Thursday 30 December 2010

Tired, Excited, Fat, Single And Inspired for my website for my most well known image of Jesus sitting on the Tube being ignored by everyone, but not You for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

Oh All Of The Above And More

  • Tired. I am very pleased about this  I don't sleep very much, and have never really enjoyed sleep as a way of spending the time, but I do love to be quiet and on my own at the end of the day.  Now, after setting aside time to wind down, I am stunned to find myself feeling sleepy.  "I will just," I say to myself  after lunch with a sweet innocence that shows that I am easily fooled, "close my eyes for five minutes and then I will be fine".  A couple of hours later, sweet yet enormously tall 14 Year Old Warrior Child gives me a peck on the cheek and tells me that he was wondering if I could perhaps make him another meal.  "I know you were not dead," he says with a reassuring smile and a hand on his heart, "because you sounded like a tractor reversing."  "I don't snore!" I say, and then realise with panic, I am old.  I am 50.  This is what old people do and I had better make sure Bill Nighy snores too or we will never get along.  So today, finally, the night before New Years Eve, I am going to have an early night because I want to sleep.  Well how about that.  I am normal.  And, I will be partying tomorrow night, so that needs careful consideration.
  • Excited.  I have been unable to process my thoughts this last while, despite having much to do.  I work best with a goal in mind, and though I had started all my various projects in 2010 with a Goal In Mind, I seemed to have forgotten what it was.  It seemed that everything that I had chosen to do had become atomised and vague and worryingly disjointed.  I was unable to think clearly, and felt that I was bobbing about on a proverbial sea of half formed ideas of my own making.  Well, Deus Ex Machina!  Twice!  Two things have happened to excite me into feeling on top of the world again.  1.)  Thanks to my very splendid friend Alex I am cycling 60 miles for charity on the 10 of July.  This has given me a reason to get the goddam bike out and move.  I can't tell you how excited I am about being in training again for something, and how important it makes me feel.  "Ha!" I cry from my bike as I cycle through Bognor to the Infinity Beyhond, "I'm in Training!  Watch me go!  How about that!  Jealous?  Thought so."  2.) Today, at last, I visited Arty Man's studio and we finally got the project of him making a film of the A Graceful Death exhibition and story, onto paper.  We talked it through and planned how it might look, and who to interview and thought about how to make it work.  How exciting is that?  Good Heavens.  I have a Project and it is Good and Arty Man is an excellent film maker.  The world is our oyster.  We intend to take it to the Edinburgh Festival for 2012. Oh Hollywood, you are next.
  • Fat.  This is best summed up as a Mental Attitude Leading to a Wobbly Tummy with the following account.  On Boxing Day, about 20 of us went to a lunch at my brother's flat in Brighton.  I love my family, a walk by the sea was planned, and lots of presents.  But I had inside knowledge that there would be at least 50 mince pies and gallons of custard for after the walk.  I spent Christmas night, Boxing Day morning, all the journey to Brighton, the lunch, the presents, the walk and all social contact willing the moment to arrive when the mince pies and custard were brought out.  I could barely contain myself when they came out of the oven - and watched with anguish as we were handed one each on a plate and custard politely and sparingly added afterwards from a jug that was carried from person to person by a Custard Moniter. I ate mine in a single gulp and looked around me, bereft.   My sister in law, who understands me, asked if I would like another and I said with a barely suppressed mince-pie-lust, "Get Me At Least Four", which she did.  Beckoning over the Custard Moniter I said, "Cover all four so that they can't be seen.  I want the mince pies submerged, you hear me, submerged." Sister in Law let me finish hers too, so if she was not already married I would have married her then and there. I have found too, that I think nothing of four chocolate biscuits after each meal and my jeans are getting tight.  I am not yet Fat as such, but by this time next week I will  be well on the way to Porky. So imagine the delight with which I signed up for the 60 mile charity bike ride.  That will sort the Wobbly Bits out, I thought.  Deus, indeed, ex Machina.
  • Single.  Well, being single means I can get Wobbly of Tum and see how long the hairs on my legs can grow.  I can go to bed without cleaning my teeth and in the morning get dressed over my pyjamas, and no one will know.  Or care.  Being single is not so bad.  I will just see what happens.  You never know, I may meet a Custard and Mince Pie Manufacturer and all will be fine.
  • Inspired. Inspired!  Inspired as never before, to go to bed to actually sleep (oooh), to make a film and to train for a mammoth bike ride.  To stop eating too much and to become fit and sleek (ish), and to not care one whit about being single.  To be Inspired to do all the other things I have on the go - the Rocking Rev Rachel's portrait, an Angel for a lovely local friend, putting on the A Graceful Death exhibition in Manchester in February and in Birmingham in November and maybe other places in between. To paint a portrait of the very enigmatic Bella who was my inspiration at University and who has been forced to sit for me again, to go to Dublin with the Amazing Eileen to stay with our Darling Dublin Friend and her husband, the Nicest Man In Ireland...  (pause for breath)....  To go to Majorca with the Glorious Clarissa, to go to Norway, to go to Edinburgh, Birmingham, France, the Moon...
But let us see.  First things first.  An early night and one - maybe just one - mince pie....

Tuesday 28 December 2010

More Than One Holy Mother In Bognor Regis This Christmas for my website  for the website of my best known image of Jesus on the Tube, being ignored by all but looking out at you (so smarten up) for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

On There Being A Whole Load Of Holy Mothers Here This Christmas

We start here with the two of us.  This is a turquoise glittering Virgin Mary that has a slot in her back to put money into.  We have recognised each other here and the earth has reeled upon its axis.

So we start with my Glittery Bling Virgin Mary as the first Holy Mother.  I am a Holy Mother too, because I just am.  I fix you with a steady and dangerous stare and dare you to think otherwise.    

