Who am I and What (the heck) am I Doing?

It’s a question I ask myself regularly.  Sometimes I say it to myself in a contemplative way and other times in a more negative way – like ‘Arlene, what the hell do you think you are doing?!’  I sometimes scold myself for trying new things and not having a ‘real’ job.

If I look back on my life, I have realised that I have always been working at something ever since I was small.  I helped look after my little brother when he was born and I always had some sort of job, paid or otherwise, since I was 13.  Even when I have been ‘unemployed’, I have always been doing something.  I am not an idle person, it just looks like it sometimes.  I think we are ingrained with this idea that to be a productive human being, we need to earn money.  Let’s face it, begging for money is the least desirable way of earning a living.  There is an ingrained distaste to seeing someone doing that.  It obviously isn’t a ‘real’ job to most people.  I don’t think it would go down very well in a social situation, especially at dinner or cocktail parties –  ‘I beg for a living, what do you do?’

Then we have labels we give ourselves depending on what we do: Firefighter, Secretary, Doctor, Nurse, etc.  I don’t think beggar would go down very well on a CV.  We also give ourself labels depending on our situation or family circumstances:  Married, Divorced, Separated, Single, brother, sister, mother….you get the picture.

I have been and done so many things and I still am a lot of other things too!  As soon as I gave birth, I became a mother.  Once a mother, always a mother.  My job for many years was mothering, or parenting to make it more general.  Although my duties as a mother have been reduced considerably now that my children are grown up, I am still called/roped in occasionally for mothering services.  When my children have children, my job will double up to mothering and grand-mothering services.  The jobs just never end.

I haven’t had a full-time job since the end of 2008 when my company decided to call it a day and make us all redundant.  At that time I was a PA/Office Manager.  It sounded more impressive than when I worked part-time a few months later in a clothing store as a Sales Assistant (or Retail Therapist as I liked to call myself).  Since I sold my house and moved to Eastbourne, I haven’t worked for money.  I was busy sourcing contractors and project managing the work on my home.  I have been researching my family tree and history and reconnecting with family I never met or hadn’t seen in over 20 years.  I have been taking photographs, writing, and more recently I have taken up painting – not just the walls in my home, but pictures.

At first I don’t think I was very good.  In fact, I know I wasn’t.  What I lacked in skill, I had bucket loads in determination and enthusiasm.  If you want to see my progress, I have a page set up on this blog called Trying New Things.  I think I am getting better.  I am painting something every day.  As well as my camera, I now take a sketch pad and something to draw with when I go out.  I try to go to a couple of art classes every week, a life drawing class and a still life class.  The lady who hosts the classes is very encouraging.  I have been buying books on how to draw and paint from the second-hand book store and the charity shops.  I can probably open an art shop of my own.  I want to try to use everything and see what it does.  I am like a sponge, soaking up everything that comes my way and then I try to filter some of it out and try to make something of my own.

I am inspired by family and friends to keep painting and try everything.  In fact, I had an interview last Thursday with the local college to see if I can get a place on the Art Foundation Course.  The phone conversation leading up to the interview wasn’t very encouraging, but I was determined not to leave the place without a course to take, even if I had to stage a sit-in.  Fortunately, the tutors liked my progress, enthusiasm and bold use of colour.  I have been offered a place and start in September! 🙂

I have been given a task and need to produce 15 pieces in 2 weeks.  I had to look up on the internet how to do two of the things I need to do!  Although it seems daunting, I have ideas floating around in my head already about how I am going to do the work.  I will be starting tomorrow as I had to go out and get some material.  It kinda put me off my stride, so I went a bit mad and drew some Gerberas before they faded away.

23.05.11 - Gerberas - Chalk Pastels on Paper

The reason I want to do an Art Foundation Course is because I will be able to try my hand at a variety of things I have never tried before.  I will get to paint, sculpt, develop film in the photography section, work with textiles and a host of other things.  After all, how will I know if I am good at something or will like it unless I try it?  How will getting an Art Foundation Diploma affect or improve my work prospects?  I haven’t got a clue and so I am just leaving that to The Universe.

In the meantime, I am painting furniture – some for my house and some to sell.  I am getting my photos organised to make into cards, to sell.  I may not be working and earning money, yet, but I am busy and happy with what I am doing, so who knows where that will take me?  As for what to tell people who ask me what I do for a living when I tell them that I am looking for work, it was suggested that I tell them I’m a researcher.  I’m not lying if I tell them that and it means I don’t have to say anything about my personal circumstances and how I came to Eastbourne.  I moved here because I love it and I always wanted to live by the seaside and it was affordable.

