Friday, 17 June 2011

Countdown to Chicago

With only days to go before I touch down in Chicago I feel I must warn you in advance of what to expect.
I've tried this time, I really have tried my best to look half way presentable....I feel I have to tell you because it won't be immediately apparent. I've mown my ear and nostril hair back to a respectable length, sanded down my complexion, buffed up with five press-ups and even let a dentist polish the gnashers and yet as I reflect on my reflection my default setting of sheer disappointment remains unchallenged....once again.
 Of course it's never easy but when "Pretty Boy" Binder is in town it's doubly so. He makes me look like I've dressed in a 1990's skip..sorry Dumpster.... after a tramp has had first pick of the good stuff! Who knows, maybe he's aged too. He may have a grey hair on his head by now....I'll tell him he has anyway.

                         (Adam after his horrific combine harvester accident)
No....I must think positively.......maybe I've grown six inches and he's shrunk by the same ammount since we last met.....unlikely though. I could always get some of those built up shoes, or stilts.
The ridiculous thing is that I only live about fifty miles from Adam but because of our busy lives I have to fly to the U.S. to see him! thing.....please don't ask Adam about the numerous prestigious awards he's garnered over the last few'll only encourage him to carve even more beautiful sculptures and win more!
Anyway I must go, these Adam voodoo dolls won't make themselves.......Ha ...Ha...heh.......

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Highs and Lows

This week you find me at the Chess Megafinals being held at Worcester University. Sam and two of his friends from school have qualified for this event and now face six matches over the day hoping to gain enough points to make it to the Gigafinals! Looking around I can see several competitive dads, chess games underway, discussing tactics and openings. It's hard not to notice that the subcontinent is well represented at this event. Sam and his friends appear to be limbering up on their Nintendo DS's. It is going to be a long day but perfect for me to catch up with the Blog.
 Let me start with an evening at the neighbour's. A chinese take-away was being devoured and as I remember it I was enthralling everyone with my sparkling wit and poetry when the world began to tilt at a strange angle! Everyone just watched as I slowly disappeared from view as the back legs of my chair did the splits. Soon only the soles of my feet were on display.....naturally Andrea and our neighbour Chris were hugely concerned over my well being....which they managed to disguise by shrieking like witches with laughter for the next three or four days! I hope they wee'd themselves! Andrea hasn't laughed that much since I hit my shin with a hammer or that time I slipped down the stairs.............I'm beginning to spot a pattern here.......Me + pain = Wife + happiness.
Sam has won his first match!....and is now running about outside. Others are practising chess.....obviously the overall winner is going to be one of these kids. Should I be trying to turn Sam into a new Karpov or Rooney?
The low light of the week was the loss of our chickens Roxy, Pootle and Amber to a fox. I've heard of foxes going into a killing frenzy before with chickens but it was still a shock to find them all dead. We had one very sad daughter for a long while. Now she has seen pictures of a ridiculous looking bantam called a many head feathers it can hardly see where it is going! the hunt is on.
Whilst I'm on the subject of birds, the peregrine chicks are all doing well and flexing their wings already. I managed to get some good pictures of the tawny owl the other evening and could see a chick, well a big ball of fluff with two black eyes, in the entrance to the nest box.
This Greater Spotted Woodpecker was feeding chicks nearby, they make so much noise it's easy to spot them this time of year.
Another win!...that's two points.
Now some sculpting news. I'm often asked where my ideas come from and it's actually a difficult question to because I trawl the internet and steal them but because they can come from almost anywhere. For example the other morning I was woken by the dawn chorus and looked at my clock to see it was barely 5am......thanks birds. I then wondered how birds felt about having to get up so early just to have a bit of a sing song. Imagine being a bird if you were not a "morning person"  I suppose it is this anthropomorphic attitude to animals that is the germination of so many ideas. The thought of some hung-over or bad tempered birds reluctant to join in with the singing made me smile....even at that ridiculously early hour. Luckily I still remembered the idea in the real morning (after 8.30 am) and hopefully it will become the subject of my next model.
Yet another win..three points...and lunchtime.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Kopi Luwak

