Monday 31 December 2018

2018 New Years blog post, thingy

Well here we are again, the end of another year and that time again when we reflect back on it. There have been many paintings, several sculptures, the studio’s doors were officially opened to TV and radio, I recruited a robot sidekick and made £25 on the Lottery thanks to a mechanical mystic robot!  On a personal level it’s been a rotten year what with one thing or another and losing both my grandparents 3 months apart threw me off somewhat but I think completing the 24hour Sharkathon back in July (where I watched 17 shark movies in one 24 hour sitting raising £467 for the Alzheimer’s Society) helped a little- my sincere thanks everyone that sponsored me via the website or sponsor forms. Some of you might remember that I set myself another challenge in January, lose weight! I vowed to do so following the Linnea Quigley's HorrorWorkout each morning. I started it weighing 15.5 stone and I will be starting 2019 weighing 14.4 stone... I did follow the program, it wasn’t easy but I feel that cutting out the snacks and substituting meals with Slim Fast helped!  Work wise it’s been all go, I have been working on numerous projects, many of which will be released in the New Year. Beth’s second self published novel, The Oakley Woods Murders was released back in May (I provided the inside illustrations and cover art) and it received a very favorable review from Starburst Magazine, suffice to say I am very proud of her. Incidentally, if you received Amazon vouchers for Christmas her books are still available on there... I’ll wait...
2018 took many inspirational people from us, some of which I was able to address and remember at the time including comic book artist Norm Breyfogle and of course the great Stan Lee but we also lost Peter Wyngarde, Mort Walker, John Mahoney, Emma Chambers, Peter Miles, Steven Hawking, Jim Bowen, Bill Maynard, Tim O’Connor, R. Lee Ermey, Dale Winton, Verne Troyer, Margot Kidder, Alan Bean, Joseph Campanella, Leslie Grantham, Aretha Franklin, Peter Stringfellow, Jacqueline Pearce, Eric Bristow, Bill Daily, Liz Fraser, Burt Reynolds, Steve Dash, Peter Donat, Fenella Fielding, Dudley Sutton, Douglas Rain, Mike Noble, Sister Wendy Beckett,  Paddy Ashdown, George H. W. Bush, Donald Moffat, Barry Chuckle, June, Whitfield and of course the great Ken Dodd. I always think of Doddy around this time of year, having said for years that I wanted to catch his live show I was yet to make the mere 48 mile trip to see it and when he became ill during Christmas 2007 I thought I had missed my chance. Thankfully he was fine and performing again 2 months later, but this was the wake up call I needed, it underlined how none of us are getting any younger and how we shouldn’t put off seeing/meeting our heroes. I went to see his show the following May and he did not disappoint I was so pleased that I had the chance to see him, his passing reminded me of a particularly poignant moment towards the end of the show when he addressed the audience and told us that now we no longer had the likes of Morecambe and Wise, Les Dawson or Tommy Cooper he was the last of his kind, effectively the last Dodo on stage, so when he did pass away peacefully at his home aged 90 it really did mark the end of an era in Britain.
Back in June I covered a wonderful encounter with nature that we had when our five year old camera nesting box was (finally!) used by a pair of Blue Tits whom produced 7 chicks.  Throughout the month of May Mrs Jones and I watched these delightful birds feeding the meal worms we provided to their young until they eventually fledged. Sadly we missed the fledgling but we got to see them again a week later in one of our trees keeping their parents just as busy, making full use of our bird tables, and at the time of writing this I can report that the Blue Tits have been making numerous visits to the studio window feeder, are these the same pair? Or one of the chicks all grown up? I couldn’t say but either way we will be keeping a close eye on the nest cam in 2019!  
Encounters with nature didn’t end there, after the chicks had fledged I made a bug hotel out of various off cuts of wood that I had and a hedgehog house (following instructions provided by The BritishHedgehog Preservation Society) and having added the all essential food and water we had a visitor, a rather large hedgehog in there within a week! Actually, hedgehogs are not so uncommon in our garden and a welcome sight when stargazing but this particular one was rather large and as suspected she was pregnant and sure enough a week later we found her again hiding in one of our sheds, with her babies! Absolute utmost care was taken to assure that the little family was not disturbed, but to no avail- sadly we discovered that she had abandoned them. We franticly gathered up the young hoglets and took them to a qualified member of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society who sadly, despite all best efforts was unable to save them. A real blow for all concerned, she attributed it to the ongoing heat wave we were experiencing; it seems that the mothers will abandon their young if they become dehydrated during dry spells.
So please make a note of this, leave water out for wildlife these little guys are declining at an alarming rate and I don’t know about you but I find it worrying that for the past two decades, hedgehogs in Britain have been declining at the same rate as tigers worldwide. Since this encounter we have been supporting the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, they are responsible for some of the UK’s largest hedgehog conservation projects, they fund research into why our rural hedgehogs are declining and they record hedgehog habitats via their BIG Hedgehog Map not to mention promote Hedgehog awareness- inspiring the public to make their gardens more ‘hog friendly. So if you are yet to make a donation to a charity this Christmas, why not support them and help turn this worrying trend around and help hedgehogs thrive in Britain once more?

