Category Archives: Inventions

Unleash your inner Tempest


Unfortunately, the Shakespeare exhibition and all workshops have been cancelled until further notice due to the coronavirus.

Apologies for the inconvenience.


Fancy contributing to an exhibition based around Shakespeare’s The Tempest?

I’m facilitating an exhibition for Arc in collaboration with Stockport Libraries as part of Shakespeare Week.

The theme for the exhibition is to bring the great bard’s classic play to life visually.


Here’s one we prepared earlier…

Who can get involved?

Well, there are two groups of people that can take part – locals, and non-locals.

If you’re local to Stockport, you can come along to one of our group sessions at The Heatons and Brinnington libraries. They are on Tuesday 17th March and Friday 20th March respectively.

There are two sessions at each library. 10.30 am – 12.30 pm and 1.30 pm – 3.30 pm.

You can pop along for one, or both sessions. (There’ll be different activities in the morning and afternoon.) Stay for 10 minutes or two hours.

For non-locals who fancy having a go, simply email me a pdf of your piece (or post it if you have time) and I’ll print it out. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Vermont or Verona, just pick up your pencils and paintbrushes and wear your heart on your sleeve.

It’s quite simple really. I’m asking people to draw or paint on top of The Tempest text, as in the example above. Artwork can be A5, A4 or A3 portrait or landscape and can be in any medium.

Sometimes called Humuments or Black-out poetry. You can use the text as part of a background, or highlight certain parts of the text to make a completely different piece of prose or poetry, which doesn’t have to relate to The Tempest at all.

See examples above and below.





The exhibition opens on Saturday 28th March at the Arc Centre Gallery Cafe, Hat Works in Stockport at 11 am – 4 pm.

That doesn’t given you long if you’re not local and would like to submit a piece. We’ll be putting the exhibition together w/c 23rd March, so ideally, we would like email/postal submissions by Saturday 21st March please. I’ll be waiting with baited breath.

Email me at for more details or my postal address.

Good luck, the world is your oyster.





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I [heart] America

There’s been a lot of hullabaloo this past couple of years because of the Cheeto-in-Chief of the good ol’ U S of A.

What with cosying up to dictators and alienating allies he certainly cuts a divisive figure. Unfortunately, this has had a backlash against America in general and its people.

So, to redress the balance, I wanted to write a positive post about some of the things I love about America. After all, one Mango-Mussolini shouldn’t taint the whole country.

In no particular order…


From Elvis Presley to Tom Waits to the Talking Heads. Who could argue that America has produced some of the greatest artists and genres the world has ever seen. Who are your favourites?




Next up, MOVIES.

When we think of American movies we tend to think of Hollywood blockbusters. But there are so many unbelievable directors and actors. Here are some of my favourites, who are yours?





As I have a penchant for the Arts, I’m going to pick out a few photographers who have inspired me over the years.



Marilyn Monroe by Eve Arnold


Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen


Vivian Maier


Ansel Adams


Cindy Sherman


Saul Leiter

Understandably, most people couldn’t give a rat’s ass about advertising. But I do, because I worked in it for 30 years. When Doyle, Dane, Bernbach set up shop in the 1960s they revolutionised advertising. They focussed on simple product truths. Their ethos/philosophy permeated continents and generations. Still does. I had the privilege of working for DDB Dublin.



Leading on from advertising we have GRAPHIC DESIGN, and this iconic classic by Milton Glaser for the New York tourist board. which has been ‘parodied’ a trillion times. (Yes, including me.)


Milton Glaser

Next up, ARTISTS. Again, a multitude to pick from. Here are a couple of my faves.


Jean Michel Basquiat


Edward Hopper


Mary Cassatt

Moving on to something non art related – LANDSCAPE. America has such a diverse landscape, from snow-capped mountains to sun-scorched deserts.




I’ve always loved CLASSIC CARS, Mercedes, Jaguar, Citroen, Volvo. But I also love American cars for their sheer ostentatiousness.





