(This is going to be patchy. I've had problems getting connected, and it's frankly hard to find the time to get anything written. We're off, shortly, this Friday morning, to London and the Frieze art fair, so it will be another very full day. In the meantime, these notes sketched out on the train from Cirencester, yesterday morning, to London, before coming out to Harpenden where my son's family live. My apologies for the timeline confusion...)
We made it to our London train shortly after my hasty post of photographs and complaints about the lack of sleep a little earlier this morning. A line at the ticket office proved too long to be able to buy tickets before the train left, but we were assured we could buy them from the ticket inspector on board. It’s the hardest day with luggage. We have out two rather heavy rollies, plus two rucksacks and, until we reach Harpenden where my son and his family live, another bag filled with gifts—gifts for this visit, gifts for Christmas, gifts for birthdays shortly after Christmas. This we will no longer need once we reach our destination today, and will be able to travel that much lighter. There’s also the trek across London to look forward to, from Paddington Station to St. Pancras, and a northbound train from there to Harpenden. I do what I can, with all this baggage, to protect Ellie’s back, but it’s not easy on either of us. Still, this British Rail ride is smooth and comfortable. We’re planning on doing quite a lot of travel once we get to Belgium, early next week, so it behooves us to get used to it.
Our single full day with Flora in Cirencester was a lovely one. Ellie managed, sensibly, to take things very easy in the morning, but I—foolishly, no doubt—got myself engaged in an excursion by myself to buy a cheap cell phone for use in the UK and on the Continent. (Since buying this infernal little machine, I have had to spend far too much time learning how to use it!)
Also this morning I received the final proofs of “Slow Looking” and spent a while looking through the pages. I’m happy with the way it’s turning out. Front and back cover—I’m sure I’ll be posting them soon—are attractive and informative, and the interior is crisp and clear in design. At 88 pages, it is a slim volume, but I think a worthwhile one, a great accompaniment to my “One Hour/One Painting” sessions and, I believe, a valuable tool for artists. I know most serious painters spend many hours looking at their work, but “Slow Looking” will offer them a different and I hope useful approach. Things may be delayed a bit by a suggestion from Emily, to enhance the presentation with an audio CD disk. She’s currently researching that possibility.
We emerged for a walk in the town at noon, stopping by the Brewery Arts Center where Flora is enrolled in a pottery class, watching her at work with a small number of other students preparing clay and molding, shaping and glazing pots ready for the kiln. A great occupation and a very healthy one, I have always thought, working hands-on with Mother Earth herself. The inner artist with whom Flora has flirted in many ways over the years seems to have happily emerged in the practice of this art form, and her pots are quite beautiful—and engagingly eccentric. I myself have never been good with my hands, and am somewhat envious of her facility.
Coffee at the Brewery, then back home for lunch and off again shortly afterward for a shopping expedition in town. Well, more looking, I’m relieved to say, than actural shopping. Hardware stores are a particular fascination over here, with many devices and products that we don’t see at home, and we appreciate the design and utilitarian values that go into them. Clothes in the stores, Ellie tells me, are surprisingly expensive compared with those at home. We ended up our expedition with a cup of tea and a stop at the local iPhone shop to ensure that my settings were properly readjusted to avoid the roving fees with which we have been hit in the past. Then back home to rest up a bit before driving out for a pub dinner. The place was way out in the country, and we managed to get lost along the way; but arrived in time for a single malt scotch—a rare treat for me, these days—to warm things up before what can honestly be called a hearty meal. Too hearty, perhaps, because of the consequences—the sleepless night about which I wrote earlier.
So we’re headed, now, for London, and will be arriving soon. More later…