Going West, weeks 49-51

The week ended with a return visit by our ‘chimney man’ to change the cowls on the the chimneys, in a hope that this will bring an end to the ingress of water when it’s very windy and wet. I hope this is the solution, because this has been one of our main concerns this year.

In the evening we went to St Ives – to celebrate Tate St Ives’ new gallery spaces, and to visit Porthmeor Open Studios, and then onto Anima Mundi for a show of Tim Shaw’s new work. The Tate was buzzing – a happy event that reminded me of the opening of the Turner Gallery in Margate in 2011.


At Anima Mundi, ‘Something is not quite right’ is the first part of a two-part, two-centre exhibition by the RA sculptor Tim Shaw. Small and beautifully made bronze maquettes point fingers at the establishment, and presage the large figure work that will be installed at the Exchange gallery in Penzance next year. Anima Mundi displays work over three floors, and in the ‘attic’ a disturbing tableau makes every viewer both voyeur and participant. Tim Shaw’s work is unashamedly political, and there is plenty of room for that in the arena of contemporary art today.


Week 51 w/e 20 October

The week began with Hurricane Ophelia on Monday, which, fortunately for us this time, though not for Ireland and Scotland, bypassed Cornwall’s westerly tip. We did have strong gales however, which prompted me to take out video and SLR cameras, to capture something of the power of the weather. I chose Porthgwarra, where I knew the Westerly gales would lash the waves against the shore. The sea was running high, and white with foam, as I’d hoped. Risking a walk to Gwennap Head, I was beaten back by lashing gusts on the cliff top, and couldn’t reach my goal.  It was too dangerous to go near to the cliff edge, where the tops of the waves fifty feet below were whipped off by the wind and dumped on the clifftop, and onto my struggling body! After  being nearly swept off my feet several times I had to admit defeat, but even returning to the relative safety of the sheltered cliff path was hazardous.

Back in the warmth of my car, I realized my face was crusted with salt, and my trousers soaked through. A thoroughly rewarding experience – but I felt later as if I’d gone 10 rounds in a boxing ring with Mohammed Ali.

The strong winds have tested our new cowls, and found an improvement – though when the wind is directly from the south, our southernmost chimney still admits rain.

The studio and new cloakroom, where Pete is working at the moment, are sheltered from these winds, and we’ve been in there for most of the week. Pete is finishing the skirting and architraves to the cloakroom and I have been working on Painting #5.


Having got that painting to a point of ‘doubt’ I must leave it for a while. On Friday I took delivery of my big canvas for the mentoring show – at 8ft x 4.5 it’s the biggest I’ve worked on as one painting – I’ve never had the room before. With each new canvas I feel like a beginner – each painting is an experiment, and I learn something new. But I would rather it was this way, than knowing exactly what and how I wanted to paint, and simply doing it.

After a miserably cold wet week, Friday was sunny for a while. I walked Bartinney, noting new fencing and huge tractor ruts that made walking a muddy and difficult experience in places. From Bartinney the sea is visible in all directions from Mounts Bay to Geevor. The south-westerly wind was bringing in cloud from the Atlantic, and the waves that lashed the Longships must have been huge because they were clearly visible. At midsummer I’d stayed there a while – but it was not a day for that.

A short while after I’d returned home the weather closed in once more and the gales and heavy rain began again. Just outside our garden under an Ash tree, a pigeon lay, newly dead, beautiful and still warm, but with it’s beak full of foam. I moved it to our garden. ‘Percy’ was buried today. Our children, who remember all our pets, seven of whom were buried with full honours in the garden of our last house, will think this is just the beginning!

At last! The first part of our central heating is installed, and we have a warm house! It feels wonderful to move from room to room and encounter warmth – especially when this week has been so unsettled, the cold winds of winter beginning to bite. Our plumber has still to fix radiators in the other half of the house, where Pete is working, and my studio is. But for the time being we’re grateful for the first stage – we certainly made the right decision at the right time, not knowing when we did, that the weather would turn so quickly!



