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.
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.
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.
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 – 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!
Arriving in Disneyland (Paris) on a cold, rainy Friday afternoon in early March gave me something I never dreamed it might.
Of course, I’d been looking forward to spending some really good quality time with my family – something that’s been in very short supply for so long that I couldn’t remember when it wasn’t. You know your life is going wrong somewhere when you realise you are miserable all the time and there seems to be nothing that can break the downward spiral of discontentment and despair. When it feels like even your closest family members really have no reason left to love you anymore because you feel so toxic.
When the FAB Hubby suggested it just before Christmas, I’d shrugged and assumed that, like many other dreams from the past, this one too would never see the light of day. I mean, what grown woman wants to go to Disneyland, for goodness sake? The thought HAD crossed my mind when my girls were much younger, and then again when my son was small – especially when one of my students was the son of one of the project managers of the much anticipated Hong Kong Disneyland Park – but somehow, it just never happened and frankly, holidays are not something I’ve ever really known how to take. I’m not so good at the relaxing part and enjoying life, like many people I know.
So once I saw the tickets and the many conversations between the ten participants of this jaunt to the Continent confirmed that it actually WAS happening, I found I was really quite happy about the whole event. I am aware that I can be a bit of a killjoy at times and so decided that success for me during this holiday would be to have some good photos and some cherished memories of shared good times together. I hate roller coaster rides and to be honest, Disney itself has never been a massive influence on my life, so I really wasn’t expecting the place to work any kind of actual *magic* upon this world-weary, somewhat lost soul. How wrong can a person be?
It first happened about twenty minutes after arriving at the Gotham City-sized car park, which was remarkably empty at 2.30pm on this particular Friday afternoon. Perhaps, not surprising in itself of course, especially considering the cold, damp weather forecast and the fact that most people would be at work or school or otherwise engaged in their everyday lives.
We’d trekked the hundred miles from the car park to the main entrance (seriously – travelators help, but it’s a really long walk!) and not been too put off by the large green hoardings just outside the magnificent Disney Hotel, declaring that Disney Magic was being worked upon this particular area just now, so it was closed for visitors. I hoped that wouldn’t be too much of a recurrent theme for the next three days. These hoardings had shadows of the Seven Dwarves and characters from Peter Pan that we adults recognised but that scared the bejeezus out of my three-year-old granddaughter, Scarlett, who imagined they were real.
And then we found ourselves in Main Street, USA.
And there was the actual Disney Magic Castle.
Right in front of us.
That’s when I first felt the magic. ‘Dah, dah dah dah, dah dah dah! ‘ trilled the loudspeaker somewhere above my head (you KNOW the tune).
It was so familiar and yet so very strange. Actual goosebumps. And not just because it was about 2º.
And suddenly my face was wet with happy tears and I smiled for the first time in a very long time, from a place very deep within my soul.
This was going to be awesome.
A lot of other stuff happened during the rest of the afternoon – I’ll skip that for now (don’t worry – I’ll come back to it later, in another post!) though to get to the next time my face got wet. I KNOW! TWICE… in ONE DAY! Who’d ‘a thunk?
Again, it took me by surprise – because one thing on my list of ‘Things I hate with a passion‘ are fireworks. Ask anyone who knows me well – fireworks leave me cold. When I was about nine or so, I used to watch one of my favourite TV shows, called ‘Magpie’ which was a bit like ‘Blue Peter’ with a really catchy theme tune that immortalized the old wives’ tale about magpies –
‘One for sorrow, two for joy;
Three for a girl and four for a boy;
Five for silver, six for gold and
Seven for a secret never to be told‘.
They added some extra lines that went ‘Eight is a wish and nine a kiss – ten is a bird you must not miss, Ma -aah- ahh- ag- pie!‘ (clicking on the link will take you to the theme tune on YouTube, in case you’re interested!) Murgatroyd the Magpie was their logo – I loved him!
