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Sunday, 24 May 2015


The Imperial War Museum at Duxford has a marvellous collection of old battle planes from the earliest days. DJ is admiring one of the last flying B-17s but sadly it is only used for display flights.
We were due to fly in this...A De Havillande Dragon Rapide on a sight-seeing tour over London. The plane seats eight. Plenty of room for us all!!! No moving about, Please! No air-conditioning, no flight attendant, no toilet and the lucky woman in the front seat got to shout any messages to or from the pilot. Only an hour there and back so off we go.

We climbed quickly over the fields and headed south. The plane is so small that we all got a window seat and could keep an eye on the altitude, the passing scenery and the engines.
We came in over the Thames downstream and flew over the Olympic venues...
The Millenium Dome, the Isle of Dogs and The Thames Barrier.
Then, moving upstream towards the centre of town we hovered over Buckingham Palace (right in the middle of the pic), Green Park and St James Park and then turned to view all the amazing new structures that have appeared on the scene recently. The Queen may have been at home but if so she was busy and didn't come out to wave. We all spent a lot of time looking down and pointing. It's possible others on the ground may well have been looking up and pointing too.

This is the Shard across the river from the Walkie Talkie and others. I have a link here if you want to check your knowledge of the skyscrapers.
We swung back and forward over the river...So much to see. Pretty difficult to talk because of the noise level so there was a bit of nudging and pointing all the time.

We went out of London westwards towards Heathrow airspace and then swung north.

And then eventually headed home over the M25

Because there was to be a big Air Show this weekend, lots of pilots were out practising their routines and stunts. We shared a lunch table with the pilot of this Curtiss Hawk. He finished his gammon steak in yorkshire pudding and then took off to do some incredible stunts, low flying and rolls.
Another pilot was learning how to fly a Spitfire. I gathered he was a trained stunt instructor but had not flown a Spitfire before.

And I'm pretty sure this is the last flying Bristol Blenheim rehearsing its flight.
A great day out! The weather held, the flight was superb and the show was great.
Cheers Gillian

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


After a lovely stay in Tossa we caught the bus to Barcelona for a few days of sight seeing and urban culture. I find Barcelona to be an incredibly noisy and busy city and this impression was enhanced by the location of our hotel on the Gran Via.
But this makes it super easy to get around. Some small change, a ten-trip metro ticket and a good map held the right way up are all you need. No! not quite true...comfy shoes, a walking tour marked out, a secure bag and a sense of direction are all very helpful.

The Palace of Music of Catalonia is one of the most highly decorated Art Nouveau style buildings...

...with exquisite decorations and ornaments. All signs and notices are written firstly in Catalan, followed by Spanish and then any other. I find the Catalan written form to show a strong relationship with French and DJ says that its spoken pattern is quite Spanish but the words aren't quite as his ear expects.

Bullfighting is now banned in Catalonia but continues in the rest of Spain. The Arenas has been transformed into an amazing shopping centre but...

La Monumental still stands as a museum of bullfighting and is mostly unspoiled and splendid artifacts are simply displayed.

So much more expensive to sit in the shade!

The last time the bulls would be in the shade!

We ate Spanish, Italian and Chinese food while we were there and forsook the expensive hotel breakfast for the fresh juice and stuffed croissants of the cafe on the corner. They also welcomed us back to watch the second half of the football (Barcelona v Juventus) with coffee and brandy for less than 5euros.

We found the Santa Caterina Market and bought tomatoes and grapes for far more than 5euros !

And we left the hams in the shop.

Last but not least we went on a tour of the Sagrada Familia. We had a wonderful guide and were shown around the best bits. Unfortunately the lifts were not operating that afternoon and nor was my camera. A particular shame because the sensibly pragmatic Spanish allow all people to take photos of everything and use flash whenever necessary. In many ways it was better because I was able to listen and look and so learned much more.

The weather was great for ambling around town and mild enough to eat out on the pavement in the evening.

But there is so much more to see and the cable cars to ride and the musical fountains to enjoy so we shall return. The fountains played to pop music and were not as majestic as they had been before.

Plenty more to see and do and interiors of buildings and galleries to experience.

Cheers for now

Sunday, 10 May 2015


Last year we visited Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava as part of a tour. This year we returned to enjoy more of it and stay in a delightful hotel we had noticed down on the beach.
Tossa is an old fishing town and much of the Mediaeval section remains within the old walls which provided protection from pirates. We walked around the narrow streets and along the cliff-top path and drank cold wine on the terrace of the bar near the top.
.The weather was kind to us and we scrambled the rocks and walked all the lanes

The beach was just beyond the hotel which could be easily found by using the two palm trees to guide us home.

The hotel had originally been built as a holiday house for a wealthy family and was designed by Antoni de Falguera but is now a small hotel .
The windows are marvellous and the lead lighting inside is brilliant.

The winter sitting room has an immense marble fireplace...

...and the afternoon tea room has a wonderful ceiling.

Our own room had lovely views out to sea and of the terrace where we spent some time.

All the decor has been maintained and the gargoyles still function but it didn't rain to demonstrate.

It can get very crowded and we were there for the Mayday holiday but the rest of the time it was mostly well behaved school visits and we had no trouble sauntering around.

