Monday, 30 January 2012

The Birthday Weekend.

What a busy weekend it has been for My extremely handsome son George and I. It began with a long train journey to Liverpool. Our main purpose was to watch our team Everton in the FA cup. Before the match which was an evening kick off, we had time to visit the Walker art gallery. Where George was perplexed as to why this painting won £25000 in a  art competition. I tried to explain why, but actually I was talking nonsense and struggled to understand the reason myself. But I always try to support fellow artists. George told me I was a much better artist and should enter some art competitions. Maybe I will this year.

This photo should be at the end, where I mention the fire.
Then we headed off to Goodison Park to see our beloved Everton play. Of course our team won. Well obviously we would not go all that way if we thought they would lose.
George with Tom and Catherine. Half siblings.
When we returned a family dinner had been organised in the pub to celebrate Georges birthday.

Back at the house the candles were lit on the cake. Why everyone was wearing their overcoats I have no idea. There was a roaring fire in the hearth.

George and his Mum.
Now I'm too exhausted to work out how to put all these photos in their correct sequence. Oh well, maybe I'll be more awake tomorrow.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

My Extremely Handsome Son George Comes Of Age. I'll Take A Bath!

Oh dear! Sorry about being an old grump lately. It's not the real me you know. The real me is quite a happy chap most of the time. I would hate you to think that I spend my life constantly thinking about and bemoaning my bad start in life. Because honestly I don't. The fact is that this blog, is a place for me to let my feelings out occasionally. You my dear readers, probably know more about my inner thoughts than my own family and friends. Hopefully you will agree with me that most of the time 'Don't Unplug Your Hub' is a pleasant place to visit. I'll have you smiling again soon!

Tomorrow is an auspicious day. My extremely handsome son George will be 18 years of age. Part of his birthday treat is a trip up north to the city of Liverpool, where we, he and I that is, will be watching his favourite football team, Everton, play a match against Fulham. Which of course Everton will win comfortably. If they don't win, I will not be mentioning the fact.

We shall be staying in a luxury hotel overnight. I can't tell you how excited I am about being able to have a luxury bath! Bearing in mind that I live in a showmans wagon, and have to make do with showers most of the time. I shall probably put bath oil in, and stay in it most of the night, with bubbles too. You probably can't imagine the pleasure of being in a big bath in a heated bathroom! Just imagine it. I shall be able to keep topping up the hot water! Oh, and how delightful I shall smell! Might even attract a woman! Please whisper this next bit, but I think I'm looking forward to the bath, more than the football! Lots of exclamation marks in this paragraph. Are they in the right places? I hope so. But if they are not, I'm sorry but I don't care. I'm just so excited! A bath! Me! Who'd have thought it! I hope Sadie the German Shepherd will still know who I am.

Thank you for all your positive comments and your kind words about my paintings. Have a lovely weekend. Keep smiling!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Go Away Miss Dee I Have Work To Do!

I was thinking about telling you of a particularly nasty house mother from my childhood. She caused me pain. Both mental and physical. Not just me. All of us kids in her 'care' were traumatised I believe. There are so many things from my childhood. Bad things. They have been in my mind a lot recently. I blame these things for the down sides of my life. I blame these thoughts for my somewhat miserable mood swings lately. Move on John, I tell myself. For God's sake move on! It's been 60 bloody years! Let it go! Let it go!

Most of the time I do let it go. But I'm a writer. The idea formulates, and I begin to compose the words in my mind. That's where the problem lies.

I'm not going to write about her I've decided. Not today at least. She can wait for another day. I have been miserable enough this week.

I found this old photograph in a book. It is the harbour in Hugh Town, Isles of Scilly. We often holiday there. I have made a painting of it. Thought you might like to see how the painting developed. I am pleased with this painting, and it certainly improved my mood, as I thought of the lovely times I have had there with my extremely handsome son George, who will be eighteen years old on Friday.

A scary blank canvas.

Get rid of the white.

Here we go!

Rough sketch with a brush.

Give it a dramatic sky.

Do not copy slavishly.

Add your own touch.

The finished work. All there is to do now is varnish it and sell it! Hopefully!

Hope you like it. See you again soon. Hope you are well, and very importantly, happy.
PS I have no idea why the writing changed colour up there. But I shall leave it as it is, because I think it looks good!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Just A Quick Note.