In the UK fireworks are generally only used at one time of year, unless (nowadays anyway) there’s some kind of special celebration such as a royal wedding or a summer outdoor concert or something, but when I was young, all through the month of October small groups of children would make effigies of Guy Fawkes, using one of their dad’s old shirts and trousers stuffed with straw (or mum’s old tights) and wheel him round in a barrow shouting ‘penny for the Guy?’ to all and sundry in the hopes that some would offer you some dosh so that you could go and buy some fireworks to let off on Bonfire Night – ‘Remember, remember the fifth of November; Gunpowder, treason and plot. I see no reason, why gunpowder treason. Should ever be forgot!‘.
Frequently, of course, some children (usually the older ones, who were generally out to create a lot of mischief) would let off their fireworks, throwing bangers and crackers willy-nilly before the designated night of merriment, much to everyone’s delight. Well, everyone who wasn’t me. You see, I had watched those awful episodes of Magpie when they featured the consequences of such mischief-making, gone horribly wrong. It seems that gangs of older kids (and I knew some of these people) routinely found it very amusing to tie Catherine Wheels or Rockets or other such delights to the tails of unsuspecting moggies and even occasionally small pooches and then light them and run for safe cover, to see the object of their handiwork desperately struggling to free themselves, before the inevitable awful lift off, lighting up the sky as they flew through the air.
This practice simply terrified me, all the more so since I knew several very unpleasant characters that were responsible for such atrocities, although I had no actual evidence that they were involved of course, so couldn’t substantiate my claims to any person of authority. In truth, I was very afraid of these louts myself so I wasn’t about to endanger my own safety so recklessly – even though I felt like a terrible coward for choosing this path.
Photographs of maimed cats and later, when the campaigns became more aggressive, there were pictures of maimed children too, were quite sufficient motivation for me to hate the source of such evil – fireworks, even tiny little sparklers, became the thing I feared and hated most on Earth. It’s taken nearly forty years for me to change my mind.
We’d had a long day travelling, arriving, exploring and being enchanted by Disneyland. We stayed in the park for the big fireworks show at 8.00 pm, seated on wet chairs in a huge crowd of people waiting for the same thing. Hot chocolate and some bright flashes and then we could go to our lodgings to get a good night’s sleep – that’s what I was looking forward to most at this point.
Until the show began.
And what a show!
As soon as it began, I could feel that *magic* happening again. I smiled once more. It was all so charming and adorable, so exciting and – what was it… thrilling?
I had to leave the family group to get a better view for my camera – we were too far away. I snickered in between other small groups and eventually found a reasonable vantage point to watch the show – me, who hates fireworks!
And before I knew it, those tears were streaming like Colorado Rapids down my face. The rain had definitely stopped, so it wasn’t Heavenly precipitation causing this flood. No-sir-ee. I was crying, smiling, laughing, pointing delightedly at nothing in particular, wiping away my tears with the back of my hand and never taking my eyes off the fireworks show.
When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you
If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do
Fate is kind
She brings to those to love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing
Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true
It really is *Magic*!
–Thanks for reading this one, there will be more because it was such a great experience, so do come back again!
Well, it’s definitely been an exciting week. Excitement, thrills and spills galore have been the order of the week.
‘What’s so exciting?’ I can hear you asking (‘cos I’m y’know, psychic and can hear things through the Interweb and all 🙂 )
I can hardly contain myself.
OOH! I’m hopping from foot to foot in my frenzy of excitation!
Go on, you are picturing me in your mind’s eye leaping up and down like a mad woman, with wild hair and even wilder eyes, aren’t you? Hold that thought won’t you – and don’t let my ancient, pain-wracked back and limbs or my elephantine frame impinge upon your mental reverie in any way – there’s no place for reality here today!
I’ve FINALLY managed to secure twenty-eight practically perfect poster-sized copies of some of my photos – IN REAL LIFE! They actually exist. No longer are they simply virtual, ethereal, impalpable nor empyreal. They have tangible substance. They are indubitable. They are sitting here in my own little (well, no-so-little in fact , as it’s big enough to take pictures up to A1 sized) physical portfolio, on my coffee table and THAT’s what’s so exciting!
