I don’t know where this year has gone. In a couple of days from now it will be October. Yes, I have been busy but not doing anything particularly blogworthy.
Henry the tortoise hibernated on September 15th. Left to his own devices he would have done so at least two or three weeks earlier. This would have been fair enough as he had been awake since the beginning of January after all, which made it quite a long year from his point of view. The trouble is that Henry’s internal clock seems to have been out of sync with the annual cycle for the past few years. Thus he has been emerging from hibernation earlier and earlier and wanting to hibernate that much earlier as a result. There was a strong possibility that he would hibernate well before the end of August and be awake again by Christmas. Even now, at the end of September, it remains mild enough during the day for him to be outside – and there is plenty of fresh food for him in the garden. On the other hand, it is not often warm enough for him to go outside (even for an hour or two on the odd day) before late April and so, if he wakes earlier in the year he has to be kept warm, fed and given plenty of light until he can go outside. So this year I delayed his hibernation by making sure that he came out into the sun each day, if only for half an hour or so. He is now safely hidden away in his indoor winter house and, as I explained to him, am not expecting to see him before mid-January, or preferably later. He didn’t reply.
Regrettably, cycling seems to have become a distant memory. I have simply lost interest. My two bikes have not yet been sold but it is only a matter of deciding how and when. Meanwhile, I am not at all amused by the fact that the most popular post on this blog (if searches are any guide) is my review of the Raleigh IKEA folding bike; it doesn’t say much for the rest of the blog!
For several weeks now I have been helping a neighbour to regain control of her large garden which had been neglected for some years due to illness etc. I am not really interested in gardening but this was a challenge and, from my point of view, a welcome opportunity to get out in the fresh air and get some exercise. There is more to be done yet but it has been interesting (and very satisfying) to see what is left of the original garden emerging from under the jungle of brambles, nettles etc.
After a long break, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, I wanted to paint again a couple of weeks ago. This has happened before of course but this time it was different. This time I knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it with a clarity that I couldn’t explain. Admittedly I think about painting quite often and try to make sense of all the (often conflicting) information that I have accumulated from books, websites, etc.. I am particularly interested in realistic portrait painting (using water-mixable oil paints) and I have started to paint again using photographs for reference. Unfortunately, I cannot post the results here as I don’t own the copyrights of the photos but that will change before long.
It is a wonder to me that any beginner succeeds in making an oil painting. No two established artists seem to agree on how to do it and their efforts to impart their conflicting information, whether via book or video, are either so poorly presented or so inadequately explained (or both) as to be almost useless and certainly uninspiring. There are exceptions of course and long may they prosper despite the ocean of mediocrity by which they are surrounded.
I must be doing something right because my pupil, Maria, is still arriving each week for her violin lesson, well over a year since she started learning. Furthermore, her progress seems to me to be accelerating. I am not a teacher, just someone who played the violin for several years in his youth and very infrequently since then. Now, of course, I, too, have been playing again for about eighteen months and one of these days I might even get quite good at it.
Having both suffered the dreary and uninspiring experience of conventional books of tuition in our younger years (for me on the violin and for Maria on the clarinet) we have avoided them completely this time. I was anxious that my pupil did not give up the effort through sheer boredom. So we have worked on the easier classical pieces and also on show music going back half a century or so and the repertoires of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. Despite being less than half my age, Maria’s favourites are to be found in this category of music which, I must admit, has largely passed me by, though of course I know the tunes well enough. The violin is not the easiest instrument to learn but I have tried to ensure that the process of learning has not been stressful. On top of a demanding full-time job the last thing Maria needs is another source of stress. Fortunately she is able to drive her own progress at a pace to suit herself and the “lessons” are quite informal, relaxed and enjoyable – which is how it should be after all.