Archive for September, 2010


September is a time of fallen fruit - here's a selection from the pavement, clockwise from top left, crab apples, lime seed, pine cone and hazelnut...

Throughout 2010 I am revisiting the little green nature book that accompanied my childhood and seeing if the plants and animals featured in its monthly sketchbook pages are still around.

The book is “Wild Life Through the Year” by Richard Morse and it was published in 1942. You can read about earlier months here.

September 2010 in South Wales has been a mixed month with much rain but also some clear blue-sky days. Autumn is definitely (more…)

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Who would have thought I could get lost in the woods in the middle of Cardiff? This is a beautiful sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) canopy...

This is a short teaser for a picture gallery called A city walk on the wild side, so please go there to see lots more pictures…

I once had a creative writing book called “I took my mind a walk” and often wondered where that came from. I find it is from the Scottish poet Norman MacCaig’s poem called “An Ordinary Day”. That’s about a walk by the sea, but the (more…)

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A surprisingly brown house...

When I passed this house the other day I was shocked to see it had been repainted in an unusual chocolate-brown colour. More than anything I was surprised because it took me back immediately to a childhood story I remember.

My Auntie Edna (same one who made the lavender bags, see last blog post), always encouraged me to read and one Christmas she gave me a big blue-cloth-bound book called something like “365 stories – one for every day of the year” (not sure about leap years). It was a modern book with very short stories and colour drawings in an almost cartoon style.

One or two stories were memorable and this is one of them. A family wanted to repaint their house but they couldn’t decide what colour. The mother wanted blue, the father wanted red and the children wanted yellow.

So eventually they decided to compromise. They got a big bucket and poured into it the blue paint, the red paint and the yellow paint. They gave it a big stir. And they ended up with what they considered a very satisfactory chocolate-brown house…

The one pictured above looks a lot like the drawing in the book. It’s actually not a house any more but a nursery school. Maybe they asked all the toddlers what colour they wanted?


The mother wanted blue, the father wanted red and the children wanted yellow...

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Pretty organza bags filled with lavender from Devon Flower Petals - click on the picture to go to their site

The other day I was walking along the street as the city awoke and was suddenly assailed by a strong smell of lavender.


These lavender wands from the Happy Valley lavender farm are a little like my Auntie Edna's lavender parasols - click on the picture to find out how to make them

My first impression was that someone had passed by, wafting perfume, or that an early bird was washing the kitchen or car with lavender-scented cleaner. It is a very (more…)

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An artist's impression of the process of apoptosis or programmed cell death - I think that's a phagocyte or white blood cell on the right, cleaning up the mess

Recently a reader of the newspaper for which I work wrote to ask why on earth we always publish such ridiculous artist’s impressions every time there is an outbreak of a disease (the latest was Legionnaires’ disease).

I explained that we needed an illustration of some sort and couldn’t always take a photograph of a victim. The artist’s impression cost us nothing as it was in our archive already – and anyway the images were pretty and colourful.

I am reminded of this as I illustrate one of my “favourite words” – APOPTOSIS. It’s a (more…)

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Carousel horse by Ric Druet - freedom at last...

A horse’s head was probably the second thing I learned how to draw. I don’t mean at the stage of crayoning matchstick people and houses, but later, around the age of eight or nine, when my talented sister-in-law Vicky started to instruct me (don’t get too excited – I never did become an artist!)


The iconic shape of a horse's head, simply drawn, is a chess knight...

The first thing I learned to draw with a pencil was a human head – a woman with her hair up, Victorian-style, although I never did quite get it right where the head joins on to a body. Then the second image was the profile of a horse. It’s so easy, so stylised, that wonderful curve of jaw and arc of mane. At its simplest it’s a chess knight – but let’s hold our horses, as that iconic form may lead to a whole other blog post.

Here I am looking at that other beautifully seductive form – the carousel horse. I always wanted to ride on one but I very rarely had the chance. Instead I was always persuaded to spend fairground time shying at coconuts and throwing ping-bong balls into goldfish bowls.

What’s the (more…)

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