Sunday, 28 February 2016

Afternoon tea at the Rectory

I think it's this way

Every year, sometime in February when the time is just right.
the Old Rectory in the village of Strumpshaw opens it's gates
to the hoi polloi so that everyone can come and enjoy their
magnificent display of snowdrops

And us locals end up benefiting twice over as we not only get
to see those beautiful flowers in their woodland setting but also
because all the proceeds are fed back into the community through
donations to local charities, so it's win :win all round.

The rectory itself is a charming Georgian property and there's
nothing nicer than to come in from the cold and to be greeted with
bowls of steaming hot, homemade soup served by members of
the village WI. 

 And if you've got any room left after that then
there's plenty of choice in the cake and scone department
with oodles of jam and cream of course.

Be still my heaving bosom.  No Alice it wasn't all that cream that made me heave.

As I sat contentedly in a big old leather armchair in front of their
roaring fire I could almost see Mr Darcy striding up the drive
after a quick swim.  How perfect would that be?

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Charlie comes to Upton

Upton is the next village along from Acle and when their pub
and village shop were threatened with closure all the locals rallied
round and raised funds (including a grant from the Prince's
Trust) and bought the place which they now run as a co-operative.
And very successful it is too,  In fact they are such an
example to us all that HRH The Prince of Wales decided
to pay them a visit yesterday afternoon and see for himself.

All the local dogs had been on stand-bye for hours
just waiting for a glimpse. 

My mate Annie and I are always up for a spot of stalking so
despite the cold we wrapped up warm and set off to the
White Horse to get a piece of the action and we certainly
weren't disappointed.

Villagers climbed up their hedges to get a better view.

By the time we arrived quite a sizeable crowd had already gathered
as well as the local paparrazi and august members of the local
council and their wives who were quietly freezing their socks off
in their posh frocks.

One of several police outriders

Chains of office were clearly the dress code for the day, some
flaunted ostentatiously while others were more discretely hidden
 beneath the lapels of snug camel coats.  It's a good job Annie and
I were tucked away among the local peasants in our more
humble attire of woolly hats and mittens.

Coming ready or not!

There were plenty of "men in suits" keeping a very good eye
on the crowd and when one of them told me not to dare surge
forward when the Prince arrived I really wish he hadn't because
it had planted the idea very firmly in my mind and I'm an
impulsive person by nature.  Thankfully I managed to stay in control 
of my urges although when the moment came it was quite a struggle.

The leader of Broadland District Council.
Doesn't he look like Francis Urquhart from Michael
Dobb's book House of Cards?  I couldn't possibly comment!

First came the noise, then the police motorbikes
and then the big black limo and hey presto out got Charlie.
He didn't waste a second before he was about his royal duties -
pressing flesh, waving to the crowd and generally being
prince charming.  He had a quick wizz round the little shop
and then into the pub for a swift half and a mardle with
the elite who had all gathered inside.

Shake a few hands

Pose for the press

Into the shop

At this point Annie and I were all "royaled out" and it was
getting very taters around the extremities so we decided to
call it a day and head back home ahead of the mob.

Out of the shop and into the pub.  Phew!

An interesting experience and worth getting cold for. 
I've never seem HRH in the flesh before and for
some reason I expected him to be taller.
Perhaps a crown one day will do the trick.

Monday, 22 February 2016

And stretch - two, three, four ....

Acle back in the day.

The fair village of Acle, where the marshes touch the sky
and often wet the feet, boasts many wonderful amenities,
one of which is our "leisure complex".

As the name implies "complexity" is the keyword.  It opens it's
doors to all manner of clubs and societies from indoor bowls
to Slimming World; badmington to Bollywood dancing;
and skateboarding to ferret husbandry.  I made the last one
up but no matter as I'm sure the ferret fraternity would be made
most welcome should they wish to come along.

The Social Club bar

There's even a licenced bar with such reasonable prices that it's
probably one of the few remaining places in this sceptered
isle where you can still get pissed on a fiver and have enough
change left over for a bag of pork scratchings too.

Come one, come all.

But I digress,.  Tucked away in the now old "new extension" lies
the Community Gym and it's there that I've been going recently
every Thursday and Friday for an hour or so in a last ditch
attempt to beat this old body of mine into it's final shape.

On Thursday's you just rock up, pay your money and take your
pick of whichever form of torture takes your fancy.  I tend to
kick off on the exercise bikes and generally manage to clock up
almost half a mile before boredom and stabbing pains in my knees
prompts me to stop.  Then it's on for a spot of step aerobics before
pressing myself firmly against an inflatable ball, rather like something
out of The Prisoner, the object of which is to roll it up and down
the wall using only my bum muscles.  Not a pretty sight!

Easy peasey!

Despite much grunting I haven't yet progressed beyond the smallest
weights and my bingo wings stubbornly remain all ready for
take-off and flapping in the wind.  The grand finale of the session
are the treadmills.  We're still getting acquainted and I swear the
damned things have a sense of humour because how else would you
explain sudden changes of pace from walk to flat out when my
attention wavers for a second.  I haven't actually fallen off yet
but I've come pretty close a couple of times.

