Thursday, 31 May 2012

Not yet small kitten, not yet.

Woke this morning to soft summer rain and a delicious coolness in the air. Summer rain, what wonders it can work; my plants in the courtyard (yes, courtyard I call it, and courtyard it is) seem to have doubled in size with its softness – something that tap water would never do. Luna (Looney Loo, Lunatics, Lou-Lou Longshanks), my cat smiles at the ground outside from the window wishing that she could go outside and paw it, smell it, drink in the rain and explore the wide, wide world – not yet small kitten, not yet.

And far away in another part of the same wide, wide, world…

There’s a tree I know that is needing a house in it. Tall and reaching to the sky, a good tree – strong. A tree to withstand the wind, shelter from the rain, a tree of many branches. I’d build a platformed veranda to sit upon and drink cool beer and blueberry flavoured red wine, eat olives and peanuts, hum and read and smile. I'd watch the stars shooting, sending my wishes out into the wide, wide, world.

There, catch the wish in your hand and hold it close.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tales of the bunting...

About that letter from the Street Party Committee then…  “Well, the countdown has now begun to the Street Party to end all Street Parties! With over 150 partygoers already confirmed, the Street Party promises to be a fantastic celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee!”

On Sunday the committee are hanging out bunting (no, not a euphemism) – miles of it, draping it backwards and forwards across the width of the road from house to house. Just how they are going to do this will be… interesting. The road is wide, the houses a mismatch of Victorian townhouse and Metroland mock Tudor mini-mansion, different heights and different levels. I hope they have ladders, sky-hooks, or at the very least a good sturdy crossbow.

On the day of the party (Monday) I have been asked to sweep up my front path and move my car. All cars must be moved off of the road by 9a.m. when the road closes. No problem there as its been impossible for almost anyone to park on the road for weeks due to the cones and builders vans and the incessant and obsessive behaviour of a certain party who shall remain nameless. As for the sweeping – I know just who to borrow a besom from.

The wristband station opens at 10.30am! YES, the WRISTBAND STATION! We know how to do a thing properly and anyone wandering up a road without a wristband will be physically removed and summarily ejected. WARNING: Second offenders will be hung from the bunting for the pigeons and crows to peck at. Apparently the kids all get Union Jack ‘tattoos’ – well I guess they can have them surgically removed in later life.

The food will be brought out at 12.00 sharp. We are all required to provide 1 sweet and 1 savoury dish to feed at least 6 people, so despite the 150 attendees we are obviously catering for 5,000. I will of course be providing loaves and fishes although I’m not quite sure about the sweet dish – maybe a little ambrosia or some manna? I’ll also be making water into wine… or do I do that the other way around?

At 1.00pm the bouncy castle opens.
At 1.15pm the bouncy castle closes for hosing down in order to remove the children’s lunches.

At around this time the Children’s treasure hunt also commences. Hopefully no children will be lost down drains and eaten by circus clowns.

From 2.00 there will be a number of events including skipping, basketball, a Hula Hoop race, an egg and spoon race, Pinata (Pinwhata?), and of course the Dads v Kids massacre football. Listen, if I know the Dad’s down our road the Kids have no chance. Talk about competitive. Not only do they clean their cars every week, they go running and some of them even play squash! Those poor sweet Kids (the ones that avoid the strategically placed psychotic clowns) have no chance, they’ll have their feet chopped from under them in the blink of an eye and the blind tosser Referee (who is one of the Dad’s) won’t see a thing. I predict 80 - 0 to the Dads on penalties - because Dad’s like taking penalties.

Just before 5.00 the winner of the Best Dressed House and Best Dressed Partygoer will be announced. I’ve no chance with the house (all I have is 60 metres of plastic bunting, 30 flags, 60 red/white/blue balloons, and a dozen life-sized cardboard cut-outs of the Queen), even on ordinary days the array of flags and all things British (particularly badly parked Minis) in our road is outstanding. My neighbours have even gone to the trouble of having a pair of replica Buckingham Palace gates recently installed.

I do have high hopes for the Best Dressed Partygoer though. I did consider a Pearly King or a Beefeater, but in the end decided to dress as Anne Boleyn’s executioner – full face mask, hairy chest wig, black tights, axe and of course a basket with a real severed head in it – that should make the smaller kids into basket (see what I did there) cases giggle.

After this – at five of the Official British Summer Time clock - the party is over and the real party begins with arguments, more beer, more wine, barbecues, more arguments, maybe a parking wars duel or two (muskets customised Uzi Semi-automatics or sabres) and lots of falling over. We’ve been advised to keep our alcohol close at hand and label to avoid confusion. I assume that we should write wine on our wine, beer on our beer, and meths on our meths. Well, if I’ve been drinking since 10am I’m bound to be confused by this time and probably incapable of labelling anything; not even with my usual ‘X’.
TOP TIP: I’ve found in the past that super-gluing your bottle to your hand (making it impossible to put it down and lose without smashing) works well in these circumstances.

And finally, as the KGB committee finally instruct on the leaflet – “Enjoy yourself, meet your neighbours and, most of all, HAVE FUN! Let’s make our Street Party a chance for us all to rediscover our Great British Community spirit and have a Jubileetastic day to remember!”

Jubileetastic... Yes, really - don’t worry, I’ll let you know.

Monday, 28 May 2012

God save the Queen...

Okay, first things first, although why this should be first when I have so many other trivial and annoying pressing and important things to do is beyond me.

I woke up before dawn with my old companion upon beside me – how I fear love that horrendous cute black dog and the way he follows me around sometimes for days at a time, weeks even… Here boy, here boy and eat this lump of poisoned meat.

Anyway, I eventually dragged myself away from The Black Spot (as I call him) and, getting myself to my feet, went downstairs to find a letter from the Street Party Committee on my doormat. Now I don’t actually have a doormat but for the purposes of this exercise please imagine a coconut matting Union Jack in red, white, and blue (obviously).

Now the Street Party Committee aren't actually a party. They are a group of right-minded people intent on making sure that everyone celebrates and enjoys the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Cue trumpets - TRAAALAAAAAAA.

