ANTONIA ROLLS ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE NEWS. An account of an Artist and Mother in Bognor Regis. Worthwhile, but exhausting, so pour the tea and make yourself comfortable...(this painting is a family portrait, about 2'x 3', oil on wood. It is the Ross Family, each family member with items that describe them best. And at the front, on the grass on the right hand side, is a photo of Grandma, sadly missed.)
In a pub in Bognor. I danced a kind of one to one dance of jazz with a stranger who was a very good mover indeed, and found that dancing was a spectacular form of self expression. Let me set the scene.
I went to meet Dear Friend in a Bognor pub that is known for its jazz band. The band, I am delighted to say, were excellent and all wore extremely snazzy waistcoats, and must have all been between the ages of 65 and 75. At least. So at nealy 50 I was a spring chicken. I loved the music, it must have been dixieland type stuff, and was so catching that everyone got up to dance. "Look" said Dear Friend, "at that young man over there. He is a fabulous dancer and dances each time the band plays." I looked at the back of a curley haired youth in his 30s and wondered why a young fellow would be well known for jiggling around to elderly jazz. Well. As the band played on he leapt like Peter Pan onto the dance floor and did a bit of dancing to much applause from all of us, and boy. Could he move. It was not a structured dance with set steps, it was a wonderful example of a body that could move with exquisite grace just for the joy of it. In my heart I said "That is the man to dance with if you want a fabby dancing experience. That man," I said to myself with awe, "would be perfect because he is dancing for the sheer delight and fun of it. And me being such a fun loving kind of Artist and Mother, with no dance partners to speak of either in my past or future, I would benefit from a brief association on the dance floor with this Peter Pan of Dixieland Jazz Free Movement Jiggling Around Dancing."
Well. I was shy. I didn't want to join Dear Friend and her dear friend dancing. I just didn't know how to get up and join in because it was my first time in the pub, with the friends who were regulars, and the band, who were Very Popular. It didn't help that I had ordered a plate of cheesy chips and had forced myself to eat every last chip. They were probably not the best cheesy chips I had ever had. They were deeply stodgy, microwaved, too hot and tasteless. However I kept thinking the next bite would be better and even though I felt my arteries beginning to clog with fat and stodge, I kept going saying to my very sympathetic neighbour, "Waste not want not," and being a polite kind of fellow, he just smiled and nodded. "Fool." Is probably what he was really thinking.
As the evening wore on, my friends danced, the jazz band played with expertise, all was utterly as it should be, Peter Pan wowed us with he grace and fun, I received a call from 13 Year Old Son asking me to please come home. But I Am In The Pub! I should have said, I Will Come Home At Closing Time. Instead I said Right-oh. On My Way. I stood up to leave, to find Peter Pan of Jazz standing next to me, his arm crooked ready to escort me to the floor to dance. Yo! I cried in my soul, This Is It! To him, I just inclined my head and putting my arm in his, I went to the dance floor. "It's Now Or Never," I said in homage to Elvis.
Well. Wow! He was not only a good dancer to watch, he was a natural at making and maintaining eye contact to encourage nearly 50 year old stodge ridden artists to follow his moves and trust his dancing vibes. I found I could and did, dance with real delight and let him lead me and the dancing so that I looked, I believe, pretty damn good. It was because we danced as a team, and by the end of the number we were improvising witty little moves together. I do think it was only possible because he mainained eye contact at all times so I couldn't see if anyone was leaving early and taking all their friends with them. Or that the landlord was trying to shut the pub due to sudden trauma.
When the music stopped we got such a round of applause, and I think mine was because I had had the nerve to partner such a Jazz Dancing Treasure in the pub, his was because he was very good. The band gave me a special round of applause and I graciously gathered my keys from the Dear Friend, and left like Cinderella, into the night and back to 13 Year Old Son who was Hungry Again. Peter Pan probably went back to his Tinkerbell, a yummy blonde lady who looked far too beautiful to dance with him.
I am at Alans. Yes. At last, his gall bladder was removed yesterday, and I collected him from hospital and am watching him in case he spontaneously combusts. There is, we are told by the hospital, a 48 hour period when a patient who has just had surgery should not be left alone. Actually, he is in bed snoring behind me, and for someone who has just had something in his tummy removed, he looks remarkably well. Except that his tummy is swollen and full of Wounds. So far, on my watch, he has not died. His son takes over soon, and let us hope Alan will stay in bed snoring and not suddenly get rabies or leprosy or whatever, and his 48 hour period will pass with minimum panic.
Alan and I are reviewing our future. This seems like a good idea. I will let you all know what we decide. Knowing us, it will chop and change and we will never really know. When he is 92 and I am 80 we will sit down and say to each other, "Well, Dear One, what shall we do then?" And the reply will be "Lordy lordy, I just don't know. Let's give it more time." And we will potter off around the sheltered housing units and have another cream tea together to pass the time before dinner.
I am off now. Time to leave the Slumbering But Still Alive Though Gall Bladder Free And Probably Very Mellow Alan to fight his way back to health in his clean fluffy bed and lots of dedicated family and friends to watch over him.
I am hoping that the Jazz Band will write a new number for me called The Lady With Twinkle Toes Despite Having Eaten A Huge Plate Of Concrete Cheesy Chips. And every woman there will think it is about them.
I Am Home. Oirlend Is A Whole Flybe Experience Away. Take Me Back, Take Me Back (Sob) (Burp).
Darling Dublin Friend took this of me being Possessive of her cottage and the surrounding Foliage. The sea is beyond the green stuff, and there is a golf course hewn into the green stuff the other side of the cottage. The wild horses that stayed here the same time as us must have looked at all this lush green grass and said to each other "Blimey, I 'm not wild anymore, I think I am going to stay here and finish all this grassy stuff and try Domestication."
