Tuesday, 27 October 2009

I'm just a gal who can't say 'No'

Those of you who know me, are fully aware that I won't be seeing my 20's again. In fact, that's not the only decade I won't be re-visiting. So when I tell you that I've been down to Cornwall for a few days, I expect you imagine that I've visited a couple of National Trust properties, had a look round a picturesque garden or two, and that the most exciting highlight of the weekend was a cream tea. Well, you'd be wrong! I've been here .....Yes, you read that correctly, The Dolphin Surf School. In case you're wondering how that happened (I'm can't tell you why - I still haven't worked it out myself yet), I'll explain. Back in April I was at a workshop making felt chocolates with my sister and some friends. At the end of the day, I was on my way out of the door, when the following conversation took place with my friend Pam's daughter Kirsty ....

Kirsty - "Gill, do you fancy coming surfing in Newquay?"
Me - "Sounds great, but unfortunately I've never been surfing."
Kirsty - "No problem, we stay at a Surf School"
Me - "When are you planning to go?"
Kirsty - "October"
Me - "October?!*?!*?!*?!"
Kirsty - "It's fine - the sea's much warmer in October than in March"
Me - "Oh, well, that's ok then. Count me in."

I think I have an inordinate fear of turning any invitation down, just in case no-one ever asks me again, and also there's something in me that prevents me from saying, "Oh no, I'm sorry, I can't do that, I'm too old". Consequently I find myself agreeing to do things that slightly more sensible people wouldn't consider. (Remember Glastonbury? Twice??)

And so it was that at the end of October, I found myself packing my cozzie, along with a few big jumpers and driving down to Cornwall. I had a good journey down, and found myself humming the theme tune to Hawaii Five-O to get myself in the mood, whilst simultaneously wondering whether it was acceptable to wear a cardie over your wetsuit. And more importantly - would I actually be able to get INTO a wetsuit.

It wasn't exactly comforting when we all met up on Friday evening for something to eat and I realised how young some of the group were - there were about 25 of us - but they seemed really good fun and there were a number of other beginners.

Fortunately, on Saturday morning, the sun was shining, which always makes for a more promising start to the day. We got issued with wetsuits - and - Yes, they did have one my size, and - No, you can't see the photo of me in a wetsuit - do you think I'm MAD?
Incidentally, just a little pointer for you in case you decide to go surfing - when you get your wetsuit, it's usually handed to you inside out. And the zip goes at the back. And now that you know, hopefully you won't do what I did, which is struggle to get the thing on, only to find you've got it inside out and back to front, then have to struggle back out of it, and then back in the right way. You live and learn.

Anyway, we made our way - with surf boards - down to Tolcarne beach. It just so happened that this particular morning there was a surfing competition at one end of the beach. I did wonder, if I got the hang of it fairly quickly - would there still be time to enter???

We met our instructor Alex (Carlsberg don't make Surfing instructors, but if they did ......) and started with a beach lesson and warm up. That's jumping about and stretching a bit, not sitting in front of a log fire with a cup of cocoa. This is the other group having their lesson - I told you, you're not seeing me in a wetsuit!And then - we were in the water. I imagined that I'd maybe stick it for an hour or so, and then make my excuses and leave - but it was brilliant! Hard work - just getting out past the first few waves without getting smacked in the face with the surf board is quite an achievement. But I DID manage to get on the surf board, and catch a little baby wave or two, although I didn't quite manage to stand up.

And they were quite right - I didn't feel cold. I just wish I'd tried it years ago. Then maybe, I could have done it again the following day, but unfortunately when I woke up in the morning, my neck and shoulders were so stiff I could only turn over in bed by hauling myself by the edge of the mattress. If/when I go again, I think I'll have a few sessions at the gym first.

So, instead of joining the others on the beach, I went off to St Ives for the day. It was a really lovely day. How about this for a blue sky at the end of October? And whilst this isn't a brilliant photograph, you can see that the sun was shining.

It was a brilliant weekend, so thanks to everyone for making me so welcome . Hopefully see you again next year. And a BIG thank you to Kirsty for organising it - and especially for providing the photographic evidence ....
Not bad for an old bird, eh?

Friday, 16 October 2009

Knit and Stitch, etc .....

Right now, at this very moment, I should be doing my homework. That's what I'd planned to do, I got up early to do it. But, it meant switching the computer on and then I got sidetracked by emails and blog reading. So, while I'm here, a quick post.
I really enjoyed the Knitting and Stitching Show - it seems to get better and better - I think it's the best of all the shows, but then maybe I'm biased because it's the easiest for me to get to. Even if you didn't want to buy anything (as if!) there is more than enough to look at to keep you busy for the day. I was working at the ArtVanGo stand on Thursday, which was as hectic as ever (no obvious signs of credit crunch)
Then on Friday, I went as a visitor with my friend Val. We had a lovely day and started by looking at the wonderful exhibitions. There were loads of things I liked but some of my favourites were I Cindy Hickok's witty embroideries, Louise Baldwin's mixed media hangings, and Jill Flower's wonderful lacy ruffs and corsages using recycled paper and stitch. The EAST exhibition, based on textiles from the Warner archive was wonderful too - I particularly liked Libby Smith's gard books and Carol Dixon's 50's inspired cushions. We then got on with the serious business of shopping, and also found time to meet up with friends (including blog-friends) for tea and coffee.
On Saturday I worked with AVG again until lunchtime, then another look around. I made a bag with Morsbags which is a really good initiative to get people to stop using plastic bags and to make their own re-usable bags. I even toyed with the idea of seeing if I could set up my own "pod" to help people make bags - but then I remembered that I need 30 hours in my day to catch up with the things I am already supposed to be doing. In the unlikely event that I find myself cleaning the kitchen floor because I've got nothing better to do, I'll have a re-think.
For no other reason, than because I'm pleased with it, here's a picture of a mousemat I had made. I ordered a mousemat for a friend's birthday, with pictures of her son James, and I decided while I was at it to make one for myself, with images of my paintings and various things I'd made. The photo hasn't come out brilliantly, but you get the idea.Thank you to all the people who have sent me suspenders for my City and Guilds project - the 'Financial Times' corset. I haven't decided which ones I'm going to use yet, and I may adapt them in some way first - but here it is in it's present state - I covered the coat hanger and free machined the words "it's time to tighten our belts".
Finally, a word about plumbers. I thought it was just me but having met up with a couple of friends this week, we discovered it seems to happen to all of us. Why is it, whenever you get plumbers in, you end up with comments in this vein ....

"Oh, yeah I can see what the problem is, whoever fitted this used the wrong size flange." or
"Well, that's what's causing all the trouble, they've put the washer on upside down." or even

"Blimey, they've only gone and used 23mm gauge piping!"

I think it must be the plumbing equivalent of a hairdresser saying "Whoever did you get to cut this last time?"

Now, homework.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

'Virtual' Open Studios

(Ignore the date at the top - I posted this in the early hours of Saturday morning 3rd October, after getting home from Hammersmith, having been to a "Mott the Hoople" gig, but for some reason I can't change the date from the time I first saved it as a draft) ..........

As announced previously, I am joining in with Quilting Arts Virtual Online Open Studios event to coincide with the publication of the latest edition of "Studios" magazine. So you are cordially invited to have a look at my workspace.

My studio is a posh shed, built by my friend's son, at the bottom of my garden. I don't have a video recorder I'm afraid, so no video, just still photos. May I suggest that you pretend that you're walking along, and hum to yourself, as if it's a video accompanied by music. At least that way, you can have the music of your choice rather than mine, which isn't to everybody's taste. Come on, be creative, enter into the spirit of it!

Let's go through the archway (mind you don't get tangled in the rose bush) And here it is - (pause briefly to admire my pots newly planted with winter flowering pansies and cyclamen)... Mind the step ...., oh and could you NOT wipe your muddy feet on my door mat - it cost rather more than a door mat should, but it was chosen for it's decorative qualities. Bit like me.
As you can see, I always keep it very tidy .....
No, of course I didn't make a special effort before I took the photos!
Then, there's the slight less tidy storage. I'm not sure how other people manage with pretty vintage-y storage, for me it's millions of plastic boxes with a couple of Ikea drawer units thrown in for good measure. Not sure what's in the Ikea drawers that are in this picture - the drawers seem to have warped a bit since I put them together and I haven't got the strength to open them now. Oh well, it'll be a nice surprise when I do manage it. Obviously, it wouldn't normally be this cluttered, but all my City and Guilds homework is piled up in the corner.
The Lloyd Loom-type chair is on semi-permanent loan from my friend Jill who has too many chairs. I am going to spray it white and recover it, then if she comes round to reclaim it I can deny all knowledge. And the 'bar stool' is from my friend Betty, who also had too many chairs. (What is it with my mates and their furniture surfeit?)
This is another self-built unit from Ikea, I'm really pleased with this - it's great for storing large sheets of paper and much cheaper than a proper plan drawers chest.And finally the decorative features. My heart shaped card holder, displaying some of the many hand made postcards my lovely sister has sent me over the past two years.
I LOVE my shed/studio and time flies when I'm down there. I never seem to get as much done as I intend to, but then do we ever? I use it for painting occasional watercolours, painting and printing papers or fabric for my course, card making and sometimes stitching - my sewing machine and fabric is kept elsewhere, but I do sometimes take my machine down there to sew - I seem to get far less distracted if I work down there. I've got a little radio (sometimes tuned to Radio 4, but usually NME radio or XFM) and a kettle. Oh and a torch, since the time I had been down there all day until it got dark, and then I had to grope my way in the dark back up the garden.

And to sum it all up, the poem written and embroidered by my Mum, who claims to have set me and my sister off on our creative journeys .....
She made that up herself - and very appropriate! Right, I'm off now to go and have a nose at everyone else's workrooms.