Monday, 29 August 2011

Bank hol

30th August. Bank Holiday.

I don’t have to worry so much about doing something useful and using my day well today, I can let myself off the hook as this is officially a national holiday.

I bought my first Xmas present today – madness, it is still August, but you have to buy appropriate things when you see them. It was a shopping trolley for my mother. She probably won’t like it, but she might dislike it less than other things.

An estate agent is following me on Twitter. A bit sinister, I wonder what he wants?

There is a large lorry parked at the end of the road with an array of kettle drums and large lights on the back. A few black people have gathered around, leaning on it, straining to look happy. The Notting Hill carnival really gets going to day and this thing looks as welcome to me as an armed tank.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Back in fantasy land NHS

Sat 27th August

Yesterday I had to go to Queen Charlotte’s hospital for “pre-clerking” for my operation to remove an incisional hernia, caused by a scalpel.
I got a text message from the Imperial College group, so cutting edge in technology, but unfortunately they told me to go to the wrong hospital, instructing me to go to Hammersmith at 10.30 am. I knew was going back into the Victor Bonney ward, where I was before, at Charlotte’s.
I set out early as usual, not wanting to hang around at home. At 8.30am I got to my picture framers in Nottinghill, collected some paintings and then walked to the hospital arriving just after 9am.
They saw me right away, which was great, and I left at 10.30. When I got home I realised that the time given for the appointment on a letter from Charlotte’s was 9am – so I got there in time purely by whim!
I am back on the dreaded Victor Bonney ward next week, but I am now worried because at the clerking they didn’t give me any letter to show when I get there, so it might be tricky. I have been there twice before and both times they said I had come on the wrong day and there was no bed for me, even though there was. It was chaotic and the nurse on the desk surly and rather aggressive, whistling through here teeth at me, as if my turning up was a damn nuisance to her. If I arrive at 7 am without a letter they will probably do this again.
I hope to be out the same day, but no one is sure. The doctors talked about staying in another day if I needed to, and when I get home having community support from a district nurse if necessary. I know from experience that this is fantasy.
Any how, Victor Bonney here I come.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Down with Haghighi


See on line that the latest issue of Artists & Illustrators magazine has a feature in it about the techniques of Lucien Freud, the dear departed. Hunt around all the magazine shops in central London, but can’t find a copy. It isn’t even in the Smiths at Charing Cross station. Finally track it down to the book shop inside the National Portrait Gallery where a bad tempered boy points it out to me.
The feature is very basic and not very accurate about the great painter’s life at all. It does describe his palette which is interesting.
It’s a magazine very much for Sunday and casual painters, but there is an interview at the end with the Iranian artist, Raoof Hahighi, who has been short listed for the BP Portrait Award.
In the Q & A he says he's "never found painting difficult." If all his work is like the one in the BP Portrait show I am not surprised - it does not resemble a real painting to me, there are no visible brush marks and it is so hyper-real that it looks just like a photograph.
I used to spend hours every year going round the BP exhibition, now I get round it in about ten minutes. It used to contain wonderful paintings which were both highly skilled and expressive, now it’s full of vast blown up images, copied from slides taken by the ambitious "artist" all I suspect desperate to be some kind of celebs.
Hahighi also says that difference between painting in Iran and here, an interesting question one would have thought, is that "in the UK, the value of venue-based professional development support for artists is critical."
I am sorry, but I have no idea what that means. The person doing the interview, or editing the magazine should have stopped him there.

PM seems a bit woolly

Following the mass pillage in our multi-culti cities, David Cameron talked about the need for new values in what he calls "Broken Britain," but he has just adorned Number 10 with a neon nightclub sign from Tracey Emin.
She claims it will "give the place more edge," and surely represents the most nihilistic and narcissistic art movement this country has ever produced.
Whenever she opens her mouth you get a full blast of proud chav illiterate, the down with education, grab what you can of fame and celebrity culture which I thought he wanted us to hastily leave behind.

cringes all round

Toby Young has pitched into the David Starkey persecution. In his column in the Spectator he says he believes along with Starkey that there should be a "genuine conversation" about the taboo topic of race, but he distances himself from the man, as he seemed to imply that black culture was at fault.

Below his column was a cartoon by Michael Heath showing three white boys looting. I have noticed the same in all the cartoons I have seen since the riots, even in Private Eye, they never show black people misbehaving. Is there some cultural cringe among cartoonists, whom I assume are mostly white males, about lampooning black people?
Quite accidentally, they make modern day Britain look white.

Dr Starkey

Wake from my painting frenzy to hear that dear old Professor David Starkey has got in troubled by making some comments on News Night. Apparently he said that the riots have been caused by problems in the black community, and he mentioned an "enforced silence on the matter of race."
I watched the special BBC Question Time just after the riots and in the whole programme the words "black community" were not mentioned once. As the problems in that community still cannot be discussed by right thinking people we viewers were left with nothing but a pile of flannel.
When I first came to London, just before the Brixton riots I lived in Lambeth. I was shocked by the level of violence in the streets, the constant mugging and harassment carried out by young black men. I quickly grasped that it wasn't done to mention this, it was just accepted as a fact of life. The first time I was attacked, walking home one night, I wrote a piece about it which appeared in the Guardian. I received a letter telling me that because I had mentioned that my assailant was black, I was being reported to the "Race Today Collective." Later when I was mugged a second time, I was accused by my neighbours of using "racist body-language." After that I gave up on the area and my left-wing friends. Happy Days!