Christmas was a hoot.  My house filled with frolicking family and friends, and my dear father, who after a number of strokes is benign, cuddly and affectionate.  He was deeply intellectual and literary before the strokes, but rather tense and agitated.  Now, he has retained his academic memories but not too much else, nor can he remember much about his day to day life.  His eyesight, always extemely bad, is now only partially working in one eye but - he sat in the kitchen doing crossword after crossword with the Wonderful Eileen, both of whom are pretty brainy, and quoted Shakespeare and poetry at the drop of a hat to anyone who asked. From time to time he asked who all these people were, "Blowed if I know Dad," I said in the spirit of Christmas fun, just to see what happened next.

Cousin Maddy is the next Holy Mother.

Cousin Maddy is a Holy Mother.  She brought up her three excellent children alone, with all the Nonsense such a feat entails.  She did a wonderful job and has recently married again, her current husband as she calls him, is the nicest man ever, so a happy ending for Maddy.  Not that she is going to die now, the happy ending is the Single Mother And Trying To Make Ends Meet part of her life.
This serious lady gave me the Turquoise Glitter Mary Swear Box.  She, Maddy, is a trained Physiotherapist, and is, as a scientist, supposed to be serious and restrained.  Not a bit of it.  As you can see, Maddy arrived in her antlers and pyjamas, forgot all the soft drinks but remembered the wine, port, whiskey, beer etc.  Among Maddy's Holy Mother features, is the ability to clear up after herself and her children and in the process tidy and wash your whole house.  Yes.  And last year, she didn't like the tree outside my sitting room window and disappeared for wee while.  "Where," we all said quizzically to each other as we lay prone and in a collective and rather painful but delightful torpor on the floors and sofas after our Christmas lunch, "is Maddy?"  Oustide we heard the rasping of a teeny saw but dismissed it as probably an animal happily chewing wood  in the garden.  We lay and pondered and suddenly there was light as the tree outside the sitting room fell, the blocked sunlight flowed in and we saw Maddy in her dungarees outside, all 5'4" of her cleaning her teeny saw in satisfaction and wipe her brow with her teeny hands.  "Oh good," she was heard to say as she came back inside and we lay stunned in our self induced post lunch paralysis, "what next?"

Our next Holy Mother is Jules, my cousin Charley's beloved other half.

Jules lives an unassuming life, in that she keeps herself out of the limelight.  Jules is a Holy Mother because she is tough, wise, very very clever and still we beat her in scrabble (ha ha) and she has been so very kind to my Dreadful But Adorable Kids.  My furious and scornful Muppet went to stay with her and Charlie, along with a whole load of teenaged cousins none of whom were as Outraged as my dear Muppet (now 17 and  still despairing of us ever growing up and being nice) one Summer.  Jules and Charlie provided them with the best Summer they can remember.  Jules is as twinkly as the Holy Mother that Maddy gave me for Christmas.  Now my sweet but violent Rambo Boy aged 14 is champing at the bit to go.  "Fine," says Jules and Charlie, "just give us a week's notice and we would love to have him."  Eh?  I say to myself.  If I was offered someone elses Boxing Boy for a holiday, would I agree so kindly to have him?  Amazing. 

Poetic Holy Mothers now.  I am very fortunate to know and admire some pretty excellent poets.  Rosie Miles, Nicola Slee and Rachel Mann are three, Penny Hewlett is the fourth.  Over Christmas I received three poems in with the cards, two about Mary and one really quirky Rosie Miles one about a Robin.  I can't write poetry and love how these ladies can.  Start with Rosie.  She and Penny were shortlisted for the Birmingham Poet Laureate this year. If ever you get the chance to see Rosie read her own poetry, do so.  She is a natural.  Hem hem. Here we go then -

The campest robin in town 

The campest robin in town
Is pink, not brown.
He flutters and flits,
fluffs his feathers
in the coldest weather
It's said he's flighty as seed.

He tweets all the boys
--sparrow, tit, wren --
at the Gay Bird Baths
which have frozen over
then feeds his lover
a song to make him go red.

Rosie Miles
On now to Nicola Slee, who's new book "Seeking the Risen Christa" comes out in March 2011.  Nicola's poetry touches my heart.    I think this is from her new book -

Crista, God's beloved,
born incognito in our midst,
strange to us yet common as any baby:
Teach us to recognise you,
to cherish you, care for you, and to honour you
in your endless becoming among us

Nicola Slee

From Seeking the Risen Christa (2011)

And finally from the Rocking Rev Rachel Mann.  She of the Rock Chick Angel Of The North portrait that I am painting of her, she who is known as the Metal Vicar because of her love of Heavy Metal Music.  Rachel caused a stir last year with an article on how Christianity can learn a lot from Heavy Metal.  Rachel knows her stuff, and rode the media storm with finesse.  Here is her poem. 

Mary: Her Kind
After Sexton

I have known the greedy looks of men
their black eyes frightening as night.
I have hurried, busied myself since I was ten
refusing their snares, kept my wits bright:
Lonely child, lonelier woman, hardened mind.
A woman like that is no-one’s possession, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have been a canvas mother to a holy child,
a carved idol receiving prayers from those unable to cope,
been forced to be pure, pious, to deny the furious wild
been stripped of sex as if thus I was a fit focus for hope:
seething, febrile, exploding, confused, disaligned.
A woman like that gets washed away, becomes empty and mild.
I have been her kind.

I have binned the heavy blue gown
escaped the velvet prison, stolen a motor bike,
pawned for a rock of crack the heavenly crown,
shagged some hairy ape, luscious women, ‘cos that’s what I like:
I have refused your dreams, wasted my soul.
A woman like that is free, save your frown.
I have been her kind.

RM. At the Hairdressers. 08/12.

Finally, just so you know we are one big happy singing family, like the Von Trapps, here is my daughter, me and Maddy singing for those seated in the sitting room, and doing it by the door so there was no way to run out and watch telly.  My father is holding my hand and has a beautiful voice and is probably thinking that if he joins in we will let him go home.


 But we didn't.  He had to stay till the 27th and then he was taken back to Teddington and released.  We all love having him to stay, he is so pleased with everything.  That, I have to say, helps with any guest.


