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Four weeks in beautiful Brittany…Part 1

I have decided to split this blog into two parts.       The first part will be an overview of my four week stay in Brittany.     The second part,  will focus on what our leaving the EU means to me and my many European friends.

When I began writing this blog nearly fourteen years ago, I made a commitment not to talk about politics.      However,  back then none of us had any idea of the madness we would find ourself in today!

After my recent trip, and then the commemoration of D Day and everything it stands for, I am moved to write on a more in depth personal level.

First the overview.

Separated by the English Channel, this map shows our close proximity to northern France.    Map - English ChannelI took the EuroStar train  (one of my favourite forms of travel) from London to Paris which takes two hours and twenty minutes.       From Paris Nord the metro to Paris Montparnasse where I caught the TGV to Lorient.       My dear friend Elisabeth was waiting to take me to the cottage at Lamor-Plage .      Everything on time, and very comfortable and if you book way ahead of time, inexpensive.

Elisabeth – in the cottage garden20190515_130110I first met Elisabeth when I was living in Crickhowell (AKA The Magical Town of Crickadoon) Wales almost thirty years ago and subsequently really got to know her when I had an exhibition in Brittany in 1995.        She is an amazing woman involved in many different areas always helping other people.    She is a good friend.

The poster from that exhibition28701436_10156170620555396_5832736884418070645_oI can’t feature Elisabeth without showing  her dog dear little Nouchka.     Nouchka is very special…..I love her:)20190527_190545The lovely cottage I stayed in came about because of Elisabeth.   When I was with her in March 2018, we had lunch with her friend Nicole, who just happened to mention that her son  had a cottage for rent……the rest is history.61452683_10157261746160396_3668991356094644224_oAnd to add icing to the cake – I arrived at the cottage to find all sorts of goodies, courtesy Elisabeth and Nicole…..a lovely welcome 60333444_10157206747210396_869104246006480896_oDuring my first week, French actress Patricia Pekmezian joined me and was kind enough to sit for several portrait studies.    We had a really lovely time together and talked at great length about the arts and life in general……

watercolour61676983_10157279497840396_5977241380945133568_o   watercolour/gouache20190513_084156Patricia in the cottage garden61954572_10157279495935396_6012649482175381504_oTowards the end of the month Alice Johnson arrived from the States….Another good friend and artist.    We go back many years.        We enjoyed painting together and everything else on offer….

Happy times were experienced at the Lamor-Plage beach.    Here is Alice waiting to enjoy another delicious French lunch.

20190527_150255Meanwhile,    it was so lovely to spend time by the beach and to experience the wonderful fresh air.       Patricia and I spent a day on L’ile de Groix – an island I would love to spend more time on.    There are miles and miles of amazing coastal walks to be enjoyed and of course so perfect for sketching and painting.

Patricia waiting for the ferry to take us to L’ile de Groix.20190511_100022The beach at Lamor- Plage580054b0_originalAnd then there were the wonderful musical concerts.     Brittany much like Wales is known for its love of music and we were not disappointed on this trip.       One of the concerts featured a Welsh and Breton choir….bringing home our deep connections and similarities.

Elisabeth’s partner Herve…is involved with Les Gabiers d Artimon.     As a choir they perform all over France plus more recently in Quebec, China and Russia.    Talk about wonderful ambassadors.    _1During Alice’s visit we were fortunate enough to attend a big concert in the Lorient Theatre with its one thousand seats….all filled.    The concert was uplifting and moving, and again cemented the positive ties that we in the UK have with so many of our European brothers and sisters.

Les Gabiers D’artimon performing at the Lorient Theatre. 2867_2019053011341487.jpg Then of  course there was the food…..Oh La La…….Eaten with Breton salted butter this bread is divine……...61992592_10157276804560396_3690182544344481792_nAnd the glorious patisseries that can be found in every village, town and city in France….d114f9d889e0ace18604cda0ef39966bThere is so much interesting history surrounding the area…especially involving WW2…which I will write about in my second half.

I could go on and on, but key to all of this was the amazing hospitality of the Breton people.        Beautiful people living in one of my favourite regions of France. 

I will be away for the next week or so to enjoy a very special wedding.     I  plan to write the second part of this blog after I return around the 21st June.

