Autumn Leaves

Well the winds outside our window are picking up, and I guess this is the early part of the remnants of hurricane Gonzalo, which has caused a fair amount of destruction on the islands off America’s east coast, and is apparently heading this way. The trouble is that the leaves are still green on the trees here in the UK, which makes them top-heavy and likely to fall if the gusts get big.

A few years ago I was helping friends cut down a poplar plantation just down the road, and the work was started a bit late in spring, which meant that no matter how we cut into the trees the major influence controlling the direction in which the trees would fall was the wind, simply because they were in leaf and therefore top heavy. That was a tricky job, but I learnt a great deal about the influence of the seasons.

Right now we’re getting autumn winds. Quite right too. They’re nature’s way of blowing the dead leaves from the trees. They’re not unseasonal, unlike most of the weather we’ve experienced in recent years due to the very obvious effects of climate change. However, what is different is the fact that the leaves should be golden brown by now. It’s October. The Germans call it Goldener Oktober, I do believe. But the only trees turning at the moment are the horse chestnuts, which really should have changed in September. They’re always the first to go.

In a few weeks time it will be firework night here in the UK. Remember, remember, the fifth of November… Well I remember ten years ago we were watching the firework displays wrapped up in scarves, woolly hats and thick coats with two pairs of socks. It was always freezing. Cups of soup were served, and we’d make the soup last as long as possible just to keep our hands warm. Breath was properly steamy. These days we wonder if it’s even worth wearing a coat.

This weekend, the middle of October, just a week or two before the clocks go back, and the sun is shining, pub gardens are still full and the east coast towns here in Suffolk are enjoying a late run of trade. It’s hard to knock it.

But tomorrow evening the TV news will be full of stories of early hurricane damage. Sensational images of a cheap wooden fence blown over in Farnborough, a tree fallen on a car in Kirby Lonsdale, tiles missing from a roof in Romford, and a mountain made out of a molehill in Minehead.

I’ll admit that I certainly didn’t fancy taking the dogs out this afternoon, and they may be lucky to get a walk at all tomorrow. We are surrounded by oaks and ash trees in full leaf just itching to fall on me. And Tuesday will be even worse.

Anyway, sleep well.

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Life is sweet.

October 18, 2014

photoFor Mo and I Saturdays are usually a bit foodie. Nothing posey, you understand. No pithiviers or mille-feuille, no foams, nothing of that sort. Just well sourced, chasing-round-the-county, deliciousness. Nothing is ever planned. We might start in Framlingham market to buy bread, although not today as I’d bought wood fired beer bread from The Station pub yesterday. And as this was looking like the last warm and sunny weekend of the year we decided to take a drive through a leafy lane or two.

Our first stop was nearby Friday Street farm shop to get some vegetables, and next door we bought a couple of sparkly-eyed mackerel and some skate wings at Maximus sustainable fishing. A cold bag was packed with some ice as we knew we were not going home too soon.

Orford is a beautiful fishing village about a half hour’s drive from homeIMG_0158 and we’ve been going there for over forty years. And in the town square is a favourite old restaurant, The Butley Orford Oysterage, that has really not changed in any significant way since we first went there in the early seventies. The place is, and always has been, simply decorated (perhaps decorated is too strong a word) with a sort of cream paint and green dado rails. Tables are marble topped on iron legs, and chairs are basic; the kind that scrape on the quarry tiled floor and give up a noise that makes your fillings drop out.

But the food, oh yes, the simple fare of half a dozen Butley oysters, some griddled squid and prawns, with chunks of fresh bread. That’s it. No girlie vegetables here. No concessions to your five-a-day health Nazis. A bottle of light, Italian red wine. Perfect. Then a gentle walk along the coast path with a warm south-easterly breeze on our backs going out, but a much brisker wind in our faces on the return.

Dog-sitting does, of course, restrict the time we might normally be out and about, but so what. Home to take them for a walk, and then a leisurely couple of hours in the garden before a magnificent but light supper of griddled mackerel on griddled beer bread with tomato, mozzarella, avocado and spring onion salad. It’s been a griddlely kind of day.

Good night and sleep well.

