Thursday, August 31, 2006

Walk/Swim/Sail One Hundred and Twenty Nine – Perdika to Nea Epidavros


First we shopped, then we swam. Robin dived and freed the anchors that had been fouled by the dragging of the motorboat anchor the previous day. He found a big octopus making a home on our anchor.

Although we were having a great holiday (who wouldn’t on a boat in the beautiful Greek islands), the flotilla holiday company we had gone with really weren’t as good as one would expect, with regard to organisation, training of staff, service and company ethos. This had a really big impact on the holidays that some people had, but we had been lucky and apart from the unexpectedly long (nearly four hour) transfer from the airport and the lack of requested extra pillows we had nothing to complain of so far. However we had to leave the boat by nine on the final day of the holiday and the company were proposing transferring us immediately to Athens airport which would have meant a seven hour wait until check-in time followed by another couple of hours wait and then the flight. The staff were suggesting that we couldn’t risk missing our flight, by catching a later ferry. Anyway Robin and I went for a walk to the other end of the harbour to discuss options. We decided that a trip round Athens in the heat, with Xavier and without a guaranteed safe place to deposit our luggage was out of the question, as was waiting up to nine hours to get on our flight.

We went back and discussed this with Sarah the holiday hostess – a former New Zealand TV presenter, who had only been doing the job for three weeks, and who we liked very much, despite our misgivings about the company she was working for. She was very helpful and agreed to try and get us onto a later hydrofoil so that we could spend the morning and lunch in Poros. Relieved that we had sorted that problem out we said goodbye to Jane and Michael who were not going to be there on the final night of our holiday as they had made alternative arrangements due to wanting to avoid the hellish overland transfer, the company had planned for them.

Our second last day of sailing, and a free sailing day, we were the only yacht to choose to go to Nea Epidavros. We had a lovely sail, mainly sailing at about 7.5 knots.

After lunch Flo and Xavier were resting below, Hugo was stretched out on the ringo, when Tom said ‘I think I saw something – maybe a dolphin’. Robin and I both looked in the direction he was pointing when whoosh! the most amazing thing happened, a giant stingray leapt out of the water, did a back flip in the air and splashed back into the water. It was absolutely incredible – one of the most memorable nature experiences I’ve had. Sadly Hugo was entirely in his own little world out on the ringo and missed seeing it, as did the two down below. A painting of how I remember it is on my other blog.

Today was the first overcast day of the holiday, which I am sure affected everyone’s impressions of Nea Epidavros. I liked it – a huge curve of bay, towering mountains, orange and lemon groves with a tiny harbour at one end – there was a river into the harbour and you needed to walk on a footbridge over the riverto get to the few tavernas and shops and the long curving beach. However Robin thought it looked bleak and despairing, but I’m sure visiting the place on a sunny day in mid season would have given him an entirely different impression.

Our bible – the pilot of the whole area, written by Rod Heikell – was slightly out of date for this harbour. The jetty in front of the taverna that we were going to moor up to, had broken up and disappeared and the taverna had closed. However we threw Tom into the water to take a stern line to the shore, so that we could moor where the jetty had been. The top couple of feet of the water in the harbour was icy cold water from the river, with a sudden transition to warm sea water below that.

On this day it was cool enough to really walk a mile. Flo and I walked right around the large curving bay after coffees and ice-creams, served by a Cher-like waitress. Hugo had his heart’s desire – huge crashing waves and a new bodyboard to play on (which ended up in two pieces from the power of the waves). When we got back I drew the boat from the footbridge while Xavier made mudpies next to me.

Dinner in the evening – apart from one other table, we were the only customers, reminiscent of the Greece of my youth. The food was also like the Greece of my youth, despite the length of the menu, everything was off apart from a few items, so Robin had meatballs (fried) to start followed by meatballs (in tomato sauce) for his main course. Then back to the boat for a quick game of cards before bed.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Walk/Swim/Sail One Hundred and Twenty-Eight – Vathi to Perdika


Despite the wind the water was once again smooth in Vathi bay. Xavier had another go in the ringo, on his own, while at least three of us watched (ready to jump in if he fell out). Once we rounded the headland we had a fantastic sail and ‘Maria Kallas’ hit a new high of 9.5 knots.

