"Earth’s distant orb appeared the smallest light that twinkles in the heaven; whilst round the chariot’s way innumerable systems rolled and countless spheres diffused an ever-varying glory. It was a sight of wonder: some were hornèd like the crescent moon; some shed a mild and silver beam like Hesperus o'er the western sea; some dashed athwart with trains of flame, like worlds to death and ruin driven; some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed, eclipsed all other light." From "Queen Mab" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1813)
Thursday, 27 May 2010
Suggested listening: "Kittyhawk" by Santa Dog.
Tuesday, 25 May 2010
When I started this picture it was meant to be another red, white and black painting but after completing the border I got the idea of doing a skull made of fire, so threw out the original idea and just went for it. It’s acrylic on canvas, 36cm x 45cm. This might be the last painting I post for a while as I start the new day job next week.
Monday, 24 May 2010
Also, I’ve just discovered that there was a short silent Western made in 1912 called “The Cactus County Lawyer” staring an actor called George Gebhardt. More recently, there appears to be a stage musical called “Trouble In Cactus County” (if you follow this link then click on 'past shows' then click on 'Trouble In Cactus County' you can read a synopsis of the show plus there's a photo from it) written by Ken Starcevic with songs by Simon D'Souza. One of the characters is called Carlotta Del Rio, which is quite brilliant. I think both Ms Del Rio and Mr Gebhardt may find themselves named checked in a future written piece to accompany a painting by way of a tribute.
Friday, 21 May 2010
Next up "Calavera With Small Bird" which is acrylic on wood rather than canvas, 24.5cm x 28cm. This is one of my favourites. I think for once I managed to paint the skull I wanted. They don’t usually turn out quite like I plan but this one is pretty close.
Now a couple of small pictures in metal frames. I got the frames from a charity shop and they kind of suggested the paintings that needed to be in them. Here are the results.
And finally for the moment another deer painting "Deer Licking A Daisy" and is acrylic on wood, 13cm x 15cm. I must have a go at painting a whole deer not just its head but that’s a painting for another time. I hope there’s something here you like, check out my Flickr site, you may find something you like there, if not here.
Wednesday, 19 May 2010
So let’s see if I’ve got this right. The only way I got my results was for me to make a series of phone calls at my own expense after having to wait, on what we are all agreed is, an unacceptable time, during which I’ve been worried sick. Now for you to make sure this doesn’t happen again, it’s down to me, again. Have I got that right? Yes.
At this point I’m afraid the stress of the whole nine weeks since the MRI and the four weeks prior to this when my GP, sorry, former GP, had put the wind up me by talking about tumours in the first place, well, it all got to me and I had a bit of a go at the woman from complaints. No, I wasn’t going to do anything else, as far as I was concerned they already knew all the facts and should look into it without my further involvement. What if my results hadn’t been normal? What if that two months delay was the difference between life and death? Why should it be up to me to do more when they themselves could just find out which idiot or what poor procedure was responsible? No, I’m not prepared to put myself out anymore. I’ll leave it for some other poor sod to have his results delayed two months and let his grieving relatives make the complaint instead. Like I said, I lost it a bit.
Having checked online, it looks like the complaints procedure is a bit involved, so I just left a comment on the BRI website comments page instead. I know that such comments are ignored by the NHS as there was a programme about it on Radio 4 recently but I feel like I’ve got something out of my system, if not what is ailing me in the first place.
This all started with my homeopathic dispensing GP and his less than encouraging initial diagnosis. I’ve now discovered another GP’s surgery close to my home, so I’m going to change my GP. I would now like to point you in the direction of my friend Tessa’s recent blog which is definitely worth a read.
I have an appointment with another neurologist next month. Hopefully, this one will have some ideas about what’s wrong with my foot that don’t include me being at deaths door. We’ll see but for now I’m feeling very relieved. I can start listening to long playing records again and not stick to reading just short stories.
