Sunday, October 30, 2005

Thanks Cheryl

For your post about NaNoWriMo. I think I went there once. No, that was Nanaimo. I digress. I've signed up as when I was trogging around the other day I had a bit of an idea. A germ. So now I too can wear my particpant badge with something akin to pride but rather more like terror.

Here it is:

Official NaNoWriMo 2005 Participant

Now, if I can only work out how to link to it you can all get one too.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Friday Picture

Not done one for a while. Check out affordable art at .

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A bit of a breather ...

I was going to spend the morning running about in preparation for my Mum visiting but she can't come so I can take things a little more easily. I still have loads to do because the Artist has made excellent progress since the last update and on Friday he is coming home for a few hours with his occupational therapist in order to prepare for him coming home permanently next Friday. This isn't certain yet but is looking likely.

Once home he'll continue therapy as a day patient. His leg is getting good now and his hand is slowly improving but it will be a long slog. If you can imagine (or remember) waking up after having slept with your arm in the air - you know, when you wake yourself up by hitting yourself in the face - he's got that kind of level of dexterity at the moment.

Yesterday I came home with such a big smile. I can't wait for us to be a family again.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

First Kiss

Back in the day (to irritate my absent husband, who will at some stage no doubt plough through this), 30 years ago today as it happens we moved from what I regarded as home, a sleepy little Cornish village (clicking this link will show you some really charming pictures but your ears may be assaulted by some kind of ragtime tinkly stuff) and birthplace of the Twentieth century's communications technology revolution, to the dizzy excitement of the metropolis of Falmouth.

I moved from a village school and my own clothes to a catholic school with uniform and rules and positively no swearing (no really we didn't). The school had an infant bit and a junior bit and the juniors left at a different time; there were bells and smells and Mass every Wednesday. It was also in a new building with indoor toilets and everything. Shortly before this I had even appeared on the local news in a feature about the village schools outside loo, holding a noddy picture.

I found it scary, regimented and foreign to begin with but actually grew to love that school and the people in it.

My first kiss happened in the cloak room near the girls' toilets in the infant area although as I was 7, I was actually counted as a junior. The bell rang for the end of afternoon break and it happened. Samuel MacBeth ran at me and planted one on my kisser. He looked at me for a moment and then ran off with a nervous sort of smile. I only remember being really taken a back. Kissing was for grown ups. One day I would want someone like Samuel, although not him exactly, but not here and not now. When it did happen I wanted him to be a cross between Carry Grant and Rock Hudson, to be wearing a shirt, tie and long trousers.

It made me grumpy. I didn't feel invaded or violated just thought it was a bit bloody stupid and with my milk bottle complexion and red hair, my face stayed scarlet for the rest of the afternoon. Well at least until we did our times tables and said a Hail Mary.

There, Mrs Baggage, it's done.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Parsnip Fay Weldon

To concur with a certain huffy sister of mine in the comments below the last post, I am indeed a little daft around the edges. The title of this post, however, is not a sign of that vast madness but instead a sign of someone else's.

Having a quick squizz at my sitemeter results is often quite interesting and this morning is no exception - apparently if you google the above I come up second. The question is why would you want to? This must be one of the weirder google searches I have been visited by although not the weirdest. That honour goes to zebra f***ing -a reflection of my wont to use florid profanity and of others strange predilictions. It brought up several links to photos none of which I followed. Not that I'm prudish just of a slightly nauseous dispositon.

According to the BBCs new life change programme How to Get Lucky, having a haircut now counts as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I can vouch for the therapeutic effect as by another weird coincidence I had one on Monday to cheer myself up.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Curiouser and curiouser

This next little ditty will either strike you as a weird piece of happenstance, serendipity (call it what you will or it won't.

Our local post office is quite good for dealing with straightforward things like the sale of a first class stamp or paying a bill but if you through recorded delivery books at them or present them with a request to send something to somewhere remote and exotic in under three months they tend to get a little flummaxed. Normally, though, postcodes don't throw them - them being a mainstay of the postal service.