We, the Tribe from Bognor and I, left at 4.30am last week to go to Ireland. In Ireland, we had more fun than is allowed in the Tourist Handbook. This is why.
This is the Chocolate Krispie Spotty Fiftieth Birthday Teapot Cake With White Chocolate Buttons For Spots And Curley Wurley Handle And Spout On Wire (that I licked after taking off the curley wurley and eating it). My birthday is in fact in August, but because the Darling Dublin Friend and her husband, The Nicest Man In Ireland, won't be seeing me on that actual day, they and their two lovely kiddies and my large lot made this surprise cake for me. I was surprised. Blinking well gobsmacked because it was such a generous kind and creative item, and I simply did not expect it or any reference to the birthday. It isn't my actual birthday till August 6, I am still really 49 years old and can't really party too much till the beginning of August, so to have a fabby Perfect Cake presented at the end of July was just the best. And yes, it tasted of Heaven and yes I am clinically obese now. Hence the burp in the title.
Just before I move on from Food, the Spuds in the title were the best spuds in the Universe. Darling Friend's Husband, The Nicest Man In Ireland, dug them up from their garden and brought them to the cottage and I am probably not very stable when it comes to food anyway, but I darn nearly lost the plot with these fluffy white, light, tasty potatoes followed by Chocolate Rice Krispie Teapot Cake. And the Cheesy Chips? See below. Blonde Witty Daughter and the Muppet and I went to an Oirish Pub to see and be seen. We ordered Cheesy Chips with our tea (me) and guiness (them) and kind of bonded over fat and starch. As all good families do.
Tea for me and Guiness for the Muppet. Kind of blurry because the lady with the Cheesy Chips was coming and Witty Blonde Daughter was taking the photo and struggling to concentrate.
Muppet and Witty Blonde Daughter. In pub in Arklow and Having Fun. As Ever.
Darling Dublin Friend set up a table in the cottage with all her Making and Creating and Craft Things. She had prepared some wood to make masterpieces on, and had made some papier mache angels for us to decorate. So this is what we did. We played. D.D.F. is mightily creative. She is a talented Maker of Things, and has a true eye for quality and design. She just got a first for a Graphic Design qualification. Of course. So sitting next to her at a table full of different coloured papers, wall papers, images, feathers, hand crafted paper birds, hearts and stars, colours, stick on gems, gold paint and glue one is bound to do something if not immediately identifiable, at least immensly satisfying. One starts to express one's heart and soul in these circumstances. Oh yes. And she has a collection of word stamps that you stamp into black ink and then print onto whatever you want. I stamped my Works of Art and mostly the words were Beauty, Love, Mystery, Passion, Music, Magic and Heart. There were no words for Potatoes, Cheesy Chips or Rice Krispie Cakes. But we all know they are there in the Ether.
My Angel with Passion. On here the words read Laughter Wild Life Sweet Heart Passion Dream and then lots of Magics and Beautys and Loves and Mysterys. And she is really Gor-juss. This is in my bedroom because it is pretty and that is where all the pretty things go.
My life story. I have written from the top down, "In my life there are scones" and three butterflies are my three children. Then an arrow to Aberdeen on the map where I say I met Rhona, and an arrow to the plate of scones saying that we ate lots of them. Then I say in my past life I was a Black Man (which I firmly believe is true) but now I am a Goddess. (Which I firmly believe is true too). This is in my studio so I can remind myself of my brief life story when asked to comment on myself as an Artist.
Recurring Themes eh? Passion and Beauty and Stuff. This one is in my kitchen in case anyone needs any clues about what I am about (ie when I have left the room or am out at Tescos or whatever. I am known for not being backwards about coming forwards about myself so you'd only need clues if I wasn't there to give you a monologue with diagrams, charts and actions.)
So. Finally, before you all go for a wee brisk walk to wake yourselves up, I want to say that going to the Cottage in Oireland was, as ever, an inspiring event. The last picture I will leave you with is 13 Year Old Son wearing my glasses. We are a very shy bunch, as you can see. Etc.
Oh But My Nails Are So Red. Like A Lightshow As I Type
20 Year Old Daughter came home last night. "I am," she said on the phone, "depressed and hungry." "Ho," I said, "fancy that." "I will," she said,"be coming home then, right now, to Bognor." "Ho," I said. "Fancy that."
At 7pm I collected my large, tanned, well fed, jolly, bouncy, blonde, six foot daughter from the station. "Huraah!" she chortled. "I have brought my washing to dry in your house!" "Fancy that," I said as we drove the 16 yards from the station to my house.
Well. When 20 Year Old Daughter comes home it is like a party. She is full of fun, wit, life, love and music. She likes, as do all my children, to eat. I prepared what I called a Snack Line and lined up on the kitchen table a row of extremely healthy but substantial foods in saucepans and bowls, so that the three of them (20 Year Old Daughter, Muppet, and 13 Year Old Son) could have an ongoing buffet until dawn if they wanted. Here is the menu from last night's Snack Line. Have a chocolate bar ready while you are reading it in case you get peckish.
Avocardo Pate...Spicy Potato and Courgette Soup...Basmati Rice...Veg Korma...Coleslaw with fresh cabbage from friend's garden and Tons of Toasted Sesame Seeds and Raisins...Veg Kievs (looked in the oven like baby roasting hamsters)...Garlic and Cream Cheese Broad Bean Thing. And, Ryvita, Oatcakes, Pringles. And Crysanthemum Tea care of the Muppet who likes that kind of thing.
We listened to Daughter's latest Reggae collection and that is when I found my nails were red. I have not the faintest recollection of wresting the bright red nail varnish from her as she showed it to us all, and painting all my nails. I am told I did do it though, and I can only put it down to something in my genes wanting to own all things red, coupled with the anaesthetising effects of reggae and an ongoing Snack Line.
