Thursday, 30 July 2009

Writing 2009

I'm getting ready to go to the Writing 2009 International Calligraphy Symposium tomorrow. In the past couple of years I have found a renewed interest in calligraphy, something I first took an interest in at school and have dabbled with during my graphics career from time to time. A couple of classes during the past two years have given me more confidence in my ability and potential, and also joining The Northumbrian Scribes has been a massive encouragement.

I'm looking forward to what should be an exciting and challenging week, where I will hopefully be stretched in my abilities, learn new skills and meet lots of people who are on a similar journey. I'll also be enjoying the hospitality of my lovely sister for some of the time during the symposium, so there'll be time to catch up with her too.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

In The Toon

Today I took a trip to The Toon in order to buy.... three sheets of paper. Not any old paper though.... special paper to hopefully do wonderful creative things with next week at the Sunderland Writing Symposium

Here are some photos I took around Newcastle... firstly looking DOWN Grey Street... I spied Cale Cross House, where I used to work on the 15th floor in the early eighties. I could also spy my own first ever studio near the top of Dean Street.

Then looking UP Grey Street... old and new jousting for position?

Then a beautiful piece of street architecture/lettering in the doorway of a redundant shop at the top of Grey Street that I will always call 'Marcus Price'...

Then to the Haymarket. This must have been a splendid hotel to greet weary travellers as they arrived in Newcastle down the A1 from Scotland. It is now the facade of an establishment called 'OZ Bar'
The tower of the civic centre wonderfully reflected in the windows of another new building for Newcastle University.

Monday, 27 July 2009

The Americana Festival

We went to the Americana Festival at The Sage yesterday. They had a free show in the concourse and we caught three acts. I say 'we' but in fact Bren went shopping half way through! First up were The Lost Brothers, who were not brothers and didn't seem to be that lost either, judging by the quality of their repertoire. Tight guitar patterns, lovely harmony vocals and a warm and easy stage presence made them very watchable and listenable.

Next up was Jon Allan, performing with and without his band. The guy had a good voice and is obviously a gifted song writer, but he left me kind of cold, mainly due to his rather annoying stage presence, which included jibes at the band, reference to being in Newcastle (not Gateshead) and finishing every number with "thanks very much folks". Is it me being pedantic, or could he have varied this a bit?

Then it was the turn of The Midnight Ramblers bluegrass band, who I had been looking forward to hearing. They didn't disappoint musically but were a bit too serious looking.... and I DO prefer my bluegrass bands to wear hats, a la Bill Monroe. Never mind, a brilliant set and extremely tight riffs from flat picking guitar, banjo and neat mandolin playing, backed up with a lovely walking bass throughout.

Also spied at the festival was friend Stephen, who was filming the sessions for The Sage.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Ruby Ruby Ruby Ruby!

Today was Ruby's very first birthday. We went along to join her and her proud parents in the celebrations, which also included a service of dedication. This is a Christian service which is akin to infant baptism without the water, and simply dedicates a child to God. It also draws support from those friends and family present to do their bit in terms of supporting the child as they grow, encouraging and stimulating their faith in God. Ruby is a very beautiful child, as you can see, and behaved herself impeccably throughout the proceedings. The celebrations coincided with 'Ladies Day' at Newcastle Racecourse. Being at an adjacent venue led to some interesting logistical issues, but it was entirely appropriate for Ruby to be the centre of attraction on Ladies Day!
Later in the day me and Bren took Gracie down to Blyth beach again and had a very nice walk along the coastal path to Seaton Sluice. This was a place I knew well in my youth, as my folks used to take us here occasionally on a Sunday afternoon. Gracie loved all the nooks and crannies in the sand dunes, and meeting other dogs along the beach on the way back. She emerged on one occasion with a large briar branch protruding from her tummy. Bren insisted I got a shot of it before we removed the offending item.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


The town of Blyth (the largest in Northumberland) is looking a lot prettier these days... at least it is down in the beach area, where we occasionally take Gracie for walks. They've built some lovely little beach huts (for which I guess there's a long waiting list) as well as restoring the old gun battery and generally smartening up the surrounding landscaping. North Tyneside Council could do worse than pay a visit to get some simple yet effective ideas for the ongoing regeneration of good 'ol Whitley Bay.

I remember when they built similar huts along the promenade at WB. They were built on a turntable so that you could turn them to face the sun as it moved across the sky. A favourite pastime of the local kids was to run across the roofs from one end to the other while the occupants ranted and raved at this disturbance of their flask of tea and egg and cress sarnies!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Birthday boy

Last evening me and Bren were out in the Toon, helping Andy celebrate his birthday. Thanks Andy... thandy. Here is the main man coyly opening his card before getting stuck into a fabulous Persian meal. Andy's birth sign is Cancer, which spookily was visually displayed as I took this shot.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Whitleybunions #12

Aaron was up for a few days (before going home and passing his driving test!) Also Matt's girlfriend Sari was visiting from Finland, so we took a trip to show her one of our beautiful beaches.
We also took Leon to The Mouth of the Tyne Festival last weekend. Good quality acrobat action in Front Street, masses of crowds in the sunshine and a grand day out. Teddy Thompson was on the bill at the castle.... but we had to leave just as he started his set!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

A story of engineers who tried to reach the heavens

Forty years ago today Bren and me had just had our first wedding anniversary, and we were heading off for our first holiday together to a little resort called 'The Devon Coast Country Club', near Paignton. There was great excitement for us at the thought of a free holiday, courtesy of Bren's folks, but also because the Apollo 11 space rocket had taken off successfully from Cape Kennedy, Florida, at the start of the first attempt to land a man on the Moon. The DCCC had set up a special television room, complete with giant screen and 24 hour blackout, so that guests could drop in at any time to watch the historic proceedings. I think it was the Thursday evening (21st) when the room gradually became packed with just about everybody on the site wanting to be there to see the first man step onto the surface of the moon.

