So there I was happily writing my blog and the page froze. Long story short, I lost the post, couldn’t even find it saved in draft mode. The irony is that my post this month was basically a rant about the vagaries of technology!
Anyhoo, another long story short, I decided not to rewrite the original as I wondered if it was a sign to just let the frustrations go! So I went out into the garden (my happy place) to take a few deep breaths and smell the roses. Literally.
When we moved here over twenty-six years ago, we inherited some rose bushes and while we’ve lost a couple, the ones I love the best continue to bloom year after year.
This is my favourite. Not only beautiful, but has the most gorgeous scent, too. For some reason I never cut the roses to bring them into the house, although I do cut other flowers, but the roses just seem to want to bloom where they were planted, you know?
The new dahlias are coming along, too. Usually by this time the slugs have been nibbling their little hearts out. The recommendation to put copper wire around the new plants seems to be working a treat to deter the slugs. I bought dish scourers and pulled them out from the middle. Can’t wait to see how they turn out.
The sweet pea actually survived the winter and is now growing far better than the new sweet pea plants, and the tub of petunias and lobelia just makes me SO happy, as does the agapanthus.
The power and beauty of nature certainly has the ability to uplift. So much that I can barely remember what had me angst-ridden in the first place.
And, of course, I can’t do a post about things that make me happy and relaxed without including my main stress-reliever and happiness-maker, can I?
I cannot believe we are midway through May, if only the weather would improve too. Here in the UK it has been a very windy and breezy Spring, today being the first true warm day when we could go outside without coats and gloves, the heating indoors switched off, hopefully now until Autumn, and the sun shining enough to encourage Dave and me out for a drive, taking in four garden centres – a record for us. We only came home when we did because we couldn’t fit any more plants into the car, and ours is no small vehicle, that’s for sure. The next few days will find us busy in the garden.
It was good to be out, relaxing together as the last few months have seen me working in my office-studio-workroom most days, either writing/editing or painting. It has been the time of year when my art takes over as exhibition season loomed again. This year, I decided to exhibit at two shows, one run by my art club, the other an open exhibition in a nearby town. A total of twelve paintings needed to be chosen, framed and made ready for hanging. Choosing which ones is always difficult, as is deciding the sale price, especially this year considering the current financial crisis. Would people want to buy? How much would they want to spend?
All artworks were delivered on time, and I could breathe a sigh of relief. But there was still more to do. As I am on the club committee responsible for public relations and the group website, I needed to put out plenty of advertisements in art magazines and local press, put posts up on social media, and various websites to entice the public to come. The show is always in aid of our chosen charity, and with two paintings donated by professional artists for our raffle, the more that heard about us, the better.
The first exhibition was over this weekend just gone, the preview night having taken place Friday evening; a busy 3 days for all of us volunteers who help put the show together. The preview was well attended, a jolly social event in which several sales were made (not mine, I hasten to add). Saturday was exceptionally busy despite there being numerous other public events on in the region. My day was spent manning the entry and sales desk. It was lovely to see a fellow writing friend arrive whom I had not seen for what must be 5 years or more. As we have a refreshments area in situ, I took time out to enjoy a catch-up with her over coffee and cake. My day was further heightened when one of my paintings sold, one that I nearly did not put in. Isn’t that always the way?
Sunday was unusually quiet so we decided to close the show early, which was a pity because the quality and skill of all the framed artwork there, a total of 232 pictures with 41 being sold, was excellent. In the 5 years I have been a member the standard from everyone has gone up and up. Many of our visitors commented on the talent exhibited, but it became clear people were buying the less expensive, smaller paintings, few of the larger framed, such as most of mine, were sold. This came as no surprise. Most are cautious about how they spend their money at the moment, many worrying about meeting food and heating bills, and buying art can seem a frivolity when other things are more important.
But I do not paint to sell, I paint because I enjoy it; having someone like my work enough to purchase it is a bonus, so I am not disappointed that this year I only made one sale. Many in the group sold nothing, but that does not matter to any of us. We enjoy what we do, we have a great club with lovely people, some who come for the social aspect, others who wish to learn to be better artists, and those who simply want to bring joy and colour into the world. I like to think I am one of the latter.
