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Friday, 1 February 2013

You may all be wondering if I actually do anything.  Recently I have been writing about ephemeral things, such as time, niceness, and keeping one's pecker up.  I was going to write about diaries today, but I thought perhaps you will think that I do nothing but spend all my days pondering.  I have given you no real evidence that I do anything else at all.  So today I will tell you of some of the things that I am doing, when not pondering and gazing dreamily into the middle distance.  I will, in the spirit of an efficient person, itemise them.  In this way, you will be made aware of the more earth bound nature of today's blog.  Instead of sitting back into your sofa, a mug of hot chocolate in your hand and a blanket of pure lambswool wrapped around your knees, the phone on silent and Radio 4 on mute, so that you can drift safely into the gentle world of time, peckers, niceness, you will be sitting up straight on the edge of the sofa, shoulders back, blanket folded beside you, and a look of alertness in your eye.  That is what I aim for this week.
  • A Graceful Death.  This large exhibition is growing ever larger.  By the end of this year, there will be 52 paintings and poems, and so, I am taking a step back.  It is time to reorganise it.  I have been speaking to interesting and intelligent people in the business world, the end of life care world, and the public world, and the plan so far, is thus.  a) I will not do any more paintings for the exhibition after the 4 paintings that I am doing at the moment. The exhibition is large enough and soon may be too large to fit in to even a removals lorry. It may get so large it will fall off the British Isles and into the sea.  That would be very inefficient. b)  I will reorganise the exhibition to include speakers, workshops, and related events. This will mean the exhibition can adapt and change according to the central message of the event at which it is showing.  It can include other interesting and fascinating people who can educate and inspire.  Notice that I said other interesting and fascinating people.  c) I will make the exhibition financially stable and viable. I do not charge for any work I do for the exhibition, and I do not charge for entry.  I do charge for taking it to institutions, conferences and the like, but I have worked on creating and maintaining it, since 2009, through miracles and the kindness of friends, until now.  It will become too big, and it needs to be financially viable and stable.  So.  I will continue to paint those at the end of life, but I will now do as a commission.  I will continue the Soul Midwife work through the paintings, and work with families and individuals who commission me to paint, and record what they want to say, privately. I can continue the A Graceful Death idea, and concentrate on working with people outside of the exhibition. d)  The exhibition will be flexible and will be able to help to promote awareness of all sorts of end of life issues, such as, for example, Motor Neuron Disease, Cancer, bereavement and Soul Midwifery.  And I want to expand the AGD experience to include other forms of expression, like music, drums, art, storytelling, dance. 
  • Paintings.  As Artist Extraordinaire, I paint all sorts of subjects.  Recently, I have been painting Every Day Angels, a Jesus on the Tube, illustrating a new children's book, and I am about to embark on the portraits and words of the next 4 sitters for the A Graceful Death exhibition. 
  • And these painting are - oh, the Jesus on the Tube. This was for and about a venerable, much loved man of 93, a Jewish doctor, author and scholar, living in America.  His daughter commissioned it to be done fast, by mid January.  The morning that I finished it and sent an email of the image to her, he died.  I am so sorry that he won't see it, it is the most amazing Jesus on the Tube ever.  This handsome elderly doctor is painted seated on a London tube train, the station is Nazareth.  Behind him, Pope John Paul II is waving goodbye, and gathered around him, standing and looking at him with admiration, are Moses, Freud, and Jesus.  Each of these glorious men are holding books written by the doctor, and surrounding them all, are posters and references to his family and their achievements in the creative and academic worlds.  The painting will be a memorial to him, it is a testament to a daughter's love for her father.  I am also doing a Weight Watchers Angel for a lady priest in Germany, a very slim lady priest in Germany.  I am just finishing the illustrations too, for a new and wonderful children's book, about a sweet little witch girl called Isi, who has hot chocolate and marshmallows in her cauldron, and a little puppy poodle called Sweep.  The book is called Isi's Magic, and is for children between the ages of 4 and 7.  The author, Dreena Martin, and I have created a bonny, pretty little witch girl with masses of auburn curls, a green dress, a purple cloak and red boots.   I will post all the details when it is published.  I know you will all want to bulk buy. 
  • The 4 A Graceful Death portraits. 
  • No. 1 Portrait. In Tescos before Christmas, a lady tapped me on the arm.  I wanted to say hello she said. Why do I know you?  I asked, I knew her eyes, but I couldn't place her.  From the Hospice! she said.  You looked after me at the Hospice.  I am out now, and I am better.  And so she is!  I had last seen this lady in the Hospice, ravaged by her cancer, bald, weak, thin and silent. I knew she had gone home, and I thought that she had gone home to die.  Now, I saw a slender, beautiful lady, her hair a mass of soft silver curls, and I recognised her.  This lady is astonishingly articulate, she has so much to say, and I am oh so delighted to paint her and let her tell her story for the exhibition. Photographer Extraordinaire, Eileen Rafferty, has recorded and filmed a powerful interview with my new lady, and her friend, and I am due to start painting her this month. This, by the way, is another development for the exhibition, the use of video and recorded interviews.
