Monday, 28 September 2009

Waiting For Inspiration

It is a quarter to one in the afternoon and I still have not got any. Here are the things I do have

  • Indescribable hunger. The only thing that will help is crisps and they belong to 12 Year Old Son and he counts the packets
  • An aching ankle. I think it is rheumatism or arthritis or leprosy or aids, and it could, it I work on it, stop me from working
  • Lots to do. Need servants.
  • A mind that rambles.

This morning I came in here early and because even walking across the garden to the studio was a great excercise in determination and thought control, I decided to meditate . I learned Transendential Meditation a while ago, and was told that it changed peoples' lives. So I thought I would do it this morning and then everything that happens in the day would be nothing to do with me, it would be my subconscious, my id, not my fault.

It was pleasant, and by the time I had finished I had a vague plan of campaign. This was as follows

  • Make the tea
  • Have some breakfast
  • Don't go on the computer
  • Don't do the blog
  • Don't do the blog
  • Don't worry about being a blob
  • Don't do anything
  • Actually, do some painting.

So I made the decision that if I really had no inspiration at all, none, my blog couldn't happen. Better give myself something to do, like paint, then I can write about that.

So here is the blog about painting. I am very messy, there is paint on my cheek, my eyebrow, my teapot, the radio, the kitchen. I am painting for the Graceful Death exhibition and have an idea of what to do, which is probably thanks to the TM meditation this morning. I will not do any PR today, or marketing, or admin. I will only paint. And tonight when the day is gone, I will finish the book "Cold Comfort Farm" and wish I had written it.

Now there is paint on the computer too.

Friday, 25 September 2009

John Banville, Miss Marple and Antonia Rolls

Yesterday I heard Mariella Frostrup interview the author John Banville about his writing. He said something like all his work is a comment on life around him. He spends 8 hours a day, every day, in front of his computer. By 3pm he is in a trance like state, that in order to write a book he sinks into a kind of dream and when he reads his work the next day, he can't remember doing it at all. I loved this. He is so very famous and intelligent, so very likeable and modest, and doesn't seem to get out much. His books and converstation show a deeply intelligent and complex mind, full of experience of Out There. Gosh, how does he do it?

And we come to Miss Marple. Sweet little old Miss Marple who has a mind like a razor, is more perceptive than is possible, and has superb manners. A lady who is brave and right-thinking, with a deep and bottomless intellect. An elderly lady who has a routine of early mornings and early nights and a regular pattern to her day in her village. A lady who does not get out much, and yet observes and understands the terrible world of crime and people caught up in it based only on her experiences and observations of the small village and its inhabitants in which she lives. She too is full of understanding of Out There. How does she do it?

And now to me. Antonia Rolls sits in her studio day in day out. She lives in a tiny town called Bognor Regis at which most people choke and ask if they can help. She has three large unruly and fanatically independant minded very hungry children between the ages of 12 and 19, and she has superb manners. She is able to get into a trance like state at 3pm, but it is not always a creative one. Often it is just a post - lunch pre - tea trance like state, and when she looks at what she has painted or written on a Tuesday, she is stunned that she did that on Monday and like John Banville, can't remember doing it. There is a bit of a difference between John and Antonia though, John knows what he is doing and is focussed and Antonia tends to put her head down, gather her courage, and hurtle forward hoping that something good will come of it. There is a bit of a difference there.

Antonia doesn't get out that much either. But, she thinks she knows a great deal about human nature. From her studio, she conceives of huge projects and fancy exhibitions. From the silence of her wooden studio in the garden, she writes her blogs and feels she can change the world. Like Miss Marple who is fictional, and John Banville who is not and is far far more advanced in this world than Antonia (so far), Antonia uses her observations of a quiet and uneventful life in her studio (office - John Banville, village - Miss Marple) and applies it in her paintings, to huge universal subjects and experiences from Out There.

I found comfort listening to John Banville yesterday. If he sits and works for hours alone and it is OK, and puts out his very well reviewed books, then it is fine that I sit and potter alone in my studio for 8 hours. And I often think of fictional Miss Marple, who seems to have it all in many ways. Deep intelligence, self possession, modesty, never at a loss for words, quiet life in a village but never a dulling of the intellect, lots of afternoon tea, and huge excitement around her that time after time, only she can solve in her quiet unassuming old lady way. She can beat the worst of the baddies and the best of the cops, she can think them into a cocked hat, so to speak. And she never looses her cool and those that underestimate her get a shock. But most of all, for me, all this brilliance comes from observing life from her quiet village, not trekking in the Himalayas, not seeking an audience with the Pope, not paragliding over the Fjords. I like that. That is what I do in Bognor Regis.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Wednesday. 20 Years Of Being A Mother.

