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.
Posted in Art, death, Family, Grandchildren, introspection, Life, memories, Old friends, reflecting, Sadness, Teaching, Tennis, Travelling, University
Tags: Art, creativity, Family, life, relationships, Sadness, thinking
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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.
Posted in Art, Art Exhibitions, Drawing, Family, introspection, Life, memories, Photography, politics, reflecting, Sadness, Spain, thinking, Travelling
Tags: Art, Brexit, creativity, dad, Donald Trump, exhibitions, Family, life, photography, politics, relationships, Sadness, Spain
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After my first New Year in Edinburgh I’ve got a lot to think about. Started by booking a holiday next October for all the family. Felt very reflective after my illness. I want to work out what I want to do. I get this kind of longing to change things for the better. To expand. To discover something new. I also feel I need to get away from everyone and be anonymous. Yet I love being with my family, sons and grandchildren. Sometimes I feel a sense of disquiet too. Not sure where this thinking is going.
There’s been a lot of emotion and challenges for me this month. Things I can’t say publicly in case I ever meet you. Old traumas have returned. I’ve been trying struggle through this thinking and almost ran away from the hurt and pain – which is easier, which can I cope with – stay and put up with it, working my way through it and submerging the worst feelings and sadness or run and don’t look back just forward. For a strong woman I feel weak.
Well I’m still here.
Posted in Family, Grandchildren, introspection, Life, reflecting, Sadness, Sons, strength, thinking, Time, Travelling, Uncategorized
Tags: Family, life, sons, thinking
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Started a new painting on December 1st, large white base for a line landscape. I fancy working with different “whites” to create depth and a line of trees on the horizon in paint or pencil – not sure yet how it will develop.
As Christmas grew near I managed to catch a vicious virus that I took with me when I collected my 89 year old mum to bring her to my house for a week over Christmas. We were both very ill and I was very anxious about her. We muddled through although suffering and not eating or feeling very sociable. I continued to Edinburgh for New Year and slowly began to improve. I had a lovely time with my brother and his partner – walking on the beach in Portobello, having a Turkish bath and a swim in Portobello, watching the fireworks over Edinburgh, walking on Arthur’s Seat on New Year’s Day, drinking fresh ginger tea in Espy’s. My drawing returned after many days when I just could not pick up a pencil. I was worried that I would just not return to drawing. Drawing again really helps the way I feel as I recover and find my appetite again. Now I can also return to my white painting in January.
Posted in Art, Drawing, Family, Life, Painting, reflecting, Uncategorized
Tags: brothers, celebration., creativity, Family, relationships
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First visit of the month to Edinburgh to see my brother and go o the Davis Cup Semi finals in Glasgow. Fab time getting lost in Glasgow roadworks, cheering and shouting for the British team, singing Scottish songs then losing my voice. Loved wandering around Portobello and my usual Ginger tea at Espy’s and strolling on the beach. Even fitted in a Turkish bath at the Swimming baths on the promenade. Managed a few art exhibitions in Edinburgh – one was mind blowing when I put on a pair of reality goggles and was transported into a fantasy land of psychedelic halls, bridges and weirdness. Loved it. called in at the cafe Royal for a Gavi and a people watch.
Second travelling was to Preston to see mum. I love travelling on the train. Sometimes I have someone to talk to but other times I just love the solitude and do my thinking and drawing. Trees still fascinate and their shapes are ever changing and challenging to draw on the move. I drew an interesting old leather briefcase on a seat and only got part way through as the man moved it. Had to hold myself back…. Preston was comforting. Home. Spending time with mum is good as we can’t have too many trips together now she is 89. Time is precious and also full of memories to talk about. She loves to talk about Dad and Gran and Grandad, I suppose I’m one of the few people she can do this with. We talked about her childhood too and her boyfriends and Culleybackey in her first 18 years. I know I did this with dad too but she’s the last of that generation that lived through the war and its sad to think that soon they will all be gone. New stories emerge overtime we talk about her past, sometimes looking at old faded photos. I want to start planning her 90th birthday party, but am holding back as July is a long way off. Sometimes I wake up dreading the day as it might be a day one of us dies.
My two grandchildren are flourishing. They are full of energy and mischief and imagination. On my Nana Val Fridays we now have to include the afternoon trip to the primary school as Meg is attending half days now. She looks so delicious in her school uniform. Can’t believe she’s almost 4.
Drawing in my daily book marches on – I love it. The book is so special now, like a visual diary as I remember what I was doing on that day, even the weather somehow. In November it will be the DAY I reach 365 drawings. I must find a way to celebrate………
Posted in Art Exhibitions, Challenge, death, Drawing, Family, Grandchildren, introspection, memories, Northern Ireland, reflecting, Sadness, thinking, Travelling
Tags: 365, Art, brothers, creativity, dad, death, exhibitions, Family, galleries, life, Sadness, thinking
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August 1st 1981 – walked down the aisle Valerie Anne Smythe and married Christopher Laurence Meredith at St. Hilda’s Church in Bilsborrow, Lancashire.
Memories of that day include….when everyone was at the church there was just me and dad left and we walked in the garden in the sunshine. It was so quiet and still and calm. We just talked and it was the very best moment in time for me, a closeness that has never been replicated.
Visited my friend from University back in the 70s. We had a lovely few days just talking art and seeing Georgia O’Keefe’s exhibition in Tate Modern – such paintings and drawings – sooooo wonderful. Just want to get back to making art. Just hope the chemotherapy works for her.
Set off in the night last week of August to go to the International Youthweek in Aurich, northern Germany with 4 sixth formers to join students from Germany, Finland, Sweden and Romania. Amazing.
Posted in anniversary, Art, Family, introspection, Life, memories, Old friends, reacquainting, reflecting, regret, Sadness, Time, University, Wedding
Tags: anniversary, creativity, Family, Germany, Lancashire, life, teaching, thinking, travelling
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