Recipe: The most epic dairy-free carrot cake recipe ever!

This recipe was given to me by a fellow non-milk drinker (I don't have anything against milk, it just doesn't agree with me!) and is so good you can feed it to your milky friends guilt-free!  I added walnuts and extra fruit to the recipe for extra epicness.  There's also the optional extra of the lactose-free cream cheese frosting which works really well!

You will need:

200 g (7 oz) soft dark brown sugar

150 g (5 oz) self-raising flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

160 ml (6 fl oz) vegetable oil (I used rapeseed oil for the simple reason that they didn't have a small bottle of vegetable oil in the shop - worked just as well!

2 eggs

250 g (9 oz) carrots, grated

75 g (3 oz) sultanas (I used 100g of pre-soaked mixed dried fruit - made the cake amazingly moist!)

100 g (3 1/2 oz) stem ginger, chopped (I couldn't find stem ginger so I used about 3cm grated ginger root - gave the cake a hint of ginger taste)

450 g (1 lb) loaf tin lined - use two pieces of greaseproof paper to line your tin (the foil backed stuff is best) one going one way, the other crossways - and make sure your tin will sit on the edges - otherwise the heat will curl it up and it may end up stuck in your cake (that's what happened to mine!)

As an extra ingredient I also added 100g walnut pieces, and sprinkled in an extra teaspoon of bicarb to account for the added weight

Preheat oven to 150 deg C, 300 deg F, Gas mark 2

Place sugar, flour, bicarbonate of soda, vegetable oil and eggs in a large bowl, and beat well

The batter should look like this once beaten:

Add grated carrot, sultanas (mixed fruit) and ginger (plus walnuts), mix well to form a runny batter.

Don't forget that extra spoon of bicarb if you've added extra ingredients!

Pour into 1lb loaf tin and bake until firm - about an hour (check firmness by pressing gently on the middle with your fingers at about the 45 minute point, you should then be able to guage whether it needs the full hour - mine did, but not all ovens are the same!)

Your batter will look like this (mmm appetizing!):

It will come out like this:

Turn the cake out onto a rack and peel off the greaseproof paper while it's still hot - otherwise it might stick! Then, refrain from stealing a piece and leave it to cool!

Optional extra: Lactose free cream cheese frosting

I'm sorry I don't have exact measurements for this because I kinda made it up!  I used that lactose free cream cheese stuff, which is made from real milk but with the lactose taken out - I'm not sure how I feel about this but I couldn't find any soy/tofu cream cheese so I decided to go for it.

Put one tub of cream cheese (lactose free, soy, tofu, or actual cream cheese, you choose) in a bowl. Add a big dollop of margerine, or butter (whatever you use for your sandwiches, just make sure it tastes nice - I used bertolli) to the bowl. By a big dollop, I mean like as much as you can lift out easily with the knife before it falls off.  Cream these two together with a whisk (electric or hand). Then add about half as much icing sugar as cream cheese and whisk. Taste it - is it sweet enough? No? Add more and repeat until you like the taste. Don't go overboard though! It should be a bit runny - pour over your cooled cake and spread it around and down the sides - there will be a bit of wastage so make sure there's a plate to catch it under your cake rack! Once the whole cake is nicely covered with an even layer, transfer it to a plate and pop it in the fridge to set.  You should end up with this:

Yummy huh? Then all you need to do is invite some friends round to eat it! (Come on... You can't eat it ALL yourself can you? Can you?)

I hope you enjoyed this!  I think it's yummy, so wanted to share it with the world!

10 Reasons why you should join a local theatre group

In 2008 I joined YAT (Youth Action Theatre) - a local youth theatre group based in Teddington/Hampton Hill, Surrey.  The main reason was because one of my ambitions (an item on my Bucket List, if you like) was to perform in a play, so I Googled 'theatre groups in Teddington' and here I am!  I often tell people it's one of the best things I ever did, and here's why:

1 - I wasn't sure I could do it...

The first play I did with YAT was The Royal Hunt of the Sun and I bagged a great part - Miguel Estete the Royal Veedor - quite a few lines to learn, and I had to move like a man!  Going on stage in front of an audience for the first time and remembering all my lines and not screwing up was an amazing feeling!

