Month: November 2013

Extreme Self Portraits


Today the sun is streaming through the windows. I had been looking at some ‘extreme’ close ups on Pinterest and thought I would have a go. As I haven’t another model, except for Oskar the dog (who is impossible to get to stay still), these had to be self portraits. I took loads, of the four I have chosen to take further two had to be cropped and I adjusted some of the contrast and minor exposure settings in Lightroom. The half face I set the camera on black and white. I have to say that a couple of the others ended up looking like the cover of In the Court of The Crimson King and in some quiet moment I may try a bit of rehashing in Photoshop!




Underpainting 25


Chapter 25 of my novel Underpainting set in the early 1990’s. Previous chapters can be found on the link above or in Categories.

Chapter 25

Paulette opened the heavy metal door on its chain.

“Hi, I’m Rachel”

Paulette smiled. She was much younger than Rachel expected, hard to tell, but not that much older than herself. Rachel heard a baby crying inside.

“Oh hi”, Paulette closed the door, undoing the chain and opened the door fully, “I’m so pleased you could come”.

Rachel entered the flat.

“Dave’s… sorry… your dad’s gone to get some milk, I thought you might have passed him on the stairs?”

“Oh I got a bit lost, so many flats here”

“Yes took me ages… OK Jessi, I’m coming!” she turned towards a small bedroom, “Sorry about this, I must go and deal with her”

Rachel followed her and saw a baby girl in an obviously second hand cot. Her face and clothes covered in food.

“Jessica what a mess you’ve made” Paulette took a long intake of breath, she looked tired. She turned to Rachel, “this is the third set of clothes she’s gone through this afternoon”, she was almost crying, “God how we need a washing machine and Dave… sorry… sorry that isn’t what you came for is it?”

Rachel left them and went into the living room, babies weren’t her thing. The bare essentials were all there. Damp washing hung on clothes horses steaming up the window. The table was set with an assortment of cups and plates, a cheap chocolate cake in the middle. Rachel looked out of the big windows onto the estate a long way below. In the far distance you could see the towers of the City of London.

The front door clunked open.

“Is that fucking child still crying! Can’t you shut it up!” her father’s voice boomed.

There was some hurried whispering. Rachel’s father came in, he was carrying a six pack of lager.

“Sorry about…” he gestured towards the baby’s room, “never stops crying”.

Paulette came in the room carrying Jessica and placed her in a playpen. She looked even younger than before.

“Please, sit down. Tea?”

Paulette went into the kitchen. Rachel and her father didn’t speak. She noticed an old school photo of herself over the electric fire, there was one of her father in uniform and bad studio one of Paulette and Jessica.

“Here you are” Paulette poured the tea, “cake?”

“No thanks”

“Dave’s told me lots about you. You’re an artist?”

“Yes, I’ve only recently left college, but I’m trying, you know, it’s hard to get started”

“I bet it is. I was good at art at school.”

“Paulette’s in show business”, her father said quite proudly.

“That’s a bit grand, I’m a stripper!”

Rachel wasn’t really sure how to answer that, and decided not to.

“We met when I was a bouncer in a pub, in New Cross”

“He saved my life and Jessica’s”

“No, I only…”

“My boyfriend then, the baby father… was a dealer… stole cars… you know, sat around with his mates all day… took all my money… anyway one day I wouldn’t give him some cash and he came after me, went at me when I was on stage with a knife, and your Dad stopped him”

“Show her your scar”

Paulette lifted her t-shirt, there was a three inch scar on her taut stomach.

“It was lucky Jessica wasn’t further on, just missed her by less than an inch the doctors said”

Rachel breathed in hard and drank her tea.

Jessica started crying again and Paulette went to comfort her and took her back to the bedroom.

“Beautiful isn’t she?” Rachel’s dad said.

“Yes, she seems very nice”

“I’ve asked her to marry me, she said no at first. You don’t mind?”

“Me? Why should I?” Rachel said

“Well, she’s not much older than you, I thought you may think I was wrong in some way?”

“No, look dad you go ahead. If you and she are happy then do it, it really is no concern of mine”

“Will you come to the wedding?”

Rachel didn’t really want this. This was getting in the way. She wanted to be alone and doing her work in her own way.

“Of course”

Paulette came in again.

“Rachel will come, see I told you she would! And Rachel, will you do a portrait of us?”

‘Oh god’ Rachel thought, no! No! NO!

“I’ll see, I can’t promise, I’ll see, it’s not my thing really”

“Rachel draws nudes” her father said to Paulette, “you ought to model for her, yes, you ought to model, it’s only stripping by another name eh!”.



Peter’s phone rang, a withheld number. It was Clare. They’d agreed that she wouldn’t phone him, so Peter was a bit taken aback when she spoke. Clare told him that Frank Butter had been to visit asking if Constantine had been there as no-one knew where he was. It appeared he had a large loan with Frank to develop some property. She’d blanked him. He didn’t appear to have any clue about what had happened. Peter assured her that no-one appeared to know anything, he told her that Henry was frantic as Constantine owed the gallery money. The police had been in touch with Henry, but not with him. She seemed calm, almost cold about it all. To his surprise Clare ended by telling him she loved him, and for some reason and even more surprising to him, Peter told her he loved her.

