Monday, 31 October 2011

Pumpkin carving...

I never know what it is going to be until I pick up the knife and spoon and begin - the knife to slash, the spoon to scoop the gooey innards out.

I keep the seeds, I keep the flesh - for salted roasted pumpkin seeds and creamy pumpkin soup, after all waste not want not.

I considered a scream but Edvard Munch escaped me. I thought about a Lovecraftian horror but his Necrominicon was firmly closed. Even Bram Stoker slunk away - no, this year I had a humour on me. Not for me the grotesque of the vampyre teeth and drooling, bloody, mouth.

So here is my pumpkin for Halloween 2011.

I'm not sure if it's a cat or a rabbit. I think it owes something to Donny Darko but there's something of the Bagpuss about him. His eyes are glass his horns a pound shop bargain. Perhaps he isn't very scary, but the most horrible terrors lurk beneath a silly surface sometimes.

Anyway, I have to go... the trick or treaters are here. I hope they are careful - he might nibble them to death.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Pumpkin patch...

We took a drive out Warrington way today, avoiding the motorways, taking the toll bridge, dodging the storm clouds, watching the racing clouds.

Halloween weather, well it's that time of year.

A black cat hissed at us from the side of the road, a scarecrow waved a bony hand from a field full of pumpkins.

As we drove along the country roads I was surprised at how many farms were selling pumpkins along the way. Time was when the only way you could get a pumpkin was to grow it yourself, these days they seem to be everywhere. The supermarkets are full of them, huge crates stacked ten deep, all competing for the pumpkin carver’s pound.

We stopped at one of the farms and bought our pumpkin. They had dozens around the back in a shed, goodness knows what they’ll do with them once tomorrow has gone – pumpkin soup and pie I guess.

We plan to carve it tomorrow. I’ll let you see how it turns out.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Tales from the glass painter's table - Elvis

Baby let me be
Your loving teddy bear
Put a chain around my neck
And lead me anywhere
Oh let me be
Your teddy bear

Not the first Elvis glass I've painted but the other one was Elvis in his white suit persona and cartoony, whilst this is the Elvis I think I prefer to remember. Elvis the rebel, Elvis the heartthrob, Elvis the wiggling hipped, smouldering, sex machine.

Not that I'm a huge Elvis fan, but there is something about that early Elvis that captures the musical and cultural changes that were coming. Don't worry about the purple eye shadow, Elvis only wore it for fun. He was no Little Richard.

Another day, another glass.

Happy 5oth birthday somebodies mum. Hope you like the glass.

Uh, hu, hu - Thank you M'am.

Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has now left the building...

Thursday, 27 October 2011


There isn’t a thing in the world that can’t be fixed with araldite.

When I was young if anything was broken or got dropped and smashed, out would come those two little tubes, that little bit of cardboard, and of course a matchstick, and soon whatever was broken was broken no more. Charlie’s glasses, my mum’s vase, the radio knob, my dad would even build it up slowly and then carve and file it to replace the missing piece of whatever it was that was broken.

In our house Araldite was the marvel of marvels, a panacea to cure all damage, a fix-it beyond compare.

I remember having my shoes fixed with Araldite, once when I snapped a button on my blazer that got the Araldite fix and the day I broke my arm I half expected my dad to give that the Araldite treatment too.

Araldite was invented in the forties and Araldite 420 was used for building Lancaster bombers in World War II. Today it’s used in pre-cast concrete unit bonding, advanced ballistic protection body armour, sticking tram parts together, gluing tiny parts in electron microscopes, and as carbon composites for the Audi R8. You name it araldite can stick it. Flamenco guitarists even use it to strengthen their fingernails.

I’ve used it to stick shattered doorframes back together, to stick the magnet to my fridge magnets (hand-painted and a bargain at £2.50), for fixing a broken clasp on a horse blanket, and to strengthen the zinc wire that holds my hall table lamp together after it took a nasty knock - the list just goes on and on.

But what to do with the little bit that’s left over after once you’ve stuck whatever you need to stick? I usually end up roaming the house looking for something broken – sometimes I’m sorely tempted to break something just so that I can araldite it back together again.

Maybe the next time someone break an arm I’ll get the Araldite out. Well, it's worth a try.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Call me Compo…

Ah - the last of the summer wine... I’ll have a glass or two if you have any to spare.

As I was discussing with a friend of mine this morning here we are rushing towards our twilight years although these days they are likely to be pitch black.

Still, getting older and slowing down has its attractions.

There's a bowling green at the end of my road owned by the club members. Each time I walk past it I expect to see it being dug up by bulldozers, it really is a very attractive piece of real estate. Not yet though. Maybe I’ll apply to join, roll a few bowls, have a few pints and stumble home. Yes, the last of the summer beer as well.

Just around the corner, hidden away in a few trees set back from the main road just a little, is a very nice park bench. You can stroll past this little oasis without ever noticing it. Sometimes I pop up there for an hour and count cars, or simply watch the world pass me by as it seems to be doing so frequently these days. Maybe one day soon I’ll take along a bottle of cider and have a swig or two. Yes, the last of the summer cider too.

Oh well - see you on the park bench sometime if you fancy a Martini, shaken not stirred, vodka, crushed ice, with just a dash of blue bols. Yes, the last of the summer cocktails.

Just call me Compo, or some other such stupid name, and make mine a double.

Thanks. I'll have another.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The vicar of Love - Let us pray...

The power of prayer is a powerful thing.

With prayer anything is possible, and as we all know if you need forgiving prayer is one way to go about asking for it.