These days, my house is big, empty, silent, clean - ish, and breathing a sigh of relief. I have had a house full of children for nearly 20 years. Now I only have the one. There is an Absence of Offspring in every room, there are only hints that they were ever here. They have taken their stuff and left their bedrooms bare, the bedding folded neatly (by me. It looked like a gypsy camp the day they left) on the beds and I have put their remaining clothes and objects (the ones I could bear to pick up; the fossilised pizza and melting socks etc I used tongs to pick up and throw away) into strong storage boxes and piled them up for later use.

And now, the mornings are easy. There is only one child left to get ready for school. Only one child to cook and shop for. I am used to doing things on an industrial scale, my children love to eat and so Tescos was a major outing. Now, three for the price of two seems excessive. I am like an old person shopping for herself and her cat. Except I wouldn't feed my 12 Year Old Whiskers, he would rebel.

I am more free now than I have ever been. Maybe because before having children you have no idea of what it means to be last on the list. So now, I understand the stretch of day in between Son going to school and Son coming home. It doesn't have to be filled with organising, maintaining, cleaning, preparing, fetching and carrying and as they got older, listening, to three larger than life independant thinking, rebelling, creative, maverick, difficult, wonderful children. And fitting in the painting and studio life in the little spaces they didn't manage to fill up. Before, the joy of taking a few hours to read and be alone was unmatched. Before, getting emails done and sitting and dreaming for half an hour was bliss. Now, with the bulk of my work done and the children gone, there are plenty of half hours. Plenty of bits of time to indulge if I want to, getting the emails done is only a drop in the ocean in my work life, instead of being a tremendous achievement.

I feel I am due this peace. The children are leaving home, and starting again elsewhere. But so am I. I am starting again, I am suddenly full of time to spend, a house that is so big and silent, I can hear the breeze from the open windows blowing through the empty rooms. There is no music, no physical presence, just silence and a wonderful peace. The emptiness is healthy and good.

Both my large and wonderful and hungry and noisy and opinionated teenagers are safe and happy with other members of my very large family, and getting on with the next stage of their lives. There is no doubt that life as a single mother for the last twenty years has been hard but Boy! My three children, including the sprouting and budding 12 Year Old Son, are a total wonder to me. They are almost too good for me, they have arrived as nearly adults and take my breath away sometimes with their wisdom, energy and depth of character. If I needed to be reassured that I am worthwhile, I would look at my three children and think Gosh. I made them. I must be Fab.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Rather Be In Bed

This is because I don't quite know how to make today work. I have lots to do and I feel it is difficult and outside my comfort zone. Even calling people up feels difficult. Email them, you cry. Yes, I could but I have been told I had better start talking on the phone to Relevant People because they like it better. Ah, I say with a canny little wink, do I like it better. You, say my advisors, don't count. They mean that I am asking for favours and so my feelings come second.

The thing I dread most is picking up the phone and having someone say something like
  • Ha you Worm. Don't waste my time with your Wormy Business
  • (Long silence). I have heard of you. (Long silence). I fill the silence with squeaks and apologies.
  • HA HA HA HA You what?

It has never happened, maybe because I haven't called anyone yet. What I want first off, is for people to support me in everything I do. Second, I want everyone to agree with me. Thirdly I want everyone to gasp in admiration at everything I paint, and lastly (for the moment, there may be more) I want everything to be easy. Everything is NOT easy because I don't always think clearly. Or perhaps I do think clearly but am terribly handicapped by fear of not being taken seriously. So I go all woolly. Maybe. Or maybe I'm just not very good at life. Sigh, cue Tammy Wynette. Or Leonard Cohen because his songs are incomprehensible, but the music is sad. Ish.

