Real Disney Magic

Arriving in Disneyland (Paris) on a cold, rainy Friday afternoon in early March gave me something I never dreamed it might.

Of course, I’d been looking forward to spending some really good quality time with my family – something that’s been in very short supply for so long that I couldn’t remember when it wasn’t. You know your life is going wrong somewhere when you realise you are miserable all the time and there seems to be nothing that can break the downward spiral of discontentment and despair. When it feels like even your closest family members really have no reason left to love you anymore because you feel so toxic.

When the FAB Hubby suggested it just before Christmas, I’d shrugged and assumed that, like many other dreams from the past, this one too would never see the light of day. I mean, what grown woman wants to go to Disneyland, for goodness sake? The thought HAD crossed my mind when my girls were much younger, and then again when my son was small – especially when one of my students was the son of one of the project managers of the much anticipated Hong Kong Disneyland Park  – but somehow, it just never happened and frankly, holidays are not something I’ve ever really known how to take. I’m not so good at the relaxing part and enjoying life, like many people I know.

So once I saw the tickets and the many conversations between the ten participants of this jaunt to the Continent confirmed that it actually WAS happening, I found I was really quite happy about the whole event. I am aware that I can be a bit of a killjoy at times and so decided that success for me during this holiday would be to have some good photos and some cherished memories of shared good times together. I hate roller coaster rides and to be honest, Disney itself has never been a massive influence on my life, so I really wasn’t expecting the place to work any kind of actual *magic* upon this world-weary, somewhat lost soul. How wrong can a person be?

It first happened about twenty minutes after arriving at the Gotham City-sized car park, which was remarkably empty at 2.30pm on this particular Friday afternoon. Perhaps, not surprising in itself of course, especially considering the cold, damp weather forecast and the fact that most people would be at work or school or otherwise engaged in their everyday lives.

We’d trekked the hundred miles from the car park to the main entrance (seriously – travelators help, but it’s a really long walk!) and not been too put off by the large green hoardings just outside the magnificent Disney Hotel, declaring that Disney Magic was being worked upon this particular area just now, so it was closed for visitors. I hoped that wouldn’t be too much of a recurrent theme for the next three days. These hoardings had shadows of the Seven Dwarves and characters from Peter Pan that we adults recognised but that scared the bejeezus out of my three-year-old granddaughter, Scarlett, who imagined they were real.

And then we found ourselves in Main Street, USA.

And there was the actual Disney Magic Castle.

DL MAgic Castle

The actual Disney Magic Castle at Disneyland Paris. It’s actually Magic.

Right in front of us.

That’s when I first felt the magic. ‘Dah, dah dah dah, dah dah dah! ‘ trilled the loudspeaker somewhere above my head (you KNOW the tune).

It was so familiar and yet so very strange. Actual goosebumps. And not just because it was about 2º.

And suddenly my face was wet with happy tears and I smiled for the first time in a very long time, from a place very deep within my soul.

This was going to be awesome.

A lot of other stuff happened during the rest of the afternoon – I’ll skip that for now (don’t worry – I’ll come back to it later, in another post!) though to get to the next time my face got wet. I KNOW! TWICE… in ONE DAY! Who’d ‘a thunk?

Again, it took me by surprise – because one thing on my list of ‘Things I hate with a passion‘ are fireworks. Ask anyone who knows me well – fireworks leave me cold. When I was about nine or so, I used to watch one of my favourite TV shows, called ‘Magpie’ which was a bit like ‘Blue Peter’ with a really catchy theme tune that immortalized the old wives’ tale about magpies –

Magpie logo

Murgatroyd the Magpie from the TV show

One for sorrow, two for joy;

Three for a girl and four for a boy;

Five for silver, six for gold and

Seven for a secret never to be told‘.

They added some extra lines that went Eight is a wish and nine a kiss – ten is a bird you must not miss, Ma -aah- ahh- ag- pie! (clicking on the link will take you to the theme tune on YouTube, in case you’re interested!) Murgatroyd the Magpie was their logo – I loved him!

In the UK fireworks are generally only used at one time of year, unless (nowadays anyway) there’s some kind of special celebration such as a royal wedding or a summer outdoor concert or something, but when I was young, all through the month of October small groups of children would make effigies of Guy Fawkes, using one of their dad’s old shirts and trousers stuffed with straw (or mum’s old tights) and wheel him round in a barrow shouting ‘penny for the Guy?’ to all and sundry in the hopes that some would offer you some dosh so that you could go and buy some fireworks to let off on Bonfire Night – ‘Remember, remember the fifth of November; Gunpowder, treason and plot. I see no reason, why gunpowder treason. Should ever be forgot!‘.

Frequently, of course, some children (usually the older ones, who were generally out to create a lot of mischief) would let off their fireworks, throwing bangers and crackers willy-nilly before the designated night of merriment, much to everyone’s delight. Well, everyone who wasn’t me. You see, I had watched those awful episodes of Magpie when they featured the consequences of such mischief-making, gone horribly wrong. It seems that gangs of older kids (and I knew some of these people) routinely found it very amusing to tie Catherine Wheels or Rockets or other such delights to the tails of unsuspecting moggies and even occasionally small pooches and then light them and run for safe cover, to see the object of their handiwork desperately struggling to free themselves, before the inevitable awful lift off, lighting up the sky as they flew through the air.

This practice simply terrified me, all the more so since I knew several very unpleasant characters that were responsible for such atrocities, although I had no actual evidence that they were involved of course, so couldn’t substantiate my claims to any person of authority. In truth, I was very afraid of these louts myself so I wasn’t about to endanger my own safety so recklessly – even though I felt like a terrible coward for choosing this path.

Photographs of maimed cats and later, when the campaigns became more aggressive, there were pictures of maimed children too, were quite sufficient motivation for me to hate the source of such evil – fireworks, even tiny little sparklers, became the thing I feared and hated most on Earth. It’s taken nearly forty years for me to change my mind.

