Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A bit of a rant - sorry

I left Art on time for once today, as I had the car parked at Warwick Parkway and was therefore able to drive myself home, rather than waiting for Rick to pick me up at 6pm. I was determined to get a train before the main rush hour, as I was taking my A1 portfolio of the term's work home (A1 is *big*). I made good time crossing Birmingham, and boarded a London train at 3.45pm. It sat there without moving. Then some engineers started fiddling with the doors. Eventually they kicked us all off onto the already crowded platform.

We waited while 2 trains that had been stuck behind came through. Then another London train came in - already full.

The behaviour of the people waiting had to be seen to be believed. Every man and woman for themselves, and heaven help anyone less mobile. I was quite near one of the doors, but was elbowed aside, and was struggling because of the portfolio case. I also noticed a lady with a toddler in a buggy, and stood aside to (rather pointedly) suggest that she go first. More people took advantage of this to shove themselves into the already crowded vestibule ends. The mum-with-buggy gave me a weary smile. "I don't think I'll get on anyway," she said.

So we both stood back and waited for the next train. Thankfully for her,
she only had another 15-20 mins to wait. I had another 45 mins.

I wasn't upset that the train broke down (these things happen). It was the behaviour of people that made me want to weep. Apart from the shoving itself, many of those people would have been local, and could have got another train in only 10-15 minutes. However, it was everyone for themselves. People sometimes don't think about each other, and I find that very sad.

On the plus side, I enjoyed art. Today, we took a random object, put it
where we couldn't see it, and drew what we could feel with our fingers. We
then tried the same thing with our own head, and then with someone else's
hand. We produced some fascinating drawings, each with their own characteristics and identity that showed the differences in the objects we were feeling. It's a bit like Betty Edward's contour drawing. Or the emerging art of a 2-year old ;)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Pulp Pleasure

Yesterday's post brought a delightful parcel from Beth, containing little origami envelopes of crafty bits and pieces suitable for putting in handmade paper. She also enclosed a piece of handmade paper (which looks completely unlike mine!)

So, in went the waste paper to soak in hot water so I could have a play. I thorougly enjoyed myself.

I enjoyed myself so much, I ran out of the drying sheets, so experimented with using jay cloths to press the paper onto. This gives a slightly textured surface, a bit like linen, and the paper is slightly bent and crinkled.

I've been experimenting further today. The paper that Beth enclosed is sort of lumpy on the surface. I realised that mine is flat because I press it onto something (drying sheet or cloth). So today, I've tried four experiments.

i) put jay cloth on top of mesh, sandwiched between deckle frame. Result: jay cloth gets bubbles in, over which the pulp doesn't settle, so paper has a hole in.
ii) use deckle and mesh as usual, tip onto jay cloth but don't press. Result: don't know until it dries. Soggy mess at the moment.
iii) leave paper on the mesh to dry. Result: mesh not available for further paper making. Doh.
iv) use jay cloth in place of mesh. This resulted in a thin covering. Experimentally, I tried putting it in again. The pulp ruckled up, making interesting textures. So I did it again. The result looks more like what I was after. The jury is out, though, until it dries (if it ever does).


Bob is a Harris Hawk. He is leading John (the Head Falconer) and I back to the falconery, where he knows dinner will be waiting.

Dad bought me a Hawk Walk for my birthday this year. Available from Thorp Perrow - which also happens to be a remarkably beautiful arboretum. Well worth a visit.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Could this be winter?

The moon has been incredibly bright lately. Woke this morning to this view, and had to capture it.

We've had a cold, crisp, frosty day with blue sky and low sunlight. I took my wellies out for another walk, this time up to Burton Dassett Country Park. I love the smells of frost, leaves, and smoke from people's fires.

And below is another self-portrait:

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


This afternoon, the residents of Fenny Compton were treated to the sight of a strange woman, plastic bag in hand, walking round the village apparently staring at her feet. Occasionally she'd stop, poke around in the dirt and shove something in the plastic bag. Then suddenly she turned and marched back in the direction from which she'd come.

An explanation is due I feel. Trying to think of ideas of objects to add into my handmade paper, I suddenly thought of leaves. Realising that most would by now be decaying in the hedgerows, I dashed out to salvage what I could. I got a reasonable haul, and now have some drying on the floor of my den, and a flower press stuffed with the rest, along with a few rose petals from the garden (at this time of year!)

Meanwhile, I've made another batch of paper with bits of tissue paper torn in, which is almost as good as rose petals. :)

Monday, November 14, 2005

A day off ...

I like being on holiday. I'm taking some time in lieu, as it stacked up over the summer when I was busy at work and moving house.

