Saturday, 29 December 2012


After the roar and the kerfuffle of all that near excess of Christmas, quiet reflection is no bad thing.
And the rain has just stopped.

Is this family gossip  any use? As a new Tweeter I first followed loads of other people's personal chat but soon got bored with it.
The key points:

1. Yellow plastic gloves make ace penguin feet as I discovered in our 4 year old grand-daughter Rowan's North Pole Party.

Photo. Dan Fox

2. For Christmas dinner, instead of the usual, we spit roasted a small (11 kilo pig.) A lot of work, organising, purchasing, erecting a tent, marinating the meat, maintaining a fire, lifting, carving and afterwards, loads of grease cleaning. However with all the action, well  laced with laughter, cider, mulled wine and more laughter it was a perfect ( as they say) bonding lasso. Recommended

3.The lesson seems to be when in chaos go for maximum chaos. As our own tribe of 9 piled into our quite small Beach House we added a new cat , two gerbils and a budgerigar ( none of them ours ) We survived the exquistite flow.

4. Amongst all the cards and Chrissmassy electronica that dropped in were  three wonderful essays from Edinburgh playwright Jo Clifford's diary. Check out her "Christmas letter to the Pope" "On being asked to buy madeira cake for the jubilee" and "Lucy: light on a mountain"

Her writing is measured, a joy to behold  and highly pertinent. She writes: "In my own work I consistently try to be unfashionably hopeful; I see each play as a little act of resistance against the despair industry of the media that so endlessly tries to disempower us."

Certainly. So be it.  Amen even. Please pass on.

Happy New Year 2013 to all our readers.

John and Sue.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

A Word from Ratatosk

Here at out Beach House it is a very wet Thursday, North East gales and rain are plummeting
round our stalwart outside Christmas Tree, driving the baubles to ground.

Doomy Mayan end of the world stuff is currently stirring paranoia which is all good for commodity alibis and the sales of mulled wine and stronger alcohol

In the Norse myth of Yggdrasil the world is held up by a huge ash tree. As our wooden Beach house is supported on four big ash trees, in the time of DieBack we have to take this disaster stuff a bit seriously.
In the Nordic system Ratatosk the squirrel runs up and down between a dragon in the basement of roots and an eagle in the top most branches.

Here we have our "own"  squirrel that leaps along our verandah nicking the nuts we put out for blue tits. He is a grey squirrel quite irritated  that Lake District hotels collect a pound sterling per head from  bed an breakfast visitors in order to kill his tribe and save the reds. So he knows thing or two about paranoia. However in between spreading gossip and rather nasty rumours between  dragon and the eagle territories he  did communicate briefly..... more or less to say, don't let the rain wash off the slap, keep up the make believe as long as you can and don't let the buzzards pull you down. OK?
Ratatosk at work.


Monday, 10 December 2012


One of the causes dear to our hearts  -  Quaker Social Action - in the East End of London, has just won the Guardian Charity Award 2012 for Down to Earth, their project to work against funeral poverty, by beating almost 1000 entries. 

The honour is given for QSA's work with bereaved families preventing them from paying over the odds for a funeral and so avoiding  ending up deeper in debt and despair. When the loss of a loved one is made worse by the dread of paying to give them a good send off, the anxiety, grief and guilt is devastating. This project makes a meaningful funeral affordable, enabling grieving relatives to say goodbye without debt or regret. In just 2 years it has saved its clients over £100,000 in funeral expenses.

They achieve this by using trained mentors within the community to guide people at these difficult times. Shaun Powell, Manager of Down to Earth got in touch on the announcement of the award:

'We'd like to take this chance to thank Dead Good Guides as long term friends of the project for your support over the last couple of years and look forward to our future work together. Individuals such as yourselves who are dedicated to enabling equality of access to compassionate end of life care and meaningful, cost effective funerals for people with little money to spend.

We held a ceremony to recognise the members of the community supported by mentors - a real gift from yourselves via your books Engineers of the Imagination and  The Dead Good Funerals Book.
A good ceremony hath more value than precious rubies !  

Wednesday 12th December  12~12~12   John Fox and Sue Gill are running a Dead Good Funerals workshop at Manchester Museum from 2.30 - 4.30, entry fee £8. Why not come along?   


Sunday, 9 December 2012


Blast Furness, Ulverston's community street band, which has been motoring for over 12 years, had fun at yet another Dicken's Market. This one in Stockport yesterday. Three surprises: 

1. An old drunk was so impressed with our playing he insisted we collect money and threw his hat into our circle to receive the loot. Eventually three cold hours late we found him to return the hat. By then he was sober and shivering (and bald). As we were being paid a fee we gave the extra cash to charity.

2. Playing loudly under a railway arch we suddenly to discovered that a packed together gang of 50 urchins in grey smocks and hats (average age 10) had crept up behind us with fabulous disco dancing to our tunes. Three of them, we named  the Stockport Stompers, stayed with us all afternoon.

3. Finally, at the end of the afternoon, as we were playing "The Saints Go Marching In." 
the leader of a Salvation Army Band joined in, on cornet, Swopping his uniform hat for Sues' red top hat, laced with long feathers, we all played together in an unforgettable and  joyous moment. 

All unpredictable. And you could never invent it. Which is one reason why we do it, I guess.

Thursday, 6 December 2012


made in art curates 12~12~12 in Manchester

 - a single day of humanity 10am to 10pm

various venues across the city

urbanism, architecture, music, walking, stopping and talking,

eating and love, funerals and an exchange of DNA to make ONE

 with artist Rebecca Cunningham who is coming over from Australia.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

12~12~12 HUMANITY event in Manchester

Just a week to go and we shall be in the 

Natural History Discovery Centre of Manchester Museum 

Come along 2.30 to 4.30pm and Design your own Funeral - fee £8 in the surroundings of their taxidermy collection in the company of stuffed ferrets, owls,
a goat in a sweater, a snarling tiger and an elegant flamingo.
Who is the endangered species here?  

                                  Birkrigg Stone Circle South Cumbria

Sunday, 2 December 2012



This is just to say how much we enjoyed the lecture you gave on Wednesday for Graphic Arts & Design students at Leeds Met, it was incredibly interesting and entertaining. It made a refreshing change to hear from people who have managed to sustain an alternative creative practice with a political edge throughout their career!

A few of us are definitely curious to see your house in Morecambe!

We have attached the photograph of the two of you by your lecture poster.

Best Wishes
Vikkie and Sian (third years who designed the poster)  
                                                                                                               We say:
It was a brilliant studio with loads of equipment including metal letterpress letters and presses and equipment for etching, woodcutting, lino printing and silkscreen

We also collected a useful quote:

"The future belongs to the few of us still willing to get our hands dirty.