I Spy Art Dot Com

It’s really refreshing to come across something that’s easy to use isn’t it?

I found this fabulous space yesterday to showcase and (quite importantly!) to SELL my art work from… thanks to a wonderful member of the OGBF, who also has used this forum. I wish I could remember who it was that I clicked through from… but I guess they will let me know in good time.

So, if you’ve a mind to perhaps support me in my efforts to make *art* then perhaps you’d like to click through to my galleries from here… but keep checking back because I have lots more to add each day!

Click on the image below to open up a new window. It’s a start and you have to start somewhere. I choose here.

ispyart.com where you can purchase beautiful pictures

ispyart.com where you can purchase beautiful pictures

New Lens Fever

‘Oh, let’s just pop into this camera shop to see what advice they can give me about macro lenses shall we?’ I said, innocently.

MWAH! HAHAHAHAH! See how the boy humans fall into my trap without a thought for their own survival! They think we are ‘just looking’, but they are so very wrong! They couldn’t be more wrong if they were wearing white shoes and yellow trousers! (which is a sin, punishable by publishing a photo of said get-up on Facebook for all the world to see, of course). 

It was a lovely Saturday in early Spring, surprisingly warm and sunny, even in the centre of London. No ordinary day, last Saturday was the thirty-fourth anniversary of my FAB hubby attaining his hallowed status as Husband No. 1.

I like to keep him on his toes – it does wonders for the early morning cups of tea and weekly bunches of flowers. In all that time he’s hardly missed a week when there aren’t new flowers to replace the old, withering ones. And I could probably sail away for a year and a day on the ocean of tea that he’s brought to me in the wee hours. If you’re over fifty, you’ll probably read a double entendre into that last statement. You’d be correct, but let’s not spoil it for the youngsters, eh?

So, our 34th wedding anniversary required recognition, if not actual celebration (we don’t really do the cards/champagne/romantic-meal-for-two thing these days. Although, I have thoughts about how to revive that tradition perhaps… ). We traveled by train to the Capital once more (third time in two months!) but this was to be a day of whimsy, whatever we felt like, when the mood struck us.

The Globe Theatre, on the South Bank of the Thames, is well worth a visit.

The Globe Theatre, on the South Bank of the Thames, is well worth a visit.

We decided to visit the Globe Theatre, home of the inestimable William Shakespeare, thanks to the tireless, tenacious efforts of Sam Wannamaker (father of Zoe, who played Madame Hooch, the broomstick-riding, quidditch-reffing, witch-professor at Hogwarts in all the HP movies). It was a fantastic idea and worthy of an entire blog post itself, which I’ll get to later.

We had The Neanderthol in tow, much to his chagrin I fear, as the previous evening had seen him celebrating his friend’s parents’ new acquisition – the Station Hotel in Pickering. He’s a teenager, having a sleep-over with several other teenagers. In a pub. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that his *headache* and *sore eyes* had little to do with the mystery virus that he was trying to persuade us to acknowledge. We’ve all been there sweet-cheeks!

So, actually, I’m taking a liberty when I try to suggest that going into the camera shop was in fact my idea. It was his, of course. He wanted to find information about what equipment he needs to shoot his student movie, with minor details like how much it will cost and where he can get all the gear from.

I had NO INTENTION of buying a new lens when we entered the hushed interior of The Camera Shop on The Strand. Not a single thought crossed my mind.

Or did it?

MWAH! HAHAHAHAH! … oh, this could get tiresome people, let’s just get on with it!

Whilst I was waiting, and since the chap was busy-doing-nothin’, I enquired about a macro lens for my Canon EOS400D. I want a new way to visually describe the world around me and macro seems to me the way to go. That or a fish-eye. So I chatted with the chap. Y’know, like a conversation. I discovered that the fish-eye is out of my financial reach just now, coming in as it did at around £1200. We spent a little more time discussing the various options for a macro lens.

My new lens... isn't it lovely?

My new lens… isn’t it lovely?

So, when I said, ‘What, £600? I’ll take two!’ he surmised that I meant the purchase was agreed and I found myself with this wonderful new toy to play with. I was probably unresponsive to requests for conversation with my FAB hubby and The Neanderthol for a while, so enamoured was I of my fantastic, sHiny new toy. Cars wHizzed past me at great speed, but I was oblivious to them (actually, not a true part of the story – as anyone who’s ever tried to get ANYWHERE in Central London on a Saturday afternoon will attest to!). I was in my own little world.

For those of you who give a fairy’s fart about these things, it is a Canon Macro Lens EF 100mm 1:2.8 USM toy. This means very little to me, except that I can now get REAL close and personal with my photographic subjects.

I took a fair number of photos  on Saturday, but in my over-excitement, I accidentally adjusted the white balance settings on my camera to ‘fluorescent light’, so all my pictures have an ethereal blue-hue and thus require extensive Photoshop attention.

I’ll maybe post a few with the Globe Theatre recount (coming soon to this blog!).

But this afternoon, as the sun shone once more, warming the tender shoots of spring, I popped outside and snapped a few shots of various floral offerings that Mother Nature has bestowed upon us. I’m quite pleased with the results. Have a look yourself…

This first one is of a daffodil, grown in a container by my FAB Hubby. I was delighted that I could get close enough to see the droplets of water from the earlier damp air. Then, this fly landed just as I clicked the shutter! The tiny bug just in front of him (probably soon to be his lunch) was out of focus.

The Fly dropped in at the last moment...

