Category Archives: Whippet Story

Recorded moments in the life of the Trezelah Pack

Contrast Between Joy and Sadness

Summer Solstice, 21st June, 2014:  Walking on Dartmoor.

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a pilgrims view of her feet – her most important asset!

This is the third day of a 4 day pilgrimage across Dartmoor, beginning at the church on the hill, St. Michael de Rupe at Brentor and finishing at the Church of the Holy Cross, Crediton, following the Mary/Michael Line.

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It is also the Summer Solstice and promises to be another hot, dry day on Dartmoor.  By the time we have finished tucking into Caroline’s delicious breakfast, the mist has dissipated from the tops of the distant moors.   With sun cream liberally applied to exposed areas of skin and full of anticipation for the day ahead, we leave Moorgate Cottage behind us and walk up once more onto the open moorland heading towards a stone circle near Belstone called Nine Stones Cairn Circle.  A couple of pilgrims stop for a quick dip in the stream at Gulliver Steps on the way where I am only prepared to bare my feet to dip into the cooling water.  Nine Stones is a small and intimate circle where we place a couple of heart-shaped stones picked up along the way in celebration of this, the longest day, and re-arrange a bunch of wild flowers left by a previous visitor into a mandala shape around them.

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an offering of thanks for the Summer Solstice

I am reminded of the many Summer Solstices I have celebrated in the past at Boscawen-un Stone Circle in Cornwall.

As we head out on the other side of Belstone towards what will be our steepest climb of the pilgrimage, to Cosdon Hill (550 metres above sea level), I am wondering what I should do with the stone that is still in the bottom of my backpack.  It was discovered lying on the river bed at the base of the waterfall at Lydford Gorge which we visited a couple of days ago.  It bears the cross of St Piran on it, the Patron Saint of Cornwall and has been given to me presumably because of my Cornish connections.  I know there has to be a place along the way where I must leave it, but at this point, I don’t know where that place is.  Somehow, I know that when the time comes, it will become clear what I should do with it.

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the falls at Lydford Gorge, like a stream of light which reminds me of the depiction of the holy light in the stained-glass window above the altar in Belstone church.

It is a long and hot trudge up to Cosdon, with the benefit of a cooling breeze the higher we climb.  The 6 kilos of weight I am carrying on my back feels more like 12, and sun hats are dunked into Lady Brook on the way up to cool over-heated brows.  The footpath is not always clear, either breaking up into animals tracks or we find ourselves making our way across rough, tussocky ground  between squelchy boggy patches of springy heath and cotton grass.

This long climb is easily the most challenging part of the whole pilgrimage and just before we reach the summit, my mobile phone rings.  I manage to dig it out from one of my zipped trouser pockets.  It is Paul, the vet who is treating Sadie for a ‘spontaneous prolapsed disc’.   He tells me her condition has deteriorated and there is nothing we can do now to reverse the situation.  That the time has come for us to end her suffering.   Barely able to splutter out the words, I make David promise to hold Sadie for both of us so that I can be with her too in her last moments.  In that moment, I understand why I have been carrying the ‘Cornish’ stone.

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After my cooling bathe, I decide to walk barefoot up the stone row

On the descent from Cosdon on the other side of the hill, we stop to walk up an ancient stone row.  With the Cornish stone now burning in my hand, I walk up the narrow alley between the stones, imagining Sadie by my side, running up the track for the last time.   I see her elegant body gliding along in slowed, poetic motion, embodying all the runs she has ever done, in joyous harmony.

At the end of this stone row is a small cist or burial mound.  Here I carefully place this stone which now represents my little Cornish whippet, tucking it into a cosy corner amongst the fallen boulders and vegetation that covers the mound.

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cotton grass grows in boggy moorland patches (photo taken from image on greetings card)

I discovered later that this stone row is known as ‘the graveyard’.  I know I will come back to this place one day.   After that, the remainder of this joyous Solstice day is a bit vague, except I remember the large granite standing stones at Spinsters’ Rock (Burial Chamber).  I remember them particularly because they were humming.  A low-level hum in response to some toning we had done which I found strangely comforting, and something I have never heard before.  It was hard to comprehend why I was the only one that seemed to hear them.  Then the long road walk to Drewstaignton, and welcome rest.

