Friday, September 30, 2005

After the Storm

Yaesterday was wind and rain. As the day progressed it got windier and rainier. A good day for staying indoors.
Today is a total contrast. The sun shone and it actually got warm in mid afternoon. I walked through a very boggy forest. The rains of yesterday had really enlivened the undergrowth of ferns and mosses on the forest floor. The sunlight filtering through the trees picked out the most brilliant emeral greens. Talking of colour, now the autmn has really set in the broadleaf trees are turning and the larches, the only conifer I know of that sheds its needles during winter (not counting Christmas Trees!) are starting to go a brilliant orange-red colour. Soon whole swathes of the forest will be golden. But I'll miss all that, I'll be in sunny Cyprus by then.
I've run off the last of my film today and I'll get it processed when I get back to Lancaster. Then we can have some new piccys on the Blog.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


The hostel manager gave me a lift into Jedburgh this morning. We got there about nine o' clock. Good time to catch the shops as they open you'd have thought. Nothing doing. The town wakes up between half nine and ten. It gave me a chance to look around. I have been here several times before and have "done" all the touristy things; Mary Queen of Scots house, the Abbey, the Old Gaol, etc. Did a fair bit of window shopping, its the best way, you don't buy anything so it doesn't cost anything.
Anyway, the reason I wanted to be in Jedburgh was to take a look at the Community Arts Centre's gallery. The curator runs the local mountain bike shop so I needed to call there first.
Yes, you've guessed it. It dun'open till ten. But once ten o' clock arrived, shop opened and they were very helpful. I got a good look at the gallery so now I have some idea what needs to be done. It should hold about fifteen of my pictures. The wall space is about the same as the Duke's in Lancaster, maybe slightly bigger. The room is quite large with huge windows in one wall and modern floodlighting.
Afterwards, a stroll along the side of Jed Water, a cup of coffee, and then back to Byrness.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Observing Little Changes

Took a walk into the forest yesterday under and uncertain sky. The trees themselves seemed to huddle together against the damp. Small patches of vague grey mist lay trapped under the canopy. Then with startling suddenness a shaft of watery sunlight pieces the gloom picking out the undergrowth. The wet bracken reflects an almost white light. Ferns and bay willow herb act as filter lenses sending out bright green light. In the foreground the Sitka trunks present a black silhouette to this backdrop. Then the sun is once again obscured by cloud. The shaft of sunlight fades and all reverts to monochrome once again.

Today I took a different sort of walk in intermittent showers to the top of Byrness Fell above the tree-line. A strong westerly wind had me sheltering behind the summit cairn. I could see the rolling green carpet of forest below me and in the middle, the pale blue of Catcleugh Resevoir. Kielder Resivoir lay in the next valley but one, out of sight. I lingered here a half hour or so watching the play of light as parts of the landscape was obscured by passing heavy showers. Cheviot played hide and seek with the rainstorms. All too soon it was time to return to the valley and open up the Hostel. No one booked in tonight though. I'll probably watch TV.

Got hold of a copy of the Hexham Courant. The Co-op store in my old village is under threat of closure. Seems to be the way of things these days. More and more rural ameneties closed down because they are uneconomic. Where will it all end I wonder?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

No Time to Relax

I was struck by this picture the other day. It is by the Dutch painter Jan Zoeterlief Tromp and called "The Sunday Stroll". A picture of pastoral innocence harking back to a golden age when life was less hectic.
Or was it?
If you look closely at the elements in the picture you will see the woman is knitting as she walks with her children. They [children] are enjoying the cornfield but mother is not relaxing. she is working at her knitting as she goes along. She has no time for the innocent purity of pastoral life. She wears her clogs, working shoes. Then again she'd probably need them for walking across a field. Note the pet lamb in tow. Now I can remeber the days up at Halton-Lea -Gate when keeping a pet lamb was commonplace. It was reared until an adult sheep then became mutton to feed the family.
Nowadays poeple work all hours, usually both partners. The children are in nursery or school followed by so-called "afterschool" until their parents can collect them on the way home from work. Then its time to prepare for the next day.
Its called living. Nowt's changed really, has it?
We don't keep pet lambs for food any more, we spend a large part of our time in the shops instead. The actions may be different but the urgency's the same.

