Summer in Chagrin

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It took us ages to adjust to an ordinary life after the extraordinary, and to plenty of household chores after no chores.  We do the minimum in the garden….water, cut grass, pull a few weeds and water the veg that we put in our small plot.  In the space of two weeks we have gone from evenings with the furnace and an extra blanket (unusual), to wishing we had more ceiling fans and a/c (usual).

We did our taxes, and friends came for Blossom Weekend, a village-wide display of complete euphoria, with three days of parties, a run, a noisy parade, hot air balloons, the fair, then a sober memorial parade. Then life reverts to a conventional sober, safe and steady pace.  I bought a sleek lightweight road bike, learned to use 22 gears, and I ride it often. We both are back to playing pickle ball, we renovated the garden room, and have started a remodel of the kitchen.  I completed a couple of watercolor commissions, and after posting all my demos online I completed my first oil in six months.

Claudias Lilies

Claudia’s Lilies

I went back to the art group and realized I wasn’t ready to go back to teaching.  After four months painting in front of a big class (eight months, if you consider both ships) it has been a pleasure to paint in solitary.  I miss the friendship, and the pleasure I had while watching students achieve unique small paintings of their own, but painting is not a group activity. Learning is best done while wrestling with the paints by yourself.
I now have a collection of paintings from our journey around the world…..

 

http://www.dailypaintworks.com/artists/tan-gillespie-5750/artwork

Select an image to see all the details. Almost all of these are class demos.

If you want to see what I’m painting now (in oil) check back to dailypaintworks and type in my name, regularly. There are larger images on my website.

Will we take another Round the World cruise?   Perhaps not.   However, we are selling our condo in Sarasota. We know we are not quite ready to sit on a couch, and dine at happy hour!  I think there will be more international travel for Pete and I, but for now, we are home, and I will be back in the studio.

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Showtime!

The students’ paintings were amazing. Lady Edna chose eight honorable mentions, a best in show and three other prize winners. Champagne bottles were presented, with hastily prepared QE 2017 ribbons. I was totally out of voice and energy ( Pete said I was also out of Nice !) so Peggy stood up to give praise and thanks.IMG_5342

That evening the ship moved carefully through the busy shippings lanes of the English Channel, pulled into the Solent in the early hours of the morning, and we were home…..

Misty architectural and boatyard shapes, cold calm water, broken reflections, a million small ripples, birds in silhouette dipping and skimming, ferries churning with a white wake streaming out behind, and all the rest in fifty shades of grey. England in May.
We could see familiar shape of Queen Mary across the Southampton water, and with packed suitcases we trotted down the gangway, and gave this QUEEN a royal wave. Elizabeth….is history!IMGP0202

If you think two complete voyages around the world would change us, so did I!
However Pete’s brother Charles was poised to pick us up, and by mid morning we were drinking coffee in his daughters kitchen, just like regular people, and that night we slept on an air bed in the dining room. With some hesitation, he showed us the disaster he has made of the Drayton home we had so liked a year ago, then drove us to see Liz in West Tytherley. Her charming home was built in 1420, extended in 1600 and used to be the home of the Singer Family (sewing machines) If you would like to stay with her, do call months in advance…..Farthing Corner is an award winning, popular B and B.

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On the way to Heathrow, we met John at the Jovial Sailor. Well chosen for us, and, long ago, for the crew who left their sailing ships at the docklands in London and needed an alehouse break on their cross country walk to a new vessel in Portsmouth.
Our choice … a fast afternoon flight to Washington. A similar route across the Atlantic four months ago took us a whole week!

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Nearly Home!

FullSizeRenderAlthough this is part of Portugal we are still close to the African Coast. It is mountainous……the tops so high that the trees are still leafless. There are gardens with fountains beside the sea. Funchal is a huge sprawling white city with orange tile roofs, the homes packed into the valleys that rise up the slopes , with steep cobbled narrow streets. We had such a nice day that we got over the 50 minute wait to exchange dollars for euros and then forgave the taxi driver who ripped us off. We explored the old neighborhoods up to the fort, found a locals bar for some sweet Madeira wine, and a Portuguese toasted ham and cheese. We missed the painted doors, and didn’t have enough time to go to the fishing village, Camara de Lobos, on the coast west of the city, or explore the spectacular coastline. It took a long time to paint the picture of the Queen on the harbour wall in Madeira, then it was back for a well earned dinner of local fresh fish purchased from the waterfront. It was delicious. This is an island worth a revisit, our last day ashore was a really good one.
Here we are approaching home. We are back to woollies and long pants, and a vest and scarf. On deck there is no one in sight in the evening usually a popular time for a last stroll and the sunset. There are packed suitcases appearing in the corridors, and a general feeling of excitement and relief.

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There is just enough energy left for one last morning class and THE SHOW. We’ll have a guest appearance from Lady Edna Quinn, who will hand out coveted QE ribbons and champagne, then we too can hang over the rail and watch shipping in the Channel, and the looming grey clouds threatening some genuine English weather.

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Packing our bags!

And some artwork!

