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This post has a tenuous link to my last post, in as much as it mentions Thomas Hardy. It has previously been published in Crystal Magazine, and is a true account.
When I was a child, my father used his spare time, of which there was not a lot, to paint with oils. He was a keen amateur artist, pursuing this as a hobby, not with any thoughts of monetary gain. The paintings adorned the walls of the various homes we had during those years. Some scenes were taken from post cards, including some I loved of lakes in Switzerland. They made me want to travel to the scenes portrayed. Others he painted in the Dorset countryside, and seaside. He had been a sailor, still was in so much as he was a Trinity House Pilot employed in bringing in ships to Poole Harbour safely, and taking them back out of the harbour when their loading or unloading there was complete. The sea or other water frequently became a part of his paintings.
Whenever he was painting, I became used to the aroma of the linseed oil and turpentine and grew to love the smells. I enjoyed watching him employ different brushes for the various types of work he was doing, and admired his skill.
During May to June 1959 he painted a scene which at the time was not familiar to me. In the foreground, grass and flowers border a river, churning along towards a bridge. On the opposite bank, trees, more flowers and grass, and behind a large house with prominent chimneys. The Manor at Woolbridge seems to draw you into the scene. After all these years, I don’t know whether he made a sketch or was able to sit in the meadow to paint on the spot. This painting took up residence finally in my mother’s dining room, in the home she lived in after my father’s death.
By this time I’d long left home, so only gave it a cursory glance on my frequent visits to my mother. Eventually she spent the last ten years of her life being cared for in a rest home, with her own home being rented out to pay her fees, and her belongings were put into storage. It was all very sad, but it was what she wanted for herself.
My husband Mike and I moved from where we’d lived for fourteen years, in Cornwall, to Spain during this period, and when we moved back to England after a couple of stressful years in Andalusia, (but that’s another story) had no idea where we would live, as property prices had shot up in those couple of years.
We looked at properties as far as Swindon, as they were cheaper there, but we knew we would prefer to live further south. We couldn’t afford to return to Cornwall. Prices there were exorbitant. We ended up living in Wool. Still the painting did not cross my mind.
When my mother died, my brother and I sorted through her belongings, deciding which items to keep and which to donate to charity shops. Several of my father’s paintings were among the effects, including that long-forgotten painting of Woolbridge Manor, the setting for part of the novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.
We frequently walked our dogs, now reduced to one old boy who can’t walk the distance any more, to the Manor on Sunday mornings to look at the scene, painted years before by my father. The view has not really changed since those days. The water is sometimes calmer, sometimes rushing along. The flowers in the picture are not always there, depending on the season but the trees remain. The Manor house itself is easily recognisable by the chimneys alone. I feel as if I can walk straight into the painting. It means a lot to me now, more than it did when it was first painted, as it reminds me not only of the artist, my father, but of my mother and her homes. I can truly say that financial value, which it probably doesn’t have anyway, is not as important as the emotional value we give to some objects.
What a coincidence that we ended up living here. The painting has pride of place in our lounge.
Living as we do in the lovely county of Dorset, we have many reminders of Thomas Hardy. This year a new Visitors’ Centre has opened near the cottage where Hardy was born. It’s been built with the aid of Dorset County Council and the National Trust, plus a lottery grant.
The exterior is constructed from local trees; the interior is smart, although I had thought there would be a larger shop area. There are some items for tourists to buy, such as postcards, and jars of preserves.
What is good is an educational area, with charts and books to help children. Thomas Hardy loved the countryside around the cottage and noticed all the flora and fauna. He would have loved the fact that others could learn about the area, which provided backdrops for many of his novels and poems. We tend to think of him in terms of his writing, but he was also an accomplished artist.
The area around the centre has been improved, so that it’s possible now to walk through the woods to his cottage, good for the able-bodied, while those, like us, who are not so mobile can use the original lane up to the cottage. The whole area is a nature lover’s paradise, and great for people to walk their dogs.
In the summer, it’s wise to look out for adders, especially in the nearby woods.
Recently I read a quote from Philip Larkin. He evidently published an average of only four poems a year when in his prime. He said ‘Silence is preferable to publishing rubbish and far better for one’s reputation.’ It’s a relief that so prolific a poet could feel like this and acknowledge that sometimes the best words just won’t come to you.
It can happen to us all. Sometimes whatever we write just doesn’t gel. Perhaps we have our minds on problems elsewhere, or maybe we have health issues, and we can’t relax sufficiently to produce our best work. What’s the best way to deal with it?
