Summer Interruptions

This summer has been a summer of interruptions…or I should really say a summer of Rachel finding anything else to do apart from write her PhD thesis. Sounds normal for any writer, right? If work was offered, I’d take it…an exhibition review, I’d write it…an appetite for cakes and biscuits, I’d feed it…seriously if my PhD was in baking, I’d have completed it by now. Attending seven weddings and numerous 30th birthday parties hasn’t helped matters either…yes, I’ve officially reached that age, somehow. So as I enter my third full-time year, PhD land has become a bit of a struggle…a harsh realisation of the academic journey ahead of me where I have somehow lost sense of who I am. It is completely achievable, yet at the same time seems so far away. I’m sure many PhD-ers feel like this and at this stage. For some reason these “life interruptions” have made me reassess what is important in life, made me take a huge step back to breathe, pause, think, and realise what I want in the future and where I want to be…people are the most important thing in this life that’s all I know, oh and happiness, health and happiness.

Anyway I thought I’d show you some photographs of some recent summer creative jaunts and happenings that have been part of these “life interruptions”. RJW and I are now two, and to mark the occasion we decided to give each other a day…a surprise day for each other. So RJ took me on a Shakespeare tag trail through the countryside on the way to lunch followed by the most randomly amazing dinner I have ever experienced. The trail started with a coloured luggage tag with hand written words on it…each tag was numbered and followed on from the last, in the end reading out the rather famous sonnet number 18 by Shakespeare – Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? 18 is actually my favourite number but I’m not sure RJ realised that…strangely enough number 13 went missing. I love this kind of text-based creative love stuff so it gave me Saturday smiles all day.

Afterwards, we headed straight to Birmingham for the ‘Slow Boat Floating Feast‘. The Ikon Gallery has a canal boat for three years for their offsite and youth events programme, which included this artists’ feast by artist duo Companis inspired by Birmingham’s waterways and canals.

It was a truly inspirational evening…no knives or forks were used…no plates either…a random, eclectic mix of vessels were presented to us and we often had to dive straight in and use our fingers and hands…as the photos show you. The canal boat went on a two-hour journey whilst we were eating. I think we neglected this experience somewhat as we got so engrossed in the food…the FOOD…I’ll let it speak for itself. Credit to RJW for taking some of the photographs.

Pretty amazing right? I think I use the word amazing too much. It certainly was unforgettable…dinner time will never quite be the same again. Later in the month on the bank holiday weekend, RJW and I went to Bristol to visit friends and managed to see the urban arts and graffiti/street art project ‘See No Evil’ on Nelson Street in the heart of the city. It was beautiful to see so many people engage with these artists and their works, including little children as shown below. This project has apparently received mixed reviews and some criticism from locals saying how it spoils the city…there’s always someone who has to kick up a fuss right? I wish people could see the world of good it does for communities and community spirit, and how it can really change bad or run-down areas of cities into visual wonderlands. Thank again to RJW for some of the photographs.

Finally, at the beginning of September, my Mom and I spent a few days in Knaresborough and Harrogate. My parents used to live in Knaresborough before my brothers and I were born, then my two brothers were born there so it is a very special place to them. Mom and I managed to indulge in the hotel spa and some gourmet foods including (for me) a smoked haddock and poached egg breakfast accompanied by prunes and natural yoghurt, and we had the chance to go to the famous Betty’s for afternoon tea…well not full afternoon tea but super yummy afternoon treats…a raspberry macaroon and Moroccan mint tea…perfect.

On the very windy drive home to the Midlands, we managed to stop by the new Hepworth Wakefield gallery, which opened in May this year. A strong architectural force within the industrial landscape of urban Wakefield, it stands proud with prominence by the riverside. The interior was incredibly clean-cut, easy to negotiate and reminded somewhat of the Tate galleries, more so Tate Modern including its signage and branding. To be honest, I’m not sure whether they played a part in the consultation process during its development. It would make sense! A very calming space, where attention to interior aesthetics is key such as views from windows, seating areas and lighting.  Actually, all my mom said was “I like the windows and the views”, which even I must say were captivating as you can see below…she said nothing about the art. The work of Hepworth is abstract to say the least, so I can see why she didn’t understand it. A rather special little sketch by the member of the public was placed within the children’s area…they certainly have drawing skills.

So August has been particularly English. There aren’t many words in this post…but I don’t think there needs to be. As the art world starts to gear up again after the summer hiatus, and I start to gear up for my move to China in three weeks…yes three weeks, I’m in a contemplative mood…quietly content with life. I’m sure next time I speak to you I’ll have more to say, specifically about what China is going to bring!

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