Saturday, 25 February 2012

My Idea of Perfection

Ok, it's owning up to lifelong addiction time - but I'm definitely not looking for any cure. I don't exactly know why, but I've always felt a personal affinity to the music of Sir Edward Elgar. Whenever I listen to his music, It's almost like he's posted me a CD with a note saying "Jerry, find a quiet spot, put the headphones on an enjoy because I know you are going to like this". But why does this qualify for my blog? Well Elgar once told a friend that his music was 'outdoors music'.

Above is a photograph I took on a visit to Malvern. These hills seem to be just plonked in the middle of otherwise very flat country; this was also where Elgar spent most of his life, and the Malvern Hills have become synonymous with him. I could have chosen so many examples of what I like, but I found these three links on you tube, so perhaps if you have some time, find a quiet spot, put the headphones on and (only if you find it your 'cup of tea') enjoy!

1) 'Sospiri' which means sighs, plus a lovely outdoors video

2) 'Mina': When we visited Malvern we found the churchyard where Elgar is buried. We then went to Elgar's house and museum, and in the garden we found another little grave-stone that said 'Marco' &  'Mina'. Mina was a Cairn Terrier that Elgar was clearly so very fond off. This is such a charming, wistful piece (definitely recommend skipping the advert!).

3) 'Piano Quintet in A minor' If you did enjoy the other two links, and fancy something a little more meaty then listen to this chamber piece. If you haven't time for all three movements, try just the second movement from about 13.55 - I find it so sublime!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Leysdown Beach

Usually, I only paint in acrylics for my job but I've tried it here just for fun
with this scene from our recent birding trip up to Sheppey.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Roses Soundboard

Here is the body of one of our 34 string 'Clarsach' harps; it is the part that amplifies the sound when the strings are plucked. The customer for this particular instrument has requested a stylised rose design painted onto the soundboard. She also asked that it incorporated the initial letter 'R' but without it being too obvious. Can you see it (I don't think it's very hard to spot)?

Design now ready to paint
The soundboard may now be done but the harp itself is a few weeks from being finished.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Garden Snow

Brrrr. Our coldest night this year (-11)
prompted me to put up a few images from the garden this week.

Looking out from the back door.

Hmmmm, I wonder where where our neighbour's cat has has been?

 Bird footprints on the garden table

We've left our marks
and this Wood Mouse sprang out,
bounced back off the snow,
and zoomed away behind the pot.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Sheppey Again

It was a pretty hectic morning for everyone. My wife was very busy getting us ready for our expedition; (among many other things) creating an amazing packed lunch, filling 3 flasks (soup, coffee & hot water) and making sure we had plenty of blankets, gloves, scarves etc. Two of our fantastic carers came to get Thomas up and ready. My daughter was making last minute touches to her packing (off to Paris for her French exchange week) and I was watching the cricket on TV.

Sheppey, as expected, was very cold and most areas of fresh water were completely frozen over. But even though this diminished the variety of wildfowl on offer at Elmley, there were plenty of raptors about including several each of Merlins, Peregrines, Kestrels and up to 5 Marsh Harriers. Other highlights here were hearing the wistful Golden Plover call somewhere overhead; a huge cloud of several thousand Wigeon taking to the air together (probably 'spooked' by a peregrine); we also managed to pick out an elusive Cetti's Warbler flitting through the reeds, along with a couple of Reed Buntings.

Birding in style at Elmley Marshes: cosy in the hide, watching the 'raptor show' with steaming hot coffee and packed lunch including some delicious home-made pasties.

We spent the afternoon at the other end of the Island where we were able to use the van as a hide and park side-on to the beach. Here, a good variety of waders were on show, including Knot, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin, Turnstone and Oystercatcher. Then, as we raided the soup thermos (scrummy - Karen makes the world's tasties soups!!) 8 White-fronted Geese flew overhead and a lone Brent Goose swooped down to the playing-field behind.

Finally, as we were about to drive away, the day was capped off perfectly by the appearance one of my all time favourite birds - a Short-eared Owl. It was thrilling to see it quartering the ground beside us and diving down on perhaps an unsuspecting vole. We turned around and drove back for another 'fix' of this superb bird and at one point, it flew up and passed close to the van. Then as if that wasn't enough, a second Short-eared Owl appeared - perfect!

And it's lovely now writing this, recalling our day with a glass of sloe gin, snow falling outside...
and watching the football on TV.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Dead Wood?


I love wood; I suppose it's just as well as I've worked with it for nearly every day of my (34 years) working life. But it's great in this form too - long dead and rotting, and it's pretty remarkable that this tree, up at Gatton's Nut Wood, is still standing! I say dead but in a way it is still full of life with creatures like beetles and their larvae, woodpeckers, spiders, moss, lichen, fungi... and a lot of fun to paint too.