Saturday, 26 March 2016

Its been a while, but here I am today .....

Well it's been a while, where has that time gone?  Been thinking for some time that I ought to get back to this, so here I am.
The photography and writing continue, but with varying endeavour.  The middle life has a life of its own, over which I have no control.
Its hard to report on a whole year so I'll start from where I am.
Just back from a lovely few days in the north west. Seeing Chester (once more), Liverpool (for the first time) and some long-time friends in Newcastle-Under-Lyme (not seen in far too long).  Chester was charming as always, lovely shopping streets kept ancient with its cobbled pavements and individual shops. We completed the 'walls' over two days with my other half reading every sign which gives me my much needed education.  With me gazing out onto the horizons and feeling the vertigo! 
Liverpool was interesting if a little sterile.  I wanted to see a busy river Mersey and bustling riverfront but it was not to be. It was a cold, grey March day but that wasn't the reason for the emptiness. It felt like the heart had been taken some time ago: I think I was looking for a little more industry which wasn't there any more. 'Liverpool One' (the newish shopping streets) added to the feeling of sterility.  
Seeing friends we hadn't seen in a long time was a good end to our break away, thank you Mark and Karen for you're hospitality and warmth.
The poly-tunnel is filling up with some early food - broccoli, broad beans and veg seedlings are on their way - I'm beginning to feel signals of summer work -  I'll just do whatever the head gardener says and keep my head down when it goes wrong!
Have a couple of photos in the Easter Art Exhibition at Pitsford School over the Easter weekend (get out there if you can - even in the rain).  Having another go at getting some of my prints into the Alfred East Open Exhibition coming up in April - May - trying to make it 3 years in a row - here's hoping!
I'm not an over-religious woman but I went to my favourite Christian service this evening at the lovely Twywell church. It is Good Friday and our benefice holds 'At the Cross' services on this day.  The service takes you through the crucifixion of Jesus, step by step.  I know this sounds morbid but I think this is the Real Message.  I'm dubious about the presence of a God, but I do believe there was a man (or several - then and since) who tried to show us the way to live and treat other human beings, namely - the disabled, the sick, the dis-possessed, and the different and the usual. He ended up ridiculed, tortured and crucified. We live today in a wealthy, educated world. Why then do we see this sort of treatment given out by certain elements on a daily basis? And, in the name of 'religion' to the innocent people who lost their lives this week in Brussels.
Some photos ...........

Until next time - and not so long.  Happy Easter everyone x

Saturday, 22 November 2014

the weather, Wood End Gallery, the Old Forge Tea Room, Christmas, O2 tennis, and the woes of the Labour Party.

I love the way us Brits talk about the weather all the time but I guess that's because it so varied and occasionally surprises us. I met a lady a couple of years ago who was born and brought up in Durban, South Africa. She'd recently moved here and was astonished at how varied the weather and had learnt to talk about it like a native. She recounted her previous life in Durban where apart from a few days each year the sun would rise without fail and everyone knew exactly how the weather was going to be - hot and sunny. Boring? Yes a bit, but I do miss the big yellow thing in the sky when all we've got is the autumn drizzle.
The photography exhibition at the Alfred East is now all packed away and another selection of art work is up on the walls so I'm busy organising the next adventure. I've restocked the wall at The Old Forge tea room in Cranford with some of the left over pictures. Thanks to Rob and his team who have supported me since the beginning. As well as gazing at the pictures on his wall you can always tuck into his lovely grub - all at very decent prices and served with a smile. Have a look at the tea room website here. I've found a new venue for pictures and went yesterday to meet Angela who has recently opened the Wood End Gallery in Pertenall, near Kimbolton. She kindly accepted two prints of mine to put alongside some lovely art work and crafts from local artists. Have look at her website here. The two prints appear below with one of my Christmas card images. I've had the cards printed ready for sale in the next few days.

