I'm not a fan of flying. It is just such a necessity if you want to make your home in different places.
So many things can go wrong with your journey before it even starts. You just don't know what you don't know.
That's why we (Andrea) has a process. And, of course, process mitigates catastrophe. Though we can't do much about what happens in the air, we can do our best to be prepared on the ground.
Last week, it was time to take the suitcase down from the loft, dust it off, and fill it with all the goodies we wanted to take back to the United States.
We've started to get plenty good at packing. I'd say we almost have it down to a science. At least I think Andrea does.
Andrea is Ms. Checklist.
You could start the space shuttle with one of her checklists. It's a marvel to see. Everything is itemized. All tasks are prioritized, and a clear plan is put into place.
Mr. Phelps, your mission should you decide to accept is to make a clean getaway from Olde Cottage, St. Evenage, and arrive safely on the doorstep in Springboro, Ohio.
Operation Saddle Up
Objective: Smooth departure.
Everything starts about a week and a half early. T-10 Days. Little things like chocolate, tea, biscuits, and other delicacies like marmite, jelly babies, Cadbury's, and Hobnobs begin to pile up in the corner.
Next, we start what we call, "The Eating of The Fridge."
No more unnecessary food purchases are to be made. Nothing can be bought that cannot be consumed in the remaining time allotted for our stay.
There comes the point when absolutely no more food is allowed to go into the fridge.
The eating of the fridge includes an examination of expiration dates. We need to eat this by such and such a time. We need to make sure we have enough fruit for breakfast. Don't buy too much fruit. How much milk do we have? Exact measures now - We don't want any guesstimating going on.
When you see clothes start to appear on the couch downstairs, you know things are getting down to the wire.
Andrea looks me straight in the eye, "Okay, Scott, you have a week left. Don't tell me you have something more to take at the last minute."
"Aye, Aye Captain!"
As things get added, the piles start to get bigger.
Trial packing is completed, calculations made, estimates estimated, proportions were portioned.
Slide-rulers calibrated, weighing devices uncovered, and calculators are engaged.
All is ready.
Sometimes we are a bit off. It's usually my fault.
We were planning to take only ONE suitcase to Cornwall.
When I say ONE suitcase, I mean one bag plus, two carry on suitcases, a rucksack (Backpack), one large purse, and a briefcase. But, only ONE large bag.
Our packing was going as was expected.
The trial pack went well.
Then, Scott said, "Hey, I'd like to take my oil painting set."
Andrea, "I thought I said no last-minute surprises?!?"
Scott, "Well, it looked like there was enough room in the suitcase."
Andrea, "I haven't included my toiletries yet."
I bowed my head, put my shoes on, and said, "Shall I get the other suitcase out of the garage then?"
Andrea, "Yes, you'd better."
We ended up taking two large suitcases. Thank you, Scott.
When we travel back to the States, it's not like going on holiday, we know we already have clothes and toiletries in Dayton. Packing is really minimal, however, meticulous account of contents is a must.
Andrea starts packing. Each suitcase has a packing list, a catalog of items and a photo reference of all things included. The reference sheet is included with carry-on packing materials, a copy to the file, and a copy hermetically sealed in an empty mayonnaise jar at the patio door.
If anything is lost, we're covered. Check and double-check.
Then comes the weighing of the suitcase. Fifty-one pounds is the limit.
I've got really good at this. I can usually estimate within a pound or two how heavy the suitcase is. My forearm is a calibrated machine. I'm usually right.
If it's too heavy triage needs to take place, or Scott goes to get another suitcase.
For the most part, everything goes smoothly. No big surprises.
Then there is leaving the house on the day.
The water is turned off, the suitcases staged, and Peter and Marilyn pull up in the drive. Peter is the loadmaster and Andrea directs traffic. Then - final checklist, please.
There is the obligatory last-minute checklist.
If you wonder why we have that checklist, well it's because one or the other of us has forgotten one of those essentials. Then there is complete panic.
One day I should tell the story of how an iPhone was left on the kitchen counter on departure.
Or how I've left my sunglasses at just about every place I've ever visited.
This time it was smooth sailing. Mitigation procedures - successful.
I'm back in Dayton. We're corporally intact with relative mentally stable.
Now, we need to plan for Phoenix.
Until next week, I wish you peace, health, and happiness.
Sara Sandoval is a very creative stencil artist. I didn’t know stencil art was a thing. Apparently, it is.
She creates a wide range of images using stenciling techniques. The is something mesmerizing about watching her cut the stencils.
I was watching her YouTube channel because I thought the stenciling technique she uses might help me make the images I like to create as well.
Her intricate paper carvings are beautiful, even without the spray paint.
I can’t say that I have watched all of her videos, but I’ve seen quite a few.
In one video, I saw her create a poster using USPS shipping labels. It’s a creative out of the box approach.
Sara was born in Mexico and ended up in the United States as an undocumented immigrant through no fault of her own.
I will not try to tell her story here because I'll undoubtedly get much of it wrong.
I think the United States should have a more flexible way of dealing with her situation. She finally got it sorted through DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
If you want to hear more, please watch her video here.
If you came around the house over the last couple of weeks, you might have found us wearing sackcloth and ashes lamenting our summer in England coming to an end.
I drew this view of St Uny Church in Lelant while reminiscing about our trip to Cornwall. It's one of our very favorite spots on the planet.
It's always sad to leave England at the end of the summer. Leaving this time has been made a bit worse for a few reasons. Foremost is that I will not be back next summer. It is the beginning of the quest we shall not mention.
Also, it's the end of an era in Stevenage Old Town. We found out earlier this summer that the Waitrose store close to our home will be closing on the 27th of October for good. There was much consternation and copious gnashing of teeth when we heard the news.
Waitrose is the kind of store that makes service a priority. At least the store in Stevenage sets itself apart with top-notch service.
If you want to find your way to the fresh potato chips and ask someone stocking the shelves, rather than grunting and pointing the boney finger of the grim reaper, they'll get up and walk you to the right area of the store and help you find whatever you're looking for. If they can't find it, they'll call out the cavalry and track down someone who will know.
It's the kind of store that replaces items bought or gives a refund with no question asked. "Excuse me, I got this and didn't like it."
"Why certainly sir, would you like to substitute something else or have your money back?" No problem, no hassle, no worries.
Not only that, but if you buy something and it has somehow gone off, you bring it back, and they will give you your money back AND get you a fresh whatchamacallit right away or a thingamabob if you'd rather. You may even walk away with a voucher or two in the process as an apology.
That's something special in England. I'm not trying to be unkind, but service in the United States is just different than England. The English just aren't comfortable with overly cheery helpfulness and sycophantic servitude. It kind of creeps people out here.
There's even an advertisement on television for Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Care Hire) that kind of acknowledges there is a difference. They say it's UK car hire with US customer service!
I think it's funny. Give it a gander. Ya might be glad you did.
I think the people at Waitrose and Partners really care about providing top-notch service. They're called partners because each stock clerk, each cashier, every person working in the store from the manager to the meat counter rep are partners. They are each part owners in the business and that, in my mind, makes a big difference.
Their people are always friendly. I'd say, "English Friendly." Warm and helpful without being overly familiar. It's a little more formal friendly.
Waitrose is also the kind of place where you'd go to do your shopping and then stop for a cup of coffee or to read the paper.
You'd see people from the neighborhood picking up a few things after work. I wouldn't say it was a gathering place, but it was a place you could see people you know and wouldn't necessarily see otherwise. It's nice to see people you know out and about.
People from the neighborhood would often make a trip out of their shopping as well. I know we'd go for lunch at a cafe around the corner called Flower Power, then pick up something from Symonds Bakery (lovely Belgian Buns, bread, scones, or something yummy), and make Waitrose run all at the same time.
It's not the least expensive store, but there is something civilized and comforting about walking into Waitrose. You feel like you matter. I don't get that feeling from any other grocery store around here.
