Tag Archives: Wales


Chepstow Castle Internal Door
Chepstow Castle Internal Door

Well it’s seems like an age since I last posted, so I thought my snippet of a Chepstow Castle door (which dates back to the 11th Century) would be an apt header!

I would just like to wish all my new friends on WordPress Blogs (and any other Blogs for that matter) a very happy Christmas and a healthy & prosperous New Year.

The weather in Wales is much like the rest of the UK at the moment there are floods everywhere, and more rain than we have had in a 100 years. But it doesn’t appear to have deterred the shoppers, from the TV news I see that the High Street and the Internet have all had a last minute boost to their sales. And good luck to them – it didn’t come from my house!

I have a number of plans for the New Year, whether they will come to fruition or not is another thing. One never knows what is around the corner, good or bad? But if all goes according to plan, I intend to finally publish my PhotoBook on “My Time with the King of Skiffle“. I have quite a lot of unpublished pics of Lonnie Donegan (Does your Chewing gum Lose its Flavour) during the time I was with him from about 1968 to 1973. I am sure there will not be a lot of interest out there, but I know there is a click of hard fans who would welcome it. Besides, I feel it would be a shame if the pics didn’t see the light of day.

I also have a number of photos, also unpublished of other entertainers which I guess would be another book. Pics of ABBA during their sound check at the Royal Albert Hall in 1978. I was the only photographer allowed in – all down to CBS Clout – nothing to do with photography skills. And lots of photos taken at private gatherings, none of which I will mention here because I am not a ‘PAP’ and I will ask permission to publish, just out of politeness really.

OK, have a wonderful and safe holiday,

My warmest wishes to all.

 

 

 

 

Better late than never?


When I say late what I really mean is LAzY! Well kinda.  I’m not naturally lazy in fact I’m the opposite, I need to be doing something all the time, otherwise it tends to have a significant impact on my frame of wellbeing. So I am continually doing something, admittedly it is usually in front of a computer and if not then it’s behind the lens (hopefully).

I did mange to actually get out with the camera this past week just for an hour – I have been behind the lens in the studio every day. I decided to visit my local Castle and Country Park (Caldicot) which is really only 2 miles from where I live. It was really enjoyable, I was amazed at how many people were out during the week.  It was nice to see them taking advantage of the facility, after all it has been there since about the year 1011. Henry the VIII was rumoured to have stayed at the castle on his way somewhere. I have been fortunate enough to use the inside of the castle for a number of photo shoots. The last with Queenie Mae earlier this year for her Album Cover.

The Autumn colours were truly awesome and I was fortunate enough to capture a couple of colourful shots.

Caldicot Castle & Country Park
A Juvenile Gull comes into land on the pond

I am now preparing for my ‘dreaded’ birthday next weekend. Age never ever bothered me much not until I reached 65, then in common with many other men no doubt, I began to ‘think’ about age. I was suddenly classed as an OAP, and Old Age Pensioner. But yet I didn’t feel like one thank God! Well that was 6 years ago, so you can imagine how I feel now! And don’t you just hate it when people say “ah…Age is just a number” one will usually find that those persons’ number is under 30!

But having said that I am grateful for relatively good health and I am able to combine some photographic work with looking after and caring for my darling wife of 38 years, although we have been together since the week we met, on the Englebert Humperdinck Summer Show, so that’s 43 years. Her MS of 17 years continues to progress but she does a fantastic job of dealing with it, much better than I could ever do.

Ok…I promise I will post again before Christmas (it says here) but just in case, I hope you will all have everything you wish for, for yourselves and your loved ones.

Wild Flowers & Stuff


Some of you may recall that I recently revisited my local wildlife stomping ground only to find that the local Council workers had moved in and chopped everything down,  and dredged up all the silt at the bottom of the water, that contained all the larvae, eggs and what not of the local insect life. I was most disappointed but, I know it will come back in time. Whilst I was there I was met by a really nice guy and his wife, his name is Rob and he is a volunteer who tends the wild patch. He basically, from what I can tell, keeps the place generally tidy by litter picking, and the odd bit of pruning here and there. Whatever he does, he does it very well and I and the local Flora & Fauna thank him. Anyway, we got chatting and before long I realised that this chap had a great in-depth knowledge of wildflowers. He asked me if I had seen the wild Orchid in the meadow, I told him I hadn’t and he started to explain where it was and how I should find it. The he suddenly said…Oh come on I’ll show you, he asked his wife if she minded and we left. We had to walk only about 500 yards or so to the meadow (thats the polite word for the couple of acres of scrubland, that is full of wildflowers).  Finally amongst a whole bunch of grass and stuff, there was this beautiful flower. It wasn’t what I had expected because I didn’t know that Orchids grew in this shape.  Rob  went on to explain that he hadn’t managed to identify it yet, that he thought he knew all the Orchids but he couldn’t name this one.  I thanked him for his time and I took a couple of pics.  Before he left he said oh by the way, on the other side of the road as you come in there is a another smaller stretch of wild area with a pond that hasn’t been disturbed for ages, you may find your Dragonflies and Damselflies there.

