Watercolour joy

‘I can’t draw!’ Its something I say all the time.

I want to draw and am inspired by drawings. My work would be enhanced by my ability to draw; for example, I would like to illustrate one of my management books. My hobbies would be simpler if I could draw patterns for quilting or sewing and I would like to draw Christmas cards or notelets.

I was ejected from art class at school when I was about 11. I don’t remember being naughty I was just incapable of drawing or painting and that was enough to have me thrown out for ever!

Not long ago, I started a cartooning course which clearly said ‘no experience necessary’ but after two submissions I was thrown out because I couldn’t draw! Of course I couldn’t draw, I never could and the course requirements didn’t say that you needed to be able to draw. Frustration overflowed and my cartooning career stopped before it started.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended my first watercolour course with an amazing tutor. It was hard going for the first hour or so; she made us draw the same thing four times, once with my right hand, once standing, once with my left hand and once drawing the item upside down. As we worked through the exercises I was rehearsing how to tell the tutor I wanted to leave the workshop. I wanted to give in and repeat my mantra of: ‘I can’t draw.’

As I looked at my drawings I realised that my best result was achieved by drawing with the wrong hand. I tried it again and then again and later the tutor introduced us to the paints and we only used two colours and as I was painting something in me clicked. It was like a switch clicking in my heart and I wanted to stay and see it through. I can’t really explain the emotion in words,

I made a decision to  commit to finishing the day: however bad things got; some of it was pretty bad!

So, what did I manage to achieve?

 

 

So, I am learning to draw, I am not good but if I use the ‘wrong’ hand I can draw and it seems that I may even be able to paint!

 

Brexit! Elections! Jo Swinson

So the deed is done! Brexit will happen now and it seems that a significant number of people want this. The thing I struggle with is trying to understand what it is they actually want. What is it that they think Brexit will bring to the country? After fighting hard to build a united Europe how will the UK be better off separated from our allies? I just don’t get it, but it’s too late for all of that now.

What is democracy?

a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.

“a system of parliamentary democracy” control of an organization or group by the majority of its members.

“the intended extension of industrial democracy”

Many of my ‘Remainer’ friends are now posting about proportional representation and how that would be better for the country.  Well, it is easy to blame the system when the votes don’t go your way.  The fact is that given a choice people did not vote to remain. Even the most ardent of Remainers decided to vote for Labour even though Labour did not have a clear mandate to remain in the European Union.

In various conversations I was intrigued about why this might be the case and asked a few friends to explain their rationale. Some said they decided that the Lib Dems were no longer acceptable because they would revoke article 50. Their argument being that a large number of people voted to leave so we must have a second referendum. I found myself thinking and possibly saying, hang on a minute, if you want to remain then why not vote for the only party that has it at the centre of its manifesto? The responses were various.

This election has made me think about many things and I want to share just a few about Jo Swinson.

  1. As the leader of a major party she deserves some credit, her message was clear and unequivocal. When pushed to vote, people just didn’t go for it and maybe in the moment of truth, x on a paper, people didn’t want it enough to vote for her.
  2. We have ended up with a significant conservative majority and they will be in power for the next 5 years. We are leaving Europe, no more equivocation about it!
  3. Female leaders always bring out the worst in mainstream media. I have heard so much bollocks about Jo Swinson, her age, her ambition (being too aggressive – have you seen and heard BoJo?) her clothes, and it pisses me off!
  4. Its really quite simple: she tried really hard to be heard in this election and for the UK to Remain in the EU; she failed. It took courage to step up in the way she did and she stood for something that matters to a great many people. 
  5. Jo Swinson will continue to have a good career in whatever she chooses to do but it wont be the House of Commons anytime soon. She has experienced the worst type of learning experience, failure, and hopefully she will come back stronger.

Well it more than met my expectations

John and I waited in line for a good half hour last week to see the Tutankhamun exhibition. It did not disappoint. Someone told me it was well curated and indeed it is. Its a magical experience for anyone who loves all things Egyptian. Just behind us a woman regaled her children and grand children about her experiences of seeing the exhibition in 1972. The children were really interested in how much gold she had seen and in hearing about the mask. Luckily the queues were shorter this time.

