Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Proof that the world's gone mad

Hi All,
If ever I needed proof that the world has gone totally mad, it came yesterday. I went into a shop to purchase 2 chocolate bars; a little treat for me and the mrs. It went like this.

I put the two bars of chocolate on the counter and was informed by the the shop assistant that it would be cheaper to buy three.

Thinking this was some cleaver sale pitch I said, "I don't want three, I'm on a diet."
She replied, "It's cheaper to buy three. Three bars are only £1.20, but if you buy just two they are 67p each so that will be £1.34."
For a moment I stood with my mouth open because I couldn't quite grasp what she was saying. To clarify the situation I thought I would repeat what I thought she said.
"Are you saying that two bars of chocolate will cost me £1.34 while three bars will cost me £1.20?"
"That's right," she said whilst looking at me as if I was practicing to be a village idiot.
What could I do, "charge me for three," I said, "and I'll pick another one up on the way out." And that is exactly what I did.

My wife didn't believe me when I relayed the incident to her, so I produced the extra bar for proof. She knows I'm tighter than a gastric band, so she knows Iwouldn't spend extra money without being drugged.

So there you are the world has gone mad.

Anyway the main purpose of this post was to let you know that the book below
will be free on amazon on the 26th and 27th of November, why not grab a copy while you can. Also I have just posted another watercolour painting on my Artistic Challenge blog. If you would like to check it out here's the link.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Water Quality

Hi all,
I'm afraid this post doesn't include any references to scroll sawing or pyrography, but if you are interested in what comes out of your tap please read on.

Those who have been following this blog will know that I have been very busy renovating the bungalow we moved into almost two years ago. Well, the work is almost done so I thought I'd treat myself to a new tropical fish tank. I had successfully kept tropical fish in the eighties and nineties but divorce, redundancy, heart attack and several house moves saw me giving up the fish.

Anyway, now that my days are more settled I thought I'd  rekindle the hobby and spend the rest of my days sitting on my couch watching the fish meander up and down the tank. What could be more relaxing?

I went out and purchased an 87 litre tank and all the stuff that is necessary to set up a new aquarium. I filled it with water and and left it for a week to start the cycling process prior to introducing some fish. So far everything was going well, then I tested the water to see what the hardness and ph levels etc were.

Everything was okay except for the water's general hardness figure. The test strip indicated that the water was very hard and I should proceed with caution.

I scoured the internet for information on tropical fish and hard water and even bought two books on the subject. Advice about which fish could be kept in hard water and what could be done to reduce the hardness was easy to come by along with some conflict.

The majority suggested the only foolproof way to reduce hardness is to go to your fish dealer and buy RO water, (known as RO water because it has been through a process of reverse osmosis) and put that in your tank instead of tap water. You can than add some minerals to it to make the water safe for the fish.

However, the minority suggested that  because most fish were now bread in captivity, water hardness wasn't a big issue any more and that fish had now adapted to it. I mentioned before that I'd kept fish successfully when I lived about 8 miles away, I hadn't tested the water then so perhaps the minority were right.

Anyway, I decided to give it a go and purchased 4 Zebra Danios which are renowned for being hardy and able to tolerate hard water. One died the very next day but because the other three looked okay I put the death down to the stress of transportation. However, two days later another one died which was upsetting. Was it the water and just how hard could it be? I decided to buy a more scientific test kit which would produce a reliable figure. Once this was known I could decide what to do next.

The test involved putting some of my aquarium water in a test tube and then counting how many drops of a special solution it took to make the water change colour.

The leaflet that came with the test kit advised that some tropical fish species like Tetras need to have water that changed colour when between 3 and 6 drops were introduced. Other tropical fish, like guppies etc could manage to live in water that changed colour when up to 11drops were needed.

The test scale finished at 12 drops,  which according to the leaflet was only suitable for keeping gold fish. Armed with this information I began counting the drops as I began the test. I was a bit concerned when I reached 13 drops and the water was still the same colour and by the time I'd reach 20 I was under no doubt as to why the 2 Zebra Danios had died. It took more drops to change the water in the test tube and I was devastated when the count went to 25. What the hell is coming out of my tap liquid rock?

My next step was to see if there was any information on my water companies website and I was pleased to say that there was. However, I wasn't quite so pleased when I found what I was looking for. According to them the water for my post code is very hard and the figure suggested that it was slightly harder than the the result that I got from my test kit.

Now you might think this is unacceptable and there must be a mistake. Well there is no mistake and what's more there isn't even a standard so they they don't have to bother complying.

Sadly, this was the end of another dream. Buying reverse osmosis water and humping it about the countryside isn't an option. I purchased the fish tank hoping for some relaxation, so doing a 20 mile round trip for a tank full of water every week is not on. So, I returned the 2 surviving fish to the fish supplier and put the tank up for sale on ebay. It cost me about £400 in total and I guess I'll be lucky if I get £75 for it. The only good news is that I won't be killing anymore fish.

At this point I asked myself a serious question. If fish can't survive in this water, how can it be safe to drink? In my opinion it can't so I went out and purchased a water filter. It won't get rid of all the nasty stuff in the tap water like florid, but it it will help with some of the other stuff.

By the way the art challenge is going well and you can get an update here if you would like to see my latest effort.

Saturday, 7 November 2015


Hi all,
 I'm back with another bit of pyrography to show you. It isn't mine I hasten to add, it is something my wife did. Well I made the box and originally and did a pyrography design on it that at the time I thought was okay. However, it transpires that my wife never liked it and finally told me so. "It isn't quite right, fuchias are delicate flowers and your rendition looks like an ugly brute" she said.

