Thursday, 31 December 2009

Goodbye 2009 - joke's over...

Well, here comes the New Year, 2010, the start of a new decade. I wonder what this year holds.

But what of 2009, my most creative of years, the year I discovered so much? Well, almost gone, and if I’m honest, and on balance, I won’t be too unhappy to see the back of it. I won’t list the things that were wrong with 2009 but let’s just say that next year I’m hoping for a better year, a much better year, and an even more creative year. I can’t blame poor old 2009 though, it wasn’t his fault, he can’t be held to count for everything, some of it was circumstance, some of it was others, more of it was me, and the biggest deal of it was simply time and the passing of time. We dealt with it though - you can’t not deal with time.

Time’s a joker; he creeps up on you slowly, changes your beliefs, constantly surprises you, and occasionally shatters your dreams. He can be kind and he can be cruel, clichéd and obscure, he’ll give you happy times, days and hours that you’ll remember until the day you die, pain and sorrow, laughter and loss. Time will make you laugh, cry, shake with fear, scream with pleasure, warm your spirit, chill you to the bone, give success, take it, and make you fail so that you might try again. I wonder what jokes and tricks Time has up its sleeve for 2010?

Time is such a joker, sometimes he makes it so hard to remember what a wonderful life it really is - and it really is.

Time is a joker make sure to laugh with him, it’s easier that way.

Listen… Can you hear him laughing now?

Goodbye 2009 and a Happy (and better) 2010 to us all!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009


My part of Wales is mainly scenery, not the chocolate box scenery of the countryside where I was brought up in Oxfordshire, but dramatic scenery that changes with the light and weather and even over a handful of miles. Sea scenery, beach scenery, woodland scenery, waterfall scenery, and mountain scenery – click after click on the camera.

I’m never very far from a mountain in my part of Wales – Snowdonia surrounds me. I took a drive and a short walk up into the mountains yesterday, the roads narrow and climbing, narrow and winding, narrow and steeply falling – lakes and cloud and light and mist and snow. Variable, quick to change, unpredictable, dangerous, maybe even deadly – all of these and clickable too.

I just took a look, appreciating the wildness of our part of Wales just for a short while then dipped down back into the real world beneath, to town and safety and mountains in the distance.

There and home in an hour, bringing part of it with me – thirty minutes and a world away.


Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Two dogs and a little snow...

So one lot of snow has come and gone with more forecast before the New Year - how inconvenient.

This is my Great Grandfather William, out in the bleak midwinter, ankle deep in snow, firmly capped and gaitered, forking the hay from the stacks he would have made by hand the previous summer from hand-seeded hay grown in his field and harvested by hand. I don’t know who the dog is, it can’t be Patch that was my Grandmother’s dog, my Mum’s, Mum, and the Great Grandfather I’m writing about is my Dad’s, Dad’s, Dad – so not Patch, but so much like him that if I didn’t know better… I could swear…

Could Patch be in two places at the same time, pet to two families separated by a half dozen counties? No, impossible and anyway, this isn’t about Patch.

I’ll save Patch for another time. But for now here’s a picture of Patch at the bottom of the post, he’s so similar to my Great Grandfathers dog that he could be Patch – how strange that both my Mum and Dad’s family should have two such identical dogs.

I’m not sure when the picture of William was taken – probably the forties, maybe the Great Winter of 1947, but at some time either during or just after the war when Lincolnshire was all airfields, airmen, and Americans from over there, over here. My Great Grandfather was a blacksmith, I come from a long line of blacksmiths, blacksmiths and farmers – my Great Grandfather William was both. Strong, quiet, a man built to ‘just get on with it’ despite the weather, whatever hand fate decided to deal.

He was married three times, his first two wives dieing around him. Things were hard back then – the winters, the living, childbirth. Things were hard, particularly in the countryside, particularly in the winter. No central heating, no running water, no electricity – how inconvenient.

He was married three times, he killed his own pigs, he could shoe a shire horse and ride it home, he could lift an anvil, he could make fire from a tinder-box, and he could marry an eloping couple – or so he claimed.

William, the son of a Dutchman and a Dutch woman who sailed from Holland across to the fens to build their canals and windmills, farmers and blacksmiths, milling corn, churning butter, making cheese, slaughtering the winter pig, tending the Smithy.

William, married three times, he could iron-rim a cartwheel, hammer a horseshoe, make a furnace with bellows, wrought black-steel coffin handles, and as a boy whittled wooden ice skates to skate the canals of Lincolnshire like his family had done for hundreds of years before him on the long canals of Holland – wool capped, leather strung clogs hung across shoulders, under the grey, speeding sky, swish-swashing to the ice fair in far away Amsterdam.

On the night that he died I was at my Granfather’s, he was a blacksmith too, a forge a few miles down the road. On the night that he died, ill for a long time, losing the sight in his eyes and the strength in his hammer arm - on that night that he died, me in bed, the light from the washhouse illuminating the ceiling of my darkened room, quiet and waiting, knowing that something was passing - on that night, as he died, at the moment he passed, a shadow crossed the ceiling of my room and for a moment stopped, was still, and then moved on. On that night that he died, as soon as the shadow sighed goodbye, the shiny, black, bakerlite phone in my Grandfather’s front room started to bring, bring, bring and I knew William, my Great Grandfather, son of a Dutchman, was gone.

