Pheasant Suicide

The lanes and hedgerows are full of Pheasant this morning, and none of them has an ounce of road sense or hedge sense between them.

I know they’ve only got to survive a few days, just long enough to be worth shooting, but you’d think chick breeders would set up some sort of preparatory school for aspiring gun fodder. If they taught them about road safety, perhaps by setting up video screen in the breeding pens that randomly lit up showing pictures of cars and loud engine noises to scare the chicks, there’d be more of the left for shooting 😀

After three near collisions, between the birds and my car’s radiator grille already today, I’m a nervous wreck and have an overwhelming desire for a roast Pheasant dinner… Hmm, who do I contact to patent a new pheasant-training device I wonder 😀

New Floor Loom

I’m now the proud owner of a floor loom, a little larger than the table loom I already have (but not quite as large as the 9 foot wide one I was considering). It’s just a pile of parts at present, and the low selling price reflected this) but after carefully studying the photos all the parts are there. I now just need a day out in Oxford on Tuesday to collect it, and another day to assemble it 🙂
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Life Modelling

I’ve just done my first session as a Life Model for many years, in fact I still had a waistline and muscles last time I modelled. I couldn’t remember all the “standard” art college poses but I think I got close enough to them to keep the artists happy, and they’ve asked me back to model again 🙂

Luckily the longest poses I had to do were only 15 minutes, but even so a few of my wasted muscles felt like they were having a heck of a workout. Despite the aches I enjoyed it, especially as the coffee was good – also the quality of drawing was very high, perhaps too high as I could see that I really need to get rid of a lot of flab from around my belly 🙁

Anyway, if anyone is undecided about life modelling then don’t be shy, I’d really recommend you giving it a try. It’s a good laugh and you’re helping people to learn to draw and sketch…

More Welsh Blanket Practice

This is the piece I started threading last night before realising this morning that most of it was threaded wrongly 🙁

After a lengthy correction I finally got it right – a balanced plain weave similar to Welsh blanket patterns (and before you say that the white warp stripe in the centre of the photo is wider than the others – it’s supposed to be) 😛

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Welsh Blanket Weave

I’ve been experimenting with plain weave and colour using just 2 frames to get a checked effect instead of the easier 4 frames.

It’s not quite what I wanted as the pink isn’t a solid shade, varying from pink, through blue, to grey. If it had been a pure pink the effect would be much more noticeable.

Ah well, so much to learn, so little lifespan left to do it 😉

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Open Weave Scarf

I know I said I was putting the Loom away for the winter but I had one idea which I really wanted to try first – to use different colours, textures, and diameter fibres in my warp to make a fairly open-weave vertically patterned scarf instead of the usual horizontally striped pattern.

I think it works… :)  (Sorry about the poor photo)

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I was an Orphan

In Blandford Forum I overheard a group of girls trying to one-upmanship each other by saying how hard their childhoods had been. Just as they went into a doorway I heard one of them say “Well I was an orphan because my mother died before I was born”…

I’d loved to have heard the attempts to top that one 😆

It’s not all fun being an Artist!

You may think that being an artist is just one long round of hedonistic pleasure, but have you ever stopped to consider the immense stresses experienced during the creative process?

When was the last time you had to decide what colour the bikini should be on the tarty Angel of Grimethorpe? Should the dog with it’s leg cocked against a lampost be a Whippet or a “heinz 57” mongrel? The nightmare of having to mix dozens of shades of mucky grey to represent dirt-stained brickwork, dirt-stained roads and pavements, dirt-stained pigeons, etc, has to be experience to be believed. 😉

And it’s not just stress – there’s the work-related accidents to consider too…

The other day I narrowly avoided serious injury when my wife saw I’d got red paint on the front of my new shirt, there’s the repetitive strain injury from having to constantly pick up a coffee cup and ponder the next stage of the painting, the frightening risk of splashing yourself with pigment and being mistaken for a plague victim when out in public, and, of course, the ever-present fear of visitors to the studio making “constructive” remarks on your work thereby causing severe damage to your fists when you beat the visitors to death… 🙂

So it’s not all relaxation and pleasure being an artist – far from it. I think I once saw it placed by statisticians amongst the top ten most dangerous pastimes in the world, ranked just below bomb disposal… 😮