Going West, Wks 41 – 48

Week 41

At the beginning of August we were ‘back to normal’. I had a heavy workload for the coming weeks, as I would be processing applications for residencies at the arts charity I work for.

I was also preparing for the charity Open Day, and AGM. Brisons Veor is a cottage at Cape Cornwall where artists can apply to stay for days, or weeks, to take a break for research or to make work, and sometimes for personal reasons. Before I worked for the Trust, I benefited  from residencies at Brisons, indeed that’s how I first got to know this area of Cornwall. So August will be a busy month for me.

Near the end of August Rebecca visited for her holiday, and we were lucky to have a few sunny days to be tourists with her.


St Michaels Mount  Marazion from St Michaels Mount

LongshipsBex  The Longships Lighthouse from Lands End

Boscawen-un The Stone Circle at Boscawen-un

Week 44 – Moving some of my stuff into the studio at last! There are still jobs to do, but I can’t wait any longer – I need to get on with my painting, now that the busy BV weekend is over. Pete is not happy about having to leave jobs undone, understandably, but is cheered up when son and grandchildren visit for a few days. More days of being a tourist! We explored the delights of Paradise Park – my favourite was the amazing Kookaburra, but I had a soft spot for this poser, who spotted my camera and held this pose for minutes!

What a poser!


Kookaburra refusing to release ‘snake’, she has no fear of them whatsoever!

Week 45

The weather has changed to persistent rain, and both chimneys are letting in water again – somewhere! It’s disappointing, after all the work that’s been done, and very dispiriting. On days like this, it feels as if we’ve made  little progress!

But I’m working in the studio – I have two weeks before the next mentoring weekend, and lots to do. I will be exhibiting work in Penzance this time, and really need to focus on finishing the sea wrack painting at least.

This week our Victorian postbox had a bit of a facelift, with a new information panel being fitted. Inside, to the repairer’s surprise, was a little rabbit –Miffi! When was she posted? Was she a present for the postman, or was a little girl heartbroken because she’d let her go, and couldn’t get her back? We’ll never know. The postman has never mentioned her, and we’d never have known, if the post box hadn’t needed a new panel. I’m sure she cheers the postman up on a wet day – dry and snug in her hole in our wall.

Miffi Little Miffi, looking after the post!

Week 47

It’s been a tricky couple of weeks, but the mentoring weekend was good and I’m beginning to feel a little more confident – it’s wonderful to be able to walk into my own studio again! I dismantled my studio last July, when we were preparing to move house, and I didn’t work for six months. I felt disconnected , and although I used the time productively, it didn’t make up for having that special space, and incentive, to think and make work.

ChapelHouse One of my Kelp prints in Chapel House Hotel,Penzance

We have decided to replace our central heating – we tried the easier option first of course: could our existing system carry more radiators? we asked. In principle, yes, but,  it turned out NO! So we’ll bite the bullet and renew the whole system. At least we will be warm this winter, and if we’re warm, we’ll function better. Last winter certainly wasn’t easy!

Week 48, and a week’s holiday back to Kent, to see family and friends briefly. I wanted to go to Dungeness which has always been a special place and couldn’t be more different from where we live now. From granite cliffs to shingle desert – sublime!


As I write now, it’s Week 49 –  the beginning of ‘heating installation fortnight’. Today our old boiler has been dismantled, and was indeed a sorry sight! We now have a shiny new boiler, and a large tank for hot water, and in a couple of weeks should be experiencing the cottage differently. That will be about the time of our first anniversary here (we moved in on 28th October last year) so we’ll have double the reason to celebrate.

Pete is working on the cloakroom (previously a shower room that was so wet that the wood of the partition wall was black and rotten!) Now it’s fit for use again, and ready to be painted. He has made a long list of jobs, but some depend on the weather being fine, and at the moment we’re going through another wet period – if only we could have a month of dry days!