I couldn’t write a post about America without including a few WRITERS. Too many to choose from. Here are a few of my heroes who have inspired me over the years. Recommendations anyone?






What else do I love about America? I really like their ARCHITECTURE. Whether it be a monumental skyscaper or the traditional colonial white-picket-fence style complete with veranda.




You won’t get very far in the States without some top-notch tucker. What is more quintessentially American than the humble DINER?


Who says Americans don’t get irony? They make some fantastic COMEDY and have some wonderful comedians. Obviously, you’re not as funny as us Brits. But you’re getting the hang of it. (Benny Hill.)





There you have it. Have I forgotten anything, anyone? What would you have included?

Obviously, there is one other thing I would like to give credit to. And that is the American people. (Well, only those that didn’t vote Trump.) You’re an innovative and inspiring bunch. Not only that, you saved our asses in two world wars! So, cheers for that.

My, (our), world would be a lot poorer without you.



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Things for which I am grateful #365/365.

Some folks might think this is a bit of a cheat. I started with my kids and I’m going to finish with them. In my defence, I have two of the little rascals so I’m counting it as one post apiece.

There is nothing more precious to me on this Earth than my two daughters. Anyone who has children will know that something changes inside of you – chemically, biologically – and nothing else seems to matter.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to every parent, and true, the pesky varmints do get on your nerves a lot of the time. And yes, they bicker constantly. And they manage to talk in a stream of consciousness James Joyce would be proud of. But, when all’s said and done, they don’t outweigh all the adorable moments. I simply couldn’t live without them.

It’s been an epic year of blogging. Thank you for sticking by me and I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

Right, I’m going for a lie down.

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 16.32.04

Here are my 365 things that I am grateful for:

1 My daughters

2 Water

3 Poetry

4 Baths

5-7 Notebooks, pens, pencils

8,9 Butterflies and moths

10, 11 Softball and baseball

12 Fresh coffee

13 Sound / masts

14 Indoor toilets

15 Stepping Hill Hospital

16 Birds of Paradise

17 Roget’s thesaurus

18 Mother Earth

19 Clingfilm dispenser

20, 21 Yorkshire pudding and onion gravy

22 Jorge Luis Borges

23 Classic cars

24 Curry

25 Tim Berners Lee

26 Charles Bukowski

27 Yorkshire

28 Shiraz

29 Food

30 Katell Keineg

31 Tao Te Ching

32 A roof over my head

33 Peat fires

34 Street art

35 Friends (as in – mates, not the T.V. show)

36 Wilfred Owen

37 The Penguin Café Orchestra

38 The fry-up

39 Wolves

40 W.B. Yeats

41, 42 Cherry blossom trees and haiku poetry

43 Bread

44 Boules

45 Maps

46 Refuse collectors

47 Candy Chang

48 Sparrows

49 The tomato

50 Studio Ghibli

51 Oliver Jeffers

52 Johannes Gutenberg

53 Tom Waites

54 The cello

55 Mothers’ day

56 The Phoenicians

57, 58 Bacon and brown sauce

59 Tulips

60 Fish and chips

61 Giselle

62 Airfix

63 Firefighters

64 Rain

65 Libraries

66 Raymond Carver

67 Toulouse-Lautrec

68 The Goldfinch

69 Wings of Desire

70 Silence

71 Elizabeth Barrett Browning

72-99 Ireland

100 Talking Heads

101 Sylvia Plath

102 Yorkshire Sculpture Park

103 My mum

104 Modigliani

105 Kurt Vonnegut

106-128 Electricity

129 The pop man

130-147 Comedians/comedy

148 Commando magazine

149 Pastry

150-156 Social media

157 David Bowie

158 Football

159 D-Day

160-194 France

195-230 Novels

231 Graphic Design

232 Viva! Roxy Music

233 – 274 Art

275 Betty Blue

276 Writing

277 Joy Division

278 – 287 Scotland

288 – 324 Italy

325 – 352 Photography

353 Leeds Utd

354 Love

355 Universe

356 Advertising

357 Pan’s Labyrinth

358 – 363 Democracy

364 Miscellaneous

365 My daughters II

If anyone wants to read any of the previous posts simply type the title into the search box on the right. (It’s underneath the ‘topic’ cloud.)


