Linus and The Great Pumpkin Patch

Linus and sally await the arrival of The Great Pumpkin
Linus and Sally await the arrival of The Great Pumpkin

Oh, far too many years ago than I’m prepared to count (I haven’t enough fingers!), I recall adoring Charlie Brown and the gang from the Peanuts cartoons. I used to carefully cut them out of the newspaper each day and paste them into a scrapbook, which was a cheap(ish) way to retain the stories so that I could reread them over and over. Charlie Brown’s posse seemed so idyllic to me, a lonely singleton, inspite of two elder siblings – who left home long before, or at least not long after I was born. I loved the idea of the companionship these characters offered each other. Yes, at times they were rather harsh with each other, but you could feel the love they all shared and I bought into their lives big-time.

As a small child,  living in Barbados between the ages of five and eight, much of my early childhood that I can clearly recall had a very Americanized feel to it. We had many American friends who gave us an insight into their culture as it differs from British, more specifically from English, culture. Some of the traditions of Halloween were observed, perhaps not as ubiquitously as it is today, but certainly more so than in England at the time. Trick or treating was undertaken in small groups around the neighbourhood, usually unaccompanied by any adults and I recall faring well from our outings, which I always enjoyed -especially the dressing-up part.

When we returned to England after Daddy died, in 1969, I forgot about these things. It simply wasn’t noted here much at all – partly because Bonfire Night falls just a few days later on November 5th each year, commemorating the downfall of the Catholic Guy Fawkes’s band of braggarts’ attempt to blow up Parliament in 1604; the run up to this event used to mean a couple of weeks of avoiding groups of lads who wandered around with firecrackers in their pockets and weren’t afraid to throw them at you, if you so much as looked at them sideways. And woe betide any small animal, such as a cat or little dog, for they were frequently mercilessly tortured by these little thugs. I was always incredulous of this event, finding it very difficult to buy into the whole ‘penny for the Guy’ idea. Burning an effigy atop a large bonfire seemed crazy to me, even as a ten-year-old. And I hated fireworks. Loud, noisy, stinky and often quite dangerous, I still don’t see the attraction.

But distraction it was from the whole idea of Halloween. Not really until we returned from Hong Kong in 2005 did I begin to realise how much things had changed here – nowadays, it all goes completely crazy in the stores in the weeks before and you cannot get through October (or even September) without being ‘oranged’ out. It is everywhere. I’m sure it remains a much bigger deal across The Pond, but some places really do get into the spirit, bedecking their houses, gardens and even street furniture with anything deemed remotely ‘spooky’ – fake cobwebbing, giant plastic spiders, polystyrene gravestones, witches’ cauldrons, broomsticks, Frankensteins, vampire bats and black cats being amongst the most popular accoutrements for the evening. In the village where my daughter and grandchildren live, they have a whale of a time, going around together in little groups and thoroughly scaring each other in a safe environment – which is lots of fun for everyone I think.

A few days ago we drove past a local farm who has really got in on the act, growing several thousand pumpkins, presumably to serve the high demand in local supermarkets. Still, they have many left over that they sell directly from the farm shop. I was enchanted by their pumpkin patch though and was instantly transported back to my own childhood, recalling the hours that poor Linus spent, sitting amongst the pumpkins, impatiently awaiting the arrival of the mysterious Great Pumpkin, every year, without fail. Poor Linus. I smiled at the memory and made the decision to get up early one morning to go and photograph them as the sun rose.

Cold. Definitely nippy. But reasonably dry at least.

Still dark as I arose, getting dressed and grabbing the camera and paraphernalia, so that we could leave home and drive to the pumpkin patch before the sun really got its act together. I was worrying that it would be too dark.

It wasn’t.

We timed it pretty near perfectly.

As I took photos, standing ankle deep in mud, crouching down to find a good angle, tip-toeing through the umbilical vines that fed these earthy vegetables, I found myself truly ‘in the zone’. Linus would definitely have approved. The light was magnificently magical.

The Pumpkin Patch - hundreds of them!
The Pumpkin Patch – hundreds of them!
Waiting for the sun to pop up over the roof
Waiting for the sun to pop up over the roof
They have one or two for sale here
They have one or two for sale here
Morning dew sparkles on the pumpkin
Morning dew sparkles on the pumpkin
Pumpkins snuggle into the warm Earth
Pumpkins snuggle into the warm Earth
The sun rises a little higher...
The sun rises a little higher…
Sunrise over the pumpkins
Sunrise over the pumpkins

I hope you enjoy looking at these pictures as much as I enjoyed capturing them.

