Thursday, December 18, 2008

all about bird skulls

It's been quite difficult to work in the workshops over the past few weeks as we've had no access to gas for normal soldering operations and have been forced to work only with the PUK spark-welder and a hydrogen-oxygen micro-welder.

I decided to start playing around with some ideas for the "Global Jewellery Challenge" which is a Flickr-based project for jewellers around the world. The next challenge is to make something based on bird skulls. Loads of research and drawings later, I came up with some ideas which were arrived at largely from the fact that I can neither anneal or solder large sections of metal.

The first piece was made from found plastic:

<Bird Skull Piece 6

This came from a pattern I made in paper and the main form is "folded" together by heating the plastic with a hairdryer and then forming it over clay. The pattern for this works so well that I also made one in silver, much smaller:

Silver Bird Skull Brooch 4

I really like both of these pieces and especially like the small silver skull, set with a very fine sapphire and a spessartine garnet.

That is all I'll be making before the first week in January as it is now holiday time!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

when christmas trees go bad

Originally uploaded by rj.tempest

I found this on Flickr.
It is what I want my christmas to be like.



Saturday, December 13, 2008

Richter and more

Went to Edinburgh today to see the Gerhard Richter exhibition. It is a fairly small show of works at the National Gallery which have been borrowed from private collections and is well worth seeing as it contains three three which I think are probably the most beautiful paintings I have ever seen, "Skull", "Skull With Candle" and "Candle".

I've been aware of Richter's work for some years and have really liked the pieces I've seen, mostly his earlier works and mostly figurative or landscape. Not so keen on the abstracts, however!

The weather has been miserable, cold and wet here, so it was a bit disappointing to find it the same in the normally dry Edinburgh.

Met up with Mark but festive happenings meant that we didn't have much time to chat.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

long time waiting

What a few weeks!
Most importantly, I'm now in the new workshops and they are lovely. Not quite complete, but getting there. It's been hectic beyond belief and there are still things to be moved - the plants from the old workshop, mainly - but it is looking great. I will post some pictures soon.

Managed to break my finger by trapping it between a box and the door. Not so good. Fortunately, it is my little finger on my right hand, possibly the least important of my fingers!

As I have no means of soldering, my current project is to make a piece for the "Bird Skull Challenge" entirely from cold connections. I started cutting the materials to make a "folded" bird skull from white PVC plastic sheet I found in a sign-maker's skip years ago.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Gay Bee!

A Gay Bee!
Originally uploaded by Dingo X

Here is the Gay Bee, posted by Dingo. We found this lying in the street some time ago and I think he might be related to the stupid bee!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Crazy Bee

Crazy Bee
Originally uploaded by the justified sinner

The brother of the gay bee - found in Brighton - was lying on the street in Dennistoun, looking dazed. I think he might have flown into a window, poor thing.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I've just completed the "Post-apocalyptic Cocktail Ring III":

Post-Apocalyptic Cocktail Ring III, 3

This gave me a headache whilst setting all the stones, largely because of the problems of setting the main stone directly into the steel.

This is going to be photographed professionally for submission to a book.

I'm delighted to hear that America made the right decision and voted for Barack Obama. There is no further comment needed on that. What does deserve comment is the humble, intelligent, gracious speech given by the defeated John McCain. It is worth looking up and reading or hearing. How brilliant it would be if all our polticians - whichever country, whatever party - could be this diplomatic.

With any luck, we will never see that harpy, Palin, ever again! (I'm not so gracious...)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voice of the Xtabay

Alas, Yma Sumac is with us no more. She died yesterday, age 86.
I never had the chance to hear her live - her tour of Europe in the late eighties or early nineties was cancelled due to the collapse of the pound and after that she became reclusive and ill.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Post-Apocalyptic Rings (and other works)

I'm in a very contented frame of mind at the moment, quietly pleased with my recent few pieces of work, which I think are some of my best pieces. Today I completed two rings which I started months ago, the "Post-apocalyptic Cocktail Rings":

Cocktail Ring For The Post-Apocalyptic Cocktail Party 1

Cocktail Ring For The Post-Apocalyptic Cocktail Party 7

And the collar, "Blue Sunset On The Grey Lagoon":

Blue Sunset On The Grey Lagoon 11

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dauvit For Obama!

