Thursday, 30 December 2010

The cup is very full!

Some days are absolute diamonds and for me today was one of those!  I can't believe that I am living this life at the moment.  This evening I sat in a cafe in Paris and drew!  Not I only did I draw but I am pretty pleased with it. I can't believe that it was me sitting there sipping my wine and drawing a portrait (not of anyone in particular) with crayon and having two young Australian girls on the table beside me going 'Wow, this is so French!  Here we are in a cafe in France with somebody right beside us drawing!'  I almost cried.  Not from anything other than gratitiude that I was part of that scene. 

I did get chatting to them later and apologised for ruining their romantic vision, but they decided I had actually built on it because if someone from Australia could be in Paris doing an art retreat and drawing in a cafe then they could always believe they could do it!  How cool is that!

The art retreat has been inspirational to say the least.  Day one we started the day under the tuition of Renee Richetts and made travel journals out of an envelope, some paper and some embroidery thread!  That's it other than the needle to put it together and some trinkets for embellishment if you want, but it is very, very cool.  The journal has an inbuilt pocket and the potential to easily make other pockets for stashing treasures! I will make them for some of our future travels.  I haven't used the one I made yet, because Sam bought me another journal for Christmas especially for this trip and I really want to use it for that.  I have been scribbling all sorts of things in it, but think I will probably use it as an art journal to record the processes of things I try artisically.  Not sure yet, those are just my thoughts at the moment.

After the journal we did a couple of different paint over techniques with Lisa Bebi.  These were interesting and taught me a couple of new things that I will use in my journalling.  I mucked up the colour on the legs a bit on mine, but I was OK with it as a first attempt in this technique!  It is the first time I have ever used a canvas for a background and the man was a photocopy that I then painted on.  The whole thing is done using only three colours.  The whole canvas was painted red first and then when it was dry over painted with the blue.  Some of the wet blue paint was then removed with a dot stamp.  An attempt was used to make a rock wall effect behind his legs but we had no clingwrap and tried plastic which did not work very well!  The man's face was coloured with a skintoned marking pen (waterproof) and his clothes were then panted.  Pants and tie the same colour, shirt painted yellow and then given blue dots to fit with the background.  He was then glued on using matt medium.  He is actually sitting on a red blanket which works well with him!

Next was a similar technique but all done on paper.  Here she is:

Finally on day one again with Renee, we did some lino printing.  We made one print block with this stuff called 'Speedy Cut'.  It is very, very cool.  I remember doing lino printing at school and trying to carve the lino and being at great risk of carving me!  This stuff is like firm butter and carves beautifully, but the blocks apparently only last for 50 or so prints.  Not sure of the price of it, but you can carve into both sides of the block so I guess it is not to bad!  Here is my first print.

At the end of an exhausting Day 1 I took this on the way home.  It is the stairs in the Rue de al Fontaine in Montmartre:

Day two, today, was again brilliant.  We started the day with Pam Carricker learning to draw portraits.  Pam's work is stunning.  I have loved it when I have seen it on her blog, but believe me the photos do not do it justice.  She taught us a technique using conte crayons and a pliable rubber.  You lay on the crayon, blend it and then erase it using the rubber.  This process is repeated again and again to but the layers of light and dark and the form of the face.  Here is my first attempt, completed at the workshop today:

Sorry he looks a bit dark, but it was very hard to photograph in my hotel room tonight!

After the portraits we made metal books.  Here is some of the stuff I used, but I don't have a photo of it yet, because it is still a work in progress and is at the studio.

...and here is the one I drew tonight, she is not perfect, but oh how I love her as one of my new 'children' on paper!

So yes, I am enjoying myself!!!  What a way to see 2010 out and what a year it has been for us!  Happy New Year and much love to you all!  XXXXX

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

A Mum's thoughts

I just read the following piece on one of my favourite blogs  It is written as part of a guest post by her friend Katherine Center and is about parting with the baby gear as your baby is growing up.  It really hit home with me at the moment!

