Miscellany..A pause for thought.
I was going to go ploughing on to my black and white photo essay that I did in the Netherlands but today we started our memoirs course at Beach Creative. I have decided to stop and think how I felt after I came back from our trip down the Thames and the childhood memories that it evoked. I thought a lot about my father as I often have done at various times, almost to the point of obsession. (He disowned me, see in an earlier post) It’s unfair really because I don’t think about my mother so much in spite of her love for me to the end of her life. It did start me off on a series of images that I have revisited often since that time.
Wittenham with the ghosts of the cooling towers
When I went there as a child I always felt the presence of all the people who had lived there, that was what attracted me, it wasn’t just any ordinary hill. Some how the towers though a couple of miles away spoilt the dreams I had in my head. There are places that become so important to you when your character is being formed and to find them changed is like destroying your memory. I was glad when I heard they were going to be pulled down but I didn’t want the tragedy that occurred.
It also made me think of cycling there and all our other favourite places and I started to think in terms of memory maps…Here is where we turned the corner, over there was a row of houses. I didn’t to do it literally but in the abstract way I saw it it my minds eye.
The road to the grove.
On the way to Wittenham there was a mysterious grove of trees. You had to leave the last houses behind (at the top) and climb Hayden Hill and there they were this little grove of trees. In front there was a dew pond. We always wanted to go in but for some reason we never dared, it seemed like a hallowed place (admittedly there was also a fence around it) There was something about it that attracted and repelled at the same time.
There were quite a lot of places that had a frisson of fear and excitement. The place where the gamekeeper pinned dead birds of prey onto a fence. The house where a strange man lived who had spent most of his life in China and he was cast as a dangerous outsider. The beech woods at Bix where a woman’s body had been found. I suppose it is the same feeling that makes children enjoy quite horrific Grimms fairy tales. I can remember loving one where the horses head, Falada is nailed to a wall.
The way home
We all start off from the school playground, a lot of us live on the council estate. Tony Townsend lives in one circle, Eunice Gallo in another. Florence Bennel in the blue patch on the left. Just a few children live in Wessex road where there are larger detached houses.
I loved the allotment just across the cow field. Before the war it had been a wheat field but the council appropriated it and everybody in our area had a plot. ‘Dig for Britain’ and we did. I loved the runner beans but there is nothing like the taste of a new potato with margarine and mint. My grandfather kept pigs and chickens, when they were slaughtered the meat was shared by the community. The eggs were pickled in isinglas.
If I can’t sleep I take myself for a walk, in my head, to places that I am familiar with. My favourite is a walk round Tresco. Go through the gate and that’s where the Aron lilies grow, down the path past the daffodil field, turn left past a donkey in his pen, through the gorse and past the rubbish dump, out onto the marram grass, through the dried bracken and rocks. I have made all sorts of mind maps that connect me with places that have meant something in my life.
Going to the river the sun was always shining.
Meanwhile at college life was going on. In the summer I took the students to places that I thought would provide some interest. We went to Dreamland, you didn’t have to pay to get in and there were lots of visually exciting things to draw or to get ideas from. We went to Quex park to see the taxidermy diaramas. A lot of students were queasy about the stuffed animals but there was also a great collection of ethnographic artifacts. They came to my house in the Bay then wandered to anything that attracted them. I made some screen prints from those trips too. I missed the productive field weeks that we had at Hockerill.
Not a very good photo of the print ‘Big Wheels’
‘Man on a wall’ immediately opposite my house. Photo silk screen.
‘Snack Bar, Margate’ Photo silk screen print
. My beloved pink boiler suit hung out to dry.
First year students doing the written exam on Materials and Methods
And there is always the beach