Bristol Old Vic and the Grinning Man

1-img_0389-001It’s shameful really, isn’t it? I’ve lived in Clevedon for over four years and I have only just had my first visit to the Bristol Old Vic… well it won’t be the last!

If you live in or near Bristol, I am sure you are very well aware of the beautiful theatre in King Street – close to Harbourside and many wonderful pubs and restaurants. As you can see from the ticket pack above, the theatre is celebrating 250 years this year, and you get a real sense of that history in the street outside and also inside the venue. It’s a gorgeous traditional space, managing to be  intimate and impressive at the same time. The backstage bar area is large, comfortable and modern. Staff members are friendly and the atmosphere is welcoming and relaxed. Work is underway on improvements to the front of house, but this doesn’t in any way diminish from the pleasure of a visit.

I booked online for the evening performance of The Grinning Man this week and I must say that the booking process was really efficient and a pleasure to use. I chose tickets closer to the top end of the scale than the bottom, to be on the safe side on our first go, but I think next time I’d be more than happy with cheaper options.

The play itself is well worth seeing. It’s a macabre musical, based on the Victor Hugo book L’Homme Qui Rit  – The Laughing Man. Victor Hugo, of course, wrote Les Miserables, and this is from the same stable. So the story has treachery, cruelty and love, brought to the audience through a wonderful production incorporating puppetry, excellent acting, music and singing. The audience loved it and there was a standing ovation and much applause at the end. I’m not going to tell you more however much you ask! I’m sure you’ll easily find detailed reviews online and elsewhere, but I think knowing too much about plots in advance can spoil surprises, so that’s all you are getting from me. If you can get to Bristol before the end of the run on November 13 2016, do so! If the production moves to other theatres near you I hope you manage to see it at a future date!

I’ll leave you with that thought as I’m heading to the website right now to sign up as a Friend of the Bristol Old Vic

 

Why I’m taking so many photos THIS colour

1-_mg_0226-002Here’s a typical example of my recent photographic output. Monochromes, subdued colours…

Why am I drawn to colours and subjects like this? Maybe it’s because of where I live – on the coast near Bristol, where the water is the muddy water of the Bristol Channel. The water is usually brown because of all the silt it contains and hardly ever blue – only if you catch the perfect angle of the sun and the reflection of the sky. And then it is not the blue of the ocean, but a silvery, metallic blue. There are some sand banks in the channel, but the coast is lined with mud flats. It’s often cloudy so skies are quite often grey.

Does that sound depressing? Well I don’t mean it to because the very nature of the colours makes you aware of the variety of subtle shades within the blanket terms “grey”, “brown” or even – dare I say it? – “beige”. The more you look the more you see shades of pink, green, blue and lavender, to name a few.

The colour palette is even more varied when the sunset is spectacular.

The training of your eye doesn’t stop at noticing colour. There is the not insignificant matter of texture too. The mud flats are lined with meandering water channels, gulleys and creases, that bring to mind the image of the skin under a blue whale’s throat. Even a rolling grey sky above a silver grey sea has textures to delight the eye and the soul.

Throw in some man-made features for a little extra variety and there is always something to tempt the photographer.

There is interest and beauty everywhere – you just have to look.

[Many of my photographs are available to buy from my RedBubble online shop. Here’s a link to the latest Lines and leaves ]

Masks: art work and inspirations

So, a while ago I was indulging my artistic streak and I created a series of naïve pieces that I really like. In fact the more I look at them, the more I like them!

I was inspired by a number of things – the traditional reversible designs on playing cards (Jack, Queen and King designs), the masks you see in many different cultures world wide, and legends such as the ancient Green Man. Quite a lot of art starts with playing with ideas, so the idea dawned and I doodled, thought and tried out different ways to get what I wanted. After some work developing a style that worked, I completed several takes on the theme, pictured above.

I like them all! If you do too, you can buy the images in several formats on RedBubble and Zippi.

You can also buy some of the originals – on A4 perforated paper, just as they came out of my art book – in my auction on eBay. Here’s where you’ll find the Blue and Blue Masks. As with eBay, the starting prices are crazily low, so there’s a good chance to snap up a bargain and get your Christmas shopping off to a unique start!

#shamlessselfpromotion!

 

 

High tides and roe deer

When you live near the sea and there is a high tide, it’s only natural to head to the coast and take a look. Where we live in Clevedon we are less than five minutes stroll from the sea-front, and although (or should that be ‘because’?) the coast is the Bristol Channel rather than the open ocean it feels very special.

