Sunday, 24 March 2013

Art for Arts Sake

There is a scene in Crete that haunts me.  Calls me, beckons me to immerse myself in its azure water then lie amongst the olive trees and doze under its furnace sun.  But this isn't coming from across the sea - oh  no.  It's coming from my glorified shed.  It's a scene that I should have finished by now, months and months in the painting, then drying, then painting again.  Left to wait whilst work, family, writing and a hundred other things jump the queue.  Then it gets annoyed and starts shouting so I go to it and paint furiously for an hour whilst listening to Radio Berkshire because it's the only thing the knackered old radio in there will pick up and just a little progress is made but if I wait for a tidal wave of time or an explosion of inspiration it may never be completed.

I love to paint, love it.  Painted lots in previous years, sold a few, gifted a few, donated a few but it doesn't half take time and so I am tempted away from my first love by the immediacy of writing.  But I shall now use the power of writing to publicly kick my own arse into finishing this piece so the very understanding and extremely patient buyers can finally look out onto their little piece of Almirida, Kalyves and Chania, and I can then paint the pictures that will stop the bare walls of our living room from staring accusingly at me every time I go in there.  They know that I am sitting down to "go on 'The Facebook'" instead of decorating them, even though I try to look like I'm writing the next 'Ulysses' - curse them!

I know that painting won't be a career for me just yet.  Given my work rate and our children's need to be shod on what seems like a six-weekly basis, both me and my husband need 'proper' jobs right now, but what I am committing to is getting back in that shed and finishing what I started, for the love of it, for the joy of it, for the making-someone-else-happy of it, for art's sake. 

Don't just look at me - finish me!!!


This post was inspired by finding out that someone who I last encountered when I was 20 and working in the same office as him as a freight-forwarding chimp is actually a fantastically talented artist. You can check out Robert Fitzmaurice's work here


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

You Can Get It If You Really Want

For the past two Monday nights, I have found myself sat in a very welcoming kitchen with excellent company.  Some of us know each other well, some of us only met last Monday but we each have the same thing in common; one beautiful friend.

For those of you that read the blog post dedicated to her, you will know that last year our beautiful friend helped to arrange some events for our village.  The Easter one was so successful that the local tourist information office called one of the girls to ask if it was happening again this year.  It was only ever intended to be a one-off but the call sparked an idea to hold it again as a tribute to her, raising funds for the local cancer charities that so helped her and her family.

The only slight snag is that from phone call to event we have but three weeks.  We are almost two weeks in and it has been frankly incredible what a small group of people with access to some technology and a network of extremely generous local people can achieve.

So far, between us we have managed to source the most eclectic array of goods since Del Boy closed the doors to his lock-up.  We have...

1 venue
6 gazebos
3 banners and dozens of posters
3 chickens
A lamb
200 eggs
An unspecified number of rabbits (well you know what they're like for breeding..)
Face paints
Raffle prizes
An Olympic Gold medal and hopefully the athlete to go with it

1 PA system
1 'tug-o-war' rope
- At this point would you mind if I indulged myself to bellow "FIVE GO-OLD RINGS"? -
Vintage china
A coconut shy
A coin-sorter
The commitment of the entire Key Stage 1 of the local school to produce Easter Bonnets
1 tractor
2 ponies

And, should disaster strike due to the wonderful British weather - we've even got a back up thanks to the kindness of our local Scout troop.

Everything we have been able to acquire at little, or no cost which means the charities make more, and everybody gets a little bit of something that money can't buy; the pleasure that comes with giving something out of kindness.

The levels of generosity, understanding, willingness to help, good humour and teamwork has been good for the soul and will result in something that hopefully will do our friend, and her family proud.  Who knows what the next Monday meeting will bring and who knows how the event will work out but what we do know is that we'll do it just as she would have done; with laughter, positivity, and by the seat of our pants! 

