A Touch of the Black Dog


Many of my readers will recall that I have used this phrase before on a number of occasions. It comes from another fellow Sagittarius  Sir Winston Churchill and, it was his term that he used when he was having a particularly bad day with depression.  Now I have always tried to be an open book, what you see is what you get, which on a number of occasions in the past haven’t been too helpful. Especially when I was working in a highly political corporation like CBS. I learnt a lot from my American colleagues, not least how to get ahead while others lost theirs!  And that can be quite stressful when one has always led their life like an open book. I just found it a nicer way to live, you didn’t have to tell lies, and then remember the lies that you had told and who you told them to, I just wasn’t that clever. I would always take the easy way out and call a spade a spade, those who understood the way I was, accepted that and we got on fine. (That didn’t mean that I was cruel in any way, if I thought a particular  instance of honesty would hurt the person, then obviously I would leave it). Those who didn’t like it could go and please themselves, an open-book I was, but never afraid of confrontation!  It certainly didn’t hinder my career and I was promoted to all the positions that I aimed for and always gave the best I could. If I liked what someone was doing I told them so, likewise if I didn’t like what they were doing I also told them. That usually didn’t go down that well with my fellow managers, but what the heck….if it was the truth what were they gonna do about it?

However, there were and still are days when The old Black Dog comes by. Usually for no apparent reason. One just finds one’s self much quieter and not so ready with the witticism. Thinking negative thoughts instead of being the positive person one has always tried to be. Having said that, I’m old enough now to know how to get out of that state of mind (most of there time that is!)  Subsequently by the end of my day I have managed to turn myself around and anyway, yesterday was a great day, a productive day.

My Day at The Bench

I had to take my wife for an appointment with her Consultant yesterday at a Hospital 30 miles away. I was all ready and had made all the necessary arrangements, but as it happened she was too ill to travel and at 8.30am she asked me to phone and rearrange the appointment, which I duly did.  She then went to sleep for the rest of the day, but considering she was trying to cope with chronic pain still at 5.30am I wasn’t surprised. This meant that I now had a free day and as long as I didn’t leave the house (why would I want to?) I could do whatever I wanted to do. Hence, my day at the bench.  And boy did I know it by the time I clocked off.

Hands

My day consisted of trying out the old ‘Wet Tissue Paper in the ingot mould’ trick, suggested by Jewellery Maker Teacher supreme Andrew Berry . I particularly wanted try this because I had ready only a small amount of Silver scrap to melt down, plus I had the idea that I wanted to make a piece of square wire no more than 100mm long x 1.5mm square.  To cut a long story short, it worked to perfection and after a slow natural cooling of period I proceeded to produce the wire in my Durston rolling mill.  I say slow natural cooling opposed to quenching because in the past I have had some problems with the wire/ingot cracking, and I have found that if I let the metal molecules reassemble themselves naturally, I don’t see so many cracks and fissures.

However, the reason I wanted the wire was because I wanted to make a square-wire heart. I didn’t find it particularly easy but it was very rewarding even though the ‘semi’ finished product wasn’t perfect.Silver_Heart03

But I was relatively happy with the outcome. My next task is to affix a small tube-setting with a stone/gem yet to be chosen and if I can get it up to standard, put it on my Etsy account for sale!

Another area of jewellery making that I have come to find  both challenging and rewarding is Spoon Rings. Very popular in America but I don’t think the interest is as popular in the UK. At least, I haven’t seen as many Silversmiths selling them as I have in the States. One of the problems I find is that it is difficult to find good quality sterling silver flatware in Wales, and I think that a number of my friends in the trade have confirmed this.  One Jeweller who I have mentioned before here, and who is quite the expert at making quality Jewellery from silver spoons is Ginger Meek-Allen  however, Ginger produces more lockets than rings, and you should visit her site for an example of some of the beauties she has produced. Moreover, because of Ginger’s influence I spotted this book on Amazon just this week and it is a little treasure trove of information on Spoons!

Ok chaps and chappesses, that’s me for another day. Please be kind enough to like (that’s if you did like of course) and click on the follow button at the top which will activate an email to your inbox on the publication of every new  blog post (that’s if you would like to read more ramblings of course) :-)

Love & Peace x

Slow to get back to work!


Not really wasting time

I did read somewhere where it said that getting old is not all bad. For one thing, no one can tell you what time to get or go to bed anymore. Secondly, if you wanna stay up and work at your bench until the sun comes up you can. No more customers to stress about, no more bank managers to worry about, no more meetings……you know I am starting to cheer me self up!