We joined the 21st century this year by using streaming services, despite still watching very little ‘modern’ telly favouring classic TV DVD’s we did take part in the Earth tradition of “binge watching” a series, when we (finally) watched  Stranger Things and loved it, looking forward to seeing series 3! Online streaming also gave us horror movie/ horror host connoisseurs a wonderful moment, the return of Joe Bob Briggs in a show that served as a loving salute to his classic MonsterVision show of the 1990’s (that I never had the pleasure of experiencing first time round, but have long enjoyed in clip form on YouTube). Subscription /video on demand service Shudder brought him back in what was billed as a “one off” show in June, The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs.
This show was a 24 hour movie marathon that was presented by the man himself and proved so popular it (effectively) broke the internet! Unfortunately, folks from outside the US didn’t get to join in all the fun however, as the marathon was US members only... UK customers finally received VODs (Video on demand) of the show after they had gone and an extra kick to the gut was when we discovered that only the movies Shudder had been licensed for in the UK were included! So, we only received seven of the thirteen movies shown, and at the time of writing this we are still to see, Tourist Trap (1979), Sleepaway Camp (1983), Rabid (1977), Daughters of Darkness (1971) Pieces (1982) and The Prowler (1981) added to the VOD list. I e-mailed the channel several times and they assured me it would eventually happen.  The show proved so popular with fans that Shudder brought Joe Bob back again for 'Dinners of Death’ on Thanksgiving, but alas the same problem arose once again- of the four movies shown in that marathon we only got two of them (we are still to see The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Dead Or Alive (1999) uploaded) I wrote to Shudder again expressing my disappointment, highlighting how unfair it was that we (as paying customers)were not only being excluded from this party but also expected to make do with the left over scraps!
Shudder, apologised stating they were trying to sort this matter out, they did just that and this Christmas, at 2am this British Joe Bob fan finally got to see Joe Bob Briggs go out LIVE when the UK was included in the live stream!     Apparently, Shudder now intends to make Joe Bob a regular face on their channel in 2019, I am delighted to hear this and sincerely hope we in the UK will continue to be included in this and urge all fellow British Mutants, to contact Shudder and tell them how much you love Joe Bob! Contact them via their contact page or through Facebook and Twitter and remember the Drive-In will never die! Personally, I regard this to be the most important horror show we have. It upholds the horror host tradition, with a host that was there, a part of the genre. It encourages viewers to watch movies that might have escaped their attention in a fun, informative way with great guests and invites you to be part of a community while watching the show via social media- bringing thousands of horror/cult movie fans together.

Had a few adventures this year, many of which have been covered on the blog such as visiting the Arcade Club in Haslingden and the Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner and of course not forgetting that 2018 was also the year I finally got to not only meet Bruce Campbell but also Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy, Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff of Mystery Science Theatre 3000! But this year I also had the pleasure of meeting another that had long been on my list, for whatever reason I was yet to meet the great Brian Blessed OBE! Back on the 12th of January, Mrs Jones (as a Birthday treat) took me to see his amazing sold out ‘An Evening with’ show at the Rotherham Civic Theatre! It’s difficult to not admire Brian Blessed the fact that he has had an amazing career spanning nearly fifty years aside the man has climbed Mount Everest three times, he is the oldest man to go to the North Magnetic Pole on foot and he has explored the jungles of Venezuela the man is a national treasure! Known worldwide for his roles in I, Claudius, Z Cars, Doctor Who, Blackadder, and of course Flash Gordon I have always wanted to meet him, but I’d never had the opportunity until now at this organised by PHASE Worldwide, a charity first established in Rotherham that works in Nepal to empower isolated communities through health, education, and livelihood projects of which Brian is a patron.
Having traveled to the Himalayas several times he has witnessed the difficulties faced by the Nepalese and the work done by the charity. We met for the pre-theatre drinks reception featuring ‘Yorkshire Tapas’ round the corner at The Wharncliffe and had a lovely chat with him, a warm friendly man it was a pleasure finally meeting him. The show, much like the man, did not disappoint I could have listened to him speak for hours, and had he had his own way we would have! PHASE staff tried several times to get him off the stage! The man is an inspiration. I highly recommend his memoir, Absolute Pandemonium, perhaps the only time I wanted to listen to an autobiography or better yet if you have the opportunity to catch his one man shows, as the man himself would say “GO FOR IT!
Interestingly Flash Gordon played a part in our first adventure of the year and also featured in the last as we visited Edinburgh for the Love of 80’s convention where Flash Gordon himself, Sam J. Jones was in attendance! Along with the Hulk, Lou Ferrigno and Buck Rogers Gil Gerard to name three more! This amazing event that celebrated everything 80’s presented me with the opportunity to tick a few more names off my list David "The Hoff" Hasselhoff, Zach Galligan of Gremlins and Templeton "Faceman" Peck- Dirk Benedict! The 80’s were special time for me, I wasn’t what you might call and outdoors kid, I spent countless hours effectively ‘hiding’ from the world in front of the TV and shows such as Knightrider and the A Team hold a special place in my heart, so to finally have the opportunity to meet people that played a vital part was amazing.
Another thing to know about me, I am not much of a car person, but seeing the Delorean from Back to the Future parked next to the A Team van and Kitt had me 'geeking out'! Add a replica Johnny 5 from Short Circuit photo op and you have the makings of a great event! I congratulate its organisers and look forward to next year’s! Then we have Edinburgh itself, a city which interestingly I had never visited for much the same reason I hadn’t met the stars in attendance, the opportunity hadn’t presented itself to me! But am I glad it did, Mrs Jones and I fell in love with it and fully intend on returning! As you may know I like to include some interesting things that I have seen in these posts, Edinburgh provided most of them!

