THE PROMISED FIRST CHAPTER

PROLOGUE

‘Hello. Stevie Bellingham here. I’ve an appointment with Tony Frogmore.’

‘Hello.’ She called. Louder. And again. Still no response.

Weird. If I was so minded I could run off with all the art works in the gallery. Nobody would know. Where’s Frogmore for goodness’ sake?

CHAPTER 1

Irritation replaced the euphoria Stevie had enjoyed at seven-thirty that morning. Under the shower shortly after her early morning run around the lanes near her cottage, she’d sketched a celebratory high five. That bastard Andreas hadn’t once sneaked into her mind since waking.

She’d managed her early morning run without his curdling her brain and had even eaten her breakfast fruit without recalling he did not like kiwis.

Andreas: he of the challenging brown eyes, of the instant smile. He, whose touch she knew could still send delicious tremors through her.

He whom she’d finally kicked out when she could no longer stand his belittling comments. Or his constant attempts to take absolute control over her life.

He, who had stolen her money and used it to fund his own dreams, leaving her broke and in debt. He, despite all, whom she feared she still might love.

Six months of wallowing in despair, drinking too much and cutting off contact with all her friends had taken its toll. She had been left physically and mentally bereft.

But worse than that he had turned her innate trust of people into a sceptical disillusionment, one which now coloured every aspect of her life.

Since she’d thrown him out she’d managed to pay her way, managed to keep up payments on the mortgage, but every month it had become harder. Now, even though her bank balance was almost back in the black again, her life had become one of scrimping and fear of losing everything.

If she could land the job she was being interviewed for today it would bring financial peace of mind back into her life – and maybe then she might be in a position to live again.

‘You sound as if your background and skills are exactly what I’m looking for.’ Mr Frogmore, the owner of the new gallery in Beverley had said ‘I realise you have never actually worked in a gallery before, but you are an artist yourself. That surely means you will understand more than I do about the creative side of things. Come in for a chat and we’ll see how we get on’.

As a professional artist, Stevie’s pictures sold well. It must be said, though, still at a price only sufficient to support a meagre lifestyle. Her bank account was only now recovering after she’d kicked Andreas out. It had been a while before she’d learned how often he’d ‘borrowed’ her bank card during those final months.

And an even worse blow was how, as a goodbye gesture, he’d raided her wallet on the day he left, taking its contents to the last penny.

Her own fault she’d admitted when the overdraft letter from the bank arrived. For months she’d never bothered checking her statements, Instead she’d lived on cloud nine, totally enthralled in what she’d imagined was a permanent love affair. A perfect idyll – a pastoral shared life. Her with her painting, he turned small-holder, mini-farmer ……. She must have been mad.

So here she was. Saturday Market. Beverley. The addess of the new gallery.

No problem at this early hour in finding a parking spot close to it. She slid the Mini between two delivery vans alongside the newly refurbished bandstand with its spire gleaming white in the sunlight. The vans would soon be on their way. In the next half hour, she knew, all the large vehicles would be gone, leaving the square pedestrianised and crowded with tourists adding their melting pot of multinational accents to the local Yorkshire dialect.

As she flicked off her seat belt the bells of St Mary’s Church, not far away in the nearby Georgian Quarter, chimed out the hour, confirming she’d made good time.

Ever since she was a young girl and her father had brought her here each Saturday she had loved it. Especially on those days when it was filled with its namesake market stalls.

They had bought cheeses and crusty bread from the Italian baker and bell peppers and kiwi fruit which she loved more than any. And juicy black olives and farm bread chicken which they would cook back at the cottage if the weaher was good on the brick built barbeque her father had designed himself. How easy it was to fall into reminiscing.

The appointment was for a quarter past nine. ‘Good going Min. We’ve a few minutes to spare. A little deep breathing I think. Wish me luck. I’ll certainly need it. Now to get a parking ticket. Don’t want a fine.’ A wry smile. Had things got so bad she’d even started talking to the car?

