Category Archives: Dreams

Lost. Found. Recovered.

Some of you may recall that I recently had a bit of a run-in with one of my neighbours. Welcome to the second instalment…

 

About ten days or so ago I decided to order a copy of this picture as a large canvas print.

Beach Post

Beach Post on Pebbles Beach, Carlisle Bay, Barbados

It was meant to be for my fab hubby to remind him of our perfect Caribbean holiday, which seems so very, very long ago now. We’re having a bit of a tough time right now, what with dodgy finances and (the FAB Hubby’s) heart surgery and a distinct lack of purpose in life, coupled with an increasing feeling of having been tossed onto the scrapheap of sentience. I don’t want to impose my life complaints on everyone, but these circumstances are not helping my increasingly severe depression and most days I spend staring at my computer screen, trying to find any kind of motivation to get something achieved.

Curtains
I have occasional spurts when I try to ‘pull myself together’ like a pair of curtains, but these rarely result in much tangible success, although I do keep on trying.

So actually gathering  enough *oomph* to select and order this picture was a major happening for me. I was so pleased with myself for achieving something.The picture is particularly sentimental for us as it is of Pebbles Beach, in Carlisle Bay, Barbados, where I learned to swim as a small child. Taking Mark there was one of the first things we did when we got into the hire car – the satnav wasn’t working, but I managed to guide him to the place without too much of a detour, largely based on forty-year-old memories and a keen sense of direction. To be fair, the island is only 14 miles by 21 so it’s pretty easy to navigate around, but I was still chuffed to have found it so easily.

Standing on the exquisite white sand in the most brilliant sunshine, I was suddenly eight years old once more, in my tiger swim-suit (long story !), whiling away my days, collecting precious shells and rolling in the surf on Pebbles Beach. The Aquatic Club bar – ‘Pebble Beach Inn’ as it was known then – also had a swimming pool although it’s gone now, having been redeveloped in the intervening years. Patrick (my bestest of boy-friends) and I spent day after day either in the sea or the pool, only being dragged out to eat or drink something then back in the water we went, like a pair of water babies. It’s a strange misnomer, because there isn’t a single pebble on Pebble Beach – and there never has been as far as I can recall, so it was shells that we collected on the rare occasions that we emerged from the water.

Showing my husband of thirty-six years this precious memory meant that finally we could share it together and this of course called for a stroll along the length of the beach. I snapped the picture from the top of the steps, then he helped me jump down the steps and being a rather rotund shape these days, I tippled forward and he, being the gallant knight that he is, staggered forward to help me, so that I would be spared the indignity of rolling into a ball on the hot sand. He’d been taking his specs off and replacing them with his new sunglasses – another, whole different story –  so this process was interrupted during the rockin’ and rollin’ around in the sand.

Fast forward for about an hour as we stroll the entire length of this gorgeous beach and begin our return journey. By now, the heat has gone from the day and the sun is beginning to set -the light is fading exquisitely albeit rapidly, as it does in the Caribbean, being so much closer to the equator and all that. I’m happily snapping away with my new camera at the scenery, the sand, the water, the sky, everything in fact. I turn to take a snap of the FAB Hubby; he’s looking puzzled and just ever-so-slightly panicky.

Why’s he fumbling in his shirt pocket?‘ I ask myself. Then I ask him the same question of course, to which his terrified face blurts out ‘I’ve lost my specs!’.

Now, I should probably explain here that FAB H is virtually blind without his specs. Modern technology has reduced the thickness of the glass these days to something that resembles one of those convex coffee-table paper-weights that people have favoured pressed flowers encased in, as keepsakes or whatever. Jam jars are a thing of the past. Well, mostly anyway. The thing is, he genuinely cannot see a thing without them. So this was a BIG deal.

The entire holiday was on the verge of ruin, for without his eyes, how would he see everything? How would we manage?  Plus, the damned things had just cost an arm and a couple of legs to ensure he had them in time for the holiday. Usually he has photo-chromic lenses which means he doesn’t need separate sunglasses, so there was considerable cursing of the incompetent optician’s assistant whose fault it was that we were now having to negotiate our holiday of a lifetime, minus the ability to actually see anything, since the actual reading glasses had taken themselves off for a little holiday of their own.

It’s quite a long beach it turns out.

We retraced our steps, trying to remain positive, in spite of the increasingly fading light, turning every grain of sand over with our hands and feet, checking to see where they may have been washed into the sea, for, of course, just to complicate matters a little further, the tide was coming in. Fast.

We’d almost given up as we arrived back at the steps to clamber back into the car.

And then I saw them, quietly, even contemplatively, watching the sunset  sitting squarely in the sand, exactly where he’d knocked them out of his pocket when he chivalrously came to my aid earlier.

Lost. And then found again. Just like the beach was.

