Saturday, 27 February 2016

The Nine Maidens of Belstone...currently not dancing.

As we sat huddled beneath the hastily constructedr flapping makeshift shelter and tried to consume the last of the extrememly well packed consumables, our interest soon turned to the view which demanded our immediate and fullest attention. Somehow the bracing vista steered us in the direction of appropriate musical accompaniment. My friend rattled off a list of woefully inadequate suggestions, suggestions which forced me to pull one of those expressions usually reserved for the reaction to such things as scratching one’s nails down a blackboard. I however offered but one…this one. We sat sharing the experience and not uttering one word as the shifting notes danced beautifully across the darkening landscape before us. When it had finished, tears in her eyes…my friend turned to me and proclaimed “I didn’t understand one word of it…it was perfect!”

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

A Brief Recollection of a Never Ending Yesterday

'I only go out to get me a
fresh appetite for being alone'

Lord Byron

As we traverse the weather beaten days of January into the perilous abyss of twenty fifteen,

my mind is cast back to the sometimes balmy, sometimes bonkers days of twenty fourteen.
           Most of the events simply blended into each other like a veritable eclectic stew of
mini happenings, non the less they still appear delightfully fresh albeit jumbled in my
seasonally affected mind of disorder.

Run silent, run deep.

A particularly foolish thing to do is to assume that if one rolls the legs of their
trousers up as high as they possibly can go it shall provide ample distance
from the icy waters of the river Teign....well!
As I cautiously stepped in holding my tripod aloft, the sandy bed fluffed up
around my rapidly cooling toes and wafted away in the silently moving
current. Thrilled with my progress I moved cautiously further out taking care
not to step on the rocks which were strewn across the bottom. Then it
happened. The 'safety gap' of two inches of skin that was there to keep my legs
dry suddenly....and I mean SUDDENLY disappeared. To be precise, about
twenty five inches above my 'safety gap', the surface of the crystal clear
water settled at approximately waist height leaving one of those comedy
expressions on my face which is difficult to replicate without the direct aid
of a freezing cold Dartmoor watercourse.

Let's go fly a kite.

Not just any kite, oh no...this one happens to be an airborne piece of weaponry
sturdily constructed from nylon and mesh with the prime purpose of stunt
performances and the ability to unceremoniously wrench the unwary operative
from terra firma at every opportune moment the wind happens to gust in an
aggressive manner. With hindsight Houndtor was probably not the best place
to play with such a hazardous item of destruction, a matter which became
more obvious as further groups of people turned up throughout the morning.
The wind had picked up by now and the 'blade of death' as we had christened it
was scything its way through the stratosphere with great haste and was becoming
particularly hard to control. A small group of 'rambling types' were cheerily
making their way in our direction up the grassy avenue from the carpark 
when I suddenly lost all control of the kite which by now should clearly
have an ASBO slapped on it for its intrusion into rural calm. As it
spiralled groundwards out of control towards the once cheery group, it caused them 
to scatter with great haste in a similar fashion  to that of a herd of Wilderbeest once a 
very hungry Cheetah is introduced into the equation. The 'they WERE there'
scenario was promptly followed by the 'and now they're not' as I could 
just make out the brightly dressed individuals lying in the bracken 
amongst the tangled carnage of tartan thermos flasks and shattered Kendal 
mint cake. Apologies were made.

Ladies who lunch.

My friend's incessant whining as to how I am a defective human being due
to the fact that I don't possess the latest model of iPhone six, seven or what ever 
it is as I truly, madly, deeply do not give a flying fishfinger about such complete
and utterly pointless things. As we sat there, she cradled the object of her desire 
lovingly in her arms and was staring at it as if it were a newborn infant.
"Look it has finger print recognition" "I don't care"
"It has a better camera" "Can you stick a 70-200mm f4 IS L lens on it?" "No,
it has loads of apps" "I don't care" "It's thinner with a larger screen" "I'm 
losing the will to live"....well this went on for quite some time. "This app.." she 
started as she tapped the screen "This app tells me where the nearest Starbucks 
is with regards to my location." The fact that we were sat in Starbucks at 
that very moment made her claim somewhat redundant , a fact that I felt I just
had to point out to her before she started on how it is good for world peace
and its kindness towards children and the elderly. "Ok, look...Siri, where is the 
nearest Starbucks to here?" She smiled through the uncomfortable silence. 
"Siri...Siri, wait...hang on" Tap tap tappity tap. "Oh...Siri seems to have stopped 
working and I don't appear to have a wifi signal" "Can I go now?"

And the winner is...

