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London Here I Come


London didn't notice actually.  But I painted hugely. I drew profusely.  I painted about 100 paintings in a year and double the number of sketches. I have dumped some and some have got lost or ruined with time.   Most of the works worth keeping have survived.

Then the money ran out.  Patience ran out. Inspiration ran out.  I was not going to achieve instant fame.  I did not even rise above the visibility of an amoeba.  Some other artists thought I was the bees knees.  That helped but they were just as poor and invisible as I was. There is always some light.  Occasionally a young lady would come into my sphere and bring light into the world, just enough to make me believe that I was not totally useless.

Suddenly for the first time I didn't even have enough money for food.  Art was a sure road to starvation and destitution.   I was at a dead end.  I had abandoned my business career so would have to start from scratch.  Nobody cared if I dropped dead.  Nobody was going to rescue me from my plight.  I had reached an all time low.  I had cut myself off from my family.

My slow climb back to respectability and sanity started when I took a job at 12 per week at Foyle's Book Shop less 5.00 for rent left precious little.  The place was brim full of girls all around my age.   Delicious.  Mom sent 2 per week for food.  At least I would not starve.

Physical but especially mental survival in the storm lashed seas of life became the only consideration ................Not withstanding my failure in the world, my total belief in myself and my great destiny was undented.  (It doesn't matter whether or not you have a great destiny so long as you believe in yourself.  That is what carries you through adversity.)

This was the same unshakeable faith in myself and conviction of my superiority through the years of bullying at school which so frustrated and infuriated the bullies.  I was the runt, the outsider.  They could not understand how in spite of being mentally beaten up I remained defiant, my spirit uncowed, on the contrary, the greater the adversity the greater my determination to rise above it.

Forget fame.  Fame can wait.   Eating can't wait.  Regaining self respect can't wait.  Building a career maybe finding a wife can't wait.  Making a home can't wait.  Fame can wait, perhaps it can wait forever.  Painting can wait too if fame can wait. It can wait until I can make time and afford to paint what I want to paint.  Why burn yourself out now when you can look forward to filling up your mature years with painting without the pressure of having to make it pay.

Anyway I need a break to think about what I really want to paint.  I need time to mature and mellow. So I did and didn't paint again for 31 years.

The Middle Years

Only because I don't want to bore you I won't go into a lot of detail about those thirty years.

MY CAREER WENT SOMETHING LIKE THIS: Got a job after Foyle's, as a paperback book salesman with Four Square Books.  Blown out of there after a bit not least because of boredom.  Next job was based in Manchester with London publishers, Brown Watson, owned by Babani family - cheap jack, tin pot, paperback publishers. Drove mini van. With commission, I earned more than the Sales Manager so they cut my commission. I walked out.

So I got an office job, badly paid. What is worse - a lousy job or a badly paid job?  I did all right eventually by promoting myself into better jobs by moving around.  I ended up in Bishop Auckland.  My last job in the North East after a series of market research and marketing jobs was promoting William Press Production Sustem's  fabrication capacity for huge structures which were assembled offshore onto oil platforms.

The Manchester Years

Then I had had enough of being employed and underpaid.  So I started my own business and things improved, slowly, very slowly at first.   The first ten years were exceedingly hard.  In fact every year in the business was exceedingly hard.  We did not starve, not quite.  But some weeks were touch and go.  We were not too proud to accept second hand clothes for the children and had no choice.  They are none the worse for it. 

Latterly we made a comfortable living out of the business which lasted for 20 years.  But we had to do a lot of catching up.   Then came 1998.  In previous years we always had cash flow problems and I always navigated us out of it.  We grew the Company from nothing to 10,000,000 with virtually no capital because I always managed to sell and negotiate us out of trouble. But we did not make enough profit to build reserves for lean times.   Then in 1998 the crunch came.  Printed fabrics were no longer selling.  Sterling had risen to the point where we were no longer competitive and we could not afford to buy from cheap producing countries.  We were forced to find a buyer for the business.  We sold out in March 1999

This is where my wife became a mega star, she supported me through every folly, every joy, every success and excess and every hardship. What more can a man ask of a partner than such devotion.  And that is why we have survived and most of the time done well.

18 Months later is September 2000 the new Directors told us to go and sit in the garden.  Fortunately our Solicitor had negotiated a good Service Contract so they have to pay us and in my case, they are paying me to paint!

Now I spend too much time trying to get my paintings into open competitions and inbetween times paint as much as I can.

MY PRIVATE LIFE WENT SOMETHING LIKE THIS: when I was about twenty four I came to Manchester, I felt that I was nearing the time when my brain would finish making connections and I would become whole and stable. When the day came there was a searing pain in my head as if some neurones had made a great leap and forced themselves painfully into a remote but key site. Afterwards I felt peaceful, whole, complete. I felt in some way my mind had forced itself into a special shape which would empower me in a way which I could not fathom.

Shortly after this I met Gwen.  I proposed after our 3rd meeting. We married about 6 weeks later on 21st December 1963.   I did not see anything wrong with that, after all,  my sister took 8 weeks from meeting her husband to marrying and my parents did it also in about 6 weeks.   Now days youngsters meet, get to know one another, two years later they decide to live together in trial marriages. Then maybe they get married after another two years. Two years later after a couple of kids they get divorced.  In the mean time they have wasted their youth in a failed relationship.

The lesson for me in this is that if you are right for each other and your instincts tell you so just get on with it.   Marriage after 6 weeks of meeting is just as likely to work as after 6 years of courtship.  My parents, my sister and I have had enduring marriages.

Then we had 4 beautiful children.   They were nicely spaced and gave us great fulfilment in bringing them up.  We are very fortunate.  They all speak to us and forgive us our mistakes in preparing them for adult life.

Throughout this period, whenever I tried to draw or paint it seemed empty, pointless and meaningless.  These things are so strange.  At times I thought I might never paint again.  All the while though, I kept studying shadow, form and colour.  This was not difficult as the business which we had developed relied on our skills in design and perception of colour fashion.  We were furnishing fabric designers and producers and that is what provided our living

Then when I was 56ish, (I am now 62) I wanted to do something with my art.  I dug out my ancient brushes, my pallet knives and my home made pallet which I had kept safely. By this time my old tubes of oils had long since dried out so I bought a full set of acrylic paints.  Actually, I think I had already bought the set for my youngest daughter so they were ready to use.

I prepared my board and painted my first painting, a portrait of my niece Vivien.  My style was totally transformed.  It was as if I had been painting in the intervening period and my style had evolved into something quite different.

I knew I was ready to begin again in earnest and did just that.


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