4 Nov 2009

COLOUR


"The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most" John Ruskin (1819-1900)


Why am I blogging about colour? Because it's all around us right now during the most colourful season of all. The trees, although they're losing their leaves fast with the rain and wind in recent days, have been glorious. From green, through lime, yellow, gold, orange and red to brown. From south-west right round to north-east on the colour wheel. A designer's rainbow.

And it's not just the leaves. The sky just a minute ago, straight after a rain storm, was a washed out palette of blues and pinks so delicate you could almost smell them. Now there's a thought; does colour have a smell?

Close your eyes and think about this. What comes to mind when you think of a colour? Does red smell of earth, does yellow smell of hot skin, warmed by the sun? Does blue smell of ozone and green of grass?

It's interesting to mix up the senses when thinking of descriptions. Such as sharp grey, allegro lemon, loud edges, a sour building, cool birdsong. Gives a whole new perspective on things doesn't it?

2 Sep 2009

Ice


Shards of glittering sharpness. Cold, pointed, smooth. Ice cubes for my gin and tonic. Crushed ice for keeping fish counters cold. Icebergs and the Titanic – fatal. Icebergs and polar bears - essential. Ice floes and glaciers. Snappy, short, crisp sounds. Ice picks for chipping blocks and for murdering people. Miss Blue in the refrigerator with the ice pick for Cluedo.

An icy character – withdrawn, unfriendly, unsympathetic. Blue eyes and sharp features. No smile; no frown. Clearly drawn angles and high cheekbones. Icy cold demeanour. The bad guy; no-one’s friend. The assassin – cold as ice and completely focussed.

Icy lake for winter skaters. Blades that cut through the ice keeping the skater upright. Pirouettes and jumps and whirls.

Crackling like ice – breaking up, falling through into the icy blackness. Black ice causing accidents and multi-car pile ups.

31 Aug 2009

Lemons


So I gotta write something long and reasonably put-together about lemons. The thing that, naturally, immediately sprang to mind when someone mentioned this challenge was gin and tonic.

So I had a G&T. While I thought about lemons. Yellow, sort of spherical shaped, shiny and uneven, like a pock marked face. Yes, a jaundiced pock marked face. That's it exactly.

So I had another G&T. While I thought about lemons some more. Make you suck your cheeks in. Your pock marked cheeks that is. Ahah - cheeks. Baby's bums with dimples in them. Hmm - don't know much about that - no kids.

So I had another G&T. God. Why didn't I ever have kids? What have I missed in life? I'm gonna cry. I am crying. Tears the shape of lemons. I need another G&T.

I'm in the hospital. I got up to pour another G&T and slipped on the lemon and twisted my bloody ankle. The ambulance men were nice though - they had lemon coloured jackets...

25 Aug 2009

The House


The sky sunk like a hot, wet blanket, smothering the day into darkness; the fields, trees and the hills beyond merged into one another like paint running on a wet canvas; but still it didn’t rain.

I was about half a mile from the house, fascinated as I always am at the changes wrought by the weather on the landscape. My T-shirt stuck to my back in the humidity and I felt sweat trickling under my hairline as I gazed towards the shadowy horizon, trying to make out the shapes of the low hills that populated it.

I leaned back against the stone wall, trying to soak up some coolness from the rough surface, but even the stones themselves seemed to radiate warmth as if in attempt to keep any coolness they contained to themselves.

It had been four days now. Four days of unremitting clammy heat. The whole of nature seemed to be holding its breath, waiting to be released in one great, gasping gush of cool air.

I pushed myself away from the wall with an effort and turned towards the gate to walk up the slight incline that led back to the lane. The lane ended at the house that had been my temporary home now for two months and I approached it, as always, with care, making sure everything was as it had been when I’d come out three hours ago.

But this time something was different. I moved to the hedge line and stopped, trying to work out what it was that had alerted me. The gate was shut as it should be. There was no sign of any car. The house rested in the turgid air, silent and watchful. But something was wrong. I took a couple of steps forward, still keeping close to the hedge, gaining some cover from the drooping branches. And there it was; movement caught briefly where there should have been none; and from inside the house.

20 Aug 2009

Chimneys and Broadband

I’m sitting in my kitchen with the laptop, no broadband and no phone and my house is over-run by strange people and loud noises.