Anyway being as I'm one of those chaps who are always eager to please. I ran the box over my belt sander, to remove the ugly brute and presented it to her. "There you go my little passion flower, let's see what you can do with that."

After about a week of staring at the box she finally came up with a design and burnt it in with her pyrography iron. Her it is.
I love to know which you think is the best. In my view, it's okay, but it ain't quite right either, non too handsome thistle and a fat bumble bee with short wings. Still, you can't expect to do great works of art every time. Talking of art, I'm still not doing any pryrography because I'm busy with my my watercolour challenge. If you are interested in watercolour painting here's the link.

I'm getting better but very slowly. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015


Hi all,
Just a quick one to let you know that one of my books, "Bossyboots" will be free on Amazon on the 22nd and 23rd of October.

The story revolves around a pottery factory manager who is desperate to find a new bed mate after his long suffering wife walks out on him. However, just like the problems he is having in the factory, nothing goes to plan.

If you want a good laugh and find out how one man deals with middle aged freedom, grab a freebie on the 22nd or 23rd.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Reluctant Pom

Hi all, sorry it's been a while since my last post, but I have been changing priorities regarding any spare time that might sneak past my horizon. I have always wanted to be a decent painter and now that I'm knocking on a bit I want to give it a good shot while I still can.

I've always managed to do a reasonable drawing many of which can be seen in my pyrography work, but using paint takes more skill. I have dabbled in watercolours and oils over the years but didn't produce much of note so now I'm going to give the watercolours a real go. I have given myself a year to became competent, so if you want to follow my progress, warts and all, here is the link to my
watercolour challenge pages .

This is a picture of a lion that I painted a few years ago. It is the world's only bow legged lion so I guess improving on that effort shouldn't be too difficult.

I won't be neglecting the scroll sawing and pyrography all together, after all I am slightly addicted to the smell of burning wood, but my post on here will become less frequent.

One last thing. My book, "The Reluctant Pom" is free today and tomorrow on Amazon, so if you would like a free copy here is the Link.
 I hope you enjoy it. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015


Hi all,
I've just finished a pyrography project that gained me some more brownie points from the other half. A few weeks ago she decided it was time for me to redecorate our bedroom. She wanted three plain walls and one with wall paper. So, we set about the finest wall paper shops Stafford has to offer in the hope of finding two rolls of paper that would do the wall proud.

Well I don't know what's happened to wall paper design, but from our view point it is pretty grim. Most of it looks like the pattern was stolen from a couple of ties that I had the audacity to wear in conjunction with a blue velvet  jacket in the seventies. No wonder so may high street shops are closing down and and being replaced with charity emporiums. They seem to have lost any sort of individualism. One would have though it impossible to homogonise wall paper but they have.

Anyway, a year before, my wife purchased some lovely vintage wall paper from Ebay and so it was no surprise when she turned to them again.

"I've found a couple of rolls of very nice paper with ducks on it," she said to me. My immediate thoughts were that our bedroom was going to look like Hilda Ogden,s parlour, but these fears soon dissolved away when the paper turned up. It didn't take long to hang and it looks very nice when it was finished. The only problem was that the first morning when I woke up I thought I was in Hitchcock's film about the birds.
Once the bedroom was finished there was only one problem. Our linen basket didn't have a lid. And it spoiled the ambiance to have to look at socks and other bits of underwear every time you entered or left the room. So, I had an idea. I cut a piece of 4mm plywood to fit the top of the basket screwed a knob in the middle and then set about it with my pyrography iron.

At first I was stuck for a pattern; flowers and butterflies came to mind, but then I realised the image was staring me straight in the face. I used the ducks on the wall paper for inspiration and they came out pretty well.
My wife was well chuffed when she saw it and I'm an hero again. Not sure what my next project will be, but if you would like to see more of my pyrography work please click here to go to my website.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Brush Holder

Hi all,
For my latest project I created a present for my wife's birthday. I got her a few other things but she enjoys it when I put a bit of effort in and make her something nice.

She has recently been doing a lot of painting and she keeps her brushes in a glass jar, which always worries me because because of the fire risk. Now before you start laughing, let me tell you a little story. A few years ago we had a glass ornament that sat on our wooden coffee table, anyway, we came home one day to the smell of burning and found that there was a huge scorch mark in the coffee table. Apparently, the sun had shone through the glass ornament and it had a magnifying effect, which could have started a fire.

Since then I have been very wary of leaving anything glass where the sun can shine through it, and seeing as my wife currently uses our conservatory for a studio, the risk of a fire caused by the glass jar she keeps her brushes in is a risk.

So I decided to make her a wooden one with fretwork leaves, which I did some pyrography on. Here is the finished article.
It took quite a while to make this box and do the pyrography work because I was having to do it in secret. My wife doesn't go out much on her own, so I had to rush and do a bit when she was in the shower or cooking etc. Cutting the bits out between the leaves with my scroll saw was nerve jangling stuff because one slip and the whole thing could have been ruined. The leaves cover three sides and it is all made from a sheet of 4mm plywood and finished with a clear varnish.

Her face was a picture when she ripped the paper off and that made the whole thing very worth while.

My next task is another surprise for her and I hope to be able to show you that soon. In the mean while, if you would like to see some more of my pyrography work or find out about my fishing books please visit my website.