June on the road

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.

 

January 2017 New Year New Adventure

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.

October 2016 Tenby and Glasbury Art Exhibition

 

One highlight this month were getting my egg sculptures sorted for the art exhibition in Glasbury. I felt rather special having a special plinth to display them, where people could walk around them, peer into the glass domes to see the drawings, getting multiple viewing points. Apart from the white tablecloth not being ironed it was perfect. Didn’t make any sales but I was truly chuffed and honoured to display my work there. It was a superb exhibition with a hint of controversy about the local life drawing class’s work displayed! An anonymous woman approached the organiser and complained that there was pornography on show – she hadn’t seen the work but had heard at the church coffee morning all about it…… (Enough said then). Is it really 2016? Soooooo daft. It made it to the B & R paper that week. Notoriety at last.

Secondly our annual visit to Tenby appeared at the end of the month, staying in a lovely huge house from the 16th century, walking on the beach, cooking together, the grandkids splintering the quietness of the thick walls  for a few days, playing cards, drawing, meeting old friends and sampling the new brewery ales. Such a delight. From mum at 89 to George at 20 months I like this little ritual. Good job I can afford to do it each year.

Helping others sounds like a cliche, but it’s true. I like doing it. Samaritans is one way but also in my old school too. Art workshops have been fun this month – drawing with food, Chinese ink painting. My own drawing comes up to the 365 day mark so I have been completing a daily drawing for a year…..I genuinely didn’t think that would happen. Roll on Year 2 of drawing. How can I celebrate this?

Bought a new Canon SLR camera off the internet with 2 lenses and 2 screens for indoor shooting. It feels good to get off my phone and shoot some proper photographs. I’ve missed that.

C is working towards the launch of his new book. Not happy about that….Need to work out what’s going on and how to stop it. Deeply hurt.

September 2016 Travelling, Drawing, Tennis and Thinking

Travelling

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………

November – a reflective month and birthdays galore

November continued to let me have a straggle of blackberries and apples for jam making and I added some quinces to my activities from my son’s garden, ripening them on the kitchen windowsill then making jelly jam. Quite a success. they are a strange looking fruit – wrinkly, but interesting inside with a clean scent.

I have been inspired to continue drawing everyday – objects around me, objects in my cabinet of curiosities from my travels, trees and seedpods, whatever takes my fancy. I’m trying to get inspiration for a pendant design that an old friend is designing and making. I met Lyndsay Cameron on 22nd November in the Tate Modern – last meeting June 1976 at our final art shows at Aberystwyth University. (I was in London on our annual trip to see the tennis at the O2 near the end of November) I was excited but also a bit nervous and I think I gabbled on a bit, but it was lovely. We had a lot of life to catch up on. We discussed our ideas looking at each others sketches and materials she’d brought. It was so creative. I can’t wait to see the finished designs. This is a gift to me for my 61st year.

Walking across the Millenium Bridge my son called me and I spoke to him and my granddaughter in the darkness watching the light reflect on the Thames water, magical. Both me and my granddaughter have birthdays in November 7 days apart so on consecutive Thursdays we were a year older – she being 3 and I was slightly numerically older at 61. Nice to be able to spend them together. Naturally I think about the past as we are reminded about age and time passing. Dum spectas fugio. I enjoyed being 60 – something I haven’t been able to say since before my early 40s.

Visiting the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford helping on a school trip was amazing as usual – EVERYONE should go and enjoy a sense of awe and wonder – it blows my mind every time and I can draw some truly weird and wonderful objects.

I am so loving my daily drawing using very soft 8B and 6B pencils – now beginning its second month – I feel grounded and more content. Not sure why? I thought it might be a chore to do and to choose what to draw, but it’s not, it’s making me feel creative. I’m quite surprised at myself. It makes me really happy. Not sure if it will last as Christmas chaos and pressure is on the horizon.

Going to Germany at the beginning of December – that makes me happy too – meeting some people I have known for 10 years seeing them once a year, some I met about 19 years ago – Benito from Galicia hasn’t seen me for 16 years and some will be new to me. They are all part of the International Youth Meeting group from Poland, Germany, Finland and the Basque Country. Watch this space – it should be fun…..

