Posted by: The Pick Man | July 14, 2013



Why would anybody do this?




I suppose the only apt description is ‘mindless vandalism’ and that, by definition, is inexplicable.

Posted by: The Pick Man | July 8, 2013

Blogpix #2: Unexpected

“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson


The second in a series in which members of our family submit a picture based on a theme. We each have our own take on life and it is interesting to see what transpires. This time we welcome a new contributor, Noel, my nephew.

The theme this time, chosen by Reuben:



Noel, Norwich, UK

“This is a picture of a gift album from Terry Bickers of the band “House of Love”, for whom I was the backline engineer for their recent U.K. album release tour. It was unexpected, and appreciated.

Guy Chadwick, the other ‘face’ of the band, also unexpectedly cooked me an English breakfast on the day after the tour finished when we were dropping of his amplifiers and guitars etc.

Both unexpected kindnesses are acknowledged here as a way of saying thank you.”


Reuben, Grand Rapids, USA

“No explanation needed.”

(Perhaps this is a breaking of ‘The Curse of the Pick Man’. I was born in 1935, Fred Perry was Wimbledon Champion in 1936 and ever since, no Brit has won what is arguably the world’s greatest tennis tournament.)


Corinne, Durham, UK

“I went to the cupboard to fetch a dustpan & brush and found a cluster of tiny newly hatched spiderlings. Quite unexpected and tooo cute!!”

(For readers across the pond; our five pence coin is about the size of a cent.)


Terry, Poole, UK

“On her 40th birthday Maureen, my wife, was proud to do cartwheels on the lawn. Two and a half years ago she suffered a stroke. Recently, on her 75th birthday, she surprised me by deciding to check whether she can still do a headstand.”



Posted by: The Pick Man | June 4, 2013

. . . a song for angry men

Sometimes I am taken unawares by the power of my response to something. On those occasions I have to screw up my eyes and swallow before I can speak. There’s no knowing what will be the cause; it varies  so much.

Art is about life, it’s about things that move you, it’s about getting over a message in an emotional as well as an intellectual manner. Books can be moving, music can be moving; almost anything can reach out, grab you by the throat and bring tears to your eyes. For me it doesn’t necessarily have to be something that is designed to have that effect. At times it’s an item on the television news that moves me in this way.

There is one thing that always does it for me. I cannot listen to, see or read the story of Les Misérables without being moved. It began when friends bought us tickets for the West End show. The singing was magnificent and never to be forgotten. The staging and characterisation were masterful. Before the show we met people who were seeing the performance for a fourth or fifth time. After the show we knew why.



Whilst it was a great experience, for people such as us coming to it afresh knowing nothing of the story, it was difficult to gain a full appreciation of the story line. The recently released film follows the stage show very closely but has the added advantage of being able to present stunning scenery and was able to make the story much clearer for me. We now own the DVD – is that obsessive? – and can opt into it at leisure. Oh yes, and I’m currently reading Victor Hugo’s original book on my iPad. I couldn’t resist the free download from iTunes.

As I have said, sometime it is art, sometime it is a news story but sometimes they can come together. The news this week is of riots in Turkey and protests against the rise of an Islamic government. The spirit of Attaturk, the founder of modern Turkey, lives on and the idea that Turkey should be secular is still strong.



The day the people of Turkey rose up — in pictures.


Struggle on, brave people, say I. Turkey is a progressive nation and has benefited immensely by it’s secular stance. No country based on a fundamentalist religious constitution has succeeded. Despite protestations from ‘moderates’ modern day Islam is heading for the dark ages. It is worth fighting for something that ensures your children and youth will grow up in a world where they will be guaranteed real education and a future that is not plagued by people who’s first thoughts are whether a god would be angry by their actions rather than will people benefit from what they do.


“We must liberate our concepts of justice, our laws and our legal institutions from the bonds which, even though they are incompatible with the needs of our century, still hold a tight grip on us.”  Mustafa Kemal Atatürk 1926

Posted by: The Pick Man | May 23, 2013

Digging up roots and fresh young life.

The title this week is a nod to the Chelsea flower show. Gardening, as any gardener knows, can be addictive. Tilling, planting, pruning, moving something to a better position (a process we called ‘triffidising’), until those inside the house yell, “It’s getting dark, can you see what you’re doing out there?” But, gardening for me is over with the exception, of course, of helping Maureen to move a window box occasionally. At Chelsea this year there are some fascinating things. Not least, the complete tree on display, roots and all.


This stunning tree is at the centre of one of the displays. It was carefully lifted and excavated with the help of supporting frames during the winter. It was kept in cold storage to keep it in a dormant state. Over the course of Chelsea, the warmer temperatures will bring it out of its current dormant state, so it is definitely one to watch over the coming days!


This gives me a neat segue to something else that can become addictive. No matter how much you consume, the nag is always there, ‘Just one more bit, just one more bit. Who knows what a little more digging will reveal?’ No, I’m not talking about harvesting magic mushrooms. It’s something far more controlling than narcotics; genealogy. You never know where it will lead you.

