Monday, 3 March 2014

Cambridge Market, Sundays. Visit! You'll enjoy it!

Where can you buy real things these days? Real things sold by real people who are not just shop assistants programmed to smile, say 'Have a nice day!' and 'Is there anything else you want?'

Answer: Cambridge Market on a Sunday.

Besides my stall there are numerous other stalls worth a visit.

Here's a couple [more next week]:

Paul Neeve's book stall. A real book stall where you can get real books. Where you might find something unusual not just the predictable stuff that Waterstone's , for example, sell. Paul is real book seller not a business that happens to make its money out of books. He has nice jazz and blues playing in the background and you can get into an interesting conversation, if you wish, with Paul or his clientele.

The Cambridge Chilli Sauce Company. Tim's chilli sauces are delicious. My favourite is his smoked scotch bonnet and red pepper sauce. If you want a challenge you can try his 'Ghost Pepper 10'. Tim is a very knowledgeable botanist as well, an expert on hellebores, who makes regular trips to the Balkans in search of new species. He's a really nice guy! [He's going to hate me for saying that!].

Yes this is a kind of advertising. But in the  old fashioned sense of bringing to your attention something worth knowing about in this cased small traders who sell good stuff and who, like us, struggle to be make themselves heard because of the cacophony generated by  the retail juggernauts that dominate our dreary High Streets.

Driving home after Cambridge Market. March 2nd

Starlings above the A 14.

After a dull day in Cambridge -prosaic overcast weather, switched off punters ...even King's College Chapel seemed lacklustre- needed something to perk me up. Felt drowsy, too, from having little sleep last night due to stranded inebriated son requiring rescue ....

Driving home. Dusk. A 14. Just before Huntingdon tens of thousands of starlings espied. Forming a unified entity. Whirling in complex geometries. Convolutions, involutions, Fibonacci ecstasies!

Avian delight.

Who are what should be thanked for this?

Certainly not the abstract thing 'Nature', nor the sexist old curmudgeon, Jehovah.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Browsing seed catalogues at the moment....

A lot of people will probably find it hard to understand the pleasure I derive from buying vegetable seeds.

The process evokes....

... visions of summer salads accompanied by your favourite chilled white wine sipped in the lingering dusk of midsummer.

...visions of voluptuous autumn harvests turned into hearty meals washed down by a luscious, stronger than I realised, red that induces a grinning stupor.

...visions of reassuringly sturdy winter vegetables ...parsnips, kale,, aromatic, freshly cooked, and a rib of beef anointed with mustard and horse radish...preceded, perhaps, by a glass of vintage port [sorry I'm starting to sound like an alcoholic!].

...the benign vibes of old friends present or not.

...and that sense of old the wise old country folk that have lived on this land over the centuries who left no record but can be felt in the rich soil of my allotment, their traces hinted at by shards of medieval pots, fragments of clay pipes and pieces of blue willow pattern crockery...

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Wilko Johnson: a short note of appreciation....

Thank You Wilko!

I know this is not directly to do with our crafts but this blog would be somewhat tedious if  all I went on about was the items we make.You, the reader, no doubt, want to know about the people behind the the jewellery and pewter work that you buy, that is, us, Phil and Sharon, the real live human beings! What books do we read? What do we think about what's going on in the world? What music do we like?

Music [Phil talking here] I like a very broad spectrum of genres. Each as its place. I like some elegant classical music for when I'm doing routine tasks, Beethoven or Bach perhaps. I like intense rhythmic music for when I'm drawing. Recently I've been listening to Aguas Da Amazonia by Philip Glass and Uakti...great stuff

And for when I drive home, chugging up the A1 on Sundays, tired,  and  feeling a bit ragged 'Stupidity' by Doctor Feelgood featuring the raw energy of Wilko's guitar! I love it!

Here's my Facebook post:

23 February

... keeps me going on Sunday evenings when I drive back from Cambridge.

