I find the alphabet a helpful structure in my writing, so when I came to write a list of what I feel grateful for over the past twelve months, I turned to it again to help me.
It didn't let me down.
A is for Art and creativity – admittedly, this has come in waves, but at times has been very helpful in keeping me moving forward.
B is for Black Isle Correspondent, daily videos from; a little bit of madness, kindness and real life every day, especially during the first lockdown. Grateful thanks to Anna Massie.
C is for Camomile tea. And cake – the making and partaking of it, the sharing of it with friends, when possible.
D is for Dog. My dog for making me smile every day, and often laugh too
E is for Empty beaches for walking on, I'm so lucky to live where I do.
F is for Friends and family, for staying in touch
G is for Growing things and gardening.
H is for Hugs - the ones we had before it all started, which we didn't know were so precious, and the illicit ones which were all the more precious for being so.
I is for Isolation – that may sound strange, but living at a distance from densely populated areas gave me a feeling of safety. Also, conversely - I is for Internet, for keeping us connected.
J is for Just being – some days, that was all that was required, or indeed possible.
K is for Kindness – to myself and from others
L is for Love from old friends and new
M is for Mindfulness, learning a new way of being and practicing it.
N is for Noticing nature in so many ways. The tides, the seasons, the light.
O is for Oranges and occasionally olives.
P is for Playing music on my mandolin. Also Photography - taking photos feels like a form of meditation to me.
Q is for Quiz shows on TV, especially Only Connect and Mastermind. Monday evenings’ entertainment.
R is for Refreshing my knowledge and love of languages and learning a new one or two, on Duolingo. Also, reading. Novels, poetry, familiar and new.
S is for Slowing down, social media, staying in touch. Also Soup, the making and supping of it.
T is for Tunes – playing old ones and writing new ones
U is for Unforgotten – a cold case series on TV; totally hooked. Also old murder mysteries, the familiarity of them, the satisfying resolution.
V is for Very funny radio programmes, especially some of those on at 6.30pm on Radio 4, providing lots of laughter while I make my tea.
W is for Walking. Every day. Walking and the peace of it. Sometimes walking with a friend. Also for Writing; the joy of putting words together, in a poem, a story, a post.
X is for Acceptance – I will cheat a little here perhaps – taking the X to mean being not being allowed to do things. Accepting the situation, the imposed restrictions, the fact that I could not travel anywhere and no-one could come here – all that. Accepting it all made it a whole lot easier to make the most of what I could still do – many of these things are listed here.
Y is for Yes – saying yes to new things, to taking part in online workshops and courses and exhibitions.
Z is for Zoom, which I hadn't heard of this time last year, but now value highly, for staying in touch and keeping things going.
Distant Isles I. Original watercolour on paper. 45cm x 25cm approx. Unframed.
Hello. I hope this finds you safe and well and managing to find a way through what is hopefully the last part of this very trying time.
Living where I do, I’m very fortunate to have beautiful beaches nearby to walk on. I do this most days, with my dog. Sometimes, if the weather is wild or wet, we venture inland a bit, walking in a sheltered glen with large trees and a burn flowing through it. I’ve taken a lot of photos over the past year of walking. Mainly on my phone, sometimes with my camera. I've posted some of these nearly every day on Instagram and less frequently on Facebook. There's a spot where I always go and stand, at the far end of one of the beaches. I now have a whole series of photos from that spot – I'm working out what to do with them.
I've been doing some more writing recently, spurred on by attending (online) a wonderful week-long Arvon at Home course, called Exploring Creativity. I've posted a few poems on Instagram and also on my blog. Watch this space for further developments.
I've also been updating my photography portfolio on the Photo4me website.
New work and Poolewe Market
I've recently spent some time in the studio, painting a few more seascapes. The first of these is shown at the top of this newsletter. I plan to add some more coastal works to the collection – these proved popular at Poolewe Tuesday Market last year. Speaking of which, we're keeping our fingers very firmly crossed that the market will be able to start for the season in early May. Of course, this will depend on the regulations in place at that time. I'll keep you posted.
