Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Trying to Count my Blessings in the Face of the Big Chill

Oh my goodness! Has all of Europe, or maybe the whole world gone freezing cold!

I have to remind myself that I did have the most spectacular summer that I have probably ever had in my entire life just put behind me. That is the only thing that is (just about) keeping me going the last couple of days.

It has not helped that I have not been able to get warm again after returning from Norway. We had temperatures there of -3 to -8 and I was so torn between wanting to be with my beloved Vic and returning to what I thought would be a warmer Spain. Well it is, but still cold and also wet at the moment. Add to that the fact that as our house is still under construction it is not yet properly sealed and insulated against the cold weather and we have not yet got our promised wood burning stove in. I know that that will make a huge difference to the overall temperature of the house, but at the moment it rather seems to be a bit of a pipe dream. And right now I have chapped lips!

Still I try to remain positive in the face of all the weather and all the other difficult things that are going on in our lives at the moment. I also worry about my children when I am feeling like this and wonder what the future holds for them in this rather uncertain economic climate of ours.

But these are the musings at the moment as I find myself at this low point now, where I am just after my exhibition and deciding what is the best way to go forward.

Well there is one positive thing, I have finally started to set up my very own website, not a blog, (which is really just for me to talk about whatever I want to), but a proper website with all my pictures up on it and where people can go and look at the art and also buy what they see, if they so wish. It is still under construction so I will not post the address here just yet – but I will soon. I should think it will be up and running by the weekend.

I suppose the second positive in spite of the chill factor is that I really feel an improvement in my Spanish. I have always found that shutting off for a spell can actually help and that is what I did when I went to Norway to visit Vic last week. It wasn’t really intentional as I did take my audio tapes with me so that I could listen while walking, but as I did not do as much walking as I had intended to, owing to the cold, I did not actually manage to get my earplugs in at all the whole week and in fact spent a happy time trying to remember some Norwegian, which to my delight I still could. Not all but more than expected. So much so that I keep saying ‘Hei hei!’ to people now instead of ‘Hola!’ although I am back in Spain – they probably think that I am mad. Well actually I don’t suppose they would be far off the mark there!

But getting back to that point, yes, after shutting off the Spanish for a bit I have somehow absorbed more of what I have learned and feel that my skills have stepped up a notch. And it feels good.

Another blessing is that after two and a half days of almost solid rain the sun is now trying to raise its head.

And I suppose the biggest blessing of all is that in a mere two and half weeks Vic will be winging his way home to me for Christmas!

So there, I have suddenly talked myself around again to looking forward to good things to come: Christmas, Vic, Websites, talking to friends in Spanish as well as English and also I have been reliably informed that this cold spell will be taking a break this coming weekend so I might get myself warmed up a bit then.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Zeitgeist

Well I watched it. I waited until I had finished the very last cut of my final lino block for my exhibition because I had a feeling about it. And yes, when I sat down and watched it from start to finish I recognized the fact that in his film ‘Avatar’ James Cameron had stolen all my ideas about the interconnectedness of nature.

Of course it is not just my idea and that is why it brought to mind the zeitgeist.

When I was in college there was a lot of that sort of thing talked about, also the collective unconscious which could sort of explain why the zeitgeist can happen. It fascinated me then and led to some work concerning twins as I figured they were more connected than singletons. I like the idea of a certain amount of involuntary telepathy between people and the world which they inhabit. I love those quirky news stories too about the telepathy and sixth sense of animals too. I also like the way my ear gives an involuntary twitch when it hears a sudden unexpected sound just like a wolf’s ear listening for a rustle in the undergrowth. I also quite enjoy the feeling of the hairs on my neck rising when I am reading a scary book or watching a scary film.

But I digress a little bit as I was talking about the zeitgeist. However, the zeitgeist at the moment is about the interconnectedness of nature and it is about green issues and global warming and all those sorts of things. Which is a good thing in my opinion. Of course one could argue that this interest in these issues has come about through advertising and education and of course there is an element of that and one could also argue that it has come about at this time because of the very fact that global warming does seem to be having an affect on this little old planet of ours, changing the seasons and the weather patterns. Why here in the Costa del Sol it rained last winter for three months solid! Weather absolutely unheard of in recorded history! Mind you if the Spanish lived in Ireland then they would really know about rain!

Still the rain is vital for the earth to keep on living. We are now in the happy position of having enough in our reservoirs here for the next two summers (this one already gone of course – which was three). And that is one of the things I do so love about the world we inhabit. It has such a neat way of taking care of itself. That does not mean that it can support all its inhabitants, and I know that this is an unpopular theory but there are too many of us people. We have been far too successful at breeding and becoming a menace to the planet and so the planet will simply eradicate us, or a lot of us at any rate, in its own way. It is not something that most people seem to want to face I know, but the fact is that there are too many people on this planet and we have dirtied it and destroyed parts of it – perhaps irreversibly, but as the eternal optimist I think not. However changes will have to be made. And here I know I am not alone – this is the old zeitgeist coming up again – which is why there is so much art, films, literature etc etc about nature and global warming and other green issues.

And ‘Avatar’ is about that too. I know it is also written in the old ‘Hollywood’ or ‘American film format’ in order to make it a blockbuster. The story did not interest me at all to be honest. It was completely predictable. It was not even the special effects. It was primarily the save the planet thing and then the planet will save you and I did love the imagination that designed the creatures on that planet. I suppose the correct term for what interested my was the subtext or subplot – but those trendy terms are too much for a simple-minded mushroom picker like myself.

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Language of Mushrooms

Well, another week has flown by. I cannot really quantify what I did this week although I know it was lots of stuff. Lots of little stuff that had been neglected while I was moving certainly towards my exhibition deadline. I do remember that I also had to go to Malaga twice as well for different things. A busy, busy, busy little bee!

One thing I am certain of though is that this week I was incredibly tired all of the time and putting one foot in front of the other has been an effort. Still I did do a couple of desultory runs either in the forest or on the country road route, which is the shorter run for busy days.

I can only suppose that it is in the aftermath of the exhibition as the adrenalin has receded that I am feeling all washed up.

One thing is for certain though, at the moment my passion for running has decreased as my passion for mushrooming has, well…mushroomed. :-) Sorry! I know, really a terrible pun!

But seriously, running does become quite difficult when your head turns involuntarily at the sight of something interesting winking at you from the hedgerow and you are forced to swerve to a sudden stop to take a quick examination of the said ‘winking’ object.

