Thursday 27 December 2018


Having spent several years researching the remarkable life of Jago Stone, I had inevitably discovered the Ancestry website. I am providing a link - press here - but note my caveat: make sure you are prepared for what may follow. At the very least, justify in advance the hours spent at the screen pursuing the Ancestry hints about family members and reflecting on the fleeting nature of a life span.

A chance return of a memory of my grandad in Canterbury prompted the research I began a couple of months ago. That memory had been sparked by the sorting through of my study that had led to a rearrangement of the photos and art-work propped up against the banisters on the landing. I was now waking to the sight, through the open bedroom door, of the image of my grandad - Benjamin Bertie Blissett (1884-1964) - that my mum had gifted me sometime between 1992 and 1994. This would have been after the death of Don, my father, and before her own death in January 1995 at the age of 84.

A fine image - and thanks to the miracle of photo-shop software there is even reflected in the glass over the picture a faint trace of me taking the photo with stainless steel watch strap catching the light. Grandad and grandson.

Grandad has become for me a figure to celebrate. As a child, however, I had been steered well clear of him. My mum was conflicted about her working-class origins from a terraced street in Canterbury but one part of her was always firmly rooted in that Kentish cathedral city where she started work as a girl in Finch's making sweets before attracting the attention of the young army sergeant  from a terraced street in Sidcup in north Kent - my father-to-be - who married her in 1930. Every year or so, there was the ritual visit to be made - she and me, her little son, during a primary school holiday - to the city of her birth. All this, courtesy of an East Kent coach that stopped half-way for the passengers to enjoy a comfort break and food at a carefully selected hostelry. 'Don't forget the tip for the driver!' became a catch-phrase at home. From Bexley, now swallowed up in London, along the A2 to Canterbury and back in a day. My father never came, at least not in person.

Grandad and Gran - bottom of the garden - 72 Military Road, Canterbury - early 1950s

In the few hours that Mum had been gifted in Canterbury in 72 Military Road where she had been born, she chatted to her mum and to her brother - Uncle Sonny - and his wife, Madge, who lived next door whilst I was left to my own devices. I remember the front-room, covered completely in framed photos. No-one ever explained who they all were. The image of my grandad which I now see first thing in the morning would have been up there on one of those walls. So too the framed picture of my dad as a young soldier that my mum also gave me when I visited her, now the widow, in their unlikely home they had moved to on a housing estate in Leyland, Lancashire, when my father retired. I also remember from those Canterbury visits Uncle Sonny's pigeon-loft at the bottom of their narrow strip of garden. Next to the outdoor-toilet and in front of the wall that separated these decaying homes from the Church grounds on the other side. 

Grandad with a new family member - I never knew whose child it was; the Canterbury side of life was a bit of a mystery at times 

As for Grandad, a glimpse at best. That's when I added a new word to my emerging vocabulary:  'skulking'. As in 'Skulking off to the pub again!' One tale I overheard, I came to relish. Grandad would stand in his decrepit best on the corner of the A2 as the arterial road wended its way through the city. As the East Kent coaches slowed to ease round the bend and head off to Dover, my grandad - then in  his seventies - would reach out a begging hand to receive from the compassionate fingers of the coach-driver, leaning out of the open window, some of the tips that his own daughter had possibly contributed to earlier. Grandad thereupon proceeded to his local to buy a round of drinks. 

Grandad on drums in his prime 

In March 1963 - I can be certain of these timings thanks to Ancestry - the Gran who taught me how to play cards died of liver failure, aged 81. And a year later, in March 1964, Grandad passed away too. I recall being taken to the hospital where he died by my mum and her sister and seeing him weeping, standing in the ward, before I was escorted away, declared as too young to witness such things. Three years later I escaped to Oxford on a scholarship.  

Grandad carrying the colours with the cathedral in the background

Ancestry research has provided me with the images and details that form part of this post. My mum's photo collection yields the other precious snapshots of the life of my grandad. 

Grandad's father-in-law - my great-granddad, Edward F. Enston (1857-1938), with the model of the Canterbury gate made by him from matchsticks. My mum passed on to me the journal he had made describing his life a year before her own death. 

