The moon was huge this morning. I thank God for it. I love to walk in its light. And the way it spills across the water takes my breath. I drew The Cooper’s Arms yesterday. There were too many people in town for me to venture in there (it was The Race for Life event – all those women in pink). I drew it three times and tried to be bolder and to learn as I drew. I grow more confident about drawing in public. The mask and my dark glasses help. I still am uncertain about using colour, it seems an after thought. I’ve so much further to go. Perhaps I will never feel good enough. But I am communicating, something, at least.
I thought about my need to care for others. It is strong. Though it often manifests itself in small details. Is that enough? Or must life always be about the grand gesture?
Four lads were across the road from me just beginning to walk up Penglais Hill. I’d heard them before I turned the corner into Northgate Terrace. One of them was making a kind of high-pitched keening noise. It was possibly the same one who shouted out to me: ‘No walking sticks after 12pm.’ His friends laughed and I ignored it. (I’ve been using a stick as a ‘safety net’ against the annoying stiffness in my hips – sometimes they just seize up.) He continued. ‘It’s not acceptable, darlink.’ His mates loved this and laughed even louder. I let it go. He thought it was funny too when I told him about it on waking. Perhaps I have no sense of humour. I’d just rather they didn’t talk to me at all. It is my quiet time, my inward time, my communion with the terrible dark.
It was the same yesterday when I was drawing down by the harbour. ‘Are you writing verse or drawing?’ I heard a voice say. (I’d been concentrating so fiercely I hadn’t noticed a man and his wife approach.) He came behind me and peered at my sketchbook. ‘Ah, drawing,’ he said, and then continued to fire questions at me. Are you a professional, do you sell? I didn’t want to talk. I wanted to draw and was uncommunicative. He didn’t seem to mind and she joined in as well telling me how she’d just drawn their boat and that she dabbled, wasn’t any good but it was fun. In the end their enthusiasm, meeting no match in me, dried up. And we said our goodbyes. And then I felt bad. I hadn’t friendly or warm.
I’m trying to improve. The decisions I make are often bad ones. I want to concentrate. I need to. I asked him at breakfast if he knew anyone who would sit for me. He didn’t, and seem to think it would be too much to ask. What would they get out of it? He is right. Nothing. I wouldn’t even want to show them the work.
Keep going. Just keep going. It will become clear.
Language is better, said Will Ladislaw.
By the way, did you see the moon this morning. It was huge.
Birthdays often make me sad. And this one was no exception. It isn’t the age thing, I couldn’t care less about that, it is more the reflecting back that seems to go on inside my head. What have I achieved and what worth am I and so on. So he and I had a ‘seminar’ first over coffee in Costa and then over tea at the Harbourmaster in Aberaeron. He helps me. He restores my faith. He makes me feel worthwhile.
The battles with my drawing continue. I must just keep on keeping on.
The early mornings can feel edgy. And I am not brave. I see things that seem a little out of kilter and I am loathe to intervene or interfere. I struggle with such passivity though, never knowing what is the right thing to do. Take this morning for example. It began with the flashing lights of the ambulance. Blue and red and yellow, flickering on and off against the wall of a house on South Road. It looked like a disco. Perhaps there were police cars too. Must’ve been for the lights to be blue also. I walked on. I didn’t want to appear curious or nosy, though I was, a little. There were still going when I walked back from the harbour and I took another path so that I might avoid the commotion. I did see a policeman talking to a girl through a break in the wall. And then walking deciding to walk over the Buarth on my way home I came upon a car with its side door wide open. Everything was dark. No streetlights. It was by the big veterinary surgery on the hill. Was there someone in the car? Had it been broken into to? There was no broken glass, no sign of anything awry. I left it. At breakfast he tried to ease my conscience. Someone might have been loading things into it, he said. Though, I suspect it had just been forgotten. Ah, I never know what is the right thing to do. Ever.
I’d noticed that something wasn’t there when I was by the harbour yesterday. And it wasn’t until I walked there again this morning that I realised that the poor, neglected shabby boat on stilts was gone. I’d say it’s name whenever I walked past. Miss Me. Was it a plea or a statement or even a command, I’d wonder. It had had a for sale sign leaning on its bow for what seemed like years. Has someone bought it, finally, or has it really gone to the scrap heap? I suppose it isn’t cheap having it there on the quay. Bless it. There is always change, even in this slow old town.
I wanted too much from myself this morning, and the drawing was shite. I got down in the mouth. If I can’t rely on myself to always pull it off, what am I? He tries to encourage. It’s all in your head, he says. And he is right, but the desire to hurl my sketchbook across the cafe’s floor (I was drawing people in Caffe Nero) and then lie on the ground and kick my feet, screaming was a hard one to resist. We moved on. And it got better. A bit. Then we walked on the Prom and I made plans for tomorrow.
Work still isn’t coming. Has it dried up completely? Chase them, he said. Shall I?
