Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Colour Magic!

Can you believe it? It is already the third week of my Surface Pattern Design course. How can that be! I have been searching for inspiration, sketching motifs, learning how to place patterns in Photoshop and Illustrator, and am now turning my attention to colour. 

Colour is everywhere you look. In our homes, outside our window panes, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, even our skin. All contain colour. How very fortunate we are to be surrounded by it and yet, sometimes we can take it for granted.  The course is making me look at it properly; to focus more on how it affects my life. Certain colours can be uplifting, while some can make me reflective.

Georgia O'Keefe wrote : I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way... things I had no words for.

I have noticed that on the days I wear something brighter than black, I feel more uplifted. When I paint, the colours make me happy. Colour brings me so much joy and I must appreciate it more.

Today, I have been putting the finishing touches to the grandchildren's Advent calendar. It is always a fun time collecting small items for each day. This year's calendar has lots of drawers and I know they will love opening them each day. There are lots of Christmas books in the shops for very young children and I have purchased a few. Several of the drawer tags will ask them to dip into a book box I have made up for them. They both love books and being read to. Such a pleasure.

My grandson was here earlier and as it was a rainy day, he played a lot with his train set. Cars were parked up on the flyover, engines broke down, people stood on the car wash roof, an aeroplane landed on a bridge, it was mahem! 

While he was playing, I couldn't help but observe how colourful his train table and toys are. The table is in my hall and I pass it every day but have I really looked at it properly? There is an abundance of primary colours. I must make up a colour swatch immediately for my course!

Tomorrow is December 1st. I can hardly wait!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Nearly Christmas!

The start of a new week and it's the one that contains the commencement of the month of December. I love the build up to Christmas and having grandchildren increases that excitement.

All over the blogland that I read, bloggers are getting ready to start their December Daily, or planning their Journal Your Christmas, and you can even Doodle your way through the month if you so desire. 

Last year, I joined in the JYC class run by the very talented Shimelle Laine. Here's a peek at Day One's album page just to get you in the Christmas spirit!

For the grandchildren last year, I made a Christmas advent calendar of tags; one for each day of the month and wrote about it on Day Five

I am planning something for this year and had better get my skates on as it's December 1st on Thursday.

 time for that letter to Santa, children!

Have a great day!

Thursday, 24 November 2011


Wishing all of my American friends a very Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your day!

You have enriched my life and for that, I am very thankful.

Have a great family time!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Autumnal gifts

A photo heavy post today for inspiration. Since commencing my course, I seem to have spent more time just looking. Looking at nature, shapes and colour and what better place than my own garden. 

It has been a wonderful Autumn with carpets of colour everywhere. And the squirrels and birds glad of such bounty.

Time for me to put all this goodness down on paper. Mark making exercises today; I think I need not look further than through the windows to be inspired!

Enjoy your day!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Playing with Patterns

On Wednesday when I picked up my Granddaughter from school, she had with her the Explorer's bag. These bags are sent home weekly by the school and contain items that are both educational and fun to teach the children skills like observation and colour. Last week, the Explorer's bag contained a box of plastic bugs, two spy glasses and some binoculars and we had an hilarious hour hiding the bugs around the house for her and my grandson to find. 

By some happy coincidence, this week's Explorer's bag contained a box of shapes for pattern making. On the Surface Pattern Design Course, we have been going back to basics, looking at shapes and drawing aspects of the shape to help us look at things in a different way. What could be better than sitting with my grandchildren watching them make patterns and discussing what the shapes were called. My granddaughter made lots of flowers and her younger brother was very experimental and made a battle ship! 

 this is fun, granny!

his 'butter wouldn't melt' look!

Meanwhile, on my course we have started some drawing exercises and finding out how to manipulate them on Photoshop. In a good way, I am repeatedly overwhelmed by the content of the course; it is more than I ever could have wished for and more!

a leaf - starting to draw!

Tomorrow is my eldest daughter's 7th wedding anniversary so I am off for a spot of babysitting. Happy Anniversary to you dear daughter and son-in-law! 

