The Bach Christmas Oratorio in the Berliner Dom was thrilling.
A dusting of snow on the hills at home today...and here is a poem for the solstice.
The Bach Christmas Oratorio in the Berliner Dom was thrilling.
A dusting of snow on the hills at home today...and here is a poem for the solstice.
I was staying with my artist friend Lynne Cameron who is living and working in Berlin and has an exhibition at Under The Mango Tree Gallery in the attractive Schoneberg district - good restaurants, stylish clothes shops, great coffee shops and a Saturday market with traditional German cakes, Turkish food and Polish specialities, Christmas foliage and amaryllis and masses of mistletoe.
See Lynne's work here and read what she says about the recent tragedy here at The Empathy Blog.
I got back from a wonderful few days in Berlin yesterday afternoon and am so dismayed at how the atmosphere - so friendly, civilized, festive and delightful when we visited this beautiful market on Friday - must have changed to one of horror since the violent attack on innocent people last night.
I am full of admiration for all those Berliners who made a point of attending the Christmas markets today.
We change the clocks back an hour here in uk this weekend. Hibernation instincts revive (if that's the right word!)
I am looking forward to reading The Idea of North by Peter Davidson.
More about north tomorrow..
Real music in Betty's and on the street, real coffee, real food, real friends, history made real at every turn, real charm, real luxury in ancient buildings for the price of a cup of tea - treating the commercial world as a museum (a suggestion I think by architect Frank Gehry) I had a wonderful week in York, my favourite city....
Do you have a favourite city?
PS On this grey drizzly morning I have just ordered some deliciously coloured tulips from the Sarah Raven Sale.
..houses with my artist friend in York. City for me, country for Elizabeth.
Have you ever swapped houses?
Back in a week!
Meanwhile I think this is worth a second look, don't you? (Scroll down to Smiling Face.) And the fuchsias still look fabulous.
We stayed in Comrie in Perthshire and visited The Earthquake House above. We were lucky to be there on the one day a year when it is open to the public (at other times you can look through doors and windows) and even luckier that there had been seismic activity recorded during the early hours of that morning which I thought was quite exciting.
I also felt very lucky to stay in a house designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh - a very modest commission taken on between the first and second phase of his famous Glasgow School of Art. It is looked after by the conservation charity The Landmark Trust.
Austere, but comfortable too.
The view from the window of Comrie, a comely or couthie wee place and a good centre for touring the area.
..with attractive shops, hotel and restaurants- not fancy...but I liked it.
Plain and simple.
I'm a bit of a hit and miss photographer (digital cameras allow that don't they - love that delete button!) and I got lucky with this shot when I rested the camera on the handrail of the ferry to North Uist...I love the abstract quality of it..
This was 'the one that got away'. The two stags were standing facing each other, antlers proud and high, silhouetted against the sky in the middle of this opening - magnificent! Classic!
By the time I got out of the car and got my camera set up they had lost interest in posing and turned their backs on me....
I still see the shot I nearly had when I look at this.
Has this happened to you?
I have wanted to see the machair in flower for years, but had never been in the right place at the right time until last week on North Uist, specifically at Balranald Nature Reserve run by the RSPB and the crofters of the area.
(I am having difficulty creating links, and text to go with the photos so am just posting this anyway and will work on it......)
There is an excellent campsite here with a catering van from 11 - 3 selling wonderful home made food.
It was a joy to walk through fields of wild flowers.
Many are familiar, but the wild carrot, sea pansies, the little erodium (stork's bill, relative of the geranium) and many hybrid orchids were a special delight.
I had planned a much longer post on this special habitat but Weebly is playing up today and deleting things as fast as I can type them!!!
Well I didn't sing, but I felt the joy! We heard The Ebor Singers perform Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols in the lovely medieval setting of The National Centre for Early Music in York.
You can hear them here (5 mins) singing some modern choral works including Hail Gladdening Light which feels appropriate, as the days are getting longer, starting now!
Isn't it amazing how much you can fit in to a couple of days? Seeing good friends, galleries museums and churches, a concert, window shopping and a few last minute presents, eating out and coffee stops, evening drinks (we forgot it was office-party season!) Sometimes the city gives me energy that surprises me.
Does this happen to you too?
Have you been singing this Christmas?
Or been to hear someone else sing?
Or simply felt the joy!
..if you find yourself anywhere near Edinburgh before the end of the month!
I loved the two main exhibitions at The Scottish Gallery, and we went to look at the Venetian Old Masters in the National Gallery.