Yes, the Diamond Jubilee celebrations loom and we are having a STREET PARTY in our… well road actually, we aren’t a street and the officious community-minded self important appointed committee had circulated a circular in A4 rectangular format. WARNING – you may need to Google this… Shades of Linda Snell!

Now simply mention the words ‘Street Party’ and anyone over the age of 50 will begin to reminisce in black and white about all those street parties of long ago that they ‘remember’ so well. Of course they are really just replaying old newsreels, but to hear them talk street parties were an almost weekly occurrence. They must have had street parties for everything - I can just picture it… ROLL SCRATCHY BLACK AND WHITE NEWSREEL WITH DAMBUSTER MUSIC IN BACKGROUND… CUE POSHLY SPOKEN TOFF MALE PROBABLY WEARING A DINNER SUIT…

“Well chaps, Old Mrs. Carter at number six has just had her hysterectomy, how about a bit of a street party to celebrate?” 

Or “Young Tommy Smith has got that flibbityjibbit Polly Perks up the duff again. Silly chap, well at least he’s a generally sensible boy, so he’s having nothing to do with her and his folks are throwing a street party to cheer him up.” 

Or “I say Fred, Did you win the match? No. Well, not to worry, why not have a street party; drink a few barrels of beer, forget your troubles, and then go home and shout at the wife?” 

Or “Lucky Billy Brown has rickets and the Local Nursing Home has given him a free pair of stainless steel callipers with the deluxe leather knee pads…” 

Well, you get the idea.

Yes, street parties at the drop of a Union Jack hat!?… Well, I’m over fifty and I remember precisely errrrrrr… one

And a very low key affair it was at that; even though I tried to brighten it up a little by playing ‘God Save the Queen’ by the Sex Pistols repeatedly through the PA whilst drinking can after can of Stella Export and swearing loudly each time the queen or any other members of the royal family were mentioned “PRIVILEDGED TWOTS” (letter substituted to avoid treasonal execution) – well, it was thirty five years ago and I was YOUNG -- birds and hearts flutter into the air to the strains of The Carpenter’s ‘ClOsE To yoU’ played by Johhny Rotten and band.

FACT - Street parties are usually reserved for royal occasions or the ends of big wars and are generally very few and far between unless the Germans are involved.

FACT- This latest rash of patriotism is fuelled by the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and for some reason I, who believe that the Russians pretty much got it right ding-dong-bell, am looking forward to it.

FACT - I’ve bought bunting and balloons from the £ shop to decorate the outside of my house.

FACT - of course this could be the last street party for a while given that royal divorces, deaths, and small American-led wars in desert countries don’t really seem to count on the street-party-worthy scale.

FICTION – the weather is going to be SCORCHIO, although it is forecast that way by the idiots men at the Met Office. We’ll see…

Now, about that letter from the Street Party Committee… “Well, the countdown has now begun to the Street Party to end all Street Parties! With over…”

No, I think I’ll save that for tomorrow…

Sunday, 27 May 2012


photoshop coloured scan for those that dream in colour
There was a time when all I would have needed to know that I was a success was to get an illustration published in the Radio Times. A few years later I met someone who’d done just that, he even came along to one of the legendary parties at my house. A few years after that he was applying to me for a job to stick together pieces of paper … but he failed the psychometric testing.

I pulled strings, but sometimes even a master puppeteer fails. That’s the way with alcoholism, he lost it all through the shakes. Poor Carl, best damned line man I'd ever met as well.

These days, as I’m sure you all know, I doodle.

ink on card original for those that dream
in black and white
If this doodle were in the Radio Times it would illustrate an ‘Afternoon Theatre’ story on Radio 4 about a poor Victorian mother who, on losing her only child to the coughing disease, seeks solace in a spiritualist medium. The medium uses a specially manufactured doll to lift the veil, opening the door to the other side; that hidden side behind the veil of tears, the place where only children and dolls can go.

And the rest…

Well, as in all good tales of mystery and imagination - the doll seems to gain a life of its own with inexplicable and terrifying consequences for both the medium and the mother.

I’ll leave the rest for your imagination. By the way, when you go to sleep tonight – don’t look under the bed...

Pleasant dreams.

Mama. Mama. Mama.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Euromillions, Eurovision, sausages...

Funny the things that I find as I'm walking to work.

Work, that’s a laugh – I’ll try again. Funny the things I find walking to my expensive hobby. Yes, the world of glass is very slow at the moment – could be the hot weather, could be the recession, could be that people have decided glass is too glassy and are drinking out of wooden beakers.

Yes, I think that by now you may have guessed that my blog post is going to be PrEtTy RanDom today.

I bought a ticket for the Euromillions last night. I was convinced I stood a pretty good chance as when I checked my pockets I had exactly two pounds in change and it included my lucky penny – you know, the one I found last week. EXACTLY two pounds... IT WAS A SIGN! Exactly two pounds and my lucky penny! To keep the luck with me I asked for a lucky dip and DIDN’T LOOK AT THE NUMBERS (that always works) and when I got home I stuck my lucky ticket FACE DOWN to the kitchen cabinet to keep in the luck and just in case I was tempted to peek. Yes, THAT WOULD DO IT.

I went to bed happy and CONVINCED that I would wake up a millionaire and able to retreat to that Greek Island that is waiting for me in the Aegean. I dreamt of naked maidens iced champagne and white cotton suits and awoke excited and ready to begin my new life.

Okay – let’s cut to the chase, I know that the suspense is killing you.

Not even a sausage… not even a singing one.

So today on my walk I found a sheet of handwritten music. It’s called K.M.S. which I imagine stands for the title of the piece - Kiss Me Sweetly or Kick My Shins or (for the gangsta rappers amongst you) Knob Me Slap - something like that anyway.

I’m afraid that I don’t read music so can’t recognise the tune but I am convinced IT IS A SIGN!

And this sign means….........................


Oh yes he will, just mark my words.
Oh no he won't.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Keep Calm And Whatever…

Pre-war Britain, a nation in the shadow of conflict with people expecting the worst, bracing themselves for whatever fate and Mr. Hitler had in store for them.

