Received an email yesterday from a lovely person wanting a whole stack of prints from Inky Conditions. She’d patiently and generously spent, in her words, ‘a pleasant half hour’, selecting works on my website – and went on to send me a list of what she wanted, using her own kind of shorthand / truncated titling. I looked again at the email today and realised that it read rather fabulously like a gig shortlist. One of those sheets that gets reproduced on various sites – commandeered, even, by a die-hard fan. It’s a concert I’d like to have gone to myself. Even though I kinda wrote the songs!

Oh – and by the way – if you were so minded to click through to the Inky Conditions site (linked in the paragraph above), please do take a moment to check out the all-new 2019 Calendar – now available for purchase online! (“Featuring all your favourite dates”!)

And that setlist… I even love that she left a gap before the final three – like these are the evergreen encores 🙂


Posted in Art, Illustration | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pie Season 2018-19: Mid-Season Reflections

A solid start. I think that’s fair to say. Four main bakes into the new season, with the pace and tone set straight from the off, with the Pie Season Classic of Beef in Blue Moon. Two subsequent turnouts both featured a lid-only approach; both for pragmatic and attitudinal reasons – which are one and the same thing when it comes to washing up. The last before the break being a return to fully encased; with a more confident blind-baking being something of a feature this season. Yes, it’s gonna shrink, but let’s build that into the plan. For the main part there’s been decent Sunday afternoon footy on the radio, taking me, with red wine, into the early evening goodness of this 13th Doctor.

Top Left: that inaugural bake. The return to the Blue Moon a tribute to a sadly lost friend.
Top Right: Top-only. Chicken, leek, chestnut mushrooms and pancetta. Pie meets Pi.
Bottom Left: Top-only #2; The Road to Wigan Pie… Leeds United having clung on and clung on to get all 3 points. Slow roasted pork leg with apple.
Bottom Right: A Little Love. Mediterranean Beef with chorizo, red wine and black olives.

The season resumes after a hiatus (don’t say it..) through the rest of November. For previous years’ efforts, reviews, recipes and regrets, start, I guess, here and work backwards through the years.

Top illustration by INKY CONDITIONS

Posted in Food, The Home | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My October Symphony, Part 7 – Hoovering Up Shadows

I do not hear the delivery man over the noise of the vacuum cleaner, but over the past year he’s become a usefully persistent knocker so eventually I do. I make a joke; I say: ‘sorry, I was hoovering. Once a year, I insist on doing it whether it needs it or not.’ He punches the air in delight and demands a selfie, right there on the doorstep to help capture this moment. That bit didn’t happen. Parcel in, door re-locked, I go back upstairs and spend two minutes trying to hoover up what I then realise is a shadow. Hoovering up shadows. It sounds and feels like a title for a poem, perhaps even the name for a a newly published collection. Or else a metaphor for something. Which is of course what most poems are made of.

The delivery man might have asked me why my writing pieces here on this blog has slowed to unprecedented slothness. How the past years of Octobers have been fecund leaf piles (if dead leaves can amount to such a thing) of Provencal posts, of remembered symphonies – and yet this year we are but three. It’s not a numbers game, I know, but I wonder why this decline has happened. Possibly it’s a side effect of my own Inky Conditions. Not just a busy-ness with that, because in truth there’s no time especially being swapped over there. But maybe in the writing part of Inky Conditions; that landed-upon style, that brevity, which has taken over from the greater windiness, the breeze that blows in Fisher Lane. Why write five hundred words, when eight alone will suffice – will get the point across? Why write longly about the sudden happening of housework (as surprisingly pleasing as it was as a distraction from a wasteful and wasting day) when nowadays I’m more of a mind that everything is spoken in my trying to hoover up shadows? This will become an Inky Condition, I’m in no doubt.

Or maybe it’s some other dynamic altogether.

I suck up the dust from around B.’s shoes. The parcel I’ve just signed for is most likely another pair. She loves shoes. For my part I own as many pairs as she has in her car at any one time. This is not my ideal shoe situation – I mean about the paucity in my own possession. For I too have always loved shoes. It’s just that shoes have never particularly come by me; arguably at any stage in my life. Beyond the occasional chunk of Dr Martens, men’s footwear is, on the whole, a crushing mudslide of ‘meh’. I walk, I think, in the footsteps of my childhood self, growing up with Glam Rock on Top of the Pops. Platforms making for stages. Heels as a means to rise above the everyday; to get away from home: trip-trap, trip-trap, over the rickety bridge. Other than a pair of blue suede Chelsea boots at fifteen, the relationship with shoes feels permanently stalled. This is not enough to curb the love.

