All packed up and ready to head off in the morning for a few days at Swansea- a lovely little seaside town on Tasmania’s east coast.
I can’t believe how much I’ve packed! Every time I travel I promise myself next time will be different- I’ll only take the essentials, I’ll pack light, every second item will be flung out of the suitcase- and then I find myself thinking ” there’s still a bit of room in here, it’d be a shame not to take another dress/top/tube of paint/kitchen sink”.
There’s a carry on size bag for my clothes, shoes and toiletries, a cooler bag of groceries, a plastic crate of painting gear, a backpack with electronics and a box of small canvases and art books!!!! Oh – I forgot the beach bag full of bathers,towel and snorkles.
I plan to do a lot so of course I need a lot. Here’s my to do list in no particular order
walking on the beach
prep some art lessons
eating healthy meals
a few more paintings
a big bowl of icecream
a pastel sketch or two
consume some of mum’s Mrs Smith’s biscuits
back for more icecream
maybe a bar of chocolate
back for a quick snack
…I think that about covers it. Maybe all I need to take is a big bowl and a spoon?
I’ve just been doing my pre flight checklist.
The bags have been packed, weighed, repacked and reweighed and are now sitting on the doorstep ready to go.
There’s a few meals in the freezer for the IT Geek for those nights when the days have been too busy.
I’ve visited Mum and had a good long dose of her loveliness.
I’ve planned The Writers funeral in the wee hours of the morning ( should I bring his body home or just scatter his ashes in France where he so loves to be?)
The sheets are washed and in the dryer ready to make up a fresh new bed for the first night home.
The list of phone numbers is safely installed on the phone and the in laws have been rung for a goodbye.(managed not to seek their opinion on where The Writer should be scattered)
I’ve made and scheduled 6 videos for release on You Tube every Monday we’re away so as not to disappoint my die hard fans.
The “Closed for holidays” sign is in my Etsy shop window.
Only one last thing to check……
The cat was definitely out of the bag before I locked it wasn’t she?
I decided to test the old adage that a change is as good as a holiday so I changed my blog theme and I’ll tell you when I get back from my upcoming Europe holiday if it was as good as 6 weeks of culture, food, art, landscapes, coastlines and general hedonistic holiday revelry.
Sorry to keep you on tenterhooks for the next few weeks but it’s anyones guess how this little experiment will turn out.
I’ve been wanting a day trip to Bruny Island all January but The Writer was hanging out for the perfect day. He was after all those blue sky and sparkling sea shots. I was all for just going and working with the weather! So last Saturday I got up early , packed lunch and said “Let’s go”- and off we went.
I have to say I was quite happy with a few clouds- I’ve got lots of sunny shots from previous trips . My first solo art exhibition was inspired by a day trip to Bruny on an astonishingly beautiful summers day and I was looking for a different, more moody side of the island. The early morning light was subdued and the water took on a silver sparkle.
I love this into the sun shot at the Neck and have already painted a small pastel using it as reference.
I added a little more colour and used a square format. I’m a bit of a fan of the square for small paintings.
The clouds came and went creating some interesting skies and reflections.
…and the water kept on sparkling.
The tidal flats had just enough shallow water to make for great reflections of the amazing clouds…
And finally the sun took over the day and we had a swim and a snorkle in the fairly chilly water at Coal Pt with it’s weathered rocks that have been wind blasted creating a myriad circular pockets in the rock.
Then off to Adventure Bay for a few shots in the bright sunlight to satisfy The Writer.
The lovely tracery of shadows on the sand inspired another painting…
All in all, another stunning day on this small island off an island.
Had a clear weekend so gessoed up a canvas and did my second painting in the Sardinia series. Capo Testa is a wonderful area on the north-west coast of Sardinia. There’s a maze of walking tracks amongst the huge boulders and so many wildflowers it’s like a series of rock gardens. There’s the mild scent of curry wafting over the cape from the yellow curry plants and the stunning blue of the Mediterranean in the background. Hope I managed to capture just a little of this amazing place which I hope to get back to some day.
