2019 ends and 2020 begins

Usually I have done an annual review which was part of an education idea about self nurture. I haven’t even tried this year because people who are in contact see my Facebook, Instagram or rarer blog posts.

So 2019, what happened in those last two months:

– took on new role as a part time shopkeeper – I love it, working three days a week at present suits well and loving the interaction with visitors and customers alike.

– took part in my third and final Artisans on the Beach event on Swanage seafront – only part time because of commitments eg shop.

– continued to sell work and do my duties at Purbeck Artisan Yard in Wareham where I will continue to sell my work as well as in Swanage

– sold Christmas cards after an invitation to join the christmas event at “Shop: Dorset Makers”, Creech – successful new development

– had stock with HappyHay at her emporium in Lytchett Minster

– completed my work with Swanage Primary years 3 and 4, including two class sets of pictures drawn on my Art for fun overalls.

– a change of christmas plans as Anne rushes to hospital on December 23 for an appendectomy on Christmas Eve and return home on Christmas Day.

Yes,2019 finished rather full on. Rest days = 1.5!! From 30/11.

So we are now in January and a role for me at home making sure Anne recuperates and I do more to help and drive whoever to appointments as designated driver. Also I am going to help in Monday duties (only 2) to build a new artisans kitchen area at the Purbeck Artisan Yard. Also 4 Fridays leading the Art Workshop group in Swanage on the theme of Stepping into Nature. So another busy month with upto 5 days work each week (not good at this retirement idea).

2020 – relax, exercise more, get out and about with Anne more, not overcommit each month and to work in the shop and keep making art.


Two weeks in and the shop is developing nicely. I have spent an extra day in each week building items from scaffolding boards and pallet pieces. We are receiving a steady stream of visitors and making some sales, better than I expected initially.

Art table mark one, since I proved to make it more stable and also used as a workbench for other carpentry projects. The boarded wall to the left of the picture and the counter to the right were left by the former tenant and have helped set the theme for our rustic look.

Furniture in the shop now includes; a bench, two stools and matching tables that Lee from “Rescue and Restore” built for me in the summer. Items that I have built include the art table that will be used for “Art for Fun” once I start to have takers. I have also built a window unit that uses the small windows at the side to form small display spaces.

Then we have a combination of card carousel, print browsers, app,crates and pallets that Jo is working on. Next week we will be putting up our shop sign which Jo is painting the shop name onto.

The general feedback about the decor has been very positive from visitors.

As always I enjoy interacting with customers and visitors. I also have the bonus of parking so that I walk the seafront each morning and afternoon around the shop day.

Life is a changing

Since I arrived to live and work in Purbeck, Dorset at the end of August 2016 my life has changed several times.

September to November 2016

School teacher continuing into my 29th year as a teacher.

November 2016 to January 2017

Nervous breakdown (two in fact) and looking for a new direction.

January 31 2017 to present

Start to use the term artist for myself and producing work and selling it to others

March 2017 to September 2019

Seasonal job for Wareham Boat Hire, using my knowledge of kayaking and rowing especially. Working 6 months of the year outdoors and often standing in the river Frome.

September 2016 to October 2019

Joined and rowed with Swanage Sea Rowing Club and got to see the Jurassic coast from the water.

November 2016 to present

Attended Swanage Depression Support Group and then Wareham Depression Support Group and now act as fill in facilitator for Wareham.

July 2019 to present

Got involved in retraining at my own kayaking skills and developing a new love for sea kayaking which is now going to replace gig rowing for my water sports time.

The change from Geography teacher to artist has been the biggest change. I have now taken part as an Open Studio in Purbeck Art Weeks (PAW) for three consecutive years. I now have my work in the Purbeck Artisan Yard in Wareham where I joined the co-operative in March 2018. I currently have a solo exhibition in the cafe at RSPB Arne due to the link with PAW. I have work with a friend’s business in Lytchett Minster. I am about to take part in my third Artisans on the Beach in Swanage, the last two of which have been as a member of the organising working party. This weekend on November 2nd I took the keys of a shop in Swanage in partnership with one of my fellow Artisan Yard artists. So now a part time shopkeeper.

This new role means that the boat job will go as I am only willing to work part time so that Anne and I can enjoy the remainder of the week doing activities together.

So let’s see where the new adventure leads . . .

Germs a shifting, back to business

So I still have the germs in the system but a week of steroids meant I went from about 30% to 100% lung capacity available for breathing. I have the energy to be back doing…

InkTober 2019 has started and today I will be doing prompt 7 – my aim isn’t to spend lots of time on each piece but more to think of different responses to the day’s prompt word. This often sparks ideas to return to on a larger piece at other times.

Yesterday, I made my way out to RSPB Arne where I hung what is essentially my first solo exhibition. I am pleased with how it looks and it includes a range of pen and ink pieces with marker pieces. Some are originals and others are giclee prints, I have also included my photo print of Hungry Hare which is still my most popular print.

In having the exhibition which will be on until the start of December and will overlap with the Artisans on the Beach event I am looking for a wider range of people to see my work.If anyone actually wants to buy a piece (some pieces) that would be an added bonus.

