One of my most treasured possessions is a tape made for me by my dear friend Harry Wheeler with his friends 35 years ago while working at St Dunstan’s – now Blind Veterans uk. Harry served in the First World War he loved to sing to me and tell me tales of his time in the trenches.
If you would like to donate to St Dunstan’s please follow this link to – Blind Veterans UK where you will find a DONATE button at the top of the page.
To commemorate 100 years since peace was proclaimed, it seems the right time to share these songs to honour his and other precious friends service. I hope through my memoirs with St Dunstan’s will also give the opportunity for donations.
When I was twenty two my mother, Marie lead a team of 25 looking after the day to day care of the residents of Pearson House. At the time I was a beauty consultant for Mary Quant, however, in my spare time I enjoyed spending time with the blind folk. When a full time position came up I applied, it seems I was the youngest care assistant ever to be employed.
Being a care assistant was the best experience of my life, I loved the first and Second World War veterans, and the young soldiers blinded more recently, their brave humour was always inspirational.
On my first day I was asked for the Braille mirror!! I was told to go to the information desk to ask for it.. Laughter rang all around at my naivety … My first day also involved talking to a blind young soldier. A face grey and blue from gunpowder, and wounds where his eyes had been. I think he liked having me to talk to as he was only 19. When I escorted him out to Brighton Pier I remember describing some pretty lace, he brought his Mum a hanky and kindly gave me one too. I also remember how fiercely he clutched my arm as I walked. Harry a First World War veteran and other veterans would walk confidently simply holding my elbow gently.
Harry Wheeler, and the other older veterans would help the newly blind with humour and gentleness. The men all held my hand I remember, for comfort.
I’ve many stories I should love to share to accompany these songs, 55 in total but not all here at this time, starting with songs from the Boer War through the First World War and up to The Second World War
I will be eternally grateful to the men and women who gave me so much for our freedom.
Starting Thursday 25th to Saturday 27th October in Porlock Village Hall at 7:30pm.
Last night I got a sneak preview, I was taking photos at the first dress rehearsal, it is the first time I have done anything like this and it comes with a few challenges.
Firstly the show was very good, so much so that I am going on Friday with Melody and some friends, I am looking forward to being off duty and able to relax and enjoy the performances.
This is what Porlock Visitor Centre has published about the show.
Porlock Pantomime & Drama Society present: SHOWTIME, an evening of well known songs from a range of genres including Musical Theatre, Movie Sound Tracks, Country, 60s Pop, Mowtown and much loved ABBA. Bistro style seating. Tickets available from: Porlock Home & Hardware; Toucan Wholefoods, Minehead or www.wegottickets.com/porlockdrama
Time: 7.30pm; Bar available from 7pm Venue: Porlock Village Hall Price: £8
I think it should be Motown, but perhaps this is a cut above the rest.
My first thoughts for taking photos was that the spotlights would be great, and I would not need a flash. In fact, I haven’t got a flash that would have lit the stage sufficiently, but the spotlights caused their own problems and my first shots were failures, thank goodness for digital, in the old days I wouldn’t have known until they came back from processing or in the dark room.
A lot of the cast were dressed in black with black stage and silver backdrop, the only white was the faces, the metering didn’t stand a chance, so the first shots were bright white blobs on black suits. A bit of compensation and constantly being aware of the different costumes and that low angles really didn’t work and finally a bit of post processing that I hope has dealt with those issues. Anyway, if you come along you will find that the wonderful thing about eyes is that designed long before the digital age they perform so much better.
I’m looking forward to the performance, do come along.
Another year photographing and enjoying Porlock Carnival. I have photographed the carnival most years since we have lived here, sometimes I have been the official photographer and some like this I have just done it to help promote the village. Do look at our FacebookPage for post event photos and pre event photos for next year, God willing that I am still here to do them.
Porlock is a lovely village, that puts on so many events, just too many to mention, but some have and will feature in blogs for the future. What is surprising is the number of things that go on for a relatively small village, groups are formed, and hard work begins, often one just sees the end result and doesn’t think of those we may never see who have beavered away all year, well done and thank you from me. If I had royal connections I could recommend them for medals, perhaps the village should have it’s own, MPV Member Of Porlock Village, but I think it my have already been used for Multi Purpose Vehicle but then again I am sure that is an appropriate title as well.
At the moment the village is prepared, bunting and flags are up, and finishing touches are being made to costumes and floats, judges have been hand picked for their eye for detail and integrity, the competition is stiff and all has to be impartial.