We’d had a long day travelling, arriving, exploring and being enchanted by Disneyland. We stayed in the park for the big fireworks show at 8.00 pm, seated on wet chairs in a huge crowd of people waiting for the same thing. Hot chocolate and some bright flashes and then we could go to our lodgings to get a good night’s sleep – that’s what I was looking forward to most at this point.

Until the show began.

And what a show!

As soon as it began, I could feel that *magic* happening again. I smiled once more. It was all so charming and adorable, so exciting and – what was it… thrilling?

I had to leave the family group to get a better view for my camera – we were too far away. I snickered in between other small groups and eventually found a reasonable vantage point to watch the show – me, who hates fireworks!

And before I knew it, those tears were streaming like Colorado Rapids down my face. The rain had definitely stopped, so it wasn’t Heavenly precipitation causing this flood. No-sir-ee. I was crying, smiling, laughing, pointing delightedly at nothing in particular, wiping away my tears with the back of my hand and never taking my eyes off the fireworks show.

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When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you
If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do
Fate is kind
She brings to those to love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing
Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true

It really is *Magic*!

Thanks for reading this one, there will be more because it was such a great experience, so do come back again! 

 

 

 

A yellow rose

My FAB hubby has bought me flowers almost every week since we married nearly 36 years ago – except for Valentines’ weeks, when I simply object to the ridiculous over-pricing of this simple expression of love. I’ve taken many photos of the various bunches of flowers over the years, but this one, THIS one is as close to perfection as I can find. I just had to share it with everyone.

Yellow has long been my most favourite colour for roses – and I don’t know if this happens to you when you see one but I’m always playing a snippet of ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas’ in my head each time I see them. No? Just me then!

So, without further ado – I give you Liz’s Yellow Rose.

Yellow rose sm

A perfect yellow rose

*sigh*

Possibly perfect.

 

Nunnington Hall: The Carlisle Collection

I’m not often overly enamored of the various trinkets that stately home owners like to put on show to the Great Unwashed – i.e. you and I, Joe Public and the like. I mean, I love the historic settings and there is definitely great value to be imbibed through getting up-close-and-personal with the hoity-toitys’ treasures but sometimes these things can leave one really wondering if there ever were real people who, once upon a time, loved these objet d’arte as much as the historians would have us believe.

The Carlisle Collection, a unique collection of truly outstanding miniature rooms, fully furnished in intricate detail and commissioned by Mrs Kitty Carlisle in the early to mid twentieth century, is housed in the attic rooms of Nunnington Hall, near York in North Yorkshire.

It is enchanting; stepping in to see each display case is a sheer delight.

Carlisle Collection: Antique Shop showing scale

Carlisle Collection: Antique Shop showing scale

The scale is reportedly on an uncommon 1/8th (1 inch = 8 inches) measurement – uncommon because most other similar artifacts are usually on the smaller 1/12th scale (1 inch = 12 inches). The considerable attention to detail is outstanding and evident in each of the dozen or more displays.

This means that everything is really tiny, but perfectly formed.

… so many possibilities, so little time! I’ll leave whatever comparisons you want to make to your own imaginations :) 

The first room to capture my attention was the Antique Shop – apparently this was what she constructed with everything that was left over from furnishing the other rooms. What a creative way to display the gallimaufry of ephemera that had no other place! ‘Something doesn’t fit in any of the other settings? No worries! Let’s create an antique shop so nothing looks out of place!’ It’s a stroke of genius, in my mind at least.

Carlisle Collection: Antique Shop interior from above

Carlisle Collection: Antique Shop interior from above

Totally mesmerizing, I was fascinated with the tiny ceramic animals sitting on a display table and an exquisitely etched silver tea service on a silver tray. Looking through the glass in the front door made me feel like an actual giant. Truly. I suddenly completely understood Alice in Wonderland at the deepest level.

Next we spied the tiny greenhouse, complete with potted plants and gardening tools. *Squee!*

Carlisle Collection; Greenhouse

Carlisle Collection; Greenhouse

The painter and decorator’s workshop floored me with the rolls of wallpaper, stacked neatly on a shelf – Mrs Carlisle had taken the trouble to PRINT a variety of different patterns onto the wallpapers in store – one was conveniently opened up for inspection on the work bench.

Carlisle Collection; Painter and Decorators's Workshop

Carlisle Collection; Painter and Decorators’s Workshop

Teeny tools and even the bicycle parked under the stable door made me smile broadly. I was really beginning to enjoy the display!

Now we moved across the hall to another room filled with enclosed display cabinets. These were nothing short of spectacular. I was delighted also to spot that the National Trust provided appropriate portable stepping platforms so that younger visitors might be able to see the marvelous detail for themselves – it’s a nice touch.

The Adam Music Room with its variety of splendid instruments, including a mandolin, a Spanish guitar, cello, viola, violin, clarinet, harp and harpsichord as well as a music stand with sheet music stacked up rather precariously made me wish I had such a room in my own house.

Carlisle Collection; Music Room

Carlisle Collection; Music Room

The Palladian Hall, reputedly the last of the rooms to be commissioned by Mrs. Carlisle is modeled on one at Hatch Court in Somerset.

Carlisle Collection; Entrance Hall

Carlisle Collection; Entrance Hall

The balustrade pattern was hand carved and then each of the 84 balusters were cast in brass whilst the  88 inches of carpet for the stairs was hand embroidered by the dedicated Mrs Carlisle, who also created all of the soft furnishings for each room setting.

The Georgian Bedroom then is even more fascinating (for textile-techies such as me at least) by this fact – take a look at the teeny little patches that Mrs Carlisle used to make the quilt for the bed – each one can be no more than a quarter-inch in size. And they are hexagons.