William, my Great Grandfather forking hay in the snow and just getting on with it, his mismatched mongrel looking on.

I wish I knew his name, maybe it was Patch.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Painting with sunlight…

We popped into Porthmadog yesterday to see what we could find in the sales. Of course we’d forgotten it was Sunday, that we are in Between time, and that we are in Wales, so all the normal rules of post Christmas sale madness don’t apply. Everything, apart from the supermarkets was shut, it was hardly worth the trouble.

As we walked back to the car park carrying our single plastic carrier bag of bargain Christmas wrapping paper and a box of crackers ready for next Christmas (pathetic), the sun suddenly burst through a cloud and illuminated the snow topped mountains in the distance turning the distant snow Prussian blue washed titanium white and the fields below burnt umber and vermilion with a slash of cadmium and a hint of mixed lime green.

I had to hold my breath for the minute or so it was in view and managed to snatch this with my camera phone. It made me wonder… how did Turner manage without a camera?

Hardly worth the trouble? Maybe I found a bargain after all.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

A funny time of year…

Boxing Day is almost over. The day started out crisp with one of those powder blue winter skies that seemed to be tinged with the lemonest of yellows - a citrus winter sky, smelling of lemons and tangerines. Now though, it’s raining heavily, the clouds have come in over the fields and I can hear the rain drumming on the windows as I sit by the fire drinking mulled wine and feeling the dregs of Christmas sip away for another year. Well, it’s me that’s sipping them away as I sit and think about how we will soon be passing across into the Between time.

Between time - that time between the end of Boxing Day and New Years Eve when time doesn’t exactly stand still but does seem to merge into a solid lump of hour-on-hour sameness - that funny time when life loses any semblance of pattern. That time waiting for the Old Year to draw its final breath before the New Year is slapped into life with a cry of ‘Happy New Year’.

Maybe it’s the heavy Christmas eating and drinking, but meals seem to become confused about when they should be eaten. I seem to want breakfast at supper time, tea and cake for lunch, a salad sandwich for breakfast - and wine at any time.

Or perhaps it’s the TV, soaps in the morning, afternoon and evening and even more soaps to fill the gaps. What day is it? Soapday! What time is it Soap o’clock! Thing is, at this time of year the murder, unfaithfulness, and misery of the soaps can feel more real than the reality of Between time.

Or maybe it’s the endless conversations about Christmas present disappointment and how you could have got ‘it’ for half the price in the Boxing Day sales (and completely killed the joy of Christmas morning surprise in the process).

Of course it could simply be that we are surrounded by incoming family for far too long over Christmas often continuing into the Between time, enhancing and magnifying its surreal unreality, as I have conversations about things I have absolutely no interest in, with people I hardly ever see, and really don’t mind not seeing them much anyway.

Yes, the Between time – how unsettling - like a half-remembered dream about something you only half-remember in a half-forgotten way.

Well, this year will be different. I will combat Between time with activity and counter activity. I will move my Christmas presents from the side of my chair where I balanced them on Christmas morning. I shall go for that long walk on the beach I’ve been talking about since Christmas Eve. I will not go the sales in the mistaken belief that I am going to find something I really want at a fraction of the price I would normally pay. I will do things and not do things – there will be no Between time.

This year there will be no Between time. Yes, this year will be different. Just wait and see.

Do you hear the Old Year – its still breathing…just?

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas from Wales...

So Santa Claus managed to find us in Wales again this year and as usual brought us just about everything we could wish for - music, dvd’s, clothes, socks, gadgets, socks, booze, socks, sweets, socks, rubber ducks, socks, hand made chocs, and all the stuff of Christmas. I woke up to a stocking packed full of all sorts of goodies and dived into it, big kid that I am (sorry about the hair and face). We don’t do the six o’clock starts now that Holly is grown up, but I would if I were allowed – Ginger (Gaynor’s new nickname as I mistakenly wrote it instead of her name on one of her present tags – it was the port!) won’t let me though.

I’m not sure what time Santa came to us, but he eat his mice pie (as I call them) and drank his vintage port which I knew was good, having downed a couple myself the previous evening. Whilst he was dropping off our presents Misty had a good old chat with Rudolph. I think I may have heard them - Misty meowing away and Rudolph grunting as he chomped at the carrots we’d left out for him. Santa must have taken a picture whilst they were talking; I found this on my camera Christmas morning. He’s not a bad photographer, but I‘m surprised that he can manage the technology at his age. Just look at them, they seem to get on so well together.

Anyway, Merry Christmas from Wales.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

A Christmas message…

Well Christmas day is just one more sleep away and I’ll be spending it in Wales again this year. I find it really hard to post when I’m in the depths of the Llyn, reliant on both my mobile phone signal and Gaynor’s patience, but I will try, I’ll really try. My posts will probably be short, intermittent, and entirely random, but I’ll attempt to bring you news of Misty, the weather, and I’m sure to get a new rubber duck or two on Christmas day… yes, I know you can hardly wait.

