Sunday, 14 September 2014

Roman Mosaics

The mosaics at Chedworth Roman Villa are quite brilliant, fantastic designs and themes..When it was in full use , with brightly coloured would have taken your breath away.

Funny how nowadays, the Farrow and Ball paint colours and shabby chic works well and is fashionable in Cotswold homes, but when the artistic and skilled Dobunni tribe lived here.....well what did they think of the bright  reds and blues of the Romans!...I wonder if they were influenced and splashed a bit of colour on the walls of their homes. I can imagine them painting the lengths of timer in stripes and perhaps mimicking the mosaics onto large slabs of stone using sponges and natural earth colours.

I haven't researched into archaeological papers ,and I'm sure that nothing would have survived...but just knowing other artists and craftsmen...I just know that they would have had a go...after all it could well of been them that created or helped to make the mosaics.It is thought that unlike the Silures, the Dobunni were not warlike and submitted to the Romans arrival...accepting the Romano-British they could have enjoyed the mosaics too.

There are at least 20 other Roman Villas within a ten mile radius so if you were a local craftsman and could pick up the art of mosaics....well it would have been a good job and could have taken you far. I can imagine local craftsmen being allowed to help mark the pattern out, sort tiles and perhaps start by making the stripes and doing the grouting. Perhaps one of them might have had a flair for drawing and was allowed to produce the birds........they might even have made some Celtic  'selfies'

If a Roman of the time came and saw the stone mosaic sections available at B&Q etc....I'm sure he would have liked the idea of buying ready made strips but he would have thought they were all a bit too drab....I bet he would have liked the wallpaper though...that's pretty mad these days !

Sunday, 27 July 2014


Yes, I remember Adlestrop -- 

The name, because one afternoon 
Of heat the express-train drew up there 
Unwontedly. It was late June. 

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat. 
No one left and no one came 
On the bare platform. What I saw 
Was Adlestrop -- only the name 

And willows, willow-herb, and grass, 
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry, 
No whit less still and lonely fair 
Than the high cloudlets in the sky. 

And for that minute a blackbird sang 
Close by, and round him, mistier, 
Farther and farther, all the birds 
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. 

 Edward Thomas
Picture: Peter Higginbotham

A hundred years ago Edward Thomas wrote his famous poem Adlestrop. It was June 14, 1914 and he was on the train to Ledbury to visit the American poet  Robert Frost. The train stopped briefly and in that moment Edward scribbled ''…thro the willows could be heard a chain of blackbird songs at 12.45, and one thrush and no man seen, only a hiss of engine letting off steam.” The beginnings of his life of poetry. He enlisted in 1915, even though at 37 he didn't need to and was unfortunately killed on
 April 9th, 1917 at the Battle of Arras.
The train station was closed in 1966 part of the Beeching cuts. Apparently men were sent and they totally burnt and demolished all signs of the station...all Adlestrop could keep was one sign...the one in the bus stop.

The village of Adlestrop had a poetry competition but I was too late too enter...probably a good thing because I'm no poet but I tried....and here it is....

There was a young lady called Kate,
Whose train was incredibly late,
She’s waiting for Mother
They’d missed one and other,
So for news they hardly could wait

What a fool, there isn't a station,
Kate was sat at the wrong location,'
Adlestrop has a sign,
But hasn't a line,
Just a bus stop with ornamentation

Ring ring, went her mobile phone
Mum says she’s already at home
The train arrived early
It was a good journey
And now she was sat on her own.

Winchcombe town was not very far,
Twenty mins in Kate’s little car,
After kisses and hugs
And tea in big mugs
They ate cookies from out of a jar.

Edward Thomas wrote the poem I‘d read
That night while sitting in bed
I’ll go there again
No, not ever by train
But by car, bus or moped instead.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Two blue plaques in Notting Hill

This week I've been working in London. As I was walking to the job I passed two blue plaques....I have to admit I hadn't heard of either gentlemen I thought I'd look into them. Blue plaques are great but I'm sure most people, like me haven't a clue apart from the very brief description....and often, in our busy lives...don't have time or any interest to find out any more. They were first introduced in London 150 years ago specifically to commemorate the link between houses and notable figures....They work...I now know about two interesting men, famous 80 years ago, both having been in the First World War, but are almost forgotten now.
16 Campden Hill Square
The first one I saw was Charles name sake....1894-1958, Novelist and critic.
Charles Morgan
He joined the Royal Navy when he was thirteen and while on H.M.S. Monmouth his  Superior Officer  Christopher Arnold Forster encouraged the young Charles Morgan to write. He resigned from the Navy after seven years and briefly went to Brasenose College Oxford but was back in the Navy again when war broke out. It was during this time that he started writing his first novel, 'The gunroom'...this was initially lost when the ship he was travelling back to England sunk. He returned to Brasenose where he became involved with Drama and then became Theatre Critic for the Times.

