My life in the UK was spent between Sussex/Surrey (where I was born), Shropshire/Welsh border, and London. I really know very little about other parts of Britain, other than where I was at school and my knowledge of that area is pretty limited too.
I spent almost four years living in the West Midlands (in my people's house above), and had very mixed feelings about the place.
There is no question that the people of the Home Counties, and the people of the Midlands have a very different attitude towards hospitality. I'm not talking about those who were fortunate enough to have been educated away, or attended country-wide universities, but those who remained glued to their particular corner of the country.
I loved the countryside up there, and especially just over the border into Wales, but I never felt at home there. The locals had an uncanny way of making you feel like an unwelcome stranger, and they seemed to delight in as much.
I did all the usual things that one does to try to make oneself accepted into village life. I became a regular at the pub', I ran the local Youth Club for a year, I reintroduced the annual Horticultural Show (which had been allowed to lapse), I raised money to send a group of 8 village children on a fabulous free adventure holiday to Bavaria (my high point), and I organised fund-raising to buy an electric wheelchair for a local girl who'd had an accident abroad; amongst other things. I like to think that I did my bit to integrate.
However, none of these things really helped me to become properly accepted, and when I eventually left the area I was extremely happy to return to a much more sociable Sussex, and France.
I had a friend in the village who came from Liverpool. He once asked the village garage owner how long it would take for him to be accepted into village life. The garage man replied "Oh, at least TEN years". My friend replied "Remind me to leave in NINE".
p.s. I don't wish to sound anti my old temporary home area, because I'm not. It's actually one of the places where I'd still like to live. But being friendlier would have cost them nothing; I can't see the appeal of being inhospitable!
My two neighbours, on whom I rely heavily, have no young family members who wish to continue farming. My nearest neighbour has a daughter who has become an accountant, and has never shown any interest in the farm. My other neighbour has two children neither of whom will take the baton; and in fact she doesn't even want them to.
So what will become of these farms? The only future I can see for them is to be bought by English or Dutch families, and be used for either breeding horses or some sort of holiday centres. Certainly there's little appetite for farming around here.
For years I've been trying to buy a small parcel of woodland, so that we could eventually become as self-sufficient as possible, but succession laws are still making this difficult. If my neighbours were not there to cut and deliver wood every winter, we could easily find ourselves in a difficult situation. Our house needs to be heated from about November to May.
I don't wish to sound morbid, but I quite expect myself to expire before either of my neighbours, so I could easily just shrug my shoulders and say to my heirs 'you'll have to sort it out by yourselves', but I'm not like that. I've spent the past 40-ish years trying to create a tiny haven of healthy, eco-friendly, and economic living, and all this could change if we were no longer able to buy quite large stocks of wood each year. It is a major element of our lives.
I blame myself for the situation, as I should have bought myself a home that had everything required to sustain my desired lifestyle, but we never get everything right. In an area such as this we rely heavily on wood, as do the farmers on selling it.
The only alternative that I can foresee, is to smother the place with pig-ugly solar panels, and heat our home with electricity. This might be OK up at the barn, but not here.
A solution will arise, but for the moment I can't envisage it; unless of course we can buy that bit of woodland.
Breakfast is problematical. I don't really want to eat fried bacon and eggs every day, even if it is one of my favourites. Nor do I want to eat very salty spreads such as Marmite or peanut butter because my doc' complains. I ought to be eating plain rolled oats with a few dried fruits, but I don't really like too much milk.
Finding some interesting, healthy, and tasty breakfast food isn't easy.
However, one of my current favourites is buttered toast with red pesto.
I don't suppose it's high on any nutritionist's list of preferred breakfasts, but it tastes really good, and the ingredients don't frighten the cat.
If you haven't already; maybe you should try it too.
We are quite short on soft fruits in the garden. I have a good row of tayberries, a large red currant bush, and some newly planted black currants.
Above shows part of a neighbour's long line of soft fruit bushes. He seems to specialise in exotic hybridised fruits, amongst which are huge yellow 'blackberries', orange ones, giant red ones, and all sorts of other varieties that I've not seen before.
Being a frugal chap, I've been taking my early morning walks with my secateurs in my pocket, and discreetly taking a few cuttings as I walk by (all gardeners do this). They are now all planted, and I await to see which will take, and what varieties they will become.
I particularly like growing soft fruits as they are not only delicious fresh, but also freeze extremely well.
I loved my studio in Brighton (above), it was perfect. There was plenty of space, plenty of light, and I had the room to myself. Above is a biog' photo taken by my agent, whilst working on the picture below; the originals didn't have the nasty flash glare, obviously.
I really should try to organise a new space for myself. My present studio is filled with rubbish and I can no longer work there.
The only alternative is to give-up painting and concentrate on drawing, but I'd miss throwing paint around.
Maybe I should make a determined effort to clear out all the rubbish; it might take some while, but it'd be worth it (for my sanity).
I shop twice a week; on Mondays and Fridays (plus I buy my bread on Sundays).
Whilst on my way to my favourite supermarket (above) recently, I just happened to think how very contented I was, and I tried to analyse why.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that the answer was very simple. I love driving my car, and I love my supermarket.
My car isn't anything special, it's just a French workhorse that gives very little trouble, and is comfortable. It's relatively cheap to run, and it serves me well. But en route to the shops (about 15 km's) I drive through beautiful countryside, and encounter maybe just one or two other cars. Driving in France is a pleasant experience.
My supermarket is the French equivalent of the UK's Waitrose. It is top of the range, and offers so many gastronomic treats that it's often hard to resist. I only have to look at its exterior, and I put on a few kilos. It also contains a bar/restaurant, a dry cleaners, and an opticians.
