Category Archives: Nature

Adieu 2019.


Well, it’s been an eventful year, to say the least.

I’ve been doing a lot more visual arts this year, so I thought I’d do a month-by-month, blow-by-blow, pictorial representation of my year. (Lucky you.)

Actually, the reason behind it is to see if/how the images/moods have changed over the course of the year. And how that might correlate to my mental health.

As some of you know, I volunteer for an arts charity called Arc, (Arts for Recovery in the Community), which works with people with mental health issues. I am an ardent advocate of the arts as a medium to treat mental health, and wellbeing in general.

Many years ago, I visted the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and you could see the gradual decline in his mental health through his work.

Whilst I’m no Van Gogh, I am trying to see if there are any similar patterns to my own work.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

And before I forget; Have a Happy New Year and an absolutely spectacular 2020.

JANUARY

Oh dear… that’s not a good start.

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FEBRUARY

That’s a bit more positive. Birthday trip to Haworth, West Yorkshire, (home of the Brontes’), with my daughters.

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MARCH

Pros: Part of an Arc exhibition. Cons: Became homeless.

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APRIL

Ee, it’s grim up north. Charcoal sketch of an L.S. Lowry.

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MAY

“Are you sure you’re all right?”

Rehomed.

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JUNE

Think I can see a pattern emerging.

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JULY

Rehab.

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AUGUST

I guess a lot of things are obvious in hindsight.

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SEPTEMBER

The road to recovery.

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OCTOBER

Signs of improvement.

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NOVEMBER

Apart from my volunteer work at Arc, I started facilitating a Creative Writing Workshop at The Wellspring homeless charity in Stockport.

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burst

There are always reminders.

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DECEMBER

A change of outlook.

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As you can see, it’s been a tumultuous year.

I feel very fortunate to be able to experience the last day of it. That would not have been possible were it not for the actions of my dear friend, Siobhan Costigan, over in Australia. Her, and my friends, family, NHS, Stepping Hill Hospital, Pathfinder, AA, The Wellspring and Arc have all played their part in saving my life and helping me to recover. And I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

As of 31/12/2019, I am 140 days abstinent. I feel completely blessed that I have been able to experience 140 days on Earth with my daughters, family and friends that I might not have been able to. I am truly a lucky man.

I wish you all a magnificent 2020; may the forthcoming decade bring you everything that you hope and dream for.

 

Addendum.

If you, or a loved one, are going through a difficult time, there are organisations out there who can help. Reaching out isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength that you have managed to hold on this far. And remember, if things get so bad, go to your nearest A&E dept., they will take care of you just like any other patient.

The Samaritans call 116 123

NHS call 111 or 999

Alcoholics Anonymous call 0800 917 7650

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London Grammar Calling: Or, What my children teach me.


They teach me a lot.

Don’t worry, this post won’t be an itemised list of all the joys of being a parent.

Just a band they’ve introduced me to called London Grammar.

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As usual, I’m a bit late to the party as they’ve been going quite a while. Hannah Reid, the lead singer, has a hauntingly beautiful voice and the music is eerily sparse and melancholic with Dan Rothman on guitar and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major on keyboards & percussion. (It’s called ‘Dream Pop’ apparently.) Who new? Oh, you all did.

They’re a trio who formed in Nottingham in… do I look like Wikipedia? If you’re interested, have a read about them here.

I’ve picked out a couple of songs that I have on repeat at the moment. But, the more I listen to them, the longer that list becomes. (Although, I doubt that an old codger like me is their prime target audience.) I guess, those who know a bit more about my story will understand the poignancy of ‘Strong’.

So thanks, you crazy kids, (I can hear them groan and see their eyes roll), for introducing me to London Grammar, Sia, First Aid Kit, Billie Eilish, 21 Pilots, Melanie Martinez and the rest. You’re pretty cool, despite your parentage.

Enjoy. And have a very happy Christmas if you celebrate that sort of thing. And have a very happy holiday season if you don’t.

 

I’ll just leave a little something for my kids to aspire to…

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Friday 13th


The Sun is still the Sun,

The Moon is still the Moon.

The Sky is still the Sky,

The Rain is still the Rain.

And the Wind will carry on blowing,

Despite us, and our follies.

 

 

“Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.”

Saint Augustine

 

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Body of Work


I was going to title this post: Portraits of the Damned.

Then I started to include landscapes and still-lives to it. So, the title wouldn’t really make sense. But it will in a minute! Be afraid, be very afraid.

Some of you may, or may not, know that I volunteer for an Arts charity called Arc, (Arts for Recovery in the Community), in Reddish, Stockport.

I’ve done a lot of this work there, and some at home. But all the techniques I’ve picked up are from either attending or volunteering on their programmes.

Whether it be block-printing, collage, charcoal, watercolour, acrylics, inks, fabric, embroidery, clay or pastel. Not to mention the numerous techniques, yes brushes, but also charcoal tied to the end of a three feet long piece of bamboo! Bits of old Paymobil and Lego, edges of long out-of-date credit cards.

At Arc, it’s never about the technique and what end result you achieve, it’s about enjoying the process of doing it. Losing yourself, immersing yourself in art for a few hours – now that is medicine!

I appreciate that my work is more the stuff of nightmares rather than living room walls. But I like it!

Collage

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Pencil sketches

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Watercolour

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Self-portraits

Processed with Snapseed.

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Charcoal

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Pen and ink sketches

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Portraits of the Damned!

