Monday, 30 November 2009

Oh What A Life for the progress account of the exhibition I am holding on the End Of A Life for my website if you want to email me

Well Folks. What A Life.

Today you need to know the story of this wonderful exhibition I am holding about the last few weeks, days and day of my wonderful former partner's life as he died of cancer. It is called "A Graceful Death" and it is my story of how Steve and I managed to approach his death. It is my journey in paintings, describing how I felt about his failing health and how I felt about loosing him. It also concentrates on the power of life in the last few days. How the human body is not just a victim of disease, but a vehicle for this mysterious thing called Life that is so inexplicable.

I have worked very hard to put together the exhibition, and was offered a venue by the Quakers who understood the power of what I am doing. I wanted to raise money for the two local hopsices, and to raise awareness of the end of life and palliative care. Gosh, I received such a wonderful welcome and support. The hospices could not do enough to help and I was grateful for such experienced help.

The paintings are amazing. Some are hard to look at but all are strong and loving. On seeing them, so many people have found them familiar - their grandfather, or uncle, or mother, or friend, died of cancer like this. Instead of recoiling, they want to talk, tell me their story and connect with the images that are, actually, familiar to them.

I cannot tell you the amount of interest and support I have received for this tiny but raw exhibition. Donations are coming in all the time for the hospices, and that is wonderful.

Some of Steve's relatives have orchestrated a sudden campaign to have the exhibition closed down. The hospices have had to withdraw their public support for the exhibition, which I understand. They cannot be involved in a disagreement. The Quakers too have had to withdraw their support and the venue was cancelled yesterday. They cannot, as an organisation, be seen to be involved in a disagreement.

Oh how sad this is. How is it that the very people who are lost in their own pain and fury are able to make such a fuss? Well, my heart goes out to them. This is precisely why I am holding the Graceful Death exhibition in the first place, to enable a discussion about death and end of life. Steve died. He lived with me and I cared for him every moment I could, even in the hospital and hospice. I changed him when he was incontinent. I knew he wanted orange segments to eat. I knew how to hold his head when it was too heavy for him to lift. And I held him when he could not find his safe place. He talked to me during those final months of all he had hoped for, and asked me to stay with him always. He asked me to marry him and if he was well, I would have. He posed for the photos I took of him to paint him and giggled when we discussed how they would look. Steve was a very unusual and free thinking man. He loved challenges and loved my painting. Some of the paintings I did before he died he kept in his room in the hospital. Steve was a strong and deeply spiritual man, sometimes I thought him too wise for this world.

So I have this exhibition that is being closed down before it is even shown by just a few of Steve's relatives who are hurting so badly they are lashing out.

I have another venue and the show will go on. Since the withdrawal of the hospices and Quakers, I have been overwhelmed with support and offers of more venues. The opening night is still Monday 7 December, from 6pm to 8pm. If you would like to know more, please email me for details on

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Oh So Late. A Dramatic Moment In A Storm.

Here I am at ten minutes to one in the morning. There is, for my benefit, a thunder storm raging outside. Hail rattles my windows as I sit at the computer; hail, wind and rain amongst deafening thunder and forked white lightening out in the black night (the garden), and I feel This Is It. I am an Artist. Only Artists sit late at night in thunder storms and do Stuff in the Studio. Only Artists sit deep into the early hours driven by the need in their Souls to Create and if we are lucky, we get Matching Weather to make us feel special. (And it would be nice if someone could take a picture of us to prove it, but everyone is asleep and you can't take one of yourself and pretend it was a friend that you didn't even see you were so busy being Dramatic and Arty.)

I am not so much creating as preparing. Tomorrow I have a long heavy day. I visit my local hospice in the morning to listen to an interview done of one of their patients. A quick visit back home to see 19 Year Old Daughter who is really poorly with the flu, and then I go to a meeting in London. This is followed by a Christmas Fair I am doing with Eileen, where we will share a stand and probably chat for the whole evening. Both of us think along the same lines and one of us will have snacks and the other will have a thermos of tea. This is the third certainty of life. 1. We are born. 2. We die 3. Eileen will have the snacks and I will have the tea.