“Don’t panic Mr. Mainwairing. Don’t panic! ”


Those five bloody words and their derivatives are everywhere aren’t they? All part of this terrible nostalgic, pink and duck egg blue shabby chic that’s everywhere. Yes, everywhere and on everything - posters, mugs, key rings, underpants and any number of other products; the words themselves seem to call out from a world of rationing, doodlebugs, and the home guard. “Keep Calm And Carry On.” It’s easy to imagine a wartime Britain where this iconic phrase was firmly displayed on every street corner. After all, the government, specifically the Ministry of Information, printed over 2.5 million copies. In truth though not a single citizen ever saw the slogan, let alone gained any strength or encouragement from it.

“Keep Calm And Carry On” was the third poster in a series of three. The first being "Freedom Is In Peril. Defend It With All Your Might" with 400,000 printed and the second "Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory" with a print run of 800,000. The idea behind the posters was to maintain morale during the first few weeks of the war.

By the outbreak of war the first two posters were posted on public transport, in shop windows, upon notice boards and hoardings, whilst ‘Stay Calm’ languished in a ministry warehouse waiting on the invasion of Britain by Germany. The years passed, stack upon stack of posters gathering dust waiting for an invasion that never came. Finally, when the war ended in 1945, they were reduced to pulp and destroyed.

Then, 55 years later in 2000 a bookseller, Stuart Manley, from Alnwick in Northumberland came across a copy of the poster in a box of second-hand books he had bought at auction. Stuart’s wife was so taken with the poster that she put it up by the till. Soon customers were asking to buy copies and, as Crown Copyright expires on government works after 50 years, the Manley’s began selling reproductions. Sales remained modest at Barter Books until 2005, when it was featured as a Christmas gift idea in a national newspaper supplement. Today the lucky buggers get an average of 1,000 orders a month from all around the world. With another stroke of lucky buggery on an episode of the BBC's Antiques Roadshow a further 15 were discovered. They were valued at £1,000 each. Kerching!

Today, after only 12 years, the bloody phrase is everywhere – “Keep Calm And Drink Tea/Beer/Champagne”, “Keep Calm And Play Golf”, “Keep Calm And Go Shopping”, “Keep Calm And Walk Your Dog”, even - "Now Panic and Freak Out".

It seems to be the most popular phrase since “They don’t like it up ‘em.” With an almost zen-like simplicity and all very British stiff upper lip, it suits this oh-so-very uncertain world. It sells well in doctors' surgeries, hospitals, schools and government departments and its simple message speaks directly to peoples' personal neuroses. It's not ideological, it's not urging people to fight for freedom - it’s about tea, and routine, and continuing to do what you always do.

 In short, it’s comforting and we all need a little comfort sometimes. I just wish the shabby chicers would leave it alone – it was never meant to be pretty or pink.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

A post about gardening...

Well, I can indulge myself if I want occasionally can’t I? It doesn’t all have to be about… well, whatever it is about, so today I’m going to write mainly about gardening.

I’ve been gardening all my life. As a very small boy I made landscaped gardens on the top vegetable plot. Scale models made out of dirt, a little like sandcastles, but bejewelled with pink roses plucked from the black trellis that enclosed the small area of concrete that joined the front and back gardens outside our back door (which was actually a side door). It is where our old dog Trixie used to play and sleep in the shade, it was there that her puppies jumped and ran for a while.

A few years later I was taken over by rockeries. I loved to weed and dig with my trowel, making the spaces between the buried rocks all neat and clean, moving the rocks around to make them as mountainous as possible. I remember turning over the stones and watching the spiders and millipedes wriggle away, the slugs just sticking slimily to the cold, grey stone. I love rockeries to this day, almost preferring rocks to plants.

I enjoyed it so much that I took gardening jobs at weekends and summer holidays throughout my teens, so when I eventually got my own garden I knew how to make things grow. Growing from seed and cutting is a joy when it works, a pain when it doesn’t - but generally I’m fairly successful.

For a while I was mad about bonsai, then aquilegia. At the moment it’s climbing half hardy annuals, the simpler ones – nasturtium, canary creeper, ipomoea, cathedral bells (if they take) and sweet peas. I’ve grown them in pots to train up my garden arch and to stand on the outside kitchen window sill. I’m hoping for a tumble of colour down the hand-made red brick of the Victorian wall.

My back yard at home’s a place of pleasure, the garden of my cottage in Wales a joy whenever I get there, but not as it has been in other years. Gardening takes time.

So, the fine weather continues and the plants in my little yard love it, growing visibly by the day. Over the next few weeks I expect great things, a mass of unthemed colours – oranges, reds, yellows and blues, deep green and light green and a dozen other hues. Even the sunflowers I save from the florist’s bin have sunny smiles and my seed-grown cucumbers are potted out in the cold frame.

I’ll keep you updated on my trailers. I’m hoping for a hanging garden of babble-on.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

That's the way to do it...

There’s something about a sunny day that tends to lift the spirits and at the moment we’re having a run of sunny days. Perhaps this is summer who knows? Yes, I felt quite the optimist this morning leaving the house to go and view some consulting rooms for my hypnotherapy – perhaps all things are possible after all.

Sunshine, sunshine, call me Dr. Funshine.

No don’t – the real Dr. Funshine is Caroline Meeks from San Diego, California who prescribes laughter yoga for her aging patients. As her website says: “You don’t stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop laughing.’ Well, that explains it then, I wondered how I got to be such a grumpy old man.

Just joking, I’m not that grumpy really – just considered in my reactions and there’s nothing wrong with that. No indeed, that’s the way to do it.

And California is such a sunny place. Easy to be the optimist there I guess - where the sky is for ever blue and the oranges lush the trees. I wonder if the have Punch and Judy?

Sunny ice cream days and Mr. Punch at the seaside - a Punch and Judy everywhere. Such a suitable entertainment for children with the devil, and crocodiles, and Toby the dog, and ghosts, and policemen, and Hector the horse, and mistresses, and Jack Ketch the hangman, and Joey the clown, and the doctor, and Judy Joan the wife, and the baby beatings, and the snake, and the odd black slave or two thrown in for good measure, and of course dear old Punchinello. Once I saw old Scaramouche, another time Pretty Polly, and I’m sure on one occasion an all-bewigged beadle, a pair of begloved boxers, sausages, sausages, sausages, and a long extending penis What fun to be a Punchman controlling the world above your head and voicing with your swizzle, pleased as Punch with all the slapstick and that’s the way to do it.

