Going up the walls.

I have not much time to write because I am literally going up the walls.

Yes decorating beckons.  I try to remind myself that I am two rooms short of a house full, which isn’t exactly right, The kitchen has remained untouched because we did that about ten years ago and, not only was that quite enough then, thank you, I will have no money left to do it this time after the lounge and my bedroom, which are the last two left.

We went, the OH and I, up to the extreme north of the county to visit a fabric shop. I live in the county town which had a range of things nearby such as fabric shops but these have dwindled, as has the enthusiasm for participating in them. The current situation has not helped.

I visited the nearest large fabric shop in the next town last week, unaware that Hitler was alive an well and running a fabric shop.  To the queue, socially distanced on the pavement, orders were issued:  You!  Stand back!  A customer is leaving!

At a run, it transpired, when I was eventually allowed in, causing difficulty because I wished to go upstairs to the curtain fabrics and had to stand on the naughty step until the other customer had finished downstairs and left the building when the lady owner followed me round demonstrating all the things that were not what I wanted at first glance.  Her frustration at my inability to purchase despite my recklessly touching a fabric roll with my sanitised gloves was apparent in her address to the next customer.  As I left, the queue evaporated.

So it was after a phone call the OH and I trekked to a shop far away, offering many books of swatches to discover that the fabric alone, without lining, was likely to cost £500.

Blimey, I remember when that was the down payment on a house or an entire foreign holiday for several people with an all-you-can-eat buffet.

When the lounge is finished there is a strong likelihood that my bedroom, last on the list, will be decorated with hessian on the floor and crayon-your-own wallpaper.

So today it is finishing the prep for the lounge, which started with destroying the angels.

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Many years ago when we went to Pompeii, the frieze that the ancient Roman cowboy builders had in their very posh dining room, of cherubs making wine, impressed me so much I copied the Vetii and did some of my own round the top of the lounge walls.

But now they have to go, which entails scrubbing them with rubbing alcohol.

Here they go

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going..going

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gone

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I don’t expect many folk start decorating by rubbing off the angels.

According to Terry Pratchett you only get one angel.  According to me I had lots.

I am planning to have a bookshelf up there.  The OH doesn’t want another frieze.  He didn’t like the previous one, which was squirrels.  He believes you should buy one. printed, by a wallpaper company because they have proper artists.

See what I’m up against?*

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*The skirting board with sander, after I’ve been out to get some primer.  I might be the one person you know who never got bored in the lockdown, I never had the chance.

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Senior Super Quiz.

Wake up and welcome to Senior Super Quiz, the gameshow for anyone who can remember where they put the channel changer, or how to use it, or which channel we’re on – or when.

Question One, for half a damp biscuit.

Have you seen my glasses?

Question Two, for half a cup of tea containing a partially dissolved portion of biscuit and some swimming crumbs.

What is his name – my grandchild, the little one?

Question Three is for a sock with a soft welt that won’t make a dent in your leg.

What was the colour of that car we had after the war?  Was it blue or was it grey?

Question Four, for a pair of hearing aid batteries.

How do you find out if your prescription is ready if you haven’t got one of those phones?

Question Five, for an new elastic bandage that still has some stretch in it.

And about those phones, why does everyone keep looking at them and laughing, or no, really why does everyone just look at them all the time?

Question Six, for half a tube of embrocation.

What sort of gravy do you call this?  It isn’t brown, what’s the point of that?

Question Seven, for an orthotic insole.

Who does she think she is?

Question Eight for a visit to the chiropodist.

Have you got an aspirin?

Question Nine, for a nice early night.

Where are my glasses, have you seen them?

Question Ten, for an interesting book, with no swearing, in big print.

A first class stamp is how much?

Question Eleven for six months help vacuuming the stairs.

Can you give me a hand out of this chair?  It’s a bit low, I wouldn’t have sat on this one if I’d realised how low it is.

Question Twelve for comfy slippers in an acceptable colour.

What do you have to do to get a cup of tea round here?

Question Thirteen, for a nice sit down and a bit of cake.

Call that a pair of knickers?  It wouldn’t cover a midget and you’ll get a chill on your kidneys, mark my words.