This is the high spot of the song.  We belted it all out and it looks as if someone is chewing our legs.

And this, I supsect, was what everyone made of it.

Darling Thumping Boy sighs and wonders why we women have to be so embarrassing.  What I say to him, is, "We are Holy Mothers and it not only our job to be embarrassing, but it is Christmas, and we will do it 24 hours a day till we have had enough.  Hooray."

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Christmas! We Love It! Hand Me My Breastplate And Sword, I Am Ready! for my website for the website of my most well known image, a tiny and amusing painting of Jesus on the Tube being ignored by all but looking out at you. for the exhibition A Graceful Death, paintings from the end of life

Bring It On!  Christmas I Love You!  I Have Been In Training And Now I Am Ready.

It is Wednesday morning.  There are two days to go before it is Christmas morning.  In that time, I will be stocking the larder, polishing my armour, planning the menus and paying my sons to give up their beds to relatives.  My daughter already lost her room to someone and will be sleeping with me.  In my bed.  Hooray.   I will be checking the presents, wrapping them, putting them under my deeply depressed but heroic tree (a butterfly flaps its wings in the kitchen and the tree sheds all its needles in the sitting room etc.  It is held together with twinkly lights and tough baubles but it can only take so much.  It was very cheap and if it can last till Boxing Day I will have got a bargain.  If it doesn't, I will say that as an Artist, I designed the tree this way) and I will be negotiating How To Help Mummy with my teenage sons and my very hard working 20 year old daughter, who I will collect from her night duty at her hospital an hours drive away on Christmas morning at 7.30am.  It's Ok, I was up anyway. 

Christmas is different this year.  We, my immediate family, agreed to have a quiet Christmas in our homes and meet on the day after for a delicate knees up.  Except, and is this not the story for everyone from a large family -we rush to fill the gap of an established routine where we all met at a certain place and time, had certain foods and followed well trodden paths through the Big Day, before going home and breathing a sigh of satisfaction that whether it was a little difficult or not, we had had Christmas.  It was done and the box ticked and it was all as it should be.  We could all take our presents home and talk about the other members of the family and discuss how much we love them and how they should, in our tender view, improve.

The vacuum has been filled now with chaotic planning with friends and wider members of the family.  We seem, my three brothers, my sister in law and I, to have gone into overdrive with Other People For Christmas.  My sister in law and her new fellow have planned their day to include her family, my family and her new man's family.  My brothers are rushing about including each other, our mother and as one of my brothers is a Catholic priest, the entire parish of Dorking.  I am having my oh so dear cousin Maddy and two of her children, my cousin Charlie and his family, my father and Eileen.  My father is sweetly confused and elderly, and will have to be gently and regularly reminded of why he is here, who everyone is and when he will be taken home.  I, oh I, am the Facilitator.  I will go and collect Dear Old Dad from London and take him home three days later.  I , oh I, will feed people an average of 36 meals a day over the weekend.  I have done my shopping and I will prepare all the food in advance.  

I did go into the studio yesterday.  I went in, breathed in the air smelling of oil paints and white spirit, and went out again.  "Another time" I said, as it welcomed me into its cold, unheated presence.  "I will be back" I added, "and when I do, I will return the heater I am borrowing to heat the loft where I will sleep at least three out of the five teenagers that are staying."  The easle is ready with prepared wood for Rocking Rev Rachel Mann's portrait, the canvases are ready for the next round of Every Day Angels that I am painting, and there are ideas and hopes and artistic endeavours exploding like little fireworks all over the place.  "Later," I said to the Ideas and Inspirations that dance around my studio, "later.  Let me Do Christmas, and I will be all yours."  Ping, go all the ideas in the studio, Ping Whizz Pop.

This year, I am doing Christmas for my family.  Until last year, someone else always did it and I went with whoever was staying with me, to a ready made affair.  This year, I am the Mother and I am doing it.  I like it, but I am nervous.  I love my cousins who are so good, and wild, and funny, there cannot be a dull moment with them around.  My father is the sweet confused and venerable Old Man who will keep wandering around chuckling and wondering who the hell we all are.  Eileen will photograph us all, and will capture all of the nuances of the weekend.  This, following, then, is the plan, created for me by Daughter who really should be in charge of the world, not just a ward in a hospital. 

It is a Pyjama Chrismas.  We will all wear our best pyjamas, dressing gowns and slippers.  In one room, there is the telly, the dvd player and lots of sofas and cushions.  In the other, my sitting room, is the piano, the guitars, the Tree (be nice to it.  Treat it like a delicate woodland creature, no sudden movements) and the board games.  In the kitchen will be the Food.  This will be ongoing, practical, and on an industrial scale.  We will pile our plates for a late lunch, sit at the large dining table in the TV room and that food will be kept going until late on Boxing Day when the idea is that some people may go home.  No matter, I cry.  You can stay another week, I have a System, and the food will not run out.  Ha ha ha.  (and the tree sheds another bucket load of needles).  

I will of course, take the Elderly and Much Loved Grandpa to midnight service on Friday night.  He was raised in Bognor Regis by his Grandmother, and her house used to be just round the corner.  He will be full of delightful wonder as I guide him through the silent midnight Bognor streets, and he will remember what it was like to be a boy here, and how he used to go to the church I am taking him to, at the end of his Grandmother's road.  Grandpa, my father, has suffered a few strokes that have left him confused and almost blind.  Instead of being ill and resentful, he has become full of love and wonder at everything.  He was always very witty, and deeply intellectual, and has a wonderful way with words.  I remember writing poetry with him when I was a little girl, and showing him drawings I had done of fairies.  I remember telling him how depressed I was when I was a teenager and showing him very indulgent poetry about Me, and finding little poems he had written in the margins that were such wicked and funny parodies of my stuff, that I was helpless with laughter.  So walking out into the Bognor night with him, to the church he went to as a boy with his beloved Grandma, will be our quiet moment together.  