Moving on to the second exhibition… The preview night was yesterday, in a town about a half-hour’s drive from my home. The venue itself is a small museum, or “heritage centre”, as they call themselves, with little room to show many paintings. Four of us from my group put in several exhibits, about half of the 30 in total on show. This preview night was exclusively for exhibitors (few of whom came), the town mayor and relevant local councillors and venue staff, about 12 of us there in total! Running for 3 weeks, the centre hopes and expects many visitors to the exhibition as in other years, so it will be interesting to see the outcome.
Slideshow of a few of my other paintings at the two exhibitions:
It’s hard to believe we are already in the middle of February, the last two months for me having gone by in a blur of family health and other matters. It’s been a hard, difficult time. One that has seen little work, either in writing or painting, produced by me, and even less housework done. But a corner has been turned and life is returning to normal. I hate winter at the best of times; spring cannot come soon enough, and it’s definitely on the horizon; that alone gives me hope and joy. Here in the south west of England, the weather is mild although the nights are still cold, little rain, and joy of joys, dawn is arriving earlier each day, meaning before long I can enjoy my early morning coffee outside in the garden. Plus the evenings are getting lighter each day. Hoorah!
Soon Dave and I can get back to our joint passion: gardening. We are itching to be outside as there is a lot to do: dead leaves, stems and plants to remove, spring pruning to be done, flowers and vegetables to be planted. I’m particularly looking forward to planting up my new flowerbed, the one where we filled in the koi pond last year. The front lawn at present is a mass of snowdrops and crocus, before long the daffodils and hyacinths will be in flower too, giving pleasure not just to us but to passers-by, especially the children coming home from school. Most amusing of all is one particular dog, a gorgeous red setter, one of a pair walking with their owner by the house every morning. The dog always stops at our drive to have a look at the garden before he will walk on, no matter how much the owner tries to pull him away.
In the back garden, everything is budding into leaf including all the clematis. I have a large collection of hellebores currently in bloom providing lots of colour around the beds; they are one of my many favourite flowers.
I am finally back into the swing of working on my current novel, the editing going well, if slowly, and as you may have seen already, produced a lovely painting of a squirrel, one I am pleased with. The trouble with painting and art is that everyone (me included) expects every piece to be a masterpiece. It is rarely like that. For each “good” painting, there are possibly 4 or 5 bad ones, ones thrown or hidden away, never to be shown to anyone. I thought this only happened to me, but recently reading an art magazine the other day, I learnt this happens to many artists. We all reach for perfection and too often cannot see beyond our mistakes, things that others do not notice.
It is the same with our writing. We angst and strive to make each word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book, the best it can possibly be often, to the extent of losing the spontaneity and life we have given our work. It’s the knowing when to stop and let it loose on the world.
And on that note, I shall stop here to allow this post to take flight.
Mid October, and here in the UK autumnal colours are filling the trees, hedgerows and gardens, a distinct chill in the air although the days are often sunny and out of the wind, mild. But I do miss the summer heat. Whilst we enjoyed the high temperatures, the garden suffered. Our vegetables were a disaster except, surprisingly, our potato crop and most flowers in the front beds perished due to lack of water. Dave pulled out the majority of them, leaving only the dahlias in-situ even though they were failing too. What a difference to them now. Thanks to plenty of rain showers and cooler weather, they have come into their own and look lovely.
You might notice in the background of the photo in front of the wheelbarrow a flush of yellow that should not be there. These are wallflowers that should not be blooming until next March/April. For some unknown reason they are in flower now and thus too late to move into their proper position around the drive. Hey ho, win some, lose some. Good job we have a plan B.
We kept the pots and baskets watered as well as we could, and by using grey water on the rear garden, but they all struggled to thrive despite all loving the sun and warmth. To our joy, most have only recently come into full flush, as are many things in the back, thanks to the rain. I still even have honeysuckle, clematis and a climbing fuschia in bloom. The Californian poppy by the bird-bath, a survivor from last year, has been in flower since May and is still going strong. We are just hoping the first frosts keep away as long as possible. Oh, the wonders and vagaries of Mother Nature.
