Sunday, 21 August 2016

Old Friends and Big Vegetables.

Left to right: Adele CB, Freddie, Sharon and Adele H.
The last time Freddie, Adele, Sharon and I all had lunch together was when we were still in high school, so when Sharon suggested a get-together we readily agreed, and it was a fabulous day.  Here we all are, in the photo, ready to dine at the Oxton Bar & Kitchen.

As teenagers, we all lived in Lowton, a small village in Lancashire.  Life revolved around school, Lowton Youth Club, listening to music and the usual teenage preoccupations.  Adele's recently bought the house she grew up in, Freddie lives just outside Nottingham, while Sharon lives in Orange County, America, where she works as an artist.

We had great fun catching up on news, of course.  After a good lunch, we meandered round the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum then returned to my house for coffees.  Naturally my dogs joined in the fun, being spoiled for choice by having three extra people to demand cuddles from. Adele didn't particularly want her ears washing but Emily is a determined Jack Russell who remains wilfully oblivious to social etiquette.

Last weekend found me enjoying the small Flower and Vegetable Show in Birkenhead Park, which consisted of one marquee housing displays of prize-winning fruits and vegetables grown locally, and another marquee and several stalls mostly selling crafts.  There was also a stage, where a lone musician strummed his way through a selection of popular contemporary songs.  It wasn't a huge show but entrance was free, and hopefully in years to come it will gradually develop into a bigger event.  It certainly seems to have the potential for that.  Perhaps if the organisers combined efforts with local artists, who are already fairly active at public displays of their work, then the event would draw a broader crowd.  I still say it's a shame that the annual Wirral Show folded after running for 33 years.

Progress on proofreading Fabian continues.  A publication date should be set soon - mid September, perhaps?  It really won't be long before you can read the novel, now.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Leaks, Crumbles and Thieving Magpies

We're still waiting for a bloke to fix our boiler.  It went off and wouldn't relight, which it's done a few times before - something to do with water pressure dropping inside the boiler, which can be fixed by twiddling a button which usually doesn't do a bloomin' thing, (apart from when the bloke twiddles it, when it behaves instantly).

So this time he had a proper look at it, and got it working temporarily while he ordered a valve which he said was missing. It worked for a day then conked out again.

He put the valve on and it was supposed to be fixed. "But it might leak a bit," he said. I got home from work, went to see what he'd done, and ran for a bucket. So we called him back. "Oh, there're two washers missing," he said, only they come in bags of fifteen, "so you'll have a lot of spares." Ha ha ha. So now we're still waiting for a bag of washers to arrive at his suppliers, (does he mean via eBay?!!), and the bucket's still in use. It's only a tiny drip now but enough to soak the floorboards if left.  And still no hot water....!! Thankfully our shower's heated independently.

 Anyway, here's a photo of our cherry tree, laden with fruit which we harvested before the local bird population could devour the lot. There're plenty left for the birds at the top of the tree which our ladder couldn't reach. Richard made cherry and rhubarb crumble - the rhubarb's grown in our little garden too.

I was amused by a magpie doing its utmost to steal a shiny solar powered lamp - which doesn't work anymore - which dangles from the top of a clematis arch. The magpie pulled and tugged it this way and that, trying with all its strength to break the wire holding the lamp onto the arch. It even managed to wrench the lamp upside down, but still failed to snag its prize. This went on for about ten minutes before it flew off in a huff, squawking in frustration.

Our garden, July 2016.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

New Ebook Covers

New covers for four of my ebooks are now available.  Here they are:-

The image on the cover of Dark Tides  comes from one of my photographs of West Kirby beach.  It was a late summer evening and the tide was coming in, which is why there's a snaking rivulet of water over the shadowed sands.  Tides come in fast there as the Dee Estuary is very wide and flat, so there's nothing to slow the flow of water.  When we still lived in West Kirby I'd walk my dogs on the beach regularly, and we often go back with them now we're in Oxton, which isn't very far away.

This cover uses one of my photos of the seaward side of Hilbre Island, where the Irish Sea pounds against the red Bunter sandstone rocks.  The rock pools around Hilbre and Middle Eye are always fun to explore.  You have to watch your footing, as the rocks are covered by slippery seaweed plus cockles and barnacles, but it's easily worth the effort.  Take binoculars if you want to see the seals basking on nearby sandbanks, though they sometimes swim around the rear of Hilbre and poke their heads out of the water to stare at human visitors.  You're more likely to see them this way if there are very few people around.

The ship's mast comes from my photo of the replica Golden Hind which was moored at the Albert Dock Village in Liverpool. 

