Learning piano – Its all in the head with this guy !

3rd March 2017

I happened across Danthecomposer a few weeks ago and felt that his philosophical approach to playing the piano, although very different, had a lot of merit and deserved investigating. Here is an about link:   https://www.youtube.com/user/danthecomposer/about

I have watched his first 4 of his 10 videos and am now practicing according to his suggestion, briefly several times a day to implant the mind to fingers memory needed  . I have to say this has changed not just my playing, but perhaps more importantly, my feeling for the piano and what I am able to create .

Here is link to the suite of videos:

His idea is to quickly create the freedom and confidence to be able to play across the entire keyboard with fluidity and without sheet music – amazingly it works!

For those wanting to take this to the next level he continues with a series on playing Jazz piano;


Major Teddy Norton of Morstead & Everest

12th Feb 2017

Major Edward Felix Norton (21 February 1884 – 3 November 1954)

Norton set a record for climbing to extreme altitudes without oxygen—28,126 feet 

When living in Owslebury Bottom after WWII , our journey to or from Winchester passed by and acknowledge the house of Major Norton. The man known to us for his exploits as a mountaineer and being a member of two expeditions on Mount Everest in 1923 & 1924.


1924 Group Photo

His house was almost opposite Morstead Church just before the road forks, left to Longwood & Upham , right over Jackman’s Hill through Owslebury Bottom to Owslebury.




I have just ordered a copy from Amazon.uk

Diaries of Edward Norton, James Mallory & Andrew Irvine.

While there are some well known characters and gentry who were at one time residents of Owslebury , I think Major Teddy deserves additional recognition. I wonder where he was buried


Pens,Ink & Watercolour

20th Nov. 2016

The Ballpoint and the Keyboard killed handwriting.

I love to write with a fountain pen. To see the shape of the neat and tidy letters flowing onto the paper is immensely satisfying.
My everyday writing is not at all refined, but on picking up a real pen everything seems to change.

In primary school we first learned to write with chalk on lined slates in a simple script from of letter with blocky capitals . I think it would have been 3 years later that steel nibbed dip pens and joined-up writing began. Back then the neatness of your writing gained you a high proportion of your marks. As I recall my penmanship was above average, but far from calligraphic .

We were taught to hold pen in a relaxed light but firm grip so that consistent flowing script glided across the page . When I see folks of the later ” biro ” generation holding a writing implement, with fingers engaged in as in a death grip determined to strangle the life out of the thing and the inconsistent, undisciplined handwriting that results, I am forced to question what transpires in the writing classes of early education today. Since it results in such illegible writing, surely if it is not legible, then it is clearly not writing .

In my late teens I took pleasure doing pen and ink drawings of old buildings and country scenes, some which were given a gentle watercolour wash. Upon leaving School at 15 I briefly considered a position as a graphic artist for a local agricultural business, SCATS, but my father wisely guided me instead, toward an engineering apprenticeship. As part of my apprenticeship I attended tech. college where it was necessary to take notes in haste and over the next 4 years my handwriting deteriorated to ungainly ugly scribble .

The end product of my Engineering apprenticeship was graduating into the drawing office, where a consistently neat blocky script is demanded .  Being required to retrain my hand led to simple calligraphy and using italic nibbed pens.  This in turn prompted a return to occasionally sketching for pleasure.

Taking pleasure in art reentered my life again when I set up a picture framing business in the ’80’s and now that I am retired and less mobile I have again returned to sketching and watercolours . Fistly attracted by a 3 day travel sketching event on Quadra Island –


My my recent recommencement was prompted with the arrival of our wet season in October, and reflecting on the beautiful watercolour paintings produced by my sister Kate, until her death in January.  As a tribute of thanks to her I hope to collect as many photos of her work as possible and present them in a slide show.

On a recent visit to Qualicum I browsed the pen box in the antique shop and found two fine gold nibbed Sheaffer fountain pens from the late 30’s for $10 one needed a new bladder which I obtained from Pensacs USA for $3 each 🙂 . Thus if you are so inclined there are beautiful pens to be had for very little and there is no need to spend the high prices that collectors have created for a fine writing pen . There is real pleasure to be had in simple things and pride to be taken from a letter in a neat and tidy script style that is yours and yours alone – Get a fountain pen and get writing for Christmas 🙂

My Christmas Cards this year will be carrying a message written with ink and one of these pens in a distinctive neat hand and with love !


Plein Air Watercolour- DIY Easel Kit

17th Oct. 2016

Plein Air Watercolour- DIY  Easel Kit


My Plein Air Kit

Crystal Cove – McKenzie Beach, Tofino


Making do using the Walkstool as a table 🙁

I occasionally , and usually while camping take along a small watercolour kit to do some travel sketching . Finding a spot where it is both comfortable to sit and have good sight of the subject is not easy .

On a recent trip to Crystal Cove on my first day found a conveniently sited picnic table . The following day I moved to the beach proper where I spread my stuff out along a beached log and impovised a table on my folding 3 legged stool . While this worked it was not very satisfactory as brushes rolled away my water pot slipped off which caused me to hasten my work and retreat thinking I needed to think of ways improve my setup .

The outcome of this is described  here.
“Light and Compact ” being the two main criteria .

Working Desk top

A compact camera tripod from a local thrift shop became the foundation.
First I made a work surface from a piece of leftover 3/8″ polycarbonate twin-wall greenhouse material by gluing a plywood block to it with a 1/4″ UNC threaded insert centred in it . This serves to conveniently attach the board to the tripod.

