Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas everyone

I'm feeling a bit nervous tonight. I'm not in a blind spin and it really is very nearly Christmas. So, what have I forgotten, I ask? Mind you, I'm not cooking this year, and that makes a huge difference - Turkey Lurkey at friends' on Sunday and off to family ( about 30 of us!) on Boxing Day in Oxford - providing my reliable easy peasy Josceline Dimbleby mince pies with brandy butter and, of course, Wensleydale,  for both occasions. 

I was messing around with orange pastry at 3ish  this afternoon while listening to BBC radio 4's carol service from King's College - my real Christmas beginning, followed by our very own beautiful local service. Each year we wend our way along a couple of miles into the South Downs, to a  tiny candle lit church, filled to the gunnels, (or is it ginnils?) with holly, ivy and all of us singing our little hearts out.... Laughter and stories abound, and good will bounces round, reflected in every face. No shopping here!

But the shopping has been done - at least as much as I could. I have  bought most of my gifts from small independent and, on the whole,  local retailers, makers and crafts  people and I   discovered notonthehighstreet this year - what a find. Several friends do very well with their crafts and hand made clothes on the site - have a look. Anyway, you already know all about Miss Ruby's doll's house, nearly fully furnished now as well,  but here are the portraits I have done for my  beloveds of their beloveds! Sleeping Ruby in oil on canvas, and Mister at Home in charcoal on paper - so last minute did all this happen that Ruby is definitely a "look, but don't touch". She is still wet! Nothing like being prepared hey, but, without, I hope,  sounding naff or cheesy, I do like to remember the non-commercial bits. I loved it   when my girls were little and we would spend hours making lavender oil, or cookies, or whatever for Grandmas and aunties - it never rained and no-one ever got bored or cross in my memory wardrobe of course.

Anyway, however organised or otherwise you are, have a happy Christmas and all the very best for the year ahead. May it all be peaceful and not too dramatic or chaotic - so much seems to have happened in the last couple of years, I feel we all need a bit of a rest. Take care x

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Decorating for Christmas, sort of...

I haven't been able to sneak off to my studio for the last week or so, as a rather large and important design project came my way which had to be completed by December 25th.....

When I was 5 years old,  my very creative and rather wonderful Father designed and built a doll's house for me. Now this was no ordinary doll's house (Sounds more like an M&S advert!). It had working lights in every room, a sand pit and a pond.... he even made a doll's house for the doll's house... he was my hero and I loved my doll's house beyond anything else. In turn,  so did my younger sister, as did my daughters and my sister's daughter... and now its the turn of my little granddaughter to share the magic. So a long line of memories being brought back to life. This at least was how I imagined I would feel when I lovingly set out to restore the beauty of this property.

Well, the first note of discrepancy with this romantic notion came about when my niece, seeing her mother and aunt poring over on-line miniature wallpapers, very seriously, asked me, "Auntie Karin, what is your design theme?"... "Garish?" I replied , anxiously. The second notable moment was when I realised I had to move squatters from the garden.....

Plain sailing thereafter, I hear you declare. Well, not really as small spaces, glue and little scissors and I really don't go very well together, which I know surprises people, as many assume that we creative bods love fiddly things.... well, I don't! I got quite cross with my Dad, then became quite impressed by him and finally when I had applied the last mock beam, remembered just how much he did love making stuff for us, how gentle and patient he was, and all that brought me right back there again, watching him snip and paste and chuckle...... 

So,  all's well that ends well. Memory bank replete,  designer happy, client bound to be happy. Uh, uh, not so fast... I heard yesterday that my delightful granddaughter announced that what she really really wants is that pink plastic Barbie House you see on TV! Hey ho, You know who'll be playing with the doll's house now don't you? Happy Christmas x

Thursday, 8 December 2011


Just this week, a very dear friend of mine lost her husband to cancer,  and just like John, his condition was diagnosed as terminal at the very first consultation. However, my friend and her husband had very little time to acclimatise to the enormity of the situation. He was only "given" a couple of months, unlike John, who was given 3 years... but sadly,  once again the medical bods were pretty spot on.

Over the last 2 months, my friend and I have shared wine and coffees, many of both, talking deeply about symptoms, treatments, feelings, fear, joy, anger and love. It has been a hellish time for my friend and a very mixed time for me. It has brought a lot of my feelings and fears to the surface once again, and has brought back many memories, some hilarious, but more painful..... One night I went to bed so confused, (was it the wine, I hear you ask?!.... ) that I dreamt that my friend was talking about my husband instead of her own, but wasn't letting me see him. 

Oddly,  my  overriding feeling, apart from that of deep sadness for her loss,  is one of richness and sharing. I can honestly say I never really imagined myself a widow, nor did I ever think I would become knowledgeable about certain cancer treatments, but I am grateful for the gifts of an empathetic ear, a certain level of understanding and a large box of tissues which  I was able to share with her... We never know when our paths will take us on very tough routes and then bring us right back again, but if we can share these things, unasked for as they might be, then the sharp angles soften a bit.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hoe Hoe Hoe

I have just spent 5 hours mulching today - so what, I hear you ask... well for those of you in the dark, as opposed to the green, of mulching, these two photos should clear that up..... Mulch = Miracle Grow. Annual Mulching = Continued Miracle Growing

Our delivery arrived at 9am today, late for that sort of work, but our van driver had already completed 2 drops, in glorious sunshine,  before she came to us. Anyway, by the time we started, the heavens had, of course, opened, so,  for the first hour we soggily, drippily, plodded our way round the garden, lugging 90 bags of fine, rich compost mulch... Whatever it was, the bags were  heavy and wet and we looked forward to our coffee and peppermint tea break. ( I know, I am just too cool!)

