Monday, 31 October 2016

The Big One

I've been prowling around Boatyards over the past few days with a view to buying a new boat before the spring. 'Marsh Mundy' gave me over 30 years of fun and frolic but lately has let me down too many times, so it's time for a change. In the meantime I've been busily painting yet another river scene. This one shows Henley at night. Fun, but tricky, to paint all the reflections of the Angel on the Bridge and Henley bridge itself.

I'll probably make the painting my Christmas card this year.

On Wednesday evening my young friend had arranged a dinner for two at my favourite restaurant - The French Horn at Sonning. When we arrived I spied two empty seats by the fire (the place I like best where you can watch the roast duck revolve around on a spit while you munch away at home made cheese straws and have a drink). But the maitre'd said we'd be better off in the larger room, where I'd noticed a group of people taking up most of the space. Suddenly I noticed Debbie McGee amongst the group. "What a coincidence to see you here, Debbie" I said (as it was only the previous Sunday I'd seen her and her sister when they came to dinner at my flat and I'd mentioned myf and I were having dinner at the French Horn on Wednesday). Just then everyone else turned round and chorused 'Happy Birthday Bill!' Myf had managed to arrange for all of my best friends to be there. I'd always said I'd wanted a surprise and had never had one. And there was Brian and Jane, cousin Paul and Em and Vince Hill. And what a lovely evening it was.

Next morning off we went to Heathrow to board a plane to Toronto. As my arthritis was still extremely painful, and probably too difficult to walk the distances in the terminals I'd reluctantly arranged for a wheelchair to be waiting for me. Never done it before but I was very impressed with the efficiency. But surprise number two was to come as the check-in girl told us we'd been upgraded to business class! Fantastic! We had great seats and a really delicious meal. And at the airport to meet us was my old friend Carol (wearing the Chinese coolie hat I'd bought her 40 years ago when she and her husband, Gary, came to Hong Kong). It's Fall in Canada right now. This is the entrance to her house where we'd be staying.

We picked up a car the next day and took a little drive around, later visiting Lake Scugog at Port Perry.

Today we drove to Balls Falls (could be an incident on Strictly Come Dancing tonight) on our way to Niagara Falls, where we parked the car.

Balls Falls is a lovely nature reserve. There was a wedding just about to take place in this church, colourfully surrounded by autumn tints.

And on to Niagara Falls. I'd booked The Sheraton on the Falls hotel so was delighted when this view of the Falls awaited us.

And now to celebrate my 80th birthday today (just can't believe it) we'll see what Niagara has to offer. Hope I don't fall in!

The day started with lots of cards to open and a nice early breakfast (still a bit of jet-lag) then the complimentary WeGo blue bus to the Skylon. The lift is on the outside of the building and swiftly took us to the top. Yet more views of the Falls (It's hard not to keep on taking photos as it's all so spectacular).

We'd prebooked a showing at the IMAX Theatre. It traced the legends and history of Niagara and the Falls and re-enacted some of the real and tragic events surrounding some of people who had attempted to go over the Falls in barrels of various types. The very first person to successfully survive the hazardous journey was this brave lady.

However a (nearly) namesake of mine - Dave Munday - survived the most attempts - and here are the original vessels he built for the purpose.

This afternoon myf treated us to a very relaxing time in the Sheraton's luxurious spa. Now as I write this I'm looking forward to a lovely dinner in this restaurant where we hope to see the Falls illuminations accompanied by fireworks at ten.

Having had a really juicy steak dinner it's now just gone ten and this shows part of the firework display with the American Falls illuminated on the left and the Horsehoe Falls under the fireworks. And so ends the celebration of my big birthday.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Starting again

We updated my iPad the other day and have now discovered that Apple no longer support Google blogs. So I have to use a different way to write blogs now. I'm writing this on a new app called BLOGO, so hope it will be as easy to use as the previous one.
I lived for nearly ten years in Thailand during the sixties and seventies and grew to love the country and its people. This was before the advent of the jumbo jet and mass tourism and I really did think of the country as 'The Land of Smiles'. So it was very sad to hear of the death of King Bhumipol Aduladej the other day.

