Friday, 25 May 2018

It is all in a look.

No matter how many colours I use in the painting of this face it is always recognised instantly by all who see it. I painted a version of this a year or so ago but looked at it again and once more felt it could be improved. I am still not sure I have got it right but I am sure he will be instantly known.

The human brain has a tremendous capacity to remember faces and often the names that are attached to them. But this marvellous capacity also brings a side effect that can be dangerous. The very same brain can often be fooled by first impressions. It can often see what it want to see and is therefore fooled.

Throughout my life I have always taken people at what we call, "Face value," and it has on more than once led me to future pain and being deceived by people less trusty than they would have you believe.

When architect Christopher Wren designed the interior of Windsor Town Hall near London in 1689, he built a ceiling supported by pillars. After city fathers had inspected the finished building, they decided the ceiling would not stay up and ordered Wren to put in some more pillars. 

England's greatest architect didn't think the ceiling needed any more support, so he pulled a fast one. He added four pillars that did not do anything -- they don't even reach the ceiling. The optical illusion fooled the municipal authorities, and today the four sham pillars amuse many a tourist. 

Those so-called experts had been fooled and they all saw what they wanted to see.

During one of his political campaigns, a delegation called on Theodore Roosevelt at his home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The President met them with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up. "Ah, gentlemen," he said, "come down to the barn and we will talk while I do some work." 

At the barn, Roosevelt picked up a pitchfork and looked around for the hay. Then he called out, "John, where's all the hay?"

"Sorry, sir," John called down from the hayloft. "I ain't have time to toss it back down again after you pitched it up while the Iowa folks were here."  

He wanted those who were going to vote for him to see him as a hardworking man. The hardest working man was the one who was not seen at all, John.

Politicians have an often clever knack of making you see what you want to see and even hear what they want you to hear. Frequently this art leads to people being fooled into making unwise choices. On this, I will say no more and leave you to ponder.

But let me conclude on a note of laughter. 

I heard this tale many years ago, the old ones are always the best.

A Texas rancher driving through Vermont had to stop to let a farmer's cow cross the road. As the farmer passed in front of the Cadillac convertible, the rancher called out to him, "How much land you got, partner?" 

"Well," the farmer said, "my land runs all the way down there to them alders along the brook. On the meadow side, over there, it goes clean up to those larches on the hill."  

"You know," said the rancher, "I got a spread in Texas and I can get in my pickup and drive all day without reaching any of my boundary lines." 

"That so?" said the farmer. "I had a truck like that once." 

Things are not always what they seem to be and the brain must be alert. Who was it that said, "Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing,"?

Have a marvellous day.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

It is not how I will remember.

I painted this little fellow, Alfie, on canvas a few years ago for a very good friend. I thought it was time, with all this practice I have been having to have another try and depicting him but now using my Ipad. I Like this new version.

I remember painting him well and at the time thought I had managed to get to know him. I think I know him even more now. Is this how I will remember him? Let me say a little more.

I was remembering my best friend and an incident that happened with his mother. Sadly she has now passed away but I will always remember this story of her loyalty to my friend.

She was in the kitchen of the local church. It had been a joining of two congregations for an evening of praise and signing. My friend's mother was now standing at the sink washing dishes while a member of the other church was drying them. From some reason, this woman began to say some not very nice things about the minister who had been in charge of the evening. She listened to some of the horrible things she was saying. She then turned to my friend's mother, " What do you think Peggy?" "Well," said Peggy, "my son is a minister and if I ever heard you saying things like that about him I would find it impossible not to slap you."

It is how we act that tells us more about us than what we ever say.

I remember a lad who was in my class at school. he was bullied regularly by the male members of the class. One day I was also bullied into doing some of the things they did and said to him. I did not wish to participate and did so but nothing like they did. 

Later that day I spoke to him again and apologised and asked his forgiveness which he did instantly. He was, in fact, a very shy and very intelligent person and did not deserve the treatment he got. A few years later after we had left the school he bought a motorbike. About six months later he had a terrible accident and was killed. I will not remember him because of the accident but because of what I participated in that day.

It is never what we say that matters but the actions of our lives.

Have a marvellous day one and all.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

I accomplished a little.

This will be my last Iris for a bit I am sure you have seen enough and I have certainly spent more than enough time painting them, but I really have enjoyed them as a subject.