2 - I made some amazing friends:

I've kept in touch with more people from YAT than I have with people from Uni!  Sometimes there's a break of 3 months or so in between plays, but when we see each other again it's always good fun!

3 - I've tested my skills to the limit (and beyond...):

When I was asked if I could paint a 16x20 foot painting of Carnaby Street at the back of the stage, I couldn't exactly say no... So I just did it, and now I've done loads of set painting!

4 - There's so much more to theatre than (just) acting:

Acting is fabulous fun - but maybe that's not for you? Depending on which group you join, you can get involved in all sorts, from sourcing props and scenery, painting sets, lighting and costume - and the great thing about amateur theatre is no-one expects you to have 2+ years experience with a known designer - you can just muck in and help, and build up your portfolio in the process!

5 - It's only as amateur/awesome [delete as applicable] as you allow it to be:

I think the words "Amateur Theatre" should be changed to "Low Budget Theatre" or "Hobby Theatre" as the word "Amateur" does put a few people off.  No matter what the budget, you can still put on a great production, you just have to know your limits.  If you have an amazing script and the cast and crew work really hard, there's no reason why you shouldn't move and inspire your audience.

6 - Release your inhibitions!

I've done things on stage I would never dream of doing in normal life - dancing, singing, prancing around like an idiot - being able to switch off the fear of looking stupid is such a useful skill, and can help you in real life situations, such as a job interview or a first date!  Plus, acting is such a confidence booster, because in learning how to be other people, you feel more at home with being yourself.

7 - You never know what it might lead to...

I got some storyboarding work through a friend from my YAT, and got some work experience through another!  Although this shouldn't be a reason for joining, it's definitely an added bonus!

8 - You could get to go somewhere amazing!

If you're lucky your group might go on Tour!  Two years ago YAT went to the Edinburgh Fringe with The Duchess of Malfi!  They're going again this year (although without me this time) and will undoubtedly have an amazing time again!

9 - You might win a shiny award!

Ok - obviously I can't promise anything, but most areas have arts council awards, and if you're very lucky and work very hard, you may get your own very lovely award!  YAT won the Swan Award last year for Best Design, and the Wild Swan.

10 - Watch out for those cast parties!

Now obviously I'm not condoning drinking vast amounts of alcohol, especially if you are under 18 (!), but when a group of people have worked very hard and had no social life or sleep for the past 3 months can finally let loose - well that's a very special time...

Ok - I didn't say it was our most beautiful time now did I?

All of these photos (except the storyboard frame) are from productions or of people in YAT.  If you would like to learn more about YAT or join, visit the website and click on the contact tab.

The Seductive Beast

An essay I found in my University archives!

A study on fairy-tale references in the art of three contemporary artists.

We all remember fairy tales from our childhood - with their optimistic ideals and their dualism, dealing out reward and punishment where apparently deserved - their simplicity appeals to the mind of a child. However, within their simplicity lies a complex web of ever-changing cultural references, ideals and symbols. The fairy tale changes depending on the viewpoint of the teller. This is a part of what makes fairy tales so interesting as a subject of art.

The thing which draws me to fairy tales is the metamophosis of the characters within them. Marina Warner writes that ‘Shape-shifting is one of fairy tale’s dominant and characteristic wonders’ (From Beast to Blonde, introduction pp. XV). Fairy tales carry the underlying message that change can happen, and give way to the notion of a darkness within humanity. The nature of the Beast and how it changes brings us to ask the question “Who is the Beast? Who is the Brute?” (Marina Warner, Introduction pp. XXI).

In this essay, I explore this question in relation to the work of three contemporary artists: Edward Keinholz and Nancy Reddin-Keinholz, Nicola Hicks, and Paula Rego. Their work uses fairy tales as a starting point or reference, or the work evokes ideas and images from fairy tales.
The Kienholzes’ work is dark, shocking, even upsetting, and also accusatory. It makes the viewer feel uncomfortable or guilty or even perverted. The subversion here is overt - impossible to miss.

In comparison, the “Bestiary”(Robert Heller, Nicola Hicks 1993, pp. 5) of Nicola Hicks contains beasts, figures which are half man, half beast, and other such wonderful creations. They are beautifully hideous - we are drawn to them, like Beauty to her Beast.

