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.

 

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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.

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………

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.

 

March – a wonderful beagle, eggs, tennis and travelling

March began with the Women’s Festival Art Exhibition. I had to get my artwork ready for the opening on March 4th. I had experimented with drawing on eggshells and although the preparation of fragile eggshells was tricky, drawing on the curved surface was a challenge, but I loved it. Drawing with a soft pencil, having to hold it at the end and manoeuvre it inside the eggshells was crazy yet quite absorbing and mesmerising. There were a few disasters that went into the food bin but not as many as I thought. How to display them sent me on a journey of discovery. I knew I wanted to enclose them within glass so I tried my cheese platter with dome first then went on to different wine glasses and bought a small glass dome to try out. It was fun, felt really creative and inspired me. Eventually I settled on the cheese board dome, the new dome, a wine glass and an egg box. I was going into production!!! I wanted this to be a complete sculpture not just one sculpture. I thought everyone else would think that I and the eggs were a bit odd, but so far the response has been very positive.

I couldn’t make the opening event which was a great pity, but Karin decided to display them in a glass cabinet. Initially I thought it wouldn’t do them justice but they look great. I prefer them to be grouped together rather than on different shelves but it’s growing on me. Some of the other work is great particularly Kayleigh’s painting of Walter the wonderful mad beagle and Sue’s glass landscape. It’s a great space for viewing work.

So that’s the eggs bit. I’m still drawing in my daily book and still enjoying deciding what to draw each day. This month I’m particularly proud of my feather drawings, better than I ever expected, others I won’t mention so as not to burst my bubble of contentment.

The tennis was my visit to the first day of the Davis Cup in Birmingham where I met my younger brother and we had some delicious classy tapas in a cocktail bar, everyone was teetering about on 8 inch heels and had been poured into tiny dresses. I enjoyed a good dose of people watching sitting on white leather sofas eating off a glass table with twinkly lights above. The hotel was superb and gave us a 3pm checkout as I joined the Hilton rewards club! We went into the centre and shopped, saw the market full of life and colour, then after trying to buy lunch by the canal (waited 55 mins then left) we returned to the hotel to catch the first set of the doubles with Andy and Jamie Murray on the TV. We finished with  crepes on the new railway station/shopping centre and upgraded to first class for the return journey. I got off at Preston to visit mum and my brother continued to Edinburgh. It’s always good to spend time together, settles me as I can’t really do that with my elder brother as he’s so ill. It always makes me start a train of family thoughts, what it means to have ease with some family members and the total opposite with others. We all live so far apart yet we’re only a train journey away so it comes down to prioritising love and relationships I suppose.

The next travelling followed straight afterwards – to Northern Ireland with mum (88) to where she grew up in a little place called Culleybackey in County Antrim. I’d arranged to meet members of the Culleybackey Historical Society – an unknown quantity that proved to be the highlight of our visit. The tour of the now derelict Fraser and Houghton linen factory was amazing and quite emotional, these genuinely interesting people were a mine of information as we picked our way through these buildings that once were the hub of the area – everyone was employed by these two families. many lived in tied houses like my mother. There was a whole hamlet of workers’ houses that we were taken to. Mum remembered having her 14th birthday party by the weir and her cousin Jack falling in and her brother Tom rescuing him. She recognised the “Big House” where her father worked as a chauffeur to the Haughton family and she remembered the death of the wife Mrs Haughton and having to go to see her in her coffin. She remembered that she came to mum’s house every year and gave them ten shillings to go on holiday with every year. Grandad took them to Blackpool and to see his relatives in Barrow-in-Furness. This was very special and unusual at that time to have a paid holiday like that. After our tour Elizabeth, Liz, Joe and Gordon took us for lunch in Culleybackey. Mum wanted a final visit to her old house and insisted on knocking on the door to see inside. A young woman answered in her pyjamas – she was a nurse on night duty. She kindly invited us in and mum went through the back door she left 70 years ago when she was 18 years old to go to Preston on the ferry. She told us what was there when she was growing up – the parlour and living room are now knocked into one. The kitchen was extended across their yard to their ‘barn’ (outhouse and toilet). It was beautifully restored with exposed stone and beams. Mum was delighted with the way it was improved. Quite an emotional moment. She talked about the fact that there was no-one else but her alive in the family who would remember it as it was that she could tell. It was a magical day. The rest of the visit included revisiting places we’d been to with dad – Giant’s Causeway, Glenarriff waterfalls as well as walking on the beach everyday collecting stones and driftwood. I loved those walks, felt so refreshed from inside out. I continued my daily drawing.

My last March travelling was to help my brother move in Edinburgh from the city to the coast to Portobello – my favourite beach and promenade. Although it was hard work I had time for walks on the beach, had a swim and a Turkish Bath, two lovely meals – a Portuguese and Spanish Tapas and two foodie markets. Their new house is lovely. I had some more good train rides – I find them very calming and did some lovely tree drawings using the rhythm of the train as part of the drawing – really works well.

 

February travelling to Barcelona, Drawing, Thinking

Visit to Barcelona with sixth formers was interesting as I went to a few new places like the Musical Palace. The Labyrinth Garden as well as my favourites- Park Guell and La Pederera. Silliness on last night was nauseating and annoying. Enjoyed working in my sketchbook.

Daily drawing is amazing and now I’m experimenting drawing on eggshells. Amazing fun. Broken a few preparing the shells. A real challenge to draw on the inside of the shell- holding the pencil at the end means total concentration and no mistakes. I’m sure other people will think it a bit strange but it’s addictive and compelling. Been thinking about how to present them in the Women’s Exhibition in Brecon on March. Globes, wine glasse, wood bases. Thinking about this is challenging and interesting. Satisfying.

Went to exhibition in Carmarthan Art College of drawing books – once again the connection is Diana Brook. Inspired by so many different ways of recording life and ideas by so many artists and students. Such talent in the world. A privelege to look at these personal drawing books.

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…..