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





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.

Birthday Girl

Who's a happy Birthday Girl?

Who’s a happy Birthday Girl?

On Sunday I reached the grand age of fifty-four. This is not usually a birthday of any great note – there are no special cards that say ‘Congratulations, you’re 54!’ on them like there are for other significant birthdays, such as turning eighteen or twenty-one. Or fifty for that matter.

No, for most people the fifty-fourth birthday is of no greater significance than their fifty-third or their fifty-fifth birthdays.

Unless of course, they’ve done something monumental in the past twelve months, like fighting cancer or heart failure or surviving a terrible accident or something like that.

In which case, as several of my friends have attested to as well as many thousands of people I don’t know who have made just such an achievement, they are grateful for every single day and the passing of a birthday is ever more important – clearly that’s simply great news, for them and for everyone else, because we all have a little bit of that essential life-enhancing emotion ‘Hope’, shining its light in our direction. At least for a little while.

Now, I haven’t made any such effort to achieve longevity in itself this year. I’ve just been ticking over, as you do, living from day-to-day, week-to-week passing the time living my life. Well, sort of. I’ve been in a bit of a rut this year, if truth be told.

Last year, my birthday was spent at the magnificent ‘Gregstock’ event.

Lee's fabulous poster for Gregstock 2014

Lee’s fabulous poster for Gregstock 2014

For those who may not have been reading this blog last year, I’ll just let you in on the story so far – Gregstock was the name that my nephew, Lee, bestowed upon the grand reunion-come-birthday-celebrations party that my FAB hubby decided to host on my birthday last year. Many of his high-school friends with whom he had recently re-established contact were up for meeting up and as we had a suitable venue, the Mighty Zeds agreed to re-unite for a one-off concert, to be held in our garden as part of the whole reunion event.

The Mighty Zeds, all old friends of the FAB Hubby’s from high school – played a blinding set and definitely contributed to the ultimate success of the party and I was delighted to get to know some new friends after all this time. It was a great party, that (as all the best parties do) went on very late into the night and continued for much of the following day as well. I can’t remember when I’d enjoyed a birthday quite so much.

All that was three hundred and sixty-five days past and here we are, in a completely different place with much water under the proverbial bridge.

So why is it that fifty-four is so significant for me?

The answer is simple.

My mother was fifty-four when she died.

On the 21st October this year, I will be older than she ever was.

I’m not sure why this is so important or even significant for me. There is the same ultimate fate awaiting all of us, eventually, I am well aware of that, I’m pretty sure that we all are. I suppose it’s because I cannot imagine how it is that I might ever be older than she was.

Of course I can look back at my own life and be very proud of all my own achievements thus far – and I’ve never really held with the idea of comparing myself to others. Everyone has such different life experiences, to do so is simply nonsense. I’ve led a fairly extraordinary life and I have every intention of carrying it on for a very, very long time to come. I want to fill all those coming years with joy, love, happiness and many more extraordinary experiences and I’m pretty sure that I will make every effort to achieve that ambition.

This birthday then is the last that I live in my mother’s shadow. I think I’ll choose to relish that thought.

And I will thank everyone who sent me such wonderfully kind, thoughtful and generous birthday wishes. They really do mean the world to me.

Birthday 54 smOn a small side note – I had lots of comments about the birthday cake that I made, which was a Summer Berry Gateaux of my own design – four layers of various fresh-fruited sponges (blackberry, strawberry, raspberry and blueberry with white chocolate) interspersed with fresh vanilla Chantilly cream and home-made (of course!) summer berry jam. It was delicious and I am very happy to post the recipe once I have the time to adapt it for my American friends – I do wish that one day we could all use the same measures, it would certainly make life simpler! Until then though, I’ll just leave you with a shot of the inside of the cake, where you can see the layers a little more clearly. Birthday cake

Thanks for reading once more my friends!

Happy Birthday FAB Hubby!

DateIt is Saint Swithin’s Day once again. On this day, so the Old Wives Tale goes, whatever the weather is doing, it will do the same for the following forty days; essentially, if the sun shines all day on July 15th, then we are in for a rather spiffingly sunny summertime. Of course, it also stands to reason that if it pees down then a typically English, soggy, sodden summer is in store. We await the day rather eagerly every year for this reason.

I’m teasing of course. The real reason we are on the edge of our seats in anticipation of this day is that it is the first of three of the immediate family birthdays – today it is Mark’s (the FAB Hubby), tomorrow it will be Donna’s (the Young Lady) and on Sunday it will be my birthday (the Old Girl). It’s been this way for the past thirty five years and I have every reason to hope that it may indeed continue for the next thirty-five, at least. July is birthday celebration month it seems.

So, the real question is what do I give to the man who has everything? Well, everything is perhaps not as all-encompassing as it may sound, but at least he THINKS he has everything he wants. It is always the same: I ask ‘What can I get you for your birthday sweet cheeks?’ every year in the full and certain knowledge that the response will always be ‘Oh, I don’t really know – there’s nothing I really want… how about a bow to wrap around you dear?’. My children often read this blog, so I won’t elaborate further on where he’s going with that suggestion, but I’m sure you can imagine just fine without my help.

