Being a child – literally – of art and science (actress + pharmacologist) the similarities between the two disciplines seem in my experience very much greater than the advertised differences: the confluence of flighty imagination and plodding method was parents’ milk to me. It was with a very happy heart that I watched the culmination of the Olympic opening ceremony – what a gloriously idiosyncratic parade of a history lesson – pinnacled by the lighting of that magnificent articulated flower of a cauldron; indeed it is a really magical celebration of science – engineering – and art coming together and symbolising the purpose of the games – for excellence, for endeavour, for creativity, for all us humans. So thank you Thomas Heatherwick, for your brilliant invention, and thank you Danny Boyle for honouring the premise in your own particular way. It was also an extra treat one morning to wake at 5.45am to the reading of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s version of the shipping forecast on Radio 4.
On the morning of The Day it was musician Martin Creed‘s plan to have us all ringing bells for three minutes from 08.12 – exactly twelve hours before 20.12 o’clock. From Big Ben, hoping to achieve a unique performance of 42 bongs, to wine glasses being tinged with forks, the nation chimed together. Standing outside in the street with my radio playing Creed’s composition at top volume and pinging my bike bell I did get some funny looks from the dustmen!
From the monumental to the microcosm – at Great Dixter we lingered for some time admiring the bees mining the heleniums in the great border. The forms of the sepal domes, in all the variety of their development, are mesmerising, circled by fanciful skirts of fringed petals. About 40 years ago I visited the garden for the first time and the luxury of that absolutely packed border was the inspiration for this 1974 Liberty scarf.
At the time that type of painting for textiles gave a new look to garden flowers – informal, scenic – the bright opaque gouache paint we’ve always used being a perfect medium for such extravagant imagery – and for painting over mistakes! On Saturday, at The Pattern Within workshop we had fun using gouache and were able to enjoy a little time exploring the pleasures of painting, of making marks both free and more controlled, and beginning to get to know the nature of the medium and what a brush can do with it.
One of the great pattern makers is William Morris; his refurbished rooms are now open again at Walthamstow – what an ingenious and complete artist, craftsman and activist.The results of his enquiries into the natural world are very different from mine, yet I like to think that I share with him a method, an understanding of and devotion to the painting and creating of a repeat.
Outside my window there’s a commotion – birds shrilling in an eerie silence, urgent alarm calls from the blackbirds and sharp piccolos from a pair of wrens. I look up to see those tiny birds rushing along the fence top and the blackbird noisily crashing in the leaves. The fox creeps about, peering among the bushes.
And at last the sun has brought forth some butterflies: these pretty little things – fritillaries I think – are flitting up on the allotment among the beans and cabbages. The glimpse of dancing colour always brings me a little flash of reassurance, a leap of optimism.
The other day I heard a refreshing exchange on the radio – the subject being the proliferation of plastic bags and how to halt it:
1st woman, earnestly: “We should levy a small charge, 5p or so, for every bag required at the checkout.”
2nd woman, energetically: “No, we should charge £1 – that would have real meaning – and have fast lane checkouts with red carpets and flowers for the customers who manage to remember to bring their own shopping bags.”
Pause as penny drops:
1st woman, carefully: “I think I need to rethink my approach.”
Oh – and we have opened a shop now, with its own little virtual basket….!