Greyfriars Bobby’s (1855-1872) CollarMuseum of Edinburgh, Edinburgh
Since first hearing this tale about the Skye Terrier who guarded the grave of his owner for 14 years until he died himself (through Roland Rat’s Rat On The Road in 1983) I have long been fascinated with this story and wanted to see the famous statue. I got to do that and it was sheer delight, taking a photo of the statue without a tourists jumping into shot to rub his nose (for good luck) not so much, as it was near impossible! (Edinburgh city council asks that tourists touch the nose "gently" after having to spend £400 on its restoration!) But anyway! Bobby was the pet of Edinburgh Constable John Grey, who died of tuberculosis in 1858 the dog famously lay by his master’s grave side in Greyfriars Kirkyard each day until his own death in 1872. The tale touched everyone’s hearts and lived on when it was immortalised in a novel by Eleanor Atkinson in 1912 and then a Disney movie in 1961, some historians however question its actual factual basis... but I will leave that matter for you dear reader. All I will say is that if you visit the Museum of Edinburgh (please do, it’s well worth a visit) you will find many artefacts relating to Bobby’s history including his dinner dish and this, his collar. The collar along with an inscription which reads, “Greyfriars Bobby, from the Lord Provost, 1867 licensed” was given to him by Edinburgh’s then Lord Provost, William Chambers as a safeguard when a new ‘dog tax’ was introduced to combat the city’s stray dog problem.

The King of Bardsey’s Crown, the Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery, Bangor
For over a century, Bardsey (or “Enlli” as we call it around these parts) has been an island of special scientific interest and popular tourist destination located at the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula, and it was once a ‘kingdom’. No-one seems to know the exact origin of the tradition but it’s believed that the first king of Bardsey who ‘ruled’ over the island’s population of farmers and fishermen was crowned in 1820; however his name is not known to us, But we do know that he died in 1826, as a letter had been sent to the landowner, Lord Newborough requesting that he return to the island to crown the successor John Williams and that’s just what he did in August that year. Williams was crowned with this actual tin crown while standing on a chair on the narrowest part of the island and reined until 1841 when he drowned while attempting to cross to the mainland alone. His son, John Williams II who had been born just the day before was naturally too young to succeed his father and so Bardsey went without a king until the end of the century when John Williams II eventually became king; his reign was short however he immigrated to the mainland in 1918 and drink took its toll on him, it is claimed that he lost his fortune and died in a workhouse in Pwllheli. For many years the crown was ‘controversially’ kept in storage at the Liverpool Maritime Museum, having been acquired along with Lord Newborough’s effects.  Sadly the crown could not be returned to Bardsey as the museum stipulated that it could only be given to an accredited museum for safe keeping and as Bardsey (currently with the population of 4 people) doesn’t have a museum it was instead entrusted to the Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery in Bangor in 2009 for the 30th anniversary of Bardsey Island Trust. But, John Williams II was not the last king of Bardsey however, there was one other...

The Last King of Bardsey’s Grave, St Hywyn's Church, Aberdaron
According to one of my all time favourite archaeologist, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, despite their being no lineage a fisherman called Love Pritchard proclaimed himself king of the island in 1911 due to John Williams II’s condition. It has been documented that the king offered his services in the First World War but was rejected due to his age, apparently taking umbrage (many joked that the island remained neutral during the war and even alleging that they supported Kaiser Wilhelm II!) Love Pritchard left the island in 1925, visiting the National Eisteddfod in Pwllheli where he was welcomed a Welshman visiting from another land but sadly died the following year and was buried St Hywyn's Church, Aberdaron. Childless there was no successor to the throne, but when it was suggested in 1999 that opera star Bryn Terfel should be crowned the new king of Bardsey, the Bardsey Island Trust was overwhelmed by people claiming direct lineage to Pritchard.

Dolly the Sheep (1996 –2003) National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
"The world's most famous sheep", Dolly (named after Dolly Parton due to her impressive glands) was the first mammal to ever be cloned from an adult somatic cell, using the process of nuclear transfer (the cell nucleus from an adult cell is transferred into an unfertilized developing egg cell with the cell nucleus removed. The hybrid cell is then stimulated to divide by an electric shock, before being implanted into a surrogate mother). Led by Keith Campbell, Ian Wilmut and colleagues at the Roslin Institute, part of the University of Edinburgh and the biotechnology company PPL Therapeutics, Dolly's existence was announced to the world on 22 February 1997 playing an integral part in the 1990’s obsession with cloning. She had three mothers: one that provided the egg another that provided the DNA and a third which carried her embryo to term. In an attempt to allow Dolly to have as normal a life as possible, it was decided to allow her to breed; she was bred with a Welsh Mountain ram, producing six lambs in total. Dolly died on the 14 February 2003 five months before her seventh birthday from a progressive lung disease (the disease was not considered related to her being cloned) having lived her entire life at the Roslin Institute in Midlothian, she was preserved and gifted to NationalMuseum of Scotland by the institute in 2003.

Cockcroft-Walton generator, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
The Cockcroft–Walton (CW) generator was developed at the University of Cambridge in the early 1930s  and named after physicists John Douglas Cockcroft and Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton who used the circuit design in 1932 to power their particle accelerator and perform the first artificial nuclear disintegration in history (both were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for "Transmutation of atomic nuclei by artificially accelerated atomic particles" in 1951) originally used at the University of Edinburgh for nuclear physics in the 1950s this one was erected in the Grand Gallery at the museum after its components were discovered in a store room at the National Museum’s Collection Centre. Standing 19 feet 8 inches this is only one section of it though, there wasn’t enough space to occupy the whole generator at the museum!

