Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Crocodile Zoo

In 1962 I was in my Sprite driving in the practice circuit for the Singapore Grand Prix when I crashed at about 80 on the first chicane. Result - a very badly broken leg as I was thrown out of the car. (No seat belts in those days). They said at the time I would suffer when I got older. Well I'm older now and in a lot of knee pain. It's got to the stage where all they can do is perform a total knee replacement. So, as I think I may have mentioned before, the surgery is scheduled for next Tuesday (the 17th) morning at the Circle Hospital in a Reading. I don't normally look forward to operations but this time I do. The pain is constant but, with difficulty, I managed to visit England's only Crocodile Zoo yesterday. My young friend helped me walk up and down the very steep walkways but it was a fascinating place. Here some of the smaller crocs were being fed with fish dangled above them by a keeper with an implement that road cleaners use to pick up litter.

Apart from the crocodiles (and they have a great variety of different types) we saw some beautiful little creatures. Here is a lovely blue-green lizard.

Just look at the colours on this bobbly faced animal. And the prehistoric look of my favourite little chap.

We found as we walked around the complex a few other animals and birds. This meerkat was perched high on a little hill.

And the kookaburra seemed to be very well fed.

In between Christmas and the New Year I went to Suffolk to stay for a few days with myf's parents. It was her mother's birthday on the 29th so we all, including her brother and his family, went to Felixstowe for lunch at the Alex restaurant on the seafront. And then a walk along the promenade where the gardens have just been landscaped.

I celebrated the new year quietly but I always love seeing the fireworks from London on TV.

On New Year's Day myf and I went for a walk by the river at Marlow. It was one of those crisp and sunny mornings. This is the view towards Marlow Bridge. (Incidentally this bridge is a small scale version of the Chain Bridge in Budapest which crosses the Danube).

The river was full of swans. This one swam through the refection of the sunlight.

We went to the Regal the other day to see Martin Scorsese's epic film "Silence". What an incredible film it was. Slow to start but as it builds in tempo the depiction of Christian missionaries in 17th century Japan was amazing.

It's a long film - two and a half hours - and the scenes of cruelty and violence are graphic. But the story and acting are stupendous. I highly recommend it - even though it could have ended half an hour before it did.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas time

The last couple of weeks have been busy with buying, wrapping and sorting out Christmas presents. I decorated the tree last week, and just for a day or two I hung about thirty miniature portraits on it.

It's called 'A miniature painter's Christmas tree'.
However, increasingly over the past few months, the osteoarthritis in my knee has become painfully unbearable. So finally I had a consultation with Mr Sean O'Leary - a top knee surgeon at the Circle Hospital in Reading. After seeing the x-ray of my very swollen leg he said there was no other option than to perform a total knee replacement. And as I'm now in constant pain - especially at night - he's scheduled the operation for January 17th. My young friend even bought me a sort of cage for the night which helps keep the bedclothes from touching the knee as even the lightest touch hurts. And hopefully I'll be able to do away with my constant and sturdy companion in a couple of months time.

The only time the pain subsides is when I am sitting at my desk painting. And I've just finished a very detailed miniature portrait for a top London Jeweller. Hopefully this is the first of several for the same client.
Now is the time to commence entering the various art competitions for 2017. These will include the annual BP Award for the Portrait of the Year at the National Portrait Gallery in London, The Royal Society of Portrait Painters exhibition at the Mall Galleries, The Society of Marine Artists, The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and the Derwent Art Prize for pencil drawing. I'm also intending to enter a pair of self portraits in the Ruth Borehard Self-Portrait Prize in April. They are a reflection in a silver cup of me painting. One was done in 1977 when I was living in Singapore - the other painted recently.


We went to a party on Saturday evening at Fawley Hill. It's got to be the most lavishly decorated Christmas party venue I've ever been to. As we arrived we were greeted by this Christmas tree.

The floor was covered in every sort of glitter, and well over ten lavishly decorated rooms welcomed us. The floor of this room, which normally is an indoor swimming pool, was covered with a big map of Berkshire for the occasion. And in the corner was Elvis Presley. (So that's where he got to!)

In this room, apart from the many jars of sweets, ornaments, and another Christmas tree, a model train runs around the table.