What a funny thing happened today.
I got a mail from a friend in the US, saying that he had found this pro-Democrat button badge:

This same button badge was on sale on the Democrat website. Using an excerpt of my image:

Steampunk Goggles, 16/01/08, 4

In a way, I was really proud that I had done my bit, but in another way, I was pretty pissed off that they were using my image without crediting it in any way, especially as it was released under a Creative Commons license and was available to use freely with the proviso of accreditation.

I contacted the site and pointed out what they had done, granting them permission to use the image provided they linked back to the original image on Flickr; sadly, they chose to pull the product completely.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Everyone Hates Estate Agents!

It's true. My worries about the global recession are immeasurably lightened by the gleeful news that estate agents everywhere are losing their jobs.

Evidently, other people feel the same way:

Kredit Krunch

Seen in Hove. I cannot wait until the world is rid of their stupid haircuts, cheap suits, fake tans and advertising-plastered Smart cars and minis. Perhaps they might now be forced to become honest and useful members of society. Or maybe they will ply their "trade" by dealing in drugs. It takes about as much skill and integrity.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Carla Bruni Revisited

I've been listening to the two Carla Bruni albums last night and today. She really is marvellous. Her first album is in English, which doesn't really work on the "smoky chanteuse" level, but she does sound really like the singer from Nouvelle Vague, which is no bad thing. The material isn't as strong as on the French - second - album, but it is still excellent.

I still can't get over the French president being married to a chic chanteuse!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Busy again...

I am just too busy to post properly at the moment, what with moving the workshops to the new building, orders going out to customers and voluntary work.

I finished the first pieces made from discarded sewing-machine needles:

Vicious 11

Vicious 8

Vicious 7

I am very, very pleased with this. What the photographs don't show is the lovely way in which it moves. One of my colleagues described it as being "like fur".

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Too busy

I have just been too busy to put any posts up here. There has been SO much going on too. In addition to making up a couple of commissions for a customer, I've been given a whole batch of sewing machine needles which are no longer of any use, so have been working on a piece based on them. I found that they solder really nicely:

Vicious (WIP)

With any luck, I should get a picture up here tomorrow.

Also of interest to jewellers is Dorothy Hogg's Blog at the V&A.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


No matter how annoying the French get they still always manage to pull something truly chic out of their chapeaux. This morning, I found the website of the singer Carla Bruni, no less than the wife of President Sarkosy. The tabloid press were full of how she was a model and they huffed with hypocritical scandalised mutterings about how Mr Sarkosy had left his wife for her. What they failed to tell was that she is a quite marvellous chanteuse in the best of that French tradition, a woman with a creative life of her own.

What do we get? Dennis Thatcher, Norma Major, Cherie Blair and Sarah Brown.
Cherie Blair sings?

On her website there are some all-too-short samples of Ms Bruni singing.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Clearing Out

It's been an odd week. We have got to pack up and move our workshops. The moving takes place in the middle of October: the packing happens now. It's been interesting to go through old cupboards, finding things I worked on in the past and which now seem so hopelessly unimaginative. I suppose that most of the pieces were experimental in nature, so I can't be blamed. It took a long time to find a style which suits. Anyhow, I've put everything up for sale at bargain prices on Etsy.

The things that you find!
I forgot about this trophy. I will make no comment on the engraving. The mind boggles:


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

2000 Years of Mental Torture...

There is something deeply worrying about the fact that anyone, let alone a majority at the American Republican convention, can think that Sarah Palin would be suitable for any level of politics, let alone the position of to the would-be president.
How can someone who actually believes that the world was created a mere 5000 years ago - in the face of all the evidence to the contrary - be taken seriously? She doesn't believe in evolution; she wants creationism taught in schools; she believes that abortion is absolutely wrong in all cases; she wants to ban the pill and condoms on the grounds that they are de facto abortion...

This woman is possibly even more stupid than G.W. Bush.
And potentially more dangerous.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

There's GOLD in them, thar hills!

What an excellent day. (Overall, bad weather and "christians" aside: more later!)
I went to Cononish, to the disused goldmine there which has never produced a single gram of commercial gold. It is just to the South West of Tyndrum in some very striking and wild countryside. In some ways, it is a bit surprising that the project was allowed to go ahead in the way it did as it is a complete blot on the landscape:

Cononish Gold Mine Visit 27

The big light-coloured scar in the middle of the picture is the workings. They are right next to the Allt Eas Anie waterfall:

Cononish Gold Mine Visit 12

(I've been reading Fay Godwin's book "Our Forbidden Landscape" which is all about the nasty side of the British countryside, about how money lets any industry do exactly as it pleases. I am not against mining for gold, but I am against doing it in a way which wrecks the environment.)