Charles Jencks Landform at the Gallery of Modern Art looked serene in the rain, although the weather was lovely except for this hour or so. (Good café in beautiful garden too.) The exhibition Heads - drawings, paintings and photographs - was so absorbing I didn't get further than the corridor they were displayed in. Wonderful. It included an Augustus John drawing that looked like a Raphael.
I've added a couple of links to yesterday's post.
I expect a lot of Edinburgh residents find the Festival disruptive, but we were with my 95 year old Edinburgh resident Uncle (I've mentioned him before. He is the one who when asked if he ever takes taxis said 'I will when I'm older'.) Uncle John attends concerts, opera, theatre and book festival talks. He is stimulating company, interested in politics, economics and philosophy as well as the arts. We try to keep up with him!
Do you have a favourite arts festival?
Or a favourite uncle?
The beaches are the best thing about Lewis (did you notice there are five people in Saturday's photograph? Gives an idea of the scale!)
But the words most often used to describe the islands are wild, bleak, harsh, unforgiving. There is nothing pretty about Lewis - the only pretty things I saw were some diminutive wind-dwarfed primroses and the new lambs. It's not that kind of place. They don't call it On The Edge for nothing,
We were in the district of Uig which is very beautiful, but I found the road from Callanish to the northernmost point - the Butt of Lewis - rather depressing. More derelict houses than you'd see in any inner city sink estate! There are the ruins of the blackhouses and beside them the ruins of the whitehouses, and beside those ruins are the ubiquitous bungalows. The latest houses are eco friendly wooden Scandinavian style which I think suit the landscape, but as and when these replace the bungalows will the bungalows too just fall into dereliction? Very bleak. Not redeemed by being turned away from Cafe Sonas at lunchtime at Port Ness because we only wanted coffee and cakes! We offered to sit outside which was empty, but no....and it was the only place to eat
We were grateful for a warmer welcome at Morven Gallery where my friends bought a beautiful print of one of David Wilson's photographs of Luskentyre Beach on Harris.
David Wilson does not shy away from the dereliction in his photographs in Peter May's book Hebrides and I can see that it has visual interest and is redolent of the tragic history of poverty and the clearances, but I still find the evidence of man's hand in this fabulous place distressing!
This great rocky windy isle with it's scant covering of soil and windburned trees and peat bogs has wonderful wildlife and scenery, must be a geologist's dream destination, is popular with super-fit cyclists and campervans - basic but well cared for and spectacularly positioned sites - not many pubs or places to eat and the culture of the present day is not really visible to the tourist. Community run shops and museums are good.
I still have two Outer Hebridean ambitions - one is to see the machair in flower (see the banner photograph on this site) and I would LOVE to swim in one of these shallow sandy bays on a hot sunny day!
There are so few nesting places for birds that they try to nest in the postboxes, so they are all fitted with flaps to keep the birds out! I don't know if only Hebridean cuckoos do this, but one near the cottage called cu-ckoo-ckoo all the time....
Have you been to this part of the world?
What were your impressions?
A wonderful wedding, dearly loved friends, daffodils, primroses and wild anemones, the moors, the sea, great food and a lovely place to stay. Brilliant sunshine. I do love North Yorkshire!
There is so much I want to share with you but I'm going to skip straight to Gillies Jones glassmakers at Rosedale Abbey.
This place in its beauty and simplicity, these people in their dedication to quality and their laser-like focus on doing one thing well had a great impact on me.
Have you ever visited somewhere that just speaks to you, and perhaps changes you?
Note the capital letters. They indicate that I am serious about this!
In this month of being away from home and thinking and writing, something has clicked inside my head. Yet another light bulb has gone off! I've reached another click point as Marie Kondo would put it.
I've decided that, as from now, I am doing my own thing.
Not anyone else's thing. Not the world's idea of what I should do, or my friends' idea, or other artists' idea, or society's idea, or my peers' idea, or the media's idea (I really have lost it where apostrophies are concerned!).....
Freedom and joy beckon.
Excuse me while I go and put on some loud music. Well not very loud as it is 5.05am and my husband is still asleep.
I am now listening to Mitsuko Uchida playing the divine Schubert Piano Sonatas...
Homeward bound.... do you get excited about going home when you've been away?
I spotted this book in wonderful Blackwell's in Oxford and decided to give one of the exercises a try on my walk around the village today. So I took two Random Experience Generation Pills, with water as directed, and went off to spot 10 things I hadn't noticed before
Here are some of the things I hadn't noticed before -
I'd noticed the daffodils but not so much the 26 other items on this little triangle of grass at a road junction..