Fortunately for Bon Chance though cat's don't need to pray for forgiveness. After all, why would pray for forgiveness when you have no conscience?

No, cats just pray for fish! Let us pray...

Our Fish
Who art in Ocean
Halibut be thy name
Thy findom fun
Fly fishing be done
In my dish
As it is all empty
Give us this day
Our daily fish
And forgive us our octopuses
As we forgive them
Who octopus and hake, huss
And lead us not into aquarium
But deliver us from wimple
For thine is the king ray
The pollack and the dory
For ever and ever

Monday, 24 October 2011

Line manager robot production required...

Despite what ideal criteria you put in your job searches for the job boards you often get jobs that aren't really for you. I've had everything from nuclear scientist to window dresser and obviously I applied for both.

Looking through the mails that I get daily from Jobsearch, EOTW, My Manchester jobs, Jobrapido, The Ladders, and all the rest, I spotted one that I'd been sent which matched my criteria and was right up my street - well, almost.

'Line Manager Robot Production' the advert declared.

'Mmmm.' I though. 'I could do that. If I can manage people I can easily manage robots.' I read further, I seemed to tick most of the boxes.

Key Tasks:
• Health & Safety Management - tick.
• Operations Management - tick.
• Personnel Management - tick.

Three ticks, not bad. This was the job for me. Some of the requirements though were a little more problematical.

Apart from the ability to read and understand engineering drawings there was also a requirement to be able to weld to a high standard, programme the robots and have an excellent understanding in all principles of welding processes and procedures.

Well, my dad was a welder and with a little practice - after all it can't be that hard can it? Maybe if I just had a little go...

So I did and here it is.

What do you think? Do I get the job?

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Tales from the glass painter's table...

Ho - Ho - Ho.

Yes, it's Christmas product time. So I've spent the day making fridge magnets, tea light holders, glasses, and decorations. Santa, snowmen, Rudolph, and snowflakes - ho- ho - bloody - ho.

It's never too early for Christmas in the world of retail gifts, so they are going out tomorrow.

I have high hopes for my 'Merry Chrishmas' tipsy Santa and Christmas fairy. A good stocking filler when 'teamed with a bottle of wine or beer.

Anyway, long day. Off to get a beer or two.

Happy Chrishmas....

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The whole of the moon...

Odd isn’t it how, when something out of the blue happens, I want to start my posts with ‘odd isn’t it’.

So, odd isn’t it how a voice from the past can uplift you so just by the intonation and the familiarity of their speech. How is it that, even after years of not speaking, we recognise a voice in an instant when sometimes I for one can’t remember where I left my shoes and have to spend ages looking for them? This morning they were in the cellar, my feet must have walked them there of their own accord.

Yes, odd isn’t it, the way that my past is coming together all at once in a rush, bringing me back to places I thought I’d left, faces and voices, the smells, the echoes, the touch of a hand. Yes, I know that voice.

My old friend Dave rang me this evening, out of the blue like it happens sometimes, and despite not having spoken for months, there we were talking about things as if one of us had just gone for a pee in a pub, taking up our halted conversation once the wee-er had shaken, zipped up fast, and returned to his half finished beer.

'Your round Dave!'

So good to hear his voice, so instantly recognisable - so much so that what we talked about is almost unimportant as I was caught up by the lilt of his voice, the memories tumbling, picturing him the way I always see him; in blue Cromby overcoat, hands buried deep in his pockets, deep in thought, ready to take off to God knows where at a moments notice. He’s a deep thinker Dave - a man who suits an overcoat with deep pockets.

A man that sees the whole of the moon, and always has - long before the Waterboys warbled about it.

We chatted and breezed and shared a thought or two, news of family, news of work, agreeing on things generally, not too far away from each other in any way that is important – an easy shared thing, at least it was for me.

And then at the end of the conversation as we said our farewells, me promising to call soon (and I will) but not next week, Dave telling me he loved me and me telling him I loved him back - marvellous and honest and as true as any dye - a friend thing... and the whole of the moon.

‘Life does not get much finer than this.’ I thought as I put down the phone.

And life does not get much finer than that.

Friday, 21 October 2011


‘His blogs late tonight.’ I hear you mumble.

Yes, well today has been one of those drifting days, those days that occasionally fluff out of the ether leaving you becalmed and dolrumic in the water. Hard to write a post when you are surrounded by calm, grey water, just drifting, drifting, drifting.

So I’m working on the premise that the later I leave it, the more tired and random I get, and the more likely I am to have something to say.

I’ve had my tea. It was a tea of leftovers, ping-and-dinged as Gaynor has gone off to Wales for a few days at half-term. Plan was that I was going too, at least for a couple of days, but due to opportunities, or at least potential ones, I can no longer do that so leftovers it was.

Nice leftovers though – a portion of beef in ale stew, a very good portion of broccoli and cauliflower au-gratin, and of course a portion of chips (thin ones and freshly cooked).

As I ate a thought came to me and I realised how lucky I was to be eating leftovers when most of the world wouldn’t have any leftovers left. Most of the world wouldn’t have enough to go around, let alone scoop what wasn't eaten into semi-opaque plastic containers and shove them into the freezer in the hope that they’d get eaten some day.

Most of the world would eat all they had and still be hungry.

Okay, don’t worry, the starving children isn’t my theme tonight. It’s late – there is no theme and so…

Just where does the time go? It only seems like a few minutes since I arrived home with a list of things I was going to do tonight and here I am, day and night almost gone, and only half of them achieved. Oh, I’ve managed some product and sorted some buying, but the stuff I really wanted to do remains untouched. Just where does the time go? I need to stack the dishwasher and have a bath before I go to bed just where will I find the time? Where, oh where does the time go…

And then there’s this other thing. The thing I’ve been trying to ignore, avoid, put to the back of my mind, hide from, and generally whistle at so that it never needs to know I’m afraid.

