Wednesday 15 May 2013


I guess you've all heard the saying 'one sandwich short of a picnic' or variations on that theme, 'one peanut short of a snickers'   'a few cards short of a deck' etc

Well shopping here on Fuerteventura is very much like that.   For the last couple of trips we've been trying to buy some thicker chair pad/cushions for the wooden chairs in our sunroom.  The local shops stock plenty of the thin cheap variety but these don't give much comfort if we're sitting on the chairs for any length of time.

We found some in two different shops but both had only 3 matching cushions.   Always seems to be the way out here - we spent ages trying to find two matching lamp shades for the bedside lamps in the spare bedroom ... perhaps we ought to settle for mismatched items and pretend that's the look we are aiming for.    So, 'one item short of a set' is a good description of life our here ... but we love it anyway

Just before we left home I wanted to top up all the bird feeders.  I pulled the seed container from its usual place in the bike shed and promptly got whacked on the eyebrow by the metal golfbag/trolley which David had balanced precariously on top.  It HURT and the air was blue for several minutes.    I hold David entirely to blame of course but luckily, although I have a painful swelling under my eyebrow/eyelid I didn't end up with a black eye.  

I got my revenge out here when I put a load of washing on yesterday morning without realising his red shorts were in the linen basket.    He now has a set of pink handkerchiefs so will have to be careful not to wave them round in the vicinity of Bubbles (the gay bar in town)  LOL

I did take the camera out with me today but didn't find anything I wanted to photograph particularly.   We did notice though that the yellow wall which featured in the cat drawing I showed recently has now been painted white ... so glad I photographed it when I did (last month) as it isn't as striking now.  

I'm on cat feeding duties this trip - the semi-feral cats I photographed in our last visit have been getting fed regularly by our friend Catwoman (Lynne) since I noticed them 'squatting' in the garden of an empty villa we pass most days en route to the beach path into town.   Since we 'found' the cats its only fair that we look after them when here to relieve Lynne of one job.

Only one of the two cats showed this afternoon but I left lots of food out and will check again tonight to see if his sister is around.    I did wake him up from his snooze but he looks decidedly grumpy here ... but he was happy with the cat biscuits and water.  I'm happy to see that he is looking much fatter now - was very skinny last time I saw him.

So hopefully will have more photos to share soon - we had a lovely sunny day yesterday but today has been cloudy and cooler -  the forecast is for a few more days of white cloud but we're not complaining.  The temperature is still around 24degrees (shade) and our pool water is around 28degrees.     I've just seen on the BBC website that some parts of England had snow yesterday - what's that all about in May??    and friends have told us they're lighting fires and going back into 'Winter Woollies' ....

Saturday 11 May 2013


We've been trying to catch up on last minute jobs before flying to Fuerte on Monday.

Managed to get the downstairs area cleaned, polished, floors washed etc and got the final lot of laundry done.  The weather has been just horrible today but I managed to get some semi-decent photos of the coloured pencil works I finished recently (all quick, small drawings) and they were submitted to UKCPS  by email today - just waiting for confirmation the entry form and photos were safely received then fingers crossed I'll get one (or more) past the Jury.

Lovely weather!!

We had a lovely surprise last night - the first hedgehog visitor to the garden this year.  It has been such a long hard winter I know that many didn't make it out of hibernation.   In fact, newspapers and wildlife sites have been full of doom and gloom this week - probably because its been national hedgehog week (5 to 11th May).

In the 1950s the hedgehog population in England was estimated at  36 million.  By the mid 90s this had dropped to 2 million and its now estimated that there are fewer than a million throughout the UK.   Sad news as they're such funny lovable little creatures, and great for the garden as they eat slugs, snails and beetles etc.

But, we had one on the patio last night.  I opened the patio doors which ensured that he 'froze' - a reflex reaction when they are frightened - and sprinkled lots of dried cat biscuits around him so he spent a happy 20 mintues chomping away.    Hopefully he'll find a few friends soon and bring them back for a meal.

Not such a welcome visitor was a heavily pregnant squirrel ... we've got enough of these 'tree rats' in the area already.   But David took pity on her and stopped me chasing her off the feeders :-)

and a bit 'soggy' after all the rain

Anyway, I made a very gentle start on the double cat portrait which will be my first portrait when back after the holiday.   Just a basic outline to show where most of the markings are and ensure I've got the proportions correct.