Don’t forget the magical hummingbirds….watercolour.

20190110_120705

A bientot

Janet.

I will catch up with blogs and messages after I return from the wedding.    Suit case will be packed away…and I am here for the summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Accident of Birth – short story about Sid the Boxer

I always carry a sketchbook and watercolours with me so that I can make quick sketches of the fascinating people I come across.

This short story is about one of those meetings.    The day I met Sid The Boxer.

Sid the Boxer.    watercolour  20190304_141151I first visited Barnes, SW London in August of 2005.

I was preparing to leave Wales where I had been living and working for thirteen years  to move to London, primarily for work, and to be closer to my failing elderly Mother.     It had  been suggested that I rent rooms in a house in Barnes in SW London.

This particular visit was to take a look at the area before making the move in October 2005.

On what was a lovely summer’s morning, I packed my watercolours and something to eat and went off to explore.

I found a promising place in a little park next to the river Thames between Barnes and Mortlake and set myself up on a bench.     During the next hour or so I enjoyed the sense of peace and tranquility that comes when I am painting and communing with nature.

Across the little park from where I was sitting were a group of people on another bench.    Other than this group and myself, there seemed to be no-one else around.       Eventually the group got up and began to walk towards the river and then towards me.     My first thought was that I hoped they wouldn’t want to chat with me and disturb my solitude.

As the group steered towards the river (thank goodness) one of its members broke away and came directly towards me.       He was a big man with dark glasses, drinking a large can of beer and generally looking rather disheveled.      He said ‘Hey love – you wanna paint my portrait’?     I looked at him and said ‘Actually yes – I would love to on the condition that I paint one for you and one for me‘.      I motioned for him to sit at  the end of the bench.

Clearly very surprised at my response….he actually became quite nervous.     ‘Did I mind if he drank his beer‘?   ‘Should he take his dark glasses off’?     I told him to make himself comfortable and then as I painted him he began to tell me about his life.

His name was Sid the Boxer – be was born into a gypsy travelling family and had spent most of his life in reform schools and prison.     That he had only recently been released from Wandsworth Prison for attempted murder.   Banned from every pub in Barnes and surrounding areas, he basically spent most of his time wandering around with his friends during the day time, until they could return to their hostel.

As dangerous as this might sound, I knew instinctively, intuitively that there was nothing to be afraid of.       I learned that Sid had a daughter who he hadn’t seen for over thirty-five years.   Sid had been a very good boxer and he went on to tell me this talent had kept him alive and given him respect when in prison.   It had been his protection.

As we came to the end of our time together, he asked if I had gone to a special school to learn to be an artist.    I told him that I had gone to the Medway College of Arts in Rochester Kent, and he exclaimed with great delight.   ‘That’s where I went to Borstal’ – (a boys reform school for the uninitiated)”!

We shook hands and Sid the Boxer left with his sketch and I kept mine.     As I thought about our meeting, I recognised what an accident of birth our start in life is.   In the random nature of things, Sid had been dealt a tricky hand, however he used his best attribute, that of being a boxer to survive.

Wherever Sid the Boxer and his sketch is, I send him this magical hummingbird, and hope that he is able to drink from some of the sweet nectar of life – if not in this life, maybe the next……..

20190117_095823The moral to this story, is to never leave home without a sketchbook…..You never know what interesting person you might meet……

A Bientôt.

http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

http://www.artinthealgarve.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egrets, landscapes, flower …and of course a hummingbird….

I am off to beautiful Wales to paint…where I will be visiting good friends and enjoying the landscape that I love so much.

I leave you today with a selection of watercolours.

Egrets20180703_105444Dancing egrets

20180702_121621Egrets

20180704_095040

Brecon Beacons Wales – watercolour/gouache14469553_10154468939745396_1844020549123219472_nBrecon Beacons Wales – watercolour16904783_10154965677830396_2036381033997258090_owatercolour10382397_10152516622955396_2496524330039626324_o-2

Magical Hummingbird.

20180629_072804I will be back here in about ten days.       Janet

http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

A very special trip to France. Viva la Difference………

Viva la Difference.       I have just visited two very different regions of France.    For the first half of the trip I stayed in an ancient hill village situated in the Pyrenees, Languedoc-Roussillon region.     (I will write about this in my next blog)   20-11-15 - 1 (1315)For the second part of my trip I stayed in Ploeumeur – very close to Lorient in the Brittany Region.

