Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Presentation

My friend Diane Sutherland invited me to a prize giving afternoon last Sunday. The occasion was the inauguration of the Peter Sutherland Medal. Diane's late husband Peter was the founder and president of the Upper Thames Rowing Club. When I arrived at Bird Place I was surprised to see only two cars parked in front of the house so I parked between them. And as I walked around to the garden I noticed that one of the cars (a very fast looking beast) had its engine running and was facing outwards. I soon realised who it belonged to when I joined the spectators assembled in the garden. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, was giving a speech prior to handing out the medal. The car must have belonged to one of her bodyguards, and ready to move at a moments notice.

This the medal. Leander Club won the race, beating Upper Thames by half a length.

And here is Diane talking to the Prime Minister.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous and Theresa May's speech so interesting - she knew Peter well.

My my boat has finally arrived. My young friend and I have now had four trips on it in the last ten days. Luckily the sunshine has been very kind to us.

Here it is moored at a friend's house

We are both very pleased with the new Marsh Mundy. It's so easy to steer, moor and handle. Last Saturday we took it up to Phyllis Court. At the visitors mooring there was just enough room to glide it between the two boats moored there - about 12 inches either end. Another lovely day so we sat on the verandah and had lunch. I bought a Phyllis Court burgee to fit to the bow when I've made a little mast for it.
On we went up to Hambleden and back where we moored near Temple Island.

There's a very interesting exhibition being held in London later in the spring. It's called the Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Prize. 3 or 4 years ago I made this small self portrait which is my reflection in a silver cup. Then coupled it up with one I painted in 1974 while I was living in Singapore. So as a double self-portrait I'll be entering the small paintings in the exhibition.

I've entitled it 'Then and Now'. Wish me luck.
All the paintings I've been working on lately - from a series of miniatures of children for a top London jeweller to a couple of large oil portraits for an Indian family can't really be shown on my blog unless they give me permission. Right now I'm painting a large oil of a friend of mine against a background of a country cottage scene.

Last Sunday we spent the day working on my young friend's garden. She did most of the work - I did what I could. We are disappointed with the current state of the lawn as it looks quite threadbare. After tough digging holes with a special tool to aeriate it we completely covered the lawn with lawn soil, then sprinkled seed all over it before giving it a good rake and water. Hope the birds or squirrels don't eat too many seeds.

My physio, Victoria, managed to get sight of the x-ray taken of my hip the other day. (It takes weeks to make an appointment with my doctor these days so he won't see the x-ray till next Thursday - the earlies I can see him). Because of the way I've been walking while my left knee recovers from the operation, the right hip has taken a lot of the strain. But apart from that the x-ray shows that I have advanced and severe osteoarthritis in that hip. It may be possible to have a steroid injection to temporarily relieve the pain but this will depend on my doctor. There's no way I'm going to let this spoil our summer or our little holiday in June so I expect I'll have to have a hip replacement in late autumn.

I had some sad news the other day. Jayanti, one of my oldest friends from my early Singapore days suddenly died of a massive heart attack. We'd only been talking on WhatsApp ten days ago. I met Jay in 1960 when she joined my studio in the advertising agency for artistic experience - and on her very first day she spilled a pot of paint all over me! When I moved to Hong Kong in 1964 I lived with her family for about six months when her father was the manager of Air India. We've always met when I visited Singapore over the years. Here are two pictures - the first at a fancy dress party in the sixties. The second taken about ten years ago.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Spring has sprung

My cousin Jill scolds me if I'm late in writing my blog. We were out for dinner with her brother Paul last night so I promised I'd get down to it today. My excuse is that I've been so busy with commissions lately. After quite a barren time now I'm working on five miniature portraits and three oil portraits. I just love being busy and after spending 8 or 9 hours a day painting I relax in other ways rather than writing blogs.
My knee is still swollen but at least I can drive again and only use a stick if walking more than half a mile or so. I needed it on Sunday as my young friend and I decided to pay a visit to Kew Gardens. It happened to be the perfect time to see the magnolias - a few days later and the cold nights would have turned the petals black. This tree, for example, is at its peak.

There is a whole grove of many types of magnolias.

I'm sure some of the trees in Kew Gardens could tell a story. This one looks as if it's come right out of a Harry Potter film.

Sunday was a very cold day so it was a relief to go into the Palm House and feel the warmth and humidity there.

Nearly twenty years ago a good friend of mine died at a young age in early April. So to commemorate the occasion I planted a magnolia stellata tree in my garden. It's thrived over the years and is one of the first sights of spring I see from my garden balcony. This is it today.

My young friend bought me a really good machine the other day. Victoria, the physio, recommended I use an excerise bike to improve the muscles and give my knee a better chance of reaching a better angle of bend.

