We will have the usual row….

We have not long returned from our holiday in Polzeath.  We hired a very old caravan on a site in the valley which was far from the shops and bars and very peaceful.  The rooks woke us up early every day, so we went surfing whilst it was quiet.  One morning, we were the only ones in the sea for a good while. We stayed in for three hours and felt smug walking back through the site as everyone was emerging, blinking from their tents. The beach in the middle of the day was a buzz of surf schools, body boards and bathers, so we headed off to The Rumps, passing by the spot where ‘For the Fallen’ was composed. The amount of wildlife we saw was amazing – beautiful beetles, many skylarks and butterflies and a huge clump of harebells.

Coming back from a holiday is always a bit flat.  We dread looking through the post in case there are any bills we’ve missed.  Luckily we escaped this time and all seems well. Paul’s Summer sessions have begun and most people are settled into their classes. A group of beginners – three generations of the same family! – joined yesterday and enjoyed their first session. We are grateful that Paul’s classes continue to be as popular as this is regular income for us.

I cheered myself up by swimming in the rain with my Tinside swimming chums.

Paul is well into Exhibition mode now, preparing for this weekend’s event in aid of the Plymouth Branch of the RNLI.  We will  have the usual row about where to hang paintings and how many – I say ‘less is more’ – Paul wants to get them all out there. I expect we’ll be speaking to each other by Saturday morning.  Please come along to see our cheery faces and support our local RNLI.  Details here!

A laugh-out-loud surf session in the deserted sea.

June was cold.  The sea didn’t warm up properly until right at the very end of the month, when I swam into a barrel jellyfish at 6 in the morning and nearly jumped out of my skin. There have been many sightings of these huge creatures off our shores recently – I don’t remember seeing them around years ago.  They look surprisingly scary but they are harmless to humans.

I swim with members of Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimming usually off Tinside Beach East.  We meet every Friday morning throughout the year.  Sean and the staff at The Terrace Cafe just above our beach make us very welcome – during the winter they warm us up with blankets and hot water bottles.

I recently swam across the Tamar and back as part of Saltash Regatta – even getting a certificate to prove it!  It’s not far – but the current can be very dangerous, so the timing of our swim was planned with great care.  We had safety cover in plenty. There were around 40 of us from Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimming in total and we raised nearly £200 for The Chestnut Appeal.

Tamar Swim in aid of the Chestnut Appeal (photo Pauline Barker)

Paul had his birthday in June and we had a day off in Trevor, our old campervan.  We headed to Bigbury with surfboards in tow.  We discounted the big boards – the wind was easterly and the surf messy.  however, on the other side of the beach was a perfect , small, peeling wave – just right for our wooden bellyboards. We had tremendous fun – a laugh-out-loud surf session in the deserted sea.

My beautiful bellyboard, painted by Paul.

Paul also presented another demonstration evening with wine in June – not without mishap! It was a warm evening, a beautiful painting rounded off by an amazing sunset.

Paul’s Summer holiday classes start soon – ring us up quickly if you would like to learn how to paint and draw – there are some spaces left on a Wednesday afternoon!

Everyone loves to watch Paul paint.

We needed a holiday in the sunshine!  We haven’t been abroad for nearly 10 years, our kids were nagging us to go somewhere – anywhere! – so we booked a surf trip to Fuerteventura.  The weather was fair to good and the waves were fun to punishing!  The colours in the water were fantastic – like St Ives but even more intense blues and turquoises. We surfed a reef and ate pastries sitting in the sunshine on old wooden benches.  We met some fun, friendly  people from all over the place and it dawned on us that we are, in fact, European. The elderly couples walking  along the volcanic, sandy foreshore hand-in-hand wearing hat and trainers – just hat and trainers – were a bit of a surprise at first, but we rallied and carried on as normal.  We had a couple of Holiday Food Adventures, but they just added to the fun!

We’re trying to come to terms with Britain in February now.  It is astonishing how quickly you get accustomed to a different way of being.  In just a week we were settling into Canary Island life.  We aim to go back there next winter, maybe for a little longer.  There are still places we want to see.  I particularly want to ferry over to the Isla de Lobos which has fabulous lagoons and is just over the bay from where we were staying in Corralejo.

Meanwhile I am still swimming off Tinside every week.  Last Friday’s morning swim was a bit of a shock  to the system after the warm, clear water of Fuerteventura!

We have to make sure we keep surfing now – not easy when there are gales and hailstorms to contend with.