So that was quite a few weeks ago now and I really have been bogged down and haven’t had the opportunity to go there until Sunday past.  Imagine my joy to see simply loads of insect life abound, including some beautiful Dragonflies. I am hoping to get down there and spend a little longer next week, I shall keep you posted.

Un-named Wild Orchid
Un-named Wild Orchid

And then just one pic of a Southern Hawker Dragonfly from the other wild area.

Southern Hawker

How Animals Can Brighten Your Day


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

I had never seen this horse before, I just stopped at the gate whilst out for a quiet walk with my camera. When I stopped at the gate the three horses that were in the distance turned and saw me and made their way across to me. On their arrival I offered the first one an Extra Strong Mint (candy). He just turned up his nose and didn’t take it, then I offered it to the second who took it and proceeded to drop it on the ground. Then this chap pushed his way in and said “I want one”.  I offered him the same he took it  and crunched it up (they are very hot) and then asked for a second, which I gave him. When he asked for a third I said, “No,  too many sweets are bad for your teeth” ( I looked over my shoulder in case anyone was watching me, as they would have thought I was nuts talking to animals. When I turned back, I smoothed this chap on the head and he gave me this great big smile. And, he then did it again to allow me to take the photo.

Don’t you just love ‘Dumb’ animals? Whoever named animals dumb, was no genius!!

Sunday Times Feature on Litter


Hi all,

Ok, I have tried to make some sense of  the pics of the discarded Bra via a screen grab. I trust it works.

 

Screen grab of Sunday Times on line article on litter

 

A closer screen grab of the said Bra.

 

Now I should make it clear that I really don’t know much about the quality and costs of such under garments, but it looked like it was fairly expensive. How on earth could it have been forgotten?  What did the owner think when she got home and started to get undressed for bed? Surely she would have missed it then….if not sooner. Of course I am presuming that it was a her, could have been a him, then maybe he wouldn’t have missed it until he looked in the mirror.

:-0)

GOLDEN VALLEY


Well, I have been up in the Golden Valley now for 11 days, and it has rained every day! In fact when we first arrived we had snow and hail stones as well as floods.  So as you can imagine I have taken very few photos. In fact I would go as far to say that I think that Spring is about three to four weeks behind in this neck of the woods.  Birds are still nest building!  And, yesterday I saw what I believe to be a Grey Wagtail and it’s mate attempting copulation, how late is that?  The same thing in the river – which is usually 6 inches deep and was until two days ago 6 feet deep – a pair of Mallard floating down stream at about 10 knots, trying to mate.  Every time the drake jumped on her back she nearly drowned!  All this time they were coming towards me in the gloom, and they were so interested in what they were doing that they hadn’t noticed me, plus they were white water rafting!  (imagine trying to make babies the same time as you are hammering down the river at 70 mile an hour).  Anyway, I think I did the duck a favour because as they reached me they saw me he jumped off, they did a mid air spin and flew back up the river.

The Pair of Love-Birds?

I had some good news last week. The Sunday Times Magazine (on line version) did an article on ‘Litter’.  As it happened I had taken a few pics over time on litter so submitted what I thought may be suitable. I’m pleased to say they chose a photo of a black Bra that I had spotted in a wooded ‘Pull-In’ up near Tintern Abbey ruins in the Wye Valley in Wales.  It was on a Sunday morning so I guess the Bra was left there from the Saturday night before!  The mind boggles.  Check out the link to the post here: http://tinyurl.com/c9pwgv9

Oh well…..let’s see what the weather is like for the next couple of days…that’s all I have left for this month in Herefordshire to get the shots on my list. Unfortunately, I am not holding out too much hope.  It’s actually pouring down as I type!!!

