Sunday, 18 September 2016

Meet my new secretary


We came across this wonderful secretary bird at the Hawk Conservancy Trust last weekend during a short break in Dorset. I learnt a lot about birds of prey on that day, including the fact that the peregrine falcon can fly at over 200 miles an hour.

In fact the world record is 240 mph. Incredible. During our stay we watched amazing displays of owls, vultures, hawks, and many more birds of prey. This is one of the very talented keepers who put on the displays.

And here are a few of the photographs I took of the birds - including the glorious secretary bird again.

After a really lovely day at the Hawk Centre we took a river trip from Poole to Wareham. Wending our way past Poole harbour we passed several large ocean going ships. 

And here we are docked in Wareham where we had a quick lunch and a short walk around the town.

Then on to the country house and estate of Kingston Lacy, near Wimborne in Dorset. It has been owned by the Bankes family since 1632 and was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1982 by Ralph Bankes. 

In the Loggia ithere's a shrine to his ancestors is this splendid full length bronze figure of King Charles First. 

Walking round the house we came across many lavish decorations. 

Including examples of some of William Banks Egyptian collection.

Suffering lately from very painful arthritis in my knee, my young friend  took a walk around the gardens leaving me sitting on a bench by the side of the house. As I phoned the owner of the B&B we were due to spend the next couple of days in, while taking down his satnav address on the map of his village, a sudden gust of wind blew the map, telephone number and satnav details out of my hand and over my shoulder. Not being quick enough I watched it waft over a fence and down to the very private garden where it settled. When MYF returned I showed her the map's resting place - at the bottom of the steps you can see on the right of this photograph. 

As she never trespasses anywhere, not even stepping on grass when there's a path close by, I assumed she wouldn't venture into the private garden. But she did and retrieved the map, on her reasoning that they would rather not see litter in the garden. 

Not far from Kingston Lacy, and in total contrast is Clouds Hill - the home of T.E. Lawrence known to most of us as 'Lawrence of Arabia'.

We visited T.E.lawrence's house. Which was an interesting experience, as we were issued with small torches as we went in. The reason being that the cottage has no electricity. 

This is the book room

And this is the music room

The cottage had been built in 1808 as a simple labourer's dwelling and was probably once the home of a forester on the Moreton Estate. When Lawrence bought it was dilapidated as it had been unoccupied for years. To pay for repairs he sold the gold dagger made for him in Mecca during the war. In a small outbuilding a short film of Lawrence's life was playing and showed a photograph of the motorcycle upon which he tragically died. 

Finally arriving at the B&B we were welcomed by a very interesting man. And on Saturday evening my old friends John and Jo Nagle gave us dinner at their home in the same village. They used to manage Videophonics in Henley - and are sadly missed. We popped in to John's workshop where he showed us his beautifully restored Austin 7. It was the first car he ever owned. He sold it over 30 years ago but after extensive research found the current owners and bought it back from them. Currently he's fitting a satnav in the car keeping the housing to reflect the age and style of the motor. 

Tuesday was the last day of bowling at the club for the season. Have to wait till next April to start again.
So now back to my second boat painting of the month - I'm calling it "Nine Dunkirk Little Ships".  

Just come back from London after helping to select the final exhibits for next week's Royal Society of Miniature Painters annual exhibition. And I also chose the winner of the Mundy Sovereign Award for the best portrait. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Sods Law - Twice in one week!

Last Saturday 'Chips Away' gave my car a complete exterior overhaul. I save dents, scratches, and major scrapes till I have about four, before calling in the experts. So I was delighted when my car looked as good as new after the valeting. Then on the way back from my sculpture class on Tuesday afternoon I parked in the Waitrose car park keeping it well away from the four by four in the next bay. So you can imagine how upset I was when I realised my car had been scraped down the rear door and back panel! Sods Law. 
And after weeks of hot sunshine, today it rained all day! To coincide with the annual Henley Agricuktural Show! We knew it was forecast to be a rainy day, so, not to be disappointed my young friend decided to order a small gazebo. Thanks to Amazon Prime it arrived at 5.45pm yesterday - just in time. After a practice erection first thing Saturday morning we were ready for the show. We picked up Debbie and Val on the way. Several envious looks came our way as the two by two metre gazebo formed a perfect shelter in front of the the car parked by the ringside. The first thing we saw was a very articulate bloke sowing the audience how to shear a sheep. You can see by the umbrellas that the rain didn't deter the audience's enjoyment.

At the end of his performance he managed to get all the sheep to dance too. This year, being the 125th anniversary of the show there was a display of 125 tractors, ranging from the modest 'Fergie' to this incredible machine costing several hundreds of thousands of pounds. 

Then there was a parade of steam engines. Here are a few of them.

Debbie and my young friend then decided to have a ride on the carousel. Here's Debbie. 

No agricultural show is complete without a parade of prize animals.

Or Morris Dancers.

Even though it rained all day we were snug in my young friend's gazebo as we enjoyed our picnic. And here she is covered up against st the rain, watching the duck herding event.

We had an interesting time on Friday. An American lady - Bobbie Nash - who had bought one of my miniature portraits at this year's Florida show, was visiting England with her two sisters and a friend. The had hired the luxury barge 'Magna Carta' for six days for a cruise on the Thames. And as they were due to moor overnight in Henley on Friday we were able to meet up. I live in Remenham so it was easy for me to park by Remenham church which is only a short walk from the river. I'd arranged to take the ladies to lunch at Phyllis Court so picked them up at noon at the mooring in Remenham. 

This is the Magna Carta. The owner and Captain, Dominic Read, had originally bought the boat in Holland but when it reached England because of its length it wouldn't be able to fit in many of the locks on the Thames. So what did he do? He arranged for a boat builder to slice a section out of the middle and rejoin the ends to make it shorter. Quite an undertaking. The boat is now 120 feet long. Still a very large boat. After lunch on the verandah at the club the ladies came back to my flat to have a look at my paintings. My young friend and I were invited to dinner at the Captain's table that evening. The interior was pretty lavish - a really comfortable set of leather sofas  and a dining table to seat ten. We also saw one of the four staterooms - each with a double bed and bathroom. Two of the crew members served our meal which was really lovely.

I played my first game for Henley Bowling Club last Thursday. We played Maidenhead Town. Also it was my first away game so was interesting to find out how different greens affect one's play. For example my bowl curved in a completely different way to what does at the Henley Club. It was a really good afternoon - even though our team lost. 

This year I've probably painted more oil portraits than ever before. This is a recent one of Sir John Madjeski. Not a commission, but I was keen to show the wool texture of his Wembley scarf. Sir John built the Madjeski Stadium to house Reading Football Club. He is now the co- chairman. This the life-size portrait.

This week's Henley Standard Newspaper contained an article about my recent painting of the Gloriana and the Dunkirk Little Ship - L'Orage. it was very flattering of Lady McAlpine to say "I am completely in awe of his talent. He must be the greatest miniaturist since Nicholas Hilliard...".

Currently I'm working on another 'boat' painting. This will eventually show nine Dunkirk Little Ships. The work so far.