Thursday, 30 April 2009

Right - are you ready? Let’s go.


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'Right - are you ready? Let’s go.'

What a wonderful statement, or is it a question?

‘Right - are you ready?’

Starting with that simple single syllable, part statement, part instruction, it seems to ask you to hold your breath a touch and wait for what’s coming next - waiting in anticipatory mode. What comes next is a question, one of the big questions – maybe even the question. One that, like most questions, gives you some chance to change your mind… do you take this woman… would you like to dance… did you chop down that cherry tree? (God – why didn’t I answer those questions differently?) But simpler, easier to answer - you either are, or you aren’t and a simple ‘yes’, even a nod, will set the wheels in motion; big wheels, small wheels, cog wheels, slow or fast turning wheels, cartwheels, bicycle wheels, rickshaw wheels, paddle wheels… we are off on an adventure, away on our travels, stepping into the unknown… ‘Let’s go then’…

Let’s go then.

I was wandering along a country road the other day when I saw this gate. Nothing special, softwood, unpainted, uncared for even. Odd design, unevenly made, half hidden by the bushes… interesting gate isn’t it?

I almost missed it, but it seemed strange to have a gate with no field behind it - so I stopped to take a look.

Look behind the gate. What do you see? Is that an overgrown path? I think it is - quite wide isn’t it?

I tried looking up the pathway, more of a lane really, but the overhanging bushes only allowed me to see about a dozen feet or so. Sticking my head over the gate I strained to see further. It was no use; there was only one thing for it.

I carefully climbed over.

I almost tumbled from that top bar, it was a bit rickety, but I regained my balance and eased myself to the ground. I was standing on something hard, not grass or earth - I was standing on cobble. The cobble was mossed, grassed over in places, but it was clearly a cobblestone road. No mistaking it.

I wondered where it might lead? Only one way to find out…

Unfortunately I couldn’t force my way through the undergrowth. It was too thick, spiky, dense and scratchy. I’d have needed a machete to chop my way through. Perhaps I’ll go back with one another time and find out what lies at the end of that cobble road.

For now though it’s up to you. Climb the gate, set those wheels, those cogs, in motion - sharpen the machete of your imagination and start chopping. You’ll soon be at the end of that cobble road.

And when you get there don’t forget to let me know what you find….

Just a minute, can I come with you? Yes? No? Okay then - take care. Those white flowers are pretty aren’t they?

‘Right - are you ready? Let’s go then’.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Salvador Dali Sky...














So I’m driving along the road on Saturday and I suddenly realised how blue the sky was.

I don’t know why that realisation dropped into my consciousness just then, I wasn’t thinking about the sky, I wasn’t listening to any music connected with the sky – Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Sky Train, Blue Skies, Spirit in the Sky, Sky High, The Great Gig in the Sky. I was just driving along, listening to Radio 4, thinking about pretty much nothing at all - and suddenly the sky was blue - very, very blue.

So blue that I pulled in, got out, and took this picture.

It’s the sky over Pwllheli harbour. What a beautiful day.

I just stood there looking at the clouds as they transformed and moved across the sky. I like to watch the clouds, see what they’re up to, what they are becoming. I must have spent hundreds of hours watching the pictures form and fade in their fluffiness. That cloud on the right at the top - is that a cows head? It has a ring through its nose. Is that a smaller cow running across the field in the centre towards the bottom, or is it a cat? And is there another running cow in the bottom left of the picture… a cow… or is it a fairground horse? Not sure, What do you think? Look closely. Wait, what’s that in the top left of the picture? That has to be a rabbit. Yep! Definitely a rabbit.

Wow! Who needs Salvador Dali when you have the sky. I’m in a blue field, surrounded by white cows, or cats, or horses, and a rabbit has just popped out of his hole to see what is going on.

Fantastic!

Isn’t the sky a big place? I’m going to be spending a lot more time there.

See? It really is a wonderful life.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

My garden rocks...











I like gardening, I always have - I think it runs in my blood… maybe I even have green blood… no, that’s Vulcans, not gardeners - gardeners have green fingers.

I have very early pre-infant school memories of ‘doing the weeding’ and instinctively knowing what was weed and what was not - still do – although some might argue that a weed is just a plant in the wrong place.

Not my Lincolnshire grandfather and grandmother though. They won all of the flower and veg prizes at the Wragby Show for years. No weeds in their garden; and the mahogany sideboard in the sitting room seemed to almost buckle with the weight of the trophies, rosettes and certificates that were proudly displayed on its polished surface. The Wragby Show was a big deal when I was a child, weeks of preparation and all the tricks that go with showing - the polishing of marrows, tomato reddening, carrot lengthening, dahlia de-earwigging, petal reshaping – and of course the intrigue, gossip, lobbying, secrecy and sabotage that some might call ‘cheating’ and others ‘playing the game’.

My first summer holiday job was working as a child labourer in the gardens of a large ladies horticultural college - Waterperry in Oxfordshire. Four pounds a week for five days in the sunshine - with girls - not bad! I think I was about twelve. It was a glorious summer. I spent all day, every day, picking strawberries, pinching out tomatoes, training apple branches, and rotovating – until the rotovator ran away with me, ploughing its way through an immaculate grass separation path. The gardens were beautiful – it’s a garden centre now, open to the public.

My first Saturday job was as an under-gardener at a large Georgian house just down the road from Waterperry owned by a rich Irish investment banker named Barny Keegan. I cut grass, dug beds, weeded paths and generally kept the garden tidy. For a while I became head-gardener (only gardener) when old Marsh got knocked off his bike and killed on his way to work. He was a nice old chap in his seventies and he taught me a lot about double-digging, pruning, planting veg, propagation from cuttings, and air layering.

So, I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t garden at least a little.

Anyway, these days I mainly garden in Wales. My garden is an eclectic collection of pots and planters, some too-narrow side borders, a raised bed under a holly tree, a small fountain, and a long hedge. I love it all – apart from the hedge which takes far too long to cut.

At this time of year my enthusiasm for planting seeds and taking cuttings is boundless - up early to plant or water, still out late to ‘check’. But by mid-August, when things are past their best and the sun or rain has taken its toll, I begin to lose interest.

That’s why I love aquilegias – they are end-of-spring early-summer plants and ‘over’ before the ravages of first autumn arrives.

Amidst the planters and pieces of found-with-love, wave-washed, driftwood dotted around my garden, I keep some of my pebbles and stones. In an older post I mentioned my heart stone collection and the foot stone I found on the beach at Dinas Dinlle – so here they are… my garden rocks.

It really does - at least to me.

I’m entering a show this weekend. Not the Wragby Show though, the Nefyn show - and not with anything ‘gardeny’ either - I’m entering the craft section with a piece of my hand-painted glass. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Wish me luck.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Well, well, well...


St Cybi's Well

Am I getting old? I feel like I’m getting old. My bones ache a little more each day - the most recent casualty of the aching - my left knee. Ouch it hurts. This along with my shoulder and back leads me to believe that I either have rheumatism or arthritis. I’d go to the doctor again but he’ll just stick me on some more pills and tell me to lose weight (he’s right about that one of course). Yes, I’m getting old and starting to wear out.

We needed to go a calling yesterday, over to our quite new friends at their lovely sixteenth century house at Llangybi. The house is fantastic. It used to be an inn and has massive slates for floors, some of which are recycled gravestones. It’s all oak beams and cream stone walls – enough of that though it makes me jealous.

