Thursday, April 22, 2010

Depuis quarante ans

Caught a couple of interesting progs on telly a few nights back. Sunday I think. One was about how art schools influenced the '60s (pop, fashion, general revolution etc.) and the other was a documentary on Brian Duffy entitled 'The Man Who Shot The Sixties'. Having been an art student during most of this period ('63-'71), it was wonderful to be transported back in time and I enjoyed both progs immensely - particularly the one about Duffy.

Duffy was a top photographer back in the 'swinging sixties'. Up there with the likes of David Bailey and Terry Donovan. However, he gave it all up one morning in 1979 when he turned up at his studio and an assistant told him they'd run out of loo roll. Made him realise he'd become responsible for too many things - running a business, keeping clients happy, making compromises, buying loo rolls etc. - and that he just didn't enjoy it any more. So he famously went out to the back garden, burnt all his negatives and prints, and walked away from photography for good. Luckily someone rescued most of the negatives from the fire and stored them away. Duffy's son recently convinced Duffy (now well into his seventies and suffering from a lung disorder) to print up some of the best ones and arrange his first-ever exhibition. I gather it was a great success and I hope it inspired this wayward talent to get behind the camera again.

I met him once in 1970 when I was a graphic design student at the Royal College of Art. Set us a photographic project. Chuffed to bits 'cos he told me I had a good eye and should seriously think about swapping to photography. Far more exciting than boring old design and advertising. In the end I didn't swap but just for a moment I thought about it. Amazing what a compliment from an expert does for one's confidence. Been an enthusiastic snapper ever since.

Strange how a couple of telly progs about the '60s can spark long-forgotten memories. For example, the indoor greenhouse and goldfish pond on the top floor of the RCA building next to the Albert Hall. I used to occasionally pop in there for a bit of peace and quiet. Wonder if it's still there? And the massive Biba store in Kensington where I always felt ridiculously out of place (not because I had a problem about wandering around in a girly shop but simply because I am to fashion what Julian Clary is to rugby league). Friday night RCA discos that always ended with Albinoni at full blast. Being in the same group as Alan Rickman when he had this ridiculous notion of transferring to RADA and taking up acting. My knackered Honda 50 that would barely make it up Battersea Rise on the way back to my five quid a week bedsit. Spending ages trying to figure out the mechanics of bra-undoing, then discovering that girls weren't wearing the damned things any more. My mates' flat in the Old Brompton Road which became waterlogged when the upstairs pipes burst. The little Paris Pullman cinema...

Ah, the Paris Pullman! Used to go there with impressive frequency. Showed 'arty' films by Bunuel, Herzog and the like. One film in particular I well remember. Actually, I don't. Can't for the life of me remember the title or what it was about. But I do remember the startling image of a Ghandi-like figure smiling as he sat cross-legged and covered in honey while thousands of bees crawled all over him. Wierd. And I think it was there that I saw Antonioni's film 'Zabriskie Point', complete with its beautifully explosive ending and Pink Floyd soundtrack. Would have been in 1970. Same year I met Duffy. Interesting how Duffy and the girl in 'Zabriskie' had similar feelings about blowing up where they were at. Blow Up - now there's another great film from this period!

Sadly, the Paris Pullman was demolished years ago. Apparently replaced by a car showroom. Like so many things from the '60s, it's now just a distant memory.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pruning and painting

Just nattered to t'other half sur le telephonio. She asked how le jardin was looking. Told her I'd blog a few snaps. After this lengthy winter and recent frosts I'm surprised anything's survived. But it mostly seems okay. Some bushy things appear a bit dormant but the tulips are out, as are some white daffs (white daffs?! - thought they were supposed to be yellow) and lots of stuff's budding. Did a bit of pruning. Always risky 'cos I know nothing about gardening. Trimmed the tops off the row of bushes down the bottom end of the garden in order to encourage growth lower down. Good theory but probably won't work. Probably killed 'em. Did the same with the mini tree thing (or is it a bush?) growing out of the lawn. Also attacked the rapidly growing bush things that grow out of the old stone wall down the side. Damned triffids force the stones apart and the wall eventually collapses. Cut 'em right back but they're tough blighters so they'll probably grow right back again. Wanted to prune the top half of the apple tree but it's way out of reach. Shame really 'cos it all looks a bit of a mess up there. Maybe I'll try a ladder.

And here's one from ce matin (Tuesday)...

On the subject of greenery (well, pinky-brownery), I had another go at that tree painting yesterday afternoon. Nipped up there with the dogs for a couple of hours. Dogs got a bit bored but I ignored the buggers and soldiered on. Feverishly sploshed paint on canvas knowing that all too soon the leaves will appear and the scene will completely change. Also, there's a chance that the farmer could soon plonk his cows in the field so I may not have another opportunity this year to finish it. Packed up when the light began to fade. Looked at it this morning and it's almost there. Just a couple of tweaks here and there should do it. I'll do them in my studio (studio?! - er, the indoor shed) in the next few days. Next it's the blossom pic I started last year but didn't manage to finish. And then there's the painting I promised to do for neighbour Isabelle of her dad and Wendy the dog, both of whom passed away a few months back.

Monday, April 12, 2010


For reasons that are far too complicated and numerous to explain, I currently live out here and t'other half lives with her sis back there in Blighty. But don't get me wrong, we get on fine. Absence makes the fart blow Honda. Or sumink.