He was very well known in the 1930's and 40's winning the James Tait Black memorial prize in 1940. He is also only the second British novelist after Kipling to be elected to the Institut of France in 1949.
More can be found about his books at Little Nell Hubpages.
The next plaque I saw was James Mc Bey 1883-1959, Artist.

Notting Hill Gate
At the age of fifteen he was a clerk in a local bank in Newburgh, Aberdeenshire..but it was when he borrowed Traité de la Gravure a l’Eau-Forte a book on etching from a library that his life changed . At twenty six he decided to become an artist. He started going to evening classes at Gray's School of Art and produced etchings at home using an old mangle.

  In 1911 he had an exhibition at the Gouphill Gallery in London. This launched his career. James McBey  later became one of Britain's greatest 20th century etchers.
He joined the Army Printing and Stationery Services as Second Lieutenant in 1916, becoming an official war artist and witnessing the slaughter on the Somme. He was then appointed official war artist to the British Expeditionary Force in the Middle East.

 It was here that he painted portraits of King Faisal and Lawrence of Arabia. He died in Tangier. After he died in Tangier,his wife Marguerite stayed in this house and also became an artist . She donated many of Jame's paintings to The Aberdeen Art Gallery.
 Click here to see a slide show of some his paintings

Friday, 11 July 2014

Tewkesbury Medieval Free Festival

Tewkesbury Medieval Festival has been happening since 1984 and is now one of the largest re-enactments in Europe...and it's free. It is based on the Battle of Tewkesbury that happened on May 4th 1471.  I was working late in Tewkesbury so thought I'd take my dog for a walk to see what was about. As I walked over the field I was struck by the site of masses of beautiful much more attractive than a usual camping site.

There were people already dressed up, in fact some families spend the whole weekend living
 'the part'....some as above just like dressing up ! In 1984  a friend and myself were asked if we could go over and provide some music, Pat played fiddle and I played the Bodhrun and bones....but we were told to dress up but didn't know it was a medieval event. Pat was in Top hat and tails and I was in a 1920's dress !

Not only is there a big battle re-enactment but there is a big medieval market where you can buy armour, cooking vessels, jewelry , clothes and fact everything that a medieval person could ever could probably even find a wife or husband ! There are quite a few Internet sites for buying the s tents,clothing and pilgrimage badges etc but you can't beat walking through a lane of ancient tents and buying a beautiful piece of hand made glass from a merchant in full medieval dress....If you think early it's a great chance of stocking up on some unusual presents for friends and relatives.
You can watch musicians and bands in and around the beer tent...past people have included the
 Mediaeval Baebes and an amazing band from Germany, Schelmish, and try your hand at archery or watch plays and listen to story might even meet a dragon !

The Festival is well worth going to, quite amazing that with the help of so many volunteers it has managed to remain free except for a charge on car parking. The Battlefields Trust has a map on line showing a walk that you can do any time of year....but sometimes you might need wellies !
This years Battle is on the 12th and 13th July.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Faggots at Ma Pardoe's

On a trip to The Black Country Museum I remembered going to a pub called Ma Pardoe's....years and years before. After asking about, I not only found it still existed, but it was almost exactly the same and still had it's marvellous enamel ceiling in the front Bar. ( Possibly the only one left in the country )
The last time I had been there must have been at least thirty years before when I was in an old boat moored at Bumble Hole, fifteen minutes walk away. It's real name is The Swan in Netherton but most know it as Ma Pardoe's after Dorothy Pardoe,who had been the landlady for over 50 years ( She died in 1984 aged the chances are that I had met her.)

Back hall with stairs up to restaurant.

Room into small corridor with bench and hatch ( Off-sales lobby ), with door that leads into another corridor with door to outside.

The weighing machine inside the public bar.

The Swan is now a grade 11 listed building....whooppee ! It really can stay the same now. I was going to say 'If you go' but I'll change that to 'WHEN you go', you will love not only the interior but the locals are great too ...really friendly ...and of course, the food. A huge plate of homemade faggots ,mash, mushy peas and gravy....on a soggy day you can't go wrong.

The Old swan still brews it's own beers too...this is a 'real' pub in every sense of the word. It's not pretentious, shabby chic or a theme pub, It is a proper working pub for real people. The landlord looks a character too, Tim Newey, who walks about wearing Victorian style suit, waistcoat and watch chain....and apparently is rather partial to organ music!

The original six bay Victorian bar back with beautiful etched mirror

The rear room
I'm not one for going out to lots of pubs on a regular basis, but I do find Ma Pardoe's a delight, I hope you do too.
Looking into some of the rooms of The Swan, Netherton

......Ps.....mines a pint please!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Winchcombe Art and Music Festival

Fingers crossed for sunshine....
The Winchcombe festival of Music and Art opens on May 19th ( Please click onto link to find online brochure for festival and art trail.)
This year I've managed to say yes to having an open studio...I'm sharing with Rob Langley...a rustic furniture maker who has a great workshop at Stanway. Of course I'm beginning to panic, trying to frame pictures, find labels etc...and we have to sweep a few shavings and cobwebs at Stanway !
Map for Art Trail by me.

