Saturday, 18 May 2013

Five things making me happy this week

Art Club eggshells now displayed on a small tree
 in the school reception area. Probably a smashed-egg-calamity waiting to happen.

1. Art Club
I've moved on to the second group of ten-year-olds who signed up for my Art Club - so I'm re-covering all the same projects but with a much better idea of what I'm doing this time round. It's made me a whole lot more confident and I can barely remember how nervous I was at the start. (I was very nearly late this week - that's how cool and laissez-faire about it I am now.)
Anyway, this group is almost entirely made up of girls - whereas the last one was boy-heavy. Girls make a much shriller sound when they're in a pack, but are really easy to manage. Boys do not sit still - they fidget. They play with the blinds and switch the lights on and off. They throw pencils at each other and go through the rubbish in the bin *yuk*.
This week, the girls sat completely still and spent much of the lesson talking about Johnny Depp - which is a development I can only approve of. In fact, I'm hoping to introduce Robert Downey Jr next week.
Unexpectedly though, I've found the girls to be messier than the boys. Maybe all the extra focus and enthusiasm means they really like to get their hands dirty. And also the tables and chairs. And their school uniforms (sigh).

2. Tate Lichtenstein
Husband has booked tickets to see the Lichtenstein exhibition before it closes, which made me go so far as to perform an actual Happy Dance. I'd barely hinted at all. I might've sighed and said "Wasn't it a shame that the exhibition was closing before many interested parties had been to see it?" And I might've reminded him Lichtenstein was one of my favourite artists. But apart from that, I'd hardly mentioned it. I suppose the two of us must have some sort of psychic bond.
One of the Art Club lessons featured Lichtenstein-style self-portraits, complete with cartoon thought-clouds or speech bubbles and rows of Ben-Day dots. But one of the teachers pinned them all up on the wall before I'd had the chance to photograph them for my blog. Because - yes - that's how good they were!

3. New Shoes
An important meeting next week has necessitated the purchase of New Shoes. Oh, all right then - the important meeting has provided me with an excuse to purchase New Shoes - God, I heart New Shoes!
The shoes are made of shininess, leather and awesome. They are also very twenties-style, which means that after the important meeting I will be able to go straight on to a party at the Great Gatsby's house. Or maybe just bowling.
The shoes were so expensive that my entire family will have to exist on soup and potatoes until at least August. So I take every step with a mixture of guilt and shiny-assed, twenties-style glee!

4. Gloucester docks
This afternoon, we spent some time wandering around Gloucester docks, looking at all the boats and the old redbrick warehouses. I'm trying to write a scene set near a river and the six-year-old had been invited to a party at a wall-climbing-warehouse near to the docks, so a wander around seemed like a good idea. Maybe trips that aren't really planned as trips often turn out to be the best ones - I had no idea I'd enjoy it so much. We saw dilapidated old barges, stylish wooden sailing boats and big white PDiddy-style yachts. There were lifting and turning bridges, a lighthouse boat and a ginormous dredger. Not sure how much of it I'll use in my river scene. As a general rule, I think it's best to only use about 25% of anything you've researched in a description or it reads as if you're trying too hard.

5. And...blossom.
The garden is currently full of buds and blossom. It's all very pastel and sugary out there - like a wedding. There's wisteria, clematis and cherry blossom. There have also been glimpses of that strange, unfamiliar yellow light sometimes referred to as "sunshine"...



Monday, 6 May 2013

Sunshine at the Seaside

Back from a week in Fowey, during which the sun shone every day - I even have a red nose to prove it. There was swimming (the boys insisted on visiting the pool several times a day!) and saunaing and hot-tubbing. There was lots of exploring, crabbing, stone-skimming and riding around on ferries. We had fish and chips, cream teas and Cornish ice-cream (also several times a day) and we walked up and down hills looking at the sea until the boys begged for mercy.

