My short story, Whatsername, was published in Flash Fiction Magazine, and you can read it online HERE.
This 500-word monologue comes from a conversation I had while sitting on a bench in Birkenhead Park. A lady using a mobility scooter began chatting to me, and all the time she talked I was thinking "This would make a story..." And so it was done - and now you can read it online. You can also download a free ebook of flash fiction by various authors at that same URL.
Monday, 18 February 2019
Monday, 14 January 2019
I hope you enjoy viewing this video slideshow of my art completed in 2018. There's a fair bit to see....
Here's another video for you, this time showing my sketches done on location in Birkenhead Park.
As I type this, I can hear loud clattering and clanging as workmen put together scaffolding outside the front of my house in readiness for some structural repairs to the bay window section. Apparently, modern double-glazed PVC windows are too heavy for this house's antique Victorian framework, and so some restructuring is called for, involving steel ties and so on.
In December, the same building company re-pointed our chimneys and replaced some broken tiles. This will be a much bigger, more complex job, though. In all truth I'm not looking forward to the disruption, as workmen will have to be inside the house upstairs and down - a royal pain with two inquisitive dogs eager to "help" - but needs must; the job has to be done. That, or have the front of the house slowly collapse; even more inconvenient, hmm?
Saturday's life drawing class saw quite a few new faces, and had a rather good turn-out too - standing room only, by the time everyone had arrived. Following that activity, I went to the Williamson Art Gallery and saw an exhibition of work by Will C Penn which was enjoyable. His still life and portrait skills were excellent - traditional and realistic, which may be out of fashion with certain big name galleries but which remain admired by the majority of people even so. Penn taught at the Liverpool School of Art where he became the Vice Principle, and he founded the Wirral Society of Arts in 1948.
Work on the 5th Artisan-Sorcerer novel has been slow. I'm struggling with this one. Characters who were planned to have only a minor role keep demanding more attention and diverting the plot. Maybe I should just roll with it and see where it takes me?
Friday, 21 December 2018
|A corner of my art studio, December 2018.|
In my last post I mentioned the changing face of town and city centres, and how their empty spaces could be utilised in the future. This article looks at a Parisian community project in a disused hospital. While the building awaits demolition, it's attracting 1,000 visitors a day while it is being used for a cafe, a market, artisan studio space, pop-up shops, a garden and to house homeless people. In London, a former fire engine workshop awaiting development is temporarily housing a migration museum.
Pop-up shops are great for the micro-businesses of artists and crafts-workers, (or "makers" as they're increasingly termed). Official definitions of micro-businesses vary in detail but most agree that they're owned by one person only, employ less than ten people, and have an annual turnover of less than £632,000. It might be fair, then, to classify a typical art or craft business, owned by one person who also is its only part-time employee, and having a turnover that's only a tiny fraction of that suggested, as a super-micro-business.
High street trade in Britain is also feeling the effects of people having less disposable wealth. Average workers are earning one third less than in 2008, as found by research carried out by the Trades Union Congress. One obvious result of this is that people spend less - and so shops close, and high streets look increasingly empty. Some of these empty shops could be transformed into homes to help solve the housing crisis.
Even though people increasingly shop online, we're a social species; we like to gather in groups, watch whatever's going on, to meet and mingle - hence the popularity of cafe culture, where indulging in people-watching is politely masked by the supping of a multitude of coffee options.
The arts and culture sector in Britain has grown by 23.6 percent since 2011, while contributing more than £100billion to the economy, 60% of this being from TV, music and film but 24.8% came from the arts.
If empty shop spaces can somehow utilise the continuing growth in the arts sector, then perhaps a way forward can be found for our ailing towns and cities. Shopping centres could be revitalised and re-purposed by using otherwise empty retail units for pop-up arts events, whether these be theatrical productions, crafts courses or exhibitions.