And what of our pond? Last week, we called in a waste contractor to remove the remaining rubble as was too much for Dave to clear on his own. Glad we did, the work was done within an hour. Now we can order in the topsoil and, fingers crossed, have a lovely flowerbed by next spring. What we can plant here is limited as this area is in full shade most of the day, one of the reasons why the koi pond was placed here. The first thing I shall be planting is bluebells – you know how much I love them!
The past month saw me running another acrylic art workshop. A small group this time which worked better because I was able to give them much more individual attention. At the end of the day it was lovely to see finished paintings, and each one different. I do not like seeing a group of virtually identical artwork all the same as mine; I encourage individuality. They obviously love it and already champing at the bit for another workshop. That won’t be until early next year, giving me plenty of time to work on what to do, and get my book finished! Yes, I’m still working on it, having made a few changes to the ending.
Talking of painting, you are honoured to be the first to see my newly completed piece. Called simply “Yport”, it was inspired by a collection of photos taken in Yport, France by a friend who is a brilliant photographer who gives me free reign to use any of her pictures. I would be lost for ideas without her work.
Enjoy your month whatever and wherever you may be.
Here we are already in the middle of August. It seems unbelievable to think in a few weeks’ time we will be in the ’ember months of the year. Before you know it Christmas will be upon us again. It has already arrived in some of the stores here in the UK, and the children haven’t even returned to school yet from their summer break. But enough of that.
I missed posting last month; my apologies – major meltdown due to extreme heat! Heat that has only today started to climb back down the thermometer, and we have rain. Not a lot, admittedly. We do need plenty here as, like many countries, we are in a drought situation. Keeping the flowers and plants alive in the back garden has been hard work, but we’ve made the most of our grey water from the kitchen, about the only real exercise I’ve had, backwards and forwards several times a day. The vegetable garden and annual flowerbed at the front has, I’m sad to say, been a failure because of lack of rain; we have avoided using the hosepipe. As a consequence, we’ve written this year off on the gardening front and back, because the back garden will be given another make over.
The reason being, we have demolished our large koi pond and intend turning the area into another flowerbed. Whilst we both had a lot of pleasure from the fish, which had grown huge, it was becoming increasingly hard work for Dave to keep it going despite so-say modern filters and UV lamps and fitting a new pump each year – not cheap. We were plagued with pond weed, the water never clear. The fish loved it; we didn’t. We agreed back last October that we would run the pond down as each winter we invariably lost a fish or two. Needless to say, this past winter they all survived.
We gave the fish, some as long as 2-3 ft and weighing many lbs, to a local koi keeper so we know they would be going to a good home. Catching them was another matter. All three of us got soaked! Then began the fun part, demolition of the pond walls. The pond was/is over 8ft deep, with half of it above ground, so we were hoping the bricks and blocks would fill that below ground level. Miscalculation. We now have to dispose of a lot of rubble. This Dave will do in the autumn when the weather is a lot cooler.
The extreme heat here has meant I have not done a lot of art. A special request for a contemporary flower painting was completed and I began working up one for my students to copy at my next workshop at the end of September. They had requested a waterfall, so waterfalls I did. Several of them. It became clear to me that each one was a little too adventurous for some of my group, but I finally came up with a much simpler version that hopefully will stretch them without any duress.
Other than these efforts, I have to admit nothing has been done. Hardly any writing because my office was too hot even with a fan running. No housework other than the basics – no point with all the doors and windows open; little laundry to wash – thank goodness for kaftans to lounge about it in all day. On the plus side, we’ve spent most days and long into the evenings in the garden. Our patio is in shade from midday so it has been comfortable, and I have been able to enjoy uninterrupted reading, getting through 5 books, unusual for me in a short space of time.
We treated the month as a long holiday, being exceedingly lazy and relaxed. It was fun while it lasted; now it’s back to normality. I hope your month has been good too.
