Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dear diary

To anyone who can identify with an up and down life, it should come as no surprise that my last, somewhat euphoric post was promptly followed by a 6 month slump. In the interests of adhering to the premise of my blog.....  memory joggers with a view to my future befuddled self.... I've decided I ought to do a quick round up of some highs and lows and hit reset.

Where was I? In the sun drinking coffee outside the Flatiron building without a care in the world?

Yes!  But behind the scenes, very sadly and for different reasons, neither Frankie nor Smokie came too.

What else? Well I had to leave almost straight away to go to a 5 day art workshop in Northern California where I met my lovely Facebook friend from Ireland, Pauline Agnew, for the first time. She was one of the teachers. I think it was an excellent workshop, in fact I know it was. However, for me it was way too much of a stretch on top of the move to NY, cat deaths and a whistle stop tour of friends and family in England. I had no A game left to bring. It was a bit demoralizing really because I felt completely displaced and couldn't concentrate on painting at all .... up a mountain suddenly with a bunch of strangers 3,000 miles from home, sleeping in a very rustic "cottage" in the grounds of a convent.  No car, no tv, no internet and no way of getting to a coffee shop. Boy, did I feel stranded! I berated myself soundly for being shallow etc while surviving by playing a lot of Candy Crush. Thank goodness for my iPhone and Pauline's thoughtful addition of wine to the materials list!

The retreat Center in N California, manned by nuns 

My temporary home

Painting demo by Melinda Cootsana

David flew out to join me afterwards for a much needed little vacation, never been so glad to see him. We stayed in Monterey in a room with a balcony hovering over the bay, went to sleep and woke each day to the lovely sound of sea lions honking, and discovered how absolutely beautiful Carmel beach is...... paradise!!! So that all ended happily.

Breakfast each morning, too hot to sit outside!

Home again, quick breath and then straight off to another art workshop, this time in a rather gritty area of Brooklyn, with the very wonderful Flora Bowley who teaches "Intuitive Painting". We have a few of her paintings and I was looking forward to meeting her. This time my daughter went with me which was a much better idea. Once again,  no A game to bring artistically, but it didn't matter as much this time as it was one of those "there's no right or wrong" approaches. Plus she starts each session with a peaceful meditation and reflective time,  just what my addled brain needed.

Flora at work, she completes a painting demo during every workshop

"Honoring the Paintings" ceremony at the end

2 of Flora Bowley's paintings brightening the house in N Virginia

On the homefront, it was quite an ongoing challenge filling an apartment with a load of stuff and making it feel like a personal space. It all took time to arrive and assemble itself into a friendly formation. We slept on a mattress on the floor for 2 months like the good old student days until the bed frame was delivered.
I didn't notice until we moved here how many people out on the streets of New York are struggling back to their apartments weighed down with heavy household items that would normally be tossed casually into the back of a car. You can have things delivered or take a cab but it does't always feel worth it.... you buy a mop for $15 from Home Depot for instance, are you going to pay another $15 to get it home? Of course not! There's usually a point, around half way, when I vow never, ever, to do this to myself again. David's worse than me, he's determined to get things back under his own steam even if he dies in the attempt....

Setting up home in NY from scratch.....

......David reluctantly admitting defeat and taking a break from lugging that heavy mirror up 5th Ave. We don't need a cab, we're British and made of sterner stuff....  

After one too many trips up and down I95 bringing car loads of this and that, it finally feels as if we've arrived. Oh yes..... and we got another cat!

Jimbo ponders his move from the shelter in rural Virginia to a Manhattan apartment.


  1. Good to see you back Jill. I've been wondering what you've been up to..... the apartment looks great. My daughter's boyfriend has just been in New York on an all expenses paid reward from the company he works for......and took the same flat iron building photo...same angle, everything, I think it will be enlarged and given pride of place in their Liverpool apartment ! Take care. Jx

    1. What a coincidence about the photo! It made me wonder if a lot of people take that shot so I had a look on Instagram. Turns out there are over 19,000 photographs with the hashtag Flatiron Building! I didn't see any the same as ours though before I gave up looking. I hope he had a good time, it's been a long, long wait for Spring here. Nice to hear from you!

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  3. Lovely to see you posting again, I have wondered how things were. Certainly a tough set of things to have happen all at once, and I can see why an art retreat in rural paradise, too soon after could be hell, no matter how fine the teaching and company. Good that you had the little holiday with David in Monterey. We had a bit of a chuckle here at the thought of the problem carrying stuff around the city. For some reason I could imagine a Seinfeld style episode with Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer having a crazy time carrying armchairs down busy streets. In fact there have been occasions when we have ended up doing that sort of thing... Laura nearly did herself a permanent injury carrying (what we called) her "Pooh Bear Honey Jar" home after she spent most of her week's wages on it in the good old days when I was a student in Dunedin. We still have the old stoneware jar, and it still weighs a ton!

    Hope all goes well for you this year in your new apartment. That flat iron building is amazing. Glad that you have another cat. P.

    1. Hello Peter, how nice to hear from you. I like the stoneware jar story, can just imagine it. My mother in law went on a walking holiday in the Lake District with her brother a few years ago. They weighed everything that went into their rucksacks very carefully beforehand so they wouldn't be overburdened, no luxuries, only the strict necessities, down to the last ounce. However, in a burst of enthusiasm for the quality of the product, she absentmindedly bought him a 3 lb bag of stone milled bread making flour as his birthday present in Grasmere, half way through the trip. You can imagine his reaction!
      Poor Jimmy the cat is a bit bored in the apartment. We let him out into the hallway for a change of scenery occasionally, he makes a beeline for a dog-owning neighbor's doormat and rolls ecstatically around on it, smelling all the outdoor pavement smells. We go down to our house in Virginia every couple of months though, during which time he can't wipe the "this is more like it, now you're talking..." smile off his face :)