New A0 Prints at Whosit & Whatsit


Just had to re-blog this, to publicise the wonderful biro drawing of Jane, a truly unique artist. Her prints and ceramic products are now available from the shop shown in the post. Ideal Christmas gifts!

Originally posted on Pictures of Lily:

A0 prints PR 300

P1640483A0 Limited Edition Archival Pigment Prints

November sees the launch of my new A0 image limited edition print series at prestigious home to independent cutting edge design Whosit & Whatsit, Newcastle upon Tyne. These unique large format archival pigment prints are of the finest quality, expertly crafted on 380g Hahnemuhle German Etching.  Each Biro drawing takes weeks and months to create and incorporates a multi-layered drawing technique. Extremely high resolution scans of the original Biro drawings capture every pen stroke, enhanced through these statement prints that allow the viewer to virtually step into the drawings. There are only 10 prints of each of the following drawings available, priced at £895 per print:

A0 prints PR 30 - Version 2

A0 prints PR 30 - Version 3

A0 prints PR 30 - Version 4

Fine English China Art Plates and Limited Edition 50 x 50cm Archival Pigment Prints

Also available to order from Whosit & Whatsit is my fine English china art plate series ‘In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia’, made in…

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The benefits of technology

I have written about my frustration with technology a few times before on this blog. Things invented to make life easier often have a tendency to make it more frustrating instead. We get so used to unfailing reliability that we lose all concept of how to fix things, if and when they go wrong. Just to make sure we cannot even try to do this, manufacturers incorporate new devices to make it impossible to access parts, or to even open the thing that isn’t working properly, whatever it is. The fear of ‘invalidating your warranty’ hinders even the simplest attempts at repair, and sealed plug units often mean that we can’t even change a fuse.

So why am I writing about this subject again?

This summer, Julie bought a new car. It is full of modern technology, most designed with safety in mind, as well as to provide a high level of convenience when actually driving. There are handy beepers when reversing, to stop you hitting something, and even a warning alarm, should you inadvertently drift across lanes on a busy road. Much of the general operation of this car is still the same as you would expect however, proving the old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Last weekend, an orange light illuminated on the instrument panel. It was a horseshoe-shape, with a worrying exclamation mark within. Looking in the owners’ manual, it seemed to refer to a ‘low tyre pressure warning.’ I say seemed to, as the manual covers every possible model available in this series, so is very confusing.

The next morning, in good light, I checked the tyre pressures, according to the recommendations. They all looked fine, and the use of a tyre compressor confirmed the settings were correct. The light remained on, so we contacted the manufacturer’s helpline. They went through some basic recommendations, sounding very much like they were reading from the same owners’ manual that was in front of us. The warning can be activated by many things, not just low tyre pressure. It can be effected by fluctuations of hot and cold, the road surfaces encountered, and even failure of the light itself. As a long-time driver, I can generally feel if the tyres are too soft, through the steering or cornering. Punctures are almost always immediately apparent too, and the noise from a flat tyre is sufficiently intrusive to act as a dire warning that something is wrong. In short, I can see little need for this additional warning device, and certainly have no idea of how it operates, and what technology is involved in transmitting information from the tyres to the instrument panel.

The dealer where we bought the car was very helpful. “Bring it in on Wednesday afternoon, and we will sort it out for you,” they told me. I left earlier today, and headed towards the north of Norwich city. Once on the busy A47, driving at speed, the light went out. What to do? Return home, and hope it doesn’t come on again, or carry on, and get it checked? I decided to carry on, hitting the early rush hour traffic, in a torrential rainstorm. It took over an hour to travel the twenty miles, and the mechanic immediately informed me that many other owners had been in with the same problem, which is caused by the recent drop in temperatures. Apparently, a drop of less that 2 psi in tyre pressure will activate the warning light, so it may well happen on numerous occasions in the future.

After a quick check of the tyres, I was on my way again, in less that ten minutes. I faced a return journey of almost an hour, in the heavier traffic that had built up by then. So, twenty miles each way, and the cost of the fuel, plus over two hours of my time. All for nothing.