Tossa is a fair way from Barcelona Airport, but once the bus has reached the outskirts of that sprawling city you are almost there. Girona is a handier landing place but we were stopping in Barcelona as well. It is a really lovely town. Places to eat abound, the views are magnificent and the lanes are treasure troves of shops. The "Old Section" is quaint and there are very few English pubs, bars and cafes. In fact the commonest "foreign" languages on signs are French and Russian.
There's a patch of blue sky outside right now so I hope the spring weather is well on its way in.
Cheers for now

Wednesday, 4 March 2015


These are painting knives. They are bent in the middle so that your fingers, knuckles and wrists don't smudge the paint. The flat ones are palette knives and they are used for mixing blodges of paint on your palette.
Palette knife sounds a bit more arty-farty but they aren't useful in real life cos your finger bits and sleeves get covered in paint. I find painting knives good for everything.

The triangular ended one is the best. It can be used for lots of shapes, spreads and lines and your index finger can control the blade's angle.

This is a painting that was going all right but remains unfinished and will probably be over-painted. This is a common happening chez nous. The unwanted painting provides a grandly textured surface for the next effort and bets can be placed on the results.

This is The Ship Inn at Saltburn. Or was or could be. It has been adulterated with added pen work and has no real eye-light-focus. Perhaps a coble pulled up alongside would add to the composition. The cliffs are a bit wonky.

This is the next exercise: now starting to use the painting knife without any other applicators (brush, finger,nib). A photo of St James the Less in Teesdale was used as inspiration. It is mightily stormy and may benefit from some lighter glazing. Once again it uses painting knife to apply but also to scrape and scratch the paint to make grasses and twigs.

This is on a larger canvas and was an exercise in showing rocks and boulders on the hills in Teesdale. A photo from our teacher was used as a starter. Teesdale-Shmeesdale. Mine, as it often does, ended up looking like Oz. This could easily be part of the Bungle Bungles in Western Australia! But once again I claim single utensil...the lovely triangular painting knife.

Lindisfarne crops up often and I came home from this lesson with a smile on my face. Someone else who has been going to classes for as long as I have said.."That's really lovely. I like that a lot." Thank you Margaret if you ever read this. We all say good things to one another in class, but it's mostly about a lovely colour, or the "sky" or a smaller section. Not often does the whole picture gets the thumbs up. Once again a total painting knife job on a 12 by 16 inch canvas board. I'm so happy I'm planning to go really big next time. Really brave with colour and using a new board with no old painting to provide teeth for the knife.

I didn't go bigger. I just printed this one bigger to show off how pleased I am with it. But I did use a new board and so... One step at a time. I'll vary the palette next time or go bigger.

I have no room for them all and I have no desire to offer them for sale so they shall be gifts.  Let me know if there is one that pleases you.

Cheers Gillian

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Sunny Days in Weardale

There is still quite a bit of patchy snow in Weardale, particularly in the shadier and unused spots, like the churchyard.
The churchyard is also now home to the fossil tree trunk although it was orginally found in one of the quarries a bit further north, near Edmundbyers.

We walked through the town and down to the Wear river and followed the path alongside it, past the footbridge and up to the stepping stones.
The ford to the left of the stones is now generally closed. It was on satnavs and more than one truck has been overcome by the current after faithfully following the instructions. A couple and their dog nipped nimbly across the stones but DJ and I decided that we didn't need to cross to the other side today!
Then we took the van back down through Frosterley into Bollihope and parked up for a coffee and apple pie and a read of the Sunday papers. Hope you are all having lovely sunny Sundays.

Cheers to all

Thursday, 15 January 2015


Hello All and Happy New Year!
We have had a great time this season and eaten and drunk and visited our fill. It has become cold and the ground was white for the first time the night before last but it has all gone now.
The quieter times of the New Year have seen some projects started and others finished.

My sister gave me a pack of wallpaper samples in my xmas pressie and I've spent many happy hours enhancing and embellishing them and cutting them into useful cards and bookmarks. In fact she will receive some for her birthday in a couple of weeks. I made her a set of cardlets and kept some for myself'
I was so pleased with them that I sent off for more free wallpaper samples from some of the suppliers and now eagerly await the post.
I also finished knitting the log cabin blanket and it is now being mattress-stitched together. I knit a few blankets so this one will be a gift for my brother. His birthday is in March and it will be handy in his new campervan.
Amongst lots of other lovely items, I received these letters from my SIL and have gessoed and lightly sanded them ready for painting and decorating. I'm waiting for a good idea to happen because I don't really want them to look like I got them at Next. Something wow but easy.
Painting classes started again yesterday and I came home with this one.

It's supposed to resemble The Wain Stones looking towards Cold Moor. I'm enjoying using the acrylics now and the painting knife more than a brush. I feel less precious about painting over stuff and starting again. I have started to use new colours and metallics.
I did this recently too.
It started off as a bit of Tees river bank but ended up as a bit of Oz, so I popped some cockatoos up in the branches and made it into a billabong.
This is Hedgerow with Berries and it catches my eye every time I see it. I'm not sure if it's finished. Will more paint improve it or wreck it?

Still doing the 5:2 diet most of the time. I don't lose much weight. I have a sweet tooth. DJ is doing better and is pleased. 
It has made us more aware of wht we eat and how much. Even when dJ was ill with the lurgy he was still happy to eat all I gave him. Now we are both better we want to stay that way.
This turned up on facebook recently and I decided to make a batch....
...of these ingredients into...
In two weeks time I can extract the juice and use it to dose myself against all ills.
This link will tell  you more...

Cheers Gillian