On Saturday I took part in the Fun Palace event organised at Swanage Library and offered “Art for Fun” aimed at families and children. It was great to have parents and children drawing alongside each other and the 174 colours drew people in. I did a fun piece of Swanage Bay with many types of water activity in it and I gave this to one of the participants. A second piece of a crocodile, which was proving a favourite topic for the children was given to the library. Both,I suppose are technically AndyKnillArt originals but we’re just fun drawings for me. The good bit was saying that I would be offering the same activity at the beach huts in December and hoped to see them there.

Asthma and how it puts life on pause …

Well it’s the first week in October. Last week I went to Essex with Anne and we stayed in two lovely hotel suites on consecutive nights, luckily for me both had suitable sofa / chairs I could sit upright in. Why? Surely they came with a bed?? Yes but since Tuesday September 24th I have been unable to lie down to rest as my breathing runs into difficulties.

A week on:

successes – managed to visit our eldest son Jon in Essex

– attended family funeral on Anne’s family side

– Missed hanging first solo art exhibition

(delayed not  cancelled)

– two days of planned sketching with primary

school classes (delayed not cancelled)

– unable to collect mower yet after its most

recent service, not that I would be able to use
it as grass too wet, oh and own health

So, why the fuss, well tbh I would like to be getting on with commitments but staying indoors is what I have to do. I have endured six nights of extracts of sleep between 20 minutes and three hours to be awoken coughing and gasping to catch my breath. I have been to the doc, I have steroids to help ease the breathing and I am using my salbutamol inhaler when I need to.

Asthma has been in my system diagnosed since I was 11 and go at time said I could get out of cross country – I went on to run for school team and running club. I have done a range of sports but I recognise conditions that trigger my asthma which I work around. Currently I just have to “be” and recover, those who know me that just “be” ing does not come easy.

So, that was it, no big explanation of what asthma is – difficulty in getting enough oxygen into your system comfortably – try breathing through a fine straw, alternatively get your rib cage wound tightly in bandages and try breathing. Currently add razor blades liberally in your throat while doing above.

Just letting off steam, but also started InkTober 2019 drawings; doing some art; chatting with Anne; reading; watching wildlife…so keeping busy in a just “be”ing kind of way.


Paddle time

Over the last six weeks I have been taking part in a kayaking course called ‘ River to Sea’ in which have been revisiting skills I have long forgotten or never known previously. The group format with 6 students to one instructor works well with plenty of time in our two hour weekly sessions to coach individual improvements.

We have moved from the River Frome at Wareham, to Bramble Bay and Poole harbour and on Monday evening our final session will see our sea experience with a paddle from Studland bay to Old Harry Rocks.

My key draw to the course was the Old Harry Trip. Something I have avoided attempting alone as I have not been confident about my skills. Today however, that trip has been trumped after I took part in a paddle trip from Keyhaven, Hampshire across the Solent to the Isle of Wight and down to Alum bay with a view of the Needles.

Today we paddled about 10 miles,my previous best on Monday, about 4 miles on open water. Most of the journey was low key paddling wise but on the return journey I had two moments of unease: crossing the Hurst Castle tidal race where my hire kayak became swamped by a wave and later surfing a boat’s wash where I lost my balance. In both cases I retained my balance and felt a great sense of achievement.

Early on on river sessions – paddling on the river,then emergency stops.

Side draw strokes and brace turns.

Exploring in Poole harbour and learning to read Cardinal marker buoys.

A rough estimation of our second week to Pottery pier on Brownsea Island and back.

Today’s trip meant an early start:

Picked up at 6 a.m. and kayaks lined up ready to launch at Keyhaven for 9 a.m. with a great group from Imperial College, London investigating the route for their autonomous battery boat to follow.

Onto the water and along the river in Keyhaven behind Hurst Castle Spit and onto the Solent. A crossing of about one kilometre and we were along the shore of the Isle of Wight. A beach stop and we could see The Needles to the west of us.

Along the coast until we reached Alum bay. The Needles themselves would be too far for this trip, but that didn’t matter. Over half of the group went for a swim, plus lunch.

Then it was time to return, I took no photos on the return leg. A map showing our approximate route.

Many thanks to

Steve Malone of H2O adventures and Spartan paddlesports today.

June 2017, April 2018 and now tonight

This has been the worst post-teaching nightmare ever – I died in the school building, my SLT covered it up and I never got home to my family, most importantly to my wife.

At the moment I am meant to be distracting myself with some “silly games” but my mind won’t let go of my feeling of resentment that I taught until I broke, so the last time was definitely a “breakdown”.

People have said nice things and paid compliments and I can accept some of them but I am conscious that my professional relationship with senior managers unravelled in four schools in my career. The ones where I also suffered breakdowns as I tried to balance being a workaholic with being a parent of two young men and having a loving and very patient wife. I wasn’t there enough for my family.

I have shown myself that all the times I thought maybe teaching isn’t for me that I can and have done other things, not to a standard of supporting a family but I didn’t have to keep the label “teacher”.

I am left with many questions, questions I should ignore, blank as they don’t really need answers, or they can’t change anything.

The positive, in all of this I no longer feel the need to end my life, that is a huge difference to some of the lows since I left teaching.

