Autumn in Clevedon

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It’s a strange season, Autumn. For those who particularly love the sun it is of course the beginning of the bad times – darker evenings, cold and damp weather. For those who relish a British Christmas, it’s the sign that frosty walks, welcoming pubs with roaring log fires, fairy lights and Christmas trees are all on the way.

But I like walking, wildlife and photography, and I just love the autumn! The light and colours in the landscape are beautiful, even early in the season before the trees properly turn to full gold and orange. An added bonus is that you don’t have to get up at 3 in the morning to catch an atmospheric morning shot. Here’s one of my photographs from Poet’s Walk in Clevedon on a morning when the mist was lying beneath the hills, and layers of cloud were adding colour to the sky. The sun was just getting some strength, so the grasses on the edge of the hill got some golden highlights too. Just lovely!

In towns you can take advantage of some dramatic scenes too. I liked the church and tree photographed without filters: I emphasised the bleached colours with a posterising effect.

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Some of my favourite photos, drawings and paintings are on sale in my RedBubble shop. There are some nice gift ideas!!

This year I’m planning on gettting out and about in all weathers to capture how the scenery changes through the year. There is talk of a cold winter coming for the UK. While I’m not a great fan of ice and snow, I will be on the look out for some great snowy shots: could be material for my next calendar.

And I suppose that’s the key thing about the changing seasons… to make the most of them where ever you live.

Now, I never shop early for anything, but…

… sometimes I really think I should! I do hate getting very close to the date of a celebration or festivities (do you see just how hard I am trying to avoid mentioning Christmas in mid-September?!) and then find I am shopping at the last minute, and buying things that are either frankly too expensive or just a panic purchase and not what the gift-receiver wants at all.

And to continue the being frank theme, I have lots of lovely products available in my RedBubble shop that might make a unique and thoughtful gift for someone you love.

Just to offer a very small selection of the sort of images I produce, have a look at these.

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RedBubble reproduce the images onto a wide range of products: including cushion/throw pillow covers, tote bags, phone and ipad cases, calendars and of course prints, posters, and cards. Cases for iphone 6 are available now too. They handle all the payment and shipping, and as a growing multinational company they are efficient and reliable. I’ve ordered a few different products just to check the quality, and I can vouch for the quality of the reproduction and the materials they use. I have in fact just bought a batch of my designs as greeting cards to send through the year, and you get 30% off if you buy 16 or more.

If you want a calendar, then early ordering in time for Christmas would be very advisable. As a final suggestion, RedBubble also sell gift certificates, if you want to leave the choice to the recipient.

Please do have a look at the shop, and I’d be happy to read any comments that you care to leave on any of my designs. It’s always good to know what people think!

Thanks for reading this blog, checking out the shop, and supporting an independent artist!

Watercolour sunsets and Winter swimming

So winter has arrived, and the UK has had the first snow of the season!  None near us yet.

We were down in Cornwall this week visiting Belinda and Jack, and had a very four-seasons-in-one-day time with hail storms, ferocious winds, sunshine and balmy warmth. Very nice to see them both and we are hoping for news of a house purchase soon.

Back in Clevedon the all or nothing weather continues.  Yesterday Nature was catering for the artist in us, with displays that anyone would want to photograph, paint or turn into a multi-media extravaganza.

First, the water on the Marine lakes had a marvellous texture.

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It looked like tweed with many crossing diagonals – but you have to look closely to see the effect in the photo.

And a little later we had a real water-colour sunset.

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Wales was a very attractive variety of blues, setting off the pastel sky beautifully.

On Saturday it was freezing and a strong wind was coming straight off the Bristol Channel.  However that did not deter one brave swimmer, who we saw tackling the waves.

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He didn’t get far before heading back in – we snapped him as he emerged from the tempest.  To be fair, I think the waves would have defeated all but the strongest swimmers, even if the temperature hadn’t been just over freezing.  It reminded me of the scene in Cast Away where Tom Hanks just couldn’t get over the breakers into the open sea until he built the super-raft.

I guess he’s in training for the traditional winter swim that takes place every News Year’s Day by the pier. (The swimmer, that is, and not Tom Hanks.  Although he might be there too, of course!)

