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Woodland drama (or how I broke my leg)

While the rest of the world is on coronavirus lock-down I am confined to my bedroom with my leg in a very heavy plaster. Moving from the bed to a chair involves a lot of hopping and a zimmer/walker frame. It all takes a lot of effort to achieve simple things that I never gave much thought to before.

I broke my left leg. I have broken both lower bones and dislocated my ankle. Six days ago I had an operation to pin the bones in my ankle. My brother asked if breaking a bone is more painful than a toothache. The answer is definitely yes. I have endured 50 shades of different pain since I went for a walk with our dogs 2 weeks ago in my favourite woods, near Ilston, Gower. It was just about the worst time to break my leg, to be honest.

By Ilston River
Ilston River (SOLD)

I had walked about half a mile along the side of the stream. I had bought a new camera with me and my attention was caught by the sunlight on a mossy tree. I decided I would move closer to take a photo.  Instead, I stumbled over a muddy stick and as I put my left foot out to steady myself I felt it twist and a sickening snap. I rolled on the wet ground, hoping against hope that I hadn’t done something dreadful but the horrible pain told me that I had. My foot was bent out of shape. Just to think about it makes me feel ill, even now.

As I lay on the ground, I wondered what to do. I tried shouting “Help” a few times but felt silly/useless. What could I do? My husband was in Ireland. Fortunately, I had my mobile phone in my handbag and it was charged with credit so I rang for an ambulance and waited, and waited. The call handler told me not to move. It was cold on the wet mud. I took a photo of my bent leg. I have not looked at it since. I don’t think I can bear to.

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Ilston Cwm – Close to where I broke my leg

I assumed that the ambulance would not be too long (I was very wrong on this score) and I started to worry about my two dogs, what would happen to them?  I rang my neighbours Rob and Liz and told them what had happened and where I was. Rob said he would come for the dogs. So I waited. I lay and looked up at the sky. Blue patches and white clouds drifted by. It started to rain. Then the sun came out again. I was still lying on the ground. I don’t remember what my dogs were doing but they were nearby. I think Biddy, the collie-cross, tried to present me with a few sticks to throw for her. I clutched my injured leg, it really hurt. I rang my husband. It went to voicemail. “I am lying in Ilston Woods, I think I have broken my leg. I have rung for an ambulance. I have spoken to Liz and Rob. Rob’s coming for the dogs….” I felt bad about leaving him a message when there was nothing he could do.

Painting of Gower Woods
View From the Bridge 100 x73 cm

After a long time, a family appeared on the track, a couple with their two girls. “Help, I think I have broken my leg”. I think they were surprised by this as they walked towards me very slowly. I told them that I had called for an ambulance and my neighbour was coming. They took my phone number and said they would go down to the road and look out for Rob and/or the ambulance.  So they left me and I waited and waited. Company had distracted me from the pain in my leg and being on my own meant being with the pain. I rang my husband again and then Biddy started barking. It was Rob. Thank God. 

“How long have you been lying there?”

“45 minutes. The Call handler said to stay where I was”

“That’s stupid advice. She can’t see your situation. You will get hypothermia. We need to get you up”  So with great difficulty, Rob helped me up off the wet mud and I hopped in slow agony to a mossy tree, where I first leaned against a trunk and later sat on a low branch. He had brought a heavy hi-vis coat which he put around my shoulders. It was blissfully warm.

I wish I could say that was the end of it. That the ambulance came soon after but they didn’t. We waited and waited and rang the ambulance again. It was difficult explaining where I was to call handlers who were not local. They wanted to know the name of the church at Ilston. Ilston is the tiniest of Gower villages. There are about 10 houses. There is only one church. What did it matter what saint it was dedicated to? 

So after another long wait, I asked Rob to walk down to the house opposite the church at Ilston to ask them to ring the ambulance, perhaps they would be able to give better directions. We had often passed the people who live here, they waved in a friendly manner and I was hopeful that they would help. Rob left with my two dogs, Biddy and Mitzy, in tow.  I sat and waited. The pain was worse when I did not have any company to distract me. I looked at the mud by my feet. I was dimly aware of a robin on a branch a few feet away from me. And then like a miracle, little Mitzy appeared by my side. She was collarless. I was so glad to see her. She was not leaving me. Good loyal rescue dog to the rescue. I took her photo as a distraction from the pain.  