Our last port was lovely Madeira……

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Cape Verde

 

Oh, these fishing dinghies are terrific! The fisherman live in poor stone homes with two or three rooms, and no facilities, and their old wooden boats are works of art. The small town on Mindelo is quiet, and typically windy. It is a Sunday so the normal pace has dropped to a crawl. There are are a few market stall taking advantage of the arrival of 2000 guests with nothing to do. But the locals are not overly friendly, our comfort is too evident. There are scrawny kids begging for a dollar, boney dogs , and some colorful Portuguese homes along the main streets., and the town beach was really dirty with old plastic torn bags of litter, a dead cat, dead wood and poor and narrow streets of poor homes….. Sat in spa bar for beer, early morning call to anna, then young Calvin, took us Baia Das Gatas where the fishing dinghies were amazing.
Beyond the Queen, was another Bay with a beach made of imported pale Sahara sand, and the sea was an unusual baby blue. The white sand in water, turning it milky.
The entire ships company, Ups and Downs, were enjoying the rough waves and the bar behind the beach.IMGP0166
Our visit to Tenerife, on the other hand was most disappointing. The island is very mountainous, rising to a surprising 12000 ft.volcano. Steep neighborhoods rise up behind the port area, the flowering jacarandas were lovely, but it was a bank holiday so it was as if the city was hung over. It was hot by midday, we had cold beer and tapas eaten in the shade at a street cafe…..thousands of English retire and holiday on the island, but all we saw was Santa Cruz……I need an attitude adjustment!

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An Episode

Oh this is Downton Abbey! The tv programme is based on the lives of Ups and Downs, who are expected to stay in their assigned places. When they do not, we have an Episode! Georg (Down) thought I (Up) were Down, and he invited Up to mingle with other Downs! Because Up, who works like a Down, thought they were a Down, they went! Should Georg be dismissed, and Up be reprimanded. Probably. But this is not Downton Abbey, it is community afloat, and useful individuals cannot instantly be replaced. Georg is still here and so am I, and it reminds me that if they don’t know where to put you in the social order you naturally go to the bottom. It’s quite comfortable down there, there’s no competition. Incidentally we loved our safari with the Downs, we didn’t know it was an Episode!

There were plenty of guests who had a less successful day in Walvis Bay. The shuttle dropped guests at a grocery store. Groceries are the last thing we well fed cruisers need, and walking is not an attractive alternative in this hot desert town, where it has rained 5 times in the last 5 years. Some guests on tour were wined and dined in magnificent style at tables set up on the top of a sand dune. ($168 per person) A more affordable option ($128) was to climb aboard a 4×4 with books and binoculars to look for birds, or with a magnifying glass to study the geckos, lizards and frogs who hide in the rocks or burrow into the sand which lies beneath everything. There is food for both….clouds of flies hang around the shoreline. The seawater is chockful of red jellyfish, up to 16 inches across, trailing streamers of gills and strings. Am I putting you off Namibia? IMG_5274
Walvis Bay is the only deep water port on the skeleton coast, a dangerous shore littered with shipwrecks. The Namib desert, the name means place of emptiness, is the oldest in the world, and it is a birders paradise. We had a good day……and each one is closer to finish! We found free wifi in a shack close to the water, the cell phone towers disguised as palm trees, a safe taxi ( we hadn’t heard the story of the group who were fleeced by unscrupulous locals) took us to see flamingoes, the salt mine, and to Dune 7 so I could climb in deep sand to the top (163 meters) and then dropped us on the esplanade for a long and hot walk. Shore days give us a welcome opportunity for exercise, sadly lacking on sea days. We donated funds to some locals selling carved wooden items from a blanket spread on the ground, came back with a giraffe and a rhino, and enjoyed the sunset sail out into the Angola Basin.IMG_5280

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Out of Africa

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We took a safari with the crew, a mixed selection of waiters, entertainment, spa and sport, no waiting before or during the trip, everything on time and affordable. How refreshing, find the small mini bus, windows open and go! The weather before we left was wet and cool, by the time we reached Kragga Kamma Game park the sun was breaking through, and the ‘game’ were grazing. There has been no rain or cool weather since November, so rangers and wildlife were enjoying this first taste of winter. , and so did we. From an open 4×4 on a bumpy circuitous dirt road around the park, we found cheetah, giraffe, warthog, white rhino, gnu, eland , zebra, monkeys, buffalo, and few more unfamiliar antelope. In the late afternoon the drive back to Port Elizabeth was through pleasant neighborhoods, many houses with electric perimeter
fences, razor wire topped walls and barred windows, but none of the squalor that I expected. Walking the neighborhoods, however, is seriously discouraged. There were rolling hills, gum trees, palms and eucalyptus, lovely low light and miles of sandy beaches.
Ooooh, I sense cool in the air. Perhaps Georg overstepped his authority by inviting us to go out with the crew. It is a pity that both Chris and John, my art bosses, were on the same trip. They didn’t say anything!
We had two days in Capetown, just 40 miles from the Cape of Good Hope. The sun was just rising over the sea, and touching the mountain top as we came up on deck from our windowless room. We were docked beneath Table Mountain. The cable car rotates as it hauls 65 people at a time up to the top. We were early, and the views were striking on such a clear day. We did the long rough hike along the summit to Mclears Beacon 3533 ft above the ship and wiith spectacular views of the coastline and rugged mountains inland.
We came down to Camps Beach to eat ice cream and watch the waves. The sea is cool, only 54 deg, and there are sharks. We weren’t tempted to swim. From the quayside at the Victoria and Albert waterfront, there are ships and shops, historical buildings and seafood restaurants. There are seals and dolphins to entertain and wheeling royal terns and gulls overhead and nothing but sea between us and the Antarctic. Early next day we took the first ferry across Table Bay to Robben Island to look for penguins, we glimpsed a few lazy birds on the surface as we came across and were lucky to see more on the rocks.
The island was originally home for lepers, and the tour of the prison, built by inmates in the 1950s, is given by a former inmate. He talked about their daily routine, and showed the small cell where Mandela spent a solitary 18 of his 28 years as a political prisoner. It was a fascinating morning, and when we returned it was time to find wifi and hustle back to the ship to sail away in the sunset.
We were spared the dangerous poorer areas of Soweto, tin shacks stretching over miles of bleak hillsides, but I was sorry to leave such an interesting place, and wished for at least another week or two.

and now……14 classes over seven days…….rough!

 

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