Saturday, 23 April 2016

England & Sonnets

PART ONE:  Today is St. George's Day!

In honour of my national day, here are seven birds in formation.  The formation happens to be that of the Heptarchy - the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England.  With the exception of the bittern in East Anglia, I don't think the birds shown are strongly connected with the region where I put them.

This is something that I've meant to do for a while:  get to grips with gouache; fill a page with colour; be a bit more graphic.  The draft came out a bit more 1980s and less mid-century.

PART TWO:  Today is Shakespeare's Birthday!

This morning I was talking with friends about sonnets.  I'm not sure that I even studied them at school, let alone learned any, and I never remember the rules.  I looked it up and had a bash, to explain the form by using it.  I'm quite pleased with how my silly sonnet about sonnets came out.

Suppose you wish to set your thoughts in words
But find yourself in need of more than prose.
Love and the dance of poetry go like curds
And whey, deep down each lover surely knows.

But how to find expression that will speak
Your thoughts aloud but also show your skill?
Perhaps you find a soppy rhyme too weak
And haiku's strictures just too quick to fill.

You may in free verse jazzy patterns wind;
Post-modern collage from the phonebook paste;
Stream consciousness unburdening your mind;
But all this may be too loose for your taste.

In sonnets' tidy dance it suits to gird;
Just long and short enough your love to word.

Write me a sonnet!  Correct me about regional birds!  Happy St. George's Day!

Friday, 1 April 2016

Hampshire Trios

I spend a lot of time thinking Hampshire thoughts, compiling snippets of geography and history.  There's a lot of Hampshire that I've never seen.  I'm working on vignettes of a spread of towns and villages.  Here's an example of how things are going.

First, three from the south east:  Bishop's Waltham, with the ruins of the bishop's palace; Wickham, with the Chesapeake Mill supposedly built with timber from the defeated American ship the Chesapeake; and Hambledon, up in the downs, with its cricketing history.

 The second set is the three hursts of the New Forest.  There are more settlements of note but these three fit together well.  Lyndhurst is the forest's capital.  Ashurst, the eastern gateway to the forest, is quite small, being combined with Colbury for administrative purposes.  Brockenhurst has the grandest hotels.

It's a big county.  Wish me luck with the rest of it!

Monday, 26 October 2015

Czech Trek

Destination Litomyšl!  My husband spent this weekend in the Czech Republic, staying in a UNESCO world heritage site, for a conference.  This is for him.

The route was:  London, Amsterdam (one night), Vienna, Litomyšl (three nights), Vienna (one night), Amsterdam, London (one night).

Donderdag to Dinsdag:  three countries in a very long weekend.

Highlights reported thus far include:
Amsterdam:  the mini-Rijksmuseum in Schiphol Airport and lots of Edam
Vienna:  the Esperanto Museum
Litomyšl:  the sgraffito façade of the castle.

Here we have a collage of all three places, with their national flowers, the national, regional and city flags and arms and a few prominent or relevant sites.  The jazzy-before-jazz roof of Stephansdom is irresistible and Schiphol's control tower makes great aesthetic sense, jabbing heavenward in a Dutch landscape.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Plotting The Plot

The crop of 2016.
Fifteen minutes away by bicycle, the allotment is almost completely cleared and covered for winter (the last thing to prune down will be the raspberry canes).

That means that it's time to plan:  what to grow; how to arrange it; crop rotation; a steady stream of produce; what worked and didn't; what I would rather not grow anymore.

What that really means is combing through the tins of seed packets and flicking through the catalogues.

Now I have a plan of the plot, all verified by lengthy pacing-about on site.  Next is to work out what to plant when, and what to start off on the windowsill at home.  Then comes procurement.  It's the onions, shallots and garlic that may need to start before the end of the year.

That gives me time to dig manure in, tidy and weed the messy edges and get my sheds in order.

Planning like this is addictive.  I broke away to translate the excitement into a page of drawings.

Oh, and here is my haul of squashes, now mostly lining my kitchen windowsill.

I look into my near future and I see a lot of soup - but only after a lot of diligent peeling of those fiddly pattypans on the left.

For now, that's shallot!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Autumn Foxtrot

The arrival of Autumn always needs celebrating, so here is a little piece to meet the moment.

I'm the kind of person who, on the first hazy day of September, can't help internally reciting "SEASON OF MISTS AND MELLOW FRUITFULNESS" in a fruity, sing-song (but still crucially internal) bellow.
Blue sloes and red rosehips peppering the banks and hedgerows.
Walking along a tunnel-like path on Warsash Common recently, I started to pick out the bright berries in clusters and sprays.  The pattern became a dance that I had to do something with.  I worked it into a little seasonal paean for the flashes of colour in the hedgerows.

Now that I've got going, I have some words left over - tart, crisp, ripening, rusty, juice-fattened, button-bright and fulgent.  I could spend all day leafing through the autumnal lexicon but I'll stop there.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Two Day Tour

I'm back from two days of driving to see family and friends.  I've thrown an image together (and not coloured it for now) to sum it all up.

In the past few months I've got about in the car a great deal - often on a grander scale and further afield than East Anglia.  This trip, though, was a sharp and strange fling, leaving at 6.30 am on Friday and getting home around 8 pm on Saturday.

I've been everywhere!

I could tell you more stories but none of them are thrilling.  It was a trip of small experiences and you can guess at a few from the drawing!

Monday, 27 July 2015

Vegetable Challenge

Here's an update on the vegetable situation, after a lot of time spent mixing watercolours into shades of green.

Chomp your way through my vegetable array!

What you see here is the highlights from pages and pages of healthy produce - all the basic types that I could think of, including everyone's favourites and enemies.

Your task, dear reader, is to use them all in the kitchen.  Mind the truffle.