You see, for months, in fact probably for a couple of years now, all my photographs have been visible on my computer screen and some have even made it as far as being published on the Internet in both this blog and on my new site, specifically designed to showcase my portfolio over at Akashic Arts and Design. I’ve pored over them, spent hours (thousands of hours in fact) editing them in Photoshop and then I’ve tentatively shown them, individually usually, to various audiences who have made some very kind and thoughtful comments about them; definitely rewarding to receive.
Which is all well and brilliant in fact but seriously, not a patch on the thrill of seeing my work as it was created to be seen – in large-format photographs, to be hung on someone’s wall.
I have sold a couple of my photo’s already as my lovely patrons well know (thank you to those lovely people, who know who they are!) – these were signed and despatched and currently sit on their walls. That is immensely gratifying of course, but I only saw those pictures very briefly and having approved the quality and signed & numbered them (all my photos are limited editions – although I still have to decide exactly how limited they will be), they were sent off to their new owners and that’s pretty much the last I saw of them.
It’s a bit like fostering a new puppy or kitten but then adopting it out to a new home – one where you know it will be appreciated and well looked after of course, but the point is that it isn’t here with me.
I’ve spent hours, days, even weeks researching where would be the best place to get them printed. There are so many possible options, in the end of course, it boils down to where is the best value for money. Once they are mounted and maybe framed, these babies are to be exhibited at craft fairs, or in friends’ shops or even (if I can persuade a few gallery owners) in a gallery or two. Eventually, they will be sold to new owners to be enjoyed as long as they want that privilege.
But for the moment, they are all mine.
I cannot get over how beautiful they look, in these large formats – ranging from 12″ x 16″ to 20″ x 20″ in size. That’s quite large for photographic prints. This small collection are just captivating. And the thing is, it’s not just me who thinks that. Which is the best surprise of all I think.
The two ladies at the place where I had them printed were very complimentary about the quality, particularly noticing all the details of the images, as was their boss. Several complete strangers who were having their pictures printed at the same time also made admiring comments, including statements like ‘That would look fantastic in my hallway/living room or bedroom!’. When I showed them to the people at the job-centre – where I’m currently having to register each week until the new business begins in earnest – everyone came to have a look and made similarly enthusiastic remarks.
My little heart swelled with joy. I do know that pride is a sin, but for someone like me who really struggles with self-esteem, a little pride in my achievements is long overdue and that is really what I’m so excited about. I feel like I’ve actually achieved something this week. It has been difficult to tackle this hornet, but I think I might be getting there.
Now I just need to get them all mounted and wrapped in protective cellophane and they will be ready for sale. Oh, wow!
Thanks for reading once again, my friends – it means the world to me!
Bright scarlet berry,
Hiding under glossy green
Leaves; you taste so good!
This is from my rainbow haiku book that I am currently compiling. I’ve had lots of colour-related haiku written for ages, but I’m steadily gathering images to illustrate the poetry with. This afternoon, after the fantastic heat and sunshine earlier in the week and the exciting lightning display at four o’clock this morning, followed by an epic downpour, I popped out into the garden and plucked yet another scrumptious crop of strawberries from my plants that have survived the relocation brilliantly. I’ve been trying to get the *perfect* image for about two years. Today, I think I may be nearly there…
And yes, I have now eaten this one. It was, as its plump, juicy flesh had promised, utterly delicious. Oh. My. *sigh*
Thanks for reading once again my friends!
There are several parts of Yorkshire and indeed, of the rest of England, where you can see examples of a magnificent breed of cattle, the venerable Highland Cattle. I used to enjoy spotting them living amiably outside the sadly abandoned Saltersgate Inn – a landmark that all visitors to the North Yorkshire Moors may have had the good fortune to have experienced in the past, standing guard as it did at the foot of the infamous Devil’s Elbow that cradles the Hole of Horcum, on Levisham Moor – possibly my most favourite place on Earth.
The Saltersgate Inn was a white-painted brick building with a truly fascinating history. Legend has it that the pub, built in 1648, in a post-Civil war climate, soon became a smuggler’s haunt, largely due to its location, far enough away from the smuggling hides along the East coast – Robin Hood’s Bay is one very famous example – frequented by those who wished to turn their ill-gotten gains into cash with no questions asked.
