Sunday, December 31, 2006

So just who exactly are we saving the planet for?

As is traditional on this last day of the year, the time has come for me to muse upon the year gone by and ponder upon the year to come.

2006 has been pretty good to me. I've been involved in some great writing projects, some interesting art projects and (finally), after more than 30 years of writing songs, I've got into a recording studio to start making an album. Okay, so Huw - the guy I write songs with - and I may end up owning the only two copies ... but it's the sense of achievement that matters; the fulfilling of a lifelong ambition. I've met some people who are immensely inspirational including the great Ray Harryhausen, toy designer James Jarvis and film director Kevin Smith. And I've added another grandchild to my family. So, as I say, all in all, a pretty good year.

I hope that 2007 will be equally lovely. To start with, I'm going to teach myself to paint. Properly. I've made an early start on (what will be) my first painting in 35 years. You see, I've been doing colour illustrations up to now; watercolour, ink or gouache pieces that usually involve some pen work. I've not been painting in the true sense. But now I am and I'll be posting my progress on this blog.

But now ... just one small worry about 2007. While popping out for some groceries this morning I was struck by the contrast between two groups of people I saw. The first was at the supermarket where there was a queue at the recycling area. Yes, a queue. People were waiting in line to dispose of their Christmas excess in a responsible and eco-friendly manner. And all power to them. The second group I saw were standing around a trio of badly-parked, high-powered cars in the High Street. They were all either smoking or eating McDonald's. Most of the packaging lay around their feet on the pavement. And that's when it hit me ... just who exactly are we saving the planet for?

All of the recyclers were middle-aged people like myself. I recycle too. I buy organic fruit and veg and source my meat and eggs from local organic farms. We buy our gas and electricity from sustainable supplies. My wife and I drive environmentally friendly cars (were it not a necessity for work, we'd ditch them) and we take public transport whenever we can. We're no angels; we do have some bad habits and we don't attend environmental marches and rallies. We're just normal people doing our bit to help save the planet for our children ...

But sometimes I think 'Why bother?' They don't seem to give a rat's arse about it. Like the group I saw this morning, chucking their fast-food packaging around while their gas-guzzling cars belch more crap into our already fragile atmosphere ... why am I doing without certain luxuries just so that they will have a planet upon which to raise their burger-munching, lager-swilling, bus stop-wrecking, grafitti-spraying, fag-smoking Chavlings?

It sometimes seems to me that the goodies of this world are doing all the work while the baddies reap the benefits ... the David Attenboroughs saving the world for the Vicki Pollards to inherit and despoil.

Happy 2007.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Christmas and New Year to my strangely tongue-tied visitors

I've added a counter to this blog. I got it from the nice people at and the great thing about it is that, once you have an account with them, they can tell you where your blog visitors come from. So far this week, I've had visits from the UK, USA, Spain, Singapore, Taiwan, Italy, Brazil, Hungary, Turkey and many more ... and it's a real thrill to see where in the world my wittering drivel has reached.

But, dear readers, why don't any of you leave me any comments, hmmm? I get spam. Oh yes. The buggers have already found me to offer their pornographic and medicinal delights. But I rarely get any nice comments. Or even nasty comments. So come on guys and gals! Let me know what you think. Season of goodwill and all that.

Anyhoo ... Have a fantastic Christmas (or other appropriate Winter festival) wherever you are and an equally brilliant New Year!

I know I will.

Foggy Photography ... Fography? Phoggography?

The uncharacteristic fogbanks that have engulfed the UK this past week have provided some unexpected benefits. They may have caused air traffic chaos but, aesthetically, Britain looks great in the fog.

Despite the best efforts of American film-makers who seem to believe that our country is permanently wreathed in smog (and that we all talk like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins) we don't really suffer serious foggage. Foggery. Fogginess. Whatever. But recent unusual weather patterns and unseasonal temperatures have left the country wreathed in pea-soupery. So it's not so much a White Christmas this year as a Grey Christmas that you can't see; at least beyond 100 yards. But it does make for pretty pictures. Oh yes.

I had to drive to Stokenchurch a couple of days ago to pick up food supplies for our various pets and as I passed through the village of Studley Green, I couldn't help noticing how picturesque the Shoe Tree was. I should explain ...

Just outside the village is a tree that has pairs of shoes hanging from it like some kind of strange laced and leather fruit. No one seems to know how the 'tradition' started, but the current tree is the third to have appeared on this stretch of road. The first fell down. The second was cut down by some vandal with a chainsaw. But the third one is still up and sprouting more and more shoes by the month.

Some claim that it stems from an ancient fertility rite whereby a couple would tie one shoe each together by the laces and throw them into the branches of a tree. But the truth is that no one seems to know why it all started. Nor why, apparently, there is a bra tree somewhere near Oxford and a panties tree near Henley on Thames.

I must go and look for them sometime.

There are shoe trees all over the UK, America, Australia and Canada, and I'm sure there are many more in other countries too.

Anyway, I decided that this was a great photogenic opportunity to add my own pair of shoes to the tree. So I went home, found an old pair of boating pumps and headed back to get a bunch of shots, several of which I include for your bemusement and pity.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Dr Sketchy - A Virgin in London

My mate James Murphy and I went to the first London Dr Sketchy's Anti-Art Class on Saturday. Dr Sketchy's was started by New York artist and Burlesque dancer Molly Crabapple as a way of making life-drawing classes more fun. As far as Dr Sketchy's is concerned, anyone who can hold a pencil is welcome. Consequently, the combination of beer, busty babes, Burlesque and ... er ... sketching (sorry, couldn't think of a sketching word starting with B) has proved to be immensely popular and has spread throughout the USA, Canada and Australia. And now the phenomenon has reached our shores with Dr Sketchy's springing up in Scotland and now England.

Saturday saw Murphy and I roll into the Volupte Club near Chancery Lane for three hours of fun and frolics with compere Dusty Limits and buxom model Ophelia Bitz. And it really was great fun.

I reckon that we acquitted ourselves rather well having both won on-the-spot prizes of snifters of brandy and Fererro Rocher (ooh ... they were spoiling us!) chocolates. We were challenged to complete sketches in ever shorter time spans as Ophelia went through her nipple-tasselled paces. I've included one of my 2 minute sketches ... complete with glove puppets (Yup ... she used glove puppets). And one of Murphy's that was simply titled 'Deck the halls'.

Want to know more? Log on to the Dr Sketchy Website. And if you want to know when the next one is running in London, click here. Oh, and Murphy's blog is here.