Friday, 11 November 2011

Packet Soup... It's Not What It Used To Be!

I can't quite believe it was June 1st when we last posted, much has happened since then, including the tartists' birthday just a week ago. One of the more unusual presents she received was a packet of soup mix, even more unusual as you can see is the flavour, suffice to say we will be conducting a taste test very soon and will report back with our findings.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

In The Studio Again

Well, the month of June is here and I've spent a good deal of today in my studio. I've finished off the old road sign watercolour I've been working on and have stretched a whole imperial sheet of delicious 'Arches' (140 lb rough) paper for a large commission I'm planning to start in the next couple of days. As for the road sign paintings, I can't quite put my finger on why I like to keep painting them, but it's certainly to some extent sentimentality for things quintessentially British and these old cast iron signs are gradually becoming extinct. In fact the one above only has it's post, a small part of one of the direction pointers and the little crescent shaped parish badge left, so I had to radically repair it using artist's licence. For those of you curious as to where this sign is, you'll find it at the junction of Colchester Road and Mill Road in West Mersea.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Fivers by Post

After a rather prolonged Lenten sabbatical from all things twitter/facebook/blog I thought I'd better try and get my hand in again with a post or two. I had been finding inspiration hard to come by, but then by chance my Mum came to the rescue with another of her eccentric plans. She's quite remarkable and keeps us amused often with various projects and schemes totally without realising how much entertainment it gives both family and friends. A couple of weeks back we were all together for a few drinks and a spot of tea to celebrate her birthday, the conversation meandered round as it does in most families after a couple of glasses of wine, you know the kind of thing "...did you ever get a reply from that message in a bottle you threw in the sea beside the Esplanade in 1958?" or "...why did great aunt Agnes run off with that brush salesman and leave a husband and five children?" For some reason on this particular evening Mum asked "I wonder if I put a stamp and address on a bank note and posted it, if it would reach it's destination?" Our Dad's retort was unsurprisingly something like "don't be so bloody stupid woman, of course it won't, some bugger will nick it straight away, I tell you what, I'll set fire to the money now if you like and save you the stamp!" which of course was throwing down the gauntlet so to speak. If there's something Mum can't resist it is a challenge, so she decided to send each of her grand children a fiver through the post in a clear plastic envelope with just a stamp and address.

Well, the bank notes were posted and all arrived safe and sound at their destinations. So it would seem good old fasioned honesty is alive and well and mum has been vindicated in her hare brained experiment, plus each of her grandchildren got a drink out of it too.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

In Praise of 'Dymo' Tape

Would you believe it, human interface design at the Artcafé ?!. An interesting and pithy piece on theartist's brother & sister in law's blog 'You May Also Like' Who'd would have thought that 'Dymo' tape could be so fascinating?

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Shells From The Beach

I'm just back from the beach where I have been collecting some shells and doing a little drawing in the bitter early March wind. The beach here at West Mersea is completely littered with oysters of the Pacific/Gigas variety these days, totally out numbering our native, so I brought some home with me along with mussels, winkles, limpets and some very tiny, pretty whelk-like shells, in order to do some more detailed studies for some larger work I have been planning for some time. The wind seemed to be coming directly off the North Sea and up the River Blackwater, so with eyes streaming and shaky hands, 10 minutes was my limit for each sketch. But I feel totally invigorated now I'm home perusing my finds with coffee in hand and stove alight.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

NHS ~ Failing to Treat Elderly with Care & Respect

John Allerton 1927 ~ 2009

For nearly two years I have been trying to pretend that the things that happened to my dad when he died were a tragic one-off but now I realise the sad truth. I can barely stand to hear the terrible things in the news about neglect of the elderly in hospitals, the removal of all their dignity and total disregard for their human rights.

My father died in hospital. He had dementia which had advanced very quickly and after a short time in a care home was admitted to hospital after a fall, just a fall. Within the first few days he had another fall but it was not noticed that he had broken his shoulder. When it was noticed, he was bandaged with a pillowcase because they "didn't have the right dressing".

There followed a catalogue of neglect bordering on abuse and he wasn't the only patient I saw left to their own devices, without drinks, without help eating, without any caring attention. My dad was nil by mouth and so slowly, over a month starved to death.
We made an official complaint to the hospital and were fobbed off with excuses which we accepted because at that time it was too painful to pursue it. I wish now that we had been stronger, louder and more determined.

My father was in the Royal Navy during the 2nd World War, so he survived Hitler. He had T.B. and diabetes which he survived. He survived the death of my mother from lung cancer, only to die scared, confused and neglected.

Sorry Daddy x

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A Pot Of Tea & A Question On Musical Improvisation

Yesterday my good friend 'Banksy Boy' and I were having one of our deep discussions, over a pot of assam/ceylon blend, about the relative merits of musicians who are readers, (usaully) classically trained and those who come from a more contemporary background, from say a jazz/blues tradition. Our discussion came hot on the heels of loads of stuff we've been reading in blogland about music for worship, both good, bad and in some cases ugly.

