On a day when the clocks go back here in the UK here’s what we have to look forward to when they go forward again. These bluebells are in Derbyshire in the Derwent Valley. On a grey day we forget how bright things can be and without sounding ‘preachy’ how bright they can again. Nope! That sounded ‘preachy’, but there it is.
What sort of question is that to put to a sixteen year old? It was at the time of my school French aural examination and the examiner put this question to me just to test how I would pronounce the French word for umbrella. ( Look it up! )
I was non-plussed, searching my limited head dictionary for the right word, or more to the point, what the hell he was talking about. He understood my plight and looked at me eagerly willing me to both understand the question and to speak the official answer.
A sixteen year old, even in the 60s, would not be seen dead using an umbrella. In fact we’d not use anything. I did eventually find the word and passed the test, but I’m still non-plussed.
Almost as stupid as the careers master at my school who in desperation after an hours grilling of my somewhat unresponsive brother, recommended him to be a careers advisor.
He’s still telling that story too.
This was the polite way that I was told that I had drawn the short straw when I worked for the printers. In actual fact I did not mind in the least. I got the clients that no-one else wanted, or would prefer not to deal with. In the ten years that I worked at the print company my cartoon work was mainly on hold, but I collected more inspiration there than in many previous years.
The gentleman had a slight midlands ‘brummie’ burr to his voice and he asked me if we could do Christmas cards and could I come and see him. ” Where are you?” I asked not unreasonably. “Straight down the M5, not far, he responded”. When I got there the gentleman lived in what used to be a cottage hospital. For a hospital it was small, for a private house it was huge, and there was only him living there. I was invited in and we sat around the dining table in the kitchen. As I recall he was pretty clear on exactly what he wanted on the card and we did a pretty good job for him, but for an eighty quid job it was a lot of time and trouble. “Sprat to catch a mackerel” I hoped. I was not wrong.
We’d got on quite well and he was more than happy with his cards. “I’m going into antiques and I’d like you to come down and discuss doing a book for me” was my next call from him. ” I’ll get on to the M5 then” I said,”milk no sugar please”.
Since my last visit he’d had the place renovated even more than the previous time and it was full of antiques of all sorts. He’d had it all photographed professionally and wanted the whole thing made into a full colour book. The place looked amazing, it was like walking into a film set with him as the star turn.The mackerel had landed. He was again very pleased with the result and we did indeed do a great job on his book.
The thing about eccentrics, especially the wealthy ones, is that they flit from one thing to another in very short order. Within a year he’s given up on the antiques, got rid of them I know not how, and his next project was to become the lead singer in an African Band and to start a new African Record Label. He’s had a trip to Africa and he’s hoovered up new inspiration, he even claimed to be a Masai chief and had the outfit to prove it.
The house was still in relatively good order but he’d ploughed up the brand new driveway by driving a mechanical digger across it to make a pond in the back garden in the shape of a map of Peru. ” Why Peru?” I asked, ” because I like Peru Paul” he responded. He’d been there as well as to Africa but it was in Africa where he met a bunch of musicians and was convincing them to record with him as lead singer.
This was about where our relationship petered out. He wanted us to do work on the look and style of his new record label and he was very particular. He expected us to understand everything that he wanted and when things went even slightly wrong he expected me to sack the person responsible, without understanding that I had no power to do that and would not have done even if I had that power. I was politely shown the door from this cottage hospital house, with it’s Peruvian garden pond, as yet unfilled, and his collection of all sorts of artefacts, including a large collection of old packaging, these two pictured here are two of my favourites. He allowed me to photograph them in the days when we were on better speaking terms.
So here was my departure from one of the greatest eccentrics that I had to deal with. ” People call me eccentric Paul” he said to me once ” but I don’t mind, as I think eccentric means free spirited”. I was not going to argue with him.
I hope his spirit wanders free and that he’s out there making great African music.
Incidentally Leichter Blending Powder is Theatrical Make up, how very apt.
I used to work for a printing company in Gloucester, it was a career break from my former trade which was drawing cartoons for a living. I was hired to sell print, very kind of them to have the faith in me to think that I could do it.
One of my clients at the company was the Cathedral in Gloucester. They proved to be brilliant clients in every respect. Apart from being a joy to work with ( and unlike some clients I always considered that I worked with them rather than for them ) I had the joy of being able to visit the place on many occasions. There’s little to beat the visual splendour of the cloisters in Gloucester early in a sunny morning. They were also happy to let me take photos on any of my visits, which was another bonus.
On one of my visits I was lucky enough to be able to go around the mason’s yard. The Cathedral has a permanent staff of masons where they are constantly repairing or remaking parts of the building. It was here that I took these images of the making of a gargoyle. These sculptures are to replace older gargoyles that have been weathered beyond recognition. The photos taken over a few months of course.
Here you see images of the first drawings of the gargoyle, one of the masons working on the gargoyle, and the resulting final sculpture in place on the roof of the Cathedral.
My thanks to The Master Mason, Pascal Mychalysin, and his team of masons at the Cathedral for allowing me into their shed. Interestingly, Pascal, is a big fan of cartoons and always told me how much he admired the work of Bill Tidy. I am also a big fan of Bill Tidy too.
