Thursday, 29 April 2010

SS Goodship Highly Improbable Stardoll 2: The Babel Fish

Yesterday I fired up Mozilla Firefox

and was seduced into a bit of tourism by the invitation to get a little add-on, a gadget, a tweek, a little bit of bling. I chose Babelfish, the translation thingy. Because as I've started to drift around the Blogosphere - sometimes the language, it ain't mine. Sometimes it's Italian, or Croatian, or... I don't know yet.

And you know where the name Babel Fish comes from? From Douglas Adams' "Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy" - where the Babel Fish is a small, yellow, ... well ... fish, which is also a universal translator. You put it in your ear and it translates the words of another language into your own, simultaneously and I suppose, fishily .... because every character who uses one goes.... Eeeyouugh!

I really liked the "Hitchhiker". On the radio that is. It just doesn't work for me as somebody else's visual. Nobody's tv or film version I like. But in those ancient days ... when vinyl was king ... the first buyable version of Hitchhiker came out on an LP. A flat vinyl disc that was played at 33rpm. And I went to Dean St Records. And I queued in front of the man himself... and I bought a signed copy. Which I still have.
How much do I love sci-fi?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

SS Goodship Highly Improbable Stardoll

Blogging has become an engrossing activity for me. A voyage of self revelation. A close survey in the mirror.
After all... from what I can see so far... nobody has spotted me, way out here in space. I am in my bubble. In my space ship. Floating in the Googleverse, bobbing in Gallactica Blogosphere. I don't know who, if anybody, logs me on their intergalactic scan. Yes, I get messages from friends and family, via the comspeaker. And the messages tell me they are tracking me. But nobody leaves a comment. I have found no evidence of other lifeforms out here. Yet.

But it's very exciting.

Did I tell you that I like science-fiction?

I remember reading, and in fact buying, a copy of Ray Bradbury's "The Day It Rained Forever" when I was at school. It is now a very battered paperback, with my name written inside - and the date, 1964.

Aah, hang on, way back before then, crouching behind the sofa with "Quatermass" on the telly. I'm only little. 1953, a black&white telly with a screen the size of a slice of toast, I'm terrified but still looking.

But then ... as well ... yes ... listening to "Journey Into Space" on the radio about the same time:

"Just a minute. Be quiet everybody. What's that knocking sound? ...
"There's something in the air lock."

There's always something in the air lock.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Graphic Passions 2: The Return

I don't know what it is that I like so much about comics and graphic novels. In "Graphic Passions: the Beginning" , I mentioned my childhood favourites.
When I was at art College I still must have been comic-conscious. I was aware of Robert Crumb with his lustful, big-legged ladies. Come to think of it, my mate Woodsy drew comic strips about life in the art college. I still have one somewhere. In pen and ink, he portrayed all those strutting, fallible, art lecturers and our consequent student life. (So it wasn't just me that needed to get me own back, then?)

Comics returned properly into my life in my middle age. When friends and The Old Man brought them into the house and I got wrapped up in Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" series. Later I discovered my own territory with Los Bros Hernandez' "Love and Rockets" series: latin passions, street life and Frieda Kahlo moments. I also took to Shannon Wheeler's anti-Superhero "Too Much Coffee Man". His costume involves a giant coffee cup headpiece and his life style verges on the hyper and paranoid not to mention surreal.

I became so itchy fingered about comics that I joined a couple of workshops, run by Pete Ketley and Dave McNamara. They specialised in small press indie comics and were publishing their own "Downside" at the time.
So picture me - laying out my pens and pencils - a lone middle-aged woman in a sea of teenaged boys. But I discovered that I loved the physical process of drawing comics. I mean really loved it. One time, as I was inking my drawings, I became aware that I was feeling all light-headed. Then I also realised that I had stopped breathing. Maybe the two things were connected?

Look at me - at the "end of workshop" exhibition. There I am, standing in front of my artwork, whilst all around me teenage boys and their parents talk about their comics.
I was a late ... lone ... Tomboy.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Sweet Potato and Jam: a trip to Falmouth

Yesterday, The Old Man and I went into Falmouth.

Falmouth is not a favourite of mine. I can't help it. My formative teen years were spent at school in Penzance and in and around the bald, bony "toe" of Cornwall - aka West Penwith. And therefore I am naturally distrustful of the lush, riverine bits of Cornwall. Just as the Old Man's family had a very crude term for Penzance, cos they were from nearer Truro. And tis all very local.

