No not giving birth! Gave all that up a long time ago.
There has been a conflict of interest between writing and painting and I’m afraid painting has won. In addition, I have treated myself to an iPad and now use this much more than my laptop but, for writing, the touch typist in me deplores the constant jabbing, one key at a time.
The above picture was painted using pastels from a photograph by Suzanne Wallick. It is called Alaina After the Bath. I hope you like it. I was fortunate enough to be nominated the winner of a three month online Pastel competition by submitting this painting as my entry.


This and a selection of my paintings and photographs are available as cards and prints on http://annesmart.redbubble.com.  Do take a look …  



The highlight of our brief visit to Canterbury was our visit to Canterbury Cathedral. We were, unfortunately, confined by the two hour time limit on parking. It was very pleasant to be allowed to take photographs inside – a practice that is discouraged in some houses of worship for the reason, I am sure, that it encourages the purchase of postcards. The medieval stained glass is wonderful and we were both overwhelmed by the simple beauty and magnificence of the building.

I have this habit of looking up wherever I am and was rewarded by the magnificence of this construction.

I have this habit of looking up wherever I am and was rewarded by the magnificence of this construction.

Medieval stained glass window
The candle marks the site of the tomb which was removed on the orders of Henry VIII.

The candle marks the site of the tomb of St Thomas `a Becket which was removed on the orders of Henry VIII.

George and I visited Canterbury on Tuesday as part of our visit to Kent.  This house is near the cathedral and there is a quotation from Charles Dickens on the lintel `… a very old house bulging out over the road … leaning forward, trying to see who was passing on the narrow pavement below …`   I figured if the house was in that state in Dickens` time it was not going to fall down any time soon!


We spent some time looking around Canterbury Cathedral – a lovely building.  George told me he used to go there quite often when he was a boy.  My last visit was in the 1950s and I remember wearing new shoes that rubbed blisters on my feet and we couldn`t find which car park where we had left the car.  The Cathedral is a magnificent building and we could have spent much longer there but were constrained by the two-hour car parking limit.

Hop picking Days

George and I are at present staying in a very nice Edwardian hotel in Folkestone, Kent. Very near the Channel Tunnel. This visit was my birthday present to George. Why Kent? It was to be a trip down Memory Lane for him.
George grew up in the East End of London. He was born in 1939. His family, like many others, lived in rooms rented in a house that was shared by several other families. He played in the street or, after the war, on the bomb sites in his neighbourhood. Both his parents worked but money was tight.
Then, just after the end of the war in 1945, came an opportunity that was seized by many East End families – picking the hops which were grown in Kent to make beer.
The County of Kent was then known as The Garden of England. There were many farms and seasonal workers were needed to pick the fruit – apples, cherries and plums and to train the hop vines then to pick the hops when they were ready.
Whole East end families decamped for several months – George’s family amongst them. This would get them all away from the smoke in London and give them much needed fresh air and sunshine. A truck would arrive at their home, which would then be loaded with a few essential pots, pans, clothes, children and adults. George’s father continued working at his job in London but would join the family at weekends.
The families were accommodated in separate wooden or tin huts. No glass in the windows, just wooden shutters that could be pulled to in the rain or when it was dark. There were communal cook houses and the ranges were fired with long bundles of faggots ( wood) which were fed onto the fires, each family was supplied with the faggots – George tells me that in his hut, these were laid either on the ground or on the bunk beds, then covered with straw to make a mattress.
The children (including George) went to the village school and there were many fights between the local lads who resented being invaded by the ‘Londiniums’ as they called the boys. How quaint that they used Latin!
The work on the farm was hard and everyone (including the children) did what they could. George hated picking the hops – they stained the hands and the smell clung for days. His mother was deft and worked tirelessly pulling down the vines in a row and plucking the hops, stripping them clean of leaves or vine, into her basket. As for the fruit picking, she would climb a ladder to pick but then send George further up the tree to pick the fruit she could not reach. George loved this, especially the cherries, as he could eat as many as he wanted!
Good, quick workers were valued and families returned to the same farm year after year. Any dishonesty or stealing resulted in instant dismissal.
So yesterday we returned to Kent and this afternoon we visited the village where George stayed all those years ago. The school has
been demolished and replaced by a modern building on the other side of the road. The river he crossed by bridge to get to his school still runs alongside the road. We stopped for lunch in the aptly named pub The George – where his parents used to go for a drink at weekends. The top of the bar was garlanded with hop vines – that used to be a fairly common practice in pubs in the days before the smoking ban, as it was believed the hops absorbed the smoke. The landlord made us very welcome and the locals gave George news of the family that owned the farm and the farm manager.
We tried to venture up the muddy lane, past the oast houses where the hops were dried, but we were in danger of the car being stuck in mud, so had to turn around having satisfied ourselves that nothing was left of the old huts.
We did find what used to be the local shop, still on the main road but closed and derelict- looking and George recalled many journeys there to collect the paraffin needed for the lights and heater in the hut. I saw a grumpy eight year old, struggling manfully home with a full can banging against his legs as he walked.
Back to our hotel to dry out and get ready for a gourmet three course dinner served faultlessly on a table laid with crisp, white starched linen.
Were they the good old days? I wonder…

I am truly humbled – I had no idea that my disappearance from this blog would create so much trouble and concern. Please forgive me for being thoughtless.
Strangely we do form quite a close relationship with some of our virtual friends witnessed by the few of us who have stuck together through the thickset and thins of 360, Multiply, Yahoo and other sites. Some of us have found each other on Facebook and so the contact and care continues. Others? Yes we do wonder if they are surviving the various crises and challenges that life seems to throw their way.
So, having realised that I have been neglecting you, I reset my forgotten password and now intend to write more regular posts and catch up with you all.
A quick update: George and I are well, busy as ever with our house sitting and me with my painting. Daisy-dog is still visited about four times a year and, although now five years old, will still steal any food that is left within her considerable reach! Like most Labradors, she lives to eat.
We are to become great-grandparents for the first time next February – a very exciting time as a new generation of our family enters this world.
I’ve progressed to an iPad but still use my laptop and wish I was using it now as trying to touch type on an iPad keyboard is not the best way of doing things. The iPad was a consolation prize to myself for a cancelled trip to Florence, Italy … But now I am planning to make that trip in 2014! And will I relinquish the iPad? Of course not!
Yours aye,

Jamie and me sharing afternoon tea ...

Jamie and me sharing afternoon tea …

Whilst I was housesitting I browsed through the hundreds of books on the shelves in nearly every room and came across this poem, which I had not read before. It made me cry because it reminded me of my beloved Jamie-dog who, sadly, I had to have put to sleep (due to kidney failure) in 2009.


I have done mostly what men do,
And pushed it out of my mind;
But I can`t forget, if I wanted to,
Four-feet trotting behind.

Day after day, the whole day through
Wherever my road inclined –
Four-feet said `I am coming with you!`
And trotted along behind.

Now I must go by some other round –
which I shall never find –
Somewhere that does not carry the sound
Of Four-feet trotting behind.

    Rudyard Kipling – 1865-1936


So we are back home for a couple of weeks – then off to London for a while (have to look for exhibitions I want to see there). I will be posting and catching up with you all soon and telling you of our adventures.


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