Monday, August 31, 2009

Another day in Edinburgh

nicholson square
anna and katy
We had a quick picnic in the square and later on saw Anna & Katy. The show was surreal comedy sketches – most of which left me cold – though there were some moments of gold, such as the two Brummies explaining with increasing incredulity various TV programmes such as the weather forecast. (The man doesn’t say that it’s been rainy today, he actually tells you what the weather is going to be like tomorrow!)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

More Festival sketches

nicholas parsons happy hour
Nicholas Parsons, 85 year old presenter of BBC Radio’s ‘Just a minute’ has a show every year at the fringe festival presenting up and coming comedians and entertainers. This comedian was only 18 years old and did a very funny turn where he told the story of his father giving him ‘the shaving talk’ which he had thought was the ‘facts of life talk’. It was ripe with confusion – his father saying things like ‘The first time you’ll probably bleed’, and ‘I’ve given your mother a rash when I haven’t done it properly’.
moving melvin
Moving Melvin was a great song and dance act on the show.
royal mile
The Royal Mile is full of strange and wonderful sights, street entertainers and people promoting their shows in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways.
elephant house
The Elephant House café has a lovely light back room with a wonderful view of the Greyfriars church yard and Edinburgh castle. This is famously the café where JK Rowling sat for hours writing Harry Potter.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

More Festival sketches

Merv Stutter presents
If the light was good enough and if I wasn’t overwhelmed with laughter or tears I tried to sketch in some of the fifteen or so shows we saw whilst in Edinburgh. Merv Stutter presents is one of the shows where you see snippets of shows from around the festival to help you choose what to see.
Texting teenagers
In between the shows, our teenagers were straight onto their mobile phones texting their friends.
Austen's women
Austen’s Women was an excellent one woman show, great fun for Austen fans.
I didn’t manage to sketch in Flo’s play ‘Round and Round the Garden’, but I wanted to mention how much I enjoyed it. Flo’s bit of ‘business’ attempting to put up deck chairs had me hooting with laughter – to such an extent that Tom had to try to stop me so that I didn’t wreck the play by setting off Flo. She has her last performance in ten minutes time, I hope they have another full house and a great appreciative audience like the evening we went.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Grassmarket, Edinburgh

Grassmarket, Edinburgh
I’ve just come back from Edinburgh, so I’m going to interrupt the Greek holiday pictures to post my Edinburgh Festival sketches. This was drawn while waiting for teenage children to join me for lunch. I love Edinburgh, it is so much more beautiful than I imagined before I first visited it, three years ago. This part is full of interesting little shops and cafés. Flo spotted an old school teacher of hers wandering down the street and thrust a flyer for her show in his hands. I overheard him say to his wife as they left a vintage clothes shop ‘Y’know, I think all those clothes were secondhand’.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Great Edinburgh Festival show

Edinburgh Festival leaflet front
Edinburgh Festival leaflet back
This is my last chance to chivvy any of you who are going to Edinburgh for the festival to see this wonderful show. I’m going and really looking forward to it. If you want to see some of the rehearsal photos in Mansfield College gardens go here, and the play website is here. It is of course a complete coincidence that one of the cast members happens to share my surname.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sailing to Spetses

flo readingxavier on the bow
My heart was in my mouth when Xavier sat at the bow like this. Robin insisted it was good for his confidence… maybe, but not great for mine.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tom and my regular rant about black backgrounds

Taking a quick break from the Greek sketches, a drawing of Tom last night.
I read something this morning that interested me. Smashing magazine conducted a survey of typographic design patterns on 50 popular websites where typography matters more than usual (popular newspapers, magazines and blogs as well as various typography-related websites). As a blogger with many blogging friends using out-of-the-box templates like me, I just want to highlight one of their findings. How many of these typography-oriented websites had a dark background? Not a single one. I’ve ranted quite often about how I find it very unpleasant trying to read black background blogs and how they’d have to be something very special for me to visit them more than once. However, if you do have a dark background to your blog, rather than shaking your heads at the ranting of someone who obviously isn’t a web designer, why not take note of the example of web typographers at the top of their profession, who clearly believe that for maximum legibility a dark background is a no-no. Every one of the 50 beautifully designed sites in the survey had a white background.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


One of the silly games (copied from my friend Shulay) that we often play on holiday is spotting celebrities. Not real celebrities, just people who look like the famous. It was much more downmarket this time as all the lookee likees that we saw just looked like our friends. For instance to our amusement the waiter at this taverna was the spitting image of our friend Steve. Anyone who followed my Greek odyssey three years ago may recall that there was bitter rivalry between the two tavernas. This time we decided to give our custom to Michael and Margaret’s taverna for a couple of reasons. One that we’d eaten at the other taverna three years ago and the owner had tried to make us sit in a hot uncomfortable part of his restaurant and two the same owner tried to persuade us to eat at his restaurant this time by saying how terrible the cooking was at Michael and Margaret’s. Well that decided it for us, M&M’s it was to be. We were rewarded with a lovely meal and a huge bag of home grown tomatoes was pressed on us to take home.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hugo helming as we leave Monemvasia

The sea was a smooth as silk. We stopped in a beautiful bay for lunch and a swim en route to Kiparrissi. And then we remembered we’d left the boarding plank on the quayside at Monemvasia so back we went to pick it up and resume our journey. Tempers were frayed by the end of the day. However I’ve been reading that the ideal ratio of happiness to unhappiness is 3:1. A ratio of 1:0 means you probably need to be in a lunatic asylum, so one or two less than perfect days on a two week holiday is not bad going.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