They lied!

Friday's are completely different.  It's Pilates class when a motley
and misshapen group of us bend, sway and sweat in unison to the
accompaniment of a cross between womb music and whale song.
It's so soporific that one old dear at the back actually nodded off
doing her recumbent breathing exercises and might well have got
away with it had her snores not risen above our watery soundtrack.

But the real star performer of the group has to be the rather flatulent
old gentleman who always arribes late and karaoke's along to the
music.  And before you ask Alice, he's most certainly not using his 
vocal chords when he hits those high notes.

And collapse - two, three four .... then off to the bar!

Friday, 19 February 2016

"Colonization Devices"

When is a shovel not a shovel?
When it's been in the hands of  Canadian sculptor
Floyd Elzinga of course.

Floyd grew up on his parent's farm in Beamsville,
Ontario where he began creating environmental
installations such as his giant pine cones made from
forged shovels.

Floyd gives "picking a scrap" a whole new meaning
as the raw materials for his sculptures are discarded pieces
of metal.  He's the ultimate recycler breathing new, and
more beautiful life into otherwise useless objects.

Must be the iron chicken's nest from Clangers

His current studio is to be found on the Niagara Escarpment
in the very heart of a wild, natural landscape and
inspiration can be found all around him in the forests
and waters which lie just outside his back door.

He's a man who takes the quintessential Canadian landscape
and writes his name large all over it in letters of steel.
Well not really, but you know what I mean.

A forked tree

Floyd is an artist who uses metal working machinery in place
of a brush to give texture to his pieces and achieves his
palette of colours through polishing, burnishing, rusting
and grinding.  Grind on Floyd, I like what I see.

"Colonization Devices" is the special name he has for his
cones because they illustrate the dichotomous nature of
seeds - simultaneously innocuous and aggressive.
So tread warily next time you pass some overblown lupins
because they may be poised ready to attack.

And if you're hankering after a sculptural landscape don't
be surprised to find he's come along and put a zip in it for you.
Ladies, gentlemen and welders, I give you Floyd Elzinga!

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

A very Camp tale!

If you're looking for someone who knows how to live life
to the full then you need look no further than Adele Renault.
She was born into a musical family on a farm in the Belgian
Ardennes in 1988 and by the time she had reached the ripe old
age of fourteen she had already begun to travel abroad alone,
first to Venezeula on an exchange visit and then to
Brighton on the South Coast of England for two years.

Adele graduated in 2010 from the Academie Royal des Beaux
Arts in Brussels with a degree in Graphic Design having studied
everything from classical oil painting to spray can graffiti and
everything else in between.

Is this a posh pigeon loft?

In 2009 she began working with Neils Shoe Meulman and together
they travel the world collaborating on large scale murals.
Neils provides the iconic word images and she paints in the
livestock.  When not on the move they can be found at The Unruly
Gallery in Amsterdam.


Meanwhile in 2013 far away across the Pond in Wisconsin, Chicago
artist George Keaton and photographer Marian Naella discovered
a tiny white egg in their kitchen left behind by workmen replacing
old windows in their apartment.  By some miracle the egg hatched
and a tiny pigeonlet now know worldwide as Camp emerged.


The couple hand reared the chick and when it was time for his
release into the wild it soon became apparent that Camp had other
ideas - he was family and he wasn't going anywhere.  You can
follow his adventures every day on Instagram.

A Camp teenager

It was through these posts that Adele got to hear about Camp and
quickly decided to make him her new muse producing a series of
giant canvases depicting the stages of his life from egg to adult.

Up close and personal.

If you're anywhere near Chicago go and see the exhibition for
yourself.  If not, just feast your eyes here, fluff out your feathers
and say COO!

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Shedding for Beginners - Chapter I

It's strange how your dreams change over the years.
In my teens, apart from the forlorn hope of a brief encounter
with Oliver Reed, my thoughts were mainly centered around
how I could talk my parents into letting me have a horse.
My plea's fell upon stony ground as did my scaled-down request
for a dog instead.  Damn and blast.

The boy Oliver before the booze got him.

In my twenties it was a case of "be careful what you wish for"
because I soon found myself saddled with an alcoholic husband
and the responsibilities of parenthood.  My guardian angel had
obviously not been paying proper attention during that decade.

Mouche & Geordie - two memorable dogs!

Divorce was the buzzword of my thirties and, not being one to learn
from my mistakes, I spent my forties and fifties repeating the
errors of my youth by acquiring a second and even more appalling
husband than the first and, happily, several memorable dogs.

Death did finally "us part" during my sixth decade on this planet
and I have recently discovered that, apart from good health
and world peace, my heart's desire at this moment in
time is - A SHED!

A humble abode but soon to me mine own.

The good thing about a shed fixation is that it's a relatively
simple desire to fulfil and so, earlier this week  having first scanned
the small ad's for purveyors of said item, I set off on my quest.