The image here comes from a series of experiments in a photographic darkroom, probably dating back to my art school days, though it could have been done at a photography course I did a couple of years later on.  I'm not sure now.  Anyway, it was created by placing a crystal necklace on a sheet of light sensitive photography paper and exposing it to light.  The ragged line separating the black and pink areas is literally the torn edge of the photography paper.

This ancient, gnarled tree stands in Stapledon Woods on Caldy Hill, Wirral.  I've so many photos of the woods.  I hope you enjoy this YouTube slideshow video of some of these photo:-

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Friday, 10 June 2016

Feature & Follow Friday

The goal of Feature & Follow Friday, hosted by AlisonCanRead and Parajunkee, is to increase blog followers and make friends. There's also an optional post prompt to join in with.

Here's how it works, (copied off AlisonCanRead's page) :-
  • You leave your link and thumbnail in the linky list that links back to your post prompt.
  • Once you have your post up and linked, visit other posts and tell them hi. The point is to FOLLOW them not just comment.
  • If you see a post that just hit it to the moon, or just want to show appreciation to a fellow blogger friend, COME BACK AND VOTE for them on the linky list to show some appreciation.
  • The person with the most VOTES gets chosen as the next Feature (you can be chosen every 90 days unless we are in need of features)
  • It is required that if you participate that you have to follow the FEATURE. It is a big no-no to participate and ignore the feature. They are the special snowflake in this little blizzard.
  • As a participant it is up to your discretion on how you want people to follow. Please post RSS, GFC etc if you have a follow of choice.
Specific RULES
  • Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts (if you can find it, unlike me!!)
  • Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say “hi” in your comments and that they are now following you.
  • If you are using WordPress or another CMS that doesn’t have GFC (Google Friends Connect) state in your posts how you would like to be followed FOLLOW as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don’t just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don’t say “HI”
  • Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don’t just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don’t say “HI”.
PS. I can't find the code to add the Linky links to this post!  If anyone knows where it's hidden, please let me know.  Meanwhile, use the links on AlisonCanRead's and Parajunkee's names at the top of this post to navigate to their pages and so take part.

The Post Prompt Bit:  What is your all-time favourite book?

What a question...  I've enjoyed so many!  I truly don't have one particular favourite.   There a novels which I've re-read several times and will probably read again at some future point.  These include Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited and Anne Rice's Armand, but this list could be extended considerably.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Fabian Revealed!

Here's the first look at the front cover for Fabian: An Artisan Sorcerer Story.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Moths, Artists and The Needle

Lime Hawk Moth
This lovely lime hawk moth was found snuggled against our garden wall.  I'd been doing a spot of weeding when I saw it, and so I went back inside for my camera.  Pretty, isn't it?  I don't think I've seen one of these before, though we have had other types of hawk moths visit our garden.

Anyway, watching me watching it was the blackbird which often rummages through the plant pots and forget-me-nots in the borders.  As I walked away, intending to put my camera back in the drawer where it usually lives, I saw a dark blur in the corner of my eye.  And that was the end of the moth.

Speaking of finality, Fabian has now been edited and the process of formatting has begun.  I've been looking at roughs for the front cover, which obviously has to continue the theme already established by the Artisan-Sorcerer Series.  So, we're now looking at publication date of July/August, if all goes well.  I've already started putting together a few notes for the 5th novel.

Richard's enjoying his new job, which he says is a million times less hassle than being self-employed.  The downside is that he has to leave the house at 5.30am to travel to work on time.

At his latest diabetic assessment, the nurse gave Richard the good news that his insulin levels can now be reduced steadily, over a period of several months, and if this is successful then he'll be able to use tablet-form insulin rather than the twice-daily injections (plus tablets) which he currently relies upon.  He looks forward to waving goodbye to the needle.

I'm looking forward to doing some of The Wirral Open Studio Tour again this year.  Over 50 artists and craftsworkers will be displaying their creations, many in their own studios, between the 11th and 12th June.  For details of who is exhibiting and where, check the website.

Walking Out to Hilbre, oil on canvas, 2016.
After last year's tour, I toyed with the idea of exhibiting my own work but there's not enough of it yet to make it worthwhile.  Taking a work-related NVQ Level 3 course has devoured a huge proportion of my time - hence the delay with Fabian.  I'm now on the last lap of that, which takes the form of a Maths Key Skills Level 2 course (and which began on Friday 13th last month, which amused me).

Anyway, here's my most recent painting - not a great photo, as the flash has bounced off the wet paint and washed-out some of the texture of the sand, but you can get the general idea.  This was based on a photo, taken years ago, and the people walking out to Hilbre Island are actually Richard and my sister Hazel and two of her 'kids' who are now 30 (or thereabouts).  Time flies, hmm?