Carlisle Collection: Georgian Bedroom

Carlisle Collection: Georgian Bedroom

And, remember that back in the times that she made these remarkable bed-coverings, she would have had to have cut each tiny hexagon out by hand, tacked it to a tiny card template and then stitched each with minuscule stitches to the next in order to create the 12 inch long (approximately) counterpane. My mind was simply boggled!

The Queen Anne Drawing Room was actually Kitty Carlisle’s first commission, which she had modeled upon F.J Early’s Queen Mary’s Dolls House.

Carlisle Collection; Queen Anne Drawing Room

Carlisle Collection; Queen Anne Drawing Room

The attention to detail is simply breathtaking – dovetailed joints and even secret compartments in the writing bureau! I was also informed that the china is genuine Limoges Porcelain. Again, our seamstress busied herself with tapestries for the chair covers and footstools as well as the handsome room carpet.

Also (not pictured) there is the Day Nursery, which features a delightful toy Noah’s Ark, complete with a long line of paired animals, patiently waiting their embarkation amongst many other cherished toys; there’s also a Night Nursery, complete with a cot and a crib and other accouterments to childish slumber. It’s just lovely to see.

What a wonderful way to spend an hour or two  – if you ever get a chance to visit, this is definitely a must-see attraction, especially if, like me, you’re interested in miniature worlds.

NB: With regards to copyright; I did ask if it was OK to take photos and was informed that as long as I didn’t use a flash this would be OK and I do hope that I’m not upsetting any copyright rules by publishing my own photos here – if anyone is concerned about this, please can they let me know by contacting me via the contact details on the ‘contact page’ of this website. Thanks.

There’ll be more about our trip to Nunnington Hall last weekend, which we went to in order to see the gorgeous ‘Aspects of Rievaulx Abbey’ Exhibition that was showing my two art teachers’ work, Anne Thornhill and Paul Blackwell – that’s a whole other post though, so keep reading!

 

 

 

Finding Fathers

My daddy died on the 9th of November 1969, when I was eight years old.

In those days, no-one discussed death with small people and so I knew very, very little of what happened to him. I have a copy of his death certificate that I inherited from my mother when she died, five years after he did. So I have known for over forty-five years that he was buried on the island of Barbados, but I haven’t ever plucked up the courage to find whereabouts on the island. It’s not a very big island so I guess I’ve always assumed it wouldn’t be too hard to find, when push came to shove.

So, the shoving is happening soon.

In the wee hours of this day, as others slumber, I am too excited to sleep. There are many reasons for this, but primarily it’s because I’ve finally realised that this is actually real and we will be going on the holiday of a lifetime in a few short weeks.

Barbados.

Millionaire’s paradise, playground of the rich and famous.

Exquisite, beauteous jewel isle at the very edge of the Caribbean, where the days are warm and sunny for almost all the time.

It’s also the place I spent some of my early years – regular readers will already know this. I arrived in early October 1966, just before the island declared Independence from Great Britain and lived through some interesting historical times, including the installation of the first Prime Minister, Errol Barrow. The school I attended stands adjacent to the Government House and I recall watching parade ground antics from my classroom window. I was fascinated by the white plumed hats.

It all ended with the death of my daddy, who wasn’t my (biological) father, but was always my daddy. It was a cold hard bump to find myself in England, in winter, after the warmth and beauty of island heaven. I knew it was because he had died, but couldn’t, for the life of me, fathom why we had to leave and return to Blighty. If only someone had thought me worthy of explanation.

My FAB Hubby has long promised that we will go there to see the place I spent time growing up – it’s just about the one place that I’ve never had any likelihood of an opportunity to revisit. This hallowed trip has taken on mammoth proportions and when the promise seemed to be starting to materialise a few short weeks ago, I’ve steadfastly promised myself that I would NOT get excited or begin planning anything because, well, I didn’t dare to dream that it might really happen.

But dammit, life is too short to not allow oneself the pleasure of anticipation, the thrill of planning what to do and where to go during our visit. So tonight, I gave in to the Dark Side and dove in.

It is simply breathtaking to think that I’m actually going to go.

*SQUEE!!!*

So I’ve been downloading pictures to use as my screen savers – they’re not my photos, so I’ll not use them here  (except the one below -I can’t resist since this is where I learned to swim!) , but you dear reader, yes, I am talking to YOU! -You WILL get to see all the gazillion photos I will be taking myself. With my own camera. With my own eyes. Oh, YES! (I am a tad excited about that prospect, you may just detect a nuance of exhilaration. It may take a while to pass!). I may have to buy a new camera to be sure of capturing everything just so.

And then I stopped and realised something.

I Googled cemetery’s in Barbados and not only found the Westbury Cemetery immediately, but found my daddy’s records in mere seconds.

I think it’s going to be the first place we’ll go to.

I’ll let you know.

Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach in Barbados, where I learned to swim.

As ever, thanks for reading!

It may really be happening…

It’s been a busy day, with some success and a spectacular failure – I messed up finding the location of a wonderful workshop in Scarborough, but thankfully I think I will be able to recover that at least partially, so not an actual disaster then. I just look terribly foolish – I can get over that as I’ve had so much practice.

I woke up early in a major panic. It’s the 16th of December. For one thing, it is the GUS’s nineteenth birthday and he’s still at Uni so I wouldn’t get to see him today. It’s the very first time I haven’t seen him on his birthday – even when he was at boarding school, their terms had finished by now , so for the first time in nineteen years we’ve been apart on this important day.

It’s so hard to explain the pull of my children, even though all three are now fully grown into wonderful, magnificent adults. It never goes away. I doubt it ever will.

