ANTONIA ROLLS ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE NEWS. An account of an Artist and Mother in Bognor Regis. Worthwhile, but exhausting, so pour the tea and make yourself comfortable...(this painting is a family portrait, about 2'x 3', oil on wood. It is the Ross Family, each family member with items that describe them best. And at the front, on the grass on the right hand side, is a photo of Grandma, sadly missed.)
Bognor Glorious In Springtime, Artist Glorious In Bed
There have not been as many blogs as recently as I have been slowly getting more and more unwell. I believe I am on the mend. I believe I needed to slow down and stop being what they call a Busy Fool, which is someone who just whirls around being busy for the sake of it and not getting much done. There is also the fact that I am now 50, and very old. And then, there is the change in my working plans which have required much thought, preparation and starting at the beginning again.
Would you like to know my symptoms? Thought so. When I tell you, you will all say," But that is us too! We are all ill with you!" And I will say," Come, get into my bed with me and we will drink tea and recover together." I have been increasingly tired. The tiredness was not cured by going to bed, nor sleeping, and was more akin to total exhaustion from having run a marathon. I have run a marathon, in 2004, so I know what that feels like. The exhaustion became so intense that I felt that I could only talk in small sentences, and could not think at all. I lost my vocabulary, I couldn't remember how to speak, I breathed in great sighs when I had to speak, or move from one room to another, because I just could not find enough breath to breathe. I began to get headaches and pains in my limbs which were uncomfortable, but not enough to shout Ow! Sleep seemed to make no impact on this tiredness, and I began to dread having to meet and talk to people. One of the most alarming things was that I went off tea, and the last time that kind of thing happened, I was pregnant. It certainly wasn't that though it felt like a 50 year old upside down version of pregnancy, a kind of addled parody of it. Menopause, I hear you say. Well possibly, I am Of That Age. And I want to add here that I am so glad that I will not be having babies any more, so so glad because it is and was bad for my health - I got fat, I got prematurely middle aged and blobby, labour hurts so much I think I will never find the words to describe it, I couldn't find ten consecutive minutes to sleep with tiny babies needing Stuff, and plenty more. So this possible menopausal parody of pregnancy serves to make me glad it won't actually end in labour and fifteen years of hard work (and the rest). My babies though, were and are wonderful. They were and are always a miracle, it is just that I felt so rotten with tiredness etc while they were young. I was a single mum too, so that made it a bit relentless. Good side to being a single mum was I could eat crisps and mountains of toast in bed in the early hours of the morning, and leave crispy, toasty crumbs and honey all over the mattress and not have to explain myself. I could sleep smugly on it all and simply brush myself down in the morning and carry on as normal.
The tiredness, the aches and the slowing down of Antonia Rolls made me think that this was serious. I have, I said to myself in my exhaustion, Leprosy. Aids. Cancer. I began to see the world as grey and difficult to deal with. There was and is too, a change of direction in my work. I do not spend much time painting these days, I spend all my time writing and promoting and asking for money to make the A Graceful Death exhibition and project pay its way. I spend so much time making proposals, doing research, following leads, asking for things - my studio has a painting in it of Rev Rachel Mann that I long to get back to. And, I have decided to write a book which is a bit exciting and quite a lot barmy. I have visions of being on top of all the Other Stuff and entering my studio to find it suffused with golden light, with the sound of distant angels singing, as I pause in my big paint-splattered boiler suit at the door. I find the exhaustion, the Not Pregnant But Maybe Weird Menopause syndrome, the Aids, the Leprosy, the Cancer all fall away from me as I pause open mouthed at the door. I say with passion ,"Yes," and step into the light. And lo, there on the table, is a tray of tea, made by Angels in my biggest spotty teapot. And all is right with the world, the proposals are successful, the money is pouring in, the book is writing itself, the world is saying Come To Me I Am Ready. I smile and say coyly, "OK then. If you insist," and the angels singing in the distance bring out the trumpets and kettle drums and thus, life moves up a notch.
Back to today and reality. I am not there yet. I am in bed as I write this, taking my extreme weariness seriously. I have cancelled many of my appointments this week and I will ride this out. There is a big check up at the doctors coming up, so there will be a sensible, fully trained scientific grown up looking at me. And, I have begun to tell everyone that I am not at the top of my tree at the moment. I am hanging on like a sleeping sloth three quarters of the way down. Hoping of course to stop being a sleeping sloth soon and become whatever it is that charges fully energised to the top of the tree and bangs its chest and roars with passion and wonder and excitement. Sounds a bit like a happy gorilla. Not sure I want to be a gorilla, but I do want to be back in charge, and well again.
The Cosmic Gardener has just arrived downstairs. I have arranged to go with him to buy plants for the garden, so I must leave this wonderful bed of mine, and slowly get dressed and interact with People. At least we know that I am on track to being a happy gorilla. More soon. Now I can do my writing from bed, I will let you all know how I get on. A rather Shakespearean happy gorilla, at the top of the tree painting away, with a heavenly chorus of angels singing, playing trumpets and banging kettle drums. Blimey. Better get well then.