I won't be back to Bognor Regis until after midnight. It is possible that my very poorly 19 Year Old Daughter will need tea as soon as I get home, no matter what the time is. She sees me and she needs tea. It is a neural pathway thing now, after all these years, and it is best to just accept it. Eileen will be with me and will also need tea. I have a bit of a reputation with tea so I will probably join them and lo. It will be another very late night.

13 Year Old Son is no longer Bill Sykes. It was the last night tonight, and he did well to last for four consecutive late nights acting his heart out (and barely missing a GBH charge by a whisker as Bill Sykes, the ruffian and murderer, as 13 Year Old Son does a kind of method acting approach) after a long day at school. His day starts at 8.20 and finishes at 4.30. He also has Saturday school, finishing at midday. So it will be interesting to see how long it takes Bill to slip out of his psyche, and for my nice football mad slightly quirky boy to return. I fear that there was a bet placed last night for Bill to ad lib during the tense and dramatic last scene. This is where Nancy's body is found and someone says they saw a man running away. What did he look like? was the cue and 13 Year Old Son called from off stage "Dressed in black and Sexy". I was not there for tonight's performance, and only collected him after the last curtain call. I suspect that it went ahead because 13 Year Old Son got out of his costume and into his uniform (with full black stage make up giving him big black bushy beard, huge black eyebrows and stubble on his neck. He looked from a distance like a wierd hairy pirate trying to pass in a crowd as a school boy), and went off to collect money from certain giggling and admiring members of the cast. I simply don't want to know.

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Angels Are Up And Flying In The Oxmarket In Chichester And Bill Sykes Gets His Debut for an account of the exhibition I am putting on in December in Chichester on the End Of A Life with Cancer for my website if you want to contact me
Here is a Teapot Angel to make you want another cup of tea.

We hung the Angels up on Sunday, they are in full glory in the Oxmarket Gallery in the foyer. Eileen came and helped me, and took photographs of them on the Saturday so that she can make prints, and then helped me hang them on the Sunday. We were only the Foyer Artists, there were other Main Exhibition Room Artists too, setting up and being busy and wonderfully arty and modest. We only had 12 Angels to put up, and I had done all the Exhibition Blurb well in advance, so Eileen and I had time to go and preview the other exhibitions. Not only was the work good - there were two groups exhibiting in the big rooms, and one landscape artist in the bigger part of the foyer - but the energy and enthusiasm of the painters and makers-of-things was terribly impressive. It was wonderful to see so many people take their desire to make art seriously and actually Do It. I love these group exhibitions. I think the works displayed are impressive because they are made by dedicated, inspired, brave and ordinary people. The standard is often really high. Many of these modest and clever people do their art professionally now. The landscape artist too, setting up her work, showed beautifully observed and lovingly painted local scenes, framed to set them off at their best.

And now. The school play. At last my 13 Year Old Son could give in to the drunken wife beating murderer in his soul and play Bill Sykes. It was a wonder of wonders. "Oliver" was the school play, and a very good choice too, as much of the school could take part. Indeed, I spotted in the Workhouse Scene a wonderfully well fed and bright little Chinese boy in glasses. Each of the work house children wore the grey school shirt and trousers ripped to shreds, which worked very well. Either they all held each other down for a pre play free-for-all or someone has been collecting lost property. It also explained why Bill Sykes came home recently from school with the breast pocket of his school shirt ripped off. "I ripped Fred's off and he ripped mine off" was all I got for an explanation. "It was fun" he added to make it clearer still.

The characters played their hearts out. My Bill seemed really violent and we could feel the angiush of Oliver, Nancy and Selected Ruffians mothers in the audience, and when Bill got shot in the final scene a tiny child in the audience was heard to say "Oh good". I suspect quite a few of the well brought up liberal thinking parents echoed that deep in their hearts. Bill was full of fury and wore a top hat which made him taller than most, and a big leather coat which made him look like a Hells Angel and big trousers that made him look like he may have Welsh International Rugby Thighs underneath. The whole effect was that my darling little 13 Year Old Son made everyone else look angelic, misunderstood and reasonable.