 As the morning wore on, the sun donned his hat again, our spirits lifted, and we chatted and lugged and hoed and chatted some more - and I was reminded yet again of how magical a garden is, how uplifting gardening is and how gentle and tender time spent with friends in a garden can be. Even on the wettest, most inhospitable morning, being in a garden is, I believe, good for the soul. It's certainly good for this Soul... even though it will take most of the week to dry out my jacket and boots and clean my nails!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Grand Adventure Starts Here... Or Does It?

Day one of my super dooper new fitness regime to kick start my grand adventure next year - a cycle trip around Vietnam and Cambodia, for charity, of course - same team as the Kilimanjaro trip a couple of years ago.... but more of that later.

Anyway, I checked all the nuts and bolts on my bike, well, my electrician did - I know, odd, but multi talented and  very useful to have around!.... donned my shades and gloves to look cool and stay warm, in that order (I thought lycra was a bit excessive at this very early stage, and really I wanted to keep something to look forward to!) and bravely set off. I had planned to cycle 3.5 miles this morning, not a great deal, I do know,  and nowhere near our daily target of 60 kilometres, even allowing for errors in conversion, but one has got to start somewhere...

I got out the door,
        I got on my bike,

That was that.   

 Not a puncture, but yes  two flat tyres combined with what would appear to be a broken pump. What are the chances of that happening? To say I was annoyed might be a slight understatement.... but an especially beautiful sunny morning such as this was not to be wasted, so I walked instead, and took some more photos,  and planned some more oil pastel landscapes like these ones, 

which were inspired by a series I did from my walking trip in Drakensberg, which all sold this summer. They are small, around  5 inches square in old money,  and  I am now in full flow, as they say.... in between, that is,  trying to find another friendly electrician who can  mend my pump, so to speak! Hey ho...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Arundel Gallery Trail 20th - 29th August

It's here at last.... Been a long year, and yet now it seems to have flown past - Time is such an elastic measurement, isnt it?

Anyway, exhibiton here opens on Saturday 20th, and runs every afternoon till end of play on the Bank Holiday Monday.... There are 6 of us showing our new work here - painting, photography, drawing, jewllery, sculpture, decorated glass  and there are about 50 venues around town -  quite a range - come and have a look......

Monday, 8 August 2011

Arundel Gallery Trail

Well, here it is again, our own annual festival - Arundel Festival and Gallery Trail...... 6 in my house this year - jewellers, sculptors, and painters - Open to all from 20th till 29th August, every afternoon - come along if you can. I know there are loads of these affairs around the country now, but even though I say so myself, Arundel is among the  very best. Several reasons for this, a couple being there is a wide range of activity throughout the event and, I think, quite importantly, unlike Brighton for example, you can park your car and  walk to everything on offer - unusual these days and a big attraction I believe... Anyway, come and see for yourself - around 50 art venues alone to browse through....

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Endings and Beginnings and....

Once upon a time there was a man and a woman who loved each other very much - for a long time. The woman thought they would always love each other, but the woman was wrong.. The man went away. He found another love. He was excited. She was empty. But after a long time the man was no longer excited and the woman was no longer empty. She was full. She had grown. She had regained her colour. The man felt empty and he returned to her. He returned to her with deep regrets, feelings of shame and feelings of gratitude. He was greeted and welcomed with love and gratitude. They grew strong again together. And they loved again, deeply, happily, strongly. But the man also brought an unexpected and unasked for elephant into their lives. The elephant, he told the woman, will take me away from you again, and this time I cannot return. So they lived and laughed and loved with the elephant, and sometimes the elephant seemed very small, but they both know he was there.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Chelsea Flower Show

Well what  a hoot I’ve had today!....

Each year I know I WANT to go to Chelsea Flower Show, Wimbledon and Glyndebourne.... and what happens each year? I forget to buy tickets early enough of course, and miss out on these events.... been doing this for years.

Now this year, today, in fact it all worked out rather differently. After a 9am meeting at Tower Bridge, ( I know, why? I wondered that too.) I was chatting about my inability to plan ahead, when my colleague suggested I just go along to Chelsea, hang about and try to buy a ticket from a ticket tout.... This sort of thing simply doesn't happen in Arundel, my dear!

Anyway I made my way to the main gates, looked around for a few minutes, pretending I was waiting to meet someone and realised no tout would be  touting right there in front of all the police... so I wondered off a bit further and immediately a rather shady chap muttered under his breath to me to follow him... Very cloak and dagger. We walked, pretending we weren’t walking together to a tiny cafe, the address of which I  cannot divulge here for obvious reasons... and in this aforementioned cafe, I commented that he might be a plain clothes policeman, or that I too  might be, well a plain clothes policewoman, of course. He roared with laughter and we began to discuss pound notes.

He started at a silly price and as luck would have it I only had about half his opening offer about my person, your honour.. Of course he accepted, I left with the grand total of £3 in my purse but clutching my ticket to glory and colour and inspiration...... What fun and he said I could ask my friends if they wanted tickets too!