Paula Rego’s work, like the Kienholzes’, is darkly uncomfortable and subversive, but she does not express this so obviously. Rego’s tone is non-accusatory - it puts forward a view of acceptance of the darkness within humanity, and a pleasure in it. As she puts it: “To be bestial is good. It’s physical. Eating, snarling, all activities to do with sensation are positive.” (library.think

The Keinholzes’ piece, Faux Pas, 1989, is “a curious but evocative meditation on the awkward clash between society’s manners and the beast’s natural state. … the wild pig’s front paws rest … in bronze coffee cups as it suffers the indignity of a cage”(Walter Hopps, Kienholz, A Retrospective, pp. 236). This brings to mind the saying that caging the Beast only angers it. The name, Faux Pas - a mistake - backs up this idea, that the constraints of society’s values and taboos will bring about our own downfall - that they trap us. Just like society’s outcast of the Beast serves to trap him in his castle.

Another work of the Keinholzes; The Bear Chair, 1991, is possibly the most frightening and disturbing artwork I have ever come across. “This unstinting look at child abuse features the frightening image of a beloved teddy bear transformed into the role of sexual aggressor. A note scrawled on the dresser reads, ‘If you ever tell, I’ll hurt your mama real, real bad’”(W.H. pp. 240).

“Teddy’s Bear”(Marina Warner, pp.306), so named after the American President Teddy Roosevelt (ironically a keen hunter of bears), has become a household symbol of childhood comfort. Its invention in the 1900’s put a marker in the gradual change of society’s views towards animals (Beasts), and the collapse of boundaries between the animal and the human.
However, this now universal symbol of comfort appears in The Bear Chair as a frightening monster, and reminds us why we find the very idea of child abuse so abhorrent, especially from a figure who is supposed to be a protector of that child, such as a parental or family figure. The mirror on the dressing-table reflects our (the viewer) own faces back at us, as if we are a participant in this repulsive scene, and this gives the piece its accusatory undertone which is so common in the Kienholzes’ work. This piece makes us question, like in fairy tales, who the Beast really is.

Many of the folk tales which were written down by people such as the brothers Grimm contained stories of violent conflicts within families, between mothers and daughters, fathers and sons and so on, but they were altered by those who wrote them down to make them more suitable. Mothers were made “absent”(Marina Warner, pp.211) because unlike fathers, “a mother should not be seen to torment a daughter”(Marina Warner, pp.211). Fathers merely faded into the background, the male viewpoint of the writer indicating that, the father could hardly be blamed for anything - he had no choice. In an earlier version of Hansel and Gretel, according to Warner’s research, it was both the father and mother who planned to leave the children to die in the wood. However, this was seen to be too harsh, and the mother was replaced with a stepmother who pleaded and nagged and cajoled the father until he (reluctantly) is left with no choice.

The Kienholzes’ The Bear Chair re-awakens this knowledge of conflicts within families which can happen, even to the point of abuse. It reminds us of the tale of Donkeyskin (less popular as a children’s tale because of its incestuous and murderous content) - a dying mother makes her husband promise never to marry again “unless he finds ’another woman as beautiful as I have been’”(Marina Warner pp. 320). Of course their daughter becomes as, if not more beautiful than her Mother, and so the promise becomes a curse. The father has to marry his daughter, and so she, in order to escape, disguises herself in a donkey skin (or a bearskin, or fur and feathers, depending on the version of the tale) and becomes a beast herself.

So far I’ve been talking about the Beast as relating to the perhaps “unwanted” aspects of humanity, and also in part negative male sexual energy. However, to think of the Beast only in this way is a simplistic view, and doesn’t explain our strange attraction to the idea, only our repulsion by it.

Nicola Hicks’ work is, as I said, “beautifully hideous” (her method of using straw and plaster to sculpt adds to this, as it lends a “raw” feeling to her sculptures), but also presents a more positive view on the Beast. Her sculptures, Mr Fox, 1995, and Wolfie Baby, 1998, are most definitely figures of male sexuality, with their erect penises, but that sexuality does not appear to be predatory, even though the animals, particularly the wolf, are traditionally viewed that way. In Little Red Riding Hood, the allegory is obvious when the young girl “strays from the path” at the invitation of the wolf, and then is lured to the cottage after the wolf gets there when he proceeds to devour her. “Devourment” is a common theme in fairy tales and is an obvious reference to sexual awakening at the hands of a “predatory” male. Marriage was a frightening prospect for young women who were often married off to men far older and more experienced than them at a young age, and the fears of marriage were often coupled with the danger of death by childbirth. So fairy tales are full of young women faced with the terrible prospect of being married off to the Beast, a husband who may eventually be the death of her.

