Wednesday, 8 November 2017

WWI - Voices of our Grandfathers and others

1. WWI - Voices of our Grandfathers heard from our mouths and the mouths of others

Families grow up with their own war stories. Conversation often sparks the recollection of an all too familiar tale, repeated for the umpteenth time, though the fascination for us youngsters never wanes.

The experiences of our grandfathers/great-grandfathers serving in the World Wars are particularly sketchy for most.

My grandfather, Arthur Tatt, experienced warfare in WWI. I know that whatever his contribution was, he, (like the rest of the disillusioned souls who returned home) was once prepared to die for his country, and, yes, he had survived but he had been a victim in a different sense. 

We know that the situation wasn’t good for many after their return from mainland Europe at the end of the Great War. A large percentage had been left injured, disabled and mentally scarred. Many bewildered by public opinion and alienating attitudes on their return; and jobs were hard to find.
Grandfather Arthur, alongside my grandmother, Violet (Dolly) 

Arthur took on a trade. He repaired cars. He worked for Mann Egerton & Co. a retailer and service centre of automobiles at a car showroom and garage in central Norwich, in Norfolk. Over the course of time he was promoted to a supervisory position. Stories of him paint a picture of somebody rather harsh. From rural Northamptonshire originally, a farm worker and horse handler. Later, he, and my grandmother, Violet (known as Dolly), raised seven children; money was tight. They lived in a local authority dwelling on a council estate that was newly built after the end of WWII situated to the west of Norwich centre.

Arthur was regimental, controlling and strict (especially with the girls). His third son, my late father, served an apprenticeship at the same place of work as he. Rebellious and defiant, my Dad purposely provoked Arthur on several occasions, developing the skill to play on his nerves. In later years, with regret, my Dad realised that his immature actions had let the old man down. Likewise, the sudden acts of violence Arthur had once set upon my dad, gave way to an eventual mellowing of spirit over the years.

Dolly had died a year before my birth, but I remember Arthur handing me glacier mints on the only visit to his home that I can recall making. That sweet mint must have cleared my mind for this is one of my earliest memories…He was so lovely that day - kind and gentle.

Arthur died in the mid to late 1960s. I guess my Dad and he weren’t particularly close in later years, this may be the reason why my mum can’t readily recall much about Arthur’s roles in both the Boer War or The Great War when I prompt her for information. I know that Arthur served under the 12th Lancers but I remain uninformed to this day, as to where and how he was involved in the WWI conflict. I believe he was in the transport division and that could have involved the horses I assume. He returned home to England in 1915., through injury perhaps? Or it may be he was in one of early cavalry involvement, so if he were in the trenches he wasn’t long serving in those hell holes. Arthur lost a first cousin in the war, George Tatt (aged 18) his name appears on the War Memorial in the village of Ramsey, Northamptonshire.

We know a little more about the young life of my husband’s grandfather, Edward Flynn. I’m not sure whether or he enlisted at the outbreak of war in 1914 or was conscripted in. I know the depleted ranks of soldiers as the war continued on meant that Edward fought in all of the major, devastating battles of WWI. Edward’s regiment had to be constantly regrouped and renamed because of heavy losses.

A feisty character, small in stature, ex-boxer and gymnast from the North East, later moved down to a mining village in North Warwickshire, with his wife and five children, just before the outbreak of WWII, to work in a coal mine.

Again, there were no stories of trench life around the tea table when my husband, John sat with his grandparents there. No talk of mud digging; gas attacks; the wounded; the dead. That would have been enough to choke on your bread and butter, so few tales were told of the horrors he must have witnessed. These people, who could otherwise tell a cracking good yarn with a relative ease, were silent on the subject. I guess there was never a time or place that was appropriate.

Can we even begin to imagine what Edward endured? From life in the trenches - to life working underground in coal mines– and eventually dying of coal dust coating his lungs. What quality of life did he really have? I know that he lost a brother in the first war, and another in a mining accident. And, after fighting so bravely in the WWI and having been subjected to so much pain and suffering, and, above all, had survived all of that– he must have been filled with deep trepidation in later years, struggling to come to terms with the fact that his son(s) potentially, faced similar adversity, being called up to fight for ‘King and Country’ in WWII. So cruel.

