Monday, September 22, 2014

Streaking For Mother

 How far would you go to help the people you love?

A cynical, famous underwear model, and infamous international sports personality, despondent and guilt ridden because of a terrible mistake, finds redemption from helping the Streakers who ruined his chances of a world record.

After moving in with this bunch of dysfunctional guerrilla marketeers he discovers all isn't what it seemed and finds out his life is being controlled by his estranged mother from beyond the grave.
His mother is also the patron of a large pawn brokers and the Streakers Matriarch who believe her absence is temporary. It soon becomes apparent to Ashley she has left him with no choice but to help them move on with their lives and come to terms with her untimely death.

Ashley has made enemies too. He is viciously attacked, sent a threatening message, and attempts are made to destroy him in the media - both professionally and personally. With his new house mates by his side, they must discover and deal with his pursuer Streaker style. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

My life as a Steeplejack

Steeple-jacking a Beginning

When I left School, the British band UB40 was singing about being one in ten, three million unemployed and rising.

I remember things being that bad there were queues outside bread shops, like some depressed eastern block country, yet they were not queuing for bread, but work - one position - fifty applied.

After leaving basford hall college Nottingham, I went against my father's wishes, and applied for a job at the firm he worked, which just happened to be advertising for three Steeplejack mates.

As a teenager, the experience was exiting, walking into the company's yard on a Monday with your suitcase in hand, not knowing where you would be going, and which part of the country, and how high you would be working. This was kept a secrete and chalked on a large blackboard along with who you would be working with, another important factor I later learned.

Whittington Hospital Islington London

Image Shearart Two of us ‘Sprogs’ as we were called, were sent down the inside of the chimney in bosun’s chairs, armed with sweeping brushes, and told to sweep the sulpha/soot off the full length of the barrel, so it could be inspected for potential repairs.

The joke was that, we were told that the chimney had only just been turned off, and was still hot inside, so take all our clothes off and wear only boiler suits (refusal would have been met with hostility).

After hours of choking, sweat and burns, we emerged at the bottom, black as soot. The showers removed most of it except around our: necks, arm pits, nipples, lower region cracks. They were burned black and took months to fade, at that point I realised I didn’t know everything as a teenager.

Steeple-jacking seemed natural to me as my grandfather was a steeplejack, my uncles and my father too, but he wanted me to be a chef. I think he was a little anxious that I would embarrass him, which made me all the more determined to succeed. I just had to overcome the fear of falling to my death and landing on some ornate wrought iron railings.

To add an extra flavour to the difficulty level, My father was a senior Foreman, and those steeplejacks who he had trained and traditionally worked hard, ridiculed, and I’m going to use Steeplejack parlance of the day – Slagged off. I was assigned to them, payback was tough, quitting wasn’t an option, they tried, and eventually I earned their respect and they became friends.

Day To Day

Image Shearart Working on power stations, mills, concrete and steel chimneys, cooling towers, and installing lightning conductor systems. To restoring Churches in the middle of a verdant country side on the edge of a small village, were all, week to week stuff and sometimes we would be given some unusual work.

The miners’ strike was on and next to a lot of pits in Yorkshire, loomed Coalite sites, churning out smokeless fuel, piles of it, some striking miners (allegedly) would appropriate some smokeless coal for their home fires.

The boss being an entrepreneur volunteered our services; the job was to enclose the whole place with 10ft steel roofing sheets, which seemed miles. Now and again an angry mob would stand there attempting to intimidate us, and things got worse when they found out we were from Nottingham, adding insult to injury, as Nottingham was considered scab pit country.

Our foreman had a word with them, and we were surprisingly left alone after that. I found out years later that a couple of the sheets weren’t fixed as well as they should have been — fancy that.

Meanwhile, every time we exited the motorway to enter Nottingham, the police pulled us over and
 asked us if we were flying-pickets, we nodded our black soot covered faces no — this was cutting into our pub time — the police didn’t believe us.

Don't look now

Don't look now

India Mills Ornate Chimney One of my fondest memories, and again, still a teenager, was working on a famous chimney in Darwin Lancashire, the rumours were that it had a huge stone overhang that forced the weight onto your arms as you climbed over, and some firms had backed out and ran scared, but this is an industry full of untruths, generated in the pub, at least in those days.