By the eighteenth century, it was constantly being raided by customs officers who were rarely able to catch the miscreants in the act of selling their wares. One night, after yet another fruitless search, one brave, but ultimately rather hapless customs officer decided to lay in wait, hiding in the nearby barn for cover. He hid amongst the hay, waiting for the illicit smuggling folly to resume, which of course it surely did after an hour or so. The unnamed officer pounced upon the unsuspecting criminals and proceeded to arrest them, as he was authorised to do. Unfortunately, he was greatly outnumbered and was quickly clouted on the head with a heavy bar stool; the poor man was instantly killed. Wading through the pool of his blood, the rascally smugglers decided to bury his remains under the fireplace and the legend was born when the landlord vowed that the fire should never be allowed to go out, so that the body would never be found. Locals lived in fear that the dead man’s ghost would be able to begin haunting the pub. Many sightings of this ghost have been reported through the years, none of which have been substantiated.
I remember vividly that the Saltersgate was the point that escaped boarders Nicky Lavery and Carole Binns reached before being caught after their daring adventure one dark, rainy evening back in about 1976. They were contemporaries of mine at St Hilda’s school in Whitby, some twelve miles or so across the formidable, stark moorland landscape, which was also home at the time to the equally infamous ‘Golf Balls’ at RAF Fylingdales – the first line of defence during the Cold War as the early warning station for the Northern Hemisphere (so we were always told in such dramatic fashion!). For two young teenagers to travel unnoticed and without any sort of protection for such a distance over such inhospitable terrain was quite an achievement and they were held in high regard by many fellow boarders at school, much like the heroes of ‘The Great Escape’ although perhaps not so rugged looking as Steve McQueen, who was one of my film idols at the time.
For many years after I left school when we drove over the moors to visit Whitby, I looked forward to seeing the Saltersgate Inn as the landmark that denoted the edge of the Moors. The hugeness of the sky, the purpleness of the rampant heather and the sheer loneliness of the place has always inspired me, replenishing me with air to breathe like no other place on this earth that I have been to. It is a magical and wonderful place.
In the fields just by the inn there were also, for many years, a herd of Highland Cattle. Most notable for their large, formidable looking horns and great shaggy russet-brown coats, these hardy animals have been bred in rugged farmland for hundreds of years, possibly as far back as the 6th Century. It always seemed fitting to me that these impressive beasts guarded my most holy and revered place; their majestic presence lent credence to the stories of old that ran amok in my imagination even then.
They are the nearest thing we have in this country to those truly sublime creatures, the North American Bison who once wandered the Great Plains in times gone by, unfettered by man, lords of the land they roamed without impunity. Ah, but I wish I could have seen them!
On a recent journey to Scarborough, we came across another small herd of Highlands and I simply had to stop to look at them, say hello and feel a connection to them. They were happily chomping on silage, taking only a brief moment to look up from under their shaggy gaze to notice my arrival. I had to take a picture of course! I think I might frame this one and put it up on my wall one day.
Thanks for reading!
For a while there I was engulfed in a mortified mire of misery, submerged in suffocating self-loathing as ‘dark as the helmsman’s bark of old that ferried to hell the dead‘ as A. C. Swinburne once said.
When I get so depressed that all I can do is try to beat the world at Scrabble or match rows of analogous ‘Bejewelled’ gems to pass the time, and then bemoan my lack of purpose so that this is almost the only thing that keeps my grey matter from stagnating utterly, I cannot write at all. I should, because the whole process is rewardingly cathartic as I discovered yesterday. I should make myself a motivational poster to put up on my pinboard above my desk to remind me of that fact.
See, now I have a purpose again.
It makes a huge difference.
A while back I visited a local village and took a bunch of photos around the churchyard there. If you click here (or visit the link on the sidebar for the archives in October 2014) you can see the original story. Only if you want to of course… I’m not trying to be bossy here.
