With thanks and all good wishes

Dear readers,

I’ve taken the decision to close this blog.

It will remain ‘live’ until April 2017, when the contract with the web host expires; after that it will disappear from view.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has visited, commented, enjoyed, got in touch…  Perhaps our paths will cross again in the future.

In the meantime I’d like to wish you all a good Christmas and a very happy, healthy and successful 2017.

With kindest regards,

Much harder than it looks…

Handmade greeting card featuring central cut-out and a star design folded from sparkly papersCutting and folding 20 little squares of paper into a quilted star shape…
What on earth could go wrong….?

I chose lovely sparkly paper with a handmade feel because it gave the appearance of rich silks.

But getting these 20 pieces of opulent-looking folded paper to lie flat was another matter entirely.  And then squeezing them between two pieces of card was nigh on impossible.  Despite using increasingly strong adhesives, the edges of the card kept bursting open, unable to contain the bulk.  I feared by the time this birthday card reached its destination it might have reverted to kit form.

Fortunately, it didn’t.
And it was much appreciated.

Handmade greeting card featuring central cut-out and a star design folded from sparkly papersI know I can do better though. 
I will not be beaten by folded paper!

I will return…  🙂

Bright eyed and bushy tailed

Portrait of a foxThere’s a place on the Isle of Wight where foxes pose happily each evening for photographs.

Fox, seatedThe foxes are wild.  There are no houses in the immediate area, but a local café owner feeds them at the end of each day, so they’re well-fed and quite comfortable around people.

Fox in profileIf you want to know why this particular fox spent so long gazing meaningfully into my camera lens… it’s not because of my animal magnetism.  😀   A plastic container full of meaty cat biscuits was being shaken immediately above my head!

Fox, standing and looking at cameraIsn’t he a beauty?!

Please click below to visit Our World Tuesday, where you’ll find links to lots more beautiful scenes around the globe.

Hyperlinked to Our World Tuesday memeIt’s our world.  It will be what we make it.

Lest we forget

Poppies from 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red'In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Poppies from 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red'We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

A battlefield cemetery, showing graves facing more than one direction.Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– John McCrae, May 1915.

Rows of soldiers' graves in a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery. A single tree is seen to the rear of the cemetery to the right of the shot.Today, Armistice Day, we commemorate the signing of the Armistice at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, which brought an end to the First World War.

The top two photographs show three of the 888,246 ceramic poppies from the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation which progressively filled the moat of the Tower of London between July and November 2014, marking the centenary of the outbreak of war.  These three poppies now belong to me, in memory of three great uncles who lost their lives.  Three of my grandparents each lost a brother.

The last two photos show the grave of a young soldier honoured with poppies and crosses, as is the British tradition, and rows of memorial stones in the Poelkapelle Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, which I visited in 2014.

They gave their Tomorrow for our Today.  We must learn to use it with love and compassion.

Dona Nobis Pacem

A blanket to wrap the world in loveDona Nobis Pacem: Give Us Peace

Blog 4 Peace is organised each year by Mimi Lennox: one day when bloggers across the globe speak with one voice to express their desire for a peaceful planet.

I’ve spent much of this year feeling angry, frightened and depressed about the direction the world is taking.  Collectively, we’re moving – sleepwalking, almost – to a dark place.

Right now, worldwide, 65.3 million people have been forcibly displaced.  Globally each day, an additional 33,972 people are forced to flee their homes.  Most of these displaced people find shelter in other developing countries.  Turkey hosts more than any other country – currently 2.5 million.

This is happening at a time when many in the West are finding life tough.  Here in the UK, the current ‘jobless’ rate of 4.9% masks the fact that many of those in employment are on zero hours contracts, or on wage levels too low to be able to keep home and family afloat, particularly as ‘austerity’ measures have removed benefits and other safety nets.  A few TV programmes have recently opened my eyes to the shameful reality of poverty right here in one of the richest nations in the world.  I’m reminded of the hand-to-mouth existence of the poor in Victorian Britain, which was horrifyingly close to how life is now for those at the bottom of the heap.

And yet in January this year, Oxfam published a report showing that globally, the top 1% richest people own more than the other 99% combined. In fact, just 62 of the richest billionnaires in the world possess as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the entire rest of the world.  And this staggering gulf is actually widening.

Our world is completely out of balance – and these are just examples.

Crocheted blanket in autumn coloursNever in my lifetime has there been a greater need for ordinary people to take collective responsibility and stand for a better world.  If individually we can achieve nothing, together we can strive to achieve with actions, kindness, tolerance and love where money and politicians are failing.  We must be the change so badly needed.