Nevertheless, it does put weight on your arms, and it is the moment of truth climbing over the top, especially when the top of the ladder hasn’t been tied yet. For me, the excitement factor was driving from Bolton coming down the hill and seeing it for the first time.

The boiler man was a tablet of touristic information, and apparently the chimney was designed on the tower in St Marks Square Venice; mill owners would compete by building the most ornate chimneys, this one costing 14,000 pounds.

We worked on the chimney for a few months, scaffolding the top and rigged cradles on it. I was impressed so much with Lancashire and the friendliness of the people, I moved there.

The mill and chimney are steeped in history and can be found by clicking the link arrow below.

Image Source

Looking west from India Mills Chimney One day whilst working on the chimney a fella dressed in a suit approached and asked if we would take some aerial shots of his auto sales garage and surrounding area, at the end of the shift we did. His wife had a shock when she went to collect the photos as we had including three naked backsides. Luckily they had a sense of humour.

Image Source

Steeplejack's names carved into the stone below one of the urns including mine.

Don't look down

Don't look down

Climbing over the overhang

Climbing onto the slippy stone plinth usually covered in Pigeon excrement

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Image Shearart Bob-a-job week was the week cub-scouts would knock on your door and sell you a ticket that would entitle you to have some work down: Wash the car, sweep the yard and my personal favourite, weed the garden.

My uncle was in the paper for giving a cub- scout a sweeping job at the top of a high tower on bob-a-job week, in the late 70′s. Steeplejacks were often in the paper, on this occasion we were invited to sit in front of the film camera.

Several of us, from different firms, were filmed by the college working on various chimneys, and invited to a lunch at a county pub to help produce a recruitment video – OMG how embarrassing.

Don’t give a steeplejack your camera or interview him after a couple of pints.

Gaz top ‘a children’s TV presenter’ was interviewing us all and the brief was simple, relax and be honest.

Some anecdotes from the older steeplejacks, started out pleasant until ‘cut we can’t print that’ and then asking us questions about wages and working conditions, whilst drinking pints of beer down, before the wasps landed in them, in the mid-day sun – what did they think they were going to get?

Not all of us gave a bad account of ourselves, but if they had briefed us on what they wanted, and said keep the language down, and don’t mention lodging away stories, they might have had a chance, on a personal note I had an extra cringe as the sound man was my neighbour.

To be fair, they were honest and relaxed.


Considering a career in the Steeplejack industry?

Years later, I entered the world of building site management, contract management and construction project management, and in the earlier years was faced with employing site managers to supervise safety critical works in the rail sector, the majority of labour had rail experience, not construction.

I pulled in some steeplejack foreman, and they aced it, yes they were trained and did the subsequent courses, but hands on they had a natural risk assessment ability built in and that is the essence of leaders. If you as a youngster are looking to enter the steeplejack industry, I have put together some links below from the UK, United States and Australia.

Considering a career in the Steeplejack industry?

Modern Day Steeplejacks

Back in my day we worked without fall arrest systems or safety harnesses 'free climbing' things have moved on, placing safety as number one using structure, risk assessment and clear communication.

High Rise Maintenance

Refurbishing Victoria centre flats in Nottingham, considered an eyesore for years, we used cradles and bosun’s chairs to completely clad and stone dash the outside, including installation of window sills, concrete repairs and sealant works.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Goose Fair Nottingham

Robin Hood Country

Christmas as a child was always the biggest holiday to look forward to closely followed by birthdays. Easter meant chocolate eggs and when we were really young a decorated boiled egg for breakfast. Living in Nottingham had the added treat of goose fair every third Thursday in October.

October came with fog and a giant Goose erected on a roundabout adjacent to a large recreation ground we called the forest. Kids at school started to become excited at the prospect of going to the fair. The main question on children's lips in the playground, 'are you going on the Thursday night, Friday or Saturday'.

Goose Fair

I can remember the excitement and the fear of being amongst so many people, flashing lights, the mixture of whirling noises and music. The strange food smells, watching where you stepped through a muddy ground, and trying to remember the place where my mother said to meet if I got lost. For me so young winning a bow and arrow set on the hook a duck stand and eating my favourite food was the biggest buzz of the year.

