I was so happy to get this drawing today from Great(Step)Granddaughter, Elzie. I would be happy to get it any time but today was extra special. It is the time of year when we celebrate drawing in all forms in The Great Draw (this event has been going on for a few years) Beach Creative, our wonderful Arts Centre, has just put on three Sundays when people could just go and experience the thrill of mark making in drawing. I went to the last one which was this afternoon and we just had playful fun making marks with every type of material…it’s very liberating. Even if you don’t start out having an idea the marks soon give you a direction…a big mark seems to call for a few small ones to balance it…a sweeping mark could be a gale, and off you go. Every sort of drawing needs celebrating from the carefully observed, the free and imaginative to the deepest expression of feeling, It is the most direct form of visual communication (that’s why I love it so)
Then when I got home from the mark making, there was her drawing on email. Just look at the way she has filled the page and the vitality of the strokes, she knows how to make a lively mark. It’s a scary fox. Thank you Elzie Ortiz.
A School Trip and a bit of Sadness. (Veering away from Art for a while)
Veronica and I and two other teachers took a bunch of girls on a PGL holiday to Lake Llangorse in Wales ( near the Brecon Beacons)
It was an activity holiday, three in one, namely sailing, kayaking and pony trekking. The accommodation was in tents. On the first night there were screams of terror because someone heard a cow mooing and breathing heavily close by their tent! You have to remember that though they were now living in Stevenage, a lot of them had come from the East End and weren’t used to country living.
The first night there, they all had to say that they could swim a hundred yards, then they had to get in the kayak and learn to do the Eskimo Roll. i. e. deliberately capsize the kayak whilst staying in it and rolling it upright again. I was a poor swimmer and I was dreading having to try, I am quite sure I couldn’t have done the Roll but fortunately they didn’t ask the teachers.
The next day was kayak day, I absolutely loved it. Later on I was to get my own. I have been all over the place with it including lakes and canals in Holland (the perfect place) and I only reluctantly gave it away to a friend who lives in Orkney,, a few years ago. We paddled around the lake in the morning and then in the afternoon there was an expedition. The kayaks were loaded onto vans and we were taken by mini bus to the Mon and Brec. Canal. We were to paddle till we came to a waterside Inn where we would get refreshments.
The first bit of our canal adventure, idyllic.
What they didn’t tell us was that we would have to paddle through a tunnel first. I hasten to say there were always instructors with us. It is extremely disorientating in a tunnel, you go from daylight into pitch darkness. You are not entirely sure which direction you are going in and keep bashing into the tunnel walls. Two of the girls started to cry and say they wanted to go home. You’ve gone in and you’ve got to get out, you can’t turn round easily, you’ve just got to forge on, face your fear. THEN you see a glimmer of light ahead. The pub was just beyond where we had come out. A gorgeous tea, fears were forgotten and everyone felt that they had achieved something rather memorable. I knew they were boasting about it in letters home even the ones who had been tearful.
At first you don’t see ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’
Sailing was our next experience. First we were taken out in groups in a boat (that may have been a Wayfarer for sailors who know their boats) to be taught the principles. Then under the eagle eye of the instructors we were each given a Grasshopper tiny sailing boat with a lug sail. The instructors were always close by in kayaks. The girls managed pretty well. I did it, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the kayak.
Finally pony trekking. I loved riding when I was at school (not that I was that good at it) so I was looking forward to this bit. We were to ride on the Black Mountains.
The lake showing the position of the Black Mountains in the background
The stable was at the foot of the path that led upwards. There were these shaggy little ponies well used to having novices on their backs, some benign and biddable and a few a bit evil! What I haven’t said before was that we had a pair of twins with us, one of them, Jennifer, wheel chair bound. We had been begged by their mother to take both of them and we had agreed. The instructors had allowed for her disability and adapted their equipment and methods. They were used to helping disabled children I think. We started up the mountain some children a bit scared and the others loving it. But of course the ponies are a bit reluctant to leave home and they are carrying your heavy weight up hill after all. They move sluggishly. You have to lean forward when you are on a pony on a slope, Jennifer found it hard to balance and stay on. Just as with the canal we were stopping for refreshments at a pub on the flat plateau at the top.
Afterwards of course the ponies are heading towards their stables and food…and don’t they know it, they go like the clappers, almost bolting, and it is down hill. Jennifer couldn’t cope and another teacher and I had to get her back to the pub and call for a van to take her back and someone to ride the pony . It is quite uncomfortable going down really steep slopes, this time you have to lean backwards.
Every night the four of us used to slope off (it was allowed) to the local, and jolly times we had. It is very hard work going on these field weeks.
For the two days that remained they could choose an activity on the lake.
Then it was time to go home. The coach took us to the school where the parents were waiting. I went home,. put my key in the door and called out ‘I’m back’ I should have mentioned that by this time Robin’s father had not long died and that his sister just had just got her own flat and was engaged and that Vivian had also found a place.
I called again and no one answered, I went into the front room and found that all the records and the radiogram had gone plus some other objects. Strange! Then I saw the note on the hall table. It just said ‘I have left’ I felt totally disorientated and numb. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t tearful at that stage just blank and feeling cold and trembling.
There had been cracks right from the beginning but surely there must be a few in all marriages you just learn to give and take. I have just found this page that I wrote a while back when I was contemplating doing a memoir the second bit gives a clue. Crack No. 1
Though my mother could be very elegant she had serious kidney problems and was often in hospital. Eventually we knew that she was going to die (aged only 50). She moved from her bed sitting room to my Auntie Molly’s bungalow and I got compassionate leave to go to nurse her, it took three weeks or so, I was with her when she died. In the middle of this time Robin came down and demanded that I go home (to his family) I was shocked to the core and we had a huge argument.
Crack No. 3 Almost accidentally I was being rather successful but I knew that he was unhappy in the place he was working in. We were both doing the same job but with different results. Then he got the job that he wanted in the technical college and I think it was like a new start for him. He loved music and it was the female music lecturer that he fell for. It didn’t last long apparently!
I had known for some time instinctively that there was something wrong, women know these things. The most awful thing he did, and again I am sure that this is a normal occurrence, was to keep denying it when I asked him to talk about it. He used to say I was mad, and indeed he almost convinced me that I was.
I have to be fair and say that his version might be completely different, who knows?
The last time I ever saw him was when I left for Llangorse. In the end I had to sue for divorce and that is a nightmare in itself. I knew something about it because my parents had split all those years ago. In all decency he made no claim to the house, but it was on a mortgage so I couldn’t go on affording it Probably it’s only relevance to this exploration of my experiences of art is that it rather changed the direction of my life. I didn’t think to feel resentful at the time but from a distance I gave the best years of my young married life to his family, I didn’t stand a chance. There is a lot more to tell but it doesn’t have a place here. At that stage I didn’t know that there would be light at the end of my own black tunnel.
It was just