Thursday and a long awaited flying visit to Manchester to see my old friend Joan.
Joan is Head of Art at Loretto College, Manchester and on Thursday evening her A and AS level students put on a show of their course work and sketchbooks. (Both pieces above are by Textiles' students - and both warrant a click to enlarge to see the detail in the work - as does the fish, below, by one of Joan's Art students.)
Wow! What an impressive display of work it was - accomplished, lively and imaginative. Mature too. It was hard to believe that these young people were still in a sixth form college environment and had not yet entered the world of Higher Education. Joan tells me that a number of them will opt for direct entry to a degree course rather than go down the traditional route of an Art Foundation course first. Seems like a good thing to do - these are people with ideas just waiting to be developed and unleashed rather than be held back another year because that's the way it has always been done.
Who said that education is wasted on the young? How I wished I were amongst them in that exciting creative atmosphere exploring materials and ideas. OK - I did it years ago but my art education was staid and stodgy in comparision. Small moan over. Well done Joan - they did you proud.
Good to see some old familiar faces too, to catch up and gossip on a long hot summer evening; we chattered into the night. I eventually fell asleep in my attic room looking at the sky through the roof-light. A strangely comforting orange glow - the colour of the Mancunian night - was cast on the clean white walls. I was vaguely aware of the incessant hum of traffic and the wail of a siren in the distance, the voices of carousing revelers rolling home. All this was once so familiar but now these sights and sounds, the crush of humanity around me, are strange and mysterious city ways.
Don't get me wrong - I do like (no, make that love) life on the top of my low mountain. I love the air, the sky and the silence. I love my space and birdsong and the creatures on the fields and in the hedgerows, the flowers, the trees and the twists of cloud that wind in front of the conifers of Badnage Wood. I love Badnage Wood and the buzzards and ravens. I love the seasons, each special and perfect...etc etc... You get my drift. I wouldn't swap it for urban or suburban life ever again. But oh, I do wish we had a John Lewis within striking distance.
Sad? Yep. I was that shopper drooling ever-so-slightly in front of the bed linens and the artful display of towels. I checked out every department - except the white goods and the curious gift-ware section full of odd objets. I poked cushions, opened handbags, tried shoes, sprayed perfume, wished we needed curtains/blinds/carpets/lighting and generally just enjoyed an afternoon's retail. I bought blusher, a metre of muslin and a Nicole Farhri shirt. No big deal but quite satisfying none the less.
Then home again to the small mountain kingdom of Trelystan. There has been rain. The air is thick and heavy, thundery, though we have had no storms here. It is, my car thermometer tells me, 12 degrees cooler than it was in Manchester but still feels pretty warm to me.
Warm with a bit of wet is what the garden needs. It's very slow this year - I feel growth is about 2 weeks behind. I do notice that my second sowing of peas are through and that the French beans have overnight emerged from the ground and stand over an inch high. The brassicas on order from Thompson and Morgan arrived last week. (Damn them.) There is still nowhere for them to go so, rightly or wrongly, they have been potted on.
The flowers borders are exuberant and generous - and in need of some attention. There's stuff to be hauled out (the ubiquitous creeping buttercup), cut back (oriental poppies), dead-headed (roses and geraniums) and staked (delphiniums in particular). There is the joy of scent too at this time of year, especially on these warm still evenings. What can beat a clump of pinks? I can forgive Mrs Simkins all her straggly unruly habits, she smells divine. Lastly - and I'm not particularly proud of this. Ugh - it's 'the ugly corner'. Something is very wrong here. I blame the yellow Sedum. Or the petunias. It is fairly low on the list of priorities but I really should start again shouldn't I?