Sunday, 18 February 2018

Cotehele, Devon

Two sketches made a couple of days ago at the National Trust property of Cotehele in Devon. The first is The Edgcumbe tea room on Cotehele Quay and the second is a view of some garden trees, crocuses and snowdrops. 



Boar's Bridge, Cotehele




A torrent passes of seemingly boiling water:
tumbling, bubbling and pounding;
white-peaked unstoppable turbulence
below a hovering pale steam-like mist.
Yet to touch: a sharp, penetrating cold,
beneath a crisp icy blue sky.
Clamouring over pebble and stone,
down from the rain soaked hills
through the frost encrusted valley,
alongside hibernating woodland
and through rich pastured fields.
Bankside alders, oak, sycamore
hazel: with soft lamb tails of gold,
silhouetted against the bright sun
with sparkling fingers of condensation.
Their tall shadows carve paths
in eddies of delicate swirling vapour.
Bright laser-like lines of light
burn brilliant translucent greens
on bank-side frozen brambles.

Soon, the warming spring-like sun
and encroaching hillside shadows
dissipates the etherial light show
and the magic of the morning fades.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Old Skool Pantry, Luton

Spent a couple of hours at this new local cafe/restaurant in Luton. Really like it here, food looks tasty and it is a good place for me to sit, write and draw. Owner really liked this iPad sketch.

@oldskoolpantry on Facebook.


Friday, 9 February 2018

Teapot Tales No. 9: Pibbles, Endings and Where Next?


A series of short pieces of writing forming different perspectives
around a common theme.


Teapot Tales No. 9: Pibbles


The barn echoed with the loud chirping of sparrows. For most of the day they would hop around the floor of the old barn, picking up grains of wheat and anything else vaguely edible from the dusty floor. They would frequently fly up to the wooden rafters and sit there, cheeping incessantly away.
 At one end of the barn, high up on stack of hay bales, Pibbles eyed the scene. She had long given up any attempt to chase after them and preferred to bide her time and catch the occasional one unawares. One advantage of being up here was that it was the one place she could escape to when being chased by that annoying dog.
Twice recently whilst enjoying a peaceful hunting trip in the walled garden, she had been spotted and had to make a run for it. She had to dash to the wooden gates and squeeze underneath them. Then, run up the drive, over the compost bins, past the horse yard, through a gap between two barns, over the woodpile and then leap up the hay bales to safety. The little dog would be left yapping away beneath her until it got fed up and trotted off. She would then spent the next few minutes carefully washing her fur - more than that scruffy dog could do, it would be totally covered in mud, leaves, twigs and grass.

Endings


This completes my initial foray into exploring something new. I appreciate the stories may have been a little disjointed, but that was the intention. They were just an exercise to see what would happen when I put pen to paper.

Where Next?


I have now decided to completely re-edit all the stories into a more cohesive form of text. This I hope to do in the next week or two, then I will publish the result.

After that I will move on to other writing projects. There are several I am thinking about.



Thursday, 8 February 2018

Teapot Tales No. 8: Ann




A series of short pieces of writing forming different perspectives
around a common theme.

Teapot Tales No. 8: Ann


A walking stick thrashed away at the cabbage plant.
‘Shooo, go away, you naughty butterfly.’ Ann hit out at the cabbage white. More leaves flew up in the air and a rather spindly shredded stalk was left looking rather forlorn.
‘Ah, there you are. I wondered if I might find you here.’ Peter approached Ann who was still waving her stick wildly around.
‘Why did you let the butterflies out today, Peter? I keep telling you not to let them out. They will eat all your cabbages.’
‘Yes, I…,’ started Peter.
‘I’ve made a pot of tea. Here, let me pour you a cup,’ Ann continued.
‘Thanks, but…,’ Peter tried to cut in.
‘Excellent, here you go. Milk? Good. I’m going to the seaside today, Gina says that Morris will pick me up at eleven’. Ann continued as she poured something a pale yellowish hue into a china cup from a small watering can on the garden table.
Peter took the cup of tea. It was warm but it certainly wasn’t tea. He sniffed it. He thought he knew what it was. How the hell did she find that watering can? The seaside? No, she was not going to the seaside and anyway Morris, her husband, had died eight years ago…
‘Perhaps we should go back now, Ann. Morris will be wondering where you are.’ Peter suggested gently.
As Ann began take aim at another butterfly Peter carefully caught her stick in mid swipe and held her arm to guide her back to the house.
‘Do you remember when you fell into the pond?’ Ann continued. ‘Gina had to pull you out and you were very ill. Morris wants a coffee cake for his birthday. Gina will make one. I have given her a recipe and your flies are undone.’
‘Yes, dear,’ Peter sighed.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Teapot Tales Review