Then I will come home, go to bed in my best pyjamas, and rise and leave the house in them at 6.30 to drive an hour to collect Daughter from her night duty at her hospital.  It is a Pyjama Christmas, and I aim to start as I mean to go on.  Except when I go into the hospital foyer to collect my Daughter, it will look like she is kidnapping one of the patients.  No matter, we will skip out together hand in hand, and start a trend with nurses and patients over Christmas.  So roll on Christmas, I am Ready.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Planning, And Dreaming, And Writing Lists, And Eating Wild Rice for my website for the famous Jesus on the Tube painting and concept for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

Planning, And Dreaming, And Writing Lists, And Eating Wild Rice

 It is cold and dark outside and the snow is freezing hard. Christmas is coming. 2010 will end, and a new year will come. Everything will change and I will sail effortlessly into the future.  I am sitting in my studio wondering what to do first.  1.  Plan something  2.  Gaze into space (dream)  3.  Eat my wild rice with olive oil, soy sauce and garlic  4.   Write a list.   The wild rice won.  

I have been very busy this year.  I have been dashing about, being an Artist and Mother and being very aware of deadlines, of targets, of things I must do all at once, at the same time and now not later, immediately and without fail.  I have been up, I have been down and in the midst of it, I remember thinking, "Oh for a quiet life!".  I seem to have that quiet life now.  It is terribly quiet.  I wake with a start at 7am thinking, "Whoops, time to get up, tons of things to do.  Get the 14 Year Old Velocoraptor up, feed him and send him off to school and see if I can get my proposals for blah di blah done before I do the washing up during which  I will phone the Pope and ask if he would like a Jesus on the Tube."   And then I realise, that no.  The Son is not only supsended again for Dreadfulness, but he has flu.  He is either violent, or ill.  He is in bed with a terribly high temperature groaning and having lucid dreams where he thinks I am a hedgehog.   I have finished my Angel commissions for before Christmas.  And I have had my A Graceful Death meetings and the Portrait does not have to be done till Later and the other Angels are not due till mid January.  The other projects I have on the go are for early, mid and late 2011.  I then recall with a start - the builders, the builders must be let in, my home is a wreck and there is dust everywhere...but no.  They are gone too, they are just a whispy memory and the kitchen is finished, the house is tidied and clean and there is, in fact, nothing urgent to be done at all.

So when I wake now at 7.30am, I say "And what, pray, do I wish to do first when eventually, I rise?"  I feel slow and heavy as if I have post traumatic stress disorder.  It takes me ages to go downstairs and face the problem of what to have for breakfast.  "Oh," I say with a kind of agonised indecision, "there is only one of me, and so many choices to make.  Oh is it toast, or is it eggs, or is it something new and alluring that I cannot quite grasp." Thus day begins.

The answer is to do nothing.  By that I mean, do nothing taxing.  The Boy is ill, yes, and needs care and some entertainment, but I am counting on his fever to make him drowsy and easy to please.  So far, he has been able to lie on the sofa and watch films and doze and I have encouraged it with gusto. Yesterday's task for me was simply to buy a tree and put it up, which took me forever (as I am so slow and neanderthal), but I did it.  It is a seven foot dodgy cheap needle dropping affair, but it looks wonderful with all the lights and decorations on it.  One just has to remember not to breathe in the same room as the tree, or go anywhere near it as it sheds its needles when someone even shuts the front door too hard.  I think it is a highly strung, mentally disabled and overworked tree, which suits me fine as it takes one to know one.  A week to go then, and Christmas day will be upon us.  Everything gears up here again next week - I now have 12 for Christmas and it seems they are all staying for a few days.  I must plan for about 36 meals a day with all the washing up too, buy the food and get in the groove and prepare it all in advance.  I can do that, I used to run a restaurant years ago.  (True.  I did, and I was very good at it too).  I love my Christmas guests though and am thoroughly looking forward to seeing them.  They may have to finish my sentences for me, but they are used to that.

  I shall be away for a good deal of 2011, I have plans for exhibitions, holidays and new projects. But let us talk now about the dreaming.  Ah, the dreaming.  This quiet, fallow period that I am in right now, is perfect for making castles in the air.  Dreaming is not about planning what is already decided upon, it is about wishing, hoping and fancifying.  I find myself sitting quietely on my sofa, wrapped in my spotty pink and white blanket, a pot of tea next to me,  and falling into a gentle reverie, in which so many wonderful things happen to me, so many amitions are fulfulled and all the things I wish for, are true.  I find myself able to say all the things I wish I could say in my daydream, and doing all the things I long to do, without fear.  And whatever I say in my dreams, is perfect, and there are no misunderstandings, only enlightenment and progress.  I can sit for a long time like this, making my world the place it should be, with me at the centre, doing great things, thinking great thoughts, and being understood, appreciated and loved just for being me.  I meet great people, I can talk to them as if I were one of them, and I can make them laugh and sigh with profound thoughts.  I paint without interruption, and what I paint is truly wonderful.  The children are wise and thoughtful and independent, and do all the right things that young people should do to make their mother's life go smoothly, and everyone I know, in this dream, supports me.  And I don't get fat.  I can eat out all the time, and still look wonderful whatever fried mars bar medley I have been snacking on the night before. And in this fancy world I create, I get married again to someone who is just right and just loves everything about me and I about him; we have the same wedding as in the film Mama Mia, and I can run up those hundred thousand steps in the film, up the mountainside to the church, and not be out of breath at the top, because I am so fit. 