Still, I talked with him on the phone at 7.30am and I knew that he’d grown up just a little more when he answered the phone with a comprehensible ‘Hiya Mum! How are you?’ as opposed to the usual Neanderthal grunting. Progress is so rewarding! Anyway, we’ll be seeing him very soon – probably tomorrow, so I’m not dwelling too much on his absence, save to remind myself of how truly brilliant he is and how lucky I am to be his mother.

But back to the panicking.

And the Oscar for Best Actress goes to …

No-one does *PANIC* quite like me I think. If it weren’t for the fact that I am ACTUALLY panicking, feeling sheer insurmountable terror inside and out, I could probably get an Oscar for my portrayal of ‘Panicking Woman’. I think that they have some stupid rules about having to be in an acting situation – you know, a movie – to be considered for one of those prestigious awards. It’s so no fair!

What was the panicking all about I hear you asking?

Ah, dear reader, here’s the rub – there doesn’t need to be a REASON to panic! Clearly, that’s where you’re all going wrong. No, no, reason is in fact your enemy when adopting the fully engaged PANIC mode. It’s much better to feel the panic, building up inside through weeks of worrying about Small Stuff (I could *sweat-the-small-stuff* for England, if it were an Olympic event!), about Big Stuff and about all the In-between Stuff.

There was Friday’s tussle with The Grinch. It prompted some epic responses from my Farmie Friends, which involved broomsticks that can travel across the Atlantic, transporting said wonderful wild women to come to my aid; they realised they’d need to return on a regular scheduled flight as their mode of travel would have been otherwise deployed, embedded deeply into The Grinch’s rear end, as an aid to help him clean up his own mess in future. I’m sure you need no further details! I laughed long and hard over this – truly thankful am I to have such smashing pals. Thank you ladies – you know who you are.

There was also the much more pleasing trip to see the grandchildren, who are all growing so fast, I have to find the person with their foot on the accelerator to get them to back off, just a little so I can savour them for a while longer. The Angelic Angel (Scarlett, aged three) and the Dynamic Donkey (Harriet, aged four and eleven twelfths) contributed fabulously to possibly the best Nativity I’ve ever seen. No panic here of course, unless you count my inability to capture such moments with my camera, largely due to shaking from suppressed giggles. Still, it’s being *in the moment* that counts and so it was indeed, fabulous.

But today’s panic was the culmination of my realisation that the deadline for readying my work for the New Year exhibition at the Palace Gallery in Redcar is rapidly approaching and I was no where near even being able to get them printed yet – it’s Christmas apparently and this means that getting things printed is high on many, many other people’s agendas meaning that my regular printer, who works just down the road from me and is reasonably priced, was unavailable. I rocked up last Friday afternoon, thinking ‘I’ve got this – it’ll be great’ only to be faced with a dreadful notice in his window declaring that he’s far too busy until after Christmas to do any work for anyone else.

I was not a happy chappy. That’s when the real panic started; the weekend spent happily with family simply put it all on hold and it wasn’t until 5.21 am this morning that it reclaimed my brain.

I have no pictures printed.

ARGH!!!

Printing them is expensive (giclée printing costs a fortune and they need special paper too), takes a considerable time and care to produce and then they need to be mounted and framed. Then I’ll need to properly wrap them up and then drive up to Redcar to go and deliver them. Before next Wednesday evening.

ARGH!!! and BOTHERATION!

Looking on-line didn’t help – printing may have been possible, but getting them framed this side of Chinese New Year was looking impossible.

What in Heaven’s Name was I going to do?

(Hint – here’s where all my panicky words are stored – angst, disquiet, flapping, fretting, heebie-jeebies, jitters, misgivings, needles, shakes, shivers and willies. I had ’em all. All at once. Simultaneously. It was pretty scary)

If I fail to get the pictures to the gallery in good time for the hanging of the exhibition, I miss my first chance to gain some essential exposure as an artist.

GASP!

If I fail in this endeavour, it’s likely I’ll gain a reputation for lacking any kind of professionalism – those of you who’ve worked with me in the past will know how deeply this cut would scar me, it is simply unthinkable!

GASP! GASP!

If I fail in this endeavour, my fragile dreams of artistic success will come crashing down on me, burying my confidence in a calamity  of fractured narcissism that might just cause me to totally implode.

GASP! GASP! GASP! (does anyone have an inhaler handy?)

Not that I’m being melodramatic or anything.

That’s the main ingredient of PANIC. Just, you know, FYI, in case you’ve never done the whole horror of frantic frenzy scene or anything.

Enter the FAB Hubby.

With soothing tea and calming reason. See, I told you reason is the antithesis of panic!

Together, we found a solution and thanks to two wonderful and very generous people – Paul Crick Photography (he’s a photographer who lives not far from me) agreed to print them for me (for a fee – he’s not a charity!) by Saturday and his recommended framer, Bridge Street Frames & Gallery in Helmsley, who has agreed to frame them for a great price AND have them all ready by Tuesday evening, I am now A PANIC-FREE ZONE!

So BAH! Sucks to panic!

Paul’s lovely wife, Vivien, managed to sooth my jangles with her wonderful calm stillness which is not surprising, given that she (and Paul) also run a fantastic personal wellness practice at Gaia Holistix. She is indeed the absolute antithesis to PANIC and within one minute of being in their presence, I felt better. Some people just *glow* with spirituality – she’s definitely one of them.

Thank you Vivien, Paul and the lovely chap at the framers – I didn’t catch his name but he too was so willing to help and I find that totally humbling.

This Cinderella may indeed be going to the ball.

Tree collage sm

Serenity

Serenity, at last!

(Cue calm breathing. Deep, nourishing lungfuls of relaxed chilled-ness simply *being*. Wonderful!)

… now, how many days shopping do I have ’til Christmas? And what do you mean I have no money? Does anyone have any spare change down the back of your sofas… and if so, can you send it to me? Do I have  a recipe for cranberry sauce? Where’s my list… here we go again!

