When you enter the French Horn in Sonning-on-Thames you are greeted warmly by the owner and shown to this equally warm cosy corner. As the spit slowly revolves, giving out a lovely aroma of roast duck you are served with home made cheese straws and offered a glass of wine and an assortment of olives. Last Sunday I took my young friend and sister-in-law Val there for dinner (to celebrate a modest lottery win the previous evening.)
The grounds of the restaurant that meander down to the river Thames are always immaculately kept. We had a really nice time with great food and very attentive service.
Last Tuesday a connoisseur of portrait miniatures visited me with the intent of purchasing one of my miniatures. (I have a collection of over 60.) Driving from the other side of London, when she arrived within a couple of hundred yards from where I live, due to the (endless) road works along New Street in Henley she was diverted almost 9 miles via Playhatch, Sonning and Wargrave to get here. (I'm sure Oxfordshire District Council are in cahoots with the petrol companies!) Anyway, when she arrived I knew that she was a real expert. Apparently her collection of old master miniaturists includes Cosway, Engleheart, and my favourite - John Smart. She also knows how to buy art, as she bought my two favourite portrait miniatures. (Sad to see them go, but I need to make a living.)
Talking of miniatures I finished this one the other day.
It's of Joceline. I liked her impish smile. Joceline is an International model and has a lovely and lively sense of humour - apart from being a really nice person. I intend to send this portrait off to the USA in a couple of weeks time for exhibition in the Miniature Artists of Florida annual show.
On Saturday morning, after visiting my artist friend in Bray, my young friend and I made our way to the Henley Show at Greenlands Farm in Hambleden. Not such a scorching hot day as last year, and less people there than usual ( maybe partly due to road works in Henley.) I was very impressed with the way the Army managed the parking situation. Met at the entrance by a soldier who used his walkie-talkie to relay the car number to a colleague near ring one, when we arrived there we were personally guided to our allotted position at the ringside by a polite young army cadet. The first task of the day was to photograph Aberdeen Angus cattle for cousin Paul - another connoisseur, but of animals. I took several in their pens but here's one parading with its winning rosette.
I hope that's an Aberdeen Angus as I'm no expert. But it's black anyway.
What I like most at the Henley Show are the display of carriages and steam engines (with the lovely and nostalgic smell of steam.) Here are some of them.
The Helter-Skelter looked inviting but I think we are both a bit too old to have a go on it - even my young friend didn't fancy sliding round on a mat!
In one of the enclaves were a gaggle of ducks. They were being rounded up by a sheepdog (or should I say duckdog) and guided round a variety of obstacles.
On to the birds of prey. We didn't see the demonstrations but I like the arrogance of these birds. Here's a couple of photographs.
Later in the afternoon the huntsmen, together with their pack of hounds, came on to the ring. It's always a good spectacle and once the horses leave the children are encouraged to come on to the field to pet and pamper the hounds.
Later, as the horses came back, the huntsman gathered the hounds and with a toot of his horn led them away home.
So we followed suit and made our way home too.
The rest of the weekend was spent working on my exhibition brochure and cabinet panels. We'd already transported four, 2 metre by 1 metre, MDF boards from my (currently) favourite shop - B&Q - home to begin covering them with paint prior to arranging all the various elements and descriptions of techniques. The brochure will be a pretty lavish affair and will contain over 50 reproductions of my paintings. I worked on the layout and sample prints while my young friend did the difficult part - transposing all 26 pages into 'computer speak'. This will eventually save me hundreds of pounds in printing costs as all they (supposedly) have to do is to select the paper, print straight from a CD, fold and staple the pages together.
Then, to round off a busy weekend, we went to Val's for a lovely dinner