Archive for January, 2012

A sombre day

January 31, 2012

Today I finished another whodunit from the Lit & Phil, in Newcastle. This was Wycliffe and the four jacks, by W.J. Burley. At one point, Wycliffe is leaning against a harbour wall thinking about his latest murder case when he notices someone nearby…

… A few feet away a woman painter in water colours had set up her easel; her colours were spread out on a little tray and a water pot dangled from a hook. It needed courage, so nakedly to expose one’s talents.

This passage speaks directly to my anxiety and reluctance to draw or paint in public. Yesterday I was looking through some photographs that I had taken on one of the country walks I went on with my friends Tom and Terry. I can remember the moment. We were walking along a path which wound its way through a silver birch wood. A teenage girl came past on a horse; she was deep in conversation on her mobile phone. I don’t know why but that really annoyed me. It was as if her voice was polluting the soundscape. Be that as it may, I knocked out a watercolour to capture the moment.

Silver birch wood

This morning, I heard the sad news that an old friend of mine, Gerry, has just died. Fortunately he died peacefully; he had not been well for quite some time. We were postgraduate students together and I shared a little terraced house with him and his wife, Mary, when I lived in Sheffield. I shall remember him with much fondness, standing very tall as he did before he needed a wheelchair. He was intelligent, inquisitive, and a lot of fun to be with. My thoughts are with Mary and their family, at this time.

On Sunday I made a chicken and turkey pie. I have to say that I was pleased with the way it turned out. Here is a pic of it before it went into the oven, and then one after cooking when it was on the table.

Chicken pie ready for the oven

Chicken pie on the tab

Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Dirty window as photographic filter

January 27, 2012

This week seems to have flown by. I went to Newcastle for my sketching class at the Lit & Phil. I took a photograph of Grey’s Monument through a very dirty window in the cafe where I was having a sandwich and a cup of coffee afterwards.

Monument through dirty window

I hope to practice some piano and guitar later today and then I shall play tomorrow at Helles Angels in SL. However, the next item on my list for right now is to go and meet my friend Tom for the full English breakfast. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Pasta machine

January 22, 2012

It seems an age since I blogged here. My sketching class at the Lit & Phil in Newcastle has started up again. This week I had to draw a piece of kitchen equipment, so I rummidged around in my cupboards and found my pasta cutting machine. I am not particularly pleased with the drawing, but here it is.

Pasta machine

I have been making some progress with my guitar playing but I’m not sure if that is coming through into the song repertoire as yet. Piano, as always, is something of an uphill struggle but rewarding, nevertheless. Anyway, rest assured that I have good intentions to write a little more regularly here. Talk to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Central heating suit

January 11, 2012

I was up early, squirting a bit of air into one of my front tyres. Hopefully, it will behave itself and not deflate. If it does, I suppose the inevitable trip to the garage will have to be endured.

I am drinking a particularly pleasant cup of coffee, made with freshly ground beans. I am using my George Orwell Nineteen Eighty-Four mug that Penguin Books produced for one of their anniversaries; it is my favourite mug. When I have finished I intend to get out into the garden and sweep up some fallen leaves. It is a mild day and it looks as though it will keep dry. We have colder weather predicted, although Canadians might fall about laughing at our (English) notions of cold weather.

I would like to design a body suit that could be connected by a flexible hose to a coupler from our hot water central heating system. The coupler could be placed by my armchair with a retractable nozzle coming from a handy wall bracket. Turn the valve to OPEN and feel the warmth flowing around your body. I suppose it would be quite comfortable. Maybe a bit like lying on a water bed. Well, there is an idea! Perhaps zipping myself into a body suit would be a bit inconvenient becauser I would have to unzip every time I wanted to get out of the chair to make a cup of tea or whatever. Why not make a water-chair, as opposed to a water bed, and connect this to the central heating system? I guess the chair could have an optional zip flap for those very cold days. I do realise that a simpler solution might be to turn up the central heating in the house in the first place but that would be boring, and would not warrant discussion here on my blog.