I found it extremely pleasing to walk in after being away in St. Thomas for several months. It's like stepping back to civilization. Fresh food, clean floors, and helpful staff make a huge difference. They make life more comfortable to live. It's quite a contrast from the dingy, half-lit, half expired produce, bugs, and staff that couldn't give a flying Frito Lay if you were happy with your experience on St Thomas.
Waitrose may not be the perfect store, but it is a familiar part of the makeup of this town, having been here for 41 years. There's a cachet to having a Waitrose in your neighborhood. It raises the standard of living, and thus the raises the value of your property.
There is so much good about the Waitrose here in Stevenage Old Town. That's why it's so sad that it's going.
It also brings up the elephant in the room. What in the world will be taking its place?
There are already more than six Indian restaurants in the old town, so I hope it isn't another Indian restaurant. There are at least 15 proper restaurants, there's Pizza Express, Dominos Pizza, Perfect Pizza, Bingol Kebab and Pizza, Papa Johns Pizza, and Pizza Hut. Please, no McDonald's or Burger King.
There are more than 12 pubs and bars up and down the High Street, by a conservative estimate. The place becomes a bit of a zoo after dark. Immature women tottering on heels the height of circus stilts combined with over-drinking, underthinking hormonal young men bebopping up and down the town is a recipe for disaster. We need no more bars.
There are lots of things the Old Town does not need. But the worst of them all of them are the three betting parlors, Betfred, Ladbrokes, and William Hill are blights on the town. God, please don't introduce any more shops where people slink in and slink out devastating their family's livelihood.
I hope any business would need to apply to the Council to trade on the High Street, but I have no confidence in the Stevenage Borough Council to make the right decision.
The gaping void left in the High Street by Waitrose will be hard to fill. I'll try to be optimistic. I'll try to be upbeat. I'll hope for the best.
In the meantime, I'll wait and wonder with everybody else what new force will fill the void.
I look forward to seeing my friends in Dayton, but I'm still a bit somber about leaving England behind.
We'll be back in December.
Until next week, my friends, I wish you peace.
Trail - 207 DAYS
This week, I'd like to present an artist that does some very creative and intricate drawings.
I first saw John Kennedy, aka Jedika, on the Colour in Your Life program. His drawings and his process caught my attention. I go back and watch that video periodically because it provides me with some motivation to loosen up my work as well.
I like how he starts with the image of a face and that image of the face is the jumping-off point. He starts his drawings and lets his mind discover the images that come out of the scribbling. I'm sure he has a direction that he wants to follow, but he discovers different things in the process.
As he goes along is images become intricate montages with abstract and surreal connections.
He is also an art teacher of fine art at the Levers Art in New South Wales, Australia.
I hope you'll go check Jedika out. You can find him on:
Now go out and make some ART!
Since starting to receive my updates, I think you've learned a bit more about me than you knew before or perhaps even more than you ever wanted to know. I'll leave that up to you.
For example, I can draw a strange and obscure abstract critter like the Hare I included in this weeks update.
Also, some of you might also know that I'm a decent cook. At least I think I am. I like all the parts of the cooking process. I love the prep, the assemblage, the spices, the seasoning, and the application of heat.
The only part of cooking I sometimes don't enjoy are the comments from the peanut gallery. I can hear her ladyship now,
Regardless, I like it all. I even love the peanut gallery.
My favorite part of the process is the prep. I love slicing and dicing and prepping the food. I ended up with the job by default cause Andrea keeps mentioning she'd much rather instead stick needles in her eyes than chop vegetables.
I like it because there's something methodical and meditative about it - at least the way I do it. Let's call it, "Mindful Chopping."
When I was a young Marine I was put on Mess Duty (KP in the Army) for a couple of months as a sort of punishment. I was put in a room chopping vegetables for eight hours at a time. I pealed tons of potatoes. I chopped onions until my eyes were raw. I sliced carrots for hours at a time. I ended up loving it. I was a bit disappointed when my time was up.
Today, I get up every morning and cut up kiwis, strawberries, oranges, mangos, and flat peaches. I add raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. I love my fruit in the morning. For me, it's made even more special by the prep.
I'm not like one of those TV chefs whose knives fly around like whirling dervishes at lightning speed. Their knives appear to have a mind of their own. It even looks like the knives are in control and the chef is just holding on waiting for the flurry to end. I watch those programs in complete awe. If I tried to move that fast, I'd leave bits of myself on the cutting room floor - and nobody wants bits of Scott in their sushi, especially Scott.
Aside from the meditation, what I like about doing the prework is using a very sharp knife. I've been told when you use a dull knife, you're more likely to fillet your finger instead of the fish.
I've acquired what can be described as a slight obsession with sharp knives. I love sharp knives, of course, but I also love the process of honing the steel to a razor-sharp edge. I find the feel and sound of slowly drawing the steel against the whetstone extremely pleasing. I get a shiver up my spine just thinking about it.
You also might know that I'm a bit of a bull in a China shop. When I do walk into a China shop, it's like the honky-tonk where the piano stops, it becomes very, very quiet, everybody in the joint slowly turns, and looks at the door.
I've been called Shrek more than once. It's also been said that I should carry a medic-alert tag warning others of my clumsiness.
My story begins one sunny day when I grew tired of the old knives in the house. Some of the knives were only sharpish because the rust had pitted the blades at strategic positions. Time to buy a new knife.
We headed up to the Hitchin Kitchen Shop. I'm sad because that particular shop no longer exists. Harumph.
I walked in and stared meaningfully at the knives for a long time. I was studying each of the options behind the counter thoroughly before I chose my blade.
I could see a slight look of panic in Andrea's eyes. She said, "Pay attention and be very careful now."
I said, "I know. I know. I will. I will. Don't worry. Don't worry. No, really, don't worry. I am not a freaking child"
I asked the shop assistant if I could please take a look at that shiny, sleek, curvy thing in the glass case behind her. She carefully pulled it down from behind the glass and handed it to me.
I could see beads of sweat forming on Andrea's forehead as the knife came across the counter.
I put my glasses on to look at it more carefully.
Slight inhale from Andrea's direction.
I ran my finger down the side of the blade.
Andrea bit her lip.
I ran my finger down the blade again.
I felt a shudder from the peanut gallery.
I turned around and said, "Yup, I think this is the one."
Just then, I could see the little rivulet of blood approaching my sleeve.
Andrea planted that, "I told you so!" look firmly on her face as the shop assistant rushed back to get a bandage.
There were some choice words hurled in my direction. I think it was something about my being an idiot. I'm sure the words, "You irritating man!" were used somewhere in her soliloquy as well.
After leaving my DNA on the knife, I couldn't very well let the knife be bought by someone else, could I? I had to have it.
"That will be 56 pounds, twenty pence."
Another sharp intake.
The transaction was done. Knife safely in the box and the box safely in the bag. There was no imminent chance of destruction, at least for the time being.
Since that day, I have taken outstanding care of my blade. It lives in its special box in a special drawer. It's as sharp today as it ever was, and I look forward to visiting the sharpening stone regularly. It gives me that peaceful, easy feeling.
Sure, if you combine my fondness for very sharp knives and the fact I don't tread lightly on this earth, you might question the wisdom of my slight obsession with very sharp things, but I love a finely crafted and perfectly honed tool.
I do pay very close attention when handling the knife, and it pays very close attention to me. I happy to report no body parts have been deposited on the chopping block, and for that, I am truly grateful.
Apparently, I AM a bit of a child. Sigh.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
Trail - 214 DAYS
I thought, this week, I would introduce you to someone who can really help you learn how to draw with pencil and pen. Drawing is an important part of making art that people recognize.
I realize that's not always the objective, but in case you want to create recognizable drawings (I realize that isn't always the objective) you can not go wrong by looking up this next artist.
