Tuesday 27 December 2022


I stop by them in the car, photograph and draw them.  Later paint them. Drawn to them with “the sort of compulsion that derives from their physicality rather than any associations”1


Their meanness and implied indigence is prominent. Many are heartening neglected, ugly.

These are small scale scrawled marks on the landscape. Satisfying and enduring, preserved for function or former utility.

Another drive by painting: Llanygnog


Their composition is stone, breeze block, rusting corrugated tin.

Some have modern olive green steel roofs, a concession to trying to blend in. Windows without glass slowly shedding their paint. 


Close by an obligatory shipping container is pressed into service for who knows what.

On the road to St Clears: Sheds nestle next to a caravan


Dereliction in these parts means two of most things, at least: cars up on bricks, corrugated sheets, plastic buckets, wire, fencing posts, tyres (lots of). Close by half a car, three-quarters of a car, a shed a hutch, more posts. All subdued by grass, ivy, creepers and old man's beard. 


Oil drums (colours various) and the nearby gate is secured by blue bailer twine, acting as both hinge and latch.


Colour has a vital part to play in this agricultural tableaux. 

Every shade of grey you could mix, 

for the stone, concrete and skies overhead. 

Add Burnt Sienna for the rust, 

Turquoise or electric blue in the plastic detritus that on the ground in front. 

Lemon Yellow (hose pipes) 

Cadmium Orange (baler twine).

Lichen: shades from dark Hookers Green to the palest blue or a watery mustard yellow.

Late December Afternoon -  Brook Farm nr. Pendine



These buildings and their grounds are visually pungent. More satisfying than the mollycoddled  rural museum heritage-experience with entry fees and overgrown with signage.


1  Jonathan Meades from Pedro and Ricky Come Again Unbound Books 2021




Isolated glory: A barn near St Davids, Pembrokeshire

Sunday 18 December 2022


FLASHBACK  - earlier this year.

Whilst at college each day I passed a small portion of Saint David’s Park on the outskirts of Carmarthen. 

It always intrigued me and the other day I made a visit and took some photographs. Laying all these photographs into end and they were not many, it was easy to compose paintings. 

Seeing a photograph of the entrance of Disney's  ‘Magic Kingdom’ in Florida it was easy to translate the high camp Gothic of Disneyland into the Gothic of Saint David’s. And the colourways were perfect. 

Studying the architecture: It all late Victorian Gothic including, round the corner from here a remarkable chapel Grade II listed. It was built by the inmates for St David’s was the county asylum. 1865 – 2003  

St David’s now has a much neglected and is falling apart kind of place Disneyland on the other hand is over the top Gothic everything pink, gold, and blue, and is the place to have fun. 

Circa 1950s

I found a photograph of what St David’s used to look like when it was a mental hospital. Then I got to thinking about the Gothic and the idea of Disneyland popped into my head. 

St David's Hospital was a vast. A Victorian asylum set on a hilltop west of Carmarthen, overlooking the town and enjoying wide views over the Tywi Valley. 

Monday 28 November 2022


November, warmth, sun and crowds. Everyone enjoying themselves. The selfie-nistas are out in force. 

This is Rome.

We are here, M-F, quite wonderful, scrub that. It is wonderful.

 Rediscovering the familiars (Pantheon) discovering the new (Trajan Markets Museum) and coping with frustration – the places we most want to see are closed – what they don’t tell you on their websites don’t tell you.

Rome: carbonara central.

Hotel is two minutes from the Trevi Fountain and five minutes’ walk (in different directions) from two very important things.


#1 A remarkable collection of Renaissance paintings  -  Palazzo Barberini houses the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, one of the most important painting collections in Italy. We had a wonderful last morning floating round the rooms housing this collection. Sun streaming in through the windows.


# 2 A wonderful exhibition of the French painter Raoul Dufy at the Palazzo Cipolla. 


The Dufy was a very extensive show including his fashion designs, fabrics, tapestry and ceramic work. Everything was touched with light, colour, and complete exuberance. The show was entitled "The painter of joy" and indeed his work was a delight. I bounced out of that lovely colour rush the perfect antidote to a drab early UK winter.  Note to self:  do some investigations into this exciting painter who was influenced by Matisse. 

Mediterrranean Delights 

Mattise Influences 

The painter of joy

Palazzo Barberini. Well, just getting so close to some fabulous Renaissance art. (Train strikes prevent me going to London to go to the National Gallery.) As soon as  I got home I got out a book on Renaissance art in Italy from the public library and will work my way through this. Also I discovered or rather Sian discovered that there is a whole host of National Gallery lunchtime lectures on YouTube. And I have been watching these  - absolutely thrilling - . So there's another source of art education if you want it.


Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica

A decorated panel in the private chapel

Sian discovered this wonderful ceiling in the Palazzo

Both experiences are so different from the self-obsessed, joyless contemporary art are served up by many of today’s galleries. As I write Max Hetzler has emailed me about a show of torn posters in Paris by the French artist Raymond Hains. https://www.maxhetzler.com/exhibitions/raymond-hains-affiches-lacerees-torn-posters-2022

Affiches Lacérées / Torn Posters

Paris: 46 & 57, rue du Temple, 75004, 26 November 2022 – 5 January 2023

Friday 11 November 2022

ST CLEARS: River, railway and road.

St Clears, pop. 2,995 (2011 census, squats either side of the A40 as it wizzes westwards to Fishguard. North of this busy road is upper St Clears with its Cats Trust Charity Shop and Kebab and Piazza shop. 

 Lower St Clears, on the other side of the A40 boasts the Priory Church of St Mary Magdalene c.1100 boasting the best surviving Norman stone carving in Carmarthenshire. 

Priory Church of St Mary Magdalene 

The A40 was built by the Romans. Later, as  Norman forces made their way west they stopped and built a motte and bailey castle which at 12 meters high is one of the tallest in Wales. It was attacked by the locals in 1153, 1189 and 1215. Owain Glyndwr.



The river Taf with its stone quays still visible brought trade up the river. Lime for the kilns, materials for brick and tile making. There was shipbuilding. The Sophia Well (130 tonnes) was built there in 1839. She plied her trade as far as Malta, Constantinople St Petersburg and Quebec.

Once a great trading river

There was a regular boat service from St Clears to Bristol.


The railway arrived in 1854 and the port of St Clears fell into a decline. Although there is room for pleasure craft at high tide – witness St Clears Sailing Club. 

Pleasure craft still popular 


In 1964 the railway station closed. 



Reopening the station has been an on-off campaign since 1973. In fact building work to put platforms in place this year with an operational date of 2024. Detail here.


This year has also seen the opening of a 24 hr McDonalds and a Greggs both conveniently located by the main road and the Travelodge.

Off street parking


St Clears detail here


The writer is a regular donator to the wonderful Wikipedia organisation 

Sunday 30 October 2022


Two days of extraordinary high tides, thank you Mr Moon. 


This morning the water laps the footpaths and covers the foreshore. 
‘Neath the castle is just enough grass for me to stand and do my tai chi. Across the marshes by the estuary real estate is at a premium this daybreak. 
Gulls dispute, oyster catchers run tight-turned sorties, 
Mr Heron stands apart. 

Grey sky with just enough sun, somewhere, to cast a zing of orange, briefly on the waters. 
An unyielding breeze hackles the water. 
A canoeist his arm, and makes the crossing. 


Thursday 27 October 2022


For a more domestic perspective on Guernsey under German occupation go straight to the German Occupation Museumhttp://www.germanoccupationmuseum.co.uk 

Lest we forget; The Channel Islands were the only British Territory to be occupied by the Germans during WW2. 

Here, through ration books, newspaper articles, posters diaries and hundreds of photographs all pinned to the walls you get a sense of what it was really like to be occupied, the shortages, privations and day-to-day living under martial law. 

Yes, we all endured the Covid lock down and some really suffered, really recently.  Guernsey’s  was a five-year lock down, with no nightly cheering at 8pm. This was hardship. hunger and sacrifice. Relief came, for some, with an international Red Cross boat in 1944


Many islanders resisted the German Occupation by defiance and acts of sabotage. Those caught suffered appallingly in prisons on the continent. Some did not return.


The Germans invaded on June 30, 1940, and grudgingly surrendered on May 9, 1945.


This is Excellent museum #3.  The ‘Most Thoughtful Layout And Curation Award’ goes to this museum.

Gun emplacements across the island 

Sian completes a weapons check

In the spotlight: this was a common sight from 1940-45

R&R? a German officer and his girlfriend

Monday 24 October 2022


La Valette Underground Military Museum is a sort of Grand Designs project. 


The German occupying forces built a complex of four huge tunnels, each to house a fuel tank. 

Never finished this unground complex stood unused as an intended U-boat re fuelling station.  The massive tanks were sold off to islanders all except one which stayed in place. It is GIGANTIC. The others were cut up and used to store fuel for the Guernsey growing industry.