We’re having the chimney lined after all sorts of scare stories about the risk of chimney fires, the chance that the interior brick lining of the chimney’s going to crumble away etc. etc. A couple of months ago when we had the chimney swept I had a good look at the stuff that came down – huge chunks of black, vitreous stuff, the product of too many pine logs burned in the wood burner. It’s quite possible apparently for this stuff to catch fire in the chimney so I put a ban on use of the wood burner until we had it done – much to the disgust of my husband who was convinced it wasn’t really necessary but just a ploy of the chimney sweeping company to make a sale. But he does love his wood burner when the days get cold so eventually, with winter just over the horizon and the thought of another exciting delivery of logs, he gave in. How many people like stacking humungous amounts of logs tidily in the wood shed? Must be a guy thing!

It’s pretty well a whole day’s job and the room where the woodburner’s located is in the middle of the house so I get stuck either on the side where my study, bedroom and loo is, or in the kitchen. Accepting the fact that I’d be spending most of the day making cups of tea and coffee for the workmen, I decided to de-camp to the kitchen with my laptop.

The young guy is up the ladder on the roof, feeding a bloody great silver tube down the chimney while the boss of the operation’s in the sitting room yelling up the chimney to his mate and guiding the silver snake round the inevitable bends (why do they always put bends in chimneys?). While the young guy’s on the roof I get him to dig up the pine tree that’s decided to take root in the brickwork at the top of the chimney. My husband’s been threatening to do that for nearly a year now, since it was just a little tiny treelet, but the pitch of the roof and the fear of heights seemed to put him off. They tell me that if we’d left it there it would eventually have become a full-grown Scots pine growing out of the middle of our house (or what little would be left of it). Actually, thinking about it, it sounds quite fun.

While all this is going on the BT man turns up to try and sort out my broadband which has decided it doesn’t want to share a line with the telephone thank you very much and huffily switches itself off every time someone picks up the ‘phone. That and being abysmally slow (half a megabyte would you believe due to the distance we are from the exchange!) has been thoroughly tweeking my nerves of late.

Now I have broadband back and the phone works too. The chimney’s lined, the roof tree’s been removed and everything’s back where it oughta be. I’m off for a walk with Misty!!

4 Aug 2009

Sea Bass

My hands leaning on the bench either side of the wooden board, I looked down at it. It looked back at me, its single, bright, black eye unblinking.

Rounded nose, a good 18 inches long; this was undoubtedly a wild fish - a wolf of the sea - grown long and sleek, powered by its voracious appetite for young and smaller fish in the warm water around the shoreline. Greenish-black and silver scales clothed the once-powerful body that had spent its days prowling the surf, forcing through the breaking waves, riding the currents, hunting food to provide fuel for energy.

I picked up my filleting knife and started work on the line-caught sea bass, one of a boxful that had just been delivered from Cornwall, all of them tagged so they could be traced to the fisherman who caught them. I took my time, not wanting to give anything but my best work to this beautiful fish. As the flesh came away from the bone the aroma of ozone-laden sea air wafted upwards, a promise of the intense flavour that would reward the diner who had just ordered this simple but exquisite dish of pan fried sea bass fillet served on a bed of sliced tomatoes from Spain, sweet and drenched in sun-ripened flavour.

22 Jul 2009

My First Novel

Well, I'm gonna write it sometime. And right now's sometime!

I was searching around looking for inspiration and I suddenly remembered something I'd started a couple of years ago on an Open University short course. The problem was to find where on earth I'd put it. I searched through all the files on my computer and found the first chapter. Sitting down reading it I realized I'll have to make some changes (complete re-write!) but it's a good base to start from. And then, blow me down with a feather, I found the last few paragraphs of the last chapter. How on earth had I managed to write the beginning and the end (typical of me) and where for God's sake was the middle? Arghhh!

I started going through all my old notepads which are full of freewrites, journaling, moans and sketches, looking for anything that might fill the gap (and gaps don't get much larger than this one). And there, on the last two pages of an old, battered Paperchase e-co A4 notebook, I found the bare bones of a complete plotline through 18 chapters.

And my heroine? Why, none other than Sadie Larson, sassy, gobby private detective...

17 Jul 2009

Another Requiem


Not many weeks ago I posted a piece about a horse that had been killed on the road outside my house. Today, yet again, I find myself in tears over the death of another animal or, to be more accurate, a bird.

Last week I'd noticed that one of the adults from the resident swan family on our local lake was missing. Only one parent plus the seven cygnets were about. This struck me as odd because they are a devoted family and always together, but I thought maybe the male adult had gone for a little cruise around the other lakes in the area, leaving the female with the youngsters. But as the days went by I began to think this wasn't the case and maybe something had happened.

And then today I read in our local paper that the female had been knocked down by a car driving alongside the lake and left there, dying, with her family grouped around her.