The Fly dropped in at the last moment…

Next, I was captivated by the rosemary that I started growing last year – I thought it had died over the winter but, sure enough it has come back stronger than before. The itty-bitty bluey-purple florets are exquisite, looking like miniature orchid flowers growing between the stalks of herb. I also cropped and zoomed in on this plant to see this even more clearly. I love my lens!

A stalk of new rosemary

A stalk of new rosemary

Close up of the tiny florets; they look like little orchids!

Close up of the tiny florets; they look like little orchids!

I took lots of other shots too, but I’ll leave you with my favourite of the day. There’s a low wall separating the patio from the lawn and over the winter, when it’s too cold, damp or just plain miserable to get out there and do some gardening, the moss grows in great abundance. I got down low, level with the top of the wall to catch this shot. if you look carefully, there’s a teeny, tiny little bug a-wandering through the forest of moss-trees. I love macro lenses!

The Giant Moss Forest, conquered by a bug!

The Giant Moss Forest, conquered by a bug!

Thanks for reading! As ever, your comments are welcomed.

 

 

A quick ‘Scream’

This will have to be a quickie tonight.

Places to go, people to see you know, I’m a busy woman.

In my dreams perhaps! Although, we are going out to see a play in about half an hour so, that’s why it’s a quickie. No other reason. Honest.

So, if you read yesterday’s post, you may have noticed a little picture of Lisa Simpson having been substituted for the person in the infamous Edvard Munch’s painting, ‘The Scream’. Clearly, I found it when I did a Google Image search, which blew me away with the sheer volume of possible images I could have chosen instead.

It got me thinking this afternoon.

‘Uh-oh!’ I hear you thinking (because I have super-hearing of course). ‘That’s ALWAYS a dangerous thing to happen … somebody stop her quickly, distract her with something pretty or shiny, or better still, something pretty AND shiny! 

Too late! So, I was reminded when I trawled through all those images, of a picture I took a couple of years or so ago now, up at Aysgarth Falls, wHaaayyyy up in the Yorkshire Dales. It’s quite a beautiful place and reasonably famous as the location used by the ‘Robin Hood, Prince of thieves’ movie a gazillion years or so ago. Kevin Costner and Christian Slater frolicked around in the waterfall there, rather fetchingly. I think I may have mentioned it before. In case you’re scrabbling around trying to remember, I’ll help you out…

Aysgarth Falls panorama

Aysgarth Falls panorama

Rock pool face

Rock pool face

So, I found this little rock pool and thought it looked just like the face of the woman in the famous painting.

I vowed to do something with it one day. As you do… you know ‘One day I’ll get round to clearing out all that junk…’ and so on. Well, today is The Day.

 

Liz Gregory's Scream

Liz Gregory’s Scream

I rather like my substitution of the rock-pool face. I hope it cheers your day anyway!

Thanks for reading!

Living and learning: that’s the secret

This week saw me enrol in a class to help me to get some mastery of at least a little of the stuff that Photoshop can do.

I’m very, very lucky to be friends with the most amazing equine photographer that I can think of, Jeff Anderson, owner and grand poohbah (as he describes himself) at the amazing Jeffrey Anderson Photography place. Truly an artist, what Jeff doesn’t know about photography is probably not worth knowing.

Not only this, but he is a brilliant teacher too – not for him the long-winded gobbledegook that the official Photoshop Help website offers. I’m sure you will find this quite shocking, dear reader, but I panicked (momentarily) when I opened his first tutorial.

O.M.G! (I'd love to credit the original author of this image, but couldn't find their name)

O.M.G! (I’d love to credit the original author of this image, but couldn’t find their name)

YES, I really do, just occasionally, lose the plot. I’m only human, get over it!

My fear was induced because I thought I had the

wrong software – there are SOOO many versions of Photoshop out there that it can be a tad confusing to us mere mortals. I was sweating, my heart raced and I truly, properly panicked.

What if everyone thinks I’m a complete ditz because I rocked up with the wrong bag?‘ I heard the eejit devil on my left shoulder complain.

Like I was in primary school and I didn’t have the very *latest* trinket that everyone else has.

Like I was performing in the Stockport Cheadle Section 2 Girl Guides Gang Show, singing ‘I’ll Go No More A’Wanderin’ With You Fair Maid’ as The Maid, with Julie Froggett as my duet partner The No More A’Wanderin chap from the song, waltzing down through the audience before clambering on the stage -still singing at the top of my lungs mind you – with my voluminous skirts conveniently tucked into my knickers at the back. And yes, that did happen.

You’re giggling now aren’t you? Oh, believe me, it was just the first in a whole series of mighty disasters that convinced me that the stage was not the life for me. Another time, I’ll tell you about them perhaps.

So, even though he had gently reminded us all that perhaps some of us would be working on one of the different versions of the software, and that we SHOULD NOT panic, under any circumstances, you now know that I failed at the first step.

I cried at my imagined inadequacies. This was awful! How on earth was I going to be able to even speak to my fellow group members ever again, once they knew how truly ditzy I can be?

But, OF COURSE I needn’t have panicked. With expert kid-gloves, my fellow students and the wonderful Jeff dried my tears (virtually – I had to actually, physically dry them myself, as I am sitting in my studio thousands of miles from where they were sat of course!) dusted my bruised ego off and set me straight with the deftness of  a true teacher.

R.U.C.S.A.C!

R.U.C.S.A.C!

His instructions suddenly all made sense now that I wasn’t panicking any more. What’s that first rule of problem-solving I always drilled into my Maths students? Remember R.U.C.S.A.C. ?

