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Monday, 28 October 2013

An early recollection, from one of the many Sunbeam Photgraphs in my collection.

Winter Gardens Cliftonville 1952
Sunbeam Photograph

In the beginning.

The chairs were wicker and left an intertwined pattern on the back of my legs because the cushion that was part of the seat didn’t cover it all, my legs didn’t even touch the floor until I hitched forward. I suppose I had been perspiring a little with the last dance, which didn’t help matters. Anyway, I felt uncomfortable and not very happy because we were told to sit quietly and wait for the results instead of going outside and getting a bit of sea air to cool us down. Both of us I’m sure were convinced we wouldn’t be called for the next round, we had been warned not to expect too much there being too many that were far better dressed than us, all with posh dresses and evening suits, from Dover, Canterbury, Deal and as far away as London some of the couples had come to enter the competition, we were outclassed from the backwaters of the dancing world at that time, two small children in their Sunday best that our teacher was trying to show us another world seemingly far beyond our reach, where I suppose everyone else was used to brushing shoulders with the rich and famous.
I can’t remember the number that was pinned to the back of my new white shirt that Mum had bought me that last weekend. The little plaid bow tie was strangling me I remember, and I was trying to release the pressure of the elastic round my neck when everyone round the table we were sitting at started going crazy; evidently our number had been called but neither of us heard it . . . . . . .
We were in the next round!
Remembering all these years later, for a brief moment I felt disappointment, (I think that is what it was) the chair I was sitting in was a kind of protection, although extremely uncomfortable and this announcement meant it seemed, I had to vacate the security it gave me, once again venturing out into the unknown amongst the refinery that surrounded us. Everyone expected us to be excited I think, but neither us was, we were out of our depth, two small children with no experience of the big occasion that it obviously was with everyone around us fussing over what we normally loved doing; just to dance, we lived for it, every waking hour we were together all we wanted to do was dance at every opportunity. The music and the thrill that our feet had a way of interpreting how we felt.
Slowly at first, both of us tentatively made our way to a corner of the ballroom floor that wasn’t occupied, away from the other couples that had been recalled, I remember thinking, had they really called our number, were we supposed to be back on the dance floor with all these finely dressed couples, there were only half of what there were in the first place and I felt a bit conspicuous, so small and unprepared and not looking half as glamorous as the couples now occupying the floor.  There was an adjudicator quite close to us, a kind looking well-dressed lady. Just before the music started she looked straight at me and smiled the most compassionate and reassuring smile you could ever wish to see from another face, ever so slightly she nodded, and I remember that smile and slight nod of her head seemed to repeat the words to me of Mum that afternoon, “enjoy it son, just go and enjoy it”.
The music started and our bubble enveloped us from the rest of the world, nothing else mattered, we had, even at that early age, the dance . . . . . . . . . . . that tiny hand found mine and the movement of our two young bodies that were born to dance sent us into an oblivious universe where the pleasure of the music vibrated every nerve end. Nothing around us disturbed or bothered us, the nerves dissipated into where ever they go on such an occasion.
We had tuition, lots of it, but in the end we did what came so naturally to us both, to float away on a sea of pleasure that to others watching, obviously was unexplainable. There was a vague interpretation of the steps we had been taught, but if the music didn’t fit one of the set sequence moves we broke it up and used the steps in another way . . . . . we floated across the floor, (not my words), but this is how it was reported time and again. I remember one quote in the local newspaper quite distinctly, and we both laughed hilariously about it: “They floated with effortless ease across space, I’m sure their four little feet weren’t touching the floor.” 
Neither of our parents forced or insisted in any way that we practice, they left us alone, didn’t push us to do better, never criticizing if we didn’t do what they had tried to teach us, even our teacher would stand by and just watch not saying a word, neither encouraging or correcting, content it seemed to let us just do our thing, as Mum would say on many an occasion “The joy that emitted from what you both were doing not only showed on your faces but on everyone who were lucky enough to be watching you.” Then as an afterthought, she would often add “Don’t ever change son what you do, it would break the spell for those watching.”
And so we carried on that afternoon for the second time, living the dream my little partner had created over the years waiting for me to enter her life, returning to our seats with the fussing it all seemed to create around us. There was an interval and to our relief we were able to disappear out onto the balcony at the back of the Winter Gardens in Cliftonville, we thought our ordeal was over, how wrong we were, in fact that afternoon was all just the start of a dream for me that even the most vivid imagination imaginable could invoke, but what a start in life, Mum looking on in wonder at what she had started in a fit of desperation all those weeks ago, sending me with my elder sister to dance class that was held in the sumptuous surroundings of the Granville Ballroom  as a punishment for getting under her feet one Saturday morning.
I think the photograph shows how out of place we were, both of us 9yrs old competing against couples that were well prepared for a world that was far beyond my working class upbringing. I know at the time, the competitions I felt were a penalty I had to pay for the love I had of the dance, the medal’s and certificates we won meant nothing to me, it was the thrill of the dance with her I lived for, and I think I would have agreed to anything so long as she was with me on the maple boards of that beautiful ballroom.
Thanks for stopping by, please call again.

Monday, 7 October 2013

I'll save that, it will come in handy someday.


Austerity? (Severe in self-discipline) Does Mr Cameron or Mr Obama or even Angela Merkel think this is their word? Don’t they realise the older generation were brought up on the meaning of this one word? To this very day if I can make it or mend it instead of delving into hard earned savings to buy it I will, whatever ‘it’ may be. Its built into the psyche of the majority of my age’s character. What my Mum and Dad did in their time was ‘make do and mend’ they had to and it must have rubbed off on me I suppose. The children of today (The above mentioned I consider are classed in this group) have no conception whatever of austerity, their ipads, laptops, mobile phones and all the gismo’s that have been thought up over the last couple of decades take priority over rent and rates and food for the kids they bring into this world.
Enough of that, but it really annoyed me when I heard the representative of our country at No 10 telling pensioners we I had to ‘pull our horns in’ and contribute even more than we already have over the years of our working lives.

