Tuesday, 29 October 2013


This little girl, Amira, is just 9 years old and self-taught. She learned to sing opera by watching/listening to YouTube clips apparently. Here she is performing on Holland's Got Talent.

Monday, 28 October 2013


St Jude (storm) wasn't nearly as bad as the Big Storm of 1987 but it was pretty destructive and sadly it has caused 4 deaths and many injuries in Southern England - it is now battering our neighbours in Belgium and the Netherlands.

I'm totally amazed at the stupidity of some people who, despite the warnings, were still  'wave dodging' on Southern beaches.   I feel dreadfully sorry for the family of the 14 year old boy swept away whilst playing in rough sea with friends, but even sorrier for the lifeguards and rescue organisations who are risking life and limb in dreadful conditions to look for him.   It would be lovely if he could be found alive but watching the footage from our Coastguard and Rescue organisations the conditions are absolutely apalling.

I think the authorities were right to put out so many warnings.  It certainly it made us (David and I) store away anything we thought wasn't stable/secure enough to withstand gale force winds but even so this morning we found this scene in the garden.   Could have been much worse - we had already replaced several fence panels which had come down in previous storms and re-roofed the main shed when the roof was ripped off in the Spring .... not much else to go wrong

BBQ and gas canister.  The cover had been ripped off and we later found it on the compost heap behind a shed

Our outside table ... we'd put all the chairs in the shed but the table is too large to store inside.  We are used to windy weather here on the Kent coast but we've never had the table blown over before!

This pot (rhododendron) is REALLY heavy and so I hadn't put this in the greenhouse with the other pot shrubs - its a two person job to shift it

So no structural damage for us, or our neighbours thankfully.

Lots and lots of apples and pears on the ground.    I'd stripped 2 of the apple trees but there's a limit to how many bags we can give away to friends/family.   

I think these are Comice pears (but would be happy to be told otherwise if I'm wrong).  I know that pears don't ripen on the tree but I've never been successful in ripening them to eat uncooked.    I've just been doing a little research and it seems that if these are Comice pears they need to be chilled for at least 2 weeks at 30deg and then ripened for a week at room temperature?    Previously I've just left them in the shed to ripen but they've gone mouldy and the skins have still been coarse and tough.

So, I've put a brown paper bag full of pears and one banana in the shed (not warmed by sun) to see how they ripen in the outdoor temperature which at the moment averages about 35-40deg.   I understand the banana will speed the ripening process?    And I have a bowl of pears in our fridge where they'll stay for a couple of weeks.   We have a spare freezer in the garden shed but I only have the one fridge so can't really spare too much space to chill all the pears still left on the tree.

If anyone has any tips about what to do with the pears I'd be grateful as its such a shame to see them go to waste every year.  Lots of the windfalls are going to the stables with the dropped apples as the horses don't seem to mind too much if the pears aren't as ripe/juicy as they could be.

Sunday, 27 October 2013


Well, we're braced for the severe storm which has been named St. Jude (patron saint of depression apparently) which is set to hit us in the early hours.   Weather warnings have been coming thick and fast over the last few days so we've had time to tidy away everything in the garden which could get broken but we're keeping fingers crossed that the reality won't be as bad as forecast and we won't get structural damage to the fences/sheds/roof/trees etc.

BBC weather forecaster Michael Fish was left red-faced when, on the eve of the Great Storm of 1987, he assured the British public there would be no "hurricane" which was technically correct.  However the storm that replaced 'the hurricane' did severe damage and an estimated 15 million trees were lost as they were in full leaf, the soil was wet, and they couldn't withstand the gales.     Michael Fish has stuck his neck out again and said tonight's storm won't be on the same scale as that of 1987 ...... lets hope he gets it right this time!

The wind has been building up all day here on the Kent coast and its really unpleasant outside so we won't be going anywhere over the next 24 hours.

OK ... In my last post I mentioned my first 'human' portrait which was a graphite sketch of hubby David in silly Beret.    It isn't on my current website so I said I'd post it here.     Couldn't actually find it in the archives (I lost lots of files when my computer died a year or so ago) .. but I've now found a small copy on the old gallery site so here he is:

I also found some photos of pictures I entered into coloured pencil challenges several years ago.

