Happy New Year!

There were so many highlights in 2016 that it was really difficult to pick just ten. So many memorable moments and photos to choose from. Photographs here:

10 Tango at the Dance Connections holiday in Paphos, Cyprus.
9 Minack Theatre in Cornwall.
8 Parasailing in Paphos.
7 Extensive tapas lunch on the Jeep Safari, Cyprus.
6 Cruising on the Nile.
5 Abu Simbel, Egypt.
4 Chatsworth, Beyond Limits sculpture exhibition.
3 Doomsday South: The Ripper Walk with Tracy Wise.
2 Rufford Park with Anna, Harley and Maggie.
1 St Ives.

In fact the whole of 2016 was a highlight! Thanks and very best wishes to our family, friends and all who shared these and other bits of our year together. Happy New Year from Julie and Russell xx.

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Timmy’s First Christmas

Here is this year’s Christmas verse for my grandchildren. I’d intended to write a follow-up to Matilda’s Magic Christmas, but it didn’t really work out satisfactorily. So, meet Timmy…

’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house
Nothing was stirring, except Tim the mouse.
His Mum was asleep and so was his Dad,
But poor little Timmy was feeling quite sad.
He’d heard about Santa and all of his toys
He dropped off each Christmas for good girls and boys.

So this Christmas Eve he’d said to his Mum,
“As we don’t have a chimney, will Santa still come?”
“A visit from Santa,” she said, “Would be nice,
But Santa’s for humans; he’s no gifts for mice.”
Christmas, thought Timmy, was really unfair,
And down his nose ran a solitary tear.

nbc

So on Christmas Eve he lay in his bed,
Thinking of Santa and what his mother had said.
Then in the distance he heard a soft jingle…
His whiskers were twisting and starting to tingle.
He crept from his bed and through the mousehole,
And spotted a sight that gladdened his soul:

A guy dressed in red with a long curly beard!
Timmy, on tiptoes, got as close as he dared.
Then Santa turned round, giving Timmy a fright,
“What are you doing awake on this Christmas night?”
“Sorry Santa,” said Timmy, “I just couldn’t sleep,
I’ll go to bed now; you won’t hear a peep.”

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He set off for his hole, but Santa called, “Wait!
Why the sad face on this joyous date?”
“Well you see,” Timmy said, “I’m only a mouse,
But I know that at Christmas you visit each house,
Bringing for all the good girls and the boys
Some sweets, or a book or lovely new toys…”

“That’s right,” said Santa, “Look under the tree.”
Timmy ran over, and what did he see?
Presents wrapped gaily, laid out in a row,
At the end a big package tied with a bow.
He grasped the box tightly between his two paws
For the label attached read ‘To Tim, from S. Claus.’

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“Thank you Santa,” he said, with a smile ear to ear,
“Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!”

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Terrible Tales for Curious Kids: 3

Those of you who notice these things may have noticed that there is a gap on this blog betwen Terrible Tales 2 and 4. Not unnaturally, in this case, that position was filled by Terrible Tales 3, which, because of the dance connection, I posted on my tango blog. To save you having to click over and expose yourself to unwanted terpsichorial esoteria, I thought I’d repost it here in the earnest hope that it will serve as a warning to anyone contemplating tripping the dark fantastic on the heaving deck of a small to medium sized sea-going craft.

hull-trawler-ss-new-zealand_2cs

Norm’s Last Tango

Norman was a square-dance caller
On a North Atlantic trawler.
Should the crew be feeling low
He’d get them all to dosey-do.

Even in quite stormy weather
He’d gather all the guys together.
“Come on chaps, let’s get dancing.
You’ll find it really life enhancing!”

One day he thought he’d raise the bar…
Which turned out to be a step too far.
How much further could a man go
Than teaching fishermen to tango?

When walking backwards in high heels
He tripped upon a box of eels,
Which quite upset the swarthy captain,
Whose close embrace poor Norm was wrapped in.

He’d planned on cutting quite a dash
But his hopes all ended with a splash.
He’d probably be still alive
If he’d stuck to salsa, waltz or jive.

[Vintage photographs of Hull Trawler SS New Zealand adapted from whatsthatpicture.com]

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Terrible Tales for Curious Kids: 5

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As an alternative to burial or cremation Mabel’s approach may be seen by many as deeply inappropriate. But is it right that we should criticise without knowing truly what her intentions were? She and her dear brother may have been animal lovers; perhaps Mabel saw her actions as respecting Freddy’s feelings as she perceived them, and thereby giving him the opportunity, in death, to provide for the animals he loved.

Mabel and Freddy at the Zoo

Mabel Eddy loved her Teddy
And her brother, Freddy, too.
But when poor Fred died in bed
She tried to sell him to the zoo.

The keeper smiled and shook his head,
“We have no use for Freddy dead.
If you’d brought him round here yesterday
We might have been prepared to pay.