                                                                       Mr J Bain Esq
                                                                         The Showmans Wagon
                                                                            In A Field

My dear friends,

The Sun is out today and shining bright. For the time of year the temperature is mild, and forgiving on these old bones of mine. I have just been sitting outside in the paddock watching the birds on the feeder. There are blackbirds squabbling over land rights. They think it is spring. Sadly, there is no foliage yet on the hedgerows. I hope they don't start nest building too early. I fear that would be wasted effort on their part. Nature is being benevolent at the moment, but she does have an unfortunate bad streak on occasion, just to remind us who really controls our lives.

Yesterday I felt good. My extremely handsome son George scored a couple of goals and helped his football team to a 7-0 victory. Afterwards Tricia cooked us a lovely roast dinner. Later in the afternoon there was a brilliant and friendly open mic event at the historic Bader Arms pub in Tangmere. It was a good day!

I am feeling sad this bright morning. No reason for it as far as I can tell. It's just one of those inexplicable mood swings which tends to hit when contentment lowers my guard. It happens to most of us I suppose at one time or another. Normally the Sun raises my spirits high. Not today though.

That's it for the moment. I could go on, but where's the sense in depressing us all?

                      Lots of love from John. (aka, the miserable old git!)

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Mannie and Eliza? Eliza and Mannie? Who Knows?

Yesterday I told you about Mannie, who was a foster parent of mine many years ago. Today I want to introduce you to Eliza, his wife, and a foster mother. To describe Eliza as Mannie's wife, doesn't quite ring true as I write this. Perhaps I should turn things around and say that Mannie was Eliza's husband.

Because the truth is that Eliza was the strong one in their relationship. For all his show of toughness, Mannie was no match at all for her quiet strength of character. If all the stories Mannie spun about his sexual shenanigans were true, then it was obvious that Eliza had put up with an awful lot of nonsense from him, during their many years together. But then again maybe Mannie had to talk himself up, just so that he felt manly.

Most of the bullshitters I have met in my life, and there have been quite a few, have been fairly sad characters. Watching Mannie as he dried the dishes, or hung the washing on the line, or going off to the shops, pulling a little shopping trolley, it was difficult to equate that with the tough guy he undoubtedly had been once. This observation of mine has to be taken in the context that in those days, men did not, in the main, contribute much in the way of housework.

Eliza was beautiful. She was tall, and even in her faded clothes, elegant. Her hair was long, but always worn up. Ladylike. Statuesque I believe the word is. The complete antithesis of her short, wiry husband. In her late sixties when I first met her, I admired her a lot, and perhaps not always in the respectful way a teenage boy should admire a lady of her age!

She was an undoubted snob. Meeting her for the first time, you would be surprised to learn that she had spent most of her life on the road, living in a wagon, traveling with Mannie from showground to showground. Although remembering the snobbishness of my Mother, who lived at times in a tent in the woods, maybe it is not such a strange thing.

A highly intelligent woman, Eliza had gone without formal education. What she knew, and she knew a lot, she had mostly taught herself. She and I would spend time together doing crossword puzzles. She could complete the 'Times' crossword in record time. The 'Times' being the only newspaper she would allow in the house.

She chain smoked. Each cigarette being held elegantly in a long holder. Even in those days, when filter tipped cigarettes were commonplace, the holder seemed to suit her character, without appearing an affectation.

There was, in Eliza's eyes, only one way to sit in a chair, even an easy chair, and that was bolt upright, back straight. She frowned on slouching.

I never knew her to leave the house, apart from sitting in the garden. I never heard her speak to any of the neighbours, or them to her. Although this was a council estate, where everybody knew everybody. Perhaps she felt she was too grand for them. Or maybe it was that she came from a completely different way of life, and found it hard to adapt.

She frightened me a little with her ladylike ways, but truth to tell I was very fond of her. Looking back now with the benefit of wisdom built up through many years, I have come to believe that Eliza, had made a shield for herself. I think she was simply just a terribly shy person.

Sometimes during the writing of a post, I find my thoughts changing. It has happened again. I have somewhat revised my opinion. Maybe Mannie was the strong one in their relationship after all!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Twelve Old Pennies! Quite a Heavy Weight.