Here, in conclusion, the Short Service paper for my grandad, dated 1903: 



Sunday 23 December 2018


A week before Christmas, I received an email with the title: 'Jago Stone paintings from the Janzen Collection'. I held my breath as I opened it. Earlier in the year, Jenny Janzen had sent me a list of Jago Stone paintings in her collection and I have included that catalogue in 'The Remarkable Life of Jago Stone', his biography - along with images of two of the three paintings ('Elm Hill, Norwich' and 'Ye Olde Bell Inn, Hurley, Berkshire' for which Jenny had been able to send me photos. But technical difficulties had meant I could not yet see the others.

Now, out of the blue, I had this mailing. Inside, there was a message from Kristi Moore of Moore Archives & Preservation LLC - press this link here - which explained that she was providing a link to her Dropbox that had the images of all the Jago Stone paintings in the Janzen Collection - and wishing me good luck with my project! Kristi Moore - I am delighted to cite you as the photographer, here in this blog and in the book itself. And a very special thanks to you, Jenny Janzen, for enabling all this to happen. I am very grateful.

'Stocks & Market, Stow on the Wold, Cotswolds' - Jago Stone (1976)

Jenny Janzen's story detailing her connection with Jago I have already told in an earlier blog-post - 'The American Connection - Part Seven' in May 2018. Here it is again:

'Even as I was completing my biography of Jago Stone, a new American connection was being made in February this year. Jenny Janzen, from Virginia in the USA, emailed me with the story of her connection with 

Saturday 15 December 2018


At present, I am helping the Unicorn design team in preparing the images for my biography of Jago Stone that will be published on October1, 2019. As I looked through the full set, I thought it would make a great Jago post to show together all the images from one particular part of the collection that now graces the walls of our home - the six water-colours that we bought from Bertie Barrett who had been gifted them by his grandfather, Graham Newsom. Here for the first time are these Jago paintings as photographed by the talented Leo Walker of St Ives - press this link for further details of Leo and Larisa and their studio.

Untitled - Jago Stone (1971)

I can best retell the Bertie Barrett story by using the text I produced just over two years ago within two posts that I published then. Here is detail from a blog-post dated 13 November, 2016:  

It was last month, in late October, that I opened the email with the title 'The Rollright Stones'. I knew not what to expect. This time the communication came from a fifteen year old student who had discovered my 'wonderful' website and interest in Jago from a google search and wanted to know the current market value of a Jago 

Saturday 8 December 2018


As I have done before, this post is using material first seen in my monthly Mailchimp Newsletter about the Jago Stone research and biography. Here, the images and text come from the Newsletter for November, published on November 1 - and again, my apologies if you are familiar with the images and stories but for many readers, particularly those across the Pond, this will be a first-time read.

  If you know anyone you think might be interested in these mailings about 'Jago' do encourage them to follow the link to my website. Here it is:

You can also use this page to access my Jago Stone blogs.

Copies of 'The Road to Corbyn' can be purchased at a discount using this link:

In this edition, first the good news about publication. Last month, Ian Strathcarron of Unicorn Press and I signed a contract to publish 'The Remarkable Life of Jago Stone' (the new working title) in the autumn of 2019. A long road to get to this point but once Ian had read my submission email in mid-August and decided to follow his publisher's sense that this was worth following up, it's been a bit of a speedway. The final edit was in the second half of November and we are now at the design stage. The pre-press agreement is scheduled for June. The provisional date for publication is September 2019. Busy days ahead - this is a publishing and marketing partnership!

And as the publication trail got hotter, the American Connection links cooled - until early November. Here is the story of what then came my way from across the Pond through cyberspace in the shape of Facebook:

First, Carol Baker left these messages on my repost of 'Jago Stone - The American Connection - Part Seven' using the USAF veteran's webpage, RAF Upper Heyford Brats and Friends:

'From Washington look what I found on my mom's living room … We lived in England 74-78 in Sherington.'  Accompanying the text were these two images:

Banbury Cross, Oxfordshire - Jago Stone water-colour - 1978

How exciting to have two more images to add to the collection - and Jago paintings from 1978 have been thin on

Friday 7 December 2018


The first three posts in this series have given a revealing insight into Louise's exhibition in the Crypt Gallery in St Ives. In this final post, I want to share some of the reactions of those who visited the gallery during that week in mid-November.