Llangbi is a lovely little village, lots of history, and Jayne offered to show us St Cybi’s Well. I knew there was a well in Llangybi but hadn’t ever got around to getting myself welled-up enough to bother to go seeking it out – after all one well is pretty much like another isn’t it - hole in the ground surrounded by a low wall with a bucket on a rope – right?

Wrong.

Crossing the part-cobble road from the house we walked to and through the slate tombstone littered Churchyard, then over a gated stone stile into a sunlit meadow, down some worn stone steps built into an ancient wall that surrounded fresh, green, lush pasture… and into another world.

St Cybi’s Well sits in a beautiful hidden valley, under tall Oak and Ash trees, beneath a small mountain of a hill crowned with an Iron age hill fort. As we walked towards the well buildings I half expected to see a white unicorn come galloping across the field or catch a glimpse of a butterfly winged fairy out of the corner of my eye. Sounds corny, but it really is a magical place, one of those quiet places where enchantment is everyday and ‘stuff’ has been going on for tens of centuries in the background, almost unnoticed, hidden – a kind of ambient mystical buzzing.








Inside the well house

The well is in ruins but still recognisable as a dwelling. There are two well chambers, a cottage for the well-keeper and a small attached bath building. We approached the well across a stone causeway on one side of a flower strewn water meadow. Meadow flowers of pink, yellow and white peeped through the coarse water grass - after a few days of rain the ground would be boggy, but following two weeks of sunshine and almost no rain, it just squelched a little.

The main well chamber is built of large stone blocks with a deep open doorway. St Cybi’s Well is a place of pilgrimage - the place to come to cure warts, lameness, blindness, scrofula, scurvy and rheumatism.

Rheumatism? Maybe I could… no don’t be silly.

St Cybi settled here in the middle of the sixth century from Cornwall after travelling in Europe and Ireland. When he landed on the Isle of Anglesey (Ynys Mon), legend has it that he struck a rock with his staff from which water immediately flowed. I don’t know how that connects to this well, but magic water is magic water wherever you find it so let’s not get too hung up on the detail.

To become well (pun, sorry) and cured you had drink an equal quantity of well-water and sea water, morning and evening, for around a week or so, bathe in the water once or twice a day, and spend the nights in the attached cottage. If you became warm in bed then you were getting better and if you were cold… well let’s just say it was time to throw some more silver in the well, pray harder, and consider a fitting epitaph for that slate tombstone that will soon have your name on it at the church across the way.

Inside the well building, sunlight from the open roof sends light and shadows tumbling around the walls and water. It’s cool inside - not cold, dim - but not gloomy, damp - but not dank. It’s a comfortable place, not physically, but spiritually. Calm, serene… and very pagan. There are good forces here, forces that have been here since long before St Cybi’s arrival, and maybe some forces that are not quite so good - Nyads and Sprites, Dryads and Hamadryads. I can feel them, but not see or hear them, they echo and shadow around me.

I kneel and reach down into the clear, cool water, scooping out a handful, water bugs and all. The crystal clear water falls nimbly from between my leaking fingers and back into the pool where it belongs. I rub some onto my knee. It’s cold and refreshing, making my knee tingle and warming it.

Did something flash in the water? A face, a hand reaching out to me, a healing hand? No, it couldn’t have been – just a shadow, a trick of the light, imagination - it'll get me hanged one day.

Afterwards, making our way back across the meadow and through the churchyard, I wish I’d left something as payment – a coin or two, some bread, a little wine maybe.

Next time.

Has it helped? Actually I think it has a little. When I got up this morning my knee felt better than it had in ages and I was pretty warm in bed last night.

Still got the scurvy, warts, and scrofula though.

Oh well.

The healing well water

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Blooming brilliant...


















Here she is - my first Aquilegia of the year.

Isn't she beautiful? Aquilegia Cameo, a miniature variety, an Alpine. I grew this one from seed. It's growing in a large bowl planter at the cottage in Wales, and I'm growing dozens from the seed this one produced last year.

I got up early this morning to catch the softer light. Aren't the colours delicate. It's called Cameo because the flowers from each single plant come mixed within the same plant in various hues from deep pinks through to pale yellows and creams. The colours look very much like those cameo brooches that my aunts used to wear on their cardigans when I was a child - my well-to-do aunts on my Father's side.

Anyway, Aquilegia Cameo, the first Aquilegia of many this year I hope.

I'll make sure that you know all about them as they bloom.

Bored yet?

Friday, 24 April 2009

Misty? Misty? Misty...?

Misty has been acting very strangely recently. She sometimes won't come to her name and seems to be able to disappear into thin air at the drop of a hat.

I was in the kitchen the other night and I could have sworn that she was sitting by my feet... well, the next minute she'd disappeared and all that was left was a thin wisp of grey smoke that must have been coming from the oven.

She's also taken to performing acrobatics in the small wee hours of the morning. Odd, as she's always been a ‘sleep quietly in a corner right the way through the night’ sort of cat but something, maybe the warm spring air, has turned her into some sort of feline circus act. I found her the other morning leaping from banister rail to banister rail performing a double somersault in mid-air as she did so.

Our house is tall and thin, and the stairs run up and up through the centre of it – three floors above ground, two turns, half landings and a long way up… and down.

Very worrying...

Also… funny things have started to happen in the night. Maybe I was dreaming but I’m sure I saw a rabbit on the stairs the over evening and playing cards keep appearing all over the floor… that can’t be Misty - can it?

Ladieees and Gentlemen presenting… the Amazing Mistoffelees!!!

How good does that sound? Mistoffelees. So much more fitting than plain old Misty. My new name, my stage name, is Mist-off-el-ees… it has a certain ‘je ne sais quois’ don’t you think? And isn’t it fitting that I should call myself after such a famous cat - "the original conjuring cat", that’s me, "deceiving you into believing that I’m only hunting for mice".

As the song says... They call me Cat, They call me Misty, They call me Moo, They call me Pain...That's not my name, That's not my name, That's not my name, That's not my name.

I’m learning all the tricks you know. Rabbits out of hats, sleight of hand, silk scarves out of thin air – that ones a bit tricky, my claws keep shredding the hissing silk.

I’ve come a long way since Foodies taught me ‘paws’. I can do loads of tricks now. Good job I found that book of poems, it was an inspiration to me. T.S. Elliot… now there’s a trainer. You can forget ‘paws’ - too easy - just a starting point - T.S. has taught me everything I know.
I learn it from a book. It has been an education.
I can do more magic than Harry Potter and Harry Houdini put together - and I look so much like the original with my white gloves, spats, and waistcoat. Maybe I should be a bit blacker – but dark grey IS the new black, so I think I qualify … and I’ve been practicing loads when the ‘Keepers’ are fast asleep.

I’m sure Lord Lloyd-Webber will be impressed when I audition, by then I should be ‘trick-perfect’

Here’s where I’m up to so far... I can creep through the tiniest crack, I can walk on the narrowest rail, I can pick any card from a pack, I’m equally cunning with dice - and, as you know, I am always deceiving them into believing that I’m only hunting for mice. I can play any trick with a cork, or a spoon and a bit of fish-paste; and If they look for a knife or a fork then they think it is merely misplaced - they see it one moment, and then it is gawn! But they'll find it next week lying out on the lawn… and, I’m even trying to teach myself how to fly!