".... Here is a little piece of us. The baby boy who gazed up with the deepest amber eyes, and the mama who was absolutely besieged by sleep deprivation and worry and joy and love. There were times I was so tired, or frightened, or frustrated, I didn’t think I’d make it to the next hour. And, of course, you can’t even imagine the magnitude of love you’ll feel before your baby comes to you. It absolutely flattens you. It humbles, and destroys, and rips you into a million pieces.

That’s why baby things become so precious. They know who we were in our tenderest moments. When you finally put yourself back together, your baby won’t be a baby anymore. And you won’t be the person you remember. You will have become someone else—someone greater than yourself. Someone wiser, nobler, and infinitely more brave.

And after that happens, even as good as it is, every now and then you will wish like anything that you could bundle up the little person who started it all, and whisper over and over words that won’t mean anything to him until some distant future when he himself arrives in your same shoes: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
Given that my beautiful boy, now a man is having a bit of a tough time at the moment, I just need to tell you and him that this is what he means to me.  Adrian, a Mum could never be more proud or love you more. XXXX

Saturday, 25 December 2010

White Christmas in London

Well we have had no more snow today, but the ground is still white and the day was still decidedly chilly!  Our Christmas Tree, lights and decorations were from Homebase and were a £10 'Christmas in a bag'.  Quite the buy we thought and not bad for a tenner!  We have had a lovely day sharing the Christmas joy with Sam and his two mates Brad (second from the right) and Luke (on the far right).

We started our day with Christmas Carols playing, drinking a glass of  buck's fizz (champagne and orange juice) and croissants, jam and cream to eat for breakfast.  The yummy, yummy devon clotted cream!  So the the same start to the the day (with the twist of devon clotted cream) we have in Australia.  We opened our presents, the first and most important being the Santa hat for my love from Sam.  Sam was a bit dissappointed that he did not remember to bring the 'real' Santa hat from Australia, but Santa had to settle for one that Sam searched high and low to find in London.

After opening our gifts we sat around for a while and all made some phone calls to Australia.  It was great to talk to my beautiful Mum! Richard cooked lunch, with a little bit of help from me - well all I did was make the cointreau butter to go with the pudding, but it was delicious!  I also was able to speak to both Adrian and Ash absolute bonus!  They were with Cheryl's girls, so life for our kids was back to their early years in some little way!  I added the next photo so you can see my darling husband busily cooking in our tiny kitchen, the turkey on the bench and the snow in the woods across the road!

A few minutes later and our lunch is on the table, but poor Richard is looking a bit stressed!  He was worried it would get cold, but I have to tell you that it was THE most delicious meal!  The first time I have ever had homemade cranberry sauce - how good was that - extremely!

This afternoon has been spent with full bellies watching Terry Pratchett movies on TV.  First 'The Colour of Magic' and now in the evening 'Going Postal'.  Have to love Pratchett!

Anyway, I will skedaddle off again.  I hope your Christmas day was wonderful.  I certainly enjoyed my first ever white Christmas.  Love and best wishes to you all. XXXX

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A Day with Gaugin

Yesterday I had the most delightful day visiting the Gaugin exhibition at the Tate Modern.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I spent over four hours there and read everything on offer.  I never knew that he was living with Vincent Van Gogh when the ear incident happened!  He was a bit of a wild man to say the least!  There were letters there to his poor wife.  I think if I had been in her shoes I would have wanted to clobber him!  But given all that he was a very talented man.  His paintings were just a small part of his talents.  He also did wood carving and sculpture....absolutely stunning even if at times a bit macabre!

After I left there I decided to wander back to London Bridge underground station and on the way there came upon the Borough Market.  I didn't even know it was there!  It was quite magical.  It was about 3:45 in the afternoon and getting dark...winter solstice and the shortest day of the year yesterday!  I had to take a few photos to try to capture the atmosphere....but of course you can't hear the stall holders calling, so it is by no means a complete capture.  There were quite a few people bustling around and the smell of mulled wine in the air...yum!  That's what the people have in the cups in the first photo!

