Saturday 28 July 2012


Having visited the Mums and my horse Roxy today we left the stables and drove down the narrow (but fairly busy) lane.   We noticed a large bird on the road and David gave a blast on the car horn but it just ran down the centre of the lane and didn't fly off.

I got out of the car to try to rescue the bird but it panicked and flapped a lot and I couldn't pick it up so David (my hero) put the car's hazard lights on, picked the bird up a bit more securely than I had and put it in the adjacent field.

It was a juvenile Green Woodpecker - very vocal and I think its parents were nearby judging by all the calling back and forwards.   The juvenile seemed unharmed but wasn't flying so just hope it was simply  disorientated, I'd hate to think we rescued it from the road only to become a meal for a fox .....  I've only seen Woodpeckers a few times before but I understand the Green Woodpeckers do spend a lot of time on the ground as they chiefly eat ants in the Summer (and there are plenty of those around at the moment with the steamy weather).   

As we got closer to home I noticed a man carrying a plastic shopping bag and peddling away furiously.   Again not something you see often so I asked David to pull over in a side road and I nonchalantly waited with my camera till he got closer and I pretended to be photographing a nearby garden ... but now I've seen the photos on screen its obvious he wasn't fooled and knew I was looking at him!!

Its a bit fuzzy as he whizzed by so quickly :-)

I don't think I've seen anybody riding a unicycle except in the Circus but he was very confident on it.  It didn't look very comfortable though.

Friday 27 July 2012

27/07: FUN TIME

I don't usually take my camera to firework displays as the photos are usually disappointing but last night I made an exception.

We walked to 'Reeves Yard' Beach in Whitstable and were truly amazed at the crowds - Whitstable is very fashionable and this time of year gets swamped with DFLs (Down from London's as the locals jokingly call them).  Our beaches are shingle but visitors come to sample Whitstable Oysters and seafood and the High Street was recently voted the most diverse in the UK with no big chains - just lots of arts/crafts and traditional fishmongers, greengrocers, cheese and wine shops etc.   I much prefer the place when its less busy in the 'low' season but appreciate that its tourists' money that keeps Whitstable quaint and able to survive the quiet months ... can't have it all ways!

We found a place to sit on a groyne whilst waiting for the show to start.  In case you're wondering a groyne is a low wall built out from the coast into the sea, to prevent the repeated movement of the waves from removing parts of the land - a breakwater.  We have miles of them along our stretch of the coast. 

I'm not reknown for my patience with children and two young lads were practising their Olympics long jump (hop skip jump) technique on the beach in front of us, kicking up showers of pebbles every time they landed and crashing into people patiently waiting for the fireworks.  Mummy and Daddy were oblivious of course and I was just contemplating whether I could improve the boys' propulsion with a swift kick to the backside when the first firework went off - thus solving my dilemma :-)

We just missed the sunset (they are usually spectacular in Whitstable) but here's a few pics - I quite like having the outline of heads in the foreground.  The fireworks were launched from a small boat out at sea.


I think this is where I changed the camera setting - it didn't suddenly get dark in 2 seconds!

and I think this is my favourite - it has a sort of Sepia effect don't you think?

David thought he deserved a reward after his 'long' walk .... so we headed for the Ship Centurion a Whitstable pub which is a favourite with the locals and not quite as full of 'tourists' as many.   The local beer (from Shepherd Neame Brewery) is cheaper here and the pub always has a few guest ales.   There was live music (single guitar playing singer and backing tracks from 60s and 70s) so the place was packed solid.  The music was brilliant and a great finish to the evening.

We've had no rain for a week now and it makes such a huge difference - we remember why we chose to live at the seaside and everyone is smiling it seems :-)


Thursday 26 July 2012

26/07: FIREWORKS (of all sorts)

A fellow Blogger from Canada  Jo Wake  wrote a post today including the possible find of the wreck of a U Boat in the Churchill River in Labrador.  If the wreck is found to be a U Boat it will be left in situ as a war grave.

That reminded me that on our recent sailing trip on the Thames Barge, Greta, we glimpsed the wreckage of the SS Richard Montgomery which was wrecked off the Kent coast in 1944 (at Sheerness)
It was carrying 1,400 tonnes of explosives when it grounded and broke in two.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said a 2009 structural survey showed "accelerated deterioration".
Its report concluded that collapse was "not imminent" but "getting closer".

They found that although the hull appeared to be "reasonably stable" a crack in one of the vessel's holds was "of concern".

