“G’day is the title of this larger than life-size pencil portrait of Rolf Harris I finished the other day. (Sorry my photo of it is a bit blurred and on the dark side). Measuring almost 30 inches in height it was fun to do. I seem to be going through a phase of pencil drawings lately – and will be starting on another couple of commissioned pencil portraits of children next week.

Every year, after the razzmatazz of the Henley Royal Regatta and the Music Festival, we locals are able to enjoy our own lovely little regatta. It’s called the Henley Town and Visitors' Regatta. ( The first University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge was held on the Henley reach in 1829, and the success of this led up to the setting up of a regatta which subsequently became known as The Henley Royal Regatta when his Royal Highness Prince Albert became the first Royal patron.)
Developed from the Henley Rowing Club Boat Races, which started in the late 1850’s, its name changed to the Henley Town Regatta in 1887 and the word Visitor was later added to show that the Regatta had been opened to clubs not based in Henley. Following the success of multi-lane racing on the Henley reach at the 1948 Olympic Games, the regatta now offers three abreast racing in all events. (That’s enough history. ed.)
My young friend and I spent a pleasant few hours at the regatta last Saturday, after an early morning visit to the Royal Berkshire Hospital for me to have a chest and pelvic scan. Now that I’m a Regatta ‘subscriber’ it meant that we could hobnob in the President’s tent. Liz Hodgkin has just become this year’s President, and here’s a photo of Richard, her husband, with their little grand daughter.

We had a trip down river to the start on one of the Umpire launches where we followed a coxed four race. Here are a couple of the launches ready to leave, followed by a our view of the race..

And this is one of the more interesting boats we saw on our way – it’s a steam driven canoe.

Later in the afternoon we drove over to Hurley to visit the annual fete, bit it was a bit too crowded for our liking. We did have a couple of ice creams and watched the Sandhurst band for a short while.

The Olde Bell at Hurley is one of the oldest coaching inns in England and was built in 1135 as a guesthouse.

On Tuesday Debbie and Paul invited us to dinner at the Villa Marina – my favourite restaurant where we had a lovely evening. They are both appearing at the Edinburgh Festival now and will be there for the entire month of August. I nearly always have the same meal at the Villa Marina as they do the most delightful sea prawns and their pepper steak is to die for - not literally! It’s also one of the few restaurants to bring round a sumptuous sweet trolley. I think many other restaurants have abandoned this practice – probably because of ‘elf and safety rules.

Apropos to nothing, I was reading the other day about Roman Abramovich’s new yacht - The Eclipse. It sounds pretty stupendous with its 70 staff, missile defence system, armour plating and bulletproof windows. Luckily he’s a very rich man as it costs about £50 million a year to run! The occupants have the option of making a James Bond style escape if things get a bit hairy on board by entering the boat’s own submarine that can dive to a depth of 150ft. Privacy is also ensured as it’s fitted with an ‘anti-paparazzi shield’ that fires a laser beam of light at cameras to ruin photographs. If any of my readers would like to hire it the cost is £175,000 a day. And if you need to fill the fuel tank it will cost a further £400,000!
It will soon be time to send off the four miniatures I am allowed to enter in the Miniature Artists of Florida annual exhibition. Normally I send my latest portraits, but his year I’m thinking of ringing the changes and including a couple of other subjects within my four. To that end I painted this miniature of flamingos last week.

Most of my time lately has been spent painting, drawing and boating – especially boating as the weather has been hot and sunny. On Sunday, together with Val we visited cousin Paul and Jo in Great Shefford. Another cousin, David was there too. Paul took us around some of the fields to see their livestock – especially a young bull, which wouldn’t leave its place in the shade. But here is Paul with one of his horses.

That’s it for today. I’d better get back to my desk.