Earth Day 2019

As Earth Day 2019 comes to an end, there are young people around the world dropping out of their classrooms to go on ‘Extinction Walks’.  A sixteen-year-old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, is calling out politicians around the world for their irresponsible behaviour towards caring for our planet, what I have come to call the ‘Mothership’.  In Greta’s speech to the Swedish Parliament last year, she said:  “This ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind.”  I am hopeful that my grandchildren who can vote will vote and that they will have a loud voice in shaping policy in Canada towards the environment and its protection not the profits of large corporations and their stockholders.

I wear many hats, so to speak, and one of those is as a ceramics instructor at the University of Manitoba, and the other is as a maker.  Recently, I have seen other ceramists on various Facebook pottery groups ask if there is anything they can do to help the environment.  Some have shown photos of poorly made pots that broke wondering how to repair them while others wonder what to do with all of the work that they cannot sell.

Ceramics has a large footprint, and it is not ‘green’.  All the clay and Earth’s minerals (in whatever form we use them – stains, oxides, ready-made underglazes, etc. – are mined.  They are packaged and shipped around the world.  Responsible management so that none of those materials is either wasted or harm the local water table needs to be considered.  Firing.  Some regions use fossil fuels to create electricity.  We should all be aware of issues related to natural gas and oil.  How then to fire our work so that we do not waste those resources?  One way, so simple, is to make sure those kilns are full.

I am reminding myself to make sure that the first year students understand fully that greenware (before the clay is fired the first time and then it is bisque ware) can touch other pieces.  Just be mindful of weight distribution, etc.  But then there is the real question:  what is worthy of firing?  This is something that only you can answer.  But if you make more mugs than you can sell then just fire the ones that are magnificent and worthy of the resources.  The plan this year is to cut back further on what my students are firing.  They need to learn to be self-critical.  We all do!  And then there is the question of firing and to what temperature.  Wood is a renewable resource.  But what about gas kilns, LPG, or oil?  How much is saved in terms of cubic use by lowering the temperature of firing from cone 10 to cone 1?  I do not know the answer, but I am confident that if we all Googled it, we would find many answers.

As potters and knowing that our planet is in peril, perhaps we need to contemplate what we can do and how we can help others to be productive, create beautiful work while at the same time being more conscious and lowering our impact on the environment.  Maybe this year is the time for each of us to stand up and challenge ourselves over the coming year.  When I look at my grandchildren, I know that their future, the future of the animals, and our Mothership deserve it.

Goodbye Grenada

Like every Canadian who takes a winter holiday in April, I had so hoped that spring would have arrived on the prairies.  Apparently, it is the opposite.  A big blizzard is whirling around intent on bringing lots of snow to about four million people.  Fingers crossed that Winnipeg is on the edge and only gets flurries!  It has been a fabulous holiday and we are looking forward to returning sooner rather than later.  Grenada has changed so much in the past three years and the resort that we are in, The Starfish, will evolve in the next few months from a 3.5 star to a 5-star resort with a name change.  I do hope that they keep the nature reserve area in the centre.  It has brought a lot of joy to a number of us.

This tri-colour heron spotted us walking over the bridges and within a blink, he was at the edge of the pond ready to catch his lunch.  They are very elegant standing on the rocks but when fishing, they pull down their neck and get into a striking pose.  Nothing much happens if they catch a small fish but if it is a bigger one, they quickly move away from the shore.  Sometimes they drop the fish but at least they won’t lose it.  It can take them a few minutes to get their catch into a size that will go down that long throat.  All of this is followed by gulps of water.  Then they are back into striking mode.

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Ready for action:

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Today a green heron aggravated the tri-colour who was not too keen to share its territory.

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The doves were satisfied just to get some of the crumbs of the crackers.  At one point there were eight of them.

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On the other side of the pond, the egrets were fussing about trying to get settled on the branches.

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It is hard to imagine how lush the vegetation will be in just a few months when the rains start.  There is a fire ban on the island but some are still burning.  There is no real fire department and it could be devastating if the wind caused some of those small fires to spread.