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Looking for inspiration

Some time ago, I signed up for an on-line course The art and business of surface pattern design. The class began on Monday and if I was overly excited about starting the course, you should see me now it has commenced! If you want to know more, just click on the button in the side-bar. If you love patterns and pattern making, you should sign up now. There are students from five continents participating; it's an amazing array of talent. And speaking of talent, go look at rachael taylor's designs and the photography of beth nicholls, both incredible artists. I can't thank them enough for giving me this opportunity to study surface pattern design.

One of our first tasks is to look at the world around us and photograph things that inspire. I am always drawn to the sea and am lucky enough to have it close by where I live. Here are a few shots that have captured my imagination.


It will be interesting to see what evolves from these photographs. 

It's Wednesday, and my 'Granny day'. Always an opportunity for a photo-shoot!

Have a wonderful day.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Being Inspired

Just lately, I have noticed that quite a few of the blogs I regularly read have mentioned that they feel their blog is in a rut; they lack inspiration; don't know what to write about. Some bloggers want to give up altogether! I hope they don't because everyone has something interesting to say, or a wonderful photograph to show, or a page that they have scrapped, a picture they have drawn or painted. I have been thinking about this over the weekend and wondering why they have become disillusioned. 

In my case, I have found keeping a note book helps. I am sure many bloggers do that too, some are even organised in their diaries with topics for each day, maybe for a week ahead. I did that last week when I knew that I was going to have a week of remembrance. It helped enormously to know ahead of time who and what I was going to blog about.

So where do we find that inspiration? Probably from reading someone's blog, a recent family event, an on-line class, a workshop, the season, a magazine, a photograph. The list is seemingly endless and yet we find ourselves stuck for something to say! 

Last night, I watched the Antiques Roadshow which came from the National Memorial Arboretum which I mentioned here. I was interested, on listening to all the stories and seeing items brought along by participants to the programme, that it wasn't the items that struck a chord, but the story behind them; that handwritten letter was far more precious than anything else and when read out caused such emotion for the reader and the expert. I can relate to that so well. The few handwritten letters I have of my ancestors mean so much more than possessions. A family photograph of my ancestors is priceless. 

Can you imagine how I felt when I saw this small photograph and documents at the National Archives. This is Uncle Tom as a teenager starting out on his life's voyage. Who could have believed his life, though short, was one of such incredible adventure and that, here am I in 2011, through technology, able to blog about him and share the emotion I feel whenever I am reminded about his story.

I guess what I am trying to say is that a few words written down, a photograph shared can inspire and while it may not, at the time, seem important or of relevance, somewhere down the line one's own family and friends will be grateful for those words, to see that photograph, to know that my hand drew that picture and that is what inspires me to blog.

Enjoy your Monday and keep on blogging! 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Remembering Uncle Freddie

Uncle Freddie was like a Grandfather to my two daughters, his brother (their Grandfather) having died before they were born. Freddie was born at the beginning of WWI and survived WWII. He was a wonderful man, very much of the 'old school'. When he came to visit, afternoon tea had to be served at 3:30 pm prompt! He was a very modest man and would be surprised that I am writing about him on a blog. He never married but led an interesting life and thoroughly enjoyed female company. 


As you can tell from his photograph, he was rather distinguished. Quite tall and always immaculately dressed.

Uncle Freddie enlisted in April 1939 and he was commissioned in May 1942. The Citation for his RAF Award of a Distinguished Flying Cross medal reads :

Flight Lieutenant [blank], has a long record of operational flying during which he has consistently set a high standard of efficiency and skill. In the February of 1944, he sighted an enemy submarine. Despite continuous anti-aircraft fire, he pressed home two attacks with great determination. This was the third occasion on which this officer has located and attacked enemy submarines.

He is mentioned in The DFC and How It Was Won 1918-1995 by Nick and Carol Carter Volume 1 A-L (1998) and in the London Gazette: 3/4/1945: 1783.

After the War, he went to live in Uganda. He became Town Clerk of the Kampala Municipal Council and had a house on Kolola Hill, Kampala.

