Take a letter…or seven…

I have lovely childhood winter memories of sitting around a roaring open fire playing Scrabble with my mother, father and siblings when I was a little boy.  I am sure my selection of words was very limited, but it was such a good game to learn about new words and how to spell them.  It wasn’t until I was older that I played with the Triple Letter/Word Score and learned how to use the letters Q and Z (the letters with the highest score points) to my advantage.  From once being very reluctant to get these letters, I do love to get them now as they are a great challenge and can often help win the game ‘hands down’.

Scrabble box26forblog by Michael Quinlyn-NixonSorting out some of my clutter last year, in my never ending quest to get a tidy study, I noticed that my old Scrabble boxes were looking very careworn, fragile and shabby, but luckily my Dad came to my rescue (being a carpenter and joiner) and created two new wooden boxes to store my cherished games.

Of course, I needed to add my own input to these fine wooden boxes, and rather like the storage boxes last year, I decided to decorate the two boxes with my own designs.  So, after thinking long and hard, I did a different design for each box, with a little theme for each.  I chose some of my favourite things to decorate the boxes and decided to paint one with maroon figures and letters and the other brown (one of my Scrabble games has maroon letter tiles and the other has wooden).  As I play the game with younger relatives I kept the words on the box shorter, knowing things like ‘kaleidoscope’ and ‘telecommunications’ would take a frightful lot of space!

Included images on the box are things that I love, such as a quill, pocket-watch, stamp, giraffe, squirrel, owls, swan, and a deer… (oh, and my trademark ladybird!).

I am sure the eagle-eyed readers amongst you will be able to see some kind of pattern or theme to the maroon box, but if you can’t, I suggest you ‘start at the very beginning, a very good place to start’…  Have you worked it out yet?

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Stan & Ollie – Bear-a-thought Illustration

I am excited about going to see the ‘Stan and Ollie’ film released in the United Kingdom today, which is based on the lives of the actors and comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.  It stars actors Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly in the respective roles.  It reminded me of a teddy bear illustration that I did of the famous black-and-white comedy duo many years ago…
stan & ollie by michael quinlyn-nixon for blogb
Whilst working on one of my teddy bear calendar themes, in 2003, I came up with the idea of famous bears and made a list of the many characters that I like, that are very recognisable by their costume or attire.  The list was very long, but some suggestions had to be scrapped and a smaller list compiled.  One of the suggestions on the list that appealed to me was Laurel and Hardy.  I had a discussion with Jennifer A. Stephenson, my friend who kindly made the outfits and other paraphernalia for the teddy bears, and she was also drawn to the idea of Laurel and Hardy too.  

In deference to the comedy duo’s fine slapstick humour, we decided to dress them in dungarees (rather than their formal black suit and ties), but, of course, we had to include the bowler hats and their distinctive neckties.  To go along with the dungarees, we created a decorating scenario with ladders, wallpaper and paint (my father, Robert, kindly made the ladders and toolbox).  Luckily one of Jennifer’s friends, the late Pat Holmes (nee Boustead – a well-known singer in the County Durham area) was decorating her home at this time, so this proved to be the ideal place in which to create our ‘Hollywood film set’. 

As it happened, shortly after the photographs were taken and the sketches were drawn, we disassembled the scene and I slipped and spilled the whole pot of banana custard coloured paint all over the floorboards.  Pat wasn’t too annoyed, as she was planning on a carpet anyway, but she could have easily used Oliver Hardy’s famous quote and stated, “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into”.

I remember watching Laurel and Hardy when I was young and they always made me laugh with their funny and inoffensive humour.  Stan Laurel (b: 1890 – d:1965) was my favourite, as I loved the way he scratched his head when perplexed, but Oliver Hardy (b: 1892 – d:1957) had the most amazing face, which was full of disbelief one minute and wreathed in wonderful smiles the next.

When I was a little boy, I remember my Grandfather Lake telling me that Stan Laurel had lived in County Durham for a while, but that he had been born in Cumbria.  Both of these English counties have tributes to these two wonderful men who brought so much joy to so many people’s lives.

The illustration ‘Stan & Ollie’ was started on 18 April and completed on the 5 May 2003.