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.

 

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.

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.

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.

 

June 2016 Thinking of Dad

Just got back from a Moderators Conference in Cardiff and listened to the Listening Project on Radio 4 that made me weep and think of dad. I miss him so much and it’s been 10 years. Could not get great sadness from my mind. Tried to read Tom Bullough’s book but it only made it worse as it is full of sadness and regret. That lead to my regrets and thinking about the waste in my past. Need to be more optimistic as I used to be. Come on…..Wondered what mark I will leave……

I’ve been missing my grandchildren – aged 3 and 1. It was good to see them again after my Spanish holiday. They give me great happiness when I look after them each week but it can be challenging. I want to see them grow and develop and blossom into beautiful adolescents and adults. I feel very protective of them yet also a little detached. I want them to love reading and drawing, going to art galleries, making things, helping people, be good listeners and be open minded about the world and find wonderful partners who do not betray their trust. No pressure then!!!!!!!

Today (Saturday) after my son dug out an old diseased cherry tree that dad had given me I planted, with great difficulty, an acer tree that has been growing in a pot on my patio. It looks tiny but will look gorgeous when it settles and grows taller. I am so pleased it brings a smile to my face every time I look out of the window and see it. The grass is a bit of a mess around it but that will settle eventually.

 

 

 

 

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.