We all Love David Attenborough, don’t we?
Over Christmas 2020, I put together an advent box for the homeless. It made me think about being homeless on a daily basis and what that might mean, from brushing your teeth to getting a job, so I tried to be both practical and frivolous in what I put in the box.
Art is also one of the things I concentrate on daily and somewhere along the lines the realisation hit me as to why I feel compelled to paint animals especially the endangered…
They cannot ask for help. A home gives us stability, it enables us to thrive and multiply; feel loved and safe. To lose all the aforementioned is so detrimental and can take years to recover physically and mentally. We routinely and devastatingly make the creatures who share this planet with us homeless, and increasingly to the point of extinction. Literally wiping out an entire species!
We all love David Attenborough, don’t we? At 94 he is still engaging us with the natural world around us, but now he has a more serious and urgent message and asks that we all change our habits now, to safeguard our future.
How much do we take action though, it has been proven that as human beings we are naturally optimistic and will lean towards hope rather than doom but hope without action is just a wish?
If you were asked what your ideal future looked like what would you see?
I was asked just that when a friend sent me a link, a call to action from David Attenborough and WWF for the creative arts to come together and reimagine our future, inspired by A Life on our Planet film with David Attenborough. Despite the challenges of genre, size and medium none of which were my norm, I did sketch and colour an image of a town that I would like to envision for the future.
I wrote notes below the image, to explain my thought process: Here it is in more detail:
Call out to creatives from David Attenborough
It has to start with the money machine. If banks stopped supporting businesses with a high detrimental footprint on the environment, those businesses would have to reimagine their future just like we have to. More than that, banks could choose to favourably support companies that aid our planets recovery: Image: The Green Bank: Banking on a future
Designers are ingenious and can easily rise to the challenge of water irrigation systems, solar panels and the like in designs to harvest the sun and rain, so preserving and reusing our natural resources as well as our waste. We need to say yes to these designs, doing the same thing might be the norm but should no longer be acceptable. Image: Building & road design and materials:
Re-use has to be a fashionable mantra for everything from clothes to compost. Independent business’ flourish as a result, with handmade products. The focus on quality rather than quantity; creativity is encouraged and soars. (Everybody is creative we are just taught to ignore ideas in our schooling system, be academic not a dreamer!) Food consumption changes to a more plant based seasonal diet allotments and greenhouses bring communities together and educate the young. So many benefits come about as a result of a re-use Mantra. Children are supported to be imaginative and as a result, we become a happier, healthier and a more productive society. Image: Public bins for recycling and compost. Green houses allotments, independent stall holders.
An affordable public transport system that is powered by Green energy and prides itself on low noise pollution and emissions. Our communities would be happier more connected and we would have less need for a car each. Image: Public transport
Regular daily exercise needs to be part of our daily lives. I don’t mean going to the gym necessarily; just a generation ago we used to walk more, run for busses, take the stairs etc so my feeling was if people felt safe in dedicated lanes for bikes, scooters, roller-skating and the like, more would be encouraged to get out into the open, improving general health. Image: Active Lanes
Hedge rows and flower verges will quickly encourage insect and bird life, resulting in more bird song which we all enjoyed this summer so much. Animals bridges help to minimise the devastation we cause when we build and Fruit tress for public consumption, helping the homeless and less fortunate of our society. Image: All green space in towns host wild flowers: Animal bridge, one man made the other an Elephant: The Elephant bridge was inspired by what struck me about the scenes from the Fires in Australia. There were images of animals helping other different animals to safety. As well as other videos of Elephants helping man when thought to be in trouble and drowning. Nature has a unique way of bonding if we let it.
sentient beings with memories love and compassion
Fires in Australia
I believe that we all need to dream a little bigger and brighter about our future prospects and what can be achieved. With love, we can work together, act on those dreams and everything else will fall into place. Looking forward to new beginnings…I would love to hear your ideas?
Mankind has been adorning walls since the beginning of time with cave drawings, carvings and trinkets. We have a need to reflect, be comforted, intrigued and depict a moment in time.
There are so many reasons to buy art;
as an investment; a treasured memory; a statement piece; a talking point; a personalised gift; to collect a series; a needed colour pop for the room; to support small businesses, the list goes on, but at the bottom of all of this is an emotion, Art moves us.
Is it a record collection with fantastic LP covers that makes you smile? a sculpture that you see something new in every time you gaze at it; perhaps its something tactile like wood metal or cloth that makes you want to run your fingers over it when contemplating, almost meditative for you. Perhaps its abstract art that makes you tilt your head a different way with every view; a painting that is statement of your values, like animal conservation, or perhaps a political mood. A brilliance of colour or movement that energises, and inspires you. Then there is art that has a direct line to your heart, evoking memories of love or loss that ultimately comforts you.
If you look around your home or work place at the artwork surrounding you how does each one speak to you, I would love to know? Where I sit in my office writing this, I can see a poem on the wall given to me by one of my oldest friends. I touched me so deeply at the time that I framed it and hung it up in my hall. Whilst I don’t read it every day the sentiment caresses me every time I pass it. Downstairs we have a metal sign that says “always look on the bright side of life”. We were in Vegas of all places when we found this, in Peggy Sues diner and shop! It immediately reminded us of Paul’s Dad loving to sing that song, so we bought it and he and that catchy tune is here with us. Had we put obstacles in the way like, we will be taking too much home, don’t want to carry it etc our home would be poorer for it. We have a large painting from the artists quarter in Paris which was a job to carry, however that’s forgotten and what’s left are the lovely memories of our trip and with its abundance of colours, it works for all seasons in our home.
Art tells a story of our lives just like photographs do. As a result, your home envelops you, becomes your safe place; it speaks to your soul on a daily basis whilst you go about your business. Its your sanctuary that welcomes and understands you. It lifts your mood, it consoles you.
If you have walked around your home looking at your treasures it may spur you on to refresh your rooms, move items, re-frame, repair or replace something you have been meaning to do. I guarantee you will feel better for it.
If you have looked around you and wondered why you don’t have anything like what I have described, I would highly recommend you open yourself up to visiting galleries; street markets; boot fairs or auctions and buy what you are drawn to, if you walk away and keep thinking about a work of art, whatever it is, then it is calling you and at this point in time you need it, whether its for comfort or inspiration, let it share your space. Of course, online art is easier to visit during this Covid year. Not just online shops, but you can find unique work from artists local to you and your area like the Open Studios that happens all over the UK and www.urbanart.co.uk that is normally outside but now online, they showcase such variety there is something for everyone.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this and see your photos. You can comment here or on my Facebook Art page just click on a link on this site.
What story does your art tell about you?
Top bike painting is from a street artist in Amsterdam, again fond memories.
Underneath is a clever multimedia design from an artist in Hythe Kent. www.nikkigriffithart.co.uk It’s of London, where I come from, so nice memories interwoven with print, material and paint.
Lastly, Yes, I love him enough to give him my last Rolo. You have to be of a certain age to remember that one!
Starting out: No idea what to paint: look at favourite photographs or images of holidays you have had, give yourself an allotted time, say ten minutes of looking, then decide on one to paint.
Got lots of ideas but don’t know where to start? write them down on a spider chart and break each idea down into bite size achievable pieces. The next step or project will become obvious and so your focus will return.
Get the proportions of the drawing right first, there is nothing worse than trying to rectify that when painting. Turn it upside down and see if it looks right before painting.
Set your easel up to receive maximum daylight where possible alternatively, you can buy daylight bulbs.
Plein air- painting outside: take provisions for you, as in food and water as well as an assembled outdoor small kit of water; paints brushes and an easel if you have one. Plein air painting is a good discipline to participate in because it speeds up your drawing, and makes you think about blending colours to find just the right tone rather than having a multitude of colours at hand at your work place. Also if other people are around watching, it makes you more brave every time you do it, even if you don’t feel that way! You could build up to painting by just sketching outside first. Or painting in your garden or a friend’s outdoor space, for practise.
Just starting out and fearful of wasting canvas or paint? Paint as if you were rich, that is the only way you will discover what makes you tick creatively. Check out boot fairs or online market places for people who are giving away or selling untouched paint sets to keep you going. Even if you don’t like the end result, you haven’t wasted your time or products, you have learnt.
Keeping healthy, hydrated and motivated:
Painting is almost meditative when you are engrossed, so always have a bottle of water handy to keep hydrated as you may forget to eat or drink!
If you spend long periods of time in your painting space, try to work off of an easel so you have to stand, it’s easy to realise you haven’t really moved much in hours! If you must sit still work from an Easel if possible its so much better for your posture.
Wear a Fitbit or set a timer on your phone to remind you to move periodically: maybe do star jumps, go for a walk make a cuppa. Not only is this good for movement but it makes you stand back from the easel to assess your work from afar.
Set up your easel so that you don’t stoop to paint, it’s easy to attend to detail, then when you go to stand up realise your neck is set!
Are you getting creative? I would love to see some of your creations, paintings or projects. Any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.
After binge watching and listening to all media for the first couple of days of Boris’ talks, then having serious discussions with my children about self-isolation. Thinking about explaining to a three year old why he can’t see his Oma and Opa, and the thought of missing my daily hug from my daughter, or foregoing our plans of travelling to see our granddaughter and son; within no time, I became unproductive and emotional the whole day. My usually level head was running scared. This is natural because we are faced with so many unknowns but when I woke up and wrote this down before my first morning cuppa, I knew it was time to control my fear…
Frightening, Enduring, but worst of all, an Atrocity to Reason.
I will acknowledge it.
It can come on this journey with me,
Because it is part of me.
But I won’t be defined by it.
I will be respectful of Fears feelings,
So, I will be careful and sensible.
But if I let Fear consume me,
I will be paralysed.
Paralysis from Fear, does not walk you through tough times.
It erodes joy: degrades confidence, stifles kindness, momentum and creativity.
Being inventive in our thinking is what we need right now.
The virus has wiped the slate clean giving us time to think,
Find confidence in our resourcefulness;
shape who we could be
and the chance to start afresh.
We must embrace change, to fight it, is a waste of our passion.
We must think on our feet, be creative, thoughtful and caring,whatever our position,
Be it isolation; social distancing or freedom,
what happens to our mind set, has always been our choice.
The writing in black, is a blog I started in January 2020, thinking about looking back over the last decade as well as what was going to happen going forward. I didn’t realise quite what changes were coming:
Not just another year but a new decade has begun. We can ignore it and just pick up where we left off last year and head into the new year, but if we want change, more excitement or just something else for 2020, we have to acknowledge that doing the same thing will only get us the same results.
With busy lives, financial demands and instant responses demanded by technology, work and life style, it’s easy to just pick up where we left off without allowing time to ask ourselves questions and really think about the answers, no better still, DREAM about the answers.
Lots of us now have the time, what will we do with it?
Reflection, why look back?
Throughout my life I rarely looked back, I was always driven and on a mission that propelled me forward; more adventures for us and the children, that required more success, which warranted more money; then too much work needed the next holiday; a new car; more for the children; more and more!
It was only when I was forced to stop, I took the time to reflect on life as I knew it, I realised there were other alternatives. I just had to find out what was my new Happy, then, be brave enough to cut the ties of “normal” and open the gates to whatever new experiences were waiting to come in.
Isn’t this where some of us are now?…
We beat ourselves up a lot mentally with life’s demands, before long our internal speak is repetitive and negative. This then supports a self-fulfilling prophecy; your brain is in a habit of telling you something negative, because it’s been allowed air time, it searches out reinforcements of a thought or statement like a reward. It is so important we get a handle on what thoughts we allow our brain to reinforce.
When searching for my new Happy, I didn’t know what questions to ask of myself and as soon as I got brave and asked soul-searching questions, my logical brain stepped in like a flash telling me all the reasons why that was a bad idea. It does this to keep you safe with the status quo you know and can handle…
So how can I help anyone else begin the process. There are a number of books I can suggest you read, there are courses you can go on, and there are people you can follow but all of this takes work and time that you probably feel is better served elsewhere because you are still on the runaway train. So, my suggestion is Ted Talks.
This virus has forced time on us, this might be a great opportunity to do many of those things, we work on the house; the garden; at work, but when do we work on ourselves?…
Perhaps if you find yourself scrolling through your phone, search instead for a Ted talk on a subject that interests you, unrelated to any of your current habits or expectations of yourself or others. It could be, stargazing because you loved it as a child; dog training even though you don’t have a dog; growing wine even though you live in a flat. What is important is that you train your brain to accept new ideas gradually. It then becomes stimulated by learning something new, and that changes your mood for the better. It also leads to ideas, because just like a computer your brain will seek out things that you are interested in.
