Community.

I am an (almost) lifelong socialist. I admire William Morris and his ideas. Today I have been trying to think how I developed my convictions. I was six when the second world war broke out, I benefited from the 1944 education act. It was designed to give working class children a chance to go to a grammar school. I lived in a council house at the very edge of Didcot, only a hundred yards away, across a railway line,, from the village of East Hagbourne. Didcot was largely a town of council houses that had been built in the thirties for workers on the Great Western Railway and in the large Army Ordnance Depot. There were a few privately owned houses but not many. I went to the small church primary school. When we were ten the top class took the scholarship exam for the grammar school, no one had ever been. Much to my surprise I won a scholarship. It must have been because I was hooked on poetry, my arithmetic was terrible (still is) In the interview I was asked if I could recite a poem by heart…of course I could. I gave my dramatic rendition of ‘I must go down to the sea again’ the head master was smiling. I cracked it! We did have to write an essay as well and I enjoyed writing so that must have done the trick.

We had no grammar school, the nearest one was in Wallingford seven miles away. Most of the time I had to cycle to school only later did they lay on a school bus. The sad thing is that I was immediately cut off from all my friends. Of course I made some new ones but they were nearly all from middle class families, they did tend to look down on people from Didcot, I would never have dreamed of inviting them to my home. When I said the ‘almost’ lifelong, I  was remembering the time when I belonged to a debating society and I always seemed to be representing the right wing view, Looking back on it now, there was some snobbery in it, most of my school friends belonged to the Young Conservatives. I suppose I wanted to put forward my credentials. In reality I didn’t like the feeling of us and them and my sympathies were with the families that I knew and loved around me at home.

What I like about Morris is his idea that the arts should be for the benefit of everyone. Artists should be prepared to design for utilitarian purposes as well as practicing art for arts sake.I have always thought that if we have any skill it should also be used for the benefit of everyone.

It soon emerged that I was the ‘go to’ person for posters and cards and that chimed with my feeling that we should do what we can for the common cause. If everyone thought this way how much easier life would be. I am always struck on the local Facebook pages by the number of people who expect things to be done for them without ever volunteering or even thinking that they should contribute something.

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I liked playing with the colour and overlapping letters in this one, There is often a dosappointment i.e the colours look good on the brightness of the screen but muddy when printed on paper.

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I have never had a graphic design course so my efforts with Photo Shop are probably rather simplistic but I knew a bit more than most people (with the exception of Nick Godsell) So I have done rather a lot over the years, if I have time I enjoy the process.I have upgraded my Photoshop twice but I still prefer my very old version.

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I knew what I wanted for the radio drama poster, the old transmitter from Daventry, I associate them with listening to the radio as your only form of entertainment before TV   ‘This is Daventry calling’

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I’m getting better at readable print, it really bugs me on posterts when the print is put on a background colour that means you can’t read it.

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This was the second Sketch Jam session and it really pleased me to be able to include some of the drawings that had been made in the first one.

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This was fairly hard, normally I have a free hand but this time I was following a brief. It involved lots of cutting and pasting. I’m not happy with the readability of ‘drinks, cutting cake. I think I should have darkened the background there and made the lettering white.

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I had the matroshka doll on my shelf. I liked the idea of the smaller one coming from inside the other one. Readability…not too bad.

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This is the latest one, hot off the press. This is it’s first appearance (I think)

 

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I made all these banners and I have made quite a few more in my time. Because I have made so many my art pieces are often also in the form of a kind of banner. I love to see the historic union banners.

Understanding personal imagery and the origins of CT6.

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I started this blog because someone wrote in a local Facebook post about the lack of empathy in society It prompted me to think about the importance of imagination in both empathy and in art. Because I have been an art teacher all my life I think a great deal about the role of visual and tactile art in society. All sorts of things that I see and hear start me off!

Yesterday I visited an exhibition of water colours, there were lots of them representing hours of dedication and all beautifully framed. I like to talk to people about their work, I know how encouraging it is if anyone shows the slightest interest in what you have been doing. I said which one I liked best and why I liked it and then I asked which one he was most pleased with and why.

Of course it soon came out what I already could see, they were all meticulously copied from photographs. Why? Why wouldn’t you just have the beautiful photograph in the first place? I recently saw an ad in the local Herne Bay Chatters Facebook page, it showed a rather good photo of a dog with an exact hand painted copy next to it. ‘Get a beautiful painting of your dog’ as though there was something holy about the hand rendered image.