Apart from the little short story up on Amazon Kindle (The Game) the writing has taken a back seat for the last couple of months so running up to Christmas I intend to work hard on re-kindling my poetry scribblings. I've been spurred on by a couple of books I bought recently -The Rattle Bag edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes and Poetry Notebook by Clive James. The first is a large collection of poetry identified as favourites of the two editors, themselves well known poets, and the second is a bit of a memoir of poetry by the lovely Australian critic. As many a creative writing tutor will tell you 'you can't write if you don't read!' So pencils and post-its at the ready.
Middle life came to play a couple of weeks ago when I ventured to the big smoke to watch tennis at the O2. Younger son made his way up to London from Canterbury to watch the tennis with me and later we met up with older son and went out for dinner as a threesome. Both boys enjoyed showing their old mother how to get about in the city as she might not have managed it without them. I had a great day - watched the world number one strutting his stuff on a tennis court and being entertained by my favourite two young men on the planet.
Christmas is coming in case you didn't know - I love all the fuss and bother, cooking and eating with friends and family, can't wait.
Well done Emily Thornbury for showing us all what she really thinks of normal people. Poor old Ed now really does have his work cut out to prove that he and the rest of his party have respect for the voting public, especially the ones they need to convince to vote for them.

So until we meet again, have a good couple of weeks x

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

TriAngles again, photographic vs computer skills and WW1

Its been a busy month, but a nice one with lots of socialising which has kept me busy and happy. But the past four weeks have also been full of photography, writing and middle life which has been great. Our TriAngles Photography exhibition has been going well with the lovely comments from people, both friends and strangers (which is always good) still coming in. Last day of viewing is this Saturday so then it will be a case of picking up the unsold pictures and paying the gallery bill. So I wanted to say a big thank you first to my two photography team mates, Val and Sue, for their encouragement and support through the whole process, and to all those who gave such lovely feedback and of course thank you to those who bought pictures from me. Its been an interesting experience which has given me a lot of confidence and expertise which will be good for the future if I ever do something like this again. A writing friend of mine, Julia Thorley, 'interviewed' me about the exhibition for her blog, if you're interested to know more click here to have a look.

Talking of photos, my other half and me visited Wisely near Guildford, the home of the Royal Horticultural Society, for their 'Taste of Autumn' show a couple of weeks ago and a grand time was had by both of us, it was lovely. The RHS run the Photographer of the Year Competition and the winning photographs were on display within the gardens. All of the pictures were good, some were stunning, and the ones I really liked were the  close-ups of flowers and creatures which I found mesmerising. But... one or two of them in the little blurb at the bottom of the picture made it clear that the image was a mixture of two or sometimes three different photographs bought together under the clever magic of photographic software. I'm not sure about this. Surely in a 'photography' competition it should be about the strength of the photographic skill, not computer know-how. I certainly use my computer to perfect the images I've taken but this normally amounts to a crop or two, contrast adjustment to enhance texture and the painting out of the odd something that you didn't notice as you closed the shutter. Am I being picky? What do you think??

Like most of us I've been reading and viewing the WW1 centenary commemorations with interest and emotion. So many lives being lost and the stories that surround them being hard to bear sometimes. I wrote a poem a few months ago and was pleased to be told that its being published in an anthology entitled 'In Flanders Fields' by forwardpoetry, an online poetry publisher who goes onto publishing physical anthologies which can be purchased. I've written out my poem below - hope you like it.

A letter from Passchendaele
We had the hot summer at Ypres,
which sweltered leaving us dampened
and close.
Wrapped in your English wool khaki
chafing every hold, me with black
Belgian hair, and eyes of green.
No language yet, just looks and touch
with delicate steps learning Flemish
by the day, and love in the night.
With the race to the sea you were gone,
leaving promises carved strong in my mind
with the rain, and the rain, and the rain.
The worst for thirty years, making mud and slime
mix with blood and salt water, and in the fading
light each day the demons come and settle
their wings on my heart, speaking stories
of mustard gas, bayonets, bullets and mud drownings.
I worried how I would find you if you fell.
In December you walked through my yard weeping,
with a look of fear never to be spoken of again
as we travelled together through the next fifty years.