Slapstick, laughter, funshine,.

Have you noticed how my posts are becoming lists?


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

And for my next trick…

Oh, maybe I’m not one for adventures but there’s no avoiding fate. Of course fate takes many forms – diverse, divided, divine, and for each of us very different.

Maybe it’s a small girl with a hoop caught out of the corner of an eye - blue dress, white apron... and gone, disappeared down a dark rabbit hole. An animal, a cat maybe, fur blowing away and off into the wind. Or a rhinoceros, a double horned creature that a Durer might draw from description and rumour, almost correct, improving the armour plating here and there. Perhaps an ostrich, all feathers and a bucket of sand - better safe than sorry and just in case - just in case.

Fate is a circus of infinite performance and performers. The Circus of Fate – come on in, you’d hate to be late.

Now watch as the carnival passes – the fat lady and the mermaid, the strong man and the unicorn, the dancer and the devil, the hanged, the hooded, the hand-held, and the haunted. I see a tall dark stranger – a policeman, a spy, a sailor, a ringmaster, a shadow, a cad, a priest, a man I should know but can’t quite place and look there he goes… flying through the air with the greatest of ease, all sparkling sparkle on his flying trapeze.

Watch as the carnival passes under the all-seeing-eye.

And for my next trick ladies and gentlemen…

Monday, 21 May 2012

To talk of many things...

xX For my Katie Xx
Cake is so comforting. Everybody I know with 'time on their hands' is busy baking cakes... not me though, I scribble and write away trying to find some recipe in what I do - no luck yet, but I'll keep trying.

I often think about having an adventure, nothing grand, just a small one. Not a holiday you understand, holidays are planned and to my mind adventures can’t be planned, they just happen or at least it’s the unplanned bits that make for adventure.

Problem is if I don’t plan I tend to do nothing and I’m not that great at planning any more. Well, plans never seem to go to plan these days, haven’t for a while.

Let me set the scene: There I was sailing along in my well planned boat, route all planned out, knowing what my planned destination was going to be when… ‘LOOK OUT… ADVENTURE AHOY!’

Of course I use the word adventure in the loosest terms. It can be weasily be substituted for ‘disaster’, ‘fuck up’ even  and although weasily was originally a miss-key I decided to leave it on reflection - and there’s a rhyming couplet in there if you look hard enough.

Perhaps that is why I’ll never be a buccaneer, no not the rhyming couplet thing – pirates spoke in rhyming couplets all the time - I'm talking the unpredictability of adventure.... Yes, anything could happen you see.


I have to wonder what she's sitting
on to make her smile in quite that way.

As I said: I find adventure unpredictable and unpredictable means ScArY WArY.

I’d be the sort of buccaneer who’d want to agree a time and meeting place with the vessel I was going to board. I’d ask what they were carrying and how to best store it and what (if I didn’t like the goods) the terms of return were. I’d tell the captain of the other ship my name and what weapons I had about me and how I could hardly use a cutlass or a dirk, and how I was hopeless with a musket. I’d agree who to kill and who to maim, which bows to fire my canon shot into and I’d confirm it all by e-mail – sorry, semaphore.

No I’ll never climb a mountain, explore the jungle, shoot the rapids, cross the desert on foot, live in Greece in a cave – or even wink at someone who drives past me as a 'somebody I know' was advised by the magic of chocolate recently as a way of breaking out and away.

A Dove or Galaxy by any other name

Let’s put on a show. Where? Well how about here? Now let me see… do we have insurance, where are the fire doors, is the lighting up to it?

Oh well, the VW campervan and that year long trip around the UK (one town each day, interviewing the local loon celebrity) will have to continue to live in my mind along with that bamboo hut on the beach and the tree house.

Out and away… I wonder where that actually is? Sometimes I think that life has happened to me while my back was turned. Oh well, chin up old boy, keep calm and carry on, the best laid plans of mice and men... and all that shit.

Squeak, squeak.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Every woman has her price...

Damn, I’ve torn my jeans and there was I hoping to never buy any new clothes again. Hard to believe that I once cared so much about the way I looked and what I wore that I’d spend a couple of good bottles of wine on a tie and a holiday on a suit. Long time ago now, when I was in shape, when people used to look at me.

Isn’t it strange, when you are young people look at you because you look so great, but as you age for most of us the only way to get noticed is to do just the opposite. Of course this isn’t true of everybody - Mr. Eastwood, Mr. Connery, Ms. Fonda - but even those guys would probably admit that they were easier seen when they were younger - and without their celebrity…. well, who knows.

Anyway, back to me – the subject I know most about. These days I’m almost invisible to the people that pass me in the street. Oh some may look, but not in admiration, they might see the grey cloud above my head or my grey hair and think it a trifle too long and unkempt. They might see the ordinariness of my outside - a middle aged man with a bad back becoming a shamble, beginning to fade. They might even see the different way of thinking behind my eyes, making them look and hurry away. But most see nothing. You have to know me to see me you see, and I’m not the easiest to get to know.

The thing is I say what I think. Now don’t get me wrong, I hate getting in people’s faces and will usually remain silent when I disagree, but ask me for an opinion and that is what you get. Well, you did ask. It’s got me into difficulties so many times.... Like this? No. Don’t you agree? No. That picture is awful isn’t it? No. Do you really mean that? Yes.

I like to think that I can’t be bought, but of course I can; and cheap. I’ve been cheaply bought all my life and after a while - well you either bite back or disappear. I’m not quite sure which it is yet, I’m still thinking. Cheaply bought for a kiss or a smile, a promise, a few quid, a drink or two, a child, a threat, a few tears – yes, I’m still thinking – bite back or disappear?

A woman I know in the rag trade made this manikin the other day. She saw it as a way of displaying her costume jewellery; I saw it as a work of art. She laughed when I told her, giving me that look that says ‘are you sending me up?’

