Thursday 28 December 2017

2017 New Years blog post, thingy

The last photo taken by the doomed JXD 509G 5.8G FPV Drone
(christened “Murdock”) before crashing and catching fire.
So how was your Christmas? Good-good. Right, the end of the year approaches so its time to reflect on the past twelve months (It’s tradition!) The great Vincent Price once said, “A man who limits his interests limits his life” so I try to broaden my interests when I can and when I received a Drone on my Birthday in January I thought this was going to be my latest ‘thing’ but it wasn’t to be as my brand new JXD 509G 5.8G FPV Drone crashed and caught fire on its first actual take-off! Although I was able to upload the footage of the drone (christened “Murdock”) ‘s doomed flight to my YouTube channel it marked the beginning and end of my Drone flying hobby.

Arfon Jones ‘Drone Flyer’ was not to be so I became Arfon Jones ‘Turtle Owner’ instead when I became the new guardian of a Yellow Belly Slider Turtle! Already a Tortoise owner I had considered getting a terrapin someday but this idea was brought forward in 2017 when a request to re home an unwanted turtle came up on Facebook. One 12 gallon aquarium later and I am pleased to say that Gamera is settling in nicely and is an absolute joy.
Gamera the Yellow Belly Slider Turtle settling in nicely
On the subject of joy, I was also delighted that Mrs Jones who has been an aspiring writer since I first met her finally published her work this year. Strange Times in Little Happining tells of a series of mysterious murders and strange occurrences in the quiet rural town of Little Happining and I had the privilege of illustrating the cover for her. Launched at this year’s Steampunk Spring Market in Chepstow and now available on Amazon the book has been very well received with Starburst Magazine’s Andrew Pollard awarding it 9/10 and describing it, “one of the most utterly charming reads we’ve come across in many a year. Jones has penned a tale that covers classic Doctor Who ground whilst also channelling the classic whodunit stories seen on British television over the years.” She was even invited to speak at this year’s Morecambe & Vice: Crime Writing Festival in Morecambe suffice to say I am proud of her.
As for my own work, when I wasn’t on the radio I was almost certainly in the studio working on several projects (the before mentioned Strange Times in Little Happining cover aside) I worked on Attic Door Productions Anthony & Cleopatra poster and Freak Town’s Slashermania and several other projects that will be unveiled in 2018.

Morecambe & Vice Crime writing festival's self publishing panel
Left to right: Kevin Wignall, Beth Jones, Zoë Sharp and A.S.Chambers

Mr. Bernard Cribbins OBE with a Dalek
But when I wasn’t working in the studio I was travelling, and if I wasn’t visiting Wimpy Bars or the last few remaining Little Chefs I was attending a movie premiere or other events ranging from the Chepstow Steampunk Spring Market, Wales Comic Con in Wrexham or Horror Con in Rotherham peddling wares and meeting people. Not only did I have the pleasure of meeting many new friends and the opportunity to catch up with old ones but also Cassandra Peterson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maddie Smith, Bernard Cribbins, Dave Prowse and Peter Purvis. Sadly in 2017 we not only lost Professor Heinz Wolff and Adam West but also June Foray, Bruce Forsyth, Carol Lee Scott, John Noakes, George Romero, Martin Landau, Roger Moore, Keith Chegwin, John Hurt, Jerry Lewis, Peter Sallis, Hugh Hefner, John Hillerman, Brian Cant, Rodney Bewes, Keith Barron, Robert Hardy, Sean Hughes, Barry Norman, Earle Hyman, Liz Dawn, Tony Booth, Don Rickles, Bill Paxton, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, John Heard, Glen Campbell, David Cassidy, Harry Dean Stanton, Miguel Ferrer, Joan Lee and Heather North. So what interesting things did I see this year? Let us begin with...
Regimental Goat, Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, Caernarfon Castle- North Wales
On display at the Regimental Museum at Caernarfon Castle is the Goat present at Queen Victoria’s visit to Bangor to open the Britannia Bride across the Menai Straits on the 23rd of October 1852 along with a selection of Goat Head Pieces from various Royal Welch (old English spelling of Welsh) Fusiliers battalions.
The Grave of Douglas Adams, Highgate Cemetery North London
As a devotee of British comedy and Sci-fi naturally I am a fan of the late Douglas Adams, what is there not to like about the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? As for his work on Doctor Who, City of Death is one of my all time favourite stories. After his funeral was held in Santa Barbara on 16 May 2002 his ashes were placed in Highgate and since then fans from all over the world have embarked on pilgrimages to the grave stone to give thanks for his work and leave a pen in memoriam, a tribute to the great man. 