Well.  I need this respite time.  It is hard to adjust from over busy to under busy, but it can be done.  It is rather wonderful, and as proof that I am utterly at one with the Ooops, Nothing Urgent To Do turn of events, I shall spend the entire day in bed tomorrow and have my sick son bring me tea and toast all day long.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

On Life Not Being Linear And Things Not Happening In An Orderly Queue. for my website for my other website showing Jesus on the Tube for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

On Life Not Being Linear And Things Not Happening In An Orderly Queue

Is your life a series of well planned and expected events?  Have you put things into place so that you have safely covered all known reactions and have anticipated all possible fall out from what it is that you have so confidently and carefully planned?  And if an Unexpected Consequence pops up, do you give an indulgent little chuckle, shake your head and give it a quick deadly squirt of the Unexpected Consequence Spray - Get Order Back Into Your Life With This Unique Blend Of Certainty and Predictability...  (as in a very memorable TV episode of Batman and Robin in the 1960s.  Batman was escaping shark infested waters with Robin, when Robin said "Quick Batman, use your anti shark spray".  A very good thing too, and as he pulled out what looked like a can of deodorant and sprayed the sharks to death with a quick squirt or two, he said "Gee Robin, quick thinking, thank you").  Have you,  then, got your life where you want it?  I expect those that have, are saying to themselves "Yes, and I keep a tight control of it so that it doesn't change and give me a nasty shock."  And you pat your pockets nervously just to check that your Anti Unforseen Events spray is safely where you put it that morning.

If I have never had a neat orderly life, I wonder if that is because I am incapable of making the choices to live one.  In  life coaching speak, one can ask a) is it me?  b) is it you? c) is it life?  It would be very satifying to say Actually, Yes, It Is You.  Your Fault Matey and follow it with a little think, before adding, And Life.  Life Is To Blame Too. At no point, the subtext goes, have I had anything to do with it.

So, we know I have two Rioting Sons.  The 17 Year Old is being Who He Is in London in a flatshare, and living off thin air and packets of MacDonalds sugar.  He was alive last night, we had dinner together and I didn't detect any signs of Madness.  The 14 Year Old is excluded again from school for more rage induced thuggery.  While I am thinking of ways to deal with my wayward Robo Cop boy, 20 Year Old Daughter calls excitedly to tell me about Christmas Day and I am having, it seems, at least 13 for Christmas now.  How did all this happen?  Is it Life, is it Me or is it You?  (Still you, I'm afraid.)  I brought up the children with much love and kindess.  I showed them how to cook, and said things like, "Be nice, my babies" and hugged them and played with them and became an Artist and generally muddled along like any well meaning, slightly vague and very nice but overwhelmed Fairy would.  I tried to do the normal things like sending them to school, and remembering what subjects they were taking and when they were ill, taking them to the doctors.  I had loads of friends, in fact my door was always open and we had a wonderful stream of folk coming and going at all times, so there was always conversation.  Like, "Who are you?  Have you been here long?  Yes, I live here, I own this house - yes, my name is Antonia.  Are you staying long?" and so on.  I divorced my husband, so I was capable of big decisions, and I lost 5 stone in weight because I had become terribly overweight and I ran the London Marathon in 2004.  But I was never really in the driving seat.  I was always surprised at what life threw at me, and even more surprised when I made a good decision and saw it through.  I was terribly surprised at everything, I remember.  "Goodness!  What? Oh!  Wow.  Eh?" was the kind of thing I said often.

So I was not aware of the Linear-ness of life then.  I would have been astonished that things could even aspire to being in an orderly queue.  Orderly Queues were an alien concept, Orderly Queues happened to other people, strange other people Out There somewhere, and I had never met any of them.  Shiver.

Fast forward to now.  Older and wiser and in Bognor Regis.  And I take as much control of my life as I can, I can see how much good it does both to me and the children.  I learned, eventually, the concept of boundaries and how to say the word No.  I do the things I need to, I no longer drift with confused astonishment from one crisis to the next, and I have come to the conclusion that actually, the way my life is lived is not You really, nor Life, it is Me.  (With a bit of You and Life from time to time).  Armed with this satisfying wisdom and behaving at last as an adult, I am still thrown by how - despite my planning and my best intentions, I am still constantly in the midst of storms seemingly not of my making.  My darling little boy, that cuddly little fatso, has turned into a furious unpredictable thumping machine.  He is a prisoner of his anger and because he is only 14, lives entirely in the present and is not responsible (he thinks) for anything he does.  "Not my fault" he says while I wonder what the heck to do next and where to go for help.  17 Year Old Son, that furious, complex and fierce young man, is re inventing himself in London having detatched himself from all of us because we Don't Understand.  Except from me, he likes me.  Quite right too.  I  have loved and lost Steve which shook me terribly - how on earth could someone die on me, and I found Alan.  That, suddenly isn't to be either.  What?  How?  We would like to be together but we are only human.  The obstacles in our way defeated us at last and we have called it a day.  What?  How did it turn out like that?  I thought my life would stretch into the distance with nice kiddies (eventually) and Alan by my side until Wham.  It went pear shaped.  I didn't see that coming.

But into this ghastly melee, come different surprises.  Ping!  Everyone wants Angels!  I love doing Angels - to sit in my studio and do Angels is not work, it is luxury.  The A Graceful Death trajectory changes after I drag myself into London while fretting and sighing over the latest Nonsense the 14 Year Old Kung Fu Panda has got himself into;  I can scarcely get myself into London and across it I am so demoralised, but I do.  And within a morning, the meeting changes my perception for the better and I know what to do for A Graceful Death, and it is not what I expected but it feels gooood.  Ping!  An old friend calls me up and I am delighted.  Ping!  The most unexpected result for the 14 Year Old Thrasher.  He spied a Yoga CD the Glorious Clarissa put into my bag and decided to try it.  (But Son, there is no blood in Yoga.  There is no hospitalization in this activity, and those that practice Yoga like each other.  And say nice things).  He has asked for Yoga lessons.  Yes!  I whisper.  If that is what it takes to make you sweet and charming and whole, then let us go now to India and transform your pretty soul.  

And now I am hosting, at the last count, 13 for Christmas.  Didn't see that one coming either.  I sit here in my studio these days,  and take deep breaths every morning to steady myself for all the nonsense that keeps exploding around me.  And while I am dealing with that, little miracles come drifting in through the window like moths.  They fly around me asking to be seen and if I am paying attention, I am amazed at how lovely they are.  