It was when I was out – probably last Sunday - in the forest that I started to notice little glossy brown and yellow heads poking their way out of the ground and through the pine needles. I knew that there were mushrooms to be had and so I was on the lookout and it really was only a short step, once my interest was aroused, to going on a proper hunt.

Now by proper I will admit that I am ill-equipped at present. I do not have a basket to my name so had to make do with plastic bags (which is completely the wrong thing to put mushrooms into), but I took a little sharp knife and my trusty camera. It has been such an enjoyable and satisfying sort of an exercise, going off road and starting to explore the actual forest floor. And even on my first outing – which was completely at the wrong time, being of an evening, a Thursday it was. I still managed to get quite a few mushrooms, which I then rushed home with in order to start the identity parade.

I did know that I was on to something as when I was looking I found the ground disturbed in lots of places and some remains of mushrooms. At first I thought it might have been animals rooting but then along my travels I bumped into two women a-foraging too. They eyed me suspiciously as I was obviously ‘stealing’ their mushrooms.

The next morning I went out for my jog, but wished that I had brought a bag and my knife, for while I was sweating along two cars overtook me and parked up ahead. When I reached them the occupants were already well up in the woods with their baskets at the ready and they were bent over and looking, looking, looking all over the forest floor. I yearned to follow them up and see where they were looking and what they were finding, but am not sure of mushroom etiquette – it seems to be quite a solitary sport and I am sure there is a certain amount of competition involved: The biggest, the most, the rarest, the most tasty, the most peculiar looking one. You do have to be careful who you ask about these things as not everyone is willing to share their own hard won knowledge.

Still I get nearly as much satisfaction knowing that others are picking the mushrooms and making use of them. Even uneaten – as mine still are – I so enjoy the way your mind just turns off everything else as you have to concentrate on looking around and trying to discern the smallest hint of fungi poking its way out of the ground – and they are well hidden, well disguised as stones a lot of the time. Quite clever they are.

I went out again today as it was a Sunday, so a day for recreation. I was planning to go really early, which would have been the time, but I went out to visit a friend last night so was not home until around two! Getting up early this morning just was not on the cards. So it was about 12 before I was ready and up and out. Again this was a bit too late and when I got to all the secret places there was recent ground disturbance and evidence of mushrooms taken. Still I had a successful forage and quite lost myself to the forest, the earth, the trees, the smells and the sounds. There were other people there too, some picking mushrooms and there were others beating olives off the trees.

The difficult part starts now of course. I do have a few books of mushrooms, one in English, one in Spanish and two in German – just to make things interesting. So as a result I am concentrating on the Latin names so that I can cross-reference between the books. I am finding that you have to do that. One book may have a photo, the next a drawing and the third has a really good description and I am feeling my way with this whole project. By the way this project does not simply involve collecting, cooking and eathing the fruits of the forest but I also know that there are one or two paintings or prints gestating away somewhere in the farthest corners of my brain.

I have also asked several people what they think. One man told me that the yellow ones were definitely edible – but you have to peel the skin and take off the spongy underside. The next told me that the others I had in my bag were definitely the edible sort but not the yellow ones! But I sensed that he was also open to suggestion as when I asked him about the ones with the pink stalks he sort of moved over to my way of thinking on them, so I got the feeling that he really didn’t have a clue. The last person I asked today is Latvian – and Eastern Europeans really do have the knowledge of these things. He passed most of them as edible with an easy assurance but said that of them all the yellow ones are the most tasty! So I think I can safely try those at this stage – although by this time they are a bit wilted so will have to make an effort one morning this week to go again and collect some fresh. Even the books contradict each other regarding tastiness of the various types, but not on the toxicity.

So the rest is down to me now and my books. Unless I can find someone who really knows and is willing to go with me up to the forest. That would be completely super of course, but I am not sure that there are that many experts here, but then again you never know until you ask and that is one thing I am getting very good at – in any language!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

After the Event

Well, the exhibition opening has come and gone. I was calm and in control right up to the end. I worked methodically through everything I had to do like a well-oiled machine. On the night the timing was perfect. I had time for a nice refreshing and cleansing shower beforehand and then had an hour and a half to prepare the tapas, which I did with three minutes to spare! I enjoyed it. I had to just do it. There was no time to stop and think too much, although at the same time I was making up certain recipes and mixtures of flavours. It was creative and hugely satisfying and relaxing. I even had enough time to wipe down the counters and stack the dirty boards, knives and mixing bowls for a wash-up later on.

I can’t believe how relaxed I was when I arrived at the Casa de la Cultura and calmly started opening bottles of wine and stacking up the plastic cups and organizing the hospitality table in general.

And then the people started arriving. Most were friends but there were also various interested people who I had never met before and there were visiting dignitaries invited by the powers that be. The gallery wasn’t thronged, but I was more than happy with the turnout. It was interesting to see the people who did support me and those that did not. Of course people have their own reasons for not coming on the night and so I prefer to dwell on the surprise of certain people who did come.

It was an enjoyable night for me. Of course I must have been a little bit nervous and in fact I know now that I must have been quite wired over the past couple of weeks of intense work and planning because for the last two days (after the event) I feel about a hundred years old and am having the greatest difficulty dragging my aching bones out of the bed in the morning. Still I forced myself out this morning and went up to my beloved forest. It was a struggle, especially as the weather last night was wet and very windy and it looked cold this morning, so I put on a fleece and was glad of it, although by the time I got to the forest I was sweating gently.

And there I was surrounded by the damp and earthy smells. There was a lovely blue tinge in the air where there was a slight morning mist hanging just suspended by invisible hands. I saw two different types of mushrooms. I was told yesterday by someone who knows about these things that there are mushrooms to be had up there so I was on the look out. It is frustrating that I have not yet learned which ones are edible though. I have the fear of God in me about picking poisonous ones and so hesitate. It is so hard to identify them from books and there is always a margin of error.

My attempts at jogging this morning were pretty hopeless I will admit, but I forced myself to do just a little bit of stop-start stuff. My legs felt like lead and felt quite stiff down the backs of my calves as well. Still I did a bit and perhaps will be fresher tomorrow and I will try again. All the same I managed to free my mind from all the work of the past few weeks and two new ideas just popped into my head. I have now jotted down notes on them and this afternoon I will do a couple of little sketches in my sketchbook to keep them there until I have time to carry them out properly.

