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.)
13 Year Old Son Has His Ear Operation And The Silent Pole Goes Back To Poland.
We shall miss our Silent Pole. He has been a lovely addition to the house, and I think he has enjoyed his time here working night and day alone and silent in his room. I know I would. I hope he comes back and I have said his wife is welcome too, so I will await developments. I wonder if she is silent and elusive too. I wonder if they communicate on a non physical plane of Higher Consciousness, I wonder if they have reached a Nirvana of sorts and don't need words, or the presence of the Other, to say, "Am pooped. Fancy a takeaway tonight?"
13 Year Old Son has a big operation today. He has only one eardrum and is very hard of hearing in his left ear. So he is having another eardrum constructed today using skin from behind his ear. The hope is that he will be able to hear better and that his constant tinnitus will go. We have gone in for this operation once before, but his right ear was failing so they put it off until it was not going to be risky and he lose his hearing more. So there is a chance they won't operate today either, if his right ear is not up to scratch. That would be a darn shame, as we want to get this done and some improvements made.
I say "we", but I mean him. I say "we" have gone in for this op before, and "we" want to get the operation done etc, but actually, it is only him. I won't be lying on a Sympathy Table in the operating theatre having a third eardrum made for me too, out of Empathy for the Son. He wants to get it over and done with, he wants to hear better and he is the only one having anything done. Me, I am the Mother and feel dreadfully protective (now if you are going to take my son's ears and head to pieces, make sure your knives are properly sharp. And wash your hands first). I will take him to the doors of the theatre, and then probably go back and lie in his bed till he is brought back up. I was up at 6am today to make sure he had some food before 7am as he is not allowed any after that, and I am exhausted already. Only 7.45 am now. Two weeks off school, and from tomorrow onwards The Boy will be able to hear a leaf fall in the next garden. At least, I suppose, if he can hear me say "Do your homework" or "Have a bath" that would be progress.
So here I sit. In bed, with my Toast and Nutella next to me, and it is only 7.49am. We leave at 9.30am. The poor Muppet came home last night and is due to have his braces on his teeth tightened today. I was going to take him and hold him down as they got out the spanners and monkey wrenches to do the tightening, but he will have to go on his own now. I have left him money to take a taxi to the hospital (orthodontics in one hospital, eardrums in another) from the station, so maybe he will still love me. Sigh.
My jobs this morning are to have a bath, pack for the Eardrum Hospital, leave instructions to Anyone Who Cares here to take out the rubbish tomorrow, make sure I have enough fun things to do until tomorrow at some point (I am staying overnight with Eardrum Boy) and mouth a silent Farewell to our Silent Pole. I finished the Clown Angel yesterday and will send it off tomorrow when I get back, so that is all in order. The portrait of the Rocking Rev Rachel is due to start on Monday and I have finished the Painting For The Kitchen for a new house in London. So all is going to plan...
I am looking forward to doing nothing much at the hospital. My dear 13 Year Old Son is like a giant lion cub, he wants to play fight all the time and is bigger than most people. He likes to fall on me from unexpected places and give me hugs that make me worried I am going to die. He likes to fireman's lift me to different parts of the house and leave me there, and he loves to practice shadow boxing on me while I am trying to cook/wash up/talk on the phone/paint/sleep. If I was a perfect mum to him, I would play rugby, know how to box, sword fight, play American Football and get someone else in to cook and do the housework and paintings. I would be like Cato in Peter Sellers Pink Panther films. So today, I will spend quality time with him because he will be under anaesthetic and will be unable to practice head butting with me and I will be able to just sit and hold his hand and read. And hope that my turning the pages loudly won't annoy his new found Super Radar Level hearing.
I Don't Know What Is More Important, A New Painting Or Sailing For The First Time Yesterday
Goodness. Now I have a tussle regarding priorities. As an Artist, my main aim is to paint and make pictures. As (Occasionally) a Flighty Type, I want to concentrate on all the fun I have been having. So yes, I have nearly finished a self portrait of myself as a Survivor for the A Graceful Death exhibition which opens in Dublin on the 22 October. I wanted to include a wonderful hopeful painting of how it is not only possible but right, to live on and experience happiness and peace again. I am a survivor of the loss of Steve and I wanted to show how there is always life in and around us, until we too die. So I have painted a wonderful yellow background against which I sit in my bright orange jumper, simply looking out with no expression needed. I have no props, there is nothing else in the painting but me sitting and looking out at you with the glorious yellow background saying so much about how there is always light and life around us. So here it is. I have not finished it yet, there are some details to go in like the chair I am sitting on which isn't there yet. My earrings, my ring, the hands need a bit of work and my hair needs to be finished. No, I won't put a moustache on it, that would be silly.
Don't you love that yellow? I want to paint more survivors - or not survivors - of bereavement. I want to paint those who have experienced loss at whatever stage they may be at. Not everyone gets through, not everyone takes a few years, some take longer some take shorter. It is all very personal. This painting is about 4' by 2.5'.
