Saturday, 30 June 2012

30/06: TREE RATS!

When shopping in France on Thursday we bought a big bucket of 'fatballs' to fill the birdfeeders on our trees.   Whilst it is officially 'Summer' here in England, I think the birds still need a helping hand ....

So far, we've only seen robins on the feeders ... till tonight, when a couple of squirrels (tree rats) appeared ... they are quite skinny so we certainly don't begrudge them the calories.     

This squirrel seemed more interested in the windfall apples from our trees, but the apples are so small they must be pretty sour I'd think?

Seems to be rubbing his/her tummy don't you think????

Anyway, so long as they don't take the last of the strawberries or the rhubarb they are welcome in the garden ... their antics really keep us amused.

Back to artwork tomorrow .... I've photographed all the UKCPS entries so will complete/submit the entry form tomorrow.    6 days before deadline - how organised is that ????!!!

More in a day or so .......


The annual 'Ride for Life' at Speedgate in Kent took place today.    Horses and riders from around the country became as 'pink as possible' to raise awareness and funds for cancer research.

The weather was pretty grim this morning with torrential rain first thing, and very high winds.     Whilst visiting my horse, Roxy, I sneaked a few photos as the girls were getting themselves and their ponies/horses ready.    The yard is named Warrigal so the collective name for entrants from our yard was Warrigirlies (or similar).  

   In previous years the outfits were much more outrageous but today's high winds meant that outfits (for the horses) had to be restricted to items that wouldn't flap too much and cause panic .... nevertheless they were all having fun and here's a few pictures I took early this morning

Not looking impressed!

Lulu didn't want to travel with the 'little ponies' but eventually got loaded into the horsebox!!    Don't you just love that crown!???

 Always so perfectly behaved ... the perfect pony!!

I think the riders all opted to dress once they arrived at the venue and could assess the weather conditions better - wise decision as most of the ponies were already pretty wired up by this time.

My 'old lady' had her own brand of decoration:

Not pink at all ..... more bird sh*t coloured!!!!!    Swallows have nested in the beams at the top of Roxy's stall in the barn and so she is a natural target for any of the 'fall out' from the nest.     Happily, the young swallows are now very active and likely to fly the nest in the next day or so ....

and after visiting Roxy, we went to visit the Mums and Daughter/Grand-daughter.

Grand-daughter, Sophie-Louise was joining in with the Pink Theme.   She has been given this 'play tunnel' which she just loves .....  reminds me of the flexible vinyl tunnels you see at Dog Agility classes ... but if it keeps grand-daughter amused, who am I to comment :-)

Too much girlie pink for me .... I'm more of your mud coloured lady methinks!!


Exhibition work has dominated my schedule for the past few months but I can now see the end and I can get back to taking on commission work for completion during the summer.  My lead time for delivery is currently 6-8 weeks from date of order.  (Not from the date shown on this posting, which I've postdated to keep it on top.)

Friday, 29 June 2012


We went to France for the day yesterday, travelling by Ferry from Dover, Kent to Dunkerque with the crossing taking approx 2 hours.     The weather forecast predicted high white cloud and mild temperatures.

In reality it was extremely hot and steamy in France.  Having completed our shop at Auchon Hypermarket (mainly wine and beer it has to be said) we drove to the Dock to await our 6pm return crossing and suddenly we were bombarded with huge hailstones - I wound down the window to take photos from the car but the hailstones were beating down so ferociously they hurt! 

David manfully got out of the car and picked a couple up to show the size (although they were melting in his warm hands quite quickly)

this one had broken on impact but you can see how big it still is (compared with a 1 euro coin which is 23.2 mm/0.91" in diameter)

I took these pics around 4.35pm (5.35pm French time) and as you can see from the reading in our car, the outside air temperature was still extremely hot whilst the hailstones were falling .... amazing experience!  This equates to approx 32.7deg for those who think in Celsius rather than fahrenheit :-)

29/06: WHAT A WEEK!!

We've been home almost a week and had sooooo much to do! Need another holiday methinks :-)

I'm back on target with exhibition entries and will be starting on my commissions later next week - the first ones on my drawing board will be a yellow labrador, a lady on horseback and two cats. These will all be completed in pastel so I just need to put the finishing touches to the current coloured pencil pictures and I can 'clear the decks' ready for the 'dusty stuff'

You will probably have seen these two before but I've decided to submit them to NEWA - National Exhibition Wildlife Art. I've never done this before so am hoping my art will be accepted. They have been delivered today to a 'collection point' from where they will be taken to the Exhibition Centre (near Chester).

