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.

 

May in the Lake District

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.

March and Mothers

This year I decided to visit my mum on Mother’s Day. At 89 it’s important she’s not alone on that day. We went to her church and watched the local primary children sing, read poems and give every woman a bunch of daffodils. It was surprisingly lovely. I always visit my dad’s grave when I visit the church in Bilsborrow, Lancashire and, though I don’t believe in an after life, find myself talking to him in my head.  She’s a little frailer this year but still lives independently and is a visitor for Help the Aged – she visits a lady called Monica who is over 90 for them. We had a gorgeous walk on the prom at Lytham St Annes, remembering when I brought my children there and we marvelled at the old white windmill. When we got to St Annes we walked a little way on the beach and had our coffee from Gran’s blue flask. The weather was kind to us, with bright blue skies although it was cold. The rest of the week I tried to sort out her phone – a trial with Talk Talk – a boring but predictable and infuriating saga. we worked on a corner of her garden which she is finding more difficult now.

This month has been frantic planning and organising a trip with Year 10 pupils to visit Helsinki – a mini International Youth Meeting with our group and a small group of students from Pielavesi in Finland at Easter. More hours than you can imagine has been put into the planning of this trip as it is a new city for me to visit. Normally I just change planes there and see the airport shops flash by as I dash for my next plane to Kuopio. I have been meeting the students every Tuesday and Saturdays bag packing and for a sponsored walk along the canal.

I managed to get to see the David Hockney exhibition in Tate Britain as well as see my University friend Lindsay. I spent a day drawing in the V&A which was a delight for me. It’s such a special experience – I treasure it. My drawings are better than last year.

I finished my “White landscape” painting at last and put it in the Women’s Art Exhibition in the Theatre Frycheiniog. Where they hung it was beautiful. I was proud of this painting even though it is so simple, so I was worried about the reaction from people, but I needn’t have worried. I think most people liked it. I’ve painted three small white paintings on tissue paper which I will frame or hang on a narrow pole later this year. It has given me a real boost of creativity.

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.

December 2016 Starting my 63rd year here

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.

November’s challenges

After a week in Tenby I thought this month would be such good fun including my 62nd birthday, but instead it proved to be a difficult time with more difficult questions than answers and emotions at high alert. C’s launch event was emotional, felt vulnerable and the past came flooding back, colouring my emotions and reactions, not unreasonably but dramatically. I still haven’t decided how to proceed but things are slightly more open, though still a way to go. Honesty is more and more important to me. I’m bored and despondent feeling so humiliated by the actions of others. At my age I should be happy and contented. Or is that a myth……

Went to London to see the semi finals of the ATP tennis and saw Andy Murray narrowly beat Romanic then Djocovic demolish Nishikori. Caught the river bus to the 02 which is great fun. A great event but an argument with the security people soured it a bit. Also didn’t get to see my friend at the V & A as she is so ill after chemo but did have a wicked time in the Prints and Drawing Study room. They provided me with 6 boxes of botanical prints from 16th – 19th centuries. It was like Christmas!!!! I was in my element and just sat drawing poppies and irises and dandelions – only got through 3 boxes. I’m going back there!!!! Didn’t get to see my brother Lester and his family – that’s a story in itself but not now – very angry and fed up. So you see rather a lot of emotional turmoil this month.

My 62nd birthday arrived and my birthday lunch in an expensive restaurant was not good because of the mediocre weird food. Disappointing. But company was good. Happy times have been experienced when I’m drawing in the mornings or swimming or working as a Samaritan and playing with my grandchildren, helping people. Also planning my summer holiday in Rome and Venice – can’t wait.

My thoughts about my life return in this birthday month as usual. Memories can be positive and affirming or destructive because of the hurt within them. I had a conversation with someone about forgiveness, trust and being able to move on to put the hurt behind me. They talked some real sense but it’s not a logical progression, it feels like a wavering image I just can’t get it to stay still and get my mind to come to a conclusion or a way forward. I suppose the future is always unknown and you have to take a chance and take action to make things change or accept things as they are now.

Daily Prompt: Elicit

via Daily Prompt: Elicit

Thoughts or actions – elicit thoughts are bad enough but when acted upon then you’re in real trouble. When you watch those you love working through that process it’s scary, also quite weird that you can do that and thinking about whether they know that you are watching them, you are drawn into something uncomfortable and hurtful and humiliating without wanting to be there. It’s hard to decide whether to intervene, feels like a rollercoaster of emotions. Trust disappears. Hollowness is left and the road ahead seems too difficult to follow.

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………

August 2016 – married for 35 years

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.