Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Feeling Silly?

I had a lovely surprise today when the post brought me a card with a photo of a piglet on the front. The piglet was wearing a fuzzy shocking pink headband with a pom pom bouncing on the end of each of a pair of ant- like antennae.
The caption said
"Take Time Every Day To Do Something Silly".
(I'd love to re-produce the card for you to see but I don't want to break the image copyright, so you'll have to take my word for it this is one appealing piglet)

Apart from the encouragement and news sent with the card the words on the front set me thinking, which I guess was what they were supposed to do.
First thought, "Is this a suggestion that I need to plan for more silliness in addition to my ordinary spontaneous stuff?"
Second thought, " No, this is an endorsement for the silliness I already do and an ENCOURAGEMENT to stick with it." (Kate, who sent me the card knows a bit about how silly I can get).
Threaded with these thoughts was a background sense of the derivation of the word "Silly". Hadn't this word at one time meant "holy"?
Somewhere a bell was ringing so I followed it up with a bit of research and found that prior to 1280 a.d. the word meant
"innocent", "pious", "blessed", "blissful" and "happy".
Only later did it slide towards the meaning we now know.

I re-called something silly that I did a while ago which I suppose had been partially planned in as much as I had thought about doing it for a while before I got around to it. I must admit I'm a bit proud of it because not only was it publicly silly, it hurt as well!
We live near the lovely little town of Kenilworth which as well as a castle where Elizabeth the first was entertained, also has the ruins of an abbey. The Abbey Fields are steep at one side with a long descent towards the Abbey Ponds. Every time I went I'd eye that bank and think, "One day I'm going to roll the length of that like we used to do as kids," but for one reason or another I always baulked. Then one day I just handed hubby my glasses, checked the area for doggy does, and got on with it.
I have to report the first time really hurt. I hadn't done this since I was a skinny kid, and well, how can I put this? - there were now more bits of me to get bumped on the way down. And where had I put my arms all those years ago? The third time I got it right, but it was a real learning curve. Or should that be learning slope?
Anyway the reason I'm telling you this isn't just to display my eccentricities but today, remembering this alongside the etymology of the word "Silly", I wonder if the layout of Abbey Fields was the same when the monks were in residence, and if it was, did the monks ever relax and exercise their innocent, blessed, happiness by rolling down the hillside as well?

Whatever they did , hand me my shocking pink headband. No, not that one. The one with the antennae and pompoms...

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

View from the Borders

View from the flower borders that is, because I'm still weeding and seeding while the wonderful weather holds. (If there is anybody out there reading this I'm not writing a gardening blog, it's just that time of the year).
Despite my efforts to change things over the years the soil here is so full of clay that it is far too heavy and cleggy to work on if it gets wet so it has to be all systems go while I get the chance. Of course if the weather stays sunny too long it turns to concrete and it practically takes a pick to break the ground. At present it's just right, and even hubby said how good the newly turned earth smells. Getting my hands in it is bliss even when it means they feel like a pair of hedgehogs afterwards. Just can't wear gloves to garden.
Unusually I had some time on my own and the house to myself the other day, so I ran through the options of what I could do with this freedom. I could jump in the car and go anywhere for a few hours but in the end the borders won and I went on with my battle to clear the ground. My tussles around the camellias resulted in a lot of buds and blossoms getting knocked off the bush so I rescued a few and put them in a little bowl I'd found in a charity shop. If they only last a very short time they are too lovely to leave where they were.

I know how boring I sound but I love a bit of solitude and I was really enjoying myself.

After I'd finished my stint in the borders, peeled, showered and changed, I took a cup of coffee and my library book and climbed up into the studio. I opened all the windows so that I could hear the children in the gardens around enjoying themselves in the sunshine and settled myself to just sit and be. It was so good to hear the the golden chime of summer floating up on the warm
air in that way that feels so timeless and reassuring.
Hubby had reminded me that there are at least two paintings which need to be finished so I put one up on the easel and spent a good while just looking at it, and then kept looking up from time as I read trying to catch it, (or myself) by surprise and see it through fresh eyes so that it could tell me what was needed to carry it forward.
It is an abstraction on some lakes I love to go to when I go home to Wales. It is a place I love and it often turns up in one form or another when I begin to paint.
Well I now know where I'm going to go with it and can't wait to break out the oil paints and get to it. I know the studio tidy up isn't finished but that will get done around the painting sometime.

