Wednesday, 30 July 2014

English Depressive

I never finished reading American Psycho. I think I never got to the good bit as it was mostly about endless high end product purchase and ridiculous personal grooming. No one got killed. 

I left the book beside the toilet on the day I quit the marital home for a better life.

Now, relaxed and comforted in my new home I wonder if I should take it up again or leave it. A clean break. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Freudian Slip

"I've been worrying about some new work" I said this afternoon. I had meant to say "wondering" but having failed my cbt introductory course, it came out all wrong. I once announced (in a meeting) that I had made a "freudian shit" so this one is perhaps not too bad. In fact, for me, the acts of worry and wonder are common bedfellows.

The work I was worrying about is going to relate to Houdini's famous "bridge jump"escape. The one where he was variously locked in mail-sacks, bound in chains, welded into milk churns etc and dropped into a river. They weren't, as far as I know, illusions but physical acts of escape.

In Ipswich at the moment there have been calls to put up safety barriers on the Orwell Bridge in an attempt to stop the jumpers. There have been further calls not to do this as said barriers will inevitably spoil the bridge's architectural elegance. Obviously these people do not feel that its beauty is affected by the regular sight of a plummeting suicide. I'm not sure where I stand on the matter, will the barriers prevent suicides, or will they just divert them to more mundane locations and methods? Anyway the point of the "bridge jump" is that it is nearly, but not quite, a suicide. This is, I suppose, why people liked to watch it.

Some readers may be worried here that I may be considering some form of artistic self endangerment. Fear not, cycling over the Orwell Bridge was the closest I ever came to a near death experience and it is not something I intend to repeat.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Dove Cottage under fire from flaming arrows

The dreaded email arrived yesterday. I didn't get the commission. The pain has been dulled by the £500 I am to receive for my efforts. Such messages are not uncommon in the life of an artist and I often get  a strange feeling of relief. Meanwhile Annabel is getting angry and is planning to drive our car into Dove cottage. I have explained that it is protected by a rather stout looking stone wall and the chance of our 2CV making any impact is negligible. This said, Annabel's response to most sleights I receive is this lightweight ram raid (reader be warned) and to be honest she hasn't quite mastered the gears yet.

Thursday, 10 July 2014


After the interview at Abbot Hall I fell down some steps. I was descending into Euston Square station in the rain. Luckily as my feet flew forward both arms were flung apart and by reflex alone I grabbed the handrails spaced exactly my arm-span apart. I hung cruciform for a few seconds hoping someone had witnessed my fall and salvation. Unfortunately they had not. Today I am reminded of the event by the aching of the seldom used muscles under my arms.

Above is the view I snapped from the train to Oxenholme. I was moving away from the sun kissed hill, not towards it. Earlier I had left Abbot Hall at a run, it must have been an overflowing of adrenaline following an interview with a panel of seven. I am not sure of this number (there may have been eight or six) or what exactly I said, the panic I feel in such situations shuts down so many of my, already beleaguered, faculties.

Before the interview I spent some time lurking in the cafe and meandering round the collection. I think I spied my rivals, one preparing a presentation on her mac, the other circling a little like me. I tried to catch their names, written upside down on the sign-in sheet, but failed.

The morning had been spent making a sort of croupier's stick and model bicycle to push round my map. I sat, again in caf├ęs, shaky from the sleepless night before enjoying the smell of coffee and toast.

This post is dedicated to Belinda, the lovely volunteer who tried to calm my nerves, gave me tips and told me there were only two people doing the interviewing. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014


The first interview is underway, I will be last. I'm holed up in the resource area at Abbot Hall just waiting. One of the applicants, was in the cafe about half a hour ago. She had her laptop and printed presentation notes. My presentation, a map a stick and a picture of a bicycle is in a locker. It's dead centre, number 13. There is a show of Hepworth sculpture in the gallery one room looks very nice in the sunlight but I can't look at it, I want to be outside. 

Last night in the Dun Horse was a sleepless nervous experience. Men shouted in the street, other men shouted at them to shut up. The latter where my neighbours. There was no sink in my room, nor anywhere else save a basin in the toilet about a quarter of a football in size. My room was cell like and clean  apart from the fly on my pillow.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Glasgow Bound

On the train at last I am reading "The Shifting Shapes of Mountains", a chapter from my invaluable "Festival of Britain" guidebook. I am wondering how easy it would be to sculpt them out of mash potato like Richard Dreyfuss. 


I'm reading about scientists transferring memory between people by injecting RNA. It's very interesting, they've already done it with a hamster and a rat. I'm not reading the Lancet not even the New Scientist but rather a science fiction thriller from the 70s. It is a very manly world. There is an hour to go before my train so I am reclining on the concourse while Annabel texts me with ideas for my presentation. So far it is Beatrix Potter and Ferns. She is obsessed by fronds. I suspect that if she could she would sneak up behind me with a syringe. 

I have decided to move on to Mary and Dorothy Wordsworth's diaries. Maybe she got me. 


