Today is geared towards all the miniatures going online at 6pm. In previous years it has only been about 25% that have gone online but this year because regulations to protect against Coronavirus don’t permit and that it would have been too cold even under the two open sided red pagodas.
We go for our walk first to make sure we fit that in and push a flier into the letterbox of neighbours Steve and Jules who had requested to come again this year as they did buy a miniature last year and wanted another to go with it. On our return R lays out the lists with all the titles and prices of all the miniatures with spaces to write the names of the new owners. We don’t really know what to expect and I’m still eating my boiled egg when dead on 6 it all starts with Richard manning his mobile and the laptop with incoming e mails on which he will also have to update the website as paintings go. The first is an e mail from Jane Ware but then both mobiles start ringing and the landline as well as e mails pinging in one after the other. As Henrietta later points out, it was a bit like being on the stock exchange floor or at an auction. I feel bad about having to cut short phone calls from lovely friends and collectors and unbeknown to me as I’m putting the names next to the paintings Richard is working at a rapid pace sending e mail replies to peoples requests often having to let them know that one has just gone - one lovely man in Germany had to try four times before he managed to get one - many would have sold numerous times. It’s all quite overwhelming and very exciting. So twenty seven of them have gone in as many minutes and there is still a professor in New Jersey who lost his first three choices and our lovely neighbours Steve and Jules lost the Hare and the Tortoise (to a nice man in California who had been waiting ‘all night’ to buy it, so determined he didn’t just e mail he also phoned and when Richard passed it to me he said he was so excited and I mentioned it was really larger than a miniature he said I know, it’s 7 x 11 inches)
By now all thirty miniatures have sold including one to France, one to Germany and six to the USA.
Ian and Maeve come and sit in the marquee for a mulled wine and mince pie and to collect their two penguin paintings. It’s so good to see them - it is their and our first mice pie and mulled wine of the year.
A large Christmas tree that I’d managed to find from a local supplier who grows them at Newent in the Forest of Dean is delivered free of charge as we live within four miles of Cheltenham. It is perfect and in its new position in the hall, fits one side of where we will have H,K and the boys’ table on the other side of a perspex screen from ours.
E mail from Peter Simmonds say he knows it’s short notice but can they come tomorrow. They are bringing paintings that Richard and I had painted for their dear friends Phil and Joyce Elliot. In fact they had all been commissioned. Sadly Joyce died some year ago and Phil I think died just before dear Professor Ken, Nancy’s husband and Peter’s father did. We got to know them through dear Ken and Nancy of course
Peter and Nancy arrive at about 2 o’clock bearing not just the paintings but also a big box of presents for all the family and a huge bag of presents for Richard and me. It is so good to see them both, Nancy is looking as beautiful as ever and bears her grief with great grace. I know that she had also been comforting Janice, Phil and Joyce’s daughter and that they had wept together. Peter, who is a great origami enthusiast and maker bears another big box from which he lifts out one of his most amazing structures. This one is a sphere , really a sculpture in paper. It’s lovely chatting to them but they can’t stay for long as the temperature is gradually dropping and they need to set out in the light to drive back to Buckinghamshire with the basket of presents we had given to them.
Richard brings in three exquisite frames left in the porch by John, who has made them so beautifully. One is a small octagon which must be very difficult to put together and which he later confesses was as the pieces where offcuts of two different batches of the same pattern of timber I have cut and they differed slightly; so he’s had to do some trimming etc. He’s such a clever man you’d never know of his struggle by looking at the end result. He’d also left a Christmas present.
Jane comes to sit at the opening of the marquee for a liquorice tea and mince pie and to collect the Little Nautilus miniature painting she has bought from the online open studio and to bring us Christmas presents which later we find to be a copy of Monty Don’s gardening memoirs which Richard will love thumbing through for tips and advice. I have a beautiful bone china mug printed with vibrant red Christmas Bells reproduced from an illustration of 1895 on the plant life of New South Wales with the profits going towards the maintaining of the botanical gardens in Victoria NSW also a very handsome red squirrel for our Christmas tree. Just before she leaves I have a call from John who arrives shortly after I wave Jane goodbye, bringing back our electric bike he’s borrowed in October as he has now bought one of his own. It’s dark as he sips his mulled wine wearing a hat as well as his warm jacket etc. it the entrance to the marquee. I’m sitting there in my Biba faux fur afghan coat and cossack hat as even though there are two heaters it is growing rather cold.We are able to give John his Christmas present.
