Friday, 27 June 2014

Going cuckoo in Cumbria

Since I last wrote, I've had the most glorious five days in Cumbria. My sister lives by Ullswater in half an old vicarage with views of mountains out of every window.

I haven't been to the gym for months so I knew I was very unfit compared to my mountaineer sister. When we set out on a walk the first day, I was full of trepidation and expected to have to turn back after half an hour and go back to the house for a nice cup of tea and a lie down. To my amazement, as we scrambled up the steep track, I could feel my hip and knee joints flexing and loosening up and could almost hear them crying, "Oh, thank goodness, we're being made to work at last!"

One day, we went to Penrith to our favourite clothes shop, Victoria's, where I bought a gorgeous dress in a sale and it was a size 12! Whoopee! Though it was too big on my sister and she's a 12, so I think it had been mislabelled (boo!).

The weather was warm and sunny the whole time I was there. And - joy - I heard a cuckoo for the first time in years. I have booked to go back for a week in August, for her annual art exhibition in Glenridding village hall. Last time I was there, it had snowed and the path to the door was solid ice. Don't think there's much chance of that in August but just in case, I know where she keeps the crampons.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


I was feeling melancholic today, looking at plastic bags flapping from tree branches and sniffing the disgusting, traffic-fume-laden air and lamenting the lack of butterflies. When I first came here seventeen years ago, there were so many different species of butterflies, I kept a list. There were stag beetles in abundance and loads of tadpoles in the pond. Now the stag beetles and tadpoles are long gone and as for butterflies, I've only seen three or four. It's so sad. And so I penned this.


Perhaps, when we are gone,
With our poison sprays, our polluted haze,
The beautiful things will return.
The winged things, the finned things,
The secret, hidden things that crawl and spawn.

Perhaps, when we are gone,
With our warring ways, our destroying ways,
A beautiful peace will dawn
And a silver dove and a winged whale
Will sing a hymn of earth-scars healed and hope reborn.


Monday, 2 June 2014

The art on my wall

Apart from the vast monthly sum my storage unit is costing me, another major drawback of having stuff in store is being deprived of one's enjoyment of it. All my books, my entire lifetime's library, is in there. My china, my glass, which I used to arrange on windowsills so that the light could shine through it and give me some colour therapy. And, of course, the paintings and prints I have bought over the years. Sadly, I lost a lot of these in Alan's workshop. Unbeknown to me, he had stashed a heap of paintings in the corner, behind a large mirror where they were hidden from view.

One day, I decided to move the mirror and that's when I made two discoveries. The first was that a heap of my pictures were there (he had helped me move and I thought they had all gone into store) and the second, ghastly discovery was that the corner of the workshop was sodden. Water had leaked in and everything was ruined. Signed prints were covered in black mould. Original watercolours had run and the paper they were painted on had disintegrated. It was truly horrible. I cried as I threw them away, not because of the monetary value, which was about £3000, but because each of them had been specially picked by me as something that really appealed and spoke to me... chimed with something in my nature. A memory perhaps, or a dream, or a combination of shape and colour that pleased me.

Luckily, my largest picture, purchased for £300 at artist Sandy Damon's exhibition in a restaurant in Waterloo Station back in 1987, was OK as I had refused to let it go into storage. Here it is. It's called The Fishermen's Dance and it wasn't until I got it home that I realised that the fish formed the symbol for Pisces. I am a Pisces! The vibrant colours make me happy and this has always found a home in the living room of everywhere I have bought or rented.

After the workshop disaster, I vowed that I would never waste money on art works again. After all, there are a few in the storage unit (though I hear it has been invaded by mice! Eeek!) so when I finally manage to move, there will be a few to hang on the wall. But while I was in Ruislip, I was taken with a picture on display in the Cow Byre Gallery, oil and acrylic, called Dreamland. It is opposite my bed, perched on the table. And yes, it features fish again and I have placed my little fish vase in front of it, as it is painted with the same colours.

I realise that colour is very important to me and that I need art to lose myself in. I am going to the Royal Academy of Art's Summer Exhibition on Friday. It will be like submerging myself in an art swimming pool. If you don't hear from me again, it will be because I am still floating.