Sunday, December 15, 2013

To All Visitors to This and to my 'Engaging Right' Blogs

Yuletide Greetings!

“. . . The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge's time, or Marley's, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty's horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door. . . . .             .

`I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,' said the Spirit. `Look upon me.'

Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust.”

From, ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens 1843

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Over the hills . . .

Yesterday morning, close-packed marble size raindrops falling heavily on the roof-light above my bed brought me to another day of consciousness.  It seemed to be a day better suited to driving than exploring local lanes on foot but by mid-morning when we were ready to leave the house the rain had ceased and warm sunshine beat down from a large patch of blue sky.

Back in May, when we were staying near Skibbereen, Lisi and I met there artist Kathy Pentek and each of us left her with a commission; one painting for myself and several for Lisi.  Yesterday, dawning inclement, we chose to drive across the peninsular to pick up our commissions.  I had left Kathy with a more or less free hand, my only constraints on her imagination being that the painting should have something to do with my birth-sign; Capricorn.  Kathy’s painting delighted me.  I can but be amazed at how an artist, having spent no more than an hour or so with a total stranger, has managed to produce a painting which has created so much impact on my senses; in a way, I see in this painting a fractured mirror of myself.

The mid-morning sunshine did not endure.  In swirling mists under a heavy, grey, marbled sky, sharing the landscape and road with no more than downs of insouciant sheep, we drove over the gorgeously spectacular Healy Pass.  Concomitant with the heavy rain earlier in the morning was the gushing, streaming, seeping lattice of mesmerising waterfalls and rivulets flowing down and over steep hill and mountainsides.

The three hundred metre high Healy Pass is named after Tim Healy, an early governor of the Irish Free State.  Previously called ‘The Kerry Pass’ the road was built during the famine years of the nineteenth century by poor relief workers.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The cottage at Drombeg

On Saturday morning Cellphone, Sat-Nav and Lisi with her map guided me easily through beautiful wild mountain countryside to Joe McCarthy’s house on the outskirts of Ardgroom.  Joe, to be our landlord for the coming two weeks, manifested as a genial smiling character who immediately led us in his car through twisting west of Ireland lanes to a distant corner of his farm on which stands the cottage which we have rented from him.  After very comprehensively settling us into the cottage Joe left us appreciate the beauty of the cottage and its breathtakingly beautiful location.  The two storey stone-walled, slate-roofed cottage, Joe told us, was built a hundred years ago by his grandfather.  During the twentieth century the building had fallen into disrepair until, during the nineties, Joe restored and renovated the property to create a comfortable two-bedroomed house suitable for holiday letting.  The cottage, a gem of a building, excellently restored and re-fitted is but nothing compared to its location on rising ground overlooking stone-hedged fields, Kenmare Bay beyond which rise the Kerry mountains.  There is no noise pollution here; peace, almost tangible here, is disturbed only by the music of rain on the windows, the song of the wind whistling around the house and the call of the Curlew.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Dingle Peninsular

Cliffs, Dingle peninsular, Ireland
At around three hundred and fifty kilometres, the road journey on Thursday from Lough Key House to Moriaty’s Farmhouse at Ventry was, by my standards, a longish drive.  Lisi and I left Frances’ wonderful B&B about ten o’clock and arrived, after an uneventful drive through pleasant countryside, by-passing en-route the cities of Galway, Limerick and Tralee town.   Late in the afternoon we arrived at Moriaty’s Farmhouse.  Brid, our landlady, welcomed us by name which, as we were her only guests, would not have been too much of a problem for her.  The custom in Ireland seems to be for B&B hosts to offer tea and cake or scones to new arrivals, Brid followed the custom and when I asked where we might find an evening meal nearby she recommended to us to ‘The Skipper’.  Brid was right, it proved to be a very good venue for supper.  A few kilometres along the lane from the B&B, ‘The Skipper’ is an unpretentious but excellent fish restaurant.  French-born Paddy, its chef and owner, came to Ireland with his parents seventeen years ago when they decided to move here from La Rochelle.  I ordered pan-fried Brill under a Chanterelle sauce served with plain boiled new potatoes and a simple fresh mixed salad; a quite unexpected and delicious treat.
Abandoned village, Great Blasket
Friday dawned partly cloudy, promising improvement.  After a good breakfast we set off on a short circular tour west of Dingle.  The craggy scenery along this deeply indented rocky Atlantic coast is outstandingly picturesque.  Five kilometres off the coast are the Blasket Islands.  The history of these islands, uninhabited since the 1950s, has been very well documented by some of its late inhabitants; Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Muiris Ó Súileabháin and Peig Sayers have become literary legends through translations of their tales of life on the islands
into english and other languages.  Near the tip of the Dingle peninsular there is an impressive, purpose-built ‘Blaskets Centre’ which houses a comprehensive exhibition of everything to do with the history of the islands.  I spent a long time at the centre but to have closely examined all the exhibits I would have needed to be there much longer.

