Halima Cassell at Manchester Art Gallery


After a busy week in Ireland, the day after my return we headed into Manchester. We had tickets for the production of Mother Courage at the Royal Exchange and had booked a pre-birthday meal in a restaurant in the Northern Quarter, and decided to drive in during the afternoon to visit the City Art Gallery. There was a lengthy queue for the Leonardo exhibition, so we decided to give it a miss. It would have taken up all the time we had and we’d probably have chance to see it on another day before it leaves Manchester and we wanted to have a look at another exhibition that had just opened in the Gallery.


Halima Cassell is a sculptor who was born in Kashmir but grew up in the north west of England  and currently lives in Shropshire. She creates complex geometric patterns in unglazed ceramic, bronze, stone, wood and cast glass. I’d seen one of her works during a visit to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery last year and there were a couple of works on display last time we were at the Manchester Gallery (they were preparing for the exhibition) and we were keen to see this large scale display of her works.


Her sculptures are incredibly complex geometric patterns that, in many cases, are clearly inspired by nature.

Cassell is gifted with an exceptional ability to visualise complex patterns and mentally project them on to 3-D objects. Her work is diverse in inspiration and form, but her personal style is instantly recognisable due to her bold, energetic designs, crisp carving and intuitive understanding of how to integrate pattern, form, material and scale. (exhibition website)


Looking at the works I couldn’t help wondering whether she ever made a mistake with her carving (just imaging spending hours on a complex carving then at the very end slipping with the chisel !!) or if something went wrong with th efiring. Well these things, particularly the latter, clearly happen. One of the exhibits was a piece of a cast ceramic that had exploded in the kiln. and she has also embraced problems where cracks can develop in castings by using a Japanese technique where gold is used to fill the cracks, thereby turning a potential disaster into a creative work of art.


One work, still in progress, was Virtue of Unity a display of ceramics using clay collected from different countries, the patterns embodying some perceived characteristic of the nation.


Her intention is that, when it’s complete the work will represent every nation on earth. There’s a long way to go yet!

Her work is amazing and as the exhibition is on until the beginning of January next year it’s pretty certain we’ll be going to see it again.

Halima Cassell: Eclectica–global inspirations from Manchester Art Gallery on Vimeo.

Castletown – A walk around the estate


After looking round the IMMA for a couple of hours I was starting to feel a little “arted out” – I’d spent the day before in Galleries too, in Liverpool – and needed some fresh air. So I decided to drive over to the Castletown estate, about half an hour’s drive from Kilmainham and not far off my route to Naas, to take a walk around the estate. I’d been there before – I was surprised to find it was almost 4 years ago when I checked. Castletown House is notable as it was the first Palladian style house in Ireland, built between 1722 and 1792 for William Conolly, who was the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons.  During my previous visit I’d looked around the house, but this time I wanted to take a turn around the grounds – a relatively easy walk. In any case, the house was closed for the winter and was only due to open in March.


The car park was packed but I managed to find a space in a layby on the main drive and set out for a stroll. It had been bright and sunny, though quite windy in Dublin, but the cloud had come in by the time I arrived at Castletown. But it was still pleasant enough for a walk. Plenty of other people, including quite a few families with children, had the same idea. It’s a relatively easy walk as the grounds are quite flat and I managed a couple of circuits, stopping briefly for a coffee at the cafe in the house’s west pavilion.

The Liffey, Dublin’s river, flows through the grounds

View of the house
Gothic style gate house
View of the ruined church over the Liffey
A folly, built in the style of a classical “temple” , complete with columns removed from the Long Gallery during it’s redecoration in the 1760s
The ice house

Street haunting in Galway

I was only in Galway for a couple of days. I had a flight back to Manchester from Dublin late Tuesday afternoon, but I had the morning to have a bit of a wander around the city. The weather was a real mix of sunshine, rain and sleet, but wrapped up warm I managed to have a decent walk around, even getting to a few places I hadn’t previously seen. Here’s a few photos.

Galway Hooker monument, Eyre Square
Music shop window
The Long Walk
Galway Bay
The Long Walk
Galway Swans
The harbour
The harbour side looking towards the Claddagh
Street art
Irish post box
Galway Cathed
Equality Emerging

And I will walk 1000 miles


Last Thursday I had an appointment at the hospital – my annual visit to see the diabetes specialist. It was a beautiful, sunny – if cold! – winter’s morning so I decided to use the opportunity for a walk through the Plantations, there and back. Just 4 miles in total, but my first walk of the year.

UntitledThe “70 Steps” up to Sicklefield

My appointment showed that all was good – but I could do with losing a few kilograms – and I’d promised the consultant that I’d lose at least 2 kg by next year. So perhaps as well that I’ve decided to take up the 1000 mile challenge this year. I did quite a lot of walking in 2018 and although I logged the distances of my country walks I didn’t keep a proper log of total mileage, so I’ll need to do that this year.

I needed to set some ground rules. I’ll not count “everyday” miles like walking into Wigan for shopping. But I’ll count mooching / street haunting around Manchester, Liverpool and other towns and cities. I’ll measure my mileage using my phone app rather than map miles, as that takes account of the distance associated with walking up and down hill.

So that’s my first 4 miles done. A lot more effort needed if I’m to hit the target.

