Friday, February 22, 2008

Skywatch Friday: once in a blue moon........

there is a total Lunar Eclipse, and we are awake to catch it! I realise this was a widespread event and we are probably going to visit each others blogs today and say "snap" because lots of us will have seen it, but anyway, for what it is worth, here is my 2 cents worth! To be honest, I was quite disappointed with many of them, as the light got worse, the quality became grainier. but it was cool to see it, and watch it sink over the horizon.....

..... and since we were awake anyway, we decided to go for a walk, and catch the sun taking over the spotlight in the sky, so to speak!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

happy memories for some ex-pats

After the last Skywatch post, I got a comment from Diane, whose granny used to live in the little hamlet of Prince Albert in the 1910-20s!! So I thought I'd show a bit more of the town.

This house is called Millers House and is on the side of the road as you enter , from the PE side. We stayed there on our trip to Namaqualand a couple of years ago. We never even made it into town that first was dusk as we arrived, and COLD. We settled in and found it was so cosy and inviting that we decided we didn't even want to go out for dinner. I knocked together a meal in the communal kitchen, and we settled in for the evening to process all the photos we had taken so far, and then later to sleep blissfully under the goose down duvets.

The town still has the old water mill and canal system running through the streets, which adds to its quaint charm.

The next morning we went for a stroll at the dam, and that is where we took the pictures of the frost which were in the skywatch post last Friday.

The town itself is very picturesque, here it is seen from the rocky kopje on the outskirts.

In town, most homes are beautifully restored, and property sells for a fortune, as it has become trendy for urbanites from Cape Town to buy weekend retreats here. But there are still one or two fixer-uppers to be had.....

And here are a couple for CJ in Scotland, whose grandpa was from the little village of Willowmore, also featured on that trip. Unfortunately it was bucketting with rain when we went through there, so I only have two photos, one of the old synagogue, and one of an old bedford truck at the garage where we filled up the car.

We really love long distance driving, and travelling on roads we have never been on before, so whenever we can grab a bit of spare time (easier said than done) we will be on the road again and bring you more of our interesting and varied country. Until then, the painting continues at a frenzied pace... will post pix soon!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Skywatch Friday, telescopes and Arty Farty stuff

Hi. Firstly, I must apologise for being so scare recently. I have not posted or visited much, because I have an art exhibition on, which opened on Tuesday. There was the usual last minute flurry of activity right up till the first guest walked into the gallery for the opening. (Max-e covered the opening, including the surprise arrival of the man everyone loves to hate in this town, on his blog yesterday.)

And while I was hanging pictures some rotten $#^%&^% stole both electronic wing mirrors off my car. So the last couple of days have been spent rushing around trying to sort that out, as well as coping with builders, who are still hard at work transforming our courtyard into a wasteland of mess and chaos, before if hopefully morphs into a useful art studio in the near future.

Then, I visited the Cuyler Street gallery yesterday, to discover that the exhibition the delightful owner Tossie offered me is not at the end of March, as I had thought, but opens on the 4th March. Guys, that's just over 2 weeks from now... eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!! So apart from having to urgently produce 3 paintings on commission for a corporate client who wants them 'yesterday', I must also produce enough new work to fill 2 rooms of the gallery. And I thought going into art full time would be less stressful than running an interior design business, silly me!!.........Actually, to be fair, it is, and I am loving every minute of it. I find tight deadlines help to keep me on my toes and get the old creative juices pumping.

But I guess you can understand why blogging has had to be bumped down the priority list a notch or 2 (along with cooking and housework hehe, any excuse for that!)

Anyway, before I rush off to splash more paint around, here is my Skywatch for this week.

I thought I'd take you on a quick journey to Sutherland, in mid winter. We went to see the famous wild flowers of the west coast (Namaqualand) a couple of years ago. It was the end of August, officially spring, but winter had forgotten to leave!

Just to set the scene for you, most of the journey took place between the Band of mountains that divides the coastal belt of South Africa from the inland plateau, and the plateau itself. The major part of this plateau, beyond these mountains, is an arid, open area known as the Karoo. Because it is semi-desert, it is characterised by dry rocky plains, wide open spaces, and scrubby vegetation. It also has extremes of heat and cold. The area where the Karoo and the mountains meet is a fascinating transition zone. The moist sea air from the coast drops most of its rain on these mountains, producing lush valleys that are home to very productive fruit farms, while just next to them are bare mountaintops.

Heading towards the little Karoo town of Steytlerville, and it is cool despite the blue skies. In Port Elizabeth, skywatching usually consists of sunrises and sunsets. because there is almost always a coastal haze in the air, objects like stars etc are fuzzy, and killed by the city lights. Here in the Karoo, the air is sharp and thin, so everything looks clearer and brighter, even the con-trails!

Heading towards the little village of Willowmore. We are in a valley between two bands of mountains, called the Langkloof (literally "long valley"), and there is a carry-over here of the mediterranean climate of the Western Cape, so it gets winter rainfall. This is icy cold windswept rain, as opposed to the fat warm raindrops experienced in the summer rainfall are to the north.
As a matter of interest, note how narrow the cement road is in this remote stretch, when a car approaches, you each keep one wheel on the road and the other on the gravel verge. You can see the heavy clouds and rain on the windscreen too.