But what can we do to make the world a better place?
Here are some of the little things I’m doing:

  • Behaving towards others as I would like them to behave towards me.
  • Speaking out against unacceptable behaviour.
  • Signing online petitions.  Through sheer demonstration of public opinion they can bring about change.  Sometimes they literally save lives.
  • Sharing positive articles and quotes – because we are what we focus upon.
  • Contributing to food banks for local people.
  • Buying Fairtrade goods where available.
  • Avoiding goods from producers whose values and practices I object to.
  • Recycling. reusing, repurposing.
  • Giving no longer needed good quality clothing to charity shops.
  • Supporting initiatives like donation of unsold supermarket food to those in need.
  • Lending small sums of money at zero interest to microbusinesses in developing countries – through Lend With Care.
  • Currently preparing to welcome refugees to my area.
  • On a personal level, finding peace when I can through creative projects.  The images in this post are my latest contributions to the Sixty Million Trebles project.  Read my previous post about the project to find out more.

Little things, but it’s a start.

How about you?
What would you add to this short list of personal actions for a better, fairer, more peaceful world?

Crocheted blanket in bright colours

Starry Starry Night

Windmill with star trailsMy first star trail photograph!

I’ve wanted to do one of these for ages, and spent last Saturday learning how.

This one image comprises 170 separate photographs!  After stacking them all together I played around in Photoshop to get the look I was after.  You can see several of my trials in the image below, which is a ‘thumbnail’ screen grab.  The orange image, top left, is how the camera actually captured the scene.  The orange is light pollution – but I wanted a blue sky and was looking for a ‘Van Gogh’ feel.  The one I’ve chosen to present here is the centre image on the top row.

I’m so pleased with this.  And now that I know how to do it I hope to do more.

Click this image for a better view.
Screen grab of 10 identical star trail images, each processed differentlyPlease click the badge below to visit SkyWatch Friday!

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Hidden Talents

Hand painted greeting card featuring water and rocky shoreThe first I knew of Cynthia’s artistic talent was on my birthday two years ago.  Opening an envelope bearing her familiar handwriting, I was astonished to find this handmade card featuring a little watercolour.

Cynthia and I have been friends since 1988, and in all this time I had never known her to show any desire to pick up a paintbrush.

I suppose there might have been tell-tale signs.  Although she didn’t do it very often, she had always had a precise, elegant style in cake decoration.  Now, having recently retired, I knew she’d been doing a lot of stylish knitting.  Then came a new-found interest in 14th century Italian art, then art more generally…  And finally the desire to have a go for herself.  She signed up for an art class.

Of course, she had no expectation at all of being any good at it….

Hand painted greeting card featuring Christmas candlesShe was wrong.

For Christmas that year we received the Christmas candles, above.  It was also about that time that Cynthia showed us her growing portfolio of work.  Dogs, still life, nature, landscapes.  It seemed she could turn her hand to anything – and her work was really good and developing all the time.

Hand painted greeting card featuring Tiffany glass designThis Tiffany glass design was my birthday card for 2015; and by Christmas that year Cynthia was confident enough in her ability to have her own cards printed.  The original of the design below is bigger than the small designs she paints for the individual cards, and the ‘glitter’ on that green bauble really sparkles.

Printed greeting card featuring Christmas baublesI’m sure Cynthia didn’t spend years putting off art classes for fear of not being good enough.  She just didn’t know that lurking beneath the surface an Inner Watercolour Artist was patiently waiting to be embraced.  How can someone be this talented and have no inkling for the first six decades of their life?

Unless we’re open to opportunities, unless we follow through on what interests us, unless we allow ourselves the joy of following our hearts, and then unless we have a go without worrying about failure, we’ll never know what we’re capable of.

And so to 2016 – my birthday card:

Hand painted greeting card featuring bird on branchThere’s a lesson in all this for me…  There is something I’ve known for years I mean to do but am only now beginning to believe I can make it a reality and that it might be good enough.

How about you?

More from Pamplona

Buildings in Plaza del Castillo, PamplonaThere is, of course, far more to Pamplona than the annual Running of the Bulls. We started our visit in the grand Plaza del Castillo where, the guidebook assured, we would be able to watch the world go by while having a drink and getting our bearings.

Unfortunately, on the day of our visit a large booksellers’ exhibition was being dismantled. So instead of looking out over the brim of a coffee cup from one side of the square to the other, this is what we saw.

Buildings in Plaza del Castillo, Pamplona, partially concealed by pop-up display standsAnd that was a pity, because all these empty pop-up display stands concealed a beautiful period bandstand.

Buildings in Plaza del Castillo, Pamplona, with beautiful period bandstandTall thin houses in Plaza del Castillo, Pamplona.

So after croissants and a couple of fortifying cups of coffee, we walked all the way round the square, admiring the attractive tall, slender,  pastel-painted buildings.

After a while of counting floors, I became quite concerned for people living on the upper levels.  They all had at least six storeys, and some had seven or eight!

What do you do if you get all the way to the front door, only to realise you’ve left something in the attic?



A road from the Plaza leads straight into the old town – San Fermín.

Historic streets in Pamplona's San FermínThis is where el encierro, the annual ‘Running of the Bulls’ takes place, and the topic of my recent post.

Historic streets in Pamplona's San FermínIf it looks like all roads lead to this white tower, there is a sort of poetry to that.