This time Robin and I chose Shab Hill which has superb views over Gloucestershire and is close to the A417 which is due to be diverted soon to solve a log jam of traffic that builds up at the Air Balloon roundabout. A huge new double carriageway is due to cross some outstanding countryside. We took a walk over some of it and then recorded Robin and the song: “Digging up the road”. We just did a couple of the verses, the first one is the original. The original song only had two verses, so I wrote some more for Robin, and the second rather cynical verse is by me.
We hope you enjoy this rendition.
The opening photo in the video is by me and the second one of that super cloud formation is by Robin.
This is the first of hopefully a few little videos, this one done about a week ago down at the area of the Severn here in the UK, where the river meets the start of the sea and where the canal that takes ships from the river up to Gloucester Docks begins. The Docks here at Sharpness are still used but very few freight ships go up the canal to Gloucester, the waterway being used more these days for pleasure craft. It makes for a good walk and has a great mix of industrial and countryside. I particularly like the cranes that used to unload ships on the docks: that’s the image at the start of our little movie ( fine photo taken on the day by Robin )
This area is also a good place for bird spotters, being en route to Slimbridge area. We were treated to a couple of swans landing on the canal like huge flying boats.
It was a blustery fine day when we did the recording but Robin soldiered on like the trouper he is, so apologies for the wind noise on this. We hope you enjoy this, we certainly did.
This is the title of one of my most popular blogs, very strange. So jumping on the bandwagon and latching on to it’s popularity here are a couple of drawings from a short film I did a couple of years ago to accompany a song called ” Do you want us to win the war?”
Can’t remember the particular lyrics but I suppose it must be about a loyal bovine, so here are the drawings. What will they make of this in Afghanistan? Someone from there dropped into the site just the other day. If it was you: “Hello”.
I had no excuse. Prevarication is my middle name, actually it’s Edward, but that’s another story I’ll get around to boring you with in due course. To make me feel useful I did a series of drawings about social distance. Then I made some little videos of them. Dual purpose videos, first of all I hope they get the message across about keeping one’s distance. We British are supposed to be stand offish, we it turns out we are not stand offish enough. Second is to bring a modicum of cheer to anyone who’s watching and to illustrate exactly how I draw. For the technically minded there’s nothing technical, just a sheet of layout paper placed on top of the first rough until I get to the final item. Drawing with a Pentel sign pen, my “go to” medium of choice. I’ve used nothing much else to draw with for many years. The added bit’s of half tone in the final are done with a chinagraph pencil. If I were to be a bit arty about it I’d say it gives a fine quality of line.
Here’s one of the videos:
I also wrote a couple of books for my grandchildren, two in Los Angeles and the other one up North in Sheffield. We miss them all. The books are intended to support a local charity, who you can read about right here. They are available in the Longfield shops in Cheltenham and Stroud. All proceeds go to Longfield. I only had 100 of each book printed and they are selling quite well, so don’t leave it too late to buy one and feel better about yourself for giving to such a worthy cause.
To find out more about the books just click here.
To cheer anyone out there here’s a video of my friend Robin singing on the banks of the River Severn some months ago. We plan to do some more of these, but when it’s a least a little drier out there. Look out for them.
My walking friend Robin tell me that the stunning light at this time of year is down to dust and the reds in the air. I think that’s what he said but like in my maths lessons at school I was not concentrating enough. My mind has a habit of wandering off, it’s a little like my sense of direction. Rescue is at hand in the form of an App on my phone that tells me where we are, and where we should be. Of course the problem is making sure there’s enough juice in the phone to keep it going, which seems to be a problem more and more as my phone ages. Battery seems to leak power at an alarming rate making me believe that there is built in obsolescence, so that I can easily be persuaded to go and buy another. Perhaps I should blame that on the reds too.
To bear witness to the reds in the air here are some of my recent images of lovely Derbyshire.
Thought I’d share these images taken over the last few days in rural Derbyshire. The September and late evening sunshine in two of them combined with a brilliant atmospheric light and cloudscape made for a high contrast photos. No photoshop on these at all, this is pure Derbyshire. So glad I took that early evening walk out of Tideswell last night.
We all take odd things on holiday. I recall in my schooldays before airline security was a thing, my school friends and I put a house brick into a fellow schoolboys luggage when he was due to fly to join his parents on their airforce base in Cyprus. We were at a boarding school that had a clientele of boys whose parents were in the forces, mainly the RAF.
So when we started school again we all wondered if he’d taken the brick to Cyprus and indeed he had.
I’m not really that keen on practical jokes, many played on me that I did not like too much, most are cruel, but this was mild enough to be acceptable, and he found it amusing himself. His mum asked him why he’d brought a brick, and he claimed it was a “school project”. He did not bring it back.
So here I am now in Derbyshire, and before we left we thought, what to do about the lettuce plants. We brought them with us. They are doing very well, the sun up here suits them. No doubt they will travel back with us. Food miles may be but they are still growing. Some people take their dogs on holiday, we take out lettuce.