Drive up to Blackheath. Henrietta has already opened the gate for us and we can see the beautiful blossom covering our apple tree as we enter the garden of our London studio and the beautiful orange metal chairs and table Kev had put on our terrace as well as lots of new plants. He has been so good looking after it all for us and Henrietta has put an exquisite vase of flowers on the table to greet us. It is fourteen months since we were last here so it’s reassuring to see how good it looks. We then go into their garden and up the exquisite marble steps onto their beautiful sun terrace with its glass surrounds which also gives protection from the wind as well holding in some of the heat from the fire table. With sofas either side it feels as if it is part of the same dining area that is just inside of the glass bifold doors that cover the whole width of the house. The marble tiles continue through into the glorious new kitchen area with an island/breakfast bar to one side, also housing hob and sink. We sit around the beautiful new long table which when extended will comfortably seat a dozen. It is perfect with its magnificent roof light. Kev designed the whole scheme but Henrietta had much input with the furnishing and accessories. A wonderful supper, our first in this space, of fish pie with sweet potatoes followed by fresh fruit and the panettone that we brought from Christmas. e then gave them their presents.
We set off at about 10 to drive to Ramsgate. It’s a lovely morning, sunshine all the way which illuminates the fields of young apple trees all in blossom. Of course Kent is seen the Garden of England so the landscape is open and rolling peppered with huge poly-tunnels in which we can often see more young fruit trees. My great grand-parents used to bring a mobile version of their grocery shop from Hornsey down to Kent each summer to serve the hop pickers ( also down from London for the whole of the harvesting season) bringing a different grandchild with them each year.
As we get nearer to the coast the sky becomes more luminous with the light reflected from the sea. Never having been here before we are surprised how close it is to Canterbury. We are delighted that the last part of the journey is along Ramsgate’s sea front which continues the decorative coastal resort type architecture we noticed when we entered the town it’s really very exciting to be at the seaside. The street that Nathan and Clementines new Victorian house with balcony sits in is just off the sea front. It is a delight to be calling on them in this new home where they hope to spend gradually more time than in the London flat where they do most of their work. It’s such a joy to see them and share in the great pleasure that this new home has given them. There are sea views from several of the windows, balcony and garden. They have been able to surf here and Nathan also enjoys cold-water swimming.
They take us on a tour of the house which has four bedrooms and a nice cellar/workshop/store. Their new studio/office is on the first floor and has the balcony is the full width of the house. Having the balcony with its sea view to take breaks on during intensive working periods will be such a relaxing thing to do. There are enchanting coloured leaded lights around the french windows from the living room into the garden and on each of the landings.
They have done remarkably well to get it so furnished in so little time although some of the things had been in store from Nathan’s flat in Stoke Newington including some particularly nice rugs. Their magnificent bedroom’s on the top floor along with another bedroom and bathroom.
Nathan has bought them both beautiful Schwinn bikes. Clem is a glorious turquoise with a basket and mudguards. Nathan’s is a nickel colour without mudguards which he invited Richard to take a turn on along the esplanade which Nathan films from his skateboard. After they’ve returned the bike and skateboard we all walk along the sea front to the harbour where Nathan queues to buy two dozen oysters and dressed crab. We then walk along the jetty past the fishermen with their rods and sit in the sunshine outside the bistro to drink our beers and wine. I’m mildly worried as I haven’t yet had anything to eat today! But I only sip about half the small glass which Nathan finishes off.
We walk back a different way up the Pugin steps. Pugin (who designed the gothic Palace of Westminster) designed his home with the monastery next door here in Ramsgate; St Augustine first landed here.
Back to the house where we have oysters and champagne, poached and smoked salmon, dressed crab, couscous and sweet potatoes with sage. We give them the presents we’ve brought for the house, after which we go on another outing in the opposite direction towards Broadstairs and Margate and down onto the beach which is covered with fascinating stones and pebbles many of which have holes worn into them and look like miniature Henry Moore or Barbara Hepworth sculptures. Nathan even takes some interesting photographs of us through one of them. It’s still sunny as we walk back to the house where we have a cup of tea before setting out for the hour trip to Blackheath at about 7 o’clock after such a delightful day. It’s so good to see them both so very happy.
There’s a magnificent big red sunset all the way on our drive back. I phone Henrietta and Kev when we’re almost there to ask if they can open the side gates for us and she invites us to dinner so we have another lovely evening at which Isaac is very entertaining on his return from his day scootering at Deal which is about half way between Ramsgate and Dover.
