Sunday, 4 March 2018

White Winter

The snow finally came to Henley at the beginning of the week. My lttle miniature schnauzer on the balcony is happily accompanied by his little friends as he braves the cold.
And the glass mosaic I made whilst living in Bangkok is suffering a little.
But the cars outside look more comfortable.
Winter is jigsaw time, and this is one we finished yesterday. It’s a Wentworth wooden puzzle of the painting I made of the Queen’s barge ‘Gloriana’ together with the Dunkirk little ship ‘L’Orage’ when they came to Henley during the Boat Festival.
On thursday we saw a lovely little film called ‘Finding Your Feet’ Improbably it tells the story of a middle-class snob taking refuge with her bohemian sister after she discovers her husband is having an affair with her best friend. Starring many well-known actors from your television screen, it’s happy, hilarious, sad at times, but so delightful.
Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, Joanna Lumley, Cecilia Imrie, David Lawrence and Josie Lawrence, they all contribute to making this such a watchable film.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Purbeck Vineyard

It was Val’s 80th birthday on Valentine’s day so as a big surprise the whole family has been secretly planning to take her away for the weekend. Being twenty of us we needed to find a place to accomodate us all. Louisa came up with answer - Purbeck Vineyard in Dorset. It’s located just a few miles from Corfe Castle.

It’s a lovely place to stay - each room is ensuite, has great views and a games room with a pool table, bar billiards, a football game and table tennis. Val was told about the holiday just one day before we set off last Friday. Here we all are standing in the garden.

Everyone brought food and drinks for the first night, then in the morning we all set off to the station for a trip to Swanage on a steam train.

And here’s Jeremy Corbyn letting off steam doing his day job!

In Swanage we made for the pier where 18 years ago a brass plaque was laid into the planks of the pier to commemorate Bob’s time in Swanage with his family. He often took them there. There are many hundreds of plaques embedded in the floor of the pier and once we located its resting place Tim started rubbing it with Brasso to bring back its shine.

Here’s Kate, Louisa and Guy watching the proceedings

Evie, the photographer of the family, had found a picture of all of us standing on the pier soon after the brass plaque was laid eighteen years ago, so she brought it with her and arranged us all in exactly the same positions as we were then. This is the result.

After a really good fish and chip lunch and a look round Swanage, including a short time in the amusement arcade, we made our way to the station for the return journey to the vineyard. In the garden here’s the birthday girl surrounded by the family and all her nine grandchildren

It was a really good family weekend, and as my young friend was invited too I hope her bravery shone through whilst being surrounded by a multitude of Mundys!

I mentioned in my last blog that myf had bought tickets for the Strictly live tour. Although a good show it didn’t compete with the original. This was our view in the Wembley Arena.

Yesterday evening I was invited to the Leander Club in Henley, amongst other artists, local celebrities and schoolteachers for a special briefing on their latest project entitled ‘Hip, hip, hooray’. They’ve purchased 200 small papier mache hippopotami to help celebrate their bicentenary. Leander’s famous emblem is a pink hippo and we have each been asked to paint a hippo in any way we wish to. Then in the summer they will all be distributed around Henley in various locations, and eventually auctioned.
This is my hippo - I now have to decide how I’m going to decorate it.

We can do anything we like. Vince Hill was at the briefing too and has come up with an idea for his. I have a slightly ambitious idea which, if it works, could be quite exciting. We’ll see. Incidentally Leander is the most successful Olympic sports club in the world - measured by the number of Olympic medals it has won.

For the past few weeks I’ve been working hard on miniature portraits for the various exhibitions I intend to enter this year. The Hilliard Society sending-in-day is rapidly approaching followed by The Society of Limners and the Washington Society. But lately I’ve made five portraits for the Royal Society of Miniature Painters London exhibition. Here’s one of them.

I had my last session with Victoria, the physio, the other day at Active VIII in Henley. To regain my full power in my hip and leg I have to do lots of walking (some of it backwards) and to try and keep my balance whilst standing on a fifteen inch wide heavy rubber cushion. Not easy.

Yesterday and today I’ve been helping my young friend paint her kitchen. I hasten to add that she’s very much in charge whilst I am the apprentice. She’s a real perfectionist so my DIY skills don’t neccessarily score high marks!

Sunday, 4 February 2018


I took this photograph of the ironmongery store at Milestones a couple of years ago.