Mute Swans, some of which have been known to live for up to 20 years, mate for life, and these well-established pairs have the most success in raising their young. There is no evidence that upon the death of one of the pair the surviving swan will pine away and it is possible that it will find an alternative mate. But I find it so tragic that, after all these years and after having successfully brought up all those youngsters, this needless slaughter should have happened.

The road past the lake is little more than a track which runs for about a mile and a half between two parallel main roads. For much of its length it is unpaved and deeply rutted, winding between farm fields and a farmyard before it meets the other road. People walk their dogs along it and take their children down it to look at the lake and the wildlife. It's the sort of road that you drive along at about 15 miles an hour tops and if you meet someone coming the other way someone has to back up. So what sort of speed was this person who killed the swan doing?

I hate writing blogs like this. And I so hope it's the last blog of its kind.

14 Jul 2009

Spectacles, schmectacles

You would think, wouldn't you, that buying a pair of specs would be the easiest thing in the world. The amount of choice available in most large opticians is massive - every shape, colour, style you can imagine. I thought, 'Hmm - I'll just pop in and choose a couple of frames and get them made up to my prescription - shouldn't take more than half an hour.'

Half a day more like! By the time an assistant came over to me I had about eight pairs I liked clutched in one hand, another three stuck in the neck of my T-shirt and was trying on a twelfth.

'Can I help you, madam?' She glanced with barely disguised horror at all these expensive frames (I assumed they were expensive - I don't like tat!) hanging off different parts of me.

She led me over to the back of the shop where she offloaded the frames onto the relative safety of a table and sat me down. Then she unclipped the security tags from all twelve pairs so I could try them on properly. After trying them all on at least twice, some of them more, I settled on my favourite couple of frames and she called up my prescription on the computer.

'Oh dear,' she said. 'You can't have either of those with your prescription. This one,' and she pointed to a beautiful fuchsia pink beauty with a thin, oblong frame and slightly blingy arms, 'is far two shallow. Your varifocal requirement won't suit that at all. And this one,' an electric blue half-frame with arms that faded from blue to purple, 'won't do either. You need a full frame for your prescription.'

'So which of all these would work for me?' I asked her, pointing to the rejected pile of ten frames and thinking I would have to settle for second best.

But no, none of them were any good. They were either too shallow, too narrow, not enough frame etc. etc.

So back we went to the rows of frames to start over. We looked at Prada, RayBan, Oakley, Dior, Armani, D&G... We even looked at some cheap ones! And nothing, absolutely nothing I liked would work with my prescription.

By this time there was a fairly healthy queue forming at the reception desk and most of the rest of the staff had gone off on their lunch break. My assistant's voice had gone up an octave or two - definitely the first signs of panic setting in.

So we turned to the problem of the lenses. Should I have extra thin lenses? Aspheric? High index? Glass or plastic? Arghhhhhh - my head was spinning from all these options. All I want is some colourful, blingy specs so I can ditch my contact lenses before the bags under my eyes get big enough to hold the entire English Channel because they're being pulled around so much.

What on earth is a Chaffinch to do?

9 Jul 2009

I need proof...


I need proof. Without it my life is snagged in a time stutter like a stuck record, constantly going over and over the same thoughts, worries and conjectures. Why is it that you are so unable to be straight with me? How easy would it be if you just showed me what I need to see, told me what I need to hear? Once that's out of the way we could go on - go forward - go anywhere at all that we wanted to.

But no - you won't keep the faith with me so I am unable to do so with you. You ask for my love, my commitment, my support, all of which I am aching to give you, but you offer nothing in return. It's like a bad pulp fiction story; so predictable and corny, yet so incomplete and unexpected. My life was not supposed to be like this - my life was supposed to be exciting, yes; radical, yes; driven by chance and fortune, not by planning and organizing. And I'm almost there - teetering on the edge of a great world of new sights and sounds, new cultures and customs, new colours and textures.

But you're stopping me - you've put a concrete block across my tracks that I can't go around however I may try. And all for the sake of one sentence; twenty words max; the opening or closing of the rest of my life.

8 Jul 2009

The Lake

I went outside and wandered down to the edge of the lake. The sun was lowering now and the sky was turquoise fading into pale orange near the horizon. The lake glittered lazily.

'Maria?' I heard Beau's voice from the house behind me but pretended not to, walking instead along the edge of the bank that had been built up with sandbags and topped with a mixture of earth and sand, allowing cautious white clovers to self-seed and grow among the young grass.

A 'plane droned softly overhead and I looked up, wishing it was tomorrow and I was safe aboard the flight to St Lucia, away from this place and the memories that I was pulling along like a shadow behind me as I moved slowly round the lake.