Next time you’re passing a Gallery selling contemporary art why not pop in and show your support for “Artists in Need” by buying a bit of artwork (anything, except by Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin as their work is shite) 😀

DAW Barbecue 2014 at Sculpture by the Lakes

To mark the end of Dorset Art Weeks, Simon and Monique Gudgeon invited participating artists to a barbecue at their home at Pallington. Naturally both Sue and I (and Fluff) were invited along too 🙂 Despite the dozens of photographs I took at Simon’s it may surprise you that this photo, taken by Simon, perfectly sums up the DAW Barbecue at Sculpture by the Lakes for me – a feeling of warmth and friendship. Mind you, the evening didn’t start well as Sue and I had been missed off the Guest List (you’re in deeeeep trouble next time I see you Tash!) 😉

Luckily I was recognised by Ken as “one of Simon’s weirdos” so was allowed in. Then Simon cruelly tormented me by setting up my alter ego “Cedric” in pride of place on a plinth in the Gallery and sending everyone in to view him (and Amo made me pose by him whilst she took a photo )… It was made no better by the discovery that we’d left our drinking glasses at home, and Sue’s choice of beverages for the evening – highly non-alcoholic bottles of Cucumber-flavoured water and a Lemon/Mint Pressé – next time, I pack the hamper 😀

However, Simon soon came to my rescue with a crafty bottle of beer (which Sue then drunk) and we were loaned glasses by (I think) Claire Thomas and David Norton, which I’ll have to return sometime.

It was great meeting artists and friends old and new, and especially matching faces to names and facebook personas, though it was surprising how many people knew me – the power of facebook networking 🙂

As the night wore on and people drifted off home there were just a few of us left sitting around the fire (getting roasted after Simon piled half a forest on the fire) and swapping jokes and stories, mainly about how bad Darren’s coffee was, and my former life as Manchester’s “Most Wanted” 😉

Monique kept changing the music to match the mood and the feelings of warmth, comfort, and friendship will last with me for a long, long time – a perfect end to DAW. We drifted down the candlelit drive to the cars at close to midnight with a BIG heartfelt thank you to Monique and Simon for being, once again, the perfect hosts – oh yes and our little dog “Fluff” who was allowed to spend the evening in our laps says thank you too 🙂

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A Fiery Death

I’ve said it before, but this time I mean it.  That damn Yak aeroplane from Compton Abbas Aerodrome is going to come to a fiery end just as soon as I can find a SAM missile going cheap on eBay…

It’s been circling over my house for the last ten or fifteen minutes with it’s loud, rasping, farting, unsilenced engine shattering the peace and calm of the valley… Cars, lorries, motorcycles, etc have to have silencers fitted to their engines – so why not aircraft?

So back to missiles… I can manufacture all the explosive and propellant needed thanks to A level Chemistry, and even knock up a reliable infrared detector to lock on the plane using my C&G in Electronics and Ham Radio, but it’s the guidance system and detonator which will cause me problems. 🙁

That’s why I want an ‘off the shelf’ missile.  Anyone got one for sale? 😀

The Amazing David Lee (Jackdaw Magazine)

There may be several highlights of Dorset Art Weeks 2014 for me, but the most memorable will be listening to David Lee, the acerbic art critic, give a talk about the “Contemporary Art Market”. 🙂

The talk, arranged by Simon and Monique Gudgeon at ‘Sculpture by the Lakes’ was amazing, brilliant, highly witty, informative, [add your own list of superlatives here] exposé of the contemporary art auction and collectors “racket”. Anyone who missed this talk should be kicking themselves and immediately subscribing to his bimonthly magazine “The Jackdaw” to see what they missed.

After the talk I was fortunate enough to be invited by Simon to join them at their table for lunch where David proved his talk wasn’t some carefully rehearsed speech, but instead a true reflection of his wit and his opinions on life and art – rarely have I enjoyed a lunch more I really hope to hear him speak again, but in the meantime – yes I have sent off my subscription to “The Jackdaw”! (The Jackdaw Magazine)

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Andromeda

Two and a half million years ago something exploded in our nearest galactic neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy. 😮

The Gamma radiation released by the explosion would have been enough to wipe out any form of life in half the galaxy, and was still powerful enough to get scientists on Earth all excited as the radiation was detected here by a satellite we have in orbit, “Swift”, sent up to detect these bursts.

