All posts by Catie Halpin

An Accidental Autobiography

Here are some stories first published Facebook page. These are short simple vignettes of my everyday wanderings, people I meet, sights I see and general scrapes I get into, when I am out and about with or without the dog. I hope you enjoy them…

 

The Invisible Woman remembers… Prisoner 63745 and all other victims of genocide on Holocaust Memorial Day 27 January 2018

The Invisible Woman remembers… Prisoner 63745

The Invisible Woman meets… #70 63745. I only ever met two people in my life with who had numbers tattooed on their arms. The first was an old Polish lady who lived on our estate, she wore black and walked around in her belted overcoat and head scarf, never speaking to anyone. They said that she once had sons but they weren’t there. So there she was, the lady from the concentration camp in a council estate on the edge of Liverpool not speaking English or seeming to know anyone. I never thought at the time that she most likely didn’t understand what was said. She kept herself to herself.
The Second was the man from the 2p copy shop on Bethnal Green Road. He wore a very handsome toupee and very long cuffs on his shirt, every now and again you would catch a glimpse of the number that sent a kind of chill because you just couldn’t ask, as much as you wanted to.
I think this probably adds to my horror of tattoos, seeing them as something imposed and ruinous despoiling of the only thing you have, a countdown to death, no matter how fancy.

L’ Homme aux Camellias, 26th January 2018

I may have told you that if I take a left out of my front gate along the perimeter that shields the building site for the behind schedule, 32 affordable homes. Then take a left again, past the balconies of South facing unaffordable ones, for sale in the same new build, I come to a street of council houses, each with its own front garden, almost all neatly kept. Two thirds of the way along this terrace there is a tiny front yard that has been concreted over and in this little yard stands a tree.

The tree, a Camellia, may be older than the tenants, it is certainly older than the concrete that surrounds it. When whoever poured this concrete did the job, they left no room for this little tree to drink, as the hard grey  floor fits tight around its trunk. Each time I walk past I tip it the nod thinking that one day I will be brave enough to knock on the iron grille that shields the front door and ask if I can break the concrete and free the tree. Other times I think I would like to take matters into my own hands, but sadly I never do.

I see this tree as a metaphor for triumph over adversity, as it stands there bravely squeezing every bit of moisture from the air that it can, in order to produce its beautiful deep pink flowers. There it waits and grows, alone and defiant in a sea of impermeable greyness whispering a parched ‘yes you can’ to passers-by. I look on in admiration overwhelmed by its strength of purpose, succeeding against all the odds.

I have often wondered who lives in the house, with its grille and its grey and its irrepressible green. Then tonight as I was walking the dog around that block I saw a big black four-wheel drive car, maybe a taxi, its passenger door open. On the pavement in front of me were two figures, speaking what I imagined was Polish. The older man was shorter and was speaking loudly to a woman at the front door. The younger man, in his early twenties, dark haired and very slight, stood silent, tall and frail, unable to move without help. I moved around him on to the road, as he stayed still, frozen, his three-footed rubber tipped stick in hand, waiting for the woman, who I presumed was his mother, to inch him gently, tenderly and very slowly into the house, past the budding camellia.

Somehow it made sense…

 

What would Jesus do? January 2018

Standing at the bus stop, on my way to the London Art Fair courtesy of Eddie Carpet, when an elderly lady asks me if the bus will soon come.
We had a little chat about waiting and the weather at which point she told me that she had come all the way to Lidl to buy some bread but all she had was old money.
‘What do you mean, old money’
‘I only have a ten pound note and they won’t accept it, so I will have to go to the bank to change it and come back tomorrow’
She must be at least 75 and a tiny little lady.
‘How much do you need?’
‘About 75 pence’
‘Oh for goodness sake I can give you a pound, in this cold weather, after coming all this way’
At first she refused and I told her not to be daft and due to the cold weather and she’d just left church she accepted. She gave me a hug. How would she pay me back? I told her a quick word with the Lord on my behalf would do. I looked in my purse and all I had was a £2 coin. I made her take it under protest.
Off she trotted to the shop, within in the space of a couple of minutes the bus arrived and there she was a loaf in her bag and £1.25 in change which she gave me back bless her.
I asked her name, to which she replied ‘Patricia, just like you’.

I liked being an honorary Patricia for a bit.

