Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A hot beverage

Maggie’s exhibition is in the gallery across the road from us.

Mid morning I take a coffee across to her

Lunchtime I take her a cup of tea

Mid afternoon I take her another coffee.

When the workmen are mowing the grass outside the library, they look at the mugs longingly.

If there are any visitors in the gallery when I arrive, there’s a brief moment of expectation they might be offered a mug.

If any visitors arrive just after me, their nostrils flare slightly and they glance around, wondering if a pot might be on.

In the cold damp weather of recent days, forget the art – we’d have made a fortune if we’d opened a café instead.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Whatever happened to being an ex-web designer?

For several years I ran my own web design business, before selling it a little over 4 years ago and deciding I’d become a writer instead. Indeed, this blog began as a way of experimenting with different styles of writing and forcing myself to put fingers to keyboard on a regular basis. Then CFS then took over, drained the momentum and I never became a writer. So now I’m becoming a photographer.

However, I have never fully escaped web design and at the moment it feels like I’m doing more than when I ran a full time web business. Mind you, in those days I got paid.

The reality is, while I no longer run a web design business, and have no desire to return to running a web design business, I do have a great deal of experience, skill and understanding about how to make websites work effectively for people and businesses.

And in moments of compassion and stupidity, I find myself offering to help people out as a favour.

Of course I regularly put my skills to use to help Maggie get her art business growing. As well as the main website, she has a newsletter people can sign up to, and monthly(ish) videos going up on YouTube, but that’s only to be expected.

But then I have a close friend who’s a poet. I’ve been telling him for ages he needs to get a website together. Unfortunately it seems I’ve now convinced him…

Then there was a hotel/restaurant I used to help in return for taking family and friends there for meals on the house. They moved, but have continued the arrangement with their new place. And the new owners of their old place also wish to carry on this way of doing things, but the person in charge of their web and emails is technically, er, timid. So I find myself spending an extra 5 minutes here and there sorting out wee things because it’s easy for me and impossible for her.

I did get paid for one website I recently worked on, although the amount of effort involved was far more than the amount being paid, but he’s a good friend and helps us in other ways, so I couldn’t charge him much.

I’ve also been teaching bits of web design to the son of another friend, who in return is giving Maggie a few lessons on the fiddle. Which is a great skill swap as far as I’m concerned.

On my recent trip to Wales, I met with up an old school friend. It turned out he’s had problems with his web designer charging him lots of money for a website that’s out of date, badly designed and has the wrong prices on everything. In a moment of nostalgic friendship I told him I could put up a basic, but effective page for him and scrap the rest of the site. Easy for me – I can do it in an hour or 2, but impossible for him as he has no idea how these things work. Which is why, of course, he was at the mercy of an overcharging web designer.

Then I got an email last week from another old friend I began creating a site for over 2 years ago, which then got shelved for various reasons. However he’s now thinking we need to blow the dust off it and kick start it again. “Any time,” I said.

A close friend of my stepdaughter set up her own business last year and I gave her various bits of advice and helped her get a basic page up. Of course I was quite clear she could call me any time she needs any help…

There is one possible paid project in the pipeline, although to be honest, I’m hoping they take plenty of time to decide as I feel I’ve got web stuff coming out of my ears at the moment.

And at some point, I desperately want to get round to sorting out and updating my own new photography website. What’s up at the moment is essentially a first draft. I know there are several things I need to change to turn it into the site I want it to be, but all these other web projects seem to be getting in the way.

And of course I don’t want to forget about posting on my blog, now do I?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

St George killed the dragon

St Andrew may have been crucified on an X shaped cross, thereby giving the Scottish Flag its shape.

But St George killed the dragon!

St Patrick may have banished snakes from Ireland.

But St George killed the dragon!

St David of Wales may have been the only one in the UK to actually be born in the country he was Patron Saint of.

But St George killed the dragon!




Shakespeare was born on St George’s Day. And so was my grandmother.

Shakespeare died on St George’s Day. And so did William Wordsworth.




OK, the Patron Saint of England wasn’t born in the UK; there are no such things as dragons; and the basis of his story pre-dates Christianity.

But never mind. We should always believe what we’re told by our church leaders, politicians and teachers, shouldn’t we. And we should always be proud of the piece of rock we were born on, and make sure we let everyone else know we're better than them because of it.

Unquestioning patriotism! Don't you just love it?