  • READ THE QUESTION OR INSTRUCTION.
  • UNDERSTAND THE QUESTION OR INSTRUCTION.
  • CHOOSE AN APPROPRIATE STRATEGY
  • SOLVE THE PROBLEM
  • ANSWER THE QUESTION and then…
  • CHECK YOUR ANSWER!

So, I went back to the first instruction.

And then I was away.

Seagull in his full glory! (Spot the difference!)

Seagull in his full glory! (Spot the difference!)

Seagull before sharpening

Seagull before sharpening

Sharpening images.

Better still, learning to recognize when they had been over-sharpened – it takes a finely tuned eye to notice the difference, I discovered!

 

 

Today’s lesson involves making elaborate mat surrounds for my masterpieces. Of course, that’s not exactly how Jeff phrased it. I justlike to play with stuff once I’m comfortable doing it. So today I did a lot of jiggery-poking about with my images to add a more professional, finished look to them.

Boats in Whitby Harbour, with a double mat

Boats in Whitby Harbour, with a double mat

I like how they look, frankly.

Pink Geranium, with several manipulations and double mat

Pink Geranium, with several manipulations and double mat

I’d be thrilled if other people like them too. ‘Cos that would mean I’d succeeded as an artist – creating images that give pleasure or convey a meaningful message to others.

Thanks for reading :)

 

The Equine Adoration Club

It’s definitely odd. I have never really been a *horsey* person.

Waaaaay back, in my former life as a convent boarding school student (I TOLD you it was a very, very long time ago!) there were several ‘Horsey Girls’ who were contemporaries of mine. They were the ones who went riding at least once or twice a week and who had ponies of their own at home, which was often many miles away. Some of these girls lived on the Yorkshire Wolds, not far from The Grange in fact. Some lived in villages around York. Some were from much further afield, especially if they were Forces Kids. That’s a whole special group that deserve a post of their own, so I’ll save THAT stuff for another time. Today, I’m recalling the Equine Adoration Club.

Wendy was the epitome of this group. Wendy adored horses, drew pictures of them constantly and often communicated with little whinnying noises, occasionally accompanied with a theatrical head shake and nostril flaring or even – if she felt so inclined and your impudence called for this – a good nose snort. I can remember her *trotting* around with two hands in front (I was never sure if she was imagining she was holding reins in this position, which therefore meant she was the rider in this scenario, or that she was imagining herself rearing up and kicking out her front legs wildly like Champion the Wonder Horse) which was probably terribly endearing when she was oh, say five or six years old – possibly even as old as nine maybe. When she was sixteen and still displaying this behaviour, I began to suspect that she may have been slightly unbalanced. But then, in English boarding schools, this kind of eccentric conduct was almost expected and eejits, like myself, who refused to display such idiosyncrasies were perhaps lesser mortals who had to find other ways to make themselves acceptable to the group. A therapists dream, surely!

Wendy wasn’t alone in her equine exaltations. I could name at least a dozen other girls who simply loved horses. Some of them were farmer’s children and their veneration for the animals stemmed from working with them since they were very small. These people I could understand a little at least. Their animals worked hard on their farms and as they lived fairly long lives and we were merely in our teens, it made sense to me that they would have a healthy respect and indeed love for their noble steed.

But that other group, the girls who just *loved* horses, they were unfathomable to me. In my experience, up to this point in my short life, the only horses I had met were either the huge, world-weary cart-horses that the rag-a’bone man, the milk man or the coal man used to wander the streets of my youth, plying their goods and trades, or else they were the wild, angry-eyed dervishes on the big screen, usually ridden (if at all) by equally wild-eyed Cowboys or Injins. Why on earth an ordinary, real person might want to even stand next to one of these creatures was simply beyond my comprehension. Then.

I did try to like horses.

I read Black Beauty when I was about nine years old. I adored reading and this tale of companionship, love, betrayal, sadness and ultimate happiness quickly became one of my most treasured favourites. The fact that it was written from the horse’s point of view gave me such insight into the mind of the animal that I felt I could not be afraid of such a beautiful soul.

I watched National Velvet with the eleven-year-old beauty, Elizabeth Taylor and the ridiculous Mickey Rooney. I became Velvet. I ‘rode’ the arms of the sofa to prove my point. I loved that movie and watched it every time it came back on the telly. I must have seen it three times at least. Which was a lot, back in 1970.

My Nan was obsessed with horse-racing and one of my earliest memories is of watching her tiny, black-and-white, six-inch television screen, housed inside a beautiful walnut-burred cabinet that was taller than me, on Saturday afternoons, when the 3.20 from Kempston or the 2.40 from Chepstow was the focus of attention. I’d watch the diminutive creatures haring around the track, keeping as close to the white rail as possible and, with a sidelong glance at Nan, shout my head off, mimicking her as closely as possible, for ‘Liberace’s Dream’ or ‘Red Rum’ to pass the winning line first. In those days of course, it was in fact nigh on impossible to tell who had actually won the race until it was officially announced, because the screen was so small and it was in black and white, so determining which jockey was wearing which colours was a Fool’s Errand (pun intended!).

Occasionally she would drag me into William Hill’s, the betting shop that stood at the top of Gorsey Bank Road for many years. I’ve seen many interpretations on both the small and big screens of a variety of betting shop interiors, but none of them matched that establishment. An imposing, white-washed building, with room for several fancy cars to be parked outside, this den of iniquity felt like something from the Arabian Nights to me, whenever we entered. There were brightly coloured silks on the walls, probably relating to the jockey’s of course, but to my child’s eye, they were simply declarations of overly ostentatious Turkish Delights. The seats around the edge of the room were plush red suede and there was a CARPET on the floor. For someone who had only ever experienced linoleum, or bare floorboards, this was the height of expensive luxury and it’s a wonder I never became addicted to gambling, such a bounteous and exciting impression this place left on my psyche.