Question Fourteen, for soup.

Do you know where my glasses could possibly be?

Question Fifteen, for a whole box of cotton wool.

What was the name of that feller on the telly? You know, not the little squitty one, the other one?

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The Madis touch.

I’m sure you’ve heard of King Midas, everything he touched turned to gold, a bit like Bill Gates.

It is a little known fact that he had a brother, Madis, (for the one lot of of school name labels, obviously: M.Poppodoppolopolous.) When he grasped the handle and lifted, the jug fell off.  When he loaded the bow the string broke and the arrow fell down and wedged between his toes.  When he collapsed in despair on the couch the springs went twang and the leg crumbled, chucking him into the Aegean in a dry-clean-only Chiton.

Today the OH had a Madis day and the lift engineer and I both belatedly discovered it was catching and joined in.

The new, expensive pine staircase is going to be varnished by the decorators and carpeted eventually.  Before we get to eventually, numerous tradesmen, all in filthy boots, have ascended and descended the unprotected wood until it no longer looks like something that cost a lot of money, it looks filthy, tatty and naff.  So I decided that, even though it will be invisible under carpet, that I would sand the treads and risers and varnish them today.

Accordingly I requested that the OH, who has been loud in his scorn of my use of the new platform lift, predicting loss of use of legs and worse, should utilise the lift hitherto mentioned. leaving me in peace to varnish the staircase.

So the OH got in the lift, which has worked perfectly for two months, pressed the button, and for lo!

Nothing happened.

Well we got in and out, pressed and didn’t, were surprised and not and every other combination of let’s make the lift work that you could imagine.

In the end it was decided that the OH should call the manufacturers whilst I got on with the staircase.

So we moved essential stuff downstairs, I sanded the stairs, got a coat of varnish on, which I assured the OH would be dry enough to walk on in two hours, no summoned tradesman ever having arrived earlier than two hours after the phone call, and we had lunch.

Half an hour later the lift engineer arrived and walked up the stairs, sticking at every step.

So the lift engineer got on with engineering the lift while the OH went outside to mow the lawn, breaking the lawn mover handle in the process.

The lift engineer said he was done, therefore I got in the lift as the lift engineer was shouldering his back pack and the lift didn’t work. 

So the engineer got on some more while I washed the footprints on the stairs, which were hardening.

Next I asked the OH to help me with the task which subsequently occupied me, which was scraping the sticky off the plastic window surrounds.

Some years ago when the S&H came home with two cats, Cleo thought it would be nice to sit on the outside window sill upstairs and I didn’t.  So I put Velcro round the window and attached a net.  The net is long gone but the sticky backing is left and can be removed a millimetre at a time with a fingernail but I couldn’t reach the top ones. So I asked the OH for assistance.

Being unable to access patience, because he has none, the OH brought upstairs a gallon bottle of solvent alcohol.  This, it turns out, was not ideal for removing sticky from the window but utterly perfect, when spilled, like a fountain, down every tread, for re-stickying the varnish on the stairs, which more people had walked up and down than had been traipsed since they were installed.

So now we had: a lift in bits, a sticky staircase, which everyone needed to use every five minutes and a broken lawnmower.

After three and a half hours the engineer gave up and left.

The dirt in no longer resting on the stair treads because it is permanently varnished into them and I have thrown the lawn mower handle in the bin.

If I get up at crack of dawn the new engineer will not arrive until the afternoon, if I lie in bed until eight he’ll be banging on the door exactly as I step out of the shower.  And I don’t want to get up early tomorrow because I have to get up early the following day to let the decorators in so they can pour scorn on the stairs and paint blobs on the corridor.

Oh why is nothing easy?*

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* It’s the Madis touch – poke, break, drop off and sticky sticky sticky every one of thirteen steps+

+So magically touchy, it even works with feet.

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Tidying up

There are days when I write  a blog and wonder which category to file it under.

There are quite a few choices with a blog about tidying up.  It could easily come under the heading of dementia diaries, not just because it makes you feel quite loopy dear, or because my mother spent her last few months moving piles of stuff from one surface to another.