Thanks for reading, once again!

 

 

 

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Lest we forget…

Fallen Heroes - the poppies tumble out of the Tower of London
Fallen Heroes – the poppies tumble out of the Tower of London

In 2014 we have been continually reminded that this is the centenary of the start of The Great War. During my school days, which do indeed seem like an entire lifetime ago now, I was remarkably interested in this conflict – for reasons unknown at the time. I think I was probably around twelve or so when I first became aware of the fact that the entire world had been at war with each other on two mighty occasions during the twentieth century. I can recall, as clear as day, my thoughts about this – ‘When WILL Man ever learn to live harmoniously, side by side?’ I think you can probably tell that I was a child of the Sixties, born into a generation that truly believed that Peace on Earth not only was possible but is what we will bring about – Man’s crowning glory of an achievement.

Whilst I cannot profess to being a devoted student of war, my interest in The Great War was piqued by the tales my mother was continually regaling me with, which focussed mainly upon World War 2 – she lived through it as a young adult whose equally young husband had fought in Burma, was captured and held as a Japanese prisoner of war for around three years, only to return to a strange and unreal *normality* and somehow they had both survived. I now know that she possessed an active imagination which resulted in many of her tales being augmented truths rather than reliable historical fact, but none-the-less, she inspired me to consider the consequences of war from a practical perspective – how ordinary people reacted to the fluidity of rapid change and carried on, regardless.

I recall being fascinated by the concept that people truly believed, in 1918, that the terrific horrors they had lived through surely were the worst possible things that man could inflict upon each other; that this Great War had assuredly, unquestionably and inexorably been The War To End All Wars. I learned that the benefit of hindsight when considering the mistakes of the past is an oft-misused idea and that to truly understand something you have to consider a person’s actions at the time, without the luxury of retrospection. It’s an important lesson in life, a transferable nugget of knowledge that guides the wise. If only I were wise enough to recall this at important times.

My mother often talked of her father, my granddad, Tom Sharp. She spoke of his gruffness, his taciturn, dour manner with all folk, except perhaps for a gentle twinkling when he spoke to her and her young son. She had clearly been frustrated with his reticence when dealing with others, perhaps wishing he could be more pleasant and cheerful as she felt she had to be. What little she knew of his story I cannot say, but perhaps as a young adult her own life had been so scarred by the events of World War II that she felt, as many young people often do, that it couldn’t possibly have been any worse for him so he should shake it off, forget about it and move on with his life.

She talked of him because through that return to wartime, when sense and reason had departed, she lived with him in a small terraced house in Crowther Street, Stockport. All during the Manchester Blitz, when the Doodlebugs reigned terror upon ordinary people, they clung to each other and survived. Manchester is only a hop-and-a-skip north of Stockport and as home to much of the manufacturing of the arms and weaponry of war, including the famed Avro Lancaster bombers, the city was a prime target. I’m not sure if it’s one of her fantasies or not, but she used to tell me of her work in the factory at Chadderton, where she worked on the Lancasters; it’s entirely possible as it’s only about eight miles, which was a distance she could have travelled by bus to work each day.

Stories of my mother’s wartime experiences I’ll keep for another time – it is Granddad Tom that I’m thinking of today. Only last week when we visited Salford (again, that’s a whole other story!) we found ourselves in the Lowry Museum for a little while. I love to visit galleries and see paintings, sculptures, Art, up close and in reality. Not printed in a book or photographed and available online. But actually, here: right here, in front of my own eyes, where I can observed the brush techniques the artist chose to employ and consider what they might have been envisaging, imagining, conceptualising. I’d managed to sneak a gallery visit into an altogether different trip and was pleased we had made it. Looking at the ‘Match-stalk men and match-stalk cats and dogs’, as Lowry’s paintings have come to be fondly known, took me back to my youth, when Stockport had looked much like many of the scenes depicted with such child-like simplicity. I swear I knew some of the people represented – and I definitely knew the animals!