There is no doubt that the water-colourist had a wonderful technique, but what a terrible waste. We only pass through our present life once, no one is ever going to see or experience the world exactly as we do, can we not show something of the world as we see it or think about it. Young children can do it so why can’t we as adults?

The rot sets in when someone says ‘She’s good at art’ as they did when I learnt how to copy Mickey Mouse. The temptation is to keep copying because that is obviously what brings public praise and admiration. If I hadn’t gone to art school gained a deeper understanding plus a vivid imagination, I would have been seduced into thinking that was where it was at.

Having said that, the huge popularity of the major art galleries show that there is a fsacination and interest in a wider understanding. There are only going to be a few ‘cutting edge’ artists in every age,  the rest of us should produce something more personal  My most common question for my students was ‘What do you want to say?’ later ‘How can I help you to express it?’ ‘How can you use materials in an exciting and experimental way?’

Back to the main story line (but there is a relevance.

I was on my own now (except for the support of Ken’s family) but it did give me time to pursue my own work for the first time for years. All I could do before was to draw in my sketch book, whatever has been happening in my life I have always drawn.

One day I was walking past the library when I bumped into one of my ex mature students. We had a long chat. He said how lonely it can be to carry on making art when you have left college. At college everyone in your group is interested in what you are doing. There is a buzz and a collective excitement about ideas coming to fruition or a support when things get hard. Unless you happen to be surrounded by ‘arty’ people  when you leave, you have lost that interest and encouragement.

He wanted me to meet a sculptor friend of his who had been kicked out of art school because his work didn’t chime with the accepted style.

Most towns have a local art society but they often have limited ideas with a vast sprinkling of the dreaded copying from photographs or hackneyed subject matter. We met in my house, gathered some other interested artists and  started a new group, which we called CT6. It was decided only to include art graduates, though we did have to relax that rule later.

In the mean time I now had started to produce my own work and concentrated mainly on textiles. Passing the museum one day I saw a postcard it said ‘Is there anyone out there making textiles? I am a textiles student and I have just graduated from Manchester College of Art. I’m looking for other makers with a view to have an exhibition.’ Her name was Janice Lewis, we met up and had an exhibition together in the museum gallery.

The CT6 group agreed to have collective exhibitions once or twice a year. There was only one possible space and that was in the library. Given it’s limitations we managed quite well,  bringing in screens and plinths. The useful thing about exhibiting in the library was that you had a captive audience. The people coming in to borrow books were interested as can be shown in our book of comments which I still have. To make it cohesive we usually decided on a theme. We were there for about three years until they took over the space to house their public computers.

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Some of our posters in the first years

Nov28CT6firstex                                                          Our first exhibition in 2001.

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My first poster.nov28CrightT6logoNick Godsell designed our logonov28openhouseMy first Open House Exhibition with the group. The red hanging is mine.

In the meantime Ron had opened his small gallery  BAG in William St. we then had our exhibitions there and in the Fish Slab Gallery in Whitstable, the Horsebridge and twice by invitation in the Herne Bay Gallery. Having different themes added a bit of excitement but it  did mean that there was no real thread of development in my work.

In the term that I retired from Christchurch they had just brought in a computer with graphic design software for students to use. I didn’t have a computer at that stage but I was longing to learn. I went on a residential absolute beginners course at a college in Worcestershire. I loved it, when I got home I set myself up, bought Photoshop Elements and taught myself to use it. It has been so useful to me, I can’t imagine what I would do without it now.

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First time playing with Photo Shop Elements.

Betty

I haven’t said anything about Betty (see earlier posts) since I wrote the piece when I married for the second time, this happened shortly after Betty and I came to live in Herne Bay. She was very upset when I married Ken. I had been her companion and substitute daughter for so long that it was a shock to her. She had been away in Austria working withe refugees from Hungary and running their hostel when I first met Ken. Naively I had thought we could all live together like a family (after all I had already experienced it with my first husband’s family), but of course we couldn’t, there was too much tension. I could have gone to live in Ken’s bungalow in Blean, but Betty could never have managed financially, she had no money to speak of. The solution was for Betty to have the nicest rooms at the top of the house and for Ken and I to have the ground floor and the condemned basement.

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Ken and Betty shared a love of music.

