Beautiful Britain – Clacton-on-Sea

Nestled on the Tendring peninsula on the east coast of England, and providing seaside entertainment for the masses for over 150 years, the town of Clacton may seem like any other  British seaside town. Clacton came to prominence in 1871 when it was founded by Peter Bruff as a seaside resort, largely for Londoners to escape the city. He built the pier, which still stands today, and steamer was the main method of reaching the town until the road and rail system caught up.

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The heyday of the town was really the middle decades of the twentieth century when there was a Butlins Holiday Camp and many hotels and guest houses to entertain the day trippers and summer holiday makers. Then along came cheap flights to more exotic locations and, like so many British resorts, there was a significant downturn in the economy.

Even in the 21st century the town still has a significant number of visitors and people enjoying the sandy beaches, and going on the rides and other amusements on Peter Bruff’s original pier. When we were kids there were dolphins and orcas kept in the swimming pool on the pier, but thankfully that’s gone now.

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The landscape has also changed a bit with the offshore wind farm on Gunfleet Sands but all in all a pretty standard town that has had its ups and downs…  

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… Or is it?  

Well, there are two things that are also uniquely interesting about this town, so let me explain.

Firstly, Clacton was the site of the first civilian casualties in World War II when Frederick and Dorothy Gill were killed by a Heinkel bomber that crashed into their house on May 1st, 1940. Little is made of this fact, although I clearly recall a plaque on a bench on nearby Skelmersdale Road detailing this tragedy when I was a teenager.

Secondly, although Clacton is primarily known as a typical Victorian seaside town, the area slightly inland at Great Clacton was inhabited by the Celts and there is some evidence of Roman involvement too at the coast. The most amazing fact though is that during the paleolithic period, the area was used for flint mining and tool manufacture. And in 1911 there was uncovered the “Clacton Spear” a wooden yew spear which, at 420,000 years old is the oldest known wooden tool created by man.  It is, in fact, even older than Homo sapiens and was carved by our pre-ancestors Homo erectus.  An entire period of human development, Clactonian, was named after the town and describes the fascinating industry of flint working and tool making.

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By Chemical Engineer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
I lived in Clacton during my teenage years and was totally unaware of this significant piece of our history. Sometimes it truly amazes me how understated the British people can be. In many other places in the world both these events would have been used to develop another aspect of the town, with museums and themed activities, but not in this corner of Essex.

How Quintessentially British!

~Richard

Beautiful Britain – Southwick

It’s been over 7 years since we last visited the UK as a family and I thought our recent visit would be a great opportunity to write something about good old Blighty for a few posts. It will motivate me to process my photographs and also is relevant to promoting the art group I run at Quintessentially British, which now contains over 11,000 images of “Britishness” by more than 700 artists. Ironically, I haven’t posted that many images of my own to the group since I set it up 5 years ago, so this trip was an opportunity to get some more images to post!

So, I’ll start with our first port of call – literally – Southwick, in West Sussex.

Southwick is a small coastal town situated on the River Adur on the south coast of England. There have been settlements here from at least the Roman times and the town is first recorded in the Domesday Book (1085 AD). Like many nearby towns, it was the extension of the railway lines in the 19th century which really caused the town to expand becoming a popular place for tourists to visit and take the sea air.

Although largely eclipsed by Shoreham-by-Sea to the west and Brighton & Hove to the east, Southwick still has a thriving commercial port (called Shoreham Port, even though it’s really in Southwick and Fishersgate), serving both commercial and navy vessels in docks on the River Adur.

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There is a nice village green with traditional pub on the edge, railway station and a couple of new windmills placed adjacent to the pebble beach, almost as an advance guard to the huge wind farm that is being developed off the coast in the distance.

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A bit of something for everyone, perhaps? Certainly a nice place to sit in the sun and enjoy a “99” (soft ice-cream cone with a chocolate flake).

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How Quintessentially British!

~Richard

So nice to go traveling

Wow, it has been over a month since I posted a blog! I am appalled with this failure of what started out as a rebooted daily discipline, back in Jan 2016, but there’s been a good reason for this.

In mid-June I was fortunate enough to have taken an extended family vacation back to England and include a brief 2-night sojourn to Paris too. I had grand plans of writing blog entries and posting images as we traveled but, to be honest, I was too busy enjoying myself “in the moment,” as they say these days.

And that’s how it should be.

I will play a bit of catch up over the next few weeks and months as I process the hundreds of photographs I did take that will jog my memory. And I’ll start off with the first three that I worked on yesterday evening, from Brighton, Paris and Amesbury.

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The time went very quickly and we saw family, several friends, and many of our old stomping grounds and tourist attractions. We were even fortunate with the notoriously unpredictable British weather.

