Tuesday, December 27, 2011


My daughter's family have endured months of upheaval while the extension was being built and the new kitchen fitted...just for her to set fire to it and also burn a hole the exact shape of an iron in the new utility room carpet... a day or so before all the family arrive for a get-together.

Luckily, the fire was put out quickly and the smoke damage was confined to the cooker area. A teddy bear now sits on the utility hot spot, hiding it from view.

When we got back home after a fantastic family Boxing Day, we found out that trees have blown over into our garden in France. for some reason, though, I'm as unconcerned as Juli was with the fire. C'est la vie!

We've had a wonderful Christmas and our wood store has just increased significantly.



Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Serene has just picked up grandma (my MIL) to help her with her Christmas shopping. She has been so ill of late...especially last night, that I thought it impossible to even think about her going out today.

As she knew what day it was when she woke up, I felt optimistic and, after a hearty breakfast, an insulin jab and her tablets, I closed the door behind them on this wintry but sunny day with the hope she gets my present first:)

I enjoyed the few moments before they left, watching the Christmas tree lights with Spencer as Serene searched for the screw from MIL's glasses which she had just dropped in her part of the house.

Anyway, they are gone now, and I scrambled up the stairs to my studio, grateful for such a caring daughter in law.

As it turns out, my MIL had her purse stolen whilst in town shortly after withdrawing £200 from the bank and Serene, having returned to the scene to make certain all bases were covered, accidentally locked her keys in the car and had to be rescued by her dad who dashed all the way from Mansfield with a spare set.

Sometimes the blessings aren't always apparent when you go the extra mile.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

I feel like Mrs T when she said that the Lady is not for turning...then made a U-turn.

I've felt a little lost not recording my life online...especially now that the busy period is over, therefore I will resume soon...perhaps once the busy Christmas period is over:)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Last Post

Like General Custer I'm feeling overwhelmed and have decided, unlike him, to surrender before I become a casualty.

I began this journal in April, 2009 and thought I'd be making entries until I drop, but now that I am painting full-time, I feel the need to de-clutter.

Genealogy is one area that I've neglected over the years and need to make space for.

Once my other blog (Destination Brittany) is up to date and categorised, I will be leaving that as a complete record for visitors.

I will continue to visit my good blogger friends and hope they will be friends with me on facebook or visit my art blog which, unlike this one WILL be around in one form or another until my last breath.

Thank you for all your comments over the years...I really do appreciate them.

Finally...this is not goodbye. KEEP IN TOUCH!

Daily Art Blog

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Usher

While on holiday, we attended church with my son and his family. We attend this church whenever we are in the area and count many of the members as good friends.

As we quietly edged our way to two vacant seats right next to my good friends Marie-Jose and Florent Vogel, my son, with his wife and daughter Liliya, sat three rows in front. Liliya was displaying signs of discontent and the usher who I didn't recognise, kindly came forward and offered her a 'quiet book' to play with. It was a thoughtful gesture and I immediately warmed to him.

I noticed Corinne leading the music...she has such style and enthusiasm. I caught her eye and she smiled. Later, she would be coming for dinner with her husband and daughter.

I desperately wanted to talk with Marie-Jose, but to do so would have been irreverent. I glanced around and noticed so many of the people we have grown to love over the last eight years. It was a good meeting and, in the crush afterwards, we never managed to speak with Florent or Marie-Jose. It will be another eight months before we see them again. I think I'll invite them to dinner in May to make certain we get to talk. In the meantime, I'll practise my French.

I later found out that the stranger at the door who was so kind to Liliya,  is head of President Sarkozy's bodyguards. She was obviously in good hands...as is President Sarkozy, no doubt.

I love being reminded that a common faith can, and often does, bring so many people together who would, under normal circumstances, never have the opportunity to mix.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Back to reality

I'm back from holiday and, as I sit here with the sun streaming through my studio window and warming the left side of my face, I feel a little out of sorts. Yes, I know I shouldn't, but I do.

It doesn't help to be reading a book entitled 'The Art of Dying'.

Perhaps when I pick the brush up and start painting I'll feel better. Perhaps when I catch up on a few blogs, I'll feel better still.

I invariably feel this way after a good holiday...especially after listening to world news or reading a national. I should also make certain that my calendar is clear following a break.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

How would you feel if you lost your home?

Well, waddya know...the Sunderland v Chelsea game isn't until this weekend because of International fixtures last Saturday. Perhaps it's just as well that I'm out of the country...unless they show it on the ferry.

Anyway, I don't now why I'm speaking of such small things. Yesterday was a disastrous day for the owners of Dailypaintworks.com...the site that hosts and auctions my small paintings.