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Write on

As you might know from my 'Everyone's a Winner' post, I'm always up for a bit of competition even if my hit rate is pretty low.  The past thirty eight years has yielded:

  • An oven ready chicken in return for telling a joke.  The giblets were still inside, which made Polly next door drool with pleasure (she was a boxer dog).
  • A case of lemonade as reward for dancing the can-can.  I belched all week.
  • Tickets to see England vs Cameroon via a phone-in when Zoe Ball did the Radio 1 Breakfast Show.  The phone call was more exciting than the match.
  • A sailing jacket for 'living the team's values'  oh yes.  It makes people think I like sailing and cheats the wind like nothing on earth.  Oooo,h taped seams!
So it has been very exciting to start getting recognised for my writing.  Last year I came close as a finalist in the Cosmo Blog Awards and this year I made the looooooong list in the MAD Blog Awards (MAD standing for Mums and Dads in case you were wondering).  I've  discovered that I haven't made the final but that's ok because these things not only add a little frisson of excitement to your life but also offer the opportunity to watch and learn from others and particularly in the case of the MAD Awards I have found some great new blogs to read.  And if you want to get good at writing, you have to read, read and read!

You can check out all of the finalists here: but my personal favourite is The Kraken Wakes; finalist in the Most Entertaining category.  I will warn you in advance that it is extremely sweary - the strapline of 'Forming a black hole of fury so you don't have to' should be a good indicator to you of her take on the world. 

But it's not the swearing that makes it stand out for me.  What I love about this blog is that the author; Cath Janes, writes absolutely fearlessly and engagingly about her life whilst taking great big swipes at anyone who thinks it's alright to patronise other people - from card shops treating grown women like mindless Barbies to magazines printing salacious articles about celebrity mental health issues, she ploughs through them like a jacked-up Evel Knievel screaming along at 100mph whilst wielding a machete.  When you read something like that, so exhilarating, refreshing, and just a little bit scary, it urges you to go on, find your voice, get on that motorcycle and write your heart out.  I'm off to find my leathers....

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Hey Mama

Before the birth of our first child, I went with my husband to NCT lessons.  Eight couples booked in for eight evening sessions with one earth-mother to guide us through what was to come using lots of props and an endless supply of her home-baked cookies.
Many of the things that she asked us to discuss and consider were very useful, and lots of the things that she said worked for me personally as a means to go into the business of childbirth feeling empowered and ready.  But the rest of it was a blur of plastic babies that we had to pretend to breastfeed and change; little dollies wearing nappies containing various foodstuffs to show us what the first few weeks of poo should look like (I have never looked at mustard in the same way since).  She also particularly enjoyed putting the husbands into awkward positions during role-play birth sequences such as when she had one of them up on a bed covered with stickers to represent the various tubes, monitors, and medieval implements that may be used in the escalation of childbirth 'interventions' from forceps via ventouse to emergency c-section.  Then there was the time when she made us link arms as a group to impersonate the behaviour of the uterus and cervix during labour whilst she floated around in the middle waiting to be 'born'.....sometimes I have to remind myself that actually did happen.  It did.  I challenge you to come up with a more terrible team building experience.

What we didn't cover, and couldn't, was the experience of motherhood itself which I think was a great thing as we were already burdened with too many expectations that most of us would fail to live up to and couldn't be fixed by buying a changing bag that says 'Yummy Mummy' - whose bloody ridiculous and extremely patronising idea was that?!  I am glad to have given parenting magazines a wide berth and for taking the advice of a former manager which was to 'buy the Gina Ford book and then burn it'.  I saw it, there is no time to be a person in it except when you're asleep and dreaming of burning that book.

So we make it up as we go along, try to learn from our own mother's successes and mistakes and cross our fingers that we're doing a good job.  With children that are still very young, I am only just on the journey but here's what I've found so far:

*  Children rearrange your life, your priorities and your body. 
*  No outfit is made better by the addition of poo, sick or bogies.
*  There is nothing quite like having a belly laugh with a five year old at the dinner table
*  I am glad I partied hard, travelled far, and established my career first.
*  Old ladies really do stop you in the street to coo over the contents of your pram.
*  Babies really do say 'nom, nom, nom' when being fed. 
*  Sleep is the holy grail.
*  I wish I could bottle up the greeting they get from their grandma.  
*  They might not understand the concept of 'today' and 'tomorrow' but they completely 'get' love.  I heard a fantastic conversation on the playground where some of the children were discussing how marriage can be between men, women, or a man and a woman, as long as they love each other.  It made my heart glad. 
*  The only prejudices they hold are ones that we put there.
*  Watching the 'Baked Potato Song' on a whim will turn it into a 'family song'.

There's loads more, I'm sure, but I think that'll do for starters.  Oh, except for one thing, how beautiful they look when they're asleep.  Think I'm going to go and gaze on them a while, now that's a real Mother's Day treat.

Soundtrack: Hey Mama by the Black Eyed Peas