Monday, 30 June 2008


This picture just had to be snapped. I was standing outside the doctor's surgery with Sue while she had a cigarette. I'd just been in to book an appointment and was told to go away again and phone in the morning. If I wanted to book an appointment I could have one for three weeks time.

"Drain and growing grass" seemed rather pleasant after that.

I finished the Artist's Trading Cards. I will do more, different ones, but this first set is of FIVE Jasfoup cards. One goes to Gina, three are promised, I have one left. Who wants it, free and gratis. Next time I'll want one in return so this is your chance. If there's more than one of youI'll pick out of a hat. Requests to the email on my profile, please. Non-UK readers are fine to request it too.

Waste ground where they didn't build an office next to the doctor's.

Current rife with poppies, daisies, comphrey, willow herb, barley and whatever these are.

How wonderful!

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Dogs and Godlings

Kilfenora cathedral, Co. Clare.

This was a picture from last Thursday that hadn't been moved off my camera for some reason. I'm sure K got a better shot of this, but I lay on the ground to get the tower of this tiny cathedral through the west gate with the clouds boiling behind it as if the apocalypse were at hand. Thanks, Gina and Jim, for taking us there.

This is Trickster and Nute, who pretend to loathe each other, sharing the back of the sofa in the sunshine yesterday. The living-cum-dining room had been turned around to make way for a very special formal dinner, and that necessitated the shoving of the sofa under the window (and the door removed). I'm sure DK will blog the meal itself, all seven courses cooked and served by dear friends*

This is the mirror in the study.

I made it a week or two after we moved it - we neededa mirror and i had the space for a piece of art. It's grown a bit since - organic art always does here.

The rag rug below it was a gift to K from Gina , who made it herself.

*This is a PG rated blog, remember

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Sunshine and Sailor Suits

This was one of K's sayings - she got it from an aunt or a grandma or maiden uncle or somesuch. I think it a delightful saying.

If there's enough blue sky to make a sailor suit
it'll be sunny by tea time.

her mum recognised it when we were in Ireland and although we've had a few showers today I'm sure it'll cheer up.

Morisson's supermarket car park has three of these fantastic sculptures of fish. They're brass -- or copper -- cut out and welded to 'branches' and look like salmon jumping from the underground stream the car park was built over. I think them delightful. I'd nipped down there to recycle the plastics and pop in for a copy of 'Gardener's Monthly' but they didn't appear to have a copy. I bought the 'Gardener's World' magazine because it had an offer of three passion flowers for £2.99

This is my return Artist Trading Card for Gina. It contains a print of my first watercolour of Jasfoup, the signature from and a tiny story (which will appear nowhere else) inside an envelope.

3 1/2" x 2 1/4"

Friday, 27 June 2008

Cats and Cages

When we were in Ireland, Gina gave me her very first Artist Trading Card. It really is a delightful piece called "Cat in a Cage" and measures only 3 1/2" by 2 1/4". Click on the image to have a closer look. Lots of fabric and stitching and utter feelyness.

I used to make a lot of ATCs myself but it lapsed in recent years. I shall have to revive the practice, if only to send Gina one in return!

Incidentally, if you click the link you'll see loads of pictures of our two days there, though be warned, there are pictures of me on display, so really not for the faint of heart. If you have a look, leave her a comment. She really has a lovely gardener's blog.

I have a fondness for the haiga form. This is a rather lazy way of doing it -- adding a haiku (or more often a Senryū) to a photograph. What I should be doing is hand painting a picture to illustrate and make a counterpoint to the words.

Still, I am noting if not lazy, as my friend Jasfoup says.

Unlike Gina, who has a saying (and I forget where it came from) to counter any adversity:

"We're not made of paper! We won't melt!"

It makes no sense to me either, but it's terribly appropriate for many situations.

Here's a photo K took of the three of us last week at Chatsworth. You'll have to click it to see, but Lu is holding a big steel ball, I'm in the middle and K to the right.