I have to say though, he met his match in Nancy who played her part with a seriousness and intelligence that made me think she'd never have chosen Bill if she had been asked when the book was being written. She was truly a star, and lovely to watch and listen to. And I know for a fact that her mother found her the perfect dress, red and black, and should be applauded for finding exactly the right outfit.

So. A busy weekend, and much achieved. Briefly, 16 Year Old Son came back for a visit and ate like a mother wants her son to eat, that is, without a pause. Alan paid a welcome visit after his work and tennis, and Oldest Brother and his partner came for Sunday. Monday is a doddle after all that.

Friday, 20 November 2009

A Quickie Today for an account of the exhibition I am mounting on the End Of A Life, in Chichester in December for my website if you want to contact me

So. A Quickie Today.

Everything is going well, and I have done all that I could have done for my two exhibitions. The Angels get put up this Sunday at the Oxmarket Gallery in Chichester, and that is good. Eileen is coming for the weekend, and will photograph them and help with the hanging.

I have eaten oatcakes and marmalade as a comfort thing as Alan has just left to do Very Important Things somewhere else, and now I have marmalade on the mouse and key board. So I rubbed my hands on my jeans and now I have sticky jeans too. Maybe that will be my new trade mark. Not teapots anymore, just an invisible stickiness on all artworks. "Ah yes, Curruthers. This is a Genuine Post November 2009 Antonia Rolls. Note the marmalade deposits carefully distributed amongst the paint work"

Now. To Work. Posters for the exhibitions. My contact details for the exhibitions. More Tea to make the thinking process smoother. More marmalade to set the mood. So, that is the Quickie Account today.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

St Wilfrids Hospice Today for the site about setting up the Graceful Death exhibition in Chichester 7-12 December for my website
antonia.rolls1@btinternet if you want to email me.

St Wilfrid's Hospice later today. I am going to introduce myself and ask if I can raise funds for them for this exhibition I am doing about the End Of A Life. I am well so far, I have no need of the hospice as I am, as far as I know, not dying. I hope I don't die before I have understood more about the end of life and how one dies. Perhaps I should say how others die, as I don't want to do it myself yet.

Yesterday I spoke to the very helpful Arts Development Officer at Chichester Council. He was a very dedicated and inspired man, and full of proper good advice for me. That was good, and as he is a big part of Chichester's bid to be the UK's first City Of Culture for 2013, and I was there having a Meeting, I felt Yeah. I'm in the Hub here. Just note, people, who I am talking to on first name terms and bow down low.

In the afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting another very dedicated (and unlike me, experienced in Hospice work) Artist. The Artist in Residence from St Barnabas House Hospice (for whom I am raising money through the Graceful Death exhibition and here for your entertainment is a direct link to the website where you can donate ) (Just read that over and it looks like I am raising money for the Artist in Residence. Like him though I do, it is the Hospice I am raising money for).

I was inspired and delighted to have the company of the Artist in Residence to visit here. We sat for hours in the studio and talked, and I found another artist who thinks about End of Life like I do. Only this fellow does something about it, and works in the Hospice. I thought he must be a very good man to explore creativity with when you have not much time and have an illness that will cut short your life. There is hope that we can do a project together in the Hospice, and use my Angels which I would love to do.

Then I had to collect 13 Year Old Son from homework club at school to which I have bound him for life, in order for him to at least try to do some homework and I don't have to deal with his passionate disapproval of homework and the politics of avoidance thereof at home. Let The School Do It, I said, It's In Their Job Description. It seems to be working, in that he says he has no homework. But I wouldn't put it past 13 Year Old Son to bypass homework club altogether and set up a business in the classroom and get his pals to pay him for lost House Badges he has found (Found? Found with menace I would think), and elastic bands he convinces them they need, and pencil stubs that always write the right answers etc. He is a canny fellow, but no match for his Headmaster who has seen it all before. So, as far as I know, 13 Year Old Son is doing his homework.

