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Back in the studio working mainly on the Toronto commission.
Angus Pryor of Plastic Propaganda and Head of School of Art & Design and Reader in Fine Art at the University came to dinner. It is good to get to know him better.
Spend a bit of time working out what I’m going to say to bring to a close the series of ‘Collections Unwrapped’ lectures that the Friends have been organising not only to entertain, inform and educate us but also to help keep the spirit of the museum alive within the community of Cheltenham during the period of its closure for the building of the new extension. It has been a very successful series masterminded by John Turney with help form Helen Brown the Keeper of the Collections at Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum and Gina our chairman who diligently notifies us all by e mail in the week prior to each talk. And of course some of our eloquent speakers have been Friends, like Michael Storm who organised the conversation with me and Jan Turner. who gave a fascinating talk on two women textile designers. The Queen’s Hotel have been excellent hosts and very helpful. Tonight's speaker is the delightful Judy Grant who studied design and embroidery at Loughborough School of Art and then a teaching qualification at Nottingham University. In 2011 the American Museum in Bath celebrated its 50th anniversary and the curator Laura Beresford selected 50 (some rarely seen) items from their collection which will be part of tonight's lecture. The tiny bay tree cutting, only 6 inches high, that we bought during a visit to the American Museum with the children and which now stands 20 feet high in our garden, is symbolic of the American Museum’s growing success. I apologise for the fact that Richard and I aren’t able to stay as we have to go on to the Renaissance Restaurant for Greg Smith’s the brilliant Principal of Gloucestershire College retirement dinner, particularly as the College honoured me by making me an honorary vice President last year. We are rather pleased with ourselves as prior to this we had been to the Reception for the University’s Enterprise Awards but were rather sorry not to be there for the ceremony at which Edward Gillespie was going to officiate, also Kevan Blackadder editor of the Echo. It had been such an exciting occasion last year.
Just got to bed about 3.30.......
...the phone rings about 4.30, my sister in tears as Howell her husband has sadly just died. So we get up, wash and depart for Bedfordshire, arriving about 7.30am. Jeannie Gill’s lovely cleaning lady is there comforting Gill when we arrive. Shortly after her neighbour Barbara comes round before work to give Gill a hug and words of comfort. after I’ve given Gill more cuddles and comfort we go for a walk with her dog Duke along the riverside where we watch the bright turquoise dragon flies flashing as they dart to and fro in the brilliant sunlight amongst the cow parsley and other riverbank plant life. As we wend our way we bump into various neighbours and friends who all give her a hug as she tells them her sad news.
We all know that it has been a blessed relief for Howell who had been suffering from Lewy Body disease for the past three or four years, gradually taking more and more from him. But it still doesn’t soften the blow of that final separation. He had been such a strong active and handsome man who had been headmaster when Gill first met him as a young teacher. Richard is a hero as after a couple of hours sleep he drives all the way back to collect my dear Mum and break the news to her as she is sitting in our house where she had arrived two hours early at half past nine for Richard to drive her up to Blunham. We’d tried endlessly to phone her both at her house and ours so she must have put the phone down the wrong way in its cradle as it kept telling us she was on the phone. When Richard puts her on the phone to me I can hardly decipher what she is saying as she is weeping so much; likewise when they arrive back I am touched by her childlike tenderness and tears as she embraces Gill. It is a big outpouring of emotion for a 90 year old and for me to see my sister and my mother weeping together.
Gill says she will be alright if in the afternoon Richard and I take m Mum to the party given for Rita her niece and her husband in Sawston near Cambridge, celebrating their join 80th birthdays and 50th wedding anniversary. We are pleased to take my Mum as Rita and Raymond are always so good at visiting her. They still work as they have an engineering company that makes specialist medical equipment. It is very nice to meet their daughter Amanda and her two daughters. Also to see Rita’s younger sister Lynn and her husband Gerry again. Our timing back is very good as Gill has just returned from walking her dog Duke with her good friend and next door neighbour Barbara and her little dog Max.
Nathan rings early evening to talk to Gill.
We spend a lot of time comforting and discussing arrangements for Howell’s service. Richard is going to design and print the Order of Service and will also read John Donne’s Holy Sonnet X ‘Death be not proud’ particularly appropriate as Dr Donne was Rector of St Edmund or St James and sometimes lodged in Gill and Howell’s house on his annual visits - he was concurrently Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral.
