Sunday, July 31, 2005

Stony beach

We went down to the stony beach yesterday. I wasn't too keen since this beach is in shade most of the afternoon due to the old city walls [the Ramparts].
However, it was very warm even though it was shady so it was pleasant to sit there even after swimming.
You can see the Ramparts in the photo belowand the Cathedral belltower and Castle are in the background.
The Ramparts are based on Roman walls but they were repaired and improved by the military architect Vauban so that they would withstand cannon fire.

The sea was a very pleasant temperature and very clear even though it was a little bit rougher than usual. When snorkelling, the waves were picking me up and throwing me a few feet so it was invigorating - but maybe not very pleasant for weak swimmers.
The sea looks deceptively calm here but the colour is accurate. The sea here is always amazing - it goes from deep azure blue [why this area was called the Cote d'Azur] to a frothy pale aquamarine when its very stormy. No wonder so many painters have been lured here.

I was talking to my 11 yr old son about Andy Goldsworthy a fantasitc sculptor who uses natural elements, leaves, stones, ice and snow to create sculpture and we ended up having a play around ourselves.
Taran is an expert at building things and sculpture so i could definitely see him heading off in this direction if it appeals to him later. He keeps adding to his skills and has taught himself how to carve stone and has recently been taught how to make chain mail.

This is Taran's stone pile - i had to blur out the background in photoshop to make the stones stand out since he had built his stone pile close to the Rampart wall.

My pile was much more pedestrian, and smaller, though i was trying to get a sort of rainbow effect from the different colours of stones.
I liked how it turned out with the sea in the background.

When we got back to the house the sun was setting and the sky was alive with colour - beautiful salmon pinks and peach blushed clouds. It was lovely to watch the sky change colour like a kalaeidoscope - its easy to get bogged down in day to day stuff and miss these things.


Saturday, July 30, 2005

more on gadgets

I was really deeply asleep this morning so i slept through the postman's buzz at the door. Now i need to ask the post office to get the new telephone delivered on monday.
I had the option of picking the phone up from a depot which was a bit out of the way bit its a lot easier to get to than the post office depot that deals with chronopost parcels - which is out by Nice airport.
I feel like an idiot now.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Gadgets and mobile phones

I am fond of gadgets - particularly if they are really functional and not just cool looking. Since i am having to eat 2 boiled eggs every day, i couldn't resist searching for an egg boiling gadget.
I spent some time looking at various devices and reading their reviews and i finally ended up with one in the shape of a chicken. It wouldn't have been my first choice on looks , but i suppose its quite cheery and it had the best reviews.

I do like buying things on the web since i love getting parcels in the post , and this arrived really quickly and in time for breakfast!
The verdict -it is a really good gadget for boiling [or rather steaming since that how it cooks them] eggs. Its pretty fast and hassle free too

It takes less time than using a pot and only a miniscule amount of water - i used too much water at first since i didn't believe that such a small amount would produce good results. I had to follow the instructions the next time as the extra water over cooked the eggs, and i am really fussy about boiled eggs.

After the chicken shaped egg boiler i had to buy a new mobile phone. My daughter dropped hers and the screen stopped working so i ended up buying a new phone [which should hopefully arrive tomorrow] so that she could have mine.

I will end up with a phone that can do just about everything and i really wanted a plain vanilla phone that could be used for sending texts, phoning people and to use as an alarm.
This new one has a bulit in mp3 player which i'm unlikely to use since i already have an mp3 player and a digital camera which i won't use very often since i carry my digital camera with me most of the time anyway. I used to have a really old digital camera with low resolution and poor optics so i don't particularly want another one - still i suppose i could have a low function phone if i wasn't too miserly to want to pay for one and this one will only cost the carriage price since its an upgrade for loyalty to the phone company.