I follow Stephen Fry on twitter and he used the word 'clickbait' the other day in one of his tweets as a term for  something that encourages us to click on a link to find out more - brilliant and funny!

And finally my latest short story 'The Game' is at last born, and is on Amazon Kindle sitting pretty besides the other two stories I put up there earlier in the year. Its cheap and would fit into a tea-break, for those of you who fancy a look at it - hope you enjoy and hope there aren't any spelling mistakes!!

Have a good couple of weeks x

Friday, 10 October 2014

TriAngles Exhibition, Edwin Smith, gay marriage and a seaside by-election

The waiting, the work and the stress is over - the TriAngles Exhibition is up and running. For those who don't know, this is a exhibition of photography by me and two friends - Val Sibley and Sue Feetham - and its on until 8th November at the Alfred East Art Gallery in Kettering. Their have been lots of lovely feedback from close friends who came to the preview last Saturday which is great and a couple of sales which is fabulous. Waiting to see what 'joe bloggs' thinks of it over the next 4 weeks. Here's a glimpse of a couple of the pictures....

 My pictures tend to be of ordinary things with a bit of good texture and a bit of interesting light which hopefully makes them interesting and attractive. But I'm always drawn to the work of photographers who take pictures of real life in all its forms and came across Edwin Smith the other day on the BBC news website - he died in 1971 but there is an exhibition of his work happening at the moment in one of the London Galleries. Take a look using the link here. His atmospheric monochrome images record urban life in the 40s and 50s and I'd love to reproduce something like that. I feel the urge to get out there and see what I come up with, I know I haven't got the grainy atmosphere of the 50s to play with but I might have a go,watch this space.

A couple of interesting things in the news...........
The Supreme Court in the USA has at last decided to reject the seven pending appeals to ban gay marriage. Apparently it's decision surprised many but was welcomed by millions, including me. How can such a modern country still have such outdated views, this is 2014 you know!

And on this very morning we have our first UKIP member of parliament down in Clacton. Just a by-election protest vote? If it is then its a big one. Will UKIP now have to explain their policies in a lot more detail instead of shouting about how terrible this country is - I hope so, it will make some interesting reading and viewing, especially in May next year. Can't wait.

Hope you all have a good couple of weeks x

Saturday, 20 September 2014

A month off, siesta time, getting ready for the exhibition and Scottish referendum news

Its been a while so I thought I'd put pen to paper. I'm not sure I've been busy with large important things but time seems to have passed doing lots of small stuff. A friend of mine blogs about 'celebrating the small things' which always seems to be worthwhile, see her blog here
We've just come back from a week's holiday in Spain, which was a lovely rest. Amongst lots of sitting around reading, drinking and eating we had a trip out to the beautiful city of Seville where we visited the Alcazar Palace, originally a Moorish fort and then the home of Spain's Kings and Queens until Madrid took over as the capital. A delicious building full of ornate tile work and lovely Mudejar architecture which gives it a lovely middle eastern feel. A few of my pics of the place are below.

The writing has taken a bit of a back seat as I've been finalising images ready for my exhibition with two fellow photographers at the Alfred East Gallery in Kettering. Just need to finish off the final 4 pictures, label them all, make 50 greetings cards and get 100 postcards printed. So a busy week ahead. The exhibition runs from 4th October to 8th November, see the gallery website for opening times here. Here's hoping for a few sales, wish me luck.

So the Scottish people have had their say, and they said 'no' to independence, and Alex Salmond has hung up his political boots. I think the referendum result was probably the right one for all concerned. What it will do though, over the next year or so, is unsettle all our feelings about our regional identity in all four parts of the kingdom and all our regions. It will make for an interesting general election next year as the main parties set out to satisfy all of us all of the time in that regard - best of luck to them with that one!

P.S. My two short stories are having a free week on Amazon Kindle. Have a look at 'Answers from Ghosts' and 'Letter to Barbara' and download them for free!