Let someone who is researching their family roots start talking and you’ll soon realise how all consuming it can become. They’ll jabber on excitedly for minute, after hour, after oh, ever such a long time, in detail, about people in whom you have no interest, never noticing the glaze that has formed over your eyes. I’m one of them!

I started a while back. It began by wanting to record all of the descendants of both Maureen’s parents and mine. After all, we needed to know how to share out the £100M+ that we might one day win on the EuroMillions lottery didn’t we? Well, one thing led to another. I found living relatives that I didn’t know existed. I became aware of thriving branches of the family that I might otherwise have missed.

Emails and photographs were exchanged; I became aware of ‘my life so far’ stories that gave me a new picture of the family of which I am part. Some stories were serious, some were humorous and others reminded me of when I was younger. Sleepless nights, milky dribbles, terrible-two tantrums, over-adventurous toddlers and the joys, or otherwise, of school days; they wove a rich tapestry.


GAS 1910

My Dad, 1910


It couldn’t stop there. Learning where the family was going led me into wanting to discover from where it had come. I started with my immediate family using my memory, a few documents and old photographs and it took off from there. At this point I shall go into intricate detail and wait for your eyes to glaze over. Some interesting facts emerged but I’ll spare you the detail. I have discovered that we have a royal connection! The farthest back that I have been able to trace my father’s line is to my great, great, great, grandfather who was born in 1774. I have documents that show that he was part of the Royal Household. Yes, he was employed as a coal porter at Kensington Palace; how’s that for a claim to fame? A relative of mine filled up the coal scuttles of the king so that the maids could keep the royal toes warm. And this was no ordinary king; this was George III, the guy who was kicked out of America.


Rupert & Elijah

Fresh young life.

Rupert and Elijah. My sister’s great grandchildren, 2013.


Post script: People on the family tree are permitted to keep their fingers crossed but please don’t hold your breath while you are doing it. The odds against us winning the jackpot are 1 in 116,531,800 or 0.0000000086%.



Thanks to Kevin Beckstrom for permission to use his cartoon.

Posted by: The Pick Man | May 16, 2013

Blogpix: It themes like a good idea.

My daughter, son and I agreed that, occasionally, each of us would submit a picture based on a theme and that I’d post them on this blog. As we live in very different places and each have our own particular view on life we thought that it might be interesting to see what transpires.

As time goes by I hope that we will be joined by others and have contacted some of our family with the suggestion.

Let’s see what happens.

Here’s the first selection.

Theme – On the street where I live.



Corinne, Durham, UK

On the street where I live is a gentleman who works on his car and wears short sleeve T-shirts come rain, sun, snow or gale.



Reuben, Grand Rapids, USA

The theme being, “On the Street where I live.” I decided to take it to its literal extreme, and took the picture by placing the camera, “On the Street, where I live.”



Terry, Poole, UK

There is a blanket TPO that covers all of the trees on our street. When two damaged trees had to be felled recently the stumps were converted, by chainsaw sculpture, into a visual amenity. Seahorses?





Posted by: The Pick Man | May 9, 2013

Creative . . . . again.

I have always enjoyed looking at paintings and sculpture. As a kid growing up in Brixton, London, I would take the bus to wander around the National Gallery, in Trafalgar Square, or the Tate on Millbank. I preferred the Tate. How one feels about what one sees is about subjective experience and enjoying the art, and can have little to do with the objective reality of what one is viewing.

My taste in paintings veers away from those that tend towards accuracy that can be achieved by a photograph. I can see that it made sense in pre- Fox-Talbot days for families to wish to preserve for posterity a likeness of their relatives, but these days painting for that purpose is unnecessary. The same goes for other subjects. Present day photographic accuracy is amazing and an art form all of its own.

When I look at a painting I want to see an interpretation, perhaps just a small variation from strict reality, but I want it to help me see something that a photograph would not necessarily reveal. In recent years I find that my interest is drawn increasingly to abstract or near-abstract paintings; something that reality has inspired but which is a very long way from a simple photo-type image; something that perhaps only hints at what inspired the artist.

Sometimes I am foxed altogether when trying to understand what I see. It is at those times that what I am inclined to call my inner-eye comes into play. Let me explain. Some time ago I was visiting an exhibition of Modern American Paintings at the Royal Academy in London with my son who at the time was studying for a degree in fine art. We stood before something, I knew not what; I didn’t understand it and asked my son to explain it to me.

‘Ah’, he said, ‘with a painting like that, and many other paintings besides, it isn’t so much about the painting on the wall it is about you. For a moment don’t try to understand what you see. Present yourself to the painting, look inside yourself and check how the painting makes you feel. Be conscious of your reaction to what you see. There is a time for looking critically and analyzing how the effect is achieved later’.

It was a wonderful learning experience. I have done this many times since. Indeed, I try to do it each time that I look at a fresh painting. I have learned to appreciate what might otherwise appear bizarre or even meaningless. ‘Appreciate’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘like’; it means I am aware of my reaction to what I see and that, in itself, is worthwhile. I find that it works for whatever type of painting I am seeing.