 Somewhere in the past I believe I mentioned my friend who makes lace as a hobby and the cost of the equipment; Eventually, with reluctance, the cost made her ask me to turn for her a number of lace bobbins, which I agreed to do. Watching me make them one day she asked if she could ‘Have a go.’
From that moment on my budding apprentice was hooked, spending hours perfecting her bobbins on a small second hand lathe that clamped to her kitchen table, her family was fascinated and I know, secretly, proud that their mum could perfect such intricate work from a small piece of wood, or plastic or anything else she could lay her hands on that would turn.
However, it has been the cost of the tools and sometimes the unavailability of them for this kind of work that prevents her obvious talent and skill from creating what she envisages sometimes, which brought on the project in the workshop this last week-end. 
The very small (for want of a better word) chisels she required, that cannot be purchased, I made a handle with a threaded insert in brass to accept some masonry nails that I had in the workshop from many a year back, these nails have a ¼” whitworth thread on them; very hard metal that can be ground to whatever shape she requires.
Happy? She really went overboard when I presented her with what I had made for her, and to think the cost was zero, all the material out of the scrap box in the corner of the workshop, a pleasurable few hours for me creating something that was so much appreciated with a little box to keep it in.  
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Please call again.

Monday, 30 September 2013

She is still making me smile !

Wellies, can you imagine teenagers wearing wellies now-a-days ?
I think there would be civil war, . . . . . . not fashionable.

My trusty Wellington boots and woolly scout socks pulled up as high as they would go to cover my bare knees, a three quarter inch piece of elastic gripped the top making a permanent mark on my skin of the ‘knit one pearl one’ of the sock rib. Trouble was, when it rained there was nothing to prevent the top of the sock from getting soaked, which made it heavy, there was nothing for it but to turn it over the top of my wellies, stretching the sock as I did this to become a good three inches bigger than was intended.
I dreamed of a longer raincoat, I have always loved the rain, I wanted one that hung down past my knees and over the top of my boots, so when I entered the senior school persuaded mum when she took me into Winters the outfitters in the King street for my new school uniform, to buy me a longer raincoat that did just that, it came down a couple of inches below the tops of my wellies. I don’t think she quite understood why though, but to me it was the heaven I had often dreamed of. Silly really when I think about it now, but back then it was the ultimate luxury for me.
I could now walk along the beach in the winter, waves crashing and spraying me without my precious knee’s getting wet at all. (The reason for this is another story) The wind and the rain on a winters day walking along the waters edge with my constant companions woolly mittens holding my hand, the smell of her hair mixed with the salt spray from the channel has never left my senses to this very day.
She had pink ones, (wellies that is) which didn’t go very well with her school raincoat, also navy like mine, but what days we had back then, the music of the sea that inspired both of us, the hard sand that had been beaten by the tide sometimes had ripples of water that danced the waltz’s of Strauss away back to the depths, as the tide receded. Then on another day would explode and crash in a majestic crescendo of noise trying its hardest to soak us both, Neptune obviously angry we were invading his territory, out there all alone on an empty beach, two very young people that had the nerve to defy the Gods of the sea and the elements.
We were eleven years old with the minds and imaginations of individuals twice our age, discussing the compositions we would compose in the future, how the representation of what we felt could be expressed, and all around us was a vista of splendour, the magnificent white cliffs towering above us, the ocean with all its moods, then on a calm day, sometimes sitting in the middle of the sands not saying a word, just holding hands and listening to the peace and quiet, revelling in the tranquillity of an empty beach. 
Because of our enthusiasm for music it set us both aside from others in those days, and each of us before we met were perhaps rather lonely because I suppose of our unusual childhood passion, the joy we both found in each others company cannot be over estimated, and the silly things like the ‘wellies’ we wore were a constant cause of hilarity to both of us. In our teenage years we bought new ones when we outgrew the old ones, but as no doubt you can imagine, hers had to be pink.
In that brown office type envelope that I emptied onto my desk that day
amongst the many photographs was one of two pairs of ‘wellies’; one navy pair, and one pink pair, nothing else in the picture, just the wellies. Can you even begin to imagine perhaps the memories it stirred in me that morning after sixty odd long eventful years had passed?
But I had to laugh, along with the tears, I ached, and as I type this out I cannot prevent a smile when remembering her really wicked sense of humour and of course her pink ‘Wellington Boots’.
Thanks so much for stopping by.
Please call again.

The Joy of growing old.

I had to post a part of an email I recieved, each word ringing so true to how I feel these days, I hope it brings a smile to many, like it did me.


As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend.
I have seen too many dear friends leave this world, too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.
Whose business is it, if I choose to read, or play, on the computer, until 4 AM, or sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 50’s, 60’s & 70's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will.
I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set. They too some day, will get old.
I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some things in life are just as well forgotten. I eventually remember the important things, sometimes.
Sure, over the years, my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break, when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when a car hits somebody’s beloved pet? But, broken hearts are what give us strength, and understanding, and compassion. A heart never broken, is pristine, and sterile, and will never know the joy of being imperfect.
I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning grey, what’s left of it, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face.
So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.
As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I've even earned the right to be wrong.
So, my answer to the question; I like being old, it has set me free. I like the person I have become, I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be, and I shall eat my apple-pie and custard, lick my lips after a cream cone covered in sugar every single day (if I feel like it). It’s been a wonderful life, and I always look forward to tomorrow as I close my eyes before sleeping the sleep of peace each night.
Thanks for dropping by.
Chin up !






