20 April 2018


I was at the private view of Shani Rhys James exhibition This Inconstant State yesterday evening at the Connaught Brown gallery in Mayfair. If you're in London do not miss this show. If you're far away, look up some of her work on this BBC video and other videos shown on YouTube.

Her paintings resonate deeply with me, strike chords I am in tune with. Shani salutes Van Gogh and Soutine and the Fayum portraits of ancient Roman Egypt but without a trace of hero worship or imitation, simply out of comradeship. She is very much her own person, with an uncompromising gaze focused intently on what is around her but through a lens which reflects her interior world. The eyes are all important in her paintings, they have an unquiet, absent expression which at the same time manages to be wholly engaged in the present moment. I love Shani's strong, bold sense of space and drama, her rejection of prettiness and sentimentality - even her flowers are free from 'floweriness'. Yet there is tenderness in all her work and intense empathy with others. Two stunning paintings of Shani's mother in bed (she has suffered a stroke) are almost unbearable in their unvarnished truthfulness from both sides of the trauma: the mother's, and the daughter who is looking on, and looking after. The colour red plays a dominant role in all the paintings, both as a formal element of design and an emotional key - emotional intelligence you could say - and the thick, sensuous paint seems like a fierce struggle to give flesh to memories or moments before they vanish - the paint as a sort of trap for ghosts....this inconstant state.

Shani R,J, Quinces     Shani Rhys James - Quinces 2017
Oil on gesso on board.
29 7/8 x 18 1/8 in. 76 x 46 cm

Shani R.J. Two Gourds   Shani Rhys James, Two Gourds 2017
Oil on linen.
39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in. 100 x 100 cm

Shani R.J. Blue Top...

Shani Rhys James, Blue Top Orange Hairband, 2017
Oil on gesso on board.
24 1/8 x 24 1/8 in. 61 x 61 cm

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19 April 2018


My boxwork, Cosmic Sadness of a Teenage Girl Crying in the Shower which I posted in an early state a while back, is now finished. The box is deep but the photo doesn't show this three-dimensionality at all. I cut a window into the lid to let more light in.

Cosmic Sadness of a Teenage Girl Crying in the Shower

NdA 2018   Boxwork, mixed media 28cm x 28cm x 23cm ( 11" x 11" x 7.5" )

Cosmic Sadness of Teenage Girl finished

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14 April 2018


In my next life I want to be a physicist. Or whatever they'll be called when my next life comes around. Pshaw, I hear you say, there are no next lives. Are you sure? Consider this: there are much stranger things in physics than multiple lives.

It doesn't feel like it but the fact is...the absolute fact which physicists can that past, present and future are illusions. They exist simultaneously in spacetime or as I prefer to call it, timespace. Think about it and watch a fascinating video.


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30 March 2018


Outside the door of my local supermarket there's often a homeless man or woman squatting on the pavement. They've changed over the years - the beggar is more likely to be a refugee nowadays - but this specific location seems to be known to the disenfranchised as a kindly one. I am certainly not the only person who has stopped and talked for a while, given money and/or a coffee and sandwich to one or more of these citizens of nowhere.

A few years ago I had several conversations with one of them, a grizzled fellow of indeterminate age, always accompanied by a large brown dog lying quietly under a blanket beside him. I learned that the man had a leg injury, was on a list to be moved into a council flat in a few months but the list was long and he was sleeping rough while waiting. Some time passed and then he was gone from that spot by the supermarket door. 

Yesterday he was there again, same grizzled face, same brown dog, same blanket. Now here's the thing:

I didn't stop to speak to him or give him money or a sandwich. I was annoyed, suspicious. How come he's back again, I thought, it's been years! He was probably lying about the council flat or else they threw him out for drunkenness or something. My benevolent concern for an unfortunate stranger evaporated in an instant. Why? Because his reality seemed to mock me. Disapproval of the man's flaws, whatever they might be, cancelled out the genuine compassion I had felt initially. So it turns out to be all about me, not him at all.

This is my lesson to myself for Easter and Passover and Spring. Kindness, compassion, generosity, concern, are riches we possess and can give away freely, abundantly, spontaneously, without motive, without afterthought, without judgment, without expecting anything in return. Simply given away to float freely in the air, like apple blossoms floating to the ground.

The photo below is not of the man outside my local supermarket but it's not unlike him. It's one I took several years ago of a beggar in Paris.

beggar in Paris

22 March 2018


Speaking of onions, here's an extract from something - maybe a gnovel , maybe not - which I started and have procrastinated about for...uh... seven years. If you add procrastinitis to distractionitis and inconsistenitis what you get is seven. I can prove it.

NdA-onion tears extract

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20 March 2018


Did you know that peeling an onion cures a heavy cold? Neither did I. But I peeled an onion and cried as usual and then my heavy cold (are there any light ones?) was cured. Today I am nearly cold-free and I could say it's because the onion cured me but it might also be because the cold was getting better anyway.

All you have to do is assert something in an assertive way: PEELING AN ONION IS CURE FOR COLDS. Photo of cold-puffy celebrity peeling onion. Bright-eyed celebrity interviewed moments after miraculous onion-cure. Millions of tweeters tweet that they've always known it, grandma used to rub their chests with a raw onion. Other tweeters tweet that it's all cobblers. But by then onions have sold out in all the shops.