This was taken with flash camera tonight so colours are way off but its pastel on light grey pastelmat.

Time to relax for a couple of hours now

Hope your weekends are going well and that the weather is better in your part of the world than in mine

Thursday 9 May 2013


I'm late / I'm late / For a very important date. / No time to say "Hello, Goodbye". / I'm late, I'm late, I'm late. 

Well I know how the white rabbit from 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' feels now.  

I promised an update on the two dogs today - with some requested refinements ... but I've been chasing garden furniture and ornaments round the garden  (gale force winds in Kent) and have been chasing my tail most of the day it seems.   Lots of email enquiries to respond to and then a much needed haircut this afternoon.

I made some adjustments to the portrait but by the time I photographed it the light was poor so this is the best I could do ... .   I 'untidied' the dog on the left a little and added more grey to the dog on the right (although the camera has over-emphasised the grey) so will try for a better photo tomorrow and I'd also like to make a start on the double cat portrait ready for when I'm back from holiday as I have several commissions which need to be finished and despatched by end June/early July.   So much for the recession - no shortage of people wanting bespoke portraits it seems.

The owner of these dogs makes the most wonderful traditional carved rocking horses.  I'd love one for myself (no chance) or for my Grand-daughter if only she wasn't such a tomboy .... perhaps when I can show his name etc I will be able to show an example of his work ... but t'internet is a funny place and I don't want to risk his name, or the dog pictures, coming up on an internet search.

I bought a new can of fixative on Tuesday so have given all 3 of my recent small coloured pencil pics a light spray and added final touches so will submit them to the jury for the forthcoming UK Coloured Pencil Society exhibition which is being staged at Patchings Arts Centre, Notts this year from 1st September to 6th October.   

I had planned to spend more time on doing a larger picture for entry this year but I was busier than usual with commissions, and the deadline was moved forward slightly to 5th June.  I will be on holiday next week and not back till 7 June so need to submit entries before I go.

I did show all the potential entries on this Blog as I was trying out some new pencils and supports and these are the ones I'll submit but I won't show them again now as the exhibition entries specifically say that there must be no critique or help with drawings .....

Garden visitors are as prolific as ever - the male woodpecker is almost a permanent resident now and visits several times a day to raid the fatballs - no sign of the female though.

David and I did our usual voluntary day at Pilgrims Hospice eBay office yesterday and I just had to photograph the back of this old car which was parked in the nearby car park.  I cropped it down a bit to hide the registration

I guess all car drivers will sympathise - although petrol prices have dropped quite considerably in the last few weeks

 and finally ......

I'm late / I'm late / For a very important date. / No time to say "Hello, Goodbye". / I'm late, I'm late, I'm late. 

to go back to the original quote on this post.   The very important date is my Wedding Anniversary (well actually it's David's Anniversary as well).   We'd booked a meal at a local restaurant we like but I was so busy trying to photograph the dog portrait (in poor light) that I left it to the very last minute to get ready and David was getting a bit ratty ... though he won't like that description!

The meal at the 'Oyster & Chop House', Herne Bay was superb.     The owner/chef is Bulgarian and his cooking is worthy of a Michelin Star and certainly as good as, or better than, the local Whitstable restaurants which are very trendy and expensive.   The owner sources all ingredients from within an 18 mile radius.  Although he specialises in 'game' he also offers vegetarian dishes and most of the accompanying vegetables/green stuff is organic and much of it is 'foraged' so quite unusual.   He makes a point of visiting the tables to describe and discuss the ingredients he uses.       The meal was Fantastico!!

The owner always provides free water, an 'amuse bouche' small tasting dish, home baked mini bread loaves and home made butter and a sorbet dish between starter and main course.    So I can never manage more than a starter and main course but David (bless) likes his desserts.

This was the chocolate mousse he ordered ...

It may look small but, boy was it rich, and David struggled to finish it.   The raspberries and strawberries were delicious!!

Thats it for tonight!!