Grenada has been wonderful as it always is.  The people are friendly and the mini-van bus service is amazing.

So here are some tips to help make your next vacation in Grenada just that much better:

  1.  If you have a number of people travelling together, consider renting an Air BnB and doing some of your own cooking.  Make sure that you are close to a bus route so that you can get down to the beaches or get groceries with some ease.  Don’t even think about renting a car!  There are also short term apartment and house rentals managed by the local real estate agents.  Just Google ‘houses in Grenada for short term’.
  2. If you are independent, get one of the Grenada road maps.  Find the tourist attractions you want to do and see if there is a local mini-van to take you there.  You will save a bundle (and I do mean hundreds of Canadian dollars).
  3. Check out things to do and their ratings on Trip Advisor.
  4. Move a little bit out of your comfort zone.  For some of the best roti I have ever eaten, go to The Sugar Shack on True Blue Road.  And if you like East Indian food, the Punjabi near the airport brought in four cooks from India.  It is the best Indian food I have eaten in years.  The Malai Kofta had the creamiest cashew sauce ever.
  5. Remember that eating out is very expensive.  Groceries are expensive.  You might want to compare prices for all-inclusive hotels giving yourself the option to find some of the local restaurants (non-American or chain) every other day or so.
  6. Compare prices on tours.  They vary a whole lot for the same sites.
  7. You can get most anything you need on the island now.  You might want to bring some sunscreen just to start you off.  You will need a hat!  Even walking around for an hour without one will mean a sunburned head.  Not nice.  Remember that you burn quickly if you are in the water.  So take it easy.  You will get a tan to prove you had a winter holiday without much effort.  You don’t want to go home shedding like a snake!
  8. And last but never least, get on Grenada time.  Slow down.  ‘Chill out’.  Say hello to people, smile.  Have a great holiday.

I am looking forward to coming back. The plan will be to rent a house with a pool.  Turns out some of the most gorgeous properties are less than a 3.5-star hotel.  It should be fun and definitely something to look forward to.

The Day of the Iguana

The Green Iguana is the largest of the lizards found in Grenada.  Most of the time they live in the trees eating leaves, new shoots, and fruit.  Sometimes they are seen walking on the ground and today we saw two.  The large bright green one above as the featured image of this page and, later, a smaller one with a green body and turquoise head.  They can grow up to six feet long with at least half of that being their tail which they whip about when they walk.  They also appear to be excellent swimmers as both rushed into the pond once they were spotted and swam away easily.  Iguanas are actually endangered due to overhunting and also, like so many other of the animals, residential and commercial developments that wreck their habitats.

One of the nicest things about this resort is that they have maintained a large pond area that is full of birds and lizards.  I have also appreciated their labelling of the local flora and fauna.  Despite it being ever so dry here there are a few flowers that are still managing to bloom.
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It was 28 degrees with a UV Index of 10 today and 31 mph winds.  Despite the strong winds, everyone felt extremely blessed to be able to be outside.  There are so many Canadians here and the weather showed it snowing in Ottawa with snow showers in Winnipeg and temperatures of -4 C.  It is a wonder that we didn’t all rush the Air Canada office to extend our stay.

In the evening the perfume from the Frangipani flowers fills the air.

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Grenada is located near the Equator.  It has some of the most spectacular sunsets in the world.  Today I talked to a couple from England who said they had also witnessed the full moon rising up over the horizon.  What a sight that must have been!

This is a really short post but I wanted to just add some images for all of those stuck in a lingering Canadian winter.  The top one is the Caribbean Sea looking from Magazine Beach to St. George’s in the distance.

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Views from my son’s house in Egmont Bay.

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Everywhere you drive in Grenada, you will see goats tied at the side of the road eating the grass.  Today, in our ride back from Grand Anse in one of those wonderful minivans, the van backed up to let a man out by his house.  Little did we know till they stopped that the bag on the floor beside us held two baby goats!  Today, some people make the local goat cheese which is delicious.  Other goats find their way into the local dish, roti.  Roti can be filled with vegetables, fish, boneless chicken, or potatoes and peas.