Perfect.

Now, let’s get back to the present shall we… stop all this lazing around on tropical beaches!

So, I’d ordered this picture to remind him of our wonderful holiday and perhaps to help motivate us both into better frames of mind. I got a great deal and ordered it in a large size – my pictures are meant to be viewed in large formats. This one was about 60cm x 80cm. That’s about 2 feet by about 2 feet 8 inches for those who don’t do decimals.

Thrilled I was.

When I received the email saying it would arrive on Tuesday, I was still feeling thrilled.

On Tuesday I went out of the house for the first time in about … well forever… to go help some friends hang an exhibition in Scarborough hospital. I almost asked my other neighbour to keep an eye out, but she was busy with her three children, so I left it, thinking ‘We’ll be back in good time, it’ll be fine.

Famous last thoughts. ‘It’ll be fine.‘ HAH!

Upon returning home the neighbour and her offspring were still in their garden so I asked about the parcel and she told me our other neighbour, the chap from downstairs, the evil one who made me clean his drains out recently, he was the one who’d taken it in. I sent my son round to go pick it up, but there was some confusion about my apparently ambiguous instruction and the long and short of it was that no-one went to get the parcel that evening. I fretted and worried and got antsy and my *long-suffering men*  ignored my slightly manic state and pressed on with the heavy responsibility of watching TV (or rather, snoring in front of the telly) and raising hell in some imaginary computer game world. Ahem.

Fast forward again to the next morning, when, as usual we were woken by the sound of the recycling truck and staff collecting the recycling waste. Thinking nothing more than ‘Did you put the bins out?’ I turned over and went back to sleep, whilst the FABH got up and pottered about downstairs for a while.

When I rose,  Cleopatra-like, from my slumber a little later on, my first thought was about the picture so I asked if FABH had yet retrieved it and he agreed to put some trousers on and go to collect it. It’s best to not ask about the trousers – just let that one go for now, OK? 

He returned, empty handed, reporting that our (despicable) neighbour had no knowledge of any parcel whatsoever.

I was distraught.

I was beside myself with tormented thoughts.

It wasn’t adding up.

How could he not have known about the parcel? What could have happened to it? Where did the UPS chap leave it?  Did anyone see what he did with it?  These and many more questions began encircling my tiny brain Liz birdies– like the little cartoon birds that used to fly round Sylvester or Tweety Pie’s head when they crashed into something.

I fretted a little more. I envisaged every and any possible scenario regarding my parcel’s fate. Each  a more grisly fate than the last.

The FABH of course remained implacable in the face of potential chaos. He phoned the delivery company (UPS) and we had a delightful conversation with a lovely lady called Sarah, who assured me that the records showed that the parcel had been left in a porch around the back. I explained that this property isn’t what it seems and that ‘around the back‘ are two separate, distinct apartments. She sympathised and suggested that the delivery man might call me himself to explain where he left the parcel. We thought this was an excellent idea and readily agreed.

Then we waited.

Only, I’m not really very good at waiting.

The ants in my pants told me to do it.

I went downstairs and around the back and knocked smartly on my (beastly) neighbour’s door. He was on the phone and clearly, visibly, ignoring me. I could see him through his window. Eventually he gesticulated for me to let myself in, which I did. I asked him about the parcel and he flatly denied all knowledge of it.I described it in detail and he shook his head and threw up his hands, asking me what I wanted to DO about it?

I asked for permission to check his outbuildings- an aluminium shed and another, smaller, store-box, but it wasn’t there. I was even more puzzled now and asked him what I was supposed to think when I’d been told that the delivery man had left it in his domain, but it seemed to have simply vanished. As he sagely nodded his head and attempted to stand up to encourage me to leave, he slumped, in a drunken stupor, to the floor. After helping him to the nearby sofa, I took my cue and left. Clearly, I wasn’t getting anywhere there.

Upon my return, the delivery driver, Carl, rang and we discussed the situation with him. He suggested that usually in these cases, the ‘thief’ makes the mistake of putting the packaging into the rubbish bin, to which the FABH calmly stated that it’s unlikely he’d find any rubbish in the bin as today was collection day… and then we both looked at each other in horror as the realisation of what might have happened set in.

With tears (of anger, frustration, utter disbelief and the ultimate pain of loss) rolling down my face, we thanked Carl for agreeing to pop by the next day to check on the location of the parcel and then all we could do was sit and wait. Again.

I am really rubbish at waiting – we’ve already established this – so around six-ish, I went to call on our other (Polish) neighbour to see if perhaps Carl had been mistaken and left it in his kitchen instead. He hadn’t. And it turned out that our Polish friend had actually seen my parcel in the other neighbour’s kitchen.