Got through the gates with not even enough to buy a Pimms, but had the best, best time. It truly is wonderful to see the real thing after the TV coverage,  isn’t it? And such clever stuff there to  admire (or sometimes dislike), all laid out  there as though by chance, all the  effort so carefully hidden . And on my way to the tube, as luck would have it,  I bumped into my new friend having a pint! Told him that today actually meant much more than just a  happy day out,  because, the last time I went to Chelsea was with You Know Who before he died... Hey ho, memories and  sunshine mixed together today - great memories and great sunshine...

Thursday, 19 May 2011

1110 Water and Thought

A friend of mine has so inspired me I have to share. 

Carrie Forman, South African, living in Boston and founder of 1110 gave me one of her beautiful, silky soft vest tops for my morning yoga. Well, this is no ordinary vest, this is... you’ve seen the adverts here, so you know what I mean!

She has printed, on a collection of the finest cotton tops, (also available in tiny baby one pieces, which are just too lovely!) gentle, strong, pure words. So cool, and so peaceful. They are cut to hug, not constrain, long enough to move with you, and in soft gentle non-colours.

The thought behind 1110 is what makes this enterprise unique, I feel.  I have often worked on and with, thought patterns. It is not an unheard of idea that thought has a journey and a life of it’s own and that our thoughts can realise and gain power. It’s quite a mantra in meditation to clear one’s thoughts and to have positive thoughts around, and this is what has cleared Carrie’s mind to create her unique concept, her capsule collection.

Water is her inspiration, her own power wave (excuse the pun!). Her belief in all this started with an introduction to the power thought can have on water crystals. Messages In Water - Dr Masaru Emoto Quite weird, very American, but beautiful too - take a look at that and her very still and clear web site.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Summer Time Reds

Friends coming round for supper tonight, granddaughter sleepover-ing till Sunday, still life, "The Family Silver, 2" needs a tweak to finish it off before I go teaching portrait painting for all of next week,  moorhens nesting along castle moat, so a visit necessary before tea-time with oforementioned granddaughter. What on earth and when on earth to do about cooking for tonight...

Sorted - "Gorgeous Greens", by Annie Bell, I think the best of it's kind, along with that pair called "Tender", have you seen those too? Well Roasted tomato and basil soup, tonight, chilled, followed by roasted butternut squash and red onions with seared salmon steaks and salad with harissa dressing.

Soup - in an oven tray, drizzle some olive oil over  1.5kg or thereabouts,of ripe, on the  vine, tomatoes, for about 20 minutes or so (220C)- don't let the skins burn, but make sure the flesh is soft. Let 'em cool then pulling off stalks, whizz through in the blender. Press through a sieve and I though that was delicious enough - but then add salt, pepper sugar, a few drizzles more of olive oil, and basil leaves, all according to your taste. Whizz through again,  then let that cool. 

OMG I think this is the food of the gods!

Roasted squash? You'll have to check out Annie's book. I'm too busy sipping the little extra bit I made of the chilled tomato soup for tonight! But I will tell you about the salmon - marinade the steaks in fish sauce  for a couple of hours before flashing in a frying pan, heated up with  a dollop of olive oil in it. I use a tablespoon of fish sauce per 2 salmon pieces. Oh, and another thing, this works best with skin on, steaks - it goes really crispy. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Education, education, education - and not a Blair rant!

"Education in the largest sense is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual. In its technical sense, education is the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills and values from one generation to another." wikapeadia

Not quite what I was going to write about tonight, but that's the real point - the  going with, the "always being in the right place at the right time" sort of thing. It's not a matter of luck, it just means being aware of all the opportunities and turns in the road at any given time, which if  we look again, is  teaching on a real scale.

We, as teachers, hold up mirrors to our students, mirrors of ourselves, others and the alternatives. And being in the right place at the right time  doesn't mean always being in the clover . It can mean that we experience and taste some not so sweet moments too. But, if we look at the whole picture, it does all make sense and does lead somewhere, though the destination may be obscured from time to time.

Today I heard the news that I have been rejected membership to a pretty exclusive art conglomerate. I know that in a week, or a month or a year's time, I will have totally come to terms with this, or more so,   I will be grateful I  am not indeed a member, but  today it hurts. And that is really OK - today, my rejection slip was an unwelcome missile on my door mat, tomorrow I will see it as the herald of the next door opening.

We all need to remember and learn from our best teachers and we should also  really remember that learning is a lifelong commitment and enjoyment.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Just a Quickie

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. Hans Hofman.

Again its all about everything, thinking, talking, relationships, seeing, drawing, planning, the list could go on  but it won't coz that would be going against what I've just said! Ha ha!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


Nothing to do with drawing or painting or garden design, but everything to do with all of the above!

A lecturer when explaining stress management to an audience,
Raised a glass of water and asked,  "How heavy is this glass of water?"

Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g.

The lecturer replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter.
It depends on how long you try to hold it.
If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem.
If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm.
If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance
In each case, it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

He continued,
"And that's the way it is with stress management.
If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later,
As the burden becomes increasingly heavy,
We won't be able to carry on."

"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again.  When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden."

"So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down. Don't carry it home You can pick it up tomorrow."