Album Cover Photo Shoot


I am just about to leave the house to go to Caldicot Castle.  I have a commission to shoot a new young girl singer, her name is Queenie May and she appears to be about to break into the big time!

She certainly has a very sweet voice from what I have heard, but I’m sure most of you will know that it doesn’t end there, sometimes it doesn’t even start there!  Image is so important and of course the quality of the song.  Apparently, her single which was released not so long ago was released very surreptitiously and yet still managed to make the number 4 spot on the Amazon Chart.  It is currently at 34. Not bad at all for a first release from a singer with a self penned song.

Once the shoot is over, and the pics processed I will post some for your perusal and feedback.  Meanwhile, Queenie – who incidentally is only 15 – can be found on iCloud and Facebook.

Watch this space I guess!!

The front entrance of Caldicot Castle in south...
The front entrance of Caldicot Castle in south Wales. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Start Getting it Down Before I Forget!


I was going through some old images recently and found these.

The Rikki Alan Trio was my first Pro group. We formed in about 1957 and used to play all the rock numbers of the day and especially the Everly Bros. Both Rikki (bass) and Gerry (guitar and Piano) were brothers and the close harmony was excellent.

Next came the Interns. This band was sponsored by Ivor Arbiter, he was the man who got Ringo to play Ludwig drums. Those eagle eyed amongst you will notice that the Interns logo on my bass drum is not dissimilar to the Beatles logo. That is because both logos were painted by the same guy. A one armed sign writer who worked for Ivor at Drum City in London in the 1960’s. It’s amazing when you think that today, millions of pounds can be spent on designing the most effective logo and yet back then, it was designed by the sign-writer and the Beatles just accepted it!

Next of my pics here is with the King of Skiffle Lonnie Donegan. Lonnie was never huge in the States although he did have one big hit there which was, “Does Your Spearmint Lose its Flavour on the Bedpost Overnight”.  However, in Europe he was huge and has the reputation for starting the whole Beat Boom in the UK. Every kid went out and bought a guitar and formed a Skiffle Group when Lonnie’s first single ‘The Rock Island Line‘ went to No 1! Even the Beatles had a Skiffle group, they were called the Quarrymen. Many years later Singer/Actor/Record Producer Adam Faith got a whole load of the guys that were influenced by Lonnie together and they made and Album. If my memory serves me right I can recall a number of the names, Elton John, Rory Gallagher and Brian May plus a whole bunch more. Sadly Lonnie passed away in 2002 from heart problems, he had , had three heart bypasses in previous years.

I have some great memories of working with Lon at some of the greatest venues in the world, including the Riviera Hotel in Vegas for a couple years on the trot. The Greek Theatre in LA, Harrah’s Hotel in Lake Tahoe, The London Palladium, The Talk of The Town London, with Judy Garland and in Australia, Iceland, and all over Europe. Many stories to be told, stories of working with (either playing for or supporting) Dusty Springfield, Ray Charles, Count Basie, Vic Damone, Judy Garland, Englebert Humperdinck, Dean Martin, Bill Haley and Little Richard to name just a few. A great way for a young guy from a small town in Wales to grow up. And a number of coincidences of which I intend to post at a later date.

Wet & Windy Wales


Yes it has been very wet and very windy here, but it seems to be quietening down now, I even ventured out with the camera yesterday for an hour, however the rain soon came and drove me away. On the up side – because of the bad weather – it has given me a chance to dig through and sort some of my old photos out.

First up is a photo I found from a time when I was young and single and thought the world was my Oyster. It’s a pic of  me and a band member  in a group called the Rikki Alan Trio. We were quite ahead of  our time in Wales and unusual for a rock group in as much as we all read music. This came in very handy later when we ventured up to the big city (London) to become ‘Professional’ Musicians. Anyway, that is a long story and I don’t know if this is the right place to start digging it all up in any detail, but maybe bits from time to time.  Suffice to say that this photo shows me and one of the guys – Gerry Smith – in about 1957. We are way up in the Welsh Valleys in a place called Aberaman and we are bottom of the bill which is headlined by a British Rock star named Marty Wilde.  The interesting thing about this pic is, looking at the kids who are watching us and the way they are dressed etc, you would think it was taken in the 1930’s.

This was at a time when coal mining was still a huge industry in Wales and the biggest employer. However, today there are no mines, well maybe one or two private mines, but there are lots of bits of  bits of memorabilia around, this next pic is just one such piece. This was taken in a place called Mysycymmer (at least I think that’s how it is spelled) and it is of some of the coal trucks that were left when the mine was closed. Rather than dump them some clever person decided to make a memorial out of them.

Lastly, for this blog, is another photo of me (well it’s my blog). We started with a pic of when I was a young whipper snapper who thought he was God’s gift (soon found out that he wasn’t when he got to the city)! And, we end with a photo taken some 15 years later. Picture is me on drums, the late Peter Bocking on guitar and the late and very great Lonnie Donegan out front. This was taken in Lounge at the Riviera Hotel in Vegas where we were supporting Vic Damone. Very briefly Lonnie was known as the King of Skiffle, he was responsible for every kid in the UK buying a guitar and starting Skiffle groups. We all had a Skiffle group. Even the Beatles started as a Skiffle group, they were called the Quarrymen, but I guess my dear readers will all know that.
Whatever, to this day Lonnie is hailed as the one man who started the whole British Rock and Blues industry because, after the Skiffle groups, all the budding musicians – as they became more and more proficient – turned into rock groups. Many of the stars of today name Lonnie as the one reason for starting them off in their chosen profession including: Eric Clapton, Brian May, Elton John, Paul McCartney et al. The list is endless.  I was very fortunate when that day he walked past my drum kit in a London music store where I was demonstrating the product, and dropped his visiting card on my floor tom-tom and said, “if you ever need a gig give me a call”.  Needless to say, I called him the very next day.
Lonnie Donegan

Natures Detectives


English: Pond at Magor Marsh Nature Reserve Mo...
Image via Wikipedia

I know that it has been over a month since my last post here and I feel pretty guilty. That almost sounds like the beginning of a Catholic confession! But I promise you dear reader, I do have some genuine reasons. One, I have been ‘enjoying’ bad health, two I am my wife’s main Carer and she will always come first and three, there was a surprise birthday party for me organised by my number 2 son Jozif. I hate surprise parties, but as this was a special one (Big 70) I kind of accepted the surprise, and I was pleased that I did.

Jozif is a DJ and Music Producer and he flew back from Tunisia – where he had a gig – especially for me. He also organised his two brothers, who in turn had to juggle their diaries to be there. We had the small dinner party at home, Jozif and Oliver stayed on for a couple of days, Ben the eldest had to leave because of baby duties. He made me the proud grandfather for the third time with the gorgeous Lilly-Mae recently. Next Oli had to leave to take care of business at EMI Records where he manages the design department, and then Jozif shot off to Madrid for his next gig!

So all in all, a pretty hectic time.

Today was a beautiful Winter’s morning the sun was strong, the sky was blue with some lovely fluffy white clouds and there was a fierce chill in the air. However, I had signed up for a morning’s seminar/workshop with the Gwent Wildlife Trust (GWT), at the nearby Magor Marsh Nature Reserve. The reserve has been there for a while now and it is really making a name for itself, unfortunately I don’t get to go there as often as I would like.  This morning’s session was entitled Nature Detectives. It was delivered by a charming and very knowledgeable chap named Chris Hatch. Chris brought a few examples with him of things one is likely to find in the countryside and went into great detail to explain what they were and why they were important etc. The items included a large mollusc  which was a Swan Muscle, found in freshwater and in the reens  at Magor Marsh. Reens are small shallow field drains or ditches, but in Wales they are known as Reens.  He also showed us a the breast bone (Sternum) of a Pigeon which he had found beneath the nest of a Peregrin falcon and finally the skull of a badger.

After spending about 20 minutes in the classroom the small gathering followed Chris out onto the Reserve to see what signs we could spot. and where we should be looking for signs. We were lucky to be able to spot signs of both Otter and Fox. We walked on to the Hide where we spotted a number of Teal and a Crested Grebe, not a fantastic display I admit, but all the same some good explanations from Chris and also the signs of Badger just near the Hide.

Finally on the way back Chris pointed out some grassland that he said was the ideal habitat for Snipe, so while we stayed on the path Chris walked through the grassland to see if he could ‘walk up’ some Snipe.  Sure enough with two minutes of him walking onto the land up flew the recognisable zig-zag flight of a common snipe.

So an enjoyable two hours spent at Magor Marsh Wildlife Reserve in Monmouthshire.

The Nature Detectives follow Chris Hatch onto the Reserve

Magor Marsh Nature Reserve (Gwent Wildlife Trust)
Image via Wikipedia

Common Snipe
Flushed Common Snipe