Sunday, August 25, 2019

Bank Holiday Sunday

Dear Dave

I woke up today with Philip Glass' Metamorphosis in my head. It's apt really as it was part of the music chosen for your service and you always celebrated our anniversary over this weekend. 

Eight years ago, we met in that car park in Holt. If I had written what my perfect first date would have looked like, you managed to tick every freaking box without even meaning to: steam trains, good coffee, literary bollocks, walk on along Sheringham beach eating ice-cream, supper at Byfords where we needed double bowls of olives, and for dessert you had mango & passionfruit pavlova and asked for two spoons. When we'd been given menus and you looked at me and laughed when you handed over your reading glasses, I realised I really was getting older. We went back to Voewood and enjoyed the live music. 

My memory being what it is now, I think it was when Sam Amidon and Beth Orton played. Beth Orton in a parka with a cup of tea; it was such a good gig. The problem is, the memories flow into each other. Was that the same year at Voewood when we poggoed next to David Gilmore and his wife, Polly Samson? 

Or was that the year when Hendricks sponsored the event? Does it really matter to have things all lined up properly? The Hendricks year, I know was when I took my most favourite picture of you. We'd been lying on the grass in the sunshine watching the Marketing Director of Hendricks chase after his pet chicken Henrietta. Gods that was such fun. That weekend, I learnt to like gin. Helped enormously by the session we went to: Gin - a tipple through literature. You were driving, which was just as well. The session was supposed to be 45 minutes, it went on for a rather hilarious hour and a half and included Henrietta the chicken settling on the chief mixologist's trolley, singing the Song of her People until she was picked up and taken away. Gods, I was pickled. Actually, so was everyone else. They'd brought around examples of all of the gin mixtures/cocktails that they talked about during the session. I chose F. Scott Fitzgerald as my sobriety test. I failed it miserably. 

We rubbed shoulders with people who if they weren't the movers and shakers of the creative world, certainly looked like they should have been. You chatted awhile with this little old lady and came away with the weirdest expression. When I asked you, you said "I think that was Margaret Atwood." I did have to stop you launching yourself at Rowan Coleman, the former editor of the Erotic Review. And you helped make David Gilmour warm to the idea of taking a picture with me. None of these people will remember you now, fleeting encounters with a fan boy. They won't know what they've missed out on. How wonderful you were, your quiet contributions to science, to the music and coffee scenes in Norwich.

I didn't miss out. Oh. Hell. No. 

On an aside, Zoë included ears of wheat that grew in the garden from the chickens' food, to dress your coffin. It marked your contribution to the selenium study you were so proud of. Birgit, your ex-long-time partner, appreciated that touch when I told her about it. 

How am I doing? Good question. I seem to have got over the pre-Dave phase I've gone through. I'd been living life like I did before I met you. Re-visiting old patterns of behaviour to re-discover why I'd left them behind.

As you aren't here, I won't be able to stop smoking like I did when I had your support. I am now pre-rolling my cigarettes and I will follow Henry's example and cut down a fag at a time. My lungs clearly do not have the patience to put up with my bullshit, and I really don't need COPD or lung cancer in my Life. I have things to do. 

The Grant of Probate came through. Thus begins the dismantling of your Life before we sell your home. I have people to call on to help me with this monumental task. It's one of those things that my pride says "it's only pain, you know you can do it. Get on with it." My heart replies "I have nothing to prove to anyone, there are no gold stars waiting for me by doing this alone and pretending to be big and brave." I'm taking things a half a day at a time. I can cope with that, just about.

Oh. The Words are coming back. Driving back from work a poem came to me. I rushed home and wrote it down on the back of an envelope. I'm not sure it's one to share. Until I sit down with it I won't know, and in truth, it doesn't really matter. I'm still at the stage where one out of twenty poems is reasonable. I'm still writing the crap out. It is good to write again. It's the piece that's been missing from me for three and a half years. Arting can't replace them. They have to learn to co-exist. It's going to be an interesting time as I try and figure things out. 

