Friday, 21 August 2015


I made a bit of a boo boo the other day. Having seen Dennis Waterman at the funeral of George Cole on TV the other day I  thought his craggy, lived-in features would make a great portrait. Pam Flint, his wife, was an old friend of mine so I thought I'd give her a ring to sound her out as to whether Denis would be prepared to sit for me, or at least let me photograph him. I rang their number. A man answered. "Is that Dennis?" I said. "Yes, it is" was the reply. "You probably won't remember me, but you invited me to an art exhibition of a friend of yours in Henley a number of years ago." I said. "Did I?" He sounded a bit mystified. "We met then, although the artist may have been a friend of Pam's. My reason for ringing was to ask if you'd let me paint your portrait." "I don't know any Pam's" he said. It was my turn to be mystified now. "Pam Flint - your wife." I ventured. "I'm not married to Pam Flint" he said. I knew he was because I'd seen them both at the funeral. Then it dawned on me that I may have called the wrong number. "This is 01753*****" I said. "Yes it is" was the reply. "And you are Denis Waterman?" "People often ring me here and ask to speak to Dennis Waterman" he said.  "I am Dennis, but not Waterman." With profuse apologies I crawled back into my hole!  And still don't know the right telephone number.

Since we returned from our weekend in Venice I've been busily painting Venetian pictures. This is one of them - I call it 'The Nine Gondolas'. 

And this one measures about 28 by 22 inches and is called 'St Mark's Basilica at Sunset".

I seem to specialise in water reflections these days. One of these two watercolours may become a wooden jigsaw puzzle next year as The Wentworth Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle Company  have in the past made jigsaw puzzles out of seven of my paintings. 

After collecting my two paintings from the Llewellyn Gallery in London last Saturday from their 'Not The RA' Exhibition when we arrived home we found a message inviting us on Brian and Jane's boat later that afternoon to see ( or at least, hear) Henley's Rewind Festival. So sipping our Pimms and wine we went downstream and around Temple Island - passing the venue with its vast array of colourful tents, flags, and all the trappings of this annual musical event.

As we couldn't tie-up on the riverbank we thought we'd anchor in the middle of the river and at least hear some of the music. As the anchor chain didn't seem to be attached to the boat we lost the anchor so tied up to a big boat for a while. It's always nice coming home in the twilight from a boat trip. Here they are leaving the mill pool after dropping us off.

We went out on my little dinghy yesterday afternoon. The leak seems to be mended - although I know it's only a temporary repair. In the winter when it's laid up I'll have to find a competent boatman to make it a new keel and cover it with a metal strip. There's always something new to see on the river, no matter how many times we go on it. I hadn't noticed this dragon on one of the Henley boathouses before. 

But these days we come across the occasional motor car driving along on the Thames.

We called in to Greys Court this afternoon. The apple trees are everywhere. Never seen so many, and all laden with fruit. 

And the flowers are looking good too. 

Last Sunday I was invited to a lovely barbecue by my niece, Louisa, at their home in Marlow. Such a nice evening. It was Kate's ninth birthday the following day. She's a great reader. Has read all the Harry Potter books, and was just about to start 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott. When Val, her grandma, said "Shall I I tell you how it starts?" "How do you know that, grandma?" she said. Val then recited - "Christmas isn't Christmas without any presents." Kate was amazed! 

We met with Paul Carter, my cousin, the other day at the Swan at Streatley for dinner. The occasion was to hand over the bronze bust I'd been working on for the past few months. Here's Paul posing at a late stage of the modelling. 

And here's the finished bronze.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Reflections in the Dark

Last Saturday we were invited to a sumptuous dinner party at Annie Coury's riverside house in Wargrave. There were about 30 of us and when it became dark, from our vantage position on the balcony we watched a very impressive firework display. It marked the culmination of the Wargrave and Shiplake Regatta. As we waited for it to start The New Orleans riverboat slowly passed by.

And then the fireworks. Here's a couple of pictures showing the reflections in the river. 

Thank you Annie. Lovely evening.

