Sunday, 11 May 2014

Apple Pie, Driving a South Korean TV Company to the Wrong House, and AGD

I bought an apple pie and some custard recently, and no one has eaten it.  It is in the fridge looking at me every time I open it, and I am sure I saw my name on it.  As it has been a long and intense few days, I am going to eat both the apple pie and the custard.  It is a well known remedy for tiredness after long and intensive days, it is scientifically proven to make one happy, jolly and full of sunshine.  It is in the oven now, and already I feel better.


Yesterday, A Graceful Death exhibition went to the Dead Good Day Out, a Festival of End of Life Events (sounds like crazy wilful dying on the spot, and cheering people as they leap off high rise buildings, but it wasn't).  It was held in Southampton, and was a most creative and interesting event full of activities around death beliefs and customs from other cultures, and from our own. I met, amongst others, green burial directors, children's hospice nurses, memorial artists, death mask makers, and a ukulele band. So many things to see, so many different and interesting people to talk to, it was a wonderful event.  It is very easy for me to swan around when I do these kind of things, and not spend as much time as I should within AGD listening to people.  There is always so much colour and activity going on elsewhere, I think it won't matter if I just disappear and meet this exciting person here, chat to that fascinating person there, and if anyone wants me, they will come back.  Or wait.

Setting up for the Dead Good Day Out, the stalls and participants getting ready for the moment the doors opened
But twice yesterday I was pulled up short and reminded that it is often the person who is hard to communicate with, who is not easy to want to stay and listen to, who needs time the most.  A lady came to speak to me who seemed to not be able to finish a sentence without starting another.  It was hard to follow her, and though she was wanting to talk, I couldn't work out what she was trying to say.  I wanted to move away; I am ashamed to say I thought she was taking me away from other people.  I did move away, but she joined me again when I was talking to another man.  This happened again and during that second conversation, my lady mentioned that she was interested in painting, and was interested in painting her son who had died when he was a teenager. I understood then why she had found it hard to speak to me, she was working up to mentioning her son, and I had not noticed that she needed some careful listening.  Having mentioned her son, and as I understood that she had a huge burden to bear, she became distressed, apologised, and left.  And I thought how brave she was.  She did not give up, she said what she was going to say, and though she did not stay to talk of it any more, I hope that having said it, she will find a way to get out his photographs, and to paint his portrait.  Oh dear, my poor lady, I am sorry I didn't understand when I should have.

The second lesson in giving time and not judging, was with an older lady who I found rather disconcerting.  I can't say why, there was something about the way she seemed to stare, and to wait a bit too long before speaking.  I wondered if she was a little eccentric. She had short dyed black hair, and white eyebrows, which I kept wondering if she knew looked odd, or whether she didn't care.  She wafted over and away, gazing at me and looking as if she was about to say something, and then moving off again.  Later that evening, most people had left, the event was over, and we were all packing up and away.  I was taking paintings down, putting them away, being very busy, longing to get home and have a cup of tea and some silence.  One person was left, my little lady with black hair and white eyebrows.  And she was still looking at the paintings and reading the stories.  I don't remember how we began to talk, but she was very taken with a new addition to the exhibition, about someone who had died young.  I had displayed an email from the parents of this little girl, which had moved her.  I gave her the email, and she began to cry.  Oh my funny little lady.  Her friend had committed suicide recently and she was unable to find a way to talk to the mother of her friend.  "What should I say?"  she said, "she won't reply to me, and I was so close to my friend.  I think the mother is too distraught to talk to me, but I want to talk to her."  The email from the parents of the little girl had spoken of the need to love yourself, and it was this that she wanted to tell her friend's mother.  Here it was again.  The moment someone chooses to say what is so hard to say. It isn't always when I am sitting and giving my full attention.  This time it was not only when I was distracted by packing up, but I had dismissed her as simply eccentric with nothing to say.  I stopped what I was doing then, as I understood that this was the moment for her, and listened to a deeply grieving person.  She left after a short while, with the email I had written out for the exhibition, and I continued to pack up feeling subdued and sad.

Interim report 

I have just had apple pie and custard.  My strength didn't quite return after one helping, so I have had another and yes, the scientists are right.  I feel a bit better.  I have had the foresight to give the rest to Giant Boy and my older son, Interesting Boy, so I am in no danger of going overboard and eating apple pie and custard till it comes out of my ears and defeats the purpose of cheering one up, instead sending one to A&E with pie and custard poisoning.


A team of camera men and a producer from Korea Educational Broadcasting System came today with their translator, to film AGD in the studio, to do an interview with me and to interview Claire Rudland, one of the sitters from the exhibition, who is an absolutely wonderful speaker about the journey through fear, pain and illness towards death, the dying process, except that she did not die.  She recovered.  And since then, she has lived every moment, good and bad, with a view to making every day count.

Claire talking to the interviewer, who was fascinated with her story.  Claire was cold and wrapped herself in the Studio Spotty Blanket.
Despite getting back really late last night, and despite having to undergo bonding moments with Giant Boy over the Eurovision, I got up very early this morning.  I had to clean the house, make a bathtub load of soup (for the Koreans), and unpack the car of AGD paintings, leaving them casually catching the light and looking intriguing in the studio so that the South Koreans would gasp as they walked in through the studio door and say in Korean, Blimey O'Reilly, we are glad we came.

And so, the whole of today has been given over to having Korean camera men filming the studio in the studio, outside the studio in the garden, through the studio windows; filming interviews in the studio, filming me getting into my car, filming in the car seat next to me going off to collect Claire, filming me getting out and taking them to the wrong flat, filming me not knowing where the hell my friend lived, filming me phoning her and getting them to the correct place in the end, filming Claire and I saying hello, and then getting in the car to film me driving us to my house, and our conversation.  "You've changed your hair!" "Why yes, I have!  Do you like it?" "Oh yes.  Lighter at the front" and so on.  I wondered whether we were meant to be profound and whether they will dub a philosophical conversation over our journey home.  Claire was a real hit, she moved the team to tears talking about the mystery of life and death.  She was, she is, so articulate and clever.

When all the filming was over we had a late lunch of soup and bread and bananas and chocolate and crisps.  That's all I had in the house.  Both Giant Boy and Interesting Boy joined us, and we had a party.  It was a relief to relax with the South Korean team and find out about them and their lives and world.  They are filming the opening night of A Graceful Death in Brighton on 20 May, so I will happily see them again.  We all liked them very much.

The Korean Producer in the studio with a drawing of Claire I did, trembling with nerves, for the camera, in case I made her look like a telly tubby and South Korea would think I was a fraud.


Tomorrow I shall lie around peeling grapes.

AGD set up ready yesterday, and the artist in a dress that looks as if she wants you to do target practice on it.  

Don't forget, A Graceful Death Exhibition next in Brighton 

20 - 23 May 10am to 10pm 

St Peter's Church, Preston Park (next to Preston Manor) Brighton BN1 6SD

Facilitated discussions 
Wed 21 "Planning Dying" 2 - 4 pm  
Dementia Information 6 - 7 pm
Thurs 22 "Supporting the Dying" 2 - 4 pm
Ars Moriendi, early evening salon on the art of dying 6 - 8 pm
Fri 23  "Communicating with the Dying" 2 - 4 pm
"Working with the Dying" 6 - 8 pm
Closing thoughts to end the exhibition 8.30 pm.

Entrance free, donations accepted.
Email me on for more information

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