To dance with the unknown is as thrilling as it is scary but I would highly recommend it. Whilst I have enjoyed the ride that has been my life, by not reflecting regularly I allowed that high speed world to consume me. Maybe, like me, you are taking the time to reflect? I recommend it, ten years is a long time with many successes that you’ve probably forgotten or overlooked. (go through your photos and diaries or social media for reminders)
Then Dream about the important stuff, that will fill your soul, inspire you and bring new joys and happiness.
Worrying about the things you can’t control just robs you of the present, and its true to say right now more than ever, the Present is a Gift…
After the relaxing sun of Corfu in October, and a month at home in November, travel was on the cards again for the last month of the year, December:
First stop, Derbyshire, a whole family visit to our son and granddaughter included; torrential rain in Glossop, merriment in more water in Manchester and then the mystical beauty of mist dangling over the hills of the Peak District…but no snow.
Art wherever you go.
With the young ones kitted out in snow boots and warm coats we were ready for the fun that wonderful white stuff brings, after all, it was December. Instead, the heavens delivered rain, so hard and fast, towns in England were flooded and people’s lives in disarray once again, all just before a time of merriment should begin. With a collective, fighting and caring spirit people find in adversity, those suffering endure, but our weather it is no longer the comedy of English BBQ’s cooking under umbrellas, its hurtful and life altering. I am thankful for Greta Thunberg’s voice; we all have a responsibility to act now and insist our governments do too.
Growing up with regular visits to relatives in Germany I was fortunate: Summer was spent bathed in the warmth at the beach huts and jumping in and out of the waves at Travemunde beach, North Germany.
Travemunde Beach in the summer with those brilliant beach huts that have hidden draws and storage
. Now the huts are cool enough to sit in and have a coffee.
Winters were spent in the beautiful crispness of deep snow with my Omi (grandmother) who lived in the centre of the delicious marzipan town of Lubeck, about an hour from Hamburg. The weather was predictable; Once an adult, I wished every year, like a lot of us do in England, for snow over Christmas. Many people place a bet for just that one snow flake on Christmas day that most years, eludes us.
We all know about and have experienced our changing climate and whilst one side of my brain is busy working on what we should do for our planet; recycle efficiently; eat differently; use less water and fuel in every way, the other side is romantic. It longs for my childhood days, when weather and food made sense, it was all seasonal. I dearly wish its return for my grandchildren, so although that’s a tall order, Rock on Greta!
A beautiful icy, winters day at the beach, loving the light.
Properties, up north!
There was another reason to visit Derbyshire, recently our son encouraged me back into a world I had left behind, the property market. He is keen to secure a future for his family, one in which he is financially free, meaning by the time he is pushing forty he is not reliant on a salary dictating his life’s outcome.
Impressed by his vision and having been brought back to the truth of our financial retirement forecast that I had been pleasantly ignoring in my new creative life, I decided to partner him in this endeavour.
Once the rest of the family had departed back home Nathan and I spent every day of the following week researching the property market. (in between meal, bath and bed time with 2 yr old Primrose) We investigated different areas for their price; rental viability; proximity to amenities and travel networks as well as the expected capital growth or instant return on investment. It was fun, not just using another side of my brain again, but spending quality time alone with my son, now a grown man, with his own drive, morals and values shining brightly. (Typical mother thing to say I know!)
By the end of the week we were happy to be able to say we had found a great deal and better still, secured the property. We celebrated with a cup of tea and an afternoon nap! Yes sleep! Getting up with Prim’s sun clock at six a.m. most days and working like we did had taken its toll but what a great week. The first of more to come in 2020.
What about your art I hear you cry? I have discovered that to generate an income from Art is a matter of patience and growth. Whilst a creative life is my love and ambition, Nathan rekindled my passion for property, which tapped right into the fear element, of finance and retirement! The thing is, I don’t want to stop being inspired by unusual animals, people and places and to do so requires funds for my love of travelling. So along side my Art business we will allocate time throughout the year to source and secure deals for ourselves and others interested in investing.
Manchester Christmas Markets
Art in unexpected places, Manchester
Back home was all prep for a big family Christmas, one where father Christmas attends to give out the presents and listen to the dulcet tones of the adults, meant to be the children, singing Christmas carols for him. Our Christmas has enjoyed a new lease of life with the advent of our little people. The magic and wonder return and beg to be celebrated and so we did. Paul has been married before and in the last couple of years we have had the pleasure of getting to know his adult children and their families. Sad that they have missed out on what our children experienced growing up we now recreate Christmas Eve as we always did. We are very grateful not just to have our memories but now to make these very special new ones.
OK he is a little big now but he gets the gist of it!
Food was more challenging this year as I really didn’t want to actively purchase and cook Turkey and Ham for our traditional German/English style buffet. Our daughters partner kindly sourced organically farmed produce and also cooked it, so the immediate dilemma was averted. However, the small changes in me and my life means more is inevitable, so next year we have already booked fourteen of us all into a beautiful Kentish pub for our sit-down meal together. We will still be back in time for Santa!
Family, food artistry and Architecture, whats not to like?
I think history becomes more important as we age, our own history as well as that of the world around us. With just a handful of relatives left in Germany now. we try and see them every couple of years. New Year is always fun because we can catch the tail end of the Christmas markets, plus they do crazy things with fireworks on New Year Eve.
Cars dodge boxes of fireworks placed in the road for everyone’s enjoyment. Neighbours stand outside their front doors either watching the display that creates so much smoke at times I imagine that’s what a war zone looks like. Or they are taking part by setting them down just feet away in the road. Whilst the sky is being colourfully lit, cars cleverly miss the ignited boxes of explosives dancing the spectacular! as well as the chap walking down the street nonchalantly setting bangers off as he goes! The price of Fireworks are comparable to England so, not cheap, but this show right on our doorstep goes on for hours.
Lubeck Christmas Market
Presentation is everything.
English is a second language for many and my relatives are no exception. I was the third child so by the time I came along trying to frame a sentence in German, older members of my family were asking me to say it slowly in English! However, my understanding is not bad and by the time we leave my brain is working the sentences out in German but then they answer in English! Every time we return, I’m certain I will become fluent for the next visit, it’s such a good skill. One day I will surprise them…
Walking; games and laughter are the order of the day every day, oh of course along with schnapps Glühwein, all other alcohol plus too much food and Marzipan. (Dry January started a little late this year) I could wax lyrical about the warmth and love found in Germany but I feel it is just as important to talk about Marzipan… not just any Marzipan. (I am so sorry if you have a nut allergy because this is a food not to be missed)
So much history and Art in Marzipan from the ingredients to the designs.
My Mums home town has a rich trading history, William Wallace was quick to write to Lubeck after a successful battle to say that Scotland was open to trade with Germany, but without digressing further, Lubeck is now well known for Niederegger Marzipan.
Lubeck’s Holstentor, is now a Museum, formally a City Gate marking the western boundary of the old centre. Built in 1464 it is one of two remaining medieval fortification gates around the city. Other Holsten gates date back much further as there was at one point no less than four Holsten gates to pass through! With the others destroyed, this one survived and was restored with pride and adopted by many German companies in their trademarks including Niederegger Marzipan. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and in my heart forever.
Founded by Johann Georg Niederegger in 1700’s, his Marzipan was held in such high regard and value it was at times. worth more than gold. It was given to Kings and Czars as gifts and as a result has long been world renown. However, it took until the nineteenth century before the likes of you and I were able to enjoy its delicate delights.
The original Marzipan factory is still prolific in its inventiveness. When small, I loved to receive small animals and fruit perfectly carved out of marzipan, with an attention to detail that’s mesmerising. These treats are still available in the Niederegger store in the heart of the town, just opposite the town hall. Take your time visiting as there is much to discover in this sweet world. The ground floor will test your healthy living resolve, (almonds are good for you!) with its array of delectables you could spend a fortune on gifts and memorabilia, all made out of marzipan of course.
Fruit and The Holstentor made out of Marzipan.
On the first floor is the café that always transports me to the splendour of an old-fashioned hotel like The Ritz in London. The waitress service, the décor, and rich smells of coffee and beautiful gateau’s makes me feel so decadent I can’t stop smiling when I’m there and secretly want to swing my legs under the chair, you know, that kind of happy.
The second floor takes you on a free journey of discovery: A visitor’s museum, that charts the oriental origins and secret recipes brought back by the crusaders to the Hanseatic City of Lubeck. So much made out of marzipan, including the twelve life size marzipan figures! It is worth a visit.
Have I made you hungry yet? Or are you thinking, that you have tried marzipan and wasn’t keen? I urge you to dispense with all other versions and try this the ultimate Niederegger Marzipan, It can now be found in large stores here. If you visit Lubeck and venture into this tasty universe, I would recommend the famous and very delicious, marzipan nut cake, I can taste it now as I write this, so pleased its along way away from me!
Armed with German Mustard, Marzipan and magic memories the one-and-a-half-hour flight home from Hamburg shot by.
I just love to photograph architecture, but struggle to paint buildings or straight lines!
You can always rely on a church for stunning artworks.
Lovely Luneberg, about an hour away from Lubeck.
I hope December/New Year was special in some way for you too, it would be lovely to hear, meanwhile what to do about 2020, let’s talk about that next time…
Since being home; I have travelled to Doncaster twice; Derbyshire; Bedfordshire and Rhodes in the space of a couple of months! They all have merits, so where to start… With house clearance tales!
Coming home and finishing commissions and artwork bought on route through Social Media, was harder than I thought. Aside from the beautiful interruptions during the day, shaped like grandchildren whizzing around. It’s the fact that my artwork and supplies are back to being all over the house. My studio is still occupied, so my house has no chance at Feng Shui!
Once our children had both bought their own houses and moved out, I spent the best part of a year clearing rooms, in our overstuffed house full of years of memories and mementos. In the back of a kitchen cupboard, I found the likes of four new fondue sets and one used one, obviously tried out and forgotten about, way back when. We didn’t need any of them so into the charity bag they went, along with all other kitchen equipment never used, but was a good idea, or present at the time. I had Rubbish, Charity and Children bags, along with bras going to Africa and specs to somewhere else.
Apart from the life size coffin Paul made filled with all the Halloween axes; masks; chopped off hands and anything else gruesome you can imagine. The most difficult to offload was, and still is, the children’s stuff. It’s not the sentimental value, it’s the fact that they don’t want to have it cluttering up their house or loft but don’t want us to give it all away either. They believe it lives in our home and truthfully, I failed in my mission and a lot of it still does!
I supply a church raffle every month with a selection of raffle prizes, you know the wine bottle holder from Berlin, a birthday gift obviously meant for someone else! I make continuous donations to the charity shops and friends’ wardrobes for, I’m ashamed to say, clothes bought still with tags on, that don’t fit! This process is ongoing and what started off being cathartic, has become an obsession that is never ending. Financially it makes sense to sell everything, but the time it takes to photograph, upload, answer questions, wrap and post is a job in itself. A task that would, one; delay me from clearing, and two; delay me from creating! Catch 22, time and money, I know so many of you feel my pain; just clearing, then cleaning, one cupboard can take up a perfectly good afternoon, that was destined for a more interesting event.
I attended The Carlton Show in Bedfordshire with my art; the gallery in a Shed in Buxton, where my art is on show; the Art fair in Doncaster; oh, and popped to Rhodes for a cheeky week of sun with my Bestie!
As far as the Art goes it’s a slow process of putting yourself out there. I know I could be at a different event every month but its not that simple with Art. You need to find your market, your people, the ones that get you and so want your creations on their walls because they resonate with them. So, it’s a mission that is both enjoyable and frustrating.
(I learnt a lot from this exhibition. its so tempting to take everything you do so that there is something there for everyone right? wrong! it confuses the visitor, so I will stick to displaying one type of work in future)
I did have a new experience: I sold a piece of work to someone who was rude and uninterested in the process of that creation, or the where and why behind it. I wanted to tell her where in this beautiful country we were, how I caught a moment in time, where the sun rose and made the rocks reveal the glory of their geology, in the different coloured minerals built up over the centuries. How the rugged shapes against their shadows in the sea informed the composition I chose, but she cut me dead and complained about having to frame it. My lasting feeling was that I would rather not sell to the likes of that person. Art is so personal, I wanted my work back!