Sunday, 29 September 2013

No R164

A Seafaring Sketch of a Ramsgate fishing boat.

Relations of her ownership and the men who crewed her still, no doubt, reside in Ramsgate; No 164 motor fishing vessel, I remember the number quite clearly coming and going, because it was the same number as my friends house, and I have, since drawing this boat, discovered its name to be the ‘Jack and Eric’
There are no doubt people that can find fault with the sketch, but it was drawn one afternoon from memory to give credence to a story I was telling, so please forgive the omissions and put it down to artistic licence and ignorance of the subject matter.

My Aunt ‘Min’ and Uncle ‘Tom’ were a small part of the fishing fraternity, but because of the smell of the fish, that my dear mum couldn’t abide, I had to be very careful when they tied up with a catch. This didn’t deter my enthusiasm, boarding their boat many times in the harbour when they returned from the fishing grounds with a catch.
I remember one such time slipping and falling down the wooden steps only to be caught by Aunt Min who was gutting some of the catch for herself. She was a big round lady with arms that completely engulfed me with an ample bosom to match; of coarse she wreaked of the sea and the fish and smothered me in it. Fearing the worst when I reached home that day from Mum’s wrath, I tried I remember, creeping in the back door without being seen. No such luck though, that particular day she just looked at me with those big blue eyes of hers, the faintest of a knowing smile on her lovely face; she knew, she always knew what I’d been up to, and bade me strip right there in the scullery before coming any further into the house. The funny thing was we were brought up on a steady diet of fish, mum didn’t it seemed, mind cooking it, but the smell on our clothes evidently turned her stomach she told me in later years.

Hope you like the sketch,
Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Ugly Duckling

An Ugly Duckling?

As many of you know, and many have commented on, my lifeblood is music and one such instance in my past ‘came to roost’ one night while attending a concert in the far north of our country, quite unexpected it gave me a thrill that has rarely been or I doubt will be ever be surpassed. 
To go back to a time in my life when I was in charge of a small number of staff and had through illness of one of them requested a replacement. What I was presented with by her father one morning shortly after, was a young girl that had just left school; timid is not a strong enough word to describe her, she was terrified, so much so that she was physically shaking. I learnt afterwards her family had just moved to the area from a farm that I was told was at the back of beyond, and then some, completely isolated from the rest of the world, an only child, she attended a school whose sum total of attendance on a good day was six pupils, she being the oldest. To relate to such a life to us mere mortals takes a bit of understanding of what it must have been like for her, but I duly took her on not thinking any more about her, leaving her in, what I thought was the capable hands of the rest of my staff. It was, what must have been a couple of weeks later, by chance I overheard her being referred to in a very unkindly manner, ‘an ugly duckling’ was one such comment along with a few choice words of a kind I am not at liberty to print.

Not wanting to cause any trouble with what was normally an excellent group of workers, I made it my business to take this young lady ‘under my wing’ so to speak; I could use another pair of hands and the cause of her employment in the first place had since returned to work.

So started an episode in my life with a young girl who was well over half my age, any male that has been in that situation knows only too well the difficulties it presents but with the help of her father that I knew quite well by now, we persevered. Slowly, so agonisingly slow was our progress, but each day things started to get better and it was obvious to me her nervous disability was diminishing gradually, so much so that one day after a couple of weeks under my supervision I received a quite cheery ‘Good Morning’ from her, it was the start of something quite extraordinary.

I remember it was a breezy autumn afternoon and after bringing me my afternoon coffee I had the desire to get a bit of fresh air, so I grabbed my coat and was about to venture outside to the senior staff area when I stopped and watched my young protégé busy at her desk, how different she looked to when she first entered the building all those weeks ago, and my goodness hadn’t she become an excellent secretary.
“Take a brake my dear and come and join me in the garden with your coffee” I think was how I put it. There was a reluctance, she knew it was out of bounds for the rest of the staff, and there was hesitation and a little of her nervousness showed for a brief moment, but something I suppose in my request and the way I had said it made her put aside any misgivings.
It was a windy afternoon and to put her at ease I gently raised her coat collar up round her neck and sat down wind to protect her while she drank her coffee. I can’t actually remember how the conversation started, but I remember asking what she did at night knowing there would be very few, if any, friends in the area that she knew.  I remember her reply so clearly now as she turned towards me and looked me straight in the face, so confident, daring me to even smile at her answer.

“ I have my music Sir, my music is my life and always has been and I suppose always will be.”

Now, before that afternoon I was just trying to be kind, trying to coax her into the big wide world fate had it seemed unkindly thrown her into, but I’m sure my pulse missed a beet in that moment, naturally I wanted to know more of this rather sheepish little creature sitting next to me. I looked closer for the first time, beauty had missed her passing her by, the wind over the moors where she had grown up had hardened her skin, but the one true God of gifts had given her was what many in this life I have found lacking, the very love that had resided in her soul was her music that completed her life. I had to know more and we talked a language that afternoon till home time sitting there on the seat in the garden, undisturbed by the bustle of business. That shell had been broken, she opened up her soul to me, trying in her limited way to explain the joy she found when she could be alone with her violin, at night time when everyone was asleep living her dream, playing the melodies of the masters she secretly adored.

For a long time afterwards we played our respective instruments in many a duet, but if I was honest all I wanted to do was listen to her play, I cannot ever remember her disappointing me with anything she took on however difficult it may have seemed to me.

Over the years I had become well acquainted with many well connected musicians in orchestras in this country and one wet Saturday afternoon I saw her off on a train with her parents, for an audition in the big city, wishing her well but also knowing it would be the beginning of a career for her she well deserved and would perhaps never see her again.
It must have been at least ten years later, attending a concert one night in Manchester, I was on this occasion sitting quite close to the conductor about two or three rows back. I had a program, but hadn’t bothered to read it, content just to listen and enjoy.