His name is Alphonso Dunn. Alphonso was born in Jamaica and moved to the United States when he was 17 years old.
I first spotted his instruction on YouTube a few years ago and his instruction has been fundamental to helping me practice my drawing.
If you want to learn how to draw I would recommend watching and studying Alphnoso's YouTube Videos. Here's one to encourage you to draw every day.
He says his YouTube Channel, "is dedicated to helping you deepen your understanding of the drawing process and helping you develop and refine your drawing, pen and ink, and watercolor painting skills and techniques."
I think he does a great job.
If you want something you can put on your shelf and refer to often he has two books out now "Pen and Ink Drawing: A Simple Guide" and "Pen and Ink Drawing Workbook."
Last weekend we were traveling in a crabby little ship up the A1(M) to North Yorkshire - as Tony, a new friend in Sutton on the Forest would say, "God's Own Country."
I remember reading in a book last year. "Don't ask a man if he's from Yorkshire. If he hasn't told you in the first minute of meeting you then he obviously isn't from Yorkshire and you shouldn't make him feel inferior."
It's about a three to four-hour drive to York. Driving in England doesn't bother me much. I've got used to driving on the left, so it's not a problem.
I have to say though - I've done 'em all.
It's all become natural for me, but some unexpected things can happen to change your driving nirvana into a freak horror show with no warning.
Last weekend, it was a bank holiday. Just think of it as an official federal holiday in the States. Roads can get packed when everybody has a day off at the same time.
Combine a long drive, a hot day, a bank holiday, with mechanical issues, and you have a recipe that can turn you into a blubbering puddle of goo.
The car we drive in England is possessed with demonic disposition. With no warning, usually on the hottest days of the year, the spawn of Hell will open a vortex to the Lake of Fire. In other words, the air conditioning goes haywire.
It's a computer glitch, and in a traffic jam on a hot day, it is horrible. You can't adjust the temperature; you can try to block the vents, but you can't turn it off.
To make it worse, it only seems to happen when it's a sweltering sunshiney day. The sensors take a day off. It's like driving through the desert with the heater going full blast.
It's fickle too. We don't always know if or when it's going to happen. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it doesn't. We do know the demons will come-a-callin' at most inconvenient times. Like last summer, when we were driving back from Wensleydale.
Because it was a bank holiday that weekend too, there were more cars on the motorway than there was motorway to hold the cars. The traffic was ambling along with all the urgency of a New Orleans funeral procession. Velocity, shall we say, was lacking.
The minions of Hell opened the vortex.
We stuffed towels, pamphlets, and any debris we could find into the air conditioning vents. The next exit was five miles ahead. In these motorway conditions, that could take forty-five minutes. We thought the forensic team would discover our desiccated bodies on the side of the road, roasted like chickens on a barbecue spit.
We sweated it out and pulled over at the next available services exit. As we stopped, we jumped out of the car like it was on fire to call for an exorcist!
I had a fix, though — a universal fix. I found if I disconnected the battery and let it sit for at least five minutes to reboot the computer, everything would be set right.
The more sophisticated cars get, the more strange and unusual things can go catastrophically wrong. It's like there's a mystery guest under the hood.
Luckily, I've done tech support before. "Okay, pull the plug, let it sit for five minutes, and turn the computer back on." It's a "go-to" script for modems, computers, and in this case, cars.
So I got out the tools, disconnected the battery, and let it sit for at least five minutes while Andrea went into the shop to get a drink and soak up some of their air conditioning. I said a few silent "Our Fathers," Hail Marys," and some "get thee behind me Satans," and started to reconnect the battery.
We were back on the road with the icy air conditioning blasting us in the face. Ahhhhh, the sweet soothing balm was working again.
With a heatwave gripping England, I was worried we'd have a repeat performance again this weekend. The conditions were right. It was supposed to be another scorcher. We were traveling to Yorkshire to do a bit of walking with Jan and Brian and visit with Tony and Susan in Sutton on the Forest in North Yorkshire.
On our drive up, everything was going well.
Then, without warning, hot air started coming out the driver's side air conditioning vents. The passenger side was still frosty.
Andrea (Nav and Coms): "Quick, shut the vents! Battle stations! Test the controls! Run diagnostics! Arrrrrrgggghhh! Watch for Klingons!
Me (pilot): "Damnit, Andrea, I'm a driver, not an air conditioning mechanic."
I shut the vents on the driver's side.
Me: "Aye, Aye, Andrea, Driver's side AC/DC shut down. "Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap!"
Lucky the passenger AC was still working. We could limp along on that like an aircraft with one engine out.
Again, without warning, the passenger vent slapped Andrea in the face with hot air.
Andrea: #)($ O#IP *(()@**$) - translated for this blog, "Oh crap! Check your side!"
Me: "My side's good now, Cap'n."
Andrea: "Quick! Shut all passenger vents! Transfer power to the driver's side!"
Me: "Roger, Wilco!"
A few minutes later. The dilithium crystals stabilized. The transporter was back online, and the warp drive was again available.
Andrea: "Hold it; my side's working again!"
Me: Hey, my side's still working too!"
Andrea: "Stop messing around and drive!"
Me: "Damn, there's no winning here!"
Andrea: "Stop whining and just drive."
We made it to Yorkshire with no further incident and had a lovely weekend.
We had planned to spend a touch more time in York to do some sightseeing. But when we got up to drive home, we didn't want to dilly-dally because the sun was already over the horizon, and it was forecast to be a hot one again. To avoid four hours of sauna therapy on the A1(M), we decide to hit the road early because:
"Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul to waste…
... Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game."
Whooo Whooo, Oh Hell yeah, ain't that true.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
T - 221 DAYS
Today, I bring you, Luke Adam Hawker.
Luke is based in London and his subjects include some of London's most iconic architecture.
He studies interior architecture and design at Nottingham Trent University. You can see in his drawings he understands how his subjects are constructed.
I started following this guy's art on Instagram. When you watch him draw it seems like he's just scribbling, but bit by bit the image starts coming alive. I love his free form expression of London's architecture.
Some of you might know that Big Ben is undergoing some restoration. Here's one he did of Big Ben covered in all of its scaffolding glory. I love this because it's a bit unusual.
Luke travels around London looking for interesting venues to draw in pen and ink.
Here's a video that gives an overview of the process he uses.
I have been many things in my life from an ice hockey player, a US Marine, an artist, a father, and a friend. There might be a song in that, might there? I don't know.
I look back at my many years, and some of the most challenging times have been as a Marine Drill Instructor (DI). As a DI, I was good at being mildly aggressive. Okay, I was at least extremely proficient at raising my voice. We all have a talent. I think I got this one from my mother; she was a great voice raiser. You'd know if you ever went to an ice hockey game where Neale or I were playing. Mom wasn't shy.
Honestly, one does not want to hear me raise my voice.
I was thinking about that this week.
End of vacation (holiday), a nice man came to pick us up at our little hideaway. He got out of the car to hoist the suitcases into the car. The poor guy had great intentions, but he was moving with all the grace and deftness of a man who was awaiting his next injection of embalming fluid.
I kindly intervened and said, "No, please don't put the suitcases in the car. I wouldn't want a lawsuit to develop from a cab ride. Please, let me put the cases in the car."
I felt pretty good about myself. I assume the cab driver felt pretty good he tried to help with the suitcases. As he shuffled back to the driver's seat; one painful step at a time, I quickly lifted the fabric-covered anvils with wheels into the trunk.
In the end, he was friendly, and I gave him a tip for giving it the old college try.
Six hours later, we arrive at Paddington Station, and with our suitcases in hand, we made our way to the taxi stand outside. Not an easy task because barriers blocked us from taking our bags up the escalator, and as there were only two lifts (elevators - but we'll call them lifts cause I'm here) and one of them didn't work.