Don't get confused

This is NY680947. Not to be confused with the previos posting of NY678945. The more astute of you will have figured they are not so far apart, two hundred yards north and two hundred yards east. Which, according to Pythagoras' rule, is almost 283 yards north-east. Or to be precise, 283 yards, 2feet and 6 inches but i think we're labouring the point here.
This painting is 60 cm x 90 cm, acrylic on canvas.

Byrness Revisited

Well it will be next week. I'll be off doing another stint at the YH. And doing the odd foray into the forest. Of course its the start of autumn now and while most conifers stay green, the larches go golden brown. The birches along with other broadleaf trees will be turning too.
This time I'm going up by train and then bus. I have always been hesitant about getting there this way as I rather believed the cost would be prohibitive. Imagine my surprise when I find the cost of a return ticket is less than what is normally spent in petrol one way. Mind you, it is helped a bit being over that certain age so my tain and bus pass helps.
So those of my family who get coaxed into giving me a lift into what they consider the back of beyond heave a sigh of relief. (Only joking).
But this does mean that in future I'll be getting the train.
The piccy is a painting, about four feet square, acrylic on canvas of some of that forest on a hillside. This is one of those titled by a grid reference, it is NY678945.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Just Like on Skye

The mountains on Tenerife are in a strange way reminiscient if the Cuillins on the Isle of Skye in the Western Isles of Scotland.
Walking along what passes for a beach round here [Tenerife] one sees the pebbles are honeycombed with holes. Probably from escaping gas as the lava started to solidify. These stones are very light, like pumice. They probably ARE pumice.The rocks are black. When I looked at a large rock or part of the cliffs the penny dropped. Of course the mountains have the look of those on Skye.This rock is gabbro. The Black Cuillin is gabbro. The difference between Tenerife and Skye is the climate. One is as dry as the other is wet.
The stones made interesting objects to draw.
Well next week I'll be back in the forest at Byrness

Sun, Sea, but no Sand

Just got back from a week in Tenerife. Very warm, hot in fact. Someone told me the temperature was in the 40s. I can quite believe it. Brenda and I stayed at a place in the south of the island. The area is made up of volcanic debris. It all looks rather arid and inhospitable, the more so as development of this area is far from complete. luxurious resorts stand incongruously in the middle of one huge building site. Still there is sunshine in abundance and the sea. The outlook is southwards and as these islands, the Canaries, lie off the west African coast just 1000 miles from the equator, the next landfall in a straight line would be Antarctica which is somewhat cooler. when at the seaside I have always been somewhere where the next country is not too far away. Like Norway opposite Nothumberland's coast, or Ireland from Morecambe or if on the Med, well nowhere's too far away. The sea is so vast.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


At Begbroke, a small village near Oxford, the Norman church boasts a sundial high up on the south wall of the bell tower. The style of it suggests it is a more recent addition to the architecture. My guess is somewhere around the Reformation or at the earliest, the high mediaeval period. More interesting however is the inscription on the left lintel of the main door as illustrated here. I was rather intrigued by this and thought it was some sort of mediaeval benchmark. The local verger put me right on that one. It is in fact a simple sundial and could well date back to sonn after the church ws built.
Apparently, when Mass was being celebrated, as stick was inserted into the hole. The shadow showed the hour and when the Mass would end. If the pole/stick was absent, then it showed the priest was not in the church building. Simple but effective.
This is from my sketchbook while staying at Yarnton a fortnight ago.

Saxon Cross at Yarnton, near Oxford.

Yarnton's church building is clearly mediaeval and one could be forgiven for thinking this goes back not much further than say, the XIII century. But the Saxon cross just outside the porch shows there has been a place of worship here at least since, if not before the days of King Alfred of Wessex.
In the earliest days of the re-establishment of Christianity in Saxon England, priests were rather few and far between and they had perforce to travel around the area and when they arrived in a village a cross would be planted in the ground. This served as a temporary open air church where all the ecclesiastical business pertaining to that area was done. As time went by, the wooden cross was replaced with a stone one. Later, as the local community grew, and felt it could support a priest, the villagers would get together and build a church. The building belonged to the villagers or, under the feudal system, the local lord of the manor.
This weathered piece of masonry (of which there are quite a few dotted around England) is direct evidence of the strength of faith that has lasted down the centuries.
It was a lovely hot afternoon when I sat in the churchyard doing this drawing. When I had finished it I was taken aback somewhat by the way it came out. It has a bit of a Pre-Raphael look about it. Not surprising I suppose when most of the landscape hereabouts has something of that feel about it.