Today is the anniversary of my brother’s death, 5 years ago.
Two things he said to me the last time I visited him were:
- You need to get a bungalow, that house has too many stairs for you as you get old
- Why aren’t you making art any more? It is fucking ridiculous
The year he died was the year of Brexit; his imminent death; me being scared I had cancer and turning 60. I had been planning to go to Australia for a month at Christmas, but cancelled it, leaving January 2017 a blank space in my calendar. I was deeply depressed during December. In the gap between Christmas and New Year I went on a 3 day meditation retreat. I came back from that ready to draw again.
I made up for the years of not making art by working madly on a series of drawings of both sides of the Severn. I began to write a book too. Gradually I felt grounded again. The Severn held me here. I tried to sell in 2019 because I felt I could no longer live in a house not suitable for an ageing woman. I was getting a bit of arthritis, it was time to go, just as Steve had told me. I tried to imagine living outside Newnham, my only criteria being either a view of the Severn or of the sunset. I took it off the market in Winter 2019 with a view to put it back on in Spring 2020.
Spring brought a pandemic to the world.
It also freed me up to spend all my time on my artwork. It was a good year for me. Money was certainly tight, but creativity was off the scale. I haven’t looked back. Until today.
I woke, as I so often do in the autumn months, to the jackdaws gathering and swarming from tree to sky to roof. I pulled up the blind, opened the window, and checked on the river. Still there.
Today’s sky is a pale pink. There is a chill in the air.
From my studio window upstairs the sun rose above the Cotswolds and below me in my tiny garden young starlings scrabbled over fat balls. Spring 2020 I took on an allotment, which eased my discontent of only having a small space at home. I grew vegetables and enjoyed the sunsets there most days. My home garden became less of a jungle, with most food plants banished I could enjoy the flowers more.
Back to today. The view from the studio window. I opened the big window wide and breathed in the cool air. In the sky four parallel lines of white clouds announced the arrival of transatlantic planes bringing commuters to work. The river sparkled in the early light and there was a sense of quiet imminence. Behind me, the computer chimed and began to gather its data for another day.
I stared at the view and thought about today. Is this day one of countdown to moving from this beautiful place? It has always felt like a holiday home, so special, how could I be living here and enjoying the views every day? So lucky!
Will there be birds where I move to? There won’t be views like this. I have had fifteen years of them. I shall miss them terribly. (View the sale details here.)
As I write this, I realise that I didn’t take a photo of today’s views, though I often do. This home has inspired a huge body of work and given me strength over the years. If it sells it will be another goodbye. Acceptance.
A friend said the other day that one day we will die, the others we live. I add to that ‘and have lived’. Loss and farewells are part of living too. Things change, it’s fine. Life would be so boring if they didn’t. And if I can live somewhere with space for a studio AND space for visitors and friends, as well as birds, all will be well.
Thanks Steve, you kicked off this phase of life. It looks like I am still vying for approval from my big brother, which was never easy to achieve.