Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reflection: Excerpt from Promise Me You Won't Go To Beirut Part 3 by George J. Thomas

Available at Amazon.com

Nine years ago, I decided it would be interesting and challenging to paint pictures of some of my bonsais, however, in Chinese style using Xuan (rice) paper, Chinese inks and watercolors. On a visit to London’s China town, I purchased all the materials and instructional books I needed, from a Chinese art supplies shop. Back in Spain, I was dispirited to find it impossible to master the skill of painting in this medium without a teacher.

Nevertheless continuing my interest in oriental arts, I joined a class in Spain, to learn the techniques of ikebana - the stylized minimalist flower arranging art of Japan. Originally designed for Japanese Bushi (warlords) and Samurai (warriors), it is now practiced and appreciated by people the world over. During several visits to London, I had further tuition in the art of ikebana from Tomoko a Japanese woman, a sensei or teacher of the art.

George J.Thomas
To my surprise, I discovered that the ikebana teacher in Spain Kit Nicol was also an expert tutor in Chinese brush painting with more than 30 years’ experience. I then had some professional tuition from her over a period of months and grasped the essentials of the art. My teacher, who only visited Spain for a few months at a time, then returned to England and left me once again to my own devices.


On the internet, I came across the website of the UK based Chinese Brush Painters Society (CBPS). I became a member and was delighted to find that there were online tuition programs offered by several of the most experienced members of the society.

George J.Thomas
Over the course of four years, I had the most brilliant tuition from a very patient teacher - Marion. For example, she would send me by post, a bamboo painting project, with detailed technical instructions and ten copies of famous Chinese paintings of the topic. Then I would produce my attempts at the paintings, take photographs and email them to my tutor. She would do a detailed critique of my work, pointing out the mistakes and where I needed to improve; this sometimes meant producing second attempts.

George J.Thomas
Over the years, I worked through various projects such as, pine trees, landscapes, water, animals, figures, flowers, progressively improving until I eventually had the occasional painting published in the society’s quarterly magazine. Every year there is a competition for paintings to appear in the CBPS calendar, and to date I have had paintings in three years’ calendars. I have sold a few paintings, and participated in several local art exhibitions, but my prime interest is the pleasure of painting rather than having any serious commercial aspirations.

George J.Thomas

By chance one day, I was given a beautiful orchid plant to look after by a friend of my wife. As a keen gardener and bonsai addict, this was a new challenge as I knew nothing about orchids. Many years later I have more or less mastered the art of growing orchids and have quite a respectable collection.



Now the scene is set, all that remains is to stress my memory and try and dredge up long forgotten incidents and people before they disappear forever.

*******
                                                



George  J. Thomas is an author/artist
For more information go to:
http://georgejthomas.com/author/
Originally, from Glasgow, Scotland, my business career enabled me to travel extensively internationally over many years, especially in Europe, Russia, the countries of the former Soviet Union and the Middle East.

Have lived in Saudi Arabia, the British Virgin Islands, Spain and the Czech Republic. Now I live in Xàbia, Spain.


                                                      -George J. Thomas






Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Reflection: Excerpt from Promise Me You Won't Go To Beirut Part 2 by George J. Thomas

Available at Amazon.com


After having had a small stroke whilst working in Prague, and during my recovery period, my secretary and friend Zdenka persuaded me to go along to a major bonsai exhibition, being held in the gardens of one of the many palaces in Prague. I was completely enthralled by the bonsais, some of which were over 150 years old. This started me on my voyage of discovery.  I bought around ten bonsais and the tools, pots and materials which I needed.

 jasmine orange bonsai
(murraya paniculata)

According to the neurologist treating me, my small stroke was incompatible with the stressful business life I was leading, and I ended up retiring at the age of 58. Already having a house in Xàbia, we moved from Prague to Spain in February 1999. However, my bonsai collection did not take kindly to the move from the cold winter of Prague to the heat of an exceptionally warm and dry Spanish winter that year. During the course of the year, progressively all but one of my bonsais died, probably because most of them were species more suited to northern European climes. My only survivor was a jasmine orange (murraya paniculata),which 14 years later is still growing healthily.


Undeterred, I started creating bonsais from scratch, mostly by buying small trees from garden centers, cutting them down drastically and developing them as bonsais. I improved my techniques by joining a local Spanish bonsai club, and today I have around fifty bonsais and am a member of the Asociación Española de Bonsais. But I digress. 




Next Week:   Excerpt from Promise Me You Won’t Go To Beirut! Part 3

Last Week:   Excerpt from Promise Me You Won’t Go To Beirut! Part 1


George  J. Thomas is an author/artist
For more information go to:
http://georgejthomas.com/author/


Originally, from Glasgow, Scotland, my business career enabled me to travel extensively internationally over many years, especially in Europe, Russia, the countries of the former Soviet Union and the Middle East.

Have lived in Saudi Arabia, the British Virgin Islands, Spain and the Czech Republic. Now I live in Xàbia, Spain.