I digress. Here we were visiting Falmouth. And, first up, the Tuesday morning market on The Moor. We bought greens and sweet potato from the lady from Twelveheads on the TOP stall, and local-grown and milled flour from the Cornish Mill & Bakehouse stall. Then it's the treat of a mooch around Jam Records in High St, where there's a stock of indie, folk, jazz and world music; some cinema DVDs; and some books. All in a laid-back little place with armchairs and cups of coffee. Browsing the CDs, I found The Carolina Chocolate Drops' "Genuine Negro Jig" (very nice). And on a table in the basement I picked up "The Best American Comics 2006" by Anne Elizabeth Moore & Harvey Pekar. Then I ordered a CD: "The Living Road" by Lhasa.

Because, unless you like to stick to the Top 20 at Tesco or WH Smith, I think you've only got Jam Records as an independent record shop in West Cornwall, or - West Penwith Music, in Penzance. This last shop particularly for classical music - unless you're content with Kathryn Jenkins and Priest - in which case you're probably OK at Tesco and Smiths. And yes, if you want to visit Truro, you've got an HMV.
But I do like to shop as local as possible and to support the small independent shops. And hey - yes - I'll use the Internet as well.
( is good for classical recordings.)

Anyway, a happy doll, I left Jam Records clutching my music and my comic book. And thinking Comicky thoughts.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Rural life and more things medically organised.

So, you remember that I mentioned The Old Man's Old Man being taken ill? Rushed into hospital and all that stuff? Well he's home now and rang the other evening with an update. He is pretty elderly (late 80s) but nevertheless annoyed that The Old Man Himself has not investigated the wonders of texting on the mobile phone by way of communication ....

As I was saying, the Old Man's Old Man is elderly, the knees don't work etc, and the doctors considered he would need some help when he gets home. They also decided that he has osteoporosis of the spine and needed to wear a "corset" to stabilise his back. So this is Somerset we're talking about now, and the Old Man's Father had elected to go to a hospital he knew and liked for his emergency treatment, rather than the obvious one. (Remember, we live in an era of "Choice".) They took good care of him and finally diagnosed his likely health problem. Thankyou. And whilst he was there and he had regained the use of his brain - he asked if they would check out his digital hearing aid which had not been checked since he got it. Oh yes, we'll take a look at that. But then the answer comes back. No, we can't. This is the same model we issue but it was issued to you by Another Health Care Trust... so we cannot look at it, sorry.

So, presumably still deaf, the Old Man's Father is popped into his corset and sent home. The "Social Service help" mentioned by the hospital? Oh sorry, you're in another Healthcare Trust's patch. We can't organise that. We might know someone who can. So the first progress we know of in this matter, is a phone call to us from the Social Services in his bit of Somerset asking for his phone number - seems they didn't have it.

Anyway, when he himself rang the other night, I told him how recovered he sounded and I asked how he was. He said his back was giving him pain and in frustration he had now taken the corset off. He remarked that no-one could tell him how to put it on anyway.

I say: "What?"
He say: " Well one chap took a look and said he thought I had it on back-to-front."
I say: "What?"
He say: " But my doctor thought I was wearing it upside down."
I say: "What?"
Then I say: "Did no-one tell you how to put it on?"
He say: "No. When it arrived, no-one had seen one before. So nobody knew how to put it on."
I say: "What?"

Oh and that social help? Well, when he spoke to them and they said that they could provide someone to get him out of bed in the morning and wash and stuff. He said he would give them a set of keys. They said: "Oh no sir, we can't have that. You have to have a keybox fixed outside your front door and you put your key in that. Then we have a key that opens the box." (Don't get me wrong - I can see where they are coming from here..)
"OK," says he - "Will you get the box fitted then?"
They say, "Yes sir, that will be £70 please."
At this point I can't remember whose idea it was (The Old Man or the Old Man's Old Man) of suggesting that the keys be lowered from the bedroom window on a piece of string. But they weren't going to have that either.

Last I heard he's managing on a system of friends and neighbours, including the offer of fitting a keybox for him.

I say: "What?"

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Rural life: wood pigeons

At our place, wood pigeons are called "Percy". Don't ask me why. It's a long story. And lost in the "myths of time", Ho-ho. Yesterday I looked out of my kitchen window to see a Percy displaying for his lady-love. And it was so stately and magnificent that I laughed out loud and told him how impressed I was.