 Marianne and her mother sat in a shiny corridor of The Queen Elizabeth II Court. There were huddles of people whispering, well-dressed men and women would move smoothly along the corridor carrying files and disappear through doors, policemen hung around bored, reading through notes, women with children looked lost and fed up.

They’d been there for two hours, the case was late starting. Marianne’s mother was dressed in her Sunday best, her hands kneading the handles of her black handbag. Marianne needed a coffee, her mother had refused one and it felt more than her life was worth to go and get one for herself. They didn’t speak to each other. Marianne felt sick, she’d never given evidence, she wanted to make sure she didn’t defend Colin, although that was what she was supposed to be there for, she wanted to be clear and fair.

There was a noise at the far end, some official looking men were escorting a group of women from a court, they were shouting at the judge.

“You bastards! You bastards! You bastards!” resounded through the clean lines of the building over and over again. More officials came forward and a reporter at the far end of the corridor for a moment looked interested, but before he could be bothered to move they’d been escorted out into the bright sunlight. Calm returned.

An hour later a smart young man in court attire stood in front of them.

“Mrs. Maddox, Miss Maddox?”

“Yes” Marianne’s mother feebly said, nothing came out of Marianne’s dry throat.

“I’ve been assigned to defend Colin…”

“But I talked to a Miss Matthews…”

“She’s on another case now…”

Marianne’s mother turned to Marianne.

“She was so nice, I thought it would look good if a woman…”

“Mrs. Maddox” the man said sharply, “there’s been a change”

“Oh no, it’s not adjourned again is it?”

“No, no. You won’t be needed now. Your son, on our advice, has decided to plead guilty”

Marianne’s mother went white and sat back.

“But he’s not guilty, he told me” she said.

“The evidence is overwhelming, it’ll be much better for him, the court wouldn’t take kindly…”

“But he’s innocent, it’s all rubbish”

“I’m afraid it’s not, not really. The prosecution have very good eyewitness and photographic evidence, there really is no case…” the man said.

“But why didn’t…” her voice faded, suddenly she looked twenty years older. She was silent, no tears. Marianne put her arm round her, she pushed her off.

“No… you never believed him” she said bitingly.

Marianne couldn’t protest, she didn’t and was sorry Colin wasn’t going to have to explain himself.

“This really is the best way Mrs. Maddox. He could easily be out in two years”

“You mean he’ll go to prison?”

“I’m afraid so, the charges are serious”

“But it’s only her word”

“No, there’s more, this problem with the prostitute. Didn’t Miss Matthews tell you? She really should have”

“She said something, but Colin said that they’d got the wrong person. I told her”

“No, it’s certain, but he is going to help the police catch the others involved”


Marianne pushed in here. However much Colin deserved what he got, her mother didn’t need this. She could see she was in shock.

“Look Mr…?”


Mr. Dobson-Smythe, I think my mother’s had enough”

“No, no. I’m all right” they both stood up, “When will he be in court? I’d like to see him”

“He’ll be in Court number 3, in about… thirty minutes, it will be a quick procedure. Sentencing will take place in about a month after some reports are received”

“I want to be there…”

Marianne silently protested to her mother.

no Mary, I’m not leaving. You can go, I know you want to. I’ll be all right”, the stiff upper lip took over.

Marianne left.

A cool breeze whipped off the Irish Sea towards Snowdonia. Families on the sands sat with their wind breaks set northwards. Pearl was wearing a light jacket and was wishing she’d worn her winter coat, Peter wished he’d not left his jacket in the car. They walked arm in arm along the quiet sea front at Rhos-on-Sea.

“You know, I’ve almost forgotten what your Dad looked like. Isn’t it funny, nearly forty years together and I’m forgetting.”

“It’s easy Mum, someone leaves you soon forget. I remember Bill’s voice but I’ve forgotten the colour of his hair, silly isn’t it?”

“How’s Angela getting on?”

Peter didn’t actually know the latest goings on, he and Marianne had been so busy sorting things out, Angela had slipped their minds.

“Oh she’s OK, you know Angela…”

“I only met her the once. I didn’t like her, something false about her”

“She’s OK, she’s had problems with Philip, her eldest son, drugs, you know…”

“So many, you read about so many, even here, what do the young get out of it, a whole generation, makes you wonder…”

They reached the shops. Peter remembered them from his childhood, there used to be a posh café, an ice cream parlour, a shop that sold model trains. White glass covered awnings, those luckily were still there, the shops long gone and forgotten. They entered a new ‘posh’ tea shop, the waitress wore the standard black and white uniform to make you pay more, tables were set in pink and white. Pearl objected to him spending so much but Peter insisted, ‘what’s the use of it if you can’t enjoy it’ he argued. They had ‘high tea’.

“It’s a pity Marianne couldn’t come”

“She had to go to court, remember, she told you about her brother?”

“Ah yes. I forgot” they filled the pot with more water, Pearl was going to get good value out of this extravagance, and asked the waitress for another jug. She whispered to Peter “I wonder if they remember, they asked Florence and I to leave once because we were eating our own bread and butter” she giggled.

“You weren’t! Well the stuck up bunch of….”

“Oh don’t say anything. Oh look there’s Mrs. Pritchard and Captain Grainger, you must meet them… we go to Wednesday Friends together”

Peter didn’t want to, but they came over.