I’m not talking about candy floss, Brandy snaps, toffee apples or the smell of the onions on the hot dog stalls, but hot mushy peas with mint sauce. Synonymous with Nottingham as pie mash and liquor is in the east end of London.

Image Source

Goose Fair Boxing My grandmother was Irish and she had eleven brothers all who were Boxes and one boxed at Goose fair in the 70's and 80's.

Image Source

Image Shearart

Mushy Peas


  • 1 tablespoon Vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • A bunch of spring onions
  • finely chopped
  • A handful of fresh mint leaves finely chopped
  • 500 grams (1 pound) frozen marrow fat peas
  • 2 large knobs of butter
  • Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt


Pour the olive oil in a pan and heat adding the mint, chopped onions and peas. Leave covered for a few minutes to steam. Add the vinegar and mash smooth with a potato masher. Season to taste and add the butter.

Goose Fair History

Nottingham Goose Fair, Panoramic View 1890s.

Goose fair today runs from Wednesday to Sunday over 700 years old it is still held at the forest recreation ground and it still has a hook a duck, the waltzer and over 500 hundred other attractions to marvel at. I recently spoke to a friend that takes her children to the Goose fair and the cuisine has changed. Chinese food, Spanish churros, Indian Curries, everything you can find in a shopping centre food court is on offer. The side shows are gone and the main emphasis is on the biggest and baldest rides. For me I’ll have hot peas and the dodgem cars every time, but the helter skelter “tornado slide” was a childhood favourite.

Image Source

Saturday, September 6, 2014

My First Car

Car or Motorbike?

At eighteen years of age, the last car I would expect to, 'quietly' fall in love with would be a VW Beetle. Not exactly a cool motor to drive amongst my piers, especially an orange box standard 1200cc.

My old man had bought a VW Beetle, dismantled it down to the chassis and refurbished it. He put a flash kit car body on it called an Eagle SS, with gullwing doors and body lines as sleek as a Lamborghini. Give him a Haynes Manuel and a few tools and he was on his way. This was one of many hobbies, his philosophy, if it can be learned then he was going to do it.

My father said that if I didn't get a motorbike, be patient, and wait until I had past my driving test, the kit car would be mine.

Patient, I was a teenager!

Trading Standards After going against my father’s wishes and buying a motor bike to get to college, I past my driving test and was ready for a car. The thousand pounds I received for the sale of the bike in hand, I went to see a car locally.

A gleaming Fiat X19 sports car, advertised for 800 pounds, leaving some cash to pay for the insurance. It looked great, drove fine and I did the deal for 720 pounds, which was just as well, as the cheapest insurance quote was 450 pounds for six months.

The car lasted four months before the clutch went, and I had to call the AA from the hard shoulder of the M1 motorway.

My old man freed up the clutch, and insisted that we drive it down to the nearest car sales to do a deal with a more sensible car that he had seen, if there were any problems he could fix it without any costly garage bills.

When we pulled up at the garage, I knew straight away which car he had his eyes on and no amount of begging was going to work. Tough love I think they call it.

The salesman couldn’t get in the Fiat fast enough, and drove it around the block. He climbed out, declared his wife would like it, and we did a straight swap deal. The bright orange VW was on at 900 pounds so away we went.

After a verbal battering on the way home from my father, at how bad my driving was, something he would still suggest to this day. I got the hang of driving the antiquated controls, loose gear stick, the noisy windscreen wipers and the screen wash working off the air pressure from the spare tyre in the front boot. At that moment it didn’t seem quaint, cute or funny, even my mother struggled to hide her smirk from me when first seeing it.

Two weeks’ later, a man from the trading standards knocked at the door to get a statement off of me. Apparently, the car salesman sold the Fiat to a couple that had spent their life savings on the car and it had broken down a day later. On further inspection, there were 36 un-roadworthy things wrong with it, and you would be hard pressed to stick a magnet to most of the body work. All that because I didn’t listen to the old man – talk about the butterfly effect.