The section contains 2,000 cases of cluster bombs, nearly 600 500lb bombs and more than 1,000 1,000lb bombs.  Previously experts have said if the wreck exploded it would cause a metre-high tidal wave.
The Richard Montgomery lies in 50ft (15m) of water off the mouth of the River Medway, with its masts visible above the surface - which is the only bit we could see.

In August 2004 a report in the New Scientist magazine said if the ship exploded it would be one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts ever and would devastate the port of Sheerness.  As long ago as 1970, government tests on the site suggested a blast would hurl a 1,000ft wide column of water, mud, metal and munitions almost 10,000ft into the air.

So we could have that to look forward to ......   :-)      But I hope not ....

On a slightly different note, in Whitstable tonight we will be treated to a Firework Display off the shore by the Harbour.     Traditionally the Whitstable Oyster Festival which is running till tomorrow finishes with a Grand Firework Finale.    But ... with the Olympics officially starting tomorrow night the Fireworks in the East End of London are likely to upstage anything we'll see here .... so Whitstable have sensibly brought their display forward by one day.

Its a nice evening ... not quite as warm as the last couple but good enough that we can take a stroll down to the harbour (about 20mins walk) to look at the Grotters built today on the beach by local children - these are  hollow mounds of sand and shells.   As darkness falls, Grotter-builders are invited back to illuminate their creations by placing a candle inside.

In bygone days, children used to build these and beg 'a penny for the Grotter' like 'penny for the guy'.

A Grotter ... photo courtesy of Whitstable Oyster Festival website:

Just before the Grotter-lighting, the Blessing of the Waters will take place nearby - a traditional religious service of thanks for the bounty from the sea. It's organised by the Whitstable branch of the Association of Men of Kent and Kentish Men and is always held near to the feast day of Saint James, 25th July. James was a fisherman.

The fireworks kick off at around 9.45 ... should be fun!

Wednesday 25 July 2012


Actually this is yesterday's post ... but I postponed it till this morning

I can now post photos of a recent commission as it is no longer secret.  My client bought his wife Heidi to collect her 'surprise' last night and she became very tearful.  I think I've said before that its a strange world where we artists measure success by the tearful reaction of the recipients of the portraits.   Charlie was a beautiful labrador and I worked from one main photo and several supporting ones which showed how he changed over the years and his once black nose became more pink/russet coloured and his coat lightened.

Anyway here are the WIP photos - please excuse the varying colours.  I used pastels on Fisher 400 sanded paper but these were photographed at different times of the day.   The last photo/s are most true colourwise

Initially I was going to draw in a 'rope' collar but that was subsequently removed at the client's request.

Hmmm... obviously a problem with Blogger's uploader as this next stage really doesn't have a line half way across it - but I won't reload it now - think you'll get the picture OK (no pun intended)

and finally, in the double mount which is ivory and plum coloured

and even more tears .........

David shredded and bottled a horseradish root for me today.    If you've never done this before you wouldn't believe how pungent the root is once shredded and it has to be done in a well ventilated area - even so, he had streaming eyes for a while afterwards .... My Hero!!!

I just love hot horseradish (especially when mixed with mustard)!    Unfortunately my attempt to grow it in our garden failed this year and I assume it was because of the wet Summer and boggy clay soil here.   Its supposed to be very fast growing and invasive so I'll definitely try again and start out by planting it in a deep tub (thanks for the tip Jan)

I'm partway through another commission at the moment but won't post pics till I have permission from my client.

Tuesday 24 July 2012


I photographed this scruffy looking Robin in our Garden - it appears that robins have started to moult earlier this year for some reason and usually they hide themselves away till they regain tail feathers etc - not sure if they're embarrassed or just feel more vulnerable when moulting.

Obviously the sunshine drew this chap out although he was very subdued.  Lets hope they all get back to normal soon as I do miss the robins singing happily in the back and front gardens. 

Monday 23 July 2012

23/07: I'LL HUFF AND I'LL PUFF ......

Summer has arrived at last in Kent!!

Had a bowls match yesterday afternoon and it was soooooo hot.   We bought fish & chips on the way home (a rare treat for us even though we live by the Sea) and sat outdoors to eat them as the weather was so good.

