Archive for February 2009
I was fairly lucky when my parents named me. I come from a fairly noble old Irish family with a sensible name. Heck, we even have our own crest, a cross with a sun and moon on the arms. We have a motto ‘God is my help’ (though I sometimes think ‘God help us’ would have been more appropriate). They picked a good first name, Nicholas, which could be shortened to the well-hard sounding Nick.
So spare a thought for the poor souls with less than salubrious names. Such unsung heroes and heroines as:
Jenny Taylor (keep saying it fast and you will get the joke)
Mr Titman (I actually served this guy once. I didn’t meet his wife, which was a shame).
Tim O’ Tahy
Susan Melley (She went to school with my mum)
Sue Mee (And she was a solicitor to boot)
And if you think that’s bad spare a thought for her brother Roger…
Most of us have owned a dog at some point in their lives right? Or we certainly know somebody who has. What’s the attraction?
Well they are an incredible amount of fun, hugely entertaining and distracting, and above all, they are very loving. Art work has been dedicated to them since the days of cave paintings. Kings and Queens have dedicated their own breeds.
And what was President Obama’s present to his daughters for their support? Yep, a new puppy. See? even the first family of America loves dogs. They are having a Portuguese Water Dog according to reliable reports. Apparently on the advice of Senator Ted Kennedy who owns two of them, called Sunny and Splash. The PWD is a fairly big dog with a woolly type of fur that is hypoallergenic. So even those with dog allergies can have one. Hurray!
From what I have read on wikipedia.org these dogs sound a lot of fun. They don’t shed fur and they are very active and playful. Highly intelligent and make great companions. Aww, I want one. They are used to living on fishing boats and they are excellent swimmers. They were originally trained to rescue humans from the sea. It doesn’t take much effort to imagine this huge thing playing in the white house pool with President Obama’s daughters.
Dogs are big business. The Kennel club of Great Britain has dedicated more than three million pounds to animal based charities.
Ever since Lassie and Rin Tin Tin dogs have had a huge presence in films. The Beethoven franchise ran no less than five sequels featuring a hugely lovable St Bernard.
Most recently Marley and Me has been making huge paw prints in the box office. Based on the memoirs of long suffering dog-owner John Grogan, the film relates his family life with an over-active Golden Retriever. Normally a placid breed, this particular dog ran around like it had just eaten a case of Red Bull.
Grogan’s novel had me laughing for every chapter but the last one, and then it reduced me to tears. I doubt I was the only one.
My own canine experience was a Blue Roan Cocker Spaniel who was, by turn, neurotic, excited, immature, brave and enormously loving. I still miss him.
Today we have something a bit more adventurous for you lot to work your magic on. Firstly you will need a big-ass pan like the one in the picture. Failing that a large frying pan will do.
Then you will need:
Small tin of peas
One red pepper
Three large mushrooms
175ml of white wine (or one medium glass)
175 ml of Chicken stock
Mixed herbs and Tumeric
Mixed seafood (I recommend pre-cooked) such as Crawfish, Prawns, Clams, Mussels, Scollops, Squid, or even Crab.
Take a large hot pan and add a tablespoonful of oil. Once this is heated add the peppers, peas and mushrooms and fry gently for a minute. Then add the seafood and stir for two more minutes. Add a sprinkle of mixed herbs and half a teaspoonful of Tumeric. Cut one lemon in two and juice it, and add the lemon juice. Then add the chicken stock and white wine and leave to simmer.
Meanwhile take a pan of boiling water and add a cup of rice and a teaspoon of tumeric. Once the rice is soft enough drain the rice and water through a sieve or colander. Then run the rice under a tap for a minute to wash off any excess tumeric. Add the rice to the pan with the seafood and stir well.
While it is simmering heat an oven at 180 degrees celcius. Once the oven is hot cover the pan in tin foil and place in the oven. Note: If you have cooked all this in a frying pan or wok just transfer it to a baking tin.
Once it looks and tastes cooked (note the mussels should be open, if not leave a little longer), cut the remaining lemon into quarters and place around the edges of the pan.
Allow to bake for twenty or thirty minutes and serve.
It has recently been revealed that the convicted robber, Ronald Biggs may be released soon due to health grounds.
Privately I am satisfied that the Home Secretary has made this decision as Biggs is now pushing eighty and far too frail to carry on his sentance.
I don’t think, in the current climate of bare-faced financial irregularities, that it is fair to keep a dying man in prison while so many banks have themselves turned robbers.