Abracadabra, Hey Presto, Shazam! The original conjuring cat - me – the only such Cat in the metropolis – Manchester that is - I hold all the patent monopolies for performing surprising illusions, and creating eccentric confusions. At prestidigitation and at legerdemain, I'll defy examination.

Anyway – must get on. I have a lady to saw in half and I haven’t quite perfected the flying yet – I’m going to try it from the third floor banister to give me plenty of lift. Better get it right though, I’m down to three lives…”

... You know what I found her doing last night?

Jumping from the top banister rail - she only just managed to turn in mid-air and land on the second-floor landing, it could have been really nasty if she’d fallen all the way… good job she’s got nine-lives.

Maybe I should get a net. What do you think?

The Mistoffelees link.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

God for Harry...

Saint George’s day and Shakespeare’s birthday - very nearly makes you proud to be English.

Of course the England that I think we all associate with both our patron saint and our greatest literary figure has all but disappeared.

Soon there will be no village fetes (you won’t be able to afford the insurance), maypole dancing (health and safety issues), country pubs (it’ll cost too much to drive there and when you get there the pub will have closed due to lack of custom from the locals because there aren’t any - only second homers – and even if it was open you couldn’t have a pint without running the risk of being caught on camera, so what would be the point anyway?), The Women’s institute will be full of men (otherwise it’s sexist), and even village idiots won’t be idiots (they will be people in the rural micro community with further learning opportunities).

Oh Well, at least we still have the works of the bard – whoever he (or she) was.

Anyway, look at these three. Not sure who they are meant to be, but guess where I found them? Where do you think? Salisbury plain… The Welsh Mountains… the peat bogs of Ireland... Easter Island?... Nope!

I found them on the M6 at a motorway services tucked away behind a rubbish bin and a disabled parking space. Yes, really.

Magnificent aren’t they. Very quirky. Typically, wonderfully, eccentrically English. I wonder if they simply appeared one night, waking with a yawn, pushing straight up through the damp earth to bathe in the moonlight and decided to stay above ground for a while. Or perhaps they were three white- vanned builders who, stopping for a cup of tea and a fry up, annoyed some little old lady by parking in the disabled space she was about to draw into. Do you think that it might have come as a bit of a surprise to them when she turned out to be a little old witch?

Or maybe they are the witches, the three witches from Shakespeare’s Scottish play - ‘With the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes…’

Anyway, happy birthday Will and as your chum Henry V once said… ‘The game's afoot. Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Get lost...

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Ever been lost?

Lost a little is quite fun. I’m talking the sort of lost where you aren’t really lost at all - just not quite sure of where you are in relation to where you want to be; knowing that you are definitely in the right vicinity, and sure that you’ll get there in the end.

Comfortable lost. A matter of time lost. Very slightly dangerous lost.

We’ve all been there at some time I guess, and isn’t it a relief when you get to where you want to get to.

It’s hard to get lost in the UK. Places are so close together, and we are such a small island, that you can’t really drive more than twenty miles without bumping into some place or other that allows you to roughly know where you are in relation to where you want to be. In the UK you pretty much always have some reference point or other – a church, a pub, a motorway service station - unless you are in a strange city.

I once drove around Edinburgh at night for two hours trying to find my hotel. I must have passed the castle at least twenty times – always from the same direction, always up the hill – but each time the minute I’d passed it I was lost again, heading along a road that I didn’t recognise towards the castle.

I found my hotel eventually though.

What a relief.

My most lost was in America. My first day in a strange city, driving an automatic for the first time, on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, with no reference points to guide me. Up and down the same bit of freeway, through the turnpike half a dozen times, paying the toll just to get back to where I started from, then paying it again, and again. At one point I could see where I was trying to get to – but couldn’t find how to get off the freeway to get there.

Eventually I asked (despite my ‘man thing’ aversion) and five minutes later arrived at my destination.

What a relief.

Asking isn’t always the answer though. Another time in America I got lost at night – well early, early morning really – in Philly, driving to the airport to pick someone up from a flight. I found myself in what I now realise was the ‘wrong’ part of town, but at the time it looked okay (well it was dark). I pulled into a gas station to ask my way. Going into the pay booth I didn’t notice the three black guys at the back of the store at first, although I did think it a little odd that the cashier was encased in a steel mesh cage, behind glass and was shaking his head as I walked towards him.

I explained that I was lost and asked him for directions.

“Just get back in your car and drive” he said.
“Which way?” I responded, a little confused.
“Any damn way you want, but out of here - fool.”

It was then that I heard the movement behind me as the three guys I’d noticed when I’d entered seemed to thaw and started to move towards me. I flew out of the pay booth, jumped into the car, started the engine (first time thank God), and drove away at speed as hands and feet slapped and kicked at the back of the car. I think I was still screaming when I realised that in my haste to get away I was ‘really’ driving on the wrong side of the road. Thank God it was so late.

By the time I got to the airport I’d just about stopped shaking… I really was very nearly lost that time… nearly but not quite.

What a relief.

Sometimes I have this dream where I’m lost.

At first I seem to know where I’m going and I’m going there in a completely straight line. I’m quite comfortable, almost content and then… there’s a very slight shift and I realise that I’m lost. I don’t know what shifts, but something does, and I’m immediately and completely lost. Sometimes I’m on foot and other times I’m in an open car, but I’m always on a long straight road that ascends into the far distance, It goes up and up, getting narrower and narrower, until I can’t turn around and have to keep going forwards. I don’t know where I’m going. I’m lost. There are no reference points. There’s nobody to ask. I’m lost.

Then something shifts again. I’m lost. I realise that I’m never going to arrive at wherever it is I’m going because I can’t remember where it is. I’m lost. Perhaps I never even knew.

I’m lost. I feel the moon pulling at the tide and I know that it is changing it as it does it - but I don’t know how it is changing it, and I can’t see it changing it… I don’t even know what it is… but as it changes I become even more lost.

My despair is so deep that I begin to look for a way off the road. I’m lost. It means climbing up onto the narrow parapet and jumping out into the darkness, off the edge of the world. I’m lost. Sometimes I climb up onto the parapet and stand there swaying as the wind howls around me, other times the parapet is too high for me to climb and I continually fall back into the concrete dust - once I climbed up and jumped out into the empty dark only to find myself being knocked back onto the road by something that felt like the wind, but was much heavier. I’m lost.

I’m lost and then I wake up or don’t… but that is all I ever remember. Thank God.

What a relief.

Lost a lot isn’t fun. There’s no way back. Ask anyone who’s ever been there…Glen Miller, the crew of the Mary Celeste, Captain Oates, one hundred and seventeen Roanoake Colonists, Joshua Slocum, Amelia Earhart, Michael Rockefeller, Lucky Lucan.

If you can find them.

The sky is falling…


Oh no, the sky is falling…

Remember that story at primary school, the one about Chicken-licken?

Chicken-licken, Turkey-lurkey, Hen-len, Cock-Lock, Duck-luck, Drake-lake, Goose-loose, Gander-lander, and of course Fox-lox. Do you remember them? With names like that you could hardly forget them could you?

Chicken-licken caused a real panic when an acorn fell on his head and he mistakenly thought that the sky was falling down around him – well now it’s happening all over again.

