Wednesday, 22 September 2010


Back from a lovely holiday in Ireland (pictures soon), I was greeted with the news that my teaching services are required this term at Sunderland University. The module I'll be delivering?... Creative Typography... this pleaseth me more than words can say and it starts next Monday... yikes, better go and get prepared!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Americana Festival

Sunday afternoon I took time out to visit The Sage, where the Americana Festival was in full swing. Lovely warm sunshine and an outdoor setting made this a very enjoyable experience. Due to time constraints I only got to see two of the bands.... but they were both brilliant. First up was Rita Hosking, supported by multi instrumentalist Sean Feder, a husband and wife duo from the US, playing Rita's songs which are mainly based on her life and upbringing amongst the lumber camps in northern California. Lovely soulful singing from Rita, with tasty licks and fills on banjo, dobro and harmony vocals from Sean, set the scene for an afternoon of great music.

Next up were The Grass Mountain Hobos from Canada (2010 ECMA Bluegrass Recording Artist of The Year). A barnstorming collective of wonderful musicians with a mixed set of traditional and home grown material, all done in an exuberant, classy and technically brilliant style. They exploded into view with the wonderful 'Red Headed Woman', with dynamic frontman Josh Ellis on guitar and vocals keeping the whole thing moving along with his banter and superb singing (brilliant yodel on 'Cowboy's Lament). Star of the lineup for me was Gordie MacKeeman on fiddle. With a style reminiscent of the late John Hartford, he whipped up a storm and delivered new licks in just about every tune, with high energy, the occasional buck dance step and an obvious relish for the music. 'Turkey in the Straw' was simply wonderful!

I attended this event last year and thought this year's was much better. Generally the line up was imho better class, so perhaps the event is gaining some momentum and popularity. The weather helped of course, and there was a great crowd who were obviously loving the music, me included!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Double Trouble!

Two of our lovely puppies left home yesterday (not the ones pictured I hasten to add). Marley and Jasper went to their new owners in Leeds and Whitburn respectively, leaving their two brothers and two sisters behind. No tears were shed by them or their mother at this parting as far as we were able to tell, and soon these two cheeky sisters were snuggling up to one another as if nothing had happened. Three more go over the next three weeks and the last one (her on the right) is subject to discussions regarding her future abode... ie; either here in Cramlington or somewhere else!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Scribes Summer Exhibition

The Society of Northumbrian Scribes Summer Exhibition 'Let Calligraphy Flourish' will be at Bede's World, Jarrow from Thursday 5th August until Wednesday 8th September. Hope you can try to get along and view some of the gorgeous work done by the Society. Here are my three offerings for this years' show...

Wednesday, 30 June 2010


We've got puppies coming out of our ears up here. Well... six of them if truth be told. Gorgeous, fluffy little cuteness-on-a-stick cockerpoodles they are, all reared by the lovely Gracie, with a little help from The Lady Brenda. Sorry to disappoint you... they're all sold!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Labour of Love

Here you see the product of a number of weeks work and stress as I prepare to submit pieces for my CLAS (Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society) Foundation Diploma before next week. Four calligraphic pieces plus two short essays will hopefully get me on this first step of the CLAS 'Ladder of Progress'. Intermediate level next followed by Advanced... probably a couple of years down the line. All a challenge and very good discipline, but thankfully critiqued, advised and overseen by the expert eyes of SM. Thanks Susan!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

A family affair...

I was at the christening of my niece's son today. Here are the lovely family with Lucas being pretty well behaved and big sister Eva helping out at certain important points in the ceremony

I made a keep-sake to mark the occasion for the little fella, and Eva got one too as I missed her dunking four years ago.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

May 17th (syttende mai) Norwegian National Day

Tomorrow is the Norwegian National Day. A national holiday for the nation and the day when they celebrate the signing of their constitution at Eidsvoll in 1814. All over the country people will be out with flags in their communities, processing in 'togs' (trains) through the town and generally having a ball. Lots of music, food and fun also mark the day, as I experienced in Kaupanger, Sogn some years ago with my friends Eivind and Astrid.

Norway must be one of the few countries where showing the flag by it's citizens with some pride is not accompanied by extreme or arrogant nationalism, but simply a love of their country and the ability to enjoy and share it.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Thursday, 6 May 2010

She's Always a Woman - Billy Joel

This beautiful song by Billy Joel has recently been revived by John Lewis as part of their marketing campaign. Great lyrics and a gorgeous melody make it a truly memorable song.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Paul Brady - The Island

A brilliant song, beautifully sung by its author, one of my favourite songwriters. If you were thinking that you had a cause to fight and that it might be worth considering violence to achieve your ends, then you could do worse than listen closely to the words of this song.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Hello in there...

My buddy Alan Scott sends me these funnies occasionally. This one particularly made me chuckle...

