The Way We Lied

Early morning is the best time to work, before the sun is at its height and the day is too hot. I only have two more days on this Greek island and then I will move on again. Each time I arrive somewhere new I think I will never find anything different to paint, but as I start to settle into the local daily routine, the fascinating minutiae of simple domestic detail always reveals more of the character of the people and the place.
I know I will never paint portraits or landscapes, but I feel that by studying the tools and utensils of everyday life I am still capturing the lives of ordinary people. In France I found chipped enamel jugs and grape scissors, in Italy there were baby artichokes and thickly glazed pottery. Here by the Ionian sea there are smooth olive wood bowls and gigantic radishes. I sketch and paint for much of the day, recording every scratch, every imperfection, hoping the essence of these lives will be reflected when I complete the paintings back at home in England.
Yet again I have asked Simon if he will come and join me here. He claims work is pressing, but I am not sure he even really wants to come away. He used to like holidays abroad and was quite happy when we went Majorca for several years, although we always had to return to the same apartment in the same resort. But perhaps what I am doing now is just not the kind of travelling he likes. There are no hotels, no pools, just me, my sketchpads and whatever cheap room I can find. I don’t want to stay in replicas of every hotel in Europe and America; I want to leave that world behind and capture what is left of real lives and the countryside before they all disappear in an air-conditioned maze of breeze blocks and chlorinated water.
A skinny black cat visits me in the evenings. The other night she was accompanied by two tiny, shy kittens and I fed them scraps of ham. Simon would be horrified, I am sure, as they probably have every parasite known to felines. But they are gentle and pretty and I like to see them eat so hungrily. And then I sit on the terrace, greeted politely by the family I am staying with, but left to my books as much as I wish and I see the moon rise over the sea and hear the soft swish of the waves and remember.
I remember hugging Richard as he left for his third year at university and kissing Emily in her halls at the start of term. They are both happy in their work with many friends to support them. And I then think of my own friends and remember Mary. I wonder whether I could ever have come this far without her influence. I can see now that her encouragement was a catalyst which sparked a completely new beginning for me. When the guild group first decided that New Beginnings would be the theme of our joint art project, I didn’t realise just how poignant that title would become. It marked a new start in my work and also in my life.
Four years have passed since that exhibition, more than five since I first met Mary. And I feel as if I have travelled farther and wider than at any other stage in my life. The show was a great success for everyone in the group, but for me it felt as if it was the most important thing, other than giving birth to my children and launching them into the world, that I had ever accomplished.


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