It is windy today and I feel nervous about having taken on so much. I have been offered more exhibition space through a wondeful Hospice Trust in East Sussex, and am full of enthusiasm about it. But every now and then I think What if I can't do it? All these people are helping me so much and there is plenty of space for what I am doing with my End of Life exhibition, I hope I can live up to all our expectations. Then I give myself a little shake and say with iron in my voice, Just Get On With It Antonia. And that is what I shall do. Just Get On With It.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Tea, Rain, Angels, Dying, Lists for the exhibition I am holding in December in Chichester on the End of a Life from cancer for my website
antonia.rolls1@btinternet if you want to contact me

Hello All. Yes I have my pot of tea (is the Pope a Catholic) and yes it is raining. Oh and yes, I sent 13 Year Old Son out in the rain to go to school and am worried he will arrive like a little Victorian waif, with his dripping hair plastered to his young impressionable face, and his only set of clothes steaming in the heat of the classroom and dripping puddles by his chair as he sits with a teeny squelch onto his seat. Laughed at by all the others who had a)mothers that drove them b)rain coats c)umbrellas. Except, and this is where I lose my guilt, my dear 13 Year Old Son is too cool to wear a coat and scorns umbrellas and is tall and a bit of a lad, so coming into the classroom like a waif is ridiculous. He will enter his classroom like a Wet Teenager that gets Brownie Points for being out in all weathers, hoping they think he is from a wild and unloving house with a mother that intends her children to Learn the Hard Way. When she remembers who they are.

Angels now. This is absolutely wonderful. For a while today I shall paint my Angels because on Sunday next I put up the exhibition. Angels are really lovely things to paint. They can say anything the artist wants them to say. I hope these Angels make people smile and I hope they bring me some commissions. Prints of them are coming with me to a Christmas Fair in London, in Wimbledon on 26 November. I will finish my Fat Angel and my Night Time Angel and leave it at that. I have to make prints of the images, make a small biography and see how they will hang in the gallery.

Dying is the theme of the Steve exhibition. That needs endless attention (the exhibition) and it seems that it is like something that will never be even half completed. There is always so much more to do. I have to do as my lovely Dublin Scottish friend says, learn where to stop. I am reading a very good book on dying, as one does, and am feeling it is the most fascinating subject. Wait Until Your Time Comes, I hear you say with a frown, And Then See How Fascinated You Are. Well, precisely. It is a bit of an academic interest as I have, as yet, not died or been nearly dead. Steve did it all and I watched.

Lists. Lists! I must make another list! I have only got fifteen hundred lists and I need another! My list will describe what I need to do each day this week, based on the other lists I have done about other lists that were drawn up - and so on and so forth. Oh for a room full of dedicated helpers that wake each morning with bright and effective ideas on how to make everything I do work. And to come in to my studio and cheerily implement them. And when I doubt myself, to tut with a little chuckle and tell me it's all going to be fine.

The rain has stopped. I have finished my pot of tea. Time to do the Angels. A Dying Angel Writing a List in the Rain with a Pot of Tea. Only joking.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Antonia Rolls, Artist Extraordinaire, Needs A Day Off for an account of the Graceful Death Exhibition coming up in December in Chichester for my website with examples of paintings if you want to contact me

I need a day off. It is raining fit to wash Bognor off the map. I am tired through much socialising and tired through much Exhibition-ing and tired through much painting. Add to this a little overeating and a spot of overcycling, and you get a droopy, well meaning but rather pathetic artist and mother who just needs Housework Fairies to appear and do all the chores. A Taxi Fairy to take over the car and an inspired and committed Events Organiser Fairy to do the rest of the Angels and Graceful Death exhibitions. And then a Bubble Bath Fairy a Pot of Tea Fairy and an Early Night Fairy to share the rest of the work between them. With of course the Chocolate Cake Fairy. She is a Given.