Louise and I both remember that moment when, shortly after we had opened on the first day, Jason Calder popped in to have a look and exclaimed:

'Wow! We've never seen anything quite like this here before!'

That 'Wow!' set the tone for the week - thank you, Jason. (Jason is the co-founder of the remarkable Boathouse Theatre in St Ives - press this link here for more detail.)

'Hora by Night' (2016) is viewed by our guest, Dr Julia Bush (Photography by Leo Walker)

We had a book for visitors to record their reactions before leaving and by the end of the week forty-seven comments had appeared. Many were from visitors to St Ives. Some were from those resident in

Sunday 2 December 2018


I came across a letter from Jeremy Corbyn, writing as the Leader of the Opposition, yesterday evening as I delved into Koser Saeed's Spotlight webpage - always an interesting trawl, and on this occasion what I found is important enough to warrant wider circulation. Hence this blog-post. 

Jeremy Corbyn - PM-in-Waiting

Jeremy Corbyn regards the matters he raises in the letter to be important enough for him to make the 

Sunday 25 November 2018


In my third post in this series of four celebrating Louise Donovan's textile art exhibition in the Crypt Gallery, St Ives (November 10-16), the focus is on two pieces that have been inspired by the Greek island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea.

Louise and I first discovered Patmos in the summer of 1988 when we spent two weeks staying in the Patmian Hotel (now the Patmian Cultural Centre) by the waterfront. We loved the peace of this holy island with its important Greek Orthodox monastery at Chora (Hora), overlooking all. Next year we returned for three weeks. Since then, whenever we could afford the time and money for a vacation overseas, we have come back to Patmos for rest and recovery - and reinvigoration. Our privilege has been to savour nineteen Patmosian summers in the thirty-one years between 1988 and 2018. We have seen the island's bus driver grow old and retire, his hands no longer on the wheel. Instead, the two little children who joined him for the rides in the late 80s and 90s are now the island's bus drivers. By the 90s, the Patmian Hotel had closed and our vacations were spent in the Skala Hotel, a few metres away, where we enjoyed the perfection of being welcomed and looked after and respected, year in and year out.

The view from Chora downhill towards Skala on the island of Patmos

As a couple, we have travelled less widely than many others - but the opportunity to know local people over such a time-span has been such a gift. Michael and Elvira Kessetzis became the jewellers we always went to for a holiday purchase and soon they became our friends. The battering that the Greeks have taken from their northern European Community members has left so many people ruined; Michael has moved his business to Kos to make ends meet. Elvira and Michael's permanent

Friday 23 November 2018


I have a number of audiences for my Jago Stone blog-posts and one of the most important are the American readers - in particular the men and women who knew Jago the artist when they were serving their USAF tour-time in the UK at RAF Upper Heyford in the 1970s and 1980s and their children. I have been granted access to two USAF webpages and I have been reposting my series of 'JAGO STONE - THE AMERICAN CONNECTION' posts on their sites over the last few months and they have been read by over a thousand Americans and liked by eighty to date. 

Here - in AMERICAN CONNECTION - PART 9 - I am using material from an October 2018 blog post  called:'JAGO' - ANOTHER UPDATE ON THE PATH TO PUBLICATION.

This in turn was recycling material from my October Mailchimp Newsletter that had been opened by 34 subscribers. Hopefully, this will be a fruitful way to widen the circle of those who have heard the continuing good news about the path to publication and gives me the chance to tell again the Scheid family story that came my way through cyberspace. Here's the post:

'There are now, as I promised, more Jago stories and images from the other side of the Pond. Here is one that came my way in late August this year. On 22 August, 2018, Gene Scheid made contact through Facebook and gifted me a couple of images of the painting that Jago had made of the family house in West Adderbury, Oxfordshire. In response to my request for more detail and stories, Gene replied: 'Sure! My mother, Roxann Cummings Scheid has a great story how he came about painting this for us and I am sure she would be happy to share.' Here is Roxann's tale (dated 29/08/2018): 
'Absolutely! I've been meaning to get on and tell you! I loved this man. When we moved there wasn't much television. It was shortly after they had added the "Breakfast Shows" and Jago was one of the featured guests on one of these shows. He told about his painting of Sulgrave Manor. He did it for the Flying Tigers to present to the President. My memory is cloudy about this next part but I believe it was for Gerald Ford.' [Yes - the year was 1976 and it was Jago's gift to mark the bicentennial of the founding of the USA. Sulgrave Manor was the ancestral home of George Washington and not far from Upper Heyford.]