I glanced down at the water again. The sun no longer touched it and I stopped, certain I could see through the cloudy layers. Or was it my imagination? For as long as I remember the water here had always been murky and impenetrable. But now...

I bent towards the water, looking intently; there were fronds of some sort of aquatic plant down there, a few small fish moving slowly through them. And something round and rigid. What was that? At first I thought it might be a bicycle wheel but, crouching down and slitting my eyes to focus my vision, I could see it was definitely solid. I stood up quickly, glancing over my shoulder at the house. Beau was nowhere in sight, thank God. If he'd been watching me he would have come over to see what I was looking at.

A trembling started in my legs; my throat felt dry and I was finding it difficult to swallow. 'Get a grip, Maria,' I muttered to myself, shocked at the quaver in my voice. 'You just have to get through another fourteen hours and you'll be on the 'plane, safely away from here.'

But I shouldn't have walked down here. I should have stayed in the house, finished my packing, sat down with Beau for a final drink together and just kept away instead of coming back; re-living the memory; scratching at it like a mosquito bite; tempting fate.

7 Jul 2009

Watermelons and Zen Students


Watermelons and Zen students grow pretty much the same way.
Long periods of sitting till they ripen and grow all juicy inside, but when you knock them on the head to see if they're ready— sounds like nothing's going on.
Peter Levitt, from 'Essential Zen'

This quote came to me courtesy of Tricycle.com and I thought how nice it would be to post it on my blog and find a really great picture of watermelons to go with it. It's a great example of the power that both the written word and visual images have to make your mouth water.

Plenty going on in my head today though. I spent an hour taking photographs of a couple of a couple of camera lenses I wanted to sell on Ebay, another hour filling in the forms for each of them and they both sold immediately! Wow - what's going on? Did I happen upon a collector of camera lenses? Needless to say I'm a very happy bunny and I promise (honest) not to go and spend the proceeds immediately.

I'll wait til the weekend!

6 Jul 2009

A Wake Up Call


I woke up this morning feeling pretty miserable. To be truthful I was feeling sorry for myself; going over all the 'why am I so useless?', 'why can I never finish anything I start?', 'why can't I be who I want to be?' thoughts that come at me in the early hours.

Quite often I wake up with a feeling of fear that's amazingly strong; I lie there, trying to find the source of this fear, yet what I'm really trying to do is ignore the fact that I know the source. It's a fear of the future; a fear of growing old and a fear of the possibility that I will look back on my life in old age and think, 'Well, what was all that about. What did I really do to make my mark on the world?'

And I remember an exercise from a life coach that I once saw. You write your own obituary and in it you detail all the wonderful things you'd really like to do and be, as if you had done and been them. This obituary was then a game plan for the rest of your life; to work towards doing and being the person in that obituary.

Now, I think a lot of the tools that life coaches are taught to use are rather over-egged these days - there are just too many of them saying the same old things. But this one stuck in my mind as a useful way of reminding myself that I only have one life and it's going by ferociously fast and that I really do have to work at becoming more than I am if I'm to live up to my imaginary obituary.

This morning, I read a post by sbass at The Inkwell about the loss of her mother to lung cancer earlier this year which, devastating though it was and still is, has brought an additional dimension to her life which is, unexpectedly, a positive dimension.

It was a bit of a wake up call for me to be honest. I was lucky enough to survive cancer some years ago so what on earth have I got to be miserable about? If I'd been fearful for the future then I might have had justification, but now...?

So I'm taking an inventory of the things I want to do and then I'm going to go about doing them. The first one is to WRITE. I don't know whether I want to write short stories, a novel, fact or fiction, poetry or just a journal - all I know is that I've wanted to WRITE for years now but all I've actually done is to turn prevarication into a fine art. I've had the pens and pencils lined up on the desk, the special ink bottle ready, the absolutely nicest journal I can find ready to write in and what have I done? Nada; zilch; sweet sod all!

And what am I going to do about it? I'm going to sign up for the Open University course in Creative Writing that starts in October. I will then have to start WRITING. This time there'll be no escape - if I don't produce WRITING, I'll flunk it. If I don't WRITE my fellow students will know me for the quitter I am. Or rather for the quitter I was!

4 Jul 2009

John Lowrie Morrison


Today I bought my first JoLoMo painting - 'Croft and Boat North Uist'. Actually it's a limited edition giclée print, but nonetheless beautiful. Maybe one day I'll be able to afford an original.

It's small, about a foot square, in a large white frame and it was just made for the white wall in my hallway.

