Thursday, 26 November 2015

Black Friday

This shop in Osaka, Japan, has a sale on, in case you didn't notice...

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

And did those feet?

The normally highly political bit of news program on R4's lunchtime slot, yesterday ran quite a long live bit from Glastonbury discussing whether or not King Arthur was buried there since when it used to be called Avalon.

I thought that everyone knew that this story was made up by 13th century monks in order to attract tourists, but it seems that Reuters forgot to tell the BBC. It's not as if they are short of news right now.

I always get a thrill whenever I stand in the same spot as some bygone celebrity - a bit like putting your hands in the imprints outside the Chinese Theatre in L.A. (Is that what it is called? Is that where they are?).

Every time I take the train to London, I find myself imagining all the celebs and royalty which the very same rails which are taking my weight (not much, but every little adds up) have taken their weight too in the past. Well, I'm going to have to start all over again, because they have just replaced all the rails between Bath and Paddington in preparation for electrification.

When I was paid a great lump of cash by Gary Lineker, I brought out some of the £20 notes in the pub, and a keen football supporter asked to handle them. At first, I was a bit worried he would not give them back, but he assured me he only wanted to touch them.

Right up until our own beloved Queen, the poor and ignorant believed that the royal touch would cure all manner of disease, and one day a year was set aside for the monarch to pass amongst them to give them a fumble. Elizabeth (2nd) has always worn gloves in public - even at State banquets.

I once shook Prince Charles's hand, and I wondered if he wondered what I had been doing with it a few hours before the meeting, in the same way I wondered what he had been doing with his. Best not to think about it if you have to meet a lot of people.

I used to make and handle a lot of cast objects, and what struck me very profoundly was the simple fact that every single cast object has - at some time - been in direct or indirect contact with the original object - like Napoleon's death-mask, for instance.

Now 3D laser printing has arrived, and faithful copies of famous items can actually be sent down a phone line. Has the magic been taken out, put in, or just updated?

Monday, 23 November 2015

Having what it takes

A good start to the week - I've had the go-ahead to create yet another bit of good-looking marble for my best client. I can now see well into the new year. All I have to do now is actually make all this stuff.

That women with the champagne from yesterday's (and today's - any excuse will do me) post prompted someone to say that - these days - you are not good-looking unless you are thin, but (as Cro and I asserted) this is not the case, so if your arse really does look big in that outfit, then congratulations. Buy it.

I have known quite a few professional models over the years (my mother was one in the late 1930s), and they all have one thing in common - the camera loves them.

I have a stunningly beautiful young woman friend, and she is married to an irritatingly handsome young man. They have recently had a very good-looking child as well.

She was offered training as a model when she was a little younger, but she very wisely  - and quickly - realised that she didn't have what it takes to look as good in a photo as she does in the flesh.

On the surface - beauty is not skin-deep - she seems to have all the attributes: long, slender legs terminating in a very compact backside, a fit-looking physique with just the right size of tits, a lovely set of wide eyes which are always clear and bright with no lines under them at all, and a great head of hair set on a perfectly shaped head.

The trouble is that in photos, she looks like a 45 year-old with a snub nose and permanently lascivious expression on her face. I know this because she is in one of our local magazines this month, advertising jewellery for a smart shop in town.

Kate Moss, on the other hand, looked like a 45 year-old woman with a snub nose (even when she was young) in real life, but still looks amazing in photos.

Walking around Havana made me wonder how so many different types of body shape can all look so good - gigantic backsides, tall, short, black, white, thin, fat etc. I eventually understood that they all looked good because they were perfectly relaxed in their own bodies. Nobody runs there.

I look slightly worse in photos than I do in the flesh, which is not saying much.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

I demand 11 more nights

Just another Saturday night at The Bell Inn, Bath. I got bored and was home by 6.30.

The final cannon-blast at the end of the two-minute silence marked the beginning of Christmas, and the festive (LED) lights outside our compact but adorable city apartment have been on ever since, flooding my bijou little bedroom with a very good imitation of cold dawn - for the whole night.

Before I tore myself away from The Bell last night, I was talking to an ex-local who now lives on Dartmoor. Halfway through the conversation, he apologised for donning a pair of very dark sunglasses. It was night time, and we were bathed in the soft, warm glow of the pub's (LED) lights.

He explained that his eyes cannot handle the frequency of Light Emitting Diodes - of the sort which I fitted not only all over the pub, but recently all over our compact but adorable city apartment. I asked him why not.

He said that there had recently been some sort of research which claimed that exposure to LED light damaged people's retinas, and he was particularly sensitive to this newly discovered phenomena.

Damn. I have been waiting for bloody years until they had just about sorted out a form of LED light which is fit for domestic use, and now someone has come up with this scary theory. I am going to have to do some research on it now. Have you heard of this?

Anyway, back to Christmas in November. I am thinking of starting a campaign to reinstate 12th Night.

There are already dozens of half-hearted campaigns which vainly attempt to halt of the steady retrogression of acceptable dates to begin celebrating Yule Tide, and these are mainly aimed at the obvious commercial interests of all those high street shops which would like to see the season begin at the very end of Summer.