Thanks for reading my friends, once again.

And in case I don’t get time for another post before the Big Day, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas. Let there be Peace on Earth.

 

 

 

 

Elements in Visual Art: Which is your favourite?

I’ve been thinking a lot in recent days about Art and about my response to the art of other people and also my own attempts to create *Art*. I knew I was going to be an artist one day when I grew up (which I’m still waiting to happen!) from a fairly young age, or at least, when I became aware that this would be my life’s ambition, I was twelve.

Magic painting books kept me entertained for hours!

Magic painting books kept me entertained for hours!

As a small child, I’d always enjoyed colouring books and had hundreds of them, which was unusual – most of my pals had a couple that they occasionally scribbled in, when bored perhaps, but I adored all of mine. I recall receiving my dollar-a-week pocket money (this was the Sixties and I am referring to a Bajan (Barbadian) Dollar, which was probably worth about four shillings at the time – 20p in today’s currency) on Saturday mornings as we embarked on the weekly grocery shopping at the supermarket and I spent every cent on the same things, week in, week out. I always bought a cheap colouring book or a small notebook – sometimes lined, sometimes plain –  a pencil, a sharpener, an eraser, a wooden ruler and a pack of short colouring pencils. Boy, you could get a lot for your money in those days eh?

Very occasionally I would buy a ‘magic’ colouring book. These were incredibly exciting as you could make colour *magically* appear on the page by the simple application of a little water on a clean paintbrush! The plain, linear image was instantly transformed into brightly coloured-in images and therefore became much, much more attractive (well actually, not really so brightly, maybe on a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is lurid, pure intense colour and 1 is, frankly, *meh* (grey) these might score a 3 or 4, if I was lucky!). I was, for the longest time, inexplicably entertained by these objects. It was a more innocent time is all I can say!

I did this every week for the three years that I lived in Barbados as a child and then carried on in much the same vein when we returned to the UK at the end of the 60’s, until I became an avid reader of Enid Blyton novels and started blowing my precious pennies on Malory Towers and Famous Five tales. By the time my mother died, when I was thirteen, I had so many colouring books and stationery items as well as paperback copies of Ms Blyton’s entire back catalogue that it was simply impossible to take them with me to my new home. Of all the things I regret in life (actually, there really aren’t that many things) this is definitely one of the most painful regrets – leaving my beloved early attempts at art and my books.

Reflect-a-sketch was a fantastic introduction to drawing for me

Reflect-a-sketch was a fantastic introduction to drawing for me

For my twelfth birthday my mother bought me a ‘Reflect-A-Sketch’ contraption that allowed the participant to see the reflection of a quite complex line drawing and trace it onto a blank page opposite. The resulting sketch was startlingly accurate – I tried it and found that I could make really effective drawings and when I showed one to my art teacher she was delighted with me; an Artist was BORN! Whilst of course it’s barely more advanced than simply tracing an image, it did bridge the gap in concept between tracing and using an artists’ eye to accurately judge where a mark should be made on a blank piece of paper. It helped me to make complex spatial judgements and translate those into hand-eye co-ordination effectively to produce desired results. It really inspired me to experiment with all sorts of mark making and that’s when I knew that I wanted to be an artist.

It’s interesting isn’t it that children are drawn to colour like moths to a flame?

I think that’s because, of all the elements in Art (line, shape, form, tone, texture, pattern and colour), colour is the most essentially visual element. Actually, I’d put them into two groups – with colour closely followed by tone (sometimes referred to as ‘value’) in the singularly visual group and the others, line, pattern, shape, form and texture in a more graphically-tactile group.

Those ‘tactile’ elements are important visually, of course, we’d find it pretty difficult to describe artworks without them, but I don’t think of them as only visual elements. A line can be ‘seen’ without open eyes – you can touch a line, such as the seam on your trousers perhaps, following its path from A to B and understand what it’s doing there. A line defines the edges of one space as distinct from another. Likewise shapes – essentially just enclosed lines, and forms – fundamentally three-dimensional shapes, both can be appreciated using other senses. Patterns are simply a series of repeated shapes and texture, particularly ‘actual texture’, is essentially a tactile experience – even visual texture can often be felt through the sense of touch as richly as through the eyes.

Colours may not look the same to everyone

Colours may not look the same to everyone

But colour is, I would argue, almost entirely visual. Now that’s not to say that colours cannot be seen by people who have limited or no ability to ‘see’ in a conventional sense, because I am aware of extensive research that has led to the development of ‘sensory environment rooms’ to help give visually impaired children (and adults) some intense sensory experiences and we can all ‘see’ colours in our mind’s eye of course, whether or not we have our eyelids open or closed. These developments are wonderful and I’m sure give invaluable experiences to people who might otherwise live their lives without ever seeing colour like the rest of us do. It makes me appreciate my sense of sight even more.

I’m also aware that everyone sees colour and tonal value in slightly different ways – it’s all to do with the science of wavelengths of colours and there’s no way this side of Hell that I could attempt to explain all of that; for the purpose of this essay, I’m simply assuming that most of us know that what one person sees as a bright, intense azure may for someone else be a different experience altogether. I get that.

But as an artist, I present my work to the outside world, to everyone else, with my own perspective of the colours and tonal values that look a certain way, to ME.

I cannot dispute with you (or anyone else) whether or not a line is out of place, or the shape is accurate or the texture and/or use of patterns rich enough to convey what it is that I see – these things are almost entirely absolute. That’s why they are probably the first thing that an art teacher starts with when introducing new students to their programme of study – they are tangible, definable and consequently much easier to understand and therefore to teach. A line is a line and a shape is a shape that either is or isn’t accurate.