It is the middle of March, and spring has definitely arrived in the UK. That was my feeling yesterday when the day dawned bright and clear and sunny, if a little cold but once the sun had risen high enough and chased away the thin covering of frost, we turned off the central heating, changed into t-shirts and jeans, and disappeared into the garden. There is much to do here, Dave busy in his veg plot tilling and raking and planting out potatoes and leeks, me in the back garden picking up bucket-loads of brown and wizened oak leaves. Considering we do not have any trees in the garden, let alone oaks, these were the result of gale-force winds last autumn which blew in masses of leaves from a stand of trees several streets away. All good for the compost though, and I had purposely left them to help protect the garden from winter.
The next task was erecting a new obelisk I had recently purchased to house a rampant, beautifully-perfumed honeysuckle rather than let it scramble through the flowerbed as it has in other years. The morning turned decidedly warm, so once this job was complete, we enjoyed sitting around the patio table enjoying our mid-morning coffee. Such bliss after being trapped indoors for so long. It gave me time to look around the flowerbeds, appreciate the spring displays, and plan my attack for the next few weeks.
Everything is growing and shooting well and over the past few months we have been treated to a fabulous display of crocus and snowdrops on the front lawn, as have all the neighbours and local children on their way to and from the school at the bottom of our road. Now the delights there are hyacinths in full bloom along the forsythia hedge, also coming into flower, and the tulips in full bud waiting their turn. The perfume from the hyacinths is intoxicating as you walk around. We love them. Grown indoors each Christmas to so scent the house, they are then planted outside where they thrive.
What I am most thrilled with this year is the clumps of miniature daffodils scattered around the back garden. I buy several pots of them from the supermarket each year, let them flower indoors and then plant them outside. The past few years the show has not been good as they have succumbed to being eaten by tiny slugs. This year we were prepared and the critters didn’t stand a chance, the displays of them scattered around are so bright and cheerful it was worth the effort.
The wall baskets and a few pots are looking good too. I love this time of year, as it heralds the end of winter with so much to look forward to and enjoy.
I said at the beginning that spring had finally arrived here. Today it is returned to winter in some respects. The day dawned grey and shrouded in heavy mist which has now turned into incessant rain. Good for the garden but not for those outside in it, so we are staying indoors, the heating is on and I am back in a thick sweater. Tomorrow is promised to be warmer and drier, with a good week forecast. Hooray!
It is hard to believe here in the UK it is the middle of November due to the mild weather we are experiencing. Autumn began early, at the start of September but because of the warm weather and little wind, the Fall colour change and leaf drop has been slow and thus protracted, much to people’s enjoyment. And it goes without saying the garden has been in flower for longer, with many plants throwing up still more blooms. This has caused us one or two dilemmas in that most of the borders, pots and tubs should have been put to bed last month but it hurts my heart to do so when they are still giving us a good display.
As an example of how mild it has been, this Sunday Dave and I were called for our booster vacs at our doctor’s surgery. The morning dawned bright, the sky blue with no breeze or chilly wind, a bonus for us as we are about 800 feet above sea level here and close to the Bristol Channel where the Atlantic winds blow strong; rarely are there such calm, quiet days. We decided to walk to our appointment, about half a mile away. More to the point, no coats were needed!
This late mild weather is something we’ve experienced before. Some 30 years ago on mid-summer’s day we had the central heating on, but come Christmas, the boiler was turned off, the windows and patio doors opened, and we had clematis in bloom in the garden, sprigs of which decorated our Christmas table! And if my memory serves me right, back in 1962, it was a mild autumn but, come Boxing Day (26th Dec), heavy snow fell heralding the Big Freeze of 62/63 when the country did not thaw out until March! I’m only hoping this warm weather is not a portent for a freezing, snowed-in winter. Back to the present…
I’ve learned to enjoy the autumn colours far more than I ever did, this coming from taking up painting when I now see things through different eyes. There is a tree we pass every week on our way to do our weekly grocery shop. During the summer little notice is taken of it but in autumn, it comes into its full glory. I don’t know what kind of tree, only that is is large. Each year, more and more people are taking note of it, many stopping to take photographs. Its colour and shape make this a magnificent specimen, and I simply must include it in a painting soon. I say that every year I see. One day…
Talking of paintings, I have at last finished the large (30 x 20 inch) floral piece I have been working on for several months and it is now proudly hanging on our lounge wall. It is a representation of a collection of flowers we had growing in tubs and pots along our patio fence, a small snapshot of the summer display we had. The hardest part has been thinking of a suitable title. After long deliberation and discussion one came to mind. So I can now unveil “Flowers of Summer”. I hope you like it.