In moving into an appreciation of abstract art I find that the things that I enjoy most I would describe as chunky. I enjoy paint laid on in thick impasto, the thicker the better. In some of my favourites it could almost have been applied with a trowel. I find that impasto gives a painting something of a sculptural quality.

Town and Teifi - Eloise Govier

Town and Teifi – Eloise Govier

When we were in Wales we came across, Eloise Govier, a young lady artist who was showing in a local gallery in Cardigan. I admire her work. We bought a couple of her paintings. She paints what she calls tactile canvases – rich in texture and

movement. Since that time she has done well and now exhibits in galleries in Japan, Spain, Holland, Germany and America. I would love to be able to express myself in paint as does Eloise.

Like many people, throughout my life I have often thought that I would like to be able to paint and draw but I have to
acknowledge that I have not put much effort into achieving it. When we retired Maureen and I took ourselves off to college for an ‘Absolute Beginners in Drawing and Painting‘ course. Maureen continued her painting after our move to Wales. I put my effort into reshaping the garden. It was gardening more akin to civil engineering than horticulture. However, our new life gives opportunity for a different kind of creativity. I’m turning to the palette once again. Given what I have said about photographic images it may be surprising that I have turned to photography to help me begin.



Taking a lead from something I saw at a club show, at which Maureen was exhibiting, I started. By using Photoshop to reduce a picture down to the basic shapes and, using a palette knife and mixing acrylics with impasto paste, I’ve produced a self portrait. I learned a lot in the process, both about making textures and the use of the palette knife. I would do it differently next time but it was a fun experience, it was a beginning and is my first picture for ten years.

I’m happy.

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

Vincent van Gough walks into a bar, and the bartender offers him a drink. “No thank you”, says Vincent, “I’ve got one ‘ere”.

Posted by: The Pick Man | April 25, 2013

And the good news is . . . . .

I’m getting old and I’m going to die. The truth is that that statement isn’t as depressing is it might at first appear. Actually, I’m not feeling the slightest bit depressed, in fact I’m feeling quite good about it.

I’m getting old.

Getting old is a good thing. For me, it means that I can wake up each morning, open my eyes and say, ‘Hey, I’m still alive; what shall I do today’? Being in my upper 70’s can be a bit tiresome, of course. Some bits of me begin to creak, other bits ache at times and birds don’t seem to sing as loudly as they did, but I’m alive and it’s another day of opportunity. OK, so it’s necessary to adapt to who I am right now. Wasn’t it George Burns who quipped, “At my age, when I bend over to tie my shoes, I look around to see if there’s anything else I can do while I’m down there.”? I know the feeling. Mind you, he was a good deal older than I am now when he said it.

When I retired from a very active working life I decided that I didn’t want to vegetate and that I would endeavour to learn something new every day. There is so much of interest all around us to find and appreciate if we care to look. It was at that time that I had my first internet connection. We’re talking about the mid-nineties.

What gives me pleasure? Art, in its many and various forms: music, painting, sculpture, architecture, literature and so on. The list could be almost endless. Science: principally the wonder of the universe and our place within it, life on our planet, it’s evolution and diversity, and trying to get to grips with all the techy bits they throw at us these days. People: in the shape of friends and relatives, and meeting new people. I’m less inhibited than I was as a younger man in speaking first to people I don’t know: those we meet whilst out walking or exchanging thoughts with people in shops. I like engaging checkout staff in brief conversation, often they seem to be bored and locked in an impersonal bubble. Most wear a name badge. I like to say, ‘Thank you, Jenifer,’ (unless it happens to be Robert) and receive a smile as a result. It gives me a kick. And food: from a delicate wine to a stodgy piece of good old of bread pudding such as mother used to make.

Enjoyment can be found in just about everything we see and do. Yes, yes, I know it all sounds Pollyanna-ish but it seems to me that it’s in appreciating life that it has purpose? I’m getting old, but I’m reminded of the saying attributed to Maurice Chevalier, “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.”

I’m going to die.

Isn’t it wonderful that we have the opportunity to die, you and I. To be absolutely truthful, at the moment I’m in agreement with Woody Allen, who said, “I am not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

But, consider; the odds of winning the UK lottery are approximately fourteen million to one. The odds against any of us ever being born in the first place are so astronomically high that we’ve little choice but to feel that we’ve won the lottery, several times over. There’s no better way to express our good fortune than the words of Richard Dawkins in, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder.

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?”

I’m glad that I’m able to get old and I’m glad that I have the opportunity to die. Life is good!

new tricks

Posted by: The Pick Man | April 18, 2013

Welcome to all who alight here

Are things always what they seem to be?

Here is a beautiful example of pareidolia. What better way to restart a blog, at the end of a winter that has seemed at times to be never ending, than with a picture of some happy grass cells under the microscope?

Spring is on its way!


Happy grass cells