I have decisions to make in the coming twelve months. The thing is, I won't be able to make the decisions until I take the steps. Until then, I can only run them through as simulations in my imagination as I try to find the best fit. The first step will be me filling out an application. Ahead of this I'm trying to gather together the disparate pieces of my brain; I'm currently working my way through an idiot's guide to critical thinking to start herding my thinking into more of a coherent process. My ability to assimilate and analyse information remains woefully poor. I deal with my frustration by reminding myself that the brain is like a muscle that hasn't exercised in quite some time. Getting back to a more intellectual mind-frame will take some time and I might as well get on with it now, than leave it to atrophy. 

Anyway, I'm in charge of the Fort this weekend. I've got chickens and cats to feed.

I am consciously sitting in the middle of the bench in the garden, instead of to the left as you won't be coming out to join me. Is this progress? I have no idea. I miss you.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Dear Dave,

You left me that Sunday morning in May. It feels like several lifetimes ago. You did it in your usual spectacular fashion and my last memories of you are our laughing together and our last gentle kisses. How thoroughly you've broken my heart.

I miss you every day. So many memories of you everywhere I look. I still think of you in the present tense and I can't take your defunct mobile number off my mobile phone. It took me three months to move your ashes from my bedside to the wardrobe. I sleep on my side of the bed with an arm stretched out to your pillow in the hopes I will one day again feel you there. 

The day after your funeral, where every memory of you was a stab to my heart, I promised myself that I would never shy away from you. I will not turn into one of those widows who can't bear to speak their lost one's names. Loving you was the best, most important thing that happened to me, outside of Rowan's birth. I will find a way to hold the pain of missing you and the eight years we had together. 

Life without you goes on. The sun rises and sets. I miss you. 

I'm trying to figure out who I am without you and it's not coming easily to me. 

I'm smoking again. Sorry about that. It stops me from running around the garden, naked and screaming. I hope my lungs have the capacity to hold on while I heal. I know, I know. I'm still laughing at your admission that had I not stopped smoking, you weren't sure you could keep seeing me: I smelt too much like your dad! I loved you for telling me well after the event. One of your many gifts to me: giving me the space to sort my shit out.

I'm working two days a week now. It's a bit of structure and money as I try to get my act together. It's reception again at St Stephen's and it's fun. I'm still not able to go into the studio and do anything remotely creative. Today, I'll tidy everything up and see what I can do. I'm not going to force anything, healing will take time. 

I went to Trinidad for a couple of weeks. It was well overdue and being home, where you never went, was a welcome bit of space from my grief. Of course I still missed you, but I was able to be me, with people who understood. Who didn't judge my complete inability to function. The problem is it made me want to run away, to leave everything I've built here to run home. A piece of good advice I was given: never make life-changing decisions in the first year of a bereavement. I'm holding that thought. I should not have stayed away for nine years from Trinidad, from my family, from the people who I love there. I recognise why I did and it's okay. I just won't leave it so long. In fact, I've already promised to return next summer. I'm going to keep that promise.

I'm 49 and I look ahead and wonder what the next (hopefully) 40 years of my Life will be like. Will I love again? Will I get my dreams of World Domination into reality? Will I create a fulfilling Life without you? 

At the moment, I warn people that What they See is What they Get. My filters aren't working, the Editor in My Head has gone off to parts unknown. It means I have to own what I'm feeling and social niceties have gone out the window. I simply don't have it in me to be "polite", to make chit chat, small talk. Having said that, I do everything I can to be kind, it's not an excuse to take my pain out on other people. It does mean I change my mind, my feelings change with the wind and I can't commit to anything. No instant decisions for me at the moment. 

You left me a better, more full woman than when you found me. I will try to continue being so, even if it is excruciating some days and I attempt to keep my tantrums to myself. Life isn't fair and the Gods know I did my absolute best to appreciate you while you were here. It's strange, the quirks of your personality that could make me grind my teeth in frustration are the ones I miss the most. Your stubbornness...damn I miss you being a pain in my arse. Rowan misses your cough around the house. I miss you, damn it. 

Life is for living. There's so much love and joy in the world. Friendship and love. I'm blessed. Every day I am grateful. Grateful for the time we had together, especially. Grateful for the beautiful home where I live. My scruffy garden. Your family. My family. My friends all over the world who take time to say they love me in so many ways. My reality, my little bubble of existence is blessed. Even if I can no longer rest my head on your chest. 



PS. Blogger is being a right arse, I'm simply not able to respond to your comments. My apologies.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Hello from Me at March 2019

I've been struggling to find the words to describe my Life since December 2018 to now. In and amongst the tough bits, there have been the moments of joy, creativity and laughter. 

"Challenging" I associate with getting fit or training for a 5K run, at the end of it, there's a feeling of accomplishment despite the effort, the sweat and sore muscles. Cancer isn't a challenge. "Hard" and "tough", the words do start to convey the grind of our day to day living. Is there enough space within the definitions for the sleepless nights, the helplessness, the sorrow, my shoulders locked around my ears, the peri-menopause and my uterus giving me a good kicking when I'm already on the floor, curled up?

Within "hard" and "tough" there's the almost overwhelming senses of horror, disbelief and frustration at the political mess in this country that's been the waste of time and resources of Brexit, coupled with the loss our wonderful NHS. The system as it is, seems to continue through the sacrifice of the good women and men working to heal with in the travesty of the service provided now. I'm often told by hard core Brexiters that I should wait and see, it will be wonderful. Forgive me; my partner's four-year fight with Stage 4 metastatic cancer has pretty much beaten out my optimism. In my reality, Santa and the Easter Bunny seem to have ridden off on a unicorn. Yet I still pray for the strength to search for the rainbows as the storms pass.

The Universe says 'yes' to me and my art and I am too exhausted to follow through the opportunities that turn up like buses. As I let each one go, I recognise my fear that there won't ever be another one, that I'll be waiting on the side of the road. I sternly tell myself that I didn't know there were buses to begin with, therefore they will continue to run. They will just be different buses, perhaps not so comfortable, perhaps packed with other commuters.

I will not offload this cheerless bit of writing without balancing it with the support that's around me, around us. Facebook provides an endless supply of bad jokes, cute kitty pictures and arguments if I've got the energy to debate. It also lets me receive messages of love and support in the middle of the night. It's kind of weird to think that people hold us in their hearts and reach out during their days and nights. They hold my hands during appointments, give me virtual cuddles when needed and a kick up the bum if the Self-Pity Gnome over-stays her welcome. 

Wintery Birches, mixed media.
Art journal

Blogger is being an arse. I can't respond to your comments. I don't know why it's being an arse, it just is. Thank you darlings, much love back to you. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to me. xxx

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Life Post-Exhibition

Hey, did you hear? I had an exhibition! No really, I did! It was an amazing experience.

From the end of August to the end of the exhibition on the 27th October, my head was down and I prioritised like an army general. I had to put to one side anything that didn't directly have anything to do with Dave and/or the exhibition in an effort to get everything ready in time. To say I had blinkers on would be an understatement, to the point where all I could see was the small light at the end of the tunnel that was the exhibition.

And after? Well, darlings I had been warned that I would crash and burn and I'm grateful to those who shared their post-exhibition experiences with me. I would have been seriously worried otherwise. The first week after the end, I managed to put my onesie on and brush my teeth. Outside of that, nothing much else happened. I didn't help that the day after the Private View, Dave had cycle 5 of his chemotherapy. Dealing with either the exhibition or Dave's chemo would be hard enough; together...yeah...I had to pull energetic resources from wherever I could find them (though no Red Bull was consumed. That stuff is disgusting). I am deeply grateful for the support I received through this time. People stepped up and took over when I couldn't. 

The exhibition was called: The Speed of Colour: an abstract encounter with astrophotography. Chris and I were very lucky to have the exhibition as part of the annual Norwich Science Festival and on Saturday 27th, we did a presentation to a small group about our process and the science behind the work. 

Chris sold a piece and quite a few others on the back of the show, I didn't sell anything. In all honesty, I'm not disappointed. I did the exhibition because I wanted to know that I could. I could learn what I needed to know, engage with art and science in a meaningful way and ultimately, that people would consider my work. Which they did. The Private View on the 18th October was very well attended and people really did take the time to check out our work and engage with it and with us.