So all that remains is for me to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and to say that I’m looking forward to a Blogging New Year.

Oh yes, before I sign off – the picture above is a drawing I made to illustrate a story I’ve written and entered into an online competition run by Roxana Soare, a very talented Romanian illustrator and cartoonist. I was going to publish this story today with my illustration when I didn’t win… thing is I DID win! Thanks to those of you who voted for me and here’s a link to Roxana’s wonderful blog ‘Draw for Joy’ where my story and her illustrations will appear. I can hardly wait to see my story illustrated and would like to thank Roxana for what I’m sure are going to be beautiful drawings.

Draw For Joy - Roxana Soare

Thanks for reading and tolerating my ramblings this year.
Merry Christmas Everyone!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Misty's first taste of Snow...

Is it snowing? Yes it’s snowing! Look Misty it's snowing. You've never seen snow before have you? What do you think it? Isn't it lovely, all fresh and white, are you going out to play in it?

"It’s what? What did he say? Snoe? What’s snoe? Doesn't look like anything I've seen before. It falls from the sky like that wet stuff - rayn, but rayn isn't fluffy and white and rayn just makes you wet - it doesn't get stuck on your whiskers. No, this is new - I'd better take a look. I hope it isn't dangerous.

Frying fish-heads it's cold. Doesn't look dangerous though. So this is snoe? It looks pretty. I’ve never seen that much white before. Look it’s all over the place, covering the bushes, covering the grass, it’s everywhere… I wonder if you can eat it. I going to have a closer look.

Okay, let’s have a little taste. It doesn’t taste of much does it? In fact it tastes just like water. I was hoping it would taste like milk - after all it’s the colour of milk. No, definitely nothing like milk.
This snoe is making my feet all cold, and why am I sinking? I can’t walk on this, I might start to go down and never stop. I’m going back indoors, I think I've had enough of the snoe, I might try it again later - but then again I might not, it really is cold on the paws and I don't like the way it tickles my nose.

That's better, it's nice and warm in here. I think I’ll just sit in the window and look at it. Looking at it is much better that walking on it or eating it. It looks pretty but it isn’t very hissing nice to walk on and it isn't very hissing nice to taste, but from in here, all snug on the windowsill with the radiator under me, it doesn't look so bad. I wonder if it is going to bury that car? Go on snoe fall harder, bury the hissing car..."

Did you like your first taste of snow Misty? You seemed to enjoy playing in it. That's the first time she's seen snow, I wonder what she made of it?

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

A Christmas Ghost Story...

Do I believe in ghosts? I don’t know. I do believe that strange things happen, hard to explain things, inexplicable things.

I’ve had a few ‘inexplicables’ over the years. As a very young child I would sometimes awake to a horse race pounding across my bedroom ceiling. A full race with horses, jockeys, flying whips, the drum of hooves, sods of turf flying, all careering across my ceiling to the open door which led to the landing.

Once, when I lived in Birmingham in the Eighties, I awoke in the early hours to find a small blond girl standing beside my bed. I watched her for two or three minutes, just standing there silently, and then she was suddenly gone. In that same house I once heard a man’s voice on the stairs clearly say ‘it’s nearly over’ right beside my ear although I was alone in the house at the time. I’ve always wondered what it was that was ‘nearly over’, so much changed so quickly after the voice that it could have been anything.

My wife and I heard another voice a few years ago in our house in Manchester, a woman’s voice calling my name just once from the top landing. We investigated but there was nobody there. And then there is the cat. I, along with a few others, have seen a jet-black cat running around the house on several occasions. A flash of black caught out of the corner of the eye, wandering into rooms almost unnoticed - thing is, we don’t have a black cat.

A couple of years back at our cottage in Wales, Gaynor and I distinctly heard someone climbing the stairs long after everybody was in bed, we went onto the landing to take a look but there was nobody there. And there is a very definite cold spot in the well at the bottom of the stairway - a very, very, cold spot.

Brrrrrrr, it’s enough to give you the shivers. But all of these happenings, intriguing as they are, are all relatively small ‘inexplicables’ compared to what happened to me one Friday evening in the June of 1970 and as they say at the movies ‘This is a true story’.

1970 was the year of the Mexico World Cup, I was thirteen. I was staying at my Grandfather’s forge just outside of Wragby in Lincolnshire with my Mum and Dad. We were visiting my Grandfather for the first time since he had become a widower; my Grandmother had died just a few months previously. I’d always been a little frightened of my Grandmother - she seemed sharp and strict, she bought me socks for Christmas instead of toys, and my Mum said that she could freeze blood with a single look. Worst of all though, she resembled (just a little) the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, and I’m not sure that she liked me very much. I always had the feeling that she found me a nuisance.