I'm showing some paintings and drawings, hand painted boxes and lamp shades and lots of postcards and greetings cards. Rob has beautiful bent hazel and willow seats and smaller pieces.

Robs going to be there during the day and I'll be there late afternoon and early evening during the week, but hopefully there over weekend.

There are lots of interesting talks that I hope to get to and the brilliant Charingworth Court Sculpture Garden organisd and curated by Jane Smoczynski of Winds of Change Gallery.
So Please put us all in your diary and pop and say hello !

Rock the Cotswolds

On April 1st I received an email telling me that I 'Rocked the Cotswolds' !! I did initially think that it was an April fool, but it wasn't....It did make me giggle though.

In 2010 Oli Christie who formed games company Neon Play wanted to tell the world about the famous and hidden gems of people and businesses in the Cotswolds. Hundreds of people and companies were nominated and 75 of us were chosen. The idea is to show everyone that the Cotswolds is a great place to work, live and play....and I have to admit that I'm very lucky to living here.
To find my name alongside big hotels.. Oak House No 1 ,Dormy House Hotel and
 big businesses such as Snow Business, Mini , Lotus F1 Team and GCHQ
Adventurers Jamie McDonald and Kenton Cool
 celebrities ...Kate Moss, Lily Allen,
Artists Teddy M,   Damien Hirst.and .P J Crook
to name but a few... for me quite amazing. I have a happy but pretty normal life and spend most of my time in various workshops listening to a radio with a brush in my hand. I'm not very good at 'networking'
As my sister said back in the year 2000...welcome to the twentieth century just as the rest of us are joining the twenty first!....she knows me well!
A lot of the rockers' have beautiful first I thought...I'd better sort mine out, but then sense took over...I am just me...impossible to pretend to be anyone else...after all I've been me for rather a long time now...and they do say...old dogs new tricks etc
In June they are having a big party....should be fun....goodness knows what I'll wear...I'm so used to clothes with paint splashes or white overalls!

Anyway, Thank you to everyone involved ...It's always lovely to be appreciated.

Saturday, 8 March 2014


Last Thursday I had the pleasure of working in two lovely homes in the Cotswolds....both set in fabulous gardens and landscape. The perk of my job was being able to have a walk looking at snowdrops break between each painting job. Above is Sudeley Castle, outside relative calm....inside buzzing with the preparations of opening for the new season..March 17th. This year I've been painting life sized figures both for signs and display. The next photos are from Salperton Manor where I was doing some decorative interior painting.

On one of my regular stops between the two places I saw the strangest least that must have been...large as a deer, very rusty red coat, pricked up ears but with the longest white bushy tail up in the air...probably about two foot long!...very odd. I've looked through the internet and the only pictures that look like it was 'the white tail deer' native in America!

In the grounds is All Saint's Church, still used by parishioners...rather chilly inside but is worth visiting to see the rediscovered 'Doom'. A lengthy restoration taking off layers of whitewash..there must be hundreds of old churches around the country hiding amazing wall paintings.
Anyway, back to snowdrops...Galanthus...meaning snowflower.They are also known as 'Fair maids of February, Candlemass bells and Mary's tapers.
This flower is associated with Imbolic and is the celtic flower of St Brigid. In the bible God put the flower on earth to comfort Eve when she spent her first winter out of the Garden of Eden. An angel comforting Eve caught a snowflake, breathed on it and it fell to the ground as the first snowdrop. It is the flower of consolation, just by looking heals the hearts wounds.
In Germany there is a legend where God sent the snow to the flowers to get colour, All the flowers refused except for the snowdrop. In thanks the snowdrop was allowed to be the first bloom of the year.

Did you know that Snow White was originally called Snow Drop but it wasn't catchy enough!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Artists block

This year I seem to be finding it hard to come out of hibernation....I'm getting on with painting jobs but I've really wanted to paint some pictures, just not sure what subject! I've decided to use the bits of spare time to have a clear out. Today the scrap man came to pick up my Diahatsu.
 I've been trying to sell it to someone for spares for months and months, but not a soul was interested, so it had to go. I'm sure everyone will be pleased to see that my car has gone but it's already been replaced by someone elses!

While waiting for the Scrapman I had a chilly walk taking a few photos of the surroundings of my workshop....all looking rather tired but the snowdrops are popping through and as soon as spring arrives everywhere will look beautiful again...and I'll be feeling inspired again!
Rob Langley was busy making some great rustic furniture in his workshop....lots of creativity...and a lovely woodburning stove!

I found the following quote on the internet...made me feel better, I'm obviously on the right track...
 "One reason that people have artist’s block is that they do not respect the law of dormancy in nature. Trees don’t produce fruit all year long, constantly. They have a point where they go dormant. And when you are in a dormant period creatively, if you can arrange your life to do the technical tasks that don’t take creativity, you are essentially preparing for the spring when it will all blossom again."
- Marshall Vandruff


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