We moored in a beautiful turquoise bay a couple of bays away from Perdika. I attempted several times, and was eventually successful in retrieving a large pink sea urchin shell, but nearly dropped it in shock when the ‘teeth’ at the bottom moved. Flo and I snorkelled together and saw some fishes we hadn’t seen – orange with pink fins and tails. We also saw the carved top of a stone column – I like to believe it was an ancient piece of Greek masonry.

We then sailed to Perdika, a village on the island of Aegina. We arrived earlier than the other flotilla boats and swam off the boat over to the little sandy beach. Then we swam back, dressed and walked around the harbour to the 360° camera obscura building (a fairly recent art project) on the promontory. The last time I’d seen a camera obscura was a one viewpoint pinhole in the Royal College of Art photography department which had the Natural History Museum projected on the wall. My memory of it was that it seemed much brighter than this one, however I didn‘t really give this one much of a chance as Tom was scaring Xavier, being a monster in the gloom.

We walked back and I painted a couple of watercolours looking from the front hatch of the boat. Keith, the skipper of the flotilla had said that he never worried about fitting the flotilla into Perdika as it was always sheltered and if all of the moorings were full there was plenty of space to anchor up. He had to eat his words that evening as, for the first time in his experience the wind suddenly started blowing very hard straight into the harbour as the last boats tried to get in. The local fishermen kindly moved their boats to provide more room in the more sheltered part of the harbour. A couple of yachts were moved by Yannis, an instructor on one of the yachts.

Andy, whose boat was moored next to our’s, needed to move his boat as the anchor wasn’t holding. However as they moved round they discovered that their anchor was caught in another anchor and as they tried to release it they got blown towards the bows of the already anchored boats. They were then in a position where they couldn’t motor out of trouble as they risked wrapping an anchor chain around their propellor so it was all hands on all the boat decks to move the boat round by hand and fend off the motor boat whose anchor was now dislodged. It was all a bit hairy and I was shocked when Keith refused to helm Andy’s boat – saying it was against company policy (in case he damaged it). The other flotilla company we’ve sailed with (Sailing Holidays) would never have left their cients in such a difficult predicament.

Anyway Andy and family managed really well – without damaging any boats, re-anchored successfully, and moored up again next to us. It all added to the fun of the, now delayed, group dinner, at the balcony restaurant, that evening, to have had some excitement beforehand.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Walk/Swim/Sail One Hundred and Twenty-Seven – Aegina to Vathi


We went shopping for provisions, including buying local specialities, pistachio nuts and preserved sour cherries. Robin spent a small fortune on fruit (which went bad very rapidly) from a charming woman selling from a tourist-trap shop on a boat. The local people of course aren’t seduced by the charm and prefer to buy fresher, cheaper produce from the regular shops.

I finished off this drawing of the church next to the harbour and then we set off. Our anchor was entangled with a huge rusting anchor that looked as though it should have come from the ‘pirate’ ship in the harbour, but Robin dived in and disentangled it. Once again, great wind for sailing.

When we entered the huge bay area where Vathi was located, the wind was blocked by the mountains, and the water was as smooth as silk. Having watched all the children and Robin in the ’ringo’ I thought I should at least have a go. If you like the feeling of being bounced around in a jeep or landrover over an unmade road then this is the sporting activity for you!

We stopped in the next bay to Vathi for lunch and swimming. The rocks were very obviously volcanic and some of them looked like lava flows. We found more urchin shells to add to Xavier’s collection and Robin delighted everyone by finding a red starfish which we all admired before returning to the water.
Then on to Vathi which was a lovely, clean, small and intimate harbour with just two tavernas. Everyone in the flotilla arrived early and there was a lot of fun with everyone jumping off the rocks and swimming together in the harbour.

