It was crazy busy in the run up to Christmas and I was very glad when Christmas Eve finally arrived.

We’ve had a good Christmas break here at Boot Hall, but the seemingly constant grim weather has meant that we have not ventured outside as much as I’d have liked. That’s something I plan to remedy in the coming weeks – I need a big dose of outdoors.

Meanwhile, aside from sitting by the log-fire watching rubbish on telly, I have been drifting around the internet – more out of boredom than anything else.

However, some good did come of it as (via The Outdoor Blogger Network) I did discover a blog, Wild Tide which I like enough to add to my (select) blog roll.

It’s an outdoorsy Cornish blog featuring as you might expect surfing, kayaking and fishing stuff, but also includes some food and drink posts, the most bizarre of which has to be creating the Cornish Flag via the medium of crispie cakes.

It also includes some pieces on art and artists and I‘ve been introduced to the work of Clare Corfield Carr and Debby Mason, neither of whom I was not previously aware of, but like a lot. And I would love to buy one of Debby’s fish prints – if only I wasn’t skint after Christmas.

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pike 002Pickings from our local Boot Sale have been a bit slim over the last two weeks.

The only thing that I’ve bought worthy of comment has been a very good copy of Wild Food by Roger Phillips. This is part of an excellent series of books (many with Martyn Rix) which are much sought after as they are now out of print. I have a good number of them and the Tree and Wild Flowers of Britain ones were constantly being consulted in the years I worked part-time before Little Boots went to school and we used to spend hours roaming the nearby countryside, bringing back photos and leaves for identification.

This particular volume is not one I actually knew existed and it’s as much a recipe book as an identification one, but then I guess that if you have the Tree and Wild Flower ones that’s not a problem.

Maybe tomorrow’s sale will yield a richer harvest.

booty

Last Sunday I made my first trip of the year to our local car boot sale. It was a lovely sunny day and consequently the event was well attended with plenty of sellers and buyers.

I picked up an Efgeeco landing net handle that was exactly the same as the much loved one I had as a teen. This made me disproportionately happy. Partly because it was in A1 condition but mostly because the original was sorely missed having been leant to an irresponsible relative and never returned. Along with this came 5 rod rests/bank sticks, most of which were Efgeeco. Fiver the lot.

Next was a hardback copy of Ray Mears’ Wild Food book. Like the net handle it was in first class condition. only a quid.

Lastly a kind of impulse purchase of a funny little axe for two fifty. Whilst it has a wooden handle I’m sure that’s not original – not least of all because of the brass screw “fixing” it in place. That will have to go BTW, as it, being made of a soft metal, may well shear under pressure and chopping with an unsafe axehead is asking for trouble. I have a strange feeling that it’s a military item and that’s not just because it’s painted green. It has a hole in the side of the head, but only one side. That suggests to me a removable head was somehow secured using this feature. Whether the heart-shaped hole in the axe bit (the blade) relates to this too I’ve no idea. Another unusual feature is a chunk of steel rolled into the poll (the bit at the back of the head), which suggests it was expected to be whacked with a hammer or something . Having tried it out I also reckon the original handle was much longer – more like a tomahawk.

It’s a curious thing that’s for sure.

Yesterday, on the way to the river, I dropped in on a local car boot sale.

I would have gone straight to the water, but I was meeting my brother who is a stranger to early rising at weekends.

It was a fruitful trip. The boot sale that is, the fishing was a bit disappointing.

I came away with rather an eclectic mix.

An Abu Diplomat 844M closed faced reel.

A brand new folding stool, with a strong carrying bag, which will be ideal for camping, fishing and exploring.

And a book from an exhibition of Bridget Riley’s painting and drawings 1951-1971 held at The Hayward Gallery from 20th July to 5th September 1971.

(which include a number of illustrations found here).

Something for the mind body and soul.

I leave you to chose which is which.

It was undoubtedly a failing on my part that until a couple of weeks ago the name Robert Gillmor did not connect with me. In my defence I was however familiar with his work examples of which have formed covers of the New Naturalists Book Series. Not that I have any of that range, much as I would like them, but I know myslef too well and if I had a single one of these beautiful and interesting volumes, I would want the lot, and that is a collection that I cannot afford at present. One day. Maybe. However amongst the books on my shelves is one that bears the artist’s work – Victor Osborne’s Digger’s Diary.

So, when I saw a Robert Gillmor retrospective was on not too far away I marked it down as something to do during the oimpending half-term. Going to a gallery with a seven-year old is not ideal, but Little Boots is pretty god. With an enquiring mind and the ability to quietly observe and absorb he probably sees more than I do if I’m honest. Plus the gallery is attached to a museum which the youngster enjoys visiting.     

On the day we actually had the best mate tagging along too, which did worry me a little, but they were impeccably behaved and did look at the pictures (albeit quickly) to decide which was their favourite.