I don't know why this has uploaded so badly - the original really doesn't have a line running through the tiger's paws!   don't you just love computers sometimes LOL

The organisers request that pictures are transported in easy release wrapping and they recommended using Stiffy Bags.    I'd never heard of them before but I ordered a few in various sizes - paid for them Tuesday and they were delivered by courier on Wednesday - Excellent Service.     Stiffy Bags are reinforced protective bags especially designed for transporting framed pictures.   They are re-useable and so will save money/effort compared with using lots of bubble wrap/cardboard/tape etc.    Easy Peasy!

Thursday, 21 June 2012


We went to our favourite restaurant last night for my 'birthday meal' - La Taberna, owned and managed by Juan and his wife Anna for more than 20 years.   Juan takes care of 'front of house' and Anna and her team of ladies produce all the fantastic food.

Juan presented us with a bottle of bubbly and had a couple of glasses himself as he will be celebrating his birthday this Sunday (and is in fact 4 days younger than me)!   I didn't have my camera with me last night so here's a photo taken a few years ago with David, myself and Juan celebrating another 'occasion' with a glass of Bubbly! 

Although I miss hearing the beautiful birdsong of the English robins and blackbirds, we have plenty of birdlife here on Fuerteventura.   A family of finch-type birds visit every afternoon with mum and dad frantically trying to find enough bugs to feed the demanding youngsters and we have a few Spanish sparrows as regular visitors also.  Unfortunately they are all a bit too quick for me and my camera.

But, I was chuffed to have another opportunity to photograph a Hoopoe.   Last year I got lots of close up pics of a Hoopoe that landed in a palm tree and posed beautifully for the camera.  Unfortunately, I had computer failure a few weeks later and lost a lot of files of ref photos - hoopoes included.      So when we walked home from town last week and this one landed on the beach nearby I was pleased I had my camera with me

Very nearly got a pic with the Hoopoe's crest raised .... but not quite!

and this is a nest that is being built in the eaves of our roof terrace .... the bees are busy all day long.  I'm not sure its the sort of thing we really want here, but haven't the heart to destroy it (yet)!!

these aren't in keeping with the 'b' theme of my Blog header but I couldn't resist ...... such lovely flowers and such wicked thorns

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


Whilst cooling my feet in the pool and turning the mosaic tiles into a pretty swirly pattern (as you do) I realised that the toe ring on my right foot is 14 years old today

The ring was a present from my friend Di for my 40th birthday - now that gives the game away doesn't it?    Me and my toe ring have only been separated for a couple of days in that time ... I thought I'd lost it whilst walking into Town here on Fuerteventura last year and David and I spent hours retracing our footsteps looking for the ring without success.   I found it a couple of days later under the mat in our shower room.

So Happy Birthday toe ring ... and happy birthday me :-)

Monday, 18 June 2012


We're still enjoying lovely weather here in Fuerte but I'm told by our House-sitters in Kent that the Whitstable weather has been quite good for a few days so they've been able to enjoy some outings to the beach etc.

We'll be back in England in the early hours of Saturday and I'll really have to 'hit the road running' after this break from the drawing board.    For the first time I'm entering a couple of pictures into the NEWA exhibition (National Exhibition of Wildlife Art) and they have to be taken to the collection point closest to me for onward transport to the North of England (Near Chester).  These are existing pastel drawings - one snow leopard and one tiger.   I hope they will be accepted for hanging but if not at least I'll know what sort of level I'll need to aim for next year.

I need to finish my entries for the UKCPS exhibition at Nuneaton.   Deadline for entries is 7 July so they are my priority.   Then I'll be working on two commissions with end July deadlines - one of which is going to be a real challenge .... I hope I'll be allowed to show the step-by-step WIP pictures

so I'll be back to posting artwork pictures very soon ...  this is a coloured pencil drawing I started before we came to Fuerte - it needs to be finished by mid July and I didn't realise I had photos stored on this computer.    These are two of the 'out-takes' as the colour needs adjusting.  I'm working on the dark grey (anthracite) pastelmat which my camera doesn't like very much

I'll post better pictures when back home but you get the idea .... this is Dave who is part of a Folk/Celtic singing group called Labyrinth, I photographed them when they were playing in the town centre at their home town of Faversham a few weeks ago.  

