28 December, 2010

The mighty River Wye . . .

. . . is frozen,

or at least it was on Boxing Day, before the thaw set in.

I had promised myself that there would be no more snow photos but this one seems like rather an exception. Unless Global Warming(!) dictates that Polar weather comes to South Wales each year from now on, this may be a photo that our grandchildren will show their children as something rather amazing.

25 December, 2010

Exciting Christmas Visitor

After a delicious (but not exactly early!) breakfast, we were drawn outside by bright sun and clear air. Our Christmas walk was a complete delight and the camera was kept very busy.

I will no doubt post some shots before long but, for the moment, just this one will suffice. As I was pointing my lens in another direction, Frances let a strangulated shout of "Look, over there". There was no doubt at all about it. There, on the other side of the almost frozen river, was a creature that we know to live in these watery areas (and know to be increasingly numerous) but which is still massively shy – the otter.

I did not have a telephoto lens with me and the width of the river put a limit on how close I could try to get. I took about ten shots with the zoom at the max and got a succession of photographs of not entirely convincing black blobs. It was the very first shot that proved to be the convincing one.

Here is the above shot enlarged to a point that makes for quite a nice shot and . . .

again . . . to about as far as I could go before the image began to break up.

Another sunny but cold Christmas Day years ago, when we were also enjoying our own pleasures before family arrivals on subsequent days, I saw a kingfisher for the first time here. That was a memorable moment to say the least and today will surely fix in the memory in the same way. Wonderful!

24 December, 2010

23 December, 2010

Postscript to the previous post!

After all that rather arty-farty stuff I posted yesterday, our 'tree' has now been significantly 'improved' by the visit of one part of the family . . . complete with imaginative young persons!

22 December, 2010

It may not look like a proper christmas tree, but I think it looks just fine!

In common with a good number of folk throughout these lands I am sure, we are preparing to enjoy Christmas in the warmth (I hope!) of our own home with no one from outside who is further than trudging distance.

We are going to observe most of what one ought to observe . . . but on a somewhat smaller scale, perhaps. In this context, and spirit, we have just put up our 'tree'. Far from wanting to purchase an adolescent tree cut down in its prime, we have sought to use branches from a beautiful twisting evergreen that needed to be trimmed in order to give us a clearer run at our drive.

We have done this before, actually, and the secret for success involves having to hand a bronze sculpture by Michael Ayrton entitled The Equilibrist. This has, I think, been seen before on these pages in various guises but not before in the role of a Christmas tree stand. This time I had prepared for myself some lengths of soft wire but these were not needed, for the branch twined round the sculpture's uprights as if grown perfectly for the purpose.

There was even a sort of inevitability about this symbiotic relationship that I feel Ayrton, the great Mazemaker, might have appreciated.

16 December, 2010

Rather pleasant working conditions!

Ralph Kiggell (whose lovely book, Leading the Cranes Home, is now down to its last few copies) flew in recently from his home in Bangkok to see his family in the UK. He came to stay with us last night so that we could have a concentrated face to face editorial session on his long-planned sequel - working title Water.

With a good log fire and a bottle or two, it was a far from arduous evening . . . and the results were good. I now have to do some detailed paste-up work while Frances must chase permissions. When Ralph returns to Thailand he will obtain his stocks of Japanese cherry wood blocks so that he can start cutting his watery designs.

If this delicious proof is anything to go by, we are all in for another real treat!

09 December, 2010

Is this the day for a sneak invasion of England?

No sign of a thaw this morning . . . indeed a river even fuller of ice than yesterday. Not quite enough to stage the Battle on the Ice maybe but it really does look as though we could floe-hop to England!

08 December, 2010

Chilly times on the Wye

We have had stunningly perfect picture postcard hoar frost for days now. Often one wakes up to it but it is gone by lunchtime. Not so often is it still 'complete' in the evening and ready to be further enhanced for tomorrow's dawn.

I went out with my camera yesterday because I thought I should but, to be honest, I felt the whole scene was such that I would simply be photographing cliché shots.

As I approached the river, however, excitement rose. First there was a strange and wonderful noise and then then the really unaccustomed sight of a river full of ice floes.

The noise was explained by the action of branches sticking up through the water and behaving like circular saws to sheets of wood as the sheets of ice were rushed along by the tide. The noise could be described as a gentle and slowed down version of sheets of glass being broken. Not at all unattractive but a bit spooky.

Here, therefore, are some pictures from the frozen south. I had reason to visit my excellent dentist yesterday afternoon. I mentioned these photographs and he suggested that I should photoshop a polar bear onto a suitable ice-sheet! I fear that he will have to use his imagination!

16 November, 2010

What to do when your printing press goes phut?!

It really was a bit of a blow.

After months of not printing any major projects (while I slaved away at the final stages of the Bibliography and dealt with sundry other aspects of our life) I finally got back to the Printing Office and became really happy to be working there again when . . . SILENCE. There is nothing deader-looking than a machine that was happily working a minute ago and now is not.

The answer (as so often) was to go for a walk . . . with my camera, naturally. The fact that it was a glorious, golden day helped the decision of course. I had thought that the high winds the night before would have done for the leaf colour as they would all be on the ground underneath. True there were far fewer leaves on the trees but the glorious light seemed to make the most of the ones that remained and made them seem like jewels.

Anyway, I had great fun and I like some of the results rather a lot.

Now a couple of reflection/window shots. First of all we have Frances in her workshop making Quince Jelly and Apple Jelly.

And secondly . . . !