It’s a living.

October 16, 2014

I’ve spent the greater part of today packing our possessions into the car and transporting them through four miles of meandering, single-track lanes to a delightful cottage on the outskirts of a beautiful village in the loveliest part of Suffolk. My wife Mo and I will be living here for the next three weeks, looking after the house and three small long-haired dachshunds, while the owner, I’ll call him Justin, is working in Uzbekistan selling oil pipelines.

When Justin returns we’ll head back home for three weeks or so until the next tour of duty. It’s a living, and I love it.

It’s one of a number of occupations that bring in a trickle of income and prevent my brain turning to mush. For slightly less than thirty pounds a day I am required to do no more than feed and walk the dogs twice a day, and clear up the occasional indiscretion left on the living room floor. The cottage is warm and cosy, with a glorious garden of around a quarter of an acre stretching away to a wild flower meadow and bordered by high hedges on either side.

When we first came we found the trio of little shit machines to be undisciplined, ill tempered and sullen. The deeply unpleasant next-door neighbour, a crusty old lady who fancies herself as some kind of dyed-in-the-wool countrywoman, but is in fact an opinionated old busy-body who moved up from Essex in search of peace and quiet, hated them, perhaps not without good reason, for their incessant barking. She has, for good measure, a foul-mouthed thug of a son who arrives once a week to mow the extensive lawns surrounding her ugly little bungalow, and to hurl disembodied abuse over the hedge. Her unyielding, relentless complaining to Justin made his life a misery, as if his life wasn’t made awful enough by the death, just over a year ago, of his beautiful wife, Carla. For some time that was the downside of this idyllic commission.

But we’ve been coming here for nearly a year now, and in that time the dogs have transformed themselves into adorable, fun-loving companions.

“You can tell what God thinks of money by looking at the people He gives it to”.  My great friend and fellow artist Mike Chapman told me this line on the phone this afternoon. Mike has a lovely studio overlooking Thomas Hardy’s cottage in Dorset and works there as a sculptor. We talk about once a month to check up on what our lives are turning up, and quite often we have an excited conversation about a new commission we’re discussing with some wealthy client, and how we’ll keep each other up to speed on how negotiations are progressing. Then after a while you notice that the commission is no longer the first thing we speak about, and sometimes you start to think that maybe its slipping away.

But our conversations are always lengthy, full of excellent stories and punctuated with huge bouts of helpless laughter.

Today we talked about his website which he’s thinking of changing, and strangely enough mentioned a site similar to wordpress (in that it has templates for you to design you site around) but this is an inexpensive web design site for artists and photographers called clikpic. I said ‘strangely enough’ because this is the site I use to host my website.  Clikpic charge £35.00 per year, and its so easy to use that I’m sure even Mike will be able to upload images of his work.

Then eventually we got around to talking about a commission he was hoping to get for sculpting King Arthur’s tomb at Glastonbury Abbey. How about that for a dream job? Really big bucks, too. Mike was one of two shortlisted for the gig, and I genuinely believe his was by far the best. His King was a natural, Celtic King. A huge, wise and reflective leader of men, loosely dressed in rough homespun cloth, sitting in deep contemplation. His rival produced a graceful knight in shining armour. But it’s perhaps of little consequence now, because its looking more and more as though the project is not happening. Budget cuts, you see. Art is the last thing people are spending money on at the moment, unless its $100,000,000.00 on a Giacometti sculpture to grace the distant halls of some squillionaire who doesn’t yet have everything. You see, things are different for these people who God has chosen to burden with money. Nothing is ever enough. And it turns out to be people like me and Mike who are truly the chosen ones.

tomorrow the world!

May 26, 2010

I’m moving deeper and deeper into the Global Community. I’m rubbing virtual shoulders with my new best cyber friends.  Navigating my way fearlessly to infinity and beyond. It is an exhilarating experience akin, in many ways I’m sure, to that first bungee jump or cresta run. That leap into the unknown which will take you who knows where. Already complete strangers are turning up at my cyber door giving my work the once-over and returning admiring glances. I didn’t realise I was so popular. Oh, but please forgive this frenzy of excitement. This unseemly outburst. It’s just that I’ve started a new facebook page this morning promoting my poster website, newvintageposters.com, and a twitter page to run alongside, each enabling me to speak to the entire world as and when I wish and to claim that same entire world’s undivided attention. This is quite a responsibility, as I’m sure you can understand.