I'm so looking forward to getting out and about and meeting people again; I’m sure you are too!
See the Seascapes
For now, my online shop is very much open. There are still some limited edition prints available, calendars are now reduced in price, and there are some new small works to choose from. There's also a wide range of greetings cards, some sketchbooks and notebooks and even keyrings. Happy browsing!
Limited edition prints
There are some of these still available, at sale prices. The Thistle image below is an example. To be discontinued.
Shop the sale »
A variety of customised notebooks are available in my website shop (see image below)
I just received some new stock, so new designs, of both notebooks and sketchbooks, will be available soon!
See the notebooks »
Thank you for your continued interest in my work, it's greatly appreciated.
Hope to see you soon - until then, stay safe and well.
all the best
There are days
when your footsteps in the sand
barely break the surface
when the grains are hard packed -
stacked by the receding tide
the sea seeped away
drained into the bay
those are the days
when you make no impression
barely a dent is rent
in the perfect surface
only the occasional crack
of a shell as your track
shifts to the high tide line
there are days
when the sand shifts -
drifts beneath your feet
each step an effort
in the soft brown sugar
of the shore
and others have been here
before, churning, turning
stirring its softness,
leaving it spoiled
soiled until the
there are days
when the top layer
of sand looks firm
but your boots sink
into its depths
you plod on,
across the bank
leave holes where
but rose again
there are days
when the sea weeps -
seeps its way
back up the shore
more and more
till what seems firm
and when stepping forward
a little late
the fate awaiting -
the fluid form
ready to pull you beneath
its innocent surface
with an insistent grasping
there are days
when the wind howls
across the bay
sandblasted by the
loose top layer -
the poor dog’s eyes
filled with grit -
no days to sit
out to sea
I hope this finds you safe and well and bearing up under whatever restrictions are in place in your part of the world.
The season is over for Poolewe Tuesday Market – it was wonderful to be part of it for the first time this year. We went out with a bang, with all the stallholders dressed up for Halloween for the last event. We are looking forward to having not one, but two Christmas markets – on Friday 27th November (4-8pm) and Saturday 28th November (10am -2pm) in Poolewe Village Hall. I will be there on the Friday evening.
This year’s (or should I say next year’s) calendar features photographs taken over the past twelve months, on the west coast of Scotland. As before, it is a slimline calendar, with each image printed on the back for use as a postcard. Below are some of the images in the calendar. It's now available to purchase in my online shop.
I am very happy to have a couple of paintings (including the one shown above, "Fair, Moderate or Good") in the newly opened online - for the first time ever - Members’ Show at An Talla Solais. This is a lovely exhibition of the work of 66 member artists. The upside of it being online this year is that you can all enjoy browsing it too! Enjoy.
Cabinet, the lovely gift shop adjacent to An Talla Solais gallery in Ullapool, has now reopened. It is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm. They are currently stocking a selected range of my greetings cards, mugs, coasters and keyrings.
As promised, and by popular request, I now have a selection of lined notebooks available. There are two sizes – A5 and A6, and all have original linoprints on the front cover. They come in a range of colours – all available from my website shop. There is also still a range of A5 sketchbooks available there and small square ones too.
Last but by no means least, there has been much excitement locally, as the news emerged that the fabulous Gairloch Museum, which moved into its new premises and reopened last summer, was one of the winners of the UK-wide Museum of the Year award. One of the other winners was Aberdeen Art Gallery. I'm delighted to be connected to both these wonderful places - the art gallery shop in Aberdeen stocks some of my Shipping Forecast mugs and coasters, and I have cards and sketchbooks in the Gairloch Museum shop.
In celebration, I gave the museum here a little linoprint of the Rubh Re Foghorn, which now has pride of place at the front of the building (the actual foghorn, not my print!). Happy to say they liked it so much they are now stocking greetings cards bearing this design in their lovely gift shop. They also have lighthouse design ones there too.
Thank you so much for your interest in my work, it is greatly appreciated. I have really enjoyed meeting people face to face (socially distanced and wearing masks, of course) at the Poolewe Tuesday markets this year and receiving very positive feedback about my work.