“The lions and tigers think, what a bore,
With meat that lies there on the floor.
But their ears prick up to hear the sound
Of little lads that run around.

“We like our dinners quietly steaming
Not chasing up and down and screaming.
Lions and tigers aren’t the same
The chase for them’s part of the game.”

Mabel thought for just a tick,
“What if I poke him with a stick?
That might help them make their mind up,
Unless they catch on it’s a wind-up.”

So they threw poor Freddy in the den
And counted slowly up to ten.
A lion appeared and looked around
And spotted Freddy on the ground.

The keeper hissed, “Wait for my nod,
Then grab your stick and start to prod.”
The lion approached with steady tread,
But seized poor Mabel’s stick instead…

One mighty heave, without a pause,
Till Mabel reached its slavering jaws.
The moral of this story’s true…
Don’t take dead siblings to the zoo.

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Terrible Tales for Curious Kids: 4

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We should all be free to follow our dreams, that goes without saying. But sometimes such dreams, or fantasies, may have unexpected consequences; whatever we may perceive as the initial benefits. This was certainly true in the case of Henry (“Hen” to his friends) Pendragon-Brown…

A Cautionary Story

My brother’s a chicken, at least that’s what he said.
He eats nothing but cornflakes and lives in our shed.
We should call a doctor, our Sis often begs;
I reckon we could do, but Mum needs the eggs,
They’re tasty and fresh; we have them on toast.
But I’m worried about Dad… he loves Sunday roast!

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Terrible Tales for Curious Kids: 2

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Trick or Treat

We’re going out for Trick or Treat,
Dad, please drive us down the street.

Dad said No, now off you go…

So, a little petrol and a wire,
Now it’s father’s funeral pyre.

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Terrible Tales for Curious Kids: 1

A few years ago I started to collect curious, and often extremely weird, photographs. Many are quite disturbing and lead you to speculate about the story behind them. Later I began to write short verses to go with these oddities.

A few days ago I read Ransom Riggs’ excellent book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, itself inspired by and illustrated with similar vintage found snapshots. That stirred me to go back to these photographs and my stories in verse. Perhaps I’ll post a few here….

arthur-batley

No Bacon Saved for Arthur Batley

Arthur Batley thought it neat
To dress himself in sides of meat.
Until one day he ventured out
With ne’er a second thought or doubt.

His wife said, “Arthur, don’t be late,
Supper time is half-past eight.”
At nine a knock came at the door,
“Open please, this is the law.”

A policeman there with visage grave
Said, “Arthur’s gone too far to save.”
He handed her a battered hat…
“The rest’s been eaten by a cat.”

“Oh dear, that’s sad,” said Mrs B,
“Won’t you have a cup of tea?”
She wiped away a sudden tear,
“Or perhaps you’d like a glass of beer?”

“I poured it out at half-past eight,
And Arthur’s meal’s still on the plate;
You have it, he won’t be wanting that
After being eaten by a cat.”

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Light Fields: Through His Eyes

A conventional camera records the intensity of light reflecting from an object in order to produce an image. A Light Field camera, sometimes known as plenoptic camera, captures additional information about the light field emanating from a scene; that is, the intensity of light in a scene, and also the direction that the light rays are travelling in space.

This means that an image produced by a light field camera is a ‘living’ object which can be manipulated after it has been recorded, for example by changing the perspective or the point of focus. You can produce various types of 3D images, or animate the image using the recorded data.

The images in this video are all ‘still’ images recorded using a Lytro Illum light field camera, and subsequently animated and strung together to make a short video.

I’d only had the camera a few hours when I took these shots, so this is very much an experiment. But I’m looking forward to getting to know the camera better and exploring the possibilities.

The photographs were taken at the Sheffield Hallam University Creative Art Practice 2016 Degree Show. Many thanks to Jake Smithies for allowing me to roam around his excellent illustrations. Find out more at www.jakesmithies.com.

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Making Poetry

Breton_Poetry-s

And also…

“I have always been amazed at the way an ordinary observer lends so much more credence and attaches so much more importance to waking events than to those occurring in dreams… Man… is above all the plaything of his memory.”

“Beauty will be convulsive or will not be at all.”

Andre Breton

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More Verse for Kids

Potter

I wish I didn’t have a worm called Potter
It seems like such a silly name
You may argue that in the lotter-
-y of life there are many things much worse
And I’m to blame.

But when I had him as an egg
He’d put out a cautious leg
And wander slowly round a plate I’d filled with earth.

But instead of Potter I’d named him David, or Nicholas or Paul,
Do you think by now he’d come each time I call?

Or if I’d had a bracelet carefully chiselled with his name,
Would he come and sit upon my lap and play a game?
You may believe the possibility is slight,
But I like to think at times he might.

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