L. S. Lowry's depiction of Crowther Street
L. S. Lowry’s depiction of Crowther Street

 

 

Imagine my surprise and delight then when I came upon Lowry’s portrayal of Crowther Street, the very same street where my mother, granddad and brother had lived during that terrible period! They had lived there after the war too, for my brother has occasionally told me about his early memories of the place – sliding down the ‘Brew’ (which I think is an old Lancastrian word for steep hill) on a wooden board, nearly killing himself in the process! Granddad Tom used to stand on the doorstep outside their home at Number Five, watching the world go by, tapping our the contents of his pipe on the side of his tin leg. I was touched by the shared memory of a place and a relative that I never knew.

The tin leg intrigued me though. My brother describes his memories in an entry on his Facebook page: ‘My own grandfather (maternal) lost a leg at Paschendaele . It simply disappeared as a shell landed on his artillery wagon, killing his six horses. He was a horse farrier sergeant major and immediately detailed two gunners to go and look for his leg! He was given a tin leg and I remember that it banged like an oven door every time he knocked his pipe out on it!

In another post from my brother, I’ve discovered that our grandfather served in the Royal Horse Artillery for twenty-seven years prior to being invalided out of the Army after his brush with death at Paschendaele. Now this is a man I find I want to get to know. He is one of many hundreds of thousands of men who sacrificed much in service of their country during that egregious conflict. Thankfully, he was spared his life otherwise I would not be here today.

So when I see the commemorative events that mark the centenary of the First World War, I think of the senseless waste of human life yes, but I also think of my grandfather – how that one event must have soured his enthusiasm for life, yet in spite of it all he survived. He returned home from the madness and resumed his life with his family, fathering at least two more children in the following three years after the Great War. He further survived the death of his beloved wife, from complications in labour with their last child – the little boy survived; my eighteen-month-old mother’s only younger sibling. It’s no wonder really, that he was so out-of-sorts with life after that. Perhaps mum could have cut him a little slack for the hardships he had known in his long and difficult life.

I am overwhelmed with sadness when I see poppies each November – it has always affected me on a deep level. When I heard, earlier this year that an artist had created the magnificent ceramic poppies installation at the Tower of London, I was determined to ensure that I took some time to go and see it in real life. In person. Like viewing the Lowry paintings, the actual reality of the piece means so much more than just looking at them online.

Ceramic Poppies by ceramic artist, Paul Cummins
Ceramic Poppies by ceramic artist, Paul Cummins

I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to see them this week. It really was a moving experience – consider the symbolism, the presence of each poppy, crafted with care and compassion and planted with equal benevolence by volunteers and patrons – each poppy representing a fallen hero from the many battles during the Great War. The venue of the Tower of London is an excellent idea, largely because of the additional symbolism of this as a place of power in times past. The hustle and bustle of the modern city is never really transcended – but then I imagine that would have been equally difficult in the squalid, unforgiving trenches on the Western Front and elsewhere.

For King and Country - the Rose wades into the bloody conflict
For King and Country – the Rose wades into the bloody conflict

I took many photos, of course, you would not expect anything less, I’m sure. I found myself looking for contrasts to create some contiguous images that might provoke mixed feelings. As I walked around the perimeter walls of the Tower, I noticed a heavenly perfume and was drawn to these beautiful roses, flowering in the mid-September sunshine and suddenly had exactly the juxtaposition that I was seeking. Roses, representing the beauty of individual souls alive in a sea of cold, ceramic poppies, seems so appropriate to me.

Private George Pearce died at Galipoli in 1915, aged just 22 years
Private George Pearce died at Galipoli in 1915, aged just 22 years

Funnily enough, the family of a fallen hero had a similar idea, I discovered, as they left a small bunch of roses tied to the railing, giving a brief account of their loved ones’ sacrifice. I found it very touching.

I also decided to make a photo-montage of the scene that I encountered. My wide-angled lens is good, but I wanted to create something that gave at least some indication of the grand scale of this installation. I took seventy-two shots from the same spot. Then I’ve pieced them together into this montage. The original file is massive of course – around 1.3GB (gigabytes – that’s a whole bunch of pixels!), so I’ve resized it to make it reasonably accessible on this blog. Also, since I did this on Wednesday, I’ve discovered a much more effective tool to stitch the individual images together – but I’m not re-doing this one yet! I hope you enjoy looking at it too.