Painting. I have so many paintings to do. I can't wait to do them. Some I will finish today, and some I will start on Monday. Some I will start when I get the Cheque. Others I will do because it is for A Graceful Death and since I am getting funding in at last, I can pay myself at least for the materials and time. Phew. At the Arundel shop where I sell things yesterday, I met a lovely old lady who gave me such a useful lecture on How To Display Stuff and then - went ahead and did it for me. Thank you kind Lady, she was absolutely right and I am amazed that if I hadn't gone into the shop to see how things were doing, I may have never met her and benefitted so much from her ideas. Who was she? I don't know. She will, though, go to heaven.
The project on Angels at St Barnabas House Hospice is all going ahead. That is for August, and I am very lucky to be doing it with Stevan Stratford, the extremely talented and empathetic Artist in Residence there. He is a very good artist. I was inspired by him with the first image of one of his paintings that I saw. And he talks sense. Excellent fellow.
So now. I am going to Worthing to collect some painting wood. I am calling all sorts of people today too to Follow Things Up. I am packing to go to Ireland too, because I am taking all my hungry brood of huge Russian Creatures to stay with Dublin Friend and her family in their cottage by the sea. We go every year, and started when I only had two teeny blonde babies. Between us, Dublin Friend and I have added another 3 kiddies to the mix, and have watched them all grow and blossom. Dublin Friend and I celebrate our brief moment of being together by going outside the cottage, in the sand dunes, in our rainproof coats and hats and sitting on sun loungers and eating Cadbury's Milk Chocolate. It is the only way. Dublin Friend's husband mans the doors and tries to stop any kids coming to join us, so we can, for about 1 0 to 15 minutes, chomp and chat uninterrupted like the Adults we Once Were.
We leave at 4.30am tomorrow. Arty Man with Camera and Sound Equipment and Motor Bike will be holding the fort, and maybe, maybe, the Gardener will come and do more in the garden.
I must go and get the wood. My flashing red fingernails are mesmerising me and I may never get off the keyboard and computer because I am hypnotised and lost forever, or at least until the nail varnish starts to peel. And I need to get to Ireland, or Dublin Friend will eat all the chocolate.
My Books Are Sorted In Author Order And There Is Peace On Earth
I had a busy weekend. I did eat at my mothers and being a good mother she gave me lots of food from her cupboards and larder to take home, and wrapped up the lunch remains and gave me that too. I even got a raw steak in some cling film because 13 Year Old Son likes steak these days. Being a Veggie household I don't always think Steak but now I am and Son will be not only Happy but Nourished.
Mother has had her house painted white top to bottom. It is very clean, it looks lovely but it is kind of like walking into a film set of Heaven. She has rid herself of much furniture too. That, alongside the giving of her food from her stocks, makes me think that at 80 years old she is Downsizing and Getting Ready for the next big step which is the ending of her days. Mother is very grounded and has less than no fear of dying, she is a very spiritually advanced, practical, funny and lively person and gives Meditation classes once a week, being a great meditator. She uses tapes for each session to focus the mind and spirit on a selected theme, something that is necessary in this world like Love, or Peace, or Forgiveness etc. She was listening to a tape on How To Organise Your Own Funeral once, and taking notes and doing the lists etc while organising her funeral and sorting out her burial plot (which she has done and is very chuffed to have got it all organised to her satisfaction in advance). Her ladies arrived and sat down, took deep breaths and Mother switched on the tape and found that she had not removed her How To Organise Your Own Funeral tape and put in her Meditation one. So the Ladies meditated on their own funerals and Mother went with the flow. Never Apologise, she says, Never Explain. Apparantly they were very moved by Mother's insight and Mother just smiled and said nothing.
So. Last night I talked over my Bathroom with my Mother and my 13 Year Old Son. "Have a new one" they both advised. "I have no money for that" I said with a merry little chuckle, "but what I can do is move all the books on the bookshelf outside the bathroom and put all the towels and Stuff there." "We knew you could do it" said my Mother and my Son, "and when you get a moment, get a new bathroom too." So last night I found myself doing all the books in my house. They were hoovered to remove the dust and set up in Author Order and all the kiddie books removed to the attic. Then, all the ones I don't want are in a box in the garage ready for a Car Boot Sale. And, the towels etc are outside the bathroom and I cannot get enough of looking at it all and feeling Superior.
Today, today is a nice day. The very nice and talented Artist in Residence from St Barnabas House Hospice is coming here to discuss our project on Angels for the Day Patients at the hospice. My printer is not working so I am going to throw it out of the window and see if that works. I have managed to cut the wood for my two Angels commission so wonkily that I will have to start again. I need a Man to do it, someone with a Steady Hand on my Power Saw or a Big Machine that will do it all in a trice. So far, the wood has been pared down to the size of very drunken looking postage stamps. The poor lady was promised nice Angels on a proper sized pieces of straight wood. And the Rev Rachel Mann has sent photos I can't print out because my printer is broken. But all is not lost! I have found loads of books when clearing out yesterday and one was about Spiritually Manifesting Things. I will spiritually manifest a new printer, once I read the chapter on Spiritually Manifesting Office Equipment. I also have the name and number of a Computer Man so if I haven't manifested a new printer by this afternoon, and throwing it out of the window hasn't worked, I will give him a call.
At some point, 13 Year Old Son and I are going to the beach where he will force me to swim in the cold sea for his enjoyment. Then we are looking at our local tennis club to see if he can join. What fun. (What a relief.)
I must go! It is nine o'clock and it is time to Manifest Things. I manifested some tea, which went down very nicely. For your peace of mind, here is a picture of my spotty teapot and some of the six spotty and stripey mugs I took to Oxford and the Festival of the Nine Muses last weekend.