In 1978 someone said I know we could turn it into a cool museum. 

Now it is a wonderful giant toy box full of military bits and bobs curated in the press your nose up against a glass display case style. A remarkable range of buttons, bows, ribbons, medals, weapons little and large. A full range of army, naval and air force uniforms. 


Our second brilliant Guernsey museum visit.

Lots of kit 

One of the four oil storage tanks

A corridor runs the entire length of the underground bunker:
 full of military bits and bobs

Friday 14 October 2022



Cornet Castle watches over St Peter Port and has done for about 800 years.

The Normans first fortified this rocky outpost. Across the Middle Ages it was back and forth between French and English ownership. (Think Channel Crossers 2021) One French invasion was led a Welshman, Owain Lawgoch. 

St Peter Port 

The big guns of Cornet - seenin' off them Frenchies


Charles (I) sold bits off to the local council in return for running the place, feeding the garrison and such. A nine year siege during the civil war saw Parliamentarian John Lambert holed up in Cornet. Lambert took up gardening. His garden which has been re-created, nice sage bushes, I helped me self to a few leaves for supper.

One gardener enjoying the work of another 


Like most of Guernsey Castle Cornet  enjoyed lots of upgrades during the Napoleonic Wars. And in WW2 the Germans moved in with their modifications. Concrete of course.



‘Granite sea concrete’ must be rather like a game of ‘Rock, paper, scissors’.  


This island was strewn with Martello towers, impressive granite structures. Aiming to see of any French sea invasions during the Napoleonic wars (1803 – 13). Fort Hommet on the West coast was one example.

Along the road to Hommet 


Then ‘ello’, thought the just arrived German army engineers in 1940 ‘this (‘zis) will make a good gun battery’.


Pimp my Fort was the program of importing much slave labour onto the island as part of a vast customisation of these forts with exciting modernist concrete extensions. The Germans transported over 16,000 slave workers to the Channel Islands to build fortifications.

The visitors' book 
Add a search light or two, observation post or two and guns facing out to sea – K331s and anti-tank PAK 36 gun (made by Skoda). And then a M19 automatic mortar, 120 rounds a minute, 750 metre range. By the time this extraordinary work was completed Guernsey had more guns emplacements than the entire Normandy coast.

Crumbling into the sea 

Saturday 8 October 2022

Camp or Kitsch? Either way it is a treasure.

Guernsey II. Camp or Kitsch? Either way it is a treasure.

Just around the corner from a posh independent school is The Little Chapel

It was by Brother Déodat. 

The good Brother’s idea was a miniature version of the grotto and basilica at Lourdes, the Rosary Basilica. Fair dinkum.  It went through several iterations. Was bashed about rebuilt and then bashed about again. What you see today is a tiny treasure that you can just about walk through and down through several side chapels. Everything is decorated as would befit the Church of Rome. 


Fr. Déodat finished a second chapel in July 1914 (measuring 9 feet by 6 feet).[6] However, when the Bishop of Portsmouth visited in 1923, he could not fit through the door, so Déodat again demolished it. 


The third and current version of the chapel started soon after the last demolition, and measures 16 feet by 9 feet.

A delightful interior 


Glitz, delicate shards of pottery everywhere, seashells, pebbles, and broken china on every surface inside and out. 


This is another great reason to visit Guernsey! 

Tuesday 4 October 2022


You always remember your first trip after lockdown. Safety briefing, to which you pay attention, babies bawling make you consider an upgrade and people taking an unusual interest in anti-motion sickness bracelets. The later were to become essential must-wears within the next hour of the three hour crossing from Poole to St Peter’s Port Guernsey. There were many passengers wobbling their way to the toilets clutching those nice white paper bags.

Uncle Tim’s Cabin.

Our billet is a delightful and commodious cabin on the north-east of the island – Vale. Driving up we noticed a huge acreage of glasshouses. All empty, the remains of Guernsey’s once huge tomato growing industry. Huge until the Dutch had a go at the same idea. Made mental note to explore the one next door to us with a camera.


Going underground.

One and a quarter miles of tunnel and low cavernous rooms. Part ammo dump, part military hospital. Dipping, cold and glistening in the light shed by ancient yet atmospheric bulkhead lights. Somewhere floats the music of Édith Piaf*. We are in a museum, a wonderful museum. The German Underground Hospital. Built by slave labour imported by the Nazis from across Europe.  http://www.germanundergroundhospital.co.uk

One and a quarter miles of tunnel

Part ammo dump, part military hospital