Starting the month with optimism we’ve decided we will go ahead with my exhibition at Trinity House Modern which as previously planned will open on 21st July. We’ll just have to see as to the circumstances at the time whether it’s more virtual than physical but they seem to be doing quite well with the auctioning of my painting ‘Heroes of the Hour’ for the NHS Together Fund and it looks as if they might have sold a couple of my other paintings during the lockdown. I’ve always found it good working to deadlines so this is a positive step.
Today is the funeral of George Floyd whose untimely death by asphyxiation from the force and pressure of a white policeman’s full body weight as he knelt on George’s neck whilst three other policemen were helping whilst he was repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe”. It lasted fo over eight minutes until poor George was dead. He had been accused of passing a fake $20 banknote. It seems very unlikely he would have made it himself and as someone commented on Facebook, a similar thing had happened to him but the shopkeeper just passed it back for him to keep as a souvenir. Poor George is just one of numerous black me who have been treated o appallingly by white policemen who show total disregard for the respect for humanity. Now Trump has a country full of dissatisfaction for a syste that in many cases sees black people as second class. But its so heartening that amongst the crowds of peaceful demonstrators there seem to be as many young white people marching with their black sisters and brothers. Although Trump said he recognised the inhumanity of the crime he has used police, tear gas and truncheons to clear the way for him to walk to a local church where he stood with a bible in his hand held high in the manner of a despotic leader. In his powerful eulogy at George’s the Revd Al Sharpton says he would like for Trump to open that bible at Ecclesiastes to every season there is a time . He speaks with a passion similar to that of Martin Luther King. He points out as we all know that all love black sportsmen footballers and super heroes like Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou and a president who was so full of humanity grace and compassion. He has urged the demonstrators to keep on. Justin Trudeau said he had been appalled to see such injustice but recognised that it was prevalent in Canada as it is in so many nations as of course there is here. All nations need to address this problem which has existed since the time of slavery. We still need to make amends. Look how wonderfully young black men can progress when the expectations and education don’t hold them back. And how proud we are of George the Poet, Stormzy and Mo Farrah.
The horrendous statistic of 40,261 of the death toll in the UK announced today. Still the looming question, why didn’t we lock down sooner.
Lovely e mail from Gill Rouse one of the doctors who co-founded LINC (the leukaemia and intensive chemotherapy fund) particularly enquiring how Richard is and how we’ve coped with lockdown. She says things are pretty good now in Gloucestrshire which Edward Gillespie (Lord Lieutenant)’s tweet saying there have been no deaths in the county for the past week. I have written back to er saying that not only are Richard’s vegetables (the potatoes knee high and the beans winding their way to the tops of their bamboo poles that he’s made woodland gardens and arbours under the trees to which he is building little brick stone and tile paths a bit like large mosaics. And that I’ve told him when it’s all finished and people ae able to move with more freedom, we will have a garden party in aid of LINC, which is the department he receives his treatment from and that I happen to have been a Patron of for several years before his diagnosis. Of course these are difficult times for charities like LINC and the National Star.
Jane came today bearing a box of plants for us to put in the garden and we sat out in the pouring rain seating her in the summer house with Richard and I under a large sunshade in front of it at a two metre distance. It was lovely to chat to her and it reminded me of one of the stories my father told me that when e was a boy he used to love to sit outside under an umbrella reading a book when it rained. The gardens are sorely in need of this downpour.
Two little e mails from friend Martin Bailey the writer of many books on art, especially van Gogh and correspondent for the Art Newspaper. The first telling me that one of my paintings “Staff Meeting’ from the Leicestershire County Council collection is in the Art UK Newsletter. Secondly he hadn’t realised how many paintings I have in public collections in the UK. He’s aways very helpful pointing out reproductions
of work we probably wouldn’t have seen.
Wednesday 10 .6.20
The service of thanksgiving for the life of dear Professor Ken Simmonds’ was held this morning at Milton Chapel. Only five could attend, dear Nancy, their son Peter, daughter in law Claire and two children Caroline and and Jeremy who read a poem and Peter read from 1 Corinthian 1 - 13 which is the same as I did at my Mother’s service. It was a beautiful and simple service and I think they were joined by their oldest son John, Heather and their two boys in the USA and Jane and her three children in New Zealand via Skype. Ken was such a Brilliant man and I smile at the photograph on the front of the order of service, that Nancy sent us, each time I see it. It is exactly how I think of him, smiling, full of warmth and humour, good advice and wisdom he was the most wonderful friend and supporter and we have so many beautiful memories of our family times together.
Brilliant news today that the Oxford University trials have discovered that a low priced steroid commonly used for asthma and arthritis saved the lives of one third of those on ventilators and a fifth of those on oxygen. It’s wonderful as it is already available around the world. How magnificent that this has been discovered only fifty miles away from us. Bravo and congratulations to all concerned, this really is a life changer.
Mark came to collect the ‘Heroes of the Hour’ watercolour that was auctioned by sealed bids for the NHS heroes together covid 19 Emergency fund and made £5,200 and to discuss the exhibition whilst standing in the garden, me wearing a mask for the only the second time. He also asked if they would be able to have my life sized horse sculptures again.
