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 DECEMBER 2022 Thursday 1.12.22 We put images of six miniatures online at 6pm and they are snapped up very quickly. All bar one by people we already know. Someone called Mike has bought the little lighthouse as soon as it went on and I take two other calls from people who would also have liked it. Richard tells Andy and Lucy about the larger lighthouse painting and sends an image which they ask us to put a red sticker on. Sue’s Mum Eileen also buys the Church Owl on the invitation and Jane her sister, the octagonal I saw Grandma kissing Santa Claus and Sue herself the triangular Robin. Caroline and Simon have already nabbed The Toyshop from the card and Anne Strathie The Little Polar Bear. So now it’s back up to the studio to finish off the most recently started miniatures Friday 2.12.22 Richard goes to the train station to collect Henrietta at 5.30 as she said she’d like to come and help on Saturday. Saturday 3.12.22 When I go over to the studio at 12 noon it’s already full of dear friends and collectors. Ian and Maeve are very pleased that I had painted their kangaroo specially painting for them though momentarily worried when they see a red spot on it as I had wanted to make sure it was reserved for them; they have also added the smaller Runaways to their collection too. They look wonderfully festive in their bright Christmas jumpers. Wallace, who has brought Judy along, has bought the Boy Sailors and Judy the little Robin and the Snowman. Wallace presents me with a beautiful bunch of yellow roses. Unbeknown to me Sue has also bought the larger Polar Bear and also the Angel and the bear. Duncan Smith, who is chair of the Cheltenham Trust, tells me can’t stay as they are on their way to London but would like to buy the Little Angel painting. This and Angel and Bear are larger paintings so I m donating £500 from each to the three charities. Also from The Cat’s Chorus and £300 from The Garden. I sometimes need to substitute the miniatures (this year 26 ) with a few slightly larger but still smallish paintings to boost the amount raised. It is Andrea and Peter who come all the way from Chinnor in Oxfordshire who buy this and the little Penguin miniature. It is really delightful to see all our gusts, some of whom I haven’t seen since last year. The fabulously glamorous Jackie and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen sweep in and add greatly to the atmosphere. Jackie presents me with a beautiful scented candle made from environmentally sourced materials from a range that she has recently started to produce she buys my circular miniature The Leviathan. I introduce Henrietta to them as her friend Jules knows Jackie from way back when both their parents were diplomats. Nicky and John present me with a lovely pot of freshly made damson jam. Later our mutual friends Viv and Paul arrive and lovely Jenny Scarborough who has driven all the way up from Weston super Mare and Pete Niblett who used to do my studio garden (before which he ran a team at GCHQ). Dear Lesley and Richard Chatham came today rather than tomorrow especially to see Henrietta, their daughter Emma and Henrietta were at school together and still live close to each other in south east London and are the best of friends. Henrietta based one of her eco projects that she was doing with her students at Goldsmiths at the Academy Emma set up and heads. Likewise one of my fellow students from art school days, Janet, comes with her lovely husband David also my great friend Jane (who had been at school with Janet and who I got to know when she came on one of our art school trips to Paris) whose birthday is today comes; she’s off to Australia on Monday were she also has a house but is going for Cathy her late husband David’s daughter’s wedding. She’s taking Cathy and Rowan a circus painting that David had commissioned many years ago so that she can write “from Jane and Dad” on the back; it seems such a touching thing to do and even more so when she bought my drawing of the winking owl to replace it on the wall. Dear Jenny Mead who helped her husband John run this and other parishes when he was the rector whist she worked as a librarian; we sadly lost John some years ago. Another John arrives - he had called in earlier this morning and is the wonderful man who makes most of my frames, including nearly all of this years miniatures which he did after being inspired by last years visit.; I have so much to be grateful to him for. We also meet a new visitor to the studio who is an architect, Deon comes, originally from South Africa with his beautiful daughter who is now in the lower sixth and they buy the Angel scattering