'Those dirty old things'...

Jean and Brian, my wonderful neighbours, are having big clear outs this year. Having introduced them to the notion of 'vintage', they always let me know when they're getting rid of stuff and I am usually approached with 

'Is this of any use to you? It's been in the shed/loft for years and it's got to go'.


One of the many things which 'had to go' - having been languishing in one of Brian's many sheds for decades, was this fabulous wall mount. 'You don't have to have it, if you don't like it'.

I may have squealed with delight when he handed me this. Joe is rather keen to have hanging baskets at the cottage and this is the most perfect hanger imaginable.

Brian's sheds throw up many interesting things, some of which I find intriguing, if baffling. This is a 'something or other' which he gave me to put on to eBay; however, I find I am curiously attached to it, having a weakness for old painted things. Even if I don't know what they're for. He did explain it to me, but it it went in one ear and out of the other. This is a keeper though, whatever it is.

'You're not putting that dirty old thing on my clean table cloth' Jean protested, when Brian brought this sweet little lamp inside 'in case you're interested'. 'It's just an old thing I've had for years' he said as he handed it to me, Jean grimacing slightly.

To her dismay, I cradled it lovingly in my hands, crooning with pleasure. It just needs a bit of a clean and a candle.

Less disreputable, old Kilner jars which belonged to Jean's mother. Which of course 'are of use'.

Sometimes I'm given things which flummox even me, and I give them a punt on eBay. After all, pieces of toast and the legendary 'old rope' have been sold there. Then I have a bit of creative fun with the descriptions.

'This quirky and kitsch little swan pretty much sums up a lot about the 1960s. It looks as if it was designed to hold one of those highly perfumed bath salt blocks that my mother was so fond of and used to be given at Christmas. If only she'd had one of these! Made in England and designed by Jean Sorell Ltd, it measures approximately 8 x 8cm.

The box states that it will float when not holding bath salts, but I cannot guarantee this.'

Or how about another swan - 

 'Where to start with this one? Well, it is basically a nice hand blown glass swan, which is all fine and well. This one is a little unusual in that it is apparently a 'magic swan'. How so, you ask? Well, it comes with the original dyed papers which turn it various colours. Such fun!

The instructions read as follows -
'To colour, fill the body with water and insert dye paper for one minute. Place thumb over aperture and and turn swan over. By a series of small movements the air bubble will gradually leave the head. Turn the swan up again without allowing the air back into the head'

There is no mention, however, about what you do with the plastic rose. In a further gesture towards beauty, I imagine it is stuck elegantly in the hole at the back, once you've managed to fill the swan with coloured water (and not getting it everywhere in the process).

This is why we invented the internet. Having said all that, it is a very pretty piece, never used, 'hand made by craftsmen from the finest British glass' and in its original box with packing. What's not to like?

Oh yes, and it measures 13 x 13 cm.

However, if I can sell things such as this rather crazy old flocked lion, which found a loving home several months ago, then I remain hopeful. Beauty in everything. Even Jean is almost convinced.


Despite everything


I've made very few of my own personal creations this year; partly because I am still struggling to recover my creativity after the awful, life changing events of 2013. *Warning* This is an old post that some people who don't know what happened may find upsetting, but I've put it in, as this is to some extent my personal blog and anyhow, it's been 'out there' since it happened.

Grief doesn't just stop once the initial agony subsides; it continues to send out ripples and in my case, this has meant a rather grey no-man's land as far as inspiration goes. Bit of a problem when your only income is creatively based.

So I have been busy flogging whatever I can on eBay, to pay the bills. Once upon a time, this wasn't such an issue, but my circumstances now mean that anything which doesn't bring in an income has to be forfeited in favour of things which do. But I have cobbled together a few things. Just to keep my hand in.

These odd looking beasties - 'Hawses' - were a bit of a self indulgent experiment and a move away from my mainstream cute style. If nothing else, it was good to try something different.

The rest has been more familiar work. I've fiddled about unsuccessfully with different ideas, including the 'Teddy Bear of Doom'. One of the most difficult things I have ever attempted, shown here at halfway stage. Limbless, unloved and a bit wistful. Little blighter.

On another note, my kits have found their way to Berlin, via the gorgeous AMODO shop - I feel as if I have gone international, albeit in a very small way!
But sadly, a squirrel and a simple circus bear have been pretty much the only finished work so far this year.  

I continue to weather things out and as always, try to look on the bright side. Despite everything that has happened, and some recent health issues, I have so many blessings in my life and count them every day.


Dance of the Craneflies

At this time of year the kitchen is  a magnet for crane flies and at night, if the window is left ajar, they clamber inside and head for the one light.

It's a love hotel for daddy long-legs. 

While I'm not over fond of them flitting about my head, they make the most incredible shapes in their courtship dances. 