The new certificates of posting are all computerised and so you are sometimes faced with the "Computer says no" scenario. On Thursday we had the same thing: woman in the post office insisting the postcode was wrong, me insisting it was right. She decided to hand write the address on the receipt/certificate of posting (probably completely invalid) crossing through the computer generated stuff. There was such a queue (another one) behind me that I didn't scrutinize what she had done but put it in my purse and went to Tescos to buy succour (can you buy it?) for my family.

On Friday morning the receipt is on my desk and something about it keeps drawing my eye. I can't understand how my name is on it as I never gave my name and it wasn't on the back of the parcel. I'm trying to ignore it and phone the BA but the line just rings and rings and this thing is drawing me to it. My name is in the bit she crossed out with a dud postcode at the end. I look more closely and see it says E & F McLachlan (okay, I have an extra a) Architects. Do I send this Fiona a Christmas card or will she just think I'm mad.

Tears of A Clown

Well, baby, if there's a smile on my face it's only there to fool the public. I was forced on Friday to take drastic measures when talking to the people at the local BA. Despite the girly pink wrapper on this blog (skin - I think the cogniscenti call them), I'm not a girly girl. Or even a girly woman. I'm normally a pragmatic, businesslike and no-nonsense kind of a soul.

Ringing the BA every day to see wtf was going on took its toll, though, and when I finally got through on Friday morning and was told that contrary to what had been said on Tuesday (that the claim was on the system and was about to be paid) it was in a queue still waiting to be processed; it was in fact not on the system at all. Furthermore, there was a large backlog.

I lost it and started wailing about the fact that I now had no money to visit my husband in hospital and blubbing. The woman got the paperwork in a bid to calm me down and leafed through and came to the conclusion it was quite straightforward and would only take about five minutes to process. Cheers for that - I already knew that or I wouldn't be hassling you everyday. Anyway, she said she try and get it moved to the front of the queue. I came off the phone feeling rather aghast that I'd actually cried in front of someone not sitting next to me at a cinema re-release of Truly, Madly, Deeply or someone I was related to by blood or marriage.

Don't get me wrong, I cry at the drop of a hat in front of those very specific groups of people - I even cried at the wedding of Peter James Andrea and Katie Price last night on Sky Mix. I try never to drop my guard infront of members of the bureaucracy or to use my tears to my advantage. This is a policy I will be ditching forthwith as on Saturday morning a nice fat giro for gazillion of our British Pounds floated down and landed on our non-existent doormat. So now we're practically solvent again.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Come day, go day

Well it seems like some small glimmers of progress are finally being made. The Artist's mood seems to have lifted a little and he even phoned me last night - he doesn't even phone me when he's not stricken (some strange part of the verb to have had a stroke - Mary don't hit me). It made me smile for the rest of the evening.

Otherwise, no news on any front. Not on a garage - he'll ring you back; not on a new house - they'll ring you back; not on any money - we didn't receive your claim until the 29th -your letter says 27th - oh - and you returned my birth certificate on 20 - I don't know why there's a missing week but in any case your husband didn't sign the medical certificate we need to return it to him - exasperated remarks about the fact I'm running out of money as the WTC was stopped from 13 and I can't afford to keep going back to the hospital - sorry we can't process your claim until the form is signed.

Tuesday was a very bad day. I flooded the kitchen because I was trying to sort more paperwork out and forgot I was running the sink to wash the dishes. Had a huge row with Arty Daughter, then phoned rescue centres to have the animals rehomed.

Yesterday was significantly better and I cancelled my place on the waiting lists - I we are rehoused we would all be so gutted to have rehomed the animals.

Come day, go day.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Artist - writ large at Minigallery

John Morris
Interview with the artist

What is the first artwork you ever sold?