As a boy I had watched in awe as Yuri Gagarin became the first human in outer space and the first to orbit the moon. I had also watched the various Apollo missions and their progress towards this amazing moment. Just thirty months earlier the missions were seriously jeopardised when a fire killed three astronauts on the command module of the Saturn B rocket during tests. Now here we were, watching this amazing event in world history unfold. For a spectacular moment, as Neil Armstrong took his 'one small step - one giant leap' we could turn our thoughts away from a disastrous war in Asia, from shameful civil rights violations, from the threat of Russian invasion, and from the dreadful death of the president some years earlier who had sanctioned this project to put a man on the moon.

The writer J. Bainbridge summed up Apollo as "a story of engineers who tried to reach the heavens". You can read Dr Christopher Riley's article about the magic of Apollo here.

Monday, 13 July 2009

I am a proper artist!

Perhaps you remember that a little while ago I submitted a painting to an art fundraiser. The very good news arrived today that my picture had been SOLD! Even more importantly, it was not the LAST picture in the exhibition to be sold, so I am mightily relieved as well as highly chuffed that somebody liked my painting enough to buy it and hang it on their wall (presumably!) There are still a few paintings left in the exhibition to purchase, so why not get over there now and help a very worthy cause.

Sunday, 12 July 2009


Friday evening The Lady Brenda was booked to sing at Rothbury House... in Rothbury. I accompanied her to basically do a bit of roadie-ing. What a smashing place RH is! Formerly the County Hotel and nowadays a RAFA respite care home for ex servicemen and their families. The lovely Joy proudly showed us around her gaff, including the magnificent gardens and superbly appointed rooms, and we bumped into an old friend, Olwen, who works there.

We were joined later on by a gaggle of friends who partook of the free plate pie and a beverage or two, then we all drove the five miles back to Weldon Bridge to sample the delights of The Anglers Arms. A lovely Northumbrian evening.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

He's Got You - Don McLean

A brilliant version of a wonderful song. Really 'owned' by Patsy Cline but Don stamps his beautiful style all over it. Not great quality on the movie, but I love it. We saw DM a couple of times in the seventies and enjoyed the shows from a thoroughly engaging performer who loved his songs and cared about the people he sang to.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Diversity Central

I had a birthday last week, and celebrated with a few friends round at our place for a BBQ. From there throughout the weekend there were various and diverse happenings, which I shall briefly describe as we go. Firstly, the birthday get together on Thursday...

A small, select band of partygoers were assembled. Eating, drinking, nattering and laughing were all in evidence... oh, and a small amount of dancing too! Photos were taken, with separate poses for girls and boys for some reason.

Then a complete change of surroundings and company as I joined members of the Northumberland church leaders network for a cliff-hanging prayer session on Lindisfarne on Friday.

During the last few days we have also had the pleasure of the company of our young friend Mandy. We showed her the delights of Whitley Bay (including the compulsory Rendezvous ice cream) on Sunday.
Over the weekend we were dodging the extensive thundery showers, so weren't surprised that our field (the council think of it as theirs!) was shrouded in mist Sunday evening.

Then to underline the range and nature of my diverse lifestyle, I was summoned by friend Nick to take photographs of his fitness training session on Monday for the web site I am developing for him.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

I Know Your Type #9 Caslon

Caslon's earliest design dates to 1722. Caslon is cited as the first original typeface of English origin, but some type historians point out the close similarity of Caslon's design to the Dutch Fell types.

The Caslon types were distributed throughout the British Empire, including British North America. Much of the decayed appearance of early American printing is thought to be due to oxidation caused by long exposure to seawater during transport from England to the Americas. Caslon's types were immediately successful and used in many historic documents, including the U.S. Declaration of Independence. After William Caslon I’s death, the use of his types diminished, but saw a revival between 1840–80 as a part of the British Arts and Crafts movement. The Caslon design is still widely used today. For many years a common rule of thumb of printers and typesetters was "when in doubt, use Caslon," particularly if no typeface was specified. (Hat Tip - Wikipedia)

Several revivals of Caslon do not include a bold weight. This is because it was unusual practice to use bold weights in typesetting during the 18th century, and Caslon never designed one. For emphasis, italics or a larger point size, and sometimes caps and small caps would be used instead.

With the rise of hot metal typesetting beginning at the close of the 19th century, existing foundry metal typefaces such as Caslon's had to be adapted to specific typesetting technology. This was true again with phototypesetting, mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, and then again with digital typesetting technology, mostly since the mid 1980s. As a result of that, and the lack of trademark on the name "Caslon" by itself, there are many typefaces called "Caslon" with some other distinguishing element, which reproduce the original designs in varying degrees of faithfulness.