Saturday, 16 June 2012


First Happy Birthday to Jenni (not sure if you'll see this but we'll catch up in a couple of weeks anyway) ;-)

Secondly, many thanks to Jan (Pets to Posies) who does not have a Facebook Account and couldn't view/vote for any of the pictures in the Best of British competition I posted about a few days ago.    She has been advised of an alternative link which allows her to access all the entries and vote   - heres the link:

There are more than 100 pictures and lots of interpretations of 'Best of British' from many familiar 'faces' on Blogger and UKCPS etc.   so if you haven't visited/voted yet please take a look.   Voting closes July 10th.

and finally ........ beach bars, or more to the point 3 photos from recent walks into Town which just happen to have been taken from vantage points in various Beach Bars here in Fuerte!!   Well, its a long hot walk along the beach path from Town to Home so always advisable to stop off for a cold beer or similar!

This was taken in a Spanish Cideria.    The Cider (sidra) is from Asturia and is traditionally poured from a height of 3 or 4 feet above the glass to aerate it and improve the flavour.    On a windy island like Fuerteventura - especially on the seafront as this bar is - it takes great skill to get any of the liquid in the glass at all ... but on Very Windy days the waiters play safe and pour the Cider in the doorway which is sheltered from the wind!

Another day, another bar and I took this photo of a dove who was escaping the hot sunshine by sheltering under a chair ..... its 'white stripes' are caused by sunlight through the slats of the wooden seat.

and from yesterday's 'watering hole' we watched this strange scene unfold ..... didn't have the heart to tell them the water was only waist deep so wetsuits and oxygen tanks were a little OTT!!

Although it looked like something from a James Bond film it was nothing more exciting than the local Dive Centre returning the day's pupils to base ..... but it kept us entertained

Thursday, 14 June 2012


I came across this today and make no apologies for sharing it.     

A large proportion of the animal portraits that I undertake are of rescue dogs/cats/horses who have  really 'fallen on their feet' with their new owners/forever homes.

I know there are sad cases where there are genuine reasons for owners having to part company with their pets but there are an awful lot of people out there who think pets are disposable - this certainly brought a lump to my throat

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


Thanks to Judith Crown for the 'heads up' re. the Derwent sponsored competition which closed for entries yesterday.    The theme is anything 'British' - quirky or otherwise, drawings to be completed in pencil or pastel pencil.

Several fellow UKCPS members have entered pictures ..... being out in The Canaries at the moment I was pleased to find that I had a picture stored on the travel laptop which fitted the bill.
I entered this cp drawing I did of hubby (David) a couple of years ago.   

You know how it is when you get all the food prepared for your Summer Barbecue and then  the sky clouds over and it starts to rain and the wind picks up ......... But with true British stoicism the 'man of the house' volunteers to carry on anyway .....  this was one of those occasions.   David didn't know I had photographed him (from the shelter/warmth of the house) and I just loved the long-suffering expression on his face as he waited for the kebabs to cook.   Trying to capture the rain which was coming in sideways was a real challenge   :-)

Anyway folks ...... there are 100+ entries in the competition and you can vote for as many as 20 of your favourites .... I'd be VERY happy if you'd take a look and even HAPPIER if you'd give me one of your votes :-)

I don't know if you can vote if you don't have a FACEBOOK account.  I don't have an account myself so had to enter by using David's  but here's the link:


There's an interesting and varied selection of pictures to choose from.

Sunday, 10 June 2012


I can't believe I've spent more than half a century peeling bananas the 'wrong' way!   

I'd still have been doing it incorrectly had David not appealed for help recently as he couldn't break into his one.     I had to resort to digging my fingernails into the tough peel and wrecking the fruit inside.

That led to me wondering whether David (well, and me) were really less intelligent than your average monkey!!

A quick internet search showed we've been opening the 'wrong end' of the banana all these years.    Taking our cue from our monkey friends we learned that we should pinch the 'non stalk' end of the banana which neatly splits the skins and whats even better is that the 'strings' adhere to the skin and not the fruit.   Simple and it only took 50+ years to master :-)

Anyway, weather still lovely here on Fuerteventura - warm and sunny, unlike the weather reported by our house-sitters in Whitstable, Kent LOL

I realise it has been a while since I showed any art work - mainly because I'm having a total break from commissions whilst here.  I do have some exhibition pieces to be finished as soon as I'm home so will be back to posting artwork then.