Could go under household mismanagement, could go under lost Victorian novels, which may reappear if you move the right pile of junk.

In the end I’ve filed it under about artists because, as every artist of every stripe knows, all the creativity happens on the last six inches of the table.  And no, it doesn’t work if you try to start on the tiniest table out of a nest of coffee tables, I have tried.

If you think the tidying up is a bit excessive after a few days inspired painting, card making, doll sculpture, or whatever, you should see the tidying up required after a year of building the new house from the old one while you are living in it.

And the stuff you can lose is nobody’s business.

Currently we wish to hang the advertising mirror, which the OH bought me when were young, off the market for not much.  I have cleaned it, he has re-glued the mitres, which were rubbish and never good after it fell off the wall three houses ago, and I have re-varnished the frame.  Can we find the picture hooks?

I’ll describe the box and you can see if you can see it from where you are.  It’s a clear plastic box about this big.  Through the lid you can see the compartments which contain: picture wire, big picture hooks, littler picture hooks, wall plugs, panel pins, hooks with a screw and, I think either a small awl or no awl at all.*

It always lived in the metal tool cabinet that I bought the OH one birthday, second drawer down, left hand side.  Yes I have looked there obsessively, now it is in the garage.  I have even stood in the utility room, next to the fridge, where the cabinet always used to stand and rummaged in empty air.

Yes, perhaps I should have filed this under dementia diaries.

It may have disappeared into the OH’s shed, which is turning into a bit of a black hole for anything a bit shiny or useful looking, including all the tools I bought when we lived in the flat. My good hammer has vanished, I know that, instead I have been gifted (let us call it that) my father’s hammer.  He was a builder, he regarded tools as an evil and expensive necessity which employees would lose just to annoy him, so, naturally he never looked after them.  This hammer looks as if it has been used for hammering rust in a contact adhesive factory.  You wouldn’t think you could mangle a hammer, would you?

Anyway, this isn’t helping us find the CLEAR PLASTIC BOX OF EVERYTHING NECESSARY TO HANG A PICTURE, is it?

Can you see it?  Can you point to it?

When we, or to be more precise, I, have tidied everything in the building right up, or gone out and bought another, it will appear but I want it before that.

Because now I have varnished the mirror frame I do not want to put it on the only other available surface big enough, which is the top of the pile on the settee.  I don’t want to put anything on there, it causes clouds of yellow dust.  I want to hang it on the cloakroom wall, not with the pathetic single picture hanger found in a paper bag, under a pile of stuff over a removed drawer.

I know how to find the SMALL CLEAR PLASTIC BOX WITH PICTURE HANGING STUFF IN IT (seen it yet? Just shout.)  I either tidy up the entire house and, perish the thought, the OH’s shed – no, no, I recant, nobody’s bum looks big in anything, we are all slim, tall and highly intelligent – please don’t make me tidy his shed, I was planning on a wrecking ball and one of those tractors with a scoop on the end if he goes first.

Or I time travel to Christmas when I may have finished the tidying up and found the PICTURE HANGING STUFF (anywhere? Box this big?) in time to hang the mirror for the first visit of the family before the second lockdown so they can say ‘Oh, you hung that old mirror up again, it’s too high for the children and the foxed bit is still where your face is.’

I need to find it because after the mirror is properly and safely hung UTILISING THE CONTENTS OF THE SMALL, CLEAR PLASTIC PICTURE HANGING NECESSITIES BOX (squint, I know I’m quite a way away from you.  I could lend you my binoculars, I know exactly where they are.)

After that I have to start tidying my new craft room.  And that’s before I get started on the lounge (like the corporation tip, but open for business), which is after the decorating of the dining room.

I really really hate tidying up, it’s anti-creative and a pain in the (tiny) bum, isn’t it?

So

I used what was left of my inheritance to buy a year of tidying up.

Can you believe it?

Me neither.

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*I can see all of the awl in my mind’s eye, blue plastic handle, out of a cracker, ideal for starter holes for picture pins, in the left hand compartment.  PLASTIC PICTURE HOOK BOX? no?  Well thanks anyway. (If you see it in the week just email.)

(Thanks, sorry to to trouble you.)

