Saturday, March 25, 2017

Not too bad!


I promised to give an honest report about whether dabbling with paints compensated for not taking my laptop on my seaside break!  Since the weather turned very wet and cold with ferocious hail on our last day my ambition to wander out with sketchbook in hand and sun on my face was seriously sabotaged.  However, I managed to paint some harbour scenes in Minehead with opportunities to experiment with sea, waves, reflections and boats.

Overall the experience was a happy one though I made a discovery that applied to every picture I attempted.  Each time there was some element that pleased me.  Some tones, details, adjoining colours seemed to hum. It wasn't necessarily a large percentage of the paper but it made me feel my night classes have been worthwhile.  However,  each time there was also some element that greatly displeased me - tones or colours turned rather ugly or details jarred.  Of course I never wanted this to happen especially if it began sweetly.....yet it kept happening!  It  reminded me forcibly of life in general with flies too regularly in the ointment (and what an odd expression that is!) But, maybe as I keep practicing the displeasing parts will become less.  That applies to Christian practice too!

I go to my last watercolour class next week. It's definitely opened up another way of spending my time..... and trying not to waste it!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Severing a cord.

It has dawned on me that something is happening for the first time in seventeen years.  Carol and I are preparing for a few days' break, seeing family, friends and spending time on the Somerset coast.  In the usual order of packing one of the first items on the list has always been my laptop.  Always this has accompanied me so that I could snatch writing time to keep up with some deadline or other.  It has accompanied me as though attached by umbilical cord.  But NOT this time!  I realize with a jolt (and some pleasure) that there is no pressing writing commitment for the first time in recent memory.  Of course I could be doing some serious stuff but I don't need to.

Instead I am packing some paints and pastels in hopes that my recent art classes have inspired me enough to spend my time in worthwhile activity!  I know my long-retired friends will tell me that I should not be surprised at such a turn of events....that this is what retirement is all about.  However, its occurrence has suddenly crept up on me as I leave my laptop behind. It really is a wrench. I look forward to seeing what a difference it makes.

This does not mean some serious stuff does not lie ahead and I recognize that I truly enjoy the challenge of writing and speaking commitments to come.  But it will be interesting to reflect on how much I really can enjoy scribbling and washes instead.  Of course, it depends somewhat on the quality of the scribbling and washes!  I shall seek to make honest report on my return.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Still life apples

On Saturday I attempted another burst of creativity.  I participated in a three-hour workshop using pastels (at a different community college).  We were told to wear old clothes and that all necessary materials would be supplied.

Many years ago I used wax crayons for quick holiday sketches but was always disappointed by their anaemic appearance.  I wanted to see if I could overcome past experience.  Beforehand I mentioned to Carol that it was likely we would begin with a still life - like an apple.  Well, of course, having been introduced to the two contrasting mediums of chalk pastels and oil pastels we were each given an apple to draw!  Yes!  Mine was very green with a little blush of red - a rather poor specimen.  However, I set about drawing it with both kinds of pastels and was surprised by the different possibilities.

Why did we need to wear old clothes?  It became apparent as we moved on to more complex subjects that the prime method of using chalk pastels is to smudge colours with your fingers.  Within a short time you can gain very subtle shades while fingers turn disgustingly dirty.  Actually it reminded me of going down a S. Wales coalmine and discovering that everything I touched turned grimy.  I have to say the finished results were very different from my watercolour class and, in their way, quite encouraging.  One of the delights was to find that I was sitting next to one of the older ladies in the church we belong to who turned out to have quite a knack.  Yet another opportunity seized by retired and semi-retired tryers!  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Bone chilling half marathon

No, it wasn't me!   My days of marathon running are long gone but today my son Simon ran the Cambridge half-marathon again.  With two of my grandchildren we went to give support which turned out to be much more of a sacrificial effort than I expected.  Arriving (as requested) an hour before the race began we froze in heavy rain while floating on mud.  9000 competitors with supporters were trying to keep warm and/or joining immense queues for the portaloos.  It was a sea of misery with a loudspeaker exhorting competitors to stay alive and focused.  Eventually, as the mass of runners took off we tramped to the first agreed cheering point - sheltering in a shop entrance until the last moment when we burst out to cheer Simon on.

Desperately we broke away from the crowds to secure hot chocolates which brought feeling back to fingers and toes.  Then we set off for the next cheering point some two-thirds along the course on a crowded Trinity Street.  We realized that we were at least half an hour early for Simon as elite runners shot by but, with the surrounding crowds, we began to get into the spirit of the occasion.

Each runner had their name printed clearly on their vests under their numbers.  We began to shout out specific encouragement by name.  I felt particularly drawn to those who looked close to collapse and a rousing shout: 'Tom, keep going, you're doing well!'   'Susan, well done...keep going' etc. brought not only actual smiles but visible spurts of energy.  I particularly cheered every Michael, Simon, and Robert with loud partiality.   Runners were also high-fiving spectators if they were brave enough to hold out their hands.  Anton nearly lost his right hand as an enthusiastic runner took a swipe;  after that he was noticeably subdued.

Simon said that it really helped him knowing that we would be at three agreed cheering points, including the final stretch.  Over the loudspeaker, which broadcast commentary as people passed the finishing line, came the words: 'And here comes Simon with his face wracked with pain!'  He completed the 13.1 miles in 2 hours 10 minutes!   We rejoiced with him, going back for roast beef and a hot shower (at separate times!)

It obvious to see this an illustration of the race of faith with the cloud of witnesses cheering us on (Hebrews 12:1, 2) and the thought of being encouraged by name is truly cheering as we run with endurance, isn't it?