However, in this day and age, when freedom of choice allows us personal choice in our partners, and when it is no longer expected of us to wait until marriage to have sex, along with advances in contraception and medical care meaning that women rarely die in childbirth, sexual maturity no longer holds so much fear for young women as it used to (although it may still hold a little). In Angela Carter’s The Tiger’s Bride (The Bloody Chamber, pp. 56) Beauty must understand the Beast so that she can understand the Beast in herself, and in this story it is she who metamorphoses - into an animal - and is finally free. So Nicola’s Wolf is proud, strong, perhaps even attractive in his beastliness. He does not threaten, he invites - “The Beast’s sexual equipment was always part of his charm”(Marina Warner pp. 315). He stands before us as a figure of power, yet he also empowers, so that we stand before him as an equal, not a victim.

Hicks also touches on the idea of the tragic, perhaps misunderstood Beast in her outdoor sculpture, Crouching Minotaur, 1994. The Minotaur cringes, in guilt, shame, even despair, reminding us of the tragic Beast who needs only the love of Beauty to feel accepted and to break the spell.

It is worth mentioning at this point that Warner found in many early versions of the Beauty and the Beast story that the young heroine does not in fact fall in love with the Beast and redeem him - she overcomes him, and perhaps kills him. This shows the transition of these tales being told orally by women as a warning to little boys (and girls) that wives should be treated properly, to them being written down by men and altered in favour of the male perspective, focussing on “the tenderness of masculine desire and the cruelty of the female response, rather than women‘s vulnerability to male violence”(Marina Warner pp. 295). Warner writes: “the contemporary vision of the Beast tends towards the tragic”(Marina Warner pp. 315). Neither version should be dismissed as the “false” versions, as they are all “true”. “Bengt Holbek observes that ‘men and women often tell the same tales in characteristically different ways’”(Marina Warner pp. 208).

Hick’s charcoal drawing, Dogskin, 1998, highlights some of the differences between men as Beasts in fairy tales, and women as Beasts. Dogskin’s pose is relaxed and alert, free and strong. Unlike enchanted Beast-men, who lose their freedom, power and potency as the Beast, and have a pressing need to be dis-enchanted, Beast-women have usually chosen their fate, and gained power and freedom as a result. For example, Donkeyskin, which I mentioned earlier, uses cunning and bravery to get out of a problem which her father could not solve, by disguising herself in a Donkey skin and running away. From that point on in the story, she no-longer belongs to a man - she is master of her own fate. This is exactly the feeling that I get from Hicks’ Dogskin.

Moving on to the work of Paula Rego, it is relevant to mention Dog Woman, 1994 at this point. We all know the connotations of “dog” that we are all “someone’s dog” in one way or another, and the relation of “dog” as a derogatory term for a plain or ugly woman, but Rego doesn‘t mean this. She says “to be a dog woman is not necessarily to be downtrodden. That has very little to do with it. In these pictures every woman’s a dog woman, not downtrodden, but powerful” ( - just like Donkeyskin, or Hicks’ Dogskin.

The image of Rego’s Dog Woman is enigmatically powerful, in a way which speaks to something deep inside all of us. At some point we have all wanted to just let go of our inhibitions and go “wild” - and this somehow gives us freedom and strength in the world of rules and constraints.

It’s easy to think of Rego’s work as solely about women. However this is not necessarily the case. “When [Mackenzie] asked her if she could tell [her] why there aren’t more men in her pictures, she … turned to an old catalogue, pointing to her 1986 picture Untitled of a girl holding a dog on her knee. ‘There are men in my pictures,’ she said. ‘That’s a man, except it’s a dog.’”(‘Don’t flinch, Don’t hide’ Guardian interview with Suzie Mackenzie, Nov 30 2002).

