Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Big Hoot!

Wild in Art, the lovely people behind numerous public art events, have taken over Birmingham with a fabulous display of giant painted owls. You may remember in 2013 they did a very popular exhibition with large figures of Gromit the dog, all over Bristol.

Now we have The Big Hoot, taking place in various locations around Brum. I already managed to spot about a dozen owls in the city centre. Here is Jack for starters, by artist Martin Band. Jack is situated by the Hall of Memory in Centenary Square.

There were lots of families out following the owl trail while I was in town. At the most popular spots, people were queuing for their chance to pose with the owls.

This one is Ozzy's Owl, designed by Ozzy Osbourne and Graham Frank Wright. Birmingham is Ozzy Osbourne's home town. I think his owl represents him very well. He's located in New Street, handy for the station.

It's interesting to see how the artists who have painted the owls have drawn on inspiration from the city. The next one is the Wise Old Owl, which reflects the architecture of the new Library of Birmingham. The artists for this one were Kieron Reilly and Lynsey Brecknell. It's outside the library, obviously.

As a side note, on our local news last night there was a report that Birmingham libraries have no money to buy new books! So, we have the biggest public library in Europe, which only opened two years ago at a cost of £189 million, operating on reduced opening hours and unable to afford books! ( I do get incensed by these things.) Apparently some branch libraries around Birmingham are appealing for donations of books published in the last twelve months, particularly fiction.

Anyway, back to owls, with One Giant Hoot for Owlkind, by Vicky Scott. This one recalls the 1960s enthusiasm for space travel. It's by St Philips Cathedral.

And just one more for today. Bluey. I adore this owl, in the Great Western Arcade. It looks right at home in the beautifully restored Victorian setting. Bluey is by artist Natalie Guy, and is reminiscent of blue and white china.

I hope to see a few more owls over the summer. They're in the city until September 27th, then will be auctioned to raise money for Birmingham Children's Hospital. I might put one on my Christmas list!

Do let me know if you're out owl spotting this summer.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

What a hoot!

There's an interview with me at Susan Jane Jones's lovely blog. For a change I talk mostly about writing, with a bit less on dogs and sewing.

More about owls in my next post.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Stepping Stones

Oooh, look. Last time I blogged, it was Christmas. Now it's summer! All winter I barely wrote a word. My concentration was nil. I wasn't even reading much. Generally, if I'm not reading, I'm not writing either. The one activity seems to fire up the other somehow.

Harvey is still tootling along, albeit at a slower pace now he is approaching twelve. Thank you to everyone who has enquired about him during my absence from the blog.

February saw the purchase of my latest toy. It's an overlocker! (If you're reading this in America, you will probably know this better as a serger.) Four spools of thread, two needles, two loopers. Intimidating at first. Incredibly fast compared with the regular machines I've used before. Pretty soon I was rattling away on it, and now my ordinary sewing machine seems slow.

Since then I've done a lot of sewing with knit fabrics, including several of these T shirts, below, adapted from a free downloadable pattern by Maria Denmark. I can run one up for a pound or two if I get to the market early for the best remnants. We'll turn a blind eye to the cost of the overlocker, won't we?

Then I became a bag lady, and made four of these totes. Once I get onto a theme, I seem reluctant to let it go! The blue one is my new writing bag, in case I go to any groups or workshops, and I sewed the red one for my work colleague. I like the fact that I still get to see it every day, and make sure she is treating it right. No heavy vegetables or leaky drinks, please.


Finally in March I had a sudden urge to begin writing again. I always knew I would, but I refuse to feel guilty if my brain needs to take an extended break for a while. There is so much else to do in life. I was lucky to sell the first story I sent out in this new writing phase, otherwise I may have returned to my mission to overlock everything in the house.

I feel as if the months of frantic sewing were a stepping stone between one episode of writing and the next. There's a difference between how I felt about my writing in the autumn (slightly jaded) and how I feel now (full of ideas and just wanting to get on with it!) So it was time to revamp the blog, with thanks to Keith Havers for the inspiration for the little collage of some places where I've been published.

Even so, all my human endeavours seem very small, when you see what a tiny robin can make using pure instinct and natural resources. Amazing, isn't it?





Sunday, 14 December 2014

Bears, wolves, and a bit more sewing.

I think it must be Christmas. A giant, slightly scary bear has appeared in our local shopping centre.
November never seems to be a good month for us. This one was no different, and passed in a blur. Harvey has been diagnosed with a kind of dog dementia, presenting us with some new and unusual behaviours. We have been up at all hours of the night, Harvey wanting to do strange things at even stranger times.

It all reminded me of an elderly couple I looked after many years ago. I used to stay with them overnight, because they would try to go out shopping at 3a.m. This was long before the days of 24 hour opening. I had to keep their house keys in my shoe, knowing that if they couldn't find they keys they would eventually give up and go back to bed. They were lovely really, and it was so sad.

Anyway, with various changes of routine we've managed to get Harvey more settled. He is very well and happy in himself, and has been getting in touch with his inner wolf. This week he ate a bird in the garden, feathers and all. Whatever is going on in his brain it's clear his digestion is as robust as always.

My concentration has been dreadful, so I haven't been reading or writing much. One of the best things this year is that I've totally fallen in love with sewing again. Yesterday I went on a course at Stitch Solihull where I made this!

Sorry the photo is looking slightly grainy. My camera hasn't been quite right lately either. I think I changed the settings and now I can't get them back. Actually, if you click on the photo to see it bigger then it's a lot better. I wonder why that is. Oh well - the course was great and I sense a purse making frenzy coming on!

If I'm not back in blogland before Christmas, I hope you all have a merry one.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Margate, ghosts, mermaids

I am pleased to say that I have a story included in The Day Death Wore Boots, a collection of ghost stories from Alfie Dog Fiction. Mine was originally published in Writing Magazine in 2007, after winning the summer ghost story competition the previous year.



There is also a story from writing friend, Angela Pickering. Last month Angela and I spent a lovely weekend in Kent. Here we are, windblown in Margate.  (Thanks to Biddy for the photo and for showing us the sights.)
 
And here is the Folkestone mermaid, who has the most wonderful view, but must feel a bit chilly in the winter. However, I still rather wish I could spend every day gazing at the sea, like her. It's not a bad life, is it?
 


Saturday, 30 August 2014

Harvey's sponsored bark

Arrff! Harvey here again.

Mrs Boss says she's going to put me into a sponsored bark. She's figured out how to do it. One day, not so long ago, I wandered innocently into the dining room. Lo and behold, there was a new door in there. And standing inside this door was a golden retriever, about my size, but not as handsome.

The other dog barked at me. I barked back.

The other dog's hackles rose. So did mine.

The other dog growled, and snarled, and got fiercer and fiercer. So did I!

Then Mrs Boss ran down the stairs, asking where the burglars were. Burglars? There was only me - and the mystery dog, of course.

Then Mrs Boss picked up the new door - which wasn't a door at all! She said it was a full length mirror. She'd just bought it, on account of doing more dressmaking and needing to keep her hems straight. She said the other dog was only me reflected in the mirror. I didn't believe her. I'm much better looking than that other dog. But I had to admit I couldn't find that dog anywhere in the house. Not even a sniff of him.

Mrs Boss hid the mirror down the side of the bookcase. She says if she ever wants me to bark and bark and bark, she'll get it out again. And perhaps people could sponsor me to raise money for dogs who don't have nice gardens to dig up, or plenty of windfall apples to gorge themselves silly on.

So on Tuesday I was just having a little practice bark outside. I didn't think anyone would notice over the din of Mr Boss mowing the lawn. And then... silence. Mr Boss had run over the electric cable with the mower! And he had the nerve to blame me for distracting him! He's gone to buy a new mower now. Mrs Boss is reviewing the life insurance.

Since the nights began to draw in, Mrs Boss has been knitting. I don't know what's happened to her writing. She says neither does she.

She did have a little piece published for National Flash Fiction Day in June. It's right here.

But she is optimistic about having some writing news next month. It's September, you see, which is one of her favourite months. A time for new plans, she says. And new slippers too. On Wednesday she went to the park in her old ones. Talk about embarrassing. I had to laaarrrrfffff!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Even when the road is bumpy...

Some pot holes are heart shaped!