Tuesday, February 27

Murky waters

 A fair bit has happened since my last post - life does that. It happens and then suddenly you realise you've not actually written any of those amazing stories, sad things, wonderful walks, funny moments and silly snapshots and when you look back - are they really worth re-hashing in a witty or waffly post?

Nope.

So, instead I thought I'd share a photo or two of some recent arty stuff, not brilliant, but for me an achievement. Getting back into art has been a bit of a slog and now I am regularly sketching and painting I can see I am out of practise. 

It is however bringing me a lot of pleasure - which is far more important to me now than the need to perform or provide work for a paid commission  - and a relief. I am painting for me.

An odd post, I agree but, isn't that what life is? 


Post Script : and if you are wondering what on earth the cat is resting her head on in the first photo - she has a fabric toy fish stuffed with catnip which she uses as her pillow - we call it her 'cuddlefish' 


Thursday, February 8

Random Notes on a Thursday

The promised snow has arrived, swirling small pellets of white covering the garden and dusting the trees. Despite this, the blackbirds are cheerfully kicking around in the flowerbeds unearthing morsels and the robin in fiercely guarding the bird feeder. I am so glad I am not at work today!

Definitely knitting weather (and red petticoat weather too!) I have the warmest red flannel 'underskirt' I wear with my tartan pinafore - that with thick leggings - I find cozier than wearing jeans, tights and boots. 
At work we keep finding conkers the local park squirrels have buried in the kitchen garden. Some have started to germinate. So seeing the same squirrels keep digging up our snowdrop and bluebell bulbs we see this as payment and have gently planted up the Horse Chestnut seeds and hope they all grow.
It is so dark inside today - I have switched on our fairy lights and moved the glitter ball to bring a little 'light' relief into the lounge. I also lit a candle for the wax burner and now the room smells gently of amber and warm spices, perfect for today's weather outside.

Yes I am waffling - sort of procrastinating too - I am part of a weekly art challenge to get us all back into 'arting' and once I have started - I am fine, it is the STARTING I am dancing around. That and the theme this week - PIRATES. Hmmm. I don't want to draw something gimmicky or box office inspired (think Pirates of the Caribbean) so this needs a bit of thinking. Last week's was BIRDS and I was in my element!


 
Still snowing..... Oo arrr me hearties - I better get swashbuckling!


Post Script: Blogger is still playing up - I am unable to comment on several blogs - so excuse me if I seen to be silent, I am not. I have, however, found a couple of ways to get around signing on and not be anonymous hopefully things will get back to normal soon - here is to spring xx






Tuesday, February 6

Don't believe the hype

I am - or so I thought - fairly savvy when it comes to the 'ideal and perfect life' that the majority of instagrammers imply. Often with a rather cynical eye I will view a post and wonder how many folk were AI-deleted or if the image was snapped quickly so to avoid the inevitable crowds.

But...... Apparently not, even I can be drawn in! 

A couple of weeks ago,  I saw a lovely little reel of a pair of pretty legs in black leggings with the lightest grey casual crocs daintily tripping along some stepping stones. Now - what you would not have picked up with me just saying 'stepping stones' what how WHERE she was and WHERE those stones were going made me over excited. 

They were in Cheedale not far from where we were staying a couple of weekends ago - so I showed Himself and begged to go. (Visions of photos opportunities and stories to share filled my tiny brain...)


A quick screen grab of said reel - see what I mean! (images from @ukhiddengems)

Himself checked out parking and said he'd found a pull off place just above the river and planned a route. Great excitement!

When we pulled up - we could barely find a space (that should have been the first warning), we were fortunately in my little car rather than Zeb (our converted van) and slipped into a small space which had been previously rejected by larger vehicles. The place was CRAWLING with folk - mostly in pretty faux fur hooded parkas and white trainers. However, the amount of red faced, mud covered and sweaty weary walkers returning to the carpark should have been the next warning....

From where we parked, I looked over the wall down into the valley are marvelled at the row of houses at the valley bottom, wondering how much sunshine they would get down there while we strapped on our boots.  Then we set off. Down into that valley - all you could hear were shrieks as folk were slipping down the path. Squeaks of alarm as they grabbed each other. Groans as mud splashed up on them. We finally reached the bottom fairly unscathed but even we agreed that the recent rains had made the stony track rather slippery.


Crossing the burbling river towards the cottages I'd spied from above, we then turned right and followed the well worn path along the river. It got muddier and muddier, there were kids and dogs and fed up parents trying to stay upright as they herded their families along.