My cold really is better though. And the onion I peeled went in the chicken soup.

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12 March 2018


Sitting in the National Portrait Gallery cafe on 2nd October 2007 I noticed Ken Dodd drinking tea at another table. Having just seen the portrait of him by David Cobley I decided to go over and ask Ken what he thought of it. He was with his partner Ann Jones. Both were very friendly and we had a conversation as if we were old acquaintances.

Apart from occasional flights of brilliant and surreal invention, his brand of comedy was never my thing. But I will always remember open, unpretentious and gracious Ken Dodd with affection from that serendipitous meeting and the autograph he gave me has been pinned above my desk ever since.

Ken Dodd autograph

Portrait of Ken Dodd by David Cobley

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05 March 2018


Teeth. Do you want to talk about teeth? I'll go ahead anyway. A bit of torture at the dentist this morning motivates me.

I was born with wonky teeth. They showed up when baby teeth usually show up. Why didn't my parents notice? Why didn't they take me to an orthodontist immediately? Because it was Paris and they were busy having a good time, I suppose but I could be wrong. Anyway I grew up with wonky teeth, too crowded, whatever. Later in America I was the odd one out in school because all the kids were giants with perfect teeth. 99% of Americans have perfect teeth, it must be all that milk. I was (am) short, hated milk, had buck teeth and spoke with a French accent. As time went by I adapted and my smile was good enough, sexy enough to get by in this tooth-eat-tooth world.

However, there's always a big however if you're born with wonkies, and as much more time went by the wonkiness played up. I'll skip the details but below is a page from my book Augustine's True Confession (1979) just to illustrate this post. If you want to read the book (it's good and not about teeth) I'll send you a copy, signed, for £10 plus postage. Yes that was a commercial break, an honest one.

As I was saying, lots of time went by and now it's today and I've just been tortured at the dentist because another loose tooth had to go. So today I have only 12 teeth of my own, 4 at the top and 8 at the bottom. Yesterday I had 13.

I know I shouldn't be talking about this because it's a secret. We who are afflicted D starts with dent.....Got it? We who have those fakes have to pretend they're real. But they ain't, right? Fake news ain't real news and never shall be. That's all for today.

Please note well: the page below (from the book) was written in 1979. I do not have pain in my mouth today. The injection before today's extraction was painful but it's gone now and I'm fine.

page from Augustine's True Confession

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01 March 2018


Snow is definitely photogenic. Here's my contribution to the snowstorm of snow pics. No snowflakes were harmed in the process. I was snugly hidden at home behind a window.

Snowed steps

Snowed cars

snowed cars procession

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27 February 2018


This morning, in the waiting room of a local hospital before my dermatology appointment ( a minor skin thing needing occasional review) I watched the people sitting there in total silence, mostly old, mostly grim-faced, and I had an urge to get up and say:

We're all going to die sooner or later so.....let's face the music and dance!

Then I would dance and sing with each one of them. That was the movie in my head. The urge was irresistible but I resisted it.

Another opportunity to change the world missed.

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19 February 2018


The corner of my living room which inspired the setting of the new boxwork and the paintings actually hanging on the wall, mini-versions of which feature in the scene. The painting over the mantelpiece is Sonata for Apples and Chairs (2007). I made a video showing its evolution, here it is. A few other videos I've made are here on Vimeo. Others are on myYouTube

Of the other two painting below, one is a self-portrait painted in Sao Paulo, Brazil aged 21.

living room corner

iving room paintings

self portrait Brazil

apples reflected

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18 February 2018


It is probably nearly arguably almost finished. I can't seem to get a decent photo of it in any light. The colours are wrong, you can't see that the figure on the right is the same as the painting hanging behind her, you can't read the title written on the frame and so on. My camera is an old ordinary Canon Power Shot and I think it's exhausted.

It's been more than a year since I started this box-work - I began building it in September 2016.

angel disguised as paper doll

Angel Disguised as Paper Doll Explaining the Artist's Work Mixed media. 51 x 41 x 9 cms (20 x 16.5 x 3.5 inches)

the beginning of Angel Disguised...

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06 February 2018


On Thursday I'm going to Norwich to join George Szirtes at the Book Hive for the launch of 30 Poets Go To The Gym, the Candlestick Press publication of his acrobatic poems. I'll be signing copies alongside him since I'm the illustrator but as they're mostly tiny in the pamphlet, here are the celebrity keep-fitters as interpreted by yrs truly. Walt Whitman is on the cover doing his muscular best.

Walt Whitman, gym poets cover

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Lord Byron

ee cummings

emily dickinson

TS Eliot

Rainer Maria Rilke

George Szirtes

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31 January 2018


Recognition: the number one hunger? To be heard, to be seen, to be acknowledged. To be cliked by facebookers twitterers instagrammers in their dozens, hundreds, maybe more, or at least disliked in equally viral fashion. To prove that we are here, that we are who we are, that our story matters. That the thoughts we think, the words we write, the pictures we paint, the music and movies and moves we make, this little creature we call Me, this little selfie....oh!

