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JUNE 2022 Wednesday 1.6.22 Can’t believe it’s the first of June already. Though the studio across the Lane is looking rather bereft of paintings as we slowly turn it into a home for the Ukrainian family of refugees who will inhabit it, my studio here in the house is looking healthily full, mainly of works in progress Thursday 2.6.22 We were to be going up to London to give eye to the boys whilst Henrietta and Kev have a short stay at an hotel in Kent to celebrate their anniversary. But Kev had also arranged with his parents, which means we’ve been let off. So continue in the studio were I count our blessings every day that we don’t live under an oppressive regime or a war torn country like poor Ukraine. Friday 3.6.22 Sent little parcel to Myrtle and Rachel in More Hall Convent enclosing small Union Jack flags with a note saying that if after waving them they slide the flags off there are two rather neat light weight drumsticks for Myrtle to use on the makeshift drum she created out of the Christmas shortbread tin we sent. Although she and Rachel are both in their nineties they still make music by improvising with a small group of the other residents. I also enclose a Jubilee Union Jack pen for Rachel to write a poem with. She taught English and poetry at the National Star College while Myrtle was head of Art there and was our introduction to the group of wonderful students she brought along to my first exhibition at Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum. Saturday 4.6.22 Richard has planted two of the union jacks in the urns on the pillars either side of the gate. He cycled down to buy smoked salmon to adorn the open sandwiches he will prepare tomorrow for the street party here that will celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I think she and myrtle might be similar in age. The Queen, who is admired around the globe, received congratulations from leaders around the world and the archbishop of York at the thanksgiving service she could not attend due to mobility discomfort made the analogy of how good it was she was still in the saddle as horses have always been a great passion. She and the other royals have been frequent visitors to Cheltenham Racecourse. Sunday 5.6.22 Jubilee Street Party. By the time I come down after showering and doing my exercises etc. Richard has prepared a large tray of egg and smoked salmon open sandwiches and cooked nearly fifty walnut cookies. The weather is overcast but dry. Richard spots Don and Barbara, neighbours from higher up the Lane walking down, who confirm that it is from 3pm so bearing the goodies (I’ve also bought a large union jack box full of licorice allsorts and a folding chair each, we trot down to the little cul-de-sac where the first people we see are our lovely friends Lucy and Andy with their younger son Charlie; Joe their elder boy is like Isaac, revising for his GCSEs. There is a wonderful spread that we just manage to fill in our two platters and the allsorts.between. Andy very sweetly goes back to their house to get a glass to fill with prosecco for me. I meet Lucy’s lovely Mum Doreen for the first time - interestingly she now lives in our old house in Pine Bank having turned my studio there into large bathroom. I also meet for the first time Bethan who is a clinical pharmacist at the hospital and her husband Stephen who works for GCHQ. They have two delightful children Seth and Esmaralda. We also meet Deborah and John, he came from a farming family and he grew up in Nairobi used to teach biology at Dean Close but his hobby has always been monitoring moths and we sometimes used to see a blue light emanating from their garden that used to attract the moths at night keeping track of which varieties of the species were frequenting the area. They used to live in Pine Bank too in the old station house and so sometime their mail got delivered here to us in Priory Lane as their name is Brook and our is Crook. I also meet a splendid little boy called Max who knows that I am an artist and tells me about the creative things he does with his grannie such as weaving wicker and threading metal strips through it and also glass engraving. He says he’s like to see my paintings so I tell him about my Open Studio and say I’ll give him some books and cards. Lovely call from Henrietta who hadn’t been able to have the night away with Kev to celebrate their anniversary as he’d got Covid again. He thinks he might have picked it up in Portugal where he and his colleague Nick were presenting a project during the first half of the week. Monday 6.6.22 So touched to find one of Max’s glass engravings of a bumble bee and an apple in the sunshine on which he had engraved my name on from Max and a lovely noteWe drive into Cheltenham to the bowling club for the Friends AGM at The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum has not yet opened to the public. It is already buzzing and most people are already sitting in their places, there’s seat reserved for me in the front row next to the Mayor, Sandra Holliday who I met just over a week ago at the Rotary event in Montpellier gardens. After