It was a life drawing. I was 17ish, and I had some life drawings in my portfolio from school. School? Yes, school. My school was of the "Rowing and Latin" variety, and I was part of a small, dedicated and well-resourced group doing art A-level. Our teacher (a fantastic character called Pete Dryland) was devoted to us and our progress, so he engaged a fellow teacher to pose in a skimpy bikini (I suppose I should mention that this teacher was a she) for the life drawing option of our mocks. I got some lovely pencil and charcoal drawings out of that week. (Incidentally, in order to keep 1st years out of the art room during these sessions, Pete locked the door. The headmaster couldn't get in either, of course, so out came the fags...)My parents split up and my dad bought his own house. His first "girlfriend" was a dreadful American woman who said the word "Art" in a way that made my teeth itch. She bought a bikini drawing to impress my dad. I got £20 which was less than I'd want now...

What is your favourite media and why?

My favourite medium(sic) is Doris Stokes... Seriously, though, it's the traditional stuff I was trained in: pencil, charcoal, watercolour and oil. Absolute favourite for finished work is oil, no question.I love it; the feel, the smell, the taste, the sheen, the smell, the feel, the stains on my jeans. I'm an old fogey. I don't mind that it takes ages to dry, or that it costs a fortune, or that it makes brush cleaning a nightmare.

Did a particular person or event spark your interest in art?

No, not that I can remember. I think I'm a classic case of "always done it" from aged 3 or something. I recall a horse's head, in biro, on a shiny piece of cardboard, that I did when I was 4 or 5. It must have looked like a horse's head, because my parents passed it round the suburban dinner-party circuit with some degree of pride. I don't suppose it impressed those whose tiny offspring were destined to be lawyers or dentists, but I remember I was chuffed, and I did acquire a sort of sense that this was the thing I was made for/good at/going to be etc.Later, of course, I can point to some remembered influences: my art teacher at primary school, Mrs Sparks, my art teacher at secondary school, Pete Dryland (thank you, Droopy), my college graphics tutor Tony Hemingsley (who told me at an important time, very politely, that I needed to get my s**t together), and many others, but these were signposts along a path I had been treading since I was tiny (see above).

How long does it usually take you to complete an artwork?

This is an odd question, because of course it varies. I'm usually quick, now that I'm not so intensely graphic in my style. Some things I do have to force myself to be patient with, but generally, and especially with big paintings, I love the energy that only comes from spontaneous working and the discipline that says "STOP FIDDLING !!" when the thing is finished. I've scrapped and over-painted a lot of work because I've made one brush-mark too many and ruined someting good.As I get older, maybe I'll get slower and more cautious. I don't know. Provided I'm happy with my progress I have no strong feelings about it, so my pace could easily change...

When and where did you first exhibit your work?

On the fridge at home, like everyone else...and on the covers of my exercise books at school, of course. My art teacher at school exhibited a screen print for me, in Richmond town hall, but that was for brownie-points, not money. I've sold some botanical Illustrations at country "fayres" and so forth, but best of all is a painting on the marina wall in Porto Santo (got an eye infection doing that one!).Seriously, I'm exhibiting this summer (2005) at The Art Garden in Plymouth, and on minigallery.

Do you have a favourite amongst your own artwork?

The work I'm working on now has to be favourite, I suppose, or it won't have the positive energy I want it to have. I like my fruit pastels, and I like anything I do with a woman's bottom in it (I'm good at bottoms). Apart from that, I like things in phases, going through peaks and troughs of affection and disdain for various of my own paintings. The one I can look at anytime and never feel negative about, though, is "Catch me if you can" (the giant mackerel). I've sold this, so I've only got photos and memories, but I still think it is a truly great painting. Have any of your artworks ended up in unusual or famous places?Not that I can remember, although my oil pastel drawing "Satsuma" sold this year to a lovely chap in Australia, which is a long way to send a drawing.

Who or what has been the most influential factor in your development?

Well, my mum and dad, wife, children and friends and so forth, obviously. I've had a lot of praise and support throughout my life for which I'm grateful. It's not cool to acknowledge the influence of a schoolteacher, but Peter Dryland was a fantastic bloke with a laid back, low-key attitude. He seemed to just sort of be there, while we learned by osmosis. Without him, etc. etc.More recently, I have obviously to thank my wife Fiona for her (usually) sanguine reaction to my giving up my job to do this full time. I owe her a life of some sort, I suppose.

Which famous subject would you like to use in your art?

