• Julie Wetenhall


Why a buzzard’s skull and a pressure cooker?

It involves a grandson’s mini Natural History Museum, preparing a skull using grandma’s old pan and grandad being inspired to paint what could happen.

This is how it came about.

About 35 years ago I came home from work to find my son Adam doing something in the garage and there was a simply terrible smell. This turned out to come from a dead squirrel which Adam was dissecting.

Well, the garage is my domain so I asked. “Adam, why on earth are you doing that in the garage?" His reply---- "Because mum won't let me do it in the kitchen! "

Adam grew up to be a successful vet.

Move on to the present day and Adam is the proud father of 3 sons. The youngest, Joseph, like any young lad, collects things - natural things - shells, feathers, bones, small animal skulls and his collection is housed in the old Wendy House in the garden. It’s a bit like a mini Pitt Rivers museum.

One day we get an e-mail request from Joseph. “Grandma, if you still have your old pressure cooker, please may I have it?

What’s all this about?

Well, apparently, recently, he and his dad came across a buzzard which had been hit by a car. “Ah”, thinks Joseph, “this could be the prize exhibit - a buzzard's head” (sounds better if you call it a skull)! To convert a head into a skull requires cleaning and this is done by boiling it to remove all the flesh and feathers.

Funny old thing .......... his mum won't let him do that in the kitchen - so he does it outside on a primus stove.

That uses too much gas and is expensive so, if this is to become regular event (and it will) he needs to keep the price down ……………… and that's where the pressure cooker comes in - a lot faster and cheaper.

This started my creative juices flowing so I asked him for a photo of the skull and that became the source for this work:


I wanted something that made you think, something that offered movement and something that tried to get this old aviator back into the sky. The pressure on everyone is increasing these days and, like the buzzard, we all want to escape and break free.

John Ashton

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