One good deed and all that…

 

Liverpool The Singing City January 2016

My Nan, Liverpool 1978

To my Nan, to Auntie Maggie Philomena Young Clare Mason and all of the songs and all of the singers, to the squeeze box, to the fortune telling, the money lending, the goose they called Christina, to the tales of the auld days, to the winning of The Cup, To Father Tobin, a saint in himself, to the lost souls that washed the dead, to the uprooted and displaced, to Twinkletoes the bookies runner, to the walks from Croxteth to Kirby along the East Lancashire Road. To wearing a pocket at Great Homer Street market, to 8 Quarters of Fine Irish, to the Pier Head and the Landing Stage and waving off the liners on their way to New York, from to Scotland Road, to Blacklers and the exodus on the 14C bus back home. To my growing up thinking that every story ends with a gag…

http://www.liverpoolpictorial.co.uk/blog/liverpool-the-singing-city-1965/

 

On the news of Carillion Contractors demise January 2018

Written as a Carry On film

‘Carillion Up The Contractors’, A 2018 British comedy about a bunch of cowboy builders. Stars Phillip Green, Richard Howson, David Liddington, RBS, Barclays, other banks, the Tory Government, The Official Receiver, Taxpayers and 43,000 workers.

Wild adventures and misadventures of co-partners in an unconventional building agency. Phillip Green, Chairman of Carillion Contractors – promises to do any job, big or small-is in a quandry. Accompanied only by a failing government and huge bank loans he is desperate to find someone to bail him out.

Meanwhile at the government hapless David Liddington tells its workers to Carry On Working, as there is still a high speed rail link to finish as well as all of those prisons, schools and hospitals. So when bankers get wind of Carillion’s troubles they call in a motley crew of administrators.

This is when the fun begins…

The Hands of Dead Celebrities remembers… Peter Wyngarde

The Hands of Dead Celebrities remembers… Peter Wyngarde

Did you know that Peter Wyngarde’s real name was Cyril Goldbert, born in Marseille, to a French mother and British father, a Merchant Navy seaman. He claimed that his real father was a British diplomat and that Cyril was born was actually born as Paul Wyngarde. He may also have been born at anytime between 1924-33. His mother Madge Godbert nee Ahin, lived in Singapore, was a Swiss national who remarried and moved to Malaysia. Wyngarde claimed at one point that his mother was a racing car driver.
His father a Mr H Goldbert, was most likely a Russian Jewish immigrant who lived in Liverpool. Although the Peter Wyngarde Appreciation Society (yes he has his own appreciation society PWAS), deny the fact that Henry Godlbert was his father and that his father was a diplomat who lived in Eaton Square. Seemingly, there is no actual record of Wyngarde senior in electoral records or anywhere else.
Wyngarde also suggested that Louis Jouvet, French actor was his uncle, according to my sources, this too may have been a slight stretch of the truth.

RIP Peter Wyngarde, especially as Jason King, you suave old sleuth with your wine, cigarettes and tops cut down to there, not to mention all that hair

 

These are short simple vignettes of my everyday wanderings, people I meet, sights I see and general scrapes I get into, when I am out and about with or without the dog. I hope you enjoy them…

 

‘I see the Moon and the Moon sees me’  2nd January 2018

Last night on my way home from a nice pub lunch and a couple of sherbets, a friend and I saw a hooded figure sitting on a bench with his shopping trolley full of his meagre possessions. His head was bowed as the massive Wolf Moon looked down upon him, unnoticed by this hunched figure.
My friend and I headed past, towards our homes when she turned to offer the late middle aged man a fiver. He stood up, politely refusing to accept the money as he was not a beggar. He claimed that if he accepted money then that would be the last straw, as he wanted to improve his life and was merely the victim of reduced circumstances. He said that if people offered him something to eat or drink that he would accept it, I suggested we go to the corner shop to get him something, but that was just the money in disguise, so again he refused the offer. He also warned us against giving money to beggars as it often went into the holes in their arms or down their necks, to be pissed up the wall.
I asked him where he was staying, he replied that he was camping. It felt like it was about to rain as we wished him well and by this time, disturbed from his contemplation he trudged off into the dark, pulling his worldly goods behind him, hoping for a better future.