"Whatever burdens you're carrying now,  let them down for a moment if you can."

Monday, 25 April 2011

Sarem Studio Rocks!

Hello I'm back! I feel like I've been way for ages, but I was only  gone for a week... but it was such a great week.

I took myself off to Salisbury, to Sarem Studio, to be exact, to spend my week on a portrait and life drawing course, run and taught by the tutor in charge of painting at The Carles H Cecil Studio in Florence. So, great crudentials and great learning. And that's what it's all about - the learning. I have been drawing for many years but there is always something else out there to learn.

This course was all about a method of portraiture referred to as "sight size". It's an expression I have heard bandied about for quite some time, it's been the fascination of many an art history book after all, but no-one has actually shown me HOW to do it! So it was with glee that I made my first sight-size portrait last week, and do you know what, it's so logical and uncomplicated.... why haven't we all been shown how to?  

To get more info check out Nicholas Beer's book "Sight-Size Portraiture", not a racy title I agree, but a cracking book! And as for Salisbury, what a place, of course the sun helped, but such a bright, gentle, relaxing town. I can't wait till my next course in July....Thanks Nick, enjoy Florence till then

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Therapy as Art

When talking about art as therapy, I think it’s  easier to talk about it in the abstract and the third person.... We do this for many reasons,  I guess, and often without even realising that we do, but today I have just come right up into sharp focus with the role art can play in helping  us feel and remember and heal.

A friend of mine  has begun a small series of models created from “stuff”, and she brought her latest one in today for me to look at. I thought it was amazing, look.

She has glued a  series of resistors and fuses  onto a highly glossed wooden base, all connected to a switch, which turns on a harsh buzzer .... I asked the obvious question, is there a story behind this? Oh yes, for a start it was called ‘Resistance is Futile’, which is a witty, clever title anyway, without any back story. Her first one was called  ‘Sectioned’, which was of a large board littered with keys. And so she began to tell me about her model...

When one is sectioned and drugs are about to be administered, an alarm is rung , all staff run to where the bell is ringing and gather round the patient. They then collectively grapple with him/her to get them  onto the floor and, when the patient is outnumbered and overwhelmed, he/she is injected with sedative drugs which can take days to wear off... The fuse lying down is my friend and the other fuses are the staff, circling her. Resistance is Futile. The resistors all around show just how tied up, and closed in my friend was. Her next piece is to be called ‘Bipolar’.

My friend talked about her sculpture and her illness openly and poignantly and honestly. I was so very moved to hear her talk and quite overwhelmed not only with her, but with her art. I am so privileged to count her among my friends and so very glad that we can make our art together, and so very glad we can talk together. It is all therapeutic to me.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Making Choices, Keeping Focus

Today,  I was supposed to be at, had booked some time ago,and thought I was looking forward to,  a conference on creativity in psycotherapy in London at the headquarters of BAAT, which is the British Association of Art Therapists, of which I am a member.

I use the past tense, because, yep, you’ve got there already, I didnt go!  Instead I woke up to pure sunshime, did my yoga for an hour, walked along the river, with a friend for an hour and a half and am now sitting here, just about to go into my studio to spend the afternoon painting. (New white reflections still life just starting!)

Not hugely remarkable to change one’s mind, I hear you say, not really special at all except that, for me, and since it was after all a lecture on therapy, I made the decision that going up to attend this day, was in fact stressing me out, not “nurturing’ me at all, so what was the point? I had found myself in an old familiar position, I had taken on too much. I was, and have been for some time, spreading myself too thinly, trying to do everything. 

So, early yesterday evening,  I decided that I wouldn't attend, that instead I would go out and listen to my daughter sing along with her drumming and guitaring friends and relax. Now this may seem to have been a cop out, an  excuse to just do nothing,  but in reality, it was all about creativity being put into practice, not kept at the level of theory. I was watching these young, and older friends, literally, find their voices.

It is a gift, I believe, to be creative, and a further gift to have the bravery required to stand up and perform, but it is also a gift to the audience to see the strength found as “flow” happens during a performance. Finding voice and strength and release in creativity is as natural as breathing, but we sometimes forget to focus on this and get diverted into thinking we need to do everything else before we create and sing our own song. So I made my choice, and I kept my focus, and now I am going up the garden path to paint!

Monday, 4 April 2011

A Learning Curve

Just this weekend, I accomplished something I had gotten completely stressed about for no reason... Well, I say for no reason, but actually I had blown the reason out of proportion.

A while ago I was asked if I would like to take over a series of teaching portrait classes at Earnley Concourse, a residential centre, near Chichester, West Sussex, which runs courses in absolutely everything, it would seem! Now, teaching is something I do, have done, took a degree  to know I could, but haven’t done for a few years. And that was one of the rubs.

Another rub was fact that I had agreed to teach drawing animal portraits! I got completely worried that I wouldn't be able to deliver this and create  the right atmosphere for learning for my students. So in the weeks leading up to the course, I drew and drew and drew, and discovered that having felt just a teeny wee bit superior about drawing animals,  I actually quite liked capturing the characters of my feline house mates, and more than that, I enjoyed conveying this to the group over the course of the weekend.  I was, without doubt,  in the bosom of animal lovers but instead of feeling slightly silly, it all felt very relaxing and fun!