Life isn't just bird watching, golf and rocking gently in a dark corner....sometimes I need to work. This last week I was thinking of ideas for the annual Black box and was making a list of exotic, or do I mean stomach turning, foods that in certain parts of the world are seen as delicacies. This list included monkey brains, traditionally eaten straight from the skull. Birds nest soup, made from the saliva of swifts. Balut, which is a fertilized boiled egg containing the foetus of a duck or chicken, baby mouse wine, tuna eyeballs, live octopus and Rocky Mountain Oysters........young bull testicles.
Plenty of candidates there for consideration....but then I came across Kopi Luwak. This is the most expensive coffee in the world and yet is made from civet cat poo. The Asian Palm Civet eats the coffee cherries which then pass through its digestive system leaving just the beans. The droppings are collected, washed and roasted before being turned into something that people with too much money feel the need to buy. My box shows a palm civet delivering a fresh batch of droppings straight  to the coffee cup.....mmmm.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Twitchering not Tweeting

Today you would have found me crawling on my hands and knees through the shrubbery, no, not making my way home from the pub or stealing items of ladies underwear from the neighbours washing line!..but twitchering....bird watching. Britain is known for its twitchers because of the huge variety of birds that come to Britain for their holidays. If we had elephants or tigers or bears over here we'd probably watch them but as we only have rabbits and worms...that feeling of danger is missing.
Armed with my trusty binoculars (courtesy of Mike and Cecil Williams from Wild Birds C.A.) and scope, I set up about 100yds from a peregrine falcon's nest. I've been observing these birds for 5years now (not continuously) and the last few weeks they have been sitting on three eggs. Monday the first egg hatched and on Tuesday the other two, so now the parents are busy feeding three chicks. This morning it looked like the peregrines had either had one hell of a pillow fight in the night or a jackdaw had been breakfast, there were black feathers everywhere. A lot of the time nothing happens but I find it fascinating and I'm comfortable there.....where my social skills are not under scrutiny!!
Please excuse the quality of the photographs but they were taken with Millie's little camera fixed to my scope with elastic bands from 100yds away. Not only do I get to see these wonderful birds but the walk home is almost as spectacular as the hills are carpeted with bluebells at this time of year. And the bird watching was not over yet. We have a small field where Andrea keeps her horse and I put up an owl box in a secluded corner four years ago. It has never been used but recently I noticed the odd twig sticking out so set up the scope again and waited....and waited....waited...and then just as the light was almost gone.......a Tawny owl flew into the box...sorry no pictures (yet) now maybe if I glued a torch to Millie's camera and then........

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


The last few weeks have been hectic, hence blogless. The Chicago convention draws nearer and event pieces have yet to be finished.......or even started. Typically when the pressure is on the bicycle pump of fate adds a few more pumps although this time it was self imposed. A year ago I volunteered to help at my son's school when they went on their annual adventure trip (PGL) and that time was last week.
Three days of zip wire, abseiling and kayaking with 36 children was quite an experience, I'm not sure who was furthest from their comfort zone, me or them. I had forgotten how much noise one child can make, let alone thirty six. Watching them play and sing I was jealous of how uninhibited they were.
It got me wondering why we lose that ability to act so freely but then I remembered that singing and shouting were abilities that I never possessed in the first place. Nope, me and shouting were never best mates. I can't even remember the last time I made a loud noise that wasn't through my backside. If I could win a Ferrari simply be shouting loudly..I'd still be driving my battered old Peugeot around.
When playing golf you are supposed to yell "FORE" whenever a stray shot heads towards another fairway...I just can't do it. I just tell myself that if no-one noticed then it doesn't matter and if I did hit someone then they are probably unconscious and I can get away with it!