What can you do when faced with such evidence? Clearly, I live next to an unstable and apparently vindictive man who thinks nothing of stealing our mail. I considered going to the police, as well as our mutual landlord, but persuaded myself these options seemed drastic. I even emailed the council in the hopes that someone might have spotted the brand-newness of my parcel and put it aside perhaps… to no avail of course. I didn’t sleep a wink and when Carl arrived the next day having taken a good look around the neighbour’s property, he agreed that the only thing to do was set everything in motion to replace the picture. He promised to drop the necessary paperwork off early next week and then he left.

Imagine how delighted I was yesterday morning then when Carl arrived with my replacement parcel! He confided that the paperwork hadn’t been required since, upon ‘further investigation’ (I know not what that entailed), my dastardly neighbour had admitted that he’d taken the parcel in and then put it straight into the recycling collection. Part of me still mourns for that lost picture, but at least now it’s sitting where it’s meant to be – above the sofa across the room from the FABH, so he can be re-inspired each time he looks at it.

Lost. Stolen. Recovered. Or at least replaced.

It’s a picture with a story to tell…

Thanks for reading again!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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 🙂

Kitten Therapy: Bae style

A little while ago – on my daughter’s thirty-somethingth birthday (that would have been on the fourth of February – I am not so addled that I don’t recall the day of her birth in exact detail!) – she announced that the family would be joined by a new member very shortly.

What has a short, needle-shaped tail?

What has a short, needle-shaped tail?

This little life would be around eight weeks old, have two fairly pointy ears, blue eyes (probably) and a short, aciculated and very furry little tail. My heart went flip-flop.

Oh, my!  How very exciting!

I love kittens. Who doesn’t? Their sheer joy at discovering all that life has to offer is just so intensely palpable and who could not be moved to mush by the sight of a tiny creature clearly accumulating understanding and intelligence before your very eyes? How often do you get to see THAT happen?

So I was thrilled to bits to hear this lovely news. She told me all the details and within an hour of arriving home, we were Skyping so that I could meet the precious one.

Jet black from head to toe, with the cerulean windows on her little soul staring right through me, I fell in love instantly. What a beauty!

What gorgeous eyes you have my dear...

What gorgeous eyes you have my dear…

She had been instantly inquisitive, following her nose to explore the room upon arrival and release from her travelling basket. No nervousness apparent, just intense curiosity about her new surroundings. She’d had a little while to explore the physical area of the room and now her slaves had presented her with a fenestral rectangle that showed a strange humanoid, who looked remarkably similar to the human who seemed to be the one in charge in this new establishment, gushing and gooing, smiling and looking like she too might make an excellent slave. The kitten repeatedly sniffed at the I-Pad and batted it experimentally to gauge its purpose. Each time she did this, excitable sounds emitted from the device as I drank in my virtual kitten therapy.

Bae knows what she wants

Bae knows what she wants

It was a couple of weeks before we could meet in person, during which time this ritual of regular Skyping became ever more exciting for me, but possibly less so for Bae.

I was a little confused at first, as I thought my daughter had said her name was ‘Fay’, but no, this little kitten is destined to have a much grander name. Not that Fay isn’t a grand name – of course it is. Just not quite as impressive as ‘Bellefire Rover Nightshade Everitt’.

Or ‘Bae’ for short.

Natalie patiently explained that Bae was a derivative from Bellefire (at least, that’s what I think she said…) and that it suited her perfectly.  I checked out ‘Bae’ on Google and discovered a hotbed of controversy surrounding the use of the word, the consensus of which seems to be that it is a TLA (three-letter-acronym) for ‘Before All Else’. That or urban slang for a significant other, as in ‘my bae (baby) is my life‘ amongst other equally vomit-inducing sentiments that I simply cannot bring myself to type. Regardless of  wrangling about etymology, I actually agree that it is a name that suits this little ball of fluff.

Toby and Bae - just hanging out

Toby and Bae – just hanging out

We finally met last weekend. She is totally adorable. We were completely captivated by her antics, which included an indefatigable inability to ignore any tiny scratching noise made by the GUS’s fingers on the sofa – this guarantees her pouncing presence within three seconds of her hearing it. Once she had ambushed his hand for the thousandth time, she would move on to the needle-sharp nibbling of the fingers, often accompanied by inquisitorial osculation, presumably testing the waters in the same manner that a human child explores the world through their mouths. Toby has many tiny pinholes in his hands to show how much she loved playing with him too.

Harrie simply loves Bae

Harrie simply loves Bae

The little girls (Harriet and Scarlett) simply cannot get over the fact that they have a real, live kitten in their lives. All the time. Harrie would be very happy to spend every waking moment in the company of this small creature, as well as every sleeping one too. Preferably though, there would be none of that time-wasting on sleeping. Play. Play. PLAY time is precious!