Since our return we have been  planning some events at Studio 99.  I am continuing with my Crochet Knit Sew sessions which are proving to be popular – especially the evening ones with wine.  Leave a comment below if you would like more information about these sessions.

Also coming up we have a Spring Open Studio Day.  We will be displaying some original gems from Paul’s store rooms at good prices.  Come along and join us for a coffee on Saturday March 14th from 11 am.  Free draw for a Paul original!

Everyone loves to watch Paul paint, so we will be organising an evening soon to do just that and enjoy a glass of wine at the same time.  Details will be announced soon!  Keep a lookout on Paul’s Facebook page here  for updates.

Thermals at the ready.

Here is our traditional Christmas Day Swim shot:

It was a beautiful sunny, calm day as you may remember.  We managed to stay in the water for about 20 minutes.  Sips of Cherry Brandy afterwards helped keep out the cold.

Here is a photo of some of Paul’s amazing students taken just before Christmas, together with a big cheque for St Luke’s Hospice:

This was taken at our Christmas Social – always a joy to see everyone gathered together.  We are planning to hold an Easter social too.  Our students are very important to us and we treasure them.

I am currently coping with winter by fooling myself that it is really very, very, very early Spring.  Consequently I am looking for Signs.  There are many robins singing everywhere, the days are noticeably growing longer and daffodils are springing up.  All we need is for the chickens to start laying again!

Paul & I stomped around the lanes at Brixton & Spriddlestone on Sunday  - our usual January walk looking for snowdrops.  We used to walk around the lanes when I was a child and it is comforting in a way to know that the snowdrops are still there, waiting to come up every year. Sure enough, there they were!

Along with a bank of white periwinkles

I’m still swimming in the sea at least once a week.  The temperature of the water was 8.7 degrees centigrade on Friday – it felt quite a lot cooler!

There has been some damage to the foreshore again, but thankfully nothing like last February’s havoc.  The sea will probably get a little bit colder before it starts to warm up again around April.  Thermals at the ready.

Here is a photo of a coffee & walnut cake instead!

Huge thanks to all who supported our recent exhibition in aid of St Luke’s Hospice.  The final figure is just over £971 – the most we have ever raised.  Someone from St Luke’s Fundraising team took photos of a big cheque at the Studio when we had a Christmas Social for our students, but they haven’t appeared yet, so here is a photo of a coffee & walnut cake instead!

Paul and I have managed to get out and about as usual – crucial to our health and well-being, especially in the dark December weeks.  I was encouraged to see chamomile in flower on the cliff:

I’ve had my usual frequent swims off Tinside with my cherished chums:

We have to wrap up well after our winter swims.  The Terrace Cafe have blankets and hot water bottles for us.  We have been a couple of times to Rhodes at the Dome, but we’re not that impressed!

We have also ventured out to Dartmoor for a walk near Cadover.  Lucie and I couldn’t resist dipping in the river.  It’s a bit chilly this time of year!

Paul & I are looking forward to spending Christmas with family. I do hope all who read this post will have a good Christmas – it can be a strange time.  Often there is a mixture of sadness and happiness. Either way, Paul & I would like to wish everyone happiness for the coming year, and hope to see you at the Studio during 2015.

There will be delicious cakes

Nearly half term already.  Our summer went on for ages and now it is a shock to be plunged into autumn storminess. Before the storms, I managed to complete the Breakwater Swim in aid of the Chestnut Appeal, (click here for my Just Giving page) swimming from near the Fort just off the Breakwater into Tinside Beach East along with around 179 other swimmers.  The day was fine and calm – perfect conditions.  I really enjoyed the swim – it is marvellous to swim so close to the big buoys and navigation beacons in the Sound.  I completed the swim in about 1 hour 30 minutes – it wasn’t a race so I wasn’t swimming to gain a place, just to enjoy the view.

Paul and I have started the autumn with coughs and colds which have decided they like us a lot and are refusing to slink off.  Paul has steadfastly continued to teach and paint producing some beautiful monochrome work:


I’ve been presenting some Crochet, Knit & Sew mornings at Studio 99 – informal meetings over 3 hours where we bring along any works in progress and encourage each other and enjoy the company.  Usually taking place on a Thursday morning, there may also be evening sessions starting up soon.  With wine!

We are also planning our annual St Luke’s Hospice Exhibition.  This will take place at Studio 99 on the weekend of November 22nd/23rd from 11am – 4pm. There will be the usual delicious cakes and a free draw to win one of Paul’s unique paintings.  All welcome.  More details will be published soon.