Saturday, 30 June 2007

Not so good...

The trouble with building yourself up for a fabulous evening is the huge downer when it doesn't live up to your expectations. We had nice dinner in Wagamama, then a glass of red while waiting for the start of the performance, but then the dance just didn't cut it with us. Too much drama and running around, not enough actual dance. Some really interesting ideas, particularly the sound, which had words being broadcast, though with no obvious connection with what was happening on stage.

But what enjoyment we did manage to glean was spoiled in the second half by 4 giggling girls in the row behind us. I could have just slapped them!

Oh well, off to the smoke any minute now for the Goldsmiths' exhibition. I have lower expectations of that.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Contemporary dance

Tonight we're going to the Arts Theatre in Cambridge to see Siobhan Davies dance company with our good friends and neighbours Lorna and Richard. I just love contemporary dance and was completely blown away by a previous performance by these guys that we saw a few years ago. I've also discovered, rather late in life, that I love ballet, too.

Anyhow, the purpose of this post is to put in a link to a performance by Pilobolus at the TED talks in Monterey in February this year. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and some of the talks are really interesting. This dance performance is just stunning.

I won't have time to post anything tomorrow as we're off to London to see an exhibition of gold and silver work by the Goldsmiths' Company, but wanted to get this posted now. I expect to be amazed by that, too!

Tuesday, 26 June 2007


Today I finished the second head carved from a pebble picked up on the beach in Spain. The rocks along that bit of the Spanish coast were subjected to enormous pressures and temperatures when the African plate collided with the European one, and the result is some interesting looking rocks. This one had hundreds of little fractures and crevices running through it, all of which have been filled with contrasting-coloured matrix. It's rather paler than the photos suggest, so I might varnish it to bring out the colours better.

I used the pattern of the cracks and infills as the basis for the design, so you could say that the pebble told me how to carve it.

A tokoloshe is traditionally a southern African water spirit, though in recent times it is increasingly seen as a domestic spirit. It is generally friendly towards children and is noted for its ability to become invisible by holding a pebble in its mouth. Commonly taking the form of a dwarf or child, it is mischievous, rather than malevolent, unless owned by an evil sorcerer.

It is sensitive to the emotions and tensions ebbing and flowing within the household and this should be borne in mind, since your mood might influence it as much as its might affect you. It is as a child that I have represented my Tokoloshe.

Priory Singers Concert

On Saturday we gave our Midsummer Concert in the parish church at Anstey, near Buntingford in Herts. The tiny church was pretty full, which is always gratifying. The programme was mostly stuff we know quite well (you can see it here) but we still managed to be a little flaky in the first 3 pieces. For those, we'd spread ourselves all round the church, and realistically, we couldn't actually hear properly, so some of the timing left a little to be desired.

Once reassembled into a normal arrangement, we got it together properly. Highs for me were O Magnum Mysterium by Lauridsen, the 3 Shakespeare pieces (Who is Sylvia? etc) and the Finzi, My spirit sang all day, which I don't think we've ever done better. It had such zing, it really left me feeling fired up!

Friday, 22 June 2007

Our garden

Decided I wanted to post a few pics of our back garden....

I originally referred to it as my garden, but later realised that it should at least be our garden, and possibly actually Jenny's garden, since she is much more motivated in maintaining it than I am!

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Just whining, really

From Sunday until yesterday we had a work colleague of Jenny's staying with us, over to be external examiner in Jen's MPhil student's viva. I'd forgotten what a skinflint he is. Apparently as a student, he was known for holding back when it was time to buy a round. Well for 3 nights, he stayed with us, ate our food and drank our wine and offered nothing in return. Now had he been doing this as a favour, that might have been OK, but no, he was being paid for it, including flights, etc. Well I think next time Jenny stays with them, she might just 'forget' to take them out for dinner as she has in the past.

