Sunday, 29 December 2013

Trees Nº2

I took this photo yesterday. The bare branches against the blue winter sky are quite striking. It's a perfect example of why I love trees.


Saturday, 28 December 2013

Me and my selfie

This year I, like many other people, learned what a selfie is.
I was a little concerned to enquire what such a thing was when I first heard the term, as it sounded like something that might render one blind. And perhaps occasionally it can. But it turned out to be, in the main, a harmless manifestation of the social networking age.

On winters days, like today, when the sun shines bright, long shadows are cast. The perfect conditions for a selfie with a difference:


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Oh happy day

I’m a grumpy old bloke. I moan about the modern use of language. It’s my prerogative. It comes with the territory of age.

Yesterday was Human Rights Day apparently. Not entirely sure what that means but I think it may well have been the anniversary of the UN charter on human rights being introduced. Which is of course a very good thing. Anyway someone on Twitter said ‘Happy Human Rights Day’. I questioned the ‘happy’. In my opinion it just makes the whole thing a tad frivolous or trivial. It’ll be ‘Happy Remembrance Day’ or ‘Happy Holocaust Day’ (if there is such a thing) next.

Doing my usual rambling thing brings me onto the subject of Facebook. A service I use, often reluctantly. I find it frustrating that you can only ever ‘like’ something on Facebook. There are no other options apart from a comment. If someone says their dog died you ‘like’ it. Why would you do that, unless you are a cruel bastard? I suppose on Twitter there is a similar problem in as much as you can only ‘favourite’ something. What’s needed at the very least is a solidarity button/flag. Beyond the capacity of American Social Media Moguls? Probably.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Consumed with passion

Passionate is the new awesome. It’s one of those words. Words that superficial people use when they want to put some emphasis into their justifying their existence, their mediocre lives. People claim to be passionate about nebulous stuff, like customer service, vintage wedding jewellery, contemporary dance or cupcakes (whatever the fuck they are). It’s all bollocks really!

The only thing that most people do with anything approaching passion is consume!

This afternoon whilst wandering around my local supermarket, acquiring a few essentials (these things are relative you understand) I returned to my thoughts about happiness and what it might be. I looked around at my fellow shoppers. I may well have been deceived by my perception and it is hard to tell a person’s state of mind by the way they look but the vast majority of my fellow shoppers gave out the distinct vibe of being unhappy with their lot; every man woman and child-thing. Obviously supermarket shopping is not a love of many at the best of times but this time of the year it is most definitely shite in the experience department; more joyless than normal.

This time of year!

Convention, imposed upon us by the ruling classes and then reinforced by the blinkered and brain-washed masses, dictates that as part of the Christmas ‘celebrations’ we must embark on a frenzy, nay orgy of consumption. Consumption designed to rapidly reduce our bank balances and life expectancy simultaneously. And why? What is it all for?* How many people ever really question the whole process and how absolutely unnecessary it actually is?

So many people get stressed and upset over Christmas. It causes friction between loved ones and rarely does it live up to the false expectations that are built upon the myth that is Christmas. So why do so many people persist with it? I can only assume it is perpetuated by peer pressure with people not having the courage to put their heads above the parapet and say, ‘this is all nonsense!’ We don’t have to gorge ourselves and get into debt over some giant commercial confidence trick. Set yourself free. Be happy.

Part of being happy is about to freeing yourself from the restrictive and nonsensical social norm that the sheep want to immerse themselves in. Dare to be different. The world wouldn’t end if you didn’t celebrate Christmas in fact the world would be a better place.

I don’t like Christmas. Can you tell?




*please don’t insult your or my intelligence by trotting out some religious mumbo-jumbo.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

In search of happiness

The questions:
What is happiness?
Can we each achieve it?
Is it about managing expectations?
Why would anyone be unhappy?
Are expectations a good thing?
Does having low needs and low expectations leave you open to exploitation?
Are our needs and wants really what we think they are?
Are we being honest with ourselves?

The answers:
I don’t have many answers to these questions but that doesn’t put me off searching. I have sort happiness all my life and rarely found it. I think I may have been looking in the wrong places.

I have decided to double my efforts and look again. If I find it I’ll let you know.

Monday, 2 December 2013

No longer playing it safe

It’s possible that I’ve made a very big mistake. I think I may have come very close to getting a new job. A job with more money doing what I know best. Doing what I can sort of do with my eyes closed. I have decided against it!

Am I mental?
Possibly!

I’ve done purchasing type jobs for over thirty years and quite frankly I’ve had enough. I think I’d rather stack shelves in a supermarket than carry on in supply chain solutions. Virtually all my life I’ve played it safe. Safe is no longer an option. Not enough of us take the risky option I fear. Sometimes we have to take risks. Sometimes it’s the only way to get what we want!

When I’m finally made redundant (sometime early in the New Year) I’m going to head north. Well north-ish. I’m no longer a young man so going west is out of the question.

I’m heading north in search of gritty creativity.