I’ve taken so many photographs this summer, of the coves and moors, and gradually my ideas for new work are taking shape. I’m planning large paintings for the Mentoring Students’ Exhibition in November, and spent time today going through some of the photographs I took just a few days ago in Penzance, when the sun was shining.

I’m excited by the prospect of making a new big painting. It’s a challenge and it will be interesting to see how I negotiate the awkward dimensions I’ve chosen. No doubt there will be tears and tantrums at some stage – I always seem to run into a wall during the process, but that’s the most interesting stage, ‘when the magic happens’, as one of my tutors told me recently. While I wait for the stretcher to be made, I begin a smaller work based on some ideas I’ve been turning over in my mind in recent months. Roughed out, it looks very different from the work I have been making recently, and I’m curious to see how it will develop.

Going West Weeks 38-40

Nothing much to report on the home-project front as we’ve had our children and grandchildren staying, and have managed a few nice days out, interspersed with more rain!

Pete and our son and two grandchildren braved the sea and the sun at Sennen Cove on a glorious day which was quickly followed by days of drizzle. We managed another, somewhat chillier beach day a few days later at St Ives, where we celebrated Pete’s birthday.

Our daughter came a week later, and we had a fantastic trip to the Eden Project, near St Austell.

Bonkers Sculpture at the Eden Project                                     

Grandson and Grandad took a hair-raising trip: the things you do for children! 

On the last day of their visit we walked to the Men-a-Tol, hoping to carry on to Ding Dong Mine via the Nine Maidens standing stones, but owing to the amount of rain we’ve had, the footpaths had become small streams, and I managed to trip and twist my ankle on the wet grass. I’m now hobbling, yet again!


A new door!

During the past two weeks Pete has managed to put in the new door and window, and now he’s on to the tidying up, which I may be able to help with soon, once my ankle has returned to its normal shape, size and colour!




The garden has been pretty, although over-run with slugs, and we will have to re-think it for next year. More hardy exotics I think, and a special slug-proof area for delicate cottage garden plants. The Onions have done quite well, we’ve had peas, broad beans and runner beans, and the Squash are looking good. Today, gloriously sunny now that all the children have gone home, will be a day for tidying the garden and making good the damage done by days of downpour.  

Going West, Weeks ’32’ on…

Wks 32-37 

I have lost a couple of weeks somewhere! Checking back we have been here 37 weeks this weekend, so what follows is up to date, but slightly awry: Week ‘32’ is now re-numbered Week 34  (ie Wk beginning 19 June)

Week 34

Our lovely friends Jill and Graham from Canterbury popped in to see us during their holiday in Coomb. That was a nice surprise – it’s good to see a very familiar face or two, especially as we do miss all our wonderful friends from Kent. It was, surprisingly, a very hot day – we haven’t had many of those, and we don’t get many in a row!

Pete has taken the old canopy down over the back entrance door, and is replacing that with a smaller one, and with polycarbonate panels that don’t leak!

On Midsummer Day 21st I walked up Bartinney – another beautiful day, but during my walk the clouds rolled in from the Atlantic. I could see them coming, and by the time I’d got to the top of Bartinney they were surrounding me in drifts of mist, until I couldn’t see beyond a few yards. It was magical, especially as I was standing at the site of some ancient hut circles.

On my walk down I photographed every wild flower in bloom I could see, and there were lots of them. I wonder often what I’ll do with all the photos I’ve taken over the years, mostly of the landscape and the things in it.

FlowersMidsummer   Flowers2

On Thursday I went running with a friend on her 70th birthday. We took a break halfway for coffee and cake at Sennen, where the staff put a lighted candle in Polly’s large and delicious piece of cappuccino cake!

Saturday is Mazey Day in Penzance, and the weather wet and miserable. Here we can’t see beyond the garden wall – again!

Week 35 

The plumbing jobs were completed this week at last. I celebrated my birthday with a wet walk to Geevor Mine, where we had pasty and coffee for lunch before an even wetter walk back. We felt good though – it’s probably a good 5 miles, which may not be much to a seasoned walker, but for us is very satisfying. At home there were flowers, and a present from daughters, and lots of cards, which was nice.