Montage of the poppies surrounding the Tower
Montage of the poppies surrounding the Tower

I’ll leave you with your own thoughts about this piece of artwork – and will be remembering my Granddad too.

Thanks for reading this evening – your presence here keeps me going!

 

Fairy City – in my front garden

‘Quick Mum!’ The Neanderthol exclaimed, excitedly. ‘You’ve GOT to see these mushrooms!’

Now, between you and me, my soon-to-be-an-official-adult-but-in-the-meantime-is-making-the-most-of-being-a-Neanderthol son rarely exclaims excitedly. Except when he’s in a tizz about something. Or if a hairy arachnid strolls into his line of sight. I imagine that might be quite amusing, if I ever stopped and looked over my shoulder to capture the moment, but I’m usually too busy legging it in the opposite direction to notice, so I’ll just have to continue imagining his expression.

So, when Toby vociferates at top volume, it grabs my attention, which in this case was a good thing.

Grabbing my trusty Canon and a squishy quilt (well, you wouldn’t want an old lady like me to have to scrabble in the gravel now would you?) I dashed outside to see the cause of the commotion.

Look what grew like magic overnight!
Look what grew like magic overnight!

Indeed, some quite magnificent fungi has sprouted overnight. Clearly, this is evidence of the existence of fairies. And magic. And fairy magic.

I can totally see tiny fairy faces, albeit perhaps a little on the grubby side – these dwellings are decidedly dark and possibly even a little dodgy-looking –  opening doors and skipping in and out of their miniature homes.

With my photographic mentor’s words (‘Move your feet!’ and ‘Get down low!‘) ringing in my ears, I snapped away, looking for colour, texture, defining shapes and light. Always, looking for the light. They were remarkably co-operative subjects.

You’ve gotta love magic. All I need now is a little pixie-dust…

The textures on the 'roof' of these fairy homes are exquisite
The textures on the ‘roof’ of these fairy homes are exquisite
Colours on the 'shrooms are so delicate...
Colours on the ‘shrooms are so delicate…
'Shroom City
‘Shroom City
Fairy houses with a delicate decor
Fairy houses with a delicate decor

Thanks for reading again!

 

 

September gardens

I miss Summer already.

She hasn’t left us completely, yet. When I go outside, I can still feel the warmth of the sun on my back, especially if it’s the middle of the day.

But the garden is looking increasingly sparsely populated, in terms of flora and the grass isn’t growing so fast, if at all. As each patch of glorious summer colour fades, I find I am mentally preparing for the onset of Autumn. The conker tree is looking patchily bronzed, the apples, plums and chums, drupes of incalculable quantity, have almost all fallen or been collected, greedily, for jam-making and fruit-pies. Some of the hedgerows still hold drooping bundles of blackberries, raspberries and blackcurrants, but these are needed by the birds and small mammals that inhabit the countryside with us. The bright red haws speak of the coming of Autumn, more loudly and clearly than even the nocturnal cries of our resident barn owl.

Autumn is nigh.

But, being a somewhat disorganised gardener – one day I have promised myself, I WILL construct a planting timetable that will give me a more bountiful harvest throughout the summer and into the autumn, but sadly, this year is not that time – I planted a few things rather later than would be ideal. Take gladioli, for example. Various horticulturalists advise planting in around February to abut the end of April to achieve a garden full of repeated blooms throughout the summer months. I found a bag of corms in early June and thought ‘What the heck?! I’ll just get these in now  and we’ll see what happens’.

This is frequently my mantra when it comes to gardening. I haven’t even the smallest Scooby, a Scoolb-let if you will, about how to make the garden grow. All I know for sure is that plants want to grow. If you give them a little care and attention, lots of watering and a good talking-to once in a while, they shoot out of the ground with a desperation that could be unseemly, if it weren’t for their unbridled enthusiasm for *life*. Possibly, there’s a lesson or two to be learned from our little plants.

So, mid-June and my gladdies have just hit the soil. Actually, I did think of them earlier, on the 16th May, as that was the FAB Hubby’s grandma’s birthday – her name was Gladys, so I always think of her when I see these beautiful flowers. But for some reason, I still didn’t get round to putting them into the ground until mid-June.  Of course, the real benefit of this is that they are finally, just about now, beginning to flower.

And they are so pretty!