‘God Bless the Moon and God Bless me’

 

Christmas with my Nan 21 December 2017

‘I’d like eight quarters of Fine Irish please’… my sister and me on the day before Christmas Eve, jumping on the number 14c to Broadway, the parade of shops that was almost as exciting as town, but not as tricky to navigate without parental control. Broadway had shoe shops that sold patent leather pumps for kids (not that we got them, our shoes came from Johnnie Flynn, the Tuff shoe man who came to the house bearing boxes of more sensible footwear), an old school chandler’s, they call them hardware stores these days, turned into a glittering emporium selling all things Christmas. This is where we took our own money to buy presents for our family. I usually bought bath cubes for me Mum, those stinky scented blocks wrapped in gold with a paper band bearing a picture of whatever flower that it had perfumed, most often Lily of the Valley or Lavender. My Nan normally got a set of six rose shaped individual soaps that were coloured in pastel shades of pink, violet and yellow and came in a long, printed box covered in cellophane. After looking through everything Woolworth’s had to offer, records, Pick n Mix, make-up and fairy lights, we’d visit Ethel Austin, the knicker lady, to peruse the nylon stockings, to wondering what they had in the wallpaper shop that might be remotely suitable for our Dad, most likely something Pozidriven, then finally, we went to the tobacconists…

I was around eight and my sister Collette 10. The snuff shop to me was the best bit of Christmas shopping, buying my Nan’s ‘eight quarters of Fine Irish please’. I was barely able to see the top of the counter, as I reached up to hand the lady the money. She would stand and weigh out eight individual quarter ounces and decant them into paper cones each one twisted at the end. These would then be handed to us in a bigger paper bag and off we would go, back on the bus, three bags full. When we got home we’d pass my Nan her booty and she’d say ‘Come here, don’t tell your Mother’ she’d then place a line of snuff on our hands, in the crease between finger and thumb and up we’d sniff, euphoric from the trip and the naughtiness that ensued.

Up at the crack of dawn Christmas Eve with my sister and the little ones Sheila and Clare, to queue up for a dozen cream cakes and a tub of Devon Whip from Sayers the Bakers. That’s when Christmas started proper

IT IS WRONG  20 December 2017

Last night as I walked around the block I saw a young man, normal looking enough, as I stated in one of those grey track suits that the yoot wear in Hackney. He was searching through the recycling bins. IT IS WRONG and it is playing on my mind, he is just a normal teenager, on his way home, he could be your son, or mine. There is no point in crying about it, I know, but God knows what the poor kid was looking for at that time of night. I hardly slept woke at around three, nervous and fretting. The only thing that took my mind off it was worrying that I could no longer teach 3 point perspective, off the top of my head. Spent another hour trying to work that one out, just in case anyone broke in at four in the morning demanding a drawing lesson.

International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s to the woman that I saw sitting on a bench as I left the house at 3.00pm this afternoon, to that woman sat staring looking head bent over her shopping, her hood raised, her eyes not focused with the weight of the world on her shoulders.
Happy International Woman’s Day to the woman who crossed her path down Broadway Market on her way to get a drawing framed of another woman’s mother.
Happy International Woman’s Day to the woman who served me in the shop. Happy International Woman’s Day to the young woman still sitting at 3.45pm, still staring, surrounded by shopping bags, as I made my promise “if she is still there later I will have to speak to her, to make sure she is fine’.
Happy international Woman’s Day to my sisters, in our grief and in our love.
Happy International Woman’s Day to the woman who I passed at 6pm just sat there looking, just bent over, just all done, just still waiting.
‘if she is still there on my way back I will say something’.
Happy international Woman’s Day to my friend who bought me a drink, to the young barmaid who stroked the dog and got snapped at as a result, yet took it in good stead, thanks for the lady laugh.

HIWD to the 40 odd, entitled pony tail swingers, as they ran in their IWD Tees, on their way back from a ‘group jog’, pounding on the pathway towards me and my chihuahua, not caring whether they scared either the dog or me. Congratulations ladies and if I demanded you ‘get off the pavement’, I meant that as a group even International Women can be a negative challenge.
Happy International Women’s Day to the women I met on their way back from the funeral of their friend
Happy International Woman’s Day to the woman at 7.30pm, still sat there confused, surrounded by her bulging shopping bags.

I approached her ‘Are you OK? You have been sitting here for a long time’
She was young, she shook her head, stood up and examined her bags.
‘I am concerned about you, can I help? would you like some money for a cab?’ She shook her head.
As she collected herself and her possessions I asked again ‘can I help you?’ Again she shook her head, by now I was not even sure if she spoke English, all I knew was that she was confused and distressed.
She collected her bags and moved on as I bore witness to her distress.
I crossed the road turning back to watch this silent figure making her way slowly along Mare St, every 25 yards stopping to drop and rearrange her burden.

Happy International Woman’s Day to the woman I asked ‘excuse me it’s International Woman’s Day I can see a woman in distress what should I do? Thank you for stopping and being interested.
Happy International Woman’s Day to all who care and bless those who are overwhelmed by their worries and to those who carry their lonely bags in the face of this Malestrom, the beauty that is life..