Just as well rain is forecast and I can retreat back to my eyrie with a clear conscious, and leave the garden to another time.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Memories are Made of Ths

Another day of bright sunshine so of course the garden won out on out on the list of priorities.
Trying not to over-do it and keep some energy in reserve I put a strict time limit on how long to spend tackling one particular tangled patch, promising myself I wouldn't be tempted to keep doing "just this little bit more."
Wrapped around a cluster of flag irises, peonies, and bluebells, I found this low-growing perennial that originally came from my grandparents home back in Wales. It is the home I was brought up in and where my brother still lives today.
I don't know what it's botanical name is. We called it "snow-on-the-mountain" and it grew in the crevices of the stone wall cascading down, topped with starry white flowers at the back of the house. This wall, typically for houses built on a Welsh hillside, is at the top of the flight of stone steps that led up to the garden perched level with our bedrooms.

As I dug the plant free I smiled as I remembered the time my mother proudly told my father what a good crop of tomatoes she had. Dad, who had been brought up on a farm and hated anything even vaguely agricultural, rather than go into the garden to look, promised her he'd take a look at her tomatoes out of the bedroom window, where he would be almost as near them as he would be had he climbed the steps.
Gardens are a treasury of plants with this power to remind us of loved places and people. Some of mine have been much cherished gifts from garden centres, others like this one have been transplanted from some patch of earth particularly dear to me. With this in mind I potted some up for my daughter, granddaughters, and niece, so that they can have their own bit of the old "Rose Cottage" garden if they want

In another corner of the garden was this little surprise bunch of violets which had sown themselves in a shady pot.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Trying Something New.

Just excited at trying something new today!

Desperately missing painting so I decided to try a small format, like those 6" x 6" I've seen on the daily painting sites. I usual work quite large, which takes a deal of time and energy to complete. The idea with this is to work quickly of course, so what could be better when I'm still in a bit of a slump re. energy.

I didn't have any board prepared so made things difficult for myself by simply cutting a large cardboard envelope to the required size and waded in with acrylics instead of oils. Not ideal, (card buckled and furred, no extender for acrylics so they didn't remain workable), but so much fun.

I finished this in about 1 hour 20 mins and was able to manipulate the paint with my fingers as I usually do. I was surprised at the flexibility working this small allows and how with more preparation of materials and subject it could be possible to make some interesting studies, and exploration of technique and spatial effects. Yum, yum!

Oh, I nearly forgot!


Try something new today yourself.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Goals and How to Achieve Them

You may remember I had made a list of things that I wanted to get done, with the idea that if I had specific goals there would be a much better chance of them getting completed by a certain time.
Can any body tells me how it works when there are constant other demands that push t'others down the list and energy just will not stretch every which way.
For instance coming back from Cornwall I was expecting to finish tidying the studio but the unexpected good weather meant that at last the garden could be tackled, and you just can't book
the weather so of course that took precedent, along with all the regular chores.

These are some of my hubby's
camelias which are
just beginning to go over already.
They flourish on neglect
and mulches o
f tea bags.

Betwixt gardening and chores there were granddaughters and great grandson on a visit, which is a delight which leads me to suggest a date for a family dinner here. Another delight. Followed by complete melt down, and inability to move a muscle, and there is so much I want to do!
Added to this frustration is the guilt that I do seem to bring this on myself. I KNOW I should ration my activity or hit a physical slump, but there is something so heady in the feeling of achievement when I can just seem to keep steaming ahead.

Perhaps I should forget my targets and just simply "go with the flow" as I usually do, but with a much greater appreciation of what I actually DO achieve by this means.
In this I'm trying to take a lesson from my great grandson who on the completion of any task, gives a victory yell of "I DID IT!" I know it's true that at 2 and a bit a lot of what he's doing is still new to him, but I hope he never loses the sense of himself that he's obviously got now.
Somewhere along the way it becomes easier to take note of what we are NOT achieving than what we really ARE.
Anybody going to join me in celebrating? O.K. think of a thing, anything, no matter how small, that you've done today and yell, ( you can yell in your head, but out loud feels good),


As for the garden I've made a start and there are lettuce and spring onions planted. I'm going to put swiss chard, beetroot, and french beans in the flower borders as they are beautiful to look at as well as eat.

Here is a pastel of courgets and artichokes that I did some time ago.
Don't you think they are as beautiful as flowers? (Sadly not from my garden though).

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Our Visit to the Eden Project

The main reason for our trip to Cornwall was the visit to the Eden Project that we'd long been promising ourselves, and I have to say it is really impressive.
Of course everybody heads straight for the Biomes, (pictured above). We opted for the tropical Biome first and there is much to take in, yet from your first step the facts about our amazingly bio-diverse planet are
presented in such a way that
you just can't resist being

educated,even should you want to.