Being a bit of a misery and having done it at school, one of my favourite poems about adventure is that Larkin one. There might be at least ten percent of truth in saying it is behind my recent beardy growth. 

Poetry Of Departures

Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,
As epitaph:
He chucked up everything
And just cleared off,
And always the voice will sound
Certain you approve
This audacious, purifying,
Elemental move.

And they are right, I think.
We all hate home
And having to be there:
I detest my room,
It's specially-chosen junk,
The good books, the good bed,
And my life, in perfect order:
So to hear it said

He walked out on the whole crowd
Leaves me flushed and stirred,
Like Then she undid her dress
Or Take that you ****;
Surely I can, if he did?
And that helps me to stay
Sober and industrious.
But I'd go today,

Yes, swagger the nut-strewn roads,
Crouch in the fo'c'sle
Stubbly with goodness, if 
It weren't so artificial,
Such a deliberate step backwards
To create an object:
Books; china; a life
Reprehensibly perfect.


This time worrying about disruption due to the Tour De France I have begun my journey to Kendal quite early. I should be in plenty of time for the seven o'clock train from London. One drawback has been that after leaving Ipswich I discovered an email asking me to give a short presentation about my proposal and enquiring if I need a projector. Not having brought my laptop I have politely declined. Instead I plan to explain my project by pushing a card board bicycle around a road map of Cumbria. 

This talisman arrived in the post this morning. 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Working Through

Returning from London Annabel had dropped off on my lap and I, my phone having died, was forced to listen to the complaints of the woman seated in front. She and her young son had been treated to a day out at the zoo with Granny and Granddad. The boy was now tired and not very grizzly so we were treated to a constant tirade of of dissatisfaction aimed at poor Grandma. Apparently young Sammy should have been in his bath by now and they would never presume to take him out on such an arduous trip again. By now Granddad was feigning sleep having downed at least two cans of Strongbow and poor Sammy was only irritable because his mother wouldn't shut up. In an attempt to avoid getting grizzly myself I tried to do the artist thing and note down a couple of ideas in my sketchbook.

We had enjoyed a pleasant trip to Wimbledon to drop off Annabel's drawings for the Jerwood. The only downside had been my constant premonitions of doom. "Oh God Wimbledon is on, it will be Hell"(it wasn't), "Look at the queue we will never catch the next train" (we did). My pessimism was better received, by Annabel at least, when we got to the dropping off point and I saw the other artist's dragging their work in. "That doesn't stand a chance, its too big" (this was a six foot + rolled drawing), "oh dear, that won't do" (drawings framed in brown, rather than the regulation white), "he should give up now" (don't ask). I've often thought that people's criticisms of others stem from their own insecurities. I am clearly thinking very positively about getting the Cumbria commission. 

Thursday, 3 July 2014


In preparation for my interview I have had a hair cut! This is my first proper trim in quite a few years but I felt I should make an attempt to appear as if I can look after myself. Other reasons have also pushed me toward the hairdresser, the most important being Annabel's description of my hair as "Terry Nutkin-esque". When I was a boy my mother used to style my hair into what my peers called a "Purdy-cut" (they were calling me a few other things at the same time). So, having associated haircuts with humiliation for some time, I was quite impressed I let Guido anywhere near me. Uncomfortably blind (glasses off) I resolutely ignored the poor man's attempts to engage me in conversation while all around other customers chatted to their trichologists about cars and stuff. I left without looking in the proffered mirror.

Earlier I acquired two postcards and a compilation of Wordsworth's poetry. Putting them together creates an interesting effect.

No fountain from its rocky cave
E'er tripped with foot so free,
She seemed as happy as a wave
That dances on the sea.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


I was excited to receive this message from Booking dot com. 
"Hi Alex, your stay at The Dun Horse Inn is less than a week away!

We put together some useful tips and tricks to make the most of your stay. Find out what Kendal is best for and see how close popular attractions are to where you're staying.

It's time to get excited about your trip to Kendal!

Here are some recommended attractions just for you
Make sure you check out these must-see sights close to The Dun Horse Inn:
World of Beatrix Potter is 7.5 mi away
Lake Windermere is 8.2 mi away
Lakes Aqaurium is 9.2 mi away"

I am not sure what an Aqaurium is but I have noted it done for further investigation. The email went on to say that Kendal had been voted as a really good place to do a bit of clothes shopping. 

I have been looking at Abbot Hall and especially it's collection of paintings. There is a lovely watercolour by Ruskin as well as a rather disturbing drawing of some sort of serpent.

 A friend of mine has recently been delving into Ruskin's personal life and while he may not have been the Jimmy Savile of the nineteenth century (Lewis Carroll may have a claim on that one) there is nevertheless a touch of Rolf about him. It's a great pity "Two Little Boys" was one of my grandad's favourite songs and I have, until recently, been trying to learn it on the stylophone. 

My favourite images in the collection are by Romney. A drawing of a little boy watching a kissing couple and an unfinished portrait of General Wolf looking a bit peaky.