Category Archives: BLOG

Cat Sitting in Northern Ireland (Day Three)

With news of Storm Ciara moving across Ireland and this being our last full day, we set off back along the Causeway Coastal Route hoping to avoid bad weather.   This time we went in search of 700 year old Layd Old Church in Cushendall.

IMG_0833

Day 3.1 Layd Old Church (15) resize Img_0821

We’d read somewhere that Medieval warriors are buried in the cemetery, but we didn’t find their tombs.  However, this headstone was intriguing.   Since we’ve been home I’ve done some research and it turns out Bud ‘CJ’ Platt, Wizard of Zigton is alive and well and living somewhere in America.   He sounds like quite a character!

IMG_0819 crop

One of the headstones is a hole stone which has a legend “The Holestone is an ancient Celtic Stone that provides eternal love and happiness.  Couples undertake an traditional ceremony where the woman reaches her hand through the circular hole and her partner takes it, thus pledging themselves to love each other for ever”.Img_0809

As I mentioned in my earlier post, Game of Thrones was filmed in several locations and we were keen to find The Dark Hedges.   We would have found them earlier if I hadn’t sent us down the wrong road for miles!  The beauty of visiting Ireland during the winter months meant that there was only a small number of other fans/tourists there so we were able to take photos pretty unhindered.

IMG_0867

The avenue of beech trees along Bregagh Road form a beautiful tunnel.  Legend has it that a ghost travels along the hedges flitting from tree to tree!

IMG_0865 IMG_0873 edit

IMG_0876

IMG_0880

Another 13 miles and we were at our last stop of the day.  We’d read that Dunluce Castle was beautiful but nothing prepared us for the view as we rounded the bend high up on the coastal road.  With nowhere to stop at this point, it was impossible to take a photo of the castle from this angle but believe me, the ruins looked incredible against the darkening sky.

Day 3.3 Dunluce Castle (5) resize

Another film location for Game of Thrones, Dunluce Castle represented House of Greyjoy, the ruler of the Iron Islands in the show, but obviously with digital reconstruction!

Day 3.3 Dunluce Castle (49) resize Day 3.3 Dunluce Castle (14) resize Day 3.3 Dunluce Castle (29) resize Day 3.3 Dunluce Castle (30) resize Day 3.3 Dunluce Castle (42) resize

The light was fading fast and the wind was so strong it was hard to stand up so we called it a day and headed back.

IMG_0840

A pretty little rock sculpture island, snapped from the car.

image00001

Back in time for dinner and lots of cuddles with this pretty pusscat.  When we first arrived she wasn’t too sure about sharing the sofa with us, but after three days of treats, combing and a playing with catnip mouse, I think we won her over.  Hope to be back soon <3

Cat sitting in Northern Ireland (Day Two)

After spending time with the pusscat we decided to visit the award-winning St George’s Market in Belfast.  We jumped on a train and enjoyed the ride to Lanyon Place.

Day 2 St George's Market (7) resize

The Market is inside a beautiful Victorian building and has become one of the city’s most popular places to visit.  As soon as we walked through the entrance we could hear live music, smell fresh coffee and see beautiful original artworks and crafts.

Day 2.1 St George's Market (1) edit resize Day 2 St George's Market (2) resize Day 2 St George's Market (3) resize

After lunch in the market we set off to find The Big Fish.  No trip is complete unless I’ve seen a mosaic!

Day 2.2 Trail Mosaic Fish (1) resize

Day 2.2 Trail Mosaic Fish (5) resize

The Big Fish printed mosaic sculpture by John Kindness.

IMG_0762

Cat sitting in Northern Ireland (Day One)

When we were asked by friends if we could look after their cat for a few days in Northern Ireland we jumped at the chance.   Apart from never passing up the opportunity to cuddle a pusscat, we really needed a mini-break.  So last week, with weather warnings of the approaching Storm Ciara ringing in our ears, we boarded a plane to Belfast.

Shortly after arriving we had a brief tour of Belfast streets and saw murals depicting The Troubles and, more importantly, the hope for a brighter future in Peace artwork. celebrating community and tolerance.

Peace muralCultural Icons Van Morrison, George Best and C S Lewis, to name a few. ‘Luminaries & Legends of Eastside’ by artist Dee Craig.  

The following day we set off in our hire car along the Causeway Coastal Route.  Every twist and turn in the road revealed one spectacular view after another.  Day 1 (8) GOT resize

Fans of Game of Thrones will already know that the epic series was largely filmed in Northern Ireland (more about that later).  I loved this signpost sitting in O’Kane’s Layby.

Day 1.1 Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (12) resize

First visit of the day was to CARRICK-A-REDE rope bridge.   For 350 years, fishermen have strung a rope bridge 30m above the sea to allow them to access the best places to catch the migrating salmon.

Day 1.1 Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (17) resize

image00007

Day 1.1 Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (16) resize

image00004

Day 1.1 Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (23) resize

The next stop had been on my ‘bucket list’ forever.

GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

Steeped in myth and legend.  Carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool ….. or a geological wonder with over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of intense volvanic and geological activity!

Day 1.2 Giants Causeway (17) edit resize

Img_0707 edit

Img_0688 selfie

Img_0706 resize

Img_0709 resize

The walk back up to the Visitor Centre was blowy to say the least.  The Audio Guide told us about The Stookans, (or Windy Gap to locals!) a path between the cliff face and a tall rock.   At one point I was nearly blown off my feet!

IMG_0727

Quick stop to take a photo of this beautiful church tower before heading back for pusscat feeding time and cuddles.

 

Autumn 2018

What a glorious start to Autumn.  The temperature has been perfect, the colours have been amazing and the sunsets have been incredible.

Tree

Tree surgeon

Pigeon

Not a cloud in sight.

1716

Tree light

Cone

Ivy

All of a sudden it’s turned a bit nippy, the clocks have turned back and the light has changed.  I’m fighting the need to hibernate, the only way to keep me awake is to make more art :)

Frida Kahlo

I don’t know when I first became aware of Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo and, if I’m honest, I don’t know what I like more, her paintings or her image – because she was also a work of art – but I do know that I was thrilled when I learned an exhibition was coming to the V&A London and I bought tickets as soon as they went on sale.

I remember my son coming home from school and telling me his class were studying Frida’s work and I remember telling my daughter how much I loved Frida’s floral headbands and months later her presenting me with a handmade headband to thank me for all the lifts backwards and forwards along the motorway to Uni.Frida catlo_Fotor_CollageI have two portraits of Frida, a ‘Frida Catlo’ pin (cats and dogs are another obsession), matchboxes and Christmas decorations all bearing Frida’s image.  My DVD “Frida” staring Salma Hayek has been played many times.  I believe I’m a little bit obsessed!  As you can imagine, I was quite excited about the exhibition, but then again, so were many others.

Frida & Me2

We had lunch in a nearby restaurant and then rushed over to the beautiful Victoria & Albert Museum.  I didn’t have the confidence to ‘dress up’ in my Frida headband but I was so happy to see that other ladies did.  One lady in the gardens was wearing a pink outfit with matching pink hair and floral band.

Frida garden

Frida headress frame

Inside the exhibition rooms lots of women wore pompoms, flowers or fancy headbands.  The spirit of Frida was very much alive.  It was in stark contrast to many of the exhibits which dealt with her disabilities;  polio as a child, the bus crash as a teenager and the subsequent operations that followed throughout her life.  French writer, André Breton once described her art as ” .. a ribbon around a bomb”.  I felt like this could also be applied to Frida.  She said of herself “I have enjoyed being contradictory”.

Her costumes and jewellery were exquisite;  seeing her make-up, perfumes and nail polishes was insightful, but I felt seeing her medicines was a little intrusive.  Her medical notes lay in a cabinet for all to see and I couldn’t help wondering if that was something that should have been kept private.  It felt a little like the exhibition was feeding the beast of celebrity and we, the paying public, were eating it all up.

I learned a little more about Frida Kahlo, her relationships and her life.  There are many, many books available telling her story but it really hit home seeing the prosthetic leg, plaster corsets and the body braces she wore.  The pain she felt must sometimes have been unbearable and yet she found the strength to paint, she dressed her hair with ribbons or flowers and her body in beautiful clothes and even matched her nail polish and lipstick.

Frida poster

Photography was not allowed in the exhibition so I visited the shop and bought lots of postcards, a poster and some little Mexican figures and I came home with even more respect for the Mexican artist (if that’s even possible).

********************************************************************************

Now I would like to have a moan about the exhibition, or should I say the curating of the exhibition.  At this point I would like to remind anyone reading this that these are my opinions and this is my little space on the internet, so I’m going to voice my thoughts.  Someone else might visit the exhibition and have an entirely different experience or point of view.  Don’t let my opinion stop you from going.

When we arrived at gallery 38, our tickets were scanned and we were allowed through the door – and this is where my disappointment began.   Just beyond the doors was an information panel outlining the exhibition which was being read by at least ten people, the small entryway was almost filled with people arriving, reading at different speeds and causing a bottleneck.   We then entered the first room which had framed images lining the walls with information panels that were printed in what seemed like font size 10.  To read the image details I had to stand about a foot or so away, but that was not always possible because virtually everyone there was of a ‘certain’ age and probably needed a larger font and was also trying to read up-close.  At one point a rather large lady even rested her breast on my arm in order to lean over and get a better view!  Bustling for space continued throughout the room so after a while we skipped ahead and entered the next room.  To add to the small font size problem, the lighting here was so bad it made it almost impossible to read the information.  Even with reading glasses on I still couldn’t focus on the writing.

I understand the need to protect the exhibits from light but I also think there must be alternative solutions.   If the flow of visitors were fed through the entrance at 2 or 3 minute intervals it would allow more time and space to study the exhibits.  The information panels should be printed on a

MUCH LARGER FONT

and perhaps they could also be illuminated.  There also seems to be too many tickets sold for each 15 minute time slot because we were continuously jostling for space and needed to check we weren’t about to step on anybody when we moved along.

