Willow Work (Complete a piece of art) – Challenge No 42 ( and No 7)

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There is always such a great pleasure in trying an activity for the time; it combines the fear you might be completely rubbish mingled with the hope you may absolutely love it.  I particularly enjoy creative art and even though my track record is littered with failed attempts….such as the disaster pottery lessons turned into and wishy washy water colours,  I am always excited to have a go at something new and just sometimes you hit the jackpot (in my case calligraphy).  So when Debbie, who is both my niece and friend, picked a day learning willow work as my challenge ( well part of my challenge but more about that later..) I was thrilled.

We were blessed with amazing weather and a group of 8 of us, together with our talented instructor  Carole (her web link is below), sat outside enjoying the breathtaking Derbyshire views from Debbie’s garden over Matlock and across to Stanton Moor….you could not fail to be inspired.

http://www.carolebeavis.co.uk/index.php

The majority of the group plumped for making free form light pods so Carol then guided us through how to make willow circlets, which we joined and built up then moulded holes. (The hilarity of this aspect can’t be recreated so I won’t even try, you can use your imaginations 😉).  As an all female group activity we bonded, relaxed, laughed, teased and the dynamic atmosphere reflected the ebb and flow of conversation and concentration.  I really enjoy male company but there is also something particularly pleasing about solely being in the company of people of your own gender and this day was a perfect example of that. Then, before our eyes strange pods appeared, all starting the same and somehow each taking on their own identity…tightly woven or lose and free, straight, curved and in my case…onion-shaped!!  We stopped for tea and cake ( too scrummy), then later again for a feast of a lunch which collectively was made and shared and fuelled us to continue.

Finally, our creations ( many light pods and one completely adorable puddle duck ) were complete, we had in and outed, woven, tied, secatoured, twisted and often doubted then been delighted and now….they were done.  And, without exception, they looked stunning.

And here I return to what I said at the beginning, as just sometimes you strike lucky and find something you love!! I LOVE willow weaving…it was accessible, so therapeutic, you could not really go wrong as there are so many small or large projects you can do producing functional and/or artistic pieces. It is a tactile, physical and, fortunately for me, Carole had enough willow for me to buy some and bring back to Kent so I can have another go soon.  A perfect day.

This was an inspired challenge by Debbie and I am so grateful she helped me to find another new hobby; however it was only part of her ‘connecting with nature’ challenge to me…..so stay tuned to find out how she then ended the day by completely taking me out of my comfort zone!!!!

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Have a Driving lesson/drive Chris home from the pub – Challenge No 15

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So, this may come as a surprise to some of you but I actually have passed my driving test and possess a full, clean licence (others will just be wondering….HOW 😉).  If you knew me when I was a driver, between the ages of 19-24, then it would be in Chris’ car ( which he used to lend me) and was very similar to the one below.  The only happy memory of driving I have was in this car, going to college with the window down, Tears for Fears blaring on the cassette and beating everyone off the lights.  

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The other, more numerous, memories are not so great, not feeling in control, nervousness every time I got in the car, flooding the engine, driving AND reversing over the front spoiler…I could go on!! My excuses were that my mum and my mother-in-law did not drive and, being ‘old school’ my Dad was not that helpful…no extra practice in his car and then refusing to get in a car with me as driver, even after I passed ( I guess he had his reasons) , not having my own car…..again,  I could go on.  Basically though I was not a good driver.  I remember clearly the day I ‘stopped’ driving; I had just had Matt and was off to visit a friend and within minutes the car broke down in the middle of Hartnup Street in Maidstone, where we lived, and some kind passers by pushed me off the road to safety. I felt so vulnerable and that was it – no more driving!!