“This is my son, the artist” Pearl said proudly. Peter had to explain what he did, Captain Grainger said he didn’t like the modern stuff but supposed Peter knew all about it. Peter could see they looked down a bit at his mother, he didn’t like that, so he threw in a few names and places which suitably impressed them. His mother glowed with delight.

When they’d gone Pearl explained in a voice so no one else would hear, “Mrs. Pritchard drives me to the club, Captain Grainger used to drive but you saw his arm…” Peter hadn’t, “… he was wounded in Italy and it’s got worse lately, he can’t use it any more, his eyesight’s not good either, poor chap. His wife, Gwen, was so nice, first person to welcome me to Rhos, he’s been so lost without her.”

They sat and eat the last of the cream cakes.

“When are you off to London?”

“Oh not till the end of the year. We’ve got to sell the house, I need to find a studio and somewhere to live, you know…”

“It’ll do you good” The bluntness quite shocked Peter, “life at that college is too easy, you need a challenge, you’re getting like your father!”

“Was… am I?”

“Self centred, happy with your lot. No wonder Marianne’s off to America!”

Peter hadn’t looked at it this way. It disturbed him that his mother could see what he couldn’t.

“She’s not off forever, we are still together” Peter insisted.

“Well if I were her I’d get on, make my own life. She’s got a lot going for her”

“And I haven’t?” Peter wasn’t sure if he said this out loud or to himself. His mother didn’t answer, perhaps it was to himself.

Pearl began a long story about some friends of hers, Peter drifted off. He remembered the days after Vic was killed, not the innuendo and lies, but his father. He remembered hushed rooms when he entered and being asked quite often if he was all right, it was only coming back to him now. He remembered being told to go out and play when the Police came round. He’d hidden under the window to try and listen but didn’t hear anything…

“Peter! Peter were you listening?”

“Oh, I’m sorry Mum. I was thinking about when we came on holiday here”

“It wasn’t we, Peter, it was you and I”, yes he remembered now “your Dad didn’t like holidays. That damned Club! His two weeks were usually spent decorating the Club. You and I came here, do you remember it was so hot one year and do you remember the puppet theatre, it’s still here” Peter had had nightmares about the puppet theatre.

“Ah yes” and shuddered, “do you remember Frank Butter, who used to help Dad?”

Pearl stiffened.

“I think we better go, we’re keeping them waiting” she looked at the waitress hovering over them. They stood up and were soon back in the cold north wind.

“I met him recently, he asked after you”


“Frank Butter”

“He’s not someone I’d want to know”

“He remembers you with affection, how you used to give him meals and so on…”

“That was a long time ago, best forgotten”



Marianne watched a barge slip by, a little girl in blue waved at her from the stern, she waved back. A gust of wind sent a willow scurrying through the water like a paint brush. She felt good to be out of the court building. Her mother was right, she hadn’t wanted to stay there.

Marianne was annoyed that Colin appeared to be getting away with this, not having to stand up and face people, be humiliated like he humiliated others. Yes he’d go to prison, or would he after all the judge was probably a man what did he know? His bullying and violence to Shirley disgusted and sickened Marianne, he deserved all he got for that. As the facts came out it was all so carefully planned and concealed. If her mother had heard all the facts it could well have killed her.

From what she could work out Colin was part of a group of men who worked together to find younger and younger girls to exploit.

She was sick by a hedge, she felt awful. But it left her clear headed, she decided to go back to the court, she better make sure Mum was OK, it was only fair.

Colin was given six months for the assault and a two years for intercourse with a minor, both were suspended because of his previous good record and help given to the police. His name was placed on the register of sex offenders. He was referred to a centre for support and counselling.


Rachel splashed treacly dark varnish onto thick paper, black chalk pastel drawing convulsing in the goo, almost disappearing. She looked hard and critically at it.

“Yes” she said aloud, no-one heard because she was alone. She took up a thick brush and delicately dripped a lighter and thinner varnish in lines following heavy marks on the paper. The surface bent some more as the dry powdery surfaces absorbed the oils. She looked at herself in the long mirror, she was almost naked and splashes of the varnish had gone on her legs, she noticed that unwittingly she’d wiped her hands on her face and big black marks of pastel looked like war paint. She’d been working for six hours and lost track of time and felt hungry. She put a towelling robe on and went to the bathroom for a wash.

When she’d finished the varnishes were starting to dry and soak into the heavy weight of the paper, some of the charcoal marks had dispersed making the contortions, contractions and convulsions even more marked. She was reasonably pleased with this but knew there was a lot more work to do to make this technique work for her and not for itself. She and Henry had had a long talk about taking her work in a more experimental and painterly direction, these pictures were the first steps forward.

In the kitchen Rachel put the kettle on, got a bowl of salad, cheese, bread and milk out of the fridge. An over decorated thank-you card from Paulette had fallen on the floor, she picked it up and read it again.

Thank you for coming. I know it couldn’t have been easy. My Dad got himself a new woman and I never came to terms with it. I want to make Dave happy and be a good wife to him, he’s been good to me. Please come any time you like to, I’d like us to be friends. Dave was so pleased you came, he hasn’t stopped talking about it. Could we meet sometime?

Paulette was very pleasant and it was good to see her Dad again, but she didn’t want to meet her on her own. She didn’t know what her Dad had told her about? The rape? The circus? Prison? Then her phone rang.

“Hi Rachel!” it was Lizzie.