I didn’t even hear her name mentioned, just automatically clapped with the rest of the audience when the guest musician was announced.
My eyes were closed, literally . . . . . 

Niccolo Paganini ‘s Concerto No.1 in D for Violin. Op.6

‘The Rondo’


The joy of that piece of music opened my eyes; there was that ‘Ugly Duckling’ so fine in her evening gown, she had turned into a beautiful swan playing with ease the difficult piece that brought the house down, everyone to a man giving her the standing ovation she so rightly deserved.

As I said, I was thrilled beyond belief she had made it, right to the very, very top of her profession, to play what was in her soul on her beloved violin!


Thanks for stopping by

Sunday, 15 September 2013

A promise I made.

A Promise

There was a murky, misty light coming from the moon as it briefly showed itself between the angry clouds drifting across its face, it was all that I had to see the numerous uneven well trodden ruts, but it was enough, my feet adequately found the well worn path along the cliff top. There were very few walkers out exercising their trusty four legged pals; a storm was brewing out there beyond the bay in the channel.

Rounding the corner of the path down onto the beach level I faced the inner regions of the bay where the eerie flat calm of the water was covered in scum and flotsam from the incoming tide, bobbing gently up and down it eventually deposited it self onto the flat greyish brown expanse of the sandy beach in front of me. A steep rise in the shingle from the waters edge and then a flat plateau that reached right up to the path, this rise in the shingle held back the water, but each small wave deposited all manner of debris that was now covered in the awful yellowish froth coming in from the channel. Not a pleasant sight for the holidaymakers, and that, along with the smell of what seemed like rotten fish that reached my nostrils made me walk just a little faster than usual, the legs that had served me well over the years started to ache as I neared the end of the path that took me to the stone makeshift jetty, it had hurriedly been built many years previous for the troops returning from the conflict across the channel. I was grateful for the smooth, flat tar-mack that had been laid that summer by the corporation.

Small fishing boats were huddled together as if sheltering from the impending battle with the elements, the lapping of the water slapped their sides between them with increasing vigour each minute, the storm out in the channel was getting closer and the once calm water was increasingly being disturbed as I neared the end of the pathway that skirted the little harbour.

The wind and rain was gusting over the crests of the small waves in front of me and they were now getting bigger in the bay, picking up and adding to the spray, it drifted in sheets of fine mist that resembled a net curtain blowing almost horizontal on the water.

Lightning lit up the distant horizon for a couple of seconds; there then followed a crack of thunder that nearly split my eardrums. Turning the corner, the raging waters of the channel in all their furry faced me, the wind, now full in my face, took my breath away and the full force of the storm wrapped itself around me trying to force me onto the pile of debris that it had by this time cast aside, unwanted it seemed, returning to the depths to collect more. There in front of me was the north-facing beach, stretching for what seemed miles into the distance. The dark brown sand reached the distant rocks in isolation out into the channel and I could see through the spray the reason for my appointment a few hundred yards away, the only living being out on the beach that night, bar for me, she waited, looking out into the channel, a figure standing firm against the buffeting wind, I had no illusion to know who stood there, braving the elements on steady legs as if rooted to the spot.

A few days previous to this sojourn out into the winter night the postman disturbed me while I was wading through a couple of toasted doorsteps soaked with butter and marmalade, a large brown envelope labelled ‘DO NOT BEND’ was irritatingly put in my hand when I opened the front door, a brown office type letter that was written by hand in a bold confident manner, not typed or franked as official mail. I was immediately curious, and discarded the remaining junk mail in the bin in the kitchen, proceeding to my little office to open this rather strange correspondence.

I remember tearing open the envelope with a little excitement that stemmed from curiosity, emptying the contents onto the desk, recognition brought on a prickly feeling at the back of my neck as I looked intently at the yellow ‘sticky note’ that was attached to one of the items, those words I think will be imprinted on my conscience for the rest of my life, the memories that they evoked I’m having difficulty describing,    “Remember Al’ when we were young, what you promised.” 

A sheet of music scribbled out in a hand that was unmistakably my own ‘I’LL WALK BESIDE YOU’ the last verse was underlined in red, something I hadn’t done.

Those words we had intently listened to as Josef Locke sung them to us with her little hand gripping mine so tightly all those years ago; My God yes, I remember! However could I forget? The fifty odd years had flown by, but I remember that evening as if it was only yesterday, and, without any doubt I remember the promise we made to each other.

The everyday existence of getting up, washing and shaving, working in the garden and tinkering in the workshop were forgotten; In that instance I was propelled back to the fifties, all the years that have been so full of wonderful things and events, seem to pail into an insignificant jumble in my mind as I remembered our promise to each other.
And I was amazed that she also had remembered that day!

The promise was to go back from where ever we were and sit together again on our bench up on the cliffs facing the channel in Ramsgate, watching the sun disappear over the horizon in our old age like that glorious sunny day all those years ago, to tell our story to each other of the life we had experienced, a life that had started out with so many days full of joy together. We both couldn’t believe that any life could be better than the experiences we had lived through at that time, and wondered what the future held, so we promised, swearing to remember and return to our bench up on the east cliff when and if we reached our seventy years.

I wonder now if others had the start in life that we had, the music that was centred round everything we did and the joy it gave us both, setting us up for a life so full of joy and laughter for the future the way it did. As we went our separate ways, which inevitably we had to, the feelings for each other has never lessened, through many loves over the years, two marriages and the arrival of children and grandchildren those teenage years have given me so much to live by, to honour your partner, to be honest with each other, to trust and show a kindness to others whoever they are and what ever they have done. Now, because I suppose the excitement of that promise that I made, I could not or ever want to renege on it. To see and perhaps hold her hand again gave rise to the exhilarated anticipation that resembled my youth, long ago forgotten, I desperately, desperately wanted to hear her story.  
Evidently she had confided in her daughter of our teenage years; nobody else knew of the past and it was only recently that she had thought it prudent to past on to her the desire she had, to honour the promise we made. Hence the envelope and its contents with her daughter’s phone number who co-incidentally lived quite close to me only a few miles down the coast.