Edit: Maybe I should clarify. In the circles we move in, if you go to friends for dinner, you always take a bottle of wine and/or a bunch of flowers and/or some chocolates. Just a token 'thank you'. If you stay with them for a few days, you'd expect to take them out to dinner. Nothing spectacular or particularly expensive, just dinner in a local restaurant, kind of thing.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007


On Sunday evening we were preparing dinner and waiting for Jane to arrive, when I became aware of a snuffling close by the kitchen door. Investigation revealed the source to be a juvenile hedgehog, ferreting around on the edge of a flower bed. This is extremely unusual, in broad daylight. Generally hedgehogs stay well hidden during the day, only emerging at night.

The slabs you can't quite see (but on which the beastie is standing) in this movie clip overhang the edge of the bed and snails find that a good place to hang out. I hope the hedgehog ate lots of them!

hedgehog movie clip 3.5Mb

Tuesday, 19 June 2007


Riding my motorbike to work this morning, I noticed the odometer read 079970. I like unusual numbers, and a palindromic one like that always brightens my day, if only for the minute or so it lasts on the display. My wife thinks there's something strange about me in this regard, but I think it's entirely normal.

Of course, 079970 is not as exciting as the next one, coming up in 110 miles - 080080 is obviously much better! Well, to those wierdos amongst us who think patterned numbers like that are interesting!

For the bike enthusiasts I can tell you it's a 1992 Honda Pan European, 1100cc V4, which I bought in 1994 with 4,000 miles on the clock. I hated it at first, because I found it incredibly uncomfortable, but over the years I've adjusted my riding position, and have grown to love it. I hope to see 100,000 miles come and go. That should be within the next 4 or 5 years at the present rate, I think.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Background to the carved heads stuff

It occurred to me that it's all very well posting pics of Mbebe-go, but there's quite a bit of background info missing, which my non-existent readers might want, to pad out their understanding. So if you're interested, please visit where there are links to the art I do, amongst other things.

Sunday, 17 June 2007


When we were in Spain the other week, I picked up several pebbles off the beach, before choosing one to carve into a head and cast back into the sea. The remaining ones I kept and brought back to England, because the grain of an idea was starting to take shape in my head, and now it's coming to fruition. Actually, I'm not sure it wasn't Jenny's idea.

Today I finished my first 'Pebblehead', and here he is.

I called him Mbebe-go - e as in beck; o as in god. He has a D-ring glued to the back which hangs from a small hook screwed into the wooden stand, but if you wanted to hang him on a wall, the D-ring would go over a picture hook OK, I think. Might not hang straight. He's about 5 inches / 13 cm high, and you could have him for £45 (GBP), $80 (USD), plus postage. I have to resurrect my PayPal account, which I've not been near for years. I have two more part-finished heads, and I'll post photos of them in due course. Heres' what I've written about Mbebe-go:


In all the swirl and clash of modern living, Mbebe-go provides a calming influence, a centre of quiet serenity, radiating out into your home. A meditative, contemplative character in a brash world.

This influence is a two-way exchange, however, and aspects of the household are equally likely to affect Mbebe-go in unpredictable ways.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

A palpable hit!

Hah! Years ago, Jenny and I watched and loved the BBC Earth Story documentary, and taped it. Sadly, some years later, I managed to record over the first few programmes. Sheer stupidity, of course. And the beeb didn't have it available in any kind of recorded medium, nor did they plan to. Terrific.

So the other day I was looking for the Attenborough Life of Mammals, which Jenny had said she wanted (must be the only Attenborough we don't already have!) and lo and behold, Auntie now also sells the Aubrey Manning! So of course, I buy both, and they arrived today.

I was planning to hide them away until J's birthday in Nov, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it! Nope! Just too excited. I hid both, but planned to show Earth Series tonight, then admit I'd also bought Life of Mammals. However, we also needed to water a large number of potted plants in the garden, and it was while I was doing that, that I smelt the honeysuckle. Well, a decent honeysuckle on a June evening is a serious competitor for anything you're planning. Mostly, it requires a bottle and some comfy chairs.