It seems pointless to wax lyrical about how wonderful old-fashioned high streets may have been. People largely abandoned them in favor of supermarkets long ago, partly as these were often cheaper but also to get the boring job of grocery shopping over with as quickly as possible. Plus there is the issue of battling to find a decent town centre parking space, whereas most supermarkets were built with plenty of parking spaces as part of their design. Now more people buy foodstuffs online and have it delivered, perhaps the days of massive supermarkets are also numbered.
It will be interesting to watch how things change. And change they will. It's happening already.
Wednesday, 21 November 2018
|Dance of the Storm Lords by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; watercolour; 2018.|
We had lunch in one of Evelyn's favourite cafes, and she showed me a video of her new kitchen which looks fabulous - all pale and pristine. Then we ambled along Lord Street as we caught up on each other's news, and ended up sipping coffee somewhere; a lovely day.
Heading for home on a very crowded train, I sat opposite a middle-aged man who was smashed off his skull on skunk weed, or so he informed everyone within earshot. He continually jabbered about him being in great danger as the train might crash at any second and there were no seat belts. He was yesterday's man, he said, listening to yesterday's music - and there was all this music whirling around inside his crowded head. He wanted to grow his hair like Frank Zappa's, or maybe he should grow a beard like an old, old man - like Gandalf! - because he was nearly old now so he might as well look the part, but he wouldn't have time to grow a beard now because the train might crash at any second....
|The Naiad's Garden by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; watercolour; 2018.|
In the train station was a large poster advertising a new novel. It showed a picture of the front cover, and the blurb, spread out down the image, read: "Your son has been kidnapped. What would you pay to get him back? £4." Well, I thought it was funny, anyway.
|Birkenhead Park Series; ink & watercolour sketch; 2018.|
Constructive questions need to focus on solutions. Building new shop units seems pointless when perfectly good older ones have been empty for years already. We'd just be swapping old empty units for new empty units. Maybe we need to accept that town centres are shrinking as public needs change? All things change.
|Birkenhead Park Series; ink & watercolour sketch; 2018.|
Many shop units are privately owned, so perhaps a change in the law might be considered, so that if a commercial unit has been empty for a year then it has to be sold and possibly re-purposed.
Or perhaps cheaper, short-term rental agreements might be made, so pop-up shops run by crafts-workers, artists or micro-businesses could make use of them?
Tuesday, 23 October 2018
|Watercolour study by Adele Cosgrove-Bray on A5 Khadi paper; 2018.|
|Watercolour study by Adele Cosgrove-Bray, on unknown paper; 2018.|
Speaking of treasures and pleasures, last month saw the 70th members' exhibition of the Wirral Society of Arts (WSA) hosted by the Williamson Art Gallery here in Oxton. I visited the exhibition twice as usual; first to get an impression, then second to really study the works which stand out to me. This is not to imply that my opinions and preferences are a measure of how "good" a work of art supposedly is, but is merely an expression of what I personally find interesting.
There was much to choose from! Three gallery rooms were hung with WSA work, one of these being an historical collection of older works which were not part of the main exhibition as such but which offered an engaging sense of context for the society as a whole.
Personal favourites from the exhibition included Roland Brandon's The Fishing Party; Amy Cain's delightful 3D work, Holy Mackerel; Jim Fleming's loosely drawn The Phil; Mike Hatjoulis's black and white pictorial map, London; Phil Houghton's evocative River Dance: Egrets on the Dee; Amanda Oliphant's oil and cold wax painting, Reflective Landscape/Invisible Boundary; Vidah Roberts pencil drawing, Woodland Stream; Marion Tuffrey's dainty and highly detailed Sparrows; and Roger Young's The Orange Bowl which was so realistic it seemed as if the viewer could reach out and lift up the fruit.
|Breaking Light by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; watercolour; 2018.|
Work on the 5th Artisan-Sorcerer novel has been interesting. Rowan, who I'd originally intended to have a backseat role this time, keeps demanding centre-stage, which means the reader will learn more about his ambitions and his private reactions to what's going on around him. These are tough times, for the little community, with major changes unfolding. I've blogged previously about how I only loosely plot my novels, as I've found the plots tend to evolve as I write, well certainly has been the case so far with this book. Even the proposed title changed, as naming it Morgan felt wrong. You'll discover why when you eventually read the finished thing.