The Victoria & Albert Museum is light and bright with ceilings seeming touching the sky but the gallery where the exhibition was held was dark, claustrophobic and hot.  A few years ago I visited the exhibition “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” and I left with a terrible migraine, probably for the same reasons.

On a positive note, unless you are able to travel to La Casa Azul in Coyoacán, Mexico you may never get the opportunity to see Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up and if you are a fan that would be a terrible shame.

Petersham Nurseries

I finally got to visit Petersham Nurseries this summer and I must say it was lovely.  The nursery is tucked away from the main road and could easily be missed, but once you negotiate the little lane it opens out into an oasis of calm.  I discovered the limited parking after driving down Church Lane and finding no spaces – at this point it started to rain and I had to do a 3-point turn in the tiny lane and park elsewhere.   But, determined to sample the tea and cake, I battled on.

Dsc_0058 resize

Dsc_0078 resize

Dsc_0041 resize

Dsc_0042 resize

Dsc_0047 resize

Garden collage

Dsc_0072 resize

Pot collage

Dsc_0017 resize

Dsc_0016 resize

Cake collageThe flowers were exquisite and I took so many photographs.  I couldn’t leave without treating myself to a new cactus and even managed to buy a birthday present in the gift shop for a ‘difficult to buy for’ gardener.

Fantastic Mrs Fox

It’s not unusual for our dog to go running out to the garden, barking as she goes.  It’s also not unlike her to bark in the night when a cheeky fox gets into our garden. She likes everyone to know she’s not to be messed with.  But about ten days ago she ran outside barking, with her nose in the air and had a really good sniff at the back gate. So, of course, we had to investigate. Not only did we discover a beautiful vixen but five bouncy, healthy cubs.

We have been watching them grow ever since.  They come out of their den in the alleyway behind our house every night at dusk.  We originally put some food out for them but since contacting experts at ‘The Fox Project’ we found out that, unless they are in need of help, it’s best to leave them to fend for themselves because apparently they are lazy by nature and by feeding them it will shrink their territory and therefore make them have less opportunities to hunt when they need to.

So, we had to be content with just watching and as our attempts to creep out at dusk to look over our fence was alerting them to our presence, we took drastic action, as any sane people would!

 Eyeholes

So now we have a great view and I can even poke my camera lens through to take photographs without disturbing them.

The cubs are adorable and constantly playing roly-poly and practising their pouncing.

Cub crop

I snapped this photo of the mum looking up as a flock of parakeets flew by.

Mum watching parakeets

Always alert and on the lookout, she is such an attentive mum.

Mum Fox

This photo was taken when the light had completely gone so it’s a bit grainy and so far I haven’t managed to get a shot of all five cubs together.

3Cubs crop

They are growing so fast and probably won’t be playing outside our garden for much longer so I hope to get more photographs of the cubs before they are fully grown, meanwhile you know where to find me.

Right on our doorstep

We are so lucky to have beautiful Nonsuch Park right on our doorstep and we visit it daily to walk our dog.  Today I went alone to visit the formal gardens of Nonsuch Mansion because dogs aren’t allowed in!

Elsa raspberry

86a

61a

The pretty rose tunnel.

64a gazebo

124a Sundial

The sundial appears on the OS map of 1913 and the cast iron horse trough with hoofs may be from the early 1900s also.

122a Trough

117a Benches

128a

12141926_1485866018383772_1541484215_n(1)

The imprints of what may be a squirrel made me laugh.  We have recently had a new patio laid and our cat decided to walk across the newly cemented edge.  Adds a bit of character to any garden :)

134a Turret

141a

Flower bed

210a rooftop

164a keep off flowerbed

 

The Birds

What could have been a day spent trundling backwards and forwards along the motorway turned out to be a lovely sunny day on the South Downs.

Last Monday one of our vehicles needed to go in for work, so rather than returning home after drop off we headed towards the South coast and ended up at Ditchling Beacon, just 7 miles outside of Brighton, but a world away from the busy seaside resort.

Gulls on field

Driving along towards the hill one of the fields was being ploughed and hundreds of birds were flying around the tractor and feasting on an early lunch in the freshly turned earth.  It was like a scene from the Hitchcock film “The Birds”.   We pulled over and I jumped out with my camera and carefully negotiated the rutted bank to try and get a photograph …….

Tractor

Unbeknown to me, as I was carefully crossing the wide bank to reach the field all the birds had decided to fly off to the field behind me, so I just got a picture of a tractor.  I think if you look closely that might be a bird in the top right hand corner!

Gate

From the top of  Ditchling Beacon there are 360° views over the surrounding countryside.

Walker

Row of trees

Sheep

Birdies

We took a long walk along the South Downs and although it was sunny, it was incredibly windy and we were glad to be able to put the kettle on when we got back to the Camper.

On the way back to the garage we stopped off at Tilgate Park which is also a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.

Tilgate Park lake

Tilgate Park trees