I’m delighted that Henrietta, Kev and the boys visit late afternoon. Richard Kev and I take the boys to see the giant hog weed growing beside the river that Gill had shown me on Friday morning. It looks almost prehistoric or jungular and the little boys pose under it for us to photograph. Meanwhile Henrietta comforts Gill. The boys also take great pleasure chasing Duke around the garden and he tires much sooner than they do! They stay until about 7.30 and we stay on for an hour or so discussing arrangements for food which Richard and I have volunteered to do. We leave my Mum with Gill
Trying to catch up with correspondence etc. that we had left outstanding. Back to work on the Toronto commission
Scott Anthony from the RSA South West who is on the finance committee, arrives to ask my advice and pick my brains on a scheme he has been contemplating on getting artists and businesses together. We sit and discuss for an hour and a half and he says it has been helpful.
In the evening we go once again to the Renaissance Restaurant for the Governors’ Dinner for Greg’s retirement as Principal of Gloucestershire College. Richard and I are most touched to be sitting on his table with the current and three ex chairs of Governors, Ian Mean who now oversees the whole of the South West for the group who own Gloucetershire Media - he had been editor in chief and is like me an honorary vice president of the College. Again the food from the College’s Catering Academy is exquisite and its such a joy to be served by its delightful young students. The evening includes reminiscences from three of the chairs of governors and then Greg. I finish the evening with a short speech thanking Greg for all he’s done for Gloucestershire and its young people and presenting him with a print of GloCorama the large painting commissioned by the College that hangs in their atrium.
Working on the commission
ditto when receive e mail from Sharron saying she hasn’t received the painting yet and of course the exhibition started last Saturday when we were in bedford. It had totally gone out of my mind!
In the evening we go up to the National Star College for their evening of Creative and performing Arts. I’m delighted that the first person I bump into is Jim from Radio Winchcombe who has come up at my invitation to get to know students and their work. He is here with his wife Doreen who is looking at the work in the art department. It’s also good to see Sue Roberts who has always supported me in the work for the National Star; she has a lovely way of talking to and encouraging the students. I’m chatting to and admiring the work of a lovely student called Simon whose beautiful ceramic drum and his Inca-like wall piece are stunning. I then spot Jane and David who have just arrived and its not long before its time to go to the theatre. The exhibition was brilliant as were the performances. Sue and I discuss how each year’s themes are different yet always so exciting and enjoyable. They have made a film based on the Titanic in which students play the roles of the main protagonists; follow by an exquisite dance which is exceedingly beautiful and then a very witty short play based on Edward Lear’s nonsense rhyme ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’. All in all a fabulous evening with delicious canapés and refreshments made in house by their own kitchen.
Another gloriously sunny day. Do just a little more to the painting for the mixed exhibition that with all that’s been happening I had overlooked and on the commission of course.
We drive over to Gloucester in the evening as guests of Bishop Michael and Alison at a dinner party they are giving. Very interesting company including the director of ordinands and his wife who is chaplain at the University. Rosie and Hugh Tollemarche the High Sheriff - we discover that their three sons had been to the Abbey School like Nathan. Rosie had studied Art History and worked as a photographer before she got married . During dinner I am sat between two fascinating men - Bishop Bob Evens, recently retired Bishop of Crediton who is a very amiable smiley man with a very broad knowledge of art and on the other side the extraordinary Alister Sammon a surgeon who performs operations and teaches doctors in Tanganyika; his wife had been a GP but was recently ordained in the Cathedral; they are over here for six weeks for the wedding of one of their three children. He tells me that his wife educated them herself which was obviously very successful as one is a doctor and the other a nurse whilst the third is still at University.
Glorious weather still holding which is helpful as Richard is redecorating and repairing number 80 as our tenants have recently left. We are also cutting back a large mulberry tree which grows beautifully in that garden since we transplanted it when it was quite a small and struggling little tree.
I’m also continuing on the commission for Toronto in between which I help Richard with tiny tweaks and suggestions on the design for Howell’s the Order of Service.
I help Richard doing a bit in the house and garden at number 80 and then its back to the commission.
