A Sunny Day

After the bitingly cold weekend we awoke this morning to no frozen windows or condensation running down them. The sun was shining brightly and the temperature has gone from 2 degrees to 10+. Time to get out in the garden and start tidying it up for the season ahead. Snowdrops cover the bank at the back of the garden and for once I managed to clear all the ferns in the Autumn so they really stand out against the dark green of the Laurels.The Hellebores are just starting to open and the Crocus and Primroses are beginning to show their faces.

Lavender in the front garden, the bees seem to love this so I have given it another haircut so it should last another year.

At WI this week we have to bring along a favourite hat. I decided to dig out the hat I made when I first started needlfelting and finish it off! I made it some years ago but was distracted by other projects and so it has been languishing in my fabric stash for some time. It was the ideal time to do it as it was far too cold to do anything other than sew by the fire. It is somewhat naive in style, I seem to remember that I had wanted to make a hat like a fruit bowl, why I can’t Imagine! Anyway I thought I had better finish what I started and picked out some of the detail with embroidery threads. It’s quite nice but I don’t think I’ll be wearing it very often.

I have been continuing with my collage/mixed media paintings. I have been working on a triptych of Red Riding Hood, which I still have some detail to add to and I am starting to plan a Three Bears one, although that will be a single panel. When I went up to Bath the other week to stay with Vee we took in a Peter Brown exhibition at the Victoria Art Gallery. It was superb, and that set me thinking about a townscape, based loosely on one of his pictures. At the moment it is hanging in the kitchen waiting for me to decide if I need to do anything else to it or if I should just stop fiddling!

So, that’s been my weekend, I’m now looking out of the window, the sun is still shining, shall I go out and do some more gardening or shall I listen to my body which is telling me that I’ve done enough for today? Perhaps a cup of tea is called for…

PS my hat won the WI competition, yae!

Ever Hopeful

We put the house on the market ( again) at the beginning of the year. We had a burst of activity last week, with several viewings but none this week. Still, we are not deterred, but it does get a bit tiresome always living in a show home and having to go out at a moments notice to give the estate agents a free hand with their ‘clients’. We have been to quite a few pubs as a result and discovered a few new ones too.

As part of the clearing out I regrettably had to get in touch with Vee to ask if she would mind if her dolls house finally went to recycling. My father had made it for her but over the years it has become very tattty. She said that was ok but when it came to it my heart wasn’t in it so I kept the roof and one floor so I could set about restoring it to a bungalow as we had plenty of dolls house wall paper that we had bought in Bath some years back. All of Vee’s dolls house furniture was wrapped up in newspaper in an old chest of drawers, there was loads of it and certainly more than could be accommodated in a bungalow. Whilst I was pondering what to do with it all I also came across the box of Kavalan Whisky that Lol had bought us from Taiwan, now I had another dilemma, what to do with the box, it was far too good to throw out.

It came to me in a flash, I would downsize the dolls into a townhouse and a bungalow for the country! A quick conversion was called for.

The before box

House conversion, the outside of the box has been left unchanged.

The bungalow has yet to be tackled! But the lady of the house also needed some new clothes, the old ones were at least twenty years old and looking very threadbare. She has been in a state of undress in the top of my sewing box and I almost gave up on her as she has become somewhat distorted with age but this morning I at last effected the transformation from this…

To this

So, the dolls have a new house even if we haven’t made the move yet.

A Flurry of Creative Activity

Since just before Christmas I have been exploring and redicovering collage as a means of describing new forms in the landscape. I was reminded of it in my art group and have since gone on to produce six or so works. I find it particularly satisfying as it is like sculpture in the first instance, building up layers of paper, then adding paint and pastel which I rub into the surface and then using a brush and water to take away colour or merge it. The results are very satisfying.

This is the first one I did, it is a view from the top of the hill, looking across to the High Moor of Dartmoor.