I was driving along in the glorious, summer sunshine when a glimpse of light bouncing off something caused me to suddenly swerve onto the verge of the road and come to a spine jolting halt. The Writer craned his whip lashed neck in all directions looking for whatever it was that had caused this aberration in my usually impeccable ability to get us from A to B without running off the road.I waved my hand in the general direction of a pile of boulders excitedly yelling “horns- I’m sure I saw horns”.
We were heading up the Valsavarenche, one of three valleys that make up the Gran Paradiso National Park in Northern Italy, and we were steinbock hunting!
Grabbing the cameras we stealthily sidled out of the car – I’m no sure why ,since any animal in the vicinity had surely heard the gravel flying as I skidded to a stop. Anyway , sidle we did, pointing and whispering as we tried to catch a glimpse of anything moving on the rocks above us. It wasn’t long before The Writer began to mutter in a rather scathing manner something along the lines of ” wishful thinking…”
Can you see the horn?
Just a glimpse of the steinbock.
Just as the muttering started to gain momentum I shouted “over there!” and pointed ( in what I hoped was a “I told you so” sort of way) at a lone steinbock leaping over the rocks just metres away. His long, curled horns quickly vanished from sight as we started clicking away. I back tracked down the road following the line of the rocks and as I rounded the corner so did the steinbock. He politely posed , nibbling first on a patch of grass , then on the low branches of a pine tree, twisting and turning his handsome head as if to show off his sweeping, serrated horns.
The Writer was still hanging round the car hoping for a return of the steinbock so I headed back and nudged him in the general direction of the photo worthy horns. We spent a happy 20 minutes tracking and shooting stills and video and came across a couple of other young bucks frolicking over the rocks and alpine meadows.
Feeling very blessed to have had such luck we happily mooched on back to the car and decided we still had time for a quick walk in this beautiful valley.
There were a few cars in the carpark and as we hoofed it up the track we met a couple heading back with cameras and tripods slung across their shoulders. The Writer, deciding they were kindred spirits, regaled them with tales of our successful steinbocks potting advising them to head on back down the road where, if they were lucky, they might find a one with enormous horns posing on the rocks. They thanked us politely but not with what you would call effusiveness. I did think I caught “30 something” in amongst their rapid fire Italian and assumed they where asking how far to the big horns. “No,no – it’s only 5 minutes from the carpark ” I assured them.
We felt a little silly a few minutes later as we rounded the corner to find a herd of 30 something big horned steinbock grazing in the meadows!! They obligingly munched away as we clicked away. They waited while The Writer set up his tripod, they arranged themselves in picturesque groupings, draped themselves on the nearby rocks and generally behaved as any well educated model might. They knew the moves, they could hold the pose and they were politely disinterested in the photographers.
On the way home, we passed the rocky slope where we’d seen our first steinbock earlier in the day. In unison we turned to each other and said “ours was better!”
Looking back at our photos from the comfort of our living room several weeks later we’re still in agreement. It was a thrill to catch a glimpse of horns , see them disappear and then track silently until we came across a proud and majestic wild animal , alone on the rocks. The herd seemed altogether a more domesticated group!
I’ve unpacked the suitcase, done the laundry and distributed the gifts. I’ve settled back into work reacquainting myself with the myriad small disasters of the working day. I’ve rearranged the studio and tidied up a bit. So now there’s so more excuses for putting off starting on the post holiday paintings.
It might surprise you to know that as much as I love painting there’s something a bit daunting about sorting through my memories, masses of photos and all those small sketches I did and trying to distill the essence of the holiday that I now want to capture in larger pastel paintings.
Sometimes I absolutely know what I’m interested in. One holiday it was patterns- roof tiles, fields of different crops, rows of lavender, five metal jugs on a wall, bicycle wheels- stone fences-the list went on. Other times it takes a while for a them to emerge and this last Italian holiday was one of those.
When that happens sometimes I just decide to jump in and start painting whatever and see what develops. So here are my first three paintings and I think what might be developing is a visual essay on the varied landscapes of Italy.
