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21 August 2014

REST IN PEACE, MA PETITE BLANCHE

On the 19th of August thirteen years ago my mother, Blanche Augustine d'Arbeloff, departed this planet very early in the morning. I was asleep on the living room sofa while my sister and a nurse kept watch in her room. My sister woke me later, I don't know when, to tell me that Mamie was gone. I went in the bedroom and saw, touched, her cold forehead and icy hands. I remember being on fire with rage, a rage deeper than desolation, that they didn't wake me, didn't let me share her last breath, hold her hand. 'We didn't want to wake you, you were so tired'. The rage is still there when I think of that moment but it's outside of me now, like a photograph in an album.

my parents' grave

On Tuesday this week I went to the cemetery where my mother and father are buried together. Sacha left in 1996, aged 101. Blanche stayed with us another five years, until she was ninety-seven. Here they are both in Los Angeles, way back in time, with no thoughts of mortality.

Blanche and Sacha in Los Angeles

There is peace and quiet and pure, unadulterated bird song in the park of graves but the ground is heaving under the weight, the responsibilty of all those loved bones, their names, their dates, their histories, their roles. It's too much for some of the old stones, the angels, the monuments, they're leaning over, exhausted. Brand new graves are cheerful with bright plastic flowers, big sparkly cushioned lettering:"GRANNY", "JOE", "MUM". Every inch of the ground beneath my feet is packed with bones which were once persons, personalities, like Blanche, like Sacha, like me. And one day (not too soon, God willing) my bones, the material part of me, will be buried somewhere and somebody, perhaps, will post my photo on their blog and write something in remembrance of me, the "me" that they knew.

I wrote about my mother previously here and here and some of the paintings she did in the last few years of her life are shown here. The photo below was taken at her exhibition in the Mary Ward Centre in London the year before she died.

Blanche at her exhibition

I picked the next photo out of the many that I have because it shows Blanche's beautiful legs that I was always envious of. It was taken at my parents' flat in London in 1983. Youthfulness was one of her many qualities, one that age never took away. Once, I asked her what she was thinking and she said, "Je chante" (I'm singing).

Bllanche's legs

And below is the look she had a few months before her death, a searching, looking into Somewhere Else. The same look she had when she sat bolt upright in bed, seeing something no one else could see, and said: "Je dois prendre ma place" (I must take my place).

Blanche near the end.

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14 August 2014

HEARING THINGS

Who knew that peeling a carrot is noisy? That crumpling a paper bag is rain on a corrugated iron roof ? That flushing the toilet is an avalanche of icicles falling into a roaring furnace?

Two days ago I started a month's trial of hearing aids, both ears. My hearing has been deteriorating for a while now but I've got used to it. Missing most of the dialogue at the cinema or theatre doesn't really affect my life and when I watch tv I turn subtitles on. Listening to music and one-to-one conversations are no problem and if I'm in a crowded room I ask people to repeat things or else pretend I've heard them. But my bluff is called if I'm asked a direct question about something I pretended to hear and this is what prompted close friends to urge me to face the issue and take action.

A few years ago I did have audio tests and was told that I'd pretty much lost sounds in the higher register. The NHS gave me hearing aids to be used daily but they stayed in a drawer because I couldn't cope with the loud metallic noises they produced. Technology has considerably improved since then and the digital babies I'm trying out now are far superior to those clunky things I rejected. But.....will I ever accept noisy carrots?

Meanwhile my sister in France sent me a beautiful birthday scarf/shawl and I can't resist showing it off. Thank you my Annie.

My Annie shawl

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7 August 2014

SOMETHING TO SMILE ABOUT

It's my birthday, I'm still here alive and well and creating, I love each of my family and friends and they love me, I have a pleasant roof over my head, no debts, enough to eat, freedom, and all the art materials I need. I am still asking questions and feeling amazed. So this day, and every day, is my time to be grateful and to wish for all the blessings I have to somehow be expanded and distributed to all those who have none.

Here's my selfie for today.

birthday selfie 2014

Something else to raise a smile: The Festival of Love is currently drawing crowds on the South Bank and I couldn't resist snapping a photo of this happy couple in front of a merry-go-round.

lovers on the South Bnk

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24 July 2014

WHAT IF....

I was just watching on TV the opening in Glasgow of the Commonwealth Games. Good will, fellowship, enthusiasm, energy and diversity made the air tingle and a sudden inspiration came to me. Like many of my sudden inspirations, reality hardly intrudes at all. It stays off-stage, talking incomprehensibly to itself.

Anyway I'll write down what this inspiration was, just in case somebody somewhere picks it up and runs with it. Maybe even one of the ten or fifteen people who read my blog. What do you think? Does it stand a chance?

