Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Tuesday 26th June 2012

Ladies! I have a new bag...isn't it yummy? I bought it at the Celtic Winter Fair  in Llandudno last winter (I refuse to say "fayre" and despise fake Olde English).     I have been debating whether or not to give it to my daughter Sophie but in the end I just had to keep it for myself..I love its pretty flowers and, of course,it is BLUE! I just started using it last week and already I have managed to get make-up stains on the cloth strap! Oh yes..nothing stays perfect for long in Carol's world!

Image of the day

Some of my favourite things about summer are hanging baskets. Mine are coming good at last! I took this pic earlier today. I have about eight baskets:two hanging opposite my kitchen window in front of the garage door (above) and the other six are hanging on apple trees in the back garden. I love surfinias-they're such hard workers and hopefully keep flowering until the first frosts.The other tiny flowers are verbena..so pretty.


On Saturday my daughter Sophie needed to find a birthday gift for her best friend Briony so I took her to Beaumaris. We had a look around this gift shop (below) and other galleries and shops in the town.

We were getting nowhere though so we decided to go and have a re-think and have afternoon tea (any excuse!) in the fading splendour of The Bulkeley..a rather grand hotel whose permanent resident raises both shudders and smiles!  He was I think some sort of mountain goat..dressed-up as Sherlock Holmes!I know someone who worked there who says they dress up the goat as Father Christmas every December!

After coffee and toasted teacakes we braved the windy seafront briefly..look how choppy the waves in the Menai Straits were. Well,in the end, we went to a garden centre and bought a spiky cactus which we potted up, with some baby succulents I had been growing myself,into a nice pot (always plant in groups of three).I gave Briony a pretty Cath Kidston mug with strawberries on too...I love those large mugs.I have given away six as gifts in the past year..they're big enough for a good-sized morning mug of tea.I like to take a steaming mug up the garden and potter about first thing,listening to the birds and checking what's going on with my plants,which flowers are opening and so on..time to be calm before the business of the day begins.   

 Briony had a party a day or two later..Sophie being the only vegetarian present,a friend from Sri Lanka made her a special curry for the party. Unfortunately the unusual "bean-like vegetable" Sophie ate was actually a hot chilli! I wish I'd been there to see the ensuing panic..lots of water and milk were involved!

Friday, 22 June 2012

  Friday June 22nd 2012

Picture of the day...one of my Gertrude Jekyll roses..they are effortlessly beautiful and smell heavenly.

The power of opera....

I have just come in from my last ever college class after a year of learning how to teach essential skills (used to be known as "basic skills") It was an interesting experience...
 In the last hour of the last lesson ever there was just one little thing I needed the tutor to transfer onto my memory stick to finish on my portfolio of work.Unfortunately, when the tutor pressed "save" suddenly EVERYTHING on my memory stick disappeared!!!!!!!!!! ..I'm talking a year's worth of assignments, scheme of work, lesson plans and resources for twelve lessons of teaching placement.. The tutor was amazingly calm but I could tell she was quite worried too.After several attempts to reach the college I.T. staff she whisked the stick away to "downstairs",leaving me hyperventilating and feeling quite sick.Okay,I did have most of the information in other places (I hoped),but this was the stick with everything in correct order and containing my final portfolio for the qualification...
Luckily,it all got sorted but as I sat there waiting for the tutor to return with either good or bad news the only thing that kept me from meltdown/bursting into tears was that,from somewhere in the ether, the famous and beautiful opera duet from the Pearl Fishers came into my head and somehow helped me cope!
 I really love that piece of music though why it suddenly came into my head I'll never know...I hadn't heard it for about a year. I hummed it several times until I was composed again...the tutor returned with the good news that the documents weren't lost forever, but that, she had been told.. "Memory sticks are not for storing information"!!! 
STILL! Course over, I feel like a kid let out at the end of term...I will miss the other students and the two course tutors,all lovely women.Here comes summer :-)

Thursday 21st June 2012

I had a lovely,though poignant,day in Chester yesterday. My Daughter has just finished studying for a degree there and she will be moving back home next week so I was visiting her there for the last time in her student house.Chester has been my favourite city ever since I started visiting it from the age of sixteen.It has been even more special getting to know it through visiting my daughter...I think she has been living my fantasy for me! I always wanted to live there.It's such a civilised place. I love the cathedral,with its beautiful wood carving and stained glass.I love all the small individual specialist independent shops, the talented street musicians, the city walls and the links with Roman occupation, the lovely black and white Tudor-style buildings, the river with the swans,ducks and nearby cheeky squirrels...I could go on and on. We will of course return time and again..my Phoebe is going to miss Chester so much and I'm sure she has stored up many happy memories.
(Ha! I also remember the dreadful student shared house she was in for the first year..the boys' toilet looked like something out of The Young Ones television series...brown stains up to the seat-there was an unused bottle of bleach right next to it!) 