They just happen to live in Bastrop County in Texas and were just one family of approximately500 that lost their homes to the raging fires. Carol Marine (a fellow artist) gives her reaction along with what they managed to save as they evacuated. She wasn't able to save her larger paintings.

I just can't imagine how I'd feel if my home was burned down. Devastated wouldn't even come close. David and Carol seem unbelievably calm and practical about it all.

'All is well' he says...'We are safe and face a new beginning'.

How positive is that from a man who has just spent the past year building a new studio for his wife, only for it to be destroyed along with everything else.

It's made me think about where everything is, should I need to get them out in an emergency, because fire is something that can strike anytime and anywhere.

If you Google Texas fires, you'll get an indication of how big a disaster it is.

Friday, September 02, 2011

High life and a rich vein

Having read a bit about Lady Gaga, you can keep her...talented, yes, but I've decided to strike her off my Christmas card list for a whole load of reasons.All that's gold doesn't shine, are words from Dylan that come to mind. Actually,why am I still with Dylan after all these years? Perhaps I'm just picky when it comes to who I spend time with:)
I guess, in her defence, being a celeb has its own set of pressures and rules.

I've tasted the high life this week and felt a bit like a celebrity myself, having been featured in several local newspapers and radio, but you are pretty safe with me...I break no rules and my behaviour is predictably boringly safe...most of the time:)

I'm in Mansfield at the moment and it's 6:30 am. In a little while we'll be setting off for Sunderland to plaster my daughter's bedroom ceiling while she is on holiday. We'll then be attending Craig and Anna's wedding on Saturday before making the journey back to Newark. The biggest disappointment will be missing the Chelsea v Sunderland clash at the Stadium of Light...just minutes from the reception venue. We'll hear the roar of the crowd as we score and poor Craig will have difficulty making himself heard. Okay, we'll be a mile away, but a mile is nothing when 38,000 fans get excited. I'm so looking forward to the wedding, though...and the beach which is facing the reception hotel...and seeing family and friends, and walking barefoot in the sand, and...

Money can't buy what the weekend has in store for me and being poor affords such a rich vein of experience at times. 

I just hope Sunderland beat Chelsea. The reality will probably see us being beaten 3-0 but I'm already working on responding in a positive way:)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An off day only if I let it

I admit to knowing nothing about Lady Gaga other than having heard one of her songs today (which I liked).  I heard it said that she enjoys wallowing in loneliness as it's what makes her the artist she is.

I am an artist of sorts, albeit a few thousand leagues below her apparent calibre, and understand a little of the loneliness of the studio and the creative process. Thank goodness for music, radio and regular distraction. I don't think I would cope without modern technology.

Today wasn't a good day.

Imagine how I felt when, after hours of struggle, I dropped today's painting wet side down onto fibre rich carpet. The lady wasn't the only one feeling gaga.

All is well...I just had to scrape off, dust myself down psychologically speaking and start all over again.

They say that it's what life is all about, but I can do without it :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Working with one family or another

Having spent the weekend at a CHinK charity sale and a work project at the home of one of my sons (which just about wore me out now that I sit here and feel the effects), oh, and socialising with Paul and Debbie...not to mention the normal routine of study, church, painting and shopping...I wonder if I'm not trying too hard to make the most of life.

More recovery time is a sentence that's bouncing around my brain right now...or have a more realistic calendar. The next four weeks show no signs of let-up and I can't amend anything. I guess I'll just have to stop complaining and be thankful for a full life:)

This is Friday's little painting which I forgot to post here...

Today the sun streams through the window as I sit to apply paint to canvas and I am grateful for the rest.

Here's today's offering...

Thomas Marent, the wildlife photographer, has kindly given me permission to paint this happy scene from a photograph found in several UK newspapers last week. I love the way the baby urang-utan is is trying to grab the parent's ear as they both screech for joy.

The details of the charity to which the proceeds of the sale will go, along with Thomas's website are over on my art blog.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pennies from Heaven

And I still managed to paint.
Fist of all, this is yesterday's painting the proceeds of which will go to charity.
Details of the charity is over on my art blog.

Today's offering...with a little help from the girls...they told me what I needed to do.

Highlight of the day...Hollie emptying all the loose change from her mum's purse into my piggybank.

Guess who's babysitting tonight while Bev and daughter go out?

Monday, August 15, 2011

He just isn't that bad. Not all rogues are criminals.

In my humble opinion this is a very misleading headline...