(Just an example, look at that texture, nature is incredible.)
I felt so indulgent taking myself off for some end of year sunshine with my oldest friend but honestly, although I loved every minute of our adventure, travelling for months at a time is tiring. I couldn’t wait to lay on those sun beds with a holiday book, unrelated to learning; my goals or personal development! We stayed at Mitsis hotel and Spa in Rodos village, five star all inclusive. It was friendly; clean; big without feeling so; lots to do if you wished, even had its own amphitheatre where we listened to three tenors from South Africa! All inclusive was good however not if Vegetarian or Vegan, so I ate a lot of potatoes, great for swimwear!
(This is the way we like to start our holidays at the airport)
(Chatting at the bar during the day and chatting watching the sun set of a night, just chatting…)
I have known my friend for about 45 years, and guess what? we did very little laying on the sun beds reading; we talked, and talked bit more and a bit more. An uninterrupted luxury that was so easy for us both. I appreciate men don’t converse in the same way with us or each other, but feel they are poorer for it. It can be cathartic, enlightening, revealing and counselling for those taking part. I know I am fortunate and am grateful for the love and respect we share. All to often this is not the case as you go through life. At my age the hope is your friends are there because you have chosen them to be. Developing intellectually and emotionally during your life, you start to recognise those around you that quite literally drain your energy, or their words or actions don’t seem to be in alignment with your values. In order to preserve your well-being you need to walk a path without them. You honestly feel better for it.
A few days after my return from Rhodes my annual CP girls’ trip was upon us: these women I have also grown to love, over the past twenty years. We are a diverse group of professions; our age range is split over ten years with me being the oldest at 55. However, we know that even if we don’t get together too much during the year, our annual trip, usually to Centre Parcs, will contain a mix of hilarious to heartfelt stories. Comical antics and games along with age and time related conversations that help whatever stage of life you are at.
(We have been going to Centre Parcs for about ten years, we have interrupted it with city-breaks to Bath; Barcelona and Portugal for big birthdays. Next year we are celebrating in Croatia but I know we will be back again)
I find women allow each other to get deep and meaningfully into a subject, are thoughtful and often holistic in their approach to a topic, which is what I love about their company. I have to say, this is a complete contradiction to my early years where I couldn’t think of anything worse than spending all this time in female company! I always had more male friends; finding their no-nonsense straightforwardness a sanctuary from the gossip and bitching that I found when mixing with girls. Its so nice getting older.
(Bedfordshire, cant beat spending time with these two)
I think I am allowed to say the C word now we are in November? So, with Christmas looming ever nearer, I am frantically trying to get art work completed as well as looking at other opportunities to earn money, otherwise how can we travel? more about that next time. We do have one more trip to end the year on, to Germany for New Year, can’t wait to tell you all about that, as well as thinking about new year desires… In the meantime, I hope you are surrounded with positive friendships that serve to love encourage and empower you.
A new Idea;
Bespoke; renovated; hand painted; personalised; children’s desk/furniture
On arrival at our next stop we kept looking upwards towards the vastness of the huge sky . We heard a loud call and were treated to the antics and sounds of a pair of Buzzards as well as Red Kites claiming ownership of their blue world. Catching the thermal airwaves (with their broad wings of nearly two metres) just coasting effortlessly, they were conserving energy whilst searching for prey, wonderful to watch. Once set up we could still hear the eerie call of the buzzards and all I could think about was Western Movies! It is mid-August and we are hooked up at Pantmawr Farm; this site is in a picturesque valley with a quiet stream for children the splash around in, as well as having horses to ride. With the odd sheep and livery stables at the top of the hill too, it is a beautiful setting.
A couple more nights here and we will move on inland where another little love fix awaits us, with a visit from our daughter Summer and her two little boys, we cant wait.
The changeable weather delivered enough sun for me to paint outside with watercolour. Too much heat for acrylics, but I have learnt to adapt and quite literally, go with the flow! When the weather is bad, I take over the inside of the Beast, table sink etc. and paint there. Poor Paul is hemmed in!
Good news and opportunities have been following my art travels on this trip; After sending examples of my work, I was accepted into the Doncaster Art Fair, happening at the end of September: A gallery in Buxton Derbyshire started a dialogue with me after framing one of my prints for their customer. Now the gallery has a couple of original artworks and a number of prints being shown in, The Gallery in a Shed. I will be visiting next month, apparently you can enjoy a lovely coffee and cake as well as wonderful artwork there. In addition, a few paintings sold as soon as I put them on Social Media so I am moving in the right direction. Think I might have celebrated with a Cider, but once home, the big canvases will come back out and the champagne will be put on ice, hopefully popped soon!
As we wound our way through the valleys of Wales, although we had achieved a lot in our time there, we hadn’t managed to explore the Pembrokeshire coastline or been able to catch up with friends in the area. So apart from the inviting curves of the land; walks into the forests unknown; waterfalls that can take you off to meditate a land of plenty, there are many other reasons to revisit Wales.
The New Forest
Knowing we would be seeing Theo; I found another Farm to stay at: Paddock View (Camping & Caravan Club) just off of the A31 in the New Forest. Google said it would take just over four hours to get there but we have learnt to add a couple of hours when in the motorhome and we were right to, we left just before 6am and arrived at noon. Good roads and the sun shone, plus we were on our way to see our babies, so all was good in the world.
You may well ask, why the New Forest from Wales when our plan was to travel the coastline? We had come to the conclusion that we didn’t want to fight our way around the tight roads of Devon and Cornwall in The Beast especially being the height of the summer, so when our daughter said she would come and join us we opted for somewhere that wasn’t going to be an arduous journey for her with two little ones in the car.
We have been to the New Forest before but enjoyed it differently this time. Perhaps seeing it through the eyes of a three-year-old helps. We woke up to the sounds of Sheep, Alpacas and Pigs in the fields around us, when Theo woke up, he looked out of the window to check the animals were awake, because then he could be too! A short trip in the car found us surrounded by Donkeys and Ponies. Horses, Cows and Pigs also joined us on our journey through the beautiful Forest sprinkled with old pubs full of stories and atmosphere.
It was William the Conqueror who set aside the New Forest over 900 years ago and it is said, he would probably recognise much of it today. Probably not the red phone boxes with all the books inside! This area is now a National Park that harbours not only an array of animals but a diversity of rare plants and wildlife. By grazing freely, the animals are the architects of the land, alongside the people managing it and commoners, as they are known, who actually own the roaming livestock.
Change of direction
We had planned to explore for another month but as we all know life throws us curve balls occasionally, which means the norm can change and we adapt again. We had news that someone close to us was seriously ill in hospital, so we made arrangements to go home. Our priorities changed, things that are important or urgent have far less potency when you realise time is limited. We were brought back to the bare bones of humanity; LOVE.
Sitting in the field with the Alpaca’s on a beautiful bright sunny day, Paul and I grieved for what was to come and became thankful for this person’s indelible print on our lives. Through our sadness we are finding joy in the memories she left us with. Seeing others suffer the pain of such a loss is hard, as I’m sure some of you have experienced. Adults/ parents are pre conditioned to ease the pain of those around you, especially our young. However, bereavement is a personal journey, so, we support where we can and offer our love in abundance.
I have a list of artwork to be completed now home, but also a new painting to begin: Lions were our friends favourite animal, so with her brave spirit in mind, I will create my first lion artwork dedicated to her memory and explore how I can raise funds through the sale of the original and prints in order to donate to the cancer charity. I’ll keep you posted.
Our travels haven’t stopped, they are merely paused. Our experiences and events along the way have endorsed our resolve, to continue on this path whenever we can, to live the life we have, differently from our well-trodden history. Filled with days of new experiences; wonder; and a cacophony of emotions that regularly surprise and remind us, of how lucky we are.
A massive low returning home? No actually quite the opposite. Within a day, I was delighting in the benefit of getting back to a routine of swimming every morning. I found that I started my day with a sense of achievement and determination that is not in the same abundance when I don’t exercise. Seeing family and friends was obviously a pleasure, but nothing compares right now to the love and friendship developing with our grandchildren. Coming home via Peak District we had a week with our cutie Primrose who is still happy whenever we talk to her. Theo is three, a little older, whilst initially excited about our travels he soon stopped interacting with us when face timing because he couldn’t understand our prolonged absence. We sent little gifts to involve him but the hurt was evident. It was after two weeks of being home, seeing him daily, Theo and I were playing on our own, at one point he just stopped, got up, hugged me and told me he missed me. We cuddled and went back to the, animals in the castle game, we had concocted. The well-being and love from this tiny interaction was momentous, I was so glad we went with our instincts and came home earlier than planned. Life experience over the last few years has taught me to listen to my intuition, I’m sure I always thought I did, but the difference is, I now implement a well-being first mentality. It isn’t always easy, old habits are hard to break, but the rewards are always there and nothing in life beats smiling more, as Theo would tell you if he stopped for long enough!
Another smiler; I had planned to work this morning but I prioritised well being first: If you also love the tracks on The Greatest Showman you will understand why I broke into the regular morning play routine and put the CD on for a dance with 20 month old Primrose, she is with us now, until Saturday, so we all, that’s Oma Opa, Mum Dad and Prim started the day giving it all we’ve got on the dance floor of our lounge carpet, woohoo!
With fun and love in abundance, the planned two weeks at home became more like eight weeks; we waited for baby Hugh to arrive, family came to stay, including our other grandchildren so the house and garden had a party atmosphere. We caught up with everyone and fitted some work in to help fund the next leg of our journey. It felt like a whirlwind and then Hugh made his appearance, bouncing in at 8lb 11 oz and we all got to spend time with our newest family member.
Summer spent no time relaxing after the birth and was up and out quickly, including us, creating new experiences for Theo with his new little brother, energy is in abundance in that household! The diary started filling up with commitments so we finished up our work and hit the trail again this time heading for a little weekend break in Liverpool first, almost where we left off, we were so glad we did…
Having met some lovely Liverpudlians on a cruise once, but never having been to Liverpool, they were our only reference: Lively, funny and kind hearted, which is exactly what we found the city to be. Walking through the different quarters you get a real sense of what Liverpool is made up of and how the City is moving forward with its modern architecture, creative drive and friendly people.
We stayed in Maghull on an old farm, just a twenty-minute train ride into Liverpool Central. (lots of old farms allow Motorhomes and Caravans to park up as they have the space, or are still a working farm, in need of an extra revenue stream) The return fair and travel pass for all trains, busses and the ferry, was an unbelievable £6. We travelled in everyday and made the most of this bargain.
Naturally we got our steps in, seeing the sites, but also enjoyed a ferry ride, across the Mersey, I can hear you singing… where we got off to visit a wartime U Boat that had been salvaged so well it is now a tourist attraction. If you like history its well worth a visit.
The Ferry speaker system gives you a running commentary on the buildings you pass and their history and the U boat visit was another cheapy, so a thrifty enjoyable day. We couldn’t visit without drinking and listening to live music in the famous Cavern Club area where the Beatles and Cilla black made their name. As well as enjoying a comedy club night with many comedians giving us a broad view of the lovely scouse sense of humour. If you haven’t visited Liverpool, we would recommend you do.
Birchbank Farm: Chester
We hopped from there over to another farm, this time in Chester, where we had the privilege of a visit from our son and granddaughter. Of course, that’s why I choose the farm, with the old farm dog and family of cows on site making the visit memorable. It also gave me lovely views for morning watercolour practise and meditation, ignoring the odd “Mooo” when the farmer was late with the grass!
Breaking away from cows’ milk, at home I use Oatley milk for tea, whilst travelling it’s been more difficult to find. Talking to the farmer I found out that although his cows graze on grass as families, the larger cow herds on farms surrounding him, don’t see the grass at all, it is brought to them by machinery which we both felt sad about. It raises questions for me about the, sustainable dairy, debate?
Back to being tourists, we visited Chester Zoo which lived up to the great reviews and the following day the Aquarium, another brilliant day out. Primrose had already fixed the shark song into our heads with every interaction but now she has seen them, her favourite word is “Shark”, repeated many times like you do when you are nearly two!