Tuesday 7 May 2013


This is going to be a very long post ... but I make no apologies

Yesterday, May 6th, was a Bank Holiday in England - Early May Day

We are a nation that loves its local traditions and May Day is probably one of the most fantastic examples of British eccentricity.  We love our traditional Morris Dancers and my new hometown 'Whitstable'  has its own dancing 'side' called the Dead Horse Morris Group..  they have a brilliant website which gives so much information about the traditions, dances, songs, history of Morris etc

This is a description of Morris Dancing generally:

The Morris Dance is extremely old. Although the earliest written reference is in parish records of the mid-16th century, it is certainly much older than that, as elements of the tradition appear to be of pagan origin, though later adapted for Christian society.

The dance seems to have been performed originally at the yearly sun festivals of Autumn, Winter and Spring. These were all fire festivals, where the men would burn the bones of a sacrifice (usually a horse) and dance round the "bone-fire" (or bonfire) wearing elaborate costumes and with faces blacked to hide their identities. These dance rituals were for the men only, as tending fires was for women only. One man would attend the bone fire disguised as a woman; this character is known today as the "Molly".

Although both Church and State have often disapproved of these traditions, and sometimes even outlawed them, the common people have kept them alive. Like all living things they have changed with the passage of time. Different styles have arisen in different parts of the country at different times. At one time all the dancers blacked their faces - perhaps one reason why they came to be called "Moorish" (Morris), as they were thought to be black-faced Moors.

Comparatively few Morris teams still use black-face today, mainly because it was illegal during the time of Cromwell. The form of Morris usually known as Cotswold and typified by bells, baldricks and handkerchiefs dates from just after this time, when Morris was revived along with the Monarchy.

The Morris Dance is still the traditional dance of England, with more than a thousand sides performing all across the country.

What is a Dead Horse?
Dead horse is navy slang for work that has been paid for in advance. Sailors would often be paid a months wages in advance to buy clothes required for the trip, although often this would be spent on drink or other vices. Working a dead horse, therefore refered to working for a month with no pay other than food - the infamous "salt house and biscuit".

Who are Dead Horse

Dead Horse Morris; width: 200px; height: 150px Dead Horse Morris are a Morris side (or team) from Whitstable in Kent made up of the Dead Horse Morris Men and the Broomdashers ladies team. We dance a regional style of the traditional English Morris Dance, although our hobnail boots and sticks lean more towards the "Border" style and "Molly Dancing" than the better known bells-and-hankies Cotswold dances.

Who are Dead Horse Morris Men?

Dead Horse Morris Man; width: 200px; height: 150px The Men's team wear a Morris kit of hobnailed boots, corduroys and cheese-cutter caps, with ribbon-decorated waistcoats, is based on the old dress of local fishermen when decorated for special events. In addition to the traditional dance, we are renowned for playing traditional music, singing tra


A couple of years ago I went to Birmingham for the UK Coloured Pencil Society Annual Exhibition and a local festival was taking place with some Morris Dancers from the Midlands.   We had a chat with them and discovered they'd been banned from 'blacking up' as the local council deemed that potentially offensive to the local community.   I find that very sad as its all part of our British cultural(?) history - and why is it more offensive to black the faces than to have the 'molly' a burly man dressed as a female?  

I often wonder if people really do take offense ... or if there's a whole department of Council/Government bods who are employed just to think up possible scenarios that MIGHT offend the odd person - my Mum would be good at that, she can predict disaster from a mile off!  sorry mum!

 So we Brits are totally nutty ... and personally I love these old traditions.   The sun was shining in Whitstable yesterday and there was a tremendous atmosphere in the town.  Bearing in mind we are a tourist seaside resort, dependent on Summer visitors, I think the combination of 'fun events' and beautiful sunshine weather has stood us in great stead.

Whitstable was a hive of activity all day.   We went to watch the Morris Dancers at 10am - at the first of the Whitstable venues - the dancers progressed through the town all day but with lots of stopovers at friendly pubs - Morris Dancers traditionally survive on a diet of 'real ale' and the routes must always be planned via local hostelries ... so its best to view the dancing early on before the ale takes hold!  You may notice in some of the photos that the dancers each have their own tankards (either in their hands or strapped to their waistbands) ready for the next pint!