I have been writing these short stories for just over a week now and have no firm idea from one to the next what is going to happen. My aim in writing has been to get some practice in preparation for a bigger project. So I set myself the challenge of creating a theme, the teapot, and then writing very short stories around that. The stories must be less that 300 words or so and all have to link together in some way. I am intrigued by how a subject or object can be viewed from so many perspectives by different people or things. I am not trying to create a single continuous narrative, rather snippets of prose that could exist at anytime in the overall context. 


Before I sit down and write I may have no idea what will appear. Usually I will pick the character and then begin writing. I may have a vague inkling of what will happen. For example, in Peter’s story I knew he was going to use the teapot as a watering can but other than that I just go with the flow of writing in the moment. 


Although I could continue writing these short pieces I may well bring them to a halt shortly and just dip in and out occasionally. I have written a few more to post, then there are other things I would like to do and I want to add variety to this site.


I would hugely appreciate any feedback on these Teapot Tales. Were they readable? Who do you think would enjoy them? Did you follow them? How could they be improved? Should I give up and stick to drawing?

Teapot Tales No. 7: Peter



A series of short pieces of writing forming different perspectives
around a common theme.

Teapot Tales No. 7: Peter

Once the washing up was put away and the kitchen tidied after the evening meal, Peter was able to spend a hour or so in the garden. Although Andy looked after all the orchard and herbaceous borders, Peter liked to do as much with the vegetables as possible. He stood in the greenhouse looking at the list of jobs Andy had written on the blackboard for him to do. 
A couple of weeks ago Peter had sown a few courgette seeds in some small pots and these had now germinated well and needed watering again. He looked round for the small watering can he usually used. It was nowhere to be seen. He suddenly had a horrible feeling that Ann might have taken it. Ann loved that watering can. Unfortunately, she would often assume it was a teapot, which made life a little interesting at times. Last week he had seen her watering the cat with it and yesterday she had filled it up with freshly picked radishes. He usually hid it well, but somehow she had an uncanny ability to find it again.
The courgettes definitely needed watering and he looked round to see what he could use. He saw Gina’s teapot. No-one would know. He couldn’t. He could. 
Peter emptied out a small amount of cold tea from the teapot and filled it from the greenhouse tap. He watered the plants and then put the pot down on the potting bench.
He stood there for a moment lost in thought. There was something bouncing around the back of his mind that he wasn’t quite sure what to do with, and was he imagining things anyway? Paula.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Dukes Coffee House, Tavistock


On of my favourite places to sketch is Dukes Coffee Shop in Tavistock, Devon. I seem to find myself there two or three times a year and there is usually somewhere to sit outside and watch people go by. This iPad drawing was done between last Christmas and New Year on a quick visit. It wasn't cold and I was able to merrily scribble away quite comfortably. At first I was unclear what direction, if any, to take the drawing but as time progressed, so gradually I kept adding detail. In the end I was unexpectedly pleased with the result.

Teapot Tales No. 6: Lord Hanley



A series of short pieces of writing forming different perspectives
around a common theme.

