Over the last 60 years I have sometimes unexpectectedly created something that is aesthtically pleasing or successful without knowing why. The first was an oil painting of a girl, Susan, I’d met whilst on holiday in Cornwall. When I first saw Susan she was wielding a heavy sledge hammer breaking rocks in the track leading to her family farm. Walking across a field with her led to me being given a bunch of four leafed clover; they seemd to leap out at her. She kept goats and tried, and failed, to teach me how to milk them. I had taken a photo of Susan with a couple of her goats and, when home, decided to paint a portrait of her in oils. I’d had art lessons at school from the wonderful Ray Butcher, but do not know why I thought I could do this. So I fished out an old sheet of hardboard and probably put a coat of white emulsion on the rough side and started. I love the smell of oil paints. It seems to challenge a painter to create a masterpiece. I didn’t and the painting was binned at some time but recently, as I was putting a cardboard box into the recycling bin, an old slide fell out and it proved to be of my painting of Susan. I quite like it and wish that I had kept the original.
Soon after this, probably when I was 20, I decided to carve an articulated chain of teak. My father had aquited a piece of the old teak door of the Capital Cinema which once stood in Winchmore Hill. There is now a block of flats there. I had recently bought a pen knife that I was quite proud of so perhaps this was why I wanted to whittle but I cannot remember why I chose a chain. So I cut a square section about 9 inches long, pencilled in the profile and started. I would sit in the lounge after lunch with my father and his girlfriend and various others, mainly on a Sunday and carved away as we chatted. I liked the result and still have it by my chair in the sitting room. The chain is light, warm and chimes when I toss it in my hand.
When I lived in Chase Side next to St Michaels Green it was a new build and the front garden was a dreary slab of concrete. I wanted it to be my museum and art gallery so put all manner of things in it, anything whose shape or history pleased me. I sculpted with hub caps I’d picked up from the road and would sell them for a pound to motorists who spotted one for their naked wheels. Some one kindly dropped a pair of very old boots over the wall and I put them in pride of place on a wooden cable drum I had acquired. A local tramp knocked and asked to buy them and refused them as a gift insisting on giving me £5.00. Worth quite a lot in 1987. I then decided to fill the garden with colour and planted geranium, petunia, violets, marigold anything that was bright. I used pots and containers of all sorts. When there was a hose ban I would rush from kitchen to garden with buckets of water. It was lovely and in 1987, unbeknown to me, a lady in the flats opposite entered me into the Enfield in Bloom competition and a certificate dropped through the letterbox. I was astounded and my neighbour furious. She would berate me shouting “You never do any gardening, I spend all my time in the garden so why is it you that gets the certificate?” I shrunk before the onslaught and, of course, had no answer. After I’d moved I discovered that my garden was known as “The madman’s garden” and people used to travel from all over to look at it and it was a popular clue on treasure hunts. I wish I had known at the time. There may be some photos somewhre and I will blog on my garden some more.
A couple of phtographs.
The first is of shrimp fishing in Angoulin just south of La Rochelle on the west coats of France.
I used the panoramic setting on my iPhone and was so pleased with the result that I printed it out on 1 metre wide photo paper. The detail of the image was just amazing.
The second, again in France, is of a dancer. July each year, the town of St Maixent de l’Ecole, in what was the Deux Sevre, used to host an international festival of national music performed by young people. One group was from, I think, Slovakia and I took a shot of a dancer with swirling skirts. There is no motion blur which was amazing and I do not know how or why. I was using my compact camera which may have been a Panasonic. It insipred a poem and here they are.
Finally a poem. It floated into my mind, essentially as it is below, as I was waking up when Valerie brought me a morning mug of tea. The three gandchildren were dancing around her and it seemed as if her skirt was alive, a shaman’s skirt bridging the three worlds.
Grandma moves around the house
wearing a skirt of children.
Faces float at her waist
as six little feet dance in orbit.
No need of iron! The skirt has noise enough.
No need to dance! The skirt can leap enough
to pull me back to where,
Grandma moves around the house
wearing her skirt of children.
© Anthony Fisher February 2000