Poor Michael had yet another tale of glasse woe. He and Jane had anchored somewhere with crystal clear water and he had dived in forgetting that he was wearing his super-duper £400 glasses. He could see them glistening away at the bottom of the sea in water 20 metres deep but without aqualungs he couldn’t do anything about it.

A punch party was organised on the quayside, Hugo collected a bucket of hermit crabs, to the delight of Xavier, ostensibly for hermit crab racing, though in the end they were returned to the sea without participating in any races. Then dinner for everyone in one of the two tavernas, followed by a night of ferocious wind all night.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Walk/Swim/Sail One Hundred and Twenty-Six – Plaia Epidavros to Aigina

We woke up to strong winds again, so I was allowed five minutes to paint as we left through the channel markers and out. We had wonderful sailing all day, hitting nine knots. We’d been told by the flotilla skipper Keith, that at the entrance to Aegina harbour there is a photographer who earns his living taking photographs of every boat that enters the small harbour and selling prints to whoever wants them. So if you dared to come into the harbour under sail, you’d end up with a great photo. Well, that was a challenge that Robin wasn’t going to miss, so we ended up with a great print – though it was a good thing the photographer didn’t take the photo a few moments later with the sails flapping wildly as none of the crew took the blindest bit of notice of of Robin simultaneously trying to do everything and barking instructions.

Aegina a popular day trip spot for Athenians, was a bustling town with a lot of attractive old buildings. The nearby beach was poor (small and full of cigarette buts) but we needed to cool off. When I arrived at the beach I realised that I had my swimming costume on inside out. As the bottom of the sea was sandy and weedy the water was opaque enough for me to quickly turn it round the right way under the water without anyone noticing the plump, middle-aged, nekkid lady. However you should have seen the speed at which the children zoomed off, as far away as possible, disowning me when they realised what I was up to!

After drinks in a bar with other flotilla members we went to a very traditional family taverna for supper with Jane and Michael. The lady who ran the restaurant was very sweet, telling us where we had ordered too much food, and explaining the vagaries of her menu, such as the fact that the meatball starter did not contain any meat. Lovely evening, Jane had all sorts of tricks to keep Xavier entertained and Michael was able to top my Irish mother stories with even better stories of his own.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Walk/Swim/Sail One Hundred and Twenty-Five – Limin Angistri to Plaia Epidavros

Force six winds in the morning. The kids had been cold in the night and had moved down into the cabin to sleep. I woke up very early and walked up the hill into the village to draw. Robin gave me an hour but I overstepped the mark so he came up to chase me back to the boat before the wind died down. Our anchor was stuck and the chain was tangled as we attempted to come out, and Michael and Jane on ‘Ellhn’ managed to wrap someone’s anchor around their prop at the same time, however with a bit of luck and lateral thinking we both manged to sort ourselves out.

Robin was a bit unhappy that my drawing overstay meant that the wind had now settled down to a force four and eventually died down to the point that we needed to put the motor on. However this didn’t happen until we waited for ‘Ellhn’ to give up the attempt to sail first, and as they motored past we whipped out the song sheets Robin had prepared for the holiday and sang ‘We are sailing…’

We arrived in Plaia Epidavros early, in time for lunch at the nearby ‘jellyfish beach’. As avoiding jellyfish wasn’t the most enjoyable way of spending time, and Hugo had had enough when a jellyfish suddenly got intimate with his diving mask, I decided it was time to go and visit the ancient ruins of Epidavros in the mountains. Tom and Hugo came with me while the other three found an alternative place to swim. A taxi driver drove us through the orange groves to the site and left us to walk around for an hour and a half before picking us up later.

The amphitheatre at Epidavros is renowned for having the most phenomenal acoustics. You could hear a small coin drop from the top seats. However, for me, the most amazing experience was singing from the central spot, where you could feel the sounds coming from you vibrate as though you were inside a microphone.