There is a red teacosy in the basket too and note. Note for when I come visiting, blue top milk. I can't stand semi or fully skimmed milk - I get violent when someone reduces my fat intake and milk that is not full cream is not my friend. Just bear it in mind for when you next make me tea. Very strong, with lots of full cream milk. Or I will get violent. Thank you.
I have just thought of something. There are no more books in my mother's house. She has given them plus the bookcases away when the house was painted Heavenly White last weekend. And here I am doing my books and getting rid of them and using the bookcases for fluffy bathroom towels. Is there something I should know? Am I on my way out? Better manifest some bookcases while I am doing the Printer. My work on earth is not yet done etc etc.
Oh how wonderful. I have a new collection of my much loved Edith Piaf songs and amongst the new ones is this astonishing title. I thought I was mishearing her, but no it is called Les Flons-Flons Du Bal. I tried to say it but sounded like I had a blocked nose. Edith of course, sings it with such ease and style. If any of you manage to say it and make it sound sophisticated please let me know.
What are Flons-Flons Du Bal? I expect all of you know. If the French Student who Never Complained Once was still here, he would be able to tell me. "On he hon he hon" he would say. " We have Flons-Flons Du Bal in every cupboard at home. There are special Flons-Flons licences and we have contacts in the Flons-Flons world that would make your eyes water." I would thank him then, and apply to be a Flon-Flon.
Now. A Graceful Death is doing its thing. It will not be going to Edinburgh to the Festival this year, but I am very interested in seeing about next year. I met the most fabby inspirational lady yesterday who came to the Studio to see the paintings, and for me to talk with her about End of Life, Love, Life, Death, God etc. She wants to come to Dublin to see AGD when it goes there. That would be such a good thing, she really is a special lady. I think she could talk about almost anything with interest and knowledge. And, apart from that, Angels are coming into the studio. I am at last happy to start the Rock Chick Angel Of The North for Rev Rachel Mann who is the Rock Chick Angel Of The North, I am just the first to paint it. And there are two more Angel portraits to do. There is so much work coming in and I am sometimes reminded of how small I really am. I have a job in life, and it is important. It is to do with Art, with Creativity and Expression, and I couldn't for the life of me describe what it was. Maybe that is because it is unfolding around me as I speak. And I want to write a book, which would be very hard work but I would love to try. Maybe that is why Edith introduced me to Flons-Flons. I shall write about them.
I just spoke to Norgweigian Artist Friend, who says we can use his name. Bertie! Hello Bertie. He is waiting to hear about a very big important commission, and is doing his washing up now before his Commission People arrive to discuss what could be the Making Of Him. Bertie lives amongst the Norweigian Scenery and Mountains and Fjords and will probably live till he is 200. He eats the fish he catches, and even though he has a rather troublesome leg, he walks for miles. But now, he has to stay put, in his Norweigian House, because the Commission People Are Coming Any Moment.
The Grave Digging Gardener has made my garden look wonderful. He cut the grass like it was something he just happened to do in a spare five minutes. It took me a day, with much heaving and shoving, to make my garden look a bit less like a field. "I will give you stripes" he said, "on your lawn". "Blimey," said I. "Can I have a White Horse at some point?" The G.D.Gardener is a very fascinating fellow. He is dropping off a book on Spiritual Matters before I go to Ireland next week - he is a deep fellow, and thinks very profoundly. He responded to the AGD paintings physically with a powerful understanding. You can see why he should do my garden, can't you?
I must go now and get the 13 Year Old Son up, and wake the Muppet, as we are going to my mother's for lunch. Arty Man With A Motor Bike and his Ginger Best Friend are whizzing about and being great fun, so it is all Go in My House. I must leave the sanctuary of my studio now, even though I would love to stay here all day and discuss Flons-Flons with you, and listen to Edith sing, but when Mother Cooks, we all Get There On Time. It will take my Sons at least 10 minutes to remember who I am and what their names are, so I must go and wake them now and start the process.
Bertie with a Chicken On His Head. I name that chicken Flon-Flon.
Yes. So Where Is This Blinking Sun And Who's Idea Was It To Make It Go Away?
Before I go into how unamused I am, let me transport you back to a weekend when there was some goddam sunshine. Last weekend where the sun shone all day and night (sort of) and we all were jolly and wearing short sleeves and sun cream.
Outside the A Graceful Death Tea Rooms there were some pretty good artists set up. This is Cressida, with her Dad. (The blonde pretty one. I am the one in the green night dress). Cressida was a very interesting young artist. She had a distinct style and vision and I responded to her work with pleasure and a deep concern that she didn't let go of her own unique take on the world. Her Dad was a lovely man, seemed very proud of her. Cressida's Dad was very taken with A Graceful Death too, and I was grateful.
Well. I have cleaned the house from top to bottom. I have cleaned the studio and hoovered it. I have changed all the sheets and done the washing. I am now ready for a spell on the hammock and blow me down, God has taken the sun away for some reason or other. "No," says a celestial voice, "rest is for the wicked. You are doomed to forever be fussing about when there is sunshine and now that there is none, you are doomed to answer your emails and secure your future." Well, thank you God. If the sun does pop out this week, then I will risk my security and future etc and take a cup of tea and a nice detective book into the garden and take to the hammock with a sigh of mutinous pleasure. (Wouldn't it be funny if I forgot to put "book" in the sentence above. That would be an afternoon to remember. What kind of memory is open to debate.)
I have now got a gardener. He starts tomorrow and what a nice man. He put a flier through my door and for the first time ever, I called someone from a mail drop.
He is meant to be here because it turns out he has been a grave digger for most of his working life, and has just left a Cemetery as a Head Gardener. Ho, I said. Just come and look at this exhibition I have in my studio ....and a great gardening/artistic partnership may be on its way.
