Thursday, 23 February 2012

Looking Hard

At Christmas my lovely daughter-in-law, knowing me to be a scribbler at all levels, gave me this special sketch book. Entitled 'One Sketch A Day - A Visual Journal', it is exactly that. The space for each day's small sketch is numbered, and there are a year's worth of spaces.
I started on Christmas day, and have drawn a quick sketch every day since. I am determined to complete the year.
I've drawn in the house, in the garden, in the place where I work as a volunteer, at the bus-stop, at the station - anywhere my daily routine has taken me.

I am seeing things differently. I am looking very, very hard at the details of my life, at the complexities of everyday objects, at the miraculous patterns of leaves and twigs, flower buds and fungus. It takes no more than ten minutes a day - maybe fifteen if I indulge in a bit of colouring-in, but in that time I feel my thoughts and vision changing.

Jenny Woolf, in her lovely travel writing, describes 'here' the happy effect of discovering previously unnoticed details in the background of her own photographs. It's easy for this to happen in photography, impossible in drawing.

Things I have spent even ten minutes studying, looking at really really hard are now etched into my visual cortex, so that as I lie in bed at night I can still marvel at the complexity and perfection of a stalk of sprouts. (Fond as I am of spouts, I had not appreciated the way they spiral round their main stem, presumably reacting to changing light. How clever is that?) Oh, the joy of sleeping alone, to be able to lie in peace, conjuring images of sprouts!

The jackdaw shown in the sketch has also appeared in written form in my blog 'here'. A few days ago he posed unwittingly for the time it took me to draw him, becoming increasing irritated by my failure to move and provide food, occasionally stamping his feet and frequently shouting at me. I feel I have him pinned down now, in words and images. I know the way his feet work, and the fact that some of his feathers have frayed ends. He knows that if I am visible, even if immobile for a while, it is worth stamping and shouting, as food will surely come.

I have studied and sketched the elaborate canopy of the railway station, the details of a bridge in the park, lots of architectural fragments, some elaborate Victorian candlesticks that I've dusted for years but never really looked at, and lots and lots of details of my about-to-burgeon garden.
A great daily exercise.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Uphill Struggle.

Here are my son and daughter-in-law this morning, a glorious morning, plodding steadily up one of the many hills in the beautiful place where I live.
I sat in the sunshine, watching them, realising how closely their efforts resembled my own in recent weeks.
It's been a long, hard and infinitely tiresome plod to get back on line, and I have no intention of adding to the boredom factor by writing about it. I will just say that those 'change your provider with one click' adverts are a little misleading.

So, no blogging since mid-January, because I could only access my neighbour's broadband signal by crouching up against my bedroom window - which is all right for the odd emergency e-mail, but for nothing else.
After several weeks of not blogging I have turned to other writings, revisiting some old, unpublished works which appeared to me new and fresh, almost unremembered. I have become immersed in lengthier writing, and I have a new journal form as well. So I have to think, as all of us do at some stage, why write the blog?

The blog reaches parts that other writings do not; in particular, people whom I have come to regard as friends in cyberland. You know who you are, and I'm really sorry if you thought I had deserted you.
The blog is the most direct form of writing I have used. There are journals which are entirely my own, but over many years there has also been a surpring amount of published work. This has always had an editor between me and any readers, so that I have felt, and still feel at least one step removed from it.
The blog feels permanent, while other published work, even in book form, is essentially ephemeral. Unless the whole system collapses, or someone else manages to wipe out Relatively Retiring it will stay there, perhaps accessible to future grandchildren as yet unthought of (as far as I know).
The blog is intensely personal, and sometimes it is therapeutic. It is probably the one form of public writing which can be carried out in total freedom, although I, like many of us, have attracted trolls, or at least one particularly malicious troll who stopped me in my tracks for a while.

Having stopped, because of trolls or technology, it's not easy to get going again, but like my young folk here today, I will plod on. The pull seems irresistible.