Sunday, 26 June 2011

The hands of the clock got lost in the fog.

   Looking back now, it is hard to say what has happened these past few weeks.  Not much remains but a blur of a bent back, a sore hand and tired eyes from too many hours at a desk and a copperplate.  At the window there have been the capers of seagull chicks on the roof tops.  There must be about ten chicks living in easy view these days.  Some will be flying soon and others are still taking shaky steps up and down the roof slates, around and between the chimney pipes.  Some pink and yellow roses sit in a jar, a merry little song brought from the garden of a neighbour.  There is a patchwork quilt of fallen petals on the table cloth below them.  I've hardly left the desk at all.

   Last weekend was the sole exception.  My father-in-law flew into Edinburgh from France to spend the weekend, and so we took the train down to meet him.  We feasted on the museums, strolled the palace, climbed the hills and followed the waters.  Mists hung on the corners of every building, rains washed the streets and a million fingers pressed their camera shutters closed a billion times.

BEhold how good a thing it is / and how becoming well / Together such as brethren are / in unity to dwell / It is an honour for me to cease from strife.

Inside Holyroodhouse there was an exhibit, 'The Northern Renaissance: Dürer to Holbein' which was a little paradise to visit.  Since there were not too many other people there, we were able to linger over each print and painting, tracing all the details with our eyes.  It was possible to be breathed in by the paintings, to lean close and see all the subtle hatching and cross hatching in only slightly varying pigments that made up the seemingly smooth skin tones.  And then to step back a little, and a little more.

And then there was wandering in the rain, through the gardens and the ruined abbey behind the palace.


We also happened upon the recently completed 'Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry' in St. Mary's Cathedral.  Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, and telling the story of the Jacobite rising of 1745 in 104 panels, it is apparently now the longest tapestry in the world.  The whole thing can be seen online here, and it's worth having a look. 

  And all this past while it has been raining and raining and the temperature around ten degrees.  All those days at the desk seem all the more blurred and jumbled because even the sun stopped marking the usual hourly procession across the walls and floor. There ceased to be hours and minutes, or evenings, mornings and afternoons, there was just a dull timelessness.  I didn't have to start the day at one end of the desk where the light is good in the morning, and slowly inch over to the other side as the time passed.  There was just empty working hours and endless stories on the radio.

   But the other day I finally finished the etching that I was working on, and so the hours have regained their form somewhat.  Time is rolling by nicely again, the hands of the clock creaking on like the spokes of wagon wheels spinning past.  Finally I begin to feel like maybe the days may be going somewhere again.

   Soon I'll share the new etching with you, and now I'll be answering emails again, and leaving comments on your blogs, instead of just reading them and keeping to myself.  It has really been a bright spot in my days, to sit down with my lunch and read through the glittering treasure box overflowing with all your posts.

   I am hoping to grab hold of this strange and squally summer, with its night frosts and gales and live it a little bit more fully than I have this past little while.  No more insane, self-imposed deadlines for a while I think.  I would like to have at least a few adventures before the berries are all off the branches.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Strolling the River

   I thought I would take a break from the rainy night and drawing out crowds of grotesques and flowered borders.  I thought I might drink some tea and paste up pictures of a tea drinking spot by the river where we propped ourselves on some rocks, our feet just above the water and drowned leaves. 

We walked out of the city and through a wood, until we found horses to picnic with and hills to run sliding down in the wrong shoes, since we weren't expecting to walk so far when we set out.  We found a trapeze artist's bridge across the river and a narrow path to wind through grass and flowers on.

A heron swooped past, going up river.

   Further on, anise-scented forests grew.  Purple flower blankets were spread out over the soil, and white blossoms stood waist-high.  Being lost in a green place on a sunny afternoon is a great pleasure, and must be relished.

Especially when there are the sweetest smelling wild roses to be found and strange faces peek out of the undergrowth.

    I am continually charmed by this city where one can stroll a little too long and find cows or dolphins, depending on the way one points their feet.  I treasure that.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Cushie-dous an a keekin-gless

  These days have been for strolling sunny pathways and picnic lunches on trees uprooted in the recent gales.  I've been baking bread, eating marzipan in the churchyard, and taking trips to the art gallery timed to beat cloudbursts.  A pair of old polyurethane ink rollers turned to an orange puddle on the window ledge, but they were in such bad shape already that it didn't matter and the colour of the mess was secretly a delight. 

  A couple of weeks ago I was commissioned to illustrate a lovely Doric language story called 'The Last Een' by Linda Smith.  It was this year's winner of the Toulmin Prize, an annual literary competition in the North East of Scotland.  Not being from Scotland, it's always interesting for me to puzzle my way through the Doric. I love finding words like watergaw (an incomplete rainbow), stammygaster (a great and sudden disappointment), and shargar (a stunted person).  (The title of this post would be 'Wood Pigeons and a Mirror' in English.) The story and my illustration can be found in this month's edition of Leopard Magazine.

   Many families of herring gulls have been nesting in the chimneys across the street for the past while.  And yesterday, drawing by the window, I looked up to see that one family were nudging along a new chick as it wobbled up and down the roof tiles.  While it hasn't been helping me to concentrate on the things I should be working on, it's lovely watching the little guy sticking out his wings for balance and trying to run up the rooftop, or flopping exhausted on its belly and falling asleep before it can renew its efforts to climb upwards.  Meal times have been exciting and noisy spectacles, attracting extra gulls, and making it difficult to talk on the phone. 

   Oh ho, who can believe it's June already?