Saturday, 13 May 2017

Cruising down the River on a Saturday Afternoon

On Saturday my cousin Paul and Em joined us for an afternoon on my boat. My young friend made a lovely picnic. We found a nice mooring place at Shiplake. Here I am with Paul and Em on Marsh Mundy by the riverbank.

And I don't know what I'm saying to Em here!

After our lunch we travelled upstream to the Loddon. As the boat has a draft of two feet we were able to navigate the fairly shallow water. This long abandoned old houseboat met its demise many years ago I think.

We still managed to hit the bottom of the river when we turned round but no damage was done as we were on fairly soft silt. The other week I mentioned that I would need to make a little mast for my Phyllis Court burgee at the front of the boat. As my effort would have been very amateurish I asked my friend Alan White if he would make one for me. And as you can see he made a really professional job of it

Last weekend myf and I visited Christine in Norfolk. I especially wanted to visit The Urban Jungle again. It's a place where they sell every kind of plant - both small and very large. Also you'll see some rare tropical plants. A nice little restaurant is tucked away in a jungly hideaway with a dozen small eating places.

Big Koi carp too.

And lots of colour.

We took a trip to Wells-next-the-sea, had an ice cream as we walked along by the harbour looking out to the sandbanks.

West Acre garden centre nestles in a little haven of peace.

And finally to yet another little garden centre. This one at Mileham - a village near Stanfield where Christine lives. I bought ten lovely begonias and a couple of trays of dark blue lobelias which I'll plant on my balconies at the weekend. My young friend bought a canna lily and a couple of white foxgloves for her white garden.

Last Thursday I just about finished my larger than life oil portrait of Norman Topsom - a few bits of touching up to do before I varnish it.

Still having a problem with Talk Talk. You'd think they'd be able to change my broadband service to my normal phone line but after three weeks of interminable phone calls it's still not done.

I spent all today typing out my annual income tax return.

Off to my second game of bowls tomorrow. Because my legs are still being difficult I bought a bowl 'picker-upper' the other day. Great. What a wonderful help.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A Brush With Royalty

Last Wednesday evening Chilli Brener launched her book - 'What The Queen Said To Me' at the Bell Bookshop in Henley.

It was quite a glittering occasion, and I met many of my friends there, including Tony and Jackie Hobbs, Sir John Madejski, Mike Read, Mike Sweeney, Elizabeth Hodgkin and Charles Burns ( England's most famous silhouette artist). I had been commissioned to paint a miniature equestrian portrait of the Queen's horse, which was presented to her on the occasion of the opening of the new Perpetual premises in Henley in 1998.

I think we've been on my new boat more times this year than during the whole of last year (the old one had too many carburettor problems). So the other Sunday we took sister-in-law Val out for a trip to Hambleden lock and back.

Passing Temple Island

And on a markedly colder day Jane and Brian joined us after a nice lunch at Phyllis Court. Jane looks a bit cold here.

Yesterday we drove to Bampton in the Cotswolds to have lunch with old friend Joanne. She made a lovely curry. The wisteria tree in her cottage garden was at the height of perfection.

Today, being Mayday, my young friend and I drove over to Dobbies Garden Centre in Shinfield as we'd heard that they house the largest water feature outlet in the region. (The other week myf bought a metre wide metal bowl for her garden which we painted black and filled with water). So today's task was to buy a solar bubbling fountain and to see what water plants they had. We came back with a water lily (that changes colour as it grows from yellow to orange and finally pink), two nice water plants and a small solar operated fountain. It's now set up in her garden.

On our way back we just had enough time to sample a few minutes of the May Fair in Henley. Here's the scene with banjo players and assorted performers colourfully attired.
My knee is mending slowly- still swollen but I'm able to walk on that leg with virtually no pain. But the problem is that now my opposite hip is giving me a lot of pain. So much that when I saw my doctor last week with an x-ray of the hip he told me that I have advanced and severe osteoarthritis there. I'll be seeing a specialist in the middle of May so hopefully he'll give me a cortisone injection which, if it works, could ease the pain and allow me to enjoy the summer with a few planned weekends away and a short foreign holiday, before having a hip replacement in the autumn.
Currently I'm working on a large oil painting of my friend Norman Topsom. It's not a commission - I'll put it on my blog next time.

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.