Turner's work captivates the viewer's imaginations

Turner’s work captivates the viewer’s imaginations

My intention may have been to create accurate or approximately accurate lines, shapes or textures OR I might have intended them to be deliberately vague and ‘free ’, THIS I can dispute with you until the cows come home. Often work is judged by how skilled the artist is in mastering these elements, how ‘realistically’ they can represent their subject matter, although many people can and do respond to work that effects a more emotional, abstracted portrayal, where these elements are consciously, intentionally obscured in a more unrestricted manner. J.M. Turner’s magnificent paintings are widely loved by most people who see them largely because they elicit such an emotional response. So I can argue about my intentions, but not my execution of these elements.

However, I am able to manipulate colour and tonal value to depict my subject matter in any manner that I choose, without considering (and therefore being compelled by) the viewers’ understanding of them, precisely because these elements are almost entirely visual. We cannot *feel* what ‘yellow’ is; or ‘blue’, or ‘crimson’ or any other colour for that matter. We cannot touch tonal value to understand how much light or darkness is there. This makes these concepts more challenging to fully understand and to teach.

One of the first tasks I recall undertaking during my college training was to try to create an eight-page booklet for five-year olds, explaining the concept of basic colours. It is surprisingly perplexing to use vocabulary, words and lexicality to explain what colour *IS*! There were varying degrees of success as I remember; generally speaking the most effective were those that used pictures of something that is usually the appropriate colour, such as a red fire-engine, yellow sun or a brown teddy-bear, coupled with a simple label of the appropriate word and this model is usually adopted in professional publications, including posters.

Tonal values, the amount of light or dark that is visible are perceived differently too

Tonal values, the amount of light or dark that is visible are perceived differently too

Reception (or kindergarten) class teachers spend much of the first few weeks with their new pupils developing their understanding of the concept of colours and providing standard naming words for them. Everyone who’s ever been in contact with small children will know the thrill of accurately naming colours in these standardised ways. It’s a big deal! In my view, too few (formal) teachers of young children invest the same amount of time in developing their understanding of tonal value, although, of course, I am speaking in general terms – for the most part there’s so much else to learn this doesn’t really seem like any kind of priority. I’m just saying that it would be beneficial if children learned about lightness and darkness, or tonality, as a concept alongside learning about colours. It would make it easier to understand when they’re older and trying to appreciate how to make their marks more meaningful, perhaps making ‘drawing’ a more pleasing and successful learning experience for them. I’ll take my teacher hat off now!

So, time to get back to my own art then. I’ve really be grappling with what I make art for and what it is about, for me. Coming up with a raison d’être for my own *Art*, why it’s important to me, why I should bother to do it at all, has proved challenging indeed. It’s been stimulating, exciting even and definitely thought-provoking. Of course, there are people who will say to me ‘Why? Why do you need a reason? Aren’t you happy just to DO *Art*?’ and I understand that point of view entirely. Art doesn’t have to be complex, filled with symbolic meaning that changes the world. Art just IS.

As a species, humans have been making art for thousands of years, ever since we developed the dexterity to hold tools in our hands and make lasting marks on our surrounding environment. I’m sure that many, many people have done and continue to make art for countless reasons; perhaps they just wanted to, or for decoration, or to make something aesthetically pleasing to them, or to perhaps provide camouflage even, so they could work or rest without fear of being observed by predators. I could go on!

My soul, the one that tells me I need to be an artist, says there is a reason for me to do this. I need a reason for me to make my art. And so here it is.

It’s all about colour for me. It always has been. Like many of the great, inspirational artists of the past – Turner, Picasso, Frida Khalo, Georgia O’Keefe…  (I could list a hundred more), but of course I must include my most favourite artist, Vincent Van Gogh – I am drawn to bright, intense saturated colour and it pleases me. It fills my soul with joy to see a bright cerulean sky and the sparkling, brilliant emerald Caribbean Sea, to see exquisite floral displays of every colour, rich and glorious fields of greens and golds, luscious purple-red fruits and berries; deep, inky night skies with intense, billion-years-old-light speckling the Heavens and a thousand other aspects of this unique, magnificent place that we live with – Nature at its very best. Natural light and shade is an essential part of this whole experience of LIFE and so I include tonality in this wider concept of colour.  That’s what I’m striving to show the world. That’s what I want you to see when you look at *Art*, made by me.

If I can show how I see this world to others, maybe I can satisfy my searching soul. I have to try.

Azure skies...

Azure skies…

Baby bumble bee

Baby bumble bee

Rose petals - soft colour

Rose petals – soft colour

Variegated foliage

Variegated foliage

Bright chalets on Scarborough's North Bay Beach

Bright chalets on Scarborough’s North Bay Beach

Frilly tulips

Frilly tulips

Winter sunset with spectacular colour in the sky

Winter sunset with spectacular colour in the sky

Peacock

Peacock

Clematis

Clematis

Yes, colour is my favourite visual element.

Thanks for reading once more, my friends.

Autumnal whimsy

Last week I posted some pictures of autumnal trees on my other blog and had every intention of writing more about them here. But, life takes over sometimes and I simply had no time. I suddenly realised today that if I don’t get them up soon, it’s going to be Winter – as we all know,  ‘Winter is Coming’! As a huge Game of Thrones fan I simply couldn’t resist that one.

So, in the three and a half minutes I have this morning I decided to at least get these pictures up and then I can write about them later – it seems like a good compromise. Some were taken in Harrogate, Yorkshire, on the magnificent Stray right in the centre of town. Harrogate is definitely a place I’d love to have lived, it has it’s own special charm and grace, unequalled anywhere else I’ve been to. One day, perhaps. Some others were taken in the sleepy village of Sledmere, which is on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds, dominated by the grand stately home there, Sledmere House. I would love to spend some time visiting the house and grounds there – one day, perhaps.

