Time to celebrate the seasonal – and totally unexpected – arrival of the Orange Crested Red and Yellow Butter Bird. Magnificent isn’t he-she-it? I know, I know – birding is serious. And no, I am not serious. Just enjoying myself with a red here, a yellow there, a brown underneath, and lovely black outlines.
When childhood meets second childhood, things like this happen. Just sit back, enjoy them, and think of Canada. And yes, I am amused. Why shouldn’t I be?
Oh yes – and Happy Birthday Old Salt – Vive l’Acadie – et bonne fête d’Acadie – and don’t forget Stella Maris and the Blessing of the Fleet.
There used to be “Blue birds over, the White cliffs of Dover” – and I remember how white and bright they were, when I was a teenager, returning from my summers in France and Spain, to see them, shining, and to know that I would soon be back in England – an England I no longer recognize.
Windmills, cliffs collapsing, line-ups for miles of trucks and traffic waiting to make their way into a Europe that we rejected. I remember travelling to France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal and always being welcome. I remember the days when, as a pre-teen and an early teen, visas were still necessary for entry into some countries. And I remember how, later, with a European Passport, I was welcomed as a member of a larger community.
The Latin Mass, a common factor throughout Europe in my youth, now celebrated in many languages, is only open to those who speak those languages. Progressive or Retrograde? I guess, like beauty, everything is in the eye of the beholder. De gustibus non est disputandum – and that’s how it should be. But I long for that freedom, that sense of adventure, that sense of belonging that once, so long ago, I knew.
And yes, I wish I could still see those bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover, not just lines of lorries and piles of portaloos and stress and discontent and impatience and misery. Just sign me sad, I guess, but now I know why those bluebirds are blue.
This has been a time when words have failed me. Thanks to the presence of Finley in the house, my painting and drawing has been restored and I have once again begun to see a new world of shape and color through the eyes of a small child. Small? She is tall for her age and very, very visual. This morning we did online jigsaw puzzles – all art and patterns – and fractals!
Words may fail, but they are ever present. Bas bleu, well we all know what that means in the world of French academia where I once lived, a long, long time ago. Bas bleu clair – well they are light blue, aren’t they? And, like the revolutionary sans culottes, my figure walks barefoot, à pieds nus, that is to say, without shoes, sans chaussures.
I don’t know who started playing with words and cartoons, but Goya was a master at doing so, in his etchings. So words and visions linked, all in a playful game of allusion / elusion. What a wonderful world, that of the childlike, playing mind.
Not everything turns out the way you want it to, and some experiments are total failures. Just look at the poor snowman in these cartoons.
On the left – “I won’t believe in global warming until April or May.”
On the right – “April May be too late.”
Oh dear – all those crows and doggy dump time. How embarrassing.
As for me, I tried painting today with my paint and draw kit on my computer. What a disaster: I handle a mouse even more clumsily than I handle a paint-brush. I was going to publish the ‘first attempt’ as a warning to others. But it wouldn’t convert. So I looked for a better idea: no innovation and back to the tried and true.
Oh Moo of little faith.
This isn’t a poem, so there’ll be no sound track with this one. “Oh brothers and sisters I bid you beware – of giving your heart for a snowman to tear – especially when the sun is warming the air.”
Comment: It all happened a long time ago now, but one never forgets. The desire to reach out and help and comfort any and all sufferers is still with me. This is the link for my book, A Cancer Chronicle.
I remember my mother and father fighting “like cats and dogs” as my grandparents used to say. Now, my grandparents had a cat. It was black and white and striped like a zebra. They called it Spot. My parents had a dog. It was an English Cocker Spaniel, gold in color, and off-spring to a famous sire. They called it Wimpy but it was by no means a wimp and fought with everything in sight, especially the cat.
So when my father and mother fought and the family cat and dog fought, I thought, quite reasonably in my opinion, that dogs (with their short hair) were male and cats (with their long hair) were female, and that was the reason why they fought like cats and dogs. And “never the twain shall meet” as my grandparents used to say about my mother and father and the cat and the dog. I guess it was too early to learn about the birds and the bees when, young and all too innocent, I was learning about the cats and the dogs.
And of course it’s only natural that the twain should meet. My mother and my father, the cat and the dog, had to meet somewhere, didn’t they? How else would I be here? We weren’t the sort of family that practiced contraception by throwing stones at the storks to keep the babies away. But I could never work out why the cat always had female kittens while the dog had all-male off-spring. That was a bit too much for me, and nobody ever explained anything in those days.
And look, in spite of the differences between them, even cats and dogs can sometimes live together in peace. And opposites can and do attract, don’t they?
So, I can’t draw dogs, nor people, nor reality. But I can draw spirits, and moods, and emotions. This is NOT my neighbors’ dog. It is the spirit of their dog: energy, joy, happiness, and total and complete love. What more could a doggy want or an artist, however useless, do.
Boo: I salute you. Woof!
Original drawing, dated 9 August 2014, can be found in my drawing notebook of that year. I used it as a model for the painting, was completed on Tuesday, 30 November 2021.
Just out today, thanks to my good friend Jared who turned a difficult task into a simple one. And yes, this is my first art book, though there are two more, at least, to come. Thanks to Patti too for the delightful portrait of the author as a flower-child. That was some time ago. This is a very limited edition. Best friends only – BFF. NB The photos are rotten. I apologize for that. However, the cartoons are very special. Here are the two on Climate Change, much debated, sometimes denied, but all too true for this poor snowman.
Climate Change aka
“I won’t believe in climate change until April or May.”
Memories deceive me with their falsehoods, flashing shadow shapes, shifting with a move of the fingers, dog into man, shift, man into a frightened mouse, squeaking, like the ungreased iron-rimmed wheels on a farm-cart with its load of hay and snapping dogs. Watch out for the horse’s sideways kick, for the sting of the farmer’s cruel whip, for the dogs’ white teeth.
What magic lantern now slips its subtle slides across night’s screen? Desperate I lap at salt-licks of false hope that increase my thirst and drive me deeper into thick, black, tumultuous clouds.
My grandfather in the trenches, drenched in a gas cloud, groping, choking, invalided home, returning, so brave, to face that gas grave again and again, only to cough up the last of his tortured lungs thirty years later. I remember him bent over the table, struggling for breath, balancing his hesitant life against an immanent death. Today it is
so different. A pandemic storm lays waste to memories that dog my mind. At night a black dog hounds me, sends my head spinning, makes me chase my own tail, round and round. It snaps at dreams, shadows, ghosts of family members who drift, slowly fading, through my mind.
I try to track them through Ancestry, through Tarot Cards and Tea Leaves but they are all lost in a Mad Hatter’s illusion of a dormouse adrift in a teapot in an unkempt nursery rhyme of a tail within a tale and hunter home from Caer-Filthy hill, I return to find my house empty, my deserted body devastated, my future a foretold mess.