So perhaps if God took away the sun and gave me a grave digger gardener, then I can't really complain. The grave digging gardener, just for the record, is a happy, smiling, youngish fellow with dimples and the longest eyelashes you can imagine. I expect you thought I had employed someone who looked like Uncle Festus from the Adams Family, but no. Not at all. I have employed a kind of Peter Pan of the Cemetery World.
The Edinburgh Festival is not going ahead for me. It didn't work out at such short notice this time, but I am very interested to see if I can go next year. That would be truly wonderful. Mary Tate, who directs Livewire Theatre Company was very inspirational and extremely kind to see if I could accompany her with A Graceful Death. With luck, she wants to put AGD on in her home town, and I expect if she does that, she will make it very successful indeed.
One more sunny photo, then I must paint some Angels. Goddam Gloomy Angels With Coats On. And Sunglasses In The Bin Because There Is No Sun. Bah. Humbug.
A Graceful Death in Milton Manor Tea Rooms Festival Of The Nine Muses last weekend. Here is the very interesting musician who was very dedicated to his quest to make people feel inspired. And me. And the Muppet. Can you see the rays of sunshine through the window? Mutter mutter mumble mumble complain complain.
I don't care. I can go back to bed. That will be a win win situation and will prove that as ever, I am not to be trifled with. Night night.
We Doggone Did It. A Graceful Death Made Having Tea A Whole New Experience.
A Graceful Death is set up in the Tea Room of Milton Manor House. We removed all the wonderful clutter that we could, and covered the stuffed foxes with Russian shawls.
The Teapots. A Million of them. I wanted to climb on the shelf and sleep amongst them. And the paintings, all set up and looking so good in the large open room smelling of centuries of wood and tea and life.
More. And more ...
I sat on this sofa and listened to people talk when they wanted to. And some were very keen to talk for a long time and I was delighted to listen. Some wanted to spend a few minutes connecting with the exhibition and their own experiences, some wanted to work out the effect of life and death in general. Some just wanted to sit.
Milton Manor. We did it. It was great fun and I did make a teeny movie of it, and it is going to be edited and uploaded but I left the box with all the leads and instructions under the table on the right hand side of this picture. I am hoping they (The Muses) will find it and send it on. Oh this is just as exciting. I made my first moving pictures account of the weekend, and some of it makes sense! I saw it on the camera and played it back to myself and thought maybe, just maybe, Hollywood should watch out.
The Muppet and I left at 3pm on Friday. He of course helped packing by putting his bag in the car at the last minute. I did all the rest but did so with a smile on my face. He was, aged whatever, coming to his first festival with his mum. How cool is that. Poor Muppet. Amused and chuckling Mum.
We arrived at the Manor, and left the real world somewhere on the A34. We drove up to the house while a man on a white horse and no saddle cantered across the lawns from the left and disappeared into the outhouses on the right. Gosh I thought. I expect that is an Extra hired to canter across the lawns every time a car pulls up, so that we can see we are coming to a classy joint where we had better not make a fuss. I expect he goes into the outhouses, round the back of the building and waits under a tree at a designated spot and when the lookout waves a red flag from behind a bush he canters out looking neither left nor right and sets the scene for us.
"There is a change of Plan," says the Muse (The Festival of the Nine Muses was organised by Nine Muses in Character at All Times) we met as we pulled up in front of the house. "You are in the Tea Rooms." Gosh I think, did God tell them in a dream that if you want Antonia to love you, you put her in a tearoom? We followed the Muse into a tearoom and lo, I did love her. Madly. The room was huge, an old kitchen/brewery depending on who was describing it to me, and it was used as a tea room when the house was open to the public. This was better than being in a Greenhouse with no glass in a field somewhere near a Silage Plant. Not of course that there was a Silage Plant in the literature, but there may have been one . It is not the sort of thing they would make into a plus point in the PR Drive.
So I set up. The Muppet tried to help but he had some phone calls to make and some clothes to change into and some Walking Around to do. I sent him off to see where we would camp. He did so. The Impossibly Handsome Billy was there, (he popped up at the Glorious Clarissas for dinner a while back and wore just the right shade of blue in his shirt) and Billy was utterly invaluable in setting up, helping out, and Doing Stuff. He is connected to the Manor, and his wonderful Lady, Henrietta, was also there and is his connection to the Manor, looking Striking and Memorable and gearing up to her performance later on the Saturday as the Pussy Cat in the Owl and the Pussy Cat, which she and Billy were to Do in a boat on the lake in front of the house.
The Glorious Clarissa arrived before the Amazing Angela with her Kath Kidson Wigwam.
The Cast so far. The Glorious Clarissa, the Remarkably Handsome Billy, and the Groovy Muppet all helping to set up the A Graceful Death in the Tea Rooms. Soon you will see the Wigwam and All Will Be Complete.
The Kath Kidson Wigwam! It is All OK! It exists. Here we have Me, Amazing Angela and the Mighty Muppet having breakfast the morning after the first night before, if you see what I mean. Note I bought my spotty teapot and six spotty mugs. No slacking of the Standards here.
The exhibition was really so unusual in amongst the Festival of the Nine Muses doing their poetry thing. The link was Love, and very appropriate it was too. I will write up an account of the acutal exhibition in the A Graceful Death http://www.agracefuldeath.blogspot.com/ . As ever, it was moving and very profound.
And there was reggae! Some inspired Friend of a Muse set up a stage for the musical entertainment which was happening from about 7pm onwards. To fill in the hours between the setting up of the stage and the start of the concerts, the tranquillity and peace of the Milton Manor grounds was filled with the deep and meaningful offerings of Big Youth, and all his pain that Rasta was misunderstood and only wanted a Spliff. I was entranced. Reggae is my thing, and I could hear it from the Tea Rooms, where I sat swaying like a Very Happy But Switched On Rasta Mama.