My life seems to be about just that right now; Perhaps. One day. There are periods in life that can be difficult to deal with and this is definitely one of them. Still, at least there is hope. Hope is most important. I’m hanging onto that idea whilst I get on with the minutia of life. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Thanks for reading again!

That empty nest…

Fireman Sam peeking in your window first thing in the morning -uh-oh!

Fireman Sam peeking in your window first thing in the morning -uh-oh!

‘Hey mum! Guess what I woke up to this morning?’ the GUS, Toby gabbled, somewhat excitedly down the phone.

‘Do tell!’ I replied, not really quite prepared for the response.

‘Only a flying fireman, who, for the first few moments I thought might be a wizard because he seemed to be levitating outside my window!’ were quite possibly the last combination of words that I thought he might utter. Especially when you consider that his new student digs are on the fifth floor of the halls of residence.

(Rest assured, dear reader, he hasn’t completely lost it – the fire station is directly behind the student apartments’ building and the fireman concerned was NOT actually levitating.

‘Cos, y’know, they can’t really do that. It would be wizardry if they could. Cool and all, but not actually real.

I think he was on some sort of platform or something. I don’t know, ‘cos I wasn’t there, but I’m using my noodle to try and keep up with the conversation. The things I do for you guys!)

It’s been a busy month or so, with many ups and downs, getting the GUS ready to fledge.

Emperor penguins are amazing parents

Emperor penguins are amazing parents

A year or so ago we watched the magnificent BBC wildlife programme, ‘Penguins – spy in the huddle‘ which truly is worth your time to watch. Toby and I adored it – well who wouldn’t? It’s all about fabulous Antarctic Emperor Penguins, Peruvian Humbold Penguins and Falkland Rock Hopper Penguins, birds who know a thing or two about parenting. Penguins are perhaps the ultimate ‘cute’ wildlife, with their formal-looking attire and distinctive waddle, especially the new-born chicks who are covered with extra-fluffy down and have eyes like saucers.

In one episode, which was about the growing-up stage of life, there’s a memorable moment where one particularly prodigious penguin chick, who is almost as large as his hapless mother, continually demands that she feed him. RIGHT NOW.

He pecks at her increasingly emaciated beak mercilessly, ever more clamorous in his beseeching; she obliges well beyond what is seemingly appropriate or even moral until a final morsel is despatched and a line is crossed.

The girl is simply not giving up another morsel of food to this gargantuan greenhorn – she’s had it.

She turns on her heels (ok … give me a little licence here people, I’m setting the scene OK?) well flippers/feet or whatever and waddles off into the Great Beyond – a featureless sheet of icy tundra that she has called ‘Home’ for the past few months. Not a sniff, nor a sigh nor even a wistful peek over her shoulder at the offspring she’s left behind, to fend for himself. She just heads on out of there, entirely focussed on where she’s going.

We both welled up with tears when we watched it – it was a sad moment and seemed portentous to  both of us, perhaps for different reasons. For me, it was the willingness to simply abandon her chick, whom she and her partner Emperor had created, birthed and raised over the past few months. But then, she’s probably done this before and will likely do the same again next year, so perhaps her ambivalence is understandable – a girl has to get her goodies when she can in the real world it seems.Toby, on the other hand, was probably empathising with youngster, imagining how it must feel to watch your loving mother simply walk away from you – maybe never to be seen again.

Who doesn't adore Happy Feet?

Who doesn’t adore Happy Feet?

It’s possible that he was (in his own mind at least) trying to encourage the chick to look on the bright side – surely this means that it’s PAHTAY TIME! It’s also more than likely that his addiction to ‘Happy Feet’ when it first came out may well have had greater influence on his thinking than either you or I could imagine.

He dried his eye as David Tennant (the narrator on the programme) deftly distracted our attention by switching to the Peruvian Humbolds, hopping and skipping towards the perilous seas, falling around like calamitous Charlie Chaplin’s yet perkily popping back, right-side up, defying the ocean’s gormandizing at every turn. It’s a brilliant programme which I would highly recommend to all and sundry. Go watch it – even if you’ve seen it already, you won’t be disappointed by watching again!

So, the idea of fledging has been raking up these mixed emotions in all of us for quite some time now.

A little while back I took a photo which won first place in a competition.

The Empty Nest - a visual expression of this feeling of loss...

The Empty Nest – a visual expression of this feeling of loss…

I called the photo ‘Empty Nest’ and described the way that a simple abandoned broken egg shell in a local cemetery seemed to be a visual representation of this feeling of loss when, finally, the last of our offspring leaves home to begin their own adult lives.

I’ve been feeling odd for a couple of months really. It’s hard to describe – the sense of total devastation and loss that after thirty-five years of having our young around, this last-first-day-ever would bring, paired with the other extreme – elation, that after thirty-five years we can finally do whatever takes our fancy, whenever we feel like doing so without having to consider the needs of our children has pushed me on a roller coaster of emotion like none I’ve ever experienced before. And I hate roller coasters – anyone who knows me will tell you that.

It’s a good job I’ve been so very busy.

Planning a new business.

Writing a student cookery book (which is almost finished, but not quite!)

Well, at least he'll be warm!

Well, at least he’ll be warm!

Making sure that the GUS has everything he needs to start his new life, when we have barely two farthings to rub together. Cooking meals and freezing them in advance of his departure, so that he wouldn’t starve in the first week. No, not much likelihood of that – he’s a strapping lad, built like all great rugby players. But in my mind’s eye he’s still a teeny little scrap, with wobbly legs and an ever open, saucer-like blue eyes that beseech me to love him, to care for him and (above all else of course) to feed him.

It’s never easy, this parenting lark, is it?

I was most touched by his gift to me before he left. It’s the very first time he’s bought me flowers. I’ve always disliked chrysanthemums ’til now. Now I think I love them.

One last flower, facing the world. Alone.

One last flower, facing the world. Alone.

