The nicest way to enjoy Christmas…by sketching!
Look at this loveliness…!!
One of the lovely sketchers from USk Galway arranged a sketch-out today. She had suggested sketching the Christmas Market, and so we met in Eyre Square, which is completely taken over by the annual market. It has the words Traditional Christmas Market written in large letters on the edge of it, but I suspect it’s a bit more traditional in Germany than in Ireland. The market consists of a few rows of little wooden log cabins that are prettily lit up and sell all kinds of things, from hand-made, hand-dyed felt dresses for tiny girls to chimney cake (no, I don’t know either) and wooden chopping boards. The air smells lovely – there are stalls with wood fires around cooking hot dogs and things and I imagine it smells like that in a German Christmas market. My favourite thing ever from the Christmas Market was a furry black crow that I bought for my youngest, Liv, when she was about seven or eight. She doesn’t care a fig about California anymore (that’s what she named her) so she’s kind of mine now.
“Oh my God! My crow! What was her name?”
“California,” I said, knowing what was coming.
“Where is she now?” asked Liv.
“There, on the ground beside you,” I said. “But she’s mine now.”
Liv didn’t agree, and has been flying the crow around for the last ten minutes, albeit with Reuben the terrier as a kind of fall guy for the crow to tease. Liv is making the crow “peck” Reuben, and I fear for California’s furry beak.
But back to the sketching session this afternoon. My fellow Galway urban sketcher Solenn and I sat next to a little display of gingerbread girls and boys. I sketched it and Solenn sketched the Christmas lights she could see strung up on the bare branches of trees across the square. Now, I am very curmudgeonly when it comes to Christmas, but I enjoyed the pleasure of the punters as they walked through the market. I can tell you that a careful study of the comments about the gingerbread display revealed that females aged 15-30 were by far the most impressed by it. Some of them used their kids as excuses to hang around and take photos (“Smile!” said one mother, “Pretend you’re having a great time!” In fairness, one of her kids was a huge and morose teen).
Paddy passed his test, which meant they couldn’t have tested him on certain aspects of driving a power boat: the night before, Marcel had asked him to name a few things you might find in a First Aid box when you’re out on a rib.
“Stethoscope,” said Paddy.
“Syringe,” he said.
“You’re never going to pass it at this rate,” I said.
“Come on Paddy!” said his dad. “This is absurd! What’s next, a doctor’s uniform?”
“Or a clipboard and notes,” offered Liv, Paddy’s younger sister, who’s also a dinghy sailor.
But pass it he did. I hope he never has to rummage in a First Aid bucket when he’s out at sea, looking for an MRI machine or whatever.
On my way home, the sun was a giant ball of orange fire in the sky. I stopped at Tyrone House, which is a few minutes’ walk beyond the entrance to my house, to make a tiny movie of the sunset. When the house was in its glory days, it was said that it had the finest sunsets in Europe. The house was built in 1789 and while the first owner was apparently a decent sort, none of the subsequent proprietors were too troubled with codes of good behaviour. I’ve read numerous accounts of how they would impregnate local girls and then not honour the ensuing offspring, and other bad things that I’ve forgotten (sorry, not much of a story there). I do know that the residents were not loved by the locals, who were their tenants. They still speak of them with bitterness, if they do at all. The road from the house to the village of Kilcolgan was at one stage the private avenue of the house, and seemingly if you were a peasant and someone from the house passed you on horseback, you had to turn your face away into the bushes. “Don’t eyeball me!” – that kind of vibe.
But I love to sketch the ruin in its current state and I used to love to explore there. I don’t anymore, it’s creepy. There is a moat-like ditch around the bottom of the house, which was a sort of meagre concession to throw light into the rooms of the servants’ quarters. In the days before electric light it must have been extremely miserable down there on a January afternoon. It’s shut off now by an intimidating, blood-red metal door, but when I first moved to the area some seventeen years ago you could wander freely around the basement. Some of the rooms had beautiful greenish light filtering into them from enormous, elegant windows, filtered through ivy that grew outside on the walls. Others had beer cans in them. My sister and I did a photoshoot down there once. She’s an amazing photographer and everything she touches turns to gold.
You can see a YouTube on my channel of me painting in the ruin a few years ago, and I went back a few times over that summer. One night it was beautiful in the ruin, so peaceful, but the next evening I was suddenly spooked, and almost ran home. And I’m not superstitious or silly about these things. Well, okay, I am. But still. It didn’t help that my hairdresser, who has a very strong Kent accent and used to live next door to me, told me that one night he was cycling past the house in twilight and saw something strange.
“I saw a really ‘orrible face in an upstairs windah,” he said. “I can’t explain it. It was ‘orrible! I dahnt even know if it was a man or a woman! Just ‘orrible! God!”
I thought about that face quite a bit. And my hairdresser isn’t remotely silly, he’s amazing. But I survived.
Good news! (For me.)
My favourite brush is my Rosemary brush. It’s a no. 8 and it’s a travel brush. It is a synthetic/sable blend and it is springy, pointy and holds lots of water – exactly what you need in a brush. Of all my brushes. it’s the one I would dread losing the most. Rosemary did a competition on Instagram a couple of days ago – one of those ones where you tag a few people, nothing else. Well….I won!!! The prize is a £100 voucher for Rosemary’s beautiful brushes. I can’t believe it and I am so thrilled. Thank you SO much Rosemary and your team.
Until next time – see you soon!