Bae has developed a healthy wariness of Harrie’s chubby little hands as they bear down upon her, relentlessly. Harrie can’t help it, this kitten has us all in the pad of her purr-fect paws, so utterly charming is she. Fortunately, kittens are generally much faster on their feet than four-year-old human children and she’s keeping on top of that situation, which is reassuring for all animal lovers I hope.

She even melted the heart of my FAB hubby, who has repeatedly insisted that no more small furry creatures will invade our lives. Even when faced with an epidemic of tiny rodents who insist on sharing this large farmhouse with us – and I’m really beginning to get why the Farmer’s Wife chased after them all with a carving knife – he has resisted the temptation to get another cat of our own. Bae worked her magic whilst we popped out to play on the park with the children (our grandchildren, not just some random small people, ‘cos, well, THAT would be wHeird!), by playing with his feet whilst he did some washing-up and purring *very loudly* when he bent down to pat her. I think she hypnotised him with her Jedi-Cat Mind Tricks. It’s the only explanation. Well, she is a black cat after all…

We were very carefully monitored each time we left the house this weekend, to ensure that Bae wasn’t being cat-napped in one or other of our pockets. It was a distinct possibility, that we might ‘borrow’ her for a few days/weeks/months/years. But I’m not a complete ass – I know she belongs to my daughter. I just get to have a kitten-fix whenever I feel the need for a little while at least. And we can all do with a little kitten therapy in our lives, I’m sure.

Thanks for reading again my friends!

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Toby!

Happy 18th Birthday Toby!

Happy 18th Birthday Toby!

It is finally here… our youngest child had reached adulthood at last. Tobias Mark Gregory was born this day in the Matilda Hospital, on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong at 3.56am and so he has now reached the grand age of eighteen, which makes him a proper, fully fledged grown-up person. Actually, due to time differences, we noted he was actually 18 at 7.56pm last night!

It’s a day I’ve been thinking about for a very long time. If you read my last piece, you’ll know what I mean when I say that the prospect of an empty nest after all of these years with at least one small person to take care of, to look out for, to nourish and to cherish, is a somewhat daunting one. It’s a momentous day for us.

Toby was a wonderful addition to our family who has brought so much joy and happiness with him. He has sunshine in his heart and something else that is all-too-rare a quality, he is a genuinely kind and loving person. I don’t know what the future holds for him of course, but I know that the world is a much better place for having him here in it.

He has grown from a wee little Piglet (his older sisters were Pooh Bear and Tigger) into a gentle giant with grace, a keen eye for detail and a robustly dry and quick sense of humour. He is great fun to be with.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing of course… the sheer number of times I’ve been astounded that he is still alive is too many to keep count. From febrile convulsions in infancy and falling head first into a playground sign (five stitches in the forehead, aged three) and again from a thirty-foot rock face (overnight in hospital thanks to concussion, aged five), through a dozen sporting injuries and consequent trips in ambulances from pitch-side to A&E departments – that’s what you get for playing hockey AND rugby from such an early age I suppose – to peritonitis and broken ankles in later teenage years. He has a medical rap-sheet of misadventures that belies his cheerful smile. I can only say that it’s a good job he isn’t actually a cat, because he’s used up ALL nine lives and then some!

I can’t think of a better way to congratulate my big boy, who will forever be my Neanderthal, although I suppose now he’s an adult I should call him my ‘Young Man’. I’ve collected together some photos of his life so far and I hope this little Tobys 18th birthday (click on the words to watch it!) slideshow works to say Happy Birthday Toby!

Click here to watch the show!

Here’s to you kiddo!

Thanks for reading!

 

Challenging Social Media

For the past week or so you may have noticed that Facebook, in particular, has been awash with the Five Day Black and White Challenge, where friends post a new picture each day that they have either taken in black and white or have digitally altered a colour photo that they have – there were few rules other than that already stated, so really there shouldn’t be any great pressure. Not like the horrendous, infamous Ice Bucket Challenge that swept cyberspace recently – now that was the antithesis of how this photography challenge has been. I refused to partake in the IBC, which whilst initially being devised to raise a) money and b) awareness for a very worthy cause, I felt that it rapidly degenerated into a ridiculous free-for-all that meant very, very little to some of the people who took part. Not all, of course; I am very aware that a good many of the people that I know personally who undertook the challenge, did so in the full understanding of the significance of the ice on the central nervous system but I would still ask many of the people who did have a go, to name the illness they were purporting to support, (without looking it up online) a few months on from their dunking. For those who simply cannot recall it was in support of ALS and you can refresh your memory here if you need to.

I’m not saying that participation in the IBC was a bad thing, far from it, but there was a significant level of pressure to follow the crowd with that one, which is something I have always resisted, even when it’s good for me. I am rather bloody-minded sometimes.

