Saturday, 30 November 2013

The temporary, temporary studio

We have a had a fair amount of rain this week, and as a consequence my temporary studio (see previous post) is now awash. Not only are the walls wet but there appears to be a river running through the middle of the room. (Well slight exaggeration but you get the idea). So while I wait for it to dry and/or Spring, I have temporarily taken over a spare room in which to paint. Actually it's a nice place to be with the doors open onto the balcony. Mum and the kids will be over in a couple of weeks so all my paints will have to be moved again. No worries.

Some surprised fish in my sketch book.

A couple of the driftwood boards I have been working on, just to get back into the habit of painting. Varnished and with little hanging rings on the back. These will go into my Etsy shop shortly.

There's a storm a comin'. A cyclone is on it's way from Libya apparently. Oh Joy.

Monday, 25 November 2013


A few pictures of a new dog walk and a drive around exploring the north of the island. This spot by the salt pans really gives a feel of being on a very small island in the middle of a very big deep sea. The top end of the island is much more rural and agricultural than the south. I even saw a sparrow hawk and heard a buzzard ! It's a wonder, considering that shooting very small birds seems to be a national pastime. Have yet to see a sea gull :0(
The 'unmade up' roads are certainly that, as tarmac abruptly ends giving way to a serious lack of road, as if they just ran out of money...extraordinary.
Just before return to the hub, a nice looking bar beckoned. A beer and a lump of Maltese bread rubbed with tomato and tuna broke the journey. Sitting in the sun on a late November day can't be all bad. I say journey loosely as it is only 4 miles home but has taken about an hour. *thinks* this would be a nice place to bring the family out for lunch, until that is, the Dutch proprietor bored the pants off me with his tales of woe of living many years on Gozo. One wonders why he is still here then !

Oh, and spot the tree....

The hub !

Sunday, 24 November 2013

At the risk of repeating myself

Well another week has flown by and I am still in exploring mode. My age is beginning to show as the creaky knees are beginning to ache at the arduous, almost daily, cycle up to Victoria. It's only 2km but feels like 10 on the 1 in 3 incline. The next 'village' along is Fontana, barely distinguishable from Victoria proper, except for the water fountains on the side of the road. Originally, I think, for watering animals and clothes washing. It's the point where I have to give up and dismount, pushing Flosie  (the bike) up the next bit. Anyway the steep hill out of Xlendi is worth the sweat. Once in Victoria the winding back streets of the city are a joy.

My walks prove fruitful driftwood collecting outings. Old pallets seem to litter the beaches and hill sides. I now have a fair few to start work on. The store room under the house would be the perfect studio/gallery space if it wasn't so damp ! I think I shall call it the green room, due to the water induced green walls ! Nevertheless it houses my bike and while the gales are still pounding the house will suffice as a draft free painting room too.

Flosie, trusty steed !

A makeshift table utilising bits left by the builders, works quite well by the door.

 Bits of driftwood ready to to work on...and away I go. Following some previous design ideas, I set to work, just to get back into the swing.

 Being close to the road, with the doors opens, has already attracted some interest from passers by !

The storms last night have washed a fair bit of flotsam and jetsam up into the bay. and a wonderful looking blue door has been sloshing t's way in and out of the bay all morning. I tried to wade into the surf to reach it , but sadly the big waves got the better of me and I had to retreat..soaked ! With a bit of luck it may find it's way onto the beach by tomorrow.

Monday, 18 November 2013

I need to paint !

There have been so many things to sort out since my arrival, not least getting a phone line and broadband set up ! All of that has taken my thinking away from painting and frankly I have have lost my creative mojo and need to get it back. I have seen local artists work and feel that if I am to make any sort of headway and sell artwork, it has to be different. The scenery is dramatic and colours are stunning but I need to think outside the box.

After a couple of days of torrential rain, where the road seems to just flow into the sea,

the sun came out and I was able to get out to take some photos to try and inspire some creativity.

I sat at the end of this quay for a while and watched the fish in the amazingly clear water. The edge of the quay against the green of the sea looked a little like the steep and rocky hillside above me. I took some photos with this in mind.

I have rotated a few photos so that the sea looks like the sky.

 There's an octopus in there somewhere, so well camouflaged I nearly missed it sneaking up on it's prey.

 Soooo, this afternoon I will experiment with some fairly abstract watercolours based on these photos and see how I get on. Will post them later.

My other great find today as I was cycling around the little streets of Victoria was the shop Organika , owned and run by Charlotte.  A lovely little Aladdin's cave of fair trade goods and French fabric scarves and tops. A real gem for Christmas pressies.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

So far so good !

The journey was exhausting but finally arrived at the house at 1am last Saturday. The dogs were pretty fed up having not had a proper walk for days and Captain Pugwash was in dire need of a beer. Still, even in the dark I could see from outside, the house had a lot of promise. An early 18 hundreds stone town house on three floors' balconies and a couple of large roof terraces overlooking the bay. Perfect. With all the family coming out in December it was fun choosing where everyone would sleep. Some rearranging of beds and it would do just fine.
The following day was spent negotiating the capital Victoria (Rabbat). Not a very big town by UK standards but the streets are a maze. It was soon clear that the sat nav had not really got a grasp of the one way system and that getting my bearings would take a little while.
The house is classed as 'furnished' but not with anything I would want or need, it would be nice to get all my belongings over here.