Mannie was another foster parent of mine during my difficult hormonally touchy teens. Did you notice that? I am blaming my hormones for my childhood rigours. Well it feels kind of nice to give my poor benighted Mother a bit of a rest from my vituperative written retribution. As I have said before, it wasn't all her fault. Life sometimes deals out a bad hand. She just happened to be sitting at the wrong table, at the wrong crap game. A proper 'crap' shuffle on that occasion.

Where was I? Yes, Mannie, a foster father. In his younger days Mannie managed to scrape together a living of sorts as a fairground boxer. He was a bit of a bullshitter, but he showed me photos of himself at the boxing booth, so I know his claims to be true. When I first met him in his seventies he was still a pugnacious little character, and he had that boxers face. A kind of a battered handsome look.

He told me, that he had spent most of his life as a showman, living in a wagon and traveling all over with funfairs. I wish I could have got him to open up a bit about his life, but he didn't seem to have a lot to say about it, except what a good boxer he had been, and how successful he had been with the ladies.

The old pennies were one and a quarter inches across and heavy.
Boxing and sex! These were his main interests. He taught me a bit of boxing. As for sex, well he spoke about it a lot, but I never learnt anything from him on that subject, except how good he once was at it.

He once confided to me, that he had a very large penis. In his heyday, he was able to balance twelve pennies on it. In a line!

Now I am unable to confirm if this was true or not, because at the time he told me this remarkable fact, he also told me wistfully, and with a genuine sadness in his voice, that he was now down to eight pennies!

Friday, 13 January 2012

A Black Cat Just Crossed My Path!

Today I was putting the new roofing sheets on the tractor shed, when it suddenly occurred to me that it was Friday the 13th. Now I am fortunate in that, I am not in any way superstitious. But just in case anything nasty should happen I got down from my lofty perch, and made doubly sure that the ladder was securely fastened at the top, and was unable to slip at the bottom.

Now as I say, I am not in any way superstitious, but I was careful not to pass under the ladder, just in case anything untoward should happen.

Before I went back on the roof I made myself a 'nice cup of tea' as they say, and while drinking it I took a glance at my horoscope. It said that a casual chat could lead to a serious work offer, so naturally I decided that it would be best if I avoided any casual chat for the day. Not that I believe in horoscopes. A lot of nonsense if you ask me! Except when it says I might win money, or meet the woman of my dreams! Which is why I never read them. Unless the paper just happens to fall open on that page and my eyes are unavoidably drawn to them.

Anyway there was no mention of me having a fall from a great height so I crossed my fingers and climbed back onto the roof. Not that I'm superstitious you understand, but I thought it best to keep my fingers crossed, just in case anything should happen.

One of my work gloves fell from my pocket as I climbed the ladder, which was a bit awkward, because there was no one around to pick it up for me, not that I'm superstitious, but I have heard that it is bad luck to pick your own glove up from the ground. Not to worry though, I managed to get by with one glove.

Apparently if a bird happens to shit on you, as it flies past, that is very lucky. So naturally when it happened today, hitting me on the side of my head and dribbling down my neck, I counted my blessings and considered myself extremely fortunate. Not that I'm superstitious, but I do think it makes good sense to accept any good luck that comes your way. Especially when it is Friday the 13th! Not that I'm superstitious!

I gave up being superstitious when I was a very young boy. I can clearly recall the Vicar telling a bunch of us kids, that having superstitions was silly, because Jesus would always be there to protect us from all evil, and that the devil was responsible for making us have superstitions. I still kind of believe this. Not that I'm very religious. But the thought is still a comforting one. Anyway, it works for me. That's why I'm not superstitious.

So that's it for now. The day seems to have gone off without a hitch so far. Touch wood!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

"Cor Blimey Mate! Luv A Duck!"

It's a funny old world, but a happy one at the moment. It started on Sunday at the match. Being happy I mean. My extremely handsome son George scored a great goal to start with, and his team went on to win the match 8 nil. That made me happy!

Monday morning a letter arrived with a nice fat cheque inside. It was from the bank. They were paying me back all the premiums I had paid for an insurance they had no right to sell me in the first place. That made me happy!

Great! I thought to myself. This will clear my overdraft, and not only that but at last I'll be able to put a proper roof on the tractor shed. That thought made me happy!

On my way into town, I stopped at my friend Chris's house. He is a builder and there is usually a few bits and pieces of timber and boards left over from jobs, which I can always find a use for. Either making something or for painting on.

