A really useful website if you are really interested in the wonders of the night sky each month. http://www.skymaps.com/downloads.html Scroll down until you come to the hemisphere most appropriate for you.
During December the 'other' good annual meteor shower reaches its peak near midnight on December 13. This year the light from the near full Moon will drown out all but the brightest meteors. However all is not lost because while the peak is on Dec. 13-14 the actual meteor shower event lasts nearly two weeks, from Dec. 6 to Dec. 19. The meteors will radiate outward in all directions from the 'radiant' which is located quite close to the star Castor. The Gemini Twins rise at about 7 p.m. local time and so the radiant for the meteor shower may be observed throughout the night. The constellation will still be high above the southwestern horizon at the peak time.
One of the most infuriating things, is to wait for a very special 'sky' event only to find that the weather changes at that very moment and obscures the whole show. Perhaps even worse than this is a 'sky event' that only happens once in a persons lifetime.
We in POWYS have a better than usual chance to really enjoy the events of the heavens as Powys has decided to switch off a lot of its light during the evenings. I have really enjoyed walking at night in the bright moonlight and seeing stars that have been hidden for years by light pollution.
Last week we were fortunate to get tickets for the Desford Brass Band concert at TheatrHafren, Drenewydd. Most of the time we were on the edge of our seats. To hear the fullness of a brass band is an unforgettableexperience ... but to hear a prize winning band playing it's own choice of music is very special indeed! So many colours. Volume that one moment shakes the base of your seat, the next moment is so quiet, you strain to hear. Harmonies, discords, solos, groups of players, but all so alert to movement an expressions of the director. Like an artist pallette, every colour seems to be possible at the movement of a finger or coner of a lip.
This is what a verse from Isaiah 35 says, in a modern translation:
Wilderness and desert will sing joyously, the badlands will celebrate and flower— Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom, a symphony of song and color. Mountain glories of Lebanon—a gift. Awesome Carmel, stunning Sharon—gifts. God's resplendent glory, fully on display. God awesome, God majestic.
That is exactly what it felt like, A EXPLOSION of colour and song. Sometimes subtle, sometimes just plain brash ... but always under control.
Today I began my first faltering steps through the wood that is 'my family' tree. I start with nothing and hope in time to find a great deal more. This will, in time be useful for future generations to draw upon. I have a memory or two, but come from a time when most people were called 'aunty or uncle'. These aunties and uncles were places where you could go safely after school. Rarely did people know the names of these, or the real family members. They were often referred to as 'family titles'. In Wales this was particularly so, as in 'Grace India ... aunty Grace who had at sometime or another been to India. Uncle Tom might just have been a close friend of the family, or he could have been a real, if distant, uncle.
I will be pleased if I can at least get some accurate branches to hang things on.
Recently we watched a wonderful video about the long history of Y Drenewydd (Newtown). I had expected just a few poor photographs strung together over a crackly soundtrack. Far from this, it was very informative, with live interviews, enhanced old photos and great movies. The soundtrack was outstanding, telling of the background of a small town that has gone through many and varied re-births.
Following this I was kindly given a superb collection of old photos of Newtown. Two of them, shown above show clearly the days just before Christmas, when the river Severn decided to go shopping also.
Knowing the town as I now do, I am able to judge the height of the water. It must have been very hard for the shop keepers to have repeatedly felt the onslaught of the water in this way.
The flooding was so bad that the EU offered a great deal of money to build very high walls around the town and then later, changes to the reservoir began to regulate the flow of water into the Severn.
The mellow time is here again after a bit of a delay. From my window I can see signs of 'fruitfulness' everywhere. The mornings have been wonderfully misty & foggy. Evenings are already quite cold. But the days have been glorious. Yesterday was a time for picking the late flush of roses, going out to gather nuts (of which there were NONE) and blackberries (of which there were just a few this year). But that is how life is. A lack in one part of the garden, field or hedgerow usually means an abundance in another. The fruit trees seem once again to be bending with ripe fruit, with bags of fruit are being left at peoples doors. Down country lanes boxes are labelled 'HELP YOURSELF!
Well, there you have it ... it's official. POWYS is the happiest place to live in Britain. When asked about living in Powys people said the air was so clean, there are wonderful hills everywhere, you are never far from fields and countryside. The people are friendly, the shops are helpful, crime is low ... what more could you ask? The heavens declare the glory of God. The valleys stand so thick with corn, that even they are singing.
A few Christmas cards go on sale. Small private plant nurseries show signs of preparing to sell winter pansies as the first mists of autumn drift early in the day across the hills. Newtown begins to wake up more slowly now as schools begin to think of starting again after a wet summer. The early morning stillness reappears before the madness of 'realising the school holidays are just about to finish' hits the 'buying school satchels and stationery' town. Enjoy!
