Underpainting 12


Chapter 12 of my novel Underpainting set in the early 1990’s. The previous 11 chapters can be found on the link above or in the Categories link on the right. The rest will appear on here over the coming weeks.


“Lorete Krukowska, that’s who you mean!” Henry exclaimed as he finished his coffee, “oh yes, we all know her. Loads of cash swilling about, ruining the markets. Trawling the world to fill this ‘goddam gallery’” he finished in a mocking southern drawl, “hard nosed bitch”.

“She from Virginia?” Peter impishly asked at hearing such a bad accent.

“… somewhere like that, but you know what I mean”

“What’s that you’ve brought for Rachel?”

“Oh, some drawings. We’ve been given box loads by the estate of Raymond Miller, by some greasy little solicitor in Dawlish, thought she may be interested”

“Raymond Miller. That’s a name from the past”

“And now passed on… we used to sell his work, went out of favour years ago, but its good stuff, heaven knows what we’ll do with it all.”

“He used to do some teaching when I was at college, life drawing that sort of thing. I never really came into contact with him. Really old-school”

They sat staring at the set, now almost complete.

“It’s taken you longer than I thought”

“It’s so big, probably too detailed” Peter answered.

“Does Marianne need any assistance with the bless-ed Lorete, she’ll be a hard nut to crack?”

“No, I think she’ll be OK, pretty hard stuff herself is Marianne when she wants to be”

Tom and Rachel came noisily through the doors, laughing.

“Hi, Henry!” Rachel waved a French stick at him.

“I like the look of that” he replied. “I’ve got something to show you”

He took the folder to a table and he and Rachel began to leaf through a series of drawings. Tom joined Peter and sat down.

“You’ve been quiet Tom, anything up?”

“Oh you know. I went home for a few days. Dad kept asking what I’d do after this was over, Mum said I looked thin. They kept insisting that I could go home anytime, you know the sort of thing, I wouldn’t get in their way…”

Peter said he did know, but didn’t really, that sort of relationship had never happened in his family. Tom looked down and fed up.

“Seen any of your old college friends?”

“No, not really. I did some odd jobs for people. Everyone seems to have gone home or are working their arses off paying off debts. This’ll just about clear mine, thanks.”

Peter waved a hand to say ‘don’t worry’.

“Peter, d’you mind if I take the rest of the day off, I’m not really concentrating on things, I don’t want to make a mess”

“Sure, have a good walk round. Why not go to that show at the ICA, it looks good”

“I may” and with that he lumbered out of the room. Peter wondered if Angela had said anything yet, but daren’t ask him, didn’t dare even hint he knew.

“Stunning texture” Rachel was saying as Peter joined them to look at the drawings. “Look Pete, these are wonderful. Henry says he taught you.”

“No… he did some teaching at my college, but I’d given up all this sort of thing. If I remember there was only two or three who did life drawing then, wasn’t the thing to do, maybe I should have. I just splashed paint around.”

He studied the fine drawing technique. Cross hatching, strong line and features, disciplined work. Miller caught the real essence of skin and muscle.

As Rachel was turning a drawings over slowly. Peter put his hand on her arm and took a sheet from her hand.

“Can I take a look at this one?”

Peter walked over to the window with it. It was a highly finished drawing, of a male black model in a boxing pose, seen from behind the right shoulder. The skin was perfectly captured, the muscles shimmering and taut, the hands emphasised but in proportion, however it was the half hidden face that caught Peter’s eye.

Surely not’ he thought, ‘too much of a coincidence’. He turned the drawing over, it was dated 18th March 1956, then in a softer pencil Coombe Bay. He turned it over again, the face was away from the artist, but the structure of the cheek and jaw were clear.

He went back to them.

“Are there any more of this model Henry?”

“Oh loads at the Gallery, as I said boxes full and no-one to leave them to.”

“Can I keep this here?”

Henry looked a bit stern.

“I’ll buy it!”

“OK Peter, come over later and I’ll show you the rest”

“Did he work in London?”