The site itself is fairly interesting:

Cononish Gold Mine Visit 23

and I picked up some samples of rocks and some discarded rusty steel items.

Cononish Gold Mine Visit 1

I went on my favourite mountain-bike, the titanium Rock Lobster (shown above), then went on a hike to Ben Lui to try and find a plane wreck which is supposed to be there. I failed miserably, probably on account of the fact that I was using an old Garmin forerunner to navigate!

The weather was bad but not as bad as it could have been! It mostly rained lightly, though at above 600m, it was permanently damp and murky with drifting low cloud affecting visibility.

A long and tiring day, but I feel great, though I am very aware that I am not "bike fit" anymore. Time to get that back properly.

I don't mind saying that I dread using public transport. Recently, due to the high costs of petrol, I've been travelling by public transport a bit more: against my better judgement, my horror of neds and/or chavs playing bad hip-hop on tinny speakerphones, drunkenness and the danger of physical attack.
Bear that in mind as this story progresses.
The trip to Tyndrum by train is about 2 hours long. It was fairly busy this morning and my spirits sank slightly when two "lads" sat opposite me with a large bottle of vodka. Of course, they proved to be the most pleasant company, engaging everyone in conversation to the point that people moved to the end of the carriage where I was sitting. It made the journey pass really quickly.
The trip back, however, was quite a different matter...
I got onto the train with my bike and put it in the requisite bike rack then went into the fairly busy carriage to find a seat. I sat down next to an elderly, respectable-looking couple (she was wearing a "Pringle" jumper and pearls) and encountered tuts and huffiness. I explained that I wanted to sit there as it meant I could keep an eye on my bike.
The woman went mental. Completely mental. She started shouting and screaming about how there were loads of seats in the carriage and how I should "grow up" and that nobody would steal my "stupid bike".

Then she kicked me.

Like a spoiled, stupid schoolgirl who hasn't got her own way, she kicked me.
I pointed out that she didn't need to kick me and she went off on one again. Eventually I had just had enough and asked her to calm down, "just listen to yourself". She asked me "Who do you think you are, god?" and before I had the time to answer, off she went about how I probably didn't even believe in god and how she was a christian and then started quoting the bible at me.
"This train is full of bampots!" she shouted.
At which I pointed out that she was the biggest bampot of all. That shut her up. Well, I think that maybe her husband kicked her under the table.

At no point was this woman less than perfectly spoken: she may have been screaming like a harpy but she never swore or made a grammatical error, she never stammered or ran out of steam. It was a remarkable performance, a mixture of hysteria and control, the like of which I have never seen before.

What is most remarkable is that on the surface, she looked like a "respectable member of society". In fact, she is a dangerously unhinged lunatic.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

End of the Week

I've been too busy to post recently. It's all go at the workshops and I've not even made anything very much recently, which is maddening (especially as there is a cracked cast-iron ring on my bench, waiting to be made into something).

Still, it's the end of the week and I've decided to take my favourite mountain bike - the titanium custom-built "Rock Lobster" - off to the hills, regardless of the weather. The poor thing has been neglected and hasn't been ridden off-road since early spring, which is disgraceful. I was a bit worried when I went to service it as the hydraulic brakes appeared to have seized up, but a bit of work and a change of brake-pads and it was all back to normal. I'm going to take a GPS unit with me too, so if the weather is OK, it will be geotagged photographs when I get back!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Demise of Western Civilisation

I heard on the radio last week that UNESCO were so concerned about the relentless "development" of Edinburgh that they are sending out inspectors with a view to removing its status as a World Heritage Centre. Yesterday in Edinburgh proved very enlightening for three reasons:

  • 1Me and Clive discovered the trashed shell of the old tram works at Leith;

  • I chatted to a lovely woman - Sharon - who adores her city of birth and who is very active on local environmental issues, in the broadest sense; and

  • I found out the real - and rather obvious reason - that the highly unpopular, though allegedly "environmentally friendly", tram is being built.