The past has made reappearance in my life. It is coming at me in many ways – from the side, from the back, and then this week – head on.

Oh, I knew it was coming. What with the cats, the whispering ring, that dream of a kiss.

I like it and I shy away from it. I want it but know that I can’t have it. I need it and I need it, and therefore it is best not to need it. Yes, the leftovers of my life have appeared to be warmed over and, if the appetite is there, eaten.

Do I take it out of the freezer, open the plastic container and warm it through? Or should I just leave it? Leftovers that will never be a meal?

What shall I have for my tea tomorrow?

Think I’ll go and check the freezer.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Gypos and travellers...

I instigated a Facebook conversation last night. A conversation about the gypsies, travellers, or whatever you want to call them, the ones who have just been evicted from their Dale Farm homes, the homes that they build on a scrap yard illegally, without planning permission.

The last ones left today.

I won’t give you the background to the gypsy camp, if you don’t already know all about it you can easily find out. And I won’t go into how gypsies have been persecuted for thousands of years, again you can soon find out about this if you are interested enough.

Anyway I foolishly put a statement on Facebook about how I think the authorities are just that, authoritarian, and how the planning rules (which even the government agrees should be relaxed) are at times used by mindless Jobsworths to keep their jobs and pacify the majority. Of course they are only following orders, rules is rules, it's more than their job's worth, etcetera, etcetera.

Yes, I like to have my fun with the boys as much as the next middle-aged, middle-class, middle-minded, middle-of-the-road, middler, hence my post - and the reaction I expected I got. I do however believe that hiding behind our rules in order to persecute minorities is wrong - at least we could do it openly like the Nazis did.

I also get cross when people go on about playing the Hitler card. It seems to be quite fashionable amongst some people to try and dismiss any comparison with his actions to anything that goes on in their 'real world'. Unfortunately though, the genocides continue all over the planet from time to time. All it takes is a charismatic leader, a few people with a grudge, and a population on its uppers without much direction and away you go – gas chambers, mass graves, poison, and firing squads.

Of course we as a nation aren’t there, and fortunately we don't have a charismatic leader. Even so persecution goes on in pockets throughout our fair lands and I'm sure that you can bring a few examples to mind, but as Orwell and then the Manic Street Preacher’s echoed: ‘If you tolerate this then your children will be next’. And they will be, one way or another as victim or victimiser.

I have no answer to any of this of course. I just feel it is wrong to turn families out of warm homes and tell them to move on without giving them very much to move on to. Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you will, but what is the gypsies of Dale Farm this week could be the obese, or the disabled, or the single parent, next week or at least at some time in the future.

Oh yes it could. Believe me.

I've deleted that conversation on Facebook. Best in the blog I think.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Why there's bottled water…

As a child everything was put down to a change of water. It didn’t seem to matter much what it was – a headache, aching joints, a bad mood, it all came down to a change of water.

‘I feel sick.
‘It’ll be the change of water’.
‘I’m not hungry.’
It’ll be the change of water’.
‘I’ve really hungry’
It’ll be the change of water’.
‘I have lost the use of all my limbs and my body has swollen to the size of an elephant.’
It’ll be the change of water’.

Back then though not only was the water constantly changing but THEY were always putting something in it.

Just who THEY were was never clearly defined and like the water THEY kept changing. At times it seemed to be The Russians (who were responsible for the changes in the weather as well), Scientists (who were going to blow us all up if the Russians didn’t do it first), and worst of all – The Council.

The Council were responsible for everything.

It was the Council’s fault that old Mrs. Hewitt’s son was caught exposing himself to teenage girls in the park, they should never have allowed it and where was the warden? Well, actually Mrs. Hewitt’s son Bozil was the warden, and the church verger, and the gravedigger, and the man to go to if you wanted your hawthorn hedges woven into the most wonderful living fences, and of course if you wanted yourself exposed to...

It was the council’s fault that the blackberry crop was getting poorer year on year, what with all the pesticides they were using and all those concrete fencing panels that they were putting up everywhere, ripping down the hedges and making the chances of one of Gran’s blackberry and apple pies very slim indeed.

It was the council’s fault that my dad reversed into a bloody wall and bloody dented the bloody back bumper of his bloody Morris Minor. If the bloody council had bloody filled that bloody pothole then it would bloody well never have bloody happened. How was he bloody well meant to bloody concentrate on missing the bloody pothole and bloody missing the bloody wall at the bloody same bloody time, the bloody Council shouldn’t bloody expect him to bloody multi-bloody-task! (I’ve paraphrased most of my Dad’s bloody swearing to make this bloody readable).

Yes, the council was always messing with the water and the net result was poorer blackberries, dented bumpers, and perverts whipping their willies out… well, maybe not, but they did agree to put fluoride in the water to stop our teeth rotting. And I for one wanted rotting teeth.

So what with the ‘change of’ water and the ‘somethings’ being put in it - water was a very scary thing when I was a kid.

So that’s why there's bottled water.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The conversations of Mr. Cat - two

Sometimes us cats choose to look at things from a different perspective.

You poor humans, on the other hand, just keep looking at things in the same tired, singular way - you almost seem conditioned to do it . Have you no vision? No imagination? No wonder you are all so stressed and anxious.

Let’s think about early man, we’ll call him Ug as Ug seems like such a good name for one of your stupid, cumbersome, ancestors.