We all have our own ways of coping. If there are problems we can solve, we should do so. If there are no solutions, acceptance is the only way. Sometimes going for a walk gives us time to clear our thoughts. How do you resolve it, or does it not happen to you?
On a different note, my husband Mike and I had our first visit this year to West Bay, about an hour’s drive away from home along the Dorset coast; the cliffs there are so imposing. We like the place. The small town is not particularly attractive; it has far too much concrete for our liking, but there is also a certain quaintness in some parts. Also, and this is the big plus, it has the coastline. I rest my case.
As you can see from the photo, the cliffs are not too stable now, so I’m not sure those people should be so close to them. On the west side of the town, areas are now roped off because of further cliff falls. It’s a shame, as what looks to be a lovely little beach is no longer accessible, but that’s nature. We’re looking forward to our next visit.
Whereas January seems to drag on interminably, February is rushing by as if to lead us as quickly as possible into spring in this part of the world.
What was your weather like on 2nd February? This date is Candlemas Day in the Christian calendar, when in the Roman Catholic church candles have been traditionally consecrated. It began with the old custom in Rome where candles were burned for the goddess Februa to keep away evil spirits.
The question of the weather is due to a myth; if the weather is frosty and fine, more cold weather will come before winter ends. If it’s warmer but wet, the worst has gone. Of course this only works in the Northern Hemisphere. Perhaps those in the Southern Hemisphere have another myth. It would be interesting to know.
I’m not sure what we’re due now for the rest of this winter, but it certainly seems that spring is on its way, although the month did start off cold. The 2nd February was nothing special as regards the climate, but on the 3rd we woke up to find our garden covered in snow. We don’t have much of it here, and it was all gone by the end of the day. Fortunately I’d grabbed the camera to take a few shots of it.
As the month has progressed, the early flowers are blooming, the frogs are becoming more active in our pond and signs of life are appearing everywhere. Hooray.
On the writing front, I have a couple of small projects on the go, written in snatched five minutes here and there, which is not great as the continuity is lost, but I have to get the words down to start with before I can work with them.
Every day I’m grateful to be a part of this still wonderful world, even with all its problems. I’m so thankful that my life is relatively comfortable, with none of the terrible situations that many other people find themselves in. Despite that, if that if I had to choose my least favourite month it would be January. The climate here is such that the start of the New Year is often grey, cold and dismal, with quite a lot of rain. We’re looking backwards at the old year, and forwards to our hopes and aspirations for the next 12 months.
Some animals hibernate; that sounds an enticing way to spend January. Either that, or if circumstances were such that I was able, I’d travel to a warmer climate, returning when February arrives. Our health is never as good in winter, we all feel exhausted and we spend time trying to avoid surgeries so as not to contract one of many nasty bugs.
However, if that all sounds much too negative, January can still be lovely. There is nothing nicer than a bright frosty morning, when a walk revives the spirit and allows you to think about your writing, or anything else you may have in mind.
Last year was not a particularly good one for my writing. Time was very limited; after I’d finished caring for my sick husband, and my even sicker old dog, and with my own health issues, I was often too tired to concentrate for long periods. I had a few letters published in newspapers, a poem accepted by a magazine, several other poems accepted for anthologies and one or two pieces, both fiction and non-fiction published in small press magazines. I have another article pending with a main-stream magazine; they are retaining it for further consideration, so still hope there. However, the last occasion they did this, they kept the article for about 18 months, and when I queried, they sent it back saying they wouldn’t be needing it. By that time it was really out-of-date, so I couldn’t send it anywhere else. Ah well, nobody said it would be easy.
Still, one thing about January is that it brings to us all fresh hope. Happy writing everyone.
Whether you are a follower of Christianity or not, this is the season when many people celebrate. It’s lovely for children of course, but sometimes I wonder if we’re all just too greedy. When I was a child, I was as excited as children are today, but we received in our Christmas stockings such things as an orange, a pencil sharpener, crayons and paper to draw and colour. As I grew up, these items became things like book tokens, always the most welcome of presents.
Recently we had in the UK what was called Black Friday. The name seems to be because it was the first day that the stores in America went into the black after all their expenses. That is what I have heard. Anyway, the event arrived in the UK from the USA, not one of the better imports I have to say.
The films on the news of people fighting over bargains in the shops made me feel rather sick. It was just obscene to see these people, when so many people in the world are suffering, perhaps from lack of food, or fighting. Whatever the reasons for their suffering, greed in people who should know better is not an attractive thing.
By all means enjoy your celebrations, but my Christmas wish list would include peace for others, enough to eat, a comfortable home and lack of fear. For myself I would wish for no expensive perfumes, or the latest gadgets, but better health for my husband and myself and if it is to be, a peaceful end of life for my dear old dog.