That evening we had a group meal overlooking the harbour with all the new people who had joined the flotilla.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Walk/Swim/Sail One Hundred and Twenty-Four –Poros to Limin Angistri

I was up at the crack of dawn to draw the view of Poros from the bow of the boat. We were free to sail wherever we wanted so we agreed to meet up with Jane and Michael at the island of Angistri. We stopped off for lunch and swimming at a bay on the island of Aegina.

Later, when we had moored up at the small, quiet harbour at Limin Angistri, we walked down the road for ice-creams, coffee and swimming at the sandy beach where I drew Xavier.
The evening meal with Jane and Michael was at a taverna with a lovely vine covered rooftop terrace overlooking the sea. Despite all the beautiful huge bushes of basil we had seen everywhere this was the only restaurant we went to that had Xavier’s favourite - pasta and pesto, which ended up all over his face and hands.

Click to see the picture bigger.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Walk/Swim/Sail One Hundred and Twenty-Three – Spetse via Hydra to Poros

Woke up early and was looking forward to illustrating Spetse again at dawn but Robin wanted us to set off very early so that we could stop off at Hydra (another beautiful but overcrowded harbour) en-route to Poros.

Hydra was very tiny with huge ferries coming in and out of the small harbour entrance. Yachts were moored up three out bow to stern. We luckily found a small space near the entrance of the harbour at the end of the stone jetty. The lead boat was moored up there – so we hurriedly deflated the dinghy that we’d temporarily stowed on top of the bimini shade (a definite beer fine offense!). However the valve burst out and Flo jumped into the busy harbour straight away to retrieve it. Fantastic reflexes girl! The lead boat were leaving but as they passed they warned us that an even bigger ferry was due in at about lunchtime.

We had a walk around the town. I visited a beautiful pharmacy with all the old wooden shop fittings with enamel labels on every drawer and big blue bottles at inside the cupboards. Donkeys were tied up at the quay ready to transport everything from supplies for shops to building materials, through the narrow streets. We had coffee and ice creams and I drew. We then thought we’d better set off.

Lots of huge ferries had been in and out of the harbour so we thought we’d probably missed the worst. We manoeuvered the boat beautifully out of the harbour and were just about to raise the sails in the harbour entrance, when Xavier couldn’t resist the temptation to throw Fluffy the bear overboard. We did bear overboard drill as the holiday would have been unbearable without Fluffy, only to turn round and see a humongously huge ferry bearing down on us. We quickly nipped into the small gap on their port side and waved at the Captain who was shouting a traditional Greek welcome to us from the bridge.

We anchored at Monastery bay on Poros for a swim before we came into the harbour. We had been giving the older children rides in a ringo (a doughnut shaped inflatable) trailing from the back of the boat and Xavier was desperate to have a go, so we thought that this was a place that we could let him try. He was fearless and shrieking with joy at the fun of the experience, while we all stood at the back of the boat ready to rescue him if he fell out. He was furious when we eventually brought him back in.

I’d like to tell you that I walked up the hills to get this view of Poros, but we caught a taxi to a hotel with a swimming pool to enjoy some water without salt and to see the view.

Click on the pictures if you’d like to see them larger. More pictures from this day on will be on my other blog.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Walk/Swim/Sail One Hundred and Twenty-Two – Khaidari to Spetse