Dinas Farm Bangor
Nathan and Primrose left, and we moved on into North Wales where we were only a half hour bike ride to Zip World. Fun for everyone awaits at various Zip World venues, with trampoline adventures in giant underground caves, tree walks and Zip wires both under and over ground. We opted for the one sold as the fastest Zip line in the world and longest in Europe. We had tried to do this a couple of years ago but the weather wasn’t on our side then. On this day, it was Paul’s birthday and the sun shone, we biked our way there through the spectacular slate quarry’s of Penrhyn, revelling in the atmosphere of the old mines. My phone battery had run out so I was desperately taking mental pictures committing the beautiful ruggedness to memory for my palette knife that was calling.
As for the Zip line adventure, we enjoyed it but realised we had experienced much scarier escapades. I don’t want to take anything away from the day for those of you thinking of taking this ride, it’s even great to watch from the café.
The town of Bangor we had visited before, it is still full of charity shops and supermarket chains, and this year, wasps, lots of them! The scenic Betws-y-Coed is not far by car if you are in the area and well worth the visit.
Dinas Farm, was right on the edge of River Ogwen,
where the changeable weather continued. Beautiful sunshine warranting shorts, turning to torrential rain needing waterproof clothing from head to foot. The rain and floods of neighbouring counties had swelled the river so it rushed past at a deafening pace. In addition, the rain pummelled the roof of the Beast so much, it often took some time to get any sleep!
After this farm we had a few nights wild parking, including in a pub car park. There are many pubs that allow you overnight parking for free, naturally expecting your patronage which usually includes a Sunday Roast for Paul!
Barmouth Seaside Resort: Gwynedd NW Wales
The rain did stop us from visiting some waterfalls and walks around Snowden but it could have been so much worse as it was for some this year, with landslides and floods. So, we counted ourselves lucky and made our way to Aberystwyth with a laundry stop on the way. (Farms don’t have washing machines at the camper’s disposal).
The search for a Launderette found us in Barmouth.
As if the weather knew we had lots of washing to dry, the sun also met us there. What an absolute delight this town is with an array of independent shops, art gallery in the old church hall and coffee shops and pubs galore. You are torn between time spent on the golden sands of the expansive and interesting beach and sand dunes and the quaintness of the towns charm. We didn’t have time for other local attractions recommended to us, but this is one place we would be happy to revisit. We made more arty friends and ate in The Last Post pub, food was lovely lots of veggie or vegan options. Sad that we couldn’t stay for the music the following night.
We looked forward to meeting friends in Aberystwyth as well as discovering the delights of Ceredigan Bay which didn’t disappoint. What appears to be a small town does stretch out pleasingly around the old Castle and Harbour. Education, History and Victorian charm is in abundance here. The beach is a contradiction: at the harbour, the beach is made up of tactile smooth stones that look like they belong down the centre of your back for a massage. Thousands of beautiful smooth curved grey stones as far as you can see.
Followed around the bay, by rugged slate jutting out of the sand like a scene out of a Terminator or End of world, type film. Harsh unforgiving, ready to rip and tear whatever visits, in the water to dense to see through.
Continuing the walk around the castle and sea front, brings you to the screeches of children playing on the dark grey beach made up of fine stones and dark sand.
It reminded me of the beautiful surprise we found in Scotland, with the beach made up purely of cockle shells.
However, you could be like us, and looking for things to do in the rain: The town museum has been created out of a beautiful Edwardian theatre, where you could shut your eyes and feel the drama unfold on the stage the audience was so close to.
A steam train ride takes you on a scenic trip, up the side of step hills! to the water falls at Devils Bridge. The pub food is lovely by the way, as is the tea and cake of the station coffee shop! Best get walking…!
Lastly the Victorian Obscura lens at the top of a steep tram type ride was an interesting visit in any weather, designed for Victorian entertainment, it looked to me like early voyeurism! It cleverly magnifies with mirrors the live scenes on the beach and surrounding area of 1000 miles or more. We were lucky, the sun appeared and worked hard all afternoon to set the scene of modern-day beach fun 2019 style.
We have known our visiting friends for almost twenty years and found much to celebrate: a recent successful heart op, two birthdays and many holiday memories. It reminded us that life is sweet and our treasures are all around us.
We hit an Emotional Wall, we were doing so well and then bam, we knew we couldn’t enjoy another landmark without seeing our family. The journey we have been on has been emotionally very happy go lucky, we didn’t expect the wall. We had set a date to return home for a pit stop, in time for our daughter’s due date for baby number two, so knew we would stop off to see our son and his family in the Peak District on the way. As soon as we did, the trip was paused. We were no longer the 50 plus explorers, we were Oma and Opa!
Hey I’m jumping ahead; we were still in Cumbria last time we spoke!
So, day six of wild parking and we really couldn’t put a light on without the living quarters battery beeping. We can’t let it get too low, so after more calls we found a site right at the south end of the lakes, Meathop. We only stayed one night, nothing outstanding about the site or location and the signal was really poor. We left to explore at least one of the lakes before we moved out of Cumbria into Lancashire. Lake Windermere was the closest and naturally busy. We drove into many car parks, but with the Beast so long couldn’t park until the afternoon. At least we got to enjoy the water and town with its ruggedly tactile stone-built houses, walls and meandering shops, along with a plethora of delicious eating establishments! Don’t worry we did our 10,000 steps that day!
A picturesque car park was our wild park for the night, before heading off to Lancashire. Can you believe we again heard the roar of cars bursting into the car park at midnight! but this time they didn’t come near us and practised their doughnuts, sliding and wheel spins, making dramatic patterns in the ground, (art everywhere!) fun to watch.
Into Lancashire…Having been at a magic convention in Blackpool recently and not wanting to get tied up in any big towns like Liverpool we opted to bypass the coast, travelling inwards to the lovely town of Glossop in Derbyshire about an hour from Manchester. We found a Camping and Caravanning club site that had just a couple of nights left in Hayfield. A great site for doing the Kinder Scout High Peak walk and only fifteen minutes away from our son, Nathan. So, we settled in and then gate-crashed Nathan Emily and our little flower, Primrose. (It was cheaper in the long run to join the Camping and Caravanning club as they have as many sites as the Caravan and Motorhome Club which we already subscribe to! (A bit like the English Heritage and National trust!)
Don your walking boots, we are stepping our way to health in one of England’s beauty spots, Derbyshire.
Tideswell, with its Cathedral of the Peaks and brilliant coffee shop along with Perveril Castle and the caves in Castleton and Art and much more in Buxton, are all worth a visit. And are what we managed to fit in whilst there. Should you visit, I’m sure you will do as we have done, left with a list of places to return to another day.
Tideswell, the largest village in the Peak District is a haven of holiday cottages with beautiful walks that keeps you trigger happy on your smart phone or camera, catching the rugged symmetry of the stone buildings nestled into the sharp slopes of the cobbles in the countryside is addictive. Traditionally baked Tor and Derby cakes are popular but we thought the best place to visit was High Nellys Café. With a hint of Swedish influence, the breakfast we had was a delightful feast of savoury and sweet treats. I did feel rather piggish but I could have ordered so much more on the menu!
Warm Banana and Pecan bread.
St John the Baptist Church, also known as the Cathedral of the Peaks is a must if you like churches. Building began in 1320 and has been added to for so many years there is much to see and read.
This view looks like it could be a Constable painting.
Castleton in the White Peak, lying in the lee of Mam Tor locally known as Shivering Mountain is picturesque with great pubs, coffee shops and an abundance or jewellers selling the beautiful semi-precious blue stone know as Blue John. This can also be found in the fairy-tale looking caves and caverns filled with stalactite and stalagmites. The Great Ridge Walk and Perveril Castle ruin, (English Heritage) tests your ham strings but are worth the views.
The Art exhibition we found in Buxton along with the galleries inspired me to play with mixed media when I can, Ill let you know how it goes…
To break up the journey to Kent we visited friends, had a wonderful evening and arrived home about lunch time to surprise our unsuspecting loved ones. Our grandsons delight was articulated by immediately showing us the worms and snails he had placed along the wall, it was good to be home!
It seems that Scotland captured our hearts and imagination, so much so we found it difficult to leave. The planned two weeks have stretched into seven, and now its time to move on but let me tell you about the last few places we enjoyed before returning to English soil.
Continuing down the West coast we arrived at Ayr, the weather was so hot we couldn’t resist having a day at the beach like everyone else. A very long, lovely sandy wide beach with miles of shallow water ideal for little ones. Not great for parking motor homes strangely. For us it was a day off from everything, we sunbathed, ate ice creams and read books as if we were on holiday!
Over the past couple of weeks, there have been less arty places, less impromptu parking places and the site we stayed at in Ayr was business-like. We were missing the Highlands.
Next stop Girvan, a great wild parking spot on the seafront overlooking a huge mound in the sea called Ailsa Craig (meaning Fairy Rock). It’s also known as Paddy’s milestone as it’s just a hop over from Belfast Ireland, to Glasgow Scotland.
Ailsa Craig (land for sale…)
It is owned by the Scottish peer Archibald Angus Charles Kennedy the 8th Marquis of Ailsa and is thought by geologists to be a “plug” left behind from an extinct volcano. Made up of blue hone granite it has been quarried to make curling stones. Skipper Roddy Leitch talks of a rich history of Sea monsters; smugglers; prisoners; dragons; cannibals; folklore and legend. It even has the remains of a castle built 1400’s and an abandoned lighthouse. More recently believed to be where Winston Churchill plotted the D day landings. It is now home to seals and thousands of birds providing a sanctuary for Gannets and Puffins. Did you know, Gannets are the largest sea bird, their wingspan can reach 6.6ft!
One of the great things about the Beast is her lovely panoramic windows. Literally facing out to sea, I loved watching the weather surround this current bun shaped land, morning noon and night, each one a snap shot, I found it mesmerising. Its up for sale too, but a little too much for our pocket, Donald Trump was said to be interested, apparently the locals had an idea to club together to prevent his ownership.
Mull of Galloway (Maol nan Gall)
Mull of Galloway is Scotland’s most southerly point and an unspoilt paradise, so we took a peek. It was a drive that saw the Rhododendrons light up our journey with spectacular colours. We booked into the campsite on the beach at Drummore, we had planned to relax but a chance remark to an Artist I follow online found me secured onto a painting course at midnight for the next morning!
Before we venture into a world of Julie Dumbarton’s “colourhugs”. I thought you might be interested in a little of the beloved poet, Robert Burns history. He came from these parts and is held in high esteem by the Scots. He wrote from the heart, for example, ploughing a field he destroyed a mouse nest that it needed to survive the winter, hence his poem” To a Mouse.” No doubt we have all heard of or taken part in the celebrations held worldwide on or around his birthday 25th January, Burns night? If you are thinking no, I still don’t know him, I can safely assume you have sung Auld Lang Syne at some point? That was his. He had a little success with his writing whilst alive but apparently never received the acclaim he should have. He died 1796 aged just thirty-seven, (the day his son Max was born) legend says he was born in a blizzard and wrote about how the brevity of life was there in a snowflake:
“Or the like snow falls in the river
A moment white then melts forever”
For all his love of life and gregarious nature, he was, it appears as fragile in health as a snowflake.
His wife welcomed visitors to their home which she kept as a memorial to him. The likes of Poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth visited and later John Keats 1818 and writer Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850’s. Burns Cottage is kept as a museum now by the National Trust for Scotland, he is said to be one of the world’s best-loved poets, his words were touching and uplifting and are thought to have made the world a better place.
Julie Dumbarton fine art painter
We haven’t got up at six a.m. for some time but we rose and drove the three hours to get to Langholm in Dumfries and Galloway. It was a last-minute cancellation on a weekend course painting A Forest Pathway, Julie Dumbarton style. A quest of mine is to paint more freely and if you check out www.Juliedumbarton.co.uk you will see what I mean in her work.
Her bio reads, “artist for 20 years, lover of colour; owns a church, loves hugs” Her excited smiley hug as soon as you enter through the big old church doors she owns and uses as her studio, feels genuine and warm-hearted. Followed by tea and biscuits, surrounded by both tiny and huge canvasses bursting with colour, I was in my element, what’s not to like?