Oh but now, on to the sailing. Yesterday I went sailing for the first time. I was taken by my nice friend Ann the Artist from Middleton, and her other half, Barry. An experienced sailing friend of Barry's called Tony came too. That was nice, because I get called Toni an awful lot, and so everytime Barry said Hoist the Main Petard Tony, I jumped up and said Righty Ho, What Do You Mean?
The boat was neat, small and made of wood. It had a teeny little cabin down some steps and a loo and some sleeping berths. It had some sails and a motor. Barry and Tony from time to time leant over the sides and called to each other, "Ah, there's a point five luxury sloop nineteen seventy five mark two version," and the other would suck his teeth and say with a slight shake of his head,"Dunno about the point five, I think eight point two nought nought is a better version. Nice mover though, handy knottage for a small craft".
Ann had sailed before many times and would quietly get up onto the front of the boat and haul in a rope or point to a sail that was not quite tight enough, then come back and continue talking to me about Art and Men. Ann is a very good painter, and quite a modest kind of character, which is very lovely. She knows a lot of things, and has had many experiences, so talking of Art, Men and Boats is mind expanding with her. Both Ann and I did not want to be cold or wet, so we wore those heavy waterproof over trousers that have straps that go over your shoulders. I already had tights under my trousers and thick socks and a vest and two jumpers and a heavy coat on, so after borrowing Barry's heavy trousers I was extremely dry, warm and unable to move. I was like the Michelin Tyre Man and took more time than ususal to stand up and sit down. I could help on the boat by steering standing up, or steering sitting down. I could not leap to help in an emergency (like the broom going overboard) but I could shout instructions. I was very jolly and very happy but not very mobile. Ann, Barry and Tony were all much more used to being on a boat and had no trouble at all doing everything and being very entertaining and fun.
Other news? Well, A Graceful Death is shaping up nicely to open in Dublin on the 22 October. A painting for a nice man in London is coming on well, and I am waiting to start on the Rocking Rev Rachel's portrait as Rock Chick Angel of the North. And I am very tired in my bones today, I think that some sunshine would do me a lot of good. So a trip to Jamaica would be the answer, I think. Nice and simple. I will ask the Jolly Boys if I can come and stay. And in the house? Well, the Silent Pole has been seen eating at the table, which is one more exciting indicator that he is normal. He is lovely, just elusive and quiet and like a startled deer. Arty Man Who's Life Is Never Dull is back from a night away and wore a nice fluffy man-jacket this morning and his Ginger Best Friend has hurt her back. 13 Year Old Son has decided the Army isn't for him (was he considering it? How? When?) and that being an American Cop is. Why? Because they carry guns. And your point is, Son?
So, to recap. I can paint, sail, want to stay with the Jolly Boys in Jamaica, saw the Silent Pole eating, think that 13 Year Old Son wants to be Robocop, am taking the A Graceful Death to Dublin in a few weeks, and haven't decided what to have for dinner tonight yet - and am very tired. Well, putting it like that, of course I am tired. I am living Life In The Fast Lane. It's the Price of Success. (!)
Rosie Miles is a wonderful poet. So is her partner Nicola Slee. Both are writers, thinkers and jolly nice people, both teach and publish and eat and rush about, both have only good to say about other people and both love their cats. Nicola's poems touch my soul, Rosie's poems touch my heart. So - through the post came their birthday poem for my 50th and I am still swooning with joy. No one has ever written me a poem before, not many of us get this kind of privilage (Rocking Rev Rachel Mann did in Manchester this year for her 40th, and Rosie performed it too on behalf of her and Nicola, and pretty amazing it was too). So here I am feeling like the Most Privilaged 50 Year Old In Sussex. It is built around all the paintings I have done and is so very very kind. The Poem, your Honour - the Poem - here it is:
Woman in her PrimeWith Knobs On
(50 Brush Strokes for Antonia)
She is looking at Steve
painting his dying
painting the life draining our of his cheeks
painting the pain of it the utter bloody waste of it
painting the way it happens while angels
stand at bust stops or make cups of tea.
God is online working in the study
when Jesus tweets:
Just getting on the Tube.
Back later. Can u do supper?
The Male Madonna is
rocking Antonias inner child
and singing her a lullaby:
Loolay, looley, lovely Antonia.
The 4 a.m. Madonna doesn't mind
being woken up by baby Jesus,
who's jumping up and down in his cot
because it's Antonia's birthday.
Mary is sitting at her dressing table
not taking the slightest notice of Gabriel.
She's got more important things to do:
like paint her nails and doll herself up
for Antonia's party.
They are all here:
Orange Lady, Greeen Lady, Black Lady'
Blue Brunette Lady, Green Top Lady, Red Bottom Lady,
Red Knickers Lady, Blue Redhead Lady, Yellow Lady.
Blue Teapot Fairy has put the kettle on.
Domestic Angel has removed her apron.
She won't do anymore today. Tired Angel has
put aside her broom. Shy Angel creeps in.
Angel practising dancing on the head of a pin
has perfected the art of twirling perfectly
and spins and spins and spins.
They are all here to celebrate Antonia's birthday.
