Friday, 17 September 2021

JENGA JENGA: Acting against 'anonymity and repetitiveness'

56 Leonard New York is also known as the Jenga Tower. It is another exciting example of affordable housing, overlooking the Hudson River. Eight hundred and twenty-one feet (250 m) tall, its 57 stories are served by 10 elevators.


The building in this drawing is from a photograph by PJ Lehrer’ looks like a teetering tower of perspex boxes.


Further investigation shows it was designed by my favourite Swiss firm of architects, Hezog + Meuron. Their considered description for the building is found here.


From which this lively narrative is taken:

‘Together these different strategies – considering the tower from the inside-out, responding to local scales, and maximizing the potential of local construction systems – produce a building where only five out of the 145 apartments are repeated. Furthermore, no two floor plates are the same, giving those who will live in this project their own unique home characterized by distinct moments of individuality within the overall stack’.


The building’s foundations were laid in 2008 and by the end of 2013 over 90% of the 145 apartment’s were sold. Priced between US$3.5 million and US$50 million. These condo’s range in size from 1,400 to 6,400 square feet (131.7 to 594.6 m2) and include two to five bedrooms. All come with private outdoor spaces.


The building’s back story is nicely introduced in Wikipedia

Tuesday, 14 September 2021


'I take this pic often as I approach the city.  It's like looking for the skyline when I come in from the airport or through the tunnel from NJ.  I like knowing that I am almost home. :-)'

PJ Lehrer

From a photograph by P J Lehrer

The Q runs to and from 96th a ritzy looking new station on the Upper East Side of (Manhattan) and takes you all the way down to Coney Island and its entertainment and beaches.  

from Wikipedia :)–present:_Extensions_to_Astoria_and_Second_Avenue

The tracks cross the East River on the Manhattan Bridge. A service has been running since 1878, The Q service proper started in 1920.


There are plans to take it up to 125 St. in East Harlem giving people here a direct train to the beach within the next five years!

The great notion, reflecting on the Q train and its stops across the city,  is it like being back in New York.

Discover more NYC here

Sunday, 12 September 2021


September 6,8 and 10

Oh! I am here. Beginning to finish what I started in 1974.


I am on the Art Access Course at Carmarthen School of Art.

“The Access to Higher Education qualification is a course tailored for adults who wish to return to education. Maybe it is time for a career change or maybe you did not have the chance to go to university due to family commitments.” (‘adults’ their italics)


Access, rather like a Foundation course, the equivalent of doing three ‘A’ Levels in one year. Says the man who left school with six all of GCEs all at grade six.  The program runs for one year, three terms, three days a week.



Here’s our room, say ‘Hi’ to everyone. 

Grab a desk, 

grab a chair, 

find yourself a drawer in one of the Plans Chests. Make sure you label it.


Our tutor throughout this year is Sarah, she is an established practising artist too.


Across the day we get the skinny* on the course, how to be successful, what’s expected.


In the morning also a spirited introductory presentation to us and the Foundation Course group from the Heads of the School, Jamie and Amelia.  All the opportunities, growth, and values of the college are laid before us. Go for it being their key message.


This term, as far as I can figure, we are doing six modules from now until December 17, Ceramics, Textiles, 2D, Drawing, Print Making, and Communication Skills.


Exhausted, at lunchtime I wander into the print making studio. Wow! Loads of presses including two Victorian flights of engineering fancy; Albion presses, early cast iron hand printing press and still going strong. I meet the Head of the department and am determined to spend a lot of time here across the coming weeks.


Cutting out like Matisse; across the afternoon we work with coloured paper, scissors and glue to create art. Moderate success for me and the activity got us all thinking!

Making like Matisse




We are in the life drawing studio (huge) and with a table-top still life set up. We are drawing from about 10:30 through 3:30 This is the activity that makes us strong. Paper, charcoal, pens and paint. We are left to our own devices with Tutor Sarah coming round to encourage and suggest. 

I suspect this a just a gentle warm up to some hard-core drawing instruction just around the corner. The tip of a hard and disciplined iceberg.  


Come 3:45 I walk down the hill (one which is vertical by the way, when I walk up it in the morning) and catch my bus home to Laugharne at 3:55.

The Big Draw

Wednesday: Drawing and Painting




Ceramics introduction from Head of Department Tom Fisher. 


He dances us around this kingdom, showing us his riches, riches that we will, after next week enjoy every Friday morning. 


His message is totally clear: turn up, tune in and hand your assignments in on time and we’ll all be good. Phew.


Like every organisation in the known world, we have an IT ‘platform’ on which we will run our lives here. 

Folks it’s all on Google. So, we have a session learning the digital ropes according to Google. I stray into doing one of the online assessments, politely called ‘Number’ and the results from this throw my childhood struggle with math back into sharp focus.