Today it is still windy although in the main there is good sunshine. It is a holiday tomorrow for All Soul’s Day (or is it all Saint’s – I always get the two confused and really think that only the very devout know for sure) so there have been a few firecrackers and rockets going off today. I am sure there will be some marching and drumming tomorrow too. It starts to fascinate me, this heartbeat of the land. I often hear drumming practice going on at various times. It is a country of rhythm and slowly but surely I start to slip into that rhythm. The heartbeat starts to control all the residents unless they strongly resist. I have no problem with being sucked in. I like the warmth of the country and of the people that I am meeting here slowly or ‘poco a poco’. I am in no great rush. I have the rest of my life.


Thursday, 21 October 2010

Just a Quickie

I am a bit busy trying to get everything ready for my exhibition - opening on the 29th of October.

Things like my Blog have slid a little bit, but I will return all guns blazing after the opening which is always a little bit stressful!

I hope you will tune back in again afterwards and I apologise for not Blogging conscientiously.

Mary x

Sunday, 10 October 2010

After the Rain


Well, I think I have jinxed the Costa del Sol. It used to be sunny here before I came to live here and now it seems to have turned on its head and become the Costa del lluvia. It rained all last night it would seem – I don’t know exactly as I slept through most of it. There must be a medal in there somewhere – something about Global Warming and all my wishes and hopes for the safe destiny of the Earth and the human race.

I woke this morning to the continuing sound of rain on the roof and on the street outside – always a little bit worrying as we need to get our roof seen to after the rains of last winter – it took a bit of a beating and will sadly have to be replaced to make it secure.

But on the upside – apart from the roof – I actually like rain! I know it sounds mad, but I did move to Ireland in the first place – nearly 30 years ago because I thought the climate would suit me and I was right back then. But everyone is permitted to change and have different wants and requirements at different stages of their lives and now I really crave the warmth on my bones which is why I came here – well one of the reasons. For me the climate seems perfect now as it is though as I do like the seasons and like to see the world turning. The day coming and going, the weeks passing and Summer turning into Autumn and then Winter, and as the earth revolves the Spring returns to warm the ground.

So I was happy with the rain last night and when I had got myself up and dressed and had looked up some stuff on the internet it was about half past eight by which time the rain had stopped and the skies had cleared so I set off for my Sunday morning walk and now jog through the forest. I have to say it was breathtaking after the rain. The air was clear and washed. There was none of the usual dust in the atmosphere. The ground underfoot was not packed hard and had a nice softness and give to it. Nice for walking and especially jogging on. I like the colours of the ground too after the rain – all the colours are richer and more defined.

And then I turned to have a look at the view! I don’t think a verbal description can do it justice. But I will try. The mountains looked like they were cut out cleanly against the sky by God’s scissors. The slopes were carved starkly by His carving tools – every crevice and nook and cranny showed up in stark contrast – that is, where you could see them, for the lower parts of the mountains were still swathed in wet washed clouds – white fluffy but ripped – they resembled really fresh washed bed linen, pure white and whipped around the lower part of the mountains. Breathtaking! I say it again with no shame – for that is what I felt as I stood there up on a height after a steady climb, my lungs were working hard at breathing in the clean and quite cold air – the little hairs were standing up on my arms, working hard to keep me warm – but it felt great, really fresh and invigorating and that view! If I did really believe in God He was there on the mountain today busy carving and cutting and whipping.

I wish I had thought to bring my camera with me – but there is only so much you can carry with you on a jog and I had not thought that there would be those sort of spectacular photo opportunities. Still I have the picture etched in my head and for you now described as best I can here. (The photo posted here now was taken after the last rains actually - and is of twigs which were swept into little banks by the heavy rains as they washed along the forest track)

What the clearness also brought to me were visions of some really nice ideas for future works – prints and/or medals. As I walked and jogged and thought I dreamed up four distinct different images – of which I think two are really viable. I noted all of them in my sketchbook on my return and look forward to starting on them as soon as my current exhibition is over. Of course being me I really want to start on them now – but time really being far too short at this stage I will have to concentrate on what I have already started first.

Tie me down!!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

A New Leaf - Running up to the Exhibition!

Well who would have thought it little old me has got a date for an exhibition in the Casa de la Cultura right here in Alhaurín el Grande. The 29th of October – a bit sooner than previously mooted. So now I am quietly going into panic mode. Of course I will get everything done in time – I have got too, haven’t I?

The only trouble is this I have ordered paper and lino from England – So far it has not been possible to get suitable paper here or suitable lino either for that matter. Because of the exorbitant cost, I opted for 7 day delivery – let us hope it is just that and not longer or I will be in serious trouble. I have of course two lino plates cut already and two drawings completed for getting down to work as soon as the lino arrives and then get on to printing. In a well organized campaign I would in the meantime try to complete two additional drawings which could then also be converted into lino on its arrival. However, that is really only part of the problem. The bigger part is getting the plates printed up, time consuming anyway and then comes the worst part. The ink is special slow-drying stuff which takes weeks to dry! I know! and I don’t have weeks so I will be out with the hairdryer I guess and I think that there will be prints going into frames even while they are still wet. I hope they do not get smudged.

Well there is nothing to be done about it.

Actually I have just missed the first attempted delivery now (it is Friday) – so will have to wait until Monday for a second attempt. This time I will be home (which I was) but will leave the front door open and the music off. When I am in my office/studio I do not actually hear sometimes when the doorbell rings downstairs. It is a bit silly actually as the bell is at the front door of course – and low enough for every child in Alhaurín to reach and ring as they walk past! However, the ding-dong bit is just inside the front door, but still outside in the porch and so quite difficult to hear when one is at the back of our incredibly long house. I really do not quite know how it got designed like that – but when I lay my hands on the culprit I will give him Ding-Dong! I think I will disconnect the bell when the intercom bell goes in – the new one will ring deeper inside the house and upstairs to boot so should actually alert me to visitors without my having to sit waiting at the front door, quiet as a mouse. Actually I should ring up the electrician to get the intercom installed, but you know what it is like – these little jobs just get pushed to the back of the pile especially when there other more important things still to be done – like building the rest of the house!

In any event I am not actually in much of a fit state to do anything today as I went to the opening of an exhibition last night and from there out for a few drinks with our friend Steve. Then back to ours for a nightcap. It was late and I had far too much to drink.

So I was not going to have anything tonight – it being Saturday now (this blog post seems to be going on interminably), but got wind that the new bar on the Plaza Baja was opening this evening so decided I would go down to lend them a bit of support. It was very enjoyable with lots of people there, free drinks and the chef was taking tapas around all the evening. They had also gone to the trouble of hiring a band, which was very good also. The only downside was that my darling Vic was not with me as he is back in England at the moment. So of course now I have had a few drinks anyway – still I have not overdone it and should be fresh in the morning and so will be able to go for a good walk in the forest methinks – that will start the week well.

