Monday, 30 March 2009

A Haunting Mystery

A few months ago, a book was published that has captured the imagination of everyone who glimpses into its pages and the call to read it is passed by word of mouth. That book is The Mystery of the Fool & The Vanisher by David and Ruth Ellwand. I recently read a copy and felt I should recommend it to you.

Part one of this gripping story is told by photographer David Ellwand who, while wandering on the Sussex Downs, finds a deserted house in which there's an old chest containing some extraordinary objects including a set of ancient cylinder recordings. The second part explores the recordings which are a diary of Isaac Wilde, a Victorian photographer on an archeological dig. Determined to prove their existence, he takes a daguerrotype (a photograph which cannot be faked) of a pixie - and then vanishes off the face of the earth. The daguerrotype goes missing. In the final part of this exquisitely illustrated work, having listened to Isaac's diaries, David Ellwand becomes increasingly convinced that pixies exist. But his need to discover the truth might be dangerous. His quest threatens to become an obsession that will change his life forever. This intriguing journal within a journal tells a tale of human folly and otherworldly revenge, leaving the reader to wonder about the magic of the natural world and the mysteries of the imagination.

This book is haunting and quite like no other I have seen. If you like to use your imagination, you will enjoy it so much. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is a tale of the past that has an impact on the present. For more information, click on the book's title in the 'Books to help you think creatively and inspire' box at the top right of this blog. Enjoy!

This book was procured by Hunting Raven Books, Cheap Street, Frome, Somerset (01373-473111). If you are passing, please call in. These are booksellers that really care about readers!

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Beachcombing can be such Fun!

I think this pair of beachcombers are having a lot of fun and wonder if they saw any shrimps or crabs in the rock pool. I notice they don't have a bucket or net. How I used to love visiting Devon beaches and peering into rock pools. It's surprising what they contain. I must do it again sometime and relive those memories from so long ago. I must be starting to enter my second childhood - the other day I wanted to skip along the pavement and . . . when I was sure no-one was looking I did. Does anyone else do such things or wish they had the courage to do so? Next on my agenda is making sandcastles - hurrah! Now - pass me my bucket and spade!

A Family at War

Here is a family enjoying a day on the beach. What makes me curious is the inscription on the back of the photograph 'Lyme Regis 1942'. When ever I see photographs of the beaches in wartime Britain, they are always mined and lined with barbed wire as a precaution against invasion. How, then, is it possible for this family to be photographed on the shingle and to have hired deckchairs for the day? They are not alone as there are at least two other sunbathers in the background.

A Life of Privilege?

These two young gentlemen come, I believe, from a well-to-do family. Few children would have had access to such splendid and large model boats. I wonder where they sailed them. The photograph has the inscription 'August 1917' pencilled on the reverse. I wonder, too, if their father was a Naval officer and serving in the war?

Three on their Bikes

This family snapshot shows a trio of young cyclists during the 1930s. There is disparity in the sizes of the bicycles and I'll leave it to you to decide who drew the short straw . . . That said, I bet they had some fun on the bikes. Siblings or cousins? The two on the right could be twins, so similar are their faces. The photograph was printed by Drewett's Photographers of 31 North Street in Guildford.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

A View of what is inside a Bird's Head

Here is another example of Fran Britten's skull collection. I am not sure what it is, but it is beautifully engineered. When I was young, say 12 or 13 and keen on learning biology at school, I used to find dead mice etc. and put them in or near an ants nest. The theory was (and I can never remember where the theory came from) that the ants would strip the bones clean and then you could mount the remaining skeleton for display. I seem to remember that it worked well for mice, but was not good for birds as the feather is immensely strong and indigestible. Does anyone else collect skulls or similar?

Performing Sheep

Hi everyone. This is worth a closer look. Click above on the words 'Performing Sheep. That will take you through to Katie Grace's fascinating blog - K. Grace Bears.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Cat in Hiding

Sometimes a cat likes to sleep. Sometimes a cat likes to hide. Here, Sylvie is maintaining a very low profile and hoping that I don't notice her - I nearly didn't.

Somerset Curiosity

A walk through a Somerset graveyard led to the discovery of this menacing looking item of grave architecture. Most of the surface of the tomb had eroded away since it was first constructed some 200 years before. Such adornments on tombs and headstones on modern graves are rare.