Stay safe and well
all the best
Find Out More
I hope this finds you safe and well and able to enjoy a little freedom at last. I have a few pieces of news to share.
Poolewe Tuesday Market
I am delighted to let you know that the wonderful Poolewe Tuesday Market started up again on 18th August. This was thanks to the meticulous planning and hard work of the organisers. Of course it is a bit different, with a limited number of stalls each week, a takeaway cafe (some weeks) rather than a sit-in one and a limit on numbers allowed in to the hall at any time (currently 20 visitors). It was so good to be out and about (wearing one of my own mask designs, of course) and talking to people face to face again. I will be at the market every Tuesday (except 22nd September) until the end of October. It's open 10am - 2.30pm every Tuesday in Poolewe Village Hall.
Since it seems that face coverings will be with us for a while yet, I've set up a number of my designs (over 100) to be available on masks from Redbubble. I've bought a few of these myself and find them very comfortable to wear. I've been wearing the Sweet Peas one (shown below) at the Poolewe Tuesday Market and have had some kind comments (and requests to purchase). There's 20% off when you buy 4. I've been interested to see various designs appearing - it's a good way to show a bit of your personality, when your smile is not on show!
I'm happy to let you know that several of my local stockists have recently reopened their doors - carefully and cautiously, of course.
The GALE centre in Gairloch is open again, (10am - 5.30pm, every day except Saturday) offering teas, coffees and cakes and a range of gifts, as well as information about the local area.
Gairloch Museum is also open (10am - 5pm, Tuesday - Saturday) with visits by appointment only for now. They have produced a useful video to show you what to expect when you come to visit.
Loch Torridon Community Centre Gallery is open again too : Monday - Friday 9am-6pm and Saturday 10am - 2pm. I have some original work on show, here, including small, mounted works, as well as a range of greetings cards. The Wee Whistle Stop is providing refreshments at this lovely venue. Check their Facebook page for opening times.
Cabinet, the lovely wee gift shop within the An Talla Solais gallery in Ullapool, has also just reopened. They are a new stockist for me, with a range of my mugs, coasters, keyrings and greetings cards (mainly with a nautical theme) available. Open Tues-Sat, 10-1 and 2-5.
Delighted to say that the Button Bothy, located within Poolewe Village Hall, is now stocking a range of my greetings cards. This is a gem of a shop, selling jewellery, buttons galore, scarves and other gifts, and also providing access to Ron's Book Bothy with an eclectic mix of vintage books, prints, charts and maps.
In the meantime, if you're not in the northwest Highlands or aren't planning to visit anytime soon, I have a wide range of items available in my website shop.
Many thanks for your continued interest in my work - it is greatly appreciated. If you have any queries, please don't hesitate to get in touch via the Contact page on my website.
wishing you all the best
I hope this finds you safe and well. There has been some more summery weather on the west coast these past few days and I am enjoying starting to see the fruits of my recent labours in the slowly developing "garden". It's like painting a picture, I've come to realise - putting colours and textures together, to create something pleasing to the eye. Of course the garden "picture" does not stay the same, as the seasons come and go, so the gardener must be continually trimming and tweaking, looking, adjusting and adjusting again. It is a continuous work in progress.
Artist Support Pledge
Since the Covid-19 lockdown, many artists and makers have been looking for different ways to keep going; exhibitions have been cancelled, gift shops and other outlets such as cafes, restaurants and galleries are closed. A UK based artist, Matthew Burrows, had the idea of setting up the Artist Support Pledge, on Instagram, for artists to support other artists during this difficult time. The concept is simple - an artist posts images of their work, costing no more than £200 each, on Instagram, using the hashtag #artistsupportpledge. Buyers contact the artist directly. When an artist reaches £1000 of sales, they pledge to buy £200-worth of other artists' work. I have recently joined this pledge, and am posting artwork daily on Instagram. Only the items listed there are included in the pledge - I'll be adding more items as time goes on. It seems like a good way of us all supporting each other - of course, you don't have to be an artist to buy works included in the pledge! Some of the artworks I've listed so far are shown above.