So in fact, in spite of what appears to be a bit of a ramble, I have brought the theme through this blog after all – which is new beginnings and openings. My exhibition opening, the opening last night, the launch of the new bar and a new week starting tomorrow. Also you could add to that a new leaf as I will not drink tomorrow in order to renew my liver. I promise.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

El Bosque/The Forest - or Home

I have just discovered the forest in Alhaurín. I knew it was there, but it would appear that I have been flirting with it a little bit – or perhaps it has been flirting with me.

In truth I have been a little bit afraid of entering it. Although I was longing for the cool and still of the canopy I held back because I did not know how dark and mysterious it might be. I also did not want to rush it as I plan to be here for a very long time, so why try and find out everything at once? I want to savour each new experience before moving onto the next.

And so I danced around its edges. I began by walking up along the top road in Alhaurín – Calle Blas Infante – which is built up and has its share of shops, cafes and bars. I continued walking this road every day until I learned of a country road parallel to it, but just a bit higher up. This is in itself a much more satisfactory sort of road as it has more grass, wildflowers, trees and fields and no pavement and fewer houses so one has to walk on the road. Country.

But from certain points along this country road I could see the way some of the fincas stretched up as far as the first trees of the forest – their wire fences snaking their way up the incline and disappearing from view as the overgrowth becomes thicker or they meet a cliff face. For in a lot of that stretch, below the forest, on the south side of the pueblo, the slope of the mountain is broken at the base by a sheer drop. It is in this cliff face that you can see the caves. Some are quite large although they do not seem to extend deep within the earth – but the caves will have to be explored at some point in the future – for now it is the forest that holds me enthralled.

From the country road to forest was not a long transition – once I could see the close proximity to the lower level of the mountain I was like a moth fluttering closer and closer to the flame. So one day, not so very many weeks ago now, I walked up to it boldly and entered it.

As I had anticipated it is a place of awe and wonder. It is not a place for earphones, music or Spanish lessons, and I only take my phone in case of emergencies although there are always people walking dogs, jogging or cycling, so in fact you are quite safe, unless of course you leave the track and then you would be on your own – so I take it just to be on the safe side.

Although you do meet people there are not many, so the wonderful sense of isolation and contemplation is all around. The forest is mostly silent. Sounds are muffled but still at times you can hear the church bells from the village, very distant, and also sometimes cries and shouts of people (playing perhaps?) echo up, but it is only in parts. My favourite sound is the sudden cracking of a branch. Obviously there are some birds, still unidentified. Some of them caw like crows, although they are not – I saw one fleetingly yesterday and it had much more colour, some blue beneath and brownish on the back, and I have seen the eagles whirling overhead making their pip pip noise.

Of course if you stop and listen you can hear much more; the creeping of beetles and the rustle of branches in the wind and bees buzzing while they gather nectar.

But mainly as you walk you are overwhelmed by the silence around you, disturbed only by the crunch of your own feet on gravel or twigs

I have taken some photos, obviously, and am delighted at how some of them really capture the essense of the forest – the blackness of the shadow between the trees and the brightness and contrast of a shaft of light as it forces its way through some gap or other in the foliage. There is also a blue haze that permeates parts of the forest, like magic mist.

The trees are mainly pine – although in the later part of my walk – obviously depending which direction you take – these are replaced by olive, some fig, some oak and other species as yet unidentified.

I believe the pine trees to be pinus pinea or Stone or Umbrella Pine – the latter name really appealing to me now and opening all sorts of parallel avenues! If anyone knows different then please email me and correct me of course. The bark is very distinctive with very strong vertical platelets – the colour ranges from various greys to terracotta. Really beautiful. I love the strong texture and the earthy palette. I have also discovered – if my identification is correct – that these have large edible nuts in the cones, so I must watch out for these.

Of course I am keeping my eyes and other senses peeled for signs of mushrooms as the thought of being able to go a-mushrooming in the autumn is a thought which truly gladdens my heart. I don’t think you could ever go hungry if you lived in a forest and you know how I feel about mushrooms!

And so I explore – so far I have not strayed very far from the forestry pathway, which is large enough to take a car by the way, but bit by bit I know I will venture off road and further up the side of the mountain, but that is not usually recommended to do on your own – in any event it is still a bit too hot, but in another month who knows. For now I am content to continue my flirtation getting to know the curves and nuances and studying the light and magic places in the most traveled part of the forest.

I love the forest and now that I have found it I feel more content and more fulfilled in my choice to move here. I knew it was the right place for me to call ‘Home’

Friday, 3 September 2010

Artist's Block or Clouds and Silver Linings

Did I write about this subject before. If I did, well forgive me, as I am going to write about it again. Why? Because it is an affliction that affects all artists form time to time – some more than others – and it is so frustrating and debilitating. When it happens you procrastinate and procrastinate and then finally sit facing an empty canvas or sheet of paper and realize that it is now or never and so nothing else gets done in the house, as actually everything has been done during the first period of procrastination. No more books may be read either, because that is procrastinating too, although it can be classed as inspiration at times, in which case it may then be allowed, but you have to read something worthy not some easy-read-bodice-ripping-yarn. And then it is Ohmygod! I have to produce something or never again!

I wish I had a job in the library. Then I could pretend that I was not an artist and never was.

When I was little I thought it was great to be an artist. Not because I thought it was a cool profession, in those days things like that never entered my head as I was too busy looking at clouds or umbrellas, but because if you make things – like I did – then you were never lonely or never bored.

How wrong was I!

I get terribly lonely sometimes and when I am facing that empty sheet of paper I can be so bored, because nothing presents itself – then it is little steps. I might draw a leaf. But then that leads to nothing. I try to draw a landscape. Difficult at the best of times. Nothing. A building – I could never draw straight lines anyway. I go through old notebooks and try to haul out ideas from them. I have some good ideas there, but then trying to draw them when I am like this can be impossible. I draw another leaf. Terrible, it doesn’t even look like a leaf. I can’t draw and will never be able to draw again! I get up and pace the floor backwards and forwards, thinking, thinking, what will I draw? What do I want to draw? I go upstairs into the bedroom and look out the window at my pigeons for inspiration. They are not even there – gone out shopping I suppose – I look at an empty drainpipe, well empty except for those dirty plastic bottles which I must remove when I get a long stick. Not much inspiration here.

I go to my artbooks and look through them. Fantastic! All these artists making all this fabulous work and I can’t even draw a blessed leaf! That doesn’t help it only makes me more frustrated and jealous. I wail and gnash my teeth – not that this helps either, but it is involuntary.