White Finger

Time for more of the white knuckle ride that is......working in my shed! Well, not quite white knuckle this week but white finger. No, not a new Bond villain but an industrial disease. Vibration White Finger (VBF) is caused by prolonged use of vibrating tools (No not those) like hammer drills and chainsaws. VBF is on my radar because when I turn my carvings into boxes I use a hand held electric drill and often end up with tingling finger tips by the end of the day. This is not an ideal situation when it comes to carving intricate models for a living but at least the symptoms are only temporary and normal service is resumed the next day.
 I first became aware of VBF when I watched a documentary on Canadian lumberjacks who used chainsaws every day. Their hands shook uncontrollably and they could barely even hold mugs of tea. New careers as surgeons or Bomb disposal experts would be clearly inadvisable....cocktail shaker maybe. I'm thinking of buying Andrea a Dremmel for her birthday......there again......

I've blogged about several subjects now but have yet to mention any carving.......time to put that right.
I'm always on the lookout for odd or weird creatures to sculpt and this one fits the bill nicely....the Sphynx Cat. These cats appear hairless but their odd appearance doesn't stop them from being very desirable. They are quite high maintainance and I'm not sure I'd want one as a pet but as the kittens sell for between $1000 and $2000 I can see the attraction for breeding them!
Recently I carved a tattooed pig as a joke about our fondness for tattoos but what did I find when I googled "sphynx cats".....yes..some owners had tattooed their cats...makes you proud to be human. My Sphynx is crouched like a Sphinx....sorry couldn't resist it.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Please don't tell Lisa

First the good news, no, the incredibly good news, the weather this week has been unbelievable. We have gone from winter to summer without bothering with spring. This has meant of course that I have been vulnerable to any suggestion that means I can escape from the shed. When my friend Roy (Yes the one that beat me at golf) rang yesterday to see if I wanted a lunchtime drink I would normally struggle with my conscience and then say I have work to finish. But Roy has a secret weapon. A recently acquired Aston Martin DB9 red! Well I've got no defense against that sort of attack and to cut a long story afternoon was lost.
It gets worse, today Andrea and I took our dog Bart for a walk and the weather was so beautiful that we did not return until this afternoon. Guilt has seen me back in the shed until now......and as I write this I see it is now 2 am GMT but it was worth it.
With the Chicago event looming it was time to check everyone's passports.......and yes, both the childrens's  were out of date and Andreas has disappeared completely. So tomorrow will be a day when the Calvesbert family will be posing for their new passport photographs and Andrea will be trying to prove she is a British National. I am really looking forward to seeing Chicago again, my first taste of America was the ICE event at Rosemont and I have a lot of happy memories from then. My biggest fear is that our country will declare war with Chicago before we get there. These days I'm almost scared to turn on the radio in the morning in case our belligerent nation is at conflict with some new nation in the world. The common denominator seems to be nations with vast oil fields but I'm sure that's just a coincidence.......does Chicago have oil?
But back to the UK. This really is a favourite time of the year for me. The trees and hedgerows are turning green and soon the bottles,cans,litter and car batteries that have been on display at the roadside all winter will disappear under a canopy of green! During our walk today the loudest noise was birdsong and the overpowering smell was that from the blossom on the trees...glorious. I took the opportunity to check the peregrine falcon's nest that I observe every year and once again was rewarded with the sight of the peregrine on it's nest. I shall keep you informed of it's progress over the coming weeks. My pond is full of frog spawn and the fields are full of newborn lambs....I sense an idea for a model.
Now tomorrow I intend to frighten you with more tales of hazards from the ...not insects or creepy crawlies this time...........but...white finger disease! You have been warned.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Welcome to my almost new blog.

Good morning and thank you for visiting. I know, I know.........I should have welcomed you all to my blog last time, not the second post, but surely you didn't expect me to get something right did you?
Anyway in my weekly..ish blog I intend to keep you up to date with the carvings, the countdown to Chicago, (or shakago as my daughter Millie wrote the other day, I blame her mother!) family life and any other nonsense that may occur to me. And if that's not enough there will also be a competition, each week you will have the challenge of finding the grain of truth my stories are based around!