By late evening there was a chill in the air so David decided to throw some twigs and stuff in the chiminea to generate a bit of warmth - any excuse to play with fire methinks!  The wood wasn't really dry enough to catch and needed a bit of help - we don't have bellows but with a lot of huffing and puffing he did a good job of creating enough draft to make a decent glow/fire.    Here he is on hands and knees at 11pm

Unfortunately the chiminea threw out so much smoke it drove us indoors shortly afterwards :-)

Friday 20 July 2012


Well after my recent Blog posts about Thames Sailing Barges, here's one about Steam Trains ... well one in particular.

We have a railway line running close to the back of our garden with an 'unmanned' crossing about 10 minutes walk away.   We'd learned that Cathedral Express were operating a one day steam excursion which started at 8.40am in Cambridge and travelled via London down to us on the Kent Coast - returning to Cambridge after midnight.  The London to Ramsgate & return part of the journey was being pulled by 'Clan Line' and for all you 'train spotters' out there ... here are a few technical points (although you may already know this) LOL

35028 Clan Line was built at Eastleigh locomotive works in 1948. After a few weeks running in she was allocated first to Dover then to Stewarts Lane shed in London where she worked heavy trains on the trunk routes to the South East Channel ports, frequently working the prestige expresses, "Golden Arrow" and "The Night Ferry".
After rebuilding in 1959 she was initially allocated to Nine Elms shed where she headed such trains as the "Bournemouth Belle" and the "Atlantic Coast Express". Indeed, it was while working the A.C.E. in 1961 she was unofficially timed at 104 mph passing Axminster. On July 2nd 1967 Clan Line hauled a farewell special from Waterloo to Bournemouth and back and thus ended her BR career.  
Since 1967 Clan Line has been owned and maintained to mainline standard by the Merchant Navy Locomotive Preservation Society.  She is based in London at Stewarts Lane Depot.   In 2011 she had an intermediate overhaul and was granted another 5 year mainline ticket ... so we'll probably see more of her in the next few years

The crossing near our house ... we were joined by another couple of men who just 'happened' to be in the area when the train was due.   Why does everybody become apologetic about waiting to see a steam train.  I guess its the 'anorak' image of nerdy trainspotters with thermos flasks and notepads to hand ??

and my very own 'anorak'  .... sorry David :-)

Apologies for the camera shake ... it wasn't through excitement honestly!

The locomotive had a ten minute stop at Whitstable station to take on water (provided by two tankers from the Fire Department) and the station platform was crowded with people admiring the train - it was great to see how excited the children were because modern day trains are boring by comparison.  Nothing like the noise and smell and steam of the old fashioned engines is there?

I do like to see men happy in their jobs ..

Thursday 19 July 2012


Had to make a trip into Whitstable this morning and we parked in a side street close to the public toilets ....

Just had to giggle at this sign on the door of the Gents

doesn't say much for the aim of our local gentlemen does it?

Wednesday 18 July 2012


As usual on a Wednesday, David and I have spent the day at the Pilgrims Hospice eBay office photographing, describing and listing the 'nicer' items which are donated to the Hospice Charity shops in the County - this ensures they reach a larger target audience and increase the Charity's income.   Sitting in front of the computer for 7 or 8 hours is more tiring/draining  it seems than going out for healthy exercise!! 

As always I had the camera with me today and finally got round to photographing a local sight I pass several times a week but have never stopped for ....    David was driving tonight so he obligingly pulled over to let me take these shots.

I remember first glimpsing these figures in the treetops when driving past a couple of years ago ... then when the trees were cut back a little I noticed the dog in the 'shovel' with the 'men'.   It was some months later that David (hubby) pointed out that the 'dog' was in fact a pig!!!!    Somebody obviously has a sense of humour here ....

and its raining again here in Kent ..... I think Summer has definitely been cancelled for 2012!

Sunday 15 July 2012


Swithin (Swithun) was a ninth century Saxon Bishop of Winchester who died on 2 July 862.  His dying wish was to be buried humbly outdoors of the Old Minster but a century later he was made a saint and his remains were dug up and moved to a shrine inside the Cathedral - this  coincided with 40 days of continuous rain and violent storms and legend has it that this marked the saint's displeasure at having his wishes disregarded.

15th July (his feast day) was the anniversary of the removal of his bones, not his death

Since then, rainfall on July 15 has been taken as an omen of impending miserable weather.

St Swithin’s Day, if it does rain
Full forty days, it will remain
St Swithin’s Day it will be fair
For forty days, ‘twill rain no more.

On Friday the weather forecast was for thunderstorms and heavy rain here in my part of the world.  It actually turned out to be cloudy but quite warm and the sun even broke through occasionally.  I walked into Whitstable for my first ever session of bowls following the course of lessons David and I had to undertake before being formally allowed to join the Whitstable Bowls Club.    Friday afternoons is Ladies Practice session and it was a bit scary being the new girl.   Not so worried about the bowling, more about the etiquette - the game is steeped in tradition and there are strict rules about dress, conduct etc.      The ladies I bowled with were great though and I had fun (despite my new shoes rubbing the most enormous blister on my right heel)!!

I must have been OK as I've been railroaded into competing in an inter-club match next Sunday ..... I'm getting nervous already!   Just had to buy a white skirt to confirm to the dress code for matches (for practice I can get away with grey trousers - which I already have in my wardrobe).   I've bought a set of bowls secondhand from the Club which will tide me over till I really know what I'm doing ... its so expensive starting new hobbies from scratch.

The Bowls club is in a fantastic location, next to Whitstable Castle and across the road from the beach path and the sea - its so pretty and peaceful there.

The castle (photographed from the Bowls Club)

David and me (not)!!

I'm trying to read up on all the rules and regulations so I don't do anything too wrong!

Then Friday evening David and I walked back to the Club for a BBQ evening.   The weather stayed nice enough for us to sit outside with some of our 'new friends' - the older members preferred to sit indoors although they complained that the live music was too loud (which amused us as many of them are deaf)!!  We are amongst the youngest members but are hard pushed to keep up some of the members who are 20 years older than us.   It was a lovely evening and even David got up to dance a few times (unheard of). 

I've now decided that we need to learn some jive steps .... my next project :-)

Anyway, Friday was pretty good weather, yesterday was dreadful with non-stop rain.   Today (touch wood) has been dry so far ...... but I find it hard to believe that we might expect 40 days of fair weather if today remains dry.     That really would be a miracle!

Friday 13 July 2012


askevidekatriaphobia: Fear of Friday the 13th. 
I don't consider myself askevidekatriaphobic but its a lovely word isn't it??

Anyway, today's post is about bugs.    You may recall that I dug up an area of lawn in our garden earlier this year and sowed lots of wildflower seeds in an effort to attract pollinating insects which are in serious decline in the UK.     Next year the wildflower bed will be better still but I'm really pleased with what we've achieved in just a few weeks - doing our bit to encourage the bees and protect our local fruit growers..... can't imagine Kent without Kentish strawberries, cherries or apples all of which rely on having the trees/plants pollinated. 

   Some photos:

This one has been busy - just look how full his 'pollen paniers' are

actually I'm not sure about this next one ... friend or foe??   I've read that we have 46 species of native ladybirds in the UK but they are under threat from Harlequin Ladybirds which were introduced to the US from Asia 25 years ago as a form of pest control and spread to Europe.  They are larger and more aggressive than our natives and are now the most dominant in London and the South East.  

I think this could well be a Harlequin?

anyway from buzzy bugs to something that has bugged me recently.

I didn't know till I was told yesterday that anybody leaving a comment on my Blog has to go through that irritating Captcha routine of typing in numbers/letters that are usually so fuzzy you have to change them a couple of times before you find one you can read (well that's what I do, but my eyesight aint what it used to be)!!        I read/approve all comments on my site prior to publication so I certainly didn't opt to use Captcha and I really don't know how long this has been going on.        

Apologies ... I have now removed Captcha requirement from my Blog.     If you want to do the same for your Blogs you have to do the following:

go to COMMENTS (smaller tab under Settings)
go to SHOW WORD VERIFICATION FOR COMMENTS and change setting to NO

There is a note there saying Blog authors will not see word verification for comments so I guess most Bloggers don't know this is switched on unless told.   Many thanks to Jo for alerting me.   I know a couple of Bloggers who have got so fed up with Captcha that they've left Blogger and set up alternative blogs via their websites.

Right, back to work now.   Almost finished the current dog commission but need guidance from my client regarding coat colour (its a beautiful yellow lab but colour varies quite considerably from photo to photo so I'll probably need to make adjustments)  Hopefully will be able to post some WIP next week.

Thursday 12 July 2012


OK, some technical stuff/history - some learned from Steve Norris (owner/skipper) and some from the Greta's website.

Greta is a Thames Sailing Barge and was built in 1892 at Brightlingsea, Essex.  She is 80ft long and 20ft wide.