Life begins at 58!

Because you can never have enough pictures of cats on the internet!



I’m not 100% sure when I drew this but it was probably around the year 2000.
To see more of my art please visit www.paulgarrard.com

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Positive mental attitude

I’m not normally known for being a rampant optimist and the recent ‘kickings’ have seen me deep in despair at times. But I’ve come through them and I’m now feeling so positive.

I won’t go into detail now but this week a couple of good things have happened that have made me realise that actually I’m pretty bloody good at much of what I do. It’s filled me with a new found confidence, a confidence to face the future head on. I’m on the up. I’m moving forward. I refuse to stay down!

The previous post was actually written about a week ago. It's all true, I am like that. I suffer from the cringe and no doubt always will. It's managing it that is the key. As you can see I’ve travelled a long way in a week. It pays to hang on in there.

Learning to cringe again

I lack personal confidence and have low self-esteem. If I ever reveal this to people who don’t know me that well they find it hard to believe. I’m also a very shy person. Plus I have the added handicap of blushing profusely and often for no reason. Occasionally I will blush for other people; in other words when others are in a situation that calls for blushing and they fail to do so I will blush for them. I’m a proxy blusher. I also worry a lot. I could worry for England. Olympic gold standard me.

People I meet don’t always recognise this picture of me, but then all they see is the exterior. I am like the proverbial duck. On the face of it I’m the serene gliding on the water. They never notice the feet below furiously paddling to keep going.

I’ve never been good with rejection, even though I’ve had my fair share of it. And the past few weeks have been quite a shock to the system. My confidence has been dented big-time. Strangely my reaction to rejection or tragedy is often different to many people. I give the appearance of reacting in an opposite way to being upset. I appear on the surface to be happy or devil-may-care but it’s a defence mechanism. I have been known to laugh at bad news. Its not that I find it funny, I just can’t help myself. I also have a tendency to say stuff that I don’t always mean. Verbiage is broadcast before brain is engaged. I then regret what I’ve said and want to crawl away and hide under a stone. Enter ‘the cringe’. Throughout my life I’ve said some spectacular foot in mouth things.

I once heard Desmond Morris say that people who blush are survivors. Blushing is a survival technique dating back to the very beginnings of our evolution. I buy that. It makes sense to me. I’ve survived pretty well so far.

So my strategy is to surround myself with a hard shell to protect this soft nut inside. My fear is that if I weaken I go under; we’ll call it ‘stiff upper lip’ syndrome.

I am the walnut, goo goo goo joob



please note: It's important to read the next post as well

Monday, 25 November 2013

The fog is lifting

For the first time since I learned that I was being made redundant I feel that I’m in a better place emotionally. My outlook is starting to be a bit more positive. This is quite unusual for me.

I suppose I’m more fortunate than many in that I don’t feel that I have to find a job at a certain level. Within reason any job (if I can find one) will do. I now see redundancy as potential freedom. All my life I have harboured a desire to create; to paint, to draw, to write; all my life I’ve allowed life to get in the way and stop me from immersing myself in my art. Now there will be nothing to stop me. Yes I will need to find some kind of employment but that’ll be all I’ll need, some kind of employment.

The other thing is that I won’t be tied down necessarily to where I live. Looking for inspiration I could well go off and live elsewhere. How liberating is that?

I’m not pretending that it’s all going to be a bed of roses. I have no doubt that I won’t get everything I want. There will be things I’ll need to do without but I’m going to set myself free.

I think the most exciting thing is that I’ve no idea where my life is going to go. All I know is that it’s going to change. I need to harness that change and use it as a catalyst for a more interesting life. I will have doubts, and I will have panics but I can see that my life could well be enriched by it.

As one door closes, another one opens.

Friday, 22 November 2013

No. 85. Sausage Rolls.

"Procure a quartern of dough from the baker's, knead this with four ounces of butter, dripping, or chopped suet; divide it into twelve equal parts, and use each piece of paste to enfold a beef sausage in it; place these rolls on a baking-tin, and bake them in the oven for about twenty minutes or half an hour."

From: A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes by Charles Elmé Francatelli

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Tip toe

I hope upon hope that once I am made redundant I can find other employment. I fear for the future. I can’t see that, at my age, I’ll be able to earn what I have been earning. I will probably have to take a much lower paid job. But regardless of any future salary I am determined to live my life in a simple and frugal way. I very much want to reduce my material footprint.

All the fun of the fair

Life is like being on a rollercoaster at the moment; a mixture of a few highs and a great many dramatic lows. Work is so painful now as I know I’m going to be without a job but don’t actually know at the moment when I’ll leave. I am feeling terribly misunderstood.

Emotionally I am more often than not at low ebb. I am finding it hard to concentrate on anything for long.

On the occasions I’m feeling up or optimistic it rarely lasts as something happens or someone does something to put the dampener on life.