The Dingle Peninsular Tour beyond the western tip, the north coast, is scenically less dramatic.  We rather hurried along that part of the route to get to Dingle with enough time to explore the town.  Dingle is attractive but has, inevitably I suppose, been degraded to attract the easy tourist buck; there was something about pretty Dingle that seemed, to me, to lack authenticity.

In the evening I returned to Paddy’s ‘The Skipper’ restaurant this time to try (authentic!) fresh scallops in brandy cream sauce which I enjoyed quite as much as I had enjoyed my fish the previous evening.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Summer 2013, a review.

Caveat depascor!  Rather than being something that may interest my blog followers, this post has been written as an aide-mémoire to myself.  I shall be editing it as and when the records and notes I have made in many places come to light.

Burgundy, June 2013
My drive home in June from Ireland through Scotland, England, France and Italy was slow and comfortable.  I stopped frequently and, in France and Italy, found several B&Bs which were new to me and, in their originality and differences, interesting.

Tiled bathroom at amazing B&B:
'Il Torchio, Calco, Italy
By 27th June I was home in Greece.  I had been away for two months during which much had happened around the house.  Seeds of all manner of plants, unseen when I left in April, had germinated.  Plants, largely unwanted weeds, many of them huge had, in hot wet spring conditions, grown set seed and were now dying for want of water.  Deep-rooted perennial plants had put on incredible growth; vines, just budding when I left, now drooped new growth heavy with leaf to make drapes of shade below balconies and across the steps I needed to climb to reach the door into the house.  But for a light layer of dust, inside the house was much as I had left it.
I had not been home many weeks when the first of my visitors arrived; my elder daughter, her partner and their two young daughters.  Two and half weeks later they all flew home on the plane on which my younger daughter and her three children arrived to stay with me until, on 20th August they left with me to drive back across Europe to be in the U.K. by  Friday 30th August to attend the wedding of Tom, Lisi’s second son, to his fiancé Kate.

The wedding service, held at one o’clock in the chapel of Wren’s Naval College at Greenwich, was memorable for both its setting and content.  During the afternoon the new Mr and Mrs Palmer treated their guests to cream teas on a chartered boat trip up river to the pool of London and back.  By early evening we had returned to the Naval College where the wedding banquet was held in the fabulous, ‘Painted Hall’.  The day finished with a wild party in the vaulted space below the ‘Painted Hall’; it was a day I shall remember!

I spent most of September drifting around in the U.K.  The week after the wedding I spent in a ‘Mobile Home’ on a pleasant site near Canterbury after which I travelled, with Lisi, to Lincolnshire where we house, dog and hen sat for her sister and brother-in-law while they took a short holiday in Florence.  From Lincolnshire we move on to spend a week in Derbyshire thence to Scotland to visit my own sister and brother-in-law and to visit The Helix, a project being overseen by my eldest nephew.

Work in progress building Andy Scott's thirty metre high sculptures at The Helix, Falkirk, Scotland.

Last Wednesday, free for a while of family commitments, we returned again to Ireland, driving as quickly as possible across the six counties to reach Carrick on Shannon late in the afternoon.

After a tasty early supper at the ‘Oarsman’, after an interval of almost four months, we arrived back at ‘Lough Key House’, to tea and a wonderfully warm greeting from Frances.