Walking to the ticket machine gave her ample time to enjoy the square. On Saturday it was filled with market stalls selling local produce, hardware, luxury goods, and everything in between from picture framing to beauty products and dog food.

Today, without the market, she was able to see the whole area of the square and reflect on the multitude of public houses still serving Beverley. They reminded her that this was a town built when horses provided the only means of transport, when the hostelries not only provided food and lodgings for the human travellers but also sustenance for the horses. No wonder a national newspaper had desribed Beverley as one of the best places to live in the whole of the UK.

Back at the car, parking ticket in hand recalling the reason for her being here, her stomach lurched. Uncomfortably. Many moons had risen since she had last been interviewed. Interview. The word unleashed bad memories of those meetings with college tutors when her work had seemed never good enough to please them. At the thought of their derogatory comments her fragile confidence began to crumble. It took only a moment before Andreas picked up the reins and led her to the top of the slide.

It did not take much these days to put her on the downward track. As from nowhere a feeling of apprehension flared in her mind. It seemed the very buildings bordering the square mocked her. How could she even imagine the gallery job could be hers?

Her gaze swept across the cobble stones. Right. Left. The Cafes …… all around the Saturday Market again. This time it seemed she searched friendly support. But it was too early yet for the local shoppers or tourists to arrive.

Too early also for the tempting aromas of cooking which later in the day would filter out from the numerous restaurants and various cafes. Each wanted visitors to sample their menus and tried at this early hour to entice workers to buy a take-away as they wended their way to offices and shops.

Her mouth watered. No time for that now. Instead she promised herself a cappuccino if she got the job. The thought seemed to do the trick of ridding her of her doubts.

‘And a large slab of chocolate cake to go with it,’ she added showing a bravado she did not feel. Taking care over the cobbles this time she prepared to face her fate.

The reality of her dwindling bank balance drew her onwards to the window of the Frogmore gallery. Nothing more.

Like a lamb to the slaughter she was unaware of what lay ahead. Certainly no capuccino or chocolate cake.

AM I REALL Y A WORKHORSE AT HEART?

New projects. New ideas. New agendas. New commitments. New experiments. New ways of working. Some might say I am too old to even think of such things or even that I am stupid even to imagine I might succeed in achieving some of my dreams. Let me say, as you might guess I would, that you are never too old to dream. And what is the use of dreaming if you do not take actions to at least make some effort to achieve them.

Maybe what has inspired me has been observing the GB Olympians on television and learning what they have had to do to achieve a place on the team – let alone ensuring they reach an optimum pitch of fitness at exactly the right time.

Or maybe, closer to home and more in line with my own state of unfitness, it has been my diving deeper again into mental stimulation. This is something I have missed during recent years since ‘retiring’ and though I have continued to write and to paint I have missed the giving and taking, the exchanging of ideas, even the conflicts which sometimes arise when working in a group.

Since returning to the UK some five years ago, after 21 years in France, I at first found myself friendless and with most of the contacts in my address book either emigrated, dead or at best moved on to new locations. Research located a painting group with which I joyfully made contact and in which it is my pleasure to participate. For a couple of years this has satisfied my artistic needs.

  But still something was missing. To a certain extent I found stimulation in reading – literature, management development, psychology, personal development and so on. I looked at Facebook, Twitter, Streetwise and various other media sites all to no avail. Most of the writing contact groups left me feeling dis-satisfied until I came across that organised by John Yoeman whose personal unbiased criticisms, delivered in a chatty and amusing manner, turned out to be exactly what I needed. Sadly a few weeks ago John died suddenly. Again I lost a mentor and a good friend.

  Three days ago I fell by accident on a book written by Cal Newport entitled Deep Work. This I have almost read and its somewhat academic style turns out to be the thing I most need right now. The book provides comment on the manner in which many people across the whole spectrum of occupations, and life in general, have succeeded in achieving their dreams – on a personal front as well as in their career.

The book provides a blueprint which helps anyone, at whatever stage in life and with whatever dreams, to develop their own manner of achieving objectives.

