Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farewell, 2008

Another year has rushed by, a new one hovers just over the horizon. It's fascinating to see and read evaluations of the year in blogland. I'm not going to do that here. Instead, I'm sharing my photos of a recent sunset, which seems quite appropriate for today.
I wish you all a very happy, healthy, creative and contented 2009.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Christmas and a Joyful New Year

Oh, dear. Six weeks have passed since I last took you travelling with me in the magic armchair. The armchair has been languishing because I've been tucked up in bed for a lot of the time, in the company of a couple of fluey bugs which have made the tail end of 2008 rather miserable. I'm hopeful that now this episode is over and I can start anew with 2009, with careful pacing, being more productive and having some fun. I am grateful that 2008 has given me opportunities to visit some wonderful places and meet treasured friends as well as rise to new challenges. We may be in an economic recession, but I am rich in the things that matter, for which I am grateful.
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Week in Essaouira - 3: Doors 2

Many doorways have doors-within-doors, as above and below.

My husband told me that this was the door into the women's mosque but, as a non-moslem, entry was still forbidden to me.

Lovely carved plasterwork (gep) above blue and white tiles and studded blue door.

A door to a shop or a workshop, close to the ancient ramparts - matched by my son's t-shirt!

Another beautiful pair we stumbled upon in the maze of medina streets.

The entrance to the artisanal school and workshops by the Bab (Gate) Marrakesh.

And a lovely defunct doorway arch in an alleyway by the old (pink) medina walls, beside the Villa Maroc.

A Week in Essaouira - 2: Doors 1

Essaouira is a town of white and blue. Doorways often feature these colours, though not invariably....

A coastal town, it's buffeted by the Atlantic winds and this results in wonderfully weathered paintwork - although the door owners might not agree with the wonderful...
The streets are quite easy to navigate as Essaouira as we now know it was built on the European grid system, but the town maintains a certain mystery, secrets behind its doors.

There's something so organic about the colours. They echo the colour of sky and cloud, of sea and foam.

You never know what lies around the corner, let alone behind the doors.

The lovely zellige tiling is less commonly seen in Essaouira than in the Cinnamon City, Marrakesh, but still it exists here and there.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Week in Essaouira - 1

The door to Dar Zette

After the wet and grey summer in England (and Wales, where we spent a fortnight) we were feeling very sun-deprived. We decided to push out the boat and have another break away from home, hoping to boost our vitamin D in preparation for the winter. A new flight route between Bristol and Marrakech made Morocco an easier possibility, and some research turned up a lovely and available villa, Dar Zette. Essaouira appealed because it is on the coast, it has the reputation for being more laid-back than Marrakech, and without the pushiness and mopeds in the souks, and because my blogging friend Elizabeth loves it there, and she has wonderful taste.

We actually took the very first flight to Marrakech from Bristol, and there were celebrations: Ryanair had provided Morrocan pastries and hors d'eouvres by the check in desks (sadly with no gluten-free options) and also belly dancers, whose music we heard as we queued for security but regrettably otherwise missed. I'm not sure that we were really expected when we arrived at the other end, as traffic control required us to circle the city some six or so times before we were allowed to land. This was actually quite interesting as I was beginning to find inspiration in the patterns on the dessert and the cultivated areas of land, and was about to request my camera from the overhead locker when we were given clearance and a slot. The first passengers off the plane were filmed for local television so maybe the cameraman was delayed getting to the airport.... The air was pleasantly warm as we stepped out of the plane and onto Moroccan soil.

Anyway, we were there and all went smoothly if slowly. I had wheelchair assistance at the airport and was whizzed through passport control but then was parked for about three quarters of an hour while the rest of the family made their way through the queues at immigration/passport control. Eventually we were reunited and we found our driver for the journey to the coast.

The drive takes about two and a half to three hours, through a slowly changing landscape. The city gives way to the garden centres of the suburbs and then to red-soiled land punctuated by farms, settlements and little towns, trees and earth-built walls, the odd berber tent and goats. Eventually the earth began to turn paler with flecks of white. We stopped for a comfort break in a small town whose name I never discovered, and a bite to eat (most welcome, after breakfast at 4 a.m.), Then on, through roadworks due to an upgrading of the road surface, and pausing at a viewpoint to admire the lovely view over Essaouira and the sea. Essaouira reflected the colours of the locality: most buildings are white with blue paintwork, within the red medina walls. We arrived at Bab Marrakesh, to be met by Foued and fought over by two porters who wished to carry our baggage the short distance to the Dar. Foued sorted out this squabble and we were duly whisked along the street a short distance, to turn off the street into a covered alleyway and at the end stood the door to our home-for-a-week.

Moroccan houses contain secret treasures inside plain trappings, and Dar Zette was no different. The door opened through an arch into the courtyard, a quiet haven despite being only a few yards from one of the Medina's main streets. The white-painted walls, blue fountain, pretty central olive tree and warm terracotta floor tiles created a cool and calm atmosphere. We were welcomed by our maid, Sadir, and through Foued we arranged for her to cook us a tagine for dinner that evening. We were a little alarmed to be told that the water was cut off due to an explosion, but this turned out to be a mistranslation and there had been a burst water main, which cut off the water supply to all the town. We were assured that work was underway to restore the water, and meanwhile we had bottles of drinking water in the fridge.