“Miller? Oh yes, through the War then moved away just after”

“Devon, I remember, he used to come up from Devon”

“Yes, that’s where these came from. Paris as well for a few years, late forties I think. He did those portraits, you know, in Southampton or somewhere like that. Boxers, cyclists, there’s that great one of an acrobat standing on one hand.”

“Never been to Southampton Henry”

“I’d like to see some more” Rachel joined in,  “he was a good model… look at those tight muscles”.

“Mmm..” Henry said in a not too artistic way

Peter took up the drawing again.

“It’s got to be him… it’s Vic I’m sure it is” he said softly to no-one. “That has to be Vic. Younger, what nineteen, twenty?”

Henry joined him, “Someone you know?”

“Maybe, not sure, I’ll come over and see the rest”

“As I said, there’s loads at the gallery, they’re cluttering a corner of my office”

Peter imagined Henry wouldn’t like dusty boxes in his immaculate office. He felt pleased because sometimes he’d not believed Vic about the artists he talked about meeting.

“Oh, Henry. I forgot. I’ve had some reporter after me, The Independent I think they said. I didn’t reply, I thought you were probably dealing with it.”


“About a week ago, only just  remembered, sorry”

“That’s OK, Independent’s not much use for us anyway, I’ll ring him. Buyers tend to get The Times, unless it’s for the supplement of course”

“No, it was definitely a her, I remember now, Eva Wilson”

“Never heard of her. I’ll contact them, see you later! She’s not their usual critic, perhaps they’ve appointed someone new, about time too.”


“Marianne Maddox” Alice said “Lorete Krukowska”, introducing them to each other at the door of Peter’s studio.

“Just Lorete, please” Lorete said in a soft southern American accent. Marianne studied the immaculate clothes and hands, perfectly finished, nails shaped and dark smooth skin. She quickly hid her own, which were permanently ingrained with blue black paint, in her back pockets.

“I’m so pleased you could come” she said, then to herself ‘for God’s sake Mari you sound like the Queen’.

Lorete was considering at the quilt, set up on the wall where Peter usually hung drawings.

“It’s amazing… have you seen this Alice! Hey look at that” she went over and put her hand on a section with a plastic car , “… and this, oh and  look at that”. In her excitement her accent thickened. She stood, her legs crossed ballerina-like and two fingers over her mouth,“…and Alice says you’ve got as many you’ve not used?”

“Yes, about two hundred more, I chose fairly randomly, though I have my favourites.”

“I bet you have… I bet you have… Oh look at that one, where did you get that from? And against that… hey that’s not painting, that’s poetry!” There was a deep emphasis on ‘poetry’ and Alice and Marianne stood and nodded their heads.

“You know Marianne, I’ve got the perfect site for this…”, Marianne tried to intervene, “no..no.. let me finish. The new wing. It’s a long series of galleries, with a walk space down the middle, no doors and at the end of it all I’ll put this, so that when you see it first it’ll look like a few coloured shapes, then when you’ve been through each gallery it’ll slowly come to life, the crowning point. That’s it, this is what I’ve been looking for!”


“Please, Marianne it’s perfect. Hey look at that I had one of those when I was a kid… and you’ve got another, I really must take a closer look.”

“I didn’t plan to…”

“And you work here, live in this town?”

“Yes, I teach part time at the local college”

“Teach! Oh you really are the answer to my dreams. My old school, Juliet Farrow Women’s College in Wilmington, North Carolina, you know it?” Marianne shook her head, “No… well they’ve asked me to look for someone to be the artist in residence, you’d have a studio, students would book time with you and they pay senior professor fees. You get to go to all the conferences, you know like that one in Beijing, and have your own show every couple of years. And this, they’d love it, oh yes, what d’you think?”

This was all too much for Marianne. Was this some softening up process she thought. She could see Lorete was as hard as nails whatever coos and fancies she put on.

“Well I’d have to talk it over with my partner”

“Oh, she could come too, there’s a house goes with the job”

“It’s a he actually, this is his studio”

“Oh, well” Lorete said shrugging her shoulders condescendingly.

“But I am interested” Marianne said quickly and firmly, ‘who wouldn’t be’ she thought.