Kit Box


Lid opened ready to hang on tripod

That done I began to think in greater detail about how to have my painting gear arranged and handily accessible. I decided that a tray hung from the tripod legs was the best option – this idea grew, just like topsy, it evolved into a box with hinged lid and swing out extension on the right side on which I could mount my pallette and water reservoirs and magnetic strip to retain those errant rolling brushes.



Clasp Catch


Box joints & hinges


Pallette arm with imbedded magnets

I have two travel painting kits – One being ultra light minimalist one made from a VCR tape case . A more complete Plein Air kit was small video camera travel case about 12″ w x 10″ l x 3″ deep with shoulder strap and handle .


Ready to paint .

The two water reservoirs are a shallow a lidded tin & secured with magnets. The adhesive magnet strip in the center is to retain the brushes.


All Set!

My lightweight three legged alloy stool is from Lee Valley – called “WalkStool”
It is light and very stable and available in 3 heights.

All of this is very light and can be slipped into a small backpack making it both comfortable and convenient to carry a distance over rough terrain .


A Pretty Girl – Ultrasonics – A Watermark

11th May 2016

Winchester Cathedral

Watermarked image on handmade paper at Laverstoke Mill 1960’s

This is a watermarked image given to me in 1991, but the story behind this goes back to 1963 .

At this time I was working as a draftsman for Pitt Trailers Barton Stacey when I first saw this beautiful girl the had just joined the company . I don’t recall our first date but we shared many walks along the lanes of the village and later married.
My career path lead me to working at Plessy’s a secret research establishment near Romsey – Roke Manor where such things as Hawkeye the tennis adjudication system and EPL’s Goal Line tech was developed . I was then working on ECM’s ( Electronic Counter Measures aka Jammers ) along with Ultrasound Fetal detection and using ultrasonics for micro machining ceramic components and welding fine electrical wire connections.

Back to the pretty girl ; I was introduced to her large family of Coopers, the youngest of which, Hilda , Lived in Freefolk , had two young daughters Alison and Susan who we often baby sat . Hilda’s husband Chas. Mitchell was the general manager of Laverstoke Mill that produced watermarked Banknote paper. He and I got on very well and discussed many things including his business.

At this time Laverstoke Mill produced the watermarking moulds for the bank note paper used around the world . This is a precise, time consuming process and hence very expensive . My work with ultrasonic welding seemed to offer a less costly option which I shared with Chas at that time . I do not know if he implemented this or not as for bank security reasons their work was very secret .

Move on now to 1991,  I am living in Canada with a picture framing business specialising in conservation work . I read reports from England that many of UK’s fine handmade paper mills are closing and thinking that Laverstoke could soon follow I contacted Chas, by then then retired, and asked if any images were available . True to his nature he sent me the above image along with a set of his own watermarked stationary which I duly conservation framed between glass .

Updated May 19th

My research has taken on a life of its own. Having contacted and been given help  from Jean Stirk and Peter Bower I have found info at http://calm.hants.gov.uk/Overview.aspx which suggests that this image is a comemorative of Her Majesty the Queen distributing “Maundy Money ” at Winchester Cathedral Christmas 1979 and may have be created from a pen and ink drawing of the cathedral by Reg Walters dated 1979 also in the archive .

There is a strong correlation here :

with this information about Winchester Cathedral and the Portal family:

“And another unidentified one, the excellent memorial to the Portal family, with portraits of the two most illustrious members in stone, and a full sized angel with uplifted wings, long hair and a symbolist face of art nouveau date. The arresting picture is completed with good drapery, clinging on the body, swirling round the feet.”

Laverstoke Mill 2016

Laverstoke Mill is now the home of Bombay Gin and thus far I have not been able to find out much about the last days of this historic handmade paper facility or its skilled staff.  Should any readers have information to share in particular about the artists who created these beautiful works of art please contact me . thornton.tom1@gmail.com

Here are links to related documents and materials :

Hand Made Paper :


Watermarking :



Ultrasonic Welding



Laverstoke Mill History:




Portal History :




How to get Clear Clean sound from Yamaha DGX 640

19th Dec. 2015

I have owned my Yamaha DGX-640 for about 2 years . For much of that time I have been trying to resolve some weird base sounds when the ACMP is turned on . today while nurdling around I noticed that the “Style” volume was at 75% . When I turned it down ti Zero the noises were eliminated. Sinve I do not use the “Styles” facility I went through all my bank settings and reset the “Style” volumes to “0”

Now my playing sound much better and I am happy with the output quality.
I hope this helps others  as there is no help in the Yamaha manual.


OLD Video Tapes – Digitizing with Roxio Capture USB – Software for Mac Download

Sunday October 18th 2015

I was tasked with rescuing 20 Video8 tapes recorded during the ’80’s. A friend loaned me a USB Roxie Capture device , but had misplaced the software Mac 🙁

The process here is to create a digital copy of the original tapes and then edit them into individual movies using iMovie then export them to DVD’s for distribution with either Toast or iDVD

I have Roxie Toast Titanium 11 but surprisingly it did not recognize the device .
After weeks of searching I found a response to a similar situation with a download link for the software here :


Two versions are available for download both worked perfectly for me 🙂

Since this software is so difficult to find, I thought it a good idea to spread the word 🙂

Happy digitizing