Sunday, March 21, 2010

Springing into action

Just read that Oscar Wilde apparently once opined "conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative". So, just to prove him right, I'll scribe once again about the meteorological conditions that have recently prevailed in our remote neck of the woods.

The snow appears to have disappeared. But this might just be temporary. Couple of years ago it reappeared at Easter. So I hesitate to say winter's over. Mind you, spring does seem to be kicking at the door. Snowdrops are out and daffs are budding. Also spotted some white violets round by the woodpile. Well, when I say 'woodpile' I really mean 'big empty space where the woodpile used to be'. Just a few logs remain and I'm hoping they'll see me through 'til the warm weather returns. But just to be on the safe side, I've ordered another half cord from neighbour Christian. That's roughly a couple of small vans-full. Costs about 70 quid. Damned expensive but it's a matter of life or death. Doesn't grow on trees y'know (an old joke, but I like it). For the first time in months the kitchen and lounge stoves are out. I'll re-light 'em tonight - the kitchen one for cooking and the lounge one for telly watching. Roll on when they don't have to be lit. It's like burning money.

Last couple of nights have been noticeably warmer (warmer than freezing, that is). Threw caution to the wind and slept without my sheepskin flying jacket. First time since about November or December. Even opened the boudoir windows and dangled out the duvet and pillow for a much needed airing. And, yesterday morning, I actually had a bath. First time this recently installed item has been used. Survived the ordeal relatively unscathed. Felt ridiculously clean afterwards. Quite unnatural for a bohemian recluse. Think I'll stick to showers though. More economical. Thinking about it, that's probably seven or eight showers and one bath in the last six months. Not bad for winter. (Er, just in case anyone starts tut-tutting about my apparent soaping infrequency, I'll have you know that I bath in the sink. So there. Bit tricky for a shortarse comme moi to get the old feet up so I stand one-footed on a brick.)

Washed and shampooed the dogs too. Did it outside with a couple of buckets. Been far too cold to do it over recent months. So they've been a bit whiffy (they probably say the same about moi). They both hate being washed, which I fully understand. And they both roll around in the dirt afterwards which rather defeats the object. Still, has to be done. Next, I'll attempt to give Jock (the Westie) a haircut. Off with his thick winter coat ready for spring. Luckily Sprocket (the Patterdale) has hair that doesn't need cutting. Just as well 'cos he goes for your jugular at the slightest opportunity. I risk death every time I wash the blighter.

Makes a pleasant change to go dogwalking without blizzard conditions. Don't miss all that sleet and snow one little bit. And it's nice wearing just a single fleece without a waterproof topcoat and a couple of sweaters. And ordinary shoes instead of Gore-Tex commando boots. Been going up the 'lightning tree' circuit again now it's not so muddy. Noticed the sun's creeping back up that horizon at sunset. So the evenings are getting longer. So too are the mornings. I've noticed it's almost light now when Jock wakes me up with a bark or seventeen to be let outside for a wee.

Went up there a few days back with the mutts for an evening stroll and, surprise, surprise, it was sunny. Brought out the colours for the first time in yonks. Blue sky, green grass, purple trees, pinkish earth. Thought about getting my paints out again after the winter lay-off. Been far too cold for painting outdoors. Next day was sunny too so I decided to give it a go. Set up the easel mid-afternoon and sploshed away for about three hours before sunset. Scene changed dramatically as shadows lengthened which drove me bonkers. And if that wasn't challenging enough, the intricate detail of the trees' bare branches almost forced me to wipe the whole thing out, pack up, go home in a huff and give up this ridiculous notion of becoming an artist, part-time or otherwise. The final straw was when the easel blew over. Just managed to stop it landing face down in dried up cow poo. Bugger this. Walked dogs and returned home.

Sunny the next day so went up there again to give it one last go. Had to be late afternoon though so the shadows were right. Set up canvas and easel, squeezed a few colours from battered paint tubes and... it immediately clouded over. Everything went grey. Dammit. Then the wind picked up. Easel blew over again. This time landing in cow poo. Now I was angry. But determined. Parked car right by the easel and opened rear hatch so it acted as a windbreak. Picked bits of straw, grass and dirt from painting and attacked again. Wiped out all the pernickity detail rubbish of my original interpretation of the trees and went for a more expressionistic approach. Nothing to lose. If it didn't work, I'd wipe the whole bastard lot out and give up completely. Forget about trying to be a camera, forget colours, ignore detail, put away those pathetic little brushes and pick up some bigger ones. Think van Gogh, Kokoschka and Rauschenberg. Now go for the essence of what's in front of you. Make the bloody thing come alive and dance.

Sploshed away in a blind fury for about an hour. Looked like a bleedin' dog's dinner. Crap. Would have rubbed the lot out with the little amount of dirty green turps that remained in the jar, had Jock not knocked it over. Swore at the little git for doing so. Which snapped me out of my creative trance. Gave the poor thing a cuddle, and Sprocket, then chucked the arty-farty gear in the car, gave 'em a well deserved walk round the open fields (in slight drizzle), went home, slung painting in the indoor shed, fed dogs, lit fire, poured scotch and prepared evening meal.

Looked at painting this morning. Better than it was. I'm on the right track. There's something there but I don't know what. Still a long way to go though. Should really have gone up there again this afternoon. 'Cos it was sunny. But couldn't be arsed. I'll go tomorrow. Weather permitting. (Rats. Can't go. Just remembered I have to do some proper illustration work for a publisher who must be desperate.)


  1. Why are you always so hard on yourself Tommo?

    It's a brilliant picture, but I think maybe all that water and bubbles might have gone to your head,
    You silly daft bugger, your work is great.
    Stop bloody bathing it seems to do your head in lol.

    much love

  2. A joyous post, Tommo,and reassured about lack of washing of the bod during winter. In the coldest of times we went to bed fully clothed, then started divesting ourselves of the various layers one by one as the bed heated up.
    And I loved your tree painting. Really I did. They look friendly and alive. Just like you. Look forward to seeing more.

  3. Lia - Thanks for the compliment. And I certainly won't be making a habit of this bathing nonsense. The reason I'm hyper-critical of my work is that I'm bone bloody idle. If I worked a damned sight harder at this painting lark, I might actually improve. It's all too easy for me me to say "sod it, that's good enough". And good enough is never good enough.

  4. Vera - Merci beaucoup. Glad you like the painting. Most encouraging. Long way to go yet though.

    I too have frequently retired to my pit fully dressed. Perfectly normal behaviour for us shack-doing-upping expats.