WHAT IF..... 

there was

a hugely funded 

sporting event or festival

held in a suitable existing or purpose-built location

in which Israeli and Palestinian children and teenagers

would peaceably compete and cooperate

and thousands of spectators attend and applaud.

The enormous amount of money needed, including paying qualified coaches to train the young people on both sides, would come from two sources:

a) crowd-funding: donations by the world-wide public via a website.

b) wealthy individuals, companies and institutions invited to subscribe.

A rigorously selected impartial, independent, non-political group would be formed to administer, organise the event and allocate the funds, all aspects to be completely transparent and every penny accounted for.

To comment go to my Mirror Blog

21 July 2014

HOT WEATHER TRIVIA

Can you guess what this is for?

Puzzling thing

Never mind, I'll tell you.

Wood expands in hot weather and certain doors refuse to close quietly as usual. They have to be grasped by the hair, if they have hair, pulled hard and slammed hard.This doesn't always work on first attempt and so must be repeated, causing considerable ruckus on the premises. I live on the top floor of a house with three flats and do not like giving or receiving ruckus. Fortunately I have good neighbours and alleluia! quiet as well. So I can no longer sit back and wait for cold weather to restore my door's good manners.

The problem is that there is nothing to grasp. There's no handle on the inside of my front door and that's why I make so much noise when trying to close it. In hot weather.

Simple, you say, buy a handle and screw it on. Ah, yes, precisely. But I only decided an hour ago that the problem must be solved immediately and it's too hot to walk to the hardware shop which will be closed at this hour anyway. I had a cursory look through my extensive collection of bricolage materials and couldn't find a single handle. The only thing which looked remotely handle-ish was the round hole brass thingy (what are they called?) you see above. And the only thing which fitted tightly inside the thingy's hole was the handle of one of my oil painting brushes.

So, improvisation being the mother of invention, I screwed the thingy to the door at a convenient height for my hand, sawed off the thin end of the brush, pushed the fat part into the hole and presto! A graspable handle which is also, you must admit, original. And it works. I can now close the door quietly. Well, less noisily.

To comment go to my Mirror Blog

17 July 2014

IS THERE A SOLUTION ?

Is it possible to stay silent about the current déja-vu events in Israel and Palestine? A wave of emotion rises up in my throat when I see the news. Some of this emotion is raging indignation but mostly it is despair at this apparently unending cyle of revenge/retaliation. All I can imagine as a solution is a totally unrealistic, impossible scenario in which both sides, en masse, fall to their knees and beg forgiveness of each other, embrace and weep together, then work out their differences and find a peaceful solution, person-to-person. And then the wall would fall.

Like I said, totally unrealistic.

Meanwhile in today's  I (the Independent's daily briefing newspaper) there is a note by Mira Bar-Hillel, an outspoken Israeli-born British journalist (reviled by those who see anti-semitism in anyone who doesn't agree with Israeli policy and actions) which I'm copying below in its entirety since she knows the Situation much better than I do and can express herself better.

Beth in cassandra also addressed this subject on 11th July in a moving and articulate post. If you haven't already read it, go there now.

article by Mira Bar-Hillel

UPDATE: And check out these 3 excellent links which Lucy posted at Box Elder:

9 questions about the Israel-Palestine conflict you were too embarrassed to ask

11 crucial facts to understand the Israel-Gaza crisis

Israel's Gaza invasion is all about tunnels

11 July 2014

ALL DONE!

All blocks cut and proofed. Now the highly skilled work of fine letterpress printing can begin at the Old Stile Press and later, the collating and binding of the limited edition. To celebrate the completion of my part of this collaborative oeuvre I arranged an impromptu showing a few days ago at The Pineapple, a local pub, whose manager was kind enough to let me use an upstairs room to put all my proofs on the walls (whitetak, not blutak) and invite some friends over to have a drink and see the work.

The Pineapple pub

Upstairs room at The Pineapple

Some of my prints around the walls before guests arrived.

A few bottles to start with

The paste-up on atble at the Pineapple

The complete dummy of the book with all proofs and text.

And here are proofs of the last blocks I cut:

Page 34

page 35

pages 36-37

page 38

page 39

page 40

page 41

pages 42-43

Now for a little rest then to start on new work.

To comment go to my Mirror Blog

14 June 2014

ALMOST THERE

Too busy to write so I'll post a bumper selection of images for the book. I've been working non-stop and only have about nine more blocks to cut and proof.....then it will be celebration time.

page 24, trans Siberian

page 25, Trans-Siberian

page 26, Trans-Siberian

page 27, Trans-Siberian

pages 28-29, Trans-Siberian

page30, Trans-Siberian

page 31, Trans-Siberian

 

page 32, Trans-Siberian

page 33, Trans-Siberian

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