Well not quite, but almost. And when I say almost, I mean worse almost, much worse almost. I heard some very bad news on the radio this morning…

I’m afraid that the sun is going out.

Those bloody scientists, not content with worrying us to death about climate change, are now saying that the sun has been getting cooler for decades and that there aren’t any sunspots and very few solar flares any more.

Q. Solar flares? Sun spots? What does that mean?
A. Well, do you remember that hot summer back in the seventies, I think it was seventy-six, when you couldn’t get a decent picture on the telly and it was really annoying because you were watching Wimbledon? Navrátilová and Borg. Well, that was solar flares and sun spots - so at least you should be able to watch the tennis in peace this year. Ivanovic and Nadal – go on put a bet on.

Apparently the Sun normally undergoes an eleven year cycle of activity and at its peak it spits out solar flares and chunks of super-hot gas the size of planets causing sun spots – this shows that the sun is working. Then it all dies down for a bit. Last year was expected to be the end of a pretty quiet spell in solar activity terms, but instead the sun hit a fifty year low in solar wind pressure, an even bigger fifty-five year low in radio emissions, and a massive hundred year low in sunspot activity.

Q. How do they know all of this?
A. Dunno, but they do.
Q. What does it all mean?
A. Dunno.
Q. Is it bad?
A. Dunno, maybe.
Q. Are we all doomed?
A. ... Eventually.

The last time this kind of thing happened was in the mid-seventeenth century and it led to a mini-ice age that lasted for seventy years, but before you dash out to buy a pair of skates in readiness for the skating at the New Thames Frost Fair, the scientists are saying that this isn’t going to happen this time around. So - no chance of anyone leading an elephant across the ice at Blackfriars Bridge, as they did at the last fair in February 1814.

Q. Why?
A. Because even very religious elephants can’t walk on water.
Q. No, why no mini-ice age if the sun is cooling?
A. Because of global warming.
Q. But surely if the sun is getting dimmer and it’s getting colder that means that we can all stop worrying about global warming?
A. I’m afraid not. It is actually not as hot as it would have been if the sun hadn’t cooled off and if it warms up again we are all going to fry a lot quicker.
Q. What are we going to do?
A. Dunno.
Q. Dunno?
A. Dunno.

I wouldn’t worry though - remember the tale of Chicken-licken? Well, Turkey-lurkey, Hen-len, Cock-Lock, Duck-luck, Drake-lake, Goose-loose, Gander-lander, and Chichen-licken weren’t killed by the sky falling on their heads after all, or even by an acorn. No… fox-lox ate them all.

Something similar (well maybe we won’t get eaten by a fox) is bound to come along and get us before the sun goes out completely.

I wonder what it’ll be?

Monday, 20 April 2009

Wishes and Sea Nymps...

Did I mention that I have a thing for pebbles?

Of course I have, and on more than one occasion. It may come as a bit of a surprise to you to know just how deep it goes though. I know it did to me the first time I found one of my special pebbles. That was over twenty years ago now. I’ve found others since, and I’m about due for another to turn up - I just hope it’s a good one.

Anyway, as you know I have a thing for pebbles. I can’t walk along a stretch of sand without looking for an interesting one to pick up and inspect for… well, I don’t really know what I’m inspecting them for, or even why - I just am.

Sometimes I’m attracted to the colour, I particularly like bright green pebbles, you can get really vivid ones on some beaches on the peninsula - but I don’t really like shiny white pebbles… or blood red ones.

Other times it’s the shape that gets my attention. I once found a large perfect egg shaped pebble, and only a couple of weeks ago one that looked just like a foot – five toes and so perfect underneath the striations that it might have come from an ancient Greek statue. I’ve a collection of heart shaped pebbles, and one with a perfect capital ‘G’ for Gaynor in a fancy script face, etched into the dull slate grey oval flatness of the stone with white quartz glitter.

I love flat, round, sea-washed slate pebbles. They are perfect for skimming and I’m an excellent skimmer – five is a poor skim for me, and when I flick my wrist and hit the water at just the right angle I can send a pebble shimmying for tens of yards, a flash of multiple ducks and dives, so fast and far too many to count - a real water dervish.

And I’m superstitious about them. I know their power.

Pebbles with holes all the way through the centre are lucky, half white and half black pebbles bring good fortune when rubbed, and pale blue pebbles are pieces of the moon.

It isn’t always about the colour or shape though… sometimes it is about form, and I don’t mean the outer form of the pebble. I’m talking about the inner form, the living form inside the pebble. Some may not believe, but occasionally a pebble has more at its core than simple stone. Some pebbles contain spirits. They aren’t easy to find and some would say that you don’t find them at all - and that they find you.

I have three.

My first is a large round pebble that contains a sea nymph at its heart. It sings to me sometimes, telling me tales of long lost ships that sail beneath the waves. It is warm to the touch and as soft as a silken purse. It’s a good thing to hold in your palm, it lifts.

The second and smallest contains a wish at its centre. Not my wish, but a wish long forgotten by the wisher and so secret (in the way of wishes) that I’ll never know what the wisher wished for. I keep this pebble safe in the drawer of my bedside table in case its owner comes looking for it one night – we all deserve our wish.

The last of these three pebbles holds tight a dollop of fate. Whose fate I don’t (and don’t want to) know. I try never to touch it. Not even look at it unless it calls out to me and even then I shoot it only a passing glance. The fate stone is bluest black, square-shaped made, and cold as an icicle to my touch.

Three in all my years, and all over the last twenty. One on pebble beach in Wales, another on the white sands of the Caribbean, and the last in a murky pool on a mountain in Ireland.

I expect I’ll be found by a few more yet - I hope so… before the final one finds me.

If you’ve never found one, start looking. You’ll know one if you see one. Or you can simply wait patiently for one to find you.

Have no doubt – it’ll happen sooner or later.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

A day for rambling...


















Spring just keeps on springing. More blue skies and sunshine.

I sorted out the pots at the front of the cottage this morning, removing all the dead plants and changing the compost where I needed to. The string of frosts we had in February and March killed off pretty much everything this year, including the huge marguerite plant I’d been growing in a big pot for the last eight years. We don’t get many frosts on the Llyn, the peninsula touches the tail end of the Gulf Stream wash so it has its own mini climate. You can pretty much grow anything around here, I even have a cactus that belonged to my grandfather on the front step. I leave it out all year around – summer and winter.

Most of my aquilegias have survived thank goodness. They can stand up to pretty much anything, but they’re not indestructible. I have dozens of them – all grown from seed, some quite rare. I love aquilegias. I’ve been trying to grow aquilegia ‘green apples’ for the last four years or so and have managed to get three seeds to start. I must have spend at least thirty quid on seeds – it’d be easier to just buy a plant from a specialist nursery but…well, it wouldn’t be quite the same. My aquilegia ‘green apples’ are tiny at the moment but I’m hoping to get them to grow. I think you’ll be reading about and seeing a lot of my aquilegias as the spring progresses.

Yes, more blue skies and sunshine – long may it continue, a decent summer would be nice.