St George killed the dragon!
St George killed the dragon!
St George killed the dragon!
St George killed the dragon!
St George killed the dragon!
St George killed the dragon!
St George killed the dragon!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Connection - an exhibtion in Castle Douglas by Maggie Ayres

From April 21st to May 2nd, Maggie has a solo exhibition at the Castle Douglas Art Gallery.

This is the place of her first solo exhibition 2 years ago, so she has a particular fondness for the venue. Over and above the nostalgia, however, the light and space are wonderful and, because it's so close to home, I get to periodically pop across with cups of fresh coffee for her.

To say the run up to this has been hectic and fraught, would be a serious understatement, but somehow we seem to have made it.

If you can come along, we'd love to see you. And if you can tell your friends, that would be wonderful too :)


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dual Language Road Signs

“Dad, why are all the signs in the opposite direction written in Welsh?”

“They’re not, son: you’re just looking at them in the mirror. We left Wales 2 days ago.”

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Road Trip

Clearly, living in a country where the furthest 2 points apart are only 874 miles, and where we were already starting from somewhere near the centre of the island anyway, the idea of a road trip in the UK was never going to be in the same vein as iconic cultural experience of the American Road Trip, even if it did take 9 days.

And being a father and son who actually get on quite well, this journey was never going to be like some kind of bizarre buddy movie either.

However, on our road trip I learned:

I miss Maggie terribly when we’re apart.

Just because a town is right next to a spectacular piece of coastline, you cannot expect to find any B&Bs.

You can’t reach large stretches of the North Coast of Wales because all the Industrial Estates are built between the road and the water, denying you access.

Carreg Cennen Castle in South Wales is spectacular, but if you have CFS the climb up will damn near kill you.

Carreg Cennen Castle

I miss Maggie terribly when we’re apart.

St Clears really does do the best chips in the world. I thought it might have just been nostalgic childhood memories, but the Fish and Chip Shop, “Neils”, is still in the same family 30 years later, still creating the perfect bag of chips.

Kevin Morgan, the floppy haired, freckled kid I used to sit next to on the bus going to school, now owns and runs West Wales Mowers, and looks a lot older than I remember.

Pendine Sands in South Wales – 6 miles of wonderful open beach is now no longer open to cars, land yachts or anything with moving parts, thereby negating the whole point of it being a destination of interest. Sometimes local councils can be incredibly short sighted.

Pendine - a Welsh seaside town where the key feature is now largely inaccessible

I miss Maggie terribly when we’re apart.

South Wales Police like to let you know by post you’ve been caught going over the speed limit through a roadworks area on the motorway a week after the event.

My sister lives in a house that has more holes than a Swiss cheese; you’re never entirely sure whether the bit of floor you’re standing on, or the bit of ceiling you’re standing under, is about to collapse; and the kitchen tap only works if you pull it to one side with all your weight. However, because her house is halfway up a hill in Brixham, the view is spectacular. But if you have CFS the climb up will damn near kill you.

My brother may well be 4 years older than me, but he will always be 15 years old at heart.


I miss Maggie terribly when we’re apart.

Sharkham point in Brixham is where we scattered my mother’s ashes. It is still stunningly beautiful and still blowing a gale.

Ullacombe Farm Shop near Bovey Tracey, on the edge of Dartmoor, actually sells tasty home made/grown foods at reasonable prices, rather than the excessive-rip-off-tourist prices most farm shops charge.

Haytor on Dartmoor in Devon is a spectacular granite tor, but if you have CFS the climb up will damn near kill you.

Haytor on Dartmoor

I miss Maggie terribly when we’re apart.

Pat is even more wonderful in person and well worth the detour into North Somerset to have lunch with.

My father may well be 30 years older than me, but he will always be 22 years old at heart.


Morrisons in Chesterfield don’t open their petrol station on Easter Sunday, so you have to detour 7 miles to fill up at Sainsbury’s instead.

I miss Maggie terribly when we’re apart.

You can enlarge any of the photos by clicking on them

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Road Trip - 4th to 12th April

When Rogan came home from his skiing trip in February, the one he’d paid nearly half of from the cakes business he set up, we asked him what adventure he’d want to go for next.

“A road trip with Dad,” was his reply.

This almost floored me with a combination of love, pride and worry about how we could afford it.