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And speaking of roti, I apologize.  It was simply too good to stop at the beginning and take a photograph.  The Sugar Shack makes the BEST roti in St George’s.  They are located on True Blue Road.  Eating local is not only economical but can be delicious.  Three roti – 1 fish and 2 boneless chicken – a Monster drink, 2 Cokes, and a Sprite was 66 EC or about $29 CDN.  It was full of chicken, both dark and white meat and the seasoning was spot on.  They are moving from their temporary site into a permanent building with a new kitchen on True Blue Road shortly.  If you get to Grenada, take the minivan and ask the conductor to let you off.  They will surely know the place!

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Dusk over Magazine Beach, Grenada, West Indies

It’s the end of another warm, beautiful day during the dry season in Grenada.  It began with feeding the fish in the pond in the featured photo.  The egrets and herons watch you very carefully and have learned that if tourists feed the fish they can get in the action and have a great big meal.  At dusk, the herons and egrets settle in for the evening on the island.

One tourist area that could grow in Grenada is birding.  There are 160 different species of birds.  Just staying in one location, over a couple of days, there have been that spectacular little blue heron from yesterday, a great egret, many little egrets, a Caribbean Elaenia, a blue-black grassquit, a pair of Eurasian collared doves, a Zenaida dove, a royal tern, a tricolour heron, a Caribbean Grackel,  and a vast assortment of smaller hummingbirds that have been simply too fast to photograph and identify.  There is a stand over the mangroves in Woburn and if it is high tide, it is apparently filled with lots of various species.  I also noted that there is a walking tour through the rainforest that includes bird watching.

The Royal Tern is about the size of a seagull.  It wasn’t much interested in us as it had its eyes fixed on a fish in the pond.  These are common coastal birds in the West Indies.

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This pair of Eurasian Collared Doves were just sweet.  This medium-sized grey dove with its distinctive collar around the hindneck was introduced into Cuba in the 1970s and has now spread to all of the Lesser Antilles including Grenada.  This dove is a ground feeder but today it took a keen interest in the food that we were feeding to the fish making me believe that all of the animals and birds will be happy when the rainy season begins in June.

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This Carib Grackle made himself a bit of a pest today!  And in doing so he entertained me completely by the way he broke the crackers down in order to eat them with his beak and claws.  He is also the pesky creature that likes to steal food off the plates in the dining room.  No kidding.

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I know that most of you didn’t come to this blog to read about my new passion birding.  So here are some continuing tips on getting around the island of Grenada and being a ‘wise’ tourist.

One of the best ways to get around the island is by mini-van.  The driver normally owns the van and has a license for a certain route.  The route numbers appear on the windscreen.  Each license gives the owner a limited number of trips (daily) on their route.  This is precisely why the young man who opens and closes the door keeps his eyes out for anyone who might want a ride and is nearing a bus stop.  Don’t take offence as he will not chat with you.  It is up to him to fill that bus – the more passengers that can be crammed in, the more money that is made!  You might actually think not one more person could fit in that van but the conductor (that young man sliding the door and taking the money) knows precisely how many people he can fit in the bus.  Sometimes he might even shift people around in the seating after a stop.  Don’t fret, just go with the flow and enjoy Grenada time which is much slower than anywhere else in the world.  Fares vary on the length of the route you are travelling.  Typically, a ride from the Starfish up by Maurice Bishop Airport to Grand Anse or St George’s will cost you 10 EC.  Tell the conductor where you want to get off.  You will hear him knock on the roof or the door to tell the driver to stop.  Don’t do this yourself unless you are not wearing any rings – scratching the paint will get several people mad at you.

