Tiger, tiger

I had a very rare day yesterday. So rare that I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a day like it, which is saying something. I actually had nowhere to be, nothing urgent to do, nobody relying on me to do anything and no reason not to take a day to indulge myself in the things I wanted to do rather than the things I was obligated to do.

And boy did I enjoy myself!

It took a while for me to get into the swing of it but I spent some time creating a picture of a tiger’s face, which I quickly did in oil pastels in my A4 sketchbook (and which has already been claimed by my son’s girlfriend!). I absolutely loved that feeling of applying colour to paper, and it prompted me to recreate it in oil paints on an A2 sized canvas, taking my time over it and taking care to build it up in layers rather than doing a “colouring in” exercise that I have tended to do in the past.

I copied them from a photograph online, and for the first time, I didn’t trace it onto the canvas beforehand. I sketched out the outlines in pencil for the pastel sketch, but…and I’m so glad I could do this…the painting was done entirely freehand with no backing sketch laid down first. It is totally painted and it represents a big step in my confidence as well as my developing technique. Who knows, I might even feel brave enough to take my materials out into the open air and paint something “live” sometime soon!

Here is the pastel sketch:

Tiger sketch in oil pastels

And here is the painting in its various stages of completion:

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I usually find that doing something creative helps if I am feeling a bit out of focus within myself, and yesterday’s and today’s activities have helped me feel better. Not that there has been anything drastically wrong, but you know what I mean? There doesn’t have to be something wrong for something to make you feel better.

Having a totally free day yesterday was the key to it and I’m really glad I haven’t squandered the time to myself. I’m really pleased with the results and I’m looking forward to attempting a landscape or something next time.






Share Your World – Week 36

I have Cee to thank for today’s post. You’ll find her at Share Your World

List 2 things you have to be happy about?

Food in my cupboard, and air in my bike tyres.

If you could take a photograph, paint a picture or write a story of any place in the world, what and where would it be?

I would love to be able to paint a picture of water, and my choice of location would be somewhere like the rugged Lake District in England, or maybe the stunningly beautiful Llyn peninsula of Wales. I am not any sort of artist though and any painting I made would probably not be fit for viewing. However, I would love to write about it. And with that in mind, watch this space! I have an idea for a story set in the 6th Century involving pilgrims on a journey through Wales to the holy island of Bardsey.

Should children be seen and not heard?

Hmmm difficult one this! I believe children have the right to be heard, but along with that right they have the responsibility to understand that so does everyone else. Children are naturally gregarious and boisterous, but they have to learn that there are times when that isn’t appropriate and adult time is valuable too. There’s nothing worse than trying to have a conversation with someone only for them to break off to answer their child who is pulling at them with “Mummy, Mummy” going on. Apart from being extremely rude to the person they are speaking to, they are giving the child the message that they are prepared to drop everything and answer them on the spot. Sometimes a quiet “in a minute, I’m speaking” is all that’s needed…so long as they don’t then forget to get back to the child! It’s all about manners and self-awareness for me, but no, I don’t think that children should be seen and not heard. They have a right to mix with company and be noisy if needed, just so long as they know that they are not necessarily the centre of attention and know when to be quiet.

List at least five of your favourite first names.

baby-nameAs a writer I’m forever trying to come up with names for my characters, and it can be a traumatic experience I can tell you! Some names conjure up a set of expectations and I try to match those expectations with my characters and sometimes I like to play around with them and name a character the opposite of what the reader would expect. However, my own personal taste – if I were to have the privilege of naming an actual child again – are very traditional. Here’s my favourites, in no particular order (the first two are my own children’s names!)


Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I was very grateful to see a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen for several months. We had been very close for a number of years but there have been a few spanners in the works this year and we have drifted away from each other recently, so I was extremely grateful that we could spend some time on Friday catching up and just enjoying each other’s company again.

Coming up, I’m looking forward to Ethan going back to college and Emma starting her new job next Monday.



Blogging, Daybook

Daybook Entry 13th June

8598a-simple-woman-daybook-largeFor Today… Monday, 13th June

Outside my window… The sky is clearing slightly after a full day of drizzle, rain, rizzle, and showers

I am thinking… About how acts of hatred and violence seem to be everywhere we look at the minute. If it’s not guns and shootings in the USA, it’s football riots in France. If it’s not an argument about politics in Europe, it’s a hate-fuelled torrent of political abuse from people vying to be the next President of the United States. It’s everywhere and I’m sure that the world cannot be so filled with hate as it seems to be.

I am thankful… for the privilege of working with so many children at church in so many different ways. For example, I have been involved in three very moving baptisms in the last couple of weeks, each with their own different pastoral cares and this morning at Stay and Play was a joy for me.

