Sunday 2nd Sept – Saturday 8th Sept 2018
You may remember that I had planned to have an ‘art gap’ after finishing working at the d.@rt at the end of August. This is a couple of months for me to focus intensely on my creative work and see how much I can accomplish before looking for a new day job. Each day I am completing a poem and either a photograph or a piece of simple artwork to post. This is what I’m referring to as my ‘Art Gap Challenge,’ and you can view the daily posts on my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages. The blog entries posted here will document how these poems and visual art pieces are connected to my travels with my parents, as well as subsequent art activities, and any thoughts I have about combining travel and art.
On Saturday 1st September I had to visit work briefly to teach my creative writing club and return my keys. After work I went to a different hairdresser for attempt two at getting a radical short 30th birthday haircut that looked cool and quirky, this time with some success. I can highly recommend Hannah at Toni & Guy Southampton, who really is an expert with fine hair like mine. I went home and re-applied my henna, and was very pleased. That evening, Lloyd and I went out to dinner at Franco Manca pizza for Father’s Day with Mum and Dad and had a lovely evening, and I posted the first poem for my Art Gap Challenge.
The first official day of my ‘Art Gap Challenge’ and travel birthday present began with cooked breakfast for Father’s Day for Dad, Mum, Lloyd and I, made by Lloyd, and video chats with Dad Fletcher and Grandpa Wilson and family. Afterwards we all went for a walk to the Common together for some extra time chatting, sunshine and exercise for those of us about to sit in the car for several hours.
Then, Mum, Dad and I set off for Oxfordshire, stopping off at Donnington on the way to look at the castle and have a walk. Lloyd unfortunately has an extremely busy time at work at this time of the year, and has all his leave already allocated, having been to France recently to visit his previous colleague, and of course having booked our Christmas trip back to Australia, so he is remaining in Southampton this time.
On arrival in Oxfordshire I was pleased to find that our AirBnB had Bluey-the-guitar coloured gates and door, a promising sign. We explored locally, returned to where we were staying and Dad and I cooked pasta together.
The next day we went into Oxford in the morning to explore the town. We found a delightful patisserie, but did not partake, marveled at old buildings, visited the sale being run by a church that needed to replace their clock in the clock tower, and collected some pastries and samosas from a bakery in the Oxford Covered Market.
Armed with these provisions, we returned to Oxfordshire and set out for Packington, where there was a lovely wild walk near to the cottage we stayed in.
Travelling out of Packington we stopped in Rowsley, where we spent some time learning about the fascinating Caudwell’s Mill, a normally functional mill that was not running on this particular day due to low water levels. This is an extensive educational experience, and there is also an active blacksmith’s workshop and stone mason on sight as well as an outlet where we bought some barley flour.
In the blacksmith’s workshop, which reminded me greatly of Grandpa’s carport where he used to work on his cars, I found an old Bewley’s tea box. This caught my eye because Bewley’s supply the d.@rt Centre, and I was interested in how old the company was, but in addition to the age, the box turned out to be from Ireland and to have contained my favourite, Darjeeling. I was most impressed.
Our AirBnB in Calverley was home to a very friendly cat named Amber, who slept by my feet and purred whenever I came near. We had dinner at the local pub called The Thornhill, which was full of interesting characters I could have written about, and was rumoured, according to information in the menu, to house secret tunnels to Kirstall Abbey made by the local monks. We didn’t find any, even in the toilets, much to my disappointment.
From Calverley we travelled through some of the Lakes District to Natland. On this journey we found some pretty amazing natural places to see by chance when stopping for rests and exercise. The first was the Ingleborough Cave near Clapham, which had a beautiful walk through forest as the approach, and was a wonderful deep cave with fascinating formations to see and a very charismatic and informative guide. After leaving Clapham we stopped in Ingleton, where we decided to walk the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail. At first put off a little by the entry fee, we were very glad that we chose to see what all the fuss was about. A good exercise walk, with some quite difficult hike-like sections, the well-maintained trail takes visitors past multiple waterfalls in beautiful forest that follows the river, then through a stretch of green and lush countryside with fantastic views (but beware of bull), and back into the forest to descend past yet more waterfalls and return into the town. The group managing the trail were running a photographic competition – which photo do you think I should enter?
In Natland we stayed in a lovely cottage, my favourite AirBnB so far, with a view out the back window to a cute tiny garden, and the village green and church across the road, miniature but sufficiently spacious country-style kitchen complete with rocking chair, and possibility of wood fires if the weather had suited. We explored the town a little before leaving, and saw a cute cat at a farm and a little of the village from above.
Using the Natland cottage as a base, we explored the Lakes District further on Thursday, visiting Ambleside. We were initially unimpressed, being unable to locate the walk we wanted to do from the map and instructions in the tourist guide, but after some picnic lunch, we saw the ruins of a Roman fort, and then got ourselves over to the ‘correct’ (much more natural) side of Lake Windemere in the car and did a walk from Wray Castle which was extremely beautiful. I found many kinds of fungi and moss, which always keeps me very happy on the photography front.
The next day we set out for Great Eccleston and Dad’s county of origin. Dad’s family were from Blackpool, so we are obliged to visit the town and watch Blackpool play a soccer match, a fact which always makes the English folk I explain our travels to say ‘oh.’ We stopped in a town called Morecambe, which Mum and I suspect was a kind of ‘training’ for being in Blackpool. It was indeed very cold, windy and a bit sort of ‘barren’ after walking in so many lush green areas. However, we found some great op shops, and I got a jacket for one pound which has since proved very useful, and on the way back down the promenade, the tide went out and we could see the pebble beach and the sand, and lots of stranded boats, which were rather cute. The view across the water and the sky were quite beautiful in an ‘I wish I had my watercolours’ way. As soon as we got out of the car I saw some lovely little birds of a species I had never seen before, but have since learned are probably just a type of starling. I thought they were very beautiful all the same.
We arrived in Great Eccleston, following roads with names like ‘Blackpool road’ ‘Preston road’ and other things that jogged my memory about Dad’s stories of his early years. The neighbour’s cat greeted us, and we went down to the local general store and got some cider and beer, and checked out buses for the soccer game the next day, feeling very English. I regretted having no tangerine to wear, and was dreading the rain and the cold wind, but was lured with the promise of hot fish and chips from the same shop that Grandad would have frequented when Dad was only around seven years old.
Thus far completing my daily poems and pictures whilst travelling had seen me having a lot of late nights. Unfortunately, having a tendency towards motion sickness, I cannot write, type, read or edit photos for an extended period in the back of the car during the long drives. Therefore, all the work has to happen at the end of the day when we reach the AirBnB for the evening. Plus, usually the photos I want to use are still being taken during the day’s excursions. My challenge is to get better at stealing moments when we are sitting down for a drink or having lunch to jot down the bones of the day’s poem and perhaps complete a bit of sketching or watercolour. However, up until the end of this first blog’s journal I was without any plain paper to sketch on, so all the art has been photography. Since next month is Inktober, I should be doing a lot more drawing then, but I hope to do a bit more sketching as part of my Art Gap Challenge in the coming weeks returning via Wales to Southampton and then exploring some of France. If you’d like to follow these daily endeavours, follow PhDancersTeapot on Instgram and Twitter or PhDancer Creative Writing and Arts on Facebook. Alternatively, keep your eyes peeled for my next journal entry here in about a week’s time, when I will be facing the challenge of completing the month’s short story for Storytime as well as my daily creative work.
See you again soon!