Archive for March, 2012

The end of an era

March 27, 2012

Today a took a big old TV down to the recycling tip. It was really too heavy for me to carry and last week I strained some muscles in my back lugging it into the shed. It was the tube and screen which made it heavy. Anyway, I dismantled it as far as I could, so that I could carry the tube separately and I was just about able to do that, getting it into the car and out again at the recycling tip. Here is a pic of some of the remains.

Remains of an old-fashioned TV

When I got back, I sorted out a few large cardboard boxes for our recycling bin (perhaps I should have done that earlier and taken it straight to the tip, but I could not concentrate on anything until I had dealt with the old TV). I swept up a bit in the shed and put a sun lounger out on the lawn. Even though it is still March, it was beautifully warm out there. I had a cup of coffee while I drew the water butt (and the over-turned wheelbarrow is next to it).

Water butt and wheel barrow

I am now back inside and am about to start my piano practice, having dealt with something very smelly in the fridge. I need to think about what to play for my gig at Terra Fyrmusica in Second Life, tonight. That will be midday SLT and in England we are back to the usual 8 hour time difference once more. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Trip to South Kilvington

March 26, 2012

Today I visited a place in Yorkshire called South Kilvington. I was meeting up with some of my family for a lazy lunch at a The Old Oak Tree pub. I arrived a little early and to pass the time sat in the car sketching some of the houses in the village street.

Some houses on the main road at South Kilvington

It has been another beautiful day here, with temperatures up to our summer levels. Well, I must play some piano now.

Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Spring flowers

March 25, 2012

We have a lovely sunny day here in England and the spring flowers are looking great. Here is a photo to give you some idea of the current delights (actually, I think it is from a flowering current bush, so there was a bit of a pun intended).

Spring flowers

I now have some closure in terms of my autobiography project. I have received some wonderful feedback in emails, over this past week. I am going to see whether it would be possible to turn it into an e-book at, in due course, but for the present I seem to be busy with other things. Yesterday I downloaded the Scrivener program and I am currently working my way through some of the tutorials. It seems like a powerful piece of software and many book authors love it. It certainly has some good reviews. It is too early to tell whether it will suit my way of writing. I think the only way will be to try it and see. I am currently thinking of resuscitating my previous fiction character, Harold Hake. Those of you who heard me read that book aloud in instalments on Second Life will remember that Harold had just retired from teaching at university. So I might pick up his adventures post-retirment and write that as an illustrated book. It won’t be a graphic novel, but maybe I could put 4 or 5 illustrations into each chapter. This would be following the pattern of my autobiography (I made about 45 illustrations for that book).

I am still hitting the wall in terms of my piano playing. I keep practicing and I have one or two ideas concerning the way forward. The guitar is being a tad problematic too. When I am noodling around at home I seem to be getting some nice fiddly bits going but when I am sitting all wired up and streaming to the internet my improvisational imagination seems to dry up. Maybe I need to put a bit more structure into it, song by song. Well, lots to think about there. Tonight I play Minstrel’s Point (that is at midday SLT and English clocks changed last night – so we are back to the usual time difference with Second Life now). Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Charcoal still life

March 22, 2012

Yesterday, at my art class at the Lit & Phil in Newcastle, we drew a still life in charcoal. Emma had set out a guitar and a violin against some crumpled silver foil and I decided to include part of a door frame and a couple of pictures that were on the wall next to where the still life subject was positioned. I thoroughly enjoyed working with charcoal once again.

Charcoal still life at the Lit & Phil art class

Today has been a beautiful sunny morning and I took a book out to read on a seat in the garden. I wore a heavy sweater, but needed my straw Panama hat for the sun. As I sipped my coffee I learned that Inspector Gautier had gone to bed with Claudine, the artist’s model, and his wife has taken a lover. This is all part of the Parisian back story in Richard Grayson’s period detective story set in the early 1900s. As yet, I have not discovered who committed The Murders at Impasse Louvain.

Earlier in the week I read a Sherlock Holmes graphic novel. The text was adapted from Conan Doyle’s novel A study in Scarlet by Ian Edginton and illustrated by I. Culbard. I think the Inspector Guatier stories would also look good as graphic novels.

My art has stalled a little, since I have no major project for it now that I have finished my autobiography. I have also hit a wall in terms of my piano. Fortunately, the guitar seems to be ticking over quite well. Today I play my weekly gig at Ragged Edge (that is midday SLT, and 7 p.m. English time). Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Self-portrait in oils

March 15, 2012

Today at the Lit & Phil art class in Newcastle, I finished my self-portrait in oils. This was, in fact my first ever oil painting. I decided to digitise it and work on it within my digital painting program. Basically, the background in my oil painting didn’t really work. I therefore put a background of bookshelves into the digital painting and cut myself out, as it were. I prefer the end result of the digital manipulation to the basic oil painting. Anyway, here it is…

Self-portrait in oils, rendered digitally

I shall be playing at Ragged Edge in Second Life on Thursday 15th March at the earlier time of 7 pm English time (but that is still midday SLT, since there is an hour difference from usual because we are currently behind the States in our clock change for summer). Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Blocked drain

March 8, 2012

Black gunge from the drain

Today has not, so far, gone according to plan. I was sweeping up some stuff in my back yard when I noticed a blocked drain. I have dealt with this from time to time in the past, and I have to say that it is not a pleasant task.