My Grandfather’s house was packed to the brim with us - me, my sisters, and my Mum and Dad. I was sleeping in the living room on the sofa, watching football late into the night for some reason. I’m not a football fan but it was something to watch and I couldn’t sleep. Midnight came, then one, then two – and I still couldn’t sleep. The football had finished long ago (in those days there was no 24 hour telly) and as I lay wide-awake there began to come from the kitchen the sound of clinking china. I don’t know why, but instead of pretending that I couldn’t hear anything or simply waiting for the sound to go away, I got up from my sofa bed and went towards the door through to the kitchen. I opened it slowly and cautiously peered into the darkness of the kitchen over towards the deep porcelain sink which stood to the right of the old iron Aga.

Now I can’t swear that I saw a figure, but I do know that I did sense something standing at the sink in the darkness, and I could definitely hear the clinking of plates and cups as they were being washed at the empty sink. In my minds memory I can clearly see my Grandmother standing at that sink washing those phantom dishes. I even see her turning to look directly at me, remember her smiling that thin cold smile, in my minds memory she’s there as large as… well, not exactly life.

When I think about it my blood runs cold, a shiver goes up my spine, and I shudder as if someone has walked over my grave. All cliché, but I can’t explain it any other way. One thing I’m certain of as my thirteen year old boy self stood in the doorway something dark by the sink turned to look at me. Was it her? Did I see my Grandmother? I think for a second that I did, I remember it clearly enough, but memory is a building thing and I can’t be completely sure.

One other thing is for sure though - that kitchen was freezing just like the cold spot at the bottom of the cottage stairwell, and I had to get away from whatever was standing at that sink. I rushed across the quarry tiled kitchen towards the stable-latched door that led to the stairway. Snatching at the latch I threw the door open and took the first three stairs at a flying stumble. I knew what was behind me, I could feel her reaching out for me - just behind - and for a second I was frozen, not daring to turn… and then - as she reached out to touch me with icy, soap sodden fingers - the adrenalin kicked in and I leaped the remaining stairs in three frantic, thudding, leaps.

At the top of the landing, not daring to look back, I thrust open the door to my Mother and Father’s room and screamed for them to save me!

After I’d calmed a little and I’d told them what had happened, making it clear between sobs and sniffs that there was no way I was going back into the kitchen, my Father went downstairs to take a look. I expected him to come back saying that there was nothing wrong and order me back downstairs. But he didn’t. Instead he returned to the bedroom looking a lot paler than he’d done when he’d taken the steep stairs down to the kitchen and refusing to talk about what he’d seen. No, he didn’t order me back downstairs; instead I was allowed to spend the night wrapped in a blanket on their bedroom floor.

Did my Father see something? Did I? I don’t know. I’ve never asked him about it and he hasn’t spoken of it since. Besides, I’m not sure what I saw or even if I saw anything at all.

Something happened though, a hard to explain thing, and I sometimes still get goose-bumps when I hear dishes clinking together as they are being washed. Let’s just call it one of those odd things that happen sometimes - another of those inexplicables like the girl by my bed, or that black cat, or those footsteps on the stairs... nothing to worry about, nothing to lose sleep over.

Do I believe in ghosts? Well let's just say that it's very cold in the stairwell.

Monday, 21 December 2009

It's Monday so it must be Misty the...

It's Monday so it must be Misty the... DUCK day!

Yes – here’s one to fuel the Misty v Rubber Ducks debate – a rubber duck that bears a passing resemblance to Misty the cat. How’s that for messing with your minds! Misty is part of a four part set that includes a tabby, a tortoiseshell, and a black and white. I wonder if they meow, quack, or queow?

Talking of cats and ducks just look at this - even the cat’s getting hooked on them. Is she playing with them, counting them, or thinking about burying them in her cat litter tray? I wonder if cat/duck wars will continue into the New Year?

And whilst we are on the subject of duck (or rather pond) wars… just look at these - Luke Pondwalker, Duck Fader, Princess Layer and a Pondtrooper. They each have water activated LED’s in them so that when you take them out of the bath the light goes off.

How cool - some might say sad but not I - perhaps a certain Santa Duck will bring me one of these for Christmas so that I can enjoy the power of the ‘Duck Side’ as I soak.

Sunday, 20 December 2009


So we've had snow this week. I think most places have had some and other places a lot. My first snow was on Thursday when I watched the snow rush in over Birmingham from clear sky to almost white out in about ten minutes.

When I got home to Manchester I discovered this little chap on the bench built by Holly and her boyfriend Ben - cute isn't he (the snowman not Ben).

We all went off to Wales on Friday evening and when we got up on Saturday morning we found that it had snowed during the night. It wasn't too bad by us but four miles along the way the road was covered in snow and I proceeded to skid and slide all over the road, only able to climb one hill after five minutes of spinning tyres, and then narrowly missing a wall when the car simply floated across the road towards it.

It's the first time I've known snow on the Llyn, normally we just don't get it because of the sea and the tail of the Gulf Stream, maybe it's a sign of things to come. Oh well, at least snow is good for some snow Misty!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Catching on...

Why does Misty love boxes so much? Put one down and she’s straight into it.