  • This final point is probably the easiest to deal with. The tram will run from the Scottish Executive building in Leith to the Airport. Billions of pounds and endless disruption to make it easier for the self-serving idiots of the "Scottish Government" to leave the country by very environmentally unfriendly plane. (This, remember, is the same group of people who cozied up to Donald Trump after Aberdeen local council - wisely - turned down his plans for yet another golf-course on environmental grounds.)

    On the second point, Sharon was telling me about the redevelopment of the Forth Canal which runs past her house, a fine remnant of the industrial heritage of Scotland. What the canal needed was cleaning up. What it did not need was badly-built, monotonous "luxury flats" and useless, overpriced restaurants and cafes which nobody will visit. At one of the development meetings, where the local residents said that they didn't want cafes but wanted workshops for stonemasons and blacksmiths and the like, one of the councillors said "But it will be an upmarket cafe. It will be Starbucks."
    I will let that stand without comment.

    Further to my post earlier in the month about the Tinsley Cooling Towers, it was saddening to see the destruction of the Leith tram works, a beautiful Victorian industrial building just off Leith Walk. Clive and I walked about for the best part of an hour, exploring the labyrinth of passageways under the building as well as the visible bits above the ground. To give you an idea of what has been destroyed, this picture sums it up:

    Leith Tram Works Interior

    This is the reason Edinburgh might well lose it's status with UNESCO. The relentless trashing of the past, replacing it with this sort of plastic nonsense:


    and worse. Such as the replacing of it with Starbucks, George Wimpey "Homes", Gap and the generic corporate blandness of everywhere else in Europe.

    I went to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo last night.

    Edinburgh Military Tattoo, 2008, 2

    I wouldn't pay for a ticket for this - though loads of people would; it has been running every year for 60 years with every show sold out - but as Clive managed to get me a backstage pass and I could watch it from the follow-spot gantry for free, it was well worth going to. Though it is basically an offensive exercise in military bombast with sickening shows of the nastiest sort of "patriotism", there were some excellent displays of precision marching and military bands.

    Sickening Nationalism

    Especially good were the New Zealand Majorettes, who were quite simply the most precise human performers I have ever seen, closely followed by the very striking Norwegians. Both the Norwegians and the Singaporeans were the most musically interesting. Prize for utter boredom goes to the Indian Army for marching up and down and up and down and up and... playing the dullest tunes imaginable! I think they need some lessons from the Bollywood Brass Band!

    Clive tried to make pancakes using the heat of one of the lighting units:

    Edinburgh Military Tattoo, 2008, A Light Pancake

    Sadly, it didn't quite work as the wind was so high that it cooled the pan instantly.

    Went on Mark's "Literary Pub Tour" last night too. I couldn't stay for all of it, but it has grown and improved over the time since I last saw it many years ago and is worth seeing. I was very pleased to be able to talk one of the others on the tour OUT of visiting glasgow, persuading her she would be safer and have a more enjoyable time staying in Edinburgh for an extra two days. After all, in Edinburgh you almost certainly won't be attacked in the street at 7.30pm as I was in glasgow on Friday last, coming out of the office where I work as a volunteer.

    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    Britney's Trichologists!

    It is not often that spam emails have made me laugh out loud but one today did. Reading through the subject lines to make sure that something important hadn't been filtered out by mistake, I found this:

    "Hair extensions glue may be affecting Britney's brain, claim trichologists"

    The mind boggles as to why someone thinks that they can make money out of such nonsense. It has to be said that I didn't open the mail to see what was in it, but it is the nature of spam that it has to be about making money.

    Been doing some work in the workshop today. I started another trio of earrings, this time using rusted roofing nails and different colours of moonstones. They should be finished tomorrow.

    Listening to Charlemagne Palestine's marvellous "Schlingen-Blangen" at the moment, a long drone-piece which is really very beautiful.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008


    We are about to have an enormous storm! I can hear it rumbling in the distance and the rain at the moment is tropical. I got completely drenched on my bike on the way home.

    Had a look at an "Iliad" e-book reader today. Didn't like. For £400 you get something which feels like it has the build quality of a pound-shop item. I'm pretty sure that it isn't actually that bad, but on the test model I was looking at, the "nudge" bar to move the pages forward and backwards failed to turn the page more often than it succeeded. In addition, the screen is rather too shiny to be readable at low angles or if the lights aren't exactly right. It's a bit like reading a glossy magazine, in that respect. Add to that a delay of several seconds to "turn" a page and a paltry 256mB of storage for books and you have a product that just won't sell. Not to me, anyway.