Not really a gadget, at least its a bit big to be a gadget, was this giant balalaika that i saw in town. An odd sight to see in Antibes, but it belonged to a Ukrainian group of buskers wandering around Europe. The music was pretty good - made a change from buskers with the ubiquitous pan pipes and charangos made of armadillo shells.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Beach and swimming

I went down to the beach with my kids today. It was pretty crowded, though not as busy as it will get in August. Thankfully my kids are happy with going late in the day - partly for avoiding the strongest sun rays and partly since its much nicer when there aren't a million people spread over the sand like ants.

I wasn't sure about swimming due to my shoulder but i ended up swimming out to call back my son and his friend who were out further than i was happy with.

I don't think they realised how far out they were since the sea bed drops and rises again -so they felt they were within their depth. Anyway, i felt happier with them somewhat closer to shore. My shoulder wasn't too happy though.

This plant is rock samphire- it used to be eaten as a vegetable centruries ago but went out of fashion for some reason. It grows all over the place near the sea here, but in Britain it tends to be found only on cliffs. In fact when it was a popular delicacy people in Britain used to climb down cliffs to pick the shoots - a pretty risky business.
Shakespeare even talks about samphire pickers in King Lear

"Half-way down Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!" Shakespeare, King Lear.
I had to look this quote up - i'm not someone with a vast knowledge od Shakespeare.

This is a mediterranean pine tree- I was taking photos of the bark for use as paper textures and when i looked up it reminded me of one of Georgia O'Keefe's paintings the Lawrence tree.The resin smell was really strong since it has been so hot- very incense-ish and wonderful. I really like pine resin.
Near the pine , there are some flower beds and i was quite captivated by the intense colours. I thought the pictures would be good to look at in winter since these flowers really seem to say summer and heat, to me at least.

I have a notion that the large yellow flowers might be called black eyed susans. They were stunning anyway - almost glowing in the shade under the trees.

I took the picture below later in the day - its a half ruined sandcastle with the Old Town of Antibes and the castle [Chateau Grimaldi] in the background. I carefully avoided getting people on the beach in the frame and missed the swimmer.


Monday, July 25, 2005

Fruit trees and other stuff

Another day and more photos - i think i am becoming obsessed with fruit though, since i have to follow this medical diet that currently doesn't allow fruit. Anyway, I discvovered another fruit tree in some waste ground - this time its a fig tree. You can just see some small immature figs and i will probbaly take some more photos as the summer progresses to monitor the ripening.

Of course the fruit ban isn't helped by living next to a garden full of vines. All summer the vines reach out and tangle round our stairs and fence and washing line and so there are always grapes close at hand. You can see some of the grapes beside this decorative urn - it brought to mind images of cornucopias. The grapes will turn dark red in a few weeks and then the garden will be filled with birds gorging themselves for winter and the sticky wine scent of fermenting grapes as they lie in heaps on the path.

On the way home from Juan Les Pins I saw this edible snail [escargot de bourgogne] on a metal fence. They have really beautiful shells and apparently have a lifespan of up to 6 years - provided they havent been cooked in garlic butter, that is.
Its a pity the snail was hiding from the sun since this type if snail has a realy lovely pattern to its skin.

I'm not sure what the insect above is - i saw it on our wall this morning and thought it looked strange. I went through some reference books and tried a google search but had no luck in identifying it.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

some old photos

I remembered some photos today of a butterfly sitting on a Goddess statue , taken a few years ago at Beaulieu sur mer. [we were visiting Villa Kerylos at the time]

It was one of those amazing photo opportunities that usually happen when the camera isn't charged or has been left at home.
The butterfly is a red admiral


Friday, July 22, 2005

Illustration Friday - Tranquility

This weeks Illustration Friday topic is Tranquility -which was synchronous since i had been thinking along those lines today, when I was at the physio and doing exercises in water.

My initial thought for tranquility was 'the sea of tranquility' on the Moon. I thought about drawing swimming astronauts or aliens but went off that idea quickly.