Today I sang at a local wedding. During the signing of the registers we were treated to a short recital of Welsh music played on the harp. This has happened a number of times since moving to Wales. It is such a treat.
Y Drenewydd is an important place in the history of the harp for it is the place where until a few years ago, until her death, there lived the last remaining member of a very special Welsh family that became famous for their playing of the harp.
The harp has for centuries been the fairy-like instrument at the back of the orchestra just making 'snow sounds', 'waterfall trickles'. More recently one of my heroes, Catrin Finch, has brought this wonder instrument back into the foreground again, making it once again a fiery, bold, sensitive, sexy instrument having the range of emotions from wild to jazz to romantic.
The painting above tries to express the special Welsh fire that has once again come back to the music platform.
This week, we paid our first visit to the cinema in Newtown. The first surprise was the price. The second was to step into the cinema and find it was only 13' x 20' approx ... less than the ground floor of our house. It was like stepping into your own front room to watch a film on a big screen. The first night we saw that 'The Edge of Love' was on. This was filmed in New Quay, Cei Bach beach, West Wales, Sian's home beach as a child. The cinema has a slightly larger screen for the major film ... it was sold out as it was showing 'Mama Mia'. The only way to find out what is on is really to walk past each day, and see what is on the board. A number of times I have said 'such and such is on' only to find that it has replaced by the time I have got home. It makes going to the cinema a very spontaneous event. With this in mind the next day was the showing of 'Prince Caspian - The Chronicles of Narnia'. So it was GO or miss it! It was wonderful.
This week sees another challenge for Welsh Learners. A variety of 'Summer Schools - Ysgol Haf' throughout Wales will seek to teach learners of all levels to move forward towards a mastery of the wonderful Welsh tongue. Mastery may seem a strong word, but that is how it can seem, for it won't give in very easily. There are so many obstacles for the learner. Once the learner tackles pronunciation - which is actually very easy indeed, there are the ever present MUTATIONS. There is not just one set of these monsters, but three, soft, nasal and aspirate. These can transform words beyond recognition until the mighty tutor steps in and reveals their stomping grounds. Oh! - did I mention the endless ways of saying YES & NO? ... that's another story.
The Welsh language has fought for centuries to survive many onslaughts, but it is still stretching forth its hand of culture. Wales is not just a country, but a culture and a language that is still living. If your on holiday during the summer give it go, there is a lot of help available.
Often, I return to places where the developers have apparently MODERNISED a once magnificent place, only to find that they have totally destroyed it. With this fear in mind, my recent visit to the quay at Newcastle was a very pleasant surprise. Not one bit of development seemed out of place. The use of space was delightful, spacious, elegant, creative and totally in keeping with its historic past, even to the point of reconising its once of 'slave trading'.
I did used to love the old buildings along the quayside, the old cobbles, the dirtiness and grime. But the very best of these have been saved and given a sensitive facelift. Well done Newcastle!
I am amazed each time I download a camera image of a flower from the garden. These are not 'super flowers' or special, prize winning specimens. These are just as they come. But, just look at them, they are amazing in colour, shape, complexity and simplicity.
Each time I download photos like this, especially when they fill the screen (try it by clicking on a photo) my scent buds are assaulted with a powerful fragrance.
Well, we're almost back to normal after a slight glitch following the addition of AVG software. It seems that it may be too good at blocking things. Slowly they are making suggestions to sort things out. Above are the three paintings I put forward for the 'Art in the Pews' exhibition, Berriew. Unfortunately none of them sold, although I did get very favourable comments in the comments book.
We recently had a few days holiday in North Wales (GogleddCymru). On the way to YnysMôn we decided to take in as many different places as possible. YnysMôn is fairly flat, but because of that it makes it possible to see the most wonderful panorama's back across to the mainland. From where we stayed in Brynsiencyn we were able to see the vast spread of Snowdonia, with Snowdon itself in 'centre stage' - the newly constructed summit cafe was shining like gold in the evening light.
On the way back we took in various places that were new to us. Conwy was a most beautiful place. The pictures above were taken inside Conwy Castle. The model shows Conwy many hundred of years ago. The wonderful thing is, this very same view is more or less still visible.
A few miles from Drenewydd, is Berriew in Mid-Wales, a most beautiful little Welsh village dating back many hundreds of years. Said to have connections with the wonderful Saint Beuno. This year, the parish church, home of the Archdeacon of this part of Wales, is holding a long weekend of 'Art in the Pews'. I am preparing three new paintings for this event. Last time I was unable to contribute because my work was already on show in Drenewydd.