Farewell 2016 (or the shite year that woz, leaving a legacy and street/river art arrives in Bishop’s Stortford)

Hello Blogland. Over the next week or so I’m sure you will be inundated with annual roundups and messages of new year resolutions so I thought I’d get in there early in order to draw a line well and truly through this frightful year and focus fully on the new challenges that 2017 will present. Despite the title (and of course you will already be fully aware of my leanings in this matter) I am leaving politics out of this post so please do read on.

This morning’s dog jog gave me some quiet time to muse over the latest sadness to hit our social media streams today, that of the death of yet another of the performers who, along with Prince and David Bowie, formed the musical backdrop to my teenage years. RIP George Michael.  Personally I don’t remember a year of celebrity loss that has been so affecting and I am wondering whether it is because of my age (i.e. I am older therefore statistically those entertainers and musicians who were significant to me whilst I was growing up are also older and therefore more at risk), or whether the rise of Celebrity and social media have made us feel both like we know these people personally because they live their lives under a spot light, and links us to others who are mourning their passing thereby generating almost a sense of self promoting “hysteria” when faced with news of the death of someone most of us have never met (apologies to any actual psychologists out there, these ramblings are purely personal musings and not an attempt to explain anything scientifically). Of course it could also be that 2016 was the year of unprecedented loss that we actually think it was.

Of course, regular readers of my blog will also be aware that I said goodbye to two very important men from my personal life this year and those of you in similar situations will sympathise with how family and friend centred celebrations such as Christmas can highlight these bereavements. So where am I going with this post I hear you ask. There is a link between loss from this year and planning for next. As you may have gathered from previous posts, I don’t do New Year resolutions as these tend to be statements of intent with no real planning and are therefore often doomed to failure. However, I do find the end of a year a great time to focus on what went well/didn’t go so well in the year I am about to leave and let these feed the goals for the one ahead. A planning technique that has been brought to my attention recently is the use of a word to guide, inspire and motivate. I have been struggling to come up with a single word for my business planning but have come up with a word to guide my life generally inspired by a letter that I read from an old work colleague of my Dad’s in response to the news of his passing. The first word that this man, like so many other people who interacted with Dad used to describe him, was “kind” (“I remember him as such a kind man”). While he may not have had a wide circle of social interaction, particularly after his retirement, I find it so moving that those people who did share him with us did not refer to his achievements, material possessions, hobbies etc but instead used this somewhat mild and greatly undervalued adjective to sum him up. While those celebrities we have lost this year leave behind them memories of their respective talents through their fame, music, writing and entertainment, for me, to leave “kind” as a legacy is such a noble and worthwhile thing to aspire to so for 2017 and beyond, my motivation shall be the word “kind”.

Right, bitter sweet indulgences over, here are some pictures to brighten up this post. While pulling into Bishop’s Stortford station last week I noticed some rather colourful and attractive graffiti so armed with Mum and her crazy Labradoodlepoodle, we went on a photography treasure hunt along the River Stort to find out more. And here they are.

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Ella and Mum duck watching

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Bright and colourful wall decoration 

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Still wondering how they did this, from a boat perhaps (no path on that side of the river)

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Decoration on a warehouse wall

I have so much wonderful visual inspiration from my treasure hunt I can’t wait to get started on some work. In the meantime, goodbye 2016. I (and many others) will remember you but not so fondly.

Wishing you all a healthy, happy, peaceful 2017. I’ll see you on the other side……….

Dog Jog Musings: should labels be worn on the outside?

Needy sheep and a 50 mile time trial resulted in a solitary run for me this morning (only Big Dog for company and she is not much of a conversationalist when surrounded by wide open spaces, wildlife and fresh horse poo).  The result was ponderings a plenty as I had the luxury of seven miles of peace and quiet to contemplate the happenings of the past week and was surprised to find the thread of a theme running through it.

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I don’t do conversation!

Here in the UK we had a minor political event last Thursday, that being the small matter of a General Election. Right up until the last moment I was still umming and aahhing, influenced by the last thing I had read on social media or heard on the news, and it occurred to me how much easier these decisions had been for me in my twenties and thirties when I had a strong political identity.  I didn’t need to listen to promises and try to work out how much Peter was going to be robbed to pay Paul (and whether this was acceptable) as with an identity came ideals and it was these that guided the cross (of pencil in box variety).

Identity matters! It gives us a sense of belonging (you only have to venture into Southampton city centre on a Saturday afternoon amidst the sea of red and white striped shirts to know this).  It helps us to relate to one another in social gatherings (being a something makes life so much easier when asked the inevitable “and what do you do for a living?”).  But while we may embrace the positives associated with wearing our label on the outside we also recognise that while we might be individuals with a shared identity, who wants to be a stereotype?  I cringe inwardly when friends introduce me as a Knitter and describe what I do as Craft.  Knitters make sweaters, socks and gloves, right? Yes I knit and I used to be a Knitter but my identity is currently evolving into what? artist? maker? designer? procrastinator!?  Heck what do I call myself? My inner critic panics in these situations suggesting that this unintended faux pas in labelling me and my intentions, suggests that my friends don’t get me which, rather than resulting from a lack of communication on my part, surely is a reflection of the inadequacy of my work!

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Why would you think I was a Knitter?

Labels and names have connotations too (for us and/or others) so in the words of Prince Roger Nelson: what’s in a name?  I’m sure the revered Purple One didn’t realise he had anything in common with a teenage witch in denial but both Prince and Agnes Nitt knew how important a name can be.  The former famously changed his to a symbol in 1993 so that his relentless productivity could not be tempered by contractual obligations to his record company.  The latter developed a pseudonym into a full blown second personality as Perdita X Dream complete with black lace gloves to give her permission to be more than just a great personality and good hair, something that an Agnes is probably always destined to be.

During the much loved by tutors humiliation of the around table introductions on a recent art workshop (how on earth does one sum oneself up in a few sentences without sounding pretentious or boring?), two of the participants labelled themselves apologetically as “scientists”.  Up until that point it hadn’t really occurred to me that being a scientist and an artist should be mutually exclusive.  I wonder how many people have been told by teachers, parents and society in general that their inherent ability in one means that they shouldn’t indulge in the other.  Have they heard of Leonardo da Vinci, I wonder?   Anyway, this links nicely to an event I went to last night at the Winchester Science Centre who are hosting the Observatory Artists Studios, an opportunity for three artists in residence to make work in this amazing space in the first half of 2015.  The aim of the project is to encourage collaborations between artists, architects and engineers, and students.  Art meets Science, yay!  Current artist in residence Sean Harris took us from daylight to darkness looking out onto the South Downs while enjoying his animated imagery (digital and clockwork) and in his words: “exploring our relationship with the land – past, present and future”.  At the end of the evening I wasn’t sure whether I had participated in performance art, collaborated with other “artists”, or viewed an artist’s work but I did feel that I had connected with the space, coming away mesmerised by the imagery of the evening including that provided by the artist, the sight of other visitors laying out candles in jam jars around the hut as darkness fell, and the inherent beauty of the landscape.

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Sean Harris event at Winchester Science Centre: projected animation

Well, dear reader(s?), it feels better to get some of these ramblings off my chest.  Rumour has it that I shall have some human company on next Sunday’s dog jog so provided there are no more sheep related incidences to divert his attentions he will bear the brunt of my week’s musings and I shan’t have to subject you to them.  But then again, we haven’t even touched on the definition of Art yet…………..Have a good week.