The other day I thought I’d make a large painting based on on some of the many interesting things displayed there. So yesterday my young friend and I took a trip to Basingstoke to have another look and to take a number of really sharp photographs of the store and possibly to make sketches of some of the more interesting items. But although the store was still there all the lovely things hanging on the outside were missing! It seems it will be back as it was in a few weeks - so we’ll have to go back sometime. (I want to include a few surprises in the painting). It’s still great to walk around Milestones. It’s a really special place. Most of the buildings are based on real ones. For several years the curator’s team collected and stored an amazing variety of materials. These included roofing slates, granite setts, wooden flooring blocks and myriad items of street furniture such as lamp posts, pillar boxes and railings. The result is a network of Victorian and 1930’s streets, complete with shops, factories and houses. There are over 20,000 objects ranging from gigantic steam engines to pen nibs. There’s also a second World War ‘Make and Mend’ display.

Here are some of the sights we saw there

And in the section showing household items through the ages we came across a number of mangles - which reminded me of wartime days when I was a boy because it was my job to put the wet clothes through it as I pushed the handle.

Last week we went to the pantomime by the Wargrave Theatre Workshop at the Woodcliffe Hall. What a rollicking affair it was. They were performing Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

Great costumes as well. All the men had curled up Arabian shoes. Although the players are all amateurs I must say they sang beautifully.

I’m busily painting miniatures at the moment - not commissions unfortunately - but new portraits to submit to the three art societies I belong to. Here’s one of them. I call it Rope Man - I saw him last year ar the Henley Boat Festival demonstrating the art of rope making.

I’m getting more strength back into my legs now after the hip operation. At long last I’ve given up altogether on sticks and crutches and am walking about 4,000 steps a day. Still can’t put my socks on without the aid of “ The Sock Machine”, and my “ Picker-upper” performs a few useful functions too.

We like to do jigsaw puzzles - especially in the winter. At present we are working on a big 2,000 piece puzzle showing an illustrated painting of the world.

Beautifully painted it’s great fun to do. So far myf’s been doing the Asian and Australian side while I’ve been concntrating on the Americas and Europe. This is how far we’ve got.

Another great film we saw last week was ‘The Post’ with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep.

It’s all about the Watergate affair and the Washington Post’s role in it. Steven Speilberg is the director and the tension throughout the film will hold you spellbound I’m sure.

This is one of my favourite paintings of all time.

It was painted by Willuam Waterhouse - one of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood artists. This is the man.

William Waterhouse has painted so many wonderful pictures, so I was really annoyed to see that the curator of the Manchester Art Gallery decided to remove the painting “Hylas and the Nymphs” from the gallery last week.

It’s a beautiful painting and just because she may not like the look of naked women it seems totally arrogant of her to dictate to others in this way. Did she have complaints about the painting? No. So what is her motive? Is it a pornographic painting? Of course not. Anyway I was glad to hear that it has now been returned to its rightful place.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Catching up with the Year

A film you must see is Darkest Hour. We went to the Regal in Henley on thursday evening. Abdolutely fantastic. Gary Oldmwn as Winston Churchill gave an amazing performance.

Depicting the period just before Churchill was elected Prime Minister up to the evacuation of 300,000 allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk in June 1940 the film dramatically tells the story of that remarkable and dangerous time in our history. A really thrilling film.
While in Suffolk at the end of the year we visited Lavenham. What I like best about Lavenham are the houses. Many are half-timbered and kept in really good condition. Here are some of my favourites.

Last September, when we knew Debbie was to appear in Strictly Come Dancing we applied to the BBC for tickets to the show. But as myf thought, with a five million to one chance of getting any, our chances were much too slim. So, unknown to me she bought two tickets for the Strictly Tour at Wembley Arena in February as a birthday present for me in October. But when, against all the odds, we did win tickets for the actual show, she kept hold of the tour tickets till Christmas when they became one of my presents. Another present will be a visit to the Warner Brothers Studio tour of the Harry Potter studios. We’ve been before and I found it really exciting, so can’t wait to go again, especially as the Forbidden Forest has been added.