She was calmly and politely eating bird food off the grass, in the single-minded manner of a wood pigeon, when he took his place behind her and began his gavotte. Dipping his head to the ground until his whole body was almost vertical with his tail topmost, he spread and fanned his tail in a dignified manner. Pause. Return to normal position. Take a beat. Repeat. It was choreography. Dip head to ground - vertical rise, tail upward - pause and hold. Spread tail - pause and hold. And .... return.
So slow, so stately, so dignified.

Yes, I know they eat cabbages and stuff. Yes I know people think they are very tasty. But hey - I think they're funny. And fat. And graceful.

Rural life: Bread

This is a picture of The Old Man's bread. He bakes very good bread. No machine ... no ... noo. Hands on breadmaking and sourdough starter. At the moment we have seedy topped milk loaf, crusty white, sour rye, and bits of saffron bun in stock. This quantity is unusual. But friends called in on a visit the other day, and you never know what you will need.

They left quite late in the starry rural dark. I hope they found their way back to their rented cottage in the creeky byways of Helford. They hadn't brought their torch.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

World Music Heroes No. 2: Ry Cooder

Thinking and talking about World Music Hero No 1: Charlie Gillett (see first post); and discussing these things with The Old Man. He, rightly, reminded me of the huge importance of Ry Cooder in what is now known as World Music.

Now Ry Cooder himself was first brought to my ears and attention by John Peel; and possibly by writings in "Rolling Stone". (My reading matter of choice during the late 1960s and early 1970s.) And as such I thought of him as some kind of guitar hero - which he is - and a great musician in his own right. (Including film music with the score of "Paris, Texas" directed by Wim Wenders.)

But he also worked and continues to work with musicians from other music cultures big time, long time. Not just by recording and performing with them; V.M Bhatt, Ali Farka Toure - but by the straightforward recording and promoting of the artists themselves. The aforementioned Hawaiian artist Gaby Pahinui was recorded by Ry Cooder in 1975. And then there are those Cuban "all time star hits", the Buena Vista Social Club.

Back at the old homestead, I have to admit that The Old Man shows good taste in the content of his record collection. Though I personally found the "hand bells" album a bridge too far. I find plenty, plenty Ry Cooder on his music shelves, including: "Chicken Skin Music", "Meeting by the River", "Paris Texas", "Chavez Ravine", "My name is Buddy", and "I, Flathead".

Listen up people. Pay due respect. Investigate and enjoy.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


She's gone.
Our neighbours' horse. Too old and tired.
On a beautiful day - she's gone.

Gone also, the rook who couldn't fly. In our other neighbours' garden. We both kept an eye out for it. And my neighbour put down food and drink for it.
I heard it croaking about yesterday as I was gardening.

But not today.

Two animals gone on a beautiful day.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Rural life - & Blogging

So I'm really tired still. But then it's been a beautiful day and I've been in my garden; digging and clearing and planting.

The old man came into the garden to say that the neighbours' horse was down on her side in the field and he could hear our neighbour talking to her. Things looked problematic. They've had the horse for 30 years. A working horse, now retired, she stands in the field and eats and sleeps; a cobby wonder with a great, sway-backed figure. I love to see her out there.

The old man and I go over to see if we can help. But what do we know about horses? Our neighbours are busy stacking haybales at the horse's back and stroking her head and talking to her. She seems to be asleep again at one point. Now and then she tries to get up, but can't quite get purchase on the slope of the hill. Our neighbours have been dreading this. They discuss calling the vet out, and with heavy heart one goes in to make the call. While they do this, the horse comes to and with a heave and a roll - she's up; tossing the other neighbour aside like a bowling ball. The horse stands there and looks around for something to eat. The other neighbour comes back out and they discuss what they should do. Cancel the vet or let him come?

Later in the day, I see the horse. Standing in the field. Still eating. Thank heavens.

I got emails from two friends today. Both discussing what they'd read on the blog, by way of keeping up with The Doll's news. That's really great. That's what I want to happen. I'm still quite taken aback by some friends' responses to the news that The Doll is blogging. Along the lines of ... "prefer proper conversation, not got time, too drunk, etc etc."

Well, La-di-Dah.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Printmatters: the Blackhand Gang

Just finished a drypoint/monotype course with Peter Wray & Judy Collins at HandPRINT Studio just outside Penzance. I developed tunnel vision and never got round to monotypes, I was so enthralled at scratching and prodding in drypoint. I've never done it before and it was brilliant: scratch, scratch, ink, ink, wipe and peer - put the plate on the press bed, cover it with paper, cover it up with the blanket and roll it through the press. Other end - voila! A print, an image, a thing.