THIS BIG?

Thanks anyway.

Sorry, go back to trawling the net.  Let me know if you fish up picture hooks or, you know PLASTIC BOX.

That big.

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The soundtrack to your life.

Sometimes I find music with my computer, even though I would not describe myself as the sort of person who likes any sort of soundtrack while I’m working.

Some people don’t seem able to do much without the noise on.  We have teenagers next door, who are fond of the outdoor life, with the radio.

The OH is unable to drive anywhere without the car radio.  My father used to finish his work for the night and then put on the radiogram and conduct classical music.

I have frequently been described as a misery because I hate background music. It stops the words in my head.  I don’t even like rubbing down porcelain to music; if it’s not done gently in its own time, it breaks.

So, lovely lovely silence for me, it takes half an hour of it for my brain to begin working properly and then the words arrive and will stay unless interrupted.  The man from Porlock is my nemesis and the OH with shopping lists, remembered phone messages and idiotic entertainment snippits from the smart phone (if it was that smart it would know how much I dislike it and keep its skateboarding terriers to itself).

Even now as I type in my room I am interrupted by noise from the OH’s giant TV in the room below, it’s his friend Marion the cowboy again.

Yes, I am a misery and, without a shadow of a doubt, the day will come when there is only me left in the house and I will regret the absence of interruptions and it will serve me right, I should be careful what I wish for.

However.

Every now and then I find old music with a search engine.  The sounds of my salad days, the late sixties and early seventies.

My goodness we had music in the Sixties and we ain’t seen nothing yet, there are those who reckon the Sixties didn’t happen till the Seventies and the music whisks me right back.

In your head you were leather-clad, faster than light, about to conquer the world.  In reality you were dancing round your handbags in a heap on the floor of a seedy disco, where the toilets were awash, the drinks were overpriced, the men were spotty boys and the sophisticated décor of the hip room was Formica tables and plastic banquettes when they turned the lights on.

My friend Ann liked Eric of the Animals and was determined to elope with him because she was a pragmatist and he was a Geordie too, therefore she was more likely to run into him in the street than I was to marry Paul of the Beatles. We all had fantasies about guitar heroes.  The reality for the girls who actually hung out with the groups was that of trying to civilise musicians, always an arduous undertaking. They were the girls with the look, straight yellow hair, five tons of mascara and endless legs.

If I’d known I was at my tallest then, I’d have enjoyed that more too.

Nothing will match the excitement of arriving on the first bus into town on Saturday to get to the record shop to scoop the single of the week.  I played them on my Dansette record player until knew where the scratches were, backwards

The energy I had, was extraordinary.  I remember the leapy feeling inside that is youth, coursing through uncluttered arteries.  Listening to that music again can help you find the shadow of the feeling, even if you are some old codger tapping a slipper.

And I will still get up and dance,  on my own if I find the right music and really no one is watching.

The music of your youth provides the soundtrack of your life.

Who takes you there?

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Halfway.

Well, here we are, rather more than halfway through the year.  How are you getting on with all the plans you had for this year?

You see, this is the thing about life in general, the best laid plans of mice and men and miniaturists……………

So, what did you do in the lockdown, hmm?  Written your novel yet?  Learned a new skill?  Can you juggle yet?  Landscaped the garden?

It sounded so promising didn’t it?  2020. Sounded like a year you could really do something with, you know go places………………ooh in 2020 I’m going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro’ hike around bits of India, go shopping in three capital cities and take in a couple of Broadway shows.

Who would ever have thought that the most excitement you’d have would be standing in a line to get into the corner shop and see if they had any bread?

What I have actually done, is carried on with the major house makeover, which start to finish is going to be more than a year and is not finished yet. And I’ve suffered the continuance of the surgical problems caused by a surgical solution to cancer.  Thrilling. I do still read the horoscopes for the year, how wildly out was yours?