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long winter beach shadows of long narrow dogs – Sadie feels like that shadow now

Sadie’s body now lies buried in a shady corner of my paddock where she once frolicked with her pack.  And I am reminded of the stained glass image of St Michael in the chapel on top of the hill at Brentor at the start of our pilgrimage.   In one hand he holds up a sword-cross and in the other hand he carries a pair of scales.  A reminder that life is a precarious balancing act.  In St Michael’s case, a balancing act between the forces of good and evil: lightness and darkness.   I do not think it is possible to have the one without the other.

Even so, perhaps I should have been more prepared for what was to come knowing that the best laid plans can go wrong.  Before I had even begun this pilgrimage, I had missed my train connection and the bus I was travelling on to catch up with the rest of the party had broken down, its engine simply ‘cutting out’, as if to reinforce the notion that rare incidents do happen.

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passengers waiting by the broken down bus for the next one to come along

This pilgrimage for me has represented the fragility of life, the acceptance of unexpected things that happen that probably have some meaning for us if we care to examine them.  The synchronicity of being in certain places at what felt like the right times, and how in a single day, it is possible to experience both the joy of nature at its zenith, and the sadness we feel at the premature passing of a precious life from this earthly world.  Yet another poignant reminder that the cycle of life (and death) goes on regardless of our best laid plans.  Rest in peace, my darling Sadie.

Contrasts

 

 

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Filed under Pilgrimage Walks, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks, Whippet Story, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Mellow Yellow (That’s Right!)

This morning, whilst looking at a couple of bloggers’ responses to this weeks’ photo challenge: Capture the Colour, I am thinking, do I really want to trawl through my considerable photographic archive to find the most ‘shouty’ colours?  God knows, I have enough to choose from.

Then it occurs to me that yesterday’s walk with the dogs along the beach at Chapel Porth contained all the colour I needed to fulfill this particular brief, even though by colour harmonic standards, they touch the low-key range: subtle yet beautiful in all their Autumnal glory.

The enveloping WHITE fog sets the mood for this walk and ensures a palette of soft, muted tones to follow.

Chapel Porth, North Cornwall, looking east.

Chapel Porth, North Cornwall, looking east.

even the dogs look ghostly in this light

even the ‘beach-colour’ dogs look ghostly in this light

These RED streaks contrast with the usual BLUE-grey colour of this rock.

rock-climbing 'explorer' dogs

‘explorer’ dogs climbing over mussel-coated rocks

And from a distant, this flash of ORANGE looked like an inflatable boat wedged into the cliff face, up close revealed itself to be a safety net covering a hole that no longer seemed to be doing its job.

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this vertical channel also shows a seam of iron-rich, ORANGE rock rubble

contrast between SILVER and ORANGE

contrast between SILVER and ORANGE

GREENS.

tangled snakes: 4 dogs leads, one of which is GREEN

tangled snakes: 4 dogs leads, one of which is GREEN

some living GREENery on the rock in this cave passage

some living GREENery on the rock in this cave passage

and AQUA

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Zola likes sploshing around in this AQUA pool

My son, Alex, a surfer since 11, calls me from a snatched office break in London.  I tell him I wished he was here with me now.

“There’s hardly a soul about.  It’s absolutely beautiful.”

“Mumma, what are you doing in North Cornwall?”

“I’ve just dropped off Poppy for her monthly hair cut.  Can you hear the surf?”

Looking towards the sea, it was indeed very BLUE, topped off by a perfect WHITE surf.  Then I noticed this YELLOW water mark in the sand.

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water marks

There are lots of these fine graphic marks all over the beach.  There are also rainbows to be seen in the soapy bubbles frothed up by the tide along the shoreline but by then my phone camera has had enough and is telling me I have no space for any more pictures.

Time to retreat.  The mizzle that had miraculously ceased the moment I stepped out of the car was threatening to return and we hasten our steps off the beach to collect my newly coiffured old spaniel.

a hint of BLUE in the sky

and a hint of BLUE in the sky

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Filed under my sketchbook pages, Walks, Whippet Story

Playing with Space: A Cast of Shadows

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This shadow perfectly displays the distinctively pointed whippet nose (with elegant wafts of smoke!).

Out for a frolic with the dogs on the beach late last week.  Although it was still bitterly cold the sun was bright enough to cast lovely shadow shapes on the sand.

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The uneven path here creates a double spaniel shadow.

Poppy, the poor deaf-(dumb)-and-blind spaniel – although spritely for all of her 15 years –  needs to be ‘guided’ on the lead, but the whippets move around so quickly it’s impossible to pose them for photographs.