I can use this any time. While I'm listening to The Archers I can normally manage about 500 revolutions. I aim to do at least 1,000 revolutions every day. Although my knee is almost free of pain now, even though it is still very swollen, my opposite hip is giving me the most trouble.

I hadn't realised it's been such a long time since my last blog - nearly a month. I can't believe it's that long. We've seen some good films - amongst them The Viceroy's House, and last week Beauty and the Beast. Amazing effects.
Well, that's all for now. Here's a view of our garden as of half an hour ago.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Bionic Bill

Things are moving along now. The swelling on my knee will take a couple of months to subside but the pain has eased somewhat. I had a consultation with the surgeon on Tuesday who was pleased with my progress - especially as he recognised that I've been doing the physio properly (thanks to my young friend who's made sure I don't slack).
This picture shows the x-rays taken the other day.

Quite a lot of metal implants. It should be fun going through the airport scanners. Today was the first day I've been allowed to drive since the operation 6 weeks ago so it was great to go out in the sunshine. Called in to have a cup of tea with Debbie (nice to follow her adventures with Nigel Havers on the current TV programme - Celebrity Carry on Barging), then to the picture framer where I ordered a frame for the current oil painting I'm doing, and a frame for this pencil drawing - finished last week - of my niece Louisa and her daughter Kate. I've finally found some really nice paper for pencil drawing. It's called Fabriano Artistico 300lb Hot Pressed.

Our local cinema regularly shows operas and ballets live from the shows in London. On Tuesday evening 'Sleeping Beauty' was filmed directly from the Royal Opera House. Performed by members of the Royal Ballet it was a really splendid evening. What I like about these evenings is that Darcey Bussel introduces the performances and upon occasion interviews famous ballerinas, choreographers, and directors. On Tuesday we heard from a lady who was the principal ballerina in the 1948 production of Sleeping Beauty, also from the Royal Opera House. Being in the cinema it's always a bonus to be close up to the orchestra at times, and during the performances to be almost on the stage itself.

We saw a really great movie last week. Called 'Hidden Figures' it tells the true story of three very talented African-American women working at NASA in the early 60's (when segregation was still practised in the USA) These women were the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history - the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. This is Octavia Spencer who played Dorothy Vaughan - the mathematical genius.

This visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big. At the end of the film they showed photographs of the original three women. A truly inspiring film. I urge you to see it.
Debbie invited my young friend and me, together with Donna, her sister, and Vince Hill to the Mill at Sonning last Saturday where we saw a fascinating murder mystery. Called 'Dead Simple' the twists and turns in the story were so good that none of us guessed who the murderer was.

Highly recommended - it's on for another week - the refurbished bar is great. We met the cast afterwards for a nightcap.
On Sunday my neighbours hosted a brunch party for those of us who live next to or very near Marsh Lock to say goodbye to Nigel O'Connor - our lock keeper. Nigel will be sorely missed. He really knows how to organise all the different boats as they enter the lock. Nigel was presented with a pair of engraved tumblers and a large print of the painting of the SwanUppers at Marsh Lock. (He happens to be depicted twice on the painting). Everyone at the party signed the card.
Well, it's now back to the physio and the hydrotherapy (which I started yesterday in the pool at the leisure centre at Gillots School in Henley.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Slightly Stir Crazy

At last I'm sitting at my desk and am back to almost eight hours a day painting. However it's difficult at times because my knee is very impatient to get better. My young friend has been terrific over these past three weeks in every way, and I'm sure I wouldn't have performed my exercises properly without her. I hadn't realised the pain would last so long as it has (and weeks more to go). The incision wound is healing nicely - it needed 22 staples which were removed last week - and left such a neat scar that myf said that only a woman could have sewn it together that well!

With a bit of difficulty getting into the car we were able to spend a couple of days in Suffolk last weekend and stayed with her parents. I felt a bit useless on crutches but managed. Now I'm promoted to just one - which means I can at least carry a few things when needed with the other hand.
Just a week after getting home again I started on a miniature of a secretary bird we'd seen recently. It took a while to paint as I could only manage a couple of hours a day at first. Here she is.

Val, my sister-in-law, had an eye operation last week. She's doing well and on Sunday she invited us to a nice roast lunch. Stew (my nephew) and Tina came too. I have been a bit 'stir crazy' lately, not being able to get around much, but things are easing up a bit now. One of the things we bought from the hospital was an ice machine. Specially made for reducing the swelling on new knees I must say it does help - especially lately when the pain got a bit intrusive at night. But now I've started professional physio at Activate8 in Henley my progress can be monitored. Last week I had to lay on a sort of rack while my leg was pulled, bent and stretched. I also sat on the exercise bike but couldn't quite do complete revolutions. So this Thursday my goal is to pedal all the way round.
My friends, Tom and Eleanor, very kindly picked me up on Tuesday and drove me to Warborough where we have sculpture sessions. I'm making a bronze head of Debbie McGee - it's about half way done so far. Really good to get back to sculpture. About six of us attend the three hour class. Very relaxing.
It's Monday today and I've just completed a small pencil drawing of my friend Norman Topsom.