Teapot Tales No. 6: Lord Hanley


The long meadow grass was being scythed. Lord Hanley watched as a small gang of farm workers moved steadily across the field. A cloud of butterflies rose around them as they swung too and fro cutting the buttercup laden grasses on that hot summer’s afternoon. They were progressing well and would be rewarded with some extra cider at the end of the day.
Lord Hanley walked along a faint path through the cut grass towards a small hollow near the top of the field just below the oak wood. Here, a small spring emerged, its water held for a while by a small circular stone wall just a few inches high before trickling away down through the meadow.
Local folklore told how this used to be the centre of an ancient druid meeting place. There used to be a ring of eight chestnut trees surrounding the spring. Over the years the trees had died and the last was blown over the previous winter. A story describes how a young boy once went missing on a snowy night whilst checking some sheep. He had fallen very ill and was on the verge of death when a druid found him, took him back to the spring and miraculously cured him. Ever since then the spring had always been venerated by local people.
Lord Hanley unfolded a large sheet of paper he had been carrying under his arm. It was a map covered with ink script, notes, numbers and sketches. He held it up and looked at the landscape around him from different angles. He was happy. It would work. This spring would form the centre piece of his new walled garden.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Teapot Tales No. 5: Robin



A series of short pieces of writing forming different perspectives
around a common theme.


Teapot Tales No. 5: Robin


The evening sunshine left a lengthening shadow on the west side of the walled garden but the greenhouse on the northern wall was still bathed in a golden light. The storm clouds that brought the rain earlier had dissipated to leave a warm glowing sunset. There was no-one to be seen in the garden. If anyone was there they would have heard the gentle buzzing of bees on the lavender, the soft tumbling of water from the fountain in the central circular pond and the gentle background birdsong.
The greenhouse door was open. There was a soft flutter and a robin landed on the door step. With a flick of its head its inquisitive eyes surveyed the inside. A hop. Then, with a few almost invisible wing beats, it flew up to the staging and then up onto the lid of the teapot. The robin glanced around looking for a few seconds then spied a little meal on one of the pot plants. It darted quickly over, snapped up a small caterpillar and flew back outside, disappearing into the thick clematis growing over the wall behind the greenhouse.
The garden was still and alone. Nothing apart from itself. No-one interfered with its existence. 
Something moved. Ever so slightly. By the pond. Sitting on the coping stones and reaching into the water with a hand.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Teapot Tales No. 4: Andy


A series of short pieces of writing forming different perspectives
around a common theme.


Teapot Tales No. 4: Andy


The rain thundered on the glass panes above them. Andy was sure he had finally solved the problem with the lawnmower’s starter motor and he knew Peter would be pleased. He had the orchard to mow tomorrow and needed the ride-on mower to be working. Whilst rummaging about in the back of the workshop recently he had found a rusty carburettor which he now realised belonged to the old Atco lawnmower. Their 1964 MF35X tractor restoration project was progressing slowly and finding an old fuel injection pump hidden in the same place had saved him trying to look on the internet for something similar. He despised modern technology but had to admit that it had its uses. He worked well with Peter though their relationship had been little strained recently when he dismantled a computer to see how the hard drive worked and then couldn’t put it together again. Most of the time he was able to fix things with a hammer, socket set and WD40. This time, his sworn by engineering skills failed to work and somehow didn’t meet with Peter’s approval.
After a few minutes the rain eased off and Peter and Paula left the greenhouse and made a dash for the house.
'Looks like they’ve gone and forgot the teapot,' Andy said to himself. The others were too far away by now to call back.
He picked up the teapot and fished out a couple of tea bags.
'These could be useful,' he thought to himself. He placed the pot back down, leaving a few distinctly oily fingerprints on the glaze. He didn’t like the design, too modern for his tastes.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Teapot Tales No. 3: Suzy


A series of short pieces of writing forming different perspectives
around a common theme.