Anyhoo, (NOT a typo there – it’s a word I use frequently) you may recall I took a picture of a small bird’s egg lying amongst the leaf-litter between the gravestones and a yew. The fact that there are usually yew trees in graveyards in England (and possibly elsewhere I imagine) is a constant source of amusement between my youngest daughter and I as, having spouted this *fact* as we strolled through her Oxfordshire village one sunny afternoon, I failed miserably and in spectacular fashion to identify a yew in someone’s garden – she’s teased me about it ever since. It’s not really funny now of course – I guess you had to be there – but whenever I see that word it raises a smile in my mind. Which is always a good thing.
Where was I?
Oh, of course!
Back to the story.
The bird’s egg.
Well, of course, I had actually been out that morning to catch something *interesting* to enter into a photo competition that I was keen to tackle. This was to be the second competition that some fantastic people had organised over at the Creative Group for Bedlam Farm which I’ve mentioned before, once or twice, perhaps. The theme this time was ‘Nature’.
A slightly conspiratorial atmosphere prevailed as my FAB hubby and I dressed for our outing in the pre-dawn October darkness. The plan was to go and capture the sunrise over the pumpkin patch on the Pickering Road, about six or seven miles away. It was magical and I was pleased with some of the shots achieved, hoping I had captured something worthy of entering in this contest.
During the first contest earlier in the year I had sent in what I had thought was a winning shot of a bee *visiting* a flower, but it hadn’t even placed, so I was apprehensive about what a winning shot might look like and how on earth I could achieve it. I had agonised for days about which photo to send in and was genuinely devastated when my eventual choice was overlooked for a prize. I was very aware of the deadline approaching for this second match and determined to find something to compete with.
With the sun fully up by eight o’clock, we’d headed home, passing through Rillington on the way. There was something special about the light that morning – cool, bright, crispy and properly autumnal. I had to stop and take some more pictures. I snapped away enthusiastically at kaleidoscopic leaves, briskly babbling brooks and ghostly gravestones in the hoary churchyard. When I wrote about it later I imagined a moment of time travel, being transported through the years to visit the lives of those commemorated in stoney memorials.
And then came a moment of pure clarity. Lying on the leaf litter between the tombstones and the aforementioned yew tree was a forlorn-looking half-eggshell. The edges crazed and fissured and inside was complete empty. Devoid of residue from the albumen or anything else in fact. My eye was drawn as if by some powerful magnetic force to the whiteness and the blank inanition of the fragile shell; I dropped to my knees instantly to find myself almost at eye-level with the fronds of grass and detritus on the ground. This was an automatic move that my brain seemed incapable of controlling – my photographer friend, the inestimable Jeff Anderson, has repeatedly instructed me to ‘get down low’ and search for the light from the right perspective – his words ringing in my ears gave my legs the clear message to move myself into an advantageous position.
It looked even more ethereal from this viewpoint.
I could almost hear the little chirruping that the tiny new life would have made as it freed itself from the confines of the protective shell. Perhaps its mother was answering her offspring’s uncertain pleas, gently encouraging and cajoling the tiny birdlet to cast away their fears and spread their wings so that they could emerge into this wondrous world, continuing a line that is older than Time.
All that remained now was the discarded shell that had cherished its cargo until it was no longer needed.
And I saw myself for the first time.
I’ve been a mother for over thirty-four years and my two eldest children fledged an age ago.
But I still have my Neanderthal at home, for now at least. He will be eighteen in just a couple of days time – in fact with a labour that lasted for thirty-four hours, it should have been his birthday today, but that’s a whole other story that I hope you’ll tune in for on Tuesday. Not long after this momentous occasion he will depart from our nest and start his own adulthood. I am fully aware of this – it’s not like it’s any kind of surprise, I’ve know this day will come since he was first conceived.
The thing is, now it is almost here, and it is tapping me on the shoulder and shouting ‘BOOM’ in my other ear.
I’ll have an empty nest for the first time in my adult life.
I deliberated for weeks about whether or not to send this picture in. It seemed a little simple. Black and white simple.