I must thank all of my friends who took the time yesterday to congratulate me on my little sense of accomplishment. What a surprise to be told that my snow and cloud painting had been voted the best in the competition on this subject. My painting Freuchie in Snow did just that. Thank you also to the person who cajoled me into submitting it to this topic.  I liked the painting but did not think for one minute that it would do that. I know that I had already had one of my paintings very highly rated to be one of a pack of playing cards so to actually be voted by fellow artists at the top of this theme has certainly made me feel quite humble.

Way back at the beginning of my painting encouraged by two dear friends I thought I might one day be a mediocre artist, never did I ever dream that one day I might actually paint one or two paintings that might stand the test of time. How did I do it? By sheer hard work, reading about how to, watching others so much better than I ever will be and being diligent.

The most refreshing thing is that I now have something nobody can take away from me.

But the real lesson this has brought me is that nothing comes easily. If I want to discover the inner peace and happiness I seek that too will only come to me by the same sheer diligence. There is a saying we have in Scotland, "There is nae such thing as a free meal." Nobody is ever going to just hand me the answer to life on a plate.

Yesterday I reached a little milestone in my artist journey, I still have many little milestones to reach on my spiritual path. I was told by many that there was nothing at all wrong with a little self-indulgence and contentment. But once I have done that the journey of life starts again.

Those little moments when one stands at a peak gives the encouragement to make that onward journey.

Thanks once again to all for your encouragement. I hope in some small way I can be an encouragement to you.

Have a great day.

Monday, 21 May 2018


This is the blue Iris that is just like the ones that were in my garden as a young boy. I am certainly going to try and find some of those for my own garden. Found this one difficult to paint as the memories came flooding back

Now in Spain Spain.  After two nightson the ship then time to relax for a bit before making the journey to Barcelona where I hope to see the famous Gaudi Cathedral. Have watched it grow over the years with school trips, but not seen it for a few years now.

A time for rest is not really something I am good at, I tend to be constantly doing something keeping the mind and hands active. Or out there walking, which is never for me a relax rather a brisk journey of hope looking to find things to paint.

It is good though to get out there where the only noise is the chatter of nature and not the background noise of TV.

Noise affects human behaviour

In an experiment carried out by psychologists, a student leaving a library intentionally dropped an armload of books. In 50% of the cases, a passerby stopped to help the student pick up the books. 

Then the experimenters brought out a lawn mower without a silencer and started it near where a student would again intentionally drop the books. This time, only about 10% of the people who passed stopped to help. It was clear that behaviour changed because of the earsplitting sound of the nearby lawnmower
In experiments in Los Angeles, researchers found that children who lived in neighbourhoods near the airport could not complete certain tasks undertaken when jets were landing and taking off as easily as children who lived in quiet neighbourhoods. 

Some studies of prison conditions have shown that the high levels of noise cause more complaints by prisoners than the food or other prison conditions do.

I find noise very difficult to live with, and the music I sometimes play while writing or painting has to be soft gentle and inspiring. 

Music has something to say about rest.

I heard it said there is no music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it. 

In our whole life-melody, the music of life should be broken off here and there by 'rests.'  

Be it ours to learn the tune, and not be dismayed at the 'rests.' They are not to be slurred over, not to be omitted, not to destroy the melody, not to change the keynote. If we sadly say to ourselves, 'There is no music in a rest,' let us not forget that there is the making of music in it. We all, each and every one of us needs a time of rest or the melody of life becomes discordant. 

Have a marvellous and restful day.

What will they remember?

My friend and I were joking the other day there about how we might be remembered after we have parted this earthly realm.

I would love to be remembered as he who gave some of his life sharing with others the things I thought important and worthy of learning, both as a minister of religion and as a teacher.

Maybe some might be remembered me as an artist who made a good attempt at producing artwork. Possibly and hopefully as a good father, and as a loving caring husband.

Then we got into the ridiculous. My friend thought that I might be remembered as the idiot who ran a half marathon on a broken ankle. Or maybe I would be remembered as the teacher who sent a student across to the technical department to borrow a small set of pliers with which I removed a tooth that was giving me a great deal of discomfort with a toothache.

Thinking of those latter two things I can see just how silly they both were but at the time it seemed like the correct thing to do.

I did not know my ankle was broked and friends and family had all given up a precious weekend to run this half marathon. I did not wish to let them down. It was nearing examination time for my students and the lessons I was teaching might just be the ones that helped the students achieve a good or better grade. I did not wish to miss a lecture. 