When Derwent launched the Coloursoft range of pencils they set a challenge to artists to draw pictures using just two colours from the range - magenta and yellow.      It was great fun and I came up with two possibles ...  I entered the dog and was awarded Highly Commended (3rd place) and the picture was displayed at the Derwent stand at Birmingham NEC in November 2006.  The picture went to Derwent's museum but I don't know how long these things are kept so it may have been binned by now.

My magenta/yellow dog:

I did visit the NEC to view my picture (and the others) but can only find this black/white photo of me with the picture

the entry I didn't submit was a cat ..... another 4 legged furry subject, I couldn't bring myself to draw flowers or fruit despite the limiting colours

I came across another old coloured pencil sketch.   This was entered into a challenge set by Bob Ebdon called 'Food for Thought'.   I guess most entries would have been fruit or vegetable still life studies ... but I fancied something a bit more quirky.   Not the best drawing and the cat looks a little strange .. but it won the competition!     and my Mum has the original as she's always liked it ... It's not one of my favourites but each to their own I guess

OK going to put the computer to bed now and have a 'chill out' evening - waiting to see what Mother Nature intends to thrown at us tonight.    For all my Blogger friends in the South/South West of England I hope the storm isn't too violent and doesn't cause you any problems.  Stay warm and dry!!

Thursday, 24 October 2013


Well this is the result of my 'interview' last Friday when a reporter from the Whitstable Gazette visited to chat about 'what I do' I was a bit under the weather and 'thick' with cold so didn't think to ask for a preview of the article before it went to print. I had no idea what she'd make of my waffling but she (Connie) obviously found enough to fill the page.

Sorry if you tried to view the article earlier - the link has reverted to a newspaper subscription page. 

The only way I can show the article is via this very poor scan which David has managed to juggle and stitch to fit - will need enlarging to read the print I think

scanned copy of Whitstable Gazette article

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

22/10: LOST & FOUND

I've lost an earring.  I discovered the loss yesterday afternoon and immediately checked all the usual places - in the bed, in the linen basket in case pulled off when changing clothes, around my desk and areas I'd been sitting throughout the day.   I wear them day and night so don't actually know when I lost the earring - I'd like to think I'd have noticed one missing when brushing my hair in the morning but who knows?

For the first time in weeks the weather was good enough for us to go for a long walk along the beach yesterday so I could have lost the earring anywhere between home and Whitstable town ... I'd also replenished all the bird feeders in the garden and picked up windfall apples and pears so we spent a good deal of time checking the grass and garden paths but to no avail .....

We'll check with the local jeweller how much it will be to make a copy but s*ds law this was a 'good' earring, gold hoop set with diamonds.  Why can't I lose the cheapos??

Anyway ... 

we did enjoy our walk yesterday.  The morning started out wet and windy but it turned into a lovely warm/sultry afternoon and we had to dispense with our coats part way round the walk.

Tankerton slopes (a few minutes walk from my house) has lots of beach huts lining the beach path into Whitstable.  Lots of them had been given a new lick of paint before being shut up for the Winter.  These huts have no electricity or running water but the going rate is currently around £25,000 to buy one and they rarely stay on the market for long as Whitstable is a very 'trendy' area and popular with the DFLs (Down from London's) who come in hoardes in the warmer weather.

The weather was balmy, the sea was calm and the place was deserted - we're used to battling our way through crowds of visitors with pushchairs and BBQ kits etc., but I guess the early bad weather had put visitors off ...... Perfick!!

the gulls were chilled

there were people and pooches in the water   brrrrrr (bit cold for me)

We were happily wandering along the beach picking up small pieces of driftwood (as you do) with a view to doing something 'arty' with the bits sometime ... when David spotted this in the pebbles.  

We picked it up and carefully carried it into Whitstable where we took it to the local pharmacy for disposal ...... should have known better in this day and age

Sorry!  we can't dispose of that, we don't where its been!    We asked what we should do with it and the suggestion was to try another pharmacist at the opposite end of town.   But as we had to walk past a large medical centre first we decided to take the syringe/needle to them. 

