Home » Blog » A year in the Tarn » Search and research

Search and research

Today, I have been looking at several subjects as the current group of paintings is almost complete.

I have the marine painting “Cattewater Plymouth, Australia bound emigrants prepare to board the clipper ship Samuel Plimsoll” 98% finished, here is a detail, I’ll show you this complete major painting on this blog any day noPlymouth_Cattewater__emigrants_bound_for_Australia__detail_IMG_7400_d.jpgw.

I have been looking for good photographs of HM Submarine Unique. I found a link that took me to the Submariners Association only the page was blank.

Or was it? I am reminded of the joke about the model of a stealth ship in a museum, it goes some what like this, “The models were wonderful, so detailed until I got to the Stealth ship, the case was empty… or was it?”

Why the  British U class submarine HMS Unique?

I am preparing a painting for the son of her last commander Lt R.E. Boddington.

British U class submarines are not to be confused with the German U Boats.

The U class were a class of 49 small submarines all of which had names beginning with ‘U’, built just before and during the Second World War originally intended as unarmed training vessels.

The boats ( in the Royal Navy submarines are called boats never ships…) mostly served in the home waters and with the 10th Submarine Flotilla based at Malta.

The submarine Unique was part of a second batch, the group included a number of submarines that would  become particularly famous.

There was a grim price though, only three out of the twelve survived the war.

Unique became overdue after being ordered to patrol on the surface off the Spanish Atlantic coast.

Her loss with all hands has never been explained.

My submarine painting will be a special family memorial and tribute to the lads who never came home.


I am also trying to find out how to define the ensigns flown by British war ships during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.

We know there were Admirals of the Blue, Red and White so the questions are who flew which ensign, where and why, did the ships under their commands fly the same colour ensign?

I’d particularly like to know which colour ensign was flown at Gibraltar on the 10th December 1796 by HMS Captain and HMS Minerve? Gib__dit_014.04.10_IMG_7222_d.jpg

While in that period It would also help to find some or all of the flags and signals of Admiral Popham’s code (published 1803), or at least some of the more famous signals.

One of the reasons for this supplementary question is I am about to begin a marine painting of the action in which the Spanish frigate Mercedes, carrying near a million in treasure, tragically blew up and sank


Also on the stocks is a marine painting I have been ‘threatening’ to produce for about 6 years, a new version of Trafalgar Dawn

( http://www.frickers.co.uk/marine-art/trafalgar_dawn.html ) only this time we will see the view not from HMS Victory but from the French Flag ship Bucentaure.

I have the research as complete as I can manage although as usual with historical scenes it is only a best guess all be it a very well informed guess.

Typical of the problem is the French seamen  did not always conform to the regulation book issued by Napoleon in 1803.

Similarly we do not know exactly what the order of the  British fleet was so have to estimate some of the ships and this after reading logs and eye witness accounts ~ unless you know better in which case tell me and I’ll see you have a complimentary copy of the picture, one of our Prestige prints on cotton canvas, numbered and signed, the sort of collectors item you can order from the www.frickers.co.uk Marine Print Gallery (http://www.frickers.co.uk/prints.html)


This week in the Tarn,  following 2 days of some times heavy rain we have had clear blue and mostly vapour trail less skies with temperatures over 10 C at night climbing to the high twenties during the days.

The light has been at it’s luminous best. Vallee_de_Vere_IMG_7279_d.jpg

This is spring in the Tarn and forests of Siven and Grisigne although to me it feels like high summer in Cornwall.

The birds and small animals here know better and are apt, minds focused on procreational problems, to forget their curb drill so most of us drive at not over the speed limits here because it makes sense and besides the wee beasties lives are hard enough with out some nitwit doning 90 mph instead of 90 kph.

They make a heck of an ‘amoure’ driven racket including at night constantly reminding me I exist very alone.

The bird song here is constant including our first cockoo over 2 months ago and nightingales at night to accompany the crickets and singing of frogs – and for frogs I mean frogs, not the Toulouse Rugby supporter sort, these are more likely to be heron’s dinner sort of frogs,  they can be very noisy in full passion!FR_ricks_detail_IMG_7215_d.jpg

This evening about 20.00 I went for an evening run by the lakes at Vere one of which is a summer pool drained over each winter, being refilled now.

I do not kid you, you could hear the joyous frogs at least 300 yards away maybe more!

My only problem is my shared studio is to small for meduim sizes paintings which causes problems while painting any picture over 2′ wide as it is adequat to get to the right viewing distances.

Eventually I’ll have to move but to where and how much will it cost?

I have often wished I was painting landscapes and building on the tan I acquired after Easter at the Antibes Yacht Show however the demands of marine art are holding me in the studio.

The roads are suffering  – again… This time it is shrinkage that is the problem, Chasse Deformer is a frequent road sign around here as surfaces distort some quite dangerously.

Difficult for drivers but it is never a good idea to speed around here not so much because of the flick rather the plants and animal wild life are having a great time particularly the latter.

Went to Gaillac, shopping for food, not exciting ?

The first of the new fruits are “in”. h

Huge baskets of huge succulent strawberries, 1.5 Euro, the first melons a euro each, and lots of other delicious foods are appearing all cheap,  little wonder French women are not fat like so many Brits and Americans.

We have so many very tastey healthy things to eat here in the temperate South West of France; I had half a perfectly ripened melon for breakfast, great start to the day. Campagnac_IMG_7273_d.jpg

It is a novelty for me with my roots in S E England in the aftermath of the second world war, ration cards, oranges a luxury for Christmas, I still think of these foods as luxuries but they are not luxuries here, nor is asparagus, artichoke and a tasty heap of other good eating.

Well yes this is a flawed paradise, chocolate melts.