We spend most of the at the day having lunch and chatting to Henrietta, kev and Samuel, seeing Isaac just before and after he has been out learning new tricks on his scooter. We set out for home late afternoon arriving back about 9pm.
Walk down to the Parish Council Office to Present the painting they have commissioned me to make for Councillor Val Perry for all that she has achieved for Bishops Cleeve.
Beverley and Trish come to lunch in the marquee.The weather’s not particularly nice as it’s raining but fortunately it’s not too cold. Though Beverley’s hands are cold and quite blue as she has a problem with circulation that she’s seeing a consultant about next week. So I tell them that I feel the cold a lot and have a thermal vest two heat tech tops a shirt, a cardigan and my long leather coat on, at which they laugh. Beverley’s very slender so perhaps doesn’t generate enough heat to keep warm indoors either Trish is a very nice woman who seems more like a friend that a carer. She tells me that Bev is always talking abut us. which is so touching. and it was Beverley’s lovely son Tom who found Trish from an agency
Working hard to finish my Kingfisher.
Still struggling to complete The Owl and Pussycat my Kingfisher inspired by dear Edward Lear, the penultimate of twenty one children and was brought up by his oldest sister. He suffered throughout his life with melancholia yet left a legacy of work particularly the Nonsense Poems that would ring great joy to generations to come.
Henrietta and Nathan both performed in a production of the Owl and the Pussycat on the Barge Semmington Theatre in Gloucester when they were children.
I think I have finished so I let Richard varnish and give a sigh of relief!
We touch the kingfisher and the glaze feels hard so Richard puts him into the polythene bag and then the large cardboard box to deliver him to the Subscription Rooms in Stroud where they will all be photographed before going out on the Trail. I’m still talking on the phone to Jane who rang an hour before, when he leaves. It’s good to hear that she’s able to be back out with the wildlife volunteers who have started up again. She had managed to do a lot of tree planting for the Woodland Trust in between. We discuss the situation in Australia and she says she has had the offer of a repatriation flight next week but she isn’t going as she can’t face spending two weeks in quarantine.
E mail from Dave in response to the photographs he’d requested of my kingfisher saying “brilliant, many thanks indeed, your piece looks superb”.
So am pleased they are pleased.
R goes to Bristol where Martin has prepared lunch for him and he is collecting some of the poetry books. They have a nice time before R goes to the RWA to collect my work from the very short exhibition - due to Covid and the new building works that begin at the end of this month.
Meanwhile Im working in the downstairs workshop on the 3D piece ‘In the Beginning’. when I receive and e mail from a man in Belgium who says he has been looking at my work for a long time at art fairs and exhibitions etc. and had tried to buy my piece ‘An Extinction Rebellion’ from the RWA but that as he was in Belgium and can’t collect due to Covid restrictions and they are unable to store it due to having to empty the building by the end of the month, he hoped I didn’t mind him contacting me directly. It is a painting that should probably be twice the price I had it at the RWA but I didn’t have anything smaller and I wanted them to be in with a chance.
Invitation to go out to lunch next Monday from Robert and Toyah.
I start a new newspaper painting using papers from 31st July last year during the first year of the pandemic. I do have a client waiting for this one.
Reply to Gill Henry, director of appeals at the Star College’s e mail, asking if I would be happy to present my award actually in person this year at the Leavers’ Ceremony, which they have spilt into four parts to enable social distancing. Last year of course it was all by Zoom. The diary’s beginning to fill up with events I need to attend in June, July and September so it will be interesting to see whether they are able to go ahead.
Lovely e mail from Paul Tarling at the National Star giving us a wonderful update on all the creative activities the students have been partaking in over the past year. I’m especially pleased when he describes how Louise has worked with her student on Kenny their five-foot tall kingfisher. Many have taken part remotely by creating ‘feathers’ that are then stuck to him sometimes by others. And I love the idea of the aerial dance group who poured orange paint onto the large canvas beneath which will then be cut into ‘feathers’ too it sounds so exciting how they have embraced this which can’t have been easy with social distancing and some working remotely. I’m so excited about it and can’t wait to see what they’ve achieved. Richard also shows me that on Facebook, Harriet of Art Shape has posted a photograph of their kingfisher inspired by the region and the Mappa Mundi, the top of the head being the circles of heaven and lower parts show Gloucestershire and its famous River Severn. It looks exquisite and they have, as she hoped, “done me proud”.
