A Novel Way to be Cheered Up!

We collected all the paintings on Wednesday morning from the gallery – the walls of my flat are now happy again. I sold a few prints and a book, but the most surprising sale was a small nude I painted of my friend and fellow artist, Paula, a few years ago. It was bought by a little old lady. Chris, the gallery owner, told me that she said her husband had recently recovered from an operation in hospital, and she thought the nude painting would ‘cheer him up’. (Hope it doesn’t make his heart beat faster!)
By the way, although our local newspaper, the Henley Standard, only briefly reported the exhibition after it was all over, they did make a 2 minute video of the event. It can be seen on Youtube by clicking here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkO1mtv5Pgo)

Here’s another photograph taken at one of the private views - Chris, Joceline and me,.

It was a glorious spring morning last Friday as I drove down to Frome in Somerset to stay the night with Sharran and Mike North (of ‘Dragons den TV fame).The Hilliard Society of Miniaturists were holding their annual exhibition in Wells, and Sharran and Mike were joining me for dinner in the Town Hall. Once there we were surrounded by an extremely impressive collection of miniature paintings.

Early the following morning Sharran and Mike left to set up their ‘Olive Trail’ stall just outside the entrance to The Bishop’s Palace in Wells market place. I followed a couple of hours later – in pouring rain – and found a comfy spot in the lounge of the Crown Hotel while I waited for friends Fergus and Zelia to join me. They were the subject of my first ‘double’ miniature - see my blog earlier this year – and it was to be displayed at the exhibition.) After they arrived we had a coffee and then wandered around the market square before going in to the lunch in the Town Hall.

After lunch Paddy Davison – the Hilliard Society President – made a nice speech (very flattering to me) in which he remarked that Fergus and Zelia were “a lovely couple and your likeness of them reflects their beauty and their love for each other”.
Prizes were then given out and I was pleased to be awarded ‘The Presidents Choice’ prize. And as I’d won the ‘Bell Award’ for the Best Portrait last year I was given my replica at the same time.

Later in the afternoon I drove down to Bishopsteighton near Torquay in Devon to stay with Ian and Jane Stevens for a few days. (Ian being an old friend from my time in Singapore). Unlike last year where I became totally frustrated when stuck in a 5 hour traffic queue, this time I chose a tranquil country route to Bishopsteighton.

When I got back home on Tuesday I had a call from Val telling me about my nephew Neil’s very lucky escape from drowning. Neil is a great fisherman – mainly salmon and trout. (This year he won the “Mundy Cup”, given in memory of his father by the John Lewis fishing club, located on the River Test at Leckford). Last Sunday at about one in the morning he, together with two friends, were night-fishing on the River Itchen. The river Itchen is tidal, and suddenly, with virtually no warning, the tide roared in, rising rapidly up to Neil’s chin. Although he was wearing chest-high waders they were soon filled with water, and being waterlogged he couldn’t move. Quickly handing his rod to one of his friends he asked him to pull him out of the river. Unfortunately the rod separated and Neil fell back under the water. With his heart beating rapidly, he said that his children’s and father’s images flashed before him. Realising that he was drowning, he frantically searched for the toggle on his lifejacket (luckily Stephanie, his wife, had reminded him to take it with him that evening) and almost gave up – but at last he located it and the jacket inflated, bringing him to the surface where his friends managed to haul him out of the water. What a very lucky escape!

Neil with his catch on a better day

It’s Friday evening now and my young friend and I have just returned from a trip down the river. There was just one little problem – a coot had built its nest on the bathing platform at the back of my boat and was sitting on seven eggs. Was I to become a murderer? Nevertheless we set off with the coot still sitting on her nest and made our way to Phyllis Court. Upon mooring the coot jumped off and swam towards the middle of the river, eyeing us disapprovingly. When we returned from a delightful dinner, al fresco, the eggs were still there on the nest, but the coot had gone. Unbelievably she had flown back to my landing stage because when we got home there she was waiting for us and the return of her family. So all’s well that ends well and we didn’t commit a heinous crime.