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Things for which I am grateful #364 – Miscellaneous.

When I first started doing Things for which I am grateful, one for each day of 2014, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it. Now, on the penultimate post, I have far too many. So rather than pick just one I’m going to give you a miscellaneous list of all the ones that didn’t make it – but could have quite easily. (Lucky you.)

The point I’m trying to make is that we are very lucky in the ‘west’. And, even though I gripe on about our Tory overlords, I feel very fortunate to live in England.

The sun. (The big orange ball of fire, not the newspaper.)

England. (So much history, beautiful scenery and towns.)

History. (I love history.)

Wind turbines. (I think they’re cool.)

Thai food.

Chinese food.

The industrial revolution.

The sea. (I love the sea. And would love to live by it once again.)



The Romans.

The Greeks.

South Africa.

Elvis Presley.


Public transport.

Sri Lanka.






New Zealand.

Optometry. (I wouldn’t be able to see without my glasses.)

My ex-wife for having our children.


Monkeys. (I do love a monkey.)

My neighbours.


Penny sweet tray.

The Peak District.




The dictionary.






Uilleann pipes.

Sub-atomic particles. (Where would we be without these little jaspers? Nowhere, that’s where.)

Martin Luther King Jr.

The BBC. (Kiddy-fiddlers aside, they’ve done some great stuff.)

The Guardian.


Erik Satie.

The emergency services. (Police, fire, paramedics.)

So, as you can see, plenty for me to be grateful for. But the point is, not what I am grateful for – what do you have to be thankful for in your life?

Wonder what’s in store for the last one?


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Bella Italia! – Things for which I am grateful #288 – 324

Bella Italia288!

Trevi Fountain, Rome.

Trevi Fountain, Rome.

I once sold books in Italy.

It was, what people commonly refer to, as a ‘character building’ experience.

Which is another way of saying – it was a crock of shit.

The job, that is, not Italy.

I love Italy.

If you haven’t been to Rome289, you must try to if you possibly can. (Not as easy for some readers as it is for others.) Not only is it one of the most stunning cities on the planet, (and I’ve been to at least three), it is also the birthplace of that famous empire spanning five centuries.

The Forum, Rome.

The Forum, Rome.

Wherever you turn you are confronted by an ancient monument or building, some dating back a couple of millennia, such as the Pantheon290, the Colosseum291 the Palatine292 and the Trevi Fountain293.

The Pantheon, Rome.

The Pantheon, Rome.

Obviously, there’s The Vatican294 too, which is well worth a visit, even if you’re not a cat lick. I’m not at all religious and my eyes didn’t start burning at the sight of St. Paul’s295.

The view of St. Paul's through a keyhole which I've peeped through!

The view of St. Paul’s through a keyhole which I’ve peeped through!

I’ve never ventured further south than the Amalfi296 coast, (south of Naples297). There are spectacular cliff-top towns such as Sorrento298, Positano299 and Amalfi itself. Nearby is the wondrous relic of Pompeii300 which takes you back in time to when Mount Vesuvius301 erupted and preserved many buildings, artefacts and people! Then there’s the gorgeous island of Capri302 just a short boat ride away.



Walked up those steps. Amalfi.

Walked up those steps. Amalfi.

Positano, Amalfi coast.

Positano, Amalfi coast.

The island of Capri.

The island of Capri.


North of Rome, you have Florence303, Pisa304 and the Apennines305, (which our Pennine range is named after). On the west coast there are the marble producing towns of Carrera306 and Massa307 where the river runs white from the quarries in the mountains. And the sophisticated tourist spot of Viareggio308 on the coast.