No worries, we got to the taxi rank, and we were like the second group in line. Smooth sailing, right? Au contraire mon ami.
The cabbie pulled up, and he opened the door automatically from his hermetically-sealed cocoon in the driver's seat. This guy was not exiting his royal box for all the jewels in the Tower of London.
Andrea got in the cab, I maneuvered the suitcases into the car and followed in after her. Still not a word from mime in the front seat.
I leaned over and said, "Kings Cross Station, please." No response. The car just moved out and I fell back into the seat. I had to assume we were going in the direction I wanted to go. At least I know my way around London a little bit. I did know he was going in the right direction.
Andrea said (not under her breath but loud enough for him to hear), "No tip for him, then." Andrea's got that subtle way of making her displeasure easily known.
Now, Andrea and I have entirely different philosophies regarding tipping.
I believe in tipping; she doesn't believe in tipping. Well, it's not that she doesn't believe in tipping. She believes tipping should be for service over and above the standard service expected. I do agree but I grew up in the United States where tipping says more about the character of the tipper than the service of the provider.
In the United States, as a rule, we tip in restaurants, cabs, the guy that opens the door at the hotel, the babysitter, and other various professions or service providers. Here's a good article that reflects a more American approach. Normally, fifteen percent of the total bill. It ain't like that here. Tipping is becoming a bit more common here, but the philosophy is totally different.
If you want to read about tipping London Cabbies, it might be helpful. It's a bit of propaganda for Black Cabs (Uber and Lyft are mentioned nowhere in the article) but useful nonetheless.
I've found cab drivers, in general, to be a bit prickly. They're often offended when the coin doesn't come gushing out of your pocket. I expected this guy to find his voice on the other end of the ride when he saw he only got what was on the meter and no more. I don't exactly relish that kind of confrontation.
My mind went into overdrive. I ran through all kinds of scenarios between Paddington and Kings Cross if he made a fuss. I was a Boy Scout. I do like to be prepared.
I thought of saying something cute like, "Service paid for service rendered." He probably wouldn't have got the subtlety.
I thought of ranting about how he could have lifted a finger to help and giving him a finger of my own.
I thought of just looking at him in the cab and rendering unto him a primal scream of epic proportions; a cry that would be worthy of being locked up for mental instability. See the vague reference to my screaming ability above.
I concluded I would simply ignore anything he had to say about the situation. The gratuity was at my discretion (in this instance - Andrea's discretion - she had the credit card).
So, that's what I did. I was silent — no Edvard Munch (The Scream) moment at Kings Cross. We paid, and not another word was said. The mime kept his counsel.
I was very proud of myself for not making a scene. Then again, I'm not a big scene maker.
We caught the train to St. Evenage. On the other end, a lovely young man waited for us in the taxi rank.
The guy practically did a Usain Bolt to get the bags. He was helpful, friendly, and enthusiastic - a strong and strapping young man. He got a tip and might have even got a little extra.
What happened with the guy at Paddington? Well, he might have just been having a bad day. Everybody has struggles you know nothing about, and it's not worth piling on. I'm glad I didn't.
I'm no Zen Master, but today, I, externally at least, displayed some equanimity (inside - turmoil and tribulation). I didn't make things worse.
That's about all we can do in life; not make things worse. And by doing so make things a little bit better.
As for you, until I see you next week, I wish you peace.
T - 228 DAYS
Bobby Dukes is a bit of a carver. He makes astonishing things from ordinary materials. Sometimes what he calls Wewd (wood) and sometimes from stone and other random things like billiard balls.
Don't let his dapper appearance fool you. He's a bit of an eccentric. Maybe that's just his YouTube personality. His videos are a bit out there. But I love them. He is so creative. The last thing I saw him carve was a black widow spider inside a billiard ball.
He's carved a lot of things out of a lot of things, but one of my favorites is this floating teacup made out of wood and Crayola colored pencils. It really is very creative.
And have you ever seen a pencil carved out of another pencil? You can watch how he does it on this YouTube Video. He's got almost 3 million subscribers.
I love watching his videos. He's funny, he's talented, he's really good, and most of all he makes curiosities I would never have thought of.
If you would like to find out more you can visit Bobby Duke on the following interweb places.
If you'd like to support his work online you can go to his Patreon Page.
Now go out and make some ART!
I've been by the sea for the last couple of weeks on the southwesternmost tip of England. It's been a fantastic couple of weeks of long walks and beautiful sights. I thought this little sea horse was appropriate for seaside summer adventure.
I have to tell you, though, if we had to count on the BBC Weather Service predictions this week, we'd be hunkered down with hatches battened the entire time we've been here. Well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.
The weather was predicted to be dismal to the point where Andrea was no longer looking at property-porn (the daily ritual of - "God wouldn't it be great if we lived ..."). I think she was setting her sights on an ark. Instead of two tickets to paradise, she was looking at two tickets on a ship, boarding two by two for forty-days and forty-nights.
That reminds me of one of my all-time favorite cartoons. Inserted here for comic relief.
That brings me to the point of all of this. If you wait for the conditions to be perfect, if you rely entirely on the predictions of others, you're liable to wish your life away. You have to get out and do stuff.
Except for only a couple of hours of torrential rain, once in Truro where we ducked into a couple of shops, and at a place called Hell's Mouth (love that name) where we found a nice little restaurant to sit out the deluge, we escaped relatively unscathed. We skipped most of the inclement weather and caught the best of every single day we were here.
I think the BBC errs on the side of caution when they predict the weather. A BBC forecaster had a bit of a hiccup in 1987 when he predicted light rains that turned into hurricane-like torrential rains and winds that destroyed homes, downed trees, and thoroughly pummelled England. So, I'll cut them a little slack for being cautious.
England is a tricky monster for predicting the weather. The climate in your garden may be completely different than your neighbor's. Microclimates.
Weather forecasters have a nightmare job here. It's not like Arizona where all they have to do is forecast how freaking hot it is. Today - sunny and warm - Tomorrow - sunny and bloody hot.
Anyway, we got out, put in the miles, and made the best of the beautiful sands, sea, and scenery.
Though I'm going back to work next week, I'm excited for that chapter to start.
As always, until next week, I wish you peace, smooth sailing, and following seas.
I run into great people all the time. Some of them are even artists. I met this guy today on our afternoon walk. His gallery in Marazion is about two and a half miles west of Penzance. It's like a little hole in the wall. I almost missed it.
This gallery features the art of just one person, Morgan Read. Like lots of artists, after getting his art degree, he pursued the bright lights and big business of advertising and design in London. Now he operates out of his studio right across from St Michael's Mount. Not a bad view from the front door.
I'm thrilled I met Morgan and wish I had stayed to ask him so much more. I also wish I took the time to snap a photo of him while I was in his gallery. That's another thing I'll have to put on my "why the hell didn't I do that" list. It's pretty long.
I do like Morgan's style, though. He has a few different styles, and I loved each one of them. Here's a harbor painting I saw at his place that I loved.
He's an accomplished hand sign painter too. He has a variety of signs that he's produced but will make them to your specifications as well. His signs have a great weathered effect.
There was so much on the walls of his studio that he doesn't have on his website yet. You're going to have to plan a trip to Marazion to visit Morgan's shop.
Delivery within the UK is free so if any of my UK readers want some hand-drawn - yes, hand-drawn - cards to send for any occasion - you can scoop them up on his website for a very reasonable price.
I invite you to look over his website to see what he's all about or maybe you can like his Facebook page or follow him on Instagram.
Now go out and make some ART!
I like boxers - their wrinkles and stare give them an air of confidence and contentment. They also look a bit curmudgeonly which kinda suits this little rant. I enjoyed drawing him.
Life's pleasures are, more often than not, the simple things. Walks in the woods, sand between your toes, and a big ole fashioned cheeseburger.
