1st December. Each day that passes more silver gray streaks shine in my hair.
For something of the days in Paris click here.
4th December. A harrier flaps its flight across the river with cathedral as a backdrop. The hills are out of focus in a veil of mist. All day spent carrying great weight of paintings to the medieval hall and hanging them on the walls. Outside the same river flows past fast. The weather has been stormy while I have been away. Over a wall golden crab apples cling tight to black branches. The cats are aloof, not speaking to me, apart from Martha, who bit me and told me not to go away again. Dogs happy to have their family home.
The exhibition will be opened on 8-9 December and hopefully by then there will be a dedicated page for the show on the website, if only I can get that time machine to work.
Wonderful review of Classic Poems on a poetry website, and some of the pages for the poetry book will be shown for the first time at the refectory exhibition.
6th December. Time machine working well. It is called an alarm clock and 6 in the morning is very dark, but more hours in the day are needed to get all ready for the exhibition. Adam Buick's moonjars really add beautifully to the space.
7th December. Almost ready at the Refectory and woke up feeling awful with headache and tiredness. Car tipped at a strange angle as I head off to take children to school and dogs to beach for a wild and wet and windy walk. Flat tire. Oh dear.
8th December. Yesterday friends came to the rescue. Debs arrived in a big van to help me take the last of the paintings to the Refectory. The evening before Ffion had driven me through a storm to John, the framers, to pick up a print browser that he gave me, too big to go in my car, it needed a van to carry it. Friends are the best things to have. All week Jude has put up with my nonsense as we have hung the exhibition together.
All week I have been struggling to find words for something. As I was driving off on my adventure towards Paris I met Al from the horse farm, Ffion's partner. He gave me the sad news that Ffion and Daf's dad had died the night before. How hard, to drive away and leave friends at such a time. And Ffion was abroad and had to make her way home alone. Sean was too young to die. Daf and Ffion are two wonderful people, and their brother Pad, who was a child when I moved to St Davids and now is a man. And Sean also leaves behind Rhianon who loves to paint and Gwyn who reads and is as bright as a spark in the warmest fire and quite as quick and they are too young to have lost a father. I am told that a rainbow hung in the air over the cathedral during the funeral service.
I drove home on Monday in time to make it back for Sean's wake and wept all over Ffion, which was the wrong way around, but I was just so very glad to see her and Daf, and Claire and to see that they were all so strong. And still the words escape, because at times like this all words become cliche. To have raised such fine and lovely children must be the best thing to do with a life. A life well spent.
All day yesterday a blackbird hopped around in the green square courtyard outside the cloisters. Bright eyed and golden beaked. Earlier, in a tree, bright fruits of goldfinches sat on twisted twigs. Last night Maurice curled on the bed with me and chased away bad dreams. I think the cats have forgiven me at last for going away. Or maybe it is just that I have made a fire and the house is once again warm and cosy and almost clean. In places.
9th December. All so busy and last night I slept in a sea of restless dreams filled with people and conversations from the day. Met some wonderful people who came to see the paintings and some who were blown in from cliff top walks, unsuspecting, leaving with arms full of books, a couple from Llandeilo who are both lovely, a lovely lady for whom I signed a card, lovely children who are carers for their parents, a hard way to start your life, a lady who loves the Snow Leopard and her friend and two children all of whom had an air of magic charm around them. A couple stood together in front of The Guardians, so close and in love and I did not have my camera to hand so keep the image only in my memory and these words.
Sold many of the French edition, La Panthere Blanche, to people with relatives in France and to French speakers. A tiring day, but good and I would like to say thank you to those of you who read these ramblings and came along. Also, I signed a few books on behalf of the cats and fear that it will not be long before my cats are better known than me.
10th December. Back in the refectory, signing books, making posters and doing things until at last home and off for a walk with dogs and Robin and Pixie. Walking in bright sunshine with birds, snipe and woodcock flying up. A peregrine chased a small snipe across a field of russet. In Maes y Mynydd the ghosts bask in sunshine and the twisted hawthorne tree is blushed green with soft lichen. Pixie posed for the camera and wondered if her whiskers were in focus. And it felt good to have no walls around me and no books to sign. Touch the earth. It is good for the soul.
19th December. The day began with sunrise over frosted fields, so white it looked as if snow had fallen. The pond was half frozen.