A group of sixteen, all ladies, the youngest probably mid-thirties, oldest in her seventies maybe. They came from all over the country and world, the furthest being Texas. As the weekend unfolded so did personal life stories, none more enthralling and emotional than Julies. I don’t think it’s a prerequisite to have trauma or heartache to reach into our imaginative souls but I’m sure our life events shape us and if we allow, can fine-tune us into the best and happiest person we can be, which often involves creativity of some kind.
Craig roped in to help demonstrate.
What was Paul up to whilst I was getting paint on my clothes? Paul and one or two other partners, explored mankind’s nature, in the pub for the most part! We then all continued the celebrations into the evening by all eating/drinking together until late, ready for the smiley hug from Julie, and tea and biscuits waiting for us in the morning. The next day was a repeat, when some of us inadvertently found each other in the pub at the end of the course and so the evening of swapping our different countries stories continued with friendships forged and connections confirmed on Facebook of course. Don’t you just love it when you take a chance and go with the flow of what life presents to you.
Sixteen paintings all of the same image taught at the same time but all different; individual and unique. That’s one of the things I love about art, allowing yourself the freedom, you can only be you. So, thank you to Julie for the tuition which I’m sure will inform my personal style. Thanks to Craig for the endless tea and lovely lunch and the colourful mix of ladies who made my weekend so special. Not forgetting Paul whose encouragement to fulfil my dreams is something money can’t buy.
By the way, we stayed at a basic site next to the rugby club Langholm, £13. Per night and the best water pressure in the showers we have come across, great result.
Kirkcudbright (pronounced Kir-coo-bree)
In our three-hour dash to Julies lovely old art studio church and my weekend of enlightenment, we passed a town many had recommended to us. Kirkcudbright, known as the Artist Town. So, we doubled back for a couple of days and found it to be a place where beauty creativity and community spirit reigns. We learnt that everyone in the town raised money and donated £2 each because they decided the town needed a swimming pool, now the council have joined in and help support it. Despite the town brimming with Artists of all genres, the community thought they should have a proper art gallery and with the same determination now have that too. The money we paid for the site we stayed in on the top of a hill overlooking the town, all went to local sports for the town’s children. Many of the shops are family run or collaborations and one pub, in particular, The Selkirk Arms, has played a key role in the town’s history dating back to 1777 and still does to this day. Poet Robert Burns was said to have lodged there on several occasions and it is said he even penned the Selkirk Grace there. A busy events calendar keeps the town alive and interesting whatever season you choose to visit. Doesn’t this sound like the best version a town could be?
Julie recommended we stop at Kippford beach and wow how uniquely beautiful it was to see a thick carpet of cockle shells adorn the sand there.
The walk along the beach of shells is flanked by beautiful small and large cottages and holiday lets, colourfully set into the rocks and surrounded by flowers. Looking up at huge windows framing a circular lounge on top of the rocks we saw that ten people could let that property…hmmm an easy choice for us, who else is coming?
The Royal Yacht Britannia
We had regretted not visiting The Royal Yacht Britannia on our brief visit to Edinburgh so hot-footed it back for a quick overnight stay, wild parking along the beautiful beach there so we could visit at leisure the next day.
1997 saw the end of a tradition, the last of 83 Royal yachts that dated back to 1660. I was surprised by the homely feel, no luxury, very little pomp and ceremony visible in the furnishings and designs which the Queen and Price Phillip played a huge part of. The queen is extremely thrifty it appears, there are many examples, like not wanting to waste Queen Victoria’s ships bedding she had it fitted to size for her bedroom and the ships Wheel/helm came from an older Royal ship.
Perhaps this is why it is said she always felt so at home and relaxed when on board. Although her day still comprised of a full work schedule, she still found time to socialize and joke with those looking after her. With a band on board, there was often merriment, fun and games. Naturally, there are the other interesting facts like the Admiral would sometimes have to change twelve times a day, his outfit dependant on where they were, what time of day and who’s company he was in! Britannia was originally built to also work as a hospital ship so had a large working laundry area, which was lucky with all of those costume changes! One last interesting fact: Britannia has three masts, beneath the base of each one are hidden coins. They were placed there as payment to the angels to guard the souls of the sailors.
Countries Flags at the ready
Prince Phillip’s Easel and carefully concealed bar behind a painting!
Scotland’s Coal Mining Museum
We drove back via the scenic route of the A7 stopping off to visit Scotland’s Coal Mining Museum
We stayed in its car park overnight so we had a whole day there as the tour and displays take up quite some time. We had a personal tour by a retired miner Jim, which was so interesting as was the history of mining when children as young as 5 or 6 were given the boring job of sitting in the dark dirty mine with nothing to do other than opening and closing a door when needed. By the way, because of the way the distribution of air and gasses work if they didn’t close the door, they could kill everyone down there!
We, of course, tried the local (only) pub, The Dean, that has always played a huge role in the town and is now a community run pub. The miners used to collect their wages from the pub and the wives would also be in a line waiting for the housekeeping, not silly, are we!
Leaving Scotland, we headed into Cumbria from which we have fond very old memories of holidays with friends when the children were small. The Beatrix Potter museum and rolling hills where we experienced all weathers in one day. Nothing has changed, still great for kids and adults wherever you explore. We found ourselves parked wild the first night and searching for a site as we knew we were almost at the Beast limits, but literally all of them we booked. Travelling means we lose track of the calendar and of course being half term, we should have pre-booked somewhere. We visited Cockermouth town first then found a pub that allows motor homes to overnight park, even though there was no hook up etc, finding a place to wild camp is harder here so we got to know Terry and Nicola the helpful owners of The Posting House (can recommend mushroom stroganoff) stayed a couple of nights and swapped tales with a couple from the Netherlands as they were doing our trip the other way around!
Cockermouth is Poet William Wordsworth’s birth town.
You find yourself avoiding saying Cockermouth! But it simply derives from the river Derwent and mouth of the river Cocker meeting. Consequently, Mills grew and so did a town, Cockermouth!
A pretty area where medieval and Georgian streets nestle underneath the castle (privately owned and lived in) lots of independent shops and art galleries. We recommend Shills for lunch and a visit to William Wordsworth house. The bold terracotta coloured house and fine gardens stand proud on the main street just down the road from where the hangings took place in Williams day! The interesting visit included talks and a working Edwardian kitchen and recipes created by staff in typical Edwardian garb using utensils and methods of the day!. Looked after by the National Trust we very much enjoyed a walk-through history there.
I was both heartened and dismayed to read about William Wordsworth life. The joy I felt when I read that in an era of strict codes of conduct, William’s father and mother afforded their children the freedom that belonged not to the 1770’s but in the 1960’s. At a time when children were seen and not heard, beaten regularly, put to work as infants and even hung in the centre of town for the smallest misdemeanours. Williams mother and father encouraged their five children’s exploration of nature and the world about them with unprecedented freedom. Playing in their garden or out amongst the rivers and forests of the Lake District, William and his sister Dorothy were able to flex their creative muscle and both started writing. Dora became an author, poet and diarist whilst William’s love was also poetry, he became a key figure of Romanticism and the author of the most famous poem ever written about daffodils. (entitled Daffodils by William Wordsworth if you do google it. It’s simple and uplifting)
William and his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge invented a new style of poetry, in which nature and the diction of the common man surpassed their formal language of the day.
I found Wordsworth’s sentiments akin with mine and his fears then, unfortunately still so relevant today. Inspired by Wordsworth, I dared to write a poem:
With William in Mind.
Poetry is not hard to find, its right here now, as I look through the blinds. Its where the land meets the sky, especially if we view with our heart and eyes.
We will see what thousands have before, the wonder of nature right at our door.
If we stop for a while longer, eyes closed and listen,
We hear the song of the seasons; it steals into your heart and makes your eyes glisten.
In Edwardian times, the brutish realities of life, where each day was all but, toil and strive.
William Wordsworth in despair was said to have sat in a boat on a fine lake and recalled natures spirit finding him there.
As it got dark, in the quiet,
where he could hear as he did in the womb.
Mother nature spirits spoke to him there, and boom,
he recognised her anger, looked at the damage of mankind.
He felt there will be a penance for us being so blind.
Poetry connects to our inner voice, to give us the council to give us choice,
to give us the courage to truly be, to right the wrongs, to change history.
Ordinary, with will and passion.
Typical, with eyes that see.
Customary, with ears that listen.
Regular, like you and me.
Our voices can sing, shout or debate, to weave back into natures poetry, it’s not too late.
For hope is eternal, without it we would die,
but perish we must if we don’t have nature by our side.
Does it get annoying with each other 24/7? Many people have asked if we have killed each other yet! Going into week eight I can say no, we are both still alive and kicking. We have had the odd quiet moment, where one of us is probably counting to ten, (or plotting the murder!) but we have been together nearly 30 years, we have worked together many times, so we can’t really surprise each other in terms of being annoying. Some habits are highlighted but that works both ways for each of us. So, as well as the irritations highlighted, being together like this makes us appreciate what we love even more. Lastly, we are constantly reminding each other of how lucky we are in so many ways, so no time to grumble.
Food: I thought our diet would improve, instead we find ourselves eating more bread than ever, toast or a sandwich seems to be our easy default. As we have been avoiding the larger towns/stores we are reduced to a limited array of foods in the smaller shops, hence an easy sandwich! Eating out is sociable, interesting and convenient, we feel and act like we are on holiday, it’s happening too often, so we have decided to get a handle on our diet and finances.
Vegetarian sausage and haggis at the miners museum. The Haggis was very tasty.
As I do the cooking Paul has helped by eating my vegetarian meals so I am not cooking two meals every time. In fact, he is even eating more fish variety. This has unfortunately come at a time when I am learning more about veganism. The change for me, won’t be immediate, old habits are ingrained but I am making more considered choices where possible now. I do need to find a good replacement milk for my Yorkshire tea?
Exercise: Van life means some days we only do 1000 steps and others 24,000, today so far 1800. We walk and ride as much for the enjoyment but also the stretch and the cardiovascular exercise. In the van you do a lot of sitting or manoeuvring as opposed to walking freely. One thing we miss is our mattress, so the odd back ache is another incentive for a good walk.
What else do we miss? I’m posting this on the day of my daughters baby shower. We have missed a friends wedding reception and other events we would have loved to attend. Missing out isn’t everything, those people are still special to us their place in our hearts are fixed and when we see them we can hopefully bring more of us to the party than we could have done before. So apart from our family and friends, Paul misses the open space our home and garden affords us and his weekly spiritual church meetings. He would also love his Lambretta to accompany us. Perhaps what I miss is time alone, large canvases and an injection of female camaraderie. At home Paul will go to work and on the days when i am not looking after our Grandson, I will go into the studio or office. Some would argue that Art is a lonely business because the process is a solitary one but. I write my morning papers, a kind of thought diary which helps me to focus on priorities; I deal with emails and the business side of Art and home affairs. Then sketch, research and develop ideas or techniques and prep and paint canvases. However, my routine is out of sync and so I have done very little of this along with personal time to meditate and believe it or not create art. Isn’t it ironic that these were originally key drivers for me and this trip along with engaging others! This is as a result of being on a road trip but it’s not a negative, our experiences are priceless.
Today we are staying put and I will do all of the above…Walking will of course feature too!
Inside the Beast: Our motorhome is old, depicted in the hardly used but outdated interior which irritates Paul no end. I on the other hand, I can live with that because the Beast delivers on so many levels other than aesthetics. The Vans quality, is regularly endorsed when talking to other Motorhomers about the pros and cons of their mobile home. We have however found we have developed what I call MHT, Motorhome Tourette’s, the outspoken check list that makes our mouth work involuntarily ten minutes after we have set off. You settle into the drive only to then shout FRIDGE or AERIAL!
Persevere with me whilst I explain. When we wild park the fridge gets switched onto our Gas supply. Before we start the engine, it must be in the off position otherwise it does something terrible to our engine battery. When driving it should be on DC mode; when parked up in a camp site, hooked up to electricity, it should be on AC mode! Of course, we have stupidly put it on gas when we have been hooked up to electric! Also left it draining the engine battery after being out all day!
Do any of you remember having to stand by the T.V moving the indoor aerial around? Well in the van it’s similar, from inside we raise the aerial on the roof and twizzle it to get whatever channels we can find. Can you imagine whizzing through the trees with the aerial up!
Every time we set off, we have to make sure the cupboards and draws are secured and anything we have out is tucked away. It’s not unheard of the have Spooky draws and flying objects though! The most alarming one was the fridge door and its contents but I was a good defender in Netball!