Isn’t technology wonderful?

Weather: Taking it personally

I know, another moan about the weather. But you don’t have to read it…

Julie headed off to Norwich this morning, so I had an early lunch, then watched the news. The sun was so bright, I had to slide one half of the curtain over, to stop the reflection making the TV screen impossible to see. After catching up on world events, I decided to go out earlier with Ollie, and make the most of the bright afternoon.

I got ready, and chose to wear my short waterproof coat over a T-shirt, and take my trusty stick, instead of the umbrella. It seemed unlikely that I would need an umbrella. Not only was it bright enough to contemplate sunglasses, the BBC weatherman had predicted sunny periods for the east. As usual, Ollie was up for the walk, and we headed out to Beetley Meadows, me using one hand to shield my eyes from the sun. Emboldened by the conditions, I decided to head across to Hoe Rough, for a bigger walk.

As soon as were we through the gate, the sun disappeared. It was as if someone had switched off all light over Norfolk. It was as dark as evening, and almost other-worldly in feel. Then the rain came. There was no warning patter, no drop that says “I’m on my way,” just a deluge from out of nowhere. Torrential, icy, sleet-laden, and decidedly unpleasant. No point sheltering under the trees, as most of the leaves have gone now. The sodden ground turned to slick mud in seconds, and I soon had trouble staying upright. The sleet and hail was actually painful against my head and face, and the temperature dropped a few degrees in seconds.

Up ahead, Ollie was trotting along unconcerned, looking for all the world as if he was enjoying a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, on a warm July afternoon. I caught up with him, but by now I was having trouble seeing, as the water cascaded down my head into my eyes, stinging them with the cold. I rested against a tree trunk for a while, hoping the ‘shower’ would pass, and cursing the smug BBC weatherman for his impish forecasting. I am sure that they secretly know roughly what time I go out with Ollie, and deliver false predictions to catch me out.

Of course, it didn’t pass. It just rained harder. The coat was keeping my body dry, but my legs were soaked, so I just carried on. At the riverside, I had to hold onto the wire fence to stop from slipping over, so I headed back to the thicker clumps of grass in the centre. The ground around these was strangely spongy, so it was like walking on the mattress of a bed, wearing heavy rubber boots. This is very disconcerting, I can assure you. After seventy-five minutes of this torture, I had seen enough, and turned for home. Ollie would have to lose out on forty minutes or so of his walk, or there was a good chance that I would take a tumble, and spend the night on Hoe Rough.

As I got back and opened the side gate, the rain stopped. By the time I was in the house, changed and dried off, the light from the setting sun was illuminating the street. I shook an angry fist at the sky, and cast a spell on all weather presenters.

Is it any wonder I take it so personally?

Significant Songs (95)

The Time Is Now

I have written about this song before. It was on one of my early music posts, Pete’s Playlist 1. This song has considerable significance to me, for a few different reasons. When it was released in March 2000, I had just moved to a flat in Camden. I was 48 years old, and at the end of a crumbling relationship. It was my third move in less than three years, but it had some positives, as I was now back in central London, and closer to most of the things that I enjoyed doing, as well as an easier commute to work.

Moloko was a pop and dance band, with electronic overtones, and had enjoyed some previous success. The mainstay of their records was the outstanding vocals provided by the Irish chanteuse, Roisin Murphy. Her plaintive tones gave a distinctive feel to anything they released, and made it instantly recognisable too. As soon as I heard it on the car radio, I knew who it was, and bought the CD single within a few days. I was a little lost at the time, and the sentiments of the lyrics seemed more than appropriate.

In the November of that year, I met Julie, and we often played this song when we were together. For both of us at the time, the title seemed very pertinent. I still love this song today, as much as ever.

Tangible memories

Do you ever get struck by memories that you are sure you can feel, or even taste? Perhaps it’s an age thing, but I find myself experiencing these a lot more these days. The following examples are all real events or moments from my life and they keep returning to my thoughts, often stopping me in my tracks, as if I am going through them all over again.