Just to give you a taste, one of the many fun ways of learning is the mysterious cabinet on the right, which opens to show something about the history of the spice trade, and how lives were affected by the riches that changed hands as a result.

I'm not going to spoil it by showing you the magical inside just in case you should go yourself one day!

And wouldn't you love to be small eno
ugh to get into this velcro suit and learn about seed dispersal by hurling yourself against a wall you could stick to? I know I would have liked to have had a go.

Wherever you looked were folks of all ages enjoying themselves and learning as they went.

On the left are a few of the older "kids" who found it hard to move away once they had become enthralled by the story teller in the Mediterranean Biome.

With all this and much, much ,more, why did I feel a sense that something was missing? As we drove away there was no mistaking a feeling of let down.
Was it just the anti-climax that often follows when we actually get to see what we've long a-waited, or heard glowing reports about? It had been a rich, enjoyable experience and yet...

I guess what was missing for me was the sheer serendipity of nature in the wild. At heart my favourite places are the wild ones. So rich and beautiful as it is, anything as controlled as the Eden Project is has got to leave a bit of me longing for some rugged hills or straggly countryside.
It's just the way I am.

I hope you go and see all that the Eden Project has to offer and see what you think for yourself.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Away From it All - Or Am I?

Well the old magic worked. Having taken almost every shred of warm and waterproof clothing I possess down to Cornwall, the weather turned all kind and gentle; smiling sunnily, and keeping chilliness to the very edges of the wind.
We found lovely cosy retreats in the beautiful quiet of the countryside, and were able to do a lot in a short time, yet still with time to just sit and soak in everything around us.

Athough it's been a long while since we had a break, we fell quite easily into our familiar travel routine.
For instance we try and make a start on any
snacks prepared for the journey as soon as we've turned out of the end of the our road. (O.K. it's usually me, but I think driving takes energy, and energy needs replenishing - regularly / frequently ).
When we get to our destination we usually share the settling in process thus. I unpack and stash our belongings, and stow suitcases, whilst husband switches on t.v. and proceeds to find where the different channels are on the remote, sometimes having to wrestle with a freeview remote in his other hand as well. All this is accompanied with various mutterings about the awkwardness or otherwise of the set up, strength of signal, reception, and assurances that he will make a cup of tea once he's got all this sorted.
Sometimes he manages to test the bed springs at the same time, by sitting on the edge of the bed whilst testing the t.v. At others he merely tests my patience by standing stock still right next to the suitcase stand so that I have to weave around him, but such is the concentration needed to find the sports channel I know any protestations will fall on deaf ears.

Wherever we fetch up, it feels like home right away.

The preliminaries over we are free to sally forth and spy out the land. The silvery sun-lit sea was shot just approaching sun-set from the bridge between Teignmouth and Shaldon. The other shot was taken some hours later as we returned from our first visit to a jazz cafe.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Easter Holidays Anyone?

It is has been a by-word with me for years that no matter how late Easter falls, it is still always too early in the year to go away. Well that's how it is in Britain anyway.
No matter how many daffodils are nodding in the breeze the breeze they are nodding in is decidedly nippy, and the little lambs leaping in the fields need those woolly coats.
It may look nice if the sun's out but it's all best seen through a window, and preferably one not too far from my own cosy hearth.
So this year when we are experiencing the worst freakishly cold weather for decades, (even snow further north!) am I looking forward to a snug Easter at home? Am I buffaloes! No, this year we have
decided to go down to Cornwall for a few days to take in the Eden Project.
Of course the suitcase will be bulging with all the different layers that life in spring-time Britain normally demands, - and then some. Thank goodness we are going by car and nobody need ever know that I would rather carry all of my wardrobe with me than risk being cold.
Because we are both Welsh we take getting wet as a matter of course.
Anyway I'll let you know what occurred when I get back.

This small painting was buried in my untidy studio. Looking at it now I think it is well suited to being an "Easter" picture, although it is really one of a series that started with seeing the winter sun coming through some trees in a wood near Kenilworth.
We use the word "buried" quite often just as I have done about the painting, when something we are looking for is hidden amongst other stuff, but the only time we are likely to use the word "resurrection" is when something's been brought back from disuse and obscurity. Like an old skirt that's come back into fashion maybe.
Strange that when Easter has far more to do with life out of death "resurrection" than anything else, the things which spring to mind when we mention it are usually "chocolate eggs", "crowded airports", or "It's too early to be going away".

Easter is about new life,
hope re-born.
May you know these Easter Blessings in abundance.