Friday, 31 October 2014

Walking in the footsteps of Saint Bede on Halloween

Its been such a lovely day, so warm with no chill from the strong breeze and although the sky was dull lots of Autumn colour still shone through. It is also Halloween and I planned to take grandchildren to Bedes World, the Saxon Farm and a walk around St Paul's Church and ruined monastery next to the river Don in Jarrow where it meets the river Tyne. Only two grandchildren were able to make it, Amber and Lils, but we made the best of it and had a good time.

Amber and Lils love having their photos taken and here they are posing in front of the entrance to Jarrow Hall, part of the Bede's World complex. This was the start of our adventure.

Amber and Lils

Inside the museum was an area decorated and staged for Halloween visitors. The entrance was very dark and scary and a real life cross-eyed giant standing just inside the entrance was enough to scare poor Lils and me (I have to admit) so much, we decided to try another entrance that was not so scary. Granddad and Amber braved the dark labyrinth of evil atmosphere and disappeared ! 


The children could hunt for items on the Potion Trail, ticking them off on work sheets as they explored the museum and that kept us busy for a while. Ghostly figures, skeletons, witches and bats and all manner of scary stuff  was scattered everywhere but the most curious for me was a puppet stand, like an old fashioned Punch and Judy type. Its curtains were closed and there was no one about. I thought maybe there was a puppet show at designated times. I turned away for just a second to see Granddad and Amber catching up with us and then turned back again at the sound of ghoulish laughter. 


To my horror I saw a face where no face had been before surrounded by a mass of white hair staring through the curtains at me. Well I screamed!!! Lils screamed and a shocked and flustered puppeteer emerged from inside the puppet stand to apologise for frightening us but then, as we came to our senses, we all melted into a cascade of laughter. 

We were then treated to our very own puppet show and Lils was allowed to present her own puppet show too and received lots of applause for her effort.

Calming ourselves down after all that scary nonsense we took time out to watch a cartoon film but Lils soon got bored and we decided to wander around the Saxon farm. 

Lils and Granddad explored inside one of the Saxon dwellings and dressed up as monks. They then picked up swords to have a play fight! Granddad was enjoying himself. We then made our way to Thirlings Hall, the main Saxon building where we gathered around the Saxon fireplace for a storytelling.

 The storyteller wanted volunteers for sound effects and I ended up being the evil sorceress! Lils was one of the wicked witches and other children had different roles and we all had to practice our cackles and evil groans. It was really good fun. 

The witches' cauldren held sour pears for making cider and there was sausage hanging against the wattle and daub walls.

Amber had missed it all and was still in the museum where we eventually found her.

The museum cafe was our next stop and after refreshments we went to the adventure playground where Lils and Amber had some fun time while Granddad and I looked on. 

The autumn day was beautiful and although it felt more like Summer I had to capture autumn shades with my camera before the weather changed and they were lost to winter. We continued on with our walk in Bede's footsteps drinking in the smells of Autumn foliage crunching underfoot and decomposing leaves in damp patches. Marveling at the many hues of autumn colours and late wild flowers still blooming. 

Amber and Lils ran ahead playing tig 
and hide and seek.

Skirting around the river Don, we arrived at the monastic ruins and church where Bede and other monks had lived and worked twelve centuries ago. We had enjoyed our day so much but it was time to go home and take our happy memories with us, leaving this peaceful spot behind...until next time.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

From Spring to Autumn and now I'm back !

Garden Pansies

I keep saying it like a broken record... 'I can't believe its so long since I wrote my blog'. Time flies, it certainly does ! Especially when you are having a good time, or so the saying goes. It hasn't all been good but it ended up very good and lots to be thankful for.

A spell in hospital saw me losing a stone in weight in just over a week. I broke both bones in my wrist while on holiday in Gran Canaria and had to have an operation there, and now I have been diagnosed with brittle bone disease. On the upside I spent a week in Lourdes which was wonderful and then my Oncologist said I need not take my gist treatment anymore but to continue with scans. Hooray!!! I'm kicking cancer's but and I have gradually built up energy and a will to live again. How wonderful! I'm getting back into being creative and given myself so many projects, my positivety knows no bounds. 
candle decorated with pressed flowers

I have made some fab candles and plan to make lots of greetings cards with pressed flowers, decorate bags and fill some gift bags with goodies for Christmas. Most of this will be going into the shop my daughter Jo recently opened and some will hopefully be for sale at a Christmas craft fair coming up at Bedesworld. I love visiting Bedesworld and enjoying a walk around the farm and saying hello to the animals, calling in the museum, getting a coffee at the cafe (al-fresco) and generally having a peaceful yet invigorating time in the fresh air. 
ancient breed at Bedesworld

I'm aiming to rekindle my love of baking too. The garden lavender is gathered and is now hang-drying in a bunch in my kitchen for making lavender shortcake, which is delicious and so easy to bake.  I'm just so greedy for creative play I don't get time enough! A far cry from six months ago, I'm happy to say.

I gently eased myself back into the art group at U3A today just simply colouring in black and white illustrations in a 1983 edition of The Complete Works of Lewis Carol. I picked it up for just 20p at a second hand book stall. Eventually I will give it to my granddaughter Natalie as she is such a bookworm, I think she will love it. Tomorrow I return to Calligraphy class and with my hand working much better now should be able to attempt those lovely scripts again. 