But don’t worry, we’re 2.5 million light years away from Andromeda so in no danger of an apocalyptic event here on Earth – instead feel sad for all the life which maybe was destroyed when it blew… 😥

Annie Freud

I called in at Simon and Monique Gudgeon’s “Sculpture by the Lakes” http://sculpturebythelakes.co.uk/ today to listen to the Annie Freud Lecture on Lucien Freud’s paintings.

She was an interesting, informative and entertaining speaker, passing on personal anecdotes and insights about her father that it would have been impossible to get from any other source… Well worth getting out of bed for 😀

Afterwards we had a very tasty lunch at the on-site Pop-Up Cafe, which was made even more enjoyable by sharing a lunch table with Simon’s mother, who gave me enough stories about Simon’s youth to keep him squirming for months 😉

In all, a grand day out! 😀

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Driven to Distraction

There are two things guaranteed to cause even the most hardened Dorset driver to sink into a state of total despair, a state where even the basic will to live is drained dry. I am of course talking about Tourist Caravans, and Horse Transporters 🙁

Caravans are a common curse and are regularly seen trundling along our roads being followed by huge queues of traffic unable to overtake… That’s annoying enough, but why do these tin-tent draggers decide to take their monstrosities down single-track country lanes without having the ability to reverse or perform any other form of manoeuvre to prevent an approaching road user having to reverse half a mile to find a wide-enough passing point? Probably poorly programmed Sat Navs which direct them through farm yards, cart tracks, ploughed fields, and country lanes that are too damned narrow for them [Grrr]

But they aren’t the worst of the Dorset road nightmares! Farm vehicles and slow tractors I don’t mind at all, HGVs and wide loads I can tolerate, but bloody Horse Transporters driven by women more used to driving Nissan Micras, possessing as much roadcraft as the average housebrick, and all the sympathy of a Spanish Inquisition Torturer I loathe with every fibre of my body…

Irrespective of the speed limit they go everywhere at 20mph, wander over lane dividers willy nilly, treat roundabouts as their personal property without ever stopping at the line, cut every corner and junction, will never give way or reverse on a single track road even if they’re only a few yards past a passing point, and they will never, ever, no way, pull over to allow you to overtake!!!

They think the world was created around the needs of these horsey-type drivers to the total exclusion of all other drivers. If you try to remonstrate or suggest they reverse the three feet into the passing point to save you the 400 yards reverse to the next one you’re treated with such contempt (and occasionally foul language) that all you want to do is find somewhere dark to hide and end your worthless life as rapidly as possible. 😥

So if you’re coming to Dorset this summer: 1. Leave your damned caravan at home and rent a static instead, and 2. Forget your smug “Baby On Board” car sticker if you want to be treated with any respect – only a “Horse On Board” sign will hack it! 😆

Diet

Sue has decided I need to go on a “serious” diet – not just an everyday diet, but an extreme reduction in calories…

I’m sure there’s some Human Rights legislation banning cruel and inhumane treatment 🙁

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Happy Cinco de Mayo

Why am I being assaulted by dozens of “Cinco de Mayo” emails? The last time I checked, Dorset was quite a distance from Puebla specifically, and Mexico in general so I shouldn’t be caught up in one of their regional celebrations 🙁

It’s bad enough that Yule and Halloween have been perverted by crass American commercialisation, but now advertisers are trying to get me to spend money to celebrate a bunch of Mexicans thrashing a bunch of French in a battle for independence 🙁

On second thoughts though, I quite like the idea of celebrating France getting a kick up the bum… HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO EVERYONE! 😀

My Brush With Royalty

In the dim and distant past I worked as a fireman in Manchester and was stationed at Agecroft, a station which contained the Fire Service Control Room where all the 999 calls were received and dealt with by a bevy of beautiful firewomen.  To a young healthy fireman being posted to a station full of women was bliss, and Agecroft soon gained the reputation of being both the best and the most unruly station to work at.  This was probably the reason that Greater Manchester Fire Service decided to build its new Headquarters just up the road from Agecroft station… Tragic! We went from a 24 hour party to 24 hour spit and polish almost in an instant.