I so want to move forward.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Scrapheap challenge

When we were told at the beginning of last week that the branch of the company I work for was closing it really didn’t come as any surprise to any of us. It had sort of been on the cards for quite a while. In fact for me it came as a relief. When you have something like that hanging over you it’s often good to have the certain imminent truth rather than a speculative possibility. Others did not take it in quite such a sanguine way.

The next day and reality set in. the emotions of it and of life brought me down to earth with a bump. I went into a deep decline. Life seemed pointless; nobody loved me, everybody hated me, so to speak. I was preparing myself to go down the garden to eat worms. I’m not good with rejection, especially when I feel that rejection is unjustified. On the scrap heap at 58!

Its 41 years since I left school and not once have I been registered unemployed. There was a brief period in my earlier days when I had three weeks off when I was between jobs but apart from that I’ve been a wage slave all of the time.

I’m scared. I’m scared for my future and I’m sad for my colleagues that are also losing their jobs, some of whom I know will suffer quite badly financially. But I’m coming to terms with it. I now see it as an opportunity, albeit not necessarily an easy opportunity. I’m hoping it will afford me the opportunity to be more creative and perhaps find employment in a different sphere, and perhaps even in a different location. I’ve never overly been fearful of change and it could well make life much more interesting. I’ve come to realise that material wealth is not the be all and end all of life. There is more to life than trinkets.

I’m coming to terms with the soon to be ‘bereft of employment’ situation. My future path is a stony one, but compared with many persecuted souls it will hopefully be no great hardship either. I’ll keep you posted.

Friday, 8 November 2013

War is murder

#peace Please RT: 
I could never contemplate killing another human being, and I would never wish for someone else to commit such a barbaric act on my behalf.



In my book anything other than pacifism is morally repugnant. To someone of a religious disposition it is the ultimate blasphemy.



Sunday, 3 November 2013

My name is Paul and I am a Jeremy Deller addict

Well, possibly...

Is doing two Jeremy Deller exhibitions in two different countries in two weeks a little fanatical?

Who can say?

All I know is that they’ve both been very enjoyable and very inspirational.

We’ve just arrived back from a week in Venice, where for two consecutive days we visited the Biennale. The Biennale is an international art exhibition. Or should that be exposition?

All of the countries taking part in the Biennale have their own pavilion where they mount their own particular exhibition for the season. The ‘curator’ for the British pavilion this year was Jeremy Deller. His show was entitled, rather oddly, English Magic.

I’m not going to offer you a critique or even try and explain what the exhibition is about in any depth as that would just be pretentious nonsense. I will offer you some of my thoughts about my impressions and how I feel towards it, but remember they are just my thoughts. And, also remember that art is only ever in the eye of the beholder. Art has no quality or benchmark; therefore no one can tell you what is good or bad art. Those definitions just don’t exist.

As you walk into the exhibition you are greeted by a huge mural of a giant hen harrier clutching a Range Rover in its talons; nature getting its own back on the bourgeoisie so to speak. A fabulous image, I hope you agree:


I’ve only known of the existence of Jeremy Deller for just under two years. I saw him interviewed on telly prior to his Joy In People exhibition last year (which we subsequently visited). I liked his thoughts and approach to art; they rang true to my beliefs. His art is plebeian (and I don’t use that in an insulting way, I use it as praise), he definitely draws from and connects with the common people, the working classes. He also draws a lot on pop culture, sharing very similar reference point to my own even though he is a younger man than I by some eleven years. And hey, anyone that likes Bowie and Depeche Mode can’t be all that bad!

One of the nicest touches to the exhibition was the tea room where mugs of very nice ‘proper’ tea were handed out gratis. The lady and I availed ourselves of this facility as did so many other visitors, UK and non-UK citizens alike, all seemed glad to receive; British tax payers money very well spent in my humble opinion. When you consider what our country spends on armaments and waging war on others and how it achieves absolutely nothing, then realising that if a fraction of that money was spent on making tea and distributing it to other parts of the world and how that might well make the world a better place by fostering a bit of harmony, you wonder why such a thing isn’t happening; make tea not war should be Britain’s motto!



Included in the exhibition are paintings and drawings by prisoners spending time at ‘Her Majesties Pleasure’. Many of whom had served with the armed forces in Afghanistan and or Iraq. One very poignant picture which moved me greatly was ‘R and R: Soldiers smoking crack before deployment, Wellington Barracks, London’ by Neil, HML Shotts, 2013:


There are no winners in war!

I could go on and on about this exhibition, such was the pleasure it gave me, but I won’t. What I will do though is give you a link to the English Magic website so you can at least try to glean a bit of the flavour. Enjoy!

Two weeks prior to visiting Venice we were in Manchester, and whilst there we took the opportunity to go to the ‘All That Is Solid Melts Into Air’ exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery. Again a Jeremy Deller curated marvel. The exhibition is a presentation of industrial working life, the people and their culture. It mixes harrowing photos of Victorian working people along side family trees from Bryan Ferry, Neville Holder and Shaun Ryder and written examples of the oppressive nature of capitalist imposed working conditions, paintings and other artefacts. It shows the violence and oppression that has been inflicted on working people over the last few centuries and reminds us how it is still happening today.

