Saturday 28 July 2012

Not all Awards Belong in the Olympics

To my great surprise I find that Linda ( )has given me a Liebster Blog Award. I usually feel at a loss as what to say or do at such times as this, but luckily, Linda incorporates a lot of rules and things to keep me occupied.

Firstly, thank you, Linda. I'm not sure I have done anything to deserve an award (apart from being totally perfect in every respect!). I will have to work out how to display it though.

It seems that I have to nominate 5 people, with under 200 followers, whom, I think, are worthy of a Liebster Blog Award. This helps a lot, for in the world of Art Blogs, I'm a pygmy amongst giants therefore most of my B-buddies have more followers than I've had hot-dinners!  

Nevertheless, in nominating my 5, I seem to be sending a message to those not nominated - I'm not, honestly, I'd hate anyone to think that ... OK? ... here we go ... I'm not going to patronise them by saying how GOOD their artwork is ... that goes without saying

1  Kathryn over on Wherever I go, there she is supporting everyone. She's supported me since the beginning - thank you, Kathryn.

2 Sherry  She is multi-talented but needs constant reminding that she is .... harp playing, seamstress,  weaver, painter ... 'cos she's too modest!

3 Nicola   because her work is always as uniquely interesting as her narrative, and her care for the underdog.

4  John  we have so much in common and he is such a nice bloke (guy)

NOW YOU SEE THE PROBLEM ... who do I leave out ?

5 To those friends that I could never leave out ... you know who you are... you're on my sidebar.

Next I have to list 5 things you don't know about me!

1. I had a mobile (cell) phone, once - it rang, nobody answered, so I threw it away!

2. I never read newspapers.

3. I can't garden any more but I can still hobble.

4. I find foreign languages impossible to learn - I'm stupid!

5. I find cows more scary than horses. 

Thanks Linda :0))

Celeste asked for my views on the opening ceremony! 

Well ... it was a little complicated in its message. Given that 98% of the audience was not British, not even the most ardent Anglophile would get it. It didn't help that the ceremony had been kept secret and therefore the commentators were playing catchup all the time, and often getting it wrong.

Up to about 1800 most of the population lived in the Southern half of the UK as agricultural workers. That seemed to come across OK, but weird, because the camera cut from one thing to another too quickly. The kids dancing around the Maypole was a missed opportunity.

After 1800 the Agricultural revolution changed the way we  farmed, leading to unemployment. At the same time Industrial Revolution opened up the North of England where coal existed -  the invention of the blast furnaces for steel - etc etc lead to a massive demographic shift to the new northern towns - Grimethorpe and Greaseborough still exist today! (see 'Hard Times' by Charles Dickens). That seemed to work spectacularly well, although the entrance of Sergeant Pepper and the silk clad band mystified me.

The National Health Service must have left the world scratching its head. It is almost a 'secular religion' here, and usually misunderstood. For example, it isn't free - National Insurance is taken from everyone's salary at source - only those not working get it free. Private Medical Insurance is big here as well. There's a lot of history in this .. but this was not the place to show it.

Then the plot seemed to get lost. We had our 7/7 (9/11) with bombs in the underground trains and a bus. The dance scene was almost over before I could work out what it was representing. 

The world of celebrity: Mr Bean, James Bond and JK Rowling  etc was played out to a global audience that generally liked it I guess.

A lot of the rest was down to personal taste - I liked most of the music, but many British Groups not mentioned (the Bee Gee's?)

Overall not too bad ... but leaving a slight feeling of embarrassment. Could have been so much better. 

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Summer Was On A Tuesday This Year! The Rain got Warmer!

We had a week's break across in the eastern county of Norfolk, for no other reasons than we had never been there before and there were some National Trust Houses' we wanted to see.

During the last 100 years or so, increasing numbers of Stately Homes and Estates fell into a state of disrepair. Many reasons for this, but one big contributor was the First World War (1914 - 1918). Here many generations of the 'upper classes' were killed off, leaving nobody to inherit/ run the family estates. The National Trust was set up by a bunch of volunteers, mostly women, who set out to raise funds to rescue the estates. The Trust is now Massive with Millions of members ... not least, Pat & I.

We drove into Norfolk and it reminded me so much of Holland: flat, agricultural, with the 'broads' (canals).
The names of the villages originate from way back in history, and are amusing to modern ears; typically: Little Snoring, Great Snoring, Gayworme and Saracen's Head!


We went to see Peckover House. It was quite interesting and the little building on the extreme left was turned into a small bank which ended up as Barclay's Bank (currently being sued for interest rigging on both sides of the Atlantic!)... It Rained!


We went to see the wonderful Oxbrugh Hall rained!

The family still live here, with lots of grown-up grandchildren. It's nice to find a place where the family haven't all died out 


We went to Felbrigg Hall ... it rained!


We went to Blicking Hall the house that Anne Boleyn was born in, and has at least one ghost ... it didn't rain ..... but ... that night there was the mother-of-all storms and the hotel was almost flooded.