I knew Norman as hard working, articulate, confident, considerate, positive, likeable, resourceful and enterprising rogue. He was even humble and teachable to a degree. Yes, he loaned money without authority to do so, but it was never a secret as far as I remember. They were short term loans made to a few desperate individuals until the next pay day. He saw it as offering a helping hand rather than anything more sinister and would struggle to get his money back. He also offered a gift wrapping service in the run-up to Christmas as well as trying to establish his office cleaning business.

I liked him. I still like him. He's more honest than most in my opinion and certainly a person not deserving of this article which is a touch misleading. If Norman says someone was lying, I would tend to believe him...but who would believe a loan shark?

I'm not condoning the practice of money lending registered or not, nor of Norman's actions. I'm merely pointing out that you shouldn't believe all you read.  Everyone that knew him saw an indefatigably happy, helpful, smiling and positive individual. Rarely would you see him like this photograph...unless he felt aggrieved.

I once had an accountant who fleeced us for a lot of money for services I later found out to be nothing to do with our type of business. He knew he was charging for such services. Yes, there are real criminals who are licensed to fleece us and they are often well respected. There are others that I have had personal experience with that should be locked up... but not Norman. I trust my instincts and can usually recognise if a person is hardcore criminal and evil to boot...not Norman. Give the man a break.

It makes you wonder who else the press hang out to dry.

On a separate note, but still with crime...I finished this book last week...
It's a true story that shocked Victorian Britain in June, 1860. It was recommended by a friend and, although a terrible crime, the book is also crammed...and I mean crammed, with interesting facts. It was a fascinating book that has to be read through to the last illuminating page. Don't be tempted to google the original case as it will reveal who the murderer was...or will it? Things are not as straightforward as they seem.

The only time I found myself drifting was during references to the great crime writers of the time, even though one of them was a certain Mr Charles Dickens. Mr Dickens had his own suspicions regarding this crime.

I think this is the first book I've read which is of a specific murder and, strangely enough, I would recommend it.

Todays little painting...
This is another study of Featherbed Rock in Seaham, NE England.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I forgot to mention how it went last Saturday evening...
We arrived and saw that we weren't included on the table plan...I'd forgotten to RSVP! Bev gave me one of those looks that told me I wasn't doing too good today.

As luck would have it Kirsty, Corrine and Karen spotted us and insisted we come in. I've known Corrine for years and I'm still unsure how to spell her name. Anyway, it was so good to see everyone and we enjoyed chatting and generally catching up.

Kirsty is a down to earth kind of person who speaks her mind and I was mightily relieved she didn't blow me out of the water for not replying.

I was disappointed with my not remembering the names of some of the guests that I worked with just a month or so ago, but after having more than my fair share of the buffet, the old brain cells kicked in.

I spent six years of my life with K, K and C, and you couldn't ask for a nicer gaggle of people...if you catch them on a good day :) Seriously, they are what life is all about. You could write a book about those three and, if Jane was alive, it would have been a best seller. It was a chapter in my life that isn't without extremely fond memories.

I'm feeling a little emotional right now as I remember my friend Dot who was diagnosed the same time as Jane and who has been informed she has, at best, a couple of months before she's taken from us. She is so positive and grateful for the time she has had and, even now, thinks about others more than herself...just like Janey.

Anyway...back to the wedding. It's a shame we couldn't get to witness the actual wedding ceremony, but thanks for the invite to the reception Kirsty and Andrew. You are a lovely couple and we are grateful to have shared a little of your big day.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Accidents will happen...

I've been away for a few days helping our son to board and plaster two bedrooms...including the ceilings, and I'll be back on Monday to do the stairwell. One of these days I'll have a normal midweek experience.

I slept solidly and woke in leisurely manner. I read Jean's blog and thought I'd do whatever takes my fancy.

We treated ourselves to a hand-held walk to Newark and visit the market...after a breakfast treat at King Charles 1st.

We tried the downstairs room this time...
Bev gazing out onto the busy street...she saw 7 people in town that she knew...I saw none.
A smaller version of this jug caught our eye at the market and so we bought it and I, being considerate, took the responsibility to carry it home...
On the way home, the bag handle snapped and the jug hit the ground and smashed. Bev no longer wanted to hold my hand.

As she silently walked home alone, I dashed back to the market to buy another. Sadly, the smashed one was the last one...but the lady let me have the larger one and didn't charge me.

So, Bev is smiling and will hold my hand again at Kirsty's wedding reception tonight because she got the jug she really wanted anyway.

Just a thought...when Bev came running into the house in tears last year after she backed our new car into our newly built gate pillars and damaging both, I hugged and consoled her as it was only an accident, right?

Today, when I accidentally dropped an inexpensive jug, Bev's consoling words were...'You are dead meat if it's smashed'. No hug, no sympathy, no warmth. Okay, I know I shouldn't have accommodated that thought. It just popped into my mind...as they do.