Royal Mail came to collect two huge and one smaller boxes to go off to Henrietta, Kev and the boys as due to the stricter restrictions recently announced London is now in Tier 4 which means they cannot travel out of that region or visit other people’s homes or gardens. So last night we spent time packing all their presents from under the tree; also those from Nancy, Peter and family and Tammy and I add the boys’ Christmas sacks along with the turkey and elf hats and chocolate tree decorations which Richard then securely sealed into big boxes before weighing them and paying online for the address labels.
Late afternoon Anne Strathie comes to collect her tiny ‘The Whale that Blew’ miniature. Anne writes books on the Antarctic explorers and is never without a new project on the go. She is a particularly big supporter of the Friends of The Wilson.
Manage to speak to Nathan in the evening to check that they will be home if we send their parcel this time by 24 hour Parcel Force (Royal Mail site was overloaded!) So again we pack the presents from under the tree from Nancy and Peter and family and Tammy.
Nice e mail from Carole Avalon in Japan saying thank you for my angel wings which have arrived; also the little guardian angel magnet.
Parcel Force come early to collect the big box for Nathan and Clementine. I’m still writing Christmas cards and receiving many every day.
Royalty statement arrives from the Bridgeman Art Library again for the July to August period
Also e mail from Stefan in Germany who says his miniature painting the ‘Zanni the Elephant and the Doves’ has arrived - again thanks to wonderful Royal Mail.
E mail from the Kingfisher Trail
I’m still working on the extra painting I’m dong for my educational fund
Feeling very sad as had received a card this week form a friend Jenny who tells me she lost her lovely husband Graham, a pharmacist, to Covid way back in March and how devastated she is. He was such a good man and he too was n the front line. It brings home the reality of just how serious this virus is. It has taken so many lives both here and across the globe
Thursday 24.12.20 Christmas Eve
Decide as like many a household we’ve just had a very big turkey delivered for just two people that it will be the subject of my painting for Richard’s Christmas present. Henrietta and Kev had luckily managed to find a fresh one, I think in Sainsbury’s but they were also shopping for one of Henrietta’s friends, a maths teacher who had retired from her former school who particularly wanted a chicken as he was going to be on his own. But they, being smaller, were like gold dust. I decide to paint Richard peering from behind a large turkey and calling it ‘A big turkey of a Christmas’ which is probably what it has turned out to be for most of us. But it is much better to be safe and not spread this new strain of the virus which is 70% more infectious than the old strain.
Nathan went out to find a Christmas tree for he and Clementine and carried a five footer for two miles on his back from Stoke Newington. They’ve already had some lights so hey presto with their five Christmas decorations, one of which is the ‘Jeff Koons’ balloon dog we had sent, they have Christmas magic.
We have a zoom call from Henrietta, Kev and the boys so that we can watch the boys open Nancy and Peter’s presents. Samuel’s wearing the turkey hat and Isaac the Christmas elf hat. They are full of glee and as usual dear Nancy has found the most amazing presents for them. Henrietta comments that she doesn’t know how Nancy can possibly know so well what they would like. It has become a tradition on Christmas Eve so that we can all recall which were their presents.
Richard prepares and decides to put the turkey in the slow oven of the Aga overnight. He has also had Henrietta’s Christmas pudding on for several hours as she had enough foresight to realise that this could be the scenario so had sent the pudding and our presents with Gill who had done a socially distanced visit with her early last week a couple of days before she did the same here.
Friday 25.12.20 Christmas Day
It seems strange to wake up and not hear the sound of voices especially those of excited children, although I can smell the glorious aromas of Christmas fare cooking gently in and on the Aga, the cranberry sauce with orange and zest and the mulled wine.
Richard and Henrietta had hooked up on zoom to make their cranberry and bread sauces. Likewise when Richard and Kev carve their respective turkeys. Henrietta’s pudding is superb and we eat it after flambéing in brandy accompanied by Fortnum & Mason’s cognac butter. We see the boys in the afternoon opening their presents from us and H & K also opening their presents from us as we open ours from them. Later, when we are on our walk we have a ‘phone call from Nathan thanking us for the presents and telling us about the Christmas meal he had cooked - brisket in Guinness he had slow cooked for ten hours after which they’d had a chocolate Christmas pudding that Clem had just managed to get before they completely sold out of puddings and Nathan had made the brandy butter.
It is so good to hear them sounding well and happy.
We were all going to do a quiz with Henrietta, Kev and the boys but they had a power cut so it is postponed ’til tomorrow evening at 5.
In the afternoon when I’d opened my presents I’d had a beautiful Folio Society book of Edward Lear’s Complete Nonsense. and a particularly nice zebra stripped faux fur covered hot water bottle and a beautiful wide long scarf in grey and black half zebra and half reptilian that Henrietta had thought I could have worn over the Christmas in our divided room with all the windows open if they had been here. We had given her very similar items with the same thought.