Big bed, Lough Key House, Boyle, Co. Roscommon, Ireland


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sunday 9th June 2013

Lough Key House, Boyle, Co. Roscommon. Ireland
Arriving on Saturday evening, I slept the night in this comfortable country house B&B.  I had spent much of the afternoon in and around Carrick on Shannon showing Elisabeth the many places I had visited a few weeks previously when I attended there the John McGahern seminar.  In town I renewed my acquaintanceship  Orlagh Kelly at her splendid ‘Reading Room’ bookshop and to eat again in the superb ‘Oarsman Gastro Pub’ a few doors along the road.

This morning Elisabeth and I had to make an early start for the drive up to Larne from where we took the midday ferry for Cainryan, Scotland for me to begin my drive home to a long hot Greek summer while Elisabeth took off from Glasgow airport for the cool of her summer in Iceland.

Before the end of this year, however, Ireland, The Reading Room and Frances McDonagh at Loch Key house will see us both back again.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Friday 7th June

Friday 7th June was the last day of a delightful  sojourn in the cottage I had rented for a month at Knockanoulty, Baltimore, Co. Cork.  In the evening Lisi and I left for an evening drive to the delightful Derrynaflan in County Tipperary where our host Sheila O’Sullivan welcomed us warmly despite our rather late arrival.

As with most B&Bs at which I stay on my travels it would have been good to have stayed longer at this lovely place but, if I was ever to reach home, I had to press on with my journey, adding Derrynaflan to my lengthening list of places to which I hope to return.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

5th June: Cathy Pentek and Sherkin Island

The day began with a visit to artist Cathy Pentek’s home in the country beyond Skibbereen.  Coincidentally the house was next door, albeit a kilometre or so further along and on the opposite side of the road, to the cottage we had rented last year when, in the course of our evening strolls,
Lisi and I must have strolled past Cathy’s house several times.  Cathy, surrounded by several dogs, was waiting at her
gate for us.  She led through her garden, where more dogs joined us as we all filed into the house to find yet more dogs occupying the living room settees and easy chairs.  I noticed too a number of resident cats and, as my eyes adjusted to the light, a fine black pig - house-trained Cathy told us - asleep in front of the television.  Cathy is an animal rescuer - a kind of latter day St Francis.  Shuffling for space with her animals we looked at several of Cathy’s charming paintings, bought one and commissioned some others then moved on into Skibbereen for coffee and cake at ‘Apple Betty’s’.

The Sherkin Island ferry leaves Baltimore at two-thirty.  We arrived there at one o’clock conveniently in time to enjoy my favourite Irish lunch, crab sandwiches washed down with a glass of Murphy’s Stout.  Sherkin Island, of which, during our few hours there, we saw not a lot is worthy of more time; on our next trip we shall take and earlier ferry.

The ruined fifteenth century abbey.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

4th June: Further instruction

Today I spent another valuable day with Castletownshend watercolour artist Barry Dawkes.  Through the course of the day I painted these copies of two of Barry’s paintings picking up  as I worked a mass of useful hints and tips; the trick for me will be to remember enough of them to continue to make paintings as satisfying to me as those I made, with Barry at my elbow,  today. 

Essay to create mood.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

3rd June: A bitty, but nonetheless pleasant, day

Mist lifting over the Ilen estuary, Baltimore.
The day dawned misty; overcast and cool.  At ten-thirty Lisi and I were seated in Field’s Café, Skibbereen, waiting to meet artist Cathy from whom we had hoped to commission a painting.  Shortly after eleven o’clock, having failed to meet her we left the Café.  We learned later that Cathy was there, sitting on an adjacent table with three other people but had not remembered that we had an appointment with her; we have made a new appointment with her, this one at her home, for a meeting on Wednesday morning.

After lunch the mist cleared to a sunny afternoon which we began with a drive to potter Mairi Stone’s studio on the lower slopes of Mt Gabriel to meet her an buy from her a few pieces of her delicate, beautifully decorated pottery.  On our way back to our cottage we stopped at Schull where Lisi shopped again in the craft shop ‘An Siopa Sli Bheag’ a delightful Aladin’s Cave of hand-made goods.