We chatted and joked and exchanged life stories amongst ourselves as we sat and drew. We shared glasses of wine and meals, and as we parted I know that each of us felt that we had  not only learned to draw better animal portraits, but also had been given  gifts - the gift of time for ourselves, the gift of sharing  something with others who are  from “our tribe”, if only for that brief time, and the gift of sweet memories.

I was given extra gifts too. Not only was I able to communicate  advice and direction, enthusiasm and enjoyment, but I was also  reminded that teaching is  a learning curve too.  I have always seen it as a circular movement, but I had temporarily forgotten  that, and now  I have remembered what I believe to be very important, that is,  we give as we teach and  we are given as we learn while we teach. A gift indeed.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Womens's Hour

Just today, I listened to radio 4, Women's Hour, Jenni Murray, not doing her winning stand-up comedy act for Red Nose Day this time,  for which huge applause, but a very emotional,  interesting and serious discussion about how it feels to be the mother of a son, instead of a daughter. Interesting to me, that is, because I am the mother of daughters, and have no experience of sons in my life -  blood line or steps.

I remember being delighted when I gave birth to my first daughter, ah! I felt I know you already and when daughter number 2 arrived, my cup flowed over. I had imagined girl babies, not the pink fluffy sort of thing, more  the late night chat, borrowing stuff,  mutual understanding, hand holding to womanhood sort of thing.  I liked netball! I have never understood cricket/rugby/mud.

Also on a much darker note, I remember so harshly my own mother's uber-love for my  brother. She set him on a different level to my sister and myself. It really was most confusing and dividing. Now, I am not for one moment suggesting that her adoration of her son was a heathy, well balanced sort of thing,  it certainly wasn't, but I have no true understanding of how the maternal, unconditional love could be any different towards a son than it is towards a daughter.

As a mainly single parent, I felt like the man, the protector, the provider. My girls needed protection until they were able and strong enough to look after themselves. It was only in those days that I ever wondered what it would have been like to have had a son, for I too was in need of male protection from time to time. I have never felt lacking for love nor loving from being the mother of daughters... However I have often wonder what their father felt about it all... Would things have been different had our children been sons, and in truth is this the real, subconscious "difference", ie, that when  a woman has given birth to a son,  she has,  beyond any doubt or argument,  fulfilled her role and duty in this world?

Thursday, 24 March 2011

East Beach Eats

Just last weekend, in fresh Spring sunshine, I decided to pop down to East Beach Cafe for their perfect smoked salmon and scrambled egg brunch and it flashed a colourful memory back into my mind of when, once again,   I needed my breakfast-by-the-sea fix, and as I rounded the corner of the award winning building (check it out,, I was flabbergasted, (just too great a word to not use just this once..) to find the sea full of wind surfers. Now this shoal,  (or should it be herd? What would you call a hellova lot of wind surfers in one spot of sea?).. were not any ordinary wind surfers, oh no , this was, of course, the world  championship FINAL ... in Littlehampton, West Sussex, really? Ha, why?  I am still asking too? But it was amazing, look
I remember that morning vividly, and as I rounded the corner once again last weekend, I remembered another significant meal there... Lunch this time, of pan fried mackerel with tiny pieces of roast vegetables and a glass of chilled Sauvignon...perfect, you could almost taste the sea,  and a couple of weeks ago, I thought I would recreate that moment of magic at home.... Well, I thought it was fine, sipped my wine, ate the lot, then looked at my daughter’s face... She wasn't sharing this gastronomic delight  with me. “Don't like it....” to which I replied, "Sorry, never mind I’ll give it to the cats", problem solved.... Or so I thought. Come the morning, I carefully and lovingly divided up the mackerel for them, only to find they too turned up their snooty noses up at this delicacy!

My food and kindness rejected  even by the cats. T’was not a good day.. I think I’ll stick to salads for a while!

Friday, 18 March 2011

A Funny Thing Happened to Me Today

This is nothing to do with design or gardens or art... it is just that a funny thing happened to me today.

Last October, I decided to buy a new car, big decision for me. This was to be a replacement for my current car, which is a 5 door hatchback, nippy, diesel engine, German, just getting a bit old, like some us..... So, as I said, I decided to buy an updated version, nippier and newer. As luck would have it though, this particular German car company informed me this week, that in instead of  delivering my new car, last week, as originally promised, I would now have to wait till end September/early October! 

I thought this was pretty odd, so I made a few enquiries.  Of course they were  hugely apologetic, something to do with the radio, believe it or not,  but they were willing to lend me, free of charge, a similar German car, with the same engine capacity, seating etc. until my new car should be ready.... A very good offer I thought, and I agreed with alacrity.

The car hire firm were charming and offered to deliver my temporary car this afternoon..... and at 1pm, the door bell rang, and there a young man stood on my doorstep, with lots of papers to sign. The only problem was,  he was standing next to a bus, so I asked him  why there was a 7 seater people pusher parked at my front door.... He told me, proudly, that it was my replacment car!

Now, I am not big into cars, but even I can tell that to drive a 7 seater people pusher would not be the same at all, at all, as driving a streamlined, pretty fast, hatchback.... Hey ho... They were still charming as I was complaining and, guess what,  I am getting a replacement replacement car next week!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Galleries and Sheds

Style, that magical, something extra.... I know when I’ve seen,  but it’s  a bit like relating a dream to someone, it kinda gets lost in the story.. but here goes...