The weekend was good. 19 Year Old Daughter who lives in Brighton came home in floods of tears on Saturday, her plans had fallen through for the evening and if that was bad, what was worse was that she had put perfect makeup on and backcombed her hair like Brigitte Bardot and spent ages getting ready and now there was nowhere to go. So I picked her up at the station at midnight, and lo. She was still looking absolutley glamorous but the black eye makeup was all cried off and there were little rivulets of black down her cheeks. But the hair was still backcombed and perfect. What a shame I thought, she really does look wonderful. And I loved how nothing, no disaster on earth, would make her take off her Outfit and have an early night. It was a teeny bit like a teenaged blonde temporary Miss Havisham. She did eventually get undressed and go to bed at about 1am, after I had made her her favourite Lapsang Tea and Cheese On Muffins and there were teddies on her bed and just to be on the safe side, to show I am in her Zone, so to speak, I put a very high heeled pair of fancy red satin shoes at the end of the bed in her line of vision so she would at no time forget who she was.

It turned out to be a lovely time with her, and 12 Year Old Son. Daughter brings with her Music. She is my Music, and when she here I love her music and we sing together and it makes us laugh. I bought her some twinkly fairy dust for her bath (Tesco do it) and so the whole Not Having A Saturday Night was forgotten. Actually, she had worked so hard and done nights recently, I think she was exhausted. I am glad she came home, she is very precious.

And now. And now. Despite everything I have no excitement about today. I am nervous and unfocussed. I am worried that everything is empty and pointless and that I am not going to make these exhibitions work. I will do my best though. Haven't even had tea this morning so I had better go and get the gallon pot out, and put that right. Maybe that is the answer. It is all down to whether or not I have had my tea. Perhaps then all will be full of light and wonder.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Nothing But Frippery On This Blog Now

I have another blog for the Graceful Death Exhibition. It is intended to be for you to comment on the paintings as I do them and they go up on the site, and for anyone to comment on their own experience. It is a good idea, and I think you should look at it.

A Norweigan friend made the following video of me and the paintings in my studio here, 8 weeks after Steve died. I will put the link here and see what you think.
Now. On to the Other Stuff. I have just been away for a few days with Alan in the New Forest. It was, to put it mildly, wonderful. Alan has a sixth sense about finding places that really relax and live up to expectations. I had never seen the New Forest before and like all newcomers, was agog at the horses, cows, donkeys on the roadside, on the road, in the fields, in the gardens, on cricket fields, up trees etc. Animals have right of way and it is quite refreshing to think that even as advanced as we are, in our fancy cars with our sat navs and mobile phones, that these animals are as ever, uninterested, clueless as to our satisfaction with our human progress, not in the slightest affected by the kind of car we are in and what we had for breakfast in our posh hotel, they just trundle out into the road looking for whatever it is they are looking for. It certainly isn't inspiration, a business deal, the next step in their personal development, or even a meaningful relationship. They just plod out of the one garden, into the road, have a long think standing there, and trundle off into the next garden prior to going back to the heath lands of the New Forest, and having a bit of lunch. Come to think of it, it isn't too different from Alan and me on our holiday.
We went to museums, to towns and villages, and finally to a walk across the cliffs at Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door. I have not been there since I was about 11. I thought it looked smaller but then I would. I'm grown up now.
So back to my studio. It is silent, Yes! Dear friend in Dublin knows all about silence in the house when the kids are occupied elsewhere. I have paintings to do all day today. I am suitably dressed and look like Worzle Gummage. No I look like Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films. And so, a masterpiece must be done. Can only do so many masterpieces in a day. Sigh.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Treating A Monster With Poison

This was how Patrick Swayze described what was available to treat his pancreatic cancer. Despite everything he did, despite his force of character, his insights, his bravery he still died of cancer. Yesterday he was here, today he was gone. Keith Floyd died today too, of a heart attack, even though his friends when interviewed said of him, with genuine feeling, that he was unique. One of a kind, a maverick, one in a million. And his heart gave out and he died.

So this thing that will come to us all came to two public personalities today. I am afraid of just going, I fear dropping dead one day or dying in my sleep. I want to prepare for my death, I want to go hand in hand with it, so I can let it happen and not be obliterated in one fell swoop. Of course, no one knows if we are obliterated. If I die in my sleep, I may follow the light, probably still grumbling and yawning with sleep in my eyes, and meet God in my nightie. Or if I die suddenly I may of course be able to watch what is going on and be aware of the fact that I am dead, from a safe distance 3 feet in the air. Then I will tut and shake my head that I was wearing the wrong spotty knickers with the wrong pink bra and now all the ambulance crew will think I can't co-ordinate my undies.

If we are obliterated, then I guess there is only blackness and nothing. The most you can hope for is that your remains will nurture a lovely tree that in my case, will thrive spookily well on the remains of tea from the teapot, and will grow in a uniquely arty way.

I had a dream before Steve was diagnosed with his liver cancer. I was in his boat with him on a sandy estuary. The dream began with me clambering out of the boat in utter devastation and leaving him standing on the deck. I ran weeping and full of pain along the sand in the puddles, not looking back, shattered that he was leaving me. All of a sudden, I dropped onto the sand in a heap, as a dead weight, and rose almost instantly with utter joy, and began to run back to Steve, my feet 6 inches above the sand. I felt total bliss, such wonderful peace and happiness as I knew I would see him again. Before I reached him, I woke up.

Another time I knew he was going to die was when we went to New York to see Yeshi Donden, a wonderful Tibetan Monk in his eighties who was the Dalai Lama's physician. When Steve sat opposite this stout old beautiful monk, and they gazed at each other, I saw Steve as a grey shadow. I knew then that he could not stay with me much longer, that this cancer that he had could not be touched. The contrast between them was the physical embodiment of life and death; this elderly monk who spoke through a translator, who had had a life time of study and medical practice and experience sitting opposite my Steve with their knees touching, Steve only 51 years old, an engineer with two degrees in aeronautical engineering and sound and vibration - Steve who was happiest on his boat fishing out to sea, Steve who told me he wasn't going anywhere and he would always be with me, the contrast was absolutely heartbreaking.

And so. When I go, I think I would like to have the world slowly fade from my sight, not have it snatched away and the lights put out. I would like to sink slowly away so that I could relinquish my body, my mind and my spirit bit by bit until I see bus loads of old relatives and friends float in through the window, led by Steve who looks plump and healthy. They will all come and stand round my bed blowing party whistles and blowing up balloons, telling each other jokes and laughing uproariously. Time to come with us, they will say. And my wonderful Irish grandma will hold up her hands in welcome like she did when I was little and I will say Grandma! Are there chips in Heaven! (we grandchildren always made her make us chips and tea with sugar in it, and being a perfect grandmother, she always did). Then Grandma and Steve will each take my hand and the whole party will cheer and explode celestial party poppers while I will float out of the window with them to a land of chips, tea and endless fun and games. And those around me will remember my last words as Grandma! Are there chips in Heaven! and will wonder where the faint smell of party poppers is coming from.

This exhibition is making me wish I could understand where Steve went. Recently I had a very good well written article written for our local papers here, and the night before it came out I spent the night with Steve holding my head while I slept. It was utterly wonderful and I wondered when I woke why I had had those dreams, I could still feel his hands. Maybe it was his way of saying Jolly good article. Got me to a tee. Actually, Steve knows Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze and Keith Floyd now. Gosh, maybe he'll bring them in the bus with Grandma when it is my time to go.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Monday Again. Exhibitions Beginning To Take Shape

Morning All. A brooding sense of impending doom has lifted from my house. This was the first weekend that everyone in the house got on with their daily business in peace and harmony, smiling beatifically and moving in those graceful slow languid ways that only the enlightened can. Actually we were all suffering post traumatic stress disorder and most of our brains had been put on hold.

Darling 16 Year Old Son has achieved his goal of going back to London. He is living with his Aunt for college, and back here weekends and holidays. Because he was getting into such a pickle about getting to London I sent him up early. And that is when the sense of impending doom lifted from my house. I had a gentle weekend with Alan who got Sky Sports for us, and I watched American Football on and off with him. Eileen, photographer extraordinaire, came down for the weekend and 12 Year Old Son was busy with football and friends and facebook. The sun shone, the birdies sang, and no one had the slightest disagreement with anyone else. Everyone, if it had come to it, which it didn't, would have given the other the Benefit Of The Doubt, shaken hands, smiled a peaceful smile and asked after the health of their mother.

The "Graceful Death" exhibition is coming on at last. Middleton Artist Friend gave me invaluable and insightful advice about the paintings, and gave me confidence. St Barnabas Hospice have agreed that I can use their name and fund raise for them. That is where Steve died. Eileen is helping me with cards and invitations and yesterday, Sunday, she spent the day photographing in her excellent and profound way, all the paintings I have done so far. She also had some more thoughts and ideas on the work, and now I feel very keen to get painting.