These are some of my photos from yesterday

These are our very own 'Dead Horse Morris'

This isn't

Imposters - plastic beer glasses???  

A 'Molly' - this should offend lots of people potentially - cross dressing man with blacked up face!!

 I have no idea why a bear should be out and about on May Day ... he must have been SOOO hot in that outfit as yesterday was probably the warmest day of the year so far ...

some of the other 'sides' lining up by the pub ready for the parade through Town to the next 'watering hole'

Kentish Clog Dancers

A handy 'watering hole' - Shepherd Neame is our local real ale brewery in Faversham, Kent so most local pubs favour its beers.      No 'sissy' lagers for real Kent Maids and Men!

Not sure which 'side' this is, they seemed to be more tap dancing than morris dancing - but all part of the fun parade 

 and this is a Hooden Horse.

It's an East Kent tradition dating back at least to the mid-18th century.    A wooden horse's head mounted on a pole, with a sackcloth attached to hide the bearer. The head  normally has a hinged jaw which can snap shut with a mighty crack.
Hooden Horse groups used to tour the area in the period leading up to Christmas (or the Winter Solstice) engaging in tomfoolery (horseplay) at local landowners' houses and requesting 'largesse', i.e. funds to tide them over the slack period of the year.

You can't see it on this (reduced size) photo but the badge warns that 'Hooden Horses Bite' ... 

Another Kentish tradition (and one close to David's heart) is the Gypsy Tart (although that may also be a non PC name these days)

The story behind this very sweet/sickly pie is that during the early part of the 20th century a lady regularly saw undernourished homeless gypsy children playing in the fields next to her house. One day she decided to feed them but had nothing more than a pie crust, evaporated milk and brown sugar. She made the sweet tart and since then the tart has been a Kentish tradition, sold in many Kentish bakeries and of course, a regular on school dinner menus during between the 1950s and 80s.    I've never seen Gypsy Tart for sale outside Kent (but I don't like it anyway ... far too sweet for me)

This didn't even make it home yesterday - he ate it whilst walking to the car ....

Then in the afternoon we played lawn bowls at our local club which is overlooked by Whitstable Castle - a beautiful setting.     There were lots of events going on at the Castle whilst we were bowling - traditional MayPole Dancing, a Gospel Church choir, re-enactment of Robin Hood/Maid Marion for the kids and a BBQ - so lots to distract us.       David's rink was the slowest so I took the opportunity to get an 'action' shot as we finished 15 minutes earlier - David is on the right here.   Like cricket and tennis, bowls is usually played in 'whites' although each club will have its own uniform - ours has blue trim.    The castle grounds had cleared by this time - just a few die-hards enjoying the last of the sunshine

So a day of true British Traditional pastimes for a Bank Holiday Monday 

Sunday 5 May 2013


After yesterday's heavy usage of the 'bathing' water bowl I gave it a thorough clean this morning and topped it up - and the first visitor was:

Needs filling up again - blackbirds and robins do love to splash about

this is one of the drawings I've been playing with - its a cat I photographed at a beach bar in Corralejo, Fuerteventura last month.  He wasn't impressed at having human company but was too warm and comfy to move away from the warm sunny spot he'd found. 
I had some Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card (gritty surface)  in a sand colour so thought I'd use that to help with the texture of the bright yellow beach wall and the picon (volcanic shingle which is used a lot in landscaping/surfacing) in the Canaries

But the colour keeps sinking into the textured paper and losing its sharpness - I hadn't expected that to happen on a gritted paper.   I need to buy some new fixative spray this week and will give this a light spray to see if I can then add more colour and brighten the whites again before adding final details.

So a bit disappointing - but I may be able to rescue it.  No critiques please as, if I do manage to salvage this piece, its one I may submit to UKCPS next week.   It will look better once I get the whiskers and wispy bits done

I've used mostly Derwents and Prismacolors and think perhaps Polychromos may have worked better on this surface, being oil based rather than wax based ... something to try later on

Off to play a bowls match now and the weather is going to be kind to us I think.   Yesterday's match was played in windy showery conditions but thankfully I was a 'reserve' bowler and not called on to brave the weather.     Today is going to be a short sleeve day methinks!

Saturday 4 May 2013

04/05: THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY (and other stuff)!