“Marianne” Lorete said firmly, “say the word and I’ll fax them. The Principal is over here soon, to look at Alice’s show, and set some partnership up with an Oxford college, she’ll just love this when she sees it and you can meet her then, talk it over.”

“I’ll make some tea”

“Not for me” Lorete said, “I only drink blueberry extract”

Marianne left the room with the kettle. When she returned it was clear that Alice and Lorete had been deep in discussion.

“Your partner is Peter Marten then?”

“Yes, he’s away doing a set, for a ballet, but it looks like the show won’t even open now, pity really”

“He’s doing well, I suppose you feel a bit intimidated by his success”

“No… no it’d never even crossed my mind that way, we don’t compete” Marianne replied.

“Don’t you? Are you sure?”

“No, we really are a team. I’m pleased he’s got on, he’s worked hard, it’s taken him years”

“It’s taken you years too” Lorete said.

“…he actually prefers my work to his own!”

“That’s often the case. Male artists are all either certain they’re genius’s or certain they’re failures, whichever way their ego is usually larger than their penis”

Marianne poured tea.

“Marianne, I really do want to buy this. I want it for the gallery.”

“But it’s for the show, I want it to tour”

“Of course I wouldn’t dream. It can go on the tour and when it’s over we’ll have it. They’re still building the wing, it won’t be ready for two years”


“I don’t want to seem pushy but we really must get this finalised, I have to be in Gdansk on Friday, family stuff you know the sort of thing, and I won’t be back here until your opening. I’ll have our lawyer draw up the contracts and get them to you, or do you want your agent to deal with it. Alice said that slime ball Henry deals for you.”

“Oh no, I haven’t an agent and I haven’t agreed to sell it either. I really need some time and you don’t know the price… and well I may not want to sell.”

“Oh you British. Right. Let’s get down to numbers. How much is it?”

Alice who had put the catalogue together for the joint show was about to speak, when Marianne almost shouted out the first number that came into her head.

“One hundred and fifty thousand!”

“Pounds I suppose”


“OK, not a bad price, about what I’d planned, we’ll have it”

Alice looked as amazed as Marianne felt. “Bloody hell” she said.

As Lorete was leaving, she turned to Marianne.

“Ah, just one more thing. Some years ago, when she was in London, one of my committee saw some paintings by a Clare Zetzer, do you know her? I think she went to the college here?”

“No, I don’t remember that name, perhaps before I started… I’ll ask Peter when he gets back… Clare, what name was it?”


Marianne sat down and stared at a small paint splattered mirror.

“What on earth is all this about eh?” she said to her reflection. Her mind was reeling, was this what she wanted? Wilmington? Time to work with no money problems. Studio space, her own house, but Peter? Well he’d go if it was him wouldn’t he, she thought. They were a couple, but they were both artists. she buried her head in her arms on the table and wept.

“Bloody Hell Mari” that was the fifth or sixth time Peter had said it. “Bloody Hell Mari” he said for the seventh.

Peter and Marianne were standing in his studio looking at the quilt before it was packed up and sent off to the exhibition. When Marianne had told Peter about the sale they hadn’t said much, they both stared at the quilt not quite taking it in.

The visit of Lorete had left her in a state of mild shock. She felt at last someone really appreciated her work and what’s more valued it, or was this a nice colourful piece for that end wall, just decoration to fit in with the space.

“Anyway she wasn’t that awful. I felt sort of sorry for her, she seemed lonely, looking for something. I liked her, no pretence.”

“Well I’m proud of you Mari. God knows what Henry’ll say, all that commission he’s missed. Ha! Will you be going over for the opening, unveiling or whatever it’s called?”

“Inauguration, Lorete called it. I suppose so”, Marianne hadn’t told Peter yet about the possibility of Juliet Farrow College, she really wasn’t sure herself yet, there was plenty of time. “I’m afraid it’s women only.”

“All the good things are nowadays”, Peter looked closely at one of the panels “Hey! That’s that scarf I gave you at college!”

Marianne looked closely at the panel as well.

