Sunday 29 March 2020

The Pattern of my Days

I hope you are all staying safe, well and busy. Our days have taken on a new slower rhythm as we try to keep some structure in our lives whilst observing the lock down. Stewart still has work delivering groceries so is now deemed a "key worker" and much of his other work has always been done on line so not much has changed to his daily routine. Of course, it is a worry that he is going out to work and potentially at risk of being exposed to the virus but we are being as careful as we can under the circumstances. For me, suddenly being without any work and not knowing when it will resume has meant creating a new pattern to my days. I continue to get up at much the same time as usual and take the dog for a long walk. I come home and we then have breakfast together. The heat then gets put on in my studio and I might catch up with emails or maybe watch an art video or two in the house while it warms up. The day is spent in my studio, with breaks to make lunch, make a daily phone call to my Mum and calling or sending a message to other friends and family. More than ever it seems important that we all stay connected.

Studio activity varies depending on what I feel like doing, although I've not felt very much like making big paintings this week. The windows in our village are being filled with rainbows, an idea so that children could play a game of "Rainbow I-spy" whilst out walking, although I suspect a lot of adults are playing too... I know I am and feel disproportionally excited when I spot a new one! So I started the week by painting a rainbow for our hall window. I then decided it would be fun to have a more permanent rainbow to hang up and so made another from mosaic. Are there rainbows in windows where you live?

Although I haven't felt much like making large paintings I want to make some sort of art every day and sketchbooks seem an ideal way of doing this. I have been taking part in Karen Abend's Sketchbook Revival this week (still not too late to join in) which has prompted me into making an art journal. I've started these before but I've never progressed much beyond the first couple of pages. I thought it would be a good way to document our days at home during the pandemic though and with not a lot else to do I might stick with it this time. These are just some random pages from this week.

Important to remember to keep smiling I think...

It is hard to believe we have only been in lock down since last Monday evening... it feels like so much longer. I guess that's because so much has changed in such a short space of time.

Laugh whenever you can... it's the best tonic to keep your spirits up!

We have been lucky that the weather has been so good the past week and on my morning walk one day I was struck by the fact that there were so many birds singing. Nature carries on regardless and it's a joy to see so many signs of spring.

A reminder to myself to make art every day...

... and to keep in touch with our family and friends. We have a family WhatsApp group and there were all sorts of puzzles being sent yesterday between our adult children. It's hard not being able to spend time with them though especially our new grandson who is already a month old.

As well as daily sketchbook work I have also been making some short videos with a view to eventually teaching online. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you may have seen some of these already but this week I uploaded my first ever YouTube video which you can find here:

I made it specifically for one of my classes that was due to meet last Saturday as this was one of the things we were going to be doing, and I know some of the class aren't on Facebook etc. It's ridiculous that I have happily been teaching classes to adults  face to face for twenty years but it felt so exposing and I felt so self conscious talking to camera. But I have gradually got braver and my next plan is for a step by step collection of short clips showing the progress of a painting... as a response to a request in a comment from Stitchinscience on my last post. Anything else you would like to see me teach? 

In the evenings I occasionally pick up my knitting but I have also been working on a rag rug for our hallway which I finished on Thursday... I can see a lot of projects getting finished in the coming weeks. I had no sooner put it on the floor to see what it looked like when Hector came over, gave it a sniff, circled a few times and then plonked himself down with total ownership. He approved of the rug that I obviously made for him!

But this is where it really belongs... in our hall where Hector doesn't go!

Last night we had a very special evening... we cracked open a bottle of wine... okay that's not that special and seems to be a regular occurrence ... we then had take away fish and chips delivered on our doorstep by our village pub. This was followed by a delicious homemade crumble and ice cream (even if I do say so myself) made with a gift of allotment rhubarb from one of our neighbours (also left on the doorstep). We then spent the evening on a zoom call with several neighbouring families taking part in a village quiz. It was a lovely evening, just as good as going out and makes us realise how lucky we are to be part of such a wonderful community.

So that's the pattern of my days, which of course may well change as the weeks go by. It's not always upbeat and happy and I have my moments of anxiety worrying about all the people getting sick and whether my family will be safe etc. just like everyone else, but I try to remind myself  that I can't control what's happening in the world, I can only control how I feel and act and it helps by limiting my exposure to the news (which I've realised actually makes me feel physically unwell with a racing heart and pressure in my chest). I feel it's good to know the facts but I don't need all the "what if" horror stories and factually incorrect rumours that are abounding.

