Thursday, July 31, 2008


I had to go to the private view of the St Albans Arts Summer Exhibition this evening on my own as everyone else had other commitments. The plan was to get there when it started at seven to have plenty of time to look round the exhibits. Anyway after an hour of frustratedly searching for my car keys (after Flo assured me she would always put them on the hook) I gave up and accepted a lift from my kind neighbour only to receive a phonecall from Flo as we had gone a little way down the road – the keys were in her bedroom!
So I arrived late and flustered and wondering if there’d be any time to look at all the work. As I walked in I recognised another neighbour who rushed over to me and congratulated me. I wasn’t quite sure what for but I smiled appreciatively. The work was of such a high standard, it really was quite amazing. I have to confess that I only ever joined the art society for the figure drawing sessions and I probably assumed that the kind of work that a regional art society would display would be amateurish and fuddy-duddy. But it’s nonsense, there are some really talented people beavering away and the work was of an extremely high standard. Anyway after wandering around for a bit what did I see but a red spot on my framed picture ‘Nude with slippers’ and a little sign next to it saying that it was commended! So what a thrilling end to the day and now I know what the congratulations were for.
The beneficiaries of this (my gallery owners) have no idea as one is having a night out on the tiles in St Albans and the other arrived in Norway today and I imagine is having a night out on the tiles with all the other crew members on the tall ships race.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pedicure with lovely Kirsty

I had to reach the ripe old age of fifty before I had one of these. I really can’t ever justify spending money on ‘pampering’ in fact the word ‘pamper’ makes me shudder. However, when my lovely brother and sister decide to treat me then the best thing is just to sit back and enjoy the fact that for at least a few days my crusty, cracked old feet are as soft as baby’s bottom. And Kirsty, if you’re visiting, thank you for doing such a lovely job and you can download a bigger picture here.
Brushpen in small sketchbook

Ooh I've found a video

Now you can see my lovely bluebell wood on the BBC, here!

Mr Sourpuss’s clever strategy

I was looking at another website where there were comments about the proposed Sandridge Forest and somebody pointed out that £8.5 million is about 41% above the going rate for the amount of prime arable land needed to create the forest. So, it seems to me that the lesson to learn is buy some land, be as un-neighbourly as you can be and people will pay any money to get rid of you. However I’ll reserve judgment for when we’re given more information at the meeting next week.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Oh my gosh I am so excited!

Not long after I finished my One Mile from Home challenge I was very despondent when the new landowner (hereafter known as Mr Sourpuss) decided to block off one of my favourite walks – the big loop around the fields past the bluebell wood (shown in red above). I didn’t want to bore you all with how depressed I felt, but it just seemed so curmudgeonly and mean spirited that the very people who loved his land and would have taken care of it were to be prevented from enjoying it. Every time I bumped into my fellow walkers we dejectedly chatted about the loss of our lovely walk. Not only that but the rumour mill had it that in three years’ time he was going to prevent us from walking in our beloved bluebell wood (Langley Wood in the map above). It’s behaviour like this that turns nice middle-aged ladies like me into law-breaking hooligans. Last night as Robin and I took one of our ever more frequent trespassing walks at dusk we once again bemoaned the fact that we had to enjoy our walk under cover of darkness – and with no opportunity for me to sketch. With the thought of losing the bluebell wood as well, we might seriously have to consider moving somewhere else where we would be able to walk without Mr Sourpuss stopping us.
Anyway this morning, as I was lying in bed there was something on the radio about the Woodland Trust creating the largest new native forest in England. 850 acres may not sound much to you Australians or Americans, but here in England with so much of our native woodland depleted, I can assure you it’s significant. I didn’t think too much about it until my Dad rang this evening and mentioned that it was going to be near St Albans, so as we were talking I had a quick look on the web and discovered to my delight that Mr Sourpuss is obviously prepared to sell his land because the proposed forest is going to be Sandridge forest encompassing just about everywhere you can see on the map above and much, much more.
I am just so delighted. The Woodland Trust need to raise £8.5million by the end of September, so a lot of fund-raising needs to be done if it’s going to happen. It means that many of the views that you can see in ‘One Mile from Home’ will be transformed forever, but not, I think, in a bad way – it won’t be housing or industrial estates or golf courses. It will be protected as a place for native wildlife to flourish and for walkers to enjoy forever.
For any of you local people who are interested there is going to be a public meeting at Sandridge Village Hall at 8 o’ clock in the evening on Tuesday 5th of August. If any of you have some money available to help the Woodland Trust create the largest new native forest in England (and take over the land from Mr Sourpuss) please go to their appeal page on their website and donate – time is short.

Too busy painting to paint!

If you look over on Flo and Tom’s gallery blog you’ll see that the kids have big plans for all my One Mile from Home artwork. However some of the walls in our house haven’t been decorated for over ten years so Robin and I are having to knuckle down to make the house presentable. I can’t believe how I used to regularly re-decorate my flat as a student. I suppose my standards were lower then and I was much more capable of dangling off a rickety ladder than I am now. So if any of you make it to the show can you please admire my wall painting just as much as the paintings on the walls, in fact can you please just praise me for my walls – they have been by far the greater challenge.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Recumbent Robin

Once again another picture of Robin appearing to be a couch potato when the reality is that I’m the couch potato who can’t manage running up and down the canal towpath, sketchbook in hand attempting to capture the action man he is in reality.