It's the end of my working week and, being tired, ageing, and chronically bewildered about what's what, I start to fade and get tunnel vision ...and get melancholy... and get the sense of time fragmenting.

This latter happens between Stamford & Grantham [I'm convinced there's some kind of wrinkle in the space/ti
me continuum around there...I've checked this out with other people- they've felt the same- I reckon it's to do with the proximity of Isaac Newton's birthplace ].

So what do I do about this concatenation [using that word because it is such delicious word like 'gusset' or 'generalissimo' or 'primogeniture'] ....this concatenation of dangerous conditions? What do I do?

I play my CD 'Stupidity' by the ineffable Dr.F. It jolts me back into my driving seat, wakes me up and makes me grin. It helps me survive the last stretch of my arduous week so that I can get home to my little haven of real ale and traditional English pub banter, The Wheel Inn at Branston.

I find the insults I endure as I walk through the door so reassuring! And, like I always say, you know where you are with insults, but you can never be sure about compliments. So thank you tonight to Lol, Nick, Simon, Sharon and one or two others...

... and thank you to Lee and the various Johns that did 'Stupidity' some forty years ago. Particularly enjoy Wilko's guitar solo on 'I'm a Hog for You baby'...and there's some pretty good bass from Sparko not to mention the invisible antics of Lee hinted at by the roars, whistlings and applause of the audience...

...great stuff and there I am, decades on, using the album to fight fatigue on the A1 and delighting in the sheer energy I pick up from those times as I glance in the rear view mirror...

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year  to everyone!

Last year was a good year, a very enjoyable year in many ways. It was good to do special commissions for customers and enjoy their pleasure in buying an original art work from us. You have to earn your living but unless you give satisfaction the whole business of making things seems pointless and empty. Merely working for profit seems an impoverished approach to life and business.

Despite turbulent weather we had some excellent days on our market stalls which I [Phil] do. Cambridge Market on Sunday was a delight to do as ever. Thanks to all those people who stopped to chat, who brought me news from all over the globe and who gave me insights into all sorts of abstruse fields of study. It's as good as going to college standing Cambridge Market!

Thanks to those I've got to know on Loughborough Market for being good company. Thanks in particular to Keith who lets me nip off to the loo when he comes past and keeps me informed on matters archaeological and historical. By the way,  Loughborough Market is great for fruit and veg!

Stamford Market has been quiet this year but, nevertheless, still a pleasure to do. Stamford is  worth a wander around. Great old buildings, independent shops and good places to eat.

I bang on about markets because I think they are wonderful places. A bustling market feeds the soul in a way that a shopping mall never can.

Sharon has produced new designs over last year and we are both working on new ideas quite intensely at the moment. We've a fresh range of pewter brooches nearly ready which will be on our Etsy site and our website shortly, so keep an eye out for these.  There are also some new Green Men shaping up nicely which will manifest themselves in the form of pewter pictures, and some new  mirrors showing oak trees going through the seasons. I've done one for 'The Winter' so far [see pics].

We are  looking forward to meeting you all in the New Year and, hopefully, it will be a good one.

Best Wishes to you all!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Grantham. Car parking. Anger. Why we wont be shopping in Grantham in the future.

A couple of weeks ago Sharon parked in a South Kesteven District Council car park. She paid her money and put the ticket on the dashboard of her car. Unfortunately it was a blustery day and a gust of wind blew the ticket onto the front seat of the car. She didn't notice this so when she returned she found she had been given a £50 fine. She contacted the relevant office and sent in her ticket with an explanation of what had happened. They did not let her off the fine, however.The ticket wasn't displayed clearly according to regulations. She still had to pay the fine.

Naturally we were not pleased. We could have taken our appeal further but decided not to. This was because we have learned from long experience that getting involved in this kind of process  eats
 up your time and when you are self employed time is money. So we have paid the fine. The man in the office has won and no doubt he is pleased with himself for grabbing some cash for the South Kesteven coffers. Parking fines are such a convenient source of revenue!