Many of you already know that as well as painting, I love taking photographs. I know lots of folk have been missing visiting their favourite places in Scotland in recent times, so I've been busy updating my website to include a photography page, showing a selection from my portfolio. This links to another website (Photo4me) where you can buy canvases, prints etc. of my work.
There's 10% off just now, on all items - just use the code kindness2020 at checkout.
If you're finding it tricky to get hold of greetings cards just now, I've expanded my card collections - there are now 15 different collections, each with 5 different cards. Hopefully there's something for everyone - shown above are -
As always, thank you so much for your interest in my work, it is greatly appreciated. I am hopeful that there may be some opportunities to share my work in real life before the summer is over.
In the meantime, stay safe and well.
all the best
Abigail had only one fault. Being right. Charles had always said so, back in the old days. Days before he died so suddenly, keeling over in the churchyard during that dreadful funeral. Elspeth; that was the woman’s name. Fairfax, or Fairweather, something like that. Grand sort of name for the mousy, waiflike creature with long fair hair who lived at the shabby cottage at the far end of the village. How she’d come to live there, no-one really knew.
Idleness is a sin, as Abigail knows only too well, gazing out at the snow swirling onto the patio and the neat lawn beyond. Jolted back to the present by the harsh ringing of the telephone, she goes through to the hall to answer it. Knowing it will be her son, Simon, she simply says “Hello”. Looking at the black and white graduation photograph of him on the hall table, she listens for a long time, saying nothing. “Mum; Mum, are you still there?”
“No Simon, I’m somewhere else entirely.”
“Oh come on, Mum, it’s not that bad, is it? Poor Dad didn’t even have a chance to get to know her.”
“Quite right, too, she should never have been born.”
“Really, Mum, I can’t speak to you about this any more right now; I’ll call back later when you’re in a more reasonable mood.” Simon hung up; Abigail dropped onto the chair by the phone, sat picking absently at a pulled piece of grey wool in her cardigan sleeve. Trust Charles to have gone and done something stupid and then left them to pick up the pieces. Unbelievable, that’s what it was, that her husband of forty years could have had a daughter that none of them had any idea about. Vile thoughts ran through her mind, of revenge and justice and things turning out for the best. What a pity Elspeth had been allergic to peanuts and that she had had no idea about it when she invited her for afternoon tea that day when Charles had been away on business. Extremely unfortunate, too, that Charles’ pre-existing heart condition and the fact that he’d run out of his medication, had meant that he’d dropped dead at his bastard daughter’s funeral.
Zealously, Abigail set to work polishing the silver cutlery and laying out cups and saucers for bridge club later on that afternoon.
This is a short story I wrote a number of years ago. It is from my first collection of short stories and has been broadcast on Two Lochs radio in their Westwords programme.
Afternoons in the Brown household were generally given over to drawing spaceships. Barry tended to do intricate scale diagrams of complicated designs. Charlie’s efforts were usually brightly coloured, with birds and animals added for decorative effect. Daphne worked diligently, doing complex calculations concerning power outputs, thruster positions and light year estimations. Every evening, the three siblings would compare notes, pinning their efforts onto a board and pointing out special features. Finishing a spaceship drawing was something none of them had ever achieved. George, their father and inspiration, was long dead. He had been a technician at the local spaceship factory and harboured desires of going to Mars one day.
“If only we could get someone to build one of these, to see if it worked!” Daphne said one winter’s evening, her mouth full of tea and bourbon biscuit.
“Just let me make some phone calls,” said Barry, brushing custard cream crumbs from his Arran jumper.
“Knit one, we could knit one!” shouted Charlie, waving his arms around, a jammie dodger in each hand. Lovingly, his siblings smiled at him and then at each other.
“Maybe, Charlie, maybe,” Daphne said, gently.
“No, really, I saw a pattern in last month’s “Novelty Knitting for Novices”. Only snag is how many balls of wool we’d need; I think it was two and a half million of blue and one and a half million of white.”