Mostly acrylic and chalk pastel on canvas or paper.

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And finally, the installation I made for the centenary commemoration of the end of the First World War at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery. R.I.P. Herbert Jackson of Didsbury Road, Heaton Mersey, Stockport. Railway man, musician, fiance – and soldier.

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It’s me, I’m Cathy…


Regular readers of my blog will know my daughters and I make at least one pilgrimage a year to Haworth, home of the Brontes’. (Still haven’t figured out how to type an umlaut on a PC.)

This year, we visited Ponden Hall, Purportedly, Emily’s inspiration for Thrushcross Grange, home of the Linton family in Wuthering Heights.

It’s a rather exclusive B&B now. I can imagine Bronte pilgrims from farther afield (ligature!) would love to put it on their itinerary either for a stay or just a nosey around. And that’s where we come in. The rather delightful owner, Julie, must be fed up of people ringing her doorbell on her day off, not to book a room, but to see the room where Cathy torments Heathcliff by scrathcing on his window.

What?! I hear aficionados grumble. That didn’t happen at Thrushcross Grange, that happened at Wuthering Heights, the home of the Earnshaws’ and Heathcliff!

And you’d be right.

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What is widely believed is that Emily transposed the interior of Ponden Hall and plonked it into the wilds of Wuthering Heights.

We know that Emily and her siblings were regular visitors to Ponden Hall to peruse their considerable library, (which reputedly, was the best in West Yorkshire at the time), and stayed there on numerous occasions.

Perhaps Emily even stayed in the room where Heathcliff endures his nightmares. Whether that is true or not is hard to say, but what is easier to suppose, is that Emily was actually in the room that I am about to show you, as it is virtually identical to Heathcliff’s in Wuthering Heights.

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What is unusual is the bed chamber in the corner of the ‘suite’. As you can see, the bed is boxed off with oak panelling, (for privacy, one presumes). It’s not a room per se as the bed is flush to the panels. So you would have to climb into it and slide the door shut. And yes, you can actually stay in this room.

On closer inspection, (photo taken courtesy of my daughter), we see the tiny window which Cathy appears at to persecute her paramour.

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Spoiler alert:

“I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand!” – Excerpt from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

Here’s a slightly wider shot for context.

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I don’t know about you, but I always get goose bumps when I imagine treading the same floorboards (or ramparts) as a figure from history. Whether that be Emily Bronte at Ponden, a Roman centurion on Harian’s Wall, or a Druid perambulating a stone circle. It gives me a greater sense of connection to the earth and the universe.

Anyway, it was a grand day out, topped off with a giant Yorkshire pudding filled with sausages and onion gravy at Emma’s cafe on Haworth Main Street. And, if that doesn’t anchor you to the universe, I don’t know what will.

Addendum.

My friend, Denis Goodbody, over in sunny Dublin, suggested that the panelling was probably more to do with keeping warmth in rather than privacy, which is a very good point. One which, having gas central heating, I hadn’t considered.

I can’t finish a post about Haworth or Wuthering Heights without adding links to the following:

My favourite film adaptation of Wuthering Heights by Andrea Arnold.

And yes, Kate’s classic…

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New Tanka Poem


I’ve been without t’internet for a couple of weeks due to moving house.

Whilst staring out of the living room window and pondering my new environment, this tanka poem occurred to me.

There’s something very calming and meditative about watching a murmuration of starlings. I feel lucky and blessed have witnessed one.

 

A murmuration

Of starlings swirling in and

Out of the early

Morning fog. Like avian

sceptres – were they truly here?

 

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Happy 200th birthday, Emily.


Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Emily Bronte.

Haworth, where the Brontes lived, holds a special place in my, (and my children’s), hearts.

We visit the place as often as we can.

Here’s a little haiku I penned after a walk on the Moors with my daughters a couple of years back.

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Knee deep in heather,

Bright red sock wavers aloft,

Boot stuck in peat bog.

Brontë Parsonage Museum

Brontë Parsonage Museum

 

Brontë dining room

Brontë dining room

This is the room where, Emily, Anne and Charlotte did most of their writing. And that is the actual sofa in the background that Emily died on aged just 30. (I didn’t pass that information on to my children.)

Patrick Brontë's study

Patrick Brontë’s study

If you haven’t read Wuthering Heights yet, I urge you to do so. I promise you, it’s like nothing you have ever read before. It’s a complex and staggeringly passionate tale of unrequited love and dastardly deeds, set amidst the bleak and rugged Yorkshire Moors.

And, if you get the chance, watch the recent film adaptation by Andrea Arnold. It’s a pretty radical take on the book and one of the best interpretations I’ve seen to date. (See trailer below.)

wuthering-heightsIt’s not just the collective brilliance of the Brontë siblings that I find inspiring, but the whole beautifully barren backdrop of the moors. That, coupled with the picturesque cobbled streets of Haworth itself, makes perfect for a day out.

Haworth

Haworth

"Top Withins" Emily's inspiration for Wuthering Heights. (Now a ruin.)

“Top Withens” Emily’s inspiration for Wuthering Heights. (Now a ruin.)

"Top Withens" as it would've looked back in Emily's day.

“Top Withens” as it would’ve looked back in Emily’s day.

P.S. It’d be positively churlish of me not to also include this classic by Kate Bush… whose 60th birthday it also is today. Bit of a spooky coincidence, don’t you think?

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