Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Peak Chocolate

Look in any body's tin of sweets this very day, any given year and I guarantee all that you will find are the crappy old dessicated coconut centres, toffees that a toddler has discovered are in fact vile and then has returned to the tin plus teethmarks or a few nutty offerings that even granddad's post-war NHS dentures would take a decade to break down. Gone are the velvety cream centres that go so well with a mid morning coffee, gone are those solid little facsimiles of a Cadbury's dairy milk, you'll be hard pushed to find even a 'purple one', you know the sort, soft caramel with a whole hazelnut. 'How does he know that our tin looks like this?' I hear you ask. Well, every time I've visited some one's house at this time of year for as long as I can recall, I've kindly been offered a cup of tea/coffee and this is always a gratefully received but then around comes the tin, like some quarter full poisoned chalice. 'Would you like a sweet? help yourself' is the well intended next question, to which I have no doubt most of us will reply 'oh no thanks, I've really eaten far too many sweets already this Christmas' all the while thinking where have all their b*#*dy strawberry creams gone? Don't get me started on those individuals who insist on putting empty wrappers back in the tin!

It is indeed very likely your tin looks something like this.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Walking Off The Excesses

This afternoon equipped with little more than a wooly hat, a black labrador and a mobile phone camera I decided to take a brisk walk along the 'front' as we like to call it, in order to walk off some of the excesses of the previous couple of days.
Ray Island from accross the fields.

My [sometimes] trustworthy companion, Mabel.

The little old jetty into 'Strood Channel'

Along the seawall towards the 'Nothe'

Waterside cottage.

No one wants ice in their punt! By now my eyes were streaming and my cheeks were numb, it really was one of those typical East Anglian winds that seems to come from somewhere over the Ural Mountains, across the North Sea and up the River Blackwater.

The 'Old Victory', no longer a pub but when it was I like to imagine it as the pub from Baring-Gould's 'Mehalah'.

The legendary 'Company Shed'

On through the boatyard

...and past the houseboats towards home and a welcome cup of tea.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Happy Christmas Everyone!

We have a very old fashioned Christmas in our house. The traditions of the family, whether from my parents, the artist's, or ones we have made up ourselves are written in stone and cannot be ignored.

1. No Christmas sweets to be opened before Christmas Eve.
2. Plenty of Crackers, that's vital (that's my one).
3. No washing machine action allowed on Christmas Day (me again).
4. Gifts are not as important as spending time together.
5. Christmas stockings are important however old you are.
6. Television to be restricted to a minimum.
7. We must make our own sausage rolls, mince pies and cheese straws but if short of time bought Christmas puddings and cakes are allowed.
8. We must have nuts even if we throw them away in February.
9. We must have fruit and try to eat it.

There are many more but you get the gist.

My mum always used to wash the kitchen floor last thing Christmas eve. I have decided that is a stupid idea, well I had last night. This morning I washed the floor at 6.30am, MAD!

And just one more thing. I'm really fed up that Father Christmas is the new Baby Jesus and presents are paramount. I may not go to church but I have a lovely relationship with god.


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

One More Sleep!

The artist and tartist wishing you all a Merry Christmas!

We've always been big Muppets fans in the artistandtartist family and this happens to be one of our favourites.

Something I really enjoy each Christmas Eve amongst all the other excitements is the food 'prep' which for us includes boiling and honey-roasting a gammon joint. I also had to pop out to pick some bay leaves for bread sauce and Delia's recipe seems as good as most, to accompany our turkey tomorrow. Proper homemade bread sauce is not only completely wonderful compared to any 'packet' versions available but is also really pleasurable to make whilst sipping at a 'sharpener' (usually gin and tonic or whiskey mac in our case) whilst the bird roasts in the oven. It may well be 2009 before I get to post again...so in the meantime Happy Christmas!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Shortest Day

Frosty Steps ~ Pastel On Paper

Well here we are again at the Mid Winter Solstice, the shortest day, hard to believe that the days from tomorrow will start to 'draw out'. Almost 'Christmas' for Christians and 'Yule' for Pagans. As for the science of it, this explained it to me in terms that even I could understand. I'm reminded of a saying my great-grandfather used to use, "as the days begin to lengthen, the frosts begin to strengthen". He was a seed grower and market gardner, therefore the weather would have been closely watched all year round. I'm left wondering if it means we'll be getting a 'White Christmas'?

Friday, 19 December 2008

Our 'Point of Need'

I find myself writing this post from a café in the Norfolk and Norwich hospital where I've come with the tartist and her dad so that he can have an M.R.I. scan. He is sadly increasingly confused in his mind and shows all the signs of dementia. Some days are for him, better than others. Sitting with my bacon sarnie and cappuccino surrounded by people at their 'point of need', some in wheelchairs, some wearing eye patches, some hobbling along in plaster with the help of a crutch and a friend or family member, I have many thoughts running through my mind right now.

I'm very aware here of how fundamentally right and civilised the idea of our National Health Service is (despite its enormous cost). That you or I can be provided for in this way regardless of our financial means is something I feel all of us largely take for granted for most of our lives, until, like my father in law we reach our point of need. Then we realise it was just there all the time, benevolent, waiting to help, no invoice, no V.A.T. or commission to somebody further up the line!

I'm also very aware of how equally for granted I take my own mental state. How for most of the time daily life makes perfect sense and that so many simple daily tasks, having a shave, getting dressed, making a cup of tea, for example cause me no anxiety whatsoever. Sadly for John these basic tasks have at times proved such a challenge lately and therefore for his immediate family too. So here we are with the experts and their scanner to find out what John is suffering with and maybe find a way to proceed through the fog of a condition that will inevitably trouble so many of us at some point sooner or later in our lives.

