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JULY 2022 Friday 1.7.22 We spend a lot of time in the garden. The logenberries are amazing and the plum, damson and apple trees are all laden with fruit. There are two or three of magnificent tall plants about to flower but we need to wait for the tiny flower buds to open to identify whatthey are. Richard’s planted quite a few more ferns as they seem to grow better than most things in the shady areas around and under trees. . He’s also hung up the large paper and cane fish sculpture Henrietta made as a student, inside the roof if the summer house, Saturday 2.7.22 My sister Gill arrives at just after 1pm. She’s been to visit a friend who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer and will like Richard did, be undergoing a radiotherapy course. He told Gill how he’s shrugged at the thought of ringing the ship’s bell in the waiting room when he completed his course f twelve sessions but said how liberating it actually felt when he did. She had taken her a bunch of magnificent sunflowers just like the bunch she’s brought for us. They are so long they require a very tall vase and she’s pleased when Richard brings out one she gave to us several years ago in which they look perfect. She gets him to go out to the car with her to help bring in a basket and a glorious pot of sempervivums - house leeks one very large specimen and a group of five or six small varieties in the basket some of which are in flower. They are exquisite and I place them on the table outside the window at the bottom of my studio stairs so that I see them each time I go up or down. Richard has cooked us a lovely lunch, a recipe new to him, an open vegetable tart with goats cheeses and a very exotic salad containing lentils, cooked fennel, green and red chicory, basil and feta. We sit and chat about the Ukrainian refugees she has staying, Ludmilla and her fifteen year ofl daughter who Gill has already taken to buy a school uniform and she starts on Wednesday. She also managed to find Luda a job which she started a few days ago at a large flower distributor. Lots of funny stories like Luda eating chunks of parmesan with her coffee. They seem to get on really well and Luda has asked Gill if she will teach her English rather than going to the Polish teacher in the next village. She looks very happy. We go for a walk around the garden which we do on each visit and discuss various plants and ferns. Then it’s time for Gill to leave on her long journey back to Bedfordshire. She e mails when she gets home, saying it just took two and a quarter hours. Sunday 3.7.22 Continuing on the commissions. Monday 4.7.22 Drive to Buckland Manor as the guests of Robert Fripp - Toyah has had to go to Manchester to film for television at short notice but Sir Nicky and Lady Karin are Robert’s other guests. It’s a fun lunch and as usual the conversation is entertaining and the food delicious. It’s a treat to see Nicky and Karin again as its just over a week since their party at Boodle’s. Afterwards we drive the short distance to Broadway to visit Trinity House and are delighted to hear as we open the door Mark’s voice from the back of the gallery welcoming us in. He’s got three of my larger works up and is there with Simon, Steven’s brother who is also a very kind and caring person. Mark takes us on a tour of the gallery which has now all been refurbished and is made up of several sizeable and elegant rooms on two floors. We chatter on and probably keep them there rather longer than they would normally stay but it is so nice to see them and Mark says if I would like an exhibition they would be keen. Tuesday 5.7.22 Richard cycles into his dentist Wednesday 6.7.22 British Gas come to inspect the electrics at the studio house and having just had the new boiler it now seems I need a new electrical earth and board so it proves to be quite an expensive operation.. Thursday 7.7.22 We go the Star Bistro at the Star College to meet Paul Tarling and Maeve and Ian, who have made very kind and generous donations to the the National Star in the form of a piano, laptops etc. Unfortunately the Bistro isn’t doing its proper lunch menu today so it’s sandwiches and soup. After Ian and Maeve go home to walk their beautiful big dog Mr Bear, Paul takes us on a walk around the grounds of the Star to show us the willow work in the form of an arch with a sheep one side and a hare the other, that students can travel on foot or by wheelchair through (it was purchased with the monies from my open studio). The willow artist is returning next year to do some more workshops. It’s a very hot afternoon and the strong sunlight shows it off to its best. Friday 8.7.22 Working on the commissions Saturday 9.7.22 ditto Sunday 10.7.22 ditto Monday 11.7.22 We’re packing our cases for Italy. Tuesday 12.77.22 Drive to Clevedon in the evening for my talk Exhibitions and commissions