“It was the first present I ever gave you” Peter sounded hurt.

“It had a hole in it and was covered in paint. I hadn’t worn it for years.”


My Pink Half of the Drainpipe


These photographs were taken on Sunday, a windy sunny day. They were taken only a few yards away from my flat in an alleyway I use almost every day, and it must have been the light that made me notice the contrasting ‘finish’ to the wall. When I first looked onscreen at them it looked like I had been busy on Photoshop, joining a colour and black and white photograph. I can assure you I hadn’t, this is how it is.

I was reminded of the song My Pink Half of The Drainpipe by The Bonzo Dog Band from an album I bought when I was 15 in 1969, A Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse.

Whoever did this had no sense of creating a nice straight line dividing the properties. I am always amazed at what people do and why, perhaps because the backs (alleyways) are not visible at the front either people have no care, or, can give free reign to their creativity. I think the former.







Today I have three photographs, unplanned, found places/things.


Sheephead is some graffitti I have seen for a few years, but last week on a rainy blustery day it stood out and made me wonder, who Sheephead is and why, in a back alley in Tunstall, someone would be so moved to write quite carefully Sheephead on a wall. It sounds like a folk influenced heavy rock band or maybe something much older from a very different world…


This is the Venus Fish and Chip Shop in Hanley, taken early evening last Wednesday on my way to Renegades. It has a feel of somewhere not in the UK, from a hotter climate. I was struck by the contrast of the fake roses and the black and white decor as I sat eating excellent haddock and chips.


These chairs were to the side of an old chapel in Chalford nearly a month ago on a sunny warm morning. They seemed out of place outside, their interior role highly defined by the cross.

Photographer Sitter


Yesterday I went to The Cultural Sisters studio in Longport with photographer Tony Jones, where he was going to make a portrait of Melanie Stace using a pinhole camera. I asked to document this.

The studio is a wonderful place where the hard and superb work The Cultural Sisters undertake with communities is created.


Tony planned to take the portrait in a wonderfully eerie space in the loft, however there was just not enough light, Mel would have had to sit for around 48 minutes to get the image! He took one large format photograph instead.


So we moved downstairs and the lightmeter showed that she would have to sit for only 3 minutes. The event has a quietness about it.

6 5 4


10 9

I was trying to capture the calm professionalism of Tony at work and in the main used the square format on my camera which felt right for the situation. I know you can crop photographs, but when using a specific compositional format it makes you see differently, looking for images of when they were interacting within a more limited field. Equally important was the setting of the studio, which could easily be a subject for a set of photographs in itself.

Tony also took a few pictures on his Rolleicord.

13 17 18

I thoroughly enjoyed the time and it was lovely meeting up again with Mel and Deborah. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed documenting a situation or event, something I used to do a lot.

Underpainting 11


Chapter 11 of my novel Underpainting. The previous chapters can be found above or in the Categories section to the right


Peter’s head was overflowing with the murmur of voices, laughter, clinking glasses and music of the party. He was outside leaning against the wall of a large patio, looking across the Thames at reflected lights on the other side of the river. He felt awkward and quite cold in the cream linen suit he’d chosen, and knew it didn’t do anything for him, it had looked good in the shop and Henry had said he should make an effort. Rachel looked amazing, her dress was so simple compared to the overdressed over-rich party goers, Mark had done a good job, as Marianne said he would.

The ‘opening’ had gone well. Constantine had introduced Peter perfectly; Peter had thanked him; Henry had thanked everyone and was busy finding enough work for Peter for the next ten years.

Peter wished Marianne was there, and for some reason also wished Clare was there, she’d have enjoyed this. Rachel was great, and busy charming rich men with the naturalness of her manner, soon she would be the star attraction. A motor boat glided past, containing a group of four people drinking cocktails, laughing loudly and richly.


He looked round.

“Ryan. I didn’t see you…”

“No, we came in while the ‘official’ business was on. Marianne?”

“No, she’s busy… getting work ready for her show”

“I thought not… who’s that with you?” Ryan gestured to the window where Rachel and Lizzie were talking together.