                                                      -George J. Thomas

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Reflection: Excerpt from Promise Me You Won’t Go To Beirut! Part 1 by George J. Thomas

Available at Amazon.com
 As I begin the winter ritual of pruning, wiring, and the general tidying up of my bonsais after their summer growth, I reflect on the size which many of them have reached as they have grown and matured during the many years I have cared for them. Along the way, some of my bonsais have died, afflicted by old age or disease or inclement weather. Some trees have withered, branches covered in lichen mingling with living limbs, aging much like their human counterparts. The deciduous trees have lost their leaves, just as I have lost my hair. This work, and this particular winter have induced in me a certain degree of melancholia, having recently suffered a potentially life threatening illness. At the age of 72, I decided that I should commit to paper my life experiences, for my three children, and to give my eleven grandchildren a record of their grandfather.

This will be an intriguing journey for me, delving into my mind, trying to resuscitate memories of the many and curious incidents in my life, particularly in some of the remoter parts of the world. Out of interest I took the trouble to count the number of countries I have visited during my many years of travelling across the globe and it totalled 67. Apart from Britain, this includes the countries, where I lived for some years, Saudi Arabia, British Virgin Islands, Spain and the Czech Republic.

George J. Thomas running in
the desert in Saudi Arabia (1982)
Due to the nature of my career, and the constant travelling, there was little time to pursue hobbies or other leisure activities, apart from long distance running which I took up in my 30’s after quitting smoking. I became quite addicted to running and clocked up my first marathon (3 hours 22 minutes) at the age of forty. During the period when I was spending a lot of time in Russia, the company sent me on two intensive Russian courses at Birmingham University, then again for an introductory Czech course prior to moving to Prague. However since I retired, these fifteen years have been a period of self-discovery and to my surprise a flourishing of hidden talents. 



George  J. Thomas is an author/artist
For more information go to:
http://georgejthomas.com/author/



Originally, from Glasgow, Scotland, my business career enabled me to travel extensively internationally over many years, especially in Europe, Russia, the countries of the former Soviet Union and the Middle East.

Have lived in Saudi Arabia, the British Virgin Islands, Spain and the Czech Republic. Now I live in Xàbia, Spain.

                                                      -George J. Thomas

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Reflection: Being a Two-fisted Reader


Back in college, the thing to do besides going to classes was to go downtown to the bars. I use to go with my roommate on Thursday nights for the drink specials (Buy One Get One Free).  We would sit at the bar and savor the flavor of one of the BOGO drinks unlike the red-face guys standing in the corner with a beer in each hand laughing and talking with their friends.  The Two-fisted Drinkers (which I heard the guys refer to each other) would first guzzle the beer in their right hand and then their left until they were both empty.  The look of disappointment would gloss over their face.  They would sway back and forth slurring their words on their way back to the bar. Obvious, they did not need another round but insisted on it and the bartender would oblige.

Personal library
Photo by Sandra Proto
Just thinking about this reminds me of reading two books at once. Even though I am not like the guys who are two-fisted drinkers, I usually only have one book in my hand but I go back and forth reading two.  My reason for doing this was to alleviate boredom from reading one kind of book.  I have an extensive personal library that consists of 300-plus books.  Yes, not only am I a Two-fisted Reader but a Book-a-holic.  I have scavenged book stores, library sales, thrift shops, online, and on the streets (yes, I found discarded books on the street and adopted them).  My library has an array of books from Shakespeare to self-published authors and I usually read a fiction and a non-fiction book at the same time (I switch back and forth on my mood).  If I am stressed, I read a fiction book and escape into someone else’s world or read a couple of poems from a poetry book and get lost in the imagery.  If I felt very studious, I would dive into a non-fiction book of essays or history to wake me up. Whenever I read; I totally emerge myself.  Sometimes I would read a passage three times to let it sink in.  But, what I noticed about my reading habits when I was reading two books at once was that it made me a much slower reader than usual.  I did not read all the books that I was hoping to read in a year (this of course does not include the numerous picture and chapter books that I read to my daughters before bed).  Basically, my To Read List was at a stand-still.  

Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge
So, being a Two-fisted Reader is a little problematic, and this is why I vowed to only read one book at a time.  No longer will I over indulge and become inebriated with words that stifle my goals.  I will nurse one book to feel the impact of its meaning and reflect on it.  This is not an easy task.  I already slipped a little by reading the beginning of the first chapter of my next read (but I did stop myself).  Right now, I am reading The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss by Arthur Agatston but here are some of my other books that I am planning on reading this year:

THINGS FALL APART tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo's fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society.

The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries.

Inés of My Soul by Isabel Allende
Born into a poor family in Spain, Inés, a seamstress, finds herself condemned to a life of hard work without reward or hope for the future. It is the sixteenth century, the beginning of the Spanish conquest of the Americas, and when her shiftless husband disappears to the New World, Inés uses the opportunity to search for him as an excuse to flee her stifling homeland and seek adventure.

Sonata Mulattica by Rita Dove
The son of a white woman and an “African Prince,” George Polgreen Bridgetower (1780–1860) travels to Vienna to meet “bad-boy” genius Ludwig van Beethoven. The great composer’s subsequent sonata is originally dedicated to the young mulatto, but George, exuberant with acclaim, offends Beethoven over a woman. From this crucial encounter evolves a grandiose yet melancholy poetic tale.

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
With passion, wit, and good common sense, the celebrated poet Mary Oliver tells of the basic ways a poem is built-meter and rhyme, form and diction, sound and sense. Drawing on poems from Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and others, Oliver imparts an extraordinary amount of information in a remarkably short space.

My goal for this year is to read ten books but hopefully I can stay focused and read more. 

Let’s see what happens;0)