Start the year as I hope I will be blessed to go on, working in the glorious chaos that is my studio
Thursday 9. 1.20
We drive down to Bristol for the first fundraising Committee meeting . whilst I am in the meeting Richard meets up with Martin for a coffee. I am delighted to see my painting ‘La Pomme De Mes Yeux’ hanging on the first wall as I enter the meeting. We are a small group; after the introductions the meeting proves to be an exciting, & hopeful start to a challenging task.
Our first guests to arrive are Edward and Alyson; when he sees the books on the table by three of our other guests he says “I should have brought mine” (which we hadn’t known about) so send him home to Gotherington to get it. Shortly afterwards Arabella and John Kiszley arrive bearing Cotswold chocolates which Robert and Toyah have also brought for us, plus three bottles of champagne for the evening and one as a gift with two beautiful books - Modern Couples and Self-Portraits. Edward is soon back with ’60 Years of Jump Racing from Arkle to McCoy’ which he has written with Robin Oakley. John and Hillary Simpson then arrive he wrote the wonderful ‘Word Detective’ autobiography (he was editor in chief of the Oxford English Dictionary) which was Radio 4’s book of the week when it came out. We’ve also bought Robert and Toyah a copy of ‘Modern Slang’ a book that John also co-wrote. Sir John K and Robert chat history, the former’s book being ‘The Anatomy of a Campaign - the British fiasco in Norway 1940’. It is he who announces excitedly to the whole group that Toyah’s ToyahSolo box set has just reached number 1 today. I introduce Edward to Hillary who was chair of the Friends of the Wilson and prime mover in Friends of Pittville who is now campaigning to get the glorious Pump Rooms used more. Edward, being Lord Lieutenant has probably met her in the past as he is chair of the Festivals and until recently chair of the Summerfield Trust, as was of course MD at the Racecourse. His beautiful wife Alyson, musician and piano teacher, was at York (as was Edward) at the same time as Hillary and John. The effervescent Arabella and I discuss painting as she is both an artist and owns & runs The Little Buckland Gallery.
There were so many glorious conversations talked over Richard’s extensive and delicious curry dinner. Such a delightful group the evening seemed to fly past full of laughter, chatter & joy.
Drive up to London to celebrate Samuel’s Birthday tomorrow although his birthday is actually on Monday but of course that is a school day. We catch a glimpse of Samuel and his friends who are sleeping over.
Nathan & Clementine come over late afternoon - we’ve decided to hold the celebration in ours so that when I had finished painting we could help prepare the feast. It was such a joy being all together and watching the excitement as Samuel opened his presents.
It is good to be painting in my London studio again and to enjoy Henrietta’s company plus a visit by her friend Jules who wants me to have a look at the beautiful illustrations she has created for a book idea she is making with a friend. Richard picks Samuel up from school and we do another cake with candles before going over for dinner with Nathan & Clem in Hackney. He has prepared a delicious Israeli dish cooking eggs in with green vegetables and Clem has made a juicy fruit salad. Drive back to Cheltenham.
Lucy Director of Artshape comes to lunch with Catherine who is the new Chair of the Trustees a lovely lay’d back lunch but we cover a lot of ground and I have offered to sponsor an exhibition of their artists at the Gardens gallery at time Catherine who lives nearby thinks there will be other celebrations happening in the gardens.
Back at work in the studio working on the two commissions.
I am woken as Richard brings me the phone. It’s Nathan asking to speak to me - he bears the sad sad tidings that Geoff has passed away in a fire in his house. It was actually on the 4th January and it has taken all this time for Nathan to be tracked, eventually through one of Geoff’s colleagues from Central St Martins, Abdul who also knew Nathan as he had taught some short courses on film-making there. I think Abdul has given him the number of Matthew, one of Geoff’s friends, who was first on the scene to discover what had happened. He then rings Henrietta and Jai.
We meet Robert the programme researcher and Mark the director of Songs of Praise at St Michaels - we arrived at 12 and they at 12.15 having come all the way from Manchester. We’d been greeted by Anne and the churchwardens one of whom, Tony, showed us the new lights illuminating the altrarpiece, which they do even on a gloriously sunny day like today. Robert, who studied at the Edinburgh film school and mark the Director are both very nice and after filming in the church till 2 come to the studio to film me at work on the Ausralian commission and the other pieces hung therein. As they leave they give us instructions for arriving at St Mary’s Kempsley where I will be interviewed by the programme presenter, the singer Katherine Jenkins.
St Mary’s is the most exquisite little Norman church; considered to have the best preserved Romanesque painted interior in Northern Europe. As we walk into the churchyard we are greeted by Katherine who like several others is standing outside in the sunshine as inside the little church it is is very very cold. So she has kicked off her high heeled shoes and is wearing snow boots and a parka up until seconds before she is being filmed. There are several people from English Heritage under whose care the church is, two of them being experts who talk about the paintings. The church feels quite full especially with all the lights and tripods for the cameras etc. whilst standing outside we are able to admire this beautiful and quiet landscape in which the church rests. I wander over to a bench I can see situated in sunshine but on arriving there see a notice which say ‘please do not sit on’ probably due to its fragile condition. The cameraman shows me his Doc Martin boots that are sporting a Leonardo da Vinci painting- apparantly they do various famous artists for about six moths at a time then discontinue them so I guess they then become collectors items. He seems to have several including a van Gogh.
Then at last we’re called in for the interview and of course they haven’t warned me what they are going to ask and the cold brings about a brain freeze. Katherine Jenkins is very nice and when she says goodbye says she hopes we’ll meet again.
It’s almost beginning to get dusk when we leave, stopping in Dymock where the ‘Dymock Poets’ including Edward Thomas, Robert Frost, Lascelles Abercombie and Rupert Brooke lived and worked. Home for tea and ready to return to my easel and contemplate Geoff’s tragic death there have been calls every day from Henrietta or Nathan as more information is revealed.
There will be an inquest on Geoff’s death.
Working in the studio on the Australian commission.
Charles ad Emma come for supper and to stay. Excitedly discuss the places they have been looking at with a view to moving to Gloucestershire, including two that Richard told them about and e mailed details this morning; one of them they couldn’t find even though they dove up and down the lane but if was dark and probably very obscured by trees etc. Its always such a joy to see them and tomorrow they are going to the Races which is one of their passions.
To Gloucester for dinner with Stephen and Tony. We have a wonderful tour of Tony’s studio and they rest of their beautiful five story oh so elegant house. It’s glorious and Stephen has painted the whole of the interior. We particularly enjoy l Tony’s studios, seeing works in progress and completed. The prints are exciting as are his his artists books and boxes some of which are currently on exhibition in the Gloucester Printmakers exhibition at Chapel Arts. Tony has cooked the curry inspired by their recent trip to India where they stayed in palaces the tales of which were a perfect accompaniment.