The path had obviously been hammered by previous flooding and in places was quite trickly. As we continued passing day trippers and their white trainers I wondered if they too had been taken in by the reel and were expecting to recreate the same magical moments along the stepping stones......
The river was just a turbulent coffee coloured mass of water - that and the pale sunlight and drabness of winter made for a rather sepia glow. However the brightly coloured parkas and kids coats dotted the length of the pathway added colour to the valley bottom.
We then caught up with, and became tangled up in, a huge family with lots of chatty children just as we arrived at the first (did not know there were two) stepping stones. It is at this point I shall mention the word MUD. Please keep that in mind.
All thoughts of daintily tripping along with my cellphone and my not quite as pretty jeans and boots along the lovely stones in crystal clear water beneath a loomingly HUGE rock face just went out of the window. It was every one for themselves!
Slippery? Did I mention Slippery - No - ok SLIPPERY SLIPPERY SLIPPERY - like B/@@&# HE|| SLIPPERY!
Himself set me off first - he knew I wanted to take pictures, so he and the extended family let me go first ...................... ooooof, I very quickly discovered that I could not happily walk (they were just a bit too far to stride - I had to slightly jump step to reach) and balance (not good since my knee surgery) and film (I needed BOTH my eyes and HANDS to feel safe) and oh yes ... mud. Slippery mud. Not sure if I mentioned either word.

As I reached that corner - where the stones go round to 'nowhere' - a  woman popped round with a cheery grin and her family .... and we HAD TO PASS EACH OTHER! She stopped smiling when she saw how many folk were behind me (possibly about 12 - 14 in the family along plus others we'd over taken and had now caught up as the family passed each child from rock to rock...)

When I reached the far side back on to 'dry' land I was quite relieved. Himself and I then strode off leaving the good natured traffic jam behind us and after another five - ten minutes of slipping alongside and below the huge outcrop we came to the second set of stepping stones - I sent Himself first this time!

These stones were larger and slightly closer together so I was able to get some film and the folk at the other end fortunately waited for us to cross before setting off. Talk about the relief of walking on a muddy slippery path again! (Is it at this point I mention I saw and spoke to Steve Backshall?) 

At the furthest point of our walk, we left the river, returned up the valley side and met the now disused railway (turned into a lovely dry - mud free - road) we sat down, drank tea and nibbled our snacks. Going back was a completely different beast!
Tunnel after tunnel burrowed through the hill sides made for a wonderful return.
Each one had it's own personality and resonance - the interior brickwork was fantastic and the slow progress along the muddy path in the valley bottom was soon forgotten as we strode back towards the start.

Was it a good walk? - definitely, despite its challenges - yes, was glad to do it. Would I do it again? No. Some walks I will return to year on year, this one - not so much. Been there, Done that, Not doing it again! Will I be taken in by another wonderful Instagram post? Hope not - but.... you never know!😆


Post script: I am writing this as the rain is hammering it down outside - absolutely lashing it down. Snow has been promised for a couple of days time.... I am ready for spring. And you?




Thursday, February 1

Saturday was a good day!

Last weekend was rather good - actually it was excellent. We spent it in the little village of Bonsall in Derbyshire - our home for a couple of days was on the upper floor of a converted stone building with a rather interesting history. It has been storage for the pub, a function room for dancing in the 1800s, a meeting place for the home guard during WW2 now a holiday let upstairs and a deli shop and tea room bakery below.

We'd visited Bonsall last year during the well-dressing and loved the quirk-ness of the village. The residents must love living there as there is a very strong community spirit and it shows.

We walked miles around and through the village - the place is rich with history and in places I felt like I was walking through treacle - I could almost taste the past. Sunken lanes, lynchets , barns, ghost signs, stone walls, clog worn stone steps and drovers tracks.


We also visited Wirksworth - definitely a place that needs further investigation - again lots of very visible history - so much to see.


Matlock and Matlock Bath, who have been places to visit for hundreds of years thanks to the naturally warm spring waters - although both interesting were a bit too touristy for us, so we did a cursory explore then left to........
...investigate Cromford.


Much less commercial and in places still very run down and in desperate need of rescue - but wonderfully interesting and bursting at the seems with history. 

By the end of Saturday we were definitely 'walked out' but had had a brilliant time. Time to return to the apartment and meet up with Eldest and his lovely girl who were joining us for the evening.

Post Script: mini adventures are amazing - they can fill your weekends with so much colour and inspiration! I took soooooooooooooooooo many photos that it got a little silly.....
Have you had a mini adventure recently? I hope so 😊


Thursday, January 25

It's just a phase 🌘🌗🌕🌓🌒

I have, for some time, been having a case of the 'wanties' but was refusing myself as I suspected what I wanted was probably being made in some sweatshop.... So I fought off those 'wanties'.