You will notice I make no mention of "like" or "dislike". The exhibition was about that, it was about getting my audience to take a moment to consider what's out there in the vast universe and the bigger questions that can come out of looking up at the night sky. Some people 'got' my intention, but didn't particularly appreciate the outcome and that was good too. Happily, no one said to my face "my 3 year old can do better than that." I took that away as a win. 

Following is my work that was included in the exhibition. Thanks to an amazing brain fart on my part, one of the pieces didn't get framed which I didn't realise until we were at the gallery, hanging paintings. By then, I was too far gone to worry. And truthfully, the work wasn't missed (whoops!).

On the Surface
Acrylic on board
3ft x 2ft

Acrylic on board
3ft x 2 ft

3am Anywhere
Oil on board
3ft x 2 ft

Oil on board
3ft x 2ft

Acrylic on board
3ft x 2ft

Joy. Equanimity. Despair
Acrylic on Board
3 x 2ft x 3ft

Speed of Colour
Oil on board
3ft x2ft

Let There be Colour
Oil on board
3ft x 2ft

The Private View was an amazing experience. In fact, preparing and doing the exhibition was one of the most challenging, terrifying and exhilarating experiences. I now know I can do it...yes I'm already plotting....


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Space Between

The Speed of Colour
oil on board, 3ft x 2ft

I'm in that weird space between the body of work having been finished and the exhibition date. Last Monday evening I crashed and burned. I was exhausted. I can't find the words to tell you how bone tired, ass-dragging knackered I felt. My brain ground to a complete halt. It got to the point where I could only sit on the sofa and drool. Last week, I rested. I'm still not at 75%, but I've got enough juice in the tank to start encouraging my ducks to line up. This week, I don't have high expectations for myself and I'm okay with that. That's what next week is for (fingers crossed).

My To Do List, pre-exhibition spans two pages and is frankly scaring me to death. Almost as much as the exhibition itself, and that's saying something. Rather than lie on the floor quaking (as I really would like to do), I've broken down all of the tasks into chunks and I'm going to trust that everything will get done and to a good enough standard. Yes, I would like everything to be perfect. Unfortunately, 'perfect' is not within my abilities. 'Good enough' will have to do. 

After I finish this post, I will start writing both the exhibition statement and my artist's statement. Given I've been working on this project for two years, you'd think I'd be all over this like white on rice. Yeah, no.

Rowan asked me last night why am I doing this? What is it I hope to achieve? I stuttered for a long time.

Why am I doing this? It's obvious, isn't it?

Actually, no it isn't.

I'm an artist, because I do the art work. Whether I'm a good, bad or indifferent artist is another question I am not qualified to answer. I'm too close to this body of work to judge it's success or failure or quality.

I do this for the same reason I blog. It's a my way of communicating, I am reaching out beyond my small sphere to offer a glimpse into my reality. I hope to connect with other people who are willing to have a conversation about what comes up in my life, in my thoughts. My blog does this with words, my art does this visually.

My blog has been a vehicle in which I've explored how it's been to be Me dealing with various challenges, issues, people, situations. My art is taking things a step further. It's an invitation to have a conversation about what it is to be human and look up at the Universe. What do we see?

I believe Life is a paradox. On the one hand it is meaningless. You're born, you live, you die. There are seven billion of us on Earth currently going through this process. The only two certainties in life, often quoted, are death and taxes. If life itself is meaningless, what then? It is up to the individual to create meaning. Therefore everything then becomes full of meaning. The decision to connect, to create, to communicate becomes the starting point of a meaning-full life. 

This morning, I realised the work for this exhibition is not going to be good enough; it never was going to be. With this exhibition, I stepped up and stated "this is what it's like to be human, looking up." This is the kind of subject best left to the end of an artistic career, after many, many years of practice, honing of skills, success and failure, trial and error. I've gone and jumped in at the deep end at the beginning of my artistic career. This is Big Picture stuff and who the hell am I to have an opinion about anything?

Who am I? I am an artist. As an artist my job is to start the conversation, to ask the difficult questions. I'm not here to paint pretty pictures. I'm here to highlight the difficult things about being human: the fear, the anger, the hurt, the loneliness; as well as the positive. 