a brief introduction from Adrian our chairman I’m on to do the welcoming speech. I tell them I am worried as our museum has been like sleeping giant hiding its treasure trove of a collection from our gaze and compare it to the RWA which also closed in April of last year for lockdown and a huge redevelopment scheme’Light and Inspiration’ which went through the building from the new climate controlled glass roof to glassing in the entrances, a beautiful new forecourt, huge artwork lift like a tree that climbs up on the outside of the building and can take six wheelchair users and their carers, not to mention the new changing space ad family room in the basement. And it is already up and running with exhibitions and events. I also say thank you to Adrian our brilliant chairman and his team for keeping us going through lockdown and the closure with his educational and entertaining newsletters, blogs etc plus trips and events. He is hugely knowledgable and a brilliant speaker who has guided us through these difficult times with the help of his committee of Friends trustees. We’re not only losing Adrian after four years by also John, a techno whizz kid and miraculous minute taker who has acted has secretary and Martin who edited the Newsletter with great flair and imagination and later became membership secretary. All three stayed on for a further year making a term of four years. Luckily there are now members who have been co-opted to fill their places, Ro as chair will be joined by Judy, Connie and Vanessa. I also mention how sad it was that Sophie was now retiring after thirty two years at the Museum and how wonderful it had been to have her as our contact within but also to have worked on exhibitions with her, the first being when she invited Richard and me to exhibit an outfit each in an exhibition called costumes of well known Gloucestershire people (which also included Isabella Blow’s purple wedding dress, the suit Laurie Lee went to Spain in and Kit Williams’ self made suit). Tuesday 7.6.22 Gardening in house and studio gardens Lovely e mail from Dr David Price saying thank you for the ‘magnificent’ little painting and sending a cutting from the Gloucestershire Echo who included a piece in last week’s edition. Wednesday 8.6.22 Have been working on the commission for Australia trying to work out the composition. Thursday 9.6.22 Continuing on the commission , have now almost resolved composition. Friday 10.6.22 ‘Phone call from Kev telling me that Easyjet have cancelled the flights to Rome that he had booked a couple of months ago. So whilst we’re talking on the ‘phone he manages to book flights with British Airways. To the Hardwick campus for the degree show. We’re met again by James, the course leader and Olivia who also teaches on it. Interestingly Alex Chalke the MP arrives on his bike about the same time so he and Richard have a little chat and he says although he has moved house several times it has never felt like home until he’s got the pictures on the wall. He points out to Richard his favourite work in the show which is a large red collaged portrait head by Tom Bezuglovs. He also says that he has the exciting privilege of being able to borrow pictures from the Government Art Collection. This is a brilliant and colourful show full of vibrant works; it is always very difficult to decide who should get my £1,000 prize. There are lots of tempting exhibitions within this large display and some very clever almost bulls-eys target canvases by a Judit Duval who used to be a potter. I comment to Olivia and James that they remind me of Terry Frost or Damien Hist. Another student, Sharon Bradford had been a veterinary nurse so her installation consisted of bones and chicken wire. One piece placed on the floor in the shape of a horses skull in a pool of black paint. A series of very nice plant life forms projected from a light box onto light sensitive boards. Charlotte Smeulders had made weaving that started out looking very like rugs but then began to contort into improvised peculiar shapes when hung on the walls or suspended from the ceiling. The young man we ended up selecting painted smallish rather surreal paintings full of angst which reminded me of Kafka and Jung, both of who also painted and drew. We ask James what he would think of this choice and he says he would wholeheartedly agree with it. Ed Cull had been very generous to his fellow students and had hung the whole exhibition and designed the degree show catalogue. He introduces us to Ed before we leave. On the way home I muse that of course it’s also the opening of the Fresh Art Fair held at the racecourse and wonder how it had fared seeing that there were so many people at the degree show. Saturday 11.6.22 I’m sitting eating my leisurely brunch when I comment to Richard that I’m a bit concerned that we haven’t heard from the refugee family who are coming to live in my studio house. and he says we have this morning, they are in Aachen, Germany. Within seconds of that a new text comes through and he exclaims they are now here in the UK! and will arrive here between 5 and 6pm. So suddenly it’s panic stations as we still have lots of moving of