    I love the idea of an e-book. I read a LOT of books and it would be excellent to be able to carry several in one small package, but this is not it. I will eventually buy an e-book reader but it needs to be better made, have a perfectly matt screen, a higher capacity and a more speedy interface. It would be quite nice if it were available in a left-handed model too.

    Having looked at Janos' latest creation, the Mariana Trench Ring:

    I realised that I have never actually made a poison ring myself. Started work on one today. No pictures yet, but it is based on Hamilton Mausoleum, uses the antique blue glass liner from a mustard pot and is going to be engraved with the words:

    Vestra labiae sunt veneficus virus

    (In honour of Jo!)

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Saucy Doxy!

    You don't really need to actually set foot in an arts venue to enjoy the Edinburgh Festival. Wandering about on the High Street at any time of the day is guaranteed to entertain, especially if you have the time and leisure to let the incredibly busy crowd carry you along (ie: don't actually try to get to somewhere, you will fail!) This was my favourite sight of the day yesterday:

    Oh, Milady!

    I also really enjoyed this strange sight. The tall woman had been dancing and talking to the crowd, the woman in lederhosen had been playing the accordion and here they are just taking a rest from the stresses and strains of modern performance:

    Red Letter Day

    Got to see Mark and Jeff again. Mark is doing a reading today and is working at the Science Festival and Jeff has a show on at Stourbridge, not Edinburgh, so he had to go there this weekend.

    Prissy CityLink

    Due to the high cost of petrol, I've decided to swallow my pride and travel by public transport to and from Edinburgh. I thought it might be fun to write a blog entry taking advantage of the free WiFi on the bus. However I can't write what I would like. For some reason, all my photographs on Flickr are deemed "inappropriate" by the web-filtering software.

    Setting aside the fact that on no level could my pictures of Edinburgh festival things be deemed "inappropriate", who, exactly, does this benefit? Why is such random filtering in place? Is it meant to protect us? Or is it a lame attempt for the bus company to cover it's ass against the endless idiots who seem to be prepared to make life difficult for anyone who defends free speech.

    It makes no difference how they dress it up: THIS IS CENSORSHIP.

    Anti-liberal, anti-freedom, anti-intellectual.

    It is by the acceptance of these multitudes of small losses of freedom that we ultimately find ourselves enslaved.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Kinder Surprised

    I have always thought that Britain and America were the home of legislation protecting the stupid, thus preserving and nurturing the 'moron' gene and lining the pockets of litigious lawyers whilst stamping out anything which smacks of "fun" or "thrill" and which might appeal to normal members of society. It was, therefore, somewhat surprising to read (in 'The Times') that Germany has decided to ban "Kinder Surprise" chocolate eggs. On the grounds that children might choke on them.

    Despite the fact that no child has ever choked on them.

    The Tinsley Cooling towers are being demolished:

    These are amongst my favourite buildings in the UK, being both monumental and elegant. I'm not really sure why it is that the UK is so completely obsessed with destroying the "dark, satanic mills" upon which the modern nation was built.

    I like to imagine it is some sort of collective embarrassment at the fact that the country no longer makes anything, preferring instead to toady about in the 'service industries', doing pussy-nancy paperwork jobs as wage-slaves and pretending to be superior because nobody has dirty hands and nobody works up a sweat.

    Who rattled my cage?!

    Friday, August 08, 2008

    Back Home Again

    Well, that's the summer officially over for me. I am back in glasgow with work again on Monday. Not that I'm really bothered about that: I've found loads of new materials to work with (pictures soon) and have a couple of orders to complete. It is always a bit of a wrench to leave Brighton at the end of the summer, though.

    In case you don't follow Dingo's blog as well as mine, I thought that I would draw your eye over to his latest picture entry!

    Early night for me.

    Wednesday, August 06, 2008

    Now With Titles!

    Dingo pointed out that my blog was very difficult to navigate in a reader because of the lack of titles. I've remedied that now!

    Back in Brighton from Bournemouth.

