Philately; world’s most popular hobby

UK bridges stampsTen bridges feature in the collection of first-class stamps, while a special postmark will also be issued later today. Crossings featured on the stamps include Tarr Steps (top left) in Exmoor, Somerset – and the Tees Transporter Bridge (bottom right) in Middlesbrough. They also include Row Bridge (top centre) in the Lake District, Pulteney Bridge (top right) in Bath, the Royal Border Bridge (bottom centre) at Berwick-upon-Tweed and The High Level Bridge (bottom left) over the River Tyne linking Newcastle and Gateshead.  Royal Mail bosses say the range of ‘beautiful and ground-breaking landmarks’ tell the story of ‘Britain’s engineering genius’.Pb029804This article caught my eye, as I’ve crossed each bridge in the stamp collection more than once – especially the Tees Transporter Bridge as it some times offered an escape from my work as a civvie ‘iron fighter. Philately; the world’s most popular hobby – that takes some licking!     Yours Aye.

Axe making by John Neeman

BX7IE2rCMAAd5DM.jpg-largeThe Birth Of A Tool. Axe Making by John Neeman If you have six minutes to spare, first make yourself a cup of tea/coffee (delete or mentally ignore as appropriate), then sit down and take the load off your feet. You can almost smell the wood induced coke fire bellowing in the forge.


As a young engineering apprentice, I and my fellow trainee journeymen had to make certain tools for our intended trade by hand, which meant working with an ‘olde-school’ Blacksmith who was also a Bladesmith. The end result being a large selection of hardened and tempered chisels that had to cut, chip, and shape heavy steel with the aid of a pneumatic air gun.

The ‘Smith’ who taught the apprentices was in his late 60’s; ‘hand hands of iron, and fingers of steel, each one a marlin spike’… The perfect piece I made was done so privately, as the ‘Smith’ knew I was leaving to join the Corps. He instructed me on how to make a tang handled stainless steel hunting blade, forged and cut by hand without the use of a steam hammer. Some cruel ‘bastardo’ stole it just before I left to join the Marines, such is life!      Yours Aye.

He’s gone and nailed it

I have known people with some strange hobbies, whose collections were real eye openers. (‘Sam, mate; if your reading this, collecting horseshoes is just weird, especially as you’ve never rode a horse in your life, and riding a donkey on the beach at Blackpool when you were a kid, just doesn’t count)! A while back I spoke with a guy who lives in the village who collects house bricks, a retired builder who has collected since he was 16-years-old, he has some bricks that are several hundred years old. They are stored in a large wooden shed, on display; In truth he has sufficient to build his own mental asylum. article-2443664-18759CC800000578-803_634x423   And then we have Richard Jones, a 78-year-old retired joiner from Blackwood, South Wales, who deserves a mention over his 50-year-old hobby. He has amassed a collection of over 3.000 nails from around the globe, which he has catalogued and framed for all to see. In his own words “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I don’t get out a lot” Which is understandable!  Man shows off his 3,000 NAILS that he spent 50 years gathering… article-2443664-1875A7EF00000578-828_634x421Each to their own I suppose. I collect useless bits of information, but that’s between us… Yours Aye.

Does size really matter?

Bigger isn’t always better, or is it? I suppose it comes down to the fact of how often the item in question is used, and how much pleasure is taken from it!article-2304579-191CB1C9000005DC-217_634x424

The Emirate Royal Family now rule the celebrity waves after it was revealed they own the world’s biggest mega-yacht, knocking Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s yacht ‘Eclipse‘ off the top spot. ‘Eclipse‘ had been the world’s biggest yacht for the past three years, but it has now been totally eclipsed by ‘Azzam‘ which is 54ft (16.5m) longer. The 590ft (180 metre) super-yacht is set to launch a new round of one-upmanship among the world’s super-richRoman Abramovich loses ‘world’s biggest yacht owner’ title to Emirati royals’ Personally, I’d much prefer one of these; negative brass work to polish, no chipping and painting, and who cares if it gets scratched or muddy when your out with your chums enjoying your self?
Royal Marines Storm the Beach During Amphibious Exercise
” A Life On The Ocean Wave, A-home on the rolling deep! Where the scater’d waters rave, And the winds their revels keep. Like an eagle caged I pine, On this dull, unchanging shore. Oh give me the flashing brine,The spray and the tempest’s roar”.                   