This is one of the flower shops in the market place.  It is just gorgeous with boxes of pine cones and dried fruits for table decorations.  This is at about 4:00pm and as you can see it is quite dark.  There is a very high roof overhead, so no snow lying around....I suspect they would have cleared if there had have been anyway!

Out and about is quite treacherous at the moment!  Lots of hard packed ice on the ground.  According to the forecasts we are not due to have anymore snow in the next week, so we may not have a white Christmas as such!  I am hoping that the airports stay open for me to fly out on the 28th!

As I had not blogged for so long I have not filled you in on all the concerts we have been to! We went to Simply Red the other night and they were brilliant!  Andrea Bocelli was wonderful as were Supertramp.  Van Morrison was great although disappointingly short!  We have also seen 'Wicked' which was brilliant - just love the twists on the 'Wizard of Oz' theme, 'Yes Minister' -ok but a bit too long, Ross Noble - he's a mad man!  We went to 'Oliver' and them I took the kids from school to see it as well.  We loved it as did the kids.  It was brilliant watching their reactions to the live theatre.  One of my students part the way through said 'Ali, you know Fagin in the movie, is his real name Fagin?' My response, 'No Darl' then drew the comment 'So Oliver's name is not Oliver either?' ....'No Darl'  .....'Ohhh!'  It was very cute!  I am sure I am forgetting some!  We have been having a fabulous time! 

Hopefully I will get back on before Christmas day!  If not I would like to wish you all a fabulous Christmas.....sorry did not get around to posting cards usual!  Much love Ali and Richard. XXXXX

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Going Shopping

We have just got back from a very exciting shopping expedition!  Luckily Richard said we should not worry about getting too much today, just the essentials as getting home may not be too easy.  We had decided to leave Bruce in the garage and take the bus because there was some snow on the ground and it was snowing as we left home........good decision as you will see!

We caught the bus up to the main shopping area near us, Muswell Hill, bought a few odds and ends and then caught another bus to the local Tesco.  Richard's concern that getting into the carpark may be difficult proved to be well founded.  We were there about an hour getting a few bits and bats and by the time we came out the world was well white.  With our bags in hand we trudged across to the bus stop and waited!  The trees nearby caught my attention so I just had to take a quick snap.

Then there was the matter of the request from my friend Jane for photos of my winter wardrobe!

This was taken while we waited for the bus to come and after Richard had taken it a Kenyan man asked us to take a photo of him in the snow.  We then had a discussion about our joint lack of experience with the snow and the thrill of seeing it.  He is supposed to be heading back to Kenya tonight.....I am guessing the weather there will be somewhat different!

After about 15 minutes a bus came along.  It was not the right bus, but it was a bus!  It would get us back up to the top of Muswell Hill at least.  As we had no idea how long it would take for one of the buses that would get us all the way home to come we decided to jump on.....another good decision!  The bus ground its way up to Muswell Hill and then we got out.  This was what we found.

In the time it had taken us to shop the Hill had transformed into a winter wonderland.  It looked so beautiful, but very little traffic was now getting through!  So we decided to walk home from there....another good decision!

As we walked through the main shopping centre it became more obvious that the snow was having an impact.  These photos were taken outside one of the lovely gift shops and cafes in Muswell Hill.  The cafe is called the Crocodile Cafe .....check out the snow on the poor croc's head in the third photo!

Up to the next roundabout and here was the view.

As we walked down the hill towards home the view of the intrepid British postman amused me!

...and then there were the inevitable children building a snowman!

......and all the time the snow kept falling!

As we moved further down the road and came closer to home, we came upon this:

Luckily the bus had not hit the car but there was only millimetres in it.  I think that neither the bus nor car are going anywhere for a while!

As we got closer to home we realised that nobody is going anywhere much on Muswell Hill Road today.

That's Richard carrying the two bags with the backpack and red coat on.  Look at the line up of buses!

....and this is the view back down the hill from home. 

