Art, Creativity, Photography, Travel, Writing

Posts tagged ‘Priscilla’s journal’

Priscilla goes a-printing

Today we went to visit a friend of mine, the Canadian-born artist Heather Carroll to watch her at work printing in her studio.

She makes some of her printing plates out of stiff card and, in this case, covered the surface with gesso, adding sand for texture and glueing thread in place to provide a relief for the hair and the outline of the legs of the reclining female figure. First of all she put the inks she was going to use (today they were water-based but she also uses oils) on a glass sheet. She added liquid glycerine to achieve the right degree of viscosity to prevent the colours from blending into each other and become muddy.

Using a brayer and starting with the lightest colour first – yellow – she inked over the whole plate. Then she added green and blue. She used red and black on the outer edges of the plate to provide definition.

Priscilla was fascinated by all this

but we decided to put her in a place of safety so that she didn’t get ink all over her clothes.

From this vantage point she could watch as Heather ran the print through the press. Today she was using 100% linen handmade, 300gm, paper. When she had finished inking the plate

she put the printing plate, painted surface upwards, in the press and laid a sheet of paper on top. This was then covered with two layers of felt and was run twice through the press, more slowly the second time to ensure that the colour really took well. Needless to say Priscilla felt obliged to lend a hand when it came to turning the wheel on the press when it became obvious that Heather couldn’t manage on her own.

When the print has been run through the press twice both the print and the plate are removed.

Heather then inked up a second printing plate, another female figure

which produced this

No two prints will ever be identical as there will inevitably be variations in the colouring, as can be seen with these four prints

Heather explained that this is a very simple form of printing. More complicated prints can be made using backgrounds and layers and a much greater variety of colour can be achieved this way.

Heather makes prints from plates she has made, natural materials like leaves and grasses,

and also carves stone from which she prints.

(the two prints at bottom centre were printed from stone carvings).

She is also a sculptress – making both large and small sculptures –

an artist – this is a drawing of “la cantadora”

and a graphic designer – she made this large scale banner for one of her exhibitions in 2006

We were sad to have to bid farewell to Heather and Priscilla was especially sad to say goodbye to Elsie, whose acquaintance she only made this afternoon.

Between you and me I think Priscilla may have got some ideas from this visit and may well be conducting some experiments soon …..

In which we visit an Easter market in Trier

On Friday Carol and hubby took me to Trier, just over the border in Germany, to visit an Easter market. Trier is famous for its Christmas markets so this is a new – and probably lucrative – departure for the town, which attracts hordes of tourists all year round from miles away.

Our first stop in Trier was to admire the guild fountain. This is made of wrought iron and features all of the trades – shoemakers, bakers, tailors, etc. In the summer the fountain works but no water flows in winter, probaby because if the water were to freeze it might damage the metalwork.

From there we made our way to the main market square with this ornate statue in it and the church of St Gangolf in the background.

Here I am mastering the intricacies of a menu written in German.

In the square a variety of stalls had been set up – one selling home-made wines and liquors,

another where you could have a drink of wine or beer, a stall selling clothes and jewellry, and two with Easter decorations.

meeting the Easter bunnies

There were several flower stalls and, best of all, a carousel, on which I absolutely had to have a ride.

We stopped at the drinks stall where the bar tender commented – rather unkindly I thought – that it looked as if I was hanging onto my glass for dear life and wasn’t going to let go. Actually the wine was pretty good so it’s not really surprising I didn’t want to let go.

We walked the length of the pedestrian precinct so that we could admire the famous Porta Nigra (black gate). Trier was the most northern outpost of the Roman Empire in the time of Constantine and there a lots of roman remains including a well-preserved ampitheatre, thermal spa, Constantine’s basilica (built in AD 310) and the Porta Nigra.

Some of the shops had beautiful wrought iron signs outside them.

This beautiful unicorn head graces the Unicorn Pharmacy

Easter trees are very popular

On our way back to the car we passed some beautifully preserved buildings of which Carol took a number of photos

and this quirky jewellry shop window with its vegetable puppets.

Caravanserai Easter

Our last port of call was a recently restored baroque fountain, painted in white and gold.

Carol’s husband proved to be a dab hand at taking photos of us and he really enjoyed himself. He said he thought it was a brilliant idea to send me on a round the world. When Carol told the stallholders – whose permission she asked before taking some of the photos – that I was on a world trip, between you and me, I think they thought Carol was absolutely bonkers, but it made them smile if nothing else!