Thursday, 26 June 2008


We were shown a lake on the first evening. It was an easy walk - or would have been had I not had a plate-and-pinned right ankle and unresolved pain in my left foot which shoots pain into my left ankle and calf. At the bottom of the hill where K's mum and her husband live is the fantasic wood and lake. I don't know what it was called but it was delightful. There was the remains of a wrecked rowboat on the shore. It was just turning dusk at 9:30 PM

Yesterday we were taken to a church at Kilfenora, County Clare where this delightful chap - I think he's a demon - was on the side of one of those huge tall crosses at the old Protestant church.

This was also there, but outside. I love the way the lichen grows on the old stone, and the lettering is beautiful out of context.

That was the first time I'd been in a church for many years, though perhaps it didn't count as we weren't allowed in the church proper, just the touristy bits.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Purple Garden

It contrasts well with the blue. This is of the top pond, over the purple sage and past the blue irises. The little dragon is a stoneware facsimile of a Notre Dame gargoyle and was the very first thing I ever purchased from the internet, back in 1995. Remember those days? When a 56K modem was considered fast?

More purple, this time from the bottom of the garden where a weeping willow provides a climbing post for a prolific Belladonna. What a crop of beautiful, poisonous berries we're going to have this year!

Also at the bottom of the garden, past the circle, is the lantern tree. Originally this was just a log Lu brought home to burn but I liked it so much I cenented it into the ground and screwed new branches to it. It held oil lamps and candle lanterns (and still does) but it als sports a set of outdoor electic lights too now.

The whirly thing is a wind toy.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Sunset garden

This is the seating area outside the kitchen door. We have a lot of seating areas in the garden but this is the most commonly used. Plants in pots and solar lights and a sturdy bench that K won in a school raffle long before I met her.

I like blue in the garden. People get bored when I paint everything blue but it goes so well with the plantage.

The upturned pot is for a cup of tea and there's another bench facing this one (I'm sat on it taking the photo.)

To the left of this picture, just before the four foot drop, is
a chimnea that K's mum bought her for her birthday a few years ago.

That's rather pretty, too. Cast iron and covered in rust. If you click on the image to full-size it, you can see the setting sun on the house in the three blue balls.

And this is the cat, Nute, studiously not making a decision. She's always been one to sit on the fence.

Monday, 23 June 2008


There are benefits to being an occupant of what must be one of the most manic houses this side of the M1. After the weekend we've had, and the dozens of (all very wonderful) people who came to the Gathering, who stayed over, who went to C-munch, it's wonderful to get up this morning and find the house empty but for the Wyves and kids asleep upstairs. Such peace is priceless.

This is the view from the top of Roseley Tor, one of my favourite places.

This is the un-notice board on our daily walk. It used to contain, I think, rules of conduct on this piece of Council recreation ground (no ball games, no lying on the grass, no running etc) but is now so weathered it has become unreasonable. An utter delight of mortal folly.

K made lunch today with a fresh sauce she picked up at the Chesterfield Farmer's market - a tomato and olive one. We had it over wholewheat twist with a low-fat garlic bread on the side. Delicious.

We ate al-fresco.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Midsummer Nights

We had the midsummer gathering here yesterday (sorry for the dozens of cars, neighbours) and very well it went, too. Despite the rain which fell softly all day except for the hour during the ceremony itself. We were stood in the circle listening to it pelting down next door, but not on us. There were two handfasting renewals - MRK and Rachel, performed by K, and the triple one between K, Luisa and myself.

Late night, after the feast table had been put away, I saw on Stephanie's journal about making Chinese tea eggs and had to try them. Last nights weren't so good but today's came out quite well. I used paprika instead of five-spice and Kenyan tea. I must try a green tea variety but I suspect its the tannin that 'fixes' the pattern.

It was incredible windy today with scattered sunny bits where the clouds cleared sufficiently to let it through. We narrowly avoided a dogfight when a woman charged around a corner with two Westies (which seem to be the commonest dog around here), saw me, shouted 'F--- Sh--' a few times and made a large detour.

I responded with a 'good morning' and apologised to the dogs on her behalf.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Not tagged by JJ

The delightful JJ didn't tag me for this - I stoleded it.

What were you doing 10 years ago?
I'd been divorced for a year and had just bought a new (to me) house. I was serial dating and generally enjoying being single. I loved my two dogs, Holly and Jester, to bits.