I am feeling better about the whole thing. It is not, as Middleton Artist Friend says, a Crowd Pleaser. It is very personal and very difficult to do. I keep living back in those sad lonely terrible days of watching Steve slowly disappear before my eyes to where he didn't know I was there anymore. Eileen says the pictures are hard to look at, which is good because they are so real. But then, Eileen knew him well, and helped nurse him to the end. She saw him like this and was there in the thick of it, helping, till it was all over.

The Angels feel like fun but I can't do fun at the moment. I need to get these haunting sad pictures done and Eileen will come back and photograph the rest of them.

Then, on Wednesday, Alan is taking me to the New Forest. We will spend time together and walk and browse the towns, I may have to lie down for hours and have room service. There may even be a telly in the room with Sky Sports so we can watch American Football. It will be bliss. And finally, I showed Alan the paintings and he liked them. I am fine now, the Man From The Ministry Says Yes. All in all, things are good so far.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Sssssh. Silence Around Me. Don't Read This Too Loudly

My dear 16 Year Old Son finally went to London yesterday. He removed himself and more of his stuff and caught a train at 2pm. The relief in the house is like an after shock. I expect he feels it too in London. Today feels like the first day of the rest of my life. I have cleaned out his room, having had to break into it first as he has removed the door handle. Easy though, I know how to do this. I cleaned and hoovered and made it wholesome and fresh, and shut the door behind me. I then went to Tesco and did a teeny shop as now I only have 12 Year Old Son with me, and he and I between us have our limits. It was strange, taking a little trolly and putting just one of this and just one of that in it, and not doing a bulk buy of avocardos, of doughnuts, of fizzy water and Linda McCartney Veg Stuff. Oooh, just the one, I felt myself say when I saw an offer of three for the price of two. Just the one, what would I need three for now?

Today the house is utterly silent. People do have a presence, even if they are locked in their rooms. There is no evidence at all of anyone in my house, except me. I could go back to bed. I could have a long bubble bath. I could dance naked round a fire in each room, I could just sit still in my big five bedroom home and feel the peace and silence.

Five bedrooms. Bit too much for just me and 12 Year Old Son. I will think about that another time.

In the meantime the emptiness and space and silence and freedom is making my head swim. It is what I have longed for for years. Space. Time out. Silence. It is, today, almost too good to cope with.

16 Year Old Son is safe and well in London. He is now living with his Aunt and is happy to be back in London, from where I moved us all five years ago. Trying to get through those five years has been full of fight and fury for him. I hope he finds his way with his wonderful aunt in London.

I am having another artist for tea this morning. That is very exciting. She is a real one, made her living by it and is very clever. I will ask her opinion on Steve's paintings, and take the day from there.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Life Of An Artist Is Like Filo Pastry, Fragile Layer Upon Fragile Layer

Tell me, do any of you reading this have a life that is made up of many many deeply complex layers, one on top the other? The layer at the top is the one you need to deal with urgently right now, and when that is done, the next layer is demanding instant attention. So in order to have a day where you concentrate on just one thing, you have to say Down! to all the other layers and turn a blind eye, even if they all merge into one huge monster of Unresolved Issues and threaten to end life on this planet as we know it.

I have this as a matter of course. I am an artist. Pah! I am only an artist in one layer. I am a mum. A sister. A daughter. A friend. A partner. A cook. An oracle. A bringer of domestic harmony. A Fairy. A Person Confused By Numbers. I am so many things and they all revolve around other people ( the cook, domestic harmony, mum thing). The only thing that is beginning not to revolve around other people is my painting.

It is becoming clear to me that I am turning into an artist who just wants to do her thing. It is apparant that I am not being charming and networking like mad, that I am not longing to paint the kind of paintings I have painted. I want to follow my inner butterfly and have all domestic and financial concerns taken care of by Whatever so that I can paint Olivia's husband Mark with his violin, so that I can paint Cecil in London because she is beautiful, so that I can paint my Dad as Buddha (enlightened, not fat). So that I can paint myself and take time on it. And I can paint funny religious scenes re interpreted by me (hooray). I would like to paint old people I would like to paint people in hospices. I would also like to make garden gnomes and garden people to hide under bushes and put on your lawn. And up trees.