What I have done in the interval is read the whole of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.  I am up to the one he wrote, obviously following a trip to Australia.  I am reading, not as I usually do, galloping through, but slowly to see how he did it and to observe him learning his trade, because the early ones were, dare I say it, not that wonderful.  It took him quite a few to really find his voice and his style.  I would not normally get the opportunity to read the entire output of one author at a sitting.  Well you never do, do you? I think if you sat down and read the whole of Shakespeare, start to finish in one go, you’d go nuts. The inside of Shakespeare’s head must have been one heck of a place for him to live.  All good authors are a little bit loopy. They have to be divorced from reality in order to live in the play, the novel, the screen play.

What are your plans for 2021? Are you now reluctant to make them, in case we get derailed again?  I think it’s quite likely.  I think we may get the usual winter viruses and mixed in……………….  So we won’t know what we’ve got and pop to the shops, sneezing, for flu supplies………….

Mother Ann, founder of the Shakers religious movement, said you should do all your work as if you had a thousand years to to live and as if you knew you would die tomorrow.  There has never been a better year to follow this precept, as we are all given the time to do things properly.

I have, nearly every day, been finishing the day by doing a little watercolour painting.  I’ve been using them as the background to greetings cards.  Doesn’t sound much but I am improving.  I watch Matthew Palmer at Watercolour.TV and copy.  Halfway through the year I am now confident I can paint a small watercolour landscape.

Notably I have not done the lockdown house I promised you.  I have just varnished the dining room floor three times.  Taking advantage of my lack of height, I just bent double and did it.  I have also moved all the junk back into the garage but organised.

I am still running the community library at the end of my drive, on dry days. This has been much used and all passers by made appreciative comments.

Did you get to know your neighbours for the first time?  I already knew mine and had more time to talk to the folk on one side who are usually in and out and busy.  And I have finished decorating the bathroom which the plumber finally fitted the toilet in last week.  And I did design and fit out my walk-in-wardrobe, which may turn out to be the most desirable thing ever, and I did give months of employment to builders, laborers, brick layers, carpenters etcetera and so forth.  And redesign several rooms and add three to the house.  What I have really spent the last year doing is trying to future-proof my home.  So I could be at home a lot, after five years of being on the road caring for my mother and three years in and out of hospital with broken limbs and cancer.*

Which, in the year that conclusively proved you can’t future-proof anything, was remarkably perverse of me.

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* Yes I am the person who wished we could all be at home a lot more and thought that would be nice.

Throw the rotten tomatoes over here.  That’s right. Thank you.

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Oh go away.

Not you.  No, you stay right where you are but only if you want to.

I’m having a bad attack of being very desirous of flouting authority.  How do you feel about it?

On the front of the paper, which arrived about eleven this morning, when, presumably, the newspaper boy could be arsed to drag himself out of bed

Arsed!  Jane said arsed!

That’s not like her.

She’s flouting authority apparently.

What, like knocking over statues and what have you?

I don’t think so, let me read a bit more.

it said that the Prime minister was going to tell us to go shopping.  For months and months he’s been telling us not to go shopping, and then, when we did, it was waiting in Tesco’s car park in the cold for up to an hour to find out there still were no toilet rolls.

It’s about toilet rolls.

Not again.

Apparently.

And now we’re supposed to go shopping just because he says so.  Well go away.  Right away.  I have other things to worry about.  I thought the doc had referred me to the surgeon five weeks ago.  For five weeks I have kept a food diary, confident that I would get the call from the hospital soon.  Turns out when I spoke to her yesterday, she hasn’t even written the letter yet.  I rang the opticians, having had double vision since the OH hurled a bag of spanners at my eyeball in March.  They won’t be open until Monday, expect a wait of two hours on the phone.

She can’t see and her guts are playing up.

That’ll be the toilet rolls.  We need another in the loo, by the way.

Can’t you change a toilet roll?

Not my job.

Oh I am fed up.  I can’t read, because of my eyes and I’ve spent a lot of the last three months sitting on the you know what with no toilet rolls.  Apart from that I’m fine, still alive, limping slightly, metaphorically speaking.  But I do understand people who wish to break out and haven’t taken kindly to being told what to do, even by a Prime minister who had it and survived.  I empathise because of sixty-odd years of my mother.