It seemed to me that there was a lot of gritty stuff lying at the bottom of the drain. I had some work done on my roof tiles some time ago and I have a suspicion that this might have been where it came from. In the end, I decided to try to fish it out with a soup ladle. I didn’t like to use our existing kitchen ladle for the purpose, so this triggered a trip to the supermarket and, once I got there, I ended up buying a load of shopping, too. I tried to get hold of a pair of extra-long, strong rubber gauntlets from a couple of stores but did not really find anything suitable for the job. Maybe I am a bit of a wimp, but I really did not want to put my bare skin into that fetid water.

At times like this I can become highly self-critical. I now kick myself for not pushing my lateral thinking sufficiently far. Firstly, I only needed one glove, not a pair, since there was only room for one hand/arm to go down the drain opening. Secondly, I do have a pair of heavy duty rubber gloves. What I should have done is cut a smallish hole in the bottom of a plastic sack, poked the glove through, and made a join with duct tape. I am fairly certain that would have worked. The plastic sack would then have been turned into the equivalent of an opera glove sleeve.

Be that as it may, I did get a lot of black sludge out. I think I may have cleared the blockage but I shall have to monitor the situation when it next rains. Do you know, I still have the smell of that sludge in my nostrils. It is even making my cup of coffee taste revolting. Hang on a moment, I’ll just go and give my face a good wash with soap…. Ah, well, I think that has helped a bit. Coffee tastes a bit soapy now, but that is much better. Speak to you later my dear blogophiles.

Sermon on faulty electrical socket

March 3, 2012

For about a week I have been trying to find an electrician to fix a faulty light in my kitchen and one way or another it seems to have proved rather difficult. The people who had previously fixed my washing machine claimed not to know of anyone they could recommend. My guess is that they did not want to be held to account should the job be botched in some way. I doubt very much that they were genuinely ignorant in this regard. Anyway, I managed to find the phone number for a guy who rewired some lighting into my garage and he will come and sort things out next week.

The point of this story is that I sometimes allow relatively minor and mundane matters to weigh heavily on my mind, even though I know that they should not. Edmund Spenser, a poet writing in the latter half of the 16th century puts things into perspective in the following verse from The Ruines of Time (of course, he wasn’t talking about light sockets since they didn’t have them back then)…

High towers, faire temples, goodly theatres,
Strong walls, rich porches, princelie pallaces,
Large streets, braue houses, sacred sepulchres,
Sure gatres, sweete gardens, stately galleries,
Wrought with faire pillours, and fine imageries,
All those (O pitie) now are turned to dust,
And ouergrowen with blacke obliuions rust.

Although this does put my mundane electrical problem into perspective, I’m not sure that it offers much by way of comfort. Furthermore, I do not believe it is a reason for not sorting out the minor hassles of quotidian life. I do not like cooking in the gloom.

There is also a higher principle involved; if I let one thing slide, then why not the next and the next after that, and so on. Quite swiftly, one could find oneself in a pickle. Life is a problem-solving activity, at least to some degree, and laziness in solving the problems that fall within one’s bailiwick amounts to a secular sin, assuming that the desire for a reasonable quality of life exists. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Costello’s birthday

March 2, 2012

Today I went to lunch to celebrate my friend Costello’s birthday… and here she is.

My friend Costello

We had a lovely meal at our friend John’s pub, within walking distance from where I live. Having sunk a couple of pints, I pottered off to the Gents toilet and was there struck by how wonderful the verdigris looked upon the copper piping in the urinal. How acidic we blokes must be.

Excellent virdigris

I am making this post in mid-afternoon. This evening I go to see the opera La Traviata at my local theatre. Before that, I shall take a nap to sleep off the excellents pints of Abbot ale that I quaffed this lunchtime. Speak to you later my dear blogophiles.

Beach adventure

March 1, 2012

I have been feeling in rather a blue mood lately and yesterday I wondered whether I have been getting enough exercise. I even began to suspect that I might have a deficiency of daylight hours, shutting myself up so much in my windowless studio. Today I therefore determined to go for a walk on the beach. I was lucky enough to catch a beautiful sunny morning for my seaside adventure.

Sunny Whitburn beach

I was mildly perturbed to discover a couple of large paw marks, firmly imprinted in the sand. My thoughts immediately turned to the Hound of the Baskervilles, and I swear I heard the most blood-curdling howl, on the wind.

Foreboding paw marks in the sand

As you can see, my anxiety was well well-founded, since the huge black beast pounded towards me at an alarming rate.

The Hound of the Baskervilles

I was knocked to the ground by a glancing blow to my solar plexus as it rushed past me in pursuit of a white, gallivanting poodle. My head hit the ground and the sun appeared to be temporarily switched off.

The moment the sun was switched off

By the time I regained consciousness, light had returned to normal but I appeared to be lying in a drift of sea coal dust. Was I about to fall down a disused mineshaft, perhaps obsolete since the Victorian era, unknown and now uncovered by the pounding waves? I asked myself this question, rhetorically.

The black sea coal dust

I had no idea where I was. I staggered up the beach. Somebody had obviously anticipated my difficulty, and had conveniently put up a sign saying “You are here”. I suddenly realised that they had even drawn the points of the compass so that I could orient myself to the real world.

You are here!

I remembered being here early in the morning, with the sun coming up strong and low over the horizon. And in England, the sun rises in the East. I turned to the sea, raised my arms up from my sides, scarecrow-wise, and desperately tried to remember which was my left and which was my right. Then I recalled that I wore my watch on my left hand. I turned my head and took sight along the length of my right arm and with confidence stepped South. At the lighthouse I swung West and within a couple of blocks I had found my car. And here I am, my dear blogophiles. Talk to you later.