Today is the day, and what a great day, the sun is shining it is warm, everything is perfect. Of course some years aren’t perfect, we all look at the sky consult the weather forecast, as if that is in some way a god, and hope for a brief moment when all will be well. Surprisingly, over the years it has been, but of course visitors have already decided to flop in front of the television or some other excuse rather than risk a sudden downpour. I wonder whether I will need more than a tee-shirt, but I don’t it is really warm, the sun shines until the last moments when I adjust the camera for the changing light.
I start taking photos in the car park where everything is coming together, the floats the walking participants, there is an air of excitement and a few drinks. It is a good place to start except the backdrop, but it is easier to interact, I am sure some of these people know me, but often I haven’t a clue as to who they are. I find in such events I am almost single minded, everything is shut out and I have my left eye scanning for the next shot while my right eye is glued to the viewfinder. Perhaps the camera is getting old, in modern technology terms it is ancient, but for the first time I realise I am missing shots as it is taking too long to focus and adjust, oh well.
Moving up to the street I look for opportunities and move up and down the High Street, any other time I would feel self-conscious, but today as I said I am totally focused on the event and pay no attention to the surroundings.
My favourite floats were the Royal Wedding, I am sure the mums just saw it as a chance to get dolled up, and why not, the children were fantastic in their smart clothes and I am pleased with the photos of them.
Also I liked the circus, they maintained such a level of energy throughout, I loved the bright colours and the action.
I did like the zombies, again it was their energy and interaction with the crowd, I have no idea who they were or why they chose the subject, it was a little gruesome for me, a bit too realistic, not that I have any experience in these things, in fact I never watch anything like that in case I can’t get to sleep!!
I get to the end, very tired, it takes a lot of energy to concentrate on the action, I hope I have some good photos and will be spending the evening getting them ready for Facebook.
Just managed to post to Facebook before the end of the day, quite pleased as all the photos are straight from the camera, I am sure some could be enhanced with a bit of work, but that would drag things out and miss the moment. As I take a look this morning I can say that I am pleased with the photos, I hope they get shared and appreciated by all involved.
Did you see Ed Sheeran on television speaking about the arts in schools? What a breath of fresh air to see someone who gets it, who has some understanding of how art benefits the country financially, culturally and humanly.
Let me explain my background and how I arrived at similar views.
In my teens I trained as an engineer, later for my career becoming a telecoms engineer. When I was at college I would look at the art students and would think what a waste of money, why not close it down and spend the money on important manufacturing and engineering works, something that would benefit the country.
Of course, I have come to understand that this was a very narrow view, but never the less some 40 years later a very popular view among our politicians.
Meeting Melody when I was just 40 has changed my view and given me different insight into the hidden values of art. Ed Sheeran also spoke of the financial returns that art brings to the country, I am somewhat aware of this, but it is not my main concern, it would be interesting to know what the financial benefits are, but not today.
So, what have I seen over my years as a photographer and supporter to Melody? What I have noted that in general terms when I met people as an engineer I would talk about things, problems and solutions. We did not enter other areas, who are you, what do you think, how do you feel and so on, these are still areas new to me and still somewhat out of my comfort zone.
What I noticed when I have worked in our gallery or studio is how different the conversations are. These may be the same people I have encountered in a work environment, but now we are somewhere else, something else is going on and someone I have never known is emerging.
Quite often I have seen people suddenly overcome by emotion, tears appear and somehow or another a few colours on a canvas have connected with their subconscious to expose and perhaps bring healing to troubles and difficulties. I keep thinking of things as I write this and I am reminded how we were approached by a local hospital to supply art, this wasn’t just to make the place pretty, this was the stroke and dementia ward and studies had shown how important colour is in aiding recovery and healing in these circumstances.
So, what are my thoughts in this? In very simplistic way I think it is how the brain works, we can view the brain as being two parts, the dominant side which is our day to day and the artistic side, which I think for many if not most is the less dominant. I am still an engineer and I think things through simplistically, but it seems to describe what I have experienced.
In our day to day we deal with pressure, life, problems, we get up and go to work and it seems our society leaves little space for the artistic and yet to do so leaves us unbalanced measuring ourselves and society against a distorted set of values. Perhaps there are a lot of issues in this that need exploring, one sees people struggling with stress making ends meet, they are doing all that society demands but never achieve a sense of peace or happiness.