JoLoMo is a Scot who paints wonderful, highly coloured images of Scottish land and seascapes which just lift the spirit when you see them. I've loved them for years, ever since I first saw an exhibition of originals in a nearby town. Hopefully this is just the first of a collection. I'm already planning to paint more of my rooms white to show off this imaginary gallery of wildly colourful art. And that's saying something because I hate decorating.

24 Jun 2009

Trying to Write

I'm looking out of my study window, through the two wolfhound sculptures that sit on the window sill, and out into the garden. The view from my seated position is of trees and shrubs and the colours I see are almost entirely shades of green, backed by a pale blue sky.
The rhododendron is still only in bud but will shortly break out into vivid pink flowers. For some reason the rhododendrons in my garden are always behind those of everyone else. This may sound paranoid, but my poor old backward shrubs are weeks behind everyone else's and are in flower long after all the others have died. I'm living in a rhododendron challenged space - a parallel world.
There's a slight wind creating movement in the foliage. An occasional pigeon visits the ivy that has been winding itself round one of the pine trees since long before we moved here so that its trunk is almost as thick as that of the tree itself.
The sun has just come out, completely changing the colours and accentuating the difference between the different leaves. Some are golden, some silvery; the pine needles are the same dull, blueish green as they are all year round. The pines stand like sentinels in the garden, watching the other trees change from pale green to deep green to yellow, then red, and finally brown, but barely changing colour themselves.
It won't be long now before the roses are out. There are three rose bushes just behind the wooden table and bench, the tops of which I can just see from my position. When the roses come out I'll move my chair a little to the right and put the wolfhounds on another window sill so I can watch them while I'm trying to write.
In the background is the hum of traffic on the road outside, reminding me of how near to the busy main road my house stands. But I've got used to it over the years, and though I'd dearly love to live somewhere quieter I also dearly love living in this house, surrounded by its beautiful garden. So I switch off the sound of the traffic and try to write.

The Best of Days and the Worst of Days

It's been the best of days and the worst of days!

At work this morning things were really getting on top of me. It's all so complicated now - there are so many things to think about and to remember and I'm really worried that my memory isn't up to it anymore. But if the adverts are to be believed, using it is the antidote to losing it, so you'd think my memory would be brilliant!

But this afternoon... now that's another matter entirely. It was absolutely lovely - the sky blue but with a cooling wind. I walked Misty at Gullidge and we both got pretty hot - although at the top of the field, alongside the paved track, the wind was quite fresh, at the bottom it disappeared completely so Misty was panting a bit.
After I brought her home I walked down to the lake with my camera and a bag of stale bread. I went out onto one of the fishermen's platforms and threw some to the ducks and that started the stampede! I had crowds of ducks all around; every time I threw some bread in they all rushed towards it - how the manage not to collide and hurt themselves I have no idea. The swans started across at a more leisurely pace, line astern, following Mum. Dad brought up the rear looking rather above it all. I fed the cygnets by hand - their beaks didn't hurt me although they snatched at the bread. I offered some to Mum but she didn't take it and nor did she eat it when I threw it in the lake in front of her. I think she was happy to let her kids have it but just wanted to make sure I was nice to them. Dad stood off a way and watched - he didn't deign to eat anything when I threw it for him either. I took loads of photos of the ducks and the swans and cygnets:

Then I walked into the bottom of the field opposite the lake where the wild flowers are and took some photos of those too. It was very windy though so I played around with camera settings to see what worked best. I guessed a high ISO and about .1500 sec exposure. I'll download them and have a look.

1 Jun 2009

Requiem for a Horse

A horse was killed just down the road from my house today.

I came home from work and the traffic was backed up. When I got near I saw what I first thought was a large white dog lying beside the road, but as I got up to it I saw that it was a white horse. Next to it stood a man sobbing his heart out; I don't know if he was the owner of the horse or the driver whose vehicle had hit it. The horse had no saddle on so maybe it got loose and ran out into the busy road.

I don't know any of the detail - I just know that a beautiful creature was lying by the road, possibly dead, certainly with very little time left to live.

I do know that I was grief stricken for the poor animal and that it made the sun go in on my day. I also know that my grief was probably more for this animal than it would have been had a person been lying there. Why is this? I think most people would consider it to be wrong, but it is certainly the truth. I believe it's to do with the innocence of animals.

29 May 2009

Knitting!

Yesterday I had a sudden urge to take up knitting. How peaceful and soothing it would be to sit in the garden on a warm, sunny day, knitting and meditating. Aahh - I'm relaxing just thinking about it.

