Wednesday 31 July 2013

Mary Hughes 1907-1993

I once dedicated a blog post to my second cousin once removed artist, Handel Evans and if Blogger statistics are anything to go by it’s a fairly popular post. With that in mind and the fact it will be 20 years to this month that she passed away I decided to dedicate this post to my great grandmother Mary Hughes. Formerly Mary Jones, the daughter of a stonemason she was born in Nefyn, North Wales on the 17th of March 1907. Although not an artist she was a regular figure in my life and inspiration to me. I find that the enclosed photo taken in 1927 is the best example of the kind of woman she was, a keen motorcyclist she once came first in an all-male motorcycle race at Black Rock Sands.
Growing up I was fortunate to be living next-door to my grandmother so would see her almost every day throughout my childhood. In fact her former home is now my studio so I often find myself remembering the tales she used to tell me of her trips around the British Isles. Having married my grandfather, Cyril Hughes in 1929 she formed a haulage business, which she ran for over thirty years, driving the length and breadth of the country. Quite a feat when you consider that during this time she also managed to raise five children and maintain a full board guesthouse as well! In her later years she often recounted her trips around the British Isles once claiming to have seen Adolf Hitler in person at a garage when his car was fuelling up during a pre-WW2 visit to the British Isles. Although I have been unable to verify this story I was able to verify another incident that occured which Hitler had a hand in. She made many trips to Liverpool, more so during the war when she would transport rabbits when the War Office/Ministry of Food encouraged the consumption of rabbit to compensate for the meat shortage. She once told of the time she was delivering cargo to Liverpool when the John Lewis 's department store was hit during an air raid. She recounted seeing the blaze and the firemen trying to control the fire. What stood out in this story was that apparently amongst the panic and confusion she said that there were monkeys leaping about! Thanks to the Internet 20 years later I learnt that Lewis's department store actually had an exotic animals department, which was located on the top floor of the store.  Sometimes referred to as a rooftop zoo or ‘roof menagerie’ they sold exotic animals to members of the public (even selling the animals that had grown too big to Chester Zoo). On Saturday May 3, 1941 during a week of intensive bombing which were later dubbed the 'May Blitz' (making Liverpool the most bombed area outside London) Lewis's department store took a direct hit.
She stopped driving lorries in the 1960’s but would still embark on her trips, It was not uncommon for her to take a day trip to London and end up in France. This time favouring her trademark green Triumph as transport (until one day as she was driving along a lane and a cow leapt on it from a hedge writing the vehicle off!) To accompany my grandmother on these trips was an adventure in itself my mother recently recollected the time she was chased out of Kew Gardens by a staff member after “nain” tried to pilfer one of their plants! Everyone that knew her described her as a one off and this is absolutely true. As I mentioned previously her former home is now my studio, and has been for the last two years, not a day passes that I haven’t thought about her, remembering the times I would come in and see her after school. I still miss her to this very day and consider it to have been a privilege to get to know her for the first 13 years of my life.

2019 Edit: Hear her recount some of these stories on this clip taken from a 1986 episode of BBC Radio Wales’s show 'Roundabout'.

© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Saturday 13 July 2013

The Wedding of Mr & Mrs Arfon Jones

Well it’s official I am now a married man, Beth and I were married on the 15th of June.
I normally refrain from posting ‘personal’ blog entries, instead focusing on my creative/ artistic pursuits or influences (and lets face it the last thing the Internet needs is another blog about weddings!). But saying that creativity and customisation was called upon on numerous occasions in the planing and execution of what was to be one of the single most important collaborations of my life. A venture, which much like my work was made up of elements and influences from the past in preparation for the day this artist, married his muse.So, I thought I would start by recounting how it all started, the engagement. True, this subject was covered in my “2011 end of year full circle recap” but it seems that some of you hadn’t been paying attention…

The Engagement, Friday the 18th of November 2011 Beth’s birthday, we were all set for a return trip to Selsey to visit Sir Patrick Moore for super.  Last time we had been to visit Patrick was to celebrate his 88th birthday in March so we were both looking forward to going back to West Sussex to see him again. Having finished loading up the car the first stage of my plan was initiated a Birthday dedication courtesy of BBC Radio 2’s Ken Bruce who kindly granted me the opportunity to declare my love of her via his show!

Having safely arrived at Patrick’s home we had a lovely home cooked meal before going out into the garden to use Patrick’s famous 15" Reflector to view Jupiter. The garden was busy that evening as the Adur Astronomical Society were holding their monthly meeting with John Fletcher of Mount Tuffley Observatory. As everyone piled into the observatory to observed deep sky objects I seized the opportunity and walked Beth over to the 12" Newtonian telescope (used by Patrick for his historical lunar mapping work). Ironically a street light proved to be most useful for this amateur astronomer as it allowed me to be see and be seen as I knelt down on one knee! Beth who had no idea what I was up to looked on in bewilderment as I produced my specially made ring box complete with hand crank when wound played Elvis Presley’s ‘Love Me Tender’… Knowing that Beth would instantly recognise the tune I let the music box ask on my behalf and to my delight (not to mention relief!) she said yes! A kiss and a reassurance that I was serious later, we went back to the house to let Patrick know the outcome of our plan! A champagne cork pop later we shared our news with all in attendance receiving many kind well wishes from the Adur AS and John Fletcher whom logged the event in the telescope logbook!
As a playful nod to the recent royal engagement we had our own ‘official engagement photos’ taken the following morning before making our way home to announce the news to family and friends and make the necessary arrangements.