It would have been nice to have stayed longer and spend more time with even more friends and family but, alas, time caught up with us and it was with mixed emotions that we returned to our home in Pennsylvania. After a day or so I admit that it’s good to be home and to appreciate the life that we have here.

That’s the philosophical part of traveling, perhaps!

~Richard

 

A Story – Reflectors

She couldn’t remember when she had first noticed the totem pole. She had just looked up from her dark lonely thoughts one day while walking down the street and seen it. Every day for the next month she had noticed that more items had been added. She didn’t know who was doing this, or when, as she had never seen anyone attaching anything to the lamp post, or even taking much notice of it. It was almost as if she was the only person to see it.

Today was her day, though. She had planned it for a week and finally plucked up courage.
As she twisted the blue beads into the wire she held her breath guiltily.

“Hello,” said a soft voice from behind her, ” I wondered when you were going to add something of your own…”

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~Richard

 

 

Mondrian inspired work

Pieter Cornelis “Piet” Mondriaan was an important member of the De Stijl movement, founded in 1917, which sought to reduce their art to pure abstraction and simple form and color. Often this meant using only straight lines and primary colors in the work they produced. Mondrian (he dropped the second ‘a’ to fit in with the Paris art scene) is perhaps best known for his grid-based paintings that follow this form of “neoplasticism,” as shown in Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, painted in 1930.

I have always liked the simplicity and boldness of this art and a couple of years ago I created some digital art that was inspired by it, although I modified the form by using using lines that intersected at angles other than 90 degrees in place of strict perpendiculars associated with Mondrian et al.  More recently I have translated those thoughts into ceramic work that builds on this thought into a three dimensional piece. This is the first piece to come out of the kiln.

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~Richard

 

 

My tribute to Clarice Cliff ceramics

Nearly a century ago, back in the roaring twenties, there was a little known ceramic artist in England called Clarice Cliff, who worked at the A. J. Wilkinson pottery in Newport. She was soon noted as an accomplished decorator of their traditional wares and she was allowed free reign to also paint some of the defective pieces in her own patterns. Initially she covered the blemishes on the pottery in simple triangles, in a style which she named “Bizarre.” Much to the surprise of the company’s senior salesman, these pieces were very popular and led to Clarice being given more autonomy and to design the actual pieces of pottery for painting.

In the 1930s two factories were built to specifically produce her ceramic wares, always with bold colors and often with unusual shapes that fit the art deco style of the period. Her work was produced until 1964 and remains popular to this day.

When I was a child we were fortunate enough to own two Clarice Cliff vases and a bowl, and their designs always intrigued me. Last year, when I had a little time on my hands in the ceramics studio I created a vase in a similar style, but I left it on the shelf for nearly a year as I was not ready to tackle how to complete the design.

Over the last couple of weeks I finally got round to finishing this piece, loosely based on one of her leaf designs from another work, as my tribute to this quintessentially British designer.

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~Richard

The Art of Lyme Disease

As part of our bucolic Pennsylvanian environment we have many deer traipsing across our property throughout the year. These pleasant little groups, especially when they have the fawns with them, are nice to see, although, despite the best attempts of Disney, they do have a few annoying, and even darker traits.

The most direct impact they have is their relentless browsing on many things in our garden. We have had many plants, both vegetables and flowers taken, and much damage done to young trees and shrubs too by these marauding hordes. In their defense, it’s understandable as to them we are nothing more than a provider of a herbivorous smorgasbord from which to dine, but it’s bloody annoying nevertheless.  

That being said, these hoofed visitors are generally harmless to us, though, with two notable exceptions. Firstly, they have a tendency to leap out in front of traffic, so injuring or killing not only themselves but many drivers who hit them and, secondly, they are a significant part of the lifecycle for the parasite that causes the Lyme disease that is so prevalent in our area.

Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the spirochete parasite Borellia burdorferi which is carried by the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis, and delivered when the tick is having a good blood meal on a human being. This little payload can cause a classic “bullseye” rash of concentric red rings on the skin as the infection spreads, although it does not occur in all cases. Once infected the victim exhibits flu-like symptoms of fever, fatigue, muscle aches and generally feeling unwell. If it is diagnosed quickly enough then one or two 28-day treatment cycles of oral doxycycline should take care of it, although there can be long term effects which include joint pain, arthritis and neuropathies.

The weird thing, from my perspective, is that a person does not obtain immunity from the infectious agent, but can be reinfected. I know this as I have been immunologically diagnosed with this twice in 3 years so far.

So, as I sat here over the weekend I thought I’d create some “Lyme inspired” artwork, in the style of those pop art posters. Lyme Disease – the gift that keeps on giving!

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Lyme2

Richard

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