“Oh, someone working with me, she was a student last year, you know…”

Ryan stared at the window.

“Mmm, like it Peter, yes… like it”

“It’s nothing like that Ryan, I needed a partner tonight, she was, well… there. It’s nice to see Lizzie looking so well”

“She’s great Peter. So much life, so many ideas… I knew she was… well you know…”

“No, Ryan I don’t.”

“…And I suppose you think I’m far too old for her as well? She wanted me. Her mother won’t listen, Lizzie loves me Peter. I feel like a teenager again!”

“But you’re not are you?”

They stood in an awkward silence looking towards Rachel and Lizzie as they laughed and gossiped. Lizzie turned, saw Peter and waved to him, gestured to him to come inside.

“And I suppose you’ve been telling him off as well” Lizzie said when they’d reached her.

“Not really, but well… It’s up to you”

“It is. I’m so happy Peter!” Lizzie held Ryan’s hand tight, she looked more like his daughter. “Have you seen Queen B. lately?”

“Mari has… I think you two ought to get together… I think she needs you”

“She can go to Hell” she said softly, “… she’s upset me, said things. I’ll never forgive her.”

“Oh let’s forget all this” Ryan said lightening the air, “come on let’s have a drink, this is your night Peter. Introduce me then” he turned to Rachel.

“I’m Rachel, I suppose you’re Ryan…”

“Look I’ve got to mingle, Henry’s orders” and Peter ambled away into the crowd.

Marianne was standing at the kitchen table, stirring a pot noodle. She felt guilty eating it but was too tired to bother cooking or even get a take away. However, she felt good, almost triumphant, the ‘great work’ was finished and she’d seen it in its entirety for the first time.

The doorbell rang.

Marianne thought about ignoring it, but the hall light was on.

The doorbell rang again, this was someone not to be put off.

“If it’s double glazing I’ll…”

When she opened the door her brother Colin almost fell in past her, she stopped him with an outstretched hand. He stank of alcohol. She looked beyond him to see if Shirley was there, or worse still the kids.

“… aren’t you going to let me in then sis? I am your bloody brother you know!”

Marianne stood back, and he lurched forward.

“Have you been driving like this?”

“No. Have you sis?” and laughed his nasty spoilt laugh. He was unshaven, his shirt collar was filthy, and his hands almost black with dirt.

“Does Shirley know you’re here?” Marianne said coldly.

Colin looked sheepish, swayed on the spot, found his balance and headed for the living room.

“God it’s cold in here Mary, you going in for funerals?”

“Colin” she said to him like a school teacher “sit there”

“Yes ma’am” he fell into a battered armchair.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’ve come to visit my favourite sister” the words slurred, “my only fucking sister. Is that not allowed? Is it not a free country, am I not allowed to do as I please as long as I don’t harm anyone, I have a vote, I pay my taxes, I mow the lawn, I wash my car…” he was starting to shout.

“Stop talking rubbish. What’s gone on?”

There was silence. Colin starred in front of him looking at the now glowing gas fire.

“Have you rung Shirley? You know she and Mum will be frantic…”

“Mum doesn’t know” Colin intervened. “Thinks I’m at a conference”

There was silence again.

“Well Shirley… do you want me to ring her, let her know..”

“No, no no no!” Colin was shouting, and crying.

Marianne had never seen Colin like this since he was four.

“Look, I know we’ve not been close, and I know we never see each other, but if you want to tell me..”

“Oh shut the fuck up Mary!”

Colin put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a screwed up sheet of paper, handed it to Marianne. She unscrewed it. It was a charge sheet. She had to read it twice, the words – Colin Paul Maddox is charged with assault and battery on Sunday May 14th to the person of Shirley Anne Maddox at – stood out.

“What the hell’s been going on Colin?” she said sternly.

Colin was asleep.

‘Does Mum know?’ she thought, ‘God this could kill her. Shirley, I can’t stand her but this? Hey you’ve got to go! I’m not supporting you Colin’.

She wondered how long it had been going on,  she’d never noticed anything, hadn’t seen bruises, but then, she thought they usually get hidden. She wondered why he’d come? Did she need to ring the police?