It was condemned because the sea came in in the great floods of 1952. The plaster wouldn’t stay on the walls as the bricks had salt in them. we had it ‘tanked’ twice by professional builders. It always worked for a while but then the plaster started to come off again. In the end we hacked off the plaster and mortar down to the bare bricks, sealed them with dilute PVA and then tiled them. The parts that we managed are OK but we didn’t complete the whole area, the plaster still comes off the rest of the walls but I’ve just had to learn to live with it. Now there is central heating down there with just a kitchen the other room is my art store and since I use all manner of materials it is very full.

I had my gall stones catastrophe (see previous post) after Ken had died (thank goodness it would have been really difficult for him to cope with) All my friends and family visited me regularly but Betty was my rock, she was there just about every day during the worst part. She stayed with friends in Canterbury.

When I had just about come back to the land of the living again, some friends asked me what I would most like them to bring and I begged for a sketch book and drawing pen. I was so delighted when they brought it. I tried to draw but there was no connection somehow between my brain and my hand. I felt quite distressed but I kept trying and my capacity gradually came back. Somewhere I have the strange little drawings I did at that time but I can’t find them..

As I have written elsewhere Betty was an extraordinary person full of energy and good will but also with a great skill at organisation. She was a talented linguist, with friends all over the world. When we lived in Stevenage she was learning Chinese going up to the School of African and Oriental Studies once a week. She went to China for three weeks.

When she came down to Herne Bay it was just too far to London on the train to continue her study…so what did she do ? She started to learn Arabic with an Arabic speaker. She just loved languages.

She was instrumental in starting both the WEA in Herne Bay and the Three Towns twinning association between Canterbury and district, Vladimir in Russia and Bloomington USA. Both these organisations still exist and both have honoured her.

In her mid eighties she became seriously ill and had several spells in hospital losing consciousness and hallucinating ( I knew where she was coming from on that one!)

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Betty waiting for an eye test.

Eventually they couldn’t do any more for her. I converted the downstairs front room, my living room, into a bedroom for her and nursed her for about a year, it was hard demanding work, unrelenting because I couldn’t leave the house. She had nurses to deal with her medical needs but during those times I had to go out and buy our food supplies. I set up a baby alarm between her room and my bedroom and frequently had to get up in the middle of the night. She kept falling out of bed or off her chair and I had to get the ambulance men to lift her back. I felt apologetic but they assured me that they are quite used to it. You can get very tired and ratty, and then you feel awful that you haven’t been patient. One night she didn’t ring the alarm but when I went in in the morning I found her sprawled on the floor half naked and cold. Her clothes had come off as she fell.

 

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When the nurse came that day she told me that I couldn’t go on like this, Betty needed to be in a nursing home. I’d known this in my heart for a while but how can you find out about which homes are suitable and also Betty didn’t want to go. I asked the doctor for advice and he said they are not allowed to give it. There you are… looking after a person full time so how can you investigate the different qualities of the homes. I had been in lots of them with the band and I knew how they varied in quality. Betty was an intelligent feisty woman, she was physically ill but still had an alert mind, I didn’t want her to go somewhere where she would be treated like a child. Then the dear nurse said to me ‘I’m not supposed to say this but I  know just the place for her, I’ll arrange it’ I was overwhelmed with relief and gratitude. I knew Betty would resist but fortunately in a way I was due to go into hospital for the replacement of my hip and we told her that she would be there whilst I was in hospital.

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The nursing home was St. Benedicts on the sea front just beyond St. Georges Terrace. She had a room of her own at the back and I tried to make it homely with her own things around her. I had my op. then she kept saying ‘When am I coming home?’ I felt such a traitor as I knew she was never coming home. She had more spells in hospital and I always went with her. I visited her every day for nearly two years, she also had visitors from all over the world including ten of the choir from Vladimir. She soon got a room at the front so that she could look over the sea which pleased her. I read to her most afternoons. One afternoon she said ‘Could you read me some Harry Potter?’ I was amazed that she had heard about him, she had heard a programme on her radio!

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Eventually my dear friends invited me to go and stay with them for a few days in Malvern for a respite period. On the second day we received a phone call to say that Betty had died.

When she was in hospital I did make some drawings, I feel a bit unsure about it but I’m going to include some as they were done with love and respect for a remarkable person.

Hospitals.

It wasn’t the end of my experience of hospitals. In my early seventies it was discovered that I had gall stones. I needed an operation to remove them, it was set for January.