AA Sentry Box, Boduan nr. Pwllheli, North Wales
Telephone kiosks, I love them! From the icon that is the classic red K6 telephone kiosk to the sublime blue police public call box that I need not explain its appeal! As an artist, designer, retro nut and Brit I love me a kiosk! Here is another of my favoureds the classic 'AA' sentry box. Once a familiar sight on British roads these kiosks (first erected in 1912) offered shelter to the Automobile Association's patrol men on hand to offer roadside assistance, directions and first aid to motorists that needed them. By 1920, members were issued keys to the telephone boxes which could be used to call for assistance there were almost 1,000 boxes in their heyday but by the time of World War II there were only 600 boxes in existence and as progress continued to roll on their numbers dwindled and at the time of writing this only 19 sentry boxes still survive in the country eight of which have been granted Grade-II listed status. Because mobile phones are common place all the kiosks were decommissioned in 2002 including this one, AA' sentry box 580 in Boduan nr Pwllheli in North Wales, timber in construction it dates from around 1927 and it has been a regular feature throughout my life, I can't even begin to imagine how many times I have passed this in my 38 years on this planet be it as a walker, cyclist, bus passenger or motorist. Its a thing of beauty.

The Hands of Miss Jones, London Studios, Waterloo, London
If you ever find yourself outside the London Studios (situated on the South Bank next to The IBM Building and the Royal National Theatre) on the building’s outer wall you will find bronze cast of the hands of Frances de la Tour, known to modern audiences for being in the sitcom Vicious but to me she will always be Miss Jones from one of my all time favorite sitcoms, Rising Damp! Actually… she isn't the only one to feature on the walls, bronze casts of other famous people can also be located there including her co-stars Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi along with several other TV talent such as Stephen Fry, Alan Davies, Philip Schofield, Lorraine Kelly, Melvyn Bragg, Paul O'Grady and Des Lynam along with not so talented Vernon Kay...

Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Derek Jacobi , Des Lynam and Melvyn Bragg.

The Penguin Pool, London Zoo, London
The Penguin Pool is perhaps one the most famous and iconic buildings at the Zoo designed by the Tecton architectural firm led by Berthold Lubetkin (1901–1990) also responsible for the Zoo’s Round House.
Opened in 1934 the modernist building (now a Grade I listed building) no longer has penguins in it, they have since been relocated to new enclosure after it was discovered that its water capacity was not only too shallow for the penguins to swim in but it’s hard concrete floors gave them arthritis.

Victorian Punch and Judy puppets, The Brighton Toy and Model Museum, Brighton
Located underneath Brighton Railway Station, within its arches is the Brighton Toy andModel Museum which is well worth your time and money. Housed within its impressively vast collection of toys is a set of Punch and Judy puppets believed dating from 1890.

Eric Morecambe statue, Morecambe, Lancashire  
When Eric Morecambe died in 1984 Britain lost one of its comedic greats and the people of his hometown and namesake commemorated its famous son with this statue designed by sculptor Graham Ibbeson. The statue stands over 6ft in hight and features Eric in his famous pose wearing a pair of binoculars (he was a keen birdwatcher) and it was unveiled by the Queen in 1999. Morecambe’s top tourist attraction it was awarded a certificate of excellence by TripAdvisor in 2014 due to outstanding feedback from the thousands of tourists that adopt the famous pose alongside it for a photo (myself included). Not only that but all of Eric and Earn ‘s catchphrases can be found on the ground along with a list of all the famous guests that they had on their shows.

