2021 August

the garden in August
The garden in August is alive with colour!

After the deluge that closed July, the whole garden has sprung into life with renewed vigour! The months of little or no rain saw the blossoms fall early, and growth severely limited. Now there is a sense of catching up with our chaotic year of 2021 – an overlong winter, cold and frosty Spring, and dry summer. Not too promising! But we even have hopes that the Victoria plums will revive and fatten – fingers are crossed!
There is sense of optimism as we approach August, Covid numbers are down to quite low levels – we might finally see some summer weather – and there is the promise of some return to ‘normal’ pre-pandemic life!

Barn swallow nests
A good year for our resident barn swallows!

High under the eaves, above my bedroom, we have the ‘homes’ of our summer visitors – barn swallows. This year they have been very busy! We suspect that their first brood didn’t survive the late and long winter, as there were no signs of new life apart from the eggshells. But since then there have been at least 2 more broods, with copious bird droppings adorning the honeysuckle that grows below them 😊
I can see the shadows of the swallows against my bedroom curtains, as they swoop up and into the nests, feeding the young. Some mornings there seem to be dozens of them circling and zooming in to the nests. I watch them with amazement!
And through August we have seen a new nest, and a first brood appear under the eaves at the side of the house! They are spreading their wings – quite literally!

A Yuta Segawa miniature vase
My turquoise Yuta Segawa miniature vase with a cocktail parasol

I was given a miniature vase years ago – a blue one I use often use, with a few small flowers, in my still life photography. I’ve never found another so small and so photogenic …. until now! They are hand-thrown and beautifuuly glazed. There’s a link here to a video of how they are made. I am having fun shooting them!

Fiesta steering wheel
Driving again! Brushing up my solo driving skills!

And by the middle of August I have started driving again! I need to keep my driving skills up-to-date. The very long and hard winter meant I avoided driving in such difficult conditions. Since then we have had our two Covid vaccination shots, each of them takes away energy, and has left me more tired – not good for the low energy levels from my long-term PVS/ME. But with Mike’s back problems I figure it is wise to make time and find the energy to polish up my driving. So a few early morning sessions at weekends have got me feeling safe and confident – though the energy has only taken me to Turriff a few times!

Japanese snacks
More delicious Japanese snacks to taste and enjoy!

Since Laurie introduced me to the delights of Japanese snacks, cakes and pancakes I have been enjoying adding to my range of eating experiences. And I confess to being well and truly hooked! Just like here, it is the small, traditional artisan makers who produce the best flavours. This lovely delicate momoyama snack is just one example.

bees on the lavender
Our wild bees finally feasting on the lavender

August has been a poor month weatherwise, with little rain to help the crops or our garden! And there has been even less sunshine – the skies have been a leaden grey most days. So we are relieved, as the month draws to a close, to finally see the small wild bees returning and swinging in the breeze on the lavender. Usually the garden is buzzing with activity, but everything is late this year – and insects, especially bees and butterflies are here in much smaller numbers.

And finally, as the month ends, I have to include a Covid reality check at the end of August.

Covid-Delta numbers quadrupled during August! Yes! We started the month feeling optimistic about the progress we had made against the Covid-Delta variant. But as August ends things are running madly out of control here!!
Our schools have been back 2-3 weeks now, and colleges are ready to return. And this is all on top of a summer of football, sporting and music festivals, and now the Edinburgh festival.

Previously Aberdeenshire had seen low infection rates – but in the past month infection numbers have more than quadrupled!!
August 1st – 230 cases reported a rate of 88.2 per 100,000
August 31st – 1,159 cases reported a rate of 444.4 per 100,000
VERY locally we have usually had weekly numbers too small to count (0-2) with a max of 3 and an occasional 4. As the month draws to a close we have 25 reported cases.

It seems that most hospitalizations are of younger age-groups, mostly unvaccinated or with a single vaccine. But the authorities won’t give the go-ahead for school-age children to be vaccinated yet.
And about 1/3 of hospital admissions are among the older and double-vaccinated groups.
ICU figures are slowly creeping up, but so far deaths remain low. But there is no idea of what long-term damage there could be from Covid-Delta itself.
The Scottish Govt. is holding its breath and hoping that we can ride out the current wave. But already the demands on hospitals are forcing them to cancel non-urgent surgery etc. as the wards are filling up again with Covid cases.

On which happy note we end August! September means we are moving into autumn and winter weather (with more indoor activity). So it looks like we will remain essentially self-isolating and relying on masks and keeping away from any crowded places.
But before we move on to September, a look at my Flickr activity for August. I post regularly to Flickr, with a mix of macro, still life, landscape and experimental images. And as the month ends I create a collage for each month. They act as dividers in the flow of images, and also as a reminder to myself of what I have been up to over the previous weeks!