More information on Trier can be found here.

crystals-St Patricks-UK again

We were invited to lunch with our neighbours. All the family are passionately interested in crystals which they use for healing purposes as well as enjoying the sheer pleasure of collecting and owning them. Since our last visit they had acquired some more which they were happy to show us. P was fascinated by the sheer size and diversity of some of them and insisted on being photographed with some of them.

Lunch was of the cook-your-own variety using a raclette machine. Actually this is something of a misnomer as a “raclette” is the name given to the little scraper used for removing stubborn traces of cheese at the end of the meal. It consists of a hot plate over a grill. Each person has their own miniature tray into which they place a slice of cheese. This is placed under the grill and the resulting melted cheese is poured over potatoes which have been cooked in their skins. The potatoes are usually served with raw/cooked/smoked ham and a variety of pickles. The hotplate above the grill can be used for cooking raw meat, seafood or vegetables. As our neighbours are British and Chinese today we had a sort of fusion meal with Chinese sauces into which we dipped the mushrooms, seafood and cooked beef. In typically British fashion we had baked apples for dessert. All in all a delicious lunch.

Later that afternoon we went to Luxembourg city. This weekend the Irish community were celebrating St Patrick’s Day. There is a large Irish community here and they always make the most of any excuse to celebrate. This year a huge marquee had been erected in the main square and decorated with masses of orange, green and white balloons (the colours of the Irish flag). Ireland was due to play England as part of the 6 nation’s rugby cup which was being shown on a huge TV screen inside the marquee. Several young ladies were kitted out in green clothing and a couple, like the two in the picture, had co-ordinated head gear and agreed to be photographed with Priscilla.

16.03 It was pouring with rain when we set off to drive to the UK again, this time in a borrowed car that was large enough to accommodate the chest of drawers we were going to be bringing back with us. The car was a Land rover Discoverer and we all felt as if we were travelling in luxury although the various safety features and all-electric functions eventually drove us bonkers.

We took a different route to get to Boulogne from where we would be making our crossing to the UK. This time we were going via Reims, through the famous Champagne region where fields and vineyards stretched as far as the eye could see over a still wintry landscape of brown ploughed earth fields edged with bare trees. We passed the battlegrounds of the two world wars with their small military cemeteries a stark reminder of how many died, the serried ranks of crosses bearing a sad testimony to the bloodshed.

In the UK in the two weeks since our previous visit the greening of spring was more obvious although at times it was hard to see anything except the sheeting rain. The winter has been so damp that most of the trees were covered in a second skin of green of green lichen. The hedgerows were a mass of colour – yellow broom, pink Judas trees whose heart shaped leaves will only appear once the flowers fade, and masses of pale yellow primroses. However, on a more sombre note, the recent rains had left many areas under water. In the town where Milly lives the water had overflowed the riverbanks and was heading for the local supermarket car park. The evening sunlight shafting down through banks of grey clouds produced a very interestingly lit landscape.

Hanging out

C took me to visit a friend of hers and to meet some of my European cousins. What she hadn’t told me was how many there were of them!

They were as fascinated to learn all about me and my travels and view my blog pages as I was to hear about them – from so many different places and backgrounds too. We could have spent hours there. It was a great way to end my European travels and I will shortly be setting off homewards.

City of Angels II

We then walked along the outer edge of Chinatown, stopping off to admire all the gold and red ornamentation of a small Chinese temple.

A row of typical shop houses i.e. shops on the ground floor with living accommodation above

It was very, very hot as we walked, endeavouring to keep to the shade where possible. We visited one of the temples within the Wat Suthat) complex with wonderfully decorated wall murals inside and peaceful gardens. Note the beautiful street lamp (top right in the photo)

devout worshippers stick bits of gold leaf on to the Buddha statues

The decoration on this panel is done with a stencil. One single stencil is used for each panel. Once the extraordinarily-complex stencil has been cut it is attached to the edges of the black painted panel. Gold paint is then used to fill in the design. C told me she has seen this being done in northern Thailand.

Unfortunately we were not able to go into the main temple as it was closed due to it being a holiday.

At a small shrine with figures cast in concrete we caught sight of a cat sleeping peacefully on the altar.

We passed another somewhat dilapidated wat (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) (Wat Thep Daram)

and then slipped into the shade behind the walls of the Mahakan Fort, one of two surviving citadels that defended the old walled city.

Another world was revealed here of 55 simple wooden houses where naked toddlers played with their siblings along the edge of the klong (small canal). It was better not to look too closely as all rubbish is thrown into the klong whose surface rippled with the activity of the catfish. Caged birds sang. Cats dozed in the heat as did their owners.

On the other side of the road was the magnificent Wat Rachanada with its giant swing (like a Japanese Tori gate). No energy to visit it today, that will have wait for another time.