I wont lie, I have tried having lessons once since then, very unsuccessfully, but felt that I owe it to Chris (who has been absolutely brilliant about my non driving status, as have my children) to try again, especially now we live more rural and it’s a 40 minute walk home from the pub.  So this is how my  50@50 Challenge came about; firstly to have a driving lesson with the aim then of driving Chris home from the pub.  I rang Julie, a local driving instructor and she has been brilliant…so calm, reassuring and she had me off through Tenterden on my first lesson, then through the outskirts of Ashford and she built up my confidence.  

http://tenterdendriving.co.uk

I then was put on our car’s insurance (not the Jag…and how ironic…the price went down by adding me…I am still chuckling over this).  I summoned the courage, which equates to Chris telling me I had to, and drove into the village, phew we made it.  Then, finally came the evening when Chris had 4 pints and it was my moment of truth.  He did an unusual amount of talking on the way home and my face shows I think how much I have to concentrate and how nervous I still am.  But,  we did it🚙🚙🚙. If it had not been for these 50@50 challenges, and casually reading how you are more likely to be successful at tasks if your age ends in a 9, I know I would never have even attempted driving again.  

 

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Am I ready for other passengers – No

Do I enjoy it – No

Will I go further than the village – Probably not

Am I going to keep trying – Yes (if Chris wants me to)

Am I pleased I tried – I AM THRILLED!!!!

 

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Have drum lessons and learn one piece of music – challenge No 1

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Since we moved to Woodchurch, a fantastic village in Kent, we have spent quite a bit of time in our local pub The Six Bells where we have made wonderful friends.  It serves great beer, has a wonderful atmosphere and frequent live music.  I realised then how much I love the sound of the drums and became a dab hand at playing along with some wooden spoons (you can guess how well that went down!!). 

https://www.facebook.com/The-Six-Bells-152114374821154/

A couple of years ago I got a huge surprise as Chris unexpectedly bought me a second hand drum set from a friend in the village, thank you Ollie, for my birthday and I spent six months following an online you tube teacher (JustLisa) which gave me some very basic rudiments. Unfortunately I could not read music, knew none of the technical lingo and as I have never played an instrument before I basically got stuck.  So for my birthday last year Chris bought me a years drum lessons and I set my 50@50 challenge.  In my dreams I wanted to play along to Stereophonics Dakota.

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The first hurdle I had to overcome was that of reading music.  Having never played an instrument before I found this very hard.  Even though Ed, my tutor, was impressed with my improvised way of recording music which I then had to learn at home  I soon realised I would not be able to progress very far.  So I purchased Rock School Drums Grade 1, practiced very hard outside my fortnightly half hour lessons and finally (also with the aid of Chris’ Grade 1 music theory) it sank in. 

https://www.rslawards.com/music/graded-music-exams/drums/grade-one

Over the past year I have learnt rudimentary sticking, rock grooves, fills, syncopation,  paradiddles, how to open the hi-hat, the six degrees of separation, triplets, accents, flams and other fun things.  YET all along the one thing I could not do was just play along to any song..be free to just play.  I became embarrassed and very self conscious and would resist doing this at all costs.

I worked really hard though and completed my task being able to play both the Kaiser Roll and Bend and Snap….both being musical pieces in my Rock Book, but Dakota still eluded me…..

Until my last lesson!!!  I spent the afternoon with friends sitting in the sun drinking a glass…or three…of prosecco and come lesson time I was on fine form.  Ed, bless him, had planned a fun lesson and we had a few warm ups which unbeknown to me were key beats from Dakota….he then cued the music and we were away playing freestyle accompanying the Stereophonics.  They went wrong a couple of times, but I helped them through 😉, and had a great time doing it.  I am so grateful to Ed for thrusting this upon me as I would never have done it otherwise..a great teacher who made each lesson interesting and enjoyable.  In return I was his model pupil who did their homework and bought in cake….a fair trade in my book.

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It is now gardening season so the drum sticks are away but come Autumn I will be back drumming away and enjoying the sensation of making music ( of sorts ).  Whilst I never wish to be part of a band or play in public, I do particularly enjoy the sense of coordination it gives me, the awe I feel every time a child sits at my drums and freely expresses themselves with none of the inhibitions that I possess, the physical release it gives me to play really loud and angry or gently and rhythmic but  mostly the pleasure in the knowledge……you can still teach this old dog new tricks!!!