Yours Aye.

Dust, Clouds, and a Hooligan 930 feet above sea level…

Lou left a comment on NavyOne’s post on “DUST DEVIL DOGS” on April 142013 at 14:45.

Lou (Who I will now refer to as ‘Dusty Lou’) expressed her love of such ‘dusty’ themed pictures and paintings, which brought back a recent, as well as a far distant memory flooding back…

I was awe-struck upon seeing my first real painting as a young child at Preston Park museum, the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’. Since that day I have had a fascination for ‘action’ paintings and artwork. At the time of viewing I asked why [the scene] was painted, and not photographed, which raised a laugh from my Dad; he explained camera’s had not been invented at the time. This confused me somewhat, as I had watched silent black and white movies with Charlie Chaplin gently falling about… No one was older than Charlie Chaplin?


‘Charge of the Light Brigade’

Obviously there was the most basic camera around at the time, though they were incapable of capturing such a volatile moving charge. Though they did capture the result of what the ‘Light Brigade’ endured, through a still shot taken some time after the action.

Valley of the Shadow of Death, by Roger Fenton‘The Valley of Death’ littered with spent cannon balls as well as cannon-shot, strewn over two miles.

In an attempt to draw out my artistic inner self, I have tried and dabbled with drawing and painting, using charcoal, pencil, oils as well as watercolour. After many hours and years of painful expressions, aching lower back, tears of frustration, and ‘Van Gough’ style tantrums, the result has always been the same; an absolute waste of time and money, the artistic demon refused to be drawn out. Watching a true ‘artist’ who is able to flow and place their interpretation of a subject to canvas, leaves me feeling like I have watched an illusionist; it also makes me want to scream with frustration, and ask “How? How, on God’s green earth did you do that”!

Which leads me onto past history, without breaking protocol…

One morning many years ago. I, along with five other Marines, were selected to attend a covert surveillance/photography course (think sniper with a Pentax SLR). The experience of which, I could (and will probably/eventually) write into a story for a book. ‘The beast in me’ had been tempted out; it was a glorious moment that I recall to this day, an artistic interest of sorts had revealed itself.

My ‘active’ work entailed covert military Op’s, mainly outdoors for long periods, some times in atrocious conditions using dug out hides, or laid half-submerged in babbling brooks in mid winter (covered in black neoprene from head to toe) watching the serious bad guys from ‘across the water’. After which, hours of solitude in my own darkroom, observing and working to my own rules, and because every one thought photography was a dark art (developing and printing actually was back then) I was left to my own devices to the frustration of my Boss, a Royal Marine Lt (if your reading this ‘Paul H’, you have my most sincere apologies). The result of such covert work, created a chain reaction that in turn produced some great effective Counter Terrorism results. I was hooked, the down side was that after eighteen months I had to leave the dark art, and return to the routine of a RM Commando Unit. Photography then became far too expensive to enjoy.

That was until the arrival of the digital camera, and the world suddenly changed from monochrome to colour! Life began again when I splashed out and bought my first, of several cameras.

Only those of a certain age will understand the feeling of liberty that the digital age has brought about; I still have two rolls of film in my fridge that requires developing, each time I reach for the milk I make a mental note that it should be done!

(A quick show of hand’s from those who still have a 35mm roll in a drawer or a box lying around the house)! I thought so; it’s not just me. As usual I digress…Vague memories of the ‘Gnome’ and ‘Devere’ enlarger are almost mystical. The tainted smell of developer and fixer on hands and clothing are just a memory, their time has long since ceased to be. The digital age opened Pandora’s box.

