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.



Today’s photograph I took on my way back home from town, another of a tree at the end of Bond Street, a couple of streets away. I have used this quite a few times this year. Today it had snowed but by 11.15am the snow was melted in the strong sun with a very cold north west wind. As I turned the corner I was struck by the shadows on the harsh white wall, the remaining autumn leaves and the curling bark. If it is bright again tomorrow I will go and take some more considered images.