Richard and I had a week's simultaneous annual leave recently and we enjoyed our "staycation", as people are calling it these-days, making the most of the late summery weather as we picnicked on Red Rocks at Hoylake before walking round to West Kirby and through Ashton Park, up the steep steps to Mariners' Point and through Stapledon Woods. The dogs loved it, of course, though even they were worn out by the time we got home.
|Watercolour study of sand dunes at West Kirby; 2018.|
When Richard removed his socks in readiness for bed that night, he realised one ankle was badly swollen. It was back to normal by the following morning, but a couple of days later he found a large and ugly black and purple bruise between his ankle bone and heel. As he has diabetes type 2, we decided this needed an expert's eye so off he went to the nearest Walk-In Centre.
The nurse there said he may have fractured a small bone so an X-ray was needed but they didn't have the facilities to do this, so she sent him to another Walk-In Centre which did. This site, in Liscard, required more of a journey so he had to go after work the following day. Once he'd arrived at Liscard's Walk-In Centre and waited for nearly two hours, he was told they could not X-ray his ankle without a document from his doctor - which of course he did not have, as he had followed the advice given to him by the first Walk-In Centre!
So, the second Walk-In Centre phoned Richard's doctor and then informed Richard they'd made an appointment on his behalf in a half-hour's time. There was no way he could get there in that time, as due to a medical condition he's not allowed to drive. Another phone call re-scheduled the appointment, and so Richard then travelled to his own doctor's surgery - which is a four-minute walk from our house! - to get the correct document which he then needed to take to St Catherine's Hospital - which also is within reasonable walking distance from our house - in order to have the X-ray! And then he was told he'd have to wait about two weeks to receive the results.
Two weeks later, and he's walking without pain already. All bruising has vanished. And, it turned out that there was no fracture. Maybe he'd broken a vein, was the eventual verdict.
|Miniature seascapes by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; acrylic; 2018.|
Do you like these four little wooden do-dads? Each has two tiny holes drilled at the top, so I can thread some embroidery silk through to make a loop, and then they could be hung on a wall. I photographed them with a ruler so their small size can be seen.
Sunday, 9 September 2018
|Sailing Into the Light; Adele Cosgrove-Bray; watercolour, 2018|
The first was Pay the Ghost, a film starring Nicolas Cage, Sarah Wayne Callies and child actor Jack Fulton, who already has an impressive filmography despite his tender age. A quick scan of online reviews show this film earned lukewarm responses at best, but both Richard and I really enjoyed it - which only demonstrates, once again, how totally subjective reviews are anyway.
With Pay the Ghost you get the story of a father doggedly searching for his missing child. His research takes him into the realms of folklore and fictional magic.
My other ghostly encounter this week came in the form of Cass Green's novel, In A Cottage In A Wood. A tale set in a remote Cornish cottage in dense woodland, and a London party girl spooked by strange happenings - sure ingredients for an entertaining page-turner. I liked the way Neve, the main character, was believably imperfect yet determined not to give in and run screaming back to the city.
|Wave to the Waves; Adele Cosgrove-Bray; watercolour; 2018.|
How many other surviving bands have now been playing together for 50 years? Rush started in 1968; ZZ top in 1969; The Who in 1965; the Rolling Stones in 1962; Golden Earring in 1962; the Moody Blues in 1966; and with another 5 years to go are AC/DC and Kiss, formed in 1973. (Thanks, Google!) Can you think of any others?
|A Gate for Seago; Adele Cosgrove-Bray; watercolour; 2018.|
|Shadowed Shore; Adele Cosgrove-Bray; watercolour; 2018.|
I have been enjoying three books by Ron Ranson, an artist in his own right, who explores the watercolour paintings of Edward Seago, Edward Wesson and John Yardley in these books. Each influenced the other, while developing their own distinct style. Ranson was then influenced by them in turn, and now here I am, attempting to stand on the shoulders of giants yet without mimicry, and hopefully without falling flat on my face.
