Pictures, thoughts,words and opinions

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  • Guns ‘n’ roses: the murder of Joan Root – 13 January 2006

    On this day in 2006, 69-year-old Joan Root lay alone bleeding to death from gunshot wounds at her home on the shores of Lake Naivasha in Kenya. Whodunnit? Who cut down this Kenyan-born English rose? And why? As a young woman, Joan was shy and quiet, but spirited, fearless and utterly enchanted by Africa. In 1961 she married Alan Root

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  • Clogs. Wooden shoe know it

    Clogs: solid practical wooden footwear which used to be worn by people who worked on the land especially in the Netherlands and Sweden. I happened to acquire a pair and thought I’d give them the old ‘folk art’ treatment, just for a bit of fun. One turned out to be gift for a special friend who has a special interest

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  • The Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest – 14 October 1066

    The British Isles has a long history of invaders: Angles, Danes, Saxons, Vikings. But on the 28 September 1066, when William, Duke of Normandy, landed at Pevensey in Sussex an invasion force on this scale had not been since the Romans, a thousand years before. William’s fleet of ships contained perhaps 8,000 men and hundreds of horses. He meant business.

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  • Kate Bush

    Kate Bush live – Before the Dawn

    Thirty-five years after her previous live shows, Kate Bush stepped out onto the stage of  London’s Hammersmith Odeon to rapturous applause from an audience which included us. This was the 19th of 22  shows of “Before the Dawn”. I already knew which songs she would perform and in what order as we had found a recording of the show online

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  • Wharf Stream Way waymarker post

    In June, I submitted a design to be carved as a waymarker post  as part of the The Wharf Stream Way, a new footpath into the fields east of Eynsham, Oxfordshire. I had already designed the interpretation panel for the walk so I thought I’d take some of the motifs from that and compose a carvable design to fit on

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  • The suicide of Vincent van Gogh – 29 July 1890

    On 27 July 1890, Vincent van Gogh, an unkempt, unknown 37-year-old Dutchman, walked out of his lodgings in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise, just north of Paris, where he had been living and working since May. That day instead of his usual easel and paints, he carried a handgun he had perhaps borrowed from a farmer ‘to scare away the crows’.

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  • Paul Gauguin self portrait

    The death of Paul Gauguin – 8 May 1903

    “In art, all who have done something other than their predecessors have merited the epithet of ‘revolutionary’; and it is they alone who are masters” – Paul Gauguin When artist Paul Gauguin’s 54-year-old dead body was lowered swiftly into his grave on the remote Pacific island of Hiva Oa, it was already rotting fast and stinking in the sweltering tropical

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  • What is a drypoint: badgers and bluebells

    What is drypoint print? How do you make one? I explain in this blog.

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  • Van Gogh’s Tarascon Diligence at the Ashmolean

    Treasures from the Henry and Rose Pearlman collection Last week I went to Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum to see treasures from the Henry and Rose Pearlman collection in a show entitled Cezanne and the Modern.  The meat and potatoes of the show were a goodly number of watercolours by Paul Cézanne. There were fine paintings and sculptures by Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet, Degas

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  • Birding in The Gambia

    170 different species in just 10 days! Last week, just as the birds fly south to escape the British winter, so did we… to The Gambia. As well as lots of sunshine, we saw more than 170 species of birds (not being ‘listers’, we lost count after that)! Shockingly, Jane even enjoyed the walking! The trip was pretty exclusively to

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  • Squonk

    Side 1 track 3 of Genesis’ 1977 album Trick of the Tail tells the tale of the squonk, a mythical creature from American folklore. Listen here and read the lyrics. Legend has it that the creature is so ashamed of its hideous appearance, it hides deep in the forest and spends much of its time weeping. Hunters report that when

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  • Mohamed Bouazizi

    The self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi – 17 December 2010

    What a magic carpet ride it was for our brothers and sisters in North Africa and the Middle East. Egypt’s Mubarak-led police state deposed, Libya’s mad dog Gaddafi fittingly gunned down in a sewer. And the struggle continues for reform in Bahrain, Yemenis fight for their rights, and brave and bullied Syrians continue to rise up against the barbarism of

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  • greenham common women

    Greenham Common Peace Women ‘Embrace the Base’

    A cold day in the Cold War The 12th December 1982 was cold. Not really the kind of day to be hanging about outside unless there is something you really have to do. But there was something that I and thousands of other women really, really had to do. In 1981, the world was in the grip of the Cold

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  • The death of Hernán Cortés – 2 December 1547

    “He came dancing across the water with his galleons and guns, Looking for the new world in that palace in the sun”- from Cortez the Killer by Neil Young Hernán (Hernando) Cortés was a glory-seeking, ruthless murderer capable of barbaric cruelty, who more or less single-handedly destroyed the ancient Aztec culture. Using terror tactics, guns and horses he ‘conquered’ Mexico

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  • Genesis revisited revisited

    For the army of Genesis fans out there who crave to hear live once again the glorious symphonic songs of the pioneering progsters, until this year, the nearest thing you got was hearing guitarist Steve Hackett revisiting a Genesis tune or two. Hackett-era Genesis (from 1971 to 1976) forms a huge part of the soundtrack to my early life, and

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  • Acapulco teapot

    Magic portal teapot

    Two years ago on a visit to Chile we visited the Santiago house of poet Pablo Neruda. Known as the Chilean ‘Shakespeare’ and revered as that nation’s conscience, he was a collector of really interesting stuff, which is on display in his former home, now a museum. Guided from room to room, we admired the eclectic architecture, the magnificent paintings,

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