Richard makes sure he’s around as the collection could be any time between 9am and 7pm. I actually didn’t hear him come and it’s only when R calls out ‘Hurrah, it has been collected” that we breathe a sigh of relief.
Sarla has very kindly said she will post parcels ad packages for me when she goes into the village tomorrow so I write to lovely Jean May who phoned last week to say that dear Brian had passed away - not from the coronavirus. There can only be five of them at the funeral which seems to cover the family quite neatly. He was a delightful man, a great humanitarian and pacifist who commissioned me to create a painting for the CD of songs he wrote and sang for peace, entitled ‘Sail Away’. They also owned the ‘Dance of Time’ which they kindly loaned to the City Museum, Gloucester for my last exhibition there. They have a beautiful home set in the most romantic of grounds with a lake but in the field to one side he grew things of a particularly exotic nature both in the large poytunnel and across the field were numerous Bristol cars in various states of restoration. He told us a wonderful story about he one he sold to Norman Foster the architect. Brian did the restoration work himself. We went there for tea abut three years ago and had a most enjoyable afternoon and evening and he and Jean had come to both my recent Christmas Open Studio and the earlier private view in Broadway. We’ll really miss knowing that he was on this earth working for peace.
Today we would have been going to a memorial for Douglas Ogle who with his wife Jenny founded the Friends of the Wilson. Douglas had trained as an architect ad organised many cultural trips to different parts of the world including China and Estonia, for The Friends. They were always very popular and over-subscribed. He and Jenny had helped raise thousands of pounds through the Friends to support what is now The Wilson and increased their collection with many splendid additions. Douglas and Jenny also ran the Ogle Gallery in Montpelier, Cheltenham which again was a very popular venue with the art loving public. It was they who had the idea of commissioning Richard to paint a panoramic view of Cheltenham from the roof of what was then the C&G building and George Breeze the Director of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum used to often call in at the gallery on his walk home. The idea of then creating a pair of six foot wide painting offering a 360 degree view of the town for the Museum emerged. You can see them once the Wilson reopens in the local history galleries. We had a delightful dinner with Jenny and Douglas where we very much enjoyed looking at his collection of stunning chairs made by eminent designers including a Mies van der Rohe. The Museum and the Friends and the Cheltenham community will greatly miss his huge contribution to the cultural life of the town and our thoughts and prayers are with Jenny as they were always such a brilliant team.
We would then have driven up to London to Boodles to attend the celebratory birthday party for Sir Nicky Mander organised as a surprise by his lovely wife Karin.
This afternoon we would have been attending a thanksgiving service at Tewkesbury Abbey celebrating the life of our dear friend Anne Cadbury. Anne was the most remarkable woman who was widowed when she was quite young; her husband Martin owned the printers Martin Cadbury’s where I used to work in the holidays whilst I was an art student. Many years later we met her when Nathan was an art scholar at Cheltenham College where she was a governor. We then used to see her at many of the charitable events we went to; she was a great supporter of the National Star College and she and Richard used to sit together at the Awards ceremony each year. A couple of years ago she came here when we organised a dinner in aid of the Friends of the Wilson, another charity to whom she was very generous. She was with her with her daughter Verity who lives n France and held the guests on the table she sat on spellbound; Richard Chatham had known her for many years, I think they had danced together at many a ball. Also Gordon Turland remembered her being very supportive when the boys grammar school in Tewkesbury became a comprehensive. She had the most beautiful smile and sparkling blue eyes and a wonderfully strong speaking voice, her presence was enjoyed at every occasion even into her early nineties ;we will all miss her.
So very sad to hear that our wonderfully colourful and bohemian friend Alexander, the Marques of Bath has died of the coronavirus. He had several of our works in his collection and named me as one of his two favourite artists when he was a guest collector at the Discerning Eye exhibition. We recall memorable lunches at Longleat and dinners in London after my private views there. At one of those openings he was wearing a magnificent leather cloak. He’d then had to go off to a charity event but was meeting us for dinner at the Dover Street Arts Club. I didn’t recognise him at first when he arrived as his imposing statuesque structure was squeezed into an all too small tweed jacket which the club had apparantly provided him with as they had insisted both members and guests had to wear jackets for dinner. I was rather embarrassed but he took it quite calmly and entered into the evening with his usual charm. He was a good painter in is own right though because of his position I fear people didn’t take him as seriously as he would have liked; he had filled many of the walls and ceilings in his living quarters at Longleat with thickly impastoed (with the help of sawdust) murals in oil paint. It was wonderful that the whole of the apartment was imbued with the lovely smell of oil paint which permeated through all the rooms. He was an amazing, flamboyant personality but also had a very good business head and got Centre Parcs to pay for the installation there and his father of course had introduced the first Safari Park in the country. We went to a rather glorious Midsummer Solstice party in the grounds where Alexander’s father (then the Marquess) put in an appearance in his cowboy chaps and a rocket was fired in homage to the sun. A very clever man he’d been to Eton, Oxford, the Life Guards then off to Paris to study art. He wrote a well critiqued autobiography in several volumes. We treasure the many vibrant postcards that he sent, particularly at Christmas and other letters and communications from him. The world is a little less colourful without him.
Lovely e mail from Harriet of Art Shape continuing our dialogue on the course they are doing for their Art Bridge Emergents students. She would like me to give a talk to the students on that course and perhaps do a workshop via Zoom so that I can discuss with each of the students the work that they have produced. I haven’t used Zoom yet so it might be a steep learning curve.