Are my paintings any good? I have absolutely no idea. All I can tell you is that I love painting, and a theme of big skies and water is a recurrent one in my work - no surprise, considering that the Wirral peninsula where I live is surrounded by water on three sides.
Actually, Rowan always one of the easiest characters to write. When I wrote his novel, the plot didn't require planning; it just flowed, rather like taking silent dictation. I know that sounds a bit odd, but that's how it was. With the 5th novel, which is very much a continuation of Bethany Rose's story, things are taking a bit more time as I have specific things which I want to communicate.
|Sketch: Birkenhead Park Series; Adele Cosgrove-Bray; 2018.|
Our house is a long, narrow design, so to get from the lounge I have to go down the hall, past my office, through the dining room and then into the kitchen. I arrived to find the dog's dinner bowl dragged into the middle of the floor and tipped on its side. The net umbrella which keeps flies off food, which had been protecting six cooling-off chicken legs, was now on the floor and shredded - not completely, but certainly enough to earn it a place in the bin. There were now only five chicken legs. A plant in the window had been knocked over, and the window pushed further open. And strolling off over the roof of our shed was next-door's cat, proudly clutching his treasure in his dainty little mouth. And here he is:-
Saturday, 25 August 2018
|The Dawn of Misty Dreams by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; watercolour; 2018.|
Intrigued, I set out on a journey of exploration which not only made research for my novels easy but also brought me into the world of RPGs. I won't reveal which characters I played, or on which boards our games were played out. That would spoil the mystery - and mystery was all part of the fun. As a talented co-player, Tristan, once told me, "If I wanted reality, I'd go to my parish."
We used message boards and linked LiveJournal blogs to these; role-played in Yahoo! IM till dawn broke. We created long and complex stories, co-writing with people whose legal names we'd never know and who certainly we'd never meet. Inevitably there were occasional fireworks, but negative drama was easily counterbalanced by escapist fun.
Then social networking washed over the scene. The masks provided by pseudonyms were removed. Now everyone has to be aware that the world will read online profiles and posts. Everyone's "real" - except that much of it isn't real simply because it's all so guarded.
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person.
Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.
|Three Blue Boats by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; watercolour; 2018.|
The internet is older now, and so am I. No longer do people say, "Wow! Do you really have a computer in your home? But what can you do with it apart from maths?"
Like many, I've tried more sites than I've stayed with. Twitter is one I never did take to. Facebook, to me, is increasingly dull, even if I ignore their dubious marketing policies - not that all other social networks aren't also exploiting their subscribers as a means of making money, (which is what every business exists for). Some old sites are like ghost towns now, despite having once been The Cool Place to be. Well, you remember what old Lao Tse said about change, hmm?
|Sunset City by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; watercolour; 2018.|
Ok, so websites now look more sophisticated, if also homogeneous and predictable, than they used to, but there was something much more individualistic about those old DIY make-your-eyes-bleed graphics of the earlier internet. The internet used to be an anarchic hot bed of creativity; of people doing battle with HTML. Now all anyone need do is pick a ready-made layout and choose between several shades of the same design. Add an icon with huge eyes and no nose and it's a "Manga" theme. Add a handsome-but-dead guy and the same thing is transformed to "gothic". Flowers = girly; stars or dolphins = new age; winter trees = thoughtful; city skyline = office bore. Take your pick of nothing much, then post a photo of beans on toast and you're all done.
Monday, 6 August 2018
How's this for a spider plant? It had only five or six baby leaves when I brought it home. It's grown a bit since then.