When I rescued her from the cellar that time, the first thing she did once she’d had some food was find a box, climb inside, and fall asleep. Maybe before she was abandoned at the farm she lived in a box with her sisters, maybe she remembers it. She spends an awful lot of time in and out of boxes, playing, sitting, sleeping, or simply messing around. We’ve bought her baskets, fully enclosed deluxe faux leather beds, cushions, even a chair-bed that hangs off the radiator – but in the end it’s a nice box Misty prefers, she seems to feel secure in boxes…

‘You know where you are with a box, they’re good and solid without being too hard, you can hide in them, play in them, you can even make an escape hatch if your claws are sharp enough. Always best to have an escape hatch – you can never be too sure what’s creeping up on you, there’s always some catastrophe around the corner, something trying to cat-ch you.

Some times I eat in my box, whatever Foodies has catered for me, other times I sleep - I love a cat-nap. As soon as I’m snug in my box I just close my eves and fall asleep. It’s almost as if I had catatonia, although I can categorically state that I haven’t.

The catalyst for my love of boxes was probably falling into that cellar. Ever since that happened I’ve really liked dark enclosed spaces. I know that Hisfault thinks it was a catalogue of disasters but for me it was almost a mystical experience. Being in that cellar on my own, in the dark, was like being in an empty dusty catacomb or inside a cathedral.

Funny how things turn out - my trip to the cellar could have been cataclysmic for me, I might have panicked, I may even have died, but instead all that happened was that I fell in love with boxes! I thought Hisfualt would have guessed that, He’s usually much better at catching on to these things.

Can’t wait for Christmas day, bet there'll be plenty of boxes around then…’

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Bloody Blog's Birthday...

Happy birthday blog,
this bloody blog, one year old of blog today.

Well, what a journey we’ve been on together you and I - you pushing me along from behind, I sometimes, often, reluctant to go where you want to take me - and why do you take me to the places that you do?

When I set out on this lark that’s exactly what I thought you would be, a lark, a bit of fun – something that I could take or leave and pick-up or put-down as I chose. How wrong a man, particularly a compulsive one can be. You’ve dug into my fibre and you feed on me, eating and nourishing. Parasitical? Not you… more symbiotic, I feed you, you feed me and we both grow.

Remember back then, a year ago, it started with - ‘Gosh! I'm in e-space! Here I am with my very own blog and the future opens up in front of me in ways that I could only have dreamt of just seconds ago.’ My very own blog? Not quite, I hadn’t reckoned on you. Perhaps I should have left you well alone, and sometimes looking back on all these posts, a year of posts, I really question if it was wise to start this journey with you – and you me?

I’ve left myself open you see. You know me too well and you are playing on it, me - manipulating me.

Let’s go back. I’ve (sorry, we’ve) been to some strange places. Learning to whistle with our uncle Charlie, caught in that recurring nightmare we share, holding hands together with Titania on Midsummer’s Eve on Chinnor Hill, back in school with the feathers, and rags, and hats, and robes – yes, I really must tell them what that’s about some day. We’ve waited side by side on the cricket pitch as German shells explode around our Uncle Alf, and you waited silently with me as I sat crying in the forest by the side of my best friend as he died in his cold and running car.

Too much information? Some would say yes - but not you. You want more. Much, and always, more - you want essence, the and my.

We’ve travelled far and wide together - hot, aromatic, India in a bubble. Toured a wet weekend in the Lakes, we rowed across currents on Bardsey Sound towards the magic isle of Avalon, drove fast along the road to Scarborough, then fell back to my home town with all the pubs, our recollections. And we’ve weaved some tales along the way, our parents - ‘The flying Fellini’s’, a Halloween ghost, we’ve walked and wished on sea nymphs…‘success leading us up a narrow road to a remote farm house and a dead end’.

A dead end… who knows? Oh, I forgot, you know don’t you. You know it all, all starts and every ending.

And all of our tales are true; at least a truth runs through them - woven from threads of gold to make this somehow grey world shine and shimmer with the reality of what might and should have been.

What’s that you say? ‘I should live in the real world’. Well, so my Father says...

Surely better a world where cats talk and we find pictures in the clouds, where rubber duck vicars are murdered in their own churches and strange creatures are encountered on the wet Welsh beaches, a world where the dead can talk and comment on the present…surely better than that other? The real.

And surreal? Not as much as it could, should, would - not surreal at all compared to our subliminal, sub-surface, sub-text. Yes I know. You see - I see your secret and you see mine. Shhhhh… keep it close - just for you and me, and for now.

Maybe some, one, day.

We’ve played conkers, cooked Barbados lamb, made cider, obsessed over manhole covers and door knockers, discussed art, raised ducks, pondered and wept over road-kill and seen the flowers of summer come and go to be replaced by tiny artificial glowing Christmas trees.

To date. One year today. Three hundred and thirty-three posts. A whole lot of me…about us.

Read the blog - you’ll find out loads.’
Did you?
We did.