around the world in 30 paintings. We arrive in good time even after taking one wrong little turning towards the end of the journey. They are a very nice group of about forty. John is already using his laptop and equipment to projet the works onto the screen as we have Macs and iphones etc so not compatible with their systems but he has mastered the situation very well and I raise my hand or smile at him each time I want to move from one image to the next. Geoff White is the man who contacted me and organised this session and Stephen is the Chair who reads out the notices. It goes exceedingly well and people ask pertinent perceptive questions at half time where bottled water is handed out as the catering lady is off with Covid. Then we show the GloCorama film which seems to go down very well and they were amazed at the size of many of the works but particularly this one which measures 2 metres high by 4.5 metres wide. It always amazes me when I watch it and Richard who made the film so it is a great reminder and illustrates the way in which I work very well. When it comes to an end there is a loud round of applause and I’m still talking when the session comes to a close. I’m really touched as at least two people tell me it is the best talk they have had and how much they enjoyed it - both of whom had studied art and one had spent her life teaching it. It’s a beautiful evening and we commence our journey home about 10pm arriving an hour and a quarter later, having eaten a picnic in the car on the way. We pack some final items and retire to bed. Wednesday 13.7.22 Up early as we need to meet Henrietta Kev and the boys at Gatwick Airport at 12.30. The amazing thing is that we drive into the valet car parking directly after them. They all look well and happy and Samuel is now also almost as tall as his Dad. Interestingly both boys want to buy expensive after shave in the duty free where it is reduced. I can’t say that Isaac does often shave, they have still both got beautiful smooth faces Henrietta says it will stop them using the expensive one she bought as a present for Kev. The flight’s on time and although Kev had booked it with British Airways it is in fact a Spanish carrier taking us to Rome. Henrietta Isaac Samuel and I are collected by a pre booked taxi who drives us out to Lazio, the 50 km to Stimigliano were we are renting a beautiful house with a pool. Meanwhile Kev and Richard wait for the luggage and go to collect the hired car. When we arrive we’re slightly surprise as the house on the top of this mountain has two dogs barking in the garden but the taxi driver says this is the destination on the sat nav so I ring the bell and a nice lady come out and it’s definately not where we are staying. A car also stops whist Henrietta phones Kev who tells her the name of the owner is Sara. We’re directed to the turning almost opposite and a little higher and there is Sara waiting to welcome us. It’s a beautiful old building and the swimming pool which she shows us first is an amazing infinity pool. After she’s shown us round the house and told us there is wine and biscuits etc the boys race back to the pool and stripping off their T shirts jump in for a swim whilst H and I sit at the side sipping prosecco and nibbling Amaretti. We are in contact with Kev and Richard who eventually discover that the luggage has been delivered to a different carrousel. They have the drama of trying to find the little shuttle bus to the car hire. They eventually manage to do that but when shopping in a nearby supermarket find that they are locked in the car park as it was closing but R eventually spots a small exit at the rear so by the time they get here Henrietta has already managed to cook spaghetti and passata to stave off the boys’ hunger but they still tuck into pizza’s with relish that Kev and Richard bring back. Thursday 14.7.22 We spend the day enjoying, the house garden and views and watching the boys like fish in the pool doing back ward somersaults and spectacular dives etc. Richard has booked tickets to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel for tomorrow and tickets for the train to Rome. Friday 15.7.22 When we eventually get to the tour company’s office the man at the desk says might as well join the earlier tour which we do. They have told Marco that I am Doctor PJ Crook so he asks which period I am interested in so we decide on the Renaissance. We walk from there to the wall of the Vatican City and into the Vatican gardens with Marco explaining both the history and the politics and tells us that if Pope Francis retires due to his mobility problems this would be the first time there would be three popes all living in the Vatican at the same time. Kev had told us yesterday about a film they had seen, The Two Popes, Benedict and Francis starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Price directed by Fernando Meirelles. Marco