Monday 30th April ~Oh the young new mexican puppeteer……


So, I’ve become a virtual me! There are so many ways to use the animated characters that are appearing on this site. The thing is, it’s fun and a bit daft. I think there is too much solemnity around religion and belief. The odd thing is, when people visualize Heaven, it often involves doing things that would bore us rigid in our present lives; playing harps, sitting on clouds in white nightgowns and just being ‘nice’. No wonder the little boy, who having heard from his mother, how pure and perfect Heaven would be, requested that, if he was good in Heaven during the week, could he go outside the pearly gates and play with the little devils at the weekend.Now click the next link below - Go on….
I’ve always had a fascination for puppets and marionettes. I can remember buying (or getting Mam or Dad to) a stringed marionette of Mr Turnip, an early BBC children’s hour character from the show “Whirlygig” – I was never too keen on Muffin the Mule; I think I was put off by the soppy woman who introduced him, and Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men and Little Weed were frankly, just too tweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! It was the same with the amusement arcades at my seaside haunts of Seaburn and Whitley Bay, on the North-East coast. I’d go in, armed with my pennies (old-style), looking like brown dinner plates and search out the ‘haunted house’ machine. This was a glass-fronted box, with a coin-slot. In would go the penny and after much whirring, a ghost would appear out of a model cupboard; bats would fly out of a tiny alarm clock and the quivering hand of a spectre, would slowly edge toward the model of a sleeping old man or lady, who would suddenly sit upright in what must be the woodentops version of fear. (Wouldn’t be allowed today, by Jove)! It was great in the 50’s!


Next I’d spare a penny (tuppence actually) on a mechanical fortune-teller, who would first whirr, then jolt forward so that the coins around her headscarf quivered, before a grubby card appeared in the tray below. I can’t remember any of the fortunes I was given. But I enjoyed the process of getting them. There’s a life-lesson in there somewhere.

It seems I was one of those boring, ‘pre-theatre-stage-school’ children, who constructs (well Dad did!) their own puppet theatre (Dad had the ‘nous’); making and operating the characters, sewing their duster and hanky costumes and scripting the shows (Yes - I think Mam advised me). It was fun. Maybe we just need something or someone to control. Sometimes we try to control our leaders and celebrity icons; I love the scene in Forest Gump, when he decides he’s run enough and stops. “What do we do now!” shouts a demanding follower.


I s’pose I’m leading up to the animated additions to the site. I’m fascinated because they’re not alive, yet in appearing to be, become hyper-alive (or cyber-alive). Life is a phenomenon which even now, scientists cannot fully explain, or reproduce from scratch. So the site seems to becoming a spiritual version of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, if you’re old enough to remember that 60’s TV show. I hope it makes you smile.

I also remember the original record sleeve for “My Fair Lady”. So clever: a marionette Eliza Dolittle, being operated by a marionette Henry Higgins, in turn being operated by George Bernard Shaw – as God. It says a lot.


Beneath the laughter is a serious side. Who is the leader and who is the puppet? - That’s the eternal conflict. We all pull each other’s strings; so let’s all of us try not to be rough and snap any.


It’s the full moon and the commencement of Beltane tomorrow. “The May Queen is crowned and calleth her bridegroom.”




(Reserved) this space is reserved for a new picture of Martin’s Oak, which should look fantastic now. I’m going to see the oak tomorrow, so if I’m not too rushed, I’ll put a photo here tomorrow evening.


‘till the next time



Sunday 22nd April - ‘Quality’



One of the delights of my new web-site is that I have taken up photography again, after a lapse of around twenty years. Like many areas of life, photography has ‘moved on’ and although the digital scene is impressive and much cheaper than the traditional ‘wet’ method, I feel a certain sense of “loss of quality”

Oddly the “quality” shows through in the reproductions of my earlier photographs; even though I have copied them with my digital camera. Take a look at the illustration below, of the photograph I used to head my Almanack entry on Torture (entry March 7th)


The strange thing is that the ‘wet bromide’ processing and the ‘burning-in’ and ‘shading-out’ process I used in the original darkroom work, still shows through, even though it has been finally reproduced, not only through my digital camera, but subsequently through the process involved in publishing it on the website.

It follows therefore, that the ‘quality’ seen, is not solely due to the traditional processing methods, but to the relationship between the monochrome tones I achieved during the original darkroom enlarging process. This is further underlined by the fact that I no longer have the original hand-finished print, but photographed it directly from a copy of the [i]book in which it had been published!

In the semi-autobiographical [ii]‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ the author, Robert Persig, argues the case for ‘Quality’, finding it almost impossible to capture in word concepts and yet through skilfully aligning the book with a reconciliation with his hurt and estranged son, brings us to sense that the‘quality’ of any object, person, or even thought, is found not within it’s elements, but within the relationship of those elements to each other. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (11th edition) defines quality as: “The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind.” At first consideration, this seems to give the answer to the nature of quality, eg: “This suit is a better quality than that suit”. We spend most of our time, defining which of our possessions has the greater quality: cars, houses, clothes, televisions, carpets etc. Most of the time, this also equates to the cost of the items themselves.