“Make me an offer.” She said.

So I did.

It’s mine now. I think I got it cheap, but she seemed very happy with the price I offered, counting out the pile of twenties and smiling. I haven’t done much to change it, just moved a few brooches – a treble clef here, a fairy there. I’ve added a shattered crystal heart and a spider and of course reduced the prices on all the tickets, selling them cheap. If I find a kiss I’ll pin that to her too.

I call it: ‘Every Woman Has Her Price’.

It isn’t about women though, we all have our price - it’s just that this happens to be a female. Yes, we all have our price - and more often than not we sell ourselves cheap.

Want her? Make me a good offer and she’s yours.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

There’s always the sky...

Just one of those days where nothing really happens. Sometimes I think that that’s a good thing - nothing is okay; and at least it’s not something – something has such infinite possibilities.

The thing is about somethings are that there are good somethings and bad somethings and it always seems to be the bad somethings that we remember, that stick in our minds. Who ever remembers a good dream?

I took this picture in a Welsh meadow this time last year. The skies were blue, the sun warm and there were bright yellow flowers all around. On days like these, nothing days, you can always go somewhere else.There’s always the sky to look at and the sky never lets you down. Just like those somethings the sky has infinite variety, never the same twice, good skies and bad skies - but it’s always the blue skies we remember.

Friday, 18 May 2012

A lucky penny and Donna Summer...

 I almost didn’t stop to pick it up, well I had my reasons. My back was aching and really a penny doesn’t buy anything, I don’t think even penny chews are a penny any more. I hear that the Bank of England is thinking of taking them out of circulation just like they did with the dear old new half penny back in 1984, funny – I’d almost forgotten all about them, they were only around for 13 years.

Besides just how much does a penny cost to make? Well, in raw materials - about a quid for a sheet of enriched alloy. Then there's engravers - £8.90 per hour at a rate of ten pennies per hour - that's 89 pence. Then there's cutting and hardening - metallurgist rate of £15 per hour at a rate of three man hours for 100 pennies - that's 45pence. Then there's inspection, £20 per hour for ten pennies an hour - that's £2 a penny. Then there's anti-forgery department inspections - £30 per hour at a rate of ten pennies per hour - that's £3 per penny. Then security van dispatch at £1 per £1,000,000 per mile, at roughly 60 miles to all the first-point of source financial societies - that's £60. So that's approximately £67.34.

Inflation... inflation... inflation.

And what if someone saw me picking my penny off the pavement? I’m not that close to bankruptcy yet and although there seems to be no shame in declaring oneself bankrupt these days, but picking up stray pennies off the dirty ground is probably viewed with disdain by pretty much everyone - even big issue sellers.

Anyway, back to my penny… so I walked past it and then, a dozen yards down the road, I heard it calling to me and I had to turn back (reasons or not) worried about tempting the fates. I’m like that you see – always worried about running out of luck, always looking to get a little rubbed off on me. “See a penny and pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck.” Well good, but I’m sure the opposite applies and not falling to one knee (as I had to do) to pick it up would surely bring me bad luck and I don’t need more of that.

So I picked up the penny, slipped it into my pocket, and carried along my merry way with a spring in my step, energised by my newly acquired penny’s good luck.

Lucky me. It wasn’t until later that I heard the news.

It was back in 1976 that I first heard the Queen of Disco telling me that she loved to love me, baby, baby - well maybe not me but someone; Giorgio Moroder perhaps, he was producing her in Germany. In terms of my own love life I had recently been left distraught by my very own Queen, Titania, who simply vanished into the air one day leaving me all on my ownsome. Quivers and shakes followed and to regain some sense of normality and reality I scurried back to my parent’s home in Devon. With my dole cheques - that long hot summer - I bought round, black, vinyl discs - records we called them back then and along with the Sibelius I also bought I Feel Love.

After that I was smitten, a lifelong fan of the Queen of Disco, but now she was no more.

I took out my lucky penny when I heard the news, looking at it I remembered that long ago way back when and how the pounding pulsing beat and Donna’s soaring voice had made me so happy during such a sad long ago time, making me want to smile and dance and how eventually I had – Oh, I feel love, I feel love, I feel love, I feel love, I feel love.

Perhaps I was lucky after all. Sleep well my Queen.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Blog wandering…

I found my mind wandering to Katie Cake this morning. You remember Katie don’t you? She couldn’t resist cake. Yes? No? Well anyway, for one reason or another I found my mind wandering to Ms. Cake, so I went looking for her on my laptop. Now my laptop isn’t the most organised thing (my naming conventions aren’t really searchable and my memory scrambled) and at first I couldn’t find her but eventually whether by chance or divine intervention, I eventually opened a folder within a folder within a folder - and there she was. In fact there they all were… my long lost posts.

Yes, my long lost posts.

Some time ago something happened and for some reason I lost my old blog folder, couldn’t find it anywhere, it was gone and with it my Dali cat, the Yo-Yo Monster, Ship of Fools, and a thousand memories. Finding that folder again was like bumping into an old friend and I spent a while just looking through all those old days, some of them on the blog but not all – the pictures of Misty and her Cat Cam that I never used, rejected photographs of clouds and sunsets, half started blog posts that I put to one side and never picked up again (careful - they may pop up some day soon, my life was more interesting back then).

I was lost in there for hours, caught up in the sunny days and cold winters, long walks on beaches, flowers grown from seed, pets and pots and pitfalls. I stumbled around for a while amazed by just how much stuff there was, blowing off the dust, opening up long forgotten treasure… Did I really do this? Could I really not remember that?

And then it struck me, maybe not for the first time, but again and hard. It seems to me that sometimes this blog of mine is more me than me and anyone looking for me would find me here in the words and images, memories and observations, language and statements. When I started this whole thing I knew that it was going to be all about me, I said as much in my early posts. But guess what, it turns out that it isn’t just all about me… it is me. If I ever forget who I am, I can always come here. What a relief.

Anyway drop by anytime, kettles always on and there’s always a piece of cake.