Animals are often substitutes for naturalistic representations of people in Rego’s work, especially of men. Men fade into the background, or are submissive, dependant on women. She was surrounded by women in her childhood whilst men “went out to work”(Audio interview, Radio 3, 1988). Rego says that the Girl and Dog series are to do with the “firm tenderness on the part of the girl…[and]… alternating compliance and stubbornness on the part of the dog”(Audio interview). However, Rego also doesn’t like to answer too many questions in her work - part of its allure is the mystery - of a story. For example, in Looking Back, 1987, she says “they have killed the dog”(Audio interview). One of the girls lies on the bed with the skin of the dog as a blanket. This reflects the harshness of older fairy-tales, where family conflicts and the power of humanity to do both good and evil are the subject matter.

In my research I have found that the Beast can be viewed in many different ways, both in art and in fairy tale. As culture has changed, so has society’s view of the beast. “Monstrousness is a condition in flux, subject to historical changes in attitudes”(Marina Warner, pp. 299). In much of the 20th century, the influence of male writers and depicters of fairy tales (including Walt Disney) has cast much sympathy in the direction of the Beast representing male desire and fear of rejection, with the real evil being migrated into the cruelty of women, in the shape of the Wicked Stepmother and the Bad Sisters. However, since the influence of feminism in the 1970’s, things have taken a swing in the other direction, and now we are beginning to have a more equalised viewpoint. The idea now is that both men and women can have both evil and good in them, and that Beauty must understand and accept the Beast if she is to understand and accept the Beast in herself, and thereby being free. This is the tone that I think both Hicks and Rego take in their work, and also to some degree in the Kienholzes’ work.


Books & Essays

Carter, Angela, Simpson, Helen (Introdution), The Bloody Chamber, (Vintage, 2006 (first published in Great Britain by Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1979))

Dellingpole, James (Introduction), Denselow, Anthony, Elliot, Ann, Read, Benedict, Self, Will, Flowers East, Nicola Hicks, Angela Flowers Gallery PLC (printed by The Pale Green Press, 1999)

Flowers, Matthew, Heller, Robert, Hubbard, Sue, Flowers East, Nicola Hicks, Angela Flowers Gallery PLC (printed by The Pale Green Press, 1993)

Haraway, Donna, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991), pp. 149-181.

Kienholz, Edward & Reddin-Kienholz, Nancy, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Kienholz: A Retrospective (in association with D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, 1996)

Warner, Marina, From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and their Tellers (Vintage, 1995)

Internet Resources:,11710,850737,00.html (Guardian interview by Suzie Mackenzie, Saturday, November 30, 2002)

Other Resources

Radio interview - Marina Warner in conversation with Paula Rego, 21 October 1988, Radio 3

DVD - Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves, screenplay by Angela Carter and Neil Jordan, Granada Ventures, 2005 Special Edition

left: 1, right: 2

from left to right: 3, 4, 5, 6

left: 7, middle: 8, right, 9

1 - Ed Kienholz, Nancy Reddin-Kienholz
Faux Pas, 1989

2 - Ed Kienholz, Nancy Reddin-Kienholz
The Bear Chair, 1991

3 - Nicola Hicks
Crouching Minotaur, 1994

4 - Nicola Hicks
Dogskin, 1998

5 - Nicola Hicks
Mr Fox, 1995

6 - Nicola Hicks
Wolfy Baby, 1998

7 - Paula Rego
Dog Woman, 1994

8 - Paula Rego
Untitled 1986

9 - Paula Rego
Looking Back, 1987

The Swan Awards

Now you may remember a little production called The Return to the Forbidden Planet - well YAT were lucky enough to be nominated for two awards at the Swan Awards - The first was Best Musical, which unfortunately we didn't win, but the second was Best Design - which we did! 

The award and certificate which I got to take home!

Me looking proud with the award

Bill and I collecting the award from the Mayoress of Richmond - article from the Richmond and Twickenham Times

We also won a surprise award - the Wild Swan - "for a coup de théatre - the appearance of the monster and ‘the eye’ in the Return to the Forbidden Plant (YAT) which made the audience gasp in horror!" (quote from the Swans Award website).

Liebster Blog Award

NEWS - Liebster Blog Award

I'm really grateful to Leanne Moden for nominating me for the Liebster Blog Award this week! Congratulations to Leanne for her nomination too!

The award recognises bloggers whose sites have less than 200 followers, and it's a great way for bloggers to show their appreciation for their fellow writers.