You are not wasting time if you are doing something that will improve yourself or improve the lives of others. I have been improving myself by reading which I love. Not all in paper form, there is some good stuff to find to read on the net, hence this article below.

keppelnecklace2keppelnecklace
Alice Keppel’s necklace The garnet and seed pearl demi-parure features as lot 496. The necklace is designed as an oval and pear-shape garnet cluster with seed pearl accents, suspended from a snake-link chain. The set is complete with matching ear pendants in a fitted case; this lot is offered with an estimate of £2,500-3,000.

Alice Frederica Edmonstone was born on 29th April 1868, the daughter of Sir William, 4th Baronet Edmonstone and incidentally is Camilla Parker Bowles’ great grandmother. She married her high society husband George Keppel in June 1891 before meeting the Prince of Alice Keppel’s necklaceWales, “Bertie”, seven years later. According to the social mores of the day, it was acceptable for spouses in the upper echelons of society to have affairs; however modern historians such as Victoria Glendinning have slated her as having the “sexual morals of an alley cat”. Nevertheless, Alice and George Keppel remained in a happy marriage and both died within months of one another after 56 years together.

Twenty six years his junior, Alice came to be “a fantastic help to Edward VII, more help than his wife [Queen Alexandra] could have ever have been,” according to biographer Christopher Wilson. She became his close confidante, and one of the few people who could calm the King’s often frightening mood swings until his death in 1901.

The garnet and seed pearl demi-parure was almost certainly worn by the fascinating woman around the late 19th century London social scene, and possibly in the presence of King Edward VII.

This article is from the Antique and Collectors Magazine  and is copyrighted to them.

Thinking Back.

I well remember at the regular weekly Management meetings one of the subjects that came up was to discuss HRM issues. And we would go through the different area managers roles and the staff that reported to them, and one of the questions that someone would nearly always bring up, especially – but not necessarily – for a new appointment was, “Is he/she the right man for the job?”  This got me thinking about all the Psychometric  Tests, and the group activities in the classroom to find out who would be best at what within a specific team. These activities were more often than not ran by myself as Head of The Training Division.  One of the Training Analysis activities we ran, was to identify where you would fit into a particular group. Because we are not all the same doesn’t mean that we don’t have our place in a group. We don’t all have to be great achievers. There is a place for most people within the group. We need Ideas people, we need Doers, Finishers, Closers, Activists, Completer’s etc. I was always an ideas and ‘shoot from the hip’ person – not always a great leader but still an essential part of a team – I could always be relied upon to come up with an idea, but don’t ask me to implement it! Which (finally  :-( sorry) brings me to the point I wanted to make about a forthcoming Training course I will be embarking upon where one is tested on the quality of one’s work. And not just any work but specific ‘fine and intricate’ work. This requires the mind of an Engineer who is ambitious  to Design and with the creative heart of an Artiste, and not a shoot-from-the-hipster like me!

However, one thing I have learned since commencing my Jeweller Making & Silversmith learning is that you have to be a ‘Dot-the-I -and-cross-the-T’ type of person, and NOT a shoot-from-the-hip chappie! This is the one thing that I have realised that I need to change in ‘My Type’. I need to NOT be impatient but still be hungry. I’m pleased to say that with the help of some of the many new friends I have made recently they are making my learning experience very pleasant, and I can clearly see a path to follow, for my part let’s pray that it continues.

So a big thank you to Andrew Berry and a very clever American Jeweller Ginger Meek-Allen.

Peace & Love Guys x

 

 

Happy New Year


Hello to all my friends out there and a Happy New Year to you all.

After about 5 years I am still trying to learn how to effectively use WordPress, but I soldier on with the hope that maybe this year I’ll get a little better at blogging, goodness know I have made enough promised false starts in the past!

As some will know I kinda….lost my photography Mojo, something I have loved for over 40 years however, all is not lost I still intend to vista my wildlife patches, but maybe not as often as I used to.

Having said that I am enjoying my new ‘Apprenticeship’, that of Jewellery maker/Silversmith/Goldsmith. It all started when my wife asked me to help with a beading project she was doing and needed something soldering, before I could turn around I had a Jewellery workshop! :-)  I think one of the catalysts to my new passion was finding the Jewellery learning site called At The Bench.  At the Bench is an online learning site where members have access to hundreds of films expertly presented by a professional working jeweller Andrew Berry. If you want to learn more about making and repairing and designing jewellery I can highly recommend him. There is a link at the bottom of the page.

I think it is safe to say that it is a steep learning curve, that is if you want to design and manufacture pieces that are worthy to be advertised and sold as pieces of jewellery, and not scraps of stuff stuck together, which all your family say “Oh!…you are so clever…that is a beautiful…what?…a Pendant?…Brooch?” :-) Which is just one of the reasons I have made a number of very nice and talented friends, most of which have been making jewellery for a number of years from 3 to 30. By showing them what I have made and then listening to their comments and inspecting and watching how they do the same thing, it has made my learning a lot easier than it would have been.  Please forgive me if I am repeating myself here and there, but as I said earlier I am trying to become a better blogger!