The last time I had one of these urges was about two years ago and I have the piles of knitting books, needles, balls of wool and other strange-looking bits and pieces whose purpose is a bit of a mystery to prove it. I think buying all the accoutrements was probably a whole lot more fun than getting down to it and knitting something. I found a half-made, holey woollen object hanging off a knitting needle in one cupboard but I can't honestly say I remember what it was going to be.

So... what to knit? I have two problems here; first, I absolutely hate handknitted clothes - almost without exception you can spot them from 50 yards and almost without exception they're a sludgy green colour! Second, I haven't got a clue what all those weird knitting terms mean; "yarn over" or "slip" or "pass slipped stich over". I know "knit" and I think I know "purl" and I can "cast on" although I haven't a clue how to "cast off".

After several re-thinks and frantic searching through the knitting books I found the perfect answer. It's a cushion. It's knitted entirely in knit stitch. It's all in one piece. Sounds like my sort of cushion cover. As long as I can find out how to cast off in time (if I can't it's going to end up as a helluva long, wide scarf!) it sounds pretty easy.

Only one problem. How many rows of boring old knit stitch can I actually get done before I get fed up with the whole thing and take up fishing. Or gardening. Or cooking. Or...

26 May 2009

Google Weather


Lately I've become addicted to checking out my local weather by putting it onto my Google homepage - well I'm a Brit! It's allowed.

I've noticed that it changes with alarming frequency, sometimes several times a day. It can start off with black clouds, white rain and a grey background, changing to white clouds, white rain and a blue background. A few hours later there'll be half a yellow sun shouldering its way between the white clouds and white rain. Then, just as I think the next development will be a whole sun with no clouds and a blue sky the damn sun gets pushed aside again by the white clouds, white rain and grey sky.

That's British weather for you...

22 May 2009

Trying to Write

I'm looking out of my study window, through the two wolfhound sculptures that sit on the window sill, and out into the garden. The view from my seated position is of trees and shrubs and the colours I see are almost entirely shades of green, backed by a pale blue sky.
The rhododendron is still only in bud but will shortly break out into vivid pink flowers. For some reason the rhododendrons in my garden are always behind those of everyone else. This may sound paranoid, but my poor old backward shrubs are weeks behind everyone else's and are in flower long after all the others have died. I'm living in a rhododendron challenged space - a parallel world.

There's a slight wind creating movement in the foliage. An occasional pigeon visits the ivy that has been winding itself round one of the pine trees since long before we moved here so that its trunk is almost as thick as that of the tree itself.

The sun has just come out, completely changing the colours and accentuating the difference between the different leaves. Some are golden, some silvery; the pine needles are the same dull, blueish green as they are all year round. The pines stand like sentinels in the garden, watching the other trees change from pale green to deep green to yellow, then red, and finally brown, but barely changing colour themselves.

It won't be long now before the roses are out. There are three rose bushes just behind the wooden table and bench, the tops of which I can just see from my position. When the roses come out I'll move my chair a little to the right and put the wolfhounds on another window sill so I can watch them while I'm trying to write.

In the background is the hum of traffic on the road outside, reminding me of how near to the busy main road my house stands. But I've got used to it over the years, and though I'd dearly love to live somewhere quieter I also dearly love living in this house, surrounded by its beautiful garden. So I switch off the sound of the traffic and try to write.

15 May 2009

New Family on the Lake

There's a new family on the lake near our house. The two swans that have inhabited the lake for years have just had their new batch of pale grey, fluffy cygnets. Seven this year which is the same as last year and seems to be about the average.

This is mum with all seven of her brood bobbing about on the waves caused by the high wind this afternoon. I've been meaning to take my camera down there ever since the beginning of this week when they were born but kept forgetting, so this is a week's growth. They get bigger almost by the day and I'll try to take a photo every now and then to record them growing up.

They stay close to their parents for most of the time they're growing. There's a particular grassy patch at one point beside the lake where they all regularly come ashore and groom themselves, resulting in a mass of feathers lying on the ground; from the long, curly white adult feathers to delicate little puffs of grey fluff from the cygnets.

Eventually, in late autumn, there will be a day when the youngsters just aren't there any more, chased off by their parents to go and find homes of their own whilst the amazing cycle starts all over again next spring.

This family is just part of the wildlife surrounding this beautiful lake. There are Canada Geese, Moorhens, Great Crested Grebes, Gannets, Grey Herons and Mallards. But the swans are the boss of the patch and have even been known to drown ducklings by holding them under water.