My cousin Paul and his friend Em came over last Friday and we all went out for dinner at the Hawell restaurant in Wargrave. Really good. The decor is so stylish, the chairs are comfortable, and the service is impeccable. Oh, and the food is great too. I had my favourite - sizzling Tandoori King Prawns with Peshwari Naan. Paul's new car intrigued the girls in the back seat with its full glass ceiling which afforded them a great sight of the star studded sky.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

On the mend

I don't like being operated on! I always forget what comes with them - apart from the pain. I suddenly realise after the third or fourth day that you become constipated and that what ever they give you nothing much happens! Last Tuesday my young friend drove me to The Circle Hospital in Reading. Although the hospital car parking is extremely difficult, she managed it eventually and we were shown to my room. Functional, but all mod cons, with a nice big bathroom. At about 2pm I was wheeled away to the operating theatre for a two hour total knee replacement. Mr Sean O'Leary was the surgeon.
This is an indication of the procedure.

My knee is pretty horrible to look at now but I expect it to start healing soon when the staples are removed in just over a week. Everyone who's had a similar type of operation has told me I must do all the exercises diligently. They are extremely hard to do and very painful. I can only walk on crutches - which the hospital sold me. I also had to buy an ice machine to apply three times a day. (£85 - nothing is cheap at the Circle - and private medicine insurance won't cover these items). MYF is marvellous- I don't know what I'd do without her. One problem is sleeping - I seem to have hallucinations every night. Probably to do with the many pills I have to take every day.
But my stay in hospital was good. I spent three nights there. And because it was too difficult to go to the bathroom at night they supplied me with a bottle. In the silence of the nights it felt like a Gregorian Chant was approaching me. But last Thursday night things took a novel turn - A hand reached out and picked a full bottle up from my table and the peace of the night was broken by my yell. She had accidentally knocked it on the side of the table pouring the entire contents all over me and the bed! "That's the first time in my 14 years of nursing that I've ever done a thing like that" she said. I didn't mention the incident but later in the day the other nurses obviously knew about the incident. These things happen, but as I'm going through my own version of La La Land it doesn't surprise me.

Just received my post - including the award for the watercolour prize from the MASF exhibition in Florida of my miniature of Alan the Boatman. I'll give him the very nice certificate to Alan when he next calls in.

I'm not able to paint at all at the moment unfortunately, which is highly frustrating as I need to paint.

As I said before the reason for my knee problem was brought about in 1962 when I crashed my car in Singapore. They said then that I'd suffer from osteoarthritis in later life. Well, it's now later life. Here are two pictures - taken on crutches - 60 years apart.

So now it's just a matter of time before I get back to normality. Next Monday my GP will arrange for the staples to be removed and later in the week I'll start a new regime of Physio and see how it goes. And the bruising should start to subside soon.

Horrible isn't it?

Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Crocodile Zoo

In 1962 I was in my Sprite driving in the practice circuit for the Singapore Grand Prix when I crashed at about 80 on the first chicane. Result - a very badly broken leg as I was thrown out of the car. (No seat belts in those days). They said at the time I would suffer when I got older. Well I'm older now and in a lot of knee pain. It's got to the stage where all they can do is perform a total knee replacement. So, as I think I may have mentioned before, the surgery is scheduled for next Tuesday (the 17th) morning at the Circle Hospital in a Reading. I don't normally look forward to operations but this time I do. The pain is constant but, with difficulty, I managed to visit England's only Crocodile Zoo yesterday. My young friend helped me walk up and down the very steep walkways but it was a fascinating place. Here some of the smaller crocs were being fed with fish dangled above them by a keeper with an implement that road cleaners use to pick up litter.

Apart from the crocodiles (and they have a great variety of different types) we saw some beautiful little creatures. Here is a lovely blue-green lizard.

Just look at the colours on this bobbly faced animal. And the prehistoric look of my favourite little chap.

We found as we walked around the complex a few other animals and birds. This meerkat was perched high on a little hill.

And the kookaburra seemed to be very well fed.

In between Christmas and the New Year I went to Suffolk to stay for a few days with myf's parents. It was her mother's birthday on the 29th so we all, including her brother and his family, went to Felixstowe for lunch at the Alex restaurant on the seafront. And then a walk along the promenade where the gardens have just been landscaped.

I celebrated the new year quietly but I always love seeing the fireworks from London on TV.

