October Apples and Blackberries, calming thoughts, Tenby

Picking blackberries in the October sun is priceless, time slowing down, sun on my back seeping through my body, feeling as if I am somewhere else. It’s quite lovely. It’s calming and uplifting doing this in nooks and crannies, on the canal towpath, the old railway, behind the police station, along the roadside. People often stop and chat to me, recalling memories of when they used to pick them or how they aren’t so big this year, or the different types of blackberries and their differing sweetness. I am amazed at how many I pick when there are only a few scraggy ones at the beginning – one sunny afternoon I picked 4 pounds from a stretch of road I pass everyday. Never noticed them before. My fingers are dark purple from the juice and pitted with thorn pricks and nettle stings, but it doesn’t matter. I remember picking blackberries in the Lake District with my parents and brothers, my mum making gorgeous pies and jams. Now I love making jam with apples and blackberries, sometimes adding cloves or ginger to make jam jelly, using my apples that have been prolific this year. Used to do this when my kids were younger, but somehow got out of the habit.

I feel I am able to think calmly and clearly when reaching for the blackberries, searching out the juicy ones, untangling my clothes from the thorns, reaching too far sometimes and over balancing. It feels like I’m stealthily stalking where the berries are hiding, under leaves, behind nettles, the best just out of reach. Can’t wait to do this with my grandchildren when they are a bit older.

Death and dying have continued appearing in my thoughts, still feel I’m grieving for so many. Thinking of my forties and the bombshell that shattered my life. Missing happiness. Working with others helps and gives me a feeling of worth, quite a buzz.

Still drawing trees sometimes and looking at their changing shapes. Colours are developing too into the autumn glow, slowly, surprising me.

Just returned from a fantastic week in Tenby – our family get together went well – a bit chaotic and manic at times, whilst also having times of tranquility walking on the beach, playing with my grandchildren and spending time with my mum – 4 generations. A huge house with a baby grand piano and loads of space. I saw Diana Brook’s exhibition in Tenby Museum and it was gorgeous, she is so talented. Her sketchbooks were amazing. The painting of a red marble was superb and her spoon paintings delighted me yet again. Seeing her work has inspired me to get on with my drawing even more – trying for one a day for a week then maybe for a month if I can – a year might be too much! Glasbury Arts Festival exhibition was on last weekend of October – some work out of this world – some predictably boring, best work was Melanie Brown’s porcelain ceramics (I would like one of her teapot sculptures) and of course the GHS artwork of the sixth form. Feeling very chilled at the end of the month.

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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!

May 2015 Travelling and Drawing

Off again to Spain – 3 weeks this time. Taking mum aged 87. Just love it in Estepona. Everything close by and calm. No pressure and swimming in the sea or the little cold cold pool everyday helps my mind and body and my skin.  I’m still struggling with my hands and face, but the homeopath has suggested some changes so here goes – worth a try if it makes my life easier just need to change my diet slightly.

Drawing by the lighthouse and just looking at the plants and the trees, the sea close by so blue and inviting. Walking on the beach – ooh sand is so hot – get into the sea quickly and then oh so cold, cold……… walking by the edge of the sea we collect shells and white stones. I think I have been doing that all my life – with mum, with gran, with dad, with me.

Did a little painting sketch today in a sketchbook to share with others in a group – felt shy knowing someone else was going to see it. Loved painting the turquoises, blues and whites, waves and ripples. Did it quick so full of energy, not laboured. Good.

Missing Meg and George. Lovely little people – how come they are with me wherever I go?

Someone on the beach caught my eye – very toned, mmmmmm.

I can see Gibraltar every day and Africa – so close, images of immigrants on the TV all the time, making everyone so scared.

Damn it the Tories got in, depressed.

April 2015

A simple month of playing with my grandchildren, Samaritan second stage training and weekly duties, Tai Chi and new body conditioning classes, swimming AND lots of drawing.

Drawing my large picture based on the chair I sat on and photographed in the Science Museum in Paris in February, mixed with trees and the darkness of indian ink. I loved drawing with a soft, soft graphite 4B and 6B pencil. It is a large AO drawing. Wow it just fascinated me, I immersed myself into it. It was going to be colourful in the background maybe with layers of water and ink, but then I thought I’d like the background to be black and dark, darker than the night, darker than my thoughts, just dark. So I painted pure black Indian ink in the background and it felt like silk. It was quite magical to do and great to watch it slowly cover the background. I will make a coloured version with inks and painting and maybe drawing, but I was so pleased with this drawing.

I was inspired to do this because I was asked last month to put a painting in to the Brecon Women’s Festival and I painted a red landscape that had been in my head for two years. Then I couldn’t stop. Now I’m drawing parts of trees, branches and trunks, shapes and textures. I’m just loving it. And its just for me no one else. Sheer bliss.

March – Edinburgh trip – Brecon Women’s Festival Art Exhibition

What a special trip. Loved travelling on the train – drawing trees in my little purple sketchbook. Felt connected to the landscape, felt content, going between places and people, just myself. Drawing is helping me escape from uncertainty. I’m not sure what I’ll find, but it’s got to be better than what I have now.

Spending time with my brother was just great, had fun, nothing serious, Crammond Island was well worth our visit – across a causeway at low tide – watching the time – back before the tide came back. Cafe Royal was my special place as usual Gavi and food perfect.

Brecon Women’s Art Festival – my first painting in this – bit scary, but I like my red landscape and it was good to get it out of my head and on to canvas. Karen  and Hilda are so wonderful – their energy and desire to expand other people’s art is impressive. Met Ruth too – another special person with lots of generous energy.

February Paris

Paris trip with students

A year after retiring I have forgotten how exhausting being with sixth formers can be. The lows – the highs – its a roller coaster of a ride through the emotions. They inspire you and leave you in despair. But they were a credit to their school – my old school. I loved their humour and silliness, their flashes of maturity and their willingness, tempered with moaning about their feet!

What did we do –
* the sights – roaming around Paris on the metro – why are there so many steps?
* being inspired by the amazing art in the Pompidour Centre.
* drawing with oil pastels in front of Monets in L’Orangerie – like swimming in the sea.
* lying on the floor drawing in the Opera House with bemused guided tourists watching us. One little boy joined in and drew too.
* the accidents – mostly me falling up steps and into pavement bollards that sprang up in front of me.
* making a silent sci-fi movie in front of the Louvre and at Place De Concorde
* wandering around the Galleries Lafayette and tasting Kusmi tea
discovering the Passage Jouffrey and a wonderful jewellery shop……
* sleeping in when we got home and a long, long bath.
* looking at my sketchbook and seeing my surprising inspiration from a green chair I sat in.

Whilst in Paris I was informed of my new official status – as a Solo New Volunteer Listening Samaritan. I’m just starting my second stint of training and I still feel so NEW. The weight of the responsibility of getting it right is huge. Much bigger than I thought. Self doubt is OK they all say but I don’t like it. Yet it still feels the right thing to do. I know it is.

Watched some old home videos transferred on to DVDs – had mixed reaction seeing so many people who have passed away – my grandparents, my dad. I miss my dad every day. I watched him playing table tennis in the garden before his stroke. Also my children when they were 2 and 5. Wow that was weird and sad too. They were so lovely, so innocent, so beautiful. They were enchanting when they opened Christmas presents. My husband looking very young and handsome. So much has happened. Went into a low place for awhile. That wasn’t suppose to happen. Memories can be positive and negative I suppose.

Helped with school art trip to Bristol – great gallery – enjoyed inspiring others and being inspired. Finished with a crazy photoshoot outside the gallery : I asked the 9 students to lie on the ground holding a steel bollard each as if they were hanging from it like a photo one of the sixth formers found on the internet. We caused quite a stir – passing cars slowed down, a crowd gathered, others photographed us and the gallery curator came out and asked if she could have a copy of the photo. She was particularly pleased that we were from Wales as she was born in Pembrokeshire! We all laughed far too much……..

Thursday 26th February
Finally finished my red landscape for the Women’s Festival Exhibition – scary that other people will be seeing it! Felt so creative after Paris trip I continued to start a large abstract Paris Chair on watercolour paper.

January 2015 Crash the car, Grandson arrives

First week of January was about taking my first call as a Samaritan, helping my son with moving house and his birthday on the 10th. New grandson was supposed to arrive on Jan 10th too but didn’t. We waited……

January13th
I went swimming in the morning. I watched the snowflakes from the pool and began to feel uneasy. Finished my sauna and quickly set off home in my little red MX5. Five minutes from the pool I realised the snow was heavy and the road a whiteout and I was in a little sports car on the top of the Brecon Beacons. Traffic slowed and I knew it was scary. I was slowly driving up a hill when I slid across the carriageway, tried to correct the skid, didn’t break but slid into a curb which then spun me round to face the opposite direction. It was a heavy hit and I felt pain in my lower back.

I took a moment to breathe and realise how lucky I had been as there was no traffic going in the opposite direction so I didn’t hit anyone. I could have been killed. I realised I was half on and half off the road so I started the engine and drove towards the lay-by. The car drove perfectly. I continued to the next lay-by and turned to face home. I checked the car – tyres ok, no fluids leaking. For some crazy reason – not logic – I was scared to stay there in the snow so thought I would go back up the hill and get home. I waited for a bus and followed their tracks and in second gear drove up the hill for a second time. It slid slightly but held and I got to the top. I was petrified but kept going slowly. I knew the road down the mountain would be tricky even though it was a main road. I knew now how unstable my car was in snow. But I got home shaking all over.

The car is being repaired now – two new tyres and an alloy wheel, realigned. It brought back memories of my other smash two years ago so I am still shaky.

January 14th
My daughter-in-law went into labour, my friend needed collecting from hospital, I had to get my car picked up to be repaired and get a hire car. Just a normal day! By midnight baby was having trouble arriving. Went to bed, didn’t sleep.

January 15th
12.12 Baby George Brychan arrived with help from lots of doctors and midwives. Only just made it. A close call. Gave us all a fright. My son thought he wouldn’t make it. The midwife pressed the panic button 5 times and the docs and anaesthetist swarmed in. We are all very emotional. First photo arrived. At some point I went to sleep. After breakfast we drove 50 miles over the mountains, past my crash site to see my gorgeous grandson who weighed in at 7lbs 4 oz. It was so special to see him and hold him on the day he was born, he is lovely, expressive hands like his sister, wrinkly tiny feet, opening his eyes to have a look around. Wow being a grandparent is something else!!

January 31st
The last day of the month makes me reflective again. Thinking this is now the end of my 13th month of retirement – so quickly I have become accustomed to doing other things. The year has been a roller coaster of emotions. I think I’m slowing down a bit now, not so frenetic. A friend from university told me she’s fighting cancer – that’s the second of our art degree group, Susie has already died. Not good route to be thinking about. George continues to thrive – been down twice more to cuddle him and play with Meg. He just curls up on my shoulder, snuggles in and sleeps. Sometimes he lifts his head up to stretch his neck in his sleep then snuggles back down. I’m besotted and I don’t really like babies that much! It has made me think about when my two sons were born, how they were at the beginning of their lives, what mistakes we made and what great times we enjoyed together. I love them all dearly.I would die for them. Now I’m getting all mushy. Stop it. Read a fab book about Clarice Cliff Bizarre ceramics – loverly. Next month should be fun – visiting Mum, lots of Tai Chi, travelling to Paris with 30 sixth formers, becoming a Samaritan officially after my mentoring, finishing my painting, must think of one new thing to do……

Could I possibly manage a drawing/doodle a day?
Shall I start loading photos of my artwork?
Would anyone want to look at it?