Richard spends the afternoon putting some of the miniatures online for 6 o’clock this evening. Like last year everything starts to go off at the same time: both mobile phones, the landline and e mails pinging in on the laptop. But we only put a third of the paintings online this year as we know we need to have lots for people who actually come to the Mulled Wine, Mince Pies and Miniatures event at the weekend. They are snapped up by someone in Japan, another in Paris and two to Paul in Australia as well as more local friends and collectors.
Now busily finishing off the miniatures.
Richard’s managed to get the two pavilion-type red open sided tents up in the Studio garden and is now trying to fashion a base for the market stall type red parasol that will fit between and join them up outside my studio’s french windows. I’m sweeping leaves when a man stops as he’s walking past. It’s John! the brilliant man who makes my frames; he comes in for a mulled wine and mince pie but is immediately down on his knees helping Richard make the base for parasol as we couldn’t remove the heavy metal one from our existing garden parasol. Dear man is probably with us an hour and a half. They have managed to get the special parasol heater into the top of the pole and with all the lights that Richard had already put up it looks a little like Santa’s grotto!
Richard has just got all the miniatures hug when the beautiful Venetia arrives. She sets to work putting the labels up for him. She and her parents have messaged each other saying they will meet up here but hadn’t mentioned a time! She tells me she has an idea for a Christmas book for children which we discuss briefly before people start arriving like Ian and Maeve who immediately spot that I have done a miniature painting of a subject she had requested so they bag that and the black and white cat. Wallace also arrives about this time bearing chocolates and flowers goes for the horizontal cat. Lucy, Andy and Charlie arrive; it’s lovely to see them. Charlie has grown - they bags the Elephant. Paul (chair of the governors at the Star College) and Viv Styles arrive just before Gill Henry. I introduce Peta Hoyle to Viv. I spot the other Lucy who asks if she can buy The Little Fisherman. The Belinda Rimmer introduces herself and Frank and I remember she is the writer who is using one of my paintings on the cover of a book she is having published in the US about a wonderful black civil rights woman. Then Tim and Dorianne arrive it’s so good to see them after so long; Dorianne looking bright and beautiful after having some health issues. They tell me Venetia had said the infant in my painting The Animals blessing the Infant looks like her youngest son, Manfred. Richard gives them a bundle of the cards we’ve had made using that image as our Christmas card. Dorianne also spotted the LP album cover with a reproduction of their painting Nocturne used by King Crimson on their recent The Reconstrukction of Light which I give to her to give to Venetia who owns the painting and Ben. Lovely Sue and Andy are also here; Sue’s sister and wonderful Mum have both bought paintings too.
Su and Len arrive. It’s the first time we’ve seen them for a couple of years and Su is as effervescent as ever. We are really amazed when they tell us that their son and his partner now live in their house and they have had a log cabin type house built in the garden that overlooks the fields. I’m very touched that she has bought the painting that I have dedicated to the student awards I give each year as she was on the Pittville campus studying for her BA at the time that questions arose about keeping that campus open rather than trying to sell it. Perhaps because her uncle is a friend of the Dalai Lama Su is both a Buddhist and a vegan.
I am amazed when I see Hans and Hilary walk through the door; they have travelled all the way from Beaconsfield to be here and see the two miniatures they had bought over the telephone on Tuesday evening.
It was all very exciting that so much happened in those few hours.
Richard and Lesley Chatham arrive and add the little penguin to their collection. Maureen and Gordon came and I am slightly surprised when a rather handsome young man comes in and says hello who I hadn’t recognised in his face mask ’til Maureen says it’s Joel for whom they had recently commissioned a painting for a recent special birthday. He buys the tiny circular Picnic at Sea for his wife Corrie. Nikki and Dave Seville come and whilst she is looking in the second room Dave signals to me that he would like to buy the Angel and Zebra for Nikki for Christmas which we manage to keep secret.
Clare and Gareth arrive and I’m so pleased to see her looking so well after her surgery earlier in the year. Clare works for Linc and it is her mother Gill who founded it some twenty five years ago.
Edward and Alyson come whilst Anne and John Reid are here and before they go we get Edward and Alyson to draw the three raffle tickets. Caroline Craven’s is the first one they pull out then Nikki Seville and Jess Barnfield wins the bottle of whisky.
The Richens come about 2.30 to collect their two paintings followed by Su Billington after the classes she organises at one of her two art centres have finished. Later Dave comes to collect Nikki’s painting and her raffle prize - she is away on a ‘mindfulness’ course so the painting remains a surprise.
E-mail from Anne Strathie the writer arranging a time to pick up her miniature. She is such a lyal supporter
Richard goes to the station to meet Philippe off the 12.27 London train. He admires the house as he comes in and present us with a very beautiful box of Puyricard chocolates. We chat for a while before going over to the studio to look at the work as he is interested to know about my creative process and to see other examples of my work. Then Richard comes over to tell us lunch ready - he’s made a delicious celeriac soup with home baked bread, gravadlax and english cheeses. We also talk about his family and ours.