We laughed and I shared the following account with my friend. Neither he nor I know anything very much about baseball but the tale seemed appropriate.

 The tale is about a man called Steve Lyons. He will be remembered as the player who dropped his trousers in the field of play. 

He could be remembered as an outstanding infielder, as the player who played every position for the Chicago White Sox,  as the man who always dived into first base, as a favourite of the fans who high fived the man who caught the foul ball in the bleachers (whatever they are?). He could be remembered as an above-average player who made it with an average ability. 

But he will not. He will be remembered as the player who dropped his trousers on July 16, 1990.

The White Sox were playing the Tigers in Detroit. Lyons hurtled and raced down the first-base line. He knew it was going to be tight, so he dived at the bag. Safe! 

The Tiger's pitcher disagreed. He and the umpire got into a shouting match, and Lyons stepped in to voice his opinion.

Absorbed in the game and the debate, Lyons felt dirt trickling down the inside of his pants. Without missing a beat he dropped his trousers, wiped away the dirt, and twenty thousand jaws hit the bleachers' floor. 

And, as you can imagine, the jokes began. Women behind the White Sox dugout waved dollar bills when he came onto the field. "No one," wrote one columnist, "had ever dropped his trousers on the field. Not Wally Moon. Not Blue Moon Odom. Not even Heinie Manush." 

Within twenty-four hours of the "exposure," he received more exposure than he had got in his entire career, seven live television and approximately twenty radio interviews. 

"We've got this pitcher, Melido Perez, who earlier this month pitched a no-hitter," Lyons stated, "and I'll guarantee you he didn't do two live television shows afterwards. I pull my trousers down, and I do seven. Something pretty skewed  in this game." 

Fortunately, for Steve, he was wearing long underpants under his baseball pants. Otherwise the game would be rated "R" instead of "PG-13." 

Now, I don't know Steve Lyons. I'm not a White Sox fan or any kind of football fan for that matter. Neither am I normally appreciative of men who drop their trousers in public. But I think Steve Lyons deserves a salute. 

I think anybody who dives into first base deserves a salute. How many men do you see roaring down the baseline of life more concerned about getting a job done than they are about saving their necks?

How often do you see people diving headfirst into anything? 

Too seldom, right? But when we do, when we see a gutsy human throwing caution to the wind and taking a few risks,  we know that is a person worthy of a pat on the back. 

So here's to all the Steve Lyons in the world. To all those who go the extra mile, who give their very best at every opportunity. I think it silly to say give 110% but let me just say those who for others give more than is asked. I would love to be remembered as somebody like that.

Have a great day.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Missing Something?

It is Sunday morning and in just a very short time I will be heading off to make the journey from home to Portsmouth to catch the ferry to Bilbao. 

I am not sure about the wifi on the ship so not sure if and when I may be able to post another blog. Will I miss home? of course, I will, I will be living in a motorhome for the next almost two months. This is a different way of life and I will miss having m computer to hand at all times and I will miss some of the other home comforts. Some friends wondered if I might miss my own bed. The bed in my motorhome is a very comfortable bed and it is my own so I will not miss my home one at all. This is, in fact, one of the advantages of a motorhome as opposed to an hotel.

Having spent all of my youth in just two homes I did have a feeling of missing home when I upped sticks and went off to live on the little island of Iona to have a year of work and study.

This morning I have no deep thoughts for you my head so full of all the last minute things I have to make sure I have packed to take with me. The last time I ventured forth I did so without the charger for my watch.

What I do have is a lovely story that I have been keeping in mind for just such a day as this. This is a true story. 

Many years ago in England, a circus elephant named Bozo was very popular with the public.

Children especially loved to crowd around his cage and throw him bananas, and other treats. Then one day there was a sudden change in the elephant's personality. Several times he tried to kill his keeper and when the children came near his cage he would charge toward them as if wanting to trample them to death. It was obvious he would have to be destroyed. 

The circus owner, a greedy and crude man, decided to stage a public execution of the animal. In this way, he could sell tickets and try to recoup some of the cost of losing such a valuable property. 

The day came and the huge circus tent was packed. Bozo, in his cage, was in the centre ring. Nearby stood a firing squad with high-powered rifles. The manager, standing near the cage, was about ready to give the signal to fire when out of the crowd came a short, inconspicuous man in a brown derby hat. 