In conclusion, there is nothing linear or orderly about life in Bognor Regis at the moment.   Despite being a sensible and rather calm old bird now, I am still reeling by how things have turned out in  the last few months.  "Blimey,"  I am heard to say,  "form an orderly queue, there.  Fair's fair."

Sunday 12 December 2010

On Wanting To Do Exactly What I Want. And What Do I Want Exactly? for my website for my Jesus on the Tube website for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

On Wanting What I Want, Whatever That May Be.

This puzzles me.  I Want is not about what Antonia Wants as a single wish, it is bound up with What The Kids Want and What The Clients Want and very significantly, What The Mortgage Company Wants.  I want my children to be safe and well and happy and nice to me.  I want my house to be paid for. The paintings I do mean a great deal to me so I want my clients to feel as serious about them as I do.  And to love them (the paintings) and pay me and so on and so on and maybe love me a little too. (Agape.  Keep reading.)

I want everyone to be kind to each other.  I want everyone to know the deeply powerful and loving gift that Kindness can be.  It is a strong person that can be kind, and it is lovely to receive it.  So I want a bit of that for everyone too.  And love.  The Ancient Greeks seem to have had between seven and four categories of love - here are four.  Agape - love in its purest form, brotherly love, general affection, grows in time, requires no favour in response to it, in its highest form, God's love for us.  Eros - we all like the sound of this one, but it does not have to be about sexual love.  It is the sensual desire, the longing felt for another, the longing for intimacy.  Philia - describing friendship, dispassionate and virtuous love.  A loyal kind of love, of equality and familiarity.  And finally, Storge - natural affection, such as from a parent.  A love, I read, that is based on dependence, as in a family.  These four different types of love makes loving a bit easier, so you don't have to go charging in declaring love and loyalty and passion and commitment to all and sundry, because of the limits of our understanding of the word Love.  You can dash into a situation and declare "I have Agape for you all, and not a spot of Eros"  and all will be clear and sensible.You can help an old lady with her bags and say tenderly to her ,"It's all about Storge, Madam, if you get my drift."

I want more though.  I want to be able to eat all day and night and not get fat.  I want to only paint when I feel like it and have everyone say "My, Antonia, that is marvellous.  How do you do it?"  I want people with lots of money to say to their accountants when they do the monthly accounts, "Bung a standing order to Antonia Rolls because, boy, her paintings are just the greatest.  And even if she doesn't actually paint anything, we know she could, and that is enough for me.  In fact, double the standing order for the sheer excitement of wondering what she will do next."  And the accountant will sigh, because he works for at least 20 very very wealthy people, all of whom have set up standing orders in the last week, to the Antonia Rolls Artist Extraordinaire Fund for Paintings That May Or May Not Be Done.  And I want to spend all my time meeting fascinating people and talking fascinating talk and writing it all down and painting it all as it happens, and have my house clean and tidy itself - like one of those automatic convertible cars, you press a button in my house (remotely because I am somewhere else being incredibly important and inspired) flaps and folds itself over and cleans itself and hey presto, I didn't have to do a thing.   And I want to write everything down as I go along and hear people say , "Antonia, I see what you mean, tell me again, it's all so interesting"

I want to be able to run away when I need to.  I want to work with the dying.  I want to paint beauty.  I want to understand more, to know more and to make people feel better, even for five minutes.  I want to make people laugh, to write clever things, to be brave enough to keep trusting that I will be fine.  When I die, I will have left enough behind to have shown that I tried to touch peoples' lives in ways that makes a little light go on in their tummies, and a small feeling of worth in this world in their minds.  I want to get better and better and better at painting, at knowing things, at writing, thinking and doing what I do.

So in a nutshell, I see, I want a free reign. As do we all.  And a spot of Agape, Eros and Philia along the way to the stars would be just the ticket. 

Thursday 9 December 2010

Home Alone At Last Hip Hip Hooray (Quick, Change The Locks) for my website for the Jesus on the Tube paintings and concept for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

Completely On My Own In The House Oh The Joy

The builders, bless their hearts, have gone.  I have a new kitchen in which all my Stuff is put away, I have cleaned everything (except the Boxing Boy who is Teflon Coated and slips out of reach) and reclaimed my dining room table, my sitting room and the whole of downstairs.   In the great tapestry of life, this is but a stitch.  But a big, golden, fundamental one.  Here is how it feels.  I expect many of you will slap your thighs in a recognizing kind of way, and say By George, it is just the same for me.  Well I never.

I live in a nice house and have interesting but wild and wayward children, capable of huge passions and deep loves.  I have a studio in the garden and I plot my ascent to the stars in there, helped by pots of strong tea and pieces of cake.  It is interesting to me that though I am quite tall (5'10") I am much smaller than all of my Deeply Opinionated Gloriously Uninhibited Children.  This means that when I lay down the law I have to look up or get them to sit down.  I have to tune into how little dictators feel, in order to keep my power going.   

A date is set for my kitchen to be replaced.   I remove all of the things from it and cover the downstairs with pots, pans, food, microwaves, kettles, cleaning stuff, matches, pins, paper, glasses, old ham sandwiches, plastic bags, single unsharpened pencils and so on.  The kitchen is bare, empty and shivering in the cold.  Within a day the heart is ripped out of the house, and the kitchen in in pieces in the garden.  I am left with a bare concrete room with no electricity, water, light or hope.  And then the kids go bonkers.  17 Year Old Wonder Boy makes himself homeless and changes his life for ever.  14 Year Old Rambo Boy gets excluded from school for amongst other things, Boxing People.  I become single again and everything grinds to a halt.