We show five lots of prospective tenants around number 80. In between doing a little more to the garden and preparing the food for the gathering after Howell’s funeral in Bedfordshire tomorrow. Richard’s a star and cooks large trout sides and a cold chicken curry, huge bowl of coleslaw, potato salad and a bean and celery risotto. He’s also made lots of little cakes which I ice or melt chocolate to decorate, some with a fabulous deep pink icing using beetroot juice. I also make a Cointreau and orange jelly. I debate whether to go out and pick red currents and mint from the garden to decorate the jelly or do it in the morning ...
.. but alas the birds have got to them before me so there only seems to be one beautiful red current left - decide to pick sprigs of black currents to decorate it with instead. We set off at about 10 when Richard has loaded the back of the card with all the food in improvised ice boxes plus glasses, cutlery etc. We arrive there about 20 past 12 and lay out our pretty pvc table cloths on the two tables, one for drinks and one for food. Howells son in law Ken and grandson Andrew help us to carry it all in. Richard chops cucumber and lemons for me to decorate the trout and then cuts open the two big pineapples whilst Howell’s grandson’s wife washed and cut the strawberries. Henrietta and Kev arrive as I’m changing; they’ve bought lots of fruit juices and exotic cordials. Somebody comes to collect Richard’s Order of Services to hand out at the church and we assemble outside the gate to walk behind the hearse for the two or three hundred yards to the north entrance of St Edmunds or St James, the old church that is directly opposite Gill’s house. The service is very beautiful, we’re greeted by the sound of Zadoc the Priest and Nathan the prophet. Richard gives the first reading from Holy SonnetsX “death, be not proud...” it being particularly relevant as John Donne lodged in Gill and Howell’s house on his annual visits to the parish of which he had the living, whilst he was also Dean of St Pauls. Karen, Howell’s daughter then reads a Tribute to Howell. Then the last movement of Schubert’s Trout Quintet. The service is very meaningful and well attended. Afterwards I stay with Gill as she talks to people and inviting them back to the house. She and I then make our way back there; I circulate the garden talking to Gill’s guests, friends and neighbours with the tray of drink that Kev has prepared. The garden is glorious and a lovely place for people to sit dotted around in small groups. Later when most people seem to have food etc. I join Henrietta and Kev on a walk with Gill’s dog Duke and her next door neighbour’s little dog Max along the river We walk a long way, it probably takes and hour and a half. We sit and chat for another hour or so before Henrietta and Kev leave ot return to their little boys who are being looked after by Kev’s parents. We stay on washing up and putting away food in between chatting to Howell’s daughter Karen, granddaughter Helen grandson Jonathan and spouses etc. Its about 9 o’clock when we set out with my Mum to come home, eventually arriving here at about half past midnight.
Its good to be back in the studio working on the Toronto commission
Up early as its the Awards ceremony at the National Star College today. Always an exciting event to see students who have achieved so much in their two or three years at the College but tinged with the sadness of parting with friends and staff as the College is so often a highlight in the life of these wonderful young people who have to work so much harder to gain their goals. We bump into lots of familiar faces too - the lovely Anne Cadbury, Martin Horwood Cheltenham’s MP and Kevan Blackadder editor of the Echo who is one of today’s speakers. My photography award goes to Cory August for his brilliant almost abstract photograph of Poppy (a fellow student) Dancing. Its so full of colour and movement and is one of the photographs that Stig ( lecturer) has led the multi media students to work on called painting with light. Also highly commended is by Pranav Iyer and is a photograph of staff writing in light and includes the word Love. It’s a joyful occasion and great to talk to Kathryn their ‘Outstanding (Ofstead) Principal; Gill Henry head of fund-raising and Paul Tarling Director of the Creative and Performing Arts.
In the evening we pop into the sixth birthday party of the award winning on line magazine SoGlos at Hotel du Vin. Meet Shelly the journalist who had written their first ‘In the Studio with’ piece on me also meet the young editor and her publisher husband.
Lucy Sharp, director of ArtShape and Caroline Tate her assistant arrive for lunch at about 1 with Lucy’s baby 11 month old Monty, a beautiful little boy who beguiles us all with his smiles. He takes great interest in my necklace (made by the Star students) and I can see would be keen to examine it with his mouth. Its great to learn more about ArtShape who like many other charitable arts organisations had its Arts Council funding cut three years ago but have remarkably managed to overcome this during the past three years - last year ending up with a surplus. They work with lots of groups who would have difficulty accessing art/music/stroke drama projects that are so therapeutic for those with learning or physical disabilities, wives and families who suffer physical abuse to substance abuse and work in partnership with many organisations from the University to Paul Mackee at the Art Gallery & Museum to the National Star College etc. Much of their funding comes from Adult Education. Caroline is an amazing person who did her first degree in pharmacy and later on after having two children studied Fine Art (printmaking) here in Cheltenham. She’s multi talented as also plays musical instruments and at one stage in partnership with a friend who had also done her second degree in art, ran a community arts company that worked with schools called “Wherefore Art Thou”. I feel very excited about the prospect of working with ArtShape and most honoured to be asked to be their Patron.