We emerged into the heat again, passing in front of a rent-a-Buddha shop, where wealthy patrons can rent a Buddha statue and then passed in front of a huge picture of the current Thai King. The Thais are very proud of their king and images of him and the Queen abound.

We then found our way to a confluence of two klongs where we could catch a klong taxi which would take us half way across in the city in half an hour. The locals use these to commute. They are very fast which is why there are plastic tarpaulins which are hauled up to protect travellers from the spray thrown up by passing water taxis. As you look between the gap between the top of the tarpaulin and the roof of the boat you catch sight of a Bangkok in the process of disappearing and one where few tourists venture, of dilapidated buildings huddled cheek by jowl with the new high-rise, package-tourist hotels. It has taken us several visits to Bangkok to discover this mode of transport and now we use it whenever possible.

The water taxis only pause for a few seconds at each stop so you have to be quick getting on or off. Because of this we missed our last stop and ended up having to get off at the next one and then walked back along the edge of the klong.

It was now midday and we were wiped out by heat, in spite of frequent stops for cold drinks and so we retired to the air-conditioned comfort of the hotel to recover.

We did not emerge again until after dark – 7 0’clock or thereabouts – and it was marginally cooler. By then the street food vendors had set up their stalls and were doing brisk business. Most Thai homes do not have a kitchen as westerners know it – they tend to buy ready-prepared food that they take home and eat with some rice or they eat out so these food vendors play a very important role. Some of them will ply their trade until the early hours of the morning. (Note the baby sleeping on the table of this stall under the Miss Kitty cushions) which was still in situ at 1am.

08.05 Another bakingly hot day so we took the air-conditioned sky train two stops further down the line to visit the famous Erawan shrine, one of the most frequented and venerated in modern Bangkok. It is situated on the corner outside the Erawan Hotel. Classical dancers perform here. As far as I could gather you can pay for a dance to accompany your prayers.

On the street outside were ranged a number of stalls selling garlands of flowers and miniature statues of people and elephants. A guardian regularly clears away spent incense sticks, garlands and the little statues otherwise the shrine would disappear under a mound of them.

A couple of hundred metres away there is another much-frequented shrine, honouring Ganesh – judging by the numbers of elephant figurines that had been left here by devout worshippers.

Another street vendor was taking advantage of the presence of worshippers to sell his wares.

Pavement cafés abound in the daytime and provide food for the local office workers, tourists and anyone else who fancies a snack – and very good the food was too!

This sign indicates at what times of the day the food vendors may set up their stalls (just next to our hotel).

Spirit houses in all shapes and forms and in all states of age varying between decrepit and brand-spanking new are visible wherever you go. Indeed each building should have its own spirit house. The larger the building the larger and more decorative the spirit house should be. This first one is outside the J.M. Marriott Hotel.

This one is in the car park opposite our hotel.

This rather stark and sophisticated one belongs to the hotel where we were staying.

That evening we caught a taxi to Bangkok’s new international airport and took this photo of the entrance doors with these images etched on them.

And so back to Europe.

City of Angels I

Bangkok’s real name, in Thai, is Krung Thep which, roughly translated means City of Angles. “Bangkok” translates as “village of wild plums”.

07.05 After spending a few days cooped up in the hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, following the death of Milly, it was decided that we should go out and go visiting while we were here.

We left the hotel at 9am and travelled first on the Sky Train

view from one of the sky train stations

(a sort of above-ground metro) to its terminus, Saphan Taksin, on the Chao Praya river. From there we took a river taxi up to Memorial Bridge.

The river is much frequented by all sorts of traffic, from the shuttle boats taking tourists between various luxury hotels and some of the tourist sites, to longtail boats transporting Thais up and down the river to minute boats towing massive 4-section barges.

We disembarked at Memorial bridge and headed for the largest fruit and vegetable market in Bangkok.

This is a labyrinth of narrow walkways between stalls where produce is transported by porters wheeling huge baskets.

The prink fruit are dragon fruit. They have white flesh inside dotted with tiny black seeds and are good to eat. The spiky brown fruit in front of the limes are tamarinds. As raw fruit they are quite disgusting but once cooked and pulped and incorporated into food they are fine. These are durian fruit and it is forbidden to carry them in aircraft or take them into hotel rooms because of their smell once cut open.

We saw fruit and vegetables we have never seen before as well as mobile food vendors who trundle their stalls along the lanes.

From there we walked towards the 24hour wholesale cut-flower market. Here we found stalls selling the night-smelling jasmine used for making garlands of the buds which are then sold at shrines throughout the city or on stalls along the street.