Just before Christmas I met my friend Peter, he was tucking into a piece of Christmas cake, he had had the same operation the week before. ‘No problem’ he said ‘Easy peasy with this new keyhole surgery, you’re in one day and practically out the next day’ The specialist that I had see was a lovely man, full of humanity, Mr. Heddle. He also assured me that the operation was an easy one. I had every trust in him as I thought he would be doing the operation himself.

I went in with no fears, but it was six weeks before I came out again and even then I had to convalesce. People told me what had happened because I was ‘out of it’ for a lot of the time.

The surgery was performed and I was put in the recovery ward but I was not recovering I was getting worse, no one could understand why. It was a student doctor who solved the problem. The surgeon wasn’t Mr. Heddle but was a new man, he had cut into my duodenum by mistake. It was rumoured  (though I am not sure of the truth) that it was the first time this surgeon had done a keyhole operation. It is difficult because you are operating looking into a screen, I believe it is a little like a mirror,

I was seriously ill, they thought I might die. I had sores all over my face and my mouth and throat felt completely dry all the time. My lips had to have water dripped on them, they were all cracked and white. I was in a lot of pain therefore on morphine. My breathing was difficult and I had to use a nebuliser. The nebuliser was like heaven, suddenly you could breathe clean air and it made a comforting bubbling sound like a hookah. I felt disgusting because my blood soaked bandages were dirty. Why didn’t they change them? I learned later that disturbing the wound and exposing it to the air by continually putting on new bandages, is often more harmful. I had the dreadful agony of bedsores.

I was hallucinating in a completely surreal parallel world. Even when I came out of hospital the alternative world that I had lived in seemed more real than the actual one. The hallucinations were very archetypal. I was on a lonely beach, behind me were sand dunes and a large grassy hillock. Two women with shawls over their heads came to me offering two keys for a wooden door in the hill. They seemed to be offering two choices, one that I would live but have a dreary life or two, that I might die but that if I lived my life would be fulfilling. I felt emotional and terror but I chose number two. It took me ages to differentiate between the reality and the hallucination.I couldn’t find the drawings I did for this one, if I find them I will add them later. I’ve done so many drawings in my life that it is difficult to keep track of them all.

In another dream I thought I was in charge of a storm that could overwhelm the Hebridean Islands. I kept hearing the words of the weather forecast. I knew I was on a bed but behind me I thought there was a glass case containing ancient tools and knives with leather thongs attached to them. I somehow knew I was on a bed and that people were looking at me.

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The Hebridean hallucination was all tied up with Celt imagery too. When you think of my travel history to the crosses and the islands I suppose they all came together in a mish mash in my mind.

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When I left hospital I was haunted by thoughts of what might be going on in the other world that I had inhabited. This went on for months and was disturbing, in the end I got rid of the hallucinations and ghosts by drawing the main incidents. I found that I could deal with them then. I think I am still affected by them.

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I had some terrifying ones too. I thought I was being attacked by birds and having to swallow the feathers. Possibly the strangest one was Oriental (where did that come from?) I was in a room with Buddhist looking men, one of them was praying.  They were breeding some kind of insect/worm in glass cages and I was sure they wanted to put me in one.

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On another occasion I was in a maze of boxes and I couldn’t get out.

They then had to cut my stomach again and this time I lost my belly button! Finally I was allowed to go to a convalescent home. I chose a rather luxurious one, the Old Rectory in Ickham , the rooms were comfortable with fine furniture. I thought I deserved nice food and a lot of comfort after my ordeal. Sadly it wasn’t to end there. I had to go back to the hospital for a routine check after a few days. I was taken in the hospital transport and brought back afterwards to my beautiful room, so calm and quiet after the hubbub of the hospital ward. The next day the home received a phone call it had been discovered that I had a bad infection. Only people dressed in protective clothing were to come near me and some of the sheets had to be burned. I had to go back to hospital for further surgery. I felt like a leper, unclean and apologetic. It was awful.

Afterword………. The husband of the owner of the convalescent home was a lawyer. For some reason or other I was reluctant but he persuaded me that I had a case and that I should sue. He knew that I wouldn’t be able to look after myself for a while. I needed paid help for the cleaning and the gardening for nearly a year. The case took about a year and in the end I got £15.000. The rather funny thing is you get nothing for the suffering and pain and the lawyers have to find a precedent case. The precedent was a case where a woman successfully sued because she could no longer wear a bikini, they also cited the fact that I had no belly button.!!! How ridiculous. Plus of course the expenses that it had incurred.

Can I write this? It’s all part of the story so I must try.