 

 

August adventures

Experienced 34th Wedding Anniversary on the 1st. No fireworks, no surprises.
Thought about that day when everyone was waiting at St. Hilda’s church in Bilsborrow. Dad and I on our own in a tiny time capsule when the world stopped for a moment for us two together. I remember the silence and stillness. It was the best moment of my life. Three days before Diana had married Charles – we’ve lasted longer somehow. Even survived a car crash each.

Anyway a few days later we had a lovely meal in the Walnut Tree near Abergavenny – a birthday present from my son and his wife. Tasteful but costly.

Celebrated my eldest son’s last day working for someone else and now he’s running his own business and very happy. My youngest son is settling in to his first house, dealing with the developers to put right all the shoddy bits of the new house. He’s so happy with his partner and new job is improving – been there a year since graduating. I’m a very proud mum.

Mum is now 88 and she had a fall this week in her bathroom – given us all a shock – she was SO lucky only to be bruised. Had a look at a bungalow for sale nearby but I’m not sure she’s really ready to move down to us from Lancashire jus yet.

Finished the crazy job of renewing everything in the bedroom ( painting, wallpapering, carpets, wardrobes, giving half my clothes to charity ) – challenging, frustrating yet satisfying now it’s finished. I will NEVER paint another ceiling ever again…… It looks so good and calm. I love it.

The wall looks fabulous – dry stone wall down the path to the front door – I’m going to plant some dwarf lavenders behind the wall then surround them with small stones to match the rest of the garden. Wish I’d done this years ago.

Samaritan duties continue to make a difference to others and to me. Just puts my worries in perspective, makes me feel needed. Although sometimes the problems seem trivial on the surface they all need support and help, a lot of lonely people and a lot who argue with family members.

Had another amazing day on Barry Island Beach with Helen, Meg and George. Scorching. This time Meg conquered her fears about sand and the sea and went for it full blast – digging, splashing, sand castles, carrying water in the buckets, copying the other children, chattering, walking with me to the water’s edge that was retreating quite a way. Jumping over the tiny waves with her, hand in hand, was such a special moment. Ice cream and fish and chips was a must. I slept like a log that night!

Brecon Jazz weekend was fun – listened to some wonderful classical guitar in the church – quite special – Gerard Cousins – as well as some fringe bands.

My skin problems continue – new regime and trialling a new treatment – I live in hope it will leave me someday.

Tai Chi retreat this weekend last weekend before bank holiday. My heaven. I learnt about the “broken Buddha” and Ying and Yang imbalances and how to rebalance myself – well the theory anyway – let’s see if I can put it into practise! Experienced an amazing emotional response on the last morning during an early meditation which surprised me. We finished with our hand on our heart thinking about giving ourselves permission to be ourselves. I could not remove my hand for a long time and had no control over it. Eventually it just slid down my body and rested on my lap and I opened my eyes. WOW – quite surreal experience and I still have to make sense of it. It was very comforting not frightening but I had to leave the room and find somewhere quiet to collect my emotions before breakfast. I was very quiet in myself and didn’t feel like talking. Eventually I will be able to make sense of it all.

Spent a couple of days making videos with K of us making food art – with Marmite, food colouring, coffee, spices and salt – I so enjoyed this and recommend it to all. Just laughed continually. Then had a day in school in the studio doing drawing with the body videos – large scale tree drawing in charcoal, drawing to different types of music in large scale on the floor and drawing with footprints of feet immersed in clay. The videos are to be shown to sixth formers before their workshops. Again so much laughter as well as concentration.

Bank Holiday weekend was one to remember. After a family meal with my youngest son and partner we started to chop down a tree in the garden, everyone helped – mum sat reading the paper on the patio. As we finished loading the car with all the debris I turned to go and see mum to see her midway through falling off the patio on to the lower patio. It was horrific yet in slow motion. She had fallen on her face and nose and hurt her arm. We kept her still and checked her for broken bones, her nose was cut and bleeding, and her arm was hurting. We took her to the local hospital minor injuries. She was shocked as we all were but everyone was calm including mum who was incredibly brave. We had to return on Sunday for X-rays when they put her cracked wrist in a plaster cast and sling, her finger in a splint, her knee dressed, nose cleaned – not broken. The bruising is beginning to come out on her face. By morning she had 2 black eyes. It could have been much worse. She’s staying with me for a couple of weeks now. Another emotional time for me as it reminds me of when dad fell and broke his arm in October and eventually died by January.

What is going to happen in September!