A little later I saw an artist making tree decorations using the metal from a used tomato puree tube and it was like a light being switched on. Firstly I made some tiny decorations for my tree ..... 

Then I used and saved my next tube of tomato puree for - the waxing and waning of the moon.

Want to know how I made it? Oh go on - I'll tell you seeing how nicely you asked!!

What you need is:

  1. metal tube of tomato puree (Aldi's is a lovely gold colour on the inside, don't know about other brands)
  2. Wooden spoon
  3. Scissors
  4. art paint brush - I used the wooden end for all the mark making 
  5. needle and thread
  6. black paint - I used acrylic
  7. Cork board/mat
  8. kitchen towel or rag
  9. something circular - I used a large reel to make the shape of the moons
  10. A nice twiggy twig
  • When using up your tomato puree, don't roll or scrunch the tube as you go along, try and keep it as flat and as undented as possible. Cut off the top and bottom and along one side.
  • Open - CAREFULLY as now you have sharp metal edges
  • Wash and dry and then with a wooden spoon, rub out any crease marks or kinks as gently as you can
  • Using the back of the paintbrush, draw around your circular template - you need FOUR moons to complete this particular pattern.
  • Cut out the circles CAREFULLY!!
  • One circle remains whole - this is the full moon
  • Cut the second directly in half
  • The final two circles, cut a large C shape off leaving you with SEVEN moon phases.
    • New, Waxing Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full, Waning Gibbous, Waning Quarter and Old.
  • Using the back of your paintbrush and leaning on your cork board (a folded tea towel works too), dimple and pock mark your moon phases.
  • When happy with the texture, use the side of your brush and gently curve down the edges to give more of a three dimension shape.
  • Using the acrylic black paint, I painted the backs to hide the origins of the tin - fully dry.
  • Splodge black on the front, allow to partially dry then remove the excess with kitchen towel, add extra paint if you feel you need more depth - allow to dry fully
  • Carefully pierce the top of the moons with a needle and thread - making sure you have a mirror image of the segments. 
  • Tie to a suitable piece of twiggage
  • Hang up!
  • Step back feel chuffty wuffty with yourself and go and make yourself a brew and wash the paint off your fingers! 


Post Script - trying not to huff too much when the moon phases gently twist round and settle back to front.....
Have you had the 'wanties' and realised that you can make/do/find what you wanted without breaking the bank?
Let me know if you have made something like this or you try this one out - but if you do - PLEASE WATCHOUT FOR SHARP EDGES (yes I was typing firmly😁🌓🌕🌗)

Thursday, January 18

Bugged

It was ... - 9°C (15.8°F)  this morning when we got up - well I say we - Himself had to chisel his van out of the ice box it seemed to have acquired over night. He'd covered the windscreen and set up the van heater ready to switch on as soon as he was up.

Me? well, I was in bed still nursing a mug of steaming hot tea.... did I feel a tad guilty? Sort of.... 


...But not quite enough to do anything other than weakly offer some help which he (fortunately) turned down.

I don't work on a Thursday - so although I was home yesterday (Wednesday) it was still technically a work day so I cracked on with some paintings I am doing for the garden. When I initially took over the job, one of the first things I noticed - the lack of any insect or bird life. The walled garden (still very new then) had the occasional crow or pigeon visitor but on the whole - a very quiet and lonely place despite being situated in a park and surrounded by gardens.

So - as soon as I could I started to 'age' the garden, fill it with not just monoculture rows of vegetables but flowers and shrubs. Slowly but surely the insect population began to increase. I had an apprentice and a student the first summer and we did a 'non-scientific' but serious-to-us insect survey and found that in those few short months - we had more than I had hoped which confirmed my decisions. 

Since then we have pushed the garden to have many styles of planting - not just for interest for the visitor but to increase biodiversity and introduce the idea that vegetable gardening can be not just productive but ornamental as well as being pollinator friendly.

This summer we'll be adding these painted plaques (plus more which are being painted by an artistic volunteer) around the garden where the insects have been spotted. On the backs we are going to write their Latin and common names - hopefully it will spark interest and curiosity and encouragement.
The bird life has improved too - I am more than delighted. There is room for improvement but as far as things go - I am very pleased.

The insects are: Ground Beetle, Hairy Shield Bug, Garden Bumble Bee, European Bee (honey bee) and Rosemary Beetle.


Post Script : It is a really chilly but beautiful day, think I might venture outside with a mug of tea and my camera and try to capture the magic of a sparkly ice encrusted twig or two, besides I need to feed the birds and top up their water. But first I think I need to put on a whole lot more clothing!! What are you doing today? Keeping warm I hope and enjoying the clear blue skies.