We went to Porth Colman this afternoon, took a picnic and a beer and went looking for cowries. Cowries are tiny pink and grey shells that you can find on some of the beaches around here. Finding a cowrie is meant to be lucky and once we start looking for them we can’t stop, looking for ‘just one more’ and ‘just one more’. A few years ago on a particularly low tide at Porth Dinllaen we found three hundred and seventeen in about three hours - ‘just one more’, ‘just one more’ - we found fourteen at Porth Colman today which isn’t bad.
Port Colman is a good place to come in the winter, you can drive right down to the sea, along a tiny winding lane, and park up on the rocks to watch the waves. The sea can get very rough with huge waves that come crashing in and over the black spurs of rock. We saw a seal there once, watching it for an hour or so before it dived and disappeared under the deep green water.

There isn’t much of a beach at Porth Colman, it’s mainly a rocky headland, easy to walk on as the rocks form a natural pathway. It’s very beautiful. A good place for spotting oyster catchers but not a good place to beach comb as the rocks stop any ‘stuff’ getting washed ashore. Still, you work with what’s available, so I made these pebble towers. They look simple, but you wouldn’t believe the number of times they tumbled down before I got them to look like this.

All balance and prayer… how very Zen.

Friday, 17 April 2009

I am not a number...



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Here's Portmeirion from across the bay. We took the toll road to get there, over the rickety wooden railway bridge and through the narrow rocky gorge. I love it, but Gaynor hates crossing water.

This is where they filmed 'The Prisoner'. I've been around the village a number of times and despite what Patrick McGoohan says at the start of each episode increasingly we are all numbers.

Nice view isn't it? Hard to believe that back in the sixties huge white globes chased Number Six across the sands that I can see from where I'm standing. I remember as a young child watching 'The Prisoner'. It was all a bit scary, but even at that age I knew that it was very different and intriguing. It seemed impossible then that there might be an island where you were watched all of the time and camera images could be played back to use against you by the authorities.

Impossible...

Each of us is captured on camera at least fourteen times a day. If we are in our cars for longer than two hours we can be captured as many as two hundred times. We are filmed in the bank, in the supermarket, in the street. Local authorities have begun to use cameras to catch and fine people for putting out their bins on the wrong day, allowing their dogs to foul the footpath, and dropping litter. The police are considering putting cameras in pub car parks and within pubs to film drink drivers.

We are the most filmed nation on earth .

Are we film stars or have we become prisoners on our own island? Are we free men and women or are we numbers?

Impossible.

Anyway, let's just enjoy the view, but be careful what you get up to... you never know who's watching you.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Easter Lamb


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Here’s Holly and a little orphan Easter lamb born
at the stables to a winter ewe. A winter ewe is a female sheep not wanted to lamb in the spring – this one got lucky though and some passing ram must have had other ideas.

Holly rears orphan lambs at another farm and keeps them as pets. She bottle feeds and names them, and they come to her call. But despite this we generally eat the male ones once they are big enough. That is the way in the countryside and we get beautiful fresh lamb for around fifteen pence per pound (the slaughter fee). Holly says that this is the right thing to do as someone has to eat the meat and if you have reared and looked after the lamb then you appreciate the meat more. Holly is very sensible and what she says is true, the meat tastes great and we try to eat as much of the animal as possible out of respect.

Don’t worry though this one is safe. A friend of ours is taking it home as a pet to graze in her garden for ever.

I like this picture a lot. Holly looks like the lovely young girl she is, rather than the disenchanted young woman she sometimes pretends to be. Oh well, we all have to find our own way to grow. Anyway this is the real Holly holding an innocent young lamb – just look at them, you can hardly tell which is which.

Pet lambs… only in Wales.

I’m on my way to Wales but for now I’m at the Oxford services car park blogging. I’ve been down to Reading and I’ve stopped for a break. Spring is well on the way down here. The trees are greening up nicely, the rain is warm, and I passed a huge carpet of wild white anemones under the beech woods just down the road.

By the way – I’ll be in Wales for the next couple of days and might not be able to blog. Grrrrr. I’ll do my best to find a passing yacht though.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The incredible Blog...

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... aaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... mmmmmmmmmm....

That - is - so - much - better.

I really needed that. I’ve gone days without, this is such a relief, you’ve no idea what I’ve been through. At last I’m blogging at will again, in control, no longer a puppet to my own emotions. I’ve been blogged off and blogged out for far too long and it was beginning to get too much for me… and that can be dangerous.

Let me explain.

You may have noticed that over the last few days I haven’t been blogging as regularly as I usually do – I've wanted to (desperately) but I couldn’t. It really wasn’t through any lack of will; I had the will but not the opportunity. For some reason technology and North Wales don’t seem to go together very well. Maybe it’s the mountains, the weather, or maybe even the sheep, but for some reason I couldn’t get my laptop and phone to sync so that I could reliably access my blog.

Now, as you know - the blog is the life – so it has been very hard coping. Most of the time I could get some things to work… grrr… a little of the time I could get everything to work…grrrrr… but I couldn’t make everything work all of the time or even enough of the time to post…grrrrr… which was…grrrrrr… very frustrating. Sometimes I managed log on, but when I tried to upload I… grrrrrrrr… crashed, other times I couldn’t even access the Grrr... world… Grrrr… wide… Grrrrr… web.

GRRRRRRRRRRRR… must calm down, must calm down.

I tried everything to get on and out there– early morning logs, late evening logs, I tried driving around attempting to pick up a signal (not as I was actually driving obviously), from on top a fog-bound mountain, in the centre of Caernarfon (by the castle gift shop), I even logged on to the unsecured network of a big yacht in Pwllheli harbour (I guess that’s illegal) – until it sailed away taking my signal with it.

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR… Steady now, steady.

And on the few occasions that I successfully logged on I wasted hours waiting for stuff to upload only to find that it didn’t and ‘site unavailable – please check your network connections’ popped up - or ‘your blog has published successfully’ only to find that it hadn’t.

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR… Now calm down, you’re running out of decent shirts.

I’m an addict and I really needed my blog-fix. I won’t go into the details of what ‘not’ blogging does to me physically, but if you are familiar with the Incredible Hulk or have ever seen the movie of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde… well, you should have some idea.

Mentally it really messes me up. I get really tetchy when I can’t blog and my angst escalates through a number of levels.

Level one – I begin to twitch.
Level two – I start to pace.
Level three – I shout.
Level four – I start speaking in tongues.
Level five – Don’t make me angry… you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
Level six – GrunnnnkkorrrlfRipppppp – there goes another shirt.

You see the thing about blogs is that they are like sharks they gotta keep moving or they die. Of course I could (and do) produce and read it just for myself, after all it keeps me calm and It’s important that I remain calm at all times. Otherwise – well you know what happens when I get angry. Don’t you just hate it when you wake up in a pair of badly torn trousers?

Anyway – I’m back and blogging but it was a close run thing. Next time I’ll give you some warning, just in case I get angry - and trust me, you really wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

Monday, 13 April 2009

A stroll on the beach

Yes, another absolutely beautiful day - hot and sunny - far too nice to ‘do’ anything, much better to waste it having fun. So we took a picnic to Criccieth and walked on the beach.

As you can see we weren’t the only ones out for a stroll, we passed this family of Tripodolites on their way down to the sea for a swim. Tripodolites aren’t the best of swimmers on account of their long spindly legs, heavy bodies, and the fact that don’t have any arms – all disadvantages to the swimmer - but they do their best, bless ‘em.

