2021 January -
Deliver the Hare and Hedgehogs to Jules and Steve, our neighbours, as we are on our walk in the rain.
Call from Rick, my collector and lawyer friend in St. Augustine, Florida sounding as buoyant as usual which is amazing as he had Covid so was on a ventilator for 11 days followed by heart surgery in September.
Delightful e mail from Gary in California who bought my Hare and Tortoise painting from the charity online exhibition on 1st December, saying how pleased he with it and that he has been following my work for years but never really thought he’d own a piece. Such lovely feedback
Spend the afternoon and early evening in the studios with Richard taking photographs of me and the work for the Cotswold Landscape Kingfisher project.
Pay my corporation tax on receiving my HMRC number from Ben our accountant
Send photographs and interview to Cotswold Landscape Kingfisher trail writer and photographer for Cotswold Life article
Spoke to Nathan
Finish two tiny paintings for TT
Have now made all three payments to National Star College; Friends of The Wilson and LINC from the sale of my miniatures in January.
Call from Michele Blondel in Paris. She and Alain are well. She comments on how much she likes the painting on our Christmas card and is interested to know how my exhibition went. She also asks if we can send images of the paintings in my studio. She says Alexis, their youngest son who runs a music venue in London, and his girlfriend, had both had Covid. Quentin their eldest works for a French television channel he and his partner have a little boy who is now three and a half Johan. She says that like 50% of the French, they are not keen on having the Covid-19 vaccine that was developed in the USA; I think they had been particularly disillusioned by Trump’s mal-handling of the whole covid pandemic in America. I tell her that on the contrary we are keen on vaccination programmes and that I do believe in our National Health Service here. It is so nice to hear her as it is some time since my last exhibition with Galerie Alain Blondel in Paris, where Alain was awarded the Légion d’honneur for his services art.
Send a cheque to dear Myrtle who has been very unwell since she fell and fractured her pelvis, for the last two of her little paintings which I have decided to buy back myself. I think the moneys go towards her keep at More Hall Convent. She is the most remarkable person as she had created a kitchen garden at the convent where half the produce she grew seemed to be enjoyed by the wildlife (deer and rabbits etc) as well as the other residents. I think it was whilst tending that that she fell. At ninety four that’s a pretty amazing achievement. I am praying that the infection in her feet and legs that she came back from the hospital with will subside. It was through dear Myrtle that we became friends with the National Star College where she was head of art and Rachel her dear friend was head f spoken English. Rachel, who is now ninety is also a resident at More Hall where they are tended by the small order of nuns.
Working in the studio on the commissions
A day of fairly intense activity. Large watercolour that I had recently acquired was delivered by Alban Shipping in the morning at 9.30 which gave Richard time to take photographs of it before Mark from Trinity House came in the afternoon to collect it and the Children’s Birthday Party which I have also acquired back but also done more work on. Plus a small roundel of Titania and Puck. A minute before Mark arrives Jane rings - Richard sees him go over to the studio through the porch window and drop off the Bear, he then comes to the house porch to collect the three paintings but we keep the glass door closed though we are able to exchange a hello and a smile which is all that is allowed at the moment. Later when I e mail to apologise for the brevity of our meeting and that we couldn’t as usual offer him tea, he says he quite understood as we must look after Richard.
I’d been concerned about Jane since I haven’t heard from her since immediately after Christmas. She says she has been getting quite low and depressed not being able to go out and do her voluntary work for the Wildlife Trust, & the Woodland Trust etc although she is going to do a zoom meeting with the U3A. It is especially hard being on her own having lost David. We probably chatter for an hour and a half and it’s really nice to catch up.
Working on the commissions. E mail from TT to say his small paintings had arrived.
Samuel’s thirteenth birthday, we get to see him opening presents on face time
usually we would be there to share it with him.