We’d go there so she could wait for the results which would always come through more quickly and she could collect her winnings with her little cackle and then we’d be on our way, usually over the road to the chip shop for a penn’orth of chips, extravagantly in a tray, with gravy.

So, I was familiar, sort of, with race horses and considered them to be wondrous, impressive beasts, capable of providing much entertainment to many around the country. But, I’d never seen a horse up close at all.

That treat was saved for a school fair when I was about ten or eleven. Someone had decided that the children would all *love* pony rides on the day of the event and thus I came across the biggest pony I’d ever seen. He was all legs (four of them mind!) and humongous hooves. I swear that each hoof was as big as my head. He towered above me – I’d learned that they measured horses in hands and he must have been at least a hundred hands (my hands, which were very small, even for my age!) high. And his head! Oh, my, how BIG it was!And how snorty were his huge nostrils? I was picked up by the lad who was handling the pony and thrown onto the saddle on his back.

From this vertiginous vantage point, I felt, briefly, elated to be able to see the entire field, with all the games and stalls and people. This didn’t last though, as the animals haunches moved beneath me I froze with sheer terror as the thought of falling off, down the many miles to the ground, then hitting that floor and having my head kicked and stamped upon by this monstrous beast, which would surely bring me the sweet release of a bloody, violent death fairly quickly at least. I have no idea how I was released from this frightful moment, I just recall my overwhelming sense of relief that I was back on Terra Firma and I vowed never to try this stunt again.

So fear of horses has been my over-riding emotion throughout most of my life.

I didn’t mind taking my children on donkeys because, well, generally speaking, they are MUCH shorter than horses! And I could appreciate the beauty of Equine creatures. Just preferably from a very safe distance.

But recently, living as we do amongst some of the country’s leading stud farms, I’ve come to appreciate horses for what I consider some of their very best qualities.

Horses, particularly ones that are happily grazing in lush fields, with nothing in particular to bother them, are very sociable animals. If you stop by their hedges or gates and look out across the field towards them, they will invariably notice you, pretty quickly. They will pose perfectly for you to snap their best features and show their inner beauty as well as their fine fetlocks, elegant necks, perky ears and magnificent manes.

Grazing happily on lush Yorkshire grass

Grazing happily on lush Yorkshire grass

Then, when they think you’ve captured the perfect shots, they will inevitably wander on over to you and then they do something that many humans are reluctant to do. They look you directly in the eye and they see right into your soul. It can be very unnerving. If they like what they see there, they will come and nuzzle or best of all, they will slightly cock their head to one side and really, truly, they *listen* to you.

You don’t have to use actual verbal noises. Although, if I’m alone I usually talk aloud to them at this point. But you can converse with a horse, even one that doesn’t know you, using just your eyes. They can *know* your life story almost instinctively and all your thoughts, actions and dreams are laid bare for them to peruse. I swear, I saw this horse smile at me last week.

It’s magic.

And it’s only taken me forty years to understand what those *Horsey Girls* knew. I’m chalking this up to ‘You live, you learn.’

Now, I have lived.

How can she know my mind?

How can she know my mind?

 

Prelude to a Harlot

It seems I have been remiss. A little while ago, I told you all that I had finally found the truth and am now able to start writing that story that I have wanted to write for so long. If you scroll back through my ramblings to the last posting written in February, you’ll find one entitled ‘An odd feeling of clarity and contention: Carpe Diem!’ in which I explained a little about having reached this significant point.

It is my intention to write the entire story as a novel, (which I hope people will actually buy!) with fictional characters, although the general plot line is loosely based upon real people – the people in my life. For that reason, I’ve changed names and I’ve imagined the details. Detail is what makes a story intriguing, interesting and impossible to put down. So, I intend to develop my writing skills sufficiently to create such a novel. I want to try to understand what makes people act in the manner they do, especially when they are behaving in what appear to be bizarre or unfathomable manners. I want to know, ‘what makes them tick?’ and in order to find this out, I need to write this story.

To those of you who have already read this opening chapter, I thank you and hope you enjoy reading it again. For those of you who are new to my blog and haven’t read this story before, please read on and let me know if you enjoy it. It will give me great ammunition when I take it to the publisher to persuade them to get this story out there and publish it. Thanks for reading!

Prelude to a harlot

Prelude to a harlot

Chapter One: Court Number 1, British Guiana, 1960.

The quartet of rattan ceiling fans barely moved the humid, stifling air in the crowded courtroom. Pale green paint peeled listlessly from the limestone walls and even the lion and unicorn adorning the Commissioner’s bench seemed to wilt in the oppressive heat. The crowd’s earlier excited buzz had melded into barely concealed apathy as they awaited the return of the judge and jury; a brace of bewigged and black-gowned barristers sweltered helplessly in their regalia, wishing fervently that time could be hastened. All present seemed to be collectively willing the ornate door at the back of the courtroom to open, signalling the end of these tortuous proceedings.

In these parts of the Caribbean, on the northern coast of continental South America, British Guianan people were used to the sticky climate and even though the Christmas holidays were only a few days away, most were dressed in light garments, white or khaki the predominant colours. That this unseasonably warm spell coincided with this most scandalous of cases seemed to emphasise the heat in the crime of passion that the defendant, a thirty-something construction foreman named Bill Humphries, was accused of.