Dinghy rowing races for the kids first thing in the morning. Hugo was blocked from starting by the other dinghies but magnificently overtook all of the dinghies apart from the leader. So all that sea cadets rowing training paid off.
Disaster struck Robin’s very expensive best glasses* as someone off one of the other flotilla boats threw a stern line that hit the glasses and sent one of the lenses into the water. He dived for at least half an hour trying to find the lens, but several urchin stings later he gave up. To add to the problems Xavier has discovered the joy of throwing things overboard, so several shoes also had to be recovered from the sea. So for the rest of the holiday Robin will have to see everything through his prescription sunglassses.
Today we sailed independently from the flotilla. Some of the most gorgeous spots are so popular that the flotilla skipper won’t attempt to try and squeeze eleven boats in. So we chose Spetse, as our destination as we weren't going to be able to visit there any other way.
Flo was on tenterhooks all morning as she was waiting to receive her GCSE results on the phone. I knew she’d do well, and it was no surprise that most of her results were ‘A’s and ‘A’ stars, which she was delighted with. We stopped off at a beautiful emerald coloured bay with a tiny island for lunch, swimming and snorkelling and I got myself a sea urchin sting in sympathy with Robin’s stings.
The wind was good today and Spetse was gorgeous – beautiful old buildings piled up the hillside. We anchored in the harbour amongst huge staffed motor yachts of the super rich.
We showered and dressed for the evening and motored the dinghy to the shore. We flagged down the first horse and carriage and set off for a tour of the town. I was wondering why the streets were so clean with all the horses and saw that they all had a nifty sort of hammock behind the horses to catch the manure - which was then very easy to drop straight onto a compost heap.
Our taxi driver pointed out a good value for money family restaurant, so we stopped at a nearby bar for celebratory cocktails, where I drew this view. We then ate a great meal at the restaurant and walked back, frequently having to jump out of the way of rapidly trotting horses and carriages.

*bought from Ronald Brown opticians – the opticians I eventually came to an amicable agreement with (about letting me have my full prescription including pupillary distance) in early August. This is just the reason to have some really cheap glasses when you're boating.

For anyone who is interested, I bought my cheap varifocal, transitions glasses from I have a very strong prescription, so it is much more difficult to get glasses that are usable. My opinion of the online glasses is that they were nowhere near as good as the £600 glasses I bought from Ronald Brown, but they were better than the glasses I bought from another reputable chain of opticians. They felt slightly peculiar, and the near vision seemd to be slightly off though I did get used to it. The service was very prompt. The price was much lower than they would have cost from a real optician (£130). The telephone service was supposedly from a knowledgeable professional, but I would dispute that, the girl I spoke to didn’t seem to understand that the whole point of varifocals is to wear them high up on your nose and look at the distance through the top of the lenses and read through the bottom of the lenses.

Jeremy of Ronald Brown, warned me that transitions lenses were not necessarily satisfactory if you wanted sunglasses. When they arrived I could see his point – they were a lot lighter than you would expect sunglasses to be, however I came to like this, they took the edge off the bright sunlight without turning the beautiful scenery a dreary dark colour, so pretty good for painting with. If money was no object I would buy my regular glasses together with a pair of transitions with the same lenses at the same time from the Enfield branch of Ronald Brown, however as I am not that well off, the online glasses were a cheapish spare pair useful for on a boating holiday, and they'll probably stay in the case until the next time I’m on a boat.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Walk/Swim/Sail One Hundred and Twenty-One – Astrous to Khaidari

We walked around the town of Astrous buying provisions. Hugo and Tom had made a model catamaran – with a magnificent skull and crossbones spinnaker – out of plastic bottles, for the kids boatbuilding competition, which took place in the harbour before we left. As we were at the end of the jetty, it was a breeze getting out of the harbour. We sailed alongside the friends we’d made, Michael and Jane, on their yacht ‘Ellhn’ for part of the journey. We had fun making it clear to them that they needed to pose as I was drawing them as we sailed.
We then found a tiny little bay off a small island to stop for lunch. Cave-like structures and a rock paddling pool for Xavier added to the fun. I dived for the first urchin shell present of the holiday for Xavier – many more followed.
Khaidari was a small place at the end of a long inlet. The inlet had a tiny stone church on one side and the remains of a Venetian fort on the other. There were fish farms at the end and a lovely view of a sugar loaf hill or mountain. That evening we all anchored, so I set myself the exercise challenge of swimming around the whole fleet of eleven yachts, which took me about an hour.
A quick shower and change and a ride over on the dinghy for dinner with everyone at the taverna.
Unlike many portraits, this one did capture something of George, a flotilla sailing instructor, characteristically making his point in a discussion.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Walk/Swim/Sail One Hundred and Twenty – Leonidhion to Astrous