One of the things that many tourists do is sign up for tours, sometimes very, very expensive tours.  But for those who are curious and a little more adventurous at heart and who want to save a heap of money, I suggest you pick up one of the free Grenada Road Map guides.  Almost every shop we have been in has at least one copy.  What is so interesting is that the map highlights many of the tourist attractions you might be interested in and the number of the local bus to take to get there.  So tomorrow, instead of spending more than $300 CDN to go on a tour to Belmont Estates, I am going to take the bus to Grenville, switch at their bus station and head straight to Belmont Estates. You can have an amazing lunch there, check out the making of the goat cheese, there is also a gift shop, petting zoo and a look at what life was really like on a 17th-century plantation.  Check back with me in a couple of days but by my figuring, I will save approximately $275 CDN!

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The mini-vans are also great entertainment.  There is always reggae music playing and you will be surprised at how courteous these young men are to their customers.  I have seen elderly ladies transporting propane tanks and chickens.  The driver will pull as close as he can to their house and the conductor will help them unload.  This morning he helped a  woman and her daughter with eight bags of groceries.  This is great service – and respect.  Sure isn’t that good in Canada most of the time.  So don’t get in a rush.  Take the local mini-van.  Get lost in Grenada somewhere.  Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Shopping.  I have already mentioned Art Fabrik as one of the true local shops that employ local sewers.  But today, let’s talk a little bit about breakfast options, book stores, and ready-made clothes.

There are two malls near Grand Anse Beach.  There is the Spiceland Mall opposite the Coyaba Hotel.  It has doubled in size over the last couple of years.  There is an IGA, various clothing stores, a duty-free shop, a local art gallery and shop, and quite surprising an excellent bookshop, Art and Soul.  They had a large area for children and young readers, Caribbean cookbooks and a really good selection of Vegan, along with the New York Times bestsellers and ‘beach reading’.  I was looking for a book on birds as well as one on the history of the Grenadian Revolution that wasn’t slanted towards the US view of the world.  I came away very happy.

If you are looking for beer, wine, or spirits, head to the IGA (or any other grocery store).  They have a large selection priced in EC, much cheaper than the Duty-Free (Unless you are looking for something exotic).  Personally, I think the grocery stores are the place to buy local chocolate and cocoa.  There are now five chocolate producers and all of their products are organic. The Grenada Chocolate Company was the first.  The grocery stores also sometimes carry the local vanilla or the passionfruit honey which is to die for.

You will save approximately 50% by doing your shopping for these local items at these big grocery stores as opposed to the smaller tourist shops near the cruise ship port.

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The second mall is a short walk from Spiceland and is located across from the Raddison Hotel.  It is the Grande Anse Shopping Centre.  There is a grocery store and this is where you will find Mike’s Pizza.  He opens at 11am and he used to also have ice cream.  But there is also a little dress and gift shop tucked in right by the fountain.  Too-kachi Boutique and Craft Studio carry a nice selection of locally made gifts, cotton and beach clothing.  All prices are in EC.

BTW.  I am not a fan of malls anywhere but I am also not keen to spend 50% more for anything.

Eating out in Grenada can be very expensive if you go to restaurants (as opposed to the local stands).  We stopped for toast and sausages at Moch Spoke (you can also rent bicycles but you are taking your life into your hands on the Grenadian roads!), a cup of coffee, and a shared orange juice.  For two it came to $12 CDN.  The full English breakfast with toast, eggs, bacon or sausage, and beans is $33 EC or about $16.50 CDN each.  Note:  You can also get a great breakfast – some of the most amazing French toast – at The Papillion.  It is a short walk up the hill behind the Spiceland Mall.  They are open Wednesday through Sunday.

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KFC is spotlessly clean, large, and is freezing cold.  Early in the morning, you can see the locals heading in there for fried chicken for breakfast.  Here is a look at their Value Menu.  The best way to convert currency for Canadians is simply to divide the EC by 2 and you get the equivalent Candian dollars.  Despite what the currency exchange boards say, by the time you are finished that appears to be the most accurate conversion.

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Last tip of the day:  wear a hat!  The top of your head can get sunburned very quickly!  And if you forget your flip flops, you can purchase name brands and no name all over the island.

