Monday, 23 April 2018

A Book of Dolls

I started making Star Heart Dolls in 2010, before that I had attempted making dolls, but they were not very successful or attractive. I was inspired by the lovely dolls I found on crafting blogs, particularly Jess Brown in America and Tiny Concept in Australia. When I had made 52 dolls, one for each week of the year, I complied my 'Book of Dolls'. Below are a few of the pages from that book. The book has since become the basis for my YouTube video 'A Time for Dolls' which you can find here.


Monday, 16 April 2018

London Walks: Ruislip Woods

London can feel overwhelmingly built up sometimes and it's always nice to find a breathing space. We visited Ruislip Woods in the Spring of 2017.

We were looking for bluebells, which we found. We also had tea and chips in the cafe by the lido.

There are several woods that make up Ruislip Woods. We concentrated on wandering around Park Wood, it's an easy walk and you are never that far away from back gardens and civilisation in general.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Stargazing on SoundCloud

It is ten years, this August, since I first delved into Social Media, when I uploaded my animation Ballet Class onto YouTube. As a sort of celebration, I have joined SoundCloud and uploaded an old favourite song I have written, Stargazing, you can find it here. I don't know if I will upload any more, I will see how it goes. You can find our slide show of the song, featuring Amy's childhood Planet project pictures, here.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Stoic quotes and mindfulness plus

I have expanded my reading beyond the Stoics to include Christian philosophy, Buddhism, mindfulness, ACT and anything else I find helpful. Some of their quotes I find very comforting and I have been working on a new Pinterest board to celebrate these wise words. I thought some of the pictures were quite pretty, but the Stoic quotes, while being so wise, didn't have such inspiring images to accompany them. I thought I would have a go myself and impose some of my favourite Stoic quotes on to a few pictures my daughter took in Ruislip Woods. I hope you find them enjoyable.

These and other wise quotes from Greek philosophy, Buddhism, Christianity, mindfulness, ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and other sources of spiritual, philosophical and psychological good are available on my Pinterest board: MindfulnessPlus .

Sunday, 1 April 2018

The Bogginsthrops and other curiousities

I wrote the Bogginsthrops and other curiousities when I was a teenager and recently drew illustrations for each of the seven characters. The Bogginsthrops were a family of three brothers and one sister and the curiousities were their three friends. Below are brief descriptions of the seven characters, I may develop their stories further in the future.

1. George Bernard Shaw Bogginsthrop
'The neighbours didn't like the eccentric, hippi, vegetarian philanthropist who practised his sitar in the middle of the night and meditated whenever there was a convenient moment free from the worries of mankind.'

2. Emily Bronte Bogginsthrop
'Emily Bronte Bogginsthrop was a very nice, acceptable girl who tried hard to be a social misfit like her brothers.'

3. Edgar Allan Poe Bogginsthrop
'Edgar had only to pop his head round the front door and he would receive apprehensive glances from the neighbours who passed by, even from the lady who carried her pet albino rat underneath her fur hat.'

4. Walter de la Mare Bogginsthrop
'Walter was of a very nervous disposition, he chain smoked roll-ups and had a terrible railing cough.'

5. Ciggy
'Ciggy Fagash, otherwise known as Diaphragm Sam or just plain Dire, sang, mumbled, shrieked, snarled, screamed and generally played havoc with the unfortunate listener's eardrums, it was quite a feat in itself that the group managed to keep in time and occasionally in tune.'

6. Acid
'Acid was always in a bad mood and Emily sympathised with Ciggy for having a sister like that.'

7. Patti
'The girl had dark hair and pale skin, she wore dark clothes and was bony in places.'

Monday, 26 March 2018

London Songs, London Stories

I've lived in London for fifty years and still find it fascinating. Below are just some of the many London oriented singers and story-makers who I have found inspirational throughout the decades.

Ray Davies
Ray Davies has written some wonderfully thoughtful pop songs over the years. My favourite is the London classic Waterloo Sunset.

David Bowie
David Bowie was very much a London boy in his early years, located around Brixton, Bromley and Beckenham, before New York, Young Americans and his Berlin trilogy.

Marc Bolan
Marc Bolan's musical career was cut short when he died in a car crash in the late 1970s. I was a fan in the 1980s.

Ian Dury
One of my favourite films in recent years has been 'Sex and drugs and rock'n'roll', starring Andy Serkis as Ian Dury. Andy Serkis is such a good actor, I really believed in him in this role. I really love the ending where we're treated to a wonderful perfomance of 'Reasons to be cheerful', Ian Dury's list of everyday stuff that makes him feel happy, a kind of punk meets mindfulness encounter.