This is a photo I took yesterday of the Bridge Of Sighs in Chester.It was the bridge that prisoners crossed in the late 18th century from their cells to receive the last rights at the chapel on the other side, before returning for  execution. Only a tiny bridge but a place of such sadness. (see artist's impression on the right)

                     Some excavated Roman remains which show an early underfloor heating system!

  Chester's famous clock set up on the city wall.

The famous baby elephant called "Janya" is a bronze sculpture near the cathedral..well-known place for my daughter to meet up with friends.

                         Just a few of Chester's many small independent specialist shops

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Wednesday  20th  June 2012

This is an amazing sculpture we saw outside the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition last summer.."Colouring book" by Jeff Koons.It was very unusual..it looked like transparent colourful jelly because you thought you were looking through it but it was so cleverly placed that the highly-shiny surface reflected the surrounding buildings.On closer inspection it had the look of plastic metallic foil.It was a very joyful piece and had a great "wow factor".

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Tuesday June 19th 2012

Image of the day
This is a huge stainless steel sculpture I saw in the Great Hall at the British Museum about three or four years ago. It was stunning...so modern amongst all that history..you just wanted to stroke it .The Chinese artist Zhan Wang has made lots of work in a similar vein.Imagine the technology involved in making it! It's always so hot whenever I go to London on my summer visits and this sculpture looked icy cool..I remember wanting to press my hot face against it! 

                    Here it is again from another angle....my daughter's in the foreground. 

Monday, 11 June 2012

Monday  11th  June  2012

Today my Dad emailed me a copy of an old family photo..the man is my great great grandfather Abraham Johnson who left his home in Delamere Forest in the late 1800's to become the blacksmith to Sir Humphrey De Trafford whose estate eventually became Trafford Park..which some say is the birthplace of the industrial revolution and where the Trafford Centre now stands.
He is with his wife Hannah, a strong character who was known for smoking a pipe! They lived in a cottage on the banks of the Manchester ship canal very close to Barton Bridge,kept chickens and sold flowers from their garden at their garden gate...I went looking for his grave a few years ago in the overgrown churchyard just by the bridge..sadly it was very neglected and I was defeated by a high thicket of brambles. That little face peeping from behind is my Grandma, Edith, who died about seven years ago at the age of 97,so this photo must date from about 1910.She looks so familiar to me,even in infancy and was a link to another era...I see her still when I look at the face of my oldest daughter..Grandma was another strong woman who was a widow and brought up four young boys on her own.I wish we had more photos like this but I expect there wasn't much money for luxuries.How I'd love to step back in time and go say Hello!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Sunday  10th  June  2012

Image of the day...  we  waited for the sunset one evening in April when we had that lovely spring weather.We went to Rhosneigr..my favourite place on Anglesey..I went up onto the headland with my daughters and we sat by the ancient burial chamber and waited..the view was so peaceful and timeless.

At the end of April I went to Aintree to the Creative Stitches & Hobbycraft exhibition.I went last year with my daughter.This time she was busy so I went alone but on a coach trip of women you're not really alone! The show is great..endless stalls of everything for crafters..so many card-making tools, embroidery supplies, fabrics, beads, papercrafts..too many things to list.There are always demonstrations going on too..I watched a lady using vanishing film for embroidering onto. I bought some wool last year and made this scarf.The wool was Shanghai chunky (98% wool 2%nylon)and had a slub to it (thick and thin bits)and soon knitted up on big needles.I LOVE its softness and gorgeous heathery colours.

As well as stalls there were several exhibitions going on.This year there was an exhibition of old lace:baby bonnets,Jane Austen-style trimmed straw hats and so on. There was also a stand of dresses from the Downton Abbey t.v. programme..the photo below was only taken on my phone and it wasn't good light but you get a flavour.

Ooh,speaking of knitting reminded me of my craze last year of making fingerless gloves...I was on a roll..made them for myself, my two daughters, my niece..in the end I was getting sore fingers! We've worn them for two winters now and they've kept their shape..just taken the photo below of mine with a spare ball of the same wool I used. I got almost 3 pairs out of each ball of wool.I LOVE fingerless gloves as I like to keep my fingers free for driving, handling my shopping et cetera. Good eh? 