It is still chaotic out the front of our house with people out of cars trying to push them up the hill and the buses still just sitting and waiting it out.  Tonight we are meant to be going to a Simply Red concert on the other side of town.  We should be able to get there without too many problems on the underground....but that may end up being another adventure!  Who knows.

....and finally here I am, finally home, looking the picture of winter elegance with the chaos behind me!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Where has the time gone!

I know, I know it has been a long, long time between blogs but let's see how we go go here!  Some events this week have finally spurred me on to write a blog.

So let's start here with this gorgeous girl!

It seems like five minutes ago she was crawling across the floor of the unit we stayed in when we first moved back to Melbourne to beat her dad up with a wooden spoon.

She was doted on by her big brother from the moment he first met her!

....and we discovered her love of nurturing any creature she could when she was a very young lady!

She has continued to shine her way through life with the sheer beauty of her soul and is rightfully adored by all who meet her!

....and this week my beautiful daughter graduated from university (with two sets of letters after her name!) and still her beauty shines through.  You have to agree, Ash is simply stunning in every way!

Ash has chosen a career that will take full advantage of her caring nature and I just know she will excel at it.  She has graduated with honours as a primary school teacher and has deserved to do so after all her hard work.  Ash will be teaching a grade 6 class next year and those kids should be busting to go back to school if they have any sense!  I am sure that the gorgeous Miss Turner will be a teacher they will never forget.

Ashy Dooks I am so, so proud of you and love you (arms wide open) this much!!!

Now for a quick update of the past three months!  We have been busy, busy, busy!  Work has been very testing with some very difficult weeks at the beginning of the school year, but as we draw to the end of Term 1 it is all way more settled.  I now have three students and my class, myself and two teaching assistants....yes the boys ARE that much of a handful.  We have been learning to play the recorder and doing lots of art in class.  We discovered the joys of a Meccano absolute godsend!  The difficult start to the year has not made me regret our decision made over the Summer break to stay here a little longer than our original plans for the end of this year.  We have committed ourselves to at least the end of this school year and maybe the end of next year.  To extend our stay I have had to take another full year's leave from my job in Australia so it will make no difference there.

Late September saw us facing a really sad time as a family when Richard's Dad passed away.  He will be sadly missed to say the least. 

Richard has finally managed to get a job he can get his teeth into.  He is working in a private GP practice near Harley Street!  He will be working three days a week from the beginning of next year.  They are 11 hour days, but it gives him more freedom to make choices on the other two days of the week.

At home...well things are progressing really well.  Bruce survived!  We have a neighbour who is a retired mechanic and he decided Bruce was not going to get the better of him!  Only a few hundred pounds later and Bruce is purring along again!  We even took him on a roadtrip to the Lakes district in October and he did not miss a beat!  The Lakes District was fabulous, but perhaps the highlight of the trip was the giant disco ball in Blackpool!  I fell in love with it and couldn't stop the camera from clicking.

It really was fabulous!  We also visited the highest waterfall in Wales (can't remember its name...I do need to look that up!), which was gorgeous!

 And went for some lovely walks in the woods where I found this shape in a stump!

The beginning of October, when our beautiful Harry had his birthday in Australia, saw me trying to cope with my first round of home sickness!  I just wanted to be there with my little man.  I miss him enormously and miss watching him grow and develop.

The days here are getting colder and colder.  We have had one day off school due to snowfall and have coped with many below zero nights and worse still days!  I am now leaving for work at 7:30am in the dark and by 4:00 in the afternoon it is dark again, so I also come home in the dark.  A great thing about the approaching winter has been the return of our friend the fox!  I have seen him in the back garden a few times now and with his return the rats no longer appear! Yay!

The end of November saw the arrival of Sam to spend about two and a half months on this side of the world.  (Couldn't disappoint you Sam! - and yes your arrival has been a highlight for us!)  He is being spooked by how much like his Dad he is - I say he is a lucky guy!  I managed to click this photo of the two of them on the tube on Saturday.  Sam proudly came to watch his Dad play hockey and they sat on the bag and chatted on the way home.  I think it is a great photo and it was lovely to watch them together!