She looked at the charge sheet again. He was due in magistrates court in four weeks.

‘I’m not having it’ she shouted inside, ‘I’m not going to sympathise. You may be my brother Colin, but you don’t do that, that is not on!’.

She switched the light out and went to bed.

Peter had had enough of the party. He’d met some bloody awful people. Rachel was livid at something Ryan had said to her, her eyes sparkled like Peter had never seen them before, she looked darkly beautiful.

Peter realised he was drunk.

“Peter, are you listening?”

“Hmm, yes I think so”

“I think you’re pissed, I’ll get Henry to ring a taxi…”

“Good God” Peter was suddenly cognisant again, and stared straight past Rachel. A well built man in a wheelchair was being pushed towards them by a tall blonde athletic looking man.

“What the hell is he here for?” he whispered, Rachel looked round.

“Peter!” Frank Butter said loudly, many of the guests looked round at the intrusion into their conversations.

“Frank, I didn’t expect you here.”

“Oh, Constantine and I have some joint business connections, and we share an admiration for your work”, he made a gesture in the air with his right hand that actually took in a Turner water-colour and a series of Bill Brandt photographs. Frank looked self-satisfied. Peter felt like a commodity. Peter and Rachel gazed at Frank’s tall blond ‘minder’.

“Oh, this is Sandor, don’t mind him, he helps me with some personal aspects of my life…”

They nodded towards him, Sandor nodded back and smiled a razor smile. Peter thought Frank looked vulnerable for the first time in his whole life.

“…and this is? Not Marianne, I know that?” Frank put his hand to his mouth in mock horror, “…Oh I haven’t said the wrong thing have I?”

Peter introduced Rachel.

“Another artist! Another one for your Henry to hound me about? That man, he sees a bit of spare cash going and he’s in there like a ferret!”

Peter and Rachel laughed with Frank, whose eyes beadily shot from one to the other.

“I really must find Mark and thank him for choosing this” Rachel gestured to her dress.

“…and quite rightly, you look stunning my dear” said Frank with a lightness Peter didn’t expect and had never heard before.

Soon gales of laughter were heard as Mark, Lizzie and Rachel were bitching about the other guests.

“Peter will you push me outside, I need a word”

“It’s bloody cold out there Frank, will you be…”

“Oh shut up and push” Frank intervened.

Peter pushed Frank’s wheelchair onto the patio, the evening felt warmer or perhaps the wine had warmed the blood. Sandor stood by the door on guard.

“Peter, your painting. I didn’t realise it was going to be let’s say, so personal”

Peter felt a cold shiver go down his spine.


“Oh, don’t think I don’t like it, no no, it’s quite magnificent, much finer than these here, even I can see that and I don’t know fuck all about art. No, it’s the memories it brings back, not ones I’d wish to be made public, you know what I mean?”

“Of course I do Frank, of course. No, it was a…” Peter tried to find the words, “…the most significant place, a time when we all seemed to grow up”

“Yes, but your dad, he wouldn’t have wanted it all dragged up again, you know that don’t you?”

Peter didn’t understand. He thought of asking what Frank meant, but didn’t.

“How’s Pearl?” Frank always called Peter’s mother Pearl, even when they were young.

“She’s fine, you know what she’s like, always something, never stops”

“They were good to me, I can never repay them. They were my family, much more than my own”

“There was nothing to repay. It was different then, what little we had was shared, God I’m sounding like some old man now Frank! Too many glasses of wine. Too many damned stupid people telling me how wonderful I am.”

Frank smiled and gestured to Sandor.

“Come on Sandor let’s go home.”

Constantine came out and joined them.

“Oh you’re not going already Frank, you’ve only just arrived”

“Yes, got to be up early. I like that belt Cony” Frank said gesturing to the two headed eagle buckle, “Polish?”

“Hungarian, an old friend’s, he was in the army. I wear it on special occasions, it reminds me…” Constantine’s voice trailed off.

“Yes, I know, Peter and I were talking of the past. So much of it isn’t there? So bloody much of it. People need reminders so they remember where they’ve come from”.