Setting up a realistic plan is a starting point followed by such strategies as adopted by successful Olympians, Writers, Artists, Business People, Entrepreneurs, Gardeners – in fact almost anyone who has a dream. It suggests we consider the tools we use in our search in the same manner as did the craftsmen and women of earlier times. A master builder would use only the best equipment he could afford. Likewise someone designing a text written on parchment would ensure the quill used was superior.

Since reading the book my dreams have been revised. My plan is on paper though I still need to address some of the suggested rules, and to implement the tips. My mental muscles are being challenged once more.

This is not something to take up for the faint hearted, but if somebody is really committed it is not to be ignored. I truly believe the book could change lives.

Will it change mine? So far I have arrived at this. Objective number one….stay alive. And below this main objective.

a. Make sure I take my medicines regularly – arteries, heart, thyroid etc

b. Ensure I attend all my medical appointments – blood tests,  dressings, clinics and consultants, diabetics, eye checks.

 c. Eat healthily- low carbohydrates because of diabetes.d. Move as much as possible without chair and scooter.

d.  Sleep when I can  and …….

In the meantime I will continue following the advice of Cal Newport and try to take charge of the remaining hours in my days.

Good luck. Let me know how you go on.

PROOF IF NEEDED…. DREAMS DON’T FILL MY DAYS….OR GOGGLING AT THE COMPUTER

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My last post, in which I admit to loving my computer, may have left a good many of my readers with the feeling that my ‘real’ projects, those that I value highly, have suffered over recent months. Here I want to put paid to those ideas by talking a bit about some of the things I have achieved and to say a few words about work in progress.

Mentors generally advise that rather than appearing boastful it is good to let others know about ones ambitions. In fact they believe that once somebody actually expresses an idea or an intent they are more likely to strive to finish it than if they keep it to themselves. One of my own mentors, Cary Cooper, said that this is how he approaches the publication of one of his books, ‘ I tell people I am thinking about it; then that I have started.  When I am half way through I publically discuss my research findings in brief, and later I let the public know that the book is in its final draft. Then, once it is finished I announce a publication date.’ Voila! A blueprint for success.

I guess he is building interest in prospective readers so that the new book will add to his list of best-sellers ………but I also feel by using this method he is increasing his own anticipation of a time when it’s a job well done . I find a similar approach works for myself. Unless I set deadlines and let people know what I am working on I have a tendency to drift – to find diversions which at the time appear enticing but are unproductive. Deadlines force me to be more realistic about how long it will take me to finish things. And, in addition, as I grow older and less energetic, deciding on a date when I intend to complete makes for a more realistic time-scale.

So, as well as participating in all the computer based activities mentioned in my last post I have met deadlines in various tasks. Some of these have been associated with that part of my life which can sometimes seem like hard work. Writing. At the beginning of the year I mentioned a book I was working on. This is well on track now in that I am a good half way through and have edited five of the early chapters.  The recipe collection is likewise taking shape and I have also managed to do some sketches to accompany these.

Unfortunately during recent months I have needed to attend a great many hospital and clinic appointments. No doubt there will be many more of these as time goes on and these will bite into my working hours and my deadlines will need to be  adjusted. Far from seeing these appointments as a dull waste of time though (from a writing point of view) these do give me lots of ideas for stories so maybe there is a hidden bonus somewhere in there.

On the painting front – more relaxing – I still attend my Monday afternoon watercolour group and believe I am making progress there. No deadlines in mind  though I have noted down some ideas for my Xmas cards. I did exhibit two oil  paintings at the TERPS Exhibition at the Spa in Bridlington and another picture as part of the Remember Me Art Walk in Beverley which was staged as part of the Alzheimer Charity Week.  Currently I am working on an oil painting to submit to the 19th Open Art Exhibition at the Beverley Art Gallery which is to be held from 11th December through to 13th February. My deadline there is mid-November so no time to waste!

