Tag Archives: Brittany France

None of us is ever creative enough to know how things will actually work out…..

My last post featured my stay in Brittany during the month of May.      

However, since then I have spent eight days in Kingston Hospital courtesy the wonderful NHS (National Health Service) and have been recouping ever since, all of which emphasises that none of us is ever creative enough to know how things will actually work out………….


I was two years old in 1948 when the NHS came into being. Having been fortunate enough to experience very good health during my lifetime, I have not had the need to use the Service very much, however, I have always held it in the highest regard.    

It’s important to say that nothing is perfect…..and indeed when the NHS came into being the world population was approx., two and half billion….now we are rocketing towards eight billion! This of course puts great pressure on all institutions……including the NHS.  

My recent experience in Kingston Hospital has brought home to me how fortunate we are in the UK to have such a Service. If necessary we must go to the barricades to preserve it from those politicians who might see it as a cash pot!!! They are out there waiting to get their greedy hands on it……..

The beautiful Brecon Beacons…Wales – watercolour/gouache

A little known fact is that The NHS is available to everyone within the UK no matter how wealthy or poor….it does not discriminate.     I know that in countries where free health care is only given to those who  are lacking in financial resources….much division has been caused.  

Magical Hummingbirds – watercolour  


So what happened to me?    I think it’s fair to say that I had probably been overdoing things, especially as I hadn’t been feeling 100% since the beginning of the year.    I had been experiencing breathlessness…something totally new for me, and after a couple of visits to the doctor, I decided to let time sort things out!

I suppose time indeed did sort things out only not in the way I had hoped……

Crickhowell from the Bluebell Woods – watercolour

Having just returned from a lovely wedding celebration in Atlanta, Ga, I was resting in my flat when all of a sudden I experienced extreme pain through my middle section and nausea.    After fifteen minutes, I realised something was very wrong and for the first time in my life, called an ambulance.

The ambulance service was superb.    Once they arrived I simply let go and gave myself to their knowledge and understanding.      Magical hummingbirds were clearly overseeing the situation.



On the way to the hospital it occurred to me that this might be it. It also occurred to me that where and how we die is not of great importance, ….the key is how we have lived our lives.

Have we loved and been loved? Have we loved the experience of being alive and all that entails? Have we done and said the things we wanted to do and say? Have we been grateful for gifts that we have been given? All of this was mulling around in my head….

Maybe it’s because I oversaw the care of my Mother for eleven years at home and in nursing homes, that I am very clear that I prefer quality over quantity. In other words, I would rather live a shorter life of substance and joy than a longer life inhibited by ill health.


And so I arrived at the A & E department ready for anything…and at the same time, although in pain, very peaceful and calm inside.

It was found that I had fluid on my lung, plus blood clots…one of which had destroyed my left kidney. {The good news is that my right kidney is still in good shape.}

I had gone to my doctor a few times since the beginning of the year, but hadn’t always taken her advice. I was convinced that whatever was going on would sort itself out! Well this time it didn’t….

summer tree – watercolour

For the following eight days I received superb treatment. So many tests, I lost count, plus constant updates from nurses and doctors and a feeling of being very well taken care of.

I have never enjoyed hospitals, or needles (had a serious needle phobia up until the age of 60) but this experience was different. I found it all very interesting and it’s left me wanting to learn more about the internal workings of my body.. It was as if fear was replaced with intrigue. Plus there was some wonderful ‘people watching’ to be enjoyed – although having said that I didn’t have the energy even to sketch!

Other than my lovely next door neighbour Jeanie who brought in clean pjs etc I didn’t tell anyone else that I was in the hospital. My two children in the States are still recovering from the sudden loss of their father in February and so I didn’t want to alarm them….and given that I was so tired, and occupied with tests, etc. I wasn’t up to people visiting me.

I did let my children know after three days….Since then they have been so very supportive and have told me not to do that again……

Brecon Beacons – Wales – watercolour

Since leaving the hospital, the support I have received has been wonderful….all of which I am very grateful for.

I suppose I am a little like a cat…..when I get sick, I tend to hide and nurse myself…..:) I even asked my dear friend Gail in Kent if I could hide out in their yurt. It hasn’t come to that, yet, but it seems like a good idea to me.

My aftercare has been excellent and is ongoing. Still lots of tests…including heart scans…. It’s all quite fascinating.

Church Path – Crickhowell – watercolour

I was asked by a good friend yesterday what has been the most important part of my life. My answer ‘creativity’.

It is this one element that has made sense of everything else and has enhanced and nurtured the great joys in my life, – my children, friends, animals, etc. It has also been a great buffer against the trials and tribulations that we all experience through life’s journey.

Those who read my blog will know that I am always banging on about ‘The Creative Process being the key to Emotonal, Physical and Spiritual Wellbeing’. It’s true.

watercolour /gouache

This experience has given me cause for much reflection.

Painting, writing, gardening, and all sorts of other creative endeavours will take precedence.

Much more time spent communing with Mother Nature……

As little time as possible in cities……

And I definitely need to organise my life so that I can have a cat again…..:)

Christeve the Cat – watercolour/gouache

Fortunately I don’t have anything on my calendar until October….and so my plan is to just hang loose. Each day I am able to do more writing and painting….and as I said earlier am feeling better all the time.

I hope everyone else is enjoying their summer and keeping well….and of course being creative.

A Bientot


At a time of division, wise words from Nelson Mandela

“I am fundamentally an optimist.   Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say.   Part of being an optimist is keeping one’s head pointed towards the sun, one’s feet moving forward.     There were many moments when my faith in humanity was surely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair.    That way lays defeat and death.”    Nelson Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom’

Portuguese woman – 201620-11-15 - 1 (199)As a portrait painter, I have been fortunate enough to work with people of all ages, nationality, faith and gender from around the world.