In 1995 (two years after I returned to the UK/Europe from the United States) I had an exhibition in Brittany.    At that time I fell in love with the people and the wonderful traditions of the region.

My subject in the exhibition poster is a young girl named Solen.    I remember painting her when she visited Crickhowell, Wales– which brings forth another important connection.     Wales and Brittany are both of Celtic heritage.      Both places share a love of the arts, music and enjoy very strong traditions.

Note that in 1995, I was still signing my paintings  Janet Reed.   Shortly after this, I began to use my maiden name Weight Reed. 20-11-15 - 1 (1642)During this visit I stayed with my dear friend Elisabeth (Babeth), her lovely partner Erve and their beautiful little dog Nouchka:)    I first met Elisabeth when she visited Crickhowell, Wales in 1993 – the year I arrived there….and we have been good friends since.      Today she lives a minute’s walk from beautiful beaches…..and is very happy.

With multi talented Elisabeth on a windy beach in Brittany.    Elisabeth paints, makes music and is a wonderful cook. 20-11-15 - 1 (1584)And with Helene (Elisabeth’s sister-in-law) who I have also known for many years….such special friends 20-11-15 - 1 (1582)It was through the 1995 exhibition that I realised how much I enjoyed painting people in a rapid watercolour style.    I recognised that I captured through the portraits a moment in time…..and most importantly, I was able to connect with the people I met in a very special way. 

I first painted Vincent, one of Elisabeth’s children, when he was seven years old – today he is in his mid thirties.      This little portrait shows a moment in time – a moment in Vicent’s life. 20-11-15 - 1 (1566)And beautiful Maelle – Elisabeth’s daughter – seventeen years old when I painted this and now a mother of two children and living in Vancouver. 20-11-15 - 1 (1568)And dear Nicholas – who I saw on this visit (now in his mid thirties) and today resembling one of Cezanne’s self portraits.    As I spoke with Nicholas I could still see the little boy in him.20-11-15 - 1 (1567)I have so many lovely stories about the people I have painted in many different countries.    Often we don’t speak a common language, but painting like music becomes a Universal language – crossing all barriers.

A quick watercolour of Elisabeth as we enjoyed conversation….201820-11-15 - 1 (1572)Another of her partner Erve – musician and all round good man.  201820-11-15 - 1 (1571)Erve who is part of a Breton male choir ‘Les Gabiers d’Artimon’ –   playing the Binjou – a bagpipe type instrument20-11-15 - 1 (1588)Erve leading a group on an exercise programme in the sea very close to where he and Elisabeth live.        They do this no matter what the weather…20-11-15 - 1 (1517)One of the many beautiful beaches that go on for miles and miles….20-11-15 - 1 (1541)The Little Port of Doelan in Finistaire- where the French version of Doc Martin is filmed…..What a surprise that was !   Along with Nicole, a lovely friend of Elisabeth, we enjoyed a superb lunch and afterwards a walk along the cliffs. 20-11-15 - 1 (1621)In visiting this region I am reminded that England and France were once geographically joined.…which is why parts of SW England (Cornwall and Devon) resemble so much of Brittany.    Other than the fact that Brittany has better summers, the weather is also also similar.

And then there are the crepes – in every flavour imaginable….and they are delicious, as is all French food………20-11-15 - 1 (1525)During my forty five year career I have experienced moments when I wondered how could I continue….how could I go on?      This trip has reminded me of how fortunate I am to have lived the life I have – to have met so many wonderful people.    To live the life of an artist.

I must finish this post with darling little Nuouchka, who has definitely found a place in my heart. 20-11-15 - 1 (1561)And of course a magical hummingbird – or Colibri Magique.….they were with me all the way. 20-11-15 - 1 (766)Wishing one and all a beautiful day and weekend ahead.

A Bientot

http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

A Christmas story about a homeless little cat and how she found hope, trust and courage….

The subject of homelessness becomes more prevalent every day.     Whether one of the millions of stateless people roaming the earth, or people we encounter on the streets of our towns and cities – the problem looms ever greater.