As part of the process, nominated bloggers must give 11 facts about themselves, and answer the 11 questions posed by the person who nominated them. Here goes!

Facts About Me:
1. I am a bit of an odd-job artist - I do illustration, graphics, painting (both digital and physical), photography, set design & building, prop making and scenic painting - phew!
2. I live in London but grew up in North Yorkshire - I love going back to my parents' and enjoying the fresh clean air, the green, and the quiet!
3. I love food and I make amazing curries and bolognese!
4. I had a window-ledge full of herbs but they all died when it got cold (sad face)
5. I love wearing bright colours and when I was recently told to wear black for work I struggled to find a full outfit in my wardrobe.  I settled for a black and white polka-dot dress.
6. I wish I could earn enough money just from art to be able to focus on it.  Unfortunately I have to have a day job moving boxes around.
7. I am allergic to milk, but I can't give up cheese
8. I love the smell after rain - but only in the country or the park.
9. I love science and history - apart from art they were my favourite subjects at school.
10. I almost never wear makeup as I have very sensitive skin.  I also don't use soap on my face for the same reason!
11. I'm not a real ginger (gasp) - Although I was born a redhead, it turned blonde, and I now use Henna to dye it.

Questions asked by Leanne:
1. Why do you blog?
I'm ashamed to admit it, but mainly as self-promotion!  I use my blog instead as a website as a sort of more in-depth portfolio of work.  I like the way you can use tagging to organise and link things, and it's useful to be able to have links at the top directing my visitors to things such as a more linear gallery, and projects like my Dad's book.
2. What inspires you?
Just about everything - I read a lot, so I always want to be drawing the characters in the books I'm reading (but mostly never get around to it).  I also love walking and looking at things, and I watch a lot of films.  I find Pintrest really useful to quickly document any images that I find interesting or inspiring.
3. What advice would you give your sixteen-year-old self?
Don't stress too much, don't feel guilty about taking a break, don't be surprised when your life doesn't quite go as planned, and keep in touch with friends!  Oh - and practice saying 'No'!
4. What's the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your work?
Nothing really stands out that I can remember at the moment, but I get a lot of 'how do you do that??' comments.
5. What's the worst criticism you've ever received? Did it spur you on to better things?
I try to take criticism as constructive, and use it to improve my work.  Most of the commissions I've taken on require a certain amount of criticism so that I can actually get what the client wants - as usually they don't really know until they see it!  I'm more likely to get frustrated if I send an image, and then the client takes ages to get back to me with feedback, because that's wasting my time waiting for a response; especially if the deadline is tight.
6. Art, music, poetry - why are these things important?
Because without them, life would be awful.  It would just be sleep, wake, eat (and only eat boring food because good food counts as art), work, eat, sleep.  In fact, if there was no creative thought in the world, I doubt we would have evolved past the monkeys!  This is the Atkinson Art Theory of Evolution...
7. What would you like to be doing in five years time?
I would like to be at the point where I am earning money from being creative rather than boring jobs I've had to take to make ends meet.
8. What is your favourite colour?
It changes depending on my mood - at the moment I'm working on a digital painting that has a moody sea in, so I'm liking dusky blues and greens and greys.  Clothes-wise - I really like dark red/burgundy, and purple.
9. When is a door not a door?
A door is always a door, because if it's not a door, then there would be no door to ask when it's not a door...
10. What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
I've had quite a lot of worst jobs.  However I think Uniqlo gets the grand prize for absolute lack of respect for the staff, and military-like rules, and rude uncaring management.
11. Who would win in a fight: a bear or a lion?
Probably the bear - they're a lot more vicious when they fight, whereas lions just fight until the other one goes away and then go and lie down somewhere...

The idea of the Liebster Blog Award is to show your appreciation for great bloggers and learn more about them in the process. It's also a fantastic way of getting some online exposure for your own blog, and for the blogs of people that you admire! What's not to like?

Questions for my Nominees:
1. Why do you blog?
2. What inspires you?
3. What advice would you give your sixteen-year-old self?
4. What's the most important thing anyone has ever said about your work?
5. What's the worst criticism you've ever received? Did it spur you on to better things?
6. Art, music, poetry - why are these things important?
7. What would you like to be doing in five years time?
8. What is your favourite thing in the world?
9. If you won the jackpot on the lottery what would you do with it? (Be honest!)
10. What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
11. If you could live anywhere - even somewhere that doesn't exist, where would you live, and why?

Remember, nominees need to answer all of the 11 questions and write 11 fun facts about themselves. Then choose 11 nominees to receive the Liebster Blog Award and assign them your own 11 questions to answer. It's that simple!

My nominees are:

From North Yorkshire to New York

From North Yorkshire to New York on Flickr

These photos are from an "Love and Other Realities", a shared exhibition at the Reflections Cafe in the White House Community Centre in Hampton with photographer Claire Harris. Click the links at the bottom for the facebook event and a map.

From North Yorkshire to New York is a collection of 47 photographs which have been selected from a large body of work over the last 6 years, with many of the prints never previously shown in public. The theme reflects a sense of longing for a particular place or moment - for home, or for new experiences. The images are taken on a variety of media, from a Nikon DSLR to a Kodak-Eastman No.2 Box Brownie. One picture was even taken using the 2mp camera on a cheap Nokia Phone, and others using an iPhone 4.

Use the "Contact Me" link at the top left of this page for information about purchasing prints, or to enquire about

You can also buy prints online here, and the limited edition book accompanying this exhibition here!

Facebook Event



Here's an image made up of some photos I took at the exhibition - just to give an idea of how I put it all together in the space!

True Story!

For those of you looking for a warm fuzzy story, this one's true:

10.45pm last night: I get of the train, rooting around in my bag for my phone.  My iPhone is in a Book-Book Wallet, which also holds my debit card and oyster card.  It's missing.  Panicking I empty my bag out onto a bench, and it's definitely not there.  Meanwhile, the train that I presumably left it on leaves.  I look wildly around for a member of staff, and find one in the main station sweeping the floor.  He is entirely unhelpful and says there is nothing he can do.  I decide my best bet is to wait for the next train and ask the controller to call ahead to the other train to look for my phone.

This member of staff is much more friendly and helpful - he tells me to 'hop on' – His name is Edward Mayne (as far as I can remember).   I get to sit in the train staff person’s bit (it’s not nearly as exciting looking as you’d think).  He uses both his work mobile and his personal mobile to try to get in touch with the train ahead, but unfortunately has no signal.  He says my best bet is to wait until we get to Waterloo, and then go to the platform where the previous train is and see if someone has found it whilst cleaning, or handed it in.
I wait nervously.  We get to Waterloo.  Edward takes me to the other platform, and helps me try to find a member of staff.  He also gets another member of staff involved, who is obviously just on his way home.  Unfortunately I don’t know this man’s name – for the sake of the story, I’ll call him Fred.  We find the train, find that it hasn’t been cleaned, so I get on and find the exact seat I was sitting in;- No phone.
‘Not to worry!’ says Edward and Fred!  They call up lost property to see if it’s been handed in, and then Edward goes to find the cleaning staff to see if they have it, whilst Fred takes me over to the ticket office to see if it’s been handed in.  By this time I’m in despair and crying freely.  ‘It’s only a phone!’ I hear you cry – well it’s not – it’s my iPhone which I don’t have insurance for, and has got my whole life on it – yes I’ve got it backed up to iCloud, but that’s no use to me if I can’t afford a new phone to put it all on.  Not to mention my Oyster card with two weeks left of a month travelcard, my debit card, my provisional driving license (which I use as ID and can’t afford to replace) and the wallet itself – which is quite an expensive leather little thing that looks like a book and was bought for me by my boyfriend.  Plus – a whole book of stamps!! What a waste.

What I was most worried about was a) the fact that I now had no way of getting home, and b) the fact that I had no way of contacting my boyfriend to alert him to this fact.  He would be worrying when I didn’t appear home, and then wouldn’t be able to get in contact with me, and all sorts of things could be going through his head!  Plus, my brother is staying at the moment, and I was supposed to be going and doing fun things in London with him – how could I do that with no access to my money and no Oyster card to get there?
I must have looked like a proper damsel in distress, because at this point Fred (who has all the time been trying to comfort me, trying to make me feel less stupid by saying that no-one has insurance, and trying to look on the bright side by saying that someone might have picked it up and not handed it in yet) wins a medal; he gives me £10 of his own money to get me home, and Edward gives me all the details for ringing lost property, and they both wish me luck.  Even though I’ve lost everything (or so it seems to me), my faith in humanity is restored by these kind men.  They both blatantly had finished their shift, and yet were taking the time to help me, and to actually give me money!  I plan to write to South West Trains to thank them and try to find out who Fred is so I can return his tenner!