Gill drives down from Bedfordshire bearing Christmas gifts. It’s lovely to see her and we enjoy Richard’s homemade celeriac soup. She has bought us a beautiful yucca and a dragon tree, two bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape to have with our Christmas dinner and a tin of Ian’s ginger bread reindeers as well as presents for under the tree for all. We’ve bought her a planter on legs which we have filled with red shredded paper like straw in which to nestle their Christmas presents.
Maureen and Gordon come to collect Joel's little painting and Anne Strathie her Penguin.
We find a beautiful bag of miniature frames in the porch. We’re sure it must be from John but as there’s no note it’s a little baffling as there is a Christmas card from Sam, Paul and Sam the village framers. But these aren’t like theirs and they all have little wooden panels in ready to paint. They include a tiny hexagon and a triangle plus a variety of -rectangles and squares all really exciting.
Richard lifts out my sewing machine whilst I am cutting large rectangles of red and green felt with which to make Christmas sacks for the boys; as we couldn’t see them last Christmas so we sent the sacks up with their presents and although they have been returned I cannot lay my hands on them. Anyway these are much bigger and better.
A note in the porch from John saying he hadn’t been able to make us hear and that the frames were from him and he’d come to see us when he returned from his Christmas travels - firstly to Doncaster.
Henrietta, Kev and the boys arrive late evening the latter are soon looking at the presents under the Christmas tree to discover which are for them.
Friday 24.12.21 Christmas Eve
Kev takes the boys out to the scooter and skate park after he and Henrietta have been for a run. In the evening the boys ask if they can do their normal unwrapping of the presents from our dear friend Nancy and her son Peter and family which we usually allow them to do so that we can make sure of getting good photos of them. Nancy has the most amazing ability to choose wonderful gifts for them which include incredible aeronautic neon globes, moonlight lamps, electronic drawing pads, brilliant knitted reindeer housing Terry’s Chocolate Oranges. She also finds individual presents for us all that are so well chosen and individually wrapped.
Out of excitement the boys are reluctant to settle so we decide to put the Christmas stockings and sacks outside Henrietta’s bedroom.
Saturday 25.12.21 Christmas Day
After I’ve showered and dressed I come down to the glorious aromas of Richard’s cooking. I lay and light the fire. Having opened their sacks the boys are now impatient to start opening those under the tree. Kev has made up the wonderful Bellinis from Fortnum and Mason that Seema ad Eliana so generously sent us. And R has prepared a plate of gravadlax and quails eggs etc. It’s great fun watching them all opening their presents. The boys are very excited. When we’ve finished that session and are preparing for Richard’s grand dinner (Kev doing the roast potatoes in my studio over the lane) I bring out the inflatable Father Christmas outfit- again from Nancy - with Richard in mind. The boys are so intrigued - Samuel puts it on whilst Isaac organised the inflation by a small internal fan. We all roar with laughter as Samuel becomes larger and larger - he’s really living the role and after he’s worn the red pointed cap with the bobble and white pointed beard he dons the old Victorian Father Christmas mask that I have, which is really quite eerie. He so enjoys strutting about in it that he gets his Dad to film him running down the Lane to entertain all our neighbours who I think are a bit thin on the ground. But it is hilariously funny.
We then enjoy the Christmas roast with contributions from kev and Henrietta who has made the Christmas pudding which is delicious with R’s brandy butter and we all hunt for coins.
In the evening we play cards. Isaac is the overall winner…
…but on Boxing Day it’s Samuel.
They leave for their other grandparents in Little Ann, Hampshire at about 2 o’clock taking with them the inflatable Father Christmas suit that wonderful Nancy gave us.
It has been a quieter Christmas than usual as very sadly Nathan’s lovely wife Clementine’s Dad Peter died in the early hours of Christmas Eve. He was such a dear sweet man, an identical twin he had been strong, sporty and robust as a boy at Gordonstoun but then he got a virus which left him with diabeties in his twenties which didn’t affect his twin brother. Having a transport company they were both passionate about cars and each bought a vintage pre-war Bentley with their birthday money when they were 21. They regularly came down to Prescott for the Bugatti Hill Climb.
John comes at 3 for a mince pie and cup of tea and for us to give him his presents two small circular paintings. I have all his little frames laid out on the table so we can talk about how pleased I am with them he is such a clever & kind man.
Ring Nathan to see how Clementine is and her Mum and Paul Peter’s twin brother.
Painting in studio as usual.
Friday 31.1.21 New Year’s Eve
Jane comes to lunch. Seems ages since we’ve seen her. She brings a beautiful Christmas Rose hellebore and a lovely tin clown for the Christmas tree. and a book. She leaves as it’s growing dusk and Richard sets out for Cheltenham on his bike over the Racecourse, through the park and on to Waitrose.
Spend an hour or two working in the studio and a couple more trying to catch up with my diary!!
Henrietta rings just after midnight. They’ve got friends and relations who they are seeing the New Year in with them and Kev has let off fireworks in their garden They could also see more official displays reflecting in the distant Thames.
Let’s pray for Peace, Health & Harmony for all mankind in 2022.