I’m sure that many people feel astonished and incredulous, the same as John and I, in regard to their own family war memories and histories. There has been much interest in the BBCOne series ‘Who Do You Think You Are? in recent years. With celebrities trailing his or her family war related history in an effort to shed new light on the ‘word of mouth’ stories they’d grown-up hearing.

Though evidence is scant and war records are largely inconclusive, it is clearer to us in our more emphatic state on the subject, being more educated and more aware in recent times about the history behind the world wars, that their first-hand horrific experiences would have greatly affected those people.

It is not my place to consider Edward’s personality and positioning after the first war, but what I know about Arthur and the view I have formed of him through hearing those family stories...could it be that the condition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), widely reported by many of our suffering ex-service men and women, may have had some bearing on his sometimes-volatile character? He seemed to be so angry – and yet…did he require a special kind of support that his own people were unable to give him? Or was it regarded by many that he should just be thankful to be alive?

I wonder what Arthur and Edward were like when they were young boys. I wonder what they experienced in battle as young men. What horrors had they endured?

Were they left with an inner torment?

Did they suffer from shellshock?

Did they lose close friends?

Did they sit knee deep in mud for days on end?

Were they lice riddled?


Scared stiff?


Were they emotionally scarred?

Were their lives shattered forever?

2. Voices from the Second World War 

As a child born in the 60s, there was very much a feeling of putting the war stories to bed at the time, the emphasis was on looking forward and not harping back to such bleak times. On hindsight, my generation were uninformed, naive, indifferent even, and people readily dismissed talk of war, as something that happened a long, long time ago. Thankfully, for the last couple of decades with WWI and WWII being on the curriculum for schools, our children and their generation are fully conversant of these dark periods in recent history and us sixties/seventies kids have a better understanding and new found appreciation of the sacrifice of others. There's a book out called 'Voices from the Second World War' where first person accounts of WWII are conveyed to youngsters either face to face, through letters and through talks etc. Chapters include witnesses (some who went on to be famous for doing other things) sharing their memories of experiencing the Blitz and of being an evacuee; some speak of their combative and bombing roles by RAF war planes and armies fighting on the land; with poignant memories being shared of what was going on at the Home Front too. There are also accounts from the naval perspective: Contributors include Eve Branson talking to  Livvy and Poppy Le Butt about her role as a Wren, and Peter Western Dolphin when he joined the Navy.  There are stories of the Holocaust including author, Judith Kerr's sharing her own family story, and Margaret Clapham tells her grandchildren what it is was like to arrive in England as one of the Kindertransport children.  Sir Harold Atcherley tells school girl, Seraphina Evans about his experience of being a Japanese prisoner of war and Takashi Tanemori describes what happened  when living under the of the atom bomb attack on Hiroshima. There's talk of D-Day landings, of resistance movements, the downfall of once powerful people, and European countries being completely broken. 


comment: this book mirrors the aims and objectives of Radio 4's listening project as an example. Fascinating reading and useful educationally

Friday, 3 November 2017

Picture Book Party: The making of The Boy from Mars by Simon James

illustration by Simon James for Walker Books UK

Sharing a blog post from Walker Books UK in which author, Simon James shares how he went about creating the content for his Picture Book - The Boy from Mars.

To find out more Click on over:

Picture Book Party: The making of The Boy from Mars by Simon James: The heart-warming story of a little boy who misses his mum from award-winning author–illustrator Simon James. The day that Stanley’s mu...

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Illustrator #1 - Peggy Fortnum

Peggy Fortnum - Illustrator B. 1919 D. 2016 aged 96 years
Fortnum was the first illustrator to pair with the late children's author, Michael Bond to illustrate his famous Paddington Bear stories

Margaret Emily Noel “Peggy” Fortnum
 was born in London in 1919. The youngest of six children. Fortnum was interested in painting and drawing from a young age. She attended St Margaret’s school, Harrow on the Hill, and then enrolled at Tunbridge Wells School of Art in 1939. Wartime interrupted her training, but eventually Fortnum did return to art school, this time she attended the Central School of Art, London and found her distinctive style. Fortnum enjoyed regular work and ongoing success, producing illustrative work commissioned by many others aside from Bond and his publishers of Paddington for many years. 

The first volume of Paddington Bear stories were published over a 10 year span:


Illustrator Peggy Fortnum's drawing of Mr Brown and Paddington based on this original family photograph you see above - Image Source BBC Radio's Last Word 

Fortnum contributed hugely in presenting Paddington Bear, and the Browns' and their London base so visually, and so charmingly, in non-fussy black and white (pen and ink) line drawings.

Young children of the sixties came to love the stories of the marmalade-loving bear from darkest Peru. 
Fortnum took turns with others including Fred 
Banbery (from 1972) to continually illustrate 

Ivor Wood developed a cartoon version of Paddington from 1975 for TV and for comic strips published in the London Evening Standard.  In the eighties, David McGee took over the mantle for Picture book illustrating  new stories by Bond geared for young readers. 

Barry Macey was the in-house artist with Paddington & Co Ltd and his works appears on related merchandising and anything Paddington Bear themed at the time. With the stories being re-illustrated by RW (Bob) Alley since the 1990's. 

In 1998 the books were relaunched in celebratory 40th birthday editions using Fortnum’s original illustrations.
Peggy Fortnum at work in the 1980's
Photograph: The Guardian (who obtained by permission of Essex County Newspapers)

The BAFTA winning film from StudioCanal held the No.1 spot at the UK box office in December 2014 so proved to have wide appeal for young and old(er)

 Paddington 2 is in UK cinemas from November 10th. See official first look trailer

Because Paddington is set to star in this second movie, The puzzle box picture (see below)  depicts a colourful portrait of Paddington and the design by Paddington and Company Ltd., I think it shows off perfectly this wonderful and well-loved little storybook character, who has such history and affection attached to him

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Project 14 - Whittling Away

From Snitte: The Danish Art of Whittling
by Frank Egholm
ISBN 9781849944403
Published by Batsford
Whittling (meaning): to pare down; to take away by degrees (usually followed by down, away, etc.). Snitte (meaning) is the Danish Word for the Art of Whittling

Getting Started :

Basic whittling is simply cutting and shaping (handheld) wood with a pocket knife. If you intend to get creative doing this kind of woodworking there are considerations as the activity involves the use of a sharp knife and many projects involve cutting tools (some electric).  Suitable for 12 years (with adult supervision until more proficient) to adult. Wear thick safety gloves and finger/thumb guards for protection and safety goggles 

Design template:
It is best to draw an outline of a simple design on to a pre-cut wooden block of sorts. Ideal wood for whittling is: Pine, Basswood; Lime; Poplar; Alder. The shape can be cut out of the block using a scroll saw with a strong clad, or jigsaw with a narrow blade for curves.You can also use a fretsaw/hand scroll saw, or a band saw with a narrow blade. Visit G&S Specialist: Retailer of timber, and of wood carving tools here.

Rough cutting: sit, with knife in one hand and the wooden template in the other and start making small cuts (always cut away from the body). Using a support is better, a tree stump for example or a block of wood. Use various cutting motions achieved by manipulating the knife blade across the wood and changing thumb positioning and knife action

Paring: when paring you switch to making smaller cuts to shape more finely and to define, when paring you cut toward the body. This requires more dexterity and it is more dangerous, so be extra vigilant of the safety considerations

Note: Tips presented above are based on the content of woodworker, Frank Egholm's 'The Danish Art Of Whittling SNITTE' a book which Danishman Egholm goes on to whittle an assortment of birds which he brings to life by adding colour and other extras, turning them into mounted sculptures, functional objects and decorations for the home and garden
Thinking about giving it a go? Search for suppliers of wood and Whittling tools, and Whittling and carving organisations online.
########################################################################### Watch the YouTube video because it visually explains the basics that have been outlined above.

