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The strengthening sunlight shining on the plate glass window lit up the three large seascapes forming the major part of the display. For a moment it struck Stevie that it resembled a stage set at a theatre, still and awaiting the arrival of the players. Drawing closer she saw the pictures were unpriced. The artist in her instantly recognised them as the work of Len Tabner, a local Staithes painter. Hundreds of pounds she guessed rather than tens.
Arranged around them several ceramic creations completed the display, except for a few items of handcrafted silver jewellery scattered on emerald velvet cushions close to the front of the window. The early morning sunlight slanting between the buildings in the square making them sparkle enticingly with rainbow colours.
Another promise. ‘If I get the job I’ll be able to treat myself to something like that necklace.’
No time to linger. Better to be early than late. She left the tempting jewellery and went to the heavy looking plate glass door. On it the gallery’s name in gold italic script. Frogmore Gallery. The words wound around a tiny sage green frog.
‘So’ Stevie murmured ‘Frogmore has a sense of humour. All to the good’
Set into the brickwork alongside the door a brass push button bell invited visitors to please ring for attention. Stevie wondered whether she might be classified as a visitor and hovered trying to decide whether she should go straight in or ring the bell.
She peered in through the glass. Two green carpeted steps, echoing the colour of the frog on the door, led up to the gallery itself which appeared to be empty.
So, she obeyed the request, pressed and waited. Time passed. Her finger lingered on the button a little longer as she pressed a second time. After a third effort and still no-one appearing she pushed on the glass door which to her surprise swung open.
Irritation mounted whilst she stood on the welcome mat at the top of the steps calling ‘Hello’ and fuming inwardly that even though she had an appointment nobody seemed to be waiting for her.
‘Hello. Anybody there. Stevie Bellingham here. I have an appointment with Tony Frogmore.’
‘Hello.’ Still no response. Weird. If I was so minded I could run off with any of the art works and nobody would know. Where’s Frogmore for goodness sake?
She wandered around the gallery eyeing up the pictures arranged on the walls so as to draw potential clients from one to another. The gallery owner who sold her pictures had told her how difficult the hanging of an exhibition was to maximise sales.
‘Maybe, if I get this job, I’ll learn how to do it’ she thought.
The whole atmosphere of the gallery tantalised her. The lingering odours of new woodwork still hung in the air from the recent renovations, but over-riding this was the all pervading smell of turpentine and paint from the new art works. Stevie was instantly transported back to her days at the London College of Art.
Unfortunately that memory included Andreas, he of the molten brown eyes; the mocking smile, the tender touch which even the memory of could set her nerves ends trembling.
Not now. Not now. Get away.
She felt at that moment in need of an exorcist who might throw enchanted water over her, cast a spell which would cleanse her of every memory of her tormentor.
Wish I knew how do I make a sign against evil. Like the folk in medieval days.
She did not know, so she put up two fingers in a more modern signal and said: ‘Up yours Andreas.’ Small relief.
Then re-focusing on her surroundings, she admired the low lighting above each picture, skilfully designed to provide shade exactly where it was required. The opulence of some of the older masterpieces left her gasping in admiration, and even though she did not particularly like them she could accept the sheer mastery of colour demonstrated on some of the abstract works.
By now she not only wanted the job here, she desired it with every fibre in her body, and it had nothing do with financial gain.
She cried out again. ‘Hello. Anybody there’. Still no response.
Her heels clattered on the parquet floor as she moved across to the back of the gallery where a half open door marked Office and Private stood open. From it a brilliant triangle of light spilled out across the floor.
She cried out again. ‘Mr Frogmore. It’s Stevie Bellingham. I’m here for the interview.’ Still no response.
Perhaps Frogmore’s deaf! Perhaps he’s an ancient crotchety man and I wouldn’t enjoy working for him. Perhaps he’s forgotten I’m coming. Perhaps he’s given the job to somebody else.
The temptation to leave almost overwhelmed her before desire for the job and the £ signs of her urgent need won out.
The echoes reverberating around the gallery when she rapped on the door were enough to wake the dead in the graveyard of St Mary’s half a mile away. Still nothing. She pushed the door open wide,yet hesitatantly, not willing to enter uninvited into what looked like an inner sanctum. A sudden shiver. The situaton was far from normal. Might be better if she left.
If he’s not here I might be charged with trespassing!
Even from the doorway she could see the room was typical of the back-room premises of many art galleries. Framed pictures stacked against walls; a desk crowded with documents, letters, sketches; a cabinet with sliding drawers in which to store art work; and a large oil painting on an easel.
Facing these on the opposite side of the room a second desk where a computer screen idled and near it a mug of coffee half drunk and alongside that an empty cardboard box labelled doughnuts.