He was admired by everyone. When I visited Thai friends of mine in their houses a photograph of the King would always be prominently displayed - along with that of his daughter Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. They were much loved. I had the honour to be given three audiences with the Princess at Chitralada Palace where I was commissioned to paint miniatures of both the King and the Princess. On one occasion when I presented my portrait of the King to her we had a long chat. She said how worried she was about her weight and how she'd sneak down to the fridge in the middle of the night to have a snack. I was reminded of this when I finally completed her portrait. She was wearing a bright red uniform and appeared a little chubby. But a week or so before I was due to travel to Bangkok a friend rang me and said Princess Maha Sirindhorn had lost a considerable amount of weight. This put me into a bit of a dilemma. So I rang the King's private secretary to ask if this was true. It was. I asked him if he could quickly find a few photographs of her as she was now (and preferably not wearing a uniform) and send them to me. This he did, so I was able to paint a second portrait. My frame maker rapidly made a beautiful double leather and silk case in which I housed both miniatures.
When I presented them to her at the Palace she laughed and showed them to her ladies-in-waiting and said "Look! Before and after". As there were three or four television news cameras present, her comments, and the miniatures, appeared on the TV news that evening.
Thailand is now in mourning for their much-loved Monarch and everyone will be wearing black or white for the next forty days and officially the country will be in mourning for one year.

A couple of days ago as I was cutting a large piece of watercolour board to prepare for a new river painting, somehow my big knife slipped and sliced into my index finger. How I managed to cut my right finger while holding my knife in my right hand I'll never know. But as it was spurting blood I decided to have it looked at in Henley's new Townlands Hospital. I intended to drive there but my young friend wouldn't hear of it and drove me to the minor injuries department where they bandaged it up very nicely. As I am not allowed to get the finger wet for five days it's been extremely difficult to shave and bath left-handed. Luckily I haven't done more damage - so far. I bought a first aid kit today - this is our home made plaster wrapping.

Today myf will be preparing her banana trees for the winter so these lovely leaves will be cut off this afternoon and the plants wrapped in straw to protect them from the frosts to come.

That's it for now - we are off for a few days so I'll write a more interesting blog at the weekend.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016


I've has two injections this week - one for the winter flu, which, apart from being accidentally punched in the arm by my young friend, was no problem. But the other was a cortisone injection into my knee. Now that one really hurt. I've been suffering badly for a long time with osteoarthritis in the knee. (Mainly due to a bad break many years ago when I crashed in the Singapore Grand Prix practice, but also, I expect due to advancing age). I took a long time for the doctor to find a way in to administer the cortisone as the arthritis was solid. But when she did - ow! It's certainly done some good as I discarded the walking stick I've been using lately. 

I finally finished another boat painting the other day. I call it 'Nine Dunkirk Little Boats' which you can see by counting all the masts of those that are not featured. 

Every year a number of the Dunkirk little ships arrive in Henley for the two day Traditional Boat Festival. It's great to see them parading in convoy down the river with their flags a-fluttering as we remember the wonderful contribution they made in bringing back our exhausted soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk. I might make this painting into my Christmas card this year. 

The Royal Society of Miniature Painters annual exhibition opened at the Mall Galleries in London on Wednesday. I exhibited 8 paintings this year, plus this one of 'Jade' for a special 'Children through the Ages' miniature portrait exhibition by Arturi Phillips. 

It's always rewarding to see miniature portraits created by the old masters, and I was honoured to have my painting included. My prize - The Mundy Sovereign Award - for the most outstanding portrait in the exhibition - I gave to Michael Coe.

The Arturi Phillips publishers produce the most prestigious books on miniature portrait painting shave recently inaugurated their special prize for the RMS called 'The Connoisseur Award', which I was honoured to win this year. It was for my miniature Sam Wilson.

And here I am receiving it from Lenox Cato (from the Antiques Road Show TV programme) who opened the exhibition this year. 

As Wednesday was the day before my cortisone injection I was still making use of my (collapsible) walking stick, which I must say came in useful on the underground when people offered me their seat. Not that I took up their offer every time. 

It's been a sad couple of weeks. My friend Jack Darrah who ran the Churchill Collection at Bletchley Park died. When the lottery funding organisation contributed money to Bletchley Park they stipulated that The Pegasus Bridge exhibition and The Churchill Collection be removed from Bletchley. Jack was distraught as it was a magnificent display of Winston Churchill memorabilia which he'd built up over very many years. 
And then Annie Hill died. She and Vince, her husband, had been married for nearly 60 years. So sad. One of Annie's wishes was for Vince to play the song which he had recorded - "I'll be seeing you " at her funeral. After a private service at Reading Crematorium for family and close friends we all went to Henley Town Hall and then on to The Baskerville Arms.

My eldest nephew Neil landed this 15lb 12oz rainbow trout from Spring Lake at the John Lewis Fly Fishing Club competition.