Facilities and mindset**...

The facilities, studios, the kit and wonderful tutors all in place.

Mindset: have a go, there’s loads of support, the facilities are there to be used. All the lecturers are there to teach and coach – so go stretch.



*Skinny: US, informal.: the true information about someone or something that is not known by most people.


** 'You don't object to our using of the expression 'mindset' do you sir? Mr Hector doesn't care for it. He says if he catches any of us using it he'll kick our arses from bollocks to sundown sir' Alan Bennett – The History Boys.

Saturday, 4 September 2021


 July 13 Friday

We cross over into Pembrokeshire, near Neath, specifically to Crunn’s Farm where T&J have chosen to make their home. 




Crunn’s is a lovely old farmhouse with a barn adjacent. The latter goes by the delightful name of Pretty Penny Barn.  They are good neighbours up in the Badlands of Buckinghamshire and have chosen to be our neighbours in West Wales too. 

Crunn's are only about 30 minutes drive away so bound to be lots of adventures across the coming years. By my count the place is blessed by five separate garden areas to the front, back and sides of the property!


And o’ my! 

From the house The Preseli Hills, known locally and historically as the Preseli Mountains, shimmer. And you can look across the eastern Cleddau valley to Llawhaden Castle a fortified Bishop’s Palace.

Early morning from Crunn's looking East


I made it quite clear to the new owners that it is my intention to spend much time here drawing and painting. Come late Autumn when distracting foliage is less evident there will be much to paint!

Thursday, 2 September 2021


 July 11 Wednesday 

It was raining when I left the house with Rosie but she needed a walk and so I thought I’d give it a go and go to Pendine. By the time we got there it was really raining. Rosie hates the rain however this hatred was overridden by her love of the beach!  


She was game on so we walked eastwards to the MoD signage. As we reached that point I saw the MoD chap was closing up his observation hut for the day. An hour early by my reckoning and readying his tractor for the trip home.

So much rain, so little time

We’d had enough. I made a quick drawing just to show off. To whom? We turned and the full force of the wind and rain were against us.

Once home Rosie had a full spa treatment in the bath.

Wet Wet Wet

A renown Scottish Rock Band in the 1980' and '90s.

"Shed a Tear" is a song recorded by Wet Wet Wet for their first greatest-hits album, End of Part One. It was released as a single on 25 October 1993 and reached No. 22 in the UK Singles Chart.

Information all gleaned from Wikipedia to whom the author regularly donates. In fact he's been invited to a special Wikipedia gathering on September 22

Tuesday, 31 August 2021


 August 9

All day sunshine and showers Monday. We piled into the car and drove to Narberth a town some thirty minutes west, just off the main A40. We went to deliver some paperwork to a solicitor whose reception was festooned with the best collection of postcards I have ever seen!!!


Co-incidentally, my friends T & J are moving to this area from just down the road in the Badlands and making their home in Narberth. Brilliant. 

Narberth is a gourmet town with its most famous nosh shop being Spanish; . In the fourth week of September each year there is the town's Food Festival. 


Whilst we were there the place had a festive air with crowds of people coming in and out of cafes and bric-a-brac emporiums. We joined the throng. Checking on prices I am sure I discovered the most expensive battered rusty milk churn on the mainland of the British Isles.


Back home via Wiseman’s Bridge. A hamlet that sits on a rocky beach and in a valley. The was a hive of industrial activity from the 14th to the 19th century as it was a vital part of the Pembrokeshire coal field. 


The beach here is one of the best hereabouts for rock pool explorations: All manner of shells, sea weed, sea urchins and tiny crabs.

Friday, 27 August 2021


 August 8 Trinity 10


Double God today; Said Eucharist at St Martins just up the street. Said because the organist had unfortunately done her back in and so had her usual replacement. Once the St Martin's service was over, I scuttled back up the street for the Zoom Eucharist for all the parishes hereabouts. My attendance was essential as I was doing a reading from the First Book of the Kings. (19.4-8) 

An interesting tale of Elijah going to sleep under a broom tree and an angel nudging him awake with cake and water (broom service?) and saying eat and drink and get up that Mount Horeb.


 We have walked past Laugharne Castle 100’s of times and never been in, today we did. Siân had bought tickets for all of us and so through the castle gate we entered.

Castle View


Located right the edge on the estuary of the River Tâf, its was originally built in 1116. Then the Normans saw its possibilities as a ‘let’s-keep-the-locals-in-order’ stronghold. There have been many alterations since then, including becoming a Tudor fortified manor house in the sixteenth century. It was in Laugharne in 1403 that Owain Glyndwr’s rebellion stalled not something we talk about. During the Civil War, in 1644 there was a good game of Roundheads and Cavaliers, the Roundheads won by a good margin of those killed.