things across the lane from the studio to the house to do, new rugs to unfurl etc. Richard busily engrossed upstairs putting up the cot whilst I was downstairs pushing furniture into position, cleaning windows and windowsills etc. We’re still hard at it when they arrive, the three beautiful children and their Mum looking perhaps slightly nervous. Richard asks if they would like to come and eat with us but I think they would prefer to settle in. They go down to Tescos to do a shop - we had actually put loaves of bread, little pots of jam, butter and milk, tins of soup, cookies and cereal bars etc in their kitchen and on the table. I finish clearing one of the window sills whilst they are out. Sunday 12.6.22 Maksym the father comes over for Richard to give him directions and to show him things on the laptop while I am talking to Max outside about his scooter!.the other main concern had been getting Wi Fi so I send for an internet booster. Monday 13.6.22 They go to London for the day whilst we finish bringing even more stuff over from the wardrobes and putting up two new single beds that I have bought for the boys bedroom etc we are still working there when they arrive back looking very happy. Tuesday 14.6.22 I buy a couple of beautiful second hand bikes for the boys and as Richard’s going to collect them from a house in Bishops Cleeve Daria calls out to invite us to eat genuine Ukrainian borsht. it’s a lovely evening and we get to know them rather more .Dari shows me photographs on her phone of her Mothers Apartment block with it’s blackened walls and Blown out windows. Wednesday 15.6.22 Maksym points out that he has put up the new rotary washing line that we left there and it is full of three loads of washing so the new machine must be working and the plumber also came to connect the new dishwasher too! They ask if we have a barbecue as they cook and eat outside much of the time in the Ukraine so Richard collects ours from behind the summer house and a bag of charcoal. They sweetly send over some of the food for us. Thursday 16.6.22 Drive to Bristol to the RWA. We’d set out in plenty of time but there are diversions away from the city centre so we end up going over Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge and as luck would have it we are in good time The RWA looks magnificent with its newly glassed facade and climate controlled roof and beautiful forecourt etc.although we can see the select company at the private reception with Grayson Perry and Doctor Phil Hammond etc through the door way I decline all the offers to join them saying that we would like to wait for our guest Nick Park near the entrance. Then suddenly there he is in his elegant blue velvet suit and bow tie. We work out its a couple of years since we’ve seen each other and his lovely wife Mags is at home in Preston looking after Joe her son, who’s just had an operation. We make our way upstairs and just as Alison the Director had said, we do have the bet seats, on the top table, I sitting direct opposite Grayson with Nick to my right and Richard to my left. It’s rather fortuitous s the man sitting opposite Nick (to Grayson’s left) tells Nick that as a boy he wrote to him at Aardman and how thrilled he’d been that Nick ad written back and to top this man’s evening Nick even does a little drawing of Wallace & Gromit for him. Nick apologises to Grayson fo not being able to attend his tv art class. He seems to be doing doing a series of shows in theatres and the talk tonight is called ‘Bad Art’ and accuses a group of architects at the back for liking conceptual and minimalism. I do comment to him later that surely everybody thinks their own taste is ‘good’ taste. I’m not quite sure where he’s aiming but bi-fold doors and kitchen islands seem to come into his umbrellas of bad taste but he did admit that beauty s really in the eye of the beholder. He is wearing a most fabulous brightly coloured flared tunic dress in fluorescent stripes going in different directions which just cover is shocking pink frilly knickers which he proudly shows us is where keeps the microphone, huge bobbly bracelets and ear rings and fabulous sparkly make-up with the addition of stuck-on sequins etc. The interesting thing about Grayson is that he does actually look rather beautiful in drag but that there is no campness at all, even though his altar ego is called Claire it seems more about the presentation of tat personae than the voice of a woman. He is always very blokeish asking for cans of beer rather than the wine on the tables. He asks if I make a living out of my art and I tell him I’ve always managed to do so he tells me he didn’t until he was thirty nine and what you really need to be a successful artist is a well off partner or spouse. He met is wife when they were both at art school but she then went on to study therapy and become a therapist. He’s busy creating a musical and I’m about to mention The Producers (which Nathan had taken us to see) when he makes reference to it himself. All in all it’s a great evening, the food, the company and the setting. We offer Nick a lift home but he prefers to walk. We get home about 1am.
continued.........
MAY