Once the date had been set and venue confirmed we turned our attention to the little details first things, first the invitations. Beth and I are fans of Jack Vettriano’s ‘Singing Butler’ and for some time I had wanted to create something based on the image of a couple dancing on a beach, with grey skies on the horizon which was once described by the artist as an “uplifting fantasy". It seemed perfect for our wedding invitations, customised to reflect our own tastes of Pterosaurs, tea and Belgian buns painted as closely as I could to Vettriano’s style the invitations were posted out informing potential guests of our ‘big day’ on June 15th.
As the weeks passed by and the R.S.V.P’s started to come in we prepared for the wedding. I wasn’t surprised to find that weddings require a bit of organising but what surprised me was how much of these preparations are completely unnecessary. We looked through a few wedding magazines and attended a wedding fair for ideas and were amazed at how overcomplicated and unnecessary most of it was. We learned that wedding planing is a lucrative, cut-throat industry of table tops and seat covers and amongst all this madness we managed to find a few wedding  “must-haves” or in this case “must-makes”.
One of the rare ideas that we thought would be rather nice to have was a wedding post box. Placed on a table at the reception that post box securely relieved guests of any envelopes they might have for the Bride and Groom. I opted to make one that addressed our love of classic design and nature that would ‘thank’ anyone that posted a card for us, so I created a Singing Sparrow post-box! Simply post the card or greeting through the slot and the Sparrow is activated and sings proving a little fun for the reception.

The Wedding, the big day finally arrived and thankfully all our plans, ideas and arrangements came together. Everything had been set in place as we convened at the Bangor Town Hall at 11am.
The Town Hall otherwise known as Bishop’s Palace is a Grade II-listed building dating from the 16th century and the oldest surviving building in Bangor , after the Cathedral. Beth walked down the isle to the Jurassic Park theme, we made our vows exchanged rings and left the building as Mr & Mrs Jones. The Town Hall stands in the shadow of Bangor Cathedral, 10 years ago I stood in its grounds dressed in a cap and gown having received a University of Wales degree and since that time I have had a fondness for this place. Attending its services at Christmas and Easter with Beth and my daughter this building has been a place of worship since the 6th century and houses wonderful examples of art and architecture. Separating the Cathedral from the registry office is the “Bible Garden”. The Bible Garden has examples of every plant, mentioned in the Bible planted in it, wanting to bring a traditional aspect to our day this tranquil place served as the perfect location for a
wedding blessing performed by our good friend the Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe.With the Cathedral serving as a backdrop, surrounded by family and friends the sun shone down on us as Lionel delivered a blessing, as he did so a gentle breeze lifted and the trees showered us with flower petals nature's very own confetti. Professional photographer Arfon Edwards used the location to the fullest capturing the whole day for us. Photos taken we made our way to our reception at the Eryl Mor Hotel which overlooks Bangor Pier, the Menai Strait and just in the distance Puffin Island another beautiful location that Beth and I had sailed around the week before. With such a fabulous view, good food, surrounded by family and friends and my wife by my side I was immensely happy and a shame that we had to have to leave, but the adventure had only just begun, we needed to set off on our honeymoon!