Being so close to headquarters did have its advantages though.  Any VIP visitors to Headquarters usually ended up down at our station so we were always equipped with the latest machines and newest technology, and the station got redecorated and refurnished as a ‘showpiece’  station.  One idea the ‘powers that be’ had was to turn the station in a kind of “Thunderbirds” location where some of us would be trained to drive articulated vehicles and have several trailers based at the station housing all sorts of specialist units; a Mobile Control/Major Incident room, a Decontamination Unit, a Heavy Rescue Equipment Unit, an advanced Breathing Apparatus Unit, and a Canteen Unit.  This worked great until we needed three units at one incident and realized that we only had one tractor unit to pull them…  Eventually Agecroft was left with just the Mobile Control Room and the rest of the Units were sent to other stations.

Computers were just starting being introduced into business at this time (the early 1970s) but anyone walking into our Control Room could have been forgiven for thinking they had slipped back into the 1940s. The equipment was ancient and the control girls were looking after a city of over 4 million people with a few antiquated phones, and a handful of battered A to Z map books!  Eventually someone at Headquarters decided to build a new control room and try and incorporate computers into its operation.  This had never been tried before so a local electronics giant (Ferranti) was approached to work with us on the project.  They agreed but on the proviso that someone from the fire service who was computer-savvy was sent to work with them in the early stages…  Damn!  As the only graduate fireman in the county (possibly the country) I was torn away from the bosom of my station (literally in the case of a certain firewoman) and sent to work in a seedy “Top Secret” factory full of angry looking soldiers carrying rifles – Ferranti were engaged on several military contracts and were classed as an IRA target 😮

Anyway – to cut a long story of pain and suffering short, the team developed an integrated mapping database and fire control system to go into the new Control Room – from looking like “Dixon of Dock Green” to “Star Trek” in one fell swoop!  I was returned to the bosom of my station (literally) to help train the firewomen in the operation of the new Control and be on hand for any software “hiccups”. Eventually the great day came and all the controls girls said farewell to Agecoft and moved into the new Control Room (leaving the old Control intact so that they could all run down the road to it in case of a major systems crash).

We needed a VIP to officially open the new Control Room and who better than Prince Charles?  The ‘Royal’ Loo was installed, Equerries arrived to give us briefings and training, rehearsal after rehearsal of ‘mock’ incidents were made to demonstrate the operation of the Control Room, and I was detailed to drive our flashy, newly computerised Mobile Control Room into position in the HQ car park.  During rehearsals this had gone without problem, even though squeezing a huge articulated lorry into a space designed for a few cars was a little difficult; but on the day, with a gleaming and polished lorry, wearing brand new uniform I arrived at HQ to find gardeners had planted shrubs and laid turf in the area I needed to use to manoeuvre.  The sight of a fireman in the dawn sunshine stripped to his underpants, rolling up turf and pulling up shrubs had to be seen to be believed…

With turf and shrubbery replaced, me showered and suitably uniformed, and the Mobile Control Room in pride of place it was just a case of indulging in the national pastime of ‘waiting’.  Firemen aren’t that good at waiting, we’re more ‘doing’ sort of people so it wasn’t long before a crowd of firemen and control girls had gathered in my Control Unit to have a crafty cup of tea (I’d included tea-making facilities in the design of the Control Unit) and a game of cards.  Whilst we were chatting someone asked me what I was going to say if Prince Charles talked to me?  I jokingly replied that I’d say (in a Yorkshire accent) “How do Charlie, how’s yer Mam?”.  Unfortunately one of the Royal Equerries that were prowling around must have overheard me…

When Prince Charles arrived and walked towards me and my flashing, bleeping, aerial strewn computerised Control Unit he was grabbed by the elbow and firmly led away in the opposite direction by one of his ‘minders’.  So ended my only brush with royalty!

Incidentally they must have very long memories these Equerries as several years later when I was awarded a medal that is normally presented by royalty it was given to me by the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester instead!  Looks like I’m off the Queen’s Honours List for good then 😉