The ‘badge’ for the exhibition is this photograph of Adrian Street and his father:



Included in the exhibition is a film about Adrian, his sexuality and how he escaped from working in the pits to seek fame and fortune in the, some would say, murky world of professional wrestling.

I came away from the gallery having much enjoyed the show and wondering why we working classes continue to allow our masters to dazzle us with trinkets whilst letting them shaft us at the same time.

In my opinion anything with Jeremy Deller’s name attached to it is always worth a gawp. Check him out and go along to an exhibition of his as and when you can. If you do I hope you get as much out of it as I have so far from the ones I’ve been to.

Art happens – enjoy – think – and deal with it!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The cross of St George



Flag waving and patriotism is the territory of evil manipulators, the gullible and the lazy of mind (those that can only think in black and white); all very worrying really. And, whilst I have no wish to make light of xenophobia, it never fails to amuse me when these lower life forms use the ‘English’ flag. The cross of St George is held up as something that epitomises pure ‘Englishness’; a badge of honour for patriotic Neanderthals.

Of course we know what bollocks it all is, and that it’s funny for so many reasons, but one very good reason why the joke is on the English nationalists is because St George (if he really existed) was from the far east and probably never came anywhere near to these islands. How English is that?

It would appear that St George came from around the Turkey/Lebanon/Syria/Palestine area:

Friday, 18 October 2013

Jumpers no longer for goalposts

#jumperrecommendations
Great news!

Along the lines of ‘let them eat cake’ Cameron and his evil mob have decreed that in face of exorbitant fuel price rises the ‘poor and needy’ should wear jumpers to keep warm. So as a public service I thought I’d scour the jolly old interweb for what the Tories might expect us plebs to wear.
Enjoy:

Despite affecting a confident pose Roger still felt like a
complete dick in his Daily Mail ‘readers offer’ cardy
 
 
Betty still couldn’t quite believe that both Wilson and
Keppel were avid fans of Throbbing Gristle
 
 
Slightly confused Ronald had decided that
what would really keep him warm on his
zero hours contract would be a gonad cosy
 
 
Malcolm had decided that precautionary measures
were necessary when wearing his new cardigan to bingo
 
 
Rupert was unstinting in his efforts to try and blend in with the proletariat
 
 
Marjorie had concluded that if the poor refused to
wear jumpers that a sound thrashing would be in order

Thursday, 17 October 2013

How many Tories does it take to change a light bulb?

Well this is actually an easy one. After they’ve blamed Labour, complained about ‘change and traditional values being eroded’, and then about the EU banning the archaic, inefficient and highly wasteful incandescent bulbs, they’ll get someone in to do it for them. Of course they’ll either get someone in on minimum wage and a zero hours contract or they’ll trick someone into doing it for free by calling it training or an internship. The first one or two they press-gang into doing the job may well be injured or die because they will have ignored health and safety guidelines, but hey ‘the working classes are expendable so stop complaining’. Therefore the answer is none.
 
 
 
"Dear leader the peasants are revolting…"
 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

What’s black and white but read all over?

I have a companion site to this blog: www.of-course.co.uk . It’s a sort of extra resource that I use when I want to expand on things I blog about. The biggest search term, by a long chalk, for www.of-course.co.uk is ‘nothing is ever black and white’. I get hits daily from all around the world. Presumably it strikes a chord. Perhaps it should be the mission statement of the progressive pedant.

People have always craved easy and simplistic answers. It’s why we have religion and why politics is so often reduced to meaningless sound bites and slogans. Sadly too many people seem unable to cope with questions that don’t have easy answers, or horrors of horrors don’t have any answers currently available. The mind of the lazy thinker abhors a vacuum; so when an easy answer is missing one is made up, or sort from a convenient charlatan.

I’m a firm believer that nothing is ever black and white. Nothing is ever that simple. Scratch below the surface and you will always find a multi-coloured myriad of meanings, causes, reasons and answers for what, why are where for. Through my art I endeavour to interpret and convey this philosophy. If you think like me please help spread the word: ‘nothing is ever black and white’.



 
 
 

Please help
Using a linoprint that I made in 1980 I’ve produced an A4 poster to publicise my work and my philosophy. It’s free to anyone who wishes to print it off. Please print it off, hand a copy to your friends pin it to noticeboards you have access to and generally bandy it about (use your imagination, nudge, nudge, wink, wink). If you have a website and feel able please put a link on it please do so. Like my Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter.

Please mention me/my work to anyone and everyone if you so feel able. I need champions. Please help an artist in need. Thank you. Life is a rainbow.

www.paulgarrard.com


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

It’s R&B for me

I was still in short trousers when I was first turned on to R&B. I remember seeing Johnny Kidd and the Pirates on the telly and thinking, nay feeling that ‘this is the most exciting music ever’. The first record I owned, a thing of beauty, jam packed full of 45 goodness, was Hippy Hippy Shake by The Swinging Blue Jeans. R&B was in my blood.