Tripodolites come from Portugal and are to be found there on beaches everywhere, getting a tan or playing beach volleyball, but to see them in Wales is something of a rarity. I asked one of the older Tripodolites what they were doing in Criccieth and she told me that they were just visiting, on holiday with a large coach party from the Algarve – so that explained it.

Holly seems to have caught this beach sculpture bug thing – here’s one she made whilst I was chatting to the Tripodolite family. She tells me that it’s a Kissing Creature and that they are the best kissers in the universe. Just look at that big dark eye, those long eyelashes, and those really kissable full red lips… I think that she may be right.

Hey, you Tripodolites! Watch out! Here she comes… Kissy, kissy.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Invasion of the Killer Monster Robots...



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We drove across to Dinas Dinlle today.

The early morning grey sky and drizzling rain seemed to lift as soon as we arrived at the beach - and the sun came out, blueing up the horizon in no time at all.

Dinas Dinlle is all steep pebble banks and white crested waves. It’s hard to climb the fifteen feet high banks. The pebbles roll away from under your feet and you find yourself sliding back down to where you started from.

It was whilst I was slowly being swallowed by the pebbles that I saw my first swallow of the year. Now I know that one swallow doesn’t make a summer but it was nice to see an indication that it is on its way. I followed the swallow with my eyes as it swooped and dived along the top of the ridge and then suddenly from behind a bank of grey and white pebbles emerged…

Oh my God a Killer Robot Monster!

I’d heard that they’d been spotted a couple of times around here but I never expected to see one. As reported it was carrying a death ray weapon in its left hand and the right hand was a deadly sharp hooked claw. A green airline supplied it with whatever gas it breathed, and one of its feet seemed to be some sort of traction device whilst the other was a horrible gnarled claw. A small red laser blaster protruded from the cavern of its black mouth and it wore the blue wiring of a MegaBot – the most dangerous and deadly of its dangerous and deadly kind.

I looked it in its single eye. What did it want?

With a terrifying rumble of internal gearing and a repetitive beep it began to walk towards me as I realised that whatever it wanted, it wanted it from me.

Fortunately I have absolutely no fear whatsoever. I rushed towards it screaming ‘Death to all Killer Monster Robots!’ It fired its death ray at me – it missed. It fired again, but I was on him, slapping my sticker (the one with my blog address printed on it) just below its flat, oval nose. It struck out in panic catching me a glancing blow that sent me tumbling down the ridge of pebbles. I leapt to my feet ready to face the Robot once again but… it was gone!

My sticker had done its job. The Killer Monster Robot was marked and never again would it creep up on an unsuspecting victim. Its cover had been blown.

Good had triumphed over evil once more!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Tesla and Twain

Two more of my guys off today – great people, gifted people. What funny old times.

Here’s something from Mark Twain to think about. It has truth at its heart and I wish I’d written it. Hey, what the hell. Let’s say that I did write it. Me. Not Twain. Okay? Twain just wrote something very similar.

'Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.'

People think of Twain as a writer, which of course he was, and a great one - but he was also a lot of other things. He loved science and invested almost all of his money financing new inventions. He even invented things himself - a bed clamp for infants (that one is a bit worrying), a new type of steam engine (just as electricity became all the rage), and the Paige typesetting machine (which was a bit prone to breaking down). Perhaps it would have been better if he’d stuck to his writing, but isn’t it always worth ‘taking a punt’? As Chris would say.

Not many people today think of him as an inventor, but in his time he was well known for it and he loved to mix in the company of scientists and inventors; where he was well accepted.

Twain became a great friend of Nikola Tesla. Tesla was a genius with electricity and was on the verge of creating free energy, energy without the need for a power source - when he ran out of money, and some might say… luck. Tesla’s a hero of mine thanks to OMD - and don’t worry you don’t get off that lightly I’m sure I’ll come back to him in the future.

Tesla and Twain spent a lot of time together in Tesla’s laboratory. It’s been rumoured that between them they invented a time machine. Twain’s book ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court’ features an American time traveler who uses his knowledge of science to introduce technology to Arthurian England. Danny Kaye played the time traveler in the movie (Danny Kaye is also a hero of mine but I’ll save him for another time as well).

Twain spent a huge amount of his own money financing Tesla’s inventions, which ultimately didn’t pay off – actually they weren’t allowed to pay off which is a whole different story (yes, I’ll save that for another time as well, I know that you’re in a rush).

Anyway, here’s the point I’m trying to make (I’d have got here sooner if I weren’t so easily distracted, but my brain works just like surfing the net – I’m on some site or other when I spot a link to something that is connected and I’m off onto that, then I spot another connection, and another, and so it goes on until I have to use the back button to get to where I started from. I think the back button is a little like time travel and…stop – Stop - STOP… I was off mind surfing again; I’ll save that for another time as well).

Just a minute, I’m going to click the back button.

BACK BUTTON. Anyway, here’s the point I’m trying to make - Tesla and Twain dared to dream big and weren’t afraid to fail. They were brave enough to sail away from safe harbour, catch the trade winds, explore, dream, and discover.

There’s a lesson for us all there.

So here’s my thanks and respect to Vicky and Chris, neither one of which ever gives up or gives in, and like Tesla and Twain they both dare to dream big – I know that they both will succeed.

Even so I still wish I could click the back button.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Casablanca


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I can’t believe I’ve come this far without mentioning Casablanca.

Casablanca. There I’ve done it.

Casablanca really captured my imagination in my teens. I don’t know why, after all it was made in 1942, in black and white, and Humphrey Bogart died (January 14th, 1957) a couple of months before I was born. But it totally captivated me.

At thirteen I’d seen it maybe a dozen times, by the time I was eighteen I was Rick Blaine. I attended my college interview wearing a fedora hat and trench coat – well at least they remembered me, and I got in. There was no video back then but I had a frame by frame book of the film with full dialogue - at one point I could almost ‘do’ the whole movie line by line… and of course there was that attitude thing, Rick Blaine’s attitude thing.

I was the most world-weary, cynical, nothing much matters, ‘I never drink with the customers’ teenager you could ever wish not to meet. And to this day I still blame my ever-so-slightly cynical nature on Rick Blaine and Casablanca – although these days I think I have more in common with the Sidney Greenstreet character, Signor Ferrari.

My favourite line in the films is when Rick says to Ugarte ‘I don’t mind a parasite. I object to a cut rate one.’ Now that cuts, but the film is full of one-liners like that and I’ve spent quite a bit of my life insulting family and friends by using them on them.

Here's another favourite that I've used at every opportunity in lots of circumstances and variations...

Ugarte - 'You despise me, don't you?'
Rick - 'If I gave you any thought I probably would. '

Ouch!

Don’t worry, I won’t quote them all to you (if you are interested here’s the complete SCRIPT but Rick never did say ‘Play it again Sam.’ He did say ‘Play it, Sam. Play "As Time Goes By."’ Nor did he say ‘Of all the bars, in all the towns, in all the world.’ But he did say ‘Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.’

Sometimes I use Casablanca as a way to fall asleep when I’m having a bad night. I play the film in my head starting with the opening credits and running through the movie scene by scene. I think the furthest I’ve ever got before falling asleep is Rick at the train station in Paris – all misty edged frames, steam, and rain, rain, and more rain... and she never showed - poor Bogey.