"There is no need for this," he told the manager quietly.
The manager brushed him aside. "He is a bad elephant. He must die before he kills someone."
"You are wrong," insisted the man. "Give me two minutes in the cage alone with him and I will prove you are wrong." 

The manager turned and stared in amazement. "You will be killed," he said. 

"I don't think so," said the man. "Do I have your permission?"
The manager, being the kind of man he was, was not one to pass up such a dramatic spectacle. Even if the man were killed, the publicity alone would be worth millions.  
"All right," he said, "but first you will have to sign a release absolving the circus of all responsibility." The small man signed the paper. 

As he removed his coat and hat, preparing to enter the cage, the manager told the people what was about to happen. A hush fell over the crowd. The door to the cage was unlocked, the man stepped inside, then the door was locked behind him. At the sight of this stranger in his cage, the elephant threw back his trunk, let out a mighty roar, then bent his head preparing to charge. 

The man stood quite still, a faint smile on his face as he began to talk to the animal. The audience was so quiet that those nearest the cage could hear the man talking but couldn't make out the words, he seemed to be speaking some foreign language. 

Slowly, as the man continued to talk, the elephant raised his head. Then the crowd heard an almost piteous cry from the elephant as his enormous head began to sway gently from side to side. Smiling, the man walked confidently to the animal and began to stroke the long trunk. All aggression seemed suddenly to have been drained from the elephant. 

Docile as a pup now he wound his trunk around the man's waist and the two walked slowly around the ring. The astounded audience could bear the silence no longer and broke out in cheers and clapping. After a while, the man bade farewell to the elephant and left the cage. 

"He'll be all right now," he told the manager. "You see, he's an Indian elephant and none of you spoke his language, Hindustani. I would advise you to get someone around here who speaks Hindustani. He was just homesick." 

And with that, the little man put on his coat and hat and left. The astounded manager looked down at the slip of paper in his hand. 

The name the man had signed was Rudyard Kipling, the author of Jungle Book.

Have a good day I hope to be back online one way or another soon.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

It is a Wedding.

Right now it is Saturday morning as I sit down to right this little blog. I have the door of mt study firmly closed because for this moment of time I want to hear not another word about the fact that here in the UK today their is to be a special wedding. It has been impossible now for over the last week to avoid hearing about this. Speculation guessing and everything else about what will happen. The answer is simple two people will do the same as hundred, thousands, millions before and say I do.

I have found it almost impossible to avoid it all, I turned to a radio station that only plays constant classical music but even they were going to give a running commentry of events. I wonder who is catering for the many who wish to listen to something else?

Over the years I have conducted weddings for a great many couples and many of them still from time to time keep in touch. Some of them have even got in touch to thank me for the advice I gave on the day and in the days leading up to their wedding.

But I would never venture to offer advise to todays wedding couple.

I should be able to, having been married for forty five years if not more. So what can I say on this day?

Openness is essentially the willingness to grow, a distaste for ruts, eagerly standing on tip-toe for a better view of what tomorrow brings. 

A man once bought a new radio, brought it home, placed it on the refrigerator, plugged it in, turned it to The World Broadcast and then pulled all the knobs off! He had already tuned in all he ever wanted or expected to hear. 

Some marriages are "rutted" and rather dreary because either or both partners have yielded to the tyrany of the inevitable, "what has been will still be." 

Stay open to newness. Stay open to change, my best words on the topic.

MY last little thought this morning can be for couple married or thinking about it but is equally true of any friendship.

Do you and your partner feed each other a steady diet of put-downs? If you do, your marriage could be headed for divorce court.

When a psychologists studied newlyweds over the first decade of marriage, they discovered that couples who stayed together uttered 5 or fewer put-downs in every 100 comments to each other. 

But couples who inflicted twice as many verbal wounds - 10 or more putdowns out of every 100 comments later split up.

Watch what you say! Little, nit-picking comments are like a cancer in any relationship, slowly draining the life out of a committed friendship.

I will post this blog do my morning Tai Chi and meditation and then head out into the wilds where I will be unable to hear the sound of wedding bells. Later today there are two cup finals I just might watch one or other and tonight the berlin Phiermonic have a concert I am able to watch live. This will be my day . if you are to be wedding watching have a joyous day.