Bunches and bunches of roses were wrapped up in damp newspaper to preserve their freshness.

We saw bunches of tightly furled lotus buds wrapped in lotus leaves

and bunches of lotus flowers with their outer petals folded back resembling origami decorations.

On another stall mounds of orchid flowers were piled up.

There were florists both traditional

and non-traditional, the latter made their flowers out of polystyrene wrapping

or plastic

These decorations are made from dried, dyed flower heads and are used in the shrines.

We paused to inspect the contents of this food stall and another vendor, outside in the street, pointed at the lady behind and the stall and then at me, grinned and said “same, same”. Personally I couldn’t see what was so funny …..

Priscilla visits North Devon V

Thurs 24.04 Sadly this was our last full day, so C took me for a walk up to the gorge on the Glen Lyn estate. A steep path leads up to the top of the gorge through deciduous woodland. Delicate purple-veined white flowered wood sorrel grows in profusion as do harts tongue ferns, bracken, and the pale green spathes of the wild arum pushed up through the leaf mould. How do you tell the difference between bracken and ferns? Bracken has branches and ferns have fronds.

view from the gorge looking down towards Lynmouth and the sea

We then drove to the village of Brendon where we lunched at the Stag Hunters Inn. We then drove into Oare Valley to see Robbers Bridge.

This area is known locally as Doone country – made famous by the novel Lorna Doone by R. Blackmore. We did a circular walk here along the edge of the Oare stream. Although it was quite a windy day we were protected from the worst of the wind by the valley sides.

On our way back to the cottage C’s husband dropped us off at the top of Countisbury Hill and we walked down from the edge of the moor, through hanging woods whose silence was only disturbed by the squawks of a couple of pheasants, along a footpath which brought us out at the edge of the East Lyn river and back into Lynmouth.

We were so impressed with our lunch at the Stag Hunters Inn that we went back there for dinner that night!

Fri 25.04 we cleared our things out of the cottage and sadly waved goodbye. We stopped at Tarr Steps so that C could show me this fine example of a “clapper bridge” (a stone bridge made by supporting stones on top of each other). This one dates back to mediaeval times. It had been partially washed away in recent floods but had been repaired.

Thus ended our visit to North Devon.

Priscilla visits North Devon IV

Monday 21.4 Another day of awful weather so we decided to limit our expedition to another pub lunch, this time in a former railway station. C went for another dose of beach-combing before supper.

Tuesday 22.4 we awoke to glorious weather and decided to make an early start so that we could walk to Heddons Mouth and then have lunch at the Hunters Inn. This was the first time that I had had the chance to tuck into a typical English pub lunch – a ploughmans lunch. The name is derived from the sort of lunches that farmworkers enjoyed in days gone by – usually bread and cheese. C decided to sample a cheese she had not come across before but pronounced herself somewhat disappointed as the cheese lacked flavour and texture. After that we drove to the tiny village of Trentishoe to visit the local church which is famous for its choir screen with a hole in it to allow the bass viol to be played and for its pedal organ which came from the ship The Mauretania which was broken up in 1965. The church is small – only seating a congregation of some two dozen souls – with whitewashed walls and plain glass windows through which you can see the yellow gorse bushes on the other side of the valley or the primroses currently flowering amongst the grave stones. A place of peace indeed. Then we drove back to the cottage and C went off beachcombing again, returning later with over a hundred pieces of beach glass ranging in size from an inch or so across to barely an eighth of an inch across. The colours range from white through pale bluish green, three different shades of green, an occasional piece of blue, and a rare find – a piece of red glass. C says she wants to make a mosaic of a mermaid using the glass as well as necklace which she would make by twisting wire around the pieces of glass.

As she passed the tea rooms she caught sight of this cheeky jackdaw checking to see if the coast was clear before it helped itself from the milk jug on the tray which had been left out on the table.

Wed 23.04 C took me for a ride on the Victorian water-operated cliff railway up to the village of Lynton. Two carriages, one starting from the top and one from the bottom of the track make the trip regularly throughout the day and the views along the coastline are stunning. We walked back down a very steep path to Lynmouth.

Our day trip out took us first for lunch at the Black Venus Inn. On enquiring about the origin on the name we were told that there used to be 7 pubs called the Ring of Bells in the area. 5 of the pubs had decided to change their names and this was one of them. It took its name from the Black Venus hill on the over side of the valley. Black Venus was a breed of sheep. Lunch was excellent and we went for a woodland walk afterwards. There were masses of primroses everywhere and the bluebells are just starting to appear in more sheltered spots. There are many walks in this area of outstanding natural beauty and we did another short walk in Holcombe woods before returning to the cottage. When we got back to the cottage C went beachcombing again for more sea glass.