Five things on your to-do list for today:
Transcribe the demon's blog post (done)
Take Bear, Jack and Trickster for a walk (done)
Write a Laverstone Tale and at least 500 words of Another Bloody Love Story
Welcome folk to the house for the Midsummer Gathering
Hide from all the guests in the greenhouse and read.

What are three of your bad habits?
My tendency to Asberger's
My intolerance to people talking
The amount of tea I drink..

What would you do if you were a billionaire?
Pay off the mortgages
Buy a country estate and rename it 'Laverstone Manor'.
Buy an impractical car, like a vintage hearse.

What are some snacks you enjoy?
Victory Vs.
Fruit, especially dates and figs.

What were the last five books you read?
Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson
Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson
When We Were Bad by Charlotte Mendleson
Where Demons Dare by Kim Harrison
Lottery by Patricia Wood

What are five jobs you have had?
Benefits Rater – I was sacked for being nice to customers
Life Model - Sacked because I wasn't a 'sweet young thang'
Car park attendant
Art gallery director

Five places that you have lived?
Alvechurch, Worcestershire. A pretty town that art of Laverstone is based upon.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Sedgley, Dudley.
Darley Dale, Derbyshire

Friday, 20 June 2008

Wordles and Squirdles

Clare told me about this site. Wordle. It's rather super, actually. You paste in a lot of words - such as the complete taxt of a book - and it gives you a word clod about it. Fascinating. It has revealed that I use 'back' rather a lot. I should cut that down. The image above is the one for 'An Ungodly Child' when I've removed the names 'Harold' and 'Jasfoup' and the word 'said'.

This morning's walk brought some unusual finds but instead I bring you this photograph of the dogs. I was trying to get a shot of the fascinating shapes the triple lead gets into - rhombuses and parallelograms - but caught this almost cubist rendition.

That's Bear on the right, lumbering along like a woolley juggernaut. Jack, on the left, has pulled against the motion and is caught almost stationary but Trickster, in the middle, is so small her legs move at four times the speed of the others and renders her a ghostly blur.

In the post this morning was something that arrived from Chicago.
What a delight, to see this beautiful package inside. It is, as you've no doubt guessed, a raven's claw necklace from the very talented Lady Lavona from the Cabinet of Curiosities

By coincidence, she posted that this was for sale on the very day I had exactly the right amount for it in my paypal account. I've bought it for K and was going to hang on to it for her birthday in August but it's midsummer tomorrow and seems right to give it to her now.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Art and Hearts

I trained as an artist for five years, ending up with a BA just prior to working as a car-park attendant. I do very little painting these days except for a few watercolours and doodles but these take significant second place to the writing.

One of the things I still do regularly is making up three-dimensional wall pieces from found items. This mirror was made with pieces found on Borth beach in Wales. It is much loved and has become, over the years, an altar of sorts, housing all the small precious things that people give me or I collect.

We go on a family holiday each year to The Edge in Devon. This is a sketch of Welcombe Mouth which has to be our most favourite beach in the country. Shingle, sand, rock pools, cliffs and granite fingers that will slice you open in an instant. We love it.

I still do a great many watercolours and regularly offer them for sale to supplement my income. Many become projected covers for my books.

Most are inspired by Biblical themes - This one is titled "The Second Seal".

Revelations 6:3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come!”

Another came forth, a red horse. To him who sat on it was given power to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another. There was given to him a great sword.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Rain and Rust

I mentioned rust yesterday. Look how marvellously the rain brings out the colours in this corrugated iron. The cotoneaster creeping across it is spectacular. This was part of an old, unused shed at the back of the local shop, photographed when I went to get some milk this morning. There are two sheds next to each other, both empty but for shards of broken glass. What a waste! I'm almost tempted to ask if I can buy them and re-erect them here. They'd make a super garden office.

Not twenty yards away is an equally glorious piece of fencing. The Elder growing up it is in full flower. I used to make Elderflower wine at this time of year, but last year we had a disaster -- out of the 50 gallons of wine I made (average cost £5 a gallon) we lost 40 to vinegar flies, stopped fermentation and cold. There are so many people coming here that there was nowhere to keep the wine at a stable temperature. I've stopped making it until that changes -- either with a new house of a heated shed.