Just picture Ug huddled around the fire in his cave, hiding from the horrible dark, trying to ignore the growls and mewls coming from just outside the cave. Anxious about what might be waiting for him outside in the blackness and terrified of the ‘deadly’ spiders that sometimes dropped down from cave roof and onto his head. His life was so scary that the poor little diddums had even begun bite his nails.

Poor Ug, almost catatonic in his fear and in an ever changing, unpredictable, environment fear would probably have been Ug’s normal state. He was probably constantly stressed, anxious, phobic to the point of paranoia, and may have begun to develop habitual behaviours – even rolling up dead leaves, putting them in his mouth, and setting fire to them.

Smoking dead leaves, I ask you, how mad is that?

So what might Ug have become if he’d looked at life from a different perspective as us ancient cats did?

If he’d gone out into the dark often enough he might have developed decent night vision, he might even have found that he could smell danger so that he could run before whatever it was trying to get him actually got him. He might have learnt to leap, and spring, and run deftly up trees to escape his predators. He might even have stopped biting his nails and developed a decent set of claws, retractable claws even for those soft-pawing moments.

Instead he stayed in his cave, never developed, and as a result you humans remain ill-educated savages little better than Ug was.

Us cats on the other hand did look at things from a different perspective. We left our caves and walked out into the dark, knowing there was nothing much to fear and evolved from the savage sabre too tiger into the intellectual, sophisticated, intelligent race of beings we are today.

And my point?

People are scaredy-mans hiding from the dark, animals are superior, and most superior of all is the cat - and just how do I know this?

Because - I - am - a -cat - stupid!

Now fetch me my fish.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Tales of the ring - well almost...

This is the ring that I bought from the shop hidden away in the twisting, turning back streets of old Whitby. The smiths that worked in silver, making everything themselves, when asked to work in gold agreed and made this for me instead. That shop run by the two young women, one dark, one fair, and I a young man myself.

Almost thirty years ago now.

My goldfish ring (how I love that pun) arrived in a box with a kiss one autumn morning long after summer and holiday had passed - to be slipped on my finger, never to be taken off.

Placed on the right in the mirror of a wedding band. Perhaps I should wear two.

There are stories around this ring, many of them. They started on the day I requested it.

Yes, I could tell you tales of the golden ring and perhaps I will some day. But not now let's leave them safe and secret in my memory.

Ah, but her eyes were blue.

Ah, but her eyes were green flecked brown.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Marking time…

Sometimes I feel so left out of my life. Oh, I know, ‘tempus fugit’ and all that, but sometimes when you have been ‘outed’ from something that was important to you, and for no fault of your own, and then you hear on the wire that, despite it stopping for you, it goes on for all the others - well it’s almost as if you never existed.

But then of course you have moved on too, and where you have moved on to is of your own making, and you are happy and you wouldn’t want it any other way, well you makes your bed, and what is the point of dwelling on the past, and it is best to let sleeping dogs lie, and well, it’s easier this way… but even so.

Superman could have handled this from his Fortress of Solitude deep in the ice. Superman would have sent out one of his robotic doubles, splitting himself infinitely for every occasion.

But I’m no Superman, never have been.

Of course in a parallel world I did go to the ball, drank champagne and kissed the cheeks of many a fair damsel, laughing and being charming - if not a prince, then at least a frog and there.

‘Rivet, rivet.’

In that parallel world I party in my froggy-footed drainpipes and Edwardian collared suit, all a’quiffed and laughing, nothing but a hound dog having such a good time.

Yeah, life sucks when you’re this cool.

A skeleton at the feast.
Flim Flam.
A shadow.
Just a mist.
Not really there at all.
A thing from the past.
Hardly remembered.
Cryin’ all the time.
And I ain’t ever caught a rabbit…

The rest? Well you know the rest.

Look, that’s me behind the curtains.


Blow me out as you blow out the candles.


Friday, 14 October 2011

Tales from the glass painter's table

Break dancers, fairies, sharks, ballerinas, butterflies, dragonflies and football. All this week, all on glass.

Well, I did say that I paint anything, including a matching pair of globes complete with the stop off points of a whistle-stop world wedding tour.

These are a wedding gift for a couple who left London by Jumbo, Travelled to Singapore and watched the Grand Prix, stopped off at Sydney for a few glasses of wine, popped across to Las Vegas to get married in a little white chapel, honeymooned in New York and took the ferry across to Staten Island to see the Statue of Liberty and then returned home to Belfast.

Quite a journey and quite a complicated glass, what with the tiny Jumbo, the minuscule racing car, the minute glass of wine, the petite white steepled chapel, and the very small Statue of Liberty.

I managed it though... just!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Without cats…

Even close up, magnified, abstracted, slightly distorted and flowed through image software you all know what this is.

A cat - right?


Not a real cat of course just one of the scores of unreal cats that lie around my house, still and gathering dust. Cats made from wood, and pot, and china, and iron, and concrete, and papier mache, and that plastic stuff which the gift shops prefer to call resin.

Pretend cats all. Not a meow amongst them.

Pretend cats. Not a stroke, or a scratch, or a rough tongue felt across the back of my hand, or an almost had me toppling down the stairs, or a cat dish waiting to be filled, or a mad half hour, or a stay out all night then wander back, or a dead mouse present, or a cat tray needing changing, or a hairball on the landing amongst them.

I sometimes think that my days of cats are done. No more Misty’s, or Tia’s, or Emperor Ming’s. Just quiet cat statues in every room I wander into. Remeberances of cats, making me recall a time when warm fur and a contented purr comforted me when I most needed it.