Things don’t always go according to plan. At this moment in time we are in a pub car park in the countryside. They allow us to park free assuming we will drink /eat in there (another meal out!) of course we do, intending to travel the next day, but it’s the next day now and the weather is doing its worst so we are staying put. The slight problem is that our living area battery beeps if we put anything on, Lights, heating T.V. That means its running low and needs charging: to be hooked up to electric, however every site in the Lake District for the next few days is full. We cannot let the battery level drop below a certain number shown on our circuit board or it ruins the battery so the pressure is on. Added to that we have just run out of water, both fresh and in the tank and the toilet container is full! By the way the pub is closed and now my laptop battery is in power saving mode! So its bye for now until we get electric.
We stayed at the Glen Nevis Camping and Caravan Site for four nights (pay for three and get one free) It’s the most well organised site we have been to and caters for small tents, new style wooden pods as well as MH and Caravans. There is plenty to do in and around the area, dominated by the stunning backdrop of the mountain range. With their own local Pub and restaurant, we would endorse this site.
In Fort William we liked the sound of walking the Great Glen way that leads you to Neptune’s Staircase, a unique damn system, plus a coffee shop.
Tourist info said it would take half an hour, two hours later we were grateful of the coffee but didn’t like the walk, as the path took us through housing estates, not the beauty we had been used to. However, the train back ran the next day and the busses were a mystery on Bank Holiday Monday so we walked back! Whilst we wouldn’t sanction this walk, we would recommend the Cow Hill Walk from the Glen Nevis Braveheart woodland car park (Created for the film vehicles) It said it would take nearly three hours and it did. At times, I really did feel like we were climbing a mountain. The forest is so diverse, it begs you to take up botany as it shows off it’s often unique plant life only found in the highlands, as well as the beetles butterflies and birds who enjoy it too. The shy sun is appearing more often now and gently coaxing the biota to unveil their stunning summer colours, it’s been lovely to witness the changes since we left in April. A well-travelled Danish couple commented on the vibrancy of colours they have not seen before.
Our last day in Fort William and we managed to get tickets on the Jacobite Steam Train used in the Harry Potter films. The chugging noise of the steam engine made us think of Dumbo, along with the Whoo whoo from the coal dust smeared train drivers pull on the cord. We went over the viaduct made famous in the film and visited Museums and the village of Mollaig on the way. It was a lovely ride, said to be the best steam train ride in the world.
We left Fort William looking to wild park in or around Glencoe, famous for the Battle and its beauty. As we didn’t come across anywhere, we took a left following the coastal route, normally luckier there, the drive was beautiful but took us twenty minutes away from Glencoe to a little place called Kinlochleven. It wasn’t the plan but we found a parking area next to the river, set aside for MH’s with the added bonus of toilets too, so went with it. (the thing about wild parking is that every time we use the loo we are essentially filling a container up, so to be able to use an outside toilet means we are winning!)
What a great find Kinlochleven was, directly opposite an Ice/ rock climbing centre with lots more to do inside. A friendly pub, chippy, hotel and the walk we did the next day was definitely a mountain climb, it included a waterfall and was really breath-taking, so much so we just sat at the top for ages in admiration, talking about how lucky we are.
We drove back into Glencoe but still was unlucky with parking so we just gave the town a miss! Next stop Loch Lomond and wow…
With lots of layby’s designed off road for overnight stops the beauty of the Long Loch can be enjoyed everywhere. It’s the largest body of freshwater in Mainland Britain. The scene was helped by the bright sunny day, so we made a picnic and joined everyone else on a grassed area by the Loch and stayed overnight. We couldn’t remember the last time Paul and I made a picnic with a blanket on the ground and seeing shapes in the clouds, probably before children! It was bliss I’d recommend it. It was also perfect weather the next day for an 18-mile round trip bike ride, from the pretty village of Luss
to Loch Lomond Trossachs National Park. We ate lunch on a Paddle Steamer being renovated, this was great as it was the last one designed and built in 1953 called Maid of the Loch and will be back in business in a couple of years.
We reluctantly left the area; the Beast’s engine was the only noise as we travelled further away from the Highlands we had come to love. We felt a quiet sadness descend and settle in as the roads got busier, the area built up, less scenic and no stopping points. We decided to follow the coast again and sidestep Glasgow. Unable to find anywhere I discovered a visitor centre in Greenock with good reviews about the things to do there. We followed the satnav down a one-track road that tested our nerves as it became more dirt track than road, with little to no passing places. The never-ending winding built the anxiety of the question, what would happen if a car came the other way, there really was nowhere to go!
We finally pulled into the empty car park of the Visitors Centre
which now being 6ish was all boarded up for the night. Note I said boarded up not closed for the evening. It was in the middle of the country with a rundown farm building as its neighbour. We questioned staying there but told ourselves we had nice plans for the next day didn’t want to face that road again for a while and couldn’t think where else we would park for the night so we cooked and out came the PJ’s.
A knock at the window surprised us first and resulted in us helping two lost eleven-year-old boys find their way home. After settling down again we were alone totally in the dark apart from the glow of our little T.V and the stars, until a boy racer BMW came spinning into the car park filled with youngsters parking beside us, strange as it was a big space? Once they left, we relaxed again and went to bed at midnight. Just before we got comfortable three fast cars came into our lonely car park and circle around us. We slowly undid the shutters to see what was occurring. It wasn’t young lovers finding a quiet place. It was fast cars headlights and young men. As fast as they arrived one left and went to the derelict farm, another went the other way and the other stayed? Paul had stopped trying to encourage me to ignore them and like me, was just watching… They went but I couldn’t go to bed and rightly so as two returned, on that note Paul got out of the van turned off the Gas and I was like Sulu from the Star ship enterprise, flicking buttons off, and locking down the inside. Now to pass the sinister waiting headlights and navigate the dirt track of a road with just our headlights warning us of the holes and bumps that made the Beast bounce and heave her framework clumsily, whilst not knowing where we were headed?
In the dark for some time we were in the countryside on our own, bullied only by the trees and bushes knocking on the Beasts sides as we lumbered up and down the landscape. Then we saw headlights parked to our right just off the road ahead, as we passed the white strips of the stationary Mini, we check our mirrors and noted they were behind us! Without realising we were heading down hills in this foreign terrain faster and faster bouncing higher in our pilot seats whilst still trying to keep our cool. We pulled over sharply when possible and the Mini sped on, now we were following, and the track thankfully became a road which eventually led us to a beach promenade at Largs, where we parked up with one or two MH’s and
We are heading into our fourth week of travel and it really does feel like a road trip with more time on the road than painting, walking cycling or anything else. It’s a tricky balance to strike, where to stop and for how long. Paul and I luckily love a road trip, some of the mountain ranges reminded us of driving to Vegas, it was only for a moment, Scotland is far prettier, but they were also fun memories made.
I’m writing this blog drinking a yogi tea from the shop at Gairloch; Buddha by the Sea (Womans Balance, thumbs up) Looking out over rugged hills that are cloaked in a raincoat of clouds filling up the Loch below and I’m deciding what recipe to go for out of Buddha bowls, grain+ green +protein book, a new addition, along with Tree spotters Guide, get me! I call it relaxed learning, it happens when life is simplified; we can focus on simple but essential pleasures to “feed the well,” as artist say. Nourishing the soul with life’s bounty in all ways.
Regretfully we left Gairloch, we continued West and we can confirm the scenery continues to excite the senses. So many photographs on my phone are now framed by the Beasts interior as I shoot whilst travelling. Its addictive; the light changes and so does the picture in front of you. You spot sheep standing perpendicular to the mountain and wonder how they do it, take a shot, add to the picture lambs frolicking, cows and their calf’s feeding, a few more shots.
The Landscape too has filled my phone with its lively charm. In the Beast out in the open, the shhh of the North Sea, the trickle of the waterfalls or the stillness of the lochs lull you to sleep, only to be woken by the array of bird song championing a new day, and this makes me feel very grateful, not only for our new day but the extra storage space on my phone!
Whilst driving in the never-ending indulgence of the landscape, we can almost feel the rocks waiting to rain down their giant jagged boulders in front of us, just waiting to reclaim the road channelled through them, or we look over to the eerie but beautiful lochs, silently weaving into the hillside showing us the way. Let’s not underestimate the sky that also commands our attention; with the changeable weather, the clouds make designs on the sky that so many artists endeavour to emulate with their individual styles that I don’t tire of seeing. A dance of mist across the mountains and you can almost hear the Gaelic laments of times gone by and lost loves. Suddenly a crash of grey cloud storms across the brightest of blue skies creating atmosphere and mood. Interlaced with the clouds are the stars of the show, an aerial display of birds of prey hovering or steeling food from another bird mid-flight. It’s a movie we watch most often in silence, interrupted only by our eagerness to engage in the wonder.
We drive for the most part without music, the silence is self-imposed, we don’t put the radio on because the Beast sounds like a bus inside and the view really is best enjoyed without extra barracking. Having said that, music is a natural desire, that one evening did have me looking for the CD’s we had brought with us, except we forgot them and found just one; NOW that’s what I call a party 2018. How that found its way in here I don’t know but it’s always fun reviving old tunes with a chance for a boogie! … “Came here for love”…The Greatest Showman pretended to accompany us but the case was empty, which is a crime, as we would have played that on repeat for six months!
Inspiring music poetry dance and creativity of all genres, you can see how the people and landscape enjoy and respect each other, we spoke to some fishermen recently looking experienced and weathered, I’m sure you can picture them, who said they never take their scenery for granted, they know how lucky they are. I went to find some enchanting music yesterday and found humour in the likes of The Red Hot Chilli Pipers! We ended up playing Michael Flatley’s Celtic Dream music on repeat through Paul’s phone! More Oil we discovered helped quiet the engine so I look forward to checking out the charity shops and finding more CD’s!
There is artistry in food here too, we had a lovely lunch in Sheildag, (creamy fish chowder) hidden in a charming village that sweeps around the bay of the Loch, listening to Eva Cassidy in the background slowing the pace down.
The drinking laws are much tighter here than in England which means Paul can’t enjoy a pint of Guinness as he was, but it doesn’t stop him later in the day. A Dutch family had overloaded on Guinness and were going home so asked Paul to take them off their hands, which he kindly obliged.
Another great find was The Old Inn at Carbost on the Isle of Skye, I’m jumping forward here but this find was so unexpected. We stopped at a CL site. (Certified Location Sites just have the basics, electric hook up and water, no frills and this place didn’t even look nice in this setting!) The chap said there was a shop and pub about a mile walk away so we braved the hail storm and went for supplies. They were of course mega expensive because this is the only shop stuck in the middle of nowhere, but whilst there, we confirmed that the Pub was just a little further on and the shopkeeper told us we wouldn’t want to leave, “it’s the best pub on Skye” Yeah right, we thought there are no signs, no anything to suggest anything happens here. We walked into a warm-hearted, busy, internationally filled pub where people of all denominations just kept coming. To top the atmosphere, the food was delicious and service friendly. So many gems tucked away.
Before heading to Skye we wild park on Loch Marie, said to be the prettiest Loch in Scotland where we skimmed stones and walked around Beinn Eighe looking for eagles.
Skye initially was like the East side of Scotland, brown hills and moorland as we headed up to Portree the main town, but as we followed the Art trail around the coast the hills and mountains seem to double and treble in number and size and became more scenic. We wild parked at Staffin Beach, checking the tide wouldn’t reach us
and the next night Carbost CL site, mentioned earlier. We met friends in Portree on our last day, and after relaxing in the Beast together, convinced them to buy a motorhome! We missed out on the bottom part of Skye and Fairy Pools, said to be magical, but we wanted to get a move on, back to the mainland and out of the wind. Ironically, we found ourselves up a mountain on the Ben Nevis range, where it was windy and snowing!
There is so much to do at the Ben Nevis Range, we thought it a great location for an active family holiday. Fort William is on the doorstep and the largest town we have seen for ages, so lots of boxes ticked.
Our zest for painting, people and a party has us staying at The Ben Nevis motorhome camp site for a few days, where we have made new friends and planned a night with music in the local pub! (More photos on fb art page)
The highs and lows of the of The Beast on the Highlands.
Can you believe we have been on the road for just over two weeks without eating chocolate? Not even an Easter egg and with all this walking and cycling, roll on summer body!
