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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Madonna Runs The Marathon and Other Bognor News

The Olympics has inspired Mary the Mother of God to run the Marathon.  Always one of us, she made her way round the 26.2 mile route and showed us how even very Holy people like to compete in the Olympics. 

Marathon Madonna, painted in 2006 and suddenly topical.

Recently, the United Reform Church asked me to illustrate a book on the life of Jesus to accompany poems by Barbara Bennett.  I will! I said with gusto. Make it modern, witty and colourful, they said.  Use Jesus on the Tube they said, for inspiration.  Yum yum I said.  And so, I painted 31 paintings to accompany the 31 poems. The poems are about key moments in the life of Jesus, and my job was to put them in a modern setting, not stinting on the colour and fun.  In order to concentrate and block out any distractions from the outside world (like having anything to do with my children) I listened to recordings of rain, thunder and storms through earphones from You Tube on the laptop.  I started with 30 minute recordings and ended up with 10 hour recordings of thunder storms obviously cut and pasted together to which I became addicted and had to be wrested from the laptop by 15 Year Old Son at midnight.  No, no, I cried, leave me, I am in the Rain Forest and I have 4 more hours of drenching rain and splashy sounds to go, I must do Jesus and he must be witty and if you stop me now, the world will end.  Mother, said 15 Year Old Son, get a grip and go to bed.  You are dribbling and those 10 hour recordings will still be there in the morning.  It is past midnight and Jesus never intended for you to go mad.

The Jesus on the Tube painting on which the 31 Jesus paintings were based.


And so, with the help of You Tube, rain noises, Youngest Son and Heaven, the book is below.


This is Jesus calming the storm at sea.  The initials M M are on the bench in front of Jesus, but impossible to make out here unfortunately



If you want to get a copy, you have to contact Nick who works on a Friday at URC Publications at publishing@urc.org.uk and order it.  It costs £15.00. Thank you Nick.  Two things you should know about this book are
  1. My dear dear old friend from childhood, Marion Magrath, died dramatically suddenly as I was painting about painting number 5.  From then on, in each painting there are the initials M M somewhere near Jesus, as a tribute to a beautiful friend and lady.
  2. I was asked to make it more ethnically diverse and so in one of the paintings, there is an Eskimo in the temple with Jesus.
 Here are a couple of the paintings


"The Blind Man" is a Rastafarian who wears a teeshirt with Ooops on it because he keeps bumping into things.  Next to Jesus feet is a sweet wrapper with MM on it.


Jesus heals the old lady bent double, in the temple, and breaks the No Healing On The Sabbath rules.  M M is on the trousers of the lady on the left.  An Eskimo looks on.


The portrait of my friend Sam's son, Solomon, is done and ready.  Solomon is playing his guitar and has a halo and golden patterns that I lifted from old Russian and Greek icons, on his clothes. Jolly good, I really enjoyed painting this.  He really is a very nice fellow.


Solomon playing his guitar, oil on canvas, 14"x18"

This week, I have signed up to volunteer for Age Concern.  I will learn the ropes on Thursday, and will be introduced to some old folk who have become isolated for one reason or another, and will visit them weekly.  I am looking forward to this, I see so many old people in the hospice who are at the top end of the care system.  To be admitted to a Hospice means that you are cared for for each moment you live, until you die.  The older people that come to the Hospice are happy to be there, and so surprised that they merit such attention and care.  I imagine that for every person that comes in for end of life care, there are countless others who struggle on alone into the final stretch of their lives.  By becoming a befriend-er with Age Concern, I will only see the tip of the iceberg. It will be like that story doing the rounds, of hundreds of starfish being washed up onto the beach, and a little girl flinging them back one at a time.  When someone told her she was mad to do that, nothing she could do would make a difference, she picked one up and threw it back into the sea saying that it will make a difference to that one.

Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is the simple thing.  We think, in order to be effective, we must do something big, something grand, something large enough to be noticed.  We think, this grand thing that we have to do, is beyond us.  We aren't trained enough, we aren't experienced enough, we don't know what to do, so we won't do anything.  The most simple thing is to make human contact.  We can all do this, and we take it for granted, we get so much of it ourselves that we discount it.  But if you don't have it, if you are without human contact, you become smaller and smaller until you feel you have disappeared.  As I pass amongst the people in my world, the people I paint for A Graceful Death, the families and the patients in the hospice, even the people coming to the exhibitions and the events I speak at with the A Graceful Death, I think that the kindest thing anyone like you and I can do, for anyone else, is to give them the time of day.  Let the medical staff do the doctoring stuff.  Let the therapists do the therapy stuff, let the counsellors do the counselling stuff;  we can do the human contact thing.  So doing volunteering with Age Concern, within their framework, will mean that I commit to making human contact with someone for whom it is a luxury.

 Once, just after Steve died, I went to Tesco's to shop and as I was waiting to unload my trolly onto the conveyor belt to pay, I felt myself slipping away from reality and onto the the conveyor belt, with such terrible sadness and tears, I felt I was leaving my body.  I think the people behind me alerted the staff and a lady came over to me and held me up, and said something kind, someone else brought my trolley, and I was taken to sit down.  Someone put their arms round me and I must have said something about Steve, and after a while, the nice Tesco lady had to go and told me she would send someone to sit with me.  I was feeling a little better by then, which was probably a good thing, because the poor kid who was sent to sit with me was about 16 and obviously only just started working for Tesco.  He was propelled over to sit with me, and I remember his startled face as he sat down next to me, my face red, my eyes puffy and my nose running, and he said, I don't know what to do! The unspoken part of the sentence was, eeeek! Madwoman!  Well, he sat next to me, and asked me what was wrong, and I said, Steve has just died, and my heart is broken.  This lad said, Oh, I don't know what that is like, but I am very sorry.  I am only 16.  And he sat next to me in silence, looking at his hands, wondering what the hell to do, as if he had to make it OK for me.  And me?  I liked this fellow.  He didn't go away, he stayed there, and he just gave me his time, and though he didn't think he was doing anything, he made me feel much better.  I felt sorry for him.  When I told him I was OK now, and that by sitting with me like he had done, even though he was afraid, he had made a huge difference, he looked quite startled, and then, a lovely smile appeared on his face.  He looked so pleased with himself and gave me a hug and left.

Simple time, simple honest time.  I would not recognise that fellow again, but I imagine he recognised me and dived into the baked beans every time I came into shop after that, for at least six months.  In case I broke down again and made a beeline for him.  Only you can help me, he would imagine me saying, come out from the baked beans and let me cry all over you.  But of course, it never happened and wouldn't it be nice if he was able to help someone else who was upset after that?  The nice Tesco lady who held me up and hugged me, well, I see her all the time and thank her often and fully because she really is an Angel.

The new website will be ready on Friday.  It is possible that Neill Blume will launch it and then all weekend afterwards we will be tweaking it and fiddling with it to make it the all singing, all dancing, life changing experience you have been led to believe it could be.  Or it may just launch, like a rocket from NASA, and fulfill all your dreams, covering you in stardust as it goes.  I must add here that I am a realist, and that the website will not cause nations to love each other nor cure cancer, but it will tell you what I do and that will have to do.


Oh.  And Finally - on Friday as the website tiptoes into the world,  I will be at the Olympics.  My cousin and his wife are taking me and my Daughter to see the rhythmic gymnastics and to celebrate, I will be wearing my best leotard and ribbons.  Jealous?  Thought so.

Stop Press - the website won't be ready till the 17 August.  So sorry to make you wait another week, what with the Olympics ending and life returning to normal, this must be hard to take.  However, it will be worth it and soon, you will be able to click on the new website day and night and feel good about life again.  Antonia.