I want to contribute to the Big Picture. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Waiting for Paint to Dry

Yesterday evening, I thought I'd finished the triptych. I kicked back, drank a glass of raspberry beer and contemplated my work. As I contemplated, I realised as much as I like the piece I've done, it doesn't work with the triptych.*sigh*

Earlier in the week, I had another realisation: while my first love is oil, one of the pieces really did not work in that medium. The acrylic paint I've been using with the triptych gave exactly the effect I wanted. *bangs head on wall*

Dave and I hit the DIY store for more MDF boards and yesterday I started on that piece of work. Of course it meant emergency buying of yet more art supplies and quite a lot of stressing about varnish to finish the pieces off. Everything I had was geared for oils. I've had to learn about acrylic paint from scratch. It was never a medium I liked. The paints I'd used just weren't up to much.

Ladies and Gentlemen, a piece of unsolicited advice, if I may? If you are thinking of trying out something new in the art and craft world and you're standing in front of a few racks of shelves of materials and you think "I'll get the starter stuff, there's no point in spending a lot of money, if I don't know if I'll like it." STOP. Step away from the cheap supplies. Find someone who uses them, ask them what the middle of the road version is, swallow your uncertainty and buy that stuff. Do. Not. Buy. Cheap. Art. Supplies.

Seriously, don't. 

My experience with cheap-ass acrylic paints was so disappointing, I walked away and never looked back until I had to use a different brand entirely. 

Also, just because you see 'that' brand in every other art shop and it gives good bullshit marketing in the blurb, don't believe it. Art materials are not made equally. There are some that are truly dire. Then there are some that are excellent value for the money. You've got to experiment.

Anyway, I'm currently multi-tasking like a boss. I've got a piece varnished and drying, two other pieces drying. All of them are quite large, 3ft x 2ft, cause I deal in old money, as they say here. And yes, before you start, size does matter. In this case bigger is better. No, it's not negotiable. In this case, I'm right. It's my work damn it.

Dry damn it.

While Dave was driving me towards the DIY shop so I could get more MDF, I realised he's my muse. All artist's go on about their muses, well he's mine. Dave did give me a funny look when I said that to him. Muses inspire, challenge and generally put up with a lot of shit from their artist. Tick, tick and tick.

Me and my muse!

Therefore, I roped him in to providing some assistance with the piece I was re-doing....

Every journey...

I've glanced across and I think one painting is ready for more.

Laters darlings.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

It's Been Awhile

I've been busy...I've been arting, chasing chickens and coming to terms with the difficulty of living with Dave's cancer. Since I last blogged and not that long ago, his cancer began progressing which means he's back on the chemotherapy. It's hard people, it's hard. Life is uncertain and has meant I focus pretty much on a week at time now. Planning further than that is harder. Dave is coping with the chemo as best he can, which frankly is like a super-human. Given the level of pain, the effects and side-effects of the treatment, he remains stoic, I'd be whinging like I was training for an Olympic sport. When I hurt, everyone knows about it. 

In the meantime, in between hospital appointments, travelling for treatments and generally trying to live, I've been working towards my first joint exhibition in October. I find it difficult to write about my art, it's personal and I'm insecure. Now's the time to get over myself. The exhibition is coming up, whether I'm ready or not. I'm working on the last pieces that will form a triptych and will be the centre-piece over the fire pressure then. exhibition....

It's called The Speed of Colour: an abstract exploration of astrophotography. I'm doing it with astrophotographer, Chris Grimmer. I had this wacky idea, talked him into it, now I'm reaping what I sow.

I've got three more pieces to do before the work goes off to be framed at the beginning of next month. 

This has been a very steep learning curve. I've had to learn as I've done...and I'm still doing...I've gone from planning everything to working intuitively, the results are a bit variable but on the whole I think the work is stronger for it. 

I'm going to leave you with my latest obsession: lemons.

Earlier this summer I couldn't stop painting and drawing lemons. I did them in as many different mediums as I could...though thinking about it, I didn't do pastels. I'll have to rectify that. Anyway, here they are:

Bank Holiday Sunday

Dear Dave I woke up today with Philip Glass' Metamorphosis in my head. It's apt really as it was part of the music chosen for your...