Mitzy
Mitzy the faithful rescue dog, to the rescue.

Rob returned with David (and Biddy on her lead). David is 73 and lives in the house opposite the church. He made several trips along the track, and brought me many very welcome items like a big blanket, gloves, hat and a hot water bottle. I was really thirsty and he also bought a bottle of water but David’s wife had said I could not drink anything, her advice turned out to be right, so I just washed my mouth out with it. He made several trips. The last one in the dark with a torch. He took quite a risk, helping us in the dark. We got excited because the beam of his light reflected in the stream and it looked like two people were coming along the track, but it was just him. It got very dark, The moon came out and a barn owl hooted. We told him to go home, we were worried about him in the cold night air. He reluctantly set off.

I started to think that no one was ever going to come. I was so cold. It would be difficult enough to get me out of here in daylight but in the dark? I kept thinking up with ideas for getting how to get me back to the road; What about a horse? A wheelbarrow? One by one my desperate ideas were politely considered and sensibly dismissed. Rob was a reassuring presence. They will come he said.  Then eventually, Rob said, says, “I think I can see lights along the track, more than one!”

At long last, the ambulance service had come. After 5 hours of waiting.  Two figures dressed in green, a woman and a man, carrying torches were coming along the path, with David and his brother-in-law leading the way. I was so relieved. Once they were there, I knew they could sort everything out. And they did. Lyndsey the paramedic was lovely and reassuring. She worked under very difficult circumstances. It was dark and very cold. She checked my blood pressure, temperature and although I felt so cold my body temperature was normal (hurray for thermal vests, I say). I was given a small dose of morphine which had me seeing stars and then liquid paracetamol. They called Sketty Fire Brigade to put me on a stretcher to carry me half a mile down the track (and over the church fence) to the waiting ambulance. It was a long journey looking up at the cold frosty stars through the tree branches from that stretcher. It was a full moon. They carried me wordlessly. There was a short snort of laughter when I said “Well Done” after they had hoisted me over the churchyard railing. 

Yew Tree in Gower
Ilston Church Yard

It was a very long night. The journey to Morriston Hospital Hospital seemed slow. Where are we now? I would ask. It was the pain that made it feel that way. We waited outside A&E in the ambulance for quite a while. Lyndsey told me her mother was the first baby born in the NHS and called was Aneira, after the Welsh founder of the NHS Aneurin Bevan. Eventually, I was taken in for my first X-ray. I was visited by a number of doctors who introduced themselves to me by their first names;  Jeremy, Mohammed, Chris there were others but I have forgotten them. After a wait, the doctors in A&E manipulated my leg (I was under light anesthetic) and put it in plaster so that the agonizing swelling could start to go down. The leg was X-rayed again. Everything was aligned nicely. Every now and then the average waiting time in A&E was announced on the loudspeaker. It started at 8 hours, later it was 13 hours and then by lunchtime the next day it was down to 2 hours. I lost track of time. I didn’t get much sleep in A&E. It was a fascinating place, very hectic. No wonder there are so many drama series set in Emergency Rooms & Casualty Departments. 

Anyway, to cut a very story short I waited a day for a bed in the trauma ward. I then spent another 7 days waiting for the swelling to go down so the ankle could be pinned. I was “nil by mouth” for 4 days in a row but never made it to the operating theatre. Thankfully, on Monday I did, finally. It was probably just as well as the ankle specialist was working that day. The coronavirus emergency meant that the ward was rapidly cleared, as they needed the beds and staff elsewhere. I was sent home on Tuesday via Red Cross Ambulance. 