Almost exactly 7 years ago, I found out my mother had cancer. I leapt in the car and drove 500 miles South to see her. I also took Rogan with me. This might have seemed an odd thing to do, but he helped keep me grounded. The fears and emotions were so overwhelming, I knew that having to look after a 6 year old would force me to keep a grip.

For Rogan, it was great: he got to sit in the front of the car, change the CDs, and be in charge of the sweetie box. While we were there, all the adults made a fuss of him, and during the drive down and back, he had me all to himself. What 6 year old doesn’t crave the chance to sit in the front of the car with his Dad and go on a journey together? Clearly it left a powerful impression on him.

We did it again 7 months later. He got to meet and hold his 1 week old cousin. And it was the last time he saw his granny.

Although Rogan is now very much a teenager – large feet, periodic loss of coherent speech, and often found holding the fridge door open and staring at the contents – he can’t have reached the point where his Dad is the uncoolest person on the planet and everything I say is stupid. Yet.

Next year, of course, things could be very different, so if this was to happen it would have to be… let me see… summer… tricky… autumn… might be in Canada… hmmm… Easter? Yes, Easter holidays.

Bugger; that was soon.

After some planning, which included the idea that staying with relatives would be cheaper than Guest Houses, we decided on a route that would take in places from my childhood as well as a chance to meet up with my sister, brother, nephew and nieces, then up to stay with my father before heading home.

View Road Trip in a larger map

More to Follow


Monday, April 13, 2009

Meeting a legend

For 9 days I’ve been away on a road trip with my son, Rogan.

I daresay I’ll be writing about various aspects of the trip over the coming days, but for several people who frequent this corner of the Internet, the most important thing will be the fact we met up with Pat, the extraordinary and wonderful blogger from Pat’s Past Imperfect.

I’ve met relatively few other bloggers who I didn’t know before they started blogging. In fact, Dr Maroon is the only one who leaps to mind. And he still owes me a lunch. And he resolutely refused to give me any kind of information about himself that might possibly reveal his real identity. He gave me a first name to use that may or may not have been his, and seemed to be constantly scanning the restaurant and me for possible hidden recording devices. Though I think the false nose and glasses he insisted on wearing actually drew more attention than he meant them to...

Pat, on the other hand, exhibited no such paranoia. She is warm, friendly and wonderful – everything and more you would expect from reading her blog.

While waiting for Pat outside Mr Micawber’s café in Minehead, we spotted her from a wee way off. As she approached - elegant, attractive and with a dazzling smile - I became distinctly aware of my own travel-worn state – creased shirt, untrimmed jowls and in desperate need of a shower. Mr Odorous Crumpled at your service, Ma’am...

We’d detoured on our journey from South Devon up to Chesterfield to meet up with Pat. Initially I’d thought we would probably only have time for a coffee, maybe a scone. But before long we were enjoying lunch too, and even then, when we really had to leave, it felt it was over all too soon.

Back at the car park, we got out the cameras. I was going to say it was like having my photo taken with a film star, but actually it was far more than that – it was like having my photo taken with a long lost friend.

I often feel shattered after blethering with someone for a couple of hours, but oddly enough I felt energised from our meeting with Pat. The remaining drive to Chesterfield was much less tiring than expected; Rogan and I joked and laughed and the mood was light, despite the torrential downpours through the 2nd half of the journey.

I’m not a religious man: I believe in neither God nor reincarnation. But sometimes, just sometimes, we can meet someone for the first time, and it feels like we’ve known each other for millennia.

Mr Odorous Crumpled meets ex-model and superblogger


Friday, April 03, 2009

Kim Ayres Photography

I'm away for the next week or so. Rogan and I are off on a Road Trip down South, to see relatives, explore some of my childhood haunts and generally do one of those father-son bonding things.

In the meantime, I have finally uploaded the first draft of my new Photography Website, to be found at

There are still more galleries to create, prices to finally work out and probably spelling mistakes to correct.

If you're feeling adventurous, or are one of those people who loves spotting mistakes, please go and have a look and feed back to me.

Grammar, spelling, style, images and concept are all open to criticism - although positive criticism only please. If you just want to slag it off with nothing positive to say, at least have the courtesy to make it witty

General comments can be left here and I'll look at them when I get back. But please feel free to email me with any major thoughts or ideas.

Have a good week, make sure you eat far too much chocolate, try not to crucify anyone and I'll catch up with you soon :)