Being both British and waterproof, we had a fantastic time despite the weather.

When asked why, as such a small island race, the British attempted to colonise the world, the answer is simple ... to get away from the weather. 
Yesterday it was blue skies and 30 C ... expect snow tomorrow :0))

I will try to catch up with all my friends blogs ... but have a million urgent tasks to complete before I can even get back to drawing

Saturday 14 July 2012

Last Minute Post....

Before I dash off for the week - here's Low Petergate, York.

Usual thing: out of focus and 25% shading vanished - I'll replace this draft image when it's been through the Giclée scanner/printer.

                                              Low Petergate, York                  John Simlett 2012
Pen & Ink on Cartridge Paper
(8" x 12"      20cms x 30cxms)

The present Minster, which you can just see in the background, stands on the site previously occupied by the Roman praetorium (encampment). It was here in AD306 that Constantine the Great was proclaimed emperor. 

This old street is built on the original main road to the fort - the via principalis.

See you in a week! ..... Saint Swithen's Day tomorrow
If it rains on St. Swithen's Day, then it will rain for 40 days and 40 nights!!   But hey! Who'd notice the difference is the UK at the moment

Wednesday 11 July 2012

The Launch that Sank!

We had intended launching 'the pictures' with our first show at Wentworth last Saturday ... but it rained.

 When I say it  rained ...think Noah! 

For those that have witnessed Monsoons, you're getting the picture. We don't have monsoon drains in England  and so each drain became a fountain. The water rushed on down the hill.

I live near the Castle, and they, as you know, are all on the hilltops. After 2 hours the hill was more of an island.

 Here is the garage  (gas station) at the bottom of the hill ...that is the main road not a river!

... I repeat, this was  after TWO hours of rain. You can imagine what it was like after 24!

As you can now understand, we didn't 'launch' the pictures!

This has been freakish weather - all records have been broken for cold/rain etc. The highest temperature has been about 20 -22 C (70 F) and this is supposed to be Flaming June/July!

Pat and I are away for a week from Sunday. We will be touring Stately Homes and places of architectural interest in Norfolk - in the East of England - and I hope to record them as reference photographs.

So, it will be Sunny next week - I said to Pat that I would bring good weather because, "The sun always shines on the righteous!" She sniffed and said that, "The Devil looks after his own," was more appropriate. :0) .... whatever. 

Anyway, talking about castles, here is the one Walt Disney used as a template for the Disney World Castle.

        Schloss Neuschwanstein - Bavaria, Germany       John Simlett 1981                                
                Pen & Ink  on Cartridge Paper              
                 20" x 13" (51cms  x 33 cms)

Seven weeks after the death of King Ludwig II in 1886, Neuschwanstein was opened to the public. The shy king had built the castle in order to withdraw from public life – now vast numbers of people came to view his private refuge. Why is it I always hear Wagner when I see this castle?

Pat and I used to take my daughter down to Austria frequently from North Germany, and often stopped off to see this fantastic building on the way.

I drew this 12 months after I had first started drawing. The USAF in Ramstein, South Germany loved it and bought more prints of it than anyone else. So I guess there are quite a few knocking around the US. Giselle says I should resurrect it, and so it will be off the the printers on our next visit.

I shall continue with the York project with another Street picture - it's part completed - but I had to stop to finish my next academic assignment, which I did today! Whoopee!!

Sunday 8 July 2012

Memory Lane?

OK, I know this is supposed to be my Art Blog, and I promise it won't become my autobiography - but the last posting and Celeste's reference to the aviation hero, Sir Ivor Broom, sent me down memory lane. Here Ivor is by the way:

He's on the left pictured with his navigator in front of the Mosquito.

Celeste also mentioned, "like a big icebreaker ship in the sea" in the comments to my loom posting ... so here's an icebreaker story.....
In the 1970s we had a lull in our VVIP  flying schedule, which our masters filled for us by giving us a load of Marines and Crew for HMS Endurance, a Naval Antarctic Patrol Vessel, which was moored off Chile for maintenance, and was making ready to head south. They were to become famous in the forthcoming Falklands war, but of course we knew nothing of that at the time.  

A Comet 4C of 216 Squadron RAF

We flew the passengers down to Punta Arenas, the most Southerly point of Chile, night stopping on the way out at Cape Verdi Islands. 
Punta Arenas 

We dropped off the passengers in Punta Arenas, and took off again with an empty aircraft, but instead of flying North we thought we would go South for a while and fly down the Straights of Magellan: from Punta Arenas at Latitude 53.9º S. Longitude 70º.55' W to Cape Horn Latitude 57º.48' S. Longitude 67°19´ W are the straights of Magellan and the Drake Passage.

As a scruffy little boy living in the slums, I had dreamt of 'escape': travel and adventure through the books that I read,. Books about boys' running off to sea with famous explorers, particularly, “He Sailed with Vasgo-de-Gama,” and, “He Sailed with Magellan”. 

