From muddy puddles to moules frites….

This month I have spent too much time stepping in puddles in the dark, fetching water from the boatyard tap in the rain, fretting over wet and rusty bilges, and carrying bags of coal down slippery gangplanks without dropping them (or me) in the mud. I have learnt that whilst having a sinking boat would be cause for alarm, having a slightly leaking boat just means one more thing on the List of Things to Do on the Boat. The distinction is a fine – but important – one. I have resolved not to wait until life is perfect to be content, because it never will be.


Ballast, rust, dodgy plumbing, soggy insulation(!) and a decent water tank…. under Else’s floorboards

My studio at Waldringfield Boatyard is still drying out after December’s floods and it will be some months before walls are replastered and the floor is dry enough for new carpet. In the meantime I’m camping out in there with computer, drawing board and fan heater – it’s functional but bleak. So I prefer to work in my cabin wherever possible, perched on a stool by the stove in the cabin.


Order restored…. a small drawing board, cup of tea, wobbly table and work on drawings for the next issue of Marine Quarterly can begin (

Much of the week is spent teaching at the moment, which is always a delight. Small groups of friends, individuals, a U3A workshop, demonstrations to art clubs all give me the excuse to throw paint around, show off and generally exhort everyone to draw every day. Telling others what to do is easier than doing it oneself, though; my own sketchbook has been neglected recently, so I made a decision to do a sketch a day in 2014.


I’m enjoying the process so far, as it’s already turning into a visual diary of the year. If I miss a day (and I have), then I just catch up the day after. Sometimes it only takes five minutes, but there’s a huge difference between doing a quick sketch and not doing one at all. Drawing skills are always improved by practice, whether you are a beginner or have been faffing around for years like I have. You can see that on 4th January I reached the end of the day without having done anything, so did a quick sketch of whatever came first to hand (or rather, foot)….


OK, so I cheated on the left of the page – a few scribbles of grey to portray a stormy night. Was having a grumpy day!

I was lucky enough to have a trip to St Malo last weekend – a welcome relief from weeks of gales, rain, mud and long dark nights. It was one of those bargain breaks that’s almost cheaper than staying at home and a crowd of about 30 of us enjoyed the hospitality of French Old Gaffers Assocation members in St Malo. There were treats in store including coffee and croissants on board the square rigged ‘Etoile du Roi’, a tour of the historic town ramparts, and convivial parties during which I cursed the fact that my French is too rusty to understand a word anyone says to me. If in doubt, I smile and nod, and say ‘Ah, oui, bien sur!’

sketching moules

 In a cafe in St Malo….. sketching is cheaper than eating (and I don’t like moules anyway!). 

st malo1

View from the ramparts of the old town

I came home refreshed and still afloat. This winter has been one of the most challenging of my life, but I now know that all things are possible if you keep your sense of humour and always have a glass of wine and sketchbook to hand!



6 thoughts on “From muddy puddles to moules frites….”

  1. Kelly Pritchard says:

    Vous êtes marié à la mer x

  2. Sam says:

    Terrific sketchbook. Onward!


  3. doryman says:

    If your life isn’t perfect, I’d like to know what is.

  4. John Holloway says:

    Great sketches!

  5. Joyce Jones says:

    I recognised the blue and white lamp from Chancery Lane and Singapore days. The photograph brought back so many memories. Full of admiration that you have kept it safe. xxx

  6. Claudia says:

    Hello Joyce, good to hear from you! Yes, the lamp is virtually my only memento from Singapore days and I treasure it – for me it is a symbol of home, wherever I am. It’s hopefully unsuitable for a boat, of course, and I’ll have to tie it down at sea!

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