That’s why I liked the B&W Photo Challenge. For me at least, I can say that I felt no pressure in the challenge at all – I was truly honoured when my friend from America nominated me, given his impressive photographic achievements, it felt like a nod from a magnificent mentor and I was all agog for trawling through my stash of nearly 20,000 photographs that I have stored on my computer, taken by me. Actually, that took me rather by surprise to start with – I have captured so many more photos than I had realised! And that figure doesn’t include the ones I have stored on various external media either… I’m almost beginning to think I might be addicted to photography…

And I was indeed particularly thrilled when one of my entries was chosen to be the banner header for one of the groups I’m involved with. So pleased!

I’ve decided to pull my efforts together in one place as if I don’t, it’s entirely likely that they won’t be seen again for a long time. I enjoyed the challenge also, in part, because it gave me an opportunity to really think about some of my images. Why did I take them? What was I hoping to achieve when I snapped them? How have I enhanced the images by working in a monochromatic palette? What emotion(s) did I evoke through these images? What have I captured?

Whilst asking myself these key questions I realised something. This is what an artist does, every time they create a piece of art. Without these kinds of thoughts in an artists’ imagination, how can they create work that has meaning and resonates with others?

And that led me on to my next thought.

I think I may be an artist.

Now THAT is a REAL biggie for me people! I may have toyed with the idea before. I may have made artwork, whether as painted pictures, sculpted in various media or stitched textiles. But I’ve never really thought of that work as the work of an *Artist*. Not until now. Right now.

This is monumental!

And so, for your perusal and I hope, enjoyment, here are the five days of challenges, including my notes about why each on was chosen and published. My first recognisable art works. Yay!

Day One:

I am absolutely delighted that my friend, Russell Davidson has nominated me to take part in the 5-day Black and White Photography challenge – I feel privileged to simply take part! So, for today, the first day of my challenge, I’m offering up some stormy Scarborough seas. I took this photo about a year ago, on a wild and windy day when the tide was whipped into a frenzy. I like the image because the spectral ruins of Scarborough Castle sit glowering on the clifftop, although the sun is clearly shining upon it, whilst below the dramatic swell of the sea is in full sway. I hope you like it too!
DOH! I nearly forgot to nominate a friend of mine who’s into photography too… so today I’m challenging my old hockey team-mate who is a fab-u-lous photographer, Dawn Olsen to participate – in the hopes we get some fantastic HK images too

Scarborough Castle keeps  a watchful eye on the North Sea

Scarborough Castle keeps a watchful eye on the North Sea

Day Two:

So, it’s day 2 of my five-day photography challenge (thanks Russell Davidson!) and I’ve had a play around with a photo taken a couple of months ago in Hartlepool. For those who may not be aware, Hartlepool is a heavily industrial coastal town up on the north-eastern coast of England – off-shore wind-farming is the latest in a very long line of industries that the rest of the country has frequently shied away from. There’s a grit about Northerners, particularly Northeastern folk who have a long and proud history. I love this image because whilst it is the same sea as yesterday’s photo, today it looks like a millpond; but the sky is much more heavily laden with ferociously ominous-looking clouds, suggesting the calm before the storm perhaps? Anyway, I’d love to see your thoughts once again! Oh, and today I’d like to challenge my photographic pal from Down Under – who’s actually a yorkshireman Dave Smith – I challenge you too

Hartlepool harbour under a glowering stormy sky

Hartlepool harbour under a glowering stormy sky

Day Three:

And so to day 3 of my Black and White Photography challenge – thank youRussell Davidson for the nomination! Today I thought I’d take you all back in time, to yesteryear when magnificent beasts roamed this land, before Beeching sharpened his pointly little sword. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway has recently celebrated forty years as a National Heritage Railway and is a huge tourist attraction here, made even more popular of course because it featured in the Harry Potter films, as Hogsmeade Station. I like this photo because the perspective of the train snaking back along the track follows the curved line of the platform and as it was about to set off, a good head of steam was starting to billow. I am looking forward to reading your comments about it! Today I’d like to challenge another of my old friends and colleagues (he won’t like me calling him ‘old!) Ray Atkinson to join in with this challenge, from his gorgeous home in France. I can’t wait to see some of his super shots too

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway has achieved Heritage status

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway has achieved Heritage status

Day Four:

OK… sorry I missed day 4 yesterday, but I was a bit poorly and didn’t get to the computer so I’m pretending it is yesterday so I can post day 4’s pics now For day 4 of my Black and White Photography challenge, thanks to Russell Davidson of course, I give you this: when combing the beach on one of our walks, I often come across interesting or intriguing objects. This picture is on some rubbery organic seaweed, which in reality was a grimy colour, a dark dull green, which of course is entirely functional in nature, but isn’t particularly attractive or aesthetically pleasing. The textures though, slightly slimy, with odd patches of bumpy, rough surfaces, these were interesting and when converted to a monochromatic palette suddenly popped, creating an ethereal, other-worldly feel. I think it looks like alien dancers, weaving their frond-like bodies together in some attempt to communicate with us. OK. I know I’m a bit wHierd and should stop talking, now, and go take my tablets… Let me know what you all think please! And for day 4, I’m going to nominate a young lady whom I taught at QBS, many years ago – Katie Latter Photography – as I’d love to see what she will make of the challenge! (Perhaps her mum, Joo Lee, might let her know if this message doesn’t get directly through Thanks!) Looking forward to seeing some of those pics Katie!