Saturday 26.12.20 Boxing Day
We eat turkey curry and in the evening have a lovely hour or two answering a variety of questions on our quiz game via zoom although both Isaac and Samuel are only with us for a short time as watching their favourite football teams as they both have matches at this time. Henrietta wins with a little help from Kev!but Nathan & Clementine come second.
During the run up to Christmas Richard had recovered a Victorian chaise longue I’d bought a few years ago, as my Christmas present. There were hundreds of upholstery studs that had to be pulled out of the old covering and hundreds of new ones hammered in with the new covering. We’d bought the woven fabric two or three years ago but this was the first time he’d had the opportunity. He also decides to make a new seat for a lovely little sprung Lloyd Look sofa and there’s still some of this colourful kelim-like fabric left. We’re so pleased with them, he wants me to make cushions with all the off cuts so gets out the sewing machine out today which I haven’t looked at for several years. So after having a bit of trouble reminding myself how to wind the bobbin and thread the machine I’m away.
I then make curtains for the room in the top of the house that was Nathan’s and that Richard has just decorated and laid a sisal carpet in etc. While I’m sewing I reminisce about other sewing projects I’ve done through life often on little antiquated old sewing machines - hobby horse heads; the rag doll and clown that I designed for a design competition a year or two after I’d graduated and sold to a toy company who offered me my first and only real employment as a designer, were I set up a screen printing department; the old ‘mickey mouse’ art deco suite that I covered; the Christmas stockings and children’s clothes that I made when Henrietta and Nathan were children including Henrietta’s first school uniform dress; the costumes for their theatrical parts such as Henrietta’s beautiful silver dress and bonnet as Edward Lear’s Runcible Spoon in a production they took part in on the Barge Semmington in Gloucester or Nathan’s role in the school play as Dr Robinson; outfits for the beautiful puppets Nathan made first in papier maché then carved in lime wood. And more latterly fancy dress outfits for Isaac and Samuel for the annual book days at school like a Peter Pan outfit and a very tall striped top hat for Isaac as the Cat in the Hat. I think they all got handed onto other children so may still be doing the rounds,
Yesterday I received a delightful e mail from His Excellency Dr Margus Laidre, the Estonian ambassador in Moscow saying thank you for the two little Raphael inspired angels we’d sent for their Christmas tree and a copy of Martin’s book. Also asking if we’d got the splendid card that they had sent from Moscow (not being sure how speedy the post is) which was a reproduction of a painting of the Embassy to celebrate its centenary next year painted by on of the female member of the Russian Academy of Fine Arts. He also says that he and Tiina like very much my painting on the Christmas card we’d sent, “Through a Wood Darkly” of the bear and angel. as they both related to the symbolism. And then he very politely enquires if it would be shameful of him to ask if the painting is still available. He says that things are bad in Estonia with regard to the Covid-19 virus and I guess like here and across the globe there are some people who don’t realise the severity of this virus, especially this new mutation which is 70% more infectious.
I‘m still working on another Hare painting for our lovely neighbours Steve and Jules as they had missed - by seconds - the one that went online for the three charities on 1st December. The proceeds from this one will go to my educational fund.
E mail from Sian who is writing about the Cotswold Kingfisher Trail for Cotswold Life and we arrange to do the interview via e mail so she sends me the questions so that I can ponder them in advance.
As well as the hare and two little squares I’m working on a couple of other larger commissions.
Thursday 31.12.20 New Year’s Eve
In the studio as usual but then after coming back from our walk later in the evening we get a call from Henrietta so that the boys can thank me for a little extra that I’d sent them and to see some of the fireworks Kev was letting off to celebrate the New Year. Henrietta tries to do a Facetime call including Nathan and Clementine at midnight but it isn’t working so she suggests we should do a separate one with them. So after we’ve seen the New Year in with the Patiences we manage to Facetime Nathan and Clementine who are both on very good form and looking well. Nathan demonstrates the rowing machine that he’d done hundreds of k on and also an oval board that’s balanced on a cylander that he manages to move and balance on; apparently it’s good for surfers to practice on and Clementine demonstrates it too. But the very exciting bit is when he gets on it holding a bottle of champagne which he pops open and pours into two glasses whilst balancing on the board. I tell him he could have been in the Circus. Clementine is wearing a beautiful dress in black & white with the currently in vogue full puff sleeves which she tells me Nathan had bought her for Christmas but she saved to wear to see the New Year in.
The good news of the day was that her Father had today had his first injection of the vaccine - the hope for us all in 2021.
Happy New Year