It's quite posh and yachty in Fowey - lots of shops like Fat Face, Se7en and Moshulu, but a bit of a struggle to find bread and milk when we ran out. I could've bought any number of patchwork quilts or appliqued cushions, though. Probably for the best - the absence of takeaway food meant there was no litter or thuggish seagulls hanging around. There were pastel-painted fishermen's cottages, flowers that tumbled over walls (I had no idea rosemary could be so tumbly) and narrow roads with hardly any cars.
Here's Polridmouth Beach where (spoiler!) Max shot Rebecca. We've been here before, but it's one of my favourite beaches - very wild and tangly - so I made everyone come back again. This time we discovered some very rusty bits of a shipwreck which interested the boys far more than all my talk of Manderley and Maxim.
Didn't realise til I saw the photos that Polridmouth kind of looks like 'Junkyard-on-Sea' if you're not viewing it with your Daphne du Maurier spectacles on!
I also made everyone visit Llanhydrock, since I'd studied lots of photos of its rooms while I was writing my historical chapters. Unluckily, our arrival coincided with that of a coachload of German tourists and there was just no getting away from them. All the narrow passages were jammed with bodies, every roped-off room was blocked from view by the unbudging heads and backs of a double row of sightseers and we were pretty much carried upstairs or downstairs by the German current. Which was a shame, because I now find that I don't remember much of the house - apart from the terrifying crush and trying not to lose the boys.
The gardens were better. There were bluebell woods, formal borders and an adventure play ground. It was exactly the right time of year to see rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias - and I'm now satisfied that I've seen every variety of the three in existence!
Even the gardens of Carnethic House (where we stayed) were award winning.
Before we went to Fowey, I was excited about the bluebells, magnolias and camellias in my own garden. I even took a few photos and planned a Springtime blog, but when I got home yesterday, I found myself...underwhelmed. I mowed the lawn and tidied up a bit, but I think I'm going to have to wait for the effects of Llanhydrock and Carnethic to wear off a bit before I can appreciate my own (small and scruffy) garden again! 
Husband loves a 16th century pub - and last week, we had to visit several. He says it's a history lesson for the boys and - well, a pub! Perfect combination - rusty anchors and Doombar ale ahoy! 
(I'm a bit sceptical about all these 16th century claims, to be honest. Granted these pubs all have have low ceilings, wonky walls and a curious smell, but the 16th century was a really long time ago, you know? A few weeks ago, husband led us all into a pub that claimed to be Saxon. Saxon! I thought all the buildings were made of sticks back then. And that they'd all been burned down by the vikings. But no, apparently the vikings knew better than to mess with the pubs *sigh*)
Turns out that what oldest son loves is a car ferry. He took this photo of the Fowey to Bodinnick ferry and made us ride on it several times. I found it EXTREMELY NOISY!
It docks next to Ferryside, of course, which is another of the many houses, buildings and beaches  associated with Dame Daphne.
While I was there, I saw lots of signs for the Fowey Festival which starts next week and which - interestingly - has just changed its name from the Daphne du Maurier Festival.
The Daphne du Maurier website has this to say...
'The organising committee have changed the name of the festival to the "Fowey Festival of Words & Music", in a pointless and misguided attempt to give the festival a 'more widespread appeal'. Quite how the exclusion of the name of probably the most popular author of the 20th century will help, is not clear. We will continue to call it "The Daphne du Maurier Festival of Arts & Literature" because that is what it is!'
Wooooo! I love how cross they sound. And they're going to keep calling it by the old name because...that'll show them. Don't mess with those Daphne fans!  But wait - there's more..
'To illustrate this foolishness, a search on Google for 'du Maurier Festival' returns over 509,000 entries, whereas a search for 'Fowey Festival' returns a mere 130,000 - most of these being for the Fowey Regatta!'
 And yet this illustration suggested a more subversive search and instead I found myself Googling the question, "Is Daphne du Maurier really the most popular author of the 20th century?"
And Wikipedia said "No."
"Ok, so is she probably the most popular author of the 20th century?"
"No," said Wikipedia. "Look - she's not even on our list."
Husband guessed that JK Rowling was the most popular author of the 20th century - and she was indeed on Wikipedia's list having sold somewhere between 350-450 million books. But the author who's sold most is Agatha Christie with between 2-4 billion sales. Phew!
(Naturally, I'm considering sending an email to the du Maurier website with the suggestion they change their name to for a more widespread appeal. Hee hee.) 
Although I had a lovely time in Fowey and none of us wanted to come home, I've been noticing lots of little things that are making me glad to be back (in the manner of an old person). I'd forgotten how bright my duvet cover is - it's really red. Whereas Carnethic house was stylishly - relentlessly -  beige. I'd forgotten I'd bought new towels before we left - so it's like having new towels all over again! I'd forgotten we put the dining room table in a slightly different place for husband's fortieth birthday party - I like it there! I'm obviously the sort of curmudgeonly, unadventurous old person who likes the taste of my own particular tap water and the shape of my own particular coffee mug.
Of course, the downside of all that is that I now have to go and do six loads of (sandy and chloriney) washing. And ironing...phooey!