But first, before any of that kind of indulgence (hem hem clearing of throat and adusting of prince-nez) I have to make contact with 16 Year Old Son who has declared war on us, and has locked himself in his room since Sunday. How to resolve whatever it is that is going on there. How to keep my spirits up when I have had a bit of ill health (Yes! How I kept that from you all, and how now you must be weeping tears of admiration for how this plucky woman kept on going despite having Trouble With Me Innards). How to resolve the feeling that life is passing me by and that I have so much to do. The answer to life passing me by is to let the morphing into the Let Me Produce My Stuff happen. The only way to remove the domestic and financial responsibilties on my own is to sell up here and buy a small wigwam with plumbing and electricity and spare room for 12 Year Old Son. And 16 Year Old Son. And 19 Year Old Daughter. And Alan. Sigh. You see how difficult it gets.

However, back to today. I have much to be thankful for. A sister in law who could not be more wonderul, friends who really really care, children (even if they do hate me. Sometimes. At least, even if I have ruined their lives when I have any opinions or ask them a direct question like Where Are You Going My Sweet as they try to get to the door without me seeing them). I have Alan and 3 brothers who are really something. I have a kettle that works, and many teapots to choose from. I have a BIKE a bike a bike. Thank you Alan for my bike.

I also have two exhibitions that I have chosen to put on. That is wonderful in itself, these exhibitions are really, as Lucy says in Wimbledon, about the new me. That puts on an exhibition of her own thoughts and feelings, and what can be more individual than an exhibition on death and dying? Well, and exhibition on Every Day Angels running concurrently by the same artist on the other side of town perhaps.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Remembering Funny Things Instead Of Getting On With Serious Stuff

Today is full of fizz and decision. I have made many decisions, all with fizz. I have not over eaten which is odd, but there is time to do that later when the fizz wears thin. My desk is brimming over with Awfully Important And Urgent Papers and the lists I am drawing up are all merging into a venn diagram that a code breaker would have to spend time chewing their nails over.

However. It is, as Alan says, about taking control. Much control has been taken, and much more needs to be done.

So. What are these Amusing Things that distract me? Well the first one I will tell you about happened on Saturday in Clarkes Shoe shop. I had cycled into Chichester to buy some school shoes and as I left the shop I thought Hum, Ladies Shoes and went to have a look. As soon as I saw the shoes, beautifully displayed I felt my head explode and I thought Too Many Shoes What Do I Want More Shoes For Bah, What Kind Of Shoe Should I Have, What Should I Do? If I Wore Any Of These What Does It Mean I Am Not Equipped To Wear Shoes I Don't Know What It All Means What Would I Wear It All Boils Down To I Don't Know Who I Am. All this happened in a microsecond and I left the shop in a panic, muttering and dribbling and shaking my head.

Outside in the street I thought This Explains Everything. I react like this over any choice that contains more than 2 options. This is why I can't paint just one subject and stick with it. Why I can't decide where I want to live, why I can't stick with my own point of view when there are a few other points of view to consider. Why I can't just Do Things. Why I can't clothes shop. And yet, once I have made up my mind, I can be as focussed as the next obsessive. I can, if I really DO make up my mind, stick to it even if it is not working. That is a whole new blog though.

Having had this Eureka Moment, I passed the Oxmarket Gallery and went in to look at the space I am having the Every Day Angel exhibition in. What I really went in for though, was to tell the man at the desk, a kind and understanding fellow, all about my Clarkes Shoe Life Moment. And, it seems, he understood. I think he said he was like that too.

Here is another Thing I remembered today. I found a photo of my mother on her wedding day this morning, and found myself recalling, as a little girl, how I could have had such a beautiful mother. She was (and still is) a real stunner. And I remember her going off to work on a bike when I was very young, with a basket at the front. Where Are You Going Mummy? I asked her. She replied that she was a midwife, and that she had to go and deliver babies to their mummies. I had another Eureka Moment and understood that that was why there was a basket on her bike. She put the babies in there and cycled around posting them to new mummies. How sensible.

One thought led to another, and as I found I had rubbed my eyes with my dirty hands this morning and left black marks on my face, I thought of the awful journey I had home in June this year, after 19 Year Old Daughter and I had been to Verona. All was fun and games till we parted, Daughter and I, at Gatwick. Bye Darling I said, as the thunder crashed and the heavens opened. My little red and white cotton dress was cruelly inadequate protection against the wind and rain and my little size 7 feet slipped around in my size 8 flip flops. Bugger, I thought.