Its lovely Autumn now and phew! my life is full to the brim and I'm so glad of it. I had to capture those lovely autumn colours in our garden right now before they disappeared into winter. I love this time of year.

Autumn garden
'til we meet again...enjoy!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Latest artwork plus

I thought I would share my latest artwork and what I've been up to lately. Not much I could say but just a minute...surprisingly I've done quite a bit if I take the time to reckon up. Years and years of working a fourteen hour day, multitasking my heart out has given me a mind set that won't budge. Its as if I'm brainwashed into expecting so much input and output from myself and any less only labels me lazy. Even six years of retirement doesn't quash the tide of self expectation even if physically, the body doesn't agree.

Its just as well really! I love my projects and must have something to be creative with. They can give me a very welcome buzz. Being creative, contemplative and listening to good music all at the same time is my idea of heaven and as relaxing and multitasking as I ever need to be.

an interpretation of the Widow's Mite
The Art group I belong to with the U3A continues to be good fun, not competitive yet so instructive and encouraging by other members. I felt I had finally made friends with my latest pastel but unfortunately the textured paper doesn't scan well and so I tweeked it with Serif Photoplus to create a more digital friendly image and this is the best image I could come up with.  I hope you like. I was inspired by a painting by James Christensen  .

Term has ended for my calligraphy class and we students held our customary end of term tea with lots of finger foods and snacks with a special gluten free assortment for us freebies. I made some gf cheese bread and cooked gf sausages as my contribution. Some were left over so I decided to pack them back in their container and bring them home to eat later but what did I do? I left the container on the class room windowsill and went home without it. Oh no! Happily not all was lost as I found out later. One of my fellow students took the opportunity to take it home with her and she had it for tea. Bravo! I'm just happy it wasn't wasted and I took it as a compliment to my cooking.

uncial script
This last term we studied the Book of Kells and attempted to copy its style of writing and include drawn letters and animal illustration. The newbies in the class, including me, found it difficult and I for one was almost ready to bring my adventure with calligraphy to a close when the penny finally dropped. Our display of work was appreciated by all and made our tutor very happy. For my second piece, shown here I decided to inscribe a George Eliot piece and used greens and gold to illustrate.  

We were also shown work done by the Northumbrian Scribes and bound as part of the Letters after Lindisfarne project, a sequel to the Lindisfarne Gospels. What amazing artist scribes they are. I stood and watched in awe.

See you soon.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

An Accomplished Afternoon

uncial script

I'm midway through my second term as a student of calligraphy and I've chewed over this assignment for weeks! To produce a script in uncial following the style found in the Book of Kells. It has to include a verse or quotation featuring animals and also be illustrated with animals. Kells features animals that entwine with initial letters and are beautifully coloured. 

I have to admit uncial script is a real challenge for me. I had spent my first term practising italics and was feeling quite happy about it (almost smug) and then the rug was pulled out from under my feet when I and my fellow scribes were plunged into the upside down, back to front world of uncial. Gosh! I can imagine ancient scribes sitting in their cells with just a candle for light and warmth, huddled inside their monks' habits, painstakingly creating illuminated manuscripts day after day after day. It must have been a lifetime's occupation for some of them and the work they created still in existence today, is amazing.  

In contrast I sat in my cosy kitchen this afternoon with the sun shining in through patio doors, coffee and oatcakes by my side and produced my own little masterpiece shown above. To be honest I had made several drafts and gave it all a lot of thought before finally finding the confidence to do the master copy today. 

I'm happy with the result and feeling quite proud of my achievement even though its not 'perfect' its good enough for me. I particularly like the way my sparrow sits well with the initial W. I suppose I really should have used watercolours for the illustrations but I have some lovely Promarker pens that were just begging to be used and they are so much more handy it would be a shame not to use them. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Letter to self and others

italic hand with pressed flowers

I can't believe its 6 months since I last posted. What have I been doing??? Well for a start I've taken on too many projects, most of which are presently languishing unfinished, such as Eva's first year scrapbook, a sketch of family that needs coloured, a script in uncial in the Book of Kell's style with odd looking animals entwined in the letters and several more, some of which I'm sure I've forgotten about. I can make a mental list of things to do but it becomes so long and unwieldy I get exhausted just thinking about it and end up doing nothing. So no progress is made and I might start yet another project at the kitchen table until I can't bear the clutter any more and that project is 'retired' with all the others. 

Of course I could work at my arts and crafts in my craft room but I've run out of desk space in there. I really should spend a day tidying up and reorganising my work space and my time. Did I tell you I joined the U3A Bede, Jarrow Branch and go to their art group once a week. Also, I joined a calligraphy class, held once a week, my tutor being the Chairperson of the Northumbrian Scribes. Yay!! I'm enjoying both.

All the above interspersed with the occasional coffee morning, socials, trips out, breakfast and lunch dining out, day dreaming and getting comfy on the sofa, watching rubbish on TV and planning on doing things but then never do and more. Such is life in retirement. I can't complain, though I could do with a kick in the proverbial to get me motivated more... or maybe some spring sunshine.

Next project please!