I have just been to Middleton to collect the old bit of tree my artist friend has kept for me. I am using it in the Graceful Death exhibition on which to tie ribbons of rememberance. I have a photographer from our local paper coming to the studio soon and I am worried I will not look on top of things. I am worried it will look as if the real artist had to go to an important meeting about being very successful somewhere else and has asked their rather dim friend to stand in and look the part. "No one will know" says the successful artist as she dances to the door with grace and energy. "Just wear old clothes and say things like 'Oh the Muse, the Muse' and 'Yes, I cannot describe nor explain' and look through the window into the middle distance. Byee. Gotta go, got lunch with the Queen and Simon Cowell" and off goes successful artist leaving droopy inarticulate but well meaning artist-stand-in to impress the photographer.

It will be fine. I am wearing nice lipstick, that always helps. I will doodle and potter after the photos are done, and wait for 13 Year Old Son to come home after football practice in the rain, for 16 Year Old Son to come home from college in London (I'm on a train to Inverness could you come and get me?) and 19 Year Old Daughter to come to a Station Near Here at 10pm tonight in order to watch a dvd with us tomorrow morning and then go back to her own world. Grandma comes for tea tomorrow afternoon and Alan comes after his tennis. All next week there are meetings and decisions to be made. How exciting it all is but Oh. Just one day off.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Waiting In The Studio Till It Is Time To Go Out To Dinner for my paintings website for the account of the Graceful Death exhibition coming in December in Chichester
antonia.rolls1@btinternet if you want to contact me

So. I have had a busy day, of course, and have a window right now to write. I am going out again to dinner tonight, and am sitting dressed in my smart evening clothes with my cylcle helmet on, at my computer. When I wash my hair it goes all fluffy and bouffant. Recently I have found that after a cycle ride my helmet has made my hair look fab, so I have washed my hair this afternoon and am wearing my cycle helmet until it is time to get into my car.

The studio is full of paintings. I have been painting away for ages now, and feel as if I have been flailing in all directions until Pow. Suddenly I can see I have created a fair number of Angels and Dead People. I am painting a Fat Angel at the moment, and she is possibly the nicest angel I have painted so far. She is really round and really lovely. I am also painting a final Steve painting, but more about that on the Graceful Death blog. See at the top of this entry for a link. There are clusters of Angels by my radio and on the chair in the studio. They look very sweet next to the dramatic paintings of Steve's dying body. They go together very well. I am glad. All comes from the same hand.

However. I am in pain right now. I decided to cycle to all my meetings and appointments this morning. Oh. In hindsight, I should have plotted the routes on a map and been kind to myself and gone by car. No, I cried, what is wrong with cycling everywhere and, why! I am now in full control of my bike and my body. What I should have said is Lo! When I take this route by car it takes ages and ages, always more than I remember so what is the point of becoming crippled when I am going out to dinner tonight? Why cause my legs to seize up and fall off and my bottom to feel as if it is sitting on an unyeilding and pointy piece of metal?

I cycled without a backwards glance. I did 21 miles and was almost paralysed when I got home. I did manage to peel myself off the bike, and open my front door, and fall into a stupor on the floor. While lying on the floor I planned my lunch menu. It was along the lines of If You Can See It Eat It. I ate a veggie sausage, crackers and jam, bananas, 4 muffins and butter and jam, crisps and a pot of tea. I was strong enough then to go upstairs and have a hot bath for an hour, after which I had the bright idea of wearing my cycling helmet all afternoon to make my hair nice for this evening. This is where I started this account. I am having another quick cup of tea before taking the helmet off and hoping I have the kind of hair I dream of, putting on my lipstick and boots, and going out to eat another large and public meal. I will probably walk like Frankenstein's monster, no movement in any joints, just the left side of the body followed by the right side of the body until I get to the table. Oh well. They will have to love me for my conversation tonight, not my lithe athleticism.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

To Blog Or Not To Blog. To Blog. for updates on my exhibition coming up on the End Of A Life for my painting website. Fun stuff for all.