We eat bad food from the microwave or takeaways.  I spend money I don't have getting ready prepared food that tastes a little bit like it is going to shorten my life by a few weeks, or at the very least, make us all consitpated.  There is dust everywhere, and I wash up in the bathroom upstairs.  Going to bed at night, I don't feel anywhere is mine, that nowhere is peaceful, and that there will never be anything but chaos and disorder.  There was still work to do too, there was the Art Fair to prepare, there are portraits to do and people to meet and talk to about the A Graceful Death.  Every time I needed to go to the studio, it seemed, a weeny explosion in one or other of the Boys made it neccessary for me to go to London, or Chichester, or Wherever, to sort it out.  And still there was no kitchen, still the house was overrun by dust, disorder, clutter, madness and mayhem.  Then came the snow.  The schools closed and Rambo Boy had to stay home.  So did I, the car wouldn't go over the ice and I was beginning to see a Govnernment Plot to keep me in my house despite the growing need I had to simply run away.  No trains ran, no buses, the airports were either snowed in or on strike somewhere, and the roads were too dangerous.  I did walk into Bognor though, to try and get something or other for the Rambo Boy, but fell flat on my bottom and bruised it and felt that the Government Plot to keep me at home and suffering was spreading to Arun District Council who were responsible for me falling over in town.  And hurting my bottom.  And feeling tearful.

But Lo!  The kitchen is finished now.  It is Green, like I asked.  The units are there, where I wanted them, and there is running water and heat.  I have cleaned the downstairs and everything is in order.  There was a blip, in that Boxing Boy was taken into the local hospital with suspected appendicitis two days ago.  By yesterday, it had all been cleared up, and he has been declared Of Sound Appendix and given yucky medicine for something else.  So he went to school today.  Arty Man went to work today.  17 Year Old Boy Who Dances To A Different Drum But Who I Love Stupidly A Lot, is or at least was, still alive yesterday.  Wonderful 20 Year Old Daughter is fine and dandy in her life in Brighton.  There is no need for anyone to come calling, there is utter silence in the house.  This is where I have to be stronger than the urge to change the locks, change my name, grow a beard and pretend to be someone else.  But that isn't really the answer.  I like all  the people in my house, and they would not be fooled with a name change and beard.  They would just whisper to each other, "Play along, pretend she is called Boris and leave her alone till she feels better.  Alright there Boris??"

Sunday 5 December 2010

Can't Keep A Good Optimist Down, for my website for the Jesus on the Tube paintings and story for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

Can't Keep A Good Optimist Down.  

Today's offering to you all is one of careful and realistic hopefulness.  The day began early, I woke with the dawn chorus and felt dreadful.  What, I thought, is the point of being a bit miserable, in bed on a Sunday morning, and waking at dawn refreshed and unable to avoid the day ahead.  Bah, I said, Bah Humbug.  And shut up birds. 

But then the Optimist who lives in me spoke very softly and said, "If you were to get up and change your sheets, have a long bath, and get back into bed, you would feel good.  The choices open to you then are legion.  Breakfast in bed?  A book?  Computer?  You can even chat on the phone if you feel you have anything to say.  Or, of course, you could go back to sleep."  I listen to my inner optimist.  It has much experience and by now knows plenty of ways to get me out of the Slough of Despond.  "OK Optimist," I said with a grumpy kind of sigh.  "I will go and run the bath and do the sheets thing and I hope you know what you are talking about.  Mumble mumble mutter mutter oh what's the use etc".  Funny thing is, once out of bed and looking at all the different colours of bedding I have in the airing cupboard, I felt a teeny ray of hope.  "Ooooh," I said.  And chose a lovely dark red duvet cover and pillow cases and a fresh crisp white sheet.  "Ooooh."  Once the bed was ready and a huge display of cushions and pillows in place to receive me after the bath, I went to the next stage.  The Bath.  My daughter Alexia always says in an astonished voice and a kind of pantomime mock horror, "Why would you only put one bubble bath in your bath?  I always put at least 12 in mine.  Goodness.  Where are you from??"   With this in mind, I poured a bit of everything from the side of the bath that didn't contain bleach into the water and treated myself to the equivalent of a genteel car wash for people.

Coming back into my room I was struck by how inviting the bed looked and how glad I was that the Optimist had suggested this route to my possible happiness. So before getting back in, I went downstairs into the nearly finished kitchen to make some breakfast and take it back to bed.  Hooray, my little heart sang.  The Rambo Boy is still asleep, he won't need me till this afternoon hooray hooray.  And up I went, back to bed, where I sat feeling clean and pampered.  It has been all downhill from there.  I spent an hour on the phone to the Glorious Clarissa.  Just under an hour on the phone to Darling Dublin Friend and a flurry of fascinating texts to and from Eileen, the Photographer Extraordinaire.  After that, with a whoop of joy, I decided to conquer the world.  Start, I said with huge determination, with the house.  And I did.  I cleaned everything, everywhere, and then hoovered it.  I put on 92 loads of washing, and kept the heating on all day... for the drying, of course.  Oh the luxury.  The naughtiness.  The rebellion.

And so.  By 5pm today, I am at one with my Optimist.  She was right.  To begin the day with a tiny action intended to both please and make progress, is a very good idea.  I am now back in bed.  My room twinkles like a Swarovski Crystal.  Both the Rioting Sons' rooms are washed and an awful lot of Stuff thrown away.   I can walk into both rooms and say "Ah yes, a human lives here.  Funny, I thought it belonged to a Mountain Troll but there, I must have imagined it".  I have also made plans.  One of the most important plans is to have an Avoca chandelier in my sitting room.  The Avoca chandeliers are small and multi coloured and full of fire and passion and light - which must be a good thing because I want to be full of colour and passion and light.  