In the meantime, how's this for spooky.   We went for a Tapas meal with friends last night and then finished the evening at a lovely Bar in Town called Rogues Gallery.   Its called that because the walls are decorated floor to ceiling with framed black/white photos and drawings of rogues.  Some are real life villains, some are film villains but it makes for interesting viewing.     Derek Mac (the host) sings a selection of songs from the 50s to 80s every Saturday evening.   He has a great voice and gets people up and jiving in the street outside his bar.

We got there in time for his last couple of songs and our friends got up to show off their jiving skills.   I tried to get a photo but didn't set the flash up properly ... this was the result.   Spooky or what??

Friday, 8 June 2012


When a newspaper columnist is on holiday a guest is often invited to stand in. No. Not Graham Norton or Ruby Wax, it's me David – known as Mr Sue.

Sue's always mentioning bits about Fuerteventura where we have out holiday home so I thought I'd tell you more. We bought the house about 8 years ago when we were both in demanding jobs. Sue's Mum lived with us and regular escapes gave all three of us a break. It was the days of charter flights and airline bucket shops filling seats. Sue would find a cheap flight departing in the next few days, – some were only £6.99 return – we'd clear our my diaries and we'd escape for a week or even a long weekend.

The great thing was that Sue's mum was happy to have the house to herself and we could just go at short notice. Now we have to organise house sitters, garden waterers and grass mowers to avoid nightmares on our return.

The days of £6.99 are long gone and for pre-planned visits we each had to pay about £150 return. At peak times we were paying £250. Nowadays with Ryanair we fix our visits around the cheapest flights and each pay about £60-£80 return. We take hand baggage only, carefully sized and weighed, use the latest credit card that Ryanair has done a fee-free deal with, and pay for reserved seats so we get extra legroom.

I search out baggage that fits the Ryanair sizing and is as light as possible. This time I may have overdone it. We, yes, OK, I bought a bright pink ultra lightweight bag so we could carry another kilo of contents. 

The problem is that it's got no rigidity so as you lift it up it gets taller and taller, the contents all drop to the bottom and it goes teardrop shape. It looks like a ship decanter.  It's quite difficult to get the bottom off the ground so it drags along. At the gate the attendant eyed it with suspicion but didn't ask us to put it in the gauge. I imagine that if we'd managed to get the handle about six feet off the ground we could have sort of poured it into the gauge.

Now. Fuerteventura? Four hours from Gatwick, 12 miles south of Lanzarote and 80 miles off the African coast. We're on the same latitude as Miami and Kuwait so we get piercing hot sun but there's a cool sea current from the north which brings strong, cooling winds. The weather can change in 10 minutes. Frankly, the forecasters can only guess. Today we expected strong winds, white cloud and some rain but we have a clear blue sky with a few small clouds slowly drifting. Yesterday the few clouds in an otherwise clear sky were moving very fast. From nowhere a huge black one blew in, everything went dark, a whole load of rain was dumped on us, the cloud moved on, the blue returned and we never saw another one!

My long term retirement planning assumed we'd get fed up with the island, sell up and travel the world. Here we are 5½ years retired, 40 odd visits later and we still love it here. Which is handy because the recession has made selling unlikely.

OK. That'll do for my first post. Sue's dozing by the pool so I'll go and wake her up to prepare lunch. It's not that I don't cook. I love cooking. But I was inspired by Fanny Cradock on TV, who used a clean pan at every stage. 
Sue says she loves my food but hates the mess so much that she'd rather do most of the cooking. I call that a win-win situation.

I'll leave you inspired with a couple of my favourite Fanny Cradock meals. It seems that the TV stations have edited these dishes out of the re-runs of her shows. I wonder why?

Adios amigos.

Thursday, 7 June 2012


Much as I love this island, and our house here, I'm sad to say that I miss the ease with which I can Blog/email/text/phone back in the UK ..... that's probably a bit sad as this surely has to be a much better lifestyle where family values are so important and friends meet to chat over a glass of wine and plate of tapas - not just the internet or the dreaded FACEBOOK which I hate!!  But tonight I had time (and a good internet connection) so was able to look at all the recent Blog Posts i've missed and I felt 'deprived' .... that is so wrong!!!

So I'm a mixed up 50 something person I guess!!    perhaps its the onset of yet another birthday (20th June ) that has set me to thinking like this ....