I could see the resemblance from a distance, her desire to keep her mothers secret forced this clandestine meeting, to try to arrange for both of us the fulfilment of our promise to each other being certain the family would never understand. The human emotions I have often thought restrict the fulfilment of a full life, jealousy and mistrust, the domineering by one or other in a partnership often prevents so many of us from enjoying what each has to offer. I began to realise quite early on when a telephone conversation had to be cut short this was one of those occasions, but her daughter persevered finding common ground for us to meet. The ominous weather, with thunder and lightening and the lashing rain on a deserted beach brought on an ill-omened feeling as I approached, turning towards me I could see there were tears in her eyes, those eyes that replicated her mothers that spoke volumes to me when we were young, now told me, without saying a word that we had left it to late. She held what was obviously a heavy canvas bag for me to take.
“My mum’s life is in her journals Alan, she wanted you to have them, her way I suppose of keeping her promise. I know you will treasure them.”
She turned away leaving me alone with her mothers life in my hands, I have never felt so empty, so let down and sad as I did in that moment, a sense of extraordinary loss completely engulfed my entire being as I watched her disappear round the headland in the distance.

I returned to shut myself away from the turmoil of life around me, and it was a couple of weeks before I could bring myself to open the journals I now had in my possession, a whole life was spread out on the desk in front of me. Beautifully and painstakingly written in long hand with pen and ink, numerous photographs of motherhood and family life with captions of the circumstances at the time they were taken. Stories of days out and the happy times, of sad times and confusion but all culminating in a sense of humour that had seen her through the bad times, the wicked sense of humour that I remembered her by.
No fame or fortune had blessed either of us it seemed, a normal life had passed, but what a life, so full of appreciation for the world around her, that character of the young girl I knew had never been dented it seemed, and as each year passed every episode had been so full of wonder of the creations around her she was seeing, marvelling at the beauty we have all of us been blessed with.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The wonders of Nature. WOW ! !

Sorry it's been a long time since my last post but I have bee busy in the garden and the workshop.

Remembering how it was back then, the tales I was told from the characters in the town and their wisdom that they passed onto me.
The language they used intermingled with sayings that had developed over time, all perhaps with a subtle moral behind the phrase or yarn, to be passed on to my generation and then the next. Their correctness was never discussed or criticised, but the swearing of today in all media I read and listen to, seems to me a lack of knowledge of our language and disappointing for our children to have to listen to and read, because the joy in listening to my elders tell their stories, especially the fisherman and bargemen around the harbour, seemed to be all about communicating and they made me laugh at their accents from far away places.
I read once, from where I can’t remember, that, ‘we exist in a bubble of our own making, in the time we have in that bubble, that incidentally needs searching for, is a peace that each of us feels as ideal, and we should revel in it! We shouldn’t judge what happened in history, be it a week a year or decade or even a century ago to what we have now, but definitely we should learn from the mistakes that were made.’ 
...I draw strength from reflecting on what a privilege it is to be alive and what a privilege it is to have a brain that’s capable in its limited way of understanding why I exist and of revelling in the beauty of the world and the beauty of the products of evolution. The magnificence of the universe and the sense of smallness that has been given to us in our little tiny space in time, very humbling, but in a strangely comforting way, it’s nice to feel you’re part of a hugely bigger picture...
The bitterness of some of the comments I read makes me sad for those that feel it necessary to write in such a way using language that, to me belittles the human intellect.
It’s easy to criticise, and each of our opinions differ because everyone’s circumstances are different. To feel sorry for yourself because others have what you consider to be more than their fare share of wealth or possessions is wasting your time, that precious time you have been given to enjoy the wonders of life around you.
Such a breath of fresh air to read and view the pictures in Pat’s post, the blossom bursting on the trees on her walk through the town. The chalk cliffs, forever majestic, keeping watch over the shores of home. I could smell the salt sea air mixed with coffee beans being roasted in the shops of my childhood, the fish being unloaded on the quay, the timber and coal from the barges. Simple pleasures, to walk in the sunshine with the breeze in your hair. Thank you Pat.
Looking out the kitchen window this morning I was greeted with a marvellous sight that would raise the spirits of anyone to start the day. Many years ago my dear dad helped me one Christmas plant two small baby cuttings, no taller than three foot high of two apple trees, everyone telling me they wouldn’t take at that time of the year and would die of the frost. How wrong they all were, how beautiful each year the two majestic trees that have grown over the years to full maturity treat us to the splendour of their blossom each spring. This year as the pictures show, (see below ) take your breath away and it gives me the feeling that my ‘Pop’ would be smiling down, nodding his head in silent approval as he always did if something went right.
But those comments, some quite unkind that we received all those years ago as we dug a little hole for each one and planted the saplings on Christmas Day (1983/ 1984) have since been the source of satisfaction to me when those same people ask for an apple as they pass, I never refuse them, they had their day all those years ago, now its my turn.

Wow !
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Sunday, 28 April 2013

Happy Days in the Dorset country side.

St James
Pencil sketch & Watercolour

A lot of green's, not enough depth and I rushed it at the end because I was cold; roll on summer!
mmmm. .a bit lopsided, never mind I enjoyed doing it. 

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Friday, 26 April 2013

The Talisman

Sorry for the delay, but as they say 'Time waits for no man' and the days just keep flying by with so many things to do. I am in the middle of painting, and you can blame Michael for that, every time I view a new post he has put up, it makes me feel lazy with the few I have done, all I can say is his days must be longer than mine.
I will post my new effort at art these next couple of days, in the mean time:
The Following incident actually happened, and I will head it:
The Talisman
As age creeps along at a steady pace, more and more I am baffled at the wonders that happen in this universe to me. I was surprised and stunned a few weeks ago of one such incident that time you might say has healed. A long time ago I was in the playground of my youth, many miles from where I am now, back home in Ramsgate, there was a thought I had forgotten that afternoon, changing my life at the time and awakening feelings I didn’t understand.
It was a very hot summers day, this I do remember because the cold stone of the walls of the pier was pleasantly cooling to my bare legs, and a welcome breeze way out at the end by the lighthouse slightly chilled the skin on the back of my neck where it was wet with all the exertions of the day.
A young lady of about nineteen was walking along the pier that afternoon, dressed for the weather, her well formed body revelled in the breeze that slightly lifted the thin cotton dress away from her skin, gently caressing her and causing an air of peace and well-being in her appearance. She stopped in her stride and stood there in the midday sun looking at a scene of joy that was to stay with her all her life. Her eyes filled with moisture as she held her hand to her mouth to prevent any disturbance of what she was seeing. Her heart missed a beat as she studded the blond locks of hair covering the head of the young lad, never, she thought, had she felt or seen such blue eyes as he turned to look up at what the cause was of the shadow that she was creating. He stopped smiling and a serene look of nothing less that wonder crossed his face. Those eyes pierced her very soul, burning a memory into her subconscious, a tear released the tension in her young body and she had to turn away.
Before the thought of, or occurrence in, the attraction and the marvels that awaited the young boy of seven, sitting on the quay dangling his legs over the side, he was grubby and dishevelled, but laughing hilariously, causing an infection that spread across the water at the antics of the fishermen many feet below him.
A beautiful, unusual talisman or amulet hung about her neck, glinting in the sunlight, an heirloom she had inherited, passed down through generations that was of unknown origin, her hand, for some unknown reason to her, grasped it tightly as she turned back to face him, he was still staring, as if recognition lit up his young body she saw a man instead of the boy that was of her own age and he was studying the talisman she held so tightly. Although only a brief moment in time, she has quite often appeared in my dreams, at seven years old I had fallen deeply in love and I yearned for years after to see her again but never did.
There are few things I have learnt over the years that cannot be explained, and I am not one to believe in the afterlife or ghosts or fantasies so this is something that I have shelved to ask about when my judgement time comes.
I have lived my life since that day to the full and many will tell you I wouldn’t change a minute of it, perhaps wishing sometimes I could do it all again, not changing a minute. But this is not the end of this little bit of history.
A couple of months ago, walking down an unfamiliar high street, I saw someone having difficulty crossing a very busy road in a wheelchair and offered to help. The lady turned to me to thank me and her thanks froze in her mouth as she looked up into my eyes, hers immediately filled with tears as she searched my face and believe it or not we both knew and remembered that day so very long ago. Now in her eighties, me in my early seventies, remembering an afternoon sixty odd years ago that altered both our outlook on life. She opened her cardigan and around her neck still, was that very same Talisman glistening in the spring sunlight.    
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Wednesday, 17 April 2013


I have now been posting on this ‘Blog’ for three months and as the weeks have gone on and the articles and sketches I have posted seem to have been received with so many kind emails from you all I have decided to put a new page up that will give answers to the many questions that I have received.
The materials I use and where I get them from seem to be the main bulk of what you want to know.
How I go about this I have absolutely no idea, so may I ask you be patient with me in the development of this page, it will probably take up a lot of time, so there could be a few missing posts as I get to grips with it all.
I don’t know what happens sometimes with my layout, looking at other ‘Blogs’ mine is very fundamental and I am very envious of some of beautiful posts that I view. I have discovered if I put a button up, with a ‘click’ it takes you to another page so this is how I intend to start, lets hope it works.
In the mean time I will keep sketching and posting when I get time.
So keep stopping by, you never know, I might get lucky.

Friday, 12 April 2013

The End of My journey Home to Thanet.

Rounding the Foreland and holding the massive wheel to keep her steady, I stood legs apart swaying to leeward, the sight of home and all the familiar landmarks needed no reference to compass, every inch of canvas taunt and straining as if she knew our journey was coming to an end. The unusually gentle North Easterly was pushing us towards the harbour in the distance on calm seas. I could smell home, I could hear the thousands of joyful holidaymakers packing the beaches.
The gentle lapping waves in front of me as she cut deep into the water covered my emotion that rose up in my whole body; twenty years and then some had passed, there in the distance was where it had all begun, eager to leave home, eager to see the world I had ventured out from this place leaving behind all connections to satisfy the need of youth.
Passing under the white cliffs I knew my journey had come to an end, I was home and never again would we travel to distant shores, it was time to settle down.
As much as I can remember in my sketch of ‘Annabel 2’ I hope you like it.
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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

A Sad Ending to a bit more of our History.