Kate Bush
Kate Bush has long been my favourite female artist. At the moment I love listening to the new version of the Ninth Wave from her live album 'Before the Dawn'.

Siouxsie Sioux
Siouxsie Sioux was a prominant punk rocker in the late 1970s. My favourite Siouxsie and the Banshees tracks are Spellbound, Israel, Christine and Happy House.

Amy Winehouse
A Camden girl with a universally glorious voice.

'Skyfall' is one of my favourite James Bond themes along with Paul McCartney's 'Live and Let Die' and Carly Simon's 'Nobody does it better'. Adele's 'Hometown Glory' is a musical celebration of West Norwood, South London.

The War of the Worlds by HG Wells
The action begins in Woking before travelling East to 'the capital'. Part of it is set in Kew near where I used to work. 'Dead London' is a marvellous imagining of a desolate city and must have inspired other desolate London sci-fi stories like 'Day of the Triffids' and '28 Days Later'.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Unfortunately this tale, of the ungenerous Ebenezer Scrooge and the need for four Christmas ghosts to reform his mean spirited ways, is relevant every year. This is just one of the many London based stories Charles Dickens created, others include Oliver Twist, The Old Curiousity Shop and A Tale of Two Cities (the other city is Paris). Charles Dickens was an insomniac who wandered around the city streets late into the night, maybe his restless spirit still does.

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
What can sum up London more than four diverse characters on top of a tower block contemplating suicide?! I found both the book and the film hugely enjoyable and strangely hopeful and uplifting.

Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Homes' residence is in the heart of London, at 221b Baker Street. 'Sherlock' the BBC's 21st Century update is also set in London. I saw them filming it once, when I was on holiday, in Cardiff!

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Maybe there is more to the London Underground than just crowded, stuffy tube trains. In Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman imagines the alternative city of London Below, where Old Bailey, the Angel and Black Friars are all real characters, Knightsbridge is the scary 'Night's Bridge' and you can meet a real life earl in Earl's Court.

Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Harry usually makes at least two visits to London per book, mostly to do some shopping in Diagon Alley and to board the Hogwart's Express in King's Cross at Platform 9 3/4. The movies were filmed in Watford, so there must have been ample opportunity to film in and around London. One of my favourite scenes is when Harry, Ron and Hermione are transported to Shaftesbury Avenue's Theatre Land and they end up ordering cappucinos in a Tottenham Court Road coffee Shop.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Typographical Challenge

When I was working on my fabric brooch cards, Richard pointed out that the cards would look better, and more handmade, if I wrote the greetings out by hand, rather than relying on standard word processing fonts. Since then I have been improving my lettering work, which has culminated in my Virtue Haiku greeting cards as shown above. Below are more of my lettering projects and two books on the subject which I have found very inspiring.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Let's talk about death

My new piece of flash fiction on Wattpad, 'The Discomfort Zone', explores what happens to Jenny, one grey afternoon, when she visits the Death Cafe.

I first heard of the concept of 'Death Cafes' a few years ago. They were thought of as friendly places you could go to confront your own mortality, with other interested souls, over a cup of tea or a latte.

I think Jenny is also accompanied by the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe as well as the other seven guests she encounters. I hope you enjoy reading my work as much as I enjoy writing it. You can read my story here.

The accompanying picture for 'The Discomfort Zone' is called 'The Last Latte', it is my latest picture on DeviantArt.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Amy's Games

Agatha Christie once said that the best thing you could give another human being was a happy childhood. I always tried to make Amy’s childhood as happy as I could. Part of my positive parenting endeavours was a struggle against the lure of the screen and one of the things that helped in this struggle was developing our own board and card games.

Monday, 26 February 2018

More hearts and flowers

My original heart felt pendants and crochet flower brooches were not at all popular at my craft events in 2013. Since then I have developed them into fabric brooch cards and lavender scenters, which have both proved to be much more successful.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

The Yin and Yang of ACT

I have been enjoying exploring a new psychotherapy. It's called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. I have found it to be the most useful psychological therapy I have come across. After delving deeply into it I think it is because it is a middle way type of therapy. To me it has a Yin side and a Yang side to it. The picture poems below show a little of why I feel this way.

Yin-Vibes = poem for acceptance

I really enjoyed reading 'The Happiness Trap' by Russ Harris. A large part of the book was about accepting difficult emotions.
Acceptance is more than just the Yin-vibes I include in my picture poem, but for me they were a good place to start. Really accepting the dark places deep in my soul, the hurt, the pain, the sadness, the helpless feelings, vulnerability, fears, anxiety, failure, rejection, loneliness, death, anything and everything I find negative, can be very liberating. It's like you are giving up the struggle against your innermost feelings and can really open up to new challenges and positive experiences.