Working on the Toronto commission and other pieces for the exhibition.
R’s still painting and doing small repairs at number 80.
Busy working in studio
Richard’s been redecorating at number 80 and tonight the young couple came with a further reference. They are so pleased with the house that its a joy to let it to them.
Good day in the studio
My Mum’s 91st birthday !! Gill drives down from Bedfordshire as a surprise. Her sadness is still very apparent.
I’ve recently had e mails from Katri Link the Estonian PR at Ecclesiastical Insurance who I got to know during my Gloucester Museum exhibition with Juri Arrak. she’s asking me if I would consider helping a charity that they are working with for the homeless and those suffering from substance abuse called the Gear Project as they are hoping to raise funds towards a therapeutic art project. Of course I tell her I will be happy to support it by adding my name and perhaps giving advice and a talk etc. The charity is based in Gloucester.
E mail from Panter and Hall asking if they can show my painting ‘Burlesque’ in an exhibition they are organising called ‘On a Grand Scale’ and include it in their catalogue.
Henrietta, Kev, Isaac and Samuel arrive from their holiday in Devon all looking very well and sun tanned. The boys look beautiful in their flip-flops, like little beachcombers with sun lightened hair. They have come to celebrate my Mum’s birthday but in the meantime as Richard and she are not back from their shopping trip they want me to chase them through the rooms and down the passage way of the house which seems to have become a tradition. So we have a lovely birthday meal and it’s a joy to see them all looking so well and happy. Particularly nice chat with Henrietta when the boys are in bed.
Henrietta and Kev are taking my Mum out to lunch whilst we entertain the boys. Samuel and I sweep out the trampoline, clearing it of all the leaves and mulberries that have fallen from the overhanging branches (now lopped off). He then proceeds to demonstrate his somersaults! to me when discover that he now has brown and red marks presumably left by the mulberries and leaves on his beautiful white shorts so he takes them off for me to wash, putting on a pair of Isaac’s so we decide to go into to the village to see if we can get some new ones. I end up buying a twin pack of black stretchy cycling type shorts. Isaac asks if they can have a small toy each; as we peruse the shelves they spot space hoppers which we would have dismissed as being too large but then Isaac reads that they are reduced to £2 each. There are only two left, on in orange and one in blue so we end up with those and a smart new pencil case Isaac says he REALLY needs for school and some coloured pencils for Samuel. En route back we visit the church to familiarise them with its architecture. Harry the lovely churchwarden is there as they have just had a baptism and he tells the boys all about the six hundred year old chest (similar to those used by pirates!) into which people place donations. We also admire the dragons carved into the Norman stone around the Arched doorway and outside we look at the buttresses and the gargoyles. Of course when we get home I suddenly realise the deflated space hoppers in their boxes do not contain a pump!! Luckily I remember the paddling pool has one with which R manages to inflate them both, so we have a glorious hour or so in the garden doing space hopper racing etc. Henrietta and Kev arrive shortly after having delivered my Mum home and been for a run. Richard’s cooked a Sunday lunchtime early evening meal which we all sit and enjoy with my Mum, before they leave to return home to London.
I walk my Mum home and admire the cutting back my sister Gill has organised in the garden.
Back to work.
Hard to work in the studio
Drive into Cheltenham to the award winning restaurant Luniere where we are meeting Mark Hurrell as its his birthday, Julia and their four other guests, Peter OBE and Sue Hickman - they founded the Pied Piper Appeal at Gloucester Children's Hospital and Liz an eye doctor and her husband David an architect specialising in restoration who both sing with Mark. Its a fun lunch and Peter tells us he has eaten here recently and helped select it as the award winning restaurant in Cotswold Life’s Food and Drink Awards. Its the second time we have eaten here as we had a superb dinner as guests of Peter and Beverley Cottingham to celebrate Beverley’s birthday a couple of years ago.
Then its back to the studio.