Unforgotten – Portrait of a Young Girl

Something that became overtly apparent when we were packing up to move is that we have a great deal of everything. Too much. Including pictures. Too many. Oils, water colours, prints and mixed media; landscape, still life, abstract. Although we had no more wall space, for a long time I yearned for a portrait. Not of me, or even of him, just of someone I liked the look of, a fine cut of gib.

Ilfracombe, as many others do, has an annual art trail. Local artists set up temporary exhibitions in their homes, or perhaps collaborate with friends, and invite the general public to view their work and perhaps buy a picture or two. We enjoyed this event. It was a good opportunity to explore corners of the town we hadn’t come across before and have a nosy about in strangers’ houses. Oh yes, and admire the wealth of art this small town has to offer. Whilst on one of these arty meanders we wandered past an artist studio-come-home-come-gallery. This property is adjacent to a set of traffic lights approaching the High Street and I had often admired the paintings in the window as I waited for green to hurry me along. I had never actually seen the door open before so took the opportunity to dangle a foot across the threshold and call “are you on the Trail?” to whoever might be lurking inside. “I’m not, but please come in”, was the reply from the shadows.

As we stood chatting to the owner/artist, Nigel Mason, my eye was caught by a small square painting of a woman. In fact I couldn’t take my eyes off her. The mens’ conversation faded into the background as I studied this bright young face or was it a dark young face, I wasn’t quite sure. Then, without consultation or further ado I asked “How much for that one?”, pointing in her direction. Nigel had a think and pulled a very reasonable price out of the air for our consideration. We checked purses and wallets and offered what we had in cash, which he accepted.

Before we left, carefully wrapped painting in hand, I wondered “Who is she?” And I was surprised by Nigel’s answer. He had painted this picture from a photo he had found of a young Russian woman who was just about to be transported to The Gulag.

I knew exactly where I wanted her to live. In our bedroom, on the wall just above the chest of drawers, the same height as a mirror, so that every day I could look into her eyes and she could look into mine. Who knows what insignificant misdemeanour caused her internment, who knows what horrors she endured, who knows if she ever left her prison? But she lives on, in Nigel’s portrait, in my thoughts and I like to think she won in the end.

Unforgotten – Tick Tock

In the summer months, when visitors prowl the streets with eager purses, there was an infrequent car boot sale on the rugby pitch across the road from our house. It wasn’t a Ming vase, lost Turner masterpiece type of event, more a broken toys and scary ornaments affair. Still, as it wasn’t far, we used to visit just in case. And in all fairness we did pick up a few treasures, books, plants and this clock. When I bought it, for the grand sum of 50p, I was indulged rather than encouraged by my OH. “But” I argued “I love its chrome space-age sleekness, it is a prime example of the art of design”. And furthermore, it didn’t matter a hoot when the man on the stall confessed it didn’t work. Home it came and for the several years it lived on the mantlepiece in our bedroom where I would admire it for its gleaming beauty.

When we were thinking about moving I had to make some decisions about my treasures. Things would have to leave my magpie nest. I glimpse the shining clock and decided that perhaps it would be a candidate for rehoming. Now Ebay and me are not good friends. Generally, I have paid more in fees than I have actually made in profit. I am not suited to commerce. But still I thought “if it is easy to repair I might make a few quid on it”.

In town there was, and probably still is, a proper watch and clock mender. A professional enthusiast; he had special glasses and eye pieces and teeny tools. I took the clock in for his appraisal, saying “This lovely clock doesn’t work, could you give me a price for fixing it, please?”. He said “you need to put a battery in it”. I said “battery”. He said “yes, to make it work”. I said “Oh”, feeling more than a little foolish. “You just turn these screws to take the back off and put a battery in here”. “I have been trying to wind it up with that screw” I was getting in deep now. In an attempt to gain lost ground, I smiled sweetly, thanked him for his time and hurried from the shop, clock in hand.

Of course, I kept the little battery operated clock because I love it, it is shiny and space-age and works very well now it has a battery. And because it makes me smile when I am reminded what an idiot I am.

The Unforgotten – Furry

Inspired by Lisa the Compulsive Gardener’s curiousity, I have decided to embark on a new mini-series.  Quite how mini remains to be seen.  The theme is The Unforgotten, which isn’t quite as dramatic as it might sound. Basically, it will involve me unpacking tat which has been in storage for the past 5 months.  These seemingly, or quite probably, inocuous objects will have a story, mundane or thrilling.  That is the jeopardy.

We will begin with the purple and lime green furry pencil case mentioned in my last post.  Here it is in all its glory.  I have a small thing about stationary, I know I am not alone in this. There is most probably a word for love of office-ware. If not perhaps we should invent one before it is too late. In an increasingly paperless world the days of multi-coloured paper clips, neon highlighters and novelty pencil sharpeners may be numbered. And although I celebrate the preservation of the tree I mourn the passing of the decorative ring binder.  I bought this pencil case perhaps 20 years ago, just I was about to embark on an Open University foundation course.  The reason I chose this particular item is unclear.  To impress my fellow scholars, to comfort my nerves, perhaps it was the pencil case I had wanted as a child but never got? Whatever the reason, I still consider it to have been a sterling choice. And it still brings a smile to my face.