Yang-Vibes = poem for commitment

My Yang poem is about opening up to new challenges and postive experiences. It's positive psychology but because it's Yang there is also anger and attempts to control in there as well.
I think ACT is a big step up from plain old positive-psychology because of the bigger emphasis on Acceptance, which is a kind of negative-psychology technique. I feel we live in a Yang oriented world and connecting to my Yin side, however I manage to do it, has been very important to me over the years, helping to keep me healthy and sane through everything life has thrown at me.

The Middle Way = Poem for ACT

In my middle way poem I bring the Yin and Yang concepts together. Maybe ACT is about accepting negative feelings and committing to positive actions. It's about bringing things on and letting things go. It's about the balance between extremes.
I really like ACT because it isn't a religion or a philosophy, it's a useful therapy that could help and heal anyone.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Emotional LIfe Songbook

The 'Emotional Life' songbook features fifteen of my songs, including Island of Happiness, Stargazing, Scorpio Eyes, For What I Am and Alive at last. It is a kind of sister publication to 'Something More' which features twenty-three of my poems along with nine of Amy's illustrations. These booklets have both sold quite well on my craft stall. My songs can also be found on my YouTube Channel here and my 8tracks channel here, I have also included some of them on my Vimeo Channel here.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Paris Top Twelve

I have visited Paris five times in my life, each time I have found something new and exciting there. When I first visited I had to take the ferry between Dover and Calais, now I can take Eurostar and be there in a couple of hours. Inspired by my New York Top Twelve I thought I would develop a Paris Top Twelve, to remember twelve of my favourite Parisian locations.

1. Paris Opera House
My daughter's favourite place in Paris, so good we visited it twice. Sheer beauty and grand gorgeousness. Look up in the auditorium and you see the surprising ceiling, full of whimsical charm. We lingered along the sultry halls and staircases, soaking in the glamourous atmosphere.

2. Musee D'Orsay
A great imaginative use of a disused railway station. I loved the impressionist paintings and period furniture. It is a vast museum, so we found a cosy nook for my dad and daughter to sit in, while mum and I walked all over the various, treasure filled levels.

3. The Louvre
The impressive glass pyramid above the Louvre's entrance promises of the delights this famous art gallery has to offer. There always seems to be great security and crowds around the Mona Lisa, but there are many other great paintings with a much better view, one of my favourites is 'The Shipwreck of the Medusa' by Theodore Gericault.

4. Montmatre
The art market itself is quite crowded and touristy, but the galleries and surrounding area are well worth a visit. I couldn't resist taking pictures above these famously picturesque MontMartre steps.

5. Sacre Couer
It is quite a crowded walk up to the Sacre Couer, but quite enjoyable, especially if you turn around and take in the wonderful Parisian views.

6. Notre Dame
It is situated by the Seine in a very pleasant spot. We ate sandwiches there, before venturing into the cathedral which is beautiful and magnificent.

7. Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is so big, you can see it from all over Paris. We didn't go up it, just to be near it and appreciate its greatness was enough.

8. La Galerie Lafayette
I'm not so keen on shopping, but knew, from my guide book, that there is much more to this emporium than mere consumerism. We ventured up the escalators and staircases, taking in the sparkling surroundings until we reached the very top and were treated to great views of Paris from the terrace at the top of the shop.

9. Pere Lachaise Cemetary
I visited this on my first trip to Paris made in 1989 when I was 21. There are some spectacular graves here but the one I was most keen to visit was that of one of my musical heroes, Jim Morrison. I didn't take any photos on my first visit to Paris, but here are a couple of postcards I bought to commemorate the occasion.

10. Champs Elysee
Paris is a planned city and this becomes more obvious when walking down the Champs Elysee and looking back at the Arc D'Triopmph that marks the centre of Paris. There are wonderful green spaces in which to sit and enjoy a cool drink and a crepe suzette, on a long, hot afternoon.

11. Rodin Museum
I visited the museum dedicated to the artist August Rodin in 1995 with my fiance. His work was superbly displayed in a very elegant house and garden. Most memorable were his famous sculptures the thinker and the kiss, but it was wonderful to appreciate his lesser known works in such a well thought out setting.

12. EuroDisney
I feel that Disneyland Paris has been a welcome addition to the traditional Parisian sights on offer to the humble tourist. We enjoyed Walt Disney Studios more that the Disneyland Park, in particular the Tower of Terror, the history of film show and the special effects ride.

I have really enjoyed thinking about Top Twelves for Paris and New York. I am now thinking about what my London Top Twelve would be, which would be coming from a different perspective being a Londonner, rather than a tourist.