The Fall at the Empire

The Viscountess Lady Helena Handcart

The Knight of the Hunter in his Don’t Look Now Halloween Costume

Just on my way back from downtown Hackney, after buying the fabric for Hunter, my dog’s Halloween costume (he was to go as the little meat cleaver wielding killer in Don’t Look Now) and doing a favour for a pensioner who shall remain nameless. Primark bag in hand and a sack full of pound a bowl fruit and veg.
Outside the Hackney Empire a youngish Evangelical Christian man approaches me brandishing a leaflet with a cross on the front. I decline politely and carry on my way.
He calls me back. I turn ‘It’s a story about an English lady, a posh English lady. She goes to HELL’.
‘How dare you call me POSH!’
I walked the walk of the damned, with the sound of his warning ringing in my ears.

Broadway Market Pieta
Tonight, as I was walking home I saw a woman sitting outside the pub, cradling with what I perceived to be a small child curled up in her lap. I walked past and as I carried on I saw it was the young woman who I have given money to over recent years, there she was tiny, tremulous sniffing openly from an aerosol can of lighter fluid. In better days, the can is hidden up her sleeve as she tries and talks and begs for change.
The reason I tell you this is that I am very sad and nonplussed by the truth that I carried on walking, but felt that this was no longer my business, there was nothing more I could do, other than complicate matters by ideas driven by ignorance and good intentions.
Do I give her money?
Can I give her any more time?
No, she should not be in this position but there is honestly nothing more that I could think of that I could do, other than share this moment and tell you that the way that the seated woman stroked the girl’s hair was filled with empathy and affection, hopefully the young woman will be there tomorrow and yes I will give her money and she will stroke my dog and life will go back to normal.

Eulogy for a Dead Baby

poor baby rat

Yesterday evening I was walking along the Regent’s Canal on my way to see a rather spotty young friend and count her Chicken Pox. I had the dog on the lead and to the inside, a man in a white top came rushing by on his bicycle, I shouted to him to ‘slow down’ a couple of minutes later a big old 15 stone man came thundering past on his bike, really close to me. I shouted after him to ‘SLOW DOWN’, then a big man in lycra and a helmet came weaving through the walkers. I haven’t even mentioned the joggers and their thumping feet, can you imagine the stress for a 3kg chihuahua, so close to the ground?
As i came towards Victoria Park I saw in the distance a young blonde woman standing behind her bike as the men thundered and the joggers sweated. there she was standing, staring. Coming the other way was a woman and her friend, with a Staffie on a lead, so I stood with the girl behind her bicycle to let them pass. Then the young woman in white said ‘I think I should move him” I looked over to see what she was staring down at and there it was a little baby rat, run over, squashed by a big fat cyclist, killed in a hit and run.
‘I think I should just roll it into the canal, I feel so sorry for it’ she said. I thought that this was a bad idea as it would just bloat up and rot away. I felt it better to move it into the grass where it would at least get eaten by something else in the night.
All of the time bicycles were whizzing past and runners were racing along as we attempted a solution to this sad little life cut short. I took a photograph of the creature, lying perfectly still, with its new little pink hands and feet facing to the sky. I pulled out a poo bag to offer the girl so that she could pick up the body ‘but what if it’s still alive’ she asked.
‘it’s very definitely dead. Here you go’ as I brandished the bag.
‘Oh I’m pregnant’
‘Well you certainly pulled that one out of the bag at the last minute’
We agreed that it was a bad idea for her to pick it up and I was certainly not going to do it, being a coward an all. We agreed that the best thing was for it to just lie there, ignored by the traffic and hope that it would be some creatures midnight feast.
I feel bad that I didn’t move it, but no one’s perfect.

Never give your daughter hard lenses Mrs Worthington:

 

Never give your daughter hard lenses Mrs Worthington:

glasses 1

Honestly there is nothing like the faint, yet unforgiving, tinny ‘tut’ of a Gas Permeable as it hits a surface somewhere nearby, languishing in a place that its bleary eyed owner can neither see nor move toward. At that very moment of acknowledgement, when Kelly’s Eye is all that there is and all you can do is stand stock still proclaiming for all you are worth.
Years ago when this happened and I was perhaps slightly worse for wear I might find myself shouting “Alice, Alice, AH—LICE-UH, you’ve got good eyes come and help me find this lens, It’s popped out and I am blind and drunk, but don’t move your feet when you are within the pinging distance’
My dear friend Alice has been through this ceremony with me many a time and almost every time has declared ‘yes I’ve got brilliant eyes, I find lost stuff all of the time, I’m known for it, let me find my lighter’
So I, as the lens wearer am there patting myself down in the hope that the errant ocular add-on might be caught somewhere in my jerkin (it is probably a Monday night, 2007, mid December in a freezing cold bathroom, around 3.42 am and the guilt as well as the rot is setting in), waiting for my partner in crime to hover into the bathroom in case she crushes the lens and then all will be lost ‘Don’t let the dog in, the dog don’t let it in, he might lick it and then that’s £80 down the drain and these lenses are still on tick to Mr Shah’
So, tonight just as I am coming to terms with my midweek middle aged self I misjudge the placing of the second lens into its little pot and there it is, that sound, that brittle boned clatter as the dry eyed dread sets in. I start patting down, feet still as an unmade man waiting to become part of Brooklyn Bridge, bending the bedside lamp towards the concrete floor, only to highlight the chunks of broken glass from a misdemeanour made many months ago ‘Oh God, that’s where the dog hides, he could have…’ Still no sign of the lens, for that is what we are searching for, then I remember that I have a mobile phone, with a torch, at the same time racing through my mind is the comfort in knowing that my glasses have two arms and are not held together by sellotape, so I could leave the house and at a push not fall over.
The torch sweeps under my bed, over my ‘dressing table’ (in reality a chest of drawers that I found outside The Conqueror years ago, when Steve and Sheila wore lampshades for hats and were the King and Queen of Shoreditch), when I spy that fragile disc sitting there drying like a piece of corral, ever more brittle with each passing second. All of a sudden my feet become unstuck as I place in its pot, squirt the fluid and close the lid.
I live to see another day.
Dedicated to Alice Urquhart

It’s A Hard World For Little Things Part 287902346283:

IAHWFLT

I was just heading down along Mare Street to my friendly local stationery shop when I saw a young woman ahead of me sporting a blue plaster cast that reached from her toes to her knee. She was struggling along on her crutches and carrying a shopping bag. I asked if she would like me to carry her bag and with a sigh replied ‘Yes please’. I explained that I knew how it felt and all that, when I asked her if she had any children ‘No children, no husband, no papers’, so felt all alone.
She was on her way back from the Red Cross in Dalston, where she was given a bag full of toiletries and we both had a bit of a laugh because with that plaster she can’t have a shower, so as well as the loneliness and the pain she feels grubby because she cant have a proper wash. She only had enough money for one bus journey so had to walk the second leg.
Mimi (that’s her name), came over illegally from France with her friend to seek asylum, fleeing from Eritrea. Her friend, fortunately has a small flat and she is staying there while she is unwell, but basically she is homeless, jobless and worried. Today the Red Cross have put her in touch with a solicitor who hopefully will help her. I walked her to her front door whereupon she asked me to come in for a cuppa, which I declined due to the fact that I was on my way somewhere else. Someone with nothing offering what she had, what a lovely thing.
The reason I am telling you this is to say that if you see someone struggling with a bag or anything else, whether it is a man or a woman, old or young, give them a hand it makes you both feel happy and the world a better place.

London Life

FIN
FIN 2012

It looks to me like London’s population is extremely stressed at the minute. The smack heads unable to move, one stuck, bent over a street sign, bearing the postcode of the dispossessed. A bald headed middle aged man wearing a Harrington jacket, ears turning purple as his head is thrown forward in a state of suspended animation. Next to him is a seated man, staring out into the great beyond, seeing nothing. The third of this tragic trio is a skinny young man with a straggly beard and no sense of anyone witnessing his quest to find a vein around the back of his knee to dig into. I walked past with a friend, hurried on horrified and jaded by the tableau vivant that was played out under her balcony.
I carried on my journey home after some certain respite, being cradled and comforted in the bosom the English countryside. I reached Hackney Road to hear the cacophony of car horns blaring, tempers rising with the rain threatening as the battleship grey clouds converged above the crossroads, emotions hung, battle lines drawn and resolve quartered. A Dominoes delivery scooter driver became embroiled with an irate car owner who gave the pizzaman a punch in the gap of his bike helmet, all the world watching the drama unfold, when two young men lurch out of a nearby kebab shop, dressed in matching cobalt blue polo shirts, one of them wielding a metal paddle with a wooden handle, the type that should only be used to take pizzas from a hot oven. The gladiators ready to take cobs out of each other.
Fortunately a couple of others stepped in to save everybody’s face, people upset, a poor delivery driver’s scooter bashed, a man almost done for GBH with his Pizza Paddle and the car driver finally quitting his posturing.
I walked away at this point weary of the futility that seems all pervasive in this city at the moment. I am not sure if I am just noticing more, or if the general mood is nihilistic and fractured, everyone with their tenterhooks at the ready, waiting to be hung out to dry by forces beyond their control.