“Perhaps we should see how Barry gets on with his phone calls,” said Daphne quietly, watching Barry pick up the phone and dial.
“Question for you. Richard, on the funding front. Spaceship project; some fabulous designers have a terrific plan. Time to get up to date and move into new sectors, eh?”
Until that moment, neither Daphne nor Charlie had any inkling that Barry was on nodding terms with Sir Richard. Very soon after, the call concluded and Barry was grinning from ear to ear.
“We’ve got a deal; he fell for it hook line and sinker! Extra income from our pension payouts next month will make up the balance.”
“You’re a genius, Barry!” cried Daphne and Charlie.
“Zog, here we come!” shouted the three grey-haired siblings, waving slices of Victoria sponge in celebration.
I hope this finds you safe and well and finding ways to get through these strange times.
Recent work created during lockdown
It took me a while to get back to painting after the lockdown was put in place on 23rd March. Out for a walk one day, I noticed the remnants of a foxglove - see above, on the left - at the front of my garden (I use the term very loosely, I am gradually taming small parts of it). I brought it into the studio, laid it flat on the table, and began. So started a series of these works - mostly remnants of last year's growth, as there were few signs of spring at that point. More recently, bracken fronds have started to appear, and my daffodils have bloomed, so spring greens have made an appearance in my work. All the works - 15 to date - are on large (A2, 40 x 60cm approx) paper - most are life size, some a bit larger. You can view them all here on my website.
see more flora...
I am very fortunate to be able to have some of my daily walks along the beach. There is always something to see, a shell, or a pair of them, a sea potato, or an interesting pebble. Very often, some of these treasures come home in my sandy pockets. I have a growing collection of shells - cockles, mussels, scallops, razorshells. It just makes sense, to me, to paint them. These works are generally larger than life-size (often abut ten times larger!), as I prefer to work on a large scale. A few examples are shown above - razor, scallop and tellin shells. There are more (11 in all, so far) on my website.
see more seashore artworks...
New! Greetings cards collections now available
I've put together 12 collections of greetings cards - mainly existing designs, but also some new ones in there too - each set has five different cards in it, all with one theme. I'm hoping this will make it simpler (and more economical) for those of you who are finding it difficult to get hold of cards just now. They can be popped in the post to you, or delivered, contact-free, if you live in the Gairloch area.
Thank you so much for your interest in my work, it is greatly appreciated.
If you have any queries or special requests, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
very best wishes
view card collections...
The day before yesterday
I met an old friend on the street
we embraced, kissed on both cheeks,
held each other longer than was
Yesterday, I went to the supermarket
stocked up on what was required
respired, relieved, thankful to behold
full shelves and smiling people
standing close and chatting
not steering clear
two trolley lengths away
at all times
Yesterday, I took the dog to the park
threw his ball, watched the children
on the swings and roundabout
playing tig and tag, holding hands
watched a mother wipe a snotty toddler nose -
I didn’t flinch or move away
Today I drove out, out into the countryside
as far as I felt like going
and took the dog for a second walk
in the woods, because I could
Tomorrow, I shall book a two night stay,
for three months’ hence
in a favourite place
a treat, a retreat, a getaway
a stay away - a place where
I may well encounter strangers
in the bar - make new friends, perhaps,
sit close together, conversing
The day after tomorrow, I’m going to the cinema
with a friend.
We’ll eat out beforehand,
nowhere fancy, just out – we’ll
raise a glass to friendship
Tomorrow, I’ll make up the beds
in the spare room, for my friends
coming to visit
The day after that,
I won’t feel annoyed when the
football comes on the telly
I’ll be glad for all the fans
out there, enjoying their Saturday
Next week, I’ll play music with my friends
at one of their houses
enjoy a glass of wine,
company, convivial conversation
The week after that, I’ll join the writers’ monthly
enjoy a glass of wine,
company, convivial conversation
Today, I shook hands with
someone new I met on the beach.
Today, I did not feel afraid.
This is a poem I wrote for last month's writers' group meeting; the theme was 2021.