The Maiden, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
The Maiden (also known as the Scottish Maiden) was used for executions in Edinburgh during the 16th and 18th centuries after the sword traditionally used to carry out executions had become worn.  Predating the ones used during the French Revolution the Maiden was manufactured in Edinburgh, built of oak, with a lead weight and iron blade she was first introduced in 1564 during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots and remained in use right up to 1716.   The device took all the hassle out of executions as it could be easily be dismantled for storage and moved to numerous locations as and when needed. It was long believed that James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton was responsible for first devising it (basing its concept on the Halifax Gibbet) this would have been tragically ironic however when you consider how the Earl was executed on this very device in 1581 during the minority of King James VI! (although very little evidence backs up the claim that Douglas was responsible for its design). What we do know for certain however is that it was made by carpenters Adam and Patrick Shang, as accounts still exists informing us that Shang (responsible for Queen Mary's half-brother, the Earl of Moray’s oak bed) was paid the amount of two pounds for “whole labours and devising of the timber work” involved in the construction of the device that removed 150 heads.

Cemetery for Soldiers Dogs, Edinburgh Castle
When peering over the wall of Edinburgh Castle you will find another touching tribute to Edinburgh’s devotion to faithful Canine companions in the form of the castle’s dog cemetery. Believed to have originally been the site of a medieval tower, it became the final resting place for regimental mascots and honored dogs belonging to high-ranking soldiers in 1840. Twenty dogs are remembered in this garden (off limits to the public) including Yum Yum, Tim (who traveled with Seaforth Highlanders) and Dobbler (who travelled with Argyll and Sutherland Highlands to China, Ceylon and South Africa) with Winkle, a “dear and faithful friend of Lady Gow and the Governor” being the last to be added in 1980. The cemetery was even referenced in verse by Robert Burns: “Berkin dugs here lie at rest The yappin worst, obedient best Sodgers pets and mascots tae Still the guard the castle to this day
Well there you have it, another blog post recounting the year. What else we can expect in 2019? Aside from myself turning 40 and this very blog celebrating its tenth anniversary, several new projects that’s for sure, hopefully a few new adventures (one more recent adventure has been omitted from this post due to my being sworn to secrecy about but more on that February/March...) My sincere thanks to all that have supported me and my work, this site this past year. Be it commission based, sharing links or a friendly word of encouragement you have all helped me along and I thank you. Happy New Year to you all.

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Thursday 20 December 2018

The Fourth Christmas staff party

December is here again and the annual tradition of the office Christmas party has been and gone and a good time was had by all! “But wait a minute here, this guy is self employed isn’t he?” you say; well you must be new to!  Four years ago I asked why should the traditional ‘office do’ only be available to workforces higher than a one?  So back in 2015 I decided to do something about it and organised the first ever (I think) lone workforce Christmas staff party!  With no minibuses to chase up, no quarrels, bickering or ill feeling between employees the plan was flawless and provided  some much needed festive cheer and this year’s was no exception!  But, there was one slight difference to this year’s party, oh yes! Those of you that are regular to this site will no doubt be aware that’s work force has increased by 1 this year in the guise of my new robot sidekick Omnibot 5402 RX! Omnibot has been here in the studio since February proving himself to be an essential member of the team answering the phone, bringing refreshments, leaving birthday greetings on social media and of course not forgetting excavating my vast collection of collectibles and offering them up for auction to help finance projects and artistic endeavors in our new feature Omnibot’s Robot Root- Out.

Those of you that follow this site closely will also know that Hooters of Nottingham has hosted each Crimbo shindig since the first. “Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined” and located at the Hicking Building on London Road this is the only Hooters in the only UK and they always provide great food and service. We (along with Mrs Jones, my +1) were shown to our booth by a Hooters girl dressed as a snow woman who seemed taken by Omnibot! Having made the inevitable “pulled a cracker there” joke we did just that! My cracker contained 3 golf tees, a joke (“What do you get when you cross a snowman and a vampire? Frostbite!”) And the essential paper hat (blue) which I wore as did Omnibot (red) as you can see in this obligatory selfie (first picture- I’m the one on the right) oh, Omnibot’s cracker contained a plastic stencil and his joke was “What’s bad tempered and goes with custard? Apple Grumble”( apparently he had heard that one before)Mrs Jones had the same joke and gift the paper hat was blue.   

After the Secret Santa gift exchange (I got a Mr. Rogers Funko Pop figure and he got a rather snazzy NASA sticker) our  Christmas lunch arrived the boneless Hooter’s chicken wings with Cajun sauce for me and half rack ribs for Mrs Jones and Omnibot had the curly fries and it was delicious and highly recommended. Like all good things the party came to an end and as we made our way out Omnibot insisted that he have his photo taken with the Hooters girls! This photo will now be pinned to our Christmas staff party bulletin board! Big thank you as ever to everyone at Hooters of Nottingham for playing an integral part in our little tradition, the warm welcome and great food and for helping make this staff party a Holly Jolly one! Merry Christmas!