In many ways Ron’s life on the run has proved a sentance on it’s own. His life has been stressful and traumatic. It separated him from his family, it left him unable to attend the funeral of his son in the seventies. It left him financially destitute and unable to work under Brazilian law. It deprived him of healthcare and it left him prey to kidnappers and a clique of detectives and journalists who swore to bring him down.
Yet it is hard not to marvel at the man’s fortitute against such adversity. Surprising, in hindsite, that his friend, Bruce Reynolds, did not give him a more active role in the robbery.
But Ron’s days are nearly over and I sincerely hope for all concerned that he does get his dying wish, to have a drink in a British pub as a free man before he dies. I don’t care what anybody says he is a national treasure.
To read his fantastic autobiography check out Ronald Biggs – Odd Man Out ISBN 0330-33768-8
Maybe I am just getting older but I have recently developed a bit of an interest in the art world, particularly portraits. I have no time for high art, such as dissected cows and silly lights flickering on and off.
“It’s art!” Says floppy haired artist.
“Nay lad, it’s a dodgy plug.” Says I. Honestly where do you get them from? Then you have Tracey Emin with her unmade bed as an art show.
“Why is it art?” She was asked at the opening of her new gallery.
“Cos I say it is.” She huffed. Well hark at lady muck.
Thank heavens that a fellow from Fife in Scotland has taught himself to paint and set out to save us all from the machinations of the Tate ‘set’.
Jack Vettriano, born Jack Hoggan, taught himself to paint relatively late in life. He never attended an art college or gained any major artistic diploma. But the images and characters he has depicted has made our nation take him to it’s heart. He was recently named as Britain’s favourite artist, much to the chargrin of the London based art world. For that reason alone the guy is a hero.
He changed his name to Vettriano in honour of his Italian Grandfather. I think he wanted to sound a bit more exotic or he wanted to appeal to the art world. Either way, it worked.
Jack’s art is very retro and is mostly set in the fifties and sixties. Women are wondrously glamorous, usually dressed in stockings and cocktail dresses. Men are smart and well dressed, and the cars are very sporty. This is why his art appeals strongly across the sex divide. It also transcends class boundaries. You are as likely to see his art on a calender on an office wall in Slough as you are to see it on the wall of an art lover.
He works on a number of topics particularly relationships between men and women. The way he depicts His main tool is the use of body language which he uses as a tool of expression. He knows how to depict pleasure and pain, love and loss.
He drew some criticism for his more racy paintings, depicting scenes of light bondage, the prospect of group sex and bloodsucking. I doubt there was much in it, people need to remember that he is a relative newcomer to the art world, and he is still finding his style.
More recently he collabarated with motor sports legend and friend Jackie Stewart on a series of paintings. He related well the sometimes strained relationship between Stewart and his wife who would mark his timings within a heartbeat of widowhood.
Vettriano shares my love of motor sports and speed, and it inspired him to work on a rendition of Bluebird. As you may remember she was the car driven by Sir Malcolm Campbell, another Scot known for his love of speed and iron nerve. Campbell and his little blue bullet set many land speed records in the thirties and forties.
Even the South Bank Show, ITV’s cultural flagship, has paid homage to this fine artist, dedicating an hour long special to his work. The programme is available to watch on Jack’s website which I enclose below.
And I leave you with a picture that may have proved the inspiration for an L.A. based magazine editor’s cover shot. Long may Mr Vettriano’s career continue.
To learn more about Jack and his art I recommend his website:
The Isle of Wight. England’s pretty little front garden with it’s Cowes Festival and Osborne House, home of Queen Victoria. And Zombies.
Hang on… ZOMBIES??!
Thats right, a whole tribe of them live alongside the seaside donkeys and daytrippers. Led by Darren Winter, artist, film-maker and zombie-in-chief, they have expanded to club nights, movies and even advertising beer.
So how does this fit into the teashop and candy-floss image of the Isle of Wight? Well, it doesn’t to be honest. In fact the whole burgeoning horror scene is the island’s counter-culture.
For the last two years they have held the Zombie march through Ryde and other towns, stumbling, swaying, peering in windows and generally scaring the living shit out of people. I so want to join in one year.
Most recently Darren and his team have been working on their feature film, Bad Place. The Isle of Wight’s own Blair Witch? We wait with bated breath as it is now in post-production.
When he is not scaring the bejeysus out of the tourists Darren works on his art project, inked in the blood of his victims, presumably.
Actually no, some of them are cut from Vinyl. He also does comissioned portraits.
So I had a few questions for the King of the Undead:
I bet Halloween is fun in your house?
We do dress up with our daughter and have Halloween dinner but this year we hope to go trick or treating now she’s older.
