1st August. A warm day and full of sunshine. Walked around Penberi and there were golden fields full of oats that glowed in the sunshine and the cliffs were sculpted by the waves. More butterflies again, red and gold and brown. Tiny scraps of colour that blow in the wind.
Below in the water seals are gathering and on the cliffs the air is cool.
Later Tom and Hannah went surfing at Abereidi as rain clouds gathered and just off the shore porpoise swam.
3rd August. Walking the dogs before heading off for another long journey, wind and bright sunshine. In the lee of the wind butterflies, the colour of autumn leaves, scatter from foot falls, and tiny white moths, the size of a baby's fingernail.
Later, driving, thistledown blew along the road.
In the evening standing by a creek in Gosport where the hulking bones of old boats rot in the water, thick rust weathered by the wind and rain.
4th August. In Gosport I found a story lurking. As I walked into town with Hannah and Erin we went past a space with high black railings, spiked at the top, very forbidding. Inside were trees and dense undergrowth, an island of trees in amongst shops and offices, houses and cars. On the railings inside were signs saying "Danger Giant Hogweed". Who was this giant that lived in such an urban place? One of my favourite stories as a child was The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde. Was this where he lived? Hidden in the trees was an old, overgrown railway and something that looked like a tunnel with a portcullis gateway.
The exhibition at the Forge Gallery was busy and it was good to meet Amanda Hall, beautiful woman with fantastic books and great earrings. It was lovely to see her work. She was sparkling and I was feeling tired and a bit displaced after two weeks of not working, though enjoying being at a friends house.
To see more of Amanda's work click on the picture or here .
At the Forge I was showing a painting from about 20 years ago.
5th August. Walking round the creek saw a heron flying, heavy and gray. A white egret walked on black mud littered with old bikes, shopping trolleys, wheels, bottles, parts of cars. Boats, like skeletons lay in the mud, and on Rat Island there was an air of menace. Across the water, Portsmouth and its tower. Peered through the bars of the giant's lair but could not catch a glimpse or a clue to what lay inside behind the huge, black railings.
At home advance copies of "Little One, We Knew You'd Come" by Sally Lloyd-Jones waited for me. The publishers have used gold as a fifth colour and the book looks very elegant, with gold endpapers. There were also five very hungry cats, who told me that they had not been fed, not once, since I left, though I knew that they had been coddled and cuddled and even taken for walks by Gayle who looked after the house, cats and dogs while I was away.
8th August. Started painting again after what seemed like weeks of no painting at all. Walked the dogs first to clear my head and then decided that the best thing to do after a long period of not working would be to start straight in on the most difficult piece of work that I have to do.
So, started the cover for The Snow Leopard. All went well and had a great day working hard, though the brush felt very strange in my hand. Listened to fantastic radio program about a man who spent his life with whales. Then in the evening sat back and looked at what I had done and realised that I would have to start again the next day. Though the eyes looked good the nose was far too long and what I was painting was a white tiger and not a snow leopard. So I sulked and then went off in search of a seal pup I had been told of, but couldn't find it, though found a seal lying in the water just off shore. As yet no seals around the beach over the hill. Walking was slow as a cat came too, and lost herself in the jungle of chest high bracken. More and more yellow butterflies are about, Clouded Yellows, all the way from France. It seems they have come here on the warm winds and weather, though how such fragile creatures travel so very far is a mystery to me. I love these dancing scraps of bright colour.
9thAugust. For the past few days have been suffering an unease and a loss of sense of self. Better today. Walked briefly in the morning and three ginger cats came too, like Russian dolls, big cat, middle cat and little cat. Began again the painting started yesterday which was not right. Poetry book arrived, hot of the press and looking lovely, with lovely paper and rich colours.
This evening went again in search of seals, over the hill and the cats came too. Everything was exaggerated by the low setting sun. On the beach there was a seal. There were more in the water, which was coloured like a peacocks tail and flecked with reflected gold from the lichen on the cliff. And then there was a flicker of movement among the round rocks of the beach and there was the first pup and I felt again the slow turning of the wheel of the year.
Trudging slowly back up the steep hill to home a fox called across the fields of golden grass.
11th August. Realised that the second painting for the cover was worse than the first so started again. Tried not to panic but calmly look at both and assess what was wrong, ignoring the nagging imp in my head telling me that I was rubbish and couldn't paint, and a rising sense of panic.
So, grabbed hold of what little intelligence I could muster and settled my head and tried to paint again with balance and a sense of soul and this time the painting came easily and had more elegance and balance and at last seemed to have worked. Needless to say I was in a better state of mind by the evening, especially when the people staying in one of the holiday cottages brought me a tub of Ben and Gerry's Ffish food Ice cream.
Now all I have to do is paint the back cover.
Autumn seems to have suddenly come, and the sloes outside the kitchen window are ripe and dusty purple.
In the midst of all this Hannah had all her long hair cut off, which then became a traumatic experience not conducive to artistic endeavour, and has updated her web site so check out her journal too where there are new photos of the ever growing kittens.
14th August. Another couple of days of too busy to paint, but squeezing in time to write. Tom took me for a walk up the hill which involved climbing over fences and hanging on to rocks by my fingertips. At the beach at the bottom of the hill seals hang in the water, rolling with the waves, gathering to pup and there is one small pup, maybe two as a trail of water showed across the stones to the very cliff edge where a pup would be hidden.
Trying to walk up the steep hill at least three times a week to restore some level of fitness. Always feels good when I get to the top, when I can eventually breath again. Picture above is the front and back covers for The Snow Leopard.
16th August. Did a master class workshop at Druidstone Hotel. Later sat on the terrace and ate supper while a fin lifted out of the water, close to land on a still, calm sea. Bigger than a porpoise, or a dolphin. Could see the hills of home from the garden. Sky full of cloud.
It seems there is a pod of Fin Whales in St Brides Bay.
17th August. Over the hill and through golden fields of barley. Across the fence and on to the cliff path where the sound of the seals came up from the beach below. A pup, a cow and a bull on a stony beach, camouflaged and calling.
The rest of the day disappeared into a frustrating day of filling in passports and gathering birth certificates.
18th August. Walked with Susan Waters who had come to St Davids to try and find a painting. While we waited for gold paint to dry we walked a slow walk with Pixie, over the cliffs to see the seals.
Dragons breath of fog blew over the land shrouding Penberi and later the night was too dark to see your hand in front of your face. No moon, nor even stars.
19th August. Slept in the blue flowered tent under the ash tree in the garden. The sound of the leaves was a lullaby that sang me to sleep. The rain drumming on the tent woke me. Drifted in and out of sleep to the music of rain then read while I waited for the rain to stop. The tent was an island of peace in a busy day.
20th August. A trail of blood on the stones of the beach marked where a pup had just been born. On the beach there were now at least six pups and in the other cove the first pup of the year was already learning to swim.
Overhead a kestrel flew.
21st August. Walking in the evening the air was scented with the delicate trace of heather, cliff tops painted different hues of purple with the flowers and the air was alive with the sound of insects. A clean smell, fresh and beautiful, the scent of the earth before industry.
So clear an evening that behind Penberi the hills of Mid and North Wales were clear to see, like a painted backdrop in a Japanese print.
22nd August. Another day spent painting. Another page closer to finishing the Snow Leopard book.
25th August. Hannah's birthday and the garden was full of girls. She made cocktails with fruit juice and they went swimming and later all slept over in the tent in the garden. At least they slept from about 2 in the morning.
The seals are gathering and there are more and more pups on the beach and females resting in the water just of the edge of the shore.
27th August. Made Blackberry Focaccia. Warm and rich and juicey. Walked in the late evening light and watched seals mating, turning slowly at the edge of the sea. At the top of the hill the grass seemed white in the fading daylight.
28th August. Sunshine and wind. Writing peacefully this morning and off to play with the wind soon. Meanwhile in a very different place a friend's daughter is writing a very different kind of journal. I remember Josie growing up and have a lovely picture of her and her mother and sister Alice sitting on a sofa holding Tom when he was a baby. She has grown into a wonderful and brave woman and you can read her journal on eisoj.livejournal.com/.
Writing, and reading about the wind, so decided to dust of my kites which had been lying hidden for too long. Bank holiday madness all around, but up the hill and over the top there was no-one. The wind was calm and after playing with the small kite we got the big one out, and somehow out of no-where a mischievous wind blew in. Trying to explain to Hannah that kite flying was working as I was just playing with the wind.
Then Tom and Hannah flew the big kite and they are lucky not to have been blown over the hills and far away.
31st August. On the road to St Davids the leaves are falling from the trees. In the hedge banks blackberries shine amid red and gold. A warm wind full of water blows and the sky is a blanket of cloud.
Picking blackberries this morning to make blackberry focaccia again, with the sound of the surf in the distance. The jewel colours are spoiled in places by mould on the fruit, from the damp air.
Spindrift clings to the grass in the fields on the way to the top of the hill. Two miles from the sea. At the seal beach the first pup is dark gray, learning to swim, rolling in the sea with his mother, her flippers stroking him, nose to nose blowing bubbles, twisting and twining.