Sian has signed me up for CADW a sort of National Trust, English Heritage all rolled into one! OAP rate makes an attractive 

Wednesday, 25 August 2021


 Saturday 7th Cultural overload or what!

Afternoon: A game of rugby up on the playing fields above the town. Laugharne RFC v Lampeter RFC. A good game with some imaginative wide play by the boys from Laugharne. They did great in the line-outs and winger #14 was Olympian fast!

The final score, 24-36 points to the visitors was a disappointment as was the ref’s performance, he must have left all his yellow cards at home.


The evening saw us in the Community Centre for a performance of UNDER MILK WOOD by the Laugharne Players. One of my absolute favourite pieces of writing. My dear late Mother-in-Law introduced me to this play for voices some twenty years ago. It has shaped my love of Wales and a reason for us making a life down here.


The Laugharne Players brought wit and a great sense of timing to this enchanting work. A play ten years in the making and ‘premiered’ in NYC the year I was born. In May 1953 Thomas gave a solo reading of some of Under Milk Wood at the Poet’s Theatre, Cambridge, Massachusetts; with the the first stage performance of Under Milk Wood, at the Poetry Center, NY.

'The amusing, poetic, and immensely popular Under Milk Wood is set in the village of Llareggub. The work has never been out of print since first publication in 1954 and it has been filmed at least four times. It would be difficult to estimate how often it has been performed on stage across the world, but think of a very big number and then double it.' 

 PhD Researcher, Swansea University writing in The Conversation  November 2018

Saturday, 21 August 2021


 August 6 

 Friday: Heavy rains on the way down last night made for exciting driving conditions but we were in The Showroom by 8pm. Most of the day was spent preparing and welcoming Bronnie and Joe staying for a few days, our first overnight guests! 


We met their train at Carmarthen station, another first visit. 

I thought it was going to be grander than it was. 

However it does has the customary GWR red and purple bricks, wooden roof and stone lined doorways. It is the third station that the town has enjoyed <> since the mid 1800’s. The previous ones have opened and closed reflecting the fortunes of railway enterprise; lines proposed, and never going further than the drawing board, lines opened and closed reflecting traffic and revenue.  


Carmarthen Station viii built in 1903 can be one’s gateway to Manchester, Cardiff and Crewe or wizz you West to Pembroke Dock, Milford Haven and Fishguard.

Friday, 20 August 2021


We were having a fabulous breakfast in Poons Street Food, Market Street, Laugharne.

Poon and Vince outside their successful restaurant cafe


The full breakfast with trimmings was made all the more excellent by the application of condiments and sauces from glass bottles.  Easily opened and applied to my bangers and bacon and futzing around with sachets of these essential condiments.

Essential Glass

It makes you think....


‘Almost 855bn sachets are used globally each year, containing single portions of everything from ketchup and vinegar to face cream, shampoo, and laundry detergent’ reported Madeleine Cuff of the i newspaper. She went on to say, ‘More than 50 business leaders, politicians and minor royalty have urged governments around the world to ban plastic sachets, which they argue are a major cause of plastic waste.’


Stick to the bottle or box (in the case of some detergents).

Vince at work 

Where it all started, Poon's original pitch in Laugharne 2018


The place for delicious Thai Green Curry and other Thai culinary marvels. Others are as enthusiastic.


Madeleine’s full article is here

All rights reserved. © 2021 Associated Newspapers Limited.

Monday, 16 August 2021


Saturday July 24

It looked and felt like it was going to rain all day so I scooped Rosie up for another early morning walk on Pendine Sands. On our arrival the sun broke through illuminating a family some 200m in front of us to the east. The whole beach turned a silvery-pewter colour, reflections on the sand shimmered.



The sun is back although in London storms and floods. We sat on the beach at Ginst Point,  round the corner from Pendine close to the MOD’s military proving ground, at 5:30 in the afternoon a balmy, peaceful 27°C. 

Ginst Point Sunday 


Before our beach time I attended a delightful United Churches Service in the car park of St Martins. Fab hymns and good prayers. The sun brought out colour sun umbrellas and made the service quite festive! 

Sunday, 15 August 2021


Experimenting with a new direction in my painting.

The idea hinges on taking a landscape or familiar territory and imagining it as a barcode. 

Immediately below, a painting entitled ‘If Pendine were a bar code’. 

If Pendine Sands was a bar code   Acrylic on Board   34 x 28 cm 

The approach is very stimulating; the use of colour, juxtaposition of colours and the depth of the actual bars in the barcode and the number of bars overall in the composition and the white space between them. There are lots of levers one can pull. 

Explorations will continue.

Friday, 13 August 2021

The Great British Fry-up?

 21st July 

31°C The tide was up, and the water was like a warm bath, quite remarkable. Pendine Sands was packed, paddling, swimming and getting sunburn during the first days of the schools’ summer holiday.  