The heat of a summer pavement through a pair of shorts. I am seven or eight years old, sitting on a kerb in London, and I feel hot. The warmed stone is like perching on the top of an oven; the heat on the back of my legs is bearable, but I feel the need to stand up.

In a class at school, perhaps twelve years old. I know the answers to the questions the teacher is asking, but I am conscious that many of my classmates do not. I hold back, not wanting to appear smart, or to be a know-all. The teacher gives up, and turns to me. “I know you know” she says, “why don’t you answer?” Some of the other kids look at me. My ruse has failed.

In a Wimpy Bar, in a South London shopping street, aged around fourteen. The smell of onions is almost overwhelming, and the rasp of the machine that froths the coffee drowns out conversation. I take a bite from the burger, and I can taste the unfamiliar meat, and the burnt sections at the ends of the onion. The food leaves my lips greasy, in a good way.

Almost eighteen, and had far too much alcohol to drink. I am staying at the house of a friend, and when I go to bed, the room spins, and I keep sitting up, afraid of what might happen. I feel that I have no control over my mind or body, and it is a very disconcerting thing indeed.

Thirty-three years old. I am in a car, asleep in the passenger seat. We are returning from Scotland, and my ex-wife is driving. Something makes her leave the motorway at speed, and the car hits the bank and overturns. I wake up, upside down, and screaming in fear. The car impacts with the road, and turns over again. The noise of the crash, followed by the scraping sound as it slides along the carriageway. Then silence.

Perhaps a year later. I am in an unfamiliar bedroom, working as part of an emergency ambulance crew. The woman on the bed is naked from the waist down, and about to give birth to a baby. Her husband, mother, sister, and another child are also in the room. I have the equipment laid out around me, and my colleague has gone to collect a midwife, as no spare vehicles are available. She starts to bear down, and the baby’s legs come out first. Everyone in the room looks at me. They are certain I will know what to do, and unconcerned about the fact that anything could go wrong. It all worked out OK, but I can still smell that bedroom.

I am alone in my flat in London, it is March 2012. I have not long returned from visiting my Mum in hospital. The flat is full of boxes, as I am moving to Norfolk soon. Sitting up late, the phone rings. It is a nurse, telling me that Mum has died. He asks me if I want to come back and see her. It is past 1.30 in the morning, so I say no. I had a mixture of feelings, hovering between heartbreak, and relief.

These and many other moments can return at will. Sometimes they are accompanied by tastes or smells, usually just the feeling I experienced at the time. They can hit you with some impact, or just make you feel uneasy. I have only noticed them since living here. Maybe I have too much time to think.

The shrinking countryside

When you drive around any country area in England, you could be forgiven for thinking that you are surrounded by delightful places to explore, to enjoy walks with your dog, or relax with a picnic. Sadly, you would be wrong, at least most of the time. Land is almost always owned by someone, with access limited, and boundaries fenced against intruders. Public footpaths are plentiful of course, especially across arable land, or through woodland. However, they are often poorly maintained, and in some cases, deliberately obscured.

Here in Beetley, we are lucky to enjoy a choice of nearby areas with public access. There may be restrictions concerning animals, rare plants or fauna, and by-laws forbidding removal of wood or plants. But these are all fairly applied, and generally make good sense. We can enjoy the nearby open spaces of Beetley Meadows and Hoe Rough, or walk a little further to Beetley Common, Hoe Common, or the Recreation Ground, in High House Road. The Wensum Way is also easily accessed, with the path running through farms in the direction of Dillington.

Stray from the designated paths though, and you will soon discover a farmer or gamekeeper has appeared, seemingly from out of nowhere. They will fiercely enforce their rights of way, private areas, and protection of crops or animals. Fair enough. They own the land, raise the crops and animals, generally work hard in unpleasant conditions, and just want to secure their investments. It’s not a big deal, as there are plenty of other places to walk, or to exercise your dog.

But things are changing.

