Where are the weeks going! Edward de Bono gave an explanation for why time passes more quickly as you get older. For example, when I was seven years old, if I asked my mother for an ice cream and she said I could have one in an hour, the equivalent time for me today (being older by just over ten times seven) would be just over ten hours. Therefore time really does accelerate as the years go by. That's one of my reasons for doing things in advance. For example I've spent all day today addressing 300 Christmas cards and printing out 100 Christmas tags. I painted the card 3 months ago and had them printed last week. So all I have to do now is to buy the stamps and write the messages. But that can wait till the first week of December.
On the painting front I finally finished my painting called 'The Boatman'. It took over 250 hours. At one stage I thought It might be ruined as I struggled with the stippling on the background sky, but eventually decided to paint that part in gouache. The face and jacket however was painted in a stipple technique in watercolours with a size zero sable brush. It's now being framed in special museum quality glass so there will be no reflections.
Here's a close up of Alan's face. The eyes follow you as you walk past the painting. Eerie for some.
Henley held its annual Literary Festival last week. With over 150 events I'm told it was a great success. I only managed to see about nine of them, starting on Monday afternoon with an hour long trip down the river on the Hibernia. While we cruised along, four speakers, headed by Mike Hurst, read poetry and other inspired writings from the Great War - it being the 100 year anniversary. About thirty readings from such authors as Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen were read out, plus extracts from 'Oh what a lovely war' and 'The Wipers Times'. I enjoyed Mike Read talking about his autobiography 'Seize the Day', and would have enjoyed the talk by John Burningham - the illustrator of the book 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' more had the illustrations been projected onto the screen behind him. Simon Williams also read extracts from the book - specially reprinted to mark its 50 year anniversary. The best event I went to was to hear 'The greatest living adventurer' - Sir Ranulph Fiennes talk about his life, career and new book 'Agincourt'. Three of his ancestors fought in that battle for Henry V - as well as at least one for the French! He told us how, after the battle, Henry V entertained his senior commanders to dinner, waited on by captured French knights, and how the French would cut off the first and second fingers of every captured archer, and then raise those two fingers as a gesture of defiance.
Have a look at this table setting.
It's laid for the Dowager Countess of Grantham. And here's the table all ready for dinner at Downton Abbey.
But we aren't wandering round the set of the television series. We are at Basildon Park, together with my young friends parents, and spent a leisurely Sunday afternoon in this 18th century mansion.
In fact many episodes from Downton Abbey were filmed at Basildon Park, but currently the mansion and its parkland is the setting for the latest 'Pride and Prejudice' film.
However I'm not sure how close the film makers will be adhering to the original story as we were told the title will be 'Pride and Prejudice and the Zombies'. Can't imagine what Jane Austen will make of it from her vantage point in heaven. We wandered around the beautifully restored mansion admiring the rich furnishings and elegant rooms evoking the atmosphere of a glamorous bygone age.
The other day, Shiplake College, near Henley, staged the opening of its brand new arts building. Called 'The John Turner Building' it mounted a secret postcard art exhibition, and I was asked to contribute. I gave them a number of small prints of my paintings and a limited edition of 'River Reflections'
My young friend's new lawn mower blew up the other day. Well, not quite, but it went bang and black smoke came out of it. As it was only a few weeks old I took it back to Toad Hall where they gave her a replacement. I don't think the bang was as loud as her new 'Blo-Vac' machine - used for blowing and sucking up the autumn leaves off the lawn. She felt it was so loud that she's bought a pair of ear defenders. And last week she went with her parents to Toad Hall to collect the wintering cherry tree she'd ordered. However it was so big - even for her father's shooting brake - that he had to leave the ladies at Toad Hall while he squeezed it into the car and took it back to the garden. He did remember to go back for them later. It is now grandly gracing a corner of my young friend!s garden.