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.)
An Anniversary Today. And Absolutely No More Goddam Cake.
Today I am hiding away. I have earmarked today to gather my thoughts, make lists, be very silent and most of all, to remember Steve. As I write now, three years ago today, he had one hour left to live. It is 2 minutes to 9am now, and he died at 2 minutes to 10am on the 29 November 2007. I remember, I was on the phone to the Glorious Clarissa at the time, when the hospice called me to come quickly. By the time I got there, he had just died. A couple of nurses and the chaplain were waiting for me at the door and gently shook their heads as I arrived to prepare me for the news that he had gone. The chaplain took my hand and led me to his bedside where my lovely Steve lay still and silent and empty of life. I was crying hard as I took Steve's hand and told him not to worry about me, that I was fine, we had had a wonderful time, and thank you. That's a relief, his spirit may have said as it began the journey through the tunnel into the light, I was not sure how you'd feel about me dying this morning and all that. Best get on now, bit busy at the moment. Tara.
This morning three years ago, I woke feeling unfocussed and distracted. I couldn't settle to anything. My mother called and said she would come in with me to see Steve but I remember saying that I couldn't concentrate and wanted to let myself drift. I wonder if we had gone in, whether we would have joined Steve's brothers (who came in to see him about some documents that morning) at his last moment. It is probably best that we didn't, Steve loved his brothers and it was good they were there with him. I sat with Steve a few minutes after he had died, and had some time with him then on my own. I suppose I was not entirely alone, as I phoned friends who knew him well and would understand a call from a death bed. I called Maddy my cousin, who had quite firmly helped me to recognise the progress of his cancer and what it meant. I called Eileen who had been there all along and had weathered many of the storms Steve and I encountered from my children. Darling Dublin friend had been in my position herself, and knew how I felt and of course, my mother who had offered earlier on that day to come in to sit with him. I called each of my children and I called the Glorious Clarissa back to tell her. So really, one way and another, I wasn't really alone with Steve in his little hospice cubicle, there was a whole party of us. "You'll be alright," Steve's spirit may have said with a twinkle as he glanced back over his shoulder on his way through the tunnel to the light etc, "not gone for five minutes and you are already on the phone to two hundred of your closest friends. Tara."
Eileen and I did our Fair yesterday and it went very well. We would have liked more people to come, but enough came to make it go with a gentle swing. We will do another in my house in December, so watch this space. We are unstoppable. And the cakes made by 20 Year Old Daughter were completely addictive. We got to the hall at 8am, opened at 10am and left early just before 7pm. Not only did lots of jolly friends come, but Steve's dear friends from Norway were here on business and popped in. Eileen and I had no idea they were in the UK so this was a wonderful and welcome surprise. Our dear friend the Unsurpassable Alex came too and stayed not only to clear up with us, but to drive Glamerous 20 Year Old Daughter back to Brighton. By about 4pm everyone had gone home from Arundel, so we put on Doris Day and Nancy Sinatra, sang along loudly with gusto, and had a Party. We were forced to eat as many cakes that had not sold as we could then, so that we didn't have to take them home. We were utterly compelled to do this, and this is the reason that the title of this account says Absolutely No More Goddam Cake. I can't control myself over cake consumption. If there is a cake going I will eat it. Having a cafe selling Tea and Cakes at our Art Fair was always going to be a challenge for me and to risk my loss of all self control.
Back to today. I am tired now, and letting Steve come and go in my mind. I am taking time to feel my way through the day. I could be very busy, I could fill my time with Organising, Unpacking Fair Things, Emails, Chatting on the Phone - but if I did that I would waste the whole purpose of the 29 November, which is to just let Steve settle on my mind like a mist. So I am in my home, hiding in my bedroom from the builders downstairs in the kitchen. I am under a pile of cushions and I may not come out. The heating is on in the studio too, so if I do want to go and potter in there I have thought ahead and set it up. Today I must be quiet and wish to be detatched from everyone. Steve really was a wonderful man. I miss him very much, and am rather dreading the time today I will feel his memories and think of our time together. It is so bitter sweet, but there you go. I am not the only one. Not only are his family remembering him today, all those who have lost someone are feeling their loss. However, for myself, today I am feeling the loss of Steve and letting it happen. And at no point will I eat any of the cake left over from yesterday's Art Fair that is on the kitchen table for the builders.
I have not become a Boxer like the dear sweet 14 Year Old Son. We don't spar after school in the evening and go to bed with black eyes and sore knuckles. He now goes to a Boxing Club for that and I am hoping his little heart will be happy and he will become good and well behaved and a pleasure to teach at school. This is not about trying to make 17 Year Old Son happy either, and give him this elusive peace and freedom he wants. The Unwilling Fighting is not about crusading, not about changing the world, not about going out there and showing who is boss.