This is a photograph of Freddie and his mother, sitting in the garden at Kolola Hill. Uncle Freddie was a very keen photographer and I am lucky enough to have an album of photographs he took while living in Uganda in the 1950's/1960's. On one occasion, Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh visited Kampala and Uncle Freddie had the pleasure of showing them around the Council Offices. Those photographs take pride of place in the album.

As we are remembering those that died during conflict, we are also remembering those who served their country but survived War. Uncle Freddie we will never forget you.   

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Remembering Uncle Denis

This photograph of Uncle Denis lay in a tin box owned by my mother and carried with her always until her death in 1994 when the box was passed on to me.  The tin box survived a fire (when my mum's house was engulfed in flames), for which I am very thankful. It contained just a handful of family photographs that are most precious to me.

Denis Wilkinson RAF, VR

Uncle Denis was one of my mother's four brothers. I never met him. He had hardly begun his life when he was killed in WWII at the tender age of 20. 

The only information I have so far been able to ascertain about Uncle Denis is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as follows :

Denis Wilkinson, Leading Aircraftman; his service number; died 28 September 1942; Rank RAF, VR; Grave: Sec 7c Grave 3149, Widnes Cemetery; The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. 

At some stage, I hope to find out more about him. I can, however, remember one story mum told me when I was a girl and it is about a parrot.  Uncle Tom (who I have written about the last couple of days or so) would come home from the Far East when on long leave. On one of his trips, he brought home by ship, a parrot. I can't remember the parrot's name but one of its tricks was to speak as though in conversation with anyone in the room. Uncle Tom had obviously spent the long passage home teaching the parrot how to talk. My mum told me that she had been looking after Denis and they had been playing hide and seek. She hid under the table and asked another brother not to tell Denis where she was. When Denis came looking for her, the parrot said 'under the table. under the table'. 

I have been fortunate enough to be in touch with a distant cousin who lives fairly close to Widnes and he kindly went to the Cemetery and took photographs of the grave of Uncle Denis and sent them to me. Such kindness.

Uncle Denis, you are remembered.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Remembering Uncle Tom

This is a week of Remembrance and I would like to share with you some of the family who served in WWII. On Sunday, I wrote about Uncle Tom here and today, I am going to tell you a little bit more about him.

Uncle Tom was born in 1898 in Widnes, Lancashire. His father, William, had part ownership in a sailing sloop called the Irene, who I am named after. Tom and his brothers all learned to sail on that boat and at the age of 14 he joined his brothers and became a deck-hand and cabin boy on SS Irene, helping his father carry salt from Northwich to Liverpool.  

At a very young age, Uncle Tom joined the Merchant Navy and during the 1914-1918 War worked for the Alfred Holt Line, carrying troops. In 1922, he obtained his 2nd Mate's Certificate in Liverpool, and continued working for Alfred Holt who traded between Birkenhead and the Far East. Around 1923, he decided to stay in the Far East and joined Jardine Matherson, sailing on the Yangtse River and to other Far Eastern Ports. At this stage, he obtained his 1st Mate's Certificate in 1924 and Master's certificate in 1925 in Hong Kong and was made up to Captain. 

During peace time

In 1941, his ship the Li Wo was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and commissioned as HMS Li Wo, an auxiliary patrol vessel, and Uncle Tom appointed Lieutenant R.N.R. There are many accounts of what happened on the 14 February 1942. This is the citation from the London Gazette of 13 December 1946 :

On 14 February 1942, HMS Li Wo, a patrol vessel of 1000 tons, formerly a passenger steamer on the Yangtse River, was on passage from Singapore to Batavia. Her company consisted of eighty-four officers and men, mainly survivors from H.M. ships and Army and Air Force units...  Since leaving Singapore she had beaten off four air attacks and had suffered considerable damage. Late in the afternoon she sighted two enemy convoys, the larger being escorted by Japanese fleet units, including a heavy cruiser and some destroyers. Lieutenant Wilkinson, with the unanimous backing of his mixed company, decided to engage the convoy and to fight to the last, inflicting what damage he could... After a little more than an hour HMS Li Wo was critically damaged and was sinking. Lieutenant Wilkinson decided to ram the damaged transport. It is known that this ship burned through the night and was probably sunk. Having ordered his ship to be abandoned, Lieutenant Wilkinson himself went down with her. Lieutenant Wilkinson's valour was equalled only by the skill with which he fought his ship. The Victoria Cross is bestowed upon him posthumously in recognition of the heroism and self-sacrifice displayed not only by himself but by all who fought and died with him. 

from a painting of the attack

Uncle Tom's name appears on the Liverpool Naval Memorial, Panel 1, Column 2. On July 15, 1961, The Victor, had a front and back page comic strip of his bravery headlined The Li Wo Went to War. I am most fortunate to have a copy of this comic having found it on e-bay!

