Friday, 23 November 2012

A trip Down Memory Lane

It’s a bit of a red-letter day today. First, I won a small Premium Bond prize, then a smaller lottery prize, and with the morning post, and best of all, a nice big repayment from H.M. Inland Revenue. All very welcome just before Christmas.

On Sunday afternoon my young friend and I planned a little trip to Heathpool, on the nine-mile-ride at nearby Finchampstead. Could we find the lake? We were only there in the spring, but it took two or three trips up and down the road, plus a phone-call to Averil – a friend who lives nearby. As we weren’t quite sure where we were on the nine-mile-ride road we went completely in the wrong direction a couple of times. Nevertheless we managed to find the place before it got dark.

On the far side of the lake we came across this little family of swans, still not quite white all over.

As Wokingham, my home town, was on the way home we decided to see what the house I was born and brought up in looked like after all these years. here it is – number eleven Wescott Road.

All the nice wrought iron railings surrounding the front garden were taken down during the war – purportedly to melted down and used to make war weapons. They were never replaced. At the bottom of our garden we had a chicken run and it was there where I climbed the apple tree, crawled across the roof of the bicycle shed and jumped down to the playground of my school – easily the quickest way to get there. And here is Wescott Road Primary School – hardly changed since my days there during the war.

Having finished the bronze sculpture of Rolf Harris’s head I decided to make another cast – this time out of plaster of Paris.

As it looked a bit pale and washed out I bought a can of Hammerite copper textured paint and covered it with that. Still not completely happy with the result, as it looked a bit too shiny, I then made a third plaster cast. (All this happened over a period of three weeks). I left the shiny head with Shirley, my teacher, but was so pleased when I went back the following week she’s rubbed in grating black and boot polish, which vastly improved it. The consequence is I know have three versions of Rolf gazing at me from my dining room table!

Currently I’m working on a head of my great nephew, Max, I was hoping to have it finished by Christmas , but somehow don’t think it will be. Here he is, partly covered by plastic as I wrapped him up to keep the clay moist.

Last Saturday we were invited to a lovely dinner party at Shirley and Mike’s house in Warborough. Three of us sculpture students were there, and a whole array of heads were lined up on a low shelf. It seemed a shame to take Rolf away from the collection. That evening the Traditional Boat Owners Association (I think that’s the name) were holding their annual dinner at the Leander Club in Henley. My painting ‘When the Queen came to Henley’ was on display there, and it seems quite a few of the members (some of whom I’d depicted in the painting) are interested in buying Limited Editions when I get them printed later in the year. This is a section of the painting, and among the15 or so boats depicted, Alan and Carol Pontin can be seen lounging in their very comfortable looking punt.

I’ve finally finished the large portrait of the High Sheriff and took it to be framed this morning. Now it’s back to miniature painting. First of all I’ll paint the twenty-first – and final - annual miniature of my eldest great niece, Becky – in all the splendour of her graduation robes.

One thing that really makes me angry is the current burgeoning culture of compensation for the most trivial accidents, I’m not talking about our servicemen and women who thoroughly deserve all and much more of their monetary awards they receive after they’ve been injured in combat. For example I read today that a teaching assistant has been handed a staggering £800,000 in compensation after she tripped and dislocated a finger at work. A finger! Apparently she tripped over the waist strap of an empty wheelchair. Lancashire County Council agreed to this sum rather than go to court. What a sad reflection on society, and especially the current trend for teachers to claim these vast amounts of money (egged on by their trade unions, no doubt). Did you know that last year teachers claimed a record £25million? Including payouts of £200,000 for slipping on a grape, and £173,595 for dislocating an ankle during playground duty. Contrast these amounts to the comparatively small sums awarded to soldiers who’ve lost legs, arms and sight while doing their duty in war zones. It makes me weep.

I’m finding lately that it takes a lot of time to get my blog page working, For some reason it keeps telling me that there is an error and it can’t save or preview. Consequently my blog finally gets published many days later than I plan it to.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Ho Hum

When I get involved in a really interesting painting I tend to spend so many hours on it each day that I become oblivious to most of what’s going on around me. Take the current painting I’m working on. It’s as large as I can make it and is only restricted by the size of the watercolour board available. It’s a joy to make the details as realistic as I can make them. For example here’s a small section of ‘work in progress’ showing one of the hands and especially the lace cuffs, silver buttons and part of the silk hat which the sitter is holding in his hands.

But Christmas is rapidly approaching. I like to be well prepared so I’m not rushing around the crowded shops of Reading on Christmas Eve. So yesterday I wrapped up over 40 presents! That’s made a nice dent in my list. Also tags. I usually print off multiple images of one of my Christmas cards and use those. Another job done. All the Christmas cards are ready to be sent out – just waiting for the stamps for overseas to be issued. Sarah, a talented friend of mine, makes jewellery and each year, around this time, she holds a lovely sale of her work at Phyllis Court. So I popped along last Tuesday morning and bought a number of beautiful pieces – mostly bracelets. I stay away from earrings, as I never can remember which of my friends has pierced ears.
As I’m typing this I’m watching the Remembrance Day Parade on television. Such a marvellous sight. As they now allow ex-National Servicemen to march I intend to apply next year. Last night, from the comfort of my armchair, I watched the fantastic television broadcast of the Remembrance Service from the Albert Hall. To see whole swathes of colour as the various sections of our armed services marched, played their musical instruments and formed patterns in the arena, was truly memorable. The climax, to me, was at the very end of the evening when thousands of poppy petals floated down from high above in complete silence. Marvellous. Foe several minutes everyone stood stock still, most, I’m sure with their own thoughts about lost comrades, relatives, or other memories of conflict. As the poppies landed slowly and silently on the flat hats of the sailors covering them with red petals I just revelled in the occasion.

And towards the close of the service when the words from the Kohima Epitaph “When you go home tell them of us and say ‘For your tomorrow we gave our today’” two small six-year old children came to the centre of the arena to present their poppies. I was very impressed with the little girl’s faultlessly given words.
Not much has happened this week – I went to friend James Porter’ funeral on Wednesday – another sad occasion. Too many of these lately. ‘Marsh Mundy’ has been laid up for the winter – just in time before the river rises above the landing stages, and my young friend and I had a very nice time watching the fireworks and bonfire at Phyllis Court on Saturday evening. Better than Henley Regatta fireworks we thought.