Saturday, 9 August 2014

garden update, short stories, strawberry jam and Baroness Warsi

The garden is blooming with all the sunshine and rain.  Spent the morning digging up potatoes ready for storing and they look ok, a few mice nibbles but not a bad crop and the onions have been sunning themselves for the last couple of weeks. Courgettes cropping nicely and the beetroot is ready.  A couple of exciting projects are coming to fruition - the raised beds are finished and the ground has been prepared for the poly tunnel coming next week, a few photos included beside. We just need to batten down the hatches in readiness for the remnants of Hurricane Bertha predicted for tomorrow!

Does anyone out there read short stories or are we all too busy reading novels?  I love short stories and have just bought my second Alice Monro collection.  She's a Canadian lady in her 80s who writes stories about normal life, which may sound boring. But because of her skill with character creation and settings she transports you to the places where these stories are being played out and you end up living alongside these people. Lovely. I like writing in a similar style but with nowhere near the same level of skill, and this week I've sent off a selection of my short stories and poems to a few literary agents with a hope that someone out there can see a little bit of Alice in me, I wish, we'll see.

The problem of growing all this produce is that something has to be done with it as I've said before. Twelve jars of strawberry jam now accompany the redcurrant jelly in the cupboard. I made the jam the other afternoon while watching a couple of episodes of 'The Honourable Woman' on the old i-player. It felt really odd to be watching something as dramatic and violent in the middle of a sunny afternoon while making jam. But the jam turned out ok and the drama was very good.

Hats off to Baroness Warsi for resigning from the government because she felt that David and the gang were not protesting loudly enough about the level of violence being showered upon Palestinians in Gaza. A thousand dead, one third of them children and town after town destroyed. Well done Sayeeda. Someone pointed out the other day that Britain manufactures the arms used by the Israelis, and our Disasters Emergency Committee has set up an appeal for money so that the people of Gaza can be helped. What a mad world we live in.


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Literary attempts, beetroot and redcurrant jelly, sunshine and bad news days

Its been too long - the blog kept appearing on lists but didn't get done! But I'm having a day of getting through my current list before I add anything to it. So here goes!

Failed miserably in getting work out to agents. This always happens initially because once I start to look at my little archive of stories they don't seem good enough, its funny how you have to be in the right mood to approach these sorts of tasks. Hoping for better next week, but am a little side-tracked by my entry to the Costa Short Story Competition which closes for entries in 7 days time.  I've had a snippet of a story languishing on the computer for some time that I've now taken by the scruff of the neck and completely revamped with more characters and more plot and lots more words. I'm happy with it but now the polishing begins, thesaurus and Fowler's Modern at the ready. Wish me luck.

My neighbour's wedding was a treat to behold, white horses and carriage started the day and smart sports cars ended it with lots of colour and bollywood dancing in between.  There are photographs but must get some permissions first before sharing.

The beetroot is lovely and I've perfected a great relish recipe - so close friends beware a jar or two may well be on offer soon - when I find a day to commit to the work - but it can't be long because the baby beets are ready.  Time will be taken up this evening with the yearly ritual of making redcurrant jelly.  The currants are lovely this year, must have been the spring rain and all this sunshine.  The juice is ready and the pots are being washed at this very moment by my better half.

The sunshine here continues which is great, but watering the veg and our new plants takes time and effort.  I'm trying to turn it into a fitness regime - walking fast holding two full watering cans must do something to your waistline, so here's hoping.

Work on pictures for my October exhibition is going to plan, just need the last four to the printers and then eight onto the framer.  A couple of my last choices are below.....

I always try to include some national news here each time - but most of the big stories at the moment are making me sad and angry - the conflict in Gaza and Iraq and the shooting down of the airliner in Ukraine for example. Why does man (and I mean man specifically  - I'm a mild feminist) choose the aggression route to solve problems. I can imagine how hard it is to carry generations' worth of hatred for another tribe, religion, race whatever it is. But I have a theory that in cultures where women lack any real power there is often quick calls to fight rather than calls to discuss and resolve. I'm with Ban Ki Moon and his call to the Israelis and Palestinians "Stop fighting and start talking". Easier said than done Ban Ki.

Here's hoping for better news next time I put pen to paper, thanks for reading this blog...
Elaine x