Here then was the chance to lay the ghost and do a real Magellan trip – it was magical.  The little boy 'me' would have punched the air.

In the distance through the gin clear air we saw the red dot that was the Endurance anchored in the lonely waters disturbed only by seabird calls and the hum of generators. 

We thought it would be a really good 'wheeze' to drop down to thirty feet and  say hello to the Navy. So, we screamed up the Straights of Magellan at 380 mph, skimming the waves as we went, with wind screen wipers wiping away the sea spray. As we came up to Endurance, we stood the aircraft on her tail and with throttles wide open, rattled every rivet in her hull – heart attack territory for the crew -----GOTCHA!

Many years later I saw a picture of Endurance, and she looked completely different. So I e-mailed the ship, down there in the Antarctic, to ask what had changed. Here is the email they sent back!

Sent : 07 December 2005 22:26:22
To : "'HMS Endurance tracking project'" , HMS ENDURANCE-MO <>, "'johnsimlett'" <johnsimlett@>



The previous HMS ENDURANCE, of 1982 Falklands Conflict fame, would have been
the vessel to which John Simlett delivered said Ship's Company. Originally
an ice strengthened Danish Vessel named 'Anita Dan', she was commissioned in
1968 and survived through until paying off in November 1991.

The present HMS ENDURANCE was initially chartered as 'Polar Circle' in 1991,
immediately voted an ideal candidate as the replacement Antarctic Patrol
Ship and shortly thereafter purchased outright and renamed HMS ENDURANCE.
Originally built and operated by Rieber Shipping as an Arctic
tourist/research vessel, she is a class 1 Ice Breaker.

Her hull is built to exacting standards with great rigidity and welded
rather than riveted. 

Regrettably the previous HMS ENDURANCE met her end in
the breakers yard (rivets and all!) shortly after her sale in the early

I hope that provides an appropriate answer to John's question - does he
still fly?


Saturday 7 July 2012

Why Not Aircraft?

Given that I had a 25 year flying career, many people ask me why I don't draw aeroplanes. After all I get lots of chances, even now, to take reference photographs of unusual flying situations. For example when we go to the annual reunions with two of my old Squadrons, we actually get airborne, yes Pat as well!

Both squadrons fly tankers. That is to say airborne tankers that refuel other aircraft in-flight.

VC10 Tanker  at work...another day at the office.

Here they are. The front one is a Tristar  of 216 Squadron (pronounced Two Sixteen) and the second one is a VC10 of 10 Squadron.

 You can see the hoses hanging from them that the fighters have to hook on to. Although this might be a nice scene to paint ... there's not a lot for me and pen & ink.

We get airborne and fly up and down the refuelling zone above the North Sea. All sorts of NATO Allies refuel from us over a 4 hour sortie: British, German, American, French....etc.

Here are pictures I took from a VC10, on our last visit.

These are RAF Typhoons waiting their turn to refuel. As you can see, they'd be OK to paint, but no good to me. Given that the picture loses its punch if you don't know where it is being taken from. Below is the best I can come up with, it would hardly be a popular picture when you consider the paintings/photos that are published.

Pen & Ink  (5" x 7")                     John Simlett

Maybe I'll do a series of old world aircraft ... the old bi-planes. We'll see!  Meanwhile ......


Thursday 5 July 2012

Here's One for Sherry ..A Loom with a View!

Now my blogging-buddy, Sherry (Crimson Leaves over on conservativelybohemian) is a bit depressed. She has a pretty low opinion of her talents at the moment, don't ask me why, 'cos she's got a loom!!! Now if you have a loom you have no right to be depressed it's like owning the world.

Trouble is, she is really good at lots of arts & crafts but doesn't realise it. She did a brilliant portrait of Celeste's  mother, which should tell her something - but doesn't. It would be ever so nice if you popped in to see her ...she might listen to you. 

Now Pat once thought I was having an affair with a loom ... I spent more time getting that loom installed than I spent with Pat.

Anyway... on condition that she smiles for five minutes ... here, for Sherry, is the picture of an antique Swiss Ribbon Loom that I drew, and the little story behind it.

Pen & Ink  (12" x 9")
We had won a contract to manufacture medical laboratory equipment and needed to find a weaving machine to mass-produce the heating element. The element looked like those woolly hats girls wear in the winter, but without the pom-pom. and it had to woven in fibre glass (looks like cotton thread) with a heating wire woven in.

The best place to get a machine made was in Switzerland. The area around Basel (Basle) is famous for its ribbon looms. So I flew out there.

The airport is marvellous! For a start it's not in Switzerland but mostly in France. There are 3 sets of Customs Officers and three exits: 1 into Switzerland, 1 into France and 1 into Germany!!    

We drove out of the city into the countryside and it really was quaint and very rural. There were lots of small family businesses - each specialising in weaving.

I met the person I needed to see who said that there would be no problem in making what we needed. He showed me around his workshops and the barn-like warehouse, where I found many old looms that the family had made over the years. I fell in love with this one and photographed it