Gloom, gloom, gloom!

Here’s the view out the art room window this morning:

The country has been paying for that pretty, warm, and fairly dry September and October we had, by giving us rain and gale-force winds for a couple weeks now. There were terrible floods up north in the Peak District, with a few entire towns and many bridges wiped out. We live less than two miles from the Thames and I think we’re protected somewhat by the raised embankments of the rail lines and the M4. But we definitely live in a low river valley so we do wonder about what Maidenhead would look like if we got as much rain as they did up north.

Anyway, I’m trying to learn to live with gloomy days like this. And that lovely damp-dog smell!! I knew that was going to be the biggest challenge, coming from sun-drenched Colorado. It took me nearly 3 weeks to shrug off that cold I had (maybe I did have the minor-symptoms version of the swine flu), and Paul has been working long hours and not getting home as much for lunch. All that added up to me feeling like a real shut-in recently. I’m usually a quite contented loner, but I haven’t had the opportunity to make any friends here and not getting out of the house for so long made me realize how much I am missing even my minimalist social life in Boulder! After these last few weeks I am now determined to get out by myself on weekdays and explore more places within a couple hours drive—even in winter drizzle!

Yesterday we walked the Boyz over at Henley-on-Thames, my favorite local village (a quite posh one actually) and remembered again why I am so blissed to be living here. (Wow, that sentence actually sounded kind of Brit-speak didn’t it??) The town has such a picturesque setting on the river with their church and bridge. They hold the annual Henley Regatta here, which is one of those see-and-be-seen summer social calendar events like Ascot. Even though the grass is still vibrant green and daytime temps are mostly around 50°, Christmas lights (they call them fairy lights over here) are beginning to come out. It was picture-book pretty walking through town as the sun was setting; too bad I forgot to bring my camera!

It will be fun observing the holiday season over here. A lot of celebratory traditions are the same as in the US (including some politically-correct schools banning anything but the most secular decorations and names for the season). Christmas Pudding seems to be a variation on (or more likely the origin of) our fruitcake, and I read in the paper that yesterday was “Stir Up Sunday”. The first day of the holiday season, where the whole family is supposed to take part in making the Christmas pudding.

Over here they have Boxing Day, on Dec 26th. According to the web: An ‘Alms Box’ was placed in every church on Christmas Day, into which worshippers placed a gift for the poor of the parish. These boxes were always opened the day after Christmas, which is why that day became known as Boxing Day.

During the late 18th century, Lords and Ladies of the manor would “box up” their leftover food, or sometimes gifts and distribute them the day after Christmas to tenants who lived and worked on their lands. Traditionally, Boxing Day is the day when families get together. It is a day of watching sports and playing board games with the family. Many families will go on walks in the countryside together on this day. There is also a tradition of fox hunting on Boxing Day. (Though now they can still hunt but can’t actually chase foxes.)

In recent times, some shops have broken from tradition and started opening on Boxing Day to start the New Year sales. Hundreds of people now spend Boxing Day morning in queues outside shops, waiting to be the first to dive for the sales racks as the doors opened. (Sounds just like our “Black Friday” the day after Thanksgiving. Though recently I think our stores have been having their biggest sales after Christmas too.)

We won’t be here for Boxing Day, as we fly to NY to spend Christmas with my sister Kristin and her family in Brooklyn for a few days, and then upstate with Paul’s parents.

I’ve been puttering away in the art room even when I didn’t have much energy with the head cold. I’m almost done with the china “Optime” Arabian onto which I am sculpting a unique mane and tail:

I got my china molds out and cast a “Streetwise” Quarter Horse the other day. I want to see if I can do a drastic customization and get three legs on the ground (instead of the current two) so that it will stand without a base. It’s a good choice sculpture to use as a guinea pig because I was surprised to find that I have two complete sets of his molds. I wasn’t planning on releasing too many more of him (might have to re-think that now!). Here’s what he looks like in all his parts…

I also have four good molds of the little “Breakables Live” show medallions I sculpted as awards for that show I held in 2002. (I cast one of those the other day too. You can see it in the lower left of the photo.) I have no clue what to do with them. I offered them to the person who revived the show last summer, but I was turned down. Guess they wanted something new.

Lastly, here is more progress on “Roundabout”.

It is still horribly rough but that’s the way sculpting goes around here. I work on one part and then another part looks wrong, and back and forth! I’m not sure if I am doing my work-self any favors, revealing my in-progress “dirty laundry” in this way. Is it really a good idea for everyone to see my cringe-inducing mistakes revealed in the process? Or is it better to present the finished product only??

A warm and Happy Thanksgiving to all my USA readers, family, and friends! We’re flying back to Boulder this week (first time Paul’s been home for nearly a year!) and then on to visit my two brothers’ families in Tucson for a few days. Sun, here we come, yeah!!