This latest adventure was , in fact, the idea of my very good friends James and Emma during a magnificently squiffy evening at their flat last night. Time flew, as it always does when I’m in their company, and suddenly it was gone eleven, well past my bedtime, and I had a headful of cyber stuff to keep and hold safe till I awoke. And I can tell you now that nobody was more surprised than me when I actually set this thing up this morning without a hiccup.

It really does represent a major adventure for me, because the possibilities seem quite limitless in terms of contacting friends of friends in this bonkers never ending network. I do not take these things for granted. And this being a social network I will be looking to discuss new ongoing projects and hopefully getting feedback from those sufficiently interested parties concerning things such as ideas for new poster designs and other stuff like tee shirts and greetings cards.

Sitting here all day in my isolated studio with only the spiders for company, it’s reassuring to know that there are people out there in the great wide world that not only care about my welfare and what I’m up to, but will also enjoy the opportunity to rubbish my work as it goes along. What’s not to like?

Having it all

May 21, 2010

This morning, probably the hottest and sunniest day of the year so far, Maureen and I drove to the beautiful church of St Peter and St Paul in Aldeburgh to attend the funeral of Hugh Peacock. Forty years ago, when Hugh was just seventeen, he was thrown through the windscreen of a car and left paralysed from the waist down. But despite his disability, being permanently wheelchair bound, he was a man who loved to be alive more than anybody I know.

It was because of Hugh’s misfortune that Christopher Robinson, an old family friend of Hugh’s, donated an old barn on his property, had it converted, and started Ferriers Barn, the charitable arts and crafts day centre for physically disabled people in Bures that Maureen now runs.

Hugh was a proper countryman. Strapped to his quad bike with his dogs beside him he would go shooting for pheasant, partridge, pigeon or woodcock, and whenever he came to visit there would be a brace of oven ready birds for our pot. He was a fisherman too, beach casting for bass or fly fishing for trout. If it can be eaten Hugh would know where and how to find it.

And wherever he appeared he would fill a room with his laughter.

So at today’s service I became acutely aware of how, in recent months, I have bleated about my bad luck. You can read some of these outpourings on this blog should you so wish. But against the hammering that life has given Hugh I am blessed. Never complaining, Hugh embraced life with both of his huge hands. He never needed anybodies help (you can see that his wheelchair has no hand grips for people to push him) but he loved everybody’s friendship.

Today was something of an epiphany for me. How could it be otherwise? All this wonderful stuff. All this fabulous sunshine. The beautiful place that I live. My perfect family. My health. My friends. My skills. Like many of us, I just don’t know when I’m well off.

Decent exposure

May 7, 2010

I do enjoy writing this blog when nice things happen, and today I discovered that the May edition of EADT Suffolk Magazine carries a very generous six page article about my photography under the headline ‘The Colours of Summer’.

The introduction reports that ‘You can almost feel the warmth on your back and hear the lazy hum of bees with these bright, sunshine-filled scenes from Suffolk photographer Bill Philpot.’ And I’m quite sure that I couldn’t have put that better myself. Well, perhaps I might have slipped in a few words like ‘startling’ and ‘fabulous’.

I was told by the magazine’s art director Sandra Roberts that the work would feature in this month’s edition, but that was a long time ago and the information had slipped from my feeble memory bank until today when I happened to notice the publication on the racks in the supermarket, had a quick flick and the pages just fell open at this article. It contains about a dozen shots of Suffolk coastal images and landscapes, including a shot of Blaxall church almost obscured by a field of poppies that they’ve used as a full double page spread.

Now I shall be practising a nonchalant air as I stroll in the pub with the magazine under my arm and casually allow it to fall open on the bar. It has to be done. And for those of you who might not be in the pub at that particular moment there is a link to these pictures and more at ‘the suffolk snapper’ in the ‘my other stuff’ section on the right of this page.