I am praying for… E&S and their wedding later this week; my son who is facing some health challenges; my daughter who is spending the next 2 months in a forest teaching young people how to do all sorts of outdoor activities.

I am wearing… my comfy Everlast ankle socks. You know when you have a pair of socks that are the right amount of tight round the top, with a nice band that goes round the arch of your foot and snuggles it just so, and are thick enough to be warm but not too thick to be sweaty, and are pristine white? Well, a pair of those.

I am creating… a portrait of my son, and a painting of a sunflower. I’m into oil painting at the minute – a complete break away from words for a change.

I am going… to try to paint a landscape in the next few days.

I am wondering… when the summer is going to return again.

I am reading… “Time of Death” by Mark Billingham.

I am hoping… I can solve the problem of how to paint eyes in portraits or else I won’t be able to show you my son’s painting!

I am learning… that oil painting is not as easy as I thought.

In my garden… my bike is waiting patiently for me to oil its chain and to dust off the pedals again.

In my kitchen… we had lamb biryani for tea. All home made and twas rather delish.

A favourite quote for today… “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you sow” Robert Louis Stevenson.

A peek into one of my days… my Prince Charming this morning, pulling funny faces at the camera

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One of my favourite things… is watching the rain watering my lovely green garden.

From the board room… I am sooooo making this for Emma!


Post Script:

We are deep into the GCSE exam season again, with only a few more weeks left before another set of 16 year olds are left bereft and betwixt the worlds of school and sixth form or college. Having worked in secondary schools for the past 14 years, first in pastoral role and now as an exam invigilator I have witnessed this stage of children’s education many times over. I don’t know whether I despair OF these children, or despair FOR them as they reach this stage. Most of them are well-adjusted individuals who realise the enormity of exams, and the consequences of having good, bad or indifferent results but there are some who are entirely clueless and it’s those young people who I feel deepest for.

Take the boy on Friday, who whilst waiting for the exam officer to arrive with the papers, said to me “Will I get in trouble if I put my head on the desk and go asleep?”. I said to him that he wouldn’t be in trouble from me, but did he really want to scupper his chances of passing the exam by not even attempting it? His response is typical of a worrying trend that I’ve seen before, and he said “Well, even if I score 90 on this I’ll only get a C so I’m not going to bother”. And he didn’t. The exam started, he answered the first part of the first question and then promptly closed his paper and put his head on the desk for the duration of the exam.

Why would you do that? Why does he think his only worth is in terms of what grade his exam shows? Why does he not care that even a grade D is worth something? And if he wasn’t satisfied with what he had attained already, why did he not work harder for the last couple of months to try and pull himself up? It’s not as if young people today don’t know where they are in terms of attainment and grading etc because they are tested and told often enough.

But here’s the thing that worries me and makes me despair FOR them: so, even if that lad had pulled his guts out and attained a C for that subject, what difference will it make to his earning capacity in the years to come? Even ‘good’ grades don’t necessarily convert into ‘good’ jobs. No job is secure any more, and all that lad could hope to get would be a zero hours contract in a warehouse of retail outlet somewhere for the next couple of years. I don’t blame him for wanting a nap on a Friday afternoon instead of sitting an exam when the sad truth is that it probably won’t affect his life chances and options later on very much at all.

The even worse thing is that he’s not alone is he? There are thousands of children churned out of the school system each year with little to look forward to and little prospect of getting ahead or lifting themselves up from the position they are in unless they are extremely lucky or extremely brave. A subject for another blog post maybe, but it seems that schools are little more than exam factories whose job it is to churn out compliant drones who fall into the category of “A* – C” or not, as the case may be. Art, creativity, spontaneity, individuality and so on are all squashed and discouraged, sacrificed for grade boundaries and “performance indicators” for both staff and students, upon which funding is based for subsequent years.

In some ways I wanted to shake that boy for scuppering any chance he had to further himself on Friday, but in other ways I applaud his individual stance and his refusal to play the game of being turned into another drone. Only time will tell whether that was the right course of action for him to take.




Who says my son is no oil painting??!

I have had the urge to put colour to page a bit recently, but plunged into oils on canvas this evening. An unexpected night off band and with a couple of hours spare I thought, why not?

And here he is.


Will work on the details a bit tomorrow and then we’ll see how he looks then. Not bad for a work in progress and for someone with no skill in art whatsoever!

I’m working from a photo because it was hard enough for him to sit still for that let alone for a painting, and it is sepia toned so I can improvise on the tones. Not brave enough to go all out “interpretation” yet, but let’s see what develops over the summer.