To offer her several squares of happiness.
Snowy the cat is lying on a fluffy
angel's wing, purring and enormous
heavenly purr and waving her beatific tail
in honour of Antonia's special day.
She's bringing it on:
the colours, the angels, the bodies,
the feather boas, the dancing,
the divine in the mundane,
the sideways look at
the dying and the rising.
She's a woman in her prime,
priming her paints and painting her life.
Easy God in conjuring new colours just for her
and placing them carefully in a spangly new paintbox.
Rosie Miles and Nicola Slee.
The Painting. By Flo Dickerson.
Flo is in her early 20s. Don't you think that this is the most sophisticated image for someone so young? In the real painting the colours in the sky are amazing and rich, and the brush work very confident and clever. Flo did this for me to keep when she was here last weekend, and I am so very proud to show it to all of you as the work of a very talented young woman. Thank you Flo, I love it. Do More!
The Photographer. We All Know The Eileen Rafferty And Never Have Enough Of Her Photos.
A teeny elephant that lives near the sugar bowl. It is typical that Eileen would see a tiny object and capture it in detail, making it look absolutely wonderful.
We had these little flower displays on the Ceilidh tables, and Eileen loves detail, colour and plants.
A glorious shot of the fairy cakes Annabel Church Smith made (she is the Fairy Cake Boss) on the cake stand that Darling Dublin Friend gave me, and just behind is The Pavlova that Cousin Maddy made that finished off the weekend and nearly sent us all to Over Eaters Anonymous but we were too fat to get up from the table by then. Eileen has made an art form of the theme of the Rolling Weekend of Cakes, and captured the loveliness of the cakes and the display and the whole atmosphere of the weekend.
A lovely tasty shot of one of the teeny Cup Cakes from our own CupCake Guru (Annabel Church Smith). Again Eileen has made a very tiny object deliciously detailed and the close up of it doesn't lose it's sense of being tiny, it emphasises its delicacy and is a superb example of the stength of Eileen's simple shots.
Oh the clever and perfect way Eileen has caught the different patterns and colours and shapes. Again, from the Rolling Tea And Cakes Weekend we had in August.
So. There you go. I know more clever people too, like Darling Dublin Friend who is a Graphic Designer to Make You Glad To Be Alive. Or is that just her anyway? Well, Rosie, Nicola, Flo and Eileen are the stars here today, and thank you to all of them.
Let me introduce to you Alan Mars. He is dancing below like a true Celt.
Alan Mars from Celtic Cadences provided our dancing and music, and here he is dancing with me, and looking Scottish with Red Hair and a Kilt. He was very good and we all had a great time so a big thank you to Alan Mars. www.celtic-cadencies.blog.co.uk
We began the preparations at 5pm, formal jollities were at 7pm. I could not have done without all the help from friends who were wonderful in doing everything for me. "Do This!" I remember instructing everyone nicely, "Do That!" And when they were nearly finished Doing It, I said with a commanding voice "Do Something Else!" and they all did. "It's her birthday," they all muttered to each other, "she is getting old. Be nice to her, it's downhill all the way now for her, you know". And in the background I could be heard saying, "Do More! Do It Here! And There! And Another Thing..." and so on.
Gareth and Sam helping blow balloons up and hang them around the hall. Each balloon had a little light in it that looked like a teeny Tinkerbell. Gareth and Sam were so helpful, when they are 50 I am going to come and help them in their Ceilidh. It's a promise.
To the left we have 13 Year Old Son blowing up balloons and on the right we have the very lovely Coryn looking startled with me behind her. I was doing the flowers, Coryn was doing everything else. I suspect I was not really doing the flowers, Coryn was, I was saying "do this and this and this and that and the other and then something else and so on and so on and so on."
So here Coryn may have been saying No! Get Knotted Birthday Girl!
And she would have been right.
On to the dancing. Alan Mars looked the part, and was a very jolly fellow indeed, getting us all up and taking us through our paces. He was possibly the most in need of a Medal as he arrived with his knees bound with tape and such like, to prevent them falling off because they were weak. All hidden under his socks, making his calfs look as shapely as any Tudor Courtier. And, he said in between dances, while gasping for breath, his ankles hurt so maybe a wee sit down. Nonsense, I cried, because I had lost all empathy for my fellow beings, Another Gay Gordon and you can sit down for five minutes. And so we danced. I danced with Alan Mars, and have to say, he is a wonderful person to dance with. I didn't detect any pain in his knees and ankles but then that was probably because I was being obsessive about dancing till we dropped and would have had to trip over him as he lay expiring and turning green on Walberton Village Hall floor.
Maddy, Michael and Marion all tripping the Light Fantastic.
And Simon, Katya and Adrian doing the same.
For food, a bright spark had suggested Fish and Chips. And Fish and Chips it was, with Mushy Peas, Mushy Pea Fritters (Oh oh oh such wonders) and Sausages and Veggie Burgers and Onion Rings. All served in their paper wrappers on red and white spotty paper plates, with salt, ketchup and vinegar....shall I stop? Longing for fish and chips now? Well go to Barnham Fish and Chips. They must be the best in the Universe.