Deborah's ear and hand

I have been drawing more ears and hands and I present one of each, above. I’m not sure what I shall move onto next. I would like to do noses, but I have a feeling that folks will be somewhat reluctant to allow me to snap their conks. Next Wednesday I shall start another ten week sketching course at the Lit & Phil library in Newcastle. Meanwhile, there is much to do on piano and guitar. So, I had better get moving. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Afternoon tea

January 6, 2012

We recently entertained Richard and Charlie, friends of my daughter Natasha, to afternoon tea. I used my big brown tea pot and a woollen tea cosy that looks remarkably similar to the one my grandma knitted for me, many years ago.

Given that we are in the middle of winter, the occasion fell short of the ideal from a nostalgic point of view for me; there was no coal fire burning in the grate. As a boy, afternoon tea would have included slices of bread toasted on a fork in front of the hot embers and subsequently covered with lashings of butter and possibly home-made strawberry jam. Still, the occasion was delightful and not a puff of sooty smoke was discharged into the atmosphere. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.


January 5, 2012

You may be pleased to know that I am moving on from hands. I have decided to make the ear my next object of sketcherly desire. Accordingly I present to you the ears of my friends Tony and Costello (one ear each in this drawing).

The ears of my friends Tony & Costello (one ear per person)

For once, an expensive garage bill was avoided yesterday. A great guy from the RAC came and sorted my car out when it wouldn’t start; he replaced my defunct battery at a very reasonable cost IMHO. I am so glad I belong to the RAC.

Now that the festive season is over, I need to focus on my piano playing and continue with my cooking. However, I have decided to go easy on the Julia Childs recipes since they conflict with another one of my New Year’s Resolutions, which is to lose some weight. There is just too much butter and cream in Julia’s cuisine. I am planning on trying out a few more Delia recipes over the coming weeks, starting with a gratin of courgettes and tomatoes tomorrow, if all goes well. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

The snowdrop as imperfect cadence

January 3, 2012

Today I noticed that some snowdrops were in bloom in the garden. I think they function as an imperfect cadence in heralding the close of winter and the start of spring.


Let me explain the musical metaphor. A perfect cadence is the conventional device used to bring a tonal work of music to its conclusion. In the key of C major, the end of a song might thus be signalled by the tune moving from the chord of G7 (the so-called Dominant 7th) to C (the tonic chord). The dominant chord is built around the 5th note of the scale, which in C major is G (hence the Dominant 7th = G7).

Now, sometimes the composer plays with us a little – makes us think that we are coming to the climax but then holds us back. He or she can do this by moving from the Dominant 7th to the submediant chord based upon the 6th note of the scale, which in C major yields an A minor chord. The minor chord, in such a progression, feels almost anti-climactic. We thought we were going to the highly satisfactory resolution of the C major chord, with all its strength and power, and instead we get titillated by the almost feminine (not a very PC thing to say, I know) A minor chord. The song will usually wander about a bit, perhaps visiting the subdominant chord (built on the 4th note of the scale, which would be F major in the key of C) before getting back to the Dominant and finally onto the Tonic chord for its perfect cadence.

So, the snowdrop is a bit like an imperfect cadence. The pretty flowers make me feel as though spring is here, but in fact it is still some way off. We have to get through January and February! Flanders and Swan wrote a wonderful song about the English weather. I can’t remember all the lyrics but it starts…

January brings the snow,
Makes your feet and fingers glow.
February’s ice and sleet,
Freeze the toes right off your feet!

On that note, I shall potter off and find a nice warm pair of socks to wear. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

My friend Maura’s hands

January 2, 2012

Here is a pencil sketch of my friend Maura’s hands. I may start on another part of the anatomy after this, since I have done rather a lot of hands just lately. I fancy doing some ears, but I’ll have to see if people are happy to let me photograph them.

Maura's hands

So far, the NYRs (New Year’s Resolutions) are going well, but I suppose it is only the second day of the year. Anyway, speaking of which, I am going to practice a few scales on the piano now. Talk to you later, my dear blogophiles.