  • No. 2 Portrait.   A dear Soul Midwife friend and colleague has introduced me to two people from her local Mcmillan unit, both of whom have Motor Neuron disease, and both of whom want to take part in the A Graceful Death exhibition.  This is a whole new kettle of fish for me.  I know nothing.  But I now know, from our initial conversations, that Motor Neuron Disease has absolutely no cure, it is terminal, and it will follow its own path whatever you may say or do.  I have learned that the only way to cope is to live life to the full with it, as it doesn't listen to anyone.  I have had an initial meeting with Mike, a wheelchair bound, funny, intelligent ex head master who can only communicate through a computer keyboard. He is teaching me much about his condition and how he and his wife live with it.  I have written an article about this meeting, which moved me, despite myself.  Please do read it, he is someone to watch. Click onto this link following, it is called I Can Still Pull The Birds.  http://www.storylane.com/stories/show/1108084905/and-i-can-still-pull-the-birds    
  • No 3 Portrait I am due to meet Julia next week.  Julia also has MND and can talk without a machine.  We have spoken on the phone, and I look forward to our initial meeting.  I will learn more about her experience of MND and what it means to live with it, from Julia.  It is very good that AGD will have 2 new portraits and stories, from people with this disease.
  • No 4 Portrait - I have yet to have this portrait confirmed.  I met an inspiring doctor, a young doctor, who has decided not have treatment for her terminal cancer.  She just wants to be a doctor, and this is what she has done.  I met her in Edinburgh, where she was speaking, and I know that she is full of insights and knowledge that we need to hear. She has agreed to take part in the A Graceful Death exhibition, and a date to start work has yet to be arranged.
  • Fund Raising for the next 4 AGD paintings!  Yes, and I have begun with a fund raising effort on the website Go Fund Me.  Well, I suggest you go do that thing right now and follow the link to see what it is all about - http://www.gofundme.com/1x4yl4.  I do not charge for any of the AGD work that I do.  But I have to now.  I have worked out that each painting costs between £1,000 and £2,000 to do.  This includes all the travel, the time spent interviewing, the costs of the cameras, recording machinery, the paints, the canvases and my time in the studio painting each portrait.  I am now raising funds to paint these 4 paintings for the exhibition this year, painting by painting. I have worked out that I need to raise at least £8,000 to complete all 4 of them.  Are you shocked?  Just think, it takes me about two months or more to do just one painting.  I was shocked at how much I have to find to keep this going myself.  After these, I will, as I have said, work privately on commission, to paint and record those at the end of life.
  • And Other Stuff I am off, any minute now, to the Wellcome Collection for their event What Makes A Good Death, today and tomorrow.  I will be taking notes.  I hope there is no hands on practical, I hope I won't be called upon to demonstrate my idea of a Good Death.  I have not idea what mine would be, my immediate thoughts are that it would contain swans and music and a light show, but that may just be because I am tired right now.  I am sure I will be listening to and contemplating lots of ideas from all sorts of wise and knowing folk, and I will just move amongst them all, being modestly amazed at how much they know.
  • Age UK My lovely, elegant, beautiful lady's funeral is on Friday.  She asked me every time I visited her, why exactly was I here, and I expect she knows the answer to that, plus the answer to the entire universe, now.  I shall miss her.  But Age UK has handed me another wonderful lady of 92, a modest and cautious lady who has a wealth of experience and life behind her.  It turns out she is fluent in Greek, but let it drop, because there's not much call for Greek speakers in Bognor, she says. I am amazed.
  • A Graceful Death Exhibitions.  Planned - I will be setting up at St Catherine's Hospice in Crawley in Dying Matters Awareness Week, from the 13 to 15 May.  I will be working with the Hospice to help raise awareness of end of life care, and to celebrate what the Hospice does.  Being Planned - I meet with friends in Bridport on Sunday to plan A Graceful Death and Soul Midwifery event in October or November.  We want to use the Unitarian Church there, and so I am going to have a look and a chat.  I am going to Dorset and back in a day.  After London and back.  I will be pooped, I am pooped now, I will be double pooped on Sunday.  Onwards and upwards Antonia, onwards and upwards.
  • Home the usual amount of rioting followed by excellent behaviour from my family. My lodgers are all moving out this month, nothing to do with the riots, they are moving on to better things, and I will miss them.  I am very lucky to have had lodgers who are like family.  (Except that they never riot, they are extremely sensible and well behaved).  I shall put up ads for their rooms, and show the new lodgers around with a hanky to my eyes and the occasional sniff.
While listing all of this, I began to see why my blogs can be fanciful pieces of whimsy.  I need an excuse to escape.  I am tired at the moment, to begin with, but now having written all of that down, I am exhausted.  I must add that there is more, much more, in the diary, but I am finding myself in need of a lie down and need to try and forget some of it.  And before I forget, I have 3 diaries.  Did you know that?  I have one in the studio, one in my bag, and one in the kitchen.  There.  We are back to diaries.  It is time to stop.  I need to sleep.