Historic streets in Pamplona's San FermínIt belongs to the fourteenth century Gothic cathedral, a stopping-off point for pilgrims walking el Camino de Santiago – the Way of St James.

Cathedral with square and café tables in foreground El Camino commences at St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees and leads to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia – a distance of 791 km (490 miles).  Just 74 km from the starting point, Pamplona is the first major city on the route.

Road sign pointing towards several points of interest, including el Camino de SantiagoBut San Fermín is not just a collection of historic streets of interest to tourists and pilgrims.  It’s a vibrant community.

Two men busking on the guitar and double bassThis area is also part of the greater Basque Country region, where passions on the issue of Basque separatism run high.

Sign on wall in Pamplona: Freedom for the Basque CountryThe region, which also includes part of France, has its own language – Euskera – or in English, ‘Basque’.  It has no links to any other language and is probably the oldest European language, pre-dating all our Indo-European languages spoken throughout Europe.  Fortunately for visitors, Spanish is also spoken here, although as I was reminded over dinner one evening, for political reasons it should be referred to as el castellano – Castilian rather than el español – Spanish.

Sign on wall in Pamplona: Freedom for the Basque CountryIf other street art is to believed, though, not everyone here fills their heads with politics  And so, although this isn’t a position I personally agree with, I’ll end on a lighter note.

No Votes –  Baila!
Don’t vote – Dance!

(I’m with the dance part, but not as an alternative to voting.  🙂 )

Grafitti in Pamplona: No votes - baila!Please click the badge below to visit Our World Tuesday.

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Monet’s Waterlilies: a colour study

Colour study based on Monet's waterlilies at GivernyFollowing on from my recent post about Monet’s garden at Giverny, I used Photoshop to produce three colour studies: two of my photos from the garden, plus one of Monet’s actual paintings.

It was very straightforward, using the rectangular marquee tool, the colour picker and the paint bucket tool.

This particular one of Monet’s Waterlilies paintings was chosen because I wanted to include blues for the water, rather than the reflections of the sky seen at the time of my visit..

Colour study based on Monet's waterlilies at GivernyI also did this study based on another part of the garden, to focus on the brighter, more varied colours of the spring bulbs.

Colour study based on Monet's spring garden at GivernyI now have two ideas for projects based on Monet’s garden.  Both of them focus on the Waterlily pond.  One would be patchwork, and would really stretch my design skills; the other involves yarn spun from recycled sari silks and would be easier but quite expensive to do.

Still mulling them both over……
This could take some time.  🙂

Pamplona, San Fermín

Part of Encierro monument in Pamplona, showing three men runningIf you’ve heard of Pamplona in northern Spain, chances are you’ve heard of the ‘Running of the Bulls’.  During this event which takes place each July, hundreds of participants show their bravery by running through the streets alongside a group of irritated and anxious bulls.

What could possibly go wrong?!!!

Part of Encierro monument in Pamplona showing men running alongside bullsOf course it isn’t without danger.  Each year 50 – 100 people are injured.  Since 1910, fifteen runners have been killed.

Part of Encierro monument in Pamplona, showing bull and fallen manMy interest in Pamplona was not in the Running of the Bulls itself, but in the historic streets through which it all takes place.  Before arriving, I assumed it would be a small town, crammed with these narrow streets bordered by pretty painted buildings.  Not so.  Today, Pamplona is a modern city with a population of just under 200,000.  But it was the casco viejo or old district, known as San Fermín, towards which I naturally gravitated.

Historic streets of San Fermín, PamplonaIt’s easy to imagine how the Running of the Bulls came about.  Bulls needed to be moved from the fields to the bullring.  During these times the old streets would have briefly become a no-go area for the townsfolk; and the herders would use tactics to hurry the bulls along.  Young men would flaunt their bravado by jumping in amongst them.

Part of Encierro monument in Pamplona, showing man running alongside bullsToday, during the Festival of San Fermín, the same route is used.  The six bulls will feature in the bullring later in the day.

In Spanish the Running of the Bulls is referred to as el encierro, meaning ‘enclosure’ or ‘corral’.  A sign along the route at a certain point explains that the speed of the bulls and the sharp 90 degree bend causes many of the bulls to crash into the barrier.

Historic streets of San Fermín, PamplonaI wouldn’t want to be in Pamplona for el encierro.  This attraction with goading bulls is an aspect of Spanish culture I dislike.  It is also apparently a very macho affair all round, with four rapes, one attempted rape and ten allegations of sexual abuse in 2016 alone.  No, this is not my idea of a good time.  I am happy to get no closer than to see el encierro immortalised in bronze in this huge monument created by the sculptor Rafael Huerta:

Encierro monument in Pamplona, sculpted by Rafael Huerta… and then to wander in peace through the old streets.

Historic street in San Fermín, PamplonaIf you enjoyed this, please click the badge below to reach Our World Tuesday, where you’ll find lots more photos from all over the planet.

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