Straight up the coast to Astrous a busy little Greek family holiday resort, passing windmills precariously clinging to cliffs, anchoring for lunch, swimming and snorkelling. Very little wind until later on when it picked up and we reached nearly 8 knots. A sudden change in wind direction whilst I was below (and thus the boat heeling over at an extreme angle) meant that I was desperately catching things falling out of lockers and got trapped behind the dining table. Xavier, who was below with me, amused us all saying ‘It’s an emergency Mummy, you’ll have to use the walkie talkie!’
We scared Keith, the flotilla skipper, by giving him the impression that we were going to sail straight into Astrous harbour, however we pulled the sails down and moored up where he directed us to, at the end of the stone jetty at the harbour entrance. By this time there was a huge swell and we were bouncing up and down. Three more flotilla boats were moored up side-to-side and further in. The next boat that came in was tied up to us. However there was a terrible bumping and crashing of boats. Their stern line (a rope over an inch thick) snapped and bent up our fairlead (a metal thing for putting the rope through). The cleat (another metal thing) also looked at risk. Eventually Ben, the rookie egineer, agreed they needed to be moved before they pulled our boat apart.
The boat, although bouncing up and down violently, was now quite safe so we took the dinghy across the harbour to the beach on the other side. I decided to swim back to the boat from the beach as my ‘One Mile’ exercise. It was impossible to draw the view from the boat as it was bouncing up and down so much, so I clambered onto the sea wall and drew from there. The castle at the top of the hill was completely obscured by masts in this position so I had to choose the church instead.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Walk/Swim/Sail One Hundred and Nineteen – Ermioni to Leonidhion passing Spetse

After a quick provisions walk in Ermioni, we set off. We sailed by the island of Spetse, which is the setting for John Fowles’ book The Magus. He taught at a boys boarding school there staffed by British Council suppplied teachers. The main town is notable for having no cars – transport is horse and carriage, mopeds or quad bikes.
The wind died down to such an extent that we were all able to swim in the sea for some time without fear of the boat sailing off. We then gave up on the wind, put on the motor and joy – as we neared the distinctive profile of the land near Leonidhion, we spotted dolphins.
As usual we swam again as soon as we had moored up in the harbour and the boys had fun pootling around with the dinghy and outboard. The swimming will have to make up for my inability to walk miles in this heat.
Dominated by huge mountains, Leonidhion is a tiny two taverna harbour with bitter rivalry between the owners. So rather than give all the custom of the flotilla fleet to one taverna, we had a punch party on the pebbly beach at sunset together and then made our choice of taverna.
For pictures of Spetse and Leonidhion, look at my other blog.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Walk/Swim/Sail One Hundred and Eighteen– Poros to Ermioni

Yesterday we had a four hour plane journey, followed by a three and a half hour coach ride to Poros, a river taxi over the water to the island and finally a taxi ride to the boat, so we fell into bed at about midnight. Now did you really think I was going to walk a mile in temperatures in excess of 40 degrees when there was a boat to sail and a cool blue sea to swim in? I did walk around Poros in search of lunch provisions, but we were keen to sail our lovely 37.2 foot boat ‘Maria Kallas’ as soon as possible, so were the first boat in the flotilla to set off (in the wrong direction – but that’s another story). At our lunch stop we swam and snorkelled. Tom and Hugo swam to the nearby rocky land and climbed up the hillside. In a scene reminiscent of that wonderful Louis Sachar book ‘Holes’, Tom found a giant onion growing at the the top of the hill, he clutched it to his chest and swam back to the boat. He then developed an uncomfortable allergic reaction to the ‘onion’, so we thought we’d better not risk putting it in our salad. Then off to Ermioni (Hermione) a small peninsula on the mainland, facing the island of Hydra. As soon as we’d moored the boat, another swim on the other side of the peninsula followed by an evening at a taverna with the other members of the flotilla.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I’m back!