Sad to hear that one of our friends Alan Rutherford has died of Corvid19. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Ann and their daughters Tanya and her sister Joanna. The numbers of deaths are truly shocking as with all the other countries across the globe.
Easter Sunday. Life rises and renews again. Richard posts the Hare & Candle painting on social media and in actuality it landed in Botany Bay on the 8th and is currently in transit to Western Australia He points out two very nice Easter messages one from Facebook friend Mark A Taylor a beautiful video of a psalm being sung in Aramaic at a church in Armenia for the Pope who sits in contemplation with his eyes closed. It had a wonderful informality and timeless quality although comparatively recent. The priest who was singing the one of the two main voices looks almost as if he could be from a biblical painting as his eyes raise to heaven. The other singer is a young girl. They are not using microphones and are accompanied only by the deep bass voices of the small choir. It’s amazingly sublime in its simplicity. Another friend e mails to say that the priest is from his village in Georgia.
This evening we do a Skype with all the family who are all well.
And whilst working back in my studio later, I listened to Dr Rowan Williams’ selection of music and words for Easter Sunday on “Something Understood”. I had the pleasure of meeting him a few years ago at the Bishop’s Breakfast Group; a wonderfully wise and clever man who has the most beautiful speaking voice.
I’m busy in the studio for much of the week but am often tempted downstairs when I smell the blissful aroma of Richard’s bread wafting up to my studio. He’s made all our bread for the last few weeks, it’s such a delight and different each time. Perhaps my favourite so far has been the wholemeal with seeds, walnuts and chopped dates - the trouble is it’s very more-ish thus the amount I allow myself at tea time has grown by a slice or two. He also often makes a batch of rolls. So I’m thinking that when we harvest his garden produce that we’ll be fairly self sufficient!
I often speak with Lisa who was a student at the National Star College many years ago. She’s an amazing person really as she has lived on her own independently since then. Her wheelchair now needs to be an electric one. She has lived with two complex conditions since birth, one being Hydrocephalus which means she has a shunt somewhere at the base of her skull that drains the fluid. And Spina Bifida. She spent most of her childhood being brought up by the nuns at St Rose’s whom she always speaks of with great affection as with the National Star College. She still remembers us taking a group of them out to Pizza Hut and that Henrietta made her an eighteenth birthday cake. Her mother had had polio so imagine it might have been difficult for her. The Star College, as it is for most young students, always seems to be remembered as being the best time in their lives where of course they have more independence and opportunities with expert teaching and care they are helped to reach their full potential. A bright articulate woman she has never had the opportunity to work and over the many years since she left the National Star she has been writing her autobiography; I think there at twenty seven chapters so far. Often when she phones she is feeling down or a little depressed but within minutes one can have her laughing and I have learned so much from her friendship and about living life with disabilities such as hers. I wondered how she would cope with this current lockdown of Covid-19. She still goes out in her wheelchair to Tescos the supermarket to collect milk and the things that don’t come with her ready made meals. I learn about her bread making; she has all sorts of wonderful devices such as a slow cooker, a halogen cooker, bread maker, coffee maker, teasmade, so we discuss recipes a lot and she certainly knows which foods are good for us and which are not. Her carers come in twice a week for an hour or two but to start with they certainly didn’t have the proper PPE clothing and masks that care and health workers need but they do now. She remembers every member of my family and often enquires about them. My life is certainly enriched by hers and the things she unwittingly teaches me.
E mail from Nikki Seville asking if I’ll judge in October, for the art competition that is entitled ‘Eden’ and the winning piece will be on the cover of the Christian Arts Festival programme next year. But I have to say that I don’t know whether I will be able to present the prize in December as Richard is in the group the NHS has said must not go out for at least three months as he has lymphoma (a blood cancer) which would render him ‘dangerously ill’ if he got the coronavirus. So I don’t go out either as we’d have to eat and live separately if I did.
When Richard was told by the government and the NHS that he must stay in for at least three months I knew we had to hatch a plan for him to keep well and fit as there weren’t going to be any of his long bike rides or walks. We had the perfect answer; he was going to dig dig dig the vegetable garden to plant potatoes, spinach, kale, onions, beans and it has proved to be so successful and exciting that it didn’t stop there I could see he was running out of ground so I then suggested perhaps the passage behind and in front of the apple trees which then ran right up to the far corner behind the horse chestnut and in the other direction down to the little courtyard where we often sit in the summer. This has meant lopping off a huge bough which probably represented 25% of the 30 foot bay tree this opened up little beds around the courtyard and below the bay tree which are now full of hericlium, foxgloves, verbena and fennel. But these beds are going to be rather wonderful as they adjoin areas where pumpkins and squashes will grow as well as courgettes and cucumbers all of which are still seedlings inside on the window sills. This enthusiasm has now taken him down the other side of the garden where he has dug out ivy etc to plant ferns, bluebells and periwinkle which thrives in other areas of the garden so can be split and transplanted. Likewise the foxgloves have all been transplanted from my studio garden were some of his seven rhubarb corms have been planted. This enthusiasm is wonderful - he’s even out there on the rainy days and there are pots of small tomato seedlings growing on the bedroom window sills as well as coriander, dill and mescalun.