Happy birthday blog.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Doodle Crank…

Mr. A. Bickerdike of Little Dullwit recently posted an interesting comment on Facebook concerning his mood and general demeanor and has graciously given me permission to reproduce it here:

‘needs a cobweb and brush out in the old cranium and an insert of new fluff, lint, crumbs, odd plastic toys from crackers and a piece of string... that about will fill it!’

‘How interesting!’ I thought as I read his comment. And then it set me to doodleing and when I start up the doodle-crank all kinds of thoughts suddenly rush to fill my head…

The Doodle-Crank…

Said cheeksome chappie Bickerdike
Deciding one fine day
That head was full of cobblewebs
His cranium crammed with grey.
He brushed and swept and polished
Dusted, buffed and shined,
And cleaned right through his brainbox
Till ‘twas empty, new, and fine.

Now with what which to fill it?
This empty waiting skull.
What wonderments of new content,
Will replace the tiresome dull.
New fluff, some lint, a piece of string!
All seemed to rightly fit -
And plastic toys from crackers,
To make his thoughts close-knit.

So newly armed with clothy stuff,
Ring, whistle, car, ballerina,
He filled his head with fortitude
And took up this new mantra.
If ‘e’ do equal ‘mc’ squared
And relative is my theory,
I should easy make a head and tail
Of a lifetime’s simple query.

‘I have one question, only one,
And answer I’m requiring,
If thinking is enlightenment
What makes it so dashed tiring?’
On reading this - my doodle cranked,
My head full filled with flotsam.
I drew, and wrote, and thinked, and yawned,
And fell sound asleep with that question.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Fluffy pink clouds…



I keep toying with the idea of buying a new camera, a good one – a Panasonic or a Canon. Thing is I snapped this last Sunday evening as I was waiting for Holly to stable Chester for the night with my phone, kind of makes it hard to justify spending the money.

This has to be one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. It might almost persuade me that there is a God or at the very least some Gods up there making it all happen. I can just see them pointing at the clouds and saying –

‘A bit of pink here, a splash of orange there, maybe just a dash of yellow down by the trees - yes that works. Let’s see what sort of shot he gets of this. There he goes with his camera-phone - with us on the job he really doesn’t need to spend all that money on a new camera does he?’

Anyway, I won’t say any more. I don’t think I need to - the photograph seems to say it all for me. Just look at that sky...

Monday, 14 December 2009

Quistmas Quacker Quiz...

With Christmas coming I thought it was about time we had some fun, so take a look at the pictures below and see how many of these famous ducks from TV, literature, the movies and of course WAWL’s very own Little Duckington you can name. A couple of them aren’t really ducks at all but look like they should be - they’re doing a pretty good impersonation.

All you have to do is number your answers and drop them into the comments box. Whoever has the most correct answers will win a prize and in the event of a draw I will of course put names into a hat and leave the rest to chance.

Good duck-luck, and may the best duck win!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A spot of decorating...

Christmas is fast approaching so I've spent the weekend preparing the cottage in Wales for the festivities - giving it that Christmas look.

The Christmas wreath is firmly fastened to the door (it blew away last year in a strong wind and ended up over the hedge, I got it back though) and the Christmas trees are all in place. Yes, trees - this year we have fifteen, maybe a little excessive but...

We've a dozen arranged in pots around the outside of the cottage illuminated by tiny white lights, we have two slightly larger ones (again illuminated with white lights) in each of the deep living room windows, and of course there's the big tree. We've gone for a real tree again this year, but only after weeks of thinking about an artificial one. We always think about 'going artificial' but that's about as far as it gets, the real tree always wins in the end (well you can't fake the smell of pine and dropping needles can you) and once again we've decided upon white Christmas tree decorations.

We've a tradition that all the decorations have to be up by the Gaynor's birthday which is on December twelfth. It's always a bit of a panic and this year was no exception, I got the ladders out and put up the white icicle lights around the guttering and then hung the two hundred and three (and growing) individual decorations that we always hang from the wooden beams in the living room. We've collected them from all over the place - America, Lapland (when we visited Father Christmas for Gaynor's fortieth), Scotland, Wales, even Woolworths - and we have all sorts - snowmen, angels, reindeer, robins, postboxes, puddings, cats, elves, icicles, hearts, stars, bells (you name it and we have it) and each one is a memory of somewhere or something.
So we are ready for the big day now that the decorations are up - Christmas can begin now.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Cat amongst the pigeons...

Benji was here a moment ago - looking for Misty I expect. He’s gone now, I wonder if he found her. Strange how those two get on, and I always thought that cats and dogs were too species competitive to be friends…

‘Okay then dog, here’s the deal. We are going on a hunting competition and the first one to catch somethings, anythings, wins. Of course it has to be a substantial somethings – no hissing slugs, or ants, or bees, or wasps, or any insecty, wormy, creepy-crawly creatures count. It has to be fishys, birds, snakes, rabbits, voles, mice, rats, bats, - but I'll leave the snakes, rabbits and those nasty fluttery bats to you... AND we’ll leave the farmyard alone – so no ducks, chickens, bulls, or horses... and of course NO CATS!