I then thought back to today's physio session and my ponderings about being weightless and amniotic fluid and calm. I had been doing shoulder excercises but while i was relaxing later Kate Bush's song Breathing kept coming into my head.
Anyway my final thought was to do a baby swimming in the sea of tranquility ie the womb , and making it a kind of celestial baby - like the man in the Moon's child.

I used my memories of my children's ultrasound [sonogram] tests to draw the foetus and used quite a few of the textures i have been photgraphing recently to get the uterine veiny look and the softness of the baby.

Swimming in the Sea of Tranquility


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Undersea Activity Page

Here is an activity page with some interesting facts about sea creatures.
Click on the images and either print directly from the browser or save the image and print from a photo manipulation or similar program.

Kids activity page
Can be printed and used in a family setting - no alterations, publication, commercial distribution and other uses without permission


Photographic treasure hunt

I went out with my camera today in the hopes of getting some beetles and lizard reference photos- however i was out of luck. I only saw one lizard and it wasn't really close enough to get a good photo.
I did find a strange pile of snail shells - see below

I'm not sure why there was such a large pile - the road isn't a place where children play . I wondered if a bird had maybe piled them up , strange anyway.

Its amazing what you can see when you go out looking for photo opportunities. I've walked past this small tree hundreds of times without realising it was a mirabelle plum tree. Mirabelles plums are tiny little sweet things with a reddish blush when they are ripe. They are popular in the Alsace region - I expect this tree was once part of someones garden but now it is growing in a tiny scrap of waste ground beside a car wash.

I expect they will all go to waste or maybe the birds will eat them. I find it really strange that so many people here have cherry, lemon, pomegranate and orange trees in their gardens but they mostly don't pick the fruit. And yet, all sorts of fruits of different varieties are on sale in the markets and shops; so its not that people don't eat much fruit.

The last picture is just some purple flowers i saw. I had to hold the camera up to get the photo so its amazing that it turned out ok. I have no idea what kind of flower it is, but i liked it.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Physio and other stuff

The physiotherapy seems to be helping, though each session makes my shoulder and neck feel much worse for a day or so afterwards.
I had some light neck and shoulder traction today which felt ok at the time, just mild pressure/dull aches but its now quite acute and i feel completely exhausted.
Very weird.
Next visit is on friday and we will be doing work in the pool so that should be interesting

One thing about the long physio sessions is that there is usually a period of about half an hour where i am hooked up to various machines, so my mind wanders over a variety of topics.

Today i was wondering how weird it would be if my 41 year old self met my 21 year old self.

At 21 i had only done a little bit of travelling and was decidedly cautious about foreign food; olive oil was a suspicious and slimy substance; foreign cheeses were weird and too soft and not strong enough in taste among other things.

I remember getting salad in Italy and wiping the oil off the leaves on a napkin as it seemed such an alien thing to me. Now of course i frequently ask for more olive oil- i have become an olive oil addict and we seem to go through masses of the stuff.

Once when back in Glasgow i shocked the waiter by asking for more olive oil and the chef came out of the kitchen tomhave a word with me. He was a real olive oil afficionado and spent some time discussing different types of oil before finally approving of my choice. He seemed really pleased to be asked for more oil- i suspect its an unusual request in Scotland.

In greece, i remember finding feta cheese strange and almost gritty in texture - though i did learn to like it by the time the holiday had ended. But now, although i still really like a good strong vintage cheddar cheese, i love all sorts of goat and sheep cheeses and still like feta crumbled over salad with a dressing of oil and balsamic vinegar.

Another weird thing for me at 21 was the strange cooked meats and sausages found on the continent - i found them overpowering and strangely textured and dry and a bit salty - now i prefer the continental sausage and cooked meats, and find the charcuterie strange when i'm back in the UK.
I think my younger self would find the current me alien , in many ways, and partiularly in terms of food lol


Monday, July 18, 2005


We went to the cinema in Nice yesterday to see Madagascar - there was a wee bit of pockling of the vote since it seemed that everyone wanted to see War of the Worlds - but somehow Taran had the casting vote and he went for Madagascar.
Actually the film was pretty good- much better than expected and it was even educational. I hadn't realised that lemurs were found in such huge numbers there and that they had a predator called a foosa.