I am a peaceful person, longing for people to be nice to each other. Conflict and arguments make me uncomfortable and unsafe, and I am not good at either of them. Life is not always an easy ride though. We all know this, we all have to face the things that we would rather avoid. How we face and accept them tells us much about where we are in our progress through life, and how we resolve the things we would rather not deal with tells us even more about how mature and wise we may or may not be becoming. Rather late in life I have been made aware that one of my main shortcomings are Boundaries. I have not quite got the hang of them, and have had to learn late in life both what they are and how to establish them. It is a very good thing to have got the hang of, except that I am still getting the hang of them. However, I am delighted to say that at the age of 50, I am doing a jolly good job, all things considered. It is difficult though, and I am seeing the consequences of being a bit tougher and saying No. But I am feeling very strong these days, and I know I just have to get used to being firm. And oddly enough, it gives me more peace than I had expected.
My three children, bless their furious hearts, are on the one hand wild and unruly, they have much to say for themselves and give me a pretty rough time from time to time. On the other hand, they really know how to love, they think for themselves and they are not afraid of life. They are fascinating and funny and clever. They also don't think I know anything at all and have many jolly conversations amongst themselves about how clueless and amusing I am as I live as a Fairy in this world of Wolves. I expect all youngsters need to feel their parent is slightly retarded so that they can leave them and find out for themselves. I may seem a Fairy, I have been known to say with a chuckle as I pass amongst them as they eat my food and watch my telly, but I know how to do Wolf if I need to. A gentle, fairy-ish kind of wolf, but they don't need to know that.
So. More about these Fights. I have, as we all know, two rioting sons. It is hard work to keep one step ahead of them, and keep myself calm in order to deal with them. I have to fight them because I don't always agree with what they are doing or have done. I love them dearly but they are so very sure that they can get away with anything, because they are blessed with superior knowledge and anyway, nasty things and unpleasant situations go away if you ignore them. Or punch them. I remember my 20 year old Daughter being very angy and utterly without boundaries. She is now in a good job, being seconded to university, lives in a nice flat and has probably lived more life in her teens than most of us do in our whole lives. I think of her for comfort when her brothers are hell bent on teaching us all a lesson and following their furious and misunderstood hearts. There is, I think to myself, possibly, hope.
I have to stand firm too in the face of some fierce personal criticism about how I live and what I have done to make my sons riot. That is not easy but I can do it. I do so dislike fighting, and this criticism when it comes, is a very big fight. Boundaries are the answer here, and I am very glad I have been practicing.
So where shall we leave this account today? On an up, I say. My kitchen is nearly done and it is looking fabulous. Both boys are upstairs, the 14 year old is ill and the 17 year old is still recovering from the shock of being on the streets. Fine. I know where they are and while they are asleep there can be no fighting or idiocy. The builders are not here today so I have my house to myself. Eileen comes for the weekend and that is always good. We are doing our Fair on Sunday in Arundel and I think I have done enough for that, so much so that I am giving myself a day off to clean the house today. And, that is a relief. I don't like mess and dirt and disruption, and any building work can test the sanity of the home owner, despite my two builders being the nicest fellows you can wish for. So by the end of today my house will look like Doris Day has got hold of it and done a makeover. And my life, oh my life - it is mine and mine alone. How about that.
The kitchen is nearing completion. It is more ready today than it was yesterday, which is progress. I can use the cooker and the hob top, the washing machine and the dishwasher, and I can put some things away in the drawers. Hooray. The shelves, the walls, the plastering, the floors, the breakfast block all have to be done but hey ho, all's well that ends well. My two builders are excellent and thorough and jolly, and I trust them implicitly to give me a kitchen to love. I know nothing about what they are doing, and have to really screw up my eyes and point a finger at my temple and go "think think think" when I have to talk kitchen details with them. So they get on with it and I am grateful that they even want to, and the kitchen slowly gets made much to my delight. Hark, I can hear them arrive now. They are in their 60s and are remarkable for not having a radio on at any point, and for sitting down side by side together at 1pm on a kind of cutting bench, and having a packed lunch each that is full of correct goodness and no sugary rubbish. They are experienced and know exactly what they are doing, which is how I like people to be. So they are in the kitchen now, unpacking their drills and fold-up ladders, their electric screw drivers and their power saws, and Hooray, I say to them. Hooray. Let the Kitchen Unfold.
The Boys? 14 Year Old Son, my own dear Rocky in Real Life, went for his first training session at the boxing gym last night. What an exciting set up it is, the gym sparkling clean and professionally equipped and full of punch bags and boxing gloves and padded areas. And all around the gym were smaller boys, bigger boys and actual Youffs belting the lights out of those bendy punch bags that whop back at you when you hit them. Before Rambo Son could do anything Punchy, they made him and the other arrivals last night run around the gym ( a very big space) shadow boxing as they went. I paused by the door as I left, to gaze with a full and loving heart at my violent little boy as he whizzed around the gym with other darling little thugs, and thought that from the outside as I was, looking in through a little window in the door, they looked like a group of nutters told to take some exercise in their own time, at their own pace, and no one would laugh at them. I collected Rambo Boy later and was pleased to note that he was exhausted and very sweaty. "Someone hit me tonight," he said benignly. "Goodness," I wanted to say, "which hospital are they in?" but it seems it was all part of the training which seemed to have sneaked a few teeny thwacks in here and there.
