Wednesday, 27 February 2013


It’s really been a very cold week with temperatures below zero most of the time. But winter weather and the month of February mean snowdrops. So on Sunday my young friend and I drove over to Welford Park where the snowdrops were at their best.

I’ve seen fields of bluebells before, but never fields of snowdrops. At Welford Park we walked through the woods and there they were spread out before us. My photographs don’t do them justice, but believe me they were a magnificent sight.

Don’t know what this giraffe was doing, but he was lingering around by the house.

We travelled on to Basingstoke where we had a trip down memory lane. (At least I did, as my young friend wasn’t around during the war!) There we went to Milestones Museum. What a great place to visit. A large spiral staircase takes you down to a complete re-creation of a market town - circa about 1940. But before we descended we were given an old penny (to spend on two ounces of sweets from the confectioners in the village.) On our travels we came across the car used in the film Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang,

These two pictures of the hardware shop reminded me of my early years during the war. We had no electricity, or even a bathroom, so every Friday night the big tin bath was brought in from the garden for us to bathe in – one by one – in order of age!.

And in another view here was the mangle. One of my jobs then was to wind the wheel to squeeze the water out of the freshly washed clothes.

There’s so much to see in this museum. And everything is authentic.

My young friend disappeared down a small alleyway and when I went to find her I assumed the two doors there were for the ladies and gents loos. So I was horrified when she opened one of the doors and there was a man sitting on an old-fashioned wooden toilet with his trousers down to his ankles. “Shut the door,” I said, “There’s someone in there!”. I know this photograph shows that the man is obviously a waxwork, but I really did think it was a real man at the time.

This old bicycle looks like a more comfortable version of the original penny-farthing. Not so high to climb up to the saddle.

We went to the railway station where I took a couple of photographs.

And here’s an omnibus with access to the upstairs via outside steps.

All in all a really fascinating afternoon. I thoroughly recommend a visit. It’s easy to find – as you approach Basingstoke just follow the signs to the Leisure Centre.

I belong to the Arts Appreciation Group at Phyllis Court Club and yesterday went to one of their events. It was lunchtime do and the subject given by the Curator of the Watts Museum was to be Charles Dickens and his Favourite Artists. I really like Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite painters, so was very much looking forward to the presentation. Unfortunately the speaker telephoned early in the morning to say she had flu and couldn’t make it. But luckily, with the magic of Apple’s iCloud, the President of the Arts Group had it beamed through to the Club where she gave a faultless presentation

I hadn’t really appreciated how many artists of that period used Charles Dickens’ scenes from his books as subjects for their paintings. This painting by William Powell Frith was one of the featured paintings. It’s of Paddington Station.

I spent a very productive morning the other day with the Curator of The River and Rowing Museum to discuss my autumn exhibition there. I’m pleased that she’s agreed for the walls of the exhibition room to be painted red. This colour will beautifully enhance the 60 or so paintings I’ll have on display as they all have gold frames. I plan to show about 50 miniatures as well in lectern type cases on the far wall.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Shadows and Surprises

After a week of cloud, rain and miserable weather, my young friend and I decided to visit Clivedon on Sunday afternoon. However when we got there it seemed the whole population of England had had the same idea. Absolutely full. So we threaded our way through fields of parked cars to the exit and drove on to Runnymede – the site of King John sealing the Magna Carta in 1215. There in comparative tranquillity we walked  along by the river for an hour or so. And for the first time my young friend appears on my blog. Here we are:

Elongated in the late afternoon sunlight are our shadows. The willow tree is just beginning to bud so maybe spring has nearly sprung. 

As we walked back to the car the shadows lengthened and the river shone like diamonds.

For the past couple of weeks. Louisa, my niece, has been coordinating the plans for a surprise party to celebrate her mother’s 75th birthday. It’s not often we can arrange for all the family to be together at the same time. But on Saturday all twenty-one of us made our way to Louisa and Guy’s home in Marlow. Here’s Louisa and her daughter Kate

A few of Val’s best friends were there as well, and by a bit of clever subterfuge, granddaughter Becky, arranged to drive Val to Marlow on the understanding that she and Louisa would be taking her out for a posh lunch. The secret was well-kept as Val was completely surprised. Here she is as the door was opened to reveal the waiting throng.

Everyone contributed with all sorts of food, and the whole day was a great success. The cake:

And the family in the garden, followed by a few random shots.

Little Kate demonstrated her Power-Point presentation on the subject of “My Great Uncle Bill – the Artist”. I was mightily impressed. She will be giving the presentation to the entire school next week. (Also flattered because I believe I just pipped her kitten, Muppet, as the subject! of her talk.)

The proofs for my painting ‘When the Queen came to Henley’ arrived the other day. Just a small tweak needed and I should be receiving the final limited edition prints next week. Quite a few people have expressed an interest in buying a copy - especially those depicted in the painting on their boats. Now I’m hard at work on another  ‘river’ painting. This one includes the Queen so I’ll keep the image confidential until May when I plan to finish it.
The final stages of Max’s sculpture head are underway. Here he is last Friday, covered with a couple of heavy coats of thixotropic rubber.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Back to Work

I’ve been back home for just over a week and finally got rid of jet-lag. It’s always worse coming from America as I find it’s very easy to oversleep, whereas from Asia I may feel a bit sleepy in the evenings but rise with the lark in the mornings. On our last day in Las Vegas we hobnobbed with the famous at the marvellous Venetian Hotel. Pity they were only waxworks at the Madame Tussauds exhibition there. (so that’s where Elvis got to!).

I’ll leave the USA with this lovely, lazy view inside the hotel, and a picture of a lady in white. (She’s real – not made of wax).

Now it’s back to normal. We went to see the film ‘Lincoln’ on Tuesday evening. Terrific acting and a host of characters, but I was a bit sleepy and my young friend spent most of the first half digging me in the ribs to wake me up. We went to dinner at Strada before the film with Brian and Jane. Jane does make me laugh – when she booked the table she asked the restaurant to lower the lights to make the ambiance more subdued. And they did! 
Friday was sculpture day. I’ve almost finished my great nephew Max’s head. This is probably the last of the clay – next week it’s wax, bronze, and heavy mixing.

Max’s young sister, Kate - my six-year-old great niece... giving a five minute Power Point presentation – yes a Power Point presentation, at her school next week. The subject of her talk is ‘Great Uncle Bill’! I’m very flattered. And also impressed.(I didn’t give my first PP presentation till I was over 60). To give one at 6 years old amazes me.
I spent most of the week finishing off this small watercolour portrait. It’s about ten inches wide. I was asked by the client to make staged images of it as I went along as he wanted to see my way of working.
Here it is.

Next week I’ll be having a meeting with the Curator of the River and Rowing Museum to start the preparations for my exhibition, which will open there on Saturday 16th November this year. So much to do. I intend to make a scale model of the venue and position little images of the paintings in their frames where I plan them to be hanging. Quite exciting. I enjoy planning things.