From left to right we have my nephew Francis, my cousin the Unmatchable Maddy, my brother Dominic, a teeny bit of 13 Year Old Son's Head and Maddy's son Charlie, so my cousin too in a once removed second kind of way.
The Fatema. The whirlwind for good that is Fatema. Fatema made my birthday cake and provided fairy cakes for 50 because blow me down, she is a genuis. Here is the beautiful Fatema collecting her Fish Supper for the evening. Fair exchange for a large birthday cake with an edible photo of me on it and 50 sparkly twinkly fairy cakes, no?
And finally - the lady behind all these photos. The Unmatched Queen of the Camera, The Observer Of All and Capturer Of People, Moods, Life and the Universe
Eileen Rafferty. Probably the Best Photographer In The World. (Like the Larger Advert).
Thank You Eileen.
And Thank You to all of you who made the Ceilidh such fun. When it was over, all the guests switched from Party Animals to Clearing Up Gurus, and everyone had the hall cleaned and cleared and washed and dusted by midnight. When the lovely Walberton Village Hall lady came to check it over and lock up, it was as if we had dreamt it all. Everything was done and the only clue that we had had a party was the faint echo of the Dashing White Seargeant echoing in the mists over Walberton and the faint glow of little Tinkerbells in Balloons hanging from trees leading up to the Hall.... and the shuffling of the Ceilidh Man as he staggered to his car before his knees and ankles gave way.
A Final Word. Alan Bedford made the evening flow despite being barely able to walk from his damaged knee, by being the Man Behind the Scenes. He enabled me to have fun, to dance and sing and be a Birthday Girl by doing all the hard work that made the evening run smoothly. Here we are, cutting the birthday cake that Fatema made, with a swiss army knife, as no one had thought to bring any knives. Just spoons and forks. Thank you Alan Bedford.
Time Is Marching On. I Must Go To Bed And Read Before It Marches Out.
How obscure. My main aim today has been to go to bed early and read. Now, it is 3 minutes past 10 and it is no longer early. It is still possible to enjoy the thought of going to bed though despite it being so late, because tomorrow is Saturday. I am only required at My Mother's House at 3pm for tea, until then, I am not going to get up. No. Perhaps I will teeter around getting my breakfast, and running a bath, but will have a fit of the collywobbles if I see any of my Household that May Want Something. I intend to be a Slugabed. Big Time.
Today I did the second of the Angel Workshops at the St Barnabas Hospice where Steve died, and it makes me tired and a bit lonely. I loved being there but I could see the room where Steve died and I wanted to stop the workshop and say Look! Just over there Steve died, in that bed there! How do you feel about that? Do you want me to tell you about it? Shall we go through it all step by step? OK? But I didn't, all the day patients are on that journey and will end up being danced out of life by the wonderful hospice staff before too long. The Angel Painting was wonderful though. I think that so many of us know our Angels, they live with us. Two of the men there painted their wives as their Angels.
After the hospice, I collected Flo From Boston and California from Bognor Station. She has come for the weekend and is as pretty as I remember her. Flo is on her way to Italy, and as all good travellers do, she is stopping by Bognor Regis en route. Makes sense. Flo was 16 when I met her six years ago, and a very good artist then. She is still a very good artist and has now got a degree and a whole life ahead of her. She is asleep on the sofa downstairs because every bed I possess is taken up by People Who Live Life To The Full, even the Silent Pole who lives in my spare room. He came out today and Talked! We all liked that very much and Flo must have been the reason, she really is very pretty. Paralysed by tiredness, and very pretty.
Oh Well. I did an Oh Well Angel after Steve died, and sold it to a depressive. Oh Well. I am going to bed now, to read. I must remember that tomorrow, apart from being Saturday, is another day. Tomorrow Is Another Day, say the Philosophers. And I agree with them. It is indeed. And it is a Saturday.
Many things have happened in my household this year. We have had adventures and we have had traumas. We have changed directions, changed our minds, changed our hearts and have moved on in our lives, to new and exciting things. My house, this time last year, was very different to how it is now. I remember the relief when the Muppet, then the 16 Year Old Son, went up to London to fulfil his dream and leave Bognor forever. And, he thought, me. He moved in with his Aunt and began a new life. We all breathed a ragged sigh down here, and got on with trying to get the first A Graceful Death exhibition on the road.
The Daughter moved in with her Uncle in his new flat in Brighton and began a new life of independence and hard work as a Nursing Assistant. Her room was cleared out and repainted ready for a new occupant, whoever that may be. 13 Year Old Son was only 12 and a foot shorter than he is now. I was afraid of many things, and felt I was wading through treacle to no real avail. But I was Wrong! The treacle was to some avail. There was light at the end of the treacle.