As I lay face down in the purple heather staring through the viewfinder at the 
approaching evening sky, quite literally the largest gentleman appeared as if by
magic and stepped on my hair causing me to yell out. This in turn caused  him
to jump upwards in a very camp style accompanied by "Oh I'm so sorry,
I didn't see you down there" It was a good photo. Trying to get the smell of tuna 
out of the back of a Landrover after a particularly enthusiastic lunchtime treat
in the shadows of Bellevere forest. Losing a bacon sandwich in the early 
morning mists of Belstone ridge. Almost...ALMOST falling head first 
into the murky depths of Haytor quarry's pond when Moomin shouted across to 
me that the 'owls aren't in the tree anymore" Playing chicken with road mounted 
cows on Dartmoor's most haunted road....lots of cows, in fact I'm sure they had been
networking that very activity on their own cow based social media site. The delightful
family who saw me setting up my camera on a waterfall accompanied by my 
courtesy call of "I am going to be exactly two minutes then it's all yours. No,
they couldn't wait for one hundred and twenty seconds and unloaded their ample
tat and various assorted children right in the middle of my shot  completely 
ignoring me with that 'pretend she's not there and hopefully she will go away' thing
that certain ignorant people do...which I did. I was left to remove the 
entire family blood line from existence through the medium of photoshop
.....and their little dog too.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Game of teeny, tiny, fiddly hand painted Thrones

Wake now my merry lads! Wake and hear me calling!
Warm now be heart and limb! The cold stone is fallen;
Dark door is standing wide; dead hand is broken.
Night under Night is flown, and the Gate is....

I knew that it was going to be an interesting journey into Middle Earth once these words
were uttered across the plastic rendered battlefield that stood proudly in the centre 
of the shop. Moomin's latest obsession with painting microscopic goblins, orcs
and fierce warriors had eventually drawn me in, certainly more out of curiosity
rather than involvement to join an epic quest into folklorish lands of far away and
times long gone....if they ever existed that is.
My sceptical and 'never in a month of Sunday's' approach didn't last. I had intended to 
venture to the nearest coffee emporium whilst Moomin got down to the fiddly 
painting activities but somehow I suddenly found myself sat at a well appointed
table with an inch high figure (a space marine by all accounts) gripped between my fingers
as I carefully daubed paint on him. 
"Wow, you're really good at this, that's awesome" was suddenly aimed in my direction
causing me to look up and from side to side. "Oh you're down there" I replied on noticing
a very small warrior of about ten or eleven who seemed to be admiring my efforts.
I was then treated to the entire historic back catalogue about space marines
and although I would normally find myself not caring at this point....I strangely
found myself listening with interest.
"So what do you do?" came another voice, this time from someone with a 
huge beard and very dusty glasses...let's call him a dwarf as he reminded me
of the one from Lord of the Rings. "Er, I'm a painter" I replied. "A-W-E-S-O-M-E" he 
answered "so this must be easy for you then". I smiled politely and nodded. "Who's
a painter?" came yet another voice. Several people pointed in my
direction at this request. 'Awesome babe" was his reply.
Indeed being a painter is awesome although some of my recent clients have made my job
very, well let's say not awesome.
What seemed like an hour but in actual fact was the best part of an entire day, 
we eventually left the citadel of battle games and went home.
So...picture the scene, my kitchen now has an obscene amount of these figures
which adorn most shelf space and flat surfaces implying that I may have joined the 
ranks of the twenty first century knights of make believe. The strangest thing
is that this is a therapeutic way to unwind. After a long day of 
creating artwork and such endeavours, there is nothing better than going down to 
the kitchen to create and paint something else to apparently get away from I'm confused.

His sword was long, his lance was keen.
His shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his awesome shield.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Illumination of the Sleeping Hound

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Disturbed slumber of the conversing sheep...

Well alright, Byron didn't actually mention anything whatsoever to do with 

'conversing sheep" but my previous excursion to a pre dawn Houndtor certainly provided me
 with that very scenario.Picture the scene, the air was still and black, a damp and clammy 
aura shrouded the sleeping granite asI made my way slowly towards the summit 
within the small dim arc of light which emanated from
my slight and woefully inappropriate torch. The unnatural stillness was apparent

 on reaching the top of the rise which was now being slightly illuminated from the bright 
orange strip of light which had appeared along the border of the eastern horizon.
I placed my tripod expectantly on the cold grass which bubbled up freezing dew around the 
feet wetting the rubber tips. Similarly my own feet were now soaking up the moisture as 
I shifted uncomfortably from one leg to the other and fumbled with the camera to place it into
the quick release plate. Once happy with the relevant settings to grab an image of the new 