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Saturday  9th  June  2012

Image of the day number two!  -gorgeous little snack bar in the Jardins Du Luxembourg in Paris..it looked like it was stolen from a fairytale! The girls and I had a perfect afternoon there..lovely statues, old men playing chess, children sailing pretty wooden boats on the pond, and best of all a free orchestral Chopin concert..music so beautiful it made me cry.We'd taken rolls and fruit from our hotel breakfast buffet for our lunch in the park but ended up giving some to a beggar..the only sad note in a perfect afternoon.

 Saturday 9th June 2012 

Meet Saturday my tortoise (also known as Mr Grumpy).I've had him since I was a girl still living with my parents.A neighbour knocked at the door one day and said they'd found him and could we put him with our other two tortoises until the owner was found.Reluctantly I said yes..skip forward 36years and he's still with me, has outlived the other tortoises and has come to live in Wales with me..I reckon he'll outlive me at this rate. 

He can be a pain..I've threatened him with being sent to Colwyn Bay Zoo pets' corner but does he listen?! He lives in a cage on the grass when there's nobody around to watch him (he's a fast mover and accomplished escape artist and I live in fear of him falling into our pond).When it's hot he tries to climb up his cage,falls on his back and can't roll back over so it's a worry when he's left alone for a day,never mind trusting a babysitter if we go away.
He spends each winter hibernating in a box and it's with mixed feelings that I find him rustling in his box in the spring and realise he's survived another winter and I'm in for another summer at his beck and call : constant fresh dandelion leaves are his meal of choice, along with lettuce, tomato, dark cabbage, buttercups-only really fresh mind you, picked by his faithful minion  ;-)  On the other hand,he is a character and can be rather sweet..watch your toes though..he can give a surprisingly hard bite for a vegetarian!

Image of the day...my lovely new sunglasses from an accessories shop beginning with the letter A (ha). I bought them yesterday with my student discount card! I've only used it twice as I feel such a fraud-when I was originally a fashion design student yonks ago student discount didn't exist. I thought I'd better make use of my card from my year-long course whilst it's still valid...some small recompense for all those unpaid hours of teaching practise I guess is the only way to justify having it. I know I'm just going to wear these glasses until they fall apart..my favourite colour after all ;-)

..and yes,those are Crocs..I LIVE in my Crocs and have about 12 pairs in different styles and colours and states of decrepitude. I get aching feet quite a lot and find they cushion my feet wonderfully...how did I ever manage without them.Apparently (according to the Sunday Times Style magazine) they are coming back into fashion so my daughters can stop scoffing and I can for once feel ahead of a trend!! 

Friday, 8 June 2012

Friday  8th  June  2012

Image of the day...I spotted this painted sign above the door of a cottage in Beaumaris(3 miles from us)
                                                   ..no idea who painted it but I love it!

This is a collage I made a few months ago when I was just discovering the joys of spun fibres..I distressed the fabric after painting it in shimmery colours, then added mica, sequins, sea glass, fine glitter powder..am not entirely  crazy about the shape but love the effects and colours. It's now on my living room wall...you may have noticed a blue theme in my life!! Practically my whole house is decorated in cream and soft mid-blues..so restful :-) 

I've since made lots of similar art...in many more colours you'll be relieved to hear! Gorgeous emerald greens, candyfloss pinks, gold and coppery shades,all shimmery and rich in colour.I've made a lot of little randomly-shaped pieces and glued them onto greetings cards..mostly for my own family, friends and colleagues.I gave up selling cards (apart from private commissions) a few years back after selling hand-painted silk cards for a few years at Bangor Art Gallery, various fetes and craft fairs..the commission I had to give the galleries didn't make it worth the time I put in. Maybe one day when I have more time on my hands I'll do it again for what used to be called "pin money"..there's something quaint and ladylike in that phrase and I am the least ladylike person you'll meet! I'm nearly six feet tall and am the sort of person who trips over her own feet...I once actually did do that, well, I tripped over my long jeans, fell over and ended up in casualty in Carlisle with a dislocated right shoulder..a very bizarre experience! Anyone who's ever had that will tell you that you think you are going to die from the pain (I was given gas and air and a morphine drip but still screamed in agony) BUT the moment they yank the arm back into place you are suddenly back to normal yea!! 

Am enjoying a lovely wind-down this evening after the most hectic day..am now drinking a delicious glass of cabernet-shiraz wine.The wind and rain has calmed at last after a stormy day...you know how I knew it was going to be stormy? Why,of course, my peony was in flower!! Every year it seems to flower for a day, two at most, then it is devasted by strong wind and rain.. a fleeting moment of beauty but still worth waiting for.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Thursday 7th June 2012

                   Image of the day...a recent collage..a longing for a "summer of culture"

Well, it's been an important day today in this household.I finished my last assignment for my college course so now all I have to do is sort out my online portfolio and my time as a (mature) student is done!..BUT the biggie is that my daughter had her final three-hour exam this morning at university which completed her degree course in English Literature..as of today she is no longer a student!! Three years of hard work,lots of growing up,lots of me driving her back and forward to Chester with a car boot loaded with clothes,books,food and so on...now her adult life really begins;a time of job-searching,facing up to life without the back-up of a student loan,choices to make...will she find life a struggle or be lucky and walk into her dream job? All I know is that she has grown up into a lovely young woman and my heart bursts with pride when I tell people about my darling girl.I hope life treats her kindly..which is all we can wish for our children really.

                 My little girl..a happy memory from,ooh,about 15 years ago-the sweetheart!

I've enjoyed my course at the local college..training to be a teacher of literacy essential skills..well,enjoyed certain aspects of it! I loved meeting and making new friends; I enjoyed the challenge of using my brain and exploring new possibilities; best of all was the teaching placement..observing a literacy class then teaching the class myself for twelve two-hour sessions. The students I taught were lovely people, all with various reasons for needing help with literacy.I can't go into details obviously but I can see that for most of them life has been a struggle...it was a privilege to be allowed into their lives and I shall miss them.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

                         Picture of the day...the happy faces of Welsh poppies in my garden. 

Wednesday 6th June 2012

  So, the one thing you'd notice if you came to my house is that there are books EVERYWHERE!  They are taking over my house it seems..I mean-just look at this bookshelf (and that's just one of many dotted about the house).
  I sometimes wonder if my life would be much more streamlined if they'd invented the Kindle years ago....BUT...imagine, I wouldn't have my beautifully illustrated child's prayer book; my grandma's original Mrs Beeton's cookery book; my gran's fragile copies of Louisa May Alcott's "Good Wives","Little Men" and "Joe's Boys" ; the kids' Harry Potter books that hold so many memories of recently slipped-away childhood... Oh,how I remember the joys of reading "Each Peach Pear Plum","Katie Morag and the Tiresome Ted" and many other beloved stories to my children..books are well-loved tactile objects with their memorable smell, childhood fingerprints,pretty illustrations-                                      .......................  I think the bookshelves are staying! ...........................

Hilary Mantel's Man Booker prizewinner "Wolf Hall" was my favourite book of last year, well,probably my book of the past decade. After a lifetime of television dramas and romantic historical novels painting Thomas Cromwell as a nasty scheming shrew of a man it was revelatory to read a novel which left me,yes,a little bit in love with Thomas Cromwell!!! -something I never thought I would ever say! Mind you,it's a woman's version of a man..just as I fell in love with Mr Darcy, Captain Wentworth, Atticus Finch, even Rhett Butler..all inventions of wonderful women writers.The Mantel books are thoroughly-researched and you believe every word she says,even the obviously-imagined conversations.
SO...after Wolf Hall, which saw the first two marriages of Henry VIII alongside the rise and rise of Cromwell from a difficult childhood, I have been waiting with longing for its sequel "Bring Up The Bodies" which I bought last month and am about half-way through. It picks up where "Wolf Hall" left off,with Anne Boleyn's star in the decline and the "dowager queen" Catherine in her final months of life..Jane Seymour is coming into Henry's life whether she likes it or not! What a time for women..these days any modern woman would tell Henry to sling his hook! The great news is that there is a third book, called "The Mirror and the Light", still presently being written...can not wait!

.                                                Henry VIII and his unfortunate women!

Hilary Mantel also wrote a book years ago which I loved.."An Experiment In Love"...her books are very varied,not following a particular genre,which some say is why she has not become as widely popular as she deserves. In the meantime there is a queue of daughters waiting for me to hurry up so they can have their turn with "Bring Up The Bodies" whereas I don't want it to end.