Previous Parties

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Dine out before they die out! Little Chef (1958 – 2018) Remembered

2018 was the year we lost Toys R us. Toys R us kids and collectors alike shed a tear as Geoffrey the Giraffe waved goodbye and walked off into the sunset as the company that had been trading worldwide since 1949 went into administration. But one other familiar business only ten years younger than Toys R Us slipped away from us without anyone saying anything! First opened outside Reading in Berkshire in 1958 Little Chef (originally scheduled to end at the end of 2017) eventually defunked at the end of January 2018 with no publicity. Most of the population seem oblivious to Little Chef’s demise which also included the chain's prime location at Popham in Oxford once remodeled back in 2011 by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal in an attempt to revitalize the chain. Having an official website still up and promoting premises that have long shut up shop and replaced by Starbucks, Greggs or EG Diners has not been helped matters!  After a series of blog posts documenting the history and last remaining Little Chefs I could come across I had hoped to mark this sad loss of an iconic British institution with a final edition of Dine out before they die out but it seemed to almost happen overnight BUT I was able to find a lovely tribute to it. A gentleman called Mr. Abdul Malik has reopened a former site located at the side of the A55 in Llanddulas, North Wales as a new Asian restaurant called Little Indian Chef!

Little Indian Chef, Llanddulas, Abergele LL22 8HJ. Situated off Junction 23 of the A55 in Llanddulas, North Wales I have been unable to establish when these premises started trading as a Little Chef but they were converted into a Happy Eater in the mid to late 1980’s (both chains were owned by the same company, Imperial Group) only to suffer a similar fate again in 1997 when the Happy Eater brand ceased to exist after being labelled "tired" by its new owners Granada. In 2006 it was reopened again as Diner Fifty 5 (“Well worth stopping for”) then Oinkeys in 2011 (NOT worth stopping for according to Tripadviser!) and after they stopped trading in 2015 and the site stood empty and due for demolition until it was purchased by Mr. Malik, (owner of a highly-rated Suhail Indian restaurant in Prestatyn) when plans for a housing scheme on the site fell through. The restaurant was opened this year, the month Little Chef stopped trading and personally I thought the new name and utilizing of Little Chef’s 'Fat Charlie' chef mascot was a stroke of genius, and according to a recent Daily Post interview he received great feedback about it, saying,  This had been a Little Chef and that is why we wanted to bring back this name, it was really my son’s idea. It is also simple as well and something people will remember. People seem to be really like it. We have invested in the site to upgrade it as it was rundown when we took over. The aim now is to build up our reputation for our food, having a nice restaurant is one thing, but it is making sure our food is good all the time that counts in the long term.” My wife and I visited them recently and we were suitably impressed, the food and decor was great and I wish them every success with it and highly recommend you visit, sample the fine cuisine and perhaps raise a glass to its namesake.

Previous Little Chef Sites:

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Friday 7 December 2018

Omnibot’s Robot Root-Out: Arfon meets Big Daddy

...Deep under Arfon’s studio lays an extensive collection of random artefacts thirty years in the making. His robotic assistant Omnibot has been assigned the mammoth task of excavating the collection. What will Omnibot uncover today...!

Omnibot discovered some great curios one of which is from 1987 when I was 8 years old and my father took us as a family to the Arfon Leisure Centre in Caernarfon, North Wales to see Big Daddy wrestle. I wasn’t a wrestling fan myself but I would watch ITV's World of Sport wrestling coverage (it broke the monotonous gap between No 73 and the A-Team on a Saturday) but being a ‘casual’ wrestling fan aside I was a child of the 80’s and so naturally knew whom Shirley Crabtree, Jr. AKA Big Daddy was. Standing 6ft 2 inches and weighing in at 26 stone (according the 1984 Big Daddy Annual) and armed with the biggest chest in Britain measuring 64 inches (according to the Guinness Book of Records) he was a regular face and name on television.
I remember being ushered into a dark, loud room filled with people. I could see the ring but only when the spectators remained in their seats (I eventually stood on a pool table in the corner) as we watched Big Daddy ‘fight’ equally famous Giant Haystacks (Martin Austin Ruane 1946 –1998), and to be perfectly honest I remember being somewhat underwhelmed by the event then my mother took me into the corridor. As I asked what we were doing there when a massive hand landed on the top of my head! I looked up to see who this hand, which seemed bigger than my entire head belonged to I saw a giant smiling down at me it was Big Daddy! He made his way down the narrow corridor and took a seat behind a small table at the end of it, on the table were three photos and my mother instructed me to pick one and I picked this one of him holding a pig and the big man then signed it. It’s a distant memory, vague in parts but that was the time I met Big Daddy.  
Not long after that he delivered his famous ‘Daddy Splash’ to Mal "King Kong" Kirk who sadly died shortly after and although an inquest maintained that Kirk had a serious heart condition which could have proved fatal at any given time Big Daddy still blamed himself and so went into semi retirement from wrestling as the UK turned its attention to the world of American wrestling on Sky Tv. Although people’s opinions seem divided on his actual contribution to British wrestling he was without a doubt a part of British life for a time because if he wasn’t popping up as a guest on something he would be in Buster or adverts promoting Daddies sauces. His very name would be used by others as a way to determine the size of something. I will always have this memory of him. Who ‘Orsen’ the star pig was I have no idea, let me know in the comments if you do!