Disappointingly the fireplace is dripping water again – somehow it’s getting into the flue and running down to drip onto the (new) register plate.

Wet days followed, with more water coming in, to our dismay. I’ve spent these dreary days catching up with work for Brisons Veor, and still can’t get my head into gear for my own artwork. Pete soldiers on in the barn – doing small jobs while we wait for the electrician.


We ended the week at a Private View in St Ives, where the weather cleared to give us a mild evening. Went to Anima Mundi, to see Phoebe Cummings’ clay memento mori ‘Supernatural’ and Paul Benney’s ‘Speaking in Tongues’ which was launched at the Venice Biennale this year.

Week 36 

Our electrician has fixed a date, and the builder, who came to look at the leaking wall has suggested coating it with a new moisture resisting product. I’m doubtful that will solve the problem, but it’s worth a try before we start thinking about re-pointing.

I travelled to Ipswich for a Symposium on Painting on Friday. Glenn Brown was the guest speaker: really informative and interesting. I came home with a lot to think about.

It’s the first weekend of Lafrowda – an annual festival in St Just which brings visitors from all over every year. We went to a Ceilidh in the old open space (Plein-a-Gwary) in the centre of St Just, and the sun actually shone on us warmly for a couple of hours.

Week 37

Not been a brilliant week. I’m getting impatient now for the barn to be finished, and family visits are near. But I did complete two prints, which have been taken for framing. I cannot judge my own work, and worry when I’m satisfied with something (as my artist friends know). The Symposium has given me a frame of reference for my work, which does help.


The week ended with the fantastic Lafrowda Festival Day yesterday. Three (yes, three!) parades, free live music from a whole range of performers, food stalls offering anything from venison and hog roasts to crab and lobster burgers, clothes, bags and hats (I bought a hat and a dress) crafts, and excellent Cornish beer. The children’s parade was at midday, the main parade at 3.30, and a lantern parade at 10pm. It was mizzly all day, but no-one minded. Wonderful! If only we had more stamina!

Lafrowda Tea Ladies- meet Mr Wolf!

ImpromptuSalsaLafrowda Impromptu Salsa

I end with a witty poem written by a big supporter of St Just and Lafrowda, which we found among the exhibits of the Old Cornwall Society Exhibition. If you can penetrate the vernacular, you’ll find a humorous take on what seems to be an enduring problem: selling off Cornish homes to outsiders. I guess we’re outsiders too, but we’re trying to preserve our Cornish home, rather than pulling it apart and making it into a holiday let!



Going West Week 26 – 31

It’s now the end of Week 25. the first week in May – the Spring Bank holiday weekend was a wash out! The strong winds blew over my plastic greenhouse, tipping out all the trays and pots of seeds.A few were salvaged, but most have been lost.

A few days later, and we were enjoying sunny days. The Swallows arrived – they reside in the little shed in the garden next to ours, and it was a joy to see them swooping across the fields, and in and out of the gardens. The jackdaws have been busy nesting – every house up here has at least one chimney occupied by a jackdaw family, it’s how our house got its name.
I’ve been painting regularly for days now, enjoying the routine of working, and I’m working in a more considered way – I feel more in control of the process. I take a photo at the end of each day, so that I can see the development of the work.


Week 26 Pete is putting up the plasterboard in the barn – it’s beginning to take its new shape. A larger ‘kitchen’ area, and smaller washroom. In between painting, on dry days, I walk, mainly across Bartinney.

Week 28 – The new door and window for the barn arrived this week. Custom-made by Sandwich Joinery. It’ll be a while before they can be installed though, as the new partitions have to be plastered and painted.

There’s plenty to do in the garden, as the frequent rains make the weeds grow as soon as I clear them! It’s still cold too, so the plants I managed to grow from seed are slow in taking. The garden is gradually improving though – it looks like a garden now, not the mass of nettle and bramble it was when we first came here.