So, waiting on the platform, I see a train come in. Oh loyal National Rail I cried, and hopped on. I had my newspaper and read the first page before I realised I had left my bag, lonely and forlorne, on the platform of Gatwick Rail Station. Off I plunge at the next stop, into the monsoon, and have to run, slipping and sliding, all the way down the long platform to the 6 inches of cover at the other end under which a tired and droopy Guard was watching me. When I explained what I had done, he was very good, called and located the Gatwick Staff and told me to run over the bridge where another train was just pulling in, and go back to Gatters where someone would show me somehow to the bag which was being taken away for a controlled explosion. Off I go, in pretty sun dress, flip flops making me look disabled in the wet, over the bridge, caught the trian with a nano second to go, and went back to Gatwick. I have to say I looked like the only one who hadn't a) heard the weather forecast that morning and b) hadn't twigged that if it was raining last night, had been all week, was overcast and foul in the morning, I would be better off in a coat and brolly and real shoes. A sun dress and matching lipstick and flip flops would show me up as a bit borderline odd. It would only make it worse if I made it known I was in Italy in hot sun only a few hours earlier. British people would only glare at me and mutter We Weren't Born Yesterday. You Are Just A Silly Billy.

Oh thank God for kind Gatwick Rail staff (in coats and scarves and wellies and umberellas) Who gave me back my very wet very heavy bag. Who's A Scallywag Then they chortled as I curtsied and thanked them and swam back onto the platform where my next train was delayed. At last I got onto the train and Lo! Only one seat left. Now I thought that as I was brown and in red, a bit of a drenching would only add to my allure. I thought, if one was to look at me, one couldn't help but see that I was not a drowned middle aged woman, innapropriately dressed and obviously not making good progress in her day. One would see that I was an exotic and exciting woman whose dress clung to her and whose flip flops gave her a certain quirky charm. That I was tanned and could only have come from Italy and, what if it is raining on me, I need only to glance at you for you to forget the drops of water falling from my nose and earlobes, it would be obvious that I was an exciting traveller with a piercing intelligence in my eyes and Oh what a story to tell.

It was in this frame of mind that I noticed the handsome (dry) man sitting in the only seat next to whom there was a vacancy. So I sat, like Elizabeth Taylor. Like Holly Golightly. Like Ava Gardner, next to him and he turned and gazed at me with his mouth open. Yes, I thought, I am not like Other Women, I am Different. I am Exciting With A Story To Tell. He kept glancing at me all the way to his station. Only because I am alluring, I thought, as I read my newspaper. Then when I got off at my stop, I glanced at my reflection in the window. I had pushed back my hair, and wiped my face dry many times on the journey and each time had left another black streak of newsprint on my face and neck. I didn't look like a Screen Goddess, I looked like I had been in an Initiation Ceremony in Papua New Guinnea. My face was covered in black symbols and lines and had probably made my handsome co-passenger have to take the rest of the week off to consult his psychiatrist.

Now. Back to today. Before I remember any more silly stuff.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Oh I love Olivia!