Why are we so hungry to be seen? Look Ma, I'm dancing! Ma, I'm falling down! Ma, you're not looking! Is that it? All about childhood? Whether we were recognised too little or too much? Re-cognition: I am recognised therefore I am. If not recognised I do not exist. True or false? Obviously false but so many believe it. The hunger always twinned with anxiety, the What If......... Strangely enough, the more time goes by, the less anxious I become and the less hungry I feel. Maybe I should be hungrier.

giant tiny me

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26 January 2018


The more absorbed I am in making art, the less time I feel like giving to Facebook or the internet or verbal communication in general. Sometimes, often, I don't speak to anyone for days, not on the phone, nowhere, except maybe buying food or in a cafe, asking for an Americano with cold milk on the side and a pain au raisin. I suppose I have hermit-ish tendencies. Not that I want to avoid company or communication, not at all. It's just the way things are. I do talk a lot to myself, not aloud (not yet!) and that can be quite interesting, even informative.

The boxwork I'm absorbed in has a title now: Angel Disguised as Paper Doll Explaining the Artist's Work. Soon I'll post a photo of it.

15 January 2018


These two works of mine from the 1960s will be on sale at the London Art Fair this week: 17th-21st January, on the England & Co Gallery's stand at the Business Design Centre, Islington.

Just in case you were wondering but too afraid to ask, my artwork is generally for sale. If you have never wondered about this may I suggest you start? Buying my artwork is a good thing to wonder about, unlike many other things which are not so good or so possible. I have been a fully functioning artist for all of my long life and therefore a great deal of work accumulates. Bearing in mind time's unfair rules I only have, what, ten/fifteen years max before I leave this planet and I think you, the collective You, should be seriously wondering about buying my work. It is totally worth it even if I say so myself and I have a very discerning eye. Contact me privately if you want to visit, discuss prices etc. If you need other opinions besides mine, you can see some quotes on this page, as well as a partial list of public collections which acquired my work.

Apart from my website or visiting me to view available paintings, drawings or 3-dimensional work, here are links where you can currently buy examples of my graphic work.

Pomegranate Fine Art

The Old Stile Press

and also

Ideas on the Underground

Ideas on Angel Underground circa 1967  Oil & mixed media on board. 30 x 20 inches (76 x 51 cm)


Ramona  1966. Mixed media box construction. 18.5 x13.75 x 3.5 inches (47 x 35 x 9 cm) The words carved into wooden blocks are from the song 'Ramona' popular at the time.

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08 January 2018


Below are the back and front covers of the Candlestick Press forthcoming pamphlet of George Szirtes' witty and wonderful Thirty Poets Go to the Gym which, as you may remember, I was commissioned a few months ago to illustrate.

The original intention was that my images of Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ee cummings, Rainer Maria Rilke, TS Eliot, Lord Byron, Walt Whitman and George Szirtes himself would be placed below or alongside the relevant poems. However, when the book's layout was being worked out, the publisher decided instead to fit most of my images on the back cover, with Walt Whitman on the front cover while George Szirtes and Lord Byron appear on bookmarks.

 I would have been happier with the original plan but never mind. May this book have a long, happy and successful life.

Cover, 30 Poets go to the Gym   gym poets, back cover

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04 January 2018


Whew, that was tough but I managed to finish the sofa for New Year's day. Okay it's not perfect but neither am I. It's a bit quirky (me too) and you won't find one like it in the shops (me neither). Cushions will adorn it in due course. Moi aussi, I guess.

When I'd covered all but the seat with the new fabric, I decided I didn't want the whole thing the same colour. Luckily I found exactly the right length of material: a beautiful curtain from a flat I lived in about 20 years ago - the pattern even echoes my new oriental rug. 

It took some deft manipulating and hours of stitching back what I cut off by mistake, but finally it all came together. Trickiest of all were the arms - staple gun fired hundreds of staples into the front panels of the sofa's arms to coax fabric into the required curves. But staple craziness is hidden beneath a solution which I may have invented: traced the shape of left and right arms' front panels, cut the shapes out of thin card, then wrapped and glued the fabric to the card, then glued the wrapped panels in position. Presto, no piping!

Like I said, it's not perfect but it's not bad.


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28 December 2017


Renovation of naff old sofa going well sofar. Didn't watch any Christmas TV whatsoever but cooked and ate chicken and then apple/mandarin/blueberry/raspberry pie. I believe in improvisation but if it doesn't work, improvise better.

For anyone interested in improvised technique of sofa-renovation without previous experience of this type of DIY activity (that's me) see progress in photos below. Essential requirements: patience, stubborness, tools.

Watch this space for final result in a couple of days.

sofa renewal 1

sofa 2

sofa 3

sofa 4

sofa 5

23 December 2017


New floor finished, visible sawdust hoovered, invisible sawdust probably hiding in lungs, but look how lovely everything is.

At the oriental carpet shop around the corner where I got my new rug the man explained that this design represents paradise. Paradise! As described in the Bible - it's all there, four corners and everything. Too wondrous, my humble home is paradise! The green house plant is my Christmas tree, decorated with offcuts of gold 3-D paper which gleams brightly and when you get up close, reflects your face like a miniature Dutch painting. The plant, named Reju (long story) has been with me since babyhood - the plant's babyhood, not mine - and would grow through the ceiling if allowed. It has personality and while it doesn't respond when I apologise for cutting bits off, it is obviously very happy with me.