The afternoon ended as the morning had begun, with something of a failure; a planned ‘Sea Safari’ to hunt whales and dolphins had to be abandoned because, it being a Bank Holiday, there was no afternoon sailing.

The remains of the day; sunset at ten o'clock

Monday, June 3, 2013

2nd June: Sheep’s Head Peninsular, a tour and a tale.

It was from just such a ledge as this, on the the north coast of the Sheep's Head peninsular from which, in 1979,  author J G Farrell slipped while fishing.  A month later his body was recovered from the sea.
Friends  Barry and Margaret, whom we first met years ago in Finicounda, have come to Skibbereen with their caravan to visit Lisi and I.  Yesterday we spent our day with them describing in the car the perimeter of the Sheep’s Head Peninsular.  Through shifting swirling mists views, including those of adjacent peninsulas terminating to the South at Mizzen head and North at Dursey island, mysteriously presented and faded.

As we drove Margaret related the following tale:

“In the early hours of the morning Paddy was driving his car unsteadily and erratically along the road.  A Garda officer parked in a lay-by waved Paddy down.  Paddy stopped his car and lowered the window releasing into the officer’s face a rich decoction of pub.  
“So, to where is it you are off to at this time of the night Paddy?” the officer enquired. 
“Ah” replied Paddy, “I am away to a lecture.”  
“Indeed”, said the officer, “and what might be the subject of the lecture?”  
“Twill be a lecture on the evils of alcohol, tobacco and the keeping of late hours.” Paddy slurred. 
 “Oh yes”, said the incredulous officer, “And who is to be giving this lecture.”

“Why my wife of course!” said Paddy.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

1st June: Skibbereen Saturday Market; Schull; Brown Envelope Seeds Open Day.

A full day for Lisi and I began at Skibbereen Saturday Market, an excellent open air tented bazaar at which a good number of local crafts people and small, generally specialist food enterprises, join with traders of bric-a-brac and garden plants to provide a rewarding morning entertainment.

After an hour or so at the market we drove on to Schull which we found busy with Bank Holiday visitors and Schull Triathalon competitors and their supporters.

After a snack lunch in Balydehob we visited 'Brown Envelope Seeds' on their remote Ardagh farm where they were holding an 'Open Afternoon' and where I enjoyed their complimentary tea and delicious fresh strawberry and cream tarts.

May 31st: Mt Gabriel

An overcast morning spent largely in Skibbereen gave way to a brighter afternoon which allowed an exploration of nearby coast and countryside including a drive up Mt Gabriel a mountain behind Schull, a coastal village on the Mizzen peninsular which rears up from sea level to 407 metres.  There is on the mountain considerable evidence of mining, principally for copper.  The mines were reckoned to date from 1,500 b.c. but during the 1960s it was suggested that the mines were much more recent, nineteenth century, excavations.  Presently archeologists are again favouring the earlier dating.

The view North, the more distant stretch of water is Bantry Bay.
The Irish Air Traffic Control maintains two radar domes on the summit of Mt. Gabriel (407m); an adequate road to them is open to the public.  The views from the top, over the sea and considerably lower ground all around, are spectacular.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 29th: Abstract pix

May 29th: Pilgrimage to Ahillies

Adrigole, en-route for Ahillies, where I was able to seal watch for a while.
'The Copper Kettle', Castletown-Bearhaven, where I broke my
 journey for a Latté and a slice of delicious
Lemon Meringue Pie
Presently sparsely populated, Ahillies, far in the west of County Cork, where copper was mined from the Bronze Age until late in the nineteenth century, once had a population of over a thousand. 

Daphne du Maurier’s 1943 novel, ‘Hungry Hill’ , which she based on the family history of her friend Christopher Puxley, is set in this area.  ‘Hungry Hill’ is DuMaurier’s only novel to be set in Ireland, albeit an Ireland permeated with a strong Cornish seasoning; the men, women and children who worked the Puxley mines were largely imported from Cornwall, the hallmark setting of most of her writing.