Incidentally, the market lady put it in a stronger bag and then into a second bag for good measure. As she smiled to hand it to me, our eyes met and I could almost hear her thoughts...you men aren't used to carrying bags. Here, I'll make it easier for you not to mess things up again.

We men are sensitive to unspoken words (as well as unguarded spoken ones), you know:)

This little painting is the day's work. It's story is on my painting blog.

Monday, August 01, 2011


Yesterday we enjoyed a really nice walk along the river to the Queen's Sconce (fort). If you click on the image twice you might be able to glean some details.

Then a walk to the castle to take a photo to show where King John died (poisoned). He died at midnight in the room behind that narrow arched door to the left on the first floor with the four narrow slotted windows (click image for magnification).

Now, for clarification on the hanging demonstrations that I mentioned in my last post...

The hangman was in period dress (1351) standing next to the gallows and he was explaining the process of being hanged, drawn and quartered and demonstrated how each tool was used in the quartering process that lay on the table before him.

William Wallace was believed to be the first to be found guilty of of High Treason and, as such, the recipient of this barbaric torture.

The victims (males only...females were burned at the stake) were first dragged behind a horse to the gallows. He was then hung but cut down before he died in order for him to witness having his intestines and stomach drawn from him. I should have taken a photo of the tool used for this process...pretty gruesome. It was a three-pronged fork on a two foot shaft.

There is some confusion about if the 'drawn' refers to being dragged by the horse to the place of execution or the removal of intestines. Anyway, the next process was to hitch a horse to each limb and send them on their way. To ease their burden...the horses burden, someone was given a cleaver to make the first cut at the base of the limbs. The head was then hacked off. The various parts were displayed in different locations as a deterrent to others.

The practice was abolished in 1870.

After the demonstration I enjoyed a hearty lunch consisting of chicken...quartered.

Incidentally, the most common profession of those who have been hanged in England is butchers. Who'd have thought that?

Now, whoever said the English were cultured?

On a brighter note (s'cuse the pun), I learned that musicians were paid more than archers during times of battle... lute players, no doubt :)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

John was so greedy

I enjoy being without internet, TV and newspapers while I'm working in France and was shocked to learn of the fragile state of things in the USA, a mass shooting spree and the death of Amy Winehouse when I returned yesterday. It seems too few are taking control and others are out of control. I was reading a non-fiction book about the 1850/60's last week and I get the impression that things haven't changed a great deal.

Strangely, the most alarming, though not the most tragic news was regarding the USA. Can you imagine the impact on the world should they default on their debt commitments?

So, what did I achieve in my media starved world in France this time round? Not much really, but I'm so tired. (details over on the Destination Brittany blog)

Today we walked to Newark and enjoyed the atmosphere of the market. They also had hanging demonstrations, musket shooting, lute playing, sword fighting and everything medieval in the castle grounds.

I was particularly impressed with the area in the castle that King John died so painfully. They say he only had four faults... he was cruel, greedy, lustful and ... and...can't remember the fourth, but I think I have more than that albeit different ones (I think / hope).

I really wished I'd taken my camera...every time I forget to take it, something happens.

I'm glad to be back, for once.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

No indispensable man

When I left Vodafone's employment last month, this verse by Saxon N White Kissinger came to mind even though I was far from the most qualified person in the room and that my leaving would leave a hole that would easily be filled....and it was. 

It was also a great reminder of how much I would be missed.

Sometime when you're feeling important;
Sometime when your ego's in bloom
Sometime when you take it for granted
You're the best qualified in the room,
Sometime when you feel that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how they humble your soul;
Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that's remaining
Is a measure of how you will be missed.
You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop and you'll find that in no time
It looks quite the same as before.
The moral of this quaint example
Is do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember,
There's no indispensable man.

I'm off to France tomorrow for ten days to work on the house...I wonder if, in my absence, Bev agrees with this blog post title:)

Friday, July 08, 2011

Back to painting

Today's efforts...This is Featherbed Rock on Vane Tempest Beach. I was supposed to do a small sample, but went straight ahead and painted it 24x24. It's about half-way there.
 This is a small 6x6 that is now sold, but I couldn't resist strengthening it before sending it off on Monday. When I varnish it tomorrow, those colours are going to explode. Can't wait.
Now how many times am I going to tinker around with this Irish rock pool? I'm a lot happier with the flowing water and am tempted to call it a day.
 A favourite scene of mine...a step closer to completion.
I can't wait to get painting full-time, but with France looming next week, I'll have to wait a while longer.

These are too big for my art blog so they'll end up on my website when finished.