Whilst The Stones can still cut it you may have noticed that they’ve strayed from their roots in recent years. That’s no bad thing. We all need to progress. And since the demise of the original Dr Feelgood line-up we’ve been a tad bereft of a head-and-shoulders-above-the-rest-first-rate-beat-combo. But all is not lost…


…behold The Strypes.

 


This weekend I downloaded Snapshot, the debut album from The Strypes. A bloody good nine quid’s worth of anyone’s money I reckon. For a bunch of young lads they pack a mean punch. R&B has been restored to full health and is back with a vengeance. We in the western world can sleep easy in our beds knowing that music can again save our mortal souls.




These young dudes are the saviours of rock-a-boogie. Not a claim I make lightly.

Friday, 27 September 2013

So you think you are English?

Do you consider yourself to be English?
What does being English mean?
Or, come to that what does being British mean?
I was born on a street named ‘Park Road’. Does that make me a Park Roadian?
I ask all these questions because in my experience very few really question who they are or what labels mean.

There really is no such thing as the ‘English’. If you disagree please tell me what being English is! You will fail.

If you claim to be 'English' I suggest you have your DNA checked. The likelihood is that it will indicate that your antecedents are from far and wide, like the rest of us. The population of these islands are drawn from a well stirred international gene cocktail started many, many centuries ago. The only vaguely indigenous are those with ginger hair.

Nationalism, being proud to be an ‘ish’, is a trait of the stupid. It means absolutely fuck all.

And don’t mention that strange notion of being somewhere first. The Native Americans knew that land ownership was a meaningless concept. You can’t own sections of the Earth. All you can do is prevent others from movement.Nationalism is oppression.

Nationalism/patriotism is just fascism wrapped in a flag. It is a creed of the ignorant and evil. Think about it!

Of course you can substitute ‘English’ for ‘British’; it doesn’t really matter as both are equally valueless.

Get real. We are all people. Celebrate difference instead of inventing meaningless categories.

Monday, 12 August 2013

There’s more to Lowry than matchstick people

#lowry

L.S. Lowry Flowers in a Window 1956

On Saturday morning I went to the Lowry exhibition at Tate Britain. Since learning about Lowry as a kid in the sixties I’ve always liked his work. But I had no idea how diverse of range his paintings were.

In the spirit of my previous blog post I will in no way try to explain or critique the works of Lowry. All I will say is I enjoyed it, as I knew I would but I can’t get over how different much of the work on display was from what I thought a typical Lowry picture was. I found the exhibition very exciting.

For me Lowry was a magnificent ‘people’s painter’; a natural successor to the likes of Turner and Blake. Many of the pictures are quite gothic in feel and their portrayal of the torture of working people chilling at times. My opinion you understand. Just my opinion.

If you think you know Lowry, go to this exhibition. You may well be forced to think again.

Art is not a skill it’s a state of mind

Art can only ever be in the eye of the beholder. Art cannot be prescribed or quantified. Art is beyond criticism. The art critic is but a fool. And anyone following the utterances of the art critic is an even bigger fool!

An artist, cartoonist and printmaker that I found interesting and whose work I have enjoyed was Ken Sprague (1927–2004). He once said “everyone a special kind of artist”(which was also the title of a TV series he was in for Channel 4 in the eighties). Now from this I understood him to mean that anyone and everyone is capable of being an artist. I firmly believe this to be true. Everybody can be and is an artist. You create something that you believe to be a work of art then it is art. It doesn’t mean that anyone else has to recognise it as such. But equally they can’t state that it isn’t art or claim it to be poor or worthless art. You may think that this is an opinion of convenience; a metaphorical foil to parry and riposte the judgement of others, and perhaps you are right, as you are entitled to your opinion as much as I am entitled to mine. I remain firmly of the view that art, all art, is down to personal choice and personal choice alone.

Art appreciation can only ever be subjective. This is why I maintain that you cannot criticise art. You can say that you don’t like a work of art but it cannot be judged. There are no measurements of artistic merit. You either like something or you don’t. This is why Art competitions are a nonsense; the instrument of the pretentious. 

Art means nothing, yet it means everything. Does it really matter what the artist was thinking when she or he created their work? Not in the slightest. The beholder should take what they want from a work of art, and they should never take what they are told to take. Art critics, those pompous, pumped up, self-obsessed experts of absolutely nothing know no more or no less than you or I do about a work of art. Believe nothing they tell you.

Art is yours for the liking, if you so wish. No one can tell you what to like. You decide!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Enola Gay

Today is Hiroshima Day. The day when the world, or at least a caring part of it, remembers one of the countless barbaric horrors humankind has unleashed upon itself. My pacifist beliefs have stayed with me all my adult life. It is one constant I have never doubted.

I thought I’d share this ink sketch; I drew many years ago. Feel free to use and distribute it if you feel it can help the peace cause.

two useful links about today:

Friday, 2 August 2013

Walk a mile in my shoes!