I played around with the image, giving it different colours to see how it affected the feel of it. Eventually I settled on this hint of green, symbolising envy and perhaps new beginnings, coupled with a dash of blue to add just a touch of sadness to the ambiance of the image.
It turns out that I’ve struck a chord with people, who like this image for its simplicity. I am pleased to say that it won the competition – much to my genuine surprise.
And the judge’s comments, coupled with the congratulatory messages from my fellow Farmies have lifted me back into the Land of the Living. They gave me a moment of real life. I’m so very grateful.
Thanks for reading again!
* The penguin image is from a very informative page about African Penguins that can be found here
Post Script: December the 13th was my mother’s birthday. She would have been ninety-four this year. I mention this because of her connection to the Neanderthal’s birth, which you can read about here, if you wish!
I always wanted to write. I’ve got diaries that I wrote over forty years ago when I was an embryo.
OK, OK, so I was *SLIGHTLY* older than that. I KNOW that embryos have a little trouble with holding a pencil, what with the whole ‘being-inside-another-human’ concept and all that… anyway, it’s been a very loooonng time since I started writing is what I was saying.
But the trouble with my writing is that inspiration comes and goes. I know, deep in my bones, at the most visceral level possible, that in order to be a *Writer* I should stick with it, write every day, write what I know and, above ALL ELSE, keep AT it. Even if what I write is no good. But of course, that’s hard to do when you are me. My biggest fault is perfectionism.
The gaping holes in my diaries over the years are sad testament to my inability to persevere with putting pen to paper. Or, since these are largely proverbial pens and paper in our modern world of technological pens and paper – i.e. computers & keyboards – in the date-ordered folders in my ‘personal writing’ directory. Or even, perhaps more pertinently, in the archives of this blog.
My intention is always to write something. Every day.
I have simply loads of ideas that float in and out of my head. ALL. THE. TIME.
It’s true; if you could construct a gadget that could see *inside * my head and show you my *thoughts*, you’d be amazed at the complexity and variety of seemingly unconnected randomness that fills up all the space there. And, believe me, there’s a WHOLE lot of space in there.
What’s that I hear you saying? There IS such a gadget that already exists? REALLY?
Oh. You mean, like, an x-ray machine don’t you?
Oh. I guess you mean one of those massive MRI thingies then instead?
Well, yes, I suppose it’s possible that you could use one of those to see inside my head, but, you’d get a really strange, sectional version of what’s going on there which is no help really – what you actually need is a full-colour, cinematic, Peter-Jackson-directed, motion picture with panoramic vistas and Wadja-like close-ups, to fully understand what’s going on inside my noggin. Yep. nothing less will do.
So, back here in the real world, my dilemma is causing me some difficulties. Since I don’t actually have access to Peter Jackson, or any underling who might be obliging, to produce movies of my stream of consciousness, I have to find and then string actual words together to describe the chaos that inhabits my grey matter. AND NO… I am NOT talking about my grey hair… thank you!
I have been remiss of late. It has been fourteen days since my last posting… and that was a repost of someone else’s comments about my book. (I have a vision now of a Catholic Confessional, dark and impenetrable, with clouds of incense creating an unreal, other-worldly atmosphere. Deep silence pervades the set, save for the gentle snores of the priest, which isn’t good for my self-esteem… see, this is how it’s going to have to be now, with me WRITING all the background stuff that’s going on – get use to it!). Flattering though the comments were, it is hardly original content and that IS what I am aiming to produce with each new missive from the Grange.
And it’s not like there’s been nothing going on for me to be inspired to write about – quite the opposite in fact. I suppose it’s the eternal paradox: do I live life to the full, finding something exciting in each and every moment of the day to wax lyrical about or, alternatively, do I devote all my hours to writing about stuff that’s materializing from my mind, which effectively means that I live in a world of fantasy, rather than experiencing my life as it happens?
I know, I know, the secret of a successful writer’s life is getting a perfect balance between the two. Or in other words, as Douglas Adams would have us believe, 42. See… there it was again, yet another tangent to try and map for you… it’s exhausting inside my head! Now, I have peculiarly unnatural aliens traveling in a clinical alabaster space-ship irresponsibly transforming into random shizzle, having accidentally engaged the Improbability Drive. Marvin, the paranoid android, is mumbling mutinously in the background. GET A GRIP woman!