The pebbles on the beach held tight to white ice crystal coats. Stone cold. Earth as hard as iron and a memory of Christina Rossetti singing in the back of my mind. On the Dowrog a great red fox sat by the road.Coat fluffed against the cold and deepest darkest red, bright eyed, he hunted and even when the car came close seemed hypnotized by his prey. The moorland was crisp still with frost, white and gold, a winter landscape. Beautiful.
I picked up a parcel in town, three books returned from a random meeting with a woman called Emma who had fallen in love with the Guardian Bear and came for supper and a starlight beach walk. She also enclosed a book of poems by Mary Oliver. What richer gift can someone give than such beautiful words. I do love the kindness of strangers.
I have been horrible for some time, frustrated by time taken away from painting. So much work to do, new covers for Robin Hobb and a piece for Frances Lincoln, new samples for Barefoot and a head full of paintings for people, prints to decorate and get to the framers and the list goes on. I have not held a paint brush enough, distracted by Christmas shopping and as a result have become more troll-like and snarling than ever. So, a day wrapping presents began to calm me down, though I would still rather have been in the studio. Then Hannah wrapped presents for friends while I cooked supper and later, in the evening, Tom and I went to the beach for a bucketful of stones to hold the tree up. The moon shone bright and the beach was big. Moonbathing in the cold with the sea singing and moonshadows here and there. Home with a bucket of smooth round stones and Hannah decorated the tree with tiny lights and coloured glass. Now Christmas begins to feel right. This is what the children want for Christmas, time spent doing things together. And I should give them this, as they do not have many years of being young left now. Time flows faster than the ice thickened running water, and I love these moments of peaceful togetherness.
And the cats love the tree.
And I love my new hat which is warm, though it does look rather like a cat. But the children do not seem to think it would be a good thing if I wear it in public places.
20th December. Walking this morning around Porth Clais to Porth Lliski. Ravens, lapwings, stonechat and redwings, curlew and the cold wind.
Christmas day, walking on the beach with a big sky. Tim cooked lunch and Glyn came around from the house next door, looking worryingly frail and not as sparky as he can be, sore eyes and vision failing. Sad. After Glyn had gone we played a game and Hannah and Tim beat me and Tom but there was much laughter that filled the house right into the corners.
On the day before Christmas the cat were featured in Furr and Purr and are now feeling rather too famous. And they had a lovely email from a lynx in Switzerland that has sparked off an idea that is growing like a seed in my mind.
Meanwhile I am trying to read Shaman's Crossing by Robin Hobb to work on covers for The Soldier Son Trilogy, and the book is brilliant but I am exhausted by all and everything and seem to spend too much time slipping into sleep and dreams.
27th December. Walking in the gray of winter and the wind is blowing hard. The landscape if dark but still full of gold and colour. Blue pools reflect a gray sky and wind twisted trees grow low to the ground. Walking and thoughtless, but chasing a story.
Back home a bright goldfinch like a jewel has found the birdfeeders.
28th December. Still struggling to make it into the studio and things begin to feel like living in some strange kind of computer game where all conspires to keep me out and I have to battle my way through strange tasks to even gain entry to the room of paint. An email today brought news of old paintings, stored away in a room and rediscovered, the owner has decided that they would be better off with someone who wants to hang them on the wall, so are now for sale. Both pieces are from 20 years ago or more, and it s strange to be haunted by old work. Originally sold through The Anthony Hepworth Gallery in Bath they will probably be in the exhibition in Marlborough School, Mount House, in March. For more information contact Ian from Cycles Maximus .
When I knew Ian years ago in Bath he ran The Hat and Feather, a pub on Walcot Street. He now still has the licence for The Bell on Walcot Street and a nightclub but also a business making trikes.
29th December. Made it through all the obstacles in my way to my studio where I cleared a space and washed pallets and gathered colours and settled at last to paint. Outside small birds came and went in the tangle of branches, chaffinch and robin, greenfinch and sparrow. I need to get some other seed to lure in the goldfinches as I want to paint a charm. In the meantime I paint a spell for sleeping, a guardian painting, that has lurked in my studio for a year or more and needs now to be finished. So I will do this before I do anything else, or I will just continue to do nothing day after day, lost in my own world of sleeping.
Cats stayed home as the banshee wind howled and ripped, tearing my washing from the line and clawing it to shreds on a thorn bush. The sea was wild, the wind claws cold, and the dogs ran from start to finish, through the bracken, looking for snipe and pheasant and partridge and woodcock.