So, a week on and I am getting to know my immediate surroundings a little better. The best walks, where the best food shops are, the best bars, when the buses run etc etc. I found a bike shop tucked down an ally way and will go back on Monday to buy a bike, bigger saddle ;0) and shopping basket inc the price. Then free wheel all the way back to Xlendi down the very steep hills. Whether I manage to cycle out of the bay again is debatable.

I haven't yet had much time to consider painting but there is a great space up on the roof terrace for a studio. Sorting that out in the next couple of weeks will be a priority. It's all whitewashed but needs a table and chair, shelving  etc. 
Happy snaps as I wandered around Victoria's pretty streets.
So far so good.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Road Trip

Gosh what a journey. I have made it down to Sicily and am staying near the port of Pozzallo in a lovely b&b called Villa Aurea just off the beach and away from the hubbub. It will provide a nice resting place until the ferry over to Malta next week.

The little Seat car bumbled it's way down the auto routes, through France and the Mont Blanc tunnel to Italy. Holding it's own around Bologna and Firenze bank holiday traffic. With a top (comfortable ) speed of 70mph it was always going to be a slower journey than most but it did well and maintained a steady ride. Sophie and Della perched on top of the bundles of essentials crammed into the tiny space, seemed to draw much attention on the roads and even more at pit stops. Have the Italians never seen two black labs before ? It was a job to say really as my Italian is non existent and they don't seem to have a grasp at all of the most important language in the world ( ;0) ) .

We skittered past Rome without a glance at the 'ruins' and sped onto Naples, finally running out of motorway at Salerno on the second day. The next leg was, without a doubt, the prettiest, travelling on the A3 through a national park almost all the way to Calabria. The road was vertiginous to say the least. Roads unbelievably suspended over ravines or clinging desperately to the sides of mountains. Captain Pugwash, who lives most of his life at sea level, was less than impressed. As far as he was concerned, this was yet another reason never to return to Italy ! I, on the other hand, couldn't get enough of the wonderful scenery and friendlieness of the people.

Stops were made at hugely varying hostelries. Heading East of Torino along the seemingly endless motorway, dusk fell and we peeled off the road, through the toll gates and saw a 3* hotel right in front of us. how convenient is that? Looked ok from the outside. So in we went.  Inside the door, however, lay Madame Le Fag, sprawled on a chaise longue with a cigarette hanging on the end of her lip. Not only was there a language barrier but she seemed unwilling to leave the crucial part of some Italian soap on the TV.
Too tired and hungry by this time to move on, we decided to risk that the rooms may not be up to scratch. As it turned out the rooms were fine. A little heavy on the chinze and lace with shelves full of imitation Lladro but clean enough.. Madame Le Fag, produced a bowl of pasta and a bottle of something she described as 'locale... delicio',... fizzy red wine, gak... and retired to her bed. We explained we couldn't face more ham and cheese for breakfast, paid the bill and left by 5.30 the following morning. Madame Le Fag, by the way was still on her chaise longue when we left.....and waved a smokey 'chiao'.

The following night, we ran out of tolled motorway just south of Naples, and as it was getting dark decided to head to the coast to find a hotel. Some way along the road we spotted a sign to a 4* Hotel down a lane. As we drove down the long drive, it became clear that this was a bit of glitzy number. What used to be a large grandish villa, was now covered in fairy lights and looking a little embarrassed by it all. A large pool surrounded by about 50 tables and chairs, rather spoilt the impressive entrance. Wondering if we could afford a night here, we went in.  Frank N Furter lurked behind a large riccoco reception desk. €70 didn't seem unreasonable, compared to the previous two nights. However, as it was a bank holiday, the restaurant wasn't open, neither were we likely to find one open in the near by village ! They seemed to be missing a trick on a bank holiday me thinks ! It was soon clear that we were the only people staying and were given a room right up in the attic. What's that all about ? Anyway, the decor didn't disappoint !!!

Explained To FNF we would be leaving early so there was no need for breakfast, FNF explained the hot water doesn't come on until 7am....that will be a cold shower then...Hmmmm CP gave a resigned look.... Itiddelyitii itis.
So on we travelled through the national park, down to Calabria, onto the ferry to cross the strait of Messina, down the coast of Sicily and finally stopped at Villa Aurea. A decent meal, charming host, and a good place to spend a couple of days. Driving around Sicily or indeed most of Italy, is not recommended if you have anything resembling vertigo or unless you have a devil may care attitude as to whether you live or die. The driving of the natives is appalling and we had a very close call. CP is loathe to venture much further on account of the above, and frankly I am happy to cycle down to the beach until our ferry to Malta on Wedneday.

25c Today and all is well.