It’s A Hard World For Little Things

Owl 2
Owl  Graphite on Paper 2012

Angus-Hughes Gallery, It’s A Hard World For Little Things, exhibition July 2015

The exhibition was the first in a two part multimedia show that included works drawn directly from the 1955 film The night of the Hunter, directed by Charles Laughton. It is one in a series of ten large-scale drawings that show an owl stalking a young bunny rabbit, to the moment where it swoops and we hear a screech. the scene is the inspiration for the title of the project and acts as a metaphor for the plight of the children in a cruel adult world.

Meanwhile over on Facebook…

 

Here are a selection of posts from facebook in February, that explain quite a lot of what goes on in The Outside World as it happened.  See them as vignettes of a life less orderly…

After Mariscal 1991
After Mariscal 1991

Don’t I know you?

Do you ever have those moments of resignation, they call it ‘going with the flow’ I think. The other day after the big fella under the bus incident i went for birthday brunch at a friend’s house. I had spent the evening before in my house drinking too much red wine with another friend so was slightly silverskin onion eyed by this time. I arrived late, after getting slightly lost due to the fact that I was visiting someone elses endz, but was pleased to have finally got there. A delicious brunch was had when the party decided to head for Clissold Park, just opposite. I came out of the side road chatting to a friend but then saw someone who I thought i recognised, but he was a bit chunkier, with a larger head. By this time my arms were were raising up and out in a wonderful warm ‘welcoming an old mucker’ gesture and my mouth way saying ‘Hi, how are you I didn’t rec…’, this was the point when I realised that I had made a mistake and in fact I had absolutely no idea who this person was.
He looked at me quite surprised, but from my enthusiastic greeting obviously thought that he had forgotten who I was but was too embarrassed to say so. All we could both think of to do was to carry on with the clinch, ask each other how we were and me saying how great it was to see him. I said hello to his girlfriend and wished them both a cheery goodbye.
Meanwhile my friend Alice Urquhart was ten yards down the round happy to witness the whole encounter and to see me mouth ‘I DON’T KNOW THAT MAN AT ALL’ as I walked away from them towards her.
I blame all of those illegal raves…

29/02/2016

Everyday turns out to be one of those days, sometimes

There are some days in Hackney when everything seems slightly exaggerated, I find. Today the drunks were super sloshed as if all of the drink was suddenly more potent and the street drunks more, well, drunk.
Early this afternoon I got off the bus at Dalston Junction to see an enormous man so drunk that he walked into the front of the stationary bus, realising what he had done he tried to save himself by rolling his massive girth along the front past the driver, until he got to the point where there was no bus left at which point he fell, smashing the bottle of half decent vodka that he was carrying and cut his hand. on falling he managed to somehow wedge himself under the driver in front of the front wheel. By this time a crowd had formed, all of us looking at this mammoth figure who had decided to lie there and assess his situation. I looked and thought if I try to pull him up he’ll end up pulling me down on top of him and that’ll be two of us covered in his blood. It took three men to lift him and steer him to the pavement, where I issued stern instructions for him to sit down before he fell. I left others to deal with it as he wasn’t listening to me.
Then this evening at about 6.00pm I was turning into Hackney Road just behind a young lad of eleven or twelve who was being hounded by a middle aged drunken man for ‘a couple of quid mate’. I waited for the boy who was really shocked bless him and told him to walk with me and gave him advice about not standing still when contfronted by someone in that state. I walked him to the chicken shop and as he went in he thanked me. The world can be scary when you start going out at night on your own as a youngster. I really appreciated the thank you, sweet child his parents should be proud of him.
Just now as I was giving the dog his last spin around the block I saw a couple weaving all over the pavement, bumping into people. I gave them a very wide berth.

28/02/2016

‘Fat Birds Don’t Do Performance Art’

I went to the Tate to see ‘Performing for the Camera’ last night. The Invisible Woman can confirm that ‘Fat Birds Don’t Do Performance Art’ nor do Black Women.