“So, you’ve got out of bed at last”

“Oh I am sorry, I really did forget about it…” Rachel had made a date with Lizzie to go to an exhibition in Camden, when Rachel arrived Lizzie was still in bed.

“Don’t worry, I told you. Tom and you are great for each other. You have some fun, you deserve it. Is Tom still there?”


“Come up for air!” Rachel broke in impishly.

“No! He’s gone to sort out something about this course he’s going on”

“Two students together then, very cosy

“Ha, ha… I know what you think really” Lizzie said.

“No. I really am happy for you. Have you heard from Ryan yet? Has he asked for his money back?”

“Far from it, it keeps coming! There’s more…”


“Well, he’s sold everything and gone to live in Cornwall…”


“Yes… in a huge house by the sea and set up a ‘New Person’ therapy centre with Queen Bee” Rachel couldn’t think what on earth to say, “they’re living together”

“Good God”

“They all shave everything and stand naked against the sea breezes, finding themselves”

“A bit bloody chilly” shuddered Rachel.

“Well that’s what I thought”

“And what do you think? Ryan and your mother?” Rachel asked.

“Well, I was a bit upset at first, I don’t know, it’s not the sort of thing that happens everyday is it?”

Rachel thought about Paulette, she hadn’t said anything to anyone and wasn’t going to.

“I suppose not. Why Cornwall?”

“It was Queen Bee’s idea it appears, that thing she went to in California, same idea, but here. They’ve asked me to go, make ‘one with them’ as they put it…”

“Bit hippyish isn’t it?” Rachel said critically.

“Oh I couldn’t stand it. We’d be expected to join in wouldn’t we?” Lizzie said almost howling with delight.

“Well, I suppose so. Urghhh… Have you heard from Mari lately?”


“Well it appears she’s going to be artist in residence at some women’s college in America and Peter’s coming to London to set up studio” Rachel said.

This time Lizzie was silent for some moments.

“So they’re splitting, she and Peter, have they had a row or something?” Lizzie asked.

“Well I suppose it looks a bit that way. I’m not sure, you know what Henry’s like, the way he told it, it was like some episode of Dallas …”

“Why didn’t she say?”

“Are you OK Lizzie? I’m sorry…”

“Oh, no, I wish she’d told me. Mari has been often… more of a mother, really, you know, than Queen Bee…”

“Ah… I’m sorry I didn’t realise

They were silent for a few seconds. Lizzie spoke first quite businesslike.

“I also rang to ask if Philip has been to see you?”

“No, he’s not been here. The lads on the stairs notice most things, they’d have told me if he’d come when I wasn’t here, why?”

“He left a note but hasn’t been back, I thought you must have told him where I live. I’m worried about him, if he doesn’t sort himself out soon he’ll be dead. I’ve had enough of change, I can’t take much more”

Rachel heard her crying.

“Oh Lizzie. Look you’ll be OK with Tom, he’s good, he’ll be good for you…”

Rachel heard a knock on the door, she was expecting Fiona, an old friend from college.

“Lizzie I’ve got to go, Fiona’s at the door…”

“OK, can I talk later”

“Course you can, bye

The phone went dead. When she opened the door Fiona stood there with a huge strawberry gateau.

“Look what I got from work!”

Thanksgiving Day


Happy Thanksgiving Day to readers of this blog in the USA and anyone else who celebrates it.

I have spent two Thanksgiving Days in the USA. The first I was working cleaning machinery, and staying with my brothers in Baltimore, his wife was Canadian, so nothing was done for the day, in fact it was an opportunity to get double wages and I worked that day. Which was a pity, because the next time, 25 years later, I was lucky enough to spend the day with an American family, sharing their traditional meal and all that went with it. I noticed how similar it was to the Christmas here in the UK, but without the pressure of present buying and giving! The family I spent it with were spread all over the USA, but made great efforts to get together for the day and it meant a lot to them, I was made especially welcome as a stranger in the country on his own.

It’s an odd one for the British, it is a peoples’ celebration, any religious element not obviously to the fore, a sort of overblown harvest festival for all. How much Christmas for the UK is a religious celebration now is debateable. For me having no belief it is just a pleasant few days in the middle of winter to eat rich food. As things have panned out it has also become a very lonely time. I would think the over emphasis on family for Thanksgiving makes people in a similar situation to mine feel incredibly lonely, there is a ‘blindness’ to people without a family to celebrate with, which I can fully understand.

I am not bitter about it as I know some people are, it is how my life has developed. I enjoy spending the time with friends and on many occasions have taken much of the burden of making Christmas dinner, which I thoroughly enjoy. My close friends having children means I can share a little of the joy they have. But it isn’t an easy time, maybe I could make it easier by organising an event for people in a similar position.

Todays’ photograph is from back in June taken on a walk along Brighton seafront, I was looking for the abstract qualities of the very different textures. Totally inappropriate for today!

Dark mountain.

Scanned at

Today’s photograph comes from January 1979, taken from a train travelling from Seattle to Chicago somewhere I think in Washington State, the train was eventually over 24hrs late due to the increasingly bad weather. It was taken on Ektachrome 200 using my Olympus OM-1 and 50mm standard lens. I have not cropped the image. The film struggled to capture the colour and created an almost monochrome image, I have done nothing to the colour from the original, however it has captured the darkness and glowering feeling of the place. I had to work on removing some scratches and decreased the contrast and grain by about 5% to help get rid of those. I also did a black and white version, where I ‘dodged-in’ on the lake a bit, I also increased the blacks and whites by about 5%. I prefer the colour version I think.