He hadn’t denied any of the evidence. The Crown Prosecutor, a bumptious, self-serving Colonial, had pressured and harried him, his wife, even his young daughter along with every other witness called in to explain their versions of the event. There was no point in contradicting it. So many people had known that which he had uncovered from the innocent mouth of twelve-year old Stella, as she calmly referred to Uncle Mick’s soft leather seats in the back of his stately Jaguar. As he stared at the flaking walls, he re-lived part of that fateful evening once more.

It had been just after dinner when Stella had announced that she was entering the Aquatic Club’s swimming gala. ‘I’m sure I will win because I get so much more practice than all the other girls!’ she had delightedly exclaimed.

‘How is that then?’ Bill had enquired, unsure of where he was heading, as an odd feeling of inexplicable unease rose from the pit of his stomach. ‘Why are you getting so much more practice in than the others?’

‘Well, pretty much every afternoon, Mum and Uncle Mick take me to the swimming pool and it’s really helped me to improve on everything- I swim each length so fast not even the sharks could catch me!’ Stella declared with shining eyes. She could see herself holding the swimming trophy aloft and her father smiling, his whole body swelling with pride at the imagined scene.

Bill shifted his gaze from the courtroom walls to the louvered glass, encased in mosquito meshing that, sadly, had several large holes in, rendering it inadequate for purpose. It reflected his own feelings perfectly. The vermillion mist descended over his mind’s eye once more and an unbidden growl escaped through his tightly clamped lips. How COULD she have betrayed him so? After all that they had been through together? And with Mick, of all people?

The warden glared sternly at Bill in his lonely dock. Clearly, something unpleasant was troubling his thoughts, but this was not the place to yield to his tortured memories. The look was insufficient to drag the defendant back to the present, but an almost imperceptible movement of his right hand to his side where the ominous baton was firmly ensconced did the trick. Bill took note and adjusted his demeanour instantly. He knew he was in trouble and had no wish to exacerbate the situation further. The blank stare restored, he shifted his buttocks minutely on the hard bench he had been parked upon for the last two hours. He had learned to mask his thoughts more than adequately during his incarceration at the hands of the Japanese, whilst held captive as a prisoner of war in Burma seventeen years previously and this was a walk in the park compared with that ordeal. He had already prepared himself for the worst anyway.

The atmosphere changed instantly as the handle on the super-scrutinised door turned. In an instant, a hushed sense of expectation replaced the ennui and everyone seemed to hold their breath as the door opened and the Court Usher motioned the twelve people to their privileged seats. Bill noted the jury’s benches were accessorised with plush red velvet cushions, which greatly aggrieved him, considering that they had been squirreled away in another room which probably also had a certain level of comfort not afforded to him. Still, he reasoned to himself, it’s probably best to keep them fairly sweet – he fervently hoped they would understand his plight and be more lenient as a result. Part of him knew this fantasy was unlikely to be proven.

‘All rise!’ an official announced.

Much scraping of benches and chairs and weary feet followed as the judge, Mr Justice Grey, brother of the Governor, Sir Ralph Grey, swept impressively into the court. He nodded to the barristers who had smartly donned their wigs and stood before him, awaiting his divine judgements on the proceedings. Judge Grey sat heavily on the ornate, gold-painted, sumptuous red leather seat of office and waited for the assembled persons to adjust their own bearings. His small, horn-rimmed spectacles sat daintily upon his hooked nose, almost superfluous as he glared over their rims towards the foreman of the Jury.

‘Have you reached your verdict in the matter of The Crown versus William Humphries, Mr Foreman?’ Grey’s voice boomed around the walls of the courtroom grandly.

‘We have, your Honour.’ Clive Burnham, Foreman of the Jury tried to keep his voice steady as he spoke. This was the first time he had served on such a body and he was visibly nervous. An anxious silence befell the room. Someone cleared their throat quietly. Someone shushed them even more softly.

‘On the charge of attempted murder of Mr Michael Hannigan, how do you find the defendant?’ the court official enquired. Clive glanced at his fellow jurymen briefly. He knew what he was going to say would cause distress and was surely bent on delaying this as long as possible. But he could wait no longer.

‘Guilty!’ Clive’s voice sounded like Waterford crystal splintering into a thousand shards. Straightaway, the assembled audience gasped, exclaimed and gabbled in a tumultuous cacophony of dissent, silenced only by the repeated, exasperated banging of Judge Grey’s gavel upon his desk.

‘SILENCE in court! I said, SILENCE IN COURT!’ Grey’s portly frame rose to emphasise his point as he took control of the proceedings once more.

‘Any more of THAT kind of behaviour, from any person here in this room, will result in their incarceration for contempt of court!’ he announced, determined to ensure that such outbursts should not continue unchecked at least. He re-seated himself, arranging his robes appropriately before indicating to the court official to continue.

‘On the charge of attempted murder of Mrs Dorothy Rose Humphries, how do you find the defendant?’ the Clerk to the Court entreated. Again, the entire roomful of observers seemed poised to learn the answer to his question. Clive removed his clean white handkerchief from his pocket and mopped the sweat from his brow and then he squared his shoulders and declared the verdict.

‘Guilty. Guilty, as charged, my Lord’.

The room erupted once more.

‘ORDER! ORDER!’ Judge Grey hammered his gavel pointedly upon the desk, amidst all the noise, but it was a full minute before the amassed crowd could contain their emotions.

Bill’s face showed no surprise, for he had expected these words and was fully prepared to face their consequences. He knew he was in for a fairly long stretch and was steeled for anything that this Judge might throw at him.