Saying that, when I was a student I had to do my final perfomance for my degree in ‘Expressive Arts’, before I came up with my idea I was informed that my tutors felt that I had already explored the realms of comedy and I was not to do anything funny. So I decided upon a performance that dealt with the weighty subject how anorexia affected young women.
It involved turning a changing room attached to the gym into a ‘fat room’ loads of ripped up sponge all over walls and floor covered with painted calico. At one end of the room I had built a gauze covered ‘fat stage’ where I was to perform. I had had my hair done in a nice bob for the occasion and had built myself a ‘fat suit’. This involved a white body stocking, the sort with uncomfortable poppers on the gusset. This was covered with a rough string construction with sandwich bags filled with orange jelly tied to my face, my breasts, my belly and all the rest of it.
The performance started with me stuffing my face with half a dozen coconut pyramids and a custard slice, Then I took a big sharp knife and began to slash away covering myself in orange jelly. So there I am with my jelly smeared bob, my now orange body stocking and what by now looked like some S&M rope outfit knotted around my purple mottled legs, being serious and tackling issues and all that.
As the distorted music box soundtrack squealed along I pulled on a cerise satin slinky dress with black spots that I had borrowed from Fiona Flynn nee Mills and squeezed my feet into some pink snake skin stiiettos and surveyed myself in a mirror that wasnt there. Red bob, pink dress, orange jelly and string. I liked what I saw and reached for the cakes.
It all went very well, until the examiners began to snort and giggle which was I started acting soft of course. This was due entirely to the fact that the external examiner was a day late due to severe a stomach upset and my display of viscerality hardly helped matter with neither sound nor visual effects.
That children was when education was free and we could wear jelly if we wanted.

27/02/2016

‘I’m not that sort’

I just wore another coat that is not the adolescent’s hand me down that I have been wearing for the past three years. I took the dog for a walk in my fun fur. I might try some different shoes tomorrow, ones without laces. Come the Spring you may even catch me in a skurt, but I wouldn’t bank on it.
Speaking of which, yesterday I went to see the physio about one of my legs, she was very discreet and asked me ‘Do you have any shorts that you could change into?’
‘I’m not that sort’ I replied.
She has asked me to try to bring some next time.

25/02/2016

Clean for the Queen

I have just been invited to ‘Clean for The Queen’. Meaning I am invited to be undertaking a job that someone should be paid for. Don’t Drop Litter was a good enough campaign, which is where I feel that the emphasis should be placed.
Saying that, I was once fined £80 by Hackney Council for brushing back out from the doorway of  the posh off licence that I was working in at the time. some dead leaves and a fag end that had blown in from the street  The council workers who witnessed this heinous act fined me personally, not the shop, stating that because the broom that I was using had touched my hands in the shop then the litter and therefore the littering became mine although the cigarette end and the leaves were the property of the shop.
Innit Shaun Tillyard

The PencilVainia Project: Baby

baby J sml

Baby, Graphite on Paper 2016

This is my most recent commission for The PencilVainia Project. It is a graphite on paper portrait of a baby stillborn at twenty two weeks. It was a very sensitive and emotional drawing to undertake and one which I undertook as a moment of healing for the mother who had commissioned the work for her husband. It has touched a nerve for many people on social media as they have messaged me their private stories and have been very open with their responses to the work.

The piece is small, but still larger than the tiny form portrayed. It was one of those drawings that are already formed and that as an artist I just follow as it produces itself on the page. This is not due to some spiritual or psychic response, but of all of those years of experience, of practice, of looking and refining, all of these aspects make up the discipline of being an artist and at times they come together with a fluidity that just carries me away and I give myself over to the experience.

I worked in a very considered way hardly allowing the pencil to touch the paper, looking and recognizing each tiny detail, to be remembered and celebrated. I stroked the graphite as softly as I could to feel the glistening skin shiny, still being formed, the tectonic plates of his skull moving towards each other. I wanted to celebrate that moment of his development. I included the tip of his mother’s finger under the forming hand as a symbol of their unity. he small form is surrounded by a blanket of white, not floating in space, but separate forever and yet a part of this life.

Art has the capacity to heal and when there is such a visceral response to a piece of work it is an amazing feeling.

BLACK EYED SUSAN

Opening Night at Arts Club East

Thursday evening and there we were at Arts Club East a members club that is the brainchild of legendary Shoreditch host, Gary Fairfull.

Gary host
Gary Fairfull, host at Arts Club East members club, Shoreditch

ACE shows a broad programme of events including exhibitions of work by members and other invited artists. Black Eyed Susan is a show of paintings that I was invited to exhibit throughout October and November. The work is shown alongside pieces from the permanent collection at the club

Sally Dunbar, Kelly Davitt & Me
Sally Dunbar, Kelly Davitt & Me

The club is a haven of quiet sophistication punctuated by raucous revelry when the situation demands.

Arts Club East
Nana & Colin

The opening night of BLACK EYED SUSAN demanded both and the visitors were not disappointed.

Arts Club East
Mat Ducasse contributor to and collaborator plays music

Cocktails and conversation flowed, arts discussed and legs shaken.

