as it’s got a meaning only known to me. Quite satisfying.

Tried to plan for and engage in my rapidly approaching once in a lifetime New Zealand trip. Flying off on January 30th.

Woke up on Day 1 of my adventure to snowfall and ice then switched on TV to find Manchester airport was closed. Checked news all morning to see if weather got better then one runway was open. My flight wasn’t cancelled although many were. Nervy trip to Abergavenny station, then on to Manchester airport. Arrived at check in at 5pm. to huge queues everywhere. People had had to queue for hours to rebook flights and connections not working. I held my breath a moment at this chaotic sight and waited for an hour to check in my bags. The runways were clear but still a lot of snow on the ground and one plane was being de iced.  Memories of that awful flight from New York flooded back. Our flight was packed solid as every empty seat was taken with rebooked passengers all with upsetting tales to tell. We got away only 30 minutes late. Seven hours and 15 minutes later I’m in Dubai, having met an odd Nigerian young woman and an elderly Yorkshire lady called Tina, a good flight  with two good films I chose to watch called The Wife and Escape. Slept for 2 hours. Found my gate in the huge Dubai airport easily but these airplanes have around 600 passengers on 2 floors so it’s daunting to see all these people at the gate. That was the size of my school Gwernyfed when I arrived there in 1980. My final flight was 13 hours long. It’d begun to feel surreal now as we pass through time zones. We flew over Ayers Rock in the night. More food and films to watch- Ballon with subtitles about an escape by hot air balloon crossing the Berlin Wall and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  Now the backache was kicking in. I was kept chatting by an Aucklander Fiona and her son Seb who represented New Zealand at skiing aged 12 returning from an Austrian training camp. She was widely travelled and wealthy. She gave me some tips and our conversations about our families and our lives kept me sane. Couldn’t sleep much- about 2 hours even with earplugs in as noisy children’s cries echoed intermittently. Back very stiff so resorted to painkillers. Arrived on time. Taxi waited for me with gorgeous driver once me and my box of dates negotiated the agri customs and their paperwork. Room wasn’t ready so stored luggage and went for a walk to the harbour in 27 degrees.

 

Miraculously it was now February 1st !

 

 

December 2018 A year of Firsts

The main focus of my life is still mum at 91 and her new house. Overwhelming at times, irritating occasionally, delightfully distracting at other times, sometimes fulfilling, often emotional.   This Christmas will be her first Christmas in her new home and the first time she has moved into a new home without dad. Her everlasting list is always waiting for me!

More firsts : My two new grandsons Monty and Isaac are approaching their first Christmas and Steffan and Kayleigh are parents for their first Christmas- mum and dad. It’s the first Christmas together for all four grandchildren. It’s the first Christmas for my two sons to both be dads. There’s probably more firsts but I can’t think of them at the moment.

Christmas day was lovely cooking in mum’s new kitchen and having time to spend with Monty. Boxing Day was good in Cardiff too with Rhodri and the three other grandchildren and see how R&S, H&K get on so well. 11 of us now. I will buy less presents next year. I will not be disappointed again. I must learn from my mistakes even at 64!

I had a wonderful walk on the beach on the 28th on Swansea Bay after a great lunch in Diablos on the marina with S,K&Monty. Really good conversation and relaxation. And collecting shells. Thinking of my gran. She loved doing that yet I never knew what she did with them.

My brother and partner arrived for New Year so he’s helping with jobs at mum’s house which takes the pressure off me for a few days. Introduced him to my favourite pub The Tap in Brecon and some amazing walks. I’ve had no contact from my older brother or his daughter. Sad.

November 2018 Moving A 91 Year Old Starting My 65th Year On This Earth

November 2018 is certainly going to be different from any other month this year or any year so far!

Yes we finished the renovations in time- just. The final decoration was finished when I was in London for the weekend. Scary – had to leave them to it! It is lovely – the bathroom is above my expectations and the kitchen is gorgeous. Can’t quite believe it.

Mum is moved in and relatively settled. I can’t say I enjoyed the day but after sleepless nights and a mountain of worry it’s done. Everyday we open another box and sort out either a place for the contents or it goes to charity or landfill. It’s lovely being able to see her everyday. My two sons, their partners and four grandchildren arrived on the second day to help and although a bit chaotic it was great, so full on and baby orientated I loved it.

The rest of my life has to be squeezed in somehow. Turning 64 came and went sadly without much of a fanfare, probably for the best, bit depressing but that’s normal!

Life drawing on Monday’s continues to uplift and inspire and challenge me.

October 2018 fretting

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……

October week in Saundersfoot was divine. Only missing part of the family was my youngest son and partner and the newborn grandson Monty. Walking on the beach, soaking in the hot tub, drawing with my grandchildren and something unexpected- not for publication! Everyone seemed to relax. Mum went home with my brother to continue packing her stuff and when I returned to Brecon I began the gutting of her new bungalow. We completed whilst we were on holiday, so the saga continues- out comes the bathroom and kitchen and I have 4 weeks to renovate everything. I thought I was stressed before- now I am really stressed. It has taken over my entire life and thought processes! I feel utterly responsible for my Mum’s future happiness. I am dealing with plumbers, electricians, kitchen and bathroom fitters, gas central heating engineers, carpet fitters, carpet cleaners, decorators, wardrobe fitters, French door fitters ( and hole in the wall bashers!) as well as Council tax, water board, electricity and gas, refuse collections, telephone and internet providers, car insurance, driving licence, buildings and contents insurance, doctors, dentists, libraries, pension people, estate agents for the old house, solicitors and getting to know new neighbours for mums arrival in November. Like in the Oscars speeches – I may have missed someone out! Will it be finished in time……. Not quite Grand Designs but I can understand that pressure. All will be revealed in November if I make it.

September 2018 Madness and Whirlwind

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 2018 Rollercoaster Emotions – searching

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 Northern 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. I am very worried about his mental and physical health.

January – July 2018

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.

 

December – the end of my fourth year of retirement

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!