Scanned at

Delusions of grandeur



Well, today’s picture is a Photoshop cobble together of what an exhibition of my photographs may look like in a large gallery, perhaps at The Tate Gallery or Tate St.Ives (definitely not Tate Modern which would be best flattened into a car park), so aim high! Delusions of grandeur maybe,  or just a bit of fun made up for a Pinterest page. I am actually putting together plans for an exhibition/book, maybe on not such a grand scale, but will produce something to show what it would look like as a Kickstarter project. Isn’t it wonderful what this digtal world can do! This took me about an hour in total as I am no expert in Photoshop. Need to work on people’s shadows, they are a bit floaty

Underpainting 24


Chapter 24 of my novel Underpainting, set in the 1990’s. Previous chapters can be found on the link above.

Chapter 24

Rachel pressed the buzzer as she’d been told to; glass doors opened automatically and she entered a fluorescent bright chrome and carpet world. She walked along a corridor of locked doors, close circuit cameras following her movements, her footsteps silent on thick carpet as she passed empty rooms and water dispensers, sealed up photocopiers and filing cabinets. In the lift she pressed a button for the third floor which she reached without a feeling of movement. She followed another silent corridor towards the core of the vacant human anthill to room 3112.

In the middle was a table with a shabby portable black and white TV showing football. The far wall was a bank of large monitors displaying an empty world. In the corner was a camp bed, surrounded by posters of naked women, legs apart, arses in the air taped to the wall; an old wooden table with a kettle, jam jar of sugar, brown mugs, and bottle of milk. The inane football commentary fought against the hum of air conditioning for attention .

Her father was stationed in front of the monitors. He flicked zoom switches and adjusted lighting. He wore a cheap uniform that didn’t fit well.

“I watched you all the way, see… each part is under surveillance, look I recorded you at the front door…”

She saw a person she knew and yet from the high angle didn’t look like herself. She realised how much thinner she’d got lately shuddering at the thought of being spied on.

Her father had asked her to come to Tottenham Court Towers, a vast empty office block near Oxford Street, where he worked as a night security man. The doorways and covered areas streetside were taken up by rough sleepers, shelters built of cardboard and rubbish bags. Her father flicked some switches and zoomed into a man drinking from a can.

“If I had my way I’d let ‘em in…” he gestured to the building , “…bloody criminal keeping this place empty.”

“Were you ever on the streets?”

“The odd night… it’s shit… and so many ex squadies, it was like being back in the regiment… hard to fit in, no discipline not in civvies, jumped up jerks telling you what for, no respect.”

The monitors changed again to the empty corridors

“I saw your mother last week.”

Rachel hadn’t thought of her mother for years, she’d left them at Caterick Camp when Rachel was seven. There was no love loss. Even when she was there she had ignored Rachel, the odd slap, but mainly ignored. Rachel felt pleased when she left. Her memory was of a woman who was never dressed lying on the couch watching TV or in bed smoking. She also remembered her locking the bedroom door when other men visited when her Dad was away; and being hungry, always hungry except when her Dad was there.

“Had to go and sign some papers, you know we’d never got divorced. She’s on her own again, her bloke went off with some seventeen year old.”

Rachel was pleased and felt bad to be so.

“Did she ask about me?”


“Why the rush now to get divorced if she’s on her own?”

“It’s not for her, it’s me, I’ve met someone. Her name is Paulette and we are going to get married”

Rachel wasn’t sure what to say. Wasn’t sure if she was pleased, why should she be and why shouldn’t?

“Come and meet her, Sunday. I’m off Sunday.”

“Yes. I don’t see why not, it’ll have to be after lunch, I’m working Sunday lunch, the pub gets busy.”

Her father flicked some switches and all the pictures changed but there was still no life in the anthill.

“I saw some of your drawings.”

“At the gallery?”

“Yes, snotty place that. They’re a bit strange?”

“They’re about feeling and being a woman confronted with a world of invasive males, the distortions are about the way others see your sexuality…”

She looked at the pictures on the wall. Was her work pornography like these but in fancy frames?

“Bit heavy that. At least you may make some cash from it. Some queer asked me to leave.” Rachel knew that would be Henry he didn’t like people coming to the gallery unless they were well dressed or rich.

“You should have introduced yourself.”

“No, I didn’t want to let you down. What’s wrong with painting scenes, you know, landscapes, like you used to.”

Rachel never remembered actually doing ‘scenes’ she’d drawn people, always people. She realised she had grown far apart from this man.

“I must go.”

“Right. See you Sunday”


Peter and Marianne sat in bed. Graeme was now safely tucked up in the spare room.  They had gone for a drink at The Jolly Bargeman, the beer had been cold from the cellars next to the water and a huge fire created a relaxed atmosphere. They’d talked about old friends and places. Marianne had told them how she’d made a rubbing of Luke Berenson’s name in Washington. Graeme had shared a squat with Luke and told again stories of demos, burning the squat down, and drinking sessions. Graeme told how years later he’d visited Luke’s parents, how they lived in a huge house in Kansas with a veranda, how Luke’s mother had become an alcoholic and his father had stopped talking to anyone.