I go downstairs again and sit in front of my paper. It is blank.

I go into the kitchen and make a cup of tea – I wander round polishing a bit while the kettle boils. Teabag, stir, squeeze – half a spoon of sugar, stir – good dollop of milk – it is all about ritual. Anything to waste another bit of time without having to stare at that darned piece of paper. The blank piece.

I sit down in front of my blank piece of paper and drink my cup of tea. I finish the tea, the paper is still blank. I go to the kitchen and wash the cup and put it to drain on the draining board.

I sit down in front of my blank piece of paper and pick up my pencil desperately looking around me for inspiration – even my hair is standing up on end with frustration! There is no inspiration at the kitchen table under the stairs.

I get up and go back upstairs, I have had an idea. I get my old source books out – which I made in college and miraculously kept – well it wasn’t really a miracle it was because I remember our tutors saying that when you were blocked – and everyone gets blocked from time to time – get out your old sketchbooks and sourcebooks and look at them. What wise tutors we had in college and how wise I was to listen to them.

I go through the source books and find a picture I like which could work with the theme I wish to explore so I go downstairs again and slowly, very slowly start to copy the picture – just copy it – that is ok, it is still my drawing of the photo in front of me and as such it starts to take on a small life of its own and bit by bit I become absorbed in the process of making lines and drawing wrinkles, I do not want to put in any shading at this point as this is going to be a line drawing for a print – the shading will come with the cutting of the plate. I do not notice the time going until I look up and find it is getting dark in the room where I sit and there are mosquitoes nipping at my ankles, so I get up to close the door.

My body is stiff from being in the same position for a long time and my eyes smart from squinting at the paper and from the tears of frustration that were flowing freely from them earlier that day and for the past few days.

I look at the drawing again and am happy with it. That is a result, although I am not out of the woods yet. Still it is late and my body is tired so I pour a drink and allow myself to sit at the table with a book in my hand and read a bit to take my mind off the terrible day I have put down.

From early morning until late in the evening I have finally produced a tiny little speck of a drawing and I know it is not one of my best, but it is better than the leaves or the other various attempts I made over the past few days.

The house is spotless. All the bedlinen has been washed and the floors have been swept, vacuumed and washed down twice. Window frames have been cleaned and all the little corners of the kitchen have been attended to. I hung a picture and the clock in the kitchen, filed all my documents and receipts – which means I will not be able to find anything. I picked up all the clothes draped on the floor the two bedroom chairs and the end of the bed and folded and put them all away. The ones that needed washing have been washed and folded and put away also. I sorted though my chest of drawers as well for old clothes and these have been washed, folded and bagged for the charity shop. The toilets have been scrubbed, delimescaled and bleached to within and inch of their lives and all the chrome fittings are sparkling.

Letters have been written, blogs have been written, Spanish verbs have been copied and filed for later use (in other words – lost). All the old newspapers have been tossed and I even swept my under-construction-terrace although there is no real need as it really is a work in progress and no matter how many hanging baskets you put on it a cement mixer will always be a cement mixer.

Artist’s block does have its upside I will grant you. But those tears of frustration and the fear of never being able to draw again, not to mention the strain that all the drinking puts on your liver while you have nothing else to do – those are not so good.

People think that being an artist is a jolly life. You get to sit in bars all day and observe people, you are allowed to drink too much and people almost expect you to be wild and behave badly. Some artists do that is true, but most of us just live quietly and try to scrape a living from our work and live from one block to the next with the thought of the next one never far away even when we are working like a maniac.

I remember someone once referring to my art as a ‘hobby’ (I was working as well at that time) that too is not a true perception of what it is to be an artist. It is a compulsion, at least it is for me and part of who I am as a person, my identity, which is why that block is such a threat to me. If I cannot draw or make or whatever, then what am I. At this point in my life I think it unlikely that I will be able to reinvent myself as something else – an engineer for instance – I have been an artist now for 50 year after all and it is somewhat engrained. I was born with this affliction and am certain now that I will die with it. But it is not such an easy ride as people think – I only hope that in time I will also become better at dealing with the block when it comes. But then the house would never get a Spring clean!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Some Like it Hot

Well, now it is HOT!

I am sitting in a pool of sweat – unfortunately not a swimming pool!

I am simply melting, but refuse to be put off. It is still a novelty and after the years and years of incessant rain and cold winds and storms that I have put down in recent times this is definitely preferable.

Let me count the upsides of too much heat:

  1. It is dead easy to drink your required eight glasses of water a day!
  2. You hardly ever have to go to the toilet for a wee.
  3. Like a sauna, it really cleans all the ingrained dirt out of your pores, but there is no snow to roll in after the sauna. Actually the sauna does not end!
  4. You don’t have to wear many clothes which saves on washing.
  5. You don’t have to wear sunblock because it is too hot to go out
  6. But you do manage to keep a nice little brown glow going by very short exposures – to the line and back is sufficient.
  7. On that subject – clothes dry really quickly
  8. You don’t need to put on the central heating in the evenings or fill a hotwater bottle on your way to bed.
  9. You can’t tell when you have a hot flash – because you seem to have one that lasts all day and all night and everybody else is having them too. All of Spain is menopausing!
  10. If you forget to close the window before leaving the house for the day you don’t have to worry about the rain blowing in all over all your bits on the windowsill.
  11. You never have to take a jacket or a wrap on a late night out, although mosquito repellant is advisable
  12. No jumpers
  13. No overcoats
  14. You can work slowly and no one complains
  15. The weeds do not bother to grow so there is no weeding to be done
  16. Mind you as we have discovered that our garden is just one great big rock I do not think that weeding is going to be a huge problem over the years – a huge Zen garden springs to mind! So just a bit of gentle raking when I am in the mood
  17. You can admit to taking a snooze in the afternoon and you don’t have to call it a power nap anymore.
  18. Will I continue?
  19. Or are you getting the picture
  20. When I finally get my wonderful terrace built out the back of the house I will be able to spend the summer time slopping about making fantastic clay sculptures and not worry about getting covered in water and wet clay – it will be an image from Woodstock or Reading Festival, but perhaps a bit more creative.

I do think I have earned this right to be enjoying my life here – obviously it is not perfect as I have been at pains to point out in previous postings, but as a life choice this has to count as one of my better ones. In fact I am not sure that I actually made any real choices before this one – they sort of happened in a much more organic way and I was reactive rather than proactive. Mind you this one I could probably have thought through a bit more first, but hey! That would go against a whole lifetime of shooting from the hip and being led by my heart.