The Gladiolus Rse Supreme has finally bloomed!
The Gladiolus Rse Supreme has finally bloomed!

A lovely variety,Gladiolus Rose Supreme – ‘warm salmon flowers with creamy hearts’ – is simply gorgeous. I’m thrilled that they’ve started to bloom, at last, because they really do brighten the day.

Such pretty markings and colours
Such pretty markings and colours
Gladdys' sensuous curves  charm seductively
Gladdys’ sensuous curves charm seductively
curves sm
Silky petals so delicately hued

Of course, I couldn’t resist orbing the gorgeous girl…

Gladys' Orb
Gladys’ Orb

 

I also found that there are still dahlias flowering right outside my studio – every time I think they must be about to give up the ghost, another bud pops up and BOOM! There’s another beauty shining forth for all they’re worth. I would happily say that they are indeed worth their weight in gold. The bright cardinal coral of the red dahlia and the xanthus, golden hues of the yellow dahlia are the last vestiges of the Summer of Hope.

Red Dahlia says 'I'm still here!'
Red Dahlia says ‘I’m still here!’
Golden Dahlia peeks coyly at the sun
Golden Dahlia peeks coyly at the sun

When I see them, I am reminded of all the hoping I’ve been engaging in – hoping for some inspiration, hoping for a new direction for my career, hoping that each day will bring warmth, sunshine and a modicum of contentment. I am still hoping.

And then, of course, there’s still the sunflowers. I posted some photos of them recently, but they always seem to outshine themselves with each new day. So, I’ll leave you with some more of these glorious giants – the tallest are well over nine feet now – and their multi-headed splendiferousness.

He's just SO FLUFFY!
He’s just SO FLUFFY!
Busily collecting pollen
Busily collecting pollen
This sunflower's head is simply huge - bigger than mine!
This sunflower’s head is simply huge – bigger than mine!
The multi-headed sunflowers follow the sun all day, together of course!
The multi-headed sunflowers follow the sun all day, together of course!
I'm always amazed at the gravity-defying antics of bees
I’m always amazed at the gravity-defying antics of bees
I love these red sunflowers - such dramatic colour!
I love these red sunflowers – such dramatic colour!

Thanks for reading again!

 

Family weddings for fun

A couple of weekends ago our nephew and his lovely fiancée were married at the Gomersal Park Hotel.

As always here in England, we all worried about the weather; an unnecessary concern as it turned out, because the day was perfect, slightly cooler in the morning, so that all the important people didn’t soak their precious garments in buckets of perspiration, lovely and warm with intermittent sunshine during the afternoon, giving photographs a glorious quality of bright, sparkly light.

I had been asked to take some photos by Lee and Lyndsey at least a year ago, when they first floated the date within the family – August Bank Holiday weekend is notorious for downpours and this probability was high on my radar for potential difficulties on the day. Of course I agreed to do the honours – I do like to take a couple of pictures every now and then, which, if you’re a regular reader, you may already be aware of. I decided to take a positive approach. If I refused to believe that rain might spoil the day and mean that I have to engage in Plan B, then it simply WOULD NOT happen. I’m quite impressed by the power of positive thinking sometimes!

It was probably just as well, because Plan B was not very well thought out.

In fact, it didn’t really exist.

I’m prepared to admit this now, two and a half weeks later, when its actuality is irrelevant. It was never needed, so why worry about it?

So, Plan A was simple.

  • Go to the bride’s house (actually, the bridesmaid’s house but let’s not get too picky here!), an hour and a half’s drive from mine, arriving by eight-thirty on W-Day.
  • Take a bunch of *getting ready* pictures.
  • Follow the bride to the venue.
  • Get out of my car ahead of her arrival in order to capture her arrival.
  • Capture the Wedding Party as they began their traipsing down/up the aisle.
  • Rush to the front and capture the Father of the Bride giving his daughter away.
  • Capture as much of the ceremony as possible, as well as some of the audience/witnesses expressions during sai ceremony.
  • Rush to back in order to capture the newly-weds as they embark along the aisle towards their new life, together.
  • Go outside & capture the guests’ joy at what has just happened -including the throwing of rice or confetti over the new Mr & Mrs Deaves.
  • Begin the process of photographing everyone in every possible combination known to man and mathematicians;
    • NB: Allocate Ushers to the job of ensuring people are where they are needed at appropriate times
    • Make sure the Ushers have a copy of The Plan.
  • Include some of the bride’s personal requests regarding particular images she wanted to capture (there’s a rather fetching log to drape brides over – presumably to show the dress off to maximum advantage).
  • Try to survive this PLAN without having a heart-attack or personal meltdown.

