Thursday, 23 September 2010

Another for the Marble Halls of Embarrassment: the woman who loved Tommy Steele

    At a supper party last night, instead of trying to suss out the lay of the land as I normally do,  I just asked the man on my right 'What do you do?'   He said he was a musician and my heart sank because I can never find anything intelligent to say to musicians.  I lament the fact I'm an unmusical, elderly Radio 4 addict with embarrassingly middle of the road tastes.  You only have to look at my blog profile: 
I sighed a little, apologised and asked if he could kind of put himself 'in a musical context' for me.

He replied  'I play in a band called Pink Floyd'.  

And he really does, has done since the beginning.  Hard to describe how I felt at that moment.. basically the flight option of the so-called fight or flight response to a situation that is none too comfortable.  But I need not have panicked because Nick Mason, the band's drummer, was utterly charming and far from offended.  I suggested  I lost interest in pop music in 1965 and he teased me for liking Tommy Steele (spot on) and sang me a couple of bars of  'Green Door' by Frankie Vaughan  - both British  names, lost in the mists of time to everyone else I suspect. We were virtually quits by now and the conversation moved to everything but music. Well, that's not quite true because I found out that Nick Mason loves working with youngsters and encouraging their musical ambitions.

Had he been to art school as many  musicians had?  No, but he had a degree in architecture.
I was beginning to realise that this was no ordinary world famous rock star.  He's clearly addicted to adventure and admitted  - somewhat affectingly - that he loves collecting certificates. 'I got my helicopter's pilot licence but not content with that I became a helicopter instructor. I did scuba diving but had to become a diving instructor. And then I had to qualify as a rescue diver!'   This didn't strike me as boasting, just the natural enthusiasm of a terrifically talented and intelligent man. It was only when I looked him up on Wikipedia that I found he has a phenomenal collection of cars, has taken part in the 24-hour Le Mans race and lives in the house formerly owned by Camilla Park Bowles.   Oh, and he has a gorgeous wife called Nettie who is also a helicopter pilot.  (I didn't bother to tell them that I have got a million plus score at a  computer game called Bejeweled.)

By the way, I am labelling this post 'name-dropping'.

Here is  Nick Mason as I confess I never remember him:

And here is Tommy Steele.  Can you spot me in the audience?  Well, it could have been 

Thursday, 9 September 2010

ABRACADABRA! The mess in my house disappears


A new dawn breaks in my kitchen

The work surface used to look like this  on a bad day (out of focus, the way I prefer to remember it)

Where I used to blog  

Where I would paint on the dining table which gave me an excuse to eat standing up at the fridge

Bingo! The reason it's all changed

I took over a spare bedroom and all this was beautifully made for me by Colin Failes, a multi-talented man who worked on the massive Armada paintings for the House of Lords [here].  I had a bit of a flouncey moment when the pinboard stuff arrived and it was a cold slatey blue.  Colin looked perplexed but set about giving it the subtle trompe l'oeil effect you can just see here.  I should have got him to sign it, dammit.  I can only describe him as a class act, suggesting  the wide plan-chest drawers and a fold down table to the right of the picture. 

This isn't quite the end of the story. For a number of regrettable reasons,  I have just decided to give up my studio in Bermondsey and that's full of canvases, paint, books, drawings, a  mountain of paint-spattered old clothes, a glorious easel on wheels, my virgin's couch (a Vono 1950s studio bed that's past redemption) and a pommel horse I upholstered at art school.  I stood there last night and practically wept.  Where the hell will I put it all? 


My MA (Textiles) show at Goldsmiths College, London 2003.  The series of paintings entitled 'Calamity Fixes Her Makeup' are in the Ernst & Young Collection but I am stuck with the pommel horse entitled 'Last Chance for Horseplay'.  It's conceptual innit.

I produced the screen-printed fabric myself which contains illustrations of how to sit in a ladylike manner  from a 50's beauty book.  Someone else did the upholstery, which is beyond my pay-grade, in an attempt to morph the horse into a dressing table like the one I had growing up.  I am still kicking myself for not making it pale lilac instead of pink to match the ground in the paintings. I am proud to say that it was recommended for the Warden's prize but the poor man said he didn't think he could live with it in his office.  I could hardly blame him.  Shall I put it in my bedroom and use it as a clothes horse?

[Last two images courtesy Gerard Williams.  All artwork © Rosie West]

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The Holiday Wardrobe

'There's no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing.' (Trust the Norwegians to coin such a phrase.) Most of us got it right for a pre-breakfast walk in the drizzle along the cliff path.  But someone decided that to save on washing (eight days in our delightful rural siberia sans  electricity,  sans water even that didn't have to be pumped out of the rainwater tank by hand) he'd dispense with one of his precious pairs of trousers. We decided later that it was just as well that my small grandson hadn't gone out alone with his grandfather,  yikes.  (I've illustrated his shorts just to prove he was wearing some.)  

Young Storm, appropriately named for the abysmal weather that luckily didn't coincide with our arrival but kept us housebound playing SNAP the second day, became the most elegant person on this stretch of National Trust coastline. Being a bit chesty, we fashioned a blue and white silk spotted scarf of mine into a cravat for him and he was quite oblivious of looking like Cary Grant.

The next day I set off for a little painting en plein air.

Ah but the next day dawned fine and clear and Olivia woke early.  This was partly because she had retired at nine fed up with listening to Radio 4 in the guttering candlelight, partly because she had to share the other double bed with a restless Storm who was kicking her tummy.  Dressed casually for the weather then, she wandered out onto the cliff with her large Canon to capture the dawn.  Imagine the surprise of a keep-fit fanatic on his wordless encounter with a tousle-haired seven-month pregnant woman in a nightdress apparently waiting to take his picture at 6 am.  I suppose it gave him something to think about on his long run home.

Actually, we had a spiffing time all in all.

Images © Rosie West

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