Katie Cake
(or the dangers of cake making)
Katie Cake, oh Katie Cake,
All she ever did was bake.
Up with dawn all wide awake,
Setting to with no mistake,
As though her very life at stake,
Nor any rest did she ever take,
Although her hands would pain and ache,
Of food, she never would partake,
And water too, she did forsake,
She mixed until her legs would shake,
And tiny eyes turned red opaque,
Till mouth would bleed and knees did quake,
And the tips of her fingers began to flake,
She mixed so hard her arm did break!

Oh Katie Cake, oh Katie Cake
Stop baking cake for heaven’s sake,
Instead take that bloodied lump of steak
And warm it in your skillet.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Cutting it down to size…

Sometimes when I’m out drawing in the field as they put it, I end up taking on more than I bargained for. In this case it wasn’t a field - I was standing in a lay-by at Criccieth overlooking the castle. Turning my back on the castle I started to scribble the Black Rock behind me.

A storm was coming in off the sea, not yet fully there, the blue sky not quite chased away, but things beginning to whip up a little blowing my pad and making it flap in the wind.

When I draw I’m not really that interested in what I see. I’m more interested in what I see makes me think I see and then how that makes me feel. Oh, the semblance is there, but for me it’s more about what’s going on in the air, what isn’t quite visible but perfectly clear if you look at things in a certain way.

I look at things in a certain way.

All I was really interested in was the storm bouncing off the rock, unfortunately though I became entrapped by the landscape around it. All I really saw was the wind picking up at the darkness of the edge, but as always all the space around me drew me in and drowned me. All I felt was the change, the colour, and invisible movement in the air - so why the fields, the hedge, the stones?

Sometimes I take my drawings and cut them up, keep the pieces that I like and throw the rest away. Sometimes I’m left with a few postage stamp blurs of colour. Sometimes I cut and cut and cut until there’s nothing left at all.

Where are my scissors?

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A hairy story…

I can’t remember when the grey began to appear, forty something maybe. At first I quite liked it; just a hint at the temples, all very distinguished, but over the years it’s crept and crept until now… well, let’s just say that all my hair is a single uniform colour that mixes easily from just two monochromatic others.

I was born brighter, much brighter with ginger hair. It didn’t last long, within a few months it had turned to a startling white blonde; I never had the blue eyes to go with it though; my eyes have always been black. I spent my entire sunny childhood blond - and then I tumbled, screaming and shouting, into my teens, where it muddied up to an unsatisfactory and mediocre dirty brown. It seemed that I woke up one morning and the light had gone out of my hair, like somebody had switched off a bulb inside my head. Probably they had, so many things seem to disappear when you lose the child in you. Anyway my hair changed to the colour of a small cheese eating rodent, mouse I think you might call it

To combat this mediocrity I started to dye my hair to match the music I was revolving at the time. First it was a bright red as Ziggy played guitar, then a purple black when Roxy hit the scene. That black was my first taster of grey because for some reason it didn’t cover completely - the top of my head was raven but as it progressed towards my ears it became greyer and greyer - a shade of things to come you might say. I couldn’t help thinking, as I stared into the sage green plastic framed bathroom mirror, that I looked like a badger… Bryan Ferry and Badger Music? No, it doesn’t quite have the same ring does it?

Later, as Wham rapped and Duran Duran danced across the sand, my hair was highlighted and low-lighted, tipped and tinted, blonded, ambered and shaded with every hue of brown until even I wasn’t completely sure what my natural hair colour was.

And then came that terrible episode where I allowed my hair to become a brilliant custard yellow… a word of advice... if anybody tells you they are training to be a hairdresser - DO NOT LET THEM COLOUR YOUR HAIR! Trust me, the the word ‘training’ really means: ‘I DON’T HAVE A CLUE WHAT I AM DOING!.

I left my hair alone pretty much after that, allowing only the seasonal lightenings and darkenings that the British weather never brings.

And then one day I woke up to find that grey had become my predominant colour. It made me feel dull, my head matching the colour of my suits. For a while I cheered myself up with Just for Men although I never tried Grecian 2000 - for some reason I thought that it might make me look a little too much like Barbie’s beau, Ken.

And for a while it did make me feel a little better. But there comes a time when you have to admit defeat and simply stop trying… so I did, held up the old grey flag and surrendered.

So here I am my hair the colour of a storm cloud. Not that fantastic steel grey that you get just before a storm, nor that wonderful silver grey that appears as the storm abates, just that flat leaden nothing grey that you get on one of those horrible days when it simply rains and rains and rains and rains and rains.

Yes, I have a leaden cloud on my head where once there grew a sunny day

Oh well, at least I still have hair.

Monday, 14 May 2012


For every little sunshine there's an unshine.

Opposites are funny things; they seem to be so hard to pin down sometimes. We all know that the opposite of heads is tails, black is white, but what is the opposite of love – is it hate, or apathy? Is the opposite of sunshine, moonshine or darkness? And what about life and death, good and bad, up and down? Hmmm, now that I come to think of it maybe it isn’t so very hard at all.

Sun’s shining, Luna dozes on the table quite content, maybe they’ll be no unshine today. I hate the unshine, it comes along too often. Everything seems okay then something changes and the sunshine goes in and the unshine comes out. Maybe there won’t be so much unshine around now that Luna’s come to live, but you never know, you never can tell.

Flip the coin see where it lands, heads or tails, tails or heads? No, unshines no fun, no fun at all.

A friend of mine who I’ve never met or spoken to has gone on a journey. Maybe on the run would be a better way to describe it. I have no idea what happened or where she’s gone, just a few parting sentences left in her daily soup and then nothing. Quite frankly, I’m concerned. Quite frankly I’m worried. I’m thinking that maybe the unshine is after her.

In my mind I see her and her daughter, Puppet, driving in a big black sedan along a dark deserted desert road. They both look nervous. Puppet’s eating a Hershey bar, trying not to let the crumbs fall onto her pink sweater. It’s hot and the chocolate would melt, there isn’t any air-conditioning in the car. Both are wearing black horn rimmed spectacles - “in disguise” as my friend puts it. They drive and drive, mile after mile, going somewhere else, anywhere else, trying to get away from the unshine and find some sunshine. If I could I’d send the Ju-Ju Jesus to protect them but I’m not sure that they’d want that, I don’t know how they feel about these things. I hope that they make it though and The JJP could only help. To hell with it – I’ll send the Peanut anyway. All hail the Holy of Peanut, all hail the Hoodoo-Voodoo heart.