I don’t have a particular item I liked more than others I loved it all and the Saatchi gallery also excelled; the staff were exceptional. they were proud of the exhibition, proud to talk about the number of artefacts, proud to be able to see the exhibition when no visitors are  inside and proud that the exhibition is attracting so much attention.

I loved my visit and hope to one day make the trip to see the entire exhibition in the new Gallery in Cairo.

Tutankhamun

I’m so excited!

We have tickets to see the Saatchi exhibition tomorrow. I’ve had them since the exhibition was announced and now its nearly time to go. People tell me different things about their experiences and I listen, but in my own mind I am back in the Valley of the Kings experiencing the excitement of entering tombs for the first time. I cannot wait to see the artefacts again!

1972

xTutankhamun-queue.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Xl34j-giR7

In 1972, both John and I queued in the lines of children to see the treasures of Egypt. No doubt he waited patiently and I less so. I do remember making friends with other children who were opposite me in the snake like lines. We don’t remember the exact dates and who knows we might both have been in the same queue. John still has a brochure, I only have memories. The exhibition was crowded and I saw a fraction of the main artefacts but it was enough to ignite a fascination of all things Egyptian.

Tomorrow we will see the exhibition together. This might not sound significant but this year John has been unwell and after three operations and several months of healing we now know he will have a fourth operation in two weeks. Being able to go to an exhibition together, and one that means so much to both of us, matters a great deal. I feel like a child on the eve of Christmas.

I will post about the exhibition again next week.

 

 

My Silver Bullet

What is a Silver Bullet?

A bullet made of silver, supposedly the only weapon that could kill a werewolf. Or it could be a seemingly magical solution to a complicated problem?
silver bullet
I think that many of us are looking for Silver Bullets. I want one that makes me lose lots of weight overnight. The country wants a bullet that gives us Brexit, but only if we can trade on the same terms as when we are  in the EU  and it must give us freedom to trade wherever we like. Everyone I know seems to want the silver bullet for staying young.
20 years ago, Mike Lombardo and Bob Eichinger wrote The Leadership Machine.

No one knows what specific challenges we will face in 2020, but we have a strong idea of what the leaders who can meet those challenges will look like and how they will get to be that way.

Lominger (A combination of both names) proposed a few things which at the time were innovative but now appear in many leadership books. I have slightly adapted their views in the three points below.
  1. It takes several years of practice to become an overnight success – about 10 years or 10,000 hours!
  2. Leaders can be made, the characteristic which will determine success is, the ability to learn.
  3. Learning is key, but learning agility is critical for individual growth and success. They suggested that learning new things, even if they are not related to work, will help to hone the leadership muscle.leaderhsip machine
This book really captured my imagination, they suggest that the Silver Bullet to top performance is challenging ourselves to learn in new and different ways. I took it to mean that we need to learn things that are hard to learn to keep the ‘little grey cells’ working.
After reading the book, I made a decision that I would learn something new every year and this is my list of the things I tried. In the first draft of this post, I included my work based learning, but as Lominger would point out I had to do that anyway. So I have limited the list to things that really challenged me.

Computer-based learning and social media

  1. Making a movie using iMovie – Youtube, trial and error, the motivation was my niece’s 21st birthday (she is now 32). Result? I can do it but need to learn more and I have only ever made four movies. Good investment of my time.
  2. Blogging – for my travels to the Falkland Islands and for work. I have a routine and a discipline about doing a blog now, and I know how to use WordPress and Blogger platforms. Great investment.
  3. Podcasting – to communicate messages and to create blended learning. Great course.  I tried a few times but I haven’t really used this. Investment was worth it though because I met a great teacher.