An elderly couple had dinner at another couple's house, and after eating, the wives left the table and went into the kitchen.
The two gentlemen were talking, and one said, 'Last night we went out to a new restaurant and it was really great.. I would recommend it very highly.'
The other man said, 'What is the name of the restaurant?'
The first man thought and thought and finally said, 'What is the name of that flower you give to someone you love?
You know.... The one that's red and has thorns.'
'Do you mean a rose?'
'Yes, that's the one,' replied the man. He then turned towards the kitchen and yelled, 'Rose, what's the name of that restaurant we went to last night?'

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

CLAS AGM in that London

A trip a couple of weeks ago to the Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society AGM at the British Library. I joined CLAS last year so this was my first experience of being at one of their events and getting to know a few people, see some superb work, and generally imbibe the atmosphere around a gathering of some top calligraphers.

First off was the business AGM, election of officers etc; all very capably led through by chair Janet Meghan, with a skilful mix of serious intent and humour.At lunchtime a wonderful exhibition 'Art & The Letter' with work submitted from CLAS members. I liked the fact that they mixed up the three elements - 'Beginner, More Experienced, Advanced' all over the exhibition. Some brilliant stuff as you can see. Managed to limit myself to one purchase from the book stall - Edward Johnston's definitive 'Writing, Illuminating and Lettering', a paperback bargain at £4!

After lunch a lecture with Professor Ewan Clayton and Dr Manny Ling, from the Sunderland University, Calligraphy Centre of Excellence. Fascinating sharing of their very different approaches to their craft, with lovely insights as to their backgrounds and also some spiritual influences.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Deer... right here... in Cramlington

Spotted these four lovely deer feeding on the field this morning across from our house in Cramlington. Country ways... country ways!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Happy 10th Birthday Leon!

Our grandson Leon is ten years old today. Here's a picture of him with his dad just before they went on holiday to Finland earlier this year. Also here is a special track that his dad wrote for his big day. I have to admit it brought a tear to my eye listening to it. Happy 10th birthday Leon... hope you have a great day!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

In the beginning was the Word... or in this case perhaps the Letter!

I recently bought what many are coming to consider the closest thing there is to the 'bible' of typography. There are many books around which are written for designers and typographers, and are mainly to do with typographic design and how to arrange type in terms of graphic composition, but this book - The Elements of Typographic Style, by Robert Bringhurst - deals with much more than that. Go here for a good review of the book by Roy Johnson.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Half Term in that London

A half term trip to visit the southern contingent of children and grandchildren. A mixture of busy-ness and chilling, travelling in the capital, plodging around in the rain, a gorgeous Thai meal with Aaron and Nicola, playing with the grandkids and a quick visit to the National Portrait Gallery!... listening to Angel play her violin, watching 'UP' with the Toggies.... oh.... and Emma died her hair red... beautiful!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Poppy plays the cello!

Here is our eleven year old granddaughter Poppy, who was playing the cello last night and performing with 300 other children from Islington schools 'Music First' project. A cute picture... but nothing really remarkable about this I suppose you might say, except that Poppy has been profoundly deaf from birth, and has a *cochlear implant. Wow Poppy you are amazing!

(*A cochlear implant bypasses the damaged part of the ear and sends sound directly to the hearing nerve providing a clearer understanding of sound and speech).

Why we need good typographers...

Chile mint boss pays the price of coin spelling howler
The general manager of the Chilean mint has been dismissed after thousands of coins were issued with the name of the country spelt wrongly...
More here

Thursday, 11 February 2010

White on White at Higham Hall

Here's a few of the pieces I produced on the calligraphy weekend at Higham Hall. The subject of the workshop was 'White on White', using Dr Marten's bleedproof white on chinese and other papers. Most of the time was spent experimenting and having fun with different mediums and tools. There were only five people on the course so plenty of individual tuition for us all. BTW if you've never been to HH it's well worth a visit, with plenty of courses to suite most tastes... and the food is truly wonderful!

Emmylou Harris and Albert Lee - Making Believe

One of my favourite singers and a brilliant version of this great song by Jimmy Work.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Off to Higham Hall

I'm off this weekend to Higham Hall, near Cockermouth in Cumbria. I'm attending a calligraphy course and Manny Ling is the teacher. I've been looking forward to it for ages and I'm hoping to put a few of my current worries aside to focus on learning new skills and producing some decent work. I'll let you know how I get on.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Snow Action at Crammy... Surf Action at Tynemouth

Another six inches of snow on Friday night made everything look gorgeous again.

Today was also a fine one, with a nice walk on Tynemouth Longsands, with kayaks and surfboards akimbo! This guy got stuck on the beach as the tide continued to recede...
Eventually a kindly wave came by to get him afloat once more...
In time to join his mates who were already in the thick of the action...Whilst the serious surfer dudes strode purposely down the beach to enter the fray, or should that be spray!