Happy birthday and solstice solace…

We stopped for a while today at a delightful poppy field near Kidderminster, Worcestershire. It was a delight, and I thought how my mum would have loved to see the blowzy, nodding mass of poppies in all their slghtly rain-battered glory.

In honour of what would have been her 92nd birthday, I collected some English strawberries from the shops (I am waging a one-woman war on the tasteless Elsanta) as today was traditionally the opening of strawberry season in the family. If mum’s hadn’t ripened in our garden in ‘sunny Yorkshire’, we resorted then, as now, to the shop.

Dad also use to tease her that as she was born on the longest day, she’d been making up for the lost sleep of the short night ever since. Not morning people, mum and I…



The official opening of strawberry season!


My lovely mum, Jean.

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Around the garden

There seems to be a seasonal colour theme going on in the garden today… Montage of a  few phone snaps.

I do feel a bit guilty at robbing the poor embarrassed moai of their dignity with the pansy hats!


Rosemary, chive bud, aquilegia, papillon lavender and two slightly grumpy moai with floral ‘hats’!

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You can take the girl out of Halifax…

I managed to come over all decisive today and finish off the mixed-media piece I started a few weeks ago on a course at Malvern Hills College.

It was acrylic-based and also I learned how to do gelli prints and transfer prints, all totally new skills for me.

I had intended to do something akin to my ‘Half-remembered dreams’ series but with a head buzzing with some family history research, it turned into this nod to my lineage and the town of my birth.

The unique Piece Hall features twice, and I have a great affection for the place. It was the cloth exchange originally but in my great-grandfather’s day it was the wholesale fruit and veg market. Frank Marsden, greengrocer, went there regularly to stock his shop. My uncle Nigel’s words about the flickering yellow gas lamps, inscribed on the larger Piece Hall image are from the description of a childhood visit there with his granddad.

The two pictures of the Piece Hall are photos I’ve created; I always feel the family connection as well as being simply impressed by the place.

My mother, Jean, features with her cousin in a happy picture against the backdrop of the hills around Halifax, and the music score is from one of her ‘party pieces’. My father appears twice, once in a happy group with his mum and sister, once just with sister Joyce. I worked out that the photo was probably taken just before they entered a local orphanage as my widowed grandmother was unable to support them in the 1930s depression years. That would certainly explain the solemn expressions.

The plans and architectural drawings are of West Hill Park, a model estate where my paternal grandmother lived – and so did my parents and I, briefly. A classic terrace, still with outdoor toilet in the 1960s, I only realised it was in one of the spate of Victorian model estates in latter years!

The music references my mother’s family; all three siblings played instruments and sang, grandmother and grandfather were in the chapel choir and grandfather Clifford Morton had ‘a tenor voice like a golden trumpet’, according to a newspaper review – under his stage name of Morton Clifford.

This gift was a double-edged sword as it led to his leaving home to go to the Carl Rosa touring opera company and then a divorce. Clifford married a singer from Carl Rosa and ended up in South Africa.

Finally, the maps are of the Northowram area, where I lived as a child, and have just discovered some distant 18C relatives who lived there, so we’ve come full circle!

The painted and printed background tries to hint at the hills that surround Halifax (Beacon Hill remains a key landmark) and the many mills that nestled in the ‘bowl’. Before the clean air acts, the smoke and steam from chimneys and cooling towers would sit like a witches’ brew in the hilly cauldron. Dean Clough mills remain as a massive memorial to our industrial history, now repurposed and housing small businesses and an arts centre.

It’s not the best executed of pieces, I have yet to refine the photo transfer process with the intriguing partial effects that it gives, and I have no clue about painting! Whatever the shortcomings, I am happy with what it evokes for me. and have taken immense pleasure in the process. I hope you find some enjoyment or interest in it, too.

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Spring on the farm

Popped in on Lower Smite Farm briefly today. The cowslip meadow is in fine fig! Enjoy…

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Zeroth Law

A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm. Arthur C. Clarke.

Let’s hope they take action soon…

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Back to Westeros…

Just a bit of phoneography fun – and Game of Thrones is back!

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The pleasure of learning

I started a short course on mixed media and photo-transfer this week, having no real background in painting or mixed media beyond the little dabble with artists’ books. It took me back to school days, scrabbling round at the last minute to get the required list of kit together and packing up the bag with pinny, paint and sundry stuff.

It was an interesting introduction and we produced some practice pieces using acrylic paints on gelli plates and managed a couple of photo transfers too, so a productive session. For someone who took to photography as a surer means of achieving the images I visualise than relying on my limited painting skills, it was a bit daunting, but thoroughly enjoyable.

Next step is to plan the larger piece to produce over the next few weeks and identify my photos for inclusion. The main problem as ever is my indecision – the session stimulated so many ideas I can’t settle on one! At the moment I’m tossing up between using old family photos as a tie-in with the genealogy or to go with a theme from my own images.

Here are the first two attempts at phototransfer (using tutor-supplied photos). I have learned the hard way that it’s a good idea to leave more light areas! Whatever their limitations, it’s a delight to me to have created them and to be learning new skills. Thank you to Malvern Hills College and tutor Ivan!

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Feeling crabby?

It’s been a while since I did anything vaguely foodie, partly as I’ve been on an awkward exclusion diet (low FODMAP) for a while. All bets were off in Lisbon last week though! I am now back on the wagon prior to a complex reintroduction phase!

Tonight was seafood treats night, with crab bites for starters – an improvised job to suit both my restrictions and Stew’s tastes.

A Little Gem lettuce heart forms the bases, though I’d also be tempted to try chicory/endive for a bitter contrast to the sweet crab. Wash, separate and season the lettuce or endive lightly.

Take about a third of a green pepper, the green of a couple of spring onions (scallions), a small handful of coriander leaves, a pickled gherkin and about 8 capers and chop finely, then combine with a couple of tablespoons of low-fat mayo and about the same of (lactose-free for low-FODMAP) yoghurt – but alter amount and proportions to suit. A dash of salt and pepper and the juice of up to half a lime complete the dressing. You could also add a touch of fresh chilli or dried flakes for a livelier zing, but don’t overpower the crab.

Spoon the dressing into the leaves and top off with fresh dressed crab (or tinned would work too).

With a little bread on the side and less generous portions you could serve 4 with this: we were in post-holiday and computer-disaster depression, so troughed the lot!

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It is an ever-recurring pleasure

to relive vicariously the discoveries,

joys and little triumphs

of early childhood,

whenever I see

their glow shining

in Ava’s eyes.

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