In Memorandum

 I noticed this tree last year when the leaves were on it, its still exposed to the elements at present so I have used a bit of artistic licence and given it some leaves.
I wondered why it was all on its own, a few miles from Bucklers Hard where Admiral Nelsons ships in times long ago were built, stripping the New Forest of all the trees to protect our shores, why had they left this one? Was it special or was there a little sympathy back then for this magnificent tree growing on the cliff tops, perhaps sheltering the men on a lunch break in the midday sun. I wonder if Henry Adams looked on its beautifully shaped branches and couldn’t bring himself to see them shattered with cannon at the battles out in the English Channel.
The roots finding support for its massive girth probably reaching depths as great as half its height, its stood looking over the water for centuries through storms and hot summers watching over the busy shipping lane, many a sailor I have been told using it as a land mark for home.
There are, I am told, tunnels running for miles under these cliffs that smugglers used back long ago. As I sat there drawing, the little grey cells were working overtime, as I imagined the custom men gathering under its branches ready to pounce upon the hapless smugglers from the hamlet of Beaulieu a few miles away.
Some may think it foolish, they would say ‘it’s just a tree for goodness sake’, but to me its something to cherish, to admire its beauty and the fact it has survived for so long without being damaged is a marvel in itself with all the destruction of our forests and parks in recent years. There are plans I know to widen this lane down to the beach, to construct a car park for the jet skiers using the bay, which will bring in revenue for the council coffers no doubt, and a little bit more of our lovely country, with all the unwritten history with it, will disappear.
Will anyone shed a tear as the chainsaws bite into its trunk, I doubt it, there certainly is no one around that remembers when a little sapling sprouted from an acorn five or six hundred years ago on this spot, to remember the young tree bursting into the sunlight as it shed the first fruits from its branches.
I know, I know, I am an old softy.
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Monday, 8 April 2013

'The Fishermen’s Rest' from a sketch one evening.

There wasn’t a lot of spare seats in ‘The Fishermen’s Rest’, everybody taking shelter from the howling wind outside that had snow flurries dancing against the windows.
A huge fire in the grate crackled and spat out hot cinders onto the carpet that had seen better days, but oh so welcome, nobody was complaining and the landlord was doing a roaring trade, everyone was content to just be inside.
Every time the door opened to let in another bedraggled traveller, all turned to see who else was crazy enough to venture out into the night. You would be forgiven for believing this was the heart of winter instead of April! The turmoil of the sea ten yards away was a caldron of froth as the tide started to turn. One time a wave was just collapsing onto the promenade with such fury, as the door opened the salt water followed him in only to be stopped by the stone step up into the tiny porch way of the tavern. All chatter stopped for a brief moment as everybody eyed up the newcomer, satisfied he wasn’t a threat, the hub-hub carried on as before as the door slammed shut.
An old fashioned pub, the low beams contorted through age were genuine and had supported the low ceiling above the clientele for generations, back to the time when soldiers gathered on the quay to fight Napoleon; you could buy a pie with your ale or perhaps a packet of crisps if you were hungry, but the majority were there to ‘savour a pint’ and have a chat with mates and pass a pleasant evening in company, reminding many of an age that didn’t want pop music drowning out their conversation. The place was heaving with folk that had travelled miles just to have a pint of the locally brewed ale.
Sitting across the table was a gent of considerable age that everyone seemed to know, an empty glass and the remains of a pie by his side. A character who just wanted to be amongst companions, all care of appearance long past, so long as he was warm and safe from a day on his boat out in the Solent that had started before sun-up that morning. A routine that had lasted each day, every day, since he was a boy. His tired old eyes closed for a moment, remembering the time perhaps when his catch filled ‘Sally Ann 1’ in days long past. The only interruption had been the war years, being torpedoed twice as a merchant seaman he’d crossed the Atlantic so many times in those terrible times losing so many friends; he’d lost count. 
His weathered face smiled, his white bleached whiskers accentuated his blue eyes as he nodded a thank you at me across the space between us; I placed another drink by his side and took out my pad and pencil and tried to capture what must have been at least ninety years of living. I thought what stories he could tell; if only I had brought my little tape recorder that I had now started to carry with me on my journeys. By this time his eyes had closed properly, he was sleeping the sleep of contentment giving me the opportunity to try to capture that moment, a time to savour, a time to cherish, hopefully, for years to come.
To say to my dear lifetime companion, perhaps a decade or so later, do you remember old Sam that night in ‘The Fishermen’s Rest’ down on the quay when it snowed in April? That huge fire in the grate that kept us warm as we reminisced on times past, such a memorable evening as the scent from your hair drifted up from your head resting on my shoulder as I tried to sketch him sitting there opposite us. Such simple pleasures we had found in this wonderful life we have had together.  

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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Shadows that play a game with you.

I felt a bit out of sorts this last weekend, so I stayed home in the warm and decided to get the paints out. Copied a drawing in pencil first, which took me quite a long time. Instead of sketching an outline I found myself shading in the dark area's, this is not a good idea because the watercolour blends with the graphite.
Anyway, a good excersize, perhaps another try with the same subject-matter on another day.
I am always amazed at how dark a shade can be when the sun is high in the sky, really black on the back of the buildings away from the sunlight casting shadows across the sand, and every time you look up from your pad that shadow has moved another foot or so, annoying to say the least, like a child at play it will not stay still, as if it is trying to trick you into seeing something and then moving it.
All good fun.
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Saturday, 30 March 2013

Don't forget to put the clocks on an hour !

On the way Home.

My Sketch for today, Evershot Church. and Tess's cottage.

After reading an article in the Mail-Online 
(y interest in Thomas Hardy was rekindled after many years. We took the short trip to Evershot a couple of days ago with the intent of sketching Tess’s cottage, but as always my eye caught sight of an unusual looking church there beside the once dwelling of Augusta Way (Bugler) who was the inspiration of Hardy’s ‘Tess of the d'Urbervilles’
I marvel on rare occasions at the empathy of the literary mind such as Hardy’s, the story of Tess always reminds me of the compassion we were taught as youngsters by our loving parents not ever to judge others before knowing their circumstances.
There is, like always a little artistic licence in my sketch, but never the less a beautiful part of the world around here, that I consider myself lucky to be part of, I hope you like the effort.
We took the coast road home; in places deserted of all traffic, the isolation of the Dorset coast although bitterly cold, giving a sense of piece on an afternoon that had given me so much pleasure.
Looking out upon that vast ocean in front of me, those ever-rolling waves at first sight suggest to my small mind the idea of what I would call an eternity of percussion that the Gods of the sea play for us each day, always reminding me of home, always creating an emotion that brings back the memories of childhood on the cliffs and beaches of Thanet.
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Friday, 29 March 2013

As Promised the ‘T’ Bolts

‘T’ nuts!