Catherine Deneuve.

When did you first start?

I was very little. I've always known. I've run away from it and done other things, but I came back because, insofar as I believe in these things, I was born to do it.What media would you like to try out?I'm open to anything that will make the image work the way I want it to, but because I invisage things done in oil, I need to persevere with it. When I know everything about oil paint I'll move on. That'll be quite a while, of course...

Which is your favourite art gallery and why?

The ArtGarden Cafe on Plymouth's Barbican, because they are hanging my work. More generally though, the Tate in London. It's where I went when I skipped school.The real answer to this question is this: any gallery with art on the wall is always a joy to be in. I love looking at art. Anywhere.

Have you ever had an art-related disaster?

I'm having one now, but I don't want to talk about it.

Do you have a funny story related to your art?

Sorry, no. Should I have? I'm starting to feel inadequate now. Cheers.

What do you like best about being an artist?

Everything. Even not having any money, because that will change. I love it when someone asks me what I do and I tell them I'm an artist. I have the life they want.

What do you like least about being an artist?

The money thing, because it affects my family. Another thing: I really don't like sniffy galleries (you know who you are, with your sign saying "No Riff-Raff" on the door).

What is the most expensive art related purchase you have made?

My freedom, otherwise known as "giving up the day job". On a day to day basis, I struggle with the cost of paint and canvas, etc. If I framed my work then I suppose the cost of that would feature in my nightmares too.

Where do you work, do you have a studio?

I have what I call a studio. It's a converted dining room in my mother's house, but it works for me. I love to work at home (my easel in that case being a short walk from bed) but we have dogs, cats and a young'un, so it can be tricky. My studio is quiet, reasonably well lit and plenty big enough for the time being.

Have you ever inspired somebody to become an artist?

Yeah, me. Seriously, I don't know that I have ever inspired - or caused - someone to become an artist, but I like to think I am a help to my daughter, who at sixteen is off to art college and may well become a brilliant painter. (She may of course choose to be a sculptor, fashion designer or photographer instead, which would be okay. If she becomes a social worker or a traffic warden then I will wonder where I went wrong...)

Are there other artists in your family?

Not that I know of. My wife is a poet, which is an art. My daughter is a painter, but she may become something else in time. Eldest boy is a historian and other boy is two, so who knows? My dad could draw a bit, but he was a policeman mostly. My mum was a restaurateur and my brother is an HGV driver/karate instructor. So it's just me, folks. Sorry.

Describe your routine on a day when you are working on your art?

I'm starting to think this is all a bit nosey. Okay, er...get up, have coffee, get dressed (not necessarily in that order), go to work.Seriously though, I have children and dogs, so I don't get out to the studio as early as some. I don't mind that. I'm not one of nature's nine-to-fivers.At the studio I'll have more coffee and a bit of a think before putting any paint on my brush. As I've said earlier, I work quickly compared to many artists, but there's a lot of contemplation, planning and evaluation between bursts of activity. I stop work when my inner voice tells me to stop. Then I go home and spend the evening with my family. This is a "typical" day but nothing is carved in stone. Days may be similar, but no two are exactly the same.

If you could pick just three colours to work with what would they be?

Black, white and brown, I suppose, but that wouldn't have to be paint. I like Conte Crayon, pastel and charcoal for drawing, so three colours wouldn't feel too restricted. If I could only PAINT in three colours, I suppose I would choose the primaries and mix everything else I needed from those, with the white of the canvas being another colour. So there.

What is in your artistic toolbox?

Various kinds of paint, brushes, palette knives, drawing media, same as everybody else I suppose. I buy linseed oil, turpentine and brush cleaner from DIY shops rather than art shops because they're about a hundred times cheaper and just as good.There's nothing surprising here, because I'm a fairly traditional sort of painter. I'd like to be able to tell you I mix my own pigments or something interesting like that, but I don't.

What item could you not do without?

My talent. Heck, I don't know. If all I had was a pencil, then I'd just use a pencil, I suppose. There are lots of things I would miss if I didn't have them, or if they hadn't been invented: oil paint, canvas, an easel, red wine...