At nine o'clock, I packed up. I needed to be absolutley unfettered for the night ahead. There were parties in them thar marquees. An utterly beautiful lady, 6'2" and perfect from head to toe, offered to help me. She was a Psychology Graduate, and bright as a button. With her help, and many surrepticious glances from me at her black lipstick which only someone of her stature and style could wear, the exhibition was put away and the way cleared for Partying.
But, my friends, I am nearly 50. By 11pm I was pooped. I sat with our crowd amongst candles and hundreds of other folk, with food and shawls against the cool night air, listening to Modern Minstrells and Rock Bands play, one after the other, and thought I may just have an early night. Our friends Tuula and Tony from Wimbledon had arrived to join us, and I leaned against Tuulas legs as she sat on her foldy up chair and said Blimey, I am A Gonner. Tuula said I should give it a bit longer, but I felt my brain was seizing up and I was beginning to talk like someone having a stroke. So Angela and I, both with no real sense of Stamina At A Festival, went off for an early night. The Muppet meanwhile, had found a whole new set of friends and had set up another little Posse round a camp fire yards from us. I could have waved to my darling Overlord through all the smoke from his campsite and called "Mummy Loves You Pet" but I didn't. I wandered over to his set up like John Wayne and said "Hey. I am going now." And left it vague as to where I was going. I added "Night then" and tried not to show ownership of the Muppet as he stood to hear me speak. I thought in a split second, should I shake his hand? But no, that would be confusing to his Posse. So would a John Wayne Hoik and Spit, so I just nodded and muttered "Not too late Baby Face" and went off into the night.
The Glorious Clarissa came a few hours later to try and rouse us to go to the Ceiledh but I couldn't move. My Sleeping Bag Attached To A Blow Up Mattress All In One Affair For The Lilly Livered was just too addictive and I stayed put. Angela got up and went off though. I heard the Festivities go on all night till about 5am, but at no point did I want to go and join in. I need my strength, I have much to do during the days. I had to drive back home on the Sunday and go to another Barbeque and Behave Myself. So no slurring of speech because I was up all night before. I was to collect 13 Year Old Son from the Barbeque which was a Leavers Celebration, as 13 Year Old Son and all his class mates had reached the end of their time at their present school and were leaving forever for Real Schools elsewhere. I even met the Maths Teacher for the first time when I arrived on the Sunday at the huge and wonderful house where about 70 people were eating, chatting and chilling while all the kids swam, played tennis and whooped around like the nice teenage kiddies they are. About the Maths Teacher. I never knew when there was a parents evening because the Child Never Told me till it was too late. So I have never set eyes on this man, who also wondered whether 13 Year Old Son was perhaps a Foundling. Much was said and cleared up, and much fun had going over Son's five years of Maths at the school. To be fair, I kept in touch with Son's form teacher who always kept me up to date with his progress, so there were no shocks but, without ever meeting the Maths Master, we both thought the other didn't exist.
Now, Monday Morning. I have much to do and much to think about. I have been asked to take A Graceful Death to the Edinburgh Festival next month, but that may just be a Spur of the Moment Thing. The lady who offered was a similar soul to me, and I would dearly love to see her again anyway.
Before I go, here are the loos from Milton Manor. Amazing.
Take a friend in for chats while you wee. Wonderful.
Here is an Angel to start your day. It is about 3' tall, and is one of a pair commissioned by the Remarkable Renaissance Lady, Lucy Martin. I will put the second Angel at the end of today's Account of Being and Artist and Mother in Bognor Regis. Goddam. Now you have to read the whole blog to get to the Angel at the end. Oh these mind games. Never mind, mustn't grumble.
The Festival of Nine Muses Hosts An Exhibition On Death. (And then there were eight. And then seven ...)
I am being flippant. Of course the Exhibition on the End Of Life does not target New Life and smite it at each showing. Nine Muses will start at the Festival of Love, and Nine Muses will finish at the Festival on Love. My exhibition is about love, so much about love. It is because we love that we want to celebrate and remember those we have lost. At the end of a life, alongside pure sorrow and grief, is pure love. My A Graceful Death will sit beautifully alongside poems and exhibitions on Love. It will be a bit more End of Lifey, that's all.
Yesterday, I potted 10 pots of glorious, riotous, ecstacy-inducing colour in my garden. I have, outside my studio, outside the kitchen, in the patio, and hidden amongst the sweet peas, the following.
Gerberas. (Pink ones)
Geraniums (red ones)
Petunias (which ones were they again?)
Lavender (reminds me of my Grandpa who was a Genius in the Garden.) (He was a Genius at Gardening, he didn't solve the Mysteries of the Universe etc only while in the garden.)
Alongside all this, I have Roses (scented), Hollyhocks (Oh Wow! My most favourite flower ever ever ever except for Roses, and then, mostly, only pink and red ones) and all sorts of Amazing Specimens that bloom in little pockets amongst all the other wonderful motley collections of colour and wildness in the garden. My garden, is, like me, doing its own thing and being jolly colourful about it too.
I am packed. The A Graceful Death is going to Milton Manor in Oxford. There will be 6 of us in our group, and we will be sleeping under a Kath Kidson 7 Sleeper Wigwam. I told the Glorious Clarissa that I would sleep under a Kath Kidson Colander as long as it was Kath Kidson. I have tons of food, I have cushions, rugs, sleeping bags and socks in case my feet get cold at midnight. I have loo roll so that I can wee in the bushes with home comforts. I have packed my biggest teapot in my biggest teacosy, and six nice spotty mugs so that as we sit outside our Designer Kath Kidson Wigwam, we can be seen to be Kath Kidson Types having tea in a Big Spotty Teapot and Six Spotty Mugs. I will of course, be very busy, trying to find where my Greenhouse is. I believe it is all a little chaotic, so I may have to improvise a lot. I may have to set A Graceful Death up in the Kath Kidson Wigwam.