I was thinking the other day how a few years ago my daughter was bemoaning the warm winters, and the fact she hadn’t seen more than a grey dusting of snow since she was tiny. That same year there was a television documentary considering whether, due to global warming, we in South of England had seen our last local snow and would need to become snow tourists to enjoy a white Christmas.  Well, things have changed since then with snow every winter and, for the last couple of years, snow before Christmas.

How is your Christmas shopping going? I think I have got everything I need, but it helps that I have family and friends well used to having low expectations. We are fine tuning arrangements now, with family booking train tickets and food shopping being planned.  I’m going to make some Christmas Chelsea buns, filled with dried cranberries, golden sultanas, butter, ground almonds and cinnamon, and drizzled with orange icing.  The plan is to arrange them into a Christmas tree shape on the baking tray.  If they turn out well I’ll post a photo!

Good luck with the shopping, everyone, and don’t forget to have fun!

November in Clevedon – all change!

We are used to making fresh starts in the new year – resolutions and spring cleaning and all that, but I’ve always found the Autumn more of a time to take stock.

Maybe it’s the mild melancholy that the change in the clocks induces; the return to waking up in the dark and going for sunset walks at 4 pm.  All I know is, it is at this time of the year when I tend to make decisions and changes.

(That’s not us in the picture, by the way, although I could have pretended it is!)

It was this time of year two years ago when I bought the Coat of Motivation, my very lovely winter coat, which was only just big enough at size ?? . I was struck with the certainty that I would not allow myself to go up to size ??+1 ( although I  guess that should that be +2, with the way dress sizes work) and so immediately set about a completely voluntary programme of sticking to proper meals, no snacks, and picking up the exercise.  Wii Fit worked wonders for me, providing some extra activity every day, and I got into Zumba too.  The pounds dropped off, and I was as fit as I’ve ever been.

Following our move here, the fitness regime evaporated.  I’ve been working from home, so the daily brisk walk to and from County Hall was lost, and as I was considering my options for work I couldn’t commit to a class.  We’ve also been visiting pubs and eating places! Inevitably the pounds have been piling on and the fitness levels have dropped, so yet again, I have needed to take myself in hand.  This time it’s the gym, something I have never tried before. I am into week three now, and am already feeling the benefits.  It definitely helps that I can go at off-peak times – today Alec and I were the only people in there at midday – and also to have a gym buddy.

You really can’t be bullied or persuaded into new habits; the decision to change has to come from within.  We all need a metaphorical coat of motivation!

So I won’t be feeling quite so glum about the over-indulgence approaching.

Our Christmas Day definitely revolves around food rather than presents, as family and friends are only too aware!  We have found that our ideal menu consists of something between 5 and 8 courses, spread out over the day.  It sounds mad, but actually means a lot less work. None of the courses are huge and most can be prepared well in advance, so no-one is trapped in the kitchen with the sprouts.  There are breaks in between for games, walks, and Christmassy whatevers, and the eating and drinking goes on from lunchtime to late.

I can tell you want to know more so …

Pate and crackers at about 11.30, maybe chicken liver or smoked mackerel or a nice spicy humus concoction.

Soup about an hour later.  A nice turkish lemon soup, or a borsch style beetroot soup.  It has to be a bit unusual, zingy and festive.

Maybe a nice sorbet to cleanse the palate?  Or berries in a sparkling wine jelly?  Just a couple of spoonfuls.

Sometimes a fish course as well, or instead of the soup or pate. Spicy prawns and coconut went down well.

A gap of about an hour  before the main course.  This year we are going for a leg of saltmarsh lamb.  We had some earlier this year and I can’t tell you just how delicious it was.  The lambiest lamb I have ever tasted.  Our’s is ordered, so I feel safe in spilling the beans. Some nice vegetables and roast potatoes to go with it, but not too many, as we are only about half way through.

A decent gap before we hit the desserts. (I typed deserts! I’ll take the Sahara and you can have the Gobi.)

We usually have a choice of at least two of the following:  Christmas pud, trifle, apple crumble, whisky and ginger steamed pudding (my own invention. Let me know if you want the recipe.)

Another decent gap and then fruit, nuts, cheese and crackers with maybe a glass of port.

Petit fours and coffee to finish.

When does the gym open??