My Christmas will be solo and if you intend to go Awwww in that so-sorry-for-you way, please don't. The absolute truth is that I really love it this way. I am by nature and inclination a soloist and actually have fun on my own. Yes I do enjoy good company and all its joys but have long outgrown the obsession - it was an obsession at one time - with partnership and other variants on that situation. Been there done that. I love the family and friends that fate has kindly given me and am happy to be with them when that occurs. But it's not a need. There's so much stuff to do, to play with, when I'm on my own.

A toast to you all, alone or in company, and may life never cease to amaze you.

Paradise rug

22 December 2017


To all of you
from all of me
very best wishes
for this time of the year
and for all times
in the New Year.

NdA Xmas card 2017

21 December 2017


Now he's brought his mother....and the cat!


18 December 2017


Looked out the window this morning and was startled by this apparition.



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9 December 2017


Sherlock & Nat/Watson

Holmes - Watson, have you forgotten to sweep the new wooden floor in my study? Look, a fine film of dust is still clinging to it!

Watson - While you were out, Holmes, I went over it again and again but to no avail. Moments later the dust reappeared.

Holmes - My dear fellow, I do not doubt your good intentions but I'm afraid your eyesight is not what it was. You simply failed to see the remaining dust.

Watson - My vision is as good as yours, Holmes, and dare I say, better. I have been pondering a theory as to why the sawdust is lingering.

Holmes - Let's hear it. Then kindly redo the dusting while I go for a walk to clear my lungs.

Watson - Well, sawdust particles are tiny little things of infinite lightness and duration and millions of them were released into the room by the men sawing the wooden boards.

Holmes - Those foreign workers, yes.

Watson - That's neither here nor there, Holmes. The particles, being so small and light, are still floating in the air as we speak. Therefore as soon as the floor was cleaned, those which were still hovering above gently floated down.

Holmes - Watson, take off your shoes.

Watson - What? My Aberdummy and Kitch handmade brogues?

Holmes - Precisely. Take them off and show them to me.

Watson - Very well, if I must.

Holmes - Observe the soles, Watson. Do you see fine particles of sawdust clinging there?

Watson - I'm afraid I do, Holmes. I see what you're getting at. My shoes are responsible for the lingering dust.

Holmes - When I return from my walk I expect the study to be pristine, Watson.

Short interval. Holmes returns, finds Watson in an armchair, smoking his pipe. A fine mist of sawdust covers the floor.

Watson - I was right, Holmes. It's gravity, you see.

Holmes - Those foreign workers! Can't rely on them.

Watson - Einstein was a foreign worker, Holmes.

                                                                  THE END

8 December 2017


It's what I imagine the aftermath of a face lift is like. If, for instance, you had your jowls lifted, afterwards you'd probably say: now my eyebags don't go with the rest.Then after the eyebag-lift you'd say OMG, the nose! So you'd get a nose job. And so on. Not that I would ever consider having my face lifted even if I could afford it and even though every bit of my anatomy needs lifting at this stage of life. Have you seen videos of actual face-lifting surgery? I'd rather be drawn, quartered and hung out to dry.

But I was talking about my new floor, now finished. The spic-span loveliness of it makes all the rest look cips-naps. Naff old Argos sofa, stripped of the ethnic throw under which it has lived its whole life, naked as the day it was born, well...what can I say? A ready-made loose cover costs as much as a new cheap sofa therefore, in ongoing efficient/economy trance, I've decided to do it myself. Not by proper sewing or upholstering but via creative handling of staple gun and new fabric, yet to be acquired. That's just one of the consequential improvements to be DIYed.

floor after face-lift

New floor, old sofa

old sofa under old throw

Old sofa hidden under old throw.

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5 & 6 December 2017


Electric saw being used a lot today, a film of fine sawdust covering every surface. One of the not-so-great aspects of floor renovation in a flat with no outside space or spare room in which to do the sawing. Will have to undertake super-intensive dusting/hoovering when floor is done. Ugh. Furniture cleared out of bedroom. Wardrobe couldn't be moved as it didn't fit through doorway. It's one of those self-assembled things (assembled by my own good self when I moved in). So they have to work around it: lay half of floor, move wardrobe there etc. Camped out in living room last night. Good sleep apart from sawdust in nostrils. It will all be over on Thursday, they say.

camping out in the salon

4 December 2017


Work in full swing on my floor. Two lovely guys, Ukrainian and Russian, are quietly -when the electric saw isn't on - busy while I hover, inspect, and provide refreshments when not huddling over my laptop squeezed between goods and chattels piled high in the back room.

floor progress 1

Boss and assistant started this morning at 10 am. By 5pm the living room was nearly done. Tomorrow the bedroom. Today's progress in pictures below. Boss in dark shirt, assistant in white t-shirt. We discussed Ukraine, Russia, USA and Paraguay

.floor progress 2

3 December 2017


When I posted a moan on 6th November about longing to clear out, reorganise, clean slate, start again, it was one of those typical moans that never gets beyond moaning. However it did lead me into a trance of efficiency. I can be very efficient when I want to but as I don’t often want to, I have to wait for a kind of self-hypnosis to take over.

Thus entranced I spent several nights and days investigating innumerable websites dealing with the installing of engineered wood flooring and other home-improvement madness. The whiny voice of comfortable passivity kept nagging me with questions such as Are you mad?  The mess? The stress? The time? The pain? The cost? You cannot be serious? I didn’t reply.  A trance is a trance and needs no justification.