My object was to capture the detail of my little short lived companions, as they danced their way through their brief existence. But I found the 'mistakes' even more attractive, and while the dim light meant 'off' colours, it simply added to the atmosphere

Where my camera could only catch traces of wing movement, graceful scatterings appeared. And with a bit of dickering about in Photoshop, the results are even artistic.

I can't help but imagine these images reproduced on huge canvases with somewhat pompous and meaningless titles such as 'We Are Building a New Kingdom'

or  'Towards the Celestial Light'

or even, ooh, I don't know, how about 'Within all of us - the Apocalypse!'

They would be displayed in the kind of understated but expensive foyers found in modernist buildings in the financial districts of large cities. Perhaps people would look at them and ponder the meaning behind the shadows.  


Unusually in Blackpool

I say unusually, as I have to admit, it hasn't been a main feature on my non-existent bucket list. But when someone special whisks you off for a weekend away, it doesn't really matter where it is. And this country mouse was rather surprised at what a fabulous time she had. 

Perhaps it's my Brighton roots, maybe it's having lived on the Devon coast in my childhood, but I have a soft spot for the seaside and all the paraphernalia which goes with it. And what's not to like about Blackpool Tower?

We took a wander down the small but famous pier. 

And went along the the sea front. Another secret pleasure of mine - the glitz and tack which goes with the British pleasure beach. 


We hunted for a place to gorge on ice cream - and they had to be proper old-school Sundaes (or in my case, a Knickerbocker Glory). We found them at Cafe Palma, just off the sea front. And returned the next day for more.

Later, we returned to the sea front to watch the first round of the International fireworks competition - this night it was China putting on a fabulous display. 

However, we weren't just here for the ice cream and sea views, we were here for the first Blackpool Comic Convention. Another thing I never envisaged myself writing about on this blog, but then, there have been a few of those. 

Queuing for two hours round various blocks to get in was mitigated by some fabulous costumes on display and the genial atmosphere of the crowd. We were lucky to get in at all, as we found later, many people queued for longer and were turned away, even with pre-booked tickets. 

The Winter Gardens is a spectacular pile, in typical grandiose Victorian style. Today it was rammed with comic fans.

Joe's the geek and comic hero fan, but I was happy just to enjoy a new experience and take numerous photos of Joe with his heroes and heroines.

I think he was particularly pleased with this one, alongside well known cos-play actress Kristen  Hughey.

What you need after a day traipsing around a super hero event is a super hero meal. So we returned to Cafe Palma for tea. Fish and chips for me, second time in two days. And meat pie for Joe. And more ice cream. 

It's been a long time - too long - since I had such simple, unalloyed fun - and I'm looking forward to a promised return trip. Because I haven't quite ploughed my way through the entire ice cream menu at Cafe Palma. 


Birds and blackberries

Summer, such as it has been, seems to have flown by. Now the tractors are up and down the lane from dawn till dark, carrying loads of straw and potatoes. Already the fields are being prepared for next year's harvest. 

We cycled out spontaneously one morning, when the sun made a joyful appearance, and headed over to Venus Pool to see what was going on in the bird community.

Quite a lot, as it happened. We settled in one of the waterside hides. 

The geese were gathering in numbers - flocks of them have been flying over the cottage regularly, heralding the end of summer with their haunting cries. There were the usual Canadian Geese and a crowd of Grey Geese. Keeping their distance, faraway, were three pairs of Cormorants. A dignified Grey Heron mingled in a rather aloof fashion.

I told Joe how Andy always referred to these birds  as 'grey greasy fishermen', from the way they seem to slink and slide as they are hunting or flying.

There was one unexpected visitor, a Little White Egret.


Such a pretty thing, delicately picking its way past the waddling, guzzling geese.

 It's on the amber list of birds, so this was a good 'spot'.

We headed over to the little woodland hide, where numerous bird feeders attract the smaller birds. Nothing unusual here (though I did once watch a rat squabbling with a pair of ducks). The birds do very well here, with plenty of peanuts provided for the Great Tits and suchlike.

One last glance at Venus Pool, with the Wrekin looming in the background, before heading home to beat the incoming rain.  

 Autumn is definitely on its way.

 Joe spotted an old wasp nest in a muddy bank - I have to admit I walked right past it, thinking it was a disintegrating plastic bag.

Exquisite constructions; delicate paper palaces which will gradually dissipate over the season, leaving nothing but a few tiny, desiccated corpses. 

We picked blackberries on the way home; our summer has been somewhat mixed and fruit in general is not great this year.

 But we foraged enough for a crumble.

True to form, the British summer closed in and as we arrived home, the rain was tumbling in from Wales. This was the view from the garden...before taking cover.

After a good morning of wandering, and with calories to replace, there was home made trifle for lunch. This baby had my own lemon drizzle cake lining the bottom - which gives it a nice zingy cut though the sweetness of cream, jelly and custard. And, of course, hundreds and thousands.