I have three Angels to paint for very nice ladies indeed for Christmas, and I have another fair to organise!  Yes!  I am going to have one here on the 18 and 19 December and sell Angels and Eileen will sell her wonderful prints.  I then have Christmas to do, and next year, 2011, is filling up fast. Much of the time cleaning today was spent giving myself a bit of a stern finger-wagging talking to, and making a realistic assessment of what I actually did have, and not what I didn't have.  There are so many plans and confirmed exhibitions to look forward to in 2011 that all this smelly nonsense with Rioting Sons, Sadness, Building Work, has to end.  I simply can't take it with me and do any of these exciting things that are supposed to happen next year.  Here is the current list of the places I am going to in 2011.  Some are holidays, some are work.
  • Dublin.  A lot.
  • Norway.  
  • Majorca
  • France
  • Maybe Edinburgh if I can wangle it
  • Manchester
  • Birmingham
So here I sit in bed with my supper (scrambled eggs on toast and pot of tea).  The house is twinkling and releasing little butterflies like it does on the adverts for air freshners and laundry products. Boxing Boy is up and fed, 17 Year Old Son is up in his new flat share in London and since I have heard absolutley nothing at all from him after I took him up there and moved him in yesterday, I can only imagine he is up to no good and is thrilled that I can't see.  Or his phone is out of battery and he is so engrossed in his History essays and catching up with his Psychology and English that time has no meaning and he has forgotten to call his dear old mum.   Whatever.  It's all up to him now.  Thanks to my Inner Optimist, I am looking forward to tomorrow.  I can't wait to start my Angels, and later on in the week I am going to London to talk business for A Graceful Death.  My kitchen will be finished and at last I can get my home sorted.  One boy is back in London, the other has taken up boxing and is getting a new hearing aid fitted in blue.  Daughter has a new flat to move to, and I am starting to feel, like my Avoca chandelier, full of Colour, Passion and Light. 

Thursday 2 December 2010

Putting Up The Boundaries And Taking Down The Barriers for my website for my Jesus on the Tube website for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

Boundaries Going Up, Barriers Coming Down

If I could do all this with just grim determination, then all would be well and I would have no discussion with you.  I have been using Barriers in place of Boundaries and wondering why I never quite got where I wanted to be. This week's homework for me then, is to recognise the Barriers, remove them with a firmness that has been growing of late, and replace them with the more gentle and grown up Boundaries.  Barriers are for being scared and staying where you are.  Boundaries are for walking quietly through the quagmire (of life, old thing, of life) and gently refusing to indulge in other peoples' nonsense.  Or thereabouts.

I am sitting in the Waiting Room of Life.  It is possible that I was catapulted in here without feeling that I had much to do with it, but that can't be right.  I am sure I was simply not noticing the signs.  I have dealt with the immediate issues - the 17 Year Old Son will be going back to London on Saturday, possibly for a good long while as he needs to go back to college.  He appears to have found a place to live.  He is also clean, not tired, has been seen and a written note been made, eating good food and not being any more thin that he was when I collected him a couple of weeks ago from street living in London.  He has, and this too has been logged, a healthy bloom in his cheek.  He may be mended on the outside and ready to try again.  Let us see how he finds the next London Experience.  Let us see how the inside fares.

14 Year Old Rocky Bilboa Son is happy today because school was closed. It all seems like a good idea to him, and he thinks this should happen once, maybe twice, a week till Summertime.  There was to have been Boxing Club tonight, but it was cancelled.  I walked him there through the snow and ice this evening because to drive meant that we may slide away helplessly down the wrong road and never be seen again.  Bognor Regis is very icy and thick with tons of snow at the moment.  Cars inch carefully, the drivers concentrating hard, along our roads and gently brake, signal to turn left, turn the wheel left, while the car simply carries straight on, wheels turned to the left, indicator and brakes on, into the oncoming traffic that is going 10 miles an hour and concentrating just as hard themselves, trying desparately not to slide up the nearest tree or into the nearest driveway or shop front.  My tall gangly hoodied boy loved the walk in the dark in the snow, dodging cars who were only trying to maintain a straight line, and chucking snow balls at them.  He didn't even mind that when we got to the gym it was closed.  He pelted it with snowballs and spent the journey home writing his name in the snow on the parked cars which was not so clever if you don't want anyone to know who exactly it was who was writing all over the cars parked on a certain road.  He has had no bad reports this week.  That may be because he has been at home most of the week because of the snow, and unable to get one from this far away. But still, it seems like a bit of progress.

So here I sit in the Waiting Room of Life.  The boys are OK.  I have fended off a rather difficult moment with someone who doesn't like nor approve of me or my lifestyle, and I have with huge regret parted from my dear Alan.  Loving someone is not enough, it seems, to be with them.  We simply didn't have the support we needed.  We had to fight our case all the time, which made me at least, feel too overwhelmed with a kind of dull hopelessness to continue.  Alan felt the same dull helplessness, so we agreed to go our separate ways.   Now, in this proverbial Waiting Room Of Life, I have absolutely no idea where I will decide to go next. And with whom.  I am aiming not to give way to anger and misery, and I am haunted by the thought that there will soon be someone else receiving flowers from Alan, reading his texts, and being important to him.  It should be me, but it isn't.  Not any more. I expect he feels the same about me.

Perhaps the Barriers are almost all down now.  Enough has happened recently to make me feel very alone indeed.  From this will come the Next Step, and I have no idea what that will be.  Though having a new kitchen downstairs is turning out to be such a success that a new bathroom may be the next step.  Forget the seriousness of raising Bonkers Teenaged Sons On The Edge, forget the fact that Alan is not here any more, forget the Barriers/Boundaries thing and get a new bathroom.  If I were to say enigmatically that both my dear experimenting boys have set fire separately to the bath at some point, you may agree that this was probably the simplest, most profound way forward.  Only the greatest of minds could have thought of it.  And when that is done I will get the house repainted.  And then... and so on.   

Monday 29 November 2010

An Uncomplicated Day Off, An Anniversary And Absolutely No More Cake for my website for my other website, about Jesus travelling on the London Tube for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

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. 

Friday 26 November 2010

Antonia Rolls, Unwilling Fighter Of Fights, Finding Her Feet for my website for my Jesus on the Tube website for the exhibition A Graceful Death, paintings from the end of life

Unwilling Fighter, That's Me, And Doing My Best

 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. 

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Time To Get Going Again for my website for my other website for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of a life

Time Indeed To Get Going Again. 

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. 

Sunday 21 November 2010

Feeling Tough And Tight-Lipped And Meaning Business for my website for my other website for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

Right.  Enough Is Enough.  I Got Work To Do

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.