I'm happy to keep the Elder trees in the hedgerows -- they are prone to infestations of blackfly.

This turned out to be an interesting shot. Jack was looking out of the study window when I returned with the milk. He saw the camera, so has dropped down, trying to escape the lens. Behind him you can see his basket and a 6' bookshelf stuffed full of mostly reference material for my writing. I sit to the immediate right of this bookcase.

Reflected in the glass is me. A better angle would have shown off my cleavage.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Books and... bagels?

Ah! That solves it. I answered a post on the Bluechrome Books blog which was offering a free book to any blogger that was offering to read and review it. I put my name down. This, remember, was at the end of April. Imagine my surprise this morning when a parcel arrives with FOURTEEN books in it -- all fresh off the press. One of them I already have - Your Messages, the result of a highly inventive online collaboration which ran during November 2007, where contributors were given a single day to write a response in exactly 300 words to a message of exactly 300 words created by Lynne Rees and Sarah Salway. I loved this book, though I would say that because its packed full of stories by people I know both in blogland and in real life and, of course, one by me.

Freshly mown fields. There's nothing quite like them. True, this is a piece of council recreation ground rather than a real field cultivated and mown for hay - Ah! what memories of childhood antics that evokes -- but still, pleasant enough.

Is it a sign that I'm an adult, I wonder, that although i want to lie on the grass and look up at the sky, I don't because (a) my clothes would get covered with bits of grass and it's me that does the washing and (b) I have too much to do at home - two stories and a novel to get on with, for a start!


A year ago these were two brightly polished Chinese massage balls - the kind that tinkle when you manipulate them with your fingers. They had a couple of spots of rust on them and K was throwing them out. I took them for the garden instead. The gravel they stand on used to be cobalt blue but had faded over time.

I think they look stunning now. I'm very partial to the absolute beauty of rust. If I had a large enough bank account, I'd commission sculptures in raw steel.

And K made lunch so I didn't have a bagel after all.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Charlotte and Melissa

I'm currently reading an excellent book: Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson.

Human Croquet is about a girl, Isobel Fairfax, who lives with her father who left her when she was eight(?) and then came back, seven years later, Vinny, who's her emotionless and grumpy aunt, her stepmother, Debbie, who's nearly the same age as her, and her alien-obsessed brother. Her mother disappeared little before her father left her and her brother. Human Croquet is a wonderfully bizarre book, full of twists and fascinating, deep characters.

It comes to mind because two of the characters are called Melissa and Charlotte; names I've been using for Harold's grandmother and great-aunt. I hope no-one thinks I nicked them from here. - I've been using them for years.

Here's something that makes me happy - royalty payments from the three books I have for sale here

I only make a pound or two on each self-published book, but it's jolly gratifying to get a small sum I wasn't expecting. This one covers a three month period. I don't thing I'll be living on my writing for a while yet. I'm in the process of making up a fourth book, one of haiga.

Wheat stalks and Gas stand

I spotted this on the street as I walked the dogs this morning. The gas stand, a little roadside cupboard, is about two feet high and the wheat two-thirds of that. Delightful.

I shall look forward to it ripening.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Of Clouds and Inspiration

A bit of a cheat this one. I'm rather partial to haiga. Technically, a haiga should be a brush drawing that creates a juxtaposition with the haiku that accompanies it, but in this technological age it is more regularly seen using photographs. Click on the image for a larger size*

As an aside, if you're at all interested in the haiku form, look up Matsuo Basho, the master of it.

I gave up smoking last year (hurrah!) but even so, I was too late to the habit to be able to collect cigarette cards. It doesn't mean I don't try to collect them when I can. This set of 100 Cinema Stars (of which I have about 20) was issued by Gallaher Ltd. Wht an utter delight they are. I picked them up with the intent of using the images to inspire characters for my nezt novel, Halcyon Days, which will be set partly in Laverstone in the 20s.

The cards have sat in front of my monitor screen ever since.

It's literally the middle of June. Why has someone lost a woolly glove on the pavement. I saw this on my walk with the dogs earlier. How utterly bizarre. Still, it made a good composition.

Lost, one woollen glove
in an adult man's size (large) -
save it for winter.

*Also for the One Single Impression prompt transience