My latest attempt was to make a ring from sterling silver with a silver Gallery Basket setting (I hope I got that right). It took me for what seemed a long time, but in my defence  I did keep swapping over to other little projects, which I like to do. I have noticed that if I stay with the same piece I’m making for too long, I have a tendency to become impatient and want to hurry to finish the piece. This is where I start to make mistakes and get sloppy. If I have learnt one thing from Andrew Berry it’s to start as you mean to finish, thats with accuracy and diligence, if you cut corners at the beginning of the project there is no correcting it at the end. Well not when you are a learner anyway, thats for sure.

So this is the piece. I should say that there is no way this ring would be for sale because it is not good enough, but at least it will be a record (hopefully) to show how my pieces are improving over time.

 

If it ain’t Broke?


Firstly an apology to all my faithful blogging friends, an apology for being so delinquent is blogging! I promise I will do better in the coming year (please God)!

Some of you may remember that when I was working as a Management & Training Consultant I was always preaching about how change for the better is always good for business. And one of the books I remember reading was entitled ‘If it ain’t broke, break it’. Which basically meant that one shouldn’t take for granted that because things are going swimmingly at the moment, it doesn’t mean they will be the same this time (say) next year.  And, that we should always be prepared to re-visit our business plan and our marketing plan, and review all the major areas of the business such as:

  • Financial control
  • Overheads
  • Suppliers
  • Sales targets (must be S.M.A.R.T)
  • Customer service & management

So, being one who does practice what he preaches I looked inward and wasn’t very happy with what I saw. The competition in my chosen field of Wildlife Photography was such – due to the technological advancement of digital cameras – that every body and his dog was becoming a wildlife and nature photographer. All this was doing to me was creating stress which I did not want, and I had stopped enjoying going out with may camera and seeking special shots.  So I took the big step and decided to CHANGE.

The change I made was to do something I had thought about for about 12 months. And that was to learn to become a working metalsmith, a Jeweller, someone who can design pieces and the make them at a standard that would be acceptable within the industry. There is of course a Bona Fide entrance to the craft which requires something like a 5 year apprenticeship, but obviously being too old for this I started to investigate other ways of learning.

I was very lucky because I actually found a working Jeweller who actually taught the craft and was living and working in Wales, not more than 20 miles from where I live. His name is Andrew Berry and his boutique working jewellery store is in the beautiful Welsh valley town of Ystrad Mynach. Check out Andrew Berry.  If any of you are interested in learning a little more about the learning process, let me know and I will give the link to Andrew’s teaching site.

So, there we are a major change and I have found a new passion. I have partially converted my old photographic studio into a proper workshop/studio. There is a lot more to do to get it right, but it’s working and, I have actually started making sales! Only small ones, but enough to give me confidence in my work and confirmation that I must be doing something right!

Solid silver snake ring.
Solid silver snake ring.
Brass teardrop pendant
Brass teardrop pendant
Sterling silver ring with 9ct gold band.
Sterling silver ring with 9ct gold band.
Silver Plate Spoon Ring

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Silver Pendant
A Solid silver witches heart pendant

Changing for the better?


As my faithful followers will see Change is afoot!

Never be afraid of change, always be prepared to review where you are now opposed to where you would like to be, and be prepared to change for the better.

Please be patient and I promise all will be explained.

You wanna take my photo? Go on then...how's this?
You wanna take my photo? Go on then…how’s this?

 

TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING


As many of my blogging friends will know, I have been an avid wildlife photographer for many years. In fact I have negatives going back to the early 1960s. I have always had an interest in photography and it has stayed with me for more than 40 years. A passion? I’m not sure. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t know what a passion is anymore. Anthony Robbins the world famous NLP and ‘self help’ practitioner defines passion as ‘something that keeps you up until late at night and gets you up early in the morning.’ And that certainly used to be the case with me, but not anymore.

In many ways I have been very lucky in my life, I have nearly always done a job that I loved, and in many cases paid me a lot of money. And when I was dishing out words of wisdom to classrooms of managers who would listen, I can distinctly remember saying how important it was to be passionate about the business they were entering into. and I suppose this is still true to the younger and more energetic, hungry entrepreneurs. But as I get older and, I’m ashamed to say more cynical, I find my passions can wane into relative insignificance when confronted with life’s ‘more important ‘ things. Like for example:-

Friends dying on a monthly basis, every month on the social media I read about another dear friend who I remembered as being passionate about life passing over.

Or, thinking about the health and welfare of ones partner, who hasn’t been as lucky as you and has been struck down with an illness that means they now rely on you for basically everything.

I could go on, but I know that you have the message by now. So, my question to you is this. How can something that you had decided was going to be your life, then ‘say’ 30 years later, not be the first thing you think of when you wake in the morning.

