www.jesusonthetube.co.uk 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.
www.agracefuldeath.blogspot.com 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.
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