I’m now halfway through the process and yes, whiny voice was absolutely right but I’m almost sure the disruption is worth it. I’ve disrupted everything habitual, nothing is where it was, stuff on top of stuff is shoved into the room where the flooring is not going to change. I’ve nearly cleared the living room and bedroom and on Monday a man is going to remove fitted carpet and begin laying the  engineered wood planks currently stacked in the back room. He’ll be finished in 3 or 4 days then I’ll do more renovating. I have plans. Action!

The trance continues. Exciting in an obsessive way. De-familiarising familiarity is liberating, innit?





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November 27 2017


Here's my version of Les Feuilles Mortes (Autumn Leaves) in a very old recording made in Vancouver with Reg Dixon who I was married to at the time. The lyrics to Les Feuilles Mortes are by Jacques Prévert, music by Joseph Kosma.
Reg & Nat, Mexico

That recording included other songs from our repertoire like Guadalajara en un Llano the link to which is below. Oh,...I've just discovered that the title is actually Me he de comer esa tuna. (Transl: I've got to eat this prickly pear.) This Mexican song is by Jorge Negrete.  Spanish lyrics are here


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20 November 2017


Muito obrigada to the fabulosa Nina Miranda who invited me to sing one of my old French favourites at her terrific gig last night. I've turned into Harpo Marx in this photo but that's fine by me. The whole evening was a joy.

The lyrics of Les Feuilles Mortes (1945) - translated (inadequately) as Autumn Leaves - are by the poet Jacques Prevert. The music is by Joseph Kosma. Yves Montand first introduced the song in the 1946 film Les Portes de la Nuit.

Moi at Nina Miranda gig

Facebook post by Nina Rocha-Miranda 20 November 2017

Natalie D'Arberloff graced the stage with her voice on Les Feuilles Mortes last night @ our 'Arti, Parti, Liberdadi' and the whole room joined her, the autumn leaves rose and danced, and our hearts thanked her. Also big O B R i G A D A to Mark Hudson for sharing your excellent film 'Tom went to Brazil'. (great intro!) Thank you Pedro Montenegro for taking such great photos and helping organise the night, and Paddy for being superbly helpful always.Thanks to all who came and hung out and sang together on an autumn Sunday night, you're magic! . To Antony Elvin on guitar and voice and so much humour, Oli Savill on percussion, Alex Afia and Abigail Dance on violin, William Summers on flutes and pipes, Inspirational Arícia Mess on voice, Caco Barros for fine Brazilian guitar and voice, Satin Singh and Tristan Banks for jumping on for percussion impromptu wikedness of the highest calibre, Julia Miranda and Flora McLean on the wheels of feel, beautiful selections, Miriam Nabarro for getting it all so beautiful from the start with your magic paper umbrella art unfurling to further scenic magic with Julia. Thanks to mum for painting as a Ninja sur La Seine, and to Gabby Sellen and Nikita for groovy Flora Mclean hat dancing. to Deirdre McGinnis Lopez for introducing me to this very, very , Funky venue. Aces & Eights - NW5.. you really are all ACE.. sound guy, front of house, Bar staff and decor. Cheers Tim and all. x x Nina

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12 November 2017


The warmth, wit, perceptiveness and graphic brilliance of Nick Wadley no longer grace this world.
He died on 1st November after seven weeks in hospital.

I only met him a few times but he left a deep and lasting impression. His Man + Book is being published in December by Dalkey Archive Press and an exhibition Nick in Gdansk will be held next year.

To me his Man + Doctor (2012) is the most devastatingly truthful, painful, joyful and liberating of any account ever drawn or written on the subject. In a few strokes, without a trace of self-pity or sentimentality, he manages to convey how it feels to be a sharp consciousness trapped inside the tragically vulnerable, unreliable, absurdly loveable human body.

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6 November 2017


Every so often!...I get a feeling of wanting to start from scratch, clear the decks, wipe the slate, begin again at a different beginning. Usually it starts when I look around and decide that my home must be completely transformed. I must get rid of everything I no longer need, put my past artworks out of sight, give away old vinyl records, cds, books I won't read again etc. Apart from kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, turn the other two rooms into painting/building spaces - my upstairs studio is much too cramped, filled with STUFF which must immeditely be cleared.

What happens next in the radical transformation scenario is that reality, i.e. the colossal physical/mental energy required to achieve my goal, suddenly knocks me down, knocks me out and stands there laughing fiendishly while I crawl away, defeated.

The thing is: to start from the beginning, is it the mental space you need to clear rather than your physical space? Or is there no such thing as a new beginning?

Me on 5 Nov.17

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29 October 2017


Leaving aside for a moment the cultural, historic, aesthetic, gastronomic, cinematic and other wonders of Rome, on this return trip I was struck by the invasion, occupation and dictatorship of the automobile. It’s universal of course but I saw it in sharper focus in this city to which all roads, ironically, lead.

Double parked everywhere no matter how narrow a street, looming impatiently over your shoulder as you cross on white lines, cars seemed like a plague of giant cockroaches. All the comforts of having private transport bubbles furnished with entertainment, navigation, air-conditioning etc. become absurdly useless because in a city with a zillion private bubbles they will, of course, compete fiercely for space and speed and the result is hell: road-rage, traffic-rage, parking-rage, accident-rage, fuel-rage, pollution-rage, drunk-driving-rage, death-rage and so on. Obviously. If cars are allowed to rule the world humans become their slaves.