acorns. He tells me he only discovered my work yesterday when in a clients house and shows it to me on his phone. It is the little painting I had made earlier this year especially for and donated to the Rotary Club’s Eliminating Polio campaign. Interestingly Dr David, the man who had approached me on behalf of the Rotarians is in the studio at the same time. But the painting he was interested in had already sold. There were other people too who kindly came. including the artist Richard Woods and his partner and Shiloha Levy who it was also joy to see. Also the wonderful Scottish writer Anne Strathie and Sophie Wilson who was a curator at The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum for very many years also Ro who is Chair of the Friends Committee of Trustees and John who used to own and run the art shop “Fourmark”. Henrietta, Richard and I come back over for some lentil soup before he takes her to the train station. Sunday 4.12.22 Don and Jamie Barnes were deep in conversation with Richard when I enter the studio. Again many dear friends and collectors arrive, including Tim and Dorianne Congdon with their beautiful daughter Venetia her husband Ben and their two adorable boys Percy (4) and Manfred (3). Tim tells Percy that if he chooses a painting he will buy it for him for Christmas and the painting he chooses is The Birthday Party. They all live in the most enchanting manor house that looks as if it’s from a fairy tale like an exquisite French chateau with many towers made of icing sugar. Venetia’s book on Catalan cuisine which was first published in hardback has just gone into a paperback edition. Lovely friend from college days, Maureen and her husband Gordon are there and Meg and Peter Broom - Meg, who was a theatre nurse used to run the Guides and Peter used to teach at Cleeve School. Their daughter Julia was in the same year as Henrietta. Neighbours Bethan and Stephen with their children Seth and Imelda drop in as do Lovely Jess and Ian Barnfield come with their son Joe and his and his girlfriend who are going to host them for Christmas with this year as they have recently moved into their first house. She seems very sweet too. Also one of our poet friends Duncan Forbes who was head of English at Cheltenham College. We are amazed that with the help of all these wonderful friends that we have made about £12000 for our three charities this Christmas. Monday 5.12.22 Richard starts busily packing various miniatures to send to people who are further afield whist I am in the studio now able to work towards the London art fair on a corrugated painting I started a couple of years ago. Tuesday 6.2.22 ditto Wednesday 7.12.22 which we’re continuing to do Thursday 8.12.22 Christmas tree arrives today. Richard has managed to put it up and we have almost decorated it with the items from trips abroad like Ghent when Robert Sandelson was showing my work at the art fair there or Estonia and wooden angles from New York and many hand made items from our dear friend and collectors Nancy and Ken Simmonds, when Alison Ferris arrives to collect her Christmas purchase. Friday 9.12.22 Ian and Jess’s son Jo comes to collect the hamper that he won in our raffle which will be very useful as they have his parents coming for Christmas. Saturday 10.12.22 After they had phoned we receive a much welcomed surprise visit from Drs. Charles & Emma Slosberg as they were here in Cheltenham for the races which had been abandoned due to the freeing weather - such a treat to catch up with them. they had also been to look at a house in Cranham which had a swimming pool; they found it very tempting as they would like to spend more time outdoors but the configuration of the rooms din’t feel quite right for their needs when Suzannah and Dan come back. Charles very kindly does a generous donation to our charity weekend and I secretly decide I’ll paint and send them a tiny miniature. Sunday 11.12.22 Duncan comes to collect his Little Angel and also brings greetings from Mark and Ben who are in the process of moving house to Burford. I tentatively start painting in the basic structure of a room as the second painting for Panter & Hall to show at Art London, having now painted the whole composition of the horizontal corrugated piece but it still needs further working into with colour and furthering the form. Monday 12.12.22 As presents we’ve ordered for various members of the family arrive, Richard wraps them beautifully and I tie the ribbons and write the labels. We gradually fill the stockings. Tuesday 13.12.22 Painting in studio. E mail from Helen of the Brian Sinfield Gallery asking me for my bank details as she’s like to pay for the sale of The Little Flock which