Ordinary seaweed  transforms into an alien life-form...

Ordinary seaweed transforms into an alien life-form…

Day Five:

And finally, I’m on day 5 of the Black and White challenge -thanks to Russell Davidson who nominated me in the first place. It seems that almost all of the Farmies are busily posting some great Black and Whites… it’s hard trying to work out who has yet to be challenged, but if I’m not mistaken, I don’t think the remarkable Lisa Dingle has, so I’m going for her today. She’s a fabulous photographer and I know there will be some gorgeous shots to come So… my parting shot is a simple one, a mere mollusc, straining for all he’s worth (I have no idea of its gender, but just go with me here people, I’m using ‘he’ just because!) I like this one because whilst just a lowly snail, this creature is clearly pushing himself as far as he possibly can, so that his tender body almost abandons his protective shell, as he reaches for his goals. His path is strewn with bumpy obstacles and irrelevant debris and detritus, but he’s definitely concentrating on achieving his goal. There may be dark days ahead, but somehow, with this ‘can do’ approach, I am rooting for him to get there, making it to his Nirvana, wherever that may be. I feel like it’s a metaphor for life. I hope you like it!

My amiable mollusc- whom I think I'll name Brian - strives for perfection

My amiable mollusc- whom I think I’ll name Brian – strives for perfection

Thanks for reading once again!

 

The village stream

When I see friends posting photos on social websites of the magnificence of Autumnal New England, I find myself longing to travel to see it with my own eyes. One day, I promise myself, one day I will see the glorious, vast swathes of foliage, each tree a slightly different hue from xanthous ivory to bloody incarnadine, with every conceivable shade between. As far as the eye can see. Yes, that is definitely something, high up on my bucket list.

Of course, we have autumn here too, with some glorious examples of Mother Nature changing her garments, each individually becoming more glorious than the one before. Last week Rillington, our local big village, began the annual tree moulting with some beautiful examples of colour and light.

Leaves at Scampston, a couple of Autumns ago

Leaves at Scampston, a couple of Autumns ago

Scampston House and lake have provided me with a beautiful backdrop for some lovely, autumnal foliage photos in recent years. But what of this year, here and now?

The conker trees, horse-chestnuts as they are more widely known, have produced a bountiful crop and I was delighted to capture this image of a child gathering conkers with her family, on the lane from Scampston, clearly selecting her preferred specimens carefully.

A child collecting conkers in some gorgeous light

A child collecting conkers in some gorgeous light

I loved the light – it was a beautifully bright, crisp morning which gave a rather ethereal feel to the atmosphere. I watched as she moved around the overhanging branches, occasionally squealing with delight as her latest find surpassed all that had come before. It was one of those moments that felt like I was watching a film rather than being there in person. October light can do that sometimes.

Strolling carelessly down the lane, I could hardly help but notice the juxtaposition of enduring evergreens and fugacious broad-leaved foliage.

The lane form Scampston to Rillington

The lane from Scampston to Rillington

Holly and ivy entwined along the hedgerow, with bright, glossy Hunter’s Green leaves and almost florescent red berries just shimmering in the morning light.

The holly...

The holly…

... and the Ivy

… and the Ivy

I hummed the tune in my head – although it’s entirely possible that ‘The Holly and The Ivy, now they are both full grown; o-of all the trees that are in the woods, the holly bears the crown!’ may have been trilled aloud, joining the blackbird and sparrows in joyful chorus, I’m not entirely sure. I have a tendency to break into song when alone, out of earshot of most humans and in the presence of such glorious, uproarious splendour of a bright October morning in the English countryside.

Houses covered with glorious red leaves

Houses covered with glorious red leaves

More centrally in the village, houses awash in deeply rubescent foliage cannot fail to catch the eye of people passing by -such splendour is hard to ignore.

The tiny stream trickles truculently

The tiny stream trickles truculently

The trickling stream that runs along the side of the road gurgles playfully, reflecting the pale blue sky in repetitious ripples as it bubbles forth under the crossroad and onward, downstream  toward the rushing river.