But the best thing about Italy is the Italians. I love the warmth, the ease, the wit of communication, the way words roll deliciously on the tongue before becoming speech. I do very little talking in my normal life so Italian verbosity is always both thrilling and overwhelming. I forget a lot of words in Spanish and Portuguese which I used to speak easily but Italian has stayed whole. Maybe because of intense conversations, many letters written and received but most of all the family connection: my older sister Anne, creatrice of the Teatro Club di Roma, her late husband, the writer and polymath Gerardo Guerrieri, their two talented daughters Selene and Indira with their inimitable spouses and children. I am grateful that destiny landed me in an international family in which every single individual is memorable, so memorable that I really should do a portrait of every one of them. Okay I will. I’ve just put it on my To Do list.

Anne and Selene, Rome 2017

My niece Selene Guerrieri Martinelli and my sister Anne d'Arbeloff Guerrieri. Rome, October 2017

This trip was a totally unexpected gift from an old friend who rang me out of the blue saying he had booked tickets for us to attend a performance of Tosca and he was offering me the return flight to Rome. An absolutely un-refusable offer. Why Tosca? Some years ago, when Gaetano was in London, we listened to the dramatic aria "E lucevan le stelle" (Pavarotti does it brilliantly) and were especially fond of that deep BOOM just before the condemned Cavaradossi sings "E non ho mai tanto amato la vita". Afterwards we fooled around imitating the BOOM. That's all there was to our Tosca experience - neither of us particularly an opera lover. But Gaetano remembered that long-ago moment and I was deeply touched by his gesture.

Gaetano Trusso

 Gaetano Trusso, Rome, architect, painter, poet, with two of his paintings inspired by Persian texts. He has translated some Persian poetry into Italian.

Unfortunately he was cheated by one of those online ticket fraudsters who sold him very expensive balcony seats in which Gaetano could not see the stage at all and I, perched on a high stool, saw only a corner slice of the action. It didn’t matter - the evening and the whole trip were still memorable

Tosca, finale

My view of the stage, Tosca.

Rome Opera House audience

Bar girls, Rome opera house

Bar at the Rome Opera House.

Men at lunch, Rome

Romans eating lunch in the sun.

Restaurant grafitti, Rome

I also finally got to meet in real life a longtime blogging friend, Cynthia Korzekwa, Mistress of Transforming Into Art Everything You Throw Away. Her blog is Art for Housewives but her talent cannot be categorised. I only spent a very short time with her but it was enough to cement our friendship.

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15 October 2017


Do you make yourself laugh? If not why not? I do, quite often. This video is one example. I beg your indulgence, I know it needs more editing but I've just posted it on Youtube in hope it might encourage me to pursue silliness seriously. If we can't laugh at and/or with ourselves, well, we must be taking ourselves too seriously.

You can see it on Youtube here.

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13 October 2017


"What's on your mind?" Facebook asks me in its mindless way. Okay here's what's on my mind right now: mindchatter.

Like when my mind is replaying what I've said or written to someone, or what they've said or written to me, or repeating something I told myself an hour ago, or a week ago, or maybe twenty thirty forty years ago, as if I needed reminding even if it was chatter then and still is chatter now.

Mindchatter when the replay/repeat button in my head is on all the time. Except when I turn it off. Which is when I'm asleep, or reading, or engaged in demanding physical activity (pleasureable or not) or...this is the big OR...when my mind is free of chatter and I allow it to be the tool which it is, an instrument whose function is to make something, create something.

Mindchatter is the spanner in the works. The blunting of the tool. The rust, the dust, the mildew, the mould.

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11 October 2017


Looking through the window of a bus I'm sitting in, stopped at a traffic light, I read an orange neon sign inside a restaurant as: JUKELESS BAR. Look again and see I was mistaken, it says: JUICEBAR. Look once more and read it as: JUKE'S BAR. Then the bus moves off.

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4 October 2017


You know how some things that are pretty obvious suddenly hit you as if they are revelations? Well, yesterday, one of those hit me in the shower. Hot water needles gently pricking the skin, watery acupuncture, often seem to have an AHA-inducing effect on me. Here it is, summarised.

We are all strangers to each other.
We are all one.

Both those sentences are true. 

Sitting behind the intricately self-assembled camera obscura through which each of us views the world, we are strangers. As strange as a giraffe is to a spider, even more so, because of all that extra human baggage we carry.

No matter how close we may be or think we are to another human being, the fact is that the way we perceive and experience life, the universe and everything is different, possibly radically different, for each of us. Whether family, friend, spouse, lover, colleague, member of the same club, school, country, political party, religion, ethnicity, social class, you name it, we may share the same tastes, opinions, pursuits etc. but whatever factors unite us make no difference, deep down, to the fundamental gap which exists between one individual and another.

Why is this gap so often and so universally a problem? MIND THE GAP! The mind is the gap. The gap between your mind and mine/his/hers/theirs.Why can’t we celebrate the fact that we really are, on the inside, very different from each other? The differences are, after all, what all the great stuff in art, in music, in poetry, in literature, in philosophy etc. etc etc. originates from.

Yes, consensus is essential if anything of value is ever to be achieved on the local and global level. But isn’t it equally essential that within the unity, any unity, we recognise and admit those differences which exist within ourselves and within every other individual? And learn from them?
A lot more could be woven from these strands but I’ll leave it with an image.