Today we had the joy of accepting Robert and Toyah’s kind invitation to take us to lunch at Buckland Manor. It’s such a joy seeing them both looking so well and happy. Toyah is off on tour on Friday but has been incredibly productive during the lockdowns now having an enormous following on her YouTube channel and has been working on films and productions all year. Robert’s on tour later with the Zappa Band. It’s so good to catch up over the delicious meal - asparagus soup poured over a poached egg and smoked salmon; breadcrumbed plaice with creamed potato followed by a rhubarb fool with ginger ice cream. An altogether delightful experience during which I gave them a copy of the educational poetry book by Martin Kiszko that Richard had illustrated for him and then as their double birthday and anniversary present, a miniature that I had painted especially “Two in a Boat” where they are both dressed in masks and Commedia del Arte costumes. When we get to the cars they present us with three glorious books “Taste” and “Ugly” both by design guru Stephen Bayley and “The Madman’s Library” by Edward Brooke-Hitching and a bottle Veuve Cliquot champagne to boot. Then it’s back to work.
The payment from Belgium has miraculously arrived in my account so after I‘ve given the painting a quick check, Richard carefully packs it into the custom made box he has created for the purpose and prints out the documentation so that it’s ready for collection by UPS before Ben our accountant arrives. We’re sitting n the little marquee talking to Ben when I hear the gate go so Richard gets to the door in time to see the UPS man putting it into his truck. We continue to chat to Ben about business etc until about 5.30 then I’m back in the studio
E mail from Tiffany at Panter & Hall asking if I might like a young film-maker (Milo) they are working with to come and make a little film for them to use on the web site and to promote the exhibition etc.
Gloriously warm day so we’re able to sit in the garden for brunch and to admire Richard’s planting etc. Most of the bulbs are now beginning to go over but he’s planting out the seedlings he has nurtured in front of the french windows in my studio across the Lane - courgettes and beans seem to be the first he’s planted out and the beetroot which went straight into the earth are already beginning to show.
Hear from Milo and arrange for him to come in July.
Richard calls out excitedly to tell me that the painting arrived in Belgium on time and has been delivered to Sean. Later a lovely e mail from Sean saying “…The painting is magnificent. I have spent lunchtime removing it from its carefully packed box and it is really stunning. The images did not do it justice. The colours are splendid, the level of detail is delightful and the sense of activity is fascinating. I am still taking it all in and will certainly treasure it…”
Hand written card from local poet and writer asking if she might use my painting “Oh the joys of motherhood” on the cover of a chap-book being published in the USA on the life of the American writer and activist Tilly Olsen who died in 2007 at the age of 94 against the odds bringing up a large family and working as the shop steward. She lived in conditions of poverty and her writing career was curtailed by the demands of children and work.
Working on a couple of new corrugated pieces towards the exhibition.
After receiving e mail from Alison Bevan asking for help with the crowd funding as part of their Light and Inspiration’ capital project they are asking for support with the new dedicated family friendly art space as they especially want to expand their work with children, vulnerable groups and people with disabilities and additional challenges for which the RWA has a growing reputation. After e mailing Alison back I make a donation of £1,000 and am hoping that others might join the funding, starting with as little as £5, many of which have rewards such as an Elizabeth Frink Dog tote bag.
When we’re out on our walk we hear someone call out and it’s Ann Reid who was in her car when she spotted us crossing at the war memorial. It’s so good to see her and catch up we stand there having a lovely chat about our families - her wonderful son David used to be Henrietta’s boyfriend when they were in the sixth form. He is head of art at school near Evesham. His wife Elenor is also a teacher but specialises in children who are deaf.
Still trying to form a rough composition on the larger of the two corrugated pieces I started last week. The weather is glorious and it’s so good to be able to sit out for brunch and admire Richard’s borlotti beans some of which he has now planted out along with some green and some yellow courgettes.
A call from Nathan who is in Kiev filming and will be back in just over a week. It’s so good to hear him. He’s very happy as he’s just been asked to make a wonderful film with the same director he worked on for the Sampha film, produced by A24 which he couldn’t have done if the film he was to have been working on this summer hadn’t been pushed forward to next spring
E mail from the Cotswold Landscape people saying that the Kingfishers are now in situ. Really pleased as mine is quite close by in Winchcome.