For details about my work have a look at my website,

I am currently working on large prints combining water based woodblock techniques with oil based linocut: nothing if not a challenge! I'm also doing some teaching and go back to school myself in the spring to qualify as an adult education tutor

Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas Story

The house I rent while I am staying on the Isle of Wight is about a half hour commute from the factory and, since winter came, has been a drive to and fro in the dark. As my last visit coincided with the start of Christmas, there were various displays of lights en route. The garden centre had fairly freaky lights on their conifers which, in combination with my enamel dust filled eyes, danced alarmingly in and out of focus Bridget Riley fashion, causing me to drive past at geriatric speed each night. The real stunner was in Sandown itself. The wattage was so powerful and the combination of religious and festive icons so varied that it was a couple of days before I managed to make out some of the detail.

One of the things I noticed was a giraffe in blue twinkling lights. Now I went to a fairly high church Anglican boarding school and we had plenty of religious instruction. We had our own chapel and in addition to the usual daily assembly service we had evening chapel twice a week, Communion Wednesday crack of dawn, Compline Friday evenings and full services Saturday and Sunday. Come Christmas there were a lot of extra services and I emerged at seventeen with an encyclopaedic knowledge of hymns, ancient if not modern, and a fair grasp of the King James Bible. Nowhere could I place a blue giraffe in the Christmas story and yet I drove past it each evening, large as life and beautifully detailed.

Finally I decided that the thing to do was to go and have a proper look and see if there was some sort of African twinning theme happening. Imagine my utter disappointment when I walked up to the building from a different direction and discovered that my beautiful blue giraffe was in fact just an ordinary tree draped at random with a string of lights, reliant entirely on the angle of the road and the height of my mini to conjure it into life. I thought about this, wasn’t happy and decided that there was a bit of space in the Christmas story for a blue giraffe after all. What if one of the wise men (wiser than the other two and perhaps with kids of his own) realised that no young mum, however inexperienced, would let her infant near frankincense, myrrh or gold pieces so, knowing all babies like bright colours and soft toys, took an extra baby-friendly present in the shape of a blue giraffe?

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Listen Again

I've never been a fan of rave music to be honest. Actually, if I am entirely honest, I'm not very good on the subject of music at all. I dread the 'what music do you like?' question which usually wipes my mind entirely clean of any music related information. It's not that I don't like music, I do, but I like such a bizarre selection of fragments that it defies band, style or even genre. My brother-in-law and I sat down with as many CDs as we had in the house about a month ago and he complied a play list for me. After a trying few hours he looked at me kindly and said 'You do know it's really only music to do other things to?'. Since he lives in a flat insulated entirely with CDs, I guess that's me categorised: "likes music to do stuff to" which brings me back to rave music.

Thanks to Kev and Dave I have found that the stuff to do to rave music which makes it really, really excellent, is to pitch up in the 4.30am darkness when there's only the three of you awake, the furnaces are welcomingly blistering and getting six panels fired and back is viable before the factory fills up at 7.00am. I should say that I was late, they'd both been in since 3.00am, but I'll try harder next time we get a backlog on my work. It was early enough to make eating rum truffles at 7.45am seem perfectly reasonable, much as the porters in Covent Garden downed early morning pints, but I don't recommend it - it catches up with you later believe me. By 10.00am I'd been at Guy's stash of paracetamol, by 12.00pm I'd scored Pro-Plus pills off Dave and by 2.00pm I was only awake thanks to the sugar rush from a brick sized piece of Colin's birthday cake. I stuck it out until about 5.00pm by which time I was ready to lie face down on any available flat surface which is exactly what I went home and did.

I came home on Saturday on the early ferry clutching a hamper of Island produce courtesy of Wells. Why they should be so kind when I'm well aware that my need for random access to the furnace must make my visits a nightmare to accommodate I'm not sure, but I'm going to enjoy eating the lot. Again Red Funnel came up trumps in the costume department. This time it was a ferry man in full Father Christmas costume with his own lavish beard. As I was climbing back into my car at Southampton I heard the following exchange: small child "Santa, what are you doing on the ferry?" Santa, without hesitation and with exasperation "Nipper, it's my day job. Six more hours of this and I have to get back to the North Pole for the sleigh, so get back in your car and stop bothering me with your questions." Classic.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

The Shipping News

It’s been a long gap between blogs. That’s because there’s been a long gap between visits to the factory. I am on my way back now, sitting on a fairly empty Red Funnel ferry making valiant efforts to hack into their wireless network. I’m somewhat distracted by a pair of toddler twins sitting on the bench opposite. With exactly matching red hair and blue eyes, they’re both dressed prettily as snowflakes* and are watching me with total fascination (I have had a quick mental review and quite what is so engaging about a woman in a lumberjack shirt tapping on an old laptop is a mystery). It’s getting a bit disturbing to be honest and the temptation to suddenly shout ‘BOO!’ is becoming very tempting. Though there’s something of The Shining about them so perhaps best not…

I was far too early for my ferry today thanks to Tim, my sat nav (Tim was the English voice; Tod was the American who sounded frankly annoying and, being American, unlikely to handle roundabouts and London traffic well). Normally I have a stop before Southampton for a coffee, but today Tim took me on a strange and depressing circuit of Southampton’s suburbs, religiously avoiding anything resembling a coffee or tea shop, tipping me into the ferry terminal an hour and three quarters early. However, I’ve managed to get on the ferry before my booked departure no questions asked. This is an eternal mystery to me. Sometimes, like today, this is completely OK and I’m straight on. At other times asking for early admission is acceptable, but will cost an arm and a leg after a stressful session in the ticket office. Sometimes I’m not even allowed into the ferry port and have to wait in the overflow car park in disgrace. None of this bears any sensible relationship to the number of cars waiting to get on the boat, nor has any Islander been able to explain it. Answers on a postcard please…

*costume and the ferry: last time I crossed it was Halloween and extremely crowded. That time I squashed in with a baby disguised as a pumpkin and five zombies who ate chips with an enthusiasm you wouldn’t expect in people haemorrhaging badly from eyes, nose and mouth.