Brushpen in sketchbook

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence – Robin was only grimly holding onto the TV remote control because he knew I was drawing him. Long ago, my sister and I had a male flatmate who didn’t seem to feel complete unless his hand was gripped around the remote control ready to be the person to decide whether the channel needed changing, volume adjusting or any other decision needed to be made. Was that a male thing or simply social ineptitude?
Brushpen in sketchbook

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Nectarine eater

You have to grab ’em quick when Flo is around. You bring the nectarines back from the market – wait for a few days for them to reach sweet, ripe perfection and then look in the fruit-bowl to discover that they have all gone.
Brushpen in sketchbook

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tom sailing in Royalist

Tom is following in his sister’s footsteps and is sailing in the Tall Ships race which set off from Liverpool today. Not quite such a sunny route for him though. Flo went St Malo – Plymouth — Lisbon. Tom has a much more northerly route. He is heading for the north coast of Northern Ireland where the race proper starts at 1500 hours local time on Wednesday 23 July. From there the fleet will race around the top of Scotland and then across the North Sea to Maløy in Norway where they are due to arrive on 1 August. The first thing the captain ordered him to do, when he joined the ship on Friday, was to get his hair cut. But I think he’ll agree it’s a small sacrifice for such an amazing experience.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My brilliant idea is becoming a reality

About ten years ago, as I marvelled at the wonderful variety of images I could create on my computer and print out, I had this great idea for reducing clutter and waste but which still allowed us humans to indulge our delight in consuming huge varieties of different products. I thought about what I called a ‘gloop machine’ which was basically like a printer that would produce three-dimensional items. Every household could buy one and you would simply use computer software to ‘print’ out whatever you needed
on your gloop machine. So you could put in your vital statistics for instance and use your fashion designer software to produce an outfit that fitted you perfectly. Or you could decide to have an oriental dinner party and you could use your gloop machine to produce a beautiful set of serving dishes, chopsticks and cups. And whenever you became bored with your outfit or your dishes you could put them in the melting pot of the gloop machine ready to be made into something new.

Well the future is here. Adrian Bowyer and his team at the University of Bath have been working on a machine that can create 3-D objects with a view to the machine replicating itself. And what an interesting philosophical conundrum that creates. The machine, which they call a RepRap (Replicating Rapid-prototyper) machine is well on the way to re-creating itself. And en route the machine has made a number of other items, children’s shoes, a door handle, a coat hook. This may not seem much, but think of the slow, painful, crude output of the first printer attached to a computer and compare that to the speed and superb quality of the output from the latest colour printers. Look at the products the RepRap machine can produce now and imagine what it will be able to produce in twenty years time. Amazing!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Flo back from holidays

She’s been on two holidays. One doing the backpacking adventurous thing and the other a raucous all-girls (22 of them!) get together in the new 18 to 30 hotspot in Crete. She rang from her second holiday after losing money and needing a top up of funds. She made me hoot with laughter when she told me she was having enormous fun but added sotto voce ‘You won’t believe how tacky this hotel is – the swimming pool is the shape of a penis!’ Can you imagine anyone choosing to build a swimming pool like that? What happens when this place falls out of favour with the 18 – 30 crowd. I suppose they could try attracting ageing swinger holiday makers.
Brushpen in large sketchbook

My entrepreneurial children

Tom and Flo are great at sorting out ways of earning money, whether it’s babysitting, gardening, decorating or working at the local leisure centre. It must come from Robin’s side of the family as he comes from several generations of business entrepreneurship – unlike my side who’ve all opted for safer ways of earning a living. So with the huge costs of university looming, first for Flo and hopefully in a couple of years for Tom, they’ve decided to see how they can get on with starting Oakley Gallery an online and real-life art gallery that will help to fund some of the little extras (such as eating!). Tom is rather enjoying the prospect of putting ‘part-time art dealer’ down on his university application form. Sounds so much cooler than ‘part-time burger flipper’. They have a huge collection of paintings to start their business. It’ll be interesting to see how they get on – and whether they earn more money than they would do working at the local fast food restaurants.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Watching the Tour de France

The only sport that we both enjoy watching. And a sport that really is better watched on television than in real life. I’m so glad I weaned myself off the only other sport I liked watching. After spending what seemed to be the entire summer term watching tennis when I was doing 'O' levels, I realised drastic action was needed so the next summer it was cold turkey. I have to keep my distance from televisions during Wimbledon fortnight, it would just take an idle glance at a rally between a couple of players and all my good work would be undone and I would be feverishly looking forward to my next fix. Much better to spend my time trying to do things.

Brushpen in sketchbook

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hugo looking moody

He wasn’t feeling moody when I drew this – it’s just the moody look goes with those model poses.
Brushpen in sketchbook

Friday, July 11, 2008

Flo, Brad Pitt and thoughts about love

Pen in sketchbook

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hugo sprawled

My fidgety son. Unlike his mother I’m sure that he’ll never have a weight problem. We all end up shouting at him when we can’t stand the fiddling, twiddling and tapping a moment longer. But he’ll have the last laugh when he enters middle age as thin as he is now because of the incessant calorie burning.
Brushpen in sketchbook

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Relaxing after school

Pen and ink in small sketchbook

Friday, July 04, 2008

Footballers’ mothers

This may be the last time I bother with the after-school football club. Xavier has a very jaded attitude to the game and seems to spend most of the time lying down on the pitch – possibly thinking of new inventions, or alternatively devising interesting mischievous diversions from the boredom of kicking a ball around. I won’t miss the winter classes, even if the summer sessions are an enjoyable break for us parents.
Pen in sketchbook

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Sketch of a 30 year old photo

In reality the photo is much better. However all my models were absent or had gone to bed, so I opened this up on the computer screen and drew it. I haven’t asked the photographer’s permission to draw it but I know he won’t mind — even though I have made a travesty of his wonderful capture of a very happy moment in time.
Pen and ink in small sketchbook