When we left, as myf collected the car, I waited just inside the house talking to a friend but hadn't realised that I was standing just under a lighted candle as part of the decorations on the staircase above. When we got home we wondered what the many white waxy splodges were all over my suit. Then we realised the candle must have been dripping wax! A quick question to Mr Google gave us the remedy - paper and a cloth laid on to the suit, then a hot iron applied to it. It did the trick and the suit was saved.

Our local cinema regularly shows live broadcasts from such venues as the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and the Bolshoi Ballet. With the Regal's really comfortable seats it was so nice to see The Nutcracker with Felicity last week. Seeing the ballet this way means that close up views of the orchestra and expressions on the dancers faces all give an extra dimension to the performance.

Now just as I was finishing printing my little calendar last Friday a horrible noise came from my printer and it stopped, trapping the paper in the machine. Instead of doing the sensible thing and turning it off I tried pulling the paper out the reverse of the way it went in. Which of course ripped it apart. And then to make matters worse I opened the machine and tried to fix it from the inside. More torn paper and a real mess with the rollers. I rang Computer Cavern in Marlow who supply my ink and paper to ask if there was anything they could do. They said I could take it over to them but no chance of it being fixed before Christmas - if at all. What I did was exactly the opposite of what I should have done. So imagine my delight the following morning when they rang to say it was mended. I picked it up straight away. What it is to have such an obliging local company.

Last Sunday we drove over to see my friend Katie in London. She's still not well. So sad to see her like that. But nice to see Gianni and Margherita, Katie's sister.
It was my six-monthly CT scan at Dunedin hospital the other day. I get the results on the 4th of January. So cross fingers again.

Yesterday was Christmas Day and I spent a happy time with my niece Louisa and her family at her home in a Marlow. I picked up Val first. We had a really sumptuous meal. Max was delighted with his first car. My present from Louisa and Guy was a splendid blue cool box. All ready for the launch of my new boat at the end of March. Val has a new dog.

Kate looked warm in her new wrap.

Thank you Louisa - I really enjoyed the day.

I've completely redesigned my website to reflect more comprehensively all the types of painting and drawing I do - not just miniature portraits as before. This is the home page, but to see all 8 pages go to: www.billmundy.co.uk

Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Big Banana

The other week we prepared the two banana plants for the winter by cutting the stalks right down and removing the leaves. Just in time as today the temperature has gone down to minus 8 degrees. Brrr! This is a view outside in the country today.

Our Canadian holiday seems like a long ago dream but now back in England we celebrated my birthday with yet another event. The Mundy family had organised a family lunch at The Little Angel in Remenham on Sunday. All 20 came, together with my young friend, who helped Louisa, my niece, organise it. The only one not there was young Christopher - son of Neil and Stephanie - who is currently on a 6 month round the world adventure. And by the look of his Facebook photographs from Thailand, Australia and currently New Zealand, he's having a ball.
When we got to the restaurant and sat down a great big box was plonked next to me with instructions not to use a sharp point when opening it. As it weighed next to nothing I guessed it might be a hat. But when I opened the box a big red, helium-filled Virgin balloon snaked its way up to the ceiling. On the end of the string was a red envelope containing my birthday present from the family - a hot air balloon trip for two. What a treat! Neil even gave me a pair of balloon-themed socks to wear when we go on the trip.
.


By coincidence I photographed the Virgin balloon just the day before as it hovered over my neighbour's garden.


Kate, my young 10 year old great niece had designed and written this birthday card.



Here are a few of the many photographs taken that day.


And the cake.



After lunch, Stephanie (my eldest nephew, Neil's wife) read a long 16 verse poem she had written to mark the event. I can't show it all here but these are the first two verses:

We are gathered now to celebrate
The Years that you have lived,
So through our memories and archives
We have gently sieved

To mark the different stages
Of your rich and varied life,
We hope this poem brings pleasure
And does not bring you strife!


It goes on (skipping a few verses) :

And as your nation called you,
Sapper Mundy 23260247,
You requested Singapore for service,
Which turned out to be your heaven.

Not Long after National Service
You returned to this special place,
As an advertising executive
Surrounded by beauty and by grace.