Olivia Pemberton as a Deeply Intellectual Angel

Olivia Pemberton came for breakfast. She writes the most astonishing novels; she writes as I would like to paint, and is so clever. So, at 8.30 Olivia arrived, and we dived straight into matters of The Universe, Life and All Things Connected. Everything about Olivia is true, and everything she says is real. And she can be very funny. Once, after her last but one book - "God's Apology" - she gave a talk in Chichester. I went and realised what Olivia nust be allowed to do, is to start talking and just go on from subject to subject, idea to idea, thought to thought, revelation to revelation. I was just enthralled to hear everything she said. She must, I thought, be allowed to go onto a public platform, and just talk. Her next book, "On Loving Josiah" will be published soon and is, like Olivia, remarkable.
I feel wonderful after her visit. Today is windy and grey and uncertain. I woke with a feeling of anxiety about the day ahead. It is a blank canvas, so to speak. I can make of it what I will. As ever. But it is often difficult, I feel I am unable to make my mark, unable to do the things I dream of, unable to really reach to the stars. But I know I simply have to get out of bed and Start. Once I am upright, there is hope. If I go out on my bike, there is hope. If I can get dressed there is hope. If, big step on these anxious mornings, I can walk across the garden and get into my studio, there is hope.
This morning, I had a shower. I washed my hair, I tidied the kitchen. When Olivia arrived she brought the sun with her, and now, she has gone home and I am reassured that this world is not too difficult a place in which I can Do My Thing.
So. 16 Year Old Son is not leaving home in a few days after all. He enrolled yesterday at college and the start date is on the 15th September. Never mind. If I had followed 16 Year Old Son's instructions in the first place, and become a better human being, the college would not have had to mislead him into thinking it started on the 7 September. 12 Year Old Son starts on Monday back at school, and needs shoes. Ha. When I was in Africa the children made shoes from tyres. That wouldn't work in Chichester though. I would have to go out at night and make shoes from the parked cars and in the morning would have to pretend I had nothing to do with the shoe shaped holes in peoples car tyres.
I will also go to the printer and ask about the printing of some advance publicity cards for the Graceful Death exhibition. I will get the dry cleaning from the dry cleaners. I will write a testimonial for the very good Paula Gardner PR Consultant ( and I will prepare wood for paintings.
My dear Alan sent some details of lovely houses to look at and dream about, and I will do that. I want all of them, and he is very good at selecting things I like and showing them to me. He is very good at knowing what I like anyway.
So all in all not a bad day ahead. It feels a bit shakey, but if I do all these things by close of day, I can have a huge dinner and read my book and feel satisfied.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Four Days Till 16 Year Old Son Leaves Home

Only four days left. He got his GCSEs and did well enough, and has got into college in London, where he will live. My wonderful sister in law is giving him board and lodging, and so he will lope off into the sunset with a few (poetic licence. He will take a pantechnicon) belongings in a hanky on a stick over his shoulder snarling his way out of the front door, to his lovely aunt where he will say Hello Aunty, Can I Make You A Cup Of Tea? And he will give her a list of rules and regulations for his stay and tell her that his mother doesn't understand him.

I love my children. I love them in that hopelessly optimistic way, where you can't see that they are anything but temporarily ghastly. At any time. I think Oh, but underneath, this child is lovely. Underneath and behind all that scorn and arrogance, is a sweet child, one that I understand because it is my child and I raised it. So as the days go by, 16 Year Old Son is more and more excited about his new life and less and less inclined to co operate in the one he is leaving behind. I will drive him to my sister in law on Friday, and even though he won't speak to me or be in the same room as me at the moment, I thought of buying some Cadbury Chocolate Eclair sweets and putting them in his bags. Which are not packed yet. It will, he says fiercely, take him five minutes. Oh I think. I once thought that time had no meaning too, and that everything I thought in my head would magically happen without me having to lift a finger. I didn't buy the chocolate eclairs, but not for the reason you think. I didn't buy them because I feared I would have to eat them myself and he would never know he could have had a suprise pack of sweeties. If his mother hadn't found herself locked in her bedroom behind the chair mouth glued shut with chocolate toffee eclaires, cheeks bulging like a hamster. Perhaps I am not so profound as I imagine.

Now, in the studio, I am doing Stuff. Lots of Stuff. I finished the painting of Steve in the bath, a few days before he died. And to show I am full of mystery, I added 2 yellow plastic ducks and I do not know how on earth I can explain it. It looks bizarre but I am leaving them there. Maybe it is another hint of lack of profundity.

I have been cutting and preparing wood for new paintings. I have an idea for a big triptych involving me and Steve and emptiness. I am thinking it through at the moment, and making sure the surfaces are ready by the end of this week. Sometimes I really don't know what I am doing; there is one side of the studio full of dying and images of loss and grief, and on the other side of the studio are jolly plump angel ladies doing their shopping or being a teapot, or having a makeover. I carry the essense of each set of paintings with me as I cross from one to the other, and find it gives me a much needed balance.

Next week, 12 Year Old Son goes back to school. I have loved having him over the holidays. He has spent much of his time learning card tricks and piano from tutorials on You Tube. He has played football with his team and eaten enough to make him a Mountain Troll. He has disovered Strawberry Nesqick and I am doubling my milk delivery just to keep up with him. A wee hobbit came home for the Summer Hols, and I am sending Hagrid back in September. Except he, Son, isn't really that hairy.

Right. Have left dougnuts in the kitchen for Truly Put Upon 16 Year Old Son, which he will eat with lowered brows and snarls between bites, and only when no one puts doughnuts on the table for him in London, will he start to think his old mum wasn't that bad. Probably not Bad as such, just not Profound.