Quentin – Brittany, France – 1995P1150314

What I have learned is that we are intrinsically the same.    We have the same needs, hopes  and fears.

Young girl – Mission Hill School – Boston – 2013


When we look at life only through the lens of different cultures we tend to see the surface.    However, when we get past the veneer, we are able to learn and gain so much from different customs and ways of doing things…….and in doing this we also learn about our similarities.

Zebedee – Crickhowell, Wales – 1995

1077572_10151794329765396_713720459_oI wrote a blog recently about my childhood in England after WWII – when the powers that be were beginning to integrate the young people of Europe with the hope that it would prevent more terrible wars.       It was a time of hope and of bringing people together from many different cultures.

Peter James Redmond – USA – 2012

192175_10151147549835396_728758025_o Today we are seeing the UK and Europe suddenly divided – something that did not have to happen.     I personally feel that the British public have been made pawns in a political poker game, regardless of how they chose to vote.       

Akyaka, Turkey  – 2008


I am very clear that nothing is perfect and that throughout our world today there is much misery, hardship and danger  – and yet I am also clear that there are times in history when humankind has stepped backwards….and I fear that we in the UK have just taken such a step.

However, I will continue to hold onto my belief that the creative process in all its many forms, which in essence is all about communication….is one of the key elements which can lead us towards emotional, physically and spiritually wellbeing, regardless of our social identity.

Margarida – Portugal – 2016

20-11-15 - 1 (93)

And so I for one will keep heading towards the sun, keep moving forward…..and like a magical hummingbird endeavour through my work to soar above all the madness:)

976253_10151660779970396_1579837650_o-2 no sig


A bientôt


Quintin – Little boy lost. –

This is another short, true story about a ‘little boy lost – named Quintin’

Watercolour portrait of Quintin 


‘I was staying with friends in Scaer, a small town in Brittany, France.    It was the summer of 1995, and the day was very hot.

Friends of my hosts came to visit with their children, along with a little boy who had recently become the victim of a difficult divorce.      His Mother, a solicitor, had recently moved to Paris for work – and the Father had gone elsewhere.

It was clear from the moment I met the little boy that he felt alienated…unable to join in with the other children.     For that matter, I was feeling a little alienated myself, in that the talk was all about the parent’s divorce.

I took him into the garden where we found a shady spot beneath a beautiful tree.   We sat together for a long time…just quietly taking one another in.

When I started to sketch him with my watercolours, he began to show interest.    For the first time he spoke and told me his name was ‘Quintin’  –  in England we would spell and pronounce it as Quentin.

I am not sure exactly how long we sat together, but I do know that by the time I painted the portrait shown here, we had established a special bond.

Sometime later that day, Quintin and the people who had brought him left.    I will never forget how difficult it was for us both to say goodbye.

I never saw Quintin again, or found out what happened to him.     Today he would be about 25 years old.     If I were ever to meet him again, I would give him this portrait.

I also hope that the magical hummingbirds are looking over him, wherever he is.


A bientôt

Seeing behind the surface.

In an age of mass communication where it seems that everyone is plugged into something…..are we seeing more or just skimming across the surface of life?

I took this photograph next to Trafalgar Square, London during one of the many Olympic events and celebrations.



As an artist and portrait painter, I have had the privilege to look into the eyes of many people.

Twenty years ago, when I returned home to the UK/Europe after spending 28 years in the States, I had an exhibition in Brittany, France.     The exhibition was made up of portraits from Wales, America and France, and although I had painted spontaneous watercolour portraits before, (mostly as sketches for large oils)…it wasn’t until this point that I realised it was a way for me to really understand and see people…beyond the surface.

Christopher Seagrave-Daley visited me in Wales, and agreed to model for a workshop I was giving.




More recently I attended a three day seminar in London.   On the final day, all 150 of the participants were asked to sit in rows….Over the course of one hour and twenty minutes, each row would walk to the front of the room and scan the faces of the group.    Then another row was asked to make a line in front of those already standing….and as the leader said…get closer to the person in front of you than you would normally feel comfortable, and then simply look into their eyes.

Initially, there were those who were clearly very uncomfortable with this….and others who were moved to tears….and there were others who got the giggles…..(part of being uncomfortable) – however, as the time evolved….a stillness came over the room and it became clear that this was a new and profound experience for everyone involved. 

Woman in Akyaka, Turkey.    During the hour that we spent together, not a word was spoken.   It was not necessary, because we spoke through our eyes.    We both saw beneath the surface of one another, and in doing so had a much deeper understanding.



I stopped driving 20 years ago when I returned to the UK.    Since then I have designed my life in such a way that I don’t need a car.

This has given me a greater freedom to observe others…especially as I take public transportation all over London and many other places.      I will often wear dark glasses so that I can observe without making others uncomfortable.

Jean Paul, Paris – Gardener, artist and gentle soul



What becomes clear the more we take the time to see beyond the surface,  is that we are all part of the same humanity and that we are all interconnected.

Young girl at Mission Hill School, Boston



We all have the same hopes and dreams…..It is only when we stop really seeing one another that we forget this.

Claudia Nottale, when she visited me in Wales




I decided sometime ago that I didn’t want to just skim across the surface of life.    I made the decision to keep looking and learning.

Jean Marie – Le Pecq, France.    A wonderful artist – one who always sees beyond the surface. 





A Bientôt