We were torn. What could we do? Earth Series cried out to us, but the honeysuckle...well...suckled at us. Eventually, after a lot of dithering, head won out over heart and we watched Earth Series. I know, I know, where's my romance? You have to remember where we are coming from. Science is really fundamental to the way we approach the world, and the fact is, we find Hutton's Unconformity just as riveting as Turner's Fighting Temeraire (go figure).

And I don't regret it (though I undoubtedly will tomorrow!). Superb programme. Nice one Aubrey!

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Wasting time not adding links

Well I thought it would be a good thing to add links to some really interesting blogs I've been reading over the past few days, but could I make it work? Could I hell! Read the Help section, tried to follow the instructions, and all I did was break my site meter. Given I know a tiny bit of HTML I'd expected it to be pretty simple, but I suspect it's me that's simple. At least the edit page suggested I save a copy first, so I was able to set it all back to where it had been before!

Read about a lady in the US who felt really bad when she killed a squirrel with her car. Thought "What's so upsetting about that?" Then remembered that when I killed my squirrels it was carefully planned, designed to cause minimal suffering and I still had (have!) to steel myself to do it. It'll be easier next time, now I know how good they taste! Sorry, is that gross?

Choir practice was a pain last night, well at least some of the time. Dick kept shushing us like naughty school children because people chatter, (we are a little short of time, given there's only 2 rehearsals to the Anstey concert), but then wasted quite a bit of time just playing through the piano part of some stuff we're doing, chatting idly to Robin, riffling through piles of music wondering what to rehearse next, etc. etc. If he was remotely organised, his impatience might be excusable, but he's not. It's always a shambles, and we mostly get away with it, somehow. Never knowingly over-rehearsed is the joke, only it's not really a joke at all. Grrr!

Monday, 11 June 2007

Singing and eating!

On Saturday we sang choral evensong in Peterborough Cathedral, after which Jenny and I hosted a choir barbecue back home in Royston. The evensong went well and I thought we acquitted ourselves adequately. Smith 5-part responses and the Purcell Mag & Nunc and Oh God Thou art my God are among my favourites, so I was happy.

The barbie was less satisfactory, as lots of people couldn't come. Most had actually warned us in advance, but even so it was disappointing to have only a dozen or so there. However, the rain forecast by the Met Office didn't materialise, and in fact it was a lovely evening, which compensated somewhat. After the food was done we sat around the chiminier (sp?) late into the night, so didn't feel like moving too early in the morning!

Spent most of Sunday clearing up, then Jane took us over to Chrishall where we quickly ran through the same music as Saturday, then sat about eating cakes and drinking tea. The church had a bunch of visitors from a church in Austin, Texas, so had laid on a really impressive tea for everyone. Evensong was after that, and we had a much bigger congregation than in Peterborough Cathedral! What's more, the accoustic was just lovely, so I think we'll be going back to Chrishall on a regular basis.

Jen had put a Delia Chicken Basque on the timer in the oven and we'd invited Jane to eat with us. It all worked really well, particularly when Lorna and Richard came over to help finish off the left-over pavlova from Saturday's barbie. Followed by more nattering around the chiminier, of course!

Monday, 4 June 2007

Very, very tasty!

Last night we had a barbecue and decided to see what the squirrel and collared doves I'd frozen tasted like. This was in addition to the chicken which was the main meaty part of the barbie, so we wouldn't starve if the experimental stuff tasted horrid. We left the mature female in the freezer, but got out the baby, along with the dove's breasts which I froze last year, and Jenny marinated them in soy sauce and five spice for an hour or so.

Well what a pleasant surprise! Both were completely delicious. The dove tasted like the pigeon it is, but the squirrel was the real surprise, coming out somewhere between chicken and lamb. Really lovely, and guarantees we'll be repeating the exercise. I just need to work out the optimum time to catch them.

And yesterday I finally finished my Inscrutible God carving after only a year! I painted it with French polish and the colour just glows! I'm really pleased with it!