    It has to be said that I am giving the return to the "British Holiday" this year only. No matter how expensive flying becomes next year, it would still have been cheaper by far to take a holiday abroad. Lunch for two (sandwiches and a non-alcoholic drink): £15. We spent over £25 in parking fees for two days. Entrance to Corfe Castle: £7.50 each. The holiday was most enjoyable and I don't regret doing it but there is no way that it was worth the money spent.

    Friday, August 01, 2008

    I've finally got full internet access back. We've been touring round Dorset for the last few days and were staying in the lovely RNLI College, which doubles as an hotel out of term time. It was quite luxurious and good value, but the internet access was filtered and I wasn't allowed to upload photographs, which is annoying. The views from the room were all over Poole harbour:

    View from RNLI College 3

    We've been all over the place on the Purbeck peninsula, which is beautiful and very interesting. Lullworth Cove is beautiful and there is a fossil forest:

    Lullworth Cove

    Fossilised Trees 1

    The weather has been really odd, alternating very hot days with cool and wet ones. Today looks like a cool and wet one. It was SO hot the day we went to Arne that I had to have a sleep in the middle of the day:


    That was the same day I got really excited about finding some "Dodder", the marvellously-named parasitic plant on gorse. It was in flower too. This is a plant I have only ever read about before:

    Cuscuta epithymum

    We also went to Tyneham to see the "ghost village" which was surprisingly dull after the initial shock of finding a whole village with nobody in it! Dingo tried to play the piano in the schoolroom: most of the keys were silent:

    Playing for Queen and Country

    I got a lovely mail today from Giuseppe in Genova, enclosing a picture of the bracelet I made for him earlier in the year:

    Anchor Bracelet

    It's really nice to get feedback from people who wear my jewellery.

    Loads more photographs on my Flickr pages, link on the left.

    Friday, July 25, 2008

    The weather has turned completely beautiful in the last 2 days. Yesterday was even a bit too hot. We went to the rather boring Lydd-on-Sea to see the WW2 Sound Mirrors, which are quite amazing:

    Sound Mirrors 1

    Unfortunately, you can't get too close to them as they are on an island. Later on in the day, we found this somewhat sordid-looking toy in a playpark:


    The mind boggles when you consider that this had to have been passed by a design team somewhere. I can't believe that not one person said, "Guys, doesn't this remind anyone of anything?".

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    Mixed Feelings

    Leaded Window 1447 - 1947

    Me, Dingo and Jane all set off on Sunday to go to Wye in Kent, the place where I met Jane and where I studied for my degree. We met up with Harriet and Kunar, who are also friends from college. When we got there, I discovered that the college had shut down.

    Wye College, as can be seen from the picture above, celebrated, in 1947, 500 years as an educational establishment. 60 years later, it is gone. The buildings are all there, but emptied, to be boarded up, unused, at the end of September.

    Seeing the place unused, falling apart, the village round it succumbing to the inevitable decay that removing a vibrant student population from it has wrought, brought me some very mixed feelings. On the most immediate level, it was sad. There can be no denying that the degree I achieved was a good one. I have fond memories of some marvellous lecturers: Mike Copland and his inspirational Entomology lectures; the bumbling but lovely Tom Wright; the frighteningly intellectual Alison Burell... I have some lovely memories of friends - some of whom I am still in touch with after 25 years. I have some horrible memories of drunken arrogant slobs, sexism, racism and homophobia; of bullying and fear. (Over 80% of the students came from private schools and didn't quite realise that the college was the first step into the world, not another level of school.) As Harriet accurately surmised "It wasn't the happiest place for you", yet I still feel sad at the loss of the place.

    The weekend was great fun. It was lovely to see Harriet and Kumar and to see how their children, Daisy and Molly, have grown since I last saw them about 8 years ago. They've turned into very charming, well-adjusted young women. The only downside was the AWFUL hotel we stayed in. During my time in Wye, we frequently went to the King's Head pub. It was always a fairly ordinary place with good beer, so I thought it would be OK to stay overnight there. How wrong I was.

    The Most Horrible Hotel We've Stayed In

    Under no circumstances should you make the mistake of staying here. Especially not if you plan staying in a double room with your same-sex partner. The hotel is horrible: the rooms are furnished with chipped and broken MFI type furniture; the carpets look as if the Rug Doctor might pronounce them DOA; the bed was like a blancmange with lumps; the bedding smelled of excess of cheap washing powder; the single bedside lamp had a 20w bulb in it; the shower had no hot water and a surfeit of pubic hair; and even the TV remote control was broken. We hardly slept at all, it was so nasty. Breakfast continued the horror, with piss-weak coffee, one small glass of orange-juice, white supermarket-bread toast and boiled eggs which were so soft that the whites were still liquid. For the privilege of such contemptuous treatment, we were charged £55. A Travel-Lodge would have charged the same and would have been comfortable, if a little bland. I know which I prefer.