We just nipped out about an hour ago for a treat (Chinese takeaway) and got caught in a truly violent storm...thunder claps and all... it was tremendous and we were drenched as we ran into Blockbusters to pick a film for the night.  We enjoyed Liam Neesom in Taken, so we picked another of his films just as the ceiling collapsed behind the counter.

We stood with dropped jaws at the torrent of water gushing from above and drenching the staff and stock. It was the most incredible scene and proved most entertaining. There was more water falling than the waterfall in the above painting. Of course, they couldn't operate the till so we eventually left empty handed as they emptied the store of customers and locked the door behind us.

The storm has now passed and the sun is shining.

That was an experience and a half and was one of those times that I wish I had my camera with me because I can't believe what just happened as I now look out of the window.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Couple of treats from last week

Had a great time last week and just one of the highlights was a first-time walk with my baby sister in Mowbray Park. We paused to sit in both of these which were about 500 yards apart, to read the words.

How would you finish each verse?

Another special date was with my daughter who treated me to a concert for father's day to watch Ron Sexsmith at the Sage.

The big old bridge is Newcastle and the new Millennium Bridge is Gateshead...the Sage Theatre (mirror cladded armadillo) is in the middle above Juli pulling faces...

 The old bridge...

 We stayed after the concert to watch the various colours of the tilting bridge...Pity my camera doesn't stay focused for bright lights, but it gives an idea...

 Juli still in wacky mood...

The bridge fully tilted...how can you tell I didn't take the photo?

I'm a lucky dad, eh?

She did make me work though :)

The full verses from Mowbray Park...

If love was a lion, it would purr like iron, burn bright as orion.

If love was a rose, we'd watch how it grows, learn all the secrets it knows.

Monday, July 04, 2011

A first time experience

This is what I wrote and should have posted before going to Sunderland ten days ago. I'm back now and feel a new man having had almost 12 hours much needed sleep last night.

22nd June...The drive is finished and looking good, although I think I'd like another sprinkling on top and whack it down nice and firm. I'll have to wait because the gravel is out of stock...as if I care. I welcome the break.

I've never caught a train from Newark to Durham and am looking forward to to this first-time experience. When Chris picks me up at the other end and drives me to Sunderland, I will be at the mercy of Juli for a week or so.

I expect the list of jobs to have already been penned and their completion eagerly anticipated. Roll on tomorrow for my first-time experience...and another chance to be of use.

Enjoying Wimbledon
Enjoying the chocolate from Father's Day
Enjoying not feeling guilty about those extra few strips of  chocolate today
Enjoying the warm days
Enjoying waking up
Enjoying ticking off the jobs completed
Enjoying reading blogs
Enjoying hitting the pillow
Enjoying my dreams

Not enjoying feeling zapped around lunchtime and having to push myself.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Can't seem to fit everything into my day anymore.

Another study of Vane Tempest Beach...or should I say two. I'm fiddling around with it and I shouldn't. This one is the latest version...a little rougher.

I was also busy with the drive...not sure if Bev will be pleased.

It's strange, but I feel as if I'm running out of time even though I have all the time in the world right now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I'm so happy that I felt hungry to paint today.

Here is an oil study from my sunset walk with Juli along Vane Tempest beach last week.

The walk only lasted an hour or so, but was special because we shared the same space; just the two of us for a change...and the two people fishing...and the two canoeists.

The dying rays of the sun seemed to breathe life into everything it touched. Had Juli not insisted we go, I would have missed an unmissable experience.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Golden Memories

I was in Sunderland for the funeral service of uncle Ronnie, and it was great to see the family and visit old haunts.

It's been 42 years since I was in Barnes Park so I was glad Juli took me back on the way to pick Susan up from work at the hospital (she works on the ward where I was born).

I was particularly impressed with the way they turned trees upside down, carved faces and painted them ...

I loved these seats...
And this water feature...featuring Hollie...
These reminded me a little of the steps of an Inca Temple...currently used for people to run up and down to get into shape...Juli and Hollie declined.
Me, my sisters, one of my brothers and two Aunties at the get together...
Mowbray Park...The place I used to go for lunch when I first started work...a tramp sat next to me and helped himself to my sandwiches on my very first day. I also used to catch tadpoles in this pond...
This is what's in the glass building (Winter Gardens)...
Emmaleigh and Aimee were singing to the Lady Mayoress with their school friends (in the same park)...
Do you still think Annabelle and Hollie are cute:)
Spent some time at sunset with Juli at Vane Tempest Beach (six minute drive)...
Met a Leeds lass, fishing...

A golden memory to go with the rest over the past few days.