How are your days and evenings? I really do hope you are all staying safe, well and busy xx

Sunday 22 March 2020

A New Normal

I don't think I'm going to write at length about the current situation sweeping our country and the world. We are all in the same boat, with the same problems to face and everyone going on about it doesn't help anxiety levels. It's going to be tough but I believe we will get through it and hopefully come out of it a kinder and more caring society. Of course it will also bring out the worst in some people but let's hope they are the minority. I'm not used to having so much time on my hands though. I'm not working from home because all my work has been cancelled for the foreseeable future - no talks, no classes. I've starting investigating how to produce teaching material online but it's all new to me so it's a steep learning curve... but at least I have plenty of time to learn.

Yesterday we cleaned the house, I did two loads of laundry (which dried outside... yah!), washed the windows outside, which were very dirty after recent storms and then decided to clean and sort out our larder cupboard. We don't have a lot of space for storage so I probably have potential to rummage up four or five unplanned meals at the most, Ready Steady Cook style! Most of the contents are spices, vinegars and jams... so many pots of jam! No hoarding going on here (apart from the jam of course, although it is mostly homemade), but at least I can see what we've got. 

All that was done and it was still only lunchtime so in the afternoon we decided to take advantage of the fine weather and go for a long walk around the villages. It was quite cold and blustery, but lovely to be outside. There were more people than usual out walking but still not that many and all at a distance!

There were lots of signs of spring arriving which was a cheering sight. Mother Nature carries on regardless.

It was Hector's fourth birthday so an extra long walk was a treat for him too!

I've also managed to set up my new website in the past few weeks, which I'm really pleased about. It's very simple but I do quite like it. You can find me here if you want to take a look

Plans to sell my art are now on hold however!

This is my most recent painting... I found a tiny rough sketch in one of my sketchbooks and based it on that. I like it enough for the moment but it may get changed or painted over. I've only a limited number of canvases to keep me going over the next few months!

So that's what I've been up to this week... staying at home, pottering in the garden, making lots more phone calls than usual and sending more messages. It's going to be our new normal!

Sunday 15 March 2020

Troubling Times

I do hope you are all staying safe in these difficult times. I am sure I am not alone in finding it difficult to sift through the masses of sometimes conflicting advice, plus lack of trust in our government in the UK is not helping, as I really don't believe they know what they are doing. Personally I am quite happy staying at home except for work and grocery shopping (assuming the hoarders have left us anything to buy) but trying to convince my 85 year old mother this is what she should be doing is another matter! If I don't take her out I know she will just get herself a taxi so I would rather it was me driving her to the shops, but then I feel complicit in putting her at risk. I think the sooner we are all told to stay home the easier it will be.

At least I won't be bored if we get put in lock-down... just think of all those unfinished and yet to be started projects. Recently I signed up for a twelve week art program called cvp so I know there will also be plenty of painting to do in the weeks ahead. For the first couple of weeks we have been creating Inspiration boards and looking at our motivation and desires etc. so there's not been any painting yet. So I decided I would tidy up my studio in an effort to clear some space for when the painting starts but in doing so I discovered a basket of my old Lino printing tools along with a couple of pieces of Lino.

An hour or so later I had made several prints and rather than tidy up my studio I had also created more mess... I'm good at that! But I did have fun.

So much fun, that the following day I went back and made another Lino cut, this time basing it on one of my book jacket embroideries.

Today, having run out of Lino I made a small stamp from a sheet of foam and made another little bird print. Don't ask me why I decided to go with the Robin Colouring because I don't know. However what I do know is, that come next Christmas when I decide to make Christmas cards I won't have a clue where I have put this stamp, assuming I even remember making it. 
And the studio has still not been tidied up!

As well as plenty of creative pursuits to keep me busy I also have this ever growing pile of books beside my bed. I think I would quite like some enforced reading time. I've been enjoying the Ruth Galloway novels by Elly Griffiths but I'm trying to alternate them with other books for a bit of variety. I'm also trying not to buy any new books so my reading matter does tend to depend on what I can find in charity shops, borrow from other people or pick up from our village book exchange... although that's probably not a safe activity any more! At the moment I am ready Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. It has the feeling of The Great Gatsby but far more enjoyable in my opinion. I loved his only other book A Gentleman in Moscow too and the story of Count Rostov who is placed under house arrest, unable to leave his hotel is probably rather apt for the circumstances we currently find ourselves. From Goodreads: "Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery." I might just have to read it again.