 

 

 

Chillin’ Out in Grenada

Grenada is a small volcanic island in the southern Caribbean near Trinidad and Tobago.  I have been travelling here to visit my son, Cristofre, and his wife, Tammy, for fourteen years.  Many call it ‘paradise’.  Sick and tired of a long Canadian winter with snow showers still falling and temperatures hovering around -2 Celsius, it is no wonder that most of the people around the pool at the Starfish Resort are Canadian.

Fourteen and a half years ago, the people of Grenada were trying to come to terms with the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan in the south part of the island and Hurricane Emily in the north.  Ivan arrived on September 7, 2004, and damaged 80% of Grenada’s buildings.  It was common to see houses without roofs and many of the locals called the category 3 storm, ‘Hurricane Rufus’ or ‘Ivan Rufus’ due to the tragic situation of the homes covered with blue tarps trying to keep them dry.  Everyone had a story about where they were when the storm struck.   Packs of wild dogs roamed everywhere and at night if one of them barked, all of the others started.  The palm trees along Grand Anse Beach, one of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the world, were torn from the sand, their branches scattered hither and yon.

Well, that was nearly fifteen years ago.  Today, the palm trees have grown back lining the white sandy beach again along with a growing number of luxury hotels.  What used to be $100 a night at an all-inclusive hotel right on the beach, will be more than three times that now, without meals.  One of the newest, if not the latest offering, the Silversands Grenada has the longest infinity pool in the Caribbean and has, at the top end, four bedroom beachfront villas measuring 2,071 square meters (22,292 square feet), four and a half bathrooms, private pools, and outdoor dining to name a few of the amenities.  Indeed, Grenada has set itself up for the 5-star market as opposed to the budget traveller according to many of the locals.  It is, thus, interesting that one of Canada’s leading charter airline companies, Sunwing Airlines, has recently purchased the Starfish Resort and will begin a refurbishment on May 15.  Today, this hotel is a good value for families that want an all-inclusive break.  The resort sits on Magazine Beach.  The grounds are immense with some rooms facing a central pond with bridge and islands with trees laden with the beautiful white Egret. The white ‘things’ in the second tree left of the waterfall are Egret.

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Some shots of the current Starfish resort:

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And while the rooms are a little tired and yes, there are a lot of stairs, the views are incredible and the staff are friendly and helpful.  There is, however, only one a la carte restaurant, The Oriental, while I am told that the Silversands has fifteen.  The point that I am trying to make is that Grenada has changed significantly in the past decade and continues to make progress in attracting tourists back to the island.  Recent promotions have really helped.  The economic boom can be seen in Spice Island Mall doubling its capacity, the number and variety of restaurants, tour companies, hotels, and shops.  When once you could only get the local fare, today you have a choice of almost anything you could want ranging from sushi to East Indian to pizza and fried chicken alongside road stands selling roti and jerk chicken.  That said, I would personally encourage resorts like the Starfish to provide local fare including roti for their guests.  The other big difference in this growth is the number of airlines serving this small island paradise.  Air Canada and Caribbean Airlines have direct flights from Toronto.  Delta, British Airways, and American Airlines handle the American and European markets.  And with Sunwing entering the market, there will be more options.  The average temperature is around 27 degrees.  The rainy season begins in June-July and ends normally in October.  I have been here over the Christmas holidays when it poured every day.  It never seemed to bother too many people at the beach!

