A Walk Around Stratford upon Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare and home to the RSC.


However, on this day it was the home of  The Morris Men…

(love those hats!) and women…

and girls!

The place was chock full o’ Morris Dancers and Morris Dancing!  Every where you went, there was a Morris Dancer.  You couldn’t get away from them!  At least they didn’t mind you taking photos!

On this particularly dry day in June,  we visited Stratford during their River Festival.  (I think it should have been called the Morris Dancing Festival!)  There were many activities taking place, so there was a lot to see.  Stratford-upon-Avon hasn’t changed much since I first visited many years ago.  It is still as quaint and touristy as ever.  There are many old buildings that have been turned into shops and restaurants.  The river is lovely to walk along.   It can get very busy with Tourists on the weekends, so you just have to be patient and take your time about walking around.  After all, Stratford isn’t a very big town.

After a lovely lunch along the riverside and a walk through the town, we put the top down on the car (it had to be done!) and drove around The Cotswolds.    The Cotswolds is an area of outstanding natural beauty and it doesn’t surprise me in the least why people walk here regularly.  There are many pretty villages to visit and the views can be breathtakingly beautiful.

We ended up at the Broadway Tower Country Park.  We were too late for a proper walk or visit in the Tower, but we did manage to catch some stunning views before the light started to fade.

Should the weather get back to normal, it would be lovely to come back here again!

Art is the new Tango!

I can’t believe I just wrote that.  And I never thought I would have a passion for anything outside of Argentine Tango.  Admittedly, my passion has eased off since I moved to Eastbourne over a year ago.  There is no Argentine Tango to be had here in Eastbourne.  I have had to make do with other dances, go back to old favourites, and try a new one.  As a social dance, Argentine Tango is my preferred dance of choice as it is not just about the dance, it is about the music and the connection with another.  If you want to know all about my passion for this wonderful dance and the music that inspired it, please have a look at my other blog.

I suppose something had to give.  Maybe the passion for dancing was to fill a void.  Salsa, Ceroc/LeRoc, and Bellydancing don’t quite reach the part of me that the music of Argentine Tango does.  It touched my soul.  The other stuff is just for fun and gives me a happy vibe, but it is a fleeting thing.   However, dancing has now taken a back seat to drawing and painting.  I still dance, but it isn’t that important anymore.

I discovered painting after a break up earlier this year.   You see, I never thought I had it in me, but it seems I do.  Other people seem to think so too, and I’ve been offered a place at my local college for the Art Foundation Course.  So, now I am doing things with regard to painting and drawing as I did when I was learning to dance Argentine Tango.  I looked at resources on the internet.  I am reading books.  I go to a couple of classes.  I am painting and drawing something everyday.  It is my new obsession.  I used to laughingly say that Tango was my life, and that was because I danced 5-6 times a week for three years!  I have enough Art Supplies, I could open up my own shop. Instead of buying Tango shoes and clothes, I buy paint and pencils and I just ordered some paper stretchers!

Right now I am painting anything and everything, but mainly naked people, fruit and veg, and flowers.  I have done a few abstracts and have a few ideas to work on over the summer.  I was given a project to do for the Foundation Course which will be reviewed tomorrow.  I am learning in a way that I always like to learn something I am interested in, and that is by immersing myself totally in it.  Unlike dance, there is a lot one can actually learn and apply to one’s art by reading books and watching videos on the internet.  Although most artists that pass on information have developed their own techniques or methods of doing things, the foundations are generally the same for everyone.  I have realised that as in dance, less can be more when developing a piece of work.  As I am unskilled and still finding my feet (so to speak), I still need to learn about how things work and how to put things together, in my own way.  Hence the Foundation Course.  In the meantime, I am teaching myself things from books and trying out different methods of doing things, making a note of it and disregarding stuff I don’t like.  I have a lot of time to do this before the classes start in September.

I have been an art lover from an early age.  I used to love watching my father paint and draw.  He could do it with either hand.  His skill overshadowed my desire to pursue anything with Art, except to appreciate it.  When I was 17, my English Class took a trip to New York to visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It was my first ever visit to an art museum.  It was a glorious summer day.  Most of my classmates bunked off into Central Park to hang out and go drinking while a few of us actually went around the Museum.  I was overwhelmed by the beauty of what I saw.  I guess you could say that was the day my soul was touched by Art.  From that day, I would visit Galleries and Museums every chance I got.  When I actually lived in New York, I was in Art Heaven.  I could walk to the MOMA on my lunch break!  When travelling, I will generally try to visit a gallery or museum.  I find it difficult to be indoors though when the weather is so nice, so I enjoy the Architecture instead, which is sort of like Art.  Living in London for over 20 years was wonderful for all of the lovely Art and Architecture to be found.  Now I live in a genteel seaside town that has a wide variety of creative people in the vicinity – and we have an Art Gallery, The Towner.  Living by the seaside and the The South Downs is very inspiring.   I have taken many lovely photographs of the area.  I am sure I will find some inspiration that will get me to produce a piece of work because of what I have seen or felt.

Right now, I am having a lot of fun working with colour.  I have been using a lot of it in my interior decorating, and now I am using it to paint.  I am not interested in painting something ‘life-like’.  I want whatever I make to be more than what it is. Without going into crappy and pretentious Artist’s jargon, I want to bring more to a picture than what I see –  because I not only see what I am painting, I feel it and strangely have a connection to it – even to the fruit!  The melon I painted today came out differently because of the variations in the colours of the different mediums I was using.  However, it got more vibrant.  The fruit became more than what it was.  It is strange, but I am having fun! And I am happy!

And isn’t being happy and having fun what life is all about?  🙂

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. 🙂