We usually do the Wightzombie march in the evening around
Halloween time which is always good fun but my dream would be to have a big house and lots of money to turn it into a haunted house for a week or longer, have people come in and scaring the hell out of them, maybe a competition where someone get money if they spend a whole night there……..
How big is the horror scene in the Isle of Wight?
We have a large alternative scene on the Island (Dark Wight) so horror films go down well here. Most islanders are still quite naive and sceptical to new things, that’s why the alternative island is so strong.
You either conform to the island way or you don’t, its very black and white (pardon the pun) and as a horror film maker who has a deferent point of view I’m up against some resistance when it comes to ideas and the business side.
What fiendish plans have you made for 2009?
2009 is going to be a busy year with another baby on the way in May and a planned house move in with parents who are moving down from London.
I also want to get started on a new, scary as hell, horror film this year plus some music vids, 2 film festivals, finding a distributor for my first horror film Bad Place, hopefully a EWF Wrestling horror film with another film producer Joe Jenkins and various other scripts and film project in pre-production, Ahhhhhhh.
Tell us something about your art?
I mainly do it as a sideline; I do two types of art, abstract art (the graffiti artist in me) and a new style of art using Vinyl and Enamel.
The abstract art is all about flow and colour and the vinyl at is a technique I started in 1990 when i started work in a sign shop, basically i take a photo and I separate the photo in to a maximum of 4 colours, I then blow it up and hand cut each separation out of the coloured vinyl. Then i get a glass coated metal panel made by A.J.Wells that gets put in a furnace at around 500 degrees creating a tough as hell Enamel panel. Finally I lay the hand cut vinyls on the panel colour by colour and hey presto. its kind-a like posturizing a photo on the computer but without the pixelisation you get from those cheap looking, pop art style canvases you can get.
I’m hoping Sharon and Ozzy will buy me portrait of them so if anyone reading this knows them please let me know, he he.
If you want to see my stuff please go to www. darrenwinter. com
Pictures speak a thousand words don’t they?
While some sufferers of terminal diseases throw their hand in and wait for their life to end, Sarah Ezekiel has declared all-out war on her illness.
She has raised funds, co-ordinated a long running campaign on facebook and now made a film to raise awareness. On top of that she has found time to squeeze in a spot of modelling and is due to visit Buckingham palace later this year.
Sarah was approached by Donna Cresswell of the MND association last year and asked if she would be interested in appearing in a short film to raise awareness of the disease. Naturally she was on-board right from the start.
It wasn’t an easy film to make, the basement was cold and hard, which wasn’t good news for Sarah. But the film wasn’t easy to make. The advert is currently being shown at over 50 independent cinemas across England and Wales.
The 90-second film tells the story of a young woman who is suddenly ‘attacked’ by MND. An actress plays the part of Sarah and as her body deteriorates, illustrating the muscle-wasting effects of MND, the actress’s head is superimposed on the body of Sarah.
This is the first time the MND Association has produced a broadcast advert to raise awareness of this fatal, neurodegenerative disease which has relatively low recognition among the general public. Its hard-hitting style is likely to shock some audiences. The aim is to stimulate viewers’ curiosity to find out how they can help the charity fight back against MND.
• MND is a rapidly progressive condition in the majority of cases.
• The cause of MND is unknown and there is no known cure.
• MND affects around 5,000 people in this country alone at any one time.
• In the UK five people a day die from MND.
• MND is the name given to a group of related diseases affecting the motor neurones (nerve cells) in the brain and spinal cord.
• As the motor neurones die, muscles weaken and waste. People lose movement in their arms and legs. The muscles that control breathing, speaking and swallowing can also be affected. The mind usually remains alert.
In spite of pubs closing nationwide at a rate of fifty a week (quoting the publican.com), one arm of the drinks industry in on the rise.
Shaker Bartending may be the S.S. Carpathia of the bar trade, and I am going to tell you a bit about them.
Founded in 2001 by Adam Freeth, they started out with a small office in Birmingham and a small portable bar. But their biggest asset was their knowledge of drinks, bars, and how to run them.
Over the years they have raised the standards of bar service throughout the country, established their first rate bar academy, and ran launch parties for some household names.
Their academy runs several courses, starting with the very basics, all the way up to ‘flair’ bartending, made famous in the Tom Cruise movie ‘Cocktail’.
Adam and his company run a consultancy for bars and brands too, a much needed tool in the modern climate. They pass on their knowledge and skills in a classroom environment and behind a model bar.
But their most noted work is in the events industry. They have run private parties, weddings and launches for BMW, Deloitte, Diageo, Firebrand events, Luminar and PriceWaterhouse Coopers.
So to get you started we are going to leave you with some of their finest cocktails.
Just don’t lick the screen.