What is your wish?
To call Portland in Dorset an island is not strictly true. Although it is known as the Isle of Portland, it is joined to the mainland by the Chesil Bank.
My first memory of Portland is when my husband and I were house-hunting, many years ago, and we looked at a couple of properties there. We were not impressed either by the homes we could afford, or Portland itself. It had the appearance to us then of a drab place, dominated by a drab prison. Recently we had another look at the place, and found much to be admired.
Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy hosted the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games Sailing events. This brought many people to the area, and many assets were added. It is a very popular location for many water sports.
Nature-lovers will find many sites of interest to them, with unusual flora and fauna to find. Walkers love the place, and there are lots of viewpoints for them to admire the panoramic views.
One of the most famous of Portland’s products is the limestone which has been used over the years for many well-known buildings, including St Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. The stone is still quarried here. Many quarries have been turned into tourist attractions. We visited Tout Quarry Sculpture Park, where over 50 examples of sculpture are on display. Sadly there has been some vandalism this year, and some of the pieces on show have been damaged. Hopefully they will be repaired to their former glory.
St George’s Church at Weston on the Isle is a magnificent Georgian building, no longer used as a consecrated building but still open to the public and helped by volunteers.
Also on Portland there is a castle built by Henry VIII which overlooks the harbour, one of the deepest man-made harbours in the world. It is a civilian port, but also there is a harbour on the northern shore which was a Royal Navy base during both World Wars.
A museum and a lighthouse are other visitor attractions. Whatever your interests, it seems Portland has something to offer. Now that we have rediscovered it, and found that it offers many photographic opportunities, we will be back.
If you live in the UK, have you ever listened to the shipping forecast? (I’m sure other countries with a coastline have a similar service.) For anyone with connections to the sea, it’s a must.
My father worked most of his life on or around the sea, and made a point of listening to these bulletins. Being a young girl, I didn’t appreciate the importance then of the information, but if I tried to say something, I was ‘shushed’ in no uncertain way.
The shipping forecast is broadcast four times a day on the radio, (Radio 4) twice during the day and twice at night. Not only is it fascinating, but for me it can be a cure for insomnia during the hours of darkness. (Perhaps I should send apologies to the readers of the forecasts as that is obviously not their intention.) The names of the shipping areas intrigue and occasionally mystify me, others are more recognisable, such as Dover, Wight. I’d no idea where North or South Utsire are, until I had a look at the web-site for the shipping forecast. They are areas, with islands, off the coast of Norway by all accounts. There are thirty-one sea areas on the map for the forecast.
The information is provided by the Meteorological Office and gives news of wind-speed and direction, gale warnings, visibility and current weather conditions. This knowledge is essential for mariners of any description, be it private sailing boats, fishing boats, merchant ships or liners. Everyone who goes to sea takes note, and acts accordingly, or they should.
I’d be interested to know from others around the world how their shipping forecasts compare to ours.
Sometimes circumstances dictate our priorities, and we may not be able to do the things we’d like to do. My circumstances have been like that for a while now, and it’s meant that I have little time to spend taking photographs, writing, or even reading the blogs I follow. I’ve missed you all, and will attempt to catch up a little but can’t see things improving much time-wise for a while. Never mind, we have to accept life as it is, not as we’d like it to be.
I have managed a few hours out and about though, and have found some buildings which seem mysterious because they’re abandoned or ruined. Why did the people leave them? I don’t know in most cases, but the photos seem to lend themselves to monochrome or sepia mode, so I’ve played around a little with them.
The tiles on this roof are sliding downwards quite rapidly it seems. Was the property struck by lightning? Again I don’t know.
Corfe Castle is wonderful whether it’s in colour or sepia. The natural colours change with the weather, and it’s always atmospheric.
The ruins of Knowlton church have a spiritual feeling about them.
Tyneham Village is one place where the ruins are there because the villagers were asked to leave to make way for the army during the war, and have never returned. The army still uses surrounding countryside, but the public is allowed into the village a lot of the time, when safety allows.
When I was a small girl, my father had several expressions which he used to encourage me in life in general. They can apply to a career, your writing, photography, or anything you may be interested in, even life itself.
One of them was ‘Good, better, best, Never let it rest, ’till your good is better, and your better best.’ This saying seems to be attributed to Adlai Stevenson, presumably the American politician and diplomat.
Another saying was ‘Reach for the sky and you may hit the treetops.’ I’m not sure if that was attributed to anyone, there seem to be various versions on the same theme. Whatever, they are words which I’ve remembered ever since.
Do you have any such expressions, which may spur you on when the going gets tough?