Sunday, 5 June 2022

Platinum Jubilee and SAOS open studio

 The weather was so changeable and unsettled in the past few weeks that we had two or three seasons in one day! Warm sunny spells then thunderstorms and sudden gusts of wind. I had to wear layers of clothes and I even had my winter coat on for the outdoor duty lunch break. No chance to wear my new light colourful summer dresses even with a jumper or a cardigan on. Apparently, the cold weather comes from Scandinavia but it might change soon. In southern Europe it is already hot, maybe too hot; hopefully the warm weather might come up north. My mum told me that in Rome it is so hot that she stays inside from midday until late afternoon. I prefer cooler weather, but a bit of warmth would be nice at this time of the year.

At the Park School we had some good times. The good smell of fresh coffee welcomes me in the morning and there are always some treats on the staff table for break-time. We had tuna wraps and cheese scones in Food Tech and my students completed their tree houses before half term. They created amazing original products which are not perfect but are very interesting. They will be on display at some point before the end of the year. In cultural studies my students are studying Poland and made Wycinanki, that is paper cutting patterns. In PE they are mainly playing rounding and other team games outside now that the weather is warm. They have such fun and I enjoy it too.

I had the chance to take part in the Vision Project ( ) that involved music, dance and painting. I joined the inspiring workshops led by Hannah Bruce ( ) at her studio. We made some paintings following the prompt of the mesmerising music from which the project started. Its revealing lyrics and soothing melody are a never-ending source of inspiration. We all created good original work, mostly free and loose abstract pieces. I was particularly intrigued by some lines of the lyrics:

I have a million of nightingales

On the branches of my heart

Singing freedom

The Earth is alive

Here is the link to the video clip: 

They are beautiful words that for me are related to our need for peace in an eco-friendly environment in harmony with nature; in this ideal space we can sing our song freely and therefore be healed. The dance we watched was inspiring too and it gave us more ideas for our drawings. I particularly admired Hannah Bruce’s picture that merged melody, dance and the rhythm of the piece of music in soft colours and strong marks. I produced an abstract piece and a figurative drawing with acrylic paints which look very different from one another; it was my attempt to explore the creative potential of this interesting project. The Vision Project does not finish with the workshops, there will also be two art exhibitions on the 18th of June at Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary in Guildford and on the 8th of September at The Lightbox.

Before half term, some of my Canadian friends from Alberta came to England. Their tour included some days in Ireland and Wales and three days in London. They emailed me in advance so I could book a show (they chose ‘Middle’ at the National Theatre) and the restaurant. It was such a pleasure to see my friend Pam again; I hadn’t met her since I visited Canada before the lockdown. We had a long chat while we were sharing pizza with funghi, caprese and artichoke salad. Her friend Tara was very interested in my work on Margaret Atwood and asked me about my thesis and my thoughts about Atwood’s work. She read quite a few of her novels so we discussed our favourites. We also shared opinions about our writings and how our lives will be after retirement as well as my plans to visit Canada again, maybe next summer.

‘Middle’ at the National Theatre was superb. The actors, Claire Rushbrook (Maggie) and Daniel Ryan (Gary) were awesome in their roles. The setting was an average English house (kitchen and living room) with ordinary furniture and family pictures on the walls. The story is about the mid-life crisis of a middle-aged couple who are settled in an apparently comfortable life and ask themselves if they are really happy. Maggie triggers the crisis feeling trapped in a boring predictable routine. She can’t sleep and says to her husband Gary that she is not sure she loves him anymore. On the other hand, he seems pretty happy about their relationship; he can do his things, practice golf, attend sport events and enjoys family life on the whole. Instead Maggie feels lonely and misunderstood. Besides, she has met another man, John the policeman, with whom she talks a lot sharing thoughts and feelings that she thinks Gary cannot understand or is not willing to listen to. She kissed John passionately but they have never had sex so far. Gary tries every trick to keep her with him promising to do whatever she wants. The play is a clever interweaving of funny cliches, dramatic moments and ironic understatements. I enjoyed it very much, especially the parts where human fragility comes to the fore.

During the half term week, we celebrated the Platinum Jubilee with family parties. I made a new crochet post box installation in Park Road, Woking, with a big crown in the middle and the British colours around, and a wreath for my house door. I was so glad that people stopped and helped me while I was installing the crown in Park Road; this means that my crochet is useful in some way. We travelled north to see the rest of the family, my sons and their partners and my granddaughter Violetta. We had a big meal with tortellini, Italian affettati, mozzarella and burrata, lemon and orange jelly and a drizzle sponge with raspberries and blueberries. We wore crowns and Violetta put on the crown she had made at the nursery and held her flag up. We had such a good time together, catching up on family news, sharing our concerns, joys and feelings, and especially spending time with Violetta. She is becoming more and more active, exploring around, always busy with toys, books and things she finds and uses in different ways. We brought her new toys and new clothes, but she especially liked to play with my rings, wearing them or holding them in her tiny hands. She also fed us with a little spoon taking imaginary food from small cups. Now she understands some Italian and English words and follows instructions both in English and in Italian. One of her favourite activities is looking at children’s books. She loves us reading them to her in both languages. The stories are about Peppa Pig, the giraffe Sophie, Spot, la Pimpa, Peekaboo books and books on numbers and colours.

For the Jubilee we watched the Trooping of the colours, the Thanksgiving service at St Paul’s cathedral and the Saturday evening concert. I loved the queen’s powder blue outfit and her presence on the balcony was so welcomed by the crowd that later she commented that she was inspired by the goodwill people showed to her. And she deserves it all because of her continuous devotion in these seventy years. As Michelle Obama said, queen Elizabeth is a remarkable person; she took her duty seriously and humbly every day of her life since she became queen. Her presence has promoted a strong sense of stability and belonging, and the celebrations of the Platinum Jubilee just confirm this. There was a cheerful holiday mood as well, together with reverence and sincere affection, which were heart-warming and powerful. I also like the fact that there was something for everyone during the celebrations, from traditional parades to classical music and pop entertainment. I found this varied approach positive and hopeful, not only because it was open to different styles and preferences but also because it suggested diverse visions that might coexist though distinct and unique. I loved Andrea Boccelli’s interpretation of ‘Nessun Dorma’ and also enjoyed Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Sam Ryder and the musicals. 

Here are some links to the videos:

Andrea Boccelli

Rod Stewart

Brian May


Sam Ryder 

The best bits

Diana Ross

The Queen meeting Paddington Bear was an enjoyable surprise too:

On Saturday afternoon, we celebrated with my autistic daughter Valentina at her home in Redhill. We prepared cupcakes with her and decorated her room with crowns and flags. She had great fun and especially enjoyed eating the cupcakes.

On Sunday, we had a street tea party in our area with Jubilee inspired cakes, drinks and a lot of toasting and chatting. I made a cake with the Union Jack colours inspired by one of the Jubilee pudding recipes I found online. Here are the links to some Jubilee recipes I used in different occasions:

I am also taking part in the SAOS (Surrey Artist Open Studios) on the 11th-12th and 18th-19th of June. I am at Chobham Community centre (Macmahon Cl, Chobham, Woking GU24 8NG ) from 11 am to 5 pm with my paintings, crochet, handmade bags, cards and more. Here is the link:

During the open studio, I am running drop-in workshops for children. I provide the materials to make cards, puppets, concertina books and paper masks. I am also planning to make demonstrations of wet-on-wet watercolour paintings of flowers and of crochet work. Everything will be available on the site and I will be happy to share my time and experience with whoever comes to visit my open studio. I will also provide some refreshments, tea, coffee and shortbread biscuits. It will be a busy but enjoyable time.

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