It’s the same when anyone else makes the same inquiry. Only perhaps a tad more circumspect with regard to the over-familiarity – he does try to observe appropriate boundaries! The result is that we either end up with sad and sorry looking offerings, such as slippers, socks or a fancy tie if we are feeling benevolent or we simply end up just going out for a meal. Not that those meals aren’t fab of course – this very weekend, Donna blew in like a breath of fresh air and whisked us away to nosh on our favourite Whitby fish’n’chips, eaten by the harbour (whilst dodging the ever-more-bold seagulls with their slappy-slappy wings and fearful soul-wrenching cries that can, when the weather is just *so*, quite chill to the bone). We followed that by a visit to a particularly quaint Moorland pub, the Horseshoe Inn at Levisham, downing a couple of jolly pints and having a wonderful time giggling like school children. Delightful indeed.

I was chuffed to bits then yesterday when after visiting my dentist in Hunmanby, I discovered a new little shop just a couple of doors along, ‘Creative and Cherished Creations’ (not sure about the name there) that had just the thing. The exact thing I’ve been looking for to impart as the perfect gift for The Man Who Has Everything, especially when said Man has been fervently trying to get rid of *stuff* since we moved from The Man Cave in March.

‘What is this Holy Grail?’ I can hear you all calling.

Only a miniature carved Rapa Nui-esqe statue, made from some kind of light-ish wood (I want to say it’s Oak, but I’m not that knowledgeable about woods to be honest).

Rapa Nui - like statue, hand carved, makes a great present eh?

Rapa Nui – like statue, hand carved, makes a great present eh?

I can see the slightly perplexed expression upon all your wee faces and it’s giving me such delight just to think of that. Please, give me a moment … that was such fun!

The twist is this… the purpose of said miniature statue, which is about eight inches tall, is to provide a decorative, but IMMENSELY useful night stand for the FAB Hubby’s glasses!

It's a stand for his spectacles! Who'd a' thunk?

It’s a stand for his spectacles! Who’d a’ thunk?


How BRILLIANT is that?

It certainly made me smile and then it did exactly the same for Mark this morning when he opened the gift, a teeny bit apprehensively, it has to be said.

Of course that’s what you buy for The Man Who Has Everything – somewhere pretty to park his glasses when he takes them off at night. Genius.

And, naturally, because it’s his birthday I made him a cake – lemon drizzle with lemon icing.

A favourite cake - lemon drizzle with lemon icing

A favourite cake – lemon drizzle with lemon icing

I think I need to go put the kettle on for a cuppa and a slice of cake.

And say to my dearest Mark – Happy Birthday my love! May you have a wonderful day, filled to brimming with love and happiness and may you enjoy a joyful, peaceful and prosperous year to come x

Happy Birthday my dear

Happy Birthday my dear

‘Til next time, dear ones, when I hope to have some exciting news about my new career as an artist. things are definitely shaping up!

Thank you for reading again!

Thoughts: Emotional Safety

Thoughts: Emotional Safety.

Ah, my friend, Tom Atkins, a sublime poet and philosopher with whom I am connected via the Creative Group that author Jon Katz conceived, is simply brilliant at expressing that which lies deep within many of us. These words are not only wise and beautifully articulated, but they are above all, like their author, kind and true. I struggle with being kind – to myself and sometimes towards others, but all I ever need to do is read his words and I am inspired. Thank you Tom, for your wisdom and your friendship. I hope you don’t mind me re-blogging this one.

Haiku: Strawberry


Bright scarlet berry,

Hiding under glossy green

Leaves; you taste so good!

This is from my rainbow haiku book that I am currently compiling. I’ve had lots of colour-related haiku written for ages, but I’m steadily gathering images to illustrate the poetry with. This afternoon, after the fantastic heat and sunshine earlier in the week and the exciting lightning display at four o’clock this morning, followed by an epic downpour, I popped out into the garden and plucked yet another scrumptious crop of strawberries from my plants that have survived the relocation brilliantly. I’ve been trying to get the *perfect* image for about two years. Today, I think I may be nearly there…

Is this the perfect strawberry?

Is this the perfect strawberry?

And yes, I have now eaten this one. It was, as its plump, juicy flesh had promised, utterly delicious. Oh. My. *sigh*

Thanks for reading once again my friends!

‘The Insect Play’ – preparing for life outside the bubble

It’s a funny old world.

For thirty-odd years we have had at least one child in school and in all of that time I have watched or participated in a great many school plays, either as a parent or as a teacher. This was to be the last one, as our youngest performs in his final production before graduating from high school (sixth-form college) in the coming week. It’s a teeny bit momentous really, for us as parents. Huge for him too, of course, but none-the-less an important milestone for us.

So what was this final production about then?