None of us are perfect.
We all make mistakes.
I know I've made loads, and will continue to do so.

I try never to be judgemental, although I'm sure I don't always succeed on that front; not to be confused with the joshing in some of my tweets I might add!

I think this applies to all of us:



Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Hey, hey, you, you, get off of my cloud!

The same but different subject from my previous post; let’s say that in a strange way they complement each other. Blue sky thinking or just plain Cloud-spotting are two of my favourite pastimes. But the other night whilst sitting on the balcony the clouds were so spectacular that I just had to get up off my arse and go and get my camera. Here are a few of those pics:
 


 
 
 

 
 
 
 


 


 


 
 

Cloud computing

Cloud computing is just about here. It’s been talked about for such a long time but people are adopting it bit by bit. Web mail was the first part of the transition but now web storage is following on rapidly behind. Undoubtedly Google has done a lot to further the cause and others have followed suit. Photos are stored online by many people now and are an easy way to share. Online music storage is also beginning to take off. But for good honest plain storage of a reasonable size and without masses of adverts I’ve found Dropbox to be a really useful, reliable and free storage space.

Give them a go. I think you’ll like!
 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Earth, wind and fire

The ancient Greeks believed that there were four elements that everything was made up of: earth, water, air, and fire. I think they omitted to mention that little boys are made of slugs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails, and that little girls made of are sugar and spice and everything nice. But we won’t hold that against them.

Whilst science has explained that they can no longer be considered as elements I have always felt an affinity with them; considering them to be spiritual friends. Finding comfort and solace in them. And before you ask, no I’m not an arsonist!

Thankfully I no longer have to garden. When I did I all too often found it a chore. But one thing I have always loved is the feel of earth on my hands. It is a feeling that’s quite sensual; be it breaking a lump of dry earth and letting it slowly run through my fingers or kneading a claggy sod of clay-heavy soil. The digging and breaking soil with one’s hands is an activity that is as old as cultivation and which in turn is a key element in human evolution. As a kid I could often be found, arse up with my head down a hole removing handfuls of earth as I dug deeper. I was an avid hole digger and I was thankfully given the freedom to dig in our back garden by my parents. I have an appreciation of good soil.

Sunday saw me on the Norfolk Broads crewing on a Wherry. I love boats. I always have. It stems from my love of water. River, lake or sea, I love a watery environment. The sound of water lapping on a shore or a riverbank is most efficacious indeed. Deserted waterlines can facilitate meditation. I find I can lose myself in such situations. Blend into my surroundings. Sometimes I think how nice it would be to be the only human left. Only nature for company. The feel of water flowing through my fingers is quite sensual. Spume and spray in one’s face can be quite refreshing. Water brings life but can also be a cruel mistress, bringing death and destruction. Water needs much respect. I suppose it’s part of being born and raised in the British Isles as I love looking out to sea. There’s hope, expectation and mystery wrapped up in this activity of gazing into the distance. I dream of being on a desert island, but the dream turns into a nightmare when I try to decide which eight records to choose. Only eight!

I love fresh air, in its rightful place of course. Sea air is especially joyous. Or a gobbing great lungful of country air on an isolated walk. I feel so alive feeling the wind in my face when on a boat or standing on raised ground; a feeling of cobwebs being blown away. Sweet smelling fresh air cleanses and makes one feel good to be alive.

There is something quite primitive about staring into flames. I’ve always enjoyed a log fire or a good bonfire. The warmth and comfort they offer in the cold of winter brings succour to the soul. Watching the flames dance and feeling the heat on my face and hands can be most mesmerising. The striking of a match provides a short burst of instant gratification. Toast made on an open fire always tastes particularly good. It is the taste of childhood and dark winter evenings. The fire was the focal point in the family home, sadly now replaced by the idiot box; the flames providing colour images in the days of black and white telly.

So the ancient Greeks may not have got the science quite right but they knew a thing or two about the human condition and how we bond with their ‘elements’.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Self portrait



A study of ugliness or blatant self-promotion or both. You decide.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Lateral ruminations

This morning, as I was getting dressed, I witnessed a very large branch of a tree, in the wooded area opposite, break with an almighty crack, free fall almost in slow motion and disappear amongst the other trees. I saw it snap before the sound of the crack reached me. The immediate area between where I live and the trees is relatively quiet first thing in the morning in my little part of the city so the sound of the crack was quite loud. Rather musing on what caused it my immediate that was of that old philosophical chestnut “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?" The joy of that question is that there isn’t really an answer. But then I suppose you can also ask the question, what is an answer?

All my life I’ve suffered from ‘going off at a tangent thinking’ syndrome. I think it’s what has given me my creativity. Shame I’ve never been able to harness it fully or to good effect. Creatively I’ve always felt unfulfilled.