Did I learn anything?


I was upset before I went to my last three monthly check-up, then had a horrid sense of anti-climax afterwards, so I didn't feel as happy as I should have, that it was all clear.

Walking up to Ealing in the rain yesterday I wondered if I had learned anything from all this. Too early to tell, but I think I have some historical insights. For instance there is a photo in the latest issue of The Spectator, taken in 1945, of a teenage boy in soldier’s uniform and great coat, crying in misery as he is forced to fight for Hitler, even though the war is really over.
It’s a heartbreaking picture. Poor lad, I wonder if he survived. Then I consider why no one rescued him, crept out of their rubble and beckoned him in to a place of greater safety. I remembered standing next to a woman after my last check-up, as we were both leaving the clinic, fixing a time for our next visit.
I’d escaped without any bad news but she was panicking, saying over and over, “the doctor has told me to come back in six months, but I usually come back only once a year. Why did he say that, why should I come back sooner?” She got no reply from the bored girl behind the desk.
I should have said to her, go back to the doctor now and ask him. Don’t go home with all that anxiety. But I didn’t. I didn't help her. I said nothing and stood there cold and numb.
In life and death situations, if you feel you have just survived something awful, the pressure of it seems to blow out all the extra air, all the space you had in your head for thoughts and manoeuvre, and altruism.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Follow up


"Why, he that cuts off twenty years of life/Cuts off so many years of fear of death."
Cassius in Julius Caesar. Act 3 Sc.I.

Just read a paragraph I wrote in New York while I was lying on my giant bed in the Plaza Hotel, pillows piled up by my head like Mont Blanc:

“I felt a tiny stirring, a seed of something telling me that all might be well again, just as Lord Saatchi put in his letter. I might even live a normal life again go on with it for years to come. But I am too superstitious to say this out loud.”

Had my three months blood test yesterday and now I don’t feel that stirring at all. All those fragile seeds have fallen out of my bag.
I should have fixed it all up as soon as I got back to the UK, but I left it, so I would do an art course next week and get the results a week later than usual. Now I don’t feel good about that at all – I underestimated my own fear, which is mostly smothered but apparently still there. I won’t be able to sleep easy now until I have got the result on the 25th.
They are doing the clinic at Queen Charlotte’s where I first got the full diagnosis in May 2010 and the doctors seemed so brutal. It won’t be nice going back there – why can’t we just do it over the phone instead of all that ceremony?
My cancer count thingy, PS 125 was very low, down to five. The normal for everyone is between 0-30. It started out at 7 and that was very good, but if it has now gone up at all, even back to 7 I will be in deadly anxiety. I now realise that this reading could easily become an obsession.

New Start


I wanted to say nothing in this new blog about cancer – but that seems impossible.
I got the results of my last blood test on Monday 25th at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital. That was after a dash from Chelsea & Westminster where they are planning to treat the Carpal Tunnel problem in my worn out left hand – I am falling apart, bits are decaying fast!
The doctor at Charlotte’s was very pally. The result was fine, but she said that although following a good diet will help you to avoid cancer in the first place, it can’t stop an old one coming back. So that area of control I had has gone. Eating good food and trying to help myself with every mouthful had become my hobby but now that is over.
She also said that the test itself, the CA125 is not reliable – and we all cling to that for hope. Felt very deflated and after that rather depressed.
Despite the queue of other clients waiting, she wanted to spend time with me, and asked about how I feel psychologically. I didn’t feel like going into it at that moment but I feel like a child after a bad dream, afraid to sleep again. Someone who has had a bad burglary and now wants to move away and forget it but can’t.
On top of this I’ve got that middle aged thing, feeling that my life has gone all wrong. This going wrong did start very early, at the moment I was conceived in fact, somewhere in Wales.
My mother who was 18 and unmarried seemed to think she could get away with going on holiday with an older man with a flash car, and come out of it virgin pure. She couldn’t and when she found she was pregnant she went into a kind of wild hysterical melt-down, refusing food but taking to drink and cigarettes.
Not long after I was born very small and shrivelled, she gave me away. When I met her she told me she had regretted it, but only later. After handing me over she put it out of her mind but six months later she was coming home on the bus from her job in a Dinky toy factory in Charlton, when she suddenly realised that she’d got rid of me and collapsed.
When you adopt a child the mother can change her mind up to six months – she was hit by realisation just after that date passed. Her mind allowed her to do it by blotting it out until it was effectively too late.
After that I was dead to her though I think, that was the moment I died for her. When I appeared in adult life it was like a nuisance ghost returning, or a poltergeist even, as I messed up her tranquil life for awhile.
My original London family had photos taken of me before I was adopted, all done up in fine white linen as if I was being laid out for burial. She gave me those photos. My adoptive mother and I had never seen pictures of me when I was that young. How perplexed and sad I looked, and I still am.
I've got to shake this off - buck up, pull my socks up, get on with it, as God said to Samuel, "Fill thy horn with oil, and go!"