Lunch, a crab sandwich washed down with Murphy's Stout, at O'Neill's Bar, Ahillies.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

27th May: Pilgrimage to Coomhola

Bantry Bay viewed from The Priest's Leap
In the autumn of 2011 Lisi and I spent two weeks in a cottage - it had once been the village shop - at Coomhola a few miles north of Bantry.  Behind Coomhola the mountains rise steeply to over a thousand feet above sea level.  Near ro the summit is the Priest's Leap named after a priest's mythical leap on horseback to escape pursuing soldiers.  It is the kind of  high, remote and windswept place that would inspire legend.

Looking North from the Priest's Leap

May 23rd - 25th; 2013 International Seminar on John McGahern

The drive, on Thursday 23rd May, from Baltimore to Carrick-on-Shannon to attend ‘The 2013 International Seminar on John McGahern’ was long but worthwhile; notwithstanding my confidence that I would enjoy the event, the experience far exceeded my expectations.  Packed into an evening and two full days were an eclectic bricolage of disquisitions, tours and impromptu social gatherings over evening meals at ‘The Oarsman’.

The seminar kicked-off on Thursday evening with a lecture by Professor of Irish History Roy Foster concerning the Irish ‘revolution’ and subsequent civil war, events that shaped McGahern’s life, consequently inspiring much of his writing.  Friday was a full day of lectures and readings.  First onto the podium were dutch writer Gerbrand Bakker and dubliner Claire Kilroy who each read from their books and answered questions from the audience, the most interesting of which to me was a question concerning the value of literary prizes; Bakker said he enjoyed the money; Claire Kilroy enjoyed the recognition that her Rooney Prize had brought her to the attention of British publishers and through them a much wider audience for her work.  Professor Nicholas Allen then delivered an incisive paper about McGahern and the Republic.  This rather full-on morning finished with a hilariously measured reading by Booker shortlisted author, Patrick McCabe, from his book, ‘The Stray Sod Country’.

After lunch Dr Heather Laird delivered an interesting lecture, ‘The Writer as a Reader: McGahern on Irish Literature’, which she illustrated with readings from McGahern’s writing ending, chillingly I thought, with this unpublished extract from ‘A Literature without Qualities’:
“I think what is happening - for economic, political and social reasons - is that the reader is predetermined in advance and that the contents of literature are imposed on the reader by means of things outside of literature.  On bookjackets, in newspaper articles, through publicity and blackmail of bestsellers, one passes over actual text; whatever value it might have is secondary.  Consequently, the reader thinks he knows in advance what he must find in a book, and whether or not he finds it has finally no importance whatsoever.  In my opinion it has to do with a plan of a repressive nature, contrived to do away with the aesthetic experience, which is after all an extreme form of liberty.”
Chilling perhaps, but very perceptive.

Heather’s act was an unenviable act to have to follow but professor Angela Bourke was well up to the task.  Her lecture was a commentary on David Thompson’s, ‘Woodbrook’, a memoir ‘much admired by John McGahern’, from which she read illustrative excerpts.  The lecture concluded with a screening of a short video clip cut from a fascinating late interview with David Thompson filmed at Woodbrook, in which he recalls his days there with his beloved Phoebe.

From the end of the day’s lectures to the six o’clock muster on the quayside for an evening river excursion there was little time for more than a private visit to the bookshop, ‘The Reading Room’ where I stocked up on books mentioned during the day.  The weather for the trip up river on the Shannon to Cootehall was perfect.  As the boat glided gently over the water past Woodbrook House author, and expert reader, Brian Leyden read passages from David Thompson’s book.  Particularly poignant for me was Brian’s reading, as the boat nosed into the creek in front of the house, of the passage from the book in which David Thompson recalls his first arrival at the house.  At Cootehall, where McGahern spent much of his later childhood, there was a convivially light break at Henry’s Bar while we waited for the coach to return us to Carrick where, with a group of participants and other visitors to the Symposium, I enjoyed an excellent dinner at ‘The Oarsman’.