An obvious solution to this somewhat odd state of affairs would be to buy a place en Angleterre, live together in parfait harmony and treat this French gaff wot me and the mutts exist in as a holiday home (out of the question due to infestation of moths in wallet). Or, sell it, buy a cheap UK gaff and still keep a foothold in France by virtue of 'the barn' down Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne wot I keep forgetting we own (hard to believe but true).

So, just for fun, I've recently been surfing the internet to see what, say, 175k buys nowadays. The answer is, not a lot. However, somewhat surprisingly, there are a few places that sort of fit the bill. Though what exactly that bill might be is open to conjecture. For example, it has to be somewhere in Britain where Sprocket can be let off his lead for a good run without me being arrested. Which, essentially, narrows the search down to the Outer Hebrides. Which rather defeats the purpose of the exercise. So, compromise is plainly necessary. Beggars can't be choosers etc.

Anyway, I spotted a couple of gems over the week-end (er, gems may not be the right word but it'll do).

The first is a cute little two bedroom country cottage in Lincolnshire, just outside Saltfleetby All Saints, about seven miles east of Louth (where sis and bro-in-law have recently moved to), two miles from the sea and five miles from Mablethorpe. It's agreeably remote, has a third of an acre of mature garden and woodland, an old stone barn, stable and store, still retains olde worlde charm and is up for grabs at 169,995. Sizewise, it would just about house all Georgie's books but we could always kip in the shed.

The second is a 2 bed terraced Arwright house in Cromford, near Matlock, at the southern end of the Derbyshire Peak District. Probably a wreck internally (no problem - we're used to that) but I like the price: just 110k. However, I also like the fact it has a garden area (as opposed to a small back yard) and a parking space on which (I presume) there's a chance of building a garage. And I'm sure if I looked hard enough, there'd be somewhere out on the fells where Sprocket could be let off his lead, albeit it momentarily, if there aren't any sheep or dogs around (most unlikely). And it's good trials (motorbikes!) country round there.

Have to admit I'd never heard of Arkwright before. Did a bit of research and discovered he almost single-handedly kicked off the Industrial Revolution by building Britain's first (wool?) mill. Then built a load of houses for his workers to live in. Hence 'Arkwright house'. Fascinating stuff, huh? Learn sumink new every day.

Gosh, crikey. While mucking around in cyberspace, I suddenly came across a photo of moi aboard my old 250 Greeves in the 2003 Talmag trial. Amazingly, it must have been snapped on one of those rare moments when I was apparently in complete control (but don't be fooled).  I think this must have been one of the last trials I rode in before moving to France. Ho hum.

Er..., also spotted a couple of interesting bikes for sale. An immaculate 1971 250 MZ ISDT (currently 2500 pounds on eBay) and a virtually new, exceedingly 'ansum, 1977 Honda TL250 trials bike (currently 3250 on eBay). Ooh, luverly. Update: Honda just sold for 5250 - I bought a new one in '77 for 800! (That's the sort of thing my dad used to say. Must be getting old.)

And if you think they're a bit pricey, how about this - a Vincent Black Shadow with Steib sidecar (all very Wallace and Gromit)... yours for just 80,000 squids. Er..., pardonnez-moi?

Been busyish

Cor blimey, ain't blogged for a bit. Blighty tribal member even phoned up to make sure I was okay. Said I was fine thanks. Been a bit busy with a couple of kiddy book illustration projects. About forty drawings in all. And I still haven't finished. In-between times I occasionally sat down at the jolly old laptop to do a bit of bloggeauing but couldn't think of anything worth scribing about. Seems a bit daft to just go on and on about dogwalking up in the hills. Must drive readers (I presume that's plural) bonkers with boredom. Mind you, have to admit it keeps me amused - what with the dogs, the cows, those glorious wide open vistas and the sheer joy of observing at close hand the ever-changing weather and seasons.

Talking of the changing seasons, spring definitely seems to have sprung. Dandelions are popping up all over le magasin and the boy-devil Hadrien appeared yesterday on Christian's mini-tractor lawn mowery thingy to cut the rapidly growing grass. Sun's now passed its halfway point of moving up the horizons at sunrise and sunset so it now rises behind the church and sets just to the side of the house, leaving the front in shadow. Doesn't get dark 'til well past nineish. Such a relief to have longer days back again. Took a couple of snaps of shadows across le jardin at dawn and sunset, plus another from yesterday when the valleys had mist and we had sun.

Still haven't had a chance to finish off that tree painting I started some time ago. Went up there a couple of evenings ago just to check that the farmer hadn't moved one of his herds into the field. Luckily he hadn't - they're still grazing further up. So maybe I'll be able to attempt to finish it off later this week. Mind you, sod's law, you can bet your boots that when I get up there with canvas, easel, paints, brushes and Thermos, that field will be full of cattle merrily noshing fresh grass. In which case I could of course ignore them and get stuck in but cows are notoriously nosey and they'd be round me in next to no time, sniffing, nudging and opining that the colours are wrong and I haven't done that bit quite right. Then there's the worry that the single bull might see me as a threat to his wives and kids. Oo-er. Might have to finish it next year. Talking of which, I started a blossomy painting last year but didn't finish it due to heavy rain. By the time the rain had finished (lasted about a week), the blossom had gone. Could soon be a good time to have another bash at finishing it. Went down there last week for a quick look. Trees are just starting to bud but they look a lot taller. All looks very different. Still, at least there are no cows there.

Crikey, look at the time. Better get on with those kiddy illustrations.