Somerset Skull

I attended a number of courses at the Shute Farm Studio in Somerset. Learning of my interest in unusual things, its founder, Frances Britten wandered off and returned with a collection of skulls she had found on the farm at various times. Sadly, I am not sure what species it is. For more on the studio, visit

A Boy's First Car

A bit of snow wasn't going to put off this young boy enjoying a chance to ride his pedal car. I guess the photograph dates from before the 1914-18 War. It is the sort of toy that would have been beyond the finances of the working class family, so I initially thought he was the child of well-to-do parents. However, look at the condition of the building in the background, especially the ramshackle lean-to or shed with its broken window pane. What's his story, I ask?

A Girls Day Out

June 1950. Hereford, England. A souvenir snapshot for what must have been a grand day out for these women. Look at the fashions. There are a variety of dresses and footwear. So much for Austerity Britain - rationing was still in force, but they're happy. That's the main thing. I wish it had been in colour.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Alice in Wonderland?

This Victorian photograph of a child shows her new dress and a pair of remarkable slippers. I wonder why she isn't looking at the camera? I wonder, also, about the size of the chair. Could this be Alice in Wonderland? Sadly, no. A spidery hand has written on the reverse: "Miss Dorothea Bradford at an early age"

Granny Grim and the Worried Baby

Grandmother and granddaughter. It is a common sight in photographs, especially in Victorian and Edwardian times. Now this granny seems very, very serious - probably the Matriarch of the Family - and a little fearsome. What catches my eye is the sideways glance of a very nervous baby! What do you think about the expressions? Oh, and doesn't she look a little like Dame Judi Dench?

An Enigmatic Scene that raises Questions

This young girl looks happy. Could it be her birthday? Is she on a day out? But, who is the enigmatic figure at the top of the steps? Could it be her father? He is smartly dressed, but why is he looking away and not towards the child? What is he looking at and is he posing for the photograph? I have already imagined several situations or scenarios to explain the photograph. What about you? What do you imagine is going on? Let me know?

Sooty Who Walks With Trees

This is Sooty. She has no teeth because of neglect by her previous owner. She can be quite mysterious. Until she became frail, she would walk to the nearby copse where the trees watch humans as they walk by [see my February posts]. Curiously, she would walk from tree to tree and lean against each in turn. There seemed to be some sort of connection or communication between her and the trees. Similarly, during the annual holiday to St David's in Pembrokeshire, she would walk each evening through the graveyard of the city's Cathedral. Sooty visited each grave in turn and would disappear behind the headstones for a few seconds before reappearing. She referred to them as "Sleepy People". Again, there seems to be some sort of connection with the graves, as there was with the trees. I wonder whether other dogs or, indeed, cats behave in a similar way?

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

A Woman and her Two Dogs

There is something Enid Blyton-esque about this pre-war photograph of a woman and her two Jack Russell terriers. I am not sure what she is using to tempt them to sit up and beg in a pose for the camera. What worries me, judging by the view, is that they seem to be sat on the edge of a cliff . . . Don't do this at home, children!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Just A Boy On A Bicycle

This boy is happy. It is his birthday. He is 11 and is wearing long trousers for the first time to get used to them when he goes to senior school in September. He smiles broadly because he has been given his first ever bicycle of his own. Second hand it may be, but he doesn't care. He is now an independent traveller for the first time! He loved that bike and rode it for hours and hours. Who is he? Why he is me! Oh, how I wish I was a time traveller and could go back to that day and relive it again. Nostalgia is a powerful thing and I could cry as I remember what a wonderful, joyous, happy childhood I had . . .

Statues in Conversation

A few years ago, I was sent to Albuquerque, New Mexico for a course. I was so pleased that I had a few days to pass before flying back to Washington to catch my flight home. I was able to spend some time voyaging up the Turquoise Trail, visiting the artists en route and seeing the ghost towns, before driving to Sante Fe. This was a dream come true for I was able to visit the Georgia O'Keefe Musuem - an artist whose work I admire. When I eventually arrived in Washington, I had pre-arranged some leave and a hotel, and spent eight enjoyable days visiting museums and art galleries.

In Washington, I saw a statue of two seated figures in a square, not far from the Smithsonian. As I walked away, I heard a noise and turned round. I was in time to catch them in conversation. I sometimes wonder what they were talking about - not me I hope!

A Rose in Suspended Animation

A closer view of a rose that has not decayed. I wonder what makes it survive. I wonder, also, if that is an eye staring out of its centre? Do any of you have items that have preserved themself?

Decay or not Decay!

I tend to put things by. These roses had been discarded as they were past their best. That was six years ago. I saw a block of wood on a bookshelf and found them still in suspended animation. I can assure you the roses are authentic. I wonder why some things crumble away quite quickly while others remain the same? I remember finding a wren that died when it flew into the glass of a window. It lies perfectly preserved on another shelf, together with a goldcrest.