Sandor pushed the chair towards the exit and stopped, turned Frank around.

“It was good to see you Peter” Frank said with a wave, “come and see me soon, I’ve got a proposition for you”. They disappeared through the mill of the party.

Constantine looked at Peter and nodded, then returned to his guests.

Peter picked up his wine glass and leaned against the wall overlooking the river. It was dark and the wind made the water choppy. He felt cold again and  remembered Frank as such an active boy, always on the move, how he’d come and get Dad for something or bring a message, how Mum would always ask if he’d eaten, then sit him down for beans on toast or a bacon sandwich. Dad would always say how she spoilt the lad, but Peter could see that Frank was really the son he wanted, someone to go fishing with, go to the club. Peter was a disappointment to his Dad.

Peter thought about his visits to Vic. The other lads always called Vic a ‘puff’, ‘homo’, shouted  ‘nigger bum boy’.

Vic would sit and talk to Peter, he never once tried to touch him, never suggested anything, only gave him tea in a beautiful blue china cup, “…the only one left from a set” he’d always say. They talked about art and about Peter’s ambition to be an artist. Vic told him he had modelled for many artists in the 1950’s in London and Paris. He told Peter about the studios, the smell of oil paint. It was like walking into a wonderland for Peter, who dreamt of a studio overlooking Montmartre in an attic and beautiful girls with big breasts taking their clothes off for him. Peter never told his Mum and Dad about his visits, they were his secret. He knew his Dad would go mad, Vic was the devil incarnate to him.

“Peter, you’re crying”

It was Henry.

“Am I? Must be the wine”

“Well, you are favoured aren’t you?” Peter looked puzzled, “Frank Butter. He never goes anywhere. Constantine said he rang and asked to come, now that really is something isn’t it? And his minder… very smart.” Henry’s eyebrows lifted.

“We go a long way back,” Peter watched the bedroom lights of a house on the other side of the Thames come on and light up a garden. “I must go home soon Henry. I’m not used to all this to drink since Bill died”.

They went back into the party. About four hours later a taxi came and picked up four people who, by that time, were not sure who they were.


Whilst descending a spiral staircase which kept falling away Marianne heard a distant voice calling her name. Not Peter. Colin? Why? A dream? No. A hand was shaking her shoulder, a solid hand.


One eye opened and she could see a mug of tea steaming next to the book she’d been reading what felt like five minutes ago. The side light was still on. Her other eye opened and took note of the clock radio. 6.34.

“Good God Col! It’s only 6.30″

“I brought you a cup of tea… I couldn’t sleep”

Marianne sat up. It was just getting light.

“Colin?” then she remembered, no dream. She took a deep breath. “Oh, shit”

“I’ve made a decision” He waited for a reaction. Marianne’s head was splitting. “Can I stay here, for a while… until the court case. I won’t be in the way. You know me”

“No, I don’t” she said firmly.

“You think I’m guilty, don’t you?”

“I’m damn sure you are.”

“I suppose I am”

Marianne sat up and took her tea. It was hot, too milky and sweet. She put it down.

“I’m not going to let you stay here”, Colin looked hurt and dejected. “There’s no way. I can’t stand Shirley, but you can’t do that, oh no, hitting her is no way out. You’re another spoilt little shit who… oh”

“But you don’t know, you really don’t”

“Oh I do, I do… How long’s it been going on eh? You may be my brother but in this you’re alone mate. Just sod off… sod off!”

Colin stood up straight. Rage filled his eyes, blue lines crossed his forehead. He turned, ran downstairs. Marianne heard the door slam and a car skid off into the distance. Her head was pounding, she was shaking. The house was quiet, but her head was like a drum and a red pain was behind her eyes. She turned over and buried her head into the pillow.

She dreamt of the sea.

She was woken by the phone downstairs. The clock said 10.15. ‘Never’, she thought, ‘damn there’s a class in half an hour!’ She ran downstairs as the answer phone clicked in and she decided to leave it. It was Mum.