For others, if you are in teaching, have had a breakdown, struggle with mental health please be careful. Self care first, family if you have one second and teaching third. I never got that order right.

Politicians and all your jibes at the teachers who are not in the Outstanding schools do not help. We now have a national education system rife with mental health issues for staff and students – that is not success.

Why blog? Because it is still cathartic for me, I know few people will see my posts, it doesn’t matter, it’s my blog and I can define success. Now for a hot drink and some point I will try to sleep again and hopefully this time I will wake up and live on.

Purbeck Valley Folk Festival 2019 up to drawing 1.

This is the biggest local folk festival to us, previously I have been working and we haven’t investigated it. However this year the Saturday headline act was the Afrocelt Sound System whose music I have been listening to since the 1980s from recordings by Real Music. Also we previously saw Moishe’s Bagel at an Artsreach concert in Corfe and members of the groups have been interchangeable previously.

Anne and I booked our day ticket for Saturday – luckily for us the poor weather was on Friday and we had a dry sunny day, the poor weather moved back in as soon as we got home last night.

We arrived and parked up and made our way down to the farm having collected our wristbands and a programme. A first point of gathering our bearings – there was a singing workshop in the Long barn which sounded great and a Morris dancing workshop in the Big barn. We sat, drank our first hot drink in our new bamboo reusable cups.

Long barn singing workshop

Big barn

Then we set off to explore the Market area and Fire Stage field. On the way we saw the hay bale caterpillar and various photo opportunity boards.

The second photo looks up the Purbeck Valley towards Kimmeridge with Kingston and home on the left and Corfe on the right.

We looked about the market area meeting local friends and drew on pebbles with the Milmer family. We also saw Jessamy Keily from the artisan yard. We then settled down and listened to The Fox and The Owl followed by Tashkezar, the latter more manic and resembled many tracks I have at home. While they were both playing I worked on my first sketch (drawing) of the day.

School holidays…

Oops these don’t apply to me but many friends in education have clearly been stretching themselves to reach them. For me the difference is that the boat hire shifts in Wareham are now going to be so much busier and this week a heatwave too although luckily Dorset has lower temperatures than where we lived previously.

I don’t actually have holidays as such and I don’t have a 5 day working week either. I now have my teacher pension and sometimes adjusting is confusing. I am not complaining I assure you.

A typical week at the moment sees a sensible Monday with maybe some chores or tasks in Swanage which has to include visits to friends in their shops and a cafe break at Java. The evening up until the 19th August is two hours of quite energetic kayaking with H2O adventures taking part in the River to Sea course that Steve runs. I am rediscovering skills I have forgotten or not used as my own kayak is a sit on top, or learning new skills. We are a group of six and the time spent on the Frome is proving very enjoyable.

Some examples;

Tuesdays are boat shift days and we are now firmly in the 9.30 to …6ish shift patterns. If I wake early enough I cycle to work and enjoy a swim in the river beforehand if the tide is suitable. If I am tired I drive. As I said above,we now enter the summer holidays so shifts will become busier. From the 30th kids club moves to Tuesday and I will spend 9.30 to 10.30 on the water and expect quite a lot of water fights to go on as is usual in the holidays. My energy levels after kayaking on Monday night have been lower so I will need to be careful to get as much sleep as possible.

Wednesdays vary, today I feel very tired so am resting, other weeks it may include a trip out with Anne in the morning. At the moment I am helping out by facilitating at the WarehamDepression support group on the second and fourth weeks of the month.

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays again vary and will usually include some time out with Anne. These depend on artisan yard duties and I am currently on a run of three working weekends with either extra boat shift or artisan duty.

Sundays are boat shift days again and I try to cycle where possible, usually after upto a nine hour shift I Bly cycle 5/8 miles home and then Anne picks me up, I cannot face Kingston hill yet this summer.

Visits away from Purbeck – not often but we live in such a wonderful place already.

Taking time to stand and ….

Life is often rushed. All the time I was teaching and increasingly in the second half of my career as I took on additional management responsibilities I was often plagued by the feeling that my work was incomplete and I should do some more. It wasn’t doing me any good as the free time was reduced and I didn’t relax properly. I became more short tempered too.

Now my life has changed so much. I don’t know that I could hold down a full time post as I can’t focus fully for long periods. It is a relief then that many years of being told I should pay into a pension scheme has paid off for me.

Life is not wealthy but nor is it poor. I am much more time-rich and also can do two jobs / roles that I enjoy in my summer boat job which is part time and my art which continues and is creative when I am in the right frame of mind.

I now have time and do increasingly spend time standing or to be honest sitting and looking around me. I don’t often analyse what I am looking at as I did when I was teaching but I do wonder now if it is something I might represent in a piece of art.

Today Anne and I went to the Summer Festival at Sculptures on the Lakes our towards Tincleton, Dorset. We drove through roads enclosed by trees with tree cover overhead, something we both find restful. The sculptures were in many cases beautiful and as the quotes in the gallery barn said, brought to life by their surroundings.

We spend more time exploring our area and stopping. If you don’t stop often, please try to do more – notice your surroundings.