For Coffeypot & Navy Davy…

The enlarger’s I mentioned are two types of photographic machine that use exposed & developed film, which is placed within a lens system. Using controlled light conditions, the resulting image is projected onto a single piece of ‘Kenthene’ print paper for light activation. The machines are not for the use on male appendage… (beat you to it) 😉

*I need not wax lyrical over the variety of digital systems that are now available, or how simple they are to use. Each with the capability of creating countless thousands of images inexpensively, all without the use of messy chemicals and machines whose names produced schoolgirl giggles (*why; because I have just done so, and yes we did giggle like schoolgirls when the ‘enlarger’ was introduced to the course, it’s a man thing)…

Quick Dit…

Just recently I asked friends what they would like as a late wedding gift. They mentioned a copy of a photograph I had taken, as the colours, as well as the subject, matched a scheme within their home. The resulting image was transferred to a large canvas print, framed within a piece of polished oak taken from a fallen tree within the scene. It looks better than I describe, and I did feel a little awkward giving it as a gift as it felt as though I was cheating over what a true artist could produce. (Doffing my cap at the true artists among you).

Sun setting in the West
Sun setting in the West

Extension to the Dit…

Two years ago, well before dawn broke (on one of my numerous adventures), I walked to the summit of Roseberry Topping on the North Yorkshire Moors, to watch the sunrise from the sea. Setting off at the base there was a slight chill breeze that turned into a gusting wind as I climbed higher along the twisting worn trail. As I reached the highest point of the Topping, the wind was blowing a hooligan (40 mph); I settled down in the lee of one of the rock outcrops, upon which I caught sight of a fellow walker, who had also taken cover. It was too noisy to speak above the pitch of the gale, so I simply gave him the thumb up gesture of ‘OK’, from which I received a smile and a nod.

Settling in and down below cover, I took refuge and broke out one of my flask’s of tea, followed by a heavily laden cold bacon sandwich; just as the sun went from pre-dawn into early sunrise. Reaching for my pocket Sony camera I crawled to the edge of my vantage point, capturing the morning’s burst of energy as it glowed over the far distant white caps out at sea. All was well with the world as I settled back into my cubby hole; though I did ponder over the thought that “those who do not participate in the delights of pork, are indeed missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures”! Studying my surroundings, I noticed that my fellow walker did not appear to be a ‘happy chappy’, indeed he looked absolutely windswept, battered and forlorn. As I did not receive a thumb down earlier I presumed his lot was not a happy one, but at least an adequate and acceptable one (oh how I hoped he wasn’t a potential jumper, as several had done so in past years)!

It has always been a habit of mine to over pack on hot drinks and foodstuff, so I was quite happy to sit and take in the distant view from my calm spy-hole for a while longer; ready to block and tackle the unhappy one’s attempt at flight, should it be required. Eventually, having taken my fill, I considered my return route options. 

Whilst re-packing my small Bergan ‘unhappy chappy’ motioned to me; once I was fully booted and spurred I wandered over to his spot, taking hit after hit from the punching buffering gale, and noticed that he had a large canvas satchel stuffed behind him, with what looked like a small collapsible easel strapped to it, along with other bits and pieces of paraphernalia?

‘Windblown man’ was not dressed for the great outdoors; his old tweed jacket with the collar turned up, worn over a thick brown woolen jumper, matched his faded brown corduroy trousers. He was either, the old school ‘Matterhorn’ adventurer type, or simply a teacher separated from his class of pupils? His attire sufficed on this warmish early morning, but only just… Unprepared outdoors walkers are a blight on society, who often put others at risk through their stupidity. What added insult to injury was the fact he was wearing heavy leather brogue shoes.

And then I noticed the lapel badge on his jacket; this was no ordinary great outdoors adventurer, or a teacher separated from his group! This was a ‘Fellow of the Royal Academy of Arts’! An elderly angel had transcended from above, and the powerful gale had temporarily grounded him. My inwards growl subsided to pure admiration, as I unceremoniously parked my backside down next to him, thus cutting the ‘Tyson-esque’ air punches dead. After going through the good morning courtesies, we got down to the nitty-gritty, as well as the whys and where for’ of his dilemma.