Indoor hobbies

  1. Knitting – refresher and a specialist course on how to finish off different types of knitting projects. Results are good and I have been finishing things I start.  I have also completed some projects I started 20 years ago.
  2. Sewing – three dresses – good fun and I know I can do it if needed. Investment was okay but I ended up with three dresses (very expensive ones given the course costs) that I will never wear.qult with Janice fabric
  3. Patchwork quilting – my sister-in-law gave me a sewing class as a birthday present. Result is that this is now my primary hobby. All these years later, I still love it and when I was in the Falkland Islands I was able to join a quilting group. It was a great way to meet some wonderful people.
  4. Painting – creating is important to me and I love watercolour so I thought I would give it a go. The result is awful – truly awful. Investment of time and money – not worth it.
  5. Cartooning – The motivation for this was to be able to illustrate my books myself. It was intended to help me create course material. The result was abject failure! I was thrown off the course for submitting poor work. The investment was still worth it because I was able to transfer the credits over to an online writing course. It did also help to stretch a boundary – quite a big stretch and I won’t be bothering trying to learn to draw or cartoon again.
  6. Embroidery – I like the look of modern embroidery and I wanted to do a class at the Royal School of Needlework, Hampton Court. It was fun but I haven’t kept it up. I need to finish my piece and to do a refresher.
  7. Book binding – why not? I loved it and made some great samples. It cost a lot of money to make two books that I will never use because they are so precious to me. I would like to try to put the skills to use again soon but I am not sure it will become a passion for me.
  8. Wet Felting – I was living in the Falklands so I had time to do it. Great fun. Unlikely to take it up anytime soon. Can make things if needed and will always treasure the things I made with a friend in Darwin, Falkland Islands.

Outdoor hobbies

  1. Flying light airplanes – I am not sure what motivated this. I think it has been on my mind since I first read Jonathon Livingston Seagull. The author describes flight so well that I could almost feel I was Jonathon. In my 30’s I started to glide and then I treated myself to a flying lesson for a special birthday. Once I flew with an engine I was I hooked. Result?  As I was approaching the date to do my Solo, I realised that I did not want to do solo flying. I loved the act of flying but not the responsibility of landing a plane near Heathrow. As an investment, it was a good one. People who know me know that I watched an array of disaster movies in the 70’s. In the 90’s I was travelling in remote places, so I felt that if I was ever in trouble I had the skill to fly us out, if needed, and if there just happened to be a fully fuelled small plane nearby. It’s a strange thought and as I am writing about flying, I realise that I love and miss it.
  2. Shooting – shotgun, rifle, handguns and machine gun. The motivation was purely research for writing.  My central character is a reluctant survivalist who has to use guns to defend herself to rescue children. Result? I am an excellent shot. Its a bit worrying that whatever weapon I used I was competent quickly. It gave me information I could never have imagined for my writing. I found the whole experience both exciting and terrifying. Great investment for two reasons: firsthand experience of handling guns to help with writing and I found something that I am really good at! Its not something I expect to use, hopefully, disaster movie scenario aside, but its a skill.
  3. Sailing – I was pretty okay at this but I wanted to learn how to manoeuvre a boat and I wanted to complete my Day Skipper exams. Result? I passed the exam and I am pretty good at handling a boat. Oh and I met my lovely husband sailing, so I think I can say this was the best investment of all!

Physical

  1. Swimming – in particular holding my breathe and swimming underwater for long periods – inspired by the 1970’s film ‘Poseidon Adventure’ and Shelley Winters swim to save passengers – yes really! A fantastic investment because it led to scuba and then to diving.
  2. Open-water diving – Jacques Cousteau – a tv programme that captured my imagination. I loved the programme most when they were underwater and you heard a gurgling sound of air.  It feels adventurous. Good investment but I haven’t done it for a while.
  3. Yoga – balance, strength and flexibility –  I am not disciplined enough to practice everyday. Great investment thought as I have good alignment and I feel great when I do it.
  4. Pilates – core and strength – bloody hate it! Great that I can do some of the exercises I don’t like but find helpful.
  5. Tai Chi – balance and inner calm. I thought it would be good to learn this before I visited and worked in an orphanage. I learnt a short form routine that I could do quickly every morning and evening. It was invaluable on my travels and I love it to this day. Great investment.
  6. Archery – a whim on holiday – loved it. I can’t say I am great at many things, but I am a great markswoman!