Yesterday I had a funny conversation with Melody, I asked her what she would want to happen if I came home and found a box too big for her to move at the bottom of the stairs. Her reply is still causing me difficulties to comprehend, she said she was more interested in me being empathic than in getting the box to the top of the stairs. Of course, my engineering thought is that we need to get the box up the stairs and solve the problem. Later when she came back in the car with the seat belt not working, we both sat and cried, and I told her how I understood the upset and emotion that this caused when she couldn’t take her mum shopping, she loved it, repairing it was incidental, but it did allow her to go shopping with her mum, Melody wanted me to add that I have embellished this a little we didn’t really cry, well she didn’t.
In another anecdotal way I see it that we are a society that has focused on exercising our right legs while neglecting our left, our society wanders around with a limp always going in circles. So, like Ed Sheeran I wonder if it is possible for our politicians to get out of the materialistic circle they are forcing us into and to realise that life is about more than this, it is about our care for the society we live and for each other, about service and not just profit about the person and our humanity.
My daughter who did teacher training in Sheffield described how a lesson consisted of 55 minutes of crowd control and 5 minutes of teaching, except when she introduced some element of art when the class would become manageable, surely this must be well known and worth consideration.
So, I do hope his voice is heard and I do hope other artists join in speaking in support of what he has said, and all this comes from a reformed engineer.
Not entirely randomly I have included pictures of bridges, Pink Tarr Steps an ancient clapper bridge on Exmoor, Landachre Bridge a lovely sweeping bridge, both of these by Melody and finally Relax At Withypool Bridge a black and white photograph by me. All three are bridges over The River Barle and are within a few miles of each other. I thought mixing pictures by Melody in her colourful arty style and a b&w photo by me in my engineering style symbolised the connection of two sides of the river, the arts and the material world and perhaps they can be linked.
Melody and I are the official photographers this year, the job didn’t come with a high viz jacket or even a pass. Sometimes it would be handy as people wonder why you are aiming your camera at them and may even be a bit put out. But in truth I never wore my ID at work, in the early days people just knew you, in later days sharing office accommodation in a call centre meant I was challenged from time to time, I guess it was rebellious of me.
I arrived early before opening to get some quiet shots. Probably a bit too quiet as the photos make it look like no one was there, lesson learned for next time. Continued to lunch time by which time I was just too hot to continue, this must have been the hottest day I have known in Porlock, usually a sea breeze keeps us comfortable while the rest of the country struggles on, but on this Saturday, it was continuous sun from morning to evening.
Melody and I returned later to take more pictures, the numerous stalls:
The races, with young children being very competitive, is that allowed nowadays? Even some adults being a little reckless, especially in the backward race where one young man hit the ground very hard.
The dog show, no Monet this year, we decided it was just too hot for him and I think others had made the same decision, but we had all the favourites; waggiest tail, one of Monet’s specialities; dog most like it’s owner; children with their dogs; and other things I can’t remember.
I enjoyed taking photos of the musicians, I always do and it’s something that surprises me, I don’t have a great love for the music it is something else, but I enjoy it and that’s that.
The other thing I enjoy is taking action photos and the motorbike display was great, contained within the main arena I was able to use a medium zoom lens to capture the action. I think that having used a video camera in the early days of video, pre the ability to edit on the PC, taught me to watch the action while taking pictures. Anyway, I enjoy all manner of action photography and I am pleased with the results of the day, my favourite being before the start when the two riders are on top of two upturned skips just having a chat, I like the interaction, the moment, perhaps it’s that we connect with the riders as people and not just their skill.
In conclusion, this was a great day, organised well, great weather if not a bit hot, and lots to do and see. Porlock really does put on many and varied events throughout the year and one must remember the organisers who work very hard towards this. Since this we have had flower shows an antiques fair, but the next major event on Saturday 1st September is the annual Porlock Carnival, the last carnival in Exmoor National Park, definitely worth a visit!
I will try to be more specific about the location, but would it mean anything and so much of Exmoor is just open moorland with no specific name.
We travelled the 8 miles or so in our MG, a 2003 TF, roof down sun shining and the throaty sound of the exhaust breaking the silence as we made our way up the toll road from Porlock. I must do a video of the toll road, going up or down the views are lovely. Not the quickest road, unless you compete in the annual special stage rally up the hill, but not for me in my nearly classic MG.
Driving the road from Porlock to Lynmouth is so special, the views from the hill overlooking the Bristol Channel and across to Wales are lovely, on this evening the sun was shining on the Welsh coast but also there were low clouds forming because of the high pressure. A photo would have been good, but in truth some things just don’t work, and it is better to appreciate the scene than miss the moment.