Omnibot also found this!
Following Big Daddy's death, some of his effects were put up for auction at Sotheby's on the 10th of July 1998 and one of those items was this very singlet, his name sown on (by his wife) we are now offering this magnificent piece of British Sporting memorabilia up for sale on the eBay page, follow this link to find out more and own a piece of history!
Proceeds help to fund my work.     

Dedicated to Shirley Crabtree, Jr ‘Big Daddy’ (14 November 1930 – 2 December 1997)
© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday 13 November 2018

RIP Stan Lee (1922 – 2018)

In my eyes there have been three figures whom I have long admired that during the past 100 years (I believe) transformed a creative industry, raised a standard and cultivated talent that have produced iconic figures that will forever remain in popular culture and the public’s conscious, those names are Walt Disney, Jim Henson and Stan (the man) Lee. Sadly we lost Stan Lee yesterday and although it was inevitable, it’s still a sad fact that from this moment on, we now live in a time in which Stan Lee is referred to in the past tense.  

Yes, opinions differ as to his actual claim of ownership for many of the characters (please don’t bother; I know all the stories) that never really entered into it for me, I didn’t just hold him as just the ‘creator of’, that was Bob Kane’s “shtick” Stan Lee was more than that, Stan lee WAS Marvel comics. He was the kid with ambitions of someday becoming a writer that started out as an assistant at Timely Comics in 1939, whose main duty was making sure the artist’s inkwells were filled but by 1941 was the interim editor (aged only 19) where he continued to climb the ranks as not only a writer but the comic-book division's editor-in-chief, art director and eventually its publisher in 1972. By then he had molded the company into the Marvel Comics we know and love today, establishing a distinctive writing style, for many the very definition of what a comic book is. Even during the later years when he was no longer involved with the comics themselves he was still the figurehead and public face for Marvel be it through numerous comic convention appearances and colleges lectures before moving to California in 1981 to develop Marvel's TV and movie properties assuring continued success for the Marvel heroes for many years to come and it was here that Smiling Stan managed something that no other comic book contributor had; he was no longer just known to comic readers he had made himself a household name, because even if you hadn’t read a Marvel comic in your life you would have seen his name on the credits of something, heard his voice on Spiderman & His Amazing Friends or even (if you were extra geeky) spotted him on the jury in, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk! (But this of course was long before his cameos were a staple of a Marvel movie). The simple fact is, Stan was always there- he was a salesman and loved the attention and so he had a knack of getting his face into everything and this ultimately led to the ill feeling between him and his fellow-creators. A great shame. 

I on the other hand I relished all he did, by the early 90’s I had an after school/summer job at a vintage comic warehouse and so if I wasn’t reading the comics themselves or his Soapbox columns I was reading Wizard Magazine, Comics International, Previews or Duncan McAlpine’s Comic Book PriceGuide for Great Britain so it seemed that not a week would go by without Stan’s name cropping up in something, I even had the pages of How to Draw Comics the "Marvel" Way and Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics practically committed to memory! Then in (I think) around 1995 Stan appeared on Children’s BBC of all places promoting the Spider-man series, as he delivered all the classic lines it struck me, “I want to meet Stan Lee” I, at that point still had a notion that I would be working in comics and it would only be a matter of time before our paths would cross, however the years rolled by and my life took a different route, and it seemed the only opportunity to see him presented to me was in the background of Marvel movies but I was still determined to meet him, more so when a seemingly reputable convention dashed my hopes in 2012 but the ambition was finally realised in 2014 at the London Film& Comic Con in what had been billed as his last ever-European signing appearance. OK, it was a massive event, thousands of people in attendance and so it was a limited ‘meet and greet’ I didn’t get to spend an hour with him, discuss his work and natter about comic book movies, show off my portfolio but I did get to thank him for all that he had done, for always being there, and I got to see that familiar smile and twinkle in the eye in return, in person, an important moment to me.
So long Stan, thanks for everything. Excelsior!
© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Thursday 1 November 2018

Did you see me on S4C's Heno Halloween Special?

Mim was intrigued to know why there was a television crew in the studio on Monday, well I can tell you that it was to film an item for Welsh television series Heno (Welsh word for Tonight) a Welsh language television magazine show for S4C who you might recall were here back in July documenting my 24-HourShark-A-Thon. Heno came back for a return visit to find out more about my fascination with all things horror related for their Halloween special that aired last night- a show which ran parallel with the premiere of a locally produced horror movie, Humanoids from Outer Space produced by my good friend Sion Gareth Griffiths. Humanoids from Outer Space is a love letter to the B movies we love so much with a difference... it takes place in North Wales! Follow this handy link to the Los Anglesey YouTube channel and check out the film and other works for yourselves! The item featured various shots from around the studio and even featured a cameo from Orion! (My cat) as ever you can count on me to provide non-welsh speakers a transcript of the interview...  

Introduction by presenter, Gerallt Pennant, “Welcome back to Caernarfon at the premiere of Humanoids from Outer Space produced by movie company Los Anglesey. Horror movies are very popular this time of year and I have met two who absolutely adore horror movies that unsurprisingly love this very night.... Halloween”
Item starts with various shots from around my Studio (Voice over)  “It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that one room in the home of Arfon Jones is like a temple to horror movies and that he is the high priest of the frightening and scary...”
Arfon: “The reason people like these sort of movies is because people like being frightened, it’s like a rollercoaster- there is still an element of control to it. We know that for the next hour and a half something is going to happen but it will be fun- more so if we are watching it with someone else because we laugh if the other person is startled by it.”