OK. Looking at it in black and white like this, I can see that there are some minor faults.

Perhaps, it may not have been as simple as I had thought.

The first part of the plan went fairly well… I arrived early enough, drank tea, fiddled with my equipment and took about four hundred shots – many of the adorable new addition to the family, ten-day-old Evelyn. I have to say that her Zen-like approach to the occasion may well be an important lesson for all of us to emulate! I have many shots like this one, where she was napping peacefully, looking like a perfect angel.

Ten day old Evelyn lends a Zen-like approach to the proceedings
Ten day old Evelyn lends a Zen-like approach to the proceedings

Lots of preparation shots, including some adorable ones of The Dress, went well too. There was the inevitable photo-bomb, when snapping away on the upstairs landing, *someone* (notice my discretion there – not naming the culprit!) popped out of the bedroom, right behind the bride and her mum, to ask for some assistance with their dress – their state of undress could have been embarrassing. Fortunately, the two subjects shielded the ‘bomber’ and everyone’s dignity was maintained. Phew!

Everyone was readied, one by one. The Page Boys and Flower Girl looked particularly angelic, for a few minutes at least. The bride’s parents adjusted each other’s buttonholes/sprays and smiled lovingly at each other. People always forget that parents have so much invested in these occasions – that little look an indication of the lifetime of commitment they have given to each other, culminating in this special day for their child. It is the look of love. The bridesmaid arrived downstairs, looking perfect. And then finally, here came the bride. Shining with inner joy, she gracefully posed for photos with her family and the wedding party before they all departed, leaving only the bride and myself to wait for her father’s return. Those last few minutes seemed to take an age. I’m particularly pleased with some of the images from this time.

The, at last, her dad returned and smiling broadly, they posed for a final picture at home. Folding the dress into the car, checking all the doors’ ribbons and finally driving off to the venue. Not a sign of nerves.

Then things went slightly awry – I managed to take an alternative (some would say *wrong*) route to the venue, losing the bridal car in traffic and arriving some ten minutes after them. Fortunately, FAB hubby HAD plan B tucked away at the back of his mind and managed to take some shots for me whilst I found the *right* route and rocked up eventually, a little flustered, but not a lost cause. No siree, not me!

The ceremony went exactly as planned and then we were into the home stretch – just the ‘formal’ pictures to capture.

I may have been a little more successful if I had experience in kitten herding! I think, should I embark upon a venture such as this in the future, I may invest in a Border Collie, a special whistle and take a few lessons in shepherding from Jon Katz and the exemplary Red. That, or maybe a loudhailer. Or, perhaps, a magnum of champagne – that way, I simply won’t care if I’ve managed to photograph everyone!

When all was said and done though, it was a beautiful wedding, enjoyed by all and I hope that the bride and groom will enjoy looking through the three or four hundred photos that I will have eventually have whittled the occasion down to (from the eighteen hundred ++ that were taken!), when they get back from honeymoon in Mexico, later this week. I hope they’ll like them. Then it will have been worthwhile.

Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Deaves!

Thanks for reading once again!

 

 

 

Exciting times are here…

This is the second time in less than a week that I have been gobsmacked.

It’s becoming a habit.

For those of you who are not familiar with the term ‘gobsmacked’, here’s a quick dictionary definition … according the the Oxford Dictionary, it means ‘Utterly astonished; astounded’. You may recall my earlier astonishment was caused by something a little less than pleasant. Probably, the  less said about that, the better.

But this time I am not only astonished, astounded or ‘gobsmacked’. I am bewildered, confounded, dumbfounded, flabbergasted, overwhelmed, staggered, stupefied and amazed. You could, possibly quite literally right now, knock me down with a feather!

Why?

Did I hear you correctly?

You want to know what has caused this altered state of mine?

‘Cause, y’know, I’m like totally together and with-it, ALL the time, never a moment of not-being-all-there-at-all with me! No, siree!

Well, this came right out of the blue, so it did.