We both wondered why is it that in our experience musos. who are classically trained, and more often than not 'technically' far better than their jazz/blues contemporaries are so flummoxed when asked to improvise. A simple question really.
To use your instrument to express yourself, that's all. After all they have the knowledge of scales, arpeggios, modes etc. in thier arsenal but when asked to open up and be creative for a few bars the result is often at best stilted and wooden.

Now my alterior motive behind this post is to share with you one of my favourite saxaphone solos, by Pee Wee Ellis playing with Van Morrison at Montreux in 1980.

Van's singing style also exemplifies the nub of our discussion as it probably breaks all the rules that any music teacher would espouse, but, it reaches deep into both song and listener, in short it has soul.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

More Big Banking Nonsense

If you've read Wednesday's post here's a little something that I stumbled upon and thought I'd better share with you. I'm very concerned about our coalition government's antics. Also the proposed closing of libraries and selling off of our woodlands are in my opinion two very bad ideas indeed.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

SFTW ~ Here's One I Made Earlier

Here's a nice recipe you might like to try at home, H/T Jack.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Banking Debacle & Quaker Capitalism

I have been puzzled by something for what must be at least a year now, and it concerns this economic mess, in the midst of which we find ourselves currently. At first when things started looking a bit dodgy (remember the queues of people outside branches of Northern Rock bank demanding their savings, 1930's German style?) I think none of us really had any idea of what had been going on inside the banking business. I certainly hadn't. Things seem to have moved on apace since then. We've been through a change of government and you and I [tax payers] are now propping up major high street banks. Whole nations (Eire, Greece, Portugal etc.) are almost bankrupt.

I think that the most galling thing for me about this situation is that it seems that running a bank, being a bank, looking after the money, however you choose to define it, is not exactly operating in a competitive market, being dominated by just five big banks. With that in mind it really ought to be a most profitable business, although particularly disadvantageous to the consumer. How have these banks failed us so badly and continue to do so despite being propped up with billions of pounds of taxpayer's money? O.k. this is of course a bit of a rant, but not without good reason. In January our rate of Value Added Tax rose to 20% in the U.K. in order to mitigate the effects of the huge debt foisted upon us by the banking sector's misadventure. This will affect us all, rich and poor significantly as V.A.T. is pretty much an unavoidable tax (unless of course you run your car on custard and choose to wear children's clothes!). The central question I suppose I have is why on earth are we not aiming to recoup the billions of pounds lost from those who are responsible for the loss in the first place? After all they seem to me to be the very highest earners in society and therefore most able to put back into the system as it were.

What I think could in part be going wrong is, at some fundamental level, and over several generations the very nature of our capitalism has changed. It has to be said that what I truly think is we need some seismic shift back to the kind of principles central to those Quaker capitalists like Joseph Rowntree and George Cadbury. These men were brilliant entrepreneurs by any standards but unlike today's business leaders and bankers (who see no harm in pocketing huge personal profits while their companies collapse) were disciplined and far sighted, guided by their Quaker principles. For these men I'm sure the idea of wealth creation for personal gain would have seemed offensive and to whom the very catalyst of our current financial crisis (i.e. reckless & irresponsible debt) would have been shameful. It's easy to dismiss such principles as antiquated isn't it, when today's measure of one's success is purely projected by material objects. It would be hard to imagine the CEO of one of the afore mentioned banks building a huge financial empire whilst writing ground breaking papers on poverty, or campaigning against a multitude of human rights abuses, but, that's just what the likes of George Cadbury did.

I was amazed to learn that in the nineteenth century Quaker families in Britain ran seventy-four banks, and I'll bet they were not for the benefit of shareholder dividends or bosses bonuses! I guess what I feel really strongly is once again we need this kind of leadership to replace the rampant greed at the centre of our banking industry we have today. It may seem naive, but tweaking taxes ever upward is not going to solve a great deal for the debts of our wider society, it's high time the bankers started putting something back into the system that, like it or not, they are now indebted to themselves.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

A New Decade 2011

So friends a new year begins, and a new decade for that matter. We're entering 2011 with our artistandtartist glass half full as is our wont and would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and peaceful new year. What has 2011 in store I wonder, adventure? intrigue? excitement? in order to find out I thought I'd consult that tried and tested oracle into events yet to come, from the mystical far east via my Christmas cracker, the 'Fortune Teller' ~ Miracle fish.

So I placed the little red cellophane visionary upon my open palm and would you believe its head and tail began to move.

These particular movements according to the guide on the reverse side of its packet indicate 'In Love'. What a result! I hope you will all be entering 2011 with hearts that are full.