Okay line up on this old gate, this is the starting line. Are you ready? Get you dirty paws back a bit - that's better. Ready, on your marks, get set… GO!

There he goes off across the fields, barking his head off, scaring everything for miles around. Just look at him, he’ll be lucky to catch his own tail. There’s not much chance of him catching anything the way he’s tearing around. Whereas I on the other hand know just where to look… carefully now, if I can just get close enough I should be able to put this cat amongst those pigeons. There they are. They're always by that bench. Come on birdies, coo louder, it’ll hide the noise of my bell when I leap. Coo coo, coo coo, coo coo. Keep cooing… I’m in leaping mode. Ready, on your marks, get set… GO! Here I come…

OOOmph! Now where did they go?'

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The first time I flew...

Look at these two. It’s my Mum and her best friend Clara at something-teen or twentyish. Auntie Clara as I used to call her – still do actually.

Mum and Clara were neighbours, they grew up in Wellington Street in adjoining, gloomy, Edwardian, semi-detached houses and when they were married by luck, magic, good fortune or maybe the pulling of strings, they ended up in semi-detached council houses STILL living next door to each other just up the road. Clara moved in first and my Mum moved later.

67, Kings Close, Wellington Street. After my name, that was the second piece of factual information that I was taught to remember. I was expected to repeat it to relatives like some sort of party trick - ‘Where do you live?’ they would ask, even when they were sat in the very house they were asking about. ‘67, Kings Close, Wellington Street.’ I would reply, thinking ‘you should know - you’re sitting in it’. I’ve lots of stories about Wellington Street and Kings Close and this one is about how I stopped being a yellow-belly and learnt how to fly.

Here we go, come with me… do you see the door that Clara and my Mum are standing outside of? That’s my house - number 67, and that’s my porch above the door. See it? Well, you can’t quite see the porch but those two white wooden posts are holding it up. The porch is flat, about four feet long, two feet wide, and covered in lead sheet. My bedroom window is above the porch, my window opens onto it. Look its open now – and therein stands my story, quite literally.

At six and a bit, and for as long as I could remember, I wanted to climb out of my window. It was a compulsion that grew daily. I knew that I had to climb out, lower myself onto the roof of that porch, and stand there waiting for ‘it’ to happen. At first I didn’t know what ‘it’ was but after a while I worked it out. There was something about the porch that drew me, and it drew me for a single reason - I felt a need to stand on the grey lead with arms outstretched and jump… jump to fly, flying away over the willow tree and the roofs of the cottages, over the Tuesday market place and away. That was ‘IT’. I HAD to fly! So, self-taught, I began to learn.

It started with me climbing onto my red tiled windowsill and sitting looking at the ground below. It looked a long way down and it wasn’t until weeks later that I opened the window and, feeling the breeze on my face, pushed my upper body fully out into the sky. It was only after even more weeks that I learnt how to sit on the window frame, holding on for grim death as my Uncle Len said afterwards, and dangle my legs straight down above the porch. A month or so on and I’d learnt how to manoeuvre myself around away from the wall and carefully lower my boy-body until, still holding tight to the frame, my feet could gently touch down on porch. I progressed quickly from here and, one leap of a week later, I gave up the safety of the frame and turning around and away from the wall stood firmly on the porch roof unaided with arms outstretched ready to fly. I bent my knees and drew my arms up and out, I was going to fly… this was it!

But it wasn’t.

I must have stood waiting like that a dozen times over the next couple of months certain that ‘This was it!’ But each time it wasn’t and I clambered back through the window and into my bedroom, grazing my knees as I pulled myself back over the sill and tumbling down onto my bed to rage at my own cowardice and self-loathing. The long and short of it was that I was a yellow-belly, and there was nothing worse in the eyes of a six and a bit year old boy back then than being a yellow-belly.

Still with me? Yes? This is ‘IT’. See me standing on the porch roof, twelve feet above the ground, daring myself to jump. I’m wearing my thick duffle despite the heat, just in case, and I’m wondering what will happen if and when I jump - will I fly or fall? It’s sunny, far too hot for this coat, and the brown grass below looks very far away. I’m standing on the porch, the lead boiling beneath my toes. I can feel the heat through my shoes. I hop around – first one foot, and then the other. This really is IT! I’m no yellow-belly! My heart is in my mouth and my spirit in my head as I stretch out my arms, shut my eyes and jump up and out into the air, my feet instantly cooling as they leave the hot lead. I leap up and into the sky and I fly, and fly, and fly. I fly! I can FLY! And then I’m falling.

I come all awake in the mess of rose bushes that grow in the roughly circular bed in the centre of our small, grassed, front garden. I’m a little scratched and grazed and my coat is covered in dirt and twigs from the roses, but all I feel is exhilaration. I’ve done it. I’ve flown. Not far, but flight, real flight – and even short flight is flight nevertheless.

