Saturday, 24 June 2017

Sand in the sandwiches

Discovered this delightful photograph and was compelled to turn it into a painting.
At the same time thinking of Betjeman's poem.


We used to picnic where the thrift
Grew deep and tufted to the edge;
We saw the yellow foam flakes drift
In trembling sponges on the ledge
Below us, till the wind would lift
Them up the cliff and o’er the hedge.
Sand in the sandwiches, wasps in the tea,
Sun on our bathing dresses heavy with the wet,
Squelch of the bladder-wrack waiting for the sea,
Fleas around the tamarisk, an early cigarette.

From where the coastguard houses stood
One used to see below the hill,
The lichened branches of a wood
In summer silver cool and still;
And there the Shade of Evil could
Stretch out at us from Shilla Mill.
Thick with sloe and blackberry, uneven in the light,
Lonely round the hedge, the heavy meadow was remote,
The oldest part of Cornwall was the wood as black as night,
And the pheasant and the rabbit lay torn open at the throat.

But when a storm was at its height,
And feathery slate was black in rain,
And tamarisks were hung with light
And golden sand was brown again,
Spring tide and blizzard would unite
And sea come flooding up the lane.
Waves full of treasure then were roaring up the beach,
Ropes round our mackintoshes, waders warm and dry,
We waited for the wreckage to come swirling into reach,
Ralph, Vasey, Alistair, Biddy, John and I.

Then roller into roller curled
And thundered down the rocky bay,
And we were in a water world
Of rain and blizzard, sea and spray,
And one against the other hurled
We struggled round to Greenaway.
Blesséd be St Enodoc, blesséd be the wave,
Blesséd be the springy turf, we pray, pray to thee,
Ask for our children all happy days you gave
To Ralph, Vasey, Alistair, Biddy, John and me.

From "Old Lights for New Chancels" (1940) & "Collected Poems"

© The Estate of John Betjeman

Reproduced by kind permission of John Murray (Publishers).

Friday, 23 June 2017


Nothing like a bit of tonking
Several people commented on my new FB header picture - it was a curious outcome of tonking my oil painting of Venice, which was too over painted 
So I 'tonked' it
The technique of tonking a painting is quite simple, 

Identify the area of the painting that needs changing.
Tear a sheet of newspaper or scrap paper into roughly the same shape and size as the offending area of the painting
Place carefully over the area
Press down firmly with the palms of the hands
Lift carefully off
Removes the paint on to the newsprint

This  is what was actually captured on the news print! I thought the chance output was lovely

Monday, 19 June 2017

Elbe - Rain before 7 fine before 11

So everyone was looking disconsolately at his phone over breakfast.  It was not actually raining although every weather app said it should be. 
However ‘rain before 7 fine before 11’ my grand mother used to say.

The boys headed out of Havelberg I was not far behind them. I had wanted to visit a church however it was closed however the porch had an interesting stone monument so I consoled myself by making a drawing. By the time that was finished and the market stall holders had set up it was brightening up.

Again this was a comparatively short day cycling and by noon we were at our meet up in Rühstädt a small village widely known for its stork colony. 

We saw storks in or around improbably large nests precariously balanced on a chimney tops. Then we had coffee to celebrate the birds and the sunshine.

This was a lovely village, again hardly a soul about. In the centre was church and its neat tidy churchyard. In Germany family members are directly responsible for the maintenance of burial plots of loved ones. At the far end of the churchyard was an orderly collection of tools and watering cans. Several times someone would enter and attend to a particular plot.

Early afternoon saw us in Wittenberge, the final destination for this week. Once settled in (Hotel Germania) we assembled for the customary afternoon ice cream. Afterwards a tour round the town, medieval, mock-Gothic and Communist building styles nestle up against each other with blocks of flats close to the Theatre of Culture. Often we saw residential blocks close to very much older parts of a town or city.

The last supper was another plate of asparagus (spargel) and wine for a change – bikes were garaged for another year and the boat was pushed out!

See all the drawings here

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Elbe oh! A treat in Tangamunde

With a relatively short peddle to Havelberg and it being a lovely morning we each wandered round Tangemunde . At any moment in my wandering I was expecting to see members of the Von Trapp family walking down the street.

At 11 am St Stephen’s church threw open its doors to visitors, in we went. This church is constructed in the Brick Gothic style typical of North Germany. A large bright place and astride the west door a marvellous organ. This Baroque fancy was built in 1624 by Hans Scherer and his brother Fritz.

The Scherer Brother’s organ is reputed to be one of the ten finest in Europe. And joy of joys someone was playing it.

I pelted back to the car for my drawing book. I drew the Baroque pulpit that soared almost as high and lovely as the music.

See all the drawings here

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Down the Elbe with Mrs Merkel's favourite soup

Wednesday, it was a bright day with a chilly east wind. Off they headed having agreed a meeting place for lunch! 

Again I found myself parallel to the river and before the lunch rendezvous. I  reached a small village Loitsche about 20 km north of Magdeburg. On the other side of the road was a huge factory and close by a huge working of salt. Tractors and huge earth movers were dwarfed by the size of these mountains? Salt? Natural stone?

We met up at Rogatz and enjoyed warming dishes of Solyanka, Angela Merkel’s favourite soup (an East German meat and pickled vegetable confection) and just what we needed!

That afternoon I was in Tangamunde before the chaps so had their bags out and ready for their arrival and the sun arrived too.  Situated high above the west bank of the river the town has a distinctly medieval feel.  And it was in those times very important centre for politics and trade.

See all the drawings here

Friday, 16 June 2017

Oh Sweet Pea Come on and dance with me

Three years back I was, apparently, rhapsodising over Sian’s sweet peas

Well we have now had the first of this year’s crop    Wonderful!
Oh Sweet Pea
Come on and dance with me
Come on come on come on and dance with me
Oh Sweet Pea
Come on and be my girl
Come on come on come on and be my girl