Difficult Times (not much about art, you might want to leave it but it is part of my journey)
Ken still had a yearning to spend holiday time boating, I wasn’t that keen but he had had two heart attacks and he was ten years older than me so I wanted him to have the best time that he could. I drew the line at hiring a cruiser. I found an advert for a converted boat house next to the broads with the possibility of hiring a small boat for a week. I thought this would be a good compromise. We arrived at the main house and the owner John, took us down a very long garden path, rather wild to the boat house.
The flat was upstairs. The river was about thirty yards away and there was a beautiful little dock at the side of the lawn. From the upstairs window there was a great view of the river in both directions. The entrance to the hire boat firm was just across the river.
I felt a bit ambivalent about the atmosphere of the place, I had an uneasy feeling. We had taken the canoe with us. The first day that we were there the hire boat firm brought the little boat and tied it up in the small dock. In the afternoon we had such a good trip in it to Wroxham Broad, it looked as though we might have a good week. I always have my sketch book with me of course and I made some interesting drawings of twisted tree roots half in and half out of the water, and other boat houses at the edge of the Broad.
The little dock at the side of the garden with the small hire boat brought from a boat yard just across the river.
Ken in his element on our way to Wroxham Broad on the first day.
About half way through the night Ken started to cry out in agony, at first I thought it might be his heart, but it was his prostate, it had blocked off. Another night time panic, very like the first one. Somehow we managed to negotiate our way up the long overgrown garden path with Ken in some distress. There were no mobile phones in those days. The hospital was in Norwich. I had never driven in Norwich and didn’t know my way around. My heart was pounding again just as it had in Cornwall. All the time Ken was getting worse. With some relief I found signs pointing to the hospital and headed in that direction. We got there and went in the foyer with only to be told it wasn’t the right part. We had to get back in the car and eventually after some anxiety we were in the right place. They took him to a ward and put in a catheter. I slept there for the night, deja vue. They said they would operate the next day. In the morning I went back to the boat house to gather some necessary things, I’d been told to go back in the evening. I spent the afternoon trying to draw but I couldn’t settle down enough to do anything of any value.
To my dismay, when I got there in the evening I found that they had not done the operation. They said that they had discovered he didn’t come from the area and that he would have to go back to Canterbury. I remonstrated but they wouldn’t listen. We had a hideous journey back. The specialist in Norwich had phoned Canterbury and I naturally thought he would go straight in. Then even more bad news they couldn’t do it, he would have to wait his turn. So he was at home with the catheter. He got infections (as you do when you are using one for a long time) I had huge arguments with the hospital and so did Ken’s children. In the end I had to appeal to Roger Gale to intervene on our behalf.
John, the very kind owner of the boat house insisted that we should have a free holiday in the flat the next year. We did go but I really didn’t enjoy it there were too many bad memories about the place. There was one big plus however John had bought a large traditional Broads sailing boat, he had restored it and he took us out for a couple of trips.It was not easy under sail as the river is not very wide, you are tacking every few minutes and avoiding inexperienced skippers of holiday cruisers. It was a beautiful old boat. Although we had hired lots of fibre glass boats on our holidays Ken’s heart was in love with wooden boats especially of traditional build.
John’s traditional Broads sailing boat.
I didn’t know at that time but it was the beginning of some bad years. I have so many drawings of hospitals from those years. Drawing was a consolation and a way of distracting myself from pain and worry.
At least you had a comfortable place to sit. I certainly wasn’t capable of drawing standing up any more.