For the most part, we do our best to eat a healthy and balanced diet (Andrea is a fruit, nut, and seed fanatic). I do have my little indulgences, though. I'll have some potato chips here, maybe a piece of cake there, and I might have a beer or two faster than a gull can snatch an ice cream at the seaside.
My goal is moderation. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes, I fail. I know that's going to happen, but I always try.
This last week has been full of long and challenging walks. When we are in Carbis Bay and we've had a long day walking there's a little place in St Ives we love to go. It opens at 5 pm, and it's called Blas Burgerworks. They have great vegetarian and vegan burgers as well - so I'm told - I've not tried.
I asked the server if Blas is part of a chain or if there are any "sister" stores anywhere. The restaurant in St Ives is the only one, and I'm so glad we discovered it.
Their motto is "BURGERS FOR PEOPLE WHO GIVE A DAMN." Yup, I believe 'em.
We sat down to our meal on Wednesday at about 5:15 and saw only two open seats at a table that served six. At Blas, you share tables with folks you don't know. We were a bit knackered after eight miles over the rocky ups and downs from St Ives to Zennor.
We'd walked for miles, and our feet were hurting. It felt like a million bucks to lodge my backside on a plank bench and order my beer and burger. Luxury.
The beer was a great Cornish Lager called Korev.
Do you remember the advertisements that said, "Fosters, It's Australian for beer." Well, Korev truly is Cornish for beer. That pale smooth lager was just what the doctor ordered.
When my burger came, I was ready. I ordered the Burger of the Day! Angus beef, garlic mushrooms, caramelized onions, and hand-cut, perfectly cooked fries.
I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Perhaps I had.
If heaven doesn't have Blas burgers, I'm not all that sure I want to go.
Then, yesterday, I got my bubble burst a bit as we turned on the news to find out that the council on climate change has determined that one of the most significant contributors to climate change is, drum roll please, meat-based diets. I'm not going to go into the particulars; you can read the report if you'd like. The BBC reported, " A major report on land use and climate change says the West's high consumption of meat and dairy produce is fuelling global warming." (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)
I don't know if it will dissuade me from the occasional burger and fries, but I'm certainly going to think about it.
Lots of people think we've pretty much already tipped over the edge and are on our way to absolute oblivion at an accelerated rate.
What can we do?
We do our part, recycling and not wasting massive amounts of food, but it's just a drop in the bucket. It makes us feel like we're doing something though and feelings are all that matter, Aren't they?
So, as I lament over my 100% Angus burger from a couple of days ago, I know that all we can do is the best we can. And, I'm doing the best I can.
So, even as celebrities and moguls rush to Sicily to rub elbows and wag chins about things they know nothing about in their private jets and massive yachts, I will still try to do my part.
BTW - the minute Leonardo DiCaprio deigns to fly coach on Jet Blue; I might take their hypocritical a$$es bit more seriously. Until that time, I'll put my stock in the scientists who did the work, and try to eat a bit less meat.
The planet will not die, though; it will recover. It may take a couple of billion years and a few asteroid collisions, but it will get better.
It is true, we will die out long before the world disintegrates into the dark matter from whence it came. The earth has recovered from worse scourges than us.
Unfortunately for us, our survival is probably not necessary for the long term health of this world, but our extinction might be.
I have high hopes that the planet will find a way to heal before we are all gone. I hope we can achieve a symbiotic relationship. However, I don't think self-aggrandizing self-proclaimed nitwits whooping it up at the Google Camp in Italy will make one iota of difference to the outcome. I wonder if they would have been so keen if the meeting took place in St Evenage at the Holiday Inn Express. I hear smart people stay there.
I will still do my best. I will put my best foot forward. I will always do my bit regardless of what they do. Because that's all we can do, isn't it?
Each of us can do our best.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
T - 242 DAYS
One of our walks over the last week brought us into Lelant. We love to walk along the Hayle estuary through Lelant. The trail passes through the West Cornwall Golf club and then down to the station. If you go just a little bit further, you will run into the gallery of Jon Tremaine.
We were walking through the streets of St Ives and saw his work in another gallery in the town. We snapped up a few cards with photos of his work in that shop.
When I spotted his gallery in Lelant, we just had to stop by. I enjoyed meeting him very much. Jon's not a trained artist, but I have to tell you the images he produces are some of the most imaginative and well-executed I've ever seen. He works with a Rotring pen with a 0.1mm nib to create his wildlife images. He even let me photograph his next work in progress.
You can see the images embedded in the overall picture of the lobster. Here's a segment of one of Jon's finished pieces where you can see the detail he includes.
We should always be learning, and when I met Jon, I learned a bit about his art business and how he markets his art. He taught me a little about style and patient persistence.
I'm looking forward to the next two weeks.
I painted this little painting the last time we made an excursion to the southwest portion of this island. It's the view we get walking from St. Uny's Church in Lelant towards the island lighthouse off Godrevy Head.
On Saturday, it's time to head out again for two weeks of uninterrupted recreation & relaxation (R&R). I'm so looking forward to it. The sea, the sand, and, hopefully, the sun will make an appearance or two during our two-week stay.
I'm looking forward to enjoying more amazing experiences.
Most of our getaways always include some degree of scenic walking, especially when we go to Cornwall. "The South West Coastal Path is England's longest waymarked long-distance footpath and National Trail."
And, it's Poldark country too. The scenery is dramatic and gets more so as time goes by.
Poldark features the rocky cliffs and rolling seas off Cornwall, not to mention Aiden Turner's chest. Pretty damn good scenery, I'd say. The latest Poldark series dropped a couple of weeks ago, and we're chomping at the bit to watch it on that same rugged coastline.
I have to tell you I love the journey to Cornwall almost as much as the stay itself. It takes about seven hours, and it's an integral part of the holiday.
Peter, the silver-maned stately Lord of Essex Road Manor, is picking us up Saturday morning and depositing us at the train station in St. Evenage.
Peter's a hell of a guy. Though ten years my senior he has a magnificent full head of silver hair. I'm in a constant state of seething green-eyed jealousy. I've even been thinking about growing my beard long and doing a severe combover.
Thank you, Peter!
We'll take the train to Kings Cross, and a Taxi to Paddington Station. Then, we'll be winsome travelers on a smooth, relaxing five-hour journey through some of the most scenic landscape England has to offer.
We've had incredibly good luck with trains to and from Cornwall; So much so that I hesitate to bring up the one disastrous occasion we experienced about three years ago. It was dismal.
We were wrapping up a lovely week at the beach. The weather displayed uncharacteristic cooperation. Though we were disappointed to leave our little haven by the sea, we realized we must and trudged begrudgingly to the station for our journey back to the real world.
It's not too bad. We had booked reserved seats in the quiet first-class car. For a holiday, and on such a longish journey, it's the best way to travel.
We got to the station at St Erth early enough. So we sat down in an old fashioned tea shop at the station. It's a fabulous tea shop - a throwback to the 1920s - think "Brief Encounter" (a 1945 British Film for my American compadres, look it up). We usually try to leave early enough to allow some time for a cup of tea and cake before getting on the train.
We had forks charged, tea at the ready, and salivary glands fully engaged when we heard an announcement on the loudspeaker. They said something about our train. It sounded like, "The 'unintelligible static unclear' train from Penzance to London Paddington Station has 'static, random noise, screech, click, static, hum, click again,' we are sorry for the delay and any inconvenience caused."
Hackles had risen, ears perked, investigations were in order. A determined and, I must say, steely-eyed Andrea rushed to investigate. The swiftness of her departure was like a flash, a bolt of greased lightning. From my perspective, she vanished from in front of me and appeared simultaneously at the ticket office window berating some unfortunate clerical minion.
What they had said between the screeching and clicking was they canceled our train and replaced it with another. Okay, that doesn't sound too bad. Or does it?