Morning has truly broken now. We stroll round the corner, coming face to face with the path of righteousness, leading ever upward to the venerable village church.

The path leads upwards into the churchyard

The path leads upwards into the churchyard

In the morning sunshine, the church clock chimes the quarter-hour in a serenely sonorous tone, reminding villagers of the inevitable passage of time.

Time to get ready for the day ahead sleepyheads!

Time to get ready for the day ahead sleepyheads!

I look up into the bright blue of the sky, seeing time from a different perspective.

Time passes strangely slowly sometimes...

Time passes strangely slowly sometimes…

Sounds become markedly muffled; I feel like I am being transported through time, drawn to consider the occupants of this tiny resting place for this ancient crossroads. I begin to notice the tombstones, lying ramshackled and ruined in the graveyard. A peaceful, tranquil air of silence seems pervasive.

Gravestones mark the lives of villagers from long ago...

Gravestones mark the lives of villagers from long ago…

Enchanted, I read testaments to long-forgotten villagers, wondering who they were, what they did with their lives, why they were here.

Frank Wharbeck of Low Moor. Who departed this life on the third of August 1776, aged sixty-six years.

Frank's tombstone Wharbeck

Frank Wharbeck’s tombstone

 

Who loved you enough to raise such a marker on your passing? What did you mean to those around you?

Matthew Pape of Scampston. An Honest Man. Who died on November 14th 1778, aged sixty-five years.

How respected were you to be commemorated on the very church wall?

How respected were you to be commemorated on the very church wall?

You were so well thought of in the village as to warrant your headstone being raised on the side of the church wall, for all to see from far and wide. Who were you? What made you such an honest man?

And Robert, son of Robert and Elizabeth Pennock of Rillington. You died just before Christmas in 1852, aged only twenty-four years.

Robert, son of Robert. Such a young man.

Robert, son of Robert. Such a young man.

What happened to you? What might have happened if you had lived a longer life?

The ghosts of the past are at peace, resting quietly. But they are always here. October light has a habit of playing tricks on the unsuspecting. Time is simply a perspective.

Time is just a perspective

Time is just a perspective

As I return to twenty fourteen, something catches my eye on the grass…  an empty shell, from which a tiny bird has scrambled into the new day.

A broken eggshell ... a new life for a new day

A broken eggshell … a new life for a new day

A symbol of life renewing itself perhaps.

I hope you enjoyed my slightly spooky trek this week. Thanks for reading, once again, my friends!

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!

Another Place: Gormley’s haunting installation

I love art that makes you feel something. To be honest, I’m not concerned about what it makes you feel – calm, enlightened, happy or disturbed, horrified and disgusted – it’s the fact that you get to *see* into the imagination, the internal workings of another human’s brain. That’s what fascinates me when I come across *Art*.

I enjoy galleries full of Old Masters or Impressionists’ impressions as much as the next person, but installations can, occasionally, leave me wondering why the artist has gone to the trouble of manufacturing something that simply says ‘meh!’ with a little shoulder shrug. After all, such an undertaking presumably required them to invest heavily in terms of their time and financial costs – materials are rarely cheap and readily available – as well as emotional investments. I imagine its very hard to put some artwork out there, only to find that you’re the only one who *gets it*.  I constantly have to remind myself, as an artist, that the approval of other people doesn’t necessarily validate my own work, but it always feels more successful when others appreciate the work and enjoy its aesthetic appeal, especially when they take the time to tell me so.

Another Place explained

Another Place explained

I’ve been looking for these photos, taken in 2007, of the haunting installation of a hundred Iron Men, created by Antony Gormley (who also produced the Angel of the North), along the coast at Crosby, near Liverpool, ten years previously. We visited them, having heard a little about them and we were definitely not disappointed.

The concept of installing a hundred cast iron body forms, modeled on the artists own frame, along the coast (originally they were sited in Cuxhaven, Germany), to ‘harness the ebb and flow of the tide to explore man’s relationship with nature’, could be described as somewhat narcissistic; perhaps the idea seems to be more about perpetuating one’s own image rather that any altruistic purpose.

The fading light gives an eerie feeling to the experience

The fading light gives an eerie feeling to the experience

All preconceived notions were blown away the instant that we arrived. It’s a short walk from the car parking area, along a boardwalk that is designed to prepare you for the assault on your sense of ‘self’ that’s coming. We arrived not long before dusk, which was most fortunate, as the fading evening light further contributed to the eerie atmosphere. In addition, we were just about the only people there, save for a couple of dog-walkers and their pets.

Close-up of the interaction with nature

Close-up of the interaction with nature

Rusted Man - each figure is life-sized

Rusted Man – each figure is life-sized

As soon as you step onto the beach, there are several figures that are immediately visible. Each is life-sized, standing atop a small platform which is then sunk firmly into the sand. They are space about five-hundred meters apart or so, at varying distances from the shoreline – some are fully exposed, appearing to balance expertly on their podia, staring towards the horizon, across the vastness of the sea.