1-img_0306There are so many strong currents in the channel that when you add a stiff breeze and the bouncing of waves off the sea-wall and rocks, you get very intricate movement. Waves travel from different directions to crash into each other, creating ridges, depressions and foams that are overall are quite mesmerising. I know the water is always brown, because of the amount of silt it contains, but I think this adds a textural quality to the water.

The sky was beautiful too: but then it usually is here!

1-img_0304This photo show just how high the water was, and the pier almost looks as though it is floating. This would have been a good time to get into the porthole room underneath the pier, but sadly we were out and about before opening time.

Walking home past Clevedon Hall, something in the trees caught my eye.

1-img_0327-001It’s not the best photo, but who would expect such a view of a roe deer near a busy road at 8:45 am. I snapped fast! Maybe I could have taken my time, as he watched me all the way down the road without moving from the spot.

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When you like nature, photography and writing, days like to day are gifts!

Feeling like a proper photographer…

I consider myself a photographer – amongst other things – but I’m definitely a photographer by artistic inclination rather than technical skill. I have taken many shots that I’ve really liked with nothng more than a basic shoot and snap camera – that’s how low tech my approach has been! However, my Secret Santa gift this year was a Hoya Digital Filter kit for my Canon EOS 500D, so I’m taking my first steps into technical photography by getting out and about trying out the three filters: UV, Circular Polarising Filter and ND8.

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The UV filter is a good lens protector and makes images clearer and crisper: the Polariser cuts down glare for water and is also good for taking photos of clouds and the ND8 will be useful in situations where I want to emphasise movement – wind through a grassy meadow, or a waterfall, for example.

Here’s one of my first batch of trial pics. The water was looking good, bouncing off the sea wall near Clevedon Pier, which I think set up the vibrantions in the water which give the stripey effect. The water is never blue, but it’s silty nature adds to a metallic sheen, which I rather like.

So I’ll have some more experimenting to do to work out how I like to use the filters. There are plenty of manuals to help, but really there is no substitute for trying the filters out for different subjects and in different conditions to find out what works for me.

Certainly my route into photography has been a slow one. I bought my camera second-hand, with a good all-purpose lens, and later bought a wide angle lens too. The filters have come next, and then in a few months I’ll think about how to add to the lens options. This will really be led by decisions on the sort of photographs I want to take more of.

If you got camera equipment for Christmas and are new to photography, my advice would be to try out the simplest options first just to begin to get used to the kit and find out what it can do. As your confidence grows, you can add to your equipment and to the types of shots you get, until you find out what works for you.

Happy snapping!

 

Things I love # 6 – Clouds

Ah yes! I love a good cloud.

Just look at the patterns and colours in the photos I’ve recently taken in my beloved Clevedon. Even when they are grey they are multi-coloured and textured. See the backdrop they provide to the pier – nothing short of theatrical. Blooming marvellous.

I am a proud member of the Cloud Appreciation Society. Ever since seeing a BBC documentary by founder Gavin Pretor-Pinney I have realised that my un-acknowledged appreciation of clouds was nothing to be ashamed of. Clouds add character to the sky and are objects of immense mystery and wonder. Not to say beauty.

My favourite story from that documentary was that of a hang-glider (or maybe a microlight pilot) who got caught up in a huge cumulonimbus in Australia. It wasn’t their fault – two large clouds unexpectedly combined to form a monster. The pilot was sucked up into a thermal, frosted over by the drop in temperature and shot out of the top where they were seen from an airliner as a living but unconcious snowman. They then were dropped back down through cloud and emerged at the bottom lucky enough to be sufficiently defrosted to gain control of their craft and land with just mild frostbite. Much luckier than their fellow pilot who was struck by lightning in the cloud and died.

Really, nature is beyond our comprehension. Appreciate clouds, people!

 

Lovely local lunch – Salthouse Clevedon

On boy do I enjoy simple, well cooked food! Just had a lovely lunch with Alec, Blanche and Rex at the Salthouse in Clevedon.

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Lovely pub nestled into Church Hill Clevedon, just beside the Marine Lake.

I had a beef and shiraz stew with dumplings, the boys had beef and Ale pie and Blanche went for scampi and chipe. Not a complaint amongst the three of us and I don’t know when I’ve had such a lovely winter dish as my stew.

Great atmosphere and friendly service. Really – what more can you ask for?