My so-called Easter cactus flowered in June, which is not exactly Easter. It's not exactly a cactus either, seeming more of a succulent in character; and despite a prevailing belief that it is difficult to get these plants to flower again, it really isn't just so long as you don't change their position around or water them to death. Well-drained soil, feeds few and far between, sunlight and, quite simply, leave it alone, and it'll flower every year without fail. This year's flowers were the most abundant for three years. Three years ago we moved house. Remember the bit about not altering this plant's position.
|Birkenhead Park rapid sketches series, 2018.|
If you use the 'Art' tab in the menu above, you'll be able to watch video slideshows of the two previous years park sketches.
|Stick; Birkenhead Park Series by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; oil on canvas, 2018.|
|Life drawing, 8B pencil on A2 cartridge paper.|
Every two years, the John Moore's Exhibition rolls around. And this year, once again, I meandered round the splendid Walker Art Gallery on William Brown Street, Liverpool, to view the latest batch of creative offerings. It is always interesting to see what other artists have been working on, even when the genre isn't to my own tastes.
Visiting this exhibition never fails to remind me of my art school days, long ago, when the tutors would troupe us from our dilapidated painting studios to the hushed and lofty rooms of the Walker, and there, segued between Pre-Raphaelites and Renaissance and morbid medieval religious paintings would hang the John Moore's Exhibition. The gallery café always did do a good cup of tea.
|Untitled watercolour sketch by Adele Cosgrove-Bray, 2018.|
Speaking of trips down memory lane, I was rummaging through some ancient data discs and came across my old RPG stories. I was closely involved in a few online RPGs, and what good fun we participants had.
This was back in the halcyon days when the internet felt much more autonomous, before social networking's stranglehold. Back then, people used the internet as a creative playground. Videos of cats behaving like cats were rare. No-one cared what you'd eaten for dinner - unless you were pretending to be one of Anne Rice's vampires, in which case a dedicated audience would clamour for details.
Ah, fun days...!
|Birkenhead Park sketch series, 2018.|
Friday, 27 July 2018
|Rain over the Loch by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; watercolour; 2018.|
|Life drawing by Adele Cosgrove-Bray.|
Maybe not enough people took the proposed split from Europe seriously, trusting that no-one would be daft enough to vote in favour of the culturally retrogressive, financially self-mutilating, and xenophobic myth of Little Britain, All Alone in the Night. Oh wait, wasn't that last bit from the intro of Babylon 5...?
Fun was had when the drawing group I attend couldn't use its usual room due to a community event. Instead, we were invited to draw inside Christ Church, and our model was to be the vicar! Allan volunteered several poses, and even stood as if preaching from the heavily carved, towering lectern which, he said, he rarely uses during services as it feels too grandiose.
|Allan Goode of Christ Church, Oxton.|
Historically, unless a person had independent wealth or a partner who was willing and able to pay most of the household bills, it has been usual for mid-list writers to have a conventional job in addition to their writing career.
Some years ago, I was genuinely surprised to discover that a writer whose work I'd admired for over a decade still worked as a postman as this, he told me, is what paid the bills. Now there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a postman, or with holding down any other kind of constructive employment, yet this myth of writers penning a few books then living solely off the fat of their ink still prevails to the extent that when a person is faced with the reality behind the myth, they believe they've failed.
|Lighthouse at the Point of Ayr by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; |
Compounding this issue is the shrinking variety of high street book shops. Here in Britain, we have Waterstones and WH Smith, and little else. Independent bookshops are teetering on extinction, and so unless an author already has a big name, like Stephen King or Laurell K Hamilton for example, it can be difficult for a reader browsing for something new to find their way to a relative unknown. Online there is a much wider market, of course, but there a 'small' name is like a bit a straw in a planet-sized haystack.
But who said success was easy? Nobody has to write. No-one is forced to patter away on a keyboard for hours on end, month-in, month-out till a year or so ticks by and another book's done. To write is a choice. To stop writing is a choice. To write only when you feel like it...well, it will take a month of Sundays several times over to get the MS finished, but again, it's a choice.
If you fail to keep going out of a fear of failure, then a self-fulfilling prophesy has been created.
And you could always do something else. Paint, for example...