Today, A Graceful Death is really moving. I have put the exhibition on 4 times this year, and am just about to do it for the 5th time, next month, in Dublin. Late last night, I came back from visiting the Rocking Rev Rachel Mann in Manchester where she is hosting the exhibition in February 2011. I went on from Rachel's to St Martins in the Bullring in Birmingham where A Graceful Death will be showing for 3 weeks in November 2011. I will do some workshops in St Martins, on bereavement and creativity with the very talented poet, Penny Hewlett. And the paintings for A Graceful Death are moving onwards and upwards. They are getting better and better. I am painting some wonderful people, and am being sent some very good poetry and written pieces by people that have visited the exhibition and want to contribute something, so that at each exhibition there are more paintings and offerings. I would like to paint some survivors of bereavement, like myself. My self portrait is coming along and I would like to add to it portraits of other people who have found their way through the worst of their loss. Or who haven't. All stages of mourning are important, I can paint all of it.
I turned 50 in August and have had three parties. All of them great fun and full of friends. If I think about it, the quality of my friends is without equal. I am so very lucky to know the people I know. Our Rolling Weekend Of Tea And Cakes was such fun and we are now 3 stone heavier, all of us, and unable to shift any of it because we let our guards down, opened the flood gates, and so on. Now we are on a roll and are like Billy Bunters looking for tuck boxes. ( Or is that just me?) We (I) can't get onto our bikes because we are so exhausted looking for cakes. We need to sit down on the sofa and rest. I had the Ceilidh last weekend, and that was a wonderful example of British Partying With Knobs On. More on that soon, when I get the photos from our official photographer, Eileen. It went very well, and I am delighted to say that I got lots more presents which I find very addictive. I am tempted to say not that it is my birthday this month, but that it is my birthday this year. And keep going with the parties.
And I met some fab new people in my area. I have some very inspiring friends and have filled my house with Dynamic Folk, who provide me with so much entertainment I will never need to watch telly or listen to the radio again. Or read a book. My house, a year on, is teaming with Intrigue and Smouldering Passions. There is the Arty Man With Motor Bike And Guitar and Much Drama In His Life and his Ginger Best Friend, there have been people from Poland and France coming and going, and it is home now to only one child during term time and on top of all that, I have a Gardner. My garden is no longer a sweetly overgrown meadow with a trampoline somewhere in it, it no longer has hollyhocks that manage to battle through the undergrowth and emerge panting for breath, scarred but stronger and more street wise than the neighbours' hollyhocks. The garden no longer has fascinating plants and weeds that fight it out Mafia Style to see who can strangle each other first. I have a Gardner, who we call the Cosmic Gardner because he is very keen on spiritual matters, and reads all manner of enlightening books. He has brought Zen to the garden.
It is worth reassuring you that the Muppet, Costya the Teenage Overlord, who went to London to be King and to never have to see Bognor or me again, loves both me and Bognor now. Having gone away, he has realised that not only am I quite nice, but that Bognor is quite nice too. It was with a sad little wave of his hand and a quiet little sob, that he went back up to London to resume his college life as Ruler of All the Earth. His Mum, he said, wasn't half bad. In fact, all things considered, she was a bit fab.
So what about this wind that is blowing, this sand that is shifting, these times that are changing? I feel it all in my bones. I feel the end of an era coming on, and a chapter closing. What is this chapter you mutter to each other? It is the chapter where I have brought up the children, muddled my way through life, felt too shy about being an artist to really give it my all, didn't know I love to write and met and lost Steve. The winds, the shifting sands, are all about a change that is happening around me. I know more people. I am happier with my paintings, I am earning more, I feel quieter and more focused on what I want to do. And I am getting an inkling about what it is that I want to do! Gosh. Fancy that.
A very exciting development that was nowhere in sight this time last year, is that now I have Plans. I have Plans for Next Year and do you know, 2011 is Full? I can only squeeze things in. A list will now follow.
Feb 2011 A Graceful Death goes to Manchester. This is combined with a portrait of the Rocking Rev Rachel Mann who is having a portrait of herself as the Rock Chick Angel of the North. Rev Rachel has her own heavy metal band, tattoos and spikey hair and is an awesome performer.
August 2011, I want to take A Graceful Death to the Edinbugh Festival. This needs much planning.
September 2011 Clarissa and I intend to go to India for 3 weeks. This may be a good month in which to go because in
November 2011 A Graceful Death goes to Birmingham for 3 weeks.
December 2011 it is, as ever, Christmas again.
This has been serious blog. I feel thoughtful and introspective tonight. Time to go to bed now. Tomorrow I will wake with an explosion of extroversion and will smother you all with wit and glamour. But not right now. Right now, I am still feeling the wind of change blowing sand in my face. Tried to bring Time into that sentence to include all the bits of the title. How about this then - I am still feeling the wind of change blowing sand in my face while looking at the time. There. It is all about progress. Goodnight.
