Wednesday, 14 January 2015

A special Monday morning...

 On Monday morning, early, we took the train to London and walked to the Courtauld Gallery . This beautiful, small place hold some of the world's most famous and recognisable paintings...
 ...who doesn't know this self-portrait by Van Gogh, for instance? He looks so remarkably serene despite his mutilated ear...or maybe just resigned to the mental illness that was taking over his brilliant, creative life?
 Gauguin is a particular favourite of my father...I took this photo for him especially!
 This unfinished painting really captivated me...I particularly enjoyed seeing the sketches underneath, the bare bones of the artists work...

 Downstairs was a small room containing mediaeval and renaissance religious art...I was all alone in there...surrounded by incredible colour. It was hard to believe that the painting below dates from 1500...
 and this one is 1409!
 'The Annunciation' is often reproduced on Christmas cards, but it's very special to see it in real life...it was created in around 1450...
 This nativity (1400) really struck me because, despite being over 700 years old, the faces of the figures seemed so human...
 I find that mediaeval art can look a little 'flat'...but not these...
 ...there were also many religious items...boxes, reliquaries...carved from ivory...
 ...these figures would once have been accented with colour (a few traces remain on the veil and draperies.

We were at the gallery to view a special exhibition there, that's just coming to an end...Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude. The first photo shows a portion of one of my favourite paintings there. Schiele was an Austrian artist, who only lived from 1890-1918...he, his wife and their unborn first child died in the terrible Spanish flu pandemic that occurred just after the end of the First World War. Much of his work is very anatomically explicit and he was imprisoned on indecency charges for a few months. I found it neither pornographic nor erotic...to me, it was incredibly beautiful...in a 'real' way...and filled with truth. Not 'pretty' art by any means - but I stayed for a long time in those small rooms, taking in this incredible collection which will soon be split up again as the works are sent back to the places all over the world that lent them. Very special!

Can you believe that January is almost half over already?


These beauties are already gracing the churchyard...snow is forecast this evening...but I don't think we'll have much here (although a lot of the country is in an icy grip already!)

If you haven't already, do pop over and visit my dear friend Sue Branch's brilliant blog...not only is there a truly fabulous giveaway to enter...but there are also some people you may recognise there (and one super-cute dog!)

Hoping the New Year is wonderful so far....x

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

On the last day of the year...frosts and wreaths and Christmas trees...

 Stunning sunrises this week....
...no snow, but the frosts have been hard and glittering...
 Inside, the Christmas tree glows with the beauty of the memories held in each decoration, collected through the years...Alice wears her special Christmas scarf and luxuriates in the warmth...
 ...while outside the cloudless blue means it's freezing! But SO beautiful, too..


 I particularly love the long shadows cast by the low sun at this time of year...
 ...and the frost makes every leaf look like a tiny iced sculpture...

 It was so thick this morning, that it looked almost like fur on the arm of the garden bench...
 I always enjoy looking at the different festive wreaths on the doors around the square....


 ...the one above is quite tiny....sweet!



 The little tag on the wreath above says 'Santa please stop here....' and I have it on good authority that he did! I left some of the Hallowe'en pumpkins outside...now rimed with ice...
 It's time for porridge in the mornings now...with a little Canadian maple syrup, some sea salt crystals and preferably served in my perfect Paul Jessop jug/bowl! It warms the soul right through until lunch...
 And despite the cold, there are signs that slowly but surely the season is turning. The days are a little, a fractionally little, longer...and then there are the more obvious signposts...
It will be a while before they flower, but they will and Spring will return to wake up the world.

I hope you're enjoying a wonderful Christmas and New Year celebration...and that 2015 brings us all happiness, health and joy.

I want to leave you with a beautiful, peaceful image for this, the last day of the year. It's taken from one of my very favourite books - " The Country Child" by Alison Uttley...an autobiographical account of growing up on a remote Derbyshire farm at the end of the 19th century. It is a constant joy to me, and I hope you love it too. x

"The New Year hung in the air, hovering with wings outstretched above the farm, carrying joy and sorrow in its feathers, waiting, waiting for the big clock to strike twelve. Dan stood outside with his coat-collar up, shivering in the steely air, staring up at the sky and across the vast dark to the hills.

The New Year shook and swooped down as the clock began to strike. Dan opened the door and entered as the last stroke died away and the year flew in, filling the house at once, from the empty attics to the dairy where the milk froze in the pans.

Susan sat up in bed, listening to the rush of wings, Becky wished for a sweetheart, and Margaret said a prayer. All the bells began to ring, Mellow Church pealed out a chime of bells, and the lone bell of Brue-on-the-Water called softly, and faded to nothing through the woods...."


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Catching up with the season...

My daily walks with Alice in the hills near our home are easy to take for granted....until I see something like this...
 ...a gorgeous patch of Fly Agaric toadstools just sitting there...
 ...glowing like tiny sunsets through the grass...
 ..and I start to look more closely. There are crops of fungi everywhere..
 I'm almost certain that these are edible...the one below was bigger than my hand...
 ...but I'm not quite brave enough to pick them. I just leave them where they are and admire them!
 This is the view at the start of our walk...
 ...through the gate, and there are many new smells to be snuffed...
 ..this part was cleared a few years ago...before it would have been a mass of bracken and gorse at this time..
 ...although there are still some gorse bushes around, scenting the air with their coconut flowers..
 Hips and haws look more like winter than autumn...
 and yet the beeches are only just beginning to turn all shades of gold and bronze and brown...
 The wild juniper bushes are laden with berries...
 ..the blue looks frosted..and the spikey leaves are so sharp that they are well protected.
 At this stage, we start to glimpse the amazing views over the county through the gaps in the trees...
 I have always loved this particular tree...it's such a regular shape...almost like a child's drawing! How a tree should look!
 Still many interesting 'fragrances'!! And then we burst into the open and this is what we see...
 ...behind Alice in the picture below is our town...far in the distance...
 ...and then we start to go back...a different route every day (for variety - mine, not Alice's, as I don't think she cares a bit so long as she is out and about!)
 We often end up going through the woods at some point...

 Alice loves to pretend that she sees squirrels and dashes off after them (they are mostly in her head!)
 But she never goes too far! This year we had the warmest Hallowe'en since records began..the temperature here peaked at 21c (almost 70f) which is virtually unheard of! I took the photos below that day...
 ...our churchyard looked decidedly UNspooky!
 Just glorious...
 ...the ancient beech hasn't started to change colour yet, really....although it won't be long now...

...and the sky on Friday was as blue as can be!
This morning, however, was a different story...
chilly and misty...although the sun has now broken through and it's another blue - although cold - day! Time for my walk with Alice once again...I wonder what we'll spot today?

I hope you have a wonderful week! xx