UntitledLooking towards the buildings of the former Haigh Foundry – the Isle of Man’s Laxey Wheel was (allegedly) cast here
UntitledA small working foundry on the site of Haigh Foundry
UntitledRose Cottage on Hall Lane
The Lodge on Hall Lane at the entry to Haigh Woodland Park
Lodge has 2 meanings – a gatehouse to a landed estate (as here) but also a small reservoir for a mill or factory
UntitledSome woodland management going on

Kendal Castle

After we’d finished looking around the exhibitions at Abbot Hall, as it was a bright sunny day, we decided to wander up to Kendal Castle, which is a short walk, over the road and up a hill, from the gallery.

The Castle was built in the early 12th Century on a glacial hill left behind from the last ice age, to the east of the town. It was more of a fortified manor house  for the local barons, than a military stronghold, but it would have dominated the town, looking over it from it’s prominent high position. And it would have been a potent symbol of their wealth and power.

The most well known family to be barons of Kendal were the Parr’s, whose most famous member was Katherine Parr, the sixth and last Queen of Henry VIII. Although some locals claim that Katherine was born in the castle this seems unlikely as it was no longer the family’s main residence at the time she was born.

On a fine day, there’s normally a great view over the nearby Lakeland fells, but although there was a beautiful blue sky the hills weren’t really visible. They were covered by cloud that drifted over to Kendal later in the afternoon. But the light was good while we were by the castle it I was able to get some decent snaps.

Afterwards we wandered down into Kendal town centre and warmed ourselves with a hearty bowl of soup at Baba Ganoush (our first visit, and it was very good indeed)

before having a browse in Waterstones and picking up a bit of shopping in Booths.

On the water


My original motivation for arranging my break in North Wales was to try out Sea Kayaking. It’s something I’d wanted to do for a long, long time so earlier this year I booked myself on a two day introductory course with Sea Kayaking Anglesey.

It was a fine day, hot (but not too hot) and sunny, although there was a stiff breeze. Our small group of 4 (there are only ever 5 places on these courses) met up with our instructor, Phil Clegg, for an initial briefing and to get to know each other. He showed us how to check out the sea conditions and due to the breeze the sea was going to be fairly rough so as novices he’s decided we should go to a sheltered section of water, the Inland Sea, a short drive away.

We loaded up the kayaks on to the trailer and gathered together our gear. Sea Kayaking Anglesey provide the essentials of wetsuit, cagoule, buoyancy aid and spray deck.

Arriving at our destination we unloaded the kayaks and got kitted up and after a quick run through of the essentials we got in our kayaks and launched onto the water. WE were soon paddling away and Phil told us how to handle turning, and paddling into the wind and with it behind us. Surprisingly, the latter was the most difficult.


By the end of the day we were beginning to get the hang of paddling and manoeuvring our kayaks. Our final lesson was what to do in the event of a capsize – how to rescue a fellow kayaker.  One of our group volunteered to capsize while another performed the rescue.  The lesson was needed as a couple of the group managed to capsize for real later on.

We finished the day by paddling through some rougher water under a bridge. I was amazed that I coped and didn’t capsize! We then had to get our kayaks out of the water and back on to the trailer, trying to avoid getting killed by traffic in the process! Then it was back to base for a final briefing and some lessons on tides.

I had a aches in a few places, but I slept well that night in my Pod!

The wind picked up during the night and the next morning Phil told us that it was too rough to go out on the open sea, but gave us the option of a day on Llyn Padarn, a lake near Llanberis. We opted to do that so we loaded up the trailer, gathered our gear together and drove onto the mainland and up the Llanberis Pass.

It was disappointing not to get out onto the sea, but we had fun paddling the full length of the lake and getting more experience on how to handle the Kayak in different water and wind conditions. I was surprised how much they varied across the lake. We learned a few more techniques including “edging” to turn the kayak.


This time it was my turn to capsize (accidentally!!). But the water wasn’t cold and with expert instruction from Phil I was rescued and somehow managed to get myself back into the kayak in one piece.


After paddling around for a little longer we landed, changed and loaded up the trailer before driving back to base for a coffee and final briefing. Then it was time for the familiar drive back home from Holyhead.

It had been a good few days adventure, walking and trying out some new things. Despite not getting out on the sea the second day  kayaking , I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I’m keen to give it another go with the “Intromediary” course. Hopefully I won’t have forgotten the lessons learned during the weekend!

Roy Lichtenstein in Focus at Tate Liverpool


While we were visiting Tate Liverpool we called in to have a look at the exhibition of works by the well known American “Pop artist” Roy Lichenstein on the second floor of the Gallery. One of the “Artist’s Room” series of exhibitions, it includes

20 works charting Roy Lichtenstein’s (1923–1997) early interest in landscape to his iconic pop paintings influenced by comic strips and advertising imagery

Works on show include his well known screen printing style paintings Whaam! (1963), which has recently undergone a restoration


and In the Car (1963)





Lichtenstein was interested in reflections and in his painting In the Car he’d incorporated  reflections on glass in his composition and Waterlilly pond with reflections (1992) he’d printed on a stainless steel panel


I also liked a couple of works where he’d used a shiny plastic material to create a simple seascape, and, in the following example a Moonscape (1965).


and I rather liked his take on Monet’s Haystacks