Off course this business has a knock on effect that is not so beneficial to those coffers. Because we are angry -what did Sharon call them *%~** & **@**?- we are deterred from going into Grantham to shop now and certainly will not be using the South Kesteven Car Parks. They will be getting no more revenue from us so they are going to lose a lot more than £50 in revenue.

I'm not just talking about this because of our personal anger but because our experience is rather too common. Negotiating the one way system in Grantham is not easy and parking is difficult. Grantham used to have a bustling town centre and a wonderful market. Sadly there are few independent shops there now and the market is a sad remnant of what it used to be. I would like Grantham to be a thriving market town again that would be a joy to walk around. But it is unlikely to prosper unless The Council start making us feel welcome rather than making us feel like criminals or undesirable guests who are, in effect, being taxed to visit.

 And, of course, this story is being repeated in towns up and own the country, in towns that used to be called 'market towns' because people used to go to them to shop.

The Last Evenings of Summer.

The last evenings of summer.

In my garden wasps swirl around the grapes I picked and laid out for the sun to turn into raisins. I’d Googled it,  but it didn’t work. All I got was mouldy, vespid masticated globules . Blotchy. Disturbingly scrotal. Most definitely inedible.  Not fit for  mixing with my morning porridge oats.

Nature is not kind, it is not PC. Nature bites, stings, and dribbles and allows God denying  parasites to thrive: guinea worms, tape worms that encapsulate in the cerebral cortex, fungal infections that provoke hot sweats and itchiness in  inaccessible regions of one’s anatomy, liver flukes, toxoplasmosis, unrecognised  spores that colonise the central nervous systems….the theological implications  are immense.

Yesterday walked down the back lane. In the hedgerow I plucked at succulent blackberries. The last one that I raised to my mouth was topped with a grub that was so remarkable for its vivacity that I just had to stare  at it…a Naked Lunch moment…Not sure whether my inner feeling was one of awe or one of horror.  Or Sartrean nausea. [Sorry spellcheck doesn’t recognise ‘Sartrean’].

Round the next bend, just beyond the Devon Brook, lay a dead badger. Snout crushed by a car.  Grotesque, mocking  grin. Vortex of blowflies hovering above it, gyrating elegantly  in the odd puff of breeze. The badger was female. It was, clearly, pregnant.

I was glad to reach the top road where the air was fresh. But  I had to dodge rat-running Range Rovers that seemed intent on provoking me to play chicken. I observed further road kill there, and, amongst the rough tussocks and thistles of the verge, the junk food detritus of modern England. Interestingly there were more Red Bull cans than Coke cans, and more Chinese take away cartons than Indian ones.  There were, also, Foster’s cans, Old English Cider cans, Budweiser cans and Stella Artois cans. But  I searched in vain for the Carlsberg Special cans that the late and much missed Andy K. used to leave. This made me feel sad.

There is so much going on that your average watercolour  artist misses. Like the impossibly delicate and detailed cirrus clouds that I observed  this evening, like the young  swallows that  were swarming around the village church’s spire, twittering excitedly in anticipation of their long trip to Africa and like the bumble bees being busy, as they are proverbially  supposed to be,  on the lavender on my neighbour, Martin’s, ironstone wall.

I come in, pour a glass of Port. I want to  be on my own. I want to be with people. It’s that time of year: my birthday [I don’t celebrate it anymore], the drawing in of the nights , the final croppings of runner beans and courgettes. Ideally I would like to open a bottle of Malt whisky and sit up till four in the morning with a sympathetic friend and talk about life, books, the minutiae of early memories,  my wild speculations about pagan gods, my innermost feelings and fears, about art, about  cats, about events and incidents that are in danger of dissolving into the void and above all, about people, both the loathed and the loved.

It’s that time of year…and I’m going to pour myself just one more, small, glass of port. I’m feeling that feeling that is one part nostalgia, one part sadness, one part euphoria and one part something else that I haven’t  got the slightest comprehension of.