You can come to Grenada and just sit at the beach.  You don’t have to do anything.  But, if you like to snorkel or scuba dive, you are covered.  You might get lucky and land a Marlin if you go deep sea fishing but, you can also hook up with one of the locals and go out for something a little smaller.  Other water sports abound near Grand Anse Beach.  There are tours of the island and I suggest that everyone who comes here for the first time compare prices and go out and see the waterfall, the old plantations, one of the cocoa processing plants (it is all organic), hike through the rainforest or check out the 160 species of birds on the island.  Here is a great shot of a blue heron at sunset the other day:

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The food offerings in Grenada have changed immensely since I first began travelling here.  You can even get schnitzel!  Yes, in downtown St George’s!  You apparently need to make an appointment but the food is, apparently, out of this world.  Check it out if you find yourself here.  And there are enough fast food chains like Subway, KFC, and Pizza Hut to keep people happy if they tire from the all you can eat buffets at the hotels or want something more familiar.  But the small mom and pop stands that sell one specialized local item remain popular.   Stop and have some of the local jerk chicken,  the roti or doubles (originally from Trinidad I am told with the jerk from Jamaica).  Find someone to take you off the main drag to find them.  You will be glad you did.

No visitor should leave Grenada without at least visiting a shop in the old part of St. Georges, Art Fabrik.  Chris Mast and Lilo Nido are creative designers.  They have been here through the economic downturn following Hurricane Ivan and survived.  They do the design work and have more than 45 women in the local community sewing the shirts, hats, dresses, and beach covers along with all manner of scarves and soft toys.   They are truly local – nothing is made in China but sold as being Grenadian.  You will be so happy that you did.  Their large batik wall hangings are magnificent and have won awards internationally.  If you are in Grenada long enough they might be able to whip something up especially for you.

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Other local items to take home are the local organic cocoa.  There are now five cocoa processing companies on the island.  You can buy their products at the Chocolate Shop across from Art Fabrik or any of the tourist shops.  Some are available in the grocery stores and are often less expensive for the same item.  Nutmeg is another local crop and if you have lots of uses for it or need unique gifts for your friends, you can go to the Nutmeg Corporation and buy ten pounds of the latest crop.  The nutmegs that I bought five years ago are still good!  And if you learn to love the local nutmeg ice cream a quick way to make it is to take a vanilla ice cream, let it soften and add 1-2 nutmegs grated to a half gallon and let the ice cream re-harden.  Of course, you can make your nutmeg ice cream from scratch using a vanilla recipe and adding 1 grated nutmeg to a batch.  And then there is the rum.  Lots of rum ranging from average to outstanding.  Westerhall is one of the local ones but you can also pick up the award-winning El Dorado Rum from Guyana.

 

As the sun sets over London, I am packing my bags and getting ready to say farewell

It has been an incredible time in the United Kingdom.  The Residency at Hospitalfield was inspirational, and my attitudes towards ceramics have been permanently altered in new and exciting ways.  I made good friends, ate beautiful food, slept in a historic room in an ancient house, learned about tweed, devoured the best cod and chips in Arbroath, and saw amazing scenery.  The time in London, a 180 degree turn around from the rural countryside of Scotland, has been just as enjoyable.   So what did I learn that I could pass on to you?

First, in London, do your homework.  Get a hotel or a Bed and Breakfast near to the sights that you want to see.  There are many ways of travelling in this well laid out city.  You can take the London Underground.  An off-peak day ticket is around 134 GBP or $26 CDN$.  This means you can ride the tube as much as you want and there are underground stations all over the place.  You can take one of the red double-decker buses.  Your tube ticket allows you to switch between them.  Alternatively, you can catch a black taxi. They take credit cards so no need to worry about exchanging money or running short.  The machine is in the back with you, not upfront with the driver.  Very easy.

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An excellent example of the cost is that it is about 25 GBP from London King’s Cross to Hyde Park in a cab whereas it is less than 6 GBP on a single tube ticket.  When you arrive, the amount of luggage that you have will really impact the transport that you need to get to your hotel.  One other word of warning, if you have a considerable suitcase like I do with all of its ceramic supplies and a plaster mould inside, you do not want to book yourself into a B & B and be staying on the top floor unless you have Hercules with you to carry that suitcase up those stairs!  OK.  Maybe you are 20something and reading this but seriously, try not to pack your entire house if you can. You will have many more options.  Once you get settled in you can take the tube, take a taxi, rent an electric bicycle for 2 GBP a day, or you can walk.