As a family, we are extremely proud of Uncle Tom and he will never be forgotten.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Each month, the lovely Sian holds a Storytelling Sunday. I 'fessed up to her that I had been lurking around her blog and have only recently been brave enough to leave the odd comment or two. Bless her, she let me know that she was glad I had 'de-lurked', and so am I. Now I have the opportunity to join in the pleasure that is Storytelling Sunday, it's such a good read.

A couple of year's ago, I commenced researching my family history. Becoming a Grandmother made me realise how important it is to write down the things I can remember and the stories I was told while growing up. Little did I know what an adventure I was about to embark upon.

One of my ancestors, Temporary Lieutenant Thomas Wilkinson, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross after WWII. You can read about him in The Complete Victoria Cross, which is a chronological record of all VC holders, written by Kevin Brazier. He was my Grandfather's younger brother. The only information I had about Uncle Tom were the stories told to me by my mother; a book that was handed down to me called Stand By To Die written by A V Sellwood; and that his medal was held in Canada by a distant relative. 

Where to begin? Of course, I Googled in his name and up popped quite a lot of information. (I should mention, at this stage, that there are very few family members still alive and therefore no-one to physically ask.) One of the Google searches of his ship HMS Li Wo, led me to an article called 'Remembering Billy' written by a delightful lady called Diane Snow. I contacted her and was astonished to find that she lived but a twenty minute car ride away from me and had loads of information about the Li Wo and the events that took place on the 14 February 1942 on the Java Sea. We got together and I learned that she was in the process of writing a book about it and she shared with me various documents she had accumulated during that process. I also found out that she had contacted the owners of the Li Wo, Jardines, and was in communication with them. 

After several emails, I heard from one of the Company Directors in Bermuda, Harry Wilken, and he told me that Jardines had built two model ships of the Li Wo; one had been donated to the Imperial War Museum and the other was in the Board room of their Head Office in Hong Kong. Also, in Bermuda at Government House, Jardines had placed a plaque in recognition of Uncle Tom and four chairs that were donated in his honour! After more emails and a couple of long distance telephone calls, Harry and I realised that we had once danced together at a St Andrew's Ball when we were both living in Hong Kong. Also, I had been a guest in the Board room at Jardines to watch the Chinese New Year fireworks and would have seen the model ship. Even now, writing about it gives me goose bumps. What are the chances of this happening! Harry also generously gave me a Company book and magazine in which Uncle Tom, as a Jardine's man is graciously mentioned and I treasure them. 

Through Harry, I was put in touch with my distant cousin in Canada and we now correspond. We hope to meet one day. The Victoria Cross medal has been donated to the Imperial War Museum in London and the scale model of the Li Wo is presently at Duxford.

I have been on quite a journey that isn't over yet. I have still to visit the National Memorial Arboretum where a tree has been planted to commemorate Uncle Tom and HMS Li Wo

Thank you for letting me share this story and thank you to those who made it all possible, Diane and the late Harry Wilken. But for their interest, my journey would have been a very different one.         

Friday, 4 November 2011

Expecting Fireworks!

This weekend there will be a Bonfire Night party with all the family and the in-laws. I expect there will be a few of these

Some food and drink, Sparklers for the children and a lot of laughter. 

My son-in-law is red hot on Health and Safety regulations and my granddaughter has been primed at school by the local policeman Not to pick up her sparkler if it falls to the ground. I think we have all the party ingredients covered; goggles, gloves, a tub of sand. Now where did I put the box of matches!

