Creating a space for yourself

For most people space is a rare commodity. It helps if you can secure a physical location to do your creative work, but that is not always possible. If you equip yourself with the bare essentials to do your work, you shouldn’t need much more than a calm spot to get started.


For some people a crowded commuter train can offer the space and time needed to work on their portable devices. Whether that’s actively putting something together or reading, listening to podcasts or watching filmed content; the commuter has occupied a creative conceptual space that takes her/him away from the drudgery of repetitive travel and into the world of the imagination.

Others might need solitude and a quiet spot to concentrate. Parks, gardens and sheds are popular locations for contemplation and creative endeavours. For others, the very beauty of such a location is distracting and they need the background hum of traffic or conversation as the screen for their own thoughts.

I find libraries very useful resource centres. Sometimes I will stumble across a book by accident if I am scanning the shelves in the Languages or Philosophy sections on my way to the more familiar ground of Novels by Author. A chat with an affable librarian might spark some suggested reading or alert me to some forthcoming cultural event. But as a place for me to read productively, or simply lose myself in the narrative, no.

I favour pubs and cafés with gardens and shade. But each to her/his own. Good luck finding your own space.

Tricks of the Trade

It’s always a good idea to watch a professional at work. My evening class was taught by a professional artist, Chris Dearden, an abrasive character from Huddersfield who moved to Northern Ireland in 1973.

I had hoped to pick up a few tips on watercolour painting, and the evening did not disappoint in that regard. My fellow painters were using the same size and grade of paper that came in blocks of 20 pages, stuck together along the edges. This means that the page you are working on won’t stretch out of shape or flap about in the breeze.

We were instructed in the sponging technique, which is a good way of getting a mottled effect for trees, if you dab the sponge about a bit. Masking tape creates a neat border around the page, so you can be as  messy as you like. Saucers are recommended for mixing the paint, and you don’t need to squirt much out before adding water. This all sounds pretty obvious, but it’s in the application that the skill comes in.

I was very kindly given a couple of blank pages and a characterful piece of sponge by Maureen. I will be back this week to gain more insights and splash,dab, daub and draw images that will give me pleasure…hopefully.

What’s in a word?

I was listening to the radio this morning when the word palimpsest cropped up in a conversation about Tory canvassing in Yorkshire. This is one of those words that I thought I had probably heard before, but never troubled to look up in the dictionary.

The context in which it was used was quite apt. A palimpsest  is a parchment which has been erased, or partially erased, in order to make room for a new text. The Yorkshireman being interviewed was referring to the wiping away of recent promises made by David Cameron’s Tory government, replaced by more austere measures proposed by Theresa May’s Tory campaign team. No more guarantees for those nearing state pensionable age and means testing for the pensioners’ winter fuel allowance.

Some promises are carved in stone, such as the ‘Edstone’, Ed Milliband’s general election pledges. Unfortunately, Labour lost that election and the 8ft 6in, two-tonne slab of limestone is also seemingly lost.

The embattled current Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn’s catchphrase for Labour’s election hopes is “for the many not the few”. I feel a landslide coming…

The Creative Urge

Within each of us their lurks an irrepressible driving force to create. Whether it is the desire to: paint, draw, write, sculpt, concoct recipes and cocktails, formulate chemical combinations, devise mathematical constructs or fabricate personal adornments; it is an essential part of what makes us human beings.

Having missed out on the Cathedral Quarter’s Arts Festival this year by leaving it too late to book anything, I was determined to find something of interest in the Open Learning Spring 2017 list of short courses. So it is that I have enrolled on the watercolour painting classes given by renowned artist, Chris Dearden.

view from bridge over Thames at Bankside

I bought a boxed set of paints, brushes and other bits and bobs as well as a sketchpad. Students are asked to bring in a landscape photograph to work off, and I have chosen a panoramic shot taken from the pedestrian bridge overlooking the Thames at Bankside. It is a bit fiddly with lots of old and new buildings such as the Globe theatre, Tower bridge, Canon Street station and so on, but I think it meets the brief. I have started to make a preliminary drawing, and will have to be more careful about scale and perspective.

I was drawing away in McHugh’s bar yesterday when my food arrived on a slate; and a very tasty ploughman’s it was. The salad spread out over the table, and the couple of pints of Maggie’s Leap helped me not mind too much. A woman from Newry poked me to ask if my food was any good, and a young couple from the South, on the other side of me, were easy to engage in  conversation. All in all a pleasant Saturday afternoon.

A song for Europeans

National anthems can be rousing songs to stir the citizens to action. The French have their Marseillaise, the Germans their Deutchland über Alles, and we British have God Save the Queen.

European anthem

The lyrics to those anthems can be a bit triumphalistic, referring to past military prowess. Reminding current generations that nationhood sometimes has to be fought for, might not be a bad thing.

In the 18th century the French Republic had to be defended on several fronts against opposing nations who favoured government by monarchies. The English and Scots had been at loggerheads over the border territory for centuries. Cross border raids were a frequent occurrence and the Scottish struggle for independence continues to this day. Irish nationalism is still unresolved. The English had to build loads of impregnable castles in Wales in order to suppress Welsh insurrection.

The Flower of Scotland, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of my Fathers), Amhrán na bhFiann (the Soldier Song) are more uplifting songs than God Save the Queen, but it helps if you have thousands of people belting it out in tune. There is a European anthem set to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy – a very jolly song, nice one Ludwig!


Voice Projection

I must have very sensitive hearing. There are some noises that I find particularly irritating, such as a gaggle of people excitedly talking drivel at the tops of their voices, car drivers tooting their horns at passing pedestrians, camels hissing, peacocks squawking and drunken yobs chanting anything at all.

As a signed up member of the Old Farts Society, it is incumbents upon me to tut quietly about such irritating behaviour and reach for my earphones.