Her husband died yesterday. She is sanguine. Or just too tired and depleted herself to show the grief she must feel. 31 years they have been together. Death is always so close, these days. Will we have another day, and another? Keep him safe. And may he rest in peace. I didn’t know him well. A shy man but a kind one, I think.
It’s still there, and it grows more gruesome by the day. I thought another animal might take it, but perhaps dead squirrel do not make good fare. There is little flesh left, just fur and its head, strained into a kind of silent screaming. It is a pitiful sight and I find myself walking into the road to avoid it. The pavement around it is littered with fallen blackberries that have oozed, blue and purple, into the tarmac.
An overcast, damp and mizzly morning. I did go and draw yesterday despite the weather predictions. Rain spotted my pages. I need to write more. To balance the two. Look she’s drawing something, I heard a child say behind me. She might be writing, said his mother. No, he said, determined, she’s drawing.
I’m trying to, ugh shall I say it, ‘up my game’. Such phrases have become so ubiquitous that it is hard to remember what we used to say before. I want to get better at drawing, and the wanting and the trying is hard. I know what I am aiming for but can’t get there. He speaks encouragement, hears the dejection in my voice when I get home. The frustration is with myself. I know that I sink when the lines and decisions I make are not working. I try to keep going, for what else can I do? It will come, he says. You’ve done it before, so you will do it again. Will I? Am I the same being? And now the weather forecasters say it will rain today. What to do? Shall I weather the wet or stay in an draw something inanimate? Small quandaries but to me they are potent. Well?
Dreams are such strange things. They feel so tangible when inside them and often, afterwards too. I can sense them through the day but cannot decipher the images or the meanings. Last night I think there was a badger. Though perhaps his black and white coat was too clean, to distinct to make him a real one. Could he have been a toy?
I went and drew. Oh, such good intentions. I fail and fail again. But at least I am doing it. I am watching and thinking. And I did make that initial contact with the ACW. We shall see. I think about how I might write about practice – possibly I can follow the trajectories of other artists and include quotes? And there must be that mix of artists and writers, for both are to be at play. However, I don’t want it to be dry. I want it to be authentic and spontaneous and warm.
I woke from a dream that took a while to decipher, or at least work out where the images came from. The bit I remember took place in an outside loo, well small bathroom really. I was standing inside it watching a small baby who had been placed, naked in a sink feeding itself from a bottle. It was struggling a little and I thought to help it but it righted itself and the milk started to drain. It had one eye in the centre of its head, an issue that at first I thought nothing of, until staring at it the one became two.
There’s a butcher’s shop on the corner of Bridge Street and South Road. It’s a ramshackle affair, half-soaked really. You know the sort of thing, discarded egg trays and ropes of onions in the window, a half-filled glass-covered counter and a sign on the door saying closed Wednesdays and Thursdays. Well of late it’s looked even emptier. And then the other day I saw a row of cards by the till. Retirement cards. Six or seven of them at least. So he’s gone (though the empty egg trays are still there). Sweet that he thought to display the cards. It saves questions and explanations, I suppose. Will he be missed? I hope so.
I drew the wasteland outside yesterday, in between the showers (I was caught, trapped in the car during a long one). Unsatisfactory, really, but I must keep going. I need the momentum that real studies – that is moving objects – give me.
I don’t have it, but they do. He read out the article about them to me as I made supper yesterday. They own the Hungarian restaurant in town. He’s really a doctor. And he, and his wife, have shut up shop and gone to Afghanistan. They want to help. Taking nothing but bare essentials and wearing t-shirts with DOCTOR across the front they will go to offer assistance and aid. They’ve done it before in Syria, Africa and other war zones but always with the protection of the UN and other NGO. This time they are going it alone. (Though how they will get there God alone knows.) I am in awe of their simple humanity and the willingness to act on their desire to offer succour.
And what of the rest of us more ordinary mortals. Well, we have our ups and downs. Mine were down yesterday as I tried and failed to draw well. I went out early, as I promised but there was no hub, no energy, just a few joggers and early promenaders. I did make marks but I was self-conscious and awkward. There were the two detectorists for example, one who had all the kit, including knee pads (he kept jumping down on one knee to dig) and the clearly homeless man (he had a huge coat on and rucksack) who appeared to picking up stones and shiny things from the shingle. Then there was the fisherman, dropping his line over the Promenade rail. And then later the smoking woman. None of them were still enough for me to draw a decent reflection them – they were skittish, fidgety, like me I suppose. Walking home (he came to meet me looking fresh and handsome in a new shirt) we came upon the first round of the Round Britain Cycle Race. (Is it a race?) It took us completely by surprise. Lights flashing, cops on motorcycles roaring through the main streets, a rather meagre cluster of bikes and then more roaring from their support vehicles. And all the elderly crawling from their easy chairs to stand still slippered in the doorways and on pavements to wave at them. It was hard not be moved. And Llanbadarn Road absolutely gridlocked.
I think about my drawing all the time. How to do better. I feel my dips and later, though still cross, I experimented with white space. I need to look more – always and try other ways of communicating.