Over the next year or so I flew a half a dozen times, discarding the coat and alone at first. But word gets around on an estate and soon I had an audience for my flights, the estate boys coming to watch - Jimmy and Phillip, the Bowlers, my cousin Ian, even Vincent - some of them leaning their bikes against our chain-link fence, cheering me on, shouting for me to fly. They cheered so loudly that my Mum heard and came out to see what was happening. She looked up, mouth open wide, and began to shout - and I never flew from my porch again. My Dad nailed my window shut.

There you have it all, well almost. My first flight; how I learnt to stretch my arms and mind, reach up and out and over the willow tree, over the roofs of the cottages, over the market place to take off. And here’s the thing - He may have nailed my window shut, He may have stopped my flights from the porch - but he never stopped me flying. I’ve been flying ever since, fly still - even now I can fly whenever I want or need to.

All I have to do is close my eyes and jump.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Life in a cloud...

I recently generated a TweetCloud from all of the tweets I’ve tweeted over the last 12 months, all 1,974 of them to the 34 people I’m following and for the 113 followers (including lurkers and weirdos) who are following me. And what is the word I use the most frequently?


Surprise? Surprised? No, I guess not.

I always tweet a link to my blog, well I want people to read it and it is a good way to let people know that I’ve posted.

It’s interesting to see the words that the cloud has picked up on and the way they’ve arranged themselves. Reading and Scarborough appear next to each other, well I spend a lot of time on the road travelling to them so it’d be odd if they didn’t. Thursday is my Reading day and I usually tweet to that effect from Oxford services on the M40. It appears, according to my cloud, that some of my meetings might take days - and believe me it sometimes feels like they really do. My job is in there, a collection of busy words – media, company, business, yell, call, online, Monday - and my leisure time – home, night, talking, life, stuff. I thought at fist glance that Wales and sheep appeared side by side, which was worrying, but on looking again I saw that it was sleep and not sheep….phew!

Beer, coffee and lunch are all mentioned thank goodness - what would life be like without beer and coffee? And my fascination with the weather and the sky is included – sunny, water, rain. Some of my followers and following are named – Flora, Seth, Glynne, Shore - along with my feelings and thoughts – hate, love, hope, free, feel, thinking. My pastimes – tweeting, radio, social, talking, story, pictures, writing, and of course Misty the wonder cat all get a mention - and it wouldn’t be possible for my cloud not to report on my rubber duck fetish along with Duckington, the village where my ducks live.

So a fair reflection of my tweets and me I think - a taste of what I think, feel, do and am, all captured in 140 characters or so. My whole life and personality in 140 character tweets all caught up in a cloud…

How odd.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Rainbow weekend...

Are rainbows like buses, you don't see one for ages and then a whole bunch of them arrive one after the other?

It was a weekend full of rainbows. I could hardly look up without seeing one, over mountains, over roads, over fields – they seemed to be everywhere. Well that isn’t quite true, I saw three over the Saturday and Sunday - all doubles (does that make it six?), all perfect arcs at some point in their fleeting visibility.

Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet – it never fails to lift my spirits when I see one. There’s something magical about them, even without that pot of gold at the end, or a leprechaun, or a galloping white golden-horned unicorn.

It's impossible to paint a rainbow well - they either look too chocolate box or simply dull, like flat bridges in the air. Turner couldn't do it (he tried though), nor Constable (although there ought to be one in the Haywain) and Dali didn't even try. And I've never seen a Da Vinci rainbow, or a Titian, or a Degas, or a Bosch, or a Bruegel. Perhaps (masterful catchers of light and shade that they all were) they understood the impossibility of painting that transparency of color and ever shifting movement of luminescence and light. If you know better please tell me, I'd love to see a good painting of a rainbow.

That’s it really – a weekend full of rainbows, nothing special. I thought it worth a mention.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Christmas duckorations...

It’s that time of year again, time to get out the duckorations and duck the halls with boughs of holly.
Well this year along with the holly I have a few new additions to the baubles, flashing lights, and Christmas trees… Rubber ducks!
Here's Rudolph and Santa Duck along with Marley's Ghost and a young Duck warmly attired for the Winter weather and all ready for a game of snowbills.
Of course no Christmas would be complete without Bob Cratchitt Duck all wrapped up in his stripey muffler and rushing home to see his Wife and Ducklings.
"Merry Christmas Bob, have a quacking good Christmas and God bless us all every one!"
And let's not forget the true meaning of Christmas. Here's my duck nativity - Mary and duckling, Joseph, the three wise men - Gaspduck, Melchduck and Balthaduck - and of course a sheepy duck to complete the scene.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Another meeting, another doodle...


Click for a
detailed view

The Song of the Phisher Bird
The purple plumaged Phisher bird
She has no time to waste.
She makes her nest just like a skirt,
A wrapped around her waist.
The Phisher bird, so very skilled
A much accomplished spinner,
She spins the finest fishing line
To incidentally catch dinner.
Upon her legs are golden rings,
They help to keep her busy.
She jingles them when fishes jump,
Which tends to make them dizzy.
The multi-tasking Phisher bird
Such a model of industry,
To nest and fish and jangle,
And simultaneously catch tea.