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Many of the sights are actually close together, and you can get some good exercise in.  It is also good to ‘get lost’ and discover places you might not otherwise see.  There is history in every corner of London!

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I chose to stay right across from Hyde Park because I was going to meet a long time friend and co-author, Richard Barnes, at the Albert Memorial.

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Richard and I agreed to meet at the ‘America’ corner which his relative had carved out of gorgeous marble, John Bell.  Each corner was designed to represent the four corners of the globe with America being represented by the bison.  Canada is on the left looking on as the United States is on the right.  Some of Britain’s finest Victorian sculptors have their work on this grandiose memorial.

The Albert Memorial has Prince Albert, Consort to Queen Victoria looking over to the Royal Albert Hall and the Science Museum.  That is another attraction in the area which is really a ‘must see’.  Of course, he is also looking towards the Victoria & Albert Museum (assuming his eyesight is better than mine!).  You can easily spend an entire day at the Museum.  Their blockbuster exhibition, Dior, has been extended and do not get distressed if you see the ‘sold out’ sign and don’t have a ticket.  If you really want to see this comprehensive exhibition of one of the world’s great 20th century designers then go over and purchase yourself a membership to the museum.  I promise you will get a ticket to the show!  Inside there is the new Cast Court exhibition area.  Richard told me that people went all over taking casts and bringing them back.  The Museum has art from all over the world including an excellent Asian section.

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And they also have ‘the’ Moon Jar.

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The Victoria and Albert Museum has a cafe where you can get salads, sandwiches, hot meals, cakes, tea, or other drinks.  On a sunny day, you can sit outside, or you can relax in the William Morris room.  It was a sad day for me.  My old friend, Pauline Rohatgi and I, used to meet to have lunch in the William Morris room or sitting outside on a bench every time I was in London.  Pauline was the Keeper of the Prints and Drawings for the India Office Library.  That was how I met her.   Over the years we worked on publications and exchanged information on British sculpture sent to India.  Pauline has health issues and now lives permanently in India.  I hope that we can have tea there soon!  But she was very much missed.

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But that wasn’t the only reason.  Within walking distance, inside the park, you can tour Kensington Palace – the home of the Cambridges and the Sussexes.  You can tour their gardens.  You can visit Princess Diana’s children’s playground, go to the Serpentine Gallery, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, sit and eat ice cream by Princess Diana’s Memorial Fountain, or have tea by the Albert Memorial.  You can even feed the pigeons, crows, geese, and swans at the Round Pond.

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One of the things I wanted to do was to visit the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.  I am a bit curious.  When I was a teenager, everyone remembered where they were when President Kennedy was shot in Dallas.  I wonder how many people remember where they were when the news came of Diana’s death?

The fountain was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 6th July 2004.  Using contemporary technology, 545 pieces of Cornish granite were shaped and placed together using traditional masonry skills.  All of the information says:  “The design aims to reflect Diana’s life, water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom. The water is constantly being refreshed and is drawn from London’s water table.”  It is a very quiet, contemplative memorial that sits in the landscape in the same way that Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial does.

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There are many reasons to visit London this time of year if you are from Canada.  The first is an escape from the last remnants of a long, snowy, cold Canadian winter.  The flowers are bursting forth.  The temperature is about 11-14 degrees Celsius.  You can get by with a lined windbreaker.  Hotel prices are more reasonable, and you can get special deals on air tickets.

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If you are flying in at either of the two main airports that serve London, London Heathrow or London Gatwick, there are reasonable ways of getting into the City and back out again.  If its Heathrow, you can take the London underground directly into the City.  Arriving at Gatwick presents several options.  One is the Thameslink train that will take you into the City.  Or you can take the National Express bus which will get you to London Victoria.  There are various limo services and flat rate taxes that cost around 62 GBP.  These could be helpful if you have too much luggage.