This morning we had our first groundfrost. Looking out of the back window, the sky was streaked with blue and pink above white frosted fields. I got up, tugged my wellies on and walked over the back hill, squelching through the clay and trying not to end up sitting in it. The air smelled mainly of soil, mud, earth. And cows.

I returned to a warm house to spend some time with my sketchbook. I wasn't overly impressed with my efforts, so retreated to the kitchen for papermaking. I now have several sheets of lavender paper, and the kitchen smells like I've had a bath in there. Great fun.

I now have a pile of washing up to do. Somehow, that always gets left until last. I'm just a good old fashioned slob really.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


I'm sitting here glowing with happiness. We've had a perfect day. This morning, we kicked ourselves out of bed nice and early to go for a bike ride. The sun was low when we set out, and for the first time the air was cold and crisp, like it should be in November. We pedalled past rolling pastures, out of Warwickshire and into Northamptonshire, past fields of cows and horses and over the Oxfordshire canal. On the way, we dropped into a farm shop near Cropredy. Cycling up the drive, we passed an enclosure of chickens scratching around in the grass. Perched on one of their shelters was a radio which was chattering away by itself. No-one else was around. We later found that the radio is for the chickens, and they like to listen to 5-Live. Well, that was enough to have us resolving to return with the car later for supplies. The farmer explained how their animals were kept, and what they were fed on (no GM; lots of it grown locally etc.) When we returned later, the lady who runs the shop sorted us out with some suitable cuts of beef and pork, and then led us out to see the litter of piglets. They were so cute! Pigs look so damn happy when they are in a field. When we'd cooed at the piglets, she took us to see their baby dexter calf. The tiny creature with big brown eyes was curled up in the straw of a big barn, with its mother and two very pregnant cows. They all had names. One (the mother) was christened Hazelnut by one of the owner's children, so the calf had to become Nutella.

It might seem strange that I'm delighted to meet the animals that I may eventually eat. But to me, it is wonderful to know that these animals are clearly happy and well looked after (indeed, well loved) and that I can eat meat from that shop with a clear conscience. In case anyone local reads this, the shop is Oathill Farm Supplies.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Yesterday's art class started with a box of junk. Fascinating bits and bobs gathered, I suspect, from various tutors' sheds. My bit was a sofa castor (sp?). We started by drawing it from as many angles as we could think of. Then - the fun bit - our brief was to transform the object by changing it in some way. Changing scale or perspective or proportion. Elongating bits and squashing others. And playing with different media, or sticking bits of paper on. Learning how to play again.

We were learning how a designer works from a starting point, and goes through a process to come up with an idea. Ideas don't spring fully formed onto a blank page.

This sounds familiar, doesn't it? As a writer, we work with bits and bobs, an observation here, a landscape description there, or starting with a picture or poem, we play with our writing until an idea takes hold.

Friday, November 04, 2005


What a difference the sun makes! This morning I woke to low sunlight streaming through from the back bedrooms, and opened the curtains to find blue sky. After yesterday's relentless grey blustery wet, it lifted my spirits immediately. I pulled on cycling gear and headed out on my bike. It was colder than I'd anticipated - proper Autumn temperatures. The ground was good and soggy, which brought out the autumn smells nicely. I cycled an 8 mile circuit, feeling desperately unfit for the first 20 minutes or so until I warmed up properly. Then I could just bowl along, enjoying the view without feeling that my lungs were going to explode or my legs seize up. Great fun.

And my paper-maker has arrived home - hurrah! I loaned it to a school teacher friend to make paper with his class. So now I can have a go at that lavender paper.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Today, I'm exhausted. Wrung out.

We had family to stay at the weekend - two adults, three teenagers, one dog. I enjoyed seeing them, but it was a tiring weekend. We did two walks on the Saturday, and visited Bygones yet again on Sunday (it was tipping it down).

Monday and Tuesday at work were particularly tiring for some reason. I was so shattered by the end of the day that my eyes were sensitive to light, and I couldn't find the right words. Speaking was really hard work.

Yesterday was art class, and provided some relief. We had our first 'lecture' where we discussed 'what is drawing'? It is an interesting question with no definable answer. In the afternoon, we set up a still life, observed it for five minutes ... and then walked into the adjacent studio to draw it from memory! What a shambles. I had great difficulty with a rucksack, which was just a swirl of lines. I couldn't work it out at all. However, it did teach us to concentrate on the drawing itself, thinking how we could pull it together and make it work. I'm not sure I succeeded!

Oh, and we do have mice. We heard scratching in the loft, so Rick popped up to investigate. The mouse was waiting for him. It eyed Rick, scuttled down one side of the loft space, turned to have another look, scuttled in another direction and finally vaulted into a dark corner. I thought they were supposed to be timid?