Receptionist said No!   They couldn't take the offending needle for disposal.  I asked if we could speak to a nurse on site as they have 'sharps' disposal facilities and so we were sent round to check at a different department.  Same answer ... no they couldn't dispose of the needle, but they did give us a free swipe of anti-bacterial gel to clean our hands with! 

By this stage we planned to take it home and contact the local newspaper and let them find out what should be done with the syringe but thankfully a very sensible assistant came out with a yellow 'sharps' bucket and allowed us to put the syringe in there.   The syringe was for insulin and had been used.  We'd like to give the user the benefit of the doubt and hope the item fell out of his/her bag ... but it isn't the sort of thing we like to find on our beaches ...  

Given the 'jobsworth' 'big brother' world we live in I'm really surprised that we don't have instructions on the local noticeboards telling us what to do with items like this ... how about these new signs that have been erected at the beach

I really don't understand the warning about Groynes ... they are the wooden breakwaters which are in place to stop the pebbles/shingle/sand being washed away with the tide but they aren't aggressive to my knowledge??  

Whitstable is a working harbour so isn't 'pretty' but it is quaint I guess ... and there are a couple of very expensive fish restaurants adjacent specialising in oysters and champagne.   For the less well-heeled, the fishmarket at the harbour sells herring rolls and bowls of cockles/winkles which can be eaten outside at cafe tables/chairs

The boat with the tall mast on the left is the Greta, the Thames Barge that David and I took a daytrip on a while back.  Doesn't look so impressive with those huge sails folded away

The harbour looking very quiet and sleepy

and these huts are teeming with tourists in the Summer - they sell all sorts of arts/crafts/foodstuff

This art class was being taken outdoors - plenty of things to sketch at the harbour - always lots of colourful nets and equipment laying around.  The students seemed to be enjoying working outdoors

There were a lot of starlings around - handsome little birds aren't they

Today the weather is back to wind/rain and not at all nice so it was great to have such beautiful weather yesterday.  

Sunday, 20 October 2013


Had a lovely afternoon/evening with our friends here yesterday ....

weather was good enough that we could stand outside to watch the flypast of a Spitfire plane which had been organised by birthday boy, Terry Poxon.   Mr Poxon is a huge fan of the Spitfire plane and (according to the local newspaper) planned to play a recording of the air-raid siren, and then some of the speeches of Winston Churchill followed by the 'all clear'        We didn't hear the sirens but loved watching the spitfire - he gave us all value for money as the display lasted quite a while ... I just love the sound of those powerful engines

Whilst in 'vintage' mood/mode ... this short video made me smile.   They certainly knew how to party in the 'old days'   LOL

Reg Kehoe and His Marimba Queens 

We have tickets to visit Brogdale Fruit Farm today.  In fact they are last year's entry tickets we were unable to use as the weather was so wet, their car parks were too muddy to allow access to any vehicle that wasn't heavy duty 4x4 types.    Sadly the rain/windy conditions today made us decide to stay at home instead and just take it easy.   We'll probably drive out to visit the mums later but that will be it - stay home and finish up the party nibbles (naughty but nice)!

Friday, 18 October 2013

18/10: ON THE MEND

OK, so frozen shoulder is no longer frozen - just a few pins/needles and niggles but all in working order again.    Man Flu on its way out and holiday injections done and dusted (off to India in New Year so getting the nasty jabs and stuff out of the way early)!

I've almost forgotten how to hold a pencil it seems - today I was visited by a journalist from a local newspaper who wanted a short bio about me/my work/my interests as part of a series about local people.   I seemed to waffle on a lot so hope she could make sense of it all and the article won't be too weird.   A photographer popped in this afternoon to take pics of me at my drawing board.    I'm not actually taking on commissions just now (having a 6 month break to concentrate on other stuff) so the pictures are a bit staged really, me sitting with the gorilla drawing in my hands and the original ref photo on my computer screen in the background .. but hope it will all look right on the night!   I think the article will be in print next week.

Exciting times.