Up early for me, 7.15, as Richard’s driving me into Cheltenham to report at the Fire Station which I do at 8.45, fifteen minutes early. It’s hugely well organised and planned, there are four tents at the far end of the hall but I’m greeted first by one person who takes my name and then another who says “you’re on good time”. I wonder if this matters but it doesn’t. At one of the four desks inside the doorway which is the entrance to this large hall that would normally house the fire engines my details are taken. Again I have to give my name and date of birth which is checked twice. Then make my way to the far end of the hall which houses many spaced out chairs with occasional people sitting here and there. At the far end I’m greeted by another woman - all of them wearing masks - pass a woman who tells me she is waiting for her husband. I’m then directed to the third tent where I am greeted by a young woman with a beautiful long black plait hanging down her back and another who is sat at a computer screen. Again I’m asked twice for my name and date of birth. They are both medics. The nurse with the black plait asks me if I want to ask any questions and I enquire which vaccine this is and she tells me it is the Pfizer vaccine. I say I think it ignites your own immune system and she says it gives you a spike of the protein of the covid virus which triggers the body’s natural production of antibodies and stimulates immune cells to act against Covid-19 disease. A small prick in the arm and I’m done, given my sheet of information from the manufacturers on what the vaccine consists of, possible side effects and a small card with my name date and type of vaccine on it. I’m asked to sit on one of the well spaced chairs in the hall for fifteen minutes which is the procedure to make sure you’re not going to have a strong reaction to the vaccine. A couple then come and sit on the next two seats who ask the woman who is cleaning every chair as each person leaves, which vaccine it ? and say they were quite surprised it wasn’t the Oxford vaccine which she said she thinks might have been what they administered from this centre last week.
In the evening on the BBC briefing I hear Boris compliment Cheltenham and two other hubs for being so efficient in the numbers they have vaccinated today and felt privileged to have been one of them. Friends and relations in other counties say they don’t think they will be getting theirs for some time yet.
Continuing the start I’ve made yesterday on one of the two commissions I’m currently working on when the ‘phone rings. It’s Lisa who tells me she has given her carers a piece of her mind - though she didn’t say it in quite such polite terms - for not wanting to come in early before the heating is on. I ask if she finds it difficult to keep warm and she says she just goes to bed in all her clothes especially if the carers are coming. It is particularly interesting as I had a letter this morning from dear Tammy in Birmingham ( another ex Star student ), who rarely ever complains, but she too says how difficult it is to keep warm and I can only begin to imagine how it might be very difficult if you’re in a wheel chair, to be active enough to stimulate your circulation enough to generate heat. Tammy says she and her Mum are fed up with not being able to go out but Lisa on the other hand goes out to her local Tescos every day in her wheel chair, wearing her mask even though one of her many conditions is that she’s asthmatic and when I ask whether the other shoppers are wearing masks she says, not all of them and the same answer to social distancing. Which makes me pleased that several supermarket chains have started to ban people not wearing face masks. The number of hospital admissions and deaths have this week reached record heights and I felt so sad when I heard of medics being barely able to cope with caring for such volumes and their great distress at sometimes losing six or eight patients on one shift and the poor doctor who sobbed on his desk having had to contact the families of all those he’s lost particularly as this was not a situation he had trained for and that he had to live apart from his family for fear of taking the disease back to them. They often have to work double shifts and also cope with losing colleagues.
Spend the day working on the large octagonal commission that will go to California. It is refreshing to be able to stand at my easel on this bigger work after working on so many smaller pieces especially all those miniatures.
Nice letter from Myrtle thanking me for the cheque I sent buying back the two of the smaller works of mine that she had collected over the years and telling me that she is getting stronger although at ninety four she still has an infection in her feet and legs and for a woman who was only a few weeks ago working in the kitchen garden she had created at the convent, it’s a bit of a contrast to her situation at the moment when she has to use a zimmer or a wheelchair. Her legs and feet are too swollen to be able to put her boots on and I pray that she will not be in too much discomfort and be able to overcome this. Her letter is positive though will have been very difficult for her to write as her vision is so poor that she needs to use huge magnification. She tells me that “Rachel has started the poetry group up again; they meet once a week in the library. There are four of them now who have been in the group from the beginning.”
The figures today are both frightening and encouraging. Someone is admitted into hospital with Covid every thirty seconds but the heartening news is that the vaccine is already being rolled out at 140 jabs per minute which means that eventually we will overcome with this hugely efficient programme and ten new vaccination hubs opening tomorrow. One of the more recent ones is Salisbury Cathedral where there is music. It seems a wonderful use of such a building, spiritual and health lifting in one.