Today is really the third of September and after a truly awful delayed flight back courtesy of EasyJet, I’m ready to start blogging and posting. A wonderful family holiday in Greece. Quite a few pictures to scan which I’ll post according to the dates they were produced. If you want to see all of the Greece pictures, there’ll be one here for each day and the rest will be on my other blog.

Walk One Hundred and Seventeen – Sunflower in front of Jessamine cottages


Having packed all my colourful media, for my holiday, I was forced to take out the dreaded graphitint pencils. When I spotted this sunflower (a flower this tall, I never quite believed existed when I was a child in Fiji) I intended to draw everything in the dull muted colours I had with me and then add the bright yellow petals of the sunflower with what I had at home. While I was drawing a completely unexpected shower changed all that and turned my pages into more colourful, sodden blotting paper. However I was rewarded with a beautiful bright rainbow.
I’m now ready to go for our long-looked-forward-to sailing holiday in Greece, so I’ll post all my walking and drawing when I get back in about two weeks time.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Sixteen – Modern art

These bales spread out across the field seemed to me so much like a piece of wonderful contemporary sculpture, I really wanted to capture them. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to slip out of the house and leave the little Emperor behind with the older children. Thus it was difficult to paint with a three year old who had become bored with his own sketch and sticker book and who thought that scooping up the mud on the track and throwing it at everything in sight was a far better way to express himself.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Fifteen – Glorious evening

Wierd weather. All day we had a tropical downpour. Then at about four it started to clear, the sun came out and we had the most magnificent towering clouds, shades of blue, grey, purple, contrasting with the gold of wheat stubble fields. It was so beautiful, walking up to the bluebell wood, I just thought ‘Give up, take the camera with you in future’.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Fourteen – And then it rained

Wonderful towering cumulo-nimbus (I think). I took the ‘big’ kit with me (bigger watercolour paper, bigger watercolour set, proper sable brushes) and guess what – I forgot the water! Luckily there were a few waterbrushes at the bottom of the bag, so some water was available to push around the page.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Thirteen – Mother and son sketching

It was lovely to have Hugo with me on my walk. We both sat down in the field to draw Hill End Farm before it disappears. I was using the water-resistant moleskine sketchbook (which is the last one I’m going to bother with) and Hugo was using a tiny book I’d given him full of flecked brown paper.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Twelve – Dogs and owners

Lots of work to finish before our imminent holiday, so once again just a quick walk around Langley Wood. On the way up I drew the cows. On the way down passed by one of the regular fellow dog-walkers who by appearance really ought to own Rufus. What is it with that big stick he always carries?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Eleven – Hill End Farm

I intend to try to draw this farm a few times as I saw a planning application on one of my walks to knock down these farm buildings and replace them with new ones. Much of the land and farm buildings round here, until very recently were owned by the Salvation Army, however with declining donations and on the advice of ‘management consultants’ much has now been sold off. The tenants have been evicted, farm workers have received redundancy notices and the bright new future is upon us.

I painted this in the evening from Pound Farm, after my friend Louise’s birthday party so just a quick walk up the hill to beyond the bluebell wood and back.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Ten – The not so idyllic village


This may not look much of a walk, but in fact it’s two walks overlapping each other. The first time I set off across Spencer Playing Field at about five, I came across about eight children – one of whom looked as young as twelve – who were openly drinking alcohol and smoking in the corner of the field. As I walked past they made abusive noises at me. They had absolutely no concern that an adult saw them. I returned home by a parallel road and rang the police who said they would send someone out as soon as possible. I then had to pick up some of the family from the station so was only able to resume the walk about half an hour later. This time the children were staggering down the High Street being intimidating and abusive to residents and passers by. So I returned home and rang the police again.

