Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Latest Painting

Having started to paint (in pastel to be exact) again after a 27 year break for writing (14 books and some 700 articles), I have now amassed, since June 2006, 28 A1s (19 ¾” x 15 ¾”) (50 cm x 40 cm) and countless “working” A4s (11 ½” x 8 ¼”) (29.5 cm x 21 cm).
So although “Jim’s Paintings” – reached through LINKS beside my blog ( – displays examples of my work over a 75 year period, I thought it might be of interest for viewers to see the latest A1 completed.
As I use my own computer solely for writing, it is my wife Margreet, exercising her skills on a more modern machine, who now enables those interested to see the most recent work.
All my paintings are for sale. It is, however, my 1950s and 1960s paintings that are at present popular with both private collectors and sale room buyers of 20th century art
So, the way I look at it is that in around another 50 years time these new works (which I call my second childhood paintings) will be just as popular as the earlier ones are now. Or, it could happen much earlier.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Cat Fight

It had been an excellent Saturday before Christmas.
The painting on which I had been working made good progress.
With friends coming for mid-day drinks I made tasty “bites” by frying small squares of my home-made bread in olive oil, turning them over, adding slices of goats’ cheese, milled pepper, salt, a pinch of paprika, and then frying the other side after adding a little more oil. The result is a crisp base with slightly melting cheese on the top. The paprika is for looks. They are very popular.
The guests came and went. Then a wine merchant friend appeared for a while.
As he was leaving through the front door, Fusker, a local cat, owned by a TV motoring personality and debunker of wine snobbery, dashed in to the house and ran up the stairs.
He had done this before. And it was fun to find him, catch him and put him out.
At last I had him in a place where I could bend down to pick him up. But on this occasion he suddenly attacked me viciously with teeth and claws. If an animal chooses to pick a fight with me, and on my territory, I fight back, and fight to win.
And this fight was a considerable one, accompanied by those very loud shrieking noises made by cats when fighting at night.
It took a while to subdue the wild creature, before chastising him with words and actions before ejecting him from the door through which he had entered.
We took stock of my wounds.
The gore was mopped up, and disinfectant put on nine cuts, some superficial, some deep - with two deep ones perilously close to veins.
As we waited for the blood to dry, we both thought that perhaps it might be wise for me to seek an anti-tetanus injection. So we took a mini cab to the Accident and Emergency Department of our local Charing Cross Hospital.
After a short wait, a doctor cleaned each of the nine wounds, and sprayed them with iodine from a spray can (how nice to still be using a substance that was put on to our cuts and grazes as children over 80 years ago). He then dressed them with iodine- impregnated gauze plasters. The anti-tetanus injection followed, and a course of antibiotics started. How wonderful is our National Health Service.
We were wise to seek help, learning that cat bites and scratches were more dangerous to the human body than those of dogs. And we were told that at the slightest sign of infection I was to go back to a hospital immediately.
I intend to die in my own time, but to have “MAULED BY A CAT” as my epitaph would be ignominious in the extreme.


James May is a friend and neighbour.
Seeing him one day we said that he should Google “Fusker the cat” or read our blog concerning the above confrontation.
What would you do if a cat savaged a friend and neighbour, probably returning to your house with that neighbour’s blood on tooth and claw?
Would you ignore it? Would you dispatch the cat? Would you apologise? Or would you send him a case of wine in recognition of the pain caused, blood let, taxi fares to and from hospital taken into account, and creative and family time wasted?
He chose the first option - to ignore it. Would you do the same?
James is probably right. For, as my Dutch wife, Margreet, says: The English consider animals to be more important than people.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sardines and Onions

It was in Venice that a mixed seafood hors d'oeuvre contained the following combination. And excellent it is as a dish on its own as an hors d’oeuvre or light main course. And it is one of the nicest ways of serving canned sardines. Later experiments (see below) were also a great success.
With onion and a can of sardines often at hand, this start to a meal is an ideal choice when you are not sure what to have. And it is cheap, simple, and quick to prepare as well.


You will need:
Olive oil
Pepper and salt
Canned sardines

Fry finely chopped onions in plenty of olive oil. Add pepper, salt and just a little vinegar. Put a lid on the pan. When the onions are transparent, cooked, and not yet turning brown, take off the lid and allow any vapour to escape. They are ready. Allow them to become cold.
Serve canned sardines on top of the onions, arranging the decoration of the dish as artistically as you are able. A sprinkling of paprika over all looks nice, as does chopped parsley. A few olives enhance the look of these “fish on an onion sea”.
An alternative way of presenting the canned sardines is to mash them up with chilli sauce. Put a pile of this mixture on top of the onion.
As a test experiment I once added a teaspoon of curry powder to the oil and onion before cooking it. So successful was the result that we now often eat the dish in this form, with whole, canned sardines lying on the pile of curried onion. Now I add the curry powder just before the onions have cooked through.
Once, when I wanted to make this dish and found that I was out of sardines, I used crumbled tuna instead. This turned out to be inspired chance.
Another such fortuitous move was to add the juice of half a lime to the cold onion. The result was sensational.
To make a more substantial dish, you can add potato to the onion, but put a lid on the pan and cook the mixture slowly until the potato is soft.
A pinch of chilli powder or a shake or two of Tabasco added to the onion before cooking it adds a little kick to the overall taste.
I have noticed that when a can of sardines has just been opened, the smell may be on the strong and unpleasant side. So open the can and allow the sardines to “breathe” some time before they are wanted. Then all will be well.
This dish is an absolute winner.

Friday, January 11, 2008


I write this for any sufferer in the hope that my experience of rashes, derived from a specific source, might apply to them and be cured.
There are clearly many and varied causes for rash. Thought, and advice from a lay source, cured my particular kind.
For no apparent reason I started to itch and scratch – outside of thighs, at the bend and outside of arms, upper chest, neck and back of scalp.
I applied several over-the-counter creams, which sometimes soothed the skin but did nothing to cure the condition.
I grow a rather fine Aloe Vera plant on my kitchen windowsill. The juice from cutting off a small piece from its fleshy frond/leaves is supposed to cure many an ailment. It certainly had a soothing effect on my rashes but failed to cure the condition. So I took professional medical advice.
A creamy solution and sticky ointment helped – but failed. Another variety of cream did no better.
Was the trouble a dietary one – an allergy, perhaps?
I gave up eating certain foods and drinking certain liquids. There was no change. The itching, rash and rawness continued.
I spoke of the ailment with my sister, June, who had also suffered in much the same way. She recommended a change of soap (a solution for the rashes suffered by a friend’s children), an oily addition to the bath water, and a change of clothes-washing powder or liquid.
About this time I had come to the conclusion that the rashes were occurring where either my clothes rubbed on flesh or where bedclothes and bed linen rubbed on or were pressed against skin.
I asked my wife, Margreet, if by any chance she had changed clothes-washing liquid around the time my rashes had started.
She had. About that time she had added lumps of some substance that advertisers had recommended for making clothes cleaner or whiter (an admission on their part of failure to produce a satisfactory product in the first place).
So I asked her to stop it and, for good measure, change the liquid used from biological to one considered to be more natural. This she did.
The change was almost immediate. The itching became progressively less. The rashes diminished. The raw bits disappeared.
It took a week or two for the afflicted parts to return to normal.
Now I occasionally have a nice scratch, to no ill effect. Don’t we all?