I perhaps should start a little way back, so that you don’t get quite the same BAZINGA! and KAPOW! feeling as I did, because I care about you and don’t want you passing out on me or anything… what’s that? ‘GET ON WITH IT!’ Oh, Ok, keep your shirt on!

So, for a while now I have been ruminating the idea of how to become a proper, bona-fida “Artist” – you know so when I give my passport in when I travel and they open up the page that says ‘Occupation’ and where it always said ‘Teacher’ before, well now I want it to say ‘Writer’ or ‘Artist’ or ‘Something Creative’. It’s a bit of a dream really. Like it is real if it says so on my passport.

I’ve been setting up Facebook pages, Tumblr and Twitter pages, as well as Fine Art America and iSpyart.com accounts which have yet to prove their worth, in terms of much other than some very nice comments about some of my work. I’ve shared my work with friends in Facebook groups, mostly ones connected with the Creative Group At Bedlam Farm, where lots of positive support and generally fantastic constructive criticisms are  offered and gratefully devoured by me – I try to do my share of supporting other too, it’s a win-win thing and unique on the InterWeb (as my FAB always refers to it). So far, I’ve sold a very few pieces of my work.

It’s challenging, to say the least, to work out how to make an actual living wage though. It simply can’t be impossible (my mind dismisses the possibility immediately) in this modern day and age of global telecommunications and with access to world markets at the touch of a button.

BUT HOW?

I have thunked and pondered (‘scuse the minor plagiarism there Lisa Dingle!), I have cogitated and considered all kinds of options and possibilities, but the setting up of an actual business requires not only all of that, but some actual structure too. And probably a whole caboodle of start-up cashy-type spondooliks. That’s cold, hard money to you my friends. Not something in vast supply, I’m afraid.

A friend recommended PRIME to me.

‘What’s that then?’ I asked. Rather like you probably did. Just then. I heard you!

So I looked them up on the Interweb and found that the Prince’s Trust have branched out and not only are they supporting business enterprises for all those B.Y.T’s (Bright Young Things)  who are under 25 years old, but they’ve realised that there’s a big old bunch of 50+ people who also need a little bit of help with ventures they want to pursue, which may well be just as entrepreneurial, or even more so, as their younger counterparts. I found out when their introductory course was and where it was being held and booked myself a place.

You have to start somewhere. I chose here.

So, it was today and early this morning, my FAB hubby and I trundled off to Hartlepool and got cracking with the PRIME trainer, Diane.

The introduction course was great. I’ll not bore you all with too many details because that’s not even the good bit.

Not yet anyway.

So, we chat and discuss and consider and ruminate, but this time it’s with other people. Like, real, live actual humans who have no pre-determined requirement to say nice things to me or even to gasp and say ‘WOW’ when they saw some of my work. So, that bit WAS good.

But that is STILL not the good bit!

The course is winding up, in the last couple of minutes when Diane gets a bit distracted because her phone is buzzing – she’s  trying not to notice but something catches her eye.

It’s the BBC.

Ringing her.

SO, eventually, she gives up all pretence of trying to ignore it and excuses herself for a moment whilst we, her captive trainees hang with bated breath – like that moment before the bell rings and everyone starts clanging and banging desks, scraping chairs and talking loudly as they move on to the next moments of their lives. What DO the BBC want with our esteemed trainer?

She puts the phone down. There’s a glint of something in her eye. Maybe she needs to change her contact lenses? No, Fool!

‘How would one of you like to chat with the people at BBC Tees Radio this afternoon? They want to do a bit of a piece about PRIME and would like to talk to someone who’s doing the course today. Anyone interested?’

OOOOOH!!! PICK ME!!!!! PICK MEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

I am a born Hermione and cannot sit on my hands. Ask a question that I have even an inkling of the answer to and my hand shoots up before I even recognise that the questioner has finished asking the question.

So, long story short, (OK… maybe not so short!) I get to be the person to speak to the nice researcher, Louise.

Cue several missed calls because the reception on my phone can sometimes be very dodgy. A rueful smile at a probable missed opportunity. Oh, well, when twenty minutes passed the allotted time for the call from the radio station, I assumed that the item had been dropped. In favour of discussion about the up-coming deadline (at 11pm tonight) for the football season transfer window.

Then the phone rang. Because of the rush, there was no real time to prepare and I was straight on air.