You would think with all the time we had on our hands during lockdown I would have found the inspiration to do a job that has been waiting for some considerable time: that of sorting out my study, my kitchen cupboards, my wardrobes, and several large storage boxes full of notes/manuscripts/photographs/junk. But no. Although there was ample time to do it all, during lockdown there did not seem much point.
The municipal recycling/waste site was closed, as were all the secondhand shops, on-street charity collections had ceased, and we simply hadn’t the space to store things no longer wanted. You might say I’m a bit of a hoarder; well, aren’t most of us? I mean, who else has 7 frying pans, 3 saucepans sets and 4 of china, one of which is a 72 piece? A food mixer that hasn’t been used for 5 years? Who else after being 11 years retired has business suits and skirts still hanging in the wardrobe unworn since along with fancy outfits bought for office Christmas parties? Who among us has a separate wardrobe full of clothes and shoes that have never been worn? Who else has a stack of books enough to fill a town library, read once if at all, filling every spare shelf in the house? Okay, perhaps that one doesn’t count – we are all readers and book lovers here.
So, this week, I made the decision something had to be done and soon but which to attack first? A series of small events occured which were fortuitous in setting the clean-up ball rolling. My other half ordered yet another pair of new jeans which, when delivered, transpired he had ordered the wrong size,and didn’t fit. Yes, he could have sent them back, got a refund, but they were inexpensive and the cost and hassle of reposting not worth the effort to him. The next day a charity collection bag came through the letterbox. The day after I picked up a message on social media from a local, newly opened residential care home seeking books in excellent condition for the home’s library. The following day, Dave decided to buy a new television for the lounge, not that it was necessary, he simply wanted a larger screen with a higher-quality picture. Which was fortunate, as the one in my office was playing up and hardly watchable. Bingo!
The charity bag was filled and left out for collection. A large hessian shopping bag filled to the brim with my unwanted books and delivered. A larger pile of unworn/new clothes, including the jeans, appeared on the spare bed, ready for me to take to our local St Peter’s Hospice charity shop. The office was tidied, unwanted items put either in the charity bag, recycling boxes or dustbin in order to make room for the still perfectly good television from downstairs to fit in my office. All in all, productive week which has made me feel virtuous, although the kitchen cupboards and other items will have to wait a week or so. Good job I’m not in any hurry.
Meanwhile, it has been a hard month for us in some respects: lots of memories and anniversaries, good and not so good, to get through but helped by a lovely mild week here despite being mid October. Warm enough for us to enjoy 9:00am coffee outside listening to our resident robin singing amongst plants which are still blooming, a clematis in flower for the third time this year, a thunbergia in flower which it hasn’t done all summer, the dahlias still glorious, and the sweetpeas still not giving up.
It’s hard to believe we are already in the middle of September as in the UK we are still waiting for summer. One hot week in July and three hot days last week doesn’t cut it for the season in my book! It is not so much rain, but too many dull and chilly days, some which have almost tempted us to turn on the central heating. Oh well, little we can do about it other than look forward to next summer.
The garden too is slowly retreating into hibernation. The sunflowers, the glory of our road, are hanging their heads, the phlox and lilies, clematis, rudbeckias and carnations dying down, the fuschias over. Autumn cyclamen and plumbago are in flower already, another sure sign summer is at an end, as is the chill and damp in the air first thing, the dew on the grass and furniture. At least now we don’t have to keep watering the plants and it is still pleasant and warm enough to sit outside and enjoy our morning coffee but as the Earth tilts on its axis toward the autumn equinox, our garden is in shade by noon. Whilst I don’t enjoy this time of year, or the thought of long winter nights and lack of sunlight, I can indulge myself in my writing and painting to wile away the short days. Suffice to say, autumn has arrived.
