Saturday, December 31, 2016

Just lifting my head from my reading ...

... to wish all who visit here a Happy Hogmanay!
Enjoy the last day of this year - savour all that went well during the past twelve months.  We have a whole new year tomorrow in which to start thinking about sorting out anything else.
(image via here)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Last day at work

Tomorrow the tree and the decorations go up, and I gather greenery from the garden for a few arrangements.  I'm about to shut down the 'office' computer, and will not attempt anything in the way of serious work until next year.  For some unfathomable reason today I'm feeling unreasonably ? optimistic. 
I wish you all a pleasurably satisfying holiday.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The pink glow of winter

I have not captured it in these snaps, but one aspect of winter which I find beautiful is the halo of pink round twigs and fine branches, especially in the sun.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Preparing for the next big thing

My next quilt piece is another multiple, like Crowded (seen at the side here, now touring with the C group of Quilt National '15) and I have completed the printing and scanning of the ingredients so that I'm ready to go next year.
Now I have a good pile of stitching to occupy me while I think about progress and directions.  Meantime, on this shortest day, the Hibernation reading begins.  From tomorrow the light will increase - perhaps we in the Northern Hemisphere will all be able to see more clearly.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Beginning the festive indulgence

One of our indulgences is good cheese.  Stilton is associated with Christmas, and we shall have some of that - but we are lucky to live near a cheesemaker who uses ewes' milk to make delicious produce.  Today I went to the Wellington Farm shop to buy a piece of each of two of Anne Wigmore's cheeses: Wigmore, a soft, and Spenwood the hard.
We have already enjoyed some of both with pears.  Yum.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


In the mix of everything I've been pondering recently my enjoyment of reading keeps barging in.  Nearly every day I encounter yet something else I want to find out about, or discover a book that looks interesting.  It is a peculiar phenomenon that as much as I was urged as a child to learn through books, unless it was for a specific educational project, sitting reading a book was seen as being lazy when I should have been carrying out some chore.  That feeling of guilt haunts me still, although I am determined to battle it.  I have to: there is really not enough time to read everything!
Frederick Warren Freer: Woman and Child Reading (image from here)
Reading has been important to me right from my earliest memories.  I was most fortunate that my mother was learning to read and write English when I was a baby, and as she was earning a little by embroidery also I learned to read and to sew by the time I was three.  My extended family believed books to be important, so gifts were often books - even if not always appropriate, such as my Scottish grandmother's annual birthday present from the age of two ! of a novel by Sir Walter Scott.  But the Christmas present from my father when I was five was a set of Arthur Mee's Encyclopaedias which lit a passion in me for pursuing enquiry, and started a desire to pass on information.  Indeed that instinct to teach could be seen the following year when I was found reading to my uncle's most attentive wire haired fox terrier!
James Charles: Reading (image from here)
I was not allowed comics at home, and so I do not have the conventional literary upbringing of a girl of my era (the 50s).  However, while my mother was occupied with my baby brother I did play with neighbours, two boys who had the Eagle comic which they let me read.  Mostly what I was interested in was the cutaway illustration in the middle.  What a treasure that was!
Some of my parents' restrictions turned out to be most beneficial.  All through school years I used to do my homework in my bedroom, and inevitably I would complete my tasks far too soon for my parents' belief.  So I took to reading novels for my own pleasure and enlightenment: Georgette Heyer to begin with, but soon moving on to Iris Murdoch, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, JP Sartre, ... and then as I lived at home while at university the habit continued. 
Richard Lindner: Marcel Proust (image from here)
I studied literature as part of my degree: English, French, and German, so kept reading.  Up in my bedroom the discipline of both having to be at home and 'obviously' studying gave me the time to complete A la recherche du temps perdu - something I would certainly not be able to do now, although I did get the complete translation on the kindle recently (foolishly) thinking I should try to read it again, but of course in English this time. 
Then I taught English and Drama for a short while before eventually finding myself in publishing and having to read for a living!  Promoted from fox terriers, I was producing non-fiction books for children - then teaching others to publish educational texts.
I am still insatiably curious, so keep absorbing non-fiction - there is a never-ending stream of subjects and opinions. The Internet and the wondrous Wikipedia have meant that we don't have need of so many reference books, but finding the answers to quick questions I find also throws up further paths to follow, needing more detailed explanation - and the purchase of delightful amuses-bouches such as the Oxford Short Introduction to ... series.
I am enthralled by so much brilliant fiction, although I have not read any language other than English for many years now - translators are so accomplished, and underrated, and so many translations are available. 
As readers we live in such fortunate times - we should never waste a moment when we could be reading.  So much to read, and so little time, ... I must stop wittering on and get back to my books.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Approaching the end of another year

At the beginning of this year I started a separate blog to try to focus more on organising my work.  The initial enthusiasm has dampened as I have been asking myself fundamental questions about the whither and why of my work.  Over the year I have posted less and less there, and now am wondering what purpose a second blog really fulfils.  I have added a post today, but the positive feeling with which the blog was started has fallen away.
I shall let the back burner bubble away while I get on with my hibernation reading.  Meantime today I have been happily deleting piles of files - that certainly brings a glow of contentment and the perhaps illusion of progress, and there is plenty of work in the pipeline to keep me busy for a while.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Before the hibernation

comes the end-of-year sorting: filing, assessing, and thinking. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Recent and current reading ... and anticipations

Perhaps it is at this time of year that I most miss having a cat.
It is difficult to separate my recent four top fiction titles:
Helen Dunmore Exposure
Ali Smith Public Library and other stories
Graeme Macrae Burnet His bloody project
                                  The disappearance of Adele Bedeau
Close behind them comes Alison Moore's Death and the seaside.