We arrived, turning into the road leading to Foreland Point Lighthouse and parking on the grass overlooking the channel. The area is currently one of my favourite and I have taken and am planning more photos from this location.
Greeted by the sound of seven Greyhounds, what a noise, our own Cockapoo, Monet, ignored them taking on an almost superior air as he raced around, pleased to be in the open. Melody meanwhile looked nervously, expecting that any second seven Greyhounds would cover the 100 metres in record time to catch Monet, she is very protective and rightly so, Monet is a cheerful little dog, a bundle of fluff and not cut out for high speed pursuits. But all was well, the dogs remained tethered and eventually left leaving us to walk and enjoy the peace and quiet and a solitary stallion that would have been worth a photo. I tend to plan photos, which means I missed the spontaneous chance to photograph this lovely animal with a foreground of long bleached grasses and dark menacing sky behind, oh well, Melody reached for her iPhone and I look on horrified that it isn’t fitted with at least a 300mm lens and other essential camera adjustments. As I sit here writing this Melody tells me she thinks the stallion may have been pregnant, I think she understands, but that is the thing with Melody she is always saying things to make me laugh.
Our evening meal was great, only forgot half of it this time, a few occasional flies visiting and being a nuisance, I think I upset them as just as we were finishing our meal millions, if not more, flying ants descended. The car was covered, Melody and I were covered and that really brought our evening to an end, packing quickly we jumped in the car pursued across the moor by flying ants. No match for an MG we return to Porlock having enjoyed another special evening in the best restaurant in the world.
So here we go, Melody and David with some subjects to get started on.
Exmoor National Park
The Lost Gardens of Heligan
Melody has always written poems, something she inherited from her father, and something that goes hand in hand with her paintings and her whole connection with art. One could say of Melody that she is an holistic artist, everything she does relates to her love and connection with art, so whether she is painting, taking photographs, decorating the home or even cooking a meal, all of these things and more involve her love of art and creativity.
Often, when Melody returns from her morning walk, she will have a few lines or verses of how the light, sky, sea or land has captured her imagination and it is in this that a painting may be forming within.
Melody has and underlying theme in her paintings of Hope and Restoration and this can also be seen within her poems, a heart for humanity and individuals, a message that the journey isn’t yet complete.
This is a growing selection of Melody’s poems and thoughts, just something more, another glimpse into Melody’s heart. She hopes you enjoy the poems and her art.
Melody studied art at Winchester School of Art where she received her degree in studio and art history. For Melody Art History is as important as painting, she has an extensive library which she reads and adds to regularly. Art History is a major influence on Melody’s work and she will often spend weeks reading and studying before a new painting emerges.
Melody has several projects on the go and will be adding articles about various artists as the mood takes her.
Exmoor National Park
It’s where we live, the landscape and coastline are stunning, we have the second highest tide swings in the world and the sea cliffs are the tallest in England, combine that with the light and the colours of Exmoor and you have an idyllic home for any artist or photographer.
So, between us we have so much to share and enthuse about and as we embark on this we look forward to the journey.
The Lost Gardens Of Heligan
Set in Cornwall between St Austell and Mevagissey this is a lost and forgotten garden first established during the Victorian era. We both love it, the restoration has opened a garden of interest, with walled kitchen garden and all the Victorian skill to grow fruit that just didn’t belong in this country. Artistically there is so much to enjoy, wandering around, getting lost, finding yourself somewhere unexpected.
It is probably one of our favourite locations helped in that there is so much in the area, Charlestown that features often in the television series Poldark, The Roseland Peninsular with lovely coast also Melody has memories of places her father talked about, where he swam or visited as a boy.
We have now had three long stays at Heligan and have lots of photos and sketches to work on.
The whole of Heligan Gardens is an exploration, not something to be taken in a hurry but a journey coming across things from different directions, a surprise finding yourself unexpectedly back at the same spot again. Melody and I have had three extended visits to The Lost Gardens of Heligan and have not been disappointed, wonderfully restored and enhanced while keeping with the original.
My first photograph is a black and white of an old lawn roller found under a tree, not the only roller to be found but this one attracted my attention, leaning against a tree, the two parts detached but not far apart, it seems significant to the story. Just a short way away is the formal and immaculate garden and lawn and one can imagine how often this was used, but now in it’s old age it leans against a tree and reminisces of former glory.