At the end of the week we took a walk across Bartinney, to the Carn Euny settlement, an ancient village dating back to the iron age. It has a fogou, an underground passage, that leads from an early Iron Age circular chamber.


There is a magic about places where there has been human settlement for thousands of years. We found St Euny’s Well on the way back, it had eluded me before. All the wells have trees nearby hung with ‘clooties’ , strips of cloth left tied to the tree by visitors – very like the prayer flags in Nepal.

More wet and windy weather followed those few lovely days: the wind stripped the new leaves and branches from the Ash tree in the garden, and left it looking sad and dishevelled. We were glad of the rain, but so were the weeds, and my vegetables are overrun again! It’s hard to keep up, even in this little garden.

Week 29

Over in the South East, and up in Scotland, the temperatures are going up to 28, 29 degrees! While we are still getting rain, and chilly winds from the South West. My greenhouse was blown over again – I’ve given that up now!

I had my mentoring course this weekend. Group crits, tutorials and discussions, and visits to the local artists’ open studios. It doesn’t sound much, but there’s a lot of information to take in, and ideas to consider, and I felt pretty exhausted at the end of the second day. I have a lot to think about, before the next one comes round. And I have 3 paintings to finish.

I walked to Porthledden twice this week, to think, and to look.


At last the scaffolding has been removed from the barn. It looks good, and will look beautiful when the new window and door go in. This week the new partitions have been plastered, and we wait now for the plumber.Everything seems to have slowed down, and we are desperate for the weather to settle as it’s still on the cool side. (I can’t believe they’re enjoying a heat wave in Kent!)

We had a visit from daughter Tania and grandson Tom for a couple of days, for which the weather decided to be lovely. We were able to go to a couple of beaches, and to meet Tom’s request for ‘big seas’, on the second day, when we spent hours at Cot Valley watching the breakers crashing onto the beach. He’s a brilliant climber, and was kept happy for hours clambering over the rocks.


Week 30

After saying goodbye to our children we prepared for a brief visit from an old friend who arrived in Penzance with his brother-in-law to begin their Lands End to John O’Groats charity bike ride. They stayed the night, before setting off on their adventure the next day – at time of writing they have passed Perth, and raised £4,620 of the £3,000 target. Brilliant! (Find them on Simon & Jim’s Le Jog on Facebook)

I’ve been unsettled since the mentoring weekend, and have spent my time on the beach exploring at low tide. I don’t want to paint or make prints, I feel confused. I know that it is a normal consequence of mentoring: but I’m still derailed by the process.

Pete carries on doing all the jobs he can do while we wait for the plumber, whose ‘two weeks’ have turned into three.

Week 31

I heard today that the husband of my eldest sister has died, after suffering from heart problems for several years. I remember that he taught me to tell the time, when I was probably about 9 or 10. And then he took his wife and young children off to a new life in Canada, and finally the US, coming back for frequent visits in the 80’s and 90’s. They had ten children, and have many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, so I think he had a good life.

Our weather here is finally settling. Sunshine and mild breezes. We took a day off on Tuesday to go to Sennen, to the Farmers Market, and then to the beach, where we sat in the sun for hours having coffee and just looking. It was relaxing not to be thinking about my work, and good for Pete who still works every day in the barn.


I have signed up for a Symposium in July, hoping that it will give some structure to the thoughts I’m having about my practice.

And on Saturday (yesterday) I played Netball for the first time in many years. Probably not wise, in view of my wonky knee, but the opportunity to join a summer Back to Netball course was there, and for me it’s a natural way of exercising, and better than the gym. (I was pretty stiff later on in the day!)

We had coffee at the Dog and Rabbit afterwards, and bumped into Sara, who is also doing the mentoring course – down for the weekend with her husband. Comparing notes, we both seem to have had a disorienting couple of weeks, while we digest all the information we’ve been exposed to.

Today – Sunday 18 June – I was up at 5am, not having slept well. But the dawn was beautiful; a quiet, soft morning – nothing but birds chirping and the Jackdaws, of course, who own Dowran, and are allowed their raucous calls early in the day. I watched the light change on the sea and the fields until the sun had risen.