Very sad to hear on the radio 4 News that Willie Thorne, a star of the snooker world, has died in Spain after being put into a coma last night. He had three infections and had been diagnosed with leukaemia in March. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a snooker championship many years ago. Exceedingly handsome and looking older than his 21 years, he took me for a spin in new sports car and we had a coffee. I remember he studied the stock market in the FT. Interestingly he looked then like many of the male protagonists in my paintings with his dark hair and moustache, particularly in Tango.
Felt sad for his partner and carer Julie and family
Miranda comes with Oscar as I’d asked if we might have the Tiger painting for my exhibition. It was such a joy to see them, Oscar helping her carry it up the steps into my studio garden and just inside the first room. She was very careful and Oscar was a delight and had a quick look around at the paintings for the Exhibition. I’d left a game for him on the little wall outside and six of Richard’s walnut cookies in an egg box.
Richard starts digging up the lawn today or what we called a lawn which was actually mixture of moss and daisies as he wants it to live up to the rest of the areas he had reseeded around the edges and in the new curved corners. Areas he had reclaimed from ivy and a large bed of comfrey that had multiplied over the years.
After time in the garden we start putting the catalogue together. In the evening I send off my answers to Candia’s questions for the piece in Cotswold Life
Richard builds another of his decorative stone and tile mosaic-like paths.
whilst I do a little more work on the Night Watch.
All the things are now with the printers for the catalogue.
Working in the studio when I hear A Good Read on Radio 4 and note that Harriet Gilbert’s choice is Patrick Hamilton’s ‘Slaves of Solitude’. I’m particularly interested as the Penguin Classic version of this has my painting ‘Nocturne’ on the cover. The actual painting lives in a private collection in the USA
Our first family visitor visits today, my sister Gill who has driven all the way from Blunham in Bedfordshire via a friend in Tewkesbury who has sweetly cut me a perfect rose from her garden. She comes with a beautiful Acer tree that she has already planted in a terracotta pot for me and hericulums from her own garden and an iris and another tall white flower that also favours the shade for Richard’s new woodland garden. It’s lovely to see her and I have to keep reminding myself to resist the urge to hug her. We walk around the garden to look at the various things that Richard’ has achieved since she was last here at Christmas (although we did see each other mid February at Geoff’s funeral). Gill sits inside the summer house and Richard and I just outside under the large sunshade and we have tea with his banana loaf and walnut cookies. It’s so very good to see her. She is stopping off in Stratford to visit a friend who has recently there in her garden on her journey back. Nathan, Clementine, Henrietta and Kev Skype from Blackheath, I have to do a double take, I can’t believe it they are all in the same bubble for the first time. They had all been in the garden and then it started to rain. We even got a glimpse of Isaac and Samuel the first time they had all been together since before lockdown it’s such a joy to see them all.
I’m so excited as Henrietta is coming all the way down from London with her friend Emma who is visiting her parents a couple of villages further on. She looks beautiful standing there at the gate bearing the birthday cake she has made specially and a big bunch of sunflowers and yellow roses. This is the first time we’ve seen each other since we went up at the end of February to baby sit whilst they went to the Football Dads’ birthday party and I delivered the charity canvas to the Chelsea Arts Club. That was the last time I worked in the little London studio and we stayed for a couple of nights. Again we look round the garden before we have lunch. Henrietta sits in the summer house and we sit under the sunshade. Which is just as well as it does start to rain whilst we are eating the cauliflower kedgeree that Richard had made. I open a large box that contains an exquisite little Bonsai tree from dear Nancy & Peter. The sun came out and we moved to the little courtyard and R went inside to light the candles on the birthday cake. It was rather wonderful as Henrietta had made two, one for Kev and the boys at home and she got them up on the phone on Skype so that they all sang Happy Birthday to me at the same time as she and Richard did. She was very careful and even brought her own plate, cup and napkin. It was a delicious carrot cake with walnuts and a tofu silk icing . Before Emma collected her Richard cut the first couple of his courgettes and pulled a few new potatoes which were accompanied by one of his freshly baked multi-grain loaves with poppy seeds on top. The three and a half hours flew by much too quickly then Emma appeared; it was good to see her too. She had made Richard and me two beautifully stylish masks each in striking colours and designs. Call from my beautiful boy Nathan plus delightful emails from dear Doctor Margus in Moscow, Amanda in the Netherlands, my second cousin who’s daughter Ella shares her birthday with me and also one from lovely friends Sue and Andy in Bourton on the Water. Then during the evening a long call from wonderful Rick, lawyer friend in St Augustine and collector of many years. Our long conversation ranges from things spiritual to things political and Howard Thurman who was a black professor at Boston University who taught Dr Martin Luther King about non-violence. He himself had been denied schooling in his hometown of Daytona but was adopted by a congregation in St.Augustine to further his education at one of only three high schools in Florida to take black students at that time. He went on to become the valedictorian at Morehouse College where he was ordained and then at Rochester Divinity School in New York. In the 1930s he travelled widely to research different religions and met Gandhi.
Although the things have gone to the printers now for the catalogue, we want to replace one of the photographs as it has some glare bouncing off the surface and I suddenly realise we haven’t photographed my soft sculpture ‘A wing and a prayer’ so we do this and rearrange the first couple of pages of the catalogue to accommodate heron the inside cover.
Spend the day checking the catalogue proofs which have arrived from the printers - we find quite a few typos etc that need tweaking!