Nothing is happening. No one is in the house, there is nothing going on in there ( I am in the Studio in the garden, and can see the house from my window. It is silent.) and no one is
Looking for the Remote Control
Looking Daggers At Anyone Else
Whooping it Up
Having Tea and Talking About Life
Everyone has, at the same time, got something to do outside the house. So Arty Man Who Has Had Much Excitement To Deal With and his Ginger Best Friend have gone out. The new Polish Man Who Is Very Nice and loved moving in here last night because it Was Not Clean Like His Other Place He Didn't Like ( I know what he means. We love him for his honesty) has gone out. The Muppet went out yesterday and has only been seen like a mirage in the house once since then, near the kitchen, looking for doughnuts late last night, before going back out to friends to stay till perhaps tonight. Or tomorrow. At some point he will lope in and say,"Ah Mum. I have come home to spend time with you", just as I am on two phones to two very important people and I have to deliver a pianting to Finland in 10 minutes and 13 Year Old Son needs collecting from the police station and the hamster is having a crisis. "Son!" I will cry, "put the kettle on and if I can I will be with you by the end of the week." And finally, 13 Year Old Son is still at school and will find his own way home on his broken foot by train, because his mother needs to sit at home and write her blog and drink her tea.
There is, at the moment, a deep and penetrating silence coming from the house. There is an air of stillness that is extremely uncommon, settling over it like a cloud from a Fairy Tale. No lights are blazing. No car doors are banging, no doors are banging at all. No one is having a bath. Silence and stillness and peace.
Not for long though! Whoopdidoo. Tomorrow is my bithday Ceilidh and there are six extra people staying for the weekend. That I know of. I have given Eileen's room to the Polish Man Who Is Very Nice And Likes A Messy House, and cousin Maddy and her husband and children and best friend will all choose a sofa, a floor space, a car to sleep in.
Yes, and Fatema and her friend are coming too and some other friends from London. Fats has made cakes for fifty, so she will need a fanfare when she arrives.So, tomorrow, the Ceilidh will be in full swing by 7.30pm and you will be glad to know I am feeding everyone on fish and chips from the local chippie. We will dance it all off I expect. And if there is anything left over, my guests can leave with half a cod each and some battered sausage.
I hear movement. Life is stirring in the House. The Hamster, it Awaketh. The Sons, they Returneth. The Pole, He Can't Get In-eth (forgot to give him his key) and the Arty Man and the Ginger Best Friend they Descendeth. Soon, Alan he Arriveth and me, I Go Outeth. To Tescos of course. The Silence, it Endeth.
My studio stands alone in the garden, a reminder that I have a Bolt Hole. Now that I am 50, I can accept that I do need, and always have needed, a place to run away and hide in. And this Studio is a Power House in its own right. Not only does it have Me in it (and I am a source of much power. Yawn.) but it has my Computer, my Files and my Paintings in it. When I open the back garden doors, and take up the long silver studio key from the window sill, and cross the garden towards this Haven, I feel excited and relieved. And because I always have much work to do in there, a teeny bit nervous and slightly anxious that today - Today - is the day that I find out that I have Alzheimers, or Leprosy, or Jungle Fever, and the painting lark is all over.As is the writing and emailing. Over. And my Facebook page is suspended due to Wierdness. But it never happens, I am glad to say (or it has not happened yet. Unless no one is telling me).
These past few days, I have been in a very odd mood. I have finished the painting of the delightful old man that a loving granddaughter asked me to paint, to include in the A Graceful Death exhibition. That was good, and I think the old man had a hand in the outcome. I didn't expect to paint him against a Rembrandt like brown background but something made me do it. This Grandfather died a good few years ago, and has had time in Heaven to decide, that if someone did want to paint him at any time, brown would be the ideal backdrop for his colouring and disposition. And golly gosh, he was right. He has such a lovely delicate face, and such a warm expression that a deep hot brown emphasises his beauty. I will post him below. Wait till the Real photo comes back to me, taken by the Photographer and Star, Eileen Rafferty. I will post that one too, later, and you will see the tones of skin colour and brown. This photo is a little inferior as it is one I took.
A painting of Kate Massey's grandfather, Papa, who was from all accounts, the sweetest most likeable man and is much missed. He died a good while ago, and is to be shown for the first time in Dublin in October at the A Graceful Death exhibition there. Oil on wood, about 13"x 10".
I have set up the large self portrait and have begun to paint it. It is difficult to do, I am finding that I am not as happy as I thought I was, and that it is a much more profound experience to paint myself as a Survivor, than I had expected. It is not just a question of declaring myself Over and Beyond the loss of Steve. It is more complicated than that. I should have known that we are much more complex creatures than we realise. The self portrait will be a celebration of a mourning process that is over. But it is not Gone, it has just Changed. So this self portrait that I am determined to do, is about Moving On, not the End. I cannot look out of it as an enlightened Buddha as I had felt I should, much though I would like to have done. I will use the colours yellow and orange, because they are the right colours for me in this instance, but I will look out as someone who has shifted into another gear and understands, a bit more, the process of living. And is very much happier, stronger and wiser. But still linked to Steve somewhere inside.
Full of promise. Well, I promised myself a jam sandwich a little while ago, and a cup of tea. I do like to bring my food into this studio in the garden. It tastes better in here. It is like camping. I have to find a chair and a surface and proceed from there. I can wear my glorious painting clothes and not wash my hands, and sit amongst the white spirit and old rags used to wipe the oil paint from either a painting or a brush. Or a 13 Year Old Son who is a magnet for Mess and Things That Don't Come Off In The Wash. I have still an angel to do, for a lovely lady in London. I have some little paintings to do for an Art Fair that Eileen and I are doing together in Arundel on November 28. I thought I would do some more Fat Ladies Diving, and some Fat Ladies Dancing. Whistful Sigh. Jam sandwich first. Fat Ladies with Jam Sandwiches.
So, here I sit in my Studio. Dreaming of a jam sandwich and tea. Let me just tell you about the jam in my house at the moment. Eileen and I went to a fair in Arundel on Saturday and found a very, very old lady with more jam than an old lady should possibly know about. We chatted to her, and it turns out that she makes jam to stop herself falling asleep. Gosh, we thought. She must be exhausted, there is a sea of jam here. So we bought some, and she packed the jars into a box for us with shakey old hands, the labels showing with the faintest spidery-est writing telling us which fruit was used, and feebly got to her feet to give it to us. And do you know, it is the best jam in the universe? We didn't get this lady's name, and have no idea where she came from or where she went, but she is the Jam Guru. She is a Mystery, a Genius, a Savant, and we let her slip through our fingers. If I knew where she lived, she would never have to go to sleep again. I would eat the jam from the jar with a spoon and demand refills, and she, in her element, would create jams for me round the clock. Between us, we would live to 250 years old.
It is time to go inside and leave this glorious studio for another night. I have just had a text demand from the Lovely Blonde Six Foot Daughter in America - she and my mother are visiting family and frightening some Americans - to go and look on Facebook now. I think there are a few thousand new photos of Daughter and Everyone She Is With. As long as it doesn't tell me that I have suspected Mad Cow Disease and my Facebook Account is supsended due to Wierdness etc...
How can I have spent so many hours in my big new bed tonight, sending witty one liners to all my contacts on Facebook? I had thought that a) I would not go onto Facebook, easy, just a matter of willpower b) I would write my blog and c) I would have an early night, it being such a busy life and all that. But no. Just a wee peek, I said to myself. Just a wee peek? There is no such thing as a Wee Peek on Facebook! I should have said to myself, Just a wee few hours. Everything I wrote on Facebook seemed vitally important while I was writing it. A message from So and So? Quick, say something back and make it funny. That will get a response, said my Unconcious. And so it went on. While I was being very quick and sharp two other contacts popped up over the chat thing and wham. I was into two way instant conversations and witty comments on various pages and before I knew it, it was past 10pm. I started at about 7pm. And what had I said? I had said an enormous amount but did it mean anything? No, not really. But I did have the sensation of being dreadfully engaged with folk out there, even if I couldn't see them and didn't remember how I knew them.
Actually, I needed some time to flutter about on Facebook. This weekend was a wonder of Planning and Achievement. Eileen came to stay to help, and Alan dropped in after pushing the limits of the human body at tennis, and both boys were here, and a very nice fun couple moved in to my rooms downstairs, so we all started the weekend in a whirl of mild but genteel chaos. As we all swirled around in the house here, like small subsections of busy bees in a hive, things Got Done. 13 Year Old Son starts a new school tomorrow. He wears a surgical shoe on his broken foot and has a (lethal) crutch to help him walk around. (He tries to shoot people with it). I bought his uniform, sewed on the nametapes (he didn't like his name being sewn on, it was too embarassing. If I had put the name Wayne Rooney on all his uniform, that would be OK.) and have proudly put the whole outfit on his chair for tomorrow. "And shoes my Darling Wayne?" I said. "Where are your school shoes? " 13 Year Old Son is now about 6' tall and is well meaning but all over the place. When I was buying the uniform, he would not let me get shoes - "But Mum," he hissed, " I have school shoes at home." "At home?" I said blankly, "do you?" "I promise I have my school shoes at home and I hate having shoes fitted and blah blah blah" So we went home. Tonight I had a dreadful flashback to the end of last term. "Die!" I now remember saying to his school shoes which looked like the boot Charlie Chaplain tried to eat in his wonderful film sketch, "Die!" and throwing them into the bin. Ooops. 13 Year Old Son comforted me then by saying that he only needs one shoe anyway, and that he will use one of the Muppet's shoes. One of the Muppet's shoes? The Muppet needs his shoes and only has one pair...oh what the hell. They can both spend tomorrow with one shoe each.
It is late. While writing this I have been chatting on the phone wasting time and ridding the Son's room of spiders, one of which was living just below the light bulb of his bedside lamp. What spirit! I said to it as I removed it with a piece of cloth from the searing heat of the light bulb. It yawned and stretched its legs, obviously delighted with the heat and light. You must be a kind of extremospider, I told it as I chucked it out into the rain and wind of the Bognor night. I expect it got caught on a stiff breeze outside and got blown to the Bahamas where it is thanking its lucky stars that it no longer has to live in a light bulb in a house in Bognor Regis.