Other Son, the Older One, is upstairs recovering. He has been eating, and sleeping, and is looking to go back to London and find a place to live tomorrow. My job now is to let him go and do his thing and hovver around in the background, and keep an eye on him. I know what he wants, and it must seem such a simple thing - total freedom and no boundaries at all - but there are so many rules in place to make sure we all muddle along together. There are laws, rules, boundaries, conventions etc and they all kind of keep us a bit in line so that we do muddle along together. He will go to London tomorrow and return home here tomorrow night, and we will see what he has found out. I was a bit like him at that age though. I remember the conviction that for me, it would be different. I would get what I wanted, when I wanted and how I wanted. If asked what it was that I wanted, I would not have been able to reply and would have got cross instead.
But I know what I want now! Bully for me! I want a kitchen, a painted house, a nice garden (I have a Cosmic Gardener - a nice and thoughtful fellow who is very interested in spiritual matters and God, who does my garden and who has very long eyelashes. So he is very pretty in the garden as well as efficient and spiritual.). I want nice children who do the right things and are very happy and clever and I want lots of painting and writing work. I want the sun to shine and the birdies to sing and I want everyone to be happy. And I want to go walking with Clarissa in Nepal.
So off now to do some cards for the fair on Sunday to which you are coming, remember? Before I do, I will pop in and say hello to my two very jolly builders and see if I have any more of the kitchen to admire.
And a life to live. I woke this morning with the same feeling of hopeless exhaustion that I have been waking with all last week. Even though I knew it was Sunday morning and nothing, nothing at all, was planned for the day, I groaned as the day broke through my window. "Woe," I said to myself as I curled into a tiny ball of Go Away World. "Woe," I said again "and a smelly old pile of pooh." I had woken all last week to uncertainty as to where Son No 1 was sleeping. He for one reason or another had made himself homeless and had seen it out to the bitter end. Much of last week, day and night, was spent on the phone to social workers, police, solicitors, more social workers, more police, welfare officers and social workers again. I didn't know where he was, who he was with, and where he was sleeping. And the worried welfare calls kept coming. "Your son has presented (he has presented??) as homeless and as a vulnerable young adult I am here to plead his case and can he come home" "Yep." I said. "He can come home?" they said. "Yep." I said. Then a little while later "Police here Madam, I believe you have a son (yes, I do, two of them and you can lock both of them up - oh sorry, you are not offering. Not to worry Officer, maybe next time) and your son needs to find an urgent place to stay. I hear that his family are all Mafiosi and you are a known psycho killer. Could you confirm that?" And so it went on. In the end, I went up to London in the car and by the evening left with Son and All His Belongings. He had to sit in the back under the black plastic bags of clothes and picture frames, under suitcases and televisions, tables and bottles of ketchup and so gaunt and grey and haggard he was, that he fitted in the little spaces between the bags perfectly. In the front, having had a day out with Uncle at the rugby, was the Boy Rambo, Son no 2. And a big tough, rosy cheeked fellow he is too, contrasting ridiculously with his shadowy older brother under a box in the back. Son no 2 is finally cleared by his ear consultant to take up boxing. So he is a changed boy. A now Happy Thug, no longer an Unhappy Thug.
Back then to this morning. Dawn breaks outside and I fear the start of the day. Until I remember that both my Blinking Boys are asleep and fed in their beds and I know where both of them are and they are not only here, in this house, but clean and full up and dreaming of fluffy bunnies and lambkins in the Spring. And I say to myself, Ho, Antonia. Make a List. This is now your day. Get back on track and get some goddam order in your life. So I did. I made a list and got dressed and had breakfast and that is when I noticed I was pursing my lips. This, I thought to myself, means that I mean Business. I did go to Arundel and to Chichester and put up leaflets about the Art Fair you are coming to next Sunday, the Eileen and Antonia's Art Fair in Arundel Norfolk Hall on November 28 from 10 am to 7pm - you remember, that one. Oh yes, that one. Glad to be going to it, I hear you mutter reassuringly to yourselves.
And so today has been a day of catching up with things I could not do while Rambo Boy was excluded from school and in disgrace, and Hobo Boy was going mental on the streets of London and worrying me half to death.
Tomorrow, I try and get Older Son to the doctor. The next day I take Younger Son to a possible Boxing Club. Tuesday evening I have been asked - funny how absolutely unexpected this is - to dinner on a fancy boat in Chichester with a Flirty Captain. Why me? I am accompanying a friend's other half and how lovely that I have been asked. I know the Flirty Captain a little, and he will be a wonderful host, but I am not sure I can cope just now with Flirtyness. I will have to see whether I still have the Flinty Look in my eye and the tight lipped tell-me-no-jokes-I-have-no-sense-of-humour expression on my face. It could be a little light relief and just what I need. Oh but I know I am expected to be jolly and funny and on the ball. My light relief at the moment would be a remote cottage on the Arran Isles for a week. That's how funny and witty and light hearted I am. Play my cards right, and maybe the Flirty Captain will sail me there and leave me there snarling and muttering and cursing. "Not asking her to my dinners again", he would say as he puts the throttle on full and leaves the Arran Isles at full tilt, "dreadful flinty tight lipped humourless old bat she is. And she seemed to jolly at first. Not going back to fetch her, she can swim home."