I have only two more days of school before my term break!  I have to say I am really looking forward to it.  It has been a long hard term for me.  I may not have been blogging, but it hasn't been all work.  I have been painting and drawing and have done a bit of knitting.  After a bit of a slump in mood in late September and early October I am getting it together again.  And I do have a few days in Paris to look forward to!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Five wonderful years!

Yesterday, Richard and I celebrated five wonderful years of marriage! However, before I get to that I have some rather sad news.....

It is poor Bruce! At the moment he is sitting in our garage unable to move. He did a wonderful job of travelling more than five thousand kilometers in under four weeks, but then about two kilometers from home started having a few issues. He burped and gurgled his way home and then magically, sorted himself out again.

That weekend he didn't miss another beat, but the following weekend (last weekend) when we were on our way to do the Aspie thing (visiting steam trains) he got as far as Brixton (45 min from home) and decided that he could do no more! So this is how he came home.....

He is off to have a checkup tomorrow and to see if it is worth our while financially to have him repaired.  His MOT is about due and he has to pass a road worthy to get that so if the repairs he needs are too costly we will be on the lookout for another vehicle!

Last week was my first week back at school.  Let's just say that I think I will be in for a few challenges this year!  By the time I got to Friday I was exhausted and really looking forward to our weekend.  We had decided to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary by going to one of our favourite places int he UK, York.  We left yesterday morning and went up by train and I have to say we had THE most wonderful time!   

We set off early Saturday morning.  It turns out it didn't need to be quite so early however as the train to York was over half an hour late!  Not to worry, people watching in London stations is fascinating.  Eventually we were on our way and arrived in York just over two hours later. 

We took our luggage to the hotel and dropped it off and then proceded straight to some very famous tearooms, 'Betty's', where I enjoyed a totally delicious Yorkshire Cream Tea!  Harvey of course, was terribly impressed.  We had to queue to get in there and it was well worth the wait, particularly as it meant we managed to avoid a very heavy shower and sit inside where it was dry while the queue continued to grow longer out in the rain!

From 'Betty's' we decided to go to the Jorvik Centre.  It is a fascinating museum about the Viking's who lived in York.  I had been there before in 1998, but Richard had not been so off we went!  It has changed quite a bit since 1998, so I am pleased we went!

Next it was off to National Rail Museum.  Harvey had apparently told Richard he really wanted to see it and this is why..... 

... Harvey got to sit on the train from 'Harry Potter'!

As we wanderered back into town from the railway museum we finally found the place a bus driver tried to send us to five and a half years ago. When he told us where he wanted us to go, I thought he was having a go at me (I had had a few wines that night!). Say the name quickly and then see if you would not think he was having a go!!

After Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate (you want me to go where?), we came across these guys (Morris Dancers) dancing in the street:

It is honestly one of the loopiest things you will ever see!  Grown men with bells on their legs dancing around and banging sticks together.  I couldn't help myself and had a great big smile on my face and this is what happened!

'What have I got myself into' says Ali...
'Let me see, let me see' says Harvey

Our first tentative steps

Feeling a bit like a goose!  It's a little like 'Strip the Willow' a Scottish reel.

Starting to bang the stick! ...ooh ...  Check out the new boots!
Obviously enjoying myself!

Now holding the stick properly and loving it!
.. poor Harvey's still trying to see what is going on!
A little sashay around the crowd for well earned applause!

A kiss from each of the boys!

Richard it wasn't me!  and on my wedding anniversary!

...and finally a photo with my new found friends the Morris Dancers!
Just one of those extraordinary life experiences!

After there we went back to the hotel and then went out for a vary romantic anniversary dinner.  We shared a bottle of the same champagne we had on our engagement night, but most importantly we renewed our wedding vows.  Every anniversary is special, but it seemed to me that our five year anniversary was a great one to mark.  So I took along a copy of our vows and surprised Richard with them once the champagne had been opened so that we could truly make a toast to us and this wonderful life we share.

This first five years has been incredible, who knows what the next five will bring!