 I went to The Museum of Fashion and Textiles in Bermondsey yesterday, Friday, and wow that was STYLE! At the mo there is a show of Sue Timney’s design, remember her? Shop in Portobello Road, designs everywhere, on fabric, on ceramics, made into ties, etc. etc. - mainly printed in black and  white, some gloriously multi-coloured, but the style was also in the quality of the printing, it was just so fine, and having been a textile designer  for all those years,  believe me it is a joy to come  across good design married to good quality printing on fab silk....

But that’s at the top end. Style comes at all market levels, in fact it is so outside any market value... I went  to stay with friends in Battersea for the evening, and there was style jam packed! My friend prints her own cloth, on silk, beautiful sort of abstract images, with loads of spots, with funky coloured velvet backing, and they are so cool! She has promised me a house gift when she next prints, yay! I’ll pop a photo up when she does. But the cool thing is, she does it all from her garden shed - no grand production line, no big contracts, personal clients who can’t wait to see her next range and are happy to build up their own collection...  Style and Cool together in a shed

Style really is about how you do  it, how you put things together and style is unique. We all have our own, we all have our own signature. At the mo, for example I am into flashes of colour, in my dress and in my paintings - I have been painting white and pale coloured ceramics together with a single bright touch of somtheing, it just feels lifting.. And yesterday I bought a colourful, slightly mad bracelet thingy from the MFT, all made from recycled fabrics.... I think its cool and I think it’s got style and it was only a fiver! I am also wearing/using my DKNY handbag. It’s made from the softest, brownest leather, it was a gift and I know it cost a bomb and I  have been loving it for nearly 30 years!

That’s “My Style” - I keep my favourites for ever regardless of their label, it’s their value that counts for me, not their price tag. In my home and in my life, I mix and enjoy equally, new and old, loud and quiet, bon marche and expensive. It’s the mix that makes the magic....

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Sunday Lunch

Whist thinking about that book, ‘ Catching Fire..”, I was inspired to cook up a Sunday lunch. Well, we eat at 5 o’clock here... very late Sunday lunch I know - Family favourite, Roast Chicken with all the bits. Well ‘bits’ in this case includes cooking the chicken in a brick.... does anybody remember chicken bricks, and if so, are they brave enough to admit to it!

Before you put the chicken in the brick, lay 3 leeks along bottom of it and half cover them with water. Pop the chicken on top of the leeks, stuffing with herbs and seasoning and half a lemon and cover with slices of bacon....

Pop it all  into  a cold oven, turn on to about 190/200 degrees and forget about it  for say, 90 minutes to 2 hours, rather depends on the size of the chicken....Take the brick out of the oven and remove the lid. The bacon should be a nice golden colour by now, so wrap it up and keep it warm.. but don’t do what I always do and forget about it till Monday! Chicken goes back into t’oven for about 30 minutes, to finish cooking and browning, and you know the rest...

Leave it to rest for 15 minutes, sort out vegies etc, and oh, yes, gravy? Well, that’s the joy... simply tip out the gooey leeks into a blender, whizz up and serve with.  It really is the most delicious, light, tasty “gravy”.... I was told that’s how the French do it and that was good enough for me!

But what’s really nice for Monday supper is chicken and roast veg soup.... Boil up a litre of stock add a tin of tomatoes, season, add herbs and 2 handfuls of barley and the same of green lentils , I like to add tarragon and a bit of basil for this soup. Simmer for about 40 minutes then add the left over chicken and roast vegies... let it all heat through PROPERLY and dish up with a fresh green leaf salad and chunky bread -

Not posh nosh, but seriously good nosh - bon appetit!

Friday, 11 March 2011

A Thought to Share

 A thought to share..... from a friend of mine...
"I just finished taking an evening class at Stanford. The last lecture was on the mind-body connection--the relationship between stress and disease.  The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.  At first everyone laughed, but he was serious.
Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically this quality “girlfriend time" helps us to create more serotonin--a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well being.  Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going.  Jobs? Yes.  Sports? Yes.  Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf?  Yes.  But their feelings?--rarely.  Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters, and evidently that is very good for our health.  He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.
There's a tendency to think that when we are "exercising" we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged--not true.  In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!  So every time you hang out to schmooze with a gal pal, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for doing something good for your health!  We are indeed very, very lucky.  Sooooo let's toast to our friendship with our girlfriends. It's very good for our health."
I was reminded of this again last night.... Thank you my dear friends!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Brain Catching Fire

 I don't really get much time to read these days.... but, having said that,  I am happily popping in and out of an amazing book about social development and growth - "Catching Fire, How Cooking Made Us Human" by Richard Wrangham. 
The thrust of this book is to show us how cooking our food helped our brains to grow. All that  time we once spent chewing for hours  on  rawness, freed up our minds  to develop a  more socially sophisticated way of living with each other. We began to have structures for making and raising families, and gender divisions of labour became apparent, amongst many other crucial developments. Children were nurtured, in more secure places, due to the need to keep 'the home fires burning',  by bonded pairs and many  of the social mores we take for granted today came into being... 
Now,  a lot to argue with there, you might say, as it seems to me that we have spent many years trying to break down the sexual divisions of labour alone , for example! But it's not all bad, and I for one am much happier creating occasion out of preparing  food and enjoying the social ceremony of sharing a meal with my family and friends, than going it alone.
There are also, after all, many arguments  pointing out that in some ways the break down of the family today is due to so many of NOT sitting together as families and sharing meals... Who  knows? It's a  good, thought provoking  book though.... Even Nigella comments on the cover, so it must be ok!

