Thursday, 28 December 2017

Nearly New Year

One of my new year resolutions is to write my blog more frequently in the future. Since I had the operation to replace my hip with a new one I’ve really not done very much. At least I’ve graduated from 2 crutches, through one crutch, and now to one stick. In some respects I’m impatient so was expecting to be walking by now with no support at all but so far the leg is not strong enough and there’s too much pain anyway. I walk on average almost 4,000 steps every day - more if I go for a short walk by the river, measuring the distance covered by aiming for a further rubbish bin each time.
Now I’m in Suffolk staying with myf’s parents. Christmas day was spent with my niece Louisa and her family in Marlow- Here she is with her daughter Kate and mother Val.

We had a really sumptuous meal and played a ‘penguin’ racing game with little mechanical penguins from an RSPB cracker. The heavens opened later in the evening and I drove Val home to Henley through massive floods.
We’ve been avid fans of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing show these past few weeks - especially as Debbie has been dancing so spectacularly well - and reached the final- I had planned to give her this portrait I painted of her if she won.

She and her partner, Giovanni, were amazing with their three dances in the final but sadly didn’t win the glitter ball. But I’ve given her the portrait anyway. She told me the other day that she loves it. Which is nice to hear. She’s been working so very hard. And is now playing in pantomime in York.

Now is the time to enter some of the major UK art competitions to be held early next year. These days you have to submit paintings via the internet in the first instance. This is the large oil painting I’ve submitted to the National Portrait Gallery for the BP Portrait Award. It’s called ‘Thursday’s Child’. (The other day I added a shadow behind the figure).

When I submit paintings to exhibitions I’m always very careful to read the rules thoroughly because they are not the same for each one. Many of them stipulate that the work has to have been done within the past two to three years and not to have been shown elsewhere. Fair enough. But when submitting work - and after reading the rules - you need to send the entrance fee before actually adding your paintings to the exhibitions. So imagine my annoyance when I sent off £45 to the Watercolour Society (which did not stipulate when the work had been painted) to discover that additional rules had been added (after the money had gone) which stated that the work had to have been done within the previous 2 years. And as the three works I intended to submit had all been completed prior to the cut off date they were not eligible. So there will now be a battle to get my money back I expect.
We visited Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire this afternoon. Formerly a priory it is now a country house owned by the National Trust. A very wintry day with quite a bit of ice about. As I’m still struggling with a walking stick I hired a mobility vehicle to get around on. First a visit to the house. It’s always kept in really good condition with a large team of conservarors working throughout the winter. Here are a few views in the rooms.

The last picture - part of a much larger landscape - is made from hundreds of thousands of tiny little mosaic pieces - each one about half the size of a pin head. After a tour of the house we spent about an hour in the winter gardens.

Nearly the end of 2017 so having had a new knee and a new hip this year I intend next year to be full of activity - lots of walking, boating and finally going up in that hot air balloon. (The trip was cancelled twice this year due to bad weather). I’m saving hard for my flight in a Wartime Spitfire so maybe, if I win a few lottery prizes to add to the Spitfire money-box, I’ll be flying over Henley before the end of 2018.

Sunday, 3 December 2017


It’s been nearly five weeks since my hip replacement operation and as nothing of note has happened I haven’t written a blog. Hobbling around on crutches presents all sorts of difficulties but we have managed to accumulate a number of devices to help out. The ‘sock-putter-on’ is really good - except that my socks have stretched a bit as the thing is much too wide for my feet. But the most efficient, and versatile device is the ‘picker-upper- and long-shoe-horn’ implement. It reaches to the ground without me bending too far. Because of a fear of dislocating my new hip I must never bend my leg more than 90 degrees for the next couple of months. The picker-upper is great because it enables me to grab things off the floor I may have dropped and to pull clothes on in the morning when I get dressed. My young friend has been marvellous - I don’t know what I’d do without her. Here I am after a short walk by the river yesterday.

For the past few weeks we’ve been entranced by Strictly Come Dancing on BBC television on Saturday nights. Debbie McGee, being a good friend of ours has performed spectacularly with her partner Giovanni, regularly topping the leader board. Last night, as it was the Musicals night, they danced to the song ‘Memories’ from ‘Cats’. The dance was the American Smooth and they scored 39 points out of 40. Last week they were fantastic dancing the Argentine Tango. To think that Debbie is 59 years old - about 30 years older than each of the remaing celebrities in the competition. She is amazing!

Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to painting next week. It’s been impossible since the operation as to bend over my desk stretches my leg to more than 90 degrees.. But hopefully when we see Victoria, the physio, tomorrow she may offer a solution. For the past couple of weeks I’ve spent quite a bit of time writing an illustrated article on how to paint a miniature portrait for the art magazine ‘Leisure Painter’.

Well, all except four of my Christmas presents are wrapped and ready. And the 80 or so overseas cards have been posted. Every year I say I‘m going to cut down on cards and presents but never seem to. For those who read my blog and don’t get cards from me here’s a view of the inside of this year’s card which comes with my best wishes for Christmas.

My old boyhood friend Peter Challis wrote from Spain where he now lives the other day and said that he really enjoys keeping up with things here in England via my blog, so all the best to you and the family Pete, and thanks for the photos. When I was about 17 I spent over a year making a twin seater kayak and Pete and I acquired some pram wheels and trailed it a few miles to a lake called Queensmere where we launched it. The following year we cycled to Paris with another friend. Quite an unusual thing to do in those days. We cycled to Lydd in Kent to catch a Silver City aeroplane to Le Touqet in France. But as the journey to Lydd was over 100 miles we decided to pitch our modest ex-army tent on an inviting grass verge we noticed just before it got dark. Not knowing exactly where we had slept the night we were surprised in the morning to be woken by a discreet knocking on our tent pole. We bleary-eyed opened the flap to see a black clad and pin-striped trousered man greeting us with ‘good morning boys’. Apparently we had camped on the front lawn of a country house and he was the butler! But he was very kind and let us use the well from the garden to wash in. Our flights cost £5 each return plus half-a-crown for our bikes. (25 pence in today’s money). Our entire two week holiday cost us about twenty pounds each. We camped where we stopped each night and finally reached Paris where a kindly Frenchman directed us to a campsite right next to the Seine.
Happy days.