The Honeymoon, 30 years ago my grandparents (frequent visitors to Scotland) presented me with a plastic Nessie. Already fascinated by dinosaurs this made an impression on me, as it seemed to imply that some dinosaurs had actually survived the ice age. This fascination was spurred on by Peter Maddocks’s ‘Family- Ness’ cartoon and any books I could find on the subject and ‘The Unexplained’ magazine. Watching Michael Aspel’s ‘Strange But True?’ repeats of ‘Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World’ and of course Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe’s ‘Fortean TV’. Yet despite my lifelong fascination with this location and its supposed inhabitant I had never been there, unlike Beth whom had been to Scotland several times in the past, I hadn’t even crossed the Scottish border! So for our honeymoon there could be only one location to visit… Loch Ness during Nessie’s 80th anniversary year!
Having arrived at Scotland we immersed ourselves in the tourism aspect of Loch Ness (haggis for breakfast, Tartan carpets etc) and visited the Drumnadrochit Hotel, which is now the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre. This fantastic museum was designed and narrated by Loch Ness Project leader, Loch Ness documentary regular, monster hunter, naturalist, (not to mention a hero of mine) Adrian Shine.
Having taken a tour of the history of Loch Ness I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Mr. Shine and had a “wee blather” with him. Fascinated by the legend of the Loch Ness Monster in the 1960’s he started investigating Loch Ness in 1973 hoping to photograph the famous monster with no success.  Later constructing an underwater observation chamber yet despite several dives and risk to his-own life made no findings. In 1981, he and a volunteer crew began a 24-hour sonar exploration of the Loch, followed by the famous "Operation Deepscan" in 1987 followed by the world’s media, obtaining the first complete mapping of the Loch. After debunking the famous "surgeon's photo" in
1994 he has since published over a dozen scientific papers on his researches on the loch and the unusual surface wave patterns and it was a delight meeting him.We then made our way to Urquhart Bay Harbour for our very own Loch Ness Expedition. Boarding the appropriately named ‘Nessie Hunter’ skippered by George Edwards the longest serving passenger boat skipper on Loch Ness. Equiped with Radar, Colour Sonar, G.P.S. and underwater cameras Mr Edwards provided an informative commentary about the Loch Ness phenomenon as we sailed past the historic ruins of Urquhart Castle (which we also visited later during the day). We sat on top taking in the grandeur that is Loch Ness, taking photos as we went along before making our way back to shore for lunch (stopping off at Nessie Land for a barrage of souvenirs!). Loch Ness delivered everything we had hoped for we had an amazing time I think the great Tim Dinsdale summed it best in his book, ‘Project Water Horse –The true story of the monster quest at Loch Ness’ “I had never been there before, and yet I knew it. The dark and mysteriously beautiful scene was entirely foreign to me, and yet I recognised it” We reluctantly loaded the car to return back home to North Wales.
I will add this, I mentioned that my grandparents were frequent visitors to Scotland, my grandfather more so, as he used to drive holiday coaches. When I learned of his trip to Loch Ness in the early 1990’s I asked him to bring me back a water sample from the Loch (he instead opted to bring me a souvenir pen which was gratefully received!) As we were leaving we pulled up by the water side for one last goodbye and a photo of the misty Loch, I collected a small sample of water as a little salute to my younger self, forever fascinated with this Loch and its mysteries.

To break the monotony of a long trip back to North Wales we decided to stop off and spend the night at the Schooner Hotel located on the coastal village of Alnmouth in Northumberland. This listed 17th Century Coaching Inn is reportedly the most haunted hotel in Britain. Countless paranormal investigations have been performed here over the years suggesting at least 60 individual spirits.
Being an inn with a long history associated with smugglers, murders, suicides and the massacre of a family, tales of strange goings on are inevitable and reports have become more frequent in more recent years totalling over 3,000. All the rooms at the hotel are reportedly haunted with room 28 being the most, this is the room where the massacres of a family was said to have occurred. Over the years guests have reported hearing children crying, women screaming and an unseen presence and feeling of unease that have even been felt by staff who claimed that they saw a dark figure darting out of room 20! Figures have been seen standing at the end of the beds in room 16 and 17 while the presence of a young boy has been detected outside in the corridor believed to be responsible for the accounts of door knockings. Along with reports of a soldier in an another corridor, feelings of dread
and sound of whispering in rooms 28,29,30 and the presence of a maid on the stairs this is not a place for those of a nervous disposition but ideal for a spot of ghost hunting! Having checked in I had a wander around on several occasions, taking pictures as I went along through corridors, which seem to spiral off in each direction like a carpeted badger set.  I must confess to feeling a sense of unrest. But aside from the clanking of coat hangers when a bus went by in the morning and some inconsiderate door slamming guests in the other room there was nothing to report, apart from that feeling of unrest that we both felt which was curious.  

So there you have it, the wedding of Arfon and Beth Jones. Hope that was of interest to someone… Our sincerest thanks to all that played a part in it and thank you to everyone for all the lovely cards and well wishes.

 © Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Zombies from Ireland Screening exhibition at the Galeri

As I mentioned in the previous post, Ryan Kift’s Zombies from Ireland was screened at the Galeri in Caernarfon on Friday night, There was a great turn out for it and it seemed to go down very well with the audience. I was also there showing my support and the original artwork used for the film’s production, and a few ‘extras’, which were on display in the lobby of the Galeri along with props and outfits from the film.
It’s always great to see your artwork being used, so it was a great thrill for me to see the poster itself 3 times the size I originally painted it, on display outside doing exactly what it was intended for creating interest and drawing the audience in. It was equally nice to see examples of my work being looped on the Galeri’s monitors thought the whole day too! Everyone was very nice and it was a delight being there, my sincerest thanks to everyone for coming out to see the film and taking the time to come over and say “hello”. My sincerest thanks to the Galeri for all their support and a big thank you to Jared Pegler Designs for his work on the poster.
Further screenings are in the pipeline so do please look out for them and come along and see the film for yourselves and support Ryan and Sian’s creative endeavours.

 © Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Thursday 4 July 2013

Zombies from Ireland Screening/Exhibition news

Upcoming event news for you, Ryan Kift’s Zombies from Ireland will be screened at the Galeri in Caernarfon. His tale of government testing on criminals going awry receives its first viewing in Caernarfon this Friday (7th of July). So if you like Zombies be sure to book your tickets and be at the Galeri at 19:30 for the film followed by a Q+A with the director.
Incidentally as the newspaper indicates the props used in the film will also be on display and I too will be there with some of the artwork used in the production of the film’s poster. So do please come over and say hello, don’t leave me standing alone in the corner!

© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


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