Wednesday 6th June 2012

Hi everyone..it's 10minutes after midnight so it's officially Wednesday..it has felt very strange not to be working this evening as I've worked every Tuesday evening for the past nineteen years (in two separate jobs by the way)..apart from rare holidays..being a part-time worker I tend to take short breaks working around my sessions. Of course this unexpected relaxing evening is due to the Diamond Jubilee bank holiday..thanks Queenie!
I'm half-watching a programme called "The Nation's favourite Bee Gees Song" as I sit here..I'm quite sad still about the death of Robin only a couple of weeks ago..though all this falsetto singing is making my throat ache!
Ooh,"Islands In The Stream" with Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers is playing now...another great Bee Gees song! 

A couple of pics below of my new sketchbook..it came in plain white but I played around decorating it with bondaweb,shimmer paint, sequins, glitter,silky shiny strands and a tyvek bird...am quite pleased with it I think.(If you click on the pics you see the shimmery detail in a much better way)
I'm looking forward to using the sketchbook..time is the usual issue..too many demands but I need to sometimes take time out from house, kids, garden, work, studies.. and focus on being creative for myself,not just for work. Do you agree? Life's too short to stuff a mushroom as one famous feminist once said...Shirley Conran? Hmm,wonder what happened to her?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Tuesday 5th June 2012 

Don't you just love this mermaid? She's been captured and turned to stone and has been waiting for millions of years for me to find her and pay homage to her delicate beauty...she now sits in my garden by the wooden bench where I sit in my laurel archway..she is an anomaly, probably some sort of fossilised coral, but really, I'd rather keep her provenance a mystery.

I found her on the beach at Penmon, a few miles down the road. When I go to Penmon I also like to go inside the church by the ancient priory ruins. This is one of the beautiful stained-glass windows in the church.The last time I was there my mother was desperately ill and I lit a candle for her and tried to say a prayer..I'm not particularly religious but I found myself doing the same thing when my son was in intensive care twelve years ago..was I a hypocrite or a desperate daughter/mother doing what little she could.Hmm, jury's out on that one. Beautiful stained-glass though, don't you think?


The garden is just starting to look at its summer best..the roses are all opening and really lift your spirits.I open my front door and look straight onto four rosebushes;this is one of them..it's called Jaques Cartier..it reminds me of my sister as we spookily went out and bought this same rose a few years ago even though it's not a well-known rose and she lives far away near the south coast of England.I have several other roses too including two Gertrude Jekyll rosebushes and the mis-named "blue rose" which is actually purple (how disappointing was that!) but still very pretty.There's something about the smell of roses that is so uplifting and pure and brings back memories of childhood..no bottled perfume compares does it?

Tuesday 5th June 2012

  It's 1.40 a.m. and I really should be in bed. It's been a good day today,Monday was I mean. I watched the Diamond Jubilee concert in front of Buckingham Palace on t.v. and felt quite patriotic, especially at the end when they played "I vow to thee my country" and "Jerusalem"...which isn't at all like me!

 I nipped upstairs early on in the concert to take a photo of the evening sun over Snowdon and faffed about so much it seems I missed Gary Barlow singing but no worries,I'll probably watch it on dvd sometime.

   Okay,the photo is a bit hazy and the lines are phone lines or similar,but you get an impression of the mountain view..I used to live up on that hillside in the middle distance..summers were wonderful but winters were very harsh. In spring you could hear lambs bleating and the occasional cuckoo calling as well as other birds like, I think, the curlew. One winter,1981/2 I think it was, we were snowed into the house,then the electric failed,then the water pipes froze up! Quite medieval though when you're young you just get on with it! We had a coal fire and so we baked potatoes in foil under it, we had torches and candles and we had a spring nearby on the hillside for water...hard to believe isn't it! It only went on for a few days and was quite an adventure! It wasn't such an adventure though when the thaw came a week later and the snow which had blown under the tiles and into the roof space during the blizzard started to melt and drip through the ceiling and made the ancient carpet smell! We had to station buckets and pans everywhere to catch the drips. 

Eek! 2.20 a.m. ...I can see this is going to  be addictive.Godsake! Bed! Now!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Monday 4th June

Image of the day..am learning to use my new Panasonic Lumix camera...just a little pocket-size camera I bought with doubled-up Tesco clubcard vouchers a couple of weeks ago..I'm LOVING it so much.This pic isn't quite perfectly focused but I like it.I did have a great Sony Cybershot for 10 years but it was too heavy so I never had it with me when I saw something by chance.This Lumix will NEVER leave my shoulder-bag! 

Wow...I mean BIG WOW!! It worked..getting the blog online.Not sure how I got there but it's out there,in the world,for all to see ..am going to post this now just to see how it aligns with yesterday's stuff.