Well I told there would be a break between blogs as I went into my 40th Birthday period which is still ongoing. I am 40 today, but I began celebrating this over a week ago as I began my travels north and then south. I will try to give a flavour of my week – but I am sure I will fall short of conveying what really happened.

First of all, I want to thank all my friends who have made this week such a special one and to say to them (as I know they are avid Roblog fans) it was great to see you all.

Now if you want a blow-by-blow account, read on…..

Well I knew that having a 40th birthday party was not going to happen as all my friends and family live all over the shop and some of whom i had too many bridges to build due to my poor abilities to keep in touch. So, I decided to go up to Aberdeen for about 5 days. to catch up with my dad, my old art school lecturing pals and even older friends from my teenage years. Those of you who are regulars on my blog will be used to me explaining the minutia of my travel arrangements, and so I will endeavour to maintain this tradition here.

On Friday 26th Nov, I got my early train (05.45) to teach at Rochester as normal and from Rochester I went to London in the evening to stay at David’s (Brother in Law) pad in Kentish Town. Had a few beers on my own as this was the start of my birthday holiday. Fell asleep on a blow up bed watching Johnathan Ross on TV.

On Saturday 27th Nov, I was invited round to Billy and Ohna’s Thanksgiving meal at their house in Finsbury Park. We had a great spread with Turkey etc, and I spent a wonderful night eating and drinking with Billy, Ohna, Dug, Nicki, Jed, Ruth, Apoa, Kiloh and Crystal. Great company!! Slept on the sofa in drunken heap!

Only to have to wake up by 05.00am on Sunday 28th to get a taxi to Luton Airport to catch the Easyjet flight to Aberdeen. (which I did) After an uneventful flight (apart from a clear view over Aberdeen as we approached the airport), I got a taxi straight to Joe Fan and Fiona Dick’s house. I arrived at 9.00am on Sunday morning, so I arrived and went out for an early morning walk through the town on my own to get myself reacquainted with the place. It was weird as it is so familiar to me, but also now a bit alien. All the Christmas shoppers seemed to be very closed emotionally as I wandered about….

I met up with Joe, Fiona and their delightful 2-year-old daughter Maisy at the Yangtze River Chinese Restaurant for a fantastic Dim Sum.

Afterwards, it was off the the WASPS artists studios which had moved from where I remember it. I used to have a WASPS studio in the old Guild Base building in Aberdeen but it is now just a pile of rubble waiting for yet another shopping centre to be built. Anyway, Joe and I went down to visit the new place, and sure enough there was Michaeland Blair watching Celtic play Dundee on the telly, with a fridge full of beer and a dart board. Great way to spend a Sunday afternoon in Aberdeen, and a hark back to my old studio where I had a telly, internet and a bed. Michael Agnew is a printmaking lecturer at Gray’s and a wonderful artist. It was great to see him along with Davie, Gordon, Nicki and a whole bunch of others who popped into the studios throughout the afternoon as Celtic drew with Dundee and then Rangers beat the Hearts 3 -2. (Apparently all because of a protestant conspiracy by the SFA).

The studios are on four floors and Joe took me up to see his work, which was wonderful as ever. Finally, went back to Joe and Fiona’s to eat and drink yet more before retiring to the sofabed.

I met Allan Watson (head of Sculpture at Grays School of Art) early on Monday 29th in the ASDA car park at Garthdee. Only because he was driving a groups of students out to the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Lumsden. The students were stocking up on food and alcohol for a cold week making sculpture in the highlands. I was taking advantage of the trip in order to visit my father, Fred Bushe, who is the former director of the workshop, now retired, but still living along the road. I had not seen my Dad for over a year. He has become quite frail and housebound in recent years , but this is not the place to discuss this.

I had to get a bus from Huntly back to Aberdeen later in the day and I got back just in time to got the Foyer Restaurant Gallery, where a former Grays student, Nicola Brookes, was having an opening of her work. So, yet more drink and nibbles and more old friends to catch up with. It was great to see Keith Grant, Simon Ward, Andy Cranston, (who all work at Grays) and Barry McGlashan and his wife Wendy. Ended up in a couple of pubs with Joe, Simon, Wendy and Barry and got back to Joe’s at 1.30am where we proceeded to drink more and talk about painting. This was the shape of the week as you will now be learning.