This became most evident last weekend as I drove across the country to spend the weekend with family. It is about an hour and a half drive if one goes on the motorway, but a stressful one I do not enjoy especially now most of our motorways are “smart” (which means there is no hard shoulder during busy times or heavy traffic!). Not smart in my book, so I always take the scenic route. It takes twice as long although the mileage is the same, but is a relaxing, enjoyable drive through several pretty towns and through a forest. It was seeing the leaves on the trees already turning red and yellow and falling that convinced me our summer was over. But enough of that.
It is such a joy to be able to spend a girlie weekend with my two sisters, my mother and a niece at one of my sister’s home. To sit and chat about this and that, reminisce about those wonderful holidays we took together. It used to be on such occasions our first job once I had arrived was for us to pick out where we wanted to go for our next holiday and then go to the local travel agent and book it. It always gave us something to look forward to during the long winter months. Sadly not this year. Perhaps next. But it doesn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves. We laugh a lot, share jokes and stories as we imbibe in good wine, delicious food and great company. A relaxed, lazy afternoon in the garden, PJs on about 7 o’clock. An equally lazy Sunday until it is time for me to leave, drive mother and sister home on route, and take a leisurely, equally pleasant drive back home. The weekend refreshes us all, binds us. They are precious days, and the next one is planned for late November, weather permitting.
I’m looking forward to it. As I am to next summer.
So here we are in the middle of August and I’m asking, “Where is our summer?” One week of high temperatures and then whoosh! Back to a typical British summer of cloud and rain and coolish weather. Still, at least all the rain we’ve had has saved us many an hour watering the garden. The garden is important to Dave and me. It’s our hobby, shared interest, the means of keeping ourselves self-sufficient in vegetables and, more importantly, the place where we can relax, ignore and forget the troubles of the world and relish in the delights of the flowers, the wildlife, the tranquility. And boy, we’ve needed that these past few months with the many health issues my family has gone through this year. No, scrap that; these last 3 years!
This year, Dave decided to grow sunflowers. Lots of them. We’ve lost count of the number of people who have stopped to look and admire them. People in cars pull over. Others have knocked on the door and asked if they can photograph them. Some just go right ahead and snap away. We don’t mind. It is a pity in some respects the schools are closed for the summer holiday as many children are missing the display, and for some reason kids just love sunflowers.
But it isn’t just the garden that has kept me going during this long, difficult year. There is my writing, and yes I am still beavering away trying to get my novel rewritten and have to admit at times the motivation and inclination have been AWOL. But the urge now is back and I’m once more into the swing of it.
And then, of course, there is painting. I haven’t done a great deal these last couple of years, but this year’s two dog commissions have kept me occupied, if again, at times the inclination was missing. With painting, one has to be in the right mood and frame of mind; at times mine was not. Thankfully, my client was in no hurry for either painting and this weekend also saw me complete a large painting in one day, one that has I think has turned out rather well. I believe that is because my mind is settled again now my family in Reading has recovered from their health problems and pandemic restrictions are lifted. Our lives can slowly but surely and with caution return to something like normality, as it did last weekend.
You may recall my nephew Gary and his wife Nicki, George’s parents, adopted a baby girl almost 3 years ago. Dave and I were included at the official adoption hearing and signing back in 2019. An official naming ceremony was planned for Easter 2020, to which we were also invited but sadly, three times this event had to be postponed because of you know what. August saw the day finally arrive when Daisy’s “Naming Day” could finally go ahead. And what a great day it was.
A naming day is a non religious, humanist ceremony performed by an official celebrant whereby a child (or adult) takes their name. The celebrant on this occasion was a man with a wonderful sense of humour and a deep sense of fun. This was confirmed by the small pots of bubble fluid and wands he put on every chair, both adults and children, to enjoy, which we did, during the long ceremony wherein her parents followed by six “guide parents” spoke their vows and committment to Daisy, and her big brother George with help from granny read out the poem “What is a Brother?”. It was lovely seeing my sisters, nieces, nephews, great nieces nephews and members of Nicki’s family we have come to know over the years, catch up on news and general conversation. It is great we all get on so well. The day was full of love, laughter, fun, hugs, delicious food and memory-making. We’re hoping the next family day won’t be too long in coming.