At last the Jackdaws near our conservatory have left the nest! We were hoping that we would see them take their first flight, and they chose this morning – I managed to capture the first on camera. Since then the parents have been in and out, and I’m not sure if there are others still to fledge. What luck, to see them emerging!

A reluctant Jackdaw


Garden1June              Garden2

The garden is looking much better now!




Going West – Weeks 21 – 25

Time passes so quickly, we often forget what we’ve been doing if I don’t write it down.

P has spent another week in the barn – he takes his time because he wants to do a good job, but also because there are partitions to come down, but they can’t be removed unless there’s something to act as support when they’re gone.


I spent some time making more prints with the seaweed that I’d brought back from Porthgwarra, and getting my work together for my first attendance on the Newlyn Artist Mentoring Course, which is this coming weekend. I’ve done quite a lot – digital images and collagraphs, and my sketchbook looks quite good. I’m looking forward to the weekend.

Sea Wrack

On Wednesday we had our first dental checkups with our new dentist, and passed,  with flying colours. It was a relief not to have to have any treatment: with everything we’re aspiring to do, it feels very important to remain as healthy as possible.

Some of my seedlings have grown very quickly in the recent warm days in the conservatory. I managed to plant out Runner Beans and Sweet Peas on Friday, knowing that I wouldn’t be around this weekend to take advantage of the improving weather. I planted four sunflowers out too, but by Saturday morning there was just one left. I hardly ever see slugs here, but there are plenty of snails!

Leaving P on Saturday morning I went off to Newlyn for a weekend of crits, tutorials and gallery/studio visits. Members of the group come from all over – it’s good to be part of such a varied and interesting group of artists. By the end of Sunday, we were all pretty exhausted, having been assailed with all kinds of ideas and images. We have a lot to do before we meet again at the end of May. I have ideas for new paintings, after a tutorial with Jack Davis.

Week 22

Pete continues working in the barn: he’s reducing the cloakroom area to give me more working space, putting in a new partition and door between the barn and the cloakroom. He is also cutting down the first of the two reclaimed doors we bought for the sitting room and study.

I took a walk to Cot Valley for seaweed and Kelp for the next series of drawings. A seal showed himself briefly, which was a delight. I haven’t seen any this winter, although they are around, especially when the waves are high. When I visit the beach I spend a lot of time scrambling over rocks, as my favourite places are not easy to access. But once there I lose track of time, and worries fade away, for a while at least. The valleys have been beautiful this winter, the gorse blooms endlessly, and as one species of flowers fades, others come along.

On Thursday we drove to Drift reservoir and attempted to walk all the way round. I think we probably walked three quarters of it, but had to turn back. It was a lovely sunny day, chilly but comfortable in the sun. The days are getting better.

Drift Reservoir

The garden is coming along. I’ve planted onion sets and rocket and spinach this week.

Week 23

We’ve had a call from the builder to say the scaffolding for the barn will be put up this week. All of a sudden things seem to gain momentum. Pete has to remove the canopy from the barn wall, and he’s hung the door to the study. We’ll need that because we have visitors over the Easter weekend, and don’t quite have enough bedrooms. The study will make a useful temporary bedroom.

While he’s doing that, the weather is dry enough for me to do more gardening, and lay bark onto a small area of path. The garden is coming together slowly. Pete takes out the last of the shrubs that need to be removed for the soakaway. We have bluebells in the garden, clumps of them, along with the wild garlic, and the beautiful pink ‘bluebells’ which grow here and there.

We’ve begun eating our evening meal in the old conservatory; now the days are sunnier it makes a nice place to sit at the end of the day. We can look across the fields to the coast and to Chapel Carn Brea. On Thursday we watched a small deer walk across the fields. It seemed to know where it was going, but where it came from I don’t know. (A few days later we saw a fox on the prowl)

The Easter weekend stayed sunny and mild – we took the children out to the beach and coves, and walked them along the valleys: I think they enjoyed their stay, brief as it was!