What brought steam from Andrea's ears was: they did not replace the trains like for like. They had replaced our 12 carriage train with three first-class carriages, and a dining car with a four carriage commuter train.
Oh my god, what had the good and gracious master of the universe done? How would we survive? How would we keep our sanity? Our pleasant trip now felt like a slow week-long journey in a cattle car back to London thru Dantes nine circles of Hell!
"Your Last Train To London Paddington from Penzance is formed of four coaches, calling at limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud, and treachery. "
The ride lived up to our expectations too. There were loud, angry, and obnoxious people crammed into standing room only train cars. I'm too embarrassed to tell you what we had to do to get seats on the train. I have been authorized to tell you it involved, in part, elbows, foul language, and copious amounts of "hey, get out of my way."
The train was so crowded, the folks in the aisles were involuntarily nudging their way between the seats. In some cases, they were shoving their ample and foul-smelling derrieres in front of unsuspecting seated passengers (us) already jostled, overcrowded, covered with suitcases, and other debris.
What happened to our snack and beverage cart?
What happened to our quiet little trip?
What happened to our scenery?
What happened to our air conditioning?
What happened to our wifi?
Please, merciful angel, tell me what happened?
The whole experience reminded me of the Marine transportation "a$$-hole-to-belly-button" in what we euphemistically called "Cattle Cars"!
If you need a visual - here it is:
They crammed us in closer than a WWII landing craft in the South Pacific. We were keeping our heads down and hoped bullets wouldn't rain down when we stepped off the train.
Anyway back to our Cornish trip - as you can probably tell, we did live to tell the story.
After the fact, there were telephone calls made and letters written too. They included words like, unacceptable, horrible, cramped, vile, and a few other choice phrases. "How can you creatures from my bureaucratic nightmare sleep at night?"
After some negotiations and some strategic toing and froing, we ended up scoring a first-class trip the next year gratis from the Great Western Railway.
We've put all that behind us now and are on good terms yet again with our journey. I'm looking forward to two blissful disconnected weeks of bliss.
Until next week, I wish you and yours safe journeys and, of course, peace.
T - 249 DAYS
I'm always on the lookout for artists who are not only proficient but also have a knack for explaining things well.
I've run across one such artist recently, and I'm just devouring his material on the web. His name is James Gurney. I just love his style, and ability to explain things in a simple, down-to-earth way.
I think we were almost neighbors when we were growing up. We're practically the same age, he was born June 14th, 1958 and I was born in July. He spent his formative years in Palo Alto in the 1970s. I was right up the road in Redwood City at the same time. He went off to Berkeley and studied Anthropology, and I went into the Marines. Well, at that point we diverge.
James wrote a book with Thomas Kinkade in the 1980s called "The Artist's Guide to Sketching," and he spent much of his career as an illustrator painting over 70 book covers for science fiction and fantasy novels. I think he'd say that he's most famous for his illustrated Dinotopia series.
He is a prolific and proficient creator and sketch artist. I love the videos he produces for YouTube that explain his process and how he thinks about things. His style is laid back, easy-going, and a little bit quirky - that's something I really like.
Here's one of his more popular videos. He sketches an airplane while waiting for a plane. I liked it and I think you'll like it too.
I'm getting a lot from his YouTube videos, but he does sell extended versions of the process. I'm sure I'm going to purchase some of his extended videos at some point to get a bit more into his methods. I love learning new things.
Here's a list of his web locations if you want to see what he does and how he does it.
Now go out and make some ART!
After our excursion to a seaside last weekend, I thought a little fish drawing might be in order. Your guess is as good as mine. Is the worm offering the fish a way out or just leading him on? I wonder what a good caption might be. If you have any ideas, let me know.
The weather today has been unbelievable. The mercury topped 100 degrees this afternoon as the jet stream sucked up that Sub Saharan air and dumped it directly in our neck of the woods. It was blazin' hot for England.
We were sitting having a late lunch at a lovely cafe in Hitchin this afternoon. It was fascinating to watching folks walk past. Some people were going by at breakneck speed on their way to some appointment or other; some looked deathly afraid they would be late. Some sauntered by without a care in the world, having a grand old time.
Some were a little scary. I guess there's always some creepy people in the world. One of them sat down next to us at the cafe. He was dressed all in black (admirable given the temperature). He had one of those black pork pie hats and a pork pie face that could have come straight out of a Dickensian drama. I was surprised he wasn't drooling. He was a bit of a letch watching the women going to and fro. I guess old Charlie Dickens would have called him Mr. Letcher from Bosom Alley.
He was the least of our concerns as it would turn out.
One old fella walked up to his car. God, I felt sorry for him. He was skinny as a rail, and his mouth hung open like a cave awaiting the exodus of 10 million bats. He was in a permanent state of exhaling like Mr. John Coffee breathing out the bad stuff on the Green Mile or The Scream by Edvard Munch.
It was painful to watch him get into his car right in front of us.
I then saw an elderly Sikh couple approaching - a lovely older couple. The pair were hobbling along very nicely on the sidewalk (pavement for my English friends). I remember thinking, wow those two shouldn't be out on a day like today. They were clearly struggling.
To my amazement, after the first Rocky Horror Auto Show with gaping mouth man, this couple started to approach a car. They could hardly walk. I was sure calamity would present itself yet again, and I'd have to invoke incantations and beseech the Almighty for pedestrian protection again.
The man helped what I assume was his wife into the car. Once she settled in, the man went around to the driver's side to get in the car. It was clear he was struggling as well. He went through a similar checklist to gaping mouth man. Turn, sit, twist, insert leg, twist, maneuver leg two, and so on.
They drove off in there Merclette (small Mercedes - I think the term should catch on). I again said a little prayer.
As I was supplicating myself to the celestial overlord, Andrea said in her most posh English accent said, "Oh, good heavens. Don't these people know about Uber?" I went back to my third beer - no I wasn't driving!
One of the most significant challenges I had with dad, as he progressed through different stages of oldhood, was convincing him not to drive.
I had a conversation with him that lasted hours. He was having none of it. Nobody will tell him what he could and could not do. But, after that long conversation, and an accident that took off the wing mirror (no one was hurt, only a tree branch was damaged), he admitted that he shouldn't be driving and would not drive anymore. Of course, the next day, it was like the conversation never took place.
From then on, I was the pariah that kept him from driving. I had taken away his keys, and he was not a happy camper. Lucky for me, he quickly forgot who it was who told him not to drive. He said he had decided that it wasn't a good thing. In the end, it became random other people who had told him he shouldn't drive. There was always somebody to blame. I'm just glad it wasn't me all the time.
What I'm trying to say, and I hope I live up to it in the end.
I hope I can recognize when I can no longer safely drive from here to there.
I hope there are loved ones who will let me know.
I hope I realize that there is Uber.
I hope that time doesn't come too soon, but I know it will happen.
So, until next week, I wish you peace and please, if you drive, do drive safely.
T - 256 DAYS
In Hitchin, right around the corner from downtown, is a small gallery called The Art Nest. They occasionally have art classes and they always have artwork there to catch your eye.
I noticed this artist's paintings there over the last couple of years. Her style is unique and I do love her results.
Her name is Cathy Smale.
She develops the images with layers and layers of thick oil paint. Whether she produces cityscapes, birds, or seascapes her work is immediately recognizable.
Personally, I'm partial to the little bird paintings she does. You know I'm a sucker for a cute little bird painting.
I am very happy to present this artist to you this week. She is one of my favorites.
You will find her work at any of these fine interweb venues:
Now, go out and make some ART!
The week before last we went to the races at Newmarket. We took the chance to drink a bit of sparkling wine and to see the horses run.
I love watching horses run but I don't gamble.
I learned my lesson in the summer of 1979. I spent the entire summer in Las Vegas or as we always called it "Lost Wages."