What a time to be without cats.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Balloon blowing...

I almost didn't bother today. What with the crunch, the canvas holes, the apathy, the words - and ultimately that sense of abject futility.

On days like this I wonder, I really do. It’s almost as if there’s something checking out the good things and balancing then off with the bad. Or it could be just kismet and kismet is such a strange, unfathomable and fantastic thing - blowing us up like preening pigeons to score a point or two should we find our way safely home.

Pumping us up.

And so to the balloon pump.

I guess that most of us have used them at one time or another, pumping up those coloured rubber skins with air. The round ones and the long ones, the wiggly ones and the oval ones - blue, red, green, yellow, orange, and those awful white ones; featureless ghosts screaming as the dark breath of life is pumped into them.

The boy in the balloon with his nanny, or mother, or sister, or lover – who knows? The boy in the bow tie and blue blazer, gold piping shining as he clutches at straws and prepares to burst the bubble.

Only a fantasia balloon pump containing balloons. Don’t blow it. Pump it. Made in England and just insert the neck of balloon in hole in plastic top then pump to inflate.

No need for the 'the' there. So obvious - and containing balloons.

Clipped language made clear by instruction. No 'I' in team, no debate allowed, no different point of view considered.


What else is there?

Welcome to the carnival my friends. Pump away.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Flipping Kevin Parrott, Lowry, uncle Bob, and fag packets...

It seems to me that it’s been nothing but drawings for the last few days.

It isn't intentional. It's just the way things have fallen I guess.

Maybe it's because I haven't been to Wales for a few weeks, caught up in new things and nonsense and my expensive hobby at the Trader's club.

Less of that though.

You know it never fails to amaze me how our minds work.

Let me explain.

It isn’t always easy understanding the connections, the inter-relationships between events and thoughts, thoughts and actions, actions and results. It can be hard but if you can understand them, and work with them, then you have something special going on.

I call it mind surfing and I guess we all do it. Perhaps we are all logged into our own internal internet all the time. Maybe it’s not about the number of active brain cells we have or our ability to absorb complex information - perhaps it’s far simpler than that.

Yes, let’s call it mind surfing.

Here’s what I mean.

I was on Facebook the other evening and I saw a post from an old friend that I used to work with. Let’s call him Kevin Parrott because that’s his name and not Brian of Brian and Michael fame because it isn’t. Now you may remember that Brian and Michael had a chart-topping hit record with "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs", a tribute to the artist L. S. Lowry, in the seventies. It stayed at the top of the charts for three weeks Pop Pickers and I think everyone in the county can probably hum or sing it even today.

It got me thinking and from here my mind flipped to my old geography teacher Mr Moore who had an original Lowry sketch that he bought for a hundred quid when he was in Manchester as a young man. I saw it once when I went round to play with his son Jonathan. It was a small pencil sketch of three men, all sticky arms and legs with round heads standing on a street corner under a tall lamp smoking cigarettes.

Flip – and I wondered what it’s worth now and where it hangs these days. Certainly not in Jonathan’s living room on Park Street above Mr. Moore’s (or Ronnie (Ronald) as we nicknamed him for no apparent reason – there were no MacDonald’s back then) homework marking desk.

Flip - and I remembered a story about a small boy who was given a pencil sketch by Lowry when he was on holiday in Berwick. I also seem to remember that it sold for twenty thousand pounds a few years ago.

Flip – and I remembered being given a drawing by a stranger at a wedding when I was a very young child. It was a drawing of a man in top hat and tails drawn on the back of a fag packet and I kept it for years. It was probably that drawing that got me started scribbling my scribbles.

Flip – and I remembered how my Uncle Bob use to cut holes in his flip top cigarette packet, poke his fingers through for eyes and a nose and use his little finger to make the flip top mouth work whilst singing Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs.

Flip – and I was back to Ronnie Ronald Moore’s picture and the smoking men.

Flip – and then I lost my connection. Something wrong with the router I guess or maybe my service provider simply pulled the plug.

I wonder where I would have Flipped to next?

Monday, 10 October 2011

Alsace man with corkscrew and a terrified Grood on heat...

Someone I know who works in a wine shop discovered this at the bottom of a box of wine and knowing that I like to doodle purloined it for me. It's a nice print on cardboard by Ralph Steadman. One of a series of cartoons and drawings he did for the French wine makers Hugel and Fils.

When I thanked my friend and told him that Steadman was my favourite cartoonist (although cartoonist just doesn't do the man justice - illustrator, artist, draughtsman, innovator, and all round genius and splasher of ink) he looked at me blankly. He'd never heard of him.

How could this be? I asked myself. How could anyone go through fifty years of life without knowing the work of Ralph Steadman? He's always been there for me ever since I discovered his drawings for Alice in Wonderland and The Hunting of the Snark.

A few years back on National Doodle day I bid for a doodle of his (a terrified Grood on heat) on-line. I reluctantly gave in at just over two hundred quid and I think it eventually went for over five hundred and worth every penny. That's it below. How I wish I'd kept bidding now.

I did however get an Antony Worrall Thompson for twelve quid, a Raymond Blanc for eighteen, and I just missed Ainsley Harriot when I ducked out at twenty-five (it went for twenty six). I can't wait for next March I think I'll bid again.

We have them on our kitchen wall and they look very nice, but if I'd got the Steadman I'd have built a chapel around it.

Oh well, maybe I'll frame my bit of cardboard and pretend.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The creativity creature…

Saturday night. Home alone. Lamb casserole and a good Merlot. Listening to the radio after a nice warm bath. Sitting in the kitchen. Window closed. The rain outside and a chill in the air. The steam rising from the drain across the way. Bath time for them too.