I then went on to ponder about the tree. Was it the victim of a disease, what humans have done to the environment or just old age and the cycle of life? I never reached any conclusion of course. There are no answers. There are only ever questions.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

James - Of Monsters, Heroes and Men - 19th April 2013 - Brixton Academy, London

An oldie but goody from the popular beat combo James. A slightly off the wall and dotty choice, but dash it all.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Those who find themselves ridiculous – That’s me


“Those who feel the breath of sadness
Sit down next to me
Those who find they’re touched by madness
Sit down next to me
Those who find themselves ridiculous
Sit down next to me
In love, in fear, in hate, in tears”


Last night I jigged and danced to this song in my own inimitable, arthritic way along with the rest of ‘the people of the forest’

Thermals in June? – That was me last night. They were needed!

The downside of the British weather is that as, due to climate change, our summers seem to be getting colder and more unpredictable outdoor music events are not for the faint-hearted or the ill-prepared. But last night in the bitterly cold, in Thetford Forest, I witnessed one of the best concerts I’d ever seen!



I am a late covert to the gospel according to James. I came to them via their lead singer the attractive, charismatic and totally hypnotic Tim Booth. After I grooved to a solo album of his I discovered he was the lead singer of a band I’d heard of but knew very little about. I rectified that by purchasing most of the back catalogue by James and subsequent new stuff. James can do no wrong!

The show that James put on was faultless; the band was tight and Tim Booth was note perfect, hitting those amazing highs that he does and sustaining them. Not only were the band faultless but the technical side of things was spot on as well; the sound was so clear and the complimenting light show was also pretty bloody amazing.

I want to see them again.

If you only ever go to one concert in your life make it a James. You will not be disappointed.

James

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Join Enough food for everyone IF

#if
1 in 8 people go to bed with the pain of hunger. It's a scandal. We can be the generation to end global hunger IF we make our politicians pay attention.

We have the power to help end the global hunger crisis IF we act today.

Demand that G8 leaders start putting an end to the scandal of hunger.


Enough food for everyone IF:
IF is a huge coalition of UK-based organisations who all share the vision of a world where everyone has enough to eat.

Learn more…


I purchased my wristband last weekend:

Paul modelling his IF wristband, and nothing else but a smile!
Please do what you can. Please support Oxfam and IF.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Fanny my arse!

I’ve got a bit of a bee in my bonnet about advertising at the moment. A couple of things have caught my eye recently that I find particularly distasteful.

I’m rarely offended by swearing although what I consider to be misuse of or lazy language upsets me terribly; ‘can I get’ instead of ‘please may I have’ being one of many examples. But I’m never happy when the subject matter is what I deem to be offensive.

The raison d'être of all advertising is to influence. And if in the process it reinforces bigoted stereotypes then I think it should be challenged and defied.

Yesterday I wrote a small piece on my real ale blog complaining yet again about Shepherd Neame’s distasteful advertising: an advert for Spitfire has been refused permission to be aired on TV. ‘The sketch, which stars comic duo Armstrong and Miller, makes reference to "Poles" and "Paddies" laying patios.’ My blog posting lead to a shy and retiring anonymous green ink merchant* leaving some amusing comments on that blog. Some people do look at life from a very bizarre angle. But hey, it takes all sorts.

Green-inker’s latest comment asks:
“Can't sexism, racism and every other 'ism' be portrayed by a fictional character? Or do we have to ban every fictional character from being a bigot?”

My response:
Dear Green-inker, it’s all about context. A subtlety possibly lost on you. Bigoted fictional characters in art can be acceptable. We may find them uncomfortable at times but I believe art should sometimes make us feel uncomfortable. But, despite the fact that the advertising industry probably considers what it does to be art, I’m afraid art it ain’t. Advertising is there to persuade. It is not there to ridicule a person’s birth circumstances. Advertising is too powerful a tool to be put into the hands of the reckless and those that seek to oppress.
 with practice you too could be a swivel-eyed loon!
Today I’ve discovered that Barr those producers of that disgusting drink Irn-Bru are going to be putting the word ‘Fanny’ on their cans. How cheap and nasty a gimmick is that?


Whilst not particularly offensive it is in very poor taste. But then I suppose in my humble opinion anyone who drinks the stuff is severely bereft of taste. Crass pop for crass populi!



*apparently there is a tradition of disgusted of Tunbridge Wells types of writing in to radio and television programmes in green ink. I suspect green ink is the official ink colour of the UK Isolationist Party.

Rotting Christ

We shall be holidaying in Italy this year, quite near to Vicenza. Unfortunately, or not, we will not be there when these chirpy characters are going to be playing at the Sun Valley Metalfest. Curses!

Rotting Christ live

Rotting Christ – I’m sure their mothers love them.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

John I’m only dancing

The current wave of publicity that there has been for the work of David Bowie has been most welcome. His music has been the soundtrack to a large portion of my life. His capacity to always move forward is quite astounding.

As soon as I had learned to tune into his work Bowie has always managed to speak to me. He projects an image that epitomises what many of us seek to be; not restricted to one medium or one gender.