day I placed one eye to the viewfinder to set the composition.
"Achoo" came the sound somewhere off in the blackness behind me. I stood immediately 

bolt upright and stared off into the darkness. Was I not alone?
I switched on my now struggling torch and waved it in the direction of the sound. Before
me the eyes of dozens of sheep were lit up from my beam, dazed and surprised as they
awoke from their evening 's slumber. "Oh.....sheep!" I whispered to myself and hurriedly 

returned to my task at hand. Replacing my eye to the viewfinder there was in interesting 
development, "achoooo............bless you!" 
This time I span round so quickly it almost sent my camera crashing into cold
sodden earth. My torch again cast its beam amongst my wooly neighbours, but this time
I couldn't believe what I was witnessing.
The hundred or so sheep were standing...standing upright on TWO LEGS. As I strained 

my eyes to seeI noticed that most of them were holding cups and saucers, obviously very 
fine bone china cups and saucers. A large black and grey sheep was walking 
amongst them with quite literally the largest teapot that I have ever seen, a teapot with a 
picture of blue and orange flowers on the side. "One lump or two.?..two?...there we go, the 
crumpets shall be here shortly, I bid you good lump or two?"
I stood open mouthed not believing the sight which was unfolding before me when all
of a sudden....complete blackness descended, my torch had given up the fight.
What seemed like an eternity passed when the blackness was replaced with a warm 

glowing light, the black and grey sheep was now holding a large red plastic torch and
was walking in my direction. "Pound shop?" he enquired...."eh?" came my feeble reply.
"Pound shop" he nodded towards my torch "batteries, usually a false economy
I might add, I normally buy good quality full strength ones as it saved an
unnecessary trip into town every five minutes......tea?"

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth was a dream.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Conspiracy of the Artisans

"I say...that's a nice camera" the man said. "Yes,, thank you" I hastily replied
to the inappropriately dressed gentleman as I tried to photograph the rapidly darkening
panorama which was visually fading before me. "Do you sell many?" he went on 
"do you use art galleries to......." he tailed off. Turning, my narrow eyed hard stare reduced him
 to inappropriately dressed stone as the very word caused me to drop my lens cap into
a muddy pool with a delicate 'splop'.


'Thank you Miss Vanstone for the disc of your work. You are very obviously talented and
have produced some amazing paintings , illustrations and photographs, however.........'
yes....HOWEVER. It is funny how galleries love to use the word however at approximately 
half a paragraph or three lines in to their thoughtlessly written replies to my request to
exhibit within their hallowed walls. I have now concluded that there is some form of
conspiracy afoot when regarding such institutions of exposition.
'We consider that your work isn't exactly what we are looking for at the moment' came the 
last reply. "Right then" I said to my friend and ally "let's go and have a look at what exactly
 they do consider to be 'what they are looking for' with their current show." 

As we walked into the very grand hall, the curator type person seemed to immediately
have issues with our...ahem, let's say appearance (the frosty up and down glance is
a dead giveaway.) She smiled a half smile and then buried her head back into a copy of 
Hello magazine probably hoping that the two lurking extras from a Tim Burton film will 
very quickly go away.
I was immediately drawn to a very large canvas of a badly painted landscape in oils. The 
accompanying literature showed a photo of the artist with a smug expression equally 
badly painted across his face which rested on one hand whilst holding a 
paintbrush in the other (just in case we failed to realise that he was an artist I imagine)
He was from some posh art school, apparently classically trained and a member
of a 'guild'....they are always members of 'guilds'. I just pulled a face and shrugged
at the inevitability of exhibiting such an inane and indifferent piece of artwork and 
was just about to walk away...........then I saw the price. "Seven thousand pounds!" I yelled,
a yell that echoed around the large space, a yell which also prompted grumpy
curator lady to gaze back up from her magazine with a very surly "ssshhhhh."
"Don't you ssshhh me" I surprisingly found myself replying "art galleries are
meant for public viewing and therefor public criticism....I choose to criticise this by
Eventually the grumpy curator responded "you can't tell me that you dislike
Mr. ********s work, he's a genius". I went in for the kill "I am inclined to agree with you,
he is quite obviously a genius, I mean, it takes a genius to slap a price tag of seven
thousand pounds on a puerile, badly painted, self indulgent pile of rubbish such as that"
I went on "and furthermore, the gallery shows equal signs of genius as they stand 
to make a tidy sum from commission once somebody with little taste and a large
bank balance purchases the horrid oil daubing". Again, silence.
"I think you two should leave"......."we're going anyway". 