Arts Club East
Abdul & Cate with her hairy handbag
Arts Club East, Black Eyed Susan Opening Night
Keith, Abdul & The Knight of the Hunter

The show continues until 21st November Tuesday-Saturday 4pm-1am to members or by appointment to non members.

Arts Club East is to be found above…

The White Horse, 64 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ

Photographs © Craig Hunt

The Invisible Woman at Hantverk & Found

The Invisible Woman meets…

  Julian on the opening night

Well what a weekend that was. I arrived on Wednesday to begin setting up downstairs in the gallery underneath Hantverk & Found’s fabulous seafood restaurant, the brainchild of chef Kate de Syllas.  Kate has been open for around two months and is bringing something new both as a restaurateur and as a curator, to the regeneration of the old town, close to Margate’s sweep of English seafront.

The opening night of the show was a great deal of fun with visitors to the gallery persuaded to look through the eyes of The Invisible Woman, including having their photos taken, wearing the green eyed mask of visibility. The resulting photographs will be on show and added to the installation at the gallery throughout its run.

Hantverk & Found is just around the corner from Turner Contemporary, which shows an impressive array of internationally recognised artists.  At the moment Grayson Perry is showing his Provincial Punk range of pots, puns, industrial sized tapestries and a couple of flickery films celebrating Claire’s (Perry’s alter ego) pinkie in the air brand of suburban sophistication.  It was very busy when I went, as it was the weekend that the Vauxhall Art Car Boot Fair Charabanc parked up behind the bike sheds of TC. The VACBF is formerly a London based institution that over recent years has loaded up it wares and taken its caravan to the coast. This is a fair where traditionally, artists of every kidney open their metaphorical handbags to clean out the crumbs to sell the contents.

There were dancers in knitted cozzies, jigging like disco mad deck hands, as well as artists wearing stick on ‘taches, a dog in a tutu, a man sprawled in car boot, serenading passers by with his mimed siren songs, heard only by those who listened carefully, all showing alongside the art world workhorses, those that lure the flippers and welcome the families. The queues five deep waited nicely for their fistfuls of potential dollars, in the form of limited edition prints and covetable knick-knacks, as well as all sorts of glamorous ‘what have you’s’, that maybe one day will pay to get the kids through college.

Then there was the beacon of all that is new, exciting and black and green, that is, Hantverk & Found. The stall featured work by four artists, there was Sam Simmons with his SAMZINE, a monthly publication by Sam who is a local poet and reviewer of all that you need to know about the arts and music scene in Margate. Much of SAMZINE is hand written and appears as a free flowing train of thought mixed in with some intimate poems that give an insight into waking up after the night before, when the bands played and the reviews were written. Jason Pay is a photographer who lives in Margate and the work he showed was a series of ethereal Polaroids, deftly catching the moment where the sea and the sky become one massive fluid canvas, set in a 2×3 inch print. Tom Swift brought along his collection ‘Container’ prints and T Shirts that give the viewer a glimpse of the ever-present container ships anchored just out of reach on the Margate horizon. His work mixes the fluidity of gouache with a wry black lined commentary of life on the Kent coast. His work is next up at Hantverk & Found, opening at the end of September for a month. Illustrator and music lover, Angela Federico‘s collection of the named, shamed and feted faceless, iconic hairdo’s of ‘Stars Without Eyes’ appeared on a range T Shirts, mugs and bags, were popular with the queuing throng. Finally, I took along some ‘Fido at the Lido’ A4 drawings that featured kittens in cups and dogs not allowed on the beach, accompanied by Saucy Seagulls Scoffing chips. By four o’clock it was all over bar the shouting and we retreated en masse to be served buckets of mussels with white wine, supplied by our hostess Kate. Karen Ashton organiser of the VACBF turned up at H&F in a whirl of post boot fair excitement, already making plans for next year.

This also gave me a chance to show more folk around The Invisible Woman, in the basement gallery, talking them through the frieze of over 250 6 x 4in High Street printed photographs, all bearing the flashing green eyes of The Invisible Woman, she who empowers the unsung and appreciates the unrecognised heroines and heroes, contemporary and historical. The eyes are all taken from one photo and are applied with care to each subject, highlighting an aspect of the story of each chosen  subject . There is all too often a quick visual gag, but always with a point to make or a story to tell.

I didn’t leave until Monday, when the heavens opened in true seaside style and back to The Smoke I came.

The Invisible Woman show runs until Thursday 24th September at Hantverk & Found, 18 King Street Margate CT9 1DA

Thursday-Sunday 12-4pm.

For more info contact gallery@hantverk-found.co.uk