No sign of Frogmore.
She stood, still indecisive, just inside the door. Then, before even a second had passed, she sensed rather than saw a figure emerging from behind it. With scarcely time to turn her head an incapacitating pain seared through her neck and back. Her eye sight blurred. Her knees buckled. She sank helpless to the floor. Out for a light she knew no more.
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Much has happened in my life over the past 10 months. Enough, I might say, to force me to re-evaluate what I imagined my life to be.
On the night between the 18th and 19th of June I was walking in my sleep – something I have not done since my childhood. A fall resulted in a severely fractured ankle and extensive blood loss. The subsequent 7 months in hospital and respite care provided me with ample time to mull over, whilst lying in bed in enforced inactivity, the things I had taken for granted before.
I now realised I was not a fit and active older woman. I was not immortal. I was 84, now 85, years old and for a while totally dependent on others for my every need and, in fact, was now seen as somebody needing care and unable to make credible decisions regarding my own life.
I returned home just before Christmas, now walking albeit with a Zimmer frame, and still in severe pain.
My life was returned to me – but I was a different person from the one who went away. No longer believing my years ahead stretched for ever – 10 years, more years – I now counted in at most months. Not that I felt older or less well, but I saw that setting objectives that might take years to achieve was not a sensible thing to do.
So, as I am still walking with the aid of my frame and still needing help in many ways, and as I have established a working rapport with my nearest and dearest who now accept I might be feeble in body but my mind and confidence is now back at full working order, I will share with you what I intend to do with my days remaining.
I am still working on the writing of my two books – From Then ’til Now and the second, which carries no title, but is referred to as the Beverley Book. I will post a Chapter of each per month which will give me deadlines to keep to. Neither may ever be completed but I am motivated to stay alive long enough to at least try.
Additionally, I will spend more time on my painting. During recent weeks I have managed to complete several. Here they are, one each month. Do let me know what you think of them and anything else about this post.
The War of Words
Recently I have spent a great deal of time grapplng with words, in fact my life has become a veritable War of Words.
As most people who know me realise I wear two hats, the first is that of a writer; the second of an artist. Over the years I have come to realise they are in many respects one and the sam
Wearing either hat I require two things when I am working . and they remain
almost the same whichever titfer I have on my head. Until recently I had thought what I needed
was simply Peace
Until, that is, I read a book.
A pretty dangerous thing to do, I know, but as it turned out no harm befel me. The book only set me on a track of thinking about what I believed I had been craving for ever since I can remember.
Silence. Or is it as the book suggests Solitude? And if I achieve Solitude will this degenerate into – yes, another word – Loneliness. And might I try to alleviate this by counteracting Silence by replacing it with Noise?
I was tempted to look back at my younger days when I enjoyed solitude and never experienced loneliness. As a young girl I actively sought time spent alone.
I enjoyed walking home from school alone, choosing to take a route across an area of unkemp land called Storrs Hill. Here I sat amongst gorse bushes and enjoyed Solitude, looking out across the Calder Valley and listening. Certainly no Silence.
Gorse bushes alive with bees and other buzzing and humming insects. Overhead a skylark hovering, singing and fluttering as he climbed skywards. From the valley below the muted sound of a steam train chugging its way along the tracks and announcing its arrival at Horbury Bridge station with tinny hoots.
And again, as a early teenager, I had my own favourite place where I sought solitude. Stannard Well – which was not a well as such but a spring where clear water bubbled up through grains of sand to settle in a small pool bordered by an ancient wooden surround. Again no silence.
Because of the water there were birds aplenty. Blackbirds. thrushes, robins, wrens and all manner of birds, each with its own special song. Around me what we called trembling grass; fine stems topped by mauve seeds. Even this made a sound as it stirred and waved in the lightest breeze
Solitude v Loneliness. Silence v Noise.
Maybe .after all. there is actually no war of words.
Solitude is something we impose on ourselves; Loneliness is imposed. Total silence does not exist; but noise certainly does. At least, those are my opinions
Solitude renews us, loneliness diminishes. Silence does not exist except in our mind.
Hence we find it good to meditate and quieten even our thoughts.
And what of noise ?
Without a doubt it can kill … so next time you are out and about driving your car switch your radio to silent mode. And at home try an evening or two without TV. You’ll be surprised at what you hear.
Perhaps my next blog will examine Seeing!
Listening Below The Noise: The Transformative Power of Silence by
Anne D Le Claire
Magnolia. Oil on board.