What did I get out of this morning’s course? What kind of business do I think I might pursue? What are my next steps?

I answered all of these with surprising aplomb I think – it’s not my first time on radio!

Then came the bit that shocked me. Floored me.

Thanks Neil green - my new BF!
Thanks Neil green – my new BF!

The lovely Neil Green, who is probably my new best friend, asked ‘Would it be OK if we were to follow your progress through this project Liz? Y’know, keep up with what you;re doing and so on?’

OK.

So, about NOW is when you can (gently) close my gaping jaw.

And maybe yours too.

I think that’s a bit of a WIN today. The BBC want to follow my progress as I develop this idea into an actual business.

Yep, I think that’s a win.

Thanks Neil!

… you can listen to the podcast of the show here... I was on about five minutes to six I think, so maybe fast-forward to there if you’re interested in what was actually said!

Oh, and just to prove I was in Hartlepool here’s a couple of snaps… you knew there would be of course!

Heugh Headland has a story to tell...
Heugh Headland has a story to tell…
I thought this was a clock that I could orb... but it was just the local college logo. Still...
I thought this was a clock that I could orb… but it was just the local college logo. Still…

 

 

The sky was suitably dramatic over the docks in Hartlepool
The sky was suitably dramatic over the docks in Hartlepool
This gun defended the area from attack during WW1 I found out today.
This gun defended the area from attack during WW1 I found out today.

And when I saw this on the way home… it occurred to me that if pigs might fly, perhaps elephants can too?

And I thought pink elephants couldn't fly...
And I thought pink elephants couldn’t fly…

So… watch this space, as it looks like I am going too HAVE to find a way to be successful now! This was a GOOD gobsmackin’ day!

Thanks for reading, as always!

Watercolours in the hall

We’ve moved many times in the thirty-five years that we’ve been together, my FAB hubby and I. When we first moved to Hong Kong, in September 1992, it was a terrifying experience. Everything was completely overwhelming, foreign and strange. It was also exciting, and wonderfully inspirational.

We had to wait for about two months before our furniture arrived – it may have been longer in fact, because we couldn’t inform the removal company where to send it to until we had an address for it to arrive at and as we lived the high life at the Island Shangri-La – a most luxurious, brand-spankingly new, six-star hotel in Pacific Place – for the first four or five weeks; it was getting on for mid-November before our furniture from ‘home’ came anywhere near us.

Moving to this newly-built apartment in Mid-Levels was a big step. We had arrived in Hong Kong with almost nothing – a couple of suitcases of clothing and some photographs to remind us what our children looked like, back in England, enjoying their boarding school. Even when our stuff did arrive, we had only packed the dining table and chairs, our double bed and some essential belongings – the bronze and rosewood cutlery we’d bought ten years earlier, our best china dinner service and a few other knick-knacks. We’d pretty much sold everything else we owned because we had no idea what we could or couldn’t actually take with us.

So the apartment was very strangely empty, even after our belongings arrived. We didn’t really notice because there was so much to see, so much to explore.

One of my favourite places to go was the Japanese department store, Seibu, which occupied a large section of two floors in Pacific Place. It was full of marvellous wonders and most invitingly, had a well-stock art-supplies area that, although a little pricey, seemed like an Aladdin’s cave to me. I spent many hours perusing the goodies and finally decided on some new watercolours and some pastel papers.

Amongst our treasured belongings was a gorgeous calendar with some British Wildlife photos, that I had been given by a relative some years before. Badgers, hares, squirrels and deer frolicked in each different scene. I had intended to put them together in a montage and mount  them together, but I was intrigued by my newly-acquired purchases and decided to have a go at painting them for myself, from the photographs.

I finished six fairly quickly and we took them to the framer’s on Queens’ Road East. It took about a week, but collecting them, rushing home with them and seeing my art work hung on my own walls suddenly made this strange, noisy, utterly crazy city feel like home for the first time. Each time we went in and out of our apartment, they greeted us.

All six watercolours together
All six watercolours together

They have hung out together on the walls of every home we’ve lived in since then – nine in all (so far). They’ve greeted all our our children and grandchildren. They are like members of the family now. I hope you like them too.

Squirrel
Squirrel
Otter
Otter
Mouse
Mouse
Winter Hare
Winter Hare
Duck
Duck
Deer
Deer

 

As always, thanks for reading!