I know I’ll experience another magical day, and a walk through the Forbidden Forest.
We both had a new experience yesterday - a visit to Ikea! Orginally we went to B&Q to look for a new blind for my recently repainted bathroom. But their selection was sparse. So having never visited an Ikea store before we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Once you are in that’s it. You have no choice but to follow the floor arrows all the way through over twenty-four very comprehensively stocked sections. I made the mistake of leaving my walking stick in the car, so after about an hour or so of feeling trapped in a one way Disney attraction we finally (at section 23) found the curtain and blind section. Luckily they had just what I wanted. Must say I liked the idea of an Ikea layout but will only go back again when I need something only they can supply or when I have a whole day to spare! But as we left I bought two large packets of my favourite food - Swedish meatballs.
I should hear soon whether any of my portraits have been accepted for the BP Portrait Award and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Exhibition. In the meantime I’m painting a couple of miniatures for the RMS autumn exhibition.

An old primary school friend has just sent me these old photographs he’s unearthed and taken when, together with two friends I cycled to Paris and back. I was 18 at the time. Here we are setting off - I’m the one on the right.

We cycled about 80 miles towards Kent then camped by the roadside for the night so as not to be late for the flight from Lydd to LeTouquet in the morning.

I remember our fares were £5 each plus half-a-crown for our bikes. After about six days we reached Paris and camped next to the Seine.

On top of the Arc de Triomphe

And a final picure as we camped on the beach when we returned to Le Touquet after our two week holiday in France.

So back to the present - sixty years later. How time flies!

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Nearly New Year

One of my new year resolutions is to write my blog more frequently in the future. Since I had the operation to replace my hip with a new one I’ve really not done very much. At least I’ve graduated from 2 crutches, through one crutch, and now to one stick. In some respects I’m impatient so was expecting to be walking by now with no support at all but so far the leg is not strong enough and there’s too much pain anyway. I walk on average almost 4,000 steps every day - more if I go for a short walk by the river, measuring the distance covered by aiming for a further rubbish bin each time.
Now I’m in Suffolk staying with myf’s parents. Christmas day was spent with my niece Louisa and her family in Marlow- Here she is with her daughter Kate and mother Val.

We had a really sumptuous meal and played a ‘penguin’ racing game with little mechanical penguins from an RSPB cracker. The heavens opened later in the evening and I drove Val home to Henley through massive floods.
We’ve been avid fans of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing show these past few weeks - especially as Debbie has been dancing so spectacularly well - and reached the final- I had planned to give her this portrait I painted of her if she won.

She and her partner, Giovanni, were amazing with their three dances in the final but sadly didn’t win the glitter ball. But I’ve given her the portrait anyway. She told me the other day that she loves it. Which is nice to hear. She’s been working so very hard. And is now playing in pantomime in York.

Now is the time to enter some of the major UK art competitions to be held early next year. These days you have to submit paintings via the internet in the first instance. This is the large oil painting I’ve submitted to the National Portrait Gallery for the BP Portrait Award. It’s called ‘Thursday’s Child’. (The other day I added a shadow behind the figure).

When I submit paintings to exhibitions I’m always very careful to read the rules thoroughly because they are not the same for each one. Many of them stipulate that the work has to have been done within the past two to three years and not to have been shown elsewhere. Fair enough. But when submitting work - and after reading the rules - you need to send the entrance fee before actually adding your paintings to the exhibitions. So imagine my annoyance when I sent off £45 to the Watercolour Society (which did not stipulate when the work had been painted) to discover that additional rules had been added (after the money had gone) which stated that the work had to have been done within the previous 2 years. And as the three works I intended to submit had all been completed prior to the cut off date they were not eligible. So there will now be a battle to get my money back I expect.
We visited Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire this afternoon. Formerly a priory it is now a country house owned by the National Trust. A very wintry day with quite a bit of ice about. As I’m still struggling with a walking stick I hired a mobility vehicle to get around on. First a visit to the house. It’s always kept in really good condition with a large team of conservarors working throughout the winter. Here are a few views in the rooms.

The last picture - part of a much larger landscape - is made from hundreds of thousands of tiny little mosaic pieces - each one about half the size of a pin head. After a tour of the house we spent about an hour in the winter gardens.

Nearly the end of 2017 so having had a new knee and a new hip this year I intend next year to be full of activity - lots of walking, boating and finally going up in that hot air balloon. (The trip was cancelled twice this year due to bad weather). I’m saving hard for my flight in a Wartime Spitfire so maybe, if I win a few lottery prizes to add to the Spitfire money-box, I’ll be flying over Henley before the end of 2018.