Autumn Apples, the small Apple Tree on the bank in our garden which each year is laden with fruit

An Impression of Venice where we went earlier this year.

Headland, a typical West Country view

Hedge Parsley, growing in the lane.

Dartmoor Winter, my most successful one yet!

Winter Trees

I’m working on another one at the moment, again of Dartmoor, from the top of my road. The soft earth of mid-Devon before the land rises up into the harsher landscape of the moor.

Christmas 2016

The first thing to say is that this is like no other Christmas:

1. The children aren’t here

2. We aren’t here

Matt has made the trip to Ireland with Mo…

“I must admit, I was a little worried about crossing the Irish Sea in storm force seas, luckily, the captain of the ship, while acknowledging that it would be “very bumpy” ( I knew what he really meant) signed off that it would be “nothing to worry about of course”. These are the words that all captains of all ships should sign off with.
So, we emerged from the breakwater and yes, it was instantly like being shot up 100 feet in the air and plunged down 100 feet and doubling your weight and all that. However, the boat didn’t rock from side to side, it only rocked front to back which was much better. I’ve been on boats where it does the side to side thing and it’s not nice thinking about capsizing for three hours.

Anyway, all in it was quite fun because the insanely large swell only lasted for half of the journey and after that it was just a steady rough journey with the occasional sound of screeching metal as the hull wrangled with the stormy waters below.”

This was as a result of Storm Barbara which mainly affected the north of the country just where Vee and Matt were headed.

Mo with green hands and a country walk near MO’s house in Ireland.

VJ made the journey to Sheffield luckily in advance of Storm Barbara and the other two boys are in Taipei where they live with wife and girlfriend where the weather was bright and sunny.  We travelled to Bexhill to visit my mum in her new apartment and Flora the cat came with us as I could not bear to think of her locked up in the cattery.

Peak District near Bakewell and Flora in a box!

It was the first time that I haven’t cooked Christmas dinner and prepared like mad for 30 odd years so quite a big change but very relaxing, I recommend everyone should try it at least once.

The folks in Taiwan celebrating Christmas!

We left Bexhill on the morning of the 27 and mum went up to London for a drinks party and to stay with my sister. Matthew had an equally hellish journey back from Ireland as their flight was diverted from London City because of the fog and they had to catch a coach from Manchester, the entire journey taking 16 hours!

Well it’s almost the end of the year, we have Donald Trump to look forward to and Brexit will supposedly be triggered. Our house goes on the market and we will hopefully be in Scotland! A happy new year, it can’t be any worse than the last one.

Mostly about Food

After a good breakfast at the hotel we made our way to the Jewish quarter to see the Portuguese Synagogue. We caught the tram up to the Dam and then we walked, quite a way, to our destination. Our route took us through China Town and lots of interesting arty shops which it had always been too crowded to appreciate when we have been before. We stopped for a coffee/ chocolate before going in the actual synagogue. Of course Hyw had to don a “kippur ” but apparently it was ok for me to be bare headed. There was of course masses of security with the door behind you shutting before they let you in the second door. Our tickets were fairly expensive but that would get us in to three museums in total, although we in fact didn’t go to the Holocaust museum. 

Inside the synagogue it was huge and very spare, I had thought it would be heavily decorated but apart from the chandeliers there was no decoration whatsoever. The building is as it was in the 17 century and has no electricity, light for evening services being candle power. We also went into the Treasury which I guess is where they invested in their ornamentation, lots of very fine silver and gold work. 

Our next stop was the Jewish Historical museum which was just across the road, again, very heavy security to get in. There was a synagogue in there too but this had various artefacts, including circumcision instruments, explained. There was a good display of books and texts, one famous scribe of Holy writings also did a nice line in forgeries so that the Dutch sailors did not have to pay Spanish import duties. I also saw the document that declared Spinoza to be heretical and casting him out from the Jewish faith. 