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25 September 2017


Sometimes, walking past a shop, a dog, any dog, large or small, cute or ugly, sitting there humbly, patiently, loyally, insignificantly waiting for its human partner to come out, moves me almost to tears. I want to tell the dog that I love it and I want to bless it.

Not that I'm especially a dog lover, or even a cat lover - apart from Pushkin, the visiting cat whose slave I am. I do appreciate all animals but when I come across that look which a dog has on its doggy face when it's waiting for its master or mistress to come back from a temporary absence...that look of absolute concentration and hopeful, pleading, optimistic but fearful arrow hits a bull's eye in my heart. Call it sentimentality or anthropomorphism or whatever you like but it's real.

At that moment the dog, it seems to me, is exactly like we humans - some of us - are when, in certain circumstances, we silently pray: please God just make this (whatever it is) happen and I will be yours forever. Or thoughts to that effect. The dog's expression is like a prayer, a prayer for salvation with no certainty that it will be granted.

waiting dog

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18 September 2017


Deadline to meet.


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7 September 2017


Funny thing about discipline. If I'm given a task, an assignment, a job or a request, whether professionally or personally, I immediately go into soldier mode. I don't exactly salute but almost. All my dutiful and resourceful neurons start firing and a timekeeper starts keeping time and if there's a deadline I will meet it, you can be sure of that.

But for that machinery to start working, the task or request has to come from outside myself. If it's only me myself and nobody else telling me to do something, even something I really really want to do, you can bet your life I will procrastinate and procrastinate until procrastination becomes my middle name. It's my Achilles heel, my nemesis and my bête noire. Fortunately, tasks and requests do come along to save me whenever procrastinitis has bound and gagged me. For me, discipline is freedom.


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3 September 2017



That ear business, I want to clear it up once and for all. They tell me you can put a notice on this book face and then many people see it and it’s like a disease, everybody in the world gets it immediately. So I’m going to tell the real story about my ear and then I’m off.

That bastard Gauguin started it. I say bastard but I loved the man, I worshipped him before I had the stupid idea to invite him to Arles. Stupid stupid, yes, it was stupid. But it was such a beautiful idea. We would be brothers in art, work side by side, paint and talk and eat and drink together and then the other painters would come and we’d sell our work and support each other. We wouldn’t be lonely anymore and it would be paradise.

But Gauguin, what did he do? He laughed at me. He laughed, stomping around my room waving a brush. Ha ha ha, paradise? It would be hell, he said. Paint with you, live with you? I’d rather die! You’re crazy and you’re a bore and your paintings are a mess. Look at those worms of paint crawling around your canvases, wiggly wiggly, all your crazy feelings crawling around, no dignity, no design, no serenity. Paradise? Ha ha ha! Nobody will come here, they all think you’re boring and crazy.

So I let him have it. I took a tube of chrome yellow, squeezed it into my hands then smeared it all over his face and his hair. He got hold of me, pulled my head back, grabbed a knife off the table and slashed my ear. It all happened so fast, I must have passed out. When I came to Gauguin was gone and I was bleeding all over the place. The pain in my head was bad but not as bad as the pain of Gauguin’s words. I couldn’t stand it. I had to see another human being. So I wrapped up the bloody piece of my ear that was lying on the table and took it to Rachel at the bordello. I gave it to her, she was always nice to me.

 I never told anyone that Gauguin had done it.

That’s it. You won’t see me again.


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29 August 2017


Can't decide if facebooking is an addiction, an affliction, an inspiration or an irritation, distraction or destruction, indispensable or irrelevant, here today or gone tomorrow?

Those of you who have resisted Facebook won't know what I mean, those who are on it will understand.

Nat - August 2017

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18 August 2017


To the South Bank last night to hear Teju Cole talk about his new book Blind Spot.

I went with Jean Morris, Rachel Rawlins and Dave Bonta, all of us old friends of Teju's, part of a group of about a dozen bloggers who met online around 2003, when blogging was a new, uncrowded and exciting platform. Somehow we found each other's blogs via common interests in reading, writing, art, ourselves, seeing and interpreting the world through rainbow-coloured glasses. Then we met in real life, in New York, in London, and over the years followed each other's lives and work.

Teju Cole's career took off with Every Day is for the Thief in 2007, soaring steadily ever since and there's no doubt at all that he's headed for the stratosphere. Unsurprisingly, fame hasn't changed him a bit and I mean that in a good way. His warmth, humour and insightfulness are always genuine and of-the-moment. When he answers an interviewer's questions he takes his time, thinking on his feet, coming up with answers which you know are born right then and there. This is a quality I particularly appreciate when so many public utterances, on any subject, are so often calculated soundbites, selfie salestalk or rehashed re-heated rehearsed rhetoric.

Teju Cole, Southbank August 2017

Teju Cole, 17 August 2017

South Bank, from Royal Festival Hall

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16 August 2017


I was in Costa this afternoon paying for my coffee at the counter. A man who had been sitting at a table facing the entrance comes up to me and shakes my hand politely. I look at him, wondering if I know him. I don't. He sits down again.