As I start my seventh decade I wonder where I want to focus my attention. This past twelve months has been a difficult for us and it has prompted us to start conversations about what we want to do with the few decades, we may have left. I know that sounds negative but its not, it is where we find ourselves today.  I enjoyed writing about my learning and as I went through the list I realised that some of things I really enjoyed have fallen by the wayside either because of cost or practicality.   In the next few weeks, I will post about what I intend to learn in this next decade. I have until 31st December to prepare the list!

Oh, and I can honestly say that Lomingers insights have had a lasting affect on my life. Learning is a Silver Bullet for fun, challenge, passion and for pushing boundaries.

39 People died

39 people from the Far East; we were told they lived in one of the largest countries in the world, but later we heard it was Vietnam; decided to make a treacherous journey to get to Europe. We don’t know their reasons for making the journey, we assume they were economic migrants.

39 people hoped for a new life in the UK. Some people would say they chose us because of our benefits system.

39 people so believed in their future they were prepared to pay over fifteen thousand euros to get here. It was money they did not have, and we understand families mortgaged their land to raise the funds.

39 people left mothers, fathers, maybe partners and children behind. We can’t imagine what they had to do to get ready to travel nearly 8000 miles on a terrible journey.

39 people sat in the back of lorries, maybe they talked and definitely they dreamed of a better life. Young women and men with burning ambitions. Each of them would need to earn money they could send home.

39 people experienced pain, discomfort, cruelty and I hope they also experienced some acts of kindness on the journey.

39 people sat quietly, phones turned off, in the back of a refrigerated lorry as the temperature plummeted to -20, so they would not be found. Their bodies started to shake, they may have cuddled each other to warm up, they struggled to breathe and slowly they watched as one by one of their fellow travellers slipped away.

39 people made an 8000 mile treacherous journey to get into the UK.

39 people died in a refrigerated container on a road in Essex in October.

They were 39 people who didn’t know that the UK is broken.

Who will remember them?

Music

61MFGXgx4XL._SX355_The first single I remember hearing is ‘These boots are made for walking’  by Nancy Sinatra, my mum played it most days.  Listening to it today, I wonder what the lyrics meant to my mum. It brings back memories of us singing and dancing round the front room.

The first single I  was given? ‘Liquidator’ by Harry J All Stars. I don’t know why this was such an important record for me.  I  guess it was because I loved the rhythm and the silly dance that seemed to go with it. My Aunt Mary bought it for me one Saturday. I think it was a form of bribery, she was supposed to be looking after me and instead had taken me out, late at night, for a drive around town in an open top MGB. I was small enough to slip into the back and it was the thrill of my life, so there was no way I would ever have squealed.  I promised never to tell my parents and have indeed kept that promise.

The first box set of albums I listened to was something by Trini Lopez, I don’t know the name, mum played them all the time. My favourites were  Lemon Tree  and If I had a Hammer. I would dance with my mum or any visiting auntie.  I loved to singalong and because the albums all seemed to have been recorded in concert, it was like having loads of happy people in the house.

I did my homework to Deep Purple’s Black Night – it probably explains my terrible performance at school!

Favourite Top of the Pops band and song? TRex Get it On in 1971.

The first pop star I stalked, was David Cassidy . He was staying at the Churchill hotel in gettyimages-873977236-1024x1024Central London, it’s the only time I’ve been hose-piped out of anywhere.  I tried to get into the hotel through the car park, to get his autograph! I can honestly say it wasn’t the music! It was 1973, but it feels like it was yesterday. My parents never knew I made my way into London where I met a friend and stood outside the hotel screaming and crying for David to look down. However, I am fickle, because the year before I remember now that I actually stalked the Jackson Five, same hotel, same MO except I didn’t try to get in through the car park, I just stood outside waiting for one of the Five to look out and wave.

On writing this and looking up dates I realise that David Cassidy died in 2017 – I guess it wasn’t big news in the Falkland Islands.

The first album I purchased is hard to remember but I am pretty sure it was something by Leonard Cohen. His music did something to me which I find difficult to explain, but even now when I hear So Long Marianne, I am transported back to my 15 year old self. I am mesmerised by this song. His music helped me through a very uncomfortable puberty when I sometimes wanted to detach parts of my body.

robertaMy first slow dance with a boy was to Roberta Flack’s ‘Killing me softly.’ Swaying with a lovely, polite chap whose name I don’t know and who I never saw again but remember every time the song is played.