Since my recent post observing that the garden birds have been less active at the feeders - things have gone rather manic and we've had to restock all the feeders today - 28 new fatballs and 3 large bags of sunflower seeds.  That should keep them happy for a while.    It is obvious that the birds (particularly the robins) are finding plenty of bugs and worms etc but they are still stocking up on seeds and fat in between. 

The Good ... ie, my favourite visitors

male woodpecker (Great Spotted)

Well, you've heard the expression 'water off a duck's back'  -  the Blackbirds and Robins really appreciate their baths so I've always got lots of bowls strategically placed round the garden.   The reason I have a rusty pot stand in the water is that we've had some really windy days recently and this is the easiest way to anchor the trays down.

still on the good .....

The two parent robins are our busiest garden visitors just now.  They obviously have some very demanding mouths to feed and they are first on the scene in the early morning and still hunting and darting about in the early evening - they are prolific hunters and when they can't find enough bugs they peck at the fatballs.  They are rarely still and we just get flashes of bright red feathers as they flit around the garden.

For obvious reasons though I'd prefer they stopped using the top of my rotary clothes line as a viewing point - OK when the line is folded up but not good news when I have washing hanging out!

Goldfinches on the Niger seeds today

and on the sunflower seeds - spoilt for choice!

NOW for the BAD ... and I bet you already guessed who earned this tag

Note the empty seed feeder ....

When we are home, and watching the garden, we chase the squirrels off.   But this new generation have absolutely no fear, or RESPECT for humans.    When they see us approaching they casually grab another handful of seeds and retreat to the hedgerow behind our garden ... and wait for us to disappear indoors again.  They treat it (and us) as a huge joke I'm afraid.  

and the UGLY  although I feel a bit mean calling him ugly as he's a very sad looking specimen right now.

You may recall I photographed a balding blackbird a couple of weeks ago.   I think the consensus of opinion was that he was suffering from feather mites - a condition which should hopefully disappear when he goes through 'the moult'     In the meantime however, he tends to hide himself away.     I got some fuzzy pictures of him today when he ventured into our front garden - light wasn't good I'm afraid.

Here he is doing his vulture impression:

Just compare him with the blackbird taking a bath earlier in this post ..... I really hope that after this horrible season he comes back as a big handsome blackbird next year and has a very happy life 

now for the 'other stuff'

We've had the Good, the Bad and the Ugly .. now for the plain stupid

most birds take the sunflower seeds and then wipe all the sticky residue off on the tree branches/twigs, but this greenfinch managed to get a seed husk stuck to his face/beak and then spent 5 minutes pulling all sorts of faces and trying to just shake it off ... there's always one isn't there?

now just a few odds and ends  

on Wednesdays David and I work as volunteers at Pilgrims Hospice eBay office.   On our way home from Canterbury we passed a small park edged with trees.  One of the trees had been chopped down but the stump had been left and this carving done in the trunk - not the best photo as we were on a dual carriageway and I 'snapped' this through the car window

Perhaps next trip I'll be able to get a better photo - and it looks as though the artist/sculptor has carved their name above the figure.

But how much better than just chopping the tree completely down which would be normal council procedure

me, playing 'silly wotsits' at Stodmarsh nature reserve on Tuesday ... it was very bright, but very cold
This is me and my shadow ... and 3 dandelions

David had my 'old' camera and captured me 'on a mission' to photograph something I'd seen up ahead

and another couple of swan pics ... just because I love these wonderful birds

OK that's it for tonight.

The commission/portrait schedule has been slightly rearranged so the Singapore dogs will be done when I'm back from holiday and despatched with the horse I recently completed.

Still on the drawing board is the double dog portrait which I should be getting feedback on this weekend so will finish that next week.  Then a double cat portrait - to be started before my holiday and completed when I'm back home.  

I have been 'playing' with a couple of coloured pencil small drawings recently - trying out different pencils/supports and as time has run out for me to start a new picture/entry for this year's UK Coloured Pencil Society Exhibition I may submit one or more of these practice pieces - who knows, they may make it past the jury although I haven't spent much time on any of them.    I've had work entered into this annual International Exhibition for the last 6 years so would hate to miss out - the deadline and exhibition have been moved forward slightly  this year