As I packed my tripod into the bag, the inappropriately dressed man was still talking,
"that's an amazing view, do you live locally?" I looked up from my activities "yes it
is and yes I do." By now he was showing visual signs of stage one 
hypothermia "amazing, amazing....blimey it's cold isn't it?"
I smiled and replied "yes indeed it is amazing and bearing in
mind that this is Dartmoor, it's dusk, it's not quite Easter and you are splendidly attired in
shorts and flipflops, well yes I imagine that it is indeed very cold...well certainly
for your goodself.......goodbye!" and with that I walked back to my car.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Cold Calling and the Prophecies of Doom

Many harvests ago within the dark ages of forgotten time, King Arthur stood mighty and
defiant against the dark one...the very Devil himself. It was decided that in order to determine
just exactly who was the mightiest and most worthy of respect, a quoit throwing
challenge would be the order of the day. The Devil threw his huge metal ring which
skittered across the landscape eventually crashing through the ground, spewing forth
a colossal mound of rock from the depths of hell. Returning the challenge, Arthur hurled 
his quoit with equal vigour similarly resulting in a gigantic monolithic stone warrior to punch
through the cold ground towards the sky. It was agreed to be an impressive draw and 
both figures went on their way.
Now, many full moons later, the two weathered granite outcrops still stand as testament 
to that memorable day, the two granite outcrops of Blackingstone and Heltor rocks.

Well it is the month of Yule and the Solstice rapidly approaches. This year is notable
as not a typical solstice, in fact an extinct south American civilization stated that on the
twenty first of this month of December 2012 we may have to collectively endure the 
possibility of becoming a bit extinct ourselves. It certainly makes for lively debate with
cold callers trying to help us claim our PPI or sell us double glazing. In fact I really want
a cold caller to try selling me PVCU windows for my question shall be "are they fire, 
brimstone and plummeting asteroid proof......and does that come with a written guarantee?"
I am thinking about the celebratory antics for that evening although bearing in mind
anything a little too extreme will still have to be explained away to mortified 
neighbours and family members if the sun indeed decides to rise on the twenty second.
"I am deeply sorry for decapitating your garden gnomes with a croquet mallet
whilst under the influence of several bottles of vintage wine.....I thought the world was
going to end!" Albeit a grande excuse, in fact quite possibly THE best excuse ever,
it loses a lot in translation during the cold light of day.

I am now thinking about these distant echoes from our past...Arthur and the Devil....the 
quoit throwing...those awfully astute Mayans with their calendar based prophecies of doom
and gloom.....GNOMES, and somewhere in the distance I can hear the phone
ringing. For once, I really do hope that it is someone trying to sell me something,
I may have some questions for them.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Limited Attention of a Limited Palette

So, we'll go no more a-roving

So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have a rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.

Dull, dull, dull. The surrounding prison walls seem to be laughing at me due to the 
incarceration of my creative soul. This several weeks of a limited palette with the 'wet on
wet' technique of a highly structured and microscopically detailed attention to detail that
was laid down by the brotherhood of the Pre Raphaelites is really starting to 
drive me slightly bonkers. But...and there is a but, these paintings are probably the most
exciting series of works that I have undertaken as I am not aware of any other 
painters who are venturing down this path of subject, location or structure.

Due to this lifestyle of a rigid order, my numerous visits to the pool have now ceased which
has introduced the oversized spanner into the finely tuned workings of my fitness
regime again. As the gothically inspired mistress of the eastern fringes, it isn't
greatly known that my entire lifestyle revolves around being super fit....SHOCK HORROR...
it's not all absinthe, laudanum and eternal angst of a doom ridden poet, hell bent on
self destruction. 
With that said, I have swapped the pool for a daily early morning or early evening run.
Being a fortunate soul who resides in one of the most stunning areas of the country, I 
have some beautiful places to go too. 
Ipod-check, water-check, Moomin-check. The best thing about running with Moomin is that 
unleashed and insane canines tend to make a bee line for her as opposed to me, she seems
to exude dog pheromones or something
Another project of mine that seems to be travelling at a snails pace is a graphic novel...
no wait, let's call it a storybook of retro futurism and adventuristic journeys through
Edwardian England, 'The Diary of an Edwardian Country Automaton Hunting Lady'
Pretty much what it says really, a steampunk inspired storybook based on my
lovely but slightly unhinged friend Hospheria BC. Lavish, but lavish usually
means 'takes a long time to produce.'
Oh come on Halloween, I need a party to have a good excuse for the absinthe, laudanum,
cheese and pineapple on a stick and mini pasties.

Actually, sitting here it really isn't that dull at all. Kings of Leon have just come on the radio,
I have poured another cardio-threatening caffeine infusion into my
huge stripey mug and secured my hair inside a large knitted beret ready for service,
I love my job.