Monday, 23 October 2017

GHOST STORIES - M.R. JAMES Book of the Week

Book Cover - The Folio Society, London 2017 edition of M.R. James GHOST STORIES
M.R. James - Ghost Stories
Hardcover: 273 pages 
Publisher: The Folio Society 2017 
Language: English 
Illustrations by James McBryde reproduced courtesy of King's College, Cambridge


16 short stories. On AllHallow's Eve, 1904 M. R. James said this about his stories 'If any of them succeed in causing their readers to feel unpleasantly uncomfortable when walking along a solitary road at nightfall, or sitting over a dying fire in the small hours, my purpose in writing them will have been attained'.

1. Canon Alberic's Scrapbook - is set in St. Bertrand's Church near Toulouse, 1883. An Englishman, when visiting the church, is encouraged to buy an old notebook (see illustration below)
Ghost Theme is connected to two sheets of paper that the buyer finds at the end of the book

Illustration by James McBryd reproduced courtesy of King's College, Cambridge

2. Lost Hearts - the year is 1811 and an elderly cousin invites a young orphan boy to live at his home
Ghost Theme is the traditional creepy house setting with strange happenings occurring

3. The Mezzotint is a horror short story that centres around an old engraving
Ghost Theme is of a vengeful ghost who has a score to settle

4.  The Ash-Tree is a witch's story. A story about myth and legend and often about what the view from the window of the house presents 
Ghost Theme -there's a clue in the title

5. Number 13 A scary tale of a mystery room in an Inn. After confusion and weird happenings at the Golden Lion, Jensen and Anderson share the Number 14 Room for the night
Ghost Theme - this is a proper ghost story actually, that allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions 

6. Count Magnus Bram Stoker's Dracula would have been in the public domain at the time of writing this short story . This is James's take on a Gothic style horror
Ghost Theme - a vampire story more like, and when Wraxall sees two figures in cloaks from his coach he knows he's doomed

7. Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad It's like another Victorian explorer story. A scholarly type, with his skepticism and disregard for the sacred, unearths inscriptions on an ancient ruin. So from there on in it's bad news for the professor. 
Ghost Theme See what happens! He's cursed! He'll be forever haunted

 8. The Treasure of Abbot Thomas strange words and letters form clues left by a disgraced Abbot leads to a dreadful place rather than a pot at the end of a rainbow
Ghost Theme here, better described as a supernatural theme, and the story is about one man's effort to rationalize all of the freaky happenings

9. A School Story a creepy tale involving school master, Mr Samson, who brings up a Latin phrase in class. When his pupils hand in their papers, he has an extra paper, one with a different Latin phrase written on it. Next day Mr Samson has gone, and he never returns
Ghost Theme is a cruel prediction that comes true

10. The Rose Garden as you might guess all is not rosy in this garden
Ghost Theme is connected to a seventeenth century burial

11. The Tractate Middoth Young Garrett is searching for a book in the library on someone's behalf. A smelly, rather dusty Parson is interested in the same book. Garrett meets a family caught in a legal wrangle. A Will is missing
Ghost Theme enters this three way story which involves the dust of a dead man, found on the face and inside the mouth of another man who has just died

12. Casting the Runes That awful Mr Karswell! He is unpleasant and frightening to the children. Best not be critical of his work. Do you know what happened to the last person who reviewed his book! Yes, that's right, he died.
Ghost Theme with a twist

13. The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral Another cathedral set short story where there has been a mystery death, and another with a gorgeously authentic story book title.
Ghost Theme a murder mystery better describes this one

14. Martin's Close The jury's in and Martin (Pris) stands accused of the murder of young, Ann Clark
Ghost Theme the jury's out when an apparition of Ann (visible only to Martin) makes him appear distracted and behave guiltily about the crime during his time in the dock

15. Mr Humphreys and His Inheritance being the beneficiary of his uncle's estate, strange secrets are unfolding, like a mystery maze for example. A Yew tree (Yews a common feature in James's stories) and shrubbery are on Humphrey's mind. Feeling tired and anxious when tracing a plan for Lady Wardrop he eventually finds himself confined to bed after a shock.
Ghost Theme comes in the shape of strange occurances

16 A Warning to the Curious a seaside setting, involving a death (or two), an Anglo-Saxon crown and mound; a night time expedition and a murder. 
Ghost Theme two sets of tracks in the sand: 'the track of a bare foot, and one that showed more bones than flesh' sums it up