All through this experience, I have been impressed by the kindness and amazing patience of medical staff as well as just how much pressure the NHS is under. The pressure has just intensified ever since. I would like to thank Rob and David in particular, who waited so long in the cold with me, and Liz and David’s wife, and anyone who I came in contact within A&E, Ward A (which then had to move upstairs to become Ward G), the operating theatre and the Red Cross. Thank you xxx

Postscript:- Biddy and Mitzy went home with Rob and slept all the next day. Seamas flew back from Ireland on a plane full of racegoers heading for the Cheltenham Races.

 

 

 

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Canisland Woods – a Gower painting

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SOLD

This is the last of the summer wine of a substantial series of oil paintings of a woodland area in Gower Pensinsula between Ilston and Parkmill, which the locals call Cannisland Woods.

It is amazingly beautiful at any time of the year but the light is rarely better than in Winter when it is glassy clear and this helps create a riot of colours and hues in this most dank time, in the mulched leave-layered ground, in the trickling everchanging brook of the Killy Willy, in the distant haze behind the barren trees and in the wonderfully green-mossy trees and shiney, slippery brown barks of the twisted trees by the Killy Willy.

This is another “refractionist” (expressionist) style painting which is similar to Sapling Wood and Rainbow Wood in it’s sweeping streaks of colour but much more grand in it’s ambition and luxuriant in its detail. This will probably be the last of this series of paintings for some time so enjoy.

The painting has sold but you can buy a large limited edition mounted print here

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Clear Winter Morning Light

Winter Morning Light on Parkmill

A new oil painting as of today – 80 x 60 cm – £395 – “Clear Winter Morning Light”.

Again this is a painting of Ilston Cwm and the woodland there. I rose up early and photographed this early morning scene when the winter light is at it’s most brilliant and clear. I loved the mirror like reflection of the water in the brook also. I found this composition pleasing so I painted it.

 

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Winter Morning Light (SOLD)

 

You can buy large limited edition mounted prints of this painting here 

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My Ilston Inspiration

Glorious Gower

My present series of paintings which included the recently sold paintings below are all of and inspired by Ilston Cwm a rural woodland in Gower Pensinsula. Gower was the first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK in the 1950s and is a major influence on my artwork.

I love visiting this area, every weekend to walk my dogs and take photographs of the area.

I like doing this especially in Winter when the rich Winter light catches the mossy barks of tress and illuminates the background behind the leafless trees with pinky purples and silvery greys.

I find winter with it’s seeming desolation much more colourful than other times of the year. The light is more brilliant, thicker and more concentrated  than the light of summer. Less diffused. More clear.

The fact the trees have no leaves allows one to look through and beyond and gives greater depth of perception and a richer array of overlapping colors .

This seems to suit my refractionist style of breaking light down into colour components as these blocks of colour have a greater overlaying depth in winter.

Winter light is also lower in the sky and this helps with a sharper more intense light falling on mossy tree barks.

It is so great to get out of the city to soak up some countryside. It has become a vital part of life, escaping the every day concerns of life and work in Swansea to commune with nature, to get away from it all and to return with a bucket load of inspiration for paintings to be contemplated or painted in the following week or weeks.

It is like getting filled up with inspiration, in fact. Replenished, reinvigorated.

I find Gower a very moving place, inspiring. There is something tangibly uplifting about this peninsula. A special energy, or spirit to the place, a Nature Cathedral.  There is a presence that inspires one and lifts the soul towards creativity, towards play. I am blessed to have such an inspiring place only ten-fifteen minutes away.

 

beech by the brook

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IB2

 

wooden bridge

Down Stream (2)

These painting have been sold but you can buy large limited edition mounted prints here

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Tree by the Brook

Here is my latest oil painting – “Tree by the Brook” – 60 x 80cm – £395.

Email if interested in buying.

beech by the brook
Beech by the Brook (SOLD)

This is the latest in a series of oil paintings, based loosely on my refractionist style, of a wood in an area of the Gower Peninsula called Ilston. This painting is of a green moss coated tree, lit by the low lying rich winter light, whose roots plunge into and drink from Ilston Brook.

I love winter light more than any other light and how it’s eye filling light illuminates the barks of trees. How it casts mist greys and pinky, purple pastel hues into the background light.