And both those things have served me pretty well so far.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Pigeon Pie

This is the blog I did not want to write – but somehow I knew it was coming. It is a dog eat dog world. Heavens! I write about it and ‘art’ about it often enough and I think about it constantly – but it does not make it any easier.

Just the other day I saw a skinny feral cat calmly crossing my back terrace, hopping up onto the neighbour’s wall – the one jagged up with glass – picking her way across and agily dropping down onto the next terrace before walking into the back shed, all the while gripping the swinging carcass of a huge fat pigeon - feathers awry and head lolling.

And of course I have already told of the other pigeon that was taken by the eagle over our skylight.

There are constant battles for supremacy and survival going on all the time – in my garden, in the street, in our homes and in all of life.

But still all that did not prepare me for the loss of my two adolescent pigeons.

It all happened last night. It is very hot, very hot at the moment. Something about the heat makes the noise and excitement levels rise. Add to that another feria on its way – Our Lady of Alhaurin or something – I have not quite twigged into this one yet. The preliminaries involve letting off those terrible rockets, which upset all the pigeons anyway – sending them flying off in a soaring flock of feathers and terror. But the rockets and then the band music also pumps up the hunting spirit in a band of young gypsies who frequent our street and the square. They make a lot of noise and make mischief – the extent of which I am not certain

I have observed this particular gang over the past months – they are growing in strength and audacity. I saw them the other day in the square in the very hot afternoon intent on tipping over chairs of the various establishments there and trying to steal the napkin holders or other loose articles from the tables. Some might smile and think that it is merely juvenile high spirits and to some degree it is. But when that mischief turns to a habit and shopkeepers and homeowners are worried for their property and businesses on a regular basis then it becomes a problem. People eye them with suspicion and nervousness.

Sometimes the group is small 3 or 4, at other times it doubles or trebles in size and then in its strength and hyped-up excitement also.

As you know I have been watching over my baby pigeons for some weeks now – merely observing them and taking a few photos. From time to time they eye me with some suspicion, but I hope that on the whole they do not view me as a threat.

Last night – the gang of youths arrived in the lane, intent on getting hold of the pigeons – they seem to have a fascination for hunting them anyway. I have seen them in the square where, to be honest, it is a fair fight with adult birds who can fly away, but who take a chance on trying to grab a morsel of food and sometimes the boys do manage to grab them. I have no idea if they take them home for the pot or keep them as livestock or pets, but as I say that is a fair fight and the pigeons usually get away – but this was an attack on adolescent birds who could not fly.

They should have been safe – they were up in a drainpipe two floors up and the boys had spent enough time throwing bottles and cans up at them with no result – so much so that I need to get a stick of some sort to reach across the lane to clear the rubbish out of the gutter – another inconvenience. But ingenious enough after shouting and throwing things for some time they went home only to return some time later armed with sticks and nets.

I had spoken to them on their first foray from my bedroom window, asking them to leave the birds alone, but they actually simply ignored me completely. I did not say anything this time as I did not wish to bring trouble on myself – you can see how they operate now – there are a lot of them and I am here on my own just at the minute and even if I wasn’t, my wonderful man might (probably would) go in all guns blazing and get himself in trouble with the local authorities – you know the way these things work nowadays, the criminals always seem to get off scott free, while the law-abiding person, simply trying to protect himself, his property or his family becomes the bad guy! It just makes me so cross and makes me feel so impotent in the face of badness.

Anyway – to cut a long story short, something I am not inclined to do at the best of times. With loud whooping and baying for blood my babies were eventually ripped from their home to suffer who knows what fate at the hands of their tormentors. I did not watch, but knew from the shouts that it was happening and woke in the morning to an empty drainpipe.

I began this post a few days ago (even longer now) and have been mulling over what I have written and have edited myself severely. There are a lot of serious issues addressed here I believe, ones of human rights and justice as well as cruelty and gang warfare and intimidation. I live in this world as a pacifist (which does not mean that I do not lose my temper from time to time). I have on occasion stuck my head up over the parapet on behalf of myself and others, only to get shot down in flames. I am loathe now to do it again, but I believe that there others who are younger and more energetic who will fly that flag in the future. All I feel that I can do now is observe and report and hope that someone will be able to do something some day and that the world will change for the better.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

A Return to Some Normality - and a bit of introspection

Thank you to all of my friends who - sort of - commiserated with me on my recent accident. I take laughter and shocked horror as commiseration and concern!

As you can see my face has returned to its normal proportions - it is still as crooked as the crooked man in the Nursery Rhyme, but apparently that is a birth defect - I think I must have suffered some trauma coming down the birth canal. But hey ho! I have no recollection of it and have become used to my lopsided nose now - i don't remember it ever holding me back and when I got my nose pierced at 16 it made the decision of which side to pierce much easier really. Though I do think that it has become more crooked as the years have passed, but as my looks are far less important by this time of my life - it really does not matter that much.

That said - i have just spent five minutes writing about it so it must mean something to me! Hmmmm?

Otherwise life has returned to normal - that is i spend an inordinate length of time in front of my computer - writing and drawing and manipulating images. My tan has quite faded, so now I have to make the effort to spend a half an hour outside every day. I try to sit out for my lunch - although today it was too hot and i go for a slow, leisurely walk in the afternoon to the shops to get anything that I need.

I still do my morning walk.

My morning walk is probably more important for a number of reasons, although it will not make me go brown.

First of all for my health - it is the only exercise I get nowadays, although I am trying to do a few stretches again now to keep limber. Those I do throughout the day as a break from sitting at the computer.

Secondly for my education - I plug into my little Ipod and do my aural and oral Spanish lessons - which of course makes me look totally mad as people see me striding along talking to myself. I try not to move my lips too much or to speak too loudly, but with earplugs in you can never be too sure.

Thirdly I get to check that everything is in its place in town and that the mountains have not shifted and if there is any building work going on I can inspect progress on a daily basis. It is no wonder that I am exhausted by ten o'clock in the morning!

Anyway, regarding insects and spiders and any other uninvited guests to this house I now have a military regime in hand - especially in the bedroom where I am the most vulnerable as I do tend to sleep like a log and honestly the house could fall down around my ears and i would not wake. It involves absolute cleanliness and a few well placed insecticides.