Latest News: I am VERY happy and relieved to be able to say that dear old Press is humming along again. Ever since we arrived in Wales, our electrical needs (and especially those of the FAG Control 900) have been answered by John Lee who lives close by, at least by the standards of the country. Something happens to the Press about once every six or seven years I would think and every time I dive for the phone in the hope that John Lee will still be there at the other end. The happy thing is that he has similar notions about that curious word 'retirement' as we do, so I have a good hope that he will be able to rush round to minister whenever the next crisis arrives!

05 November, 2010

La Bibliographie nouvelle est arrivée!

Seldom has any pair of kids waited so eagerly for the postman as we did this morning, knowing that the first copy of what we have been working on for so long had been posted from the printer yesterday. Finally the doorbell went and we both rushed to grab the parcel and tear off its wrappers!

The all-important first glance was entirely positive for both of us. The book felt solid, sturdy and workmanlike. As we had already seen a set of printed sheets, it was of course the effect of the cover image that we had been most looking forward to. As everyone reading this is likely to know, Clive Hicks-Jenkins made a deliciously romantic black and white drawing (of our lair in the Wye Valley - seen somewhat fancifully!) for our first Bibliography, ten years ago, and he agreed to paint another picture for the second . . . this time in colour to reflect that this book also has colour throughout. We are of course thrilled with the result and we judge that the artist himself has been quietly confident that his painting would have the desired effect. Thank you Clive!

It was important for us, also, to see the two books side by side as they are meant to go neatly beside each other on a shelf. Yes the two spines were equal and the two spine letterings aligned. And, of course, the all-important sheep (see previous post) . . . there they are, all exactly placed on the spine giving their message clearly!

Here then is an upright view of the two books showing the delicious similarities (and differences) between the two designs. And then there is the whole back of the book which I have not shown you at all!

But now, to be serious for a moment. These Blog glimpses have been just that but we expect the books to be delivered on Monday and then our promotional activities will begin in earnest.

We can, however, now announce one all-important set of facts . . . namely the prices.

The new book (The Old Stile Press . . . the next ten years) is £45 (plus £4 p&p in UK).

A limited number of copies of the earlier book (The Old Stile Press . . . in the twentieth century) remains and these are £40 (plus £4 p&p in UK).

If you do not have a copy of the first book, you can have a copy of both at a special price of £75 (plus £6 p&p in UK).

There are 15 Special (or Archive) copies. These will include pages or spreads from almost all the books together with many other items. The selection is still being made and the box is still being designed but some copies have already been spoken for. The price of this Special Edition is £850.

01 November, 2010

As we still await bound copies of the second Bibliography . . .

. . . I have been preparing a little 'present' to be slipped into the first 250 copies to be sold. Early birds who ordered copies quickly of our first Bibliography ten years ago found (and, we gather, appreciated) a jeux d'esprit involving a piece of Frances' paper, a couple of poems and some sheep!

This time they will find the above. We have been fortunate to own that wood block by Eric Gill for many years. It gets an outing on special occasions (our daughter Cressida's wedding invitation for example!) and this is a special occasion.

For those who like to tot up monetary 'value' . . . as this is printed direct from the actual block, it means that this is an 'original print' by Eric Gill and so the book itself could be seen as coming more or less free!

As soon as we receive copies (and I can photograph them), we will post final details of prices and ordering. It should not be too long now!

24 October, 2010

Excitement is mounting here . . .

. . . and this is a big hint for our many friends who have been around a bit!

The fact is that, in 2000, we published The Old Stile Press . . . in the twentieth century which gave the history of the Press and described all the books made up till that point. The cover of this book was taken from a specially commissioned pen and wash drawing by Clive Hicks-Jenkins which took the form of a fanciful and highly romantic vision of Catchmays Court, the home of the Press and of ourselves. Bang in the middle of the spine was a single sheep. The conceit at that time was that, if you put a line of copies on a shelf, then you got a line of single sheep!

To the astonishment of all concerned, ten years have passed and that time has seen the production of a respectable number of serious and major publications . . . which of course do not get a mention in the first Bibliography. So, for most of this year, I have been writing and photographing away towards the production of The Old Stile Press . . . the next ten years which (I am thrilled to say) has already been printed and is with the binder as I write. I am (relieved and) happy to be able to say that it has turned out rather well and we are very happy with it.

At the very last minute (because of pressure of work) Clive H-J managed to complete for us the long-ago asked-for painting for the cover. It is again a fanciful take on Catchmays Court but this time is in full colour (as is the entire book, incidentally) and, yes, on the spine there are TWO sheep.

This post is merely a slight over-boiling of excitement on our part about the imminent arrival of the book and we will be posting again soon with photographs, prices and full descriptions. Ordering can, therefore, wait until then BUT do email, if you would like, so as to get your name down on the reservation list . . .

. . . especially if you might be considering one of the 15 Special Copies (a number are bespoke already) for which Frances has been gathering together sample pages and whatnot of almost all the books made during this period together with many other items.

19 October, 2010

Editing the evening sky

Heartened by the fact that four or five people, quite separately, have said, during the last few days, that they are avid readers of this blog and that they like some of the photographs, I am encouraged to get some recent ones 'up'.

After posting on previous occasions my 'editing' of rocks and sand and one thing and another, I present this tiny exercise very modestly as it was all over in two or three minutes and I did not take many shots!

I should incidentally say a thankyou to Frances for drawing my attention to these sights in time for me to grab my camera before it was too late!

And, as a ps, here are some studies of a rose hedge in October.

The leaves are still full of green life but the hips . . .

those that were not eaten by the finches and whatnot when they were so invitingly scarlet . . .

have decayed into a state which I find distasteful and beautiful at the same time.

Où est 'le spectre de la rose'?