A friend and I spent the summer going door to door offering to paint house numbers on the curbs of houses in newly developed neighborhoods. We were promising "curb appeal." We were, of course, college students trying to earn enough money for the next semester at school. People were very obliging. How could they resist enterprising students doing their best to further their education? For five bucks we would make sure the postman would never miss their house on his rounds.
Honestly, we raked in cash; at least enough dosh for a decent hotel, food, and gambling. We did this day after day all hot summer long.
Do you want to guess how much money we took back with us at the end of the summer? We should have been flush with cash. Instead, we barely had enough gas money to make it back to San Diego, where it all started.
I kicked that gambling habit in the teeth right then and there. I vowed I would never get sucked up in that life again.
I've been back to Vegas and I've gambled since but I strictly limit my losses. I've never spent more than $20 a day gambling in Vegas; if I gamble at all. It's kind of the price of admission.
Even though I shun gambling, I love to go to the horse races. I don't know any of the vagaries of horse racing, jockeys, or how the heck they come up with the odds for betting. I've seen a racing form before, and I've seen people study them to death. I don't know, however, if placing a bet after that meticulous and somewhat magical analysis can produce any better results than tossing a coin in the air.
Here's what I do...
It's a brilliant system. I would recommend it to anyone who needs a system for horse racing.
I go the paddock and look at the horses being paraded around. I do a lot of ooohin and ahhhhing and oogling and scratching my head. I stick my finger in the air and say, "Hey, that's a pretty horse!" (They're all pretty though, aren't they). Or I might say, "Gosh, I love that name!". Things like Codswallop or Thunderdash or Flashbang or First Dude or Painting The Sky float my boat. Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening. Gallio ... oh heck - there I go again. Sorry - Bohemian Flashback - now that would be an excellent name for a horse.
Once, I've completed a careful evaluation of the "horse flesh" in front of me, I'll make a note of the name, the number, and the odds, and I go watch the race. When the horse loses, I count up the money I saved by not betting. It's a marvelous system. A spectacular system, indeed. I've banked thousands of dollars/pounds over the years by proactively, not gambling.
Yup - not gambling is for me. Wanna bet...
Until next week, I wish you peace.
T - 263 DAYS
I was digging through the archives of my mind, thinking of a time in my life that was, let's say, full of wide-eyed opportunity and potential, and I thought of my friend Dave, whom I was introduced to by my mother. (that story is probably one for another day).
Dave had a hot 240z. I think I remember it was yellow. (I could be full of hooey - ya never know) I was a real fan of the car, and I thought Dave was great. He was studying to be an artist and bartending at the Stamford Hotel in Connecticut.
I lost track of him over the years and wanted to see how he was doing. I found his website, www.davedodge.com.
Dave spent his career as an art director in the corporate world and has recently transitioned to painting en plein air more or less full time.
Dave is a great artist. I love his plein air paintings. There's a photo of him painting on his website. When I first came across his website, I knew it was him even though you can't see his face.
I was able to reconnect with him lately, and I am happy to introduce you to this talented artist's work.
Dave lives with his wife in Peterborough, New Hampshire.
His friend John introduced Dave to outdoor painting, and he's been hooked it ever since.
In honor of this week's featured artist, here is one of my own pointillist contributions to the world. This is what I imagine my skull looks like under the skin. Read on...
As I said in my last little update, I am more a gorilla than a gazelle. I don't think I realize the extent of my klutziness.
I have run into walls, telephone poles, fence posts, and door jams. At times it even extends to tripping over steps, stones, and things that aren't there. You know, the type of trip where you look back to see what the hell happened. For me, I swear the earth reaches up and grabs me, and I go tumbling.
In the United States, where doors are more often than not several inches above my head, it doesn't pose too much of a problem. Most of the time, the worst that happens is light bruising and rattled bones from running into door jams.
Some part of my body is continually recovering from a cut, a bruise, or some form of petty injury. It often includes bleeding from some fresh wound or another. Sometimes I'm spontaneously leaking from a cut I had no idea I had. In the past, folks may have called it stigmata, tied me to a stake, and set a match. Now they make bandages for that.
However, England has ancient houses with positively Hobbit sized doors.
The house in which we live is 500 years old. Yes, it has ghosts and creaks and whispers, oh my. One of the doors here is only three and a half feet tall. That's being generous. People were shorter then.
Until the last couple of hundred years, human height had stayed relatively constant; somewhere around 5'7" (170 cm for those not in the United States.) So I don't know why that door is only 3 1/2 foot tall.
People have been shooting up like bean poles in the last one hundred and fifty years. We've added an average of 3.9" inches (10 cm) from the bottoms of our feet to the top of our heads. Those that study these things put it down to better nutrition or better medicine - we no longer consider The Four Humours, Phrenology, Systematic Bleeding, or prescribe cigarettes for stress as sound medical practices.
I guess I'm one of those who has benefited from modern medicine and nutrition being 6'1" (185 cm give or take).
Last year, when I was going into a closet, my head hit the jam so hard it peeled off a pelt of skin and fur on the door jam. It looked like it could have come from a squirrel caught in something from the Spanish Inquisition. I had to peel it off of the crossbeam. The gash in my head bled like a neverending bloodletting ceremony from the Middle Ages.
Unfortunately, household harmony suffers a bit when we discover my pillow looks like Hannibal Lecter used it for a drop cloth or a napkin. Beautiful white linen pillowcases stained with copious amounts of Scott's internal operating system can send the day into a quick tailspin.
We have resorted to using black pillowcases on my side of the bed. It's not like it solves the problem, but is undoubtedly a step I'm willing to take for peaceful coexistence.
In a roundabout way, what I'm trying to say is I hit my head again today. Not too bad; it was a relatively light tap, but it did draw blood.
Tonight, we are going back to the: "Black Pillowcases Of Shame." I will hang my head and accept my lot, because, well, it's just who I am: Shrek.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
T - 270 DAYS
This week it's an artist whom I only know by his initials and the back of their head. I'm stumped. I think it's a guy because of the haircut and I think I spotted a bit of facial growth or a beard, so I'm going with that. I apologize if I'm wrong. Nevertheless, I love the art he produces. His moniker is CJP.
Even though CJP's work is very detailed, I mean, there must be a microscope involved to see some of the details he draws. Yup, it's all using scratches on paper. I know, wild, eh?
Look at this video. How he uses an ordinary pen to scratch images into being.
As an example of work, take a look at one of the pieces CJP has done called Rewilderness where he hides little critters away in a perfectly rendered pine cone. You can appreciate the perfection from afar and then hone in on little bits and pieces. I love looking for those little nuggets.
I love discovering new things that people do with their art. CJP is one of those artists I follow because I'm never quite sure what inventive this or that he'll put into his artwork.
If you want to see more of his talent on display, you can visit him at the following site over the inter-web.
Now, go out and make some ART!
This painting of tranquility and peace hangs with my daughter in Wisconsin. I hope it helps her to keep warm in the winter time. I thought of this painting because my Holly brought something to my attention last month that has solved a forty-year mystery.
You see, I am not the most graceful person in the world. That's a fact. When I was a kid, I excelled more at sports that were more "bull in a china shop." I'm more gorilla than gazelle. It's just how it is.
I've come to accept that over time, but recently I've kinda found out why.
At the tender age of 21, I found myself adrift in the sea of life. I dropped out of college, and I needed some direction, so I turned my life over to the United States Government. Being the slacker that I was, I thought I would join the United States Marines. Heck, I was looking for a bit of discipline and direction. What I needed was a transformation, and I got that by the bucket-full.
When I told my friends that I had joined the Marines, these were their standard reactions.
The third, I thought, was phenomenal and actionable advice. So as a recruit at MCRD San Diego, I had only one thing in mind. Don't get noticed.
I decided that keeping my head down was the least cost method of getting through boot camp. By least cost, I mean, minimal effort for maximum reward. I wanted to do the job well enough that I didn't get in trouble, but not good enough that I would get noticed. I tried to keep to myself, follow orders, and simply do the job. Easy, right?
