The Artist's Year

Issue 69

Welcoming visitors back into the gallery after all the uncertainty and lockdowns of the past year is taking a bit of getting used to! My main problem at the moment is that I have become accustomed to simply leaving for a walk or a swim whenever I feel, but I am having to remember that the gallery is 'officially' open now, which means someone needs to be here!

As I write, there are still some restrictions in place, and the hotels, B&B’s and guest houses are not yet open. We are extremely lucky to have good relationships with local hoteliers etc, who regularly direct their visitors to the gallery as something really nice to do on a rainy day. As ever, we optimistically plan for and plant up a huge vegetable garden, which has spread over the years to include a poly tunnel, and several raised beds. Dreams of tender sugar snap peas, long sweet carrots and a winter’s supply of potatoes are shattered with monotonous regularity, as pests, rodents, insects, birds and disease seem to always get there first. Last year our runner beans were looking promising – reaching the tops of the eight foot high poles, flowers all set, some small bean pods even…when some unknown, evil creature severed the stalk at the base of each plant over a period of a few days!! Peas, mangetouts and sugar snaps were sown, sprouted then eaten by mice or pigeons, then re sown… Moles weaving their dastardly tunnels up and down our rich, fertile soil ruined rows of seedlings. Chickens and guinea fowl storm the ramparts and use the garden as their dusting bowl even!!! The wildlife we battle against in the garden also provide great entertainment, as well as inspiration for painting. During the winter we saw otters twice at one of my regular swimming spots. Now we see mandarin ducks, an alien species, but so bright and colourful. Also goosanders, geese, dippers and oystercatchers which make such a lot of noise at this time of year! I am spotting hares more and more when out walking the hills near home. Th ey sit so tight when undisturbed, only leaping up and racing off if they fear for their life, when they usually create a ‘loop’ or ‘figure of eight’ diversion, ultimately bringing them back near to the spot where they began. People often express shock when they discover I swim throughout the year in nearby rivers and lakes, and some are anxious about what lies under the surface. This has never bothered me, and apart from little fish, freshwater mussels and one eel, it is quite rare to see anything. However, last week as I swam in the nearby river, I saw through my goggles a wiggling thing which was either a small eel or a large leech RIGHT in front of me. I am trying very hard to put that memory at the very back of my mind now! Now that so many people have b een vaccinated, and the level of covid is so low, it feels safe to plan for an exhibition here in the summer, and we are now intending to kick it off over the weekend 14th & 15th August. It’s traditionally a time when many people are away on holiday, but things are very different now, and we hope it will be a lovely busy fun filled weekend with bubbly, cake, sunshine and a gallery full of beautiful paintings, prints and gifts to browse. At last, something to look forward to!

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