The sad fact is that many people would not recognise quality if It came up and smacked them around the back of their heads. This is fortunate for manufacturers, especially if theirs is a fashionable logo: Givenchy, Versace, Gucci, Armani are cases in point. Their clothes and perfume are undoubtedly of good quality, but the price is arguably rather inflated. Nevertheless people seem to need to spend a large amount of money, in order to be re-assured that their purchase has “quality”.

In our society, money has become a yardstick for identifying quality and of course the labelling and branding of the quality item, be it an object, product or person. An amusing and rather sad example was reported in the newspapers a couple of weeks ago, when a world-famous violinist busked on the underground and no-one (except children – and they were pulled away by their parents) stopped to listen. The fact that he was playing in a nearby concert hall, which was sold out at the prices that only concert halls can charge (and need to charge, partly so that their rich patrons can identify quality) shows that the large bulk of society seem to need a label and an expensive price as a “quality-proof”.

I am aware that I have drifted from ‘quality’ to ‘exclusiveness’. Naturally many, if not most products (including theatre performers) that are expensive, are of a high quality – but not all. The lure of acquisition is often determined by how rare and exclusive the product is. Could the violinist be more desirable, playing at £100+ per ticket, than busking for coins in the underground - when ‘anyone’ can enjoy his playing?




In 1966 Liz and I went to see an outrageous mime artist, Lindsay Kemp, who was performing with his company at the Intimate Theatre Palmers Green, near where we lived at that time. Lindsay was one of the first ‘gender-bender’ performers, a sort of a mixture of Marcel Marceau and Boy George. The production was rather risqué; certainly for the sensibilities of the Palmers Green residents of the time and the sound of slamming auditorium doors throughout the performance, as ‘disgusted’ patrons left the building, gave proof that they were unaware of the quality of the young singer, who was soon to become a world famous icon. Fortunately Liz kept the programme – I’m sure you’ll spot who it was!






As well as teaching the movement skills Bowie subsequently used to create Ziggy Stardust; Lindsay taught at various London dance studios. I remember one class, where we had to lie on the floor and visualise shooting into space, exploding in a star-burst and then descending like a meteor, back to earth. When we eventually opened our eyes and prepared to get up and perform our visualisation in movement and mime, we found Lindsay in a full-length skirt At the time it was quite shocking – but Lindsay moved in the skirt in the most elegant way, instantly removing the masculine/feminine stereotype - not one of the class made any indication that anything unusual was happening, but the standard of our mime interpretations was much higher – and much less conventional than normal!




It is good to have ‘quality’. To have quality time with our loved ones, quality in our work and quality in our ‘own’ time.





I think the foundation of quality is love.



~dancer - Liz Richards

digital reproduction of two hand-coloured monochrome prints by an unknown studio photographer.







[i]Look’ by Robert Druce English Universities Press Published 1968. Illustrations by Henry Metcalfe


[ii] Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig


8th April - Easter Sunday - “The Nature of God” - (part 2)


Martin’s Oak


It was a wonderful day, so I resisted the temptation of my normal lie-in and set off for Martin’s Oak.


It was a novelty to get in the car, without dragging a large coat or anorak across the seat with me. Driving with the sun-roof open became novelty number two; I could smell the earth and all the growing things, as I approached the village and the farm. I parked half-way down the cart-track in a little passing-point and walked toward God.


The best way to approach God, is with great care, “An inner prepardness to stop the action at any given moment”, as Rudolf Laban would say. As I approached, God became increasingly powerful. But there is a moment to stop; any closer and the oak-spirit will start to merge with mine.





It is now impossible to walk away without touching…


I am underneath oak-spirit’s arms; the tree aura spirals around me. I can smell the musty earthy sap mixing with the grass as I listen to the swirling, knocking, dancing branches above my head. I reach up and gently pull down a branch to photograph a new ‘almost-leaf.’


“I hope you don’t mind.”





Howling and Reaching
Fighting for Life



Oak leaves are being born - squirming in unfamiliar air


I stand close beside the oak-spirit and feel the pulse; the noisless hum of the ‘Wild Soul’




Martin looked at me

“People think of God as a man and that’s their mistake


God is Everything.”


all photo’s by soulMerlin


The term “Wild Soul” is taken from “Living Druidry “Magical Spirituality for the Wild Soul” ~ Emma Restall-Orr (Bobcat) Published by Piatkus Books Ltd.

For the month of April, check out this site:

(happy birthday Debbie)

1st April ~ A Sunday Quiz

I’m still looking for a photograph of my father, when he was a pit-boy - I’ll add it to the previous almanack entry, when and if I find it. No need to keep checking it - I’ll tell you when it’s up.
Within a week or so, the home page will be getting a new design make-over, which I hope will be better and more interesting for your visits.

Meanwhile - just for fun…a quiz!
A fascinating look at your own suitability for the religious path you follow. Or the one that would be best suited to you, if you did follow one. Indeed, it may show you why you have difficulties with the one you follow! (or why you’re happy with it!) Click on the link below….

I’ve just tried the link and sometimes an ad’ for a dvd comes up first and stays on screen for around 10 seconds. Don’t do anything, just wait and the quiz will appear.


Oh Yes…..and what’s the name of the tree/bush?



ps: Leave your top three results for “which religion?” in “comments” and I’ll leave mine.

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