Sleep now. Tomorrow, says the wise man, is another day. One boy goes skipping like a frolicksome pony to school secure in the knowledge that he can very soon smack the living bejeesus out of a punch bag/other boy in a controlled environment, and the other boy is going to do housework for me for some money and is quite excited about it. I may get him to finish the half completed kitchen. That would surprise him.
In Arundel, On Sunday 28 November, Between 10am and 7pm.
Eileen And Antonia's Art Fair.
At last. The details are up and running. The poster is designed by our dear friend and Graphic Artist, Rhona Reedie. We, Eileen and I, are delighted to invite you to this Do in the Norfolk Centre Hall which is just at the Castle Gates opposite the car park. What can I tell you about it?
Well, the poster shows some of Eileen Rafferty's fantastic photography to whet your appetite. She is specialising in this Art Fair in prints and photographs, framed and unframed, of landscape and flowers, of light and shade and colour, and the most exquisite details from Nature. Eileen's photography is of such a high standard that sometimes I have to lie down. Her eye for detail, for the perfect finish, and for the most exciting composition is quite astonishing. She is a perfectionist, which is evident when you see how she not only takes excellent photos, she finishes and prints and frames them all herself because she cannot let anyone else near them. Eileen delights in talking photography, and composition and art, so please come along and meet her if you have not already done so, and be impressed. Eileen will be selling greetings cards of her works too.
I, Antonia Rolls, am showing a selection of my Every Day Angels. These are light hearted, colourful and joyful paintings of fancy angels doing the same kind of things that we do. They are painted with a simplicity that makes them accessible and appropriate to our lives. I believe that there is no barrier between the Divine and Mundane, and that the Angels that we ask to help us, know exactly how to do that, because they live their Angelic lives alongside us. And are thus full of compassion and empathy. My Angels have a very sound sense of humour, and can take a joke along with the rest of us, if that is what we need. I am also selling some fun, bright and decorative ink pictures for your kitchen walls. All of you who read this blog know everything about me anyway so if you have not met me, come along and see what the author of such am exhausting and exciting Bognor Regis life is really like. I may bring the Rioting Sons and put them on show in a Chain Gang Scenario for your entertainment.
There will be tea and cakes provided by Daughter Alexia and her dear friend Arrieanne, who are pictured below in a portrait from about five years ago. They are now in their twenties, and are still full of fun and life. And believe me, they Understand Cake and Tea. One of them belongs to me and the other has been with our family for years, so they Know. Bless them both.
Both are excellent cooks and understand the need for Tea and Cakes and so will provide you with such at their Cafe in the Art Fair.
See you all next Sunday 28 November, Norfolk Hall, Arundel, from 10am to 7pm.
I the Boss. I the Boss of the home, the studio and of the Rioting Sons. I the Boss.
Here we are midweek already, and it is a quiet grey day, cold outside and warm inside. I am in my studio, making lists and trying to concentrate on Art and Fairs and Portraits. There is no one here today, for which I praise Zeus, Jehova and Schools. My dear 14 Year Old Rambo Child has gone back to school today, and will be put in isolation until tomorrow, when the school will let him rejoin them. I have asked for various things to be put into place for him, and we will watch this space. Don't, I said to them, Let him do bomb making classes. And if, I continued, he shows signs of wanting to start the Bare Knuckle Fist Fighting After School Club, call me. The other very determined Son, the 17 Year Old , is living rough in London. He put everything in motion for a showdown and now has no idea how it happened. Oh Son. Life has a nasty habit of being real. He can't see it yet, but we are all there for him. He can't see anything clearly. If I think he is not coping at all, I will go up and find him and bring him home. He doesn't know that of course.
And me? I am putting my head down and sorting out my sons and my home. We still have no kitchen and there is rubble everywhere, a big empty hole where the kitchen once was. When (if) it is finished, Feng Shui will be flowing again and Riches and Wonders will fall out of the sky and my Sons will be like the Von Trapp Family children and no longer like the Adams Family children. My Daughter who is hopping mad at her brothers, needs to be immersed like an overheated engine into cold water and cooled down. Commissions will flow in and A Graceful Death will tour the world, all expenses paid. My Boxer, the one who is blind in one eye and has been in a war zone with scars to prove it, will come and find me and we won't have to wait until I am in my Old Folk's Home. Quite a lot to expect from a finished kitchen next week, but such is the power of Hope.
Now for something entirely different. For a long while now I have wanted to Play in my studio. I have noticed that I am doing just that while I prepare for the Art Fair Eileen and I are doing on the 28 November. I will post all the information about that soon. But here is a taster of what I am managing, while my house, my love life and my kids go ape around me. How is it, I cry into a philosophical hole, that the only time I get to play and make pretty and fun and meaningless but truly joyful pictures is when I have no time, no sleep, no peace and no future? I do have a future, don't worry. It is just that sometimes it is not the future I had either wanted or planned.
A Shopping Angel. I think she is trying to tell me something. Acrylic on canvas, and only 9"x 12".