she sold to a lady who is a Lady. Wednesday 14.12.22 We drive up to the National Star College, taking a longer route as we were concerned about the steep winding roads on the way we normally go. Ian and Maeve are already there with Catrin in the Bistro where we drink tea and are given complimentary mince pies. The first thing we do is ask how Gill is and who has worked with Gill for years and is a close neighbour says she has had two half days out of hospital in preparation for coming home just for Christmas Day as she requires a further operation of 4th January which means she will have spent nearly a year in hospital. The highlight of this visit is going down to watch a group of students having a drumming session. It’s such a joy seeing the five students each with a drum set, following Keiran who has come via Hartpury University. Such a delight they are playing all Christmas pop songs. It’s heartwarming, especially when Father Christmas visits and Paul tells us that he recently played the same role which a varying member of staff does each day and how magical it is as many of the students still believe in the wonderful man in red Thursday 15.12.22 Enjoying painting in the patterns on the jockey’s silks on the corrugated horizontal piece for Art London Friday 16.12.22 ditto Saturday 17.12.22 John phones to say the big frame is ready for Richard to collect and that he will pop in for a mince pie next week. Sunday 18.2.22 The corrugated work is looking a lot more vibrant and coherent Monday 19.12.22 Still trying to grab as much time in the studio as I can in between Christmas preparations etc. Tuesday 20.12.22 Richard goes to collect the beautiful frame that John has made for me for Professor Masa’s commission. John is an angel as last week he had a bout of the ‘flu-like virus that is going around. He’s also made up a smaller frame. How fortunate I am. Wednesday 21.12.22 Sue and Andy come to collect all their purchases from the open studio. We chat over mince pies and mulled wine. Sue is one of the most brilliant people to get feedback from she is so encouraging having a degree in art from Birmingham, so I always take heed of what she says. She had kindly said that this year’s set of miniatures were the best so far, which is really stimulating as I worry about creating so many tiny works for the charities in case with time I become too repetitive which is why I’m delighted she has the larger Polar Bear and the Angel with Bear. And her mother and sister both support too - they are such a delightful family. We then go to the cemetery with the three beautiful red-bowed wreaths as today would have been my father’s 101st birthday although sadly he died in 1991. My Mum had a further twenty two years. The other is for dear Henry who became her partner about five years after my father’s death, she lays betwixt them. It’s still bright and sunny when we arrive and are amazed at how it has grown with beautiful silver birches and other trees, shrubs and benches etc scattered around the grounds it feels more like a park. Beautifully laid out. I say a little prayer for each of them after we’ve tidied up the graves a little. On our way back I decide we ought to pop into Lidl for a marzipan bonanza so we return home with a couple of bags full of treats. My father loved marzipan as do Henrietta, Nathan and I though my sister Gill doesn’t. Thursday 22.12.22 Busy in the studio. John comes for mulled wine and a mince pie and we exchange presents. He had bought us some beautiful Christmas flowers but best of all four new miniature frames IN READINESS FOR NEXT YEAR !! Friday 23.12.22 Nathan arrives early evening with his beautiful dog Bea. It’s so good to see him; it is the first time he’s been here since October when he came with Henrietta and Jai on their journey to take Geoff’s ashes to Glastonbury as that was his favourite place. Bea is very well behaved and he has trained her beautifully. He’s been so busy and only got back from filming in South Africa a few of days ago. We enjoy a supper of Richard’s tuna steaks with salsa followed by marzipan treats! Saturday 24.12.22 Christmas Eve Gill and Ian arrive first, bearing numerous beautifully wrapped presents to put under the tree with ours and a wonderful hamper that she has made up., full of goodies such as chocolate tongue du chat and other biscuits from Bettys in Harrogate, her usual tin of Quality Street hidden at the bottom. There are tiny Christmas cakes and little knitted Father Christmases from their church’s sale, a tin of Ian’s iced ginger bread men and so much more not to mention pink champagne. or Chatuae Nerth du Pappe. Henrietta, Kev and the boys get here about an hour later. I’m always amazed