Also available this autumn by The Folio Society Agatha Christie's 'And Then There Were None
Illustrations by David Lupton 

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Two 'Ready to paint in 30 minutes' in Watercolour - Book Reviews

Pic 1

Pic 2

Pic 3

Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – Flowers in Watercolour 
 Author Ann Mortimer 
(Search Press ISBN 978-1-78221-519-6) 

Review is by guest contributor, Sue W from Leicestershire, UK


Having just had a handful of ‘beginners’ watercolour lessons and finding them very challenging I was introduced to this book. Wow! I found it to be very exciting and inspiring. For people new to painting and to watercolour this is the book for you. You don’t even need to be able to draw! 

The book is full of ideas, tips and projects for you to work through. Each chapter leads on to new and interesting techniques to learn such as ‘spattering’, ‘wax resist’ and the use of salt. For those who find drawing difficult as I do tracings are provided of the flowers, leaves and seed heads featured so there is no excuse not to get started! Each ‘tracing’ is carefully cross referenced to the relevant project and page where you will find step-by-step instructions to lead you through the painting techniques needed to complete your chosen project. 

At the beginning of the book there is information about the basic equipment needed. A list of the paint colours used throughout is given but as well as their names there is also a colour chart. I found this a great help as it meant I could mix the colour I needed if I didn’t have the particular paint mentioned. 

As it is now autumn I decided to have a go at the leaf (see Pic 1). This involved painting ‘wet-in- wet’. I particularly enjoyed trying out the effect of ‘spatter spots’. Painting the ‘Anemone with shadows’ picture (pic 2) introduced the idea of using ‘negative space’ to keep areas white, and of using masking fluid to reserve areas of the paper from the paint in order to add a different colour at a later stage. The background to the flowers is achieved using the ‘wet-in-wet’ method whereas to deepen the shadow and add detail required ‘wet-on-dry’. My most successful picture was achieved using wax resist to paint a picture of Honesty seed heads (see Pic 3). I was very happy with the result at just my first attempt! 

If you love flowers and have always wanted to paint them then this book is for you.


Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – Street Scenes in Watercolour 
Author Graham Booth 
(Search Press ISBN 978-1-782-21415-1)

Review is by guest contributor, Cheryl H from Birmingham, UK  


The artwork in the book is beautiful, and excitingly this step-by-step project book really makes the beginner believe they can achieve - and they can! There are 32 projects, gradually adding new techniques. I think in time, without perhaps realising, the beginner could produce some great pieces of art. I really appreciated the tracings which mean you don't feel pressure to become a great drawer and a great painter at the same time, and you don't have to face the daunting 'blank page' before you start painting. The pencil lines form part of the finished piece of work. The small sizes of paintings also help as a beginner as its easy to paint on your lap or a table, and there's no need to worry about mixing huge quantities of paint or stretching the paper. I have worked through the first 4 projects up to now, which varied in their outcomes but, while the finished pieces are reasonable, its important to remember the book is about learning, not making masterpieces. At the start of the book there is some information about equipment and colours but to be honest, I'd have liked a bit more info here, so I could identify types of brushes for example, and more on how to prepare and use a palette as I struggled preparing my colour mixes. I'd have also liked a page with a palette image of the colours which are used throughout the book, so when the artist states he uses Windsor Red, for example, I could find my closest match. One of the best things about this book is that rather than technique exercises you learn the technique within a piece of work, so you end with finished pieces of work, and you can see why the different techniques are important. I'm looking forward to continuing with the book, and it'd perhaps be interested to then go back to the beginning and compare my second attempts and see my improvements. I'd be very happy to recommend this book to a friend who wanted to learn to paint with watercolour, and learn the techniques ready to take on their own projects eventually. 


Friday, 20 October 2017

Q&A with Phil Walker and his Story of Guitar Heroes Touring Show

Phil Walker Artist and Creator of 'Story of Guitar Heroes' Stage Show

A Q&A with Phil Walker, creator of The Story of Guitar Heroes: a live concert style 'rockumentry' which takes the audience on a tour through the history of the guitar giants who have shaped the landscape of music. 