The festival atmosphere provided a free life drawing class.

Come on in the water's lovely!


Fell into conversation with a lady also sketching the crowds on the beach. 

Me: Where are you from?

She: Cambridge

Me: Massachusetts? (Sensing her accent)

She: No, Cambridge England however I used to live in Cambridge Massachusetts.


Part of a lovely conversation; N came over here for two years loved it so much has never left. A move down to Wales in on her cards.

Phew! What a scorcher

Wednesday, 11 August 2021


There’s a lovely walk we often do along the River Towy a mile or so south of Carmarthen town centre.  Soon into the walk you see the six spans of the railway bridge over the river. 

A bridge of ornamental cast iron and rivets

A working monument of ornamented cast iron and rivets in a garb of grey paint. Closer to the bridge one gazes up its imposing its lifting gear, giant cogs and levers.

Cogs, wheels and levers

This a rolling bascule bridge, its western most span is a lifting span. Built in 1908 – 11 to replace a wooden bridge which could not carry heavier rolling stock. An engineered balanced cantilever bridge. The moving span was operated by gearing carried on trestles on cantilevers either side of the bridge: a curved rack is fixed to the outer face of the main girders, driven by pinions themselves driven by wheels. 


These details survive, though the small power house is now derelict. It housed the electric motor to make the span lift, allowing shipping through. With its lovely purple-blue engineering bricks is now practise area for graffiti artists and home to buddleia. 


It was tested manually every Sunday up until 1957.



The river carries no commercial traffic today, its path is a recreational joy. The bridge, its river and surroundings doze, prodded several times an hour by trains hurting westwards to Milford Haven, Pembroke Dock and Fishguard.  


Friday, 6 August 2021




The beaches close by to Laugharne are adorned with wonderful driftwood. 


I’ve started collecting it, preparing it and painting on it. These are small works that I hang in the local café restaurant – Poons and are becoming quite popular.  Full gallery here 

Driftwood Pieces: Like hot cakes?


Even before the wood is touched in anyway it has its own splendour. I put a lot together in a stack the other day and standing back realised I had created a construction that would wipe it’s nose as a piece of art! Well, perhaps that is too ambitious a suggestion!

Driftwood Construction


Bit of digging around and I came across interesting facts about this harvest from the sea. Driftwood provides shelter for sea birds, fish and lots of other aquatic species. Wood discarded from the shore is jetsam, that which is discarded from ships, or the remains of ships and boats is known as flotsam. I’d always wondered about these two words.


In Norse mythology the first humans, Ask and Embla were formed from driftwood. 


Artists are fascinated by driftwood, including Lars Vilks, who’s drawings of Mohammed resulted in two failed attempts on his life by Islamic Extremists. In 1980 Vilks created two sculptures, Nimis and Arx, the former made entirely of driftwood in the Kullaberg nature reserve.


The native peoples on the Pacific coast of north America harvested driftwood and used it alongside wood they felled themselves or collected from the forest floor. It was prized for fuel, building and other purposes. This was explored in Natasha Lyons and Madonna Moss’s paper in the Journal of Ethnobiology Spring/Summer 2003:  THE USE OF DRIFTWOOD ON THE NORTH PACIFIC COAST: AN EXAMPLE FROM. SOUTHEAST ALASKA

Accounts from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries suggest that driftwood was much more plentiful then than it is now. Which is a shame. It is hardly likely that ‘drift plastic’ will take its special place.

Natasha Lyons and Madonna Moss’s and the Journal of Ethnobiology Spring/Summer 2003:  

Wednesday, 4 August 2021


Huddled together on the edge of the East River across from mid-town are the American Copper Buildings. 

It was an exciting photograph taken by my NY correspondent that prompted this drawing. 


And like all tall buildings of note in the city it has a unique tale. As the web site proclaims 

“The penthouses, exclusive and intimate, are designed to absolute perfection. Floor-to-ceiling windows, paired with custom features, create a castle in the clouds and make these dreamhouses unlike any other”. 

There are 761 of these little beauties. And 20% of the units are designated affordable

Like a nice lobby? Each tower has one with a 25-foot ceiling.


Work started on the site in 2014, copper being stuck to the north and south façades. east and west façades are tip to toe glass. Completed in 2016 the buildings are designed to ‘dance’* with each other. 

They are connected by a bridge 100 in length which includes a pool of course. If you prefer you can swim outdoors on the top of the east tower.’


The whole thing is just so exciting to gaze upon and little wonder they won Best Tall Building – Americas, 2018, awarded by the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat Tall Buildings Awards. 


You can rent one  from £4000 to around £15,000 per month which seems reasonable for a ‘castle in the clouds’.


*According to The Real Deal a trade publication which styles itself as the premier real estate news outlet in the US