I'm now without a boat. Marsh Mundy is still out of action - carburettor  trouble. And the other day my young friend and I took little Marsh Midget out for a trip. Hopefully along the Hennerton Backwater. But it was not to be as we found about 10 inches of water in it. MYF bailed it and we started out but it was apparent that there was a leak somewhere. So we turned back after only about half a mile, bailing as we went. (Well, she bailed, I just sat on the middle seat where the water didn't reach) Upon our return neighbours Guy and Bill helped us drag it out of the water on to the little piece of land where the swans make their nest. So until Alan, the boatman, can attempt to repair it (probably a temporary bodge I expect,) it lays forlornly upside down in the garden.

We went to see Mission Impossible on Tuesday evening.

What a great action-packed film it was. Amazing car chases and incredible action. I'm told Tom Cruise performed most of the stunts himself. 

I was gripped throughout the entire film - didn't close my eyes once - and that's in the cinema with the most comfortable seats I've ever sat in. Highly recommended. Go and see it 

Great story too.

It's been so rewarding helping my young friend with her garden. Starting from a bare piece of grass with a nearly 30 degree slope, all the hours of planning, planting and pruning are now paying dividends. I've never had a garden of my own, living in a flat, so it's been fun to help her with hers. Obviously we've had a few failures - especially with bulb planting (we forgot that the squirrels and other little unknown critters watched us plant them in the winter with a view of digging almost all of them up to feast on in early spring). I'm not so patient as MYF and despaired a bit when the bamboo in the 'jungle' area started to go brown, and the grape vine didn't produce any grapes. But today the banana tree is thriving and growing new leaves every week, the bamboo is looking great and although we don't have any grapes the apple tree has produced three apples. Here are a few views of the garden today. 

I finished my big painting of gondolas in St Marks Basilica last week. It took 250 hours and I'm waiting for the photographer to make a decent print of it. He finds it difficult to produce an accurate colour rending of my watercolours it seems. The lovely smooth watercolour board I used to work on is no more and I find it very difficult to find a surface of the same quality. I need smooth paper which can take really fine work but can equally accept washes without blotching or drying too quickly. For example I've just started a new painting of a Venetian canal scene and the first day's work was abandoned as, although a 'hot pressed' surface it was still too rough for successful stippling. Here's a section of the initial attempt (look at the blue plastic cover)

And here is the second attempt in progress on a new type of paper. Not so great for washes, but good  for detail. 

The other Sunday we paid a visit with Val to an old friend, Joanne Dalston, in Bampton. She made a lovely lunch, and later we had tea in her garden. I love the Cotswolds and Joanne converted what was an old cowshed into one of the most homely homes I know. I first met Joanne and her husband Chris in Singapore in the 70's when they were serving in the Royal Airforce there. Nicola, Joanne's daughter, lives in America but visits her mother regularly. When she's here she becomes a hive of activity and helps her mother in many ways. Last month she worked in the garden - and this is the result. You can see Val and Joanne peering over the top of the door. 

On Saturday we went to The Town and Visitors Regatta in Henley. This is our local regatta and is such a friendly affair. As a member I was able to get aboard one of the umpire launches with MYF and follow one of the races. We followed this women's eight from the start to the finish near the Henley bridge. 

And back for a complimentary Pimms in the members tent. Here's Tony Hobbs and John Luker - well-known Henley characters. Tony owns the Hobbs Boatyard and a number of boats, including The New Orleans riverboat. John, until he retired, was the chairman of The Henley Standard newspaper. 

I've just been watching the 70th Anniversary commemoration ceremony of VJ Day. Great to see so many veterans from Burma and the Far East parading in London. Bemedallled and spritely old soldiers, brimming with humour and recalling days past. Hard to believe that some of them are in their nineties, and even a few hundred year-olds. Having been in the army in Asia myself, although obviously never experiencing the hardships of the veterans who survived the Japanese prisoner of war camps, I really do admire them for their fortitude under appalling conditions. 
And I remember exactly what I was doing on VJ Day all those years ago. I'd broken my knee-cap by landing heavily on my feet in the long jump at the school sports day the previous week and was encased in plaster up to my thighs. So all I could do was sit in the bay window of our house with my leg on a chair while I watched all the other children sitting down to a tea party on long tables that stretched down our road! Huh! Hope my mother brought me a cake!