Sometimes when I do this I cast people I know in the roles of characters in Casablanca. I used to imagine myself as Rick – well why not – but I found that I could no longer fit into my white tuxedo and had to move on.

How about this for a cast?

Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) – Rick Shore (It's in the stare)

Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) – Nicki Cupman (Flutter those eyelashes)

Victor Laslo (Paul Heinreid) – Steve Wilson (Smile)

Signor Ferrari (Sidney Greenstreet) – Me (Yes, I’ve finally hung up my Bogart hat)

Ugarte (Peter Lorre) – Chris Southall (All nervous energy)

Yvonne (Madeleine Lebeau) – Vicky Holder (You do sultry so well)

Sam (Dooley Wilson) – Glynne Kirkham (It’s the grin that does it)

Captain Renault (Claude Rains) – Phil Heslehurst (Well, who else?)

Major Strausser (Conrad Veidt) – Scott Mitchell (Blonde hair, blue eyes)

Carl (S.Z. Sakall) – Malcolm Chorley – (You are the right age - more or less)

So you still don’t have a clue what I’m going on about eh?

Give yourself a treat. Buy a bottle of wine, close the curtains, get a big box of tissues – and watch the movie.

Get a taste for it HERE. Start with the Casablanca Movie Trailer - it sets the scene.

You’ll see what I mean.

And… Sorry if you are reading this and don’t know who the people in my cast list are. They are my old team and they will live forever in the Casablanca that plays nightly in my mind. If you do know them though – have fun fitting them into character.

Here's looking at you kids.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

It's all about me...


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Tadaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!

Time to celebrate. This is my hundredth posting.

It seems a long time since I started this journey. Were you in at the start? Do you remember how it all began?

‘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. So many questions flood my head. What do I write? Is my spelling up to it? Will I be able to entertain? Will anyone read me? And how on earth does this all work?Questions, questions, questions. Maybe over the next few weeks I'll get the answers.’

That was me as a young blogger, how simple and full of hope I made it all sound. It seems a very long time ago, a lot has happened, lots of changes.

But here I am four months and a hundred posts later, a little blog older, a lot blog wiser, and those questions still pop into my head each time I start a post. The spelling thing is easy, I write my blog in word and spell-check, and then I read, and re-read, read, change. I’m fanatical about getting it just right.

Do I entertain? I entertain myself, I can’t speak for anybody else - but I love reading my own blog, how self obsessed is that?

And you are reading me – so that is good.

How does it all work? Well, technically I have the hang of it and I know that Google recognises the blog – I have a lot of search hits for ‘Sally Forth’, ‘Ty Coch’ and ‘Simon Le Bon’ (eclectic is my middle name - actually it isn't, it’s Kevin) but I still struggle to know what to write about most times. Sometimes it just comes, dropping out of my head and down into my fingers, appearing on my electronic page without any involvement from me, but at other times it can be a real struggle. Blogging is not for the faint-hearted.

Increasingly I stop at motorway service stations to get things down when the ideas flow; sometimes I’m still there an hour later – once two hours later and I’d have been there longer but my battery died. My blog is the first thing I ‘do’ when I get home in the evening. No wonder Gaynor gets cross. I am a blog addict. It works best when I have one of my movies running – the ones that run in my head. When I have a movie running it’s easy. As I say to Ju-Ju “I don’t have a choice. The film starts running in my head and I’m here again.”

Despite the label it’s been given at home – ‘that bloody blog’ - I think that to date it’s been an interesting journey, if not for you then at least for me – and, as I’ve always made very clear, it isall about me’. What would be the point of creating it if it wasn’t? It’s a place for me to go to and to get to know myself.

And I am getting to know myself after forgetting who I was for a while.

‘That bloody blog’ has taken me down a few dead end streets, along some very dark roads, up dusty trails where nothing is quite what it seems and everything is slightly out of focus, real places, revisited places, funny places, remembered places, imaginary places, down-right-lied about places, surreal places, uncomfortable places, silly places, embarrassing places, liberating places, sad serious places… but all and most importantly - my places.

And I've discovered that I like photography after years of hating it and that in my heart I am a surrealist - so maybe I should stop trying not to be.

I want the journey to continue, although I often ask myself 'why am I doing this, what is the point?' And then I get an idea for one of my sculptures, or a poem, or Misty does something worth the telling of, or I remember someone and want to make sure that they are remembered - and that is that - I stop asking pointless questions and start to write.

So the journey will continue a while yet. Who knows where I may end up?

I hope that you continue to come along with me, I appreciate and need your comments and support.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Pipefish.


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I seem to spend an awful lot of time on the road.
I drove back from Wales last night and the route I usually take was closed with no warning. I had to backtrack and take a thirty mile detour, so it was really late when I eventually got in.
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This morning I got up at six so that I could be in Scarborough by nine. I don't mind early starts and was so happy when I avoided the usual crush of jammed traffic around Leeds. It didn't last though - the AI was closed and I lost over an hour trying to get onto the A64.
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The traffic wasn't too bad on the way home, but I got thinking about stuff and missed my exit. It didn't take me to far out of my way but by the time I was back on track the traffic had built up and... well, we all know how that song goes.
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So why am I telling you this? I'm not really, I'm really talking to myself. Sometimes I wonder why I spend so much time rushing from one place to another in what can sometimes seem like such a pointless meander.
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Pipefish are wanderers. They meander here, change direction and swim off there. They're related to seahorses (as you can probably see from the shape of their heads) and they rarely stay in one place for very long - continually moving from one place to another looking for food or a mate.
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As you must know by now I love beach combing. There is something about finding something washed up by the sea that makes it precious - even if 'intrinsically' it isn't. I have a collection of very precious fishing net floats - all sizes, all colours; red, orange, yellow, blue, grey, white, black - an old wooden oar, pebbles (of course), and my Pipefish.
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In ten years of hardcore beach combing I have only managed to find about one a year - and I look for them all the time. You usually find them in the flotsam at the head of the beach mixed in with the weed and sticks. Because they have an external skeleton they have usually dried hard, like fingernails. They don't take very long to dry out and they don't smell, there really isn't any flesh to rot.
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I caught a live one last year in a pool at Criccieth. We were shrimping. I'll tell you about shrimping another time, it's almost the season. I held it in my hand, it was like holding one of those jointed wiggly wooden snake toys that you can buy - only much, much thinner. I thought about keeping it, killing it, adding it to my collection. But no - so I put in back into the sea and let it meander away.
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Traffic and Pipefish, is there a connection? Probably - I was certainly thinking about Pipefish when I missed my turning.
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Anyway, this is a picture of my Pipefish 'found things' sculpture. I think Eileen Agar would have liked it.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

What...no Giraffe?













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We went to Penlech Beach today.

The weather was beautiful and I had it in my head to build one of my beach sculptures - I wanted to build a Giraffe, a la Dali, and maybe even set fire to it.

Thing is you have to build with what you find and the pickings on Penlech were pretty sparse, so all I could manage was this Flamingo/Stork bird.

After saying that it is a miracle of balance, it only has a single leg and it was a pretty windy afternoon, I think it blew over at least six times before I managed to get the leg anchored properly. It wasn't quite windy enough to fly a kite properly though - Holly and I tried with no real success - which is unusual.

Anyway, it was probably a good job that I couldn't build my Giraffe - I left the matches at home.