The soft light is bittersweet

The soft light is bittersweet

I love these 'mums, like none I've loved before

I love these ‘mums, like none I’ve loved before

So, whilst I watch everyone on social media posting their pictures of their little ones, many in their first-day-at-school-ever poses (including my adorable grand-daughter, Scarlett) and smile at their expressions, their eagerness and their wonderful innocent glows, for the last time, I’m posting my youngest child’s departure from home, his embarkation on the ocean liner of life, my last-first-day-ever photos.

It’s time.

Toby in his student digs - taken by the FAB Hubby

Toby in his student digs – taken by the FAB Hubby

The GUS: Toby - off to Uni for his last-first-day

The GUS: Toby – off to Uni for his last-first-day

Thanks for reading again, my friends! I’ll try not to be so long between posts again:)

Excitement and thrills

Well, it’s definitely been an exciting week. Excitement, thrills and spills galore have been the order of the week.

‘What’s so exciting?’ I can hear you asking (‘cos I’m y’know, psychic and can hear things through the Interweb and all:) )

Only this.

I can hardly contain myself.

OOH! I’m hopping from foot to foot in my frenzy of excitation!

Go on, you are picturing me in your mind’s eye leaping up and down like a mad woman, with wild hair and even wilder eyes, aren’t you? Hold that thought  won’t you – and don’t let my ancient, pain-wracked back and limbs or my elephantine frame impinge upon your mental reverie in any way – there’s no place for reality here today!

I’ve FINALLY managed to secure twenty-eight practically perfect poster-sized copies of some of my photos – IN REAL LIFE! They actually exist. No longer are they simply virtual, ethereal, impalpable nor empyreal. They have tangible substance. They are indubitable. They are sitting here in my own little (well, no-so-little in fact , as it’s big enough to take pictures up to A1 sized) physical portfolio, on my coffee table and THAT’s what’s so exciting!

First stock has arrived!

First stock has arrived!

You see, for months, in fact probably for a couple of years now, all my photographs have been visible on my computer screen and some have even made it as far as being published on the Internet in both this blog and on my new site, specifically designed to showcase my portfolio over at Akashic Arts and Design. I’ve pored over them, spent hours (thousands of hours in fact) editing them in Photoshop and then I’ve tentatively shown them, individually usually, to various audiences who have made some very kind and thoughtful comments about them; definitely rewarding to receive.

Which is all well and brilliant in fact but seriously, not a patch on the thrill of seeing my work as it was created to be seen – in large-format photographs, to be hung on someone’s wall.

I have sold a couple of my photo’s already as my lovely patrons well know (thank you to those lovely people, who know who they are!) – these were signed and despatched and currently sit on their walls. That is immensely gratifying of course, but I only saw those pictures very briefly and having approved the quality and signed & numbered them (all my photos are limited editions – although I still have to decide exactly how limited they will be), they were sent off to their new owners and that’s pretty much the last I saw of them.

It’s a bit like fostering a new puppy or kitten but then adopting it out to a new home – one where you know it will be appreciated and well looked after of course, but the point is that it isn’t here with me.

I’ve spent hours, days, even weeks researching where would be the best place to get them printed. There are so many possible options, in the end of course, it boils down to where is the best value for money. Once they are mounted and maybe framed, these babies are to be exhibited at craft fairs, or in friends’ shops or even (if I can persuade a few gallery owners) in a gallery or two. Eventually, they will be sold to new owners to be enjoyed as long as they want that privilege.

But for the moment, they are all mine.

I cannot get over how beautiful they look, in these large formats – ranging from 12″ x 16″ to 20″ x 20″ in size. That’s quite large for photographic prints. This small collection are just captivating. And the thing is, it’s not just me who thinks that. Which is the best surprise of all I think.

The two ladies at the place where I had them printed were very complimentary about the quality, particularly noticing all the details of the images, as was their boss. Several complete strangers who were having their pictures printed at the same time also made admiring comments, including statements like ‘That would look fantastic in my hallway/living room or bedroom!’. When I showed them to the people at the job-centre – where I’m currently having to register each week until the new business begins in earnest – everyone came to have a look and made similarly enthusiastic remarks.

My little heart swelled with joy. I do know that pride is a sin, but for someone like me who really struggles with self-esteem, a little pride in my achievements is long overdue and that is really what I’m so excited about. I feel like I’ve actually achieved something this week. It has been difficult to tackle this hornet, but I think I might be getting there.

The Hornet of Self-Doubt - time to take my own advice!

The Hornet of Self-Doubt – time to take my own advice!

Now I just need to get them all mounted and wrapped in protective cellophane and they will be ready for sale.  Oh, wow!

Thanks for reading once again, my friends – it means the world to me!

Flying freedom

It’s tremendously calming to watch birds flying over water, at least I find it so.

Wings fully outstretched, they appear to glide effortlessly over the sea’s surface, at peace with themselves and the world in general. Such a joyous, optimistic feeling that their flight imparts, I can almost project myself into their bodies, imagining myself flying freely, with no worries, no cares and no restrictions holding me back. I can soar with them, barely touching the cool clear water and I feel laughter bubbling up from deep within at the sheer joy of being in this magical place, with this enchanting light sprinkled every-whither, beguiling and enrapturing all who see.

Freedom - what a feeling!

Freedom – what a feeling!

Of course, in reality I know this magnificent cormorant is searching for food. He’s likely as not to be very hungry, possibly so desperate for his next meal that if he finds no good fortune, he might expire at any juncture. The moment-by-moment survival of such large coastal birds speaks of time immemorial, this I know, thanks to the work of great naturalists who have devoted their lives to the study of such creatures. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and no-one is ever safe.

But for that split second, when the huge wings are spread and he’s anticipating success – that, my friend, is Freedom. It is something we all need to inspire us.

Thanks for reading once again, friends.

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