Wishing You a Happy New Year

Well Christmas has come and gone – as has the snow. I spent a pretty quiet Christmas – I like being with the children at this time of the year but they were all away on Christmas day. We did have a nice get together at Louisa’s house though – here are some of the family.

The Fireworks in London to usher in 2011 were spectacular – easily the best ever. This is just a little sample – I’ll add a short video at the end of this blog.

Yesterday my young friend and I drove to Redhill in Surrey to see Paul and Debbie in the pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk. And what a good evening it was. Great sets and fabulous costumes, good dance routines, a very large stage, and lots of legroom where we sat. We had a quick chat with Paul and Debbie backstage afterwards before the journey home.

On New Year’s Day nothing much was open, but we did find a ‘Rain Forest’ near Newbury. The tropical temperature reminded me of my recent visit to the Far East. We couldn’t find the python, and hoped it hadn’t escaped, but while looking for it I saw a bit of a foot - complete with grey trainers – half hidden in the sandy floor. Perhaps it was the remains of the python’s last meal? But no, as my young friend pointed out, it was the reflection of my own foot in the glass! Here are a couple of the creatures we happened across.

On the way home we stopped for lunch at The Royal Oak in Yattendon – famed for its superb food. Being a garlic hater I initially sent my Butternut Squash soup back because it reeked of garlic, but it came back with the chef's assurance that there was no garlic in it at all. So how come it smelled like garlic but, I must admit, didn’t taste of garlic. The ingredients, they told me, contained truffle oil. I rang Mike North when I got home. He’s the Olive Oil expert, who told me, yes truffle oil does smell of garlic. You live and learn.

I’m still waiting for the results of the PET scan I had at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford just before Christmas. Unlike previous scans I’ve had, this time I had to spend an hour and a half sitting in what can only be described as a cupboard with its door open while something – I know not what – was injected into my arm. Finally I was led into the scanning room. As I was due to become radioactive (for 6 hours after the scan I couldn’t be near pregnant women or children) there were signs everywhere with the nuclear symbol prominently displayed. I had to remain completely still for half an hour with my arms raised above my head while the gigantic machine slowly moved over my body. At least I was lying down, but half an hour is a long time – especially when the urge to scratch one’s my nose or ear is forbidden!

Not only have I at last finished the painting I call “Très Riches Heures” but have experimented with it and have decided to use it for my 2011 Christmas card. The cover will be just white with a small amount of calligraphy, but when the card is opened the painting will straddle both pages. (Click on the picture to see it bigger – you might be able to detect some of the gold in the painting).

Did you see the ‘Arena’ television programme about Rolf Harris on Wednesday evening on BBC Two? If you didn’t, try and catch the repeat when it comes around. I was entranced for the whole hour and a half as it not only showed the series of very large ‘Midsummer Nights Dream’ paintings Rolf has been working on over the last few months, but we were entertained to scores of clips from his past. It was nice to see Alwen looking so radiant and showing us around her own studio. What a natural and loving couple they are.

 I frequently visit Rolf in his studio and watch the progress of his paintings. The series of paintings were quite special as they were the realisation of one of his latent ambitions. This is a recent photograph I took of him which shows four of the five paintings that featured in the Arena programme.

If you’d like to see all five of the original paintings in all their glory Clarenden Fine Art will be exhibiting them at their very prestigious gallery at 46 Dover Street in London from the 5th of January till the end of the month.

Now I must get started on a painting I’ve been planning for a while. It’s of the Duke of Edinburgh and the three stained glass windows he commissioned to be erected in Windsor Castle to commemorate the disastrous fire which swept through the building in 1992. I hope to finish it in time for Prince Philip's 90th birthday this year.

This is the view of part of my living room taken from the depths of my armchair. Just about all the walls in my flat are completely covered with my paintings – maybe I’ll have an exhibition some time and hopefully sell a few to make room for some of the others that are stacked up in the spare room

Finally here’s a taster of the New Year’s Day fireworks. Not the best quality video – I messed up my HD recording.