Approaching the pretty little hamlet of Prince Albert, nestled among the Swartberg mountains, and here you see the village spotlighted as the sun finds a gap in the clouds.

We stayed in a delightful Guesthouse in an old mill-house, next to an earth dam. The sunset over the dam was lovely, and we awoke to heavy frost.

The cold sky reflected in the windscreen. I realise that for those of you who have had months of thick snow, this is childsplay, but trust me, for us thin blooded coastal types who consider 16 degrees C to be miserable, this was FREEZING. We were togged out in layers of clothes, beanies, scarves etc!

I loved the typical little Karoo style cottages against the cloudy sky.

Leaving Prince Albert and heading towards Sutherland, we leave the mountains and their clouds in the distance, and enter the real arid part of the Karoo. You can clearly see in all these pix, but particularly this one, how the clouds are linked to the mountains, and the Karoo itself has clear blue skies.

But, do NOT be fooled by the blue skies, the air is biting here!

Sutherland on a mountaintop in the middle of the Karoo, and it is the coldest place in South Africa. It is an arid, desert type of cold that results in amazingly clear skies in the the dry thin air. And so to the ULTIMATE SKYWATCH........ the array of southern hemisphere telescopes on a mountaintop outside town, including the massive new SALT.

The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere, with a hexagonal mirror array 11 metres across. Although very similar to the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) in Texas, SALT has a redesigned optical system using more of the mirror array. It is able to record distant stars, galaxies and quasars a billion times too faint to be seen with the unaided eye - as faint as a candle flame at the distance of the moon.
The construction of SALT has been funded by a consortium of international partners from South Africa, the United States, Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Many of the people working on the telescope never leave their own country, they work at home on images transmitted to them from the mountain at Sutherland, while snug in their offices. Very wise, apparently. My father-in-law went there late last year and said it is incredibly miserable and uncomfortable in there!

Sadly it was fully booked the night we were there so we could only view it from the distant main road. But I'm sure we'll be back, and when we do go there you'll be the first to see all the pix!!

By the way we were camping in a little nylon tent and it was minus 9 degrees there that night, so we moved on to Calvinia which was only marginally warmer, we still woke up to find the tent stiff and crispy and white with frost! But that is a story for another day.... cheers for now.

Monday, February 11, 2008

new things

It's a game of cat and mouse.............
meet Felicity, the new resident brat chez Farty. I must say, for a little little person, she is already remarkably bold, and has good habits like using the litter box and sleeping through the night..... beats a human baby when it comes to low maintenance!
Here she is showing the mouse that she is the new boss around here (although I suspect the other cats may need a bit of convincing about that )....Fergs views her presence in the house with utter contempt, and we haven't even let Deedee know she is here because that is bound to be traumatic, DD being a real mean mamma when it comes to new kittens. Fergs is still getting over the trauma of how she treated him! So Felicity's introduction to the household is taking place in small steps. But as you can see, Mr Farty is already completely besotted!
Felicity is a gift to him from the very beautiful Amelia. Being a very advanced little girl, the day she was born she gave each of us a gift, me a stunning abstract painting by one of my favourite artists...even then the girl had impeccable taste.... and a Siamese kitten for Mr F. The problem is Siamese cats are like hens teeth around here at the moment. For the story of how we got Felicity, you can read Mr F's account. So thank you Miss Millie!

Speaking of Miss Millie, she and her mom and dad are back in Sudan. It sucks being so far away, but I must say modern technology makes it easier. When the wee E was growing up in Harare, most of the time the phone lines were down, cell phones not working, the post unreliable and internet an erratic nightmare, so we missed so much of his early development. We are spoilt now, with skype phone, web-cam, and our blogs, we are able to keep up quite well. Here is the delightful Miss Millie, aged 5 months. Is she a babe or what??!!

And I am gobsmacked to report that my studio is up! On Friday the builders arrived to dig foundations, and by Saturday, there it was! We are accustomed to a sort of 'do-it-yourself with the help of a couple of guys over the weekend' approach, and it takes forever. So using real builders for a change came as a revelation! The plasterers may come today, if the post-weekend headaches allow! And then we have to braek through into the old storeroom and do roof, floor etc.

so far so good.

Today is the day that we hang our Historic Port Elizabeth exhibition, opening tomorrow at 6pm. Whew. There are still things I wanted to paint, but there is plenty to make a varied and interesting exhibition.

And finally. I must thank Janet so much for giving me the Powerful Words award.

In receiving the award you are asked to share three things that you believe make writing good and powerful, then pass the award on to five blogs that exemplify good and powerful writing.

Janets 3 things were well thought out, and I can't better them so i am copying them here:
The things that I look for in a writer are do they keep my attention....are they entertaining. Are they "real" as in truthful and honest and do they cause me to make changes in the way I think about things. And are they witty or humorous. Her reasons for passing it on to me are:
"because she is entertaining, smart, funny, very creative, political, and lets me glimpse another part of the like DebR she takes great photographs!!"
WOW thanks Janet, ((((grin))))
But as this is a no tag zone, this is where I cop out from choosing others.... I hate having to single anyone out because the award applies to all my favourite links on my sidebar in one way or the other. So consider yourself awarded!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Skywatch Friday : Aerobatics

The freedom of using the sky as your playground.... now there's a buzz! Mr Farty and I adore air shows and try not to miss one if possible. The next one in PE is scheculed for late October.......can't wait!