Cut’s to scenes from the new Halloween movie,
(Voice over) “But if there is one movie that is synonymous with this time of year it’s Halloween, and perhaps, secretly, we all enjoy that chill down the spine...”
Cut to Alun Parrington: “The new Halloween movie is different to all the other horror franchises in that it has disregarded all but the original, so we see the return of Jamie Lee Curtis’s character Laurie Strode forty years after and it’s wonderful to see how the events of the previous forty years have affected her and her family... her daughter and granddaughter and I think anyone that goes to see it will enjoy it.”
Gerallt Pennant: “And Alun Parrington also takes part in the series ‘Project Z’ as seen here on S4C the series has been nominated for a Children’s BAFTA...”Cut’s to footage of Project Z

Alun Parrington: “I’ve always been fascinated by these horror movies, so to be involved in Project Z for S4C to be have the makeup applied, the clothes, the blood it was unreal, it was also amazing  seeing the children’s response to us as zombies.
Gerallt Pennant: “While there is cinema there will be horror and while there will be a Halloween people like Arfon Jones and Alun Parrington will be in seventh heaven... or hell!”  
Alun Parrington: “It’s the last day of October, Halloween the perfect night for us to celebrate what frightens us and dress up as the characters that scare us.
Arfon: “This time of year is my Christmas! I’m fascinated by it all and this is the only month of the year where I can go into shops, turn the tv and everyone seems to be equally interested in the same things as me, and perhaps I don’t stand out quite as much as I would have the rest of the year....”
Closes with scenes from Project Z.

There we go my thanks to Heno for including me in their fun Halloween special!

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Wednesday 31 October 2018

Arfon's Studio: Tour

I had a television crew in the studio on Monday and as soon as they had finished recording and packed away their equipment I shot this footage of the studio with my mobile phone, as I thought a mini tour was long overdue... However my friend Rob has since added that I should have turned my phone sideways and actually provided some sort of commentary! It hadn’t crossed my mind at the time, but who knows? Perhaps down the line I will do another, but in the meantime check this one out and feel free to ask questions! Enjoy!

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Wednesday 3 October 2018

Arfon's Studio: Confession of an addict

My name is Arfon and I have an addiction... Having resisted for some years I gave in to it back in 2016. At first it was just something that my friends were into, they tried to get me into it but I resisted but eventually gave in thinking I had the willpower to control it. I thought I could keep myself in check but I was wrong and I’m still coming to terms with my addiction and so that is why I am confessing my problem to you all today, admitting that I have a problem is the road to recovery, ladies and gentlemen of the internet I am a Funko Pop! Vinyl-Junkie.
So what is this addictive substance known as “Pops”?  Well it’s a type of vinyl toy created by manufacturers of licensed pop culture toys Funko in 2010. Stylized to appeal to people that have a fondness for nostalgia and figures from popular culture, intrigued to see them adapted into a Japanese Chibi style. There are literally hundreds of these out there, sold on every convention corner covering all manner of licensed brands and franchises. Although easily obtainable through dealers some are harder to find than others, often referred to by dealers as “retired” or “vaulted” as they might no longer be produced and these have been known to go for high sums of money.

What can I say? I’m not normally one for ‘cute’ but I rather like the Japanese Chibi influenced figures, particularly when applied to characters usually regarded to be grotesques, hence why I started with the Metaluna Mutant and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Believe it or not I have actually managed to restrain myself somewhat, only buying ones based on my favorite movies or television characters that might have directly influenced or inspired me over the years even then I had to scale down slightly because sure enough they started to pile up around the studio. So now a shelf runs partially around the studio displaying them.   

Of course I am not really an addict; I can quit any time I want to! But if Funko should read this- Aside from re issuing Indiana Jones and Ace Ventura figures, here are some that I would like to see produced, the classic King Kong from 1933, Gamera, Jack Nicholson’s Joker, Danny DeVito's Penguin, Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, Tommy Lee Jones's Two-Face, Jim Carrey's Riddler, Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze, Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy, Captain Planet, Red Dwarf, Columbo, The Mask (movie), Dumb and Dumber, Colonel Sanders, Ronald McDonald, Burger King, Hooters Girl, The Crypt Keeper, ALF, Inspector Gadget, Married With Children, Jurassic Park, The Addams Family, Men in Black, Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman, The Terminator and Gort... 

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday 2 October 2018

RIP Norm Breyfogle (1960 –2018)

Saddened by the news that comic artist Norm Breyfogle passed away last week in Houghton, Michigan at the age of 58. I never met the man and didn’t know that much about him, but I was very much a fan of his work. Throughout the 90’s I collected Batman comics and amassed quite a back catalogue of the Dark Knight’s 1980’s/90’s adventures starting with Batman #400 (1986) through to #520 (1996) and Detective Comics #500 (1981) through to #700 (1996) Mr. Breyfogle had a six-year run with Batman so his work features prominently throughout my collection, making him one of the key figures during my time in Gotham City.  I treasure those evenings spent reading Batman’s post Jason Todd early Tim Drake encounters illustrated by Breyfogle, written by Alan Grant. Not only did he illustrate countless stories featuring Batman’s classic rogue gallery but numerous other that have since become classics in their own right such as Anarky, Victor Zsasz, Cornelius Stirk, Amygdala and of course the Ventriloquist who quickly became a key player in Batman’s world (introduced during Grant and Breyfogle first collaboration together).