We were looking around his yard, and I had found some old scaffold boards. I love to paint pictures on rough old timber. It makes for some interesting effects.

We had loaded the boards into my car, when I mentioned that I had begun to make walking sticks. Chris was interested in this because he had just had a blackthorn blown over by the recent gales. He asked if I could maybe make him a stick from it.

It was on the way to look at the fallen tree that I noticed the corrugated steel roofing sheets leaning against a wall. My eyes lit up!

"Blimey mate!" I exclaimed, "would you believe it. I'm just on my way to buy some of that!"

He told me that he had bought the roofing sheets because he was going to make a turkey shed, but now he had changed his mind.

This was interesting news to me. I asked him if he would sell some to me and how much he would want for them.

"They're not cheap John," he said. "I need to ask twelve quid a sheet. How many do you want?"

At this I offered him ten quid a sheet, and said I needed sixteen sheets. He agreed to this and the deal was done. I have to say I was happy about that!

We went off to the kitchen for a cup of tea, made by his lovely wife.

While we were drinking our tea and his wife was out of earshot, Chris suddenly said to me, "Can you paint me a duck?"

"Well yes," I answered. "It's been a while since I painted a duck, but I think I could do it."

"It's for the wife, he explained, "she wants a duck painting to go with some duck ornaments. If you paint us a duck you can have the roofing sheets in exchange."

I enjoy bartering. I was happy about that!

"What kind of duck were you thinking of?" I asked him.

"Any kind of duck you like," said Chris, "but it has to be painted in the naive style."

"I'll get right onto it," I said, and off I went to begin working on it immediately.

I found a piece of plyboard, primed it with quick drying primer, painted a naive duck on it with enamel paints, framed it, and within two hours, Chris and his wife were the happy owners of a still wet painting, of a naive duck. How's that for service?

Me? Well I was the equally happy owner of sixteen sheets of high quality corrugated cast iron roof sheets!

As I say, it's a funny old world, but a happy one!

The next day, his wife asked me to make the ducks head green. Which I did. No problem! She was happy about that!

Oh yes! I gave Chris one of my walking sticks too. He was happy about that!

I hope you are happy today too!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Shedloads Of Money.

Someone asked me, as I was queuing to buy my lottery ticket, what I would buy if I won millions of pounds? I didn't even have to think about it. I have dreamed of it so many times: I would buy a shed!

Yes I know, pathetic aren't I? Mind you, it would not just be any old shed. Oh no. I'm talking proper shed here. Oak framed of course, and cedar clad. With a roof of shingles. It would be insulated with sheeps wool, and it would be lined inside with oak panels.

All my tools and machinery would be kept in pristine condition. I would probably buy new saw blades every week.

I would have a beautiful cleaning woman, sorry cleaning person come in every day, just to make certain that everything is kept absolutely spotless. It goes without saying obviously, that I would pay the cleaning woman, sorry cleaning person, an extremely good wage for her, sorry, their, work.

I hope you have noticed my efforts to be politically correct. To that end, I ought to mention that the cleaning woman does not necessarily have to be beautiful, or indeed a woman! Although if she was beautiful, and a woman that would be nice. But let me make it absolutely clear, that the job would be open for anyone to apply for. Not just beautiful women. If a beautiful women did actually get the job, it would be purely based on her suitability for the work. Absolutely nothing to do with me hoping to have a relationship with her!

The best tools and materials deserve to be worked by craftsmen, sorry, craftspersons, of the highest calibre. So I would employ only the best people to do all the work for me. There are a lot of very talented women doing craftwork in these enlightened times. So I expect that it is very likely that I would employ a women. Not necessarily beautiful either. Although maybe probable.

Yes indeed, my new shed would be the best shed ever built!

Mind you, there would not be a lot left for me to do inside it. So I would probably forget about it, and go off and spend most of my millions, on wine, women, and song! I would most likely just squander the rest!

In order to remain politically correct, I suppose a percentage of my money would have to be spent on men! Although this would only go as far as buying them a drink.

Hmm.. you know, on reflection, all the high living would probably be the death of me. I don't think I'll bother with the shed. What's the point!

It was just a dream. A crazy pipe dream!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

'When I Get Older, Losing My Hair'.