This will be the hardest thing that I have ever attempted to write. I’m a Quaker, I’ve been one since my early thirties. Why? Because through my own personal experience of the transcendental (albeit very fleeting) I have come to believe that there is more in life than just the material world. It is very difficult to describe something that I feel in my inner being.

Almost accidentally throughout my life I had come across people that had impressed me. The first two were at art school. Jake Nicholson, son of the painters Ben Nicholson and Winifred Nicholson, came to give a talk about his time in America. In some part of his talk he must have given his favourable views on the Quakers he had come across during his time there and for some reason the memory of his words stayed with me.

The external examiner for Education at Corsham was a man called Robin Tanner who was a Quaker, educationalist, artist, illustrator and etcher. He was in the William Morris mould, a socialist and poet. He sympathised with the Austrian Professor Cizek and his views on the paramount importance of art for children. Tanner said ‘We are all born with the attributes of the artist, the designer and the craftsman. We have the power to select, to transmute the ordinary into the memorable, to see the world imaginatively or as the poet Rilke expressed it, to re-enkindle the commonplace’ To make the ordinary extraordinary. I read some of his writings and it chimed with what I was feeling. Robin Tanners own work has the same kind of lyrical quality as Samuel Palmer in his early days.

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Etchings by Robin Tanner

Letchworth, where I lived during the first two years of my first marriage to Robin had been founded by the Quakers and lots of them still lived there. They founded the Settlement for further education that I have spoken about in an earlier part of my blog. I came to meet Margaret Harvey, a Quaker who was a great and influential advocate for the arts. She was a friend of Mary Hoad the principal of the nearest art college at St. Albans. She was interested in the personal work of the local art teachers and encouraged us to have a collective exhibition in the town gallery.

When I moved to Stevenage I found that behind a lot of excellent social initiatives there were Quakers. I went on peace marches and of course the Quakers of all ages were there too

Now I am not a person who would ever join an established church. I couldn’t subscribe to a creed. I am suspicious of most ‘religion’ OK for those who have ‘faith’ and ‘believe’, maybe I wish that I could, but I can’t. Having said that I am a seeker, and it seemed to me that the Quakers were also seekers. It is very difficult to pin down Quakerism, there are as many views as there are Quakers but the one thing that they would probably agree on is that they seek the ‘inner light’ and that’s what I seek too. That part of us that can experience and recognise the transcendental. The same light that impels us to make art. A meeting happens largely in expectant silence and that suits my personality.

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New Forest. This natural circle of grass at the bottom of the wooded hill path is called the meeting place.

This seeking could be a rather selfish ‘in turning’ but the experience of the search has led to  social action of all kinds including the peace testimony. Just one example, the Society of Friends published the forward looking ‘Towards a Quaker view of Sex’ years before the current reforms. There are Quaker Buddhists, Quaker Hindu’s, Quaker Cof E’s and even some Quaker Catholics. When I went to live with Betty she was already a Quaker and I soon joined.

Just before Easter some years ago, the C of E church at Blean invited all sorts of different denominations to come to an evening meeting during Holy Week to give their churches views on the Resurrection. They invited the Quakers too and I was appointed to do the impossible. There is no specific Quaker view. I put a lot of work into researching the views of early Quakers. Eventually I decided that the best thing to do was to take my recorder and interview a wide section of Quakers and transcribe what they had said. In the face of the confident beliefs of the other denominations I think most people in the congregation thought that the Quakers were ‘wooly’, we are often accused of that.

nov25forestsun                     The New Forest. I drew this one evening as the sun was setting.

Now the very difficult bit.

I was tired when I got home, Ken and I were sitting at the table having a cup of tea and talking about the evening when he suddenly stopped in mid speech and slumped sideways against me in danger of falling on the floor. I realised immediately that he had had a stroke. I tried to hold him up whilst reaching for the phone and dialling 999. We were downstairs and it seemed like ages before the ambulance arrived though it was probably only about ten minutes. They carried him up the stairs and into the ambulance. My heart was pounding again and the familiar feeling of cold trembling was creeping over me. I gathered essentials and tried to follow the ambulance in the car. By the time all this happened it was about midnight. Going down Sturry Hill I was overtaken by a police car which pulled in front of me and signalled me to stop ‘Do you realise that one of your tailgate lights isn’t working. It is a punishable offence’ at that stage I just broke down in tears. They thought I was being over dramatic until I told them the circumstances. They then drove in front of me clearing the traffic until we got to the hospital. At this stage Ken was still conscious but it was clear that it was a bad stroke. I phoned the family. He was put into a small side ward. We congregated around his bed, I held his hand and the family spoke about the good times that they had had. The hearing is the last thing to go. He lasted a day before he died. It was a bleak and sad time. I can remember coming out of the main door of the hospital after his death and being offended that the sun was shining and that people were talking, laughing and going about their everyday business. I was going to illustrate this part with hospital drawings from other occasions but I think it would be inappropriate. Another of my drawings from the New Forest might just do.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The little dock at the side of the garden with the small hire boat brought from a boat yard just across the river.

