Sunday, 9 October 2011


Dancing is good for the soul.  I have come to believe this to be true.  It's very difficult, in fact I think it's probably impossible, to dance and remain sad, or in a bad mood.  Try it sometime.  Put on your favourite music, loud, and practise your expert moves around the kitchen.  It's quite hard to stay really cross while dancing a jig or a samba, or even having a wee waltz.

What brought this to mind was the experience I had last night in a village hall deep in the depths of distant Aberdeenshire.  In fact, it was so deep into the depths, that I was probably in some other county altogether.  Not that counties exist any more, of course.  But I deviate.  It was a wedding ceilidh.  I was there to "call" the dances.  Contrary to popular/common belief, this does not just involve announcing what the next dance will be, i.e. "Please take your partners for a Strip the Willow" and then swanning around the skirts of the dance floor, or propping up the bar until the start of the next dance.  Oh no.  There's a lot more to it than that.  Especially when half the guests are not from "these pairts" as they say around here.  The bride was from across the pond, so naturally about half the guests had flown in from there as well.  Dance calling in this case involves arranging folk into the right "sets" i.e. lines facing each other, or circles of six folk, or couples facing the right way round the room.  This involves knowing which way is anti-clockwise on a dance floor, and hoping that at least half the dancers (or potential dancers, at this stage) can figure this out as well.  Then there are instructions like "set to your partner" and "turn your partner" and technical terms like "the ballroom hold".

That's just to start with.  It is then necessary to walk everyone through the dance, counting steps all the way, for example "Forward, two, three and turn; back two, three and stop" (guessed what the dance is yet?).  Ideally the caller should be demonstrating these moves at the same time, in the middle of the dance floor where everyone can see.  Even better, they should be doing the dance with a partner (most ceilidh dances do involve a partner), rather than with a microphone clutched in one hand.  But that is not always possible.  It seemed to work, as they all got the hang of most of the dances and by the time the Orcadian Strip the Willow came along at the end, there was no stopping them. 

PS The photo is of one of the wedding guests who was getting a bit fed up waiting for a drink at the bar... no, really, this tiger head was in a glass case in one corner of the stage.  Various other animal heads adorned the walls of the hall.  As one would expect in a village hall out in the sticks.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

post NEOS

I am in recovery phase post NEOS (North East Open Studios).  I opened up my shed - sorry, The Cabin - to the public, as part of this non-profit-making collective of artists and makers etc. in the North East (of Scotland), from 10th - 18th September.  It's the first time I've done anything like it, so was a bit of an experiment.  In the end, just over 40 folk came through the door of the Cabin, quite a number were friends, but quite a few were not.  Everyone was warm and friendly and said nice things about my work; watercolour paintings, photographs and greetings cards.  Hubby and daughter also had photos on exhibit.  All in all, a positive experience.  Next year (?!) I will put up posters locally and try to increase my "footfall".  Sold a few things - photos, rather than paintings, and quite a few cards.  Oh, and got a couple of commissions! Onwards and upwards! 

Monday, 5 September 2011

the past

I cannot believe how useless the instructions are on dressmaking patterns... whole swathes are missed out (like how to lay things out and then cut out properly) and then the actual instructions are written in triple Dutch, requiring at least three readings before they make even the slightest bit of sense!

Here's a quoted bit.."To reinforce small dot on each back neck band and tie end facing, stitch along seam line for 1" (2.5cm) through small dot. Clip seam allowance to small dot, being careful not to clip into stitching." Who writes this stuff?!

Perhaps my brain has been fogged more than I thought by this blinking cold.  But no, I seem to recall battling with dressmaking patterns way back in the mists of time.  I generally thought I could miss a few steps out, sidestepping the tacking and replacing witha bit of nifty pinning instead.  It invariably ended in tears (rhyming with fears) and even the other kind (rhymes with fares) and a fair bit of unpicking.  This all came back to haunt me as I unpicked a hastily sewn seam this afternoon.  I was much more of a sellotape and sticky-backed plastic girl myself.  More glue and paint than glitter and posies.  More sticks and stones than satin and silk.  You get the idea.  Plus ca change...

In the meantime, I have still been trying to get ready for the Exhibition.  It will be ready. 

Saturday, 3 September 2011


Oops, I missed a day.  Sorry about that.  The title of this post refers to the fact that I have a cold, not to the weather, which is currently rather clammy and warm.  Not feeling 100% healthy is frustrating at the best of times, but I am particularly miffed with the timing, as there is only one week to go until NEOS starts.  Anyone who is reading this will soon be fed up (if you aren't already) of me mentioning NEOS.  I won't apologise, as it's the culmination of more than 6 months' work, so is a bit of a highlight in my year.  I've taken a wee break from wrapping mounted work in cellophane in order to write this.  Next task is to label everything and make a list...

to be continued...

Thursday, 1 September 2011


I've no idea why I said I would report back on how I got on with handing out publicity yesterday.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I didn't do any, in the end. Well, apart from visiting a lovely, tiny, cosy bookshop which is only about a mile from my house, which I have never visited before.  I was delivering some copies of "Pushing Out the Boat", so I suppose that counts as publicity/PR/whatever.  It was a delightful little place, run by an equally delightful little lady.  We had a pleasant chat, then I had a browse and bought a beautiful book about Elizabeth Blackadder, at work in her studio.  I did do a bit of what I like to think of as research, looking in the windows of the local shops to see if they had copies of the NEOS catalogue on show.  Quite a few of them did, so I heaved a sigh of relief.  Hence the title of today's blog.

Today has been more productive - printing out and mounting photographs.  This all takes much longer than you might think.  It certainly takes me much longer than I thought it would.  It would help, of course, if I had all my photographs neatly catalogued....

These are some of the pictures I mounted today; quite small things

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

North East Open Studios

The countdown has begun.  North East Open Studios starts next Saturday.  So far, my "marketing" has taken the form of posting a different image each day of a watercolour painting as my profile picture on Facebook.  Also, e-mailing friends.  I must do more.  I will be exhibiting original paintings, photographs, mounted works (prints and photos) and also a range of greetings cards.  In fact, as I am now thinking about it, I must go out into the world (well, to the local shops at least) and distribute some catalogues and put up some posters.  Am I brave enough?  I have not done anything like this before.  Surely it cannot be that hard?  I'll let you know...

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

writing update

So much for the blog-writing, it seems to have fallen by the wayside.  I have been busy doing other things - have just submitted what I hope is a novella to a national competition.  No, international competition, in fact.  Probably has not a hope in h*** of getting anywhere, but hey, we all have to start somewhere.  I'm also in the process of getting a number of paintings (watercolours) framed, in anticipation of some exhibitions that are coming up.   So, yes, I have been busy.  Too busy to blog....

Sunday, 29 May 2011


Finally, finally, finally, I have got myself organised with my Photobox Pro Gallery.  It is now possible for people to buy some of my photographs online.  However, I need to be able to let folk know that they are there, available to be bought (not just photos, but exciting things like coasters and framed prints, as well!).  So far, there are four albums.  More will be added when I find the time/decide which ones merit going up there. 

Should you wish to peruse, they are at :

One of the photographs is included above to (hopefully) tempt you.

Saturday, 14 May 2011


Two new dogs joined our family last week.  I say "new" in the loosest form of the word, as they are eight and twelve years old.  You might say, if you're not that keen on dogs, that they are secondhand.  We have rehomed them, certainly, and many folk have said how good we are to have done so, and how lucky they (the dogs) are to have found us.  So far, we are feeling lucky to have found them!  They are lively, obedient (mostly, as far as a beagle's nature can allow), happy, relaxed boys and have made us all smile a lot more in this house than we have been doing recently...

Monday, 2 May 2011


Three firsts yesterday :

First ever short story publication -  one year and one month after ceasing work. 
Feels good, feels very good, in fact! 

First ever public reading of my own creative writing also under my belt.  Survived; enjoyed it, even.

First signing of my own publication (creative) - along with other contributors, and committee, a copy of Pushing Out the Boat that may be auctioned one day...

You can visit the Pushing Out the Boat website here :

Sunday, 1 May 2011


Finally, I think my interest in gardening has been rekindled.  By what, I do not know.  Well, I do have a fairly good idea, but am not going into that right now.  Major life events might have something to do with it.  There are probably deep psychological reasons, but I am not bothered right now about delving into those depths.  I am interested in plants again.  Not just flowers, but plants; roots, bark, leaves, textures, colours, scents, petals, buds.... yes, it's spring again and I have noticed.  Crathes Castle was a wonderful place to visit yesterday.  These few photos are from there...

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


Spent most of the day in and around Stonehaven, sketching, painting, taking photographs and watching the world go by.  Very pleasant in the spring sunshine.  Cooler when the sun disappeared behind a cloud.  Ended up taking lots of photos of this wrought iron seat on the clifftop just south of the town.  I also drew it a couple of times to practise my perspective - trickier than it first appears! 

In amongst this pursuit of artistic activity, trying to book flights and accommodation in Northern Ireland for the middle of next week...

Monday, 25 April 2011


shed window in Stonehaven

I have discovered the delights of Blurb and have been busy making books today.  One with lots and lots of photos of our beloved basset hound who passed away at the end of March.  A celebration of her long and happy life.  And the other, a little book of haiku, probably just spring haiku, along with associated photographs.  This is all very enjoyable "work" but I am finding that it consumes rather a large amount of time.  It will be important, I think, to recognise when a book is finished, then to stop, publish, put it up for sale and move on to the next project.

Speaking of next projects, the launch of Pushing out The Boat is this Sunday in Stonehaven.  I will have to practise reading my story out loud so that I do not stumble over my words.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

getting going

Spring is in the air and I feel the need to be doing things.  I have registered to take part in NEOS (North East Open Studios) this year - 10th - 18th September, in and around Aberdeen, and am now wondering whether I am mad or stupid, or possibly both?  Some days I believe that my paintings and photos are quite good, some are even rather good, but on other days I think that people will look at them and wonder what I am playing at, putting them on public display!  Oh well, it's that old self-doubt creeping in again and I say Pah!  Go away!  And do not darken the door of my lovely little shed ever again.  That works for a while.  In the meantime, here are some photos from our glorious week's break in the beautiful Andalucian sunshine...

Sunday, 30 January 2011

In which I start to blog

I've decided to join the blogosphere.  I'm quite sure that this is probably a very bad idea, as I have a million other things that I should be doing, but anyway.  I'll see what happens.  It is an experiment.  If it all goes horribly wrong and takes over my life, I'll just shut it down and not do it any more. 

Today I went for a walk along by the river in the frosty sunshine, and took some photos.  I have inserted a few of them below.  Later I came home and made maramalade; again I took photos.

That's all for now.