You are immediately drawn to the nearest figure and several minutes are passed simply looking at it, following the figure’s far-away gaze, trying to see what he might be looking for. You begin to explore the way his physicality has interacted with the natural environment around him – water, particularly salty sea water – erodes the iron, leaving layer upon layer to be exposed. It’s like looking into his soul.

Barnacles cling to the iron surface in colonies

Barnacles cling to the iron surface in colonies

They don’t interact with you verbally. That would indeed be just wHierd!

Looking out to sea, breathing in the cool air, you wonder what he's thinking...

Looking out to sea, breathing in the cool air, you wonder what he’s thinking…

But in the evening’s serene silence, where no sounds except the lapping of the tiny waves on the shore and occasional calls of the dogged sea-birds can be heard, you find yourself communing with these figures, attuning yourself to their presence.

Man and boy commune in silence

Man and boy commune in silence

It is downright eerie!

The sense of calm, of one-ness with the ataraxia of the setting is immense. It’s the epitome of Zen – or at least a place where one might achieve such a heightened state of mind. Well worth a visit I’d say. In the mean-time, you may get some sense of the feeling from these photos. Let me know if they work for you!

Far out to sea, one lone figure continues to contemplate with nature

Far out to sea, one lone figure continues to contemplate with nature

Closer to shore, one figure stands atop his podium, resolutely keeping watch

Closer to shore, one figure stands atop his podium, resolutely keeping watch

As we leave the shore, a figure silently bids us farewell...

As we leave the shore, a figure silently bids us farewell…

An odd feeling of clarity and contention: Carpe Diem!

Regular readers of this blog may already be familiar with some of the tid-bits that I’ve hinted at over these past nine months or so, regarding the development of what I hope will be a magnificent story, that of my own ancestral shenanigans. My anticipation that it will be a tale of epic proportions is well-founded. Some of you who are personal friends already know that I’ve had this dramatic story up my sleeve for what feels like a millennium, but is in reality no more than maybe forty years or so.

Storm's Coming (available for purchase soon! )

Storm’s Coming (available for purchase soon! )

Still, that’s nearly my whole lifetime so far and in any respects is a long time to be brewing up a storm.

I have an excellent reason why it has taken me so long to reach this moment of clarity. People usually relate stories about their experiences from their own point of view. Sometimes, for a whole range of reasons, people embellish the details – usually in order to present themselves in the best possible light to their audience, perhaps to absolve themselves of blame for perceived wrong-doings.

Often, this embellishment will increase in complexity with repeated recounting of the story to a point where identifiable lies are clearly committed and the story becomes, literally, unbelievable. And then, some go beyond this point, to where the unbelievable has become so incredulously outrageous that the audience begin to question their own perspectives and consider that there may, indeed be a nugget of truth here, within that which is obvious obfuscation.

This is where my story lies. It’s actually where my mother’s story lies. And yes, I’m using the word *lies* because it has a multitude of meanings. This story is complex, yet simple. All the best stories are. 

The reason that I haven’t been able – and here I mean actually physically, possibly and corporeally – to tell this story hitherto is simple. I didn’t know the truth. I had only ever had access to one version of the adventure and, fortunately for me at least, I was intensely aware that this gave me only one dimension to each of the key characters. If the author has such limited access, then they will likely create a biased, incoherent and  ultimately uninteresting tale that is not worthy of the time spent upon it – either for the writer or the reader.

But, thanks to some serendipity that is unknown to me, finally, after all of these years, I know the truth. I’ve learned how to identify all the loathsome lies, unbelievable prevarications and bewildering bafflement’s that have discombobulated me in the intervening years. And I also realize that not all stories start at the beginning.

Which can be a bit wHierd, to quote a friend (thanks Lisa Dingle!).

Plus, I found out last week that I am half Irish. It’s a little odd, after half a century of thinking that I was almost entirely Anglo-Saxon. There’s Celtic blood in me – which explains a great deal about my intuition and sense of anti-establishment-ism. For the first time in my life so far, I feel like an almost whole person. That has to be a good thing!

Missing Piece of the Puzzle (available for purchase soon as well!)

Missing Piece of the Puzzle (available for purchase soon as well!)

Next steps? Now that Chapter One is penned, the rest of the story is clear and needs only for me to actually write the words. I’ll continue with research for aspects that I know I’m ignorant of  – but at least now, I KNOW what I don’t know, which is a hell of a lot more informed than I was before. And with the centenary of the First World War this year, records and facts will be easier to access on the whole.

Carpe Diem!

Thanks for reading – your comments are welcomed

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