David Bowie is a true renaissance person.
 


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Iain Duncan Smith to live on £53 a week

"This petition calls for Iain Duncan Smith, the current Work and Pensions Secretary, to prove his claim of being able to live on £7.57 a day, or £53 a week.

On Monday's Today Programme David Bennett, a market trader, said that after his housing benefit had been cut, he lives on £53 per week. The next interviewee was Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who was defending the changes. The interviewer then asked him if he could live on this amount. He replied: "If I had to, I would."

This petition calls on Iain Duncan Smith to live on this budget for at least one year. This would help realise the conservative party`s current mantra that "We are all in this together".

This would mean a 97% reduction in his current income, which is £1,581.02 a week or £225 a day after tax* [Source: The Telegraph]"

Please join me.


Lets show the TBS that we are not fooled by their lies!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Monty Gompertz?


Have you noticed how you never see Will Gompertz and Charles Montgomery Burns in the same room together?

For those of you that don’t know, Will Gompertz is the the annoying BBC art critic and all round tit and Charles Montgomery Burns is the evil boss from the Simpsons.






 

The fact that Charles Montgomery Burns is a cartoon character has absolutely nothing to do with it. Come on, tune into your surrealist side. Keep up you lot!



Sunday, 10 March 2013

Big respect

Watching Made In Dagenham on the idiot box last night reminded me both of how far we have come, how far we still have to go and how much we have got to lose if with give in to the TBS that run this country.
 
When equal pay for women was introduced (by a Labour government) the scare mongers and lackeys for the wealthy TBS claimed that 1000s of jobs would be lost. Of course that didn’t happen. Then when the minimum wage was introduced, along with implementing the social chapters (by Tony Blair’s government) the TBS and their hangers on claimed the same again; massive job losses as a result. It never happened. And neither will it happen when the living wage is finally introduced. What the greedy Tory Bastard Scum won’t accept is that if you treat workers with respect and reward them well productivity goes up. What they also don’t want to accept is that if people were at least paid a living wage it would remove so many from welfare. It’s a disingenuous myth that most benefit claimants are either unemployed or immigrants. It just isn’t true. The majority of benefit claimants are hard working people who work for bosses that are too fucking tight and exploitative to pay them a decent wage. That’s why the welfare bill is so high. We, the tax payer (which is all of us incidentally) are subsidising private industry big time!
 
One of the most successful economies in the world, Germany, pays some of the highest average wage rates. If they can do it so can we. Wake up Britain and stop believing the nonsense that the TBS and their snidey newspaper and television mates tell you. Now!

Tory Bastard Scum


A respectable, church-going, pillars of their community, couple that we know have this phrase that they use that I quite like. It is ‘Tory Bastard Scum’ or TBS for short. A snappy little phrase I’m sure you’ll agree and something that can be applied to most Tories. So when you see TBS mentioned on my blog you know what it means.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Dear Diary Nº5

Dear Diary, woe is me. Yesterday I had the wind taken out of my sails. I received a phone call just after five from the diabetic nurse at my doctor’s surgery. She had the results of a recent blood test. Back in July I was diagnosed with Impaired Glucose Tolerance so this was a follow up test to gauge how I was doing. My red blood cell glucose level were down and into the okay but my fasting level was no different from the time before and still too high. I felt gutted. I’d vastly improved my diet, I get regular exercise, I’ve lost weight even though my body mass index is low and I had cut down on my alcohol intake. I feel hungry most of the time and now felt totally despondent. Oh Dear Diary what am I to do?


 
After a healthy evening meal and a couple of glasses of wine I decided to sleep on it.
 

And, Dear Diary I can confide in you that it was the right thing to do as this morning I’ve awoken refreshed and determined to do something about it. As you know one of my passions is ale. Think I need to cut down on my passion even more. I’m starting to think the unthinkable. Not give it up completely. I’m not that deranged. The unthinkable is ordering halves instead of pints. My strategy will be to order a half pint of ale and a glass of sparkling mineral water. A tad girly you might think but not as girly as just ordering a half pint of ale in my humble opinion. But Dear Diary I feel this, though it will help, will not be enough. A bit more vigorous exercise is needed. My sedentary job doesn’t help. Whilst every day between home and station and work and station I walk most of my working day sees me sat sitting at my desk. I need to be up and down more. I need to drink more water. And, I need at least one long power walk at the weekend. Wish me luck. I have to beat this.

 

 

Life tag – Editors – Munich

Monday, 25 February 2013

Marks and Spencer are pants!



For two days now I’ve been trying to place an order online with Marks and Spencer. I get right to the final stage, hit the ‘Place Order’ button and the fucking useless website crashes out. M&S are in my opinion a bunch of useless tossers.

I phoned the so called customer services who were rather brusque and not at all helpful. Because I was using Internet Explorer they suggested I used Google Chrome instead. Why is it that other retailers don’t seem to have these problems? Why is it that Marks and Spencer can’t employ a decent software company to design them a website that works?