I have bought myself a Video Camera that looks like a Mobile Phone it is so compact. It is to film the Oxford Experience, so look out it may come your way via YouTube.
Here, to signal the end of today's Romp Through The Life Of An Artist In Bognor, is the other Angel. They were commissioned as a pair for Renaissance Lady Lucy Martin's husband, who I may say, is a bit of a Groover on the Dance Floor. (Reference to his 40th birthday party where despite having had a dreadful tummy bug while coming home from a family camping holiday, he came to his party and Made Like John Travolta. Such stamina.)
But we all know that! You cry. Well, there is more. (And thank you.) I was invited by Arty Man Who Does Lots Of Things At Once And Has A Motorbike to come and join him and his Ginger Best Friend at a tiny pub in Bognor Regis, for an Open Mic Night. Well. You can imagine what the Muppet said. He has been there before and knows the score. "Why would you go there Mother," he said with panic in his eyes and both a squeak and a tremor in his voice. "They are far too young for someone like you and they may be drinking and very likely there will be a punch up and some knife crime and then you really won't like it." "My Son!" I said with a calm from years of hard living and spiritual development, "My Oldest Muppet, Oh Teenage Overlord, when I enter the pub, I don't need to even look at you. I will creep in and sit under a table near the loos and if anyone talks to me I will dribble and they will think I have been let out so my carers can have a bit of a break. " As it happened, I arrived late at the pub, Arty Man did a very good bit of music with his band, and I sat with the Muppet on bar stools in companiable bliss and every ten minutes or so he would gallantly suggest he walked me to my car. "I am not ready to go yet" I would yell gaily over the latest Rock Hopeful doing their thing loudly into the microphone, "but don't let me stop you".
So I am a Rock Chick because I saw Arty Man play his guitar and his Ginger Best Friend and the Muppet and I are, by association, in the band too. Because we know him. It works like that I believe.
So today I am tired. But fired up. I am going back next week with the Ginger Best Friend's Mum who is my friend too, and together we will start an Oldies Quarter in the pub.
I am going to Oxford on Friday. I will set up the A Graceful Death with the Glorious Clarissa, and we will camp out in the grounds of the Manor House. Clarissa has the tents, I will provide the food. There is, I am told, a party on the Saturday night. Well. After a Festival on Love Poetry, a Party can only mean one thing. Lots of Lurve. As long as there is food, I don't mind, I can love all sorts in a motherly kind of way, but only if I am fed. I suspect that Clarissa and I, being in a tent in the grounds, will have to go to bed amongst all the Festivities at some point, so we will probably be completely pie-eyed by Sunday morning. At which point I will gather my Paintings from the Greenhouse With No Glass, or if it is raining, the Tack Room With Lots Of Straw, and try and drive in a straight line to Chichester in time for a Barbeque to which I have, with 13 Year Old Son and the Muppet if he is with me, been invited. If I arrive at the nice and genteel but very large Barbeque with straw in my hair and the same clothes that I put on on Friday, I think it will heighten my reputation as an Artist of Genius.
So now, I must go and Get Ready. I have wood to prepare for two more diptychs which is four portraits in all. I tried to cut the wood with my trusty power tool yesterday but it ended up at least 2" smaller one end than the other. I am going to find a Man to do it for me. What the heck. I'm a Rock Chick. I don't cut wood, I have my mind on Rocking. And Rolling. Etc.
Yes, yes, we have all seen me but look at this Barbie and her Barbie Sun Specs! This is 20 Year Old Daughter in Brighton at the Muppet's birthday party. I own a Barbie, and isn't she lovely? She is a good six foot tall and very feisty and I like it that she is so blonde and fair when I am a swarthy gipsy type. We were in a pub watching the England v Germany match but as true members of my household we were outside taking photos of each other, being witty and eating crisps.
I will post the Muppet and His Mother at the end of this account. So you have to keep reading because now you are hooked.
The Briefest Of Visits To Antonia Land Today
I think I am slowing down. I no longer feel my eyes are going round and round like the red and white barbers signs, and I can feel the beginnings of a headache coming on. I am coming in to land from outer space where I have been looping the loop and unable to stop. I am beginning to slow down. This is good, but would be good if it happened next week when I have planned my Day Off in the sun. I have seven days at least before I can even think of a rest.
So. Eileen and I did our photo shoot at the Glorious Clarissa's on Saturday. That went so very well, and I was uplifted and thrilled to be with such affirmative people. They always do me good, and all that we had to photograph for paintings, for prints and for commissions coming up, were done is perfect sunshine and companionship. With tea and crumpets.
Yesterday I did my goddam car boot sale and made a grand profit of £7.40p. Bloomin heck. That is just over a pound an hour. And it was very windy and I had a pitch under a huge avenue of trees in a kind of wind tunnel where there was a permanent Arctic Front. Say no more. I wore at least two of Alan's jumpers that I was trying to sell (he knows. Not a fit of pique) and a blanket I brought for possible snoozing in the car while I was waiting to enter Fontwell at 5.30am. So I was Not Fulfilled yesterday afternoon. I thought Life Was A Bugger for a while. Then I got home, had a hot bath (Yes! In July! Damn and Blast It!) and played the best game of Monopoly I have ever played with 13 Year Old Son, so felt better.
