David Lodge Day 13


water colour study from my sketch book

water colour study from my sketch book

March 12th 2013

Continued in square format but this time worked in watercolour which is similarly challenging; very unforgiving. Started six side by side studies which I can work back into with mixed media also. Late afternoon I went across to the Barber Institute with Sunny to hear David Lodge talk about his novel, “Changing Places.” He was introduced by the wife of the novelist Jim Crace. Liked his use of a variety of stylistic formats in the book, eg. third person, first person and script; gave me an idea for the text in my picture book. I call it that as it is aimed at children and adults. Slightly embarrassing as he was asked at the end to choose between a bottle of wine and a bottle of champagne as  a gift and as the bottles were physically there we all felt he should be given both; but he wasn’t . He took the champagne and kindly signed my first edition copy of Changing Places. Upstairs in the gallery afterwards I saw the latest acquisition: a Reynolds they had hung that veryday; it had been given to the state in lieu of death taxes apparently. Talking informally to the marketing man at the Barber they apparently receive income from paintings loaned out so the large Manet for example is currently down in London at the Royal Academy. 


110702 missing out

Twice this week I’ve been wrong footed. I was up at the Barber Institute on Tuesday delivering paintings for submission to the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2011 and ambled upstairs to see the exhibition Court on Canvas.  At the top of the stairs I turned left into the exhibition and had a quick look but wasn’t overly impressed. There were black and white photographs of Billie-Jean King, a cheeky tennis poster (you know the one), a range of tennis rackets from throughout the ages, a case full of art deco jewellery featuring tennis motifs etc etc. All well and good but nothing exactly scintillating. So I continued on into the permanent collection, mildly disappointed, enjoying the Howard Hodgkin as always, revisiting the Vuillard, the Bonnard, Sickert, and onto my Frans Hals and Bellini favourites. I paused for a moment to listen to various excellent explanations of paintings to a school party by a young museum officer before turning right into the final room and catching the train home. Imagine my surprise therefore when I found THIS was the main room of superb, fantactic tennis paintings and prints featuring works by Eric Gill, Edward Ravilious, Percy Shakespeare, Paul Nash, Sir John Lavery, Stanley Spencer and E.H.Shephard. I was gobsmacked and spellbound, in equal measures; it’s an ace exhibition and well worth seeing. But nearly missed it.

Blow me if a similar thing didn’t happen yesterday! I met a dear friend at Compton Verney near Stratford to take in the current Stanley Spencer and the English Garden exhibition. We did a couple of rooms of garden paintings before finishing off in the final room to watch the film about his life and career. This film had originally come out in the late 70s when we had both seen the Stanley Spencer exhibition at the Royal Academy as part of our O-level studies. It was quite a long film and what with the wooden floors, visiting school parties, and open plan nature of the gallery adversely affecting the accoustics, barely audible at times. We both stuck it out however and by the end were ready to go for lunch rating the experience overall as very good but not fantastic. As we walked back through the galleries we suddenly spotted a small sign on a door saying ‘exhibition continues’. This only turned out to be the entrance to the main exhibition which we had very nearly missed: two massive rooms of far more major works than those in the previous rooms.

Later I popped into the RSC theatre to see the current Folio exhibition- a response to Shakespeare by staff and student printmakers at the RCA; prints by Norman Ackroyd, Alistair Grant (my old tutor), Joe Tilson, Elizabeth Frink and many others. It was a lovely exhibition and well worth seeing. On the two and a half hour train journey from Worcester to Stratford first thing I had got talking to two ladies about their day trip to Stratford. What are you going to do there, I asked casually. Go on the river, they replied. Well, you could always go into the theatre, I suggested. There followed a pregnant pause. Why would we want to do that? they asked in unison. Well, because it’s the home of Shakespeare theatre, they’ve just spent a trillion pounds rebuilding it, you can get a cup of tea, visit the gift shop, see an exhibition, it’s the RSC’s 50th birthday, lots of reasons, blah, blah, blah, but I suspect my well meaning suggestions were falling on deaf ears.

tea & biscuits (and giving blood) 101127

This week I gave blood – for the first time. This was something I’d often thought of, mostly forgotten about, and occasionally been reminded of.  A pang of guilt was triggered each time I passed the blood van parked outside the Methodist church on the aptly named Pump Street. So feeling decisive I recently went online and at the click of a mouse, and before I could change my mind, made my own appointment. Sorted.

When the day came and with just an hour spare until my appointment I managed a manic hour of shopping and arrived laden down with half a dozen bags and unwieldy rolls of wrapping paper (spending money like there was no tomorrow had more than  counter balanced my nerves, I decided).