They did then settle down to watch the video where the artist demonstrated how he built up his lino cut prints. I was told afterwards that the method was like an animation, (something both kids are interested in). This did then morph into a game where they pretended that Mr Gillmor was a man who lived in the telly.

They sat quietly giggling whilst waving and pulling faces at him.

Though dominated by his more recent linocut work, it does cover all of the artist’s work from his childhood onwards and in a variety of mediums. Examples include a pair of rather camp watercolour dragons used on a 1970 BBC wildlife programme, a Radio Times cover, in addition to those for a number of books including the aforementioned Digger’s Diary, New Naturalists, plus a ghostly fish for Fred Buller’s “Pike and Pike Angler”.

His work for the Royal Mail on Post and Go stamps is well represented, but for me these are not so fine as slightly earlier pieces such as Full Moon (2000) showing a hunting barn owl set against the silhouette of a large bull and March Moonlight (2004) where the moon reflects on distant water behind a pair of bounding hares.

I would have liked time to have enjoy further, but realised the dynamic duo were hatching a plan to rescue the man in the telly, which signalled time to make tracks. Ushering the kids from the room with promises of chips, I looked over my shoulder and promised myself I’d be back one day very soon.

Alone.

Tuesday was a funny old day.

After leaving work I had a mad dash for the train, only for it to be announced, as I sat down, that there were long delays into London. While the train sat at the station not moving for about 20 minutes I spent most of the time trying to put a money spider somewhere safe. I’d remove him from the book I was reading, and place him by the window, only for him to appear on my hand (and not the one I’d used to move him). Again I’d put him somewhere safe, only to spot the pesky arachnid minutes later on my notebook. And so on, over and over. Finally I decided that there was more than one spider, at which point he/they stopped appearing. Very odd.

Eventually we were off on a slow High Speed Train journey to London, which only sped up after we passed the station where “a person had been in contact with a train”. There were coppers on the platform holding thick, yellow plastic bags of I hate to think what.

After battling through the slack-jawed crowd held up by delays I made it to the Tube and was soon emerging into the madness that was Oxford circus. It was barely spitting with rain and yet everybody seemed to have an umbrella up, making movement little more than incremental. I dodged across the road away from the stationary pedestrians and headed for the rendezvous with my mate Sam the Illustrator. He works close by and had already sneaked a pint down while I was delayed.

The reason for the trip was the book launch of On Nature by those groovy Caught By The River people

As the event wasn’t due to start for half an hour we went to a nearby pub for a beer. Sam had been looking at the CBTR website and was waxing lyrical about the book’s cover and also a book of his own that might be in the offing.

We moved on to the venue, but apart from a poster, there was little indication anything was going on. Over a pint we chatted about the CBTR website, which to any eavesdroppers probably sounded like me trying to bore Sam about fishing and him trying to do the same to me about Gene Clark.

There were quite a few people drifting in and out of the bar without buying a drink including one red-faced, scowly looking bloke, who had the air of someone looking for his wife’s missing cat, whilst secretly wishing it was dead. He gave me a “look” – perhaps cos I was laughing at him.

“You know,” I said to Sam, “I reckon this thing’s been cancelled.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well the barman has just told that woman that it’s been called off.”

We debated having another pint but given the rail chaos it made sense to strike out for home. Luckily the mayhem was in the final stages of clearing and we got back in good time, managing to squeeze a couple more beers in on the way.

It was an amusing enough way to spend a few hours, but it was a pretty expensive way to have a couple of pints. Perhaps that money spider had been trying to tell me something.

My favourite second-hand bookshop closed for good a few Saturdays back.

Over the years I must’ve bought hundreds of books from them, spanning all kinds of categories. Of course in recent years it has been almost exclusively gardening books and they had a good selection.

I went along, to kind of mentally say goodbye as it where. I didn’t take Little Boots as the protests of “This place is boring” got increasingly loud over the last few visits.

At £1 for hardbacks and 50p for paperbacks, there were bargains a plenty, but my heart wasn’t in it. I bought a fiver’s worth but felt like a graverobber and have only just opened the bag to look at my purchases.

They are:

Over the Hills – W. Keble Martin’s autobiography

Shrubs for amateurs – W.J. Bean

More Green Fingers – Reginald Arkell humourous garden-based poetry – or at least what passed for humour in the 1930s.

Flowers Shown To The Children – Janet Harvey Kelman – a book about British natives from the 20s/30s, with coloured plates, intended to help kids identify flora 

Trees & Woodland in the British Landscape – Oliver Rackham

All are interesting books and not ones that are necessarily easily picked up. Of course you can buy many books on the ‘net, but unless you know what you are after, it is very much a case of buying them blind. There is no browsing, unlike a real bookshop where you can actually have a look at the things.

So, I reckon, not only has a little part of my personal history passed on, but my life in a small, but tangible, way has become slightly poorer.