To Blog or not to blog, if that is the question then it is simple. Blog. Blog a lot and blog regardless. I set myself the task of doing two blogs every second day so that both my readers (subtle) could have a day to digest the Theme of the Day. One blog, this one, is full of important happenings and thoughts in the life of a very well meaning artist and mother. The other is about the exhibition A Graceful Death which I am putting on soon. See link at the top of this entry. It is a serious blog about a serious subject and possibly charts the start of a new direction for my work. I will write more about that in the Graceful Death blog.

This blog is also serious, and I have found it makes all the difference to my working life. This is because I have to concentrate, have to be consistant, and have to make sense. You may not like what I write (but I know you do because you are loyal and patient) but you have to admit it makes sense. In that it is not Non sense. Or at least it is not gobbeldy gook.

It is Sunday night and I am sitting in my kitchen under a very noisy boiler writing this in advance of tomorrow, on Alan's laptop. I am very busy tomorrow and for the whole of next week and have been unutterably busy for the last week too. I am having to slot my blog in at the weekend, because I am just too too busy to do it on Monday. And I was too too busy to do it on Friday. And Saturday was so dreadfully busy too and so I am like those terribly important Doing Types who can hardly reply to a question because their important and urgent lists cover the whole of one wall. I would like to say all my hugely important busy-ness is about work, because then I would be obviously Into the Bigtime. My busy-ness however, is to do with friends coming to stay from Norway, and dinner parties, and tea with old friends, and taking 16 Year Old Son to the British Museum for the day. It is about being invited to birthday dinners and taking 13 Year Old Son to his football match where bless him, he froze to death and stopped being able to move because his laces came undone and he was too cold to do them up and too cool to ask for help. "Mummy would have done it for you" I cried as I put him into the car to thaw after the match. His look was withering. Not on your Nelly was the polite interpetation.

Steve's wonderful friends came over for a visit from Norway. They saw the paintings for the exhibition, and did not object. They have known Steve since he was 19. I knew Steve for 18 months. We went to lunch and a visit to Petworth, to my mother's house, and dear Eileen came too. Then I drove everyone to London for tea with 16 Year Old Son at my sister in law's house. 16 Year Old Son is very fond of the Norweigian Friends, who taught him to ski in Norway a year and a half ago. And so, later on when everyone had gone onto their next appointment, I stayed with a dear dear friend who always asks the most insightful questions. There is no pretending one is OK with this friend, she is far too perceptive and wise for that. I always come away feeling better for being with her. Saturday arrives and off to the British Museum with 16 Year Old Son, and a deadline to meet an old school friend who has flown over from Hong Kong with her husband (Husband? She is still 17. She can't have a husband). We have not met for 31 years, and I knew her instantly. Off then, to a dinner party with other old school friends (see how busy I am? See how a Blog just couldn't happen?)

A long drive home to Alan after my London dinner and a pot of tea and a chat when I get there and lo! It is 3am. 13 Year Old Son has to be at the football ground somewhere Vaguely Far Away by 10am so let us sleep, dear one, let us sleep.

Tomorrow I cycle to see a Community Centre that may have a room to rent out so that I can wow the public with Art Classes. Just the basics this time. Leave the inspirational stuff for later, just the basics to begin with. Jackson Pollack and Michaleangelo next month, Noddy and painting by numbers this month. At teatime, tea with a gracious old friend, who used to be the English teacher at my Jesuit boarding school, and lives in the next village. Tea with him is Real. Teapots, teacups, buttered toasted teacakes. I may overstay my welcome tomorrow, I feel it coming on.

So it goes. The rest of the week is more of the same. And in between all this, in between all this frantic to-ing and fro-ing, I will paint more angels and dying men, I will try to convince the press that this exhibition is worth taking seriously, I will see if St Barnabas House Hospice has space for the volunteering I want to do, and I will network and make new contacts and thus I will arrive at Nirvana.