Priscilla visits North Devon III

Monday 21.4 Another day of awful weather so we decided to limit our expedition to another pub lunch, this time in a former railway station. C went for another dose of beach-combing before supper.

Tuesday 22.4 we awoke to glorious weather and decided to make an early start so that we could walk to Heddons Mouth and then have lunch at the Hunters Inn. The walk took us along a valley floor with wild gorse and stony scree on one side and old woodland on the other. There were masses of primroses everywhere. The stream exits on to a stony beach and on the headland is the remains of an old lime kiln.

This was the first time that I had had the chance to tuck into a typical English pub lunch – a ploughmans lunch. The name is derived from the sort of lunches that farmworkers enjoyed in days gone by – usually bread and cheese.

C decided to sample a cheese she had not come across before but pronounced herself somewhat disappointed as the cheese lacked flavour and texture.

After lunch we drove up to the top of the cliffs and walked a short distance on the coastal path, which follows the coast line for a considerable distance. These are some of the highest cliffs in England and we met several weary walkers.

From there we drove to the tiny village of Trentishoe to visit the local church which is famous for its choir screen with a hole in it to allow the bass viol to be played and for its pedal organ which came from the ship, The Mauretania, which was broken up in 1965. The church is small – only seating a congregation of some two dozen souls – with whitewashed walls and plain glass windows through which you can see the yellow gorse bushes on the other side of the valley or the primroses currently flowering amongst the grave stones. A place of peace indeed.

Then we drove back to the cottage and C went off beachcombing again, returning later with over a hundred pieces of beach glass ranging in size from an inch or so across to barely an eighth of an inch across. The colours range from white through pale bluish green, three different shades of green, an occasional piece of blue, and a rare find – a piece of red glass. C says she wants to make a mosaic of a mermaid using the glass as well as necklace which she would make by twisting wire around the pieces of glass.

Wed 23.04 C took me for a ride on the Victorian water-operated cliff railway up to the village of Lynton. Two carriages, one starting from the top and one from the bottom of the track make the trip regularly throughout the day and the views along the coastline are stunning. We walked back down a very steep path to Lynmouth.

Our day trip out took us first for lunch at the Black Venus Inn. On enquiring about the origin on the name we were told that there used to be 7 pubs called the Ring of Bells in the area. 5 of the pubs had decided to change their names and this was one of them. It took its name from the Black Venus hill on the other side of the valley. Black Venus was a breed of sheep.

Lunch was excellent and we went for a woodland walk afterwards. There were masses of primroses everywhere and the bluebells are just starting to appear in more sheltered spots. The young needles on the larch trees were just starting to sprout in their brilliant pale green. There are many walks in this area of outstanding natural beauty and we did another short walk in Holcombe woods before returning to the cottage.

In a garden we spotted this stone gazebo. This looks just the sort of place that would make a perfect writer’s retreat!

When we got back to the cottage C went beachcombing again for more sea glass.

Priscilla visits North Devon II

19.04 The weather was so awful that we only emerged from the cottage to run to the car and drive up to the top of the hill to the nearest pub, where we tucked into a welcome lunch and watched intrepid walkers arrive, take off their wet clothes which they left to dry in front of the log fire, and silently say a prayer of thanks that it wasn’t us walking in this atrocious weather. Visibility was pretty limited and we could hardly see down into the bay below us. We decided that discretion was the better part of valour and returned to the warmth and comfort of the cottage in the company of a good book.

Sunday 20.4 at least it wasn’t raining by the time we left the cottage and drove a short way up the valley to where we were planning on walking. Suitably fortified by a pub lunch we set off to walk from the Rockford Inn at Rockford to Watersmeet, a mile or so down the valley.

The trees are still very bare here and we could see much more of the river’s course than in previous years. The path led uphill for much of the way through ancient woodland followed by a steep descent to Watersmeet where the East and West Lyn rivers meet.

C nobly volunteered to walk back to the car alone and to drive it back to Watersmeet allowing everyone else a welcome rest in the tea rooms where another walker who was having tea at Watersmeet remarked that visibility was non-existent up on top of the moors although it was quite clear down in the valley and on the beach.

It was a steep uphill walk – warm work when the sun decided to come out – but 40 minutes later she was waiting at the top of the river path for the rest of us. She even managed to go and spend an hour or so down on the stony beach in search of sea glass (pieces of glass that have been tumbled by the waves) before returning home for a well-earned dinner.