All of the museums in London are free except for their special exhibitions.  You could keep yourself busy, as I said, right here near to Hyde Park.  One other one I didn’t list is the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace.   If you want to have high tea, Harrod’s is in walking distance.  They will continue to refill the pot and the plates until you leave.  Down Exhibition Road into South Kensington, you can find some of the very smart places for meals all during the day.  If you are looking for Middle Eastern food, including Persian, try Queensway Road.

Happy travelling!

Ceramics Arts London

Serendipity.    The meaning is:  “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”  That is precisely what happened to me when I wound up leaving Scotland a couple of days early.  Yesterday was the last day of this major exhibition of the very best of British ceramics, 90 artists in one space, Granary Square, with select lectures along with workshops and firings at The Kiln House close by.  I could hardly believe my luck!  Several of the artists I have known for some time and was delighted that Lisa Hammond was there.  Hammond was the driving force behind Adopt a Potter and was one of the speakers on my panel talking about the need for training and apprenticeships at NCECA, 2014, in Milwaukee.  Since then she has been awarded an MBE in 2016 and took on the massive task of turning buildings at Stoke on Trent into Clay College.  She still maintains her studio, Mayes Hill Pottery, where she produces soda fired functional ware and beautiful shinos on traditional Japanese forms.   The wheel-thrown jugs, bakers, and mugs made at the Mayes Hill Pottery and soda fired are traditional British shapes.  From the crowds at her booth, they resonate entirely with the public in attendance.

 

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Ceramic Review recently contained an article on the work of Midori Takaki.  Midori says that her work is a reflection of her life experiences, real or fantasy – to this clay sculptor the difference is irrelevant.  Midori grew up in Japan but now maintains a studio in Canterbury.  She always believed that the things her mind imagined would mean she would become a writer but, instead, and lucky for us, she translates those images using clay to create intimate figurines and wall masks that are unmistakably hers.  In her blog, she says that she creates these fantasies in miniature at night in place of keeping a written journal.  I am happy to say that one of her delightful rabbits has now found a home in Canada!

 

Akiko Hirai’s booth was virtually empty Sunday morning.  Over the past year and a half, Hirai has received a lot of press being included in all of the significant exhibitions with articles focusing on her practice including Ceramic Review.  Her work encapsulates what is typically a Japanese vessel, imperfect, asymmetrical, and grounded in nature.

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Anna Silverton uses porcelain to focus on pure wheel thrown forms.  No decorative surfaces here!  One of the significant things about this exhibition is the variety of the work that was shown, the juxtaposition of the crustated surfaces like those of Hirai and the clean surfaces and perfect lines of Silverton.  There was something to please everyone who walked through the door.  What was evident in the ceramics of each of the artists was the verb:  crafted.  Regardless of the methods of creating the work or the surface decoration or not, every piece was meticulously made with great attention to detail.  Nothing sloppy here.

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Hanna Tounsend combines printmaking and ceramics to create vessels that explore the layered landscapes, seascapes, and the weatherworn surfaces of the British coastline.  Tounsend has a studio in Leicester.

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Yuta Segawa creates miniature vessels.  Trained in Japan and China, Segawa now has his studio in Wimbledon.  Each of the tiny vessels is thrown on a wheel, a challenge that Segawa readily engages in to stretch the limits of “what a human body can make on such a small scale”.

 

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This has just been a teaser about the amazing ceramic talents of British ceramists.  I have wanted to attend this exhibition for a number of years and my wish came true this year.  For anyone wanting to catch next year’s show, Google Ceramic Art London for the dates.  You can order tickets online.  There are food and drink inside but with your wristband, you can come and go as you please.  It is a good opportunity to come in the morning, have lunch in one of the many restaurants in the Grange or the Coal Yard area.  The closest tube station is London King’s Cross.  It is about a five-minute walk.  I suggest coming early.  You will get a booklet with a short bio of each of the artists and the number of their booth.  The crowds are not so big around 10 am and this will give you an opportunity to talk to any of the artists whose work intrigues you.  As a result of my visit this year, I will travel to visit Midori next year in her studio in Canterbury!  I can’t wait.