Week 24

After the children had left on Easter Monday we decided to explore the footpath down the lane. It’s supposed to connect with Kelynack, so we thought we’d see how far we could get.  We found ourselves walking along what remains of the old river bed, completely overgrown with nettles and other plants; we could hear the stream trickling, but couldn’t see it. As we paused by a stone, we saw the tail end of an adder disappearing into a hole by the path. A reminder to be cautious this time of year! The path ended in a large field and there seemed to be no way out of it, though according to the map, the footpath continued through to a road. Disappointed we walked round and back towards Dowran, stopping to enjoy the call of a cuckoo from the woods. Spring seems to have arrived, at last. Sunshine, longer, milder days, an abundance of flowers and creatures on the move.

We decided to turn off the heating – we can light a fire in the evenings, if it’s cold.

The builder arrived on Wednesday to replace the barn roof. It gives Pete a boost, to have others working around him. It’s been a long cold winter working out in the barn on his own, but now he can see progress. The new partition is made, and the old wall can come down.

The builders cut the joists for two velux windows that will let the north light into what will be my studio.

I’ve been making two collagraphs this week, and priming the new canvases that arrived last week. I’m still working on digital images, and decided to enter three for the Ruskin Art Prize, which, unlike many competitions, doesn’t ignore digital artwork. The theme seems apposite: ‘Hand and Eye – Master of all trades’;  the artist as polymath.
It fits with my practice, which combines the crafts of painting and drawing with the imagination of the artist and the skills of a digital image-maker.

Kelp – digital print

Another walk to my favourite cove on Sunday, in warm sunshine. Really warm! The tide was very low, and I was able to cross the rocky cove almost at the shoreline, and explore some of the caves and inlets I have never been able to reach before. I’ve brought back two seaweed for new drawings, and salt water to keep it in. On the cliffs around the cove are sea pink and scilla, with its delicate blue flowers. The valley is just beautiful – its slopes are covered in wild garlic flowers, bluebells and campion, wild mustard…gorse which scents the air with a wonderful sweet honey perfume. Disappointingly the Japanese Knotweed we spotted earlier in the year is rampant – standing up tall above the surrounding plants, it has stems up to 1” in diameter!  I don’t see how it can be contained – but it will ruin the valley’s ecosystem if it isn’t.

A deep inlet, its walls covered in coloured lichen and stained with minerals

Last Friday, the 28th April, marked our first six months here – how quickly time passes! The barn roof no longer leaks, and the new cloakroom is taking shape. The builders have put up new guttering, and created a gully along the front of the house to take the rainwater away into the soakaway. We’re on target – a new barn door and window are ready, when we can collect them, so we’re pretty pleased with things.

Just room for a min-digger!

I began a painting last week – the first for nine months or so. I’m fairly pleased with the way it’s going – it’s not like anything I’ve done before, and I think the tutorials I had in April have given me a huge boost. I paint in our dilapidated conservatory, now the weather is warmer. And I’m trying to get into a good studio routine, so that when the barn’s ready I can move in and carry on straight away. I feel very optimistic, and I realize how very lucky I am to be able to do what I really enjoy.


Going West – Wks 18-20

Wk 18 – 6 March…

Having applied late for a place on the mentoring course at Newlyn School of Art, I had an interview, and was accepted. At the moment I have a temporary studio space, with a small etching press, and I’m making some collagraphs based on the Kelp that washes up on the beaches at this time of year. I have ordered some solar etching plates too, to experiment with that process. It’s nice to be working again.


On Wednesday I made my favourite walk to the sea. The walk through the valley was so beautiful, such a range of colours: yellow daffodils and golden gorse, white garlic and narcissi, even purple vinca and violets, because the valley is so sheltered in places. All against a background of rusty brown bracken and purple grey hawthorn.


The sea was rough and noisy, lots of foam and spray filling the little cove. On my way back I scrambled up a spoil heap and made an unexpected find among the piles of rock. There is always something to surprise, during a walk out.