What with brilliant birthday parties – Gregstock 2014 is very likely to return next year, when it will be renamed ‘Gregstock 2015’, unsurprisingly – and wonderful weddings, family Do’s have been in good supply and have a multitude of storylets that are simply aching to be told. But this isn’t the place for them today.
A while ago, I teased you all with a promise to scribble about a local beauty spot, Castle Howard, made famous by all sorts of TV and film projects that have used the stunning pulchritudinous elegance embedded in every stone that harks from the period of the last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne, as a backdrop for their conniving and a-scheming characters aplenty in such diverse productions as ‘Brideshead Revisited’, ‘Twelfth Night’,’Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties’ and most recently, ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’. I’ll leave you to explore the excellent website for more details on this bastion of English heritage – it’s well worth a browse. Just click on the link above.
So, without further ado, here are those images of part of the Castle Howard grounds – we arrived too late in the day to visit inside the gardens, but even the Garden Centre and picnic areas are so prettily photogenic.
The peacocks strutted all around us, quite oblivious to our intrusions.
And, finally, Yorkshire folk are generally very direct… this sign adorns the roadside, just down the hill from the obelisk.
Thanks for reading!
Digital art is an interesting concept. I am a total novice of course, having only recently explored some of the possibilities with Photoshop – I yearn to have a wonderful tool like an iPad and the fabulous art software, ‘ArtRage’ or some of the other, equally exciting tools that are available. Of course, I recognise that we have other priorities, not least of which is to find some fulfilling, useful and rewarding (both emotionally and financially!) work for me to undertake. But, I digress. (Did I hear you say ‘How unusual!’ there?)
So this evening I’ve been toying with a less-than inspiring photo of a Californian poppy that was growing in my front garden earlier this Summer. Here’s how it looked to start with:
So I considered taking the colours to some extremes and came up with these two:
Then I really started to play around – the middle section of this had seventeen layers at one point! I liked the effect of placing overlaid sections at varying degrees of transparency and I experimented with some different kinds of shapes to select. Then I added the two colourized versions to the top and bottom of the image.
Next I attempted to add new layers to bring the more defined areas further into the exploration of colours and shapes, hopefully creating new textures to add greater depth to the image. I liked this version best so far, so in order to give a more complete product, I’ve added a mat.
Of course, these are simplistic early explorations of ideas, but I think that I do quite like them, although I’m not sure why.
I’d be interested to know your thoughts on these experiments… please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me on facebook (click the tab at the top of the page 🙂 )
Thanks for reading!
I’m on a bit of a mission.
To create the *perfect* floral picture.
There’s a small problem.
I don’t really have a clue what a *perfect floral picture* looks like.
Hmm. When I look around for inspiration, I find myself in awe of others who seem much more than capable of capturing and creating some exquisite images – many of these are of floral origin or they include an element of flora within them somewhere. Some are gorgeous, serene, colourful and often textural too, whilst others are at the very least pretty.
But I’m not after pretty. Or even ‘near-perfect’.
So, it begs the question, what does ‘perfect’ look like to me? To anyone?
And therein lies the essence of such a question of course.
Because everyone has an opinion and opinions are subjective – they have to be, it’s what makes us individuals. If everyone had the same opinion about everything then we’d be living in some Orwellian nightmare that I, for one, would rather not consider a viable option, thank you very much. It would be awful, in the most true sense of that word.