The 12th Night - and the run-up to it - after Christmas Day was considered more important to the Elizabethans than the day itself, and this had the added benefit of finding something to celebrate in the cold, short, Winter days when the balloon has been deflated and all we have to look forward to is distant Spring. I don't think we have ever quite recovered from Oliver Cromwell's 8-year blanket-ban on Christmas, and Jeremy Corbyn is starting to look as though he might bring the ban back into force.

Boxing Day here is marked by the Winter Sales, when some desperate people actually sleep out on the streets on Christmas night, just so they can get £50 knocked-off a washing machine, or whatever.

Could not the two be linked in some way by reinstating 12th Night as the highlight of the Winter festivals?

Saturday, 21 November 2015


Arriving at the string of huts which housed the Foundation Course of Guildford Art School, the first thing I had to get used to was calling the teachers by their first name. I had just left school. The second was sitting very close to naked women and being instructed to look at them very closely - stare at them relentlessly - rather than being told to turn my head.

Certain smells bring those days back vividly to me - wet plaster, hot resin, oil paint, etc.

Our first painting class with two lecturers teaching us technique: One leaves the room briefly and the other says, "The first thing to deal with is brushes. Don't waste money on expensive brushes - the cheap ones are just as good."

The second lecturer returns to the room and says, "Right, Brushes. Don't economise by buying cheap brushes. Always get the best ones available."

We all laugh, and it it is decided that - as with most things - we will make our own minds up after accumulating a little experience.

There always seemed to be the latest Beatles album playing somewhere in every studio. A couple of the male lecturers were real perverts. One day, a young and pretty model arrived and was made to stand directly over a mirror with her legs outstretched. It is next to impossible to get a young student to concentrate on drawing under these circumstances, but they didn't care about that. They were on a colossal salary for their day.

Another day, a new model turned up and was put into a pose which involved going on her hands and knees with her bare arse facing us, while the lecturer gawped in obvious distraction, trying to spot what she had for breakfast, no doubt.

The door suddenly burst open and her husband stormed in, shouting. He dragged her to her feet, got her to put her clothes back on, then dragged her out. We never saw her again. Right the way through my school education, I have been blessed with bad teachers.

Our guest lecturers were a lot of fun, and included people like Yoko Ono, David Hockney and Bruce Lacey - all barking mad except for Hockney, of course.

As the Spring turned into Summer, posters began to appear on walls and trees, inviting students to attend union meetings in the cafe, and after about two of these meetings, I finally went down to attend one myself. I had, after all, paid my mandatory dues.

The S.U. had discovered that the cafe and the building which housed it was funded solely from student union dues, but had also heard that the Principal and Vice Principal (Tom Arnold and Leonard Stopani) were due to arrive in a minute to disband the meeting and evict the students from their own premises. Even they didn't know who funded the place.

So they turned up and Tom Arnold began shouting at everyone to get out, until he was told that he would not be welcome there himself without written permission from the Student Union. He went very red in the face, then turned on his heel and left, followed by the scuttling Stopani.

The next day, a college notice was posted around the place stating that any teacher seen talking to a student outside of the studios would be sacked for misconduct. 'Misconduct' usually meant something like rape, so being sacked for this would mean you would never teach again.

Several very brave teachers - who had not even cared about our meetings up until that notice - actually made a point of openly fraternising with us in full view of Stopani, who duly took down their names in his notebook.

A couple of days later, these teachers received their formal letters of dismissal, and despite protestations from people like John Lennon, they would never teach again.

That was when it all kicked-off. Our sit-in began as a simple plea to reinstate the sacked lecturers, and was supported by all manner of people including barristers and pop-stars. It was only the media who portrayed us as a bunch of free-loading layabouts, and the people who believed them began to send us death-threats from that point on.

It became dangerous to leave the building on your own after dark, and we had to shutter the windows because someone took pot-shots at us with an air-rifle every night until we did.

Even in the daylight, we went out in groups of twos and threes. The stress would eventually take its toll.

Friday, 20 November 2015

My life as a revolting student, Part the First

I got a place as a Foundation student at Guildford School of Art in 1968, when I just hit 16 years of age.

We took the building over in a 'Sit-In', and I was the third to last student to actually leave the premises under cover of darkness, three months later. We all got ill.

The bit in the middle will follow in a few instalments.

We made history, whether or not you like the idea.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it. I will talk about it over the next few weeks.

It was the BEST education any young person could have had, but not much to do with Art.

Watch this space.

What do we want? (mass rhetorical question)

My brief incursions into Facebook under this name have taught me that the worst thing you can do there is show any negativity whatsoever. The peer-pressure against disapproval is as if you have shamelessly mentioned the 'N' word.

It's very difficult to achieve a simple social balance when the pendulum of acceptable political views swings so violently one way then the other, but it doesn't half produce an atmosphere of divisiveness at the very time when social cohesion would be most useful. Sometimes we are 'them', and sometimes we are 'us', and most of the time we didn't know we had to take sides until we were told to.

Roger Scruton - the British fox-hunting philosopher - has just written a book which argues against political correctness and laboriously points-out that the social fabric is getting very tatty because we are no longer allowed to call a spade a spade. I know a fair few people who would probably buy this book,  and some of them went to the same school as Professor Scruton, meaning that they could actually afford to.

People under 40: 'Conservatism = Bad thing, Socialism = Good thing'.

People over 40: 'Conservatism = Good thing, Socialism = Bad thing'.

People like me: 'Fuck the lot of them'.