So now all we had to to was to choose our bedrooms, settle in and make ourselves at home, explore and relax and look forward to eating the delicious tagine of chicken with lemons and olives being prepared for our delight.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Waltham Abbey

Waltham Abbey is a very special place to me: it is somewhere I have known and loved for most of my life. I used some of it as inspiration for my City and Guilds Design Study on walls, and I love the visible history of repurposing demolished areas in building new walls, rough edges evidencing previous structures and the way that different elements have weathered and worn.

It is a building that has a lot of history, as you can read on Barbara's blog and here.

On this occasion, I visited in the company of two princesses: Sara Lechner, who was visiting the UK for the occasion of the Knitting and Stitching Show, and my own Sarah (elder daughter). It's always good to share special places, especially when those being introduced get why it is special, and that magic was with us on this occasion.

We went inside as well, but I do not have photographs as my daughter was doing photographer duty. The interior is lovely, and also lovely is the fact that it is a very obviously living church as well as a historic monument.

I feel that I must soon revisit the artwork I produced in response to the Abbey and see what it inspires now, nearly a decade later.

It was a wonderful visit.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Looking Up

I had a long weekend away from home, staying with my Mum.

The weather was remarkably sunny and warm for the time of year.

I went to the same place two days in a row.

Some shading was definitely necessary.

So where was I?

Alexandra Palace, for the London Knitting and Stitching Show

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Night Out

Because of my health problems, I don't get out a lot, but DH and I have been trying to get out once a week for a "date". We've seen films and had meals out together, but we decided to try a concert/gig as Sam Sparro was playing at the Colston Hall, and I've been enjoying listening to his album recently.

On the way in, I saw this graffiti portrait on a wall opposite one of the entrances to the Colston. It reminded me of a series of faces we used to see around Bristol a few years ago. (You can click on the picture for a bigger image with more detail).


There were two support acts, starting with a few numbers by MPHO, and then the very lively Sneaky Sound System, who really know how to work an audience. Like Sam Sparro, they originated in Australia. We weren't quite the oldest in the auditorium, but even I had heard some of their songs before.


I really did feel old, though. I'm no stranger to the visceral experience of pounding bass levels at live gigs, but unless the sound engineers are all severely deaf but lacking in insight, I cannot understand the reason or the point of balancing the sound channels in such a way that the vocals are all but lost in a cacophony of sound so extreme that it seems close to white noise.

By the time Sam Sparro was into his third number, the levels seemed to have been somewhat sorted and it was less painful, but the damage had been done to our ears, despite makeshift ear plugs to reduce the penetrative volume, and the tinnitus persisted for the rest of the night.


It could have been so much better, if only the sound levels had been appropriately managed - or is it just me? But I still enjoyed Black and Gold. I just need to replace the painful memories by listening to the CD again.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Oh: so true

The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
- e e cummings

Monday, September 08, 2008

Food Festival


This last weekend Bristol hosted The Soil Association's Festival of Organic Food, which took place on the Harbourside.


There were many visitors. Apparently on Saturday, there were more visitors despite the rain, but it seemed busy enough to me. There were many stalls providing tasting samples: everything from chilli chocolate to green tea. Dove's Farm had run out of wares to sell in all but a few of their lines, and most vendors were doing a roaring trade. I had the excitement of being able to buy a burger in a bap for my lunch - because these were no ordinary baps, but made from spelt flour, and totally delicious.

As well as food products, there were textiles, too. There were glorious tweed and woollen products from the Isle of Mull, Fair Trade clothing, organic knitting wools... Even an opportunity to do some knitting.


I have to say that this knitting required great determination, and a certain amount of upper limb strength. It felt rather like rowing, so provided a workout as well as an output. These were no ordinary knitting needles, but Guinness World Record Knitting Needles. I was proud of my achievement of completing a whole row of knitting on them!


It's not surprising, in retrospect, that I awoke with painful shoulder joints this morning. Perhaps using these needles should be incorporated into the Olympic Team's training for 2012!

Friday, September 05, 2008


Yesterday, between showers, I popped in for a chat with my friend.


She has been here for 18 months now, but I like to keep in touch. It's also an opportunity to revisit the memories of others I have known within our community but who are no longer with us in the flesh. There is a wooden bench situated under the oak tree, where I sat for a while and communed. It seemed fitting that I could hear the children from the village primary school enjoying their lunchtime play on their first day back, separated from the graveyard by just one little field of grass. All of life was there.


On the grass, pearled by the last shower, was this small twig of oak with turning leaves, presumably pruned from the tree by the winds of the previous night. I thought it lovely. Clare would have appreciated it, so I left it on her grave.


Back towards the church and my car, I passed the memorial stone to another friend's parents, who died a year apart, and spent a moment remembering them.


The church itself bore witness to happier celebrations, with this lovely floral arch decorating the doorway (somewhat buffeted by the wind, but still glorious).
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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Heavenly Drama


We're not getting the best weather this summer, and now the days are growing noticably shorter and the walnut leaves are browning and beginning to fall. I am always nostalgic for summer, especially when we've not had much of one, as this year. However, this sky reminded me of one of the benefits of autumn, which is a tendency for dramatic sunset skies to appear. I love the contrast of the peachy day-glo pink with the deep,rich blue grey of the clouds and the paleness of the bare sky beyond, and the wispy cloud forms layered textile-like into a collage of colour and texture.
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