First cold days

+1°C, some ice patches, roads dry.

I’ve layered up, but less flex in the fabric slows you down considerably. I’ve put the summer CX tyres on the Mustang. They reduce the road speed but not by much. The fatter tyre, 35mm offers more protection from hazards in dark commutes.

Getting to know Southport

12°C, sunny.

Recovering from a particularly stubborn cold, so I plodded in on the hack bike to town. Google lists 2 record shops which I fancied a browse. You get the best out of shops like that if you get to know the staff. The best ones will find records that think you’ll like. Today, both shops were shut. I’ll try again on Saturday.

I ‘bobbed into’ a couple of second-hand shops too. They were friendly places, one guy offered to make tea and made it clear that the offer was open to customers too.

As soon as I got home, I took fastballs out to the garden feeder, a sudden bursting flutter from the end of the garden is not familiar. The heron is back. That’s a very big bird to land in my garden, and a big bird to take wing to escape. It escaped between two houses heavily gaining altitude. How to Use protect my much loved frogs? Maybe a net over the pond? I’m not using anything that could injure that magnificent bird, but at the same time….

100 years

Fine, 12°C, blustery sun.

100 years is a significant anniversary, one century ago, WWI came to a sudden end.

We marked the day with a trip to Birmingham’s Symphony Hall to see the lad perform in a choir.

Music: the performance was split in two across the interval. Before, each school’s choir performed and presented readings.

School orchestras can be slightly wobbly performers; for me, that’s a source of charm. Strings and brass seem to show this quality more than others. Usually, voices are spot on. Readings were delivered wonderfully, with clarity and measured pace.

Poppies: one moment stood out for me. The Last Post and 2 minutes silence are to be expected really. But then something spine tingling happened. The edge of your vision was caught by fluttering shapes. Red poppy petals slowly fell to the floor, sometimes, whole flower heads. It’s ironic that the most poignant moment in a concert was silence. That was a beautiful moment that afternoon.

The second half was taken up by a grand performance of Mozart’s Requiem. A strange choice, I thought; it was written over 150 before the Great War. I didn’t see what it offered of relevance to this day. The Requiem is a long drawn out dreary piece that left many in the audience browsing through their copy of the programme. With so many composers of the early 29thC who relate to the birth of modernity, why Mozart? The choice was probably a comprise selection to satisfy the 8+ schools who took part. Mozart undoubtedly has innovations to offer in the context of his time, but the modernist shift was far more fundamental. For some, Mozart represents the conformity and obeyance that led to the WWI disaster. One level, his Requiem represents poor taste.

It was lovely to see Birmingham.

You can forget how attached you are to a town until a later return: much has changed, new buildings and more going up.

Sleep fail

Why is this, I wake at 02.30, wide awake so get up for my usual night-time herb tea. Back to bed for more ceiling staring. I don’t get it, I’m not stressed, don’t have any worries and it’s been 12 hours since the last coffee. What’s going on?

Here is the plaster in the kitchen. And here it as was a week ago:

I suspect that the heat may have played a part it that plaster becoming detached. This is where the boiler used to be mounted and those pipes carry very hot water. I’ve not decided how to box in the pipes. Should they have insulation.

Is this a cold causing sleep disruption? the current cold has hung on a while just entering its third week. I’m so frustrated by this.

Mural painting.

13°C, heavy showers.

Just in time for memorial Sunday, I was given a day to get this mural painted at work. They’re having a kind of parents’ evening and the head decided it would be good to have the mural done before parents arrive. That gave me 5 hours to complete it

The day went well, I had constant encouragement from all the staff and most of the kids.

As for painting, acrylics pose several challenges, most notable; colours change as the paint dries, the paint dries extremely quickly.

There was some texture on the wall which helped greatly but looking back on the day, there are things I’d do differently.

  • Underpainting should cover all of the figure,
  • Use 2 colours to underpaint,
  • Mark out lines in paint so they show through underpainting.
  • Look globally at colour tints (I used orange).

This approach may alleviate several problems like white spots and improve overall cohesive tone.

With hindsight, I could have played with the paint a bit more. When thinned, it would dribble downwards sometimes. I could have used that by not cleaning it up. More, the underpainting could be applied with a sponge to rough out the overall tone. What about wiping the wet paint with water? If next time…

It was nice to chat with passing pupils and staff while I worked. One boy asked whether I “am a paintist?”. Staff were genuinely interested, I think it was the process that caught their curiosity.