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday 18 September 2018

New Book: The Oakley Woods Murders

Remember last year when I told you that Mrs Jones had released a new book entitled, Strange Times in Little Happining? I had the honour of illustrating it for her, the book has been very well received by readers, so much so that she’s written another and yours truly got to illustrate that one as well! Inspector Mandalay and the eager Sergeant Barnes return to be baffled once again by a strange series of grizzly murders in Little Happining.  What is the link to Oakley Woods and is the murderer a man..or a monster? Find out by ordering your copy either via Amazon or the Mandalay Mysteries website.

On another note, Beth’s books made this week’s Cambrian News, in an article entitled; Beth’s cosy crime fiction offers an escape from life’s stresses. Beth Jones has written the second book in her Mandalay Mysteries series... A Nefyn author who says her inspiration for writing is a desire to entertain and amuse, has released another book. Beth Jones, 57, feels that escapism is very important in today’s  stressful world. That’s why she keeps her writing light-hearted and, to some extent timeless.  Beth said she felt that nobody was writing the sort of books she enjoys nowadays – So she decide to write her own. Her love of rural village life is the basis for her writing, and her settings are a mixture of the Kentish villages around where she grew up and the villages of the Llyn Peninsula where she has spent the last 30 years. Her books are aimed at anyone of any age who loves a good old fashioned murder mystery, and anyone who wants to escape for a while to a world with old fashioned values where strange things happen and policeman eat a lot of cake. Beth grew up in Beckenham, Kent and moved to North Wales in her late twenties. Her love of crime mysteries began at an early age, when she started the 'Famous Five Fan Club' at primary school, being an avid reader of the books. By the age of ten she was reading Sherlock Holmes and a few years later she discovered Agatha Christie and was hooked on the genre. TV detectives also have a place in her heart, from the 1970's Ellery Queen adaptations to Colombo, Murder She Wrote and on to Morse and Midsomer Murders, with many others in between. 
Beth's love of Science Fiction began at a similarly young age, sneaking into her brother's bedroom to borrow 'Starman Jones' and 'Beyond Tomorrow', as in those days Science Fiction books were strictly for boys, she recalls.  These classic 50's Sci Fi stories combined with TV such as Dr. Who and Star Trek firmly established the young Beth as a Sci Fi fan, however it was many years later that she discovered her greatest inspiration in the works of Douglas Adams, which fuelled her ambition to write comedy.

At school she was known for her story writing, her first 'book' being 'The Adventure Club' a short mystery which she wrote aged ten. She also sent some of her poems to Penguin books and received a very encouraging 'rejection' letter advising her to keep writing. It had always been her intention to write a book but this didn't happen until 2017 when she wrote and self-published the first Mandalay Mystery, 'Strange Times in Little Happining'. The Mandalay Mysteries were inspired by her love of the classic murder mystery, but she decided to give her stories a bit of a different slant, interweaving them with some of her other interests such as Science Fiction, the Paranormal and history, adding her love of comedy to the mix resulting in what she terms 'a light hearted cross-genre mystery'. The first  story concerns Inspector Mandalay, a peace loving police Inspector and the eager Sergeant Barnes as they investigate a series of inexplicable events as History seems to be coming to life in the usually uneventful town of Little Happining. The book was well received, with Starburst Magazine describing it as 'One of the most utterly charming reads we’ve come across in many a year.' Going on to say, 'As for Beth Jones, with her work here she marks herself as one to keep your eyes on, with her particularly adept at having a great eye for detail while also allowing for the plot and story to play out in a way that feels fresh, natural and, most importantly, engaging.' On the strength of this book, Beth was invited to be on a panel of writers at last year's Morecambe & Vice Crime Writing Festival, where she was able to share her passion for writing with other authors and Crime Fiction fans.
Beth has just finished writing her second Mandalay Mystery, 'The Oakley Woods Murders', in which Mandalay and Barnes investigate a series of grizzly murders which seem somehow to be linked to an ancient woodland and a mythical monster. Beth said she intends to write many more Mandalay Mysteries as she has grown very fond of the characters and has many other bizarre mysteries in mind for them.

So there you have it, either order your copy of 'The Oakley Woods Murders' on Amazon or direct via the Mandalay Mysteries website, tell her Arfon sent you!

UPDATE 1/11/2018: And as if that wasn’t enough to convince you to buy it she also received a 9 star review from Starburst Magazine adding, “With her two Mandalay Mysteries to date, author Beth Jones has crafted a world that is so simple but so wonderfully told that is has you eagerly turning page after page after page. Sure, there’s a great story at the centre of The Oakley Woods Murders, and there are certainly a few twists to this particular tale, but, as with Strange Times in Little Happining, it’s often the minute details that impress just as much as the greater narrative. When it comes to description and scene-setting, Jones is proving herself to be an absolute matter, with the quaint and warm Little Happining and its characters given depth rarely seen in such a swift and breezy read” and “We described the previous installment of Mandalay Mysteries as a hidden gem, and that is again the case here. For sheer storytelling, Beth Jones is marking herself out as a major talent just waiting to be discovered by a wider audience. In fact, her two adventures to date have a warm sheen to them that wouldn’t feel out of place told in a family-friendly daytime TV mystery. Part Midsomer Murders, part Scooby-Doo, all beautifully constructed in a wondrous anecdote that will instantly pull you back to a more innocent time when the little things mattered, delicate details were appreciated, and we were all a little less cynical and grumpy.

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


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