Except for the curve-ball that followed.

Judge Grey thanked the Jury, and their Foreman in particular, for their valued service in this matter and then turned towards the prisoner in the dock. He paused for a moment before speaking and his eyes met with Bill’s. He saw the torment, the passion that had led to this crime and that familiar feeling of divine empathy swept through his sub-conscious. His moment of inspiration was upon him. When he spoke, his words rang out around the room and beyond, into the streets, even as far as the jungle, surrounding the capital Georgetown itself.

‘Stand up, William Humphries, for your sentencing.’ He waited for a brief moment whilst Bill stood and arranged himself, never once breaking the gaze between them both.

‘You have been found guilty by a jury of your peers of the crimes for which you have been detained thus far. The circumstances in which this crime came about are lamentable indeed and there is hardly a man amongst us here that cannot empathise with your situation. To find your wife of over twenty years in the arms of another is a difficult cross to bear. To find also that her lover, a beloved family friend, has impregnated her, cuckolding you in your own bed is truly terrible.

But your pre-meditated actions, hiding in your own closet and leaping out so dramatically as you did, brandishing a shotgun and then discharging that weapon, twice, caused such terror, such distress to all within earshot, including your vulnerable young daughter, that they cannot be overlooked or excused, regardless of the impetus of the passions that overcame your reason and self-control at that time. You could very well have been standing here under charge of actual bodily harm or even, God forbid, that of murder!’  The judge paused momentarily for the impact of his words to take visible effect.

‘You are to be sentenced to five years imprisonment at the mercy of Her Majesty, to be served at Georgetown Prison; at least three years must be served before any consideration of parole might be undertaken.’

Bill’s expression remained constant.

‘But, I must also turn to your wife, Mrs Humphries, who is the root cause of all this disturbance and recklessness.’ Judge Grey scanned the room for the object of this latest expression. His eyes settled upon the woman sat a few feet from the dock. She was, unlike all others in the room, save for himself, dressed very smartly in a bright red linen and silk suit, with a wide-brimmed matching hat adorned with a single electric blue plume from a tropical bird and a frisson of inconsequential netting that partially hid her face. She lifted her hazel eyes, now wide in anticipation of his crushing words; how brightly they sparkled, Grey noted, as they welled with watery crocodile tears. He mentally shook himself before he made this final pronouncement.

‘You, Mrs Dorothy Rose Humphries, are a wicked, wanton woman. Your utterly shameful and ultimately malevolent betrayal of your marriage vows marks you out as a scarlet harlot of the very worst kind. You are, frankly, a danger to polite society and as such I am declaring your intolerable conduct a breach of your leave to stay in this country.

You shall be taken from this courtroom to your home, under guard, to collect your immediate belongings and then to the docks to be deported back to England, from whence you came, never to be allowed to return to the shores of South America!’ Grey could not help his voice from rising, both in volume and pitch as he handed his full sentence down. The astonished visage of Dotty Humphries almost caused him to laugh out loud, but his years of training fortunately kicked in and he caught the impulse just in time.

Bill crumpled in the dock.

**************************************************************

So that’s your taster… I’m busy getting the rest of the story written. Let’s hope I can find a publisher!

Really, thanks for reading!

Mr and Mrs Trevor Turkey

Scampston House

Scampston House

Near where we live there’s a little hamlet called Scampston. Apparently there’s a rather grand house there, called Scampston House, which has some particularly fine gardens, as the roadside posters indicate.

One day, perhaps even this summer, we do intend to visit and see this wondrous sight for ourselves.

But this hamlet also hides a wonderful secret. It’s one of those *secrets* that is known by all around, as attested by the fabulous tripadvisor.co.uk - so, no, not really very *secret* in the traditional sense of the word. This bakery, run by a lovely lady called Elli Rose, is simply fantastic and if you’re ever in the area, I really would recommend a visit – you won’t be disappointed. Her cakes are wondrous, pastries divine and fabulous farmhouse bread, fresher than the daisies are worth the special trip down the quiet country lane to find.

Elli's delicious corn bread. None left now, sorry!

Elli’s delicious corn bread. None left now, sorry!

I love all of the different breads that Elli makes, but the corn bread is my favourite. Crusty on the outside, soft and springy in the middle, this bread is fantastic for sandwiches or to accompany a warming bowl of soup, but frequently, I just have it on its own, with maybe a little good butter and occasionally a splodge of home-made jam. Mm- mm! even the thought of has me salivating!

So I rock up to the Bakery, in a slight hurry, because I want to be sure that I’ve arrived before all the bread is sold for the day. I open the door and a little bell tinkles above your head, in the traditional shop-keeper’s welcome to valued customers.

There are couples or small groups huddled around the four or five tiny tables in the cafe, all enjoying a cup of refreshing Yorkshire tea and a cake, fancy slice or some such delectable morsel. A young couple with a small person in tow are eyeing up the exquisite chocolate delicacies on show near the back of the shop area.

I rush, perhaps just a tad speedily, around the central display where the bread baskets lie empty, devoid of produce – clearly, my fear has materialized and I am indeed too late for the bread. It has all gone. I am deflated, but not beaten yet. Elli is a good friend and upon seeing my somewhat crestfallen look, she smiles and waits.

‘Oh, no! Am I too late?’ I exclaim in dismay. ‘Is there any bread left at all Elli? Please?’

