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
… slept soundly!
Music of the Mountains…
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.
A Hop Skip and Jump to Scotland.
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.
What a blessing.
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.
So why paint colourful animals?
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…