I had wondered whether the foosa was a made up animal but it turns out to be true. Its a bizarre cat-dog-hyena like animal but is a member of the mongoose family. It even eats wild pigs and snakes along with the lemurs so quite and interesting creature. I don't see any pictures of the foosa on google but from the description it sounds like the animators had found something to draw from.
Just discovered that foosa is more frequently spelled fossa - so there are a lot more articles on the animal with this spelling

One detail that apparently wasn't right, is that in lemur society the females are the troop leaders- however the king lemeur was pretty funny in the movie.
The psychotic penguins were teriific and i imagine they might well star in a spin-off movie
It sounds as if the animators are definitly considering another movie.

We wandered around after the film since it was such a lovely night and decided to have dinner at a restaurant in Nice.
It was a lovely meal - even with my restricted diet -so i didn't even mind when everyone had home made and delicious desserts

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Illustration Friday - Karma

Karma is the topic for this week's Illustration Friday.
I was tempted to use Karma in the sense of 'just desserts' or reward for living righteously and do something based on the feather of Maat.

Maat was the Egyptian Goddess of Balance [in the sense of Equilibrium - of the Universe and of individual people]. The newly dead souls were brought to Maat's Hall and their hearts [consience] were weighed in the Balance against Maat's feather of Truth. If the heart weighed the same as the feather then the deceased soul could pass to the afterlife but if the heart was heavier, it was devoured by Ammut.
Ammut was a 'demoness' with the head of a crocodile and the body of a lion and the rear quarters of a hippo.

In the end i decided to paint the Lord of Karma , the elephant headed Hindu God, Ganesha [or Ganesh].
Ganesha is the God of Wisdom and Success and the Destroyer of Pride.

In Hindu mythology, Ganesha is depicted with a fairly human body and an elephant head with one broken tusk. A rat or mouse always accompanies him, sometimes Ganesha is depicted riding on the back of the mouse.
The mouse symbolises the quickness of the mind, the ability reason [and like the mouse, work our way to the bottom of things] but also represents fickleness and that human thoughts are easily swayed by good or ill.

Ganesha is always shown with more than 2 arms - multiple arms is a symbol of Divinity. Each hand holds one of Ganesha's symbols [apparently there are over 50 symbols commonly associated with Ganesha]
In this image i have shown him with an axe to cut down the obstacles in life's path ; a rope , to carry devotees to Truth; the abaya pose [open hand meaning 'without fear'] which is a protective or blessing sign and prayer beads.

Ganesha is also associated with the Om/Aum symbol - turned upside down this symbol makes a shape similar to Ganesha's head and Ganesha is also called 'Ohmkara' due the association with the Om symbol. In this case, i have put the symbol on his head, which i've seen in other paintings of Ganesha.

The large belly symbolises plenty and the lelephant ears symbolise an ever listening God.
He wears a snake as a belt, and this symbolises the kundalini energy -the creative or life force energy .


Friday, July 15, 2005

Fête Nationale - Bastille Day

We went out to the fireworks for Fête Nationale last night in Juan Les Pins. We had missed the Antibes fireworks because the local information site wasn't very accurate. Well, we hadn't missed them exactly as we heard the cannon booms of the finale but it was a bit late then.

The fireworks are always impressive and there was a good turnout to see them. They are set up on pontoons moored out at sea so this obviously makes things safer and the reflections in the sea for is amazing; at least for the people are watching from the beach or promenade.

Although we arrived fairly early , all the good spots were taken right by the sea and we weren't in the mood to walk further in the hopes of getting a sea view. We still had a good view from where we were anyway.

