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.

 

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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…..

 

 

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…….

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.

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?