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.

April in Helsinki

My adventures in Helsinki are recorded by students on ghshelsinki2017wordpress.com – have a look – it includes photos of where we went and what we did.

As a summary we had an immense time meeting Finnish students, drawing, photographing, filming, learning Finnish, visiting markets and galleries, the zoo and a fortress on the islands, eating some amazing food – Italian, Mexican, Finnish, American – attempting creative challenges and getting sore feet. not to mention the Secret friend Moomin writing game – a wonderful experience lasting throughout the week ending with the big reveal on the last night in Hard Rock Cafe. There was a lot of laughter and fun but also so much learning about ourselves and Finland. Roll on next year’s trip.

 

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.

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.

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………

July 2016 thinking about the future

July has only just started but it feels like a different time. Not sure what this means. Politically we are going to one out of the EU which I wish we weren’t doing, so usually this would bring on a feeling of doom, and with the Chilcot Report arriving into the media and both the Tories and Labour searching for new leaders, you would be forgiven for thinking everything is in turmoil. Adding the Trump fiasco to the mix seems bizarre. However I am feeling centred and calm today which might be due to antibiotics which I need to fight an infected hand – horrible mess actually on both hands from an intolerance to paper I fear on my moderating weeks. Well that’s my theory, the doctors are having a guess too……

 

Today I went to Liverpool with a bus load of Year 10 pupils to see the Francis Bacon exhibition in the Tate. It was challenging for them but they were genuinely interested in this tortured view of his world. It set me off on an idea for a drawing again – going large scale – a feather drawing either in pencil or ink. Can’t wait to get started.

 

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…..

 

 

June 2015 Travelling Art Moderating and sons

Travelling huge distances this year – Week 1 to Peterborough and Cambridge, Week 2 to Truro, Week 3 to Bradford and Sheffield.

Week 1

First hotel at conference in Cardiff – Travel Lodge on M$ services – just try and imagine it – it’s worse.

Second hotel in Peterborough lovely- old historic mansion – with pool and spa – perfect for me so I could swim every evening. Only bad thing was the traffic – it is crazy, crazy – traffic jams everywhere. A14 should be closed and everyone made to take a bus. I could not live with that level of traffic stress every day going to work – I love Brecon, much saner, except during Hay festival, Jazz Festival and Royal Welsh Show.

Third Hotel – Holiday Inn in Cambridge on a business park – imagine it…….. me on my own, duelling with traffic jams and directions, not good. But next door I find a David Lloyd Centre so sign up for a day membership and end up swimming in the outdoor pool, sauna and steam room, sunbathe – yes it’s sunny. Traffic worse and its impossible to go across the centre of Cambridge so I went the long way round with the lorries to a lovely village the other side. Some fabulous art to see and be inspired by.

Not drawing but taking lots of photographs in between all the paperwork and ideas are swimming around in my head. Drawing with food.

Driving home was horrendous on Friday afternoon around Birmingham – quite surreal watching the traffic at a standstill going north and south and as expected it took my 5 hours…..

Home for Saturday so did a Sam duty.

Week 2 Truro

Now this was special as I stayed in Newquay – overlooking Fistral Bay. I watched the surfers every morning at breakfast and every evening at dinner. I walked on the beach at 7 am and at 7pm, once getting soaked up to my knees when I misjudged the waves. Having sand and seasalt between my toes was heavenly. Paddled and searched for shells and a white stone – found them. One evening I joined a yoga class on the cliffs above the sea and it was just magical. Met some lovely people in the hotel, walking on the beach, in the college, which made me feel very at ease. Went to Perranporth one night where we used to spend our summer holidays when we were small. Lovely spot – found a B&B which would be perfect if I come back. Artwork was great – more inspiration – painting on photographs, weaving wallhangings, free embroidery. Lots to do when I get back. Should I put surfing on my bucket list?

Can you imagine – another Friday afternoon surrounded by traffic jams – bit of a theme here. Another 5 hour journey. Not going back except by train. Pembrokeshire is just as good.

Next weekend one son is moving into his first house, one son is leaving his job and starting a business. Brave beautiful boys.

Week 3 Bradford, Sheffield, Preston
Unfortunately the motorways were grid locked and it took me 50 minutes to get from my hotel to the school – manic! I dreaded every morning having to negotiate another route to another school. Bradford schools were varied – one impressed me with some amazing large scale oil painting and imaginative photography. Very inspiring.

Decided to go home to Preston via Buxton – a log way round but over the Dales and NO motorways until M6 which I was familiar with. Had a lovely walk round Buxton – quirky.

A weekend with mum calmed me down and steered me towards thinking about the family again. Didn’t manage a lot of drawing this month but painted a seascape in a new sketchbook and some tree trunk drawing – sharing the work with 2 others in a sketchbook circle. Felt weird giving my sketchbook to someone else but also a catalyst too as lots of ideas are flying around in my head – a bit over stimulated this month I fear…….