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Friday, 27 July 2012

Let's Do This In Chapters

This is a very good idea, to do Chapters.  They will be snappy, informative and admirable.  That is how I think I want to be, snappy, informative and admirable so let me see what I can do.

Chapter One.  Inside The Home.

I cleaned it last week, and washed the floors.  After that, I thought I was Superwoman.  I have discovered the pleasure of watching a bit of telly too, and have managed to put down my paint brushes at the end of the day and trip lightly across the garden to the telly room and see what is on.  What, said Oldest Son with a dreadful expression, are you doing here?  Watching telly, I say, will you join me?  You never do that, he said, his eyes narrowing, What is wrong with you?  It cannot be helped, I said, I am middle aged.

Chapter Two.  Outside the Home.

Youngest Son is on school holidays.  He is 6'4" and only fifteen.  He needs to be exercised like a large hound, and fed quite a lot.  So we agreed that we would do a big bike ride very early in the morning every second morning, and reap the benefits during the day.  He, by sleeping and playing computer games, me, by having a glow of achievement before even 9am.  So on Monday, by 6.50am, I awoke to the smell of Youngest Son making pancakes in the kitchen below my bedroom and thought - Lord, this is serious.  This is going to hurt.  He means business.  Morning!  he cried as I came into the kitchen, serious business this cycling.  Been studying it in science at school and I have prepared pancakes, nutella, bananas and squash for breakfast.  I could only watch him with admiration and surprise.  This child, this giraffe-boy, has spent his whole school year asleep and late for everything, he has risen during weekends at 2pm and lain in a stupor in his pyjamas till bedtime when he has gone back to sleep again.  When, I asked him, did he learn to make pancakes?  Why, I asked him, is he being a bit more normal? 

We left for our bike ride just before 7.30am.  Thirteen miles and an hour and a half later, he returned.  Thirteen miles and two hours later, I returned.  Hurrah!  He cried, this is the life! What took you so long, there is a gym near here I want to join and I think I know where I can get cage fighting lessons!  Hurrah!  And he started to prepare his second breakfast.  Hobbits have it right, he said merrily, first breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, lunch, tea, supper, dinner.  My Son, I say, you may take the Hobbit Philosophy of Food but you are no Hobbit, you are a Mountain Troll.

All this week we have been cycling in the early morning together and even though I know that it is as early as possible so that anyone he knows has no chance of seeing him out cycling with his fat old mum, the benefits are already evident.  We sleep better.  We feel better.  We are more jolly.  We eat, strangely enough, less.  My mind is clearer and I am so proud of myself.  Youngest Son is also proud of himself, so much so that he is trying for a six-pack in the local gym and had his first session yesterday.  He walked around yesterday without his shirt on so that I could not miss the formation of muscles as they materialised before my eyes.  Son, I said, it will take time.  But my aren't you strong?  Hench, Mum, he said.  the word is Hench.

Chapter Three.  In The Studio

Ah!  The windows are thrown open, the light streams in, and I have been a-painting.  Outside, the Cosmic Gardener has made the garden a little tidy, a little wild, and very lovely.  I never find beginning anything easy, I worry that I cannot do it after all and that I am afraid.  This week I have been very involved in the portrait of a lovely young man, the son of my friend Sam of Soul Carers (www.soulcarers.com).  He will be finished this weekend, and I have painted him playing his guitar, with a halo around his head.  The background is bright sunny yellow, which I am surprised with, but it works.  When Sam agrees, when it is properly finished, I will post a picture of it 

On the first day of painting the face and making it into a proper portrait, I simply did not want to do it.  It felt too hard, I was very afraid.  But then I thought, if I say this prayer that I found in a book somewhere, and say it quietly so that no one hears me and laughs at me, perhaps that will help.  The prayer is addressed to God and you say, I will do the quantity, you do the quality.

I stuck at it and by the end of that particularly difficult day, the face and head were fine.  I know I can do it, I thought afterwards, why do I allow myself to struggle so?  That little prayer always works, it is grounding and helpful, and it got me through.  It is simple and kind.  Try it yourself, and see.

I have two approaches to a) painting and b) writing.
  • Painting - I let go of my thoughts and I go somewhere where I don't need words.  It is a place outside myself and it is important that I go out there to it.  This place, though I go out towards it, is of me so to speak.  Not a place belonging to someone else, though I leave myself to go out to it.  
  • Writing - I go inside my mind and settle down to engage with myself.  I like my mind, it is good company for me, and writing means I go in there, right inside, and settle myself down to see what I have in the cupboards and rooms around me.  I meet all sorts of characters in there, all sorts of situations, there is never a dull moment.
Other paintings I started this week are of Winnie, for AGD and asked for by Sam of Soul Carers.  Winnie, dying, is a tiny face surrounded by wispy white hair in a big bed with two Care Home Staff trained by Sam as Soul Midwives, holding her hand and doing what Soul Midwives and many of us sitting with the dying do, holding a Vigil. Keeping the silence, keeping the space, staying with Winnie, letting it happen.  As I started painting this, I used large brush strokes and for a very brief moment, turned it into a pseudo Degas.  Fab, I thought, and turned it back into an Antonia Rolls.  And finally, I am doing my lovely friend Caroline Soar.  I need Stevie Wonder's Songs from the Key of Life to do that, which is all fun and fine.  I will post photos when they are done.

Chapter Four.  Future Stuff

Future Stuff!  Love it.  More cycling, Eileen Rafferty photographer extraordinaire comes to stay this weekend, and Caroline's beloved partner Bette is coming to dinner.  Tonight's dinner will involve cream.  Enough said.  Bring it on.

The new all singing all dancing website being designed for me by Neill Blume http://www.theloupe.co.uk/ will be up and running on 10 August.  Can't wait.  It should be all that I do in one place, which will thrill you all and that is how it should be. 

I had a startling thought last night, and am wondering what it takes to become an artist in residence at an undertakers.  Fortunately, I have a friend who is an undertaker (as one does), who is open to the idea, and we will speak this week about some thoughts on the subject.  This friend runs the Elizabeth Way Funeral Services www.elizabeth-way.co.uk, and is a very well loved, well known lady. 

I am taking part in the Kicking the Bucket event in Oxford for the month of October, though I will only be there on the 27th.  I am on a panel watching the new Nell Dunne play read through and answering questions afterwards on death and dying and spirituality. http://www.kickingthebucket.co.uk/

October 30 to November 2nd 2012 I will be at the Spirit of Caring - Spirituality and Well-being in End of Life Care for LOROS Hospice Care.  The event will be in Northampton.  I will be hosting the AGD exhibition there and giving a presentation on Spirituality and End of Life Care.  http://www.loros.com/hospice/Default.aspx?id=438199

There is a chance I will take AGD to Edinburgh for the Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief Annual Event in November.  www.goodlifedeathgrief.org.uk/.  I hope I can, it would be lovely to meet them.

And finally, I am going to Dorset next week with Youngest Son, Niece, and Mr Bedford, my esteemed other half.  There will be no cycling, no painting, no writing.  There will be only eating left, and I will do that with aplomb.