I this photo you can see the people sitting on the wall overlooking the sea.
I took a lot of photos -thankfully digital cameras are ideal for taking loads of photos and discarding the rotten ones.
I had some really amazing jelly fish effects caused by camera shake, i suppose -but they look interesting

The firework displays in Antibes and Juan les Pins always feature palm trees [palmiers in french] and uusally a cry goes up from the crowd when they appear - they look very impressive - unfortunately i didn't manage to capture one at its highest or most impressive

Thursday, July 14, 2005

More Paper Dolls

My daughter persuaded me to add a paper doll princess/ballerina teddy and a knight. She said that she had always loved the paper dolls i made her when she was little and that the teddy needed a long dress for kids to add a pattern to, as well as colour.

Click on the images and either print directly from the browser or save the image and print from a photo maniplulation or similar program.

Princess teddy

Teddy Knight
Can be printed and used in a family setting - no alterations, publication, commercial distribution and other uses without permission

Green eggs and ham

Real free range eggs are normally brilliant but there is always the risk of one thats a bit older than the rest.
Unfortunately i got that one - yuk - green slimy and sulphurous. I would have noticed right away if i had been frying or scrambling it, but at the moment i'm having to follow a really strict diet on Drs orders and i am supposed to be boiling the breakfast eggs - so it was a really unpleasant surprise.
It was strange though since i'd always believed that bad eggs floated but this one was just the same as a normal egg apart from the disgusting contents.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Paper dolls to print out

I used to love paper dolls when i was a child, and i remember drawing some for my little sisters.
Here are a couple of paper teddies suitable for younger kids that can be printed out and coloured - and hopefully will fill up some time when the kids are floating around not sure what to do with themselves becuase it is too hot, or the rain has started.
I will probably work on some other activities since its much more fun than doing what i should be doing.
Click on the images and either print directly from the browser or save the image and print from a photo maniplulation or similar program.

summer teddy

Pirate teddy
Can be printed and used in a family setting - no alterations, publication, commercial distribution and other uses without permission

Swimming pigs

Its very hot here and my shoulder is still very painful, so i guess that why i've been thinking about swimming by proxy.
I was in the mood to do some more B&W for my portfolio so i've been drawing pigs in different situations.

Swimming pigs

My kids are now on holiday from school and i would have expected them to be heading off to the beach but i think they are recovering from school fatigue.
The last few weeks of term are exhausting for the pupils and i bet the teachers aren't exactly bouncing in to work then either.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Illustration Friday - metropolitan

Another weird Illustration Friday topic - this time metropolitan.

Merriam-Webster online Dictionary gives the definition as:
1 : the primate of an ecclesiastical province
2 : one who lives in a metropolis or displays metropolitan manners or customs.

Not really something that sparks the imagination IMo. Anyway my thoughts on this topic went something like - cities - ant or termite cities - ants in the city. Not very excititing really.
Ants are pretty amazing and as well as living in vasy city colonies the also manage to infest high rise buildings so they are metropolitan in more ways than one.

City ants

Friday, July 08, 2005

Alternate friday

worm eating monster
I was supposed to be illustrating insatiability and had planned to do womething about the terror war machine but yesterday's events in London made me change my mind. Everything i tried to do seemed too trite.
So i've ended up doing a monster with an insatiable appetite for worms - not something pithy or topical.

London Atrocity

Its hard to comprehend the horror of yesterday's events in London. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the families caught up in this carnage, my sincere condolences for the people who have died and I hope that the injured heal well and quickly.
The emergency sevices, police, paramedics, fire brigade , ambulance, hospital staff and all the others involved in the rescues and aid must have had an unbelievable job yesterday and yet they coped magnificently. I hope they get help afterwards to cope with the sights they have seen.

I was supposed to be going over to London this week but i had cancelled a while ago due to other commitments.