Doodling this, writing that, popping in and out of Facebook, starting this, finishing that, and blogging.

The rubbish and artefacts mounting up all around, strewn across the kitchen worktops. Detritus of another evening of pens and paint and glass and my silly solitary silliness.

Elvis and his blue suede shoes, comedy and tragedy, hearts and pictures of a younger me, red wine and coffee, coffee and red wine.

Another glass I think. Another cup.

I can’t tear myself away once I start. One thought leading to another. One idea breathing life into another and another and another. A domino effect. Hours just passing. All sense of time lost. Enclosed within a space that is only just bigger than my body. Focussed on somewhere deep inside my head outside of my head.

There’s no stopping it once it gets this far. No turning back. I can feel the fever growing and then it is on and out and anything can happen. Things appear on paper and card, objects are coloured, words are trapped and lined up in an oddly order. That thing has me again dashing all hope of an early night.

It feels good to be this free and trapped. Not knowing what will be there when I come down in the morning. Almost automatic creation. Almost as if I have no hand in it. Loving each mark as it appears in front of me dropped from my hand but not my hand at all. Overrun and abandoned.

What a buzz.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The smell of the greasepaint...

I was reading the blog of a blogger friend this morning. I read it almost every day and each day it gives me food for thought, often amusement, and usually some insight.

Today after reading and commenting on it I was inspired to dash of this doodle using a piece of cardboard I’d cut up for the recycle and the inks I’m constantly getting moaned at for leaving around the kitchen.

My friend writes plays and is thinking of stopping.

Now, play writing never appealed to me. All far too lovey and then there are the critics to content with and the greasepaint and the buggery. No, I don’t think that I could be bothered to write a play. All that exit right and exit left, the asides, and the stage direction – Harrington leaves via the French windows.

I love working with words but having your words made real on stage seems somehow to negate the writing and make them something else. Something both real and unreal at the same time - if you see what I mean. Like the people who think that Coronation Street is a real destination somewhere up t’grimy North.

Yes words – such powerful and important things.

My friend not only worries that his plays aren’t worthy but he also worries that his blog posts are becoming far too much the same. Hard to avoid if you write from the heart as he does each and every day. Hard not to focus on the things that are at the centre of your being and that you agonise over, the things that make you tick, those things that wake you at four in the morning dripping with a cold sweat.

The thing is with words that whilst it is about the words themselves and the mood they create it is also about content. Content is always the rub and everyone who writes regularly is bound to find their writing developing certain themes and the trouble with that is that you find yourself saying the same thing over and over in pretty much the same way.

Hence - Tarzan goes to Mars.

Most of the best writers are only remembered for a few pieces of their work and the main body goes unnoticed, sometimes unread. Even Shakespeare had his howlers, and let's face it he spent most of his time saying the same thing over and over in much the same way methinks forsooth.

Like photography, painting, poetry, or any other art, playwriting, any writing, is part idea, part skill, part chance, and part accident. If you can get just a few things down that are different and that are appreciated then you are doing well, after all how many photographs do you need to take to get that one great shot? (Phil answer this one please.)

So, if you like writing plays, as my friend does, then I say you should keep on writing them. Who knows one day my friend may blunder into the right mix and be the toast of the West End. It might only happen once, but at least if he keeps trying he’ll have had the chance of that once, if he stops writing then he’ll have no chance at all.

As another friend of mine once told me as we drove along the long road to Aberdeen ‘Dream big and dare to fail’.

And that sounds about right to me Mr. Bailey.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Tales from the glass painter's table...

Ah, the wacky world of glass painting.

You know there's no telling what people are going to ask for in terms of something for their loved ones. A woman came in this week asking that I paint her a beer glass with a stoat holding a heart. It was to give to her husband on their second wedding anniversary and she asked me to put Mr. Stoat at the bottom of the glass.

'No problem Mrs. Stoat' I said.

She laughed, 'Oh, his name isn't Stoat,' she replied, 'that's just what I call him in the bedroom.'

Too much information really.

On a different note another woman, or in this case a lady, asked for a glass covered in beautiful coloured butterflies for her friend Louise.

Now normally I wouldn't have done this through choice preferring to make product that is either tastefulish, wacky, funny, or simply weird. But I learnt long ago that you must always give your public what they want and dutifully settled to the task.

It was a bit tricky and the photo doesn't really do the delicate opalescent over-painting justice, but when it was finished I put it on my drying shelf knowing that I would have another satisfied customer when it was collected and that I had spent far too long fiddling with the thing to make it financially rewarding.

Within a couple of hours I had sold four more to ladies who had seen it drying and decided to order one for their friends.

I really am going to have to industrialise the butterfly painting process, otherwise I'm going to be bankrupt. Maybe I could get apprentices like Michaelangelo or open an art factory like Damien Hirst.

What next I wonder? A grizzly bear? A grey-haired golfer? a seven year old girl footballer in her blue and white striped kit? A space rocket?

Oh I forgot, I've already done those this week.

Just call me the glass art tart.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Sparkle in the rain…

I’d never noticed it before – the sparkle in the rain. But sitting looking out of the window last night, the rain drumming on the glass, there it was glinting at the corner of my eye and I was immediately lost in the depth of the sparkling lights on the pane.

Thank God I caught it, I needed something to blog about. So I went to fetch my camera. Waste nothing. Make everything count. Turn every moment into an epic journey - or at least a blog post.

That’s the thing about blogging, it’s addictive and I need my daily fix, but sometimes it’s hard to find something, anything, to say.