Teapot Tales No. 3: Suzy


Suzy sat across the table from Gina and Paula. She listened as the other two chatted about the local farm shop and the fuss that Ann, Gina’s mother, was creating because the manager didn’t want to take her homemade cakes.
'Yeah, and remember the time she used gravy granules in her coffee cake, it was disgusting!' Gina recalled. She and Paula began to laugh hysterically. Once they got going they were unstoppable.
Suzy smiled and let the others continue with their stories. She looked at the crockery on the table. The teapot was one of Suzy’s favourites. She could remember making it and the feeling of excitement when the glazed pot finally came out of the kiln. It had been a fiftieth birthday present for Gina a few months ago. Something special for a special friend.
Suzy heard footsteps approaching along the gravel path and Peter walked into view. He waved a greeting, walked into the greenhouse to get another deckchair and returned, sitting down between her and Gina.
'Any tea left?' he asked.
Gina poured him a cup and he helped himself to some flapjack. Conversation ensued for few minutes during which time Suzy noticed a subtle change in Paula. She was sitting rather more upright, had tidied her hair and appeared to subtly blush when Peter spoke to her.
A few minutes later the first spots of rain began to make their presence known.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Teapot Tales No. 2: Paula



A series of short pieces of writing forming different perspectives
around a common theme.

Teapot Tales No. 2: Paula


The few spots of rain were beginning to turn into something more substantial. Gina and Suzy decided to take the tea things back into the house. Peter, who had just returned home from work, had come out to join them in the garden and was left chatting to Paula at the table where they were seated outside the greenhouse.
'We’ll be there in a minute,' Paula said. She wanted to ask Peter whether he would be able to get a website designed for her scone making business.
Whilst she and Peter chatted about various possibilities she half absent mindedly started fiddling with the lid of the teapot that was still on the table. She quite like ceramics and was intrigued by the shape of the teapot as a whole. She was intrigued by Peter too. Whilst Peter casually talked about domain names and email addresses she picked up the teapot and began to examine it more closely. Her mind wandered a little as she looked at Peter and ran her hand over the pot’s spout. She smiled and caught Peter’s eye.
'Would you…?' Her slightly sultry tone of voice was cut short.
'Hey, Freddy!' Peter suddenly exclaimed. Freddy had appeared out of nowhere and jumped up onto his lap. His woolly hair was covered in bits of leaves, twig, grass and mud.
'What on earth have you been doing you silly dog? Yuck, what a mess. Bother the rain. Quick, Paula, let’s get into the greenhouse.'
The clouds opened as they hurriedly carried the teapot, deckchairs and table into the greenhouse.
Andy, the gardener, came ambling in to shelter too.
'Hi Pete. Afternoon Paula. ’Could tell it was about to rain. The daisies ya know. GIad I got that mower repaired. Bloomin’ starter motor pinion had broken and you know that carburettor what we found in the shed…?' He had Peter in his grip.
Paula heaved a silent sigh of frustration. She looked out of the door at the torrential rain outside and wished Andy would go away. He was a good friend, but at this particular moment she just wished he would go and get run over by his damned lawnmower.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Teapot Tales No. 1: Gina


A series of short pieces of writing forming different perspectives
around a common theme.