By the way we did use the barbecue and it worked pretty well, I may tell you about it later in the week.
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Friday, 3 April 2009

Take cover.....







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So we’ve had a couple of sunny days and it’s been quite warm at times. Yes, Summer is just around the corner and… wait a minute! What is that awful smell? Where has the sun gone and where’s that thick… cough… black… cough, cough… smoke coming… cough… from?

It can’t be… not already... Oh my God, yes it is!

WARNINGWARNINGBarbecue alert, barbecue alert! Take cover!

Yes the barbecue season is almost upon us and we are getting ready with real anticipation for the… wait for it… (Drum roll)…we are getting ready for… (Build drums)
‘The First Barbecue of the Year.’ (Start trumpet oratory - fade drums – cut.)

How grand that sounds – the phrase not the music, the music isn't real, it's in your head, suggested by the words you've just read.

I quite enjoy the occasional barbecue – a homemade burger, some grilled fresh mackerel, a steak, a kebab, even the odd langoustine - BURP! - Pardon me. How delicious barbecued food can taste on those light, warm summer evenings with a glass or two of wine. Yes, I think that it would be fair to say that I enjoy the occasional barbecue – however, there is a certain person in our household who would eat barbecued food three-six-five days a year, for lunch, dinner, and even breakfast - and it isn’t me.

My wife Gaynor absolutely loves barbecued food – in fact she loves all things barbecue; the barbecue, the tongs, the thermometer, the barbecue fork, the coals, the smoke - she has just about every barbecue gadget you can imagine, and then some. She spends hours preparing huge amounts of food for the barbecue, sometimes we have up to a dozen or so individual courses just so can cook for four or five hours at a time over the naked coals. I think she enjoys the preparation and the cooking more than the food – we have dozens of barbecue tables, tons of barbecue briquettes, and box after box of firelighters in our barbecue shed in Wales.

Yes, we really do have a barbecue shed and it would be fair to say that Gaynor is a barbecue freak - but obviously not to her face.

Over the years we have barbecued in the rain (under an umbrella), in our front garden, in our porch, in the dark, on the beach, up a mountain, in a gale, in a field, even in the snow – and now – thanks to our latest barbecue purchase – we will be able to barbecue indoors (allegedly).

We have bought a Cobb.

"A what?" I hear you ask...here's the blurb... ‘The Cobb is a revolution in home and outdoor barbecue cooking. You can use the Cobb for baking, barbecues, frying, roasting and smoking - whatever your ...’ Shall I go on?

Not that we needed another barbecue… we have a lot of barbeques already – big ones, small ones, some still in boxes, some that fold away flat, others that are built into chiminieres. Goodness knows how our other poor barbeques are going to feel about this new admission to their ranks, I’m sure that they will be very concerned about their futures.

Anyway, Gaynor is determined to give our new barbecue a go over the weekend, and nothing - and I really do mean nothing - is going to stand in her way.

I’ll let you know how we get on. Wish me luck.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Sat Nav Shoes...


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April 2nd… phew! Safe for another year.

For those of you that read and swallowed my post about the origins of April Fool’s day yesterday I have tell you… APRIL FOOL!

It was all made up from beginning to end. There never was an ‘Aypril Foel’, nor did he carry a pig’s bladder filled with lunatic’s urine, and there’s no such thing as ‘Shrugging the Mark’… and yes BMD, well done, I did write the ‘Noah Trueworthy’ (No AH True Worthy) piece – I wrote it all - it was all invention!

HA!

… and don’t worry it was written before Midday so I won’t reflect bad luck on myself.

I know that my friend Mr Kirkham read it. He rang me to tell me.

Yesterday, April Fool’s day, was his first day away from my evil clutches – how very apt.

Apparently he got up around eleven, wandered downstairs (in his off-white towelling bathrobe), and switched on the TV to watch Tricia – it would seem that his life is rapidly expanding to become one long, frantic, social whirl of daytime television and pot noodles. Tricia was talking about how some family or other had almost been destroyed by a disagreement over a £12.99 anorak, he couldn’t quite follow it because he was only half awake (no real change there then), nor did he fully understand the interview that followed where some chap or other wanted to marry his blow up doll.

He told me that he’d almost choked on the packet of Doritos that he was munching when he heard this – well, not the packet – he wasn’t actually eating the packet… he hasn’t degenerated that far yet – but it came as quite a surprise to him… he’d always thought that he was the only one.

Anyway, after taking a swig of his lager to calm himself, he decided to check his mails… He had adverts! “Wow!” As you probably know Glynne loves buying stuff - particularly when the stuff to be bought is really cool, guy thing, gizmo, gottahave, techno habit type stuff!

“Double wow!” He couldn’t believe his eyes… this had to be his lucky day – “Sat Nav Shoes – wow, wow, wow, wo, wow!” Just what he’d always wanted - shoes with sat nav technology built in! “How cool is that? Gottahave, gottahave!” He’d blubbered from the other end of the phone – he was on his i-phone… well, isn’t he always?

You can check out Glynne’s Sat Nav shoes here.

“But that isn’t all!” He went on to tell me about another fantastic piece of gizmology that could actually record dreams! It was a little hard to make out exactly what he was saying because he was really excited and talking way too fast - like an auctioneer on speed - but it was something about what a great time he could have playing back this fantastic recurring dream that he’s been having lately where he noshes away at a huge pork chop mountain… “Yum, yum – I just bear them Pork ting tings!” - His words, not mine.

Here’s where you can find poor Glynne’s Dream Recorder.

By this time I was getting worried. How could this have happened so fast? He seemed fine when I last saw him – but now… He was off again… “Oh, my God! It just gets better… a powder that turns water into beer… that even beats my ‘Spy Watch’, the one with the built in photo display and the MP3 player… remember how I used to gaze at the Spice Girls’ as I danced around the office to the sound of ‘Wannabe’.. a zigazig, zigazig ha!”

What a shame, totally deranged… Here’s the poor deluded fellow’s Beer Powder.

As I said - what a shame - he must have just too much time on his hands and that, coupled with the Dorito jag and possibly beer hallucinations… well, let’s just say he’s been ‘Touched by the Fool’ shall we?

He seemed a little crestfallen when I reminded him about April 1st and that all the gadgets he was planning on buying, even Tricia’s interviews, were simply April Fool’s jokes and not really available to purchase at all.

“Not even on-line?” He asked.

“Not even on-line, old chum.” I replied.

“Not available…even on-line...” He mumbled and I’m sure that I heard a disappointed sob as he said it. “Not available… not - even – on - line.” He repeated - and with that he seemed to perk up a little. “Oh well… At least I can rely on you and your blog – no tricks there. You’d never try to make a fool of me, would you? You’re my friend. I’m off to read it now, cheer myself up a bit, no use worrying is there? That’s it… chin up old me… chin up…Bye.”

Glynne… One last thing, before you go…” But he’d already put the phone down.

What a really nice chap he is – totally bonkers - and he really couldn’t organise the proverbial in a brewery these days.... but… well - if not him - then me… I needed to ‘Shrug the Mark'. After all, I don’t want to be ‘Marked by the Fool’ do I?

Glynne… Check the Proverbial out. It may help, and remember ‘All Hallows’ is on the 31st of October. All you have to do is hang on until then.

Good luck Glynne… good luck old chap.