    After Wye, we went on to Sissinghurst Castle to see the Vita Sackville-West gardens there. They were lovely though a little bit too busy to enjoy properly. And as with all National Trust properties in the UK, solidly white, middle-class and very overpriced. Still, we enjoyed ourselves and Jane "acquired" some seeds for her garden at home!

    Hopefully off to see some sound-mirrors at Dungeness tomorrow.

    Friday, July 18, 2008

    We've been to Charleston, the "Bloomsbury Set" house in West Sussex, owned by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell:

    Charlestone Cottage and Pond

    It is a very ordinary English farmhouse which has been completely decorated internally (and in the gardens) by the artists and which hosted many of the luminaries of the group - Virginia Woolf and John Maynard Keynes - steeped in history. Unfortunately, it was a guided tour and we weren't free to wander around at our leisure. Additionally, photography inside the house is forbidden, so the picture above is all you can see here!

    Afterwards we went to the sick-makingly pretty Berwick, where there is a church also decorated by the artists:

    Berwick Church

    Not much else to report. Glad I brought my "shop" with me as loads of stuff has been selling on Etsy.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    Rather as I have managed to reach middle-age without learning to swim, Dingo has managed to get to his early thirties without learning to ride a bike. We remedied that today!

    Dingo on Bike 1
    Looking aprehensive!

    No need for concern. He got it in about five minutes:

    Dingo on Bike 2
    Looking confident!

    I'm so proud!
    What a day it was yesterday. We went to Pagham harbour, which is a nature reserve in West Sussex:

    View Larger Map

    The weather was by far the best we've seen all summer: warm, dry and with a light breeze to keep it all moderate and pleasant. Having accidentally taken the wrong bus (with the most obnoxious driver, but what can you expect from the vile "Stagecoach"?) we ended up on the wrong side of the harbour and had to walk all the way round to the other side, which took about 4 hours. I went for a run at the end but it was all a bit too much in the sun and I only managed 5km.
    By the time we arrived back in Brighton, it was too much of an effort to even speak!

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    The weather forecasters have been a bit rubbish over the last few days: every time they forecast rain, we had sun. So no complaints there.

    Yesterday, we met up with my friend Jane, of many, many years' standing, taking advantage of the only forecast fine day of the week to head off to the beautiful gardens at Sissinghurst, Kent. I was last there in the very early 1980s and have a vague memory of Vita Sackville-West's famous white garden and a very strong memory of disapproving attendants who sniffed at me and my friend Luke laughing at mediaeval eroticism. Sadly, my memories were not to be refreshed as, unmentioned on the website, the gardens were closed. It seems that they close every Wednesday and Thursday. We went to the local pub instead to have some lunch (where the landlady told us that people had come by public transport from as far away as Norfolk to find the gardens closed on these days) and where we were childishly delighted by some tame ducks:


    Here you can see Dingo feeding lettuce to a duck. They like it. He doesn't.
    After lunch, we headed off to the sadly-changed Canterbury, which, like all too many places in the UK, has become corporate bland, with the usual gamut of "Gap" etc. and a hideous new shopping centre invading the heart of the mediaeval city. We wandered around a bit and had a cream tea by the river:

    Jane and Dingo

    Today we went on a walk along the river from Cuckmere Haven to Alfriston, which was great. It was meant to have been raining all day, but it didn't. We experienced only one shower and the rest of the time was sunny, though a little windy. On the way to the very quaint Alfriston, we stopped by at the tiny village of Littlington (yes, that really is it's name!) where there is a beautiful church with one lovely stained glass window:

    Stained Glass
    Littlington Church

    There is also the most over-priced teashop I have ever encountered in the garden centre there. Never go!
    Go instead to the marvellous "Badgers" tearoom in Alfriston, where you can enjoy the Sett menu. I am NOT kidding. Actually, the tea and cakes there were very good:

    Dingo and Tea

    I can be very serious about afternoon tea:

    Serious Tea Time