Well, that cheered up your day, didn't it?!
Rose-tinted spectacles back on tomorrow (I do like my rose-tinted spectacles..)
What would you like to see cleaned up where you live?
You could have a worse epitaph, couldn't you!
It reminds me of Dorothy Parker's suggestion for her own - 'Excuse My Dust'
Honest Joe lies in the graveyard of Stewkley Church just 20 minutes and 865 years away from here. It's a largely unaltered gem of a Norman Church, beautiful in the spring sunshine.
Cream tea in The Cotswolds today - well you just have to get out when the sun is shining, don't you? And we've not been to Hidcote for so long. Smell of Daphne odora was divine.
..the winter solstice. The days are now getting longer! Yay!
We had two nights at Portavadie Marina on Loch Fyne, just an hour's drive away, walking (in the rain), reading, eating and imbibing in a Scandinavian style studio apartment.
A treat, and back in time for Christmas.
I can recommend it, and sites like www.itison.com and www.groupon.co.uk who offer really good deals on nice places like this....
The Black Isle (not actually an island!) is a rich agricultural area. The landscape consists of small woods and orderly fields with fine crops all gathered in when we were there, tidy farms with herds of good looking cattle. Not an area given to quirkiness so we did a double take when we saw this..
Liz asked about the little red triangle in the header photograph. It is there to mark a low doorway into Hugh Miller's cottage and struck me (not literally as I'm not very tall!) as very graphic. Here is the full picture -
Here are some other things we loved -
PS One more day to visit Cowal Open Studios. We loved Sandi Anderson's work and bought two fabulous prints today.
We're still having trouble with the internet kind of windows but I was enchanted with the little ones in the gable ends of so many of the cottages in the Georgian town of Cromarty in the Black Isle where we recently spent a few days. The first photograph is the house we stayed in. Click on the photographs to enlarge....
I seem to have 'lost' my Categories list from the sidebar! No idea how that happened, and worse, no idea how to get it back...
Do you have times when nothing seems to work? We still have no phone, and we have lots of things which only work some of the time - the CD player, the air conditioning in the car, the grill. Oh, and the internet!
But it's still lovely to be home.
..on the No 91 bus.
There was a tube strike while we were in London and the first 91 bus was packed so tight the driver didn't even open the doors. Just as we were considering what to do, out of nowhere it seemed swayed a vintage London bus with 'No 91 Special Service' on the front and a large avuncular conductor leaning off the back of it waving us all on with a big smile..
I was vaguely wondering how I could use my Oyster Card on this, and did I have enough change if cash was required, as we climbed aboard and sat at the front of the top deck for the best view as it sped down to Aldwych with a ding-ding of its old fashioned bell. (Was it my imagination or was there really hardly any other traffic on the road?)
'Here we are!' cried the cheerful conductor and we all piled off (no-one had been asked to pay) and the bus swung off to rescue another bunch of mildly bemused customers. We all looked at each other for a moment as if to say 'Did that really happen?' before setting off in our different directions to carry on with our day..
It still makes me smile.
What can I say?
Mind blown, head buzzing, eyes birling - London is an exciting place.
I loved Columbia Road Flower Market - every tiny back yard a cafe, croissants and sarnies, decent coffee, quirky shops, street music by Brooke Sharkey, scent of jasmine and lilies, gardening shops, vendors cries 'Two fer a fiver!' 'Mind yer back!', the chutzpah of the woman reversing the beautiful car in (fast) and filling it with giant plants, and the colours!
Have you been here?
click to enlarge...
PS. I have found another link here for the inspiring little video on my last post should you like to look.
Le Temps Retrouvé?
Is it possible, I've been wondering, to recreate the carefree feelings I had as a child of say 8 or 9 years of age. (See yesterday's post.) What would be the nearest adult equivalent? And it dawned on me. A holiday in a hotel! So that's why people go to hotels (lightbulb moment....)
Clothes decisions already made when you packed. Meals provided. Bed made, housework done for you. Time otherwise all your own - it gets more and more appealing! We have always self-catered/camped/stayed with friends and family/done study courses/swapped houses/house sat...
Tell me, is there a downside to staying at a hotel? A really nice hotel that is. There is the cost - it is not cheap to pay for other people to take on all these responsibilities for you! I suppose there is a bit of an obligation to be sociable, but I could be that recluse in the corner who doesn't talk to anyone at breakfast. I'm OK with that.
What is your experience? Would you recommend it?
Do read Swissrose's thought provoking post here about her carefree childhood.
An artist seeking a simpler life - (but not too simple!)