then leads us through the Vatican Gardens past the marble peacocks and giant bronze fir cone sculptures up the steps to the Vatican Museum, the entrance being full of many splendid classical sculptures, a bust of Hadrian and full sized marble of Claudius and the Belvedere torso over the mosaic floors, all with their own narratives. Through the map gallery into the Raphael tapestries all with their exquisitely painted ceilings, sometimes catching glimpses through open windows of panoramic views of St Peters with its breathtaking dome designed by Michelangelo Buonorotti and of Rome itself. He had not actually wanted to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, explaining to the Pope that his true calling was to make sculpture. Twenty year later when Michaelangelo was seventy, the Pope recalled him to paint the Last Judgement on the east wall of the Sistine Chapel which he did entirely on his own, not allowing anyone to see it during the process. Once unveiled it was hugely controversial as all the figures are naked. This was almost his last painting after which he then devoted himself particularly to architecture in the Vatican. The ceiling has the most amazing three dimensional quality so that many of the limbs feel as if they are reaching out of the painting and the whole story of the Creation, the Fall, Noah and the Flood. The wall panels were painted by several artists including Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli Saturday 16.7.22 We chill out at the house where I do a little painting and Richard does some drawings of Samuel. Sunday 17.7.22 Richard and I watch the film of The “Two Popes” to compare the sets and story with the real thing. It is fascinating to surmise how they did the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel Monday 18.7.22 Today Richard and I drove to the beautiful Abbazia di Farfa which is a bit of a hair raising journey as I realise we are driving into the eye of storm in the mountains and the air is full of swirling leaves, large branches or tree limbs are strewn across the narrow steep roads. Richard actually gets out and moves one of the last obstacles. We’d herd the thunder and rain but hadn’t seen as Kev did back at the house, the streaks of lightening. We had wondered whether to turn back at this last obstacle but we are pleased as we are almost upon the tiny Benedictine monastic community and the basilica of St Mary of Farfa. We drive through the arch in the surrounding walls into this tiny via and discover that are just a few people in the courtyard which we enter though another arch. We can hear that there is a service taking place so we walk around exploring a little until we see people leaving and are immediately struck by the elegant and stylish high heels and brightly coloured dresses of the women who are coming out. and the thought strikes me that of course it’s a wedding and so it is. We stand with those gathered either side of the entrance and are given hand fulls of rice to throw at the bride and groom, Laurent and Margherita who embrace and kiss much to the joy of the crowd. We then make our way into the abbey which is serenely beautiful in its atmosphere of dramatic light and shadow. One can still see the beautiful paintings. Again, almost every interior surface is covered including its own painted version the last judgement by Dirk Barendtz who was born two or three years after the Sistine Chapel was painted and according to van Mander was “nursed at the great Titian’s bosom”. We see a group of young male noviciates being given a tour. We go to the local pizzeria in the evening set in a large courtyard under olive trees. Richard stays at home, not feeling well. Tuesday 19.7.22 We’re enjoying being with Henrietta, Kev and the boys Wednesday 20.7.22 the view from here is spectacular with the silhouette of a wide blue mountain with a settlement perched on the lower plateau to one side it always amazes me how the Italians were so skilful at building these ancient towns and villages on hill or mountain tops like San Gimignano, and Assisi both of which we visited on our last trip here along with Sienna, Florence and Pisa. Thursday 21.7.22 enjoy reclining on one of the beautiful outdoor day beds in the shade of the house during the hottest period of the day and muse over the fact that the UK has been undergoing a heatwave with temperatures as high as 40 degrees like the rest of the world we too are paying the price for global warming. Friday 22.7.22 Taxi picks us up at 11 to take us from Stimigliano to Rome. After we’ve settled into the hotel etc. we visit San Pietro ad Vincula with Henrietta and Kev where the tomb of Pope Julius II resides sculpted by Michelangelo Buonarotti that we had been reading bout in Vasari’s Lives of the Artists. Having seen his glorious sculpture of David achieved early in his career (Accademia, Florence) it is is rather wonderful to now