Sunday, 16 May 2010
As you see they are pretty random. The intention is to use individual cards in various collages with other odds and ends but I think they look pretty good all together like this. I’ll end up doing something with them though, it just needs a bit of thought. That’s one of the things I’ve discovered about making art is that there is an awful lot of thinking involved. I can stare at a piece I’m working on for ages thinking about the next step. It may seem like I’m just throwing paint at a canvas sometime but honestly, I do have to think about it. Anyway, with these cards I also got this lot...
It says on the back that they are “fortune telling” cards which obviously is just nonsense but they are rather nice drawings don’t you think? They’re the same size as the other cigarette cards so quite small. Again, I was thinking of using them as part of a collage and I’ll let Mrs Kitsch have some if she wants to use them too.
I particularly like these ones above. Now let’s take a look at some of the space playing cards I got.
This is just a few of them. They’re from the Heritage series on space exploration and I like the fact that it’s pretty much up to date with drawings of the International Space Station, Spaceship One and ESA’s Planck & Herschel space observatories along with the usual space race suspects. It probably comes as no surprise to hear that I have another set of different space playing cards specifically on the race to the moon, so I thought I’d include a few pictures of them here as well.
As you see, I keep them in a display wallet where they have now been joined by the new set of cards I’ve just bought. No they are not for playing cards with, are you mad?
There was a bit of space (no pun intended) at the end of the wallet so I filled it up with some other cards (above) that Mrs Kitsch got me a while back. I think they must come from some sort of game. They look pretty old and I like them a lot. Space is ace.
Anyway, to celebrate our twenty one years of unwedded bliss we exchanged gifts, and here’s the fantastic presents I received (she must really love me).
What you are looking at here is “The First Book Of Space Travel”; “The Letters Of Pliny The Younger”; “Encounter With Tiber” written by Buzz Aldrin; and a set of Apollo postcards.
“The First Book Of Space Travel” is an American book published in 1953 before the space race had really begun and well before men were sealed into capsules and sent aloft. It’s obviously a children’s book but has some charming illustrations as you can see...
Quite brilliant. I’m gaining quite a collection of early space books as well as those relating more directly to the Apollo period. I like their optimism and expectation; it’s a shame things didn’t work out like they thought. I’d be writing this from my spaceship on the moon if they had. Regular readers of this blog may recall that as well as a thing for space, I’m also quite keen on things Roman and have been after a book of Pliny the Younger’s letters for a while now. What’s that all about then?
I was watching a documentary on TV about the destruction of Pompeii some years ago in which they mentioned that in one of Pliny’s letters he gives his own eye witness account of seeing the eruption of mount Vesuvius. In it he describes a pyroclastic flow, possibly the first description of such an event. In fact, if I recall the documentary accurately, they said that his description was regarded as exaggeration until pyroclastic flows had been studied in modern times and everything he wrote about was then vindicated. I’ve had it in mind to read that description ever since but not really got round to it. Recently I decided it was time to get hold of a copy of Plinys letters and find out more not just about the volcano but also about Pliny. It’s one of those names you hear of but don’t know anything about who he was. I could have bought a new copy of the book but wanted to get it second hand. However, despite a rather extensive search I’ve not come across a copy. Mrs Kitsch did though and I’m chuffed with it.
Another thing I’m always on the lookout for are space race postcards. I haven’t seen many, it’s not the sort of thing that turns up in charity shops, you have to go to specialist postcard fairs for them, and even I’m not that sad yet, or E-bay, which is where Mrs Kitsch found these top quality items.
Fantastic. But I’ve saved the best till last.
This book “Encounter With Tiber” written by Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes, is a science fiction novel. I knew Aldrin had written one, in fact he and Barnes have written a couple, the other one is called “The Return”. It’s another of the many, many space books on my “to get/read” list so I was chuffed when I opened the package and saw what it was. Nice one Mrs Kitsch. But then, as I was thumbing through it, what did I see but...
Oh yes. It is a signed copy!!! A book written AND SIGNED by a man who went to the moon. THE MOON! I was actually speechless when I saw this. I couldn’t manage to say any real words, I just made noises. I’m still a bit stunned and extremely pleased. Is it any wonder I love this woman as much as I do? I hope she liked my meagre offerings. The thing is, and forgive my sentimentality here, the best present is the fact that she still loves me after twenty one years. I’m a very fortunate man.
Saturday, 15 May 2010
As a species, we’re constantly look for patterns in things, it’s how we learnt to hunt animals and find other food, avoid predators, figure out the seasons, work out a social order, all that kind of thing. This seeking for patterns is also responsible for getting a lot of superstitions and religions started, mistakenly seeing patterns where actually there aren’t any and filling in the gaps to make sense of it all. Unfortunately, some people are still doing exactly that today even at the expense of logic and rational thought. Anyway, before I go off on too much of a tangent...
Think about it, doing a jig-saw is about finding patterns, filling in the gaps, completing a picture to make sense of it. And once you get started not completing it just seems wrong and wrong at a very deep level. And then there’s that slight sense of anticlimax when the picture is completed. I think that’s because instead of a dead mammoth at our feet we’ve ended up with a picture of some kittens, or a ship, or a landscape, or maybe a dead mammoth if that’s what it’s a jig-saw of, but it’s not food to last the tribe a month. You know, I do think I might be on to something here.
Anyway, whatever it is, Mrs Kitsch and I have been doing a few jig-saws of late and here’s the latest one, another map, this time of the British Isles and Ireland. And only two pieces missing.
I didn’t take a picture of the jig-saw of two kittens we did last week but that’s all the excuse I need to do that one again. And while out charity shop shopping yesterday I bought another kitten jig-saw, this time larger and with even more kittens on it, so no doubt I’ll be blogging about that one at some time or another. And before you start judging us, think about how you spend your leisure time - or possibly time when you should be doing something useful - reading the letters page of the Radio Times, watching grown men kicking a ball about on the telly, sleeping on the couch during Question Time. That’s right, not feeling so superior now are we?
Sunday, 9 May 2010
Wendt was born and educated in Berlin, was a flight engineer flying with the Luftwaffe during WWII, becoming an American citizen in 1955 when he got a job with McDonnell Aircraft that led him to work in the space programme. Strict but good humoured, Wendt was popular with the astronauts who appreciated that his authoritarian management in the White Room was in their interest. The astronauts nick named him “Pad Führer” and would exchange joke gifts before a space flight; the Apollo 14 crew presented him with a WWII German military helmet before their flight to the moon.
He sounds like he was a great guy, someone who did his job to the best of his ability but also knew how to treat people. He was there practically from the start of the space race through Mercury, Gemini and Apollo and the story of mankind’s greatest achievement would be incomplete without his part in it being taken into account. He was 85 when he died and it appears he led a good and fulfilled life, which is probably the best any of us can hope for. I’m sorry to hear of his death but will drink a toast to his life at the next opportunity.
You can read more about Guenter here, here and here. His official website can be found here.
However, a much more detailed account of his critical involvement with the space programme can be found in his memoires "The Unbroken Chain", which he co wrote with Russell Still and is also on my must get list.
Wednesday, 5 May 2010
After speaking to a human being this time I was told he would chase it up but I could try ringing the neurologist’s secretary myself as that might speed things up. He gave me the number but when I rang of course it was an answer phone. However, she did call me back within an hour or so, apologised that nothing had been done and said she would chase it up. Could she not just give me the results over the phone? No, it looks like no-one has bothered to even look at the scan results. She suggested I make a complaint to the hospital as that might speed things up. Wouldn’t they just sort it out without my making a complaint, surely if no-one has bothered looking at my scans after all this time, wouldn’t I just jump to the front of the queue? Apparently not, apparently making a complaint is the best thing to do. She gave me a number which I rang and of course it was an answer machine.