“Mary, it’s me. Are you there?… No, well Colin’s just arrived, how could you say such things to Colin after all he’s done for me. Shirley’s just… over sensitive, she’ll get over it. Oh I hate these machines. Ring me as soon as you get back. How could you Mary, your own brother?”

Marianne closed her eyes and thumped her head on the door.

“Oh shit!” she shouted, “this is all I bloody well need!”

Peter’s eyes opened with a start. He lay and stared at the cracks in the ceiling, and realised he wasn’t at home, ‘but this is the flat’ he thought. Harsh light flooded the room and when he tried to move his head it spun, so he lay back. His mouth was dry but it was far too much effort to get up for some water. He realised he still had his clothes on from the party and was at a 45 degree angle on the bed. For the next ten minutes he slowly took his clothes off and settled under the sheets.

His phone rang.

Peter put his head under the pillow, but it kept ringing.

His throat and mouth were so dry that only a grunt came out.

“You all right Peter?” Marianne said on the other end. “Sounds like you had a good night last night!”

“Hello Mari” he turned over and looked at his clock, 11.45.

“You still there?”

“Oh yes, my body is but I don’t think my brain is”

Marianne laughed.

“Oh Peter, I bet you look awful. Was it successful?”

“I think so, you’d have to ask Henry. Oh you’ll never guess who was there, Lizzie and Ryan!”

“Was she OK?”

“Fine, but you should have heard what she said about Angela, and Ryan started to chat up Rachel! Oh and Frank Butter turned up as well with Mr. Universe in tow!”

“Sounds like a busy night. I’ve finished the quilt”

“Oh that’s amazing Mari, God I bet you’re pleased”

“Sort of. I’m not sure what to do now. But it looks OK, I could make some changes, but that’d be fiddling”

“I know what you mean” Peter’s headache moved round his head, then back again.

“You OK? That sounded painful. Anyway, I had a call from a Lorete Kropitchnik or something like that, she’s a curator at The Museum of Contemporary Women’s Art in Washington. It seems Alice had been talking to her and telling her about the quilt and she wants to see it, seems like they’ve got loads of money from a bequest to buy new stuff. Could you ask Henry if he knows her, he knows everyone”

“He’ll want his pound of flesh”

“Mmm I hadn’t thought of that, she wants to come over later this month, before the show gets on the road, have ‘first option’ as she so horribly put it. I don’t know if I want to sell really, what do you think?” They were both silent for a few seconds. “Oh! and you know what else happened”

“Mmm” Peter was half asleep not really caring at the present.

“Colin arrived, drunk”

“What, Colin from Ceramics!”

“Noooo, my brother Colin”

“What on earth did he want?”

“It appears he beat up Shirley and is facing charges”

“You’re joking”

“I’m not. Anyway I kicked him out this morning, he had this idea to stay with us and keep his head down”

“Damn cheek”

“That’s what I thought, anyway, I’ve already had Mum on the phone telling me off, deserves all he gets the little shit”

“Mari! That’s no way to talk about your brother” Peter put on a voice like Marianne’s Mother.

“It’s no joke Peter. I can’t abide Shirley, but that’s no way to behave is it?”

“Oh no, it’s no laughing matter. Hope he gets life!”

“Better go Pete, got a class in ten minutes, bye. Oh! You had a message from some reporter, forgotten her name but you can get it off the machine yourself can’t you? I should think Henry will handle that. Got to go, bye…”

“I miss you….” but before Peter could finish Marianne had switched her phone off. Peter lay back exhausted and went back to sleep.

Canal Stroll 2


Today’s photographs are going back three weeks again to my visit to Chalford in Gloucstershire. We walked along the remains of the Thames and Severn Canal.


The section which intrigued me most was beside a well built Cotswold stone wall, the trees created a tunnel and used the wall to ‘rest’ their branches.


The whole effect was bright sun dappling through a ceiling of leaves and grey black branches struggling to find the light, and damp from the mud and pools of the canal.


This was September 3rd  and high summer with its intense growth and bloom, fruit and danger. I’m hoping to go back soon and take more photographs as the leaves wither and shed.