Ink and black pen little pictures to go in the kitchen. These are 6"x 4".
And finally, for all of us who know, I have just started this one -
The Weight Watchers Angel! How we love her. Yum. Acrylic on canvas, 9"x 12".
There have been so many messages of support and love and kindness from all of you. Thank you. You have all made rays of light for me to see more clearly and without you, I would be in bed under the covers and eating sweets. Thank you.
I have described my Man Children. I have said I have the heart of an On The Ball Mum etc, and I have said that I love my dreadful boys to bits. There is more though, on being in possession of such volatile Man Babies, there is much more. My Man Baby Volcanoes have kicked off with such ferocity since the last account, that all has changed here. I am Alone Again, Naturally. Read on.
I have brought them, plus the Excellent Daughter, up alone. That was hard work, and I was only a few steps ahead of them at the best of times, and often did not get it right. But somehow, we all got through. Excellent Daughter is now only 20 and has a proper job, an ISA, a pension and is being seconded through college and then we hope, university to become a fully fledged Nurse. A triumph. My mind goes dark when I think of her past and her early teenage years. I expect she is still having nightmares herself. When she was about 11, my sweet little private school baby said "Mummy I would so like to go off the rails. I think I will. I'll start next week if that's OK with you? Hip Hip Hoooraay." How sweet, I thought. She will start using makeup and saying Bloody Hell, how sweet.
What I got after a bit of time and effort, was a rough sleeping, heavy drinking, gang member who looked like she'd been raised in a bog. Hoooraay, I thought. One thing led to another and I moved my family here to Bognor Regis. The children, then 9, 12 and 15 could not forgive me. I moved them all to a backwater where everyone was inbred and had the IQ of an amoeba. And there were no tube trains. We fought and fought, and because life goes on, they all got older and time made them forget a bit, and the food was good, and I am a bit of a walkover, and they could all as one single unit, hate Mummy for what she done to us (unquote).
There have been battles. Steve came and went, he died nearly 3 years ago now (November 29 2007). His time with us was marked by sons and daughter making war, all of them at once, and the involvement of all the wider family who thought the kids had a point. What with me getting a man and all that. Bit tricky. Bit uncalled for.
Alone again is where I find myself today. 14 Year Old Man Child has been in trouble with his Thumping, Punching and Brawling, and I am having to cope with the fallout. He still loves his Mum though, no doubt about that, but more people are now involved with the consequences of his difficulties in seeing who is a person and who is a punchbag. 17 Year Old Man Child is defying the world and setting himself up in a way that means he is absolutely in control. I kissed the top of his spikey head tonight at the station and said Goodbye, and I Love You, and drove back home to Arnold Schwarzzenegar here who is behaving as if someone has stolen his steroids.
And here is the crux. No man can live with me because of my family. Even with the best will in the world, it is not possible. So it looks as if I am Alone Again, and Doomed To Be Forever So. But maybe one day when I am wrinkly and droopy, a daring ex boxer with a Masters in Psychology who has been in a War Zone will take a shine to me and say Ha! Call that a problem! I've seen much worse! and show me his scars. I will be a hardened old battleaxe myself then, and will be able to show him mine, and swap war zone stories and we will make each others hair curl. (If he has any.)
At the moment there is no art. I am not able to get into the studio because there is too much going on in the home. Am I sad? Yes. Oh yes. I am too sad to cry even. But there, my Man Children have to take priority and what I thought I had, twice now, with a nice man to be normal with, is not in my story line. Tonight, I don't mind telling you, I feel more lonely and alone than I have felt ever. Because it is all so impossible, I can't have a Partner. I can't introduce a nice new accountant into the household with Hello Sons, this is Mr Not Very Exciting But Very Nice because he will be met with Hey Mr Not Very Exciting But Very Nice, Have A Knuckle Sandwich BAM and that will only be the beginning.
Until of course my ex Boxer visits my care home. And he is blind in one eye and can't see how old and shabby I have become. "Put my wheelchair next to hers!" he will boom on day one, "she's a Barbie and no mistake!" And the care home will have to put up with us partying till dawn, and climbing out of the windows to make up for all the time we spent being Strong and Single and Tough and Fab.
Thoughts From A Mother Who Is Watching Her Children Try And Grow Up
I am watching both my Man Children try and grow up. Both are convinced that they are right and that I know nothing. Both are interesting characters and both drive me potty. They also think that I don't know what they are up to. Ha. I was pretty awful myself at that age, I can guess at least some of their plans.
Man Child no 1 is full of fury and self discovery. He is determined not to stop doing exactly as he wants when he wants because he knows he is Someone. Don't, he says, interfere in my life. Anyone tells me what to do, he says, and I will do the opposite. He goes on to explain - If, he says, I want to give up college, my family and any social boundaries and go and live in a Caravan and work in a tin mine, then that is my right. I am old enough to be Myself and I know who I am.
Man Child no 2 is full of frustration and bravado. I, he says to himself, am Rambo and Rocky all rolled into one. I am also, he says, going to make sure my name is known as a Rebel. And I will gain notoriety by making people laugh at innapropriate times. Yes. And because I can't hear and I mumble, I will get away with not being clearly understood and it will never be my fault.
Both Men Children have an aversion to Fault. Unless it is someone elses, which it has to be because they are Faultless. Both Men Children have a half formed notion of responsibility. Responsibility is for them something I have for making sure they get their favourite foods and nice dvds to watch. It is what I do to make sure they catch their trains and most of all it is mine if anything goes wrong in their full and furious lives. Responsibility is an abstract thing that has to be argued about and then handed over fully to someone else. And then resented.
I have thought recently too that having children is like having employees. I am an Artist. I go to my studio and office every morning in order to do Art but before I can do any of my own work I have to sit down and sort out my employees. I have to do their paper work, check on their timetables and catch up on any messages to and from and for them. I have to open and file their official mail. Then I have to do their personnel files, and make appointments, make appologies and sort out any difficulties. Sometimes I have to have meetings on their behalf because they are busy elsewhere and I am the Boss. I have to check their uniforms, their canteen requirements and their laundry needs. The most time consuming is their Payroll which never completely adds up and is Infinite. After all this, I can get on with the business of being the Artist.
At the moment, two of my employees are unhappy with their work rota and job descriptions. Man Child no 1 is very ovewhelmed with his new duties as an almost-adult and is kicking up a fuss. He is not yet sure of his role, and is doing the only thing he knows how, which is to fight. But I love him in the kind of way you would love a particularly sweet looking rattlesnake as it plays on the motorway and can't see the bigger picture of fast moving cars not slowing down for him. This young Man Child Rattlesnake is consumed with fear and anxiety that we (adults, family, etc) will sabotage his very core by disagreeing with him and arguing our case.
I love Man Child no 2 too. He is not happy with his new job description as a 14 year old in a new school. This Employee has had health issues and has had to take sick leave for months with a broken foot and then an operation to create him a new eardrum in his deaf ear. He is behind everyone else at school and at a disadvantage from having only started the school in September and most of the time absent for one reason or another. He, though full of passionate energy and unable to sit still, has had to sit out of games and PE until he is cleared by the Ear Consultant. So this Man Child no 2 follows his instincts and goes mad. He misbehaves, he thumps boys and he plays up in class. I won't be accepted, his brain tells him amidst all the hormones going bonkers, unless I am Badder than the Baddest. So that is what he does.
As boss of both Man Children, even though a) I know nothing b) don't understand anything c) am responsible d) am not responsible e) obviously prefer the other man child and f) am plain wrong and very old - even though all of those things and more are part of most of our conversations, I love these ridiculous Men Children to bits and am very proud of all their oddness and potential. And when they get what they want they are excellent company.
I do have a Daughter too. She is past all this and is truly sympathetic and understanding. She is also, unlike me, fearless. She is good at telling her two brothers just what she thinks of their most recent adventures, whatever they may be, and takes the fallout like a Prima Donna. Daughter has been utterly without boundaries when a teenager, and has come through. The fact that she got herself out of her mammoth and hedonistic rebellion has to be acknowledged. I was totally unprepared for Teenage-hood with her, but now, with my two Man Children, I am more prepared. I may, as Queen Elizabeth 1 kind of said, have the body of but a weak and feeble woman, but I have the mind of a truly on the ball Mother and boy, I am not going to give up.
It is wonderful to be able to paint. It is a pleasure to make things, like the Angels that Darling Dublin Friend and I made while on holiday with our families at her husband's family cottage by the sea in County Wicklow; to write what I like in a blog, to stand in front of something and gaze at it passionately just because it is a wonderful colour. If I could live as a total creative, I would have to have a few people to take care of the details of every day life. Like looking after the childrens' school correspondance, making sure the bills were paid and opening official envelopes. Like being aware of the MOT coming up, the windows needing cleaning and the phone needing answering. These same people would also make sure the children were fed properly at meal times, had clean clothes on and were in bed at the right times. I, dancing to my own little drum somewhere else, could not be disturbed because a) I would be in a Very Special Creative Space and the muse must not be interfered with or b) I would not be concentrating and would make all kinds of innappropriate decisions.
If left to my own devices, I think I would float away from the ground, and live in a world just above the treetops, where I would think, paint, create things and indulge in a permanent orgy of colours. I would not follow the rules I follow now, and I would have no interest in a routine or timetable. If I were to live as my nature wished, there would be no restrictions and more living for the moment. I would indulge myself dreadfully with colours, I would follow ideas on subjects such as Religions, Physics, Psychology and paint out what I was thinking. I would find as much wit and humour as I could and I would probably stalk Bill Bailey. I would find inspiration from all sorts of people and places, from things that I glanced while passing, from standing in busy streets and watching the passers by. The difference is that I could stay and be inspired for as long as I wanted before going to mull it all over in the studio, and not have to stop for anyone or anything - unless I chose to. I would wear anything that my fancy dictated and could make days into nights and nights into days.