Mollie Kay Smith
Power. My Japanese style horse . Ink on paper Mollie Kay Smith
I really would like to know what you think
A few days ago we put the clocks back and admitted autumn had arrived. On one hand it turns my mood to one of sadness, that the warm days of summer and lush blossoms in the garden are past. On the other I am delighted. This season is the best, I feel, for artists especially. Wonderful opportunities to paint colourful landscapes; or still life creations with apples, pears, plums. Or indeed pumpkins, seed-heads, and ‘conkers’.
That was a few days ago when I wrote this. Now we are in a winter wonderland.
Looking back summer was mixed. We had some super days despite the rain – visits to the coast, celebrations for wedding anniversaries, birthday parties, and not forgetting my ‘girls’ nights out’ to the Ogino Japanese Restaurant, Lucia and the Westwood – all in Beverley. Super food and remarkable service. Happy memories.
My wrist operation held up my painting for a while but I was able to carry on with Steve’s class on Mondays. Phase two of the wrist ops is imminent. The surgeon, Mr Platt, was extremely happy with the right wrist result and I will learn shortly when the left will take place. I am hoping this will be well before Christmas!!
My wrist recovered in time for Jan Gardner‘s workshop at Wiberfosse. I must say this was an event to remember. Jan is a wonderful warm person whose work is phenominal and her demonstration opened a whole new world for many of us. Her personality, skill and support directed our thoughts to challenges we may never have thought of without her pointing the way.(www.jangardner.com).Thank you Jan.
Right wrist now a thing of the past so I was up and running for the most recent painting workshop last Friday at Wilberfosse. This was headed up by Charlie Evans – internationally renowned as a water colourist, and the writer and producer of many instructional books on the art. (email@example.com). His entertaining method of demonstrating his work kept us all on our toes until lunchtime when we all (?) enjoyed our sandwiches. His hints and tips were an added bonus as he developed a wonderful snow scene. During the afternoon session we attempted and mostly failed to do likewise – though he certainly fired us up to try to do better in the future and was generous with his supportive comments. Thank you, Charlie.
Already Christmas is in the shops. How I dislike the tinsel and glitter which assails us even before Halloween and Guy Fawkes’ Night. And I really do wonder how many of today’s youngsters even know who guy Fawkes was. Probably today he would be labelled a terrorist!
So be it. I am always ready for a celebration and here is one such which took place in France and almost started another 100 years war
On a more humourous note I will bore you with a real bonfire night event. Some friends of ours who lived in a hamlet in the Gers decided to have a bonfire party to which they invited English friends and everybody in the village and surrounding farms.
Fireworks were planned with a pyrotechnic specialist and a huge bonfire laid at the bottom of the garden. This was duly lit at about 8pm and parkin, potatoes, and the usual BBQ food served. Wine, as is normal in France, flowed.
All went well until our friend threw the effigy of the Guy into the flames causing uproar to break out fromthe French – remember this was the birth place of the real Comte de Batz-Castelmore d’Artagnan on which The Mousketeers was based!
‘Why?’ they demanded, ‘are you English burning D’Artagnan?’
My friend attempted an explanation in broken French. This, he told them, is a celebration of an event which took place England in 1605 when Guy Fawkes, a Catholic, tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. England was then a Protestant country, they explained, and he failed.
Confusion reigned. France is a Catholic country! And why celebrate an event which failed?
It took every bottle of good Armagnac in my friend’s cellar to provide a solution. Everybody eventually agreed a good time was had by all.
My attempt at an autumn haiku!
A golden leaf spins
earthwards through morning haze
BEST AUTUMN WISHES TO ALL.
PS: Now a diversion, but I must have my say. I recently watched TV and learned the Battle of Orgreave is to be swept under the carpet. I come from a mining family and was living amongst the miners when it took place and understood their suffering. I knew good men who told no lies and who were on the picket lines and I heard their stories. I myself (a woman alone) was halted on the M62 for almost an hour by police who searched my car making me late for an important appointment.
The fight must go on.
SHORT is the key word here, and that is my intention with these blog posts from now on.
Nevertheless, I’m long in experience, having celebrated my 84th birthday on the 26th of August when I enjoyed a lovely meal with family and friends. I intend to share some lessons learned during this long life with readers in future. Still, SHORT in time rules for the next week or so.
Looking back on it my last blog it may have seemed as if written in a rather negative mood – that had not been my intention. It was merely my putting into perspective (for myself) the over ruling objectives I have had to set for my life. No good saying I intend to write 1000 words a day and paint 1 or 2 masterpieces every week. Tomorrow, for example, I will be admitted to hospital for a minor operation on my right wrist – and I am not left handed!
So here is a picture I painted a SHORT time ago. There are many more in progress and will be finished SHORTLY. Just keep on looking out for just a SHORT while.
ROPE DOORSTOPS AT A BEACH CABIN