One of the miniatures in its wonderfully sound box which had been bought by Henrietta’s friend Katrina who lives and works in Paris, comes back today. Somehow when they tried to deliver it to her apartment on Christmas Eve it missed them and the mail man hadn’t left a card saying they had attempted to deliver it. So Richard is putting a new thick brown paper wrapping around it and will send it off to Paris again. He is very pleased as he always tells me how strong the boxes he tailor makes for each painting are. He always tells me I could stand on each box without doing it damage but of course I would never put it to the test.
‘Phone call from Harriet of Art Shape re the talk I will be giving to their Art Bridge students via Zoom in a couple of weeks time. We’re going to do a practice run through a couple of days before.
A touching and sad e mail from Marion in Holland telling me that she’d lost her beloved husband Jarig in September. They had bought one of my paintings ‘The Elephant in the Room’ a couple of years ago and she wonderd if I might consider doing a painting for her that she could have engraved on Jarig’s grave stone. He loved music and I was apparantly his favourite artist. I feel very moved and honoured that she should have thought of such a sweet idea.
A short letter from my cousin Anthony who is researching a family tree and wanted to access my father’s RAF details but needed my permission as next of kin. Anthony’s father, Bert, was eight years older than my Dad and sadly his father had been killed during the first world war - I think his ship was torpedoed - so their mother Hannah Hyacinth remarried and my father was born so although they shared a mother they had different fathers. Interestingly my paternal grandfather had also lost half a finger when his ship was hit where he was the ships fireman. I imagine Anthony’s interest in my father’s RAF service is because he was in the airforce and still works full time with them but now as a civilian.
In the afternoon we watch Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s Inauguration which feels very moving and historic to see so few people there and all wearing masks. It is so good that he will be seriously addressing the pandemic there as well as important factors such as climate change and trying to build good relationships with the rest of the world as well as addressing the financial plight of all those who have lost their jobs or are affected by the pandemic as well as trying to build a stronger economic future. His strongest message is the need for unity and that he is a president for all Americans, republicans and democrats.
‘Phone call from Nathan who has just got back home to Hackney after driving down to Weston, accompanied by his friend John, to check out Geoff’s house and its contents as it will go up for auction in March they think. Everything has now gone through probate and he has had the huge garden cleared. He tells me he found some papers from when Geoff and I ran our business Pamook Designs and sends me a photograph of what was our logo and letter heading etc. which he found in the garage. But all the beautiful books etc still have the strong smell of the smoke from fire so sadly thinks they will not be salvageable.
Then tells me the exciting news that he has just that afternoon received a call to say his mortgage application had been approved for the beautiful house in Ramsgate that they had been to see and fallen in love with early in the Autumn. The mortgage had been difficult as he’s worked in the USA for almost a year and his earnings from that were in an American account. So am thrilled for them.
Interestingly I had discovered that his great great grandfather and great great great grandfather had also lived and worked in Ramsgate. We are so thrilled for them; I’d almost given up hope on that finally coming through as he should have heard yesterday.
Busy working on the octagonal commission which Richard generously tells me gets better and better. The more I do it the more reveals itself in need of more work. Even though I’ve used a flatter moulding on this, I have recently become aware that I haven’t taken the painting round the many corners and sides of the frame so begin to do so.
UPS collect the big box to go to the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs from where it will travel by diplomatic bag on to the Embassy in Moscow
Lovely letter from Jean May who lost dear Brian last year. Like Richard she has lymphoma.
Phone call from Henrietta who is in the car with Nathan on the way back from Weston having visited Geoff’s house, probably for the last time. There didn’t seem to be much that they or Jai could retrieve or salvage as most of it was smoke damaged in the fire that tragically killed him at the beginning of January last year. We talk over some old memories and discuss what they had and had not found. I guess this is almost the rounding off of this sad episode.
