Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Writing for Art UK

I've agreed to write some articles for Art UK (the Public Catalogue Foundation), which is a brilliant project funded by the Arts Council and dedicated to making available online all of the oil paintings which are in public collections in the UK. After the oil paintings, they may move on to works in other media:-

The point of the project is to allow us, the British public, to get a look at what we all own! Some of the art is great, some is indifferent, but we should be able to see it all and decide for ourselves. Most of the artworks in public collections aren't on display, there simply isn't enough public wall-space in galleries and museums. Some institutions rotate their collections so different pictures are displayed at some point, but many others don't and very many works of art never see the light of day at all.

The Art UK website publishes artist's biographies which are all currently taken from The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists or the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, so I can't submit biographies of artists.

However they also publish artist stories, relating to artists who have works shown on the site. I've  so far submitted the story of Hazel King-Farlow, who has several paintings in Wakefield, Leeds and Manchester Art Galleries.

The story includes her sister, because Hazel King-Farlow is also Hazel McKinley and Hazel Guggenheim, the sister of Peggy Guggenheim, which makes the story more interesting for visitors to the website. As some of you, my gentle readers may know, Hazel was one of the 31 Women and I've researched her in some detail. My story should be available on the site in a few weeks, I'm told.

Some of Hazel's paintings are here: -

Personally I prefer some of Hazel's later work in gouache/watercolour which have a more surrealist streak and some are even humorous. But that's just me and I don't know if any of those are in any UK collection. So here's one anyway, which I probably shouldn't publish... It's titled:

 'Gainsborough Painting Mrs Siddons in Tom Driberg's Sitting Room'.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Haiku in December

This vast cold sky, bright 
with crisp vapour trails, 
we are not truly alone. 

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Haiku in November

High in the damson tree      

A robin sings, alone.      

Yellow leaves slip down.      

Friday, 4 November 2016

In view of the US election...

Proclamation to the citizens of the United States of America, from
Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
of the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

 In light of the following three factors:
1                    your election as Head of State, a man who wears a yellow hairpiece and builds trumpery on our land in Scotland. No decent man wears a hairpiece. We should know, neither our husband, nor our son nor our grandson sport such an affectation,
2                    your failure to control your urge to eat until you explode, unlike our subjects in Great Britain half of whom are too poor to over eat,
3                    your proclivity (despite having two elected governing houses when it should be obvious that one is too many) for electing incompetents who are only in it for the power and are in most cases incapable of believing that there is a world beyond the US borders (i.e. the 2012 Olympic Games were not superbly run in London, England, but in London. Full Stop.);

it has been noted that you have proved incapable of governing yourselves.

We hereby give Notice of the Revocation of your Independence from Tuesday the 9th of November 2016 AD.

This revocation to take immediate effect (You should look up 'revocation' in the Oxford English Dictionary, all other "English" dictionaries will be abolished).

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and territories within the borders of the former United States of America (except for Alaska, which is too cold for a Royal Visit and will be returned to the natives, together with oil revenues).

Your new Prime Minister, Theresa May (for the moment), will consult Her Majesty the Queen on the appointment of a Governor for Northern America (excluding Canada which is already accounted for and Alaska [see above]), without the need for further elections. The recently elected ‘president’ may not apply for the post. No ‘republican’ may apply, even if he disposes of the hairpiece. Great Britain is a Monarchy, not a republic. Persistent ‘republicans’ will be treated as traitors and subject to transportation for life (see 1, below).

Saturday, 22 October 2016


The internet is infested with anthropomorphism, I'm getting really pissed off with it. Just because I love animals and am passionate about protecting the environment, it doesn't mean I want to see every cute animal video on the internet, with even 'cuter' human commentary; and I really don't believe that "mother love is unsurpassed" because there's a video of a sea otter carrying her cub on her belly, however charming I and other humans may find the image. 

Animals and the environment they inhabit are far more important than all this soppiness. They are part of a working ecosystem which we humans (who are also animals) live in too. If we don't start to take it far more seriously, rather than going sentimental about a snoring pug dog or saying 'Ooooh!' over a wheelbarrow full of baby orang-utans, then as a species we are in serious trouble. The orang-utans are in the barrow because they are all orphans - their mothers, who were less 'cute', have been killed by people who took the babies to sell as pets. People who see an image of an animal and say, 'I want one', are partly responsible for this.

Many more orang-utans are killed when their rain-forest habitat is destroyed to grow palms for palm oil, which is another conversation and the opposite of anthropomorphism, when people decide that orang-utans are less important than having cheaper cakes and cheaper face cream because palm oil is so CHEAP. 

And I really don't like images of dogs and cats dressed as people, it's not cute. What's wrong with them being animals? Animals are often beautiful - they are not cute, it's a demeaning word. Am I a curmudgeon? Yes. Am I an endangered species? I doubt it. Unlike the oran-utans.

South by Java Head - a novel by Alistair MacLean

Book Review

I don’t really understand why the novels by Ian Fleming are still popular while those of Alistair MacLean, a contemporary of his and also a writer of adventure/espionage fiction, seems to be quite forgotten. I read both authors in my teens and then l found MacLean’s writing much more engaging, I re-read his books many times. Alistair MacLean’s heroes were flawed, gritty and didn’t give a damn if their collar was ironed or not, while Fleming’s obsession with smart dressing and martinis, shaken not stirred, seemed effete and unrealistic to this teenager, I wasn’t tempted to read any of his novels more than once.

The films are another matter, using the Hollywood effect, glamourised Bond films have had huge amounts of money thrown at them and are often very watchable, while the filmed versions of MacLean’s books which I have seen – Guns of Navarone, Force 10 From Navarone, Where Eagles Dare and Ice Station Zebra – are more standard movie ‘thrillers’ and don’t live up to the thrill I have felt reading his novels.

South by Java Head has not, as far as I know, ever been filmed. Written in 1958, this was the second or third MacLean novel I read, I’ve just re-read it. This is a war story with touches of espionage, the author’s first two novels, HMS Ulysses and The Guns of Navarone were also war stories. South by Java Head tells the story of an unlikely group of people escaping from Singapore during the final stages of the city’s capture by Japanese forces in 1942. The opening scenes are highly descriptive and also dramatic and realistic, they’re immediately engrossing and introduce most of the important characters. There are quite a lot of these and the author names 23. He rapidly informs us that they will not all survive and, throughout the story, depletes their numbers with shocking suddenness and violence that wouldn’t always be out of place in Game of Thrones.

This was a book which, even though re-reading long after I had forgotten my first impression, I still found it immensely readable and well enough written to not interfere with the strong narrative flow.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Haiku in October

My old tree’s last harvest,
what to do with ten
thousand purple damsons.


written on National poetry day, then my computer wouldn't let me post! So finally here it is...