Great Yarmouth docks (the tourist view)

My journey took me into the darkest corners of Great Yarmouth
Docks and, as I drove slowly along the wharves looking for the
address, I began to wonder whether it was only men who get
nicked for kerb crawling.  Having double locked the jam jar I
pulled up my collar against the howling east wind and diving
seagulls and entered the premises past razor wire and "Beware of
the Dog" signs - yes Alice dear, it was all a bit like an episode
of The Sweeney.

I kept expecting the Old Bill to shown up at any moment.

Having called a timid "hello" a couple of times to no effect
I quickly discovered that a piercing, two fingered whistle
perfected in my youth and still operational today, soon attracted
considerable attention.  In most other situations I would have
turned and run as the proprietor turned out to be a huge,
heavily inked, hulk of a man and I was very grateful when we
finally entered "the office" and he sat down as I was getting
quite a crick in my neck trying to look up at him.

I have to say that most of the "artwork" adorning the office walls
was definately not shed related but boys will be boys.  The ordering
process itself was surprisingly efficient and not as expensive as I
had imagined,  What's more he was offering "free erections" (nobody
dare snigger) which together with free delivery had attracted me
in the first place.  The only tricky point was when it was time to
go and because the desk was so sticky with old coffee mug rings
from the last century I literally had to peel away my order
confirmation from the sugary surface beneath.

This is the look I'm aiming for "shabby shed"

Mission accomplished, order placed and I'm still alive to tell the
tale.  Delivery and much anticipated "erection" scheduled for
ten days' time, so stay tuned for the next exciting chapter of
"Shedding for Beginners"!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016


Long, long ago, when Adam was a boy,
the Internet had yet to be invented and I was just
a small girl, I was given a doll called Lobelia.

An appropriate name for a doll straight out of a
horror film.  She had been passed around the family
for a couple of generations before I drew the short
straw and she came briefly into my possession.

Not the real Lobelia but close enough to send shivers.

She really freaked me out, I was a "teddy" girl through
and through.  This abomination had moving eyes, rosebud
lips and a wig of real human hair made by my grandfather
who was not only a West End "coiffeur des dames" but also
dabbled in the dark art of the handmade "peruke" as a very
lucrative sideline.  Just don't ever ask where he got
the hair!

I took an instant disliking to Lobelia.  She was hard and
unyielding, her arms and legs stuck into my chubby infant
flesh and her eyes seemed to follow my every move.
She instilled terror and was thankfully taken away from me
the day I picked up the scissors and decided to give her a
"Tony Curtis".  A fashionable cut back in the day.

Guy (Michael Zajkov) and Dolls

The years rolled by and I had all but forgotten the porcelaine-
headed monster that used to haunt my childhood dreams
- that is until today because today I stumbled upon the work
of Russian craftsman Michael Zajkov!

After graduating from Kuban State University in 2009 Michael
chose to work as a pupeteer with a theatre group until he went
on to hit the big time in 2013 with an exhibition entitled
Art Dolls in Moscow.  Michael is very easy on the eye btw!

They look quite a handfull.

His dolls are so real you almost expect them to blink.  They're
multiple jointed and made from polymer clay with hand painted
eyes from Germany and French mohair tresses.  Guaranteed to
fascinate, unnerve, repel and horrify all at one and the same time.

How spooky are these?

Come back Lobelia, all is forgiven.
Just please don't ever leave me alone with one of
Michael's spooky humanoids.  Promise?

That's one way to put on your mascara I suppose.

Sunday, 7 February 2016


Hands up anyone who remembers Kit Williams and
his golden hare?  How I wish we could all have another
dose of his magic in our lives again right now.

And for those of you for whom the name doesn't ring any bells
let me enlighten you immediately although sadly much,
much too late to join the treasure hunt his beautiful book which
sold two million copies worldwide sparked back in August
1979 when virtually the entire nation fell captive
beneath it's spell

Masquerade as it is called is a picture book like no other which was
both written and illustrated by Kit.  However his talents don't stop
there as he also created a breathtakingly beautiful, jewel
encrusted 18 carat golden hare which he then hid in a secret
ceremony with just one celebrity witness, Bamber Gascoigne,
somewhere in the British countryside (Ampthill Park, Bedfordshire).
Clues to the location were buried deep within the pages and
lavish illustrations of the book.  The riddle was finally solved in
1982 and the amulet was later bought at auction in 1988 by a
mystery buyer for an astonishing £31,900.

It can still be read to this day as a charming children's tale about the
moon falling in love with the sun with Jack Hare as their go-between
but the buried treasure has long since been discovered by the winner
after deciphering correctly all the fiendishly difficult clues.

A second puzzle book followed some time later and this time the
challenge was to discover it's title and represent it without the
use of the written word..  Often referred to as "The Bee
Book" the answer was finally revealed as "The Bee on the Comb".
And just like all good nursery tales the competition ran for exactly
a year and a day.

The Wishing Fish clock

Kit went on to publish a couple of other books and was also
commissioned to create three public clocks with elaborate mechanisms
and moving parts such as animals.  He is now virtually a recluse and
continues to paint figurative art at his studio in Gloucestershire.