‘How about a couple o’ corns?’ she offers me a lifeline. She is referring to the manna from heaven that her fantastic corn breads seem like. Rich and scrummy, they are packed with good things and devoid of the starchy, tasteless garbage that seems to be in all mass-produced breads from the supermarkets. I am delighted and nod fervently, even though I had only really come for one loaf, I am happy to take two as I know they will be gobbled in a flash, once I get them home.

I ask after Trevor and The Girls and Elli confirms that it’s OK for me to take some photos, but she adds this warning ‘Don’t be surprised if Trevor shows you his bum. He thinks it’s his best side, clearly!’. Yes, well, thanks for the heads up.

So I go out into the pasture where Trevor and The Girls live.

Trevor, his missus and The Girls - or at least, some of them!

Trevor, his missus and The Girls – or at least, some of them!

I should perhaps explain a little about Trevor at this point…  As any self-respecting Farmhouse Bakery should have, Elli keeps chickens, mainly for the wonderful free-range eggs of course. Her flock numbers about eighteen to twenty brown-feathers chickens (The Girls), with two cockerels, on also mostly brown feathered, with a touch of grandeur in his golden & green feathers. He is out-ranked by the rather fine looking black cockerel who looks after his ladies well. He crows continually when he thinks there’s any kind of threat to them.

Cock-a-doodle-doo! What a guy!

Cock-a-doodle-doo! What a guy!

A couple of years ago, Elli decided that they would have a free-range turkey for Christmas Dinner and she bought a fine specimen. Tall and wonderfully plump already, he seemed to fulfill all the requirements for a fantastic family dinner. Elli planned the whole meal around this beautiful bird within seconds of laying her eyes upon him at the market.

‘He can bunk in with The Girls for a few weeks, it’ll give him a nice time before he’s dispatched!’ Elli though to herself at the time. And so the large bird was transported home and set amongst the chickens to have his pick of the choice clumps of grass or gravel, as he wished. There was a small flaw in Elli’s plan though. Her children took an immediate liking to the turkey.

‘He looks so happy!’ they declared, watching him strut his stuff around the chicken run. ‘Let’s call him “Trevor”!’ the decided.

Now, Elli knew this was a bad idea, at least if they were to have the delicious Christmas Dinner she had so lovingly planned. She knew she would regret staying silent, but she simply couldn’t impinge upon their innocence. As the day for execution drew nearer, the children played with Trevor daily. When the time came, they pleaded with their mother not to kill this beloved pet.

Trevor is a magnificent male turkey

Trevor is a magnificent male turkey

And so that is how they came to have the infamous Trevor living with the family’s flock of chickens. He thrived, once the threat of the butcher’s axe had diminished. He strutted around the coop as happily as, well as a saved turkey might, and all was well at the Farmhouse Bakery.

The resident cockerel and he got on reasonably well together; I think that secretly, he was glad of his over-large friend to help with looking after The Girls, who were well known in the village for being a bit of a handful. On several occasions, they found themselves on the wrong side of the protective fencing, without ever really understanding how this happened. One minute, each would be pecking diligently at the grass, or the corn, or whatever little surprises they could find amongst the gravel and the next, well, POOF!

Doris, one of the escapees, investigated my feet thoroughly

Doris, one of the escapees, investigated my feet thoroughly

The chickens somehow found themselves outside the fence, with the rest of The Girls inside.

The cockerel, his assistant (another, less rampantly masculine cockerel) and Trevor formed a Men’s Club to keep The Girls in line. After a few months, Trevor became rather antsy – he envied the Cockerel’s role and began to pine for another of his own kind. He was lonely.

So, what is it that sane people do when their pet turkey, having been saved from the Christmas table, begins to pine for a love of his own? Of course! They buy him a lady-friend. It’s only fair! And now, Trevor can be heard, gobble-gobbling away at his missus, the very beautiful and rather dainty Lady Trevor, for all he is worth.

Mrs Trevor is a pretty bird, if you're a turkey

Mrs Trevor is a pretty bird, if you’re a turkey

As I approached the chicken’s enclosure, they all ran to greet me, amid a cacophony of clucking and I found myself smiling as Trevor positioned himself between them and this intrusion. I told them I just wanted a few photos, as they are quite beautiful ladies (and gentlemen, of course) and began snapping away.

I stepped backwards for a different angle and found two escapees investigating my ankles. I have decided that they ought to be called Doris and Dolores, for no reason except that I like to name all animals.  That way, I don’t feel so foolish when I address them as equals. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Trevor has a magnificent snood, in glorious colours

Trevor has a magnificent snood, in glorious colours

Mrs Trevor's looking good in profile

Mrs Trevor’s looking good in profile

Whichever way I moved, I was accompanied by the entire flock who seemed surprised to see me – after a few seconds of investigation they would wander away for a few moments. They clearly have memory challenges! The cockerel and Trevor guarded their charges impressively.

Trevor showed me his magnificent behind, but the effect was slightly ruined when one of The Girls felt the need to check out his prostate… as I’m not that kind of photographer, I politely looked elsewhere at this point.

It is lovely to see chickens having the free run of the pasture. it just feels right.

I bid them all a fond farewell and departed via the single road in and out of the hamlet. All’s well with the world.

Mr Fish

This is Mr Fish.

Mr Fish, who hangs below the wind chimes, is a long way from Naxos.

Mr Fish, who hangs below the wind chimes, is a long way from Naxos.

He’s a small wooden fish that hangs below the multi-coloured wind chimes that I bought for Toby when I was about 5 months pregnant, back-packing our way round parts of Western Europe.