An unexpected Find – an artist’s palette!

P, of course, is busy out in the barn, taking down the internal partitions, and removing all the sanitaryware that had been installed by a previous occupant. On good (dry) days I do a little digging in the garden, having decided to turn most of it into flower and veg beds for this year. I planted seeds out in trays, anxious to begin the process, although as it’s so cold, I’m probably being too optimistic!

How the garden looked in late February-just began digging

We enjoyed a trip to Tremenheere at the end of the week – although we haven’t yet explored the sculpture garden.

Wk 19 – 13 March

On Monday I had a tutorial with Jacques Nimki, to help ease me into the mentoring course, as I’m a ‘late starter’ (how true!) It was really good to focus on my work, and ideas for taking it forward – something I haven’t been able to do for quite a while!

I’ve spent two mornings walking and exploring the coves this week – I take loads of photographs, but then I wonder – to what end? At the moment it’s too cold and wet to sit on the beach and draw, which I would like to do.

In the garden this week we’ve seen Blue Tits, Great Tits, Robins and Blackbirds, as well as a gang of Sparrows who live in our eaves. Jackdaws are always present, enjoying the chimneys around here, and we often hear the cry of buzzards overhead. We have a new visitor, a male Chaffinch who seems to be alone.

We’re relieved to see that the Camellia has transplanted well, and is producing large flowers, and now a flowering currant is in bloom. Most of the shrubs in the other bed will be removed when the soak-away is dug out, so it’s good that we have some resident plants to provide interest and shelter for the birds.

P. is still working on the barn – it’s a slow job, on his own, and very tiring – although he doesn’t seem to mind, and finds it an interesting challenge. But by the end of the week he needs time out. On Friday we took a trip to Lamorna Cove, very picturesque in the summer, but the violent storms have broken away a large part of the harbour wall, and it all looks a bit sad. We drove on to Porthcurno, which couldn’t have been more different – a beautiful clean sandy beach and curling turquoise waves – and the sun shining for a while.


Wk 20 – 20 March

The weekend has been grey and miserable, but suddenly the weather has cleared and I’m able to spend a little more time in the garden. Still digging out roots and weeds, but I’m getting there! The Chaffinch has been pecking at our windows and doors in the mornings. We wondered if he was collecting insects, but he’s so persistent all we can think is that he sees his reflection and thinks it’s a rival! There don’t seem to be any other chaffinches around, at the moment.

I discovered a new (to me) cove this week, and actually managed a quiet and warm half-hour in the sun, alone on the beach. Magic! I collected a nice variety of seaweed, too, bringing them home to draw.


Still addicted to photography though! I have so many to download and sort through – and I’ll have to discard most of them eventually.

P has ordered timber for the barn, to make the new partitions. I would help, if I could, but at this stage I’d just be in the way. Although he tells me how he’s planning it all out, I find it hard to imagine that in a few months’ time it will be a functioning studio. We have decided to replace the decrepit conservatory, instead of trying to make good – now it’s just a question of how and when.

Cheered by the run of sunny days (although there’s been an icy NE wind blowing), at the end of the week we made a trip to a nursery to buy shrubs and herbs for the garden, which are now in and settling their roots. I’ve had a good run of days in the garden this week, and will soon be able to plant out seedlings and sow flower seeds.

Almost all digging and weeding done!

On Mothers Day I drove us to the little cove I visited earlier this week. Once a thriving fishing community, albeit a small one, it regularly supplied restaurants in London with fish and shellfish, but now it’s home to a few residents and holiday cottages. Still sunny, but the freezing and strong blustery winds made it quite a different experience. We had coffee and cake at the little café, and took a brief walk up onto the clifftop, where the gusts were so strong they threatened to lift us off our feet. Perhaps another day we’ll be more adventurous.


My daughters sent me cards and presents: flowers, chocolates, even a DVD…very thoughtful. We miss our family and friends in Kent, and although we’re more or less settled in, life is not as it was, and each day is an adjustment.