Monday, 28 February 2011

Spring Days

It's that time of year again - we know these dark days can't go on for much longer... but we aren't sure yet! So, Sunday, a glorious sunny bright morning full of "that" promise,  saw me leaping around in my garden again, snipping and tweeking and tutting, so I wouldn't miss anything.... and it was great! And no the sun didn't last, so that by tea time it was raining again.... but hey, today I am looking out on it all now, and yes,  it's grey again, but that's OK because really,  we are only on the cusp of February and March, and it WILL  get brighter, and last night's post heavy-weather sky was glorious and dramatic and star filled.  Purses and silver linings or clouds or something?....

Friday too I was in garden design mode, but this time for a client. We spent at least an hour chatting again (I had visited before and Friday's  visit was to survey and measure) and then I paced around measuring and looking and tutting again. It is not a big garden, but it is private and quiet and it is greatly loved by it's owners, who want to create a space of sanctuary and charm which will also provide a safe place in which their grandchildren can play.. so not too much to think about hey!! 

They came to visit my art exhibition at the Arundel Gallery Trail last year, which, by nature of the work on show, also highlighted my garden.... which brings me back to grey days and/or sunshine.... it's not long to go now, and when Spring does spring it will be particularly glorious this year, as all the very early stuff which has been delayed by the harsh weather  will burst at the same time as the later stuff, now ready to leap into action a bit early! Spring will be sprung and the grass will be ris again very soon!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Art Workshop

Had the best day on Monday..... no it wasn't sunny or a holiday or anything like that, I spent the whole day at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester. The morning saw me at an  Outsider and Marginalised Artist Workshop. 
We were offered the chance to create mono prints using Paul Klee's art works as our starting point... I haven't done any mono printing since art school, (properly) and with  my daughters when they were at junior school, (playing) so it brought back many memories and also moved me forward to think of other creative outcomes. After a short demonstration, our group got started and,  as a whole , we were enormously creative and absorbed. Process and product flowed together. 
My afternoon also flowed on seamlessly...... On Monday afternoons a group from the Partners in Art scheme, which is part of the Community Programme at Pallant House Gallery, meet  in the studio  there. The Partners in Art scheme pairs up people who need support to follow their art interests with a volunteer who may also be a practising artist. Together they meet to share and grow their art interests at a time and place that suits them. On Mondays, in the studio, everyone has their own creative project on the go, often working with their 'Partner'. I have been a a volunteer and a "Partner" in this scheme for some time now.
'Outside In' is a project for marginalised artists creating opportunities for people to develop and exhibit their art. Many have exhibited in the studio at Pallant House Gallery. Very well worth checking out regularly or indeed getting involved in. See the Outside In website 
So all in all a complete day of creativity and socialising with other artists - a Red Letter Monday for me!

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Power of Music

Last night, not sure what I was expecting, having donned several warm layers, I headed off to Chichester Cathedral, home of the famous Chagal window, (which incidentally I think should be back lit when there are evening events..) and John Piper's and Graham Sutherland's wonderful art work, I was unexpectedly moved to tears and then whoops of joy by the Creole Choir of Cuba - If we ever needed a reminder of how passionate and moving music can be, here it was. 6 women and 4 men, dressed in glorious colour, dancing and swaying, sang of their pain and suffering, about their forebears' near slavery in the sugar and cotton plantations, about the harshness of life in general and, in particular, the disaster which befell Haiti last year. I cried, I felt deep deep sorrow... without even understanding a word of Creole, Cuba's second language

During the interval we strolled round the cathedral, soaking up  the atmosphere, gazing in wonder at not only the grand architectural mass of this building, but enjoying anew its glorious art work.... returning to our seats, a little warmer from our stroll, we were  lifted to an entirely different level - this time a place of laughter and rejoicing... it was rich, it was genuine and deeply felt and it was all a passionate reminder of the power music has to move  and hold us...... Follow this tour if you possibly can......

Friday, 18 February 2011

Dance.. but not watching this time!

Another  quiet night in sleepy old Arundel last night - just a couple of drinks down in the my case only one though as someone knocked mine over straight away... my excuse and I'm stickin' to it!.. listening to Blues courtesy of Will and Stephen and Guitarist - and all hell broke loose! We all just Upped and Bopped - and bopped till we dropped... and hobbled home... great fun, great music, great venue. It happens every 3rd Thursday in the month with comedy and  other stuff thrown in too - always something going on and its like a secret everyone should know about.... Its vaulted and deep under  the Town Hall.... check it out on 
I have just spoken to my Dancing Partner and he's just sheepisly admitted he fell asleep this afternoon, due to excessive dancing ha ha!

Monday, 14 February 2011


"I can't believe it's Friday, again, already, whatever... all of that. Busy week, but what's the outcome  of all of it? I remember when I felt I was only  "achieving" if I was constantly rushing around. Energy out only ever counted if I was totally exhausted by the end of my week. I have been busy this week. I have  moved a lot of things around. And I am not exhausted!