Teapot Tales No. 1: Gina


Gina opened the door to the patio and Freddy came bounding in. He was wet, muddy and covered with leaves and bits of twig.
'Oh you silly dog,' she said. 'Where have you been?'
Freddy scampered round her ankles, tail wagging furiously and sending leaf fragments flying all over the stone kitchen floor. He looked up at Gina, eyes sparkling and with perhaps a hint of mischief in his eyes.
'Stay here, Freddy, I’ll be back in a minute.'
Gina walked out into garden. She closed the door behind her and Freddy pressed his damp nose against the glass watching her intently as she hurried out along the path that led past the lawns and on down to the walled garden.
Nearly a hundred years ago her great grandfather had laid out the grounds to the house and created all the current features including the magnificent square walled garden. The path took Gina under the wooden arches of the rose garden and across to the blue wooden door that led to her ‘secret garden’ as she called it. She turned the cast iron handle and pushed the door. It opened inwards with a rusty squeak of the hinges. Andy, the gardener, was instructed to ensure the door always opened with a slight creak so that they could hear anyone entering the garden.
She walked through the small apple orchard towards the glass greenhouse. Yesterday she had made afternoon tea for a couple of friends and they had sat on the deckchairs on the lawn in front of the greenhouse enjoying a pleasant time of catching up with news and gossip. Somehow, whilst clearing up, the teapot had got mislaid and now she wanted to make sure it was safely back in the house. All the deckchairs and a small wooden folding table had been tidied away and she could see them leaning against a wall inside the greenhouse. The door was open and she walked in and looked around. A quick glance told her it wasn’t on the staging by the door so it must be elsewhere. 
'Oh, there you are,' Gina exclaimed in an excited whisper. 
'What are you doing there?' She was surprised to find it by some seed trays on the potting bench. She picked it up and walked back out into the sunshine. A faint sound caught her attention and she glanced over to the blue door to see who was entering the garden.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Shopping Trip and News

A little sketch.

I have now, hopefully, re-labelled all my poems on this blog to appear under the 'Poem' tag. Further housekeeping will occur over the next week or so and some old posts may disappear. I may also consolidate some things into a separate web page.

A new story series will be posted imminently!

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Mr Long Nose


Approaching the cafe: a tall, slow amble.
Door opens and enters.
Looks around.

The bin looks tempting.
A quick rummage,
Nothing of interest there.

Some loose change found in pocket
A cup of tea ordered.
Sits, gazing out the window.
Worn, dusty, mud splashed,
Old leather coat and woollen hat and gloves.
New Jeans.

Long, thin nose
Wild beard,
Very very wild.

Pushes up from the chair
Not too sprightly.
Leaves.

Table disinfected.

Wistman's Wood

Went for a walk to Wistman's Wood on Dartmoor on New Year's Eve. This sketch was made a few days after I arrived back but doesn't really capture the twisted and weather beaten character of the trees in one of the countries highest oak woodlands. It was just a quick sketch one lunchtime to go with the following poem.


Post Christmas thunder and heavy rain clouds
Tightly wrapped coats amidst chilled wind
Well trodden path along granite hillside
Sheep: colour washed with blue.

Walkers passed with damp muddy dogs
Across boggy boulder strewn moorland
The distant wood dwarfed by higher conifers
Anticipation of discovery drives me onward.

Centuries old trees, battered and bruised
One of Britains highest oak woods lies
On a bleak clitter strewn hillside
Where no man nor beast would roam.

Stunted and twisted the trees arise
From between close-knit weathered boulders
Mosses, ferns and lichens
Embedded on rain soaked branches.

History has left this wood untouched
But for curious wanderers, witches and druids
The makers of legends and those
Who seek its artistic inspiration.

A fragile habitat - I shall not enter
To clamber over the rocks and gawp
I have nothing to offer in return and
One less intrusion just might be appreciated.

New for 2018

For the past couple of months I have been on quite a journey of exploration as regards the future of my blog. I have looked and tried a few alternative possibilities to the way I worked but, in the end, decided that it worked too well so there was no point in doing something different. So, now I am back again. This time I have linked the blog to matthewslater.org.uk in order to better utilise the domain name and it has had a few design tweaks.

My aim with the change was to continue to present many of the illustrations that I do as part of my personal sketching, but also to present more writing in the form of poems and short stories.

One of my first ideas was to create a newsletter that I could send out very few weeks. The plan was to start creating snippets of a few stories with a particular theme which I would introduce via the blog. However, my mind then switched into overdrive and decided that these ideas were much better consolidated into a book. So yes, I am now thinking about writing a book. A proper book. One that will take a time to research, accumulate, plan and write. I will share more when I am ready to do so. It looks an exciting project.

So, where am I going? Not too sure! I will use the blog to share some of my thoughts as the year progresses, but I will keep my main ideas under wrap and just provide occasional tantalising dips into the creative process.

Matthew