Thursday, 21 October 2010

Poldrate Mill, Haddington

Poldrate Mill was built on the site of the mediaeval Kirk Mill. The present buildings are largely 18th Century and include the mill itself reconstructed in 1842, the granary, maltings and a range of workers' houses to the rear. Their conversion for use by the Lamp of Lothian Trust began in 1968, and the 19th century iron wheel and some of the machinery have been preserved on the site.
Milling operations ceased in 1965, but what remains is the only one of Haddington's three mills, which still displays much of its traditional form. The Mill is located at the southern boundary of Haddington on the River Tyne and provides an important community facility, providing arts, crafts and youth club facilities run and owned by the Lamp of Lothian Trust.

Monday, 18 October 2010

'The Complete Maus'

The Complete Maus’ (a winner of the Pulitzer Prize,) is an extraordinary graphic novel written by Art Spiegelman. It depicts the horrors of the holocaust in an imaginative story which also explores the difficulties that can occur in family relationships. The sub-plot of Art’s relationship with his father gives the story a strong grip on the human dimension of this horrific tale. The story starts in Poland and follows the history of a family of wealthy Jews from the early 1930’s until the end of the second world war. The harsh reality of life for Jews under the Nazi’s is illustrated and all the horror of  concentration camps is unveiled for us to see. Such an awful story may not seem to be a good fit for a comic book format, but the depiction of Jews as mice, Germans as cats and Poles as pigs works very well.  It is a story of one man’s tenacity in clinging on to life in the midst of death and it is clear that this experience shaped the rest of his life.
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Friday, 15 October 2010

‘The Girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest’

Finished the third book of the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, and thank the Lord for that. As with the other two books, I found ‘The Girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest’ difficult to put down. This led to some late nights as I continued to plough through the story. Anyway, now I have got my life back, I can give a subjective comment on the story.

As thrillers go, this is another good ‘un. We once again follow the life of Lisbeth Salander as she overcomes all manner of problems. One of the things that makes her into an irresistible character is her unique sense of what is right. She does not compromise on her principles even when they lead her into trouble. At the start of this story, she is struggling to survive in a hospital after having a bullet removed from her brain. She makes friends with her doctor and recovers, only to be taken to prison and from there to face a law court. This time her lawyer is her best friend. She always beats the odds due to her intelligence and quick reflexes. I have particularly enjoyed the scenes where she takes on macho men and makes mince meat of them. This occurs in the dénouement of this story in a very surprising way.

So what now? I’m looking forward to films two and three.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Tynepark Renga

Tynepark Resource Centre, Haddington, is a day centre for people recovering from Mental Health problems. The centre offers a selection of activities, which people can join. There is a large ex-Manse with a lot of space in it and a newer annexe with a high tech drama room and a bright activity room where art, crafts, cooking and other activities take place.
This year an open day was organised to coincide with the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. The programme of activities included, Shiatsu exercises, massage, a relaxation session, drama, music and poetry.
One of the morning sessions was devoted to a form of Japanese poetry called a Renga. This sort of poem has the following characteristics:
• It is usually written by more than one person, there can be as many as you want.
• The process of writing the poem is as important as the poem which results at the end.
• It can be written in one session.
• The number of verses or stanzas can vary. The ‘Kasen’ renga is popular and uses 36 stanzas.
• Each verse should be inspired in some way by the one that has gone before it. However, it should not be too obvious a link. The subject matter should leap from one stanza to the next.
• Verses are in the present tense, but avoid using ‘I’ or ‘we.’
• Verses are very direct and use as few words as possible to create a vivid image. The verses don’t speak directly of feelings but the image conveys the emotions and feelings of the poet.
• The leader writes the first stanza and this is called the ‘hokku’.
• Each stanza alternates between three and two lines.

Seven people took part in writing the Renga and the feedback at the end was that people enjoyed the session which promoted a sense of sharing

Here is the TYNEPARK RENGA  written by Ray, Harry, Duncan, Andrew, Rick, Karen and Anne.

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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Oban in the sunshine!

Oban was at it’s best last week-end. There was an Indian summer on the West Coast and Pat and I were lucky enough to take full advantage of it. The unseasonably good weather meant that it was t-shirts all the way. There one or two things that immediately impressed me about the Oban area. The sea and the islands which surround the Bay were top amongst these. Large Cal- Mac ferries sailed by the bedroom window at regular intervals, taking customers to the string of West Coast Islands that make it the doorway to the Isles. The seafood dishes were another delight and as one of the many French visitors sitting in the out door café said ‘C’est delicieuse.’
The highlights of the week end were:
• A seafood dinner, in the ‘Coast,’ restaurant.
• A trip to seal island to watch the pooches sunning themselves on the rocks.

Boats in Crinan BasinImage via Wikipedia

• A trip to Kilmartin, south of Oban, which boasts more prehistoric sites of interest than almost anywhere else in Europe
• A trip alongside the Crinan Canal to the sea loch (no 15) This must be a canal junkie’s dream
• Crinan Hotel had an exhibition of the art of Frances MacDonald (Ryan.) I have to admit that I had not come across her before, even though she is well know and successful. She produces wonderful acrylic paintings of the local beaches and mountains, as well as paintings of horse racing and many other subjects. All of them completed with a Pallete knife. There is great texture and life in her paintings.
• Another gem I found in the tourist information was a book by Mairi Hedderwick called ‘An Eye on the Hebrides.’ It is an illustrated account of a trip she took around the Hebridean Islands in 1981. Her sketches and descriptions of the places she visited are wonderful.

I had some spare time to sketch a famous landmark, next to Oban harbour
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Wednesday, 6 October 2010


I bought some willow charcoal recently and I've been experiementing. I love the texture you can get and the tones that can be made by smudging.

Here's a good tip - Tesco value Hairspray is a cheap fixative and it works well.

Zoe thinks that I have made her a bit scary in this one. It's all to do with proportions. In my life drawing classes, I am finding out  that I tend to draw on the big side. The rather slim male model who we used at the class on Monday turned out to big and muscular in my non-representational drawing. I had not checked enough comparisons between head, neck and torso when drawing, which was why he got to be so big. It all come s down to practice, practice... practice.

Sunday, 3 October 2010


Fidra from YellowcraigsImage via Wikipedia
I’m two weeks into my acrylic class and one week into my Life Drawing class… phew! It’s all very different from watercolour painting. For a start, we stand to paint, using easels. That’s something I haven’t done before and it takes a bit of getting used to. The same is true of using acrylic paint. We have been using it straight, and not (as is possible,) like watercolour. So it is like starting over again and I am making lots of mistakes. A lot of people have said to me that using watercolour is difficult, but I don’t agree. It the only paint I have used up to now, so for me it much more natural.

The Life Drawing classes have got a lot of potential. Our teacher, Esther Cohen, is enthusiastic, with a sense of humour and knows her stuff! The class is a sell out with sixteen of us crushed into a room. I am learning the basics, using non-representational drawing of line, shape and proportion.
Both lessons are on Monday – a good way to start the week.
Today, Harvey and I went for a great walk along the coast from Yellowcraig towards Gullane. I tried to light a bonfire, but the grass and wood was too wet. On the way back I did a sketch of Fidra and South Dog, (this is some of it.)

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