Art, Christianity

Foxes Have Holes – A Reflection

I delivered a reflection on this painting this evening at a Taize service at my church. My text is below the painting – I haven’t edited it from the way I delivered it so it is written in a different style to my usual stuff. I hope it speaks to you.

foxes have holes
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891 – 1959) The Foxes Have Holes

Foxes: Vermin? Or victim?

Hunter? Or hunted?

Predator? Or parasite?

When we think of foxes we perhaps think of the storybook fox, the Aesop’s fable fox offering a sneaky lift across the river with the Gingerbread Man on his back. Maybe we think of the children’s character Basil Brush. All cute and cuddly maybe, but each with their own streak of cunning and wiliness.

We perhaps might think of the rural fox and his place in the so-called entertainment of others – horses, red coats, hunting horn, beagles…

We might think of the urban fox, skinny, frightened, foraging for food in gardens and bins. Occasionally overstepping the mark and attacking people in their homes and children in their beds if reports are to be believed.

Like us, the fox is made up of different things: he is sometimes two sides of the same coin. Who of us can say we are wholly one thing or another? Sometimes we are the victim, sometimes we are the hunter. Most times we are a combination of everything the fox embodies.

In this picture we see Jesus with three foxes. We see them in three very different ways – we see the face of one, the tail end of another, and we see the back of the head of the third. Jesus has his arms flung wide and is embracing them all, no matter how they are relating to him.

The power of three at work in the picture – three foxes, three poses. We even see three of Jesus’ hands and feet (one is hidden under his tunic). A classic device in art and literature but one that speaks volumes to us as Christians.

So which one of the foxes are you? Are you the one sat at Jesus’ feet, facing him, keen to hear his every word? Eager and alert, ready for action?

Or are you the one tucked under Jesus’ arm? Secure in your den, looking out at the world confident that Jesus is there and shielding you from the danger and harm outside.

Maybe you see yourself as the one disappearing from view, showing your back to the world. Maybe you are hiding from something, maybe you are desperate for refuge from something, maybe right at this moment you simply don’t want to see Jesus.

Look at the picture and where Jesus’ attention is focused.

Yes he is shielding the – possibly injured – fox in its den but he is ignoring him, as he is ignoring the one sat at his feet. Jesus is looking at and speaking to the one who is trying to get away and hide, the one who doesn’t want to see him.

There is something of all of us here in this picture. Maybe we see ourselves as one of the foxes in its totality, maybe you are a composite of all three.

There are times when we see ourselves at Jesus’ feet, keen, eager, ears pointed and waiting for the cue to spring into action. Full of energy, full of zest, heart and soul overflowing with the Holy Spirit, joyous in our lives and ready for anything.

There are times too when things are not so positive and we may want to turn away from Jesus… when life gets too hard to endure – illness, bereavement, injustice, repression all mount up and we just don’t want to know our Saviour.

We sometimes need the rest and respite that time at home in our den brings us, secure in the knowledge that Jesus has his arms out ready to keep us safe.

However we identify ourselves, and whichever of these foxes we align ourselves to, we know that Jesus is there for us in whatever capacity we need him to be.

Teacher, protector, calling us to his side, Jesus is there no matter how we see him and no matter how fox-like we are.

Inspirational Quote

Earth Without Art


Craft, DailyChallenge2013

Small Business

You may know already but I am working on a small business with my husband and my Mum making and selling craft items. It’s something we started last year but what with one thing and another it got left but we’ve decided to make a proper go of it this year.

I’ve been working on the online shop for a week or so, and we’ve now got a small selection of our stock for sale on Etsy. We have also got a Facebook page up and running which we are hoping will be our marketing arm of the business and it is already proving to be a valuable forum and chatting point between our “likers”.

I don’t want to flood Etsy and Facebook with everything we’ve got all at once because I don’t want to put people off supporting us, so I’m going to be adding new things every couple of days. The business is called “Cards Crafts and More” which basically describes what we do – we make cards, crafts and more! The “more” covers a multitude of things that we have got in the pipeline and in various stages of completeness. Kevin is very technical and his strength is making new things out of old. He has been perfecting his technique of converting old vinyl LPs into stylish bowls and is looking at making clocks out of the innards from discarded computers. My Mum is the card maker and the knitter whilst my area is crochet and paper craft. Between us we offer quite a range and like all creative people we are always testing and making and altering and designing and trying out new things. I love it!!

My Mum has made a topsy turvy doll this week and I’ve just listed it on Etsy. It is a “rags to riches” character doll, based on Cinderella. It’s a super little doll with gorgeous detailing and I’m hoping there is a little (or big!) girl out there who would like to adopt her.