That said - the other day I was minding my own business, upstairs, tapping away on my computer when there was an almighty crash from the kitchen and sensing the worst I rushed down the stairs. I had made an omelette for my lunch that day - but it was rather large so i transferred half of it onto another plate and left in on the work top to cool, before putting it in the fridge. It was not there long, because i knew that i would have to check it for ants and get it into the fridge ASAP. But there it now lay on the floor amongst the debris of a smashed dinner plate. I can only conclude that it was a cat as they are the newest visitors that i have seen skulking around lately. So even though I may be living solo at the moment - and only temporarily - I am not alone, nor do I seem to get the chance to be lonely with all this colourful wildlife!

So there you have it!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

A Lifetime of Denial

Christ! I have just realised I have the most crooked face in the world!

Trout Pout

Please forgive me for frightening the children!

This is how i woke up this morning - I promise you that I have not weakened and had collagen injections into my lips to make them fuller. Oddly enough I have always wanted more luscious lips, but now that it has happened i want my own thin lips back again.

What happened you might ask?

Well as far as I know I was bitten by a mosquito or some other insect during the night.

I had just dropped off to sleep but was woken by some sensation, which turned out to be a little stinging in my lip. I lay there thinking for a while, licking the sore lip and realising that it really was sore and not just my imagination. So I got up and went into the bathroom to investigate. On turning my lip back I could see a little blister just starting to swell, so concluded that it was a bite. I applied an antihistamine cream to the area and then went and checked my mosquito plug-in, which was turned off because we had a small power outage yesterday and it had not occurred to me to reset it. So i reset it and sprayed myself and all the surroundng areas with Deet. But too late - for the horse had bolted.

Over the next hour or so, during which I read, slept fitfully and checked on progress of the lip in the mirror my lip grew and grew and grew to this ridiculous proportion. I was wondering if I should go along to the accident and emergency, but felt alright otherwise so waited until the morning.

I took this photo first thing, when the swelling had reached its zenith! Shocking really. And then toddled off to the A & E where to add insult to injury I got jabbed in the bottom too. So now I am sore at both ends. Ho hum! Surely the day can only get better now. :-)

Friday, 6 August 2010

Wing Slapping

I have become somewhat of an expert on pigeon behaviour over the last couple of weeks. It is from observing ‘my’ baby pigeons all tucked up in their drainpipe on the other side of the road.

My first set of twins have now become quite large and very active – I sit on the edge of pin watching them sometimes as I am so nervous that they will fall out of their nest and to the ground below as I do not think they can fly yet.

The other set of siblings are a bit further along from the first two – and I have not been able to observe them quite as well. But I did amazingly see them holding their own in a dispute in the very earliest days of their lives. The mother to the first two had edged her way along the pipe and was trying to steal something, probably food or grass from the two wee babies (their own mother was obviously off foraging somewhere). Well such a noise and commotion they created everytime her beak went near to them. ‘Peeep, peeeep, peeeep!’ over and over again and their little heads were bopping and beaking all over the shop! So much so that with her feathers a bit ruffled First Mum hopped up onto the ledge above the pipe and observed them somewhat coolly from her lofty perch, but made no further assault on the two young ‘uns.

On another occasion I saw the first mum again trying to bully her way into her rival’s home. This time the dispute was with mum number two – who has by the way a rather beautiful dusky pink colouring along her flank, in fact I think that one of her babies is going to take after her in that colouring – They were obviously feeling fractious on this given day and were ‘fighting’ each other up and down the pipe, stepping over debris and chicks alike as they edged up to eachother and started their wing slapping.

Wing slapping is behaviour I am observing more and more. I used to hear it sometimes lying in bed in the morning and wondering what the heck was going on. It is quite loud. The pigeons get right up close to one another and basically just beat the dickens out of each other with their wings. They sort of snap them really quick and they are probably quite strong too – after all they do use those same wings for flying. So I suppose it must hurt. But it is very loud and very purposeful. Anyway eventually one or the other of the fighting pigeons backs down and peace is restored. So far there have been no casualties or worse still, fatalities.

I have also observed the babies slapping their mum with their wings in the same way and am wondering if it is an instinct which stimulates mum to regurgitate her food for them so that they can feed – as they do, rather disgustingly, stick their heads almost entirely down their mother’s throat to get their own dinner. I can only assume that it is some sort of inducement the same way that suckling calves (or my own wee babies!) sort of head butt their mum’s in the udders to help bring the milk down. Well, my own babies did not head butt me so much as nuzzle seekingly, smelling for the milk and homing in onto the nipple, which in turn brought the milk cascading down of its own accord. Isn’t nature just a wonderful thing!

The photo here is not of my two babies but two adults having a bit of a slap and a bit of a beak too. I think the hot weather makes them a bit irritable at times and the drainpipe is not that big either.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

I Love the Sound of Flip-Flops

I love the sound of flip-flops.

I love the way they make you pad gently and the sole of your foot sticks momentarily to the shoe making a sort of swoosh as it breaks free and the flop of the shoe as it hits the ground.

There is something swishy and gentle and quite feminine about them, although men wear them too. Perhaps I like them on men because they show a feminine side – the side all men should know about, whether they wish to get in touch with it or not. Obviously that is their own prerogative.

I love the name flip-flop too. Whoever invented that knew what he, or she was talking about. Shoes that flip and shoes that flop. Shoes that are hardly there at all. Shoes that are well suited to a hot or beachy climate. Even the name conjures up that easy, summertime way of life.

I prefer the ones that are made of that sort of foamy stuff because they are so light they hardly seem to be there at all – the only way you know that you are wearing anything is the flip and the flop and the squish of air as it is pressed out of the foam.

I love the way you have just a toe grip to hold them on. I love the way it slips between your big toe and the next one, quite seductive really, dividing and separating your main toe from the rest. Sometimes that takes a little bit of getting used to if you are just out of winter shoes, but if your toes are not too tight there is generally very little chafing – however, longer walks should not be undertaken until worn in.

I love lying on my bed during the hot afternoon siesta listening to the gentle pad, pad, swoosh, squish of people as they pass in the laneway below my window. You can hear the slightness of sweat and feel the coolness of the air circulating around bare feet.

Did I mention that I love feet?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

all sorts


Well, the heat continues and so do I.

I noticed today that my shoulder does not click as often as it used to (please do not let me be tempting fate!) and I do not remember the last time that it ached. I have hardly used any painkillers since moving here. Is that the heat or is it all the olive oil? I really have no idea, but a new lease of life is not something that I wish to hand back.

50 is the new 16!

Still, just so that you do not all become insanely jealous of my ‘perfect’ life here, I do have to contend with the ants!