However, I must admit creating the deadlines is easy. Meeting them is harder; I could not do that without the support and help of my family and friends. Especially I am grateful to Angela who drives me back and forth and cares generally for me. Love to you all.

AND WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

AND – WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

The past few weeks have been somewhat difficult for me – and my objectives. I have as I promised myself been more focussed, less lazy and have carried on reading self improvement texts but … this latter has been mostly during nights when I have been unable for one reason or another to sleep. Still good things have happened and mostly things connected to my life as an artist.

One morning I awoke to find a winter wonderland outside my window. Snow, not really very deep, covered buildings and paths with an almost imaculate cushion of white in which I gloried momentarily before recalling this was meant to be a day of artistic and gustational adventure.

Luckily by eleven o’clock, our time for departure, the gritted and salted roads had been rendered passable and the drive north with our good friend Angela at the wheel commenced. The only obstacles in our path were huge puddles of melted snow where the roads dipped and a mad driver who overtook us on the inside almost causing a collision. Needless to say we caught up with him in seconds at the next set of lights!

The fields and hedgerows away from the roads were still covered in snow and transformed into a winter wonderland. Bliss for any painter. My first visit to the Yorkshire Wolds for many years was a rewarding experience and one which continued through lunch and the following afternoon hours.

Our destination was The Wolds Village at Bainton near Driffield in Yorkshire (which whilst not being exactly a village but a cleverly transformed and rescued farm) is one of the most entrancing places I have visited in recent years. It is much more than the tourist attraction label it carries.

Imagine if you can the perfect setting for grandfather clocks, superb pub and restaurant meals; hotel accomodation, an art gallery and art trail, a crafts display including pottery and silver work; tea room and outdoor terrace; and with an antique shop into the bargain. The Wolds Village provides all of these and more.

I would recommend this gem of a location for anyone with the time to pay it a visit. It has a wonderfully detailed website. ( www.woldsvillage.co.uk) This has headings inviting you to Eat&Drink, Explore,Sleep Well. Browse, Hang Out and History. If you do visit the website it will be difficult not to follow up with a real time visit.

 

Whilst at Woldvillage I discovered a copy of the ERA (East Riding Artists) directory which lists artists, galleries and exhibitions in the region . A very useful tool for artists and tourists alike. Obtain a copy from www.creationonlinearts.co.uk

Next following a tip off from Ruth who is a contact at my Monday watercolour group I enjoyed yet another adventure. This time travelling in much the same direction as last week I visited the small village of Wilberfoss where members of The East Riding Painting Society meet each month. Their programme of events includes hands-on workshops headed up by visiting artists with both UK and International reputations and in every media imaginable. I am so looking forward to attending as many of these as possible. (contact the secretary on 017593013980

The session on Friday being the first of the year involved a brief period of administration, but the wait for the visiting speaker to start was well worth it.

Emma-Jane Whelan from the Art and Rose Gallery at Pocklington delivered a talk both enthralling as she covered her own journey from art college to establishing the gallery; and then later, extremely useful for the artists in her audience, she enlightened us as to some gallery tricks of the trade and what works of art are currently popular with buyers. As may be imagined the questions session at the end provoked a very interesting debate.

The two main messages I came away with were:

  1. Based on her own life experiences, to follow your heart and explore every option, do not miss the ‘sliding door’ opportunities which open in your journey.

And:

  1. Paint to enjoy the experience of producing works of art based on subjects which you love.

I intend to visit her gallery very soon. New exhibitions commence every month and as well there is a rolling open exhibition including painting, jewellery, ceramics,glass,prints as well as many other surprises. The gallery supports whenever it can local artists and crafts people but does also exhibited world renowned arts. Contact details below.

{www.artandrosegallery.co.uk) or follow on Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter @ EmmaJaneWhelan1. There is an Online Shop.

 

More artistic news soon. Keep your eyes open to see a preview of the short story I am writing for MsLexia. The deadline approaches all too swiftly.

Any views on this blog will be welcomed.

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