August collage of Flickr postings
My August collage of all the shots I’ve uploaded to Flickr this month

So – on to September, and the approach of autumn.
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© 2021 Elisa Liddell

2020 August

Collage for August 2020
A collection of images posted on Flickr this August 2020

As August began (month 6 of COVID) it was becoming clear that the devolved governments across the UK were moving away from the ‘follow England’ pattern that had been established at the start of the pandemic. The UK (England) government had been mishandling the pandemic from the start, being slow to react and ignoring the evidence of what was happening elsewhere in the world.
Scotland had suffered badly both in the spread of COVID-19 in the community, and especially in recorded deaths. So as England moved to lift the lock-down and ‘get the economy moving again’ there was a more cautious approach here. We remained in lock-down longer, until the indicators were clear that the virus was under control. But as August began the decision was made to get children back to school. We start the academic year some weeks before England, so we would be the first to see how the ‘back to school’ experiment played out in real life! It was a pivotal moment for us all, and watched with some trepidation. We have a small Primary School in our village, and older students travel to Turriff daily, so our village was deeply involved!

As restrictions lifted we remained in our own protective ‘bubble’ that hadn’t changed since March – we were free to travel to our local beauty spots for exercise, bur we remained largely self-isolating. Nothing had changed to make us feel we were less at risk. It was still the elderly who were dying! As we have no children or grandchildren, and no family living locally, it was ‘lock-down life’ that remained our new ‘normal’. So we sat on the sidelines and watched events unfold! August set a new pattern for us, following the daily coronavirus updates. both with our First Minister and online too. It was hard work, and took quite a lump out of our time …. but we wanted to know what was going on.

Continuing our lives as close to ‘normal’ as we could, I continued with my watercolour experimentation and learning.
I was faced with my usual problem, I have PVS/ME and that means my life is a balancing act between what I want to do and what my meagre energy will permit me to do. Do too much and the consequences are brutal – weeks bedbound as my body tries to regain a balance. Long Covid is just the latest manifestation of what has been dubbed ME or ‘Yuppie Flu’.
So with a head full of ideas about what I wanted to do with my watercolour adventure I started moving beyond copying Cezanne. I wanted to paint every day, so I planned to do a small daily sketch. A study of something close to hand (I have rooms full of objects I use in my photography) it would sharpen my ‘looking’ skills as well as my drawing and painting skills. I also wanted to take some of Cezanne’s pencil sketches and paint them. So I began!

sketch book pages
Daily sketch and Cezanne pencil sketch

If I was photographing snail shells, why not paint them too? And give Cezanne’s pencil sketch of a tree a more Scottish feel?
I so enjoyed it all, but found that my energy was exhausted very quickly when I was sitting at a table, painting. I began to remember why I had abandoned pastel painting in favour of photography. I could shoot in small bursts, and then lie down. Painting demanded I was sitting for a longer time, and using muscles in very precise ways.
Time to rethink.
So I had to take the painting much more slowly, and even reduce it to two or three times a week. Sad, but essential if I was to integrate painting into my life over the long term. So I found a way to make the most of the painting I could manage to do ….

Eggs blending photo and watercolour
Daily sketch eggshells and blend with photo

If I was photographing eggshells, then paint them as well. Then, when energy permitted I could make a blend of photo and watercolour … and get something new and creative using minimum energy!

landscape blending
Blending a Lensbaby photo and watercolour sketch

And a step further with the blending. A landscape that one day I might paint …. well…. I could combine it with a sketch and make a new artwork!
And finally my paint-filled month was rounded off with another idea. Again using trees from the local environment, but this time extracting them, and using their shapes to go in another direction. Using masking tape, and practising using wet washes, I began to create ‘ghostly’ trees.

tree into watercolou
Taking the bones of a tree and playing with it in watercolours

It might take weeks to explore an idea, but at least it was feeding my hunger to create, paint, and photograph! A world to explore that took me away from the world of the pandemic.

And finally, yes, we did manage to get out (with cameras) and enjoy more of the freedom to roam. I took my infrared camera with the most colourful ‘Goldie’ filter and shot the trees at Fvyie Castle loch.

infrared bench in blue
Infrared of bench in blue

Processing them into cool blues – and vibrant reds!

Goldie Infrared
Goldie filter infrared of trees at Fyvie loch

And so August ended with me feeling very tired, but very happy with the creative results. OK, it was baby steps, but the ideas were forming, and my first blundering steps were enough to encourage me to continue with my ideas!

on to September
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Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2020 Elisa Liddell