On Wednesday, for example, I had a lunch meeting with my group of artists who exhibit with me in the Arundel Gallery Trail ....  We sorted it all - persuaded one of us, who is going through  a lot of changes  in her life, to stay  with us and  to show her wonderful work again here - agreed on taking on 2 new artists to show here, that makes us a total of 6, exiting - and we also discussed the merits or otherwise of pink diamente Donald Duck pants... did that really happen? And why did she tell us that? Ha!

The day before had been sun filled. Yes,  weird,  I saw a strange orange glow in the sky and headed out to my little patch here which has been crying out for some TLC... and I gardened for two glorious hours, pruning roses, cutting back my collection of grasses, musing, planning. I had my garden studio doors open for the first time this year yay!  I took photos and I plotted and planned some more.

This was all "work" but it didn't  feel like "work", it wasn't draining me, rather it was giving me energy - It's all wrapped up together, its all about "growing"... and last night I went to a fabulous, moving, energising, raw and beautiful dance performance at Chichester university, by a modern young dance company called Lila Dance - check them out on and try and see them on this tour if you possibly can.  Watching them move in and out of deep shadows and bright light not only inspired my own painting, but also provoked a feeling of general creativity. Things aren't/don't need to be in boxes - its all linked and it flows - I know it all sounds a bit  happy clappy, but if we can see things joined together rather than sparring with each other, we  begin to paint the real picture, and we can begin to measure achievement in "real" terms  too.
Here endeth the sermon, which wasn't, of course, supposed to be a sermon in the first place, rather a Friday night chat!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Art and Stuff

It's all too easy to just not make the effort, isn't it? I felt quite ambivalent about a planned trip to London yesterday.... grey day, feeling lazy, the usual stuff. I knew my friend was really keen on this trip... An exhibition at the Barbican - Future Beauty, 30 Years of Japanese Fashion. Two important points (well important to me that is!), were involved here. 1, I HATE going anywhere near the Barbican. I  always get lost, I find the grey concrete depressing, and now of course there are so many empty grey concrete buildings, so I have to be very fond of any person who could possibly drag me anywhere near the place.. and 2, I wasnt too keen on looking at "Fashion". I had left that world behind many years ago, having enjoyed almost 20 years of textile and fashion designing. But wow! Was I wrong on all of the above... It was such a visual treat. Beautfully presented with  long silky shimmering panels of fabric dividing the exhibits. And as for the exhibits - perfectly shaped, draped, coloured, proportioned, textured pieces of  art. Sure they were old frocks, but hey,  what cool old frocks! Each one a feat of engineering and innovative design. Each one a blending of form and function, and really isnt that what design, any design, is all about? Proportion, form , texture, pattern, etc, it all works when its done well.... no matter what area of design we are talking about, it's all linked. This exhibition finishes on 7th Feb, I think, so if you have time, do make the effort this weekend, you won't be disappointed... Oh and I forgot to tell you, we nearly missed half of it! We were just about to leave when I overheard a conversation about "upstairs"! Well, dont miss that bit whatever you do - it shouts colour and shape and look-at me!

Interestingly, this was in sharp contrast to my trip, also yesterday, in the morning, to the RA's new show, 20th Century Sculpture. Now that was a completely opposite experience. I had been looking forward to  this one... I walked round in 15 minutes. I found it tired, unexiting... in fact the only piece I felt moved by was a perfect wood and string ball by Barbara Hepworth... But she shines anywhere, I think.

My motto for the day, (ha ha!) is to be open - surprising how often we arent and that makes me think how much we might be missing.

Anyway, back to the studio. Yes, I managed it,  I sarted a new piece on Monday. I did spend quite a lot of time pottering around my little studio, well, we hadnt spent any time together for quite a while so we had to get to know each other again...  Happy to say, we are still good mates, so...

Bye, for now!...

Friday, 28 January 2011

New Year Operations and Plans

Oh my...  a clean blank page...where to make the first mark? Just like facing a new canvas. Its all ready, prepped, primed and... The first mark is the hardest, so here goes... New Year, and I am sitting here nursing my right arm following an arthur-oscopy (sp?) whoever Arthur is. I know its key hole surgery, and I know I had to have it done, because, believe it or not, 15 months or so ago, I slipped while climbing down from the summit of Kilimanjaro - I know, no one would make that up would they? So, after a year of  physio and acupuncture etc, I decided to have it all stitched up together again, so here I am , not able to drive yet - no problem with that, friends are ferrying me around hither and thither - I can walk and I can work, though I have  not yet got back to standing at the eisel - that's my goal for next week, yay! This week I have completed a v small garden design for a projected building development, quite local to here.  Its a tiddlet of a job, but its been interesting working with  the developers/contractors. Nice little one to  do and I am looking forward to seeing it all take shape, but the other one I was working on last week, is going to be a goody! Looking forward to getting my hands dirty on that one. Its local again, which is nice, and I am working with my local  landscapers. I'll put up some photos when things start moving, which is scheduled for March. There's another garden waiting for me to go and survey, so , yes, I have to drive soon! Till then I am sorting photos and planning paintings and drawings for the next Arundel Gallery Trail (August), also gathering and meeting with artists and makers who will show here with me. So its a fertile period, even though my shoulder hurts! Enough for today..... Speak soon