So I’ve left a message saying I didn’t really want to complain, that all I want are my test results but that if I have to make a complaint to get them, then I was prepared to do that. So, I’m still waiting. I first went to the doctor about this in February and it’s now May. It’s a good job I’m not in a lot of pain.
On the plus side, and if I live long enough, l start my new job on June 1st getting gigs and events streamed over the internet. I’m not entirely sure of all my duties but it’s a three month trial and if I haven’t picked it up by that time there’s always selling the Big Issue to fall back on. Or I might be in intensive care by then.
Sunday, 2 May 2010
It would be great if we lived in a socialist republic, I would vote for that but even the Labour Party aren’t fighting for that any more, which is a great shame. So what choice do we have as electors?
The Labour Party had it all going for them back in ‘97, an overwhelming majority that meant they could pass any laws they wanted and push through policies that would make our society more equal and fair but it simply hasn’t happened. Here’s an interesting fact for you, every Labour government has reduced the gap between rich and poor, all be it very, very slightly in some cases but they’ve all done it, everyone one of them from the first Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald right up to the Callaghan government of the 1970’s. It’s not until we get to the Blair government that it stops. He made that gap bigger not smaller, the only Labour Prime Minister to actually make the gap between the rich and poor in our society worse. How’s that for a legacy Tony? I simply don’t know if Brown has been able to reverse this, however I suspect not. And then there is the war in Iraq. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!
However, voting Labour would still be preferable to voting Conservative. I simply do not need to explain that one, it’s a no-brainer but if you do need it explaining then just Google “the ‘80’s” and see what a mess they made of it. My parents of course don’t see it that way, but then they are devoted Daily Mail readers and have had their minds warped to such a degree that they see a more equal society posing a greater threat to us all than global climate change.
And while both Labour and Tory see religion as bringing society together (I wish they’d point out the stats on that one I’d love to see them) the Liberals have a more secular view on many issues. Not entirely of course, we haven’t reached the stage of human development where it is safe for a leader of a political party in the UK to say religion is divisive by its very nature, generally homophobic and simply illogical and counter to all evidence based argument. Clegg failed to take that opportunity on PM on Radio 4 recently when Eddie Mair asked him about religion. What a shame. Still, one day, hopefully.
And while Labour maybe tainted with some religious bias and be somewhat anti-evidence (you only have to look at the way Labour acted over the sacking of Professor David Nutt, the government's chief drug adviser), the Tories are positively infected with candidates who are Christian extremists. How can that be a good thing? The Liberals on the other hand have shown their secular colours at times, tend to go with evidence based policies and are much more open about equality and similar issues. I don’t think for one minute that they would lead us into a new dawn of sleaze free politics and have everything rosey in the garden. Politicians of all colours seem to be able to do just one thing consistently and that is to let us down. But if it is a choice between the Tories taking us back to the dark ages and more of the same fumbling from issue to issue by Labour, then I for one am willing to give the Liberals a go to see what they can do. They simply can not do a worse job than the other two.
But mostly, wouldn’t you just love to see the faces of both Brown and Cameron on Friday 7th May after they had both lost out to Clegg? That alone is worth my vote. Come on people, do the right thing, you know you want to. We’ll never have a better opportunity.
Suggested listening: “Vote Hacksaw” by Hacksaw.