On Wednesday, there had been good natured ribbing from French people about London winning in the Olympic hosting race over Paris. Yesterday and today therehas been shock, concern and solidarity with the UK.

Its hard to imagine the mentality of bombers who deliberately target civilians going about their daily lives.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Dolphin Family

dolphin family - inspired by Minoan Frescoes

After the bull leaping image i did for Illustration Friday the other day, I was in the mood to do something else in that line. So here it is - a dolphin family inspired by the Minoan dolphin frescoes. Its not a slavish reproduction by any means - more of a flavour of the style with my own bits added.

The dolphins depicted in the frescoes are probably short beaked common dolphins which have the right sort of colouration. I've seen them a few times, through binoculars, as they are found in the Mediterranean Sea -they sometimes follow shoals of fish or fishing boats.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Fete de St Jean

Last night we went to the local Fete de St Jean which is normally around the summer solstice; but this year was a bit late for some reason.

Its a traditional festival involving bonfire leaping, spiral and circle dancing and traditional music - with traditional instruments - cornemuse [bagpipes], three holed provencal flutes and hurdy gurdies. They sound like this


I took part in a spiral dance - which was good since it has been a long time since i have been able to take part due to ill health.

My husband took the photos - Taran and i are the two on the right hand side

I am to the left of the small person in bright red in the above picture

I am just about to leave the picture on the left.

I had some worries beforehand about my current shoulder getting worse but i got my son Taran to hold my hand on that side so it wasn't too bad.
I was sweating and exhuasted afterwards from being so close to the bonfire and the unaccustomed exercise but i really felt i needed to do it, as a turning point in my life somehow.

Taran jumped the bonfire for the first time on his ow- previously he has jumped between Chris and I.
However, I didn't jump the bonfire this year - that would have been a bit too much!

Maybe next year ...

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Illustration Friday - Sport

Sport is not my 'thing' at all.
I don't follow sports on tv, or root for teams and i initially thought about using the word sport in another sense - as in proudly wearing something but nothing came to mind apart from a double use thing of a boxer sporting a black eye.

Anyway, i gave up on that idea and decided i'd maybe do the discobolos the famous discus thrower statue since i remembered having to draw this a long time ago at school, in Latin class.

However, in the end i went off on a tangent to Minoan Crete and decided to paint something based on the bull leaper frescoes.
I decided on a more graphic look to try and evoke the frescoes better and i'm quite pleased with how it turned out.
The bull leaping on Crete that is shown in the frescoes is suggested by modern day Portugese bull fighting; where the bulls are not killed and the 'fighters' attempt to jump on the bulls head, remove ribbons and subdue it by covering its eyes.
I've heard that some portugese bull fighting has started in the US, and of course, aspects of rodeo seem to be similar. At least, requiring similar skills, if not intended as religious as well as sporting activities.

leaping the bull after a Minoan frescoe.

note added - tuesday 9th july I've done another Minoan inspired piece today - under the post heading Dolphin Family

Friday, July 01, 2005

Ow Ow Ow or aïe aïe aïe

I had my first physio appointment this morning and although the physio was really nice and gentle, he still had to put my shoulder through a lot of painful motions to get a real idea of what has gone wrong.
It seems that as well as ligaments and tendon damage, that i also have trapped nerves in my neck and my shoulder muscles have 'frozen' due to the ortator cuff injury.

Its all really painful .
The physio was surprised that i do so much with my left hand as usually ambidextrous folk only use their non dominant hand a bit -however i am pretty lost without my left as i do almost everything equally; using the nearest hand to do the task. I mostly write and paint with my right hand but i take notes and colour etc with my left, so its hard going.

Anyway after the horrible examination i had some electrotherapy and ultrasound therapy - it feels really tight and sore but i hope this is just the hard part at the beginning.

My next appointment is on Monday afternoon.

In the meantime i have to follow a restricted diet , take more pain and inflammation meds and ponder on why french peoiple say aïe and english speakers say ow when they are in pain!