Earlier this week I was reading an article by a friend from the Open Group for Bedlam Farm, who had been utterly devastated by the opinion of someone whom she figured was fairly important (to her) being a long way from the ideal ‘This is fabulous work – you are a force of nature, a creative genius and I bow to your awesomeness!‘ kind of feedback that clearly wasn’t actually expected. Even the most hardy of souls longs for acceptance, for reassurance and for encouraging feedback and when it’s not forthcoming, we find ourselves emotionally beaten up. It’s what we all do – anyone who makes something where there was nothing before. Anyone who ‘creates’ something, often from disparate raw materials – some pieces of fabric, a blank sheet of paper/computer screen, paints, knitting needles and some hanks of wool perhaps. It’s not the elements of what is used that makes something *art*, but the practicality of creating something from these things that makes a creative soul *tick*. And when someone offers an opinion on the outcome of all that creativity, we like to think that we’ve steeled ourselves for anything that comes our way, but the reality is of course that criticism, no matter how it is given, can usually sneak between the chinks of armour to slice our creative souls into a million teeny pieces as effectively as the traditional Japanese santoku.
My friend spent some considerable time thinking about what this knock-back had meant to her, for her; how it affected what she wrote or created in the future and came up with the awesome conclusion that everyone’s opinions are just and only that – their viewpoints, neither more or less valid than anyone else’s viewpoints. As ever, with sound advice coming from the inestimable Jon Katz, along the lines of ‘Never read what the critics say‘ I felt as though I had been taught a truly invaluable lesson. Stop trying to please others – you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can never please all of them all of the time. Simple, isn’t it? You’d think.
Now, if only I could come to terms with my own opinion, then maybe I’d be able to *see* that elusive perfection that I’m searching for. I wonder of Van Gogh or Frida Khalo or any of the other inspirational artists I can think of could *see* what perfection looked like for them? Did they ever achieve it? Does anyone?
So, with that in mind, I’m offering a few pictures that were captured earlier this weekend, most of which I’ve manipulated to create something new, which technically at least, I think perhaps makes me an artist.
I’m really not ready to put that down as my occupation though…
The City of Leeds rose was planted late – only about two months ago. The first buds began to open this week. It’s a stunning flower, with soft velvety petals and a deep, rich pink hue that seems almost perfect to me. It’s a challenge to get some good lighting though!
Like many amateur gardeners, I make up my own hanging baskets, usually filled with petunias, geraniums, fuchsias and lobelia, which I think gives a nice colour selection to them. The lobelia has been particularly profusely flowering this year so far.
My sweet peas adorn a south-facing wall about fifteen metres from my studio door. I don’t often venture out when it’s been raining, but it was warm rain, so I thought this might be OK. I’ve started to use a technique to extend the original picture into a framed mat – this one is lightly blurred. Maybe its the colours, but I do like this one.
The pinks sit next to the night-scented stock, creating a heady cocktail of perfume each evening. Their variegated petals look like a painting to me.
I have an ongoing battle with the wild poppies that love to pop up all over the place, often uninvited. This one sits happily among the sweet peas, like a cuckoo in a strangers’ nest. When I looked really carefully, I noticed the centre; far from the plain black button that I thought was what I’d find, in reality, there’s this delicate nine-pointed star with gossamery tendrils supporting tiny black seeds. And the pollen is purple! Who knew?
Naturally, I had to orb it! For poppy lovers, I wanted to extend the boundary once more, adding the original image incorporated into the mat background.
Asiatic lilies are undoubtedly showy, brightly coloured flowers with proper in-your-face-gorgeousness. I loved the colour on this one and treated it to a focus on that by using a Photoshop filter that gives a wide brush or palette-knife feel to the image. For me this one is all about the colour and details needed to simply take the bus home.
I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me to see bees pollinating so busily each day. This guy has his trendy U2 sunny’s perched up on his forehead (in my imagination – stay with me here people!) whilst he gorges himself on the strawberry flower’s offering. I’m just chuffed that I’ll be getting some delicious strawberries in a few weeks… I thought the plant had died!
In my efforts to attract pollinating insects, bees and butterflies, to my garden, I’ve scattered wildflower seeds all over the place – this one is a bit like a cornflower (or Batchelor buttons as I’ve heard them called) but it’s definitely not a cornflower. However, I find spiky flowers acquire this glorious linear quality when they are rondulated.
Of course, as ever, I do value your opinions about my work. I am not quite as evolved down that artistic path yet – but at least I am stepping out and walking down that road, something I couldn’t do a few months ago.
I’ve got nothing when it comes to an E.T.A. though…
Thanks for reading!