Apart from the Ali Smith stories, the above are all mysteries of one kind or another, but in no way conventional.  I now read all fiction on the kindle, but despite it being quite a tome, I do regret not having bought my current bedtime reading as a physical book.  Peter Frankopan's The silk roads: a new history of the world I suspect will last me into 2017.  It is so extensive in its coverage, so dense with fact with so many footnotes, so demanding of mulling over, so interesting that I am reading it one meaty chapter at a time, with a light mystery novel in between.  I find that the mysteries help me to riddle out the chunks of the history which intrigue me most.  It's so compelling a read for me that it easily survives these intrusions.
The mystery stories have been novels by Sophie Hannah, Margery Allingham, Ngiao Marsh, and Jill Paton Walsh.

The Festive Season means a reading bonanza for me; a kind of hibernation from work and a dedication to devouring as much written material as possible.  Recommended by Marja-Leena Rathe when I wrote about my visit to the Tate Modern Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition I was fortunate enough to find in the UK a good second hand copy of Carr, O'Keeffe, Khalo: Places of their own which looks wondrously substantial. 
A recent visit to the Abstract Expressionists exhibition has also made me want to explore that aspect of art history in more detail, and has reminded me of a book I bought some time ago but was not until now ready to read.  That is Picasso and American Art which I shall read before embarking on the Royal Academy catalogue: Abstract Expressionism.

I shall doubtless try to fit in Ian Rankin's latest Rebus book: Rather be the devil.  I do enjoy returning to Edinburgh, even to its underbelly!

Friday, December 02, 2016

Cold gold

Up towards the pavilion
Turning round to see the gallery building with the lovely Bruton dovecote on the horizon (reminding me of Scotland)
Once again our visit to Durslade FarmHauser and Wirth Somerset was in a winter-ish month.  And this week we were favoured with frost, ice, and glorious sunshine, so that the landscape and the garden were beautiful. 
I listed three pleasures in the previous post: the drive to Somerset, our brunch, and the exhibition of Louise Bourgeois prints.  The fourth pleasure was the garden at the back of the galleries.
The combination of frost in the shade, and sparkling gold in the intense sun was magical.
I am intrigued to find out what the plant which reminded me of cotton (above) really is.
I did not see any birds eating those seeds, but otherwise much feasting could be heard all around, the little birds only seen as they flitted through the seedheads.
It was lovely to find some silver amongst the gold.
The Christmas lights were being installed on the roof when we arrived, but I much preferred a small sign in the courtyard.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Outing to an exhibition

Louise Bourgeois: Love and Kisses 2007 etching on paper 153x91.8cm
This morning was one of those glorious Autumn mornings: crisp frostiness with a sunny blue sky.  Below zero Celsius marked in the car, we set off south west towards Hauser and Wirth's gallery in Somerset to see an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois' works on paper: Turning Inwards.
It was early enough to be driving with hardly any traffic, enjoying as we have in years past the Wiltshire countryside in its crisp glory.  Some trees still holding onto russet leaves, others laden with berries, and crab apples shining in mythic gold - the drive there was pleasure number one.
On arrival we went first to have brunch - pleasure number two.
Then on to the exhibition, mostly of prints.  I was taken with so many aspects.  I am not a fan of all of Bourgeois' work.  My favourite of all are the cells which draw me viscerally.  These prints, however, I could have stayed with all day long.  They are shape and not colour, but shade, tone, strength of line, scumble, scratch, ... both deliberate and seeming accidental marks combine to make a mesmerising whole in each case. 
I love the size: the long slim format, sometimes doubled horizontally - sometimes with two sheets together, or even if whole.  The image at the top, Love and Kisses, shows two sheets side by side.  The bulbous interlocking forms as well as the long ribbons on this work are made up of short marks rather than long sweeps.  The pressure can be seen on each mark, somehow even more powerful than the full sweep of line shaping wholes on other works.  It is all so rewarding to examine closely.
We were lucky to have hardly any fellow viewers in the galleries, so could take time to peer closely and enjoy.  I found these images rewarding and inspirational.
The exhibition also included other work - a spider in the barn with the slits of light illuminating its twisting facets and casting fabulous shadows.  Other works on paper, and a delightful small bronze Topiary (below) which reminded me of votive Egyptian sculptures.
We were disappointed to find that we could not visit Alex Van Gelder's photographs of Bourgeois as there was a school group working in the building where they are displayed, but other than that it was a wondrous exhibition.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Still juggling

Work is still progressing in a staccato digressionary way; although I have been preparing pieces for the stitching pile, I am constantly diverted to doodle.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Current colour palette

There is not much in the way of art life immediately around us - someone once described it as the grey area - but we seem to live in a benign weather pocket.  While storms were raging over the weekend in other parts of the country we simply had rain.  No matter what the weather, however, the garden looks glorious at this time of year.  On Sunday the clouds gathered above us and darkness before dawn grew straight into twilight.  Despite this, the view from the window still glowed.
The three cemetery oaks unfailingly provide a stepped colour change: the one on the right is nearer the pond and so loses its leaves last (the deceptive green is the ivy which provides sustenance for the pesky pigeons!).
The rain stopped for a short time, and I grabbed the opportunity to empty the compost buckets from the kitchen, taking my camera for a few snaps in less gloom. 
And closer snaps show how the colours zing even in November grey.  I just love it all.