at how tall the boys have gown; they both now tower above me and their presence fills the rooms. Richard has cooked a fish pie and a vegetarian lasagne followed by ians iced mince tart with ice cream, after which we play cards which is such fun. This is the first Christmas Gill and Ian have been able to join us since 2019; I count my blessings to have a healthy, beautiful happy family; the boys are doing well at school and Henrietta, Kev and Nathan all working in careers they have chosen and find fulfilling. Gill still a governor on various schools, particularly a special school in east London and also chairs her local parish council of which Ian is also a member. Sunday 25.12.22.Christmas Day When I come down everyone is busy. Ian’s on the roast potatoes and sprouts, Gill on the brandy butter, Kev takes the boys out to play football and Henrietta’s still busily wrapping upstairs whilst Nathan has taken Bea for a long walk on Cleeve Hill. As soon as the boys are back Isaac is wanting to open the presents under the tree - they spent the early part of the morning of course unwrapping all the presents in their Christmas sacks which I made for them last year, one side red, the other green, about four feet high by two and a half feet wide with a draw string of thick glossy red silk cord. The bottle of pink champagne that Gill and Ian have brough, the quails eggs and crudités are ready as we gather around the Christmas tree for the exciting exchange of presents. Isaac is thrilled as his parents have bought him a brilliant camera that is for Christmas and birthday as it is very expensive; photography is one of the four subjects he is studying for A level and I know he will have found a couple of books on the same in his Christmas sack. Samuel received a beautiful watch from them. They have stylish hoodies and sweat shirts from the Japanese store Uniqulo from both Gill and us. We’d also got them bum bags in which to place some money for them to choose or save. I receive a wonderful art book from Nathan called Womens’ Work and an exquisite blue bowl that matches the colour of our Aga. And a very beautiful pair of Russel & Bromley shoes that Henrietta surprised me with. Warm pyjamas from Gill and Ian. A highlight amongst the present from them is a Staffordshire standing greyhound from their own collection which they have given to Richard as it perfectly matches his pair of lying greyhounds that we have either side of the fire; it is truly magnificent. Among the presents for Henrietta and Kev is a new book on the Bauhaus that he seems thrilled with and I’d bought them and Nathan log baskets with logs and firelighters as they have both recently had wood burning stoves installed in their homes. One of the presents we had put in Samuel’s sack was a chess set, beautifully made in two different colours of wood rather that using stain for the darker pieces. It proves to be perfect as Henrietta had mentioned that he had started to play chess at school; it is probably the most used present over the Christmas The Christmas dinner is eaten at about 5pm and it is glorious. Henrietta had made the pudding that Nathan flambéed with great success though Richard seems to be the main beneficiary of the coins within it which he uses later to play cards. Such a happy day all together. Though as the hostess I shouldn’t have been the main winner at the evening’s whist. Monday 26.12.22 Boxing Day Kev decides to cook a traditional English breakfast for everyone though Henrietta and I have roast tomatoes and avocado on toast. He and the boys again go out for football whilst Richard prepares the pheasant casserole and Henrietta and I are taught how to play bridge by Gill and Ian. Samuel has beaten everyone apart from Nathan where they won one game each at chess. The casserole eaten by most again apart from Henrietta and I who have Richard’s gravadlax with pommeganate salad and Isaac who has a steak followed by flambéed bananas in brandy and ice cream. Afterwards we again play various quizzes which are fun whilst Samuel plays Ian then Richard chess, defeating them both. But I make an awful discovery when I pick up a half eaten pawn from the carpet but can’t find the other half; has Bea eaten it, magnet and all?!! I whisper my dilemma to Richard who after an extensive search locates the other half but still needs the circular magnetic base which he then finds in another room. He gives me a thumbs up sign and takes the three pieces into his workshop only to discover that by the time he’s got his glue and filler out, the base has disappeared! So again another big hunt for the elusive magnet. He finds it eventually stuck to the bottom of a packet of batteries. After he’s