A Word On Monopoly. I hate it. I can't work it out, I am not competitive and I would much rather waive the rents so that the other players will love me. I can't see why anyone would want 3 houses when 2 would do, and as for hotels, what a lot of extra hassle. Think of all the housework. 13 Year Old Son gave me a small tutorial which went in one ear and out the other. He told me of the probabilities of the dice landing on this space or that, of the necessity of planning your acquisitions and how to make the dice fall in doubles not singles. "Yes, but, " I said. "What is it all for?" "Why Mother," he said with a cheeky grin and a quick back flip, "it is to destroy your opponent." Aaah. That is why I don't get it. I want to help my opponent, and take it very personally when they charge me a rent I can't afford. So. I started to cheat. 13 Year Old Son saw it, took it all in and made an instant executive decision, and decided to help me cheat. At that point, he had hotels all over London and 25 million pounds. I owned some Utilities and had 500 thousand pounds, and although I thought that under the circumsances I was rich beyond imaginings, and was beginning to plan a long holiday in the Mediterranean, I knew that I was going to be fleeced by 13 Year Old Son sooner or later, and forced to live the life of a Pauper and the game would be over.
The game became fun, jolly and what is more, I understood it once I started to cheat. 13 Year Old Son and I spend hours enabling me to hold on to my Utilities, my 500k and have that holiday in the Med. And he mysteriously went up to 30 million quid and his hotels had hotels on them, so maybe it wasn't just me that cheated.
I am off now to paint. I feel tired today and slightly fuzzy headed. I am going to an Open Mike Night it seems tomorrow, and I am thrilled. I will see Busy Arty Man Who Has A Fab Car and his Ginger Best Friend singing and what is more, the Muppet has been invited. Oooh. Will the Muppet handle being in a local pub with his Mum? I will have to pretend to be a Wierd Old Stranger. He can throw peanuts at me and say Look! I am throwing peanuts at this wierd old stranger lady who I don't know and have never met and couldn't possibly tell you who she is but isn't it fun! I am asserting myself!
Now. Don't forget to go to Oxford this weekend to see the A Graceful Death in the Festival of the Nine Muses. http://www.miltonmanorhouse.com/ for details. Come and see an exhibition on Death and Dying and Love and Hope in a Greenhouse with No Glass and girls dressed as Muses reciting Love Poetry. And workshops. And Nuttiness I expect, as only Poetic Gals and the Chelsea Arts Club can do. I look forward to it, and will Go With The Flow. Come and Flow with me. Clarissa will be there, and between us we will Do Our Stuff.
The Artist Putting On Her Lippy. I am wearing a red jacket here, but rest assured, I have the same one in pink. If I had my new Michael Caine Get Carter glasses on, I wouldn't be wondering Is this Lipstick or is it a Pritt stick.
But not today. No, not for a little while. How long is a little while? Because my head is a Buzzing Railway Station of Ideas, Plans and To Do Lists, it could be the week after next. Some of you will cry "Oh but that is ages away. You will have imploded with a little puff of smoke by then, what with all the Stuff going on in your life". Others will peer at me sternly over the top of their glasses and say, "A day off is a Downward Slope. A day speadeagled on your trampoline in the sun wearing only factor 400 with deliveries of cream buns arranged for every half hour is for those who are Without A Backbone"
Well here is the plan.
I will zap about the country for the next few days. I will phone people and do Deals and have Interesting Conversations on my mobile in places where other people will hear and envy me my lifestyle. I will plan Painting Days in the studio and put on my dungarees and my new glasses and paint my commissions and listen to Radio 4. I will wear a Serious Expression.
I will write my proposals for A Graceful Death for various Bodies (Ha. Did I really say that?) and I will speak to Energetic Arty Man Who Makes Films about making a film about A Graceful Death. I will set up the new account for the sponsorship money that is coming in and get myself ready to meet a very inspirational lady who is Big in the End Of Life Debate next week at my house where she will see the paintings and read, because by then it will be done, the Exhibition Plan.
I will plan my Barn Dance, and do all the Necessaries. Keep your diaries free for the end of August. I am going back to Dublin Friend's seaside cottage with the kids and will get that organised and a new passport for the Muppet Overlord. My Darling Friend from London will come and stay here with her kiddies while we are away.
And I will go camping with Clarissa the weekend after this, and take whoever else in our families that wants to come. Clarissa and I will set up A Graceful Death in a Greenhouse with no glass in a chaotic Festival in a Manor House in Oxford for that Saturday, and Go with the Flow. We will see if anyone, anyone at all, turns up. Otherwise, A Graceful Death will be set up in a Greenhouse with No Glass at Milton Manor in Oxford and only Clarissa and I will know it is there. And some stray gardeners who may be very surprised.
For those who want to experience this, the A Graceful Death will be at the Festival of the Nine Muses in Milton Manor in Oxford on Saturday 10 July from morning to afternoon. There will be lots of Poetry and Art and Workshops and somewhere, in the grounds, probably in a field far away, will be Clarissa and I in a Greenhouse with a very profound exhibition on Love and the End of Life. It will be, I think, Unforgettable. We will have biscuits and doughnuts and will be ready to answer any of your questions like Why Are You In A Field With An Exhibition On Death At A Poetry Festival?
On coming home, I will have a Day Off. I am, as you may imagine, very tired but strangely content. I will lie in the sun on my large wobbly trampoline, and ponder the enormity of life and the randomness of things. Then I will fall asleep and dream of Cream Teas.
So now. I am all in pink. I am pink from my new Yves St Laurant lipstick to my QS (Quality Seconds) flip flops with big flower on top. I am wearing my new glasses that make me see things, and though one of my friends think they are too severe, I think I look Highly Intellectual and a bit like Michael Caine. (They have dark thick rims. I look like Get Carter but pinker and more arty).
Brother no. 3 has his birthday today and now, I am going to lunch with him in Dorking. On the way I will call into Old Teacher Friend, he who calls Costya "Old Boy", and get him to sign Costya's passport photos. (" I hearby declare I know this Muppet and it is indeed, He."). I will check out a Village Hall, and later today I will go to the Glorious Clarissa's to have a Dinner Party. If that does not come off, I will have an early night.
So A Day Off is Looming. I say to the serious folk who think it is a Downward Slope, come and join me! We will slide into oblivion together.