Her hobby was telling people what to do.  The height of her world expertise was only exceeded by the depths of her ignorance.  I am still stuck, thirty three years later, with the peach-coloured bedroom carpet she advised me to have because she said I couldn’t have the blue I wanted, and was paying for, because it would fade.  The peach I was advised to have faded to orange within a year, so I have had thirty two years of orange bedroom carpet that I never wanted, because of good advice.

So I completely understand if people are getting a bit arsey.

She’s at it again.

What?

Arses.

Are you sure this is a suitable thing to read before breakfast?

So whilst I understand iconoclasm as a major straw in the wind and would never advise destroying any art for a couple of hundred years, at least. because it takes that long to see it, my own response to the current situation is ‘go away’.  We have all had enough of authority in any form, for whatever reason, especially authority applied destructively or randomly, and particularly any type of authority, that assumes we are all idiots. I know there are some idiots in society, I used to teach in deprived areas.  But, in the main, people are fairly reasonable and will try to help or do the right thing if they can.  But after three months of being told what to do, every day, breakouts against authority in every form, are the tip of the iceberg heading for the ship of state, faster than you think.

Moreover if the PM laughs while he is telling us to go shopping, just like my mother always used to laugh when she was happily running your life for you, there will be a stiff email in the ether to Downing Street nest week.

In between doctor’s appointments, optician’s appointments and only if I can be arsed.

That’s it, I’m not reading this any more.


Oh, it’s finished.

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Mooning.

There are seven arses in this column, can you spot them all?

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Rigsby’s gaff.

One of my favourite television comedy series was Rising Damp. Rigsby, Miss Jones, Alan and Philip were characters you could easily love, they were wonderfully third rate, all of them dead ringers for somebody you knew at the time, which was the mid seventies, when we all had tank tops, afro haircuts, wide trousers and, to go with our lack of style, absolutely no sense of direction.  For me in my mid twenties, I not only knew people like all of the characters; all those I knew like them, also lived in seedy bedsits in huge old Victorian houses.  I was working in a language college, similarly populated, conducted in a Victorian pile with hardboard internal walls, intermittent electricity and unexpected fire escapes that we used to have lessons on when it was sunny.  Everyone I knew had dreams of greater things that were only ever going to be dreams.  Prevalent colour schemes were orange, brown and mouldy.

In the nineties, nostalgia being what it is and all my friends then having proper jobs and real houses, the Rising Damp sets had added charm.  Since becoming a miniaturist, a Rising Damp house was on my list of buildings to miniaturise but at the time the need for school uniforms overtook the need for dolls’ houses.  Accordingly, answering a call from the magazine I was writing for at the time, I scratch-built a room box.  I never finished the outside and may do so now, so you can see that the room is constructed of foam board, which is two card outer layers enclosing foam.  This is easy to cut with a craft knife, thick enough to cut into from one surface to hinge doors and windows but light and easy to handle.

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I appear to have made the wallpaper myself with a stencil, patience and felt tip pens.  The architrave, skirting and dado rail are all commercially available bought and painted or stained wood.  The door is a DIY layers of cardboard job because I couldn’t find the exact doors from any dolls’ house manufacturer.  Although the building is referred to as Victorian in Wikipedia and other resources, architecturally it is leaning towards Edwardian, though of course, the great glory of the sets was the way they depicted so accurately the tendency of old unloved houses to be patched up with all-era leftovers.  I had such fun designing the electrics.  All the appliances plug in, the sockets are layers of cardboard.

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One of the main difficulties with a room box. where you can see the outside edges, is suspending your disbelief.  This can be overcome by a fake wall at the back.

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There is sufficient room for a doll to be standing in the hall.

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and I put a window at the side to illuminate the hall space, as the room is not actually electrified, despite the appalling appliances.

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I had friends who owned items such as these and no other means of heating food, because this is what we had prior to microwaves.  This is a posh one because it has two rings and knobs to make the heat go both up and down.  Theoretically.

Here is the room from the side.

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You can see through to the hall door.

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If you are distressing a building you have to be careful not to overdo it.  The golden rule is to make a good one and then destroy it creatively.

I never actually slept on what were known at the time as Zed beds.  Though this is the way some friends acquired bad backs.