When the weather was calm the children often cooled off, as we sailed, by sitting in the ringo or, as here, sitting on the back of the boat (there is a technical name for this bit of the boat I’m sure but blowed if I can remember it) with legs trailing in the water. Monemvasia was a lovely place. A little town with a harbour (home of a sea-turtle, who seemed to be hiding every time we swam looking for him) and a causeway to the island. The village on the island was traffic free with tiny cobbled streets and with about five different places of worship, one clinging precariously at the top of the island at the edge of the cliffs. It was of course compulsory to take the heart-attack inducing walk to the top and enjoy the view. The meal at the harbour-side taverna was memorable because it included that rare treat, fried stuffed courgette flowers.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Milos to Monemvasia

We left Milos very early in the morning for the long sail to Monemvasia on the Greek mainland. After the previous sail in force six to seven winds it was a relief to have very light winds even if it did mean that we had to use the motor for most of the journey.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bulbourne, Buckinghamshire

I drew this lovely Victorian tower while my husband paddled in the canal. If you're a fan of the TV series ‘Midsomer Murders’ (the improbable tales of a beautiful English village which has the highest murder rates in the country), this building was the location for part of one of the episodes.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Plaka sunset

We clambered back up to the peak over Milos to wait for and enjoy the sunset from the 360° panoramic view. One of the slogans we’d noticed around Milos was the sugary ‘Milos is for lovers’. And the lovers had all obviously taken it to heart, as we counted about twenty couples all gazing into each others eyes around us as we waited for the sunset. We had great fun taking photos of my sons Xavier and Hugo uncharacteristically gazing tenderly at each other. This church was part way down the hill and was one of about five serving a population that was probably smaller than the one church village we live in here in England

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Adamas to Paliochri beach

We stayed another day in Milos because none of us (apart from Robin) wanted to sail the next long leg of our journey in the winds that were forecast for today. So we all caught the bus to Paliochri beach and then had lunch in a taverna overlooking the beach. I spotted a lady’s profile in the cliff running down to the sea.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Plaka, Milos island

Plaka, Milos
plaka lunch
These were sketched from the village of Plaka, high over the Gulf of Milos. Milos is of course famously the place where the Venus de Milo was found (or possibly more accurately the Aphrodite of Milos). Also like Santorini, it is volcanic and there is a huge bay that is the hollow of the volcanic crater. The first picture was the view from a café where Tom and Flo wrote postcards home while I painted. The second picture was later on after we’d climbed to the top of the Kastro and rewarded ourselves when we were back in the village with lunch at this wonderful cake shop.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hellish journey

After a couple of days in Santorini we needed to move on to the next island so that we would be able to get the boat back to Athens at the end of the holiday.
The plan was to sail around the breathtaking caldera of Santorini and then sail on to Milos. However there were white horses as we left the marina at six in the morning and by the time we were about to round the south-west point of the island the wind had really started to blow. Because of the very high cliffs around the caldera, the wind was gusting unpredictably in the centre so we felt it was safer to skip the scenic detour and head straight for Milos. The waves became so high that I regularly got drenched by water coming over the coach-roof into the cockpit. Poor Xavier was sick and all of the children just curled up in their bunks below decks as we crashed our way over the waves. I stupidly hadn’t thought to pack anything waterproof so staying on deck to support Robin became a very cold and wet affair. Lunch was anything that you could hold in one hand, so as Robin helmed I clambered up and down the steps down to the galley to supply him with bananas, apricots etc to keep his strength up.
Ten very wet hours later we started to near Milos and the two older boys felt able to help out on deck. I thought this was a chance to dry myself off and went down to my cabin. However the boat hit a particularly big wave and I was thrown against the side of the boat, hitting my head and shoulder and bending my glasses completely out of shape. Fortunately as we always seems to have spectacles crises on holiday I was wearing a very old spare pair, so not my most up-to-date prescription. At this point, as Robin seemed to have enough help I just curled up and nursed my wounds until we were almost at our destination.
It was wonderful to reach the peace of Adhamos harbour on Milos. That evening, after long hot showers we went out for pizzas. The food wasn’t great, but it was lovely to be sitting in a comfortable seat that didn’t move!

Monday, August 10, 2009


Sketches from the yacht in Santorini marina

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The black sand beaches of Santorini

Way too windy to sail, so another day in Santorini, finishing off at Dimitri’s restaurant which clung to the top of the cliff overlooking the marina.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Caldecotte Arms, Milton Keynes

This is a little break from the backlog of Greek sketches to show you a sketch I did today. As cheerer on and official photographer I went to Milton Keynes to support husband Robin at the Dragon Boat fun day he’d organised for his work colleagues. Before the activities started on the lake behind me I was able to sketch this building – a modern building incorporating what I think is an old windmill.

Friday, August 07, 2009

On the way to Santorini


Amazing dramatic scenery, but sometimes you just have to finish that one paragraph.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Sailing to Sifnos

Another lovely day, finishing at a taverna on the beach

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Pure bliss

The children teased me about the sentimental entry in my line drawing sketchbook, but it was a perfect day, being with each other, with no sign of the inevitable scraps and bickering that you get in a family of six, everyone happy, hot sunny weather with sea breezes, delicious tomato salad lunch, and the prospect of two more weeks of this.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The first day of our holidays

Three years after our wonderful sailing holiday in Greece we were able to repeat the experience. So over the next few days I’ll be posting my sketches of a wonderful fortnight.