Occasionally I think about stopping, laying down my pens, paints, paper, and keyboard, and giving up altogether. I guess all of us bloggers do at some time or another. But I'm not at all sure that I'd be able to give up if I tried, at some point an idea would pop into my head and I’d have to blog it out of my system. Like I said I’m addicted.

At other times I ask myself ‘What’s the point of it all? Just why am I doing this?’ But last night as I looked at the sparkle in the rain on the windows I remembered the point again. It stands as a record and a reminder, without my blog would I have noticed the rain on the window and taken a photograph to remember it by?

When I think about it I wish I'd been recording my thoughts all my life. I've tried to keep diaries a few times but it has never lasted, mainly because life is generally so dull. My blog is a world, my very own Bedford Falls to stumble around in. It let's me get my thoughts out and try to keep being creative, sometimes I even like and feel proud of what I’ve done.

Occasionally I find myself going back through older posts, reminding myself of what I've posted. Sometimes I've forgotten all about one post or another, often it serves to remind me of what I was thinking, doing, feeling at that point in time and I don't call that pointless, I call that a warm drink to hold in cupped hands on a cold winter's evening.

And one day I am going to really need that cup.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

One of those days...

One of those days I’m afraid.

A rush and panic kind of day, a four o’clock wake and a falling to sleep as I need to get up day, a dream that was going quite well taking a turn for the worse and going off down nightmare alley day, a fuzzy head when I need it to be clear day, a dark start and a dark end day, a getting lost and Runcorn bridge day, a postcode negative and blue hotel day.

A not all bad, but not all good day.

And my e-mail is putting my Facebook messages in the junk folder. And stuff that I should be getting isn’t being got.

Okay off I go to my ideal world where everything is simple and each day I work to the same plan. The only exception being that on Christmas day instead of beans and bacon for dinner I have beans and bacon and sausage with fried potatoes, and I wear a hat pulled from a cracker - two handed of course and a boxful would last me a dozen years - before falling asleep in front of my radio having enjoyed the best Christmas chiller ever - M.R. James preferably.

Oh, and of course there would be the back from the friendly pub, and the fifteen year old single malt by my own warm fire, and the sound of the sea outside, and the wind, and the poetry thundering through my mind like R.S. Thomas, and the paint and pencils, and the calm.

Sigh... happiness to dream of.

One day.

Not today though.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A pocket full of...

The question was posed today ‘What are pockets for?’

What are pockets for?

WHAT are pockets for?

Why pockets, as any small boy will tell you, are the place where boys and men keep their dreams.

The contents of a pocket can tell you much about the pocket owner, more probably than the trousers he’s wearing or that body that fits inside them.

The content of a pocket is a window to a man’s desire, ambition, interests, even to his very soul itself. If he has one.

Above are the contents of my pocket on this day 4th October, 2011. It isn’t a single pocket, a single pocket is never enough for a man of my appetites, but the contents of the two front and the two back pockets of my trousers along with the contents of my small shirt pocket. I have removed my mobile phone and my wallet from the equation – my mobile phone being an embarrassment (tring-tring) and my wallet quite another story, and one that might one day may warrant a post of its own

So here are the contents of my pockets – pocket by pocket by pocket.

Front left:

My small change. So small it contains my lucky thrupenny bit and a shopping trolley coin with a butterfly motif that doesn’t fit any Aldi shopping trolley - but the butterfly is so beautiful.

A large brown rubber band. Well, you never know when you are going to make a wind-up aeroplane. Flying away to the whirr of the rubber. Look Ma, I'm both of the Wright brothers and I'm Top Of The World.

A thing for putting together flat pack furniture. I made some weeks ago but this seems to keep getting transferred from one pair of trousers to another with my small change, poking me and prodding me like a key to something that I don't want to unlock.

A hazel nut. Just in case I need to tempt a squirrel.

Front right – where I keep my wallet (Ha- ha).

A fake Swiss army penknife. It has a lot of great tools including scissors, screwdriver, toothpick, and a thing for getting stones out of horses hooves – which is a pretty useless actually as no way am I getting that near to a horse. I like its fakeness, I know the feel of each blade as it cuts me to the quick.

Two red postie bands. The posties drop them everywhere and I am compulsed to pick them up. I have a box full. I may sell them back to the post office one day, but it's the colour that attracts me - danger, blood, and morning eyes.

A small coil of green wire. Just in case I need a small coil of green wire - which should I cut? The red or the green?... Kaboom!

A yellow sherbet boiled sweet. There’s always a boiled sweet. Just check YOUR pockets, it'll be there - a sticky , messy mess. Gumming your pockets and causing your small change distress.

Back left:

Another penknife. This time a small, square, almost antique, steel sellotape penknife. I love it - it’s a small piece of history. Small blades scoring small marks on time. Tick - tock - slash - tick - tock - slash.

A bronze picture hanging ring. No idea where the other one is. In the forest if a picture falls does anybody hear the sound of one hand clapping?

My piece of lucky pottery. Yes lucky pottery! I found it on a beach in Wales. I love the shape and the way the sea has worn away at its edges. I rub it to bring me luck - and it doesn't.

Back right:

A few bits of chewing gum. There’s always chewing gum. Check YOUR pockets. Does your chewing gum lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight?

Frank’s phone number. Don’t ask. Let’s just say he’s some random guy my dad met on the pier and who might be able to help me with financial matters. Wonder if he’s from Nigeria? Maybe he's an angel, fallen or not, and maybe he could help... Please leave a message after the tone.