Swallows and Amazons

I visited an Ephemera shop in the Somerset town of Frome. I always look for interesting photographs, original negatives and documents. This seaside snapshot, from before the Second World War, caught my eye and the confident gaze of the children reminded me of Arthur Ransome's wonderful book - Swallows and Amazons. I hope they had happy lives, but I will never know. I cannot research it as there is no caption on the reverse . . . It might be interesting to speculate on what happened to them in later life. Study their faces and tell me what you think the future held for them.

I have some other photographs and will share some of them with you in future posts.

The TreeThat Reached Out To Me

A brook flows silently through the valley below my cottage. An unofficial path runs alongside of it for about a mile. In summer, it is magical with orchids, deer and, on August evenings, bats perform aerobatics as they feed on flies. I felt some unease when I saw this tree on the opposite bank. It seemed to reach out to me. Sometimes it felt as if it was reaching out FOR me. I always quickened my pace when I passed by. It is strange that, in all the years I have walked that path, I hadn't noticed it before. It remained the whole summer. Then one day it vanished. There was no flood to wash it away and it, in any case, have been trapped by the trunk of a fallen tree further down the brook. I sometimes wonder if it had moved on elsewhere to try and lure an unwary human?

Friday, 13 March 2009

What's in a Name?

I came across this cross in our local churchyard. I was interested in the Christian name, Arthurina. When I did some research, it was listed as the female version of Arthur. This got me thinking. Was she referred to as Arthur for short? I thought this was pretty unique, but as I started writing this, I thought of Fredericka which must be the female version of Frederick. I guess there must be others, but I can't think of any. Does anyone know of other examples of cross-naming?

Fairy Tale

Last summer, I found this fairy in a village graveyard in Somerset. It is quite a work of art and, while not to the taste of some, is very appealing. Elsewhere, stone rabbits played between the graves.

Tree Exposed

The side of a neighbour's tree fell away to expose the central core and and vein-like tendrils. I was so surprised at this view and it certainly illustrated how the sap rises - a fact that never occurred to me before. Now I think of them even more as living creatures . . .

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Another Angel

Here is another angel. Note how young she is. She dates from the early 1900s. I'd love to hear your views on the subject of angels.

This Angel is Sleeping

A closer look at the previous angel. Her angelic expression as she sleeps head on hands never fails to captivate me. I hope I have an angel like her to watch over my grave when I am gone.

Some people say they have a guardian angel. I am sure others do, but do not like to admit it. Do you have a guardian angel. Click on the poll to give your answer.

Angels watch over Us

As a long time student of funerary architecture, I have long been fascinated by the wide variety of Angels to be found in cemeteries and graveyards that I have visited. Any that caught my eye, were captured by my camera. I am always most sad when I see they are broken or damaged, often by age, the effects of years of exposure to the weather or, more frequently today, by vandals. I will share a few of my angels with you. I'd love to hear from you and your views on angels.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Cemetery Avenue

This avenue of trees stands in the centre of my local cemetery which dates from Victorian times. It leads uphill and around the bend, but to where I do not know. I can't remember reaching the end. Has anyone seen a similar avenue in their local cemetery or graveyard?

Moon Shadows

A full moon shone through my window and left this reflection on my wall. Am I alone in seeing an open-mouthed head or do others see it too?

Puppetry can cause Concern

Once in a while, something spooks me. I saw this puppet hanging from a wall. It was very realistic and I would swear its eyes followed me as I walked across the room! When I came to photograph it, its eyes had closed again . . .


I found this scarecrow at the start of our lane. I did not put it there and others shake their heads in puzzlement. How did it get here? Has word of my blog reached the world of scarecrows? I'll keep you all informed!

A Twig that Walks

Twigs get everywhere, sometimes far from the trees from which they came. I noticed a twig in my garden and it moved! Do you have moving twigs in your gardens? Let me know.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Just Good Friends

I saw a statue of a dog sat next to another of a cat at the end of a garden that I was sketching. When the other visitors moved on, I saw a movement and realised that the dog was giving a reassuring nudge to the cat. They looked firm friends.

Faces in the Trees

Here is a first look* at the wood where many of the trees who watch humans live. A flock of jackdaws sometimes pays a visit. I thought the featured face looked wolf-like. Others may see a different interpretation. I would be very interested to hear about what you see.

*As a newcomer to blogging, I thought I should try adding video to my blog. I hope it plays back well for you?