This may all sound very shallow, but it's true. Of course there are hundreds of much more important things in life that give contentment; family, my veg growing, my work, etc, but I find just sitting in the Compact Royce with the prospect of buying delights from Leclerc, extremely relaxing.
I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that the British Art School system is the best, most extensive, and the most comprehensive in the world. Much of the responsibility for this is due to the gentleman above.
Harry Thubron was a revolutionary in the world of art education. He re-organised the whole fabric of how 'art' is taught. It was Harry who introduced the idea of a 'Foundation Course', to give students the widest possible introduction to all branches of the art world over the period of one year, before they finally chose what subject they wanted to study at degree level.
On my own Foundation Course I studied everything from welding, to pottery, to plastic vacuum moulding, to woodwork, to graphic design, to using all sorts of dangerous machinery, and just about everything else you can think of. It was a wonderful year of discovery before finally deciding which discipline I wished to study for the following three years.
Prior to Thubron, Art Schools were places where one sat, day in day out, bored out of your mind, drawing from classic Greek sculpture, or life models.
Whilst teaching at Leeds College of Art between 1955-64, Thubron totally changed all that, introducing a quasi-Bauhaus philosophical attitude to painting and sculpture, which soon spread to all other UK colleges.
So I must thank Mr Thubron retrospectively. Without him I would never have learned oxy-acetylene welding, how to transform lumps of stone into shaped lumps of stone, or even how to develop and print my own photographs.
I don't keep up with too many contemporary painters and their work; my days of studio hopping finished after the early 80's.
But occasionally painters come to my attention that I think are worthy of more publicity. Ms Pensato is one such.
A New Yorker; she's not to everyone's taste, but I'd have her work on MY walls any day.
If you're interested have a look on Google Images.
Another painter's work I'd like on my walls is that of English artist Rose Wylie.
Both Rose and Joyce's work share a similar casual looseness and spontaneity, together with a healthy disregard for classic draughtsmanship. I have a particular liking for this approach to painting; especially Joyce's. I suppose it mirrors my own attitude.
Two female painters separated by a mutual ocean, and both with a very relaxed view of life. Have a further look at Ms Wylie's work on Google Images.
I know I probably shouldn't mention this, but Ms Pensato is 75, and Ms Wylie is 82.
I was up at school quite near Cambridge, whilst my home at the time was on the South Coast.
Several of my school contemporaries were from either London or the South East, so at the end of each school term we would together take the train down to Liverpool Street, then take a taxi to Victoria Station. There were usually about 5 or 6 of us.
Near the station, round by Grosvenor Gardens, was a small Italian restaurant where we would all have lunch together before saying our goodbyes for whichever holidays were on offer. It became our tradition to eat there, and we did so, without fail, three times a year for four years.
Over this time, the waiters got to know us quite well, and I seem to remember that, after a couple of years, we even started calling them by their names; it was all very friendly even though we only visited very occasionally. When we did turn up, it was like meeting old family members that we hadn't seen for years. They would make a real fuss of us. Our distinctive school uniforms and fancy boaters must have made us instantly recognisable.
Our menu never changed from visit number one. We all ate Spaghetti Bolognese, and each drank a pint of Watneys Red Barrel. The waiters would come to our table with those classic huge salt and pepper mills and always made a flourish when serving us. It was as much great theatre as great gastronomy.
Going home for the holidays was always good, but eating our Spag Bol at this restaurant was even better.
I'll never forget the very last time we all visited; it was late July 1964. We mentioned to the waiters that it would be our last collective visit, and a bottle of Chianti was instantly offered by the management as a goodbye present. They were genuinely sorry that our little tradition was to end.
I doubt very much if the restaurant is still there, so in retrospect I'd like to thank those wonderful Italian guys for making our visits so much fun. It gave me a real taste for Italian food (and lifestyle) that has never left me.
Why do I see this woman's picture all over the bloody place? I understand that she's in some US TV 'reality' programme, but why all the hype? It seems that the poor woman can't tie her bloody shoe laces without being talked about, photographed, or interviewed. I read a daily on-line newspaper, and not a day goes by without her appearance.
I don't wish to sound nasty, but she's not particularly attractive, she's a tad overweight, has an unpleasant husband, and, as far as I'm aware, I don't think she has any particular skills.
So why are people so bloody fascinated by her.... and here I am writing about her too. I have yet to hear a single person who has anything positive to say about her; can you enlighten me?
I suppose she's just 'famous for being famous'. And, dear oh dear, she shouldn't be wearing that khaki parachuter's outfit; it makes her arse look absolutely bloody huge.
p.s. Funnily, in the picture above, I find the two young women behind her much more fascinating. The Hispanic looking one (rt, with knee back-to-front) looks in awe, and the Irish looking one (lt) looks as if she can't wait for lunch.
The difference between an optimist and a pessimist, is that the optimist enjoys himself whilst waiting for the inevitable! I AM that optimist!
This is a daily, optimistic, 'photos and comments' blog. I make no judgements (only occasionally), just notes. If you wish to comment in any way at all, please feel free. Everything and everyone (except the obdurate and dictatorial) is very welcome.
I was born just south of London, but for the past 46 years I've lived in S W France. I am a painter by profession, and writer by desire. Lady Magnon and I live in an ancient cottage, in a tiny village, in perfectly tranquil countryside. We have a vegetable garden called 'Haddock's' (this may crop up from time to time), plenty of fruit trees, and a view that takes the breath away; we also have a Border Collie called Billy. I try to treat our planet with respect, and encourage others to do likewise (without preaching).
Contentment is a glass of red, a plate of charcuterie, and a slice of good country bread. Perfect!