I walk by this lake every day of my life, usually early in the morning, with Misty and it's the most amazing thing to see the effect of the changing seasons. It's one of my Zen places.

8 May 2009

Scents of an Early Summer

A warm day. At the bottom of the field where I walk Misty at lunchtime the scents of summer are all around. Like ephemera they dance away from me just as I think I've caught them. Tantalizing scents from my youth waft by, laughing as I reach out towards them - nature's perfumes - my inbreath longer and longer in its search until I have to let go, still just missing the memory.

But the joy of reaching allows me to truly take in and ponder on the scents; herby, grassy, warm with the merest hint of sweet - maybe from the falling May blossom, maybe the foliage itself, newly grown and stealing the blossoms' grip on the branch.

And all the while, on the breeze float tiny seed spores, their white, delicate parachutes carrying them away to begin again the joyous cycle of life.

4 May 2009

May Day Bank Holiday

On the Sunday of May Day bank holiday in the morning we went for a walk with Misty at Nutley (this is our name for one of the many walks we have on the Ashdown Forest). The day was overcast and a bit windy but not cold. Underfoot it was dry despite a little rain the night before - dried out no doubt by the wind.

The first pond on the walk was very short of water; no more than a few large puddles and Misty wasn’t interested in paddling - too much horse poo about to track down and nibble. She met a Greyhound with a small dog of indeterminate name, and a couple of labradors, one a six month old puppy who may have had a little more than just labrador in her.

The gorse is out in full, luxuriant flower at the moment and the faint vanilla scent is wonderful. All the trees have flowers of some sort on them and spikes of ferns are unfolding themselves out of last year’s growth. I love the way they unwind themselves and manage to find all those leaves from such small rolls.

The second pond is shrinking fast and what’s left is very muddy looking. Misty had a drink there - she likes that pond better - and so managed to get her feet muddy despite my efforts to keep her clean! The dead trees that stand a little way off from the pond are stark against the sky, their spiky branches pointing accusingly at the new growth surrounding them.

In the afternoon we visited the Country Show at Blindley Heath. By the time we got there it had started to spot with rain and it drizzled on and off the whole time we were there. There was a funfair and a ring which had, whilst we were there, a parade of old cars followed by the hounds from the Surrey & Burstow Hunt and a food tent which had the usual displays of pickles, pies, cakes, sweets, meats and jams.

But what made it worthwhile for me was a display of various types of gundog. There were some unusual ones - an Italiano something-or-other, Clumber Spaniels - plus the ubiquitous Retrievers, but what made the day for me was a group of Hungarian Wirehaired Vizslas. They were beautiful; about the size of a Pointer, in various shades of tan, with lovely wiry coats and beautiful beards (I do love dogs with beards|!). There were three in a pen and a couple outside on leads - one was a beautiful boy, dark tan in colour with the most amazing yellow eyes, the other a six-month old puppy, slightly lighter in colour and oh so beautiful. I had a chat with the breeder who told us that they are very affectionate dogs and like to keep their owner in sight when out. Could this be our next puppy?

We have to make a decision at some time about whether we have another dog or not. It would be unfair to Misty to introduce a puppy when she’s an old lady and it would be nice for her to have a companion. Although I think she likes all the attention an only dog gets! I feel some research coming on...

11 Apr 2009

My new best friend!

A diamond came to live with me today. The most beautiful diamond I've ever seen - or at least that I've ever seen close up. It's a brilliant cut solitaire on a platinum ring with a plain, modern claw mounting. It's almost colourless and sparkles like moonlight on water.

As I type it throws multicoloured flashes of light through the air and if that's not an incentive to keep writing I don't know what is!

I learned a lot about diamonds after we first spoke with our jeweller; about the four Cs, Carat, Cut, Colour and Clarity. I learned how colour is notated for diamonds - D is the most colourless and therefore most valuable; mine is a G. Carat is, as everyone knows, the size of the diamond - 1 carat is 0.2 grams; mine is 1.39 carat. Cut is what gives the diamond its brilliance; the facets that are cut on the surface of the diamond reflect the light back and forth within the gem. Finally, clarity of the stone is determined by the amount of faults or marks there are within the stone, called inclusions. Almost all diamonds have some sort of mark within them, many not able to be seen by the naked eye; the fewer there are, the more valuable the diamond.

My diamond has a very few small inclusions, but to balance that, the colour is at the top end of the scale. It's a good balance I think.

Never in a million years would I have been able to afford a diamond such as the one that's come to live with me. To just try something like it on in a jeweller's store would have been something I'd never have considered.