Several things really got me down, first that the children had so little concern for authority, they didn’t seem to care if anyone witnessed their law breaking and ugly behaviour. And secondly that the police did not seem to have the resources or manpower to deal with the unsocial behaviour immediately, before it got even further out of hand. I then set off again – by this time the children had disappeared – and I sat on a wall and drew these buildings at Pound Farm.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Nine – The smell of wheat dust


Once again tried to draw the pigs, but they wouldn't keep still. Then a quick sketch of the combine harvester with the tractor and trailer driving alongside to catch the grain.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Eight – Woodcock Hill sky

I drove over Woodcock Hill four times today dropping off and picking up Hugo for his windsurfing session. The clouds were so dramatic, solid, strongly lit and sometimes a steely blue-grey contrasting with the golden stubble of the wheatfields. So when I walked late this evening I headed towards the same spot. They were completely different again, with the setting sun making the top edges of the clouds blush a peachy pink.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Seven – Harvest time

Lovely long walk with Flo. I persuaded her to pose and sit down in the wheat stubble as she was far more interesting to draw than anything else I could see. She’s getting anxious/excited about her forthcoming GCSE results. I said the funny thing about these first important exams is that you will remember the exact grades you received for the rest of your life. It’s highly probable that aged 90 you’ll still be annoyed that you got a ‘C’ for French when you thought you deserved a ‘B’.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Walk One Hunded and Six – Problem solved

A quick nip up to the bluebell wood with a detour round the village church.

I didn’t have much time to walk and draw as I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with Jeremy, the Managing Director of the chain of opticians I was complaining about in my previous post. He was very helpful. He said he’d see if there was any way he could match the online price and if he couldn’t he’d give me the information I had asked for. He explained that ‘The pupillary distance is a measure between the centre of the pupils & is NOT the necessarily the same measurement of optical centration between the lens centres. Vertical positioning of the pupil is also a relevant factor.’ I explained that with having four children a pair of prescription sunglasses was a bit of luxury and that I didn’t have the budget for a really good pair and that I was prepared to take a bit of a gamble on them not being quite right at the sort of prices I could get them online. For my everyday glasses I’d stick with the superb quality and service he had provided for me a few months ago.

Anyway in the end he couldn’t match the prices, he gave me the information I wanted and we parted friends. He did make me laugh though, because he said ‘the trouble with the British public is that buying glasses is a grudge purchase’, well that’s alright for you to say Mr I’m-forty-two-and-I-still-don’t-need-to-wear-glasses! Of course it’s a bloody grudge purchase!

Now Jeremy I think we’ve both been nice but I’ll leave it up to you as to whether you want your company (which did supply me with a truly marvellous pair of varifocals) publicised. Just leave a comment in the comment box and people can link back to you.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Five – Don’t get mad, get even

Well I was hopping mad this afternoon, but then I thought I’d share this story with all of you. A couple of months ago Robin and I spent the best part of a thousand pounds on a pair of glasses each at our new London optician. We fully intended to continue using these opticians for all of our ‘proper’ glasses. However for my summer holiday (on a boat) I want to buy a cheap pair of prescription sunglasses and the obvious answer is not to worry too much about quality as there’s a strong possibility they could end up overboard, so I opted to buy some very cheap glasses over the internet. I already have my prescription but I don’t have the pupillary distance, (which when I attempted to measure it myself came out as several different measurements) so I rang my London opticians to ask them what it is. They admitted that they do have the information, however they refused to give it to me and said that they have a company policy of not letting customers know what their pupillary distance is. It seems to me that this could well be flouting the Data Protection Act and even if it isn’t it’s an outrageous way to treat customers who are prepared to regularly spend a great deal of money with them. So at this moment Robin is working on a website along the lines of his NatWest website. Of course if they contact me over the next twenty four hours with the information I’ve asked for then I won’t need to let any of you know which opticians they are.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Four – Unfinished because friends matter more

I started this drawing of a pair of houses in the High Street, but my friends Natalie and Katie were walking down the road and we had such a lot to catch up with that the drawing was abandoned. I may finish it later but I kind of like the way it stops part way through. I then had to quickly charge round the bluebell wood and back home to cook the supper.