And who could forget Venice309 in the north east? Seat of the once-mighty Borgias. A stupendous sinking city amidst an intricate maze of canals. In summer, the weather is to die for. Seriously, it is. I once got sunstroke in Lido de Jesolo310, so pack plenty of factor 50 if you’re a pale-blue-skinned Anglo Saxon, like me.

Venice carnival.

Venice carnival.



Then there’s the food. Obviously, pizza and pasta are top of mind. But spare a though for the taste bud tingling chicken cacciatore311 or bistecca pizzaiola312. You can’t beat a bowl of Penne Picante313 or a simple pepperoni and anchovy pizza314 in a traditional trattorria315. All washed down with your favourite tipple – in my case, (case being the optimum word), of Barolo316.

Does it have tomatoes in it? I'll have it. Pollo alla cacciatore.

Does it have tomatoes in it? I’ll have it. Pollo alla cacciatore.

Food of the gods.

Food of the gods.

Spaghetti vongole.

Spaghetti vongole.

Let us not forget the pioneering artists: Leonardo da Vinci317, Michelangelo318, Raphael319, Giotto320, Botticelli321, Titian322, Donatello323, Caravaggio324 and my old favourite – Modigliani. You can hardly turn a corner without bumping into a masterpiece.

Anatomical studies by Leonardo da Vinci.

Anatomical studies by Leonardo da Vinci.

Michelangelo's 'David'. (Detail.)

Michelangelo’s ‘David’. (Detail.)

Nice. Caravaggio.

Nice. Caravaggio.

If you like art, you’ll love Italy. If you like ancient architecture, you’ll love Italy. If you like history, you’ll love Italy. Most of all, if you like pizza, you’ll love Italy.

And yes, I can speak Italian. But only if you want to talk about books. (Specifically, encyclopaedias.)

Of course, there are many Italian delights that I have yet to discover. Maybe after I’ve sold my first million copies. Speaking of which, check out this piccolo classico…



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Things I am grateful for #150-156: Social Media

Did you miss me?

Whaddaya mean, you didn’t notice I was gone? Sheesh, I could’ve been lying in a gutter for all you lot cared.

My computer decided to pack up on me and has been in the shop for the past brace of weeks being mended. Hence my tardiness at keeping up to date with my things to be grateful for. I wouldn’t mind, but it’s only six months old. Bloody shoddy workmanship if you ask me.

If you’re a newcomer to this series, it’s my attempt at putting into perspective just how lucky we actually are compared to a lot of people around the world who might not have some of the things that we take for granted. (Like a laptop!)

Today’s topic is Social Media (150).

I really missed it when I didn’t have my computer. Sure, I have an iPhone, so I could keep track of Facebook (151), Linked In (152) and Twitter (153). But it’s not the same. When you get to my age, I can’t be bothered typing with that fiddly little keyboard, what with my sausage fingers, an’ all. I end up rewriting 60% of what I’ve typed. And writing a post on WordPress (154) is just a no-no. Likewise for downloading on Pinterest (155).

So, a large part of my life is made up of connecting with people on social media. Some people say this is a bad thing and that I need to get out more. Except that, I went out to pubs and clubs for 25 years, so I don’t want to go out much anymore. It just gets very messy and it takes me three days to recover.

I’m quite happy looking after my children and relaxing in the evening with a glass of Shiraz while looking at my friends’ posts of kittens on Facebook. Or checking out England’s bleak chances of getting out of their group in Brazil in a couple of weeks.

Obviously, there’s a less trivial side to social media too. What with things like the Arab Spring gaining momentum on Twitter and You Tube (156). Or troops being brought to justice for war crimes. And more recently, the riots in Brazil over injustice towards the poor in favour of the olympics and the world cup. The ongoing crises in Syria and Ukraine. Governments must hate it. Unsurprising that the US and UK want to put internet restrictions in place. Western news media spoon-feeds us what our governments and corporations want us to hear. So, having social media to highlight to us a different side of the story is essential. Albeit, in many cases, unverified or edited. But that’s okay, because we have brains to help us to add up the pieces and form our own opinions.