So to those thieves who burgled our home a couple of months ago and took every single piece of jewellery I had, including the rings my mother left me when she died last year, I say don't bother coming back; you won't find anything there.

27 Feb 2009

Urban landscape

A row of houses - purely imaginary, but had fun doing these. Ink and watercolour on Langton watercolour paper. I'm rather fond of the birdies :-)

19 Feb 2009

February














Just messing around with the concept of February. Pen and ink, acrylic ink, fluid acrylics, Pitt Artists Pens.

18 Feb 2009

Casa Estrella

These are a couple of sketches I did while we were staying in Spain last week. The weather was cold and blowy for most of the week we stayed but, after the first night, at least it was dry.

The villa is in the hills outside Velez Malaga on the Costa del Sol, on the edge of a village called Canillas de Acietuno which, I think, means village (or town) of olives.

Unfortunately the fire didn't work and it was VERY cold in the house. We tried to heat it using the air conditioning but it is a large and high space and difficult to get warm. So we bought an electric bar fire in the village and huddled round that! Bit like being at home really!!

2 Feb 2009

Cells and Shells

My lovely new cell phone. It's a Nokia E71. Of course, the real thing isn't all wobbly looking like this. It's bright and shiny (neither of which I know how to sketch!) and has white keys and I've hung my little red heart charm onto it. Aahhh! I think I should have sketched the instruction manual along with it because I've spent more time pouring over that than I have using the phone so far. It's SO much easier to text with proper keys - well I think so anyway. I won't say what else it does but suffice it to say it doesn't make the tea... yet...


This painting of my dish of shells was for EDM 207 - Draw a Shell. I think I should have done just that, rather than try to draw a whole bunch of shells! One day I may find my style. In fact, one day I may find out how to sketch :-)

But since I totally enjoy doing it I don't think it really matters what the final sketch looks like and I'm working on the theory that the more I sketch the better it'll get. Mind you, looking back over my sketch book I'm not too sure of that!! Still, gotta keep at it. Going on holiday to Spain later this week and will make sure I keep my sketchbook with me all the time and practice, practice, practice.

20 Jan 2009

Inauguration Day

It's so hard to explain the incredible feeling of hope that the inauguration of this new President is generating. I'm not black, nor am I American, but even here in England there's a current of hope that the future that will get better, that the days of the fat cats are over, that jobs will return, that our soldiers will come home, that this President WILL make a difference.

How unfair that one man should carry all those hopes on his shoulders...

17 Jan 2009

These are two of my first attempts at sketching outside my home.

The first one is a door set into a plain wall in a street in Kings Lynn in Norfolk. There were lots of interesting doors in the street so I took several photos. This door was such a striking shade of blue that it really stoood out and the barley twist pillars were beautiful (although difficult for me to reproduce).

The second one is the upper floors of an Elizabethan house in my home town. The perspective is all wrong and it was maybe not the best thing to tackle for a beginner like me, but you gotta start somewhere...

9 Jan 2009

I took the tarot test...

I am The Moon

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Moon is a card of magic and mystery - when prominent you know that nothing is as it seems, particularly when it concerns relationships. All logic is thrown out the window.

The Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition. You may be going through a time of emotional and mental trial; if you have any past mental problems, you must be vigilant in taking your medication but avoid drugs or alcohol, as abuse of either will cause them irreparable damage. This time however, can also result in great creativity, psychic powers, visions and insight. You can and should trust your intuition.

What Tarot Card are You?

Take the Test to Find Out.

8 Jan 2009

Play


Just don't ask. This was play, pure and simple and dedicated to Creative Every Day's January challenge to "Play". So I did! And just like when I was a child, play inevitably ends in a mess.

No, I have no idea what it is either :-)

5 Jan 2009

My Word for 2009

After reading Christine Kane's blog on a Resolution Revolution I decided that it was silly to, yet again, make the same old resolutions that are forgotten within days. So I thought long and hard about choosing a single word to keep by me for 2009 and finally decided on "Connect".

This is to remind me to connect with:

  • My friends and colleagues - making sure I both listen to, and hear, what they say
  • My spiritual core - making sure to regularly stop, be quiet, breathe and try to connect with my inner self
  • My environment - studying it, watching how I interact with it, taking care of it
  • My world - resolving to try and shop locally whenever possible, recycle everything I can and reduce my carbon footprint

But above all, it's to remind me that everything I do impacts on all of the above - we all interconnect with each other and our environments.

Holly

Last sketch for 2008. Thought it should be more colourful so sketched on top of a watercolour wash with Rotring Rapidograph .25 and painted with liquid acrylics. Decided not to write over the top of this one except for the date.