Sunday, 17 May 2015

END OF AN ERA, 'Dona Ferens' RIP

CCXXI DONA FERENS (216 Bearing Gifts) Love the humour

The Royal Air Force was formed in 1918 by an amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps and the flying squadrons of the Royal Navy. 

Naval squadrons had their origins preserved by placing a 2 in front of their original number, hence No 16 Squadron Royal Navy became 216 Squadron. Always pronounced 'Two Sixteen.'

I was fortunate enough to join the squadron at a young age, in 1963. We were flying the very first military pure jet transport in the world, the Comet. Whilst we cruised at 40,000 feet and 600 miles per hour the rest of the world trundled along below. Boeing was still designing the 707.

We mainly flew in the passenger role along the routes to Singapore and Hong Kong, Aden Cyprus and Australia with a regular schedule to Washington DC. 

Our Other roles were Aero-medical and Casualty evacuation, where we carried two doctors three nursing sisters and a nursing team. Here we carried 12 stretcher cases and 60 sitting cases. Often from nasty places that didn't like us very much, Aden, Yemen, Iran etc.

I left the Squadron in 1967 for three years on 10 Squadron but returned in 1970 until 1975. In this period we were flew purely in the VVIP role and carried the Royal Family, Heads of States, Ministers of State and 'anybody who was somebody'. We only flew long range and we went everywhere. For example: The Queen around Africa, Princess Alexander to Brazil, Princess Margaret to Nepal, Prince Charles to Australia and Canada. We were the envy of every other Squadron in the RAF and were know, sarcastically, as 'the flying club'. 

"You could always tell 216 Squadron aircrew," it was said, "they were always dressed immaculately   and would, to a man, stand when a lady entered the room."

I accumulated a little over 5000 flying hours with Two Sixteen... and last week they 'laid up the colours' in the village church at Brize Norton. The end of an era. Most of my pals from those early days have slipped the bonds of earth but would be pleased to have never seen the laying up of the Squadron Standard (the Colours) with Battle Honours embroidered on it! 

Sunday, 10 May 2015


I'm still going around in circles. Having designed the workshop I thought it prudent to get other things in order before starting it. 

The garden (yard) needed sorting out, and then there was the matter of the four-poster bed that was almost finished (years ago). I've now completed it in American White Oak - which isn't the easiest of woods (tough) but is well worth the effort. Being a shipwright (boat-builder) influences everything I do, and so you can safely go to sea in this bed; it will withstand the Atlantic gales!!

Then there is Saint David's. St David's is the smallest city in the UK (population circa 2000). In the UK, to be classified as a city a town must satisfy a number of criteria including that it must have a cathedral.

Saint David's is about 5 miles from my home - seems a lot further when driving the narrow twisty country-lanes. 

The Cathedral began as a monastery, founded by Saint David (who is buried there) in the year 589. It was attacked over the years by Vikings and  other marauding bands. Work on the Cathedral began in 1123. 

I have to tell you that it is the most remarkable building and I have no choice other than to lay down my brush and paint and revert to pen & ink to draw this scene:

For those interested, here is the four poster awaiting the drapes and pelmets.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

24, 000 miles Later ...I'M BACK!

Where does one start?

We left London eastbound for Dubai on a 7 hour flight that needed to make an onward connection. We were delayed by Air Traffic, but somehow made the connection with 5 minutes to spare.

Fourteen hours later we landed in Sydney, Australia. Here we were met by my darling granddaughter, Giselle, who drove us to her apartment, where we stayed for just over three weeks. My great-grandson, Logan - who was one year old this month, and I became best friends. 

He is working as an undercover agent with the Secret Service. 

I could spend pages telling you of the fantastic time we had in Australia... and then how we spent 10 days in Qatar, Bahrain and Dubai ... but the most important bit I've just told you about: and that was the time we spent with my best friends, Giselle and 'Topgun' (Logan).

Back home again and realising that when we moved down here to West Wales, we left my wonderful workshops in Yorkshire. I have a great studio ... but the other 'me' desperately needs a workshop and so I've just finished designing one and I'm going to start building it in the next week or so.

Isn't life fun? I just can't wait to start building!!

Sunday, 15 March 2015


Here we are, 12000 miles from West Wales in New South Wales, Australia at Wolli Creek; staying with my granddaughter and our great-grandson, Logan.

85 deg F   
25 deg C

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Painting #50

Nothing special, just a quick still-life to get me back on my feet after the 'flu.

The only comment I have to make is that, fifty paintings ago I would never have dreamt of doing a quick still-life as an exercise to get me painting again; progress is being made.

                                   Still Life            John Simlett
Acrylic on Stretched
 Cotton Canvas
14 x 10 inches
What is of more interest is that we went back to that Country House Hotel in Wiltshire for a few days (See earlier posting) and took photographs of the drawings on the walls of the old place.

Just to remind you: my wife, Pat, saw some drawings andcalled me, saying they looked like mine. We then looked at the name of the artist ... which we though was mine for a while. Here they are:

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Painting #49 Buzkashi

Buzkashi (literally "goat dragging" in Persian) or kokpar is the Central Asian sport in which horse-mounted players attempt to drag a goat or calf carcass toward a goal. It is the national sport of Afghanistan, although it was banned under the Taliban regime.

This is my first attempt at animals. It might not cut it as a painting but I think it is start upon which I can build. I wanted action with lots of dust and movement and nearly got lost in the crazy 'stampede.'

 Could have done with a much larger canvas so that I didn't have to tiddle-about with small brushes

I've put two pictures to show the discrepancy with the photos.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Spring is Approaching

Just thought I would pop in a photograph that I found on the internet of our new home, taken in the summer months. I say new, although suddenly we've been here 5 months.

We are up there in the top right hand corner(ish) ... you can see why the house is named 'Highview.'

I put the photograph in as I have no painting at the moment, but I am researching a new series which is going to involve horses and people... but not in their normal environment, a bit on the wild-side. I have never painted animals before and, as is my want, I'm making the task ridiculously difficult for myself.

Spring is coming!