Thursday, 11 December 2008


In response to Juliet's post this morning on her excellent musings and following a chance conversation with her in our local Co-Op about yellow paintings in general re. one of her favourite paintings 'Le Piano' (1955) by Nicholas de Stael I was reminded of this oil painting we have at home by an old aquaintance of ours from Cornwall, Ken Bruce. We saw it in an exhibition of his paintings [I can't quite recall the venue but it was somwhere near Truro]and really liked it. After an awkward conversation about how we loved the picture but couldn't at that time afford it Ken said 'I'll tell you what, there's a watercolour of your's James I've had my eye on for a while, I'll do you a swap'. That's how we came to own this painting and to this day I still feel we ended up with the better of the two paintings.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008


We just managed to hastily grab these pics. on the way home from the artcafe this evening on the artist's mobile phone. The sun had just set and things were already beginning to freeze.

Friday, 5 December 2008


We saw these guys a couple of years ago at Colchester Arts Centre, they were as funny as you like and very talented...who'd believe you could do so much with a humble ukelele!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Jack Frost & The Fighting Parson

The tartist and I were up early yesterday to be ready for an 8.00am start. Once a month we host a breakfast club at the artcafe and when I started the car the thermometer was reading -4°c and as daylight arrived everywhere was frosted white. Once we'd cleared the breakfast things I took a little stroll around for ten minutes with my camera the frost was thawing fast but I managed a few 'snaps' to share...

A couple of hardy souls enjoy a coffee outside

Leaves in the churchyard

Butchers and Church

Inscription on the churchgates ~ Charles Pierrepont Edwards M.C. Vicar 1898 -1946

I managed to glean this little tidbit of information about the vicar commemorated on the gates from the West Mersea town council website.

Rev. C. Pierrepont Edwards
Sometimes known as The Fighting Parson. Whilst serving as a Curate in London's East End, Pierrepont was always ready to settle a dispute with his fists if necessary. He served with the Essex Yeomanry in the Boer War and during the 1st World War became chaplain to the 5th Essex Infantry Brigade. The Reverend was awarded the Military Cross for his gallant efforts rescueing the wounded at Gallipoli. After the war he returned to one of his jobs - that of Clerk to West Mersea Parish Council.

Sounds to me like quite a character.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

I'm A 'Shedworker'

It's true, I'm now officially a shedworker . A wonderful blog/site after my own heart, deicated to all things shed related. A discovery made thanks to Juliet's Musings. Both are certainly worth a regular visit.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

A Modest Purchase

One of my new gloves ~ builders pencil.

Being a rather cold mortal in the bleak midwinter and not owning a pair of gloves I decided to take myself off to the shops and buy a pair. Having a nice brown coat, brown shoes, brown trousers and all, I decided it might best to go down what we artists call the 'analogous' colour route and opt for a brown pair. After visiting at least four shops (with well known household names) and not finding a single pair of gloves in brown I was about to give up hope when 'bingo' there they were, a pair in brown, and pretty nice too. So I made my purchase and was served by a very helpful and enthusiastic young man. Now, you may be forgiven for thinking where on earth is this post going, so here is the thing. As the nice young man handed me my bag and receipt he said "awesome" not "thank you sir" or even "have a nice day" but awesome. Call me old fashioned but surely the noun 'awesome' ought really to be reserved for let's say discovering the holy grail or perhaps the sudden unannounced arrival of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse but it seems these days that even the most modest of purchases can inspire 'awe' in an unsuspecting young shop assistant. It leaves me wondering what words we have left (aside from the obvious ones, usually beginning with an 'f') in store for something truly awe inspiring, any suggestions?

Friday, 28 November 2008

Something For The Weekend

Ry Cooder ~ How can a poor man stand such times and live.

Last time the economic 'poop' hit the 'fiscal fan' (late eighties/early nineties) it had some pretty dire consequences for the tartist and I. That will probably merit a post in it's own right at some point, anyway to cut to the chase, as they say...I've always been an enormous fan of Mr. Ry Cooder's music and this from a concert in 1987 from California seems just as pertinent today as it did then. Here is a man who's music to my mind has real integrity and his guitar playing is a joy. If the slide solo doesn't make the hairs on your neck stand up you can have your money back!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A Brisk Walk & TBTM

I'm missing the tartist this morning as she's away to see her poorly dad in Norfolk and listening to radio 4's news of ongoing economic strife I decided to take our labrador Mabel for a brisk walk along the beach.

Through the village and down towards the 'Monkey Beach'.

The 'Blackwater' was crystal clear this morning.

The weathered remains of an old 2nd world war concrete 'pillbox'.

I'm beginning to use this mobile phone camera a bit like a sketchbook, it's quick on a cold morning and convenient when there's a black labrador tugging at your arm and I recon the results are perfectly good enough for reference purposes.

This little feature in the wall facing the estuary used to house a barometer many years ago...back when local people's livelihoods (especially our fishermen's) were more dependant upon the vagaries of the weather.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Icy Blast Anyone?

View of the church from the Artcafe this morning

We awoke this morning to our first flurry of snow this winter here on the east coast and my brisk walk to the cafe was with woolly hat and scarf, hunched shoulders and hands firmly in pockets. Although the snow didn't amount to much the wind for a while was very cold. I must confess I was hoping we'd see a bit more than the fine sprinkling we received, in order that I might gather material for some winter paintings, however I have a feeling we may be at the start of a particularly cold one this year...we'll have to wait and see. Things look so very different when we have snow that covers everything and stays a while so in the absence of any real snow today here's a pastel of St. Peter's Well I did a couple of winters ago.