One day I hope to be able to write a story about an achievement that shows me in a good light but until then here's one that goes back to November 1st 2009, the Newport Convention.
I had the onerous task of choosing a winner of the "Carve a box competition". Onerous because each model was wonderful in it's own way and choosing just one seems so unfair, plus I feel the disappointment of all those not picked. As the winning carving was to be turned into a box that helped narrow the field and I eventually chose Bill Park's model of his dog Melmo with a pumpkin.
I carefully transported the model back to the UK where it sat gathering dust for the next 17 months!!!
Shame and embarrassment are the first two words that come to mind. Think of an excuse.......are the next four! How on earth am I going to make it up to that handsome man Bill and his beautiful wife Amy.........too subtle? In the time it has taken me to do nothing Bill and Amy have managed to produce a one year old baby, Sebastian!
With Chicago only three months away I realised I wouldn't have the nerve to turn up if I hadn't finished Bill's model so this week "Melmo" has had my full attention. They have been very kind and not once told me to "hurry up" or words to that effect..and they had every right to. So a mere twenty months after carving his model I should get Bill's model to him........thank God I don't deliver live organs for a living!

Now I hope there's no link between that story and this one but last Friday I played golf. I am a member of the Pheasant Inn Golf Society (P.I.G.S.) and once a month we play a different venue. This month we visited The Worcestershire G.C. This exclusive club was established in 1879 and designed by a Dr Alistair Mackenzie who apparently also designed Augusta National and Cypress Point ....wherever they are....
Luckily they were holding a "Peasants day" and our society was let loose on it's hallowed greens. At this point I can tell you that I played like a true champion.....providing that champion was called "Dobbin" and was the four legged ploughing champion of Great Britain 2010. I look forward to our monthly golf so much that when the time comes I am at such a high level of expectation that utter disappointment is the only possible outcome. I'm not sure why I even like golf....did I say "why"..I meant "if". I think it's the contrast between my visualisation of the shot I'm about to play and reality......if I knew where the ball was going to go where would the fun be in that? To make things worse I lost my usual £5 side bet with Roy "I'll put down a four" Sumner. So, am I looking forward to next month's game at the Herefordshire G.C.? You bet I am, luckily I have a very low threshold as to what counts as a good game of golf.....anytime I don't get struck by lightning!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

I've been called many things but never a blogger

Look under "Dangerous sports" just below base jumping and you will see "working in a shed". Surprised? well you shouldn't be. Let me expose you to the hazards and terror of shed must be at least eighteen and about this high to continue on this ride!
They say the Goliath bird eating spider is the largest in the known world, well thats nothing to what lurks behind my book shelves. It moves so fast though I've never really had a good look at it, all I know is that It's not safe to leave a sandwich and plate of biscuits lying around. Mind you it's not all bad news, every couple of times it sheds its skin I get a new pair of slippers. Shame I haven't got eight toes though. And spiders aren't the only uninvited guest, ever wondered where wasps go at night?
Thats right....on my shed. Now I've been known to hum along to my radio but these boys are professional, although a little monotonous at times.
I must admit there are some pretty nasty insects living here, I used to have a venus flytrap as company thinking it would thrive on the abundant food source but it developed entomophobia (I had to google it so you can!) and sadly I came to work one morning and found it swinging from my desk lamp. If only I hadn't left those shoe laces lying around.

It's not only the wildlife that makes shed life so dangerous, there are also the chemical and biological hazards to contend with. I don't know why the British government spent so much on the warfare research station at Porton Down when all they had to do was visit me. I'm talking, of course, about the various fungi and spores growing from all the old coffee mugs littered around. There's probably something here that could cure the common cold...note to some test tubes and a Bunsen burner.
Looking at some of these mugs it's hard to imagine that something so furry and orange could be so deadly...mind you, that hamster that Andrea had when I first met her could have done with a Hannibal Lecter mask. Now I'm wondering if there is a possible link between my coffee fungus and the 45 pound spider in the corner....hmmmmm.
Oh and did I mention that my shed is haunted. Not only do I have to contend with the living world but the afterlife too. There have been occasions when I've entered my shed and felt an icy chill go down my back, usually winter time oddly. I'll sense an evil presence and detect the faint aroma of rotten eggs out of the corner of my eye the faint outline of some hideous wretch that looks like it probably met its end in some freak combine harvester accident but when I suddenly turn to look at's gone!......only to be replaced by a mirror!...why I put that there I'll never know :-)