From Music to boats…2
Betty was a good pianist. When she was in Berlin a rather patrician family allowed her to go to play their Bechstein baby grand. When she left Berlin they gave it to her as a present and paid for it to be shipped to England. The upstairs room was ideal for it. The drawing shows Betty and Ken playing together on her birthday. I used to play duets with her but I wasn’t very good at sight reading.
Ken in his OU corner, a desk with the keyboard next to it. The OU had a wonderful unrivalled selection of the history of music on record. I was proud that he passed the music theory course because it was particularly difficult and a lot of students dropped out. But his heart was also in boats both building and sailing in them
He built two Mirror dinghy’s. He was so keen on sailing that he belonged to the Westbere Frostbite Sailing group. In September he made himself a wet suit (no mean feat) There was no way in which I would sail in the winter. One very bad winter there was a heavy fall of snow and a lot of the lake was iced over. Someone broke into the compound and stole the dinghy. We went out in the snow to find it. They had thrown it into the River Stour and we found it washed up on the bank fifty yards downstream. The bottom was holed. We hauled it up the bank and back along the snowy path. It was hard going but we did it. He towed it home and repaired it. I decided it needed a new paint job.I don’t think you would mistake it in a fleet. Ken is with Roy his son in law and Nick and Chris, two of his grandchildren. Nick is now the father of teenage boys and Chris has a six year old son.
We kept the Mirror but Ken was looking for a larger dinghy. We belonged to Hampton Yacht club. I think he thought I might be keener in a bigger boat (but I wasn’t) He bought a second hand Leader, a very good looking boat. They had the Leader Nationals at Hampton but it was a really rough day. We lent the boat to two young men who weren’t put off by the conditions.
The Leader, a beautiful boat but I still wasn’t keen.
The Canadian canoe and the kayak were more my thing. I loved getting home from work and going out on the sea.
Down the steps and into the sea after work.
We frequently went camping to explore new waterways, our favourites were the River Ouse near Huntington, the River Yar and the backwaters in the Isle of White and later the Netherlands. In Holland I began another black and white major photo archive (in the next post)
Paddling to Hemmingford Greys. The wonderful thing about a canoe or kayak is that the wildlife often takes no notice of you, there was one exception, I was on my own in the kayak and got attacked by a swan with cygnets in tow, it flew at me with wings wide open, quite scary.
In summer we hired boats to explore different waterways. The Broads, the Thames, the Shannon and Zeeland and Friesland in Holland.
There was one very nostalgic trip, we went from Cookham to Lechlade. The stretch between Pangbourne and Abingdon was my childhood stamping ground. From the age of about nine we were able to cycle off for the day with our sandwiches and Tizer. We were so free. One of our magical places were the Wittenham Clumps, two hills rising up from the Thames. There was a bronze age encampment with very complete earthworks on one of them and the Romans had been there too, just the place to stimulate childhood imagination.
Wittenham Clumps by Paul Nash
You could look out from the hill and see the valley reaching out to the horizon. We moored near Days Lock and below the hills. Of course we walked to the top of the Clumps for old times sake. Looking across the valley it was now dominated by a huge power station at Didcot, with massive cooling towers : it seemed like sacrilege. A few years ago it was pulled down so that nowadays the valley will look as it used to when I cycled there.
Close by at Days Lock is the bridge where the world Pooh Sticks championships happened every year until 2015. The event had got too big and teams were coming from all over the world, usually in fancy dress. It has now moved to a bigger site closer to Oxford. It was started by the lock keeper who noticed that people picked twigs from a nearby bush and had little competitions. He made the finishing line further away. When he died it was taken over by th Wallingford Rotary Club. It got so big it was too much for their aging members. It has raised a fortune for the Lifeboat Institution and local Charities and is considered part of quirky Britain!
My painting of Wittenham. I was remembering my childhood feeling that it was the path to the land of dreams, magical and mysterious.
My painting of another local hill we went to. The White horse Uffington.
My ancestors were born in North Moreton and Long Wittenham, two local villages . My father was still living at East Hagbourne but I was too nervous to try to see him. My cousin had visited on my behalf and had the door closed on him, I was afraid to risk it.
Opposite the woods below the Clumps and incidentally only two miles from Dorchester Abbey (see earlier Art School episodes)
I’m on the World Championship Pooh Sticks Bridge. People round here are considered quirky, my ancestors come from round here!
Day’s Lock near the Pooh Sticks Bridge.
So what does this have to do with creative work? As you see I am in the cabin (below) drawing always drawing, unfortunately these drawings were accidentally destroyed but I did make some art pieces from them which I will post later.