The family came to visit
Your 'Island in the sun',
And were spoilt by your hospitality,
Each and every one.

It goes on a bit later:

Your artistic days continued,
And miniatures remained your bent
As tiny painted images
Across the world you've sent.

Your glamorous connections
Play an important part,
With celebrities and Royals
Featuring strongly in your art.

And the poem concludes with this final verse:

We want you to know you're special
And that we're glad to share the day,
When Uncle Bill, you turn 80,
Hip, hip, hip hurray!


Wasn't that lovely? Brought a few tears to my eyes. So I took the balloons home.

Christmas is fast approaching. I've made all my Christmas cards - all 300 of them - and posted the overseas ones. Even wrapped quite a lot of presents.

But I haven't been idle lately. This is another river painting I've just completed. I call it 'Autumn Breeze' and it depicts, in the foreground, John Bridge and his wife. (John built the boat) and on the opposite riverbank, a whole line of Dunkirk Little Ships.


Talking of boats I've just bought a new (second hand) one. It's an Interboat, and I'll transfer the name from my previous boat - Marsh Mundy - to it. My young friend and I went on a test drive last Saturday afternoon and can't wait till April 1st when we take delivery. It's 19ft long. This is it

Three weeks ago I had another session with the doctor about the osteoarthritis on my knee, as the pain is pretty constant now. I asked for another Cortisone injection (not that it helped much when I had one just before we went to Canada) but she said it was too soon to have a repeat. So I'm hoping to see a specialist as soon as possible. I thought she was going to arrange a consultation but when I phoned yesterday it seems it was up to me to arrange one! As I don't know any knee specialists how was I supposed to arrange a consultation. So maybe now something will happen.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Canada in the Fall

Before we left Niagara we braved the Hornblower boat trip right up to the Horseshoe Falls. All togged up in the red ponchos they dished out we made our way on to the boat. Boats going up to the Horseshoe Falls from the American side use the Maid of the Mist boats while Horblower is the name from the Canadian side. Here are some of our fellow passengers against a background of our hotel and the Rainbow Bridge leading to the USA.

And the view as we approach the Falls.

It became very wet as the spray finally hit us. The ponchos helped but being short sleeved and only knee length we got soaked.

But well worth it.
So with one last look at our view, we left Niagara Falls on our way to Niagara's Butterfly Conservatory.

This magnificent conservatory breeds thousands of butterflies. We spent a couple of hours there wandering around. Often butterflies would alight on us and we had to look where we walked in case we accidentally stepped on one. Here they are having a nice feed.

Next day Carol drove us to her cottage by a lake. 'Cottage' to me sounds more like a tiny little dwelling, but Carol's boasts two basements and is large enough to sleep over twenty of her large family. Here she is in the garden leading down to the boathouse.

Talking of boats we saw her ski boat. When they drive it into the boathouse a large pair of strong canvas straps hoist it up out of the water by a mere touch of a button. Especially useful when the lake ices over in the winter. I could do with that sort of device at home in Henley

Next day we took a bus ride to Toronto. (Here the buses and trains depart from the same station).

We'd planned to visit the CN Tower (formerly the tallest edifice in the world), the aquarium and maybe take a trip on the ferry, this being our last day in Canada. We managed the CN Tower

And the view from the top

While up there my young friend stood on the glass floor and looked down at the streets far below, but I suffer from vertigo so gave it a miss. Next we walked to the nearby aquarium where, because my arthritic knee was so painful, we acquired a wheelchair. (Which at one point got caught in the travelator when we went through the glass tunnel)). It is a beautifully designed aquarium and here's a few of the fish we saw there.

No time to have a trip on the ferry so we returned to Stouffville on a double-decker train. Next day, on our way to the airport, we took a look around the Black Creek Pioneer Village. All the buildings date from the early 19th century - some in the original sites where they were built. During our visit filming was going on which rather spoilt the atmosphere in parts, but these pictures will give you an idea of the village. Many of the buildings (for example the forge) were giving demonstrations of their trade by people dressed as they would have been in the period.

And so our week in Canada came to an end. Lovely memories and a great way to celebrate a big birthday.