The other evening I was a bit tired and decided that I would put out the rubbish in the morning, when I went out for my walk. So I toddled off to bed. On waking I did the normal things, going to the toilet, splashing a bit of water on my face, looking bleary eyed at the face staring back at me. Got dressed and went down in the usual sort of morning trance. Put my hand in under the sink to get the rubbish bag and YIKES! You guessed it – they were charging up my arm like lots of little aliens from one of those ghastly films that make your flesh creep for days after watching them.

That woke me up.

Under the tap went the arm and for the next 20 minutes I was battling lots of little black creepy crawlies that were running around like demented warriors as they tried to avoid my washcloth and various insect sprays. I did all the corners – taking care not to get any on any food – although already wise to the threat of ants I keep all my food in the fridge now, so there really wasn’t much, only an old lemon or so.

I eventually got out for my walk – with the rubbish bag double-wrapped, to be dropped off.

Of course later on I had to wash the whole kitchen floor and all the counter tops with some detergent and bleach because the whole incident made me feel a bit dirty and in actual fact, as I had used sprays it made sense to clean off any splashed insecticides.

In fact there are a whole new range of creepy crawlies living in this country. The jumping spiders really freak me out and they do not stand a chance I am afraid against me and the mop. I know you will think I am terribly cruel, but I do exterminate as quickly as possible – with as little suffering caused either to the insect (or arachnid) in question or myself. It is definitely a case of survival of the fittest around here – or the fattest hehehe! Anyway it is my house and I will share it with other creatures of my own choosing only.

I still get bitten by the mosquitos on a regular basis also, but just try to minimize the attacks, using my plug in and sometimes some spray on repellants if I am going out of an evening. That cracks me up too: I am going out, so I shower and wash my hair and spray my body with various potions and unguents and then when I am polished and pressed and smelling like a tart’s boudoir I go and lash on the Deet! Which just about covers everything else up.

Ho hum – I suppose that is the law of the jungle too.

Right I’m off

PS by the way – got two baby pigeon chicks in the drainpipe, does that qualify me for being a mum again!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

a glimpse of our town


I suppose because it is such a new experience for me - but i love the way the heat makes me feel like part of Spain. It is as if I am melting into the very earth, or into the pavement - so that I become part of the town. You cannot be coy when there is liquid pouring out of every pore, there is something completely sensual and personal about it.

The barriers are down before you start to speak with anyone - everyone is hot.

This is a glimpse of our town and our beautiful parish church. Oh and just check out those stunning mountains!! It was taken the other other morning. I go out earlier and earlier for my walk but cannot avoid the heat now, so i just have to be hot on my walk too - there is no early morning coolness to enjoy.

But ask me if I care!

no

I love it.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Cuckoo Spite

Finally I get to show you my medal which I made for the British Art Medal Society (www.bams.org.uk) I made it while still living in Norway and all the time it was simmering away in the background, getting cast and finished for me - as i was not in a position to do any of the work myself.

It is called Cuckoo Spite and, yes you have of course seen the drawings I did for it already in this blog. It is a sad little medal about birth and death and the fight for survival in a dog eat dog world - some of my favourite themes.

I was very pleased with the way it turned out and am very pleased also that it is selling well. If only I could sell all my work, I would be a millionaire. Well perhaps that is a little of an exaggeration but you know what I mean.

Meanwhile the weather here has turned very, very hot. But do you hear me complain? Not on your nelly. I am embracing it and trying to acclimatize. It would make a cat laugh at how we used to go out in the spring, after all the winter rains had passed and sit in the warming sunshine, slowly rotating and uncovering our bodies limb by limb until we were quite brown and glowy looking all over. Now we dart for the cover of shade. When we have to go out and about we cling close to the walls of the buildings and choose the narrower streets with the high buildings which keep the roads and us well covered from the heat of the sun.

My tan has faded somewhat, but I am still sufficiently coloured to pass as brown-ish and there is still enough protection in my skin to stop me from burning.

The house has become my sanctuary really - of course I have to work indoors but that suits me very well now. I leave as many windows and doors open as possible to create a draft and any time I wish I can just cast an eye out the window to see the ever-changing views of the mountains and the almost never ceasing sunshine. I do realise that I am incredibly lucky.

And what's more. Spain went and won the World Cup! And I watched the match at one of our local bars and got completely swept away in the whole exciting frenzy of it. A whole town of people all laughing and smiling at the efforts and playing of a team of very few, but who represent us all. I include myself in this as of course Spain is now my new adopted country. Yes, I know i do switch allegiances very easily. But hey! when in Rome.....

not to confuse you or anything because I am plainly not in Rome :-)

talk again soon



Sunday, 4 July 2010

The Not so Ordinary, Ordinariness

Well, as you can see. No pool design here, but I do include a photo of some of the more prosaic wildlife in these parts.

Pigeons may not be exotic or dangerous, but nonetheless they inhabit our world with a constant frequency.

They waken us from our sleep every morning, with their gentle and not so gentle vru-cruuing. It can be amazing how loud they can be. Of course everything is magnified in the narrow street we now call home as the slightest whisper echoes back and forth across the passageway. Sometimes at night I awake with a start as it sounds like there is someone in the room with us as conversations carry upwards in the night air. At times you can even hear breathing or the shoosh of a match as it is struck to light a cigarette.

This photo is taken from our bedroom window. I think that this pigeon must have eggs which she is incubating for she hasn’t budged in days now, but I noticed her suitor one day bring a piece of straw for her inspection. I am not sure it passed as she still just seems to be sitting in a drainpipe. Luckily we do not get much rain here otherwise she would be rather wet, sitting beneath a downpipe as she is.

One morning I awoke and went downstairs to open up the back doors. The first thing I noticed were a few pigeon feathers scattered on the ground. “Oh dear” I said – “I think that a pigeon must have met his maker.” I presumed it was a cat got it until I looked up and noticed feathers hanging from some of the rough brickwork of our back wall. Vic also awake now and coming down the stairs took a look up towards the skylight. It was splattered with blood and a few more feathers! Eeek! And so we assume it was one of the larger birds of prey that hang about these parts. I have not yet formally identified these but I believe we do have eagles, who swoop in off the mountain behind us, but I am not sure that there are not other types, buzzards or hawks. Time will tell.

So that is a little bit of our birdlife. As I say, perhaps pigeons may seem ordinary and even boring – some people even call them the rats of the sky in a rather derogatory way – but I have always had a bit of a fondness for rats anyway. It all began years ago when I was just a wee girl and one of my friends had a pet rat, piebald in colour. His name was Gilbert…..

But that is another story for another day I think.