Sadly I did not appreciate until the final two hours that attention paid to inking up the plate and wiping it - was the major part of the deal. So I must do more. Learn how to ink and wipe that plate. Don't have a press myself, having previously handprinted lino and woodcuts by transferring the image onto paper with the back of a spoon or a Japanese barren. But Handprint offer open access days once you've been on a course. So I must keep up my nerve and give it a go.

It was a good workshop. Peter & Judy combine experienced technical knowledge and exploration with skill and humour. Everyone there just got better and better over the two days.
Enough said. Find out more at their own website (see side bar list of sites).

Now - I sleep.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Going on a printmaking course

Going on a 2 day printmaking course tomorrow. So I spent part of the day preparing and looking through drawing books ( which are more like collage books) to see what images felt good to work with. Then redrawing them on tracing paper (so that I can reverse them), because I am a big fat cheat.

Prior to that I trawled through my linocuts, etc and hard-heartedly threw stuff away. I need to cut back on the quantity of prints.

Some people say to keep things that haven't worked, because you can still colour or collage with them. But I realise this does me no good at the moment as I cannot see the wood for the trees.

It helped when I decided to be strict about print quality rather than the images themselves. Because you never can tell when it comes to the images. It is easy to go all rejecting about an image. But you just never know.
If I put things away for long enough (years in my case), they can strike me fresh and look really OK when I unearth them. (Like a dog with a bone.) On the other hand, I can be really disappointed with things I got very excited about at the time. You know that feeling don't you, girls? The course of true love never ran smooth.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Graphic passions: the beginning

At the Tate St Ives (see 25 March 2010) I found the Bookshop. Or rather I gave up and asked the way: up, down, through and around. And in the Bookshop - I found a graphic novel: "Logicomix" by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitrou. Although this isn't a novel - it's a history of logic and the foundation of mathematics through the eyes and voice of Bertrand Russell. And in a visual style that reminds me of Herge's "Tin Tin". (The style is no coincidence. The artists involved, Alecos Papadatos & Annie Di Donna, previously worked in animation; Annie Di Donna working on Tin Tin.)

And what can I say? I would not pick up a straight text book on the subject. My brain would reel and I would be snoring. But I'm gripped by this book. It fair romps along. Dummy-me, I need the pictures. But let me be clear. This book works because it is a successful graphic project in its own right - not just "logic for kiddies" in cartoon form.

And I realise I liked cartoons and comix as a child. I didn't actually do the Beano kind of thing, although The Dandy's "Desperate Dan" is tribally familiar. But I went the American route. An Aunty living in Canada sent us magazines and things during my 1950s childhood, and I became engrossed in Al Capp's "Li'l Abner" comic strip. At the same time, back in the world of British daily papers, I loved Tove Jansson's "Moomin" strips.

So, understandably, I came over all emotional when I swooped down on "Moomin: the complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip: Book 4" while looking around the brilliant little "Here and Now" Gallery & Shop in Falmouth, a while ago. I took the book home and ate it all up like a box of chocolates - reserving the very last strip because I didn't want to finish the book. Well it's finished now. Time to backtrack to Books 1 -3. Never underestimate the magic of childhood.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Rural Life: medical facts

So the Old Man needs an operation. They don't do this operation in Cornwall. They do it in Devon.
So he drives 120 miles to see the surgeon. And he's "not on the list". The Old Man waves his appointment letter at the receptionist and he gets squeezed in. But of course, his notes aren't there. Because he's "not on the list".
The surgeon asks him: "Why have you come to see me?" And the Old Man says: "Because you told me to, the last time I saw you - and your secretary made the appointment." The guy doesn't give him any more information than before and even less of his time. But the Old Man has an ECG. Because everyone has to have an ECG. It's not particularly relevant. It's a bit like a lapel badge at a seminar; everyone has to have one, to show that they belong there.

So the surgeon says "June" for the operation. Last visit, he said "May". And we'd started getting organised for May. Old Man says: "And I have to be assessed by the team, you said last time?"
Surgeon says: "Well - a blood test and so on, yes."

A blood test? 200 mile round trip for a blood test?
So the Old Man gets in his car and drives 120 miles home.

I'm furious. Why do you have to leave the county for a heart operation? Why do ill people have to travel 200 miles for bullshit? Politicians like to sound off about the NHS wasting the nation's resources. But just who's time, effort, and resources are being wasted here?

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Print Competition

Something must have happened when I plugged in my Printmaking Brain. Because a friend emailed me info about submissions for a Cornwall based Open Printmaking Competition.

The submission deadline is 30th June 2010.
See details at