So yes, there are difficult times ahead for all of us I think, wherever we live, but looking on the bright side not only will I get lots of painting, knitting, sewing, gardening and reading done... I might actually have time to write here more often because I do miss it when I don't!

What are your lock down plans?

Sunday 8 March 2020

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Busy schedules, changes of plans and weekends with no trains and replacement buses have meant that I've not managed to see Joe (son no. 3) since Christmas and not only that I've not actually seen his flat, where he has been living since last September. But today the planets aligned and we found a day where we were both free and the trains were running normally so we met up in North London for the day.

Having lived in Stoke Newington, gone to school in Stamford Hill, worked in Wood Green and frequently spent nights out in around Finsbury Park when I was growing up, it was like a trip back in time. We started from Finsbury Park with a walk across the park, where I immediately recalled going boating on the lake. Joe wasn't sure there was even a lake never mind boats but sure enough, there it was! It started to rain so our first stop was back to Joe's flat for a cuppa and to dry off. Joe lives in an upstairs flat in a typical north London terrace house and as we walked upstairs it felt so familiar. The smell of the house was just like my grandmother's, difficult to describe but it was a woody, 'old' smell that seems more to do with the fabric of the house than anything in it. After a quick cuppa we ventured out onto Green Lanes where there were a plethora of Turkish restaurants to choose from although we opted for some amazing salads at a lovely little coffee shop.

After lunch Joe suggested a walk or a bus to some of the places I remembered. The rain had stopped so we decided to walk and head down Green Lanes to Clissold Park. By the time we arrived it was pouring!

Not to be deterred by a spot of rain we crossed the park to Newington Green, where I have memories of going for school swimming lessons.

From there we headed down Church Street towards Stoke Newington. I lived here very briefly when I was about 10-11 years old and attended the William Patten junior school which was every bit as grim as I remembered! Our playground was actually on the roof! I was in Miss Pinkington's class and I probably have a photo somewhere if I could be bothered to look.

We lived in a rather ghastly top floor flat above a greengrocers shop, now the Anglo Spice Grill... one bedroom, tiny kitchen, no bathroom and just one shared toilet with the flat below. My brother and I shared a bedroom and my Mum and Dad slept on a sofa bed in the living room. We washed at the kitchen sink and once a week we went to my uncle's flat in Dalston for a bath.... don't worry, I'm not going to go all Monty Python on you! We weren't there for very long but I do remember watching the  first moon landing whilst we lived there and singing The Beatles song Obladi Oblada so I guess it was 1968-69. Isn't it strange the things you remember!

A surprise memory was walking past Abney Park Cemetery. There is something quite special about urban cemeteries like this one that feels unique to London. Crowded, overgrown and steeped with history they evoke an atmosphere of times gone by.

From Stoke Newington we made our way on to Stamford Hill, where I remembered my grandmother working at the local Sainsburys... in those days it was a shop with beautiful separate display counters for meats, cheeses and groceries and lovely tiled walls and floors, nothing like today's supermarkets. Today the same store occupies the site that used to be cinema where I remember going to Saturday morning pictures! A little way up the road we passed my secondary school, for which I have mixed memories many of which involve bunking off to miss going to weekly mass!

From there we ventured to where my grandmother lived, but her London terrace house has long since been replaced by rows of flats. I probably have a photo of me sitting outside her old house somewhere too! It looks nothing like it does today.

After that we wandered back to the main road and on to Seven Sisters where I caught the train back and Joe walked home.

It was quite a trip back down memory lane and I was surprised by how much came flooding back. Things I hadn't thought about for over forty years suddenly popped back in my head, street names, old school friends, places that used to be but are no more! Such a lovely unplanned day.

In other news it was my second trip into London this week. On Thursday we ventured south of the river (when it also rained and we got very wet) to meet my new grandson. He arrived last week on what would usually be the last day of February, narrowly missing being a leap year baby. He is called Sokratis and weighed a very healthy 8 lb 3 oz and although I might be a little biased he really is gorgeous with a head of dark hair, just like his Dad!