The GUS came home earlier on this year and announced that his group would be performing an adaptation of ‘The Insect Play’ by Karel and Josef Capek, a collaboration of Czech brothers, first performed in 1921 at the National Czechoslovakian Theatre in Brno. Their esteemed head of department at York College, Tony Ravenhall adapted the play from the original which has long had mixed reviews and I was intrigued to see how the enterprise would turn out.

Magnificently is the answer.

For those who do not know the play, I’ll give you a brief overview. A tramp in a park observes the lives of a variety of insects and (this is the clever part) draws analogies with human life, in all its glorious stages, from cradle to grave with diversions such as reproduction, gathering ye seeds while ye may, haves-and-have-nots, politics – most notably Communism, working for the greater good, nihilistic wars and Napoleonic world-conquering neuroses. Life and Death in sixty minutes. It’s genius is the crystal clear comparison of insect behaviour and life cycles with human ones.

The butterflies at the beginning of the play are hunted by a slightly loony lepidopterist (brilliantly portrayed by Emily Furness) their nymphomaniacal fluttering and flitting about is observed by the Tramp (equally well played by Josh Sissons) who (perhaps through his drunken haze) interprets their actions in human terms, as ‘bright young things’ from a Roaring Twenties champagne party. Some clever word-play, flawlessly expressed, coupled with well-choreographed movements drew the audience in even closer than the unusual ‘Promenade’ participation accorded and we were hooked, mesmerised by these young actors’ performances.

With just a tinge of sadness at the death of Victor, snaffled by a bird (off-stage), the butterflies flit-flutter off and the Tramp is intrigued to come across a pair of dung-beetles, carefully rolling their nest-egg, the sum of their life’s work, around to find a suitable place to hoard their ‘Lovely’; both Mr and Mrs Beetle are clearly obsessed with what they have amassed, lavishing far more love and attention upon it than towards each other. Mildly comical in appearance, the Gus made a very convincing Dung Beetle – a fact that concerns me not a little! Still, this is the hallmark of a good actor, being convincing, so now I am on the horns of a dilemma – proud  of his ability to morph into another character effectively, slightly disgusted at the idea of my son, the dung beetle. But, I digress, yet again!

The story moves on with the arrival of the Crickets, bedecked in The Green, with accompanying Irish characterisation, well portrayed by Anastasia Crook as a heavily pregnant Mrs Cricket and Louis Hague as her doting husband, Mr Cricket. Their poignant representation of the Middle Classes, concerned with a ‘nice new pair of curtains’ rang true with many of the audience; tragically they succumb to the voracious appetite of the Ichneumon Fly (played by Dan Burton), who is singularly obsessed with feeding his precious larvae, a  spoilt brat magnificently portrayed by Tasha Connor. The Parasite, assuredly played by Kirsten Allison, dressed in a proletarian shell-suit and achieving an impeccable Geordie accent, rammed home the pertinent message of the narcissistic, ‘Me-First’ generation.

After a short interval Act Three, The Antics of the Ants, presents an altogether ominously dark representation of life in a commune, with workers mindlessly following their leader’s instructions, all to achieve the most efficient and profitable outcome for the State. The snide provocation of War, in order to glorify the newly-self-appointed Empress Ant (authoritatively portrayed by Claire Rimmington) results in the chaotic breakdown of society, reinforcing the idea that pursuit of power, for its own sake, is reprehensible and will always end in total failure. The tramp, disgusted by what he has seen finally interferes with the insects’ lives by killing the leader of the victorious colony of ants, which ultimately causes his own demise. He dies. The Chrysalis, who has been interjecting continually throughout the play so far, is finally born as a beautiful moth, but dies almost instantly, with only the moths around the flame to sing a song of mourning. The three moths, Isobel Leger, Lydia Potter and Emma Berridge’s haunting, exquisite rendition of the newly composed song of the cycle of life and death cast an air of finality over the proceedings.

A delightfully comedic epilogue in which two snails painfully slowly steal the show, cleaning up the carnage and thereby renewing the cycle of life breaks the tension magically. The moving symbolism of other humans acknowledging the death of a fellow human being with the placing of a single rose upon the corpse of the deceased Tramp is not lost upon the audience.

I was struck by the importance of all of these messages to our young people, who are embarking upon their own careers forthwith. This version of The Insect Play clearly concerns itself with the greater questions of how to live in this world once life is bestowed upon us. The lampooning of human greed, complacency and selfishness emphasizes the relativity of human values and the most pressing need to come to terms with human life. How much more pertinent could a final performance be? It was a breathtakingly brilliant choice to undertake the retelling of this vital story. I’m sure that all involved will hold its message dear to their hearts for many years to come. I know Toby will.

The Insect Play, York College cast and crew, 12th June 2015

The Insect Play, York College cast and crew, 12th June 2015

Thank you to all the staff at York College for such insightful and valuable lessons to our children, who have matured into interesting, informed and intuitive young adults under your tutelage; may I offer my good wishes to all the graduates for success in the future.

Thanks for reading once again, my friends!




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