I don't live like that though. I can't. I am glad I can't, it would be very unsatisfactory to lose touch with most of the rest of the world. It has been, and is, very hard to lean naturally towards the fey and impractical, to think and dream and be a fairy while being responsible for three children. And for paying the bills, and finding schools, and generally interacting with the rest of humanity. Making sensible decisions is something I am constantly having to learn to do and I am always having to come down from the treetops to deal with reality. Not always very well, but like the rest of us, I keep trying. I could, if left to myself, become ridiculously eccentric.
I am very impressed by people who know how to get on in this world. I am deeply envious of those who know about mortgages and are not afraid of cold calling and are ambitious and actually get there, wherever there is. I am very aware of parents who do the right things for their children, and are strict and bring them up so that they are very nice when they grow up. Things like tax, insurance, bank accounts, rates of interest are things I can do but only because I work very hard at keeping them as simple as possible so I don't get caught out. I am simply not interested in them - and I am not interested in the details of every day practical life either - but I do it, and do it reasonably well, because if I don't then I am lost. And as a single parent, if I am lost (which I have been many times) then my children are lost, and my art is lost and we are all in a vague nether world where even getting up in the morning is hard work.
Being artistic is a blessing because it is such a wonder to paint pictures, and know you can do it but not know, at all, how you do it. It is a gift in my hands, but I am blowed if I know why or what for or how it happens. I just know that I do it to make sense of my world. And the more I do it, the better I get. I meet people and tune out what they are saying because I am trying to figure out how their faces work, and what the feeling of the face is. I am trying to work out how they are put together so that if I were to paint them I could see them properly. It is a struggle because I am so uninterested in the details of a proper stuctured life as lived my many of us. I am envious that people do live structured quiet lives, have jobs and understand how to live well. I would like it to happen to me, but I am dreadfully uninterested in doing it, I would just like to have the benefits arrive in my lap while I continue to dance into the sunset clutching a handful of hollyhocks.
But I am doing well. My children are 20, 17 and 14. They keep me very much on the ground, and I have chosen to learn how to be stuctured and ordered, as much as I can be without becoming frustrated and trapped. I have friends who I can call on to keep me focussing on the day to day, and when things go well I absolutely love being and Artist. When they don't, I fear I am vague and empty and will not be able to paint again. But I always do paint again, and I always do fill up after feeling vague and empty. It just takes a bit of well practiced self belief and a nice long call to a sensible and loving friend. And by now I have lived long enough to know that all of life is a cycle that goes up and down, and when one is down, it is only temporary. So I just keep going, and am very glad to be an Artist. Very glad indeed.
11.07 pm Sitting bolt Upright In Bed Making Lists -
Because I have a big weekend, and a big month ahead. After the big month ahead is over it is Christmas. And then a whole new year begins which I have planned out to include me travelling all over the place with the A Graceful Death exhibition. I have also been invited by the wonderful novelist and writer Olivia and her husband to join them at their Chateau in France again next August. I have been invited with my two sons and one daughter and Alan. So I come with a Caravan. I am now, just for the record, the smallest in the Caravan. All my children are at least 6' tall and Alan is 6'3". I was once huge to my kids. Those were the days of Unquestioned Power. Sigh. I used to carry two baby boys at once, one in each arm, when they were 0 and 3. With my daughter on my head. Just joking, my daughter never got carried on my head.
The big weekend. Back to the big weekend. 13 Year Old Son is now 14. His birthday party is on Sunday but I think there will be lots of people staying this whole weekend. Eileen comes tomorrow, and so does Costya, the Boss of All Things. Alan is dropping by too and then off again. Saturday, Daughter and her friend may come or they may not. One may come and not the other, or either or both come the next day. Leave it open, they say. Of course, I say, don't let me get in the way. Sunday will bring Family to the lunch to celebrate 14 Year Old Son's further leaping into Wild Teenage-hood. To make the weekend more fizzy than ever, Arty Man With Motor Bike and Much To Ponder, is coming back after 3 weeks in South Africa. And the sub plot of this weekend is for Eileen and I to plan, organise, publicise and create our Art Fair, the organising of which we will do in the quiet moments between 4am and 8am, it seems, both on Saturday and Sunday.
Monday dawns. On Wednesday, the builders arrive to rip out the old kitchen and put in the new one that B&Q left a little while ago, in a kind of flat pack monument to Newness, in my garage. Monday and Tuesday will be frantic as I remove every last egg cup from the kitchen so that the bull dozers can raze it to the ground and re create a B&Q Marvel. I am not thinking about the dust and the mess and the lack of cooking and the noise. I am only thinking of the shiny newness of all the surfaces, of the cupboards that keep the doors on when you open them, and of the new hob top that is no longer either off or a furnace. And the oven door will be, at all times, attached to the oven itself. Revolutionary. And a deep and heartfelt thank you to Alan who is giving me this new kitchen. We send him a big hug.