Today, I set off with Ollie for the Recreation Ground, and the adjoining woodland. Ollie loves to chase the squirrels there, giving us two hours of harmless fun. We never venture into any private land or gardens, and make sure not to disturb anyone’s privacy in the nearby houses. As I arrived at one of the entrances to the woods today, I saw a large sign had been erected. It bore the words ‘KEEP OUT. PRIVATE PROPERTY.’ I presumed this applied to the house alongside the path, as it has a substantial workshop at the rear, and access to it is easy. I carried on into the woods, where I was surprised to see more of the same signs dotted at random, close to the obvious paths.

I began to wonder if the woods had been recently purchased by someone, as there had been no trace of these signs previously. There seemed to be no good reason why anyone would buy these woods. They cannot be built on, and are unsuitable for any agriculture, or animal husbandry. The trees are either subject to preservation orders, or they are flimsy affairs, without a great deal of substance; so forestry is hardly an option. I saw a sign further on, with different words. ‘IF THESE SIGNS KEEP BEING REMOVED WE WILL FENCE IN OUR BOUNDRYS.’ (sic) It seems that they are serious, even if they are unable to spell boundaries. Fencing this large area, even with posts and wire, would be a considerable expense. It hardly seems worth it, to keep out a few respectable dog-walkers, and their excited animals, as no harm is ever done there. Vandalism is unknown, though there have been some episodes of fly-tipping in the past. There is nothing other than wood to steal there, and anyone intent on either illegal tipping, or theft of wood, is unlikely to be put off by some wire fences.

I carried on with the walk, until I met a fellow dog-walker, with a friendly Spaniel. I asked her if she knew why the signs had gone up, and I was taken aback by her reply. It seems that a large section of the woodland is owned by a local farm, just across from the entrance. It is a well-known farm in the region, raising beef cattle of a high quality, and it once had a shop where you could buy the meat too. She informed me that the old farmer had died recently, and the farm and all the land owned by it has been handed down to the son of the family, who lives in a large house built next door. He wants to continue with the cattle, and has been looking into all the paperwork and deeds, that go back hundreds of years. He obviously wants to be fully aware of his responsibilities, and to get a good overview of just what he has taken on.

He has been advised that he will require Public Liability Insurance for the stretches of woodland where the public has previously been allowed access. Should someone have an accident; fall over, be hit by a falling tree, trip over a root, or otherwise come to grief, it will be his responsibility, in law. He could be sued, and end up having to pay out a great deal of money, just for letting someone walk their dog. The lady went on to tell me that the cost of this insurance would be prohibitive to the farmer, leaving him with just one option, to close off his portion of the woods to the public by erecting signs. At least this way, nobody would be able to claim, as they would have been knowingly walking on private land, and would have been told to ‘KEEP OUT,’ by the signs.

So it seems that litigation is now affecting access to the countryside too. Surely someone would not claim against a landowner for falling over, when walking their dog? But they might, they just might.

Significant Songs (94)

Just A Little

Despite many years spent pontificating about the musical greats, the Jazz giants, the old-time Blues artists, and various torch-song divas, I do allow a little mindless pop music into my life now and again. The odd song that doesn’t need thinking about, require analysis, and isn’t struggling for its place in the history of modern music. As with many others recently, a television advertisement brought this one back into my consciousness, and reminded me just how much I liked it at the time. As someone who takes his music very seriously, I suppose that I should be writing this with a tinge of embarrassment, perhaps even an advance apology. No need. It’s just a fun pop song, and I am not claiming it is anything but.

The three women and two men who made up the group Liberty were the losers in a television talent contest called ‘Popstars.’ They formed the group in 2001, then had to change the name to Liberty X, when challenged by an existing group named Liberty. Like many ‘losers’ they actually did better than the winners, (the group Hear’Say) with significant sales of their debut album, released in 2002. By 2005, they were no longer that popular, and had already been dropped by one record label. They formally split in 2007, but have since reunited for occasional tours with groups from the same era.

This song was from that debut album, and had considerable success around the world. It represents a certain kind of forgettable chart music that was very popular at the time. But it won’t hurt you, and it doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t.