So, it still being late, I shall go to sleep and be up early to start another day. I am very very busy at the moment, there seems to be a kind of whirlwind in my life, and if I didn't know any better, I would think I was some kind of extremomum. But, (graceful sigh) tomorrow the Summer Holidays are at an end. I can't wait for some order and balance to return to my days and for the paintings that I am due to complete to be my priority. Yawn. Wonder how the spider is doing in the Bahamas?
This is a self portrait I have been meaning to do for a long while. It is quite a challenge. I know what the effect should be, and I know I can do it, but the painting will have a mind of its own. Anything could happen. Despite taking huge care to make it look like me, to make it say what I want it to say, I may come out like jaundiced pantomime dame. And what, say all the jaundiced pantomime dames, is wrong with that? Nothing, I saywith a serious and deeply understanding look. Except that I am something else. Except, that the self portrait is about something else entirely. This self portrait signifies the end of the Steve story in the A Graceful Death exhibition. It will say Look! I have survived this experience, this loss, this pain. And Look! I am surrounded by Orange and Yellow and Life and Light. I want to paint into the painting the fact that I came through, and that it is possible. I won't ever forget Steve, but I hold him very tenderly in my memory now, and can live with joy alongside him. So I am painting myself in Orange and Yellow, like the sun.
I also have the A Graceful Death exhibition to prepare for Dublin. It goes there for a private show by request, in October. The self portrait will be finished for that, along with the wonderful old man I have been asked to paint by his Granddaughter, who misses him, so that is exciting. They will have their first showing together to a new audience. Good.
I won't go into too much detail about my day to day life in the home at the moment . There is so much happening here, that detail would mean my head would explode. And you, bless you, you might die of boredom. Here is a flighty romp through what is happening then. To be brief -
People are moving out of One Part of the house and into Another Part of the house.
Someone else is moving into the Vacated First Part.
The Muppet is moving back to London
13 Year Old Son is bouncing on the trampoline with his crutches and broken foot. I hear "Boing. Ouch. Boing. Ouch."
I am having a Ceilidh to celebrate my 50 birthday next Saturday
The ceilidh has to be arranged
By whom does the Ceilidh have to be arranged?
Oh Lord, I have to do it.
A Graceful Death has to be transported to Dublin with all the new customised literature. Each showing has to have literature that supports that particular venue.
Have to paint a) Self Portrait b) Dog c) African Ladies on Beach d) Rock Chick Angel Of The North (Rev Rachel Mann who has just caused a storm by an article she wrote saying Christianity could learn much from Heavy Metal. We love this lady. We think she should be Pope) e) An Angel As A Clown
13 Year Old Son starts a whole new school on Monday.
He is now just under 8' tall.
I am going to Manchester and Birmingham the week after next to arrange two new showings of A Graceful Death next year.
Soon it will be Christmas.
So there you have it. I could write an essay on any one of those items. But instead, I am sitting in my new room in my chair, loving the peace and quiet. A New Room, you shriek? But How?
I bought another single bed to go into the downstairs room to join the other single bed and make it a double room. For the new couple moving in today, as it happens. I thought this was an excellent idea, and it showed real initiative and I was understandably extremely proud of myself. But the bed was then 6' wide and there was no floor space to speak of. One could just scuttle sideways around the bed and either scuttle back to the door to get out, or go through the window. What to do? I couldn't take the bed back as it had been a one off bargain. The answer was to take the 4'6" bed out of my room, and put it downstairs, and move the two singles upstairs to my room. So when Alan came round for a wee visit yesterday, I gave him a wee job to do. "Alan," I said sweetly but firmly, like an Artist that is On The Case," would you just move these 3 beds all round the house and make them fit and measure it all up and make it all right, would you? Eh?" So being a Let's Get On With It Oh For Goodness Sake kind of fellow, he not only helped move the beds up the stairs, down the stairs, over the bannisters, through teeny doors and along wooden floors, he organised the furniture in the rooms too so that it looked as normal as it was going to look. And because I now had 6' of bed in my room, the wardrobe doors could not open, and there was no chance of actually standing on the floor on two feet. Ooops. Alan moved the furniture round, measured everything up, and finally fitted it all in so that most of the cupboard doors open most of the time. I have made this room so nice now, and it is the only place I want to sit in. There is, of course, an enormous bed, which looks very inviting, and I can't wait for bed time, but there is a nice red chair and a lamp beside it, and books on the arms of the chair (wouldn't fit on the floor) so I just have to sit here. For hours.
The other fabby thing is that the Cosmic Gardener has chopped down the tree like thing that was outside my studio window and now - now I can see. It is marvellous how much light I have in my studio suddenly. Just right, I may say, for a self portrait to be painted.
So. My dear Cousin's Cousin was staying over the last few weeks, and has now gone home to Detroit. And lo, another lovely American Gal is coming to stay, in a few weeks. I don't know where she will sleep; the paradox is that there are more beds in this house than ever before, but no one can sleep on them (unless they come in with me and Alan, or with the nice new couple downstairs, or with the new Man in the teeny room, or with the Muppet or the 13 Year Old Son...). Time for a bath now. That's it. The next American Guest can sleep in the Bath. Sorted.