Anyways, whatever we use social media for, I am very grateful for it. If I didn’t have it, I might actually have to go out and talk to people in the flesh. God forbid.

Meanwhile, here’s a budget airline stewardess going the extra mile. (Not that kind of extra mile, you cheeky things.)

Thanks to my mate Markham for sharing.

Oh, and then there’s this…


Filed under Comedy, community, Digital, Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration, Inventions

Cherry Blossom perfume

How to make Cherry Blossom perfume.

1. Find a cherry blossom tree.


2. Gather fallen cherry blossom petals.


3. Place cherry blossom petals in a cup and add water.


4. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to soak overnight. (Add other flowers if desired.)


5. Sieve liquid into a vial – voila! You have cherry blossom perfume.


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#56/365 – The Phoenicians

Yes, those feisty Phoenicians, an eastern Mediterranean trading culture based along, what we would now know as, northern Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

Phoenician World

And no, not for their dandy purple-wearing seafarers trading all around the Med – but for inventing the Alphabet.


Yup, all modern, western alphabets stem from the Phoenician version. (Somewhere between 1500-1100 BC.) Though, this early alphabet didn’t contain any vowels, (known as an ‘abjad’ system). Vowels were added later by the Greeks, (circa 800 BC). Who, in turn, passed it on to the Romans.


The invention of an alphabet allowed for combinations of letters to make sounds, rather than relying on earlier systems which used pictograms. The problem with using pictograms is that they can only depict what already exists.

So, not only did the Phoenicians aid the dissemination of literacy, but also the advancement of new ideas, such as philosophy, science, poetry, diplomacy, exploration and democracy.

Without it, we wouldn’t have the likes of War & Peace, Madame Bovary or The National Enquirer.



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If it wasn’t for Johannes Gutenberg I wouldn’t be writing this post. Being a person of low-birth and all.

Johannes Gutenberg invented the first movable wooden type printing press in 1436. (Progressing later to metal type.) Known imaginatively as: The Gutenberg Press.

Johannes Gutenberg inventor of the Gutenberg Press and the Gutenberg Bible
Johannes Gutenberg

Now what’s so special about that?

Well, it meant that books could be massed produced – cheaply. Which lead to mass literacy. Which lead to peasants like my forefathers having the opportunity to better themselves. (Which they never actually bothered their arses to do.)

The Gutenberg Press is one of the greatest inventions of the modern era. Producing a veritable revolution in the fostering, development and dissemination of the arts, sciences and religion. (Okay, maybe the last one wasn’t such a good idea.)

Books were no longer the sole domain of royalty, church and aristocracy. The masses had the opportunity to learn. To have their own ideas. And to contribute ideas to society.

So, if you’re reading this, (and you’re not a member of the royal family), you probably have Johannes Gutenberg to thank for enabling you to do so.

Gutenberg Press
Gutenberg Press


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Things I am grateful for #45/365.

The art of cartography.

Where would we be without maps, eh? Lost. That’s where.


I do love a bit of map making.

Not in the scientific sense, of course. Purely the artistic. I draw fictional maps of countries, islands, continents, and populate them with terrain, cities, rivers, lakes, mountains, forests, harbours, beaches, cliffs, etc. But these are just for fun. For stories for my children.

Proper cartography is a combination of both art and science. The science of navigation, topography, geography and data. It is the visualisation of complex information into an easily digestible format. What you leave out is as important as what you include. Also, it is not always necessary for maps to be realistic in scale or proportion, take the classic London Underground Tube Map, for example.

Obviously, not all maps need to be beautiful. They need to be functional. But it is when we combine the aesthetic with the functionality that we begin to create wonderful works of art.




The reality is very different to this.

The reality is very different to this.


Pangaea - with present-day borders.

Pangaea – with present-day borders.


Not all maps are for navigation. WWI satire.

Not all maps are for navigation. 1870’s satire.



Maps as art.

Maps as art.








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