Sometimes I really feel my age. Right now I certainly do. Which goes much against the grain with me, because most of the time, I really don't feel that 64 is old. Actually, I think I'm quite a tough old coot. I certainly do not live a pampered life, though of course, that is down to my own choice. No doubt if I decided to live a more conventional lifestyle, I would be more comfortable. But I would definitely not be happy.

Salmon Leaping, by John Bain.
Green  woman, by John Bain.
What is happening with me at the moment, is that I am painting. Painting, painting, painting! It takes over my life. Once I begin a painting I have to continue until it is finished. I work very quickly, but even so, it can take many hours to finish a work.

I am really getting into the walking stick making too. Carving these things takes ages, and lots of concentration. This can't be rushed, because the knife has to be kept very sharp, and one slip could be nasty! They get painted too, which takes a surprising amount of time.

It is not exactly hard work, but the concentration required can be tiring. Headaches come too. I think because I don't drink enough when I am working. Meal times are irregular. Sleep patterns are very disturbed also. This past week I have not been going to sleep until dawn. The time just flies past, because I want to finish what I have started.

This is not me complaining about my chosen lot though. I love painting, or being creative generally. But this is where age does come into it. I can't do things these days as I used too. Something has to give. It can't be my artwork, because I have to earn money, even the small amount I make from it.

This blog, which I also love to do, will have to take a back seat, whilst I continue to prepare my 'ramshackle gallery'. I will still be here, but maybe not quite so regularly for a while.
Walking stick (unfinished) by John Bain.

Now having said all that, perhaps tomorrow, I will be feeling a lot better about things. Perhaps this, what I am feeling today, will pass quickly. Knowing myself as I do, I should think there is a high probability that it will. But just for the moment....

I really am feeling my age!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Petronella And Me, A Love Story.

She looked at me through soft, appealing eyes, and I made the stupid mistake of returning her gaze. We had only just been introduced, but I knew instantly, the moment her eyes looked into mine from beneath those exquisite eyelashes, that we had made a connection. I would go so far as to say that I fell in love with her at first sight.

Me a married man too. I really should have known better. My poor long suffering wife! As if she did not have enough to put up with. Now this!

Believe me please when I tell you that I fought against it. Inside my head I was saying to myself, no, no, this is wrong. But, weak, unutterably foolish man that I am, I buckled. I gave in.

She was enchantingly beautiful. I had to have her. That is my only excuse. That very night, our first night together, I slept with her!

It was silly to sleep with her, I know that now, but she was such a tiny little piglet, the real runt of the litter, and I just didn't have the heart to leave her on her own. She was, after all, used to sleeping snuggled up with her siblings. Besides, there was plenty of room in her new sty, and the straw bedding was really most comfortable. To be honest, I had slept in worse places in my time, and with less agreeable companions!

That is how Petronella Pig came into my life. Luckily my wife was to fall under Petronella's spell also. Almost everyone did. Especially in her younger days. Piglets really are most adorable creatures. They certainly deserve a lot better than the hell hole I took her from!

Initially, I had gone to the farm that morning to look at a pickup truck which was for sale, and after declining to buy what turned out to be a bucket of rust, I could not resist a look into the pig pens.

It was heartbreaking to see these animals, especially the breeding sows, penned up, without even the room to turn around! Things have improved lately, I believe, but it will never be properly better until all farm animals have the freedom to express themselves with natural behaviour. I am not a vegetarian. This is just my opinion. But I am digressing.

The piglet I picked up was very small and thin. She had been given a chance, but was not, according to the pigman, progressing. She was very quiet as I held her, which was in sharp contrast to the others around me.

"What will happen to her?" I asked.

"I'll kill it today."

"Killed! No! Don't kill her! Can I have her?"  I heard myself saying. "I'll give you twenty quid for her."

He was tempted, I could see that. "I could get sacked if I sold it to you," he said, eyeing up the two ten pound notes I was holding.

"I won't tell anyone, don't worry about that," I told him.

He looked about, furtively. Then taking the money from my hand, he began to walk off, "I'm not looking," he said.

So I stole the pig, and away did run!

She progressed just fine, once she had the opportunity to eat properly, and without being bullied by her brothers and sisters. In fact, she became the biggest sow I had ever seen, certainly living up to her breed name of  'Large White'. Blimey! She could eat. Nearly ate us out of house and home!

I never learnt my lesson though. Years later I bought Bluebell and Snowdrop, two Gloucester Old Spot pigs.

Never could resist a pretty face!