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Tammi with beach ‘treasure’ (possible identification: lump of charcoal / muscle shell)

By the time I’ve pressed the shutter button on my iphone camera, they have whizzed through the frame.  So most of these shots are ‘pots’.  Some of the unusual angles and blurred motion images are surprisingly refreshing and convey the exuberance of the moment much better anyway.

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It is not hard to see why she is still mistaken for a puppy as she skips along, still eligible for waggiest tail.

It is a day to be joyful and these are my cast of shadow highlights which mirror our mood on this bright but cold April day: playing with space as the absence of light in mobile, prancing shadows.

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The path goes past the train track crossing to the golf course on the other side of the dunes.  The train has just gone through and I failed to catch it’s passing shadow….this time.

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Filed under Nature / Nurture Project, Walks, Whippet Story

Brindle Beach Streaker

The streaker in question is Zola whippet.  Whilst out enjoying a bit of welcome sunshine on Porth Kidney beach at low tide yesterday afternoon, I was poised to take a picture of the sand pattern when she flashed through the frame just as I was pressing the shutter.  Now you see me now you don’t.

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I have been collecting photos of beach patterns for many years now.  I’m not quite sure why I do it other than it’s what I do.  It’s part of my hoarding habit I suppose (which goes with the territory) and I have so many of these images now I could cover a sizable wall with them.  In fact, I have just done my annual back-up of the My Pictures folder onto a separate hard drive and discovered there are just shy of 200,000 ‘items’ in the file!  I know I should (hate that word) back-up stuff more often but that would be extremely tedious, would it not?

I also take pictures of footprints in the sand and collect handfuls of sand from different beaches and set them in resin just so that I can compare the size of the grains and subtle differences in the colours of ground up rocks and shells.

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Prints of Prints

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Photos c. 1998, Jersey CI

Beach Sediments

Lizard Beach Sediments in resin

Even my drawings are arranged in grid formats in order to compare and contrast, like the old style photographic contact sheets that I used to do at college.

Landslips on the beach at Praa Sands, February 2013

Landslips on the beach at Praa Sands, February 2013

I remember being delighted when Kodak started including index sheets in your packet of prints in the days when you had to take your photos to be processed.  I now sort my photos into subject folders and eventually, they begin to take on new meanings as collections of ideas.

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making the borders for the quilt

testing the layout

testing the layout

I think this is why making a quilt for baby Rose was so satisfying as it shares the same principles: a selection of similar materials gathered and arranged in a grid format.

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Filed under Art Works, my sketchbook pages, Personal Philosophy, Studio Practice, Whippet Story

The Crustaceans

Crustaceans. Noun: any mainly aquatic arthropod usually having a segmented body and chitinous exoskeleton. syn: crustacean.  (Just hold that thought for a moment).

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IMG_7667IMG_7665IMG_7662Waiting for the BT Man to come and connect me to the grid one typically drizzly winter’s afternoon recently, I opened my sketch book and began drawing the whippets, my feet propped on a footstool allowing me to rest the book in my lap at the perfect angle for drawing.

My subjects, unusually fidgety because they were missing their afternoon walk, forced me to make very rapid drawings, sometimes only managing to establish a few shaky marks before they shifted positions.

A couple of hours later and no-show from BT Man, I had nearly filled an entire sketch book with these scribbles.

So what has all this got to do with Crustaceans, I hear you cry?  Well, lets start with prawns.  You see, since my daughter started calling the whippets ‘prawns’ on account of their prawn-shaped bodies, my X (the father of my children) – in his very own cryptic way – has come up with a new collective noun for a group of whippets……you guessed it: The Crustaceans.

I have asked him, since he is especially good at drawing caricatures, please could he illustrate for me what this new breed of aquiline creatures might actually look like?  He didn’t seem too phased by the challenge so watch this space!

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Postcards for Shelterbox

10 Long Row, Sheffield

I have just delivered a ‘postcard’ sized drawing of one of our whippets, Zola (see below), to include in Badcocks’s Christmas exhibition.  It runs over two weekends, 3/4 and 10/11 December – or by appointment – at 10 Long Row (see above, ‘picture postcard’ cottage) Sheffield, Penzance, with a percentage of proceeds going towards Shelterbox.  Including ceramics, textiles, fairies, bunting and handbags as well as paintings, this exhibition promises to be full of Christmas cheer, and you could be helping this most worthy of causes.

Zola, pencil on board, 16 x 13cm. Nov. 2011

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Filed under Drawings, Exhibitions, my sketchbook pages, Whippet Story

Praa Sands

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