When you live as far “down under” as we do, in southern Tasmania, it’s a long way to Europe and our usual approach is to whittle away at our wish list across 2 or 3 countries each trip. This holiday we spent 5 weeks in Italy instead of our usual 1-2 weeks and it really made a difference. We were able to stay a week each in four very different regions and explore a bit more in depth than we usually have time for and I think the vastly different landscapes, architecture and traditional work is what captured our interest. Of course this variety shouldn’t be a surprise given that the Italy we know today is a very recent entity .
A gentle morning landscape with mist rising over the Tuscan wheatfields, the emerald waters of Sardinia and snowcapped mountains reflected in Lake Arpy in the northern Italian alps – the start of a series celebrating the diverse landscapes of Italy.
For quite some time The Writer and I have been testing the theory that a little bit of disaster punctuating a holiday just makes the good bits better. You might have read about the border incident which showcased a classic example where stress and imminent starvation resulted in a bog standard schnitzel consumed an hour later tasting like something a team of Michelin starred chefs had dreamed up for the culmination of the final dinner at a gourmet retreat.
You might be surprised to learn we’ve amassed a fairly hefty set of data to support our working theory over the years. Indeed, The Writer has already published some early data based on a single holiday with five subjects participating in the field experiment-me ,The Writer, MIL and the two offspring.He has a perky little writing style and many a reader has commented along the lines of : “I bust a gut laughing at the antics of the Whitton family on holiday”. If you think you might enjoy a bust gut you can join the gang down at the hospital after reading Bon Voyage.
Sometimes the geek in me wins out so I decided to create an equation to express the working theory and here it is:
(Within the confines of H) D followed by NPE = HSH
H= a holiday from the usual place of residence ( preferably overseas with limited local language skills)
D= any event that precipitates pain, stress, financial loss, misery, tears, shouting or actual bodily harm
NHP= any normal happy event such as a dinner that is edible, a car that gets you from A to B without breaking down, a mobile phone that has signal when you want to use it or a swimming pool that is full of water on a hot day.
HSH = a heightened state of happiness.
I plan to post a few examples of D followed by NPE = HSH over the next little while so get your inner geek on, set up a journal club and join in the evaluation of the working theory.
It’s always hard coming back after a holiday. Holidays mean the freedom of unscheduled days, hours of sunshine when I don’t have to be cooped up inside, an unspoken agreement that it’s OK to eat all those forbidden foods I usually ration out and a winding down from months of stressful work. It’s no surprise that I’m grumpy and out of sorts when it all ends!
Heading off I feel it will all be worth the 26 hours of airports and flights . I pack and repack happily, weighing suitcases to calculate how much I’ve left for the all important holiday buys. Do I really need those black sandals? Surely it won’t be cold enough for a jumper? I carefully choose a lightweight read and even look forward to watching a few movies on the longhaul flight. I stock up on chocolate and nuts at the airport and look forward to 5 weeks of blissful sun, sea, culture and good food.
It’s a different story on the way home! I curse the extra sandals as I try to crush in the last of the gifts. I decide I’ll have to carry the thick and weighty jacket I had to buy because it did get cold enough for the jumper I didn’t pack – and it annoys me all the way home as I haul it in and out of overhead lockers. The movies are rubbish and I the books I chose is dull. I don’t have any chocolate because I couldn’t face the queue to buy it but that’s OK since I feel sick as a dog.
I can’t wait to be back in my own home but once I am there’s all that unpacking and washing and sorting of clothes . The piles of gifts sit and look at me accusingly as I try and work out when I’m going to get to see all the people I want to visit now that I’m not on holidays anymore. The rain pours down and my nose streams as I hack and splutter with a welcome home cold. Jet lag kicks in and I can’t sleep for nights on end – the days at work are a blur as I try and act professional through gritty eyes and gritted teeth. I almost resign on the first day back but manage to keep my mouth shut and get on with it.
A week later and sleep returns and the very next day I find myself planning next years holiday. After all there’s only 11 months to go!