Busy working in the studio on the octagonal commission which is gradually filling up with incidents and scenarios making the composition gradually fuller and stronger as I work into existing areas. Being octagonal makes for a very different dynamic than a rectangle; instead of four corners there are eight changes of angle, which alters aspects of my use perspective etc.
Have been touching up The Trickster & The Evangelist as we’re hoping to despatch it tomorrow.
Do another couple of hours on The Trickster, round the edges of the frame before Richard carefully carries it down the stairs to meticulously wrap and pack into the splendid box he has made for it. We’d only just finished writing the address etc and sticking the labels on when we hear a knock at the door and it is UPS. He has just delivered my box of da Vinci brushes from Nuremberg and just received the notification from UPS central that we had a large parcel for him to collect that is going to California.
Sad sad day as the number of deaths of people we have lost to Covid-19 exceeds 100,000.
Today it is announced that schools won’t be able to go back after half term but that they will consider the possibility of 8th March if the R number goes down but yesterday’s death toll was 1,725 people who have sadly lost their lives in the last 24 hours. It is becoming an almost unbearable strain on all the NHS workers who are having to work much harder especially in intensive care where the specialist nurse would have had one or maybe two patients to attend to they now have four or five and often work double shifts or fourteen hours at a time and shed a lot of tears as they would like to do more for those they are caring for. How fortunate we are to have such dedicated people working so selflessly and on top of that having to worry about taking the disease home to their families and their own health.
R goes for his Covid vaccination jab at the Fire Station today 9.46am. It seems to be equally well organised so after his fifteen minutes sitting, post jab, he treats himself to a visit to the tip which is also very organised. You have to book an appointment and the are usually only one or two other people depositing refuse, everyone in masks and socially distanced. It is always very interesting because there is a board informing you how much of the rubbish is recycled - 72% this month, which is getting there. They make enough power to supply a village the size of Bishops Cleeve from the methane piped from within the landfill
Wonderful news that there are now two other new vaccines both pending UK approval that have just completed their trials. Novavax which is American and the Janssen which is Belgium made by Janssen and Johnson. The brilliant thing about this one is that it is a one dose vaccine; both it and the Nova can like the Oxford be stored at normal fridge temperature. I think the UK have bought 30 million doses of the Janssen. Some of the latter will be made in the UK. With so much being brilliantly achieved by the scientists and big drug companies I feel there is hope for the world as we need to get the whole of it vaccinated to overcome the pandemic and all its mutations. The Janssen seems to have be effective against the new South African strain too and although its protection rate seems to be between 52% and 70% there were no deaths or hospitalisation in those who had been vaccinated with it. How fortunate we are that there are those who dedicate their lives to the scientific research that has created these vaccines which all started with Edward Jenner and his Smallpox vaccine developed from Blossom the cow; tried out first on himself and then his gardener’s son after Jenner had noticed that the milk maid seemed to have immunity and he was born, worked and lived here in Gloucestershire, at Berkeley. Jenner is often called "the father of immunology", and his work is said to have "saved more lives than the work of any other human.” and Napoleon remarked he could not "refuse anything to one of the greatest benefactors of mankind"
Working hard on the octagonal commission. Now resolved most of the composition so start adding detail and definition.
Richard goes over to the studio to start rehanging and setting up for the Zoom talk for the Art Shape students on Thursday. Art Shape are going to give us a practice run on Tuesday. I’m really pleased when I go over to find he’s managed to rehang Reliquary and has already assembled some of the 3D pieces like Sea Urchin and Cock a Doodle.
After our walk in the evening we go back to the large studio to add even more to what will be in the camera’s eye view for the Zoom talk. While we are there receive e mail from Chirag our brain surgeon friend and collector in New York who says that Gita’s (a breast cancer specialist) parents Shanta and Subbi, both doctors too and her sister Usha, have all been quite ill with Covid in the last week but still at home. He was able to secure monoclonal infusions for both parents which he says have made a huge difference to their recovery. He’s hoping by next week they will be back to health. He and Gita who have both been vaccinated are working in person in the hospital every day and their beautiful twins continue in the eleventh grade using a hybrid system of online and in person schooling. It is so good to hear from them; they are such friends and Shanta and Subbi have a big collection of our work. We have known them for thirty three years.