Picture 1: Ends of hex bar retreived from the scrap box in a         friends machine shop destined to be thrown away.
Picture 2: Ready to be faced on the metal lathe.
Picture 3: Faced and turned down to fit the top half of the 'T' channel.
Picture 4: Hole drilled (Tap size) in this case 5.5mm for 1/4 UNF Tap.
Picture 5: Bottoming Tap (1/4 UNF) started in lathe for correct 90 degree right angle.
Picture 6: Channel on Milling machine.
Picture 7: Channel on angled table.
Picture 8 & 9: showing where the 'T' bolts go on the angled table.
Picture 10: The Myford ML8 wood lathe compound slide.
(All these channels are a different size! and separate 'T' bolts have to be made to fit each channel)  

I have been fortunate in making the acquaintance of a very talented lady who is an ornamental turner; the work she produces is absolutely incredible. Talking to her the other week I told her of my latest acquisition, a tilting table for the milling machine in my little workshop. I have been amazed at the accuracy of this small table for the price I paid, but like everything these days there is one big draw-back and that is the ‘T’ channels to anchor it down on the milling bed.
We discussed this problem at length because all this lady has is a pillar-drill and there was no way she could utilise one because there is not any ‘T’ nuts available on the market that would fit the pillar-drill table and also the angle table. 
The Photo’s I have taken I think explains this a little better. (I hope)
I do not understand the logic of some of the retail outlets today; selling something that is totally useless because it is not complete. Fortunately I have been able to help her by making the nuts to fit her tables, and she is now a very happy camper. But I wonder at how many lost sales there have been in this country all having the same problem.
Why ‘O’ why are they not standardised like a Morse-Taper or screw threads making life so much easier.
Anyway, I have had my moan, and to be perfectly honest I quite enjoy the task of making them, being fortunate enough to have the equipment to do so.
So if you are thinking of buying a new piece of shiny equipment for your existing machinery, be careful! Ask yourself if there are ‘T’ nuts available to anchor it down first before you get carried away with the glossy pictures advertising its virtues.
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Thursday, 28 March 2013

If I was honest, perhaps a dream come true in my silver years.

An Amateur Engineer, and the satisfaction of producing something out of nothing that you can’t buy anymore.
Certain tactile materials that are all around me have a certain appeal, wood has always given off an aroma that reminded me of my granddads timber yard up the top of Queen street in the chalk pit, the sounds and smell of sawdust as the wood was cut to size has left a lasting impression on my senses. 
Metal and the smell of oil reminds me of my Dads overalls and his workshop at the bottom of the garden when I was growing up, a small little place that was heaven to me, and just to be allowed to enter was a joy I would give up playtime with my chums to be with Dad out there in the winter with the heat and smell of the little paraffin oil fire in the corner. The knowledge passed on to me in those hours spent with him has been invaluable over the years. Watching him make threads on a piece of metal to fit perfectly, reviving a machine that had been broken to last another few years. Learning how to sharpen the many different blades that he used to razor sharpness with just an oil stone and elbow grease, never letting his precious chisels anywhere near a grinding machine. He did have a water stone that I was instructed to turn by hand at a certain speed, but that was all, there wasn’t any electricity out there at the bottom of the garden to run machines, everything was done with hand tools. I’d sit there in the corner with the pressure from the Tilly-Lamp hissing away, not only giving light to Dad but also keeping me warm as well.
Since then as time has gone on the need to have my own small haven at the bottom of the garden was a dream I never thought would ever materialise, the cost of the tools far beyond my pocket when the children were growing up. But gradually it has become a reality and I have never been happier than when I am out there with the wind whistling through the trees outside, the rain beating against the roof on a cold winters night, warm and cosy in a cocoon of my own making.
I have collected over the years all the hand tools that have ever been invented, sets of chisels too numerous to count. There are at least two-dozen planes all in mint condition of varying sizes and they are sharp and all in use.
But it is the metal work that I find most rewarding now, to be able to skim a thousands of an inch off a piece of metal on my small milling machine is very satisfying, to turn a bar for a press fit in a bearing on the metal lathe also gives me a thrill every time. I wonder sometimes if Dad is looking down on me with a smile on his face, nodding his head in that way he used to when I did something right, without a word ever being spoken.
I have read books, watched video’s, studied and asked questions to engineers, learning over time on the how and the why and also with a lot of ‘what ifs’ that must have sounded at the time rather stupid to them, but realising there is always something missing in my knowledge as an amateur machinist that I needed to refer to from the books in my small library.
What has surprised me is how lucrative it can be, gone are the days when a small component could be obtained for a small amount of money from the local machine shop if it had been broken or had worn out. Now, because the majority of machines I suppose are made in far away places, it is not possible to get anything repaired, you are expected to buy a new one. I have never advertised, its all word of mouth, if I accepted every job that came my way I would never leave the workshop to indulge my other pastimes, to sketch or to enjoy my retirement generally, so if you can buy it I won’t make it only for myself. But if it is unobtainable then I am interested, so long as there is no time limit, only under extreme circumstances will I work until it is finished, burning the midnight oil, it is very rarely appreciated. 
Anyway ‘T’ nuts, a pet hate of mine, you ask ‘What the h*** are ‘T’ nuts, well, I will tell those of you that don’t know tomorrow and why they are a pet hate of mine.
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