So that answers the question about what I have been doing –  mostly having fun and trying new things.  As far as who I am, well, I am a woman with many interests and hidden talents.  If I have to give myself labels, I prefer to use the ones that are not so obvious, such as TangoDiver (I dance Argentine Tango and Scuba Dive, though not at the same time), Dancer (I also dance Salsa, Ceroc and am learning to Bellydance), Writer – currently unpublished, Photographer and now I can add Artist. 🙂

STOP fishing in Ras Mohammed National Park! Please!

The Governor of  South Sinai has given the green light to commercial fishing in one of the most famous marine nature reserves in the world.  Please take the time to read about this here at Sport Diver News.

Ras Mohammed National Park is a protected area where NO fishing has been allowed.  Because of this, the reefs have become some of the top rated dive sites in the world.  Shark and Yolanda has been rated as one of the top 10 by Jacques Cousteau.

I have been to Sharm el Sheikh five times so far in the last two years and dived at Ras Mohammed National Park .  Sharm is relatively easy to get to from the UK.  The weather is pleasant all year round and regardless of how many times you dive the same site, no dive is ever the same.  You just never know what the current will be doing and what wonderful things you may see.  I love diving in The Red Sea and would hate for this area to get spoiled by the ineptitude of decision makers.

As well as diving, Sharm has now become as popular as The Canary Islands for the sea and sun brigade.  Most of the hotels on the seafront are near local dive sites where there is some lovely snorkeling to be had.  In spite of the shark biting last year due to ignorant people feeding the fish and the sharks themselves, snorkeling can be another way to view the marine life if done properly and with care to the reefs.

Tourism has been down partly because of the political situation in Egypt, but the politics have not really interfered with life in Sharm.  If fishing is going to be allowed in Ras Mohammed National Park, this is going to have an added detrimental effect on tourism in this area where numbers are already low.

There is a petition set up by The Red Sea Diving Community.  Please sign the petition and show your support, divers and non-divers alike.  You can find it here.

Thank you.

A Walk Around Dunchurch

I just spent a lovely weekend in Dunchurch, Warwickshire.  I had never been to Dunchurch before and was pleasantly surprised how lovely the countryside is around there.  There are some great walks if you like that sort of thing and I certainly do.  Dunchurch is not very far from Rugby where you can go and do a bit of shopping and yes, visit the Rugby museum.

Amazing Views and Clouds

The weather on Friday was bright and cloudy.  The clouds were just amazing and combined with the views were just breathtaking.  I made my way to Draycote Water, which was just down the road.

View towards Draycote Water

On the way to Draycote Water there is an alpaca farm, Toft Alpacas.  The Alpacas are generally quite curious and a few came up to me to investigate.  One even came close enough to give me a good sniff and then went for a drink. I didn’t have time to go into the shop.  Maybe on my next visit!

Toft Alpacas

After a couple of hours of wandering around and sketching, I made my way back into the village for some lunch.  I had a very enjoyable lunch at The Green Man Pub.  After lunch, I carried on exploring the rest of the village.  There are some very pretty cottages with thatched roofs and quite a few grand houses in the area.

Guy Fawkes House, The Old Forge, Thatched Cottages

 There is also an Art Gallery and Artist’s Studio in Dunchurch which is owned by Michael McCormick, a local artist.  Michael has his studio upstairs and gives art classes during the week.  He teaches by example and from there the students can find their own way.  It would be wonderful to find someone in Eastbourne that does that!

St Peter's Church - Exterior
St Peter's Church - Interior

St Peter’s Church is very small, but also very old and is mentioned in the Domesday Book.  The grounds contain some very old headstones and contains some war graves from WW I.  The young men who died were aged 18 to 23 with one Officer in his 50’s.

Saturday was a pretty miserable day for walking and so I went into Rugby to do some shopping and have some lunch.  The shopping is not very exciting although there is an outdoor market where I purchased some delicious strawberries. There is an art gallery next to the shopping centre by Asda.  I didn’t have enough time to visit on this trip.

Sunday morning was spent walking around Draycote Water.  From where I was staying, the walk was about 6.5 miles.  There is an asphalt path that goes all the way around the reservoir which is used by walkers/joggers and cyclists.  There are some lovely views around the water.  There is also a fishing and a boating club.  There were quite a few anglers about on the banks as well as fishing from boats.  There are designated picnic areas with tables and benches.  The area is very clean and well maintained.  If you don’t have access to the seaside, being able to use the reservoir is the next best thing.  It was nice to see the little sailboats out for their races, just like at home.

Draycote Water

 So that is a taste of Dunchurch.  The natives are extremely friendly.  If there is a downside to the place, it is only that there isn’t a café.  Really, can someone open a café in Dunchurch so I can come in and have a cup of coffee and maybe some breakfast or a snack before or after my walk?  Thanks!