The vacuum cleaner’s nozzle moves around, between, within a dozen dust-kissed pairs. The blog post concludes – as it must – with my joining up the dots. Me; then and then and now… hoovering up shadows.

Posted in Creative Writing, The Home | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Late Post from the Var Side

… being a small collation of three inked pieces I started in Sanary and worked up back at home. A little love letter or three to our favourite place and mood.

More, besides, you know, here.

Posted in Illustration, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Opening the Sky, Again

Way over a year overdue, and not for want of trying, we finally secure the services of a garden guy. The old ones have retired; the ones we ask to quote tell us prices which bear no resemblance to the figures in our heads – or anyone’s. One man who agrees to the job just never shows up. I even invest in a high-reach trimmer, and although, wobbling and whimpering, I make some inroads, and manage to keep the neighbours onside, the hedges are grown too far beyond my reach. This garden guy we find by chance, by great good luck. His name is Guy.
We talk, as we work (cos it’s part of the deal that I collect the brash) about the nature of self-employment; of pricing and the perils-but-importance of turning down certain opportunities – saying ‘Thanks, but no thanks’, basically. We talk about Cornwall. Cabbages. Kings. His dog is with us too.
And at some point I lose my knife. A Swiss Army Climber Edition, gifted by B. a decade ago. Loose and alive in a gaping pocket, else (like me) shallowly slipped into dungarees, my beloved knife – detailer of little wood houses, perfecter of pencils and brushes – is not any place it should or could be when the time comes to return indoors. My immediate worry (beyond the immediacy of the loss) is that it’s lying somewhere within reach of young children; the neighbour’s side where we took off the vast and shed-eating freak of hedge and elder (see photo). For an hour I check. It’s the last hot, stupidly hot, day of the year. And there’s no knife.
B.’s as upset as I am, but more philosophical with it.
I text back and to with Guy, and not just about the totes-worth-it payment. Given the bulk of brash we lugged, lobbed and loaded onto the flatbed, I have to use phrases like ‘chance in a million’, and ‘feel daft for asking’. Destined for a bonfire, ‘the farmer’ is referenced also in the texts; and I’m aflame with embarrassment anew at the idea that another grown-up is going to be asked to look for my little red knife. The messages then stop there.
Then at the weekend, a missed call from Guy. I call him back and, like some crazy lo-rent version of The Crystal Maze, he directs me where to look in our own back yard. The blue tin cup on the wooden shelves, he says; look in there. My knife is in there. A little red knife in a blue tin cup. B.’s in the kitchen, so she gets to see all this too.
Guy tells me that when he came to unload the brash, the knife was right there, up against the tailgate. Agitated to the edge, I guess, through and under the greenery – and a heap of new stuff from a job after ours – as his trailer travelled home.
We exchange expressions to do with Good Karma. And great good luck. I was with my parents – Dad at his care home – when he came round with the knife. The nice theatrics, therefore, of the blue tin cup happened.
And so the skies are opened. The weekend spreads itself ahead and the weather changes.


Posted in Family History, Garden | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Visitor Comment

At the Wirksworth show, a woman turned and looked through the crowd that had kindly squeezed into my exhibition space. She looked at, came over. Explaining the double-take, she explained – and recreated the double-take for me – she had absolutely assumed the artworks were made by a woman. It is one of the most… important moments… of an entirely joyful weekend.

Posted in Art, Illustration | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Frames as Houses

As part of my upcoming exhibition at an Arts Festival here in Derbyshire, I’m going to be showcasing a new series of INKY CONDITIONS prints entitled A House Lives In Me. This is a kind of illustrational call-and-response piece with the little wooden houses I’ve been making (like crazy) over the last few months. Same spirit, different medium. I’m very excited about this development. Excited about the series sitting alongside the existing works – the ‘main event’, in a manner. Whilst the invention and expansion of the house-centric project was healthily, joyfully simple (natural? intuitive?), the how-to of physically exhibiting the pieces was altogether not. Until last week.
Related world… moving into houses which have been other people’s homes. My pictures are moving into old frames.

An old frame.
A new picture moves in.

With all the oddities and the not-quite-to-our-taste-ness; the dated décor and well-intended frills. The old frames, truffle-hunted from the corners and high shelves of charity shops, are to be the poetic opposite of the neutral and the gleam. Tearing out mounts and ripping into floral efforts with all the grimmacing, unpleasant gladness of staking out new territories. The glass that has not seen a good wash in decades, like the grimed windows in the room which is earmarked as a study. That wall is coming down, eventually.
And the breakthrough is complete and at peace – making sense – with the whole piece. For these are all the little stories of the houses we have known.


Posted in Art, Making | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment