First Abigail, Now Barney

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We’ve had storms that have names. We’ve been lashed and battered first by Abigail who left a trail of broken branches and flooded fields, and now by Barney who will continue to fill rivers that have already burst their banks and flooded cities like York.

I’d stayed in for days, but this afternoon I defied all common sense and went out to walk in the wet streets, hoping the break in the clouds that looked so inviting would mean the rain would hold off for an hour. I dressed up in my most waterproof clothing, headed for the park and got half way up the dark avenue of lime trees when the wind whipped up and sheets of grey rain came down the field fast, in waves. I tied my hood down more firmly and walked more quickly but I only got halfway up the path to the playground when the rain turned to hail and came down so hard that I was afraid to go on, so I looked around for shelter. I was under trees (which is not always a good idea in a storm) but Abigail had ripped the last of the leaves from the horse chestnuts, and it was no drier there than out in the open. I huddled in the lee of a big lime tree but had no protection from the hailstones, so I scrambled a few feet off the path and crept inside the canopy of a holly tree. Holly is wonderfully waterproof. The branches of this one come right down to the ground and make a dark tented space around the trunk, and crouching in there amongst dry leaves I suddenly remembered what it felt like to be ten years old, playing in the woods and making secret dens under the rhododendrons.

The tarmac path was now a torrent of water that cascaded downhill, cutting furious and dramatic channels through piles of fallen leaves as it went hurtling downwards, piling up branches and twigs and then leaping over them as it powered through rearranging everything in its path.

The hail turned back to rain and eased a little, and I left my holly tree and headed home. My storm-proof jacket is not, it seems, designed for storms like this one. I made my way slowly and cautiously along paths that were now streams, and across a road under inches of water. I was soaked through in places and damp in others, but the rain had stopped, the wind was blowing hard and wasn’t cold. It felt good.

Back home I stripped off wet clothing and in my trouser pocket found my phone damp and its case soaking wet, which was alarming but fortunately not fatal for the phone (which taught me a lesson). I’d wrapped my sketchbook in a plastic bag, which on reflection must show my sense of priorities.

This kind of weather is fun, when you’re only a few hundred yards from the warmth and comfort of home.
Not everyone is so lucky.

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Ornate

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It was raining this afternoon and so I took refuge in the museum. I hadn’t been in there for months, but I’d been meaning to; I’ve been using my sketchbook as a way to record everyday things and I’d been idly musing about what everyday life meant for the Butterfield family who owned Cliffe Castle in, say, 1880.

The Butterfields, it would seem, were surrounded by a great deal of highly ornate clutter. There are some delightful things in these rooms, when taken individually – but overall this kind of ostentation is not my cup of tea. I have to concentrate on one thing at a time or else I have the urge to turn and run, so I let my eyes settle on the carved gilded mirror frame above the Carrara marble fireplace, and there I stayed, sketching, in the half hour that was left before closing time.
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A passing museum attendant new to the job (I overheard him tell a visitor he’d only been there for four days) came over to look at my drawing and said in astonishment ‘did you do that yourself?’ – at which we both laughed. I said ‘no, actually the artist just left the room’ and we laughed some more.
After all, it’s not a very good drawing. Henry Butterfield would not have been impressed.

Weekly Photo Challenge: ornate

Extract of Autumn

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It starts with blue. Autumn skies are different from the skies of summer or spring. This is the first ingredient. Then, copper, rust, terracotta, amber and gold, streaked with green – the green of glass bottles, the turquoise of the shallow sea, and the deep blue green of the ocean.

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I start to see these colours when I close my eyes and sometimes dream of them. They feel like perfume, or wine, or freshly ground coffee, or chocolate; I swear I’m absorbing them just by gazing at them. I’m drinking them in.

It’s not enough just to think of them, so I get out my palette and let two colours loose on the page. Phthalo Turquoise and Burnt Sienna spread themselves in brilliant glory and then collide, a confluence of energy swirling and merging, creating currents of soft new colours without names. I’ve stopped thinking; I think I’ve forgotten how to speak. I’m lost in colour.

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What does colour mean to you?

What To Do With All That Fallen Gold

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When the ground is suddenly blanketed in a thick and glorious carpet of golden leaves and the sun is shining, what do you do? Taking photographs sometimes just isn’t enough for me; I had to soak it all up by drawing.

Other people obviously felt the same; I watched a family photo-shoot which was mostly about rolling in leaves, getting buried in leaves, throwing showers of leaves and just lying in mounds of them. And then collecting handfuls of them to take home.
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This is a public park and these are not people that I know, so I wouldn’t have taken photographs of this family – but it seems nobody minds a sketcher. There’s something delightfully reassuring about this. It feels like a moment shared.