DIY Dunce

My young friend has just bought her first new house. Which means there's lots of things to do - including putting up bathroom cabinets, curtain rails, pictures etc. and as the garden is one rectangular plot that needs to be designed and worked on. (I'm making a scale model of all the existing things like patio, steps, shed, etc so am paying lots of visits to Hobbycraft - dolls house section!)
But back to our DIY disasters. We tried to install a fairly substantial bathroom cabinet. All went fine - I drilled the 4 holes in the right places, inserted raw plugs and eventually screwed it on to the wall. (We used piles of magazines to position it at the correct height.) Proudly stepping back to admire our handiwork the whole thing fell off the wall! No damage luckily as I was partly prepared for failure and was ready. It was later we found out that as the walls were plasterboard we should have used special expanding things. (The cabinet is still on the floor!) Ditto the curtain rail in the master bedroom - we drilled the holes one inch too low! At least we successfully hung three pictures yesterday and stuck number labels on the bins. We're now looking for a man. (Never thought I'd say that.)

The River and Rowing Museum in Henley are currently staging a really good exhibition about the Swan Uppers. Here's one of my latest paintings on exhibition there. It shows David Barber, the Queen's Swanmarker together with Her Majesty.

Talking of Swanupping, it was that time of year last Wednesday. They always stop at the River and Rowing Museum for a hearty lunch before proceeding upstream via Marsh Lock. Which is where I met them. Here they are transferring some of the swans they caught from the skiff to a larger boat for marking .

As I am painting another watercolour of David Barber in his skiff I needed to take a series of photographs while they were in the lock. Difficult because of the very bright sunlight behind him and interrupted for a long time while a TV crew interviewed him. Here's a general view of the Swanuppers as they crowded into the lock.

And this is one of the pictures I took of David.

Now we are in the middle of the boating season, and blessed with gloriously hot sunny days, I ventured down to the Traditional Boat Rally last Sunday afternoon. My young friend and I had taken our first boat trip of the season the previous afternoon along past the site of the rally (I'd not recovered my strength enough to venture out on the boat before) where she photographed this view of some of the little Dunkirk ships, a lovely view of Temple Island bordered by a profusion of Lavender bushes, and a sneaky one of me with a glass of Pimms at the ready.

Back to Sunday - after a stroll down the riverbank, meeting friends and eyeing up the great variety of wooden and traditional craft on display, I finally settled on board L'Orage- one of the little ships now owned by John Calvert. Here he is.

Many a time I've helped bring this boat back from its voyages to Dunkirk when Raymond Baxter owned it. (I only crewed on the UK part of the voyages). It was in 1965, to mark the 25th anniversary of "Operation Dynamo" that Raymond organised and assembled a fleet of 43 of the original Little Ships of Dunkirk to return to Dunkirk to commemorate the epic of evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940 in which they played a significant role. During eleven days between May 26th and June 5th in that year no less than 338,000 British and Allied troops were snatched from certain death or captivity. This photograph shows some of the brass plaques (behind the wooden steps) commemorating the many times L'Orage has made the voyage to Dunkirk.

The next return is planned for 2015 - the 75th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation. On my return stroll along the riverbank here are some of the sights - including preparations for a vintage bicycle rally.

It's not all been play. I managed to finish this little miniature of my favourite boatman's granddaughter, Lucy.