Sunday, October 22, 2006

Mervyn Peake, artistic licence and little legs.

Yesterday was spent with Cat, Alan and my goddaughter Ellie. We were looking at pictures and eating dumplings.

1. Mervyn Peake's pictures. We went to Chris Beetle's Art Gallery which has an exhibition of Peake's work. We saw the original drawings he did for Quest for Sita, which I have loved since the moment I first saw them. They so far out of my reach it's not even worth considering them. But the gallery man chatted to us and assured me that one day, I would own a Peake. I have faith, and I have a 30th birthday coming up. The gallery always has some Peakes in stock and will pull a selection out of the archives with a bit of notice. I am very much looking forward to a trip up to town a bit nearer the time to go and choose my Peake. Also exciting was that Peake's son Sebastian had come in to see how the sale was going. There was another exhibition -- Ronald Searle, who I know and love from Gerald Willan's Moleworth. We were told that he correpsonds only by telephone or preferably fax. His faxes scroll out covered in little doodles, 'So we want to keep our fax machine!'

2. Sitting in the National Gallery I overheard a mother and her little boy's conversation. The boy was copying a detail from a portrait of the Capel family and I was making notes for one of my Other Projects. My occasional comments to Cat, who was leaning against my back, wove in and out of the mother and son's dialogue: 'Look at his green stockings,' 'They remind me of Malvolio's [in Twelfth Night] yellow stockings with cross garters.' 'That little girl on the right is holding something. I bet it's a mouse.' 'Did you hear what that lady said? She thinks the little girl is holding a mouse.' 'What's the baby got?' 'It's a chilli pepper.' 'I think it's something for it to chew on.' 'That portrait over there of the King of France has one too, look.' 'I've got every colour but red, I'm afraid. You'll have to do the chair in black and colour it later.' 'Only the baby is looking at the artist.' 'The girl on the right looks so sad. She looks as if she's about to burst into tears.' 'She has tummy ache and wants to go to the loo.' 'I think the mother is saying to the dad: can we have a break? She needs to go to the loo. But he's saying: no, just a bit longer.'

3. Obligatory Ellie Beautiful Things: She is trying to crawl, but can't quite work out how to get that second leg behind her. It's a tricky movement -- try sitting with your legs in front of you, knees akimbo, and see if you can tip forward on to all-fours. It helps if you imagine there is someting you are reaching for (probably something digusting that your parents don't want you to stuff in your mouth). It's funny to think that in a few weeks when she is scooting around clearing low shelves of books and poking things into electric sockets, Cat and Alan will be nostalgic for the time when she stayed where you put her.

And I love the way people respond to her. They say that Londoners are unfriendly, but the number of people who smiled at her sleeping in her pushchair with her hood pulled over her face was phenomenal.