Down to the Titanic

I’m so wrapped up with my painting of the Queen’s visit to Henley – spending up to nine hours a day on it – that I’d better write my blog today or I’ll be back in my studio any minute.

On Tuesday I joined the Probus Section at Phyllis Court Club and went along in the morning to hear Philip Littlejohn give a fascinating lecture about the Titanic disaster. This man was the grandson of Alexander James Littlejohn – one of the First Class stewards on the Titanic. When the tragedy struck the 31 year-old Alexander was ordered to row lifeboat number 13 to safety and therefore survived. To get an idea of the effects of the incident have a look at these two photographs – taken just a few weeks apart. Here he is before he boarded the Liner
And here he is a week or so after the disaster.

(This phenomenon is not that unusual - I remember one of my friends, Jimmy James, when he returned from the Far East after the Second World War. He was only in his twenties but had white hair - a result of being lost in the Burmese jungle for an hour or so after falling behind his comrades when on patrol. As the Japanese soldiers were everywhere he was extremely frightened so his black hair turned white overnight).

Apart from being the grandson, Philip Littlejohn is one of the very few people who has actually been to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean and seen the wreck of the Titanic. he was encased in a 3-man Russian submersible during the 11 hour voyage. I’m very interested in all things Titanic so was fascinated by the lecture. Now that the site of the wreck has been declared a World Heritage Site it means that no one will be allowed to descend there in the future.

My new electric engine arrived last Friday – just in time to try it out at the weekend. My young friend and I took it down to Henley bridge, then back through Marsh Lock and up towards Shiplake. It’s great to be in control of the dinghy once more (after turning circles – backwards in the old one). Except, I must admit, for one little incident when returning through the lock. Nigel, the lockkeeper saw us coming and kept the gates open, but as I endeavoured to transfer the bow rope to the starboard side of the dinghy I forgot to slow the engine. It was only when my companion shouted that I was heading, fast, towards a neighbour’s brick wall did I look up to just avert disaster. By the time I’d sorted myself out and turned back towards the lock the gates were closing as Nigel had assumed I was going up the millstream. But he soon reopened them to let us in – me with a very red face!
I’m starting a new sculpture tomorrow. It will be of my great nephew, Max. Yesterday I took about 20 photographs of him from all angles – and measured all the relevant distances. Here’s Max – I’ll show you the final result of the head in a few months time.

Next week I’ll be starting on the next stage of my sculpture portrait of Rolf Harris. The clay modelling is done. (I started it in February1). I now need to learn the other processes to arrive at the final bronze.

We went to the Regal Cinema in Henley the other day to see the new Batman film. I needed to be told what the story was about after we came out as everything went too fast! The seats in the Regal are so uncomfortable – at least those in the aisle are – where I tens to sit in. But good news. Next week all the seats in all three screens are to be replaced by new ones. No good asking for the rake to be slightly improved I suppose at the same time.
Just before I started on my painting of the Queen’s visit to Henley I finished the miniature of Elizabeth Hodgkin – The Mayor of Henley. Here she is.

On Sunday afternoon we drove to Cookham to attend the 50th Anniversary Exhibition at the Stanley Spencer Gallery. Housed in the former Wesleyan chapel there it was where Spencer worshipped with his mother when a child.. Built in 1846 the chapel has been described as a ‘simple Gothic structure for sheep gone astray’. I really like his work – my favourite being the very large – unfinished – painting entitled ‘Christ Preaching at Cookham Regatta’. He sadly died before it was finished. Here is a detail from the painting.

Upstairs in the gallery is the artist’s pushchair, which he took around with him when he painted outdoors. I was allowed to take this photograph of it. Note the sign, which he propped up by it to discourage sightseers pressing too close to him when he was at work. It reads ‘As he is anxious to complete his painting of the churchyard, Mr Stanley Spencer would be grateful if visitors would kindly avoid distracting his attention from the work.’

On the way back from Cookham we walked all along the towpath from Remenham (where I took these photos surrounding the lych-gate – which I’d never noticed before)

We headed up to the Henley College where I needed to observe the scene there, as it will form the background to the painting I’m working on. This photograph is just what I needed– especially for the foliage in the foreground and some of the trees in the background

P.S. This is for RG9 – my most faithful follower. Yes I’m very fond of photography and take my camera with me most of the time. In fact there are over a quarter of a million images stored on my computer since I bought my first digital camera, Not to mention the remaining hundreds of thousands of negatives stored in files and dating back to about 1950. Oh – one more thing - I’m up to my 48th photo album as I print out my best ones as well. And the albums are very large!