My mother plied the official with tea and digestives and made sure I was blameless. The couple sued the car sales, which closed down, and I drove the beetle through four seasons without a problem.

I eventually sold it for twelve hundred pounds, and put the cash to another awesome vehicle, a Toyota Hilux Pick up truck.

I missed the Beetle and over there years bought four. I think only people who have owned one and refurbished them can understand where I’m coming from, as I write this I’m adding a Beetle to my amazon wish list that’s the 1302 s, preferably not in Orange.

My father did give me his kit car to drive, and it was awesome, people looking at you, being so young I lapped it up on a weekend away to Lancashire. One the way back, I got a lift from the AA and I’m sure it was the same place on the motorway as a year before. The oil pump went but my father suggested I didn’t put any oil in the car. He was fuming and sold it–yet another one of those things to add to his list of disappointments. My mother took his mind off of it, she had her eye on a hotel that needed refurbishing, and there were plenty of books out there on that subject to get his teeth into.



36 in. x 24 in.
Buy This at

Fiat X19

VW Beetle Pick Up

Toyota Hi Lux

Dog Waiting on Back of Ute
Dog Waiting on…
Andrew Bain
24 in. x 18 in.
Buy This at

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Beach Life Spain

Days out with Family and Friends.

I think it's safe to say that beach life is similar the world over: sunbathing, swimming, sandcastles, picnics and beach games at the top of the list. Certain people focus on one of these more than others. Some Spanish people for example, haul enough equipment and food to make you think they are in fact a Hollywood film production company: tables, chairs, umbrellas, portable hammocks and golf trollies, stacked with cool boxes.

These large family groups settle in for the day, where as some do it in shifts, late morning till 1 o'clock, and 4 o'clock to late evening. If the beach has a Chiringuito (beach bar), then it can turn into a late night.

Playing on the Playa

Every other week we hit the beach, and when we go with our Spanish friends, it’s normally in the afternoon.

Of course, the beach isn’t for everyone. I can’t seem to find a phobia for the fear of beaches, the nearest I have gotten is:

Hydrophobia: fear of water, to drink or to swim in.

Thalassophobia is fear of the sea and Eremikophobia is fear of sand.

Galeophobia: fear of sharks, on a boat, visiting an aquarium, on a beach, or watching shark movies.

(PLAYA) BON NOU beach is south of Villajoyosa, and is my favourite beach in Alicante. A small cove with clear water, remains shallow feathering out for a few meters, which is great for the kids to paddle in. The beach has foot washes, toilets, lifeguards and has been awarded the blue flag.

A train station is nearby and in walking distance, access from the N332 by car, with plenty of parking spaces.

The beach a mixture of small pebbles and sand, stretches between two rocks for 220 meters with a width of 30 meters so Nomophobiacs may have a problem here, (fear of being out of mobile phone contact).

Bon Nou, sometimes known as Bol Nou, also has an amazing Xiringuito (beach bar), this is the only one where you can enjoy authentic Argentinian barbecue.

Gymnophobics will enjoy this beach as it is predominantly families all day, in the evening the beach bar has couples and mixed crowds.
Great food to take to the beach

Tortilla de patatas y pimientos rojos asados

Spanish omelet with roasted red peppers


  • 8 eggs
  • 1 kilo of potatoes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 roasted red peppers
  • Salt
  • pepper and parsley


  1. 1. Scrape the potatoes or leave the skins on, if you prefer. Cut them into thick slices. Chop the onion.
  2. 2. Roast the peppers in the oven, peel, de-seed and chop.
  3. 3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the potatoes, peppers and onion and cook gently, partially covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are softened. Strain the potatoes, peppers and onions through a colander into a large bowl (set the strained oil aside).
  4. 4. Beat the eggs separately and stir into the potatoes with the parsley and plenty of salt and pepper. Heat a little of the strained oil in a smaller pan. Tip everything into the pan and cook on a moderate heat, using a spatula to shape the omelette into a circle.
  5. 5. When almost set, flip onto a plate and slide back into the pan and cook a few more minutes. Flip twice more, cooking the omelette briefly each time and pressing the edges to keep the circle shape. Slide on to a plate and cool before putting in containers for the beach.

Perishable Art