My work often takes me to the north west. Last week it was Derry. This weekend it’s Letterkenny. It usually takes about three and a half hours to drive up: M50, M1, across to Ardee, N2, Monaghan, Aughnacloy, Omagh, Strabane, and then this evening Lifford and on to Letterkenny. This afternoon the M50 was clogged and the M1 was slow so it took four hours.

To keep sane and awake. I listen to podcasts, music and or an audiobook. Rarely, now, the radio.

Today, for the first part of the journey, I listened to my new favourite, Lavinia Meijer, a South Korean born, Dutch harpist. I’ve always liked the harp. It’s an elegant instrument and I am consistently impressed by anyone who can play it or even keep it in tune. As an instrument, I love the mellow plucked sound. The other day I listened to Satie’s Gnossienne No 1 played on the piano and then listened to Ms Meijer play it on the harp. I felt a huge emotional connection to the softness of the latter.

Ms Meijer plays a lot of Philip Glass, beautifully. Have a look and a listen to this.

Hearing and seeing somebody interact with their instrument like this reminded me of Nicola Benedetti. I’m not a classical music buff and until I heard her play, I had thought all violinists were the same. But Ms Benedetti manages to coax the sweetest of sweet sounds out of her violin. I have to admit that this track has made my eyes mist over more than once.

For the latter part of the journey I listened to a variety of podcasts; Michael Palin and Naomi Klein being interviewed by David Baddiel on the Penguin books podcast, and an episode of my favourite podcast, Reasons to be Cheerful, a left leaning, positive podcast on political ideas presented by Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd. This one explored the pros, cons and myths surrounding taxing the rich.

I also did a fair amount of thinking.

My step-sister Judy recently expressed an interest in my moon on the sea painting. I quite like that one myself. The photo of it was flattering however and I felt that I’d like to do a better one for her. The original was done on black card.

I had a go at another one on scrunched up, flattened out and inked rice paper. It was ok but the wrinkles were a bit distracting …

… so I ironed it.

… and then looked at it with a mount …

Not bad but the original wrinkles have resulted in some vertical marks that don’t quite look right so I’ll have another go.

It’s both a challenge and a pleasure to create/make something with a particular recipient in mind. The things I’ve been most pleased about and proud of have been done this way.

I brought some paper, paint and brushes with me. I did these. Gold gouache on black card. Chinese brush. Not quite enough zen. I’m a bit distracted. But they’ll do.

The North West