Feeling warm and fuzzy?  This is only half the story.

I get home at ten to midnight and tell my boyfriend and my brother that I’ve lost my phone, and promptly burst into tears.  Then it’s time to get down to business.  I cancel my debit card, report the loss to the British Transport Police, and then call Orange to block my phone.  The lady on the other end asks me ‘Have you tried ringing it?’

I’m struck dumb.  I haven’t!  All this time I have just assumed that someone’s swiped it and will have turned it off immediately, this belief being confirmed by the fact that ‘Find my iPhone’ didn’t work.  So I call the phone – It’s ringing!!  Someone answers!!

The person who picked up my phone was a very kind man called Samil (if I understood his accent correctly), he reassures me that my phone is alright and all my cards are there too!  We arranged to meet up before work this morning so that he could give it back – I couldn’t thank him enough!  He even asked me to bring ID (luckily I also had my passport) so that he could make sure he gave it back to the right person!  My faith in humanity has been restored today!  Of course now I have a cancelled debit card, but oh well - I needed a new one anyway!

So a big thank you to Edward who helped me, and to Fred, the nameless South West Trains employee who also helped me and gave me the money to get home, and definitely to Samil, who is a wonderful human being!

Hope you liked my story, and that you have a wonderful day!

Theatre Design - Peter Pan: The Musical

Peter Pan: The Musical at the Hampton Hill Playhouse
Teddington Theatre Club
Saturday 3rd to Saturday 10th December
Directed by Dawn Lacey

There was a lot to do in this production - the orignal plan was to paint the whole of Neverland on the flats for some of the scenes, but we just weren't going to have enough time to do it, since there was only one person doing it (ie: me).  So we decided to have Neverland as projections and lighting, and for me to concentrate on only doing the victorian panelling for the house scenes, Nana's kennel, the Wendy-house (which unfortunately I have no decent pictures of), the totem-pole, St Paul's, and the wardrobe/hold.  I like the use of the word only there.  Luckily we had Alan's daughter Laura drafted in to do the crocodile, which was fantastic, and got a big laugh from the audience!  Here's the flyer below, and some pictures of the stuff I worked on.

The flyer

The totem pole - made by Alan Corbett and painted by me.

Peter Pan flies!  I did the scenic painting for this, painting the flats to look like victorian panelling, and painting the wardrobe built by Alan to look real and aged.  I also painted the silhouette of St Paul's that you can just see above the pillars.

Parts of the set opened out or turned around to reveal white flats on the other side, which could be projected onto.

In the Indian scene, gauze came down, onto which was projected a scene of the Indian camp.  I created an image in Photoshop to be projected onto the gauze.  I also painted the totem pole which was brought on stage by the actors and built up (see top).

 Another scene was the pirate ship.  Parts of the victorian panelling remained, whilst other parts were taken away to reveal what looks like the deck of a ship, complete with the wheel at the top (originally covered with St Paul's.  The wardrobe was turned around to reveal the entrance to the hold.

Graphic Design - Forbidden Planet

Among the many things I had to do for YAT's Return to the Forbidden Planet were a few scraps of graphics.

Firstly I had to do a re-design of an original Forbidden Planet poster - the director wanted me to change it just enough to look different, but wanted it basically the same. So I changed the characters to look a bit like the actual actors, changed a few colours and added my own sky. The line-art was done by hand, and then I coloured it in Photoshop. You can see the final poster with the text and details added by Bill Compton at the bottom.

Next task was to design the ship's logo for the characters' costumes. I researched 1950's and 60's car and airline logos, and then spent a few days sketching things down until I had something I liked the look of. It is loosely based on the NASA logo. To make it extra-special, I included the YAT logo on the design of the rocket - maybe we'll use this again in the future!

Finally, I had to design some space-age holiday posters, the type of which might be hung in a space-shuttle departure lounge. I used a found image from the internet for each one, changing the colours on Photoshop and adding text, graphics, and of course my logo design. Click on each picture to see the original.