Talking of well-being, I learnt that Edinburgh city is 45% green space which makes for healthy and happy people, it does also have the benefit of access to a great beach that goes on for miles. Inverness is no different, the wildlife and scenic views are all around, rivers canals and lochs wherever you walk makes every excursion a pleasure. We wild parked for a couple of nights in Inverness which is allowed in Scotland. In fact, Scotland’s roads are well organised with clearly marked stopping spaces and bins and every view is a good one.
The bike ride from Inverness to Loch Ness is a lovely one, most of it off road and catered for bikes. It takes about an hour and is not too hilly (helps if you have an electric bike too!) There are two routes there, we went to Dores where the pub sits right on the edge of the Loch nestling in its glory, and treated ourselves to lunch as it was Easter Sunday. I had Shetland muscles in cider but they were too small for my liking, Paul’s roast was good though and it’s an easy place to stop for a good while whether to play, swim, skim stones or do the many walks around the forests there, something for everyone. Nessie Hunter.com is also resident which makes the trip more interesting as he has been looking for Nessie for over 25 years so has many stories to tell if you catch up with him. In case you were wondering we didn’t see Nessie either!
It seems we along with the rest of the country enjoyed beautiful sunshine over the Easter period and that helped us to slow our pace down. We research how to go about the North Coast 500 route and decided to do it backwards. We met two chaps older than us, setting off to ride the NC500 on their pushbikes, we thought we were good, riding a few hours that day, we didn’t mention that! Good luck to them.
About the NC500
The route is like a pick and mix, you read about the next stop and decide if that’s what you want to see, perhaps something the Vikings left, or a world war two relic, or one of nature’s highlights. There is something for everyone and without the book you would drive through what looks like a few houses and a post office and not realise it has hidden gems. However, although six months sounds like a long time, we have to be selective and so enjoyed just driving for a couple of days on what is a great road, never thought I’d be saying that, but with the big Beast on a single carriage way you appreciate Scotland’s Passing places frequently interjected along the route. As well as the scenic Stopping places off set from the road, it’s easy to wild camp here. The NC500 stops are often only a fifteen-minute to half an hour drive apart, so you could park and make it your base camp then cycle or walk to nearby points of interest.
NC 500 Anti clockwise.
We left Inverness and stopped at Evanton and the Black Rock Gorge. The main village car park will take a motorhome so that’s a bonus. The post office lady suggested we walk through the woods to see the Gorge and we were so pleased we followed this advice. A beautiful wood that is a must to visit with children, dogs, or just you. It is well looked after and catered for by the community, you can tell the children have a ball there with camps, fires and play areas. That aside the wood evokes fairy-tale and fantastical thought. We found ourselves creating stories of fairies, elves and nymphs dancing in and around the gnarled old trees, it was magical. The Gorge is a force of nature dramatic and mesmerising, worth the stop off. By the way we didn’t stick to the path as is suggested, we were distracted by the bird song, fauna and flora, streams and waterfalls, consequently we added about two and a half hours to our walk!
Just a 15 min drive and I’m lured to what is described as the Jewel in the highlands, Dunrobin Castle and Gardens. This one of course, is also not part of English Heritage or the National Trust! It has a lot of personal artefacts on show from the history of the family which I love. Its location on the beach and the gardens are stunning. They have plants that look like something out of a prehistoric era which they explain to the children are dinosaur food. (part of the rhubarb family but you can’t eat them) and regale you with stories of ghosts and legends. I’d like to tell you what they are called but after the chap said it three times, I just nodded and smiled.
Rock Stop part of the Geo Park of the Highlands, was a unexpected surprise, so tucked away, you may even think you are passing someone’s house. Apart from the shop and café there is a room with a large screen playing an interesting introduction to the geology of the rocks and mountains you are driving through, as well as an exhibition of studies, finds and research.
We decided on visiting the isle of Skye to the West, as opposed to The Orkney Islands so cut the tip off of Scotland, missing John o’ Groats. It depends on who you talk to as to whether that was the right choice or not but hey, we can come back.
From Scrabster along to Betty Hill A836 the route just gets prettier and with everyone saying on the West coast every corner is a photo opportunity I can’t wait, but know I will be testing Paul’s driving patience!
Well we are into our third week and I think we mentioned the Gaffa tape didn’t we? So, our wing mirror kissed a passing similar motorhome and knocked itself out…Paul = Gaffa Tape. Then we stopped to repair it properly, when Paul opened the tool box hidden under the van the whole thing just dropped off! Paul …= this is going to take more than Gaffa tape! After putting the contents in the shower, not easy, when we next stopped, we couldn’t understand why the pump was making a funny noise? Yes, the shower had been knocked on for a while! The next stop and we realised we were missing a wheel trim, Paul… = needs cable ties! And lastly back on the road and water started dripping in front of me onto the dashboard, we had only had a little rain so we were concerned but… Paul… = silicone or mastic, by this point Paul was talking and I was just nodding! So, So far so good.
For those interested in camping, we stopped off at a site at Brora which was just a minutes’ walk to a windy beach, a few nights wild, then we stopped at Tongue and then Gairloch, again right on the beach. All site are good but Gairloch really grabbed us so after one wild night! we stayed just outside at Sands Site which is well equipped, spacious and on a great pathway to the town of Gairloch which is spread right around the Loch, so just when you think you have come to the end of the town, a short cycle and there’s more. We stayed for a few days and enjoyed sitting on top of a hill looking for Porpoise and Whales. Finding shops like Budha by the Sea and the Trading Post to hang out in. This and the Cove are popular places for Yoga retreats so had to include some photos for you.
We stayed at Sands for three nights, we would highly recommend it. Paul = maintenance! We shared some drinks with some lovely people, enjoyed a live band in The Old Inn and painted outside with a view you can’t tire of. What the Highlands don’t have in abundance is connection, but everyone is relaxed about not having wifi at home for months, their answer is, they have the view, and you can’t argue with that.
We wanted to start our Art Tour in Scotland for a couple of reasons, firstly the midges descend around May and last until September so it was a case of being there at the beginning or end of the Tour. Secondly, we have a grandchild arriving middle June, so though we could hotfoot it back to Kent for the main event a little easier if we are half way down the West coast of England.
Actually driving to Scotland, from the other side of the country in our Motorhome takes longer than we thought so we decided we would break it up somewhat with a few stops to get started. We hopped to Norfolk, skipped to North Yorkshire and Jumped up to Northumberland. Arriving in Edinburgh to give us a true flavour of the country and those beautiful scenic views.
So, day one and it was all about that automated voice…
Relaxed about setting off a day later than scheduled, we told our Super-duper specialist Motorhome Sat Nav where to head for. The M25 turn off had a massive delay so thought nothing of the alternative route it took us on. Consequently, we enjoyed the architecture of London for far too long! If you have ever tried driving through London with a 22ft Motorhome you will feel our pain, but it just needs one funny remark to let off steam and that was when Paul seriously told the Sat Nav Lady to up her game in London traffic! Don’t you think it’s weird how we talk to those automated voices. I’m sure we will give her a name soon.
Once out of London we stuck to the more picturesque views of the A1 then off to Kings Lynn in Norfolk for the night and the renowned food market. However, a Low bridge was nearly our undoing, the words Stop and Reverse worked wonders, as did the waterproof tape Paul used on the cracks on the air con unit on the roof!! Phew that was close… Loving the Super-Duper specialist Motorhome Sat Nav that makes sure you don’t drive anywhere your Motorhome won’t fit!
Day Two, all about the smiles
A little detour felt only right when we saw a town called Downham Market. Who can resist a market, with its local food and craft stalls? However, this town must have had a flourishing market at some point in its history to be named as such but now it covered what looked like, a measly 100 yard square space. We were disappointed to have squeezed through those little streets, found somewhere to park the beast, only to, not find, a bustling market town. However, there is always something to be grateful for as I was, when I was trying on pure wool jumpers at the second stall I came across. This local craft stall holder was selling off her stock to make way for new stuff, so Paul and I both handed over our fiver, yes I said a fiver each and walked away with big smiles ready for those windy highlands. Oh, and Paul got more Gaffa tape, you never know when you might get assaulted by another low bridge! That’s Paul smiling! Off to Hunstanton, what lovely A roads they were with passing motorhomes smiling and waving, so much it became a game, would they or wouldn’t they, needless to say the caravans are a different breed of travelling home and don’t wave at motorhomes!
Hunstanton has a sandy/stone beach, pier building and a little of everything for families and all ages so well designed it was a joy. We can recommend breakfast at Becci’s kitchen for food and the view. Paul found Britain’s biggest joke shop, and we got to have a proper ride of our new Electric bikes. I would usually be red faced and puffing away but no, we were racing up those steep hills smiling away.
Sticking to those A roads now for the Motorhome camaraderie as much as the view, we stopped at Scarborough as that was the nearest O2 shop! With all the prep involved for this trip things still go wrong, fb told me I wasn’t admin on my Art page, my laptop wouldn’t use my phone as a hotspot and so on, but I left there all smiles, then found some wonderful local artists and their art, already the people and locations are filling my head with ideas, really smiling now.
Day Three is all about the glutes.
Boy are there some steps and hills in Scarborough, everywhere we went as my knees were protesting, I kept telling them my bum was going to be really grateful! What this also meant was the views got better with every gradient.
The largest holiday resort on the Yorkshire coast was made popular 1700s by the finding of mineral water which led to a spa thought to have medicinal benefits, a spa still stands today. The old and new architecture of Scarborough looked very settled together and told of a rich history. Nothing more so than that of The Grand Hotel. It sits presiding over the bay in a prime spot looking every bit as regal as its design. The building is so impressive it draws you to it, and speaks of an age where pomp and ceremony reigned. It was actually designed in a V shape paying homage to the V for Queen Victoria. Intrigued I researched it a little:
More about The Grand…
Completed in 1867 the design character was centred around concept of time: 12 floors, one for each month; 365 rooms, one for every day of the year; four towers, representing the seasons and 52 chimneys for the weeks of the year. A little quirk in design was that the hotel offered two taps one with salt water and one with fresh.
Passing through the years the Grand took part and recovered from war injury and always drew a wealthy and elite clientele, including the SAS when the hotel was used for covert training. A change was afoot when Butlins bought the hotel in 1978 and ran it until 2004, but when Britannia Hotels bought it, the Grand was restored to its former glory and high standards and so was awarded with the accolade of one of the top ten places, buildings and historical sites that tell a remarkable story of Britain. Its concept of time really resonated with me.
Opposite is a wonderful Gallery, with Art by Tracy Savage, unfortunately closed but found I liked her paintings in the window. They have a lovely sense of humour, another name to check out later. We enjoyed our short visit but got back on the road to a place a few locals had recommended: Robin Hood Bay, Whitby. This didn’t disappoint, the vistas were beautiful the quaint shops surprised and enthralled you, tucked away along their tiny cobbled lanes and those hundreds of steps and steep hills worked their magic too. I hope! Whilst having afternoon tea in one of the many choices the village offers, I met a group of ladies away for a long weekend together there, which sounded like a perfect idea. It made me think fondly of my Centre Parcs girlfriends, we have been going away together for years and our fun, friendship and unity has helped all of us over the years. It’s so important to recharge your batteries with females who lift and support you. With my change of life style I often reflect on what I’m grateful for and they amongst other dear friends, are one of them.
Into wonderful Whitby for the evening, where we found, stunning relics of Abbeys/ Monasteries with a ridiculous number of steps! (199 to Church and Abbey) as well as the creative and flamboyantly dressed Goths that were all over town for their special weekend that happens twice a year in Whitby.
Day Four and it was all about the trees.