glued filled and sanded, I take the little pawn to my studio to paint but somehow manage, because of its scale, to drop into a small pot of thick white gesso changing it from the black to a white pawn. So now have to clean this off before I can repaint it a dark brown. It’s all rather like a Pantomime all the more so as I remember reading on the web site of the chess set distributor that if your ‘doggie’ eats a piece they will replace it free of charge so can only assume this is a regular occurance rather like a Brian Rix farce. The brilliant thing was that even though the paper towelling on which I’d stood it on the Aga to dry had adhered itself to the said base, it still remained magnetic. We only have to pay £3 for the postage for a new piece to arrive eventually from China. We didn’t tell Nathan but I suspect these pieces are tasty to our canine friends. Tuesday 27.12.22 After the late breakfast or brunch people gradually begin to depart. Firstly Gill and Ian having packed in the two standard red berried holly trees in pots that we had given them. Then Henrietta, Kev and the boys leave to drive to his parents in Andover. Nathan and Bea follow shortly afterwards driving off to London where Nathan meets his friend John with his dog in a pub for a drink en route for Ramsgate where he will be starting work again on a new Apple project in Mexico where he will be working in the new year. It’s back to the interior painting for me whilst Richard does a grand reorganisation. Wednesday 28.12.22 The interior is now peopled with characters who are gradually evolving Thursday 29.12.22 The beautiful Toyah and The Great Roberto come to lunch, T glowing in her red quilted coat and green polka dot LK Bennet dress with diamanté buttons that Robert has bought her for Christmas. Robert looks elegant in dark suit tie and scarf. It’s the first time we’ve seen them since the summer. Such an enjoyable occasion, we chatter and catch up over Richard’s tuna and salsa, gravadlax and a pomegranate salad followed by fresh fruit and pineapple with marzipan. It’s so good to have this opportunity to see them and they tell us about the exciting things that are happening both on the performing front and at home. We also talk about our mutual friend Dr Margus who is the Estonian ambassador in Moscow though home in Tallinn for the Christmas holiday but will return shortly. We exchange presents as usual books. Robert has given us a superb book The Artist’s Studio by James Hall (a professor at the University of Southampton) as well as a bottle local sloe gin a similar shade of red to Toyah’s fur trimmed coat and a bottle of champagne although we only drink water with the lunch. Friday 30.12.22 Today we have a visit from Dr Matt Prendergast who was a childhood friend of Nathan but at school with Henrietta. As well as being a GP, Matt is now also a member of the BMA’s GP committee union and his brother is secretary of the GMB union and I often hear him on the radio representing the ambulance drivers. Matt is also associated with caring for mariners as he lives near Southampton and was a medic in the Special Boat Service. Saturday 31.12.22 It’s New Year’s Eve and today I’m catching up on diary entries for December and editing November. Fascinating to see that when the Labour Party used the image of one of my paintings to illustrate a quote from George Orwell in their campaign a couple of weeks ago it has already been seen 75,000 times. Gosh, how things have changed since this time last year when we wouldn’t have been expecting Putin to really start a war by invading his brother and sister Ukrainians. Nor would we have known that we would have had a quick succession of three prime ministers from the Conservative Party, the second of whom Liz Truss plunged our economy into a dramatic downfall. Or that we would have lost our Queen after such a long reign - she was the only monarch most of us would have known. Or that global warming would be having an even more dramatic effect on our world with drought, floods and fires, the melting of our glaciers and receding ice at the poles. The wealthiest man on the planet buying and trashing Twitter decreasing his vast fortune by billions. To think what that could have done in real money and real terms for the people struggling either to eat, keep warm or keep healthy across the globe. But hey, let’s hope we can all get it together to aid and help our brilliant NHS, social services, education and build more sustainability to protect our planet in all we do. There is so much and so many who are so good especially all those scientists, doctors, engineers etc working on miraculous ways to preserve mankind. HAPPY NEW YEAR to one and all.
MAY