behold Moses, created later in his career as part of the tomb. He had intended the tomb to be much bigger and originally would have had forty life sized figures and been free standing within the basilica. It’s glorious to see this in the quietude and relatively few people unlike the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel which was absolutely full. On the walk back we stop for a meal where Samuel joins us, Isaac having flown back to the UK this morning as he’s hoping to go to a party tomorrow evening. Interesting to see a three dimensional sculpture of a painted cow outside and Kev explains how in airports and shopping malls etc people always stop for a photo opportunity with pieces like this, which increases business in the area. There are tram lines running along the via so periodically the rather elegant green trams pass very close behind us. We then walk along the street to an ice cream parlour Saturday 23.7.22 We walk to Santa Maria Maggiore which is the largest and oldest basilica in Rome dedicated to Mary. The beautiful huge circular apse at the east end is made in mosaic dating back to the fifth century. It has also got its own Sistine Chapel built by Pope Sixtus V outside which is the tomb of the Baroque sculptor Bernini. In the crypt are the remains of St Jerome who featured in my altarpiece, being the man who translated the bible into Latin. It is hugely decorative with copious amounts of gold leaf and an amazing marble mosaic flooring goes back to the thirteenth century and looks as good as new. Even the pillars are built using different coloured marbles to pattern them. The nuns arranging vases of lilies add to the serene atmosphere. Again the contrast with the Sistine Chapel (Pope Sixtus IV) at the Vatican; there are people here admiring its architectural beauty but they are far fewer than the huge throngs at the latter though I’m sure Michelangelo Buonarroti would be thrilled to know that the work he did rather reluctantly is admired across the globe by the multitudes. On the way back we stop for a meal as we had foregone our hotel breakfasts this morning. Back to the hotel - the taxi comes to collect us for the airport where we meet up with Kev and Samuel who had taken the hire car back. It’s a good flight, leaves punctually and arrives on time so we have been very fortunate not to have been affected by the staffing difficulties that have hit airports and airlines. We arrive back in the UK about 10.30pm and after saying our goodbyes we drive home to the Cotswolds to find a garden somewhat parched by the recent heatwave here, which we missed whilst we were in Italy- even though it was very hot there, it didn’t reach the same high temperature as here where it hit 40 degrees for a couple of days. Unfortunately we have lost three hydrangeas, two fuchsias and have rather a lot of withered leaves etc. Sunday 24.7.22 Richard and I decide to watch the 1965 film The Agony and the Ecstasy, the story of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Apart from him having an American accent the film does give a lot of art historical information in its prologue on the sculptures and then the story. Particularly interesting to see the marble quarries in Carrara. It did seem a shame to have Diane Cilento as the would-be love interest and no acknowledgement of his preference for men which dates the film as of course at that time homosexuality was still illegal. Monday 25.7.22 Richard has embarked on his window frame painting campaign. He’s aiming for at least one a day which makes them look so much better as the sun, wind and rain seem to wear the surface off and fade the colour of course. We were supposed to go to a reception for The Friends at the Art Gallery & Museum but as we’re both still positive for Covid we can’t go, which is a shame as Lisa had said that they have hung Portrait of the Artist watching her children grow in their opening exhibition. So write and apologise to Ro our new Chair who says she’d love to show us around once we are better. The wonderful thing is that neither of us, especially Richard who had been warned that he could become, were seriously ill. Thanks to the miraculous vaccination programme we’ve already had four doses. Tuesday 26.7.22 The Morohashi Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition Rooms also opened yesterday and out of the five rooms my work occupies one (number 3). It’s marvellous that they curate and organise so many brilliant exhibitions. Wednesday 27.7.22 Still busy finishing off commissions Thursday 28.7.22 Panter & Hall’s summer exhibition opens with Oneday and Tall Hats on show. Friday 29.7.22 It’s so good being back in the studio, perhaps my favourite place. We are now both testing negative. Saturday 30 7.22 Trying to finish things off before I start anew. Sunday 31.7.22 Richard was up on the porch roof painting the barge board and three bathroom windows
MAY