I wrote and illustrated a children’s Christmas story 15 years ago entitled ‘Christeve the Cat Finds Her Home’.     Based on a true story, it focuses on the arrival of a little cat into my life on Christmas Eve 1996 when I was living in Crickhowell, Wales.   

I have been displaced a couple of times in my life, and know what it is to yearn for a home of my own.    In many ways this story is autobiographical.   It is filled with symbolism including of course the magical hummingbirds.

In the story the little cat was homeless and had been living in a tree across from my cottage.   I believed that she belonged to Mr. Pickford, one of my neighbours and so had not been concerned about her.

My neighbour, Mr. Pickford. 20-11-15 - 1 (1340)Here is the lonely little cat wishing she could live in a nice warm cottage like the one across from her tree. 20-11-15 - 1 (1330)“Sitting between mountains and watched by the moon, with magical hummingbirds weaving their love” this story takes place in The Magical Town of Crickadoon. 

The little cat looking over the Magical Town of Crickadoon. 20-11-15 - 1 (1339)During the long dark cold nights, every noise would give the little cat a fright, and sometimes she would cry.20-11-15 - 1 (1328)   One night when the winds began to roar and howl, the little cat had a visit from a wise old owl.    The wise owl told the little cat to be patient and trust.    To close her eyes and dream of magical hummingbirds.

Something inside of  her always knew that there was nothing to fear and that help was always near……..20-11-15 - 1 (1337)The little cat began to make friends with the birds and animals that lived beneath her tree.      After days of fun and play with her new friends the little cat would fall into a deep sleep and dream about finding a home of her own.

Some of the little cat’s new friends 20-11-15 - 1 (1336)One of her new friends, a red robin, told the little cat that she would never be alone because hummingbirds were always near, helping her to find a new home of her own. 20-11-15 - 1 (1325)One morning red robin and little cat woke to see that the Magical Town of Crickadoon was completely covered in snow.    everywhere the little cat looked, there was a special glow.20-11-15 - 1 (1335)Later that night when little cat was dreaming in her tree, a beautiful white hummingbird appeared.      White hummingbird told little cat that there was nothing to fear, and that after a terrible storm, all would be clear. 20-11-15 - 1 (1338)The next morning when the snow swirled and whirled and the winds roared and howled, the little cat felt so cold and alone was beginning to think that she would never find a home of her own.        20-11-15 - 1 (1334)In her dreams the little cat heard White Hummingbird say – “Don’t give into your fear, soon all will be clear. – Follow the light through the storm and there you will find your home, so cosy and warm”. 

As the little cat came closer to the only light she could see, she realised that it was shining from the cottage across from her tree.     As little cat reached the door and raised her paw she called out as loudly as could be…Meeeeeoooooowwwww, I am here, I am here…….

The door to the cottage across from her tree opened wide and there was Janet the Artist waiting inside. 20-11-15 - 1 (1333)Janet the Artist scooped up little cat with tenderness and love, and from high above the Magical Town of Crickadoon, hummingbirds of every colour were flying under the moon. 20-11-15 - 1 (1332)Janet the Artist named the little cat, Christeve the Cat because she had arrived on a very special Christmas Eve.

THE END

This is the actual cottage where Christeve the Cat and Janet the Artist lived together in The Magical Town of Crickadoon. 

30371_309193229185374_253873514_nChristeve the Cat settled into her new home and sitting on her favourite chair302846_309648909139806_918859733_nChristeve the Cat (on the left) with one of her friends sitting in her favourite place in the garden of her new home. til August 10 119http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk    http://www.zazzle.com/janet+weight+reed+gifts

A bientôt.

The colours of Autumn….

“Autumn’s the mellow time”      William Allingham

I am off to Wales and Somerset to be with good friends and of course take photographs and make watercolour sketches.     As usual I will take a break from technology during this period.

Back here around the 24th November.

Brecon Beacons – Wales – watercolour22289730_10155714657220396_7484313288302574968_oMist over the Usk Valley – Wales – watercolour21731439_10155640296835396_1011210038349474506_oCrug Howell – Usk Valley Wales – watercolour20-11-15 - 1 (1)view from Curlews – overlooking the Usk Valley Wales – watercolour21587193_10155634459635396_3638491708032799665_oBrecon Beacons Wales – watercolour/gouache22424479_10155722668785396_4972642561881605246_oI will of course travel with the Magical Hummingbirds….20-11-15 - 1 (772)

A Bientôt.

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When life is manageable

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony”   Thomas Merton.

Stair Hole, Lulworth, Dorset – part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site, which spans 185 million years of geological history.  – reminding me that we are but a blip in time and that ultimately Mother Nature rules!  watercolour  20-11-15 - 1 (1231)Given that I hadn’t been on the Isle of Wight since 1965, I decided to take a taxi from the Ryde ferry terminal to Bembridge where I was staying.      The taxi driver was lovely…a man who had moved to the Island from London thirty years ago.      As he pointed out, the Island works best for young families, people over sixty, and of course those who love to sail  – Cowes being a world class sailing arena.        His grown children have returned to London, a story I heard several times.     As he pointed out that despite a good internet connection, until the day a bridge or tunnel is built, connecting the Island with the mainland,  life as it is will probably continue.       (let’s hope they never build a tunnel or bridge…..)

After checking into my B & B I had planned on seeing my friend, artist and blogger, Sarah Vernon (First Night Design) however Sarah was taken into hospital on the day I arrived!       I am relieved and pleased to say that Sarah is now home, and will tell you all about her ordeal in her own words when she is more rested.   Get well soon Sarah.

Proving that there is a silver lining in most circumstances,  I did get to visit Sarah in Newport Hospital, which gave me the opportunity to take the beautiful and relaxing one and a half hour bus ride from Bembridge to Newport.

One of the photographs I took of Sandown from the top of the number 8 bus from Bembridge to Newport….it was a beautiful day.  20-11-15 - 1 (991)My overall first impressions were of a much slower pace of life,  of almost going back to how the UK was when I was growing up.    Everyone I encountered was extremely helpful, including the bus drivers.    People still queue.…and of course being a Brit I do like queues :).      There was no litter or graffiti….a sense of order prevailed.      In short it all felt very manageable.

It felt as if the Island has not outgrown its infrastructure.  Life appeared to be integrated rather than fragmented.    The opposite to feeling overwhelmed and isolated – which I believe is a huge problem for many in today’s society.  

Newport, the principal town of the Island, is often referred to as its capital.    Again very manageable, very easy to walk around…..I had a wonderful fish and chip lunch for £4!    Newport Hospital was just a short bust ride away from the town centre – everything felt easy.

Outside the Art Centre in Newport.    20-11-15 - 1 (1009)This visit was about getting a feel of the place.     Would I want to spend time there painting?    These are always my prime questions.     The answer is yes.    I would choose a village location with a bus route.    This would allow me to walk to shops/pubs etc, and with my London bus pass – free bus travel.     So it will definitely go on my list of places to explore and paint.

Part of the beautiful Isle of Wight coastline. 1500-isleofwight-creditNTI returned to the mainland via the Cowes ferry to Southampton where I had the sudden realisation that the last time I was on Southampton dock was  January 28th 1966 when I took the United States Liner to New York!   Talk about deja vu.   My friend Suzy, whose office sits right on the dock then drove me to Dorset.

I stayed with art college friend Maureen….always very enjoyable.       Although I don’t do very well with cars (anyone who knows me will  be smiling at this:)  Maureen took me to Lulworth Cove – part of the Jurassic Coast- and I am so pleased she did.     The weather could not have been more perfect and most importantly it was  visual feast.

Three different views of Stair Hole, Lulworth Cove, Jurrasic Coast  Dorset….watercolours. 20-11-15 - 1 (1235)

20-11-15 - 1 (1233)

 

This image of Lulworth Cove is taken a half a mile away from where I painted Stair Hole….61029843I began this post with Thomas Merton’s quote about balance, order rhythm and harmony.…elements I believe we all need in our lives.

Along with Crickhowell Wales, Saorge and other locations in France, the isle of Wight goes on my list of places where these elements are still to be found.

I am constantly reminded as I paint the magical hummingbird of how we can learn from Mother Nature – be it on the minute scale of the hummingbird or the rugged and grand scale of the Jurrasic Coast.       It is at our peril that we lose sight of this.

A magical hummingbird drinking from the sweet nectar of life. – watercolour/gouache20-11-15-1-358A Bientôt