I apologise if this blog is on the dark side, but in the words of the great Sir Winston Churchill ‘I have a touch of the black dog about me today.’ I know the reason, or at least one of the reasons, I have had a tooth abcess for over a week and it was so bad I actually didn’t get out of my bed for two days! That has to be an age thing surely? I have had tooth abcesses before and they have been very painful, but they have never kept me in bed.

Who Knows Where The Time Goes?


It’s true what they say that when you retire there is just not enough hours in the day to do all you would like to do! And that dear friends is my excuse for not writing my Blog since January (I think).

I have hardly got out with my camera, I managed a couple of hours at my local Peregrine spot, but even they decided that courtship behind closed nests was more important than posing for me. :-(

I have had some minor success on eBay selling some bits and pieces of photography gear that I no longer use. I passed a new rule recently, that I was not allowed to spend any money on hobbies/equipment, without first generating the income from the Hobby. So either selling some pics or some gear! Fortunately, I have had a bit of both, some pics through Alamy and the said eBay. Unfortunately, I have almost spent it all on shopping on….you guessed it…eBay!  Well….you have to spend it while you have it and the item you want is available…don’t you?

Visiting Hedgehog
Visiting Hedgehog

I was so pleased to see the Hedgehog as they have been declining in such drastic numbers recently. I find it quite difficult with such a small modern garden, to keep it tidy so as not to be an eyesore for the neighbours and at the same time be a wildlife friendly habitat.

I was also surprised to see a very small long-tailed field mouse in the garden. I noticed where he was hanging about and made a point of ensuring there was always some food there for him/her. I had to get out into the garden at about 3.00am to see him but he became almost friendly, and stopped diving for cover whenever I showed up, after a while, realising he wasn’t going to get hurt by me. However, my Rosie did find a local black & white cat hiding out very near where said mouse ate. That was about two weeks ago, and I haven’t seen the mouse since, but I am still putting food out for it, and the food is not there in the morning, so I am hoping that he is still safe in his underground home.  I do have a couple of pics of the little feller as soon as they are processed  I will post them.

Warm wishes to all my friends.

George Mutch sentenced to four months in prison


This maybe a first for a Gamekeeper being jailed for killing wildlife. If so, let’s hope it’s not the last.

Raptor Persecution Scotland

George MutchBreaking news…..

Scottish gamekeeper George Mutch, convicted in December for trapping a goshawk and then battering it to death (and a few other things – see here) on the Kildrummy Estate in Aberdeenshire, has been sentenced to four months in prison for his crimes.

He was led away from the court in handcuffs and is currently en-route to a prison cell.

What an unbelievably brilliant outcome – we never thought we’d see the day. Mutch is the first gamekeeper ever to be jailed in the UK for killing raptors.

Huge congratulations to the RSPB Investigations Team, SSPCA, Police Scotland and the Crown Office, and kudos (and thanks) to Sheriff Noel McPartlin for handing out this sentence. An acknowledgement also to former Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, who pushed hard for the admissibility of video evidence. Had he not done so, this case would probably not have made it to court.

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Some Nice Pics to Relax to


I haven’t been around much lately, mainly due to family commitments plus, I have been asked to participate in writing a book and supplying photos for same.  The book is all about a specific area of the Music Industry, which many of you will know was my previous life. So researching that has taken some time, I will post here when it’s all finished and published.

More recently, I have been accepted as a Trustee of Gwent Wildlife Trust. This is something very close to my heart and I hope that I shall be able to contribute some value to this wonderful organisation.  Watch this space I guess.

Here is a video that a friend sent me and i though it would be nice to share. Hope you enjoy.

GWCT takes aim at Scottish pine martens


I wonder what the world is coming to. Read this please. And furthermore, why are the RSPB opting out of the discussion? I don’t pay my dues to them to have them opt out! They are supposed to be representing me in all things Wildlife.

Raptor Persecution Scotland

Pine Marten Gary FaulknerThe GWCT are at it again. First they wanted buzzards and sparrowhawks added to the Scottish General Licences to allow the legal killing of these protected species in order to protect non-native gamebirds bred and released in their millions for leisure shooting. Then they went for the legal ‘removal’ of hen harriers from English grouse moors to protect artificially-high stocks of red grouse for leisure shooting. Now their plan to ‘remove’ pine martens from several Scottish forests, under the guise of a ‘research trial’, has been leaked.

Their ‘plan’ is to ‘remove’ 120 pine martens (a highly protected species that is recovering from persecution) from four forests in Strathspey, including inside the Cairngorms National Park, over a six-year period to see whether their ‘removal’ has any affect on the breeding success of Capercaillie. The plan suggests that the martens could be killed but a ‘translocation’ to other areas would be…

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