If you are attending a Bonfire party this weekend, keep safe but do remember to enjoy yourself!

Have a great time.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

A Storytelling Class

Why do we want to tell the stories of our life? This question is posed by Ali Edwards in her class/lecture Storyology: Techniques for sharing the stories of life.  She invites us to take a risk, get down the words, write the stories. 

Too often, we procrastinate because we are frightened of the appearance of what we write; our handwriting, or a fear of not getting it just right. (The voice in my head that says I cannot write.) 

The first prompt on the class video asks Why do you tell stories? and Ali requests that the participant stops the video for five or ten minutes and writes down an immediate response to that question. The class comes with a PDF download that has spaces for your written answers to the prompt. 

Instead of thinking for ages what I was going to write, I did as Ali suggested and just wrote :

Stories are the life-blood of our lives. Every moment of every day is a new story. Our actions may be repetitive but we will never repeat the story in the same way. We thrive on stories. Think of a dinner table around which is seated your family and friends. They have probably heard a certain story dozens of times; they all love (or groan!) hearing it again. The story may be embellished from the original but the essence of the story is still there, the nuts and bolts of an incident that you all want to remember...  (and more...)

In Prompt Two, the question asked is What's holding you back from getting your stories told? Following the same process, here's a section of what I wrote :

Myself and time. I waste time that could be spent journaling by overthinking everything. I take on too many things. I want to do everything. Time is quickly passing me by - it speeds up as you get older - it really does! The answer should be Nothing is holding me back, only myself...  (and more...) 

There are six prompts in total and lots of strategies and techniques contained in the PDF that, together with Ali's video, are an invaluable source of guidance, inspiration and fun in helping you appreciate that your story matters. To be less concerned about the how it looks and more about the how important it is that the story gets told. This is achievable. Have faith! I cannot recommend this inexpensive course enough. Somehow, the words came spilling out and I have already written reams of words that remind me how necessary it is to write those memories down before they are forgotten forever and that one day, my family will remember those times along with me.

Alexander Pope, a British poet, wrote :

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance

Just write!

Enjoy your storytelling - it's your story.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Down Halloween memory lane

How was your Halloween? Pretty quiet around here without the grandchildren; no trick and treaters knocking at the door. 

I have always loved this time of the year. My birthday is the 29th, Halloweeen is on the 31st and then we have Bonfire Night on the 5th November.  I also love this photograph of a brass candlestick taken by my daughter while we were on the Isle of Wight last week. Spooky!

During the 1980's/1990's, we lived in Hong Kong and during our first week there (in September 1984) we met an American family who became our dear friends. We were all staying in a Hotel on Kowloon side at the time. My girls attended an English Foundation School on the Peak and their daughters were at the American International School in Repulse Bay. Although we used to celebrate Halloween back home in the UK, nothing could have prepared us for the hospitality afforded us by our friends. The girls were invited to join the party at the American school and then participate in trick and treating around the American community near the school. Panic bells rang when the word 'costumes' was mentioned... We were living in a Hotel with only the luggage that accompanied us, awaiting our shipment from the UK. I had no sewing machine and hadn't, as yet, discovered the fabric market. I managed to 'cobble' together two pixie outfits utilizing the girls' ballet leotards and tights as a base. I found some stripy fabric and two bells in a street bazaar and fashioned them into two pixie hats. The girls were 8 and 6 years old at the time and looked so cute. To get to the party, we had to walk down to the Harbour, take the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island, then a bus ride to Repulse Bay. What an adventure and probably one of our most memorable Halloween events, being our introduction to the American way of celebrating this fun night.

Here are the grandchildren before heading off to their party at the Kennels last Sunday. 

They had a wonderful time.

Thank you for visiting my blog.


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Ah! the British sense of humour!

While on the Isle of Wight last week, the grandchildren went on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. They were having a 'Wizard week' for Halloween. On the train ride, the children were given goodie bags and had great fun wearing these

They loved the steam engine,

the owls, hawks and falcons and a hidden woodland walk that I just have to share

click on image to check out the witticism

It was a magical experience!

Hope you all had an exciting but safe Halloween.