It turns out that just doing your job and following orders is a skill. It gets you noticed.
My Drill Instructors made me a Squad Leader. What does it mean to be a squad leader? Well, it means that, not only to you get the brunt of the Drill Instructors attention and displeasure, you get special attention when someone else in your squad screws up too. Double the pleasure, double the fun!
Somehow, in their attempt to make the platoon a cohesive marching unit they made me the Guidon Bearer or as we called it "The Guide." The Guide is the guy in the front of the platoon carrying the platoon flag. He sets the direction of the platoon. He also gets thrashed when ANYBODY in the platoon messes up. The blame goes all the way to the front of the class where the Guide sits.
Drill Instructors take a lot of pride in making their recruits a solid marching unit. It's their job. Marching is essential to Marines. Marching is the orderly movement of masses of people from one place to another.
There is also a competition at the end of the recruit's time in boot camp where the platoon and the Drill Instructors get graded on their performance on the "drill field." That makes it very important.
I have to admit, when I see and hear an experienced group of Marines in time, covered and aligned, moving as one, I get filled with a bit of that "je ne sais quoi." It can bring a tear to your eye. Click on the photo below or here to see a video of the Marine Corps Silent Drill Team. I never get tired of it.
Marching requires a couple of things. The following requirements are not from the Marine Corps Drill Manual, but rather, they're my private interpretation.
Now, let me tell you, I was a fantastic marcher. I could strut with the best of them. I could do my column lefts, and my column rights, half-steps, quick steps, and even the most complicated rifle movements with ease.
One thing I didn't mention above is that marching well also requires you be able to walk in a straight line. That, I am physically and woefully incapable of doing.
I walk like an alcoholic on a three-week bender. I can't help it. I could never really figure it out. Why the hell can't I walk in a straight line?
I swear I would fail any field sobriety test.
Alas, they fired me. Well, not so much fired as relegated. I was no longer the Guide. I was demoted to squad leader all because I couldn't walk a straight freaking line; I was outta there.
But why can't I walk a straight line?
Why do I run into things all the time?
Could it be slamming my head into a metal pole when I was 12?
Was it the pucks, sticks, and fists that connected with my face when I was playing ice-hockey?
Did I suffer too many concussions from my ill-fated attempt at a boxing career?
Finally, after sixty years, I may have come across the source of all my woes.
Last month, when we were in Montreal, Holly happened to be walking behind me. She said, "Dad, do you have problems with depth perception?" She said it was fascinating to watch me nearly careening off of every lamp post, blind man, and building corner in my path.
She explained that it might be because of my astigmatism or more accurately, my amblyopia (lazy eye). When I was about six or seven years old, I was made to wear an eye patch over one eye to try to strengthen the weak one. I was a child pirate. Imagine the ridicule that one brought.
It all seems to make sense now. I don't know what the heck I'm going to do about it. There's probably nothing I can do, but knowing makes me a bit more comfortable and confident.
That brings me to my upcoming trip on the Appalachian Trail. I'll need to make sure I don't trip over roots, run into trees/snakes/bears/poison ivy, or misjudge the edge of any cliffs I pass by while I'm easin' on down the long green tunnel.
I'll take all that under advisement.
But, I'm sure Brian will throw me a line if I need one.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
TRAIL MINUS 284 DAYS AND COUNTING
f you like realism and you like bright colors you'll love Sarah Graham. Her work was first introduced to me by good friends of ours. I am very happy I was introduced to Sarah's work.
After I learned about Sarah, I was all over the internet trying to find her work online. I also remember going to a reception at Gallery 1066 in Baldock a couple of years ago and saw one of her paintings there as well.
The detail she puts into her paintings is phenomenal. Sometimes, I think her paintings look more real than the real thing. The colors in her paintings are amped up and they make her painting so vivid.
If you just took a photo of a bunch of candy it wouldn't really be that interesting. However, if you can find one of Sarah Graham's paintings of candy; now that's something sweet.
Sarah was born just a few miles up the road from us in Hitchin in 1977 and got her Fine Arts degree from De Montfort University in Leicester in 2000. Since then she has been a living breathing working artist. She now works out of her studio in Letchworth. Hertfordshire.
I am happy to introduce you to Sarah's work. Her work is hung all over the planet from China to South America.
You can find her at the following fine venues on the internet.
Here's a relatively recent Lighthouse painting I did. I could have used one of a lighthouse, or even some direction on Tuesday night when I was navigating some rather narrow country lanes.
The way we approach life has a lot to do with how much we enjoy the experience. If you think you're going to have a good time, it doesn't mean that you automatically have a good time, but you have a better chance to have a good time if you start in the right frame of mind.
We usually get what we expect.
I came across one of those situations this last week. I certainly got what I expected.
On Tuesday night, I was driving from St. Evenage to Chorleywood to meet up with Lynn and Fred before The Pretenders/Fleetwood Mac concert. When you get off the M25 (Non-UK readers: Big-Ass Motorway Circling London) at Chorleywood, you head right off into one of these meandering Lilliputian Pathways. It's more of a capillary than an artery.
I'm convinced elves, trolls, and maybe even ancient Druids designed the paths they call country roads in England. Sometimes it seems you can't fit two horses next to each other on these tiny trails let alone two cars.
We don't stand a chance. The big ole SUV we drive doesn't stand a chance in hell in this land of paved Hobbit Trails. It's downright nail-biting to drive, and I don't know how local people get used to it.
I'm always on the edge of my seat. I'm constantly on the lookout because, invariably, some miscreant will come barreling down the road like a lunatic careening off the embankments.
As I was white-knuckling down the road on Tuesday, the traffic was pretty light. No worries, I thought. I've dodged the bullet again. We've made it through unscathed, and, in fact, we did. We got to Hannay Hilton right on time - no dings, no scrapes, no missing mirrors. Whew!
We then took the train to Wembley Stadium and had a great time at the concert. On the way back, on the train, I started wondering how I was going to attack the drive home down that long and lonely alleyway.
I was already starting to feel a bit nervous and claustrophobic.
But then, I thought it's dark; there won't be too many people on the road. It'll be easy. So we said our goodbyes to Lynn and Fred (kiss, kiss, hug, hug, bye, bye) and set off for home I had all the confidence in the world.
I put my high beams on so I could see if a deer, an endangered box turtle, or an even elven sprite might try to dart across the road. There was none of those, but another car was coming up the lane.
I had just passed a slight layby, so I thought I would back up in there. That didn't work.
The car in front of me wasn't moving. We weren't moving.
He flashed his high beams at me. I was oblivious he meant for me to turn off my high beams and left my high beams on.
I started to back up more to get into a better position for him to pass. He still didn't move.
We were at an impasse.
At this point, I thought, oh hell, this is silly.
The other car wasn't going forward, so I did.
Then he started to move forward.
I started to back up.
They started to back up.
I thought I was in some Laurel and Hardy adventure.
Andrea's getting impatient. I was getting impatient.
Smoke started coming out of my ears.
I'm sure whoever was in the other car was getting a little miffed too.
Finally, we each eased forward ever so slowly — one small revolution of the tires at a time. Step by step, inch by inch, we passed each other with less than a badger's hair between us. I could see the whites of his eyes, and he could probably see my scowl. Grrrrr!
No obscene hand gestures passed between us, however, I did think of a few choice ones along the way.
Thankfully, the road opened up ahead. I crossed my fingers, my toes, and even some bits of me I didn't know I had. We made it back to the M25 and home without any more incidents.
Sometimes, even going down the road can be an adventure. You never really know what to expect. If you like a challenge, I recommend English Country Lanes.
For the coming week, I hope your roads are clear and have ample width. I wish you smooth seas and following winds.
Until next week, I wish you peace.