After so much culture we went back through the streets, taking in the flea market ( the name was apt!) and the bulb market and onto the tram line where we caught the 5 back to the museums and within a spit of the restaurant. So it was our second visit in 24 hours, this time it was booked and there was much anticipation on my part as to what I should have. When it came to ordering I thought “what the hell” and ordered one of the seafood platters and 1/2 dozen extra oysters. Where can I begin, the oysters had to be eaten in a special order depending on their price and where they had come from. I had two at the very start and saved the rest to finish off with. In between I had Lobster, snow crab, razor clams, mussels, cockles, vongole, the big cockles I can never remember the name of, prawns, scampi, winkles, crab salad and langoustines! Truly a meal that will go down in history, washed down with two glasses of cinsault.

After a coffee we went along the road to the Van Gogh museum for a show of Daubigny, Monet, a few VG and Pissarro. It was jolly good and not at all crowded so one could view, and go back at ones leisure. Since we last came to the museum they have opened up a new section, where the show was, and also resited the shop so was able to buy a few gifts. We didn’t go to see the VG’s proper as we saw them recently.

The hotel were very good to us and kindly downloaded our return tickets so we were all set for our journey home. In the evening we weren’t too hungry so we went to a restaurant next door to the Seafood place and had a light meal of steak washed down with a fine Merlot.

Thursday morning we had a leisurely start to the day and then made our way to the airport where I sit now and finish writing this. The plane should be due any minute now!

An hour and a half later we are home again, a good trip but no more for a bit, I like my own bed too much!

6 December, A Trip To Amsterdam

Hyw went to Taiwan for a couple of weeks in November to see two of our boys who live there. Unfortunately I couldn’t go as since my stroke the doctor has advised against long haul flights so I don’t know if this is a sort of consolation prize or if it was just Hyw getting carried away on the internet again! 

We flew from Exeter at a very civilised time in the morning and arrived in the sunshine at 1.30 pm European time. We have visited so much in recent times that it felt quite like coming home. We are in a different hotel this time, on the opposite side of the Vondelpark, just along from the museums. 

We dumped our bags and went straight out to book our favourite restaurant for lunch tomorrow. As we were feeling a bit peckish we had a late lunch as well. After that we made our way down to the grassy area behind the museums and were just in time to see Santa Claus taking off in a helicopter! We then went and saw the ice rink and I got some nice photos but you will have to wait until I get back as I forgot my lead to the iPad. We wandered back to the hotel along the back streets and crashed out on the bed.

We went out again in the evening for a walk around and did a complete circuit via the Concertgebouw and ended up at a pub/bar more or less opposite the hotel. Before we got there though we did plenty of window shopping including looking in the window at an Indonesian Deli, what a shock I got when a mouse popped his head out of some slats at the back of the refrigeration unit and took some noodles. I won’t be going there in a hurry, he was just like the cat, trying to steal food off my plate when I’m not looking.

The bar was very good, lots of people having a good time and the Paulaner was great (having had a Duval at lunchtime).

A Trip To Bath 

On Sunday I made one of my flying visits to see Verity who I have not seen for several weeks, since we were in France. I was meant to meet her at Lidle as she wanted to do a big shop but I was somewhat late as I got stuck behind two really slow drivers once I left the motorway. There was nothing I could do for many miles except admire the autumn scenery and hope Verity would not have bought up the entire shop!

Monday was her day off work, we had lots of jobs to do at different points of the town so we had to work out the most logical route, giving ourselves time to visit all the shops in turn, including buying a Christmas Tree.

I left fairly promptly this morning and was home by 11.30am. In my absence Hyw had put some hooks on my latest picture and hung it over his desk. I am quite taken with it and am thinking of doing a series.

This evening was a WI trip to Olivers bakery, much fun was had decorating gingerbread biscuits and making some prepared dough into ‘crowns’. We were also treated to mince pies and coffee. A good evening.
The Weir at Bath in the morning sun