We found him in a small tourist-tack shop on the island of Naxos where we spent the last two weeks of our trip. We’d been traveling for almost a month by the time we reached the island and decided that enough was enough, it was time to kick back and just relax.
There’s a whole story to tell about that journey – two teenage daughters and their 35 year-old mother, who had recently moved into her second trimester of this unexpected pregnancy, back-packing through  France, Italy and Greece in the adventure of a lifetime. I’ll get to that story soon – there are others vying for my attention before then.

Mr Fish has hung in Toby’s bedroom since the day he came home from hospital; every time we moved, Mr Fish has been carefully taken down, lovingly wrapped in tissue paper followed by an outer blanket of bubble-wrap. Then he would be unwrapped once again and placed in the window of Toby’s new bedroom. He’s been wrapped up seven times since the first time. His reassuring tinkling chime has chirruped every time the curtains have been opened each morning and again when they are closed in the evening. He has witnessed Toby’s entire life, so far.

But about two or three weeks ago, Toby brought him to me and said those words that mothers dread hearing.
‘Maybe, I’m too old for Mr Fish to be in my bedroom’.

Toby watched my face carefully as he made his suggestion. When he saw the tears well up in my eyes, he knew this was a step too far for me.

He smiled knowingly and then turned around and returned Mr Fish to his rightful place, keeping watch over his window, keeping watch over his life.

The First Day of Spring

You cannot have failed to have noticed, if you’re a regular reader of mine, that I am a tad impatient for the arrival of Spring, in all her finery. I just love this time of year -almost as much as I adore Summer (oh, believe me, my countdown has already begun!).

Mill Grange is a beautiful place to live, but most particularly when the trees in the front garden burst forth with blossom it is truly a magnificent sight. And when, like this morning, the sky is the purest azure, you simply have to stop and just admire Mother Nature and all of her wondrous gifts that we are offered. How beautiful it is today, the official first day of Spring.

And so, dear readers, today I’m letting the pictures speak for me. A thousand volumes per snap. Happy Spring to you!

What exquisite tiny flowers!

What exquisite tiny flowers!

Such pretty blossom in the sky so blue

Such pretty blossom in the sky so blue

Clear blue skies with blossom

Clear blue skies with blossom

Oh Daffoldil, you wear such a soft, cheery cloak.

Oh Daffoldil, you wear such a soft, cheery cloak.

And WHERE do you think YOU'VE been? (Cheers Audrey!)

And WHERE do you think YOU’VE been? (Cheers Audrey!)

The sheer mass of blossom is fantastic this year!

The sheer mass of blossom is fantastic this year!

Open Anenome!

Open Anenome!

The full glory of the blossom on the trees

The full glory of the blossom on the trees

Pink blossom on the bush right outside my front door

Pink blossom on the bush right outside my front door

Thank you Busy Bee for your continual efforts to pollinate my trees!

Thank you Busy Bee for your continual efforts to pollinate my trees!

Beware the Ides of March

As the Soothsayer foretold, poor Caesar should have listened.

Beware the Ides of March Caesar!

Beware the Ides of March Caesar!

I have a similar reason to note this particular date too. It’s funny but I hadn’t read Julius Caesar until I was in the Fourth Form – I was fourteen at the time. I remember Sister Maureen (all 6 foot of her) distributing copies with bright shining eyes – she adored a gripping page-turner and for her, Brutus’ betrayal ranked most highly as treacherous, murdering souls go, so a page-turner this most definitely was, for her at least.

As we read through Act I, Scene ii and we came across this most infamous line, she stopped and asked us if anyone knew what it was referring to. I had no idea, but raised my arm anyway. I’m an Hermione and always have been, eager to participate in every available moment for discussion, conversation or ‘q and a’ session. 

As usual, I was passed over at first as by this time, a whole term into the school year, almost all of my teachers had sussed this out about me. They usually asked someone else first, unless no-one had their hands up. I waited impatiently, waving my hand slightly to emphasize the fact that I had a contribution to make that was probably earth-shatteringly important and needed to be aired. Pick ME! PICK ME!!! I screamed, silently.

Finally, of course, she gave in and asked me to speak. I have no idea why I answered the question correctly, for I did not know anything about it, had never even heard the phrase before.

‘Is is the date Sister? The date being referred to as the Ides of March?’ I blethered, ‘Only, I don’t know what date that might be!’ I added, as a kind of apology at the end.

Sister Maureen paused momentarily before beaming benignly in my direction. There it was – my manna from heaven. I’ve always relished any kind of praise, wherever or whom-so-ever it comes from. I was happily basking in my glow of lionization and I almost missed the confirmation of the actual date.

‘Yes, Elizabeth, you’re correct! the date in question is the fifteenth of March.’ She beamed towards me.

Kerr-ang! Crash! Wallop! My reverie was literally shattered as this date, etched into my brain for almost ten months, the date I had remembered daily in all that time was apparently one and the same as that in which Caesar was being warned to avoid! I could not believe my ears.

For this was early January, 1976 and I was fourteen, learning to enjoy the convent boarding school where I had been dispatched to at the start of the school year. I had been an orphan for almost ten months, since that day, the previous year, when my mother had passed away.

For me, the Ides of March have always held this meaning. The day when my mother died. She was alone at the time, lying in her bed in a hospice. Abandoned by her family. By all three of the children she bore. By all who had loved her and lost.

Of course, as those of you who will read her story when I finally finish it will know, there were very good reasons for her loneliness.

But I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Dying alone.

And so, on this day, the Ides of March, I think of her and remember her. As I have done for thirty-nine years.

Maybe, reading this, you might think of her too. I’m sure she would appreciate it.

Thanks for reading.

 

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