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I sewed a proper mattress, buttoned it, made a frame, attached it, folded it, glued it and then distressed it.

If you look there are only six items in the room, all scratch-built and all cardboard, Milliput and wire, so the entire effort was very low cost.  I don’t think the red box was originally made for this room, I think it was for a different article in the magazine, but it has drifted in there and, true to the spirit of this type of building it will stay until visited by a wrecking ball.

Of all the wonderful actors that made Rising Damp such a joy, I only see Don Warrington regularly, playing a police inspector in Death in Paradise.  He was so gorgeous when he was young.  Leonard Rossiter, who played Rigsby, and Richard Beckinsale, who played Alan, have shuffled off this mortal coil.  Frances De La Tour, who was the ever-hopeful Miss Jones, is still acting.

The comedy is still worth watching and still funny. It is timeless, being about the interplay between the characters, all hopeful, all going nowhere. It is a subject close to my heart, the joy of the mediocre, through it we laugh at ourselves.

We all will be rich, famous and whisked off somewhere very nice by someone who will adore us, just as we are. Any day now.

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Away

I’m going to be away from the keyboard for a while. I am having trouble with my intestines again, caused by adhesions from the cancer surgery.

I’m just looking after me and hoping to see the good surgeon who will put me right, as soon as possible, given the current situation.

Back soon, I hope.

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A view of a room.

I am faffing around, as is my wont, sadly.  Just like everyone on the planet who is sitting the pandemic out I have reached lethargy and beyond.  I am still trying to get rooms sorted out, in the execution of which tedious task I encountered two room boxes which have not seen the light of day since they were returned from photography for a magazine.

One was for an article I wrote for an edition of the magazine about Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  This extremely famous designer arrived on the scene around about the same time as electric lighting.  He revolutionised the appearance of the domestic home which had previously been suffering from all things Victorian and coal powered.  Dingy gas lighting, thick woven curtains, huge heavy furniture and everything in practical shades of dark brown, were swept away to make room for light, space, air, pastel colours and a general feeling of out with the old.  He built Hill House for the publisher, Walter Blackie, finishing in 1904.  Researching the article I visited the house, which is in Helensburgh, Scotland, while I was exhibiting at the Scottish Miniatura. I did a bit of drawing and measuring and finally produced this 12th scale room box of a corner of the bedroom.

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I have put the sign on the corner of it to hide a blot. When I was showing the room at Miniatura, a lady visitor brought me a clock which she had made after reading the article.  She produced it and stuck it on the corner.  Unfortunately she had coloured it with charcoal.  She was just joining in, really.  When I got home I put the room in a carboard box and stuck it on a shelf.  This is a pity, it’s quite authentic.  It took ages to measure and draw the fireplace.

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The chairs were a ‘how to’ made of plastic canvas.

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Another famous commission for Mackintosh was the Interior of the Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow, which he designed for Mrs Cranston in 1903.  Here the chairs were along similar lines but massively tall. I spoke to locals who remembered the original.  They all said everything was about the looks, and the actual build quality was rubbish.  By the 1970s the rooms were dropping to bits. If you had known which rubbish skip to stand beside in the Seventies, you could have salvaged a fortune, with a bit of skip diving and a lorry.  The tea rooms reopened in the Eighties, however, echoing the fate of the Mackintoshes which was never to be in the right place at the right time.  They were not given the reception in their own country that they were abroad, where they were dragged through the streets in procession and generally given a pop star welcome.

They never had a family, either, though they loved children. Margaret Mackintoshes needlework is full of images of ladies and babies.  Their later lives were marred by loneliness and ill health. I spoke to a miniaturist who knew them when they were old and she was a little girl.  She recalled playing at their house, how much they enjoyed her visits and what a fuss they made of her.

The legacy of the designer lives in our homes today.  He was the first modern designer to consider white walls a viable option.  How many have you got?

I have retrieved this room box and put it on top of my cupboards, which I designed to display my houses.  It’s only made of poster board and it’s only a corner of a room but I think it coveys the reality of this architectural movement that buried Victorian width, opulence and acres of velvet and ushered in the verticality and lightness that we still enjoy today.

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