The Brighton "Toad in the Hole" Booth Museum, Brighton
The Booth Museum of Natural History is a fantastic museum to visit, I can’t stress how important it is that you visit this place and show them your support! They have a vast collection of wonders there along with a fantastic collection devoted to the Iguanodon, the remains of Dodos and a stuffed Thylacine. However they also have one of the most famous examples of entombed animals (animals reported to have been found alive after being encased in solid rock) there the now (in)famous mummified toad found within a hollow flint nodule, presented by Charles Dawson in 1901 in which he claimed it had been discovered by workmen in a Lewes quarry the previous year. Its authenticity has long since been debated and the fact that Charles Dawson was also the man behind the Piltdown man aside, since its initial discovery the toad has since shrunk casting further doubt as to its authenticity and it is now regarded a hoax but never the less its still worth vising it for yourself.

Well, there we go, I hope that was of interest to you!
Big plans for 2018 as I hope to not only have more adventures, see interesting things and meet more interesting people but also continue to work on many more exciting projects, publish my Monster Memories book and unveil the first phase of my newly refurbished- new-look studio! Stick around and Happy New Year!

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday 26 December 2017

Monster Memories Morsel: My First Krush-er

So did you have a good Christmas? I certainly did! Christmas 2017 was when I finally received a My Pet Monster of my very own (previous post) but Santa gave me that, Mrs Jones gave me something equally awesome!
A great little curio from the US of A that I am reasonably certain never made it to this side of the pond and I say that because A) I've never seen Krusher the “Growing Monster” ‘in the wild’ and B) it seemed that it wasn't a terribly successful toy line for Mattel in 1979 and this staggers me, because this 15 inch high green rubber figure had a great gimmick to it in that you could ‘Krush’ or mash it up and it would spring back to his original size when the air valve on its belt was turned! Amazing! Yet as I said it wasn’t a successful toy and so it is becoming harder to find (more so if you are after a boxed version) and knowing that had I been born five years earlier and on the other side of the Atlantic I would have adored this monster toy and so I wanted to add it to my collection, and that's just what happened! Thank you Mrs Jones!

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Monday 25 December 2017

A Monster Memories Christmas Special: My Pet Monster the Monster Memory that never was

"Argos... It's So Easy!"
Once upon a time (1987 to be precise) there was an eight year old boy called Arfon who was obsessed with monsters. It was a glorious time to be a fan of such things as there seemed to be no end to the ‘gross’ and creepy monster themed toys available to children across the land. There were Madballs, Boglins, Rude Ralph, The Real Ghostbusters toy line not to mention all manner of slime related toys and there ruling over them all was the king of all the monster toys, My Pet Monster! Twenty six inches in height this plush monster was produced by American Greetings Corporation’s AmToy having been designed by great toy designer James Groman the man who also designed the MadBalls range. My Pet Monster was just like the (previously mentioned) Were Bears in that it was a plush toy aimed at boys. First released in the US in 1986 it crossed the Atlantic and onto UK toy shelves the following year. Arfon saw the My Pet Monster television advert and was instantly drawn to its blue fur, horns, big hideous nose and massive fangs. The toy not only promised to be his pal but also came with breakable chains and all these factors made My Pet Monster an amazingly awesome toy to have and so he promptly added it to his Christmas list. Unlike previous Christmas gift requests such as the Evil Horde's Slime Pit, Gooper Ghosts Squisher and Sludge Bucket Figures or Boglins, My Pet Monster wasn’t instantly dismissed by his mother and so it was added to the list as a "wait and see" item.
Christmas 1987, with my Philmar monster Jigsaw Puzzle,
Hungry Hippos game, Perfection, Junior Scrabble and David Bellamy microscope set
(The Mask Punchbag belonged to my brother)
December 25th, Christmas day. Santa has been and Arfon received a Rattlor action figure, Hungry Hippos game, Perfection, Junior Scrabble a telescope and a David Bellamy microscope but no Pet Monster… It seemed that Santa had forgotten to include one! Although he was still extremely happy with his gifts he was a little disappointed that he didn’t have a Pet Monster of his own.
Time marched on the toy brand itself continued to be a massive hit for AmToy prompting various forms of merchandise along with smaller size variants of the character (sixteen inches and twenty inches) along with a follow up monster called My Football Monster (complete with football helmet and jersey), Beastur My Pet Monster's enemy was added to the line up as too were five smaller monster hand puppets called, My Monster Pets and naturally being the 1980’s there was a cartoon series and a direct to video live action movie released not only assuring the success of the product but also assuring its place as one of the top toys of the 1980’s. So much so that the idea never really went away and in 2001 Toymax brought him back (looking slightly different) in talking form before Vivid Imaginations released another talking version in 2009. This year marked the monster’s 30th anniversary and so Creepy Co decided to mark the occasion by releasing a My Pet Monster vinyl figure, when Arfon saw this figure it had him thinking about the present that never was and how it had somehow being assigned to the Christmas gifts list that never was along with the Sectaurs Spider-Flyer and Hero Quest board game. Then on Christmas morning 2017 he found this parcel under the tree...

...And they lived happily ever after... Merry Christmas everyone!

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Saturday 23 December 2017

RIP Misha the Aardvark 2008- 2017

Tragic news from London Zoo, it has been confirmed that at approximately 6am this morning a fire broke out in the Animal Adventure section of the Zoo and spread to an adjacent shop. On-site keepers and the zoo’s security team moved animals to safe locations while London Fire Brigade tackled the flames. Six people were given help at the scene for the effects of smoke inhalation and shock but sadly it has been confirmed that nine-year-old Aardvark, Misha has died with four Meerkats still unaccounted for, presumed dead. Devastating news Mrs Jones and I spent our wedding anniversary at the Gir Lion Lodge and were treated to a wonderful after-hours tour of the zoo and one of the highlights was feeding the Aardvarks (I excluded this from my last post as its meant to be a secret but given the circumstance...) I have wonderful memories of throwing insects to them as the night set in, watching them both burrowing away, they were a delight to see.
My thoughts go out to the keepers.

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Friday 22 December 2017

New Book: Ghostwatch: Behind the Curtains- 10th Anniversary Special

Christmas is a time for ghost stories and this year our favourite ghost story Ghostwatch celebrated its 25 year and this occasion has been marked by a new book released by Rich Lawden the man responsible for the Ghostwatch:Behind the Curtains documentary which itself celebrated its 10th anniversary this year! I have been a close follower of the project since its early days and had the honour of having my work featured on both the documentary and subsequent publications and this one is no exception! My art, my name and my likeness feature within and as if that wasn’t enough it also features all new exclusive interviews with the show’s creators Director Lesley Manning, Screenwriter Stephen Volk, Producer Ruth Baumgarten, Art Director, Richard Drew, plus recollections from the family of late Executive Producer, Richard Broke reflecting on the program’s history and legacy. It’s very good and I urge you to hint about it to relatives or buy it with your Christmas money!

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world. 

The Third Christmas staff party

Last week I was in conversation with someone, Christmas was discussed before the topic of staff parties cropped up and knowing that I was self employed I was not asked if I was going to one to which I promptly pointed out that I too, despite being a work force totalling one had a company knees up every December! It was back in 2015 when I asked myself why should I be excluded from such things just because I was self employed? Why couldn’t I let my hair down at the company’s expense and that is exactly what I have done each Christmas since! So it was off to Hooters of Nottingham for this year’s Christmas staff party. I was shown (along with Mrs Jones, my +1) to our table by one of the Hooters girls for our eagerly awaited Christmas lunch, my favourite the boneless Hooter’s chicken wings with lemon pepper rub sauce and Mrs Jones made the most of Hooter’s Wednesday rib deal allowing a whole rack for the price of half! Christmas crackers added the festive flair to the table and for those of you keeping tabs on such things my cracker contained a plastic Christmas tree cookie cutter, a joke (“How do ducks round off a meal? Cheese and quackers!”) and of course a paper hat (yellow) which I wore. Secret Santa gift this year was a Land of the Lost Sleestak Funko Pop figure! (The joy of this bit is that I always manage to get something that I really want!) then there was the annual tradition of having a photo taken with a Hooters girl. The photo has since been pinned to a new office detail in the studio the Christmas staff party bulletin board! Complete with crooked pinned photos and comic sans typography the bulletin board faithfully replicates a staff bulletin board found at most business premises only this one also has a hint of Hooters décor to it as it showing off photos from each party reminding staff that there is only another 365 days to go until the next one! A big thanks to everyone at Hooters of Nottingham as always for the warm welcome and for making my third staff party the Hap-Hap Happiest since the last!

The First Christmas staff party
The Second Christmas staff party

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world. 

Sunday 17 December 2017

Quest for an Anteater: Happy Bliss-Mas Arfon!

Some of you will recall how last year I reported on how I had been an adopter of Chester Zoo’s Giant Anteaters Pedro and Bliss but was yet to actually see them, well I am happy to report that after 3 years I finally ‘met’ Bliss this weekend! At the start of the year I was informed by the zoo that the Giant Anteater enclosure (now with only Bliss in residence) had been relocated and that Bliss was not only enjoying her new surroundings (which she now shared with the Capybaras located opposite the Lowland tapirs) but the enclosure now had a viewing window! They admitted that it was difficult to give an exact period of the day that she was active however they had noted that she had periods of activity around midday and later in the afternoon but this could be weather dependent. Unfortunately I was unable to get away from the studio during the warmer months and put this information to good use.
 So Mrs Jones and I decided to go this weekend agreeing that just seeing her sleeping through the window would still be an improvement on the previous years so we wrapped up warm and braved the heavy rain and hailstones. We made our way to the enclosure and there she was! The most beautiful Anteater I had ever seen curled up in the corner covering her face with her massive tail, we timed it just right as we had arrived at lunch time! Having had some interaction with her keeper and her lunch she returned to the same spot to resume her nap, to the other visitors to the zoo that briefly peered through the glass these few minutes might not have seemed like anything special but to me it was Bliss!

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world. 

Verspielt : RIP Heinz Wolff BSc. FIEE. FIBES FRCP (hon) FRSA (1928 – 2017)

A sad post, Professor Heinz Siegfried Wolff BSc. FIEE. FIBES FRCP (hon) FRSA passed away Friday aged 89. He was the world's first bio-engineer, director of the Division of Biological Engineering at the National Institute for Medical Research and Clinical Research Centre of the Medical Research Council. He founded the Institute of Bio-engineering at Brunel University for over 30 years naming only a few of his accomplishments but perhaps he was better known to us in Britain as the face of 'The Great Egg Race' and he was also a friend. I grew up watching, 'The Great Egg Race' 'Young Scientists of the Year' and 'Great Experiments, Which Changed the World' and as a result sparked my interest in science, partly because of the fun way he presented the subject matter but mostly because he was everything I wanted from a scientist, namely a German accent, wild hair and bow tie. I had the pleasure of finally meeting the professor back in 2009 when he was invited to speak at Shrewsbury’s celebration of Darwin’s 200th anniversary where he delivered a fascinating lecture about the evolution of photography using only a box some tubing and a lens
he demonstrated the photographic process taking a photograph of an audience member before developing the photo using chemicals he mixed on stage rounding it all off making a 48 pixel camera out of a box and some Ping-Pong balls! After the lecture we chatted and stayed in contact ever since and during that time he was the first to feature in my Science Spotlight series (a series of portraits and biographical information devoted to boffins that I painted) and he also took part in my Operation Bath Duck project re-homing Scout Duck 002 of 100. Always supportive of my work and kind with his time he wrote a very kind testimonial for me about my work which I regard as one of the highlights of my career.
I was thinking about him just the other day as a Christmas card from Brunel was always one of the highlights of Christmas for me, I saved each one and will look through them again tonight, remembering the great man and what an honour it was to know him.

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


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