Hungover, on Tuesday 30th Nov, I trotted up Barry and Wendy’s house, to have a bowl of soup, try to fix their computer, and have a look at Barry’s studio and some of the fabulous painting he is doing for the John Martin Gallery for next April. They are all based on his trips to America and he has caught to mood of (I think) Maine beautifully.
I just missed the number 11 bus to take me back into the toon centre, so I walked through a biting cold wind, to visit the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Peacock Visual Arts. It was nice to see some old favourites in the Gallery, but the BP Portrait Award (which I had seen in London) had not yet opened yet.

In the afternoon, I trotted all the way down the beach, and more specifically to the Washington Cafe to meet my great friend Ashley. THis is where we often met when I lived in Aberdeen (or the next door Inversnecky cafe) and it was good to catch up over severla mugs of tea. Went back to Ashley’s flat (where once I dwelt for a further catching session and I eventually walked back to Joe’s who had cooked a yet another wonderful meal (with a few beers).

On wednesday (1st Dec) I walked once again down to the beach, but this time to the village of Footdee (fittae) to visit another wonderful artist and former collegue, Joyce Cairns and her husband Robert. Joyce retired earlier this year after having worked at Grays since the 70s. She will be sorely missed at the college. Some fantastic soup and rolls and a bottle of red wine later I staggered away and got the bus back to the WASPS studios, where I was to meet Joe and all the gang for an email out at the Foyer restaurant to celebrate mine and Simon Ward’s 40th birthday, (which was a pleasant coincidence.) A great time was had by all and thank you to Michael, Claire, Joe, Fiona, Joyce, Robert, Simon, Barry, Craig, Allan and Andy ( I think that was it) for a wonderful night, which ended at one of Aberdeen’s oldest remaining pubs – ‘The Grill’.

Thursday the 2nd, started in a peaceful state of a hangover right up until I re-checked my travel arrangements back to London. I had thought that I was due to fly back at .30 that evening, but to my horror, I discovered that was meant to fly at 7.30 that morning. AAARGGG! I was buggered. After some frantic phoning for trains and other flights, I had to book a flight back to London which cost over £150. The original price for my return flight was only £60. Thank you Joe for helping me out there.

So. after that panic, which I am still recovering from, as it was just down to my own stupidity, it back to my original plan of visiting Gray’s School of Art for lunch. Andy gave me a tour of the studios and I met up with Keith, Michael, Andy and Craig. I was a real nostalgia trip me having taught there for over 7 years ( I left in 1999). Ashley picked me up from the art school and took me down to the beach once again (the Washington for coffee) and after a quick trip into John Lewis, Ashley drove me out the airport to catch my new flight. Of course the flight was delayed due fog over the whole of britain and I did not get back to Kentish town until 12.30am. David was staying there that night and he had put out the blow up bed for me.

Friday 3rd: Not much sleep as I had to get up to catch a train back to work at Rochester. This was a had day as I was tired, and irritable all day. Sorry colleagues!!. Got back to Kentish Town again and drank four beers and sunk into the blow up bed once again and stayed there until 1 the next day.

Sat 4th: Somehow I made my way to meet Billy in a pub after he had been to an Arsenal game (Gunners 3 – Birmingham 0), where after hooking up with Ohna went for a Turkish meal and then on the main event of the evening – a Punk Rock Karaoke with a live band at the Garage in Highbury Corner. This was fantastic with a great mix of old and young and the band were incredible. Highly recommended. I sang Jilted John by Jilton John and went down a storm!!!. HONEST. I was peeled into a taxi in the wee hours and crashed at Billy’s, who took me for a hangover breakfast on Archway roundabout.

Sunday 5th: Last day of being 39. Hungover, tired and bloated on a train back to Hastings, to which would turn into a bus replacement service halfway down. So, it was nice to have met my freind Ditte who was also travelling down. I was ready for my bed!!! and not ready for a birthday.

Monday 6th December! My 40th Birthday!! Claire, David, Harper and Mae were all waiting for me to get up to wish me a happy birthday and to give me some presents ( the highlight of which a DAB radio which is great). Claire and David took me to a fantastic restaurant in Battle called Pilgrims at lunch time and then I took myself off to the pictures to see The Incredibles in the afternoon. Bliss – a lovely birthday. Thanks too to all those who sent me emails and phone calls – phew and I still have a night out with my Hastings chums next Saturday.

Well – this will probably be the longest single blog I will ever do! But I wanted some record of a great week even though it is mainly about my eating a drinking habits. Well back to the painting tomorrow!!! I wonder if I can do it anymore…..