Just worth a mention too, 19 Year Old Daughter texts me with updates on her movements and thoughts about 20 times a day, and 16 Year Old Son sends me lists of things I should do. 13 Year Old Son is in the middle of a Homework Sabotaging Exercise and needs some careful handling, and as his school play is coming up and he is Bill Sykes the baddie, he is more often in character than usual and needs some gentle guidance now and again. (We don't drink gin at the table dear, and please put away the cudgel, I am sure Bill would have put it in the cupboard when he came home. Along with the gin. Good boy.)

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

A Few Thoughts On Meditation for account of setting up my exhibition in December on the End Of A Life for my website. Paintings galore. Have a look.

A Few Thoughts On Meditation.

Oh no, you cry. Surely not. That is because you feel as I do at the very mention of the word. It conjures images of smug people in contact with the universe. People with a Secret which you don't have (nor do you want). It feels spooky and worrying, you might have to take on Jesus and ask his forgiveness as a chant. You may have to repeat a mantra that sounds authentic and significant but secretly you are afraid you are chanting My Mother In Law Has a Big Nose and the guru is laughing at you.

This is what I think. Meditation has oh so many forms, all aiming at the same thing. Peace and silence and connectedness with Something Other (God, Universe, Divine, Yourself). I have a friend who I admire deeply who teaches meditation. She is grounded, clever, was a city lawyer for years, very wise and she meditates. Good example of a Meditator You Want To Talk To. My mother meditates and bases her meditations on Christianity. She holds weekly meditation sessions at her house and deeply established and admirable older ladies come and take part and absolutely love it. Steve meditated and said it changed his life during university. He meditated in hospital too when he was dying and it gave him much strength. All these people are great examples in my life, so how on earth do they do it? What is their secret?

I learned Transendential Meditation a couple of years ago. The idea was I would learn it and meditate with Steve. He died before I found a place to learn it. However I went ahead. It cost me a small fortune and I was taught how to do it by the nicest sweetest most lovely lady, and it had of course, changed her life. It would change my life too. There were many testimonies about the effects of TM Meditation and I thought Wow. This is It then. Life changing here we come.

Like all things of importance, you have to take it seriously. You have to practice to make it work. All those who have this Secret are those who have put in the effort to do the meditating. Nothing comes to us Just Like That. I learned the technique, I have a mantra that sounds odd to me but part of my TM training is never to tell anyone what it is. That is fine, I don't think anyone would be that interested. And I am a bit embarrassed, it does sound like a household object when you say it fast. But I know it is not, and so I try to pronounce differently it in my head. Which is not very TM. And I don't meditate any more, I find I resist it with all my strength. I avoid the silence and resent the time. I like silence, I love silence, but this meditation silence makes me so afraid. I was advised to meditate 20 minutes morning and evening, and I find I cannot even begin to commit to this, even though I could easily sit in the kitchen and stare at the wall for 40 minutes morning and evening. And when I do meditate, it is as if every thought I ever had comes rushing into my head and I am filled with a cacophany of noise and jumble. This, I know, is normal for most meditators. But I can't get past it.

I am reading a wonderful book by Abbot Christopher Jamieson from Worth Abbey about Monastic Steps for Every Day Life. Truly, this man is wonderful. Meditation and Silence and Authenticity comes together in this book. It has made me reassess and be kind about the rather passionate avoidance I have to meditating. Just do five minutes, he says. It is hard work. Oh I said to the book, I Know. Thank You. Christopher Jamieson is writing about the Rule of Benedict and so his thoughts and observations are framed within this Rule but Oh. It is telling me that I can't just Do Meditating. I need to use meditating as a part of my journey to God and the Self. It takes time, and is not an isolated activity. It gives me permission to start again at the bottom and it gives me structure and common sense to apply to my most basic meditations.

So back to the avoidance of meditating and the fear of being a looney. I think now that it is too hard to meditate in silence alone without structure. Of course I avoid it, I am afraid of two things. First, I am afraid of Nothing. It is either a con and I fell for it, or I am simply Not There and as empy as a paper bag blowing down the street. Secondly, I am afraid that I Am There and that what I see is too much. And if I am There, and Too Much, then I have Done Life Wrong and the knowledge will make my brain shut down and I will become a vegetable.