‘Summer the First Time’ by Bobby Goldsboro was my melancholic heartbreak song and I played it over and over after being stood up.

In 1978 I went to live in Paris and, for the first time in my life I was without music. The family I was living with were not music lovers and it was way before portable devices. On a weekend when the family were away I noticed a record player to the side of the living room and there were two albums. For the better part of a year I played the same two albums every chance I could, which was mostly when the family visited relatives in the country. What were the albums? Well, beggars cannot be choosers: Best of the Bee Gees. I had hoped for Saturday night fever but it was their earlier works. The second album was the most amazing classical work which introduced me to Pachelbel’s Canon in D Minor. I don’t know which recording.

My favourite dance song was Back to life by Soul II Soul which I played every evening for about a year after it came out.  It’s the only album I remember playing for about a decade. I was busy working and didn’t have time for music or entertainment.

Then I took a sabbatical in 1992. I travelled with a group of people around South America. Six countries, all very different and very exciting. I bought myself a portable cassette player and on my first night sleeping out in the rainforest in a hammock, I was terrified. I put a sheet over my head, to stop crawly things from dropping into my mouth, and my earphones in to drown out the rainforest noises. As I lay in my hammock I thought about my life as an adventurer and decided that I had probably pushed myself to my limits and that I would leave the forest the next day. As I listened to music I started to calm down, I am indebted to George Benson.

hammock

Day two was a breeze and I managed the dug out canoe, the machete-hole digging for a toilet and listening to the beautiful if sometimes scary sounds of the forest. Throughout the trip, I  searched for local music. The worst was Peru but the best was Brazil where I found Olodum in Salvador Bahia. On the same trip, I was camping in Argentina and it was my turn to do the cooking so with my cook partners we went to a huge supermarket. As we were walking around they were getting more excited by the quality of the music played on the loud speakers. I was a bit non-plussed, I’d never heard of the band, which stunned my cook mates. It turns out I quite like U2.

One of my first concerts was Jacques Loussier – a rather lovely young man thought I would like the music and indeed I still play it when I can.jacques

Lots of music have filled my life with joy, things like the Magic Flute particularly the Maria Callas recording and yes I used to try to singalong.  Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Simon and Garfunkel, and then later Paul Simon, The Mamas and Papas, The Moody Blues, and Hot Chocolate, Santana, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Yousso’n’Dour, Beautiful South, Texas, Nora Jones, Alicia Keyes, KD Lang, India Aria, Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Lang Lang, YoYo Ma, Pavarotti, Bjork and of course The Beach Boys.

When I first started my business I often worked from home. It can be a lonely experience until you are joined by Whitney Houston singing I Will Always Love You. Now, it’s not the words that mattered but the fact that I could throw myself into singing-a-long with Whitney including trying to hit the high notes. I am playing that song as I write and even now I want to join in but my voice isn’t going to hit those high notes any more!

Sailing holidays are always accompanied by music and in 1998 I sailed around the Grenadines with friends who introduced me to The Eagles and in particular the Hell Freezes Over album which I still love and play when I want to have a singalong or do a bit of air guitar playing. Hotel California always seems to encourage this type of behaviour in most people.

When I met John, who I later married, we  both fell in love with Desert Rose,  by Sting. We loved it so much we played it at our marriage ceremony. 

The first CD we both agreed to buy was ‘Raising Sand’. We heard it at our friend’s house. This was a significant milestone in our relationship. Our tastes in music differ greatly; John loves the Boss and I can’t stand Bruce. So, when we found we both liked a whole CD we had to own it.

Music we love to listen to now includes Jason Isbell and we are grateful for a friend from the Falkland Islands, who introduced us to Little Desk concerts.

I now love Rag’n’Bone Man he make me want to sway and singalong.

So, I guess you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl. I love music that I can singalong to.

All of my favourite music is either singalongs, dance-a-longs or just plain beautiful. I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I expect that readers may have given up before reaching this point. If you got this far, do message me and tell me about your favourite music is and what it means to you.