Vintage isn’t just antique, it has to be lovely and charming and more often than not very, very kitsch; ornaments, pictures, china, toys, books, clothes and fabric, a lot of fabric. It’s often items that you or your family used to have, or that remind you of things you had, as a child. Sometimes it’s that particular thing you used to look at with envious eyes; the toy in the toyshop; the little china dog on your Nan’s mantelpiece; the doll your next door neighbour had that your Mum wouldn’t get you (obviously, in my case the “doll” was Major Matt Mason’s arch enemy Scorpio but you don’t see Major Matt Mason or any of his colleague or indeed his arch enemy at V&H fairs unfortunately); so, it can be stuff you always wanted when you were younger but you never got. By its very nature vintage takes you back, quite often its items from the 1950’s, ‘60's and ‘70’s but people of our age now have to come to terms with the fact that vintage can sometimes mean things from the 1980's too, which comes as a bit of a shock at first. Anyway, that’s vintage but what about handmade?
You’ve probably seen those shops full of lovely things, nice little knick-knacks that you’d love to have but often can’t find an excuse to buy for yourself. So sometimes you and I, I’m not immune, venture into these shops looking for gifts for someone else. Sometimes end up buying a thing that you like, but not necessarily a thing that the giftee would like, so in effect it’s like buying a thing for yourself and keeping it at your friends house, which is fair enough as don’t friends sometimes do exactly the same? I think you’ll find they do. Well, the handmade side of V&H includes a lot of those kinds of items, often extremely well made and quite beautiful. They can range from simple craft items to works of art in their own right. There are a lot of talented women, and it is mostly women, out there doing really superb work.
The world of V&H combines the best of both of the above; lovingly selected vintage items sold alongside beautifully made things, all on the same table. If there is one word that sums up V&H for me it would be nice. Nice is something of an underrated concept. I like nice; a nice cup of tea; a nice cuddle; a nice time; yes, I like nice and V&H is nice; nice people with nice things for sale.
Mrs Kitsch (that's her lovely table above) and I used to do a lot of craft fairs, which I think is a very different scene to V&H. I’ve now attended a number of V&H fairs and often see something I would love to have or maybe I spot something that is particularly beautiful. Whereas, I’ve been to a lot of craft fairs where I haven’t seen one single item that interests me, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that V&H is like a craft fair, they are not the same.
As I said, it’s mostly women that do V&H and they’re also different to the craft crowd. Some of them are just a little a bit dotty it has to be said but frankly that’s not an unattractive quality in my book. Their wardrobe is also much better than the craft lot; lovely vintage dresses or things made from vintage fabric as opposed to the aged hippy look. This goes for the women that attend the fairs as much as the women who take part in them.
And because everything on everyone’s tables is so lovely (a fine example above being the pin cushions that Mrs Kitsch makes using tiny vintage ornaments), they all end up spending money on each other’s stalls, coming away from each fair with new things for the home, or materials for the next art project, or just something to sell on their own table next time. It’s recycling taken to a whole different level.
I love going to these events. I have to be very strong and not buy up loads of stuff myself, but you also meet such lovely people. One woman who had a table next to us was called Claire, she lives in Kent and she knows Billy Childish! Her son is best friends with his son. Apparently, Billy Childish does wear those World War 1 clothes most of the time. Brilliant. Then we sold this fantastic old jigsaw puzzle to a woman who works at the American Museum in Bath, a place Mrs Kitsch and I love to visit, so we chattered to her for a bit too. You might even see our jigsaw puzzle (a brilliant 1950’s map of North America with Canada highlighted in “empire red”) at the museum at some point in the future. How brilliant is that? Very, is the answer.
I’m not sure anyone makes much of a living from V&H fairs, even on a good day no one is going to get rich. Even doing a lot of fairs and having other outlets, like Etsy, especially in today’s economic climate. But then so many worthwhile things don’t make much or even any money, at least that’s my experience. And the V&H fairs are worthwhile, not just for the obviously pleasure that most of the participants get out of it, but also for the many people who attend them and purchase that something special, something you simply can’t get in a shop in the high street and certainly not in a shopping mall. They’re also an outlet and showcase for some very talented artists and creative types. So three good old fashioned cheers for the vintage and handmade fair.
Recommended blogs to find out more about V&H: vintageandhandmade.blogspot.com and kitschandcurious.blogspot.com