We have a group of friends coming round tomorrow afternoon for our 'annual get-together' which is normally a BBQ but we're late this year and I don't fancy our chances with the weather .. so it will be a buffet type spread, eaten indoors.  I'm preparing as much as possible today, marinading chicken pieces etc., to make life easier tomorrow.  These friendships were formed when we all kept our horses at the same yard, years ago.  Sadly the horses have now all gone (mine hung on the longest, bless) and
since moving to Whitstable I don't get to see the group as often as I used to, so its good to catch up but I suspect it will be an alcofrolic afternoon/evening - plenty of ballast needed methinks!

Talking of alcohol ...

Was it really just 3 weeks ago we were sitting by the harbour at Corralejo having a leisurely tapas lunch and watching the world go by ... trying to catch the sea breezes as the weather was unusually hot/humid?

We've found a lovely tapas bar/BBQ which offers a very basic menu (90% local fish) at non-tourist prices.  I'm not a 'fishy person' but David was overjoyed to find they served grilled sardines at just €3 for a plate of 4.   I loved their grilled veggie kebabs, also €3 per plate, which included peppers, aubergine, tomatoes, onions, celery, mushrooms and potatoes.

Another one being delivered, ready for the BBQ

As the famous Fuerteventura breezes had disappeared for 3 weeks, even the locals were finding the heat a bit oppressive, but it led to some wonderful effects on the sea, which was the calmest I've seen it for years

I took loads of photos of this bay which is beside our favourite tapas bar, but this one probably shows the 'sparkles' best although its not the greatest photo - all those half boats etc.   There are a few breakers in the background but normally that section has huge waves, after all Fuerteventura is a windsurfers' paradise - not much fun for them when the sea is as calm as this

On Fuerteventura its common to see crumbling plaster/paint on exterior walls which looks unsightly but basically its a combination of builders not putting in damp-courses and/or using unwashed sand which contains sea salt so leads to 'efflorescence' which bubbles up and takes the surface plaster/paint with it.   En route from our house to the beach path into town, we pass a villa whose walls have suffered badly.  The owners have covered the lower half of the wall with local stone/tiles but now the problem has risen above the tiles.    I loved what some bright spark had done to this section of peeled paint

Made me smile each time I walked past it ... and on that happy note I'll finish waffling.    Have a great weekend everybody.

Thursday, 10 October 2013


We've been back in England for a week but sadly I've got a problem with my neck and right shoulder/arm so all plans to get back to the drawing board and up to speed with blogging/forums etc failed dismally.     This time 2 years ago I had a similar problem with the left shoulder/arm and had to resort to a steroid injection in the shoulder and a year of treatment ... but I think things aren't quite so bad this time (fingers firmly crossed)

So no artwork I'm afraid, and I certainly won't be painting the ceilings in our upstairs bathrooms as planned.    They only had one coat of builder's emulsion and have started to show some mould spots so desperately need 'tarting up'.    We got as far as buying the bathroom quality paint but that's it for now.   David isn't a DIY person so it'll be down to me once the arm/shoulder is working again.

I have been taking it easy and sorting out my reference photos into more logical files/folders - what a time consuming job that is but am feeling pleased with progress tonight.

I will catch up with all the missed Blog Posts shortly and will hopefully be showing some work of my own before too long.

Whilst we were on Fuerteventura there was some excitement when Ridley Scott visited to check out the island as a suitable venue to film his next production which is the biblical saae of Moses - called Exodus.   They decided to film some scenes of Moses in the Sinai Desert on our own beautiful/extensive sand dunes just outside Corralejo.     The dunes are spectacular but are normally the haunt of die-hard naturists so I wonder just how successful they'll be in banning the (mainly German) nudists ..... they auditioned for extras whilst we were there but were very precise about their requirements ... must be within a certain age band with no visible tattoos (not so easy in this day and age it seems), be thin/athletic looking and bearded (men only).     

I believe that Christian Bale is to play Moses and Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley will also be starring in what is billed as an American Blockbuster ... due for release at the end of 2014.   

Hope to be back to blogging properly next week

We're really noticing the drop in temperature back in the UK - and its very autumnal with leaves falling, cobwebs everywhere and those horrible flying 'daddy-long-legs' craneflies fluttering round in the evenings.  

Beautiful pieces of art aren't they?