India Trip 2016

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I have always wanted to go to India, and finally achieved my dream this year – Richard and I spent just over 7 weeks in the northern part of India. The focus of the trip was volunteering, which we did for five weeks – teaching children English and Maths in a rural community just outside Udaipur, as well as doing activities with orphan boys, disabled children and the ragpicker community who were based near the volunteer centre where we were staying.  
The volunteer experience really gave an insight into the local culture. The sights, sounds and smells of all life being lived on the streets, with cows, pigs, thousands of stray dogs, donkeys, not to mention the crowds of tuktuks and scooters, and throng of people constantly staring at us and trying to get us into their shops was something we just had to get used to. 
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Needless to say, there were a few situations when we felt challenged – working with the ragpickers was a mucky affair, they are rough people living in truly rough conditions. The schoolchildren were also poor – country people who didn’t always manage to go to school, but they were lively and engaging, sometimes hard to control! Facilities were very basic, ancient blackboards in the classrooms and little more than pencils and paper with whatever teaching aids we could produce ourselves. You had to watch anything left by the window – one morning a cow managed to stick her head in and chew up half of our worksheets! The children’s lunch was cooked over an open fire in the playground, where the children also had to pump up their water. The disabled children loved the craft activities we did with them and the orphan boys we worked with were delightful – well-behaved and affectionate, my heart went out to them especially. 
After the volunteering we went travelling for a couple of weeks, visiting Bundi, Pushkar, Jaipur, Agra, Varanasi and Delhi. Of all the places we visited, Varanasi was the most challenging. Seeing bodies being cremated on open fires on the banks of the Ganges, one after another is an image that will stay with me a long while. We stayed in some lovely accommodation, each place full of character, and ended up in a beautiful guesthouse in the British part of Delhi, very gracious!
So hopefully this will all lead to some inspiration for new artwork. Cows were such a feature of our travels, lumbering through every street and alley, so I have begun with some studies of cows and saris and will continue using colours and contrasts that are about life in India. More results to follow!
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Richard’s French Cycle Challenge, and my French Art Challenge

Bike wrapped around a tree - drawing

Final RunIn France last April over a couple of glasses of vin rouge my husband Richard hatched a mad plan to mark his 60th birthday in June. Having given up full time work the previous year he decided he needed a real challenge and it would be a great idea to cycle from Chorleywood right through to the south of France. I thought he might have come to his senses overnight but the next day he was keener than ever and didn’t stop talking and developing his plans!

So the plan came to fruition and my role was as back-up and chauffeuse, transporting all the camping gear, bearing in mind we are not seasoned campers! We took a very scenic route, providing a great opportunity to explore some of France’s beautiful villages and countryside, so I set my own challenge to create a painterly record of the whole experience. I kicked off with a painting of our starting point of Chorleywood.

My paintings were a challenge on many levels, painting pure landscape without the point of something man-made such as a fence required a focus on form within landscape. Also oil paint was not a practical choice for the trip, so I took acrylics, but I did continue to work on some of the paintings after the trip using oils. The results can be seen in the New Work GALLERY.

It was a great chance to raise funds for an important charity, the Dr Hadwen Trust (DHT), one we have supported for many years. DHT plays a leading role in funding and promoting non-animal research to make major and practical contributions to advance medical science without harming animals. For more than 40 years, the DHT has funded over 150 research projects in some of the most advanced and successful human-relevant techniques in medical research including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, kidney, heart and liver disease.

Richard kept a blog of the trip on Facebook, visit https://www.facebook.com/RichardsFrenchCycleChallenge2015