Safe journey my friend.

Sunday, 13 May 2012


Well, I knew I couldn’t last out much longer and when Holly began to ask for a cat (again) a few days ago - and despite me pretending that I would never have another cat, not ever, ever - and despite all my concerns about the responsibility and how eventually, one day, you end up so very sad - and even though I am trying to simplify my life not complicate it further – and even though this – and even though that – and even though whatever…I gave in, I had to. Life without a cat is like a glass without wine to me -and besides I need the love

So, meet Luna – goddess of the moon on earth. Well, that’s the name we’ve given her anyway; Luna white as the glow of the moon on the frosty field on a winter’s night, soft as a moonbeam dancing in the dust through a darkened bedroom window. As yet I have no idea what she calls herself but I’m already hearing some of her other names – Lu-Lu, Lu-La…and others will come along I’m sure. Cats have so many names; they creep into existence and sometimes pop out again.

We had a choice of two, both white, but when I saw the green eye and the blue, well – no contest (sorry other kitten if only I could have afforded you both). Luna Sparkle Eyes – see there’s another.

Luna… and look here comes another name… Missy Mixy Peepy Popple Puss.

Let the magic begin!
Let the magic begin!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Lost for words...

Sometimes I get it so wrong. I was thinking Sheila Hancock – JuSt lo0k cLo$er - Lord Charles, broken wooden chairs, sticks, desperation, personalities hiding in a ventriloquist dummy, black and white, black and white! A gottle of geer, a bottle of beer -- Remember… walls have ears!

 So wrong sometimes. Well, it screams at me now that it’s TOO late!

An A4 sheet of basic printer paper, an hour with… well, things to do, but nothing better than doodle - so I crumbled in.

Of course I was thinking ‘Dead of Night’ I’m such a dummy. ‘Dead of Night’ is the scariest film I’ve ever seen. The first time watched, a forgotten stay-up eight year old sitting in the living room whilst my parents drank tea in the kitchen. The old black and white TV flickering… black and white, black and white! Maxwell slapping the dummy…

SLAP ! "You'll pay for that later."
"Yes..." Maxwell replies wearily; "I will." And then Hugo’s head moves on its own and fixes him with a glass-eyed stare…

I scream!

Yes black and white. I should have left it at that, but I couldn’t and didn’t. Taking out my pens and paints I killed him with colour. I was lost for words, yes lost for words. The colour had killed my doodle just as surely as if his friend the ventriloquist had died inside of him. Seems that you always kill the thing you love.

Scan first, scan first… a bottle of beer and a vodka shot please barman… if my money’s good here. I’m such a dummy sometimes.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Libraries and librarians...

Ah, books... how well I remember them. Not that I’ve given them up completely but I am now the Kindle King (other reading devices are available)… and I have hundreds of unread books that have whispered to my grey plastic mobile library with a single click.

I have most of the novels of Dickens waiting to be read, Hardy, Plato, old favourites from my boyhood such as - The Ghost Stories of M.R. James, The Lost World, Sherlock Holmes, Mr. Kipps… and a host of trashy novels and stories by new authors – and best of all… they are all free.

Now, I shan't read every one, I may not even read any of them; but somehow the guilt of not reading them is offset by not having to pay for them. Gone are the days when I had to finish a book once started because I’d paid and wanted my money's worth. All those wasted hours reading stories that I’d lost interest in after page nine with another three hundred pages to go - strange how the attitudes of a lifetime can so easily change.

The free thing didn’t apply to my library books though; even though the library was basically free (excluding fines at two pence a week). I always used to read them. I had to; just in case the librarian asked if I’d liked it and wanted me to give a quick breakdown of the plot. I was strangely intimidated by librarians, still am I guess, they always appear so in control. I’ve still to see a librarian take off her glasses, shake back her hair, and turn into what I believe they call a ‘hot honey’ though. (Just thought I’d throw that’s the mental picture that pops whenever I think librarian.)

Of course the days of the library and the keepers of said institutions are numbered but I shan't get into that rant just now... syekcal ruoy lla dna noremaC eiD (crack that one copper!)

Yes, I am now a free man, my reading OCD fetters unlocked by my Kindle, copyright, and the dearth of writers happy to give their work away to get noticed - or unread and unnoticed - on Kindles everywhere.

I await the first online Kindle library. I wonder what the virtual librarian will look like? (Pop! Takes off glasses, shakes back hair, turns into ‘hot honey.’)

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Sheds, the sea, memories and meanderings…

Somehow I either missed them or they were there all along and I just didn’t get close enough to the edge. Anyway, I’ve seen them now, clinging to the cliff above the beach at Nefyn at the place where the mudslide washed away that car ten years or so ago. All safe now, the soil reinforced and stabilised with concrete, mesh and marram grass.

Summer houses or beach huts or sheds, it doesn’t matter – there they stand, three of them, facing the storms and the spray of the sea. Just look at that view, imagine the tranquillity on a sunny day, the excitement of a stormy night. Fireworks and barbecues and long cold drinks, paintings and coffee and bacon sandwiches. My envy knows no bounds

Now I know that the shed life isn’t to everybody’s taste. But give me a warm shed perched on a cliff overlooking the sea and the mountains and I will be a happy man, so happy I may never want to leave. Yes, give me a hut by the sea like the chap I met in Barbados who lived in a tin shack on the beach. No bathroom or kitchen, and the tap was at a standpipe across the way, but an open fire and freshly speared fish, coconuts, and the warm Caribbean to bathe in. No wonder his smile was a mile wide.

I sometimes dream that I live in an upturned boat on the beach like the Peggotty family in David Copperfield, and I often get the urge to get up and go to Derek Jarman’s shed cottage at Dungerness, wander his garden, examine his pebble patterns, his found things, and lose myself in my own memories and meanderings.

