Sunday, 25 March 2018

Trampoline Greenhouse

Here is my new greenhouse, made from a old trampoline frame. I would probably call it more of a plant shelter as its aim is to keep inclement weather off my seedlings rather than a place in which to grow mature plants. The metal framework is held together with pressure treated rough sawn timber which was the only main expense at approx. £50. The polythene (3 sheets) I had lying around and the inside table was made from some old palettes. Wood chip was used for the floor as I have quite a large pile of this to use up. The ploythene is attached to the circular frame using small lengths of black plastic pipe cut into a ‘c’ shape so they just clip over the metal work holding the sheets in place. Staples, screws and large cable ties hold everything in place. The back was left uncovered so I would get good ventilation and to ease construction, with the structure placed against a wooden fence (to which I might fix it later). The door just lifts on and off and is covered with fine netting I found and a bit of polythene. If it lasts me a few years I will be happy and if I have to rebuild it then that will keep me occupied for a few hours when necessary.

Friday, 23 March 2018

The Bicycle

A short story
© Matthew Slater 2018

He belonged in the shed - the large wooden shed that he had built four years ago whilst he could still move freely. With just a small kitchen, toilet and a joint living-bedroom area it was his home. Nearby stood the old brick barn that once served as his workshop and the derelict caravan he had lived in before it became too damp for his health. Both of which were now unused and full of dust, cobwebs and nostalgia.

His bike leant against the outside of the shed. Both tyres were flat with nettles growing through the rusty spokes and the saddle was disintegrating - worn through years of use and weathering. For over thirty years it had been in daily use. Now it lay rusting, its wheels hadn’t turned since the summer before last.

The wingback chair, with its tall straight back, had well worn upholstery and the arm rests were covered with curtain fragments to keep fraying at bay. It’s occupant, Old Jim, as he was known locally, sat watching the glow from the logs burning in the stove. With an effort he reached to a mug of tea perched precariously on a pile of books on the small table beside him. He held it in his rough wrinkled hands and took slow sips whilst looking out though the open doorway at the overgrown flower borders outside. The once well kept, productive small holding and orchard, about an acre in size, was now very unkept. A small patch of ground was still roughly cultivated with a few vegetables but most of the garden features had succumbed to nettles, brambles and bindweed. Jim picked up his faithful pipe and drew in a small mouthful of a very aromatic smoke from his own ‘tobacco’, made from a few of his ‘special’ plants. He took to it whenever he wanted to reflect on certain things, it was the special treat he allowed himself.

Among the piles of books around him on gardening, farming, and natural history were many notebooks and diaries. Jim picked one up: a small, black, well used, leather bound notebook, opening with ease at one particular page. Here a photograph of a face of a young woman was used as a bookmark. The page was covered with tight lines of handwritten notes.

Jim took another puff of the pipe and read whatever was written there for half an hour or so, frequently looking up and out to the garden as if there as something on the old worn pages that required much thought. He looked at the photograph and a tear welled in one eye.

With a grunt that revealed a body full of aches and pains, the result of many years of hard outdoor work, he pushed himself up from his chair. He grabbed the hazel walking stick he had made a few months ago and walked slowly to the door. He held onto the door frame for support as he stepped out into the September sunshine. Jim stood for few minutes looking around at the forever growing wilderness in front of him, paying particular attention to his old faithful bike.

Yes. It had to be done. He could do it.

Jim turned to step back inside the shed and reached up to a hook behind the door from where he retrieved a key. Then, with a sense of determination that had long since been absent, he walked to the barn and unlocked the padlock securing the door. He pushed open the wooden door which offered a little resistance as it scuffed the floor and he went inside to clear an area of space. A few minutes later he reappeared and walked back to the shed. He made for the bike. He had never expected to ride it again which was why it wasn’t stored in the barn. With a firm grasp, he lifted it out from the tangle of weeds and pushed it back to the barn. He was returning to his workshop for the first time since the events of last autumn.

Sunday morning, a few days later, and a light dew covered the grass, glinting in the early sunshine. Jim walked slowly between the trees he had planted sixty years ago with the help of his father. Most of them were apple trees but there were several plums and pear trees too. He touched a few of their branches as if reaching out to close friends and gathered a few choice apples which he placed in a paper bag before walking back to the barn. The shed and barn were locked up and the bike, which by now had been completely repaired, was leaning against the barn door. A pair of collared doves cooed from the roof and a robin watched with curiosity from a nearby rose bush. Jim nodded his head to them and smiling as if he knew them well, then placed the bag of apples in a basket on the back of the bike. With a pained effort he pushed it up the rough path through the orchard to the gate. He opened it, pushed the bike through and closed it carefully behind him. Now, on the road, with a bit of effort he swung his right leg over the gleaming frame, pushed off with a foot, wobbled, found his balance and was off.

By late afternoon, when the sun had moved so that the shed was in shadow, Jim would usually have lit the stove and the smell of woodsmoke would be drifting above the trees. Today though, things had changed. There was no smoke from the stove and no cup of tea waiting to be made; and nor would there be tomorrow or ever again.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Tea for Two

Just an experiment, from my imagination. I am trying to change my characters and exploring a few ideas.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Mother’s Day

The table arrangement I set up at home for my wife on Mother’s Day.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018


Walking slowly, meditatively, I follow the rain washed gravel track leading up the valley through the conifers. I listen to the song of the evening landscape with senses alert and quietest footfall. My cathedral of trees waits, only I can see it - standing in the cold conclusion of winter. 
‘Entertain my prayer,’ I syummon my energy to shout - towering pines hold the words captive within their boughs.
I am there to give thanks. Thanks for the beauty of life and the fragility of creation. For the blessing of healing and the gift of creativity. Arms held up to give and to receive. Fresh air, the breath of life, drawn deep into my lungs.
Here I am. The gift of this moment is to be treasured. I reach out with joy and peace, weary after the challenge of previous months. Yet my mind is full of movement. Movement to create. Like nature: never stopping, always growing, changing, moving, living, breathing. As I have reached out to stand by an other, so I have drawn deep into a soulful journey from which much has emerged. Yet, giving, and being driven by a wild mind that seeks constant occupation against physical barriers is tiring, I can’t do it all yet I am drawn to so much.
I am not in my cathedral. Today I can only be there in my imagination: to dance, talk, give thanks for the day and seek blessings for my nearest ones and I.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Bedford sketch

After not knowing what to do with a day’s holiday I decided to spend the day in Bedford sketching. It was drizzling with rain but not too cold and I managed to find a sheltered spot at the outdoor cafe by the church. This pen and ink sketch appeared in my A4 sketchbook.

Saturday, 10 March 2018


I am quite enjoying illustrating this way. Some bits need tweaking and I am trying to get a consistent style working.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Walking in the fields

This is interesting. It started off as an experiment but quickly developed into something that worked rather well. I have always had a vague interest in folk art though never really found a comfortable way of working that way. In trying to find an illustration style to accompany my writing I immediately knew that this was a style I wanted and so have been looking around the internet for inspiration. Getting characters right will be the hardest thing as I am trying to get away from my more cartoony style to something more illustrative. This was drawn on the iPad and I would like to try and translate this to canvas and again try to get the hang of acrylic paints. 

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Debenhams Cafe

Sketch made in the cafe in Debenhams, Luton, today.

Friday, 2 March 2018


Two sketches drawn today whilst visiting the Old Skool Pantry, Luton.

Thursday, 1 March 2018