Saturday was a far less mentally intense day.  It began with a coach trip to Aughawillan, McGahern’s birthplace, early childhood home and the resting place of his remains.  At the old school house, now a private house, where McGahern’s mother taught, Brian Leyden and
others performed appropriate dramatised readings from ‘Memoir’ and ‘Amongst Women’; the company then moved along the road to the entrance of a field for more excellently delivered dramatised readings.  In the Aughawillan village community centre we were entertained with tea and cakes and a short talk by Michael Harding, ‘Experience, Memory and Fiction’ followed by him reading from his most recently published book ‘Staring at Lakes’.
Back at in town, after a very hurried lunch, I joined an interesting guided stroll around ‘Historic Carrick’.  The last two sessions of the Symposium were an insight of the work involved cataloguing an archive, in this case John McGahern’s, by archivist Furgus Fahey followed by the final paper of the event, ‘McGahern and the Weather of the Times’, an erudite interpretation of McGahern’s literary legacy, by Mark Patrick Hederman, Abbot of Glenstal Abbey in County Limerick.

Being part of the Symposium was for me an inspiring and very enjoyable experience.  I met many warm and interesting people and had my mind stimulated.  Notwithstanding my several visits to ‘The Bookroom’, I also came home with a long list of books none of which I had hitherto heard!  If at all possible I shall certainly be back in Carrick for the 2014 Symposium. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

21st May; Judy's Goat Farm, Glandore, Drombeg Stone Circle, Coppinger's Court

A full day began with witnessing the construction of supports for and planting of beans and peas in rich black soil, the legacy of an old manure heap, at neighbour Judy's "Ardagh Castle Goat Farm".

Lisi and Linda planting, myself watching!
From the rich aromas of the goat farm to the similarly rich, if different, aromas of Kalbo's Café, Skibbereen for coffee and a delicious slice of in-house lemon flan, followed by a drive east along the Atlantic coast to Glandore.

Looking from Glandore towards the sheltered fishing village of Union Hall
Lunch at Glandore, continental style outside at a table on the pavement above the sea on the far side of the road from the restaurant.  Post lunch to the Bronze Age stone circle at Drombeg . . . .

. . . and on to Coppinger's Court.

During the early 1600s this amazing pile was built by Sir Walter Coppinger but he was able to enjoy his home here for a very short while - the building was ransacked and burned in the course of the 1641 rebellion and has since stood as a ruin.  Coppinger who, according to legend gained most of his considerable wealth by adroit use of the law, trickery, document editing and forgery, was not it seems one of the more pleasant  of our species.  He also earned a reputation for dealing swiftly and mercilessly with any opposition to his rapacious ambitions.

Our pleasant day ended much as it began with late afternoon tea and apple tart at "Apple Betty's Café" in Skibbereen.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

20th May; with Barry Dawkes

I had hoped, this year, to find a painting holiday I might take to improve my watercolour painting skills.  I found, through the internet, a great number of suitable courses but none at venues or on dates convenient for me.  A after booking a cottage in which to to stay here in Ireland I contacted Barry Dawkes at 'West Cork Watercolour'.  None of the courses he had on offer for the summer coincided with the month I would be spending in Ireland but Barry kindly replied to my enquiry with an offer to make a day with him available to me.

I arrived at 'Crosslea', Barry's home and studio at ten o'clock on a morning which had begun overcast but was improving by the hour.  I was greeted with coffee and biscuits over which we chatted to allow Barry to get an idea of my painting history and aspirations.  We then plunged into some practical work practising basic watercolour painting techniques.  Armed with the knowledge of how to, I then began to make a copy of one of Barry's paintings.  Barry worked with me, making his own copy of his earlier painting, giving me tips as he did so on colour mixing and allowing me to closely watch him apply his techniques.  After an intense morning, during which I learned more in a few hours than I would have in years working alone (If ever!), we adjourned for an excellent salad lunch provided by Barry's wife, Kath.  After lunch Barry and I finished the paintings we had started earlier and began work on and finished a second.  I left the studio at six o'clock; happy and very satisfied  The two paintings I completed with Barry are better than anything I have yet produced, I shall be interested now to know whether I shall be able to maintain and develop my new found level of confidence and ability.