To put aside time morning and evening is the first discipline needed in meditation. To be reassured that the silence one expects will probably not happen is the next piece of advice. To learn to be kind to yourself is very important, and to learn to see this meditation as a journey that will slowly mean something to you, just to you, as time goes by. And very important, to have someone to talk to about it. It is not a fearful activity. It is not a magic activity. It will not give you secrets of the universe, it will not even give you secrets about yourself. It will however, I think, be a long slow road to Silence, to bit by bit give yourself the space to Understand more, either about yourself or life around you. And if you are lucky, a little pathway to God.

So thanks to Abbot Jamieson, I will meditate again, and I will repeat my household object mantra and not beat myself up about it. Tally Ho. Om.

Monday, 2 November 2009

My Birdies Have Flown for updates on the exhibition on End Of A Life for my website

Oh My Birdies Have Flown. Today my youngest Birdie turns 13 and is no longer 12 Year Old Son. He is at school. I put my Furious 16 Year Old Birdie on the train to college in London even though he just wanted a quiet life and to stay here and my 19 Year Old Birdie flew off with her Grandmother on Saturday.

So what I am trying to say, I think, is that My Babies Are Growing Up.

This weekend, we celebrated Alan's birthday, and 12 now 13 Year Old Son's birthday. I had my wonderful cousin and two of her children to stay from Thursday, and on Friday we had 13 for dinner, to celebrate Alan's birthday. (The chief Exec is a Year Older). Being a no fuss kind of fellow we had fish and chips and big loaves of white bread and butter. Fab. And there was a big chocolate birthday cake to finish off with. After we had all eaten our fish, chip and buttie supper, like Desparate Dan after eating his Cow Pie, we all sighed and said "F'lup"

We cleared up just in time for the Saturday when a further 15 or so joined us for lunch to celebrate Son's birthday. That meant Sausage and Curley Chips and possibly 400 million packets of crisps. Adults had a few salads to help them with their consciences as the main menu was stodge and fat followed by fried fatty sugary stodge with knobs on. Pudding was two birthday cakes 16 Year Old Son made which were very yummy.

Then, lo, it being 31 October, we had to get the Halloween stuff out for the youngsters who needed another party, it being a few hours since lunch. It was done, and cobwebs and insects and pumpkins and candles appeared downstairs. At this point I no longer knew who was staying and who wasn't. Hey Ho, I said to myself, Such Are Birthdays. The last time I looked there were about five teenagers sleeping in the loft, up the rickety ladder from just outside my room to the roof space where only teenagers and fugitives would feel happy.

I do have a lot of family. I have a lot of aunts and uncles, and so an amazing amount of cousins. They all have children now, and for only a few cousins to come with their children means Party Time. Add to that my own three brothers, my sister in law, my nephews and nieces, my parents and Alan and his son and son's girlfriend, and me and my three kiddies (birdies) and it is Outdoor Festival Time.

Now it is Monday morning. The house is still here. I am still here. I have cleaned and tidied after the last of the cousins left yesterday, and my Birdies have Flown to their various Places and I am alone. Two in the weekend festivities are a year older, and all of us are 8 stone heavier.

It is truly wonderful to be alone again in my studio. I loved my week and weekend. I love that my Birdies are all teenagers now, I love that throughout the Saturday afternoon and evening Alan sat benignly and happily watching American Football while the Party Raged Around Him. And later, we adults sat with him under the cobwebs and spiders and watched the X Factor.

Well. I am not a sentimental mother. But I do have little moments of sadness sometimes, when I think of how fat and happy and funny my big fantastically independant teenagers once were, and how it was easy to distract them at sticky moments with OOh Look! A Lorry! Whereas now they have an answer for everything and much more knowledge of their Rights and think I was born fully formed as I am now, sometime Before Christ, and have no idea of Real Life at all. My Birdies are Growing Up and I am watching them change and grow before me, and just for a little while today when they are at schools and colleges and work, it feels as if they have flown.