“It was good to see Graeme, I wasn’t all that pleased at first to see him, I wanted us to talk”

“Yes I thought so… have you still got that rubbing?”

“It’s in the studio, you seemed to want to tell me something?”

“What did you want to talk about?” Peter knew of course, “I wanted to talk about the show and some ideas I’ve had”

“Well, I’ve been asked to become Artist in Residence at Juliet Farrow Women’s College, near Wilmington…”

“In the States?”

“Yes, North Carolina. Lorete recommended me. They offer this huge studio, good pay, a house to live in, about ten hours teaching a week and being a representative at conferences. Oh, and there’s a show every other year, paid for. What d’you think?”

“Well, what can I say? You’d be mad not to take it. Is it permanent?”

“Five year contract”

“Do you want to do it?”

“I think so. I wanted to see what you thought?”

“It’s hard to say no really. How long have you known about it?”

“A few weeks, I wanted to find out more before committing myself, you know?”


There was silence for a moment.

Peter looked at a picture in his book on Stanley Spencer ‘Christ entering Jerusalem’, quite apt he thought, the beginning of the end? Or the end of the beginning? He wanted to shout and scream and plead with her not to go, tell her how much he loved her. But if he loved her he should let her go, shouldn’t he? He thought about Clare, about Constantine in the box on the hill, he had begun to fear rain in case the soil washed away, and then put them out of his thoughts.

Marianne picked up Nausea, the words swam across the page. She wanted Peter to shout and scream how much he loved her and didn’t want her to go, but she did want to go, she knew he would be reasonable, he always was. She thought about Lorete, and then put her out of her thoughts.

“I was going to put a proposition to you as well”


“I thought it was time to move, go to London, so I can work on painting full time, before I regret it, or we regret it.”

“I thought you might” she said.

“Ah, you realised too?”

“Yes, ever since your time doing that set college seems secondary to you, I think the students realise it too.”

“That bad eh?”

“’’fraid so.”

“What do you think?”

“Yes, good idea, and you know this Juliet Farrow thing isn’t forever.”

“No, I suppose not.”

“We need to sort things out don’t we?”

“Yes. It’ll be nice to hand in my notice” Peter said.

“Won’t it just. It’s not the same since Bill died, so many new faces. Just not the same.”

“Is that it then?”

“I suppose it is” Marianne said.

“You’ve got to go to court next week haven’t you?”


They switched off their reading lights and both lay back thinking. Peter about whether he’d ever paint again, Marianne about her mother, she knew she had to tell her, that would be much worse than Peter.

They both wondered why they hadn’t shouted and screamed pleaded with each other.

Too late now.

Lizzie and Tom lay in bed feeling warm, safe and happy together. They were in Lizzie’s new flat, Tom had called to see if she was OK and what had happened to Philip. Four hours later they knew they’d never part. Lizzie had told Tom about Philip’s disappearance. She felt he may turn up at the flat, or more likely at Rachel’s. She realised they couldn’t do much for him. She was sad for him but happy for herself.

She’d loved Tom since she was fifteen, and now he was here and hers.

The next morning Peter woke early to find Marianne sitting looking out of the window. It was only just getting light. He sat up in bed, he saw she’d put a mug of tea next to him, and sipped it.

“I’ll miss the squirrels”

“I’ll miss the park”

“You never go in it”

“We’ll have to sell the house”

“We’ll have to sort out all these belongings”

“We’ll have to tell the mothers”

“We’ll have to give our notice”

“We’ll have to tell our friends”

“We’ll have to clear the studios”

“We’ll have to keep in touch”

“We’ll have to visit each holiday”

“We’ll have to have a going away party”

“We’ll have to clean the house”

“We’ll have to”

“Yes we’ll have to”



Today’s photograph are just of some leaves piled up on the pavement. Taken on a sunny chilly day a few streets away from my flat and just starting to break up from the rain and frosts. I’m sure for most of us they evoke memories of childhood kicking and jumping on crackling leaves. A real feature of autumn, part of the years’ clock.





Today’s photographs were taken yesterday.

I went out to take ‘more considered’ images similar to the one in my blog Shadows from a couple of days ago. However, even though we had bright sunshine between the rain storms, the light was at least 2 stops lower, so the intensity of the shadows was hard to replicate. I worked on the contrast in Adobe Lightroom, but the original was not sharply defined enough. I was pleased with the image in Shadows taken on my phone and has to be seen as one of those that are seen and found.


So these have a similar basis but are very different, the shadows less pronounced but the intricate patterns in the peeling birch bark much more prominent, as on the camera I was able to manipulate the f-stop. I also cropped the images, something I don’t usually do. Perhaps not cropping is ‘old school’ but I like to think of the finished image as close to the original conception, what I saw. I also saw another Dripping image, a gate within a larger environment and autumn leaves against the sky.




The long image is a cropped from a 16×9 format image, I also took a panoramic ‘portrait’ image, but the distortion over the close proximity was not to my liking, I’ve never liked the lens getting in the way of the image, most images I’ve taken in the past were at most 28mm wide angle or 150mm telephoto (in 35mm terms), and I mainly took slides which showed the whole image (some of which I have been using on here from digitised images), so whatever I took was decided at the time of taking/capturing rather than in the darkroom. As I’ve said before I am not a trained photographer or consider myself a photographer, I had some basic darkroom training and have taught many people basic b/w photography, but my compositional knowledge comes from an art training and a lifetime working in the arts.









Underpainting 23


Chapter 23 of my novel Underpainting, the previous chapters can be found on the link above or the Categories to the right. This was completed in 2007 and based in the early 1990’s.


Chapter 23

Peter sat in First Class and didn’t feel guilty.

He had a can of beer in front of him.

‘Why have I done something so stupid?’ he kept asking himself

Why hadn’t Marianne told him about America. Perhaps it wasn’t finally sorted, he told himself, but knew what Lorete Krukowska was like from what Marianne had said. Or this could as easily be Lorete trying to get one up on Henry. He and Marianne, they were a couple weren’t they?

Sitting back and watching the countryside flying by Peter kept seeing Constantine in the reflections in the window, and jumped when the uniformed guard asked for his ticket. He tried to clear his mind walking up and down the almost empty carriage.

Sitting back down and dozing off his thoughts went back to when he and Mari first got together, in that flat of hers, sitting in bed wrapped in blankets when they’d run out of money for the meter, 1968 was a cold damp winter. The mouse that each night pushed itself under the door and ran across the room, they could never find where it went or where it came from. How they painted the walls, he throwing and splashing, Mari painting Van Gogh type sunflowers, to cover a previous lodgers’ painting of a black mouth of Hell round the cast iron fireplace, however much paint they put on it reappeared. They never got round to the rest of the room which retained the dirty silky rose wallpaper. They had so many people visiting them, talking all night and getting drunk or stoned.

At the end of their third year there was the frenzy of getting their final shows ready, the stress of which almost split them up. ‘Perhaps it would have been for the best’ he thought.

And suddenly college was all over.

Friends moved away one or two even got jobs.

They moved north.

Peter had been lucky and was offered a part-time teaching job at Knype School of Art, with real money! It seemed a fortune after life on a grant, Marianne went along too. ‘Well’, she’d said, ‘…there isn’t much else to do is there?’

Both thought it would only be a temporary arrangement and as soon they were selling their work and could afford a studio and flat back in London, they’d be gone.

After ten years together he remembered they talked about children, the only time, and decided it wasn’t time, later. They had lots of time.

However, later never came.

He recollected how within just a few years everyone they knew had kids.

So he asked himself, did he regret that? No. Peter liked kids but had no fatherly instincts. Did Marianne regret it? He’d never asked, perhaps he should have.

Did Constantine have children?

He didn’t know.

Was anyone waiting for him, missing him?

Peter didn’t know and didn’t dare even think of finding out.

What was he to do now?

Constantine was to buy five pictures at top price, as he’d said, it gave him the chance to be independent, something he’d always dreamt of. That had gone and this situation was a mess.

And Clare?

She’d told him about how well Constantine paid, both had lost out, and big time. Was their loss drawing them together, certainly their night together was passionate. Could he trust her not to break down and confess?

Their return journey to London in the van seemed never ending, carried out in silence. Then when they’d got back to Clare’s she’d just taken him by the hand, led him upstairs, undressed him, and they made love, not just had sex, she seemed desperate for affection. That morning he hadn’t dared offer her money, but left some behind the clock in the kitchen as he left, just in case.

If the police asked him where he’d been the night before he no alibi. ‘Shit!’ he thought, ‘shit, I never thought of that, shit!’

He dropped off to sleep, and awoke with a start realising he was snoring and his mouth was open as the attendant brought him a coffee.

Looking out of the window he knew it wasn’t far now.

If Marianne did go to the States, should he try and get together with Clare? He must be mad absolutely crazy! Why was he even thinking that? But he hadn’t felt that sort of passion and need for years, which he realised was probably his own fault, and did he even want that from Marianne anymore? However disappointed he was he also still felt pleased for Marianne, her recognition as an artist was far more deserved than his, she had a fluidity about her work that was not there in his. He didn’t want her to go, but her work was important, more important than their relationship? His work was, if it was the other way round he’d go and she’d tell him to, support his decision. But he wasn’t Marianne, however he had no right to stop her.

‘Stop thinking such things!’, he told himself, ‘he and Mari were still together’, but deep down he knew it must be near the end.

Peter took a piece of paper out of his diary and started to plan his Bradford show, he had to get down to some painting, but the studio was a place of fear for him; he wanted to work but couldn’t; at the moment it wasn’t there. Unless of course he showed some of the drawings, he had a loft full of those. Marianne had always urged him to show them, so why not? Henry and Constantine wanted more paintings from him. He stopped himself. There wasn’t a Constantine now, shit. People would like his drawings, yes, so why not?

He would talk things over with Marianne.

He’d have to be careful, no one, not even Mari could know, and could he trust Clare?

That just kept repeating in his mind. Could she keep quiet if the police came around. He remembered how she broke that knee, and felt yes she was strong minded. He worried more about his own reactions. So, if Mari did go they could sell the house, that would help both of them, must be worth loads now. But deep inside his heart he didn’t want them to part, of course he could go over there, why not, what was keeping him here? What could he say? Leave it to her, in her own time, what if she wanted to split? He knew there was nothing to stop them. Should he plead how much he loved her and not to go, that she needed to be there for him?


The phone ringing woke Marianne. She’d dreamt of Colin and the trial, she was standing in front of her mother being questioned, her mother was huge with a judges’ wig on, she was being blamed for his failings.