In a nutshell’ the ‘Fellow’ had wished to capture the pastel colours and shades presented by the dawns rising sun, and hadn’t taken that morning’s wind calculation into account (at 930 feet above sea level)? That morning as he arrived at the summit, the wind started picking up from a soft gust that switched into a battering hooligan. Unable to set up his easel and watercolours, he decided to wait it out. A bad calculation, as the wind was destined to hit 60 to 70 mph by lunchtime, of which I explained.

As we discussed the situation I offered, then insisted, that he take my spare flask of hot tea, and then went one step further and offered him my back up bacon sandwich, which he again politely declined (phew), though I insisted he took half, of which he did (ohhh)! Followed by a banana and a large chocolate caramel wafer. Having drunk and ate our fill it was decided that I would carry his large satchel, as well as the ’monkeys & parrots’ strapped to the outside; allowing him to walk down hill in front of me, as I could take the main buffering from the nor’easter gale.

My main concern was that the small 120-pound wiry frame of the ‘Fellow’ inside his jacket, would act as a sail and blow him from the track, and over the edge (I had seen more meat on a jockey’s whip at York races, my morning snack must have been a two-day feast for him)! Gradually and gingerly he made his way down wards as I acted as his back stop; en-route we deterred a young couple carrying a small child in a back knapsack from walking up! Unprepared outdoors walkers are a blight on society, etc, etc. Having reached the base safely, we then walked back to the car park discussing the merits of painting over photography. We eventually shook hands and parted company. 

Over the last year or so the ‘Fellow’ and I have bumped into each other several times both socially, as well as accidentally whilst wandering around the Yorkshire Moors. At his request I did mail him my collection of photographs taken from that wind-swept morning, who knows if they were of any use? But through the marvel of modern-day digital imagery, at least I achieved my aim, which I often rib him about.

He always has the last laugh though, and does laugh longest, as he is the true artist and painter with a thousand years of history supporting him.

However; the time previously spent burning money as well as brain cells at my attempt at art, have not been wasted. The same principles are required when formulating the subject using ‘old school photography’; they work even better with digital photography, as the principles also be brought to play when editing the image on a ‘puter’ screen.

A question for ‘Dusty Lou’! Are clouds as difficult as dust to capture on canvas?

Sunrise Aug 2011
Sunrise Aug 2011

Yours Aye.

Red Cup Living

Ah, the ubiquitous red cup. Toby Keith even has a song about ’em called the Red Solo Cup. (Not to be confused with the Han Solo Cup, which was one of Han’s biggest supporters.) Now the good folks at Red Cup Living are introducing the Red Cup Margarita Glass, Red Cup Cocktail Cup, Red Cup Wine Glass. And the Red Cup Coffee Mug:

Red Cup Living, Red Cup Coffee Mug
Red Cup Living, Red Cup Coffee Mug

Yes, it is ten bucks. No, it is not made of plastic. But stoneware. As in stonerware. . .

Andrew Tuohy’s Flowers

Mr. Andrew Tuohy likes to give his dear mother flowers from time to time. But he also adds a twist to his traditional gift. What are his flowers made of?

Andrew Tuohy’s flowers, from Vuurwapen

Hey! It turns out Andrew was an HM2 (FMF); which translates, to those of you who don’t speak Nav-glish, as: Andrew Tuohy was a Navy Corpsman. Good job, Shipmate!

Wine Etching

Are you searching for a gift for your boss or co-worker, someone in your life? A person who is nearly impossible to buy for?

Well, hunt no more my exhausted friend, for the Mellow Jihadi has located the perfect gift for you. A custom-etched wine bottle.

The wine bottle artists: Etching Expressions. They have a great product. (As evidenced by the bottle to my left. Price and etch/label options are at their site.)

Being the only Lieutenant in my office, planning and executing farewell luncheons is often within my target deck.

It is a bad feeling indeed, with a week out from the event, and you do not know what to get the departing Sailor.

Three etched wine bottles later and I can say that these folks do fine work. I did not know them prior to ordering my first wine bottle, nor do I receive any kick-back from my endorsement here. Only a promise: that you will be cheered as the conquering hero should you present this bottle to your next adios’ing team member. Trust me, I have conquered three lunches already! Tell Mike I sent you. . .