Early in World War II Greta was chartered by the Ministry of Supply to carry ammunition from the army depot at Upnor, Kent to Royal Navy vessels anchored in the Thames Estuary.   As mentioned in yesterday's post, she took part in the evacuation of soldiers from Dunkirk in 1940.   Her War service ended in 1946 when she was overhauled, had a new engine fitted and returned to normal work carrying grain, timber and animal feed.   In the 1960s when work dropped off Greta was laid up and later acquired for parts to rebuild another barge.   She was found to be in better condition than the other barge so it was Greta that was restored and re-rigged in the 80s.

She is now owned and maintained by Steve Norris and his team of volunteers (one of whom, Tommo, helped onboard our trip).

So this is what Greta looks like in full sail - this isn't one of my pictures as, unfortunately, from the deck it wasn't possible to take a photo showing all the sails.   She leaves and returns to the harbour powered by engine and her sails aren't raised till we're out at sea.

I was discussing Barge sails with Steve (as you do) and he told me that when he reproofed the sails last time he used a well know timber fence paint which works better than the 'real product' apparently.    Apparently the sails on Thames Barges are always this brown colour and I recently read that historically they are dressed with a mixture of oil (traditionally fish oil), seawater (and/or horse urine if available) and red ochre (which is purely a colouring agent.   My horse, Roxy, can pee for England but I decided not to offer her services to Steve :-)

This is the ladder from the harbour wall that we climbed down to board Greta ...

'God protect Greta' .... Amen to that!    The 'steering wheel' is the traditional shape for a Thames Sailing Barge and is called a chaffcutter apparently.

Our Skipper, Steve, and volunteer, Tommo, sorting out the sails.  You will notice that the sides of the barge aren't very high and we were very conscious of that fact when moving around the deck - luckily although it was very windy and cold the sea wasn't too rough  :-)

The little flag at the top  is called a Bob (or Bob Fly) and carries the owner's colours and/or ID (in this case the N stands for Norris - the skipper's surname)

Windfarm on the horizon ... you can see how horrible the weather was.    We are very close to Margate where Turner painted so many dramatic sea and skyscapes ... he believed that the skies over Margate were the loveliest in Europe!      They weren't exactly lovely on Tuesday, but they were quite spectacular if you like grey and black :-)

this strange vessel has been laying cables/working on the local windfarms I believe - they were friendly and gave us a nice wave as they passed ...

But the main purpose of our trip was to get a closer look at the Redsands Towers (also known as the Maunsell army forts) which we can just about see from the coast - they are approx 8½ miles away from Whitstable. Guy Maunsell designed these forts for anti-aircraft defence. They comprise seven interconnected steel platforms on concrete legs, five carried guns arranged in a semicircle around the control centre and accommodation while the seventh, set further out than the gun towers, was the searchlight tower.

 Three forts were placed in the Mersey and three in the Thames Estuary. They carried four QF 3.75 inch guns and two Bofors 40 mm guns. During the war there were around 120 men stationed at each fort - they shot down 22 aircraft and about 30 flying bombs. The forts were decommissioned by the MoD in the late 1950s.  

In the 60s Redsands Towers were used by various Pirate Radio Stations, Radio Invicta July 64 to Feb 65, King Radio Feb 65 to September 65 and Radio 390 from September 65 to July 67,  but they had a chequered history.  Invicta Radio was run by Tom Pepper (actually a tug skipper from Folkestone - Harry Featherbee). The station was notorious for the number of times it called out the emergency services due to injured staff or running out of drinking water etc. On December 17th 1964 Tom Pepper was drowned,
together with 21 year-old DJ Simon Ashley and 18 year-old engineer Martin Shaw (neither of whom could swim) when their boat "David" sank en route to Faversham from Red Sands Fort.

Being in open sea and constructed largely of metal the Red Sands Towers are natural lightning conductors.   Pirate radio DJ Paul Beresford was struck by lightning but managed to broadcast his usual programme.  Even on good days there are stories of station staff being thrown some distance after grabbing metal door handles. 

Today, Redsand Fort as the only complete structure as built in wartime is the focus of attention by Project Redsand, a group of enthusiasts who aim to reinstate the Fort to its original built condition.  Work has progressed to installing a new access system to the main control tower. Built at a cost of approximately £40,000, the access system enables project members to board the tower to commence restoration.

They are really quite eerie close up - like maritime Daleks!!

and finally after our 6 hour round trip we were back in safe harbour ... just as the heavens opened and it started to thrash down with rain - so pleased it didn't rain that hard whilst we were at sea!