How did you come to think of 'The Story Of Guitar Heroes'? 
It was one of those events in life where a couple of things just happened to line up perfectly and the idea comes together, and you realise this is where your life has been leading you to. I got in from a gig late one night and was winding down watching a BBC show called Guitar Heroes. It got me thinking how amazing it would be to see all these people in one live concert – which obviously isn’t possible as many are no longer with us. I was thinking wouldn’t it be great to capture the sound and ambiance of these guitar heroes in one live show. Over the years I’ve accumulated a vast guitar collection – aside from it having been my day job, I am also self confessed guitar fanatic and addict. And it just seemed this little nugget of a concept was a great chance (excuse!) to put them all on stage and to play each one in the way they were meant to be seen.

Which Heroes have you chosen to portray in the show? 
I wanted it to be a show with something for everyone, but also to really pay tribute to the journey that the guitar has taken. So I start very early on in the history of the guitar with people like Bill Haley, Eddie Cochran, The Shadows, Jimi Hendrix and we work our way up to more modern players like Brian May and Joe Satriani. But we also look at a range of guitarists, so it’s not just the rock genre, but we include people like Tommy Emmanuel, Albert Lee and perhaps people that are less mainstream but who are equally awesome in their talent and contribution to music. 

How have you been able to create such authentic sounds, aside from years of practice? 
We have amazing technology available to us today, and alongside some original guitars, it’s possible to create very authentic sounds from time gone by. So there are some songs where I use very specialist guitars, and others where I use effects to create original sounds (for example, using delay to capture the sounds of The Shadows) or a particular technique, such as the vibrato arm or harmonics. I even use a six pence as a pick for the Brian May/Queen section, which you will know is what Brian May does. It’s surprising as it makes a real difference to the sound, though it took a while to get used to and even now, I have to really be aware of the change between using that and then going back to a normal pick. 

Who were your guitar idols growing up? 
Without a doubt, Hank Marvin got me started. He piqued my interest and then I found a guy called Albert Lee, and so those two from a young age were a huge influence. Oh and Eddie Cochren of course. 

And who are the guitarists you listen to or look up to now? 
Brad Paisley. Steve Lukather. They are worlds apart in playing, but I’ve always loved different and varied styles. 

Who else is performing with you on stage? 
We are a foursome on stage, so alongside me on guitar and lead vocals, there is another guitarist, a bass player and a drummer. The drummer also does some phenomenal vocals. Then there’s the guitars! They sit on the stage and when we play them, we play to show them off – so they are front and centre, more so than the people. So they are very much part of the visual experience and together with the technology we use, create authentic sounds showcasing our guitar heroes. Finally, we have a team of people back stage who have helped create a fantastic piece of film in it’s own right, which runs alongside the live show on giant screens. So it’s hopefully a dynamic and thrilling experience, as it merges the live aspect with recordings of the original artists and footage from the various time periods. 

How many guitars will you be using on stage? 
As I said the guitar, each of them, is very much a key part of the show. I use 15 currently, but collectively as a band we have over 30 in the show. But we constantly add to our collection – all in the name of research of course – so our show is organic and changes as we bring new sounds in, look at different guitar giants and listen to feedback about what the audience would like to see.

Which guitar is your favourite? 
Without a doubt it has to be the one I’ve had the longest. I’ve had it since I was 11 years old; so it’s very much been a companion on this journey with me to this point in my life. It’s my old white fender Stratocaster. 

How long have you been playing guitar? 
I started playing when I was six years old. You’d find me inside listening to music, playing guitar – rather than outside kicking a football around. Not giving my age away, but I’ve only every played guitar/music – I was self taught, but it became my day job and only job I’ve ever had. I’m very fortunate to have a path where I can earn a living doing what I love and now this show feels like a culmination of all those parts coming together. 

DO you play other instruments or are you solely a guitarist? 
No, the guitar is my first love but as a lover of music (and a working musician), but I play several instruments – drums, bass. I do most of the vocals. I write music for my You Tube channel where I demo guitars and other musical equipment. 

Where and when is the show performing? 
We will be at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry on Saturday 27 January 2018, but we have various other dates which you can see on the website, across the UK. 

Website details Website: 
Video Link: 

YouTube Channel: (Phil Walker Guitarist)