The thought of the trial made her shudder. The phone was insistent. Probably Peter she thought, but he’d have rung her mobile probably.


“Hello Marianne!”

“Oh hi Lizzie, it’s lovely to hear from you, you still at your Mum’s?”

“No… I went back with Mark, didn’t you know?”

“No, I haven’t talked with Angela for days, I thought you were still at home, looking after Philip?”

“Oh we had a row as soon as she came home, you know after she’d been at your house…”

“Ah…” said Marianne a bit fearfully, “…what about?”

“It was the way she treated Philip. Mark had sorted all sorts of things out in just an hour or so. Philip was to go to Liverpool Road, you know the rehab centre?”

“Yes, I know, where Clare went”

“Clare?” Lizzie asked.

“One of the old students, long time ago, you wouldn’t know her…”

“So when she got back, she was so nasty! She said that she’d deal with it and ‘what the hell was I doing there’, or words to that effect!”

“Well… she seemed OK when she left… quite pleased with herself”

“So I told her she was an ungrateful cow and left with Mark”

“So you’re back at Ryan’s?” she knew she wouldn’t be, but she couldn’t really tell her what she knew, unless…

“No, I stayed at Rachel’s for a couple of days and Mark helped me find a flat, near to Rachel, and Rachel found me a job..”

“Ah good… and the music?” Marianne asked.

“We’re putting some tracks together, Ryan had signed us up, so I thought we may as well use the opportunity and we’ve been in the studio… well why not?”

“Yes why not indeed. Are you and Ryan over?”

“Oh yes, I realize that now, I didn’t want to, though I haven’t seen him, haven’t heard from him…”

“Typical” Marianne said.

“Oh no, he’s not that bad. Anyway, I found that he’d been putting money into an account in my name, I got a cheque book and bank card through the post and it appears there’s ten thousand pounds in there!”

“God…” that’s all Marianne could think to say

“Yes, ten thousand. I couldn’t believe it, I thought I ought to contact him see if it really was mine?”

“No you don’t girl, you’ll need that! You earned that, sorry I didn’t mean… anyway he must want you to have it, or else he wouldn’t have given it you, you keep it and enjoy yourself”

“It appears he’s selling everything up, the house, record company, the ticket agency. He’d arranged for all my things to be left at his office and has gone. They told me it’s all in the hands of his solicitors” Lizzie said.

“Well, well I never”

“Anyway. I thought I’d apply for college”

“Good, you…”

“Not art, sorry Marianne, no, I thought I’d do music. I could do with some help though. I need to apply soon and I’m not sure about everything, you do all those intakes and applications with the Foundation students, I…”

“Course I’ll help, of course Lizzie, whatever you need. What are you going to do?”

“I thought I’d look at composition and perhaps some of the technical things, I’ve enjoyed the recording side much more than the playing”

“That’s great. Look, I have to come to London next week, about the show, we’ll meet”

“Yes, let me know” Lizzie gave her her phone number and address.

“Oh, before you go, how’s Philip?” Marianne asked.

“Oh it’s awful, Queen B.’s chucked him out!”

“What! After all you’ve done, you know he could’ve come round here”

“It appears he started at Liverpool Road and met some dealers there, some rehabilitation eh? He started stealing again…”

“But he’s only fifteen?”

“No, sixteen, it was his birthday last week”

“That’s no excuse, so when did he leave?”

“Yesterday. But he’s disappeared again, don’t know where to, he certainly doesn’t know where I live, if he comes round tell him where I am, it worries me” Lizzie said.

“It does me too, God how could Angela…”

“Well you know what she’s like, if she’s not the centre of things”

“I know, anyway, it’s been lovely to hear from you, if Philip comes round I’ll look after him.”

The phone call was over. Marianne sat down, quite shocked. Lizzie seemed to have lived twice her years, she sounded so calm. She wrote the address in her diary.

The front door slammed.

“Hello Mari!”

She knew she had to tell him.



She knew she had to tell Peter.

“Hi!” a voice she didn’t recoginise said.

“Look who was on the doorstep!” Peter said.

“Graeme! You should have rung!”

Marianne was not pleased to see Graeme, she didn’t try to hide it. But Graeme was one of those people who didn’t notice anyone else, in fact Marianne called him a male Angela.

“I tried ringing, it was always busy. I had a day or two… is it OK?”

“I suppose so, its been ages… you’ve put on weight”

“Yes, well you know what it’s like…” Graeme said.

He was an old college friend of theirs, they’d hardly known him when at college but afterwards he did some work at Knype a couple of terms after Peter started and they got to know each other. Graeme was now a Visual Arts Officer for South Midlands Arts, from what he said his life seemed to be one long committee meeting. Over the last few years they had less and less in common. In the past Graeme would come for a night or weekend and they’d all go for a drink and something to eat. Graeme was lonely, he’d had a number of short- lived relationships and each time they were finished by the partner well before Graeme realised what was wrong. Marianne and Peter looked at each other and silently hoped he was not on the rebound, which could be dreadful. Graeme was now ingratiated in arts politics, who was where and who was getting what, which was interesting for a just a short period, otherwise the time would be spent reminiscing about college days, the pubs, the people, the parties. Graeme’s own painting had ceased many years before, Peter was always fearful he would become Graeme.