But the real pressure this month is Eileen and My Art Fair. We are creating our own Art Fair, for Two, in a Hall in Arundel. I don't think we have enough stress, so this is going to put that right. This past week I have been making my Stuff to sell, and actually, I am doing OK. It has been great fun to set up with all the crafty stuff and make cards on the dining table, like a real cottage industry. Not being a great multi tasker though, I find it difficult to break the routine, and feed the Now 14 Year Old Son. Tonight, I said to him, Tonight you can feed yourself, my deeply loved and elderly son. So he had 4 packets of crisps, a big bar of Cadbury's caramel chocolate, and some sweet and sour sauce from the jar in the fridge. I think he was looking for attention, but I wasn't going to give it to him. Snip snip, I went with my card making scissors, keeping my eyes on the cards, Snip snip Can't talk now Son, glue glue, Yes Dear, have a bucket of profiteroles if you like, don't mind me (cut cut paste paste etc).
Suddenly, I am tired. What a relief. There is a goddam Scarpetta novel on my bed, and the thought of reading it to make me sleepy is making me a bit hysterical. We know what is going to happen in it, we discussed all that in the last blog. Scarpetta is going to suffer, there is a clever psycho pserial killer pretending to be her Mum, everyone is out to get her, but she is going to nail them with her deep intelligence and intellect (while remaining blonde and small and smart) though she will have to pay a high personal price which she will transcend and then she will be assumed into Heaven and the Pope will make her a saint. That is where these books are leading.
I Am Too Concerned About Kay Scarpetta To Get My Stuff For The Fair Ready
Recently, I have been obsessed with Patricia Cornwell's books about Kay Scarpetta, forensic pathologist. I have bought each book and read them in order. I found that my nights were not long enough to read the latest book and find out who the baddies were; I found that A Graceful Death exhibition got in the way of knowing that at any moment Kay Scarpetta could bite the dust. I itched to get back to find out why Kay Scarpetta couldn't match the bite marks on the latest body with the teeth of the mad and hairy supsect that the police had locked up. I panicked when the mad and hairy suspect escaped. What if he managed to find Scarpetta and bite her too when I was busy on the phone and painting my paintings? Oh goodness. I needed to know, was the latest body that of the love of Scarpetta's life, or was it just another crazy lookey-likey? Were they bite marks on the body, or were her eyes deceiving her? What was she going to do, and more to the point, what was I going to do? I was going to have to give up the day job and read Patricia Cornwell until there were no more books to read. Then I was going to have to call Patricia Cornwell and behave like one of the sociopaths she writes about until she wrote me another book. This is how it was going to be until one or other of us died or changed our identity.
But something happened the night before I left to go to Dublin last week. I was reading deep into the night to get to the bottom of the tangled webs of intrigue and darkness before catching a plane to Dublin the next day and doing A Graceful Death in the private exhibition there - when suddenly I put the book down and said, "Well, Really!". I had tipped over an invisible cliff and found that I was very irritated with Kay's world and Kay herself. "Well Really!" I said again, "for goodness sake". I found that every plot contained a violent psychopath, every violent psychopath wanted to get Kay Scarpetta, and most members of the forces of law and order were out to get Kay too and further their own political ambitions. I found that I was more and more concerned that Kay's love for her niece Lucy was a bit unhealthy and that Lucy herself was showing signs of being a hairy psychopath herself. Kay's love interest died in a gruesome fire only to reappear six years later under a different identity following a huge CIA secret cover up sting operation thing. And neither of them, in fact no one in Kay's immediate circle, was taken yelping in a staightjacket to the nearest secure unit for a little time off.
Here is what concerned me. At no point did Kay
Have a period
Do the wrong thing
Think anything that wasn't deeply professional and wise
Say "Shit! Bloody Hell and Dammit!"
Have a mental breakdown
Go to bed early
Have a good night's sleep
Go completely doolally when Love of Life turns up alive after 6 years
Say No to work
Go on a dating website for a bit of fun
Have a day off
Binge on chocolate when the latest psycho tatooed her name on the latest victim
I am worried that Kay Scarpetta needs a complete break. I am worried that there is a Psycho Pschool somewhere that gives Kay Scarpetta lessons and the one who actually gets her will get a prize. But until that happens, the extremely talented and gorgeous Patricia Cornwell will carry on writing about her and everything will carry on the same in Kay's life. And I am absolutely fed up with it. I am going back to Bertie Wooster and Jeeves.
About the Fair. Eileen and I are giving a Christmas Art Fair of our works on the 28 November, and I have no stock at all. I took it all to Ireland and sold every last piece of it there. Hooray and Goddam. So today, I plan a way to make all my angel stock and cards again in just 3 weeks. The hall will need decorating and making nice and so on, and that will have to be done. But, I think with a light bulb lighting up above my head, I have done a Ceilidh. I will make the Art Fair decorations along the same line as the Ceilidh. Subject to the approval of theWonderful Eileen, Photographer Extraordinaire. Darling Dublin Friend, the Graphic Designer Extraordinaire is doing our leaflets and posters, so that is a great step forward. Alexia, Daughter Extraordinaire and her friend Arrieanne will be doing teas and coffees and cakes and I think they will do that so wonderfully that Eileen and I may have to kidnap people from the lines queueing for their teas and make them buy our stuff or else. And, I have read enough Kay Scarpetta novels to know how to be really psycho. Actually, that is something Kay Scarpetta has never to my knowledge done - have a cream tea. No wonder she is struggling.