With a visit to Pannett Park, Art Gallery and Museum left to the town by a benefactor (which was unfortunately closed!) we walked around the beautiful park, watching the squirrels play around all the different types of trees found there. The wood carvings, trees and foliage shapes and shadows grabbed our attention and brought a sense of calm to our expedition that morning, so much so we both took time out for ourselves to meditate amongst them. Studies have shown the many benefits of being around trees and we definitely felt that there. As this art gallery was closed, we continued our walk and found ourselves at The Art Café on Flowergate in Whitby town. What a find, spread over three floors we drank coffee admired many artists work of all descriptions, listened to Jazz and engaged in friendly conversation with the owner and some regulars. Part of the reason for this trip was to also reconnect with a variety of people and with our North Yorkshireman, Lancastrians and Kentish folk we all got along so well the banter was contagious funny and kind. A morning seared into my memory. (A poll suggests that Lancastrians really are the friendliest in the UK)
We couldn’t leave Whitby without a proper visit to the 3000 year old Abbey ruins so we did the 199 steps again, and decided it was worth it. English Heritage have recently spent 1.6 million on this historic site and by involving clever technology have introduced The Ammonite Quest, that all the children seemed to love. They even have an App that allows you to take part in finding relics on your smart phone. This Abbey has seen the bronze age , medieval times and then private ownership in 17th century. It has inspired Artists, novelists and poets over the centuries like JMW Turner, JRTolkien and Lewis Carroll but the one we all know and is capitalised on is Dracula imagined by Bram Stoker and it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see why, just add some moody skies over the church and abbey and the scene is set.
Day Five, hooked up, mindfully and Electrically!
After 3 nights and four days of wild camping we booked into a site at Runswick Bay. Emptied our grey water, topped up with fresh hooked up our electric, luxuriating in having more than just 12v to use. This means everything got plugged in and fully charged. Bikes; phones; Laptops; kettles; toaster; radio and to Pauls delight, the T.V. As I said things go wrong and for some reason the T.V failed to work! Determined, Pauls brain worked at this until he cut wires off of one thing to fashion a lead into something else until he got it going. That man is always resourceful.
Despite the beauty of these beaches I can’t stop to paint on them because we are on a mission to Scotland and although the sun has shone for us it is also very cold and windy so I’m soaking up inspiration and of that there is plenty!
Runswick Bay is as pretty as the locals report, with its red tiled roofs collected into the hillside the view from the sandy beach is a picture postcard. Walking through the few streets in between those red roofs, the homes and holiday stays are beautifully adorned with flowers and sea memorabilia, the local notice board talks of the beach clean up that everyone takes part in and other community spirit. All of this exudes a feeling of love and care. There is a coastal walk you can do from Whitby that continues past the bay so the only little café is on the beach and obviously does well. If I’m honest the tea was great but the banana cake was artificially sweet and the cream tea came with jam and squirty cream, already applied? Next time I would just continue further on the walk to Staithes a little bay made famous by James Cook and Mackerel fishing, now a hub for artist and creative alike. Note the lovely art Gallery is not open on Mondays and Tuesdays, which is the same for some of the other little businesses there. That was a shame but everyone needs time off and the craft shop was open so I managed to picked up a little handmade gift for Grandbaby number three. Lunch at the Crab & Lobster worked a treat, a comprehensive menu with something for everyone and very busy. Is it bad that I seem to have swapped a daily glass of wine for Cider? Onto Seahouses still part of the coastal walk but we drove and all charged we wild parked overnight.
Day six, rich pickings.
We stayed overnight just in case the sea conditions improved in the hope of visiting the Farne Islands. The boat ride was like that of a amusement park, some loved it others looked a bit green! The group of islands are home to hundreds of birds. The Puffins one the day for me, I learnt that after spending eight months at sea they only develop their orange bills and feet to attract a mate. The more vibrant the orange the more of a proficient fisher he is! The Gannets were also impressive with their six foot wing span. We didn’t see any dolphins but we saw plenty of Seals who when sunbathing just wait for the water to reach them before going in for a dip. Lazy Sea dogs.
Where we parked was a great view, with privately owned Bamburgh Castle (joined English Heritage and The National Trust!) ahead to the left and the sand dunes and beach to our right, so we couldn’t drive past the castle without a peak. Beautifully maintained with an interesting history, if you like castles its worth a visit.
Day Seven and we are in Scotland at the end of our first week.
In Edinburgh, on The Caravan Club site close to town and the beach that we can recommend, we stayed for a few days as we had a few things to sort out.
We did go into Edinburgh to do the sites but didn’t end up doing them so can’t comment, or believe I didn’t visit the Castle! All in all, an interesting first week. We settled into Paul driving with me navigating and researching. We got to know the Beast better, got over our disdain for the Super-duper Sat Nav; enjoyed the paper Maps; loved Google for the maps and research of people and places; started drawing and playing with different mediums and Paul now likes my Motorhome special, Vegetable curry! Roll on Week Two where we take on the NC500, Scotland’s answer to Route 66.
Welcome to my work place! It’s a new space for a new creative life and I couldn’t be more thankful.
My wardrobe and my husband are pleased too as I have paint on clothes that I swear I wasn’t wearing near any paintings, as well as paint on the walls at home that are not there by design!
So as soon as Paul has finished sorting my studio out for me, I think the house will get a proper lick of paint too. Paul renovates houses and a pet hate of his is to put nails into a perfectly smoothly plastered and painted wall so this is going to be tough for him!
As you can see from the photos I am quite literally surrounded by art as I am getting ready for my first exhibition of original watercolour and prints of my oil paintings. (check out my diary for more info)
Having my own space allows my mind to breathe, when I paint I get lost in the process, I forget to eat and don’t notice the time until I realise, I’m losing daylight. So, I’m extremely fortunate to have floor to ceiling windows in two rooms and bifold doors in the main space and kitchen area, so natural light floods in. I hope to use this space as a gallery too on occasion and even have a fridge so look forward to popping open a bottle or two to share.
If you ever visit you will find me paint splattered listening to the radio or singing along to a bit of Motown, but I’ve always got time to put the kettle on.
A helmet and mousse are the only things that will tame my hair!
Due to our motorhome being a big beast, we realised we needed to park up somewhere with space and then have a mode of transport to go exploring. Luckily the beast has a garage! We love push bikes but its not so easy to carry equipment up and down hills, so they curtail our ventures of exploration. It is only a Twist and Go which means when we are both on it going uphill, people sometimes walk faster, but hey life’s not perfect, and any embarrassment is hiding under a helmet!
I have always loved speed in cars and the feeling of freedom a bike gives you and its nippy with just one of you on it, so ultimately it does the job.
We tested it out on our trip to Totnes in Devon for their Open Studios, Arts event, if you didn’t know they happen all over the country around September time so be sure to check out the one happening near you this year. You see such a diverse range of art that you didn’t realise went on near you, it gives you the chance to meet artists you might follow or just do the kind of art you like and I’m not just talking about painting. Totnes is lovely by the way, filled with galleries and creatives alike from imaginative tasty lunches to the interesting architecture of the old town and the contrasts of the work inside them.
This trip gave me a good excuse to meet Artist Yvonne Coomber in person and to see her art up close. I wasn’t disappointed, I felt her love and involvement when creating her work and hadn’t noticed the gold detail before so was encouraged by not only by the way she works so freely which I aspire to but the fact that she is just as focussed and careful about the end result as I find myself being. I think its easy to think that others find the process easy and just sometimes quite literally throw their art together effortlessly. In reality the more I learn about Art, it’s never effortless, a bit like love or anything worth having.
Can’t wait for our next trip, will let you know what’s happening and where we are going in my Tour dates diary.
It’s funny I should use that word as it was a blessing in so many ways. Firstly, because a very dear friend got married while we were there which was as beautiful as you would imagine and secondly, I was true to myself and made time for my art which in turn released me to enjoy every moment.
My life has changed to the point where if I am not messing about with paints for some days, I feel grumpy and start to begrudge the time whatever I’m doing is taking! So, after waking at about 5am on our first morning in Antigua because of the time difference, then watching the sun rise whilst swimming in the warm sea I was hooked and decided to do it again and again. The few hours spent every morning quietly painting started my day off so perfectly I was ready to do whatever was on the agenda for that day. You could say it was my meditation or mindfulness session for the day.
2018 was also our 25th Wedding anniversary and so we treated ourselves to a room actually on the beach, now there is no going back we have to do that again! Giving myself that time allowed me to paint a card for the happy couple and to also write a poem as a meaningful gift. I hope it’s a nice keepsake in their wedding memorabilia. It certainly felt good at the time and that’s what memories are made of those special surprise moments. It was such an intimate wedding that everyone played a role in making it special. We had a song; poem; speeches and even some magic!
The Art found in the English harbour were lovely with their bright seascapes; bold skies; colourful people and creative jewellery, my favourite Gallery had to be Fig Tree Studio in the Antiguan rainforest. It confirmed for me that I was going in the right direction artistically, so the whole trip delivered more than I expected.
I’m celebrating with them… their authenticity; their acknowledgement of just being themselves; their unique, unashamed beauty; their individual style that celebrates the diversity of life.
I love the journey a painting takes me on, slowly revealing a personality to me, and with it a story about them almost plays out in my head. Curiously exploring, sometimes I mix a range of colours up that I love, and when I apply them I realise they don’t suit the individual! However, then I know I’m on the right track to revealing the true colours of their character.
Having opted out of the office world I was lost, I knew I would never return to that life, but had no idea what to do next…
My mind was a constant dialogue of angry demands on myself but, finding Art gave me the chance to reconnect with that inner voice that knew what was best for me. Stephen Spielberg’s best advice to give to your children is, to “Listen to the whisper” Art quietened my mind to reveal moments of clarity and do just that. I believe that whisper is your heart’s desire, and that if we all followed it life will deliver everything you really want and need and the world would be a happier place, a more authentic and sincerer place, one that celebrates the very act of being human different and unique but equally special. All of this has the pre-requisite of love, wouldn’t it be just lovely?
The dialogue with art in my head was personal, was exciting, all-consuming and not a bit logical. It just spoke to me of my love of learning, growing as a person and opening up to the possibilities of life, if I just believed. This conversation mapped out a desire for a more authentic life, hence my plan spending time living simply in a motorhome following my heart’s desire, not only to paint but share my joy and new-found mindfulness with others whilst exploring and taking inspiration from whatever we find, in England first of all and then, who knows, anywhere new.
Now, just over a year on art and I have an understanding, I will devote as much time to learning and growing, if in that time it helps me to drown out my logical brain, telling me all the reasons why my dreams wont work and why I need to stay in my comfort zone. Just like everyone else I am regularly dragged back to the realities of our lives, This week was a flood and a car that needed mot and tax but I can always feel when I have been away from painting for too long, so I do what is necessary, then take myself off to reconnect with my art and find my peace and ambition again. Passion is a brilliant tool to help stop procrastination.
All the while I’m writing this blog I can sense a pink flamingo nudging me to get my hands dirty, so it’s got to be bye for now, but keep an eye out for my next instalment in animal art!
Children dream all the time; teenager’s day dream a lot and by the time we are adult our generation and those before us were encouraged to put away childish thoughts and work hard! Well my ethos couldn’t be more opposite: I think we should all dream big every day, we should encourage dreaming in the young and old, the benefits are measurable. Especially noted in the young in whom we can so easily sow seeds of aspirations to achieve dreams and believe anything is possible. Sometimes with age the conversation can so easily be centred around illness and loss, if we can alter the way we think about our time alive as more of a continuous adventure of discovery, people may believe there is more to live for and enjoyment is sure to be around the corner. In this day and age anything is possible and optimism improves health and well-being for all ages.
A dream doesn’t have to be big as in, I want to be a millionaire, it just needs to make you happy. For example, part of my dream is to live and work each year for a few months in a modern house that has lovely big walls for art! It has a pool and a walk way down to the beach cove that is of course stunning, in a lovely warm climate. Years ago, I would have said I wanted to own it and whilst that would be nice, I’m not hung up on possessing any longer, it’s more the joy of being there, so however it comes about is fine, I just allow myself to dream and visualise that part of my dream in full HD colour, I can feel the sun and breeze as we speak!
When I worked 9-5 or 7 until I’d finished! my dream became very serious. It was all about providing for my family and our retirement so that we were not a burden on our children and could still take holidays to enjoy our free time. That doesn’t sound very dream like to me now. I was caught up in the world of, must, should haves and work hard to achieve and I did just that. Now however I am more relaxed, enjoying going with the flow of life and reminding myself of all the inspirational books I have read about ordinary people doing extraordinary things just because they had a mind to, and why not, we are only here like this once.
It doesn’t have to be extraordinary though, it just has to be yours.
I used to plan because planning gave a feeling of security but it also gave an unbreakable and relentless routine that became a trap that if you are not careful, squeezes out spontaneity and freedom. I have opted for the opposite to that and am taking steps every day to ensure I continue to achieve my dreams and then dare to dream up some more… coming with me? I would love to hear about your dreams too, let me know…