'At the time I saw this broadcast it was still hanging in the White House. I was so taken by his story that I researched how to contact him. I asked him to paint our first home in England - #1 St Amends, West Adderbury. Now we were living on Whitley Drive on RAF Upper Heyford. We commissioned him for this piece, he did it - and 

brought it to our home. Money was never discussed. This would have been around 1982. [The painting is dated 

Thursday 22 November 2018


In my second post in this series of four celebrating Louise Donovan's exhibition in the Crypt Gallery in St Ives, Cornwall (November 10-16), my focus is on Louise's political textile art. In the first post - press this link here - 'The March for the Alternative' (2012) was highlighted. Now, in this blog-post, there are two more examples of political textile art from the exhibition that warrant closer attention.

First, here is the piece that Louise exhibited in the NEC Birmingham in 2015 at the annual Festival of Quilts: 'Gaza' (2015).

Gaza - Louise Donovan (2015)

The original inspiration for this work came from a newspaper cutting - a Sunday colour magazine page - that showed a devastated urban landscape in Gaza, the buildings flattened, with one piece of red, velvety fabric covering a pile of house debris in an otherwise grey picture of devastation. That image is lost. The picture below carries a similar message of hope and life amid the destruction - red

Sunday 18 November 2018


Louise Donovan is my wife but put that relationship to one side and enjoy her works of art for what they are - the fruit of a singular talent who combines a striking command of colour and form in her abstract textile art with the traditional stitching by hand that means each piece emerges from many hours of loving work.

The March for the Alternative - Louise Donovan (2012)

This is the break-through piece when Louise becomes the textile artist, creating in abstract form the real events and feelings of an historic event in 2011 - the mass protest against Austerity. 

Her first solo exhibition has just drawn to a close here in St Ives at the Crypt Gallery, Norway Square. It ran from the 10th to 16th of November - seven hours a day for seven days; 49 hours of

Tuesday 13 November 2018


Some of the material for this post was first published at the beginning of November in the Jago Stone monthly newsletter. I am, as ever, seeking to widen the circulation of news about the research into his life and the forthcoming biography.

'And as the publication trail got hotter, the American Connection links cooled - until the last few days. Here is the story of what has come my way from across the Pond through cyberspace in the shape of Facebook:

Three days ago, Carol Baker left these messages on my repost of 'Jago Stone - The American Connection - Part Seven' using the USAF veteran's webpage: RAF Upper Heyford Brats and Friends:
'From Washington look what I found on my mom's living room … We lived in England 74-78 in Sherington.'  Accompanying the text were these two images:

Banbury Cross, Oxfordshire - Jago Stone water-colour - 1978

How exciting to have two more images to add to the collection - and Jago paintings from 1978 have been thin on the ground. 

Cottages at Wroxton St Mary - Jago Stone water-colour - 1978

Yesterday, the commentary at the bottom of the reposted American Connection - Part Seven was further enriched by this message from Dianna DAiello:

'My dad has 2 pictures from Jago Stone, one has my name in it. He painted them in our living room. I remember that he was a very interesting man. I will send pictures to you today, I'm at my dad's now.'

And there they were. Two magnificent Jago Stone palette-knife paintings from 1976, the same year that Jago painted the palette-knife now in the collection of Keith and Joan Goodenough in Virginia - see my two palette-knife blog-posts on my website, using these links:

As Jessica Raber, the American artist who appeared in a Jago painting aged 5, commented yesterday when she saw these images: 'Wow! Cool palette knife pieces!'

I am blown away by being gifted these images and seeing yet more of Jago at his 'post-prison expressionist best.

I obviously hope for more detail and stories and sharper images - but I am so grateful for what I have got - and the opportunity I now have to share this find with you, my Mailchimp readers.' 

And so the news is recycled to wider audiences still.