I have started to paint Claire for AGD. I met Claire in the hospice, where she was terribly ill with cancer. When I first saw her, Claire had no hair, her body was ravaged and too thin, and she could not say much. She did not look as if she had the strength to live. On arriving at the hospice one day, Claire was no longer there. She had gone home, and I expected that she had done so to die. Imagine my surprise, months later, to find someone tap me on the shoulder at Tescos last Christmas, and tell me that they just wanted to say hello. I saw a slender, beautifully dressed and elegant woman with soft wavy hair, and masses of it. I thought to myself, I know those eyes, who is this? It was Claire. "From the hospice!" she said and I was stunned. Claire! From the hospice! Alive and well and shopping in Tescos. Claire did not die, not at all, and with the devoted help of the staff there, and of her close friend Jackie, Claire is well and is living each day now, a day at a time, with all the power and understanding of what living for the moment means. Claire is my last portrait this year for AGD. I will have painted four people when she is completed - Mike, with MND, Julia with MND (who died last Friday), Kate Granger with cancer and Claire, who has no cancer today. Her cancer is gone, and day by day, it stays away.
I shall make her as enigmatic and as beautiful as she is. The most important thing is that she is alive against the odds, and is filled with an understanding of what it means to live. She has stood with one foot in death and one foot in life. Claire has gone further than most of us into death, and has a way of articulating her thoughts and experiences that makes me think I understand the paradoxes and strangeness of being in those places. The painting will show a beautiful lady, but a vulnerable one. Having said that, whenever I think I know what I am going to paint, and how, whatever forces that help me to paint at all, do their own thing, and something else entirely happens.
I have also prepared a large piece of wood for a painting that I have thought about for a long time. It will be called The True Fairy, and will be a painting of me. From the moment that I could form a thought in my head, I believed that I was a fairy. As a little girl, I was terribly set upon by other girls in the playground at school, who told me that I was not a fairy at all. And that they were. "All girls," they said, "born in 1958 or 1959 were fairies." Any other years, no. "Except perhaps, for 1961." It was well known that I was born in 1960, as I was the youngest in the year.
After a dreadful time trying to talk to the Fairy Queen, called Esmerelda, who lived in a tree outside the games shed, and ask her to make me a fairy, I had a moment of insight. "I am," I realised one long, long lunch break after a week of long, long lunch breaks, where I had tried to lure a response from Esmerelda with a bit of bubble gum and was continuing to get absolute silence from her, "I am the true fairy!" And that was that. Esmerelda could take a running jump. As a Fairy Queen she needed to retake all her exams and suffer a drastic drop in salary. And as for the other girls, the only reason they thought that they were fairies was because they believed in Esmerelda. I knew for a fact that blinking Esmerelda spent most of her time ignoring people from up that tree outside the games shed, because she was useless, fat and spotty and probably scared of me because my fairyness was so dazzling that it had given her a heart attack. "Ha!" I said to the other girls. "Esmerelda says I am the Fairy Queen now and you are to give me all your bubble gum." That, I thought, will show them. And it did. They were rather stunned, and left me alone and I carried on trying to fly and do magic quite happily without any distractions.
|The True Fairy. Aged 12 months and meaning business.|
Time to introduce the next AGD event. Time to get the diaries out and to scrabble excitedly for a pen. This event is in conjunction with Sarah Weller of Sounding for the Soul sound therapies. Some of you have been at our last workshop together, and the feedback was excellent. It promises to be a fabulous afternoon, and Sarah is becoming very well known for her amazing sound work and sound baths. Please come to this event and support the work that we do with those at the end of life, and with promoting awareness of end of life matters.
|Goodbye Michael Goodbye Old Friend.|
|A recent Sounding for the Soul workshop|
|Sarah Weller with an MS patient at a Sounding for the Soul workshop|
|Julia Wilson, with thanks and love.|