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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.

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River bank.

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.

 

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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.

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At least you had a comfortable place to sit. I certainly wasn’t capable of drawing standing up any more.

 

More Musicians ( I promise that these will be the last ones for a while)

I could see when I look at my collection that I haven’t drawn any contemporary pop and rock musicians and I wondered why. Then I realised that I don’t know much about new developments any more and the reason is because I don’t hear it, not because I don’t want to or that I don’t like it but I have come to love the spoken word even more. Radio 4 makes the background to my day, so much of the output is thought provoking or incredibly informative. I’m a huge fan of the dramas and stories. Life simply isn’t big enough for all the things you want to do and the places you want to go to. I don’t seem to want to watch TV any more, I prefer to choose a film or a TV series and watch it on my lap top. I admit it does cut you off from certain conversations. Can you believe it I have never watched Come Dancing in spite of my love of dance.nov22sagaguitar

 

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When Ken and I started playing we played lots of folk music, we belonged to a folk music group in Canterbury and twice a year we went to stay for the weekend at Springfield House near Rye. The food was fantastic and we were often up most of the night playing (no change there then) What made it special for me was that it was that it had been the home of Edward Burra and I’d always loved his paintings. Everywhere I went in that house and garden I could imagine him being there. His family were well off, they had eight servants. The house is elegant with a beautiful staircase as a kind of centrepiece. As a child Edward developed rheumatoid arthritis, this meant that he had to leave his boarding school and be taught at home. Apparently he said to his mother one day ‘I’m just going out’ and more or less left home just like that. Paul Nash encouraged him and introduced him to surrealism, but his work doesn’t fit into any ‘ism’ it is unique and personal. A bit like George Grosz or Otto Dix.

novv24burrablackwomen He loved to observe the seemy side of life wherever he travelled and he travelled a lot. Most of his work is on paper, his hands were very twisted with arthritis and he couldn’t cope with oil. He was just unfortunate that he lived in a time when abstract impressionism was king and figures almost non existent. He might have preferred it that way as he never went to any of his private views, fame might not have suited his personality. During the latter part of his life he made quirky rather dark landscape paintings, another unfashionable subject at that time.

Valley and River, Northumberland 1972 by Edward Burra 1905-1976

He described Rye as ‘a duckie little Tinkerbell towne’ but who could help liking a man who also said ‘always join the minority’ So Springfield was full of his spirit for me.

At Springfield the two guitarists shown immediately above were brilliant song writers about everyday subjects. I wish I had the words to some of them. a lot of them were funny wry observations on life, Cockney in style, slightly Chas and Dave. I can remember one of them was called ‘Sunday Tea with my Gran’ The chorus being a repeat of all the food she put on the table.

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There were various jazz clubs, mostly trad jazz, the one I went to most often was at the retro Walpole Hotel, in Margate. You could order food and drinks and listen to the band.  It was held in the basement, you had to use this incredibly old fashioned iron fretted lift to get there. I guess there was a staircase but I was already finding them a bit difficult.nov21bernardbest

I couldn’t possibly leave this page without mentioning one of Ken’s favourite musicians, a local, born in Canterbury, sax and clarinet player Tony Coe. Ken knew Tony’s father, I think he was called George, they knew each other from dance band days as George also played the sax. We saw Tony play on lots of occasions but the one I remember with the greatest pleasure was a master class he did for the Canterbury Fringe Festival. He inspired them and taught them so much in a very short time. He is such a sensitive inventive player, his whole life is in his music.

nov23tony coe.jpg                    Tony has the kind of hunched back that a lot of sax players develop.

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Above… Tony with renowned jazz pianist Stan Tracey.

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With a student at the master class held in the Old Synagogue, in Kings Street.

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Above… a group of students playing as an ensemble at Tony’s master class. He taught them so much in a short time. I have enough of these musician drawings to make a book of anecdotes….but I won’t!