Small white pencil: No idea where I picked this up, not in the bookies for sure. A small white pencil to write down things. A pencil to even even up the score. The pros and cons, the cons and pros... but the answers? Who the hell really knows?

Shirt pocket: Where I keep my phone.

Memory stick. So that I can… sorry, I forgot and just as well.

Co-codamol capsules. For myyyyy back and other pains.

Staedler lumocolor pen. Ready and waiting to doodle my doodles, to take me out and abroad and fill my soul.

So there you go - my pocketful of hopes and dreams.

Dreams and hopes, some coins, some pills.
And thoughts, and mopes, and bands, and thrills.
The contents of my pockets, no more.
A gateway to myself for sure.
Dreams and hopes, some coins, some pills.
My thoughts and mopes.
Make of me what you will.

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Vicar of Love and le chat Bon Chance...

Meet the Vicar of Love and his cat (le chat) Bon Chance. I don’t know much about them really, they just popped out of my pen while I was listening to the Archer’s last evening, although I don’t think that the Archer’s story line had anything to do with their appearance. I can’t imagine the Vicar of Love or even his cat roaming around Ambridge somehow.

No, I don’t know much about them but I might as well tell you what I do know. They live somewhere in the deep south of the United States. New Orleans I think. The Vicar of Love is a huge man, the size of a bull - in fact that’s what his congregation at the Third Church of The Ju-Ju Jesus Peanut call him - The Bull.

His cat Bon Chance is a stray. The Vicar of Love found him squashed flat and mangled on the highway, run over by a trucker’s truck and then by the cars and SUV’s, hogs and hotrods, that came along after it. He was quite dead of course, but the Vicar, never one to be put off by something as inconsequential as death, managed to revive him with the power of prayer and pussy prosthetics. Now, when Bon Chance wags his tail it’s with the aid of the motorised tail-wagger that’s embedded in his 100% synthetic rayon fur.

Of course all the random robotics and miniaturised micro-technology in the world wouldn’t have brought Bon Chance back from the dead any more that it would have corrected the misspelling of his name. Bonne Chance is a feminine phrase, but Bon Chance is ‘as Tom as tomcat’s can be’ as the Vicar of Love declares to his congregation every Sunday. So dropping the second ‘n’ and ‘e’ seemed to be in order. Anyways, New Orleans ain’t France in spite of its pretension and petticoats.

The power of prayer is a powerfully prayerful power and the Vicar of Love a powerfully powerful prayer-man. The Ju-Ju heard his words and Bon Chance was raised again, raised from the dead like some kind of feline Lazarus – Lazapuss as he’s been nicknamed by the Vicar of Love’s congregation.

That’s it. All I know about The Bull and Lazapuss, the keepers of the Holy Home, the attendants of the hoodoo heart, the watchers of the Third Church of The Ju-Ju Jesus Peanut.

They may reappear and they may not. They may grow and flourish or they may wither on the stem and die as is the way with all doodles.

Eye-eye to all that do be eyeful.



Sunday, 2 October 2011

Window open…

It was a warm evening last night.

I could hear the sound of wine bottles clinking against glasses as people barbecue partied in their back yards. Further up another group were singing happy birthday, the sounds of children’s laughter tinkling like music in the evening air.

The young woman across the way, the one who wears red silk to bed, played her piano well and quietly, making real music, a background to the balmy night, something haunting and classical that I don’t know. Playing as the evening deepened, only stopping when the light had gone completely.

At the other end of the road I heard the sharp clack as one hard plastic bowl hit another, sending it skimming over the short green grass with a whoosh. Bowlers on their bowling green despite the real estate value of the neatly edged square of manicured grass. Murmured shouts of approval and gentle claps each time a good bowl was made.

And insect hunting swifts crying their shrill song high above, higher still the buzz of planes off to goodness knows where without me.

Warm and balmy, kitchen window open, I sat and listened to the world outside as my radio related its tales

But with rich red wine, I didn’t mind.

The window will be closed for winter soon.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Bring on the dancing girls...

You know your life is grinding to a halt when all you can think and talk about is the weather. So here's a few pictures of some exotic dancing girls to add a little interest to an otherwise quite dull post.

Yes, I know - any excuse. I say, raaaather.

Mind you the weather is quite a talking point what with the Indian summer and everything. I’ve always found that to be such a romantic phrase, it conjures up images of balmy nights by the Ganges and harem-panted dancing girls, hence the pictures above.

Not that I’ve ever been to the Ganges and as for the dancing girls – well, I better leave it at that I think, before my prose gets too purple. Not that the term 'Indian Summer' has anything to do with India, it doesn't. The Indians alluded to in the term are all North American apparently.

Phew, it’s been so hot, the hottest September I can remember and today is likely to be the hottest October day on record.

More proof that the seasons are changing, not that its unusual for the seasons to change we seem to forget that there were Roman vineyards in Lincolnshire and you could still skate on the Thames not much more than a hundred years ago.

The seasons aren’t as constant as we seem to think, but even so we still believe that summer should take place in summer and not in the autumn.

All of those weather phrases that I learnt at my grandmother’s knee, they don’t really seem to apply any more. We didn’t have showers in April, March didn’t come in like a lion or out like a lamb, and did June flame? I don't think so.

And what are the lyricists going to do if they can’t rely on having September in the rain or summer days being crazy, lazy, or hazy – just what does happen when spring doesn’t get sprung? And you can pretty much get tulips anytime of the year, even at Christmas, so no need to wait for spring or to go all the way to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam? Don't they have dancing girls in Amsterdam?

Oh well, it's this Indian summer. It'll always bring me back around to the dancing girls. Now where did I put my pretzels, and crackers, and beer?