Sheds, the sea, memories and meanderings… what better combination?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Wall, hedge, mountains, sky…

So, a few days in Wales and me with an A2 pad of heavy cartridge in the car. I like cartridge sometimes, its smoothness and whiteness.

Up at the stables I took myself off for ten minutes and sat on the concrete churn stand where they used to put the milk for the milk board to collect. No churns any more, no milk board, and now I think about it no cows either.

"Go on, be bold." I said to myself, "Just draw what you feel, it'll come together later."

Just one of those early spring days; rain in the air but refusing to fall, fields returning to vibrant young green, ever present mountains ever present. Colour burns my eyes - blues and greens, reds and purples, blue-grey clouds and mottled ochres.

"The shadow keeps changing, light and dark." Just me with a big, trashed, bold, spirit felt pen.

Scribble, scribble, slash - lost for a few minutes, and back. Wall, hedge, mountains, sky - as seen through my eyes... and more felt than seen.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


People seem to expect me to find some answers to the puzzles in my life. I'm not sure that they understand this box I'm in - the way it clicks and moves in a hundred thousand ways, how once you think you have a solution you find that hundreds of moves ago you said a single wrong phrase.

I do.

So off I went to Wales to have a think, a good look, search for the answers. Well, I looked but I didn’t find - perhaps I was looking in all the wrong places.

I looked in the birds bustling on the bird table as they squabbled over seed and fat and nuts. I looked in the sea lapping at the shore, the inland wind making the surface of the sea flow out and on to the horizon. I looked in the flat grey cloud hanging over the mountain, reaching down to touch its old, scarred face, and making it wet with its dampness. I looked in my myriad of pots at seeds just beginning to force their way through the cold soil; they’ll flower late one day I expect. I looked in the cold white flicker of stars, ice chips caught in inky suspension – and yes, I looked in a few bottles.

No clues anywhere, not even a stuffed-in, plastic-bottled, note washed up on the chattering shore – “Help me. I’m shipwrecked.”

Waking along the shingle beach at Criccieth I came across a sea kale. Just the one; lush with new growth, floret heads like broccoli, curly leafed just like land kale - just a lighter green and thicker, almost succulent. Maybe there was an answer here? Reaching down I snapped off a small floret and popped it in my mouth; the greenness hitting my taste immediately, sea salt, the wind, the full moon, an oyster catcher’s cry – but no answers.

Yes, shipwrecked in my bottles. At least I'll have something to eat.

Friday, 4 May 2012


I'm not going to be in for a few days. I'm taking some time to pretend to think and maybe do some scribbling, after all scribbling is when I'm happiest.

I scribble all the time, lots of us do. But sometimes a scribble becomes something else, something far greater, striking a chord in the conciousness of the world - iconic. I think that iconic art is as much about place and time as it is about the image... and then of course there's the marketing and the profile of the scribbler. It all goes together to make a DaVinci, a Warhol, or a Munch. It isn't really all about the scribble at all - is it Mystery Banksy, Mr Hirst?

I wonder how many Munch's and Van Gogh's go unnoticed, spending their days scribbling away but not being seen by that influential someone who takes their scribbles and turns it into dollar-worthy iconic art?

Seventy-four million pounds and all because of a slight wobbly moment on a bridge.

Maybe I''ll find me a bridge to have a wobble on.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Party Pete - a doodle and a tale...

Pete didn’t go to parties any more. It was the laughter you see, all that fun and joking got on his nerves… really got on his nerves. He hated the smiles and giggles and laughter, the guffawing, the tittering, the smirking and snorting – and as for the pointing. No, it was a good job that he didn’t go to parties any more. He felt better for it.

The last party he’d gone to had been no different really. He turned up and within ten minutes or so everybody was laughing. Well, he’d changed all that… he’d soon wiped the smiles off their faces. He left each with a wide red grin though - a really wide red grin - that taught them.

Afterwards he’d tried to wipe the smile off his own face but it just didn’t seem to want to go; he’d rubbed and rubbed but it wouldn’t shift… so he’d given up. Strange really, it had never happened before. No, Pete didn’t go to parties any more. Not that he'd have be able to, even if he’d wanted to; not after all that mess and the other stuff - they’d never let him out again you see.

Perhaps in retrospect he wasn’t cut out to be a clown… Cut out!
Get it! Haaaaaa-haaaaaa!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


Into everyone’s life a little rain must fall or so they say. But it seems to me to have been too stormy for a while now, hurricane force at times. Oh well, what’s the other thing that they say - spring is just around the corner? Well, this is May and it’s not here yet. Sometimes I think they say too much. Mind you they're not alone there, usually silence is the best of friends - shame that he's not one of mine.

I’ve planted a few violas in the borders and tubs at the back of the house. They’ve been slow to grow and the seeds I’ve sown haven’t shown as yet. Perhaps they won’t show at all, what with the cold and dark and wet. The violas are bright against the damp dark earth - cheering almost.

The rain fall and falls, the wind blows, the seeds don’t grow. Ah well, if they are to be believed beloved spring is just around the corner; and those corners are everywhere - corners to cut, corners to turn, corners to be backed into. Yes, every truth has four corners - and I can't find one, let alone the other three.

The raindrops on the window reflect the ground outside, I reflect also. Ah, sweet reflection – just not mine.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The May queen…

Today is May the first, true May day. It makes me think of morris dancers outside of thatched pubs, planting out, and the maypole that was everywhere when I was six or seven. Do schools still have maypoles I wonder - plaiting the red and white ribbons right down to the ground in a potent fertility dance. It's a strange time, not everything it seems, not all good, not all renewal and growth. There's a darkness to it; darkness and love and worship of the queen of the May.

I married the queen of the May - oh yes I did. Here's a verse to remind her.

The May Queen.

I got up from my chair before she’d even knocked the door. I don’t think I knew that she was there before. But opening it, there was she - head up, eyes bright: “I’ve come for tea, and I may stay the night.” “And you are?” Her broom sweeps the question clean away. “No sugar, only China.” I heard her say as she moved into my home - that Queen of May, sucking my life till every drop was gone. This Queen of May, mayhem more like… and yes, she stayed… and slowly killed my light.