On New Year's Day myf and I went for a walk by the river at Marlow. It was one of those crisp and sunny mornings. This is the view towards Marlow Bridge. (Incidentally this bridge is a small scale version of the Chain Bridge in Budapest which crosses the Danube).

The river was full of swans. This one swam through the refection of the sunlight.

We went to the Regal the other day to see Martin Scorsese's epic film "Silence". What an incredible film it was. Slow to start but as it builds in tempo the depiction of Christian missionaries in 17th century Japan was amazing.

It's a long film - two and a half hours - and the scenes of cruelty and violence are graphic. But the story and acting are stupendous. I highly recommend it - even though it could have ended half an hour before it did.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas time

The last couple of weeks have been busy with buying, wrapping and sorting out Christmas presents. I decorated the tree last week, and just for a day or two I hung about thirty miniature portraits on it.

It's called 'A miniature painter's Christmas tree'.
However, increasingly over the past few months, the osteoarthritis in my knee has become painfully unbearable. So finally I had a consultation with Mr Sean O'Leary - a top knee surgeon at the Circle Hospital in Reading. After seeing the x-ray of my very swollen leg he said there was no other option than to perform a total knee replacement. And as I'm now in constant pain - especially at night - he's scheduled the operation for January 17th. My young friend even bought me a sort of cage for the night which helps keep the bedclothes from touching the knee as even the lightest touch hurts. And hopefully I'll be able to do away with my constant and sturdy companion in a couple of months time.

The only time the pain subsides is when I am sitting at my desk painting. And I've just finished a very detailed miniature portrait for a top London Jeweller. Hopefully this is the first of several for the same client.
Now is the time to commence entering the various art competitions for 2017. These will include the annual BP Award for the Portrait of the Year at the National Portrait Gallery in London, The Royal Society of Portrait Painters exhibition at the Mall Galleries, The Society of Marine Artists, The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and the Derwent Art Prize for pencil drawing. I'm also intending to enter a pair of self portraits in the Ruth Borehard Self-Portrait Prize in April. They are a reflection in a silver cup of me painting. One was done in 1977 when I was living in Singapore - the other painted recently.

We went to a party on Saturday evening at Fawley Hill. It's got to be the most lavishly decorated Christmas party venue I've ever been to. As we arrived we were greeted by this Christmas tree.

The floor was covered in every sort of glitter, and well over ten lavishly decorated rooms welcomed us. The floor of this room, which normally is an indoor swimming pool, was covered with a big map of Berkshire for the occasion. And in the corner was Elvis Presley. (So that's where he got to!)

In this room, apart from the many jars of sweets, ornaments, and another Christmas tree, a model train runs around the table.

When we left, as myf collected the car, I waited just inside the house talking to a friend but hadn't realised that I was standing just under a lighted candle as part of the decorations on the staircase above. When we got home we wondered what the many white waxy splodges were all over my suit. Then we realised the candle must have been dripping wax! A quick question to Mr Google gave us the remedy - paper and a cloth laid on to the suit, then a hot iron applied to it. It did the trick and the suit was saved.

Our local cinema regularly shows live broadcasts from such venues as the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and the Bolshoi Ballet. With the Regal's really comfortable seats it was so nice to see The Nutcracker with Felicity last week. Seeing the ballet this way means that close up views of the orchestra and expressions on the dancers faces all give an extra dimension to the performance.

Now just as I was finishing printing my little calendar last Friday a horrible noise came from my printer and it stopped, trapping the paper in the machine. Instead of doing the sensible thing and turning it off I tried pulling the paper out the reverse of the way it went in. Which of course ripped it apart. And then to make matters worse I opened the machine and tried to fix it from the inside. More torn paper and a real mess with the rollers. I rang Computer Cavern in Marlow who supply my ink and paper to ask if there was anything they could do. They said I could take it over to them but no chance of it being fixed before Christmas - if at all. What I did was exactly the opposite of what I should have done. So imagine my delight the following morning when they rang to say it was mended. I picked it up straight away. What it is to have such an obliging local company.

Last Sunday we drove over to see my friend Katie in London. She's still not well. So sad to see her like that. But nice to see Gianni and Margherita, Katie's sister.
It was my six-monthly CT scan at Dunedin hospital the other day. I get the results on the 4th of January. So cross fingers again.

Yesterday was Christmas Day and I spent a happy time with my niece Louisa and her family at her home in a Marlow. I picked up Val first. We had a really sumptuous meal. Max was delighted with his first car. My present from Louisa and Guy was a splendid blue cool box. All ready for the launch of my new boat at the end of March. Val has a new dog.

Kate looked warm in her new wrap.

Thank you Louisa - I really enjoyed the day.

I've completely redesigned my website to reflect more comprehensively all the types of painting and drawing I do - not just miniature portraits as before. This is the home page, but to see all 8 pages go to: