Tag Archives: Gail Duff author

The Wheel of the Year – with not beginning and no end.

‘The cycle of light and dark, of planting and harvest, of leaves budding, opening and falling, is an ever-turning wheel that has no beginning and no end.   It rolls through the seasons, changing the landscape, and influencing the things that we do and the way that we feel.    Each time of the year is special, with its own particular feelings, smells and atmospheres – and, if we allow it, it’s effect on our lives……’   From the introduction of  – Gail Duff’s book – The Wheel of the Wiccan Year. 

The winter tradition of ice skating at Hampton Court Palace. hampton-court-panorama

I enjoyed a very special and lovely holiday season.   I spent it with my friends, Gail and Mick in their home in Kent.      A home set in the middle of countryside in a place where one can still believe that life hasn’t changed too much.

We have known one another since starting school together at five years old….Mick and Gail married and have just celebrated their 50th anniversary.

We are all artists.      Gail a writer, singer, song-writer – to name a few of her attributes and Mick a photographer, musician.

Gail Duff – Watercolour1094709_10151869967675396_22212606_oMick Duff – photographer, musician

1048835_10151869969370396_914185022_oI was invited to their annual Yule celebration on the 21st December – celebrating the winter solstice.       A lovely event, considered to be one of the most joyful celebrations of the year.     

In the evening, friends arrived bearing food and gifts.    In their sitting room with the Christmas tree sparkling and candles ablaze there was a wonderfully festive feeling.

From Gail’s book – The Wheel of the Wican Year, we learn that Yule is the festival most rich in remembered tradition and ritual.    In the early days of Christianity people were reluctant to give up their Pagan path and the Midwinter celebrations.    It was therefore decided that the birth of Christ should be celebrated at the same time.    This enabled the ritual dramas, songs and decorations to be be continued with Christian meaning.

rapid watercolour of their daughter Lucy with violin.     20-11-15 - 1 (1134)For the first time in many years,  I enjoyed carol singing.    We went from house to house  in one of the local villages and it was wonderful.    I had forgotten how joyful an experience it is.

For Christmas day we enjoyed a Goose with all the trimmings – plus of course plum pudding and Christmas Cake – and it seems to me numerous mince pies and chocolate……This was followed by games and much laughter.

On Boxing Day (for the uninitiated the day after Christmas) we went to Leeds Castle, where we walked, communed with the swans, ducks and other birds, and enjoyed the beautiful Christmas trees throughout the castle.

Ducks in the moat diving for the seeds. 20-11-15 - 1 (1372)Leeds Castle – during the Solstice – The mid winter atmosphere was perfect. 20-11-15 - 1 (1356)Geese in a row – Leeds Castle Kent20-11-15 - 1 (1361)During this period, I realised that in so many ways we have lost touch with the rhythms and magic of each season.

From a commercial stand point, the large corporations remind us constantly of the next holiday – prompting us to purchase all sorts of unnecessary stuff – which brings me to the big question.      Our we still in touch with the emotional and physical effects on our lives that the different seasons bring?     

A musical celebration in a local pub.    A lovely way to spend a mid winter’s afternoon. 20-11-15 - 1 (1411)Given the way we shop and live, we have come to believe that all fruits and vegetables are available at any time during the year.

In out techno charged world, there are many who have lost touch with the rhythms of our 24 hour day, let alone the seasons.

Our cities are flooded with artificial light, which disturbs our body clocks causing for many a lack of sleep and feelings of well being.

How different a place the world would have been for the people  in this photograph which was hanging in the pub – and it wasn’t that long ago!20-11-15 - 1 (1387)  All of this has brought to mind, the rapid and dramatic changes that have occurred for all of us during recent years.

For anyone interested in learning more about the natural rhythms and seasons of the year, I highly recommend Gail’s book ‘The Wheel of the Wiccan’.      Through the book we can learn about the ancient traditions that brought us to the holidays we have today…..

There are some that might say ancient traditions are gone – and that we need to focus on the future.

These ancient traditions were put in place to protect our natural world and how we live in it and relate to it.       I think it is of vital importance that we respect them.

Of course, I must close with magical hummingbirds…..a little bird that adheres to the ever changing seasons.


A BIentot









A Wassailing We Will Go…….

On Saturday 14th January I took the train to Kent and stayed with my good friends Gail and Mick.    We began school together at the tender age of five!     The Camp School was set in the middle of bluebell woods and was comprised of wooden army huts from the war….(this was post war Britain)    All in all it was an idyllic setting and way to begin school life.

Mrs. Whitefield, one of our teachers, believed in keeping local ancient traditions alive, and thus influenced Gail and Mick to involve themselves in the traditional arts of South East England.     Gail has written numerous books on the subject and written plays which are performed in schools….

quick watercolours of Gail and Mick painted a couple of years ago. 



On Saturday evening 14th January, we drove out to The Gate pub- Marshside to celebrate the ancient custom of Wassailing.    It was the perfect evening…cold, clear, with stars and moon shining brightly.

As we ate a delicious meal in the Pub in front of a roaring fire.   It felt as if we had gone back in time.     (please excuse my photographs – I didn’t want to use a flash, and so they are somewhat grainy, however, in a way they capture the atmosphere) 

20-11-15-1-56320-11-15-1-634The Wassailing bowl awaits the celebrations……..20-11-15-1-605

Then it was out to the ancient apple tree orchard which surrounds the pub where the reciting of incantations and singing to the trees hopefully will promote a good harvest for the coming year.


The word ‘Wassail’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase ‘Waes hael’ which means – Good health.    After singing to the trees, the Wassail bowl was passed around the crowd.    Originally the Wassail was a drink made from mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar……

Guns were fired and then the celebrations began…..

1481540745_15420853_10154762474102442_4475831116796379836_nBack into the warmth of the Pub….for much merriment and wonderful music……

20-11-15-1-646A picture of The Gate – Marsh Side during the day time.

I highly recommend for it’s lovely atmosphere and wonderful food…especially on a cold winter’s night. gate_inn_boyden_gate_chislet_41_0A Bientot

Happy Birthday Mick.

Today is my friend Mick Duff’s 70th birthday.   


Mick and I first met when we were five years old.     We attended The Camp School in Kent, situated in the middle of bluebell woods and housed in wooden army huts from the war, it was a wonderful foundation for creative spirits.

Gail, Mick’s wife, came to The Camp School when she was about seven – and yes, they married and together have lived a life filled with creativity, along with producing their glorious daughter, Lucy.

There was no central heating in the classrooms, – we grew vegetables in little gardens around the huts, which we ate for our lunch.   We danced around the maypole, as well as lots of country dancing.    We walked and ran everywhere….no being ferried around in cars…

Mick and Gail are very involved with keeping up ancient English folk lore traditions.  They believe that their love of this came directly from one particular teacher at The Camp School, Mrs Whitefield. 

When we get together, it’s as if no time has gone by at all….as if we are exactly the same as we were back then……long may that last.

May the magical hummingbirds always surround you, Mick.


A Bientôt

Landscape exercise using gouache.

I visited my old school friends Mick and Gail last weekend in Kent, and although quite warm there was a feel of change in the air, and indeed this week all of a sudden autumn is definitely with  us.

I love the subtle change in colour as one season moves to the next, which I recorded in this landscape exercise.


I began by using an old sketch.    Remember this is an excellent way to warm up.   There’s a sense of freedom about working on paper that has already been used.

This was the old sketch, which I turned upside down.   I will use this sketch as I would a colour ground…


I am using Winsor & Newton Designer Gouache for this exercise.    Gouache is opaque which means it can cover strong colours.       With a wet brush I add some Permanent white, and allow the colour underneath to be picked up and mixed with it.


I am working the sky area in an energetic manner – again allowing the colour on the original sketch to blend into the white……


Note the suggestion of blue hills on the right of picture and how I have lightened the sky above the hills and horizon line.

I then add light green and naples yellow into the foreground, and while the paint is wet, indicate dark trees and hedgerows.     There is no detail….it’s an impression, and I am working very quickly.


Given that the sky reflects upon the land, I have taken some of the Naples Yellow into the sky so that the two elements of the picture, sky and land are interconnected.


Final image.


Regardless of my subject matter, or where I am painting, Magical Hummingbirds are always with me.    HummingbirdHQ.com



Have a lovely weekend.



A Bientôt

Special friends

This week I have my dear friend Claudia Notalle visiting from Paris.    We first met in 1977 and have been close friends ever since.     I have painted Claudia many times over the years…..here is one of the paintings in sequence. 

Watercolour and gouache painted over an unsuccessful sketch 






Today we are off to Kent to visit more friends for a day in the countryside. 

Have a lovely weekend.


A Bientôt