Consequently at reception the simple suggestion “If you’d like to take a seat…” sounded a lot easier than it actually was as I physically knocked over every one I met as I made my way to my seat. I was about as popular as a latenight  theatregoer  arriving after the performance has started; these generously hearted donors had planned on a pin prick to the arm not a full black eye and bruises. Sorry, I do apologise. Sorry. I just  had to keep saying it.

Indeed it was a performance. The first floor modern Methodist church had been transformed into the set from Holby City or Scrubs with hospital beds, nurses – male and female, screens, cafe, reception area, waiting room, and even a few patients.  I felt like the unpaid extra with a small walk on part.

I was asked to return to the desk to answer a few question; worried I might inflict yet further damage the nurse suggested I left my shopping behind the desks , “We’ll have a quick rifle through whilst you’re sorted, if you don’t mind, so don’t worry if half of its missing when you leave.” I wasn’t sure if she was joking.

Behind the screen I did the quick thumb prick test and judging by the speed in which the globule plummeted through the solution and hit the bottom I can safely say there is plenty of iron in my blood; all those years of eating spinach have finally paid off. “Have you ever given blood?” I asked the nurse tentatively. “Only yesterday,” she said , and to prove it, rolled back her sleeve to reveal fine pin prick marks.

Then I was invited to the drinks area where I sat nursing a pint of water. Naturally  I’d have preferred a pint of Hook Norton but that wasn’t in the spirit of the thing. The chap next to me admitted he was terrified of heights and petrified of needles; watching his hand shake as he raised the tumbler to his lips I could tell he wasn’t joking. “I could never be a junkie,“ he told me. His mum had once needed a transplant he said, and because he had a rare type of blood that was highly sought after, he overcame his fears and came four times a year anyway. Another said that years ago he’d been backpacking round Europe and  checked into a donation centre in Istanbul in order to earn some blood money to move on. There each donor was paired directly with the recipient, so that what came out of one went straight into t’other; unfortunately in his case he was so tall, scrawny and knackered from travelling that nothing came out, and he was sent away empty handed,  obviously going nowhere.

“Which hand do you write with?” asked the nurse once I was up on the bed; she could just as easily have asked which hand do you paint with or drink with because they are just as important to me. She kept asking me if I was comfortable and emphasising that since I was a first timer everything had to be just so.

Next came the tricky bit and after much hand clenching and unclenching at last I was plugged in and we were ready to go. There was a lengthy pause. “Doesn’t seem to be anything coming out, “she sighed. I was staring doggedly at the stage in the other direction and starting to detect a glimmer of tension in her voice. “Oops, there now, forgot to unclip the clip,” she said. “Ah, it’s coming out beautifully now.”  Thank God for that, I thought.

Afterwards, job done, I made my way to the tea table which I have to say was the best bit; who doesn’t love a freebie? Sitting there looking at the racks and racks  of biscuits and crisps in front of me and surrounded by an equally mesmerised group of strangers I felt like a six year old at a birthday party. I gingerly took a pack of three fruit shortcakes, “They’re are chocolate ones on the other side…..” whispered the man next to me conspiratorially. I replaced the shortcakes and took a mint Club. “We won’t tell anyone,” said another.

“Orange or lemon squash?” asked the nurse. “Tea, please” I answered (not having drunk squash since I was a little girl). “First timers always have squash in case tea brings on a faint,” nurse explained.“Well, orange, no lemon, no orange then, please” I said decisively (blood obviously being not the only thing they’d taken out whilst I was lying prostrate). I asked my needle phobic friend how he’d got on- absolutely fine, he said, it was just the anticipation; there followed between us an in depth conversation about his fear of heights and my fear of glass lifts. He couldn’t go on the rides at Blackpool and I found the choice between the glass lift or glass stairs at the Royal academy an absolute nightmare. He thought all those on benefits should be made to give blood twice a year, “Where I work on the council estates I see them sitting there all day long; if they can collect their benefits they can give blood.”  I nibbled at another Club.

After one more pack of  cheese and onion crisps I asked the nurse if I could have a cup of tea now. “Oh no, not until you get home.  And the next time you come you can , but not the first time, at all. But you can have another squash.” So for the first time in forty years I tried lemon squash. It took me back.

Ready to go now I went to collect my shopping. “Remember not to use your left arm at all. ”  I looked  at her and she looked at me, and we both looked down at my mountain of shopping. And so it was that after my first blood donation I resembled a badly balanced set of scales as I sidled down the stairs with all six bags of shopping and rolls of wrapping paper sticking out awkwardly on my ever lengthening right arm. Those coming up the stairs gave me knowing looks as if to say, “You’ll learn.”

So with another appointment firmly booked for March I shall make sure that next time I appear empty handed, with a spring in my step and travelling light, very much looking forward to tea and biscuits. And if when I leave I spy an individual carrying bags and bags of shopping, believe me, I shall be the first to give them a very knowing look.

It’s the very least I can do.