Home on the range

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Well, sort of – although this isn’t home, rather a borrowed kitchen in the summer where we cooked some great food for all the family. However, the range – or the stove is a wonderful place of retreat when everything is going to hell in a handcart, and that certainly seems to be the case in the UK where we, or the government, have managed to create an extra crisis as if environmental extinctions and global heating weren’t bad enough. We’re poised on the edge of withdrawing from the EU in pursuit of some bizarre dream that we can relocate in another age.  Even a member of our family (fortunately not one we have to see very much of) opined yesterday that it would be lovely to go back to the 60’s.  ‘Be careful what you wish for’, I thought, as I tried not to bite the end off my tongue.

It all adds up to a terribly depressing and stressful time as we are being lured into a distraction robbery by a bunch of people I would gladly introduce to some of the unregulated dark and satanic mills I’ve had the misfortune to work in. BUT – it is what it is, and we may yet escape from the gimlet eyed brexit evangelicals.  Tomorrow will tell.

So today was supposed to be a bit of R & R after a very busy week and my first thought was to do some drawing, but that idea soon wilted like a warm lettuce as he “what’s the point” feeling swept over me.  There were jobs lining up on the list so in the end we went to the garden centre and bought the first seeds for the 2020 season, and ordered some more on the internet.  Preparing for the spring does, at least, inject a bit of joy into the procedings and thereafter I tied myself to the cooker and cooked as if my life depended on it. I quite enjoy batch cooking and so I did 6Kg of ragu to be portioned up for the freezer, I roasted a chicken, flaked the meat off and made stock, I made tomato soup with yet another batch of fruit, drank copious expressos and forgot that we have virtually no freezer space – that’s the problem with displacement activity, it always seems to displace the most important bit of the brain.

One aspect of the difficulty with getting on with drawing is the fact that we’ve just been to an exhibition of the Bath Society of Botanical Artists. In fact we’ve been twice and I’ll probably find an excuse to go again.  My teacher has a piece in, and she’s also recently published a book which I bought. She (Julia Trickey – “Botanical Artistry”, Two Rivers Press) is inspiring and daunting, and she’s a great teacher.  When I look at my work after having seen some of the work on display, I know I’ve got a million miles to go.  My last big project ended in hundreds of preparatory drawings and photos but collapsed in the face of the challenge.  Being the kind of person I am, (I hate failing), one of the purchases in the garden centre was a single hyacinth bulb which, when it flowers, will enable me to complete the project and move on. You can’t wait for inspiration to call, it has to be willpower plus technique, I’m not Michelangelo!

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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