I take my coffee and sandwich and sit at a table towards the back where I can observe him. He's a small, thin, balding man with glasses, nothing remarkable about him, except that he suddenly breaks into a recitation in a high, sing-song voice. I can't make out the words but it sounds like a multiplication table that a classroom of children might recite in unison. The man repeats exactly the same refrain every ten minutes or so, the palms of his hands resting flat on the table, as an obedient schoolboy might do, sitting up with straight back. He's not agitated but calm and concentrated on his ritual, looking into the distance. 

I thought he might go up to other people who enter the cafe and shake their hands but he doesn't. I seem to be the only one he chose for that gesture.

Obviously the man has mental problems. I feel enormous compassion, almost affection for him. I imagine the reasons why he ended up like this - perhaps he was beaten in school or at home for not keeping up with the others... or perhaps... There's no way I can know his story. I wish I could give him a hug but that might not be what he needs. I don't do anything at all.

A rage overwhelms me about those parents or other adults who abuse children in so many ways, unaware or not caring that they may be wrecking their lives forever. Those mothers or fathers I often see in supermarkets slapping and shouting and berating their little kid for some minor misdemeanor, or for nothing at all.

By the time I finish my coffee and sandwich the man is gone. I'll never know his story. But he did shake my hand.

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7 August 2017


Born at midnight on this date long long ago in some distant galaxy.

Birthday Nat 2017

6 August 2017


Another short update to the autobio. I'm just going to keep adding to it in small chunks like this rather than wait until I've got many more pages.

Painting in T's kitchen

Painting in T's kitchen

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31 July 2017


Have added part 25 to the autobio and also altered parts 21-22. There's so much editing to do and so much digging into the pile of old diaries, photos etc. that I can only proceed at snail pace and in short installments.

One of the difficulties is to decide how confessional to be and I'm hopeless at making up my mind about this. How to be a censor/editor of one's own life? Any advice from you writers out there?

There are links to each installment on the starting page so you can click on wherever you left off, if you've been there before:

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21 July 2017

I'm working slowly on updating the autobio. But meanwhile, nuggets of poem-like things suddenly pop into my head. I might or might not illustrate them. Here's the latest.


That one
wears his heart on his heart
like a badge.
It says

But if you believe it
and turn away
the badge stabs
its sword
into his heart
and he cries.

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19 July 2017


You gotta love a man
who brings you flowers
little white ones
snipped from a neighbour's hedge
with nail scissors
he carries for this purpose.
A passing taxi driver
saw him doing it
and he was ashamed.
You gotta love a man
like that.

stolen flowers

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18 July 2017


Internet connection went down for nearly 48 hours and it was like having a limb cut off.

No it wasn't. That's a wild and foolish exaggeration. It was a damned nuisance and of course I assumed it was all my fault, my computer's fault, and everything was going to crash. Moreover there was spectacular thunder and lightning last night.

So I backed up everything to my external hard drive, just in case apocalypse was at hand. Hard drives survive apocalypses, right?

Back to normal now.

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16 July 2017


Natalie 17 July 2017

Some sounds I made can be heard here.

And some moving pictures, already posted before, are assembled here.
A non-sequitur occurred to me. Here it is, for want of something more relevant.


When couples break up
it's often because of an in
or a whole list of ins
for example:


And when they look for a new love
they simply delete the ins
so their wish list
looks like this:

Optional in-laws

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15 July 2017


On Thursday night upstairs at the City Pride pub Katy Evans-Bush and friends celebrated the launch of her truly marvellous poetry pamphlet Broken Cities. She is one of the winners of this year's Poetry Business competition and Astrid Alben and John Clegg joined her to read from their own new work.

I was happy to be there and to meet a few faces I'd only seen on Facebook. Unfortunately the roar of trains outside the pub window blurred my already dodgy hearing and I had put the aids away because wearing them makes the world invade my head like Genghis Khan's army.

Never mind - I read the poems live on the page and the poets' voice spoke to me.
And I took some photos.

City Pride pub

Katy Evans-Bush 13 July 2017

Katy Evans-Bush

John Clegg

Astrid Alben

Tom Deveson in foreground..Don't know the others' names.

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12 July 2017


Ramshackle, unpretentious, seriously attentive ambiance and audience at the legendary Torriano Meeting House on 9th July. Grateful to have been theret to hear my friends and colleagues, excellent poets Dick Jones and Dave Bonta, reading from their respective books: Ice Mountain by Dave Bonta and Ancient Lights by Dick Jones.

Their publisher is Phoenicia, created, animated and independently run by my good friends writer-artist Beth Adams and photographer Jonathan Sa'adah from their studio in Montreal.

Dick Jones at Torriano

Dave Bonta at Torriano

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6 July 2017


Echeveria cactus

Today at a local garden centre, surrounded with beautifully chattering plant life, a tiny moon-coloured cactus type of thing humbly asked for my attention. It was named, the label said, Echevaria which sounds Paraguayan and reminds me of Mexico and I love the pale moon colour and it was only £3.99 and weighs almost nothing so I took it home. I can only offer it a kitchen windowsill but I think it will be happy.

I'm taking up my online autobiography again after a very long hiatus and hope to have a least another chapter up very soon. If anyone wants to browse previous installments of The Burial of Mickey Mouse, they're here.

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01 July 2017


Natalie 01 July 2017

Writing backwards is not as easy at it looks.

Neither is the fact that you only ever see yourself backwards.

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