a dash of yellow




All about brown

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAa dull day and not one for a picnic,everything grey and brown in subtle washed out tones

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAautumn signifies the end of a season of leaves  sapping them of colour, turning bright golds and yellows to deeper browns

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAa brown sheep, not quite the black sheep of the flock, bleats from a hill-side

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe brown feathered bird of prey is on full alert

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfreshly sawn tree stumps, wood brown, smell sweet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA the old lobster basket lies on the shingled beach blue rope turning rust brown

it’s there all around us

inspiration from http://wheresmybackpack.com/2013/10/18/travel-theme-brown/

Kitchen studio

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI set up the easel in the kitchen for an hour the other afternoon. Some fruit on the worktop and brushes balanced near the toaster I managed four very speedy sketches on small square canvases.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Some fruit of my labours

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo a fruitful hour was had (enough already !)

Afterwards it was just a matter of clearing up and getting rid of the smell of white spirit. I then cooked some minted lamb chops which changed the kitchen back to its usual purpose. Amazing what can be created in a small space one rainy afternoon…………

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
Pablo Picasso

The Lemonade Tree

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Staghorn Sumac tree…….

I watched a food programme about foragers a while back and learned that a tree at the bottom of the garden is in fact a ‘lemonade tree’ i.e. you can make a sort of Indian lemonade from the cone like buds it has. In fact this tree is quite the foragers’ dream. I am not a forager but I like to be resourceful and it appeals to me that I have a tree within reach that could have something culinary to offer(there is also some spice that can be taken from the cones ) as well as just being quite a striking piece of foliage. This tree goes a stunning red in autumn and the golds, yellows and greens, as it turns, make me want to take pictures each year and I have to say to myself no, you have taken those pictures already last year!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApparently the buds need to be harvested in August so I have missed that yet again. I really must put my ‘green’ hat on a bit more and try to be more resourceful.

Harvest the red cones in August when they are bright and full and before heavy rains that can wash out their color and flavor. Taste one drupe before picking to make sure that it is ripe, with a tangy, lemony flavor. A tablespoon or two of the drupes steeped in hot water, or left to sit in water outdoors on a sunny day, should yield one to two flavourful cups of “Indian lemonade.”

Be sure to filter the pink liquid through a tea strainer, cheesecloth or paper coffee filter before drinking to remove any fibers that naturally occur with the drupes. The cones store well in a paper shopping bag in a cool place for months and should yield good tea until springtime, when mints can be harvested from the herb garden for a different tea  http://www.edibleeastend.com/departments/peconic-forager/the-lemonade-tree/#.




with or without camera

I only recently read Susan Sontag’s photography writings. She wrote some fairly cynical words about photography that seem just as relevant today and although are quite negative (no pun) towards the photographer and photographs, some of what she says makes very truthful reading.

She sees the camera as almost a shield that can be hidden behind when we are in new and unusual situations. She says  ‘The very activity of taking pictures is soothing, and assuages general feelings of disorientation that are likely to be exacerbated by travel.’

I would not be so harsh about the camera although it is quite frightening how the digital age has meant that so many images of the same sight or places are floating around the world in albums, on-line and anywhere else.

I try to keep a good balance when I am in a new place and sometimes have to force myself not to just see everything as another thing to photograph. I know when you reach somewhere new  and you have the camera around your neck  you see stuff and the first thing that you think is ‘that would make a good picture’ or ‘can this be a good shot’ or ‘is the light good enough to take a picture here’. It becomes about recording and maybe you are diluting the experience by not simply taking in the atmosphere and seeing it with your own eyes and not through the lens. Again though, I suppose the camera is there so you can take pictures to share the experience. It is all about the balance. I would hate to think I was hiding behind my camera.

This was tested recently on a trip.

I forgot to pack my charger so the last day of the holiday I was without camera. I wailed and moaned as though it was the end of the world that I would have to go out and about with one less thing in my bag (which actually was one bonus as my bag was lighter for the day though my camera is not hugely heavy!) ‘I bet I see loads of stuff to take pictures of’ I grumbled ‘It’s Sod’s Law!’

True enough, it was a pleasant August day with pale fields and high skies  as we drove through the countryside along the coastal route and ended up in a place called Seahouses. Before getting there I had imagined a pretty little stretch of the coast sporting a line of colourful beach huts thus the reason for its name.

Nothing like that. We ended up in a cheerful harbour where load of boat trips were whizzing out to the Farne Islands to see the sea life and lighthouse. We booked a boat trip with the only one that actually visited the lighthouse (the one of Grace Darling fame) and then sat and waited in the busy harbour area and did a little people watching.

Okay, so I kept seeing photographic moments.. birds on the rocks that people were throwing chips down to, people walking by adjusting their outfits to the unexpectedly hot sun,family groups with excited children,couples with backpacks, every type hanging around buying ice creams and getting on and off the boats. I could have been clicking away but instead I ate a sausage roll and watched the world go by.

Next was the actual boat trip. We queued up with an interesting array of people and waited to climb down some steep concrete steps to the waiting craft below, a rather small vulnerable looking bit of transport that we were getting on to. Dogs were allowed too. One elderly couple had trouble convincing their dog to get on and they said he had never been on water before. They lifted him  and in the process the old man’s sunglasses were knocked off his nose and fell into the water in between the boat and the harbour wall irretrievably. Another younger couple had two big golden labradors that bounded on to the boat, as well as their young golden-haired son who got far less attention than the dogs did.

We zipped out of the harbour and headed across the choppy waters with the skipper and his handy sidekick updating us as we went along. We were facing the wrong way so traveling backwards sitting on the bench at the front of the boat. I people watched and seabird watched and as we approached the islands we saw seals. Endless seals basking on the rocks, sliding into the water and swimming with their smiling heads bobbing about in the waves. I couldn’t help it , I said the sentence ‘I wish I had my camera’. Other passengers were snapping away and I sat sulkily and looked at everything. I was by no means fed up but it was a strange experience seeing so much with such intensity and watching other people frame shots( although there was not that many photographers.) A family group sat near and they just enjoyed the sights and laughed as the water splashed over the side of the boat and squealed when they saw seals. I became like them and enjoyed the  moments. It was absolutely fine.

We stopped on the lighthouse island for 30 minutes. A huge isolated structure in red and white that in the times of Grace Darling must have been pretty bleak. By now the sun had gone and it was a little greyer. Some seals were sitting on the rocks so close and posing for the best shots ever. Whilst some visitors went up into the lighthouse I sat on the island (nursing a sprained ankle from a couple of weeks before).

I was so lucky. Across the water a few yards away a female ochre coloured seal sat on the rocks tauntingly sunbathing and a couple of males swam in the clear water below her. I was happy just to sit and watch and determinedly to not bewail my lack of photographic equipment. I was sitting near a helicopter pad where one other lady and her dog stood filming the scene. The huge lighthouse structure loomed up behind me with all its history and dramatic stories. I was contented.

I was perfectly happy to sit and watch and not record, but only in my mind’s eye. I listened and looked and overdosed my senses.

I had survived without my camera. Okay, that is a bit dramatic but I wonder if the fact I was using my camera eye but not having the actual camera was making the experience more intense, more memorable.

I suppose if I had been able to charge up my camera and take pictures I could back up this prose with evidence. As it is, the all the snapshots stay in my head. Although i will contradict that now with a picture taken at the time on a phone….2013-08-30 15.49.08

My picture was taken from the top of the lighthouse ..I am sitting on the white concrete and the golden seal is across on the rocks….. (if you click on the picture and zoom in you can just about see the seal on the rocks and one in the water!)