Anyway,  yesterday we went to a birthday party and had a brilliant afternoon and met lots of people we knew on the island ... and many new faces.    Got home late afternoon/early evening and had a Siesta and then went out to a QuizNight  at 10pm and won first prize ... so the afternoon's alcohol intake didn't impact too much :-)

I won't post photos taken at the BBQ as other people's photos are never that interesting but this morning the weather turned very windy and we had light rain/heavy clouds till around 3pm ... David and I went for a walk round town with camera ready to photograph any interesting people/scenes but when the rain became heavier we retreated to a Spanish Tapas bar  for lunch.   We always try to avoid the 'British Bars' as we prefer to experience the local cuisine whenever possible (unless it has tentacles or facial features .... I'm not a vegetarian but I don't like to see eyes and recognisable bits inmy food)!!

Before the rain became too heavy I photographed lots of local gardens/views - this is probably the best time of year for local flora.   The colours are truly spectacular

This is a neighbouring property wall


When the rain stopped, the air became very clear and as we walked home via the beach path from town, this is the view of neighbouring lobos island and the calmest seas I've seen for some time on this island (which is famous for its high winds and excellent surfing conditions)

Whilst on the Beach path we noticed one of the empty properties had been adopted by a local moggie who was stretched out enjoying the sunshine next to the pool .... not the most attractive cat and he/she does not have a clipped ear/collar so I'll pass on details to our friend 'catwoman' who will look out for this one on her next 'neutering' run ......  small wonder the cat looked suspicious - I guess all the cats here mistrust English speaking ladies whose intent is to reduce the breeding cat population by whatever means necessary!!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


Well at least I didn't title the blogpost 'that Cooking Fat'  (play on words for those who haven't cottoned on yet) :-)

I thought the cat looked kind of cute, if not happy to be woken from his doze.   Lynne our friend here on Fuerteventura works tirelessly to look after, rehome and neuter the feral and abandoned cats.     Twice a year she helps to round up cats not wearing collars who don't have the identification (tip of ear clipped) and a local vet neuters them.  If the neutered cats can't be homed they live in communities around the holiday complexes and Lynne (Catwoman) takes dry food and water round to 'food stations' at strategic points in the Town.   She's an amazing person and the town doesn't have a probably with skinny, sick cats begging from tourists as a result of her work.

We're going to a Birthday BBQ tomorrow afternoon to which all guests will contribute food and/or drink and as one of our friends is veggie I decided to make some curry puffs - using soya instead of minced meat.   As I've not done this before, and I've had to improvise with some of the ingredients here,  I wanted to do a 'test run' to check they'd be OK.   David was happy to play 'guinea pig' and pronounced them a success .... so I'll be baking another lot tomorrow morning.   Not good for the waistline but very tasty.

Our house smells like an Indian Restaurant now (but I'm not complaining as I love curry)!!

all thats left from this morning's baking session:

Friday, 1 June 2012


I am struggling to type as have a problem with left wrist/hand.  I thought it was a recurrence of trapped nerve in neck which happened this time last year, but visited a chiropracter said it was too swollen for her to deal with so she directed me to the GP next door and after blood tests found I have some sort of bacterial infection - maybe a reaction to an insect bite (although i don't appear to have bitten).  So she administered a steroid injection (ouch) and i have a course of antibiotics.  Very pleased to say that swelling is much reduced but still painful and difficult to use fingers.   I have to revisit the GP tomorrow to check progress and ensure the infection isn't spreading

So here are a few pics taken at our local Campanario Centre (complex of small shops/bars built around a lovely courtyard where we often sit and enjoy a glass of wine and some tapas if we don't want to walk into Town - this centre is just 10 mins walk from our house)

This is the 'offending' wrist now that the swelling has reduced i'm left with blotchy red patches.

anyway its easier to show pictures than to type one-handed.  Some of these need to be colour adjusted as they were taken around midday in very bright sunshine, but a bit difficult for me to do at the moment but you can see what a great community spirit there is in the Town and pride in their National identity.
There were lots of market stalls selling local produce and BBQ stalls in addition to the usual Tapas bars so whilst I went round 'snapping' photos David walked around sampling the goodies!!

This cute little girl was raiding the flower beds to make a posy (bless)

I caught up with her a little later and she was happy to pose with her ill-gotten gains!

Age is no barrier!