Monthly Archives: January 2011

portrait class

Louisa and I went to Ron Clark’s portrait class at Bedford House. Bedford House refuses to push it’s students into taking exams and so misses out on government funding. The fees are sometimes a bit higher but the freedom gained is worth it.

The model is Francesca.


in praise of leaks

How does one explain an “own goal” to Andy Gray, the expert of the offside rule? This football pundit now finds himself looking for another job, perhaps with Top Gear, for his misogynistic remarks which have been leaked to the public.

This has been a good time for whistleblowers. The downfall of a corrupt repressive regime in Tunisia has been largely attributed to WikiLeaks and as the government fell there were murmurs of a “domino effect” in the middle east. Today there are riots and uprisings in Egypt against the equally vile and oppressive Hosni Mubarak regime. And so where next? Algeria, Libya, Jordan or Morocco? Also, hooray for the internet that makes whistleblowing so much easier and effective.

Whistleblowers have had a bad press latterly and many organisations have gagging clauses and severe penalties to protect themselves from them. But if it is the only effective way to combat sexism, or corruption and injustice, whether at Sky or in Tunisia, then praise be to leaks. And dinosaurs like Andy Gray, the man who went straight from puberty to adultery, should beware and be aware of the new age of public communication we live in

On a more mundane note my new Jamie Oliver pressure cooker also has a leak and won’t work. A 25 minute meal took 3 hours last night to get onto the table. Still, the nice people at Southern Electricity have promised a replacement. 

Odd thing was I was cooking leeks! Really.

nearly full moon

It’s a full moon tomorrow but a good view tonight. I have finally worked out how to capture the detail of the lunar landscape when photographing with my Nikon D5000. I set for manual using shutter speed of 1/60″ and played with the F stops (although F20+ seems OK). 

the big bad wolf

Post-Christmas has to be a pantomime. Ours was Red Riding Hood at the Theatre Royal in Stratford. Normally I hate the idea of the panto, yet on every occasion I have enjoyed the experience. I put this down to going with the grandchildren but, in truth, the Theatre Royal is also an atmospheric place to be in. And, of course, Sheila knows most of the cast having taught them at some time.

Pantomimes must have their scary characters and we wondered whom, amongst the grandkids, would be frightened. But the big bad wolf, initially posing as Sir Robin Wales, didn’t cause too much trouble; Tove seemingly being the least bothered. My hat off, though, to the huge mechanical BBW, with glowing red eyes, that brought the first half to a close.

long-tailed tits

More exotic bird life. Nothing that unusual – I have seen them in the garden before –  but still seldom seen, was the sight of a small flock of long-tailed tits feeding on the peanuts with the usual blue tits and great tits.

Why this recent influx of uncommon birds into my garden? Redwings next?

Esme’s 5th birthday party

Esme is so grown up now that she is 5 years old! She had a fabulous party with her friends and Corky the magician and entertainer after which Danae cooked a superb spaghetti followed by a tarte tatin for all the family. Esme stayed up till nearly 11 pm and didn’t wilt.

Thom joined us from Norwich where he had watched the Orient win to continue into the next round of the FA Cup. West Ham and Torquay are also through so there may be some interesting clashes of interest.


Sheila called asking me what were the birds in our garden. To my amazement there were 20 plus waxwings greedily eating berries on the trees. They seemed ravenous and within a few minutes were off searching for the next bush.

I have never seen waxwings before and so was quite excited. When I checked with London Birdwatching ( there had been other sightings in the north London area. Clearly bad weather had brought these birds from the Arctic and Scandinavia to Britain where they are quite rare.

Lush New Year

We dressed up to the nines and met at SallyAnne’s house to celebrate the LUSH New Year. Everybody brought dishes and we played charades till 5 o’clock in the morning.

The men….

……and the women.


December was the coldest since records began in 1910 and snow and illnesses covered the country. Louisa had pneumonia but everyone succumbed to some sort of chest infection that was hard to shake off. Our pre-Xmas break with the Crockers, Burkes and Foreman-Pecks was in  a fabulous barn near Smarden that Pete had organised but I had contracted my bug a week earlier and never got outside the barn door till it was home time.

Still, we had a good time at Christmas celebrating Heilige Abend at Louisa and Julian’s house, Christmas day with Danae and Nathan and post-Christmas with Thom and Tara. Esme, Rocco and Tove were the prism through which we focused and got greatest enjoyment though the devilled eggs, capon, roast potatoes, gazpacho and ham in coke were very memorable.

Other highlights were getting the results of Julian’s quiz for our predictions for the year 2010 – Thom was first with the most accurate forecast, but I came second. Julian has admonished us not to be so competitive next time and Esme pointed out that it wasn’t winning but taking part that mattered.

One of my rare forays out of the house was with Sheila, Julian and Thom to the ICA to see Tarkovsky‘s Stalker. We had a meal at the Wolseley first and enjoyed the luxury of silver service but didn’t spot any celebs other than a David Frost look-alike. Ray says he stopped going when the other diners kept staring at him thinking he was Vincent Price.

Nathan didn’t fancy Stalker, although he also has the computer game, because he once shared a flat with a Tarkovsky devotee who played his films endlessly. Sheila, who had baulked once she realised what she had let herself in for, didn’t sleep through too much of the film which was, for me, haunting and mesmerising.

Visit to Narnia

As the snow quietly thickened, settled and began to cover everywhere, we set off to the Ice Queen’s home. It took forever but finally we found the bleak lights that glimmered around the door to her palace and entered.  We had never met Mr. Tumnus before, but he seemed nice and liked the children. Very hungry, we made our way to the kitchen and saw a mountainous banquet of food piled on the groaning tables.

As we rushed to feed our ravenous stomachs we heard the screech and cackle of the Ice Queen as she laughed at our foolishness at believing she could ever have provided such a delight of delicatessen. All we saw in front of us was Morrison’s economy brand ham. Ugghh!